An important shipping center in the 19th century, Gadsden on the Coosa River in Alabama is a great city to explore on a weekend trip. Visit the beautiful Noccalula Falls Park where you can see a 90 foot waterfall, caves and botanical gardens, take a romantic walk along Neely Henry Lake, and tour the Gadsden Museum of Art.
Best things to do in Gadsden, Alabama with kids include the Mary G. Hardin Center for Cultural Arts where you will find a children’s museum, music and dance performances.
1. Noccalula Falls Park
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One of the top Gadsden attractions, the Noccalula Falls Park & Campground is a 250 acre public park known for its stunning 90 foot high waterfall. The land was given to the city so that a park could be created and the public could enjoy the waterfall and the surrounding area.
There is a gorge trail that leads visitors past historical and natural sights like caves, a pioneer homestead, Civil War carvings, an old abandoned dam, and an aboriginal fort. Other features of the park include the 1899 Gilliland-Reese Covered Bridge, a mini-golf course, a petting zoo, and the Noccalula Falls Botanical Gardens with its 25,000 azaleas. Explore weekend getaways in Alabama for more travel ideas.
2. Mary G. Hardin Center for Cultural Arts
© Mary G. Hardin Center for Cultural Arts
The Mary G. Hardin Center for Cultural Arts is the home of several organizations, including the Imagination Place, a children’s museum; the Etowah Youth Orchestras made up of students from several Gadsden City Schools; the Gadsden Community School for the Arts, a school that offers classes in music and the visual arts; and the Downtown Dance Conservatory which provides dance instruction for students of varying levels of experience.
The center also hosts temporary exhibits such as “The Art of Andy Warhol,” “Dinosaur’s Alive,” and live music concerts in the center’s New Orleans-style outdoor courtyard.
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501 Broad Street, Gadsden, Alabama, Phone: 256-543-2787
3. Neely Henry Lake
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Neely Henry Lake was formed in 1966 when the Alabama Power Company built the 57 foot high Neely Henry Dam in order to create hydroelectric power as well as recreation for local residents and tourists.
The lake and dam are named after H. Neely Henry, a senior executive of Alabama Power. Covering 11,200 acres, the lake has a shoreline of 339 miles and is used for power, drinking water, and a fish and wildlife habitat.
Fishing is very popular on the lake: some of the fish that are caught in Neely Henry Lake include bluegill, largemouth and striped bass, crappie, catfish, and many more. Other activities include biking, camping, and bird watching.
More ideas: Day Trips in Alabama
4. Gadsden Museum of Art
© Gadsden Museum of Art
Located on Broad Street, the Gadsden Museum of Art was founded in 1963 when the mayor of Gadsden offered space for the museum in Gadsden’s Convention Hall.
The first exhibit opened in 1965 and the museum moved several times before finding its current home in downtown Gadsden.
The museum is made up of three galleries: the first floor gallery houses large shows and exhibitions; the second floor gallery called the Grand Gallery features exhibits often displaying objects from the museum’s permanent collection.
Artifacts, photographs, and other objects related to local history are housed in the gallery on the third floor. Browse our things to do in Alabama guide for more ideas.
515 Broad Street, Gadsden, Alabama, Phone: 256-546-7365
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5. Things to Do Near Me: The Factory
© The Factory
The Factory is an indoor activity center with arcades, laser tag batting cages, foam pits, and trampolines located on Thomas Drive in Gadsden. The Factory began as an actual factory in the 1980s with tools and machinery; in 2013, the son of the owner of The Factory bought the building and transformed it into a giant play center for children and adults.
Some of the activities include “Open Jump,” 10,000 square feet of connected trampolines; “Si-Fi Safari Galactic Laser Course,” a hi-tech laser tag game; and “Flight Simulator,” where visitors get to take the controls of the simulated aircraft. There are special events like “Teen Night” and “Munchkin Jump,” as well as field trips and birthday parties.
