Rainbow City is located 6 miles south of Gadsden, Alabama. How the city got its name has divided locals for decades, some say it was named after Rainbow Drive – a highway which ran through the city, and others say it was after the “Rainbow Division”, part of the US Infantry.
The city has received settlers since 1818 when families from the eastern seaboard migrated to the area seeing upcoming opportunities in Alabama.
Today, in addition to its rich history, Rainbow City sits close to spectacular parks, wildlife trails, riverside activities and art centres, each of which showcase the very essence of this region of Alabama.
1. Noccalula Falls Park
Noccalula Falls Park lies around 8 miles north of Rainbow City.
If you want to reconnect with nature, you can begin here.
The park has hiking trails suitable for walking, mountain biking and jogging, and there’s even a quaint miniature train and a Pioneer village if you don’t feel too energetic.
The park’s main attraction are the waterfalls which cascade across the clifftop and drop 90-feet into Black Creek Gorge below.
You don’t just have to admire the falls from the side-lines either, you can walk beneath them, or along a bridge above, which offers 360-degree panoramic views over scenic countryside.
2. James D. Martin Wildlife Park Trail
In the heart of Gadsden sits James D. Martin Wildlife Park, a picturesque hiking, biking and picnic area overlooking Coosa River and the backwaters of Neely Henry Lake.
It’s a popular area for bird watching, with elevated boardwalks, park benches and waterside trails flanked by woodland.
Keen ornithologists will be able to spot the heron rookery, cormorants and egrets on their park adventure, so don’t forget your binoculars or camera.
3. Back Forty Beer Co.
Named after an old Alabama agricultural term, the Back Forty Beer Company is a charming brewhouse set in a 1940s red-brick Sears and Roebuck Warehouse in Downtown Gadsden.
With an extensive craft beer and fresh food menu, it’s a popular place for both locals and tourists to kick back and relax.
Award-winning beers include Naked Pig, Truck Stop Honey and Freckle Belly, so if for no other reason, it’s worth stopping in to sample some of these uniquely named ales, or to take a few away as souvenirs.
4. Gadsden Mall
If you fancy partaking in a little retail therapy, you could spend a few hours at Gadsden Mall.
Located near James D. Martin Wildlife Park, the shopping centre houses department stores, boutiques, perfumeries and even hair salons.
You can stop for a bite to eat between browsing too, as the mall boasts everything from American delicatessens to steak and seafood houses and Japanese Cajun grill restaurants.
5. Imagination Place
Offering the perfect day out for families with children under the age of 10, Imagination Place is a space where kids can let loose and play with interactive exhibits.
They will have lots of fun experiencing KidsTown USA – a child-size town with its own shops, construction sites, Grandma’s house and more. On the upper floor, children can board the Imagination Express train, sail on a pirate ship or even visit a farm.
Whatever the weather, Imagination Place allows children the freedom to express themselves through exhibits which are designed to spark creativity.
6. Gadsden Museum of Art
Gadsden Museum of Art unveiled its first exhibit in mid-January 1965. Over the years it has moved to several locations in the city, and today it sits proudly on Broad Street in Downtown Gadsden.
Artwork changes throughout the year, giving solo artists, creative groups and photographers from the region the opportunity to showcase their craft.
The museum’s permanent collection includes over a thousand prints, paintings, exhibits and sculptures mostly from southern states artists.
These encompass Civil War art and artefacts, Victorian furniture and local history pieces.
7. Lookout Mountain Parkway
Just under an hour’s drive northeast of Rainbow City is Lookout Mountain Parkway.
Known as one of the most scenic drives in America, this area attracts visitors from all over the world.
Here, you can discover canyons, waterfalls and quaint towns and villages set amongst the national park.
It’s a beautiful place to visit during any season with wildflowers, autumn foliage and low winter sun which illuminates rock formations across the landscape.
8. Dive Land Park
If you want to learn a new skill during your stay, why not make it scuba diving? Dive Land Park around 13 miles drive from Rainbow City offers scuba diving and refresher courses for beginners, intermediates and seasoned divers.
The diving takes place in a nearby quarry with visibilities ranging from 20-70 feet and with depths of up to 150. If you thought you needed the sea in order to dive, you are about to experience something a little different in the very heart of Alabama.
9. Coosa River Kayaking
Coosa River is a great spot for canoeing and kayaking.
You can glide along tranquil stretches of water near Gadsden and Rainbow City, admiring scenic shorelines, or even enjoy a spot of fishing as you continue your journey along the river.
Whether you wish to take a short trip for a couple of hours or want to challenge yourself to a two- or three-day adventure complete with food and camping gear, you can do it all along the Coosa River.
10. Top O’ the River Restaurant
You can’t leave this region of Alabama without trying some good ole’ fashioned home-cooked food.
The aptly named Top O’ the River restaurant is situated at the mouth of Coosa River on the edge of Gadsden, offering incredible vistas down stream towards Rainbow City.
The restaurant’s specialities are of course fish and seafood, but they also serve scrumptious chicken and steak dishes if you prefer a change.
Whether you wish to try the fried whole catfish, creole boiled shrimp or a delicious River Boat Special, you can sample them all here.
11. Silver Lakes Golf Course
Alabama has some incredible golf courses, and Silver Lakes Golf Course on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is one of them.
With challenging fairways surrounded by lush forests, wetlands and elevation changes, this trail is not for the faint of heart.
There are four courses in total – the Mindbreaker, which is set in woodland and wetlands with short holes – ideal for those without much time to play.
The Short Course is more relaxing, offering spectacular vistas and great practice greens for beginners and intermediate golfers.
Then there are the Backbreaker and Heartbreaker courses.
These are demanding courses with wide fairways, dramatic elevation changes and water features making them perfect for seasoned golf enthusiasts.
12. Mary G Hardin Centre for Cultural Arts
This interesting non-profit arts centre is hard to miss.
The glass fronted, and brightly coloured cylindrical entrance in Downtown Gadsden entices you in to discover ever changing exhibits, events and performances.
The centre showcases all genres of visual arts across three galleries and it features an outdoor New Orleans style courtyard with murals, fountains and old-fashioned gas lamps.
The quaint courtyard provides the perfect backdrop for alfresco concert performances which take place between the months of April and September each year.
13. Little Bridge BBQ
Little Bridge BBQ is relatively new on the Rainbow City scene, but its tasty food is already legendary with locals and tourists.
Serving all your favourites ranging from mac and cheese to BBQ quesadilla and succulent ribs, there’s plenty to tempt your taste buds.
The outdoor seating area is also special as you can dine outdoors or enjoy a beer as the sunsets and lights from the boats illuminate on the Coosa River.
14. World’s Longest Yard Sale
If you love to browse antiques, vintage wares and enjoy picking up bargains on your travels, you need to visit the World’s Longest Yard Sale.
Held in July or August of each year, this mammoth yard sale is a massive 4-day event.
It begins at Noccalula Falls Park just north of Gadsden and stretches for over 650 miles spanning 6 states including Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan. That’s a whole lot of bargains.
With over 5,000 vendors to discover, make sure your car tank is full and you have money in your pocket because you won’t be leaving without a souvenir or two! Don’t forget to check dates before you travel, because the yard sale is held on different dates each year, and this is one unique shopping opportunity you won’t want to miss.
15. Wills Creek Vineyards
Part of the north Alabama wine trail, Wills Creek Vineyards are located less than 20 miles from Rainbow City.
Visitors can take a tour of the winery to learn all about the wine making process, plus they hold special events throughout the year for budding wine connoisseurs.
The vineyard produces sweet muscadine wines, locally grown fruit wines and a selection of dessert wines to pair with cheese or decadent chocolate cakes.
One of their best sellers is Vatani’s Mane Merlot – a fresh blend of red cherries, herbs and toasted oak, inspired by the unbreakable bond between man and nature.