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11 cool things to do in Mobile, Alabama – on my Deep South road trip USA

11 cool things to do in Mobile, Alabama USA

Arriving in Mobile on Alabama’s southern Gulf Coast, I immediately felt a relaxed and cosmopolitan atmosphere that was somehow different to the bustling feel of Birmingham and Montgomery that I’d visited earlier in my Deep South Road Trip. Colonised and fought over by the French, British and Spanish in the 18th century, Mobile is a cultural melting pot with strong Creole influences that hark back to the time it was part of the French colony of Louisiana.

Although I only spent a couple of days in the city, I found plenty of things to do in Mobile Alabama, from exploring Dauphin street with its pretty wrought iron balconies, to discovering the Carnival traditions of this Southern city, that is proud to be the original home of Mardi Gras.

Dauphin Street in Mobile Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Dauphin Street in Mobile Alabama

1. Wander down historic Dauphin Street in Mobile

While Mobile is a busy port city, its beating heart for bars, restaurants and social life is Dauphin Street. I’d recommend starting your visit to Mobile, with a walk along this historic street in the Downtown area, to soak up some of the atmosphere.

Dauphin Street in Mobile Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Dauphin Street in Mobile Alabama

You’ll find plenty of art galleries and pretty boutiques selling crafts, vintage and gifts, while as night falls the sounds of live music and jazz spill out onto the pavements as you walk by. The shady wrought iron balconies that overhang the sidewalk have a similar look to New Orleans, reminding you that Mobile was the capital of the French colony of Louisiana in the 18th century.

Dauphin Street in Mobile Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Dauphin Street in Mobile Alabama

Unlike many other US cities, the streets here are made for walking as you stroll the length of Dauphin Street, stopping at the pretty Bienville Square with its bandstand and Cathedral Square, named after the imposing Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. As many people will be happy to remind you, Mobile is the original home of Mardi Gras and you can get a flavour of this, just from the souvenirs on sale in the shops of Dauphin Street.

To explore further check out this Mobile Food and History Walking Tour through the streets of downtown Mobile

Hotels in Mobile: Check out the Hampton Inn and Suites where we stayed and other hotels in Mobile

2. The Oyster trail in Mobile, Alabama

Along Dauphin Street you might spot some of the colourful oyster shell sculptures that make a trail through the city. The Oyster Trail was created in 2013, with 12 stops around the Downtown area and more around Mobile Bay, to raise awareness of the importance of oysters in the ecology of the sheltered bay around the city. The Oyster gardening programme involves volunteers who farm oysters from piers at their waterfront properties, which are then planted on restoration reefs in Mobile Bay.

Oyster Trail in Mobile Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Oyster Trail in Mobile Alabama

If you download a map of the painted Oyster sculptures around the Downtown area, you can also learn some fun facts from the information on each of the sculptures.

Fun Oyster facts: Do you know how many gallons of water an oyster can filter per hour (four gallons) or how long it takes for an oyster to grow to its full size of 3 inches (at least 2 years)? You can find these answers and more as you stop at each of the oyster sculptures.

Oyster Trail in Mobile Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Oyster Trail in Mobile Alabama

3. Eat Oysters at Wintzell’s Oyster House in Mobile

Oyster farming is big business in the sheltered bays and inlets of the Gulf coast around Mobile and you’ll find them on many restaurant menus. For the full on oyster experience, be sure to eat at Wintzell’s Oyster House on Dauphin Street, where you can try them “fried, stewed or nude”. They also have restaurants in other parts of Alabama, but the Mobile location was the first and it’s something of a local institution, serving oysters since 1938.

You may also enjoy: Taste the food of Alabama USA – 20 dishes you’ll want to try!

Wintzell's Oysters in Mobile Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Wintzell’s Oysters House in Mobile Alabama

The walls are covered with pictures, quirky signs and memorabilia built up over the years and because they shuck so many oysters you can be sure that the seafood here is super fresh. I tried the Oysters Rockefeller, cooked with spinach and butter sauce as well as a plate of West Indies Salad, a local dish of crab meat dressed with oil and vinegar – apparently it was Oprah Winfrey’s favourite dish!

West Indies Salad in Mobile Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

West Indies Salad at Wintzell’s Oyster House in Mobile Alabama

4.Enjoy the Street art in Mobile, Alabama

Wandering along Lower Dauphin Street in the area closest to Wintzell’s Oyster House I enjoyed spotting some of the street art murals that had been created on the sides of the buildings. 

