View of the historic downtown area in Eufaula, Alabama. Editorial credit: JNix /

The Best Small Towns in Alabama to Chill Out In 2024

A cultural and economic hub of the Southern United States, Alabama, or the “Cotton State,” is indeed a most beautiful place of discovery. For those planning an American vacation in 2024, the special Southern charm, hot weather, and fascinating history of Alabama should all be considered when making any plans. Here, beautiful towns and welcoming people make this “Land of Dixie” a veritable treat for the entire family. While major centers like Montgomery and Birmingham may spring to mind first, Alabama’s smaller and equally fascinating towns showcase a quaint side of the state where abundant natural beauty and cultural allure await. So visit Alabama and see genuine Southern Americana, where hot sun and loads of charm come together.


Aerial view of Loxley in Alabama.
Aerial view of Loxley in Alabama.

Situated at the southern tip of Alabama in Baldwin County, Loxley is a great place to enjoy a quieter pace of life in a most welcoming setting. Founded in the 1870s, just under 4,000 residents call Loxley home today, which also serves as a suburb of the nearby cities of Daphne and Mobile. Guests can enjoy relaxing activities like camping and biking while picking fresh fruit at local farms, a unique experience only a small town can offer. From there, one can enjoy a round of golf or two at the popular Steelwood Country Club or cast a line in the local Steelwood Lake, ideal for bass and beam fishing. Afterward, try out an authentic Southern meal at the nearby Jacks and Kraver’s Seafood, making Loxley the “Biggest Little Town in Baldwin.”

Gulf Shores

Waterfront homes in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Waterfront homes in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Gulf Shores is Alabama’s southernmost town, and with its hot weather and scenic setting along the Gulf of Mexico, it is not difficult to see what makes this community such a popular destination. A resort town of just over 15,000 residents, Gulf Shores experiences warm winters and hot summers where stunning ocean views and welcoming beaches populate the landscape. At the Gulf Shores Public Beach, one can enjoy swimming, sunbathing, sailing, and fishing. Similarly, the chance to play golf against a most splendid backdrop is hard to pass up.

For a unique cultural experience on the beach, the May Hangout Music Festival is a must. Live music from a variety of genres is performed on a stage right along the beach. Meanwhile, a visit to the nearby Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge or the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is an awesome way for the entire family to enjoy an afternoon together.

Fort Payne

Businesses lined along Gault Avenue in Fort Payne, Alabama.
Businesses lined along Gault Avenue in Fort Payne, Alabama. By Thomson200 - Own work, CC0, Wikimedia Commons.

Informally established in the late 18th century, the town of Fort Payne came into form in the 1830s, and it served as a prominent settlement for the Cherokee people. Today, this seat of DeKalb County boasts a population of just under 15,000 residents, and it continues to be a fascinating historic center with loads of natural beauty that all ages can appreciate. Excursions to the Little Canyon National Preserve and the DeSoto State Park are truly splendid ways to take in the glorious outdoors. And do not forget about the unique Manitou Cave, where spectacular geologic views await.

Those who wish to stay in town can explore local history at the Fort Payne Depot Museum and Alabama Walking Park. Finally, with plenty of tasty local restaurants specializing in authentic Southern cooking and a welcoming array of shops, boutiques, and other businesses, this small Alabama town will undoubtedly leave a positive impression on all who visit it.


View of the Fairhope Municipal Pier in Fairhope, Alabama.
The Fairhope Municipal Pier along Mobile Bay in Fairhope, Alabama. Editorial credit: George Dodd III /

Fairhope is beautifully situated along the eastern shores of Mobile Bay in the Gulf of Mexico, where hot summers and warm winters are the norm. Formally established in the 1890s, today, just under 24,000 residents call this peaceful and charming town home. Outdoor enthusiasts can opt for popular destinations like the Rock Creek Golf Club and the Weeks Bay Nature Preserve, where the splendor of the outdoors can be intimately felt. And for those looking for some cultural attractions (and ways to beat the often humid tropical climate), explore museums like the Eastern Shore Art Center or the Fairhope Museum of History, which highlight local artists and their regional stories.


