The Heart of Dixie
Alabama, located in the Deep South of the U.S., has an intriguing history. It is the home of cultural figures—like Truman Capote, Hank Williams Sr. and Harper Lee—the site of many Civil War battles and events, and is where one of the biggest rivalries in college football takes place. Alabama also played an important role in the U.S. space program, which visitors can learn more about at places like the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and McWane Science Center.
There are many historical civil rights sites in Alabama in places like Montgomery, Selma and Birmingham, and each offer an invaluable look into one of the most important modern history events of the United States. Many Civil War sites are also found throughout the state, such a Fort Morgan and Confederate Memorial Park. Visitors should also check out the Gulf coast of Alabama for sandy beaches along the Gulf of Mexico, explore the mountains of northern Alabama, and see the bayous of the Mobile River Delta. The vibrant history of Alabama and its role in the history of the United States make the Heart of Dixie a special place to visit. For more information on Alabama, browse our state cultural guide below or visit www.alabama.travel.
Jump to: Historical Sites & Tourist Attractions | Arts & Culture | Sports & Recreation | Outdoor Activities | Food | Local Festivals | Housing Resources | Transportation | Health & Safety | Help Your Community |
Historical Sites & Tourist Attractions
Add some local history to your cultural exchange experience by visiting a nearby historical site or tourist attraction when living and working in the U.S.
The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute aims to promote civil rights around the world by educating the public about the history of civil rights in Alabama and the United States. Located in the Civil Rights District, international visitors can also see the 16th Street Baptist Church and Kelly Ingram Park.
The First White House of the Confederacy acted as the capitol of the Confederacy during the American Civil War in 1861 before it moved to Richmond, Virginia, and was the home of Confederacy president Jefferson Davis. The house now features period pieces from the 19th century and is an important part of Southern history and culture.
The Fort Morgan Historic Site was active during the Civil War, Spanish-American War and World Wars I and II, though it is best known for its role in the Civil War and the Battle of Mobile Bay. Today visitors can see living history reenactments, visit the fort museum and take self-guided tours.
Montgomery Zoo is a popular attraction in Alabama and home to animals from Australia, Asia, South America, Africa and North America. The Mann Wildlife Learning Museum is also located at the zoo and features interactive exhibits and displays.
The National Voting Rights Museum and Institute in Selma features photographs, artifacts, video, documents and personal objects related to the American Civil Rights Movement and the fight for voting rights in Selma.
U.S. Space & Rocket Center has over 1,500 rocket and space exploration artifacts, including items from the Apollo Program, interactive exhibits and rocket simulators. Visitors can also take bus tours of the Marshall Space Flight Center.
On the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, visitors can see spy planes, submarines, a plane used by the Tuskegee Airmen and other aircraft and weapons from the military.
- Delta Airboat Express Tours
- Dolphin Tours in Orange Beach
- Gulf Coast Gator Ranch & Airboat Swamp Tours
- Huntsville Ghost Tours
- Shoals Ghost Walk Tours
- True Adventure Sports
Arts & Culture
The United States offers a wide variety of cultural learning opportunities through the arts. Dance, music, theater, opera, art museums and festivals are just some of the options available to international visitors who wish to experience the U.S. and its culture.
Art and Cultural Museums
- Alabama Music Hall of Fame, Tuscumbia
- Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham
- Carnegie Visual Arts Center, Decatur
- Coastal Arts Center, Orange Beach
- Eastern Shore Art Center, Fairhope
- Fayette Art Museum, Fayette
- Gadsden Museum, Gadsden
- Huntsville Museum of Art, Huntsville
- Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn
- Mary G. Hardin Center for Cultural Arts, Gadsden
- Mobile Museum of Art, Mobile
- Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery
- Museum of Mobile, Mobile
- Sarah Moody Gallery, Tuscaloosa
- Space One Eleven, Birmingham
- Tennessee Valley Museum of Art, Tuscumbia
- Wiregrass Museum of Art, Dothan
- Alabama Ballet, Birmingham
- Alabama Jazz Halls of Fame, Birmingham
- Alabama Symphony Orchestra, Birmingham
- East Alabama Arts, Opelika
- Huntsville Symphony Orchestra, Huntsville
- Mobile Ballet, Mobile
- Mobile Symphony Orchestra, Mobile
- Mobile Theatre Guild, Mobile
- Princess Theatre, Decatur
Sports & Recreation
Many Americans are passionate about sports – and not just baseball and football! Get a glimpse into this part of American culture by watching or participating in a favorite U.S. sport or recreational activity in your local area.
