12 Top-Rated Weekend Getaways in Alabama
If you plan to head to Alabama for a weekend getaway, you might want to look at doing several, because there are so many options that cover a wide array of experiences. If you just want sun and sand, there's a beach chair waiting on the Gulf Shores. If you want to indulge in unforgettable barbecue and authentic Southern dishes, a trip to Birmingham, with an appetite ready to please, is in order.
Is history more your interest? Perhaps a weekend in Montgomery would suit your bucket list. Plan your adventures with our list of the best weekend getaways in Alabama.
1. White-Sand Beaches Getaway in the Gulf Shores
The Gulf Shores of Alabama is hands-down one of the best weekend getaways in the state. The pure white sand that is known for squeaking between your toes is the perfect way to kick back for several days while you relax near the ocean. Seashell collectors have 32 miles of beaches to walk along and feel the warm Gulf water on their feet. The area is made up of the beach towns of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, which are connected by a bridge to some of the best beaches in Alabama.
Besides swimming in the ocean, you can spend part of your beach getaway hiking or strolling on the pier at Gulf State Park, or looking for wildlife at the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. There is even The Lodge At Gulf State Park, A Hilton Hotel if you want to stay in the heart of the most natural park of the coastal town.
If you need a little more action or you're looking for a family activity, try taking a dolphin cruise on a glass-bottom boat or parasailing above the shoreline, or spend a day deep-sea fishing. For a fun hangout for the family stop by The Hangout restaurant, where locals and visitors like to relax and build sandcastles out back.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Gulf Shores
2. A Downtown Birmingham Weekend
The biggest city in Alabama is Birmingham, which is why it makes for such a fun weekend getaway. There's so many things to explore, starting with the Civil Rights District, where you can visit the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, and several churches made famous through the Civil Rights movement.
You can spend a full day walking through the historic downtown and other districts like the Loft District, where you can dig up some unusual finds at the Museum of Fond Memories, Birmingham Oddities, and What's on 2nd. If you want to stay downtown, The Tutwiler hotel (now a Hampton Inn & Suites) is the oldest in the city.
You could also spend an entire foodie weekend in Birmingham. The city has some of the oldest, most delicious, and most famous barbecue restaurants in the state. Plan your meals around Saw's BBQ, which serves up vinegar-based North Carolina-style barbecue; Jim 'N Nick's Bar-B-Q, which has been in the city for more than a quarter century; and Full Moon Bar-B-Que, which serves its famous Southern relish called chow-chow.
3. A Romantic Mobile Getaway
The elegant French influence in Mobile makes it perfect for a romantic weekend getaway in Alabama. Stroll through the historic neighborhoods, lined with shade trees and centuries-old mansions along the wide sidewalks. Make your way to Fort Conde, which is also a welcome center, to pick up ideas for your visit. While you are here, take a tour to see the French Fort and learn about Mobile's history.
Next, visit the Mobile Carnival Museum, which highlights the carnival festivities in the area that date back to the 1800s. As the original destination of Mardi Gras, you can also plan your visit to enjoy celebrations that are lower-key than the scene in New Orleans.
Add to your romantic weekend by taking a short drive to the Bellingrath Gardens and Home, which is open year-round and features 65 acres of blooming azaleas, roses, and other flowers. Mobile has several historic hotels that have welcomed famous guests, including The Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa, a favorite for kings and celebrities since 1852, and the luxury The Admiral Hotel Mobile, Curio Collection by Hilton, which has hosted figures like Elvis Presley since 1940.
4. Historic Weekend Getaway in Selma
For a full weekend rooted in history about the civil rights era, Montgomery will keep you busy. Start your trip on the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail, which follows the same route that marchers took in 1965 to push for voting rights. Stand on the Edmund Pettus Bridge over the Alabama River, which is one of the most famous points along the 54-mile trail. Stop at the Selma Interpretive Center near the bridge to learn more about the area's role and the marches that led to two of the most significant legislation changes in the civil rights movement.
