12 Weekend Getaways In Alabama We Love
March 10, 2023
Spanning mountains, plains, and beaches, Alabama proves to be a wonderful spot for many vacations. Too diverse to pack into one trip, we recommend exploring the state one short getaway at a time. Dive into ocean waters and coastal thrills one weekend then enjoy lakeside festivities the next. Discover one of Alabama’s historic cities another weekend and trek "Alabama's Aspen" the weekend after that. No matter what kind of short-term escape you seek, we’ve got you covered with the must-see destinations that you can fall in love with in just a couple days. When looking for a place to get away in sweet home Alabama, the options are endless.
Because Southern Living is based out of Birmingham, it’s no wonder that we’ve got Alabama’s weekend hotspots down to a science. These are the retreats that our editors insist are well-worth a visit and speedy enough to thoroughly enjoy before getting back to the grind come Monday.
Digital Editor Jenna Sims has her eyes set on the little mountain town of Mentone as the ultimate Alabama destination. This spot is especially beautiful in the fall, when you can see Mentone’s 107-foot waterfall surrounded by bright red, orange, and yellow foliage before a stop at an eclectic market and grabbing a bite from a charming local cafe.
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2. Florence and Muscle Shoals
Our editors agree that a trip to Florence is an Alabama rite of passage for every kind of traveler. Alabama’s “Renaissance City,” has delightful local eateries, a scenic college campus, and marvels such as Helen Keller’s birthplace and a Frank Lloyd Wright house.
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.” There, you’ll find iconic pieces of music history including FAME Studios where legends from Etta James to Aretha Franklin have recorded.
“I think Florence and Muscle Shoals are nice for history fans, too” says Senior Editor Kimberly Holland. “It’s fascinating to see how this little corner of the state played a part of history.”
This under the radar city port city on Alabama’s coast is bursting at the seams with seafood, Spanish moss, and history. Mobile’s claim to fame is being home to the first Mardi Gras Carnival—not New Orleans. That’s hardly what defines them though. It’s the scenic views, beautiful historic districts, and surprising social clubs that make Mobile worth a visit.
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4. Lake Martin
To make the most of a weekend, Holland recommends Lake Martin for a “complete getaway.” “Rent a lake house,” she says. “There are some nice restaurants depending on the part of the lake where you're staying and there are also float-up restaurants on boats in the summer.”
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“Guntersville is a fun option for a weekend,” Holland says. Placed perfectly on Alabama’s largest lake, this northern town is fit for a retreat with stunning views and historic bed and breakfasts, and largemouth bass fishing. “Plus,” Holland adds, “the downtown is precious with fun shops and restaurants.”
History buffs simply must mozy on over to Montgomery. Spend your weekend sight-seeing around Alabama’s capital and don’t miss the hard-hitting Legacy Museum which covers Black history and modernity from enslavement to mass incarceration, and the associated National Memorial for Peace and Justice. Sit with your thoughts over a heaping plate of barbecue and a banana pudding from Dreamland BBQ and don't miss a whole museum dedicated to country music legend Hank Williams.
COURTESY ALABAMA TOURISM
8. Gulf Shores
The ultimate Alabama tourist destination is, of course, our famous Gulf Shores. Though they can get pretty crowded, the Gulf Shores have become a traveler hub for good reason. Spend your weekend by the waves on Orange Beach, enjoying deliciously fresh seafood, and connecting with nature at the Gulf Shores’ wildlife sanctuaries.
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Come visit Southern Living’s stomping grounds and stay a short while. While you’re here, stroll through Railroad or Highland Park, explore the urban downtown, dig into good eats from James Beard Award-winning chefs, and don’t miss a sobering but worthwhile visit to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Our city, among the biggest in the state but with a small-town feel, is one on an upwards trajectory and just a weekend in Birmingham will prove its potential.
Sims’ recommendation, Huntsville, has been touted the best place to live in the country, and we love it just as much for a quick visit. During your stay, make sure to check out Burritt on the Mountain estate, and don’t miss our favorite museum, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center which earns Huntsville the nickname, ‘Rocket City.’
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11. Dauphin Island
Just a skip and a hop south of Mobile Bay, this destination could pass for the Caribbean. Aptly named the Sunset Capital of Alabama, the views on Dauphin Island are worth writing home about. Spend your weekend by the marina, but save time for a visit to the Audubon Bird Sanctuary, the aquarium, and Shell Mound Park.
This coastal retreat has it all: white sandy natural beauty, good food, and even better antique shopping. That’s why Southern Living's Cribb recommends Fairhope for any Alabama-bound weekend traveler. “There’s an adorable downtown with cute shops and galleries and restaurants,” she says. “Plus, it's on the Bay, so there's a relaxed coastal atmosphere too.”
Source: 12 Weekend Getaways In Alabama We Love Southern Living (January 20, 2023) Hallie Milstein