Tuscaloosa is best known for being the home of The Crimson Tide and its 16 national championships, but this classic college town is growing in acclaim for its incredible cuisine and small-town charm. Just a quick drive across the monstrous Black Warrior River or even right past the hubbub encircling Bryant-Denny Stadium, you will find one-of-a-kind boutiques, coffee shops and restaurants that would lure even the biggest Auburn fan into staying past Iron Bowl weekend. The mix of stunning Antebellum mansions and new construction highlights Tuscaloosa’s rich history and exciting future. Title Town’s unique personality and beautiful scenery prove that this is a city built on much more than Saturdays in the fall. It is vibrant in and out of football season, and it’s ready to be discovered by you.
As you enter town under an archway of oak trees that line University Boulevard, you are instantly transported to the backpack days of figuring out who you wanted to be, all-nighters spent developing that coffee addiction you still can’t kick and days full of fun memories spent with people who would become lifelong friends. But Tuscaloosa does much more than just sustain its 37,000 students. Almost 100,000 residents also call Tuscaloosa home, and when you step off the beaten path of college bars and college bookstores full of crimson memorabilia, it is easy to see why.
What to Do in Tuscaloosa
Where to Go
Cross the Black Warrior River from the university campus to visit the picture-perfect community of Northport. Full of local flavor, this quaint enclave is home to many full-time residents who’ve settled down with their families due to the excellent schools and historic homes. Downtown Northport’s charming Main Street is a haven for family-owned businesses, kind-hearted people, shops full of handcrafted merchandise and diners serving home-cooked meals.
Make sure you stop by City Cafe for a cheap and hearty Southern breakfast, just like Grandma used to make. And once you’ve gotten your fill on some delicious buttermilk biscuits, check out the Kentuck Art Center for some incredible locally made artwork as well as some of the area’s best furniture finds. You can usually find an artist on the property, welding incredible sculptures or working the pottery wheels, and they are always happy to share their expertise and show you their craft.
As you peruse the art galleries, boutiques and flower shops, Tea Town is the perfect spot for a pick-me-up on a hot day! What started out as a roaming tea truck has now become a quaint cafe with a lush patio. Tea Town offers freshly brewed tea, coffee and homemade kombucha full of flavor to keep you refreshed. Make sure to check out their tea, as it is grown with local herbs and comes in a variety of unique tastes like watermelon mint and chocolate chai.
Summer days are perfect for heading across the river to Lake Nicol. This beautiful lake hosts lots of activities: cliffs for jumping, forests for hiking, lush greenery for picnicking and, of course, plenty of water for swimming, boating or floating. There are also paddleboard and kayak rentals on the weekends if you’re looking for a fun way to exercise. Make sure you stay long enough to catch one of Tuscaloosa’s breathtaking sunsets, as the cliffs are one of the best spots in town for watching that Southern sun go down.
On your way back into Saban country, Ingram Farms Market is the perfect spot for picking up fresh produce and seafood for dinner. Every day you can find local fruits and veggies, as well as Gulf shrimp that would be the perfect touch to any tailgate.
The market also boasts an ice cream shop that serves over 20 flavors of Blue Bell ice cream as well as homemade cakes and pies. Make sure you try the locals’ favorite flavor, Blue Monster, named not only for its electric blue color but also for its monstrous chunks of cookie dough and Oreos.
University of Alabama alumni, Sydney Powers, saw an untapped niche for an interiors and gifts store in Tuscaloosa, and she has made her dream a reality with a little help from the store’s namesake, Sydney’s Goldendoodle, Lou. If you get lucky, you just may be greeted by lovable Lou when you step into the adorable, sweet-smelling store that offers everything from homemade jams to sorority gifts to baby clothes, mostly made in Alabama.
Next to Post Office Pies’ Tuscaloosa location, Lou & Co. is home to many elegant home decor items, as well as creative and cute accessories that can only be found at The Market at Pepper Place or on the artisans’ online stores, and Sydney is always on the quest to find more great locally made gifts. Lou & Co. is the perfect place to pick up a gift for the wonderful women in your life. Girls of all ages will adore one of Tuscaloosa’s newest shops!
