Celebrating Black History Month can look different for everyone, but one of our favorite ways to recognize and honor this special time is to prioritize supporting Black business owners. We’ve created a weekend itinerary highlighting just some of the amazing Black-owned businesses right here in Tuscaloosa County.

Let’s just say you come into town on a Friday and get settled in to where you’re staying between mid and late afternoon. If you want to check out a few downtown spots before dinner, we know just where to send you.

Walking around Tuscaloosa’s Downtown area is a wonderful experience on any day, but if you can make your stroll while drinking a fresh-made smoothie from The Veganish Market, that’s a real treat. The Veganish menu caters not only to the vegan community but also to vegetarians, pescatarians, flexitarians, and those transitioning into a plant-based lifestyle.

On your walk downtown, it’s worth your while to pop in the Paul R. Jones Museum. Paul Raymond Jones (1928-2010) was considered by many to be one of the top 100 art collectors in the country. Jones donated thousands of pieces to the College of Arts and Sciences at The University of Alabama to preserve the legacy of African American artists. The Paul R. Jones Museum is also a classroom for the arts, where students from kindergarten to college experience learning in a new and exciting environment. 

From there, you’re only blocks away from one of Tuscaloosa’s newest Black-owned businesses. Only Ones is retail store backed by Chicago White Sox star and Tuscaloosa native Tim Anderson. The shop is a great place to find unique and stylish casual wear.

Now it’s dinner time, and boy do we have a treat for you. One of Tuscaloosa’s most popular restaurants is Urban Bar and Kitchen. USA Today named UBK one of the 47 best restaurants in the entire country for 2024! Their motto is, “This must be the place,” and it is! This is one of those places where everything is good: seafood, pasta, salads, handhelds…all of it! We recommend you start with the Bacon Bombs for an appetizer, the UBK Pasta and / or the salmon for entrees, and end your meal on a sweet note with their White Chocolate Bread Pudding.

If you’re not ready for bed just yet, Cutter’s Cigars in Northport offers an upscale lounge experience. Enjoy a delicious cocktail along a fine cigar from the extensive Cutter’s collection.

If you’re an early riser, we suggest hitting the Tuscaloosa Farmers Market first thing Saturday morning. Visit locally Black-owned businesses such as Poppin’ Sisters, Araya Sunshine Candle Company, Blessed Bites, and more. You can even grab some breakfast while you’re there!

Now it’s time to explore! The state of Alabama has a rich Civil Rights history, with some of those chapters coming from here in the Druid City. The downtown portion of the Tuscaloosa Civil Rights History Trail is walkable. It focuses on events surrounding “Bloody Tuesday” and much more. On Tuesday, June 9, 1964, one year after Gov. George C. Wallace, Jr.’s “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door” at the University of Alabama failed to block the arrival of two Black students, a group of peaceful citizens gathered at the First African Baptist Church to march to the new courthouse in protest of its segregated features. Ignoring warnings not to march by local law enforcement, hundreds followed the leader of the movement in Tuscaloosa and pastor of First African, Rev. T. Y Rogers, Jr., and hit the streets. They didn’t get very far. Police and members of the Ku Klux Klan attacked the marchers as they spilled out of the church, swinging night clubs and cattle prods and firing tear gas into the church itself. Many of the wounded were treated at the nearby Howard-Linton Barbershop. Thirty-three were sent to Druid City Hospital; ninety-four were arrested and jailed. All charges were subsequently dismissed, but no formal apologies were ever issued. You can find out more information about the trail by visiting their website here.

After taking in the history Downtown Tuscaloosa has, you’ve probably worked up an appetite.

Here’s where you have the hard choice between Archibald’s and Catfish Heaven.

The staff at Archibald’s serves their primary fare with bread and a choice of two sides—fried green tomatoes offer a tangy counterpoint to fried catfish, and slaw adds a creamy balance to the spicy flavors of half-chickens and hot wings.

Located in Tuscaloosa’s historic West End only a few minutes from the University of Alabama, sits Catfish Heaven. You can’t miss their bright yellow building! Staying true to its name, the restaurant is famous for its catfish, but also their wings!

A pro-tip from us would be to choose one of these staples for lunch and the other for dinner! Keep in mind, Catfish Heaven closes at 7:00 pm central.

Ladies, if you’re looking to a little more shopping, step inside Thrifty Charm Boutique. With a love for unique fashion, this boutique offers a range of beautiful and quality pieces at affordable prices. Whether you’re looking for a stylish outfit for a night, out or a comfortable yet chic look for everyday wear, Thrifty Charm Boutique has you covered!

Tuscaloosa is home to two Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Stillman College and Shelton State Community College. You can schedule tours on their campuses through their linked websites.

