Situated on the Gulf Coast, Mobile is a city rich in culture, architecture and history. Visitors to this Alabama destination will find plenty to do, whether you want to learn about plantations and architecture of the antebellum South, experience the Creole culture and food, soak up the maritime history, or spend a day on the bay. If you’re planning a trip to this port city, here are some of the top things to do in Mobile.
(Note: Some of the following activities, attractions and locations may be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. New policies may be in place, including capacity restrictions, reservation requirements or mask mandates. Check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of State and local tourism boards before traveling.)
Attend the Mardi Gras festival
Every year Mardi Gras – which means “Fat Tuesday” in French – falls the day before Ash Wednesday and caps off the weekslong period of wintertime revelry known as Carnival. North America’s first known unofficial celebration of Mardi Gras took place near present-day New Orleans in 1699, but Mobile’s first Mardi Gras festival a few years later kicked off what’s considered the oldest annual Carnival in the U.S. The celebration in Mobile, which begins two and a half weeks before Fat Tuesday, typically occurs between February and early March, depending on the year. Claim your spot on the street in downtown Mobile early for one of the parades and enjoy the colorful floats as they pass by. Keep an eye and a hand out for Moon Pies and beads, which parade participants toss to observers. Travelers call Mardi Gras in Mobile a fun and family-friendly celebration, especially if you’ve never seen something like it, and appreciate the intimacy of the festivities when compared to bigger Mardi Gras destinations like New Orleans.
Mobile Carnival Museum
(Tad Denson/Courtesy of Visit Mobile)
Whether or not you’re in Mobile for Mardi Gras, the Mobile Carnival Museum can give you an excellent look into the history of one of the oldest annual festivals in the U.S. You’ll get the chance to learn about how locals design their costumes and floats, see historical photographs of the celebration dating back to the 19th century, check out various artifacts – including the crowns, scepters and robes of past Mardi Gras monarchs – and even get a picture of yourself as royalty. Past visitors say the memorabilia has been well preserved and recommend talking to the staff members to learn more about the festival’s history.
Address: 355 Government St., Mobile, AL 36602
USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park
(Tad Denson/Courtesy of Visit Mobile)
The USS Alabama made its first voyage during World War II and was deemed “Heroine of the Pacific.” While the federal government outlined plans to scrap the battleship in 1962, Mobile residents and other Alabamians proposed a different outcome, and USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park opened just a few years later. Visitors can take a tour of the inside of the USS Alabama, as well as the USS Drum, which is currently the oldest U.S. submarine on display to the public. You can also check out tanks, boats and artillery from various wars around the park. Step into the Medal of Honor Aircraft Pavilion and see the collection of planes, vehicles and other artifacts, and be sure to explore the grounds and memorials to veterans from all wars. Parkgoers call this attraction a must if you’re planning to be in Mobile and say it offers an incredible perspective of the soldiers who have served in past wars.
Address: 2703 Battleship Parkway, Mobile, AL 36602
Bellingrath Gardens and Home
(Tad Denson/Courtesy of Visit Mobile)
Located about 25 miles south of Mobile in the town of Theodore, Bellingrath Gardens and Home is a 65-acre estate that includes a conservatory, an Asian American garden, a rose garden, a bayou, a boardwalk and more. You’ll be able to visit the Bellingrath Museum Home, where Walter and Bessie Bellingrath, who established the gardens, lived until 1934. If you’re traveling with kids, you can download several educational children’s guides throughout the gardens, where they can learn about bees, butterflies, birds, geography, plants and more; keep them engaged with a scavenger hunt or two. Past visitors say the gardens are beautiful all year long and recommend doing a tour of the home, though it may be crowded at times.
Address: 12401 Bellingrath Gardens Road, Theodore, AL 36582
Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception
(Courtesy of Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception)
While Mobile’s Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception wasn’t consecrated for public worship until 1850, the parish it belongs to was established in 1703, making it the first Catholic parish on the Gulf Coast. You can check the cathedral’s mass schedule or visit another time to take in the stunning stained glass, custom-built organ and the beautiful architecture. Travelers say the cathedral is reminiscent of old European cathedrals and is a peaceful spot to worship or simply reflect.
