Looking for the best things to do in Tuscaloosa, Alabama? You’ve come to the right place! There is something in this historic city to pique everyone’s interest.
Located on the western side of Central Alabama, Tuscaloosa sits on the bank of the Black Warrior River. The river provides a beautiful backdrop to a variety of Tuscaloosa attractions. There are also no shortages of peaceful green spaces and parks near Tuscaloosa to escape the hustle and bustle.
Whether you’re interested in ancient history, natural history, or the American Civil Rights movement, there are places to visit in Tuscaloosa that cover it all.
Or if you’re interested in the here-and-now, you can revel in the spectacle and energy of a live show or football game.
Get ready to be charmed by this southern city as you enjoy the best things to do in Tuscaloosa, AL.
14 Best Things To Do In Tuscaloosa, AL You Shouldn’t Miss
Explore The Moundville Archaeological Park
The Moundville Archaeological Park is one of the best things to do near Tuscaloosa, AL. Located just 13 miles south of Tuscaloosa, this National Landmark Site spans over 320 acres and contains earthen mounds that are 800 years old.
The Moundville site near the Black Warrior River was once the center of a thriving Native American culture and was one of the largest cities north of Mexico in the 14th century. It’s believed the largest of the dozens of earthen mounds supported homes for nobles, as well as platforms for ceremonial and government structures.
The Moundville Archaeological Park features the Jones Archaeological Museum which displays many of the artifacts found on the site, such as the famous round stone carving known as the Rattlesnake Disc.
There are also educational cultural exhibits about the people that once lived there. Every year the park hosts the Moundville Native American Festival which celebrates the region’s indigenous history. During the festival, Living History teachers describe and demonstrate their ancestors’ ways of life.
There are nature trails with views of the mounds and places to picnic. A great stop for the whole family, The Moundville Archaeological Park is one of the best cultural places to visit in the Tuscaloosa area.
Shop at the Tuscaloosa Farmer’s Market
Tuscaloosa has a fantastic farmer’s market, and wandering through its delicious wares on a Saturday morning is one of the best things to do in Tuscaloosa. Located within the Tuscaloosa River Market on the banks of the Black Warrior River, it houses goods from over 70 vendors.
Grab a coffee then stroll through rows of fresh fruits and veggies, handmade crafts, snacks, and freshly baked goods. The farmers market is open every Saturday morning, year-round, rain or shine, with pop-up markets throughout the city of Tuscaloosa during the summer months.
Most vendors accept cash and/or credit cards. Don’t forget to bring your reusable bag to fill up!
See a show at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater
Along the banks of the Black Warrior River sits the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, one of the best places to visit in Tuscaloosa. This live music venue holds about 8,000 people and is the largest outdoor theater in Western Alabama. It’s located near downtown Tuscaloosa and the University of Alabama campus.
Notable artists who have played at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater include Kenny Chesney, Dave Matthews Band, Brad Paisley, The Lumineers, and John Legend…to name a few! Listening to some of your favorite artists while sitting under the stars is one of the best things to do in Tuscaloosa.
The Tuscaloosa Amphitheater can also be enjoyed during the colder months. During the winter, it is transformed into Holidays on the River, which includes a skating rink and other festive activities. (Skate rentals are available!)
Stroll the Tuscaloosa Riverwalk
One of the best things to do in Tuscaloosa is to take a stroll down the riverwalk. Running along the south bank of the Black Warrior River, this easy 4.5-mile paved walkway is an excellent thing to do after visiting the Farmer’s Market and connects many Tuscaloosa attractions.
Offering lovely scenic views of the river, the riverwalk is great to explore any time of day. It has picnic tables and benches along the way to stop and enjoy, and it’s well-lit after dark. There’s a playground near the library, as well as a splash pad for little ones. The riverwalk is also dog-friendly!
Park at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater to begin and end a 4.2-mile loop.
Fish at Lake Lurleen State Park
Named for Alabama’s only female governor, Lurleen Wallace, Lake Lurleen State Park is one of the best things to do near Tuscaloosa. Located just nine miles from Tuscaloosa, it offers an excellent outdoor getaway.
Lake Lurleen is 250 acres and there are ninety campsites overlooking the water. Park amenities include picnic and play areas, a beach, fishing piers, boat rentals, and boat launches. There are also over 20 miles of nature trails available for hiking or mountain biking, and you can learn about local wildlife in the Nature Center.
Each summer, Lake Lurleen State Park hosts the Annual Youth Fishing Tournament and the Lake Lurleen Triathalon.
Visiting Lake Lurleen State Park is one of the great things to do near Tuscaloosa with kids, whether it’s spending a day at the beach together or catching their first fish. For more great parks in Alabama, make sure to check out the other State Parks as well!
Wonder at the Alabama Museum of Natural History
One of the biggest Tuscaloosa attractions is the Alabama Museum of Natural History. It’s the state’s oldest museum and is one of the best things to do in Tuscaloosa.
Located on the University of Alabama campus, The Alabama Museum of Natural History explores the natural wonders of Alabama, dating all the way back to the dinosaurs. Full of ancient fossils, skeletons, rocks, and minerals, a trip to the museum is sure to make you imagine what Alabama was like before humans. (Millions of years ago it was underwater!)
Also on display is the Hodges Meteorite, named after Elizabeth Fowler Hodges, who was struck in the head when the meteorite fell through a farmhouse in Oak Grove, AL in 1954. (She was severely bruised but recovered.)
Discover how Alabama has been made and shaped over time, and possibly how the land will continue to change.
