If your ideal getaway includes plenty of warm weather, lakeside leisure, and a rural atmosphere, then look no further than Arley. Located in Winston County, Alabama on the edge of Bankhead National Forest, Arley offers vacationers a chance to reconnect with nature through hiking, bird watching, fishing, and much more. Book a stay at a vacation rental in Arley today. Check out the top activities in the area.

1. Get Out on the Lake With a Kayak Rental from Smith Lake Bear’s Den

If you love being out on the water, rent a kayak from Smith Lake Bear’s Den to use on Lewis Smith Lake, a man-made lake on Black Warrior River. Alternatively, bring your own kayak for use on the lake. Storage is easy if you book a vacation rental with a garage. Smith Lake Bear’s Den also has a dock for launching your own boat or jet ski, with hidden cleats for extra safety and swimming areas for enjoying the lake.

2. Watch Fine Woodworkers Create at the WoodStudio

At the WoodStudio in downtown Arley, the Cochran family artisans turn rough pieces of wood into artistic furnishings. Spend some time watching the artisans practice their craft, then browse the selections of natural wood and leather furnishings to find something to take home as a reminder of your vacation.

3. Tour Famous Shrines in Miniature at the Ave Maria Grotto

For a truly unique experience, wander the pathways at Ave Maria Grotto to view the work of Brother Joseph Zoettl displayed in a gorgeous natural setting. Brother Joseph devoted a significant portion of his time to creating intricately detailed reproductions of historic buildings, most with a faith significance. Be sure to stop in the gift shop to browse other handcrafted items, including a large selection of children’s games and puzzles.

4. Step Back in Time at Crooked Creek Civil War Museum and Park

Civil War history buffs are sure to love looking through the vast collection of Civil War memorabilia at the Crooked Creek Civil War Museum and taking the golf-cart tour through the park. Proprietor Fred Wise guides the tours, telling unforgettable stories about the historical significance of the site. Many of the items on display in the museum were unearthed right at Crooked Creek to provide a heightened sense of authenticity during the experience.

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5. Take a Trail Ride With Faye Whittemore Farms

Bankhead National Forest offers several horseback riding areas, including the 25-mile non-motorized Owl Creek Trail system, and Faye Whittemore Farms has horses for rent and tour guides to help you get started. Select from tour options for beginners or more advanced riders, then explore the beauty of the countryside, including waterfalls, creeks, and bluffs, from horseback. If you want to continue the party after your ride, on weekends, Faye Whittemore Farms occasionally offers barn dances, movies, and other entertainment in the evenings.

6. Fish for Striped Bass With the Fishing 24-7 Guide Service

Get some help making your next big catch with an experienced Lewis Smith Lake fishing guide from Fishing 24-7 Guide Service. A fishing guide helps you find the best fishing spots as well as giving you advice on lures and tactics, so maybe you can reel in one of the huge Smith Lake striped bass. Four- to eight-hour trips are available for up to six people, so bring your whole family and get some great fishing tips.

7. Enjoy Authentic Mexican Cuisine at La Plaza Bonita Mexican Restaurant

Arley is a small town without many restaurants, but a vacation rental with a kitchen makes it easy to prepare delicious meals for yourself. When you want a treat, head to La Plaza Bonita Mexican Restaurant for some great south-of-the-border flavor. Special touches, including mouthwatering homemade salsa and delectable guacamole salad, take basic Mexican fare over the top.

8. Walk Across the Natural Bridge of Alabama

Head to Natural Bridge Park for a walk across the longest natural bridge east of the Rockies. Choose a day with good weather to be sure the bridge is open to visitors. The bridge is shaded, helping it stay cool even on sunny days. With a span of 145 feet and reinforced safety railings, this attraction is suitable for every member of your party, including children. When you’re on the bridge, keep your eyes open for the Indian Face formation. Admission also includes access to hiking trails, picnic areas, gardens, and a gift shop, so make a day of it.

9. Take a Night Tour of Dismals Canyon Conservatory

For a look at a true natural wonder, sign up for a night tour of Dismals Canyon Conservatory. In addition to waterfalls, old-growth trees, and a unique canyon ecosystem, this attraction also is home to dismalites, phosphorescent insects that glow in the dark. Tour guides take you down into the canyon to see this beautiful wonder. The conservatory also has an old-fashioned soda fountain and swimming pool, perfect for cooling off on cold days. Take a look in the Country Store for gifts, old-fashioned candies, and handcrafted Indian wares.

10. Explore the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament

The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament is both a spiritual destination and a site of historical interest. Start your self-guided tour in the intricately decorated Romanesque-Gothic design Temple of the Divine Child patterned after great churches of the 13th century. Then, head to the Lower Crypt Church to see the permanent Shroud of Turin exhibit. Finish your tour with a walk around the outdoor Piazza. The Shrine requires all visitors to dress modestly and maintain a sense of quiet during its tours.

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