Let’s be honest, the first word that comes to mind when you hear “Tuscaloosa” is most likely football. While the Crimson Tide dynasty is undeniably an incredible aspect of T-Town, it is impossible to experience the entirety of our city without the missing pieces. Your answer, most likely, was not history, but what if I told you it deserves a spot in the top five, at least? Below we have compiled just a few of the different ways to immerse yourself in the diverse and captivating history of the one and only Tuscaloosa!
The most extensive historical attraction in Tuscaloosa is the Tuscaloosa Civil Rights Trail, with 18 stops spread throughout Downtown Tuscaloosa. This trail is a compilation of historical Civil Rights sites throughout town, where prominent events occurred, whether it was the location of a riot, a safe house for those escaping racial persecution, or exhibitions of art from Black artists and creators. The Tuscaloosa Civil Rights Trail is a wonderful activity for families and friends to walk around historical Tuscaloosa and learn about the rich and difficult history of the city. Each location along the trail offers a different glimpse into a not-so-distant past and can be an important lesson for all of us in modern times!
Built in 1835 and surviving nearly two centuries, the Battle-Friedman House is one of the oldest standing buildings in the City of Tuscaloosa. The history of this house lies in its journey of ownership from family to family over the last two centuries. The house was originally built by the Battle Family, a plantation-owning couple from North Carolina who had recently moved to Tuscaloosa. Then, towards the end of the Reconstruction Era in 1875, the Battles foreclosed on the house, and its ownership was transferred over to the Friedmans, a Hungarian family who had moved to Tuscaloosa to open up a store and eventually became a respected member of the Tuscaloosa community. Ultimately, the Friedman family willed the house to the City of Tuscaloosa in 1965, and has since been preserved as a location of historical significance located just outside the heart of Downtown Tuscaloosa!
For fans of historic architecture and intricate design, the Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion is a beautiful destination throughout Tuscaloosa’s history. This mansion was built in the late 1800s, with its construction being halted for the Civil War, causing a number of incompletions in the initial construction of the mansion itself. The mansion was designed by architect Samuel Sloan – also known for designing Bryce Hospital – but was unfortunately built by slaves, given the timeframe in which it was constructed. Before becoming an official historical site to the City of Tuscaloosa and in addition to being used as a residence, the Van de Graaff Mansion has also been used at the city library. Admission to the mansion for viewing is free, plus the space is available for rent for events and celebrations! For more information about the mansion, visit its dedicated website.
As the host of a number of exhibits and featured speakers over the years, the Alabama Museum of Natural History is one of the most impressive buildings on the University of Alabama campus. This museum is home to many different exhibits, collections, and programs dedicated to educating its visitors about the natural wonders of Alabama and the Earth itself. It dives into the ancient and modern history of all the nature that is all around us, even here in the City of Tuscaloosa! The museum is housed inside Smith Hall on campus, just off the quad, and is open to all who wish to learn more about the science that lives around us in our everyday lives. For more information about admission and hours of operation, visit the Alabama Museum of Natural History website on the University of Alabama website.
For those avid fans of both Crimson Tide athletics and the history of Tuscaloosa, there is no better place to visit than the Paul W. Bryant Museum. This museum is an exploration into the history of not only the best coach in the history of collegiate football but also the history of one of the most decorated athletic programs in the history of all collegiate athletics! Extensively archived over the course of the university’s history, the exhibits and videos featured in the museum show an in-depth look into the growth and evolution of Alabama athletics navigating through segregation, World War 2, and of course, the beginnings of the Iron Bowl rivalry! The museum is open Thursday to Sunday with varying admission prices – including free for visitors aged 6 years or younger – so be sure to visit the museum website for more information, as well the opportunity to buy admission ahead of time.
Lake Lurleen is a site of natural beauty located close to the City of Tuscaloosa and is ripe with natural wonders for all to discover! Lake Lurleen is a 250-acre Lake Lurleen home to many varieties of fish, and measures nearly one and a half miles in length, one-half mile wide, and goes as deep as 48 feet! Visiting Lake Lurleen State Park in Fall is one of the best times to visit as leaves are changing colors and the temperatures are moderate enough to enjoy a relaxing hike or a walk around the area. The park facilities include campgrounds, picnic areas, play areas for kids, pavilions for gatherings, beaches, piers for fishing, RV storage, and boat rentals. Admission is required for day use, so be sure to visit the Lake Lurleen State Park website to learn more about admission prices and the rules and regulations of using the park’s facilities on a daily basis.
