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Cullman County, Alabama: for a day, a week, or a weekend

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If you haven’t visited Cullman County lately, you’re going to be totally surprised at all you’re missing, especially when you consider that from most areas around Birmingham, Cullman is less than an hour’s drive away. From fabulous outdoor activities to unique shopping and dining opportunities, the city and county of Cullman is packed with fun things to see and do.

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ACTIVITIES & ATTRACTIONS

The contents of the Evelyn Burrow Museum was given to Wallace State Community College from Mrs. Burrow’s personal collection of over 5,000 porcelain, pottery, glass and bronze objects. from the Victorian era to modern times, including a number of horse sculptures and related art. Located on campus at the corner of College Drive and Highway 31 in Hanceville, there is no admission charge. For more info, visit www.BurrowMuseum.org or phone: (256) 352-8457.

Clarkson Covered Bridge on County Road 1043 dates back to 1904 and is part of the Cullman County Parks system. With hiking trails, a picnic area, a dogtrot log cabin, and a working grist mill, it’s an ideal location for a quiet walk and time with nature. This pretty spot is located off Highway 278 in Bethel. Learn more at: www.CullmanCountyParks.com/clarkson.html.

Whether your interests lean more toward hiking, four-wheeling, or horseback riding, Stony Lonesome OHV is a must-see. The first of its kind in Alabama, this park sprawls over more than 1,400 acres with trails for ATVs, rock crawlers, dirt bikes, mountain bikes, horses, hikers, and more. The park is on Highway 69 in Bremen and open Thursday through Monday; admission varies, according to your planned activity. Campsites and cabin rentals are available; see their website for more details: www.StonyLonesomeOHV.us or phone: (256) 287-1133.

SMITH LAKE

This manmade reservoir is one of the cleanest and most beautiful lakes around. With over 500 miles of shoreline, Smith Lake meanders through Cullman, Winston, and Walker Counties with plenty of deep water, excellent fishing, and plenty of watersports opportunities. Smith holds the world record for spotted bass and comes in third in Alabama as the spot for catching crappie. Striped bass are another popular gamefish in these waters. Below the dam, the chilly tailwaters offer great year-round trout fishing, plus March and April offer skipjack herring fishing as well.

Tons of private homes dot the lakeside, but there’s also plenty of protected land where boaters can enjoy nothing but woods and water along the way.

Guide services are available at several locations, including Speegle’s Marina, (256) 734-0698, and at Riverside Fly Shop, www.RiversideFlyShop.com, phone: (256) 287-9582.

RELIGIOUS SITES

St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman is Alabama’s only Benedictine Abbey and the home of Ave Maria Grotto (which most locals call “Little Jerusalem”), an amazing 3-acre landscape of 125 miniature reproductions of famous churches, shrines, and buildings, all lovingly crafted by Brother Joseph Zoettl over a period of 40 years at the Abbey. Born in Bavaria in 1878, Brother Joseph came to the United States in 1892 and died in 1961, completing his last miniature in 1958 at the age of 80.

Open April through September, admission is $7 adults; $4.50 children ages 6 to 12; and $5 for senior adults and AAA members. Group rates are also available. The Abbey also offers overnight guest accommodations, meeting rooms, dining, walking trails, and much more. There’s also an onsite private boarding and day school for grades 7 through 12.

The Abbey’s Bloomin’ Festival is their biggest annual fundraiser, with this year’s taking place April 5-6. This two-day juried arts festival features more than 140 booths filled with artists demonstrating and exhibiting their work. Adults and kids over age 5 are asked to make a $5 donation for admission. Additional info is on their website, www.AveMariaGrotto.com, or you can phone: (256) 734-4110.

In nearby Hanceville is another truly remarkable religious site, the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament of our Lady of the Angels Monastery. Modeled after a European 13th century monastery, this amazing complex was the vision of Mother Angelica (of EWTN) and is the home of the Poor Clare nuns of the Perpetual Adoration. Grounds include the Monastery Chapel, visitors center, gift shop, and more. The grounds and Chapel are open to the public from 6am to 6pm and masses are held daily at 7am.