After all this walking and touring, you are likely ready to sink into some relaxation.  A Gray”ceful Touch Massage & Yoga offers a variety of therapeutic massages and yoga classes that will have you thanking yourself for booking them!

On your way out of town, we highly recommend taking a little piece of Tuscaloosa with you. Whether it’s savory or sweet, you’ll find just that at Bobbie’s Bakery. They’re are a family-owned bakery and catering service. The motto there is, “Nothing fancy, just good Southern cooking!” 

Supporting Black-owned businesses like these all year promotes diversity, uplifts representation, increases visibility, and stimulates economic development.

More Black-Owned Businesses in our area can be found here.

Thank you to our partners at the Bryant Conference Center for sponsoring this content!

Tuscaloosa, AL – Visit Tuscaloosa (Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports) has named Josiah “Robins” Bonner III the new senior sports sales and event development manager, effective February 26, 2024.

Bonner interned with the agency in 2019 while a student at The University of Alabama and made significant contributions to the Druid City Music Festival. After receiving a B.S. degree in 2020, he spent four years working in sports and events management. He was part of the Bruno Event Team that helped put on the World Games 2022 in Birmingham.

During the past two years, Bonner has traveled the United States and throughout Canada working alongside, and overseeing, the management of a variety of sporting events. He also has taken the initiative to familiarize himself with the sports tourism industry and has consulted with organizations such as the Huntsville Sports Commission, where he assisted with the development of bid proposals.

“We are excited to welcome Robins to the Visit Tuscaloosa team,” said Kelsey Rush, Visit Tuscaloosa president and CEO. “Sports and events play a vital role in our organization’s mission and in keeping the Tuscaloosa area vibrant. Robins is well suited to help continue the tradition of welcoming a robust sports tourism landscape to our community.”

As senior sports sales and event development manager for Visit Tuscaloosa, the community’s destination marketing organization, Bonner will lead the organization’s efforts to attract and host sporting events across Tuscaloosa County. He also will assist with the creation and planning of new events and the marketing of emerging sports-related attractions.

“I am thrilled to be joining the Visit Tuscaloosa team,” Bonner said. “Tuscaloosa holds a special place in my heart and I could not be happier to be in a position to give back to a community and county that has played such a major part in my life.”

Born in Mobile, Ala., Bonner later moved to Tuscaloosa and graduated from Tuscaloosa Academy before attending UA.

Thank you to our partners at Bryant Conference Center for sponsoring this content!

The historic homes in Tuscaloosa are beautiful all year round, but there’s something very special about touring them when they’re draped with holiday splendor this time of year.

Five properties in the Druid City are maintained by the local preservation society Historic Tuscaloosa: The Old Tavern, Battle – Friedman House, Jemison- Van de Graaff Mansion, McGuire- Strickland House and Murphy African American Museum.

Built in 1827 by local inn keeper William Dunton, The Old Tavern has been home to a tavern, a stagecoach inn, and a residence. After being moved from its original location in 1966, today it’s located at 500 Nicks Kids Avenue in Tuscaloosa.

The Battle-Friedman House was built in 1835 by plantation owner and railroad investor Alfred Battle. During that time, Tuscaloosa was the state capitol. The house’s grounds include the only remaining documented antebellum greenhouse in the state of Alabama. The house is located at 1010 Greensboro Avenue in Tuscaloosa.

The Jemison- Van de Graaff Mansion is located at 1305 Greensboro Avenue in Tuscaloosa.

The first-of-its-kind in the area mansion was designed and built by Alabama senator Robert Jemison, Jr. between 1859-1862. This home was built with luxuries that were unimaginable to most during this time. It had the first built-in bathtub in the state and was also the first house equipped with an indoor toilet.

Tuscaloosa became an incorporated town in 1819, the same year Alabama became a state. The McGuire-Strickland House was constructed the following year for the county’s first probate judge, Moses McGuire. It still stands as the oldest wooden framed home in Tuscaloosa. It was originally located at the corner of Greensboro Avenue and 15th Street.

Around 1970, the home was moved from that location to Capitol Park where it is used today as part of the Capitol School.

The Murphy-Collins House is the home of the Murphy African American Museum.

​Will J. Murphy was Tuscaloosa’s first licensed black mortician. The two-story bungalow located on Paul W. Bryant Drive was built in the early 1920s as Murphy’s private residence. The home was built with parts and pieces of Tuscaloosa history. The old state capitol building had burned in 1923 just a few blocks away. Bricks and even windowsills were salvaged from the former capitol and used in the house’s construction.

Today, the landmark is a museum that highlights the lifestyles of affluent blacks during the early 1900s.

