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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.
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.
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.
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.
The Crescent operates between New York and New Orleans, stopping in a number of places in Alabama.
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.
Check Greyhound for options.
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.
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!
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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