Music fans the world over come to Florence, Alabama to see two of the most influential recording studios in the world. But that’s not all this charming Southern town has to offer. Find the best things to do in Florence, Alabama and The Shoals area here.
Florence and The Shoals
Florence is located in an area of North Alabama known as The Shoals. The Shoals area is actually made up of four different cities: Florence, Sheffield, Tuscumbia and Muscle Shoals. A visit to Florence means seamlessly moving in and out of each of these four cities.
Top Things to Do in Florence, Alabama
FAME Recording Studios
FAME Recording Studios is one of the longest continually-operating recording studios in the world. It has been open since 1961 and is where legendary artists such as Aretha Franklin, the Allman Brothers, Alabama, and Alicia Keys recorded hit records. A tour of the studio lets you see inside Studios A and B where all the magic happens, and where famous artists still record today.
This studio is where the “Muscle Shoals sound” was born. FAME’s session musicians (the Swampers) left the studio in 1969 to create Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, the other famous studio here. I suggest visiting FAME and then the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio so you’re seeing everything in chronological order. You should also check out the Muscle Shoals documentary before you go to have a better understanding of the history of the two studios.
FAME offers Standard studio tours Monday through Friday at 9 a.m., and Saturday throughout the day at 10 a.m., 12 p.m., and 2 p.m.. Admission costs $20 for adults and $15 for children. They also have a Backstage tour on Monday through Friday at 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., and Saturday at 10 a.m., 12 p.m., and 2 p.m. Admission for this tour costs $40 for adults and $30 for children.
Muscle Shoals Sound Studios
You wouldn’t know it from the outside, but this little concrete building that houses Muscle Shoals Sound Studios is where Cher, The Rolling Stones, Bob Seger, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and more recorded hit albums. A tour of the studios takes you first to the basement and speakeasy (because this was a dry county back in the day) and then into the one studio that spans the building.
I took a particular picture when I last visited the studio in 2015, so I had to recreate it this time.
Are me and Mick Jagger two peas in a pod or what?
Muscle Shoals Sound Studios is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tours take place every hour on the half hour starting from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Admission costs $20 per person, $15 for seniors and military, and free for children 10 and under.
Helen Keller Birthplace
Ivy Green, Helen Keller’s childhood home is located in Tuscumbia. This is where Anne Sullivan taught the seven-year-old Helen Keller, totally blind and deaf, to sign “water” at the small black well pump in the backyard.
The guides here give a short tour of the downstairs of the home, recounting the story of Helen and Anne, and then let you explore the upstairs and the rest of the property on your own. The property contains the well, the kitchens, the cottage Anne and Helen lived in, and the theater where the Helen Keller Birthplace Foundation puts on The Miracle Worker play every summer.
My mom found an old picture of me and my brother at Ivy Green, so I absolutely recreated that picture as well!
Ivy Green does tours Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. with the last tour starting at 3:45 p.m. Admission costs $7 for adults and $4 for children.
Frank Lloyd Wright-Rosenbaum Home
Frank Lloyd Wright built this home in Florence for the Rosenbaum family in 1939. It’s the only Wright home in the state of Alabama. The home is considered one of the best examples of Wright’s Usonian design, and the home remains in its original state with much of the original furniture that Wright designed.
The Frank Lloyd Wright-Rosenbaum Home does 45 minute tours Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Admission costs $10 per person, and $5 for seniors and students.
UNA Lion Habitat
The University of North Alabama (UNA) is the only school in the country to have a live lion mascot on campus. In fact, they have two live lions, Leo and Una. They live in the state-of-the-art 12,764 square-foot George H. Carroll Lion Habitat. If you’re lucky, you can see them lounging by the fence or splashing around in their pool.
You can visit UNA’s live lion habitat for free.
The U.S. government designed the historic Village One neighborhood in Sheffield in 1918 with a layout in the shape of the Liberty Bell. The neighborhood housed the workers of the nearby Nitrate Plant, which soon closed down after WWI. But the neighborhood still remains with its beautiful white buildings topped with red roofs situated around the curve of the Liberty Bell.
You can drive around and look at the Village One neighborhood for free.
Lawn Man and His Bear Statues
Okay, this one is just me being silly! So this guy’s business is doing lawns, obviously. But he apparently has a lot of time on his hands to re-position his bear statues and change his sign to attention-grabbing phrases frequently. I, of course, had to stop for a photo opp with the bears!
Where to Stay in Florence
We stayed at the Residence Inn, Florence. This was a nice hotel with breakfast, a pool, and even a basketball court! We had a nice roomy suite with a king bed, a kitchenette, and a sofa. I think the hotel had just done some remodeling work; the paint made the doors very sticky. Like, you really had to throw your weight into it to open the door. But other than that, it was a great stay!
Read next: Where to Eat in Florence, Alabama
Explore More Alabama Cities
After your visit to Florence, plan a trip to Alabama’s other great cities! Check out these itineraries below:
- Take a Free Mural Tour of Huntsville, Alabama
- Vulcan, the Original Iron Man in Birmingham, Alabama
- Visiting Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman, Alabama
Ready to visit Florence, Alabama? Plan your trip with these tips.
- Book your flight to Florence: Find the cheapest flights using Skyscanner, my favorite flight search engine.
- Find Accommodation: You can find top hotels in Florence, Alabama using Hotels.com.
- Start Packing: Make sure you’ve packed everything you need with my packing list resources.
Have you visited Florence, Alabama? Let me know in the comments!