Just off the Gulf of Mexico in the Southeastern United States sits Alabama, home of the Crimson Tide and Mobile Bay. Despite a long and rich history of American music, food, and culture, the Yellowhammer state is one of the least visited travel destinations in the United States with just 28.7 million visitors annually. While places like the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the gorgeous Gulf Shores are popular attractions, some of the state’s hidden gems are sure to put Alabama on your list of favorite places to visit.
Sweet Home Alabama
Natural wonders, historic sculpture gardens, and luxury getaways are just a few of the places on our list of things you didn’t know you could do in Alabama. So, if you thought this Southern state was all Mardi Gras and Randy Owen, then read on–this list is definitely for you.
Photographers and conservationists will both appreciate this sinkhole in Fackler, in Jackson County, Alabama. Stretching over 160 feet down into the earth, the walls of the Neversink Pit are lined with cascading ledges worn from sheets of flowing water that flow down the edges. Varieties of beautiful, rare ferns and other lush plant-life rest on the rocky shelves and cling to the walls.
It’s a nearly 16 story drop to the bottom of the pit, where the floor of the hole is 100ft wide, and you can climb down for a view from the lowest point–as long as you get a permit from the Southeastern Cave Conservancy in advance. Even if you’re not much of a climber, the view from the top of the pit is amazing.
In Tuscumbia, there’s another cave where visitors can catch a glimpse of the natural beauty Alabama has to offer. Here at the Rattlesnake Saloon, however, guests can also enjoy a two-pound burger called the “Gigantor” and an apple fritter. The Saloon itself is built into the underneath of a huge naturally-formed rock shelter and is part of the larger Seven Springs Lodge resort that takes up a total of 20,000 acres.
The Rattlesnake Saloon is a bit of a trek, with a parking lot where guests can wait for a lift or walk down a steep trail. Don’t worry though, there’s plenty of space to hitch your horses and the bar doesn’t close until 10.
Wind Creek Wetumpka
More in the way of a traditional vacation getaway is the Wind Creek Wetumpka Casino and Resort, just half an hour from Montgomery. There they have a hotel with pool and spa services, five-star dining, and live entertainment available. On the casino floor, you’ll find over 2,500 games to choose from and a Wind Creek Rewards program that gives members the chance to win trips, concert tickets, and complimentary stays. If a holiday with lady luck sounds like your ideal weekend, you can find a map of Alabama casinos listed here.
African Village in America
Part memorial, part sculpture garden, the African Village in America can be found in Birmingham. With colorful structures made of iron and steel, Joe Minter has created a yard show dedicated to the struggle of African people brought to America. Minter says that his commitment to metalwork is reminiscent of the African iron ages, but it’s also to the spirit of Alabama’s own history in iron. Depictions of major American historical events are brought to life in concrete, iron scraps, and secondhand bits on Minter’s lawn, and he has an open admission policy for visitors that arrive during the daytime. His goal? In his own words, “Communicate to the world a message of God—love and peace for all.”
Part of the Talladega Mountains in the Blue Ridge Mountain Range, Cheaha Mountain is the highest natural point in the state of Alabama. Cultivated as part of conservation efforts by President Roosevelt in 1936, the surrounding national forest offers a scenic view from overlooks and the stone Civilian Conservation Corps tower that sits atop the mountain. A lodge and a restaurant offer a place to rest and enjoy the beautiful Appalachian landscape and accessible walkways mean you can bring the whole family right to the peak.
Where can you see Stonehenge, dinosaurs, and a 50-foot woman lounging in a lake all in one place? Alabama, of course! In Elberta, at the Barber Marina, you can travel from the water where the sculpture of the woman rests, to Bamahenge and to see the dinosaurs through the trees in the woods, all for free.
Miss Baker’s Grave
Huntsville is a great place to visit if you’re a space travel buff. There they have the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, which showcases the work and history of the U.S. Space Program. But they also have a very special gravesite, just outside the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, that draws in plenty of tourists. The grave in question belongs to Miss Baker, a squirrel monkey and the first U.S. animal to make a flight to space and return alive! She made her flight in 1959 and lived until 1984. Guests to her grave still leave bananas as a tribute to this amazing American astronaut before visiting the center.
Categories: Local Scenes Stuff