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25 Reasons to Visit Florence, Alabama

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Two hours from Birmingham, 1 ½ hours from Huntsville and only a 20-minute drive from the Tennessee border, you will find the riverfront town of Florence, Alabama. Referred to as “The Shoals” (which include the cities of Florence, Muscle Shoals, Sheffield, and Tuscumbia), this small city of 25 square miles is a must visit. The Shoals is home to New York fashion designers, one of the first Frank Lloyd Wright homes, and where legendary rock icons came to record.

Disclosure: My trip to Florence, Alabama was provided courtesy of Florence/Lauderdale Tourism.  All opinions are 100% mine.

25 Reasons to Visit Florence, Alabama

From music to fashion, there’s something for everyone in Florence, Alabama. This unassuming town in Northwest Alabama has significantly impacted history. | 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama. | Photo courtesy: VisitFlorenceAl.com| TravelingWellForLess.com

Florence, Alabama has made Southern Living Magazine’s South’s Best Small Towns List every year. After spending a couple of days there, it’s easy to see why. Music, culture, fashion, and more, Florence has it all. Here are 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama.

1.  Ivy Green – the birthplace of Helen Keller

Ivy Green, the childhood home, and birthplace of Helen Keller is in Tuscumbia, Alabama. | 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama. | Photo courtesy: VisitFlorenceAl.com | TravelingWellForLess.com

Photo courtesy: VisitFlorenceAl.com

Ivy Green, the childhood home, and the birthplace of Helen Keller is in Tuscumbia, Alabama. The National Register of Historic Places added Ivy Green In 1954. Can’t get enough of Helen Keller? Consider attending the annual Helen Keller Festival in the last week of June.

2.  Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum House

The Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum House is the only Usonian designed building by Wright in Alabama. | 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama | TravelingWellForLess.com

The Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum House is the only Usonian designed building by Wright in Alabama. The house was a wedding gift for Stanley and Mildred Rosenbaum from Rosenbaum’s parents.

The Rosenbaums lived in the house until 1999 when Mrs. Rosenbaum donated it to the City of Florence. The city restored the home and opened it as a public museum in 2002. In 1978, the National Register of Historic added the Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum House.

Photos of the inside of the Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum home are not permitted. | 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama. | Photo courtesy: VisitFlorenceAl.com | TravelingWellForLess.com

Photo courtesy: VisitFlorenceAl.com

Photos of the inside of the Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum home are not permitted.

3.  FAME Studios

Founded in 1959 by Rick Hall, Billy Sherrill, and Tom Stafford, FAME (Florence Alabama Music Enterprises) Studios was the birthplace of the Muscle Shoals sound. | 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama. | TravelingWellForLess.com

Founded in 1959 by Rick Hall, Billy Sherrill, and Tom Stafford, FAME (Florence Alabama Music Enterprises) Studios was the birthplace of the Muscle Shoals sound. FAME was instrumental in the careers of recording artists such as Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, and Duane Allman.

The National Register of Historic Places added FAME Studios to its register in 2016. Studio tours are available. | 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama. | TravelingWellForLess.com

The National Register of Historic Places added FAME Studios to its register in 2016. Studio tours are available.

4.  Muscle Shoals Sound Studio – 3614 Jackson Highway

The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section aka the Swampers opened the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, also known as 3614 Jackson Highway. | 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama. | TravelingWellForless.com

The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section aka the Swampers opened the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, also known as 3614 Jackson Highway. The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section is comprised of Barry Beckett (keyboards), Roger Hawkins (drums), David Hood (bass), and Jimmy Johnson (guitar).

The Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, and Lynyrd Skynyrd are among the notable artists who have recorded at 3614 Jackson Highway. | 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama. | TravelingWellForless.com

The Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, and Lynyrd Skynyrd are among the notable artists who have recorded at 3614 Jackson Highway. Skynyrd immortalized the Swampers in their song, “Sweet Home Alabama”

A grant from Beats Electronics and Dr. Dre restored the studio and opened it to the public for tours.

5.  Cypress Moon Studios

From 1979 to 2005, the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios relocated to 1000 Alabama Avenue, the current location of Cypress Moon Studios. | 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama. | TravelingWellForless.com

From 1979 to 2005, the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios relocated to 1000 Alabama Avenue, the current location of Cypress Moon Studios. While it was the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, artists such as Bob Dylan, Bob Seger, and Steve Winwood recorded here.

