Imagine the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea lapping on the shores as the white sand…
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
- 1. Ivy Green – the birthplace of Helen Keller
- 2. Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum House
- 3. FAME Studios
- 4. Muscle Shoals Sound Studio – 3614 Jackson Highway
- 5. Cypress Moon Studios
- 6. Alabama Music Hall of Fame
- 7. W.C. Handy Museum
- 8. Billy Reid
- 9. Natalie Chanin
- 10. Florence Indian Mound & Museum
- 11. Natchez Trace Parkway
- 12. Tom’s Wall (Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall)
- 13. Edith Newman Culver Memorial Museum
- 14. Pope’s Tavern and Museum
- 15. The Forks of Cypress
- 16. Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve
- 17. North Alabama Birding Trail
- 18. Hammock Camping
- 19. Robert Trenton Jones Golf Trail
- 20. Wilson Dam
- 21. George H. Carroll Lion Habitat
- 22. Trowbridge’s
- 23. First Friday’s
- 24. Alabama Renaissance Faire
- 25. Fairy Doors
25 Reasons to Visit Florence, Alabama
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 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. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
7. W.C. Handy Museum
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. 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.
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. Alabama Chanin is available online.
10. Florence Indian Mound & Museum
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. 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.
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.
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. 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. 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.
19. Robert Trenton Jones Golf Trail
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. The Schoolmaster course was named after President Woodrow Wilson. Greens fees begin at $65 plus tax.
20. Wilson Dam
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. The mascots for UNA, Leo and Una, live in the George H. Carroll Lion Habitat on campus.
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.
23. First Friday’s
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.
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. It’s unclear why the fairies have chosen Florence. Perhaps left by visiting fairies from the Alabama Renaissance Faire?
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?
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