Address: 307 Conti St., Mobile, AL 36602
During the Civil War, Mobile Bay was a key port for the Confederacy; its fall was a major victory for the Union. Today the shallow inlet – the average depth is just 10 feet – offers a variety of aquatic activities for the whole family to enjoy. Rent a kayak, paddleboard or canoe and spend a few hours exploring the water. Some operators provide guided tours and cruises on the bay, including sunset, brunch and murder mystery cruises. Mobile Bay also has more than 30 miles of white sand beaches for play and relaxation, but you may want to take a ferry or drive down south to Dauphin Island, a quaint beach community on the Gulf Coast. Past visitors say the bay offers beautiful views, particularly at sunset.
(Courtesy of Visit Mobile)
This Greek Revival mansion was built in 1855 as a second home for Judge John Bragg and his family, allowing them to enjoy the social season in Mobile when they weren’t at their cotton plantation near Montgomery. Donated to the city by its last private owner, the A.S. Mitchell family, the 20-room mansion now serves as a museum depicting life in the South during that time. Guided tours immerse you in the historic furnishings and stories of the previous owners. Past museum patrons highly recommend a tour, saying the guides’ narration makes the house come alive and gives an excellent glimpse into the Civil War era. Note that the museum sometimes closes for private events, so consider calling ahead for schedule updates before your visit.
Address: 1906 Springhill Ave., Mobile, AL 36607
Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center
(Tad Denson/Courtesy of Visit Mobile)
Located on the grounds of the historic Bragg-Mitchell Mansion, the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center offers several immersive exhibits, both permanent and temporary, that instill a sense of curiosity and imagination in museum guests. You can also step into the dome theater for short films covering topics like ancient caves, nature’s predators and the wilderness right in Mobile’s backyard. In addition to the theater and hands-on exhibits, the center also hosts various science demonstrations in the Science Squad Headquarters. Past visitors say that the Exploreum is particularly worth visiting if you’re traveling with kids but that some of the exhibits may not always be in working order.
Address: 65 Government St., Mobile, AL 36602
Dora Franklin Finley African-American Heritage Trail
With so much cultural and ethnic diversity in Mobile’s past and present, take the time to explore some of the area’s Black history. The more than 40 stops along the city’s African-American Heritage Trail help bring Black stories in the area to life. The trail’s historical sites in particular highlight the early Creoles of color; survivors from the Clotilda, the last African slave ship to enter the U.S. in 1860; newly freed Black people who built and worshipped at some of Alabama’s oldest churches; African Americans who settled on what is now Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue; and civil rights advocates who fought for desegregation. Travelers can traverse this historic trail by taking a self-guided driving or walking tour with online maps and narration. For a guided experience, make a reservation for a docent to lead a walking tour downtown or board your bus to narrate. However you choose to experience these points of interest, you’ll get to learn about the former slave market, the community of Africatown and a rural school called the Emerson Institute, which produced a diverse curriculum amid the Jim Crow era, among other sites.
GulfQuest National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico
At GulfQuest, you’ll have your pick of more than 90 interactive maritime exhibits spanning trade routes, Gulf settlements, ship navigation, military history, marine life, coastal environments and more. Watch a film on the WWII history of the Port of Mobile in the Discovery Hull Theater, then take the helm of a ship using one of the museum’s simulators to navigate Mobile Bay and surrounding areas in a variety of scenarios. The museum is the only one of its kind dedicated to the traditions, culture and history of the Gulf of Mexico. Guests say that while some exhibits can be down at times, there are many self-guided, hands-on experiences for all ages.
Address: 155 S. Water St., Mobile, AL 36602
This historic building housed Mobile’s first courthouse and jail before it became a family home and then a house museum. Now the Condé-Charlotte Museum is dedicated to preserving the city’s rich history. A tour gives you a look at period furnishings, antiques and other artifacts that reflect the diversity of Mobile, which has been under the control of the French, English, Spanish, Confederate and American flags. That complex history is showcased through two Confederate parlors, a British commandant’s room, an American Federal dining room, a French sitting room, a Spanish garden and more. Visitors say the guides on these hourlong tours are incredibly knowledgeable and provide a meticulous history of the home and region.
