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8 Coolest Cities in Alabama for a Summer Vacation in 2024

Alabama should be high on your bucket list if you want a summer vacation in 2024. From charming small towns to waterfalls and caves, there are some beautiful places to holiday. The Gulf Coast is also nearby, with 56 miles of white sandy beaches, turquoise waters and world-famous party spots.

However, the Cotton State offers more than breathtaking scenery and natural attractions. It is known for its legendary music artists, space and discovery, and important civil rights legacy. Look at the most special cities for a summer holiday.

Gulf coasts

Aerial view of Gulf Shores Navarre Beach with beautiful blue water.
Aerial view of Gulf Shores Navarre Beach with beautiful blue water.

Gulf Shores is a small beach town on the Gulf Coast, at the southernmost tip of Alabama. The seaside town is family-friendly and known for its white sandy beaches and beach atmosphere. Gulf Shores State Park, with trails, a golf course and a zipline, is among the outdoor activities.

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge is worth the effort and home to sea turtles and migratory birds. Housed in a pre-World War II home, the Gulf Shores Museum is a fun way to spend a warm afternoon. Many beach hotels and restaurants are within walking distance of major attractions, making Gulf Shores one of the coolest cities in Alabama.

Orange beach

Perdido Pass in Orange Beach, Alabama.
Perdido Pass in Orange Beach, Alabama.

Located just a few miles from Gulf Shores, Orange Beach is a paradise for water sports enthusiasts and beachgoers. Located next to the famous beach, The Wharf features an amphitheater with live music performances and a monumental Ferris wheel.

Orange Beach is also home to the most famous beach bar in the world, the Flora-bama. The honky tonk has five music stages and invites all its guests to be part of the “Bamily.” If you like a quieter environment, the Hugh S. Branyon Trailhead is for you. There are miles of hiking trails that run through Gulf State Park.

Honest hope

Cool evening view in Fairhope, Alabama.
Cool evening view in Fairhope, Alabama.

Fairhope is a beach town on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay. The first vacationers to visit came by boat from Mobile for its peaceful scenery and temperate climate. The same landscape exists today, as evidenced by a summer stroll along the Fairhope Municipal Pier and Park. There is also a beautiful rose garden where you can stop and “smell the roses”.

A shady walk through the Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve makes for a perfect summer day. This 6,000-acre research center protects natural wetlands. Other notable attractions include the Fairhope Museum of History and the Eastern Shore Art Center.

Menton

Sunrise over DeSoto Falls in Mentone, Alabama.
Sunrise over DeSoto Falls in Mentone, Alabama.

Mentone is a picturesque, classic southern town at the top of Lookout Mountain. The Desoto Falls Trailhead is within walking distance of Desoto State Park. Mentone is also known for its vibrant arts scene, which is ideally reflected in the Wildflower Cafe, in a 19th-century log cabin with hippie-chic decor.

In the city you will find hip shops such as the Groovy Goat and quaint country buildings. One of them, the Mentone Wedding Chapel, is an Appalachian-style chapel perfect for an intimate country wedding. This city stands out for its mix of southern charm and hippie culture.

Eufaula

Sunset over historic downtown Eufaula, Alabama, USA.
Sunset over historic downtown Eufaula, Alabama. Editorial credit: JNix / Shutterstock.com

Located along the border with Georgia, Eufaula was a prominent shipping and trading port before the Civil War. It is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs. Nearby 45,000-acre Lake Eufaula offers ample fishing, swimming and boating opportunities. The 11,184-acre federal National Wildlife Refuge offers views of protected alligators, birds and bald eagles.

The beautiful city has the second largest historic district in Alabama, with a whopping 700 historic buildings. The historic district also includes the most extensive collection of Italianate architecture in Alabama. Built in 1906, The Shorter Mansion is one of the most architecturally significant structures in Eufaula. There is so much to see and do in Eufaula that you may want to extend your visit.

Fort Payne

Gault Avenue in Fort Payne, Alabama.
Gault Avenue in Fort Payne, Alabama.

Fort Payne is home to legendary country music act Alabama, named after the state they love. It is also home to Desoto State Park, with more than 3,000 acres of forest, waterfalls, and mountainous terrain. The 100-foot Desoto Falls are the most visited waterfall in the state.

The city includes the Fort Payne Depot Museum, built in 1891 by the Alabama Great Southern Railroad. Big Mill Antiques is a paradise for antique lovers and is located in a former mill. Fort Payne is a beautiful holiday spot for nature lovers and those seeking peace and quiet.

Muscle Shoals

City of Muscle Shoals sign, known as the Hit Recording Capital of the World, in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, USA.
City of Muscle Shoals sign in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, USA. Editorial credit: Luisa P Oswalt / Shutterstock.com

Muscle Shoals is famous in Northwest Alabama music circles for its legendary recording studio. Muscle Shoal Sound Studios began in the 1960s and has recorded artists such as Otis Redding, Cher and the Rolling Stones. The studio started when studio musicians left FAME Studios and started their own studio.

There are also outdoor attractions, most notably the Wilson Dam, which you can walk across into Tennessee. Pickwick, Wilson and Wheeler Lakes offer world-class fishing and swimming. Known as ‘The Shoals’, this region is a historic and naturally beautiful area that should be on every holidaymaker’s list.

Dauphin Island

Small boat harbor on Dauphin Island, Alabama, under a clear blue sky.
Small boat harbor on Dauphin Island, Alabama, under a clear blue sky.

Dauphin Beach is located on the Gulf Coast, and while it has the same beautiful beaches as Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, it is considerably quieter. Home to just over 1,000 people, this quaint town specializes in peaceful respite and breathtaking scenery. The Alabama Aquarium at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab showcases four coastal habitats in the state and offers a great way to learn about their importance.

Another notable natural habitat is the 164-acre Audobon Bird Sanctuary, an important stop for migratory birds. There are historic sites like Fort Gaines, built in 1821. If you’re longing for white sand beaches and small crowds this summer, Dauphin Beach is the place for you.

Discover the summer charms of Alabama

Alabama has some fantastic summer vacation towns. These cities offer natural habitats, historic sites and tropical beaches. Another notable aspect is that some of these towns, such as Dauphin Island, are quiet and peaceful or well-known party destinations such as Orange Beach and Gulf Shores.

Muscle Shoals has had some of the most prominent music history since the 1960s and is a fantastic historical destination. If you are a history buff, a trip to Eufaula is a definitive stop. Alabama is a beautiful state with lots to see and do, especially in the warmer months of the year.