Tuscaloosa may not be the first thing you think of when deciding on an Alabama getaway but I am here to change your mind about that. There are tons of fun activities in Tuscaloosa, AL for a weekend full of history, outdoors, and good food.
The city is most well-known for being the college town of the University of Alabama. Campus is definitely a must-see but there’s so much more to do here!
You can tell that the Crimson Tide runs strong through this town though.
I was honestly surprised at how many free things to do in Tuscaloosa there are. This town is definitely budget-friendly!
If you’re in search of something to do in town, then here is my full list of activities in Tuscaloosa, AL. It’s a great weekend getaway in the south!
Disclaimer: I was hosted by Visit Tuscaloosa. As always, all opinions are my own.
Outdoor Activities in Tuscaloosa, AL
You know we have to talk about the outdoor activities first – my favorite! There were plenty of ways to enjoy the outdoors in this town.
With multiple parks in the area and three different lakes, you’re sure to find something fun.
The Riverwalk is currently about 4.5 miles long but they are working on expanding it up to Northport and out to the Lake Tuscaloosa Dam & Spillway.
It’s paved for the whole length of the trail and offers beautiful views of the Black Warrior River. There are a few different places that you can park – the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, Manderson Landing, and the Randall Family Park & Trailhead.
At the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, you’ll find plenty of parking and the Riverwalk loops around the venue.
Manderson Landing is on the outskirts of Alabama’s Campus with a small parking lot. It may be difficult to find parking here on school days.
Currently, the Amphitheater and Manderson Landing are the two endpoints on the south side of the river.
If you drive over the Black Warrior River to the north side, you can park at the Randall Family Park & Trailhead.
There is a good bit of parking here, a large pavilion, playground, and open fields at the beginning of the trailhead. They also have places where you can hang your hammock under the shady trees!
Bonus – they have clean bathrooms here as well.
The Riverwalk is a great place to get out and run, walk, or just enjoy the sunshine at Manderson Landing or Randall Family Park.
Lake Lurleen State Park
Okay, Lake Lurleen State Park is where I would be all summer if I lived near here. The park wasn’t a far drive – it was 23 minutes from WestGate Condominiums where I was staying.
There are a couple of hiking trails in the park and they are looking to expand the hiking options. If you take the south trailhead, it hugs the lake or you can take the north trailhead out through the woods.
Be sure to bring your hiking snacks along – I love taking a break with a snack and a beautiful view while hiking.
There are two beach areas where you can lay out in the sun and multiple piers where you can fish if you have your Alabama fishing license. Bass, crappie, and bream are popular fish to catch.
There are a couple of boat ramps but if you don’t have your own but if not, then they have a couple of boats to rent! I’m sure these go fast in the summer though.
In addition to boats, you can rent kayaks, SUPs, and pedal boats.
These are just the day-use activities. There is a charge to get into the state park but it’s only $4 for adults and $2 for kids and seniors.
You can also camp here with beautiful lake views. There are 91 campsites with water and electric hookups and they also have a primitive camping area. Make sure you bring all your tent camping essentials!
Bathrooms are located throughout the park for day-use visitors and there are bathhouses with showers for campers.
You can make reservations to camp online or call the number on the Alabama State Parks website.
Moundville Archaeological Park
Moundville is the site of an ancient Native American civilization that thrived here between 800 and 1,000 years ago.
At one time this was the largest city in America north of Mexico. You can drive around the park and walk up a couple of the mounds that were once used by the chiefs and other people of power.
There is also a half-mile nature trail to enjoy and leashed dogs are allowed on the grounds (not in buildings). It’s a great place to get out and walk on nice days.
There is also a museum where you can learn about the people who inhabited this land as well as see some of the artifacts that the team has unearthed while working here.
The museum is part of the University of Alabama museum system and it’s very well-done and informative.
In the museum, there is also a cafe and gift shop. Grab a snack and cup of coffee from the cafe as they sell locally roasted coffee from Higher Grounds Roasters who support a number of Non-profit causes.
