Florence, Alabama is in the part of the state that’s known as The Shoals, an area famed for its musical roots and small-town Southern charm. People from all over the world come to Florence to hear about the city’s incredible music history, learn about Helen Keller’s inspiring story, and see the unique architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. Let me show you what your weekend in Florence, Alabama, could look like!
My amazing weekend in Florence, Alabama with my boyfriend was hosted by the local tourism board, Visit Florence.
Touring The Shoals: An Itinerary for Florence, AL
The Shoals area is made up of four different cities: Florence, Sheffield, Tuscumbia and Muscle Shoals. As you spend the weekend in Florence, Alabama, you’ll find yourself seamlessly transitioning from one city to the next to see all the sights.
Day 1 in Florence, Alabama
I arrived in Florence around lunchtime on a Saturday. After checking in at the Residence Inn, Florence, it was time for lunch at Rosie’s Cantina. Rosie’s is a Huntsville original (about an hour and a half away), so I know and love their cuisine. I satisfied my cravings with their amazing chips and salsa, a chicken enchilada, and a cheese enchilada.
After lunch, we checked out the Florence Visitor’s Center, which has small exhibits on some of the area’s major sights and a gift shop. Then we toured the historic Village One neighborhood in Sheffield. The U.S. government designed this unique village with a layout in the shape of the Liberty Bell in 1918. The neighborhood was built to house the workers of the nearby Nitrate Plant, which produced ammonium nitrate, a key component used in WWI explosives. The plant was closed down after WWI, but the neighborhood remains with beautiful white buildings topped with red-tiled roofs.
Next up was a trip to Helen Keller’s birthplace. Ivy Green, Helen Keller’s childhood home, still stands in its original state in Tuscumbia. We took a guided tour of the downstairs of the house, heard the story of Anne Sullivan teaching Helen to sign the word “water”, and learned how quickly Helen mastered Braille and excelled in life. We then saw Helen’s bedroom upstairs and the water pump outside where Anne taught Helen to sign.
That afternoon, my boyfriend and I went for drinks at the Carriage Wine Bar, a cute little wine store in downtown Florence that serves delicious wine cocktails. For dinner, we went down the street to Odette, a rustic-chic bistro. We heard they had the best burger in town, and we were not disappointed!
Day 2 in Florence, Alabama
On Sunday, we ate brunch at Jack’s Place Bistro in Florence. I had a classic French Toast. Then we took a quick trip to the University of North Alabama (UNA) campus to see their live lion habitat. The school’s two lions, Leo and Una, were lounging in the shade right by the fence. They looked like they were settling in for a lazy day, but we had a lot more to accomplish!
Our next stop was the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Sheffield. This unassuming concrete building is responsible for hundreds of chart-topping hit songs from artists like Cher, The Rolling Stones, Bob Seger, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. The studio recently underwent a renovation to restore the building into an incredible museum with tours given by passionate guides who knew the studio owners and musicians personally.
Afterward, we hopped back over to Sheffield to visit the Frank Lloyd Wright-Rosenbaum Home. This sleek home is a great example of Wright’s Usonian house concept. It’s also the only Wright building in Alabama! Wright built this house for the Rosenbaum family in 1939. The family was the sole owner of the house until the city of Florence opened it as a museum with much of the original furniture.
That night, we ate dinner at 306 BBQ in downtown Florence. We ate wings and ribs, and the meat was so tender it was practically falling off the bone!
Day 3 in Florence, Alabama
Monday was a short day for us since we had to drive back home. But before we left, we visited FAME Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals. FAME has been open since 1961 and is one of the longest continually operating recording studios in the world. We toured inside Studios A and B to see where legendary artists such as Aretha Franklin, the Allman Brothers, Alabama, and Alicia Keys recorded hit records.
This studio is credited with starting The Shoals’ storied music history as FAME’s session musicians were the ones who went off to create the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. It might be best to visit these sights in chronological order – first FAME and then Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. I also suggest checking out the documentary Muscle Shoals to help you have a better understanding of the history of the two studios before you visit.
No matter what order you see the museums in, you’re sure to have a great weekend visiting Florence, Alabama!