Recently, North Alabama has been stepping up its game. Flourishing downtowns, burgeoning local businesses, and vibrant food scenes make this region worthy to be explored. If you haven’t been to the area lately, or if you’re unfamiliar with North Alabama, it’s time to get acquainted. We recommend starting with Gadsden. Located along the Coosa River between Birmingham and Chattanooga, this town of a little over 33,000 has so much to offer. From gorgeous natural water features to a charming main street, here’s how to spend a weekend in Gadsden. 

Day 1

(Harp & Clover)

Grab lunch at Harp & Clover

After your drive into town, both you and your car will need a refuel. While any gas station will do, you’ll want to be a little more discerning about where you find a meal. Head to Harp & Clover, Gadsden’s first and only Irish pub, for delicious sandwiches, soups, burgers, and classic pub fare. Try the Belfast Beef sandwich which features shaved roast beef, Swiss cheese, and horseradish dill sauce and au jus for dipping. If you’re feeling extra hungry, consider the hearty Bangers & Mash or Shepherd’s Pie. 

Explore Noccalula Falls

Once you’ve gotten your fill, walk it off at Noccalula Falls, Gadsden’s most well-known attraction. You can see the breathtaking 90-foot waterfall from several different angles, but we recommend checking out the iconic Princess Noccalula statue from a bridge at the top of the falls, then heading down the hiking trail to see the falls from behind. While you’re there, take time to explore the rest of the 250-acre park that also includes a children’s playground, petting zoo, miniature golf course, train, and historic pioneer village. 

Check into River Rocks Landing

(River Rocks Landing/Facebook)

When you’re ready to relax for a bit, check into a stay at River Rocks Landing. Located on the scenic shores of the Coosa River, you’ll find a true resort experience here. The resort has everything you need for a relaxing, comfortable weekend away, including cable, WiFi, three swimming pools, a splash pad, private boat launch, fire pits, fishing piers, and walking trails. The resort features a huge variety of types of stays. There are 155 RV hookups for those who brought their homes along with them, but there are also modern container homes, bayfront condos, tiny cottages, and even a treehouse.  

Get a seafood platter at Top O’ the River

Dinner has to be at the legendary Top O’ the River, a family-owned restaurant famous for their farm-raised grain-fed catfish. Every meal at Top O’ the River starts with a family-style selection of skillet cornbread, coleslaw, and pickled onions. For the full experience, order the restaurant’s self-proclaimed Largest Seafood Platter in the World. The massive meal includes golden fried catfish, fried Gulf shrimp, Creole shrimp, imitation crab meat, and popcorn shrimp. Round out your meal with a slice of the Chocolate Beyond Reason Pie—you won’t be sorry.

Day 2 

Have breakfast at The Choice Restaurant

Wake up with a traditional breakfast at downtown meat and three The Choice. The options here are simple but satisfying and always affordable. Two biscuits and gravy will only set you back $3.89, add a fried egg and a side of country ham, and you’ve got yourself a slam dunk breakfast. 

Shop around Broad Street

While you’re downtown, take some time to peruse the other shops, boutiques, and businesses on Broad Street. For gifts, home goods, jewelry, and clothing, try Laura Lee’s on Broad. Antique lovers should check out Gadsden Variety Antique Mall and everyone can find a scent they adore at J&J Candles.  

(Neely Henry Lake/Facebook)

Get out on Neely Henry Lake

Gadsden is blessed with so many beautiful natural recreation areas that it’d be a shame to only see one. Spend your second day in town on the sparkling Neely Henry Lake. The 11,000-acre lake features 339 miles of scenic shoreline. Whether you choose to fish, kayak, or spend a day cruising on a boat, you’re guaranteed to have tons of fun and make memories that will last a lifetime. 

Have lunch and a beer

Cap off a weekend in Gadsden with lunch at local favorite: Back Forty Beer Company. This popular brewery has since expanded its footprint with a taproom in Birmingham and another to come this summer in Huntsville, but it all began right here in Gadsden. The food menu is short and sweet, but the burgers and chicken sandwiches are far from ordinary. Pair it with an award-winning Truck Stop Honey beer and you’ve got a winning combination.