Muscle Shoals, Alabama is a fascinating community with a rich history that may be found on the Tennessee River’s banks. Since the 1960s, world-renowned musicians including Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the Rolling Stones have recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, earning the area its nickname as the birthplace of the “Muscle Shoals Sound.”
Additionally, Helen Keller, who worked tirelessly to better services for the deaf and blind, was born and raised in this area. Muscle Shoals is also fantastic for outdoor enthusiasts thanks to its abundance of parks, trails, and courses as well as its world-class fishing. Let’s check out the 15 best things to do in Muscle Shoals that you can’t miss when coming here.
Visit Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum House
Stanley and Mildred Rosenbaum commissioned famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright to design and construct their dream home in Florence, Alabama. It was built in accordance with the Usonian House concept, which describes a collection of middle-class family homes constructed with a simple, functional design in the years preceding World War II. These homes, which are typical “L-shaped” to allow for a flowing terrace and garden, were constructed on inexpensive or unusually shaped pieces of land.
The Usonian home has a cantilevered roof, an indoor stone fireplace, and a carport with overhead protection. Each room has its own door out to the grounds, and there are several windows and glass doors throughout the home that serve to bring the outdoors within. Only a small number of original Usonian homes still stand in the United States, and the Rosenbaum House is one of them. Make your first trip on the list of things to do in Muscle Shoals if you are interested in architecture or the use of environmentally friendly building materials.
Visit Fame Recording Studios
Despite being located in a somewhat unremarkable structure outside of the major recording hubs of the United States by the mid-1960s, FAME Recording Studios had become one of the most famous studios in the world. This area of Alabama was the birthplace of a new musical style known as the “Muscle Shoals Sound,” and it served as a safe haven for musicians of all backgrounds throughout the turbulent periods of the Civil Rights Movement.
Rick Hall, the studio’s founder, is widely regarded as responsible for elevating Aretha Franklin’s career from struggling musician to famed “Queen of Soul.” Wilson Pickett, Etta James, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Joe Cocker, and the Rolling Stones were just a few of the artists who flocked to the area after hearing about the new “Muscle Shoals Sound,” and more recently, Steven Tyler, Demi Lovato, and Alison Krauss have recorded there.
Over the previous 50 years, FAME Recording Studios has recorded or published more than 350 million albums that have sold all over the globe. Today, visitors can take tours of the studios, listen to music that was recorded there, view photos, and even record their own songs in these historic rooms.
Visit Ivy Green
Helen Keller, who was born in Ivy Green but became deaf and blind as a kid due to an illness, was born deaf and blind. Helen quickly established her resolve and made it obvious that she was not going to let anything change her outlook on life. She learned to read Braille on her own and went on to publish 11 books, several papers and give lectures all over the world.
Visit Ivy Green, her childhood home, to examine hundreds of personal items and pieces of memorabilia, including the renowned well-pump at which she would sit to study. This is one of the things to do in Muscle Shoals that you must do when coming here. Visit Helen Keller’s childhood home in Tuscumbia, Alabama, during the annual Helen Keller Festival at the end of June.
Walk in the River Heritage Park
The beautiful Wilson Dam and Tennessee River may be seen from this park in Florence, Alabama. Located only a few miles from Muscle Shoals, River Heritage Park offers a variety of activities for its visitors, including walks along the riverfront, picnics, and an interactive fountain/Splash Pad.
Visit Wilson Lock and Dam
Wilson Dam is a massive construction that spans the Tennessee River by a total of 1,384 meters, connecting the cities of Florence, Alabama, and Muscle Shoals, Alabama. It was built in 1918 and honored the 32nd President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, with its naming. Even though it didn’t produce at full capacity at first, the dam is now able to supply this part of Alabama with 663 megawatts of electricity.
When you go to the dam, you may check out Wilson Lock as well. Over 3,700 vessels, including boats and barges, use it every year. Wilson Dam and Lock may be seen in all their glory from the rotating restaurant of a local hotel, or from the trails that lead to them. The 15 things to do in Muscle Shoals certainly cannot be without this activity.
Visit Muscle Shoals Sound Studios
Music lovers should definitely make the trip to Alabama’s Muscle Shoals to check out the legendary recording studios. Late in the 1960s, the space was repurposed from a showroom for coffins into a recording studio that competed with FAME Recording Studios.
The likes of Bob Seger, Aretha Franklin, and Willie Nelson are just a few of the notable musicians that have recorded here throughout the years. The structure was recently reopened for tours, and the studio’s interiors remain mostly unchanged from the 1970s, complete with analog recording equipment, instruments, and memorabilia. Spend a few hours at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios if you want to learn more about these renowned studios and soak up the same vibe that 70s music legends did. The best things to do in Muscle Shoals would be incomplete without it.
