Mobile is a city of around 200,000 people in the Gulf State of Southern United States, the second city in terms of population in the State after Huntsville. It is the State’s only saltwater port, sitting on the Mobile River and has been an important trading settlement long before Europeans settled in the region. The French and local native Americans traded here for centuries. The French have been here since the beginning of the 18th century, establishing Mobile as the capital of Louisiana. The British and then the Spanish took over until the area was annexed from the latter to become part of the USA in 1813.
Mobile is a significant cultural centre within the Gulf Coast, famous for its museums, its music and historical architecture. It is also the city where Mardi Gras was first celebrated in the USA, early in the 18th century, and, ironically, the Catholic Cathedral in the City is testimony to the importance of that religion to the people.
There are numerous reminders of the past in Mobile with several interesting museums covering all aspects of life in the past. You will also find reminders of the importance of Mobile’s position on the Gulf Coast. The French presence in days gone by is evident in its cuisine while Mobile’s love of music and entertainment offers plenty of opportunity to spend a night at a concert or show. Read on and you will see that this relatively small place has plenty to offer. Here are the best things to do in Mobile.
- Mobile, Alabama
- Plan Your Trip
- Top Tours And Passes
- 20 Things To Do In Mobile
- 1- Visit USS Alabama Memorial Park
- 2- Explore Mobile’s Historic District
- 3- Learn About Early Settler History At Fort Conde
- 4- Wander Around The Carnival Museum
- 5- Experience Nightlife, Eat And Shop On Dauphin Street
- 6- Discover Delta Wildlife By Kayak
- 7- See The Collections At Mobile Museum Of Art
- 8- Visit The Gulf Shores
- 9- See What’s In Bloom In The Mobile Botanical Gardens
- 10- Sample The Local Cuisine
- 11- Discover The History Of The Clotilda At Africatown
- 12- Relax In Bienville Square
- 13- Take A Ferry Ride On Mobile Bay
- 14- Discover Maritime History At GulfQuest National Maritime Museum
- 15- Enjoy The Views And Seafood Restaurants Along Mobile Bay Causeway
- 16- Step Back In History At Mobile’s Historic Homes
- 17- Enjoy A Saenger Concert
- 18- Spend A Day Golfing On The “Trail”
- 19- Explore Mobile’s Past Through Its Churches And Cemeteries
- 20- Admire The City’s Cathedral
Top Tours And Passes
- Alabama: Mobile Area Multi-Attraction Pass – save money with this pass.
- 24-Hour Slingshot Rental – a fun mode of transport to explore the area.
- Mobile: Mobile Scavenger Hunt City Exploration Game – a fun way to explore the city with family and friends.
20 Things To Do In Mobile
1- Visit USS Alabama Memorial Park
USS Alabama is the highlight of a visit to a park where you will learn about the maritime history of this part of the Gulf Coast.
It is a battleship famous for its participation in World War II initially as part of the British fleet that was guarding convoys heading to Russia.
It moved to the Pacific in 1943 where Japan was the enemy.
Although decommissioned in 1947, she remained in the reserve fleet for another 15 years.
Funds were raised to ensure she was not scrapped and the result was USS Alabama going to Mobile as the highlight of a park to become a museum exhibit which attracts large numbers of visitors annually.
It is easy to spend a whole day exploring one of the USA’s most famous vessels.
Other exhibits in the park include the submarine, USS Drum and several old military aircraft.
Memorials to military veterans are also on show. Save money and buy the 3-Day Mobile City Multi-Attraction Pass.
2- Explore Mobile’s Historic District
Old Dauphin Way Historic District, commonly just referred to as Dauphin Street cuts through the centre of Mobile, from east to west.
Roughly speaking, its boundaries are Broad Street to the east, Springhill Avenue to the north, Government Street the south, and Houston Avenue the west.
There are almost 1,500 buildings within the district, many of great historic significance.
This was an area which was settled early in Mobile’s history when lands were leased out to settlers.
There are many houses that have always been homes to working-class people but large, ornate mansions often line the main thoroughfares.
The age range of the houses is the mid-19th to early 20th century and they include a number of architectural styles.
Greek, Gothic, Tudor and Colonial Revival are all found here, as are Italianate, Queen Anne and American Foursquare styles.
In 1984, the district was added to the National Register of Historic Places. A fun way to explore Mobile’s Historic District is to rent a party bike and cycle around the area.
3- Learn About Early Settler History At Fort Conde
Fort Condé dates back to 1723, built by French explorers.
