Mary Johns Wilson

Author Mary Johns Wilson signs copies of her book, “100 Things to Do in Alabama Before You Die,” at the Barnes and Noble store in Tuscaloosa.

How many Alabama attractions have you visited in your lifetime? If your list isn’t that long, a new book can provide a roadmap of things to do.

“100 Things to Do in Alabama Before You Die,” by Mary Johns Wilson, is exactly as described — 100 things to see, do, eat and drink in the Yellowhammer state before your life’s journey is over. The book was published by Reedy Press.

Wilson said she decided to write the book to coincide with the state’s bicentennial.

“I thought this could be my teeny tiny little contribution to the celebration by putting into words what I think is good about the state,” Wilson said.

Coming up with 100 things wasn’t much of a challenge. Wilson has traversed virtually every part of the state through her job as director of news services for the Alabama Farmers Federation. It gave her a unique perspective. Wilson is also the co-host of “Simply Southern,” the AFF’s television show about Alabama attractions.

“It’s been a great blessing to travel across the state and find unique and memorable attractions,” she said.

Some of her book ideas hit the cutting room floor in an effort to keep only the ones she liked most or found most interesting.

“I really wanted to include the most unique or historic and things that had a superlative attached to it,” she said. “I also really wanted to feature smaller towns and rural areas, and it was my goal to get as many counties as possible.”

In an effort to highlight smaller towns, Wilson said if she had to choose between an attraction in Jefferson County or one in Barbour County, she chose the latter.

“Our small towns are just as important as our big towns,” she said. “We have people working hard there to have great businesses and tourist attractions.”

She said the publisher also chose the main categories of food and drink, and culture and history, which gave her a framework. She also solicited ideas from friends.

When asked about her own favorite attractions, Wilson said the town of Louisville and 1818 Farms are in her top three.

“I loved getting to see the old churches and learning about the post office,” she said. “1818 Farms is one of the most fun farms I’ve been to. There is so much that sets it apart from other agri-tourism-type businesses.”

Her other two top picks are Jesse’s Restaurant in Magnolia Springs and the Alabama Theatre in Birmingham, which features a large pipe organ.

Wilson didn’t labor long on the book. She contacted the publisher in March and had it completed by early June. The book was released Oct. 15. Since then, she’s been promoting the book and doing the occasional book signing.

She said she hopes the book makes people appreciate Alabama and love it the way she does.

“In my lifetime, I’ve lived in Kentucky, Mississippi and Alabama, and those are not the places people think they want to live,” she said. “No matter where you are, if you are just open to new adventures and exploring places, there’s so many good things you can do in this country, no matter where you are.”

The book, which is $18, can be purchased from Reedy Press at or from Wilson directly at

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