Walk or Cycle along the Old Railroad Bridge
Established in 1832, the Old Railroad Bridge completely implemented its toll system by 1840. But this was only temporary because of the destruction caused by tornadoes, flash floods, and other disasters. When it reopened in 1858, it had stronger piers to hold the toll road below and the train above.
The reinforced bridge didn’t last much longer before being burned by Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. When construction on a replacement bridge was completed in 1939, it was designated as a historic landmark and is being maintained for that purpose. Crossing the bridge on foot or by bike affords spectacular views of the river and the city below is one of the things to do in Muscle Shoals that you must try by locals.
Take a boat on Pickwick Lake
Pickwick Lake is a gorgeous body of water that runs over 50 miles through parts of Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Anglers frequent this lake because of its varied terrain, which includes grassy flats, limestone bluffs, and deep ledges. It’s one of the few lakes in the area with a wide variety of fish species, including largemouth bass, catfish, spotted bass, and striped bass of all sizes.
Actually, it’s considered a top lake for bass fishing in the southern United States. Veterans often go out in the colder months to catch sauger on their migratory upstream journey. Muscle Shoals is a great place to start your fishing adventure because it offers boat rentals and easy access to the riverbanks.
Visit Indian Mound and Museum
If you are interested in learning more about the indigenous peoples of the Florence, Alabama area, a trip to the Indian Mound and Museum is a must. The river and coastline woodlands near Florence attracted many ancient peoples because they provided an abundance of food sources, including fish, shellfish, berries, seeds, and hickory nuts. Clay pots, fish hooks, spear points, jewelry, and pottery are just some of the many artifacts found in the area that are on display inside the museum.
A wide variety of soapstone sculptures, woven fabrics, and animal-shaped pipes are also on display. Travel to the mound, the largest in the Tennessee River Valley, for a glimpse into the past and a chance to picture what life was like before industrialization and commerce swept across the area. It deserves to be on the list of the top 15 best things to do in Muscle Shoals that you can’t miss when coming here!
Dine at 360 Grille Revolving Restaurant
Visit the 360 Grille in the Muscle Shoals area if you’re a foodie and a photographer. This restaurant in Muscle Shoals, perched atop the Renaissance Tower of the Marriott Hotel in Florence, spins so that diners can take in 360-degree views of the surrounding area, including Muscle Shoals and the Tennessee River, as they tuck into their meal.
This upscale restaurant is ideal for a quiet evening out with your special someone, with a wide variety of dishes from hearty salads to tender steaks.
Visit the Alabama Music Hall of Fame
Artists, songwriters, performers, and producers are all recognized at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. The “We Believe in Music Walkway” features a study library, photo archives, and an exhibition hall. The walkway leading up to the front gate features granite stones and bricks engraved with the names of famous musicians, record labels, and admirers.
If you love music so much, you can have your own stone commissioned and have your name displayed near the fountain in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame for all time to come. Come and enjoy things to do in Muscle Shoals if you feel interested.
Try the food at Garden Gate Café
Garden Gate Café is the place to go in Muscle Shoals for the inexpensive, upbeat fare. With options including cornbread, country-fried steak, slaw, and chicken, this restaurant’s southern-style menu has something for everyone. After a long day of exploring the neighborhood, you’ll be glad you stopped here for dinner because the portions are large and the cost is low.
Visit Pope’s Tavern
Pope’s Tavern, one of Florence’s oldest buildings, can be found in the heart of the city. At various times during the Civil War, this building was used as an inn, tavern, and stagecoach stop, as well as a command post, and as a hospital for both armies. Antiquities, clothing, and weapons from this turbulent age are on display in this intriguing museum that recounts the city’s 40+ battles. Take a tour, fill the curators’ ears with questions, and look at all the interesting displays. This fascinating activity on the list of the greatest things to do in Muscle Shoals is sure to excite you.
Visit W.C. Handy Birthplace & Museum
Blues classics including “Beale Street Blues,” “Memphis Blues,” and “St. Louis Blues” were written by William Christopher Handy, who is also regarded as the “Father of the Blues.” You may learn about the legend’s rise to fame during a visit to his home and museum in Florence, Alabama, which features original sheet music and photographs. Anyone with even a passing interest in blues music or in the brilliant musician who created it should make the effort to visit this unpretentious but illuminating museum.
Visit Tuscumbia Railroad Depot Museum
Located just a short drive from Muscle Shoals, the Tuscumbia Railroad Depot Museum is a must-see for any train buff. Photographs, maps, railway simulators, and demonstrations by the museum’s expert curators fill the walls of the museum’s 1888 train depot, which has been painstakingly restored. In-depth history buffs and railfans should not miss this location when in Muscle Shoals.
Above are the top 15 things to do in Muscle Shoals that Hyannis Holiday introduces to you. We hope you have a wonderful holiday with your loved ones!