Alabama is often overlooked by travelers visiting the South, but there’s plenty worth exploring. Whether you’re looking for the great outdoors or swanky restaurants, important history, or quirky experiences, you’ll find it here.
These six destinations are our picks for the places you can’t miss when visiting Alabama.
While not the capital city, many people consider Birmingham to see the “must-see” city of Alabama. It’s where you’ll find both landmarks related to the Civil Rights Movement and a young population at the swanky cocktail bars.
During the 1960s, the city was called “Bombingham” for the many incidents of violence against African Americans. Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and the neighboring Birmingham Civil Rights Institute tell the stories of the people that fought so hard for equality.
The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum is another popular stop, full of vintage motorcycles and a test track for gearheads. Vulcan Park is another must-see, with the Roman god statue overlooking the city.
Sloss Furnaces is a national historic landmark and a nod to Birmingham’s industrial past. The Negro Southern League Museum recognizes Black baseball players’ contributions to the sport.
Birmingham has an incredible craft beer scene, home to breweries like Trimtab and Avondale. Settle in for a cocktail at Collins Bar or the Garage Cafe.
The city also has award-winning restaurants including local standbys like Highlands Bar and Grill, Hot and Hot Fish Club, and Bottega. Saw’s Soul Kitchen is another favorite for its Southern-style barbecue.
Spend the night at one of the city’s historic hotels. The Redmont Hotel has a rooftop bar and was one of the last places Hank Williams stayed before his death. Grand Bohemian Hotel Mountain Brook has an award-winning spa and cooking school.
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach
While the coastline may be small, the communities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach have some of the most incredible sunsets in the country.
The sugar white sand beaches and turquoise water is just one reason that people flock here. The area is best experienced in the outdoors, whether that’s cycling the Branyon Backcountry Trail or paddleboarding at Gulf State Park.
The food is another reason to visit. Where else can you get the freshest seafood delivered straight to your plate? Whether it’s at Lulu’s or Big Fish, a waterfront dive or a fine dining restaurant.
If you really want to experience the Alabama Gulf Coast spirit, head to Flora Bama, the bar that previously straddled the state line before a hurricane damaged the building. Many country artists have performed in the interconnected rooms.
When you’re ready for bed, book a spot at the glamping backcountry sites at Gulf State Park or live it up at the luxury rentals at Turquoise Place. They even have hot tubs on the balconies!
Huntsville, or the Rocket City, is a place many people have been to but hardly scratched the surface. It’s a city of innovation and technology, thanks in part to its role in history.
The US Space and Rocket Center is the reason most people have passed through the city as it’s home to Space Camp and where men like Wernher Von Braun worked to send a rocket to the moon.
The Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment is another place to learn about Huntsville’s creative energy. Explore Huntsville’s Twickenham neighborhood to see some of its oldest homes.
Huntsville’s craft beer exceeds that of any Alabama city, home to Yellowhammer and Straight to Ale. There are also great casual eateries like Honest Coffee Roaster- Huntsville, Happy Tummy, and Viet Huong.
Because of its proximity to the outdoors, Huntsville is ideal for those traveling by RV or camping. Monte Sano State Park and the Space and Rocket Center both have facilities for RVs and tents as well as bathhouses.
The GulfQuest Museum is a state-of-the-art interactive space that covers the importance of the Gulf of Mexico in regard to industry, history, weather, and cuisine. The Alabama Contemporary Art Center is the place to learn about the state’s artists.
The city also has a fun nightlife scene including an area with open containers. There’s also the thriving Irish community with traditional pubs.
Spend a night at one of the oldest hotels around, The Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa, or The Admiral Hotel Mobile, Curio Collection by Hilton, a stylish boutique hotel.
Montgomery is the capital city of Alabama and an important destination for history buffs. It’s been home to Zelda Fitzgerald and Hank Williams, not to mention important Civil Rights spaces. It was also the filming location for Big Fish.
Any visitor’s first stop should be at the powerful National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which has a memorial to lynching victims. The Legacy Museum covers recent events like mass incarceration and police brutality.
If you’re looking for classic Southern food, Montgomery is the right place to start. Chris’ Hot Dogs has been open since 1917 and served countless celebrity guests.
There are a handful of chain hotels and bed and breakfasts in Montgomery, but there’s nothing quite like staying in one of Montgomery’s unique historic homes, the Airbnb suites at the Fitzgerald Museum.
The towns around Muscle Shoals are not only charming but have left a permanent mark on American music. Countless legends recorded in the studios here.
The studios are now open for tours, including Fame Recording Studios and 3614 Jackson Highway. Other important music landmarks include the W.C. Handy House, named for the iconic blues artist, and the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.
Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum is the only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home in the state of Alabama. Wander the downtown shops including the flagship location of Billy Reid and the outposts in the Court Street Market.
Odette is one of the best restaurants around with creative Southern dishes and craft cocktails. Don’t miss the chicken salad at Claunch Cafe, a popular lunch spot in the park. Singin’ River Brewing is also the area’s only craft brewery.
The Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa might be a brand name but it takes inspiration from its surroundings with a revolving restaurant and golf course.
The Gunrunner Boutique Hotel also takes its inspiration from the musicians that performed here with ten themed rooms.
Have you been to any of these destinations? Share your favorite below.