Sweet Home Alabama – Rich in Music, Food and Culture

Visit this undiscovered but vibrant deep south state

Lil' Jimmy Reed at the Dothan Opera House © Alabama Travel

Experience the music of the south as you explore Alabama, a land rich in history, awe-inspiring scenery, sun-drenched beaches, vibrant cities and the mountains of the Appalachia. Nestled in the centre of the Deep South region with Georgia,Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida as its neighbours, Alabama is within easy driving distance of Atlanta, Memphis and New Orleans but with a flavour all of its own.

In 2012 they are celebrating Alabama’s “Year of Food” highlighting the fabulous cuisine, restaurants and festivals throughout the state. Take a look at the dedicated “Year of Food” website

Lynyrd Skynyrd was inspired to write the hit song “Sweet Home Alabama” (see video below), one of the best examples of Southern rock, as a tribute to this wonderful state which epitomises the easy going, laid back way of life long associated with the Deep South.

Other international superstars like Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding and The Rolling Stones all came to Muscle Shoals, a small southern town on the banks of the Tennessee River to record hit songs. Native Alabamian Sam Phillips discovered Elvis and the contract between Sam Phillips and RCA is located in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in nearby Tuscumbia. Hank Williams, the “King of Country Music” and W.C.Handy, the “Father of the Blues” were both born in Alabama and singer and songwriter Jimmy Buffett grew up here.

This musical heritage is celebrated across the state with live music venues in every town and a number of festivals including the Big Spring Jam in Huntsville, the W.C.Handy Festival in Muscle Shoals and the Hank Williams Festival in Montgomery.

As well as music, Alabama is also probably best known for its key role in Civil Rights. It was in Montgomery, Alabama’s capital, where the Civil Rights Movement gathered pace under the leadership of Dr Martin Luther King and the history of this movement can be followed in key museums and landmarks around the state, most notably in Montgomery, Selma and Birmingham.

President Barack Obama often refers to the voting rights marches in Alabama in speeches about how America has changed since the Civil Rights era, “What happened in Selma and Birmingham stirred the conscience of the nation”. The Alabama Civil Rights Trail has become a major international destination and the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma is an icon for the Civil Rights struggle in America. The state is also the birthplace of Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, a powerful novel dealing with racial issues in the 1930’s.

But it’s first big part in US history came in 1861 when Southern politicians gathered at the State Capitol in Montgomery and formed the Confederate States of America. The telegram starting the American Civil War was sent from here.

North Alabama is renowned for its awe-inspiring scenery of lakes, mountains, canyons and caves offering a diverse range of outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, horse-riding and fishing. The very southern tip of the State is best known for Mobile Bay and the Gulf Coast beaches. All year long the port city of Mobile features the taste of the coast with fresh, delicious seafood and a diverse array of bars, restaurants and live music venues. Just across the bay are the coastal towns of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach where 32 miles of sugary white sands await you as well as a fantastic array of bars, restaurants, nightlife and outlet shopping. Gulf Shores is also home to the Florabama, the famous roadhouse beach bar right on the Alabama/Florida State line.

Alabama is also full of the unexpected. Mobile is recognised as having America’s first Mardi Gras celebration in 1703 and the celebration is bigger than ever today. During Mardi Gras season, the streets of downtown Mobile are filled with the sights and sounds of live marching bands and colourful floats. For something completely different, visit the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro near Huntsville, where lost and unclaimed airline baggage is unpacked and sold to the public!

For more information about Alabama go to http://www.deep-south-usa.com/alabama

Useful Links and Lynyrd Skynyrd video

To Kill A Mockingbird annual production April/May. www.tokillamockingbird.com
Coon Dog Cemetery www.coondogcemetery.com
Rattlesnake Saloon www.rattlesnakesaloon.net
Tom’s Wall www.flickr.com/photos/deepfriedkudzu/163602994
Rosenbaum House www.wrightinalabama.com
Whiskey Bottle Tombstone www.alabama.travel/things-to-do/attractions/whiskey_bottle_tombstone
Mullet Toss in Orange Beach www.gulfshores.com/things-to-do/calendar-events/details.aspx?id=71986
Alabama Butterbean Festival www.alabamabutterbeanfestival.com/
World’s Largest Motorcycle Museum www.barbermuseum.org/index-full.php
Rattlesnake Rodeo www.rattlesnakerodeo.com/rr/ http://www.rattlesnakerodeo.com/rr/events.html
Helen Keller birthplace and annual production of The Miracle Worker www.helenkellerbirthplace.org/