If you’d like to learn more about these historic homes in Tuscaloosa, there are free tours offered at three of the five locations every Tuesday-Saturday.​

​Visitors will first tour The Old Tavern at 1:30 p.m. on each of those days. That tour is followed by the Battle-Friedman House at 2:30 p.m. and then the Jemison-Van De Graaff Mansion at 3:30 p.m.

The Murphy-Collins House is open for tours by appointment only. Those interested in touring the museum may call (205) 758-2861.

Since the McGuire-Strickland House operates as The Capitol School, it is only open for tours during special occasions.

This is a list you’ll definitely want to check twice! Tis’ the season for all holiday happenings throughout Tuscaloosa County. Whether you want to deck the halls at Dickens Downtown or love the lights at Lake Lurleen’s Santa in the Park, your presents is requested at the following:

Tinsel Trail Grand Opening
Come see Santa, listen to holiday tunes, and enjoy refreshments while you get a first look at the beautifully decorated trees of Tuscaloosa’s Tinsel Trail.
When: Monday, Nov. 27 from 5:30-7:30 PM
Where: Government Plaza
Website: ttowntinsel.com
Cost: This event is free to the public.

Holidays on the Plaza
Get ready to twirl on ice at the City of Tuscaloosa’s ice-skating rink. Holidays on the Plaza is back in downtown Tuscaloosa! Join us for a winter wonderland of fun featuring outdoor ice skating and the dazzling Tinsel Trail benefitting Tuscaloosa’s One Place.
When: Nov. 24 to Jan. 15
Where: Government Plaza
Cost: Admission is free, Skating passes are $15
Website: https://holidaysontheplaza.com/

All is Bright
Spend time with Santa, enjoy a live holiday performance, and welcome the “snow!” Midtown Village is also the headquarters for Santa’s Mailbox. Kids can drop off letters to Santa throughout the season.
When: November 30 from 6:00-8:00 PM
Where: Midtown Village
Cost: This event is free to the public.
Website: https://midtownvillagetuscaloosa.com

Halaritas
Halaritas is longstanding holiday concert tradition at the University of Alabama’s school of music.
Students showcase their talents in pieces from various music genres and time periods.
When: Friday, Dec. 1 at 7:30 PM
Sunday, Dec. 3 at 2:30 PM
Where: Moody Music Concert Hall
Cost: $5.00 -$15.00
Website: https://ua.universitytickets.com/w/event.aspx?id=5613

Elf Jr.
Tuscaloosa Children’s Theatre presents Elf The Musical JR. Buddy, a young orphan, mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag of gifts and is transported to the North Pole. The would-be elf is raised, unaware that he is actually a human, until his enormous size and poor toy-making abilities cause him to face the truth.
When: 12/01/2023 | 07:00 pm – 09:00 pm
12/02/2023 | 02:00 pm – 04:00 pm
12/02/2023 | 07:00 pm – 09:00 pm
12/03/2023 | 02:00 pm – 04:00 pm
Where: Bama Theatre
Cost: $20 -Premium seats (first 10 rows center aisle), $15 – Adults, $10 – Students and seniors
Website: https://tuscaloosachildrenstheatre.net/tickets

Santa in the Park
There is plenty of room for Santa to park his sleigh at Lake Lurleen State Park! You’ll drive into a decorated winter wonderland as you enter the park grounds for the second annual Santa in the Park. Park your car and walk up to Santa’s workshop for a visit with the jolly ol’ man himself.
When: Friday, Dec. 1 at 6:00 PM
Saturday, Dec 2 at 6:00 PM
Friday, Dec. 8 at 6:00 PM
Saturday, Dec 9 at 6:00 PM
Where: Lake Lurleen State Park
Cost: This event is free to the public.

Tinsel Trail Pet Night:
Here’s your chance to include your furry family members in the holiday cheer!
Bring your four-legged friends to Tinsel Trail for festive pics and to meet local pet partners.
When: Sunday, Dec. 3 from 3:00-5:00 PM
Where: Government Plaza
Website: ttowntinsel.com
Cost: This event is free to the public.

47th Annual West Alabama Christmas Parade
There’s something magical about bundling up and lining the streets of Tuscaloosa to watch the tree lighting at the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse followed by the West Alabama Christmas Parade. This year’s theme of, “A Hometown Christmas” suits our community well.
When: Monday, Dec. 4, Tree Lighting: 5:15, Parade: 6:30
Where: Downtown Tuscaloosa
Website: https://www.tcpara.org/west-alabama-christmas-parade
Cost: This event is free to the public.

Dickens Downtown
Take a step back in time with this local favorite holiday event. Dickens Downtown takes place in the cobblestone streets of historic downtown Northport. Event goers are even encouraged to dress in Dickens-era clothing. You won’t find Santa at this event, but Father Christmas will be there to see all the boys and girls.
When: Tuesday, Dec. 5, 6:00 PM
Where: Downtown Northport
Cost: This event is free to the public.

