Alabama is known for its involvement in the Civil War and the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and many of those historical sites are still beautifully preserved. Students can soak up the rich history of the area while exploring the diverse ecosystem. The past entwines with the present to leave a lasting impression on every student lucky enough to visit this beautiful state.
3 Historical Sites with a Heartbeat
U.S.S. Alabama Battleship Memorial Park
All tours of Mobile’s U.S.S. Alabama Battleship Memorial Park are self-guided. Students can stretch their legs and their imaginations as they explore the 12 decks of the ship open to the public. They can creep through the sick bay, march through the gun turrets. Stop by U.S.S. Drum submarine where students can climb into the engine room and imagine what it would be like to live and work in such a small space. After touring the submarine, be sure to head over to the hangar to get a close look at aircraft used in World War II, the Vietnam War and the Korean War, as well as modern “spy planes.”
Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
Students can travel back in time at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. This multimedia museum will help students understand the civil rights movement and the ongoing struggle for equality today. BCRI is known as a “living memorial” and it is a wonderful way to introduce students to basic issues of human rights in Birmingham and around the world. A trip to this museum will change the way students think about issues of injustice and inequality.
See history on the banks of Mobile Bay at Fort Morgan. As an instrumental military stronghold used by both Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, it has plenty of history. Student groups are welcome to explore the fort and admire the beautiful views of the coast. Tours are guided by historians, and students have the chance to see exhibitions of artifacts that date all the way back to America’s colonial period.
3 Taste of the Good Life
Bellingrath Gardens and Home
Bellingrath Gardens and Home in Theodore is a beautiful spot for a picnic. There is no better way to describe the gardens than magical, and the Bellingrath Home is just as stunning. Students can take a guided tour to learn about the historic estate and how the gardens are maintained. If a spring trip to Bellingrath Gardens is not in the cards, don’t worry. Flowers bloom year-round, and the Christmas light displays are right out of a fairy tale. Packages include lunch.
A trip just north of Huntsville to Belle Chèvre is a great way for students to try something new. The artisan goat cheeses have won dozens of prizes, and students will have the chance to taste them all on a guided tour of the creamery. The guide will teach the students how cheese is made, and students can watch the cheesemakers in action. For those not so thrilled by the cheese, there is a lovely outdoor space where students can interact with the goats that Belle Chèvre (literally “beautiful goat” in French) is named for.
Just outside of Birmingham, a small bakery is making history. Dreamcakes has been winning awards for baked goods since 2009 and recently won the award for The Best Little Cupcake in Alabama, according to AL.com. Student’s will love the bite-sized cupcakes and marvel at extravagant icing designs.
3 Walks on the Wild Side
Cathedral Caverns State Park
Cathedral Caverns State Park in Woodville is a wonderful place to experience one of the most breathtaking natural wonders northern Alabama has to offer. Guided tours allow students to gaze at the cathedral-like caverns and get a close look at the surreal stalactites dangling from the roof of the cave while learning about the history and science of the rock formations. The caverns house one of the largest stalagmites in the world, and students will love the mystery behind the cave’s discovery.
Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge
Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge is a student-friendly destination that houses endangered species and plays a huge role in the migration of many species of birds. Located in Gulf Shores, the refuge has lush forest landscapes and beautiful lagoons as well as long stretches of sand dunes and some of the country’s last undisturbed coastal barrier. Students can become a biologist for a day and work with sea turtles and other marine creatures, or spot rare birds on a guided nature walk. Bon Secour means “safe place” in French, and this wildlife refuge truly is a sanctuary for animals and students alike.
U.S. Space and Rocket Center
Every student’s dream can come true at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville. This museum houses one of the most impressive collections of shuttles, missiles and rockets used in missions, including one of only three Saturn V rockets. Students can spend the day participating in one of the guided tours or adventure programs, and they will learn about the history of space travel through exhibitions like the one on Pathfinder or the International Space Station exhibit “Science on Orbit.” For the brave, there are simulators – like the Space Shot and G-force Accelerator – that allow students to feel like they’ve just been launched out of this world. For the even more adventurous, students can spend a few days at the famous Space Camp and learn what it takes to be an astronaut.
By Sara Stokes