Although an hour from the closest interstate, Florence, Alabama, manages to attract clothing designers, musicians, and creatives of all stripes. Home to the University of North Alabama and the state’s only Frank Lloyd Wright residence, life centers on North Court Street, a thoroughfare with brick buildings and a vibe straight out of the fifties. But unlike so many other downtowns struggling to stay afloat, Florence buzzes with restaurants, bars, and boutiques. At one end, visitors can pay homage to Leo III and Una, feline college mascots who live in the nation’s only campus lion habitat. At the other, a new state historic marker notes that the Rolling Stones stayed here when they recorded legendary hits “Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses” at nearby Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. In the nine blocks in between, Florence finds its cool.
Mefford Jewelers | For more than sixty years, this family-run retailer kept Florence bejeweled. In 2014, a new generation took over in a restyled space with handcrafted jewelry and special-edition music watches certified by Muscle Shoals Sound Studios’ famed Swampers.
Alabama Outdoors | University kids come here for outdoor clothes and backpacking gear, but visitors appreciate the staff’s extensive knowledge of the area. Ask for hiking tips in places like Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve, where the store manager proposed to his girlfriend.
Billy Reid | The international designer calls Florence home, creating luxury Americana clothes with a Southern twist in his upstairs studio. Sip a bourbon as you browse the flagship store below.
Odette | From Alabama bison sliders to salads made with local produce, find tasty takes on regional products at this lauded eatery. This is also bourbon central, with more than sixty varieties and craft cocktails designed by the state’s only Certified Specialist of Spirits.
Unraveled Yarn and Gifts | From slip knots to short rows, this emporium has crochet cachet. Consider it a coffee shop for the knitting world, complete with rare imported yarns instead of espressos and a community ready to assist with a challenging stitch.
Court Street Market | If San Francisco’s Ferry Building Marketplace had a Southern cousin, it might resemble this, with a wine and cheese bar, cafe, and gourmet popsicles. Look for Jack-O-Lantern Farms, a Hamilton, Alabama, producer selling organic greens and local honey.
Trowbridge’s Ice Cream & Sandwich Bar | For nearly a century, Florence has lunched at this legendary spot. Order the chicken salad or the pimento cheese, also sold in local stores. Wash it down with a signature orange-pineapple shake. 256-764-1503
Wine Seller | This wine emporium and bar stocks more than 400 labels from Alabama to Australia. Stop by for Friday night tastings—the shop’s proprietress will happily suggest food pairings. Beer lovers will appreciate pours from local Singin’ River Brewing Co.