Thankful on a Tankful

Thankful on a Tankful: 7 Alabama Destinations Worth the Drive this Autumn

Posted at Fri, Nov 3, 2023 1:00 PM

Thankful on a Tankful: 7 Alabama Destinations Worth the Drive this Autumn

Everyone knows Thanksgiving brings loved ones together. But sometimes, we don't feel like we’re together

Whether you’ve got a friend who’d rather scroll Instagram, a husband who just wants to go Black Friday shopping for the newest kitchen gadget or a mom who wants to watch the newest season of The Crown in peace, opportunities for relationship-building can be hard to find.

Luckily, a group drive is a time-honored solution. Get your loved ones in the car and take a day trip to one of these adventure-offering, autumn-friendly Alabama locations.

This fall, skip Black Friday shopping and search out some autumn leaves instead. At Mullinax Ford, we’re thankful on a tankful.

Cattyshack, Inc. Cat Café

This holiday season, we’re thankful for the furry friends that make life fuller. And what better way to spread thankfulness than with a donation to this Huntsville non-profit cat rescue shelter?

Reserve a spot at the cat lounge and spend up to an hour basking in cat hair and cuddling with the shelter’s adoptable kitties. The money from your reservation goes straight to food, medical supplies and vet care.

You might just leave with a new family member right in time for the holiday season, so be prepared to add an extra stocking to the fireplace mantle.

The lounge holds up to 12 guests at a time and you can book the entire space if you and your cat-loving companions want some quality time with the felines.

If you’re looking to get your heart rate up (and counteract the turkey and pie you’ll be enjoying over the holidays), Cattyshack offers a weekly kitten yoga session open to cat lovers age 18 and up. The experience will tug on your joints and your heartstrings.

Caffco Floral Outlet 

Nothing gets us in the Christmas spirit like enveloping our home in the wintery scents of holiday plants. The small, privately owned flower and home decor shop “petals” wholesale products to florists and store owners throughout the South but also directly to flower-loving customers.

A bough of holly. A sprig of mistletoe. A wreath of pine cones. Make the drive to Montgomery to buy these holiday horticulture necessities and more from Caffco Floral.

Mark your calendars for early November for the store’s annual Christmas Open House event. The store becomes a winter wonderland, decked out in lights, “snow” and of course Christmas flowers. There, you can buy wreaths, garlands, Christmas ornaments and trees galore for unbeatable low-ho-ho prices.

Stretch your legs from the car ride with a stroll in the adjacent Caffco Gardens. Blooming flowers and a river-spanning bridge are all the more beautiful in the crisp autumn weather.

Birmingham Bulls Hockey Game

Who said you need snow to play (or watch) hockey?

The Birmingham Bulls had one of their most memorable seasons yet in 2023, reaching the Southern Professional Hockey League finals for just the second time in team history. Gather your family and friends at Pelham Civic Complex to cheer on the Bulls as they return to the ice with unfinished business.

The Bulls have a home game almost every week from November to early April, so you and your favorite hockey-loving pals have plenty of chances to support the pride of Birmingham. 

Plus, each game has a different promotional night theme — from Batman vs Superman to Hockey Fights Hunger Food Drive — so be sure to check out the schedule to plan your hockey-watching outfits. 

You can also check up on the team’s social media to coordinate your visit with special giveaways such as the free black Coca-Cola T-shirts offered at the Black Out game.

Crisis Services of North Alabama’s Turkey Trot 5k

Nothing says thankfulness like spreading it around.

This Thanksgiving morning, haul the troops out of bed and over to Huntsville for this annual Turkey Trot 5k, which donates proceeds to Crisis Services of North Alabama. The group provides free crisis counseling for families in need and in 2022 it answered helpline calls from 19,688 individuals.

If you’re looking to embrace the Turkey Day spirit to the fullest — thankfullest? — your family can coordinate matching turkey costumes or tutus to trot across the finish line in style. The little ones don’t have to miss the fun, either — the Tiny Tot Turkey Trot is free for all trotters aged 5 and under.

Walk, run or stroller-push your way through the morning workout while donating to a good cause — it’ll do your heart good in more ways than one.

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians Annual Thanksgiving Pow Wow 

Over 50 years ago, Indigenous people of the Poarch reservation threw a homecoming celebration for tribal members. They extended invitations to friends, the pow wow.

Drive down to Altmore for a two-day homecoming celebration of Indigenous heritage, beginning Thanksgiving Day. One of the highlights of this fun-filled family-friendly event is a dance competition featuring Indigenous people from more than 20 tribal nations.

Your family will leave entertained and educated about the cultural heritage of the only federally recognized tribe in Alabama.

Plus, you won’t go hungry on the reservation with local artisans and vendors serving festival food from oak-wood fire-roasted corn to buffalo burgers (for the culinarily adventurous) to traditional turkey and dressing dishes (for the Thanksgiving traditionalists).

Fall Outdoor Cascading Chrysanthemums 

With almost 60 successful displays in the books, Bellingrath Gardens knows how to throw a chrysanthemum showcase in style.

Named one of the Top 20 Events in the Southeast, this outdoor chrysanthemum show — the largest of its kind in the country — is more than worth a visit this November.

Stroll through the gardens to see hundreds of chrysanthemums in yellow, red, bronze and white autumn hues. The 4-foot cascades are hung on bridges and brick balconies, set out in topiaries and bursting from baskets throughout the 65-acre garden.

The display takes more than nine months to create every year, so be sure to show your thankfulness for the garden’s hardworking horticulture staff by purchasing a ticket and mingling with the mums.

Alabama Shakespeare Festival’s “A Christmas Carol”

What’s more Christmas-y than rewatching a holiday movie? Making the drive to see a holiday favorite onstage.

Designated “Alabama’s State Theatre,” ASL’s English countryside-inspired brick building will take your breath away before you even walk inside. 

When you do make it through the arched doorway and find your way to your seat, your amazement will grow when the production of Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol” begins. 

The whole family will laugh along with every “bah humbug” utterance and shed tears at Tiny Tim’s plight. The epic story is the perfect reminder of the importance of thankfulness and family, just in time for holiday season — and, let’s face it, it’s fun to watch Marley moan and traipse around in chains.

If you can tear yourself out of the gorgeous venue after the show, take a walk around Wynton M. Blount Cultural Park, the sprawling grounds with several ponds and miles of walking trails in which the theater is contained.

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