The City of Tuscaloosa has a plethora of activities to do and places to enjoy, but there are a few incredible local gems that are just waiting to be discovered! So, what hidden treasures are the locals not telling you about? We pulled together a list of spots around Tuscaloosa that you may not have heard of and could potentially become a regular part of your rotation! These suggestions range from delicious food and drink destinations to quiet spaces to relax and unwind for a bit.
1. Kentuck Art Center
For those who are looking to explore the fine arts side of Tuscaloosa, the Kentuck Arts Center is a local spot that more people ought to be aware of! Located off-campus in Northport, the Kentuck Art Center is a collection of many different artists and creators exhibiting their work for anyone to see and learn about. Kentuck’s mission is “to perpetuate the arts, engage the community, and empower the artist” and is open all year long for anyone!
2. Catfish Heaven
Named for their delectable catfish offerings, Catfish Heaven is a fish lover’s dream! Fried and prepared fresh daily, Catfish Heaven is a local restaurant that has been serving up savory catfish and irresistible hot wings since 1993. For over 25 years, the brothers that opened Catfish Heaven have been making this delightful and delicious destination in the Historic West End of Tuscaloosa a local favorite! Catfish Heaven’s dining room is currently closed for safety due to COVID-19, but they are still offering take-out orders for anyone looking to expand their list of go-to restaurants in Tuscaloosa!
As a spot filled to the brim with a diverse collection of drinks, beers, wines, and more, Cravings is a must for anyone looking to expand their drink repertoire. In addition to drinks, Cravings is also a good place for a bite to eat! There is an offering of snack foods, deli favorites, and an incredible breakfast offering for everyone to enjoy. Not to mention they serve unbelievable Detroit and Sicilian style pizza that will turn you into a regular customer in no time. Visit Cravings to discover new drink favorites and see if it becomes one of your new go-to spots in Tuscaloosa!
4. Ernest & Hadley’s
Ernest & Hadley’s is a charming local bookstore located a few blocks away from Downtown Tuscaloosa just waiting to be discovered. This bookstore is filled with popular picks, classical favorites, and even highlighted works from local Alabama writers! In addition to being a store, Ernest & Hadley’s regularly hosts events that are open to any and all visitors, so be sure to check online ahead of time for more information. Currently, Ernest & Hadley’s is operating with safety in mind and is allowing only five (5) patrons at a time and even has a curbside pick-up option available for anyone who would prefer not to enter the store!
5. Ruan Thai
Since 1991, Ruan Thai has been serving up fresh and savory authentic Thai food to students and locals alike with their extensive menu of delectable offerings. Ruan Thai offers both a lunch and dinner menu and even has dedicated portions of its menu for its sushi dishes and curry specials. Due to COVID-19, Ruan Thai is currently available through curbside pickup and through the delivery service, Crimson 2 Go. This locally-owned, authentic Thai restaurant is located on the Western end of the Strip and is the perfect local option for authentic Thai food in Tuscaloosa!
6. Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center
The Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center is a place for fans of fine arts and culture to explore and for everyday adventurers to discover! It is home to a rotating lineup of galleries that exhibit the thought-provoking and insightful power of the mediums of the fine arts. Not only is the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center a delightful spot to immerse yourself in fine arts and culture, but it is also a stop on the Civil Rights Trail of Tuscaloosa! In addition to visiting the resident exhibit, this center is an important site to learn the history behind it as it pertains to the City of Tuscaloosa as a whole.
7. Catch 22
If you are looking for a bar to hang out and enjoy outstanding cocktails at the end of a long day, Catch 22 is the place for you. As the home of house drink specialties galore, including pickle-, cucumber-, and even pepperoncini-infused vodka, this bar is known for creating a unique flavor in each creation. Located in Downtown Tuscaloosa on 6th Street, this is a great place for anyone looking to unwind with some boutique cocktails and refreshing favorites! Additionally, Catch 22 has recently extended their outdoor patio to accommodate social distancing requirements and create a safe environment for customers!
