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Peanuts, Boll Weevils, Universities & Ports

Southern Alabama mixes wide open spaces, fertile lands, small towns loaded with history and charm, major colleges and universities, the world’s only statue saluting a farm pest, and some expansive beaches along the Gulf Coast. Let’s check out this part of the “Yellowhammer State” (a.k.a. “the Cotton State,” “Heart of Dixie,” or, as Lynyrd Skynyrd notes, “Sweet Home Alabama”).

Let’s start in the Opelika-Auburn area, along I-85 between Atlanta and Montgomery. The Best Western Auburn/Opelika Inn is right there to easily serve both cities so you can enjoy them from one more comfortable place to stay.

Opelika is a busy city of 28,000 that sprang up from the railroads and cotton trade. In the 1950s, Opelika attracted the nation's first and largest magnetic tape manufacturing plant; much of the vintage reel-to-reel and cassette tapes you might have feature Opelika-made product. Tires from Uniroyal and physical fitness equipment manufacturing followed; today, Opelika is still a bustling place for building things, as well as moving items from place-to-place. Its location along I-85 makes Opelika a major retail center too: TigerTown is a shopping complex with over 800,000 square feet of retail space. In the Old Town area of Opelika’s historic downtown, you can check out small shops and cafés and get a sense of area culture and history at the Museum of East Alabama, which features over 5,000 artifacts including both 19th, and 20th century local, state and other items of general historic interest. The East Alabama Arts Center hosts major performing arts events, including Broadway shows and concerts.

Golf is kind of a big deal here: Opelika is home to Robert Trent Jones Grand National and the area has been rated “#1 for golf in the United States” by Golf Digest. Just down the road near Auburn, the Auburn Links at Mill Creek is also kind of a big deal, having been rated by the same magazine as the “Most Fun Course to Play in the Southeast.” For one less par (71 vs. 72), Indian Pines Golf Course mixes Bermuda grass with a Bent/Rye mix depending on the season. Basically, you have a lot of options here to swing the wrenches.

From Opelika to Auburn, just follow AL Highway 15, which is also known as Pepperell Parkway and Opelika Road. This will lead you into downtown Auburn, heart of the largest city in eastern Alabama (the city has about 60,000 people; adding in Opelika and the surroundings brings the metro total to about 150,000).

Of course, Auburn is a major college town, home to Auburn University. Auburn is one of the largest universities in the South and second-largest in Alabama, with over 25,000 students. With origins dating to 1856, it became the first four-year co-educational school in Alabama in 1892 and officially changed its name from Alabama Polytechnic Institute to Auburn University in 1960, although people had been calling it “Auburn” for decades already (sometimes follow-up paperwork takes a while). Auburn is one of only a handful of combined land-grant, sea-grant, space-grant research centers and features many highly-ranked programs, including in architecture and design, veterinary medicine, engineering, pharmacy, forestry, and business. The campus’ main building is Samford Hall, a university icon capped with a clock tower. Samford Hall opened in 1888, built partially with bricks salvaged from the building it replaced (“Old Main”), which burned in 1887. The carillon plays the Westminster Chimes on the quarter-hour, as well as Auburn University’s fight song "War Eagle" just after noon each day.

The Auburn Tigers play NCAA Division I sports in the SEC (Southeastern Conference) and are a perennial powerhouse in football; their rivalry with the Georgia Bulldogs is the oldest in the Deep South and their legendary annual Iron Bowl game against arch-rival Alabama draws a national audience every Thanksgiving weekend. Their three Heisman Trophy winners (Pat Sullivan, Bo Jackson, and Cam Newton) have larger-than-life posters of the side of Jordan-Hare Stadium, the 87,000-seat capacity stadium where Auburn hosts its games. The Basketball Tigers play across the street at Auburn Arena, which holds 9,600 fans for hoops and more for concerts and other events. The Tigers baseball team plays in Plainsman Park, which has been named “top collegiate ballpark in the nation” by Baseball America. Auburn’s swimming program has been remarkable; they are essentially an NCAA national championship dynasty and their men’s and woman’s programs send more swimmers to the Olympics than from any other university swimming program.

