Made up of a variety of unique features you won’t find anywhere else in the country, Alabama has so much to offer, including its world record-breaking roadside attractions, its water-based mail delivery system, Southern hospitality, and so much more.
For those who are not familiar with the state, Alabama also has a very large collection of lakes, state parks, and nature preserves that are sure to win the hearts of all kinds of nature enthusiasts.
Throw in its many country stores, restaurants, and cafes serving up amazing comfort food and that southern hospitality we all know and love, you may be wondering why you haven’t booked a trip to this quaint state already!
With small-town charm around every corner and populations as little as 20 people, check out this list of the best 20 towns to ensure that you get a chance to visit the best Alabama has to offer.
Table of Contents
- 1. Guntersville
- 2. Athens
- 3. Monroeville
- 4. Fairhope
- 5. Fort Payne
- 6. Daphne
- 7. Decatur
- 8. Valley
- 9. Muscle Shoals
- 10. Cullman
- 11. Florence
- 12. Eufaula
- 13. Homewood
- 14. Irondale
- 15. Leeds
- 16. Mountain Brook
- 17. Selma
- 18. Tuscumbia
- 19. Tuskegee
- 20. Mooresville
- 21. Magnolia Springs
- 22. Orange Beach
- 23. Prattville
- 24. Huntsville
- 25. Montgomery
- 26. Lowndesboro
- 27. Anniston
- 28. Talladega
- 29. Scottsboro
- 30. Fruithurst
With the state’s largest lake located in the heart of town, Guntersville is an adorable small town filled with lakeside views and outdoor recreation.
One of the most popular things to do in town is visiting the Lake Guntersville State Park where you can spend hours fishing on the 69,100-acre lake, hike amongst the 36 miles of trails, go for a swim on the beach, and play a round of golf at the highly acclaimed golf course.
Stop by the Guntersville Museum & Cultural Center to learn more about the town’s rich history as you walk through exhibits focusing on life along the Mississippi River and learn about the Native Americans who once called this land home.
Right outside of town is the intriguing Cathedral Caverns State Park where you can take a tour of a unique cave, see its strange formations, and even sift through dirt looking for gems.
Travel back in time to the Arab Historic Village, which provides visitors a perspective of late 19th-century life through its 10 fully restored buildings and their remaining artifacts.
Known as one of the oldest towns in the state of Alabama, Athens is rich with history and small-town charm – so get ready to learn something new while taking in the sights!
One of the most visited attractions in town is the Alabama Veterans Museum & Archives because of its significance not only to the state but to the entire country. Admire military artifacts like uniforms, letters, and medals dating back to the Revolutionary War, and check out the museum’s monthly meet where you can listen to war stories from surviving heroes.
Regardless of the season, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Isom’s Orchard, where you can enjoy a rotating selection of fruit to pick including apples, peaches, plums, and more.
Head over to Joe Wheeler State Park for a scenic day exploring the great outdoors in whichever style you prefer, whether it be boating on the water or hiking along the many trails that border the lake.
If you happen to be in town on a Saturday, you’re in luck – as this is when the Athens Saturday Market occurs, offering fresh produce, artisan goods, and homemade crafts from local vendors.
Everything about the small town of Monroeville is charming, from its quiet scenic roads to its historic downtown square.
Start your adventure by visiting the Monroe County Museum and learn about the rich history of the country by walking through a fully restored courthouse and its exhibits.
Monroeville is considered to be the literary capital of the state being the birthplace of Harper Lee, the highly acclaimed author who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. The statue known as “A Celebration of Reading” was built in the center of town in her honor.
If you’d like to learn more about the statue and other historical landmarks, consider taking a self-guided walking tour of the town – which is completely free, and can be downloaded on your phone.
Stop by the Old Monroe County Bank Building to walk the grounds where Harper Lee wrote much of her iconic book and continue on to discover 14 literary sculptures depicted through town.
When you need a break, make your way over to Monroe County Lake or one of the town’s four parks to spend some time with nature.
Tucked away along Mobile Bay, the quaint town of Fairhope is a hidden gem if you’ve ever seen one, with its stellar waterfront shopping opportunities, an abundance of outdoor recreation, and rich history.
