If you have the time to explore Alabama by car, there are a lot of places you can’t miss. In addition to a few fairly large cities and charming towns, the state is filled with beautiful back roads meant to be explored for hours on end, as well as plenty of history regarding the American Civil Rights Movement.
We’ve put together some ideas for how to have a charming, relaxing road trip through the Yellowhammer State. We’ll list our attractions in geographical order from the southernmost point of the state to the Tennessee border, but feel free to rearrange as you see fit!
It only takes about five hours to drive the widest part of the state, so you can easily fit everything you like into your road trip, no matter where you’re starting from.
Most people don’t associate an Alabama road trip with a beach vacation, but this is a mistake! One of our favorite Alabama attractions is the coastal Gulf State Park. We’ve touched on how to make the most of your time in Gulf Shores before, so we will just use this bit to further reinforce the recommendation. The Gulf Coast in Alabama has white sand beaches of the sort you’d expect to see in the Caribbean, and the State Park has ample space for camping, RV parking, and other road trip essentials. A couple of nights here should be the perfect way to kick off (or wrap up) your Alabama road trip.
Our next suggestion is about an hour’s drive north of the Gulf State Park, heading towards Mobile. While Mobile is certainly a cool city to visit, our “off-the-beaten-path” alternative is the small town of Fairhope, also located on Mobile Bay. Fairhope will have everything you’d imagine you might find in a small and quaint southern town. You’ll also be close to Weeks Bay Reserve, which is perfect for some quiet time outdoors hiking, kayaking, swimming, or just lounging around with a picnic. Fairhope also has markets, farms, and its very own brewing company, so this is a particularly great stop if you like to sample local fare.
Next we suggest heading north, with a few hours’ drive up to Tuscaloosa, where the University of Alabama is located. On the way there, however, you can’t miss out on at least a brief stop in Montgomery. Here you can visit the home of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Civil Rights Memorial Center, and many other important landmarks from one of the most critical periods in our country’s history. It’s a necessary stop, but a fairly quick one, after which you can continue on your way north to Tuscaloosa.
The most notable attraction in Tuscaloosa is the University of Alabama and the nostalgic, college-town vibe it gives off. As far as campus goes, if you’re able to catch a football game at The Bryant-Denny Stadium, you absolutely must. Even if you’re not a huge sports fan, the stadium itself is enough reason to go – it’s the 10th-biggest in the world, with a capacity of more than 100,000 screaming Crimson Tide fans.
Even if you’re not a fan yourself it’s easy to get swept up in the festivity – and for that matter, you may soon be able to bet on the games as well, which is a common way for non-fans to take more of an interest in sports. Shifting betting legislation around the U.S. is leading to the latest bookie sites from the UK becoming active in certain areas, and you can rest assured SEC football betting activity will skyrocket as soon as states like Alabama join in. This will just be an added perk though. Even now, and even to an outsider, so to speak, Crimson Tide football is a a must-see attraction.
Our last suggested stop on your Alabama road trip is the small town of Decatur, located on the Tennessee River. A top attraction here is Point Mallard Park, which includes a water park, an ice rink, a golf course, camping grounds, and many other attractions, making it a fun stop for just about anyone. This area is also home to the Alabama Jubilee and Hot Air Balloon Classic, a unique event that takes place every year over Memorial Day weekend (and which is more or less just what it sounds like!). Decatur is also home to an historic downtown district, which includes stunning old homes and a delightful farmer’s market. Although not at the top of everyone’s tourism list, Decatur is a perfect place to go while enjoying a peaceful road trip through Alabama – partly thanks to the fact that it’s somewhat under the radar for most travelers.
Naturally there’s plenty more to see along the way, including natural beauty, small towns, and some smaller attractions. With these suggestions though, you should have the outline of a very enjoyable trip through the state of Alabama.