Coastal city entices with a mix of attractions, restaurants, and more.
Mobile, Ala., is not only one of the oldest cities on the Gulf Coast, it’s one of the most well-rounded destinations in the South. The cultural and historically rich city offers a variety of outdoor and indoor activities for family vacations or a weekend getaway for two. The city houses diverse museums, eateries, and attractions. With so much to uncover, Mobile will keep you busy throughout your entire stay.
Visit the past
The city was established in 1702, and the History Museum of Mobile does a wonderful job presenting more than 300 years of history. Traveling exhibits add to the experience here. “Ark of India: An Alabama Artist Explores Southern Asia” is an account of local artist Roderick D. MacKenzie’s trips to Asia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His sculptures, paintings, drawings, and photographs are on view through Sept. 1.
Even the building that houses the museum is a part of history. Built between 1855–57, this multi-story treasure was originally used for three purposes. The top floor served as the mayor’s office and a meeting place for the city council. On the second floor, a few militia groups set up headquarters, and the Southern Market of Mobile sold a variety of meats, seafood, fruits, and vegetables on the bottom floor until 1942.
Located at 111 S. Royal St., the museum is open Tuesday–Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is free.
Fort Condé also provides an interesting look at the history of Mobile. At this replica of the 18th-century French fort, visitors can learn why six different flags have flown overhead, view historical artifacts of Native Americans and Europeans, and learn about the people who colonized Mobile. Located at 150 S. Royal St., this site is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free.
The Mobile Carnival Museum, 355 Government St., tells the story of Mardi Gras in the United States. Most consider New Orleans to be the birthplace of Mardi Gras within the United States, but it originated in Mobile in 1703. Some Mardi Gras royalty traces back several generations.
Museum visitors will find a few boldly colored, detailed floats, plus intricately designed gowns and robes, many with pieces borrowed from previous generations. The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children.
Nature and science
Adventure seekers can take a kayak or canoe trip at the 5 Rivers Delta Center, 30945 Five Rivers Blvd. The Mobile, Spanish, Blakeley, Appalachee, and Tensaw rivers flow into the bay. Other outdoor activities include airboat tours with U.S. Coast Guard-certified captains, cruises on the Southern Belle, and relaxing pontoon floats. Admission to the indoor learning center is free. It is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island provides plenty of breathtaking views throughout its 164 diverse acres that include maritime forests and a beautiful beach. The boardwalk, measuring 1,000 feet, guides you to the wharf that overlooks scenic Galliard Lake. Be sure to bring the binoculars and cameras.
Another great place is the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center, 65 Government St., in Mobile. With plenty of hands-on learning for children, this 6,500-square-foot gallery brings science to life. Children are all amazed at the 5-foot-tall beating heart exhibit. Also inside is the IMAX Dome Theater. The Exploreum is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday–Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission ranges from $10–$16.
Gulf Quest National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico has been in the works for the past few years. Exhibits will include a full-size replica of a container ship, complete with main deck, captain’s and crew’s quarters, and a bridge. While strolling through the interior of the container ship, visitors can learn all about early settlements and trade routes, shipwrecks, and Gulf animal and plant life. In addition, topics such as hurricanes and weather, marine and coastal environments, and offshore oil and gas platforms can be discovered.
At press time, the museum was slated to open later in 2015; an exact date wasn’t available. It is located at 155 S. Water St.
The annual BayFest concert series is held Oct. 2–4 this year. The musical lineup wasn’t available at press time, but last year’s headliners for the 20th anniversary festival included Ludacris, Kid Rock, Joan Jett, and Alabama.
Dining and lodging
Whether you are looking for a light snack, lunch, or dinner, Mobile has some great options in dining. For the seafood lovers, Wintzell’s Oyster House (605 Dauphin St.) can’t be beat. A Mobile landmark since 1938, they are famous for their oysters that are served “fried, stewed, or nude,” and they provide some of the freshest shrimp in town. Unique cocktails, like their signature Dragon Drink, are on hand to complement any meal. With a wide variety of kids’ meals, there is sure to be something for every palette.
For a lighter lunch or dinner, Heroes Sports Bar and Grille is a great stop. Located at 273 Dauphin St., Heroes is one of the town’s favorite places for food, sports, and fun. Po’ boy sandwiches, quesadillas, and chicken strips are on hand, paired with a variety of 10 tap beer choices and 35 bottled selections. What would a bar and grill be without hamburgers? They’re here, and they’re big.
Satisfy a sweet tooth at Three Georges Southern Chocolate, 226 Dauphin St. Try the heavenly hash: marshmallows and pecans covered in silky milk chocolate. A variety of fudges, covered pretzels, and chocolates are made fresh daily.
With more than 6,000 hotel rooms, there’s a place to overnight to match anyone’s budget. You can’t miss with Renaissance-Battle House Hotel and Spa (AAA Four Diamonds) downtown at 26 N. Royal St. Hampton Inn and Suites downtown (62 Royal St.) boasts a Three Diamond AAA rating and is close to many attractions and restaurants.
Whether traveling with your family or looking for a weekend getaway for two, Mobile offers plenty of options.
Debra Pamplin is a new contributor from Kingsland, Ga.
July/August 2015 Issue
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