If you draw an imaginary line from Birmingham to the Georgia state line and start inching your way toward Tennessee, you will find a dizzying number of popular attractions to stop and fully appreciate. Among them are Guntersville Lake and Desoto State Parks and all the delights of Huntsville, which is Alabama’s now reigning largest city according to the latest census numbers.
If you’re willing to get off the path, I want to point you in the direction of seven treasures you’ll be glad you didn’t miss. Let’s work our way north from that imaginary line.
Tigers For Tomorrow at Untamed Mountain in Attalla
Tigers for Tomorrow is a rescue facility and forever home for more than 160 tigers, cougars, lions, bears, wolves, and other animals. The physical address is 708 County Road 345 in Attalla, and it encompasses 140 acres. Tigers for Tomorrow is open to visitors on weekends from March 1 to December 31. All the rules for visiting have been made with the animals’ well-being at the forefront.
This is not a zoo but rather a compassionate care facility that provides a meaningful educational opportunity for the public. You will rarely have an opportunity to see so many tigers and predators in one place. Plan to stay at least two hours.
Bootsie’s in Attalla
Seeing those magnificent animals is bound to work up an appetite, and a 15-minute drive to downtown Attalla will be worth it. I promise.
Bootsie’s is a family-owned, family-managed eatery. Daddy Bootsie does the cooking, his daughter makes the desserts, his wife, their other daughter and various cousins and friends manage the orders, serve the food, pour the tea, and keep everyone happy.
The food, mostly barbecue, is excellent. Ribs, pulled pork, wings, hamburgers and even the hot dogs are something special. The loaded potato salad and grilled cabbage are a couple of the delicious sides. Banana pudding, Key lime, or lemon pies top things off nicely. Take note that Bootsie’s is only open Wednesdays through Saturdays. You don’t want to be disappointed.
Bama Bucks Steak House and Wild Game Restaurant in Sardis City near Boaz
You will likely notice a large number of grazing deer on the left and a smattering of exotic animals inside the fence on the right before you reach Bama Bucks at 292 Bryant Road. Find a parking spot and admire the beautiful landscaping, antique vehicles, and farm equipment before stepping inside to order a special meal.
If you’re a very conservative eater, don’t worry. The menu contains plenty of burger, steak, sandwich, and salad options. But, if you are more adventurous, check out the dishes featuring pheasant, quail, bison, elk, red deer, and duck. The atmosphere is family-friendly and casual. Plan your visit for Thursday through Sunday, because they are closed early in the week.
Alabama Fan Club & Museum in Fort Payne
As you keep heading north, you’ll find the town of Fort Payne which is proud to claim Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry, and Jeff Cook, original members of the award-winning music group Alabama. In fact, townspeople see those men out and about on a regular basis, since they still live in Fort Payne. It is fitting for the group’s fan club and museum to be in a prominent location on Glenn Boulevard, easily accessible to their loyal followers.
The Fan Club and Museum is a great place to buy t-shirts and souvenirs, as well as to admire a collection of costumes, personal items and photos. A couple of blocks away is the park with statues of Alabama members at the entrance. Fort Payne and ALABAMA are synonymous.
Big Mill Artisan and Antique Mall with Vintage 1889 Restaurant
A short drive from the Alabama Fan Club and Museum, lovers of collectibles and vintage treasures will find two floors of a former hosiery factory packed to the gills. Big Mill Artisan and Antique Mall in Fort Payne was originally constructed in 1889, which explains the name of the restaurant inside, Vintage 1889. Craftsmen, artists, and antique hunters come together in one place to display their wares and shop.
The restaurant serves lunch Monday through Saturday with a menu that includes salads, sandwiches, flatbread pizzas, and gourmet burgers. Dinner is served Thursday through Saturday and adds steaks, chicken, and shrimp and grits.
The building itself, on the National Register of Historic Places, is a good reason to visit. Be sure to locate the relaxing courtyard if you need to take a breather from all your shopping.
Miracle Pottery in Valley Head
About a 20-minute drive northeast into the heart of Lookout Mountain, you’ll find a fascinating pottery studio owned by a member of the Cherokee Nation. Valinda Miracle’s story of turning to the potter’s wheel as therapy following a devastating car accident, is one you’ll want to hear more about. The results of Ms. Miracle discovering this hidden talent are beautiful and unique. Her store displays both functional and decorative pieces, as well as some of her paintings. The scenic drive from Fort Payne to Valley Head is enjoyable. I believe you’ll agree that finding Miracle Pottery at 7871 AL Highway 117 is well worth the time.
The Lodge at Gorham’s Bluff at Pisgah
After a full day of exploring, eating and shopping, what could be better than a beautifully appointed room overlooking stunning scenery? You even have the bonus of a gourmet dining experience without leaving the property.
Gorham’s Bluff is an upscale, planned community nestled on top of Sand Mountain with spectacular views of the Tennessee River Valley. The lodge is the crown jewel of the community. If you’re traveling with children, you’ll want to rent one of the cottages nearby, because the lodge is designed for unplugging and tranquility. The lodge has six suites, each with a fireplace, whirlpool tub, and luxury bedding.
Meals are not included in the room prices, but they are well worth adding to your reservation. Dinner is a four-course, candlelit splurge, and breakfast is made to order according to your preferences.
This lodge is off the beaten path but is only a short drive from Scottsboro. I highly recommend that you find it and enjoy an exceptional stay.
Even More Fun in Northeast Alabama
If you have several days to explore northeast Alabama, consider adding some of the more well-known attractions to your itinerary. The Wildflower Café in Mentone is famous for its tomato pie. Several Sand Mountain churches worship with Sacred Harp singing. Cathedral Caverns is filled with giant stalactites and stalagmites. The Scottsboro Boys Museum tells the gripping, sad tale of racial prejudice and injustice. The World’s Longest Yard Sale begins near Noccalula Falls Park in Gadsden every August. These are just a sample.
I hope I’ve ignited your curiosity to come and see what this part of Alabama has to offer.
*Connie Pearson’s book “100 Things to Do in Huntsville and North Alabama Before You Die” is scheduled to be published by Reedy Press in early 2022. It will be available on Amazon.