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Did You Know … ?
- Muskogean Indian Chief Tuskaloosa gave his name to the city and county; it means Black Warrior.
- Football was abandoned at Alabama in 1898 when a (short-lived) ruling forbade teams to leave campus.
- Jazz singer Dinah Washington was born in Tuscaloosa (1924).
- Alabama coach Paul Bryant played football in the first game he ever saw, at age 13.
- James Hood, who famously integrated the University of Alabama (1963), returned for his PhD (1997).
Sports and more
Tuscaloosa in west central Alabama, is a charming college town, home to the University of Alabama and the sports teams that Alabamans love dearly, especially the team that appears on a football field.
It’s no wonder the agency that promotes tourism here bears the name Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports Commission. Visitors come from far and not so far to watch the teams, then patronize the city’s businesses and sometimes find their way to art galleries, churches, museums and shopping districts.
Fans put the Paul W. Bryant Museum at the top of their list. It celebrates all the school’s sports but includes a section devoted to the eponymous Alabama coach, also called “Bear” Bryant. He really did wrestle a bear — when he was 14 and foolish.
For those with at least equal or more interest in Tuscaloosa’s touristic aspects, part of the town’s charm is in the history and architecture. The city was once Alabama’s capital (1826-1846), and the university dates from 1831. Some houses from those antebellum days survived the Union Army. Later construction added to the collection of historic buildings on view in Tuscaloosa and in Northport just across the Black Warrior River.
The latest cultural attraction is the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center, a restored historic building repurposed as the hub for Tuscaloosa’s arts. In addition, Northport hosts the annual Kentuck Art Festival featuring scores of national and regional folk artists.
Tuscaloosa has a climate natural for golfing. In addition, several area parks offer options for biking, boating, fishing, hiking and the like.
Finally, the area offers points of interest unique to the region:
- Mercedes-Benz operates a factory in nearby Vance. It also maintains a museum for visitors and offers tours by prearrangement.
- Moundville Archaeological Park, about 20 miles south, was the site of America’s second-largest city (after Cahokia in Illinois) in the last centuries before the white man’s arrival. Tourists see 26 mounds, which supported noble residences and public buildings, plus a museum.
- An enlightening museum in Aliceville recalls that town’s past as host to America’s largest World War II POW camp for Germans.
Things to do for Venturers
- Watch the famed University of Alabama football team in action.
- Take a weekend workshop, learning to work with clay, at the Kentuck Art Center in nearby Northport. If visiting in October, attend the Kentuck Festival, which showcases all kinds of art, from basket weaving to metalworking.
- At Lake Lurleen State Park, named for Alabama’s first woman governor, Lurleen Wallace, camp on the shore of a 250-acre lake. Use the bike trails. Or, camp and use the trails at Deer Lick Park.
- Further, Hurricane Creek Park offers mountain biking, canoeing on the eponymous creek and more hiking.
- See a big-name performer at the outdoor Tuscaloosa Amphitheater.
- Search out the local breweries, as well as other popular nightspots. Or, if this is your cup of tea, make the university campus district your nighttime playground.
Things to do for Centrics
- If a sports fan, spare some time for the Paul W. Bryant Museum, named for the football coach but with a broader mission to cover the sports history of the University of Alabama.
- Drive to Moundville Archaeological Park, the South’s most important prehistoric Native American settlement and ceremonial center. The site includes a museum, restored temple and remains of flat-topped mounds.
- In Vance, tour the Mercedes-Benz plant as well as the carmaker’s visitor center/museum. Tours must be booked well in advance.
- Find your way to Aliceville for the Aliceville Museum. which documents the World War II years when the town hosted a German POW camp.
- Get the license and try your luck fishing in Lake Tuscaloosa, a freshwater reservoir north of town.
- Cross the Black Warrior River to check out the eateries, shops and general ambience of Historic Northport, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Things to do for Authentics
- Feed your interest in antebellum homes at the Gorgas House (built 1829, a former college dining hall) and the Battle-Friedman House, an 1835 Greek Revival mansion.
- The Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation Museum is enlightening on area transportation history — horse-drawn carriages, lock and dam development on the Black Warrior River, stagecoaches, electric streetcars, rail services and even bicycle history.
- Look for American art at the Tuscaloosa Museum of Art (especially, works by Mary Cassett, Edward Hopper and John Singer Sargent).
- Take a student-led tour of the University of Alabama campus.
- Tuscaloosa is a good place for golfers. Seek out the course that suits you.
- Hear the sounds of the 5,000 pipes in the organ at the Frank Moody Music Building. Concerts, student recitals and the Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra can be heard here, too.
For more information, consult the Alabama Tourism Department at www.alabama.travel