You might know the major cities in Alabama, such as Birmingham, Montgomery, and Huntsville. But have you ever considered the small towns in Alabama, which have a charm all their own? Let’s dive into the best small towns in Alabama and why you should consider making them part of your travel plans.
What Is Alabama Best Known For?
Alabama is best known for its deep-rooted history, football, sweet tea, and food. When visiting Alabama, it’s important to know if you root for the Tigers or the Tide. Football is a way of life here. Winters are mild, and summers are hot, but there’s beautiful natural year-round. Or check out the thriving music and arts scenes in many towns and cities.
The 7 Best Small Towns in Alabama
If you’re visiting Alabama, make time for a few of the best small towns the state has to offer. Here are just a few towns we think are worth a visit.
About Fairhope, Ala.: Fairhope, Alabama is a town of just over 21,000 people located in the far southwest portion of the state. Fairhope was named the best small town in the south in 2016 by the Southern Living Magazine.
Things to Do in Fairhope: While in town, check out the Eastern Shore Art Center. Here you can explore art exhibits and even take an art class. If shopping is what you’re after, there are plenty of great local shops in town. Some of the best include Ole Bay Mercantile and The Fairhope Store. Need a place to stay? Check into the Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa. This Marriott hotel has a 20,000 square foot spa for premium relaxation.
What Makes Fairhope Worth Visiting: This small town is full of great parks and memorable views of Mobile Bay. Folks consider the pier the “town square.” It adds charm to this creative town founded as a utopian society.
About Monroeville, Ala.: The small town of Monroeville is the county seat of Monroe County, Ala. Monroeville sits in southwest Alabama. With a population of around 6,000 people, it certainly qualifies as a small town. Monroeville was home to two very well-known writers of the post-World War II period, Harper Lee and Truman Capote.
Things to Do in Monroeville: Those taking the time to explore Monroeville shouldn’t miss the Old Courthouse Museum. Fans of the beloved “To Kill A Mockingbird” may especially appreciate this historic building restored to its 1930s appearance. The courtroom was the model for Harper Lee’s fictional courtroom in the book. Or check out the birdhouse trail. The trail was modeled after Selma’s Butterfly Trail and celebrates the area’s many artists, including Harper Lee.
What Makes Monroeville Worth Visiting: While the quaint town of Monroeville has a lot to offer, the highlight is touring the courtroom from the famous “To Kill A Mockingbird” scene. Many make the pilgrimage to this town just to see the courtroom.
#3. Muscle Shoals
About Muscle Shoals, Ala.: Located in northwest Alabama, Muscle Shoals has about 14,000 people. It’s been known for its music since the 1960s. Around this time, local studios and artists developed the “Muscle Shoals Sound.”
Things to Do in Muscle Shoals: FAME Studios is a famous recording studio that offers tours to guests. You can see where some of the most famous musicians recorded their iconic sounds. That includes Aretha Franklin, Little Richard, Etta James, Otis Redding, the Osmonds, and Alabama. Once you’ve finished touring, head on over to the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.
What Makes Muscle Shoals Worth Visiting: The musical history here is nothing short of spectacular. This small Alabama town influenced much of the music we enjoy today. Regardless if you’re a big music buff or not, you’ll enjoy learning about the history behind some of the biggest hits.
About Valley, Ala.: With about 9,000 residents, Valley, Ala., might seem like just another map dot, but it’s so much more. This is especially true in the world of sports. Valley has produced five NFL players and two MLB players. Additionally, a resident won the gold medal in diving in the 1976 Olympics. This small Alabama town is in the east-central portion of the state. The Valley area was previously known for its textile mill villages, producing cotton for the West Point Manufacturing Company.
Things to Do in Valley: The Chattahoochee Valley Railroad Trail is a 7.5-mile rail trail that runs along a now-defunct section of the Chattahoochee Valley Railway. Those who walk this trail will enjoy making their way through all four historic districts in town. There are many great places to stop for a picnic as you complete the trail. At the end, learn more about the railway system in the area at the Fairfax Train Depot train museum.
What Makes Valley Worth Visiting: Outdoor enthusiasts will love Valley. But there’s also a lot of history to soak in during your travels along tranquil lakes, riverside docks, and vineyards.
About Decatur, Ala.: Located on the Tennessee River in north-central Alabama, Decatur is home to about 55,000 people. Decatur is larger than what most consider a small town, but it still has that hometown feel. The city gained momentum due to its location along the river. It became a large economic center and a hub for travelers and cargo traveling between Nashville and Mobile. Additionally, it serviced routes between Chattanooga and New Orleans.
Things to Do in Decatur: While in Decatur, be sure to swing by Point Mallard Park, where there’s something for everyone. This 500-acre park sits along the Flint Creek shoreline with plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the outdoors. If you’d like to keep with the outdoors theme, head over to Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. The 35,000-acre wildlife refuge protects birds, mammals, and reptiles. Then head to Cook Museum of Natural Science for more in-depth study. Step into a world of zoology, geology, paleontology, and nature art at this museum for the whole family.
What Makes Decatur Worth Visiting: If you like the comforts of a larger city but still want a small-town feel, Decatur has you covered. With great food to eat, museums to explore, and parks to discover, you’ll likely want to extend your stay.
About Florence, Ala.: Florence, Ala., sits in northern Alabama. With about 40,000 people, it’s a small town, but with plenty to do and see. It’s home to the University of North Alabama. Every year, it hosts the W. C. Handy Music Festival in summer and the Renaissance Faire in fall.
Things to Do in Florence: If you love strolling along vibrant town streets, you’ll love shopping on Court Street. Whether you prefer to window shop or dive right in, you’ll find plenty to explore. After you’ve worked up a sweet tooth with all of that shopping, stop by Trowbridge’s Ice Cream & Sandwich Shop. This old-fashioned ice cream shop will make you feel like you stepped back in time. Counteract all of that sugar by checking out Wilson Park. Stretch your legs at this beautiful park, where you’ll find a scenic fountain and eye-catching landscaping.
What Makes Florence Worth Visiting: This town offers great parks and outdoor events. There are many museums nearby and an abundance of great food. With its location along the river, you’ll have great views of the riverboats on the water.
About Athens, Ala.: Athens, Ala., in northern Alabama, has about 30,000 people. Athens is one of the oldest incorporated cities in the state. It was incorporated one year before the state’s admittance to the Union in 1819. There’s a lot of history to be had here. Plus, the town sits perfectly between Nashville and Birmingham on Interstate 65.
Things to Do in Athens: Each October, Athens is home to the Storytelling Festival. Come to listen to some of the best storytellers and folk musicians in the country. Whether it’s a thrilling adventure, a piece of history, or a magical tale, every story will hook you. While in the area, swing by Athens State University. Tour this beautiful and historic university while gaining a deeper appreciation for the academic success of the area. Stroll by Founders Hall, the oldest building on campus, which was built back in 1842.
What Makes Athens Worth Visiting: If you seek history and adventure, Athens is worth a visit. This artsy city preserves its history through architecture and storytelling.
Sometimes southern states get skipped over when people are making their travel itineraries. There may not be massive mountains or red rocks, but there is plenty to explore and appreciate in Alabama. What do you think you’d enjoy most about Alabama?