What Is Alabama Known For?

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Alabama may not spring to mind as a typical holiday destination but it has more than its fair share to offer visitors. What is Alabama known for? Well, it’s one of the most bio diverse states, home to a high concentration of incredible flora and fauna. But most people know Alabama for its exports, as it’s a state rich in natural resources and land prime for growing, such as peanuts and cotton in particular. Being in the South, it’s also famous for its incredible barbecues, which you’ll get served up alongside classic Southern hospitality and politeness. Alabama has a fascinating history.

It was one of the leading players in the Civil Rights movement, with the capital of Montgomery known as the place where the movement began, where Martin Luther King Jr. was a preacher before becoming a figurehead for the cause, and where Rosa Parks notably refused to give up her bus seat. In a similar vein, one of the most famous novels to come from Alabama is To Kill A Mockingbird by Alabamian Harper Lee, the setting of which was based on Harper Lee’s hometown of Monroeville. There are also many more famous faces, attractions, foods and events from Alabama that the state is proud to call its own. Here’s what Alabama is known for.

What Is Alabama Known For?

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1- Peanuts

Pile Of Dried Peanuts
Peanuts is a crop Alabama is known for.

Many outsiders might be surprised to learn that the state’s most famous product is peanuts.

Alabama is the second-largest exporter of peanuts in the United States after Georgia and also one of the largest in the world.

The Alabamian counties that produce the most peanuts are Houston, Baldwin and Geneva, while the city of Dothan in Houston calls itself the peanut capital of the world.

This quaint town hosts the National Peanut Festival every year, which is one of the biggest in the country and attracts more than 100,000 visitors, although there’s also a Peanut Butter Festival held in Brundidge for those that prefer it spreadable.


Tying into the state’s history, peanut production became popular during the Civil War, when soldiers ate them for nutrition, while before this, they were mainly consumed by slaves.

If you visit Alabama, make sure to stop by pretty much any shop to pick up a bag of peanuts, some peanut butter, or any other nut-based souvenir.

2- Civil Rights

The Flags Of The Alabama State And United States Of America
Montgomery is a city Alabama is known for.

Alabama was at the heart of the Civil Rights Movement and there are many ways to learn about this.

Selma and Montgomery are attributed as the focal point of the movement, thanks to the voting marches led by Martin Luther King Jr, who also preached in a church in Montgomery that you can now visit.

Check out the Civil Rights Memorial Centre and the Rosa Parks Museum, where you can see a replica of the famous bus or do a Civil Rights tour of Birmingham.

Elsewhere, the Edmund Pettus Bridge is famous for being the location of the Bloody Sunday march in 1965, where protesters were attacked by police and on a wider scale, you can try following the Alabama Civil Rights Trail.

Another sobering sight is the 16th Street Baptist church, where children were killed in 1963 after a bomb planted by the KKK went off and the Freedom Riders Museum, which is a tribute to those who, like Rosa Parks, stood up for African American rights to travel without segregation.

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3- Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. is the most famous figure to come out of Alabama.

King grew up in Alabama and preached in a church in Montgomery, after which he became the face of the Civil Rights Movement.

He and many other Southern ministers led a series of protests, which eventually led to his arrest.

In Birmingham, you can visit a museum which has the original door from his jail cell where he famously wrote ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’, which is now considered the most significant document from the movement.

Other notable acts include his well-known ‘I Have A Dream’ speech given in Washington and the massive Selma to Montgomery march against segregation.

Later, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 before being assassinated in 1968.

So important were his actions that President Reagan named a day in January as the Martin Luther King Jr. National Holiday.

4- Barbecue Food

Barbecue Short Chuck Beef Ribs With Herbs
Barbecues are what food Alabama is known for.

Many Southern American states are well-known for their excellent barbecue food, and on a tour of this part of America, you can do a huge barbecue trail across the country.

Generally, the meat is cooked over an open fire, coals on slow heat, and Alabama specialises in barbecued pork, along with other favourites like ribs and sausages.

Alabamians cook pork over hickory or pecan wood, giving it a lovely smokey, nutty flavour, and the meat is topped with a traditional white BBQ sauce made using mayonnaise, vinegar, lemon and salt.

Alabama likes to grill a whole range of other food too, such as seafood along the coast and hot dogs in still-standing restaurants such as Chris’ Hotdogs, which has served the likes of Elvis and Martin Luther King Jr.

5- Pecan Pie

Freshly Baked Pecan Pie On A Glass Plate
Pecan Pie is what food Alabama is known for.

