12 Things To Do in Florence, Alabama

Florence is a beautiful city located in northwest Alabama along the Tennessee River. With its rich history, architecture, and culture, Florence has plenty to offer visitors. From exploring historic sites to enjoying the outdoors, there are many great things to see and do during your time in Florence.

Downtown Florence Walking TourExplore historic and cultural sites on foot, including various historic homes and landmarks.
Shopping and Dining on Court StreetEnjoy boutique shopping and local dining in the city’s vibrant central street.
Florence-Lauderdale MuseumDiscover Greek pottery and artifacts related to the city’s “City of Homer” nickname.
Tennessee Valley ExpeditionExperience the Tennessee River with cruises, offering views of local landmarks.
Hiking along the Tennessee RiverWalk the River Heritage Trail, enjoying natural landscapes and wildlife.
Pope’s TavernVisit this historic stagecoach inn turned museum showcasing 19th-century life.
Historic Shoals TheaterAttend performances in a historic, art deco style theater.
Wilson ParkRelax or engage in recreational activities in this extensive park by the Tennessee River.
W.C. Handy Home MuseumExplore the museum dedicated to the “Father of the Blues,” showcasing his life and work.
Local FestivalsParticipate in various annual festivals celebrating music, art, and local culture.
Sporting EventsExperience local sports, including university athletics and professional soccer.
Visit Ivy GreenTour the birthplace of Helen Keller, learning about her life and legacy.

This article will highlight 12 of the top attractions and activities that you won’t want to miss when visiting this charming Southern city.

Take a Walking Tour of Downtown Florence

Name and Location: Take a Walking Tour of Downtown Florence, AL

History and Significance: Florence’s beautiful downtown centers around the scenic Tennessee River and boasts over 100 historic properties. Walking tours allow visitors to explore the architecture and legacy businesses that make it a vibrant district.

What to Expect: Guides share stories while leading guests through the downtown area, pointing out landmarks like the 1898 courthouse, Rosenbaum House, and Frank Lloyd Wright cottages. Tours run Saturdays year-round.

Visitor Information: 90-minute tours start at 9:30 AM from the Florence-Lauderdale Tourism office where tickets can be purchased. Private group tours also available.

One of the best ways to explore Florence is on foot. The downtown area features many historic and cultural sites that can be easily seen via a self-guided walking tour. Be sure to stop by landmarks like the 1820s-era Pope’s Tavern, the 1818 Dickson Homestead, and the 1823 Kennedy-Carroll House.

You’ll also find the 1916 Florence Courthouse, the 1885 Rosenbaum House, and the 1822 First Presbyterian Church along your walk. Admire the stunning 19th century architecture as you pass through downtown.

Shop and Dine on Court Street

Name and Location: Shop and Dine on Court Street, Florence, AL

History and Significance: The centerpiece of historic downtown, Court Street hosts blocks of boutique shops, salons, galleries, and restaurants in historic buildings interwoven with pocket parks and gathering spaces.

What to Expect: Visitors stroll down the brick sidewalks ducking into antique stores, fashion boutiques, Southern eateries, and more businesses that give Florence its cultural flavor. Something for all interests.

Visitor Information: Free street parking. Shops open daily, hours vary. Special events like AKA Sorority’s Ivy Vine Festival held annually along the street featuring food, vendors, and entertainment.

At the heart of downtown, you will find Court Street. This pedestrian-friendly area offers some of the city’s best boutique shopping and dining options. Pop into the locally-owned shops selling goods ranging from antiques to handmade crafts.

Work up an appetite while browsing then grab an outdoor patio table at one of the contemporary cafes or bistros for some lunch or dinner. From pizza places to pub fare joints to fine dining establishments, Court Street eateries will give you a tasty introduction to Florence cuisine.

See Homeric Artifacts at the Florence-Lauderdale Museum

Name and Location: See Homeric Artifacts at the Florence-Lauderdale Museum, Florence, AL

History and Significance: Housed in an 1820s mansion, this museum displays a renowned collection of Native American and Greek antiquities including weapons and jewelry from Homer’s Bronze Age excavated right in Lauderdale County.

