Florence-Lauderdale Tourism & Visitor Center
Driving up to the Florence-Lauderdale Tourism and Visitor Center you’re met with the shimmering waters of the Singing River and the soaring Alabama pines—both iconic reminders of the Shoals area and an ideal location for the Visitor Center, which celebrates and embodies everything that makes up an area so rich with history, talent, and beauty. The stunning building filled with informative displays, dynamic technology, a gift shop, and friendly staff, makes a Visitor Center that is truly one-of-a-kind, and a must-see for both local residents and those new to the area. The goal of the Center is not to be a museum, but to give each person who walks through the door a taste of everything the Shoals has to offer, and to send them out to explore the many attractions and events across the Quad Cities.
The front of the Tourism & Visitor Center is structured with towering pine posts and tall, wooden doors created by local artist Robin Wade who also designed the benches found throughout the space. In addition to Robin Wade’s incredible, organic furniture, the goal was to use as many local companies as possible including Cinteva, who did the floors, while Frank Lloyd Wright and local Native American heritage inspired the building’s overall appearance. Upon entering the Center the vaulted ceilings are highlighted by the floor to ceiling windows that let in a flood of light and spotlight the many displays, which hold precious items including the first, original Harlon Hill Trophy and the second rock ever laid in Tom’s Wall. Additionally, the modern space has a Wilson Dam exhibit, aquarium with local fish found in the Tennessee River, and displays honoring Frank Lloyd Wright and Muscle Shoals music, which is currently displaying the Alabama Jammer, a special Gibson guitar made especially for the Year of Alabama Music.
Next to the numerous displays is the gift shop, which is stocked full of local, handmade items including t-shirts, historical books, soaps, food items and of course the Muscle Shoals Documentary. In addition, if you want to surprise someone with a nice gift, the staff can make a gift basket with a variety of products in one of the Alabama-shaped baskets that can be bought in the store. Finally, check out the Gallery Room, a specially designed space where up to 50 people can watch the promotional tourism video, movie trailer for the Muscle Shoals documentary, or one of the special presentations about local history, music, and other various programs. Whether you’re a school, book club, or church group wanting to tour the visitor center, there is something that will interest everyone and an entire wall of informational pamphlets that will help you get started in searching the Shoals and the entire state of Alabama.
While many visitors are in town staying with family or are a part of a fishing or golf tournament, this is also a place for local residents to get connected with the community where they live and work. Learning about the many events and locations to see and get involved is as simple as stopping by or signing up for the “Must See Gotta Do” weekly calendar online or in the Tourism Center, which gives updates on upcoming notable events. You will be surprised by the many activities going on in the Shoals on a weekly basis—there is always something to do. Often times when out of town guests visit the Tourism and Visitor Center they will extend their stay after learning of some of the sites and events in the area. One of the exciting events coming up, hosted by the Visitor Center, is the Walking Tours of Historic Florence—a free event where every Saturday in April at 10am people can tour a historic location. Tours will take place at UNA, the City Cemetery, North Court and Seminary Streets, Forks of Cypress, and the first tour on April 9th will be the Walnut Historic District.
The staff at the Visitor Center is passionate about providing fun, educational, and inspiring opportunities to learn more about our incredible region. No one else in the world can claim the Muscle Shoals music sound, Helen Keller, Tom’s Wall, Billy Reid, W.C. Handy, Natalie Chanin, Wilson Dam, and the many other talented people and places that have emerged from this diverse area. I often hear local residents explain that they would never want to move away from The Shoals area—and the Florence-Lauderdale Tourism and Visitor Center so vividly maps out why this is true for so many with their knowledgeable staff and striking displays, which point visitors in the right direction to experience for themselves the immense talent and historical beauty of The Shoals.