Whether you’re looking to explore the outdoors or simply need an activity that allows for safe social distancing, Tuscaloosa is a hidden gem, especially as we work our way through the summer and come upon a beautiful fall season. If you’re planning a trip to Tuscaloosa, we encourage you to check out the many local trails within our community. To help, we’ve identified a few uniquely local top picks below!
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Lake Lurleen is a favorite of locals looking for relaxation and recreation alike! The park’s trails are open to hikers and mountain bikers, and the park offers 91 campsites for those looking for an extended stay. If that isn’t enough to draw you in, the park also boasts fishing, swimming, boating, and a beach. Whether it’s walking your dog along the shoreline or renting a kayak, Lake Lurleen truly has something for everyone!
About 20 minutes from Tuscaloosa lies another paradise for those looking to enjoy the outdoors: Lake Nicol. This local favorite offers a chance to get off the beaten path and explore the wonder of mother nature. The many species of birds that call the area home make for excellent birdwatching. Visitors also enjoy kayaking, paddleboarding, and picnicking on the shore.
Hurricane Creek has been an important part of the Tuscaloosa community for decades. In fact, the park’s popular Eagle Scout Trail was planned and blazed by local scouts. Explore this local favorite by canoeing down the creek, traversing the park’s biking and hiking trails, or simply taking in the native plants and wildlife.
Located just 10 minutes east of The University of Alabama campus, the Arboretum has grown to become a perfect spot for an outdoor getaway. Dozens of native and non-native trees provide a nice shade to enjoy the nearly 60 acres of land, situated in the heart of Tuscaloosa. It’s also located adjacent to the former University golf course and VA Center.
Munny Sokol Park trails offer over 11 miles of trails where the locals enjoy running, walking, or mountain biking. Located a short drive from downtown Tuscaloosa, Sokol Park offers scenic views and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options, where dogs are also allowed but must be kept on a leash. This park also contains a brand new all-inclusive playground so kids of all ages and abilities can enjoy Sokol.
The Riverwalk is perfect for those who don’t want a strenuous hike. This is an excellent paved trail located along the southern bank of the Black Warrior River near Downtown Tuscaloosa. The pathway has plenty of benches, gazebos and hammock-friendly trees for quick breaks and picnics. and offers a playground near River and Another Broken Egg, and a splash pad near the old Bama Belle dock. The trail is well lit.
1. If savory Lamb Chops topped with Blackberry Reduction and a side of Garlic Mashed Potatoes and sautéed Kale sounds like your dream dinner, then you should definitely include Evangeline’s in your T-Town itinerary. As one of the area’s premier restaurants, this divine treasure provides exceptional service for private intimate dinners, social events, and corporate parties. From a small rehearsal dinner to a lavish party for friends and family, Evangeline’s has the atmosphere to create the ideal experience.
2. Do you consider seafood, steak, & sushi three of your main food groups? If so, then Chuck’s is most definitely calling you. Offering a diverse menu in trendy surrounds with a loft & full bar, this local favorite has a well-earned reputation as a T-Town staple. It is also perfect for special occasions like birthdays or anniversaries. Crowd favorites include the crab cakes, sushi, scallops, and pizza. With attentive service and an unforgettable dining experience, you’ll always leave this happy and stuffed – and ready to come back again.
3. It would be a disservice to Tuscaloosa cuisine to discuss our incredible local dining without including Central Mesa. Established in 2017 by owner Craig Williams, this local treasure offers a Southern twist on traditional Latin-American dishes. The story of the restaurant is built upon a passion for providing fresh, great-tasting food and cocktails. Every dish is prepared in-house from scratch to ensure quality taste. The heart of the restaurant beats to provide a relaxed atmosphere and sense of community, where people can come and enjoy exceptional food and drink.
4. Ignite the creative in you and experience the Dinah Cultural Arts Center’s current exhibit, Stephanie Kirkland: “Windswept: Abstract Landscapes”. This moving collection of acrylic paintings was inspired during a road trip out West, which included hiking through Glacier, Zion, and Grand Canyon national parks. This week’s gallery hours of 1:00 p.m.to 3:00 p.m. offers the last chance to witness this captivating creation firsthand. Trust us, you don’t want to miss it!
