48 Hours In Mobile, Alabama

Above: Mike Dojc poses with a gaggle of Azalea Trail Maids. Fifty high school seniors are handpicked each year, an honour more highly sought than prom queen, to serve as official Ambassadors of the city.

Two hours east of the non-stop party that is N’awlins and an hour northwest of the Florida Panhandle’s seductive sands, the “Sweet Home” State’s port city provides the best of both worlds, a blossoming cultural core surrounded by the pleasures of the salt life.    Mobile (pronounced Moh-beel) is bona fide Southern, the historic downtown corridors are adorned with a canopy of live oaks festooned with Spanish moss and Mardi Gras bead tendrils that hang in the sky year round.  Architecturally, the city glistens with Greek Revival buildings, antebellum manses, gothic churches, and ornate balconies of lacey wrought iron. While not as synonymous with Mardi Gras outside of the region as the Big Easy, Mobile was the first American city to laissez les bons temps rouler with Fat Tuesday celebrations dating back to 1703 and their annual bash that stretches two and a half weeks long is absolutely epic.

What to see

Gain a full appreciation for Mobilians’ Mardis Gras obsession at the Carnival Museum.  Scope out the many displays of intricate and sumptuous gowns and coronation robes and be sure to climb atop a parade float and hurl a moon pie, Mobile’s go to throw.  Football fanatics, keep an eye out for JaMarcus Russell’s crown from when he was King of Mardi Gras in 2010.

Then climb your way through the twelve decks of the feature attraction at the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park. Thevessel earned the nickname “The Lucky A” during WWII as no seamen were lost by enemy fire. Cleveland Indians Great Bob Feller joined the Navy right after Pearl Harbor and served 34 months aboard the USS Alabama as a gunnery captain and you’ll spy a trove of the HOF pitcher’s memorabilia aboard.

Next head to Hank Aaron Stadium, home of the Mobile Bay Bears, to keep your sports history buzz going. A few years back Hammering Hanks childhood home & Muse um was moved and restored on the grounds.

What to do

Finally if golf is your game you can’t let a Mobile visit slip by without sampling a couple of the finest offerings of the Robert Trent Jones Trail. The RTJ is the Velvet Underground of golf trails, begetting 100 others. 

Magnolia Grove’s Falls track is the gem of a 54-hole spread. The par-71 layout snakes through woodlands, marsh and lakes with min verde greens and gorgeous clover shaped bunkers.  But there are no duds at the grove. For the time pressed there’s the vaunted short course which serves up a flurry of forced-carries to keep your wits sharp and for their’s even a special treat for the LPGA fan. Walk in the footsteps of Lexi Thomspon, Stacy Lewis and Michelle Wie by playing The Crossing which hosts an annual Ladies Tour stop each May.  Lakewood’s Dogwood and Azalea courses are also stellar, though my preference is for the latter on account of its sizzling signature. No. 14 at Azalea is a 545-yard par five with an island green surprise at the finish—you can make a pair of great shots and then be faced with the same daunting feeling you get heading into seventeen at TPC Sawgrass as you stare at a patch of green in the middle a four acre lake which abuts some primo manses.

Finally when in Azalea city, you need to drink in a sea of hot pink and purple hues at Bellingrath Gardens and Home in the Mobile suburb of Theodore. While azalea season is in the spring, they’ve got roses blooming in the summer, chrysanthemums in the fall and poinsettias perking up over the winter, so there’s no off season at this 65-acre floral fantasy land

Where to eat

Wintzell’s Oyster House, now a sprouting regional chain, is a Mobile mainstay with the original location on Dauphin Street shucking bivalves since 1938. They’re known for serving them  “fried, stewed, or nude.” Try a dozen char-grilled or at least sidle over to the bar to witness the open flame preparation in action.  Cap off your Mobile culinary crawl with the progressive Southern cuisine of True Midtown Kitchen. Manager Richard True and chef Jonathan Stern collaborate on edgier takes on familiar dishes. Order the lamb meat loaf garnished with a mint ketchup and served with garam masala potatoes and waldorf salad. “We like to find the root of one thing and do it a little different… say with eastern spices like in the meatloaf, that’s the goal,” confides True.

Where to stay

The site of The Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa, a downtown landmark, has burned down a few times over the past couple centuries but the current AAA four diamond building currently standing is still plenty old dating back to 1908. Pro tip: On the second floor have a friend stand facing one of the four arches. Then get on the other some fifty feet away and say “what’s up, doc?” They’ll hear you loud and clear. Of course this arch whispering acoustical flourish means that you may want to steer away from “private” conversations in the vicinity.

Tags: Alabama, Travel Guide

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