Some Fun Facts About the Birthplace of Helen Keller at Ivy Green, Tuscumbia Alabama

Some Fun Facts About the Birthplace of Helen Keller at Ivy Green, Tuscumbia Alabama

An international icon well-known for her advocacy of issues relevant to blind and/or deaf people, Helen Keller was born at Ivy Green Tuscumbia Alabama. The birthplace of Helen Keller in the former family home of the Kellers, has been turned into a museum celebrating the accomplishments of Helen Keller. When you visit Ivy Green Tuscumbia AL, you learn lots of facts about Helen Keller as well as see lots of images of Helen Keller. In the summer you have a production of the Miracle Worker play in the back garden. Ivy Green really is a shrine to this remarkable woman and definitely worth a detour if you are on a road trip anywhere near North Alabama.

Ivy Green

Helen Keller’s Birthplace, Ivy Green was established in 1820 by her grandparents who came to Alabama from Virginia. They laid claim to 640 acres (a square mile) which is how land was partitioned out in the Alabama Territory at the time. 

Helen Keller’s grandparents from Virginia built Ivy Green.

Helen Keller’s grandparents from Virginia built Ivy Green.

The plantation was called Ivy Green because English ivy grew on part of the house. Like other plantations in the area, Ivy Green grew cotton, corn and enough other products to be self-sufficient. 

Ivy Green itself is a white clapboard house which was not damaged by the American Civil War. During the Civil War, Ivy Green was used as a hospital. 

Ivy Green is a small but gracious plantation house.

Ivy Green is a small but gracious plantation house.

There are four rooms on the ground floor and two bedrooms and a box room upstairs. For a fairly wealthy family, I was a little surprised at how small the house was. The Kellers had five kids and an elderly aunt in a house with two bedrooms? It really shows how much space we require nowadays. 

Where is the kitchen? Outside in a separate building. There is a path from the back door leading to the kitchen building. Pre-civil war, this cook’s house and the plantation would have been worked by the enslaved. 

Did you know? The path connecting the separate kitchen to the main house is called a whistle walk because the enslaved were expected to whistle when they carried the cooked food to the dining room. The whistling was a means to ensure no food was eaten along the way. 

Next door to Ivy Green there is a smaller cottage which was the actual Helen Keller’s birthplace. Originally this cottage was where the plantation’s books were kept. When Mr. Keller remarried, the main house was getting crowded so the cottage was turned into a bridal suite for him and his second wife.

The cottage which was the actual Helen Keller birthplace

The cottage which was the actual Helen Keller birthplace

Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan eventually used this smaller cottage as a school room. Back in the day it didn’t seem strange to have the school also be the birthplace of Helen Keller.

Although the grounds of Ivy Green have now been reduced to 10 acres, there is still plenty of room for visitors. There is an ice house which was reconstructed in 2009. In Helen’s time, Captain Keller would travel the four miles to the Tennessee River in winter to harvest ice for the summer months.The ice would have been hauled to the ice house by horse and wagon. 

The gardens at Ivy Green have been planted and maintained in keeping with Helen Keller’s memories from her books. There is a charming kitchen garden and a rose garden as well as the original large trees providing shade against the Alabama heat.

The beautiful gardens at Ivy Green Florence AL

The beautiful gardens at Ivy Green Florence AL

Among the grounds, there is a walkway with tributes from various countries as well as a Lions Club International fountain. The back of the house is set up as a theatre for summer showings of The Miracle Worker play in June and July.

Steven Tyler of Arrowsmith fame came to Ivy Green when he was recording nearby at Muscle Shoals.

Steven Tyler of Arrowsmith fame came to Ivy Green when he was recording nearby at Muscle Shoals.

Helen Keller’s Birthplace

On your visit you learn lots of fun facts about Helen Keller and Helen Keller’s birthplace. There is a self-guided tour but the docents are lovely and happy to chat with you. They love to regale children with facts about Helen Keller for kids.

Although there are still Kellers left,, Ivy Green is currently owned and operated by a charitable foundation dedicated to the story of Helen Keller. The birth place of Helen Keller is located on the National Register of Historic Places. 

The birthplace of Helen Keller was bought in 1951 by the state of Alabama. Helen Keller, herself, came to the opening of Ivy Green as a museum in 1954.

Clothes from Helen Keller and her mother are in the wardrobes just like they had just left the house.

Clothes from Helen Keller and her mother are in the wardrobes just like they had just left the house.

The rooms at Ivy Green are filled with photographs and mementos of Hellen Keller. One room is filled with her Braille books and her Braille typewriter. There is even a machine that shows how to punch holes for Braille by hand.

NB  Some of the archival information related to Helen Keller was held at the American Foundation for the Blind which had offices in the Twin Towers. These archives were destroyed during the 9/11 attacks on New York.

Ivy Green still has much of the original furniture from the Kellers’ time at the house. Everyday items and heirlooms used by the Kellers is still in evidence such as a a silver service tea set that is 200 years old and came from England. In addition, there is still clothing worn by Helen Keller and her mother left at Ivy Green. 

The antique silver tea set from England as well as the sugar chest. The Kellers received sugar only twice a year and so it was kept in a locked chest and strictly rationed.

The antique silver tea set from England as well as the sugar chest. The Kellers received sugar only twice a year and so it was kept in a locked chest and strictly rationed.

10 Facts About Helen Keller

Born on June 27, 1880, Helen Adams Keller was the first child of Confederate Captain Arthur Keller and his second wife, Kate Adams.

Helen Keller’s family was fairly illustrious. A Southern belle from Memphis Tennessee, Kate Adams was a descendant of John Adams, the second president of the USA. Ironically, Kate Adams was also the daughter of a Confederate general. Helen Keller was also descended from an early governor of Virginia.

A quilt made by Helen Keller’s aunt is among the many family pieces present  at the birth place of Helen Keller

A quilt made by Helen Keller’s aunt is among the many family pieces present at the birth place of Helen Keller

Helen Keller was one of 5 children. She had two older half-brothers from her father’s first marriage. She also had a sister and a brother younger than her. 

At 19 months old, Helen Keller contracted an illness (which could have been scarlet fever or meningitis) which left her blind and deaf. 

Helen’s behaviour was totally out of control at Ivy Green. For example, she locked her mother in a closet just because she could. Her doting parents let her have her tantrums. She was friendly with the African-American cooks’ child who was about the same age and they had a sort of secret language.

The separate kitchen and whistle walk of Ivy Green Florence Alabama

The separate kitchen and whistle walk of Ivy Green Florence Alabama

Things came to a head though when her mother had her baby sister when Helen was six years old. The family were worried that Helen would hurt inadvertently hurt her sister.

When she was six years old, her parents took her to see Dr. Alexander Graham Bell to see if he could help their child. He suggested getting a teacher from the Perkins School of the Blind to help young Helen. 

Did you know? Although Alexander Graham Bell is famous for inventing the telephone, he considered himself first and foremost a teacher of the deaf. 

The Kellers settled on Anne Sullivan to work with the young Helen Keller at the suggestion of the director of the Perkins School For The Blind.

Anne Sullivan’s Story:

Frankly, Anne Sullivan had limited choices so leaving Boston for the back of beyond Alabama was a good option for her. Anne’s family had been poor Irish potato farmers who left Ireland during the Great Famine. After her mother died, her father abandoned her and her brother to a poorhouse when she was 10 years old. She managed to get to Perkins School for the Blind because a childhood infection left her legally blind.

