The Southern US state of Alabama has rich history, music, culture, and adventure, with diverse landscapes from mountains to the coastline. Renowned for its famous dose of Southern hospitality and delicious, mouth-watering food scene, there is so much for visitors to enjoy. Music legends Nat King Cole, W.C. Handy and Hank Williams were born in Alabama, and artists such as Aretha Franklin and The Rolling Stones ‘made it’ here. Gospel is sung in churches while Blues, Country and Jazz can be enjoyed in local bars.  

Locally owned restaurants dish up meals of mouth-watering barbecue and fresh seafood from Alabama’s fishing villages, and museums cover everything from Civil Rights and music history to fast cars and faster spacecraft. It’s a tough job choosing only a selection of the exciting things you can’t miss, but we’ve given it a go! 

Here are five ‘must-visits’ during a trip to Alabama:   

Live Out Your NASA Dreams at the U.S. Space and Rocket Centre  

The U.S. Space and Rocket Centre in Huntsville is the world’s largest space museum showcasing rockets and artifacts of the U.S. Space Program. Get hands-on with interactive exhibits, learn about the history of space science, and see a National Historic Landmark – an authentic Saturn V rocket – one of only three on display in the world! Experience space travel simulators, explore the development and evolution of the Space Shuttle program to the International Space Station, plus learn about NASA’s latest innovations. The U.S. Space and Rocket Centre is also home to the week-long Space Camp, Aviation Challenge Camp and Robotics Camp programs, which allow you to train to become an astronaut! 

Enjoy a Musical Journey at The Shoals   

In the area of north-western Alabama four close-knit and geographically linked cities make-up the area known as The Shoals. Several well-known Alabama attractions live here. Tuscumbia is Helen Keller’s birthplace and home, Florence is a beautiful river city with a rich history, Sheffield hosts the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, and Muscle Shoals is home to FAME Studios.  

Begin your visit at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in Tuscumbia to see gold records and costume exhibits. Then drive a few minutes north to Sheffield to visit Muscle Shoals Sound Studios: a hit recording studio owned by studio musicians that were known as The Swampers. Originally with FAME Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, The Swampers separated to form their own operation 3614 North Jackson Highway an address known well by its name - Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. 

While in the area, a must-visit for music lovers is the W.C. Handy Birthplace Museum and Library in Florence, which has an impressive collection of memorabilia including instruments belonging to W.C. Handy, the “Father of the Blues.”  

Explore Gulf State Park  

Gulf State Park has 6,150 acres with over 3 kilometres of white, sandy beaches near the communities of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores. With its vast range of accommodation and activity options, it truly is a ‘must-visit’ stop on your Alabama itinerary. It has 496 modern campsites, 31 cabins/cottages (with 27 of those being positioned on a lake!), a Gulf front Lodge, a beach pavilion with a snack bar, 469 metre fishing pier with a restaurant, group pavilions, picnic areas, and nature programs. Not to mention the H.S. Branyon Backcountry Trail, which provides 40 kilometres of paved trails for walking or biking, plus you can play golf or tennis, and for the thrill-seekers out there: check out one of the zip lines! 

Barber Vintage Sports Museum

Head to Birmingham, Alabama, to check out the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum. George Barber raced, modified, and maintained Porsches in the 1960s. He started collecting and restoring classic sports cars in 1989, then his interest turned to motorcycles. After recognising that a museum reflecting the history of motorcycles around the world did not exist, his goal was to preserve the motorcycle history in the United States in a way that represented an international aspect and to supply an example of motorcycles that would otherwise only be observed in books or magazines.

At the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, there are approximately 900 hundred motorcycles on display at any one time, with over 1,600 in the full collection – all ranging from 1904 to current-year production. 

Take a Walk in the Shoes of Martin Luther King Jr.

Take a walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge where the Selma-to-Montgomery march began, initiating a chain reaction in the civil rights movement. See Martin Luther King Jr.’s home in Montgomery at the Dexter Parsonage and visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute: one of the South’s best museums offering audio, photography, and exhibits that take visitors inside the integration movement. Here you can see the jail cell door where Martin Luther King Jr. wrote “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Hear the story of how the document was smuggled out of jail on bits of paper and survived to become one of the most important texts of the Civil Rights movement.