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    Alabama Top 10: what to see in the heart of the South of the United States

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    Martí Micolau
    @martímicolau
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    If you are planning an itinerary of the southern states you will also have to consider theHeart of Dixie as the motto ofAlabama. Dixie's beating heart with her traditions, her troubled history and her contradictions. Visiting Alabama means taking a real trip to an America different from that of the classic on the road between the East and West Coast but no less beautiful and fascinating.

    Draw one top 10 always needs a selection and, reluctantly, many attractions have been left out that would certainly be worth the visit. Despite the subjectivity of this choice, I still tried to point out what in my opinion are the main things to see in Alabama.



    Index

    • Montgomery
    • Gulf Shores e Orange Beach
    • Dauphin Island – Fort Gaines
    • Mobile
    • US Space & Rocket Center
    • Cheaha State Park
    • Huntsville Botanical Garden
    • Ave Maria Grotto
    • Birmingham
    • Noccalula Falls Park
    • Bonus: Muscle Shoals Sound Studio

    Montgomery

    Welcome to the capital of Alabama, which has inextricably linked her name to the Rosa Parks story and the battle for the civil rights of African Americans. It was here that in 1955 Rosa refused to give her seat on a bus to a white man, thus starting a boycott first and a greater awareness of the problem of integration that quickly spread to the states of south and subsequently throughout the United States.

    It is therefore not surprising that there are many museums and attractions dedicated to these events. In particular we point out the Rosa Parks Museum which is opposite the bus stop she was sitting on, and the Civil Rights Memorial Center with his moving tribute to the 40 martyrs of the movement. Instead, more closely related to the life of Martin Luther King is the church of Dexter Avenue in which the pastor was minister of worship during his young age.



    Changing the subject, lovers of country music consider a visit toHank Williams Museum which collects photos, instruments and memorabilia of the great American singer. If it's a nice day, don't miss a visit along the pretty road Riverwalk which runs along the Alabama River and where it is possible to take a tour on a characteristic nineteenth-century boat: the Harriott II.

    In Montgomery, always remaining in the context of American history, there is also the First White House of the Confederacy, which is the residence of President Jefferson Davis of the Southern states during the Civil War before the capital was permanently moved to Richmond, Virginia.

    Selma When we talk about Montgomery and civil rights, we cannot ignore the mention of the nearby city of Selma. The famous protest marches from the latter to the capital of Alabama marked a point of no return for the history of African Americans. In the city it is practically a must to visit theEdmund Pettus Bridge and National Voting Rights Museum.

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    Gulf Shores e Orange Beach

    When we talk about the southern states, most of the time we tend to forget that many of them also have a coast and offer many more attractions related to a beach holiday than you might think. It is the case of Gulf Shores which is located at the gates of the Bay of Mobile.


    White sand beaches and crystal clear water are the lowest common denominators of the neighboring area as well Orange Beach in which some of the most beautiful beaches and patrons of the state. You will find numerous well-equipped areas, a considerable amount of accommodation, restaurants and pubs to satisfy all your holiday needs.


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    Dauphin Island – Fort Gaines

    Here we are on the opposite side of the bay from Gulf Shores. This island is best known for hosting Fort Gaines, the outpost that gained notoriety especially during the events of the Battle of Mobile Bay during the American Civil War. Today you can visit its interior which houses a museum and war relics such as the original cannons that were installed in the fort. Tours of the military outpost are led by guides in historical uniforms to best recreate the atmosphere of the war period.

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    Mobile

    After mentioning the two extremes found at the mouth of the Bay of Mobile, the time has come to mention the town that gives its name to the bay itself. Take a stroll along the leisurely Historic Districts, where the houses were built with a mix of architecture ranging from the Victorian to the Italian style, passing through the "free renaissance", will make you take a pleasant leap in time.

    Besides the coast the main attraction is USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, in which you can visit the giant warship USS Alabama used during the Second World War in the Pacific and Atlantic theater of war. Other military vehicles present in the park are the USS Drum submarine, a Sherman tank, as well as some bomber and fighter planes. In the complex there are also two memorials dedicated to the Korean and Vietnam War. The entrance ticket costs 15 $.


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    US Space & Rocket Center

    If the history of space exploration has always fascinated you, this is the place for you. An exhibition of dozens and dozens of vehicles, including space probes, missiles and shuttles thanks to which man has been able to explore the universe, are exhibited in this very special museum.


    In addition to the permanent exhibits, where you can find more information about NASA's history, especially the conquest of the moon and the missions of the International Space Station, the flagship of the museum is certainly the Rocket Park and Shuttle Park. Here you can admire in all their grandeur some of the most important means that have made the history of astronomy.

