To visit Alabama is to experience so much more than the southern accent and the endless fields to run through. Touring these quintessential towns of this state will envelop one into the true Southern charm that one reads about in books.
Set in the north of the state, in the midst of the Tennessee River Valley and on the banks of the Wheeler Lake, the iconic river city of Decatur offers a vast amount of outdoor pursuits to suit any taste and age. The first wave pool ever in the United States is at the town's family waterpark, the Point Mallard Park, featuring water slides, a lazy river, and the Tennessee River's contributory, the Flint Creek with a sandy beach. The annual Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic takes place at the park displays some 60 hot-air balloons setting-off each year.
The 35,000 acres of natural wildlife and habitat is set right next to the park at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, perfect for hiking and wildlife sightings, inclusive with a nature centre to learn about all of the region's living things. The interactive Cook's Natural Science Museum offers one to explore the natural sciences in the region through learn and play. The Albany Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, contains many architecturally exquisite homes from the late-19th and early-20th centuries.
Set on a high bluff, the town of Fairhope has a quintessential history of being founded by a small group of colonists who came into the area searching for paradise, in 1894. Hailed as 'the jewel of the Eastern Shore', Fairhope overlooks the scenic Mobile Bay, still reminiscent of that time, with many artists, craftsmen, and retirees finding their own paradise in this quaint town to call home.
The bustling downtown and the sandy beaches, the town's picturesque parks with picnic areas, along with the bistros and boutiques set on the waterfront lined with mossy oaks and rustic wooden piers, make the town a popular romantic getaway. There are almost non-stop arts and crafts festivals throughout the year, while the Eastern Shore Arts Center showcases the works by local artists. The Fairhope Museum of History would entice crime history buffs, featuring the town's old jail.
The Barbour County town of Eufaula has a fascinating history being set on the original Creek Indian Territory that was occupied by three Creek tribes along the Chattahoochee River. Upon trying to settle the region illegally, the federal troops forcefully removed the white newcomers. Only after the Indians had willingly left the territory did the settlers establish Eufaula in the mid-1830s. Bordering the Walter F. George Lake, Eufaula was also an important Chattahoochee River trading port during the late 19th century.
The Seth Lore and the Irwinton Historic District retain much of the character from that cumulous time, along with the town's charming, beautifully-preserved antebellum houses. The Lakepoint Resort State Park is great for outdoor pursuits, including boating, while the best hiking can be accomplished at the Creek Indian Trail with views of the lake and town, the Yoholo Micco. The Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge is home to bald eagles and alligators. To recharge on some real southern grub after sightseeing, one should not hesitate to head to the Barb's Country Kitchen.
Full of Southern charm, the historic city of Florence is set in the Shoals region in northwest Alabama, offering a wide range of outdoor activities, independent shops, local museums and breweries to take advantage of. The Victorian- and Georgian-style homes of the Walnut Street Historic District date back to the 1870s, with the Rosenbaum House, architected by the famous Frank Lloyd Wright.
For a relaxing afternoon, one can traverse the campus of the University of North Alabama near center, as well as stroll to the water through the Wilson Park. The central Court Street offers an array of small stores and boutiques, including the Billy Reid flagship store, to explore, following which one can enjoy a southern-style meal at one of the historically-renovated restaurants. For dessert, one of the oldest soda shops in the south, the Trowbridge's Ice Cream and Sandwich Bar serves delectable sundaes.
Fort Payne is known for its outstanding natural spaces, including the DeSoto State Park, the Little River Canyon National Preserve, the Manitou Cave, and the nearby Martha's Falls. The town is located in the place of a no-longer-existing, significant Cherokee village of Willston, founded by a mixed-race man named Will, with the village soon turning into a fort to intern Cherokees before their forceful deportation to Oklahoma. The town's rich history also includes Sequoyah, a silversmith who invented the Cherokee syllabary, making it a written language.
