The city of the Big Pier

Through the years, Fairhope has grown into a town that is not only full of history but also Southern charm. What used to be one of Alabama’s best-kept secrets is becoming better known by the year. Famous artists and writers have vacationed and resided in the town of only 14,000. Writers Fannie Flagg, Upton Sinclair and Rick Bragg are just a few notables who have spent some time there.

Don’t miss

58th annual Arts and Crafts Festival

Every spring artists from across the country travel to Fairhope to display and sell their creations at this three-day juried art show. The free downtown event also includes live entertainment. The 2009 festival drew more than 200,000 visitors, and this year’s event is expected to be just as popular. March 19-21. Fairhope Avenue (off U.S. 98 Alt.). 251-928-6387, www.eschamber.com/artscrafts.

Fairhope Municipal Pier

Known locally as the Big Pier, the quarter-mile Fairhope Municipal Pier is one of the small town’s most well-known landmarks. Swimming, fishing, hiking and picnicking are just a few things visitors can do when visiting the pier. Tourists and residents alike gather at the pier to watch the sun set over the bay. 1 Beach Drive (off U.S. 98 Alt.). 251-928-2136, www.cofairhope.com.

Opportunities for shopping

After spending a day lounging by the bay, many Fairhope visitors take advantage of browsing the town’s boutiques and shops. Art galleries, bookstores and jewelry shops are among the downtown’s many merchants. Alla Mano on Magnolia Avenue sells Turkish, Persian and Moroccan rugs, handcrafted belts and handbags, and unusual women’s apparel. Aubergine on De La Mar sells French and English antiques. www.fairhope merchants.com.

Fairhope Museum of History

One of the town’s newest additions, the museum opened in 2008 and welcomes people with an interest in Fairhope’s past. Visitors can view exhibits and displays of the old town jail, railroads, former mayors and Native Americans, among other topics of interest. 24 N. Section St. (off U.S. 98 Alt.); 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays-Saturdays. 251-929-1474, www.cofairhope.com.

If you go

Getting there

Fairhope is 360 miles from Atlanta. Take I-85 south for 161 miles, then I-65 south for 139 miles. Take Ala. 225 South, then Ala. 42 East, then U.S. 98 Alt. East.

Where to eat

● Panini Pete’s. This casual restaurant was featured on the Food Network and is mostly known for its breakfasts, sandwiches, hot dogs, soups and burgers. $8-$10. 8 a.m.- 2:30 p.m., Mondays to Saturdays. 251-929-0122. 421/2 S. Section St. No. 2, www.paninipetes.com.

● Fairhope Inn and Restaurant. Pork tenderloin, lamb shank and filet mignon are just three fine-dining menu items at the Fairhope Inn and Restaurant. Entrees $22-$36. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesdays to Sundays (lunch) and 5-10 p.m. Tuesdays to Sundays (dinner). 251-928-6226. 63 S. Church St., www.thefairhopeinn.com.

Where to stay

● Bay Breeze Guest House. Only a few minutes from downtown, the bed-and-breakfast sits on 3 acres and has five suites and a Garden Room directly on Mobile Bay. Guests can kayak, canoe, take a bike ride to downtown Fairhope or lounge on the private 462-foot pier. 742 S. Mobile St. (off U.S. 98 Alt. East). $149-$179. 251-928-8976, www.baybreeze.us.

● Baron’s “By the Bay” Inn. This inn overlooks Mobile Bay and is within walking distance to shops and restaurants. Rates $79.88-$99.88. 701 S. Mobile St. 251-928-8000, www.baronsinn.com.

Visitor information

Alabama Tourism Department. 251-928-6387, www.alabama.travel.

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