Alabama Gulf Coast Named Top Tourism Attraction

Alabama’s Gulf beaches and Gulf State Park are the largest tourism attractions in the state, overwhelmingly so, according to the new attendance figures released last week by the Alabama Tourism Department.

The Alabama Gulf Coast. features 32 miles of white sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico.  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Alabama Gulf Coast. features 32 miles of white sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico.
© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The state’s largest stand-alone festival events, located about 20 miles apart, are also located in the Gulf Coast region. The Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival (March 14-16, in 2014) and National Shrimp Festival (October 9-12, in 2014) in Gulf Shores come in at the top two spots among event promotions staged over a single weekend.

The relatively new Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival (June 13-14, in 2014), which takes place in between the other two in Foley, is also rising up the state’s annual top 10 festival list.

According to the 2013 annual report, Mobile’s three-week long Mardi Gras celebration draws the largest attendance in the Events category, with 798,312 reported for 2013. The Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival turned out 300,000 last year, ahead of the National Shrimp Festival crowds reported at 250,000.

Birmingham’s Pepper Place Saturday Market had total attendance of 285,000 last year, however that event is ongoing from April through December.

Gulf State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gulf State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Foley Balloon Festival came in with reported attendance of 65,000 in the latest report, in 8th place of the overall Events category.

The state’s largest Nature attraction is also by far the largest overall visitor destination. The Gulf beaches of Dauphin Island, Fort Morgan, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, recording 2013 total attendance of 5.5 million. Gulf State Park alone had 1,965,000 visitors.

The state’s most popular Paid attraction last year was Huntsville’s U.S. Space & Rocket Center, with more than 580,000 people visiting, followed by the Birmingham Zoo at second with 574,176 and the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at third with 530,678. The USS Alabama attraction on the Mobile causeway came in at 4th with nearly 375,000 visitors.

Attendance figures were collected by the Alabama Tourism Department from local tourism organizations.

Summary of selected attendance figures follow:

Top 5 Admission Charged Attractions 2013

U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville (584,972)
Birmingham Zoo, Birmingham (574,176)
Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (530,678)
USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, Mobile (371,229)
McWane Science Center, Birmingham (316,918)

Top 5 Free Attractions 2013

Birmingham Botanical Gardens (350,000)
Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts (157,609)
Alabama State Capitol, Montgomery (122,667)

Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham (122,345)
U.S. Army Aviation Museum, Fort Rucker (95,030)

Top 5 Events 2013

Mobile Mardi Gras (798,312)
Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival (300,000)
Pepper Place Saturday Market, Birmingham (285,000)
National Shrimp Festival, Gulf Shores (250,000)
National Peanut Festival, Dothan (182,500)

Top 5 Parks and Natural Destinations 2013

Sparkling turquoise Gulf waters and stunningly white sand await the RVer on the Alabama Gulf Coast. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sparkling turquoise Gulf waters and stunningly white sand await the RVer on the Alabama Gulf Coast. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alabama Gulf Coast Beaches (5,500,000)
Gulf State Park (1,965,000)
Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park, McCalla (541,025)
Railroad Park, Birmingham (488,000)
Oak Mountain State Park, Pelham (433,500)

Worth Pondering…

Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton,
Old times there are not forgotten,

Look away, look away, look away Dixie Land.
In Dixie Land, where I was born in,
early on one frosty mornin’,
Look away, look away, look away Dixie Land.

—lyrics by Daniel Decatur Emmett

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