8 amazing reasons to visit beautiful Decatur

8 amazing reasons to visit beautiful Decatur

Decatur, Alabama, known in northern Alabama as “River City,” is bordered by the Wheeler Lake portion of the Tennessee River. It is located 35 miles from the Alabama-Tennessee state line and 25 miles from Huntsville, which is now Alabama’s largest city by population. This fortunate location creates a mecca for anglers and puts it just a short drive away for those looking for bargains in the big cities. However, Decatur has many attractions for all ages, making it a wonderful place to spend a day or a week.

1. Explore a new nationally acclaimed museum

Cook Museum of Natural Science was voted America’s Best New Museum by the USA. Today‘s 10Best.com just a few months after opening its doors in 2019. State-of-the-art performances and exhibits attract visitors of all ages, but children are particularly drawn to immersive opportunities for touching and close encounters. . A table of kinetic sand, live animals, a 15,000-gallon saltwater aquarium, an Alabama cave recreation, thousands of insect exhibits, and much more provide hours of fun for families, as well as lessons on paleontology, zoology, and geology. Nature’s Table is a health-oriented cafĂ© within the museum, and the museum shop is the perfect place to buy a gift or souvenir of your visit.

The Cook family started their Cook Pest Control business in Decatur in 1928 and grew to 36 offices spread across 5 states. John Cook, Sr. put his ever-growing collection of insects on display for public view in 1968. That collection grew to include mounted wildlife, rocks, minerals, seashells, and fossils, while the Cooks developed a vision for a exciting and attractive world. A class museum that would be an educational tool for generations to come. That vision came true with the Cook Museum of Natural Sciences on 4th Avenue NE in Decatur.

Sandhill cranes at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge.
Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge (Photo credit: Connie Pearson)

2. Observe a sanctuary for resident and migratory birds

The Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge is a permanent home for some and a temporary home for others among 300 species of birds and an abundance of fish, mammals and reptiles that make their way through 35,000 acres. The arrival of the Sandhill Cranes and Whooping Cranes is a highly anticipated event by the locals who descend to the refuge each year with binoculars and cameras ready in December and January. A visitor center, observation building, and two short nature trails help you get a closer look.

Visitors can also canoe, kayak, hike or bike around the refuge. At any time of the year, it is possible to catch a glimpse of wildlife in a natural habitat.

Coconut cake at Big Bob Gibson Barbecue.
Coconut Cake at Bob Gibson Barbecue (Photo credit: Connie Pearson)

3. Devour championship barbecue and southern dishes galore

Big Bob Gibson Barbecue, which was established in Decatur in 1925, has won countless awards in barbecue competitions across the country and is the restaurant that is first mentioned when a visitor seeks to taste the real Decatur. Big Bob first introduced their white sauce here, and it has since been bottled for distribution everywhere. The amazing homemade mile-high meringue tarts are almost as famous as the barbecue. The coconut, chocolate, walnut, lemon, and peanut butter varieties are baked fresh every day and grace many tables during the holidays.

A couple of upscale restaurants in Decatur are Simp McGhee’s on Bank Street and RailYard on Second Avenue. Whisk’D in sight of the Farmer’s Market is popular for breakfast, brunch, or lunch, and Alfonso’s Pizza and Italian Restaurant, now located on Beltline (Highway 67), has been preparing delicious dishes in town since 1977. Libby’s Catfish They serve amazing hushpuppies to accompany their catfish dishes, and JW’s Steakhouse is packed for dinner Wednesday through Saturday. BB Perrins Sports Grille is lined with Alabama Crimson Tide memorabilia collected from the original owner who played football for Bear Bryant.

Another sweet Decatur tradition is English toffee produced at Morgan Price Candy Company on 6th Avenue, but you’ll also be tempted by their chocolate-covered cherries, crisp peanuts, and attractive gift packages.

Canoe near the Tennessee River.
Decatur near the Tennessee River (Photo credit: Decatur Morgan County Tourism)

4. Take one of the themed trails that pique your interest

Decatur has sites included on several major trails in North Alabama. The Mural Trail is constantly adding more brightly painted walls to its collection, which now totals 125 murals in 16 counties. Those located near the city center are particularly eye-catching and are perfect for photos or Instagram poses.

The Hallelujah Path consists of churches that are at least 100 years old and have been continuously holding services in the same location for all those years. St. John’s Episcopal Church of Decatur is included on that list.

A Civil War Walking Tour has been designed by Decatur Morgan County Tourism. It takes visitors through the historic districts of Old Decatur and New Albany, and you can download a descriptive brochure here.