Tuscaloosa Retail Trail
Get a jump start on your holiday shopping along the Tuscaloosa Retail Trail. Join downtown merchants for specials during their holiday open houses. Grab a bingo card to be entered into giveaways!
When: Thursday, December 7, 5:00-8:00 PM
Where: Downtown Tuscaloosa
Cost: This event is free to the public.

The Nutcracker
The Tuscaloosa Community Dancers continue their tradition of annual performances of The Nutcracker. Watch local dancers of all ages take the stage to perform this Christmas classic.
When: Thursday, Dec. 7 at 7:00 PM
Friday, Dec. 8 at 7:00 PM
Saturday, Dec. 9 at 10:00 AM and 5:00 PM
Sunday, Dec. 10 at 2:00 PM
Where: Bama Theatre
Cost: $16.00-$30.00
Website: https://www.etix.com/ticket/o/9232/tuscaloosacommunitydancers

Tinsel Trail Ugly Sweater Night
You better not pout about this fun theme! Break out those ugly sweaters and head on over to Tinsel Trail for holiday games, contests and more!
When: Friday, Dec. 8 from 5:00-8:00 PM
Where: Government Plaza
Website: ttowntinsel.com
Cost: This event is free to the public.

Christmas Afloat
Get ready to roll on the Black Warrior River with Tuscaloosa’s Christmas Afloat Lighted River Parade! There won’t be a tree lighting but fireworks will brighten up the sky!
When: Saturday, Dec. 9
Where: Black Warrior River
Cost: This event is free to the public.

Amahl & the Night Visitors – UA Opera Theatre
This beloved annual offering tells the tale of the young boy Amahl who sees a special star and is curious about its meaning. He is met by three kings on their way to worship a new-born child, and belief leads to healing and love for him and his devoted mother. This warm and winning holiday presentation is perfect for all audiences, and special arrangements are made for children to meet Amahl and his sheep, and the three glorious kings.
When: Sunday, Dec. 10 from 3:00-5:00
Where: Bryant- Jordan Hall
Website: https://opera.music.ua.edu/2023-2024-season/

Home for the Holidays
The Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra will play their annual holiday concert featuring The Alabama Choir School, The Prentice Concert Chorale and The Shelton Singers.
When: Sunday, Dec. 12 at 7:00 PM
Where: Moody Concert Hall
Website: https://www.tsoonline.org/20222023-season

Tinsel Trail Family Night
Fa-la-la-la family! Load up your crew for a fun-filled evening at Tinsel Trail complete with Santa, activities, and refreshments.
When: Friday, Dec. 15 from 4:00-6:00 PM
Where: Government Plaza
Website: ttowntinsel.com
Cost: This event is free to the public

Don’t forget to check back with our events calendar for even more going on in Tuscaloosa!

Thank you to our partners at Buffalo Rock Pepsi for sponsoring this content!

When thinking of trick or treating, many of us go back to walking from house to house in our Halloween costumes grabbing a handful of candy at each residence.

And there’s nothing wrong with that…. BUT if you’re looking for something different and a little less traditional this year, carve some time out to take your family to one of these out-of-the box Halloween experiences right here in Tuscaloosa County.

Lake Lurleen State Park

Let’s get this party startled and head to Lake Lurleen State Park, which is a 20-minute drive from Downtown Tuscaloosa. Every year, the park staff boo-tifully decorates the campgrounds and welcomes families from around the area to take part in their spook-tacular Camp Fear. Campers pull all their skeletons out of their closets and stick them in front of their rigs to decorate for trick or treaters. Games and hayrides will be on site for additional fall fun!

This year, goons and goblins under 12 gain admission to the park for just $2.00. Ghouls and ghosts 12 and over, pay $4.00 each.

Trick or Treat at Lake Lurleen is taking place on October 28, 2023, from 6:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m.

Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park

If you just can’t wait until Halloween for your fall fix, Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park has been offering haunted hay rides every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in October beginning at 6:00 each evening. Hayrides are $5.00 per rider. First come, first serve by the train station.

If you you’re looking for an all-afternoon Halloween happening, Tannehill has you covered with their 32nd annual Halloween traditions.

The Fairyland portion of the day is from 1:00 p.m. until 4:00. It’ll be love at first fright while you enjoy live music, carnival rides, face painting, petting zoos and more.

When it comes to trick or treating at Tannehill, their campers do it BIG! In fact, there are bragging rights at stake each year for the best campsite decorations. Many families return to the state park each year, paying months of campsite fees to create their extravagant themes.

