Once in a while, you’ll visit a place and you’ll know a return trip is necessary. That’s Mobile
Travel has taken me to numerous places that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. Mobile is one of those rare places that makes me want to pick up and leave home for a month just to enjoy the Port City experience. Here are three reasons why:
MOBILE’S HISTORY INTERESTS ME
In a 300-year-old community, you don’t need to look far to discover a rich history. French, Spanish, Creole, Catholic, Greek and African cultures have each had an impact on Mobile’s history. You can see it in the architecture and taste it in the food.
A great place to begin is the History Museum of Mobile. The National Historic Landmark building is located in the Southern Market. One of the six permanent exhibits a visitor must view is the “Faces of Mobile.” Make sure you allow time for the exhibits “Old Ways New Days Part I” and “Old Ways New Days Part II.”
The oldest Mardi Gras Carnival celebration in the United States is in Mobile. The place to discover all the details of the Mardi Gras birthplace is the Mobile Carnival Museum. There’s the history and traditions to explore along with the crowns, scepters, robes and costumes of Mardi Gras’ monarchs. Check out float construction and videos of parades and balls.
Architecture certainly contributes to the history of Mobile. The Richards-DAR House Museum is a gem. This historic landmark is an 1860s Italian townhouse with unique lace ironwork that tells a story. Bragg-Mitchell Mansion is Mobile’s finest antebellum mansion. Built in 1855, this Greek Revival was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. Conde-Charlotte Museum was Mobile’s first courthouse and jail before being renovated in 1855. The Bellingrath Home at Bellingrath Gardens and Home was completed in 1936. The original furnishings and extensive collections of art, silver, china and crystal are on display. Each of these home museums offers tours.
The blending of four cultures in a Southern port city is certainly the recipe for outstanding dining. Gulf shrimp, crabs, oysters and fish are all fresh. Enjoy some soul specialties including Southern fried chicken, greens and grits, or slow-cooked pit BBQ. From contemporary southern and seafood to BBQ restaurants and pubs, there are endless choices with the majority practicing farm-to-table.
WATCHING IT GROW FASCINATES ME
As a kid growing up, trips to my aunt and uncle’s farm were always mesmerizing. The fields that surrounded the farmhouse seemed massive to this youngster. The family garden and flowerbeds provided plenty of goodies to take home. Fast-forward to the present and one of my hobbies is keeping an extensive array of potted plants on my patio.
It’s understandable I’d be drawn to Bellingrath Gardens and Home, the 65-acre estate garden. Alabama’s oldest public garden opened in 1932 and has something blooming year-round. There are azaleas in the spring, a magnificent cascading chrysanthemums display in the fall and the Magic Christmas in Lights after Thanksgiving that continue through year’s end.
Two miles of pathways through the gardens are perfect for a self-guided tour at your own pace. To tell you what’s in bloom during a visit, go to bellingrath.org for a monthly listing of what you can expect to see.
A must-visit is the 100+ acre Mobile Botanical Gardens. The website mobilebotanicalgardens.org has a thorough presentation of what’s in bloom throughout the year. A map and guide to the gardens is a needed addition to a walking tour. Guided tours are welcome with a request in advance.
The city of Mobile and the surrounding county are placed in the middle of the richest biological part of North America. In addition to the Bellingrath Gardens and the Mobile Botanical Gardens, Langdan Park and numerous private homes and public building keep Mobile in bloom.
ART IS HIGH ON MY LIST
There’s no attempt to fool you. My artistic skills and knowledge are at best minimal. I just like art museums and galleries and have seldom met one I didn’t enjoy.
Along the Gulf Coast, the Mobile Museum of Art is the largest art museum between New Orleans and Tampa. The art begins with the scenic views of Langan Park. The museum provides a permanent collection of more than 6,400 pieces. There are paintings, sculptures and decorative art highlighted by a 19th-century American landscapes collection, paintings from the WPA era and international contemporary glass, turned wood and ceramics.
Special exhibitions are on display throughout the year. Local and regional artists as well as collections of international artists on loan from other museums are featured.
One of the purposes of a museum is to provide a refuge of calm for the community. Mobile Museum of Art is just such a place, and that’s what attracts me to it. Throughout the facility there’s seating available where you can quietly take in the beauty of your setting.
The American Sport Art Museum is considered the largest collection of sport art in the world. The museum’s collection has more than 1,800 works in a variety of media from paintings and sculptures to prints and photographs. Whether you’re a casual sports fan or cannot get enough regardless of the sport, this is a must-visit. Located on the campus of the United States Sports Academy, the museum is open to the public at no charge. Group tours are welcome.
Located in the heart of Mobile’s historic downtown, Alabama Contemporary Art Center has come a long way since its founding in 1999. Committed to the works of living artists, they initiate 10 to 12 exhibitions per year. Through various programs, they’ve created opportunities for artists to make their work known worldwide by taking risks and exploring different paths. Add this to your list of must-see stops in Mobile.
For more than 65 years Mobile Arts Council has made art of all sectors available to the community. The free gallery exhibitions are open for viewing Tuesday-Friday and change monthly. Plan to join the council the second Friday of each month during LoDa ArtWalk to meet the artists at an exhibition reception. Held downtown, the ArtWalk is an amazingly popular event and features local art, music and food.
Although focused on visual art, we certainly appreciate symphony, ballet and opera and plan to attend one or more on my next Mobile visit.
There are my big three reasons, but those that know me realize I won’t be leaving home without my golf clubs. More than 25 courses are in the Mobile area, including three at Magnolia Grove on the legendary Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.
Learn more about magical Mobile at mobile.org/groups
By Dave Bodle