Here we share 11 easy trips from Birmingham that are sure to make your day
Published: December 30, 2022
By: Paige Townley
Birmingham has much to offer when it comes to adventure and activities, but sometimes a trip outside the city is in order. Luckily, Birmingham is a prime location in central Alabama that makes for easy travels to and from several other destinations. Here we share 11 easy trips from Birmingham that are sure to make your day.
Cook Museum of Natural Science
Fun and excitement combine with science and learning at the Cook Museum of Natural Science. The museum has been a Decatur institution since it first opened in 1968. Though originally just the humble insect collection of John Cook, Sr. – mainly used for training for Cook’s Pest Control’s employees – it soon grew to include wildlife, rocks, minerals, fossils, and more. After decades, the family closed the original museum and built an entirely new, state-of-the-art facility, which opened in June 2019.
The Georgia Aquarium in downtown Atlanta encompasses 600,000 square feet of space, containing about 10 million gallons of fresh and salt water. There’s an incredibly wide range of animals and exhibits. Also included are all sorts of animal encounters with dolphins, penguins, sea lions, sharks, and stingrays, as well as a variety of shows and presentations. Thrill seekers will enjoy the opportunity to cage dive with sharks.
U.S. Space & Rocket Center
Housing the most comprehensive U.S. manned spaceflight hardware museum in the world, including America’s first satellite, Explorer I, space vehicles, and all sorts of far-out artifacts, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center has earned the spot as the state’s most visited attraction for a reason. In addition to its many exhibits, children and families can partake in a range of can’t-do-it-anywhere-else activities like Apollo 11 virtual reality, flight simulations, and G-force accelerators, as well as watch movies and shows all about space and even check out underwater astronaut training.
Oak Mountain State Park
At 11,632 acres, Oak Mountain State Park is the largest state park in Alabama, just a short drive from Birmingham. For the most adventurous, there are more than 50 miles of trails for mountain biking and hiking, as well as water activities like cable skiing and boating. Other popular activities include horseback riding, fishing, and golfing. For those more interested in nature, Oak Mountain has several naturalist programs and educational opportunities, such as the Alabama Wildlife Center. The center services injured native birds, providing needed rehabilitation before returning them to the wild. Visitors can check out the center’s resident birds on the Tree Top Nature Trail.
Majestic Caverns has long been known for its uniquely stunning beauty. Situated in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Majestic Caverns (previously known as DeSoto Caverns) is the very first cavern recorded in the United States, dating all the way back to 1796. Its unique formations include the onyx room, passageway to a natural waterfall, and Cathedral room, which is longer than a football field and as tall as a 12-story building. Majestic Caverns features one of the largest accumulations of onyx-marble stalagmites and stalactites in the world. In addition to its many underground offerings, which include a laser light show, there are more than 20 activities above ground.
National Memorial for Peace and Justice
One of Alabama’s newest attractions is the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in downtown Montgomery, opened in 2018. It is the first of its kind dedicated to the legacy of enslaved Black people in the United States. The six-acre memorial guides visitors throughout a journey of slavery in America all the way to the Civil Rights era and lingering modern-day issues as well. Each stop along the way features eye-catching sculptures, artwork, and displays from notable figures including Toni Morrison, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Hank Willis Thomas.
Ruby Falls, nestled inside Lookout Mountain, is the tallest and deepest underground cave waterfalls open to the public in the United States. The more-than-memorable experience takes visitors down a glass-front elevator 260 feet and guides them along a cavern trail and unique formations to the stunning waterfall. Along the way, a tour guide shares details about the formations and how the cavern was discovered. Also on site are zip lines and climbing tower at High Point ZIP Adventure, and several eateries.
Children’s Hands-On Museum
The power of play is strong at the Children’s Hands-On Museum. Its hands-on learning provides a space for kids to explore, create, and discover in the most fun ways possible while also learning all about S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, art, and math). Each exhibit is specifically designed to spark a child’s curiosity in a way that inspires them to learn through play, whether it be learning about river transportation from the wheelhouse of a towboat, examining a replica of a Choctaw village from the 1700s, or shopping and selling at the Lil’ Sprouts Farmer’s Market.
Little River Canyon National Preserve
Fort Payne, Alabama
From its breathtaking views and natural beauty to its abundance of recreational activities and natural resources, Little River Canyon National Preserve is a truly special destination. The preserve features forest lands, waterfalls, canyon bluffs, boulders, pools, sandstone cliffs, and much more. Visitors can spend a day hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, fishing, or simply having a picnic and enjoying the truly spectacular views.
The ninth largest zoo in the country (by land mass), the Nashville Zoo is a top tourist attraction thanks to its incredible mix of animals from around the world. The zoo also offers a variety of ways to experience many of them up close, including Lorikeet Landing, Kangaroo Kickabout, and Critter Encounter. Between each encounter visitors can enjoy a spin on the Wild Animal Carousel or a journey around the property on the Wilderness Express Train.
Noccalula Falls Park
Noccalula Falls Park is an easy day trip from Birmingham. The park includes 500 acres of land in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Since it opened in 1953, it has been a sought-after destination for tourists all over the world thanks to its beauty and offerings, including the beloved 90-foot Noccalula Falls. The park also features a botanical garden, animal habitat, historic homes and the Gorge trail, which takes hikers along a path behind the falls.
Paige Townley is a Birmingham freelance writer.