Trick or treating begins at Tannehill at 5:00 p.m. on October 28th. Adults may enter the park for $5.00 each, children 6-11 are $4.00, and those 5 and under get in free.

The Tannehill campsite decorations will remain open for viewing all month.

Payments can be made for both October 28 events at the parks’ respective gates.

Here’s to some happy campers and trick or treaters!

Photo Credits:
Trailer display at Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park from The Western Star News

Campsite decorations at Lake Lurleen State Park from Alabama State Parks

Thank you to our partners at Westgate Luxury Condominiums for sponsoring this content!

Fleet Feet

Fleet Feet is a locally owned business located in downtown Tuscaloosa. It offers exceptional deals on merchandise while encouraging customers with quality service and education on how to get the most out of their shoes. The staff at Fleet Feet are veteran runners who are truly passionate about the community and want to help as many people as they can pursue the sport. Each staff member is trained in lower leg and foot biomechanics, specializing in proper shoe fit and gait analysis.

To put it simply, the staff are experts and will ensure that the shoe fits your foot perfectly. Besides shoes, the store also offers apparel and accessories from multiple brands.  Fleet Feet Tuscaloosa currently has more than 100 five-star reviews on Google, and with it being in the middle of town, there’s no better place to take your first step into running!

Shop here: https://www.fleetfeet.com/s/tuscaloosa/

Wagner’s RunWalk

Wagner’s has been serving Tuscaloosa for 70 years, making it a trusted and reliable source for your running needs since 1953! Because of this, Wagner’s RunWalk prides themselves on their expertise in the latest trends while providing old-fashioned customer service. 

One of the greatest parts of Wagner’s is their 3D scanner that will give a full model of your feet so they can get the absolute best choice for you. They also offer appointments to further analyze, but no appointment is required. Whether you’re just getting into running, a pro, or just looking for a pair of comfortable shoes, Wagner’s RunWalk is the reliable choice for your needs! 

Shop here: http://www.wagnersrunwalk.com/

Dick’s Sporting Goods

A very popular sporting goods chain, Dick’s offers many options for footwear and running outerwear at a great price. The store is brimming with styles of shoes and clothing across multiple brands, and with so much gear to choose from, you’re sure to find just the right style for you!

Dick’s also offers trained staff who are available to help you find the right-fitting shoe and the best discounts on running goods. They also offer other essential products for running, such as water bottles, energy chews, and more!

Visit them here: https://www.dickssportinggoods.com/

Academy Sports + Outdoors

Academy is mainly known for their outdoor goods, but don’t let that fool you, they offer great selections in both running shoes and apparel! Especially with how much is on sale, Academy offers plenty of affordable options, making it a great gateway into running. Academy also offers a wide variation of brands with trained staff willing to help you differentiate which brand meets your needs and fits your style. On top of this, they also offer many clothing options boasting The University of Alabama’s iconic crimson red and iconic script A, so you can run in real style! 

Check it out here: http://academy.com

Thank you to our partners at Bryant Conference Center for sponsoring this content!

Welcome to Starkville: Mississippi’s College Town!

We’re excited for a fun SEC matchup, and we’re glad you’re making the trip from Tuscaloosa. An evening kickoff means you have all day to experience everything Starkville has to offer – from the Cotton District to the Community Market.

Kickstart your morning at one of our popular breakfast spots. NutriGroove is a local favorite for delicious smoothies, teas, bagels, wraps and toasts. The, you can head to The Coffee Depot for one of their signature lattes or espressos. They also serve smoothies, cookies, and other sweet treats.

(NUTRIGROOVE)


Next, it’s time to shop for fall weather essentials at some of the South’s finest boutiques. Stop by B-Unlimited for t-shirts and accessories with Starkville flare or find the perfect gameday outfit at LA Green, a lifestyle boutique offering the latest in women’s fashion.

 (LA GREEN)

Before you make your way to The Junction for tailgating, stop by the Cotton District to refuel with food and beverage. Little Dooey’s has been a staple in our community for over 25 years. You’ll find some of the best barbeque, burgers and catfish around – as well as an experience you won’t forget.

 (LITTLE DOOEY’S)

There are plenty of bars to choose from in Mississippi’s College Town. Tucked in an alley behind Restaurant Tyler, The Guest Room might be Starkville’s best kept secret. They offer an intimate, seated experience, and feature one of the largest bourbon selections in the state. If you’re more of the cold-beer-and-pizza type, look no further than Dave’s Dark Horse Tavern.

(Dark Horse Tavern)

No weekend in Starkville is complete without tailgating and visiting Mississippi State University. Make sure to head to The Junction, directly across from Davis Wade Stadium. Have a sweet treat at the MAFES Sale Store (or get some cheese to-go), less than a five-minute walk from the stadium. We recommend the muscadine ripple ice cream and Edam cheese!