One of the most popular things to do in town is going for a stroll along the Fairhope Municipal Pier to take in the sweeping views of Mobile Bay – which only become much more beautiful at sunset.
Spend some time on Fairhope Avenue hopping from one boutique shop to another, checking out the bookstores and cafes, admiring pieces at one of the many art galleries, and grabbing a bite to eat at one of the trendy restaurants.
This strip is considered to be the heart of the city and is the perfect place to mingle with friendly locals and get into the holiday spirit during the colder months when it is transformed into a winter wonderland.
Learn something new about town at the Fairhope Museum of History, explore the diverse ecosystems at the Weeks Bay Reserve, and admire some of the local artists at Eastern Shore Art Centre.
5. Fort Payne
If you enjoy spending most of your time exploring state parks and natural wonders, you definitely don’t want to miss an opportunity to visit the small town of Fort Payne.
The most well-known and scenic places to visit is Little River Canyon Preserve, where you can explore some of its 15,288 acres and visit three of its breathtaking waterfalls:
- Little River Falls
- DeSoto Falls
- Grace’s High Falls
Spend your time hiking some of the many trails, going for a swim in one of its swimming holes, and keeping the good times rolling by pitching up tents along the river.
The most popular place to swim in the preserve is Martha’s Falls, so expect to see large crowds on hot days – but don’t let that deter you from visiting the falls and admiring its beauty.
As most people swarm to the preserve, the DeSoto State Park is a quieter alternative – which is surprising, considering its abundance of waterfalls and 25+ miles of hiking trails.
Nicknamed “Jubilee City”, there’s more to the charming small town of Daphne than the natural phenomenon that brings in an abundance of easy-to-catch shellfish.
Located along Mobile Bay, you can’t go wrong with a visit to the Daphne Bayfront Park to take in the views of the water, sit for a scenic picnic, hike along one of its nature trails, and walk to the end of the pier.
If you’re looking for something exciting, plan a visit to the Gator Alley Boardwalk where you can get up close and personal with these wild creatures. To keep your heart racing, hop on an Airboat Tour on the Delta to view these gators in a new light and learn about the diverse ecosystem along the way.
Learn about some of our military’s past at the Battleship Memorial Park, check out the largest collection of sport-based art at American Sport Art Museum and Archives, and dive deep into the town’s history at the Daphne History Museum.
Nestled along Wheeler Lake, the small waterfront town of Decatur will take you back in time with its many historic museums and landmarks.
Learn about the many struggles faced through the Civil War at The Blue And Gray Museum, walk through many different exhibits, and check out artifacts like the weapons used at the time.
The Carnegie Visual Arts Center is set up in one of the many historical buildings in town and is a great place to check out both local and nationwide artwork.
Spend the day exploring nearly 2,000 exhibits at Cook’s Natural Science Museum to learn about a variety of different endangered species including the bald eagle.
Although the Old State Bank has shifted its gears many times over its 200 years of existence, ranging from a hospital to a dance hall, it has officially been listed as a historical landmark – and now holds a large collection of artifacts that portrays the town’s history.
Once a village of textile mills, the small town of Valley is rich with history and its close proximity to the Chattahoochee River allows for a large variety of outdoor activities, as well.
Much of the town’s activities are located around Lake Harding, and you’ll find many people swimming, boating, fishing, and more along its 5,850 acres.
The Chattabrewchee Southern Brewhouse is worth a visit for its fine selection of local beers, but what makes it even more intriguing is the fact that it’s the first brewery owned by a female in the military.
Although gloomy, Little Nadine’s Grave is the only gravesite of its kind; Nadine’s father had been building her a playhouse when she passed away at the age of four – and this small house was used as her gravestone.
9. Muscle Shoals
The small town of Muscle Shoals is overflowing with history from its creation of music studies that brought many artists into fame to being the birthplace of the famous Helen Keller.
Check out the unique architecture at the Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum House which is one of the few Usonian-style homes still standing today.
Go for a tour of the FAME Recording Studios, which is said to have brought many popular artists that we know and love today into fame such as Aretha Franklin and The Rolling Stones.
