By Bernie Delinski
July 6, 2009 at 3:30 a.m.
They're all around us: Pieces of history and parcels of fun.
Heart-tugging scenes, breathtaking views, lip-smacking treats and quirk-filled traditions are part of the Shoals.
They are what make us unique - and bring tourists to the area.
Yet, many of us live here our entire lives and pass up chances to experience these opportunities.
Killen resident Justus Cole said he and his family have gone to many local attractions but still have more to see.
"I don't think we've been to Helen Keller's home or saw 'The Miracle Worker' play," Cole said. "We intend to do that some day.
"In most cases, you take for granted where you're at and tend not to appreciate your home. I think that's true of pretty much anywhere people live," Cole said.
Muscle Shoals resident Jewell Howell said her grandchildren enjoy playing at Spring Park in Tuscumbia, and she enjoys W.C. Handy Music Festival events. She's seen a lot of local attractions but wants to see the Indian Mound in Florence - a place she's never visited.
"A lot of people are like me; maybe they never have the time to go to these places," Howell said. "There's a lot of tourist places right here in this area."
Debbie Wilson, director of the Florence-Lauderdale Tourism Office, has heard residents comment on area attractions they see for the first time when they take visiting relatives there.
"A lot of people don't know what's in their own backyard," Wilson said. "You hear, 'Oh, I didn't know this had that. I've been meaning to go here all these years.' "
With that in mind, here are 20 things we recommend every Shoals resident experience before they die:
1. Get a close-up look at Wilson Dam by locking through the structure.
2. Touch a miracle by feeling the water pump at Ivy Green in Tuscumbia that enlightened Helen Keller to the world of communication. If the season is right, you can experience a re-creation of that miracle during the summer production of "The Miracle Worker."
3. See the trumpet at W.C. Handy's Home in Florence, which was one of the instruments Handy used to earn the nickname "The Father of the Blues."
4. Imagine the horrific scene where countless brave, mortally wounded Confederate and Union soldiers died at a hospital and stagecoach stop that today is the historic Pope's Tavern Museum in Florence.
5. Slowly circle around and get a 360-degree bird's-eye view of the Shoals without leaving your seat atop the Renaissance Tower in Florence.
6. Sip on a milk shake at the Palace Ice Cream and Sandwich Shop in Tuscumbia.
7. Enjoy the scenic route along Waterloo Road, ultimately ending up in the beautiful town of Waterloo. You can even make a turn along the way onto the Natchez Trace Bridge.
8. Attend a funeral - or at least read the clever and heartwarming inscriptions on the tombstones - at the Coon Dog Cemetery in Colbert County.
9. Purchase something you can't find anywhere else at a local shop in one of the Shoals' historic downtowns.
10. Read the autographs from legendary musicians on the bathroom door at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. For that matter, check out FAME and other area music studios where world-famous performers have recorded.
11. Got a pair of shoes you don't need? Travel along U.S. 72 to Cherokee, where you'll find the "Shoe Tree." Nobody is certain how it started, but it's a tradition to toss a pair of shoes in the tree. Occasionally, people in need of shoes even pick off a pair.
12. Record a song at an authentic music studio at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.
13. Visit Leo III and Una, the live lion mascots at the University of North Alabama in Florence.
14. Marvel at the craftsmanship of our earliest residents by checking out arrowheads at the Indian Mound and Museum in Florence.
15. Enjoy a sandwich and dessert at Trowbridge's Ice Cream and Sandwich Bar in downtown Florence.
16. Grab a rod and reel and experience the thrill of landing a bass at Pickwick Lake, the "Smallmouth Bass Capital of the World."
17. Ride the small train and check out the waterfall and evening water show at Spring Park in Tuscumbia.
18. Take in the view from the 18th hole of the "Fighting Joe," one of a set of twin 18-hole Robert Trent Jones golf courses in Colbert County.
19. Enjoy a dinner cruise along the Tennessee River aboard one of the Shoals' newest members, the Pickwick Belle steamboat.
20. Walk alongside the Tom Hendrix Wall in Lauderdale County, built by Hendrix as a monument to his great-great-grandmother, a Yuchi Indian who was among American Indians forced to leave for an Oklahoma reservation when she was 14.
Bernie Delinski can be reached at 740-5739 or bernie.delinski@TimesDaily.com.