Spread across mountains, plains and beaches, Alabama proves to be a wonderful place for many vacations. Too diverse to fit into one trip, we recommend exploring the state in one getaway at a time. Dive into the sea waters and shoreline thrills one weekend and enjoy the lakeside festivities the next. Explore one of Alabama’s historic towns another weekend and hike Alabama’s Aspen the following weekend. No matter what kind of short term escape you are looking for, we have brought you the top travel destinations that you can fall in love with in just a few days. If you’re looking for a place to unwind in home sweet Alabama, the options are endless.
because Southern living Based in Birmingham, it’s no wonder we’ve turned Alabama’s weekend hotspots into a science. These are the retreats our editors claim are worth a visit and quick enough to enjoy thoroughly before getting back to business next Monday.
Digital Editor Jenna Sims has her eye on the small mountain town of Mentone as the ultimate Alabama travel destination. This spot is especially pretty in the fall, when you can see Mentone’s 107-foot waterfall surrounded by bright red, orange, and yellow foliage before stopping at an eclectic market and grabbing a bite at a charming local cafe.
Florence and Muscle Swarms
Our editors agree that a trip to Florence is an Alabama rite of passage for every traveler. Alabama’s “Renaissance City” has delightful local restaurants, a picturesque college campus, and wonders like Helen Keller’s birthplace and a Frank Lloyd Wright home.
And while you’re there, you can’t miss nearby Muscle Shoals, which Home and Features editor Betsy Cribb insists is “a must for music lovers.” You’ll find iconic pieces from music history there, including FAME Studios, where legends from Etta James to Aretha Franklin have recorded.
“I think Florence and Muscle Shoals are good for history buffs, too,” says Editor-in-Chief Kimberly Holland. “It’s fascinating to see how this little corner of the state has played a role in history.”
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This under-the-radar port city on the Alabama coast is bursting at the seams with seafood, Spanish moss and history. Mobile’s claim to fame is home to the first Mardi Gras carnival – not New Orleans. However, that’s hardly what defines them. It’s the scenic vistas, beautiful historic districts, and surprising clubs that make Mobile worth a visit.
To make the most of a weekend, Holland recommends Lake Martin for a “complete getaway.” “Rent a house by the lake,” she says. “There are some nice restaurants depending on which part of the lake you are staying in, and there are also floating restaurants on boats in the summer.”
Spend the weekend on the Tennessee River in historic Decatur, Alabama, home of the first railroad line west of the Appalachia. While you’re in town, make time for the Art Deco Theater, Historic Depot & Railroad Museum, and rewarding downtown shopping and dining, where peppery white Alabama barbecue sauce abounds.
“Guntersville is a fun option for a weekend,” says Holland. Perfectly situated on Alabama’s largest lake, this northern city is a retreat with stunning views, historic bed and breakfasts and largemouth bass fishing. “Plus,” Holland adds, “downtown is gorgeous with fun shops and restaurants.”
The ultimate tourist destination in Alabama is, of course, our famous Gulf Shores. Though they can get quite crowded, the Gulf Shores have become a travel center for good reason. Spend your weekend lapping the waves of Orange Beach, savoring deliciously fresh seafood and connecting with nature at Gulf Shores Conservancies.
Come visit Southern living‘s territory and linger a moment. While you’re here, stroll the Railroad or Highland Park, explore urban downtown, sample fine dining from James Beard Award-winning chefs and don’t miss a sobering but rewarding visit to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Our city, one of the largest in the state but with a small town feel, is on a boom and just a weekend in Birmingham will show its potential.
Just a stone’s throw south of Mobile Bay, this destination could pass for the Caribbean. Aptly named the sunset capital of Alabama, the view of Dauphin Island is worth writing home for. Spend your weekend at the marina but save time to visit the Audubon Bird Sanctuary, Aquarium and Shell Mound Park.
This coastal retreat has it all: white sandy beaches, great food and even better antique shops. Therefore Southern living‘s Cribb recommends Fairhope to all weekend travelers heading to Alabama. “There’s a lovely downtown area with cute shops and galleries and restaurants,” she says. “Plus it’s on the bay so there’s a relaxed coastal vibe too.”