The Black Warrior River resides right across from UA’s campus and is lined with shops, walking paths, parks and restaurants as well as a fantastic farmer’s market every Tuesday and Saturday morning. It’s also the home of the historic Bama Belle, an old-timey, paddle-wheel riverboat that offers 19th Century charm. The River Walk is always full of families and students alike, getting in their daily run or playing in the park. Paddleboarding is a new activity to the River Walk and is best enjoyed on a beautiful fall afternoon.
If a little peace and quiet is what you are looking for, the River Walk offers riverside brunches at Another Broken Egg, girl time at Market House boutique and Bellagio Nail Salon, and Tuscaloosa’s latest and greatest option in fine dining: River. There’s something for everyone at the Tuscaloosa River Walk, and it’s a great place to bring the family for both early morning strolls and active afternoons.
T-Town Eateries & Bars
301 Bistro & Bar is one of Tuscaloosa’s newest restaurants, but it has made quite a name for itself functioning as a restaurant, bar and beer garden that serves what owner Bill Lloyd calls “Tuscaloosa fusion cuisine.” Located on the edge of downtown behind Temerson Square, 301 showcases the city’s diverse personality through dishes and drinks that fuse Southern, Gulf Coast and Cajun flavors, along with German influences that highlight Tuscaloosa’s growing German population.
The Art Deco-style interior feels luxurious and fit for a party hosted by Jay Gatsby himself, as the refurbished train station is decorated with vintage art, a mosaic tile floor and a beautiful chandelier. There are plenty of options for carnivores and vegetarians alike, from the savory smoked pork chop and crawfish with gouda grits to a mouthwatering black-eyed pea burger topped with truffle oil and served with a side of macaroni and cheese. The outdoor beer garden is lined with picnic tables and twinkly lights, perfect for sipping some craft brews and trying homemade wiener schnitzel. There’s something for everyone at 301!
As soon as you step into Heritage House, you know you’ve entered a special space. Desks are lined with students studying for their next test, old friends are catching up on plush couches, and young families are having breakfast together on the patio. There is a real sense of community here, as familiar faces order their “usual” at their favorite table or help newcomers choose the perfect latte.
While Heritage House provides some of the best quality and variety of beverages in town, they are also famous for their food. Their signature baked oatmeal, ordered with strawberries and bananas and served warm with a golden brown crust and moist inside, is a cult classic at this sprawling coffee shop. Heritage House has whatever you’re craving, from kale and quinoa salads to ooey-gooey monster cookies made from scratch.
Now you’ll be lucky to wait less than an hour for a highly coveted table at DePalma’s on a busy gameday weekend, but there is certainly a reason people line up to dine at this upscale Italian cafe. The exposed brick, open kitchen and dim lighting make for a cozy dining experience that is only rivaled by the authentic Italian cuisine, such as freshly made pastas, house lasagna, pork loin and portobello risotto, pine nut-crusted salmon, shrimp scampi and gorgonzola filet mignon, among others. DePalma’s provides an intimate setting for families celebrating birthdays, pulling out all the stops for a first date or commemorating an anniversary. The walls are lined with wine bottles signed by former visitors signifying special moments in their lives.
Tuscaloosa has seen an explosion of fast-casual pizza joints, and Heat Pizza Bar is the latest to join the club. Heat Pizza Bar stands out among the rest for its stellar downtown location, cool cocktails, fresh salads and, of course, delicious pizza. Try the locals’ favorite: the Thai chicken pizza, with its sweet-and-spicy Sriracha sauce, and wash it down with a refreshing strawberry mojito. Heat is popular with students and locals alike, creating a laid-back atmosphere for enjoying those balmy summer nights. It is also open until 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday, so it is a great spot cravings hit during a late-night study session.
This food truck is one of Tuscaloosa’s newest dining options and can be found all over the city serving gourmet meals right in front of office buildings and bowling alleys. Owner Dustin Spruill, is an Auburn baseball player-turned-foodie, and came back to his Tuscaloosa roots to serve delicious meals at affordable prices. This truck serves up everything from a traditional burger and fries to wild Gulf amberjack topped with chimichurri and served with local veggies. Follow Local Roots Instagram feed to see where they are stopping for lunch, or head over to the Tuscaloosa River Market on a Saturday morning for a delicious gourmet brunch from this hip roaming eatery.
Whether the Tide wins or loses, Title Town promises to deliver a fun time! And when you stop by, make sure to tell them StyleBlueprint sent you!