Selma: Live Oak Cemetery

One of the most hauntingly beautiful cemeteries found anywhere is Live Oak Cemetery in Selma, with its abundance of weathered statuary and Spanish moss-draped live oaks. The oldest portion was purchased by the township of Selma in 1829 and called West Selma Graveyard. The newer section of the cemetery grounds was purchased in 1877 and combined with the older section to form Live Oak Cemetery. Many prominent local residents are buried here, including U. S. Vice President William Rufus King, one of the founders of Selma, and Benjamin Sterling Turner, Alabama’s first African-American Congressman.

Photo Credit: Alabama Tourism Department


Birmingham: Red Mountain Park

Birmingham lays claim to the largest urban park in the United States. It’s Red Mountain Park, developed on land long exploited by mining. The 1,200-acre park consists of more than 40 miles of trails with a 10-mile rail trail and a four-mile highline trail, a 45-acre commons, a 20-acre lake, reopened interpretive mines and recreation areas. The master plan was developed by the Philadelphia-based firm Wallace, Roberts, & Todd, who worked from a concept by Nimrod Long & Associates in Birmingham. When the park received the ASLA 2012 Honor Award, the jury noted that it is “brave to have something this bold that conveys the social and physical history of Birmingham. It transforms without obliterating.”

Photo Credit: Eddie Freyer


Moundville Archeological Park

Alabama is home to the remains of one of the country’s largest prehistoric Native American settlements. Located along the Black Warrior River just south of Tuscaloosa, the site was once a flourishing ceremonial and political hub of Mississippian culture and occupied over three centuries until it was abandoned in the 16th century. Today, the Moundville Archeological Park contains the original site with its large earthen mounds arranged in an open plaza. Also part of the park is the Jones Archaeological Museum that displays over 200 artifacts. The park and museum are operated by the University of Alabama.

Photo Credit: Lewis Kennedy


Mobile: Eastern Shore Trail

There’s plenty to do and see along Mobile’s Eastern Shore Trail. Beginning at the U.S.S. Alabama Battleship Memorial Park and traveling south to Weeks Bay, the urban trail is a 32-mile, hiking and biking trail which runs through Spanish Fort, Daphne, Fairhope and Point Clear. It provides a combination of sidewalks and paved trail sections that offer sweeping views of Mobile Bay. Tour the U.S.S. Alabama, a World War II battleship, as well as a nearby hangar that displays historic aircraft. In Daphne, the half-mile Gator Alley Boardwalk offers sightings of alligators, turtles and seabirds. The section through downtown Fairhope is a special treat, as it’s one of Alabama’s premier destinations.

Photo Credit: Internet


Anniston to Atlanta: Chief Ladiga Trail

Reviews for the Chief Ladiga Trail, Alabama’s first rails-to-trails project, are overwhelmingly positive. “What a great way to see the Alabama countryside.” “A runners/walkers and cyclists delight.” The 33-mile trail stretches from the Alabama-Georgia state line to Anniston and passes through scenic landscape and towns. The Chief Ladiga Trail is on the same rail corridor as the Silver Comet Trail in Georgia. Plans are to join the two trails, creating a 90-mile corridor from just west of Atlanta to Anniston. Ideal for all skill levels, the Chief Ladiga Trail is accessible year-round and dogs are permitted on the trail but must be kept on leash.

Photo Credit: Goodwyn Mills and Cawood


Land Trusts/Forever Wild

Since 1992, the Forever Wild Land Trust has secured more than 255,000 acres of land in Alabama for public use. Its mission is to conserve, connect and care for land and water in Alabama. Since 2010, 100 miles of trails have been completed in Jefferson County. The master plan for the Red Rock Trail System proposes 750 miles of multi-use trails, parks, bike lanes and sidewalks. Once completed, the trail system will consist of seven corridors: Jones Valley and Valley Creek, Village Creek, Five Mile Creek, Shades Creek, Cahaba River, Turkey Creek and Northern Beltway. Current trail projects include the Vulcan Trail extension, the High Ore Line and the Five Mile Creek Greenway.

