Bellingrath Gardens

If you search the Internet for "Azalea Capital of the World", all the listings are for Mobile, Alabama. With very acidic soil and a ranking as one of the country's rainiest cities, Mobile has ideal growing conditions for these plants.

And if you visit Mobile in the spring, it would be a shame to miss seeing the 250,000 azaleas that are blooming in nearby Bellingrath Gardens. Walter Bellingrath, the first Coca-Cola bottler in Mobile, purchased this property in 1917 for a personal retreat and began developing gardens there some years later. He and his wife opened their 65 acres (26 hectares) to the public for the first time in 1932, and the resulting massive response prompted them to continue developing their property. Bellingrath is now one of the most popular destination gardens in the U.S.

As a major tourist site, the Gardens have added a gift shop, a house tour, and a sightseeing river cruise. But the best part is the beauty and serenity of the gardens themselves.