Numerous Auburn-related facilities are interesting to visit. The Southeastern Raptor Center takes care of and rehabs injured or orphaned raptors (the birds, not the Toronto basketball players) and released them back into the wild. Part of Auburn’s College of Veterinary Medicine, the Southeastern Raptor Center offers exhibits, shows and interactions with these birds of prey… it definitely won’t bore the kids! If you want to check out things less likely to move, the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art houses a variety of paintings and sculptures in a beautiful building with colorful touches like a Chihuly chandelier and landscaped grounds abutting a beautiful little lake, with free outdoor concerts in season.

Auburn’s campus and downtown meet at Toomer’s Corner, the corner of College and Magnolia Streets. You’ll find plenty of bustling shops, bars, and restaurants as well as the iconic Toomer’s Drugs, which opened in 1896 and remains a beacon for Auburn students and alumni, bringing back memories of days gone by. Toomer’s features an old-fashioned true soda fountain and a popular diner with a reputation for “world famous” fresh-squeezed lemonade. It was a pharmacy for a while too, but today Auburn residents have to get prescription filled elsewhere. All up and down College, Magnolia, and adjacent streets there is plenty of activity, especially on game days. The live oak trees on Toomer’s Corner are become popular recipients of toilet paper-pranking, although it’s done nowadays to celebrate victories or other good news at the university. So if you see T.P. hanging from the trees, it’s a good sign.

Off-campus in Auburn on the south side of town, Chewacla State Park offers 700 acres of hiking trails, fishing, swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking, and mountain biking. Plenty of events take place at the park, which has easy access to I-85 and U.S. 29.

All right, let’s get on the road!

Head south via I-85, where you briefly pass through the Tuskegee National Forest, the smallest National Forest in the country. Despite its modest size, Tuskegee National Forest packs plenty of activities from hunting and fishing to shooting at the Uchee Shooting Range or hiking along the 8.5-mile Bartram National Recreation Trail.

After a short ride, head off of I-85 at AL Highway 81 (Exit 38) and head south toward Tuskegee. Right off the Interstate you’ll find historic Moton Field and the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site. Check out the grounds, which include some of the original airline hangars featuring WWII-era planes, a training simulator, parachutes, a gift shop, and plenty of exhibits about the first African-American military aviators in the U.S. Armed Forces. Further in town, a little north of the downtown square along AL Highway 81 is Tuskegee University, part of the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site. Founded by Booker T.

Washington in 1881 as the Tuskegee Normal School for Colored Teachers on a former plantation, Tuskegee has grown into a university with 3,100 students on a beautiful campus featuring rolling hills and a number of majestic stone and brick buildings. Dr. Washington’s home on campus, The Oaks, is open for tours. Influential scientist, inventor, botanist, and educator George Washington Carver came to Tuskegee in 1896 to head its new Agriculture Department and taught there for 47 years until his death in 1943. The George Washington Carver Museum traces his life and contributions to science, agriculture, and more, right down to his major innovations with peanut and sweet potato cultivation.

Trivia: Just some of the many facts about Tuskegee University:

  • Tuskegee University produces over 75% of the African-American veterinarians in the world.
  • The first nursing baccalaureate program in Alabama and one of the oldest in the United States.
  • The only college or university campus in the nation to be designated a National Historic Site by the U.S. Congress.
  • One of two centers funded by NASA to develop a technology for growing food in space during human space missions.

Just south of the campus is downtown Tuskegee, crowned by the beautiful Macon County Courthouse, a Romanesque Revival style building complete with gargoyles. Nearby on Elm Street is the Tuskegee Human & Civil Rights Multicultural Center & Museum, which traces the civil rights movement (including the fact that Rosa Parks was born in Tuskegee) as well as the general history of African-Americans, European-Americans, and Native Americans across Macon County and Alabama.

From Tuskegee, head south on U.S. 29; at Union Springs, you have an option of staying on U.S. 29 or diving deeper into the rural cotton fields, pine forests, and rolling hills along the Conecuh River by following somewhat of a shortcut on AL Highway 223; the two roads meet up in Pike County, where either way you can continue on U.S. 29 southbound to the next city, which is also a university town.

We’re talking about Troy, the 18,000-resident county seat of Pike County and home to Troy University. Long known as Troy State University until shortened in 2004, the main campus of the university in Troy campus has about 7,000 students (satellite campuses in Montgomery, Phenix City, and Dothan bring the university’s total student population to nearly 20,000) and dates back to 1887. It features an extensive international program which brings students from around the world to its lovely 650-acre campus just southeast of downtown.

