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Mobile is the 4th destination we have visited in Alabama so far, and the more we explore this state the more we enjoy its history, culture, and hospitable people.
What makes Mobile unique is that it’s a port city on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. It has an extensive history and still has many of its historic buildings with 1820s architectural styles still intact. It even takes part in the Mardi Gras tradition!
I’ve always liked port cities, and interestingly back in the 1800s, Mobile was known as the Paris of the South, which was when Mobile was the 10th wealthiest city in the United States, thanks to the port and the cotton trade.
Today Mobile is the twelfth busiest port in the country and is a major hub of the entire Gulf Coast.
Although being by the water, there is no beach here, don’t worry there are still plenty of other fun things to do in Mobile! If you’re thinking of visiting but not sure what Mobile attractions to add to your itinerary, keep reading for our favorite things to do, see and explore.
Where is Mobile, Alabama?
The city of Mobile is conveniently located just two hours east of New Orleans and one hour north of the beautiful Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.
It’s easily accessible east/west on Interstate 10 and north/south on Interstate 65.
Is Mobile Alabama worth visiting?
We arrived in town after a few relaxing days at the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach and soon discovered that Mobile also offers a fabulous local foodie scene, plus interesting history, culture, and arts.
There’s a wide variety of activities for families and people of all ages, and Mobile’s colorful downtown is thriving!
And did you know that Mobile is home to America’s Original Mardi Gras? And each year it hosts the oldest organized Carnival celebration in the United States?
That’s reason enough to visit!
We’ve done Mardi Gras in New Orleans with kids, which was amazing, and now we’d love to experience the family-friendly Mardi Gras in Mobile.
The Best Things to Do in Mobile Al
Whilst we only had two days to explore, we got a good taste of what this city is about and would love to come back and take in some of its live music, and live theater, and eat our way around the city.
Below is what we got up to.
1. Explore Dauphin Street & Bienville Square
Our first introduction to Mobile was Dauphin Street.
We drove in from Gulf Shores, found a car park on Dauphin Street, grabbed some lunch at Fountain of Youth – FOY (more on this place later) then explored the street.
Across the road from FOY is Bienville Square, a historic city park in the center of downtown Mobile. It takes up the entire block bordered by the streets of Dauphin, Saint Joseph, Saint Francis, and North Conception.
There’s a nice fountain and some benches to sit on to people watch or watch the squirrels running everywhere. Be sure to check out the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.
Along Dauphin Street you find numerous restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs and stores – we didn’t venture out late with kids, but you can tell this is where it all happens in downtown.
We also enjoyed the architecture and vibrant colors. Would be great to be here during Mardi Gras!
2. Explore the USS Alabama Battleship
Mobile plays home to the USS Alabama Battleship and you can journey into America’s military past at one of the top South Alabama attractions.
Dating back to 1940, the USS Alabama (“Mighty A”) began her World War II adventures in the North Atlantic in 1943, then later that year went to the South Pacific seas.
She ended up in Mobile, Alabama as a National Historic Landmark and memorial to millions. Alabama played a key role in several battles and is one BIG ship.
You can do a self-guided tour of Alabama following a coded map. It was my first time on a battleship for us, and it was so interesting to see all the working parts that make up a warship.
And our kids really enjoyed exploring all the different nooks and crannies of the ship – what a different playground it was for them!
Sitting beside her in Mobile Bay is the National Historic Landmark WWII submarine USS DRUM (SS-228). The DRUM is the oldest American submarine on public display.
You can also tour the Aircraft Pavilion, Tanks & Artillery, and Park Memorials.
- USS ALABAMA earned 9 battle stars
- Nicknamed the “Mighty A”
- The ship was used in the film USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage starring Nicolas Cage.
The USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park is open every day except Christmas Day.
3. Gulf Coast Ducks
Looking for fun things to do in Mobile Al with kids? Our kids always love going on these duck tours which are a combination of sightseeing on land and water.
