As we all know, living in the South has its perks. Beyond access to incredible food, we also have access to some of the country’s oldest and most beautiful cities. Mobile, Alabama is one of them. If you look at a map of Alabama, you’ll find two “feet” at the bottom of the state. The right foot is Baldwin county, home to quaint Fairhope and coastal Gulf Shores. The left foot is Mobile, home to a vibrant art scene, award-winning restaurants, a rich history, and a carnival season like no other.
For me, I’ve had access to Mobile for, quite literally, my entire life. I was born there, and even after we moved to bustling Atlanta, we spent year after year making the trek down I-65 to visit family and friends. Years later, I attended college in Mobile, and still today, I make the trip a few times a year. Mobile is a part of me which is why when I was given the opportunity to explore the town as a tourist and not as a former college student, I jumped at the chance. I wanted to look at the city I’ve known for 34 years with fresh perspective, and while I was certainly able to do that, I found myself eagerly pointing out old haunts and creating time to visit them.
That’s the thing about Mobile. When you visit, you’re bound to find something, somewhere, or someone that sticks with you. Perhaps it’s the burger at Callaghan’s, the homes in Conde Village or the soft salty breeze coming from the Mobile Bay. No matter what you fall in love with in Mobile, take a weekend to be charmed by the Azalea City.
Check-in to the Battle House Hotel & Spa, a historic hotel with a fiery, storied past. The first hotel on the site burned in 1829, the second in 1852 and the third in 1905. Reopening in 1908, the hotel became a preeminent destination for hosting elaborate parties and distinguished guests – including Elvis Presley. After a stint in which the hotel remained closed (from 1974-2007), it reopened complete with some of the original features found in the rotunda today. After dropping your bags in your room, take the elevator to the second floor. Have your travel partner stand facing the arch in one corner of the room while you venture to the opposing side. Whisper about where you should go next; you just might hear their not-so-silent response.
Use the afternoon to get acquainted with Mobile. Consider walking down Dauphin street to one of the many art galleries within the city. The Alabama Contemporary Art Center, just off of Cathedral Square, offers exhibitions that explore current events through the arts. There’s no cost for admission on Fridays, but donations are always welcome.
Head back to the hotel to gussy up for dinner. Treat yourself to a complimentary happy hour cocktail in the lobby before meandering across the street for a meal at Dauphin’s. The restaurant, located on the 34th floor of the Trustmark Building, offers incredible 360 degree views of the city below and is a perfect way to catch a glimpse what you’ll be exploring tomorrow. The vibe is slightly upscale, but remember, you’re dining near the coast where everything is a pinch casual. Start with an appetizer of West Indies Salad, a Gulf Coast delicacy where lump crabmeat marries tart vinegar for a refreshing dish. Every entree is as delectable as the next, and there truly is no wrong choice, but if we must point you to an item, you can’t go wrong with the fresh catch of the day. Finish your meal with a tableside spectacle: an indulgent dessert called Leslie’s Passion (berries en flambe over vanilla ice cream). Then, complete day one with a nightcap and live music at Royal Street Tavern, conveniently located at your hotel.
On Saturday morning, start the day at Fort Conde. No, you’re not headed for a history lesson, but you are on a mission for biscuits (and coffee). Sylvia’s Biscuits and Poboys is located just inside the walls of Mobile’s historic colonial fort. Here, you can indulge in crumbly, buttery, southern style biscuits topped with everything from fresh Gulf crabcakes to locally made jam. Trust us, there’s no better way to start your Saturday.
From biscuits, make your way to the Mobile Carnival Museum to mingle with Southern royalty. As the birthplace of Mardi Gras, Mobile takes pride in all things carnival, and the museum is where you can see that pride come to life. Stand atop an authentic Mardi Gras float to feel what it’s like to exuberantly toss trinkets, or “throws” as they’re called by society members, into the crowd. Ogle intricately designed Mardi Gras regalia like 18 foot handmade trains adorned in fur and sparkling tiaras and scepters. Discover Mardi Gras’ past and learn about mystic societies’ costumes, symbols and origins. Truly, the experience is a glistening history lesson that will have you giddy to return for carnival itself.
After the museum, you’re bound to be hungry. Instead of a typical lunch, plan ahead and book a walking food tour with Bienville Bites. Curated by Mobile residents Chris and Laney Andrews, this exclusive Mobile experience gives you a taste of Mobile. Tours take guests to different Mobile establishments for a sample of each stop’s specialties while pointing out different aspects of Mobile’s history. Bites along the way include Gulf Coast gumbo at the Royal Scam, beignets from Panini Pete’s, and pralines from Three Georges Candy.
No 48 hour weekend in a new city is complete without a little shopping. There are plenty of accessible boutiques near the hotel, but to visit some of our favorites, grab your car from the valet and head beyond the downtown area to explore. Your first stop should definitely be at Atchison Home. Located in a historic building with 20,000 square feet of antiques, interior decor and accessories, you’ll love exploring every corner of this well-appointed shop. Be sure to venture to every floor, including the sale room at the top. You never know what deals you might find! Next, head towards the Spring Hill neighborhood. There you’ll find The Collective, a sunlight drenched women and children’s boutique filled with unique gifts, art, home decor and more. Pick up a 36608 candle to remember your trip to Mobile.
For dinner tonight, plan to spend the evening in Oakleigh Garden Historic District. The neighborhood, filled with stately historic homes and quaint squares with fountains, will have you swooning and possibly even exploring real estate options. Dine at Callaghan’s Irish Social Club, a lively local dive bar with a unique past. In fact, according to Mobile Historian, Cart Blackwell, restaurant goers once needed a key to get in. Today, open windows, a fantastic burger and homemade French onion dip beckon people inside.
On your last day in Mobile, kick things off with a boozy brunch at the Ruby Slipper. Just a short walk from the hotel, the menu at this Gulf Coast staple is filled with benedicts, pancakes, omelettes and other breakfast grub. However, the real star of the show is the bacon infused vodka bloody Mary prepared with housemade mix.
From the restaurant, embark on one final tour, a self-guided exploration of Mobile’s African American Heritage Trail. Interactive Map B, which can be downloaded from the Dora Franklin Finley African American Heritage Trail website, offers a numbered trail in the downtown area as well as historical information about each stop. Guided walking tours are also available for an even more in depth look at Mobile’s African American heritage. Once your tour is complete, load the car and head towards home knowing you’ve enjoyed a fantastic weekend on Alabama’s Gulf Coast.
Ready to plan your own trip? Learn more about Mobile and all it has to offer at mobile.org.
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