Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Photo via Shutterstock

Best Things to Do in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

BY Jeff Zanotti | July 27, 2022

Welcome to Fifty Grande’s Best of the U.S. Bucket List series. This is your one-stop travel guide to the best, most unique and quintessential experiences of a city, state or event. Want to know how to “do” Tuscaloosa? We’ve got you covered. Curated by experts, vetted by in-the-know locals, this is all you need to have the best trip ever. If we’ve written a Bucket List, we recommend you go. If it’s on this list, it’s the best the city has to offer right now. Consider this your one-stop answer to “What are the best things to do in Tuscaloosa?”

For the uninitiated, Alabama is football nutso. The over-the-top fan frenzy peaks in Tuscaloosa, home of the state’s flagship university, the University of Alabama, and its elite college football team. The aura of the Bama’s Crimson Tide permeates almost every aspect of the city. But, Tuscaloosa was a city before the university ever existed. If you look past the stadium brimming with fans, you will find a city with a long history and a rich, non-football culture. In fact, for a brief time, Tuscaloosa was once the state capital of Alabama. The city’s proximity to the Black Warrior River means there are plenty of excellent recreational lakes and parks. Downtown, a newly formed entertainment district has bars, restaurants, the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, and allows you to freely carry your drinks outside. Yes, come to Tuscaloosa in the fall for the football games, but there’s plenty of reasons to visit the capital of college football in the offseason, too.

Things to Do

Alabama Crimson Tide fans at a football game. Photo via Shutterstock
#1
Alabama Crimson Tide fans at a football game. Photo via Shutterstock

Experience Game Day for Alabama Crimson Tide Football

920 Paul W Bryant Dr, Tuscaloosa, AL, USA

Football fan or not, anyone can enjoy the spectacle of a home game. The football program always looms over the city, but on home game Saturdays in the fall, football floods every corner of Tuscaloosa. The city essentially shuts down as Crimson Tide fans, and a fair share of opponents’ fans, descend upon the University of Alabama. The stadium holds over 100,000 people, but many more thousands remain outside soaking up the game-day buzz, some good burgers and barbecue and an abundance of alcohol. Tailgates are omnipresent across campus and the surrounding neighborhoods. They range from the college kids playing drinking games to grand setups with multiple TVs and state-of-the-art entertainment systems. Take a walk across the Quad by Denny Chimes on campus to see the best of the best that tailgating has to offer.

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Kentuck Art Center
#2
Kentuck Art Center

Kentuck Art Center

503 Main Ave, Northport, AL, USA

Located in quaint Historic Downtown Northport, this artistic haven believes art should be accessible for everyone. It consists of studios where artists of multiple disciplines demonstrate and sell their crafts. The center has various exhibits that allow visitors to see the studios and artists up close as well as constant events and programming. Scott McQueen’s folk art is a highlight of this experience.

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River Walk in Tuscaloosa. Photo via Shutterstock.
#3
River Walk in Tuscaloosa. Photo via Shutterstock.

River Walk

2710 Jack Warner Pkwy, Tuscaloosa, AL, USA

Take in the vistas of the Black Warrior River, which was the lifeblood of Tuscaloosa’s past. The River Walk is about 4.5 miles and accommodates cyclists, walkers, joggers and pets. Make sure to stop by the Park at Manderson Landing and check out the city’s bicentennial sculpture and time capsule. It has a set of stepping stones that match the flow of the Black Warrior River and tell the rich history of the city.

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Lake Lurleen State Park
#4
Lake Lurleen State Park. Photo via Shutterstock.

Lake Lurleen State Park

13226 Lake Lurleen Rd, Coker, AL, USA

Nature lovers rejoice! This tranquil park just north of the city possesses a 23-mile-long trail system with every variation of hiking difficulty. If you want something more relaxing than a hike, there are plenty of activities at the 250-acre Lake Lurleen to choose from. Rent a boat or fish off of the piers in the lake waters stocked with bass, brim and catfish. Campsites are available, too.

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Paul W. Bryant Museum
#5
Paul W. Bryant Museum

Paul W. Bryant Museum

300 Paul W Bryant Dr, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA

Before there was Nick Saban, there was Paul “Bear” Bryant. He was known not just as the greatest Alabama football coach, but as the greatest coach in the sport’s history until Saban arrived on the college football scene. This museum is filled with exhibits and photo galleries celebrating the highlights of his career and mapping the trajectory of the program during his tenure.

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Moundville Archaeological Park
#6
Moundville Archaeological Park. Photo via Shutterstock.

Moundville Archaeological Park

634 Mound State Parkway, Moundville, AL, USA

Harking back to Tuscaloosa’s Native American roots, this heritage site displays the remains of what was the largest city north of Mexico 800 years ago. It has 29 elevated flattened mounds (thus the name “Moundville”) that were used for civic purposes as well as for homes of nobles. The park staff calls them the “Big Apple of the 14th Century.” An onsite museum houses artifacts unearthed from the area.

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Where to Eat

Archibald’s
#7
Archibald’s

Archibald’s

1211 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Northport, Alabama, USA

Tuscaloosa has a bounty of barbecue options, but this one has risen to almost legendary status. Once a local secret, college football media and fans spread the word of its excellence. The fame hasn’t gotten to this joint’s head: it still has its down-home feel. 

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Chuck’s Fish
#8
Chuck’s Fish

Chuck’s Fish

508 Greensboro Ave, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA

The original Chuck’s opened in 2009 in Tuscaloosa as a smash success. It now has six locations, all offering the restaurant’s delicious sushi, fantastic wine and fish straight from the Gulf of Mexico. If you plan on eating at the downtown location, make a reservation ahead of time. It’s one of the hardest tables to get in the city.