Stop by the Ivy Green to see where Helen Keller spent her days as a child and explore the many artifacts from her interesting childhood that still remain to this day.
If you’re a music lover, you won’t want to miss an opportunity to visit the Alabama Music Hall of Fame where you can explore a variety of exhibits focused on famous artists, producers, and songwriters.
The quirky small town of Cullman has a surprisingly large and diverse selection of things to keep you busy with options available for all kinds of travelers.
The most talked-about attraction, the Ave Maria Grotto, holds the title as the most unique in town – as this 4-acre park portrays some of the most significant religious structures across the globe in miniature sizes throughout its grounds.
Spend some time at the Sportsman Lake Park where you can head out on the water on a paddleboat, enjoy a scenic picnic, and stretch out your legs on one of its many walking trails.
The Clarkson Covered Bridge is one of the most popular historic sites in town and can be accessed by taking a short hike to it and its neighboring grist mill.
Make no mistake, the charming town of Florence may be small – but there are enough attractions here to keep you busy for days.
Travel back in time when visiting the Walnut Street Historic District and admire the architecture of buildings dating back to the 1870s.
You’ll find McFarland Park, which holds great historical significance for the Native Americans who once lived here, located along the Tennessee River. Aside from its rich history, you can sail out on the river, go for a swim along the beach, visit the famous lighthouse, and enjoy dinner at the waterfront restaurant.
However you decide to spend your day, end the night on the right foot by visiting the Singin’ River Brewing Company to enjoy your fair share of locally brewed beers and live music in a cozy setting.
Located right along the border of Alabama and Georgia, the small town of Eufaula is the perfect getaway for visitors looking for easy access to more than one state.
Go for a hike across two states at Walter F. George Lake, also known as Lake Eufaula, and admire 85 miles worth of shoreline and a scenic dam along your travels.
Just a stone’s throw away is the Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge where you can observe over 40 species of mammals, reptiles, and fish in a variety of different settings.
Check out The Tree that Owns Itself located in the center of town, admire the statue of Manny the 12-Foot-Tall Fish, and venture to the out-of-place natural wonder known as Providence Canyon.
This hidden gem is located within the popular Alabama city, Birmingham, and provides the luxury of nearby city life without jeopardizing the peacefulness of its small-town vines.
Climb to the top of Vulcan Park and Museum to admire the statue of the Roman God of Fire while taking in the sweeping views of the city and countryside.
Take a short drive to the main city to check out:
- The Birmingham Zoo
- Birmingham Botanical Gardens
- Birmingham Civil Rights District
- Birmingham Railroad Park
Spend some time in the great outdoors exploring Red Mountain Park where you can spend hours hiking, zip-lining, and more – or stop by Sloss Furnaces Historic Landmark to learn about the town’s industrial history.
Another small town located in the Birmingham area is Irondale, which is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
Once known for its abundance of mines, Ruffner Mountain is a wonderful place to hike with its 14 miles of nature trails.
If you’d like to sit back and relax for a few hours, head over to the Irondale Train Watching Platform where you can sit amongst one of its many benches and watch as the historic freight trains pass you by.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head over to the Irondale Café across the street for a tasty plate of fried green tomatoes or a classic dish of fried chicken.
Although the charming town of Leeds is small in size, there’s a large variety of things to do for nature enthusiasts, history buffs, and shopping lovers alike.
It’s here that you’ll find one of Alabama’s largest and most well-kept secret markets, the Bama Flea Mall & Antiques Center, boasting over 400 vendors selling antiques you won’t find anywhere else.
Stop by the Rowan House Historical Home to get some perspective into what life was like in Leeds during the early 19th century as you admire its ancient architecture, stained glass windows, historic furniture.
Spend some time with nature at Lake Purdy where you can hop on a boat to get out on the water for some stellar fishing opportunities or go for a hike along and birdwatch along the water.
16. Mountain Brook
Considering the fact that Mountain Brook is a small town that doesn’t see much tourism, it is flourishing with activities ranging from outdoor recreation to out-of-this-world dining.
One of the best things to do is spend time at the Cahaba River Walk, where you can kayak on the water, have a scenic picnic, hike one of the many nature trails, and go swimming at one of the watering holes.