What to Expect: Visitors view cases of locally-discovered artifacts from Warrior culture along with rotating exhibits on regional history from the War of 1812 to World War II featuring documents, photographs, furniture, and more.

Visitor Information: Located near downtown. Open Tue-Sat 10AM-4PM. Guided group tours available by appointment. $5 admission, special rates for students and seniors available.

The Florence-Lauderdale Museum contains an impressive collection of Greek pottery and other artifacts from Homer’s legendary city of Troy thanks to Florence-born archeologist R.M. Patterson. During excavations in Turkey in the 1930s, Patterson uncovered these ancient objects that now reside in his hometown museum.

This has earned Florence the nickname as the “City of Homer.” A standout piece is the Cyclops stone, dating back to around 2,500 BCE. Guided tours provide fascinating historical background on Patterson and details on individual items.

Take a Tennessee Valley Expedition

Name and Location: Take a Tennessee Valley Expedition, Florence, AL

History and Significance: These educational cruises explore the ecosystems and cultural landmarks along the Tennessee River and Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, all narrated by an expert guide from the Alabama Nature Center.

What to Expect: Passengers gain unique natural science perspective cruising past thousand-year-old Native American sites, watching for wildlife, learning how the river influenced Florence’s founding and development on trips lasting up to 90 minutes.

Visitor Information: Public and private cruise options available March-November, boarding downtown. Visit website to view schedule and rates. Advance booking recommended especially for groups.

The Tennessee River not only serves an important practical purpose but also offers recreational enjoyment. Book a cruise aboard one of the sternwheelers docked along the shores of McFarland Park. You’ll meander along the water for views of Neely Henry Lake and Wilson Lake while the captain provides narration of nearby landmarks both natural and manmade. Or opt to hop aboard faster moving riverboats for some current-fueled excitement like the hydro jet boats at Blue Heart Cruises and Old Smokey River Adventures.

Hike along the Tennessee River

Name and Location: Hike along the Tennessee River, Florence, AL

History and Significance: Flowing through the heart of downtown, the stunning Tennessee River attracts outdoor enthusiasts to its many parks and nature preserves boasting miles of trails that showcase the waterway’s beauty and ecological diversity up close.

What to Expect: Hikers traverse the peaceful riverfront by foot and bicycle along the James F. Jackson Trail viewing unique native wildflowers, nesting species, songbirds and waterfowl while absorbing gorgeous valley vistas studded with intriguing rock formations.

Visitor Information: Trailhead parking at McFarland Park. Maps at Florence Tourism Office near Court Street. Pack binoculars, bird ID guide, and picnic lunch.

In addition to boating adventures, you can experience the Tennessee River by foot along sections of the 15-mile long River Heritage Trail. The well-marked path takes you through woodlands, by wetlands, and along limestone glades overlooking the water.

Interpretive signs describe the ecological importance and history of the riverfront areas you traverse. The trail also connects you to downtown attractions like Wheeler Plantation and McFarland Park. Keep your eyes peeled for local wildlife like herons, beavers, deer, and even bald eagles.

Marvel at Pope’s Tavern

Name and Location: Marvel at Pope’s Tavern, Florence, AL

History and Significance: Built as a stagecoach inn in 1819, Pope’s Tavern welcoming prominent guests like Andrew Jackson is Alabama’s oldest building still standing at its original town site representing Florence’s rich early American heritage.

What to Expect: Today the landmark brick tavern houses exhibits profiling North Alabama’s development along stagecoach routes and waterways. Visitors view artifacts from area excavations, Native American culture, early Florence, more in the museum space.

Visitor Information: Free self-guided admission Tues-Sat 10am-4pm. Located on Heritage Trail just north of downtown Florence off Alabama Highway 20.

