Greer's Fairhope Market, Fairhope, Alabama

8 of the Most Charming Small Towns to Visit in Alabama

Alabama is a southern state that has a bordering coastline with the Gulf of Mexico. It is notable for its mentions in popular music, variety of landscapes, delicious and unique regional cuisine, and for having a relatively laid-back vibe.

The Yellowhammer State, as it is nicknamed after the state bird of the same name, is full of small towns that are worth traveling to when not visiting the bigger cities. In fact, it is quite easy to find an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life in this region. Start today with these eight must-visit small towns that are loaded with charm.


Aerial view of Fairhope, Alabama.
Aerial view of Fairhope, Alabama.

On the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, Fairhope is a serene spot filled with beaches and tree-lined streets with historic buildings. It was wounded as a bit of a utopian community that tried to eschew the pitfalls of the crony economy that was rampant in the rest of the country at the time in 1894. To this day, it retains its quaint charm while offering a vibrant arts scene.

Visitors can explore the Fairhope Museum of History to delve into the town's past or stroll along the Fairhope Municipal Pier for breathtaking views of the bay. The town's downtown area is dotted with boutique shops, art galleries, and cozy cafes, perfect for leisurely browsing or enjoying a cup of coffee. Nature enthusiasts can wander through the Fairhope Nature Preserve, a coastal habitat teeming with wildlife and scenic trails.


Historic district of downtown Eufaula at sunset.
Historic district of downtown Eufaula at sunset. Image credit Jnix via Shutterstock.

Situated along the banks of the Chattahoochee River, Eufaula has a true southern charm, with its antebellum homes and other landmarks from the past. Here, you can go on a nice, long walk down the town's oak-lined streets to admire the old architecture of the Seth Lore and Irwinton Historic District. History enthusiasts can also explore the Shorter Mansion, a Greek Revival-style home built in 1884, offering insight into the region's heritage.

The Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge provides opportunities for outdoor recreation, including birdwatching and hiking along picturesque trails. The downtown area contains shops, restaurants, and cafes so that visitors can sample southern cuisine or peruse locally-made crafts.

With its blend of historic charm and natural beauty, Eufaula offers a tranquil retreat for travelers seeking to explore Alabama's hidden gems.


Downtown street in Athens, Alabama.
Downtown street in Athens, Alabama.

In the forest-covered hills of north Alabama, the town of Athens can be found, with a true blend of outside recreation and places to find southern hospitality. While there, be sure to check out the official Athens historic downtown district, home to beautifully preserved antebellum homes and landmarks such as the Houston Memorial Library and Museum.

Looking for some adventure outside of town? You can hike or bike along the Richard Martin Trail, a gorgeous pathway system that winds through rolling countryside and other small rural communities.

Athen's downtown area boasts a variety of great local amenities, where visitors can sample locally-made crafts, Alambaman cuisine (like white BBQ sauce on smoked chicken), and a comfy place to rest their heads after a long day of exploring.


Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic held in Decatur, Alabama.
Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic held in Decatur, Alabama.

Sitting on the banks of the Tennessee River, Decatur is a haven for outdoor recreation and cultural landmarks to see. The downtown core of Decatur by the waterfront has yet many more beautifully restored homes from the antebellum period and historic sites such as the Old State Bank and the Princess Theatre.

It is easy to enjoy boating, fishing, and picnicking at Point Mallard Park, a sprawling recreational area with a water park, golf course, campground, and places to rent a boat for the day. Just a short walk away, many restaurants, bars, hotels, and other amenities can be found, and visitors can sample local cuisine and peruse handmade crafts. With an idyllic riverfront setting and a busy yet laid-back downtown scene, Decatur is a delightful escape for anyone seeking a stop for a weekend road trip.

Gulf Shores

Alabama Gulf Shores State Park and Beach.
Alabama Gulf Shores State Park and Beach. Image credit MarynaG via Shutterstock.

This is another one with a great selection of Alabama's beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. Gulf Shores, with a population of around 15,000 provides visitors with its pristine beaches, fun nightlife scene, and laid-back atmosphere.

Soak up the sun on one of the many lengthy white sand beaches, swim in the turquoise waters of the Gulf, or explore the wild and tranquil backwaters of Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. For a taste of this town's history visit Fort Morgan, a fort dating back to the 19th century, or explore the Gulf Shores Museum, which shows visitors the region's rich maritime heritage.

The downtown area has a variety of bars, restaurants, nightclubs, other and entertainment venues, where visitors can sample fresh seafood, catch live music performances, and have an exciting night on the town.


Stores in downtown Florence, Alabama.
Stores in downtown Florence, Alabama. Editorial credit: Luisa P Oswalt /

With a great view of the Tennessee River in the northwestern portion of the state, Florence is a great place to find a charming mix of southern hospitality, old Civil War-era architecture, and places to escape into nature, among much more.

You owe it to yourself to explore the town's several historic landmarks which are home to beautifully preserved homes and other destinations such as the Pope's Tavern Museum and the W.C. Handy Birthplace, Museum & Library. Those looking to get outdoors can enjoy hiking, fishing, and boating at nearby Joe Wheeler State Park, which has many trails and stunning views of the river within.

With its scenic riverfront setting and a thriving arts scene too, Florence is sure to charm travelers looking to experience rural Alabama.


Jubilee parkway on Mobile Bay at sunset from Daphne, Alabama
Jubilee parkway on Mobile Bay at sunset from Daphne, Alabama

Also on the eastern side of Mobile Bay, Daphne is another great hotspot for beaches and beautiful weather all year round.

For something to do outside of the sun, be sure to check out the Daphne Museum, housed in a historic train depot, which showcases artifacts and exhibits detailing the town's past. When you are feeling recharged and ready to get some sun, but don't necessarily want to hit up the beach just yet, you can enjoy birdwatching and hiking at the 150-acre Daphne Bayfront Park, which offers panoramic sights of the bay and opportunities for picnicking and relaxation.

With a prime waterfront location and relatively low cost of living, with a median housing cost of around $158,000 in nearby Mobile, Daphne may have you wanting to stay after your visit, perhaps permanently.


Anchor in Foley, Alabama.
Anchor in Foley, Alabama.

At the heart of Baldwin County is Foley, a deep southern town with a population of around 20,000 residents. it has a close proximity to many parks, educational landmarks, and other fun destinations.

The Foley Railroad Museum showcases the Foley's closely associated past with the railroad through interesting exhibits and artifacts. People seeking a nice park to visit can enjoy picnicking, hiking, biking, and more at Graham Creek Nature Preserve, a 484-acre preserve that also has several great spots for wildlife viewing. Bring your binoculars! Bring your golf clubs too, if golf is your thing of course, as this region has the perfect climate to keep several nearby courses running all year long.

Feeling a little hungry? Definitely try one of the several restaurants downtown that offer the famous southern foods that are popular in the area.

Discover More of Alabama

Alabama's charming small towns are the ultimate place to experience firsthand a slice of southern hospitality. From the shores of Fairhope to the historic streets of Athens, each town gives a unique glimpse into Alabama's heritage and culture. Whether exploring antebellum homes, hiking trails, or savoring local cuisine, you are sure to find an abundance of experiences to treasure in any of these destinations.

So, whether you're seeking a relaxing retreat or an adventure-filled getaway, visit any of these places in Alabama and discover the hidden delights scattered throughout the Heart of Dixie.

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