15 Best Things to Do in Russellville (AL)

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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The city of Russellville sits in Franklin County, Alabama, 18 miles south of Muscle Shoals.

It was named after Major William Russell an early settler who assisted with the construction of Andrew Jackson’s military road which was to run between Nashville and New Orleans.

The city is famed for its annual Watermelon Festival which showcases live music, entertainment, motor shows and arts and crafts.

Outdoor enthusiasts are catered for too, as the city is close to lakes, rivers and national forests, and music lovers have easy access to world-famous recording studios, museums and theatres.

1. Bankhead National Forest

Bankhead National Forest, AlabamaSource: Faith Forrest / shutterstock
Bankhead National Forest, Alabama

Bankhead National Forest just 22 miles from Russellville is home to the National Wild and Scenic River and is known as “land of the thousand waterfalls”. It’s a picturesque place to visit, encompassing over 181 acres in Alabama.

Outdoor enthusiasts will adore its hiking, horseback riding, boating, canoeing and swimming, and there’s plenty of wildlife and birdlife to discover too.

Within the forest it’s possible to see ancient Native American relics and petroglyphs, and around the Kinloch Shelter area you can explore rock carvings and prehistoric drawings.

2. Dismals Canyon

Dismals Canyon, AlabamaSource: BJ Ray / shutterstock
Dismals Canyon

Dismals Canyon is a privately owned and operated Natural Conservatory around 14 miles south of Russellville, Alabama.

This unspoilt, hidden oasis is tucked beneath the Appalachian foothills providing a haven for wildlife, birdlife and natural phenomena.

With a 1.5-mile hiking trail which passes cascading waterfalls, towering trees and swimming areas, there’s plenty for outdoor lovers to enjoy.

You can rent a secluded cabin during summer months and be at one with nature or take a night time guided tour to view glow-in-the-dark “Disamalites”. These glow worms can only thrive in certain habitats throughout the world, and in the dark they omit a bright blue-green light to attract food to them.

It’s a unique phenomenon and one worth staying awake for! So, bring your sense of adventure and your camera and be prepared for a thoroughly magical canyon adventure.

3. Rattlesnake Saloon

Rattlesnake Saloon, TuscumbriaSource: rattlesnakesaloon.net
Rattlesnake Saloon

Rattlesnake Saloon near Tuscumbia is a unique drinking, dining and entertainment location carved underneath a rock. The land on which the saloon resides has been in the same family since 1916, when it was bought for 25 cents an acre.

It was originally utilised for farming and timber but in later years, as the family were scoping the land for new opportunities, they discovered a mother Rattlesnake with 12 babies nestled underneath the rocks.

This inspired the name Rattlesnake Saloon.

It opened in 2009, and since then it has featured in music videos, magazines and is a top-rated venue in the area.

This iconic, atmospheric restaurant keeps its menu in the rustic theme with Chuckwagon Nachos, The Buckaroo Sandwich and The Duke – their famous black angus beef Rustler burger.

If you seek a memorable night out and some place to stay so you can have a drink, there’s a lodge on-site too!

4. King Drive-In

The first outdoor cinema opened in the 1930s in Camden, New Jersey.

Since then it’s remained a popular pastime for families across America.

King Drive-In just off the I-43 near Russellville began showing its first movies in the summer of 1949, and today, it is one of the last remaining drive-ins’ in North Alabama.

On weekends it occasionally plays triple features, there are intermissions where you can get a snack, and you can watch movies inside your car or out depending on the weather.

So, if you fancy an evening out and you are staying in Russellville, head to King Drive-In to watch one of the latest Hollywood Blockbuster movies with family and friends.

5. FAME Recording Studios

FAME Recording Studio, Muscle ShoalsSource: ralph and jenny / Flickr
FAME Recording Studio, Muscle Shoals

FAME Recording Studios in nearby Muscle Shoals has hosted some of the biggest recording artists in the world.

The music studios were established in Florence, Alabama in 1959, and relocated across the water to Muscle Shoals a couple of years later.

The studios were known as a place where all artists, whatever their colour or creed could come to record, and it soon became one of the most famous studios in the world.

It has hosted artists such as Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Billy Ocean, Alicia Keys and more, and you can add your own name to the list by booking a recording session! If you are a music lover and wish to tour the legendary studios to learn more about its fascinating story you can do so in Muscle Shoals 18 miles north of Russellville.

6. 43 Grill

43 Grill, RusselvilleSource: facebook.com
43 Grill, Russelville

If you are seeking good Southern-style home cooking, you should consider a visit to 43 Grill in Russellville.

43 Grill is an American diner which serves wholesome comfort food like pork chops, chicken, ribs, steak and fish with a plethora of sides.

The service is good, reviews are 5-star for the most-part and portions are generous.

If you are staying in Russellville and are looking for somewhere to dine for lunch or dinner, this may tick all the boxes.

7. Ivy Green

Helen Keller Birthplace, TuscumbiaSource: Wayne James / shutterstock
Helen Keller Birthplace, Tuscumbia

Ivy Green in Tuscumbia was the childhood home of Helen Keller.

Helen became an important advocate for deaf and blind people around the world, following an illness which left her unable to see or hear.

She didn’t let her illness defeat her, instead she wrote 11 books, lectured across the world and even taught herself to read several foreign languages in Braille.

Her birthplace in Tuscumbia tells her inspiring story through personal mementos, books, pictures and accounts, and each year the Helen Keller Festival attracts thousands as performances are held in the grounds of Ivy Green to honour her legacy.

8. Alabama Music Hall of Fame

Alabama Music Hall of FameSource: www.alamhof.org
Alabama Music Hall Of Fame

The Alabama Music Hall of Fame doesn’t just honour bands and songwriters, it also showcases producers, music studio owners, composers, lyricists and more.

You can browse musical exhibits, displays and photos, or even try to become a recording star yourself in the studios! Highlights of the museum include a decorated band tour bus, gold Cadillac’s and a whole host of tour costumes belonging to famous artists.

If you love music and are interested in discovering more about the Alabama music scene, this is a great place to be.

9. Jesse Owens Museum & Park

Jesse Owens Museum & ParkSource: jesseowensmemorialpark.com
Jesse Owens Museum & Park

Jesse Owens captured the world’s imagination during the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games when he won 4 gold medals.

This was a particularly poignant moment as Hitler was intent on showing that the Aryan race dominated the world.

Jesse Owens, an African-American man from Oakville, Alabama proved him wrong and went on to win the long jump, 100 metres, 200 metres and 4 x 100 metres relay race.

This museum showcases his athletic achievements through the medium of film, exhibits and memorabilia.

You can see a bronze statue of the man himself, a replica of the 1936 Olympic torch and more.

The park outside is dedicated to track and field with an interactive Broad Jump Pit, an Olympic Gold Medal Tree and several sporting areas and picnic pavilions.

10. Muscle Shoals Sound Studios

Muscle Shoals Sound StudioSource: Dailynetworks / Wikimedia
Muscle Shoals Sound Studio

Muscle Shoals Sound Studios were formed by 4 session musicians in 1969. They opened in direct competition to FAME Recording Studios in Sheffield, Alabama and have hosted recording artists like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bob Seger, and the Black Keys whose album “Brothers” was nominated for a 2011 Grammy Award.

The studio is open most of the year for tours during the daytime and remains a working recording studio at night.

Visitors can see the recording studios on the tour, a whole host of analogue instruments and isolation booths for vocals and percussion.

11. Oakville Indian Mounds Education Center

Oakville Indian Mounds Education CenterSource: facebook.com
Oakville Indian Mounds Education Center

Close to Bankhead National Forest and the Jesse Owens Museum and Park is Oakville Indian Mounds Education Center.

This land has unearthed treasures dating as far back as 10,000 B.C. and the center preserves geological evidence showing the settlement of ancient tribes and evolution of people in the region.

It also is home to the largest ceremonial Indian mound in Alabama, plus, an interesting museum, 5k hiking trail, lake fishing and family activities.

If you are interested in delving deep into Alabama history, this is a great starting point.

12. Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n’ Biscuits

Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n’ BiscuitsSource: locations.bojangles.com
Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n’ Biscuits

Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n’ Biscuits has been open since 1977, producing flavoursome, seasoned chicken and served with scrumptious fresh buttermilk biscuits.

Located close to Franklin Shopping Centre, locals and visitors stop for breakfast before browsing the mall, or for lunch and dinner when they’ve exhausted the shops.

With popular dishes such as seasoned steak, sausage and country ham and eggs on the menu, it’s the perfect place to come to if you seek good ole’ fashioned southern-style dining.

13. Pond Spring – The General Joe Wheeler Home

Pond Spring was home to General Joe Wheeler, a U.S. congressman and Confederate Lieutenant General.

He was one of only two people in the country to earn rank of general after the Civil War in the U.S. army.

His former home a few miles from the shores of Wheeler Lake in Alabama is home to 12 historic buildings, archaeological treasures dating back centuries and picturesque gardens.

Highlights include the Federal style Sherrod House which dates to 1830, the Hickman dogtrot cabin from 1818, a cook’s house and the spring-fed pond for which the house is named.

You can opt for a self-guided or guided tour, just check the times before your visit to see if a curator is available on your chosen day.

14. Wheeler Lake & Dam

Wheeler Lake, AlabamaSource: Stan Reese / shutterstock
Wheeler Lake

Wheeler Dam was constructed in the 1930s to improve flood control and help economic development in the area.

The Dam is named after Joe Wheeler, the congressman who was an advocate for progressive development throughout the region.

Wheeler Lake is popular for boating and fishing, with thousands arriving each year to catch bass, catfish, bream and crappie.

If fishing isn’t for you, it’s possible to take a romantic scenic lake cruise at sunset or kayak along the lake admiring the picturesque bluffs and shoreline.

15. City Lake Park

City Lake Park, RussellvilleSource: www.russellvilleparksandrecreation.com
City Lake Park, Russellville

If you want a leisurely day with no driving or sightseeing, take a walk to City Lake Park in Russellville.

It’s the ideal place for a stroll by the water’s edge, you can play frisbee or softball or let the kids loose on the fun adventure playground.

Bring a picnic or takeaway food and relax on the grass soaking up the glorious Alabama sunshine.

15 Best Things to Do in Russellville (AL):

  • Bankhead National Forest
  • Dismals Canyon
  • Rattlesnake Saloon
  • King Drive-In
  • FAME Recording Studios
  • 43 Grill
  • Ivy Green
  • Alabama Music Hall of Fame
  • Jesse Owens Museum & Park
  • Muscle Shoals Sound Studios
  • Oakville Indian Mounds Education Center
  • Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n’ Biscuits
  • Pond Spring - The General Joe Wheeler Home
  • Wheeler Lake & Dam
  • City Lake Park