Living in town, it can feel you have to get used to the highs and lows of tourists. Fall and sometimes spring can see heavy amounts of visitors from all over, taking control of the town. Bringing with them big city crowds to our small college town, it’s easy to feel like you want to leave when they start coming in. Summer, however, is open roads and clear skies. Why not take advantage of this quite season down home and finally see the side of Tuscaloosa all those visitors get to enjoy. Not to mention going on trips can be costly! Why risk the pain of travel when your backyard is a growing destination? Embrace the serenity of summer and explore town like a true tourist. The wait times downtown are dwindling, the roads are clearing up, and you can enjoy the finer side of Tuscaloosa.

 

Explore the cool waters

Living here, it can feel like you’ve seen it all, but I can assure you there is something out there you still haven’t done. Every local by now has experienced something on the campus grounds, but Tuscaloosa is far more than just the University of Alabama.

There’s a good chance you may have skipped or even forgotten that there are great choices for some waterside adventures. Our natural beauty offers a wide arrange of places and hidden gems to get out into some cool and refreshing waters without having to head always to the Gulf.

Lake Lurleen

Just 20 minutes outside of town is the grand dame of lakes – Lake Lurleen. Take a quick drive out and explore the rustic beauty of the woods with the shimmering waters gracing the shorelines and beaches. It’s a perfect day getaway for any family or friends who want to be close to the waters without the crowds of Gulf Shores

Lake Nicol

While a popular hangout for students, there’s no denying the beauty found up along the cliffs of Lake Nicol. The lake is left open to explore with meandering paths along the cliffs and the open waters to canoe or swim around. It can feel like a totally different world far from any civilization without having to go too far from home.

Hurricane Creek

Explore this rugged creek that feeds the Black Warrior and gets lost among the towering trees and rustic old rail bridge that looms over the waters. Hurricane Creek is an untamed stretch of rolling waters that feels like you’re the first person to ever see it while being a quick drive out east from town. Be careful, as some of it cuts through private property, but there are many online guides for how to safely see this untouched stretch of water and wetlands

 

Sip and Sample

Around town and at many local bars you may be noticing more and more labels of craft beer being made in our fair city. Microbreweries have found their way into Tuscaloosa and have made quite a home here. Take advantage of this wealth of wheaty waters and sample the best of t-town’s brewers.

Band of Brothers Brewing Company

Down by the Drish house circle, Band of Brothers is the latest addition to the beer scene in Tuscaloosa. With a great space that is all too often filled with great events, live music, or both while food trucks make their way outside. Band of Brothers is a One and Only experience everyone needs to try.

Druid City Brewing Company

In the same shopping center as local favorite Mr. Chens, this classic brewery is home to the iconic chalk murals. Admire the art over a frothy pint of local beer, and be sure to check when their awesome events like comedy shows and games are going on to add to the true Druid City Brewing excitement.

Black Warrior Brewing Company

Their downtown location and second story game room make this brewery an outpost of grown up fun, with childhood games like full-size Jenga and Cornhole. For those who abstain from drinking, try their Root Beer made in house. It’s a soft drink classic that tastes like summer and is a far better choice than water.

 

Breakout and jump around!

Beat the heat by checking out these awesome local attractions that are sure to be both amazing memories and just all out fun

Breakout Tuscaloosa

With their new location, Breakout Tuscaloosa offers more than just their puzzle rooms with a new laser tag section! Chase each other around, or band together to solve some of the trickier escape rooms set in abandoned hotels and haunted houses.

UpSurge Trampoline Park

Go back to that old-school excitement of childhood summers bouncing around at Upsurge. Jump from each trampoline inside the giant warehouse with obstacle courses and deep foam pits to try to escape. It’s the ultimate indoor adventure you can find in town!

 

Breathe Easy

The greatest way to truly feel out of your routine is to get some much-needed pampering. Getting out, and having others take care of you is something everyone deserves to experience at least once, and one of the best ways is to head towards a spa. Tuscaloosa has several great spots ranging from the pinnacle of luxury, to more cozy and affordable that can give you that all so needed feeling.

Spa Belle La Vie

Across the river, there is a luxurious oasis for self-indulging in some elaborate pampering. With facials, massages, and therapies like seaweed wraps and salt scrubs designed to wash away all your stress and give you a renewed relaxed state of mind.

Gilda’s Salon & Day Spa

Located down on 15th, this one and only spa offer wonderful services from beauty to message with a level of dedicated care and attention. From the standard massage services to Neuromuscular Therapy. This special service focuses on trigger points to work out the pain and bring back a calming sense of relief.