Cypress Moon Studios is now used for concerts and other events by a film production company run by Tonya S. Holly, a relative of Elvis Presley. The studio is open for tours booked in advance. The Swampers

6.  Alabama Music Hall of Fame

The Alabama Music Hall of Fame honors Alabama musicians who have made an impact on the musical industry. | 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama | TravelingWellForLess.com

The Alabama Music Hall of Fame honors Alabama musicians who have made an impact on the musical industry. The museum features exhibits, records, and memorabilia including the tour bus from the band Alabama and the “Golden Country Car”, a 1960 Pontiac convertible decorated with silver dollars and silver guns.

"Golden Country Car”, a 1960 Pontiac convertible decorated with silver dollars and silver guns on exhibit at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. | 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama. | TravelingWellForLess.com

7.  W.C. Handy Museum

Considered the “Father of the Blues”, W.C. Handy (William Christopher Handy) was born in Florence, Alabama. | 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama. | TravelingWellForless.com

Photo courtesy: VisitFlorenceAl.com

Considered the “Father of the Blues”, W.C. Handy (William Christopher Handy) was born in Florence, Alabama. Handy made blues music more accessible to people.

Handy’s childhood home is a public museum featuring personal papers and memorabilia including his piano. Each year a music festival honoring Handy is held in Florence, Alabama.

8.  Billy Reid

New York fashion designer Billy Reid has his corporate headquarters in Florence, Alabama. | 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama. | Photo courtesy: VisitFlorenceAl.com | TravelingWellForless.com

Photo courtesy: VisitFlorenceAl.com

New York fashion designer Billy Reid has his corporate headquarters in Florence, Alabama. Actor Daniel Craig helped popularize Reid’s brand when he wore a Reid peacoat in the movie Skyfall.

Reid’s fashion line is available online, at Billy Reid stores, Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Saks Fifth Avenue. | 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama. | Photo courtesy: VisitFlorenceAl.com | TravelingWellForless.com

Photo courtesy: VisitFlorenceAl.com

Reid’s fashion line is available online, at Billy Reid stores, Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Saks Fifth Avenue.

9.  Natalie Chanin

Natalie Chanin, eco fashion designer and proponent of the zero-waste fashion movement, is based in Florence Alabama. Chanin is known for her line “Alabama Chanin” featuring hand sewn garments made of 100% organic cotton jersey. | 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama. | Photo courtesy: VisitFlorenceAl.com | TravelingWellForLess.com

Natalie Chanin, eco fashion designer and proponent of the zero-waste fashion movement, is based in Florence Alabama. Chanin is known for her line “Alabama Chanin” featuring hand sewn garments made of 100% organic cotton jersey. Alabama Chanin is available online.

10.  Florence Indian Mound & Museum

Florence, Alabama has the largest domiciliary mound in the Tennessee Valley. | 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama. | Photo courtesy: VisitFlorenceAl.com | TravelingWellForLess.com

Photo courtesy: VisitFlorenceAl.com

Florence, Alabama has the largest domiciliary mound in the Tennessee Valley. While most domiciliary mounds were used for burials, the Florence Indian Mound wasn’t used for that purpose. It has been suggested that it was used for a temple or an Indian chief’s house. The museum featuring Native American relics is open to the public.

11.  Natchez Trace Parkway

The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444-mile road that mirrors the “Old Natchez Trace” Trail, a Native American trail that connected Mississippi to Tennessee. Restored and maintained by the National Park Service, the Natchez Trace Parkway is accessible via car, bike, horseback, or foot.

12.  Tom’s Wall (Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall)

Tom’s Wall (Te-lah-nay’s Wall) is a memorial stone wall near the Natchez Trace Parkway. 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama. Photo courtesy: VisitFlorenceAl |TravelingWellForLess.com

Photo courtesy: VisitFlorenceAl.com

Tom’s Wall (Te-lah-nay’s Wall) is a memorial stone wall near the Natchez Trace Parkway. The wall, composed of 8.5 million pounds of stone, was built by Tom Hendrix as a tribute to his Native American great-great-grandmother, Tel-lah-nay. Hendrix’s great-great grandmother was one of many Native Americans forced from their homes along the Trail of Tears.

