ONLY IN THE SHOALS
Florence Indian Mound & Museum is home to Wawmanone, the largest of the Tennessee Valley mounds. In western Colbert County, find the Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard in the Freedom Hills Wildlife Management Area.
MUSIC IN THE AIR
The Shoals region is famed for its musical heritage. Start with the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in Tuscumbia, paying tribute to Alabama’s musical greats with memorabilia, wax figures and a recording studio. Then visit the historic studios — FAME Recording Studios, established in 1959, and renowned for creating “Southern rock” and “country soul;” Muscle Shoals Sound Studio Museum, established in 1969, and home to The Swampers; and Cypress Moon Studios in Sheffield, established in 1978. The legendary musicians of the decades recorded in these three sites — Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, The Osmonds, The Rolling Stones, Simon & Garfunkel, James Brown, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and Jimmy Buffett.
SURROUNDED BY HISTORY
Ivy Green in Tuscumbia is the birthplace of Helen Keller, where she worked with teacher Annie Sullivan to learn to communicate. The city hosts a festival in her honor each June and The Miracle Worker play is performed for six weeks each summer on the grounds of her home. In Florence, visit Te-lah-nay’s Wall, built by Tom Hendrix to honor his Yuchi great-great grandmother, who was forced to walk to Oklahoma during the Trail of Tears in the late 1830s. Pope’s Tavern & Museum in Florence has housed a tavern, stage stop and hospital in its 150 years. Now it displays pioneer artifacts and Civil War memorabilia. The Tuscumbia Depot, built in 1880, was the start of many journeys for Keller and Sullivan. It now houses railroad memorabilia. Historic LaGrange College Site Park and early 1800s Cemetery was home to Alabama’s first college. Now it offers a pioneer village illustrating early days’ life. Edith Newman Culver Memorial Museum, in Waterloo in west Lauderdale County, is a town museum featuring Native American artifacts, Civil War relics and Waterloo, one of Alabama’s oldest incorporated towns.
Joe Wheeler State Park, on Wheeler Lake on the Tennessee River, offers a resort lodge, restaurant, cabins, camping, fishing, golf, tennis, swimming, marina and more. You’ll find 300 acres of woods, waterfalls, creeks and bluffs at Shoal Creek Preserve, with trails suitable for horses, mountain bikes and hiking. River Heritage Park, at the base of the Renaissance Tower, overlooks the Tennessee River and Wilson Dam. It has picnic shelters, a playground and an interactive fountain. Riverfront Park, on the Tennessee River in Sheffield, has boat launches, fishing piers and more, an accessible playground and a pedestrian walkway over the river. Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve, just outside of Tuscumbia, is a 750-acre, scenic natural area, with creeks, waterfalls, native plants, and 18 miles of hiking trails. Seven Springs Lodge and Rattlesnake Saloon, in the Appalachian foothills, has 3,500 acres of natural woodlands, horse trails and creative stay places.
Belle Mont Mansion in Tuscumbia is one of Alabama’s most distinguished homes and an excellent example of Jeffersonian-style architecture. It was built about 1828. It is now owned by the Alabama Historical Commission and open for tours.
The Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum House in Florence, built with cypress, glass and brick, was designed by the famous architect and is a premier example of Usonian-style architecture. It’s the only structure in Alabama designed by Wright.
WHAT A VIEW
The Renaissance Tower in Florence was once the tallest structure in Alabama, soaring 30 stories over Wilson Dam, topped by a revolving restaurant.
B.A.S.S. National Championship is back in the Shoals area for 2022. It’s slated for November at Florence’s Pickwick Lake.
The Kennedy-Douglass Center for the Arts in Florence houses galleries, classes and more. Tennessee Valley Museum of Art displays the Martin Petroglyph carved by Alabama’s prehistoric residents and other early art.
Choreographed lights, music and water jets highlight the Spring Park Light and Water Show in Tuscumbia. The park is also home to the manmade Coldwater Falls and a train, carousel, roller coaster, playground and splash pad.
The Ritz Theatre in Sheffield was built in the 1920s to screen silent movies. Now the Art Deco venue houses community theater and special events.
The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail offers two championship courses, the Fighting Joe and the Schoolmaster, overlooking Wilson Lake and the Tennessee River in Colbert County.
George H. Carroll Lion Habitat, on the campus of the University of North Alabama, houses the only live lion mascot in the U.S., Leo III.
Festivals and Events:
Arts Alive — Florence | May Arts and crafts lovers from across the Southeast gather for this annual event.
Shoals Storytelling Festival — Florence | May Storytellers come from far and wide — and so do the listeners.
W.C. Handy Music Festival — Florence | July Ten days of events honoring Father of the Blues W.C. Handy.
ShoalsFest — Florence | October A tribute to the music of the Shoals.
Alabama Renaissance Faire — Florence | October Celebrating the medieval and Renaissance eras.
Muscle Shoals Songwriters Festival — Muscle Shoals | November Some 50 songwriters perform in venues across the Shoals.
This article appeared in the October 2022 issue of Business Alabama.