Skip to content
ALDOT News Hub

Rest areas, welcome centers make stopping a “Sweet Home Alabama” experience

An exterior view of the rest area in Chilton County
An exterior view of the rest area in Chilton County
Mar 21

If you’ve traveled for any significant distance, you’ve likely come across a rest area or welcome center. Traveling across Alabama is no exception. 

However, there is something special about Alabama’s rest areas and welcome centers: the partnership between the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) and the Alabama Tourism Department. 

Together, these agencies are working to make stopping in Alabama a restful, informative, “Sweet Home Alabama” experience. 

Wait, is there a difference between a rest area and a welcome center?

There are 27 welcome centers and rest areas across Alabama. On the surface, these two types of stops appear very similar. Both offer restrooms, a place for travelers to stretch their legs, vending machines, and picnic tables. You’ll also be able to pick up resources on the state’s attractions and other tourism information. 

But there is a difference between the two. While ALDOT maintains both types of facilities, the state’s eight welcome centers are housed with employees from the Alabama Tourism Department. 

Welcome Centers

Alabama’s welcome centers are strategically placed along state lines to ensure travelers are warmly welcomed and greeted with “Sweet Home Alabama” hospitality. Tourism employees staff the welcome centers eight hours a day and provide plenty of resources to state travelers, including free copies of the annual Alabama Vacation Guide & Calendar of Events and informational brochures about Alabama attractions. 

Tourism employees also assist in accommodation reservation service for travelers, personalized trip planning, and providing directions. Some welcome centers also feature new “Wall Armor,” a paneling of photographs showcasing some of the state’s best tourist attractions. Welcome centers serve as the first points of contact for more than 6 million travelers a year.

ALDOT’s Role 

ALDOT employees work 24 hours a day over three shifts at the welcome centers as well as at the 19 rest areas in the state. 

According to Ashley Brown, ALDOT’s Statewide Permit Coordinator, ALDOT employees are responsible for the upkeep of both welcome centers and rest area facilities, including maintenance, cleaning, mowing grass, and taking out the garbage. 

ALDOT’s rest area and welcome center employees are also trained to assist motorists with issues and charged with dealing with instances of abandoned vehicles. Employees are also trained in recognizing signs of human trafficking. 

Brown said the majority of daytime visitors at rest areas are travelers. Overnight, rest areas often serve as places to rest for truck drivers.

A bit of history

The first rest areas in Alabama were built in Evergreen on I-65 northbound and southbound. The first two not located along an interstate were built in 1968 along U.S. 431 in Barbour County and U.S. 82 in Maplesville.

The first welcome center was built in Houston County in 1969, essentially beginning the partnership between ALDOT and the Alabama Tourism Department. There are still Welcome Centers and Rest Areas in these locations today. 

Updated: 3/21/24 to include images of the Grand Bay Welcome Center in Grand Bay, AL