Alabama: RVing in "The Heart of Dixie"

Published: Monday, July 23, 2007

Alabama is principally a camping ground, which means that it is one US land literally covered in green fields, making it an ideal place for every imaginable outdoor adventure like hiking, cycling, horseback riding, hunting, and camping -- activities which are actually the highly preferred ones.

Alabama, however, is more than just an ideal picture of the great American outdoors. It also happens to be a land rich in history. It is the where the legendary writer Helen Keller was born, while "The Heart of Dixie" is also the main witness to the moving speech delivered by the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the bottom steps of the Alabama State Capitol building in Montgomery.

The Regions of Alabama

No other state can boast of having such a deep and diverse conglomeration of attractions. This truism makes Alabama an ideal place to explore anytime of the year. Its many cities offer the perfect mix of history and leisure that is certain to satisfy the needs of RV (recreational vehicle) travelers. Several regions within the state actually provide sheer fun and enjoyment for these specific types of tourists.

Alabama is generally divided into four regions namely the Mountains, the Metropolitan, the River Heritage, and the Gulf Coast. Each of these areas has its own respective attractions and not a single one of them should unnecessarily be overlooked. The Mountains region, for example, is particularly worth visiting since it is laden with various natural landscapes like mountains and caverns contrasted by several water-based attractions like falls and lakes. It is an area where hiking, boating, and fishing are said to be quite popular although Decatur, Cullman, and Fort Payne are cities within the region quite known for their camping sites.

The Metropolitan Region

The Metropolitan region can be considered as the commercial district of Alabama. It is here where one can find an assortment of activities that commonly characterize modern urban life, including shopping, first-class dining, and numerous forms of entertainment. Yet, the region is not without its own share of natural attractions as there are also several world-class falls like the Noccalula residing in its midst. For RV campers, three cities in the region, namely, Birmingham, Childersburg, and Tuscaloosa are worth checking out.

The River Heritage

This should be more appropriately referred to as the historic region of Alabama simply because it has several cities that bore witness to the Alabama evolution and that of America's as a whole. Montgomery, the city capital, is found within this region where it plays host to various historical landmarks led by the Alabama State Capitol building, the Civil Rights Memorial, and the First White House of the Confederacy.

Another city, Selma, houses a couple of century-old structures like the Cahawba, the first life-long Alabama capital, and the King Cotton and Civil War artillery fort. The renowned Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church can likewise be seen here, where the Voting Rights Movement of Dr. King was officially launched and where one can find the inscribed names of the individuals who shared in the great dream.

Additionally, Selma is one city in the River Heritage region that offers both modern and ancient camping areas that should suit the needs of most RV travelers. Other cities within the region that are worth visiting are Andalucia and Coffeville as they likewise welcome RV-boarded tourists.

The Gulf Coast

For tourists in search of relaxation spiced up with a bit of American history, the Gulf Coast comes highly recommended and is quite obviously the ideal place to go to when in need of a good place to park a vehicle. Specifically, there are many areas within the Gulf Coast region renowned for its wide expanse of land that have become suitable camping grounds in recent years. Good examples of these are Atmore, Orange Beach, Mobile, and St. Stephens.

The area also boasts of numerous white beaches that has long attracted countless swimmers all throughout Alabama and even from the entire country, but people having other interests have likewise found the Gulf Coast region quite sufficient in meeting their needs. These include history buffs who have found certain Alabama landmarks like Fort Gains and St. Agnes Church simply fascinating.

Cities to Visit

For the most part, the major Alabama cities are quite easy to reach, with those set in the Gulf Coast areas having great camping grounds ideally suited for all vehicle types, including recreational ones like travel trailers.

Montgomery and Auburn

For genuine lovers of history, two important Alabama cities should be on top of the list of places to see. These are Montgomery and Auburn. The former is the city capital where most major government activities take place but also happens to be the host of several historical Alabama landmarks. The latter, meanwhile, is best known as the official residence of the biggest university in Alabama, Auburn University. Other than that, Auburn is also renowned for several recreational activities, specifically fishing, with anglers usually converging around Lee County Public Fishing Lake and at Lake Harding.

