As many plan for spring and summer travel, itchiness for rural adventures lure families to small towns such as the ones in Randolph County. Travel search reports are yielding strong records of small town and locally owned travel experiences as COVID-19 restrictions and mandates are being dropped.
For rural Randolph County, executive director of Randolph County Economic Development Authority Bryant Whaley predicts visitor numbers in the county may soon be on the rise as the county sees growth in the job market along with the increase of “rural-living” travel advertisements.
The new Tour East Alabama website (toureastalabama.com) serves as an aid to travelers curious about attractions in rural east Alabama. The website features nine of the east-central counties including: Calhoun, Chambers, Clay, Cleburne, Coosa, Randolph, Talladega and Tallapoosa counties. The site features a range of attractions in categories of agricultural, recreational, trails and parks, museums and historic structures and motorsports.
With an abundance of sights to see and experiences to be had, a trip to rural Alabama is the right choice for tourists and locals alike.
Tourism has and continues to be a vital source of revenue in many rural towns and counties like Randolph. Gene Crouch, co-owner of the newly renovated Old Waters Inn in Wedowee, emphasizes this fact as he explains how tourism is already bringing a lot of business. “The tourism thing is huge Ð that’s the biggest industry we have here (in Wedowee),’ Crouch says. Crouch predicts fully booked summer months at the inn as tourists flow into town from visits to Lake Wedowee.
By far, Randolph county’s biggest tourism attraction is Lake Wedowee. Leisure fishing, along with tournament fishing, draws people from far and wide to the county’s peaceful and prolific lake. But lake adventures go further. Camping, hiking and bird watching opportunities are present all around Lake Wedowee. With 13 campsites around the lake and several birding trails on and near it, tourists seeking nature experiences are sure to be satisfied.
Randy Morris, owner of Wedowee Marine South, gives insight on how tourism on the lake has shaped the growth in his business. With three locations, Wedowee Marine provides storage services, gasoline, in-and-out launching, detailing, upholstery repairs, repower services and much more. As tourism increases, each location accommodates for the number of anticipated customers.
As a part of Wedowee Marine, Boondocks BBQ and Creamery provides the perfect day-on-the-lake eating options. Delicious smoked meats and premium homemade ice cream set off any lake day experience. Throughout the year, Boondocks BBQ and Creamery on the Lake and Wedowee Marine South host various bands and singers in concert. From as far as Nashville, bands and their fans make Wedowee home for the night as they enjoy concerts on the lake.
Off of the lake, the town of Wedowee has begun to pull in tourists as well. Wedowee is re-growing into the perfect downtown tourist destination as new shops fill old buildings. Now public lodging at Old Waters Inn provides pleasant accommodations for visitors downtown, just walking distance from shops and eateries that will satisfy the hometown craving, such as First Light Coffee, The Crow’s Nest, A Brand New Look and T.A. Perry Mercantile (inside Perryland).
The unique Peaceful Porch at The Parker House retail shop offers something for every one of the five senses. In addition to Peaceful Porch products, items from 27 additional vendors are assured to catch anyone’s eye, thus making The Parker House an ideal tourist destination.
A step into The Parker House – home to The Peaceful Porch Candles – is a step into history, innovation, creativity and the pleasant aroma of a home in the country. Owner Wendy Moore talks how tourism has already made an impact on the company’s growth and production. With the help of publicity through the Lake Wedowee Life Magazine, which targets non-locals, and social media platforms, Moore says she can already see growth in her business and how tourism is making it a prominent destination.
As visitor numbers have grown, Moore has partnered with the local Miss Amber’s Cafe to make food services readily available to tourists as they stop to shop. Now as tourists plan a visit to the Parker House, they can take advantage of quick food service even when Miss Amber’s Cafe is closed. Whether they plan to enjoy a pre-prepped meal on the porch or take it to go, tourists are guaranteed the best of both experiences.
Right across the street is Lake Wedowee Winery – home to the “finest wine around.” Owner Scott Bayliss says tourism has already begun to make the nine-month old winery a marked destination in Wedowee. In under a year of operation, the winery has welcomed guests from over 23 states in the U.S. and five countries/territories including, Canada, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Chile and Cuba.
Whether it’s for seasonal wine specials and charcuterie samples, wine slushies, sweet Moscato’s or a dry Cabernet, Lake Wedowee Winery will satisfy the chic wine cravings of tourists far and wide. In addition to top quality wine, the Lake Wedowee Winery also serves as an entertainment spot on occasion as they host live bands and local food trucks, including Lynnie Bo’s and Kaj’s Steakburgers.
Although visitor numbers will soon be on the rise, Bayliss says he wants to maintain the high quality, small town style. For Bayliss, expanding the winery in ways other than nationwide and international shipping, means losing the personable touch he and his wife Brooke have with local customers and tourists alike.
Other places of interest in the area include the “Welcome to Wedowee” mural. The mural is a part of the county mural trail which currently includes three murals – one in downtown Roanoke and the other in Woodland.
Apart from Wedowee, tourists have the opportunity to enjoy other shopping, eating and nature experiences throughout the rest of Randolph County. To list a few places of interest, the new Red C Cafe in Wadley provides a variety of beverages, and breakfast and lunch items ideally combined with the rural yet urban-downtown atmosphere. A visit to Main Street in downtown Roanoke provides various shopping opportunities, such as the century-old M.L. Awbrey, as well as local boutiques, such as Sweet Melissa’s Boutique and Ressa’s Unique Boutique. Experience it all in Randolph County.