8. The Oasis
Located in Cottondale is a restaurant named The Oasis, offering a welcoming and Southern environment with the delicious food to back it up! The Oasis is famously known for its savory burgers and their incredible appetizers, including jalapeńo poppers, fried pickle spears, and fried mushrooms. The Oasis is truly a hidden gem for eating and may soon become one of your regular food spots in town! In order to accommodate the COVID-19 situation, The Oasis is currently only able to offer pick-up orders that can be placed at the restaurant.
9. Innisfree’s Lucky Lunch
I know what you’re thinking. “Everyone knows about Innisfree…”. Although that may be true, many regulars and first-time visitors alike don’t know about the spectacular meat and three meals available from 11 a.m.- 3 p.m. With classic options like chicken parmesan, chicken tenders, or country fried steak you can experience irreplaceable southern cooking right in Downtown Tuscaloosa! The meat + three meal also falls under $10, so Innisfree is easy on your bank account, too.
10. Van de Graaff Park
Whether you’re looking for your next nature adventure, picnic spot, or photoshoot set this local treasure has it all. Fish, hike, or camp on the gorgeous acres of Van de Graff with its breathtaking parks and large ponds stocked with freshwater fish! Along the way, you can also find a section of Alabama’s oldest iron bridge crossing over Mill Creek. This local’s secret is nestled in Northport. Revel in nature’s beauty and enjoy some fresh air at Van de Graaff Park.
Written By: Will Baggett
Edited By: Jamie Hoven
Get ready for crystal clear skies and sunny days this weekend in Tuscaloosa! Now is the perfect time to explore the unique, local gems of this incredible city. Whether you are savoring brunch at a local cafe, capturing a captivating view of Black Warrior River, or rocking out to some live music at your favorite bar, this town has what you need to make this weekend unforgettable.
The River Market
Visit the Tuscaloosa River Market Saturday for fresh, local produce and homemade goodies. Check out Savory Occasions table for warm bread pudding, or cool down with Tori’s Water Ice snow cones with flavors like tropical rainbow, green apple, cherry, pineapple, blue raspberry, and mango. Curbside pick-up is still available for select vendors. If you plan to attend, don’t forget your facemask! You will not be able to shop the market without it.
Double down on tunes this weekend at Alcove International! Make plans Friday for the sweet sounds of SouthTown starting at 10 PM. They cover classic rock, blues, and dance songs. Saturday night get ready for some rock and roll performed by Non-GMO at 10 PM.
You can catch The Brick and Hubba Show at Rhythm and Brews tonight, and Carson Carlisle Saturday at 10 PM!
If you don’t feel like spending money, The Actor’s Charitable Theatre (ACT) will present a free concert in Capitol Park tonight at 7 PM! Come check it out for a night of live entertainment with your family and friends!
The Great Outdoors
Balance yourself and rent a paddleboard at Lake Nicol! What better way to soak up the rays? Tuscaloosa Paddleboard provides high-quality YOLO boards, and guaranteed fun. This is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and simultaneously get in a great workout! Plus, the view is a spectacular bonus. If you’d rather stay on dry land, check out their local trails and explore the beauty that Tuscaloosa has to offer. Pack a lunch and a picnic blanket to make the most out of these warm summer days.
Try Something New
Grab your brunch crew and head over to Another Broken Egg to enjoy their brand-new menu! Start off with sweet beignets with orange marmalade sauce, and a refreshing summertime cocktail. The Watermelon Cucumber Cooler is the perfect treat for a beautiful weekend!
If you are craving something a little more Southern and traditional, we’ve got the perfect place for you! Mae’s Southern Café uses authentic family recipes for every dish. Need help deciding what to order? Mae’s is famous for their fall off the bone ribs, smoked for 3 hours, and worth every bite! You can’t complete a southern meal without Mae’s sweet tea. Brewed, steeped, and sweetened to perfection every time.
This Friday night, Dylan Scott is in town. This nationally known country star will be performing his ‘Causin’ A Scene’ tour at Druid City Music Hall at 8 p.m. If you’re looking for something a little more low-key Dave’s Crimson Bar is having a paint, sip, repeat night at 6 p.m. Embrace your inner Picasso while enjoying some drinks with friends.
