An old high school friend sent me a message over the weekend, asking for suggestions of places to take a weekend trip. It’s something I’m asked a lot, so I thought I’d do a quick list of day/weekend trips for anyone looking for ideas.
Of course, there are lots of things to take into consideration:
- How far do you want to drive?
- Are you looking for romance, history or quirkiness?
- Do you want to hike, or maybe take photos?
- Are you a fan of old homes? What about cemeteries?
My friend asked for places within an hour-and-a-half of north Alabama but I added some longer trips, as well. These are destinations I came up with in the moment so I will likely add to the list from time to time if you wanna check back.
I’m given an estimated drive time from Huntsville so be sure to check mileage from your home. I gave very brief descriptions and a link to a story with more information. Have fun and let me know how the trips go by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
I always recommend the mountains of North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia but this is a much longer trip. You can find plenty of stories by searching the blog. I also left off obvious places like Nashville and Franklin, Tenn., which most of you probably know about.
Lynchburg, Tenn. (history/romance) 1.15 hours
This adorable small town is known as the home of the Jack Daniel Distillery but it can also be romantic because the downtown area has quaint shops and restaurants, like the famous Miss Mary Bobo’s. Be sure to check out the historic jail downtown.
Rome, Ga. (history/cemetery/romance) 2.20 hours
Rome is a great destination. Not only does the downtown area have lots of historic buildings, shops and eateries, but there are also fascinating statues and historic markers. In addition, you can take a tour of the Berry College campus, the largest in the world. The old buildings there are gorgeous. If you’re into funerary art, or simply want a great view of the city, head to Myrtle Hill Cemetery. You’ll find more statues and historical markers there.
Millbrook, Ala., aka Spectre (quirky) 2.5 hours
This is the place where Sweetums and I got married. A small “town” was built on Jackson Lake Island, a fishing and hunting camp, for the movie “Big Fish.” The buildings for town of Spectre was abandoned on the island for years and became a popular destination for photographers and explorers. Now, the owners are repairing the surviving buildings, which are just shells with no interiors, and the pole where people threw their shoes in the film is still there (It’s a tradition that showed people didn’t need their shoes because they never planned to leave. We had guests throw shoes over the line at our wedding.) The island itself has beautiful tress filled with Spanish moss and an adorable herd of goats that keep the grass mowed.
Talladega, Ala. (history/adventure/photo opp) 2.20 hours
So this might seem an odd destination for this list because it seems like a sports destination. The town, of course, is known as the home of the Talladega Superspeedway, and I’m sure it’s fun for fans of NASCAR or Ricky Bobby to see the famous track. But Sweetums and I discovered another side to Talladega. It is also home to a one-of-a-kind building and the Silk Stocking District, which is filled with gorgeous historic homes. Although there’s not much downtown in the way of shopping, it can make for a fun drive or walk. The old bank building there is built entirely of terra cotta and is thought to be the only one of its kind in Alabama.
Robinson Switch Ghost Town, Lowndes County, Ala. 3.15 hours
This place just fascinated Sweetums and me. It is an abandoned village of wood structures along an old railroad track. They line an old dirt road and the area is great for photographers.
While you’re in the area, see the ruins of Dicksonia Plantation. Knock at the door of the residence behind the ruins and ask to stroll the grounds. It’s too dangerous to go inside.
Oneonta, Ala. (history/romance) 1.20 hours
Oneonta is the destination of choice for lovers of covered bridges. Blount County is home to three historic covered bridges that still carry motor traffic. They make picturesque backdrops for photos. You can also visit Palisades Park, which has beautiful scenery and hiking trails as well as replicas of historic buildings such as a chapel and grist mill.
Down the road at Blount Springs, you can stop at a “village” made up of rescued log buildings.
Eufaula, Ala. (history/romance) 4 hours
Eufaula is known for its beautifully kept historic homes and hosts a pilgrimage tour of homes each spring. It also has a picturesque downtown with numerous buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Seth Lore and Irwinton Historic District has 667 contributing properties. It is the second largest historic district in Alabama.
Bull Pen Steakhouse in Oakman, Ala. (adventure/quirky) 1.45 hours
OK, let me be clear – there is nothing else to see in Oakman outside of the Bull Pen Steakhouse. Fortunately, it is a destination in itself. You’ll find a Western-themed town in the middle of nowhere with a huge steakhouse at its center. The restaurant is like Cracker Barrel on steroids, filled with all kinds of antiques and quirkiness, and serves amazing food.
Howard Finster’s Paradise Gardens, Clarksville, Ga. (quirky) 4.5 hours
Howard Finster, the king of outsider art, or folk art, built this crazy hodgepodge of oddities, including a coffin that supposedly contains a 200-year-old body. It has been preserved and is open for tours. The entry fee is $15. While you’re in the area, you can stop at another folk art destination, SamG Land, also in Clarksville. I haven’t been yet but I know Sam Granger through Facebook and it’s on my list. I have to go see the World’s Largest Grit, which Sam created on his property.
Tupelo, Miss. (history/adventure/photo opp) 2.30 hours
Sure, Tupelo is known as the birthplace of Elvis, and his childhood home is fascinating, but Tupleo is also at the beginning of the Natchez Trace, where you can take a scenic drive or hike. We also came across the graves of 13 unknown Confederate soldiers in the woods along the original Trace. There’s too much to see to list here, so be sure to read the stories I’ve linked.
Columbia, Tenn. (history/shopping) 1.15 hours
My mother and her parents were born in Columbia, Tenn., and they are all buried in nearby Santa Fe, Tenn. Columbia has a quaint downtown with lots of shops and fun eateries. Be sure to also visit the home of President James K. Polk, the historic Athenaeum, the old arsenal and hydroelectric station, Breckinridge Hatter’s Shop and numerous historic homes. There is also a number of historic farms, some of which are open to the public.
Barnsley Resort, Ga. (romance/photo opps) 2.5 hours
Barnsley Resort is a beautiful place to stay, with a huge lodge in addition to standalone homes for rent that make up a quaint little village with restaurants, horseback riding, golf and more. But the centerpiece is the ruins of an Italianate mansion that was once the showplace of a plantation located on the site.
Athens, Ga. (adventure/quirky/history) 4.5 hours
Sweetums and I loved touring Athens, home to the University of Georgia. It has an eclectic downtown area with lots of bars and shops, as well as a historic theatre. The campus abuts downtown and it also has some beautiful historic buildings. Athens is also home to the world’s only double-barreled cannon, the Tree That Owns Itself and the REM Trestle. Fans of REM can take a tour. Read more here.
Dahlonega, Ga. (romance, history) 4 hours
Sweetums and I took a pre-Christmas trip to this picturesque town I visited as a child. The old General Store still has a player piano and an animatronic fortune teller and there are tons of shops and restaurants. Dahlonega was also hoe to the country’s first Gold Rush so you can tour a surviving underground gold mine and visit the Gold Museum.
You can also take an hour’s drive to Helen, Ga., the quaint Alpine village.
Check back and see if I add more.