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.
The professional pilots at Timberview Helicopters ferry passengers high into the clouds aboard a sky-scraping whirlybird during flight tours through Destin, Kansas City, and Key West. Having chartered flights for National Geographic and the Travel Channel, these pilots expertly navigate planes toward sweeping, picturesque views, allowing sightseers to steal glances of Fort Walton Beach, downtown Kansas City, and Key West's ocean views from a perspective normally reserved for birds and astronauts with binoculars. Additionally, their high-definition videos grant guests a lasting commemoration of their in-flight experience. When they're not chartering tours, they teach budding pilots the gravity-defying tricks of their trade through pilot training and lug precious shipments from port to port with their cargo-lifting services.
Nestled on the barrier Gulf Coast, St. George Island boasts 22 miles of tranquil beaches and unblemished wildlife sanctuaries. Your relaxing stint in the sand begins at one of Tip Top Vacation Spot's furnished rental properties, outfitted for every family, couple, or couple of families looking to take bets on their children’s beach volleyball games. Rates start as low as $485 (standard fees not included) for a three-night stay in a quaint, two-bedroom villa during the low, summer season, and range upward of $3,600 for a week-long, mid-season stay at a five-bedroom house equipped to corral larger herds of vacationers.
The Pioneer Museum of Alabama invites visitors to step back to a simpler time through its hands-on exhibition of pioneer heritage. At the museum, 22 historic structures stand on more than 40 acres of landscape and wetlands that abut the Conecuh River. In these buildings, costumed pioneers lead demonstrations of frying cornbread, churning butter, and weaving cotton. For a touch of nature, stroll through the nearby trails and examine native flora and woodland fauna or hop on a horse-drawn wagon for a quick jaunt across the grounds.
A fully equipped marine laboratory, Dauphin Island Sea Lab provides marine science programs for students and visitors of all ages in an effort to propagate knowledge of marine science and help protect local ecosystems. Dedicated to education, it runs K–12 teacher education programs on the oceans and marine environments to help get these subjects into the classroom. Its summer college programs and graduate programs offer opportunities for further study in oceanography and coastal ecology. The Sea Lab also works to maintain coastal wetlands and resources, conducts research on the Mobile Bay watershed and shore waters, and maintains the Gulf of Mexico Science Journal.
In addition to its scientific work, the Sea Lab runs a public aquarium, the Estuarium, which depicts local marine habitats including the Gulf of Mexico, a drowned river valley, and a living salt marsh. These exhibits contain a variety of native plants and wildlife such as marsh grasses, recreations of cypress swamps, and an American alligator, and at the Estuarium, children can touch live fish.
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.