We’re so glad to have you in Starkville for the weekend. Our home is your home – and we hope to see you again! For more information on where to shop, eat, play and stay, visit us online at https://www.starkville.org, and connect with us on our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Be sure to download the Visit the SEC pass to check in and earn points towards prizes while you are in Starkville: Mississippi’s College Town!

Editor’s Note: This blog is part of the SEC Blog Exchange facilitated by the Cities of the SEC partnership. You can enjoy all of the communities SEC schools call home and earn prizes. Check out VisittheSEC.com to find out more.

A Tuscaloosa agency received state-wide accolades for its many contributions to the post pandemic rebound of travel and tourism in Tuscaloosa County.

Visit Tuscaloosa, the destination marketing organization charged with promoting Tuscaloosa, Northport, and Tuscaloosa County, won the Alabama Tourism Department’s Tourism Organization of the Year for 2023. The award was presented on Aug. 28, 2023 at The Grand Hotel in Point Clear during the Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism.

Visitors spent $895 million in Tuscaloosa County during the 2022 calendar year, a 19.5% increase from the previous year. In the 12-month period ending in August, hotel revenue was up 10.5% over the previous year.

Kelsey Rush, president and CEO of Visit Tuscaloosa, attributed the award and recent tourism success to daily efforts by the agency and collaborating partners to enhance Tuscaloosa’s public image as a dynamic place to live, work, play, and visit.

“I am beyond excited for Visit Tuscaloosa to be recognized with this prestigious award.  Our team is passionate about sharing the spirit of Tuscaloosa County and work day-in and day-out to create a harmony of quality of place for our visitors and quality of life for our residents,” said Rush. “I am proud of our team and their efforts that led to this award, as well as the partners that help make Tuscaloosa the community that it is.”

According to the Alabama Tourism website, this is the first time Visit Tuscaloosa has won the Tourism Organization of the Year award, which has been given annually since 1998. In 2007 and 2011, when the agency was known as Tuscaloosa CVB, it was recognized for the Tourism Partnership of the Year. Jasmine Rainey, who currently serves as Director of Tourism, was given the Rising Star award in 2019.

Visit Tuscaloosa’s diverse efforts include bringing association meetings and conferences to the area, facilitating large group tours, providing support to large gatherings such as reunions, recruiting athletic events, and developing new experiences that enhance the experience economy for both residents and visitors.

In 2022, Visit Tuscaloosa hosted or contributed to 94 events, up from 55 the previous year. In 2023 the agency has already hosted the inaugural Tuscaloosa Restaurant Week and will bring Tuscaloosa Oktoberfest back to downtown on October 28.

The agency also dedicates time and resources to raising Tuscaloosa’s visibility, appealing to leisure travelers, meeting and event planners, and potential economic investment, among others. Interested parties can learn more about Tuscaloosa County, its events, things to do and attractions by following Visit Tuscaloosa on social media or signing up for their newsletter at visittuscaloosa.com.

Traveling is tricky when you have to avoid gluten. 

Sometimes it can take hours of research and pluck the fun of spontaneity right out of the day when exploring a new city. 

I get it, and I want to help solve that for your visit to Tuscaloosa. 

As a resident with Celiac, I want to walk you through the best gluten-free options T-Town has to offer to make your dining experience a wonderful part of — if not the best part of — your visit! 

Also, you probably already do this, but no matter how well I know the restaurant and their staff, I communicate my dietary restrictions with our server every time, just in case there are any menu updates or ingredient substitutions the kitchen is working with for the day. 

Now, let’s get to the good stuff. 

Start Your Day Right

A hearty breakfast is the best way to kick off your stay in Tuscaloosa. Another Broken Egg Cafe offers many selections, but my hands-down favorite are their lemon blueberry goat cheese pancakes, made gluten free, with hot cups of rich coffee while enjoying a morning on the porch overlooking the Black Warrior River is hard to beat. While their online menu makes you wonder if I’m lying, be sure to ask for the GF menu when you get there. The servers are always happy to go over the selections with me.

A relative new-comer to the Tuscaloosa scene, Just Love Coffee Cafe has some tasty womelettes (omelettes cooked in a waffle iron) to choose from. They have a gluten friendly disclaimer prominently displayed on their overhead menu, but they always double check and use a clean machine when I’ve let them know I’m celiac. 

Looking for a great cup of coffee and something light like granola? Monarch Espresso Bar’s homemade granola is perfect in a bowl with your favorite way to enjoy coffee. These folks understand gluten free. We’ll catch up with their other local business for dessert!