Chancee’s Spa

This hidden gem on the south side of downtown is tucked away in an old tiny brick home. The wellness spa specializes in massage and facials that cost in much more affordable range for those who want to treat themselves without having to hit their wallet too hard.

 

Redefine your Dining

It can be all too easy to want to avoid downtown, or any crowd when all the tourists come to town for Fall, or to simply settle down with the same local haunts. A Staycation is the chance to break out some fine clothes, and explore beyond just the entrees and turn dinner into a long flavorful event. With various plates and dishes, it’s a chance to truly enjoy the growing food scene here in Tuscaloosa

R Davidson Chophouse

At the west end of Temerson Square, the Chophouse has brought downtown that old school steakhouse with modern takes on classic dishes. With all to addicting lobster mac n cheese, to one of the best steaks this side of Nick’s in the Sticks. Alongside all the far too tempting dishes, their cocktails almost outdo the food in terms of rich flavors.

River

While the whole interior of this latest eatery is beautiful, ask and wait to sit on the outdoor patio that overlooks the river at sunset and re-encounter what makes this southern city so special. The Black Warrior reflects the multiple shades of pinks and reds while each and every dish at River comes along with graceful presentation and overwhelming flavor. River blends the classic taste of Southern cuisine with global influences that bring the food scene in town to another level, with an atmosphere that can’t be beat

DePalma’s

Yes, DePalma’s. This Italian classic has been sitting on that corner of University and 23rd Ave longer than the graduates of 2017 have been alive. However, I bet it’s been a good while since you’ve waited the infamous wait times during dinner for this Italian treat. When was the last time you’ve gone and really had a feast built for a Tuscan family of 10? Do more than glance over the starters and begin your extravagant dinner with a sea of bread and cheeses that’ll leave you stuffed and happy. Do DePalma’s the right way, Italian style.

 

Rest Easy

A staycation can involve sleeping at home, but that’s not really a treat. Staying at home means you are the maid, room service, the bartender, and bell boy all at once. Plus you’re more concerned with the bills and maintenance than anything else when you’re at home, so why not break out of your rut and into some fresh linen.  Hotel rates in Tuscaloosa drop once graduation is done with, and in the past couple of years, we’ve seen superior stays rise up in the skyline. Sample what it’s like to really come into town, and get away from always having to make your bed for a change

Treat yo’ Self

From Boutique to blissful, there are plenty of refined stays in town to feel ritzy in. With well-known names to a local hidden gem, you can really get away without the added costs of getting away.

The Jack Warner Hotel

You may forget that across the river is Tuscaloosa’s most serene and eclectic resort. Filled with historic antiques collected by Jack Warner, this resort style hotel is far from the hustle of downtown and acts as a wooded oasis. Inside the cozy and charming inn features comfy rooms and unique sights like the 1850 Apothecary Room. This dining lounge is an authentic hand carved paneled room from 1850 and was found in President Grant’s hometown Apothecary in Galina Il. From the Russian tea room to the gardens, this hotel is truly a Tuscaloosa experience to have.

The Embassy Suites Hotel

Hard to miss as one of the recent additions to the downtown skyline, this hotel tends to be a popular choice and it’s hard not to see why. The suite-style lodging and free happy hour in the bar give the hotel a sense of comfort and hospitality while being right in the center of town. The indoor pool and Side by Side restaurant all contribute to why this hotel sits as an anchor in Tuscaloosa tourism.

Hotel Indigo

In the new Riverfront Village development, this boutique style hotel offers incredible views of the Black Warrior with a refined sense of modern style. With chic rooms and intimate eatery in the lobby, Hotel Indigo brings a new level of hospitality to town. Be sure to relax atop the hotel in their roof top bar with some crafty cocktails and savory appetizers as the sun sets over town.

Ball on a Budget

All over town, we have amazing hotels representing national and regional chains that offer comfort on a budget. There are so many excellent choices that will be happy to bring you a hospitable stay without breaking the bank.

