This small city on the shores of Mobile Bay within Baldwin County, Alabama has a population of just 22,500 people. It was founded in the last decade of the 19th century by people who wished to create a place where there was a fair society with equal rights and opportunities. They followed the teachings of an economist Henry George who had created such a community in Iowa.
As time went by, Fairhope attracted intellectuals and artists seeking somewhere to spend their winters in a kinder climate than in many other parts of the USA. The principles on which Fairport was based, leasehold land and a single tax rate, whatever the use to which the land was put, still applies. However, the proximity of the large city of Mobile has resulted in Fairhope being a suburb of the latter, an affluent suburb at that. Recently, the New York Times described it as “A Southern Town That’s Been Holding on to Its Charm, for More Than a Century”.
Its appeal includes activities relating to the Gulf as well as visitors being able to immerse themselves in history and tradition. Alabama as a whole is conservative by nature, despite the principles on which Fairport was initially base; elements of communism? Read on and you will learn more about this small city, hopefully enough to encourage you to visit.
- Fairhope, Alabama
- Plan Your Trip
- 20 Things To Do In Fairhope
- 1- Stroll Along The Fairhope Pier
- 2- Sample Fairhope Food
- 3- Learn About History In Fairhope Museum
- 4- Enjoy Live At Five Concerts
- 5- See The Art Fairhope Has To Offer
- 6- Take A Walk Around Fairhope’s Historic Architecture
- 7- Check On Tolstoy Park
- 8- Watch As The Sun Goes Down
- 9- Take In The Community Park
- 10- Experience The French Quarter
- 11- Explore A Picturesque Castle
- 12- Go Shopping Downtown
- 13- Head To The Beach
- 14- Wander Around Weeks Bay Reserve
- 15- Play Golf At Lakewood
- 16- See What The Windmill Market Has To Offer
- 17- Spend Time In Marietta Johnson Museum
- 18- Take The Bartram Canoe Trail
- 19- Rent A Bike For A Day
- 20- Learn About Brewing
20 Things To Do In Fairhope
1- Stroll Along The Fairhope Pier
The Fairhope Municipal Pier offer great views of Mobile Bay, and much more.
There are anglers trying their luck every day, especially at weekends; they can access the pier for nothing but they need licences in order to fish unless they are 65 years old or more.
There is parking nearby on a first come, first served basis.
When there are special events taking place on the pier, demand is especially high.
You will find refreshments on the pier, benches and a covered area as well as rest rooms.
If you happen to be around on the 4th of July, this is the place to be for the annual festival.
A fun way to explore Fairhope is on a scavenger hunt.
2- Sample Fairhope Food
One of the real pleasures of travel is to sample the food.
In the case of Fairhope, you can get an introduction by taking a walking tour lasting around three hours.
While there are several different things to sample, most people agree that the highlight is the seafood.
Fairhope can offer the very best, and freshest, of seafood while during the walk around this fairly small city area, you will learn more of its history and pass several landmarks.
The cuisine has been influenced by different styles ranging from local Creole, as well as European, African elements.
3- Learn About History In Fairhope Museum
The museum in Downtown Fairhope is free to all and has a wide range of exhibits as well as presentations and special events.
The two-storey building was originally the city hall and jail.
Its style is Spanish and its size was increased before it became available to the public.
You will see several historical photographs and memorabilia.
In addition, there are antiques and artifacts that help to educate visitors about the early days of the city and the lives of the indigenous Native American Indians who preceded the settlers.
The courtyard has art and exhibits like the People’s Railroad Train Car sitting on a railroad line, statues, and the ‘Mullet Run’ Fountain.
4- Enjoy Live At Five Concerts
Live at Five is a series concerts held in in the Halstead Amphitheatre within the Coastal Alabama Community College Fairhope Campus, centrally in Fairhope.
Spring and autumn are the seasons when you can enjoy entertainment from regional and national bands as well as singers who cover most kinds of music from rock and jazz to country soul and more.
The funds that these events generate are reinvested in the promotion of music and local talent.
5- See The Art Fairhope Has To Offer
Lovers of art are in paradise in Fairhope.
There are a huge number of events in its calendar and plenty of places to visit.
On the first Friday of the month, the First Friday Art Walk starts at the Eastern Shore Art Center and takes participants to as many as 30 different art-based venues.
That is a great introduction to what the city has to offer.
Everyone can then plan the places where they would like to spend time later in their visit.
The city has had an annual Arts & Crafts Festival each spring when azaleas, magnolia, tulips and roses add colour to Fairhope.
Flowers have inspired artists for many years and the number of visitors that the festival attracts make Fairhope a really bustling place for 3 days.
6- Take A Walk Around Fairhope’s Historic Architecture
There are a number of interesting old buildings in the heart of Fairhope, many included in the Register of Historic Places.
You can walk around and see more.
The Lebanon Chapel AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church in Young Street is a century old; it remains an active church today while the Marietta Johnson School of Organic Education in School Street, slightly older, is treated more fully elsewhere in this is article.
Three of the original buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Old Fairhope Pharmacy on Fairhope Avenue is an excellent example of the commercial architecture constructed early in the 20th Century.
The Bank on the same avenue was one of the few to survive the Great Depression.
Old Fairhope Baptist Church on Morphy Avenue built in the 1920s in the style of a bungalow is now a theatre.
7- Check On Tolstoy Park
Tolstoy Park is just outside Fairhope.
A century ago, Henry Stuart, an Englishman with TB, sought a warmer climate and bought 10 acres which he named Tolstoy Park although it is also known as the Hermit House.
It is a domed structure 10 feet (4.2 metres) diameter and sunk into the ground some 2 feet (0.61 metres).
It has 6 windows as well as 2 skylights.
Stuart led a simple life, weaving and growing his own food.
He lived thee for almost 20 years before going to live with his son in Oregon.
The hut and a large oak remain today and the site is included on the National Register of Historic Places.
Incidentally, the story of his life is told in the novel “The Poet of Tolstoy Park.”
8- Watch As The Sun Goes Down
Wherever you are in the world, you can see a lovely sunset providing a range of colours.
That is definitely the case in Fairhope and there are a few places on the Gulf Coast where there are always a few people ready, camera in hand.
The Fairhope Yacht Club, Sunset Pointe, and Fly Creek Marina each offer a great setting but of course the pier, with its other attractions, is a great choice.
There is free parking on a first come, first served basis, and the nearby beach.
9- Take In The Community Park
Fairhope’s Community Park in downtown attracts local families, especially at weekends.
An enormous dinosaur statue greets visitors at the entrance and numerous photographs of kids in front of the statue are taken daily.
The playgrounds are places where children can spend time making friends and simply enjoying themselves.
Musical equipment offers the chance of beating a drum with a pirate-themed splash pad there for warm days.
There are wooden swings, two pavilions, and shady spots to sit and relax.
Downtown workers often take their lunch into the park for an hour to enjoy the pleasant surroundings.
10- Experience The French Quarter
You don’t have to go to New Orleans to experience the impact made by the French in parts of the Southern USA.
Its French Quarter today is filled with quaint shops, restaurants and galleries.
There is an alleyway entrance to a district that remembers the French and their role in the past.
They left Alabama in the 18th Century yet in 1994 today’s French Quarter was built to honour those who contributed much to the development of the region.
Cobbled stone courtyards, shady trees, fine restaurants, boutiques, a famous sweet shop and a fountain.
There is plenty to enjoy if you decide to spend a few hours with the French.
11- Explore A Picturesque Castle
Mosher Castle, just a short walk from the centre of Fairhope, looks like something out of a fairytale.
It was the vision of the sculptor Craig Sheldon and has been featured on screen on a number of occasions.
It was built just after World War II as an addition to the family home and he used many recycled items years before anyone else thought about such things.
There is an Airbnb apartment that you can actually book if you wish though you will need to book well ahead of your intended trip.
You can tour by appointment and many photographic groups do so.
12- Go Shopping Downtown
If you spend some time in Fairhope and are thinking about buying any presents for family and friends, there are plenty of different ideas if you browse its shops.
Whether you go to boutiques in the French Quarter, antique shops, art galleries or high-end fashion shops, you are certain to find what you want.
Perhaps you want a day shopping while others play a round of golf?
No problem, and you will not need to do much walking to see the huge variety Fairhope offers.
You will also find places that you might describe as eclectic, selling everything from clothing to antiques, jewellery to art.
13- Head To The Beach
Beach holidays are popular everywhere.
While you are unlikely to head specifically to Fairhope for a beach holiday, a day at the beach to relax, sunbathe and swim in the waters of the Gulf is a nice contrast to visiting landmarks and the city’s main attractions.
North Beach Park offers lovely white sand and much more.
There is a paved walking trail with plenty of different trees along the route.
Ducks and geese wander around but visitors are advised not to feed them in case they become completely tame.
Kids can play in the sand or enjoy the playground and family picnics are popular here.
There is also a pavilion that hosts special events throughout the calendar year.
14- Wander Around Weeks Bay Reserve
This Reserve is a research facility, a field laboratory if you like, on an estuary covering 6,000 acres.
Its water comes from the Magnolia and Fish Rivers before draining into Mobile Bay.
It is not deep and there are areas of swamp and marsh, and a range of trees from oak and cypress to maple and pine.
Under the shallow water, shrimp, anchovy and blue crab thrive and of course fish.
Commercial fishing generates $450m annually for Alabama.
You can take a self-guided tour of the Reserve while the interpretive centre gives you a chance to learn more about such regions.
15- Play Golf At Lakewood
The breezes from the Gulf can sometimes mean that playing golf in this part of Alabama is a challenge.
There are 2 courses at Lakewood, the first built just after World War II.
A second 18 followed in a setting which includes fairways that wind between pine trees and iconic 200 years old oaks.
With 5 tees on each hole, Lakewood is suitable for everyone from a novice to a scratch golfer.
Both courses have recently undergone renovation and the US Women’s Senior Amateur Championship was recently played on the Dogwood Course.
Lakewood regularly features in the list of the best resort courses in the USA.
16- See What The Windmill Market Has To Offer
Windmill Market offers not only the best local food, but also arts and crafts and live music.
Locals shop for local produce here, including meats, cheeses and artisan bread.
There are 3 restaurants while at weekends you can enjoy live music and craft beers brewed locally.
It has recently been renovated and is particularly popular at lunchtime.
Ox Kitchen, Eastern Shore and Mary Ann’s Deli provide plenty of choice while a Beer & Wine Bar and an ice cream shop are other places proving to be popular.
A tip; try the chicken salad at Eastern Shore.
17- Spend Time In Marietta Johnson Museum
Marietta Johnson was a teacher from Minnesota who was inspired by the idea of the utopian ideals that were the basis of Fairhope’s origins.
She moved to Fairhope at the age of 38 in 1902 and opened a school five years later that followed to principles of a fair society.
She was a powerful speaker and gained national recognition for her work as a reformist.
She did not ask pupils to take examinations; no success or failure simply lessons to teach youngsters the idea of a satisfying life and how to achieve it.
Her school is now a museum.
18- Take The Bartram Canoe Trail
This Trail is a system of waterways that make up the Mobile -Tenshaw River Delta.
It takes its name from a famous naturalist and explorer, William Bartram, with the 200-mile (320 kilometre) trail one of the longest in the USA.
You can canoe along the calm waters in the local section enjoying the natural environment of swamp, narrow channels, forest and wildlife.
Even if you have never been in a canoe before, you will find it easy to get around and the waters are calm as you proceed.
19- Rent A Bike For A Day
You do not need to be super fit to jump on to a bike to get around Fairhope.
There are a few short trails for enthusiasts that you can follow unless your plan is to simply visit the main highlights and attractions.
Each of the trails are fairly easy although there is a further one involving a journey between Fairhope and distant Gautier!
Trails are perfectly safe and a little research will give you some ideas of where to go if you want a little exercise.
20- Learn About Brewing
There has been a reaction to the growth of huge, multinational brewers who have absorbed popular brands over the years.
Smaller breweries offering craft beers largely for the region in which they exist have grown in popularity.
The origin of Fairhope Brewery is based upon a few beer lovers deciding to join the industry.
The Brewery is happy to welcome people to their Nichols Avenue premises as a way to spread the word about quality draught beer.
Come with your friends, and even take your own food along, and the Company will convert you to craft beer if you are not already converted.
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