They’re a fun and informative way to learn about a destination with passionate tour guides and the kids just love the novelty of splashing into the bay.
On a tour with Gulf Coast Ducks, you’ll hear stories about all things Mobile including the USS Alabama, Battleship Memorial Park, Mobile Bay, the Port of Mobile, and the city of Mobile.
And, if your duck gets held up entering the bay by a goods train, like ours did, you’ll get to see historic parts of the city not normally on the tour!
4. Oakleigh Garden Historic District
Seven National Register Historic Districts make up what is known as downtown and midtown Mobile.
There’s Church Street, Lower Dauphin (LODA), Old Dauphin Way, Leinkauf, Ashland Place, De Tonti Square, and of course Oakleigh Garden Historic District.
We love driving and walking around Historic Districts, we have one here in Raleigh, and loved exploring the Garden District in New Orleans.
Mobile’s Oakleigh Garden Historic District was certainly impressive and we spent an hour or so cruising around checking out all the beautiful and large historic southern homes.
5. The Richards DAR House Museum
We first came upon the Richards DAR House (Daughters of the American Revolution House Museum) during our diverted duck tour. It sounded and looked fascinating, so we returned on our own for a tour. It’s meant to be haunted so we were hoping to make some new friends.
As you can see from the outside, its striking cast-iron facade is from the Italianate style and this beautiful townhouse tells the story of Mobile during its antebellum period.
The house was built in 1860 by Captain Charles Richards, a steamboat captain, and remained in their family until 1946.
The Ideal Cement Company purchased the house from Richards’ descendants in 1946. After being turned over to the city of Mobile in 1973, it was leased to the DAR for operation as a museum.
It is said to be haunted, and little Savannah was hesitant to enter at first, but we didn’t see or hear anything, lol.
6. The Carnival Museum
After experiencing Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans just a few weeks before visiting Mobile, our Carnival spirit was still on a high.
Even if you can’t visit Mobile or New Orleans during Mardi Gras, the Mobile Carnival Museum is open all year and is totally dedicated to Mardi Gras. Here you can see some of the costumes worn in the parade in their permanent collection, as well as see former floats.
It opened in 2005 and is only $5 for adults and $2 for kids.
The museum offers 14 gallery rooms, a pictorial hallway, theater, a den (social gathering area), and a gift shop. In addition, the home is registered as a historic building.
We immersed ourselves more into the rich history and traditions of carnival, and looked at the intricate designs and artistry of majestic crowns and robes of Mardi Gras monarchs.
And our kids enjoyed dressing up and pretending they were on a Mardi Gras float.
7. Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center
Here’s a place our kids had a chance to get creative, curious, and play for a few hours.
Considering we were homeschooling our kids, any chance we get for interactive and hands-on learning we jump at it.
The Gulf Coast Exploreum has been voted one of the top Alabama attractions and is a fun place for families.
It provides hands on educational opportunities in a fun learning environment with permanent and special exhibits, and an IMAX.
Plus there’s an onsite cafe and unique gift shop.
8. Eat Breakfast and Beignets at Panini Petes!
Our kids fell in love with beignets in New Orleans, so they were super excited to start one of our days in Mobile with beignets at Panini Petes Cafe & Market on Dauphin Street.
Our kids rank the beignets here second only to the ones we ate at Cafe Du Monde in NOLA, so grab yourself a few hot beignets.
But Panini Pete’s offers more, and was recently named the best sandwich shop in Alabama serving up creative sandwiches, Angus beef burgers, hot dogs, hand-cut fries and more!
9. Eat Dinner at Wintzell’s Oyster House
Eating oysters seems to be one of those things to do in Alabama, and being from Australia and growing up surrounded by fresh seafood, we love that!
We had our first taste of the famous Wintzell’s Oyster House in Montgomery and enjoyed another night in Mobile dining at Wintzell’s, a historic landmark on Dauphin Street in downtown Mobile.