Shops along a street in Tuscumbia, Alabama.
Rustic buildings and businesses in the town of Tuscumbia in Alabama. Editorial credit: Luisa P Oswalt /

The seat of Colbert County, Tuscumbia, is a wonderful destination overflowing with cultural charm. One of the “Cotton State’s” oldest colonial settlements, visitors can explore the Tuscumbia Historic District. Here, buildings and landmarks that range from the early 1800s to the mid-1900s create an experience of traveling through time. Amongst the most visited is surely the Ivy Green House, which was the birthplace of famed blind deaf activist Helen Keller in 1880. A fascinating birthplace museum, guests will encounter insightful looks into Keller’s life and her struggle for disability rights.

Situated in a region known as “The Shoals” in northwestern Alabama, Tuscumbia offers guests loads of natural beauty. Spend time at the nearby Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve, which covers an area of some 413 acres and offers activities like camping, cycling, hiking, and wildlife watching.

Dauphin Island

Colorful beach homes along the coast in Dauphin Island, Alabama.
Vibrant beach homes along the coast of Dauphin Island, Alabama. Editorial credit: Carmen K. Sisson /

An island town with a colonial history dating back to the 16th century, Dauphin Island is a coastal delight situated on the barrier island of the same name. Also affectionately known as the “Sunset Capital of Alabama,” this historically fascinating and naturally stunning locale has been a popular tourist destination for decades. Home to a modest population of just under 1,800 residents, guests can expect to find plenty of historic attractions and island beauty at every turn. Visit historic sites like Fort Morgan (1834) and Fort Gaines (1821), the latter of which served as the site of the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864 during the Civil War.

For a more modern experience, one can spend a fun afternoon at the Alabama Aquarium, which is perfect for the whole family. Similarly, the sight of migratory birds at the expansive Audubon Bird Sanctuary is a unique treat. Finally, no visit to Dauphin Island could be complete without enjoying the splendid ocean waters of the Gulf of Mexico, where a fine assortment of beaches is the perfect place for sunbathing, swimming, and sailing.

Mountain Brook

Shades Creek Grist Mill and bridge
View of the historic Shades Creek Grist Mill and bridge in Mountain Brook, Alabama.

A suburb of the city of Birmingham, the town of Mountain Brook is a peaceful and charming community ideal for a chill trip. The town boasts stunning views of the Shades and Red Mountain Ridges, creating a wonderful backdrop for most activities. To this end, visitors love to spend time at the welcoming Shades Creek, where rustic sites like the Old Mill create quaint photo opportunities, while authentic Southern-cooked meals are never far away. For an elegant and tasty experience, try the Daniel George Restaurant or the nearby Grand Bohemian Hotel, where more awesome mountain vistas await.


Rustic buildings in Eufaula, Alabama.
Historic buildings in the downtown area of Eufaula, Alabama. Editorial credit: JNix /

Barbour County’s largest town, Eufaula, is a bustling hub home to over 13,000 residents. Scenically located near the Chattahoochee River, this naturally beautiful and historically alluring town is a great place to get a feeling for small-town Alabama. Enjoy leisure time at Lake Eufaula and the Chattahoochee River, while a day trip to the Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge is certified fun for all ages. Adventurers can also try out fishing and camping spots while viewing bald eagles, alligators, and other wildlife for a most special outing where great photos await!

Meanwhile, history enthusiasts can also appreciate Eufaula, and several buildings and other landmarks in the town are included on the National Register of Historic Places. A prominent example is the Shorter Mansion, which was built in 1884. To top it off, those visiting in 2024 can look forward to the Eufaula Fest, a celebration of local culture and arts in October.

Wrapping Up

The “Cotton State” of Alabama is a cherished component of the Southern United States, whose rich natural beauty and fascinating history have made it a unique vacation destination for decades. Any visitor should not overlook Alabama and its wonderful small towns. Though major cities will always attract their rightful share of attention, Alabama’s smaller communities are also filled with plenty to admire. From the splendid beach areas of Gulf Shores to the historic ambiance of Tuscumbia, these friendly towns showcase some of the best of Alabama, where all ages can chill out.

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