Along University Avenue you’ll find a number of beautiful campus buildings, the Shakelford Quad, and a statue of “The Thinker,” donated by Huo Bao Zhu from Xian, China in 2002 to celebrate the joint degree programs Troy has with universities there. Along the edge of campus, the Troy University Arboretum features over 300 different species of trees, a four-acre pond, and a 2.5-mile nature trail crossing swamps and streams through the woods. All 75 acres of the Arboretum are open to the public. For sports, the Troy Trojans play in the Sun Belt Conference; their football team plays at 30,000-seat Veterans Memorial Stadium and their baseball team plays at historic Riddle-Pace Field, considered one of the top collegiate baseball stadiums in the country. Trojans Athletics spread to other sports, of course, including rodeo.

Downtown Troy features a nice town square, surrounded by shops, old stores like the Byrd Drug Company with its neon corner sign, coffee houses, and restaurants. Just northeast of the square on Walnut Street you’ll find the Johnson Center for the Arts, part of the Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Center complex. The Johnson Center is considered one of the finer exhibit spaces for art in the Southeast.

On the northwest side of Troy along multi-lane U.S. 231, you’ll find the Pioneer Museum of Alabama, a sprawling indoor and outdoor museum where you can churn butter, spin cotton, feed chickens, and explore 22 historic structures amid four themed exhibition halls covering farming, textiles, culture and archeology, and military history. You can also go for a train ride around the grounds. Joined with the Pioneer Museum is the Conecuh River Depot Military Museum, which holds extensive private collections of U.S. and foreign military items from World Wars I and II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom. There is no charge. Just down the street from these two museums, and mere minutes from along U.S. 231 is the Best Western Troy Inn.

From Troy, it’s a four-lane highway drive southeast via U.S. 231. Much of the ride is on rolling hills past Ozark. Near there, one note of interest to highway buffs is the original 1921 Veterans Memorial Bridge, thought to be the first reinforced concrete bridge in Alabama. Today’s highway crosses on a larger bridge next to it, but you can walk the bridge and check out the detail from back in the day.

Next up, “let us go to Dothan.” Yes, it’s a Biblical line – Genesis 37:17 in the New International Version – on which the city of Dothan’s name is based, commemorated with a ten-foot, cast bronze sculpture of Joseph statue downtown. About 68,000 residents “have gone to” Dothan, making it the largest city in southeastern Alabama. About 25% of the nation’s peanut crop grows within a 75-mile radius of Dothan, making the city “Peanut Capital of the World”; they go “nuts” about it at their National Peanut Festival every year.

Dothan is also called “Circle City,” given the large ring road encircling the town. Called Ross Clark Circle/AL Highway 210, it also carries the mainline U.S. highways around central Dothan, with “Business” versions of U.S. 84, 231, and 431 continuing into the heart of the city. The Best Western Dothan Inn & Suites is right along U.S. 231 coming in from Troy, within blocks of “The Circle” for easy access to any point in the Dothan area. The Circle maintains a several-mile perimeter around downtown.

Downtown Dothan features more of the “Peanuts Around Town,” plenty of murals, and the historic Dothan Opera House, which opened back in 1915 and still serves as a 590-seat performing arts venue. The Civic Center across the street opened in 1971, and its architecture reflects that era as well. The Wiregrass Museum of Art features a series of permanent and traveling exhibitions offering a variety of paper, canvas, and decorative art along with a special section for children.

In Dothan’s Westgate Park, Water World offers a giant wave pool, triple flume slide, great white slide, kiddie pool, and more for summertime recreation. Adventureland Theme Park is also a great place to occupy your more energetic family members, with everything from go-kart tracks to mini-golf. If regular golf is more your game, the Highland Oaks Golf Course is a premier course, rated a “Great Value” course by Golf Digest, and part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. For greenery you don’t have to hit a ball through, the Dothan Area Botanical Gardens offers 50 acres of cultivated gardens, wooded landscapes, and paved nature trails weaving through them. The Gardens are along U.S. 431 on the north side of Dothan.