It’s one of the most popular places to eat in Mobile and they’re known for their “Oysters-fried, stewed or nude”.
The interior decor is cool with lots of witty sayings, and even if you don’t like oysters in particular, there’s a wide range of other seafood options, even steaks and pasta.
10. Try Seafood at Felix Fish Camp
Another top seafood joint in Mobile is Felix Fish Camp Restaurant which serves up delicious, fresh, Gulf seafood and USDA certified steaks.
They serve up some of Mobile’s classic recipes, including their famous Gumbo, and don’t miss their crab claws.
Not only is the food delicious and fresh, but the location is impressive too.
Unfortunately we arrived after sunset so couldn’t take in the beautiful views of being situated on one of the most scenic parts of Mobile Bay, so maybe book your dinner for sunset, or even take in a lunchtime view!
Another delight is the service – super friendly and impeccable. I know, it’s what we’ve come to expect in the South but they took it to another level.
11. Try Craft Beers at Loda Bier Garten
This place seemed like a real local’s favorite during our lunchtime visit.
Taking up prime position in the heart of Dauphin Street, Loda Bier Garten has a huge tap collection (over 100 different beers) and large screen TVs for watching sports, and are well known for their burgers – that’s my kinda place right there!
We sat outside and enjoyed our wings, hot dogs, and chicken salad, and yes I can confirm the burgers are GOOD!
12. Get Healthy at Fountain of Youth FOY
Being gluten-free and embracing healthy living, we seek out healthy and nutritious places to eat wherever we travel and were happy to stumble upon Fountain of Youth (FOY).
Also positioned on Dauphin Street, FOY calls themselves Mobile’s first fresh-pressed juices and superfood bar and we enjoyed their offerings so much we went back twice in one day!
On the menu are energy bowls, healthy smoothies, wellness shots, super tacos, and of course fresh pressed juices. The winner for me was their Power Paleo Pancakes!
Other places to eat in Mobile suggested by others that we didn’t get too:
- Moe’s BBQ – Apparently the BEST BBQ you’ll ever taste!
- OK Bicycle Shop – possibly the most interesting Mexican restaurant you’ll ever go to!
- MoonPie General Store – Food, ice cream and of course, a general store!
- Callaghan’s Irish Social Club – Known for their burgers!
- Dumbwaiter Restaurant – Southern classics with a modern twist!
Looking for coffee in Mobile?
Oh, and if you’re looking for good coffee our go too place was Serda’s Coffee Company.
13. Mobile Museum of Art
The Mobile Museum of Art is the best place to visit in Mobile for art lovers and creative types. It has an extensive art collection from all over the world, including non-western art pieces.
In its permanent collection, it has 6,400 works of fine art, sculptures, photographs, drawings, prints, and paintings. The whole collection is not on display, and the pieces are rotated, so visitors see something different each time they visit.
Some of the most popular works in the collection are 19th-century American landscapes and realist paintings from the WPA era.
14. Mobile Botanical Gardens
Wandering around the Mobile Botanical Gardens is one of the most relaxing things to do in Mobile. They were founded in 1974 and spans over 100 acres of woodlands, walks, and small gardens.
The land that the gardens lie on was historically a vast longleaf pine forest but was mostly logged in the 1900s. The idea was to return this area back to a space of nature, which is why 35 acres of the gardens are a forested conservation area.
Make sure to check out the lake in Langan Park, which used to be Mobile’s water supply until the 1950s.
15. See Historic Mansions: Bragg-Mitchell Mansion & Bellingrath Mansion
The Bragg-Mitchell Mansion is a Greek revival-style mansion that was the former home of Judge John Bragg and was built in 1855. Today, it is a museum and one of the most photographed buildings in the city.
The 13,000-square-foot home was built as a holiday residence for the Bragg family during Thanksgiving through Mardi Gras.
