Alabama Discovery Guide

Overview

Alabama is often considered to be the "heart of Dixie." At one time, Alabama was the capitol of the Confederate states - in Montgomery. Its fabled southern plantations, large fields, and very dignified gentlemen and their ladies has brought a certain southern charm to this part of the United States - which certainly still can be experienced today.

Alabama became a state in 1819, and has long history. Although economically hurting because of the Civil War until after World War II, Alabama has since become much stronger and now has modern cities and industry. This long history has given Alabama a lot of things to see and do.

Much history from the Civil War is every where evident, and there are a number of battlefields and memorials that remain in honor of those fallen in battle. A total of 194 land battles took place in this State.

Birmingham became a city in 1871 and quickly becomes the iron capitol of the South. Although operating on a smaller scale today, the steel plants in and around Birmingham, such as at Bessemer are still making some of the nation's steel.

One of the most popular places in northern Alabama, in Huntsville, is the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Here you will find one of the best rocket museums in the world. There are a number of life-size rockets - including the 363-foot Saturn V rocket that launched the Apollo spacecraft. An IMAX theater presents historical movies of major space history and events, enabling you to live through those events as though you were there. Space Camp is another exciting program for different age groups and some of them go on for a week to provide exciting space age learning and adventures.

On the southern end of the state are the beautiful beaches of Alabama - Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. If you are looking to enjoy some excellent white sand beaches and water fun, Alabama has it. The warm waters of the Gulf provide you with the perfect opportunity to get away. You can also find charter-fishing boats on Dauphin Island, or get a dolphin cruise on a large 64-foot boat. See the power boat races that are scheduled to race just off of Orange Beach in mid August of each year. If you like to look at even larger ships - visit the battleship USS Alabama - in Mobile. Waterville USA, is another great place for water fun when you are in Gulf Shores.

Civil Rights certainly has some of its history laid down in Alabama and many historic places to see. Probably America's largest and best Civil Rights museum is the Birmingham's Civil Rights Institute. You can find many exhibits, archives, meeting rooms and much more in this 58,000 square foot museum. This building is right across the street from where the four girls lost their lives in an explosion caused by a bomb in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. Another place to see is Montgomery's Civil Rights Memorial Center memorializing the deaths of many blacks between 1955 and 1968 - when Dr. Martin Luther King was murdered.

If you are more interested in outdoor adventure, Alabama has plenty of hiking trails and national forests. One of the most popular spots is the Little River Canyon that lies near Georgia in northeast Alabama. This national park is sometimes referred to as the Grand Canyon of the East and offers excellent whitewater kayaking opportunities. Here the canyon river drops a good distance offering even class V whitewater experiences in some places - one place has even been named Suicide. Not far from here is Russell Cave, where native peoples lived centuries ago. There is a museum and hiking trails there, too. Not far away is also the Chickamauga Chattanooga Battlefield, and a number of other battlefields, too, with many monuments testifying to the battalions and groups that were there. In the center of the State is the Oak Mountain State Park, which claims to be the best place to take your mountain bikes and get some exercise. With over 9,400 acres, you will find 18 miles of bike trails. Don't forget about the horse trails - 20 miles of these and many other outdoor activities such as golf, camping, and cabins - along with swimming and hiking.

Car racing is another thing that is very popular in Alabama, and most everyone has heard of the Talledega Superspeedway. Races take place at many different times during the year and you can make it an unforgettable family activity. In the same city is the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, the Talledega National Forest and the Jemison-Carnegie Heritage Hall, which has a large collection of historical photographs and many art exhibits by nationally known and local artists.

Alabama has one of the greatest courses of golf of all time. Not long ago, Alabama built a string of golf courses called the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. There are ten different spots for golf designed by the master golf architect, and many of them are listed in the top 100 golf courses in the world. You can find just about any kind of course that you want - ranging from easy to the much more challenging. Better yet, you can golf the whole string of them if you want – for a real challenge – all 432 holes.

For scenic visits, you need to check out Mt. Cheaha. Although not very high when compared to mountains in other states, it does stand at 2, 407 feet. On top of this mountain is a Civilian Conservation Corps tower, which has a glass-enclosed observation deck that lets you get a good view of scenic Alabama. Close at hand, are also a number of chalets that are glass-enclosed and make an ideal honeymoon spot near the top of Mt. Cheaha. A glass-enclosed restaurant is also nearby, providing you with wonderful scenery while you dine.

A number of other special events are very popular in Alabama. The annual Hot Air Balloon Classic is held every Memorial Day in Decatur. This well-attended Classic has many activities which includes everything from fireworks, to a classic car show, an antique tractor show, live stage entertainment, special children’s area and sports, to an international food court. This same city holds the south’s largest fireworks show every 4th of July, too. This is a large two-day festival that has many different music groups, demonstrations and sports activities for all ages, and the Audie Murphy Patriotism Award is given each year to an outstanding patriot. The Miss Point Mallard Pageant is held there as well, which is a preliminary pageant for the Miss America Pageant.
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