The Kellers offered Anne Sullivan $25/month and room and board at Ivy Green for the education of Helen Keller. In true Yankee fashion, Anne Sullivan gave the Kellers grief about the Civil War and their previous ownership of enslaved people. Yet, she formed a close and loving bond with Helen Keller. 

As documented in the Miracle Worker play, Helen Keller initially wanted a governess as much as the Sound of Music kids wanted theirs. With persistence Anne Sullivan was able to control Helen’s tantrums and teach her sign language and braille. 

The water pump at Ivy Green Tuscumbia AL where Helen Keller made her breakthrough that words were related to things.

The water pump at Ivy Green Tuscumbia AL where Helen Keller made her breakthrough that words were related to things.

Ivy Green is known as Helen Keller’s birthplace because she left the family home in 1888 to attend Perkins School For the Blind in Boston.  Her governess Anne Sullivan accompanied Helen for the rest of Anne’s life. In addition to Perkins, Helen went to schools in New York and Massachusetts before attending Radcliffe for university.

In the Helen Keller birthplace, you even have the key with which she locked Anne Sullivan in her room.

In the Helen Keller birthplace, you even have the key with which she locked Anne Sullivan in her room.

Accomplishments of Helen Keller

The accomplishments of Helen Keller are many. Here are some facts about Helen Keller and what she was able to achieve despite her disabilities:

Helen Keller was the first deaf blind person to have a college degree. in 1904, she graduated from Radcliffe College (then the sister school to boys-only Harvard College) in 4 years with a degree AND honours. 

Helen Keller dedicated her life to improving the lives of blind and deaf/blind people all over the world. She wrote 12 published books and lectured in more than 25 countries. 

Among the many accomplishments of Helen Keller, she wrote 12 published books.

Among the many accomplishments of Helen Keller, she wrote 12 published books.

Helen Keller was an activist for many different social causes such as women’s rights and promotion of birth control. She was a founding member of the ACLU (a non-profit organisation that provides legal representation for people whose civil liberties are at risk).

After the American Association for the Blind was founded in 1921, Helen Keller used her celebrity status to raise awareness of, and funds for, the organisation. 

Wow! Helen Keller really was a celebrity.  She was invited to the White House to meet every president from Cleveland to Johnson. She was friends with many famous people from different walks of life fro inventor Alexander Graham Bell to financier John D. Rockefeller.

In addition to supporting liberal causes, Helen Keller was also an active socialist. A member of the socialist party, she advocated for workers’ rights. (Anne Sullivan’s husband John Macy was also a committed socialist). 

In 1964 Helen Keller received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Johnson.

A US postage stamp celebrating the accomplishments of Helen Keller

A US postage stamp celebrating the accomplishments of Helen Keller

Famous Quotes Helen Keller

With so many written works and lectures to her name, there are plenty of famous quotes from Helen Keller. Here are some of my favourite quotations of Helen Keller:

The only thing being worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.

The highest result of education is tolerance.

Life is either a great adventure or nothing.

What I am looking for is not out there, it is in me.

These quotes of Helen Keller show how she changed adversity into a positive part of her life. 

The Miracle Worker Play 

The Miracle Worker play is based on The Story of My Life, Helen Keller’s autobiography. 

Did you know?  The Miracle Worker was the nickname given to Anne Sullivan by Mark Twain for the impressive work she did turning a 6 year old hellion into an accomplished and educated woman.

Written by William Gibson, the Miracle Worker play has been performed every June and July on a stage set up in the garden of Ivy Green for the last 30 years.

The Miracle Worker play has been turned into an Academy-Award winning movie, The Miracle Worker (1962) starring Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke. The play has also had  two television adaptations with the most recent being in 2000.

This statue of Helen Keller is a replica of one at the State House in Montgomery Alabama

This statue of Helen Keller is a replica of one at the State House in Montgomery Alabama

Helen Keller Festival

There is also a four day Helen Keller Festival held in downtown Tuscumbia Alabama on the last weekend of June.

Images of Helen Keller are placed throughout Ivy Green including this portrait of Helen Keller, Anne Sullivan and Polly Thomson, Helen’s secretary.

Images of Helen Keller are placed throughout Ivy Green including this portrait of Helen Keller, Anne Sullivan and Polly Thomson, Helen’s secretary.

Visiting Ivy Green Tuscumbia AL

The birthplace of Helen Keller is located at:  300 North Commons, W. Tuscumbia, AL 35674. It is open Monday through Saturday and closed on holidays.

Tuscumbia is located near Florence Alabama in northwest Alabama about 69 miles from Huntsville Alabama, 112 miles from Birmingham Alabama, and 129 miles from Nashville Tennessee. Tuscumbia is actually very easy to reach – it is one of the quad cities of the greater metropolitan area of Florence-Muscle Shoals.

If you are visiting Ivy Green Tuscumbia Alabama, definitely stop by Florence Alabama as well which is a charming small college town described by the Washington Post as “Brooklyn…plunked in a Southern State”. The GunRunner Boutique Hotel in Florence is definitely the coolest place to stay in the area near Helen Keller’s birthplace, if not all of Alabama.

 

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Why the Birmingham Civil Rights District is a Must-See (+How Civil Rights in Birmingham Alabama Affected the USA)

Why the Birmingham Civil Rights District is a Must-See (+How Civil Rights in Birmingham Alabama Affected the USA)

On my road trip through Alabama, the Birmingham civil rights sites were a natural combination with the Montgomery civil rights sites. Even if you are not a history lover, you really must visit the Civil Rights sites in Birmingham Alabama which tells the story of how African Americans pervailed over systemic racism and changed American history forever. In 1963, by pushing for civil rights in Birmingham Alabama, the events in the Birmingham Civil Rights District led to landmark legislation that was the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Among the places to visit on a Birmingham Civil Rights Tour are the Civil Rights Institute Birmingham and the Kelly Ingram Park.

Civil Rights in Birmingham Alabama

In 1963, Birmingham was not only Alabama’s largest city but also one of the worst examples of the segregation and racial injustice that permeated the state and the region. The South may have been defeated in the Civil War but not in spirit. Southern whites just thumbed their noses at having their enslaved peoples freed by carrying on injustices like lynching and the Scottsboro Boys case.

An example of Jim Crow Laws that led to the protests for civil rights in Birmingham Alabama

An example of Jim Crow Laws that led to the protests for civil rights in Birmingham Alabama

Any attempts to change the status quo was met with violence earning the city the nickname “Bombingham” after the segregationists’ weapon of choice.

Did you know?  There were 60 bombs set off amidst the African-American population between 1945 and 1963 including at the famous A.G. Gaston Motel.

Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth of the Bethel Baptist Church invited civil rights leaders including Martin Luther King, Jr. to come to Birmingham and confront racial injustices. The stage was set was for a full-scale non-violent assault on the status quo.

The issue of civil rights in Birmingham Alabama came to a direct head thanks to Project “C” (for confrontation) which was set up by civil rights leaders to confront racial injustice directly. As part of Project C, Martin Luther King Jr. got himself arrested. He write the famous book “Letter from Birmingham Jail” on scraps of paper he found in his jail cell while in solitary confinement.