    Admission is $ 25. The Rocket Center is located in the town of Huntsville, the address is 1 Tranquility Base, AL 35805.

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    Cheaha State Park

    The park includes Cheaha Mountain which is the highest point in the state (more than 730 meters above sea level). If you have the opportunity to undertake a path on foot it is certainly worthwhile to reach the observation point Bald Rock Outlook, main attraction of the park which overlooks the entire area below.

    Inside the park there is also a lake with beaches where you can comfortably rest, sunbathe, swim and rent a boat.

    A $ 5 ticket is required to enter the park. The park is located approximately 120km east of Birmingham. The address is 19644 Hwy 281 Delta, AL 36258

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    Huntsville Botanical Garden

    Although at first glance it may seem strange to include botanical gardens in a top 10, in this case it was necessary to do so given the size and beauty of the Huntsville Botanical Garden. These gardens attract more than 300.000 visitors every year from all parts of the state, fascinated by the beautiful colors and the numerous species, even rare, that can be observed throughout the year.

    Particularly spectacular is the Damson Aquatic Garden a garden that develops over a large circular swimming pool, where you can admire impressive water lilies. The place is also perfect if you are traveling with children as it includes numerous attractions that can interest and keep even the little ones entertained.

    The cost to access the botanical gardens is $ 14 per person. They are located near the US Space & Rocket Center, more precisely the address is 4747 Bob Wallace Avenue, Huntsville, AL 35805.

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    Ave Maria Grotto

    Also known as the "Jerusalem in miniature”And consists of 125 reproductions of the most important religious structures in the world in reduced proportions, including the Basilica of San Pietro in Rome, the abbey of Monte Cassino destroyed during the Second World War and the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes.

    The work was started by friar Joseph Zoettl during the first half of the 900th century and kept him busy throughout his life. Pilgrims and onlookers from all over the United States come to pay homage to the friar's work and to visit the Basilica of San Bernardo.

    Admission costs $ 8. It is located in Cullman near the Abbey of San Bernardo, the address is 1600 St. Bernard Drive SE Cullman, AL 35055.

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    Birmingham

    The largest and most populous city in Alabama. Here, too, the history of the city is closely linked to that of civil rights as you can understand by visiting the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, in which the troubled history of the city is retraced through well-curated exhibitions.

    If you want to take a walk in the green, go to Vulcan Park where it is impossible not to notice a giant statue dedicated to the god Vulcan placed on top of a panoramic tower which can be accessed and enjoyed a beautiful 360 ° view from above over the whole city. To go up the tower you need to pay a $ 6 entrance fee.

    Jazz music lovers do not miss the opportunity to visit theAlabama Jazz Hall of Fame with a museum that traces the history of this musical genre. One of the most visited attractions in the city is the Birmingham Zoo which is home to nearly a thousand animals of about three hundred different species, the entrance ticket costs 17 $. Lovers of culture and art should not miss a visit to the Birmingham Museum of Arts which also houses works from Europe by artists of the caliber of Dalì and Botero.

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    Noccalula Falls Park

    It is a park whose main attraction is a very scenic waterfall. Her name derives from that of a young Cherokee woman who, according to some local legends, committed suicide after her father had imposed on her a husband whom she did not love about her. In memory of this story there is also a bronze statue depicting the young Indian. The amount of water that pours into the Black Creek Gorge depends on the number of rainfall that has occurred so the landscape that you will face will vary quite depending on the time of year in which you visit the park.

    Among the numerous paths that you can take, the one in my opinion the most spectacular is the Gorge Trail, which will take you to pass under the characteristic waterfalls observing them from a certainly unusual and particular position. An original way to visit the park is to use a small train which, along a scenic route inside the park, will allow you to enjoy the view comfortably seated on board this unique means of transport.

    To access the park you need to pay an entrance ticket costing $ 6. Noccula Falls Park is located in the city of Gadsen, the address is 1500 Noccalula Rd, Gadsden, AL 35904.

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    Bonus: Muscle Shoals Sound Studio

    Like all top 10 respectable ones, I couldn't fail to report one ... bonus track! And never as in this case was the name more appropriate, precisely because we are talking about an attraction inextricably linked to the world of music. In fact, in this small recording studio some of the greatest artists and musical groups in history have recorded their successes.

    Just to mention the most famous, trying not to hurt anyone, let's remember the Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, Bob Seger, Bob Dylan, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Rod Stewart. About the Rolling Stones we remember the legend according to which Keith Richards composed the whole Wild Horses inside the bathroom of the studio, if during the tour they take you to visit it, you will know why.

    The price of an on-site tour is $ 12 per person. 3614 Jackson Hwy, Sheffield, AL 35660

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