100 Thomas Drive, Gadsden, Alabama, Phone: 256-312-8974
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6. Back Forty Beer Co
© Back Forty Beer Co
Located on North Sixth Street, Back Forty Beer Co is a craft beer company in Gadsden. The name comes from the fact that the farmland furthest from the barn is hardest to maintain, yet its soil remains very fertile. Fertile soil means great crops, so Back Forty Beer Company prides itself on its high quality and popular products.
Founded in 2008, the brewery began offering its first product, the Naked Pig Pale Ale, in 2009. It moved into a 27,000 square foot warehouse built in the 1940s, installed its equipment, and began creating more brews such as Fence Post Session Ale, Freckle Belly India Pale Ale, and more.
200 North Sixth Street, Gadsden, Alabama, Phone: 256-467-4912
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7. Twin Bridges Golf Club
© Twin Bridges Golf Club
Located on Cartersburg Road, the Twin Bridges Gold Club is an 18 hole golf course in Gadsden. Designed by Gene Bates, it is a 6,800 yard par 72 golf course that is appropriate for golfers of all levels, from beginners to veteran golf players.
Set along the scenic Coosa River, golfers will not only enjoy the well-manicured and maintained Bermuda fairway and bent grass greens, but they will also have the opportunity to see the natural beauty and interesting wildlife along the Coosa River. There are several hitting stations and an 8,000 square foot putting green. The club offers several kinds of instruction including group lessons, private instruction, and clinics.
901 Riverbend Dr, Gadsden, Alabama, Phone: 256-549-4866
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8. Imagination Place
© Imagination Place
Imagination Place is a children’s museum that is part of the Mary G. Hardin Center for Cultural Arts and is located on Broad Street. Designed for children aged two through ten, the museum features fun activities for children while, at the same time, gives them educational experiences. If you are looking for fun things to do in Gadsden, Alabama with kids, this is a great place to visit.
KidsTown USA is the museum’s permanent exhibit with scaled down versions of things like a construction pit, a farm, a grocery store, a medical clinic, a sunken pirate ship, and much more. Children can take a ride on the Imagination Express from the train station or jump on the back of an ambulance.
PMary G. Hardin Center for Cultural Arts, Gadsden, Alabama, Phone: 256-543-2787, (website link)
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9. James D. Martin Wildlife Park Trail
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Located along the backwaters of the Neely Henry Lake on the Coosa River, the James D. Martin Wildlife Park allows visitors the opportunity to observe the wildlife via a walking trail along the shoreline as well as a series of boardwalks that have been built out over the surface of the lake.
These boardwalks give visitors access to some of the wooded islands at the mouth of Black Creek. The terrain of the area includes wooded borders, mudflats, and wetlands: these are all homes to a large variety of wildlife, especially birds such as bald eagles, several kinds of egrets and herons, as well as osprey.
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10. Lookout Mountain Parkway
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The Lookout Mountain Parkway is a 93 mile road that stretches from Gadsden, AL to Chattanooga, TN. It is a very scenic drive through three U.S. states: visitors will enjoy seeing canyons, national and state parks, waterfalls, and towns and villages. The drive begins at Noccalula Falls Park on top of Lookout Mountain in Gadsden.
Some of the attractions and parks along the parkway include the 5,000 acre DeSoto State Park with its hiking and camping, Little River Canyon National Park with its canyons and waterfalls, and the 800 acre Shady Grove Dude Ranch and Cloudmont Ski & Golf Resort. Mentone with its mineral springs has been a health resort town since the late 1800s.
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11. Theatre of Gadsden
© Theatre of Gadsden
Operating out of the historic Ritz Theatre building, which originally opened in 1928, the Theatre of Gadsden has been bringing the joy of live entertainment to the Gadsden community for more than 50 years. The theatre season runs from March to October each year and there is always a special Christmas show in December. In addition to the regular live shows, the Theatre of Gadsden also hosts a youth performing arts program called the Treehouse Theatre Series, to encourage local children and teenagers to come and audition. The tickets are reasonably priced and patrons can buy a special 5-ticket season pass if they would like to attend all the shows.
310 N. 27th Street, Gadsden, AL 35409, 256 547 7469
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