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Exploring North Alabama’s Best Small Town

north alabama

Alabama was a state frequently overlooked in my travels, perhaps because it’s a short three-hour drive from my house. I’d passed through many times before and visited a friend at Auburn, but sought to rectify the missing destinations this year. In the fall, I road tripped through North Alabama, through the stunning mountains of Mentone and to Huntsville before going to the western part of the state. I fell madly in love with Florence, the largest town in the area known for its rich musical history. And I’m here to share the reasons why.

For more on the music history of Florence and its surrounding communities, namely Muscle Shoals, Sheffield, and Tuscumbia, read my accompanying post on This Is My South

north alabama

Florence, Alabama is not your traditional destination, certainly not like media darlings Charleston or New Orleans, but there’s something in the water here that breeds creativity. The Native Americans said the river sang to them and allowed one brave young woman to come home after the Trail of Tears. The music history is unparalleled, bringing artists to record here in the 1960s, all in the name of the “Muscle Shoals Sound.” Names like Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan all crafted songs here. Today, artists like John Paul White, formerly of The Civil Wars, Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers, and members of The Alabama Shakes still call the area home.

north alabama

But the creativity is no longer limited to music. Locals stayed here and college students settled down here, keeping the talent close to home. Billy Reid Florence AL, a nationwide brand of American made clothing, has their headquarters in Florence. Their stunning showroom is a design lover’s dream. Court Street Market is the town’s all in one creative space, featuring a coffee shop, cafe, popsicle stand, and accessories store. I had breakfast at Woodpecker Cafe inside the market, overlooking the street.

north alabama

north alabama

While the “attractions” aren’t typical, they’re unique to Florence. Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum is one of the few homes created by the famous architect that allows visitors and is the only one in the state of Alabama. The former family home has been fiercely protected in the community after falling into disrepair. Tom’s Wall is another unique landmark, built off the Natchez Trace Parkway in honor of a local man’s Native American ancestors. The manmade wall winds through his property and many stones have been brought from afar by visitors. It was his relative that returned to Florence by following the “Singing River.” An Indian mound museum will soon open to further connect visitors with the Native Americans that lived in the area well before European arrival.

north alabama

north alabama

The food scene in Florence is surprising for the amount of residents. For comparison, I live in a high population suburb of Atlanta that has very few independent restaurants. But perhaps this town developed an “if you build it, they will come” mindset. Odette has become a favorite of locals and celebrities, named for the owner’s great-grandmother. The menu puts a unique spin on Southern favorites using as many local and seasonal ingredients as possible. Their cocktail menu is clever as well. Singin’ River Brewing operates in a similar fashion, bringing craft beer to the small town. The brews are all named for elements of the Shoals, including Handy’s Gold blonde ale and The Swamper porter.

north alabama

north alabama

Experience the impact of the singing river firsthand by catching a live music act in Florence. The Shoals Community Theatre hosts touring acts and plays. On The RocksWildwood Tavern, and Flobama all offer entertainment on different nights.

•••

This is the type of Southern town rarely found between the pages of glossy travel magazines, but no less worth visiting.

I visited Florence with the assistance of Visit Florence, Alabama. 

Mentioned in this post
  1. Billy Reid Florence AL
    Attraction in Lauderdale County Alabama

    114 N Court St
    Lauderdale County Alabama
    (256) 375-3567
  2. Court Street Market
    Restaurant in Lauderdale County Alabama

    218 N Court St
    Lauderdale County Alabama
    (256) 275-5318
    http://www.courtstreetmarket.org/
  3. Woodpecker Cafe
    Restaurant in Lauderdale County Alabama

    218 N Court St
    Lauderdale County Alabama
    (256) 263-8742
    http://courtstreetmarket.com/
  4. Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum
    Attraction in Lauderdale County Alabama

    601 Riverview Dr
    Lauderdale County Alabama
    (256) 718-5050
    http://wrightinalabama.com/
  5. Odette
    Restaurant in Lauderdale County Alabama

    120 N Court St
    Lauderdale County Alabama
    (256) 349-5219
    http://www.odettealabama.com/
  6. Singin' River Brewing
    Restaurant in Lauderdale County Alabama

    526 E College St
    Lauderdale County Alabama
    (256) 349-2294
    http://singinriverbrewing.com/080514-florence-al-singin-river-running-club/
  7. Shoals Community Theatre
    Attraction in Lauderdale County Alabama

    123 N Seminary St
    Lauderdale County Alabama
    (256) 764-1700
    http://theshoalstheatre.org/
  8. On The Rocks
    Restaurant in Lauderdale County Alabama

    110 N Court St
    Lauderdale County Alabama
    (256) 760-2212
    http://www.florenceontherocks.com/
  9. Wildwood Tavern
    Restaurant in Lauderdale County Alabama

    108 E Mobile St
    Lauderdale County Alabama
    (256) 349-2139
    http://www.keepflorencefunky.com/
  10. Flobama
    Restaurant in Lauderdale County Alabama

    311 N Court St
    Lauderdale County Alabama
    (256) 764-2225
    https://www.facebook.com/flobamadowntown

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3 Responses to Exploring North Alabama’s Best Small Town

  1. KareninCalabria February 11, 2017 at 11:02 pm #

    I like the atmosphere of small, Southern towns. They often make me feel as though I’ve been dropped onto a film set. I haven’t ever made it to northern Alabama, but have visited towns in southern Alabama quite a bit as I lived in Tallahassee for a number of years. I particularly like the down-home diners. Florence looks quite nice, and with the Frank Lloyd Wright house, positively a destination!

  2. Mike February 13, 2017 at 8:30 am #

    Very good tip very interesting, I really enjoyed the site and the photos !!

  3. Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate February 17, 2017 at 12:54 pm #

    We went for my annual cousins’ weekend recently, and it was one of the cutest Southern towns I’ve ever visited!

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