Photo Credit: Copperwing


Weogufka: Pinhoti

The longest hiking trail in Alabama and Georgia is the Pinhoti National Recreation Trail, which stretches 171 miles across Alabama and another 166 miles in Georgia. Pinhoti Trail starts at Flagg Mountain near Weogufka, cuts through the Talladega National Forest and ends in Northeast Georgia at the Benton MacKaye Trail where it connects to the Appalachian Trail. This network provides a trail corridor from Alabama to Maine. Pinhoti Trail is also part of the 5,400 mile Eastern Continental Trail from Florida to Newfoundland, and the 1,800 mile Great Eastern Trail that runs west of the Appalachian Trail from Alabama to New York. “Pinhoti” derives from the Creek Indian word meaning “turkey home.”

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Montgomery: Wynton M. Blount Cultural Park

The 250-acre Wynton M. Blount Cultural Park offers three venues in one – the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and the Hannah Daye Ridling Bark Park. Outdoor sculpture is displayed throughout the grounds from the museum’s collection. The renowned Alabama Shakespeare Festival brings professional performances to the park. Bark Park is a park-within-the-park with separate areas to walk dogs. Blount Cultural Park features ponds, walking trails, a natural amphitheater and scenery reminiscent of the English countryside. Shakespearian features include a stone bridge and a thatched-roof storybook-style structure.

Photo Credit: Chris Granger


Barber Motorsports Park

According to Guinness World Records, the nonprofit Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Birmingham contains the world’s largest collection of motorcycles. The museum is part of the Barber Motorsports Park, which also includes a racetrack that hosts motorcycle and car racing events. The grounds of the 740-acre park are a sight to see, with a quirky collection of giant sculptures in the infield of the track, such as spiders, Bigfoot and a woman in a pond with just her head and knees poking out of the water. Pedestrian bridges over the racetrack are also part of a recent expansion. Barber Motorsports Park was listed among CNN’s 2016 “16 intriguing things to see and do in the United States.”

Photo Credit: Wikipedia and Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum

Montgomery: Shakespeare Gardens

Montgomery: Shakespeare Gardens

At Shakespeare Gardens in Montgomery, the sights and fragrant smells will take you on a sensory journey back to Elizabethan England. Plants that grew during Shakespeare’s day delight the senses. The 56,700-square-foot garden complex is part of the Wynton M. Blount Cultural Park in Montgomery. Plants and flowers referred to in Shakespeare’s works are part of the landscape design. Roses grow that are mentioned in “Romeo and Juliet,” narcissus from “Antony and Cleopatra” and leek from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Gardens are surrounded by woven wattle fences built by Alabama craftsman, along with trellises, arbors and benches.

Photo Credit: Goodwyn Mills and Cawood

Mobile: Bienville Square

Mobile: Bienville Square

With its ancient live oaks, cast iron fountain, bandstand and diverse historic buildings around its perimeter, Bienville Square in the heart of downtown Mobile is the quintessential Southern square and one that rivals any in Charleston and Savannah. The square dates back to 1824 and was named for French Governor of Louisiana Jean Baptiste de Bienville. Improvements to Bienville Square in the Mobile 2020 Comprehensive Plan include additional ground floor retail for the surrounding buildings, integrated pedestrian paths and more landscaping.

Photo Credit: Chris Granger

Huntsville: Big Spring Park

Huntsville: Big Spring Park

The largest limestone spring in North Alabama is Big Spring, located at Big Spring Park in downtown Huntsville that once served as Huntsville’s original water source. Today, the park might be better known for displaying gifts to the city from faraway countries: a light beacon and fog bell from Norway, a red bridge and cherry trees from Japan, a bench from the United Kingdom and a sundial from Germany. The park is also popular for its abundance of ducks and geese. Construction on the park began in 1898 and it is the site of many festivals and events each year.