Located about 13 miles south of the City of Tuscaloosa is the Moundville Archaeological Park, one of the most prominent Native American heritage sites in modern-day North America. This park was once the location of the largest city north of modern-day Mexico and was home to the Mississippian tribe of Native Americans. On this 326-acre preservation, 800 years ago, the Mississippian tribe celebrated with festivals and ceremonies, sites of which are visible today for visitors! As an extension of the modern-day City of Tuscaloosa, this is a destination of great historical significance to the original peoples that inhabited our country centuries ago. This site is currently hosting the Virtual Moundville Native American Festival, a celebration of the original peoples who inhabited this land and their rich culture that survives to this day. Joining in on the festival is a beautiful opportunity to learn more about an ancient civilization that thrived and prospered only a short distance away from Tuscaloosa!
Written by: Will Baggett
Edited by: Jamie Hoven
It’s back everyone. Just like every other of their singularity. With an endless parade of affection, it can be difficult to feel single and happy when everyone else sure seems a lot happier. Luckily, we have good news. There’s more to this day than just cupids and chalky heart candy. For those who walk the sidewalk with free hands, our city has helpful ways to enjoy the holiday solo or with your equally single friends.
Don’t forget that the day after will be filled with discount chocolate and candy as a prize for surviving the love laced holiday! Many local and chain stores will be pushing their candy out and you can reap the sweet reward!
Sorry to say, but this day will most likely spread over two weekends with it falling on a Tuesday. Many are likely going to take the time to celebrate with a romantic dinner either the weekend before or after, but while they overindulge on chocolate covered treats, Tuscaloosa has plenty of great escapes for those flying solo.
If you haven’t gone by now, this is the perfect chance to try one of the most highly rated burgers in Alabama. Ave Pub might run the risk of hosting some couples on a night out, but with the right group of friends and more importantly a mountain of their Thai nachos can make being single on valentines day seem like the right way to go.
Steamers on the Strip
If fried food and friends don’t go together then what does? Steamers on the Strip offers a bounty of fried seafood in platters worth sharing with some of your fellow singulars. You won’t have to hold the fries with dainty hands; ya’ll can dive into a platter of fried goodness that you know you’ve been craving.
Moe’s Original BBQ
What’s more anti-date than good ole messy BBQ? Moe’s can be the perfect place to get together and share some sides, or horde them while couples fill up the more cliché spots around town. Plus, after dinner, you’re in a perfect place between the strip and downtown bars to join in more anti-V-Day celebrations.
Heat Pizza Bar
At the base of the parking deck downtown, you can find some of the best pizza and cocktails at Heat. Nothing brings friends closer than great pizza! With their large variety of inventive pies and toppings, you can sample from each other or be greedy and keep it all to yourself. The best part of heat comes from their long weekend hours. Open until 2 am on Saturday, and 3 am on Friday means you can chill with some good buddies and drink and eat the night away without ever having to move around.
While B-Phils is perfect any day for students with dining dollars left, or people who just love their wings, you can chill with some great food made with love (love being their deep fryer and its liquid gold to make such deliciousness like the country burger). Going for Valentine’s means you can rekindle your love affair with good ole Phil with a side of curly fries.
Escape the overdone holiday by jump-starting Spring with some Cinco De Mayo festivities. Head over to Taco Mama’s for the day and reunite with your summer fling, chips, and salsa. Indulge in some delicious tacos, or split a pitcher of Margaritas and soon it’ll feel more like a holiday than a reminder of your singleness.
There isn’t a city in the world like Tuscaloosa, especially on a game day. The city comes alive with a vibrating energy of excitement and passion for college football. Tuscaloosa goes from the fifth largest city in the state to the second largest when the concrete walls of Bryant-Denny are filled to the brim. From the iconic Quad in the center of the University to the beauty of Downtown, there is something for everyone to do on Game Day.