However you choose to do your staycation, there is something out in town that you may have never considered trying until now. With all the growth Tuscaloosa has seen, it can be easy to feel lost in your hometown, or pushed aside during the excitement of Fall. Don’t be afraid to try something new and change up how you see this amazing college town that offers so much in such little space. Leave the chores at home, silence your phone, and unplug without having to leave city limits. If there is something you’ve dreamed of doing that isn’t on this list, and can only be found in T-Town, by all means, do it! Life is short and meant to be enjoyed, and we, by all means, have amenities to enjoy. Vacations don’t have to break the bank, and there is more to the city than what meets the eye. Ask anyone who comes to visit, and they will likely share stories that you still have to try, so why not take advantage of being a local and see the other side of the city. While there is no wrong time to treat yourself, take advantage of the down times in in the Druid City and explore your local scene with the carefree attitude of a tourist!

Written By: Deven Wilson – Intern

Valentine’s Day can mean two things: romance and pressure. When you’re with someone, the 14th can be a bit of a nightmare. From fighting for a reservation to getting the right flowers it can become all too stressful for a day of love. This year, be ahead of the curve and follow some of our advice on how to turn the city of Tuscaloosa into the city of love!

The Weekend

For those unaware, this year V-Day falls on an all too dull Tuesday. Right after Monday, it’s hard to find time between work or school to really show your love beyond an early dinner cut short so you have time to finish that paper or turn in early before that 8 am meeting.
The weekend before or after Valentine’s Day, however, should not only give you more time to enjoy each others company but avoid the waits that give you gameday flashbacks at any of Tuscaloosa’s finest dining establishments.

The Classic Romantic

Evangeline’s
For a night out that spans over hours of fine dining, and excellent wine pairing, take the one you love to the one and only Evangeline’s. They have established themselves as some of the most elite in Tuscaloosa dining with extravagant courses and service that have made it a classic date night spot across the river.

R. Davidson Chophouse
Tuscaloosa’s new steakhouse has grown to be one of the latest in our refined dining scene, and there’s nothing more classic for dinner on Valentine’s than a prime slice of steak with some excellent lobster. The whole evening will be filling, and be sure to venture around their amazing appetizers and cocktails for a night of flame roasted passion.

Depalmas
Everyone knows Italy is for lovers, and we have our delicious slice of it right along University in downtown. Sure it’s a well-known date spot, but it rightfully earned that title. From decadent pasta to some of the best tiramisu around, it’s beyond worth the wait for a seat inside.

The Adventurous

The same old thing can be tiring, but Valentine’s day offers you a chance to break out of the rut and celebrate with something new or different.

Ruan Thai
Step outside the limits of southern cuisine and enter the tasty territory of Thailand above the strip inside the charming little house of Thai. Delight in fried rice served in a pineapple, or in watching each other turn red when you try some of their authenticly seasoned dishes. The experience will lead to memories you can’t find at your standard dim light dinner.

Dreamland BBQ
How did this make the adventure list? Simple. Dare to defy the fashion gods and wear your whitest shirts and test your abilities to not drip some of that all-too-delectable sauce on them. While everyone clutters up their feeds on Instagram with the same red rose and white plate dinners, share your story with your messy shirts and big grins from the filling sensation of some of the best ribs in Bama.

Mr. Chens
Walk inside this Chinese market, and find yourself in a hole in the wall that is stuffed with flavor. Go beyond your standard Chinese delivery order and explore the east in the cozy space with your loved one. You can even save your fortune cookies as a memento of Valentine’s Day gone right.

Foodies Delight

We are well into the golden era of food across America and Tuscaloosa is making strides to include itself in the growth. Sample some of our newest additions and make a break from the Italian and steak.

River
While the interior is completely contemporary, nothing is more of a classic night on the town than trying the latest and greatest on the foodie scene in town. Watch the moonlight dance on the Black Warrior while enjoying their modern cuisine and twists on classic cocktails. Be sure to take home one of their oatmeal pies for a sweet treat after the food coma wears off.

301 Bistro
Under the romantic lights of the giant gasolier, and the renovated grand hall of the L&N Station, you can find “Tuscaloosa fusion” which combines the food culture of the world with the traditions of this southern college town. From Reuben spring rolls to the classic bread pudding it’ll be heaven on a fork for sure.

Side by Side
Come enjoy some modern southern cuisine under the dome of the Embassy Suites in downtown. They offer a selection of some southern staples reimagined with modern tastes to make for a delectable night out in the city.

V-Day

If the weekend doesn’t work because of your schedule or your partner said it’s Valentine’s or bust, there’s still plenty of ways to spice up this Tuesday. From full days worth of excitement to an evening well spent, here’s how to do this holiday right.

The Classic Night

You’re not shaken by the Tuesday date of this year’s night of romance. You’re treating this night like the last Friday of your life, and with that, you’re willing to go out and paint the town red. If none of the classics on the list above sound like your ideal date, here are a few more ideas.

