Are you looking for the best things to do in Tuscaloosa? You’re in the right place!

I have been on many road trips in the South and recently drove through Alabama and spent several days exploring this surprising town in Western Alabama.

From beautiful outdoors to recreate in, to hands-on crafting and incredible food, there is no shortage of attractions in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Disclosure: This trip was hosted by Visit Tuscaloosa. This post may contain affiliate links, which help keep the blog running at no cost to you. Thank you for helping support Adventures Abound so I can keep creating free content for your adventure planning!

Michele enjoys a sunny day at Lake Nicol, one of the fun things to do in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, standing on a rocky overlook amidst lush greenery, gazing out over the peaceful water.

Uncover the Outdoor Gems of Tuscaloosa

For all the adventurous visitors out there looking to soak up the sun and enjoy the natural beauty, Tuscaloosa has an abundance of outdoor escapes perfect for exploring, picnicking, or just taking a leisurely walk.

Lake Nicol is a serene spot where you can paddleboard or kayak in peace, surrounded by stunning cliff views.  While the shores along the entrance may be popular in summertime, you only need to paddle out a little further to have the long, winding lake all to yourself for miles. Bring your own or rent from Tuscaloosa Paddleboards who sets up right by the parking lot in the summer months.

Another great option for getting outside in Tuscaloosa is Lake Lurleen State Park, named after Alabama’s first female governor, Lurleen Wallace. This park is not only rich in history but also offers over 23 miles of multi-use trails perfect for hiking, mountain biking, or a tranquil walk in the woods. With plenty of picnic spots and a beach area, it’s an ideal location for a friends’ day out or a solo adventure.

Relaxation awaits on the wooden porch of the Captain's Club's rustic cabin lined with four rocking chairs facing Lake Tuscaloosa, with a hint of spring greenery emerging around the tranquil lake.

Lake Tuscaloosa is the prime destination for those looking to enjoy water activities such as boating, fishing, and water skiing. With clear waters and plenty of space, it’s a summer haven for anyone looking to cool off and enjoy a day on the water.

We had the pleasure of visiting Captain’s Club earlier this winter which will be an incredible experience on Lake Tuscaloosa once fully opened. There will be a boutique market accessible by the marina, boat and paddle board rentals,  and eventually a restaurant, spa, cabins, and hotel.

Lastly, Hurricane Creek provides a slightly more rugged outdoor experience. With its ecosystem rich in biodiversity, it’s a fantastic place for hiking and observing local wildlife. Its trails offer varying levels of difficulty, making it perfect for both beginners and seasoned hikers looking to challenge themselves.

Hurricane Creek’s history is an incredible testament to the work of environmentalists, such as John L. Wathen, the Hurricane Creekkeeper who, alongside the community, has saved this remarkable space.

Dynamic public art at Lake Tuscaloosa: A sculpture by Caleb O'Connor captures motion, featuring a woman figure with windswept hair and flowing blue dress gracefully arched over a tall crescent moon-like pedestal, with arm outstretched to a bird, and water splashing up at her foot, set against a cloudy sky backdrop on the Black Warrior River.

Black Warrior River

The Tuscaloosa Riverwalk stretches along the Black Warrior River for over 4 miles from Capitol Park to Manderson Landing, with plans to expand. This picturesque trail invites you to enjoy leisurely walks, a heart-pumping run, or peaceful bike rides while taking in the breathtaking views of the Black Warrior River.

The Mercedes Amphitheater hosts a wide array of events from concerts to local cultural festivals on the bank of the river. Enjoy an event from the open-air amphitheater or catch the music from the riverside.

Further down the Riverwalk, the Tuscaloosa River Market offers an eclectic mix of local farmers’ produce, artisan crafts, and captivating performances. Open on Saturdays, it’s the perfect spot to discover unique crafts and fresh, local flavors that you won’t find anywhere else. The Rivermarket also shares a building with the Tuscaloosa Visitor Center.

Manderson Landing, with its open green spaces and the iconic gazebo, serves as a perfect endpoint (or starting point!) for your Riverwalk adventure. This area is prime for picnics, reading a good book by the river, or simply soaking in the peaceful surroundings.

The iconic Tuscaloosa Federal Building and Courthouse, boasting grand neoclassical architecture, is a stately presence under a dramatic sky - one of the best places to visit in Tuscaloosa for free!

Downtown Tuscaloosa

Exploring Downtown Tuscaloosa is a must on a list of things to do in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Get around downtown by walking or hopping onto the Trolley where rides are just $1.

Don’t miss the awe-inspiring murals by Caleb O’Connor housed in the Federal Courthouse. These murals tell the stories of Tuscaloosa’s rich history and culture, and are accessible to the public. The courthouse itself is worth seeing, with its Classic Revival architecture and rare public access.

