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History and Heritage in Alabama

Few states in America can boast five centuries of fascinating history. But Alabama has 500 years worth of stories to tell.

From the days of Spanish exploration in the 1600s to the Civil War, the civil rights movement and the dawn of space exploration, Alabama has experienced more than its share of historic characters and occasions. Groups traveling through Alabama will find ways to touch that history in cities and towns across the state.

Birmingham and Montgomery both offer a wide variety of historical attractions and experiences, with highlights focused on both the Civil War and civil rights. And there’s more to learn about the equality movement at Selma’s National Voting Rights Museum.

In Mobile, groups can discover the colonial beginnings of the state at the 17th-century Fort Conde. Huntsville’s U.S. Space and Rocket Center immerses visitors in some of the most amazing historic accomplishments of the 20th century.


Colonial Fortress

In many ways, Mobile is at the epicenter of Alabama history. Spanish explorers first examined the area around Mobile Bay in the 1600s, and in 1702, a French delegation founded the first successful colony there, which would eventually become Mobile.

Today’s visitors can see remnants of that French settlement at Fort Conde, a brick, stone and earthen structure built by the colonists in 1711 to defend against attacks from the British and Spanish. The fort served the area for more than 100 years before it was removed in 1820. In 1976, Mobile opened a re-creation of the fort to celebrate America’s bicentennial.

The re-created Fort Conde makes up only about one-third of the original fortress but gives visitors a comprehensive view of what 18th-century life at the site was like. Now operated by the nearby History Museum of Mobile, Fort Conde has displays of historic artifacts from Native Americans and Europeans who lived in the area.


Space Museum

When Wernher von Braun first came to Huntsville in 1950, the city had a population of only 15,000 people. But von Braun and his team of NASA scientists put Huntsville on the map as a high-tech headquarters of space exploration by creating technology that would power space flight for the next half-century in this Alabama city.

Huntsville’s role in space exploration is now enshrined at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, a museum von Braun helped create in 1968 to showcase the history of NASA and the U.S. Army Missile Command. The center is home to the most comprehensive collection of American manned spaceflight in the world. Visitors can see America’s first satellite, Explorer I, as well as dozens of other space vehicles.

In addition to the museum exhibits and space artifacts, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center has a robust program of educational and immersive experiences, among them simulator rides and the famous Space Camp.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.