From Dothan, head west on U.S. 84, a main highway across southern Alabama. We’re about hit lots of rolling hills, cotton fields, and small towns with some unique twists. U.S. 84 runs mainly as a four-lane highway to Enterprise, a bustling town of 27,000 famously home to the Boll Weevil Monument. The Boll Weevil did a tremendous amount of damage to the cotton crops across the South in the early 1900s, forcing local farmers to abandon cotton and shift into new things. Soon, they were cranking out peanuts and other crops at incredible rates, bringing back relative prosperity.

Since the boll weevil ended up being seen as a blessing in disguise, Enterprise locals thought: why not erect a statue in its honor? The Boll Weevil Monument was erected in the middle of Main and College in 1919 and remains the only monument to an agricultural pest. The monument features a woman on a pedestal, holding another pedestal with a boll weevil on top. A circular wrought iron railing surrounds the monument, which also includes lights and a small fountain. It’s literally right in the middle of the busy intersection, so you need to admire it from afar unless you want to dodge traffic.

Just down College Street is the Depot Museum, a local history museum tucked into the old Enterprise Railroad Depot. The Depot went up in 1903 and the museum has been around since 1974; items inside include the original statue atop the Boll Weevil Monument, the bell from the area’s earliest high school, an original mill wheel from an area gristmill, and other nineteenth century items ranging from medicine bottles to medical tools and military uniforms. The city celebrates music with its annual BamaJam Music Festival, which has hosted artists from Alan Jackson to ZZ Top, including Taylor Swift, the Zac Brown Band, Sheryl Crow, Kid Rock, and more.

Enterprise is also a key entrance point for Fort Rucker, home to the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence. Home of all Army Aviation training since 1973, Fort Rucker covers a large chunk of ground (and sky) between Enterprise, Dothan, and Ozark; about 6,000 people reside on the base. While normally closed to visitors, there are a series of events open to the public. Always available is the United States Army Aviation Museum, which holds the largest collection of helicopters of any museum in the world (over 160), including an AH-64 Apache from Operation Desert Storm, a UH-60 Blackhawk, a Sikorsky R-4B, a Curtiss-Wright VZ-7, and replica aircraft from the Wright Brothers.

Enterprise is ringed by a four-lane bypass (called Boll Weevil Circle) that includes U.S. 84; you can access downtown best via AL Highways 134 or 248. On the northeast side along Boll Weevil Circle, you’ll find the Best Western PLUS Circle Inn. It’s the perfect location along the Tour for a stop, convenient to downtown Enterprise, the military base, and the rest of our drive.

From Enterprise, continue northwest on U.S. 84. Through the small town of Elba, the seat of Coffee County. Located along the Pea River, Elba has a system of levees protecting it, although floods have inundated the town periodically. A more pleasant water sight is the lovely fountain in front of the 1903-era Coffee County Courthouse, all part of the Historic Court Square. Surrounded by small town shops, coffee houses, and even an art center.

Continue on U.S. 84, which heads southwest to the interestingly named city of Opp, Alabama (turns out it was named after a German lawyer, Henry Opp, who worked for the railroad that came through town). Calling itself the “City of OPP-ortunity”, the town has about 6,600 residents and takes advantage of the road and rail connections between Montgomery and the Florida beaches, since Opp lies about halfway along the beeline between the two along U.S. 331 and freight rail lines. On the north side of Opp, Lake Frank Jackson is a 1,000-acre stream-fed fishing paradise, complete with a natural island and boardwalk. It’s the centerpiece of Frank Jackson State Park, which encompasses an additional 1,000 acres and offers plenty of activities including its annual “Scarecrows in the Park.”

Back in town, they celebrate the Opp Rattlesnake Rodeo every April, where Eastern Diamondback rattlesnakes have been a key draw for over half a century. The “Rattlesnake Rodeo” is a weekend filled with not only snakes (and snake races – imagine that), but music, family and kids’ activities, and even the “Rattlin’ 250” race at nearby South Alabama Speedway in nearby Kinston, just down AL Highway 52 from Opp. South Alabama Speedway is a 4/10-mile asphalt oval running modifieds, street stock, roadrunners, mini sportsmans, and cuplite races.

The Best Western PLUS Opp Inn is right along the US. 84 bypass on the south side of Opp, providing easy access to downtown, Frank Jackson State Park, South Alabama Speedway, and more.