Do Break for Lunch

Antojitos Izcalli consistently ranks at the top of the lists for best Latin food in Alabama for good reason. You absolutely can’t go wrong with their authentic Mexican tacos, sopes and cold horchata. 

When I want a light but filling lunch, I head to Hooligans for their Greek salad with grilled chicken. The Alhaija family has been serving their American-Mediterranean mix to Tuscaloosa for more than 20 years. They’re happy to accommodate but remind them no pita. 

Sometimes nothing hits like sushi, and Ichiban Japanese Grill is THE place to go. Their online menu even includes a box on each item to let them know your dietary needs. Owner Hiu-Tung is likely the first person to greet you at the counter where she rolls the sushi and makes some great suggestions. If you like a little heat, you can’t go wrong with the spicy escolar and the Adam rolls. 

Even chains like Mellow Mushroom and Five Guys are upping their game in the gluten aware department. Both of these restaurants have local management that get it and regularly take the extra precautions to deliver a safe dining experience.

Enjoy Local Taps

As the popularity of craft beer breweries and taprooms grow, Tuscaloosa is not being left behind. Loosa Brews is the best place to find something for everyone’s taste, and they have dedicated gluten free tap lines with a cider and a mead always ready to go.  

Delight in Dinner

A great option for a delicious dinner or a special occasion is DePalma’s Italian Cafe. Don’t be dismayed by their online menu; the servers and management are wonderful about walking you through menu options and accommodations to make your meal gluten free. Pesto stuffed mushrooms and the gorgonzola steak melt with a delicious glass of wine. 

For more casual dining, Mr. Chen’s offers authentic Chinese cuisine with all of its salty spiciness and robust flavors. Check with your server if your favorite dish can be made adjusted and enjoy! We love to split gluten free versions of the cumin lamb and basil chicken.

Dessert Is Back

Moonshot Creamery (same owners as Monarch Espresso Bar) does gluten free so well without needing to ask, that it made me tear up on our first visit. Fresh ice cream scoops with each dip to avoid cross contamination, clearly stated safe flavors on a handout at the counter, and a gluten free cone option to boot — do NOT miss these guys and their amazing flavors!

I confess that I have not made it to Forté yet, but I have it on good authority from Chef Jacob Stull himself that they take care of their gluten free guests. Friends have raved about the Noel soufflé and the chocolate marquise paired with one of the restaurant’s own craft cocktails for a special treat. 

Late Night Bites

There’s no excuse to sleep on the late night scene in Tuscaloosa. SoCal Cantina keeps tasty drinks and tacos flowing until the early hours. And if you’re really craving a pub favorite, grab the carne asada fries. Everything is gluten free except the burrito tortillas, and they don’t go in the fryer. 

What about Groceries? 

My happy place is often in the kitchen, cooking seasonal ingredients plucked from markets and shops local to the regions I visit. If you’re staying in a short-term rental while visiting Tuscaloosa and plan to do some of your own cooking, Manna Grocery & Deli is a great one-stop shop for many gluten free and natural items you might need. They also stock meats and vegetables from local farms if you miss the farmer’s market on Saturday mornings. 

Enjoy your stay in Tuscaloosa, and let us know how we can help!

A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:

I moved to Tuscaloosa in 2009 and was diagnosed with Celiac in 2012. I love to travel and try new foods along the way, and I know firsthand how those two things don’t always get along.

I want to welcome you to our city and offer some friendly help on the best gluten-free options T-Town has to offer to make your dining experience a wonderful part of — if not the best part of — your visit!

Also, no matter how well I know the restaurant and their staff, I communicate my dietary restrictions with our server every time, just in case there are any menu updates or ingredient substitutions the kitchen is working with for the day. Be sure to speak up for yourself and welcome to Tuscaloosa! – ELISA JOHNSON

Thank you to our partners at Westgate Luxury Condominiums for sponsoring this content!

Thursdays in Tuscaloosa will have added flavor in September with music and food trucks congregating on Government Plaza for “Lunchtime Live!”

This lunch and music in the park fall series is free to attend for both residents and visitors. Guests are encouraged to bring their own outdoor chairs or blankets and enjoy live music and lunch in downtown’s inviting green space. Food trucks will make a variety of menus available for purchase or guests may bring their own sack lunch.

The month-long series is a collaborative effort between Visit Tuscaloosa, the City of Tuscaloosa, The Arts Council and the Tuscaloosa Downtown Merchants Association. It is made possible by the Alabama Tourism Department Event Legislative Grant and the support of Representative Bill Lamb.

“We are very grateful for Representative Lamb’s support through the Alabama Tourism Department’s Event Legislative Grant program, which made this new lunch and music series possible,” said Kelsey Rush, president and CEO of Visit Tuscaloosa.  “Visit Tuscaloosa takes great pride in partnering with community organizations and groups as we all work towards enhancing quality of life for residents and quality of place for visitors.”

