I’ve got some sort of fascination with Alabama. I’m not sure what it is that makes me crave this Southern lifestyle, and I’m not sure why I honed in specifically on Alabama. But I did. And now it’s become so much of a preoccupation that I plan on spending next Thanksgiving somewhere in Alabama, possibly pretending I’m an Azalea girl – those Southern Belles.
There’s a lot more to Alabama than you may realize, and there is certainly a reason it has been referred to as ‘Alabama the Beautiful’ (Don’t believe me? Check out the photo below!) Alabama has stunning sandy beaches, serene mountain lakes, breathtaking waterfalls and sprawling plains. There are museums, historic sites, Mardi Gras celebrations and Shakespeare performances that will blow your mind.
If I’ve not yet convinced you to give Alabama a chance, do read on…
Civil Rights History
Okay, so we all know how important the civil rights history of America is. Hey, I learned about it all through my schooling years in New Zealand, therefore it’s got to be important! Alabama was where much of the Civil Rights Movement begun. It’s where Martin Luther King Jr. began his campaigns; it’s where Rosa Parks sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and it is where the Selma to Montgomery March took place. With all these historical events that took place here, it’s no wonder the State is filled with Civil Rights museums, tours and memorials. In Selma you can take part in the annual bridge crossing to commemorate the 165 protest march, you can tour the National Voting Rights Museum and the Brown Chapel where Martin Luther King Jr launched the voting rights movement.
In Montgomery, the state capital you can immerse yourselves in the stories of the activists at the Civil Rights Memorial Center. You can tour the State Capitol building, The Rosa Parks Museum, Martin Luther King’s home during the Civil Rights Movement, and the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church where Martin Luther King Jr. was a pastor. Tuskegee and Birmingham also have numerous memorials and museums including the jail cell Martin Luther King Jr. was held in when he wrote “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”
While you’re in the history mode, why not check out some of the other historical sites around the state? Alabama Constitution Village in Huntsville is a great place to visit to understand what a working village was like in the early 1800’s. They have a confectionary shop, a bakery with freshly baked bread being prepared over an open fire, post office, print shop and cabinetmaker’s shop. You can even watch the villagers busy on their daily tasks. While you’re in Huntsville be sure to check out the Twickenham Historic District and Guided Walking Tour. Twickenham is Alabama’s largest antebellum district. It features houses in the Federal, Italianate, classical and Greek revival architectural style. Some of the homes in the district are open to the public as house museums.
Southern Alabama is placed immediately beside the water with 50 miles of sparkling Gulf Coast Shoreline. Throughout the state, there is also 77,000 miles of rivers, streams and lakes for canoeing, boating, fishing and swimming. Along with the crystal colored-ocean and golden beaches along the Gulf Shores, Alabama is also home to a number of waterparks including Waterville U.S.A, The Wharf, Water World and Alabama Adventure. Dauphin Island is only a 50 minute drive from Mobile and is a stunning location for vacationing or even for a day trip.
Photographs do not do justice to the natural beauty of Alabama and there are numerous ways you can enjoy these natural wonders for yourself. Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Decatur is home to many different species of fish, amphibians and reptiles, songbirds and mammals. Ten species housed within the refuge are listed as endangered or threatened species. This is a great area to explore if you’re looking to get amongst nature and witness some of Mother Nature’s breathtaking beauty.
Of course, the Wildlife Refuge is not the only place in Alabama capable of making a nature lover sigh in amazement. Desoto State Park offers incredible views of rivers, mountains and waterfalls, Weeks Bay Reserve near Mobile offers a true look into the scenery around Alabama, Noccalula Falls park features a botanical garden, 100-foot waterfalls, numerous hiking trails and includes a pioneer village which is fascinating for anyone who, like me, is interested in history.
While you’re exploring Alabama’s natural wonders, take a scenic drive through Talladega. It only takes an hour and covers 26 miles but the beauty of the Appalachian foothills is something you won’t forget in a hurry.
Something a bit different
Like anywhere you visit, Alabama has some unique, one-of-a-kind experience attractions that are well worth a visit. If you happen to pass through Scottsboro in Northern Alabama, be sure to stop by the Unclaimed Baggage Center. This is the place where all the contents of lost luggage turns up after no one claims it. Here you can find everything from clothing, electronics, jewelry, musical instruments and whatever little knick-knacks travelers carry on their adventures.
If you want something truly different, check out the Boll Weevil Monument in Enterprise. Alabama is the only state in America that has a monument dedicated to a pest. The Boll Weevil’s are the insects that killed off the cotton industry. So why celebrate it? Losing the cotton industry meant farmers had to look for a new way to make their money and resulted in them planting more profitable crops.
If you’re down Mobile way, be sure to check out the USS Alabama Battleship. The area has been made into a memorial park and you are able to walk the decks of the battleship, explore a World War II submarine, check out combat aircrafts, an original plane used by the Tuskegee Airmen, see tanks and visit a Vietnam River Patrol Boat. For a war geek like myself, this is the kind of place I could truly spend hours.
This is pretty self-explanatory. If you like to party make sure you check out Mobile. Mobile is known as celebrating the first American Mardi Gras in 1703. To date the celebrations lasts for almost three weeks. The streets are filled with the sound of marching bands, bright-colored floats and plenty of masked revelers wearing satin and sequins. Mobile is home to America’s Family Mardi Gras making it a great place to celebrate with the whole family.
Mardi Gras is a major holiday in parts of Europe, so when Mobile was populated by a French colony they decided to observe their traditional holiday beginning a tradition which continues all over America to date. It wasn’t until over 100 years later in 1857 when some members of the Mobile community travelled to New Orleans and helped with the formation of their Mardi Gras society. The Civil War brought the celebrations to an end in Mobile, and the city was discouraged. It wasn’t until 1866 that one man decided to raise the spirits of the citizens of Mobile. He dressed up and decorated a coal wagon before holding a one float parade through the streets of Mobile. Naturally, the citizens were excited and Mardi Gras was reborn. This man, Joe Cain, now has his own remembrance day, which is also known as ‘the people’s day’ and falls just before Ash Wednesday. On this day the people of Mobile participate in the Joe Cain Procession and parade and celebrate the man who revived the spirit of Mobile.
With this history in mind, be sure to check out the Mobile City’s Mardi Gras celebration schedules and plan you’re next trip to Alabama to join in the festivities!
As you can see, there is a lot more to Alabama than you may first realize, and I’ve only grazed the surface! There is a rich Southern history in this state which needs to be experienced. The food is exceptional, the scenery is breathtaking, and the attractions and unique and fun to experience. Each town in Alabama offers something a little different, but whatever your preferences, be it nature, history, partying, eating, or spending time at the beach, you’ll find it in Alabama the Beautiful.