When Judge Bragg died in 1878, four families owned the home since, the last being A.S. Mitchell who owned the house since 1931. He lived here until 1965 and took loving care of the home since by this time it had become an iconic building in the city.
The house was donated to the Explore Center in the late 1970s and was restored to the grandeur you see today.
The home was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
Another historic home worth visiting in Mobile is the Bellingrath Gardens Museum and Home. The home belonged to Walter and Bessie Bellingrath as their weekend home and was built in 1934. Since it was built, the couple has opened their 15-room, 10,500-square-foot home to the public.
The home is another example of grand, extravagance in Mobile. The gardens are particularly impressive.
16. Take a Trip to Meaher State Park
The Meaher State Park is a huge 1,327-acre wetland located in north Mobile Bay. It’s a scenic area known for being a hot spot for picnics, camping, and boating.
You can go fishing at the fishing pier or walk along the boardwalk and take in the stunning views.
After visiting the park, you can find more outdoor adventures in the nearby Mobile-Tensaw. This is a popular place for seeing wildlife viewing and has a theater, gift shop, and canoe or kayak rentals.
17. History Museum of Mobile
I mentioned earlier that Mobile has a long history, and if you want to learn more about Mobile history, there’s no better place than at the History Museum of Mobile.
Located in the Old City Hall, the museum itself is a big part of Mobile history. It contains artifacts and hands-on exhibits that help bring Mobile’s history to life.
Even if you don’t enter the museum, it’s worth passing by to see the stunning architecture of this 19th-century building, which was designed in an Italianate style.
18. Visit Colonial Fort Conde and Fort Morgan
Being a coastal city, Mobile was the first point of defense and has a few major forts and battlegrounds worth checking out. The first is Colonial Fort Conde, which was built by French explorers in 1723.
You can see the remnants of the original fort in Mardi Gras Park, facing Church Street.
A replica of the fort opened in 1976, and about one-third of the Fort has been reconstructed.
Another fort worth checking out is Fort Morgan, also known as Fort Bowyer. This is located on the west of Mobile Point, on the historic Fort Morgan peninsula, on a barrier island called Dauphin Island.
The fort was built in 1834 and is now a historic military site and National Historic Landmark.
This fort had an important role during the Civil War era and was where the famous Battle of Mobile Bay took place. It was here that Union Admiral David Farragut ordered his fleet to attack the heavily mined bay on August 5, 1864.
19. Gulfquest National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico
Given its coastal location and gigantic port, you can bet that Mobile has an extensive maritime history. The best place to learn all about it is at the Gulfquest National Maritime Museum.
It was completed in 2015 and was created as an educational resource, specializing in hands-on experiences to help its visitors understand and appreciate the heritage of the Gulf of Mexico.
The museum is unique in that it does not have a permanent collection of artifacts, but it has temporary exhibits showing maritime artifacts, ensuring every visitor sees something unique each time they visit.
It has 90 exhibits, theaters, and simulators, that offer a unique perspective of the Gulf’s maritime past.
Where to Stay in Mobile
We stayed in the heart of downtown Mobile at the Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza Hotel which is at 64 South Water Street.
This hotel is stylish and elegant without being too over the top for us and our kids and we had a lovely sunset view from our room.
It was right near the start of Dauphin Street and an easy stroll to all the spots mentioned above, including a short 5 minute walk to Bienville Square, Serda’s Coffee is a 2 minute walk away, the Exploreum Science Center is across the street and the Duck Tours is a stroll away.
Besides walking everywhere, we could easily drive to the other Alabama attractions, including a 5 minute drive to the USS Alabama.
And if you’re in town for a convention, there’s a direct connection to Mobile Convention Center via a skybridge.
It came with all our necessities including complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi, 24 hour fitness center and pool.
Before You Go
Our stay in Mobile was hosted by Visit Mobile, but all the thoughts, opinions and ideas expressed in this guide are our own.
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