Pecan is Alabama’s official state nut, so naturally, Pecan Pie is their signature dish!

Pecan pie is made using eggs, butter and sugar and sometimes, syrup or honey, topped with pecans.

April is officially National Pecan Month, meaning Alabamians love to cook homemade pecan pies, and everyone has their own special recipe.

Unsurprisingly, there are dozens of places to try pecan pie in Alabama, as well as other great savoury recipes that use pecans.

However, traditionally Americans enjoy pecan pies as dessert, particularly on national holidays, with whipped cream, syrup or vanilla ice cream.

If you’re visiting, one of the most famous pecan pie spots is Priester’s Pecans, which was founded in 1975 in Fort Deposit and serves delicious pies and sweets.

Heaton Pecan Farm in Clanton sells a range of pies, tarts and other pecan souvenirs.

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6- Cotton

Cotton Field
Cotton is what Alabama is most known for producing.

Aside from peanuts, Alabama is also one of the biggest cotton producers in America, so much so that it’s known as the ‘Cotton State’.

Alabama has 67 counties and cotton is grown in roughly 59 of these.

The original harvesting of cotton was so central to the American economy that it led to the creation of the state of Alabama itself, thanks to its prime climate and growing conditions for the plant.

Alabama was home to a large population of slaves who worked on the cotton plantations, as growing cotton was a very tiring and manual task, but after slaves were emancipated, cotton production became extremely difficult and farmers had to find new ways to harvest.

Luckily, Alabama had more than its fair share of the crop left after the war, and today, it continues this thriving production.

You can buy all kinds of goods made from cotton when visiting, not just clothes or bedding, but cosmetics, soap and even fertilisers.

7- Montgomery

Montgomery, Alabama - State Capitol
Montgomery is the capital of the state and a city Alabama is known for.

Montgomery is Alabama’s state capital, known as the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement and home to some great restaurants and attractions.

There are many interesting monuments and museums here, such as the Rose Parks Museum and the Memorial for Peace and Justice.

You can also visit the Legacy Museum, housed in a slave warehouse, to learn about the history of slavery in the state.

There are loads of restaurants where to you can try famous barbecue food, including Alabama’s traditional meat and three, which is chicken or pork served with three sides, as well as lots of Korean eateries thanks to a large immigrant population here.

Other fun things to see and do include catching a baseball game at Riverwalk Stadium, checking out the cafes and boutiques in Cloverdale, and checking out Mongomery Whitewater, where you can kayak, zipline, hike and cycle in the great outdoors.

8- Heart of Dixie

Another nickname for Alabama, besides the Cotton State, is the “Heart of Dixie.”

The origins of this name can differ depending on who you ask, but generally, its considered to come from the fact that Alabama is in the middle of America’s southern states.

The American South is known as ‘Dixie’ after Louisiana printed banknotes with the French word ‘dix’ meaning ten, on them, leading to the nickname Dixie, which Alabama is at the heart of.

It was also encouraged as a name in the 1950s to try and get rid of the Cotton State nickname, so the local politicians created this as a slogan.

The final nickname of Alabama is ‘Yellowhammer State’, after the type of woodpecker, which is the state bird.

Alabama soldiers also wore yellow uniforms, just like the birds, during the war, leading them to be nicknamed yellowhammers!

9- Southern Hospitality

You may have heard the phrase “Southern hospitality’ which refers not just to Alabama but to all of America’s southern states.

The term is generally used to describe the warm and friendly people found here, especially when welcoming visitors into restaurants or homes – you can always expect to be referred to as ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’.

Southern hospitality is particularly noticeable in restaurants, where servers are generally super friendly and helpful, and in community settings, where locals will always bring cakes or other welcoming gifts to share with their friends and neighbours.

You can rest assured that when visiting Alabama, you’ll be welcomed with open arms and will likely leave with plenty of friends keen to highlight how friendly the state is.

Recommended tour: Downtown Mobile Food Tour

10- Mardi Gras

The Mardi Gras is a famous carnival just before Shrove Tuesday, celebrated across the United States.

New Orleans is usually one of the most famous events, featuring masks, parades and balls.

What you may not know is that Alabama is actually the location of the oldest-ever Mardi Gras, which took place in Mobile in 1703 and continues to this day.

The historic event features parades and colourful floats, along with a huge amount of food, drink and partying that finishes on Shrove Tuesday, also known as ‘Fat Tuesday’ where celebrations often last into the night.

