From the beautiful beaches of the Gulf Coast to deep-rooted Southern culture, the “Heart of Dixie” has a lot to offer those who visit. Whether you’re chasing Talladega nights or looking for outdoor activities at state parks or something more artistic, like touring museums, charming cities, and historic sites, there’s no shortage of things to do in Alabama.
Explore what makes this state in the Deep South so special and why many come back again and again to vacation.
25 Incredible Alabama Attractions and Best Things To Do
1. Alabama State Parks
Alabama has some incredible state parks, from the Gulf beaches to the Appalachians’ foothills. With 21 parks to explore, visitors can enjoy hiking, camping, and fishing to waterfalls, caves, and so much more. Cheaha State Park and Oak Mountain State Park are a few of the best!
Experience Cheaha Mountain, the tallest point in the state and one of the most photographed places in Alabama. Or discover Oak Mountains State Park, the largest state park with over 50 miles of trails, and the Alabama Wildlife Center. With its proximity to Birmingham, Oak Mountain is a great place to catch panoramic views.
2. Orange Beach
When it comes to incredible beaches in Alabama, Orange Beach is at the top of the list. So, if you’d like to enjoy a relaxing family vacation or an adventurous getaway with friends, there are plenty of attractions that make Orange Beach a popular choice, from swimming and fishing to shopping and golfing.
And it is only 15 minutes from Perdido Key, Florida, if you’d like to spend the day beach hopping some of the best beaches along the Gulf of Mexico.
3. Dauphin Island
With miles of sugar-white sand beaches to explore, Dauphin Island is a barrier island located off the coast south of Mobile. There are many fun attractions to see on the island. Visitors can learn about the local wildlife and ecosystems at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and Estuarium, tour the historic Civil War Fort at Fort Gains, and watch for sea turtles, birds, and alligators at the Bird Sanctuary.
Visitors can also ride the Mobile Bay Ferry from Dauphin Island to Fort Morgan to tour the grounds of another historic location, the Fort Morgan State Historic Site.
4. Gulf Shores
Located on the beautiful Alabama coast, Gulf Shores is home to some of America’s best beaches and an array of activities. With its white sands and clear waters, it’s no wonder why so many people flock here. Check out the beaches and go camping at Gulf State Park.
Be sure to visit The Wharf for shopping and restaurants and to ride the famous Ferris wheel. Gulf Shores is one of the best places to vacation in Alabama.
5. Talladega Superspeedway
NASCAR is a big deal in the South, and the Talladega Superspeedway is one of the sport’s most iconic tracks. Talladega treats spectators to an adrenaline-filled atmosphere of heart-pounding excitement, full of roaring engines. This legendary racetrack should be on your Alabama bucket list.
6. Little River Canyon National Preserve
Located in the northeast part of the state in the southern Appalachians, Little River Canyon National Preserve is a beautiful National Park. Discover outdoor activities and natural wonders like cascading waterfalls, towering sandstone bluffs, and miles of trails for hiking and sightseeing.
7. Bankhead National Forest
With over 90 miles of trails, the Bankhead National Forest and Sipsey Wilderness in northwest Alabama are beautiful places to enjoy outdoor recreation. Known as the “Land of a Thousand Waterfalls,” there are so many waterfalls you won’t be disappointed exploring every moss-covered bend. The area is about an hour and a half from Birmingham.
8. U.S. Space and Rocket Center
A trip to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, gives visitors a view of what astronauts experience when they enter outer space. It is also the official Visitor Center for the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. Come and see why it’s one of the most extraordinary things to do in Alabama.
9. Huntsville Botanical Garden
The Huntsville Botanical Garden is one of Alabama’s top tourist attractions. The sights, sounds, and scents create a fun experience. With over 100 acres of gardens containing hundreds of plants and flowers – along with outdoor activities like walking trails, ponds, butterfly houses, and an amphitheater featuring live music performances and educational workshops – this is truly a special place.
10. GulfQuest National Maritime Museum
For a fun and educational activity on your next vacation, check out the GulfQuest National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico. Located in Mobile Bay, this interactive museum offers exciting exhibits. If you are curious about maritime history and culture, you’ll love the immersive exhibits and displays of sea-faring vessels.
11. Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
Are you interested in learning more about the history of civil rights? If so, then you can’t miss the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Located in downtown Birmingham, this educational center offers visitors a look into some of the most significant moments in U.S. civil rights and their lasting impact on society today.
12. Bellingrath Gardens and Home
A visit to Bellingrath Gardens and Home should be at the top of your list. Famed for its 65 acres of stunning gardens featuring blooms that span all four seasons and its beautiful 10,500 square-foot home filled with art and porcelain, Bellingrath combines beauty and history.
13. Alligator Alley
For an adventure that will get your heart pounding, check out Alligator Alley in Summerdale. Alligator Alley features swamps and wetlands inhabited by alligators – creating a unique experience for nature lovers. You can even feed alligators and hold them!
14. Dexter Parsonage Museum
Visit where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lived with his family from 1954-1960. Some of the furniture still within the Parsonage was used by Dr. King himself. Walk the gardens and visit the Interpretive Center adjacent to the museum.
15. Birmingham Museum of Art
Experience history with ancient artifacts and learn about different cultures across continents through unique pieces at the Birmingham Museum of Art. This museum is free to enter.
16. Rosa Parks Library and Museum
Created to honor the civil rights movement, this active Memorial is a great way to explore the legacy of one of America’s most iconic figures, Rosa Parks. Located in Montgomery, Alabama, learn more about her influential legacy.
17. U.S. Veterans Memorial Museum
Located in Huntsville, the U.S. Veterans Memorial Museum is overflowing with displays, interactive exhibits, and inspiring stories that will leave a lasting impression.
18. Ave Maria Grotto
Do you love unique places? The Ave Maria Grotto is an old quarry in the hills of Cullman, Alabama. You can see mini replicas of famous religious structures from all over the world.
19. Vulcan Park and Museum
Home to one of the largest cast iron statues on earth, the 56-foot statue of the Roman god of fire and forge, Vulcan, is an iconic attraction that offers neat views of Birmingham. In addition, the museum provides insights into the area’s local history and culture. It is a unique stop for road-trippers passing through and a quirky place to check out.
20. Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum
Have you ever wanted to step back in time and experience the golden age of motorcycling? The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum offers visitors a unique opportunity to do just that. This museum in Birmingham houses the world’s largest collection, with over 1,200 motorcycles. So, if you like motorcycles, don’t miss this place!
21. First White House of the Confederacy
Explore one of Alabama’s most historical landmarks – the first White House of the Confederacy. Executive home to President Jefferson Davis, it offers a glimpse into the nation’s past. The house still has furniture from the 1850s and 1860s. It is open to the public to learn more about how this structure played a role in shaping U.S. history.
22. Birmingham Children’s Theatre
A fun experience for families that are musically inclined and into theatrical art, the Birmingham Children’s Theatre is a fantastic place. Visit their website to see performance schedules. They also offer classes and camps.
23. McWane Science Center
Located in the heart of downtown Birmingham, this center takes visitors on a journey through science. With four floors of interactive exhibits and activities, animal demonstrations, educational programs, and planetarium shows, there’s something fun to see around every corner at the McWane Science Center. Don’t miss the live shark tank or IMAX dome theater!
24. USS ALABAMA Battleship Memorial Park
One of the most extended intact military installations in Alabama’s history, the USS ALABAMA Battleship offers a fantastic experience. Visitors can climb aboard this 680-foot museum ship and explore while learning more about World War II and life in the Navy. It is one of the most recognized symbols of the state.
25. Stephens Gap Callahan Cave Preserve
Get ready to explore one of Alabama’s most breathtaking geological wonders, Stephens Gap Callahan Cave Preserve. Located in Jackson County, this incredible destination is known for its massive and awe-inspiring limestone caves that offer visitors an experience unlike any other. Permits are required to enter the cave.
Have Fun Exploring the Heart of Dixie
There are plenty of amazing things to do in the Heart of Dixie! So, whether you’re in the mood for a relaxing beach vacation on the Gulf, or an action-packed city getaway full of history and art tours, don’t skip out on planning a vacation in Alabama! You won’t regret exploring this incredible state in the Deep South.
This article originally appeared on Savoteur.
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Ashlee Fechino is an outdoor recreation writer and founder of The Happiness Function. Her goal is to help inspire people to build a life they love by sharing how simple and fun it is to travel locally, connect with nature, and explore off-the-beaten-path. You don't have to spend a lot of money or use a ton of vacation time to explore close to home. Ashlee holds a BS degree in Biology and MS in Environmental Policy & Sustainability and is passionate about the outdoors.
She is married to an expat Argentine, Pablo! They camp in their Aliner often and love road trips and hiking. You can read more about them at thehappinessfxn.com.