Throughout Alabama are numerous landmarks and attractions that are favorites of residents and tourists alike. Here are a few of the more popular places to visit in the Heart of Dixie.
Noccalula Falls (Gadsden)
The amazing falls cascade down 90 feet of Lookout Mountain into a flourishing ravine and under the Gilliland-Reese Covered Bridge. Here you will find a botanical garden, a pioneer homestead, nature trails and picnic areas. This ideal location for family fun also features year-round camping and a petting zoo.
Eddie Aldridge first fell in love with the natural beauty of the Coxe Family Estate in 1966, when he was hired to plant three magnolias on the grounds. Eddie and his father, respected horticulturalists, recognized the grandeur of the land, and in 1977 Eddie purchased the property with the intention of developing it as a public garden. Twenty years later the gardens opened to the public, and today they are the site of many weddings, public celebrations and private events.
Named after the Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto, the Desoto Caverns are a vast system of caves and underground rock formations. The main room of the caverns is twelve stories high, with an area larger than a football field. The history of the DeSoto Caverns is almost as vast and complicated the caverns themselves. Over the years, the caves have been used as Native American burial ground, Confederate gunpowder-mining center, being mined during the civil war for saltpeter, an illegal Prohibition cave-saloon known as "the Bloody bucket" and finally becoming an public attraction in the 1960's. Surrounding the caverns are a number of attractions and games designed for the whole family.
Surfside Water Park has a 450,000-gallon wave pool, a river that winds throughout the park, four body flumes, two speed slides, and a 5000 sq. ft. kiddies area. For a break from the water, the park also includes covered pavilions, volleyball court, concession stands and a gift shop.
Nothing quite parallels the experience of seeing animals interact in their natural habitat. The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo has over 250 exotic species of animals spread over 16 acres of coastal woodland. Among the animals represented are lions, tigers, pythons, iguanas and a number of tropical birds. There are paved paths for easy access throughout the park, and elevated observation decks ensure that visitors will glimpse the animals they came to see.
Huntsville has been nicknamed "Rocket City'" for its long history with NASA and the U.S. Space program. In 1950, the U.S. military brought German rocket scientists to Huntsville to work on the beginnings of the space program. In 1960, President Eisenhower formally dedicated the Marshall Space Flight Center and in 1970 the U.S. Space and Rocket center was opened as a museum of the program's impressive hardware. The U.S. Space & Rocket Center allows visitors to explore the past, present, and future of space. The center is filled with hands on activities like a Mars climbing wall and a G force simulator to compliment an impressive array of rockets, shuttles and space capsules.