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Celebrate Florence “Through the Years” Bicentennial Parade

Celebrate Florence “Through the Years” Bicentennial Parade

Saturday, April 7, 10:30am, Downtown Florence


The City of Florence is celebrating its 200th birthday and we’re throwing a year-long party!  And to help kick off the celebrations, we’re having a parade! Join us in downtown Florence on Saturday, April 7 at 10:30am for the festivities.  

Florence Mayor, Steve Holt invites everyone to participate in the parade. “Our Bicentennial is here and we are excited to begin several months of activities and events to celebrate the 200th birthday of Florence.  We look forward to a great parade and the City of Florence plans to be a very active participant.  We invite you to join us for a fun filled morning in Downtown Florence”, Holt said.

So grab your friends, decorate a float, put together a band on a flatbed trailer and join us to celebrate the bicentennial of Florence.  You are encouraged to theme your float, performance or musical group, costume, decoration or musical selection related to anything in Florence’s past, present or dream of the future.  So get creative & have some fun!

Florence Main Street, is responsible for coordinating the Bicentennial Parade and all the rules and regulations can be found on the registration form here, Florence, Alabama Bicentennial Parade Registration .  These rules and regulations are to improve safety (following state laws and city ordinances) and provide increased enjoyment for participants and spectators.  It is free to participate in the parade but you must register your group or float.  Registration information can be found at the Florence Main Street website. Participation registration deadline is Monday April 2. New for this parade is horses are allowed in the parade (group must clean up after their horses throughout the parade) and car groups can have up to 10 entries but cars must represent different decades.  

VERY IMPORTANT…The Parade route will follow Court Street from the north end at Rogers Hall on the UNA campus to the southern end at Alabama Street.  Parade line up will begin at 9:30am on Pine Street between Irvine and Cumberland Streets.  Your exact time for line-up will be determined by your placement in the parade.  That information will be sent to you early in the week of the parade.   Please remember with the Parade line up being on Pine Street and ending on South Court Street at Alabama Street to arrange your drop off and pick up locations to match those areas.    

Awards will be given so really dive into your theme.  Think history…your group’s history, history of Florence, history of the Shoals.  Think Future…where do you see Florence or your group in 100 years?  

“Planning for the Bicentennial has been so much fun and has involved so many different groups.  We’re excited to celebrate all the different aspects of our community such as art, architecture, education, faith, and our native American culture, along with others.  It’s a year-long celebration of what makes us special and what makes Florence such a great place to live,” said Pat “Burney, Chair of the Bicentennial Planning Committee.  “We hope the community will come out to help us celebrate with the parade!”.

For more information, contact Florence Main Street at 256-760-9648 or info@florencemainstreet.org.  

 

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Dine Downtown – Big Bad Breakfast

By Stephen Edmonds

When someone says “Breakfast Food”, the first image that pops into the minds of most people is some sort of diner or dive.  Sure, there are more high-end breakfast eateries, but those are few and far between even in the south where good food is usually abundant.  To the citizens of Florence Alabama, both of these expectations have just been shattered by the arrival of Big Bad Breakfast in our beautiful downtown district.  This breakfast restaurant is primarily Alabama based with 3 out of 5 of its locations planted in great towns throughout our state.  Boasting a menu full of absolutely gorgeous breakfast meals that give even seasoned foodies something new to try, Big Bad Breakfast is the new kid on the block and the folks over there are not playing around.

All-American is a phrase that is tossed around quite a bit but has no concrete meaning.  Big Bad Breakfast supplies this meaning through the palpable atmosphere that emanates from the décor, the food, and each employee’s smiling face.  It’s clear that this eatery loves its American heritage. From the large diagram and partial hull of a classic propeller style airplane hanging on the wall to the creative modern light fixtures hanging over the cleverly shaped bar, Big Bad Breakfast embraces every era of American ingenuity.  The amount of pride that these people take in the quality of their food added on top of the way they celebrate our heritage is contagious and makes any customer who walks through those doors want to celebrate right along with them.  