5. Kentuck Art Center offers a unique view into the minds of the endlessly talented local artists all around Tuscaloosa. From handmade, one-of-a-kind jewelry to kitchen pitchers, this gold mine is ideal for a one-stop-shop for holiday gifts. The Kentuck Gallery Shop offers an incredible shopping experience either online or in-person!
6. Fall foliage peak is on the horizon and one of the best places to take in the changing season is the Riverwalk. This first-rate paved trail sits along the southern bank of the Black Warrior River near downtown Tuscaloosa and is suited for both walkers and bikers. Along the 4.5-mile trail, there are a variety of (dog-friendly) park areas, benches, gazebos, and trees for hammocks and picnics. The pathway also provides a playground near the Public Library and a splash pad at the Bama Bell dock for the kids. For nighttime walkers, it is well-lit with street lamps along the way.
7. Get a taste of the (tamer) Tide. Take in the jaw-dropping beauty of UA’s campus in its most unique form: somewhat still and tranquil. Casually absorb the captivating architecture and elaborate landscaping that is so easy to take for granted during the football fan frenzy that accompanies one of the greatest dynasties in college football history. It offers another great place to enjoy the fall colors while viewing landmarks such as the President’s Mansion, Denny Chimes, Bryant-Denny Stadium, and historic Foster Auditorium – where Malone-Hood Plaza and the Autherine Lucy Clock Tower celebrate the spot where the University of Alabama was first integrated.
Safety is the top priority for returning to campus, but that does not mean sacrificing the ability to enjoy yourself and to enjoy new experiences, especially in the City of Tuscaloosa. There are plenty of ways to maintain a safe, physical distance while also enjoying what Tuscaloosa has to offer, whether it be the scenic views, rich history, or the one-of-a-kind businesses and restaurant culture of this city. Below, we have compiled a list of ways to stay socially active while also being socially distanced!
The different lakes located around Tuscaloosa have been a regular relaxation spot for students over the years. In order to have a fun and peaceful time, visiting one of the nearby lakes is a modern time twist on a classic activity for UA students. These lakes are not only wonderful places to swim and rent kayaks for, but they are also a peaceful spot to read a book and enjoy the nature of the Tuscaloosa area. What better way to substitute a library table or a lakeside picnic table? These lakes offer services that allow you to either rent paddleboards for the day, paddle your own kayak around to the different scenic spots along the lakefront, or layout at the beach to continue working on your summer tan! The most popular lakes around the City of Tuscaloosa to check out are Lake Lurleen, Lake Nicol, and Lake Tuscaloosa.
Civil Rights Walk
The City of Tuscaloosa has a history intertwined with the Civil Rights movement, and there is a presence of that history all around Downtown Tuscaloosa. Traveling through history along the Civil Rights Walk is a way to stay active outdoors and be proactive about the history and importance of the Civil Rights Movement to our city. Visit (website) to locate the markers located around Downtown Tuscaloosa and learn more about the lasting impact that the Civil Rights Movement has made on the history and people of the City of Tuscaloosa. Visit here to learn more about the Civil Rights Trail of Tuscaloosa and how you can find more and more resources regarding the Civil Rights Movement in Tuscaloosa.
Historic Downtown Tuscaloosa
Downtown Tuscaloosa is a relaxing area of town where anyone is free to walk around and wander from door to door to find something they feel drawn to. There are numerous boutique stores and businesses where eclectic finds are inevitable. If you’re looking for a new wardrobe, or maybe just some refreshing new pieces, check out Pause Boutique, Effie’s Inc., or Pants Store! Walking around Downtown Tuscaloosa is a peaceful yet adventurous activity for all to find unique local while staying active after months of quarantine. However, Downtown Tuscaloosa does feature a lot of locations that would require entering a building, so be sure to pack a mask and be safe when visiting indoor storefronts and shops.
