10 reasons to visit Alabama this summer

Credit to Tracey Teo, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

If you have a bad case of spring fever, there’s just one cure — a road trip!

Why not drop by and say hello to our neighbor to the west, Alabama. If it’s been a while, you’ll have some catching up to do because much has changed — for the better. Here are 10 reasons to visit now.

U.S. Space & Rocket Center

Young, aspiring astronauts are over the moon about the recent opening of Intuitive Planetarium and digital theater, a state-of-the-art facility that whisks viewers away on a thrilling exploration of the cosmos. Advanced technology that makes IMAX look about as cutting-edge as a manual typewriter provides a breathtaking tour of the Milky Way and a flight through Saturn’s rings. That’s not the only reason to visit this massive space museum. “Apollo: When We Went to the Moon,” is a new exhibit that celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. It chronicles space exploration from the turbulent Cold War Space Race era to the first footprints on the moon and takes a look at how that historic achievement brought nations together to work toward a common goal of learning more about what lies beyond our Earthly boundaries. (Planetarium combo ticket $32-$29, free for children 4 and younger. One Tranquility Base, Huntsville, Ala. 800-637-7223, http://www.rocketcenter.com)

A visitor feeds a giraffe at the Alabama Safari Park in Hope Hull, Ala. Contributed by Alabama Safari ParkPhoto: For the AJC

Alabama Safari Park

Kids may leave this new drive-through park believing unicorns are real. Arabian oryx have two long horns that align so perfectly, they look like a single horn from the side, and some believe these very real creatures gave rise to stories of a mythical one. By the early 1970s, this antelope was extinct in the wild due to over hunting, but captive breeding programs in American zoos saved the species. Calves grazing quietly in a verdant pasture are a welcome sight to those familiar with the species’ struggle for survival. But eventually, you’ll have to tear yourself away from these cuddly babies because, with more than 700 animals on 350 acres, there’s much to see. In the walking section of the park, kids can feed giraffes and get acquainted with small, gentle birds at the Budgie Adventure Aviary. ($16.95-$14.95, free for children younger than 2. 1664 Venable Road, Hope Hull, Ala. 334-288-2105, http://www.alabamasafaripark.com)

RELATED: Birmingham’s Avondale neighborhood is a hot destination for a night on the town.

Noccalula Experience

The Noccalula Experience is an outdoor performance at Noccalula Falls Park and Campground in Gadsden that recounts the legend of Indian princess Noccalula and her true love. It debuts May 31 and runs for five weeks this summer. The audience physically follows the action, which takes place in the state park’s most scenic spots and concludes at Noccalula Falls, a natural marvel that seems to have all the power and strength of the Indian maiden herself. (2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Friday-Sunday, May 31-July 7. $22.50-$20, free for children younger than 3. Discounted pre-sale tickets are available. Noccalula Falls Park and Campground, 1500 Noccalula Road, Gadsden, Ala. 256-549-4663, http://www.noccalulafallspark.com)

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