Any eatery that sets up shop in Alabama has their work cut out for them.  Alabamians have great taste in food, that’s just a proven fact. So, when a restaurant like Big Bad Breakfast opens up in town and starts slinging omelets, pancakes, French toast, biscuits, gravy, and bruled grapefruit plated with 5-star restaurant quality, you know it’s got to be good.  In this case, good is a bit of an understatement. Imagine anything you’ve ever eaten at a diner and multiply it one hundred-fold. Absolutely every aspect of the food in this eatery is hand tailored to perfection.  

French toast is a breakfast staple that Big Bad Breakfast elevates in both presentation and taste.  It’s so pretty that you almost feel bad about cutting into it!  Their omelets are light and fluffy but carefully crafted so that the eggs don’t overpower the cheeses.  Each different kind of cheese in the dish sings its own song that melds together in the final moments of a bite to form a phenomenal taste medley.  On top of that, each savory dish is carefully balanced out with fruits or greens creating a refined and well-rounded meal experience.

If you this high end breakfast food experience sounds as enticing to you as it does for me, stop by Big Bad Breakfast from 7 AM to 2 PM in downtown Florence and see for yourself what all the buzz is about.  

Espionage

By Stephen Edmonds

There are times in which we as people need something entertaining to do and not everyone can be content with a couple good shows on tv and a night out at dinner; sometimes you have to do something truly interesting, something that really gives your brain a workout while still allowing you to enjoy the company and antics of whoever you happen to be with.  The Escape Room Florence fits this bill to a “T” and as an added bonus, it’s centrally located in our scenic downtown Florence!  Beyond that, it’s affordable, fun, not very physically demanding, and the number of people you need for a game is highly flexible.

Escape Rooms are businesses that allow patrons to compete with the clock in solving puzzles in a specific room/set of rooms with the end goal of, you guessed it, escaping that room.  Despite how the name of the business sounds, patrons aren’t actually locked in a room; they are free to leave out of the door they first enter through.  The game ends when your team works their way through the room(s) and exits out of another door.  To go with each of these puzzle rooms, the players are presented with an imaginary scenario that covers why the patrons are trapped in the first place.  Every escape room has a multitude of scenarios to choose from and The Escape Room Florence is no different in that aspect.  There were several different rooms to choose from, but the one we settled on for our game was known as Espionage.

After making our decision, we were whisked away to a small preparation room where the backstory was read to us.  In line with the title, the story was that we were all British spies captured by Russia and sent to prison. We had just one hour to escape before the officers returned to execute us.  Being read a story usually doesn’t create much of an atmosphere by itself, but when paired with the handcuffs that were slapped on our wrists (although these are optional) and the jail cell we were escorted to with the Russian national anthem playing in the background, the sensation of being in a pressured situation started to feel more real.  

I don’t know what kind of friends everyone has, but this was the perfect activity for me and mine.  One of my friends kept a decent British accent up all the way until the end where we started to rush against the clock more.  All of us were rushing around checking every piece of furniture, finding secret doorways, hidden keys, puzzles, and codes to various combination padlocks painted on the wall.  

I entered the escape room thinking that an hour was a long time and I left realizing just how short of a time it was.  We had made it through just 2 out of the 3 total rooms in Espionage when we realized we only had 15 minutes left!  Thankfully, all rooms are supervised via camera by Escape Room Florence personnel and when players reach an impasse, they are allowed to call out to said supervisor and ask for a clue.  When asked, the supervisors speak into a microphone that the players in the room can hear and give them hints in a very covert way such as saying, “Feeling tired? Why not take a seat?” in an attempt to lead a player to a clue. My crack team of agents got through almost the entire room but at the end those clues really helped us out of a bind and we didn’t even need to use all 3 of the hints you’re allowed to receive, so I think we did pretty good.