In 1963, Birmingham Alabama was crucial in catapulting civil rights issues from a regional matter onto the national stage. National outrage over the treatment of civil rights protestors in Birmingham Alabama helped the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Did you know?  The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was important landmark legislation that met fierce opposition by Southern legislators. The egregious violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in Alabama lead to Martin Luther King and other civil rights protestors leading the Selma Marches which lead to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In later years, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 influenced the Civil Rights Act of 1968, Fair Housing Act and other important legislation.

The Civil Rights Sites in Birmingham Alabama are part of the larger Alabama Civil Rights Trail.

Birmingham Civil Rights District

Thanks to the segregation in force in Birmingham, there was only certain areas where African Americans could live and work. There was a reason the African American business district around Fourth Avenue became the Birmingham Civil Rights District. It was here in the Fourth Avenue Business District that African Americans could do such things as shop, go to the theatre and visit restaurants freely.

A celebration of Juneteenth at the Civil Rights Museum in Birmingham. Juneteenth is an American holiday that marks the end of slavery in the USA.

A celebration of Juneteenth at the Civil Rights Museum in Birmingham. Juneteenth is an American holiday that marks the end of slavery in the USA.

A.G. Gaston Motel

Civil Rights leaders including Martin Luther King Jr., Reverend Ralph David Abernathy and Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth created their ‘war room’ in a suite at the best hotel available to African Americans, the A.G. Gaston Motel which was located in the Birmingham Civil Rights district.

The A.G. Gaston Motel was established in 1953 by, A.G. Gaston, a successful African American businessman . Mr. Gaston had a mini-empire in Birmingham owning among other things, a bank, a radio station, an insurance company, and a funeral home for African-Americans. When Martin Luther King, Jr. was jailed in Birmingham, Mr. Gaston posted his $160,000 bail.  Mr. Gaston is being honoured at the Birmingham AL civil rights museum with an exhibit starting in the summer of 2019.

Fun Fact! The A.G. Gaston Motel appeared in the Negro Motorist Green Book as a welcoming place for African-American travellers.  This travel guide was made famous in the multi-Oscar winning 2018 movie Green Book starring Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen.

The A.G. Gaston Motel is currently closed to the public because it is undergoing renovation. Plans call for the motel to be open to visitors by 2020.

The A.G. Gaston Motel was right near the 16th Street Baptist Church and Kelly Ingram Park – the Birmingham Civil Rights District after all was squeezed into a six city block area.

Great Read!  The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Robert Rothstein is an excellent, well-researched book on neighbourhood segregation. Not only did zoning created ghettos but there were other factors as well.  For example, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs to revitalise the economy were blatantly racist.  For instance, the Federal Housing Authority refused to insure housing that included African Americans because they were a repayment ‘high risk’. With mortgage and insurance difficult to get, African Americans were kept out of home ownership.

 

The Birmingham Civil Rights Sites National Monument

The Birmingham Civil Rights District includes a national monument designation of several Birmingham Civil Rights sites. National monument status protecting these Civil Rights Sites in Birmingham Alabama under the auspices of the National Park Service was granted by President Obama through an executive order during his last days in office in January 2017.

The Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument includes the Civil Rights Institute Birmingham, Kelly Ingram Park, the 16th Street Baptist Church, the A.G. Gaston Motel and the St. Paul United Methodist Church. Located outside of downtown a short drive away is the Bethel Baptist Church Birmingham.

The downtown Civil Rights Sites in Birmingham Alabama are located near each other. They make an easy Birmingham AL Civil Rights walking tour that could be visited in a few hours.

Civil Rights Institute Birmingham

The Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham Alabama has had more than 2 million visitors since opening in 1992. The ginormous 58,000 square foot Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham Alabama has archives, galleries, exhibition space, meeting rooms and administrative offices.

This Birmingham Civil Rights Museum is a repository of the documentation of the civil rights struggles of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Videos and multimedia exhibits really bring the struggle for the Civil Rights in Birmingham Alabama and elsewhere to life. For example, you have a burned out Freedom Rider Bus as well as the armoured vehicles brought into disperse the peaceful civil rights protestors.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Museum and Reearch Center is dedicated to human rights issues.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Museum and Reearch Center is dedicated to human rights issues.

The Birmingham AL civil rights museum is located at 520 16th Street North, Birmingham Alabama 35203. The Civil Rights Museum in Birmingham is open Tuesday through Sunday and closed Monday. Check out the website for the Civil Rights Institute Birmingham for specific events and opening hours.

Check out the great TripAdvisor Reviews of the Civil Rights Institute Birmingham.

Kelly Ingram Park

The Kelly Ingram Park statues show scenes from the 1963 civil rights movement in Birmingham- high pressure water hoses and attack dogs let loose on peaceful protestors and school children jailed for wanting basic rights.

This Kelly Ingram Park statue of a police officer and his attack dog is the most photographed statue at the park.

This Kelly Ingram Park statue of a police officer and his attack dog is the most photographed statue at the park.

On the second of May of 1963 groups of 100 children who had been trained at nearby 16th street Baptist Church left Kelly Ingram Park to march to City Hall singing “We Shall Overcome”. Nearly 1000 children were promptly arrested and jailed.

Children were recruited into the struggle for Civil Rights in Birmingham Alabama ... and were also thrown in jail by the authorities.

Children were recruited into the struggle for Civil Rights in Birmingham Alabama … and were also thrown in jail by the authorities.

On the third of May of 1963, more African American children showed up at Kelly Ingram Park to march and were met with high pressure water hoses and German Shepherd police dogs.

A Kelly Ingram Park statue that commemorates how powerful water guns were trained on peaceful protestors in the struggle for civil rights in Birmingham Alabama

A Kelly Ingram Park statue that commemorates how powerful water guns were trained on peaceful protestors in the struggle for civil rights in Birmingham Alabama

The violence broadcast by the National News cameras shocked Americans. President Kennedy proposed what would become the Civil Rights Act of 1964. To underscore the support for this legislation, a quarter of million people showed in Washington, D.C. where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I have a dream” speech.

A statue of Martin Luther King, Jr at Kelly Ingram Park, one of the places to visit on Birmingham Civil Rights Trail

A statue of Martin Luther King, Jr at Kelly Ingram Park, one of the places to visit on Birmingham Civil Rights Trail

Who is Kelly Ingram?  The park was dedicated to Osmond Kelly Ingram in 1932.  He was a local firefighter who was the first sailor in the US Navy to die in World War 1.

Baptist Church Birmingham

The 16th Street Baptist Church Birmingham was the site of an act of domestic terrorism by the Klu Klux Klan that shocked the nation.

A statue to the four girls killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church Birmingham bombing at the corner of Kelly Ingram Park facing onto the church itself.

A statue to the four girls killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church Birmingham bombing at the corner of Kelly Ingram Park facing onto the church itself.

At this baptist church, Birmingham African Americans endured a bombing at a Sunday service which injured 22 people and killed four little girls. Martin Luther King Jr. lead the eulogy at the funeral of the little girls. In 2013, President Obama gave a Congressional Gold Medal to the four girls which is kept at the Birmingham AL Civil Rights Museum.

The most famous Baptist Church Birmingham has got its nationwide fame through tragedy.

The most famous Baptist Church Birmingham has got its nationwide fame through tragedy.

