Most people overlook small towns when searching for unique places to visit in Alabama. However, there are so many reasons you shouldn’t! Historic destinations preserved since the 19th century, natural havens with waterfalls and hiking trails, as well as fishing villages with stunning views are only some of what you will witness when you visit small towns in Alabama!
Small Towns in Alabama
There are small towns worth visiting in Alabama located all across the state! Whether you’re looking for somewhere in North Alabama or South Alabama, this list will have you covered. Some places do have seasonal walking tours and events which are mentioned below. So please, make sure to plan your travels accordingly.
Cullman, Alabama is a small town equidistant from Birmingham and Huntsville. It’s mainly known for its rich history surrounding its early German immigrants, Native Americans, and the Civil War. The town’s architecture and places of interest are witnesses to its past.
Make your first stop at the Cullman County Museum to learn about the town’s origins. The artifacts on display will set you on your way to discover everything Cullman has to offer. However, if you’re looking for a couple must-visits, don’t miss St. Bernard Abbey and Clarkson Covered Bridge.
St. Bernard Abbey is Alabama’s only Benedectine monastery and houses the famous Ave Maria Grotto. The beautiful 4 acre park displays a collection of 125 miniature replicas of famous structures from around the world.
Later, make the 15 minute drive out to Hanceville to marvel at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery. The 13th century architecture with its marble pillars, ceramic tiling, and bronze and wooden detailing will blow you away. Taking photos is prohibited inside, but you’ll hardly miss it. The beauty and serenity of the space is best experienced first-hand!
The college town of Tuskegee is located about 40 miles east of Montgomery and is mainly known for its rich and diverse black history. Tuskegee Institute (now University), The George Washington Carver Museum, the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, and other smaller but significant museums in the area will keep you busy with boundless important learning.
Visit the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site to learn all about the life and efforts of Booker T. Washington. You will learn about the impacts that Tuskegee Institute has had on the black community. Then drop by the George Washington Carver Museum on the same campus to learn about the African-American professor, botanist and inventor, George Washington Carver.
Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site is the place to visit to learn all about the Tuskegee Airmen. They were the first African-American squadron to fly for the United States Military. Visitors can enjoy displays, information, and a full-size replica of a Red-Tail P-51 Mustang!
End your visit with a light-hearted trip to the smallest recognized national forest in America, the Tuskegee National Forest. Despite its size, it offers great value for nature-lovers. A wildlife viewing area, hiking and mountain biking trails, fish ponds, and sites perfect for camping are only some of its features!
Bayou La Batre
Bayou La Batre (pronounced Balla Batree) is a must-visit for seafood lovers and fishing enthusiasts. However, its picturesque views and small town charm will enchant just about anyone. Known by locals as the “Seafood Capital of Alabama,” many of the world’s shrimp boats were built here.
One famous shrimp boat, “The Black Pearl” featured in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean comes from this charming community! The quaint town also makes an appearance in the movie Forrest Gump, as Bubba’s hometown. Visit Bayou La Batre to experience life in a fishing village for yourself.
While there, make sure to drop by Catalina Bayou for some top-notch seafood. Order the seafood platter and their crab claws, both of which are specialties of Bayou La Batre. Its beautiful scenery and welcoming community make this one of the most stay-worthy small towns in Alabama!
Selma, an unassuming city located on the banks of the Alabama River, is most famous for the 1960s Selma Voting Rights Movement. The Selma to Montgomery marches and the fatal “Bloody Sunday” attack are the two most important events that occurred here. Naturally, a good place to start is the bridge, Selma’s most notable historic site.
Stroll down Selma’s streets lined with buildings dating back to the 1800s and step into the century-old churches to marvel at their architecture. This includes the Brown Chapel AME Church, which was where the Selma marchers congregated. The Selma and Dallas County Chamber of Commerce offers many annual events spread across the year to help visitors learn about Selma’s role in American History.
