Two weeks ago we found ourselves with a free weekend so of course we started planning a weekend road trip. Our initial plan was to visit a hidden natural treasure in Colbert County called the Rattlesnake Saloon. Little did I know that this adventure would find us surrounded by musical history, natural beauty and the home of Helen Keller, an inspirational woman.
After that weekend, The Shoals is on my list of road trips within two hours of home. The area consists of four adjacent towns Sheffield, Muscle Shoals, Tuscumbia and Florence. I recall visiting with my parents as a child; however in my adult years have never given it much thought.
The exploration of this beautiful and historical area of North Alabama has led me to the following discoveries…
A Family-Friendly Saloon
The Rattlesnake Saloon, the initial reason we began to explore the Shoals, is a must-see. A family owned cave which began as a home to Grandfather’s pigs has now been turned into a most unusual culinary experience. The food is your basic American eatery, nothing too fancy, almost ALL fried, but delicious and best of all – kid friendly! The prices reasonable, portions filling, and kids are fed for $5 drink and all – just check out the menu! The saloon hours are limited so check here before hitting the road.
Pro-Tips: Make sure to ride the Saloon Taxi down at least once, the path is walkable, but the taxi is a must – the kids will love it! If your family wants a tour of the inside of the saloon (beyond the cool wild, wild, west doors) arrive before 5pm, after 5pm kids are allowed and welcome in the Cave area. Wear comfortable walking shoes to explore the property.
Sleep in a Silo!
Have you crossed the task of sleeping in an old grain silo off your bucket list? This is a rustic experience, and for one night the kids might love it.
At the Seven Springs Lodge located on the same property as the Rattlesnake Saloon, you can do just that. They also have two cabins for rent, as well as primitive camping anywhere you would like to set up on their 5,500 Acres and RV hookups. Want to bring your horse? Not a problem, horses are even welcome at the Saloon until 5pm when alcohol sales begin therefore all horses need to be safe in the barn. Don’t have a horse but want the kids to ride for a few hours? Contact the management at Seven Springs to arrange for a half-day or all-day horseback ride on the property. This must be pre-arranged prior to your arrival, Lodge Rates can be previewed here.
More Off the Beaten Path
While in the area, why not visit the world’s only Coon Dog Cemetery? Come Labor Day weekend to enjoy a one of a kind Coon Dog Celebration. Have a movie night and watch Sweet Home Alabama, look for the scene where Melanie visits Bear in the Coon Dog Cemetery, this was a depiction of the real place right here in North Alabama!
Did you know some of the greatest music and musicians hail from Muscle Shoals? If you have time, you need to take a look at the award-winning Muscle Shoals documentary before you tour the area. A visit to the Alabama Music Hall of Fame will amaze you when you learn all that came from this part of north Alabama!
Ivy Green was home to Helen Keller, a woman of amazing strength and perseverance! Your children will learn about her in school so this is a great tie-in to an educational experience. You can tour her home and its beautiful grounds, and even see the famous water pump. While you’re there, spend some time picnicking and exploring Tuscumbia’s Spring Park. It’s a great place to play and has a man-made waterfall, a carousel, a kiddie coaster, and a miniature train!
The Natchez Trace Parkway can be accessed from the Shoals. 444 miles of scenic roads and historical landscapes sounds like a separate road trip all on its own.
Upcoming Festivals for the Family:
Pro-Tip: The Wilson Dam has reopened to visitors! For thirteen years the viewing of the lock process was prohibited. Now those that grew up visiting and marveling over the massive barges passing through the Wilson Dam can take their children for the same experience! Visit the Wilson Dam website for more info.
Other Lodging Options
Should you choose to stay the night, but camping or sleeping in a silo is not your thing:
- Hampton Inn and Suites, Florence Downtown
- The Historic Coldwater Inn
- Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa for the luxurious escape
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Rocket City Mom is a website about raising children in and around Huntsville, Alabama. Started in late 2010 by a local mom and newcomer to Huntsville, Rocket City Mom has grown into a thriving community of local parents and now boasts a staff of four, thirteen regular contributors, and tens of thousands of Tennessee Valley readers making it the #1 Parenting Resource in North Alabama.