Thanks to the tragic events at this Baptist Church Birmingham has suggested it for UNESCO World Heritage status.

Other Birmingham AL Civil Rights Sites

Another member of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument located downtown is the St.Paul United Methodist church. This church was also a site of mass meetings and civil disobedience training for civil rights demonstrators in 1963.

Eminent Civil Rights leader Reverend Shuttlesworth was the pastor at Bethel Baptist Church Birmingham Alabama. This church is located in the Collegeville neighbourhood outside of downtown Birmingham.

A statue of Fred Shuttlesworth outside of the Civil Rights Institute Birmingham

A statue of Fred Shuttlesworth outside of the Civil Rights Institute Birmingham

Although Reverend Shuttleworth had been preaching against the injustice suffered by African Americans in Birmingham throughout the 1950’s, his ingenious idea to invite the star power of Martin Luther King to Birmingham made all the difference in 1963.   Along with national attention came the hatred of the racists –  the Bethel Baptist Church Birmingham was bombed three times in the 1060’s.

The Bethel Baptist Church Birmingham is included in the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument and has been proposed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Where To Stay on a Birmingham Civil Rights Tour

I stayed at the Elyton Hotel in downtown Birmingham which was a short distance to the Birmingham Alabama civil rights sites in the Birmingham Civil Rights District. Part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, this boutique hotel is fashioned from a former bank building. In addition to the fantastic location, the hotel also has one of the best restaurants as well as rooftop bars in the city.

A trendy colorful room at the Elyton Hotel, a boutique hotel in downtown Birmingham.

A trendy colorful room at the Elyton Hotel, a boutique hotel in downtown Birmingham.

Check out the great TripAdvisor Reviews of the Elyton Hotel.

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Great Things To Do in Scottsboro Alabama Other Than the Scottsboro AL Lost Luggage Store

Great Things To Do in Scottsboro Alabama Other Than the Scottsboro AL Lost Luggage Store

On road trip through Alabama, I simply had to stop by Scottsboro Alabama which is in North Alabama. Why? I had heard of Scottsboro AL from my parents-in-law who had visited the Unclaimed Baggage Store Alabama.  Along with the mecca to shopping that is Unclaimed Baggage, Scottsboro has plenty of other attractions. Among the other things to do in Scottsboro Alabama are such as charming Scottsboro restaurants, the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Jackson County Park. With its location close to Huntsville Alabama, Scottsboro Alabama is a great family-friendly day trip which includes great shopping, restaurants, historical sites and water based activities. 

About Scottsboro Alabama

Located in Northeast Alabama, Scottsboro Alabama is only 30 miles from each of Georgia and Tennessee. The area was originally Cherokee lands but the Native Americans got chased away by white settlers in the early 19th century.  Scottsboro Alabama was incorporated in 1860 and has had its ups and downs since then. Prior to the arrival of the Scottsboro AL lost luggage center, the biggest thing to happen in town was the Scottsboro Boys civil rights case. 

Watch the world go by on a peaceful rocking bench at Jackson County park.

Watch the world go by on a peaceful rocking bench at Jackson County park.

Unclaimed Baggage Scottsboro

Since 1970 the Unclaimed Baggage Store Alabama is the final destination for much of the country’s lost luggage. Hopefully, they begin Phase 2 of their lives with new owners.

Unclaimed Baggage Scottsboro buys lost luggage in bulk. Owners of lost luggage have 90 days to get their bags back. After that, the airlines can sell the luggage and that is when Unclaimed Baggage Scottsboro steps in. What’s in the 40,000 s.f. of the store is very much dependent on what gets lost/unclaimed.

The Unclaimed Baggage Store Alabama is a treasure trove of well=priced items where you will never know what you will find.

The Unclaimed Baggage Store Alabama is a treasure trove of well=priced items where you will never know what you will find.

There are giant hangars of merchandise for men, women and children at the Unclaimed Baggage Store Alabama. Clothes are definitely the majority of stuff. As is the usual stuff you take on vacation – jewellery, hats and shoes. The electronic department is small but great – headphones, iPads, laptops and cameras. There is a wide variety of stuff that people forget in the back of the seat pocket – books, sunglasses and e-readers. And, of course, you do have a selection of luggage for sale.

Prices tend to be 20% off the suggested manufacturer’s retail price so items are good value. I was told about a Rolex watch they sold recently (worth $64,000 but sold for $26,000). I purchased a super cheap small camera (Lumix) that has been great as a backup to my iPhone camera. It’s one of those places where you could browse for hours and wind up buying stuff just because the prices are so good.

At Unclaimed baggage store Alabama, you find lots of random intriguing things like these gold high tops.

At Unclaimed baggage store Alabama, you find lots of random intriguing things like these gold high tops.

Unclaimed Baggage hours are  open Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 6 PM. On Saturday Unclaimed Baggage hours are longer from 8 AM to 7 PM. The Scottsboro AL Lost Luggage store is located at 509 W. Willow Street.

Want more than my review? Check out the great TripAdvisor reviewsof the Scottsboro AL lost luggage store

More Things to Do in Scottsboro AL 

The Unclaimed Baggage Store Alabama is definitely the biggest thing in town but there are plenty of more things to do in Scottsboro AL.

Historic Downtown Scottsboro AL

Historic downtown Scottsboro Al is fairly compact. Along with a few restaurants and stores, there is the court house where the initial Scottsboro Boys trial occurred. 

The historic downtown of Scottsboro Alabama is small and walkable.

The historic downtown of Scottsboro Alabama is small and walkable.

Scottsboro Restaurants

Lucky for visitors to the Unclaimed Baggage Store Alabama, the in-store restaurant Cups Cafe is an excellent option for sustenance for a shopping marathon. It serves Starbucks as well as sandwiches.

Cups Cafe at the Scottsboro AL lost luggage store is the perfect place for a pick me up when you are doing marathon level shopping.

Cups Cafe at the Scottsboro AL lost luggage store is the perfect place for a pick me up when you are doing marathon level shopping.

Cups Cafe is also known for its Chicken Salad which seems to be a favourite sandwich filler for Alabama.  The chicken salad appears in the list for 100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama

Other Scottsboro AL restaurants on the list:  Among other dishes at Scottsboro restaurants, the list  at100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama also recommends the tomato pie at Carliles, the fried green tomatoes at Cutchen’s Magnolia House restaurant and the catfish at Mud Creek Fishing Camp

Cups Cafe is open Monday through Saturday for breakfast and lunch.

Payne’s Soda Shop is one of the restaurants in Scottsboro AL downtown. You will think you have stepped back in time to the 1950’s. Paynes itself has been in business since 1869 when it started as a pharmacy. It’s a cute place for lemonade, sandwiches and ice cream. I’ve weaned myself off Diet Coke (over a painful 3 month period) so I couldn’t try their peanut Coke specialty which apparently is amazing.

Payne’s Soda Shop is located at 101 E. Laurel Street, Scottsboro 35768.

Want more than my review? Check out the great TripAdvisor Reviews of Payne’s Soda Shop in Scottsboro Alabama.

