Aerial view of Fairhope, Alabama.

9 Top-Rated Small Towns In Alabama

Peak Southern hospitality, expansive untouched lands of greenery, and a strong sense of community are some of the few distinctive characteristics of Alabama. Like the famous song Sweet Home Alabama suggests, The Cotton State makes every visitor feel right at home with its inclusive natural settings that make America the greatest and most diverse country. From the closely located towns of Fort Payne and Mentone, which make for a perfect town-hopping itinerary, to more secluded and relaxing options like the agricultural-focused town of Valley in the Southeastern region of the state, read along the unveiling of the nine top-rated small towns in Alabama to plan your trip to one of America's most welcoming states.


Historic buildings in Opelika, Alabama. 
Historic buildings in Opelika, Alabama. 

Opelika is a historic town built out of necessity as a railroad community and trading hub in Lee County in Eastern Alabama. Thanks to Opelika's major role in Southern trade, hard-working local community, and strategic geographical location, Opelika is home to a booming manufacturing industry, from distilleries and breweries to farmlands and automotive companies that support creative local efforts to differentiate their town and attract tourists. From mural scavenger hunts to brewery hopping tours, Opelika combines a balanced mix of attractions that complement the unparalleled nature of Alabama at places like Wood Duck Nature Preserve. Stroll Opelika's downtown to find picturesque backdrops like the Opelika's Butterfly and The Yellow Umbrella murals, some of the most iconic creative works in town, and venture out to the nearby Tuskegee National Forest and Chewacla State Park in woodland to explore nature and get active when visiting Opelika. The Museum of East Alabama takes visitors back in time with thousands of artifacts that narrate the town's developing history, while Spring Villa Park makes for an excellent family-fun destination equipped for picnics, camping, recreational activities of volleyball, and more. 


Autumn at Little River above DeSoto Falls in Mentone, Alabama.
Autumn at Little River above DeSoto Falls in Mentone, Alabama. Editorial credit: Shirley Chambers /

Mentone ranks on the list of top-rated small towns in Alabama for enjoying a slower pace of life and leveraging its natural gifts as its main attractions. Visitors flock to Mentone, Alabama, to regroup and relax with nature-centric expeditions like exploring Brow Park, situated at Lookout Point Mountain overlooking Chattanooga Valley and Desoto State Park and its hiking paths that accommodate all levels of expertise. Sallie Howard Memorial Baptist Chapel, built in 1937 around a rock formation, is a must-see attraction in town for being a one-of-a-kind architectural masterpiece, while the Mentone Arts Center is a mixed display of modern and historic local talents. Enjoy Southern cuisine in old-school diners and locally acclaimed restaurants like the Green Leaf Grill and Wildflower Café while choosing from a range of classy lodging options like Bee on the Brow Bed and Breakfast, Mentone Cabins, or Mentone Mountain Getaways for a more secluded experience. 

Fort Payne

Gault Avenue in downtown Fort Payne, Alabama.
Gault Avenue in downtown Fort Payne, Alabama. Image credit: Thomson200 via Wikimedia Commons.

Located 13 mi from the calm and tucked away resort town of Mentone, Fort Payne is one of the more popular destinations in Alabama. The western-themed town is the county seat of Dekalb County and is one of Alabama's small towns that saw economic prosperity during the boom of the coal mining industry in the 1800s. Tourists often visit Fort Payne to explore its neighboring natural attractions like Little River Canyon National Preserve, Desoto State Park, and Martha's Falls, locally recognized as the Hippie Hole. The Fort Payne Depot Museum allows visitors historical insights into the town's developing history as a railroad town based in an 1891 Richardsonian Romanesque granite-covered mansion. The small nature-centric town is also home to one of the most successful and well-recognized rock bands that named their crew Alabama after The Cotton State. Visitors can learn more about the legendary Grammy-winning band at the Alabama Fan Club and Museum. Quality Inn and Econo Lodge allow for a convenient stay in the heart of town, while Nate's Cabin, located far out near Little River Canyon Falls, offers a peaceful therapeutic escape.  

Magnolia Springs

St Paul's Episcopal Church in Magnolia Springs, Alabama.
St Paul's Episcopal Church in Magnolia Springs, Alabama. Image credit: Jimmy Emerson via

Magnolia Springs is another state-renowned weekend escape town in Alabama, frequented as a gateway town to Gulf Shores' pristine beaches or as a nature-rich escape for its location on the Magnolia River in Southern Alabama, from Iconic dining experiences like Jessee's iconic Steakhouse and Magnolia River Bar & Grill to relaxing stays that allow visitors to experience the Cotton State from a local perspective like the Magnolia Springs Bed and Breakfast built in 1897. Whether stopping by on your way to explore Fairhope or looking for a quick city escape, Magnolia Springs embraces a slower pace of countryside living lifestyle, making it a perfect one-nigh-stop to zone out exploring a tiny town that stretches only 0.9 sq mi and its state park renowned for crystal clear waters.