There is also a campground on-site with RV and tent sites. The bathhouse is closed from December 1st to March 1st and only RV camping is allowed during that time.
Regular admission for an adult is $8 but seniors, students, and military can get a discounted price. Native American visitors and UA Museum members can get in free with proper ID.
This is one of the fun things to do in Tuscaloosa for adults and kids alike!
Honestly, Lake Nicol was one of my favorite activities in Tuscaloosa.
I got there just after 8am and fog was still rising off the water. There were geese flying in and the sun was slowly rising over the treetops. Peaceful doesn’t begin to describe it.
I had the whole place to myself for a while until a few men came in with their boat and took off across the lake to find a fishing hole.
This is a great spot for picnics and it’s a popular birding spot. You can also hike the Lake Nicol Cliffs Trail which brings you to gorgeous views above the lake.
During the summer months, Tuscaloosa Paddleboard sets up at Lake Nicol Park on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. They accept walk-ups if they have something available but it’s better if you call ahead.
During the weekday they’ll rent paddleboards but you have to schedule a reservation then. They also deliver within the Tuscaloosa area for an additional fee! Check their website for the exact area.
This would be a great lake to bring your kayak to as well. Some people come just to swim in the lake though. Be warned – some websites will talk about cliff jumping at Lake Nicol but there is a $500 fine for this. Don’t test your luck.
The largest lake in the area, Lake Tuscaloosa is impressive in many different ways. It’s absolutely huge and the houses along the lake are more mansion than house.
Boating, swimming, and fishing are the most popular activities here. If you are visiting the area then you can actually rent a pontoon boat from Pier 43 at Lake Tuscaloosa.
Reservations are required in advance and they don’t allow dogs on their boats.
There are three different public boat launches – Binion Creek, Rock Quarry, and Sharps Landing.
If you like sunbathing in the Alabama sun then this is the lake for you. Rent a pontoon boat and get out there. Definitely one of the most fun outdoor activities in Tuscaloosa.
Sokol Park is well known as a sports complex with their soccer, softball, and baseball fields. There is so much more to this park though.
There are hiking and mountain biking trails ranging from easy to moderate and multiple loops branch off the main trail so you can extend your hike.
You’ll also find a huge dog park here where you can take your furry friend if they came along on your adventure.
For the hiking and biking trails and dog park, you’ll want to visit Sokol Park South instead of Sokol Park North. You can find the map here.
Free Things to Do in Tuscaloosa
Like I mentioned before, I was super surprised at all the free stuff to do in Tuscaloosa. Not to mention that half of the outdoor stuff was free too!
Finding free things to do is a huge help when planning a budget for traveling.
Tuscaloosa Civil Rights History Trail
The Tuscaloosa Civil Rights History Trail begins at Capitol Park and ends at the Howard-Linton Barbershop.
It covers a lot of ground so you’ll want a car to drive between some of the stops. The Trail takes you from the period of enslavement, through the events that led up to the Civil Rights movement, “Bloody Tuesday” in Tuscaloosa, and the local people who helped the movement.
There are eighteen different stops on the Trail and make sure you pick up a pamphlet at the Visitors Center explaining each one. You can also find the information at the Tuscaloosa Civil Rights website.
We were able to stop at a few of the locations within an hour and a half. Capitol Park was the site of where the Alabama legislature passed slave codes that limited what slaves, as well as free people of color, were able to do.
Tuscaloosa was the capital of Alabama from 1826 to 1846 but the building burned when they were redoing the roof. You can still see the ruins here from the capitol building.
Across the street from Capitol Park we made stop number two at the Old Jail where you learn about eight lynchings in the community from a historical marker out front.
Next was the First African Baptist Church where we learned about “Bloody Tuesday” in Tuscaloosa where thirty-three African American protestors were sent to the hospital and ninety-four were arrested.
Just down the street is the Howard-Linton Barbershop where many of the wounded took refuge on that day.
Downtown you can stop by the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center, Paul R. Jones Museum, and the Alston Building which housed the office of the Imperial Wizard of the United Klans of America.
