Situated on the Cumberland Plateau, Cullman was established in the 1870s by a German immigrant named Colonel John G. Cullmann. Colonel Cullmann envisioned building a self-sustaining colony for other German immigrants and refugees. After purchasing over 5,000 acres of land, the first families arrived in 1873.
Today, Cullman is a delightful town, where charm is ever-present, and preservation is highly regarded. While quaint shops and unique eateries can be found here, the exceptional treasures of Cullman are waiting to be discovered in its three distinctive historic districts. There is the downtown district, "Die Deutsche Kolonie Von Nord Alabama" (The German Colony of North Alabama) which is comprised of mostly Victorian structures, and the residential area of Betz Addition Historic District, which boasts over 70 homes dating from the 1800s. A tour of these areas is not to be missed.
For those wanting to enjoy recreational activities, opportunities abound. Smith Lake is a popular place to enjoy the great outdoors. The lake's 500 miles of shoreline offer nice opportunities for skiing, fishing, boating and swimming. Cooling off is extra fun when catching a ride down the park's twisting waterslide. Smith Lake is well known for the Cullman County Indian Festival, held in June of every year. The Ecota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama sponsors the festival which features live music, Native American Dance and Drum, demonstrations and games. This event has been so successful, that it is now considered one of the most well respected Native American festivals in the country.
Bird lovers will appreciate the North Alabama Birding Trail. Comprised of three large loops, the trail offers bird enthusiasts a fantastic opportunity to discover not only a diversity of birds, but also the varied wildlife that call the Tennessee Valley home. Another outstanding place to roam is William B. Bankhead National Forest, just 25 miles west of Cullman on Highway 278. This nearly 200,000-acre forest contains the last stand of old-growth hardwood in the entire state. A multitude of activities are available here, including hunting, swimming, fishing, and hiking.
An interesting find is waiting for those who seek out the Clarkson Covered Bridge, which was first built in 1904 and is one of Alabama's largest. The bridge has an unusual and exciting history. Not only was a Civil War battle fought on the site that the bridge now occupies, but in 1921, a huge storm tore off half the bridge. Amazingly, the lost half was recovered down-stream, and was actually salvaged. Today, the bridge serves as the center of a park (pack a lunch- it's beautiful) and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A one-of-a-kind attraction is waiting at the Ave Maria Grotto. This four-acre, beautifully maintained park is home to 125 miniature reproductions of the world's most well-known buildings and shrines. Brother Joseph Zoettl, a Benedictine monk, created the incredible reproductions featured here. This exceptionally unique park will impress all who visit.
Cullman is located approximately 50 miles north of Birmingham, in the northern part of the state, at the intersection of Interstate 65 and Route 278.