Florence, Ala., is the county seat of Lauderdale county and North Alabama’s music, food and fashion hub. With scenic views from the Bluffs and the city’s multiple parks, a historic university, a storied musical past and a bustling downtown area, Florence is the perfect day trip. Our staff took the Natchez Trace to the Shoals to see what all the fuss was about. View the photo gallery above and then read about our favorite stops below:
Alabama Chanin: 462 Lane Drive
This factory is a short drive from downtown Florence, but the experience is worth it if you are the least bit interested in the creative process. First, we went on a free tour of the facility and learned the entire process of making an item of Alabama Chanin clothing. The story of founder Natalie Chanin embracing the beauty and quality of slow design is inspiring. And that’s just the start. Alabama Chanin offers DIY kits and classes at The School of Making, a retail store with home goods and heirloom pieces made under the same roof as well as a café run by Natalie’s son. Our sweet tour guide Emily said the café’s Saturday brunch would be worth the drive from Tupelo and I plan to take her word for it one day soon. In a world so fast-paced, it was refreshing to see a company focused on the process and quality.
Perennial Supply Co.: 222 North Court Street
We walked through the door of this cute downtown shop to find a Florence native who said she opened Perennial because she found herself being more cautious to buy products made in the United States. She realized there was a bit of a void in Florence, so she took the matter in her own hands. The three of us circled the store multiple times taking in the unique finds. I bought three small rolls of Rifle Paper Co. wrapping paper. I plan to hang them in my house with trouser hangers. Offering anything from coffee beans to cookbooks to serving utensils, there is something for everyone at Perennial.
Trowbridge’s: 316 North Court Street
You can’t make a Florence trip without at least peeking in the window of Trowbridge’s. Not much has changed in the diner since it’s opening in 1918 so it was a nice nod to the past and simpler times. Articles from their years of business line the walls and as I was perusing, I saw they were known for their “Orange Pineapple” ice cream. I opted for it even though they had every flavor and style imaginable. I have to say, it tasted a lot like a push pop I haven’t had since elementary school, but it was the perfect afternoon treat!
The Rosenbaum: 601 Riverview Dr.
The Rosenbaum House is the only building in Alabama designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The Usonian designed home was built in 1939 for newlyweds Stanley and Mildred Rosenbaum, who remained the owners of the home until 1999. When the City of Florence acquired the house, it was restored and is now a museum, open to the public. If you enjoy mid-century modern style, this home is a must-see.
Bunyan’s BBQ: 901 W. College St.
Bunyan’s BBQ is a retro carry-out spot for barbecue, hot dogs, chicken and side items like its famous hot slaw. Since its founding in 1972, Bunyan’s has been a regional favorite, earning a busy lunch hour crowd and multiple nods from national publications. Grab a few sandwiches and sides to share for the road or a picnic at one of Florence’s parks.
Odette: 120 N. Court St.
Odette is an Instagram-worthy restaurant in Downtown Florence. The interior features exposed brick walls, a long bar for drinking and eating, and well-placed art. The food is as inviting as the atmosphere. The American-Southern fare is made lovingly with locally- and sustainably-sourced ingredients. I had the daily special: fried catfish with orange remoulade.
UNA: 1 Harrison Plaza
The University of Alabama’s beautiful campus is within walking distance of Downtown Florence. If you can’t see all 130 acres, stop by to see Leo III and Una, the college’s 14-year-old African lion siblings. UNA has received national attention since adopting its first live mascot in 1974. The lions are vocal, playful and so interesting to watch!
Overlook @ the Bluffs
Another photographer here at the Journal, Adam, told me about an overlook spot where you can see the Tennessee River and downtown Florence, and I’m so glad he did! This spot was our first stop of the day, and it was an absolutely beautiful view from this spot on Lake Pickwick Drive. It’s a great spot for some scenic photos!
McFarland Park: 200 James Spain Dr.
Our second stop was right across the river at McFarland Park. This park is one of many in and around Florence, and has tons to offer. There are campsites, a driving range, playgrounds, fishing piers, trails, baseball fields, and it adjacent to O’Neal Harbor with a restaurant and marina. It’s a very nice park, and we enjoyed walking along the riverfront.
Carriage Wine & Market and Jack-O-Lantern Farm: 121 E. Mobile St. & 123 E. Mobile St.
These two store fronts are right next to each on Mobile St. in downtown Florence, with a doorway between them. Jack-O-Lantern Farm has local produce from their farm, as well as other local and regional snacks and goodies. The Carriage Wine & Market has a large selection of wine, and also has a bar for tastings.