Both cities also happen to boast of several camping grounds that RV owners will want to check out. Montgomery, for instance, has a newly opened camp site aptly called Capital City RV Park specifically intended for RV travelers as it features several lakes located nearby where fishing is a popular activity. Auburn, meanwhile, has the Bar-W RV Campground where the famous Chewacla State Park can be reached just after two miles.

The Birmingham Option

In the Metropolitan region, Birmingham is one must-see city in Alabama simply because it happens to be the largest in the entire state and naturally boasts of countless and varied activities. It is largely known as the financial district of Alabama but is also home to many major medical facilities making it the state medical center as well.

Entertainment-wise, Birmingham offers numerous shopping opportunities complemented by fine-dining restaurants and an endless list of exciting events that last all throughout the year and even beyond. Alternatively, the city also offers a wealth of cultural explorations through its many educational complexes like the Vulcan Park and the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. Of particular interest, specially to children, should be the science museum McWane Center with its amazing IMAX theater, the Birmingham Zoo, and the VisionLand Theme Park. For travelers aboard their RVs, a good place to settle in should be the Oak Mountain State Park with its vast 9,940 acres of land devoted to camp sites, cabins, golf courses, and picnic areas, among others.

The Town of Tuscaloosa

Tuscaloosa is considered as the university town of Alabama for the simple reason that it is here where one can find the University of Alabama. Still, this city features other interesting attractions that people will particularly find quite appealing. Specifically, Tuscaloosa is where the Murphy African-American Museum, the Paul W. Bryant Museum, and the Moundville Archaeological Park are located, with the latter having good campgrounds and several picnic areas located along the banks of the nearby Black Warrior River.

Dauphin Island

For travelers in search of a family-centered gathering, Dauphin Island is the absolute place to go to. Technically, the place is not an Alabama city although there are innumerable outdoor activities that tourists can engage in here, making it a preferred choice for those wanting to experience superb outdoor fun. The activities include bird watching, swimming, fishing, and camping, all of which can actually be enjoyed at Dauphin Island Campground that has several added nearby attractions, including the famed Mexican Gulf and the Dauphin Island Audubon Bird Sanctuary.

Gulf Shores

One other Alabama place worth visiting is Gulf Shores with its white beaches, chartered fishing tours, theme parks, playgrounds, and golf courses that are sure to delight RV-boarded tourists coming in from far away lands. For those interested in seeing the area, a good place for RVs is Hallmark RV Park because it has vast camping areas with hook-up features set at fairly reasonable rates. A popular nearby attraction is Fort Morgan, where the historic Mobile Bay battle occurred at the height of the American Civil War.

Gulf Shores is also quite famous for the numerous exciting events that take places in its midst every year, with the National Shrimp Festival proving to be a good example. The annual event is often characterized by a generous serving of sumptuous seafoods accompanied by enchanting music and a display of various local crafts.

Alabama Attractions

>From purely historic landmarks to absolute natural wonders, Alabama has got the entire tourism field covered. The state proudly boasts of the perfect mix of its rich glorious past and its God-given attractions, making it one pure American paradise. Thus, it comes as a big surprise that Alabama is not among the more popular tourist areas in the US.

The Capitol Building

Quite obviously, the top tourist destination in Alabama, even for conveniently-settled RV riders, will have to be the Alabama State Capitol building set in the city capital, Montgomery. Originally created in 1847, the building was the brainchild of Stephen Button, a Philadelphia architect, and was designed in classic Greek revival architectural style.

The structure was unfortunately razed to the ground during an 1849 fire but was successfully restored to its original design two years later. By 1885, the building has been given its rear wing followed by two more wings on its side at the turn of the century. In 1992, its rear extension designed in neoclassical fashion finally reached its completion stage.

