To break up the drive, I looked for a place to stop and stretch our legs. One of my favorite websites it www.roadsideamerica.com to look for unique and unusual sites to visit. It's on this website that I found out about the Noccalula Falls Doomed Maiden just north of Gadsden, AL.
At the top of the falls is a statue of a woman who looks like she is about to fall over the edge. According to RoadsideAmerica.com, "The legend behind the statue says that Cherokee maiden Noccalula flung herself over the falls because her father didn't like the tribe her boyfriend was from."
Ok, so the statue of this woman was not what attracted me to the stop, and I did not share the legend with my kids. What I did like was the description of the other activities offered: a train ride, hiking, and a playground.
You can access the playground and see the falls from outside the main Noccalula Falls Park area. Inside the gates of the park is where the hidden gem is found. Entry to the park is for a nominal fee and you can learn more about fees and hours here.
There is a small train that circles the entire park and includes three stops. We boarded the train at the first stop outside the visitor's center.
The next stop is the petting zoo. There were rabbits to pet as well as birds and assorted small furry creatures to view. They do have a lion in a large cage (with a double fence). The fence makes it difficult to see the lion, but it is impressive as you can walk all the way around cage assuring you will catch a glimpse of it.
Goats in the petting zoo
After the petting zoo, you can choose to walk around the Pioneer Village that shows how the settlers lived. The buildings include a cabin, livery, chicken coop, and many more for a total of around 20 buildings. There is also a covered bridge on the property.
The last stop before returning to the visitor's center included several activities. Visitors could choose to exit and play on the playground. Reentry was only allowed by the train conductor who checked for wristbands as proof of entry.
At this train stop there was also the path to walk to the falls. The sign as we climbed down the stairs to the path said it would take 2 hours to walk the whole path. I didn't see how it would take that long unless it is slow going when you start hiking behind the falls. We didn't have two hours to set aside but the views of the falls from this angle were still nice.
In total we probably spent an hour and a half here. Another hour would have been nice to explore more of the rock garden and hike the falls.