Self-Guided UA Tour
The University of Alabama has a rich history that every student and resident of Tuscaloosa ought to learn and become familiar with. At the heart of it all is The Quad, which is filled to the brim with its own history but also offers one of the most picturesque areas of campus. A refreshing way to stay connected to the culture of the university while maintaining physical distancing outdoors is to take a stroll around the University of Alabama campus and soaking in the history of the many buildings and locations. Many locations, including the ones located on the Quad, include historical markers that indicate the historic significance of their existence (or previous existence) and offer a glimpse into what truly defines this university.
Enjoy the scenic nature of the Black Warrior River from the comfort of a relaxing hammock or a light jog along the riverfront. The Riverwalk is 4.2 miles of a paved trail that offers visitors a place to enjoy the outdoors in a way that is safe and distanced from others, and versatile enough that anyone can find themselves enjoying an afternoon out and about. The Riverwalk is a great place to go on a quick run, exercise on a bike, and walk your dog, plus offers serene and scenic spots for reading a nice book or enjoying a delicious picnic. Whether you are wanting to stay physically active through exercise and movement or if you are wanting to simply sit outdoors and soak in the sunlight and fresh air, the Riverwalk is a must-do.
Golf and Disc Golf
In order to stay distanced while remaining active, certain sports offer more distanced situations than others, like golf or disc golf. There are several public golf course options located near Tuscaloosa including Ol’ Colony, North River Yacht Club, The Links at Tuscaloosa, Indian Hills Country Club, Tall Pines, and Hidden Meadows. Each of these courses is available on weekends and offers a variety of offerings to satisfy the most serious players and to welcome the more introductory players. If you are more of a disc golfer than a traditional golfer, Bower’s Park is the place to be, thanks to a full 18-hole course primarily located on wooded terrain and featuring beginner and professional tees for players of all skill ranges! Whether you are driving a golf ball or a disc, these activities are a safe way to get back into the swing of things!
A staple of campus life is enjoying the food trucks that make their way onto campus or throughout Tuscaloosa. These days, food trucks are a great way to stay outdoors and distanced while also supporting local businesses of Tuscaloosa. Not only are you able to be smart about what you are eating, but you may discover a new favorite dish or new favorite dining destination! We offer a phenomenal variety with options like Catch a Taste, Aces Tuscaloosa, Cheese Louise Tuscaloosa, and Urban Cookhouse. Food trucks appear in various locations around the city, so be sure to plan ahead of time to be aware of where certain trucks will be located and what their menu will look like! Remember to wear a mask at all times except when you are eating in order to maximize caution and ensure the safety of yourselves and those around you.
Local Farmers Markets
A health-conscious and locally-oriented outdoor activity that everyone can take advantage of is enjoying a farmers market. In Tuscaloosa, a few wonderful options for outdoor farmers markets are Homegrown Alabama Farmers Market, Ingram Farms, Northport Farmers Market, and the Curbside Farmers Market. Shopping at a farmers market can expose you to new flavors to up your cooking game, and they support the local farmers that stock the markets. Be sure to wear a mask while visiting local farmers markets for the health and safety of yourself and the vendors working the markets!
Written by: Will Baggett
Whether it’s your first time in town or a lazy Saturday afternoon, downtown offers so much more than what meets the eye. Beyond University Boulevard you can find great ways to explore someone and only sights around T-Town.
1. Tuscaloosa Amphitheater
Perfectly placed below the skyline and on the river’s edge, the amphitheater offers year-round performances and excellent events within their theater. This spring season the line up features ‘80s throwbacks like Poison and Cyndi Lauper along with modern favorites like John Legend. Even down here the winter nights cool off and the Amphitheater hosts a seasonal ice rink for all ages. There’s never an off-season at the Amphitheater
2. Loosa Brews
Located towards the strip before the University Club, you can find a low-key beer and wine haven tucked neatly on 20th Avenue. Loosa Brews opened in 2014 during the rise of the craft beer renaissance to provide Tuscaloosa with over 63 taps that you can sample from! From local Alabama breweries to some of the more rare brews around, there’s bound to be a beer for you. Enjoy your fresh pint in their cozy storefront, their back patio, or go back to the “Barcade” room. With classic pinball machines, arcade games, a ring toss, and ping-pong!
