Before New Orleans was even founded, Mobile had been celebrating Mardi Gras for fifteen years. Established in 1703, it is the oldest Carnival celebration in the United States and brings in 100,000 people who join in the celebration. For weeks, the streets of downtown Mobile are filled with the sights and sounds of live marching bands, brilliantly colored floats and, of course, crowds of parade-goers. Mardi Gras must be experienced to be fully understood, and Mobile is the perfect place to do it.
From the telegram ordering the first shots at Fort Sumter to the last major battle of the bitter conflict, Alabama played a pivotal role in America's Civil War saga. After Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States, delegates from Southern states that had seceded met in the Alabama State Capitol in February 1861. Within a few days, they had written a constitution to create the Confederate States of America and elected Jefferson Davis of Mississippi its president. You can stand on the spot where Davis received the oath of office and tour the restored Capitol, as well as the First White House of the Confederacy across the street.
The most significant naval action of the war occurred in Mobile Bay, the only Southern port still open in 1864. Tour Fort Morgan near Gulf Shores and Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island, where Union Adm. Farragut gave his famous "Damn the torpedoes" order that led his fleet to victory.
East of Clanton, the 103-acre Confederate Memorial Park began as the only home for Confederate veterans. Today, you can see uniforms, weapons and graves, and learn about the old soldiers who spent their lives there. Some 18 reenactments take place annually across the state.
The Alabama Civil War Trail brochure, available online for download or at any Alabama Welcome Center, has listings for dozens of museums, cemeteries and battlefield sites.
From voting rights marches in Selma and bus boycotts in Montgomery to sober reminders of tragic events in Birmingham, Alabama played a vital role in the fight for civil rights. Today, many civil rights-era sites have been preserved and made open to the public, while a number of interpretive centers and museums bring the struggle to life for new generations. Alabama Civil Rights
From sprawling plantation houses to humble cabins where legends were born, Alabama's historic homes also have much to share. In the luxurious estates that predate the Civil War, voices from years past echo among the gleaming hardwood floors, stately Corinthian columns and ornate furnishings. In the Gulf Coast region, discover Mobile's well-preserved homes, from the Greek Revival style of Oakleigh and the Italianate style of the Richards DAR House to the Creole cottage-style farmhouse of the Carlen House Museum. Head to Clayton in the Lake Eufaula region and visit the Octagon House, the only antebellum example of octagon-style architecture remaining in the state. Eufaula is home to Alabama's oldest annual tour of homes.
In Tuskegee, pay tribute to Booker T. Washington and Tuskegee University at The Oaks. The 1899 home was built by students and faculty with bricks made by the students. Or walk in the footsteps of courage at Ivy Green in Tuscumbia, where Helen Keller was born. Built in 1820, the site hosts a performance of The Miracle Worker each summer to retell her remarkable story.
Explore Alabama's rich Native American history at the Indian Mound and Museum in Florence. The mound is the largest domiciliary mound in the Tennessee Valley, and the museum houses a large collection of Native American relics found in the area, with chronological displays and explanations of artifacts.
In Fort Mitchell, check out the Chattahoochee Indian Heritage Center. Journey to Danville for the Oakville Indian Mounds Education Center or to Moundville Archaeological Park near Tuscaloosa. Horseshoe Bend National Military Park, located near Dadeville, is where Gen. Andrew Jackson defeated Chief Menawa and the Upper, or Red Stick, Creeks in 1814.
Whether you're looking to hear the whistle of an old steam engine racing down the tracks or want to visit a reconstructed Native American village, you'll find it all in Alabama. Our diverse museums and historic places chronicle natural history, the struggle for civil rights, art from across the centuries and many other topics that could keep history buffs busy for years. Alabama boasts 1,200 sites listed in the National Register of Historic Places, including 36 National Historic Landmarks and one National Monument.
Among these historic places are the Fort Morgan Historic Site on Alabama's Gulf Coast and Russell Cave National Monument, which was used as a shelter by prehistoric Native Americans. Other sites that explore early Alabama history include Fort Toulouse State Historic Site, the Pioneer Museum of Alabama, Montevallo's American Village and Vulcan Park and Museum in Birmingham. For a different spin on history, visit Calera's Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum, which preserves, restores and operates railway equipment significant to the history of not just Alabama, but also the entire nation. Or visit the Alabama Department of Archives & History in Montgomery to research government archives, private historical records and family genealogy. It is the oldest state-funded archives in the United States, and the department's museum boasts historical artifacts, rotating exhibits and hands-on galleries for kids.