Visit the town in April to partake in the walking tours organized every Saturday. You will witness fascinating remnants of history through the existing cityscape, including the famous Walton Theatre where vaudeville acts were performed in the 1900s. Additionally, you will see (and can stay at) the historic riverfront St. James Hotel Selma.
Alternatively, you could also stay at the Bridge Tender’s House, the site where families who ran the Selma turn bridge once lived! With its proximity to the Old Depot Museum and a view of the famous bridge itself, you’ll learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Selma plus much more.
Author’s Note: Wishing to respect the sensitivity of the matter, I debated whether or not to post this photo or name the bridge discussed above. Understandably so, there are ongoing petitions to rename it. However, there is debate within the Selma community regarding the decision and I agree it’s ultimately Selma’s right to choose. I believe in 100% racial and civil equality.
Located on the banks of the lake bearing its namesake is Eufaula, a town known for its historic homes and fishing. This small town in Alabama has more than 700 historic and architecturally significant structures and a beautiful state park, among other things.
Nature enthusiasts should head to Lakepoint State Park. Here, one can go fishing and discover why Eufaula and its surrounding regions have proclaimed themselves the “The Bass Capital of the World”! The state park offers an abundance of walking trails, boating, areas for bird-watching and camping. There are even cottages for rent by the water’s edge if you wish to stay for longer.
In the town’s Seth Lore and Irwinton Historic District you will see masterfully restored 19th century Victorian, Greek, Gothic, and classical revival homes. Visit the town during the first week of April and catch the nation’s longest running historic home tour, The Eufaula Pilgrimage for a look inside the homes!
Fendall Hall and Shorter Mansion are two beautiful historic residences you don’t want to miss. Drop by the Fairview Cemetery for an unconventional trip to the past and learn about some of the people who helped shape Eufaula. Afterwards, grab a delicious meal at River City Grill!
Known for its Native American heritage and historical destinations, Florence is one of those small towns in Alabama that is perfect for relaxing, as well as getting active. Start your visit with a trip to McFarland Park. With campsites, a man-made beach area, fishing piers, a floating restaurant, and ball fields, it’s bound to get the whole family excited about Florence!
Meander the streets of Florence’s Walnut Street Historic District to understand the town’s architectural and economic history. Drop by the Pope’s Tavern to catch a glimpse into America’s military past. This building, originally an inn but later converted to a hospital during the Civil War, now serves as a museum housing many antiques and artifacts from that era.
Another interesting place to visit is Florence Indian Mound and Museum. Learn all about Alabama’s Native American history through 500 generation old artifacts such as woven textiles, animal effigy pipes, and soapstone carvings.
Stop at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Rosenbaum House to see what stylish pre-World War II Usonian houses were like before ending your trip at your own stylish accommodation. Stay at Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa for the luxurious end your trip will need!
This small town is part of “The Shoals” in Alabama which encompasses Tuscumbia, Muscle Shoals, Sheffield, and Florence. It’s popularly known for its musical history, museums, and Hellen Keller’s birthplace, Ivy Green. Take the family to see the well pump where she first learned to communicate along with all the original furnishings and exhibits inside the house.
Being a music history buff is another reason to visit Tuscumbia because of the town’s famous Alabama Music Hall of Fame. Learn about singers, musicians, and everyone else behind the scenes through the exhibits on display.
Head on over to Tuscumbia Railroad Depot Museum to learn about America’s railways and history pertaining to the same. You will see old turntables, vintage carriages, freight locomotives and so much more!
If all you want to do is immerse yourself in nature while in Tuscumbia, Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve is a great place to do so. With countless walking trails and The Point, a famous overlook, it will be quite easy. For a family-fun day out, head to Spring Park. The lake, man-made waterfall, water fountains with lighting and sound fixtures, fun rides, and miniature splash pad make for a fun experience for every member of the family!
See? Visiting small towns in Alabama can be just as fun as visiting the big cities! The combination of relaxation, warmth, and family fun activities they offer make them extra special for vacationing. Why not show these small towns some big love?
Have you visited any of the destinations on this list? Let me know below and feel free to add any of your own suggestions not already included!