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By Kelsey Ogletree | Photo: courtesy of Gunrunner Boutique Hotel | March 26, 2018
With the arrival of its first boutique hotel and its decades-old music scene heating up, Florence is poised to become the next Nashville. Here’s where and how to weekend in the northern Alabama town.
Florence, Ala., was never a sleepy little town, but to people unfamiliar with the area’s music history, it flew under the radar. Until now, that is. In 2017, Florence earned a spot on Southern Living’s “Best Small Towns” list; then, a local businessman debuted GunRunner Boutique Hotel in August. The 10-suite hotel is a first for the entire area known as the Shoals—and it’s capturing the attention of travelers near and far.
“There was a need in the marketplace [for a boutique hotel], and I felt it was an opportunity to do something unique and create a local atmosphere,” says owner Billy Ray Casteel, who took inspiration from several sources like the six-room The 404 Hotel in Nashville, Tenn.
Don’t expect a check-in desk or room service (though you can grab a Vietnamese iced coffee or an acai bowl from hip Turbo Coffee on the ground level). Designed to give guests a high level of privacy, GunRunner only takes reservations online and by phone. In Airbnb style, you’re sent a passcode to access your room, and can come and go as you please. Chuck Leavell, Taylor Hicks and Ronnie Milsap are just a few regulars who float through the space, uninterrupted—and that’s the whole point.
To stay at GunRunner is to immerse yourself in Florence’s rich history. Each suite is branded after a local artist, entrepreneur or historic site. Among the options are the Billy Reid suite—with every detail curated by the hometown fashion designer himself, down to the custom headboard and steam shower—and the Muscle Shoals Sound suite. Some have 18-foot, New Orleans-style balconies overlooking downtown Florence, and all have luxury linens by Peacock Alley and organic bath amenities by local purveyor Reclaimed Spirit.
If you can’t decide on one room, bring your friends and opt for the Run of the House package. It includes all 10 suites, plus free reign over the 3,200-square-foot common area, adorned with vintage rugs, a cozy fireplace, a bar and guitars signed by some of GunRunner’s famous guests. Learning to strum a few chords in the very town where Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan recorded some of their greatest hits? Now that’s going local, indeed. Rooms $139-$359 per night, Run of the House from $4,000 per night, @gunrunnerhotel
More Reasons to Go
Though it’s tempting to make GunRunner your home all weekend, don’t miss out on what else Florence has to offer. Hometown girl Stacey Hudson Hammer, owner of Reclaimed Spirit, shares her top spots.
Yumm Thai Sushi and Beyond for Asian fusion in an L.A.-like atmosphere Rosie’s Mexican Cantina for homemade tortillas and Mambo Taxis (frozen margs swirled
with sangria) Trowbridge’s for pimento-cheese sandwiches and pineapple-orange ice cream
Odette for $5 martinis at happy hour, a lively atmosphere and great cocktails The Carriage Wine & Market for a glass of wine on the terrace FloBama for party vibes and late-night live music
Harper Clothing Co. for chic accessories and women’s clothing Reclaimed Spirit for one-of-a-kind art and handmade soaps Billy Reid’s flagship store for high-end menswear