This can easily fill an afternoon if you want to follow the whole trail and learn about these historic places and people.
Tour the Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion or The Old Tavern
Do you like touring restored homes and buildings? Historic Tuscaloosa manages five different properties around town and these are two of the most popular to tour.
The Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion was built from 1859-1862 by Senator Robert Jemison Jr. It’s an impressive two-story house and free tours are offered Tuesday to Saturday at 3:30pm.
The Old Tavern was built in 1827 but it doesn’t sit at its original location. In 1966 when the bridge was built over the Black Warrior River, the Old Tavern was moved to Capitol Park where it still is located today.
You can tour the Tavern every Tuesday – Saturday at 1:30pm. Tours are free but Historic Tuscaloosa does take donations.
Mercedes-Benz US International Visitor Center
Just a note – this is currently closed until they launch their all-electric vehicles. According to the website that will be in early-2022. You can check for updates on their website.
If you’re a car person, you’ll want to visit the Mercedes-Benz US International Visitor Center. It’s free and open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 4pm.
You can see classic Mercedes-Benz cars, race cars, concept cars, and more. The Visitor Center takes you through the history of Mercedes-Benz, from their first car to the present day.
They also have a factory tour (which costs $5) where you learn about how the cars are designed and built. Factory tours are offered Monday and Wednesday only and advanced reservations are required.
Kids must be at least 10 years old to go on the factory tour!
Kentuck Art Center
Above: Pottery by Firehorse Pottery
If you’re looking for something different to do, how about explore your own creativity at the Kentuck Art Center. They offer different workshops so you can try out a variety of mediums.
Folk artists, potters, painters, and more showcase their work here and it’s definitely worth a visit if you want to see some unique art made by local artists.
If you want to visit, but don’t have time for a workshop, their museum gallery is open seven days a week with free admission.
They also have a Gallery Shop where you can purchase items made by various artists.
On the first Thursday of each month they hold Art Nights where they open the other galleries for tours and have live music, food, and pop-up vendors.
The Kentuck Festival of the Arts is held each October and features over 250 artists, activities, and local food and beverage companies.
It’s one of the best things to do near Tuscaloosa located just over the bridge in Northport, AL!
The Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation Museum
The Transportation Museum is a free museum in Tuscaloosa, Alabama that tells the story of transportation and how it affected the development of Tuscaloosa.
You’ll find multiple fixed exhibits but they show rotating exhibits as well. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 4:30pm.
It’s located along Jack Warner Parkway right next to the Tuscaloosa Public Library in what was once the Queen City Pool House.
This is definitely one of the unique Tuscaloosa attractions and a great place to visit if you want to learn about the history of the city and the surrounding Tuscaloosa county.
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Fun Things to Do in Tuscaloosa for Couples
If you love seeing live music outdoors, the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater is a great place to go. They have a variety of shows throughout the year – from country music to classic rock.
Tickets vary in price depending on who is playing so be sure to check their event calendar to see if anyone will be in town during your trip.
If you’re already coming to Tuscaloosa for a show here then that’s a great excuse to extend your trip and spend the whole weekend here!
They sell food and drinks inside the amphitheater, so no worries about going hungry.
This is the perfect date night idea if you’re tired of the same old dinner and a movie routine.
Alabama Museum of Natural History
This museum is a great spot for all you history buffs and admission is only $2 for adults! It’s on the UA campus and open Monday – Saturday 10am – 4:30pm.
Be sure to check the school calendar though because they close on school holidays.
They have exhibits on the Coal Age in AL, dinosaur fossils that were found in the state, plus Discovering Alabama which follows the longest-running locally produced TV show, and more.
If you’re looking for things to do in Tuscaloosa with kids, this is a great option. Of course, the kids at heart will enjoy this one too. I love a good Natural History Museum and I’m approaching my thirties.
Hit the Local Breweries or Bars
Now, if you’re looking for something a little more fun and lively, there are plenty of breweries and bars to choose from in Tuscaloosa.
