Also known as the “Cotton State,” Alabama is an essential part of the Southern United States, whose fascinating history and hot weather come together for a most unique experience. Admitted to the Union in 1819, Alabama’s history dates back several centuries and includes stories of Native Americans and French, Spanish, and British colonists. Today a visit to the State and some of its great small towns is indeed a journey filled with intrigue and fun. So pack your bags and get ready to experience some of the true gems of this land that has been called the “Heart of Dixie.”
Considered a suburb of the city of Birmingham, the town of Mountain Brook is a scenic locale where stunning views of the Shades and Red Mountain Ridges provide a most beautiful frame. Situated in Jefferson County and home to a population of just over 22,000 residents, Mountain Brook is a great place to enjoy big city amenities in a quieter and more relaxing ambiance. Stop by the quaint Shades Creek for intimate encounters with the sounds and sights of nature, while some of the best in Southern dining can be enjoyed at the Daniel George Restaurant. Meanwhile, for a rustic yet stylish place to rest, head on over to the Grand Bohemian Hotel, where more splendid alpine views are always a delight to see.
The seat of DeKalb County, Fort Payne can trace its history to the late 18th century and was once a prominent settlement of Cherokee people known as Willstown. Today the home of a population of just under 15,000 inhabitants, this historic town remains a fascinating place to learn more about America’s past and enjoy some wonderful outdoor attractions. Visit the old eponymous Fort Payne, spend an afternoon at the DeSoto State Park and the Little Canyon National Preserve, or explore the geological splendor that is Manitou Cave.
And with its hot summer and mild winter temperatures, there is always a reason to enjoy the outdoors in this town. Meanwhile, at day’s end, why not take in an authentic Alabama barbecue at the Vintage 1889 Restaurant, where tasty Southern cooking is the specialty?
Situated on the headwaters of the Magnolia River, the town of Magnolia Springs is one of southern Alabama’s most charming and historic locales. With a small population of just some 811 permanent residents, visitors will encounter plenty of welcoming hospitality while a number of landmarks across town are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. These include St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (1901) and the Sunnyside Hotel (1897), all located in the alluring Historic District. In addition, time spent near the river, either walking, swimming, or sailing, makes for some of the best in Southern scenery. And of course, with a number of tasty locally run eateries and shops in town, a real sense of Americana will always be felt when in this most splendid Alabama destination.
Incorporated as a town in 1818 (even before Alabama achieved statehood), Mooresville is one of the State’s oldest communities. Today it continues to resemble an authentic 19th-century village, and indeed it only has a population of just under 50 permanent residents! Still, while it may be a primarily tourist stopover, Mooresville is undoubtedly a rich spot to discover for any passing traveler. Listed in its entirety on the National Register of Historic Places, visitors can explore landmarks like the Brisk Church (1839) and the Stagecoach Inn and Tavern (1825).
Meanwhile even just a casual stroll through town is just enough to get a real feeling of what the simpler life is all about. Enjoy a locally cooked meal, browse a family-run shop, or simply greet a friendly local; Mooresville is indeed a snapshot of another time.
Situated in Baldwin County, the town of Loxley can trace its history to the 1870s when it was founded to serve as a lumber camp. Today the home of a modest population of just 3,710 residents, Loxley serves as a suburb to the larger cities of Daphne and Mobile. A great place to enjoy some quiet and relaxation away from the big city, Loxley styles itself as the “Biggest Little Town in Baldwin,” and visitors can enjoy such places like the Burris Farm Market and the Steelwood Country Club. Play a round of golf, pick some of the county’s freshest fruit, or simply take in a great locally cooked meal, Loxley is an ideal place to rest and take in the sights of quaint small town Alabama.
Just a 27 miles drive south of Loxley, the town of Gulf Shores is beautifully located on the Gulf of Mexico. Alabama’s southernmost community, just over 15,000 inhabitants live in this popular tourist destination. Known for its hot summers and warm winters, Gulf Shores offers great ocean and beach views and is home to several top-rated golf resorts. And with beautiful opportunities for sailing, swimming, fishing, and of course, sunbathing, it is not difficult to see why Gulf Shores attract so many.
In addition, visitors can stop by hotspots like the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo and the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. Meanwhile, at the Hangout Music Festival in May, music lovers can enjoy awesome live sounds right on the beach shore for a most unique early summer experience.
Fairhope is located on the eastern shoreline of Mobile Bay (on the Gulf of Mexico) and was founded back in the mid-1890s. Today a mid-sized town of around 22,500 residents, Fairhope is a charming and relaxing destination in southern Alabama where visitors can enjoy plenty of outdoor splendor. Spend time at the Weeks Bay Nature Reserve, play a round of golf at the Rock Creek Club, or simply take in the beautiful vistas of Mobile Bay. And with its humid and subtropical climate, Fairhope is a pleasing place to visit throughout the year, particularly for those looking to escape harsh winters.
Known as the birthplace of famed deaf-blind activist Helen Keller, the town of Tuscumbia was founded in 1815, even before Alabama entered the Union. Home to a population of just over 9,000 and seat of Colbert County, this charming and historically rich locale is a great place to discover some of the best of Alabama. Visit the Tuscumbia Historic District, where several landmarks have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and travel through the past in a time span from the 1820s to the 1930s. In addition, a visit to the Helen Keller Birthplace Museum is sure to inspire and inform.
Meanwhile, music lovers will surely not want to miss the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, which honors the contributions of Alabamans to the music of the United States. And of course, for the outdoors enthusiast, spending time at the nearby Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve is a wonderful place to enjoy hiking and biking, all while surrounded by a stunning array of biodiversity and calming natural splendor.
Alabama is undoubtedly one of the Southern United States’ most culturally and historically important places, and for any visitor looking to discover authentic Southern living, a trip to the “Cotton State” cannot be missed. With its abundance of charming and welcoming small towns, Alabama always has something to offer a variety of tastes. From the attractive beaches of Gulf Shores to the historic and naturally beautiful Magnolia Springs and beyond, these wonderful small towns remind visitors of why the “Heart of Dixie” has been said to reside in the great State of Alabama. So wait no longer and see firsthand what makes this land one of the most unique in all of America.