3. Take In Some Local History
If you’re looking to learn or just want to better know the rich history of this college town, take some time and explore our historic sites. From the house museums along Greensboro that let you see how the old wealth of the city lived, to the Civil Rights sights that mark the turbulent past. There’s a bit of history for everyone to explore. Be sure to see Capitol Park too, the ruins of the former state capitol building have left downtown with its own roman style park!
Stroll down from Capitol Park, past the amphitheater and you can find yourself on our riverfront along the Riverwalk trail. One of the newest additions to the river with over four miles of meandering trails, you can go from the riverbanks of downtown, past our river market with farmers markets held every Tuesday and Saturday, and end up at Manderson landing. This riverfront park is alongside the river beneath the University of Alabama campus with a fishing pier and an overlook made from the former locks of the Black Warrior River.
5. Bama Theater
This historic atmosphere theater was built during the great depression from the Public Works Administration to employ artists to create beautiful civic buildings. The theater started out as a movie theater with Tuscaloosa’s city hall offices attached. Inside the theater is an Italian courtyard complete with baroque balconies, detailed landscape murals and the signature twinkling lights. The Arts council dutifully restored the theater to its former glory and keeps the magic of the theater alive with performances and showings of Indie films. Inside you can also find a more grown up concession stand with cocktails, wine, beer and the theater staple of popcorn. It’s well worth a visit to catch a play or movie under the still twinkling lights of the historic Bama.
Bonus: Events Around Town
Be sure to look for events when you come to visit or need to escape your routine by visiting visittuscaloosa.xyz/events or follow our Twitter page for daily updates. There’s always something exciting going on year round from the Druid City Arts Festival, to First Fridays where local galleries stay open late for people to come view their works on display.
Written By: Deven Wilson – Intern
Spring is coming fast this year in Tuscaloosa which means it’s getting to be perfect for a nice picnic day before the summer heat creeps up on us. Luckily there are so many great spots around town for a day in the great outdoors! From the city to the outskirts there’s a place to lay that blanket down.
Van de Graaff Arboretum
Across the river and north of downtown Northport, you’ll find the latest PARA development. The Van De Graff Arboretum is 33 acres of freshwater ponds and protected swamplands filled with natural southern beauty. The hidden gem held within the park is the reused 1882 King Bowstring Bridge. Once used to cross the Black Warrior, it was closed in 1896 to slowly disappear from the area until it was reclaimed for the park. With porch-style swings and the surreal look of the historic bridge over the creek, it’s surely the latest picturesque place to picnic.
No place around town comes to mind faster for a quick picnic than the Riverwalk. Along the trail, there is plenty of places to settle down and relax under the towering trees. There’s the secluded riverside grassland between Manderson Landing and the condos, or the lookout between the Tuscaloosa Bank and Riverfront Village. The best part is you’re not too far from after meal treats at Orange Leaf or some cocktails above the Black Warrior at River.
Across the river, you can find one of the most secluded and naturally beautiful places in Tuscaloosa. Lake Nicol is a man-made lake with a slew of trails that meander to Cliffside views of the lake. These ledges make for a perfect spot to get away from it all in under a 15 min drive. Take in the serene views and picturesque waters all while resting on a cliff.
An easy walk from downtown, you can find yourself in our own Romanesque ruins. The remains of the former capital building create a romantic sense of history and feel like they’ve always been that way. If you’re lucky you can lay down the blanket right inside the former rotunda under the shadow of the curved bricks. It’s a great quick getaway with easy access to great coffee and restaurants.
While not an official public park, this secluded natural wonder offers adventure alongside some impressively untouched parcels of land right outside the city. The best plan for Hurricane Creek is to take a canoe, load it up with your picnic, and paddle through the mouth of the creek, under the old trestle bridge, until you find a bank perfect to rest at. Fair warning, parts of this land are privately owned, but there a few spots open to the public. Be sure to check the Map on Hurricane Creeks website before setting off on your picnic adventure.