With just as big of a music scene, the town features a museum established in honor of the Alabama country music group, whose story to fame-dom began in Fort Payne. The whole family can enjoy pastimes such as watching wondrous glass-blowing at the Orbix Hot Glass or antique shopping at the Big Mill Antique Mall. To recharge, the Vintage 1889 offers traditional southern servings, while for more modern grub, there is BBQ at Sally's Smokin Butt BBQ.
The warm Gulf is suitable for fishing and swimming, while the ocean is perfect for cruising for all water enthusiasts to rejoice while in this little town surrounded by water. Boasting a pristine coastline, one can also choose to swim the turquoise ocean waters, followed by walking along the surf, sunbathing, building sandcastles, or playing volleyball on the white-sanded beach. The best time for any water fun is at sunset when the picturesque sky highlights the numerous fishing boats and cruise boats at the horizon.
Some of the more unique activities include parasailing and visiting the Sandcastle University, where one can learn to build the most creative sandcastle for a family pastime to cherish forever. In May, the Hangout Music Festival is a three-day worth of fun and live music on the beach, with many stages and different genres. There is also 7,000-acres of national wildlife refuge, while the Southern estate garden, the Bellingrath Gardens, is 65 acres worth of blooming floral beauty.
The beautiful mountain town of Mentone has plenty of peaks to conquer for spectacular views and impressive waterfalls awaiting explorative adventurers, such as the 104 feet high Desoto Falls with waters cascading down into an emerald-hued pool. On the other hand, the city-folk would love scavenging out the Log Cabin Craft Village for souvenirs and gifts, including unique handmade items, such as hand-carved cigars, wooden Indians, pottery, and jewelry.
Hitting all of the shops at the numerous log cabins provides the best shopping in the region and a cherished time spent with family, picking out a one-of-kind item for the house or for loved ones. Another memorable pastime involves experiencing a church service at a mountainside church and visiting the stained glass-windowed St. Joseph's on the Mountain.
A suburb of Birmingham, and a planned community dating back to 1929, Mountain Brook is the wealthiest town in the whole state, having been developed within amazing scenery and nature with estate-sized lots back-dropped by the Red Mountain and the Shades Mountain Ridges. The town is designed as a quaint residential village with European-style architecture by the acclaimed Bostonian landscape architect Warren H. Manning. The luscious Jemison Park comes with a babbling Shades Creek, while the Old Mill House was designed by William H. Kessler and built in 1926.
Still possessing a laid-back environment, the town is definitely worthy of a visit by anyone, especially considering the most scenic winding road leading to it and being the locale of the first office park in the United States, built in 1955. Those who do appreciate the finer things in life might as well buy a cigar at Vitola Fine Cigars or hit the boutiques, have a fine dining experience at Daniel George Restaurant followed by a drink from the Dram Whisky Bar. The Grand Bohemian Hotel Mountain Brook would complement the luxuriously spent day with a matching place to wind down.
Tucked at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in northwest Alabama near the banks of the Tennessee River, Tuscumbia is a two-century-old charming gem known as the "Charm of the Shoals." The town is lined with impressive antebellum architecture. Helen Keller's childhood home, the 'Ivy Green,' is also present here. The Coon Dog Cemetery is another special place to visit, featuring unique headstones and monuments that honor long-gone friends. The Alabama Music Hall of Fame honors music legends from the state, with their music sounding once again.
The Restored historic downtown offers exquisite dining experiences and eclectic shops, while its centerpiece, the shimmering Spring Park spring-fed lake, is crowned by a water fountain. Built to honor the wife of Shawnee Indian Chief Tecumseh, it contains synchronized jets with music and lights. While there, one is sure to come upon the world's largest artificial stone waterfall, the Cold Water Falls, with over four million gallons of water tumbling down the 42-foot tall stonework each day.
Full of antebellum architecture, mountain vistas, country music, and sometimes rich, but always brimming with a laid-back Southern charm lifestyle, it is no wonder that people who live in Alabama are so loyal to their roots.