10 Fun (and Free) Things to Do in the Shoals
The Shoals is one of the most affordable cities to visit in Alabama, but for budget conscious travelers the area offers many activities that won’t cost a penny. If you want to see the Shoals and still have some cash in your pockets, here are ten free things that will give you a feel for our beautiful area.
Take a stroll on one of the Tennessee Valley Recreation (TVA) Trails and get a great view of Wilson Dam.
Due to security reasons, TVA no longer gives tours of the Dam, but visitors can still get a great view from TVA’s Rockpile Boat ramp and recreation area.
Find inspiration at Tom’s Wall.
Tom Hendrix constructed this wall in memory of his grandmother, a Yuchi Indian forced to walk the Trail of Tears. After being forcibly removed to Oklahoma, Hendrix’s grandmother spent five years finding her way back to the Shoals. In the 1980s Hendrix learned of his grandmother’s harrowing journey and Hendrix has now built the largest un-mortared wall in the United States, as well as the largest memorial to a Native American woman. Each rock represents a different step in Hendrix’s grandmother’s journey and is truly inspirational.
Browse the art around the Shoals.
The Shoals is no stranger to the art world. The Kennedy-Douglass Center of the Arts and the Tennessee Valley Art Association both display local and national artists’ work year round. Every spring, downtown Florence plays host to the Arts Alive festival in May, a fun event for all ages! Also, don’t miss the first Friday of the month when Florence closes Court Street to allow local artisans to display and sell their work while local musicians play free music.
Experience Spring Park and its unique features.
Spring Park, located in downtown Tuscumbia, features a beautiful fountain show (dates vary, so be sure to check out times) but also a unique train that will take you around the park. Kids may also enjoy the park’s carousel and mini roller coaster.
Say hello to the University of North Alabama’s lions.
UNA, the oldest four-year institution in Alabama, is also one of the only colleges in the state to have live mascots located on campus. The lions, Leo and Una, can be seen at the George H. Carroll Lion Habitat located in Harrison Plaza. While you’re on campus check out Wesleyan, Rogers, and Colby Halls, which are all registered as historic landmarks in the national registry. Frederick Law Olmsted, the same architect who designed New York’s Central Park, designed the campus’s original facilities.
Check out the Shoals’ famous Coon Dog Cemetery.
The Coon Dog Cemetery started in 1937 after Key Underwood decided to bury his beloved coon dog Troop at his favorite hunting site. Over time the site became a popular place for hunters to say goodbye to their faithful hounds and lay them to rest. This is the only cemetery of its kind and makes for a fun day of exploring.
Peruse the aisles of Florence’s Public Library.
The Florence-Lauderdale Public Library is not only a beautiful building but also has one of the best historical archives of Southern genealogy and history. Volunteers and staff are always eager to help visitors with research. The library also hosts many free events to the public, such as movie screenings and book signings.
Take in some live music.
There’s something in the water in the Shoals and this area seems to be a breeding ground for local talent. Many places like McGraw’s Coffee House on Court Street have local songwriters perform every week during lunch. Visitors can also check out the Swampers Lounge in the Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa where live music is performed every night of the week free of charge. Muscle Shoals’s Trojan House also has live music during the week.
Visit the LaGrange College Site.
LaGrange College was founded in 1830 and was known as “The West Point of The South”. However, Union forces, led by Colonel Florence M. Cornyn, destroyed the college. Now the original college site is a park opened to visitors. On the grounds is a welcome center and museum featuring antebellum era artifacts. Don’t miss LaGrange Cemetery, an antebellum cemetery and the oldest in the Shoals area.
Walk down the Old Railroad Bridge at sunset.
The Old Railroad Bridge was one of the original bridges connecting Colbert and Lauderdale Counties and was used for trains, wagons and cars. The bridge, which has not been used for transportation in decades, is now a pedestrian walk overlooking Pickwick Lake on the Tennessee River. For one of the most scenic sights in the Shoals, stop by the bridge to watch the sunset.