Nestled in the heart of America’s Southeast is Alabama, a state driven by legendary music venues, great eateries and a true Southern charm that just radiates from the locals you meet.
It truly does feel like a home away from home, and the energy was simply electric. The many Juke joints, intimate clubs and world-renowned live music halls playing everything from country to blues to jazz were a real treat and a joy for a music lover like me.
Dance Where the Locals Do
In the small town of Bessemer, I was tipped off by one of the very friendly locals to one of the South’s hidden gems, Gip’s Place. Back in the 1950s, Henry “Gip” Gipson decided to open a juke joint in his backyard. To this day, it entices independent bands from across the USA and remains a weekend hot spot. Bring your own food and drink and get down with the locals, Southern-style!
Visit Iconic Recording Studios
Alabama really did put itself on the map musically, and many songs that became world-wide hits came from recording studios such as Muscle Shoals Sound and FAME in northwest Alabama. I highly recommend taking time to visit these studios in Muscle Shoals and experience where The Rolling Stones, Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin made music history. Learn all about the state's music history at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame
Trying out the recording studio at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in Tuscumbia
Dining and Nightlife in the Alley Entertainment District
In the capital of Montgomery, you will find one of my favorite places, the Alley Entertainment District, a delightful array of bars and restaurants serving a variety of specialty drinks and dishes. I stopped into the flight-themed Aviator Bar, sat in a faux war bunker and had a delicious cocktail. Be sure to head to the Alley Bar on weekends when an eclectic clientele often begins their night at Sous La Terre, a club that opens at midnight and goes on until the sun comes up!
Singers at the Alley Bar in Montgomery
Relaxing on the Beach in Gulf Shores
I’ll be honest, I would have never associated Alabama with being a beach lover’s destination. How wrong was I? The white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters of Gulf Shores provide peace and tranquility, a perfect way to unwind and soak in the sun. If you enjoy seafood, you will be in the right place! Head to Wintzell’s Oyster House in Mobile to savor oysters plucked fresh from the Gulf of Mexico.
Dining on fresh seafood at Wintzell's Oyster House in Mobile
Enjoy Live Music with a Gulf View
With so many great live music acts in the South, one place they seem to congregate is The Hangout on Beach Boulevard in Gulf Shores. I found this beach bar to be family-friendly and abundant in great food and drinks. The bonus: ocean views and a delightful sea breeze.
You should also visit the Flora-Bama, known as the Last Great Roadhouse in America. The name gives away its location – right on the Alabama-Florida state line, a wooden beach hut-style maze of rooms that hosts dining, drinking and live music, all with Gulf views. I danced the night away to a fun cover band and mingled with the friendly locals.
From its friendly and welcoming locals to the incredible and diverse landscape, Alabama really does offer something for everyone. Dive into the heritage of a state that helped shape the music of America, dance next to a sandy beach or enjoy fun downtown nightlife; it’s all here in the Sweet Home of the South.
Happy hour by the Gulf of Mexico in Gulf Shores