Disclosure: Exploring downtown Mobile, Alabama was part of a 12-day multi-state press trip. We were hosted throughout our trip. This leg was hosted by Visit Mobile but as always, all opinions are my own
Visiting downtown Mobile, Alabama may seem silly for me. You see, I’m from Alabama originally. Thing is, I never really spent any time in downtown Mobile. My hometown is over 4 hours north and we didn’t travel very often when I was a kid. Instead, I got to see downtown Mobile, Alabama with the fresh eyes of a visitor and it was totally worth the trip!
The first thing you need to know about Mobile is that Mardi Gras was first celebrated in Mobile NOT in New Orleans. It is very likely that at least 5 locals will tell you this fact and you don’t want to be caught off guard. I would hate to have you say “I thought it was New Orleans” only to be told you are very, very wrong.
Mobile is a vibrant port city with loads of Southern charm and Southern food. The downtown is very walkable with lots to see and do. I can’t wait to go back for a longer visit with my whole family. Until then, here are a few of the things we did while we were there. Our two days were PACKED!
Things to Do in Downtown Mobile
While we were in New Orleans, we visited one of their (many) Mardi Gras museums. I loved looking at the costumes but I didn’t get a good idea of the stories behind Mardi Gras or the costumes. The Mobile Carnival Museum is awesome. It has all the costumes to gawk at but fills in the gaps around the actual festival as well (from the Mobile perspective). I definitely recommend taking a tour because you will get so much more out of it than if you just read the signs.
One warning, though, it will make you want to move to Mobile and join a mystic society so you can be a part of Carnival!
Even if you aren’t really *into* history, the USS Alabama is a must-see. It is HUGE. It is hard for me to wrap my head around how big it is and I’ve been there.
I love that they’ve made it easy to see how people stationed on the ship lived through dioramas and multi-media exhibits. Plus, they are always adding new areas so there’s something new to see for people who have visited before.
Make sure to visit the aircraft pavilion once you are done on the ship. It has many planes from throughout history which is perfect for airplane fans like my family. In fact, they have some planes on loan from another favourite of ours, The National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola.
Have you ever wished you knew more about the shipping industry? Ever wondered just how BIG a container ship really is? Wish you could try your hand at navigating the waterways in a big ship? Well, you can do all that and more at GulfQuest Maritime Museum.
With multitudes of things to look at as well as interactive exhibits, I guarantee everyone in your family will learn something on their visit.
Love museums? The History Museum of Mobile is a good one to visit especially if you want an overview of Mobile’s 300-year history. Permanent exhibits focus on Mobile-centered content while their temporary exhibits round out the museum with interesting topics past and present. You can get a good idea of the types of temporary exhibits the museum brings in by looking at their past exhibits.
Shopping in Downtown Mobile
Get your shopping on in the many boutiques and stores in downtown Mobile. I highly recommend
- A&M Peanut Shop for fresh roasted peanuts. This shop has been around since 1947!
- Three Georges is a great candy shop with a little bit of something for everyone including people looking for low sugar treats!
- Urban Emporium is a great retail incubator full of small vendors looking to get their start in retail. It’s the perfect place to find those gifts that no one else carries.
Places to Eat
Do you see that happy, squinty smile? That is the smile of a girl who lives in Canada but is eating ALL THE GOOD FOOD while in the South. I’d never eaten at Wintzell’s Oyster House before but I definitely will be eating there again. Good Southern seafood and amazing service.
There are many must-tries at Wintzell’s but here are my favourites. We ordered a bunch of appetizers for our lunch. It was the perfect way to try all their delicious dishes.
Oyster Sampler – The best way to try Oysters Monterey, Oysters Bienville, Oysters Rockefeller and their famous Chargrilled Oysters.
West Indes Salad – jumbo lump crabmeat, chopped onion and spices, blended and marinated in oil and vinegar for 24 hours. Delish!
Sauteed Crab Claw Basket – Crab claws! You can get this fried or sauteed. So good.
I am convinced that whatever you order will be delicious. Wintzell’s is definitely a must-try in downtown Mobile!
New Southern cuisine is something you will find all across the South. One place that does new Southern well is Southern National. Chef Duane Nutter serves up delicious dishes featuring local Gulf Coast seafood as well as globally-inspired dishes.
My favourite part is that Chef Nutter stands in front of the kitchen and finishes every plate as it goes out to customers. He is front and center making sure that his restaurant delivers in every aspect. It’s something you rarely see and it makes a difference.
Make sure you try the grilled okra, the burger and the grilled duck breast off their dinner menu.
Taking a food tour is one of my favourite things to do when visiting a new location. It gives you a chance to walk around and get to know the city while enjoying different restaurants. It’s a great way to try lots of different places even if you are only staying a few days.
On our tour, we ate at Dauphins, Moe’s Original BBQ, The Cheese Cottage, El Papi and FIVE. You would need to stay for days to get to that many restaurants normally! We walked, ate and walked some more. A great way to see downtown Mobile and try new restaurants (whether you live in the area or are visiting!).
The tour option we took with Bienville Bites is $65 per person. You can also add an alcohol tasting package for an additional $10 each.
Squid Ink is popular among downtown Mobile workers and I can see why. Service is quick and attentive and their shrimp po’boy is delightful. The shrimp are fried to perfection and served with fresh lettuce, tomato and french bread.
When we were in town, the Moon Pie store was just that…a store. However, since then they have expanded to a full-service restaurant that still has a Moon Pie focus. Stop in for Moon Pies (single-decker is the way to go) and learn why they are so important to Mobile. (Spoiler: It’s because Moon Pies are a favourite throw for Mardi Gras parade floats.) It was must stop for me because I love Moon Pies (they are one of my suggestions for American foods to bring back to Canada when you visit the US).
Where to Stay
This leg of the trip was our first stay in a “real” hotel. We stayed at the Renaissance Riverview Mobile Plaza Hotel. It is the perfect jumping-off point for exploring downtown Mobile. Everything I’ve mentioned to see, do and eat in this piece (with the exception of the USS Alabama) is easily accessible from the hotel without a car. Plus, the rooms have a wonderful view of the river!
Definitely spring for a club level room. You get access to the club lounge for dessert in the evenings, snacks (they have Moon Pies!) and breakfast in the morning. Plus, the gentleman who works there is a wealth of knowledge on all things Mobile!
Visiting downtown Mobile, Alabama was the perfect change-up on our Gulf Coast girls’ road trip. I love beaches and small towns but I also love exploring the city. Mobile has tons to offer whether you are on a girls’ trip or a family vacation! I can’t wait to take my family back.