Starting with the breweries, Black Warrior Brewing is a great spot with a laid-back atmosphere. They have a wide variety of beers on tap and I liked each one I tried.
My favorite was the Apricot Wheat beer but they also had a good Strawberry Blonde. It’s dog-friendly and you can bring food in or have it delivered.
Druid City Brewing is another popular spot that’s pretty quirky with mismatched tables and chairs and video games inside.
They are also dog friendly and the atmosphere is just super fun. The owner, Bo, is very community-minded and focuses on serving consistent, quality beers while giving back to the Tuscaloosa community.
Loosa Brews is a newer spot in town and they have a great variety of beers on tap not to mention all their arcade games and pinball machines.
They serve small snack items but you can also bring in food or order delivery.
If wine is more your thing, The Wine Market has got you covered with about 20 different wine options. They also have a good selection of beer and small plates to choose from.
Finally, Session Cocktails is the go-to when you want mixed drinks. The space has a cool vibe and they really know how to make some unique drinks.
So, no matter what you’re in the mood for, this city has you covered! There are plenty of fun things to do in Tuscaloosa but personally, this is one of my favorites.
I was impressed with the Alabama beer scene especially after visiting these as well as the breweries in Huntsville, AL!
Check the Schedule at the Bama Theatre
The Bama Theatre won’t always have an exhibit running BUT you could get lucky. Sometimes they show movies here, sometimes they have art exhibits up, and sometimes it’s used for theatre performances.
It can also be rented out for private events. Construction on Bama Theatre was completed in 1938 and it was the first building in Tuscaloosa with an air conditioning system.
This building is a real treasure in the city so even if you just walk by outside and admire the architecture, it’s worth a stop!
Tuscaloosa River Market
If you’re looking for a place to buy local produce and goods, the Tuscaloosa River Market is the place to go as this is where the Tuscaloosa Farmer’s Market is held.
The facility is right beside the Black Warrior River and has multiple garage doors that open up in good weather.
Here you’ll find baked goods, local meats and vegetables, as well as crafts made by local artisans.
The market is open every Saturday, year-round, from 7am – 12pm.
The River Market is definitely a must-see Tuscaloosa attraction! Especially if you want to support local – and who doesn’t these days?
Eat Your Way Through Tuscaloosa
There’s no shortage of delicious eats in Tuscaloosa. Whether you’re a fan of barbecue, seafood, or a good breakfast, you’ll find something to love among the city’s many restaurants.
I tried lots of great restaurants while I was in Tuscaloosa, but here are just a few of them.
Dreamland BBQ is a must-visit for barbecue fans. The restaurant has been serving up some of the best barbecue in Alabama for over 60 years.
The ribs are especially legendary – don’t leave without trying them! Their ribs and white bread are on the list of 100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama.
Rama Jama’s is another great option for breakfast lovers. The restaurant is known for its delicious, hearty breakfasts as well as Alabama memorabilia.
If seafood and steaks are more your thing, Chuck’s Fish is the place to go. The restaurant offers a wide variety of fresh seafood dishes, including a Fish of the Day, Stuffed Shrimp, and Sesame-Seared Tuna.
Heritage House is the perfect spot for a coffee and snack break in the afternoon. They serve incredible house-made pastries (their cookies are absolute fire) and their coffee hits the spot when you need that caffeine fix.
No matter what type of food you’re in the mood for, Tuscaloosa has a restaurant that will satisfy your palate.
Things to Do on University of Alabama Campus
I know I said there are so many things to do near Tuscaloosa that aren’t related to the University but come on.
You can’t visit Tuscaloosa and just ignore the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Catch a Football Game at Bryant-Denny Stadium
This is definitely a bucket-list item for many college football fans. Bryant-Denny Stadium is totally iconic in college football and it’s an amazing experience to watch a game here.
The stadium holds over 101,000 people and the energy level is infectious. The fans are passionate about their team and you can feel that at every game. With 18 National Championships, it’s easy to see why.
If you’re not able to catch a game in person, the next best thing is to watch one from the WestGate Luxury Condos.
