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Alabama offers variety of spring break options

Contributed

Sugar-white beaches, moon rockets and the world’s largest cast iron statue are just a few of the great spring break family destinations in Alabama.

This is the perfect time to explore Alabama’s history and culture as the state prepares to kick off its three-year bicentennial commemoration.  The Museum of Alabama, Moundville Archeological Park, and Old Town Alabama each offer a unique look into our state’s past.  Bellingrath Gardens and other natural destinations are also popular family vacation spots.

Spring break is the traditional start of the tourist season and that is good for the state’s economy with families spending money in hotels, gas stations, shops and restaurants across the state.  Tourism is big business in Alabama with more than 25 million people visiting the state annually and spending close to $13 billion, state tourism officials said. 

The Alabama Tourism Department suggests the following attractions for spring break family trips.  For a complete attractions listing see www.alabama.travel.

Gulf Coast Beaches- Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and Dauphin Island
Alabama’s beautiful Gulf Coast is home to 32 miles of beach access and turquoise waters that are the perfect spring break trip.  The Gulf Coast is the state’s most popular tourist destination, attracting more than more than 6.3 million visitors last year.  Sugar-white beaches, fresh seafood, championship golf courses, dolphin watching cruises, charter fishing trips, wildlife areas and historic sites are just a few of the treasures.  The Wharf Entertainment Complex in Orange Beach is hosting a boat and yacht show March 23-26 with more than 700 boats exhibited. The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo features 16 acres with more than 250 exotic animals in natural habitats.  Other area attractions include the Fort Morgan Historic Site, Adventure Island and Waterville USA.  www.gulfshores.com

U.S. Space & Rocket Center- Huntsville
During the week of March 13-17, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center museum education team will be rolling out hands-on activities that include celebrating Albert Einstein’s birthday and Pi Day, Marshall Space Flight Center’s birthday, the first orbital docking in space and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s birthday. The U.S. Space & Rocket Center holds one of the world’s largest collections of rockets and space artifacts including Mercury and Gemini capsule trainers, the Apollo 16 capsule and a Saturn V rocket.  The rocket is suspended 10 feet above the floor, allowing visitors to walk underneath it. There are also interactive exhibits, space-travel simulators, a six-story IMAX theater and a space shuttle. www.rocketcenter.com 

Earlyworks Children’s Museum - Huntsville
Earlyworks Children’s Museum is the South’s largest hands-on history museum. It features a story-telling Talking Tree, giant-sized music instruments, a Kidstruction Zone, 46-foot Keelboat and a replica general store. Pre-schoolers will enjoy exploring Biscuit’s Backyard, a touch-and-learn area designed especially for them, which includes a garden, grocery store, water table and even karaoke. www.earlyworks.com

Vulcan Park and Museum- Birmingham
Vulcan is the world’s largest cast iron statue; made of 100,000 pounds of iron and 56 feet tall, he stands atop of Red Mountain overlooking the city. Vulcan Park and Museum features spectacular panoramic views of Birmingham and surrounding areas from an open-air observation balcony atop the statue’s 124-foot pedestal. Visitors can enjoy interactive indoor and outdoor exhibits and displays that give insight into the region's geology, history and industrial growth as well as a beautiful 10-acre urban green space.  www.visitvulcan.com 

McWane Science Center- Birmingham
McWane Science Center is hosting the traveling exhibit,Going Places, on the third floor through May 7. Going Places is an interactive science exhibition that explores the technology humans have developed for travel including airships and hovercraft. McWane Science Center is a state-of-the-art science center, aquarium and 280-seat IMAX Dome Theater is housed in the historic and refurbished four-floor Loveman's department store building in downtown Birmingham. There are several permanent  exhibits that are a regular part of the science education experience. These include Itty Bitty Magic City, Explore! Collections Center, Alabama Dinosaurs and Sea Monsters, NatureScope, Fox 6 Weather Lab, Science on a Sphere, High Cycle, World of Water Aquarium, and the Shark and Ray Touch Tank.  www.mcwane.org

Moundville Archeological Park- Moundville
This 320-acre National Landmark Site contains 26 large, prehistoric, platform mounds, which from about 1000 to 1520 was one of the most significant sites of the Mississippian Native culture. Visitors can experience a reconstructed Native American village or tour the museum and nature trails.  The museum combines the latest exhibit technology with more than 200 artifacts, life-size figures displaying ancient clothing and jewelry, pottery and artwork. www.moundville.ua.edu

