Staycation takes on a whole new meaning in Alabama
From the Appalachian Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico, Alabama residents are fortunate to have so many vacation options in their own backyard. The state offers historic locations, quiet little communities with treasures to be discovered, and outdoor activities as well as all the offerings of a big city.
Here are just a few destinations perfect for a day trip or overnight stay, no matter where you live in Alabama.
Russell Cave National Monument
Although Russell Cave is no longer open for tours because of the discovery of several rare species, there’s still plenty to explore. I enjoy meandering along the nature trail and photographing the flowers and dramatic landscape. There is also a back country trail. Both trails provide a view of Montague Mountain.
The park also offers a guided tour of a cave shelter once occupied by the prehistoric groups featuring a diorama depicting life during another time in Alabama history.
Russell Cave National Monument is located at 3729 County Road 98, Bridgeport; (256) 495-2672 x113. nps.gov/ruca/index.htm
DeSoto State Park
Like Russell Cave National Monument, DeSoto State Park on Lookout Mountain is the perfect setting for a family vacation and anyone who enjoys the great outdoors. Famous for the beautiful DeSoto Falls, the park also features a nature center, ADA-accessible playground, and boardwalk trails as well as a restaurant, picnic area, lodge, motel, chalets, cabins and campground. This is another park where I enjoy hiking.
Add kayaking, fishing, hiking, cycling, rappelling, bouldering, picnicking and wildflower expeditions, and you have a vacation made for any outdoor enthusiast.
DeSoto State Park is located at 7104 DeSoto Parkway NE, Fort Payne; (256) 845-5380. alapark.com/desoto-state-park
I am often drawn to history as well. Palisades Park near Oneota features several historic buildings including Murphree Cabin, built by Daniel Murphree in 1820; the Blackwood Log Cabin honoring the area’s Irish heritage; and Compton School, built in 1904. The park is also known for its hiking trails and rock climbing.
Oneonta also boasts two golf courses and its famous covered bridges. The Blount County Covered Bridge Festival in downtown Oneonta is held every October.
The city of Oneonta is located 35 miles northeast of Birmingham; (205) 274-2150.
Moundville Archaeological Park
If you enjoy Native American history, visit Moundville, the second largest prehistoric archaeological site of its kind. Moundville represents the best preserved Mississippian Indian ceremonial mound center in North America.
In addition to seeing the mounds, guests are encouraged to visit the Jones Archaeological Museum. The museum features more than 200 artifacts with life-size figures displaying clothes and jewelry.
The prehistoric complex is located at 634 Mound State Parkway, Moundville; (205) 371-2234. moundville.ua.edu/
Another history lesson and certainly one to help children understand our nation’s beginnings is American Village. Founding fathers and those who defended America are commemorated in this beautiful and meaningful attraction. Here you will discover the journey for independence and self-government.
Highlights include Washington Hall, Colonial Courthouse, Colonial Chapel and a full-sized replica of the Oval Office. Special programs are held on major national holidays and draw thousands of visitors on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day.
American Village is located at 3727 Alabama 119, Montevallo; (205) 665-3535. americanvillage.org
Moore-Webb-Holmes Plantation, c. 1819
Just west of Marion is another excellent historic site. One of Alabama’s last active plantations, it has remained in the same family since the early 1800s. Most of the buildings are original to the site, although the house burned in 1927. Remaining buildings include a log seed house, carriage house, smoke house, chicken coop, blacksmith shop, weaving house, a two-story early Federal/Greek Revival style house and plantation store. Most date to the 1800s and many are filled with artifacts.
Historic papers, including a deed signed by Andrew Jackson, are on display in the Country Store.
Moore-Webb-Holmes Plantation is located at 27360 Hwy 14, Marion; (334) 683-9955. ruralswalabama.org/attraction/the-moore-webb-holmes-plantation/
LaFayette may be small, with just more than 3,000 residents, but it has a lot to offer visitors. I started with a tour of the 1899 Chambers County Courthouse, continued over to the Chambers County Museum housed in the historical LaFayette train depot, and photographed the statue of boxing great Joe Louis, who was born in LaFayette. You might also like to spend the day fishing in the 180-acre Chambers County Lake stocked with bream, bass, crappie, catfish and carp.
After touring the town or enjoying a day of fishing, head for nearby Lanett, Valley or Opelika for a selection of accommodations.
LaFayette is 80 miles northeast of Montgomery; (334) 864-7181.
The Carver Museum
There are two George Washington Carver museums in Alabama — George W. Carver Museum in Tuskegee and G.W. Carver Interpretive Museum in Dothan. I so appreciate the contributions this agricultural genius brought to this nation.
I had been to the Tuskegee museum honoring the scientist for his contributions to the Tuskegee Institute, but I only recently learned about the Carver Museum featuring a Social Progress Heroes Timeline. Highlighted are the contributions African-Americans have made over the centuries that have helped make America great. The timeline is the culmination of two permanent exhibits: “Designing the World We Live In” and “Black Scientists, Inventors, and Explorers,” as well as the Carver Room dedicated to Dr. Carver.
The George Washington Carver Museum is located on the campus of Tuskegee Institute at 1212 West Montgomery Road. For information, visit nps.gov/tuin/index.htm. The G.W. Carver Interpretive Museum is located at 305 North Foster Street, Dothan; (334) 712-0933.
Florala City Wetland Park
If you’re a birder or someone who loves nature, visit Florala City Wetland Park, part of the Alabama Birding Trails. The park provides a variety of ways to explore and enjoy the northern portion of 500-acre Lake Jackson. There are picnic tables and a picnic shelter, a campground, public beaches and paved walking trails as well as an elevated boardwalk through a cypress forest along the edge of the lake.
Visitors will be able to see cardinals, mockingbirds, brown thrashers, and downy and red-bellied woodpeckers. Other year-round residents include great blue herons, great egrets and green herons. During warmer months a great variety of other birds call the park home including orchard orioles, yellow-throated warblers, painted buntings, common yellowthroats, white-eyed vireos, indigo buntings and American redstarts, to name a few.
The park is located at 514 Lake Shore Drive, Florala; (334) 858-6425. alabamabirdingtrails.com/sites/florala-city-wetland-parkflorala-state-park/
Looking for romance? Magnolia Springs Bed and Breakfast, housed in an 1898 mansion, is a great destination for a romantic getaway. According to Innkeeper David Worthington, guests are always impressed with the beauty of the inn.
After a three-course breakfast, Worthington says many guests decide to enjoy the relaxation the inn affords. Others venture out to see the sites including nearby Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. There are several local historic sites, golf courses and shopping opportunities as well.
Magnolia Springs B&B is located at 14469 Oak Street, Magnolia Springs; (251) 965-7321. magnoliasprings.com/
Estuarium at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab
The Estuarium at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab is a fantastic destination that hosts several free public events year-round. Twice a month, visitors can interact with lab experts on a wide range of topics including climate change, habitat restoration, salt marshes and sharks.
The Summer Excursion program allows visitors to see firsthand the habitats studied by marine scientists, researchers and students at the facility.
The facility is located at 102 Bienville Blvd., Dauphin Island; (251) 861-7500. disl.org/estuarium
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach
If you love white-sand beaches, golf, nature trails and water sports, deep sea and pier fishing, then Gulf Shores & Orange Beach is the right destination for you.
Add a dolphin cruise or maybe spend the day at the award-winning Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo and you have a great weekend (or longer) getaway.
For more information call (800) 745-7263. gulfshores.com
Your best source to see all that Alabama has to offer is Alabama Tourism. For a free visitor’s guide call (334) 242-4169 or go to www.alabama.travel.