The Deep South state of Alabama is a land of lively riverbank cities, sweeping sugar-white beaches and forested mountains under endless blue skies. It's also a place whose history is inextricably linked to that of the American Civil rights movement, which gained momentum under the leadership of the charismatic Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
From Lynyrd Skynyrd's famous ode to iconic recordings made at the famous Muscle Shoals Sound Studio by such luminaries as Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin, Alabama is a place steeped in the greatest traditions of American music. Take a tour of the studios themselves, then head to the Alabama Music Hall of Fame to learn more about Alabama's greatest home-grown talent, including the likes of Nat King Cole and Hank Williams.
Cities & the Civil Rights Movement
While Alabama's cities might not have the headline-grabbing allure of New York, San Francisco or New Orleans, there's still much to be said for their laid-back charms. The largest city, Birmingham, is one of urban innovation and regeneration, and has no shortage of excellent bars and restaurants serving up the best in traditional Southern food. There's a palpable sense of history here, too, best explored at the fascinating, and poignant, Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument. Indeed, throughout the state you'll find reminders of those troubled times, not least in the capital Montgomery, where in 1955, Martin Luther King Jr led a boycott of the city's buses after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man. It's an act memorialised today with a plaque at the site of her arrest.
An idyllic coast
Alabama's Gulf Coast beaches are nothing short of idyllic. Stretching out along the coast south of Mobile, white sands and turquoise seas provide days of endless relaxation and a delightful contrast to the farmlands and mountains to the north. Far quieter but just as beautiful as those in neighbouring Florida, this is a region to unwind and have fun, with everything from beach bars and golf courses to hiking and biking trails along peaceful coastal paths.