Street Art in Mobile Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Street Art in Mobile Alabama

One of the best known is the Heart of Mobile mural painted by artist Jeff Butler a.k.a JRB2 that has clearly been created with selfies in mind (I managed to miss that opportunity!) Mobile has a strong artistic community, so keep a look out for more of the street art in Mobile as you wander around.

Street Art in Mobile Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Street Art in Mobile Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Street Art in Mobile Alabama

5. Mobile Carnival Museum – get into the spirit of Mardi Gras

Carnival is a big deal in Mobile and the city is very proud of being the home of the original Mardi Gras in the Southern States, which started here in 1703. For the uninitiated, carnival has its origins in the Christian tradition of partying and eating up all the rich foods before the fasting season of Lent in the month before Easter. Most people think of Mardi Gras in terms of the carnival floats and street celebrations that take place in February each year, but there’s a web of cultural practices and local traditions that run alongside this.

If you happen to be visiting in carnival season, the Mobile Mardi Gras is known for being a good humoured and family-friendly affair, but at other times of year, your best opportunity to discover everything about Mardi Gras is to visit the Mobile Carnival Museum on Government Street.

Mobile Carnival Museum in Mobile Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Mobile Carnival Museum in Mobile Alabama

The exhibition space of the museum is over 3 floors and your visit starts with a video to explain about the history of the Mobile Carnival. On the ground floor you’ll find some of the colourful floats and costumes worn by the “maskers” who ride the floats and toss out sweets, beads and other carnival throws to the eager crowd. The floats are created by “mystic” parading societies, local groups who sponsor the float’s creation and each have their own symbols that are incorporated into the design.

You may also enjoy: Discover the Civil Rights Trail in Alabama – in the footsteps of Martin Luther King

Float at Mobile Carnival Museum in Mobile Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Float at Mobile Carnival Museum in Mobile Alabama

For each carnival, young women and men are chosen to be the Carnival Queen and King (always named King Felix), dressing up in ornate beaded and embroidered costumes, complete with satin trains and fur trimmings that would be entirely appropriate for a real 18th century monarch! The carnival kings and queens have a coronation ceremony, wearing a jewelled crown and carrying a sceptre just like a real monarch, with masked balls, lunches and society parties to honour them throughout the carnival season.

Mobile Carnival Museum in Mobile Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Carnival Queen costumes in the Mobile Carnival Museum

As a counterpoint to the regal  costumes, look out for the gallery of the Comic Cowboys, a carnival association that was founded to lampoon the celebrations and their float is covered with jokes and humorous signs. They too have a carnival queen, but “she” is a young man dressed in drag who sits on a toilet “throne”, carrying a plunger as sceptre to poke fun at the proceedings.

Museum in Mobile Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Comic Cowboys in the Mobile Carnival Museum

Some of the galleries also feature emblem costumes from each mystic society, who adopt an emblem to represent them, such as Santa Claus, the Goddess Athena, a Cavalier or a Clown. The carnival celebrations also include Joe Cain day, named after the man who revitalised Mardi Gras after the Civil War. On this day revellers visit his grave, with the men dressed to imitate his costume of an Indian Chief and women either dressed in black as his widow or in red as his mistress.

Mobile Carnival Museum in Mobile Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Joe Cain costumes in the Mobile Carnival Museum in Mobile Alabama

The tour of the 14 galleries is a treat for those who enjoy the colourful and exuberant carnival costumes and I found it fascinating to learn about all the local carnival traditions, some of which are unique to Mobile. In the gift shop on the ground floor, there are plenty of other carnival throws and favours on sale, to bring home your own little piece of the purple, green and gold, the carnival colours that symbolise justice, faith and power.

Mobile Carnival Museum | Open Mon, Weds, Fri, Sat 9am – 4pm | Adult ticket $8| Audio tour website

Hotels in Mobile: Check out the Hampton Inn and Suites where we stayed and other hotels in Mobile

Mobile Carnival Museum in Mobile Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Mobile Carnival Museum in Mobile Alabama

Discover MoonPies – to eat or throw during Carnival time

One of Mobile’s sweet treats that’s associated with Carnival is the MoonPie, which is so well known that it even has its own store at the base of the Trustmark Building in Mobile (107 St Francis St). The MoonPie is a biscuit sandwiched with marshmallow and coated in chocolate, made in lots of different flavours that originated at the Chattanooga Bakery in Tennessee. The Moonpies are a popular throw from the carnival floats, and one that the eager crowd love to catch.

