As I prepared for my trip to a conference in Huntsville, I was excited to plan my route through the back roads of Georgia and Alabama. The mountainous region is underrated when it comes to travel destinations, but well worth visiting. I’ve made this trip a few times and am excited to share some of my favorite road trip stops. I took I-75 north to 140 to 27 to 48, which crosses into Alabama. From there, I took 40 to Scottsboro and onward onto 72 to Huntsville. On the way back, I detoured through Guntersville and Fort Payne.
This time, I got to drive the new Mazda CX-9, a small SUV with large trunk space for your bags and all the features a traveler needs. I loved the driver’s seat screen that shows your speed and the speed limit. As someone who has always driven a small car, I found it easy to maneuver!
Take I-75 north from Atlanta to the suburbs and make your first stop in Cartersville. This city was an important railroad stop during the Civil War and has a thriving downtown. But what makes it worth getting off the highway is the cultural centers. Booth Western Art Museum has the largest collection of exhibited works in the state, showcasing Western-themed paintings, photography, and sculptures. The Tellus Science Museum started as a humble mineral museum but has grown to include fossils, early machines, and space-themed artifacts.
The small town of Summerville is framed around a historic courthouse and is perhaps most associated with its prison and artist Howard Finster, who lived here for the entirety of his career. Howard Finster’s Paradise Gardens is both his home and a work of art, featuring hundreds of pieces painted onto found objects. Admire the Folk Church and the colorful gardens.
Road trippers from around the world stop at Old Car City in White, the world’s largest classic car junkyard. It contains over 7 miles of rusting vehicles and is truly a photographer’s dream. Entry is higher for those taking photos, but even if you’re just curious, it’s worth exploring. Also stop by the main building, which has styrofoam cup art made by the owner. It’s as quirky as it sounds!
This adorable mountain town is known for its folk art shops and roadside eateries. But De Soto Falls is the main reason people stop. Within it, you can explore the trails built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel, built around a massive boulder. And, of course, the namesake DeSoto Falls, named for the early American explorer.
Unclaimed Baggage Center truly put this town on the map, welcoming travelers for over 20 years. The store receives shipments of unclaimed airline luggage and unclaimed freight, so you never know what you might find. Go in search of clothing, electronics, and artifacts from around the world. They even have their own restaurant!
Alabama Fan Club And Museum is one of the attractions focused on the state’s most iconic band. Admire the statues to their likeness downtown or the park they constructed for locals. And big fans should stop by the museum, which will reopen in June after renovations.
I love taking the scenic route between places and this one between Atlanta and Huntsville is one of my favorites.
Special thanks to Mazda and DriveShop for sponsoring the car for this trip. All opinions are my own.