Whenever I start planning a vacation – in this instance, a trip to the Gulf Shore – I consider making a road trip of it. And I fall down the rabbit hole and wind up with an amazing list like this: A bucket list for Alabama. These are the places I’d love to see and things I’d love to do in Alabama is time and money were not barrier.
Hope these help inspire a trip of your own!
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Night Hike through canyons
There’s rock climbing and hiking, and then there’s rock climbing and hiking in the dark. True Adventure Sports leads tours through the canyons of DeSoto State Park…at night.
(If it’s anything like Full Moon Kayaking, I’m game).
Explore Alabama’s Music History
If you consider yourself a fan of blues, jazz, rock and roll, country, and even Parrothead, Alabama is home to music legends, famous recording studios, and museums. If I’m feeling ambitious, I’d try travel the Sweet Home Alabama Music Trail.
See “glow worms”
See the Dismalites, glowing larvae life forms that exist in only a few places in the world, at the 85-acre Dismals Canyon.
Interesting footnote in history: The canyon was the hiding place for Vice President Aaron Burr after he killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel in 1804.
Go to Family Space Camp
Any child of the ’80s ever wanted to go to Space Camp? Me too. Which is why I’m loving that there is such a thing as Family Space Camp.
Someday, my family and I will be in Huntsville training like an astronaut in a 1/6th Gravity Chair. Just like my 8-year-old self used to imagine.
Be in a real wagon train
This once a year 10-day journey from Boaz to Montgomery is one of the largest and oldest annual moving wagon trains in America. For 10 days, wagons, horses, livestock and driving teams will wake up at 4:30am and move out by 6am.
You don’t have to ride the entire 10 days. You may rest and rejoin at a later camp. Most of the ride takes place along the old Jackson Trace Trail and concludes at the Southeastern Live- stock Exposition in Montgomery.
Hit top speeds
The idea of racing a race car or a Porsche down a track, just for a little bit, sounds tempting. (If I’m honest, I’m terrified of speed.) I could try the Full Throttle Living™ experience at the Dale Jarret Racing Adventure racing school in Talladega.
Or, I can opt to drive a sleek ride like a Porsche. Birmingham is home to Barber Motorsports Park, where you can learn impressive skills and racing techniques on the 2.38-mile track. American Porsche Driving School offers intro courses on up to masters.
Frankly, I’d love to just drive one lap of the 17-turn race track.
Try high tea, Alabama-style
Tea at the Grand Hall at The Grand Hotel Marriott Resort in Point Clear sounds like quite the experience. There’s the traditional tea, as well as sparkling wine, to accompany the sweets. **It’s temporarily suspended at this time**
Alabama has a strange highway occurrence. I’d love to see the strange phenomena that occurs on Gravity Hill in Oak Grove. Apparently, cars seemingly coast uphill.
Tip: Alabama Tourism offers this advice for achieving the oddity: “You will have the most fun if you position your car south on Gravity Hill so that your car goes uphill backward. Drive to the stop sign on Gravity Hill at the U.S. 280 intersection. Pull up to the stop sign. U.S. 280 should be in front of your car and the rest of Gravity Hill in your rearview mirror.
“Make sure no one is behind you. Put your car in neutral and take your foot off the brake. Your car should start to roll backward and uphill. Be sure to keep your foot close to the brake pedal, as you will pick up speed as you coast uphill…”
Meet Captain Crunch
Imagine more than 100 alligators in their natural environment around you as you tread boardwalk paths through Alligator Alley.
The goliath in the mix, that 800-pound gator, you may see while there is named Captain Crunch. He holds the world record for the strongest bite – he has a 2,982-pound bite.
Hunt for a shark tooth
OK, this one is more for my kiddos than me. We can hunt for shark teeth and fossils in Shark Tooth Creek in Aliceville. Seventy million years ago, the area was next to a barrier island of what was then ocean water.
Eat iconic Alabama foods
Some that caught my eye include Trowbridge’s Orange-pineapple ice cream and the peach pie and peach ice cream at Peach Park in Clanton. FYI: Trobridge is one of the state’s longest-running restaurants, having opened in 1918.
And I’ll have to hunt down some fried green tomatoes. Does The Whistle Stop ring a bell? The fictional diner in Fanny Flagg’s “Fried Green Tomatoes and the Whistlestop Cafe” was inspired by the real diner, Irondale Cafe in Irondale.
I was reading National Geographic’s “Great American Eating Experiences” and learned that no trip to Alabama is complete without trying some Alabama-style potato salad. It’s got a sweet-spicy kick to it, and they say the best place to try it is Homewood Gourmet in Homewood.
And if I want to try soul food, National Geographic’s “Great American Eating Experiences” recommends Eagle’s Restaurant in North Birmingham. I’d try pig feet or pig ears.
And then I hear there’s banana pudding, and if there’s one restaurant to hold the title of “Best of the Best,” it’s Sisters’ Restaurant. Last, but certainly not least, I hear a trip to the state isn’t complete without a shrimp boil. Anyone recommend a good place for that?
Try ‘Que Alabama style
I’d love try a rack of Tuscaloosa’s Dreamland Bar-B-Que’s legendary ribs, so saucy that a bib is recommended. And unique to the state is a white, mayonnaise-based sauce.
One place to try it is at of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, which serves it on smoked chicken.
Visit where Civil Rights history unfolded
No trip through Alabama seems complete without visiting a few Civil Rights sites to better understand our country’s past.
Some notable places include the Edmund Pettus Bridge, spanning the Alabama River in Selma, and the Civil Rights Historic District in Birmingham that includes Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and 16th Street Baptist Church, where four young girls were killed in 1963 by a bomb.
In Anniston, there’s The Anniston Civil Rights Trail with nine stops, including the Greyhound Bus depot where Freedom Riders testing desegregation laws regarding interstate transportation were attacked in 1961.
Selma and Montgomery are home to many historic sites, and a unique event, the Bridge Crossing Jubilee. Every March, the National Voting Rights Museum hosts a weekend commemorating the anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” the marches, and the right to vote. There’s a parade, interfaith service, dance and more events.
These would certainly be sobering stops, but I feel like they are a must.
Get a glimpse of the Cahaba Lily
From what I’ve heard the Cahaba Lily is extremely rare, blooming in the evening and withering away the next day.
One may be lucky enough to spy the gem of a flower along the waterways of the Cahaba River in May, though. Look for a lily with large white blossoms with a bright green center and petals that spread in a shape resembling a star
Venture into caves
If you’ve read any of my other bucket lists, you know I’m a sucker for caves, and I’ll always include a visit to one on a list. In Alabama, there’s the 12-story tall cave at DeSoto Caverns Family Fun Park in Childersburg.
Interesting historic note: Childersburg calls itself “The Oldest Settlement in America.”
See all the “Lucy” Lookalikes
OK, if there is one show that ruined expectations of a proper grape stomp, it’s “I Love Lucy.” That old episode made me laugh and dream of stomping grapes at some gorgeous winery (I’ve tried it, it’s not a great experience with bees buzzing you).
However, I may reconsider my stance on crushing grapes if it means I can do it alongside a bunch of Lucille Ball look-alikes. The Harpersville winery, Morgan Creek Vineyard, one ups the traditional annual grape stomp by holding a “Lucy Look-A-Like” contest during its annual September festivities.
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