Roll Tide! Fun Things to Do in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

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Mason's Place is one of many fun things to do in tuscaloosa
Playground at Mason’s Place. Photo credit: Connie Pearson

The writer was hosted.

While Tuscaloosa is known for its University of Alabama Crimson Tide football team, there’s more to this college town. Located on the banks of the Black Warrior River, Tuscaloosa offers many outdoor adventures as well as urban activities. For example, from biking and camping to exploring museums and parks, there are many fun things to do in Tuscaloosa Alabama.

Check out our list of 18 fun things to do in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

things to do in tuscaloosa - Moundville Archeological Park
Moundville Archeological Park. Photo credit: Connie Pearson

1. 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.

2. 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 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.

3. Have Fun at Mason’s Place.

Mason’s Place is an all-inclusive playground in Sokol Park.

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.

Watching rowers from the Riverwalk is one of many fun things to do in tuscaloosa
Rowers at the Riverwalk. Photo credit: Connie Pearson

4. 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.

things to do in tuscaloosa - biscuits at Waysider restaurant.
Biscuits at Waysider. Photo credit: Connie Pearson

5. 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 has 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.

things to do in tuscaloosa - Rama Jama's restaurant
Exterior of Rama Jama’s. Photo credit: Connie Pearson

6. 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.

things to do in tuscaloosa - First African Baptist Church
First African Baptist Church. Photo credit: Connie Pearson

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.

things to do in tuscaloosa - eat ribs and white bread at Dreamland.
Ribs and white bread at Dreamland. Photo credit: Connie Pearson

8. Have Ribs and White Bread at Dreamland BBQ

The menu at Dreamland BBQ is simple but extremely tasty. You’ll get 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.

things to do in tuscaloosa - Children's Hands-On Museum
Children’s Hands-On Museum. Photo credit: Connie Pearson

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.

things to do in tuscaloosa - Kentuck art center
Huge wire bunny at Kentuck Art Center. Photo credit: Connie Pearson

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 photos 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.

things to do in tuscaloosa - Jalapenos Mexican Grill
Dips at Jalapenos Mexican Grill. Photo credit: Connie Pearson

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.

things to do in tuscaloosa - Lake Tuscaloosa
Lake Tuscaloosa. Photo credit: Connie Pearson

14. Enjoy a Tuscaloosa Lake

Tuscaloosa abounds with terrific locations for outdoor enjoyment. Swimming, hiking and camping are extremely popular options for fun and exercise. 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 can also rent paddle boards at Tuscaloosa Paddleboard where Lake Nicol is a favorite.

things to do in tuscaloosa - Randall Family Park playground
Playground at Randall Family Park. Photo credit: Connie Pearson

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 babies, children 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.

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