After about 50 minutes of frantic key insertion and sloppy British accents, my team finally got the last door open and reemerged in the lobby where our time was recorded and our pictures were taken to commemorate the occasion.  The slight adrenaline rush granted by racing the clock slowly wound down as we discussed our experience and, as expected, every member of our team expressed a desire to come back. From start to finish, Escape Room Florence delivered a ton of good clean fun and even as I’m still just as excited to return for my next escape.  

The owner and proprietor Bobby Lindholm informed us that he’s hard at work on a brand-new room called Biohazard that we can all expect to be open in the near future.  In the meantime, call and reserve an hour slot this weekend and enjoy Espionage or go for one of the other open rooms such as the recording studio escape!  After participating, I seriously couldn’t believe I had never tried an escape room before and I’m especially glad I got to experience my first escape in a facility as well made and operated as Escape Room Florence.  Next time you hear someone say, “there’s nothing interesting to do in Florence” let them know about this jewel in the crown of modern entertainment.  

Dine Downtown – The Pie Factory

By Stephen Edmonds

Customers know it makes a notable difference when a restaurant has every part of their business fine tuned to the molecular level.  Such a feat entails consistently nailing the aspects specific to your storefront and in the Pie Factory’s case they do so with ease.  Everything from the gourmet pizza to the rustic décor and the beautiful historic building that ties it all together is down to a science.  As an added bonus, this business is part of the impressive armada of storefronts on Court Street in gorgeous downtown Florence Alabama.  With all of this in mind, it’s obvious that the list of pros and cons is stacked heavily on the positive side when it comes to deciding whether or not to eat here, and that definitely explains why everyone loves the Pie Factory. 

From the moment you open the door and see the cute hand crafted banjo made out of a pizza box hanging on the wall, anyone with common sense can tell this experience is going to be a good one.  The rural charm is evident from the decorative entryway to each mason-jar chandelier that lights the beautiful wood floors of the interior.  The Pie Factory even boasts a scenic outdoor patio area that is pet friendly during the summer.  

An important area of high-end restaurants that is often crowded, strained, and cluttered is the bar; but once again, this is an area where the Pie Factory excels.  Sporting a wide array of drink options and presented in a layout that’s uncluttered and easy on the eyes, the bar area aesthetically adds to the overall ambience of the establishment which isn’t an easy thing for restaurants with high in and out traffic to do.  It’s really the small things like this that let you know that a restaurant really has their business down to a science.  

Now we come to the cornerstone of all great restaurants, the food!  In the Pie Factory’s case, their unique pizza recipes have captivated their hometown’s residents for years.  Ask anyone on the streets of downtown Florence what their favorite Pie Factory pizza is and they will all have a unique answer.  My personal favorite is the ranch based El Guapo because I love that rich heat, but I won’t even waste time going into detail on each of their pizzas because my words simply can’t do any of them justice.  Simply put, there’s something for everyone at this extraordinary eatery; you’ve got to try it for yourself!  

Downtown Florence is Pet Friendly!

As a dog parent, sometimes it’s hard to find things to do with your pup in the Shoals. If walks in the park are getting old, bring your pooch for a visit to downtown Florence! A lot of locals don’t realize how pet-friendly our downtown actually is! From events that revolve around your four-legged friend to spots to eat and stores to visit, we’ve put together a full afternoon of things to do with your best friend in our beautiful historic downtown Florence!

If you’re looking for a place to eat with your pup, there’s actually a pretty long list! Most of our restaurants have patios and you guessed it, pets are allowed! Keep in mind, some of the patios are small so your pet needs to be well-behaved and mindful of the other guests. If you have a service dog, Yumm Thai Sushi & Beyond’s patio can accommodate you but due to it’s small size, they can only make special requests for people who need their pup and for that we’re thankful! During the colder months, some patios may be sealed off. When that happens, pets aren’t allowed so just keep that in mind!

