Alabama Travel 2018

Happy New Year!

I hope that the final days of 2017 filled you with family memories, yummy foods, and hope for all the possibilities that 2018 might offer.

And if you're like me, experiencing that goodness while also feeling pretty banged up from the past two years, I wish all those things for you, only harder. Let's put on our boxing gloves, lace up our boots and work hard for decency, and fall in love just a little bit more with our little dot in the universe and its people.  

The end of a year brings lots of reflection, but the first day of a new one always puts me in planning mode. We've got some big (for us) travel plans on the horizon, but I've been really happy with some of the day trips and local events that have filled our calendar. So on New Year's Day I focused on the close-to-home exploring that has generated so many memories for our family and asked myself, "What's next?"  

In short, we're taking it county by county. Alabama's got 67, and I aim to visit them all in the next 52 weeks, seeking out some of the best ways to spend a day in each region.

I hope that framing our plans in this way pushes us to explore spots we've overlooked, to dig a little deeper in familiar territory, and to gain a more concrete understanding of our home state's diversity.

And I hope that you'll come along for the ride. If you've read this far, I would love any suggestions: What are the best things to see, do, eat, learn about in each of those 67 counties?

We're out the door to Jefferson county in just a bit. But before we head off for a new year of adventuring, here's a look back at some of our favorite moments from the last.

 Oak Mountain hike on a balmy January day

Oak Mountain hike on a balmy January day

 Local playground crawl

Local playground crawl

 Friday ice cream dates at Ingram Farms

Friday ice cream dates at Ingram Farms

 First Pizitz Food Hall visit 

First Pizitz Food Hall visit 

 Hike to King's Chair

Hike to King's Chair

  Beauty and the Beast  at Coyote Drive-In

Beauty and the Beast at Coyote Drive-In

 Druid City Arts Festival

Druid City Arts Festival

 Weekend at The Loft at the Winchester Manor

Weekend at The Loft at the Winchester Manor

 Flipping all switches and pressing all buttons at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center

Flipping all switches and pressing all buttons at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center

 Cathedral Caverns

Cathedral Caverns

 Birmingham Zoo

Birmingham Zoo

 First taste of honeysuckle for the year

First taste of honeysuckle for the year

 Second breakfast with The Southern Frenchie

Second breakfast with The Southern Frenchie

  Testing out the Osprey hydration pack at Oak Mountain

 Testing out the Osprey hydration pack at Oak Mountain

 Lazy day by the Black Warrior River

Lazy day by the Black Warrior River

 Annual blueberry picking at Leavelle Farms

Annual blueberry picking at Leavelle Farms

 Relaxing for a moment at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios

Relaxing for a moment at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios

 Eating ice cream from Trowbridge's on the street in Florence

Eating ice cream from Trowbridge's on the street in Florence

 View from the birding tower at Perry Lakes Park

View from the birding tower at Perry Lakes Park

 Red Mountain hikes

Red Mountain hikes

 Peavine Falls

Peavine Falls

 Lowe Mill

Lowe Mill

 McWane Center

McWane Center

 Lunch date at Central Mesa

Lunch date at Central Mesa

 Browsing at Ernest and Hadley

Browsing at Ernest and Hadley

 Peach Park, an annual tradition

Peach Park, an annual tradition

 Floating around at Lake Lurleen

Floating around at Lake Lurleen

 The beautiful downtown Birmingham

The beautiful downtown Birmingham

 The whimsical downtown Northport

The whimsical downtown Northport

 Pepper Place

Pepper Place

 Big Spoon Creamery

Big Spoon Creamery

 Kentuck Art Night

Kentuck Art Night

 Southern Makers at Sloss

Southern Makers at Sloss

 Van de Graaff Park

Van de Graaff Park

 St. George Middle Eastern Food Festival

St. George Middle Eastern Food Festival

 Fiesta Birmingham

Fiesta Birmingham

 Making art at Moss Rock Festival

Making art at Moss Rock Festival

 Ornament blowing at Orbix Hot Glass

Ornament blowing at Orbix Hot Glass

 Pre-holiday sing-along shenanigans at Capitol Park

Pre-holiday sing-along shenanigans at Capitol Park

 Holiday movies at the Alabama Theatre

Holiday movies at the Alabama Theatre

  The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe  at the Bama Theatre

The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe at the Bama Theatre

Onward to Fall

I have a memory -  and I think it's true - of my grandmother gently ushering us out the door when the time came for us to return home from our semi-annual visit to her house. She didn't want us to clear out. I remember tears on her cheeks. But since we had to go we might as well get along with it and not belabor the point.