To explore further check out this Mobile Food and History Walking Tour through the streets of downtown Mobile

Moon Pies in Mobile Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Moon Pies in Mobile Alabama

6. Views of Mobile from the Trustmark Building and Dauphin’s restaurant 

While the historic district around Dauphin Street is full of attractive 19th and 20th century buildings, you can get a great feel for modern Mobile from the 34th floor of the RSA Trustmark Building (107 St Francis St) when you have lunch at Dauphin’s restaurant

View from Dauphin's Restaurant in Mobile Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

View from Dauphin’s Restaurant in Mobile Alabama

Ask for a window table and enjoy the view over the port and Mobile Bay, while you dine on seafood from the Gulf and dishes with Creole influences.  The menu includes crab, shrimp and fresh fish, but I tried the signature dish of Gumbo Z’ herb, a broth of greens, local Conecuh sausage and smoked meats, which was delicious together with a Power Greens Salad, washed down with fresh lemonade flavoured with thyme. 

You may also enjoy: 50 things to do in Alabama – on my Road Trip USA

Hotels in Mobile: Check out the Hampton Inn and Suites where we stayed and other hotels in Mobile

Dauphin's Restaurant in Mobile Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Dauphin’s Restaurant in Mobile Alabama

If you don’t want a full meal, their Bar 424 (named as it is 424 feet high) is also a fun place to order a cocktail and see the lights of the city at dusk, with great value drinks and small plates during their Happy Hour 3pm-6.30pm.

Lemonade in Dauphin's Restaurant in Mobile Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Lemonade in Dauphin’s Restaurant in Mobile Alabama

7. The History Museum of Mobile

I always like to pop into smaller city museums offering eclectic collections of objects that seem to have no other obvious home, but give you a great sense of the place. For this reason, the History Museum of Mobile, set in the old City Hall is worth a visit, for its two floors of exhibitions to give you a feel for Mobile’s local history and place in the Deep South of the USA. 

Mobile City Museum Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Mobile City Museum Alabama

During my visit this summer there was a fun temporary exhibition about the Sensational 60s, with fashions from the decade that saw some stylish firsts like trouser suits and the bikini. While the first bikinis (named after Bikini Atoll in the Pacific) seemed quite sensational at the time and short skirts and trouser suits were very modern and daring, they now seem a bit tame compared to the revealing and figure hugging outfits that we’ve become used to today! 

Mobile City Museum Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Mobile City Museum Alabama

In the Aaron and Sarah Friedman Miniature Gallery is a collection of doll’s houses that were individually made by local businessman Aaron Friedman after he retired, modelled on actual houses in Mobile and showing the range of different architectural styles.

To explore further check out this Mobile Food and History Walking Tour through the streets of downtown Mobile

Mobile City Museum Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Mobile City Museum Alabama

The Mary Jane Slaton Inge Gallery holds a collection of elegant and precious tableware to commemorate this lifelong resident of Mobile, with table settings of Limoges china and Baccarat crystal, laid out as if for a carnival ball of one of the Mystic Societies.

Mobile City Museum Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Mobile City Museum Alabama

Finally in this meander through the history and high society of Mobile, look out for the costume of the Azalea Trail Maids. This group of 50 young women are chosen annually to act as ambassadors for the city of Mobile, and they appear at official functions in the colourful costume of frills and flounces to represent the Azaleas flowering around the city in springtime.

History Museum of Mobile | Address: 111 S Royal Street, Mobile | Open daily | Adult ticket $10

Hotels in Mobile: Check out the Hampton Inn and Suites where we stayed and other hotels in Mobile

Mobile City Museum Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Azalea Maids Costume in Mobile City Museum Alabama

Read more from this trip

50 Things to do in Alabama – on a road trip USA

Taste the food of Alabama USA – 20 dishes you’ll want to try!

Discover the Civil Rights Trail in Alabama USA – in the footsteps of Martin Luther King

8. The Condé-Charlotte Museum – a historic Antebellum House in Mobile

If you only have a short time in Mobile, there are a couple of other attractions worth mentioning that are close to the History Museum and make an easy way to get a sense of Mobile’s history. One is the Condé-Charlotte Museum, an Antebellum house that’s very centrally located in the Downtown area, with a pretty porch and balcony with Greek Revival style columns.