Visit Paynes Soda Shop for a charming throwback among Scottsboro AL restaurants

Visit Paynes Soda Shop for a charming throwback among Scottsboro AL restaurants

And, of course Scottsboro restaurants have to have their fair share of Southern barbecue! All of 50 Taters Comfort Food (1497 County Park Road), Tate’s Take Out BBQ (103 West Stewart Road), Holy Smokes BBQ (108 Tupelo Turnpike) and KC’s BBQ (2300 County Park Road) came highly recommended.

Among the restaurants in Scottsboro AL are several great barbecue places.

Among the restaurants in Scottsboro AL are several great barbecue places.

I chose KC’s BBQ among the Scottsboro AL restaurants with barbecue simply for the beautiful location. The menu is massive! I had the usual meat and three sides option. You can sit in the air-conditioned restaurant or the screened-in porch which looks out over Lake Guntersville. KC’s BBQ is open 7 days a week.

Want more than my review? Check out the great TripAdvisor Reviews of KC’s BBQ in Scottsboro, Alabama.

Probably the best view among Scottsboro restaurants - KC’s BBQ has a screened porch overlooking Lake Guntersville!

Probably the best view among Scottsboro restaurants – KC’s BBQ has a screened porch overlooking Lake Guntersville!

Scottsboro Boys Museum

The Scottsboro Boys Museum documents one of the most important Civil Rights cases in US history which lead to two very important US Supreme Court cases defending the rights of people on trial in the USA.

The story started out innocently enough with people free riding on trains as they searched for work during the Great Depression. On a train from Chattanooga Tennessee in 1931 though, a fight broke out between black and white freeriders while the train was going through Alabama.

When the police arrived, 9 black teenagers (ranging in age from 13 to 19) were accused of raping two white women and promptly taken to the nearest county jail in Scottsboro. The boys protested their innocence but no one listened. The Scottsboro sheriff had to call in the National Guard to prevent the townspeople from lynching the boys.

In the Jim Crow South, being accused of raping a white woman was pretty much the death knell for a black man (a la To Kill A Mockingbird). The Scottsboro trial outcome for the initial trial in Scottsboro sentenced all of them except the 13 year old to death.

Liberal activist lawyers from the North got a stay of execution pending an appeal. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court of the USA which granted the boys a retrial. It became enshrined in law that people accused of crimes were entitled to adequate legal representation.

The Scottsboro Boys Museum is located in a former church close to the courthouse where the initial trial was conducted.

The Scottsboro Boys Museum is located in a former church close to the courthouse where the initial trial was conducted.

Round 2.  The retrials went to Decatur Alabama. One of the white women recanted her accusation that she had been raped. AND, there medical evidence no rape had happened. What’s the point of facts when racism is at play though? The Scottsboro trial outcome for Round 2 was that an all-white jury sentenced the Scottsboro Boys to death again.

The Judge set aside the verdict and a new round of appeals began. The US Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Scottsboro boys on the grounds  that the boys had a right to a jury of their peers (including both black and white jurors). 

The Scottsboro trial outcome was finally decided. In the interim though the Scottsboro Boys had spent years in prison while all the legal wrangling occurred. Eventually they were all released and pardoned.

The Scottsboro Boys Museum was opened in 2010 and has random opening hours. Call ahead to make sure it is open. 

Want more than my review? Check out the great TripAdvisor reviews of the Scottsboro Boys Museum.

Jackson County Park 

Jackson County Park is located on the shores of Lake Guntersville, Alabama’s largest lake with thousands of acres available for boating, fishing and watersport activities. Lake Guntersville was created by a dam of the Tennessee River in 1938 to protect the area against flooding and to provide hydroelectricity. 

Did you know? The German scientists who were brought over to Huntsville Alabama after World War 2 had weekend homes by Lake Guntersville. 

You can rent kayaks and stand up paddle boards as well as motorboats. KC’s BBQ is the onsite restaurant. 

Fun for the whole family - Guntersville Lake boat rentals and other water sport rentals.

Fun for the whole family – Guntersville Lake boat rentals and other water sport rentals.

For family fun, Jackson Park has easy walking trails as well as a children’s playground. The fishing is considered excellent at Lake Guntersville. 

Fishing is one of the many sports available at Jackson County Park.

Fishing is one of the many sports available at Jackson County Park.

Natural Attractions Near Scottsboro Alabama

In addition to Lake Guntersville, near Scottsboro Alabama there are some other  nature related activities for outdoors lovers. Cathedral Caverns has huge rock formations and is a pleasant break in the summer from the Alabama heat and humidity. The Walls of Jericho is known as the Grand Canyon of the South. The biblical name comes from a 19th century preacher because you know… Alabama. 

 

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10 Reasons Why You Should Go Gorilla Trekking (+ Why Gorilla Trekking Tours Help Gorillas)

10 Reasons Why You Should Go Gorilla Trekking (+ Why Gorilla Trekking Tours Help Gorillas)

Are you on the hunt for the adventure of a lifetime, but you just don’t know where to find it? A trip to the African continent is the best thing you can do to satisfy your cravings for adventure. More specifically, signing up for a mountain gorilla trekking tour to observe some of the most powerful and majestic beings in the world should suffice. Gorilla trekking is a once in a lifetime adventure that will stay in your memories long after you have left Africa.

More and more travelers are steering away from the traditional tropical getaway and opting for a trip to Africa instead. Not only is visiting the African continent an amazing to experience a culture completely different from your own, but it is also the only place to interact with a declining population of mountain gorillas.

There’s no question about the popularity of the traditional African safari, but mountain gorilla trekking is becoming nearly as popular. Here are 10 reasons why more visitors to Africa are signing up for a gorilla trek.

Gorilla Trekking Has Benefits For You

Gorilla Trekking is Safe

There is a common misconception that visiting the gorillas in their natural habitat – with no cages or restraints – is unsafe. This could not be further from the truth. As long as you follow the rules and regulations set by the park you are visiting and listen to your rangers and guides, there is absolutely no danger to you when you go trekking with gorillas.

Gorilla trekking gets you out into the natural habitat of these magnificent animals.

Gorilla trekking gets you out into the natural habitat of these magnificent animals.

Trekking with Gorillas Offers a Life Changing Experience

Maybe you think you’ve seen it all when it comes to gorillas with annual trips to your local zoo. However, there is nothing that compares to experiencing the natural habitat of gorillas. You get the chance to see gorillas in the wild, how they interact with each other, and how much they value family connection. Trekking with gorillas is a truly life-changing experience.

Trekking with Gorillas Benefits the Local Community

Trekking Saves the Mountain Gorillas of Africa

The number of mountain gorillas of Africa has seen a major decline in recent decades due to illegal poaching and human encroachment. African governments and wildlife organizations around the world are working together to fix that.

One of the most influential efforts to save the mountain gorillas in Africa is buying a gorilla permit to see gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda and Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The money you pay for trekking, as well as the permit you are required to obtain, goes towards saving and caring for these amazing creatures, as well as paying employees, facilitating research on the mountain gorillas .

Gorilla trekking safaris shows you how gorillas live in family groups.

Gorilla trekking safaris shows you how gorillas live in family groups.

Gorilla Trekking Tours Provide Support to the Local Community

Every gorilla trekking tour is coordinated and organized by the local governments and local people. By taking time out of your trip to go gorilla trekking , you aren’t just doing something for yourself (and the gorillas). You are also supporting the local people. Your support doesn’t just come from the money you spend gorilla trekking, but also from the fact that you are willing to learn about their culture and traditions.