Over the years, it has been known as Fort Louis, Fort Charlotte, as well as Fuerta Carlota, dependent on the colonial power in control at the time.
In 1966 when the Wallace Tunnel was being built, the remains of the original fort were discovered and sited in Mardi Gras Park.
A replica of the original opened to the public a decade later.
Artifacts from those early days are on display while visitors can walk the walls to get great views of the city.
Remember forts were regularly built in prominent locations for defensive reasons.
Mobile’s calendar has events throughout the year which remember the city’s historic past.
In addition, on several days in the week, visitors can see enactments of what daily life was like in those days.
Tours with a guide are especially educational for anyone interested in history.
4- Wander Around The Carnival Museum
The roots of “Carnival” which is celebrated across the world a few weeks into the new calendar year are based in Catholicism, a celebration that looks forward to spring.
In the USA, it was Mobile where such celebrations began and there is a museum to remember every aspect of its history, all 300 years of it.
The historic Bernstein-Bush Mansion on Government Street is an excellent host for the museum where you can see displays telling the story of the early days right up to the present day.
In the Queen’s Gallery there are the gowns, trains, and jewels that Carnival Queens have worn.
There are several more costumes which have added to the colour of the events.
Add to that original Mardi Gras art and posters by various local artists, doubloons that were thrown from the parade and invitations to the balls and you will find a very comprehensive collection of memorabilia.
If you wish you can climb on to a float and pretend you are part of the parade. Skip the line and reserve your ticket here.
5- Experience Nightlife, Eat And Shop On Dauphin Street
Pedestrianised neighbourhoods are very popular, especially when they contain everything you might want to enjoy your day; shopping, good eateries, lively bars and nightlife.
Dauphin Street in Mobile certainly qualifies as such a district.
Over the years, there have been a number of colonial influences on this historic area, ranging from Spanish and local Creole to French, British and African.
In recent decades, its importance in the retail sector has grown with malls and shopping centres a feature.
There is free parking nearby although if you intend to spend time in bars and restaurants, you may prefer to use a taxi.
In the 16-block length of Dauphin Street, you will find live music, cocktail bars and more traditional places such as an Irish bar.
Several bars sell food but there is also a good choice of restaurants and cuisine style.
Not surprisingly, seafood features strongly with the day’s catch guaranteeing everything is fresh and this food tour will help you discover the tastes of Mobile.
6- Discover Delta Wildlife By Kayak
A great way to explore locally away from any crowds is to get into a kayak to meander around the delta, enjoying the wide range of wildlife.
Alligators inhabit the swamplands but do not pose any problems.
If you have never been in a kayak before you may be a little nervous but you should not worry as you will have a guide with you.
The birdlife is stunning with the highlight the bald eagle, the national bird.
Its head is actually feathered white with the reference to “bald” being an old English word meaning white.
Its Latin name translates to “white-headed sea eagle.
Your guide will provide you with plenty of information about the geology and history of the waterways as you move along.
Take a tour which includes collection and return to your accommodation and you will not be disappointed.
7- See The Collections At Mobile Museum Of Art
The Mobile Museum of Art has been the place that for half a century has been an important community resource.
There are regular exhibitions and cultural events for locals and visitors alike.
The collection includes over 6,000 items of decorative and fine art as well as craftwork and sculptures.
Some of the exhibits are contemporary while others help tell the story of the American South through the years.
You can expect to see works from different parts of the world as well.
From time to time, the museum holds temporary exhibitions featuring art from elsewhere in the world to add to its permanent collection.
The calendar also includes lectures, poetry readings, films and even dancing.
While you might think that children will get easily bored going to a museum of any kind, there are exhibitions and programmes aimed specifically for youngsters.
8- Visit The Gulf Shores
The Gulf Coast is a very appealing destination for anything from a weekend to a longer holiday.
A convenient way to see the main attractions is to buy a pass for a day or two, more even, which allows free entry, avoiding any queuing to its highlights around Mobile.
The Wharf’s Ferris Wheel near the beach is very popular with kids while the local zoo has over 300 animals, lovely gardens and an aviary full of colourful birds.
Historians are certain to enjoy several of the alternatives including USS Alabama and plenty about the days of the early railroads.
Historic Blakeley State Park is also worth some of your time.
There is a good infrastructure on the coast itself including plenty of places selling refreshments.
9- See What’s In Bloom In The Mobile Botanical Gardens
Mobile Botanical Gardens is 50 years old in 2024.
