Residents of the Magic City are proud of the place that we call home, but it’s always good to take a little day trip out of the Greater Birmingham Metro on occasion to appreciate the other sites and sounds that make Alabama so special. Whether it’s another large city or a small town experience you are looking for, the Yellowhammer State has it all conveniently located around our central location. Here are a few of our favorite spots that can be done in a day.

Huntsville (Hour and 45 min drive)

Huntsville’s Big Spring International Park is one of the most beautiful city destinations in Alabama. Image from taken by tjhanby

Yes, Huntsville often feels like a direct competitor and sometimes younger brother type of annoying rival to our home city. Everyone loves talking about the Rocket City surpassing the Magic City in population without looking at our full metro, but hey it’s all Alabama love. Huntsville’s Big Spring International Park features a rainbow-colored waterfall, and is a must-visit during the Christmas season. There’s a healthy supply of breweries (responsibly) and restaurants, many of which are walking distance from each other downtown. The Space & Rocket Center is another great day destination, and there are plenty of hiking adventures around this North Alabama city.

Mentone (2 hours)

Pleasant shopping and natural beauty are two of the many benefits found in Mentone. This and the cover image from Mentone Tourism Information

Speaking of hiking adventures, Mentone is one of the best outdoor destinations in our state that is filled with natural beauty. Local shops in the central part of town make for a pleasant day out and there is an ample selection of waterfalls, lakes, and views to explore on this fun trip north. Mentone also hosts a true rarity with an Alabama public ski lift in the winter, which features artificial snow if the real flakes aren’t dropping (I was very bad in my one time visiting with the Boy Scouts of Troop 533. My pizza stance crossed over way too often).

Muscle Shoals (2 hours)

You’ve got to check out the legendary recording studios of Muscle Shoals while traveling north. Image from Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. 

“In Muscle Shoals they’ve got The Swampers, and they’ve been known to pick a song or two (yes they do). Lord, they get me off so much. They pick me up when I’m feeling blue, how about you?” Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd was speaking a lot of people’s truths with this ode to one of American music’s most famous recording bands. You can still visit the Fame and Muscle Shoals Sound studios that created some of the nation’s most iconic songs, and this North Alabama town (and nearby Florence) also features a lot of natural beauty and fun local shops. The Jesse Owens Museum in Oakville can also be a stop on the way up to Muscle Shoals.

Scottsboro (2 hours)

Scottsboro, Alabama holds the answers to the age-old question of “What is in all that left behind airport luggage and how much does it cost?” Image from Unclaimed Baggage

Scottsboro is another great blend of town and nature. Found along the Tennessee River in Northeast Alabama, Scottsboro hosts one of the most significant stores of all time - Unclaimed Baggage. This is the nation’s largest store of unclaimed airport luggage, and is guaranteed to provide an entertaining day out. 

Tuscaloosa (1 hour)

The backdrop at Tuscaloosa Amphitheater is worth gas and the price of admission. Image from Tuscaloosa Amphitheater taken by Don Naman

Sorry Auburn fans, but Tuscaloosa is just a little bit closer. I will concede that Auburn is one of the most nature-centric college campuses I’ve been on and a very fun town, but back to Ttown. The Tuscaloosa Amphitheater is one of the most beautiful music venues you can enjoy a show at in the South, with a train track and river working with the sunset for an always-memorable backdrop. Oz Music, Druid City Brewing, the original Dreamland, the nearby artsy town of Northport, and all the local shops around the city ensure a fun-filled time.

There are plenty of great locations to choose from, and this time of year is great to just enjoy the drive. Play some tunes or your favorite podcast, and get to exploring!