HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - It's almost time for students in the Tennessee Valley to put their noses to the grindstone during a new school year. Most students will start classes one week from today. So, WHNT NEWS 19 did some homework to find a few things families can do during these last few days that won't cost too much.
In fact, we found ten places that are all in Alabama and just a car drive away that would be memorable experiences and nice last-minute getaways before students hit the books.
The list included one place that's been one of the top tourist attractions in Alabama for decades and is within a few weeks of closing permanently.
It's in Dekalb County and it's Sequoyah Caverns, open for the last 49 years and visited by thousands of people each year.
It's located in Valley Head and features looking glass lakes, stalagmites, waterfalls, and writings on the walls dating back to the early 1800s.
Guided tours take about an hour...and you have through september 3rd to visit. that's when the 79-year-old owner is retiring and closing the caverns for good.
Cathedral Caverns is another option. It's part of a state park located in Marshall County featuring a karst cave with a large stalagmite forest. The Mystery River flows through the cavern and it's open for guided tours seven days a week.
Another similar environment, which has become a popular place for a nice meal, is the Rattlesnake Saloon in Tuscumbia. It's under a prehistoric rock shelter with a western flair. You can't drive up to it, but rather you must take the 'saloon taxi' from the parking lot. It's open Thursday to Saturday, serving lunch and dinner.
If shopping is your thing, The Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro promises to have something for everyone, every age and every interest. The 40,000-square foot store sells the contents of lost airline luggage, among other things. It's been featured on dozens of national television shows.
For golfers, check out the Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort and Spa. It's part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. It's the fourth longest golf course in the world and features a bagpiper who wanders the course and grounds at sunset, playing songs to call the golfers back to the clubhouse at the end of the day.
If you're praying for a good school year, consider doing so at the Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman. It's home to 125 miniature replicas of Biblical structures and world-famous buildings, all hand built by a Benedictine monk.
There are a couple of options for those who love animals. Tigers For Tomorrow in Attalla is a non-profit exotic animal park and rescue preserve, home to more than 130 animals, who are living out their lives. The park is open Wednesday through Sunday until September first, then weekends only.
And in southeast Huntsville, the Harmony Park Safari is on Clouds Cove Road and welcomes visitors in vehicles to drive through and feed all kinds of large animals there. Admission is seven dollars, but the animal slobber from curious animals is free.
If you'd rather relax on the water, the Pickwick Belle Riverboat is docked in Decatur and available for all sorts of cruises. It's a twin deck paddleboat that glides down Wheeler Lake and the Tennessee River.
Finally, there's the Walls of Jericho, if you're up to the six mile hike in Jackson County.
It's part of a trail system that leads down through the Box Canyon into the breath-taking Limestone Cathedral. If you need to take a break, you can camp out in the Clark Cemetery campsite located along the trail.
In addition to those ten spots, you may have heard of the five Great Lakes of North America. Our state has the "Eight Great Lakes of North Alabama", which are perfect for anyone who enjoys fishing.
And don't forget about the 22 state parks around the Alabama.
Each excursion can cost under $100, if you are conservative with your planning and spending. So, have fun!