It covers 100 acres (0.40 square kilometres) and offers natural habitats as well as lovely cultivated areas.
The Rhododendron Garden is a real splash of colour when the flowers are in bloom.
There are around 1,000 bushes now, the most recent planted in 2006, making Mobile’s Garden the largest collection of bushes on the whole of the Gulf Coast.
Another interesting section is the Longleaf Pine habitat covering 40 acres (0.16 square kilometres) which is typical of the trees that once covered huge parts of the South.
You are certain to enjoy the Japanese Maples and the Herb Garden.
The funding of the non-profit gardens is essentially via donations, grants, sales and memberships.
Children, 12 and under are free with the $5 everyone else pays well worth it.
Incidentally, the gardens are open all year around.
10- Sample The Local Cuisine
There are many ways to enjoy the local cuisine, one of which is to take a tour in Mobile’s LoDa neighbourhood.
As well as learning more about the history of the area, you can expect to sample some traditional local favourites including gumbo, freshly-caught crawfish and praline.
Such a tour offers a range of things as opposed to sitting down with a single lunch dish.
Seven different samplings are certain to fill you up.
Mobile has a three-century history and the cuisine has absorbed influences from many places, locally from the indigenous peoples but also Europe and Africa especially.
You must try the oysters while burgers and hotdogs are standard throughout the USA.
Syrups are very popular; if you visit Mobile for a few days, forget about counting calories!
11- Discover The History Of The Clotilda At Africatown
The last known US slave ship, Clotilda, arrived in Mobile Bay in 1860 with 110 Africans on board.
It arrived under cover of darkness for a very good reason.
By that time, slavery had been abolished and the Africans were able to form a community as free Americans.
They held on to their African identities within Africatown.
Just a few years ago, the Clotilda was found at the bottom of the Mobile River.
The descendants of the original arrivals thus had a link with their past.
An exhibition in Africatown Heritage House sells the story of the ship and its passengers and visitors to Mobile should head there to see it.
12- Relax In Bienville Square
Bienville Square in the heart of the city takes its name from the man who founded Mobile, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville.
The park covers a block and became a park two centuries ago when Congress deemed the land should be a park forever.
Formerly, part had been an old Spanish hospital and Mobile proceeded to buy the surrounding plots to ultimately own the whole block.
It was a rundown area in the mid 20th century as inhabitants moved out to the suburbs but its restoration resulted in it becoming a popular place for locals once again.
Its benches and walkways are once again being used and visitors may be interested to see some commemorative plaques.
They include one to Cudjo Lewis, an original resident of Africatown, another to the Salvation Army and others to the city founder who became the second Governor of Louisiana and his elder brother whom he succeeded.
13- Take A Ferry Ride On Mobile Bay
A great way to enjoy Mobile Bay is to take the ferry connecting east to west, from Fort Morgan at Mobile Point to Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island.
It is far quicker than driving between the two points as well as being extremely scenic.
The forts guarded the mouth of the Mobile River and during the 40-minute voyage, you will see plenty of birds and marine life as well as encountering other sea traffic.
There are two ferries, the Fort Morgan and the Marissa Mae Nicole with both operating during the months of summer.
At least one of them will be running in the middle of winter.
14- Discover Maritime History At GulfQuest National Maritime Museum
GulfQuest/National Maritime Museum is a recent addition to Mobile’s attractions and tells the story of the Gulf over the years.
There are 90 interactive features within what is a replica container ship with several decks.
Exhibits include ones which focus on hurricanes, shipwrecks and offshore drilling.
There is also a shop, café and spaces set aside for holding events.
It is the only fully interactive maritime museum anywhere in the world.
GulfQuest was years in the planning with discussions starting in the 1990s.
There was scope to site it on a downtown waterfront development but plans changed with the museum still looking out to the Gulf as though it was about to set sail.
The replica is named SS McLean after Malcolm McLean whose company developed the container market in the mid-20th century.
15- Enjoy The Views And Seafood Restaurants Along Mobile Bay Causeway
Officially called Battleship Parkway, this seven-mile (11.3 kilometre) causeway runs from Spanish Fort to Blakeley Island, four lanes for most of the way.
It floods from time to time, and always when hurricane storms develop.
The Battleship Memorial Park is here, as well as a number of wonderful seafood restaurants.
You can expect the freshest of seafood here and oysters are a particular favourite.
It was built almost a century ago on raised embankments and concrete bridges connecting Mobile and Baldwin counties.