The building is a highly revered landmark in Alabama owing to its extensive link to the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who concluded his historic Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights march on the very steps of the capitol building. Consequently, it also became a crucial monument particularly as the civil rights movement reached its peak, marking a major turning point in early American history. For this and for various other historic moments in which it participated in, the Alabama State Capitol building was given the National Historic Landmark title in 1962.

De Soto Resort State Park

For camping-bound tourists, this is perhaps among the most beautiful natural attractions that Alabama can offer, It has thundering waterfalls highlighted by surrounding wild flowers with curiously fragrant scents. The park covers about 3,502 acres of land under the competent care of the Civilian Conservation Corps of Alabama.

A restaurant, cabin facilities, and several lodging areas are set within the park but what tourists should find highly inviting are the many campsites and picnic grounds scattered across the area amidst the abundant natural wonders. A swimming pool and several tennis courts can also be accessed nearby.

Visiting Time

There is actually no particular time or season when it is most ideal to visit Alabama as a state because the place is always teeming with activities all year round as evidenced by its annual events calendar which seems to be constantly filled. Nevertheless, some cities are specially worth visiting during certain times of the year owing to several interesting events that are known to take place in their midst. For example, Gulf Shores is quite eventful during the months of October and November since it holds the annual fishing rodeo and the Frank Brown International Songwriters' Festival. The former is a month-long affair that offers great prizes and numerous fun-filled moments. The latter, meanwhile, is a showcase of the best aspiring songwriters in Alabama.

The months of February and March are also particularly the best seasons to visit Alabama, specially if RV owners plan to go to Mobile town in the Gulf Coast region. These are usually the months when the Lenten season is about to commence and the season when Mobile is getting ready for the annual American Family Mardi Gras celebration. Started in 1703, the joyous affair lasts for almost two weeks, culminating in a grand celebration on the night before Ash Wednesday, commonly referred to as Fat Tuesday.

Camping Time in Alabama

Camping is quite obviously among the most popular recreational activities in Alabama, the state being primarily an outdoor-centered area. Tourists will definitely have their hands full trying to choose the perfect camping site as there are many of these scattered all across Alabama ranging from the Bear Creek Lake in the north to the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge situated on the southern end.

Nevertheless, two camping sites are worth checking out for its grand history and a wide selection of amenities. These include the De Soto Caverns Park and the Pecan Point RV Park.

DeSoto Caverns Park

The DeSoto Caverns Park prides itself as being a fun but educational camping place. In a way, that claim is accurate as the park has many exciting games that may initially appear as purely made for fun but are actually a test of one's mental skills. The cave crawl box, for instance, is designed to twist and turn by itself with a player aiming to make it through the cave. The objective may seem simple enough but actually, it is meant to test how one can possibly come out of a physically tight situation with only the mind as guide.

The park is located about 36 miles from Birmingham and has vast camping grounds, covering over a hundred acres of land, with tall green trees surrounding the area. Streams and ponds are also scattered nearby, providing relaxation to weary travelers, highlighted by several shaded sites. Playgrounds and picnic sites are also available while the cabins come prepared with locally made fudges.

Shady Acres Campground

Set in the town of Mobile, Shady Acres Campground boasts of several famous attractions, including the USS Alabama Battleship of Mobile which can be accessed in just about ten minutes. This is not, however, the only attraction awaiting tourists once they get to the park. There is also the Azalea Trail Run, the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo, and many other exciting tournaments that RV owners will most likely find to be quite thrilling.

The main attraction, though, of the park will have to be its camping grounds where a wide choice of pull-through's and shaded sites designed to accommodate every known size of travel trailers eagerly await tourists. The open sites, meanwhile, are offered in open forest fashion and surrounded with a mix of pine and oak trees. The atmosphere exudes friendliness but is peaceful at the same time. Additionally, a special library meant for reading, writing, and even relaxation purposes has been specifically created.

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