Continue your weekend at the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute, with exhibits showing important moments in the civil rights era. Be sure to walk around the outside to see the painted murals. Nearby is the Slavery and Civil War Museum, which has reenactments and interactive exhibits.
For a comprehensive history lesson take the Martin Luther King Jr. Street Historic Walking Tour through Selma to see locations, churches, and memorials throughout town.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Selema
5. Architecture Appreciation Weekend in Eufaula
If Southern architecture is your passion, a weekend in Eufaula in southeast Alabama is calling you. The area has some of the most spectacular mansions in the south. The town is located on a bluff overlooking the Chattahoochee River adding to the grand presence of the homes in the area. The best place to start is on Eufaula Avenue, which is famous for its magnificent homes that have been described as looking like wedding cakes.
Some of the main homes to see in the Seth Lore-Irwinton Historic District are the Shorter Mansion, which is also the Eufaula welcome center, Fendall Hall (a home museum), and The Hart House. While you can walk by the private homes anytime of the year, one of the best times to visit is during the spring Eufaula Pilgrimage (late March/early April), when you can take tours inside some of them and enjoy the gardens in full bloom. You can also take the Eufaula Athenaeum Tour to see a private collection of some historic items of the area.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Eufaula
6. Archaeology Weekend in Moundville and Aliceville
While Alabama is known for its history and food, there is also a great weekend getaway rooted in archaeology waiting in the rural areas of Moundville and Aliceville just outside of Tuscaloosa.
Begin your weekend by visiting the Moundville Archaeological Park, where you will see artifacts from archaeological digs in the area dating back more than 1,000 years. Make your way to the 26 earthen mounds, which give insight into the area that was once populated by Native Americans who settled this region along the Black Warrior River. There are nature trails and a boardwalk around the quiet, sacred grounds. Moundville has regular archaeological digs in progress, which you are allowed to visit during the spring and summer months.
Hunt for ancient shark teeth in Aliceville, where you can take a tour with Shark Tooth Creek Outdoor Adventures. The small group tours take you to a creek for one to two hours, where you will search the water and rock beds for shark teeth left behind from when the region was underwater 70 million years ago. The best way to visit these areas is to stay in Tuscaloosa and make day trips to Moundville and Aliceville, and include a stop at the Alabama Museum of Natural History located in town.
7. An Out-of-this-World-Weekend Getaway in Huntsville
Looking for an out-of-this-world weekend experience? Huntsville has it. Plan to spend some time at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, the largest space flight museum in the world. See the Apollo 16 space capsule and other exhibits. Experience G-forces on the Space Shot ride, which drops you into a 4G free fall, or step into the Apollo Cockpit Trainer to experience a simulated space mission.
While at the center be sure to walk through the Rocket Park, which leads you to the ultimate rocket, the Saturn V located inside the Davidson Center. The Saturn V is a prototype and was never launched into space but it is on display to showcase space technology. It is also listed as a National Register of Historic Landmark. You can walk underneath the Saturn V as you explore the Davidson Center, which houses relics from the Apollo missions.
During your space weekend plan a visit to the Von Braun Astronomical Society Planetarium and Observatory, which houses the telescope used for scouting Apollo landing sites. There are public programs on Saturday nights to learn more about the observatory and its importance to the space program.
8. A Birding Trip to Dauphin Island
Pack your binoculars and camera and head to Alabama's Dauphin Island for a spectacular weekend of birding. Watch pelicans and great blue herons soar above the Gulf of Mexico as you make stops along the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail. With 50 designated birding sites along the trail, you can easily spend several days making your way from one to the other. The stops are located on a series of connected loops, making it an easy drive.
Stop by the Audubon Bird Sanctuary and find out why this is one of the top destinations in North America to spot various species of birds that pass through on a major migration path.