Lunchtime Live! kicks off with an extended program on Sept. 7 in partnership with the City of Tuscaloosa’s annual United on the Plaza event, an event designed to allow City employees to celebrate their involvement and commitment to the United Way of West Alabama. Music will begin at 11 a.m. with Sounds of Joy (Arc of Tuscaloosa) performing from 11 – 11:30 a.m. The Locked Band will follow around 11:45 a.m., until the event concludes at 1 p.m.

The three following Thursdays, music will begin at 11:30 a.m. and continue until 1 p.m. The full music lineup is:

Visit Tuscaloosa has named Chelsea Barton-Kelly the new marketing content manager, effective August 30, 2023.

Many Tuscaloosans will recognize Barton-Kelly from her 12 years of service to WVUA 23, where she served as lead reporter and anchor. As part of her role at WVUA, she mentored dozens of students who went on to careers in media and communications.

Barton-Kelly has been an active member of the Tuscaloosa community since moving to the area in 2011. She currently serves on the board at United Cerebral Palsy of West Alabama and the Tuscaloosa Police Athletic League. She is an active member of Junior League of Tuscaloosa and was named to the Tuscaloosa News’ 40 Under 40.

“We are thrilled to welcome Chelsea to our Visit Tuscaloosa team,” said Kelsey Rush, Visit Tuscaloosa president and CEO. “The time and effort she invested in Tuscaloosa during her tenure at WVUA has her well positioned to promote our community and the unique stories of the people who make it special.”

During her time as a broadcast journalist, Barton-Kelly delivered coverage of major events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and response, and the April 27, 2011 tornado that caused extensive damage and tragic loss of life. Along with demonstrating poise and integrity as a journalist, she engaged thousands of viewers and found enjoyment sharing uplifting stories from the community.

“My favorite stories to tell involved people overcoming challenges and lifting each other up,” she said. “This is a special place because of the people those stories featured. I’m really looking forward to sharing that warmth with a new audience in this role.”

As marketing content manager for Visit Tuscaloosa, the community’s destination marketing organization, Barton-Kelly will contribute to the organization’s advertising, media relations, content creation and digital presence. These efforts will focus on strengthening Tuscaloosa’s tourism brand to enhance quality of life, increase overnight visitation, tourism expenditures and tax revenue.

Born in Marion, Ala., Barton-Kelly attended Judson College and received a bachelor of arts, with honors, in English and journalism in 2010. She has been married to her husband, Hayden Kelly, for almost two years.

Oktoberfest returns to Tuscaloosa on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023 with a 5k run benefiting the American Cancer Society and a German-themed festival featuring food, drinks and family-friendly entertainment.

Tuscaloosa Oktoberfest, presented by Visit Tuscaloosa, will occur 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Druid City Social (301 Greensboro Ave, Tuscaloosa, AL  35401). The traditional tapping of the keg will kick off programming that also includes a dachshund race presented by the Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter, steinholding contest and a variety of live music, including a performance by German band Oompah-Calypse, and more.

“Visit Tuscaloosa is thrilled to host Tuscaloosa Oktoberfest alongside Mercedes-Benz U.S. International and their 5k race,” said Kelsey Rush, Visit Tuscaloosa president and CEO.  “We understand our community desires more events, and given the connection to Mercedes as well as our Sister City in Schorndorf, Germany, we feel confident this can become an annual festival our community looks forward to each year.”  

General admission tickets for Oktoberfest are $10, include a special edition commemorative stein, and will be available beginning Sept. 1 at TuscaloosaOktoberfest.com. Children 12 and under get in free.

Multiple craft breweries will be on hand to make a diverse selection of beers available for purchase. Additional vendors will sell German food, pretzels, desserts, soft drinks and more.

VIP tickets also will be for sale for $75, featuring a package that includes food, access to indoor restrooms and tvs broadcasting college football, special seating for the dachshund race and three beer tickets. Two hundred VIP tickets will be sold on a first come, first served basis.

The 5k race is presented by Mercedes-Benz U.S. International and will start at 9 a.m. from downtown Tuscaloosa. Registration is available at a $45 early bird rate until August 20 and includes race entry, a race t-shirt, a commemorative beer stein exclusive to race participants, free admission to the Tuscaloosa Oktoberfest and a free beer (for runners 21 and older).

Visit Tuscaloosa will continue to provide additional updates on vendors, activities, and more at TuscaloosaOktoberfest.com and through social media. Businesses or organizations interested in partnering may send inquires to info@visittuscaloosa.com or call 205-391-9200.