Although the Condé-Charlotte Museum was closed when I passed by, you can take a tour of the house which was originally a courthouse and jail before becoming a family home and is full of elegant antiques and furnishings. Condé-Charlotte Museum website | Address: 104 Theatre Street | Open Tues – Sat 11.30 – 3pm | Adult ticket $10

In the downtown historic district of Mobile, you can also take a guided tour to visit the Richards DAR House Museum, another grand Antebellum House with wrought iron balconies.

Conde Charlotte Museum Mobile Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels

Conde Charlotte Museum Mobile Alabama

9. The Fort of Colonial Mobile – discover the city’s 18th century colonial history

Also close to the Mobile History Museum is The Fort of Colonial Mobile, known as Fort Charlotte by the British and Fort Conde by the French. It’s a reconstruction of the fortress that stood on this site, built by the French in 1723 to defend Mobile’s strategic position, but changing hands several times as the French, British and Spanish vied for control in the region.

The original star shaped fortress was much larger, covering 11 acres of land, but it was decommissioned and demolished in the 1820s, with a smaller scale replica being created in 1976 as part of Mobile’s USA bicentennial celebrations. The fort was closed when I passed by, but would make an interesting visit to discover more about the colonial history of Mobile.

Hotels in Mobile: Check out the Hampton Inn and Suites where we stayed and other hotels in Mobile

Fort Charlotte in Mobile, Alabama

Fort Charlotte in Mobile, Alabama

10. Oakleigh Garden Historic District and Oakleigh House Museum 

There are many historic neighbourhoods within Mobile, so if you have time you can pick up a map at the tourism centre or on the Mobile Historic Development Commission website, for a driving tour that takes in everything from Grand Antebellum mansions to smaller cottages and bungalows from the 19th and 20th centuries. If you are limited for time, one of the most accessible neighbourhoods is the Oakleigh Garden Historic District, with avenues of oaks dripping with moss and pretty Washington Square at its heart, that seems to epitomise gracious Southern living.

Oakleigh Mansion Mobile Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Oakleigh Mansion Mobile Alabama

To get a feel for the life of a wealthy merchant or plantation owner of the 19th century, visit Oakleigh House which is a fine example of a Southern Antebellum mansion. Built by cotton broker James Roper in 1833, the house survived the civil war unscathed and was home to a number of Mobile’s leading families.

Oakleigh Mansion Mobile Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Oakleigh Mansion Mobile Alabama

I visited the house and was able to join one of the tours which run every hour, taking a walk through the history of the house and its antique filled rooms.

Oakleigh Mansion Mobile Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Oakleigh Mansion Mobile Alabama

Look out for the plaque near the entrance from the Mobile Historic Development commission, that you’ll see on other historic houses around the neighbourhood, with the six different flags of Mobile as it changed hands over the centuries. The flags shown are of the French, British, Spanish, Republic of Alabama, Confederate states and USA.

Historic Oakleigh House Museum Website | Address: 350 Oakleigh Place | Open Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon tours every hour | Adult ticket $10

Oakleigh Historic District Mobile Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Oakleigh Historic District Mobile Alabama

After visiting Oakleigh House, be sure to walk or drive around the rest of the Oakleigh Garden Historic District, where large and grand mansions rub shoulders with pastel clapboard cottages, all developed in the 19th and 20th century once prosperity had returned after the Civil War. 

Oakleigh Mansion Mobile Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Oakleigh Mansion Mobile Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Oakleigh Mansion Mobile Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Oakleigh Historic District Mobile Alabama Photo Heatheronhertravels.com7

11. USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park

Another of the key things to do in Mobile is a visit to the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, a collection of the Battleship USS Alabama itself, the submarine USS Drum, with aircraft on display in an adjoining hanger and armoured vehicles around the perimeter. As the USS Alabama is a short drive from the downtown area, it’s an ideal spot to visit by car on your way out of town, especially if you are heading to Gulf Shores as I was.

USS Alabama in Mobile, Alabama Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

USS Alabama in Mobile, Alabama

The warship was built for the US Navy and commissioned in 1942, serving through the Second World War with an average of 2500 sailors on board. USS Alabama served mainly in the Pacific, before being decommissioned in 1962 when she returned to her home state to become a museum.

