Tuscaloosa is a city in the southern state of Alabama. It has a historic past and is filled with many local museums and houses that serve as reminders to a time long gone.
It’s also a college city and the home of the University of Alabama. The Alabama Crimson Tide is the city’s beloved college football team. Seeing a home game during your visit will make for an exciting experience, unlike any other!
Tuscaloosa has a small-town feel, with lots of local museums, restaurants, and parks. If you’re planning a trip and trying to decide what to do while visiting this historic southern city, you’re in the right place. Here are the absolute best attractions in Tuscaloosa!
- Top Things to Do in Tuscaloosa
- Unusual Things to Do in Tuscaloosa
- Things to Do in Tuscaloosa at Night
- Where to Stay in Tuscaloosa – Downtown
- Romantic Things to Do in Tuscaloosa
- Best Free Things to Do in Tuscaloosa
- Tuscaloosa Packing List
- Things to Do with Kids in Tuscaloosa
- Day Trips From Tuscaloosa
- 3 Day Itinerary in Tuscaloosa
Top Things to Do in Tuscaloosa
This southern city offers a great list of entertaining attractions. If you’re trying to decide what to do in Tuscaloosa, Alabama to start your trip, here are the top six points of interest!
The Bryant-Denny Stadium is one of the most impressive college football stadiums in the U.S. With a capacity for over 101,000 spectators, it’s the 7th biggest college football stadium in the United States. The stadium opened in 1928 and has been making history in Alabama sports culture ever since.
If you’re visiting Tuscaloosa when the town’s beloved University of Alabama Crimson Tide football team is playing, this is one event you don’t want to miss! The energy is guaranteed to be electric.
The Tuscaloosa Gateway Innovation and Discovery Center is a state-of-the-art library with some pretty impressive features.
The coolest aspect of the center is the large interactive discovery wall. This wall provides a totally unique experience. Visitors can explore the people and places of Tuscaloosa, from past to present, as well as learn about Alabama’s history.
This has got to be one of the neatest Tuscaloosa, Alabama attractions. It provides guests with a great introduction to the city. Stop in and make use of the free access to tablets, laptops, and a massive digital library!
3. Learn About an Alabama Sports Legend
Paul Bryant is a household name in Alabama. In 1958, he became the head coach for the University of Alabama Crimson Tide. He coached a team that won many championships in the ’60s and ’70s. He also recruited the team’s first black players.
The Paul W. Bryant Museum chronicles the history of Alabama football from its roots in the late 1800s through the modern-day. It was made to “house the history of Alabama football, with special emphasis on the legendary coach”. It’s well worth a visit and one of the best places to go in Tuscaloosa to learn about the local sports culture.
4. Experience the City’s Scenic Sights and Sounds
The Tuscaloosa Riverwalk offers a paved, scenic trail that is open for walking, running and cycling. It’s a two-way path that stretches throughout the city and spans the length of the Black Warrior River’s southern banks throughout Tuscaloosa’s downtown region.
The entire length is approximately 4.5 miles. It starts at Capitol Park on the western end, with the ending point being at a gazebo on the East side of Manderson.
Park areas are included in the trail, as well as a playground and splash pad. Benches, gazebos, and picnic areas are also sprinkled throughout the route. If you’re looking for outdoor things to do in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, make sure to add this to your trip itinerary!
5. Lounge at Lake Tuscaloosa
Lake Tuscaloosa is a dam that covers an area of 5,885 acres and offers 177 miles of beautiful shoreline. During the summer months, this is one of the most popular Tuscaloosa attractions. It’s a great place to go for some peaceful and enjoyable fun in the sun.
One of the most popular activities enjoyed at the lake is fishing. The water is filled with a variety of bass, catfish, bluegill, crappie, and more. As far as aquatic activities go, visitors can enjoy swimming, boating, tubing, and water skiing.
There is also a water sport rental area where you can rent canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards.
The Alabama Museum of Natural History is located at the University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa. It was founded in 1831, making it the oldest museum in the state. The exhibits showcase the natural history and diversity of Alabama, from the Dinosaur Age, the Coal Age, and the Ice Age.
Dive deep into Alabama’s prehistoric past and enjoy a self-paced learning experience You’ll see the riveting permanent exhibition, as well as temporary exhibitions during your visit. There are also plenty of interactive exhibits that both kids and adults will enjoy!
Unusual Things to Do in Tuscaloosa
Are you looking for a few unique attractions to add to your trip itinerary? Here are the most fun and unusual Tuscaloosa activities to check out.
Capitol Park is the former site of the Alabama Capitol building. Unfortunately, the building burned to the ground in 1923. However, the ruins of the buildings can be found around the park. Some of the ruins include the stone foundation of the rotunda and several of the columns.
