The Ultimate Best Things To Do In Decatur (Alabama)

With so many things to do in Decatur (Alabama), it is not surprising that Decatur is the largest city in the Morgan County region. The beautiful city of Decatur, dubbed “The River City,” is located in Limestone and Morgan counties in Alabama. The city of Decatur, Alabama, is situated along the Tennessee River in a region that was historically a river crossing for inhabitants living west of the Appalachian Mountains. Incorporated as a town in 1820, it became the eastern terminus of the first railroad line west of the Appalachians, allowing for fast growth.

After being mostly destroyed by fire during the Civil War, the city recovered and flourished during the roaring 20s. Now, as neighboring Huntsville has continued to expand, so has Decatur, a town that offers a blend of historic experiences honoring its past and a variety of new shops, restaurants, as well as entertainment options. Decatur is an idyllic location where the water sparkles and the sun shines brilliantly over a magnificent landscape, as it thrives along the Tennessee River and close to Wheeler Lake.

Some are attracted by the area’s inexpensive cost of living, while others are attracted by its breathtaking beauty. Friendly small-town ambiance gives it a great spot to lay roots that will blossom into something enormous. Due to its closeness to Flint Creek, Wheeler Lake, Chula Vista Lake, Lake Morgan, and the surrounding area, Decatur also enjoys a humid subtropical climate with four distinct seasons.

The Alabama State Legislature has designated Decatur as “The Ballooning Capital of Alabama” due to the city’s enduring popularity and reputation. Decatur boasts everything from modest shops and entertainment venues to a bustling art scene if you’re yearning for city life. Alternatively, nature lovers can become acquainted with the local flora and fauna due to the abundance of freshwater bodies in this beautiful city. Moreover, this is only the tip of the iceberg! Check out these other awesome things to do in Decatur (Alabama).

Disclosure: Due to new safety regulations, some of the information regarding the attractions and sites listed below may have changed. For the most up-to-date information, please contact the location.

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What Are The Best Things To Do In Decatur (Alabama)?

1. Visit The Old State Bank


Here is one of the exciting things in Decatur (Alabama). Visiting here would be a thrilling experience for the financially inclined and others alike.  The Old State Bank was originally built in 1833. It began as a branch of the Bank of the State of Alabama, which was a proactive step to establish the city’s significance in Southeastern America. Although the bank was closed in 1833 as a result of the national economic slump, a substructure was built, and this is acknowledged as one of the primary reasons why the frontier settlement of Decatur evolved into a modern metropolis.

Before its transfer to the city of Decatur in 1976, the bank served as a public boarding house, American Legion Hall, and Union Army hospital throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Consequently, it is now a living history museum that is open to the public. The first floor has been transformed into a banking lobby, while the second floor has been transformed into a banker’s residence.

2. Riverfest


No one enjoys barbecue more than Americans. Riverfest has been an annual event in the United States for over twenty years. The state of Alabama recognizes this competition as the Barbecue Championship, an official state event. Whoever wins Riverfest receives an invitation to the Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational and a spot in the America Royal World Championship. We do not believe there is a better venue to watch the game and enjoy the delicious food than this establishment. Participating in this sport is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Decatur (Alabama).

3. Historic Railroad Depot


The 1905 Decatur Union Depot has been totally restored. It was the 2015-2016 Public Buildings Historic Preservation Project of the Year for Alabama Main Street. This is something that every train enthusiast would adore. In this location, you would find unique model trains and a model railway layout. There is also a miniature theater where you can watch footage of trains. The graphic panels illustrate the fascinating history of this city’s railroad from 1834 to the present.

Also on display will be unique memorabilia and artifacts from 1905, refurbished signage, a railroad tool, and various devices. You would also appreciate the picnic area and the train watching platform. They are open to the public for free Monday through Friday and by appointment on Saturday. This is another unique attraction and things to do in Decatur (Alabama) that you should not miss.

4. Morgan County Archives


The Morgan County Commission established the Morgan County Archives as a permanent repository in 1995. This archive was created to retain archives of the community and dormant government in the region, and it contains significant community records dating back to 1819. These records reflect the history of the city’s municipal growth and are acknowledged as one of the city’s most important archival collections. Census, court, and marriage records are included.