Address: 104 Theatre St., Mobile, AL 36602
History Museum of Mobile
(Courtesy of History Museum of Mobile)
Originally built in 1855 to house the city market and some of the city’s government departments, the Italianate-style History Museum of Mobile today maintains more than 117,000 artifacts from the city and surrounding region. Visitors can learn about the history of Mobile, beginning with its first Indigenous inhabitants and traversing periods of slavery, civil rights and more. Permanent exhibits include one of the original cannons from the Confederate ship CSS Alabama; a gallery showcasing some of the finer things of Southern life, including fine porcelain, crystal and artwork; and an exhibit of incredibly detailed miniature houses, among others. There are also rotating exhibits, making the museum worth multiple visits if you plan to be in Mobile more than once. Past guests say the museum offers an impressive glimpse into the history of the city, despite its relatively compact space.
Address: 111 S. Royal St., Mobile, AL 36602
Colonial Fort Condé
(Courtesy of History Museum of Mobile)
This French colonial fort – first built in 1723 mostly by enslaved African men, making it a stop on the African-American Heritage Trail – provided protection to the residents of Mobile for more than 100 years under various colonial powers and names, including Fort Charlotte. The original fort was mostly destroyed, with its remnants rediscovered in 1966. A decade later, a replica of a portion of the fort was completed at a slightly smaller scale. Travelers can visit Fort Condé today by paying admission to the History Museum of Mobile. You’ll be able to witness live reenactments involving soldiers, craftsmen and pirates; test your aim at the shooting gallery; visit the armory; and even try to solve an escape room with your kids. Past visitors advise that the fort alone isn’t worth the price of admission to the museum, but it can be a great addition to your overall experience at the History Museum of Mobile.
Address: 150 S. Royal St., Mobile, AL 36602
Wintzell’s Oyster House
With one location downtown and another in west Mobile, Wintzell’s Oyster House began as a oyster bar with a mere six stools in 1938. More than 80 years later, the restaurant is a Gulf Coast tradition, offering an array of fresh seafood and other Southern comfort favorites. It also has family-style meals for takeout if you’d rather avoid the crowds. Foodies call the restaurant a must for seafood enthusiasts, particularly if you enjoy fresh oysters, and point to the ambiance of the restaurant and the attentive staff as well.
Once ranked as the coolest movie theater in Alabama, Crescent Theater was originally built in 1885 as a venue for burlesque and vaudeville shows; in the 1920s, it pivoted to showing silent movies. For several decades, the building transformed into a host for several restaurants before opening again in 2008 as a theater. Today Crescent Theater screens locally produced cinema, independent films, and national and international blockbusters as well as hosting live performances. Both tourists and locals love the charming intimacy of this vintage theater, which they say has comfortable seating despite its age.
Address: 208 Dauphin St., Mobile, AL 36602
Richards-DAR House Museum
This 1860s Italianate-style townhome – built by Captain Charles G. Richards and his wife Caroline Elizabeth Steele – remained in the Richards family until 1946, when it was sold to a cement company. After the home was donated to the city, it was restored by four local chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution organization in 1973. The DAR-maintained museum is famous for its four seasons iron lace and other elegant furnishings throughout. You can take a guided tour of the 10,000-square-foot home and envision what life was like for the Richards family during their tenure in the home. Past guests say the tour is full of stories for each room of the house and the guides exude Southern hospitality.
Address: 256 N. Joachim St., Mobile, AL 36603
(Courtesy of City of Daphne)
This half-mile boardwalk in Daphne – just a 10-mile drive across Mobile Bay – gives you the chance to see alligators, fish and other wildlife native to the area as you walk over D’Olive Creek. There’s also a butterfly garden to browse while you’re in the area. If you’ve never seen alligators outside of a zoo or aquarium, Gator Boardwalk can be a great place to see them in their own habitat. Keep in mind that there’s no guarantee you’ll see any alligators while you’re strolling the boardwalk, but visitors say it’s enjoyable regardless of whether you’re lucky enough to spot one. Just remember not to feed any gators you see.
