Family Fun Abounds in Alabama

If you are looking for a place to visit that is packed with family fun, consider heading to Alabama. From the mountains to the city to the ocean, Alabama has a little bit of something for everyone. Many people don’t realize the abundance of activities available to enjoy in Alabama. Those who live in Alabama want to share the fun with you.

If your family enjoys hiking, then you need to visit the mountains in Eastern Alabama. You can stay in a cabin, go camping or simply hike a trail for the day. The views are spectacular, no matter what time of the year it is from the vibrant fall colors to the bright greens in the spring.

Cities such as Birmingham have a lot of cultural events open to families. Check out the many science museums in Alabama. There is also a Butterfly exhibit in Alabama that you can visit and walk among hundreds of butterflies that is very magical for kids. Don’t forget to head to Tuscaloosa to take in an Alabama football game. They are serious about football and the pre and post game activities are just as exciting as the game itself. Their rivals in Auburn, Alabama also put on a good game.

The beaches in south Alabama along the gulf coast are beautiful and the water is a magnificent color. Families can enjoy a fun day at the beach, building sand castles and playing in the waves. Play a round of miniature golf and eat some homemade icecream to round out the day’s activities.

There is so much to do in Alabama that you can’t get it all done in one trip. The family friendly atmosphere and hospitality will keep you coming back for years to come. From the mountains to the ocean to the many cultural and nature activities available in Alabama, there is something for everyone in this southern state.

A Must See in Mobile, Alabama – The Oakleigh Complex

Tired of driving all day long just to see one lackluster attraction? So was I, and I was skeptical when I heard about the Oakleigh Complex in Mobile, Alabama. But, wow was I wrong!

On the 3.5 acre a complex you’ll find the Oakleigh House Museum, the Mardi Gras Cottage Museum, and the Cox-Deasy Cottage. These magnificent examples of architecture, construction, and history are simply wonderful, and they offer numerous tours throughout the day for you and your family.

While on the complex you can see take a “day in the life of” tour, to really see what it was like to be a mid-19th century man or woman. Get a realistic view of the bygone society, family structure, and daily activities. It’s truly a memorable tour that I know you’ll love.

The Oakleigh House museum is the epitome of southern elegance and Greek revival architecture. The house is the official antebellum mansion of Mobile and for obvious reason, large and beautiful white columns, spiraling marble staircases, and detail work taken to the next level of experience and precision.

The museum is furnished with rare and unique antiques which would have been commonplace in the homes of wealthy 19th century families. Trust me, this is a tour you don’t want to miss, and the era-dressed guides are more than willing to show you some southern hospitality along the tour.

While you’re on the property make sure to stop by Cook’s quarters! These buildings once houses slavers on the property, but now they server as a reminder to America’s southern past. Though you won’t find any more forced labor going on, you will find a unique look into the past histories of Alabama and the plantation that once operated on these very grounds.

Take a look at how the slaves and servants once lived, and just how very different their lives were from those who lived in the Oakleigh House.

Finish your round with the Cox-Deasy home, which explains the historical significance and daily life struggles of the average working class in the mid 19th century. It’s not often that we can truly open the windows of time, but this museum truly does succeed and will give you a whole new respect for just how far humanity has come.

It’s easy to see why the Oakleigh Complex has become one of the most sought after historical sites in the country. With great historical significance, exciting architecture, antique buildings and furnishings, well it’s a no brainer to me! You won’t believe your ears and eyes along the tours and I know you’ll create memories that’ll last a life time.

Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo – A Survivor and Must See on Your Alabama Vacation

In June of 1989 The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo opened its doors the public. The zoo beginning was a humble one and was the result of a donation by the Ward family. In 1991 the family donated 17 acres of prime gulf coast real estate for the establishment of the zoo. The gesture of unimaginable kindles launched the park into one of Alabama’s top tourist attractions, drawing children and adults alike to it’s plethora of animals

Over 300 species will entertain you and your family as you walk the recently expanded park trails and pathways. From bears and monkeys, to lions, lizards, and birds, you’ll find pretty much everything you’d want to see here at this quaint coastal zoo.

Over the course of its lifetime the zoo has survived many grave challenges. After a direct hit from Hurricane Ivan the zoo suffered over a half million dollars in damages. Though through countless hours of hard work and the dedication of dozens of zoo staff members and volunteers the zoo was fixed and reopened. Just as the zoo was returning to normal operation disaster struck again in the form of Hurricane Katrina, ravaging the zoo and its animal population. Though once again “the little zoo that could” survived, rebuilt, and is now reopened yet again!

