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Introduction

Orange Beach Alabama Sunset

Orange Beach Alabama Sunset

© All Rights Reserved Carol W

Alabama is a state located in the southern region of the United States. Alabama is unofficially nicknamed the Yellowhammer State, after the state bird. Alabama is also known as the "Heart of Dixie." The state tree is the Longleaf Pine, the state flower is the Camellia.

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Geography

Alabama is the 30th-largest state in the United States with 135,760 km2 of total area: 3.2% of the area is water, making Alabama 23rd in the amount of surface water, also giving it the second-largest inland waterway system in the United States. About three-fifths of the land area is a gentle plain with a general descent towards the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. The North Alabama region is mostly mountainous, with the Tennessee River cutting a large valley creating numerous creeks, streams, rivers, mountains, and lakes.
The states bordering Alabama are Tennessee to the north; Georgia to the east; Florida to the south; and Mississippi to the west. Alabama has coastline at the Gulf of Mexico, in the extreme southern edge of the state. Alabama ranges in elevation from sea level at Mobile Bay to over 550 metres in the Appalachian Mountains in the northeast. The highest point is Mount Cheaha, at a height of 735 metres. Alabama's land consists of 89,000 km2 of forest or 67% of total land area. Suburban Baldwin County, along the Gulf Coast, is the largest county in the state in both land area and water area.

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Regions

  • Mountains - the north (Huntsville, Decatur, Tuscumbia)
  • Metropolitan Alabama - central (Birmingham, Tuscaloosa)
  • River Heritage - the south, except Gulf Coast (Montgomery, Auburn, Dothan)
  • Gulf Coast - the south west (Mobile)

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Cities

  • Auburn - home of Auburn University
  • Birmingham is the state's largest city.
  • Huntsville - largest city in size (total land area)
  • Mobile - oldest city, founded by French colonists
  • Montgomery is the state's capital.
  • Gulf Shores is the state's resort destination on the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Tuscaloosa - home of the University of Alabama

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Sights and Activities

  • Gulf Shores & Orange Beach - 32 miles of beautiful sugar white sands on the prettiest beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. A visit to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach offers the perfect balance of non-stop activity and lay-around-doing-nothing time. Putter around a bit on one of our championship golf courses. Cast your line for deep-sea adventure on a one of the Orange Beach fishing charters. Travel back in history with a visit to Fort Morgan, the site of the Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay. Commune with Mother Nature as you hike wildlife trails gazing at shorebirds.
  • Horseshoe Bend National Military Park - In the spring of 1814, General Andrew Jackson and an army of 3,300 men attacked 1,000 Upper Creek warriors on the Tallapoosa River. Over 800 Upper Creeks died defending their homeland.
  • Little River Canyon National Preserve - Little River is unique because it flows for most of its length atop Lookout Mountain in northeast Alabama
  • Natchez Trace Parkway - The 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway commemorates an ancient trail that connected southern portions of the Mississippi River, through Alabama, to salt licks in today's central Tennessee
  • Russell Cave National Monument - For more than 10,000 years, Russell Cave was home to prehistoric peoples. Russell Cave provides clues to the daily lifeways of early North American inhabitants dating from 6500 B.C. to 1650 A.D.
  • Selma To Montgomery National Historic Trail - The Selma to Montgomery National Voting Rights Trail was established by Congress in 1996 to commemorate the events, people, and route of the 1965 Voting Rights March in Alabama
  • Trail Of Tears National Historic Trail - Come on a journey to remember and commemorate the survival of the Cherokee people despite their forced removal from their homelands in the Southeastern United States in the 1840s
  • Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site - In the 1940s Tuskegee, Alabama became home to a "military experiment" to train America's first African-American military pilots. In time the "experiment" became known as the Tuskegee Experience and the participants as the Tuskegee Airmen
  • Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site - Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site is nestled on the campus of historic Tuskegee University. The site includes the George W. Carver Museum and The Oaks, home of Booker T. Washington
  • Desoto Caverns - A cavern and small family attraction in Childersburg, Alabama.

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Events and Festivals

  • The National Shrimp Festival is held during the second week of October in Gulf Shores, AL each year. With over 300 vendors, the festival is one of the nations top outdoor festivals attracting over 300,000 people in 2007.
  • Tuscumbia is home to the Helen Keller Festival. This outdoor event is held annually in June for three days (Friday to Sunday) and kicks off with a lengthy parade complete with floats and its riders throwing candy to bystanders, high school marching bands, horses, Civil War reenactors and Shriners zipping about in their miniature go-karts. Afterwards, Main Street is closed and is filled with local vendors selling everything from handmade crafts to fresh vegetables. An antique car show is also a highlighted feature. Many local and out of state bands perform throughout the day with at least one major performer, normally of the country music variety, performing Saturday night in Spring Park. Also performed at the birthplace of Helen Keller is a local production of the stage play The Miracle Worker which is a theatrical rendition of Helen Keller's childhood and interaction with Ann Sullivan. One little known fact about Helen Keller that most natives of Tuscumbia do not even realize is that she was an ardent and outspoken socialist during her adult life.

