Alabama’s top tourism spots of 2019 revealed

Alabama’s top tourism spots of 2019 revealed
The U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville is Alabama's biggest tourist draw for a paid attraction, and it wasn't even close. (Source: WAFF)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Alabama Department of Tourism is releasing the list of most visited attractions in the state for 2019 and the No. 1 destination was on another planet compared to the rest of the field.

First, we’ll look at the Top 10 most popular paid attractions.

Coming in at No. 10 was Point Mallard Park in Decatur. Tourism officials say the park welcomed 274,703 guests for the year.

At No. 9 was Birmingham’s McWane Science Center with attendance of just under 340,000.

At No. 8, Huntsville’s Botanical Gardens were in full bloom with visitors. Some 376,526 people made a stop here, a six percent increase from the year before.

Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Birmingham zoomed into the No. 7 spot with 379,083 visitors.

The motorcycles of Barber were passed for the No. 6 spot by some speedy cars at Talladega Superspeedway. 2019 attendance topped 436,000 fans.

The Mighty USS ALABAMA Battleship Memorial Park blasted its way into the No. 5 spot with a big uptick in visitors from the previous year. In 2019 there were 451,601 visitors, an increase of 24 percent from 2018!

Only one Montgomery-specific attraction made the Top 10 list, and it came in at No. 4 on the most visited list. With a stunning 500,000 visitors, the Equal Justice Initiative Museum was the state capital’s biggest tourism draw.

No. 3 was for the birds...and the elephants, rhinos and other wildlife. Some 565,087 people made their way through the Birmingham Zoo in 2019

Looking to yell fore and sink a hole in one? Check out the No. 2 most visited spot in Alabama when you hit the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. If you visited in 2019, you played a game with 577,338 of your closest friends!

And with Alabama’s tourism industry booming, it’s no surprise to see the Huntsville Space and Rocket Center blast into the No. 1, with nearly twice the number of visitors than its closest competitor! In 2018, there were 847,081 visitors, which is impressive enough. In 2019, there were 1,050,958!

“It is the first time any paid attraction in Alabama has ever come close to accomplishing this, and I couldn’t be prouder,” said Judy Ryals, President/CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau in regards to the Space and Rocket Center. “It stands as proof positive of the hard work of the Space Center and its recently retired director, Dr. Deborah Barnhart.”

FREE ATTRACTIONS ALSO BOOM IN ALABAMA

The list above involved paid admission, but there are certainly free things to do that have drawn a number of tourists.

While Huntsville saw the most tourists on the paid attraction list, head to the other end of the state to see the draw that topped rockets six-fold. The tourism department says the state’s beaches welcomed six million people in 2019, making it the most visited natural destination in the state.

The Birmingham Botanical Gardens attracted 347,000 visitors to make it the most attended free attraction. And more than 1 million people celebrated Mobile’s Mardi Gras making it the most attended event.

The Top 10 biggest free attractions for tourists include:

  1. Birmingham Botanical Gardens - 347,000 visitors
  2. Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment in Huntsville - 300,000 visitors
  3. Alabama State Capitol - 152,994 visitors
  4. Birmingham Museum of Art - 124,039 visitors
  5. Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament - 115,000 visitors
  6. Army Aviation Museum at Fort Rucker - 100,000 visitors
  7. Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts - 96,355 visitors
  8. Aldridge Gardens in Hoover - 92,464 visitors
  9. Oakville Indian Mounds Education Center - 60,000 visitors
  10. Alabama Department of Archives and History - 54,460

Copyright 2020 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.