“Roll Tide” is a familiar phrase in Alabama thanks to the University of Alabama. The Crimson Tide football team has a strong following in Alabama, and the university’s other college sports teams are also competitive.
Other college athletic programs in Alabama include:
- Alabama A&M Bulldogs, Alabama A&M University
- Alabama State Hornets, Alabama State University
- Auburn Tigers, Auburn University
- Jacksonville State Gamecocks, Jacksonville State University
- Samford Bulldogs, Samford University
- South Alabama Jaguars, University of South Alabama
- Troy Trojans, Troy University
- UAB Blazers, University of Alabama at Birmingham
- UAH Chargers, University of Alabama in Huntsville
Minor league sports teams in Alabama include:
- Birmingham Barons (baseball)
- Huntsville Havoc (hockey)
- Huntsville Stars (baseball)
- Montgomery Biscuits (baseball)
- Rocket City United (soccer)
The United States is home to a variety of landscapes and climates to suit all types of outdoor activities. The courageous traveler can find extreme sports and outdoor adventure tours, while others may want to keep both feet on the ground in a national park or forest. Whatever your interests, take advantage of the many outdoor activities available during your time in the United States.
Alabama’s Gulf Coast is home to many beaches, resorts and opportunities to get outdoors. Activities along Alabama’s beaches include swimming, kayaking, dolphin tours, fishing, sailing, surfing, parks and the Gulf Coast Zoo at places like Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Fairhope and Dauphin Island.
The Alabama Scenic River Trail is a 631-mile river system with many opportunities to try kayaking, canoeing, boating, rafting and camping along the river. Check the Trail Guide website before planning a trip. Some areas of the trail are more difficult than others!
Cheaha State Park is home to Cheaha Mountain, the highest point in Alabama. Hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, cabins and the Cheaha Lodge, which features a restaurant, hotel rooms and swimming pool, are available in the park.
Horse Pens 40 is an outdoor adventure park in Steele with hiking, camping, bouldering, cabin rentals and other outdoor events like bluegrass music festivals.
Look for bald eagles in winter at Lake Guntersville State Park. A golf course, tennis courts, 30 miles of hiking trails, camping, cabins and cottages are also available at this park
Vulcan Park and Museum in Birmingham features the largest cast iron statue in the world. The area, located on Red Mountain, overlooks Birmingham and features an interactive history museum, the Linn-Henley Gallery and public park.
One of the best ways to experience cultural exchange is through food and cooking. Visitors will enjoy exploring the regional specialties and local cuisine during their time in the United States.
Alabama cuisine reflects the ethnic groups of the region, including Native Americans, Cajun, Spanish, French and African-American. Soul food, barbecue, and seafood are common due to the state’s location along the Gulf of Mexico. Visitors can explore some of the culinary trails and learn more about the regional cuisines of Alabama.
Find fresh fruit, vegetables and homemade goods at a local farmers’ market in Alabama. You can also pick your own fruits and vegetables at a farm or orchard in some areas of the state.
- Alabama Blueberry Festival, Brewton, June
- Chilton County Peach Festival, Clanton, June
- Guntersville Seafood Festival, Guntersville, September
- National Shrimp Festival, Gulf Shores, October
- Alabama Pecan Festival, Mobile, November
For a unique and local perspective on American cultural, be sure to check out festivals and events near your cultural exchange program location. These events are a fun and interesting way to interact with locals and to learn more about American culture by experiencing it firsthand.