Museum of Alabama- Montgomery
The Alabama Bicentennial Celebration kicks off this year and the Museum of Alabama is a great place to explore the history of our state.  The Museum of Alabama is located in the Alabama Department of Archives and History building across the street from the Capitol.  The museum opened in 2014 and tells the complete story of Alabama from prehistory to the present.  More than 800 artifacts, hundreds of images and documents, and 22 audiovisual programs tell the story of struggles over the land, the rise of a cotton economy, the Civil War, industrialization, world wars, civil rights, the race to the moon and more. www.museum.alabama.gov

Old Alabama Town- Montgomery
Purchase one child’s admission to Old Alabama Town on Tuesdays in March and April and another child gets free admission. Old Alabama Town hosts the 12th annual Alabama Book Festival on Saturday, April 22. This free public event is the state’s premier book festival, with more than 4,000 people from around the state converging in the capital to meet with and hear from their favorite authors and discover new favorites. Old Alabama Town offers visitors a glimpse into life in the 1880’s and early 1900’s.  This collection of restored authentic 19th- and 20th-century homes and buildings, stretching across six blocks in the heart of downtown Montgomery, reflects all phases of Southern life.  Visitors can experience what it was like to make early-American staples, such as soap and cheese; attend school in an 1800’s classroom; see what a 19th-century church service was like; or sip lemonade in a tavern where Revolutionary War hero the Marquis de Lafayette once dined.  www.oldalabamatown.com

USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park- Mobile
An exhibit honoring the centennial anniversary of WWI opened earlier this month in the Aircraft Pavilion.  The new exhibit showcases uniforms from all major fighting forces, historical artifacts, and features a diorama of a wartime trench. At Battleship Memorial Park visitors can explore the mighty USS Alabama, winner of nine battle stars in World War II.  The battleship is more than two football fields long and had a crew of 2,500. Also on display is the Mach 3 A-12 Blackbird super-secret spy plane, the B-52 stratofortress Calamity Jane, the submarine USS Drum, an original plane that was used by the Tuskegee Airmen, plus 22 other aircraft and weaponry from all branches of the military. www.ussalabama.com

Bellingrath Gardens- Theodore
It’s an early spring at Bellingrath Gardens and Home. Visitors are already enjoying the blooms of more than 250,000 azaleas in an explosion of color throughout the 65-acre estate. The annual Azalea Bloom Out goes back to Bellingrath’s earliest beginnings in 1918, when Walter Bellingrath purchased a rustic fishing camp on Fowl River. His wife, Bessie, who loved gardening, wanted to beautify the property and relied on old-growth azaleas as a starting point. Ever since, Bellingrath Gardens has been synonymous with the Gulf Coast’s beautiful azalea season. The gardens contain more than 2,000 plants representing 75 varieties including azaleas, hydrangeas, petunias and chrysanthemums. Bellingrath Gardens has twice won the honor as America’s most outstanding rose garden. www.bellingrath.org

April Walking Tours- 28 towns statewide
Some 28 towns across Alabama will be on display during Saturday mornings in April as part of the Alabama Tourism Department's April Walking Tours. A variety of community leaders will lead the free tours through the historic districts or courthouse square areas of their hometowns.  The hour-long tours will start at 10 a.m. on April 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29.

Towns and starting places for the April Walking Tours are: Athens, Athens Visitor Center; Attalla, Gazebo at 4th St. and 5th Ave.; Bayou La Batre, Mariner Park; Birmingham, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute; Courtland, Courtland Heritage Museum; Cullman, Cullman County Museum; Daleville, Chamber of Commerce; Decatur, Old State Bank Building; Elba, Chamber of Commerce; Enterprise, The Rawls Hotel; Eutaw, Prairie Avenue; Fairhope, Fairhope Welcome Center; Florence, various locations; Foley, Welcome Center.

Huntsville, Confectionary Shop at Constitution Village (April 1 & 8 only); Livingston, McConnell Field on University of West Alabama campus; Madison, Madison Roundhouse (April 15 & 22 only); Mobile, Welcome Center at The History Museum of Mobile; Montgomery; Montgomery Area Visitor Center; Mooresville, Post Office; Moulton, Lawrence County Archives; Pell City, City Hall; Prattville, Prattaugan Museum; Selma, Selma-Dallas County Library; Sheffield, Sheffield Municipal Building; Shelby, Iron Works Park; Troy, Pike County Chamber of Commerce; Tuscumbia, ColdWater Bookstore.  www.alabama.travel.

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