Must-Visit Destinations for Van Travelers in Alabama
Discover the diverse landscapes and rich history of Alabama with this guide to must-visit destinations for van travelers. A range of natural habitats, including lakes and rivers to beach coastlines, steep hillsides to flatlands, and tidal bays to bayou shorelines are all found throughout ‘Sweet Home Alabama.’
Van travel in Alabama can be as unique an outing as each traveler would like because of the abundance of landscapes, places to explore, festivals to attend, and historical landmarks to learn from. No two trips are ever the exact same, allowing visitors to return and see something new each time.
Points of Interest When Traveling to Alabama
For an insightful Alabama road trip, there are lots of points of interest to include.
Alabama was at the heart of the Civil Rights era. The Rosa Parks Museum is located in Montgomery, at the very site where Parks was arrested for not giving a seat on a bus. Also in Montgomery is The Legacy Museum. This museum is located on the same site where slaves were once housed. To dive into the historically rich Alabama history, take an audio-guided tour of Montgomery.
Mobile’s Battleship Memorial Park is a tour that takes about 2.5 hours and consists of 12 decks of exploration. Climb inside gun turrets, spend some time in a locked Brig, and take control of a 12mm gun. Below the deck, explore inside the oldest Submarine on display, the Submarine USS DRUM. View the rare and historic aircraft on hand, including the A-12 Blackbird Spy Plane, and be sure to take the Flight Simulator ride to experience the thrill of speed and power. The tour is self-guided.
Over in Foley, the Foley Railroad Museum and the Holmes Medical Museum are open for touring. Meanwhile, Mobile is home to plenty of other museums and landmarks, such as The Fort of Colonial Mobile, Bragg-Mitchell Mansion, and Church Street Historic District. Church Street Graveyard is another popular historical destination.
Nature Preserves, Botanical Gardens, and Wildlife Areas
- Mobile Botanical Gardens has a winter garden, a Japanese Garden, plenty of walking paths, and a long-leaf pine preserve.
- Charles Wood Japanese Garden is also in Mobile and has walking trails beside beautiful koi ponds and lily pads. There is a museum on-site and a wood park across the street.
- Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is a rescue zoo located in Gulf Shores.
- Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge has nice hiking trails in Gulf Shores.
- Auburn offers the Kreher Preserve & Nature Center as well as the Southeastern Raptor Center, home to many eagles, hawks, and owls.
Annual Festivals and Events in Alabama
Statewide, there are a plethora of festivals, ranging from food, music, arts & crafts, and car shows. A handful of festivals are highlighted below, providing great places for van travel in Alabama.
- Each May, the Hangout Music Festival stretches over three days- and over the beaches- at Gulf Shores. In 2023, the festival runs from May 19th-21st. This year’s lineup includes Red Hot Chili Peppers and SZA.
- Cullman’s Rock the South is the yearly ‘biggest party in the South,’ covering three-jam packed days, July 20th-22nd. This year’s event includes artists such as Chris Stapleton, Travis Tritt, and Zach Bryan.
- In March, Dothan hosts the 10th Annual Wiregrass Blues Festival.
Hot Air Balloon Festivals
- Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival is in Foley, held during the 1st weekend of May.
- Memorial Day Weekend is Decatur’s Hot Air Balloon Classic.
Arts & Crafts Festivals
- The Annual Outdoor Art Show is held in March at Fairhope.
- Bloomin Festival in Cullman, usually 4th weekend in April.
- October marks the 3rd Annual Orange Beach Freedom Fest.
- The annual Baldwin County Strawberry Festival in Loxley, Alabama, provides tasty treats, a car show, a carnival, and a 5K run. Music and crafts are also folded in, making this a festival for everyone.
- 12th Annual Bob Sykes BBQ & Blues Festival is set for April 29th, in Bessemer
With so many forest-covered areas throughout the state, it’s no wonder that animals like the white-tail deer (the most prevalent large mammal in the state), foxes, and opossums call Alabama home.
Along with the black bear (primarily in Washington, Mobile, and Baldwin Counties), two native cats are in the ‘bama woods: cougars (mountain lion) and the much smaller bobcat.
In the prairies, expect to see rabbits, armadillos, and a variety of snake breeds.
Wetlands house gators and many shorebirds, while the coastal waters are filled with fish, whales, and other marine mammals.
Places to Camp in a Van While Traveling to Alabama
State Park Campgrounds
Probably one of the best state parks within Alabama is Chewacla State Park in Auburn.
Spread over 696 scenic acres, there is a 26-acre lake with a swimming area. Fishing is plentiful, with catches ranging from crappie, bass, bream, and catfish. While there isn’t a boat ramp, those participating in an Alabama road trip can launch a kayak or canoe. From short hiking trails to challenging mountain bike trails, outdoor activities are plentiful. Animals visible from the trails include red foxes, deer, turkeys, squirrels, and chipmunks. Unique rock formations can also be seen, along with native flora and fauna.
There are 36 campsites available, providing full hookups. A pet-friendly location, this state park is a great location for those looking for van life in the South. In addition to all the outdoor nature and water activities, there is a playground for the little ones.
Oak Mountain State Park is another great option for van travel in Alabama. In Pelham, nature lovers can experience beautiful waterfalls along the trails.
Mountain biking is popular here, with plenty of other activities, ranging from horseback riding to a golf course and driving range, a beach with a swimming area, and boat rentals.
A guide to Alabama wouldn’t be complete with some tidbits to keep in mind about this state. Alabama is home to:
- 50 miles of Gulf Beach and about 65 to 70 miles of bay beaches
- Our nation’s first Mardi Gras (in 1703) in Mobile
- 22 state parks
- Great college football- 5 university teams to view
- Tropical weather throughout most of the year
- Amazingly fresh seafood and refreshing drinks
- Forests and more forests-70 percent of the state is forest covered
- Three of the U.S. top pipe-making companies
- Hank Williams, George Washington Carver, and Nat ‘King’ Cole
There are 414 RV Parks and Campgrounds available for van travel in Alabama. Some RV Parks throughout the state that are highly rated (9/10 rating)on RVLife Campgrounds include:
- 24 in Athens
- 13 in Birmingham
- 3 in Dothan
Van travel in Alabama provides many options, allowing for a unique trip that will be perfect for you. This article outlines some options for a great Alabama road trip. Not featured are all the mouth-watering seafood eateries available throughout the state, the plethora of mom-and-pop shops, and all the photo ops from roadside attractions. Rest assured that no matter which portion of the state you visit, there is beauty, excitement, and entertainment waiting just down the road.
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