The zoo is truly a testament to humanities generosity and love of animals. The small zoo, which started as nothing more than one family’s donation, has evolved into a fantastic attraction. From the hundreds of animals and family friendly walking trails to the stocked gift shop and bountiful variety of restaurants, well in short, you’re going to love this zoo!

Southern Adventures – An Alabama Attraction Worth the Time

Looking for fun in the sun? A thrill a minute and some family bonding time? Then look no further than Southern Adventures Amusement Park!

This is a great attraction for the whole family. The carnival on steroids is packed full of rides and attractions, from go-carts and bumper cars, to the Ferris wheel and two miniature golf courses.

I’ve always been a bit of a go-cart buff myself and I give this track my seal of approval. With over a quarter mile of paved track you can zip and weave all afternoon! Take part in your own personal Southern Adventures 500 and pit the family in a match of racing strength, either in single carts or doubles.

Can’t take all day in the heat? Me Either!

Southern Adventures is packed full of water rides. The central tower at nearly fifty feet talk will be your gateway for slip sliding fun. Hop on any one of the park’s 500 feet worth of slides. On top of the great slides there is a gigantic 2000 sq. ft. pool for just relaxing the day away. No need to worry about the kids, with a trained and well equipped lifeguard staff you and your family will be safe under the constant vigilance.

Ready for a bit of culture?

Ha! Ha! Well not quite, though the Aztec themed Amazon Café will offer you plenty of domestic delights to satisfy even the pickiest eater. From French fries to chicken strips, burgers to hotdogs, smoothies to shakes, you’ll find it all and much more at the café. So stop inside the beautifully themed and fully air conditioned facility and delight both your imagination and your stomach.

If you’d rather bring a picnic, feel free! There are loads of benches and covered areas for you and your family to have a great lunch along the beautiful Alabama terrain. With facilities large enough to house 200 people, the park is well equipped to handle large groups.

After an exciting day of Southern Adventures you’ll want to be sure to stop by the Birmingham Zoo. It’s a great place to simply stroll the day away while taking in the sights and sounds of the World’s critters.

If you’re planning your summer trip to Alabama, and I don’t know why you wouldn’t be by now, then you absolutely must check out Southern Adventures. Great rides, great food, and an awesome place to make memories that’ll last a lifetime. Believe me; your kids will thank you.

Travelogue – Northeast Alabama

Gadsden, Alabama, fifty miles northeast of Birmingham, is nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. It is divided between east and west by the Coosa River. Gadsden was founded by a captain of a steamboat that traveled the Coosa in the early 1800s.

Home to Cherokee and Creek native Americans before the white settlers arrived, many areas are in that part of the state are named for the tribes that once occupied northeast Alabama. Etowah and Cherokee counties are two examples.

Noccalula Falls and Park, one to the state’s top tourist attractions, is located on Lookout Mountain. The falls, which are part of Black Creek, plunge 100 feet to the gorge below. Visitors can take stairs down into the gorge and under the falls. The park is replete with a campground, pavilions, a miniature sightseeing railroad, pioneer homestead, petting zoo, and a miniature golf course..

The falls were named for an Indian princess, Noccalula, who, according to legend, was in love with a brave in her own tribe. When her father chose a brave for her to marry from a neighboring tribe, she became so distraught that she threw herself off the precipice of the falls to her death.

Other attractions in Gadsden include a cultural arts center with rotating art exhibits, music classes, a model railroad configured to resemble the town in the 1950s and 60s, and a children’s museum with hands-on learning exhibits. The city also boasts of two community theatre companies, a symphony orchestra, a youth orchestra, and a museum of art.

Broad Street runs the length of the downtown shopping district and has been retrofitted with street lights and stops lights of a bygone era. At night, the buildings on Broad Street are aglow with accent lights along the roofs.

On the first Friday of each month, Broad Street is blocked off in the late afternoon in order to host First Friday, an area-wide event featuring classic vehicles, musical acts, performers, and various food and merchandise vendors.

The Etowah (county) Youth and Strings orchestra has performed nationally including Carnegie Hall. The Theatre of Gadsden, formerly the Gadsden Civic Theatre, has showcased outstanding talent for more than sixty years. A recently-formed theatre troop, CharACTers, produces children’s and youth-oriented plays.

