In November, I graduated from the Visit Mobile ‘Ambassador’ class. This Mobile, Alabama, program was developed to have citizens participate in bringing the spirit of Mobile to visitors. It meant learning about all the local attractions and how Mobile is marketed to visitors. I am sure other cities have similar programs because locals learn how to shine a light on their city.
Having been born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, and having worked downtown for many years, I had fallen into that ‘there’s nothing to do here’ mentality. I know the city well. Still, I knew I was wrong. I had regularly seen numerous events happening in and around Mobile. Maybe I had begun to take my city for granted. We are the home of Mardi Gras, but there is much more to Mobile than just Mardi Gras. We have a rich and diverse history.
The classes are held twice a year. For the fall class, nineteen individuals from Mobile participated in three classes during the six-week program. One of the fun parts of the class was visiting as many of our local attractions as possible. We were given a visitor’s pass to see most of them. I think the pass included twenty. You begin with those; then, you can seek out more or some of the not-so-well-known attractions. I did as many of them as possible.
Our first class had us on a trolley tour and meeting representatives from many parts of the city’s tourist areas. It was the time for the nineteen participants to meet and get to know what we would learn about Mobile.
During our second class, we roamed downtown Mobile on a sort of scavenger hunt with the Art Council’s app., looking for murals, sculptures, etc. We were asked to put together a pretend itinerary for a visitor. I was surprised at how each of my classmates chose very different things that people might be interested in. Art walks, airboat rides, heritage trails, tours, architecture, food and culinary adventures, sports, festivals, cruise ships, the beach, music, cocktails, concerts, etc. The list was extensive.
On our graduation day, we toured two hotels downtown, The Holiday Inn Historic District and boutique hotel The Admiral. Both are well located to service the downtown area. The Admiral is undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation and will open fully in early 2024.
Mobile’s top attractions
Following are just a few of the highly rated attractions to visit in Mobile.
5 Rivers Delta Cruises. A ride through the Delta is a magical thing. You will learn how important this environment has been to our history and future. Visitors may be surprised at what they see with the wildlife you will see during the cruise, and The sunset cruise is highly recommended.
Bellingrath Gardens. Founded in 1932 by a local Coca-Cola bottler as his fishing camp, this garden is a tranquil setting for visitors to commune with nature. The gardens come alive each year after dark for the Magic Christmas in Lights. This has become a family tradition for many in the area.
Bragg-Mitchell Mansion. It is one of several stately homes in Mobile. It dates to 1833. The grand dame of Mobile. Built in 1855 by Judge John Bragg to enjoy the social season in Mobile. In 1923, it was purchased by the Mitchell family. It was donated in the late 1970s for use as the Exploreum and, in 1987, was opened to the public for tours. Tours are available Tuesday-Friday.
Conde-Charlotte Museum. The house was built on the site of the city jail and is another one of the stately homes in Mobile. The National Society of Colonial Dames oversees it. Tours are available Thurs-Sat.
Dauphin Island Sea Lab and Aquarium. This is our small local aquarium, situated on the east end of Dauphin Island. Here, visitors can learn about the ecosystem of Mobile Bay. They have fish that you can touch in a tank outside. The exhibits provide a quick overview of the region’s birds and aquatic life. It is open daily.
Gulf Coast Exploreum. This interactive museum is more suited for children, but adults will be interested in the exhibits. The IMAX theater is for everyone. The exhibit on fear phobias was intriguing and a bit intimidating. The body’s exhibit is an interactive look at your entire person.
Gulfquest National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico. This interactive museum is one of the largest museums in Mobile. It educates visitors about the maritime history of the Gulf. You can drive a cargo ship or a Coast Guard vessel in the simulator. The views from the rooftop provide a panorama of the city.
History Museum of Mobile. Located in the old Mobile City Hall, which dates to 1858, provides visitors and locals with an overview of the city’s history. You will learn about the Clotilda, the Last Slave ship to enter the U.S.
Mobile Botanical Gardens. The gardens are located in Langan Park near the University of South Alabama. The trails allow visitors a walk through nature and the colors of Mobile, especially when the Camillas and azaleas are in bloom.
Mobile Carnival Museum. Here, visitors will learn the story of Mobile Mardi Gras and the mystic societies it encompasses. You will learn about Joe Cain, credited with resurrecting Mardi Gras after the Civil War. Beautiful gowns and trains worn by the Kings and Queens of the mystic societies are displayed for visitors. You might even run into a ghost.
Mobile Medical Museum: This small museum tells the history of medicine from its beginnings in Mobile to the physicians who practiced here. It is located adjacent to the Mobile Infirmary Hospital. You can read my post on the museum here.
Mobile Museum of Art. Located in Langan Park, it holds things of beauty.
Historic Oakleigh House. This is another stately home of Mobile. Built in 1833 by James Roper, it became the home to the Irwin’s in 1852. They remained in Irwin’s care until 1916 Dr. Cole purchased the home. In 1955, the City of Mobile purchased the home, and it became one of Mobile’s historic homes. Tours are given by the ‘the Mobile Belles,’ high school students interested in furthering Mobile’s culture.
Richards DAR House. Another stately home of Mobile. The home has a well documented history of being haunted. The house was built in 1860 by Captain Charles Richards. It was purchased in 1946 by Ideal Cement for its corporate office. Donated to the City of Mobile in 1973, it is operated and maintained by the Daughters of the American Revolution. It continues numerous historic period pieces.
USS Alabama “The Mighty A” battleship. Donations from schoolchildren around the state saved the ship from the scrapyard. The ship was opened to the public In 1965. It is one of the most visited attractions in the State of Alabama. Nothing tells the story of the Navy in World War II like a battleship. A pavilion next door also contains various planes from the 1940s to today. The submarine, the USS Drum, sits beside the pavilion.
The African American Heritage House. The Clotilda was the last slave ship to arrive in the U.S. in 1860. Local environmentalist Ben Raines located the ship after years of searching. This newly opened museum chronicles the history of the descendants of the ship, many of whom resided in Africatown.
Food in Mobile, Alabama
Food is a huge part of the port city. There are fifty restaurants located in the downtown area. Many are easily walkable from many of the attractions.
Here are a few ideas for restaurants to visit:
Dauphins dinner with a view of Mobile
Dumbwaiter Southern food and seafood
Mama’s on Dauphin good home cooking
Ruby Slipper brunch all day long
Spot of Tea, a Mobile Original
Noble South farm-to-table dining
Roosters tacos and more
Parking and Transportation in Downtown Mobile
There is a new service for transportation in and around downtown Mobile. We now have Mob City Rides, a company with golf carts available for short rides around downtown. Mob City Rides This can be a real foot saver because, like many cities, parking can sometimes not be the easiest thing to find while downtown.
Guided Tours of Mobile
Dora Frankin Finley African American Heritage Trail-African American Heritage Tours. You can read my post on the tour here.
Gulf Coast Tours-Trolley of the city
Self-guided tours of the city on the Mobile Art Council app for public art
What I learned
What did I learn about my hometown, Mobile? Plenty, and I needed this class to reignite my interest in my town. Maybe it’s taken me all these years and traveling to other destinations to realize just how much Mobile offers. There is something to do at any time, depending on the weather and what you want to explore. Also, being an Ambassador will give me the opportunity to work at the visitor’s center and promote my city to travelers.