The turtle trail is fun for kids. It begins across the street from the Princess Theater on Second Avenue and ends across the street at the Alabama Center for the Arts. Ten bronze turtles are hidden in plain sight and teach outlandish facts related to Decatur’s history.

Pincess Theater at night.
Connie Pearson

5. Attend a production at a historic theater

The Princess Theater on Second Avenue began life as a livery stable in 1887. After serving as a venue for silent movies and vaudeville, the theater received its art deco makeover in 1941. If those walls could talk, what stories would they tell .

The month of December will be full of live performances of the musical Faker, and the Nutcracker ballet, as well as screenings of classic Christmas movies. Throughout the year, Decatur’s Bank Street Players and Dreamweavers Children’s Theater Group encourage locals to participate in live productions, to the delight of their audiences. When planning a visit to River City, be sure to check the website to purchase tickets for a performance on the calendar.

Boat on the Tennessee River.
Tennessee River (Photo credit: Connie Pearson)

6. Catch a trophy of sea bass or enjoy water sports

The Tennessee River offers endless opportunities to catch an award-winning fish, ski, boat, or swim. Decatur Boat Harbor is a popular launch site, as are Brickyard Landing, Ingalls Harbor, and Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. The river has attracted many professional bass fishing organizations to Decatur for lucrative tournaments.

Point Mallard Aquatic Center is located along the river with a man-made beach, exciting waterslides, and the nation’s first wave pool.

The magnificent Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic.
Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic (Photo credit: Decatur Morgan County Tourism)

7. Attend a celebration festival

The Carnegie Visual Arts Center kicks off each year’s celebration calendar with its impressive Carnegie Festival and Parade that takes place the Saturday before Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday). Decatur mimics the traditions of Mobile and New Orleans with its own crew roster, and the parade features fabulous floats, music, costumes, and of course thousands of launches.

Memorial Day weekend brings the Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic which provides the occasion for 50 colorful balloons to fly through the skies of Decatur. The event kicks off at Point Mallard Park, and even if the weather prevents a launch, hot air balloons delight the crowd with a glow of balloons and some tethered rides. Food and craft vendors also line the park.

The Spirit of America Festival, which takes place on July 4, is one of the largest free Independence Day celebrations in the United States. It also takes place at Point Mallard Park with live entertainment, sports tournaments, food and craft vendors, speeches and awards presentations, and a massive fireworks display.

Professional advice: Some of the best views for fireworks or hot air balloons are from your boat on the river or along Highway 67.

Pottery at The Cupboard on Bank Street.
The Closet on Bank Street (Author of the photo: Connie Pearson)

8. Explore stores that have welcomed shoppers for generations

Merchants along Bank Street and Second Avenue in Decatur inhabit buildings that have seen the tram days and bustling times when downtown was the center of the city’s commerce. The interiors have been renovated and repurposed, but the atmosphere remains old and traditional.

Antique stores, boutiques, specialty stores, and a gourmet kitchen shop attract customers looking for unique items. Shops on 2nd Avenue is a business under one roof that houses 39 separate stores filled with locally handcrafted items, original art, home decor, jewelry, and more.

Eighteen popular chain hotels are located on the interstate, along Highway 67, or overlooking the river. Additionally, many of the better-known chain restaurants, such as Olive Garden, Cracker Barrel, Red Lobster, Applebee’s, Panera Bread, Texas Roadhouse, and more, can be found in Decatur.

Eighteen minutes or 12 miles south, you can enjoy additional places to shop and eat good things in the town of Hartselle. Main Street is in fact the main hub. From there, you will see The Something Blue Shoppe, one of the state’s leading wedding clothing stores, Pizza Ed’s, Robin’s Nest for children’s clothing, The Freight House Restaurant (next to the train tracks), Oliwia’s Shave Ice, and boutiques such as Shoefjected, Zoey’s, Katie & Grace, Indigo’s, Southern Sass, and The Beehive Bathhouse.

Professional advice: The Freight House has Poulet de Normandy and Strawberry Pretzel Salad on their regular menu, making it perfect for friends’ lunch outings.

Decatur is almost exactly halfway between Birmingham, Alabama and Nashville, Tennessee, just a stone’s throw from Interstate 65. Its population of 55,000 is proud of its history and has big plans for the future. Commodore Stephen Decatur is the city’s namesake. He was famous for declaring, “My country, right or wrong, but it is still my country,” and the citizens of Decatur take his patriotism very seriously.

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