If there is a word that can describe Fort Payne, it would be “breathtaking.” The unique landscape, unspoiled beauty, and unique location of this small city in northeast Alabama make it a perfect travel destination. At one time, this city produced more than half of the socks in the United States and was eventually named the “Sock Capital of the World.” Fort Payne has transformed from being a massive socks producer into an outstanding destination for leisure, nature, and history. It is home to scenic nature preserves, museums, state parks, and lakes. There are plenty of activities you can engage in and interesting things to uncover in this city. The following are the 20 best things to do in Fort Payne, AL.
20. Enjoy a barbeque at Sally’s Smokin’ Butt BBQ
Sally’s Smokin’ Butt BBQ is popular with locals, tourists, and anyone who loves barbeque food. If you enjoy succulent meat combos of brisket and pork, chicken, ribs, or a nice dessert, this restaurant will not disappoint. Set in an old gas station Sally’s offers a warm and relaxing atmosphere and serves generous food portions.
19. Enjoy a Delicious meal at Jefferson’s Restaurant
Located next to Taco Bell and just off the interstate, Jefferson’s restaurant is well-known for its chicken wings, oysters, and burgers. However, they have an extensive menu to suit different tastes and preferences. The popular chain eatery provides a great cozy pub feel, featuring several large TVs where you can watch ongoing matches. Jefferson’s restaurant is an excellent hangout joint for both lunch and dinner. If you come with your kids on Sunday, they will eat for free. You can enjoy sumptuous chicken wings served with delicious spicy or mild sauces at 75 cents only every Wednesday.
18. Take a relaxing drive along Little River Canyon Rim Parkway
Stretching for approximately 11 miles along Highway 176, the Little River Canyon Rim Parkway provides a perfect setting for those seeking a relaxing drive. Open your windows and enjoy the serene views of waterfalls, rock walls, and lush greenery that transforms into a foliage of orange and red during the Fall season. You can stop along the way and capture the beautiful scenery offered by this thoroughfare. If you are yearning for a magical experience with nature, biking along the long winding roads at the Little River Canyon Rim Parkway is a good idea. Traveling along this scenic thoroughfare takes between 45 minutes and an hour.
17. Check out Sallie Howard Memorial Baptist Chapel
Have you heard about the church with a rock in it? Visiting the Sallie Howard Memorial Baptist Chapel is one of the best things to do in Fort Payne, Alabama. The small chapel nestled at the peak of Lookout Mountain is a unique attraction in this region. It was built by Colonel Milford Howard in 1937 in remembrance of his first wife, Sallie. According to Alabama Travel, he hoped to build a replica of a church they had visited together on their trip to Europe. One thing that makes the Sallie Howard Memorial Baptist Chapel stand out is its construction around a massive boulder. Howard, with the support of the Civilian Conservation Corps, chose this specific location and built this chapel without interfering with the boulder around it. Today, the small chapel is a popular tourist attraction and wedding venue. It also holds religious services every Sunday.
16. Visit Wills Valley Recreation Center
The Wills Valley Recreation Center is a high-class indoor sports venue popular for hosting several community-related activities and sports leagues. Many locals also play different sports like volleyball and basketball here. There is an indoor walking track adjacent to the large gymnasium where individuals can jog or hike. In addition, Wills Valley Recreation Center has a fully-equipped fitness center. If you love working out or wish to stretch your muscles during your visit to Fort Payne, this is one of the best places to go.
15. Have fun at True Adventure Sports
Located about a mile from the Little River Canyon National Preserve, True Adventure Sports is one of the best places to visit in Fort Payne, AL. It is a comprehensive outfitter offering organized adventures, guided trips, classes, and all types of sporting gear as well. Lodging is also available for individuals and groups. They offer different adventures like canoeing, kayaking, rappelling, rock climbing, ziplining, a sky swing, and much more. In addition, True Adventure Sports has skilled and experienced guides, including certified mountain guides, trained wilderness experts, certified rappel masters, and confined space rescuers. They will make your trip exciting, fun, and safe.
14. Shop at the Big Mill Antique Mall
The Big Mill Antique Mall is an excellent place to browse antiques, artwork, or collectibles. It is located at 151 8th St NE, Fort Payne, and is set in the historic building that once made socks. The mall sells a broad range of Americana arts and crafts. Information relating to the history of this structure is also available. Even those who are not interested in antiquing experience can visit and walk through the Big Mill Antique Mill or dine in the vintage-style restaurant.
