Gadsden, Alabama, fifty miles northeast of Birmingham, is nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. It is divided between east and west by the Coosa River. Gadsden was founded by a captain of a steamboat that traveled the Coosa in the early 1800s.
Home to Cherokee and Creek native Americans before the white settlers arrived, many areas are in that part of the state are named for the tribes that once occupied northeast Alabama. Etowah and Cherokee counties are two examples.
Noccalula Falls and Park, one to the state’s top tourist attractions, is located on Lookout Mountain. The falls, which are part of Black Creek, plunge 100 feet to the gorge below. Visitors can take stairs down into the gorge and under the falls. The park is replete with a campground, pavilions, a miniature sightseeing railroad, pioneer homestead, petting zoo, and a miniature golf course..
The falls were named for an Indian princess, Noccalula, who, according to legend, was in love with a brave in her own tribe. When her father chose a brave for her to marry from a neighboring tribe, she became so distraught that she threw herself off the precipice of the falls to her death.
Other attractions in Gadsden include a cultural arts center with rotating art exhibits, music classes, a model railroad configured to resemble the town in the 1950s and 60s, and a children’s museum with hands-on learning exhibits. The city also boasts of two community theatre companies, a symphony orchestra, a youth orchestra, and a museum of art.
Broad Street runs the length of the downtown shopping district and has been retrofitted with street lights and stops lights of a bygone era. At night, the buildings on Broad Street are aglow with accent lights along the roofs.
On the first Friday of each month, Broad Street is blocked off in the late afternoon in order to host First Friday, an area-wide event featuring classic vehicles, musical acts, performers, and various food and merchandise vendors.
The Etowah (county) Youth and Strings orchestra has performed nationally including Carnegie Hall. The Theatre of Gadsden, formerly the Gadsden Civic Theatre, has showcased outstanding talent for more than sixty years. A recently-formed theatre troop, CharACTers, produces children’s and youth-oriented plays.
The City of Gadsden hosts local, regional and national softball tournaments at various fields and fishing tournaments on the Coosa River and Lake Henry Neely.
Neighboring Cherokee County is home to Weiss Lake, known as the crappie capital, and to Cherokee Rock Village where a portion of the movie, “Failure to Launch,” was filmed. Going north on 431, one finds Marshall County and the town of Guntersville with its several square mile lake, formed from the Tennesee River. At Guntersville State Park, bald eagle watching takes place every spring. At the Dot Moore Theatre, musicals, dramas, and comedies are performed year round.
Farther north on interstate 59 and highway 11 is DeKalb County with its splendid DeSoto Caverns and State Park. The county seat of Fort Payne is home to the megastar country music band, Alabama.