Visitors to Alabama will find dozens of diversions to keep them entertained along the Gulf Coast. Tantalizing food, cultural celebrations and historical venues set the tone for Southern fun, as the state is a mixture of eclectic delights. Military might stands proudly in Mobile Bay, while upriver adventurers find life at a slower, laid-back pace in the marshes and swamps of the delta. Endangered turtles and birds enjoy protection in the dunes here, but human specimens can choose to gamble on daydreams or nightlife each day.
Find out why Mobile was once called the “Paris of the South.” This coastal town boasts a 300-year-old history in the arts and culture, but its military background and outdoor adventures also draw rave reviews. The Battleship USS Alabama has been retired to Mobile Bay, where visitors can tour her decks and see first-hand what navy life was like on the “Mighty-A.” During World War II, the huge ship played a major role in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battery in history. Outdoor enthusiasts will clamor at the mention of massive Tensaw River Delta, where cypress-gum swamps harbor 120 species of fish and 300 bird species. Venture into the “American Amazon” by airboat or kayak, following the Bartram Canoe Trail through a dense wilderness of waterways.
Drive 19 miles • 30 minutes
This town of 15,000 is renowned for its sweeping views of Mobile Bay and the many activities offered on the water here. Stay out of the water, however, when viewing the reptiles at the Gator Alley Boardwalk. Great food and drink are always on tap in Fairhope, as well, and locals hang out at Warehouse Bakery and Donuts, where pastry creations are served along with breakfast and lunch. After you have downed some grub, grab a place in line next door at Fairhope Roasting Company to take home your own bag of specialty beans, freshly roasted.
3. Orange Beach
Drive 36 miles • 56 minutes
The beach is a beloved destination here, but nature lovers will also appreciate the natural habitats and the animals they harbor at nearby Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. Originally created to shelter migrating songbirds, today the refuge protects the Alabama beach mouse and loggerhead sea turtles in these coastal barrier wildlands. But if bright lights and clanging bells are more your speed, travel two hours east to Biloxi, Mississippi, where the number of casinos rival the number of players on a baseball team.