Alabama’s Spring Break destinations
Weary students and their equally winter-worn parents look forward to March and a little break from early classes, homework, projects, and deadlines. The pandemic has added stresses like virtual learning, quarantines, and limited extracurricular activities. With restrictions and safety recommendations limiting long-distance trips, Alabama has perfect Sweet Home getaways for spring break 2021. From the mountains to the Gulf of Mexico, here’s a roadmap (and a few tips for sneaking in some fun ways to learn something new) for the perfect spring break journey within a few hours’ drive.
Spring break and beaches are a perfect combination. If you’re looking for a lot of sand and some warm rays, Alabama beaches outshine their rivals. From Gulf Shores and Orange Beach to Fort Morgan and Dauphin Island, there’s a perfect spot on the sand for your chair and cooler.
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are the spring break meccas for beachgoers and offer all the high-rise condos, beach bars, and amusements you could want. Make a point to visit the fully restored Lodge at Gulf State Park. It’s worth checking out how architects worked their magic to build an environmentally friendly resort that conserves the natural beauty of the beach.
Tip: Open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily, the Gulf State Park Interpretive Center offers visitors a glimpse at how the park is preserving the environment and natural resources and what simple steps they can take to do the same when they return home.
Fort Morgan is a family-friendly beach community with a good mix of beach cottages and condos located on the Gulf or Mobile Bay. Once sparsely populated and miles from restaurants, Fort Morgan now has ample beachside and bayside dining. Dog-friendly beaches allow the family’s best friend to enjoy spring break, too.
Tip: Visit historic Fort Morgan located at the end of Alabama Highway 180. (You can’t miss it!) Built between 1819 and 1833, the fort played a significant role in the Battle of Mobile Bay in August 1864 and was used through the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II. As a day trip, consider taking the Mobile Bay Ferry from Fort Morgan to Dauphin Island. The island is home to the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and its public aquarium.
On the eastern shore of Mobile Bay – about 45 minutes north of the Gulf beaches – sits what many call the jewel of Alabama’s resorts. The Grand Hotel Golf Resort and Spa, built in 1847, has been named on many national lists of best resorts with its tradition of southern hospitality that entices guests to return. Swimming (there’s even a beach), fishing, biking, fine and casual dining, kids’ activities, an award-winning spa, tennis, and golf are all part of the Grand experience. Shopping and lunch in the quaint nearby city of Fairhope is a fun excursion.
Tip: Visit the historic cemetery on the Grand Hotel property where both Union and Confederate soldiers are at rest. If you like unusual places, take a short drive to the Hermit House in Montrose, just outside of Fairhope. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the one-room, dome-shaped hut was built in 1928 by Henry Stuart, an Englishman, whose habits led to his title the Hermit of Montrose. The hut is located in the parking lot of an office complex at 22787 U.S. Highway 98 on property owned by Ashurst Niemeyer Real Estate.
If the spring temps at the beach are not your style, Birmingham offers a great spring break alternative with fun attractions for kids young and old. Tripping.com lists the Magic city among its 8 Best Spring Break Destinations in Alabama. You’ll definitely find something to fit everyone’s idea of spring break fun at top-ranked hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues.
As you would expect in a big city, experiences are larger than life. Kids of all ages enjoy the McWane Science Center, Birmingham Zoo, Topgolf, Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, and Autobahn Indoor Speedway. After a busy day of spring breaking, the Magic City will tempt you with internationally recognized restaurants, fun pizza joints, and brewpubs. Treat yourself to a stay at the Grand Bohemian Hotel in nearby Mountain Brook for an out-of-the-ordinary experience. The hotel features an eclectic décor, an art gallery, a cooking school, and a spa.
Tip: Work in a little spring break history lesson by visiting the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute – part of the U.S. Civil Rights Trail – that features a rendition of a segregated city from the 1950s, a replica of a Freedom Riders bus, and the actual door from the jail cell that held Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Alabama’s mountains are known for attracting “leaf peepers” in search of autumn color, but spring is the best time for cool-weather hikes to explore the peaks. From Monte Sano Mountain near Huntsville to Cheaha Mountain in east Alabama, you can climb every mountain your energy level will allow. Cheaha is the state’s highest point at 2,407 feet above sea level and is part of the Talladega National Forest. Cheaha State Park accommodations include a lodge, cabins, chalets, and campgrounds.
Mentone is a popular spot for outdoor mountain fun. Located in Alabama’s northeast corner, this resort town is on the rim of Lookout Mountain. Visitors enjoy 104-foot DeSoto Falls in DeSoto State Park where there is camping, biking, kayaking, fishing, hiking, and rappelling.
Off the beaten path near the northwest Alabama town of Phil Campbell is Dismals Canyon. Designated a National Natural Landmark in 1975, the canyon has a 1.5-mile hiking trail at its floor where you discover grottos, caverns, and waterfalls. After dark, a guided flashlight tour of the canyon reveals bioluminescent creatures called dismalites that light up the canyon walls. The Dismals Canyon also contains one of the oldest primeval forests east of the Mississippi River.
Tip: If you’re driving between Birmingham and the north Alabama mountains on a pretty day, take a side trip through Blount County to see three of Alabama’s 11 remaining covered bridges. Old Easley, Horton Mill, and Swann covered bridges are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Yes, you can drive across the bridges, but very slowly.
Whatever route you take, Alabama’s spring break destinations are sure to lead you to discover there truly is no place like Sweet Home Alabama. Enjoy the journey.
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