Dating back to the 1820s, Pope’s Tavern is a historic treasure located right in downtown. The two story brick building once operated as a stagecoach inn. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, the tavern functions as a living history museum depicting 19th century life in northwest Alabama.

Costumed interpreters offer guided tours outlining details on the Pope family who ran the inn for over a century and key figures like Andrew Jackson who once stayed there. The original lodging rooms, parlors, kitchen, and grounds provide an immersive walk through time.

See a Show at the Historic Theater

Name and Location: See a Show at the Historic Theater, Florence, AL

History and Significance: Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this tribute to Art Deco architecture opened in 1934 hosting Hollywood films and big band performances. Saved from demolition in the 1980s, today it hosts community theatre productions in a majestic setting.

What to Expect: Modern audiences experience lavish decor including glowing neon lights, grand arches and lush wall textures that transport them back to the venue’s glamorous heyday while being wowed by community theater productions from dramas to big Broadway musicals.

Visitor Information: Located just off Court Street downtown. Box office hours Monday-Friday plus one hour before showtimes. Season schedules and ticket information available on venue website.

For cultural entertainment, take your seat inside the art deco style Shoals Theater originally opened in 1937. Listed as a National Historic Landmark, the lovingly restored Shoals underwent renovations in 2017 to return it to its former glory.

Today you can see major touring productions of musicals, plays, and concerts within its ornate interior. Even if no show is slated during your visit, you can often take a guided tour of the elaborate theater space with its royal red carpet, grand chandeliers, and detailed plasterwork any time.

Stroll through Wilson Park

Name and Location: Stroll through Wilson Park, Florence, AL

History and Significance: Created in 1921 as a memorial to World War I veterans, this 25-acre green space serves as cultural hub for festivals, concerts, sporting events and recreation along the shaded Tennessee Riverfront about a mile from downtown Florence.

What to Expect: Families enjoy river views along paved walking paths, playground and interactive fountain for kids, athletic fields, performance pavilion, Veterans Memorial, and frequent community happenings from food truck gatherings to holiday celebrations.

Visitor Information: Park open daily 5am-10:30pm April-October, shorter hours rest of year. Some facilities can be rented. Check City of Florence website for full listings of public programming.

Situated along the southern bank of the Tennessee River, this gorgeous 71-acre park provides opportunities for recreation and relaxation. Lush grassy fields perfect for picnicking, walking trails meandering under canopied woodlands, and pavilions for large gatherings offer visitors plenty of ways to enjoy the park’s natural scenery.

The Florence Walk of Honor stands at the entrance, commemorating outstanding community members with engraved granite markers along its pathway. Wilson Park also celebrates local culture via art installations like the Creation Sculptures depicting characters from Southern folktales.

See the W.C. Handy Home Museum

Name and Location: See the W.C. Handy Home Museum, Florence, AL

History and Significance: Known globally as the “Father of Blues,” composer William Christopher Handy was born in a humble log cabin that today underscores his lifetime of contribution to American music as both museum and performing arts center.

What to Expect: This National Historic Landmark transports visitors back to post-Civil War era through period heirlooms and interactive exhibits where his published “Memphis Blues” sheet music comes alive. Concerts held onsite in warmer months.

Visitor Information: Located downtown, admission to museum and gift shop applies. Guided group tours available. Live music schedules posted at WCHandyMusuem.org.

Known as “The Father of the Blues,” Florence native William Christopher Handy greatly influenced 20th century American music as the popularizer of the blues genre. His former two-story brick home now operates as museum in his honor.

Take a guided tour of rooms filled with Handy’s personal artifacts, including his piano, portraits, clothing, and original compositions. Interactive exhibits let you listen to his iconic works like “Memphis Blues” and “St. Louis Blues” as you learn about Handy’s critical part in preserving Delta blues in popular culture.

Check Out a Local Festival

Name and Location: Check Out a Local Festival, Florence, AL

History and Significance: From its founding nearly 200 years ago, Florence has brought community together through annual cultural celebrations of food, music, and traditions… a spirited legacy that continues today hosting family-friendly fetes almost every month attracting folks from all around.

