An RV road trip around Alabama

written by Aimee White
updated 8/24/2021
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You’ve seen or read about the top sights in Alabama – US Space & Rocket Center, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Gulf State Park – but now it’s time to put the pedal to the metal and head off on an RV road trip. With its huge variety of experiences, you can explore the best this southern state has to offer all from the comfort of your own RV (recreational vehicle/motorhome). Take as many stops along the way as you want, stay for as long as needed and just enjoy that wide, open road. Read on to discover your Alabama adventure, from start to finish.

1 - Day one: Nashville, TN

The RV road trip route starts in Nashville, Tennessee’s very own ‘Music City’. While its musical heritage spans as far back as the 1700s, in more recent years there’s been a definite focus on country music. To help you settle into Nashville life, check out the backstreet honky-tonks and book onto a free dance lesson at the likes of the Wild Horse Saloon. If you’re after less of a hands-on approach, you can take a tour of the Country Music Hall of Fame and RCA’s Studio B.

But that’s not all; while you’re here, you can also visit the Grand Ole Opry – home to the world’s longest running radio show – as well as the Ryman Auditorium which is the original home of the Grand Ole Opry. Make sure you cover as much as you can today, as tomorrow’s going to be a busy day!

Round off your first day with a meal at Adele’s. Popular chef Jonathan Waxman runs the joint here, with a menu focused on seasonal comfort food sourced from nearby farms and companies. Situated in The Gulch (in between Vanderbilt University and downtown), Adele’s has a great bar-restaurant vibe with a fireplace grill, wood-burning oven and a quarter-sawn oak bar.

Nashville, Tennessee © ESB Professional/Shutterstock

2 - Day two: Muscle Shoals, AL

The second day is where the real road trip starts. Collect your RV and head off on the 125-mile route to Muscle Shoals, where we recommend you stay for a couple of nights. This northwestern corner of Alabama lines the banks of the Tennessee River and is home to a cluster of fun-loving cities where you can continue the musical theme.

Muscle Shoals is one of the best points along the route that makes Alabama worth visiting; its musical heritage is worth exploring alone. Start off at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in Tuscumbia – the likes of Nat King Cole and The Temptations are showcased here – while the rest of the region is renowned for its influential recording centres. You can even book onto a public tour of some of the most iconic recording studios; the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and FAME Recording Studio were frequented by the likes of Aretha Franklin and The Rolling Stones.

After a long day of driving, stop for dinner at one of the many restaurants in Tuscumbia. The likes of Champy’s World Famous Fried Chicken is a great option for those looking for a meal to remember. While there’s a lot of choice on their extensive menu, you should opt for the likes of two- or three-piece chicken or wing plates, or chicken and waffles.

Muscle Shoals © Alabama Travel

3 - Day four: Montgomery

After a couple of days exploring the sights in Muscle Shoals, it’s time to hit the road again and make the 200-mile drive down to Montgomery. The state capital of Alabama, Montgomery is a significant city for many reasons, so it’s well worth staying for at least two nights. It’s one of the best stops along the route and makes Alabama worth a visit, even if you’ve been before or make it the only place you visit!

This is the birthplace of the American Civil War and U.S. Civil Rights movement. At the State Capitol, the breakaway Confederate States of America were created, which lead to the American Civil War. Montgomery represents a state that has been through a lot; the struggle for equality between black and white Americans was key here. Dr Martin Luther King Jr. preached and marched through Montgomery, and it was also the city where Rosa Parks boycotted a bus she rode on by refusing to give up her seat to a white man. While you’re here, make time to visit the Rosa Parks Museum and Rosa Parks Bus Stop.

Continuing the museum theme, the Hank Williams Museum documents the life of the country music legend, who lived in Montgomery from 1937 to 1948. Stop off at one of the restaurants in the ‘Alley’ entertainment district and soak up the cultural heritage of this lively city.

Montgomery Rosa Parks © Alabama Travel

4 - Day six: Mobile

As you drive the 170-miles onto Mobile, stop off in Monroeville, which is where To Kill a Mockingbird’s fictional town of Maycomb was based on. Check out the bronze monument dedicated to Atticus Finch before continuing onwards. This is one of the great reasons why to take a RV road trip around Alabama – you can stop off at many different interesting points along the way, and stay for however long (or short!) you like.

Mobile’s historic port city is one of the oldest cities in America, and was where the original Mardi Gras took place in 1703 – find out more at the Mardi Gras Museum. Afterwards, you can marvel at the architecture on Cathedral Square, drive through Oakleigh Garden Historic District or take a tour of the USS Alabama at Battleship Memorial Park.

Base yourself at one of the city’s multiple RV campgrounds for a couple of nights and make the most of the peaceful surroundings.

Wondering what else there is to do in Alabama? Make sure you check out our top ten list of things not to miss.

Mardi Gras in Mobile © Visit Alabama

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5 - Day eight: Gulf Shores

It’s a shorter drive onto your next stop, covering a mere 50 miles before reaching Gulf Shores. If you’re travelling in the summer then this is an ace beach destination, or if you’re travelling in the winter then there’s ample opportunity to enjoy the milder temperatures. Head out on a nature trail or try a game of volleyball on the beach; the Alabama Gulf Coast’s military history is also well-worth exploring at the likes of its 19th-century masonry forts.

Food-wise, you’ll find yourselves spoiled for choice, with world-class food served up by award-winning chefs. Depending on the time of year you visit, you might be able to head to a culinary festival or international food sport competition. Thanks to its coastal position, this scenic spot offers a delicious range of seafood; head to LuLu's for shrimp salad and freshly caught fish of the day, or The Steamer & Baked Oyster Bar for succulent Royal Red shrimps, Snow Crab Legs and mussels.

Gulf Shores is a great place to visit on a post-Covid holiday, as you’ll be able to support local businesses, embrace the fresh air and have enough space to spread out at a safe distance.

Gulf Shores Orange Beach © Alabama Travel

6 - Day ten: Birmingham

After a wonderful couple of nights in Gulf Shores, drive the next 175 miles onto Birmingham. En route, stop off in Selma. This city marked the starting point of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery March which was a key development in the US Civil Rights movement. Hundreds of advocates marched from Selma to Montgomery to campaign for equal voting rights – the route covered some astonishing 50 miles. It makes sense, then, to visit the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute while you’re here, as well as many other important historical sites and landmarks.

Birmingham is also renowned for its delicious food scene, entertainment districts and attractions. After a quick bite to eat, head to the Barber Motorsports Museum for the largest collection of motorcycles in the world, or head out on a hike in one of the nature points. To really make your trip to Birmingham stand out, consider zip-lining through the treetops!

You’ll find plenty of options for two-night stays at RV parks in Birmingham; the scenery at General Lee Marina & Campground is breathtaking and is only a 40min drive from Birmingham, while Hidden Cove RV Resort is perfect for veering off-grid and going fishing at the Lewis Smith Lake.

Four Spirits sculpture in Kelly Ingram Park - Birmingham © Alabama Travel

7 - Day twelve: Lookout Mountain

While you’re still in Birmingham, or on route to Lookout Mountain, make sure you stock up on food supplies so that you can either enjoy a picnic or rest up in the RV. It makes a nice break from the restaurant and dining scene, if just for a night, before continuing the rest of your RV road trip in Alabama.

It’s up-and-at-them for day twelve of your RV trip in Alabama. Drive 70 miles to Lookout Mountain, where you can embrace the great outdoors however you see fit – there’s so much to choose from, you can easily go at your own pace here.

Also known as the Gateway to the Appalachian Mountains, there’s plenty of scenic drives to take – don’t miss the Lookout Mountain Parkway which crosses into Georgia and Tennessee. As you take in the beautiful landscapes of this area, you’ll find yourself in awe of the waterfalls, canyons and other natural wonders that Look Mountain has to offer. Whether you choose to hike, climb or kayak your way through, there’ll always be another sight around the corner!

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Water babies can dive into a number of swimming holes, while those looking to stick to dry land can also check out the unique towns, villages and parks in the 93 miles that Lookout Mountain spans. There’s no denying that with stops like these, it makes Alabama a true contender for one of the best road trips in the world.

Lookout Mountain waterfall © Shutterstock

8 - Day thirteen: Huntsville

Leave early on day thirteen to drive the 80 miles to Huntsville, stopping along the way at the one-of-a-kind Unclaimed Baggage, home of lost suitcases with possessions sold for bargain prices. That's because here, in the tiny town of Scottsboro, is where truly lost bags resurface – a megastore of misplaced possessions, gleaned from tens of thousands of suitcases, rucksacks and wheelies bags, all lost on commercial flights across the US.

Unclaimed Baggage Hugo 50th Anniv Truck © Alabama Travel

Huntsville is known as Rocket City, getting its nickname from its US Space & Rocket Center. The industries that dominate this city – aerospace, defence, biotech – attract a diverse community. The result means there’s a lively atmosphere, particularly in the downtown area, where you’ll find many unique shops to browse, craft breweries to tour and sample, and a range of cuisine to try, from traditional southern grub to international fine-dining.

The best thing to do in Huntsville is to visit the US Space and Rocket Center. This awe-inspiring site houses one of the largest collections of rockets and space memorabilia on display in the world. There are also immersive astronomy shows and the chance to experience what it's really like to live and work in space. One of the highlights is checking out the Saturn V rocket on display; not only is it a National Historic Landmark but it's one of only three in the world. With this and so much more on offer, make sure you don't miss it!

In terms of other things to do in Huntsville, there’s no missing Burritt on the Mountain. This incredible site is an open-air museum in the heart of the city, spanning a whopping 167 acres – explore the historic mansion with its eccentric mix of architectural styles.

There’s still plenty of other ways to embrace the great outdoors in Huntsville; there’s the city’s botanical garden with its blossoming plants, a Japanese garden in Monte Sano State Park, or the opportunity to go swimming, paddleboarding or fishing on the Tennessee River.

Interested in finding out more about Birmingham, Montgomery, Huntsville, Mobile or any of the other cities included in this article? Make sure you buy our Rough Guide to the USA where you’ll find a complete lowdown on what to do, where to eat and where to stay.

US Space & Rocket Center © Alabama Travel

9 - Day fifteen: Back to Nashville

Sadly, day fifteen marks the last day of your whirlwind Alabama road trip. It’s approximately a 100-mile drive from Huntsville back to Nashville, but you might find yourself wanting to make extra stops along the way, either to discover your next favourite destination, or to prolong returning your RV!

When you get back to Nashville, it’s time to return your RV – but it’s also a good opportunity to check out anything you missed when you first arrived in Nashville. You might also want to book into a hotel for the night so you can rest up before travelling onwards. Besides, it might make a nice change from spending so much time on the road to staying put in one place!

America As You Like It offers a 14-night RV Package – for all the details about what’s included, visit their website.

This article was written in partnership with Alabama Travel.

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written by Aimee White
updated 8/24/2021
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Aimee is an in-house Senior Travel Editor at Rough Guides and is the podcast host of The Rough Guide to Everywhere. She is also a freelance travel writer and has written for various online and print publications, including a guidebook to the Isle of Wight. Follow her on Twitter at @aimeefw.

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