Photo Credit: Internet

Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve and Park

Birmingham: Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve and Park

One of Birmingham’s most appealing characteristics is how nature coexists with the city. Seen from downtown Birmingham is the Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve, a 1,040-acre natural park on the northern ridge of Red Mountain. The park contains 14 miles of hiking trails with scenic overlooks, an abandoned limestone quarry and the surface ruins from an old iron ore mine. KPS Group developed the master plan for the nature preserve and designed its 5,800-square-foot Nature Center positioned at the tree tops. The building was awarded a gold certification under the U. S. Green Building Council’s LEED® program. Native animal species cared for at the center were injured and unable to exist in the wild.

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Birmingham: Linn Park

Birmingham: Linn Park

Birmingham’s first city plan in 1871 shows Linn Park as an open green space, designed when the intent was to make Birmingham the state capital. Though that never happened, Linn Park developed into the city’s primary civic space, flanked by Birmingham City Hall and Jefferson County Courthouse, with numerous monuments and memorials in-between. In 1982, Birmingham-based landscape architects Nimrod Long & Associates preserved and enhanced an earlier axial scheme with a new central fountain, pavements, benches, steps, low walls and a metal gazebo. Linn Park was the site of several protests during the Civil Rights movement.

Photo Credit: Linn Park

Mobile: The Grand Hotel (Point Clear- The Grand Hotel)

Mobile: The Grand Hotel (Point Clear- The Grand Hotel)

Built in 1847, the historic Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club and Spa and its grounds on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay has undergone a $32 million renovation. Part of the renovation project is a new recreational lawn with games and a new courtyard with fire pits and improved landscaping. The hotel’s Azalea and Dogwood golf courses are also part of the renovation. The Grand Hotel has long held a prominent place in Alabama history. In 1864, a portion of the hotel became a Confederate hospital during the Civil War. About 300 Confederate soldiers are buried in a cemetery near the 18th tee of the Azalea course.

Photo credit: Goodwyn Mills & Cawood

Wetumpka: Jasmine Hill Gardens and Outdoor Museum

Wetumpka: Jasmine Hill Gardens and Outdoor Museum

No wonder that Jasmine Hill Gardens and Outdoor Museum near Wetumpka is called “Alabama’s Little Corner of Greece” with its collection of nearly 40 pieces of Greek statuary, both original and reproductions. The 20-acre botanical garden was established in the early 1930s by Benjamin and Mary Fitzpatrick who made over 20 trips to Greece to purchase art objects. The gardens include a copy of the ruins of the Temple of Hera in Olympia, Greece and a separate restored temple facade at the museum entrance as it would have looked during the 7th Century B.C. Paths throughout the garden are made from native stone constructed as a WPA project. The garden is operated by the nonprofit Jasmine Hill Foundation.

Photo credit: Peggy Collins

Birmingham: Rotary Trail

Birmingham: Rotary Trail

At the entrance of Birmingham’s Rotary Trail is a 46-foot-tall sign that reads: “Rotary Trail in the Magic City,” modeled after the historical “Birmingham the Magic City” sign. Rotary Trail (formerly called Line Park) is a pedestrian greenway constructed in 2014 in the railroad cut at the center of First Avenue between 20th and 24th Street South. The half-mile trail links two popular Birmingham attractions, Rail Road Park and Sloss Furnaces Historic Landmark. The trail is part of the expanding Red Rock Trail System that connects major destinations throughout the region including Red Mountain Park. The name comes from the city’s rotary club, one of the largest rotary clubs in the world.

Photo credit: Bill Segrest Courtesy of Goodwyn Mills and Cawood

Birmingham: Rail Road Park 

Birmingham: Rail Road Park

Nineteen acres of unused spaced along the railroad tracks between downtown Birmingham and UAB were transformed into Rail Road Park, a popular site for many activities – from walking the Rail Trail that extends the length of the park to ice skating in winter. Walls and seating areas are constructed from bricks and objects unearthed on the site, including hand-cast bricks and original cobblestone. The park comprises 30 percent water with a lake, a rain curtain, a bio-filtration wetlands area and numerous ponds and streams. Rail Road Park won the 2012 Urban Land Institute’s Urban Open Space Award, beating out such parks as New York City’s exceedingly popular High Line.