The park preserves the state’s 19th-century history in a public setting for residents and visitors to enjoy. It makes for a wonderful picnic site and offers a shaded pavilion and plenty of grassy areas to relax on. This park is very popular with both locals and tourists.
8. Get a History Lesson Through Art
The Tuscaloosa Federal Building And U.S. Courthouse is a treasure trove of beautiful murals and artwork. Inside, you’ll find wonderful paintings that depict important historical events in Tuscaloosa and western Alabama.
You might not think that Tuscaloosa would have a large stately building in such a small town. However, this building is something to behold! It’s also free to enter. However, seeing as this is a government building, be prepared to go through a metal detector and security.
If you’re a history or art lover, make sure to add this to your list of things to do in Tuscaloosa AL.
The Battle Friedman House is a historic 1835 Antebellum home that was constructed as a family residence. The house gets its name from its two former owners. Alfred Battle, who built the house, and Bernard Friedman, who purchased the home from the Battle family in 1875.
This gorgeous, two-story red-brick building gives guests a glimpse of antebellum living. The house also features the state’s only known Antebellum garden.
One interesting thing about the house is that many of the elements found inside are shorter and smaller than they are in traditional construction. Members of the two families that occupied the home are thought to have been rather short. For example, the doorknobs, furniture, and the stair rails are very low compared to current standards.
Safety in Tuscaloosa
Overall, Tuscaloosa is a safe city to visit, and you should have nothing to worry about during your trip.
Most of the neighborhoods where crime does occur are places that tourists would have no reason to visit. Areas that tourists are advised to stay clear of are the southern, western and eastern/Alberta City areas of Tuscaloosa. These can be dangerous, especially at night.
Areas in and around downtown Tuscaloosa and the University of Alabama are considered the safest areas of the city. As long as you follow the rules of common sense during your visit you shouldn’t encounter any problems during your stay! It’s also always wise to get travel insurance if you want to make sure you’re covered.
You should always have emergency cash hidden on you – pick up this awesome security belt with its hidden pocket before you travel, it’s perfect for hiding money, a passport photocopy.
Things to Do in Tuscaloosa at Night
Looking for entertainment options after the sun sets? Here are two great things to do in Tuscaloosa at night.
10. Enjoy Wholesome Entertainment at the Local Theater
The Theater Tuscaloosa is one of Alabama’s largest community theaters. Since 1971 this venue has been entertaining crowds. See a live theatrical play performed by Tuscaloosa and Alabama’s very own residents.
You can expect to see high-quality productions in an intimate setting. Most shows are also family-friendly and ticket prices are very reasonable. There is a concession stand that sells snacks and drinks to enjoy alongside the show.
For local entertainment in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, make sure to visit the Theater Tuscaloosa!
The Tuscaloosa Amphitheater is the place to go in the city for live music. This outdoor venue has a capacity for 7,470 spectators and has hosted many famous acts in the past.
You’ll always find a great selection of musical genres, including rock and roll, rap, gospel, R&B, classic rock, and country. There are enough musical offerings to keep everyone satisfied.
The quality concession and bar services are the cherries on top! When you visit Tuscaloosa, make sure to check out what bands are playing so you can book your tickets in advance. This is a great local experience you don’t want to miss!
Where to Stay in Tuscaloosa – Downtown
The best area of Tuscaloosa to stay in is downtown. Many of the city’s most popular attractions are found in, or around the downtown area. You’ll also find plenty of eateries, cafes, and bars.
- The Bryant-Denny Stadium
- The Tuscaloosa Riverwalk
- The Tuscaloosa Amphitheater
Best Hotel in Tuscaloosa – Hotel Indigo Tuscaloosa Downtown
This Tuscaloosa hotel offers loads of great perks. The property features a restaurant, fitness center, free bike rentals, free private parking, and room service.
Each room is spacious and includes a flat-screen TV, a tea/coffee maker, and a desk. It’s conveniently located next to the Black Warrior River and many downtown attractions.
Romantic Things to Do in Tuscaloosa
If you’re looking to rouse up some romance during your trip, here are some fun things to do in Tuscaloosa, Alabama for couples!
This Alabama city does not disappoint when it comes to southern-style cooking. Here is our pick of the two best places in Tuscaloosa to eat locally.
Dreamland BBQ Tuscaloosa is one of the city’s most popular restaurants. This casual eatery serves up classic southern comfort food, including ribs, wings, sausages, and hearty side dishes. The restaurant was originally founded in Tuscaloosa in 1958. However, due to this eatery’s popularity, it’s gone on to open up stores across Alabama.
The Avenue Pub is another great local joint with a laid-back atmosphere. They serve up classic American dishes and a nice selection of local craft beer. They have great happy hour specials Monday – Friday, with live music every Sunday!