USS Alabama in Mobile, Alabama Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

USS Alabama in Mobile, Alabama

There are different self-guided tour routes that you can take to see the crew quarters, engine rooms and working spaces, as well as clambering over the upper decks to see the anti-aircraft guns and bridge. There’s a lot to see here, and after exploring inside the ship and over the different deck levels in the exhausting heat, I had every respect for the crew who had to serve in what seemed like a baking oven of grey metal.

USS Alabama in Mobile, Alabama Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

USS Alabama in Mobile, Alabama

On the shore beside the ship there are lots of tanks and military vehicles on display, with more aircraft in the Medal of Honor Aircraft Pavilion. Also on display is the submarine USS Drum which also served in World War II with over 70 crew on board and you can walk through her cramped working quarters, although I found it just a bit too claustrophobic and decided to stay above deck. 

USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park | Spanish Fort, Alabama | Open Daily Adult ticket $15

Hotels in Mobile: Check out the Hampton Inn and Suites where we stayed and other hotels in Mobile

USS Alabama in Mobile, Alabama Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

USS Alabama in Mobile, Alabama Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

USS Alabama in Mobile, Alabama Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

USS Alabama in Mobile, Alabama


Read more from this trip

50 Things to do in Alabama – on a road trip USA

Taste the food of Alabama USA – 20 dishes you’ll want to try!

Discover the Civil Rights Trail in Alabama USA – in the footsteps of Martin Luther King

Hotels in Mobile –  Hampton Inn Mobile Downtown

While in Mobile I stayed in the Hampton Inn and Suites in the heart of the Downtown area, just around the corner from Dauphin Street where there’s lots going on. The busy hotel was full of guests on holiday, families coming and going and enjoying the small outdoor pool area behind the hotel. I enjoyed my stay in the extremely spacious suite with classic decor, two double beds and a large living area. There’s a car park for guests behind the hotel, which is useful considering that the hotel is in the heart of the city. 

Hampton Inn Mobile Downtown | Address: 62 S Royal Street, Mobile | More Hotels in Mobile

Hampton Inn and Suites Downtown Mobile Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Hampton Inn and Suites Downtown Mobile

Hampton Inn and Suites Downtown Mobile Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Hampton Inn and Suites Downtown Mobile

Hampton Inn and Suites Downtown Mobile Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Hampton Inn and Suites Downtown Mobile

Mobile AL flickr

More information for Visiting Mobile Alabama

Lots more information is available when you visit the Mobile tourism website

Plan your visit to Alabama on the Alabama Tourism website and book your trip with America as you like it who offer bespoke self guided tours of Alabama and the USA. America As You Like It can recreate my trip with a 9 night holiday from just £1,270 per person (based on 2 people sharing) including return international flights on American Airlines, car hire and hotel stays. For more information contact 020 8742 8299, sales@americaasyoulikeit.com or visit www.americaasyoulikeit.com

Read more from this trip

50 Things to do in Alabama – on a road trip USA

Taste the food of Alabama USA – 20 dishes you’ll want to try!

Discover the Civil Rights Trail in Alabama USA – in the footsteps of Martin Luther King

Getting around Mobile Alabama: I found that the Downtown area of Mobile is very walkable, but most visitors will find it most convenient to have a car to visit all the places mentioned, as some are further afield. 

Tours: To explore further check out this Mobile Food and History Walking Tour through the streets of downtown Mobile

Hotels in Mobile Alabama: Check out the Hampton Inn and Suites where we stayed and other hotels in Mobile

Getting to Mobile Alabama: It’s easy to fly to Pensacola Airport with flights from a number of US destinations. If coming from the UK you can connect via other US airport hubs as I did or drive from a larger airport with direct UK flights such as New Orleans. I recommend using Skyscanner to search for the best routes and prices. If visiting Alabama as part of a road trip as I did, it is convenient to start in Gulf Shore in the south.

Driving time from Mobile to Montgomery –  170 miles /  2 hrs 30 mins

Driving time from Mobile to Gulf Shores –   50 miles /   1 hr

Social Media: Twitter @VisitMobileAl   | Instagram @VisitMobileAl  | Facebook @VisitMobile

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11 cool things to do in Mobile, Alabama USA

This article was sponsored* by Alabama Tourism and Mobile Tourism who provided the hotel stay and experiences mentioned.

* More info on my policies page

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Naomi
    January 12, 2020 at 8:17 pm

    Great post! Will be saving it for when I start planning my US roadtrip!

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      January 14, 2020 at 11:18 am

      @Naomi Alabama is a great road trip destination – so much variety in one state

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