Start your Saturday morning off early at 7 a.m., sampling some of Sweet Home Chicago jellies and jam at the Tuscaloosa River Market! Later in the day, you can participate in the Druid City Pride Poker Run starting at 4 p.m. The Poker Run begins at Icon, and then you head out to other checkpoints (The Gray Lady, Tavern 1831, Nocturnal Tavern, and Catch 22) where you will draw a playing card and enjoy some drinks! If you’re 21, head over to the website to register. Later in the evening, the Black Jacket Symphony is presenting Journey’s “Escape.” Enjoy all of the greatest hits at Bama Theatre Galleries at 8 p.m.
Sporting Events at The University of Alabama
University of Alabama gymnastics take on Georgia at 7:15 p.m. at Coleman Coliseum. Celebrate senior night and Big Al’s birthday. University of Alabama baseball takes on Lipscomb all weekend at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. Friday at 6 p.m. Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m. University of Alabama women’s soccer team takes on Tennessee at noon.
– The University of Alabama Gymnastics team takes on Kentucky at Coleman Coliseum at 7:15 p.m.
– The University of Alabama Baseball team is taking on Harvard University all weekend long. Friday at 3 p.m. Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 10:30 a.m.
– The University of Alabama Softball team has five games lined up this weekend. On Friday the Crimson Tide takes on the University of Tennessee at Arlington at 4 p.m. and University of Arizona at 6 p.m. On Saturday, Bama plays UT Arlington at 1:30 p.m. and Arizona at 4 p.m. Sunday, the women take on McNeese at 1:30 p.m.
– The 9th Annual Chili Cook-off Fundraiser for East Tuscaloosa Community Soup Bowl is happening at Hargrove Memorial United Methodist Church Family Life Center. Tasting begins at 5:30 p.m. Cooks should prepare a large crockpot of chili and bring to the event by 5 p.m. Free admission! Cooks must pre-register. Everyone is invited to cook or taste or vote. Condiments and drinks provided. Donations are accepted and encouraged.
– Alabama Men’s Basketball takes on the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. Cheer on the Crimson Tide stating at 7:30 p.m., after all, it is fan appreciation night.
– Tyler Farr at Druid City Music Hall at 8 p.m. Grab some friends and enjoy some country music
– The 8th Annual Tuscaloosa African Film Festival at Central Highschool 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. The event will feature four acclaimed movies from the African continent and the broader African Diaspora – two feature-length films and two short films. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 for students with an ID and are available online at Brown Paper Tickets
– Bama Bourbon & Beyond at the Historic Drish House. Sample bourbons and other spirits from the Yellowhammer State and all over the Southeast served for a penny per pour. Enjoy a complimentary cigar, catered hors d ‘oeuvres, a live band, and much more!
– Celebrate Leap Day at the Children’s Hands-on Museum. Spend the extra day with your kids making crafts and competing in leaping challenges.
– The 2nd annual Wheelhouse Crawfish Boil starts around 2 p.m. and goes until 9 p.m. at Wheelhouse Sports Pub. $30 all you can eat, $10 for a single plate, and $5 doubles $10 domestic and Shock Top pitchers.
– The 3rd Annual Millennial Skate night at Super Skate is happening this weekend, with DJ Andy. Make sure you wear neon or white shorts, as they have installed black lights in for the event starting at 7 p.m.
– The Krispy Kreme doughnut challenge is happening this Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Government Plaza. The challenge benefits Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Alabama. The challenge is to walk or run a mile, eat a dozen doughnuts and then walk or run one mile to the finish line. Team up with friends or take on the challenge individually, kids can also participate in the challenge too, but don’t worry parents, and they only have to eat three doughnuts. Prizes will be given for the best team theme, best costume, and cash prizes will be given to the winners. Are you up for the challenge? Register here
– Stephanie Kirkland x Sydney Gruber Pop-up Art Show. Join the artists for an afternoon of art, cocktails, and conversation from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. at Session Bar.
– The University of Alabama Women’s Basketball team has their Senior night this Sunday at 12:40 p.m. Make sure you go out and support the Crimson Tide as they take on Missouri.