This collection is the most prominent public location for seeing original versions of the Harstelle Enquirer and the Decatur Daily. It is accessible to the public as they provide microfilm access, public computer workstations, library volumes, and a resource for genealogical and community research. Occasionally, small specialty collections connected to prominent historical people and the Civil War history of the city are displayed.

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5. The Old Decatur Historic District


This region is a must-see during your trip to Decatur. The Old Decatur Historic District encompasses 116 acres in the city’s Albany and some historic sections in Old Decatur and features the state’s biggest concentration of Victorian-era structures and dwellings. With a focus on the historic Bank Street (home to the Old State Bank building), which was the city’s commercial hub in the 19th century, the riverboat, railway, and wagon access spurred further growth.

Despite the destruction of the original constructions during the American war and a local fire in 1877, these structures were required to be reconstructed in the 19th century. These structures are the most iconic Italianate and Victorian constructions in the region. The Todd residence would be seen from the Lafayette stress. It is one of the remaining structures from before the Civil War. In addition to being able to observe them via touring this area, you can also obtain access to them.

6. The Princess Theatre


The Princess Theatre is another exciting destination and one of the best things to do in Decatur (Alabama). In 1887, this theater was erected as a livery stable; in 1919, it was converted into a multi-act hall and silent film theater. The structure underwent yet another makeover in 1941, when a neon sign and Art Deco façade were added. The interior of the building included a terrazzo floor map of Alabama and glow-in-the-dark murals.

After the City of Decatur acquired the theatre in 1978, it was transformed into a venue for live art performances and added to the National Register of Historic Places. It has a capacity of 667 people, making it a spacious structure. Each year, more than sixty thousand people watch public performances, concerts, and tour shows.

7. Blue & Gray Museum of North Alabama


Blue and Gray Museum offers a glimpse into the American Civil War for those interested in historical exploration throughout their visit. This museum is also known as the North Alabama Civil War Museum, and it houses the biggest collection of privately held American Civil War items, making it a must-see for fans of military antiques in Decatur, Alabama. By visiting this museum, you will also have a fantastic time learning about the history of Decatur through historical displays.

If your children are interested in American history during the Civil War, this might be a fun site to visit. This museum’s Civil War and non-Civil War collections are one of the top things to do in Decatur (Alabama). During your time in Decatur, Alabama, be sure to visit this museum and explore its Civil War and non-Civil War collections. 

8. Pickwick Belle


The Pickwick Belle is a recreation of a riverboat with paddlewheels. The 90-foot riverboat offers public and charter leisure cruises by the Tennessee River.  The vessel was named in 2007 and operated out of Pickwick Landing State Park until 2012, when it was moved to Ingalls Harbor in Decatur. You receive twice-weekly (Thursdays and Saturdays) 90-minute sightseeing cruises and a two-hour dinner cruise on Friday evenings.

On the upper deck, you will experience breathtaking views of the city and river as you cruise over the water at a maximum speed of five miles per hour while other passengers remain at the base. Every year, a variety of special public event cruises are planned, including an Elvis-themed music cruise and a Civil War reenactment cruise. One can also hire the riverboat for private special events like corporate outings and wedding receptions.

9. Wheeler Wildlife Refuge


The Wheeler Wildlife Refuge is located along the Tennessee River and encompasses 35,000 acres. This location offers an excellent habitat for migratory and wintering species, including red-tailed hawks and Canada geese. The refuge was opened by President Franklin D. in 1938 and named in honor of Major General Joseph Wheeler. It is managed jointly by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, and the Wildlife Service. They are also in command of the Redstone Arsenal area of the Refuge.

Here, you can participate in a number of outdoor activities. With nearly 700,000 annual tourists participating in hunting, wildlife watching, and fishing, among other activities. This refuge features five hiking routes, a tower for animal observation, six boat launch sites, and various spotting scope points to provide visitors with more diversity. You may also be fortunate enough to encounter annual activities offered by the refuge. Included are a southern wildlife festival, a summer day camp for youngsters, and a youth fishing rodeo.