Love shopping local? Many of our businesses would love to see your pet! Here’s a list that will sure to keep you entertained with their unique charm:

Alabama Outdoors
Barnes Pharmacy
Cloth + Stone
Greasy Hands
Grier Insurance
Jack-O-Lantern Farm
Printers and Stationers, Inc.
Reclaimed Spirit
The Carriage
The Eclectic
The Spinning Spoke Cycle Hub
Underground Art & Sound
Ye Ole General

For events specially created with pet owners in mind, we recommend checking out Singin’ River Brewery! Tail-Wagger Tuesday is once a week, 4PM-9PM. When you buy a pint, your pup gets free dog treats! It’s also a great way to meet new pals for a play date! Singin’ River Brewing Co. is also known for their events such as their Daschund Dash in the summer and their pet costume contest close to Halloween! They’re also pet-friendly if you’d like to bring your pets to a human event or just for a drink or two.

Did we miss something? With so many businesses in downtown Florence, we’re sure we missed a couple. Let us know!

Dine Downtown – Legends Steakhouse

By Stephen Edmonds

When it comes to steakhouses, the bar is set pretty high.  Most steakhouses are on the higher end of the local dining spectrum and as such, there are a lot of different factors that go into determining one’s overall experience at a steakhouse.  

“Was the food the correct temperature?  Was your steak cooked to your specifications?  Was the atmosphere inviting?  Was the menu diverse enough or perhaps too diverse?  Did the employees have great attitudes and was the experience as a whole positive?”

These are all questions that come into a customers mind when deciding where to spend their money that evening and because steakhouses are in the upper echelon of local cuisine, these questions are weighed all the more carefully in a potential customers mind.  

At Legends Steakhouse in beautiful downtown Florence, these standards are surpassed flawlessly.  Before even entering the establishment, the unique stone fountain out front begins to introduce the suave atmosphere that only grows as anyone ventures inward.  The lights are at a comfortable setting, the background music is at the perfect volume, and it’s all strung together by the walls covered in historical images and facts.  

There’s something to be said about a restaurants atmosphere.  In local settings, the ambiance part of a dining experience is often overlooked or put off.  Legends Steakhouse clearly breaks from this and the benefits couldn’t be more apparent.  A well thought out and sharply executed atmosphere can draw diners into a positive and unique experience that really makes their evening at that establishment stand out in their mind before they’ve even taken a bite of great food.  

Food emerging from the kitchen is a very special time for any customer at any establishment, but at Legends it’s all the more exciting.  The coherent menu style makes it very easy to find something that sounds good to you and the way they describe their dishes builds the anticipation for whoever is ordering.  Of course the taste is absolutely stellar as well.  No matter what you order at Legends it tastes great, but as you can imagine their steaks are the jewel in the crown.  Well cooked and seasoned, the experience of Legend’s steak dinner somehow gets better and better every time.  

Words can describe almost anything within a fair amount of accuracy EXCEPT for a steak from Legends.  That’s an experience that you’ve got to try for yourself before you can fully understand how great it is.  

Chocolate Crawl 2018 Recap

 

Just a bit more than a week before Valentine’s Day, Florence Main Street hosted our 4th Annual Chocolate Crawl! This year was just as great as the rest with delicious chocolate treats that were to die for and new businesses to visit as well as our returning favorites!

Tickets this year sold out 3 days before the event and even though it was cold out, we had a great crowd!  We saw so many new faces and heard a lot of positive feedback from the patrons.  Many of them said it was the best year yet!

On top of that, ticket holders enjoyed 15% off their purchases as well as a chocolate treat at participating businesses. Grier Insurance even gave away dinner for 2 at Ricatoni’s to one lucky winner!

This year’s chocolate treat winner was Cloth & Stone with their Chocolate Wine Cake!  Great job to the Cloth & Stone team, we heard crawlers raving about that treat and the store it was in all day.