The City of Gadsden hosts local, regional and national softball tournaments at various fields and fishing tournaments on the Coosa River and Lake Henry Neely.

Neighboring Cherokee County is home to Weiss Lake, known as the crappie capital, and to Cherokee Rock Village where a portion of the movie, “Failure to Launch,” was filmed. Going north on 431, one finds Marshall County and the town of Guntersville with its several square mile lake, formed from the Tennesee River. At Guntersville State Park, bald eagle watching takes place every spring. At the Dot Moore Theatre, musicals, dramas, and comedies are performed year round.

Farther north on interstate 59 and highway 11 is DeKalb County with its splendid DeSoto Caverns and State Park. The county seat of Fort Payne is home to the megastar country music band, Alabama.

Vacation in Birmingham, Alabama – A True Southern Gem

Looking for quality family fun, but don’t want to have to take out a second mortgage to afford it? Then look no further than the glorious vacation awaiting you at Birmingham, Alabama!

The whole family will simply love the Alabama Adventure Theme Park. You’ll love the classic Ferris wheel, go-carts, and bumper cars, but if you’re a little more adventures you’ll want to check out Rampage, one of the largest, fastest, and most back-twisting fun you’ll find east of the Mississippi.

Don’t stop there though; there are loads of other rides including Zoomerang. This steel monster launches you around tight turns and huge hills. After an exciting ride on the Zoomerang go cool off with some slashing good fun on Alabama Adventure Theme Park’s numerous water rides. And what would a theme park be without food beyond your wildest dreams? Huge turkey legs, funnel cakes, ice cream, chicken fingers, cotton candy, and much more can be found along Celebration Street within the park. Take it from me, Alabama Adventure Theme Park is a great time, and I know your family will love it.

After you thrill seekers have been satisfied you should stop by the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. The 67 acres of trails are simply magnificent. Stop by the local café and get a drink before you take in the full beauty of the indigenous Alabama flowers, trees, and other plant life. While you’re meandering through the gardens make sure to check out the Japanese Garden. The very rare tea house is simply elegant and showcases the true beauty of Japanese culture.

If you’re into elegant old fashioned buildings then you’ll love the wide selection of Antebellum Homes available for tour in Alabama. Many of these Greek revival built homes are open for tour daily, allowing you to appreciate the architecture and construction of generations gone by. Be sure to check out the Weeden House Museum. The home turned museum houses the life works of Nationally renowned painter, Mrs. Maria Howard. The elegant buildings, furnishings, and delicate water colors of the Weeden House Museum are a worth attraction you shouldn’t miss.

So what are you waiting for?! With such a fun family-friendly environment it’s easy to see why more and more tourists flock to the attractions of Alabama every year.

The One and Only Awesome Alabama Adventure Theme Park

Located west of Birmingham, the park encompasses many rides split into two fun filled sections, one for water, and the other for the dry rides.

Well, if it is the dry section you decide to start with, then make your first ride one of the most popular. One of the largest wooden roller coasters in the United States, the Rampage, is wickedly thrilling as you race up and down the hills taking each turn with blazing speed. You can feel your teeth rattle.

Still want more? Check out the next round of heart pumping action at Zoomerang! Zoomerang is a boomerang-style steel coaster, throw your hands up as the cars launch forward through a round of cork-screws and high speed turns.

Perfect for a family vacation, the Alabama Adventure Theme Park is a great vacation destination spot. Future plans include go-carts, a petting zoo, an indoor water park camp grounds and superb hotel accommodations.

You’ll want to make sure Alabama Adventure Theme Park is on your to-do list in the great Yellowhammer state.

Get ready to get wet, at Steel Waters, the park’s water rides section. Climb to the top of the water slide tower and hold your breath, because you’ll hit the water before you even know it. Grab a raft and relax in the wave pool, an attraction both you and the kids will love. No matter what you choose, it’s sure to be one that’ll soak you full of fun!

By now you appetite must be raging, so head over to Celebration Street and grab a Dippin’ Dots, the latest in ice cream rage, or you might enjoy a traditional funnel cake instead. Either way, you can’t go wrong. If the snacks don’t sound like what you are craving, then check out one of the many restaurants and enjoy a sub, pizza, hamburger, taco and even french fries.

