10 Great Summer Fun Destinations A Gas Tank (or a Little More!) Away
Published: May 1, 2021
By: Carol Muse Evans
Maybe you are staying close to home this summer because of Covid-19. Maybe the budget is tight, or you just don’t have time off to take a longer trip.
We’ve got you covered with some great destination ideas that are just a short drive away, and maybe even just a gas tank away! There are a few where you might even want to grab a hotel for the night and make your visit longer.
Cook Museum of Natural Science Decatur, AL
This state-of-the-art, hands-on facility means more education and fun for future generations, and Cook can compete with the best of other children’s museums, with a friendly design, fun for all ages, and an inviting flow of information as you walk through.
Enjoy numerous family-friendly, hands-on exhibits, climb through the cave and other interactive exhibits and there’s even an indoor playground to let off a little energy. All the while, you are learning about nature. It’s great fun for all ages, and there’s even things for the smaller set. The learning doesn’t stop when you walk out of the museum. The museum website, www.cookmuseum.org, is full of educational information, worksheets, videos, coloring pages, “two-minute science” and more, a great help to teachers and homeschoolers, as well as kids who just want to know more. Check the website for days and times open and admission pricing.
Alabama Adventure & Alabama Splash Adventure
It’s been here a long time and been through a few name changes, and it’s right in our backyard in Birmingham. If you haven’t been in a few years, you are missing out. Since the Koch family took it over, it had grown to its best yet park and improved! And did we mention free fountain drinks, free sunscreen and free parking?
The park is well-run and immaculate, and many in our area don’t visit just a day, they buy a season pass! With an amazing water park and more than 25 attractions, you could spend a day or more here!
Visit alabamaadventure.com/ for days and hours open, as well as ticket pricing for both parks at one low price.
If you’re looking for an inspirational story, visit Ivy Green, a historic house museum. Built in 1820, Ivy Green was the birthplace and childhood home of Helen Keller, the famous deaf-blind author and speaker. A National Historic Landmark honoring Keller’s life, it is now a museum open to the public. A great time to visit is June 24-27 during the Helen Keller Festival. Learn more about days and times open, festivals and ticketing at www.helenkellerbirthplace.org. Learn more about the festival at helenkellerfestival.com/site/.
U.S Space & Rocket Center
The U.S. Space & Rocket Center (USSRC) is a Smithsonian Affiliate and the Official Visitor Center for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. They have one of the largest collections of rockets and space memorabilia on display anywhere in the world. Open since 1970, the center is a treasure trove of space travel memorabilia, activities and so much more.
Be sure to spend some time on their website before planning your trip, www.rocketcenter.com, because there are so many options. Of course, you can find days, hours and ticket pricing here, as well.
Point Mallard Waterpark
This year Point Mallard celebrates 50 years. This water park was in Alabama when it was unusual for us to have a water park. Though closed due to Covid-19 in 2020, plans are to open in May.
The Point Mallard Waterpark is home of America’s First Wave Pool. The park also features a pro bowl slide, towering sky pond and speed slide, three flume tube rides, an Olympic pool and sandy beach with complimentary beach loungers, a kids area featuring the Squirt Factory and duck pond, concessions and gift shop, and a scenic lagoon. The park offers day parties and birthday parties during regular business hours and can be reserved exclusively for group parties. Be sure to check for open days, times and pricing/admission at www.pointmallardpark.com.
Ave Maria Grotto
The Ave Maria Grotto is located on the grounds of St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, the only Benedictine monastery of men in the state of Alabama. The Abbey was founded in 1891. The Grotto consists of a landscaped hillside of 125 small stone and cement structures, the handiwork of the creative genius, Brother Joseph Zoetl, O.S.B., a monk of the Abbey for almost 70 years.