13. Watch a movie at 411 Drive-in Theater
The 411 Drive-in Theatre is a conventional theater and grill that allows you to watch movies the old-fashioned way. They show the latest Hollywood blockbusters and open every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening, all year round. The 411 Drive-in Theatre is a place where you can sit together with your family in the beautiful outdoor setting and watch a film on a huge screen. According to DriveInMovie, they do not allow outside food. However, you can also order burgers, chili cheese fries, or hot buttered popcorn at their snack bar.
12. Hike along the Azalea Cascade Falls Trails
The Azalea Cascades might be narrower and shorter than other falls in DeSoto State Park, but they are exceptional. Located on Laurel Creek in DeKalb County, these cascades are accessible, and the hike along the boardwalk is thrilling. Also, the trails offer astounding sights of local flora and wildlife. These cascades extend down the creek but can be challenging to photograph because rocks tend to block the view along the way.
11. Dine at Vintage 1889
Vintage 1889 is a charming restaurant in the 1889 historic Davis Hosiery Mill and converted into an old antique mall. It was opened in 2013 and serves quality food in a friendly atmosphere and comfortable space, featuring exposed brick walls and a beautiful courtyard below the old water tower. The attractive mill was once used in the manufacture of hosiery and socks, and its heritage offers a unique backdrop for dining. The restaurant serves delicious sandwiches made with premium-quality ingredients. During warm seasons, visitors can dine in the courtyard underneath the old water tower or cozy up in the mill building on chillier days. Vintage 1889 has a spacious boarding room where you can hold special events. In addition, they have an extensive beer section with more than 100 labels. Their menu caters well to vegetarians and meat lovers alike.
10. Visit Cherokee Rock Village
The Cherokee Rock Village is approximately 24 miles south of Fort Payne and on top of Leesburg. It features enormous boulders, popular with rock climbers. The imaginary village is a haven for nature lovers and bird watchers, allowing people to spot soaring birds of prey. You can follow in the footsteps of the Cherokees to the boulder ridge, lined with Hickory Trees and Virginia Pines, and get a superb view of the Alabama countryside from a high viewpoint.
9. Go skiing at Cloudmont Ski Resort
Cloudmont is a comprehensive ski resort located near Lookout Mountain and offers two incredible skiing slopes. Temperature drops cause the snow to lay on this spot, allowing individuals to enjoy the winter season on its 1,000-foot slopes. The resort offers incredible ski packages for beginners and intermediate skiers alike. Cloudmont ski resort is a perfect place to learn winter sports and have some fun. In addition, their machine-made snow offers an excellent opportunity to experience winter sports even in warmer seasons. According to their website, instructors will support you all the way, and the pony lifts in the resort can get you back at the top of the slopes. Cloudmont also includes a golf resort and lodging areas like cabins, chalets, and cottages.
8. Little River Canyon Center
The Little River Canyon Center is a part of Jacksonville State University and next to the Little River Canyon National Preserve. It includes a movie theater, grand hall, gift shop, natural history library, deck, an outdoor amphitheater, classrooms, exhibits, and several hiking trails. You can rent a space for social gatherings, meetings, corporate retreats, and other occasions. The regular programs at the Little River Canyon Center include organized hikes, workshops, lectures, and concerts, among other activities for students and visitors. This building implements different sustainable and innovative design elements like extra insulation, recycled building materials, and geothermal heating and cooling.
7. Spend a day at the Alabama Walking Park
The Alabama Walking Park is a few meters from the Depot Museum and has several recreational facilities suitable for both the young and old. You can spend your leisurely day strolling along the beautiful landscaped walking trails, working out at the fitness station, or dodging the water jets in the Splash Pad. The park also contains grassy areas and pavilions, allowing visitors to break for a picnic. In addition, playgrounds are available for the kids to play and run around.
6. Learn local history at Fort Payne Depot Museum
Fort Payne Depot Museum is an elegant pink and white sandstone building in downtown Fort Payne, next to the city park. It served as a railroad station depot for about 85 years. The well-preserved landmark houses several rotating and permanent exhibits in two buildings, both listed on the Historic Places and National Register. Its collections, artifacts, and exhibits tell the story of Fort Payne and the entire DeKalb County through the ages. Fort Payne Depot Museum has a broad range of interactive exhibits, memorabilia, Native American pottery, basketry, and dioramas, making it an ideal place to learn local history.
