With Huntsville recently deemed the biggest city in the state and new businesses popping up all over Sand Mountain, there’s now more to enjoy than ever in north Alabama, which can make it hard to decide what to do or where to go on your next outing.
That’s why author Connie Pearson wrote her new book “100 Things to do in Huntsville and North Alabama Before You Die,” to help guide locals as well as visitors to the area’s best food and fun attractions plus many hidden gems, including some here around Sand Mountain.
“North Alabama is my ‘heart’-land. I was born here. My parents were born here. I feel that I speak/think/eat fluent North Alabama,” Pearson said.
Once a piano and public school teacher, Pearson has traveled a lot in her life, moving from her birthplace of Athens to be a missionary in Ecuador then back to Decatur, Alabama, Athens and finally, Hartselle. But what helped her most in writing this book is the 14 years of “cousin camp,” where those old enough of her 15 grandchildren come to visit during the summer for a time of outings and fun. She said she’s visited most of the places listed in the book while on these outings and also met many unique people and even other travel writers.
“In the years I’ve been a travel writer, I’ve made great friends with tourism people and fellow travel writers (most are people I would never have met otherwise). Through one of them, I learned about the “100 Things” series published by Reedy Press. I knew that Huntsville had just been determined to be Alabama’s largest city, but I wanted to write about much more than Huntsville. I pitched the idea to the publisher of Huntsville and attractions within easy driving distance of Huntsville, and he accepted it.”
Pearson expanded her scope to include the area from north of Birmingham to the Tennessee state line and from the Mississippi line to the Georgia. From there she started brainstorming a list of all the places she’s visited using the publisher’s five category format: Food & Drink, Music & Entertainment, Sports & Recreation, History & Culture, Shopping & Fashion.
“When you’re about to turn 72, believe me, that adds up to a long list.” It was actually not hard to find 100. Since the book allows for ‘while you’re there’” kind of tips and suggestions, I have actually mentioned about 150 different destinations/businesses.”
Pearson said she also talked to tourism representatives, friends and business owners to fill in any gaps. She also doubled-checked to see which ones where still open after so many closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of the final attractions chosen for the book, she said she has eaten at all 60 restaurants and personally visited all but seven of the 100 places.
“But, and this is important, I have close friends who raved about the ones I have not personally seen and convinced me that they should be included. After all, with the photo of the bucket on the front [of the book], I have to have my own bucket list to complete also.”
Pearson listed some local examples of attractions mentioned in her book:
“Guntersville and Desoto State Parks, of course. Gorham’s Bluff Lodge is beautiful, and the food is outstanding. Cathedral Caverns and Russell Cave would be cool (literally) when it gets really hot outside.
“Payne’s Soda Fountain & Sandwich Shop on the square in Scottsboro is fun. A short drive away is Tigers for Tomorrow and Bootsie’s Restaurant in Attalla or Bama Bucks Steak House and Wild Game Restaurant has menu items for adventurous and non-adventurous eaters.
“Alabama Fan Club & Museum is great for country music lovers. Sacred Harp singing around Ider would be interesting if you can time the visit just right. Taking in a drive-in movie would be fun. And, oh yes, our grandkids love Spring Valley Beach in Blountsville, which isn’t far away.”
Whether you stay local or branch out, Pearson’s book should have something for the family to enjoy. She said that was one thing she was happy to be reminded of and for others to learn, that Alabama contains a variety of fun, rich experiences.
“Our history is rich, and there are passionate people who want to share the stories,” she said. “I was with a group of travel writers recently who were visiting Huntsville and Alabama for the very first time. They were blown away by the city and its surroundings. Their preconceived notions were thoroughly dispelled. It made me so very proud.”
Pearson said one of the best ways to get her book is through her website, ThereGoesConnie.com, where her most recent book as well as her other works are available for purchase.
“That’s the best way to get an autographed copy and my sincere thanks,” she said.
“100 Things to do in Huntsville and North Alabama Before You Die,” is also available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.