Just around the corner, you’ll find the Druid City Makerspace, a treasure trove for creatives and makers. Whether you’re interested in trying out crocheting, pottery, 3-D printing, or even want to try your hand at stained glass, it’s a space that invites you to experiment, learn, and create.

Don’t miss a chance to experience the historic Bama Theatre. Its art deco design and intimate setting make it the perfect venue for live performances, movies, and events.

Stroll through Tuscaloosa's charming downtown with a stop at 'Alabama Vintage', a quaint brick-fronted shop featuring a red awning, showcasing local charm and shopping experiences among things to do in Tuscaloosa, AL

For those in love with all things vintage and unique, Alabama Vintage offers an eclectic selection of clothing, accessories, and home decor that echo stories from the past.

For a personalized Tuscaloosa keepsake, swing by Swag to get a custom gift. Choose from unique artwork, decor, stationary, and even custom-designed apparel prints. No matter what you choose you’ll have a special reminder of your Tuscaloosa adventure.

The image displays a collection of colorful posters hung on a white wall with clothespins and string, featuring quilting patterns and dates commemorating past Kentuck Festivals in Northport, Alabama. The shelf below showcases various books and magazines.

Visit North Port

Crossing over to North Port you will find the Kentuck Art Center – one of my favorite activities in Tuscaloosa. Every year it hosts the renowned Kentuck Festival of the Arts, gathering thousands of artists and visitors. The festival is a fantastic experience, celebrating folk and contemporary art, live music, and mouthwatering Southern food, offering an immersive experience in the rich tapestry of arts and culture.

Beyond the annual festival, Kentuck Art Center is an artistic hub for the community year-round. Offering a variety of creative classes ranging from pottery to painting, it provides a welcoming space for everyone, from beginners to seasoned artists, to explore and hone their craft. The Center’s exhibitions are a must-see; they showcase an eclectic rotation of works from local and regional artists, ensuring there’s always something new and inspiring on display.

What’s more, art enthusiasts have the chance to take home a piece of North Port’s vibrant art scene, with a wide array of artworks available for purchase. These range from stunning sculptures and paintings to handcrafted jewelry and ceramics, offering the perfect memento or gift for discerning collectors.

One of the highlights of my visit was the opportunity to make my own clay mug in one of their pottery classes. It was not only a fun and immersive experience but also gave me a newfound appreciation for the art and skill involved in pottery.

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The image shows the exterior of the City Cafe, with its distinctive rustic wooden sign against a white brick wall. A wooden bench and a blue newspaper dispenser add to the quaint, local vibe on a sunny day, with the cafe's hours and offerings visible on the window signage.
A close-up view of a hand holding a breakfast sandwich with a perfectly cooked egg, melted cheese, and bacon on a buttery biscuit. In the background, there’s a plate with remnants of shredded hash browns and a bowl of grits at the classic City Cafe in North Port.

Just around the corner from Kentuck Art, you will find the staple diner City Cafe. This no-frills eatery serves up classic Southern fare for breakfast and lunch. Don’t let the 3 dining rooms fool you, if you don’t come early you might experience a bit of a wait due to the popularity.

Take in the history of Tuscaloosa

Don’t miss the Historic Homes Tour, where you’ll wander through beautifully preserved buildings, each with a story that encapsulates the spirit of Alabama’s heritage.  Historic Tuscaloosa offers free daily tours Tuesday – Saturday.

A historic brick structure, the Old Tavern, stands with windows lining the building and a second story white balcony framed by surrounding trees. A historical marker in front of the tavern provides details of its significance, noting its establishment in 1827 and its role as a stage stop and political hub when Tuscaloosa was Alabama's state capital.
A stately Victorian parlor room in the Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion with teal walls, accented by red drapes and golden-framed portraits, emanates historical elegance. A marble fireplace, ornate silver tea set, grand chandelier, and a black piano peeking in from outside of the frame complete the sophisticated ambiance.

Tours can include the Battle-Friedman House & Gardens, Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion, the Old Tavern, McGuire-Strickland House, and the Murphy Collins House which hosts the Murphy African American Museum.

Follow the Tuscaloosa Civil Rights Trail to gain profound insights into the struggles and triumphs that shaped the nation. Take a self-guided tour to any of the 18 stops along the trail in downtown Tuscaloosa to learn more about the history of the Civil Rights Movement as well as notable Black figures in the area.

It’s heavy material, but it’s really important to take the time to learn about it and honor those who suffered and struggled for freedom.