5. Appreciate Glass Art at Orbix Hot Glass
Orbix Hot Glass is a glass art gallery and studio in Fort Payne, selling distinct glassware in a kaleidoscope of styles, colors, and shapes. It was established by Cal and Christy Breed in 2002 on a hidden land within the Appalachian foothills in Alabama. Orbix Hot Glass is the perfect place for individuals looking for a unique keepsake of their Alabama stay. Are you seeking a pretty Reactor Carafe, Pixie Vase, or decorative centerpieces and ornaments for your home? This workshop comprises professional glassblowers who hand-craft every piece with keen attention to detail. Individuals who are interested in learning basic glass-making can check out Orbix’s studio events every Saturday.
4. Alabama Fan Club and Museum
Have you heard about the famous Alabama Band? If you have not, the Alabama Fan Club and Museum in Fort Payne is an excellent place to learn. ‘Alabama’ was a rock music band formed by three cousins from Fort Payne and is famed for its success in country music. The band changed the face of this music genre and was followed by unparalleled success. Their record includes 21 number one singles that have never been rivaled. Moreover, the band’s musical journey enabled them to sell 73 million albums, achieving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. According to Visit Lookout Mountain, you can follow the incredible journey of this band through photographs, videos, and interviews at the Alabama Fan Club and Museum. The museum also displays the band’s awards and memorabilia. Visitors can also pick several souvenirs from their gift shop.
3. Swim at Martha’s Falls
Popularly known as the Hippie Hole or Little Falls, Martha’s Falls is the best place to swim in Little River Canyon Preserve. It is located on Alabama and Georgia’s state line and is a popular destination during the summer season. There is a short trail connecting the parking lot on Lookout Mountain and the falls. Martha’s Falls boasts a cool and lush environment with natural rocks and benches where you can sit and enjoy your picnic. Bring your swimming gear and camera as you prepare to have some fun in a swimming hole beneath the falls. There are lots of rock-climbing areas and driving spots for those who are more adventurous.
2. Enjoy the nature at DeSoto State Park
DeSoto State Park is a perfect place for nature lovers. It stretches over the peak of Lookout Mountain and is a few miles from Fort Payne, which is one of the best places to visit in Alabama. The park features rushing waterfalls, beautiful nature trails, and fields of fragrant wildflowers, providing a serene environment for relaxation. You can spend your day by taking a dip in the Olympic-sized swimming pool or biking or hiking across 25 miles trails. DeSoto State Park also features a playground, Civilian Conservation Corps Museum, picnic area, and a nature center where you can relax and wind off. The park offers lots of activities for everyone to enjoy all year round. If you love kayaking, fishing, bouldering, rappelling, or exploring nature, DeSoto State Park is a perfect place. Visitors can stay in a modern campground, log and rustic cabins, luxury mountain chalets, or in rustic campsites. There is also a restaurant, meeting rooms, pavilions, and camping sites in this park.
1. Visit Little River Canyon Preserve
Visiting Little River Canyon Preserve is the best thing to do in Fort Payne. It is a 15,288-acre nature preserve situated on Lookout Mountain and close to Fort Payne. Little River Canyon National Preserve features several scenic views and provides different recreational opportunities for both locals and visitors. This preserve is home to the longest mountain river in Alabama, the Little River, which comprises three major waterfalls. In addition, the pristine has a unique environment that hosts several rare and threatened plants and animals. Visitors can enjoy hiking, swimming, whitewater rafting, picnicking, driving, and fishing. Hunting and trapping are allowed on the preserve. They can also camp by the riverside and enjoy the magical experience of sleeping under the stars. You cannot afford to miss the magical experience of exploring iconic waterfalls, forested uplands, sandstone cliffs, wooden trails, and the thrilling adventure offered by the Little River Canyon National Preserve on your next trip to Fort Payne!
Fort Payne is such a beautiful town full of natural spring water and meandering rivers, plenty of hike and bike trails, and plenty of other outdoor activities suitable for the runner, cyclist, or nature-loving trekker. With so many things to do in Fort Payne, Alabama, it is nearly impossible to know where to start. Our list of the twenty best things to do in Fort Payne will help you make your trip here more enjoyable.
You can also read:
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn