If you are planning to visit Tuscaloosa Alabama or anywhere near there, these 12 Family Friendly things to do, will convince you to add Tuscaloosa to your travel itinerary! I enjoyed a 3-day visit to Tuscaloosa and was thrilled with all of the things you can do there without breaking the family budget. You can slow down and enjoy the delightful southern charm of the area, eat some fantastic food and spend a couple of days enjoying everything the town has to offer.
From exploring a significant amount of U.S. history, local history, and football history to visiting museums, taking a paddle-boat cruise down the Black Warrior River, and tour the pride of Alabama’s Crimson Tide stadium, there is something for everyone in Tuscaloosa.
Tuscaloosa Visitor Center
No matter where you go, a trip to the local Visitor Center can uncover hidden gems in the area. When you visit Tuscaloosa, this is no exception! Located on the bank of the beautiful Black Warrior River, you will find a staff of locals enthusiastically willing to help you make your stay in Tuscaloosa amazing. They know the best places to eat (they are all good), where to stay, shop and explore. With a wall full of brochures, maps and local insight to help guide you in your adventures and a friendly smile to send you off, you’ll be in good hands!
Your visit should include a walk along the tree-lined path of the Black Warrior River that runs alongside the Visitors Center. Roughly 3 1/2 miles long one way, taking you on a journey of 10,000 steps round trip, which takes care of your fitness goals for the day. You will need to burn off calories after all!
Tuscaloosa Museum of Art
Don’t miss a chance to visit the largest privately owned art collection, collected by a local businessman, Jack Warner, and the Westervelt Company. Built in 1970 in the style of a Kyoto, Japan Palace and opened to the public in 2001, it features a beautiful traditional Japanese Koi pond in the center of the structure.
“Landscapes, Old West, Civil War and Early American portraits make up much of the approximately 1,000 works of fine and decorative arts on display from this extensive collection of 19th and 20th century American art.”
Featuring artist: John Singer Sargent; George Luks; Edward Potthast; Andrew Wyeth; Jamie Wyeth; Edward Hicks; James A.M. Whistler; Albert Bierstadt; Basil Ede; Duncan Phyfe and Charles Lannieur.
Museum hours: Tues-Sat: 10:00am-6:00pm Sun: 1:00pm-6:00pm
1400 Jack Warner Pkwy NE, Tuscaloosa, AL | (205) 562-5280
Bama Belle Paddle Wheel River Boat Cruise
The Bama Belle is Tuscaloosa’s only Paddle Wheel River Boat Cruise and not something you will want to pass up when you visit Tuscaloosa. Enjoy a two-hour cruise down the Black Warrior River on the Bama Belle’s double-decker Paddle Wheel River Boat, listen to the churning of the Paddle wheels, and the toot of the boat horn.
The Bama Belle operates Friday, Saturday, and Sundays for the public. Snacks, drinks, and adult beverages are sold on board during the cruise. Perfect for the family and children 6 and under are free!
The Bama Theatre
The Bama Theatre was originally constructed from 1937–38 through Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal as a Public Works Administration project and is currently operated by Arts Council of Tuscaloosa and the Tuscaloosa County Parks and Recreation Authority. Offering a multitude of venues from dance performances, and art house performance to children’s movie. It’s a perfect place to enjoy to artist talents of Tuscaloosa and see some of the amazing interior elements that include faux balconies, terra-cotta tiles, cherub plaques and a small alabaster fountain.
600 Greensboro Avenue Tuscaloosa, AL 35401 | (205) 758-5195
Jemison Van De Graaff Mansion
This majestic Italianate house was built-in 1859-1862 by Senator Robert Jemison Jr. to serve as his personal townhouse and currently is available to the public to visit. The main floor has been carefully restored to its original 1860s appearance and the Jemison Mansion is the first in Tuscaloosa to have a fully plumbed bathroom and even had its own gas plant to provide gas for illumination.
Robert Jemison, Jr. was a bridge builder, a mill owner, ran toll roads, a foundry, owner of surface coal mines, a stage line, with six plantations.
1305 Greensboro Avenue Tuscaloosa, Alabama 35401 | 205-758-2906
First Presbyterian Church of Tuscaloosa
“Built in 1921, this beautiful neo-Gothic church was built by Tuscaloosa’s earliest Presbyterian congregation on the site of its original 1830 building. (The congregation had been formed in 1820). The church features a surprising variety of antique European craftwork throughout. Some of the unique items include a 15th century French pulpit, 15th century German and Flemish stained glass, and 16th Century Italian baptismal font.”
This strikingly beautiful red brick church is an eloquent example of early 1800 craftmanship and is beautifully landscaped for you to enjoy a visit.
900 Greensboro Ave Tuscaloosa, AL 35401 | 205.752.3531
Battle-Friedman House & Gardens
Maintained by the Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society and built about 1835 by Alfred Battle, a North Carolina native who had come to Tuscaloosa in 1821, the Battle-Friedman House has distinctively Tuscaloosa styled paneled square columns giving it a grand old style and look to it. Taking up a whole block with its gorgeously landscaped garden, worth the visit just to enjoy the space.
“Inside, elaborate plaster work decorates the walls and ceilings of the front parlours and hallways. Some of this is original to the house, but the distinctive art deco nasturtium frieze in the halls was added by the Friedman family in the early part of the twentieth century. The house also contains a fine collection of renaissance revival furniture.”
Open to the public Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m.
1010 Greensboro Avenue Tuscaloosa, AL | 205-758-2861
Murphy African-American Museum
“Tuscaloosa’s first licensed black mortician, Mr. Will J. Murphy, built this two-story craftsman bungalow in the early 1920s as his private residence. Materials from the old state capitol building a few blocks away, such as bricks and window sills, were salvaged when it burned in 1923 and used in the house’s construction. Today, the structure operates as a museum focusing on the lifestyle of affluent blacks during the early 1900s. The Murphy-Collins House is the home of the Murphy African-American Museum”
Hours 10:00 – 3:00 Tuesday through Friday . Tours available by appointment.
2601 Bryant Drive Tuscaloosa, AL | 205-758-2861
Mercedes-Benz Visitors Center
Located just outside of Tuscaloosa (in the city of Vance) lies the only Mercedes-Benz Visitors Center outside of Germany and home of the plant responsible for building the GLE SUV, GL SUV, the C-Class and the GLE Coupe for the North American market. Inside you will find classic Mercedes-Benz automobiles, race cars, concept cars and the Mercedes-Benz “Peerless Safety” exhibit.
The exhibits displaying the history of Mercedes-Benz offers some great insight to the companies achievements. They also have a well-stocked store of Mercedes-Benz brand store where you can shop to your heart’s content. You can satisfy all of your Mercedes-Benz curiosities with a plant tour as well, just make a reservation before you arrive!
Plant Tours – Offered on Mondays and Wednesdays ONLY
Visitor Center – Open M-F 8:30 AM – 4:00 PM Closed SAT, SUN, and Holidays
6 Mercedes Dr. Vance, Alabama 35490 | (888) 286-8762 – (205) 507-2252
University of Alabama
First opened in 1831, with only four structures of the original university to survive the campus’ burning during the Civil War, it is a site to behold. Beautiful beyond expectation, teaming with activity and deep southern history, it is the pride of Alabama. It’s tree-lined streets, and walkway gives it a park like feel that is perfect for a long leisurely stroll or bike ride.
“The school was a center of activity during the American Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement. The University of Alabama varsity football program (nicknamed the Crimson Tide), which was inaugurated in 1892, ranks as one of 10 winningest programs in US history”
The University of Alabama is home to several museums, cultural facilities, historical landmarks and a full day destination stop when you visit Tuscaloosa.
Smith Hall University of Alabama Museum of Natural History
In the middle of the sprawling historical University of Alabama lies Smith Hall Museum of Natural History, full of exhibits that tell a story dating back 500 million years to the first fossils found in the state. Founded in 1831, making it the oldest museum in the state and the home of ancient sea monsters including the state fossil of Alabama, hanging high over the Grand Gallery, the Basilosaurus cetoides (Whale).
“Collections include items relating to geology, zoology, mineralogy, paleontology, ethnology, history, and photography .… Exhibits of special interest include the skull of an American mastodon dredged from the Tombigbee River near Demopolis and the Hodges meteorite. The latter hit a woman as it fell to earth near Sylacauga on November 30, 1954″ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alabama_Museum_of_Natural_History)
Be sure to check out the “Augmented Reality Sandbox,” it is quite an amazing sandbox to play in!
Box 870340, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487 | (205) 348-7550
Paul W Bryant Museum
Football fans rejoice for here is the motherland of all things Crimson Tide!
Founded in 1985, to house the history of Alabama football, located on the Campus of the University of Alabama, with the mission “To collect, preserve and exhibit items, and to disseminate information relating to the sports history of the University of Alabama.”
It will be easy to spend a few hours in the museum, even for non-football fans, just wandering through the many exhibits on display. Of particular note is the $16,000 Waldorf crystal football and Waterford crystal replica of Coach Bryant’s houndstooth hat, beautiful to say the least!
Open daily 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. – Closed major holidays
300 Paul W. Bryant Drive, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487
Toll-free 1-866-772-BEAR (2327) or (205) 348-4668
No visit would be complete without at least a visit to the University of Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium, home of the Crimson Tide football team. Take a stroll along the “Walk of Champions” and pose for a picture with the five legendary football coaches, roughly 2,000-pound, 9-foot tall bronze statues.
For the best experience, take a guided tour of the stadium to see everything up close. The tour winds you through the massive stadium giving you a first hand up close and behind the scenes experience. Take a seat in the President’s box, stand below the goal post, explore the team’s locker room, the press boxes and much more!
One tour only at 11:00 a.m. Monday through Friday (tickets must be purchased in advance)
920 Paul W Bryant Dr. Tuscaloosa, AL 35401 | 1-205-348-3600
When you visit Tuscaloosa make sure to read “How to Eat Like a Local When Visiting Tuscaloosa, Alabama.” 8 fabulous restaurants that with give you a true feeling for local cuisine!
Full disclosure, Tuscaloosa Tourism & Sports hosted Never to Old To Travel for a three-day all expense paid media trip to Tuscaloosa with no stipulations. All thoughts and opinions in this article are my own.