If you visit during Mardi Gras, aside from booking things well in advance, make sure to secure a spot at some fun events, as there’s everything from masked balls to parades, parties and feasts.

Check out the Mobile Carnival Museum with this skip-the-line museum ticket.

11- Channing Tatum

Moving into the modern day, Channing Tatum is a famous face that not many people know comes from Alabama.

The popular actor and dancer was born in Cullman and got his start starring in the film Coach Carter but quickly came to star in lots of famous films such as Step Up, She’s The Man and Magic Mike.

Although Channing Tatum didn’t remain in Alabama long, as his family moved to Mississippi when he was six, the actor remains one of the most famous people to come from the state.

There are a fair few other celebrities from here, including Courtney Cox, Laverne Cox, athlete Jesse Owens, Nat King Cole and Lionel Richie.

12- Music Legends

On the subject of music legends like Nat King Cole, Alabama is known for being home to some of the biggest music icons and locations in the world.

Most importantly, the town of Muscle Shoals is a music hub where you can visit FAME Studios and the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, which houses preserved records and memorabilia and is where legends like Aretha Franklin and the Rolling Stones have recorded songs.

Famous musician Hank Williams was also born in Alabama, as was WC Handy, who was known as the ‘Father of Blues’ – there’s even a WC Handy Museum.

Alabama has a great bar and nightlife scene where you’ll hear plenty of classic tunes, but to really get in the spirit, make sure to attend the Hangout Music Festival, which takes place for three days in May in Alabama’s beautiful Gulf Shores.

13- Kill A Mockingbird

Being so rich in history, it isn’t surprising that Alabama has inspired many great writers.

Monroeville, Alabama, was the childhood home of famous author Harper Lee, who wrote To Kill A Mockingbird, and the setting of the book, a town called Maycomb, is based on her hometown.

For those who haven’t read the novel, it focuses on a small town in Alabama and tells the childhood of Scout and Jem Finch, whose father is a lawyer defending a black man accused of a terrible crime.

We won’t spoil the ending, but the book, released after a wave of civil rights protests, led to changes such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and was instantly successful.

The town is now known as the literary capital of the state, although unfortunately, Harper Lee’s house is no longer standing.

Visit the Old Courthouse Museum, where scenes are reenacted and there are exhibitions on Harper Lee.

Another authors from Alabama is Truman Capote, who grew up with Lee.

14- NASA and Outer Space

alabama famous for
Space travel is another thing Alabama is known for.

When you think of space travel, Florida’s Space Coast may be the first thing to come to mind, but Alabama has its own claim to fame.

The hub for this is Huntsville, where you’ll find NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Centre, which develops new rockets and spacecraft.

It’s home to a select few Saturn spacecraft, which were those that went to the moon on the Apollo mission.

Head to the US State & Rocket Centre, which is one of the biggest space museums on earth and has a tonne of cool exhibitions and interactive activities, such as a virtual Apollo 11 moon landing and flying an F-18 Super Hornet simulator.

You can see the real-life Saturn V rocket inside and learn about the centre’s current plans for space travel to Mars! Kids and adults can also attend Space Camp, which has trained five now-astronauts, where you can do fun things like construct a model rocket and take part in a simulated space mission.

15- Beaches

aerial view of sand and waves and people on a beach
What is Alabama known for? You may be surprised at the popularity of its beaches.

If Alabama is the very last place you’d think of when considering beautiful beaches, you’d be forgiven but would be entirely wrong.

Thanks to its stunning Gulf Coast coastline, the state has white sand beaches that are sugar-soft and have warm, clear waters – it’s a hugely underrated beach destination.

One of the most popular places for locals to go on a beach holiday is the city of Gulf Shores, which also has great shops and restaurants, although you can also visit pretty spots like Dauphin Island and Gulf State Park, both of which have stunning beaches and plentiful outdoor activities.

If you’re heading to the state, make sure to schedule a few days of downtime in one of these gorgeous areas that most people don’t think to visit!

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India-Jayne Trainor
India-Jayne Trainor is a British/Australian freelance writer, photographer and contributor to various online blogs and travel websites. She has travelled to almost 30 countries, most recently Cuba and Sri Lanka. Her work focuses on solo female travel, having spent two months backpacking alone through South East Asia as well as living in Germany for a year. Her favourite country to date has been Hong Kong, but she is happy in any country by the ocean. Her next destinations are Uzbekistan and a road trip through the American Mid-West. India is currently based in London, UK, and planned her own wedding in Italy in 2024.