A very close second was Miss Beth’s Tailoring and Alterations with their Oreo Bon Bons!  Miss Beth’s was a first time participant in the crawl this year and nearly clenched the victory, so congratulations to all involved; everyone seemed very impressed.  

A few honorable mentions this year were North Alabama Chiropractic’s Chocolate Covered Bacon, Jack O’ Lantern Farm’s Mocha Turnovers, and Printers and Stationer’s Mini Cannoli’s, but there were many more amazing treats as well that were very well made and well received.

We can’t thank the participants enough.  The bar had already been set high by the previous years and the ball was still knocked out of the park by each and every one of you!  

If you missed out this year, don’t worry; there’s always next year! If you love bacon, be on the lookout for our Bacon Fest in June that will include our annual Bacon Crawl!

Downtown Florence, Your Valentine’s Day Destination for Fun!

By Stephen Edmonds

Whether you dread it or anticipate it, Valentine’s day is almost here!  There is no better way to spend this day than with the people you love; and that still applies even if you are not in a romantic relationship with this person or persons.  Family, coworkers, good friends; all of these relationships deserve to be celebrated on February 14th this year, so why not spend it with us in beautiful downtown Florence?  Here are some fantastic reasons why you should!

The biggest reason why downtown Florence deserves your business this Valentine’s Day is because there is something for everyone here.  The Shoals is full of an eclectic mix of people and the local business owners have adapted to that excellently by offering many different forms of entertainment.

 

If you’re looking to have fun while you and your family, friends, or loved ones participate in games and puzzles, we eagerly recommend Escape Room Florence and Paradox Challenge Rooms Florence.  These two escape room businesses have put their originality to work in creating interesting scenarios and rooms full of puzzles for your enjoyment!  A varying number of people can participate at once, so this is ideal for a medium to large party of participants.  This experience is so much fun, you’ll be talking about it for a little while afterwards making it a perfect thing to do before dinner. 

 

Just you and your loved one?  Head over to Spinning Spoke and rent a couple bicycles for an hour!  This is a greatway to get to know the downtown, parks, and UNA areas.  To top it all off, the cycles they rent are a guaranteed smooth ride. Another great idea to combine with dinner or a show afterwards; this will create a well-rounded evening experience leaving all parties satisfied.

 

 

To keep the options coming, downtown Florence is also home to a host of museums.  These establishments are rich in the culture and history that made our town what it is today.  Whether you try Pope’s Tavern, the Indian Mound, the W.C. Handy Home, or all three; these interesting locations are full of info and history that really drives home a sense of belonging and can reignite anyone’s love for the Shoals.  Each of these museums can accommodate groups of multiple sizes and, once again, these visits can be combined with dinner or a livelier activity to create a well-rounded and memorable evening.

 

For the citizens interested in the arts, there is absolutely no better place to go than downtown Florence.  The Shoals has always been a landmark for music in America and that is still true today.  With the multitude of swanky music venues that call our downtown home, fans of any genre of music will find the electric atmosphere of establishments like The Mane Room, 116 E Mobile, and Singin’ River Live undeniably irresistible.  Similarly, downtown boasts an armada of theatre venues where plays are held regularly.  Such notable places include The Z (Historic Zodiac Theatre), Shoals Community Theatre, and the UNA Theatre.  No matter what your cup of tea is, there is a venue here for you.  These locations are perfect for groups of varying sizes and the stellar atmosphere of downtown Florence’s artistic side will be sure to create an evening for the books.