Brother Joseph Zoetl was born in 1878 in the town of Landshut, Bavaria. In 1892 he came to the newly founded St. Bernard Abbey where his monastic life was spent in prayer and in laboring in the Abbey power house. When not busy shoveling coal into the furnaces, Brother took time to construct miniature buildings using stone, concrete, and unwanted donated materials, e.g., broken plates, costume jewelry, ceramic tile, beads, marbles, seashells, etc. His creations were moved to the present site in 1934.
Brother Joseph, who died in 1961, is buried in the Abbey Cemetery, final resting place of the monks of the Abbey. The cemetery is one hundred yards north of the Grotto Gift Shop, and the path leading to it is across the Grotto parking lot. Visitors are welcome to visit Zoetl’s grave.
Check website for hours and days open and ticketing, www.avemariagrotto.com.
Dauphin Island Sea Lab and Bird Sanctuary
Dauphin Island, AL
Take a dive into our oceans at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, the state of Alabama’s marine science research and education center. The public aquarium takes you on a journey through the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, Mobile Bay, along the barrier islands, and into the Gulf of Mexico. With more than 100 species on display, you’ll be able to peer into the eyes of an alligator, an octopus, stingrays, and more.
There’s also an opportunity to get outdoors with the DISL’s marine educators to explore the salt marsh, walk the beach, and take a tour of Mobile Bay on the Research Vessel Alabama Discovery. Excursions, day camps, Sea Lab Science Fridays, and Ocean Explorer Saturdays give everyone a chance to discover something new. Plan your visit today and check the website for days/times open and ticket pricing, www.disl.edu/.
Noccalula Falls Park and Campground
The park offers beautiful rocks and gardens as you walk the park’s paved trail system. Ride the authentic Huntington miniature train. Children can get up close to the animals in the petting zoo and learn about life in the past in the Pioneer Village. Other offerings in the park include picnic pavilions, souvenir shop and a children’s playground. Noccalula Falls Miniature Golf Course, for a separate admission, features beautiful landscaping with cascading waterfalls and natural rock formations.
The campground offers over 120 sites from primitive tent camping to pull-throughs with complete hook-ups. A swimming pool, laundry facility, picnic pavilions, rec room, playground and rental cabins are available. The campground sits along Black Creek Gorge and offers awesome views of the falls, the gorge, and the creek below. For information, ticket pricing and days/times of admission, visit www.noccalulafallspark.com.
OWA’s gated amusement park — The Park at OWA — is ready to be your new favorite spot. Be captivated by the vibrant rollercoasters or lose yourself in competitive games. Jump on Air Racer and get your fill of speedy thrills. Looking for a more traditional park experience? Take the teacups for a spin. Enjoy park food and some of the great restaurants in Downtown OWA including the famous Paula’s Dean’s Family Kitchen.
Come for the day, or stay overnight or a few days at Marriott TownPlace Suites, right on the property and within walking distance of all of OWA.
For days and hours of operation, as well as tickets, visit visitowa.com. And watch their calendar for many special events throughout the summer.
USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park
The state of Alabama designated this state memorial park to honor the Alabamians who participated in armed conflicts in the U.S. as a permanent public memorial. It serves to educate the public on the contributions and sacrifices of veterans.
Today, it is also a fun place to visit not only the Battleship USS ALABAMA, but also the submarine USS DRUM, numerous rare and historic aircraft, tanks and other military equipment.
There are almost too many exhibits to mention here, but be sure to visit the website to plan your trip and check out days/hours of admission, www.ussalabama.com.
LET BIRMINGHAM PARENT SEND YOU THERE!
Birmingham Parent’s Family Fun Giveaway
Win 4 tickets to the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, AL or 4 tickets to Alabama Adventure & Alabama Splash Adventure in Bessemer. Tickets are good during the 2021 for all prizes.
Deadline to enter is midnight, June 15, 2021. Winners cannot win multiple prizes. Only one prize given per winner. We will draw prizes on several different days during May and June, and winners will be contacted via email, along with announcements on social media.
Enter today at www.Birminghamparent.com/directory/FamilyFunGiveaway