And if you haven’t had enough of the theme park vacation, then think about heading on over to Huntsville, Alabama where you will find the Southern Adventures Amusement Park. Complete with more carnival-style rides, mini-golf, go-carts and even a water park. Of course you can also find even more shows and food galore.

The Alabama Adventure Theme Park, ranking in 2005 as Alabama’s second most popular attraction, is one Alabama adventure that both you and your children will be sure to enjoy. Wet rides, dry rides, carnival foods and shows galore, the Alabama Adventure Theme Park will keep you smiling all day long.

College Football

After a topsy-turvy 2007 college football season full of surprises, the 2008 college football season opened like business as usual. No less than 20 teams among the AP’s Top 25 Preseason Poll won their opener.

It would be hard to call 2 of the 5 losing teams as an upset-No. 9 Clemson lost at home to No. 24 Alabama 34-10, and No. 20 Illinois lost to No. 6 Missouri 52-42 on the road. This was a preseason poll and all 4 teams were ranked.

The only three real upsets were No. 17 Virginia Tech’s loss to host East Carolina, 27-22, since East Carolina was unranked, No. 25 Pittsburgh losing its opener at home to unranked Bowling Green 27-17, and No. 18 Tennessee’s overtime loss to host UCLA 27-24.

The 20 ranked winning teams racked up some pretty impressive opening victories:

No. 1 Georgia hosted and defeated 1-AA Georgia Southern 45-21. Georgia hosts Central Michigan next, another easy opponent.

No. 2 Ohio State hosted and shut out 1-AA Youngstown State 43-0. Ohio State hosts in-state rival Ohio next.

No. 3 Southern California (USC) traveled to Virginia and won easily on the road 52-7. USC takes a week off and then hosts Ohio State on Sept. 13, giving them lots of time to prepare for the Buckeyes.

No. 4 Oklahoma hosted and ripped apart 1-AA Chattanooga 57-2. Oklahoma hosts Cincinnati next, another lightweight.

No. 5 Florida hosted Hawaii and gave the Warriors a taste of top competition, 56-10. Florida hosts in-state rival Miami next.

No. 6 Missouri hosted and defeated No. 20 Illinois 52-42. Both of these teams should be good again this year, but it does not appear than either of them has a defense against a good offense. Missouri hosts in-state rival Southeast Missouri State next while Illinois hosts in-state rival Eastern Illinois. Both should win easily.

No. 7 Louisiana State (LSU) saw 1-AA Appalachian State coming to Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge and promptly sent them packing with a 41-13 loss. LSU hosts Troy next. Troy should get run over.

No. 8 West Virginia hosted and defeated 1-AA Villanova 48-21. West Virginia travels to East Carolina next and the Mountaineers from the Big East Conference had better be on their game. The East Carolina Pirates from Conference USA are on a big time roll. Coach Skip Holtz led East Carolina past Boise State last year in the Hawaii Bowl, giving him two huge wins in a row.

No. 10 Auburn hosted and shut out Louisiana-Monroe 34-zip. Auburn hosts Southern Mississippi next.

No. 11 Texas hosted and smashed Florida Atlantic 52-10. Texas travels to in-state rival Texas-El Paso (UTEP) next, another easy opponent for the Longhorns.

No. 12 Texas Tech’s pass-happy offense blew by 1-AA visitor Eastern Washington 49-24 and will travel to Nevada next.

No. 13 Wisconsin feasted on Akron 38-17 in the Badgers’ home opener, and host Marshall next. Many pundits are looking at Wisconsin as a powerhouse in the Big Ten this year. Akron might agree.

No. 14 Kansas treated visiting Florida International like road kill in a 40-10 victory. The Jayhawks host weak Louisiana Tech next.

No. 15 Arizona State hosted and turned back 1-AA in-state rival Northern Arizona 30-13. Next up for the Sun Devils is visiting Stanford, which won a big game in its home opener against Oregon State 36-28.

No. 16 Brigham Young (BYU) hosted and stormed past 1-AA Northern Iowa 41-17 and now travels to Washington to face a young, inexperienced Husky team.

No. 17 Virginia Tech lost to host East Carolina 27-22 and should easily rebound when the Hokies host 1-AA Furman next. Trust me when I say it will not be a good day to be Furman. Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, the master of special teams play, got beat when East Carolina’s T. J. Lee scooped up his own blocked punt and ran it in for a 27-yard touchdown with 1:52 left to seal the Pirates’ victory. Beamer and his band of Virginia Tech players will take it out on Furman. Virginia Tech should drop in the first regular-season AP Poll this week, especially since East Carolina was an unranked team.