Address: N. Main St., Daphne, AL 36526
Historic Oakleigh House Museum
(Courtesy of Historic Mobile Preservation Society)
The Oakleigh House is the oldest house museum in Mobile. Built in 1833 by James W. Roper, this Greek Revival-style house has witnessed many historical periods and events in Mobile and the surrounding area, including the cotton trade, slavery, the Civil War, Emancipation, railroad expansion, epidemics and more. A guided, hourlong tour leads patrons through the house museum’s authentic period rooms, providing a view of Mobile history through the eyes of Oakleigh’s inhabitants. You’ll also be able to visit the Union barracks, built on the property around 1866, which tell a story of Emancipation and Reconstruction in the post-Civil War South. Past guests say the architecture of the home is simple but beautiful, and the artifacts throughout the home are unique compared to similar museums.
Address: 300 Oakleigh Place, Mobile, AL 36604
Mobile Museum of Art
The city’s art museum houses more than 6,400 pieces of fine and decorative art from America, Europe and Asia in its permanent collection (though not all of them are on view at all times). The Mobile Museum of Art’s collection includes selections ranging from contemporary artwork all the way back to classical antiquity. The museum also hosts various special exhibitions throughout the year, highlighting select media and artists. If you have the time, you can also check if your visit coincides with any of the art classes offered for adults and children that may focus on pottery, jewelry making, glass fusing or other art forms. Outside, you can walk the sculpture trail, which features a couple dozen sculptures in a variety of media. Museumgoers say you can get through the whole collection in about an hour, but many recommend staying a bit longer to get the full experience.
Address: 4850 Museum Drive, Mobile, AL 36608
Meaher State Park
Fewer than 10 miles east of downtown Mobile, Meaher State Park is a great place to experience the Mobile Bay wetlands for the day or even overnight. The park is just one stop on the Coastal Alabama Birding Trail, so you can hike as little or as long as you’d like before enjoying opportunities for boating and picnicking. Fishing on the 300-foot pier is often another traveler favorite (though the pier was closed for repairs at the time of publication). You can go to Meaher State Park just to take in the natural wonder of the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta, the second largest delta in the contiguous U.S., known as “America’s Amazon” because it’s the most biodiverse river system in North America. Note that there’s a modest park entry fee for day use. If you want to stay overnight, the state park has improved tent sites and RV sites. Past visitors appreciate Meaher State Park’s beautiful views and quiet, peaceful atmosphere.
Address: 5200 Battleship Parkway E., Spanish Fort, AL 36527
Mobile Flea Market
Billed as the largest flea market on the Gulf Coast, the Mobile Flea Market hosts more than 800 vendors every weekend year-round. Browse a wide variety of wares from all over the world; there are also six concession stands so you don’t have to leave to get a bite to eat. Note, however, that the market is not pet-friendly and charges a small fee to enter. Some past visitors say the market has a vibrant atmosphere with a lot of fascinating items, but others say that the quality and price of goods can be hit or miss.
Address: 401 Schillinger Road N., Mobile, AL 36608
Mobile Botanical Gardens
Established in 1974, the 106-acre Mobile Botanical Gardens claims to have the largest collection of plants on the Gulf Coast. As you walk the various trails in the gardens, admire the collection of azaleas, the pollinator garden, Japanese maples and camellias, among other sights. There’s also 35 acres of conservation forest area growing the second generation of pines that were logged in the early 1900s: The land on which the gardens are situated used to be part of a massive longleaf pine forest. Before you go, check the event calendar for occasional botanical art classes or join in on the weekly garden sketch club. If you’re traveling with children, ask for some fish food at the office so your youngsters can feed the fish in the koi pond – as well as a kids activity backpack, complete with scavenger hunts, fun facts, a sample of honey from the botanical gardens and more. Past visitors say the shaded trails and lovely flora are made more pleasant by the friendly and helpful staff.