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13.  Edith Newman Culver Memorial Museum

View artifacts from Native Americans, the Civil War, and the town of Waterloo at the Edith Newman Culver Memorial Museum. | 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama. | Photo courtesy: VisitFlorenceAl.com | TravelingWellForLess.com

Photo courtesy: VisitFlorenceAl.com

View artifacts from Native Americans, the Civil War, and the town of Waterloo at the Edith Newman Culver Memorial Museum.

14.  Pope’s Tavern and Museum

Pope’s Tavern and Museum, formerly a stagecoach stop and a hospital for both Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, is one of Florence, Alabama’s oldest buildings. | 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama. | Photo courtesy: VisitFlorenceAl.com | TravelingWellForLess.com

Photo courtesy: VisitFlorenceAl.com

Pope’s Tavern and Museum, formerly a stagecoach stop and a hospital for both Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, is one of Florence, Alabama’s oldest buildings. Notable exhibits include a Kennedy Long Rifle and a vertically strung piano.

15.  The Forks of Cypress

Designed by architect William Nichols and built on a site previously owned by Native American chieftain Double Head, the Forks of Cypress is a former cotton plantation. | 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama. | Photo courtesy: VisitFlorenceAl.com | TravelingWellForLess.com

Photo courtesy: VisitFlorenceAl.com

Designed by architect William Nichols and built on a site previously owned by Native American chieftain Double Head, the Forks of Cypress is a former cotton plantation. The only Greek Revival house in Alabama, Forks of Cypress is the setting for Alex Haley’s book, Queen: The Story of an American Family. Destroyed by a fire in 1966, only the Greek pillars remain.

16.  Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve

Set on 413 acres, Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve is a native plant and animal sanctuary with 11 miles of hiking trails. Picnic tables are toilets are available throughout the preserve.

17.  North Alabama Birding Trail

Birders will love exploring the North Alabama Birding Trail. These 50 stops along the way feature 397 species of birds from ruby-throated hummingbirds, Swainson’s warblers, to Bald Eagles.

18.  Hammock Camping

Joe Wheeler State Park is a popular spot for hammock camping. With an abundance of trees, perfectly spaced apart, hammocks dot the landscape. There’s no charge to hammock camp in Florence, Alabama.

Hammocks dot the landscape in Joe Wheeler Park. | 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama. | Photo courtesy of VisitFlorenceAl.com | TravelingWellForLess.com

Photo courtesy of VisitFlorenceAl.com

19.  Robert Trenton Jones Golf Trail

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The Shoals is one of eleven sites featured on the Robert Trenton Jones Golf Trail. Developed 25 years ago to bring revenue to the state, the Robert Trenton Jones Golf Trail features championship golf courses throughout Alabama.

The 18th green on the Fighting Joe course overlooks the Tennessee River. | Photo courtesy: VisitFlorenceAl.com | 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama. | TravelingWellForLess.com

Photo courtesy: VisitFlorenceAl.com

The 18th green on the Fighting Joe course overlooks the Tennessee River. The Schoolmaster course was named after President Woodrow Wilson. Greens fees begin at $65 plus tax.

20.  Wilson Dam

Wilson Dam’s main lock, 110-feet wide and 600-feet long is the highest single lift lock east of the Rocky Mountains. | 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama. | Photo courtesy: VisitFlorenceAl.com | TravelingWellForLess.com

Photo courtesy: VisitFlorenceAl.com

Named after President Woodrow Wilson, the building of Wilson Dam on the Tennessee River created Wilson Lake. Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966, Wilson Dam is the largest hydroelectric plant in the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Wilson Dam’s main lock, 110-feet wide and 600-feet long is the highest single lift lock east of the Rocky Mountains. The Dam is open to visitors on weekends and federal holidays.

21.  George H. Carroll Lion Habitat

While many colleges have lions as their mascot, only the University of Northern Alabama can say their lions are real. | 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama.| TravelingWellForLess.com

While many colleges have lions as their mascot, only the University of Northern Alabama can say their lions are real. The mascots for UNA, Leo and Una, live in the George H. Carroll Lion Habitat on campus.

22.  Trowbridge’s

Trowbridge’s is the oldest business still in its original location in Florence, Alabama. | 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama. | TravelingWellForLess.com

Trowbridge’s is the oldest business still in its original location in Florence, Alabama. Opened in 1918, the ice cream parlor sandwich shop serves up delicious ice cream and tasty sandwiches at prices that will have you thinking you stepped back in time. A single scoop of ice cream is $1.20.

