When I first told my husband that I wanted us to drive down to Alabama for Eagle Awareness Weekend, he was…not as excited as I was. He thought this was going to be another one of my dorky trip ideas where I was going to geek out over learning about birds of prey while he tagged along bored to tears. SPOILER ALERT — he was soooooo wrong!
Guntersville, Alabama is located just 2.5 hours south of Nashville, in Marshall County. They are a hot spot for campers, RVers, hikers, mountain bikers, and water sports enthusiasts thanks to beautiful Lake Guntersville State Park. They are also a popular spot for bird watching thanks to the abundance of beautiful American Bald Eagles that hang out near the lake!
Eagle Awareness Weekends are an annual event, taking place in January and February at the park lodge. They offer packages that include a 2 night stay at one of their beautiful cabins or chalets, a room at the lodge hotel or a camping site. Also included are all of the fascinating birds of prey activities! On Friday evening they have a program and orientation. This program changes depending on the weekend you choose to go. When we were there, the program was on Carnivorous Plants. After the evening program, you'll want to take the kids to the lodge's main fireplace for story time with Gunter, the Eagle Awareness mascot! There, the kids will receive their scavenger hunt booklets.
For dinner on Friday we ventured into town to a little Mexican place called El Sol King Pollo. Known for their grilled chicken, house made tortilla chips and salsa…they did not disappoint! I had the fajitas and my husband had the Fajita Burrito, and both were yummy. Also yummy…the margaritas!
After all the evening fun, you'll be ready to go relax. We had the pleasure of staying in the Executive Chalet and let me just tell you…it is GORGEOUS! There was a full kitchen, dining area, living room with TV and gas fireplace, bathroom and 2 separate bedrooms. The master bedroom has a king size bed, overlooks the lake and has a private door to the rear deck. The second bedroom has 2 queen size beds and each bedroom has a closet, dresser and TV. This setup was absolutely perfect for my family of 5! My husband and I were happy to have the ability to send the kids on to bed and have lots of space to hang out and relax without worrying about waking them up. Any vacation where you can get some alone time with your honey, even when the kids are there, is a win in my book! Another bonus was the playground located right outside our door!
Saturday we woke up and headed up to the lodge for breakfast at the Pinecrest Restaurant. They offer a breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet that was super yummy and had something to please everyone. In addition, you can order off of their menu for all the traditional favorites.
Once we finished breakfast, we walked to the upstairs ballroom to learn about the different field trips going out that day. There were 3 different field trip options. We picked the guided tour out to High Falls Park. We never turn down the opportunity to see a new waterfall! Our guide was waiting outside and we all caravanned out to the park. Once there, our very informative guide spent some time telling us the history of the location and interesting things to look for once at the falls. We walked down a paved trail and without any trouble at all, we found ourselves standing right at the top of the falls! It…was…breathtaking! Our guide informed us that during the summer months, this area is a popular swimming hole thanks to the ease of access. We plan to come back some day to try it out!
After the falls, we came back to the chalet to rest and grab some lunch at the Pinecrest. The kids were excited to discover the cooler full of ice cream at the restaurant, which is included with your meal. While the teenagers kept busy playing checkers and exploring the arcade, my 5 year old and I took the time to do the lodge scavenger hunt! The booklet she received on Friday evening contained an educational scavenger hunt that had us searching around the lodge, all while learning lots of interesting birds of prey facts. Once the booklet is all filled out, you can see an Eagle Awareness Weekend guide to have it stamped and receive a special prize!
At 2:00 it was time for the afternoon program in the upstairs ballroom. We grabbed a seat and listened to Ranger David Haggard, from our home state of Tennessee, give an entertaining and informative presentation on birds of prey. He had some very special guests with him, too! Those guests included 2 types of Owls, a Red Tailed Hawk and a magnificent American Bald Eagle. The kids were in awe as the birds came around for pics and they got to see them up close!
Immediately following the program, we were invited to the craft room for a children's activity. The activity changes from week to week, but on the day we were there, they had river rocks for the kids to paint. My daughter loved picking out her rock and choosing colors for her design. I was pleased to hear that we could leave her masterpiece there and pick it up later once it had dried. Anyone who's ever had the joy of bringing home a paint covered art project, knows how appreciative I was that they thought of this for their guests!
After heading back to the chalet to wash up, we drove back into town for dinner at a fun steak and seafood spot called Crawmama's. This restaurant is the place to go for fresh, local seafood, straight from the gulf. Live music on Saturday nights on the patio and a play area for kids, makes this place a no-brainer for a fun place to take the whole family!
On Sunday, we slept in and missed the field trip to Town Creek Pier to look for Eagles. I was so sad, but we decided to head out on our own and take a shot at finding some Eagles on our own. We remembered seeing people with binoculars gathered on the bridge near the park, so that's where we started our search. There, we met some very nice folks who informed us that there were indeed 2 Eagles right across the lake! We grabbed our binoculars and in no time at all, we found them! One perched up in a tree and the other sitting on the bank. We were able to watch them flying and swooping down to grab fish from the water. It was truly remarkable and an experience my kids will never forget!
We decided to drive around the park a bit on our way out, and found an interesting little area with goats, donkeys and 2 emus! My daughter begged us to stop the car so she could get out and look at them through the fence. They were adorable! If you get a chance, be sure to make a quick stop here to check it out for yourself. You can find them just past the campground and swimming beach area.
I really can't say enough good things about Eagle Awareness Weekend at Lake Guntersville State Park. They have something fun for everyone in your family and really go out of their way to make their guests feel welcomed and comfortable during their stay. We will absolutely be coming back! You can find links below for their package deals and a schedule of the upcoming Eagle Awareness Weekends for 2018. Book your stay before they fill up!
Make reservations online: http://www.alapark.com/lake-guntersville-state-park-eagle-awareness-weekends Make reservations by phone: (256) 571-5440
2018 Eagle Awareness Weekends
January 19th – 21st
January 26th – 28th
February 2nd – 4th
February 9th – 11th
February 16th – 18th
Family Fun Facts
Lake Guntersville State Park (Map)
1155 Lodge Drive
Guntersville, AL 35976