In Partnership with the Southern Weekend

Best things to do on a budget in North Alabama

Sometimes you want to have a little fun and not break the bank doing so. If that’s the case, you’re in luck because North Alabama has a ton of things to offer on the cheap.

Whether you love the great outdoors or you’re looking to experience something new, this list of budget-friendly activities has a wide variety of attractions the whole family will enjoy.

And for the purposes of this list, any admission price had to be $15 or less per person. So you won’t find places like the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville or The Cook Museum of Natural Science in Decatur, although we highly recommend you plan a day and visit (seriously, they’re pretty great – especially for kids).

Think of this list as more of a spur of the moment, get out of the house randomly on a weekend type of thing.

[NOTE: Due to the everchanging circumstances we find ourselves in, some of the information listed here may not be accurate. For example, some of the attractions here could be closed to the public. You’re encouraged to click on the links provided to find the most up to date information.]

Plan a fishing trip

We are incredibly spoiled here in North Alabama to have some of the best fishing in the state. Seriously, whether it’s Lake Guntersville, Smith Lake, Pickwick, or the Tennessee River, you won’t find more beautiful spots to cast a rod and relax on the water. So grab the boat and the bait and get to fishing.

Related: Check out the North Alabama Fishing Trail.

Explore the great outdoors with a hike

Much like fishing, the hiking trails in North Alabama are top-notch and a great way to get outside for a little fresh air and exercise. We also have a variety of trails at different skill levels. You can take the rather difficult hike at Walls of Jericho, or you can take it easy with the TVA trails that run along the Tennessee River.

Related: Check out the ten best hiking spots in North Alabama.

Experience The North Alabama Hallelujah Trail 

This trail features 32 churches that are all at least 100 years old, stand on their original sites, and are accessible to the public. The Hallelujah Trail will take you all the way across North Alabama winding through 16 counties. It’s filled with simple, wooden structures as well as breathtaking churches complete with stained glass windows, and is great for religious individuals or people who just appreciate architecture.

Click here for the full map of The Hallejuah Trail.

Check out The Tennessee Valley BBQ Trail

The Tennessee Valley BBQ Trail will take you all the way from the Shoals to Sand Mountain and bring you some of the best pulled pork, smoked chicken, and ribs the state has to offer. Make sure to bring your appetite!

Click here for the Tennessee Valley BBQ Trail.

Learn about Native American history

Native American history here in North Alabama is a long and rich subject, and there are two fantastic museums you can check out to learn more.

The Florence Indian Mound Museum is home to a historic 43-foot Indian mound and the largest collection of ancient tools, pottery, and jewelry in Alabama. You’ll learn more about the lives of Native Americans, climb the steps yourself of the historic mound, and, hopefully, leave with a greater appreciation of the first Alabamians.

The Oakville Indian Mounds Park & Museum is home to five Indian mounds and is dedicated to the conservation and continued education of Native American history. They have thousands of artifacts on display, but there are also several outdoor opportunities, too.

Florence Indian Mound Museum
Tuesday – Saturday: 10 am – 4 pm
Admission: $5 for adults, $2 for children

Oakville Indian Mounds Museum
Monday – Friday: 8 am – 4 pm
Saturday: 10 am – 4 pm
Sunday: 12 pm – 4 pm
Admission: Free (Donations are appreciated)

Tour the Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum House

Built in 1939, the Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum House is the only house designed by the famous architect open to the public in the southeastern United States. It’s a genuine work of art with open floor plans that flow organically into one another. The guided tour will take through the history of the house and its impact on American architecture.

Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum House
Tuesday – Saturday: 10 am -4 pm
Sunday: 1 pm – 4 pm
Admission: $10 for adult, $5 for senior & student

Feel the magic of Tom’s Wall

The Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall, also known as Tom’s Wall, was built by Tom Hendrix as a way to honor his great-great-grandmother who was removed from her home during The Trail of Tears. Tom spent 30 years moving over 8.5 million pounds worth of stone to build what is now the longest unmortared rock wall in the U.S., and the largest memorial built in honor of a woman. If you’ve never been, this is an emotional, almost spiritual place you have to experience for yourself.

Click here to see our feature.

Tom’s Wall
Open every day from 8 am – 4 pm
Admission: Free (Donations are accepted)

Learn about the music history of the Shoals

If you’re a music lover, then a trip over to the Shoals is a must-do. It’s hard to imagine that this small-town had such a massive impact on American music, but that’s exactly what happened. The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Bob Seger and so many more all stopped into town to record with Rick Hall and The Swampers, many times producing records that hit #1 on the charts. But the music history of the Shoals isn’t just limited to recording studios. “The Father of the Blues” W.C. Handy was born in Florence, and The Alabama Music Hall of Fame is located just a short drive away in Tuscumbia. You’ll want to take the entire day to check out all the incredible music history this area has to offer.

