Located in an area steeped in history and natural beauty, Mentone was initially developed as a quiet spa and health resort. As visitors flocked to the area, it quickly grew into a thriving town full of quaint Mentone vacation rentals and fun family activities. Here are some must-see attractions and activities to check out while you’re in the area.
1. See the Falls
The area around Mentone is home to numerous rivers and falls. The most accessible one is the 104-foot DeSoto Falls, a short, easy walk from the parking area. If you want to explore a bit more, head to Indian Falls, also located in DeSoto State Park. These falls are notable because a bridge crosses directly over the top, giving you an unusual perspective and a great view. Ruby Falls, a commercially operated cave, is another popular destination.
2. Picnic With a View
Mentone is located at the top of Lookout Mountain, but most of the best views are unfortunately located on private property. If you’re not lucky enough to find a vacation rental with a view, head over to Brow Park. This public park is right on the brow of the mountain, so you can gaze out over stunning vistas. Picnic tables and covered pavilions make it a great place to stop for a quiet family lunch.
3. Shop In a Log Cabin
The Log Cabin Craft Village is a quirky shopping center. Several old-fashioned log cabins were converted into tourist-friendly shops where you can pick up works from local artisans, sample locally grown snacks, and pick up a few more mass-produced toys and souvenirs as well. It’s conveniently located near several restaurants and grocery stores so you can make a day of it.
4. Hit the Slopes
While Alabama isn’t usually associated with skiing, a small ski resort is located just a short drive from Mentone. The Cloudmont Ski and Golf Resort offers downhill skiing during winter months with a little extra help from snow machines. If you’re just learning how to ski, group and private lessons are available. During the summer, the resort offers guided horseback rides and is home to a popular golf course.
5. Check Out a Festival
Despite its small size, Mentone is home to several popular festivals. During the spring, the Rhododendron Festival celebrates new blooms, and when leaves start changing in the fall, the town hosts its annual Colorfest. Both festivals involve plenty of live music, local artists, and regional foods to sample. During the Christmas season, admire the festive lights adorning the historic buildings, and enjoy an old-fashioned hayride or other seasonal activities.
6. Check Out the Aquarium
Chattanooga is less than an hour’s drive from Mentone, so it’s a great place to visit for a change of pace. The Tennessee Aquarium is a particularly good place to visit with kids. In addition to the standard fish, sharks, and jellyfish, it is home to lemurs, otters, penguins, and numerous other species. A peaceful butterfly garden and an IMAX 3D theater showing educational films also keep children entertained.
7. Ride the Incline Rail
With a 72.7 percent grade, the Lookout Mountain Incline Rail boasts that it is one of the steepest railways in the world. This short trip takes you from a station on Lookout Mountain to the historic Saint Elmo’s neighborhood of Chattanooga. The Incline Rail has been in operation since 1895, so the modern cars still have a quaint, old-fashioned look, along with large windows that offer stunning views of the valley below. A round trip usually lasts a total of an hour or so, including loading and unloading, so you can combine it with other experiences.
8. Take a Scenic Drive
Lookout Mountain Parkway is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful roads in the state. Its gentle curves and slopes wind around the mountain so you can take in the beautiful views as you go. Numerous scenic overlooks provide stopping points, as do locally owned restaurants and shops. The entire parkway, which runs from Chattanooga to Gadsden and passes through Mentone itself, only takes a few hours to drive, but you may want to plan additional time for exploring.
9. Go Rock Climbing
Lookout Mountain and the surrounding peaks are known for their amazing geology, which makes them a mecca for rock climbers. Rocktown Trail, located in nearby Pigeon Mountain Wildlife Management Area, is a great place for some casual climbing and bouldering. This area features oddly shaped, almost alien-looking boulders and numerous easily accessible caves to explore. Be careful when entering caves, however, as you may find animals such as bobcats living in them.
10. Take a Photo With the Band
If you’re a fan of southern rock, you may already know that the famous band Alabama is from this region. The band got its start in Fort Payne, which is only about 15 miles from Mentone. Stop in at the Alabama Fan Club and Museum to learn more about the band’s career and members. Life-size statues of the band members located in the corner of Union Park are ideal when you want to pose for photos.
11. Visit Rock City
Once famous for its ubiquitous advertisements on billboards and barn roofs throughout the south, Rock City is still a popular attraction. This park combines natural caves and formations with a bit of human-led design to create paths and gardens to explore. Younger kids may enjoy the nursery-rhyme and fairy-tale themed caves, while older kids can have a bit of adventure scampering across rock bridges and climbing to the highest lookout points.
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