I find that attitude helpful at this time of year. The school year has started, so it's time to send off the summer and start taking inventory of everything on the horizon for the fall season.

As part of our adventure planning, I keep a Google Doc list of upcoming stuff we want to do as a family. Each time I find a new event or activity, I add it to the document, along with reminders to myself ("order tickets in July," "concessions are cash only," etc.). Once we confirm that we're going to participate in an event, we add it to the family Google Calendar.

We don't end up doing every single thing on the list - October and April would be exhausting if we did. But this planning method keeps events on my radar so we don't miss out, and it also helps me to see what activities are becoming traditions we'll continue each year.

So if your neck's in my woods, here are some of the upcoming events we're considering.

Revel in the season along with us!

AUGUST

Southern Makers (Sloss Furnace, Birmingham - Aug 12-13, 2017) A gathering of artists and craftspeople from around the south.

 

SEPTEMBER

Football Season Starts (Our Living Room - Sept 2, 2017) Alabama kicks off the 2017 season against Florida State on this holiday weekend, and I cannot wait! ROLL TIDE!

Birmingham Art Walk (Downtown Birmingham - Sept 8-9, 2017) Celebrates the work of visual artists, street performers, musicians, and more.

Sweetest Chefs (Ridgeland, Mississippi - Sept 11, 2017) Showcases the South's top pastry chefs.

St. George Middle Eastern Festival (St. George Church, Birmingham - Sept 14-16, 2017) Tasty Middle Eastern food and drink, live music and dancing, and church tours. The pastries and coffee are the highlight for us at this festival.

Trucks by the Tracks (Railroad Park, Birmingham - Sept 17, 2017) A gathering of Birmingham's best food trucks.

Birmingham Greek Festival (Holy Trinity-Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Cathedral - Sept 21-23, 2017) Our favorite cultural festival each year. If you have to pick just one from this list, do the Greek Festival, for sure. Don't forget to pick up an order of fresh loukoumathes downstairs before you go.

Fiesta Birmingham (Linn Park, Birmingham - September 30, 2017) The state's largest celebration of Hispanic culture and heritage. 

 

OCTOBER

Cahaba River Fry-Down (Railroad Park, Birmingham - Oct 1, 2017) Fish-fry competition and festival.

Moundville Native American Festival (Moundville Archaeological Park - Oct 4-7, 2017) Includes living history camps, storytelling and dances, arts and crafts, and hands-on activities for kids.

Cullman Oktoberfest (Cullman, AL - Oct 4-8) Multi-day celebration of German heritage in downtown Cullman.

Southern Foodways Symposium (Oxford, MS - Oct 5-7, 2017) In the twentieth year of the symposium, the focus is on El Sur Latino. This one's gonna be awesome!

Kentuck Festival of the Arts (Northport, AL - Oct 21-22, 2017) A weekend of nationally and internationally renowned folk artists, musicians, and art activities for kids.

A Haunting at the Museum (Alabama Museum of Natural History, Tuscaloosa - Date TBD) An evening of spooky stories, gross science and snacks, and a museum scavenger hunt. 

Pumpkin Fest (Franklin, TN - Oct 28, 2017) Middle Tennessee's larges fall festival, which stretches out along Main Street in downtown Franklin.

Tricks, Treats, and Trails (Red Mountain Park, Birmingham - Oct 29, 2017) Trick-or-treating along the trails, food trucks, and live music. Wear your costumes!

 

NOVEMBER

Moss Rock Festival (The Preserve, Hoover, AL - Nov 4-5, 2017) Billed as an eco-creative festival, this one's all about art and smart living. LOTS of fun stuff for kids + some great food truck options.

Russian/Slavic Festival (St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, Brookside, AL - Nov 5-6, 2017) Tucked away in Brookside, this tiny church's festival offers some tasty dishes. Be sure to take home some baked goods. 

Orbix Hot Glass Blow-Your-Own-Ornament (Mentone, AL - Nov 4, 11, 18, 24-25) We're using this one as a way to gear up for the holiday season, but there are plenty of other dates for blowing an ornament throughout the year.