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Did You Know…?

  • Helen Keller was born in Tuscumbia; Tallulah Bankhead in Huntsville.
  • Mardi Gras (Shrove Tuesday) is a state holiday in Alabama.
  • America’s first 911 call was made in Haleyville in 1968.
  • Enterprise is home to the world’s only known monument to an insect pest, the boll weevil.
  • Scientists in Huntsville designed the rockets that put man on the moon.

The old and the new

Alabama can present many faces: the traditional Old South of moss-covered mansions, the capital of college football and a major manufacturing center.

The Gulf coastal area is a particular favorite with visitors, especially those who want relaxing beach time and maybe time at the casinos. But there is more to appeal to a wide variety of interests — from a fascination with Civil War or other historical events to a love of outdoor activities as varied as rock climbing and rappelling, whitewater rafting and canoeing.

The majority of people who say Alabama is their favorite destination single out for special praise an area called Gulf Shores on Mobile Bay’s Pleasure Island. Here they enjoy a casual, laid-back atmosphere, white sand beaches, lots of golf and a variety of accommodations.

In addition, one of the state’s top annual events is Mobile’s Mardi Gras. The festivities last two weeks and include colorful parades by day and by night. Then, in late March and early April, the city’s 35-mile Azalea Trail comes alive with flowers.  The state’s antebellum and Civil War heritage are on display in many grand homes, as well as in museums and at battlefield sites.

Some travelers have personal recollections of later significant events, meaning those associated with the civil rights movement. It started in Alabama in 1955 when the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., organized a nonviolent protest group to assist in carrying out a boycott against the Montgomery bus system. This was because a black passenger, Rosa Parks, was arrested for refusing to give up her seat for a white person. Several sites and museums in the state are associated with the movement.

For quite a different kind of notoriety, the scientists at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, in the 1950s, designed the rockets that eventually put man on the moon.

Alabama is mostly a vacation place for people from nearby states and the Midwest. It has a very family-oriented atmosphere, especially in the popular resort areas around the Gulf. The southern part of the state enjoys year-round good weather.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Go rock climbing. One of the most popular areas for this is Cherokee Rock Village/Sand Rock. For a variation on the theme, rappel 200 feet to the bottom of Little River Canyon National Preserve.
  • Kayak down the Cahaba River, which in May promises a float through clusters of two-foot-tall Cahaba lilies. Or, take a whitewater camping trip on the South Sauty Creek, winding up at Buck’s Pocket State Park.
  • Don’t just visit the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville; sign on for a Space Camp. Learn what it is like to train like a fighter pilot when you test your abilities in training simulators; also, participate in simulated Space Shuttle missions.
  • Attend the weeklong Alabama Cycling Camp to give your skills some serious attention. Choose the program that dovetails with your ability level.
  • Take a unique kind of safari, looking for birds, fish and alligators on wetland tours in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. Transport is by pontoon boat, airboat or motor-powered pirogue canoe.
  • Sign on for the Alabama Wagon Train which takes you from Boaz to Montgomery, a 190-mile trip, in 10 days.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Try deep-sea fishing in the Gulf of Mexico for blue martin, red snapper, mackerel, yellow-fin tuna and others. Or, fish for bass in several state parks and at Lake Eufaula.
  • Attend Mardi Gras in Mobile. Or, maybe the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in Montgomery is more to your taste.
  • Cruise on the Tennessee River at Joe Wheeler State Park and along the waters around Mobile Bay. Make that last cruise a dinner event.
  • Try horseback riding for an hour, half a day — or as part of an overnight trail ride and camping trip. The state also has one guest ranch where you can overnight, the Shady Grove Dude Ranch.
  • Go sailing on the Joshua, a 72-foot wooden schooner in Mobile. The tall ship is available for charters or for day trips.
  • Recall the story of the civil rights movement. Trace the Selma-to-Montgomery March Route on U.S. 80, now a National Historic Trail, and see the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute in Selma.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Sample locally produced fresh fruits, vegetables and seafood, cooked Alabama style. Shrimp is the most important product of the state’s fisheries.
  • For country western fans, follow the Hank Williams Trail, honoring one of the state’s favorite sons.
  • Book a dolphin cruise in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • At the Huntsville Botanical Garden, see the nation’s largest open-air Butterfly House (open seasonally).
  • Travel aboard a historic train pulled by a first-generation diesel electric locomotive, traveling through Shelby County, departing from the Heart of Dixie Railroad museum in Calera.
  • Explore Civil War era battlefields, buildings and plantations, using Birmingham or Mobile as your base.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Alabama Tourism Department at