The orange pineapple ice cream has been a staple since Trowbridge’s opened. | 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama. | TravelingWellForLess.com

The orange pineapple ice cream has been a staple since Trowbridge’s opened.

23.  First Friday’s

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The first Friday of each month from March to December downtown Florence holds a First Friday’s event from 5 pm to 8 pm. First Friday’s features live music and goods for sale from various local artists. Downtown businesses such as Billy Reid stay open late to participate. The event is free to the public and family-friendly.

First Friday’s features live music and goods for sale from various local artists. | 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama. | Photo courtesy: VisitFlorenceAl.com | TravelingWellForless.com

Photo courtesy: VisitFlorenceAl.com

24.  Alabama Renaissance Faire

The Alabama Renaissance Faire is one of the largest running, all volunteer events in the United States. Started in 1987, this two-day event is held in Wilson Park on the fourth weekend in October. Featuring food, crafts, live music, and educational events, the Alabama Renaissance Faire regales visitors with tales from days long past.

25.  Fairy Doors

Nine fairy doors are scattered throughout downtown Florence, Alabama. | 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama. | TravelingWellForLess.com

Nine fairy doors are scattered throughout downtown Florence, Alabama. It’s unclear why the fairies have chosen Florence. Perhaps left by visiting fairies from the Alabama Renaissance Faire?

Conclusion

From music to fashion, there’s something for everyone in Florence, Alabama. This little unassuming town in Northwest Alabama has significantly impacted history.

Florence is the birthplace of Helen Keller, father of the Blues W.C. Handy, and fashion designer Natalie Chanin. Some of the best music in the past decades have been recorded in the Shoals. Hits like “Mustang Sally,” “Wild Horses,” and “Old Time Rock and Roll.”

Have you visited Florence, Alabama? What are your favorites things to do?

Pin this to your travel or vacation board:

From fishing in the Tennessee River, shopping at the corporate headquarters of New York fashion designer Billy Reid, to sitting in the same recording studio that the Rolling Stones recorded at, the small town of Florence, Alabama will surprise you. Here are 25 reasons to visit Florence, Alabama. | TravelingWellForLess.com

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Dannielle

Tuesday 6th of June 2017

I'd always wanted to go to Alabama but did't really know anything about Florence. I should have remembered it was Helen Keller's home from school lessons! It seems to offer something for everyone, I'll put it on my list.

Debra Schroeder

Sunday 16th of July 2017

Hi Dannielle,

It'll surprise you for sure. I was pleasantly surprised. :)

Vicky and Buddy

Thursday 1st of June 2017

I've been wanting to visit Florence ever since I visited Huntsville for TBEX. I knew about some of the things on your list, but you've listed out so many more cool things! I'm definitely looking forward to exploring it myself one day.

Debra Schroeder

Sunday 16th of July 2017

Hi Vicky and Buddy,

Let me know if you do, I'd love to hear what you think of Florence.

Christina

Wednesday 31st of May 2017

I had never heard of Florence, Alabama before. Amazing how so much history is packed into such a small place. Hammock camping looks like a lot of fun.

Debra Schroeder

Sunday 16th of July 2017

Hi Christina,

It does, doesn't it? I hope to try it one day.

mags

Wednesday 31st of May 2017

What a cool town! I grew up in Nashville and have driven by Florence several times, but never stopped. I didn't know what I was missing!

Debra Schroeder

Sunday 16th of July 2017

Hi mags,

Definitely stop by, even if just to get an ice cream. It's so worth it!

Kyle

Wednesday 31st of May 2017

I was born here, and after stints in NYC and ATL, live here again. My daughter moved here 5 years ago and is one of the many artists that work First Friday and the Ren Faire. This article only skims the surface. We have 4 star gourmet restaurants and darn cool dives. Music is everywhere. Walking down the street you'll meet and see legendary artists that other places you could never know. Here, they'll have a beer with you. Oh! And the local theatre scene is pretty cool too! It's all VERY laid back, so don't expect a party town. We don't really cruise that way. :)

Debra Schroeder

Wednesday 31st of May 2017

Hi Kyle,

Thanks for visiting the blog.

You're right, there's so much more to Florence that what's listed in this post. And you're right, the food is amazing. I'm working on a series of posts about Florence, so stay tuned. :)

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