Five Bar
Mood lighting is far from absent inside Five, with their eclectic collection of chandeliers, the setting is ready for romance. Perfect for those indecisive couples with their simple rule of only offering five items each night.

Shoals Kitchen and Bar
Hidden inside the Hotel Indigo lobby, you can find some comfy seating and comfort food waiting for you. Shoals Kitchen might surprise you with its bold flavors and delicious cocktails.

301 Bistro
Yes, it’s a great idea for both the weekend and the day of. Aside from its excellent moody atmosphere of yesteryear, and the modern cuisine flowing out of the kitchen, this year they have an exclusive menu for V-Day featuring appetizers and entrées not seen typically at the bistro.

Carpe Vino
Grab a delicious bottle pinot noir and enjoy the perfect Valentine’s ambiance in Tuscaloosa’s little downtown wine shop. They don’t have food, but you can bring it in from your favorite one and only spot!

 

The Low-Key Night

There aren’t rules and laws for Valentine’s day, and just because a night spent eating overpriced shrimp is customary, doesn’t mean its right for you. Here are some unconventional ways to enjoy the romantic Tuesday

Local Roots
Rooming the Druid City you can find their food truck with their daily updates, or the smell of locally sourced goodness wafting over the air. While everyone waits in line or crowd the hostess, why not skip the whole process and grab a seriously delicious food.

Little Italy
Sometimes all you need to express your love is a lofty slice of pizza. You can find that cheesy delicacy with all its golden goodness in Little Italy. Relax in a warm booth and relieve yourself of having to pretend that goat cheese infused kale actually sounded good for a whole meal with a true pie of love.

Stay in, Taste T-Town

You can get all dressed up, and feel uncomfortable in that suit or dress you haven’t worn since pre-holiday binge eating or slap on some sweats and order in. You’re not in 1990, so don’t feel limited to pizza or Chinese. It’s 2017 and Tuscaloosa has several sites that offer delivery covering all of the best restaurants in town beyond the standard food fare that would normally offer delivery.

Crimson2Go
With the widest offers from DePalma’s to Auntie Annes, you’re hard pressed to not find something you’ve been craving. It allows you to select from any restaurant open when you order so there’s no fighting over what to get if you both want something different!

Waitr
With some cross over on offers like crimson to go, Waitr also covers local and chains.

Since fall of ’15, Tuscaloosa has continued to change and grow. We have seen everything from food trucks, and fine dining, to the rise of another hotel for downtown. Since your last Saturday celebrations here, we have seen our food scene continue to blossom, with exciting new additions on the strip, by the Black Warrior and in downtown. There are so many outstanding new places we have seen open their doors, but these are the ones who stand out the most.

1. River
From the creative genius behind Cypress Inn, comes his latest venture into fine dining with a level of detailing that raises the bar for Tuscaloosa. The food is picture perfect with classic cocktails reimagined for the modern day. The location has excellent views of the river with the interior looking so effortlessly cool.

2. Holler & Dash
Straight out of Birmingham’s Homewood, Holler & Dash have brought an impressive bunch of biscuits to the strip. The fast casual eatery has a flair for style, with combining down-home southern cooking and influences from all over the world. The biscuits can be savory or sweet but go down great with a homemade soda that’s a step above your regular colas.

3. R Davidson’s Chophouse
Anyone can try to cook a steak, the people behind R Davidson’s Chophouse, know how to serve it. Their reputation in town has grown tremendously since they have opened for having some the best steaks, sides and even drinks around. Located in Temerson Square, R Davidson’s Chophouse answers the call for a proper steakhouse in downtown.

4. 301 Bistro & Beer Garden
Tucked along Greensboro in the old L&N Train Station is one of the hottest local spots. The restored space has transformed into a trendy foodie paradise with their inventive play on classic southern food, and German Beer Gardens. They feature German classics like schnitzel and sausage boards alongside Reuben spring rolls. They blend together the past and present to make one delicious meal.

5. Miss Dot’s
On the upper side of the Strip, is a delicious fried chicken. Miss Dots takes the southern staple of fried chicken and adds something extra. They serve some the most addictive and crispy chicken along with house-made sides that are sure to satisfy anyone. It also doesn’t hurt they know to pair sweet tea with that delicious sonic style ice. From the sauces to the darn good pecan pies, you’ll find something to love at Miss Dot’s.