Gorilla Trekking Rwanda Supports Ellen Degeneres’ Dian Fossey Conservation Legacy

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund has been around for decades. Yet, it was not until a Ellen Degeneres’ donation that Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda was built by the Dian Fossey Foundation. When gorilla trekking Rwanda, part of the money is put towards the research center and other aspects of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. You can be a part of the mission “to make gorillas an entry point for a lifetime of conservation activism.”

Gorilla trekking tours provide money for ensuring gorilla habitats are maintained.

Gorilla trekking tours provide money for ensuring gorilla habitats are maintained.

Gorilla Trekking Safaris Increase the Gorilla Habitat

With your support and the support of the local people of Africa, WWF has been able to purchase land specifically for gorilla habitation. One of the major issues that the mountain gorillas have faced is human encroachment, but with your funds and support, this has been put to a halt.

The Ease of Gorilla Trekking Tours 

There Are Gorilla Trekking Tours for Everyone

One of the biggest deterrents keeping people from signing up for a mountain gorilla trek is the thought that it will be too challenging and strenuous. This could be the case depending on the national park you choose to visit and the specific gorilla trek you sign up for. There are, however, plenty of options for gorilla trekking that cater to all people, no matter their fitness levels.

Gorilla trekking Rwanda you can see how much care a female gorilla takes with her young ones.

Gorilla trekking Rwanda you can see how much care a female gorilla takes with her young ones.

Gorilla Trekking is a Great Add-On to an African Safari

Partaking in a traditional African safari is one of the main reasons to visit the African continent. You can see everything from graceful giraffes and giggling hyenas to mighty elephants and powerful rhinos.

But don’t stop there; you can easily add-on a trekking excursion during your time spent in Africa. For gorilla trekking Rwanda offers the Virunga Mountain Range and Uganda gorilla trekking offers Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. 

Gorrila trekking Uganda you will also meet family groups

Gorrila trekking Uganda you will also meet family groups

Gorilla Trekking is an Adventure for All types of Tourists

Gorilla trekking offers up the adventure of a lifetime for all types of tourists for groups, solo travels, disabled, tough hikers. If you want the best adventure experience possible, Uganda gorillas trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the top choice.

Gorilla Trekking Safaris Are Offered All Year Round

No matter when you visit Africa, you’ll be able to participate gorilla trekking. There are, however, definitely times that are better suited to gorilla trekking if you factor in weather and tourism rates. For the best gorilla trekking experience, you’ll want to visit between the months of June and September. The dry weather and comfortable temperature make gorilla trekking fun and easy.

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15 Amazing Stops To Make For An Awesome Alabama Road Trip

15 Amazing Stops To Make For An Awesome Alabama Road Trip

Ready to road trip Alabama? Alabama is a fantastically diverse state with mountain, beaches, cities and a fascinating history. Did I mention the great food and friendly people? You should consider these 15 amazing stops  for your road trip in Alabama whether you are just passing through Alabama on a longer visit to the  Southern USA or are spending the entire time on an Alabama road trip. In Northern Alabama, you must visit Rocket City Huntsville as well as some of the other small cities. As you go through Central Alabama, you will visit Birmingham Alabama and Montgomery Alabama. Finally there is coastal Alabama with its international flair and beautiful white sand beaches. 

Alabama Road Trip

There’s no two ways about it – getting around Alabama is easiest by car. Hence, you can create your own standalone Alabama road trip or include it as part of a larger southern USA road trip. The conditions are great for road trips in Alabama – the roads are in great condition and there are plenty of roadside service stops if you need fuel or food.

Alabama Road Trip Ideas

Are you thinking about an Alabama road trip as part of a larger Southern USA road trip? Plenty of people I know have created a southern USA road trip that included the state of Alabama so I have broken this Alabama road trip guide into sections for Northern Alabama, Central Alabama and Coastal Alabama so that you can work the section of Alabama that you will be near into your own personalised road trip adventure.

Here are some examples of nearby big cities and their distance from places in Alabama:

  • New Orleans to Mobile is a 3 hour drive.
  • Both Chattanooga and Nashville in Tennessee is a 2 hour drive to Huntsville.
  • Both Memphis Tennessee and Atlanta Georgia are a 3 1/2 hour drive to Huntsville.
  • Atlanta Georgia is also a 2 or 3 hour drive to Birmingham or Montgomery, respectively.

In Mobile I met visitors from Lithuania who were combining a visit to the  theme parks in Orlando Florida with a Louisiana Mississippi Alabama road trip. After Mobile, they were heading to the casinos in Biloxi Mississippi and then party central, New Orleans. How is that for a fun road trip for adults? 

Road Trip Alabama

I decided to road trip Alabama in its entirely from the Northern Alabama to Coastal Alabama. Although I had people question whether there would be enough interesting sites to road trip Alabama for two weeks, I found  myself wishing I had even more time! 

When you road trip Alabama you realise how much there is to see in the state sandwiched between the mountains of Northern Alabama and the white sand beaches of Coastal Alabama. Road trips in Alabama take you through quirky small towns, big cities and farmland.  You will sample plenty of delicious food, meet friendly people and learn some fascinating history. 

A sign showing where the Civil War prison in Montgomery Alabama was located.

A sign showing where the Civil War prison in Montgomery Alabama was located.

Why did I decide to road trip Alabama? After all, the news was full off the religious right’s assault on women’s rights in Alabama (to the horror of more liberal Alabamians) . Yes, there are liberals in Alabama!

On the other hand, an Alabama road trip promised history, great food and quirky attractions – definitely my interests. So I dropped my son off in Rocket City Huntsville for his two weeks at the camps run at the NASA Space Center before I ventured off on my Alabama road trips.

I spent 8 days driving from Huntsville to Mobile in coastal Alabama and then looped back up to Northern Alabama. It took me tow days to visit Birmingham Alabama, 3 days to visit Montgomery Alabama and 3 days in coastal Alabama. I would suggest a minimum of 3 days in Huntsville and Northern Alabama too.  Although this itinerary covers the four biggest cities in the state of Alabama, I would encourage you to branch out and visit some of the smaller cities and towns nearby.

Alabama Road Signs

And, of particular note are the amusing Alabama road signs. You really get a flavour for the state by the unique Alabama road signs. Sorry for the picture quality – my trusty navigator/assistant photographer/son is still honing his craft.

Various Alabama road signs you come across as your road trip Alabama

Various Alabama road signs you come across as your road trip Alabama

Just a small selection of the Alabama road signs that caught my attention. Technically the giant cross is not a road sign but I have never seen such a huge church on the side of an interstate. 

Apparently, the “Go To Church or the Devil Will Get You” sign is famous in Alabama. The owner took it down, but there was an outcry, and he replaced it. As one person said to me, you see that sign and you know you are in Central Alabama.

The signs for personal injury lawyer Alexander Shunnarah signs are everywhere in Alabama and it’s become a meme in its own right. 

The Shunnarah Alabama Road Signs have elevated him to meme-status.

The ubiquitous Shunnarah Alabama road signs have elevated him to meme-status.

Yeah, there really was a drug dealer feeding a squirrel meth in Alabama to make it more vicious. The police released it into the wild when the drug dealer got arrested. So there is some poor Meth Squirrel out there in Alabama detoxing in the wild. 

