While we tend not to search out all the commercial attractions when we're traveling- I have to admit, sometimes we really enjoy going with the flow and following the masses en route to the local tourist traps. But more likely, you'll find us at totally out-of-the-way quirky attractions that are off the beaten path and often absolutely FREE!
Not only the very first outing we went on with friends in Alabama, but also one of our favorite outings, Cherokee Rock Village is certainly off the beaten path. Known as a great place to rappel, among the huge house-size boulders are many nooks, crannies and caves to explore. Unfortunately, vandals have spray-painted some of the amazing formations, leaving their own unpleasant marks. The irresponsible behavior also extended to the on site porta-pots which we found tipped over and rather disgusting. My advice? Stop at a service station just before your arrival for a potty break and take plenty of water so you don't have to cut your trip short. Whatever you do, don't forget your camera! Read more about our trip here.
After visiting the well known cottage, Ivy Green, birthplace of Helen Keller, we drove about a half hour through the Alabama countryside to the Key Underwood Coon Dog Cemetery, the only cemetery of its kind in the world. While visiting, we enjoyed reading both the comical and heartfelt epitaphs on the graves of the once beloved hunting companions. Free, and not to miss if you like that sort of thing...and if you like movies, you may notice that the cemetery was referred to in the movie Sweet Home Alabama with Reece Witherspoon and Matthew McConaughy. You can read more about it here.
Finally, though not free, Ave Maria Grotto is one of those unique not-to-be-missed attractions that is well known in these parts. You can read all about our trip to the St. Bernard Monastery where we learned about the inspiring art of Brother Joseph- a monk that spent much of his life at the monastery recycling trash into treasured miniatures of well-known buildings throughout the world with a touch of whimsy every now and then. And if you're passing through with your RV, you'll find plenty of space to park your rig. So pull over, stretch your legs, take a tour and enjoy a picnic followed by a leisurely walk along the grounds of the monastery.