Every year, thousands of Alabamians look forward to enjoying their Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial start of summer surrounded by friends and family. But with safe, social distancing the order of the day, this year’s holiday plans might look a little different.
Whether you are craving outdoor adventure, or something more sedate closer to home, here are some options for kicking off summer while still staying safe:
Go rails to trails. Starting in Anniston, the Chief Ladiga Trail runs all the way to the Georgia line, where it connects to the 63-mile Silver Comet Trail. This paved recreational trail is Alabama’s first Rails to Trails project. Feel the freedom as you run, bike or stroll along streams, farmland and rolling hills.
Pick your own. Jerry Marsh Farms, located in Cleveland, in Blount County, is the perfect place to have fun while gathering nature’s bounty. When you arrive, you will see strawberries galore. Grab a bucket and pick as many as you can before the sun goes down. Other farm-fresh foods are available for purchase. For more information, visit Jerry Marsh Farms’ Facebook page. For information about other “U-pick” farms around the state, visit Sweet Grown Alabama. Be sure reservations are not required before heading out.
Pizza on the grill. Can’t get to Naples, Italy, for Memorial Day? Try making your own, customized pizza with handmade or store-bought pizza dough or crust and your favorite toppings, thrown on the grill. Let the kids make their own, including one for dessert.
Commune with nature. Alabama is blessed with so many places to enjoy its natural and cultivated beauty. If you are in the Mobile area, explore 65 acres of blooming florals at Bellingrath Gardens. They are open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. including Memorial Day. Tickets can be purchased on site. The home of Walter and Bessie Bellingrath is closed, but the gift shop is open along with the Magnolia Café, which is serving only drinks at this time. Find more information at https://bellingrath.org/.
Turn the driveway into an outdoor theater. Take a television and an extension cord, gather up some lawn chairs, or some pillows and blankets, and create your own outdoor theater experience. If you have an old film projector, dust off the pull-up screen or tack up a sheet and impress the kids with some of the old family movies.
Launch a backyard gamefest. Get out the cornhole and horseshoes, pull out some classic board games and let the competition begin. With summer temperatures heating up, set up a sprinkler or a water slide to cool off after each round of games.
Go wild in Alabama’s National Forests. Some of the wildest places in the state are Alabama’s National Forests. From the Sipsey Wilderness to the Bankhead National Forest, you’ll find hiking trails, cool streams and great spots to bird watch. Learn more at https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/alabama/home.
Find a fort. The Alabama Historical Commission operates several historic sites around the state, including forts and archeological sites. Choose from Fort Morgan State Historical Site in the south to Forks of Cypress in the north. If you prefer historic Navy ships, visit the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, where officials have announced that the battleship, submarine USS. Drum and Medal of Honor Aircraft Pavilion will be open for tours beginning May 23. Safe social distancing rules still apply. To discover other Alabama historic sites, visit https://ahc.alabama.gov/forts_battlefields_archsites.aspx.
Cruise cool waters. Alabama has an abundance of lakes and streams. No boat? No problem. Visit the marina at Oak Mountain State Park where you can take out a canoe, pedal boats and other fun floating devices. If you’re near Fort Payne, check out Desoto State Park, where you can reserve a kayak for a leisurely paddle on the west fork of the Little River. If you’re looking to rent a larger vessel, check out the options at Joe Wheeler State Park. For more information about all you can do at Alabama State Parks, visit https://www.alapark.com/.
Get creative as you enjoy the long holiday weekend and the start of summer. Do you have some great ideas for safe summer fun? Send them to us at [email protected].