What To Do in Northern Alabama

I have to say Northern Alabama surprised me. I had no idea it was so mountainous! Coming in from Atlanta into Huntsville, we had a brief period where my SatNav refused to work because we had no WiFi. My son learned how to read a paper map which I assured him was a useful life skill. 

Momentary panic when the  SatNav refuses to work in the mountains of Northern Alabama.

Momentary panic when the SatNav refuses to work in the mountains of Northern Alabama.

Rocket City Huntsville

Our first destination in Alabama was Huntsville – nicknamed Rocket City because of the NASA headquarters.

Two of the biggest attraction in Alabama are in the Rocket City Huntsville. Huntsville is a quirky cool city in Northern Alabama with all of the attractions of a major American city but with a better quality of life.

At the number one spot there is the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Not only is it a museum, but the NASA space center runs weekly programs for school children during the summer. My son signed up for Space Camp and Aviation Challenge and loved his two weeks there. 

The NASA US space center has a great museum as well as well-run summer camps for kids.

The NASA US space center has a great museum as well as well-run summer camps for kids.

Even if you are not a science person, there’s plenty to do in Rocket City Huntsville. The Number 3 most visited attraction in Alabama is the Huntsville Botanical Center.

The Huntsville Botanical Center is a great place to visit with kids.

The Huntsville Botanical Center is a great place to visit with kids.

There are also plenty of other museum, historical sites and shopping areas to keep you occupied. The city also has a burgeoning craft brewery scene as well as many great restaurants. After all, those well-paid scientists need somewhere to spend their money!

Fun Fact!  Alabama is a little late to the craft brewing scene but making up for lost time with some great craft beers. Believe it or not, it was illegal to brew beer above 6% alcohol before 2009 and you couldn’t brew beer at home until 2013.

What Else is There in Northern Alabama?

Northern Alabama has several small towns to visit as well as a lot of outdoors activities.. As you know, I’m a city girl. Besides, I was being bitten alive by mosquitos everywhere in Alabama.

I skipped a lot of the nature stuff because I feared venturing further into a mosquito lair. I know the rest of my family would have loved  activities like hiking along the Natchez Trace, checking out the bioluminescent glowworms at Dismals Canyon and a cave tour of the gigantic  Cathedral Caverns.

The small towns I visited were all easy day trips from Huntsville and make great road trips in Alabama.

In Florence Alabama, I went to see where musical legends like Cher and the Rolling Stones created history at Muscle Shoals Recording Studio, the birthplace of Helen Keller at Ivy Green and the Rosenbaum House, the only Frank Lloyd house in Alabama. 

The charming town of Florence Alabama is host to many interesting tourist sites.

The charming town of Florence Alabama is host to many interesting tourist sites.

My son loved Decatur Alabama for the fantastic Cook Museum of Natural Science and the Point Mallard Park. Decatur has a long history from the very beginning of Alabama history through the Civil War. 

Scottsboro is home to a shopper’s paradise at the Unclaimed Baggage Center which has warehouses full of stuff that unlucky airline passengers have lost. Nearby Lake Guntersville is the largest lake in Alabama and great for all types of water sports. Scottsboro  also has a sad historical connection as the place where the so-called Scottsboro Boys (9 African American teenagers) were falsely accused of raping two white women. This story and that of the subsequent trials is told a the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center.

The Unclaimed Baggage Centre is one of the road trips in Alabama you can take.

The Unclaimed Baggage Centre is one of the road trips in Alabama you can take.

Practicalities for Northern Alabama  

With so many visitors to the NASA space center, Huntsville has both an airport as well as a wide choice of hotels. I stayed at several places in Huntsville Alabama during the 8 days I spent in the city because I wanted to see what the different options were. Like many cities in the USA, Huntsville is pretty spread out. You have hotels in the historic downtown area, near the NASA Space Center as well as newer areas of the city.

I did regret that I did not stay at the super cool GunRunner Hotel in Florence Alabama. It’s a car warehouse conversion which would be totally in keeping with any stylish hotel in any major international city like London or New York. 

Huntsville to Birmingham

How far is Huntsville from Birmingham? A little over 100 miles. 

Getting from Huntsville AL to Birmingham AL is a super easy drive of a little over 2 hours. Once you get to Decatur Alabama, you can go straight along Interstate 65-S to Birmingham for most of the 100 miles.

Pitstop:  Ave Maria Grotto, Cullman Alabama

If you are into quirky roadside attractions on your way from Huntsville to Birmingham, check out the Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman Alabama. About an hour from Huntsville, take exit 308 from I-65S for a short distance to reach the Ave Maria Grotto.

At the Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman, a German Benedictine monk has created stone miniature replicas of world-famous Catholic religious places of worship on a 4 acre park. We are talking everything from Jerusalem to the Shrine at Lourdes. This grotto is listed on the National Register of Historic Sites.

For good measure, he threw in some secular places like the leaning Tower of Pisa. By the way, the monk only visit about 6 of the 125+ places he created in stone so it’s not necessarily that accurate. On the other hand, the dedication needed to achieve something like the Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman is pretty extraordinary.

The Ave Maria Grotto is an easy stop to take a break and stretch your legs on your way from Huntsville AL to Birmingham AL. The address for the Ave Maria Grotto is 1600 St Bernard Drive SE, Cullman AL 25055. It is open daily except for Chrismas and New Year’s days.

What To Do in Central Alabama

Central Alabama covers a wide swathe of the state. The city of Birmingham is considered north central in the state and the city of Montgomery is south central. 

Visit Birmingham Alabama

Birmingham Alabama is the largest city in Alabama. If you visit Birmingham Alabama with kids, the Birmingham Zoo is the second most visited attraction in Alabama. I took a civil rights tour of Birmingham which included the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the 16th Street Baptist Church and Kelly Ingram Park.

When you visit Birmingham Alabama, you must visit the Civil Rights Institute.

When you visit Birmingham Alabama, you must visit the Civil Rights Institute.

I stayed at a fabulous boutique hotel in downtown, Elyton Hotel, which has got a great location near many restaurants and the Alabama Theatre, an iconic showplace since 1927.

If you are looking to visit Birmingham Alabama directly, the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth Airport is only a few miles from the city.

Birmingham to Montgomery

How far is Birmingham from Montgomery? A relatively short 92 miles.

Getting from Birmingham to Montgomery is likewise very easy on the interstate. The drive from Birmingham AL to Montgomery will take close to two hours.

Pitstop: Peach Park, Clanton Alabama

On the drive from Birmingham AL to Montgomery AL, you simply have to stop in Clanton Alabama on Interstate 65-S (exit 212). You know Clanton from a distance because of the water tower shaped like a peach. 

The peach water tower at Clanton in central Alabama.

The peach water tower at Clanton in central Alabama.

Fun Fact! Over 80% of the peaches grown in Alabama come from the area surrounding Clanton Alabama. 

Stop by Peach Park which has a barbecue restaurant, bakery and ice cream store. This is definitely the place to try peach cobbler and peach ice cream.

Once again you are about an hour on the road from Birmingham to Alabama, so Clanton makes a great pit stop.

Visit Montgomery Alabama

When you visit Montgomery Alabama, you realise that the city has been witness to so much that is uniquely American – Westward expansion, slavery, the Civil War, the Jim Crow Era, country music and literary greatness.

