Sitting on the banks of the Black Warrior River is the city of Tuscaloosa, originally the capital of the state of Alabama, it is the fifth biggest city in the state and a hub for education and sports.
The University of Alabama has its home in Tuscaloosa and the city leaders came up with the moniker “The City of Champions” due to the continuing success that the Crimson Tide football team brings to the great city.
I’m an Alabama local and visit Tuscaloosa at least 3 or 4 times a year, not only because its very close to my hometown (Birmingham) but also simply because the people are so friendly.
With so much to get involved in lets jump straight into the top fifteen things to do in Tuscaloosa.
1. Watch Some College Football At Bryant-Denny Stadium
I think the Bryant-Denny Stadium is one of the greatest college football stadiums in the Country. With a capacity of over 101,000, the stadium is the 8th biggest in the United States and the 10th biggest in the world. It has an electric atmosphere and a deafening volume when the home supporters are cheering on the University of Alabama Crimson Tide football team.
Opened in 1929 with just a capacity of about 12,000 the stadium has seen huge expansion over the years to get it to the size that it is today. When in town be sure to look up the fixture list to make sure you catch a game.
2. Check Out The Legend At The Paul W. Bryant Museum
Paul Bryant is an Alabama Legend and a household name in these parts of the world. In 1958 he became the head coach for the University of Alabama Crimson Tide and turned the team into a force to be reckoned with, he won the championship in 1961,64 and 65, as time went by the team started to lose their edge and he recruited the first black players the team had ever seen, with the team reinvigorated a return to dominance followed in 1973, 78 and 79.
I think this museum is well worth a visit when you are in Tuscaloosa to learn more about this great man.
3. Listen To A Band At The Tuscaloosa Amphitheater
There is something about sitting outside in an intimate atmosphere and listening to a live band play your favorite songs. The Tuscaloosa Amphitheater has a capacity of just 7,470 and is primarily used for musical events. Over the years many famous acts have wowed the crowds and the locals keep coming back for more. The amphitheater is famous for its great facilities, cleanliness and ease of entry.
When in town check out what bands are on and head on down, for the sounds quality alone you will not be disappointed.
4. Relive History At Capitol Park
Back in 1826 Capitol Park was the site of the Alabama Capital, this was a time when Tuscaloosa was the seat of state government, in 1847 however the seat was moved away from Tuscaloosa and went to Montgomery. The old building was subsequently converted into a college and Alabama Central Female College had its home here until 1923, when the college was burnt to the ground and the ruins that we see today were all that was left.
The park is very popular with locals and tourists who come here to view the ruins and relax on the surrounding grass areas.
5. Take The Children To The Children’s Hands-On Museum
Many of the things to view in Alabama are of a historic nature due to the civil rights movements that gripped the states in the sixties, this can at time leave younger children with not to much to do. A trip to the Children’s Hands-On Museum should see them entertained for a few hours though. The exhibition is split over three floors and has twenty four separate exhibits to touch, feel and play with.
The exhibits are, in my opinion, very educational but fun at the same time, meaning your little ones won’t even realize they are learning as they play.
6. Take A Mercedes Benz Factory Tour
Tuscaloosa is famous for its Mercedes Benz Factory and the company is one of the major providers of work in the area, the cars have been made here since 1999 and with over a billion dollars being invested in the plant it is about to get a whole lot bigger as well. With the iconic cars rolling off the production line here why not take a tour of the factory and see the men and women at work.
Next to the factory there is also a museum to visit which has the history of the company as well as some earlier models to look at, there is even a formula one car that was driven by F1 legend Michael Schumacher.
7. Marvel At The Jemison-Van de Graaf Mansion
Built in 1859 this house was at the time the most advanced building Alabama had ever seen. Unfortunately due to the civil war breaking out it was never completed fully, but what was completed was done immaculately, mostly by local skilled slaves.
The house was the first in Tuscaloosa to have its own plumbed in bathroom as well as a gas plant that was used for illumination. At one point the building was used as the city library before being taken over by the Heritage Commission of Tuscaloosa. Today the house is used for weddings and ceremonies and has seen careful restoration to see it return to its 1860’s appearance.
More on Alabama: 30 Amazing Hidden Gems in Alabama
8. Tuscaloosa Federal Building And U.S. Courthouse
The Federal building and U.S. Courthouse is a treasure trove of paintings that depict the history of Alabama.
Once inside the building you will need to go through strict security because of the nature of the work that is undertaken here (think airport security) but after that you are free to go up to the main area and marvel at these truly astonishing pictures, if that was not enough to convince you then maybe the fact that it is completely free to enter will be.
9. Go For A Shop At The Farmers Market
Every Saturday morning between seven and twelve on the banks of the Black Warrior River is the Tuscaloosa Farmers’ Market. Here locals farmers sell their fresh produce to the community. A real popular event among locals see’s the market attract people from all over who are looking for grass fed beef, delicious local cheeses and organic produce to take home.
It is not unusual to see some local livestock being brought along to show off the quality of the animals to the public. When in town this is not one to be missed.
10. Step Back In Time At The Old Tavern Museum
Built in 1827 the Old Tavern Museum used to be a tavern and a hostel, it sat on the stagecoach route that would pass through the city. It is one of the only 19th century inns that remains in this state today and offers you a chance to look back in time to see how things were done.
The hostelry used to be a place where the confederate soldiers would stay as they traveled through or to the city. Today the building has been renovated and serves a museum for the people, admission is free and you can view by appointment.
11. The Alabama Museum Of Natural History
For more than 150 years the Alabama Museum of Natural History has shown the people of Tuscaloosa many different artifacts, the museum comes under the University of Alabama and is a fantastic place to discover old relics and increase your knowledge of the natural history that state has to offer.
There is the permanent exhibition as well as an ever changing temporary exhibition. During the time of the dinosaurs most of Alabama was underwater and one of the largest creatures discovered was the Elasmosaur, discover it for yourself when you make a trip here.
If you want to pay a visit, I highly recommend the Tuscaloosa Multi-Attraction Pass, which not only gives you admission to the museum, but other top attractions as well.
12. Visit The Grand Battle-Friedman House
Built in 1835 by Alfred Battle, the house was very large and occupied an entire block of the city. There were two front parlors, a central hall and many rooms above. In 1875 the property was sold to the Friedman family, he was a merchant who came to the U.S. from Hungary. The property remained in the family for nearly a hundred years until Hugo Friedman gave the property to the city of Tuscaloosa in his will. It is a beautiful property and is in excellent condition.
A visit is very worthwhile and can be done every weekday between Tuesday and Friday.
13. Time To Fish At Lake Tuscaloosa
Lake Tuscaloosa is a Dam that was built to supply domestic and industrial water to the people in the city, it covers an area of 5,885 acres and has 177 miles of shoreline. The lake itself has become a very popular spot for people wishing to participate in fishing.
The lake is regularly stocked with sport fish to ensure that tournament and casual fishers are able to carry out their pastimes here.
Related reading: 15 Best Lakes in Alabama
14. Time For Smoked Ribs At Archibald’s Bar B Q
For five decades this small restaurant has been serving the people of Tuscaloosa pit smoked pork and ribs. Opened in 1961 by the current owners father the restaurant is an absolute winner among locals, and also in various competitions.
The place looks nothing special from the outside but this family knows they have some great food and have kept the same recipe and the same type of wood in the pit since the day they opened. Whenever I make a trip to Tuscaloosa this place is always on the top of my list.