Continue your natural weekend at the Estuarium and Sea Lab to observe native aquatic life with exhibits representing the different habitats that exist in Alabama. Not far from Dauphin Island is the largest public garden in Alabama, Bellingrath Gardens and Home, which is also a prime birding location. Walk along the Bayou Boardwalk Trail, which stretches into some of the backwaters, where you can observe eagles and other wildlife in their natural habitat.
9. Golf Weekend along the RTJ Trail
Golf fanatics should plan a weekend in Alabama to hit the Robert Trent Jones (RTJ) Golf Trail, which offers a collection of courses around the state. The RTJ Trail has 26 golf courses and 468 holes that challenge every skill level.
One of the top courses on the trail is the Oxmoor Valley Golf Course in Birmingham. The rolling landscape of the course was built on old mining land, creating a scenic and challenging 54-hole course. Also in Birmingham is the Ross Bridge Course, one of the newest sites on the RTJ course. It is the fourth longest course in the world, with spectacular features like a waterfall between the 9th and 18th greens that drops 80-feet.
About an hour's drive from Birmingham is the Capitol Hill RTJ Course to round out your weekend. It is in the town of Pratville. There are three 18-hole courses on a stunning landscape appropriately named The Judge, The Senator, and The Legislator. You can plan RTJ golf packages to accommodate your schedule, location, and budget.
10. A Mountain Weekend near Ashville
Plan a mountain weekend with a little bit of history and a lot of natural scenic beauty as you head to Ashville, where you will stay and set out on day trips. Familiarize yourself with the area by starting in historic Ashville which will be your home base. Walk around the quaint square in the middle of town and take in some of the local culture at the Ashville Museum and Archives and the Ashville House Quilt Shop.
Next, plan a day trip to Springville, where you will experience the charm of the old south at its best. Downtown Springville has the Springville Antique Mall to experience, with several dozen vendors and a reward of ice-cream at the old-fashioned general store of Laster Sundries.
Spend another day of your weekend going to the top of Chandler Mountain, Alabama's third tallest mountain located in nearby Steele. Visit the Horse Pens 40 park, where you can observe rock climbers and walk the grounds to enjoy the view and see many rare species of plants and flowers. If your timing is great, you will visit during one of the many bluegrass festivals that take place on the mountain.
11. Southern Antiquing Weekend in Eutaw
Some of the best antiquing is away from the big cities with finds in small independent shops, which is why you can spend an entire weekend in Eutaw in western Alabama looking for treasures. Your best bet is to stay in Tuscaloosa then make day trips to Eutaw (25 miles) and the other small towns with antique stores, located off Interstate 20.
You know you have arrived in Eutaw when you pass Jim Bird's Hay Bale Art, art sculptures made from bales of hay in the middle of a farmer's pasture. Head to Courthouse Square to start your antiquing journey. Eutaw Antiques is one of the most popular stops for finding antique glass, silver, and other gems. It is located inside a former grocery store. The Courthouse Antiques store is also nearby with a nice collection of antiques for sale.
12. Covered Bridge Road Trip in Blount County
One of the most picturesque drives and one of the most romantic getaways in northern Alabama is in Blount County, which is considered the state's covered bridge capital. The state has 11 historic covered bridges, and three of them are located in north-central Alabama. Spend a weekend driving the backroads to see the bridges that are all listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Old Easley Covered Bridge is the smallest of the three in Blount County. Built in 1927, it spans the Black Warrior River.
The oldest and tallest covered bridge in the area is the Horton Mill Bridge, which stands at 70 feet above the Black Warrior River. The original structure was built in 1894, with additional renovations in 1935, making it one of the tallest bridges in the United States. The third bridge to visit is the Swann Covered Bridge, which is the longest covered bridge in the state. At 324 feet long, it is also one of the longest in the U.S.
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More in Alabama: To begin your vacation, search our guide on the Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Alabama for insight into the main things to do. Nearly any town you visit will have historic and chain hotels, but there are some top resorts in Alabama, too, with spa treatments, golf, and luxury rooms for your stay.