The University of Alabama Campus
Whether the game kicks off at 11 am or 8 pm you can find people enjoying all these great city offers. The classic start to any game day is on the Quad. A mass of people and tents collide under the shade of the towering trees, or in the open field to the east of the Library with festivities. Tailgate tents can range from collegiate staples like a good grill and stable TV, to full on luxury with fine china illuminated by chandeliers. For those without an invitation to a tailgate, the east side of the quad offers an array of local food trucks lined up to serve you. The Quad is a world all of its and one you have to see to believe.
Along University Blvd, past the old row of fraternity houses, is the landmark strip. It’s a section of incredible bars, restaurants, and shopping all waiting to delight you.
If there’s any place along the strip to make a trip to, its Gallettes. The epitome of a classic college bar, you can find patrons singing every word of “Sweet Home Alabama” with a gospel dedication. If you’re lucky enough to catch a rendition of “Dixieland Delight” you’ll be elated to find everyone around you not only sing the whole song with heart, but extra lyrics are known only by Alabama fans. At the bar, you’ll find the legendary Yellowhammer cocktail. Many try to recreate it, but you can never beat the original in its classic yellow and red cup.
Since the 1980s, Buffalo Phils has been serving guests their delicious food and mysterious green concoction known as the Philibuster. Under the collegiate décor, you can find some of the best wings in town along with some all too tempting items like a chicken fried steak burger, hot dogs, and fries smothered in their wing sauce.
Is there anything more college than pizza? The savory treat that graces every party, late night and early morning of those great four years can be found in top form in Little Italy. Inspired by New York style pizza, you can grab just a simple slice or a whole pie depending on your appetite.
This foodie favorite has some of the best looking, and even better-tasting biscuits. From savory to sweet, these fluffy biscuit sandwiches come stuffed with wonderful fillings like fried chicken and goat cheese or strawberries and cream. They come out looking so picture perfect you’re sure to make your friends envious when they end up on your social media.
Further towards the west from the university, and a short walk or uber ride away is a food heaven waiting for you. Downtown Tuscaloosa’s food scene is growing fast, and it’s time to reap the tasty rewards. There’re so many great options it gets difficult with every year to narrow it down to the best. So come hungry when you come downtown.
This One and Only has grown from Tuscaloosa to several cities across the southeast and it’s easy to see why. Their simple menu keeps it to five choices from appetizers to cocktails. The atmosphere inside is as photogenic as the food that comes out the kitchen.
Inside the former L&N Train Station, you’ll find a fusion of german and southern cuisine that you never knew you needed. The great hall of the old grand station is pleasantly lit by the original gasolier as you dine on Reuben spring rolls and bourbon glazed duck.
This list topping eatery has consistently been the go-to for some of the best food in Tuscaloosa. Known for their hole in the wall setting, great drinks, and incredible fusion dishes, it’s hard to go wrong with Avenue Pub. Fan favorites range from their Thai Nachos to the Bacon Burger that has been winning accolades since its debut.
Tuscaloosa is far from dry when it comes to locally brewed craft beer. With three local breweries, it’s hard to choose, but Black Warrior Brewing along University Blvd keeps the tailgate going. Inside you’ll find their wide collection of brews, along with wine and even non-alcoholic house made root beer. Upstairs they offer the classics like darts, but also bring in the tailgate fun with cornhole and adult sized Jenga!
Not all of Tuscaloosa’s finest can be easily sought after. you can hunt down some ridiculously delightful places that are tucked away and waiting to surprise you. From along the riverbanks to the outskirts, even within the city center, there’s something worth finding in the One and Only.
(Nicks n the Sticks)
During gameday, you’ll hear seasoned fans talk about what almost sounds like a foodie fairy tale. A little red brick building surrounded by towering pines a little out west from the city that’s home to some of the best filets you’ll ever know. Nicks Original Filet House as the little sign will read, is a legend all on its own. It’s a short drive from downtown and tends to fill up quick, but the bacon wrapped filets, low prices, and the iconic cocktail they call the Nicodemus are beyond worth the drive.
Located along the riverbanks not far from the university, you can find what’s quickly becoming one of the best new places to eat in the city. River is a modern foodie heaven with breathtaking views of the Black Warrior and to die for dishes. They have taken the city by storm with their well-crafted cocktails to their refined southern inspired dishes. The Southern staple of shrimp n grits is presented like a refined delicacy with a bounty of flavor.
