If you are searching for a weekend in utopia, the coastal town of Fairhope, Alabama, might just be the place you are looking for. The gorgeous bayside town is overflowing with sophisticated dining options, luxe shops and a thriving art scene, not to mention scenic outdoor recreational activities for all. Fairhope is not only lovely visually, but utopian at its core. The largest and one of the only remaining single tax colonies in the country, Fairhope was founded on the idealism of economist Henry George, who promoted the taxation of land rather than what sits atop it in an effort to curb inequality. For over a century these social and economic theories have contributed to the flourishing of a community where artists, writers, conservatives and progressives, and free thinkers abound. A simple drive through downtown or walk along the bay makes it clear that Fairhope comes as close to utopia as a place can be. The guide below contains more than a few reasons to visit Fairhope for a weekend of relaxation and coastal escape.
Where to Eat
Plenty of dining options dot the streets of Fairhope, making the only diner’s dilemma selecting where to eat. Any trip to Fairhope is incomplete, however, without a stop at local favorite and much acclaimed Panini Pete’s. Tucked back in the cobblestone courtyard of the Fairhope French Quarter, locals and visitors alike can browse the shops and scarf down hot beignets for breakfast, or divine burgers and paninis for a memorable lunch (go for anything with the house-made mozzarella). Another local favorite, Thyme on Section, transforms freshly prepared local seafood and produce into anything from ceviche tostada to braised pork cheeks, and locals are enjoying its recent relocation downtown. For dinner, don’t miss Camellia Cafe, the premier fine dining option downtown. Regional ingredients shine, such as in the Florida tomato salad with peas, okra and corn, or the crispy Georgia quail stuffed with Conecuh County sausage. If you are looking for some lighter hors d’oeuvres, Red or White offers an extensive wine menu with small plates to accompany, including cheese boards, a roasted vegetable board, and thin crust pizzas and antipasto. For stunning views of Mobile Bay, you can’t get any closer than Sunset Pointe, situated among the sailboats at the Fly Creek Marina, or Shux, which sits comfortably perched on the middle of the Fairhope Municipal Pier. Finally, if an ice cold beer is all you’re looking for, make it a local one at Fairhope Brewing Company.
Fairhope has long been a magnet for artisans working in various mediums, including writers, painters, sculptors and more. If possible, plan your weekend around the first Friday of the month for ArtWalk. The streets of downtown Fairhope are filled with locals and visitors alike, laden with wine glasses and ready for you to peruse the galleries about town. Some highlights include the Eastern Shore Art Center, with monthly exhibitions and galleries such as the Fairhope Artist Gallery, Lyons Share Custom Framing & Gallery and The Kiln Studio + Gallery to name a few. Internationally acclaimed artist Nall also calls Fairhope home, and Nall Art Gallery has an amazing selection of his works as well as those of other notable Alabama artists. More often than not, each of these spaces feature local and regional artists in heavy rotation, allowing insight into the long-established creative scene at every turn.
The Shopping Scene
The retail therapy available in Fairhope draws in shoppers from up and down the Eastern Shore, and for good reason. Whether you are looking for high-end boutiques, antique shops or something in between, Fairhope has it all. For drool-worthy designer options, try CK Collection or East Bay Clothiers. Turn heads wearing on-trend finds from local boutique Sway, and keep your eyes shielded from sun reflecting off the bay with some fabulous eyewear from JJ Eyes. For an impeccably curated collection of decor and home furnishings, Green Gates is a mecca for interior decorators and dedicated nesters alike. Aubergine Antiques offers culinary antiques, oriental rugs and more, with a fine selection of European imports including anything from limestone mantels to antique olive jars and home decor. If you succeed in checking off all of these retail recommendations in one afternoon, grab a coffee at Page & Palette, skim through the shelves of this comfortable bookstore, and rest your weary legs and even wearier wallet. The locally owned, third generation-run bookstore also hosts a regular calendar of events spotlighting local talent as well as famed writers.
Enjoy Outdoor Recreation
Fairhopians know how to take advantage of nearly year-long mild weather and the briny goodness that is Mobile Bay via a plethora of activities. Perhaps one of the most easily noted things about Fairhope is the abundance of pedestrian-friendly trails, sidewalks and bike lanes that line the city’s streets and parks. Visitors can ride along the Eastern Shore Trail, which spans 32 miles along the bay; a particularly scenic portion of the trail winds from the bayfront park to the Grand Hotel, and is a flat ride that can end with a mimosa or two once you arrive. Another option is to explore on foot or bike around the Fruit and Nut district and wander through row after row of dreamy bungalow-style homes. For both a romantic stroll or family adventure, the duck pond in North Bluff Park offers a scenic spot to toss bread to the ducks and watch fisherman on the pier pull in mullet and blue crab as the sun goes down. Don’t let the downtown distractions and scenic trails keep you landlocked; head to Eastern Shore Watersports or Fairhope Boat Company to rent paddle boards or kayaks, and explore the bay up close.
Where to Stay
Before taking advantage of all that Fairhope has to offer, finding accommodations is key. For a luxury stay, visitors can take advantage of the proximity of the historic Grand Hotel, minutes along the bay in Point Clear. Open for more than 100 years, the Grand Hotel has survived wars and hurricanes alike, but scenic vistas of Mobile Bay prevail and are reason enough to stop by for at least a cocktail. Visitors can also find rooms at The Fairhope Inn, an elegant historic home-turned-inn (and delicious restaurant), or Away at the Bay and Emma’s Bay House, two charming bed and breakfast’s in town. There is also a Hampton Inn downtown that is walking distance from all the must-see stops.
Enjoy your long weekend in Fairhope, and savor the perfection of this beautiful Southern town.
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