No. 18 Tennessee traveled to UCLA and lost a heartbreaker to UCLA 27-24. The Volunteers led 14-7 at the half, led 14-10 after the 3rd quarter, watched UCLA take a 24-21 lead with 27 seconds left in the 4th quarter, managed to tie the game at 24, and then lost in overtime when UCLA’s kicker made a 42-yard field goal and Tennessee’s kicker missed a 34-yarder. The win represented the first game and first win for new coach Rick Neuheisel’s UCLA coaching debut at his alma mater.

No. 19 South Florida hosted and stomped Tennessee-Martin 56-7. Next up for South Florida will be a trip to in-state rival Central Florida. South Florida surprised a lot of teams last year with a 9-4 record, including a 56-21 loss to Oregon in the Brut Sun Bowl.

No. 20 Illinois traveled to No. 6 Missouri and lost 52-42 in a high-scoring offensive shootout.

No. 21 Oregon hosted and put a licking on Washington 44-10. The Huskies, who only trailed 14-10 at the half, proved no match for Oregon’s spread offense and speed. Oregon hosts Utah State next while Washington has its home opener against BYU. Coach Ty Willingham and his Washington players will be lucky to leave Husky Stadium with their shirts on after BYU gets done with them.

No. 22 Penn State hosted and stomped a mud hole in 1-AA Coastal Carolina 66-10. Penn State will host a very angry Oregon State team next. The Nittany Lions had better be ready because the Beavers play tough, hard-nosed football to say it kindly.

No. 23 Wake Forest traveled to Baylor and got the job done, 41-13.

No. 24 Alabama traveled to No. 9 Clemson and the Crimson Tide rolled out with an impressive 34-10 victory. We predicted that Clemson could be in trouble with a capital T, and in fact they were. Alabama led 23-3 at the half and outscored Clemson 11-7 in the second half. Alabama entertains Tulane next in the Crimson Tide’s home opener. The Bryant-Denny Stadium will be rockin’, and unless the Earth caves in, Alabama will be 2-0.

No. 25 Pittsburgh had its season opener at home against Bowling Green and came up short, losing to the Falcons from the Mid-American Conference, 27-17. Is Pittsburgh that bad? Yes. Bowling Green is a Mid-American Conference team and Pittsburgh plays in the Big East Conference. If Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt keeps this up, he will never get any respect. Are you aware that Bowling Green won the Mid-American East title last year, went 8-4 overall and played in the GMAC Bowl? Yes, the Falcons lost to Tulsa 63-7 in their bowl game, but at least they went.

Pittsburgh last year was 5-7 overall and spent the season sucking pond water. A lot of fans are in prayer in Pittsburgh, hoping the Panthers will get better. Will someone please inform rabid Panther Nation fans that it is OK to pray like it depends on God, but the Panther players need to act like it depends on them. Pittsburgh should fall right out of the first regular-season AP Poll and take its rightful place in obscurity.

Seven of the 8 non-ranked teams that needed to win their opener did. Only Michigan, which lost its opener at home last year to 1-AA Appalachian State 34-32, managed to lose again at home in the Big House to Utah, 25-23. The loss represented the first game and first loss for new coach Rich Rodriguez. Had Michigan not come up with 13 points in the last quarter, the Wolverines would have lost 25-10. Do you think they sell Utah jerseys in Ann Arbor? In fairness, Michigan did end up at 8-4 last year and did beat Florida 41-35 in the Capital One Bowl.

The 7 non-ranked teams that won included:

Arizona over Idaho 70-0 (49-zip at the half), Arkansas over 1-AA Western Illinois 28-24 (don’t laugh, at least the Razorbacks won), Boise State over 1-AA Idaho State 49-7, Boston College over Kent State 21-0, Connecticut over 1-AA Hofstra 35-3, Kansas State over North Texas 45-6, and Nebraska over Western Michigan 47-24 (the Cornhuskers still have a lot of work to do).

Add-on winners include Colorado at home over in-state rival Colorado State 38-17 (this game is in the same category as the Oregon-Oregon State civil war shootout every year), and Wyoming at home over Ohio 21-20 (many Wyoming backers have made big bucks betting on Wyoming at home over the years).

