Florence, Muscle Shoals & Huntsville

Rich in Native American and pioneer tradition, Florence with its harbour marina has a wonderful historic downtown with delightful boutiques and restaurants. The high-tech city of Huntsville, which sprawls at the foot of a mountain in North Alabama, is equally at home in the 19th century or the 21st.

The wonderful thing about this corner of the state of Alabama is the variety. Like outdoor activities? The walking trails, legendary fishing, world-class golf, and water sports of all types will appeal to you! Interested in history? The area is rich in Native American and pioneer tradition, and the historic downtown’s are vibrant and welcoming. Shop at award-winning fashion designers’ retail stores; enjoy some of the best food you’ve ever put in your mouth. Visit the only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home in the state of Alabama, and tour the music studios that made a musical legend of Muscle Shoals. Museums, theater, concerts, art shows and festivals mean that there’s always something going on.

Florence

In historic Florence, explore the trails that will take you on a journey from the birth of the Singing River to the rhythms that fuel the soul of Alabama. Travel also the same ancient paths where the early Native American settlers carved out a thriving community imbued with their mystical culture. The Singing River influence their way of life just as it compelled William Christopher Handy to reproduce the sounds of unique Southern Soul. Stories of overcoming adversity abound throughout Florence, from enduring the battles of the Civil War era to the inspirational accomplishments of Helen Keller.

Muscle Shoals

Have you ever heard of Aretha Franklin? The Rolling Stones? Paul Simon? The Osmond Brothers? Percy Sledge? This short list doesn’t even begin to encompass all of the talented musicians who found a place in history by recording in Muscle Shoals. FAME Studios, Muscle Shoals Sound, and a host of other recording studios made Muscle Shoals, Alabama, the Hit Recording Capital of the World in the 1960’s and beyond. And it didn’t stop there – today, there are recording studios all over the Muscle Shoals region, still making hits and propelling artists to fame.

This area came by its musical heritage honestly. W.C. Handy, the Father of the Blues, was born in Florence, and so were the Fathers of Rock and Roll, Sam Phillips and Buddy Killen. The area is still home to some pretty well-known musicians, including John Paul White of The Civil Wars, David Hood of the Swampers, Donnie Fritts, Spooner Oldham, Gary Nichols, Will McFarlane, Donna Jean Godcheax, and others. There are many venues around the area that feature good live music, and you never know when someone famous is going to sit in on a session. Or, who knows? The musician playing at 116 Mobile might be the next big thing on the music scene – with roots in Muscle Shoals.

Huntsville

Huntsville was established in 1805 by pioneer John Hunt, who settled at the area now known as the Big Spring. Delegates from the Alabama Territory met in Huntsville to write the constitution enabling Alabama to become the 22nd state of the Union. Huntsville grew into an important center for cotton trading, as well as a major transportation hub. The surprise capture of the Memphis & Charleston Railroad’s Huntsville Depot during the Civil War resulted in private homes being spared. Huntsville boasts the South’s largest concentration of antebellum homes.

Ignite your passion for exploration at the Earth’s largest space museum, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, home to U. S. Space Camp and Aviation Challenge. Here, you can explore over 1,500 artifacts from America’s achievements in space exploration and get a sneak peek into what’s next for human space travel. If you’re in the mood for a different kind of exploring—say, into Huntsville’s past—venture to the city’s oldest museum, Burritt on the Mountain for breathtaking views of the Tennessee Valley. Journey back down to the valley and explore the Weeden House Museum, the former home to 19th-century poet and artist Maria Howard Weeden. Get to know America’s military past and the servicemen and women of the U.S. Armed Forces at the U.S. Veterans Memorial Museum, which displays over 30 historical military vehicles from WWI to the present.

Alabama Constitution Village is another must-see stop on your journey. This award-winning reconstruction of Huntsville as it existed in 1819 was the spot where delegates wrote Alabama’s first state constitution. Right across the street, you’ll find the EarlyWorks Children’s Museum—be sure to have the kids listen to the story from the famous talking tree! Exploring Huntsville is never complete without a stop at the Huntsville Museum of Art, home to the largest collection of art created by American women in the U.S., or a visit to the Huntsville Botanical Garden, home to the nation’s largest open-air butterfly house where something beautiful is always growing on!

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