To continue on the Tour, head west from Opp on U.S. 84. Bust out your dominoes because the next city is Andalusia, a pleasant little town that serves as home to 10,000 residents and the annual World Championship Domino Tournament, which celebrates its 40th year in Andalusia in July, 2015. You’ll see murals and references to it year ‘round, especially in the lovely town square holding the Covington County Courthouse and the surrounding downtown stores. Andalusia (Spanish for “to walk easy”) was named during the era where this land was part of Spanish Florida – we’re talking the 1830s here – in a salute to that beautiful region of Spain. The old-school Clark Theatre on the square helps set the tone for a throwback-looking town square that brings about a feel of old Americana. It’s definitely worth walking around and checking out.

Andalusia teems with artistic murals that salute earlier courthouses, the original Riley’s Drug Store soda fountain that opened in 1924, early logging, the old (and current) Dairy Queen, and Hank Williams, who married Audrey Sheppard in Andalusia on December 15, 1944. A restored old post office and 1899 train depot is now part of the Three Notch Museum, a local history museum filled with area collections, a Norfolk Southern caboose and several other real train cars on the outside and a huge HO-scale train layout on the inside. The restored post office includes the original mailboxes and old country store. If you want to check out antiques you can buy and take home with you, check out Sweetgum Bottom Antiques along County Road 43 on the northeast side of town.

Along Church Street west of downtown, you’ll find a series of beautiful homes and an almost California feel on a nice day. Some homes, like the Avant House, are on the National Register of Historic Places. When you reach the city bypass (U.S. 29 and U.S. 84), the Best Western Andalusia Inn is right there for an enjoyable night’s stay.

Near Andalusia, the Conecuh National Forest spreads south to the Florida border, offering 84,000 acres of forest, ponds, and bogs that are great for hunting, fishing, hiking, biking, shooting, and wildlife viewing. Deer, turkey, quail, and small game abound in the forest, and one of the sites features an original 1930s CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) building.

For our Tour, let’s continue on U.S. 84 west of Andalusia and truck through Evergreen (where, when coupled with U.S. 31 briefly, you’ll cross the infamous Murder Creek) to I-65. It’s time for the home stretch to Alabama’s main port city and the Gulf Coast.

Hit I-65 south for about an hour and leapfrog miles of Mobile River delta into Mobile, the largest city on the Gulf Coast between Houston and the Tampa Bay area. With about 200,000 city residents and 400,000 in the metro, Mobile is the third largest city in Alabama. Yet, its downtown gives it the impression of a bigger city; the RSA Battle House Tower stands 745 feet tall and is the tallest building on the Gulf Coast outside of Houston. They keep the umbrellas handy here, too: with 66 inches of average annual rainfall, it’s the wettest city in the continental U.S. but there’s also plenty of sunshine and almost never any snow. Palm trees dot the landscape. You can take I-165 directly into downtown Mobile or follow I-65 through town, where it ends at Interstate 10. I-10 cuts right through downtown Mobile and crosses Mobile Bay through a combination of bridges and tunnels.

The only saltwater port in Alabama, Mobile has always been a major international shipping hub and remains the 12th largest port in the United States. The city is perched on the western edge of Mobile Bay and the busy cranes of the Port line the water while downtown bustles with activity.

Mobile knows how to party. The first Carnivale was held here in 1703, when it also the first capital of the French Colony of Louisiana. The first Mardi Gras was held in Mobile and has its oldest celebration despite the bigger reputation of the city 140 miles to the west that shall remain nameless. The Mobile Carnival Museum chronicles over 300 years of partying in the historic Bernstein-Bush mansion on Government Street downtown.

The city’s impressive shipbuilding history is highlighted in USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park. Located on Mobile Bay, dominant features include the World War II-era battleship USS Alabama, submarine USS Drum, memorials to the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and a variety of historical military items.

Trivia: Mobile is where, during the Civil War, the famous line “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” was uttered by Admiral David Farragut during the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864.

Downtown, a lovely place to start is Bienville Square. Officially a public park since 1850, the square is named for Mobile’s founder and its surrounding streets (Dauphin, St. Joseph, St. Francis, and Conception) all lead to interesting places. The live oaks, fountain, bandstand, and more continue to make it a popular public gathering space for visitors and local residents and workers enjoying lunch or a Sunday stroll. With wrought iron balconies on many of the buildings downtown, the area compares to New Orleans’ French Quarter in design and feel at times, and plenty of restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and shops vividly illustrate this feel.

