Can’t-miss spring getaways: See just why they call us “Alabama the Beautiful”

If there is ever an ideal time to get out and see Alabama, it’s definitely spring.

Sure, we have a lot of pollen – maybe even some rain – but the payoff is totally worth it. The whole state is covered in flowering bushes, flowering trees, and well, flowers. You can’t step outside without catching a glimpse of pale pink dogwood blossoms or a whiff of sweet honeysuckle.

That’s what makes springtime the perfect time for a weekend road trip, or even just a day trip. Here are a couple in Northeast Alabama that will take you off the beaten path and still give you a breathtaking view of the state’s natural beauty:

Mentone’s Rhododendron Festival honors one of Alabama’s most prolific native plants and close cousin to our favorite cultivated shrub, the azalea. Like any festival worth its salt, this one offers plenty of arts and crafts, food, and live music… along with the lovely flora. This time-honored tradition is held each May, when the rhododendrons are at their peak and covered in clusters of showy blooms. As an added perk to the pretty views, admission is totally free. Locals say the best place to view the blooms is around the lake on Little River above DeSoto Falls, as well as around the mountaintop town of Mentone.

Also in May, you’ll find one of spring’s most unique events stretching diagonally across Alabama. The U.S. Highway 11 Antique Alley is always the weekend after Mother’s Day (May 17 to May 20 this year), and this 502-mile festival of fun finds runs along U.S. Highway 11 from Meridian, Mississippi, to Bristol, Virginia. The roadside sale features festivals, antique sales, flea markets, yard sales and carnivals in small towns and cities along the route through the Tennessee Valley and the Heart of Dixie. The U.S. Highway 11 Antique Alley offers a chance to get off the interstate highways and travel the old roads, allowing you to take in the charming sights, discover a family-owned restaurant, and, of course, shop for treasures along the way.

If that doesn’t satisfy your desire for antiques and collectibles, plan on attending the Vintage Pickin’ Barn Sale in Fyffe, Alabama, on May 5. General admission is just $8, but for a few dollars more – $18 in all – you can get a sneak peek (and first choice!) with Early Pickin’. You’ll find all sorts of unique pieces and fabulous vintage finds that are ideal for a remodel or fixer-upper project. More than 50 hand-selected artisans and pickers from across the Southeast have done the hunting for you, bringing truckloads of vintage, one-of-a-kind antiques, specialty finds, and vintage-inspired handmade goods. This special one-day preview event is May 4, 3pm to 7pm, and the first 100 early pickers get a free tote. Order tickets online for $8 or pay at the door for $20; early pickers start at noon and pay $18.

If you long to relive the good old days of small town life, don’t miss Memories of Mayberry on June 2 in the town of Valley Head. There will be a cruise-in featuring more than 50 gawk-worthy antique cars, great food at Aunt Bea’s kitchen, live entertainment, and door prizes. You may even run into Deputy Barney Fife or Floyd the Barber or even Earnest T. Bass while you’re in town. The fun starts at 9am and admission is free. Of course, donations are welcome, and all proceeds go to benefit the Valley Head Volunteer Fire Department.

Road trips are an ideal way to stretch out the glory of spring, especially as we head into this long holiday drought from Memorial Day to Independence Day. Just a few days out in the Northeast Alabama fresh air can have a rejuvenating effect—just remember to bring some tissues and antihistamines for that not-so-glorious dusting of golden pollen.