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.
Events In Tuscaloosa This Weekend
We are on the verge of another fun-filled weekend in Tuscaloosa. Theatre Tuscaloosa is kicking off their production of “Cabaret” on Thursday, and it’s sure to be a gas. The Alabama Men’s Basketball Team hosts Arkansas on Saturday in what will be the final weekend home game of the season. Band of Brothers Brewing Co. will be rockin’ all day Saturday for their Winter Music Festival and Gramatik will start off next week with a bang.
Theatre Tuscaloosa’s “Cabaret”
Opening weekend is upon us! Take a trip back in time to the 1920’s with Theatre Tuscaloosa’s performance, Cabaret! You have multiple chances this weekend to experience this unique performance. Showings will be Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 7:30 pm in the Bean Brown Theatre. You can purchase tickets at the box office before the show, or call to purchase them over the phone.
Alabama v. Arkansas Basketball Game
The Arkansas Razorbacks are coming to Title Town on Saturday to take on the Crimson Tide in a conference showdown. Alabama is looking to bounce back after a disappointing loss to Auburn and boost their seeding in the conference and NCAA tournaments, and this squad has been good on the bounce-back all season. The action begins at 5 p.m. in Coleman Coliseum, and this SEC matchup is one that you don’t want to miss. Visit www.rolltide.com to purchase tickets before they sell out.
Band of Brothers Brewing Co. Winter Music Festival
The 1st Annual Band of Brothers Brewing Co. Winter Music Festival is an event that you don’t want to miss. Saturday is going to be a day full of food and fun for everyone. The 4G band will kick off the music at 2 pm and AFROUnicorn, Doobie “Doghouse” Wilson, Tarred & Feathered Band, Debbie Bond and B2B Band will keep it rockin’ all day long. There will also be several food trucks on site such as Local Roots, Be Gone and Lolly’s Sugar Shack.
Gramatik at Druid City Music Hall
Gramatik is an electronic artist, musician, and producer from Portorož, Slovenia and he is making a stop in Tuscaloosa on Monday night. His styles and influences are mostly a blend of dubstep, electro, trip hop, hip hop, and glitch. The music begins at 8:30 pm at Druid City Music Hall. Go to www.druidcitymusichall.com to purchase tickets to this must-see concert.
There are plenty of exciting events going on all over the city this weekend, so check out our events page at visittuscaloosa.xyz/events for a fun list of things to do.
We’re gearing up for another great weekend in the One and Only Tuscaloosa! Kick your weekend off a little early and join a family fun night of local and nationally acclaimed tap dancers this Thursday! “Tap into the Night” is produced and directed by Gregg Russell, emmy nominated choreographer and founder of L.A. based Tap Sounds Underground. Gregg has worked with such stars as: Bette Midler, Gene Kelly, The Nicholas Brothers, Michael Jackson, Gregory Hines, and Kenny Ortega. It’s not every day that you can watch world class tap dancing in Tuscaloosa which makes this a program you shouldn’t miss out on!
Friday night you can catch “Mulan” by the Actor’s Charitable Theater! The Summer Camp program will be presenting this play all weekend long at the Bama Theater! For those who haven’t seen the famous Disney movie, the story starts soon after the Huns have invaded China, and it is up to the misfit Mulan and her mischievous dragon sidekick, Mushu, to save the Emperor! Defying the village matchmaker, Mulan takes up arms and disguises herself as a boy in order to spare her father from having to serve in the army. As the great battle with the Huns approaches, Mulan must choose between revealing her true identity as a girl or saving all of China with her clever plan.
Kick off your Saturday with the Tuscaloosa Farmers Market! Located at the beautiful Tuscaloosa River Market, you can find anything from the famous Chilton County peaches to freshly brewed iced tea! Musicians sit propped up against the door, playing guitars as you walk in and put together a great atmosphere as you shop for your produce. Additionally, local Food Trucks, bakers, artists, and craftsmen gather here to sell their gourmet grub, fresh-baked yeast rolls, homemade jams and jellies and hand-carved cutting boards. Popular summer foods include tomatoes, Chilton County peaches, squash, corn, and local honey!
You can wrap up your weekend with Band of Brothers Brewing Co. this Saturday as they welcome Earl Guitar Williams & The Juke Band! Known in and around his hometown of Bessemer, Earl Guitar Williams is no stranger to blues lovers. He is recognized for the electrifying sound of his guitar and harmonica. Earl discovered his interest in music at the tender age of seven, and crafted his own guitar by using a cigar box, broomstick, and fishing cord. This marked the beginning of Earl’s musical career. At the age of nine Earl became a regular fixture on the porch of Mr. Gip, now a backyard juke joint in Bessemer, Al. Earl currently plays in numerous venues and with various blues artists!
We have tons more going on so check out our great upcoming events, and follow us on our social media pages (@visittuscaloosa) for more announcements and events. Tell your friends and we can’t wait to see you around the One and Only Tuscaloosa!