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- 1. Watch a Sporting Event at the University of Alabama.
- 2. Have Fun at Mason’s Place.
- 3. Wander Along the Tuscaloosa Riverwalk.
- 4. Breakfast at Waysider Restaurant.
- 5. Lunch at Rama Jama’s.
- 6. Visit Moundville Archaeological Park.
- 7. Understand History Along the Tuscaloosa Civil Rights Trail.
- 8. Have Ribs and White Bread at Dreamland BBQ.
- 9. Learn Something at the Alabama Museum of Natural History.
- 10. Explore the Children’s Hands-On Museum.
- 11. Pose for a Photo with a Wire Bunny at Kentuck Art Center.
- 12. Stroll the Walk of Champions.
- 13. Dive into the Cheese Dip at Jalapenos Mexican Grill.
- 14. Enjoy a Tuscaloosa Lake.
- 15. Play at the Randall Family Park and Trailhead.
- 16. Visit the Tuscaloosa Art Garage.
- 17. Find Indoor Family Fun.
A trip to Tuscaloosa might start at the University of Alabama and its Crimson Tide, but it shouldn’t stop there. Here, a Traveling Grandmom shares her favorite things to do in Tuscloosa, all approved by her 15 grandchildren.
The writer was hosted.
When most people around the southeastern portion of the United States hear the word Tuscaloosa, they immediately think of Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide football team from the University of Alabama. That is understandable considering their phenomenal success in the past decade.
However, Tuscaloosa is a West Alabama city with a wealth of opportunities for fun and discovery whether your wardrobe consists predominantly of crimson and houndstooth or not.
Tuscaloosa is the county seat of Tuscaloosa County. It is located west of Birmingham, northwest of Montgomery, along the banks of the Black Warrior River. Thanks to the huge oak trees that lined its downtown, Tuscaloosa is sometimes called Druid City, named for the ancient Celtic people who worshipped oaks.
Here are 18 things to do in Tuscaloosa, depending on the ages of your children or grandchildren.
1. Watch a Sporting Event at the University of Alabama.
Football games, of course, are the marquee events in Tuscaloosa, bringing more than 100,000 people into town on seven different Saturdays in the fall. If you are an Alabama fan and your child has not been a part of a frenzied crowd yelling “Roll Tide,” then this is likely the number one experience you want to have with your child.
If Alabama football is not your thing, you can find plenty of basketball and baseball games, along with volleyball, track and field, rowing, golf, swimming, tennis, gymnastics and soccer competitions to attend and a host of other special events on the University of Alabama campus.
Walking the trails at the arboretum on campus is a free activity.
2. Have Fun at Mason’s Place.
Mason’s Place is a new all-inclusive playground in Sokol Park. Phase I recently opened and plans for expansion are in the works.
Kids will enjoy the replicas of Denny Chimes, the Quad and Bryant-Denny Stadium in the middle of the play spaces with colorful opportunities for participation and exercise provided for children of all abilities.
A fully accessible pavilion and an ADA-compliant restroom also make this an attractive place for parents who have children with disabilities.
3. Wander Along the Tuscaloosa Riverwalk.
Any time of the year, the Tuscaloosa Riverwalk is perfect for riding bikes, walking the dog or merely strolling at a relaxed pace.
The visitor center is located on the opposite end of the Tuscaloosa River Market on Jack Warner Pkwy. If you visit on a Saturday, the Tuscaloosa Farmers’ Market is located at River Market.
In the summer, a splash pad opens at the westernmost end of the Riverwalk.
At Manderson Landing, the large open space is perfect for playing catch or flying kites. I even spotted some very appealing hammocks along the trail that called my name.
This paved trail is approximately 4 miles long. The well-placed street lamps keep it well-lighted and safe even after sunset or in the early morning.
The Tuscaloosa Amphitheater along the banks of the Black Warrior River is an amazing venue for live music.
4. Breakfast at Waysider Restaurant.
The Historic Waysider Restaurant on Greensboro Avenue has been a fixture of the Tuscaloosa landscape since 1951.
Revered former coach Paul “Bear” Bryant was said to have breakfast there daily, always sitting at the same table. That table is adorned with a bust of Bryant wearing a replica of his beloved houndstooth hat. This is not a fancy place, but it oozes with character.
For breakfast, popular favorites are the soft, fluffy biscuits, eggs with country ham or a short stack of pancakes. If you are an early riser, this is the perfect place for a morning meal.
A meat-and-three style lunch is served several days a week. (For non-Southerners, a meat-and-three means that you are given a choice of several meats and a list of vegetables, probably fried or in casserole form, from which to choose one meat and three sides. Most often, you are also given the choice of a roll or cornbread with your plate.)
If you and your child want to know more about Coach Bryant, plan a visit to The Paul W. Bryant Museum.
5. Lunch at Rama Jama’s.
The walls of Rama Jama’s are plastered with Crimson Tide and University of Alabama memorabilia, which is understandable since the eatery is located in the shadow of Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The university football team claims 18 National Championships. To commemorate that, Rama Jama’s has a National Championship burger on the menu containing 18 ounces of meat. There is also a National Champion BLT with 18 strips of bacon.
Rama Jama’s also serves a full breakfast, making it the perfect place to get fueled up on Saturday mornings before a big game.
6. Visit Moundville Archaeological Park.
The 326 acres comprising Moundville Archaeological Park is said to have once been the site of the largest city north of Mexico. The 29 flat-topped earthen mounds were built by the Mississippian people who settled here about 800 years ago.
As a Native American heritage site maintained by the University of Alabama, the park is open seven days a week.
Visitors to Moundville can enjoy the scenery of the Black Warrior River, a nature trail, picnic tables, an RV campground, and a wonderful museum.
