Add Florence Alabama to your road trip!
I had the opportunity to head out to explore Florence Alabama (and of course Muscle Shoals) for Shindig 2017. I couldn’t have been more surprised about what I discovered out there! You might be asking yourself what are some things to do in Florence Alabama, and I think you’d be surprised by what you’ll find too! I found that it was a great city for fashion, music, microbrews, and kids!
Check out these interesting sites, and I think you’ll be planning your road trip to Florence, Alabama! (There’s a map at the bottom with some road trip suggestions too!).
1. Billy Reid
Hands down, the most surprising tidbit that I learned about was Billy Reid. Apparently he’s a world famous luxury men’s fashion designer who happens to have his flagship store right on the main street of (adorable) downtown Florence. It’s so inspiring to know that he has stores all over the world, but has his HQ in Florence because of familial ties.
It’s because of Billy Reid that Shindig is even a thing. This was the 9th year, and people from my hotel had driven hours and hours to come, so it’s very popular!
2. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Rosenbaum House
Frank Lloyd Wright is likely the only architect that I’d be able to name. How wild that one of his famous houses is nestled “Wright” in Northern Alabama! I’ve never actually been to one before, and the attention to detail is pretty intense to witness IRL. There’s a geometric pattern located throughout the whole house akin to a Keyblade a la Kingdom Hearts. If that’s not special enough, each house he designs has a different one! It’s also amazing how much storage he was able to cram into a reasonably sized place.
Easily my favorite part of the design was the connection to nature. Every room had windows and/or doors outside, and there was a Japanese zen garden nestled in the crook of the house.
Since it was Shindig, Billy Reid set up an installation of different mannequins bedecked and bedazzled in natural and/or fashionable elements to showcase his designs. My two faves were the one that looked like a Game of Thrones Dragon Egg as a head and the sleeping one with pebbles as a face.
3. Boutique Air Flies to Muscle Shoals
In case you’re not the driving type, you can fly! Boutique Air will fly you, for example, from Atlanta to Muscle Shoals starting around $70 in a plane that makes you feel like a rock-star. It’s literally an 8-seater plane that can make you feel bougie for the weekend. It lands in Muscle Shoals’s airport which is only about 10 minutes away from the cool stuff around Florence.
4. Splash Pad
It’s actually called River Heritage Park, and it’s right next to a nice Marriott! This might be more fun for kids than adults, but I had a great time running through the sporadic jets of water, and I’m an “adult.” It’s right next to the Wilson Dam. The fountains are really quite large, and there’s also a playground and a pavilion right next to it.
Meanwhile for the adults, there’s a restaurant called 360 Grille near the Marriott. It offers some stellar and unobstructed views of the area.
5. Hot dog Art
I don’t want to say that this was the main reason that I wanted to visit Florence, but… yes…yes, it was. Wildwood Tavern’s claims to fame are not only all beef hot dogs but the ever-changing displays of hot dog inspired art. I was lured in with promises of a hot dog Mona Lisa (which wasn’t there) but R2-D2 and a Night King soothed any disappoint from the missing Mona.
The hot dogs come with a large variety of accoutrements (I ate a pizza hot dog!) and potato chips that can be loaded! There are also board games that you can play while waiting!
It’s right off the main strip of Downtown Florence. I don’t even count it as just a place to eat… but an actual destination!
6. Fairy Doors
Hey, while you’re downtown, why not search for a little magic? Some amazing soul has been decorating, placing, and instagramming a multitude of unique fairy doors. I ~love~ them. Some are right in the open, and some are tucked away! You can check out the Instagram for them if you want to see more examples. We found 4!
7. Recording Studios
Remember when I said these little cities were big in the music scene? I know. I was surprised too. There are two big ones which are still available for tours!
FAME stands for Florence Alabama Music Enterprises and funnily enough is actually located in Muscle Shoals. Some heavy “hit”ters recorded there. It still feels like it gives off the same vibe as when they smoked, drank, and sang their way into history. While it does look anachronistic sitting next to the more modern CVS, that feeling dissipates when you get inside.
