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Summer bucket list: 15 can’t-miss ideas for fun in North Alabama

GUNTERSVILLE — School’s out for summer and the only goals you want to reach the next few months are working on your tan and actually making it through an entire novel.

Maybe your kids already have the boredom blues, though. Or maybe you’re ready to get out and explore, even if it keeps you close to home.

If you live in North Alabama, you’re in luck. 

This area is bursting at the seams with all kinds of places to visit and see and do during the summer months. Rich in culture, scenery, cuisine and just plain fun in the sun, you can’t go wrong adding any or all of the following experiences to your summer bucket list.

Cathedral Caverns, Woodville

With a massive walk-in opening that stays a cool 60 degrees year round and features “Goliath,” one of the largest stalagmites in the world, Cathedral Caverns is a treasure trove of adventure. The state park encompasses 493 acres and includes hiking trails for the outdoorsy set.

Helen Keller Birthplace “Ivy Green,” Tuscumbia

See where Anne Sullivan taught Helen Keller to communicate at her home in Tuscumbia. Make plans to visit in June, during the annual Helen Keller Festival.

Alabama Music Hall of Fame, Tuscumbia

Tuscumbia also features the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, which honors a variety of music and musical artists from the great state of Alabama, such as Lionel Richie, Tammy Wynette, the Commodores and Hank Williams, among many others.

Cook Museum of Natural Science, Decatur

For a state-of-the-art educational experience – created by John Cook, who started Cook’s Pest Control – visit this science museum for a ton of family fun. Be sure to check the museum’s calendar of events through the summer; there’s something for everyone.

Hays Nature Preserve, Huntsville

With more than 10 miles of trails along the Flint River, Hays Nature Preserve is part of the North Alabama Birding Trail. Leashed dogs are welcome and there are even specified trails for horses.

(Pirates Bay Water Park Leesburg/Facebook)

Pirates Bay Waterpark, Leesburg

On a hilltop overlooking Weiss Lake, Pirates Bay is a sprawling water wonderland for all ages. With slides, mini golf, pools and waterfalls, Pirates Bay is a summer day well spent, matey.

Sand Mountain Park & Amphitheater, Albertville

If you haven’t heard yet, Albertville built a 130-acre park and amphitheater in 2020. Along with state-of-the-art fields, courts and exercise equipment, Sand Mountain Park also features an impressive summer concert series at the amphitheater, with room for 7,600.

North Alabama Waterfall Trail

Who knew North Alabama had so many waterfalls? We did. And we’re happy to share our knowledge with you. Follow Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourism’s guide to the most beautiful natural wonders; right in your own backyard. Make a weekend of it to see them all, or visit a few in one day.  

(Huntsville Botanical Garden/Facebook)

Huntsville Botanical Garden

112 acres of diverse ecosystems are waiting to be explored at Huntsville Botanical Garden. With tons of educational programs set amidst a breathtaking natural environment, this should be on every Alabamian’s summer bucket list. Did we mention the butterflies?

Lake Guntersville State Park

One word: Views. There might not be a better view in the state than from the 6,000-acre Lake Guntersville State Park, so if a picture perfect sunset is what you’re after, head to Guntersville right away. 

U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville

Everyone should visit this Alabama landmark at least once. Inspiring the next generation of astronauts, explorers and scientists, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center holds one of the largest collections of rockets and space memorabilia on display worldwide.  

(Rattlesnake Saloon/Facebook)

Rattlesnake Saloon, Tuscumbia

A saloon setting in a natural cave? We’re there. The Rattlesnake Saloon is a unique restaurant experience located in the Appalachian foothills. And it is an absolute must do this summer.

Alabama BBQ Trail

Speaking of restaurants… what’s better than all BBQ all the time? Hop on the North Alabama BBQ Trail this summer and choose a favorite. Or three. We won’t judge.

Orbix Hot Glass, Fort Payne

For an extra cool (or hot) experience, visit Orbix and blow your own glass ornament, tumbler, bowl or paperweight in one of the classes they offer. Or simply shop their studio for that next awesome piece for your personal collection.

Unclaimed Baggage, Scottsboro

You can’t live in or visit North Alabama and not shop at Unclaimed Baggage. You just can’t, sorry. Hailed as the nation’s only retailer of lost luggage, you’ll be captivated from the moment you walk through the door. And you never know what you’ll leave with. It could be a wedding dress, a snowboard, or a digital camera. Going in with an open mind is valuable advice.

There is so much to see and do in North Alabama, even for a lifelong resident, but these bucket list entries will ensure an awesome summer!

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