The Yellowhammer State, the Cotton State, the Heart of Dixie — whatever you like to call it, Alabama is a gorgeous place bordered by four other states and an ocean. Add centuries of history on top of that and you have the perfect student travel destination.
While history and the Civil Rights Trail are a huge part of Alabama, the state also offers nature, science, the arts and much more. Here are just a few of the unique student travel experiences you can have in Alabama, perfect for young minds.
U.S. Space and Rocket Center
Home to the famous Space Camp and jam-packed with interactive exhibits, head to Huntsville, aka “The Rocket City,” for this one-of-a-kind experience. See a National Historic Landmark: an authentic Saturn V moon rocket! Then explore the development of the International Space Station, and enjoy hands-on experiences like Apollo 11 VR, Multi-Axis Trainer, Flight Simulator and more. Plus, the USSRC is also the home of weeklong Space Camp, U.S. Cyber Camp, Aviation Challenge Camp and Robotics Camp programs.
Civil Rights Trail
Begin your journey at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, This multimedia facility houses art and artifacts from the time, alongside exhibitions of historical events starting with WWI racial segregation and running up through the present-day fight for equity. Here, you can examine a replica of a Freedom Riders bus, and see the actual jail cell door from which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. penned “Letter From Birmingham Jail.”
Then, head to Selma to see the famous Edmund Pettus Bridge, a Civil Rights landmark that represents a pivotal point in Voting Rights as law enforcement officers attacked marchers with tear gas and nightsticks on “Bloody Sunday,” March 7, 1965. The site was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2013. There’s more to see in Selma, including historic churches and the Old Depot Museum.
Lastly, head to capital city Montgomery, often regarded as the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement. There’s tons to do here, including the Rosa Parks Museum, a state-of-the-art, active memorial to the life of the civil rights icon and the lessons of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Or the Freedom Rides Museum, which chronicles the Freedom Riders, an integrated group of young college students who rode on busses together, fighting violence with non-violence and courage. And of course, there’s the Civil Rights Memorial Center, a reflective space honoring those who fought, lived and died for equality.
Alabama Shakespeare Festival
Also in Montgomery is the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, a beloved Alabama arts institution. ASF broadens the cultural identity of the South by producing classics, Shakespeare, contemporary plays, musicals, theatre for young audiences, and exciting new works. They offer student matinees (known as SchoolFest), backstage tours, educational programming (including acting classes and summer camps), and more! This year is the 51st season and includes shows like Jubilee, The Tempest, Million Dollar Quartet and more.
Dauphin Island Sea Lab / Alabama Aquarium
This Sea Lab was primarily created to provide marine science programs for local colleges and universities, but it’s now much more. Come here for the Alabama Aquarium, formerly named the Estuarium, an exciting educational venue highlighting the four key habitats of coastal Alabama: the Mobile Tensaw River Delta, Mobile Bay, the Barrier Islands, and the Northern Gulf of Mexico. It includes the 10,000-square-foot Exhibit Hall, a 7,000-gallon stingray touch pool, and the Living Marsh Boardwalk. This facility has 31 aquariums totaling over 30,000 gallons with more than 100 species on display.
Muscle Shoals Sound Studio
This iconic studio is at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield. The studio is a music mecca for music lovers from around the world. You’ll want to see and feel why Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones referred to Muscle Shoals and 3614 as “Rock and Roll Heaven.” Fully restored to its 1970s look, feel and function through a grant from Beats Electronics, the studio is alive once again and destined to continue the tradition of producing hit after hit.