They’re right across the street from the stadium and have a gorgeous rooftop deck with indoor and outdoor spaces and plenty of TVs so you can see all the action.
I stayed here during my time in Tuscaloosa and can’t recommend it enough.
Paul W. Bryant Museum
In addition to the football stadium, there’s also the Paul W. Bryant Museum on campus. The museum is dedicated to the life and career of Paul W. Bryant, better known as “Bear” Bryant.
The museum has tons of memorabilia from Coach Bryant’s time at Alabama, including trophies, awards, letters, and photos.
It’s a really interesting museum – especially for football fans – and a great way to learn more about Alabama football history. Definitely one of the unique things to do in Tuscaloosa.
University of Alabama Arboretum
If you’re looking for a more peaceful activity, the University of Alabama Arboretum is a great option.
The arboretum is a botanical garden that features many different types of flowers, trees, and shrubs with a focus on those native to Alabama.
It’s a beautiful place to walk around and it’s definitely a must-see for nature lovers. The arboretum is open from 8am to sunset and it’s free to enter.
This is another great outdoor activity in Tuscaloosa!
While I was in town, I took a sunset walk around campus and the quad. It was incredibly beautiful!
Those huge buildings in the fading light, the blooming azaleas, and the trees all had me swooning. It made me wonder why I didn’t look at coming to college here!
It was actually one of my favorite activities in Tuscaloosa – just enjoying the beauty of the area!
Where to Stay in Tuscaloosa
There are plenty of options for where to stay in Tuscaloosa. If you’re looking for a luxurious experience, the WestGate Luxury Condominiums should be at the top of your list.
The condos are right across from Bryant-Denny Stadium and have an incredible rooftop deck with views of the stadium. Not to mention the rooms are next level.
The best part – luxury doesn’t mean that it’s out of budget! The rooms are incredibly reasonably priced for everything that you get.
If you’re looking for something unique then look no further than the T-Town Treehouse in Tuscaloosa! This one-of-a-kind Airbnb is right on Lake Tuscaloosa and you can walk down to the lake.
Airbnb is one of my favorite ways to find cheap accommodations.
It’s also just 15 minutes from downtown, so you have the best of both worlds. You’ll love the rustic charm of this treehouse.
Activities in Tuscaloosa FAQs
What is there to do in Tuscaloosa for free?
Tons! Visit Lake Nicol or the Tuscaloosa Riverwalk. Drive the Civil Rights History Trail or tour the Jemison-Van de Graaff mansion.
Check out the Kentuck Art Center, Mercedes-Benz International Visitor Center, or the Transportation Museum.
For more information on any of these check out the section above that goes over the free things to do in Tuscaloosa.
Is Tuscaloosa Safe to Visit?
MoneyGeek lists Tuscaloosa as the safest large city in Alabama and they gave it a safety score of 86.4.
I can only speak to my experience, but I stayed a few blocks from the University of Alabama campus and felt very safe.
What is Tuscaloosa, Alabama Famous for?
Alabama football, of course!
Other than sports, Tuscaloosa is known as “The Druid City” because of the water oaks that were once found throughout the city.
Druids were Celtic people who worshipped oak trees which is where they got that term.
Tuscaloosa is also home to the Mercedes-Benz manufacturing plant where they assemble the famous cars.
What to Do in Tuscaloosa with Kids?
Typically I don’t include information on what to do with kids since I don’t have any but Tuscaloosa has a few options that I know for a fact kids love.
They have a fantastic Children’s Hands-On Museum great for newborns through thirteen year olds.
Mason’s Place is the new all-inclusive playground at Sokol Park.
Finally, the Alabama Natural History Museum is popular with kids as is the beach at Lake Lurleen State Park.
Wrap Up: Activities in Tuscaloosa
Obviously there are tons of cool activities in Tuscaloosa and plenty to pack in for a long weekend! If you’re headed to the area for a football game then I encourage you to stick around to enjoy the rest of town.
You’ll be surprised at what you can find here. Even if you aren’t planning to visit because of football, you should check it out!