Another outdoor favorite is Jemison Park because of the old mill located on its grounds and its countless miles of trails perfect for hiking and biking.
Head over to Avondale Brewing Company to try some of the tastiest local beers while sitting in a historic landmark or head to the mom-and-pop Dyron’s Lowcountry Restaurant for a fine selection of southern comfort foods.
Known for its significant history of events during the American Civil Rights Movement, Selma is a town filled with importance to our nation’s fight for equality.
The most iconic historic landmark is the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where police officers attacked activists heading to Montgomery to fight for equality with Martin Luther King Jr. This event was known as Bloody Sunday, and many visitors make this their first stop in Selma to pay their respects to those who died for their efforts.
Along similar lines, the National Voting Rights Museum is just a stone’s throw away from the bridge and provides the history of the fight for African Americans to gain the freedom to vote.
Known for its abundance of outdoor attractions, Tuscumbia is the small town you need to visit if you enjoy spending your free time immersed in nature.
Stop by the picturesque Spring Park and see the large cascading waterfall at its center, and be sure to see the small lake with fountains that light up when the sun goes down.
If you have a thing for trains, head over to the Tuscumbia Railroad Depot Museum where you can admire artifacts from historic train systems and even try out a train simulator.
You won’t find a more scenic restaurant in town than the Rattlesnake Saloon, which is located below the face of a rock with a natural waterfall just steps away from its front door.
Located on the outskirts of the Tuskegee National Forest, this small town is nothing short of charming with its dense greenery and endless outdoor activities.
With the national forest just steps away, it makes sense that most people spend all of their time within its grounds marveling at its features regardless of the season.
The Tuskegee National Forest is actually the smallest national forest in the country, but don’t be fooled; it’s still 11,252 acres, with an abundance of hiking trails to enjoy.
While you explore the forest, consider going fishing on one of its ponds, horseback riding on one of its equestrian trails, and birdwatching at the Tsinia Wildlife Viewing Area.
The town is made up of just 6 streets, making it one of the smallest in the state – but its rich history and friendly locals make it worthy of a visit.
Everything about Mooresville screams small-town charm, from its mayor – who is the third in her family to acquire the seat – to the post office, which is the oldest of its kind in Alabama.
Start your day by stopping for a latte and a slice of fresh apple pie at JaVa Mooresville and finish up with dinner at the Stagecoach Inn and Tavern where you may even catch a town hall meeting in effect.
Support local businesses by going on a guided tour through town hosted by one of its residents, stopping in at 1818 Farms for some fresh produce, and checking out Lyla’s Little House’s delicious selections of ice cream, candy, and cheese straws.
21. Magnolia Springs
Nestled away along the Magnolia River, Magnolia Springs has been rated one of the most beautiful towns in the state and one visit to this charming place will tell you why.
Their mail delivery system is located on the river, the deputy checks in on locals’ homes for them when they go on vacations, and they hold a town meeting once a month to ensure the happiness of the community – talk about small-town charm!
You can’t go wrong with any of the activities in Magnolia Springs, so feel free to enjoy a day of kayaking along the river, hiking one of the many trails at Alabama Gulf State Park, or hopping on a few thrill rides at OWA Amusement Park.
22. Orange Beach
The coastal town of Orange Beach is probably the best place in Alabama to enjoy a beachfront getaway and its small-town charm is just icing on the cake.
You can easily spend your entire day at The Wharf, with its abundance of boutique shops, restaurants, bars, and the largest Ferris wheel in the southeastern part of the United States.
There’s a large variety of biking trails and an even larger variety of bike rental shops, so hop on a bike and enjoy the beach views on wheels.
Aside from the obvious swimming and sunbathing on Orange Beach itself, consider checking out other outdoor attractions like the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge and The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo.
Like many other small towns in Alabama, Prattville is a hub of outdoor recreation but has certain natural features that make it unlike any other place in the state.
Although not many know about the wonders of Prattville, those who do know that Wilderness Park is the best place to visit in town.
Aside from its abundance of active wildlife, plant species, and hiking trails, Wilderness Park is home to a massive bamboo forest that’ll make you feel like you’ve been transported to a different country.