10. Simp McGhee’s


Simp McGhee, a respectable nineteenth-century riverboat captain, was the inspiration for this name. Before having his piloting license revoked, he became a local hero due to his enthusiastic personality and peculiar gestures while operating this riverboat. The restaurant is located in the Bank Street neighborhood and serves traditional tapas. The restaurant’s special menu features tuna Lafayette, crawfish eggrolls, and lamb ratatouille. You can taste the red wine, exquisite white wine, and sparkling fresh wine. There is an occasionally available pet-friendly sidewalk. This is one of the best things to do in Decatur (Alabama).

11. Alabama Jubilee


The Alabama Jubilee is the largest air balloon classic race in the entirety of mid-South America. It is on the list of enjoyable activities and best things to do in Decatur (Alabama). In 1978, the city’s newly-acquired official hot air balloon was introduced at an inaugural function. Consequently, it was one of the country’s first official air balloons. In its early years, the Alabama Jubilee attracted about two dozen balloonists from nearby states such as Louisiana, Mississippi, and Georgia.

Today, the Southeast Tourism Society lists the Jubilee as one of the top tourism attractions in the Southeast. More than sixty-two pilots from over twenty states fly into Decatur for the region’s annual summer kickoff event. The Alabama legislature dubbed the city the “Ballooning Capital of Alabama” since this event attracts a national audience.

12. Cook’s Natural Science Museum


The Cook Natural Science Museum is one of the top attractions and things to do in Decatur (Alabama). This museum was the result of John R. Cook’s (President, Cook’s Pest Control) concept. This museum was once a private collection of natural sciences where extra data could be collected and utilized to train pest control technicians. This is no longer the case, since it is now a world-class natural history collection. There are around 2,000 specimens and displays in the museum’s privately owned collection. Wildlife, mounted birds, and an extensive exhibition of rocks, minerals, and corals are some of the categories of the collection.

Tennessee Valley Lake Exhibit is another display. This depicts the region’s native vegetation and wildlife. It is one of the few displays in the United States to feature taxidermized golden and bald eagles. When you are finished seeing the museum, you can walk to the theater to watch some natural science films and relax. Consider including this on your list of things to do in Decatur (Alabama) during your stay if you’re looking for a good time.

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13. Alabama Charity Championship Horseshow


Check out this city’s yearly event, the Alabama Charity Championship Horseshow. An annual event when horses are controlled and directed competitively. This event attracts the country’s best Hackney, Roadster, and American Saddlebred horses. This is the fourth largest Saddlebred show in the United States. Tickets to this event are selling quickly, with a large number of attendees. Therefore, if you plan to visit Decatur, you may want to plan your trip with this event. It is among the most fascinating things to do in Decatur (Alabama), so do not miss it.

14. Carnegie Visual Arts Center


The Carnegie Visual Arts Center has something for every art enthusiast. This facility is the first art museum and arts education center in the region. It is housed in the historic Carnegie Library, which served as the city’s library for more than seven decades. The facility is around 4,000 square feet and contains an exhibition, studio space, and workshop. The center also features eight to ten public art exhibitions.

These include national touring exhibits and presentations, such as the works of Mose Tolliver and Jimmy Lee Sudath, which are presented annually in the faculty galleries on the main level. Additionally, the Daikin America Education Center (at the base) hosts summer camps for children as well as classes and seminars for community members of all artistic abilities. The Carnegie Visual Arts Center is one of the top things to do in Decatur (Alabama), and should be on your itinerary.

15. Amberley Suite Hotel


There are a variety of places to stay in Decatur, including hotels and public campgrounds. Would you like to reserve accommodation? Then, the Amberley Suite Hotel addresses all of your lodging concerns. Here, in the heart of this great historical Decatur city, you’re guaranteed to have a wonderful time. You get access to both the outdoor pool and the 24-hour exercise facility. This hostel’s excellent location provides easy access to the airport and other destinations in Alabama.