So if you’re a fan of Otis Redding, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and some Osmonds, you should swing on by and hop on a tour!
FAME is a still functional recording studio, so sometimes the tours are postponed if someone is using the studio. While I was there, there was a cool display about a newly launched book called Instrument Head. You can check out his Instagram or grab the book yourself if you want a sweet coffee table conversation starter. All the pictures are incredibly creative designs with famous musicians covering their faces with the instrument that made them famous. Don’t worry, there are clues strewn throughout and answers in the back.
Muscle Shoals Sound Studio
Because of contract disputes, the house band of FAME left and founded their own studio called MSSS. What’s interesting about that is they were the only owners of a studio that were also the house band… and also that it is in Sheffield and not Muscle Shoals.
It’s a totally nondescript concrete cube that you wouldn’t look twice at. But I’m sure you’d blink twice at some of the names that recorded hits and drank in the hidden prohibition room. I’m sure you’ve heard of Cher… well, her record cover was none other than this little recording studio!
The gentlemen that found this studio were nicknamed the Swampers. Take a listen, and you’ll hear a shout out to them! (I always wondered what that meant!)
8. McFarland Park
McFarland Park is a lovely area with disc golf, playing fields, a bit of beach, marina, campgrounds, playground, and a view! It also happens to be where the Florence Visitor’s Center is! I recommend stopping by and chatting with them and see if they have more recommendations for a more personalized trip!
9. Wilson Dam and a nice dam Waterfall
Driving over the dam is quite a sight! I even got to see a very large shipment pass through the lock! If you have the time/interest/luck, it might be fun to watch a ship pass through!
If you are into waterfalls (why wouldn’t you be?), there’s a lovely waterfall that manages to escape being trapped by the dam and tumbles over off to the other side. You get a fair bit of mist which is quite refreshing on a hot day! If you follow your GPS to Rockpile Recreation’s coordinates to the parking lot, keep going to the back until you see a path that looks like it goes up to the dam. You’ll see the falls right before you get there (and perhaps some fishermen as well).
Singin’ River Brewing is not only a brewery but a musical venue as well! Since I like to hit up trivia and Team Feud when I’m at home, I was happy to see that they also have trivia there (on Wednesdays).
11. Glow Worm Cave
It’s actually called Dismals Canyon, and is not in New Zealand… It is the Alabama Glow Worm Cave! I was going to go but decided to hold off until they were at peak season. I want to be ~wow~ed. I’ll update with my own pics when I get to go!
12. Ghost Tours
I’ve started getting really into paranormal things lately because I’m secretly in love with Dean from Supernatural. There’s a tour through Muscle Shoals, but here’s a list for 10 ghost tours in Alabama!
13. Helen Keller’s Birthplace
Helen Keller is such an inspirational woman. It must be very moving to be where she was born, I just didn’t have the time to see it! Next time! Next time!
14. Indian Mounds
Indian Mounds hold some significance to me because of my (albeit small) heritage. As a lover of world cultures, I find the indigenous culture of my country equally intriguing.
River Bottom Grille near McFarland Park
They used to have a fishbowl, but now it’s in a mason jar. So good. The shrimp was also super fresh.
Trowbridge’s in Downtown Florence
It’s just good Ice Cream!
Odette in Downtown Florence
Some of the best chicken I’ve ever had.
Don’t let the name fool ya. It’s not really a grocery, but a really well kept killer breakfast and lunch spot.
Ave Maria Grotto
The Ave Maria Grotto is also known as the Jerusalem in Miniature. It has over 125 tiny replicas of famous buildings and shrines from all over the world! And if you’re lucky, there should be a Groupon available for it!
I wrote a more extensive post about my trip to Unclaimed Baggage, but it’s definitely work a peek if you’re into shoopping! So many good deals!
North Alabama State Fair
This is time sensitive, but maybe you can swing by! There’s also a Groupon!