Another great place to spend some time outdoors is Cooter’s Pond Park, where you can spend hours out on the water fishing to your heart’s content or simply enjoying a leisurely walk around its edges.
There’s something for everyone to enjoy in the small thriving town of Huntsville with its abundance of museums, shops, restaurants, parks, and more.
A popular attraction is the US Space and Rocket Centre where you can explore the first location for the country’s space program and enjoy a variety of simulators that’ll make you feel like you’re headed to space.
Other popular attractions include:
- The fine selection of artwork at the Huntsville Museum of Art
- The exploration of exotic animals at Harmony Park Safari
- The military memorial at the Us Veterans Memorial Museum.
- The Bridge Street Town Centre – where you can spend hours hopping from local shops, trying out tasty restaurants, and admiring lakefront views.
Although not necessarily a small town, as it’s the capital of Alabama, Montgomery manages to provide the same small-town charm that you’d find in other places in the state while also providing the luxuries of city life.
First and foremost, the Civil Rights Memorial stands in the center of town in memory of those whose lives were taken during the Civil Rights Movement and is surrounded by exhibits to educate visitors on the importance of equality.
Just down the road is the Rosa Parks Library and Museum, where you can learn more about the events that occurred and the important role they played in the movement.
Dive even deeper into the history of this city by visiting the Old Alabama Town, which is made up of over 50 restored homes dating back to the late 19th century.
The up-and-coming town of Lowndesboro won’t be small for long, as it continues to expand and grow into a thriving community with an abundance of activities both new and old to keep visitors entertained.
Head over to the Dicksonia Plantation to see what remains of a Greek-style mansion that was built in 1830 and has experienced fires two times over.
Pay your respects at the Holy Ground Battlefield Park where American soldiers sacrificed their lives for their country in 1813.
After you’ve visited some of the more historic areas in town, head downtown to enjoy a fine selection of trendy restaurants and bars.
Filled with funky roadside attractions, wildlife preserves, lakes, and museums, the small town of Anniston is sure to keep you entertained throughout your stay.
Plan a visit to the Anniston Museum of Natural History where you can walk through seven uniquely themed exhibits boasting over 2,000 historic artifacts from around the globe.
Stop to take a picture with the World’s Largest Chair, which stands 31 feet tall. Originally built as a furniture advertisement in 1981, the chair has since become a world record holder.
Tucked away between the Blue Ridge and the Appalachian Mountains, Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Preserve is a wonderful sight filled with beautiful natural features and thriving wildlife.
Known for its high speed racing and beautiful outdoor attractions, Talladega is the perfect blend of excitement and relaxation.
Check out one of the NASCAR competitions at Talladega Superspeedway for a nail-biting experience that is sure to get your heart racing.
After you’ve enjoyed some of the action, stop into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame where you can learn about some of the best race car drivers in history.
If motorsports aren’t your thing, head over to the Talladega National Forest where you can spend days hiking its many trails and spotting wildlife like the white-tailed deer.
Located along the Tennessee River, the small town of Scottsboro is filled with natural wonders and the important history of Native Americans who once lived along its banks.
One of the most amazing sights is located on the outskirts of town and is known as Stephens Gap because of the large gaping hole that leads into a cave – making it a popular destination for spelunkers looking for a bit of excitement.
Even if you don’t plan to climb down this vertical edge, the Gap is a beautiful sight to see – especially in the springtime, when greenery is at its peak and water trickles down – creating a small waterfall into the cave.
With a population of fewer than 200 people, it’s safe to say that Fruithurst is one of the smallest towns in Alabama, and every local you meet will greet you with a smile.
The town is peppered with historic churches but the most charming of them all is the Fruithurst United Methodist Church which was built in 1912.
Once a booming town, Fruithurst was severely impacted by the Great Depression and never really had the opportunity to regain some of its prestige, until recently.
The small town is quickly gaining popularity once more thanks to the establishment of The Fruithurst Winery Co. which is now considered to be a part of the North Alabama Wine Trail and boasts a fine selection of wine made fresh on its 15-acre vineyard.