To request a vacation guide and calendar of events, contact the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel, 401 Adams Ave., Ste. 126, P.O. Box 4627, Montgomery, AL 36103 (tel. 800/ALABAMA, or 334/242-4169; www.touralabama.org). If you have Internet access, the official Alabama website offers quick access to accommodations, restaurants, sites of interest, and a host of other information.
There are also eight visitor centers dotting the perimeter of the state, each staffed by a representative of Alabama's Bureau of Tourism and Travel who will be happy to make reservations for you at accommodations throughout the state, provide maps, and dole out other helpful information. They're available daily from 8am to 5pm. However, the Lanett Welcome Center in Valley, AL, is open 24 hours a day.
By Plane -- Alabama is serviced by four major airports: in the northern part of the state, Birmingham International (tel. 205/595-0533; www.bhamintlairport.com) and Huntsville International (tel. 256/772-9395; www.hsvairport.org); in central Alabama, Montgomery Regional (tel. 334/281-5040; www.montgomeryairport.org); and in the south, Mobile Regional (tel. 800/357-5373; www.mobileairportauthority.com).
By Train -- Amtrak's Crescent Line (tel. 800/872-7245; www.amtrak.com), which runs from New York City to New Orleans, makes stops in Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, and Anniston.
By Car -- I-65 slices straight through the middle of the state, starting in Tennessee to the north and ending at the white-sand respite of Mobile Bay, while I-59 cuts a diagonal swathe from Georgia in the northeast section of Alabama and runs about two-thirds down the length of the state to the west into Mississippi.
The festival of Mardi Gras most likely conjures up images of New Orleans (or maybe even Carnivale in Brazil), but some locals say the Gulf Coast city of Mobile has been celebrating the pre-Lenten festival since the turn of the 18th century -- longer than its Louisiana neighbor. For Alabama's part, it was started by a man named Michael Kraftt, whose fondness for ringing celebratory cow bells started the Cowbellion de Rakin Society, which to this day still presents the first float in Mobile's Mardi Gras parade, kicking off 10 days of celebrations.
Also in Mobile is the Bellingrath Gardens 65-acre Spring Azalea Festival (tel. 251/973-2217; www.bellingrath.org) at 12401 Bellingrath Rd., where more than 250,000 bright and beautiful azaleas explode in all their spring glory. Also in spring, Monroeville honors one of their own with an annual production of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird (tel. 251/575-7433; www.tokillamockingbird.com), presented at the actual Monroe Courthouse where part of the famous award-winning novel was set.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.