Enjoy the Outdoors at Van de Graaff Arboretum & Historic Bridge Park
For some peace and quiet, one of the best things to do near Tuscaloosa, AL is to visit Van de Graaff Arboretum & Historic Bridge Park. Unlike many of the green spaces opened by the Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority, Van de Graff is unmanicured and allows for camping and hiking in the great outdoors.
The park has over 130 acres of ponds, woodlands, and wetlands, which provide an excellent backdrop for some of the best outdoor activities in Tuscaloosa. Relax in nature by swinging on one of the porch-like swings, enjoy a picnic lunch, stroll the easy loop trail, or rent a canoe to take out on the lake.
One of the most notable features in the park is the 1882 King Bowstring Bridge. This historic bridge was one of four spans that crossed the Black Warrior River in the late 1800s. The bridge is open to foot traffic only and is a fun element to photograph.
Learn and Play at the Children’s Hands-On Museum
One of the best things to do in Tuscaloosa with kids is to take them to the Children’s Hands-On Museum. This museum encourages learning through play and provides lots of exhibits for kids to touch, move, and toy with.
The Once Upon a Farm exhibit is a soft play development area for newborns up to three-year-olds where kids can “dig” for crops, “drive” a tractor, or “sort” corn.
Meanwhile, four to six-year-olds might enjoy Beaver’s Bend, which has hands-on experiences inspired by the Alabama woodlands, and seven-year-olds will have fun exploring the Space Station CHOM exhibit, where they can learn about the solar system.
The Children’s Hands-On Museum is located in downtown Tuscaloosa, with a free city parking lot one block away.
Eat at River Restaurant
While enjoying the riverwalk, one of the best things to do in Tuscaloosa is to stop off for a meal at River. This beautiful restaurant sits right on the Black Warrior River, and you can get a seat outside to take in the view.
River offers classic Southern favorites, with ingredients from local farms. The catfish and the flat iron steak are incredibly popular, but they have many vegetarian options as well. Open for brunch, as well as happy hour, River is a great option, no matter the time of day!
See the Ruins at Capitol Park
If you’re a history buff, one of the best things to do in Tuscaloosa is to visit the ruins in Capitol Park. What was once a beautiful building is now a quiet green space dotted with columns and foundation stones, harkening back to the past.
Tuscaloosa used to be Alabama’s state capital before it was moved to Montgomery in 1846. The impressive capitol building was then leased to a women’s college, but the building caught fire in 1923. It burned to the ground and bricks were taken to use elsewhere, but bits of the building remained.
It wasn’t until the 1980s that a charitable foundation researched the original layout and remade the area into a public park, placing the columns and bit of wall back in their original positions.
Today, Capitol Park is a peaceful park, a good spot for photos, and a common venue for outdoor weddings.
Step Back in Time at the Old Tavern
Just down the road from Capitol Park is the Old Tavern Museum, and it’s another of the best things to do in Tuscaloosa for those interested in history. The Old Tavern is one of the oldest buildings in Tuscaloosa, and it has been restored to look like the inn that it once was.
Built in 1827, the Old Tavern was perfectly situated when Tuscaloosa was the capital city, as it was on a stagecoach road that led to the capitol building. People would stop on their way to and from neighboring towns.
In the 1900s the Old Tavern was a private residence, but by 1960 it was in danger of being torn down. The Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society was founded and was able to raise funds to move the Old Tavern to a different lot, away from the construction of the Hugh Thomas Bridge.
Today the Old Tavern serves as a museum, showcasing early Tuscaloosa history, with artifacts found in the local area. Tour the dining room, bedrooms, and the upstairs meeting room to feel like you’ve gone back in time.
Grab a Drink at Druid City Brewing Company Taproom
If you’re into beers and brews, one of the best things to do in Tuscaloosa is to visit Druid City Brewing Company. Chat with locals while drinking some local craft beers.
Come for the beer, but stay at Druid City for the events. From tastings to trivia nights to open-mic nights there is always something going on at the taproom.
Take your ale or stout outside to the patio and challenge your friends (or friendly strangers) to a game of cornhole.
Walk the Tuscaloosa Civil Rights History Trail
One of the best things to do in Tuscaloosa is to walk along the Tuscaloosa Civil Rights History Trail. Alabama was the setting for many key events in the American Civil Rights Movement, in places such as Birmingham, Selma, and Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa was no exception.
The downtown Civil Rights History Trail follows the events of “Bloody Tuesday”. On June 9th, 1964, a group of peaceful citizens met at the First African Baptist Church, with plans to march to the new courthouse, protesting its segregated features.
However, while marching they were beaten, tear-gassed, and arrested by local law enforcement and Klu Klux Klan members. Over thirty people, men, women, and children had to be hospitalized.
It is important to look back on, and learn from, events in America’s past so that we may move forward. The Tuscaloosa Civil Rights History Trail includes human stories to illustrate how events led up to Bloody Tuesday, and how segregation barriers were broken by brave, black Alabamians.
Download a Google flyer to walk and read at your own pace.
Catch a Game at Bryant-Denney Stadium
If you’re a sports fan, one of the best things to do in Tuscaloosa is to catch a game at Bryant-Denny Stadium. This outdoor arena is home to the University of Alabama’s football team, the Alabama Crimson Tide.
The Bryant-Denny Stadium, named for both a former college president and a former head coach, holds more than 100,000 people. Originally built in 1929, it’s had many renovations over the years and is now the tenth-largest stadium in the world.
Grab your crimson and white and cheer for the home team on their home turf!
Alabama is so full of history and nature, we hope you get out there and enjoy this list of the best things to do in Tuscaloosa!