Exploring Alabama: Cool Things to Do in the Heart of Dixie

Nestled in the southeastern United States, Alabama boasts a rich tapestry of history, culture, and natural beauty. From vibrant cities to serene countryside, there’s something for everyone in the Heart of Dixie. Whether you are a history buff, nature enthusiast, or foodie, Alabama offers a plethora of cool things to see and do. For everything from museums and waterfalls to music festivals and fried okra, here’s our rundown of the things to see and do in Alabama.





Step Back in Time in Montgomery and Get Cultured at a Museum

Ever since gaining statehood in 1819, Alabama has played an integral role in the narrative of the United States. Whether it be sports, history, or science, it’s hard to imagine what the country would look like without the contributions of Alabama. Documenting these contributions are the museums found in the state — so if you’re visiting, you definitely owe a visit to one of the many world-class exhibitions.

Known as the Rocket City, Huntsville is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and science buffs alike. Explore the wonders of space at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, home to one of the most extensive collections of space artifacts in the world. It is an excellent display of achievements that paint a good picture of the country’s involvement in space exploration. There are plenty of interactive exhibits for kids, but it’s great for adults as well.

For the art fanatics, Alabama hosts a few gems by way of the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Montgomery Museum of Fine Art, and the Mobile Museum of Art. Each has their own themes and niche, but in general, you’ll find everything from age-old paintings and sculptures to hands-on exhibits and works that capture the Southern experience.

History comes alive in Montgomery, Alabama’s capital city. Visit the Rosa Parks Museum and learn about the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a pivotal event in the Civil Rights Movement. Explore the Alabama State Capitol and the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. served as pastor. Montgomery’s historic downtown district is also home to charming shops, restaurants, and galleries waiting to be discovered.





Explore the Magic City, Birmingham and learn about the Civil Rights Movement

Start your Alabama adventure in Birmingham, known as the Magic City. Explore the Civil Rights District, where pivotal moments in American history unfolded.

Check out Birmingham’s Civil Rights District and Kelly Ingram Park where activists would gather for protests, the 16th Street Baptist Church where the KKK members set off a deadly bomb in 1963, or walk across the famous Edmund Pettus Bridge. The National Monument is another great place to learn about the region’s important racial history.

From the Selma March to Rosa Parks’ refusal and Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermons, it’s safe to say there’s no civil rights movement without Alabama.

People visit Alabama from all over the country for the sole purpose of a civil rights vacation, so it’s definitely on our Alabama bucket list.





Enjoy the Great Outdoors and hike the Trails of Bankhead National Forest:

Dense green forests, jaw-dropping oak trees, vast rivers, intricate cave networks, waterfalls — Alabama is an underrated haven for outdoor enthusiasts.

Check out the Kymulga Grist Mill and covered bridge, which is a photogenic rusting structure over a peaceful stream, the Childersburg DeSoto Caverns, the Montevallo Orr Park, and the Cahaba and Coosa Rivers.

Feel free to enjoy the outdoors of Alabama by hiking, biking, camping, kayaking, rock climbing, fishing, or birding. As long as you can get past the heat and humidity, you’re in for a treat.

Also, if you’re more of an urban soul, the Birmingham Zoo has some of the best exhibits in the entire country.

Bankhead National Forest is a must-visit destination. Lace up your hiking boots and venture into this wilderness paradise, where lush forests, cascading waterfalls, and scenic overlooks await.

Sipsey Wilderness, often called the “Land of a Thousand Waterfalls,” offers some of the most breathtaking scenery in the state.

In Huntsville, head outdoors to Monte Sano State Park, where you can hike, bike, or picnic amidst stunning natural scenery.





Go to a Festival and Celebrate Mardi Gras in Mobile:

Alabama has never been averse to partying, and natives seem to have found a way to celebrate almost anything.

With roots in everything from Afro-Caribbean Creole culture comes Mardi Gras in Mobile, with the city of Dothan (the peanut capital of the world) comes the nation’s largest peanut festival, and with a nostalgia for the good ol’ times comes the Alabama Renaissance Fair in Florence.

