The USS Alabama spent 37 months in active duty during World War II. It earned nine battle stars and never suffered significant damage from enemy fire. Following this illustrious military career, the battleship was set to be scrapped because of the prohibitive cost of maintaining a wartime fleet. But in 1964, Alabama schoolchildren put forth a fierce fundraising campaign and raised $100,000 to save the ship. Their efforts inspired a corporate sponsor to supply the $1 million balance, and the navy donated the ship. And so the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park was born.
Today, the ship rests safe and sound in the harbor—a 680-foot mammoth whose enormous mass displaces more than 44,500 tons of water. More than 13 million visitors have trod its deck, wandered through its passages, and gazed at its 29 16-inch and .38-caliber guns.
Resting alongside the ship, the WWII submarine USS Drum welcomes visitors to explore inside its labyrinthine hull, inviting them to climb through hatches and imagine what life would be like if every doorway were round. The memorial park also houses a cavalcade of military equipment, vehicles, and aircraft on display, including a T-55 Iraqi tank, a Cold War–era Lockheed A-12 Blackbird, and a World War II–era Douglas C-47D Skytrain.
Under the right guidance, the clear blue waters around Destin's harbor become visible from every angle—the air, the surface, or deep below. Destin Snorkel leads a comprehensive roster of area adventure tours, granting guests total flexibility to join or leave their excursion at any time. Guides steer one of three boats through the bay, keeping all their participants' needed snorkeling or snuba gear onboard and unhaunted by pirate ghosts to allow frequent plunges into waters rich with seashells and wildlife. When not pausing at shallow-water dive sites, boats embark on day cruises for dolphin sightseeing tours or at night to showcase fireworks over the harbor skyline. Sea kayaks also allow visitors to venture off on their own into the waters around Crab Island and Holiday Isle.
Alternatively, FFA-certified flight instructors provide a different perspective, soaring over the coastline in beach-discovery flights. During any of the cruises and tours, guides may expound on the local ecosystem and the harbor's history, revealing whether the town's first civilians ever taught dolphins how to open their eyes above water.
Run by the adventurers at Wild Native, City Safaris' urban expeditions invite participants to discover the unlikely thrills hidden within some of Mobile's stateliest settings. Whether they're recreating the festive fun of Mardi Gras, exploring downtown's historical haunts, or snooping through the inside of the U.S.S. Alabama and the surrounding grounds at Battleship Park, participants compete with one another while flexing their problem-solving muscles. Since friendly competition often brings out a participant's true nature, Wild Native's adventurers also schedule singles hunts that pair up prospective dates for an evening of strategizing.
Captain Larry maneuvers the Sea Blaster––a 73-foot speedboat––on four different cruises in the Gulf, departing from the HarborWalk Village. Dolphin cruises speed through the water during the day, coming up close to dolphins as they leap out of the sea in an effort to distract humans while they steal their sunglasses. With the addition of snorkeling, passengers strap on a simple breathing apparatus and paddle through the crystalline waters. Others spy dolphins during the sunset cruise, as the horizon burns pink and orange, or watch fireworks burst over the water from the Sea Blaster’s deck every Thursday evening.
Emerald Coast Science Center has 5,000 square feet of gallery space filled with eye-opening, family-friendly exhibits on principles of biology, physics, earth science, and technology. In the Hall of Life, there are microscopes where you can peer at bodily cells, as well as a replica intestine that unfurls to reveal its surprising length of 17 feet. At Color & Light, you can interact with mirrors, colorful lights, and a domesticated rainbow. And in the Critters room, kids get to meet such museum residents as Tickles the Snake and Rosy the Tarantula.
Staff captains set sail on boats that have been outfitted to provide passengers with unforgettable views of wildlife and chances at making a big catch. Throughout the year, dolphin cruises take place aboard the Sunny Lady, which can hold up to 133 passengers and is equipped with a glass-bottom viewing area, snack bar, air conditioning, and restrooms. Alternatively, the 65-foot, walk-around Tropical Winds takes anglers out into the Gulf of Mexico on fishing charters, where they can catch mackerel, red snapper, or amberjack, depending on the season.