What to Expect: Whether Mardi Gras parades in February, roaring hot rods at June’s ShoalsFest, or the Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention’s October bluegrass spotlight, visitors find toe-tapping entertainment coupled with creative local vendors and cuisine creating festivity for all tastes.

Visitor Information: Event calendars at VisitFlorenceAL.com. Most festivals located downtown are free to attend with food/merchandise pay-as-you-go.

From food to music to holidays, Florence has an annual festival for almost any interest you may have. The city hosts several signature events every year that are not to be missed if visiting during their scheduled weekends. W.C. Handy Music Festival every July honors Florence’s famed musical son with 10 days of live blues, jazz, and other performances all across town.

Also each July, the Summer Art Festival celebrates visual arts along Court Street featuring local and national artists. Don’t miss the Kennedy Douglass Arts Center’s Festival of Lights each December illuminating Wilson Park with over 2 million twinkling bulbs synchronized to holiday music.

Take In a Sporting Event

Name and Location: Take In a Sporting Event, Florence, AL

History and Significance: From college teams like the University of North Alabama Lions across multiple divisions to elite youth programs, amateur sports thrive in the Shoals with venues hosting regional and national events cheering on tomorrow’s rising stars.

What to Expect: Catch football at Braly Stadium or newly-built O’Neal Field for baseball. The multipurpose Florence Sportsplex hosts tennis, soccer, aquatics championships with additional courts, tracks and facilities across the area open for public use.

Visitor Information: Schedules and ticket info for UNA Athletics at Roarlions.com. Contact Greater Shoals Sports Commission for calendar of youth tournaments like the Rocket City Classic basketball invitationals.

Home to the University of North Alabama since 1830, Florence is also host to exciting Division II college athletics. Catch a Lions football game in autumn or a baseball matchup in spring at Braly Stadium and Lions Field. After UNA’s mascot Leo III lets loose a loud roar, cheer the teams on alongside other passionate local fans.

The Florence RedWolves soccer club also competes at Emerson Park Stadium, offering professional level sporting action during their summer season. Or for motor sports, see drivers zoom around the historic half mile dirt track since 1965 at Florence Speedway.

Visit Ivy Green

Name and Location: Visit Ivy Green, Florence, AL

History and Significance: Ivy Green was the name of Helen Keller’s family home where she miraculously learned language at age 7 in 1887 with help from her legendary tutor Anne Sullivan, overcoming blindness and deafness. Her birthplace still inspires visitors as historic site and museum.

What to Expect: The grounds, wellhouse and main house are restored to how they looked during Helen’s childhood. Rotating exhibit galleries inside use photos and artifacts to detail how the Keller family lived in the late 1800s and share Helen’s amazing story that began here.

Visitor Information: Located 10 minutes west of downtown. Open for self-guided tours daily year-round except major holidays. Nominal admission fee. Visit website for directions and group reservations.

Literature lovers won’t want to leave Florence without stopping at Ivy Green, the birthplace of Helen Keller. The plantation-style home is where young Helen resided when she lost both sight and hearing from illness before learning to communicate via sign language by teacher Anne Sullivan in the now famous water pump incident on the grounds.

Take a house tour to view Helen’s artifacts plus experience exhibits and films documenting her incredible life and legacy. The grounds also contain Anne’s cottage along with the gravesites of both Helen and Anne. Ivy Green gives moving insight into two amazing women who had major impacts around the world.


With its rich history, stunning Tennessee River landscape, vibrant culture, and wealth of things to experience, Florence provides visitors the perfect getaway spot in northwest Alabama. Learn about influential figures like W.C. Handy, take in a show downtown, sample tasty local cuisine, and wander along well-preserved 19th century sites for just a sampling of memorable activities here.

Whether you want an educational trip or just a fun place to relax awhile, Florence has something for everyone. Use this guide to fully immerse yourself in all this charming Southern city has to offer during your time here.

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