Experience the excitement of Mardi Gras in its birthplace – Mobile, Alabama. Join in the festivities as colorful parades wind their way through the streets, accompanied by lively music and extravagant floats. Mobile’s Mardi Gras tradition dates back over 300 years, making it one of the oldest in the United States.

Other gems worth researching prior to your trip include the Galaxy of Lights during the holiday season, the strawberry festival in April, and the Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic on Memorial Day.


Alabama Mobile Mardi Gras Market Hats



Visit the Gulf Shores and get Your Beach On:

Alabama may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of beaches, but Gulf Shores offers miles of pristine coastline along the Gulf of Mexico.

Sink your toes into the soft white sand, soak up the sun, and take a refreshing dip in the turquoise waters. Whether you’re building sandcastles with the family or simply unwinding with a good book, Gulf Shores provides the perfect backdrop for a relaxing beach getaway.

While destinations like Gulf Shores and Orange Beach dominate the scene, there are plenty of lesser-known white-sand paradises that will keep you relaxed and entertained for a good chunk of time.

Check in to an Airbnb in Gulf Shores and check out West Beach or Fort Morgan Beach, West End Public Beach in Dauphin Island, or Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge.

Alabama also has some excellent pet-friendly beaches, so those travelling with furry friends should check out the best Pet-Friendly Hotels in Alabama.

If you want to escape the crowds of the Gulf Coast and Dauphin Island, head over to Sandy Beach in the area known as the Shoals.





See Some Live Music and Experience the Music of Muscle Shoals

Another crucial aspect of Alabama culture is the music, and pigeonholing the state as another place with only pop and country would be doing it an injustice.

The state has a long history of influences ranging from jazz, blues, rock, and funk music, and today there are plenty of excellent places to see them performed live.

Check out the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater for an amazing outdoor venue, the Alabama Theater in Birmingham, or the Capitol Oyster bar in Montgomery.

Every spring, the Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores usually reels in some excellent artists from around the world.

Music aficionados won’t want to miss a trip to Muscle Shoals, a small town with an outsized influence on the music industry.

Visit FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, where legendary artists like Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and the Rolling Stones recorded iconic hits. Be sure to catch live performances at local venues to immerse yourself in the soulful sounds of Alabama’s music scene.


Alabama Hangout Festival



Taste the Southern Cuisine and Sample Alabama’s Craft Beer Scene:

While in Alabama, you’ll need to eat, right? Head south to Mobile, Alabama’s port city, to indulge in mouthwatering Southern cuisine.

From fresh Gulf seafood, fried catfish, shrimp and grits, via classic comfort food like BBQ pulled pork, country fried steak, cornbread, and fried chicken to sausage gravy and biscuits…

Mobile’s culinary scene delights foodies of all stripes. Don’t leave without trying a slice of pecan pie, a Southern staple that’s sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Craft beer enthusiasts will find plenty to love in Alabama, home to a burgeoning craft beer scene. Embark on a brewery tour to sample locally brewed beers and learn about the brewing process firsthand. From hoppy IPAs to rich stouts, Alabama’s breweries offer a diverse array of flavors to suit every palate.

You won’t be losing any weight in Alabama, but nobody said a southern vacation was the best time for a diet, right?!





While Alabama’s major cities offer plenty of attractions, don’t overlook the state’s smaller towns and hidden gems. From quaint historic districts to scenic byways, there’s no shortage of charming destinations waiting to be explored. Take a leisurely drive through the picturesque countryside, stopping to admire historic landmarks, antique shops, and roadside diners along the way.

Whether you’re drawn to Alabama’s rich history, stunning natural landscapes, or vibrant culture, the Yellowhammer State has something for everyone. So pack your bags, hit the road, and get ready to experience the magic of Alabama firsthand. From the mountains to the coast, adventure awaits around every corner in this charming Southern state.