Mobile is home to the oldest Mardi Gras festival in the United States. The event lasts for ten days leading up to Mardi Gras, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The festival includes parades, elaborate costumes and many Mardi Gras balls.
The Siege at Bridgeport Civil War reenactment in March is an annual event and the largest Civil War reenactment in Alabama.
Auburn CityFest is a free outdoor music and arts festival in Auburn’s Kiesel Park. The event features live music, arts and crafts, food vendors and family activities for one day in April.
Spirit of America Festival on July 4th celebrates Independence Day and American culture. Fireworks, live entertainment, food and kid’s activities are available at the Decatur event.
The Bayfest music festival is the largest music event in Alabama. Held in Mobile, the festival attracts popular bands and artists as well as lesser-known musicians for three days in October.
Mobile International Festival celebrates Alabama’s multicultural background with cultural exhibits, art galleries, international food, parades and live music each November in Mobile.
Find more Alabama events on the tourism website’s festival and events page.
Employers may be able to assist with housing during your time in the United States, but this is not always possible for all participants. When looking for housing during your cultural exchange program, consider the cost of the accommodation, the distance to your work place and the amount of time you will be in the United States.
It’s also important to avoid fraudulent housing. It is highly recommended that you secure short-term housing upon arrival (e.g. in a hostel) and conduct your housing search once you are in the U.S. Never give your financial information to a stranger over the Internet. Browse the Housing Information guides for InterExchange participants below for more tips and advice.
General Housing Information
- Housing information for Work and Travel USA participants
- Housing information for Career Training USA interns and trainees
Alabama Housing Resources
Some examples of housing and accommodation resources for Alabama participants include:
- Craigslist - Alabama
- American Homestay Agency
- Hostelling International
Public transportation options can be hit or miss, depending on your location in the United States. Buses are a common transportation option for short and long-term travel in the U.S., while some areas will also have trains, subways and other options.
Public Transit Systems
Birmingham public transportation includes DART trolleys, BJCTA buses and shuttle services.
Mobile’s public transit system is the Wave, a system of 13 buses routes in the Mobile area. A LoDa moda trolley also travels in the downtown Mobile area from Monday to Saturday.
Montgomery Area Transit System (MATS) operates 16 bus routes in the Montgomery area.
For other public transit systems in Alabama, visit the American Public Transportation Association website.
Capital Trailways operates in western Alabama in locations like Mobile, Jackson, Camden, Selma and Tuscaloosa. The bus routes also connect to Greyhound services traveling to locations around the United States.
Greyhound travels to many locations in Alabama and around the United States via the Greyhound Express.
Megabus travels from Birmingham, Mobile and Montgomery to locations like New Orleans, Atlanta, Memphis and Chicago. Full schedules and locations available on the Megabus website.
Amtrak trains travel to Anniston, Birmingham and Tuscaloosa on the Crescent train line.
Participants in Alabama can use the following resources in case of an emergency or extreme weather event in their area:
Emergency Management Agencies
- www.fema.gov (Federal Emergency Management Agency)
- @femaregion4 Alabama FEMA updates on Twitter
- National Weather Service
- Weather – Birmingham region
- Weather – Mobile region
- Weather – Northern Alabama
Help Your Community
Interact with others and expand your skill set by volunteering in your local community. Volunteer organizations are often looking for short-term volunteers or for individuals to help with a single event, making it a great option for InterExchange participants who wish to add to their cultural exchange experience during their time in the United States.
Volunteermatch.org, Idealist.org and Serve.gov are three general volunteer websites that match local organizations with volunteers in their communities.
Habitat for Humanity Alabama has several local affiliates in the state that help build housing for families in need. No experience is required to volunteer with a local branch and both groups and individuals are welcome.
Volunteer at one of Alabama’s 8 food banks and help feed those in need. Volunteers are needed at most food banks for tasks like packing food, sorting donations and helping at food drives. Contact a local food bank for more information.
HandsOn Alabama helps connect volunteers with organizations in need of help. Search for a volunteer job based on your interests, skills, location and time availability. Single events, short-term opportunities and long-term projects are available in multiple locations in Alabama.