13. Visit the City’s Historic Local Theater
Tuscaloosa’s historic Bama Theater was established in 1938. It was one of the last movie palaces to be built in the south. As typical for this type of theater, it has a lavish and atmospheric design.
This performing arts venue regularly hosts local plays, film festivals, concerts, musicals, dance productions, and more. It’s a beautiful venue and perfect for seeing any type of show. The quality is top-notch, the acoustics are great, and there’s not a bad seat in the house.
For a magical night and some local Tuscaloosa entertainment, head to the Bama Theater!
Do You Need Travel Insurance?
Don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favorite travel insurance provider.
Getting an estimate from World Nomads is simple – just click the button or image below, fill out the necessary info, and you’re on your way!
Best Free Things to Do in Tuscaloosa
Looking for activities that won’t break the bank? Here are two complete free Tuscaloosa, Alabama points of interest!
14. Check Out the Homegrown Goodness of Tuscaloosa
Every Friday and Saturday morning, next to the Black Warrior River, you’ll find the Tuscaloosa River Market. This is the city’s farmer’s market where local vendors set up shop.
Pick up some delicious local cheeses, baked goods, organic produce, herbs, local honey, and much more! You’ll also find locally made artisan crafts, like jewelry, soap, and candles.
This weekend market is a popular event among locals. It’s also a great way for tourists to check out the local offerings and mingle with the natives.
15. Marvel at a Historic Mansion
The Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion was built from 1859-1862. During the time of its building, the house was a true sight to be seen and the most advanced building in the state of Alabama.
It was ahead of its time technologically and was the first house in Tuscaloosa to have indoor bathroom plumbing as well as a gas plant that was used for illumination.
Today, the house is open to the public who can admire an impressive piece of history that has been restored to its beautiful 1860’s appearance. This attraction is open from Tuesday – Friday and admission is free!
Tuscaloosa Packing List
1. Travel Water Bottle: Always travel with a water bottle – it’ll save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. AR bottle are tough, lightweight and maintain the temperature of your beverage – so you can enjoy a cold red bull, or a hot coffee, no matter where you are. For every AR bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an initiative to reduce plastic in our oceans!
2. Microfibre Towel: It’s always worth packing a proper towel. Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.
3. Security Belt with Hidden Pocket: I never hit the road without my security belt. This is a regular looking belt with a concealed pocket on the inside – you can hide up to twenty notes inside and wear it through airport scanners without it setting them off. This is hands down the best way to hide your cash.
4. Camera or Cell Phone Camera Accessories: One thing’s for sure – Tuscaloosa is a picturesque destination! Get perfect shots from your phone using clip-on-lenses with wide-angle, close-up and optical zoom. With the ability to turn travel pictures from basic to professional, this universal lens sits neatly over any phone camera and comes with a durable, travel-friendly case!
5. International Adapter: Tuscaloosa outlets accommodate typical US two-pronged plugs, but for electronics that have three prongs or if your plugs are of a different variety, you’ll need an adapter. Save yourself the hassle of trying to track down an adapter at your destination and paying twice as much than planning ahead by buying one online.
Books to Read in Tuscaloosa
The Backpacker Bible – Learn how to ditch your desk and travel the world on just $10 a day whilst building an online income.
Sometimes a Great Notion – A tale of a hardheaded Oregonian logging family that goes on strike, leading the town to drama and tragedy. Written by PNW legend, Ken Kesey.
Walden – The transcendental masterpiece by Henry David Thoreau that helped modern Americans rediscover nature and her beauty.
To Have and To Have Not – A family man gets involved with the drug smuggling business in the Key West and ends up in a strange affair. Written by the great Ernest Hemingway.
Things to Do with Kids in Tuscaloosa
Looking for child-friendly activities to enjoy during your trip? Here are a couple of fun things to do in Tuscaloosa, Alabama for kids.
16. Make Learning a Hands-on Experience For Your Little Ones
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Tuscaloosa with kids, the Children’s Hands-on Museum is a must-visit!
This fun space is completely dedicated to child entertainment and will have your little ones entertained for hours. Your kids will love roaming the rooms in the museum, including the space station, party palace, Japanese House, Art Studio, and Lil’ Sprouts Farmer’s Market.
There are many exciting exhibits kids can interact and play with. This museum combines education with entertainment and lets children’s imaginations run free.
17. Take Some Time Out in Tuscaloosa
The Government Plaza is a five-acre park located in the center of downtown Tuscaloosa. If you’re traveling with little ones, it provides convenient access to a spacious area where they can run around and burn off some energy.