Address: 5151 Museum Drive, Mobile, AL 36608
Cooper Riverside Park
(Tad Denson/Courtesy of Visit Mobile)
This 3-acre waterfront park sits near the Mobile History Museum, Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center and GulfQuest Maritime Museum, offering an outdoor haven to sit and relax after your tours. Cooper Riverside Park features sculptures, benches and lush green grass, along with a view of the bustling ship traffic in the Mobile port. The park is also home to a U.S. Coast Guard Monument, which is dedicated to the people who have served in that branch of the armed forces and its predecessor agencies in Mobile since 1819. Both locals and tourists enjoy stepping away from the downtown area to take a break at the park, lounging and watching the water traffic.
Address: 101 S. Water St., Mobile, AL 36602
Alabama Contemporary Art Center
(Courtesy of Alabama Contemporary Art Center)
Located in the heart of Mobile’s historic downtown, the Alabama Contemporary Art Center is dedicated to highlighting and supporting the work of living artists. The center is a noncollecting museum, which means it doesn’t have any permanent exhibits. Instead, this attraction typically has a few temporary exhibits running at a time, so if you travel to Mobile regularly, you’ll experience something different every time. Museum programming may include performances, talks, dance parties, panel discussions and programs for children; consult the museum’s website for upcoming events. Past guests say the art center has a low-key atmosphere and can have some unique exhibits, but some suggest checking before your visit to determine if the current exhibitions are to your taste.
Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum
If you’re a fan of America’s pastime, you can’t miss the childhood home of baseball legend Hank Aaron. In 2008, the home was relocated from its original site to Hank Aaron Stadium, home to the minor league team formerly known as the Mobile BayBears before they relocated to Huntsville, Alabama. While the fate of the stadium is up in the air, you can still visit the home and learn about Aaron’s life, his family and the history of baseball in Mobile. You’ll also be able to see memorabilia from Aaron’s professional baseball career, including his Golden Glove Award, home-run record trophy and original Louisville Slugger bat design. Visitors say the museum provides an inspiring and charming tribute to one of the top baseball players of all time. You can also spend some time in Henry “Hank” Aaron Park, a couple blocks from where his childhood home originally sat, to further honor this famed Black player.
Address: 755 Bolling Brothers Blvd., Mobile, AL 36606
(Tad Denson/Courtesy of Visit Mobile)
For a unique experience on the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta, check out Airboat Adventures in Spanish Fort, a little more than 5 miles east of Mobile. A ride on an airboat can bring you up close to some of the delta’s diverse wildlife, which includes alligators, egrets, turtles, snakes, eagles and many other species. The operator provides 30-minute or hourlong tours, with the latter option giving you the chance to stop for pictures and get more education about the area. Sometimes, Airboat Adventures may also offer night tours, where you’ll have a better chance to see alligators, as well as sunset tours; bowfishing from an airboat can also be a fun experience when it’s available. Note that each tour type has its own requirement for a minimum number of guests, starting at four people. Past guests rave about the captains’ knowledge and stories of the delta and say that while the tour goes by quickly, it’s well worth the price.
Address: 3775 Battleship Parkway, Spanish Fort, AL 36527
Braided River Brewing Company
(Courtesy of Braided River Brewing Company)
Whether you’re a craft beer connoisseur or just looking for a place to unwind with a cold brew, consider stopping by Braided River Brewing Company. The brewery offers a number of year-round beers, seasonal options and limited releases. India pale ales, hazy pale ales and German-style ales are always on the menu at the taproom, and depending on the time of year, you may also see sour ales, stouts, amber ales and others. Braided River is especially known for its environmental sustainability efforts, including donations to local environmental agencies, plastic reduction, and repurposed grain sacks and grains, among others. Visitors say the taproom has a good selection of options for all tastes and it’s easy to order food from nearby restaurants for a complete meal.
Address: 420 Saint Louis St., Mobile, AL 36602
You might also be interested in: