Mention Alabama and chances are most people don’t think of white sand beaches or pine-studded mountain ranges. Peer a little bit closer, however and there’s no doubt this proud and vibrant state is full of surprises. Championship golf courses, stellar fishing, Civil War drama and an excess of historical sites drew over 22 million visitors to the “Heart of Dixie” in 2008. Relive events that shook the nation in Birmingham, where civil rights leaders rubbed elbows in the 60s and freedom was redefined. Native American roots are still strong in Moundville, where you can peruse 320-acres of prehistoric Indian mounds, campgrounds and nature trails. If your historical appetite still isn’t sated, the Gulf Coast region is a living monument to Creole farm houses and stately antebellum architecture. Water lovers flock north, where the Tennessee River creates a lush valley cut with innumerable streams, rivers, lakes and creeks. For those partial to the quirky, check out Wetumpka Crater in Elmore County. Site of “Alabama’s greatest natural disaster”, the crater stretches five miles wide and is believed to have been caused by a 1000-foot wide meteorite a mere 80 million years ago.