Photo credit: MackNally Land Design

Robert Trent Jones Golf TrailRobert Trent Jones Golf TrailRobert Trent Jones Golf Trail

Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail

Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is the largest golf course construction project ever attempted and the brainchild of David Bronner, CEO of the Retirement Systems of Alabama, who in the 1980s came up with the idea as a way to diversify the assets of the state’s pension fund and boost state tourism. Robert Trent Jones, Sr. was hired to design the courses because of his history designing top courses worldwide. Today, there are 26 golf courses on the trail on 11 sites across Alabama. The enormous trail project has been compared in complexity to the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Photo credit: Alabama Tourism Department

Mobile: Bellingrath GardensMobile: Bellingrath Gardens

Mobile: Bellingrath Gardens

Something is always blooming at Bellingrath Gardens in Mobile – 400 varieties of camellias in the winter, azaleas in the spring, roses, hydrangeas and tropical plants in the summer and the renowned “cascading chrysanthemums” in the fall. Bellingrath was established in the early days of the Great Depression, when Walter Bellingrath and his wife Bessie opened their gardens to the public. Along with year-round explosions of colorful blooms, the 65-acre Bellingrath Gardens and Home offers tours of the Bellingrath estate that is now a museum. Visitors can also walk along the bayou boardwalk while enjoying the great variety of flowering plants that change every season.

Photo credit: Tad Denson


Montgomery and Tuscaloosa: Riverfront Parks

Tuscaloosa and Montgomery are two cities that have taken full advantage of having a river and both have found ways to maximize this natural resource. On the Alabama River is the Montgomery Riverfront Park whose attractions include an amphitheatre, riverboat and the historic Union Station Train Shed. The Riverwalk in Tuscaloosa offers a paved well-lighted trail along the southern bank of the Black Warrior River near downtown. Dog-friendly park areas line the trail, as well as benches, gazebos, picnic areas and shade trees. The trail also provides a playground near the public library and a splash pad for children.

Photo credit: Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce

Birmingham: Vulcan Park and Grounds

Birmingham: Vulcan Park and Grounds

A fine example of Birmingham’s long and rich legacy of well-designed landscape architecture is Vulcan Park, built in the 1930s under the WPA. Kiwanis Centennial Park opened at Vulcan Park and Museum last year, making the Vulcan, which overlooks Birmingham from atop Red Mountain, more accessible to visitors. The north side of Vulcan Park now features a new plaza, fountain and steps leading up to the Vulcan that connects the iconic statue to downtown Birmingham. The park also includes the Kiwanis Vulcan Trail, a two-mile walking and biking trail. Nimrod Long & Associates also made improvements to the terrace, and added lighting and new landscaping.

Photo credit: Billy Brown Photography

Birmingham: Kelly Ingram ParkBirmingham: Kelly Ingram ParkBirmingham: Kelly Ingram Park

Birmingham: Kelly Ingram Park

The hallmark of Birmingham’s Kelly Ingram Park is its many sculptures related to the 1960s Civil Rights movement. Statues of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and other civil rights heroes, along with three installations that flank a circular “Freedom Walk.” Another sculpture depicts three local civil rights advocates and ministers in prayer. A sculpture called “Four Spirits” was unveiled at the park in 2013 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the nearby 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. In 1992, the four-acre park was renovated and rededicated to coincide with the opening of the nearby Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Large demonstrations took place at Kelly Ingram during the struggle for civil rights.

Photo credit: Chris Granger

Birmingham: Avondale Park

Birmingham: Avondale Park

No surprise that Avondale Park is one of Birmingham’s most beloved city parks. It’s also one of the oldest. The 36.5-acre site has been a park since 1887 and was home to the city’s first zoo. Renovated in 2011, the idyllic grounds consist of ball fields, an amphitheater, a duck pond surrounded with walking trails that meet ADA standards, a playground, picnic pavilion and plenty of benches throughout. Avondale Library and the restored Avondale Villa, an event facility, are also on the property. The steep slopes of the hill above the park contain woodlands and ruins from the zoo.

Photo credit: KPS Group