Muscle Shoals

Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
Sign of Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

One of the more popular destinations in Alabama, Muscle Shoals is a much larger community than many small towns on this list of top-rated small towns in Alabama, steeped in history and southern charm. Located near Tuscumbia in the corner of Alabama with a unique geographical setting between Mississippi and Tennessee, some of the town's most popular attractions include the historic Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum House, the Old Railroad Bridge, and the Shoals Theatre where visitors can catch a live performance are some of the town's main attractions. A well-rounded experience is enhanced by musical history like the iconic Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, natural attractions like Pickwick Lake, and scenic vistas of the 1,384-meter-long Wison Dam. Nicknamed "The Hit Recording Capital of the World," Muscle Shoals also makes up the perfect town-hopping itinerary when looking to explore more than one side of the Cotton State, for being located 3 mi from Tuscumbia and 4 mi from Florence. Stop by when driving out to Tennesee or make Muscle Shoals your base when exploring neighboring towns. Stay at convenient centric inns like Red Roof Inn Muscle Shoals and its neighboring Days Inn by Wyndham, located roughly a block away.  


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

Fair Hope is one of the larger and more diverse small towns in Alabama, balancing everything from museums and live music to an array of local shopping options at the Fairhope Municipal Pier. Catch the Live at Five music event when visiting in the spring, and browse creative local talents at The Eastern Shore Art Center when visiting the touristy town of Fairhope. Make a visit to Fairhope a family trip to remember when you visit the imaginatively structured Storybook Castle, and browse the town's range of museums, like the Fairhope Museum of History and the Marrietta Jhonsson Museum. Better yet, the shoreline city offers the broadest range of lodging options, from the luxurious Jubilee Suites Boutique Hotel to the minimalist-themed Lucia Bleu Cottages on the Bluff. There is a memorable experience for all preferences and appeals in Fairhope.


Wilson Park Fountain in downtown Florence, Alabama. 

One of the top-rated small towns for being decorated with historic architecture and parks, Florence is home to the University of North Alabama and one of the best small towns to enjoy a well-rounded experience of The Heart Of Dixie. Voted the most picturesque small town in Alabama, Florence is also home to cultural attractions like The Alabama Music Hall Of Fame. Tour Florance with a culinary tour of iconic restaurants like Trowbridges, Sweet Basil Alabama, and Milla's Place for the traditional American diner experience. Accommodation options in Florence also include those of nearby towns like Muscle Shoals and Sheffield, but for a stay in the heart of town, book with locally renowned options like The Stricklin Hotel, the chic rustic GunRunner Boutique Hotel, or a more generic stay with places like Hampton Inn, and Quality Inn.

Mountain Brook 

Beautiful nature near Mountain Brook, Alabama.
Beautiful nature near Mountain Brook, Alabama.

On the rocky side of The Cotton State, Mountain Brook, located in Jefferson County, is an upscale, laid-back town that was developed as a private conservative real-estate community. Mountain Brook makes the list of top-rated small towns for being a perfect family escape for attractions like the nearby hikeable Jemison Park, Vulcan Park, and Museum, with its industrial displays showcasing how Iron was forged in earlier times, and Birmingham Zoo. The small town is also an excellent getaway for those seeking an active weekend escape from its world-class golf courses and likable nature, like Highland Park Golf Course, Mountain Brook Club, and the nearby Sicard Hollow Athletic Complex. Parks are also a major part of the overall escape experience to Mountain Brook, with some of the locally renowned destinations being Crestline Park, Erskine Ramsay Park, and the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. 


Horace King Memorial Covered Bridge in Valley, Alabama.
Horace King Memorial Covered Bridge in Valley, Alabama.

Finally, Valley stands out on this list of the top-rated small towns in Alabama for being home to a booming agricultural community that embraces the countryside lifestyle. Secluded rentals, Historical tours of local homes, local breweries, and vineyards, along with numerous covered bridge hiking trails like Horace King Memorial Bridge and garden, are highlights of any visit to the Valley. Located on the borders with the state of Georgia, a trip to Valley is as close as visitors will get to experiencing Historic Alabama with its history that extends back to the 1860s. Visit quaint churches and schools disguised as small bungalow homes like CottonDuck kindergarten, Riverview First Christian Church, and Fairfax Post Office. Explore the vast green lands of Pine Mountains in Georgia, sitting 24 mi away, and spend your stay as a local when catching a live show at New Horizon Theatre and dining at local mom-and-pop restaurants and cafes like Terri's Mill Village Café in the town's Shawmut area, and Milano's Italian Grill. 

From insights into the state's musical impact at Muscle Shoals to family-friendly excursions of vast nature and quaint homes in Mountain Brook, the top-rated small towns of Alabama are a relaxing getaway emphasizing the small-town feel with smiles and kind gestures of locals. 

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