For a deeper dive into Tuscaloosa’s ancient history, visit Moundville Archaeological Park. The park showcases the remarkable civilization of the Mississippian people, offering a captivating look at how they lived over a thousand years ago. Take a self-guided tour of the site, explore the artifacts in the museum, or attend the Moundville Native American Festival in October.

Entrance to the Moundville historical site starts at $8, with discounts for students, seniors, military, and children. Native Americans can enter for free with their tribal membership card.

Coleman Colesium - vibrant basketball arena - is captured in full swing, with a sea of spectators donned in Crimson Red, filling the stands with enthusiasm. The perspective from the upper tier gives a comprehensive view of the court, scoreboards, and the excitement of Alabama fans cheering as their basketball team scores a last-minute win.

University of Alabama

Though this guide primarily features unique things to do in Tuscaloosa beyond the University, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention at least a few activities involving the incredibly well-known University of Alabama. Take some time to explore Alabama’s scenic campus; you’ll encounter a blend of majestic historic buildings and vibrant student life.

Don’t miss out on a peaceful stroll through the university’s Arboretum.

And while I’m not typically a sports enthusiast, attending a Thursday night basketball game completely surprised me – the energy was absolutely electric in Coleman Coliseum. See what sports events are happening during your visit and try one out!

Or, for a fun peek into the heart of Tuscaloosa’s football culture, touring the Bryant-Denny Stadium is a unique way to experience the deep-rooted tradition of Alabama football in Tuscaloosa.

A glass of rose wine catches the light on a marble bar top, with the warm ambiance of a modern bar setting complete with dark wood and leather, highlighted by a red and pink ribbon-like  'Cheers' art piece by Angela Chrusciaki Blehm in the background at The Alamite's Forte Cuts and Cocktails bar in Tuscaloosa.

Where to grab drinks in Tuscaloosa

Roll Call at The Alamite is a go-to spot for those looking to sip on expertly crafted cocktails in a laid-back, welcoming environment. It’s the perfect place to gather your friends, recount the day’s adventures, or simply relax and enjoy the ambiance.

For a taste of Tuscaloosa’s historic charm, Brown’s Corner is a must-visit. With a reputation built on years of serving the community, it offers a selection of drinks to suit all tastes, complemented by a friendly atmosphere that makes you feel right at home.

Get a group of friends together and head over to Popstroke. This isn’t just any spot for a drink; it combines an innovative putting course with a diverse menu of beverages, providing an entertaining backdrop for your evening out. They also have corn hole and fuse ball tables, plus a menu with finger foods and ice cream.

Lastly, Tuscaloosa is home to several local breweries, like Black Warrior Brewing Co, Druid City Brewing Company, and Loosa Brews that pride themselves on bringing the best of craft beer to the heart of Alabama.

A cozy breakfast scene with a focus on a burrito cut in half, revealing a hearty filling of eggs and sausage, alongside a scone with Conecuh sausage and a small side of salsa at Heritage House Cafe in Tuscaloosa, AL. A person's hand is visible holding a to-go coffee cup in the background out of focus, adding to the casual morning atmosphere

Where to Eat

If there is one thing I know about Tuscaloosa, it’s that there is some good food around here. Stop by Heritage House Coffee and Tea for coffee and small breakfast bites, but come early or be prepared to wait in a line.

Rub elbows with Tuscaloosa’s famed crowd at the historic Waysider Restaurant, where the biscuits come light, fluffy, and unlimited with certain breakfast options.

A plate is served with creamy shrimp and sausage over grits, accompanied by toasted garlic bread and a side of green beans. The dining table also has other dishes and drinks, suggesting a communal meal at Urban Bar and Kitchen.

For a delightful experience that spans brunch to dinner, Urban Bar & Kitchen is your go-to spot – one of USA Todays top restaurants of 2024!

Not only does UBK offer a cozy atmosphere for catching up with friends or family, but their diverse menu and cocktail list are perfect for any time of the day. Their innovative dishes are a fusion of traditional Southern comfort with modern flavors, ensuring there’s something for everyone.

Next up, Rolf’s Deli & Sandwiches takes pride in its commitment to locally sourced ingredients, particularly their mushrooms which come straight from Underground Forest. This dedication to quality and sustainability makes every bite of their hearty sandwiches a guilt-free pleasure, knowing you’re supporting local farmers and sustainable practices.

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Vibrant neon signs illuminate the space, with "Dreamland Bar-B-Que Ribs" glowing in bold hues and the catchy phrase "Ain't nothing like 'em nowhere!" just below. "Big Daddy's Iced Tea" adds a bright splash of yellow, set against a backdrop of eclectic license plates and memorabilia at this popular barbeque restaurant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
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A succulent pulled pork sandwich takes center stage on a paper-lined tray, flanked by creamy coleslaw and a hearty serving of mac and cheese. This mouthwatering feast is a staple of Southern barbecue cuisine at Dreamland BBQ.

