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Go to Decatur, and travel about 45 miles via Alt. Hwy. 72 West, through Lawrence County and you will come to Colbert County, home to a surprising variety of free and affordable family-friendly adventures. It makes a perfect day-long outing for the whole family.
In Spring Park, located in Tuscumbia, stands a uniquely carved bronze statue of a Native American woman holding a baby. Dedicated to those who died along the Trail of Tears, she silently watches visitors wade in the nearby world’s largest man-made waterfall.
A park highlight is the free evening water fountain show, dedicated to the memory of Princess Im-Mi-Ah-Key, the wife of Chief Tuscumbia, consisting of 51 jets that shoot water more than 150 feet in the air — all choreographed to lights and music.
The summer shows begin 8 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
Additional free activities include playgrounds, feeding ducks, and exploring a covered bridge, gigantic statue of a Native American carved by chain saw from a petrified tree trunk and army tank.
For a small fee, guests can enjoy a train, carousel, mini-roller coaster, splash pad, and cold water trout fishing. During June and July a free market featuring live music, locally grown produce and products, and cooking demonstrations takes place each Thursday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
For more information, call (256) 383-0783.
If your are lucky enough to visit Tuscumbia on a day the free trolley is running, you can take a ride to the Palace Drugstore and enjoy an ice-cream treat at the old-fashioned soda fountain before touring Ivy Green, the birthplace of Helen Keller.
During June and July families can attend The Miracle Worker play held on the grounds of Ivy Green, which is a must see!
Additional attractions in the downtown area include the Tennessee Valley Art Museum, Train Depot and Museum, Coldwater Stage Coach Stop, a variety of historical homes, and the stately Courthouse.
Visitors are welcome inside the Courthouse to view the beautiful architect and are encouraged to explore the Circle of Valor Veterans’ Memorial and other monuments located on the grounds (free admission).
Continue down Alt. Highway 72 West to the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, which showcases the musical accomplishments of Alabama natives.
Visitors are surprised to learn of the many well-known musicians that are from Alabama. The nearby town of Muscle Shoal, known as the “hit recording capital of the world,” offers tours of Fame Recording Studio (free admission) and the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio Museum.
For a unique lunch experience, check-out the Rattlesnake Salon, which is very family-friendly between 11:00 a.m.-5 p.m., at the Seven Springs Lodge.
Besides the unique restaurant built into a cave, the lodge has hiking trails (free admission), horseback riding, and fishing.
Travel further up the road, and visit Coon Dog Cemetery (free admission), the only cemetery of its kind in the world. More than 100 coon dogs rest in the scenic “Freedom Hills” area, where visitors enjoy reading unique headstones and epitaphs that pay tribute to man’s best friend.
Just south of Tuscumbia is the 423-acre Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve (free admission), which includes breathtaking mountaintop views, waterfalls, a canyon, and wildflowers, including Alabama’s only known population of French’s shooting star.
Located on the shores of the Tennessee River, in Riverfront Park in Sheffield, is the Boundless Playground (free admission), which is a truly accessible playground for all. Ramps replace steps, sand tables replace sand boxes, and a game of tic-tac-toe can be played using Braille. Rubber surfaces make wheelchair access easy.
A water pad area is also available for a small fee, as well as a fishing pier (free admission).
Sheffield is also the site of the unique 1,580 feet long and 14 feet high Old Railroad Bridge, which is now a pedestrian only bridge that provides a scenic view of the Tennessee River. Built in 1832, the bridge can be accessed for free from Ashe Boulevard in Sheffield.
If your day is not already full, there is still the Belle Mont Mansion, Lagrange College Site and Pioneer Settlement (free admission), and the exhibit Pathways: Walk Through the History of Muscle Shoals (free admission), located inside the Muscle Shoals City Hall, which tells the history of Wilson Lock and Dam, including an interesting story about Henry Ford, accompanied by Thomas Edison, attempting to buy the Dam for $5 million. The Dam spans the Tennessee River between Colbert and Lauderdale Counties. The lock is the highest single lift lock east of the Rocky Mountains, and more than 3,700 hundred vessels go through the lock each year.
Dates and times that attractions are open vary, and some are only open on the weekend or by appointment, so be sure and research each one before visiting. Depending on when you visit, a variety of festivals take place throughout the summer in Colbert County. In addition, Sheffield and Tuscumbia offer free walking tours throughout the summer.
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By Molly King