And my pick for game of the week? The mighty Buffalo Bulls (hear my mighty roar) scored in every quarter to paste visiting Texas-El Paso (UTEP) 42-17. Keep an eye on Buffalo. The Bulls, with coach Turner Gill, have decided to stop being the NCAA’s doormat and start beating people because they can.

That’s the story on this opening week wrap-up. Other teams may have played and won, but until they stop standing around and looking important rather than actually beating someone, they get no coverage here.

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

Read my other detailed, knowledgeable, interesting articles on football, including:

“Famous Quotes by Vince Lombardi, Knute Rockne and Lou Holtz During Football’s Annual Bowl Season”

“How to Predict When Teams Are Overrated and Due for an Unexpected Loss”

“The Sagarin Ratings: What They Are, How to Read Them and What to Do With Them”

and my 14 consecutive weekly wrap-up articles on the 2007 College Football Season as well as wrap-up articles on all 32 College Bowl Games.

Northeast Alabama on the World’s Longest Yard Sale Route

Hundreds of folks participate as vendors and shoppers each year in the World’s Longest Yard Sale. The route stretches for 690 miles through six states along the Hwy 127 corridor from Gadsden, Alabama to Addison, Michigan. Communities and individuals will clean out their closets and attics and welcome buyers over a four day weekend in early August. There are great bargains to be found and plenty of interesting people to meet along the way. Businesses participate by holding sidewalk sales and special promotions. Some communities plan additional festivities over the weekend. Covering the entire route is difficult, so most travelers will concentrate on a small portion. Many people take time to explore points of interest along the way. Here are some highlights covering the southern part of the World’s Longest Yard Sale route in northeastern Alabama.

Travelers can expect to find more than 1,000 vendors in Alabama. There are treasures to be found from antiques to furniture, collectibles, furniture, household items, clothing, fresh produce, and homemade jams. The yard sale trail begins in Gadsden, Alabama, at Noccalula Falls Park atop Lookout Mountain. Local legend claims that an Indian princess jumped from the waterfall here to avoid marriage to a man she did not love. Today the park has an animal habitat exhibit, pioneer village, campground, and mini golf. The road outside the park heads north and becomes AL Hwy 176. The route between Gadsden and Chattanooga, Tennessee is known as Lookout Mountain Parkway, although route numbers will change several times.

Bargain hunters should travel along the parkway to Fort Payne, Alabama. The Big Mill Antique Mall is worth exploring, as are other antique shops located along Gault Avenue downtown. Fans of the country music group Alabama may want to stop by the Alabama Fan Club and Museum, located at 101 Glenn Boulevard, while in town. North of Fort Payne, Lookout Mountain Parkway travels through scenic Little River Canyon and DeSoto State Park. Here travelers can take a break from the highway and enjoy the mountain scenery. The state park’s Mountain Inn Restaurant makes a great stop for lunch or dinner.

Mentone, Alabama is a small mountain resort town atop Lookout Mountain with shops, restaurants, and bed and breakfast inns. Shoppers will find several art galleries in town and in the Log Cabin Village. On leaving Mentone yard sale shoppers will turn onto AL Hwy 117, which will take them into Georgia for a few miles and on toward Chattanooga, Tennessee.

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Wine Trails – Wine Travel Blossoms in Alabama

Much of Alabama’s wine country is located in the central part of the state, where the hilly terrain is conducive to vineyards and grape growing. South of Birmingham, it’s a downhill run to Montgomery, the state capital, and Mobile, a lively port city hugging the Gulf Coast.

When you visit, you’ll navigate Interstate 65, which cuts a north/south path through the heart of Alabama. Travel is a breeze and most attractions are easily accessible off the highway. Currently, there are three wineries in the southern half of Alabama, so when you combine winery visits with the friendly cities of Montgomery and Mobile, you’ve got the makings of an ideal 3-4 day getaway.

Planning The Route: Two I-65 Wineries

Our plans called for a mid morning departure from Birmingham with an overnight stay in Montgomery. Then, a half day’s drive to Mobile and the subtropical climate of Mobile Bay and the Gulf Coast. Two Alabama wineries sit along the I-65 corridor between Birmingham and Montgomery, which are 90 miles apart. And so, after a light breakfast in Birmingham we headed south on I-65 with our sights set on Vizzini Famrs Winery. Located only 1/2 hour south of the city, Vizzini is open daily at 10 a.m. and is easy to find right off exit 234.