 

No evening out is complete without a great meal.  Any of the activities suggested so far can easily be coupled with dinner from one of our fine eating establishments.  Yumm Thai Sushi and Beyond is a Florence fan favorite while the calm and intimate atmosphere at City Hardware is perfect for a one on one date.  Going out earlier in the day?Trowbridge’s is a perfect spot for lunch or a snack with their  menu that features savory meals and sweet desserts all at ideal lunch sized portions.  Want to sample Florence’s nightlife?  Wait till late and head over to FloBama, or On the Rocks.  There’s almost always live music going on in these bar and grille establishments.  Wildwood Tavern and Tennessee Street Billiards & Grille are also notable spots for deliciously creative food, tasty drinks, and active nightlife.  One more noteworthy mention on this list would be Chicago Café that stays open late to make sure you have a snack right when you need it.  No matter who you are with, these spots make a perfect end to a long day, or a flawless beginning to a long night.

At Florence Main Street, we know Valentine’s Day is about love specifically, not just dating relationships; so, don’t get bummed out if you don’t have a significant other this time around.  Instead, focus on the ties that you already have with your family, friends, and possibly even coworkers.  These relationships often get pushed to the side because of the popular notion that Valentine’s Day is strictly for dating couples, so I challenge you, reader:  Don’t let this Valentine’s Day be a source of sadness or disappointment; let it be a night to remember in a place that you love with people that you love even more.

Dining Downtown – Ricatoni’s Italian Grill

By Stephen Edmonds

107 North Court Street Florence, Alabama

 

Florence is a small, but busy college town with many choice places to eat that I believe do not get the recognition they deserve, so I wanted to take a minute of my time to write about my experience with one of our favorite restaurants.  This past week, Florence experienced a rare amount of snowfall keeping my wife and I cooped up for a few days on end, so when we were finally able to emerge from our hole and stretch our legs the first thing we wanted to do was enjoy a meal at one of our favorite local downtown spots: Ricatoni’s.

 

 

This is one of our favorite places to go for quite a few reasons.  First and foremost, before the great food is even brought into consideration, their atmosphere is so pleasant and relaxed.  Employees interact with each other in such a way that encourages guests to loosen up and enjoy their time in the establishment.  The décor adds to the previously mentioned atmosphere in a very subliminal way, making anyone who steps in the door to dine more at ease and more susceptible to a good time.  Even their menus seem to draw you further into the atmosphere.

 

Pictured: House Salad, Complimentary Bread & Herbs, &                                        Fettucine Alfredo

 

In my personal opinion, a business’s food is their strongest weapon for convincing customers to return, and in Ricatoni’s case this is doubly true.  From a purely statistical standpoint, the portions are perfect and their food tastes like it should cost more than the affordable prices they have on their menu, and buying good food at affordable prices will make any restaurant goer feel like they are scoring a great deal.  From a personal opinion standpoint, their entrees, appetizers, and desserts are appealing, fun, and they taste great. 

 

Photo by Sarah Belanger

 

I feel like a blog post review of a restaurant needs to have at least some valid criticism, but after racking my brain and thinking about all my past experiences in this establishment (all the way back through high school!) I can’t find a single instance where I was anything less than satisfied.  The track record of this restaurant speaks for itself; the food is great, the mood is great, and more than anything else, Ricatoni’s is a consistent dining experience that delivers time after time. 

A Look at Past Chocolate Crawls

Florence Main Street just announced our 4th Annual Downtown Florence, Alabama Chocolate Crawl!

Each February, Chocolate Crawl rolls around just in time for Valentine’s Day. Downtown Florence boutiques, salons, and other stores turn into Chocolate Shops for one day only. Each business showcases their current styles, specials, and services along with a bite-sized sample of a chocolate treat. During the Chocolate Crawl, ticket holders also get 15% off their purchases at participating businesses.

Now when we say chocolate, we don’t just mean simple pieces of chocolate. Check out some treats from past crawls:

So what do you say? Make it a date or bring your friends for a day full of shopping and fun! (Who else celebrates Galentine’s Day?) This event is known as ‘trick or treating for adults” and “a wonderful time had by all, sampling sweets and exploring all the great stores in downtown Florence”! If you love chocolate, we promise you’ll love this event!

Get your Chocolate Crawl tickets here!