A chain link fence was added along one stretch in 2007 to protect the local river turtles (cooters) from the busy traffic.
16- Step Back In History At Mobile’s Historic Homes
There are some great examples of historical architecture in Mobile and if you have a few hours, try to see some of the best.
Oakleigh House was formerly on the edge of town but this Greek Revival mansion is now at the heart of an historic district that takes its name.
It is a typical Southern mansion that belonged to a cotton baron.
On site, there is also a famous part of Mobile history; Unionist barracks built after the Civil War.
Bragg-Mitchell Mansion belonged to a plantation owner.
It’s in the same style as Oakleigh and arguably the grandest of all Mobile’s mansions.
The family bequeathed it for use as a science museum.
Constructed in 1855 by a local judge and plantation owner, the Bragg-Mitchell Mansion is another Greek-Revival beauty, a 13,000-square-foot behemoth with two-story Doric columns dwarfed by the centuries-old live oaks on the lawn.
Bragg-Mitchell is probably the grandest of Mobile’s old mansions and is remarkably well-preserved and maintained.
The house was last privately owned by the wealthy Mitchell family, who bequeathed it to a foundation to be operated as a science museum for a time but it is now in its original form.
Bellingrath Home and Garden is south of the city and was completed in the mid-1930s.
For some, the impressive home is actually outshone by the huge gardens where the plan was to ensure that something would be in bloom at all times of the year.
The estate is preserved by a foundation.
The Richards DAR House Museum is close to the heart of Mobile, an Italianate style with Victorian furniture.
The city has owned it since 1972.
17- Enjoy A Saenger Concert
This historic theatre is within the Lower Dauphin Street Historic District and has recently undergone renovation.
It is almost a century old and is a significant landmark in Mobile.
There is a calendar of events held here while it is also home to the city’s Symphony Orchestra.
If you are in Mobile for more than a couple of days, you will surely find something being held there?
Its name is that of its founders, the Saenger brothers who ultimately owned 320 theatres in the South as well as Central America despite being pharmacists in their early days.
It cost $0.5m to build and its current capacity is just over 1,900.
It is beautifully decorated with several of the themes coming from Greek mythology.
The inspiration for the building was very much to replicate Europe’s fine opera houses.
The threat of demolition hung over it for a while because of maintenance costs and city redevelopment until it was bought by the University of South Alabama and ultimately the city.
The cost of complete restoration two decades ago was $6m.
18- Spend A Day Golfing On The “Trail”
There are several championship quality golf courses in Mobile and the immediate surrounding districts.
While there are over 25 courses, the most famous form part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail which runs throughout Alabama.
There are three courses of the Trail’s 26 within the city.
Trent Jones, and later his son, has an internationally-recognised reputation as a golf course architect.
Whether it is competition or not, golf here is relatively inexpensive.
You do not need to book well in advance in most cases.
The three courses from the Trail are at Magnolia Grove.
They were recently included in the USA’s Top 50 Public Courses and the Top 50 Affordable Courses.
It has hosted the LPGA Tour as well as the Korn Ferry (second level of men’s golf below the PGA Tour).
19- Explore Mobile’s Past Through Its Churches And Cemeteries
Mobile has the finest collection of historic churches anywhere in the Deep South.
You will find Catholic, Jewish and Baptist examples, both grand or merely quaint.
They appeal not only to those interested in theology but also historians and architectural buffs.
The historic cemeteries, Church Street and Magnolia for example, are fascinating as a place to learn more about the social history of Mobile, starting in the 19th century.
Church Street is now downtown yet when it opened in the 1830s, it was half a mile out from the nearest houses.
Most of the people who are part of Mobile’s early history were buried in its four-acre site where you will see tombs, sculptures and monuments.
Some are fairly elaborate, reflecting how society felt about death in days gone by.
20- Admire The City’s Cathedral
The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception was merely a wooden parish church with a cemetery initially but was given its name by the Spanish in 1781.
It was half a century later when planning for a proper cathedral began.
Progress was slow and it was consecrated in 1850.
It was not until 1884 that today’s building was completed with the completion of the towers.
It overlooks Cathedral Square and faces east towards the Mobile River.
Its history includes fire, hurricane damage, an explosion and a plane strike.
The cathedral is 164 feet (50 metres) by 90 feet (27 m) with the ceiling 60 feet (18 metres) and twin towers reaching 103 feet (31 metres).
The highlight is surely the stained glass? The windows were made in Germany and installed in 1890.
Download this scavenger hunt and explore Mobile in your own time.
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