Vizzini offers an onsite deli and outdoor patio where you can enjoy lunch overlooking the vineyards. We arrived at 10:30, too early for lunch, although we did snack on freshly baked bread and local cheese from the deli counter.

You’ll have your choice of about a dozen Vizzini wines, made from a combination of west coast and Alabama grapes. If you’re familiar with our travelogues, you know we like to “drink local” and sample wines made with local grapes. At Vizzini Farms Winery, that means a terrific Cabernet Franc, whose smooth flavor compared favorably to Virginia or California wines of this style.

Sensing how much we liked the Cabernet Franc, our tasting guide suggested the Sangiovese, a red Italian table style wine that had us thinking of a pairing with barbeque. Among others we liked were a Pinot Noir, Blush, and a pleasantly surprising Riesling that was right in our sweet spot. We aren’t sure where the grapes originate for Vizzini Farms’ Riesling, but we recommend it as a “must try”. Crisp and a bit sweeter than many Rieslings, we wish we’d bought more than one bottle.

Less than 10 minutes away, only a mile off exit 228 near the town of Calera, is the beautiful and welcoming Ozan Vineyard and Cellars. If you’re pressed for time and can only visit one winery in Alabama, Ozan is a good choice. Situated on a 24 acre estate in the midst of Alabama wine country, this relatively new winery boasts a continually expanding vineyard with emphasis on the Norton grape.

Ozan’s Wine Train

One of Ozan Vineyard’s more interesting projects is their monthly wine train excursion, which combines wine tasting with a leisurely train ride through the countryside. Operating from April through November, each trip offers a different environmental focus, depending on the season. These Saturday journeys last three hours and include wine tasting, gourmet box lunch, and theme narration. See Ozan’s website for more details.

We settled in for a taste of Ozan’s Norton Red Label. Norton wines are fast becoming our red wine favorite, having been introduced to the style in Missouri and southern Illinois. We weren’t surprised to see it here, as the countryside reminded us of central Missouri. This wine is big and bold, with an appealing black cherry flavor and mildly oakey finish. Also try the Reserve Merlot, vinted from local grapes and aged for 16 months.

For something sweeter, there’s Ozan Peach. Peach wines are big in Alabama and this one is really good! Very pleasant and well made, it’s not overwhelmingly sweet and has the aroma and flavor of farm fresh peaches.

There are almost a dozen wines to try here, with special releases planned through 2009. Only minutes off I-65, it’s an ideal stop between Birmingham and Montgomery. Ozan is a big supporter of the Alabama Wine Trail and helps enhance promotion of the Alabama wine industry. They’re open Fridays and Saturdays, 11-6.

Down I-65 To Montgomery

Less than an hour from Ozan is Alabama’s historic state capital, Montgomery. Located in the heart of Montgomery’s downtown a few short blocks from the Alabama River is a Montgomery landmark, Daisy’s Diner. Daisy’s is southern cooking personified. There’s a set menu at Daisy’s, and daily specials, usually focused around a “meat and three”. This means you’ll get one meat and three side dishes. From the moment we walked in, we were mesmerized by the scent of fried chicken, which was nothing short of outstanding. The outer breading was crisp and tasty, the chicken itself moist and tender. We also ordered a plate of meatloaf, with buttered corn, squash casserole, and turnip greens on the side. What a delicious introduction to Montgomery!

With just over 200,000 residents, Montogomery isn’t particularly large. It’s easy to navigate, especially the walkable downtown area. The city is rich in history, with numerous civil rights landmark sites. The best place to start is historic Union Station, an 1890’s era building housing the Montgomery Visitors Center. We viewed a short video overview of the city and visited “The Depot”, Montgomery’s official gift shop. You can also buy $1 all day passes to the Montgomery Trolley System, which will transport you all around the downtown area.

From here, your choices are many. Visit and tour the Alabama Capitol, explore historical sites, or spend an afternoon amidst the speciality shops on Mulberry Street. This is a government town, so the downtown is bustling, especially during the day.

We enjoyed meeting some local Montgomerians, who were delighted we were spending some time in their city. They claim many tourists bypass Montgomery on their way to the Gulf Coast and never experience the city’s charms. We enjoyed our visit very much, and recommend a day or two stay for anyone traveling through Alabama.