FAME Recording Studios
Tours Available Monday – Friday: 9 am & 4 pm only
Saturday: 10 am thru 2 pm on the hour
Admission: $10 for adults, $5 for children

Muscle Shoals Sound Studio
Tours Available Monday – Saturday: 10 am – 4 pm
Admission: $15, Veterans and Senior discounts offered

W.C. Handy Museum & Birthplace
Tuesday – Saturday 10 am – 4 pm
Admission: $12 for Adults, $6 for children

Alabama Music Hall of Fame
Tuesday – Friday: 9 am – 5 pm
Saturday: 10 am – 4 pm
Admission: $10 for adults, $6 for children

Visit Helen Keller’s Birthplace

Helen Keller is remembered as one of the greatest advocates for people with disabilities in American history. She was the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964, the highest honor an American civilian can receive. Her birthplace, “Ivy Green,” is now a museum dedicated to preserving Helen Keller’s legacy. Visitors will find hundreds of personal mementos, as well as the famous water pump her teacher, Anne Sullivan, used to achieve a communicative breakthrough with a young Helen.

Ivy Green
Monday – Saturday: 8:30 am – 4 pm
Admission: $6 for adults, $3 for children

Let the kids learn at EarlyWorks Children’s Museum

This museum is one of the largest hands-on history museums in the South. Children are encouraged to touch and interact with all the exhibits, most of which were designed by educators as they learn about the history of Alabama. They’ll have fun listening to the history of Native Americans in Alabama as well as what life was like for the early settlers. The EarlyWorks Children Museum is part of a family of museums along with Alabama Constitution Hall Historic Park and the Huntsville Depot and Museum. You can purchase a pass for all three, or just visit a single one.

EarlyWorks Children’s Museum
Tuesday – Saturday: 9 am – 4 pm
Admission: $12 for adults, $10 ages 4-17, $5 ages 1-3

Take a stroll through Huntsville Botanical Garden

The Huntsville Botanical Garden is a beautiful 120-acre site with stunning floral collections, inviting woodland paths, broad grassy meadows, aquatic areas, and the Nature Center. There’s also a two-acre Children’s Garden that’s perfect for the little ones. The Garden plays an important part in stimulating the study and understanding of the sciences as students learn about the role plants – and butterflies—play in their lives.

Huntsville Botanical Garden
Monday – Wednesday: 9 am – 8 pm
Thursday – Saturday: 9 am – 5 pm
Sunday: 11 am – 5 pm
Admission: $14 for adults, $9 for children

Drive through Harmony Park Safari

This is a federally licensed nature preserve of free-ranging exotic animals and is a must-do for your family. It’s a two-mile route to see animals like zebras, buffalo, camels, giraffes, and antelope. There’s also a reptile house you can walkthrough. We promise, your children will love this place.

Harmony Park Safari
March – November daily: 10 am – Sunset
Admission: $10 per person, 2 and under are free
Cash or check only

Walk through Maple Hill Cemetery 

This cemetery is not only beautiful, it’s filled with a ton of history, too. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places back in 2012 and is the final resting place for five previous governors of Alabama, five former U.S. Senators, and many more prominent local, state, and national figures. You’ll want to bring a good pair of walking shoes and plan at least for a couple of hours as you stroll through Huntsville’s oldest and largest cemetery.

Maple Hill Cemetery
Hours: 7 am – Sunset daily
Admission: Free

Go on the Lucky Duck Scavenger Hunt

This is a fun and unique way to explore downtown Huntsville as you look for the 14 cleverly hidden ducks throughout the area. Some are fairly easy, others can be a challenge, and it’s a great way to learn about the city. Make sure to download your free clue card, and visitors who find all 14 can claim a prize.

Lucky Duck Scavenger Hunt
Downtown Huntsville
Clue Card is Free to Download

Learn about an Olympic hero 

This museum in Oakville draws in tourists from around the world and is the birthplace of Olympic hero Jesse Owens. Owens was a standout track star in high school and college, but he’s best known for his performance in the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin. There, he won 4 gold medals, an Olympic first. The museum features rare memorabilia and showcases the moments that made Owens’ an American icon and a beloved figure still to this day.

Click here to see our feature on the museum.

Jesse Owens Museum
Monday – Saturday: 10 am – 4 pm
Sunday: 1 pm – 4 pm
Admission: Free (Donations accepted)

Experience a world in miniature

The Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman is the work of Brother Joseph Zoettl, OSB. Joseph was a Benedictine monk of St. Bernard Abbey, and in his spare time, he took to creating miniature buildings of famous structures from around the world using stones, concrete, and unwanted materials like broken plates and marbles. Today, the grotto features 125 replicas and is unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

Click here to see our feature.

Ave Maria Grotto 
Open 9 am – 6 pm daily
Admission: $8 for adults, children 5 and under free

Take a trip through time at the Guntersville Museum

This free museum has a little bit of everything – history, culture, art. You can learn about the history of Guntersville, including the construction of the TVA dam. There’s also a Native American exhibit with artifacts authentic to the time period and a rotating collection of fine art pieces from different artists. This makes a fun and educational stop before heading out for a day on the water.

The Guntersville Museum  
Tuesday – Friday: 10 am – 4 pm
Saturday: 1 pm – 4 pm
Admission: Free

There you have it, folks. A ton of fun, family-friendly activities you can do on the cheap. Is there anything we missed? Reach out to us, and we’ll add it to the list.

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