With stained glass windows from Germany; building stone from Canada; marble pillars and inlaid marble designs from Italy; roofing tiles from Columbia, South America; carved stonework decorations from artisans in Spain; and the main altar area of carved cedar covered in gold leaf, few cathedrals compare with such beauty. Groups are welcome and there is no charge to visit. For more info, visit their website: www.olamshrine.com or phone: (256) 352-6267.

SHOPPING

There are several sizeable shopping areas dotting the city, with Walmart as the hub for the section that includes the Carmike 10 Movie Theater just off I-65 at exit 304. A bit farther into town there’s a Hobby Lobby, Goody’s, and more; while on the north end, stores like Belk and J. C. Penney anchor another strip mall.

From I-65, you’ll come to Jack’s Western Wear before you hit Walmart. This long-time business is packed with boots, hats, clothing, and accessories for the serious or wannabe cowboy or cowgirl.

Better Than Before on the corner of 4th Street SW is a consignment clothing paradise, with a huge selection in every size from petite to plus, along with purses, jewelry, shoes, accessories, and some men’s wear.

Specialty shops are plentiful, particularly “over the bridge” in the renovated warehouse district. Antique lovers will appreciate the number of shops and quality of merchandise in places like Queen’s Antiques on 1st Avenue SW and the Antique Market of Cullman on 1st Avenue SE. Southern Accents Architectural Antiques on 2nd Avenue SE has on hand the largest selection of architectural antiques in the entire South; website: www.SA1969.com.

DINING

If barbecue suits your palate, you can’t go wrong trying Johnny’s Bar-b-q on 4th Street SW. With award-winning barbecue, plus catfish, seafood, and homemade pies, no visit to Cullman’s is complete without a stop at Johnny’s. Website: www.JohnnysBarbq.com; phone: (866) GO-TO-JBQ.

Sweet Peppers’ Deli on 2nd Avenue NW has only been around for a few years, but it’s already made quite a name for itself with its mouthwatering homemade desserts and soups and delicious deli sandwiches, like the Bavarian Pretzel made with sliced pepperoni, ham, roast beef, and turkey, topped with deli mustard, mayo, sweet banana peppers, and lettuce and served on a Bavarian pretzel roll. Website: www.SweetPeppersDeli.com; phone: (256) 736-2600.

China Garden on Patriot Way near Walmart puts together one of the most extensive buffets you’ll ever see, including not-so-Chinese dishes like fried and boiled shrimp, fried catfish, and more, along with soups, all sorts of traditional dishes, a salad and fruit bar, dessert bar, ice cream bar, and sushi bar. Phone: (256) 734-6682.

A couple of doors over from China Garden is Casa Fiesta and the best Mexican food in the city. An expansive menus gives you plenty to choose from and the atmosphere is comfortable and cheery. Phone: (256) 739-8282.

How about Italian? Lombardo’s Pasta Bar on 1st Avenue SE is a little harder to find, but well worth the effort. An intimate little place with food so good that regular diners drive from miles around. Phone: (256) 739-7171.

ACCOMMODATIONS & MORE

Smith Lake Bed & Breakfast in Crane Hill overlooks the lake and provides two guest suites plus a vintage Airstream travel trailer as accommodations. See their website for more info: www.SmithLakeBandB.com or phone (256) 747-6057. You’ll also find a number of familiar chain accommodations in Cullman: Best Western, Hampton, Comfort Suites, and more.

Duncan Bridge Marina on the Walker County side of the lake includes an RV park, swim beach, and much more. Visit their website, www.DuncanBridgeMarina.com, or call (205) 387-1208.

Winston Outdoors encompasses an RV park, marina, and offers boat rentals from pontoons to paddleboats and kayaks to jet skis, plus rentals of tubes, kneeboards, and other water toys. They also rent equipment for fishing, hunting equipment (no guns or ammo), hiking, and camping. Get more info at: www.SmithLakeRVPark.com or by calling: (205) 489-5000.

Many private homes on Smith Lake are available for short-term rental; check www.VRBO.com and www.SmithLakeRentals.com.

MORE INFO

To learn more about what Cullman County has to offer, visit the website of the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce, www.CullmanChamber.org; or phone them at: (800) 313-5114.

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