Roadside Oddities and Natural Marvels: Alabama’s Quirkiest Outdoor Attractions

The Museum of Wonder Drive-Thru in Seale, Alabama. Photo Courtesy of howderfamily.com.

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Whether you’re looking to soak in the region’s rich history, take advantage of that famous southern hospitality (and food!), or explore its natural beauty, there’s no shortage of memory-making ways to spend your time in Alabama. But what if you want something out of the ordinary? Something a little bit weird but totally wonderful?

From exploring natural sinkholes to searching for dinosaurs in the woods, this list of unforgettable outdoor Alabama attractions is just for you. 

The Never Sink Pit in Alabama

First on the list is the Neversink Pit in Fackler, Alabama. It’s no wonder why this Instagram-famous spot makes for such a popular photo-op location. The limestone sinkhole burrows into the Earth for 162 feet, accompanied by a cascading waterfall that flows as far as the eye can see into the abyss. Travelers can witness the wonder for themselves at Neversink Preserve in Fackler, which is just halfway between Huntsville, AL, and Chattanooga, TN.

Still, this isn’t exactly a quick stop: To get to the sinkhole, you’ll need to complete a half-hour trek uphill and through the woods surrounding the town’s outskirts, so be prepared to bring hiking shoes, food, and snacks.

The best part? It’s free to visit! Keep in mind you’ll need to request a permit beforehand, which grants access to the surface area of the sinkhole.

Drive-Thru Museum (of Wonders)
by Butch Anthony in Seale, Alabama. Photo Courtesy of Marcus O. Bst.

Tucked away on the roadside of the tiny Alabama town known as Seale, the Drive-Thru Museum combines the best of both worlds for travelers with vehicles: art and comfort. What might first seem like a collection of shipping containers stacked on top of each other turns into a gallery of brake-worthy art pieces, antiques, and more as you cruise through. Get ready to spot favorites like the taxidermized two-headed duckling, old photographs with drawings of skeletons superimposed on them, and a giant mural of a winged skeletal creature painted onto a shipping container.  As the name suggests, you won’t ever have to leave your car to enjoy this curated (and totally weird) experience.

For horror hounds,  Alabama has a host of creepy spots and ghastly sights guaranteed to send a shiver down your spine (ever heard of Dead Children’s Playground in Huntsville?), but the Old Cahawba Ghost Town is one you can’t miss. Considered the state’s most well-known ghost town, Cahawba went from a thriving post-Civil War refuge to the dilapidated shell it is today, all in the span of a few decades. Though it is now preserved as an archaeological site, travelers can still enjoy guided tours or stop by the visitor’s center to learn how to brave it on their own. Along the way, you’ll spot century-old southern structures like the Town Commons, what was once the foundation of Cahaba Federal Prison, and—keep an eye out for mischievous spirits.

Deep in the bedrock of Elmore County, travelers can see for themselves the aftermath of a truly awe-inspiring natural disaster: The five-mile-wide impact site where a meteor crashed into the Earth an estimated 84 million years ago. It’s one of the only six above-ground craters in the world! (That we know of, at least.) To catch a glimpse of the site, visitors can partake in one of the Wetumpka Impact Crater Commission’s annual tours during spring or take a self-guided tour around several public locations.

As one of the only locations in the world where dismalites—insects that glow a blue-green color—can be found, Dismals Canyon in Franklin County is truly best enjoyed during the nighttime. There are two gorgeous waterfalls in the canyon, Rainbow Falls and Secret Falls, but those little bugs are the real showstoppers. After the sun sets, they will cover the walls of the canyon and create a glowing universe against the rocks. Pair that with the moss-covered surfaces, gentle fog, and spellbinding rock formations, and the canyon may as well be an enchanted forest.

Life-sized dinosaurs in the woods – could Alabama get any weirder? If this sounds like an attraction you can’t pass up on, you’re in luck, as Barber Marina Dinosaurs has exactly what you’re looking for. Placed on 10,000 acres of greenery, the site is home to replicas of a Brontosaurus, T. Rex, Stegosaurus, and Triceratops—all of which you’ll discover while exploring Barber Pkwy just south of Elberta, tucked away right next to Wolf Bay. Even better, this flashback to the Jurassic Period is free!

The Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel. Photo Courtesy of Brent Moore.

Situated above Lookout Mountain, the Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel is a gorgeous hideaway that also happens to be quite the architectural wonder: There’s a massive boulder sticking out from one side of the chapel! Believe it or not, this is all thanks to quite a romantic tale. Built in 1925 by Milford Howard, a local author and lawyer, the structure serves as a memorial for his wife, Sarah Lankford Howard. Since the Chapel location was so sentimental, Milford decided to incorporate the land during its construction, turning the massive rock into a wall that can be seen from both the exterior and interior.

Fortunately, the Chapel was preserved long after, and services are still conducted weekly. Travelers are always welcome to visit, whether it’s to get married next to the surrounding forest or simply marvel at the architectural oddity.

Previously known as Bat Cave, the Cathedral Caverns in Marshall County received its current name when Jacob Gurley (who first opened it to the public) and his wife visited a room that had been recently explored and noticed something peculiar: The cavern looked like a cathedral! While that’s certainly true, there’s even more to explore inside this cave, including “Goliath” (a 45-foot-tall stalagmite), a frozen waterfall, and an expansive stalagmite forest containing some mind-blowing formations.

Tours are regularly available for those who want a more in-depth exploration of everything it has to offer, but you’re free to enjoy the area independently thanks to its marked hiking trails and paths. 

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