No visit to Tuscaloosa would be complete without indulging in the legendary Dreamland BBQ. It’s not just barbecue; it’s an experience! Known for their ribs and secret sauce, Dreamland has been a staple in Tuscaloosa’s culinary scene for decades, offering a taste of the deep South at its best.

You can’t go wrong with a great Mexican night, and Central Mesa is just the spot. This restaurant offers a creative take on Latin American cuisine, with dishes that are as pleasing to the eye as they are to the palate. Order the birria tacos with the pineapple margarita.

Another popular Mexican restaurant in downtown Tuscaloosa is Jalapeños. While we didn’t have a chance to try it, the fact that multiple locals recommended it due to the beloved owner speaks volumes to the community here.

This restaurant prides itself on its fresh ingredients and authentic Mexican dishes that transport you straight to the heart of Jalisco. Whether you’re in the mood for tacos, burritos, or something a little spicier, Jalapeños delivers with flair and flavor.

A colorful painting of champagne bottles labeled 'Bottle Fed' in fancy type hangs on a textured blue wall inside The Alamite hotel lobby in downtown Tuscaloosa, Alabama, which features stylish yellow armchairs, a chic sitting area with modern furniture, and warm lighting.
Warmly lit hotel room with a plush king-size bed, elegant botanical art above the headboard, and a vibrant red chair, offering a glimpse of a city view through the large window, inviting a comfortable and sophisticated stay at The Alamite in downtown Tuscaloosa.

Where to stay in Tuscaloosa

The Alamite is a gem that debuted on Forbes Hot Hotel Openings list in 2022. It’s not just a place to lay your head; it’s an experience filled with culture and art, curated by an exceptionally talented woman art curator. The hotel boasts an incredible collection of artwork, all crafted by southern women, adding a uniquely empowering touch to your stay.

Plus, its location is unbeatable – within easy walking distance to downtown Tuscaloosa, not to mention the convenience of hopping on the Tuscaloosa Trolley to explore the city. It’s the perfect mix of luxury, culture, and convenience. Plus, a fun fact is that The Alamite is backed in part by legendary football coach Nick Saban.

For a more quaint and cozy option, Wood Manor Guest House beckons with its charming ambiance. This place feels like a home away from home, offering warmth, comfort, and a personal touch not often found in larger hotels. It’s the perfect retreat for travelers seeking a quiet, intimate experience without straying far from the vibrant heart of Tuscaloosa.

Map of fun things to do in Tuscaloosa

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Tuscaloosa, Alabama worth visiting?

Yes, Tuscaloosa is definitely worth visiting!  With its rich history, delicious food, and incredible outdoors, it’s a city that offers something for everyone.

What is the best time of year to visit Tuscaloosa?

The best time to visit Tuscaloosa is in the spring or fall when the weather is mild and comfortable. This is also when many festivals and events take place in the city, like the Kentuck Art Festival!

What is Tuscaloosa known for?

Tuscaloosa is well-known for the University of Alabama: home of the Crimson Tide and college football. It is also home to the Mercedes-Benz US International manufacturing plant.

Tuscaloosa was previously known as Druid City and many businesses still give homage to the name, such as Druid City Brewing and the Druid City Makerspace.

Why is Tuscaloosa called Druid City?

Tuscaloosa was named Tuskaloosa in 1818, after a Native Chief who lived there, so why was it later called Druid City? After becoming the capital of Alabama in 1826, residents began planting water oak trees to line the streets of Tuskaloosa.
The proliferation of these oak trees led to Tuscaloosa being nicknamed Oak City or Druid City. The connection? Ancient Druids were thought to have worshipped oak trees; the word Druid possibly even being derived from the Celtic word for oak which is ‘duir’.

What are free things to do in Tuscaloosa?

There are many free things to do in Tuscaloosa, making it a budget-friendly destination. Tour the historical homes of Tuscaloosa, head outside to the Riverwalk, Hurricane Creek, or one of Tucsaloosa’s many beautiful lakes, visit the Transportation Museum, explore the University of Alabama Arboretum, or tour the Mercedes-Benz Visitor Center.

Wrapping up this Guide to Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Whether you’re cheering on the Crimson Tide, exploring the city’s natural beauty, or stepping back in time with a visit to historic homes and museums, there is a wealth of things to do in Tuscaloosa that won’t break the bank.

It’s an excellent place to visit in Alabama with lots to do no matter your budget.

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