The Saenger Theatre opened on Joachim Street in 1927 as “Alabama’s Greatest Showplace” and “the most beautiful playhouse in all of Dixie” and today remains an impressive 1,900-seat performing arts venue. A few blocks north on Joachim reveals the Richards DAR House Museum, built in 1860 with a complex and beautiful cast-iron façade depicting the four seasons. A few blocks west, the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception was started in the 1830s and completed in the 1880s, renowned for its architectural beauty in general and stained glass window designs in particular. The Conde-Charlotte Museum House on Theatre Street dates back to the 1720s with its origins and the 1820s with its current house; tours are offered regularly showing the French, British, colonial, Spanish, and Confederate era furnishings. Other historic districts include the Oakleigh House and Historic District, Church Street Historic District and more, many of which offer walkable neighborhoods with unique architecture dating back to the 1800s and earlier. In a city filled with history, the History Museum of Mobile chronicles 300+ years of it in the Old City Hall, which was built between 1855 and 1857 and is now a National Historic Landmark.

Other museums include the Mobile Medical Museum, which showcases medical history in one of the oldest homes in Mobile (1827). The Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center downtown offers over 150 hands-on science exhibits, an IMAX theater, and more. The Mobile Museum of Art offers extensive collections of American Southern, European, and non-Western art, including African masks and masquerades and a collection of glass art. Nearby, Mobile Botanical Gardens offers an artistic outdoor setting, complete with lush plants, colorful tropical flowers, and paths taking you through the grounds. For more outdoor splendor, tour the Bellingrath Gardens and Home in suburban Theodore; the grounds consist of a 65-acre gardens estate that opened in 1932, surrounding a 10,500-square foot “English Renaissance” home that belonged to the Bellingrath family.

Mobile enjoys collegiate sports through the 16,000-student University of South Alabama and pro baseball with the Mobile BayBears, a AA-affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Southern League. They play at Hank Aaron Stadium, named after the home run champion who grew up in Mobile. The city celebrates music heavily, including the three-day Bayfest, Alabama’s largest music festival.

Trivia: More baseball players in the MLB Hall of Fame hail from Mobile than any other area except New York and Chicago.

From Mobile, you can cross Mobile Bay via Interstate 10 east; you go down (the George Wallace Tunnel) and then up (the elevated Jubilee Parkway) past the aforementioned USS Alabama site and across the waters of the Bay. After a few miles, you’ll land on the Eastern Shore and find yourself in Spanish Fort and Daphne. Spanish Fort dates back to 1712, when it was established as a trading post opposite Mobile on the other side of the bay. It was the site of the Battle of Spanish Fort during March and April, 1865, being one of the last battles in the Civil War. Further north along the Tensaw River, Historic Blakely State Park offers the “ghost town” site of Blakely, once considered a potential rival to Mobile; historic sites from the Civil War era, since Blakely hosted the last major battle of the Civil War; also eco-tours by boat, nature trails, and more. The Gatra Wehle Nature Center in the park offers conservation and ecosystem exhibits about the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta and surrounding areas.

Back in town, the U.S. Sports Academy is located right off I-10 and U.S. 98 in SpanishFort, here, providing sports-specific educational programs to students and over 60 countries worldwide. Daphne and Spanish Fort also features a slew of retail outlets, crowned by the 540,000 square foot Eastern Shore Centre which offers a wide variety of shops and restaurants in a “lifestyle center” setting. The Best Western PLUS Daphne Inn & Suites is right across the street.

On both sides of Mobile Bay, you can enjoy history, culture, tropical weather, and more potential Alabama destinations. Want to enjoy the Gulf Coast beaches? Head east and south from the Mobile and Daphne areas toward Foley and Gulf Shores, where the white sand beaches await. Or, head north via U.S. 31 and I-65 to head back into central Alabama toward Greenville and Montgomery, which we’ll explore on other drive tours.

So there you have it: southern Alabama, from the bustling Auburn University to the bustling port city of Mobile. In between, plenty of college towns, charming small towns brimming with Southern hospitality, unusual monuments involving peanuts and boll weevils, historic sites, outdoor recreation, and of course, plenty of great Best Western locations from which to choose. Enjoy southern Alabama, and stay with people who care!