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Nick’s Original Filet House
#9
Nick’s Original Filet House

Nick’s Original Filet House

4018 Culver Rd, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA

In the South, many of the best things are a drive away. Nick’s is one of those things. More commonly known by its nickname “Nick’s in the Sticks,” this old-fashioned steakhouse is far from the bustle of downtown, or, as we say in Alabama, “in the sticks.” However, if you make the trek out here, you will be rewarded with succulent bacon-wrapped filets, baked potatoes, catfish and giant onion rings. If imbibing, try their house specialty, the Nicodemus, which is always served in a styrofoam cup. Its exact ingredients remain a mystery, but we do know that it comes with a bit more of Bacardi than their other drinks.

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City Cafe
#10
City Cafe

City Cafe

408 Main Ave, Northport, AL, USA

In Historic Downtown Northport and in operation since 1931, this is a local favorite for breakfast or lunch. The breakfast menu has about any type of biscuit you could imagine, and the lunch menu varies daily, with choices of meats and vegetables. This little cafe opens at 4 a.m.; perfect for early risers.

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Buffalo Phil’s
#11
Buffalo Phil’s

Buffalo Phil’s

1149 University Blvd, Tuscaloosa, AL, USA

Close to campus and with an affordable menu, this is a popular destination among students. They love its wide beer selection and award-winning wings, as do many of the non-collegiate locals. On sunny days take advantage of their patio, which faces the “strip” of downtown and is great for people-watching.

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DePalma’s Italian Cafe
#12
DePalma’s Italian Cafe

DePalma’s Italian Cafe

2300 University Blvd, Tuscaloosa, AL, USA

When I say college football, you say…Italian food? Yes, I know, you may not expect a Southern, college-football-obsessed city to excel in classic Italian food, but this establishment in the western part of downton does exactly that. Plan your trip here carefully: DePalma’s does not take reservations and operates on a first come, first serve basis. When you do get a table, ask about their lasagna of the day.

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Where to Drink

Black Warrior Brewing Company
#13
Black Warrior Brewing Company

Black Warrior Brewing Company

2216 University Blvd, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA

This craft brewery takes its name from the river that birthed the community, and its beers are delicious. Come in and grab a flight of their homemade beers while you enjoy one of their old-school board games like Chutes and Ladders or Connect 4.

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The Houndstooth
#14
The Houndstooth

The Houndstooth

1300 University Blvd, Tuscaloosa, AL, USA

This is the ultimate college bar experience. Named for the pattern Bear Bryant made famous, patrons come to this sports bar to play darts, shoot pool or watch a game on one of their many TVs. It will bring back memories of your youthful college days, no matter how long ago they were. If you are brave enough to try this spot on game day, expect cover charges and a packed crowd.

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Unique
#15
Unique

Unique

1229 University Blvd, Tuscaloosa, AL, USA

This is a relatively new bar to the Tuscaloosa scene, but it is replacing — and using the same building as — a longstanding, popular counterculture bar named Egan’s. The new owners have embraced the traditions of the building’s previous life, creating a space for students, artists and locals to come together for affordable drinks.

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Druid City Brewing Company Taproom
#16
Druid City Brewing Company Taproom

Druid City Brewing Company Taproom

607 14th St, Tuscaloosa, AL, USA

The first thing that catches your attention when you walk into the establishment is the fine chalk artwork behind the bar which is ever changing on its subject matter. It is a staple of Tuscaloosa’s first craft brewery. Here, colorful regulars and video game tournaments using outdated gaming systems (think Nintendo 64 and regular Nintendo) accompany the tasty drinks. If you are wondering about the name, it comes from one of Tuscaloosa’s nicknames. It got the moniker Druid City from the water oak trees that lined the banks of the Black Warrior River. Apparently, the Druids worshiped these types of trees. Seems like a stretch for a nickname, but it does sound cool.

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Alcove
#17
Alcove

Alcove

730 22nd Ave, Tuscaloosa, AL, USA

This is a tiny bar that packs a big punch. It’s known for strong drinks and as the locals’ favorite for live music, local artists and comedy. It has a speakeasy vibe. There is no large sign outside promoting its location just off the main strip. Alcove is within the Tuscaloosa Entertainment District, so you can always take your beer to go and find adventure.

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Where to Stay

Hotel Indigo Tuscaloosa Downtown
#18
Hotel Indigo Tuscaloosa Downtown

Hotel Indigo Tuscaloosa Downtown

111 Greensboro Ave, Tuscaloosa, AL, USA

This modern hotel is perfectly located on the waterfront of the Black Warrior River and is within walking distance of downtown. Enjoy the views of the river from the rooftop bar or borrow a bike from the hotel to ride along the River Walk. The Kentuck Art Center operates an extension gallery here.

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Bama Bed and Breakfast
#19
Bama Bed and Breakfast

Bama Bed and Breakfast

46 Sherwood Dr, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA

This very traditional bed and breakfast features five uniquely themed rooms filled with Alabama memorabilia. It is close enough to campus and downtown to be convenient, yet far enough away to enjoy the tranquility of the property. The room themes vary from classic Southern traditional looks to football fanatic stylings. Breakfast and dinner are served at a formal dining table setting.

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Hotel Capstone
#20
Hotel Capstone

Hotel Capstone

320 Paul W Bryant Dr, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA

Located on the actual campus of the University of Alabama and next to the Paul W. Bryant Museum, this hotel gets you as close to the middle of the game-day action as possible. It also gives guests easy access to the university campus itself. The room choices vary in size from standard rooms for convenience to full-out suites with living rooms.

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