Check out Old Alabama Town, a living history  museum, if you want to see how hard and scrappy life in the Mississippi Territory was. 

Among the civil rights venues to visit are the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church where Martin Luther King Jr was a pastor and the Rosa Parks Museum dedicated to the woman whose refusal to give up her bus seat made history.

Alabama was one of the first states to secede from the Union. Jefferson Davis was sworn in as president of the Confederacy in front of the Alabama State House. The First White House of the Confederacy was also located in Montgomery Alabama.

When you visit Montgomery Alabama, the Alabama state house is an imposing structure in downtown.

When you visit Montgomery Alabama, the Alabama state house is an imposing structure in downtown.

The aftermath of the Civil War and the Jim Crow Era are graphically illustrated at The Legacy Museum which looks at the mistreatment of African Americans in the USA from lynching to chain gangs to mass incarceration. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice is dedicated to the 4000+ African Americans who were lynched between 1877 and 1950.

A moving sculpture at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice.

A moving sculpture at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice.

In terms of the arts, you have the Hank Williams Museum, a pioneer of country music. In addition, the former home of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald is now the Fitzgerald Museum. Although the couple were only in residence for one year, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote one of his greatest works, Tender is the Night, at this location.

Montgomery isn’t all government and historical attractions though. There’s a great food scene and nascent craft beer scene. 

In Montgomery I stayed at a couple of different places. I could not pass up staying at the Fitzgerald Museum which has rooms through AirBnB but I also chose to stay in a Marriott for the simple convenience of being downtown.

If you are looking to visit Montgomery Alabama directly, the Montgomery Regional Airport is 10 miles from the city.

Alabama Road Trips From Montgomery Alabama

If you would like to learn more about Civil Rights issues in the USA, you need to check out these two shorter Alabama road trip ides from Montgomery.

Alabama Road Trip Ideas:  Selma Alabama

Selma is only 50 miles (about an hour drive) from Montgomery but is an important part of American civil rights history.

The Selma to Montgomery march by Martin Luther King Jr and other civili rights leader helped with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. They chose Selma because the town had 57% African Americans of which only 3% had voting rights. 

At Selma, you can see the Edmund Pettus Bridge where Alabama state troopers stopped the marchers on their first attempt. The vicious beating of African Americans by the state troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge (named after a Confederate Army General and KKK Grand Dragon) brought the Civil Rights issues to the forefront of the national consciousness. Near the bridge is the National Voting Rights Museum

An exhibit of Klu Klux Klan items that terrorised African American communities after the Civil War.

An exhibit of Klu Klux Klan items that terrorised African American communities after the Civil War.

Alabama Road Trip Ideas: Tuskegee Alabama

I did not have time to visit Tuskegee Alabama which is only a 45 minute drive from Montgomery Alabama (in the opposite direction to Selma).

I met a nice couple at Dexter Avenue Church who were doing the Civil Rights trail in Montgomery and then going to Tuskegee and finally Selma in one day. I was super impressed with their hustle because all of the museums close at 5pm so they would be packing a lot into that day.

Tuskegee is home to several interesting museums.

  • There is the George Washington Carver Museum dedicated to George Washington Carver who was an African American scientist who encouraged the planting of alternative crops like peanuts and legumes to avoid the soil depletion caused by the growing cotton.
  • There is also the home of Booker T. Washington, the Oaks which is operated by the National Park Service. Washington was an African-American educator who advocated education as a response to the Jim Crow Laws of his time.  Sort of like the Michele Obama ‘When they go low, we go high” response of his time.
  • Another great museum is the Tuskegee History Center, a history museum which tells the story of all the local peoples including Native Americans, African Americans and European Americans.
Did you know?  At the Tuskegee History Center learn about the infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment where the American government experimented on African American men without their knowledge or consent from 1932-1972. This news coming to light in the 1970’ s lead to major changes in patient rights. 

Montgomery to Mobile

Driving the 170 miles from Montgomery to Mobile takes about 3 hours. Once again most of the time and miles from Montgomery AL to Mobile AL are spent on Interstate 65-S.

Detour: Monroeville, Alabama

If you feel like doing a short detour on the way from Montgomery to Mobile, get of I-65S at Exit 93 for the half-hour drive to Monroeville. Famous as the hometown of Harper Lee who wrote To Kill A Mockingbird, Monroeville has a small museum dedicated to the book/movie at its Courthouse. 

Fun Fact! The Scottsboro Boys Trials in Northern Alabama were the inspiration for Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird.
Interestingly, Harper Lee was also childhood friends with Truman Capote, another great American author. Two American literary giants from one small town. Must be something in the water!

What to do in Coastal Alabama

I had a tour guide describe Mobile Alabama as the ‘red-headed stepchild of Alabama’ – a description that made me laugh. I can see why the rest of Alabama thinks Mobile is a little different but to be fair, so is Huntsville. Huntsville and Mobile were also my two favourite places in Alabama but I have always been a fan of quirky. I found Central Alabama way too religious and finding decent coffee was a challenge. 

Settled by the French and the first capitol of French Louisiana, Mobile reminds me of New Orleans with its architecture and laid-back style.

Mobile Alabama would also like you to know that they were the first city to celebrate Mardi Gras in the USA. There’s a Mardi Gras Museum and  Mardi Gras is still celebrated in family -friendly style in the city. 

Mobile has lots of historic neighbourhoods and a vibrant restaurant and bar scene. Kids will love visiting the USS Alabama, a former Navy battleship at Battleship park. 

When you visit Mobile Alabama, you discover there are lots of parks like this one, Battlefield Park.

When you visit Mobile Alabama, you discover there are lots of parks like this one, Battlefield Park.

Near Mobile, there is Bayou Le Batre made famous as the place Forrest Gump had his shrimp boat. There is also Dauphin Island, a barrier island with glorious beaches and an Audubon Bird Sanctuary. How can you not love a place that bills itself as the sunset capitol of Alabama?

Bayou Le Batre is famous for building ships and its fishing trade.

Bayou Le Batre is famous for building ships and its fishing trade.

Take the Mobile Bay Ferry from Dauphin Island back onto the mainland at Fort Morgan, Alabama for one of the best Alabama scenic drives you will come across. I looped back up to Mobile on scenic route 98 but you can go further along for more coastal Alabama.

Detour:  Gulf Shores and Orange Beach

Keep going along Ccoastal Alabama and you get Gulf Shores and Orange Beach which will fill anyone’s idea of fun in the sun and sand.

In Mobile I stayed at the historic Battle House Renassance Hotel and Spa. It’s got a great location walkable to most of Mobile’s sites. In addition to the spa, there is also a rooftop pool and tennis courts.

If you are looking to visit coastal Alabama directly, the Mobile Regional Airport is located on the Gulf Coast and 13 miles from Mobile, itself.

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We were helped by Huntsville CVB on our visit to Northern Alabama in the form of 3 nights stay at the Drury Inn & Suites Huntsville as well as free admission to several of the area’s sites. We did not otherwise receive compensation of any form, monetary or otherwise, from any of the products, services, hotels  etc mentioned in this article.

This site generates income via partnerships with carefully-curated travel and lifestyle brands and/or purchases made through links to them at no extra cost to you. More information may be found on our Disclosure Policy.