Downtown has become so overwhelmed with amazing offers, it’s easy to overlook some places. The chaos of the crowd and the paradox of choices can make it easy to walk right past this hole in the wall diamond. Ephipany café is farm to table with some worldly cuisine. You can find it tucked between Carpe Vino and The Grey Lady. Inside under its brick arches are small plates that pack a boisterous punch to them. You can always trust something you’ll like will be on the menu as it changes all the time.
Hardly hidden, but easy to overlook, this Bama burger joint is right under the looming shadow of Bryant-Denny. You can find it thanks to its large neon name, and while the crowd before and even after the game can be intimidating, trust that what’s waiting inside is well worth any wait. Their burgers are that kind of simple that can never truly be beaten. Along with their fries and a classic American milkshake, you’ll wonder why you ever doubted waiting for this Bama Burger. Look for the National Champs BLT that features a slice of bacon for every Alabama Championship win. If you don’t know, that means a lot of bacon.
Getting Around Town
Game Day can mean big-time crowds, with big city style traffic. From the early hours before a game, to well after the 4th quarter it’s not easy to manage driving around town. Luckily this southern college down offers ways to beat the crowd and get around with ease.
Tuscaloosa offers both the classic taxi service, alongside the app driver service of Uber. Both are great ways to get around thanks to their experience on Tuscaloosa roads, and their dedication to getting you around safely
Golf Cart App Services
What is more fun and exciting than flying past traffic on a golf cart? Tuscaloosa has the quirky taxi service of golf carts driven to meet you and take you anywhere you need to go in their service area. Simply use their app and summon a driver like you would for any other app taxi service and be swept past the crowds on a golf cart.
Game Day Shuttles
The University of Alabama, alongside the City of Tuscaloosa, offer several different shuttle services to help ease the way back to your car, or simply head towards downtown and not have to walk.
Crimson Ride Shuttle
For those who parked around the eastern side of the campus, this free shuttle takes you from the quad to stops near the east campus RV lots, the soccer lots, and parking lots along 5th Avenue
Tuscaloosa Transit will take you from the stadium to the Downtown Intermodel Facility parking deck running 3hours before the game, and an hour after for $1 per trip.
University Mall Shuttle
With Free parking at the University Mall, you can ride to and from the stadium for $10 per person round trip.
For locals, a giant neon cactus in our southern college town just makes sense. They belong right up there in Tuscaloosa landmarks with Denny Chimes and the Railroad Bridge. They just make sense. To newcomers, they are one of the first things you ask a local about. Anybody born and raised here will likely have an undying passion for their tacos and sweet tea. While the city has grown its food scene more and more with each passing day, they still have a love for Taco Casa. It’s hard to imagine that there was a time before they sprung up around town. Long before 1974 when the first Taco Casa would open, founder Rod Wilkins was dreaming up of the Tex-Mex after practice under the guidance of Tuscaloosa Icon Coach Bear Bryant. He would go on to head back home, work with his father in construction and marry a Northport girl named Susan Strong.
They would come back to Tuscaloosa in 73 with money they invested from Susan’s grandmother. While Rod would try to get a loan for his Tex-Mex, he officiated high school football games while helping build Susan’s parents home. Once he got the loan from his fellow football official Ed King, he set out to find the perfect spot to build his dream on. On August 20th, 1974 Taco Casa was born. They hit the ground running with their long-continued tradition of serving fresh food made right after the customer ordered. Along with hot fresh food, they served some of the coldest beer in frosted mugs, quickly becoming the landmark restaurant where many locals would try their first taco.
After incredibly dedicating himself to his work, he was advised by his former high school coach to franchise Taco Casa. By 1977 Taco Casa expanded across the river to Northport. College students and locals alike would grow to love Taco Casa to the point they expanded into markets like Mobile, Birmingham, and even into auburn. On that tragic day of April 27th, 2011 a Taco Casa along 15th street was struck by the devastating tornado. The Restaurant would be one of the first businesses to come back stronger than before and be a beacon of hope for the city’s revival. To this day Taco Casa is still a family operated business with a dedication to our great city. They continue to serve freshly made Tex-Mex and some of the sweetest sweet tea in the state. It is loved and cherished as a local legend that continues to bring people together under the biggest cactus in town