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Weather

The state is classified as humid subtropical. The average annual temperature is 18 °C. Temperatures tend to be warmer in the southern part of the state with its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, while the northern parts of the state, especially in the Appalachian Mountains in the northeast, tend to be slightly cooler. Generally, Alabama has very hot summers and mild winters with copious precipitation throughout the year. Alabama receives an average of 1,400 mm of rainfall annually and enjoys a lengthy growing season of up to 300 days in the southern part of the state. Summers in Alabama are among the hottest in the United States, with high temperatures averaging over 32 °C throughout the summer in some parts of the state. Alabama is also prone to tropical storms and even hurricanes. Areas of the state far away from the Gulf are not immune to the effects of the storms, which often dump tremendous amounts of rain as they move inland and weaken.
South Alabama reports many thunderstorms. The Gulf Coast, around Mobile Bay, averages between 70 and 80 days per year with thunder reported. Alabama, along with Kansas, has the most reported EF5 tornadoes of any state, according to statistics from the National Climatic Data Center for the period January 1, 1950, to October 31, 2006.

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Getting There

By Plane

Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM) is the main airport in Alabama and serves Birmingham and central Alabama. Connections include Dallas, Miami, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Detroit, Memphis, New York, Baltimore, Houston, Chicago, Jacksonville, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Orlando, Tampa, St. Louis, Denver, Charlotte, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia.

Other airports with less flights include those in Huntsville, Mobile and Montgomery.

By Train

The Crescent operates between New York and New Orleans, stopping in a number of places in Alabama.

By Car

Alabama is accessible by five interstate highways: I-10 crosses the state from east to west near Mobile in the south; I-20 enters Alabama from the east, traverses Birmingham, and joins I-59 as it traverses Tuscaloosa and exits the state in a southwesterly direction; I-59 enters northeastern Alabama, continues southwest through Birmingham, and exits the state toward the southwest; I-22 enters Alabama from the northwest and ends in Birmingham; I-65 enters Alabama from the north, traverses Birmingham, and ends in Mobile; I-85 enters the state in the east and ends in Montgomery.

By Bus

Check Greyhound for options.

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Getting Around

By Car

Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

Alabama has a number of National Scenic Byways which offer a great way to explore the state crossing beautiful landscapes. Mostly, there are lots of national parks, state parks or monuments along the way and it's generally a better alternative than the faster but boring Interstate Highways.

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Eat

The Alabama Gulf Coast is known for having the freshest seafood in the world. There are many seafood restaurants and markets located near Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and Mobile.

Mobile Alabama has some of the best fried seafood east of the Mississippi River. Don't forget to try local oyster bars and the shrimp is superb. Ask locals for recommendations that are off the beaten path and area favorites. Alabama barbecue is outstanding and comes in many forms, but pork is always most popular. Dreamland was once only located in Tuscaloosa and was (and still is) often an important feature of any sports event televised from there. Ribs Ribs Ribs, served with white bread (A rib sandwich = 3 ribs and 3 slices of bread!) Dreamland now has locations in most major cities in Alabama, and their once famous "no slaw, no potato salad, don't ask" sign has been changed to offer these and other side orders as well. There are several other award winning barbecue "joints" in Alabama, and their claim to fame is mostly the "pulled pork", but they will offer ribs, too. Birmingham has numerous well known restaurants with famous chefs. Highlands Bar and Grill was recently nominated for a James Beard Foundation award as best restaurant in the United States, and its owner, Frank Stitt has been nominated as best chef in the U.S. as well! Ask locals about best "meat and 3" places for "soul food", and Don't forget the Fried Green Tomatoes at the Irondale Cafe, near where Fannie Flagg grew up and based her famous book/movie on!

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Drink

  • Sweet Iced Tea - One delicious recipe for making sweet tea is to put on a pan of water and bring to a boil. Once boiling place two family size Lipton tea bags in the boiling water and then immediately turn the stove eye off. While the water is still raging hot mix in 1-1/3 cup of cane sugar and stir so that the sugar does not stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. Wait one hour and then mix with one gallon of water in a gallon sized container. Serve over ice.

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Sleep

Hotel and Motel Chains

There are dozens of hotel and motel chains, ranging from budget to top end. Allthough they are not the most charming accommodations, they usually have a very decent midrange service with good rooms and are generally good value. At least you know what to expect and in some cases they are either the only or the best option in the area. Some of them include:

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References

  1. 1 Mid-2008 estimate, U.S. Census Bureau

Quick Facts

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Capital
Montgomery
Population
4,661,900[1]

Contributors

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This is version 20. Last edited at 12:31 on Apr 20, 16 by Utrecht. 17 articles link to this page.

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