Several of the mounds have steps making it possible to climb to the top to enjoy a magnificent view.
7. Understand History Along the Tuscaloosa Civil Rights Trail.
You likely have heard of Bloody Sunday, which occurred at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. But Tuscaloosa has its own day of horror.
Bloody Tuesday occurred on June 9, 1964, and the Tuscaloosa Civil Rights Trail has its main focus in the areas near First African Baptist Church where brutal attacks occurred.
On the university campus a few blocks away, a significant event took place a year earlier when then-Governor George Wallace made his famous “stand in the schoolhouse door.” It was a symbolic gesture to protest the enrollment of African American students at the university.
A tour of some of these sites can be important to a child’s understanding of the Civil Rights Movement and its importance. This would not likely be considered “fun,” but it is an enriching experience.
History buffs will also enjoy touring the Battle-Friedman House, the Old Tavern Museum, or the Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion.
8. Have Ribs and White Bread at Dreamland BBQ.
The menu at Dreamland BBQ is simple but extremely tasty. You’ll a serving of plain sliced white bread along with tantalizing ribs, other barbecued meats, typical sides and outstanding banana pudding.
The original Dreamland opened in 1958. There are now 10 additional locations in the southeast.
The smell of hickory smoke permeates each location. Don’t leave without purchasing a bottle of Dreamland’s signature sauce to take home.
9. Learn Something at the Alabama Museum of Natural History.
The exhibits on display at the Alabama Museum of Natural History rotate regularly, and events geared toward families occur throughout the year.
The Bama Bug Fest is one of the most popular annual events.
10. Explore the Children’s Hands-On Museum.
The Children’s Hands-On Museum is exactly what its name suggests: a hands-on facility designed for exploring, creating, and discovering. Make a note that every second Saturday of the month STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education programs engage kids with experiments and hands-on activities.
The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday. I didn’t have any grandchildren with me on this visit but wished for them here. Every child I saw was eager to go inside and smiling when they came out.
11. Pose for a Photo with a Wire Bunny at Kentuck Art Center.
The campus of the Kentuck Art Center in historic downtown Northport (a very short distance from downtown Tuscaloosa) houses eight artist studios, three gallery spaces, a classroom, a gallery shop and more.
The center hosts monthly Art Nights, workshops, summer art camps and is home to the wildly popular Kentuck Festival of the Arts every fall which regularly attracts up to 10,000 visitors.
Children can work with clay, weave baskets, paint and pose for pix with a huge wire bunny and a big red dog.
12. Stroll the Walk of Champions.
The Walk of Champions, at the north end of Bryant-Denny Stadium, is made up of plaques and statues of famous Alabama coaches and players. Approximately two hours before a football game, the coaches and players enter the stadium through this plaza where they are greeted by thousands of avid fans.
This is the place to take a selfie with Tuska the elephant. Tuska is a gigantic bronze statue weighing seven tons and standing 19 feet high. It represents the University of Alabama mascot. Artist Terry Mathews created Tuska. The statue stands at the corner of University Boulevard and Wallace Wade Avenue.
13. Dive into the Cheese Dip at Jalapenos Mexican Grill.
If cheese is a favorite of your kids, the cheese dip at Jalapenos Mexican Grill will certainly be a hit. Owner/entrepreneur Jheovanny Gomez makes this an exceptional Mexican restaurant, and the service is great.
Adults who accompany the cheese-eating children might want to try the fajita gumbo, a signature dish of the restaurant. My teenage grandchildren would have loved this place. They are all about cheese.
14. Enjoy a Tuscaloosa Lake.
Tuscaloosa abounds with terrific locations for outdoor enjoyment. Swimming, hiking and camping are extremely popular options for exercise and enjoyment. Lake Lurleen State Park is probably the best known, but other great options are Lake Nicol, Hurricane Creek, Lake Tuscaloosa and Harris Lake.
Rent a pontoon boat at Pier 43 on Lake Tuscaloosa. You also can rent paddle boards at Tuscaloosa Paddleboard where Lake Nicol is a favorite.
15. Play at the Randall Family Park and Trailhead.
The Randall Family Park and Trailhead, located at the Northern Riverwalk at 201 Rice Mine Road Loop, officially opened in early 2022.
It features an extensive playground, a pavilion, a trail and is especially welcoming for visitors with their dogs. My younger grandchildren would have been on every piece of equipment, squealing with delight.
16. Visit the Tuscaloosa Art Garage.
The Art Garage is owned by Joanna Lemmon, an artist committed to self-expression for children, babies, and adults. Art Garage hosts periodic Parent’s Night Out occasions for potty-trained children 3 years of age and older and several extended summer art camps for crafts, dollhouse-making and more.
Open Play Sessions last an hour and accommodate no more than six children at a time. Reserve a spot through the website.
17. Find Indoor Family Fun.
If the weather is rainy or cold, burn off excess energy at one of several indoor recreation spots in Tuscaloosa.
Shindig Family Entertainment Center has 52,000 square feet of laser tag, bowling, blacklight mini golf and an arcade. Adults 19 and older can participate in axe throwing.
Bowlero has 40 bowling lanes and an arcade, and UpSurge Trampoline Park consists of wall-to-wall trampolines.
Adults can watch TV in the seating area while the kids jump to their hearts’ content.
18. Pet Animals at Tuscaloosa Barnyard
Tuscaloosa Barnyard is open on Saturdays and Sundays for fun-filled hours of interacting with farm animals, bouncing on the jumping pillow, driving a tractor, swimming in the pool or cooling off on the splash pad. The Barnyard is especially popular for field trips and birthday parties.
Find Places to Stay Near Tuscaloosa, Alabama
There are lots of options for hotel stays near Tuscaloosa, including vacation rentals. Use this interactive map to help you find a place to stay in the area.