During the summer, this place really comes alive. Every week there’s a free concert in the park and food trucks regularly set up shop. The plaza also hosts several festivals and events throughout the year, including kid’s events. Make sure to check the park’s online calendar before visiting!
Day Trips From Tuscaloosa
Day trips are a great way to discover even more of the gorgeous state of Alabama. If you have some extra time on your hands, you’re probably looking for things to do near Tuscaloosa. Here are two great excursions!
Birmingham is just a one hour drive (57 miles) from Tuscaloosa, making it perfect for a day trip. It’s the most populated city in the state and offers a great range of attractions.
Birmingham played a key role in the American Civil Rights Movement and the history of this time period is showcased in several attractions. These include the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Kelly Ingram Park, and the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument.
There are also plenty of museums in Birmingham that cover categories like flight, race cars, science, and sports. For fans of nature, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens is a must-see.
Lastly, if you’re traveling with kids, the Birmingham Zoo and the Alabama Splash Adventure Water Park will be a big hit!
With such a wide and eclectic range of attractions, Birmingham is the sort of city everyone will enjoy.
Explore a Scenic Alabama State Park
Oak Mountain State Park is located just over one-hour (60 miles) from Tuscaloosa. This spacious outdoor oasis is perfect for nature lovers and has something for everyone.
Visitors to the park will enjoy miles of hiking and biking paths, scenic fishing spots, horseback riding trails, and so much more! For aquatic enthusiasts, there are three lakes in the park. Rent a canoe or pedal boat and explore the pristine waters.
Fans of wildlife can take a self-guided tour through the Wildlife Center and see animals in their natural environment. There are also campsites for guests wishing to spend the night in the great outdoors.
3 Day Itinerary in Tuscaloosa
Now that we’ve covered the top things to do in Tuscaloosa, here is a suggested itinerary that details the best way to explore the city.
Day 1: Receive a Comprehensive History of the City
Start your first day in the city at the Tuscaloosa Gateway Innovation and Discovery Center. This state-of-the-art institution will provide you with a fabulous introduction to the city, and it’s completely free to visit! When you’re done, drive about five minutes (2 miles) to the Paul Bryant Museum.
This museum is dedicated to an Alabama sports coach legend. You’ll gain insight into the Tuscaloosa sports culture as well as the city’s beloved football team, the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Next, hop back in the car and drive less than five minutes (about one mile) to the Alabama Museum of Natural History. Spend a couple of hours exploring the Natural History of Alabama. Discover fascinating new facts and make learning a hands-on experience with the interactive displays.
If you’re visiting Tuscaloosa during college football season (late August to December) you don’t want to miss the experience of seeing the Alabama Crimson Tide. They play their home games at Bryant-Denny Stadium, which is located on the University of Alabama’s campus.
Day 2: Discover the Best Scenery and Sites in Tuscaloosa
Start your day outdoors at the Tuscaloosa Riverwalk. The whole trail goes for about 4.5 miles and is open to walkers, runners, and cyclists. The paved path starts on the western end of Capitol Park. Make sure to take some time at the start to check out the ruins of the Alabama Capitol building that burned down in 1923.
After your done exploring the path, head to the Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion. This historic home is only about 3 miles from the furthest point on the Riverwalk. Tour this 19th-century residence and admire an impressive piece of Tuscaloosa history. Next up, head to Dreamland BBQ Tuscaloosa for the best ribs in town. You’ll get in in ten minutes (5 miles) by car.
After you’ve had your fill, drive about ten minutes (6 miles) to the historic Bama Theater. Cap off the perfect day seeing a show at this lavish movie palace!
Day 3: Explore Downtown Tuscaloosa
Start your day with a stroll around downtown Tuscaloosa. Have breakfast at The Avenue Pub or one of the many other restaurants or cafes found in the area. Next, head to The Government Plaza and burn off your breakfast by walking around this spacious urban park.
If you’re traveling with kids, the Children’s Hands-on Museum is located right next to the park, so you can easily walk there.
Next, walk or drive half a mile to the Battle Friedman House. Go inside this Antebellum home and get a glimpse of 19th-century southern living. See the uniquely small features found inside and admire the state’s only known Antebellum garden. Make sure to enquire about this attraction ahead of time, as they are only open for certain hours during the afternoon.
Finish your day seeing a show at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater! This music venue is only one mile from the Battle Friedman House.
We hope you enjoyed our list of the best things to do in Tuscaloosa. As you can tell, there are plenty of activities that all ages, interests, and budgets can enjoy. You’ll fall in love with this city’s quaint charm and small-town appeal.
Explore scenic parks and paths, learn the local history, and indulge in southern-cooking. No matter how many days you spend in Tuscaloosa, with this list of attractions you’ll fully immerse yourself in the local culture and experience all the best points of interest!
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