16. Decatur Farmers Market


Consider visiting the Decatur Farmers Market. There is no better method to acquire food than by purchasing it directly from the farmer. Between April and November, the Decatur Farmers Market is open Monday through Saturday. This market contains various stands offering fresh fruits and vegetables. So, when in Decatur, it may be necessary to visit the market to acquire what you require. Additionally, a special event occurs every month. This festival celebrates all fruits and vegetables of the season.

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17. Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Que


Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Que, Decatur was founded in 1925 and is widely regarded as the country’s most prominent and oldest barbecue joint. It was founded by Bob Gibson, an L&N Railroad employee, and is infamous for its Original BBQ White Sauce. Its special menu of brisket, pork, ribs, and chicken has garnered more than 15 World Barbecue Championship awards since its inception.  The restaurant is handled by the fourth generation of the family and has two sites in Decatur (one on Sixth Street and one on Danville Road). In the restaurant, you can order barbecue platters, pit barbecue sandwiches, and combination meals.

18. Point Mallard Park


Why not visit a water park? A unique one for a fact. Point Mallard Waterpark is located near the boundary of Wheeler National Refuge. It encompasses more than 500 acres along the banks of Flint Creek. This park was built in 1970 and is well-known for the J. Gilmer Blackburn Aquatic Center that is situated here. This facility features a 10-meter diving tower, two high-speed water slides, a wave pool in the European style, and a lazy river. The Bill J. Dukes Athletic Complex (with a concentration on baseball), the Point Mallard Ice Complex, the 18-hole Point Mallard Golf Course, and the Jimmy Johns Tennis Center are among the sporting facilities available.

There are also golf driving ranges and batting cages. You are not done yet. The T.C. Almon Center has exercise facilities, indoor courts, and a game room, while the Ronald Reagan Spirit of America Fields area has a permanent outdoor pavilion. This park’s adaptability is further demonstrated by its 80-seat prayer chapel, 210-site campsite, and 500-person-capacity covered picnic pavilion. Point Mallard Park hosts annual events like the September Skirmish Civil War Reenactment; you can attend one during your trip to Decatur.

19. Delano Park


Would you like to visit Decatur’s oldest public park? Delano Park is one of Decatur’s attractions. Delano Park was constructed in 1887 as a crucial component of a plan to reconstruct the city following the end of the American Civil War. As you would have anticipated, this park was named in honor of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The park has undergone significant renovations in recent years, as evidenced by the children’s splash pad play area, which has rivers and large-scale maps of Alabama cities.

Additionally, extensive rose gardens were planted, which have since been recreated as the Delano Rose Garden. The ancient concrete bridge is a popular location for photography, memories, and reflection. There are other plans for expansion that include the paths that connect the center and western sections of the park.

20. The RailYard


The final item on this list of things to do in Decatur (Alabama) is The RailYard, a restaurant owned by Tyler Jones. It is located in downtown Decatur and its executive chef is Bill Harden. In this region, he was among the pioneers of the farm-to-table movement. This restaurant is committed to serving globally-desired southern cuisine using fresh, locally-sourced ingredients wherever possible. They are open for every meal of the week and provide a variety of foods in a casual tavern setting.

Favorite menu options include craft pub-style burgers, unique sandwiches adorned with local meats, and a variety of meals with an emphasis on seafood alternatives from the south. Enjoy seasonal cocktails made with premium liquors and fresh fruit, or a beer from a national or regional microbrewery.

Downtown Decatur, Alabama

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Final Thoughts

Decatur is a fascinating city with a variety of sights and activities to keep you entertained. Decatur, Alabama is renowned for its extensive history, southern hospitality, and unique culture. There are many things to do in Decatur (Alabama), regardless of whether you are a tourist or a local. There is no lack of activities to keep you occupied while you explore amazing restaurants, shopping places, and prominent attractions. The city’s museums, landmarks, markets, parks, rivers, and other attractions are indisputable after exploration.

There is an abundance of activities in Decatur, Alabama. The city’s mix of historical landmarks and American culture makes visitors feel at home. Whether you are in the region for a few hours or a few days, there are sure to be plenty of things to do in Decatur (Alabama) to keep you engaged. Start planning your trip to Decatur now. Remember to save this guide for future reference, have fun, and stay cool.

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