Whether you’re in Florence for an event such as the W.C. Handy Music Festival or you’re planning to settle down in the genteel northern Alabama city, your children will find plenty of entertainment options. Florence, named for the Italian city, is a cultural and economic hub for this part of the state.
Native Americans of the mound-building Mississippian culture made their home along the Tennessee River near Florence, and kids can learn more about life in the area before European settlers arrived at the Indian Mound and Museum (florenceal.org). The small museum has an interesting collection of Native American artifacts -- some dating back as far as 10,000 years ago -- but it’s the massive, 42-foot-tall mound that will really impress kids. Drive down County Road 8 toward the Natchez Trace to see Tom’s Wall (no website; 13890 County Road 8, Florence; 256-764-3617). This hand-built stone wall is a tribute to Tom Hendrix’s great-grandmother, a Yuchi Indian who was forced to leave her home near Florence during the Trail of Tears but escaped to return to Alabama. Each stone represents one step on her journey, and the cumulative effect is impressive for kids familiar with this part of U.S. history.
The small playground is fun, but it’s the oversize splash fountain that lures kids to River Heritage Park (florenceal.org) during the summer. The fountains run for 45-minute intervals throughout the day during hot weather so kids can cool off in the plumes of water. With its sweeping Tennessee River views, shady pavilions and playgrounds, McFarland Park (florenceal.org) makes an ideal spot for a family picnic. Kids can also try their luck fishing off the park’s pier. If you’re feeling adventurous, reserve one of the park’s teepees for a sleepover the kids will never forget.
Launch your kayak into the river for a paddle adventure from Wildwood Park (florenceal.org). If you’d rather stay on land, the park also has a nature trail to explore. Florence is part of the North Alabama Birding Trail (northalabamabirding.org) and a good place to introduce children to the pleasures of birding. Bring your binoculars to look for Carolina wrens, bald eagles, gulls, red-headed woodpeckers and other avian residents.
Just 10 miles from Florence in the little town of Tuscumbia, you can visit Ivy Green (helenkellerbirthplace.org), the birthplace of Helen Keller. If you show them one of the “Miracle Worker” movies before your visit, kids might be more excited to see treasures such as Keller’s Braille typewriter and the well-pump where she learned the word “water.” At the Children’s Museum of the Shoals (shoalschildrensmuseum.org), kids can learn how a house transforms from blueprint to building, make music as they bounce their way across a giant keyboard, practice the scientific method with hands-on experiments and check out other interactive exhibits.
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