Mobile is one of Conde Nast Traveler's Best Places to Go in the North America for 2024, part of our global guide to the Best Places to Go in 2024—find more travel inspiration here.

Set on Mobile Bay, along Alabama’s Gulf Coast, the city of Mobile brims with rich culture, natural beauty, and warm Southern hospitality. And starting this year, it’s getting easier to visit: In late June, United will begin non-stop service from Washington Dulles to Mobile Regional Airport, giving Mid-Atlantic travelers a more convenient way to experience the Port City, and a new Amtrak route that will run from New Orleans and through Mississippi is expected to launch later this year. The new accessibility is one reason Mobile made it onto our list of Best Places to Go in 2024, but it’s far from the only one.

Founded by French settlers in 1702, the city’s history and cultural heritage are vividly reflected in its architecture, food scene, music, and festivals. Mardi Gras started here in 1703—the country’s first—and carries on today with rollicking (yet downright family-friendly) parades where floats toss out, among other trinkets and treats, MoonPies.

In recent years, the city has found fresh ways to communicate and honor its African American history with a string of new and forthcoming exhibits, monuments, and public works. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, for example, will be the gateway to the currently-in-development Civil Rights and Cultural Heritage District that aims to honor, preserve, and renew the area along the historic corridor. And later this summer, the new Isom Clemon Civil Rights Memorial Park is set to open, with a cache of statuary paying homage to Mobile’s Civil Rights history, including a 12-foot bronze sculpture of the park’s namesake, the late Civil Rights and labor leader.

Beyond its thriving culinary scene, too, the city is a stone’s throw from white sand beaches and scenic coastal trails, making it easy to experience a little more of Alabama in one visit. Read on for the best things to do in Mobile, Alabama plus can't miss things to eat and where to stay.

The Best Things to Do

Last summer, the new Africatown Heritage House unveiled Clotilda: The Exhibition, a collection of artifacts and documents that tells the story of the survivors of the last known ship carrying enslaved people to the city, and Africatown, the community they built. Opened last fall, the Historic Avenue Cultural Center opened with Remembering the Avenue. The interactive exhibition encompasses a series of panels charting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue’s heyday and its subsequent redlining and decline, and engages the community for help recording the history of the corridor known as Black Main Street. The exhibition was created in collaboration with the Alabama Contemporary Art Center, which is also worth a visit. Located downtown across from the tree-lined Cathedral Square, the center is home to rotating exhibitions featuring the work of living artists.

To best experience the growing number of sites honoring the city’s Black history, book a Dora Finley Franklin African American Heritage Trail history tour. The two-hour tour highlights and contextualizes more than 40 historical sites in Mobile, including Africatown, the Union Baptist Church (which was organized by freed enslaved people in 1869) and Mobile County Training School, the first African American Training School in Alabama.

Take in the Port City’s diverse food scene with Bienville Bites, a local-led walking tour spotlighting Gulf Coast staples like oysters and beignets. And whether or not your visit coincides with Mardi Gras, spend time perusing the costumes, photos, and memorabilia at the Mobile Carnival Museum, amassed over the event’s more than three century- history. (And stop into the tiny gift shop afterwards for a MoonPie.)

For a look at the city’s nautical history, visit GulfQuest, soon to be called the National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico. The country’s only museum highlighting the Gulf of Mexico is filled with dozens of immersive exhibits, like exploring underwater shipwrecks and piloting a cargo ship.

See more of the region’s natural beauty with a 30 minute drive to Dauphin Island, home to white sand beaches, a bird sanctuary, and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and aquarium. There, learn about the region’s habitats via the 100-plus species on site, and the 7,000-gallon stingray touch pool.

The Best Restaurants in Mobile

When it comes to cuisine, Mobile may be best known for its Gulf seafood and Southern specialties. Find both at The Hummingbird Way, chef Jim Smith’s upscale oyster bar. Start with the biscuit service, sample local Murder Point oysters and clever twists on regional classics, like creole braised duck and grits. Finish with Smith’s take on Alabama’s official state dessert: the bourbon-laced Lane cake with coconut pecan icing. For a more casual seafood feast, try Wintzell's Oyster House, an institution that’s been shucking the Gulf Coast bivalves since 1938. Beyond steak and burgers, The Royal Scam serves some of the best gumbo in town; find an equally esteemed version at Dauphin’s, a fine dining spot set on the 34th floor of the RSA Trustmark Bank Building with panoramic views of Mobile Bay.

Food halls are having a moment in Mobile, starting with Insider, home to six fast casual spots, Box Owt, a new food court inside repurposed shipping containers, and Parc le Tralour, slated to open in May with four different concepts ranging from pizza to tacos.

Dairy devotees cannot miss The Cheese Cottage, a cafe and specialty food shop housed in a charming former filling station. If it’s not too hot, take a seat on the shaded patio outside for khachapuri, mac and cheese, and a variety of other cheese-centric dishes. Red or White wine bar is pouring a dozen wines by the glass alongside wood-fired pizzas and charcuterie boards. For your caffeine fix, head to Yellowhammer Coffee, a local chain with some cheeky seasonal specials like chocolate milk cold brew with MoonPie foam. Alternatively, Ginger & Spice offers a rainbow of fresh-pressed juices and vegan specialties.

For a sweet treat, Mo’Bay Beignet makes the deep-fried fritters to order, doused with a generous flurry of powdered sugar, of course. And at the new Dropout Bakery find a made-from-scratch bounty of cakes, croissants, and cookies, plus a delightfully gooey brown butter cinnamon roll. Come Carnival season, it’s a strong contender for the city’s best King Cake.

Get a taste of Mobile’s nightlife at the new Floridita’s, a restaurant and Cuban bar housed in a former bank—with its vault and safe deposit boxes still intact. (Havana and Mobile are sister cities.) The 21-plus spot has live music on Friday and Saturdays, and lively Salsa lessons on Thursdays.

Where to Stay

To channel some of the city’s old-school opulence, book a room at The Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa. Originally opened in 1852 and visited by a host of political and historical figures (including Woodrow Wilson and Elvis Presley,) the service is warm and rooms are plush and spacious. When the weather heats up, the rooftop pool is a refreshing oasis. And don’t leave without checking out the Whispering Arch, a cool architectural feature on the hotel’s mezzanine where two people can communicate on opposite sides of the room. Ask someone at the front desk to show you how it works.

Late last year, The Admiral joined the downtown hotel landscape, with 156 rooms and suites occupying the 1940s-era Art Deco building. Newly-renovated rooms are decked in purple and gold accents meant to recall Mardi Gras, though without the boisterous connotations, while—come this summer—the landscaped, umbrella-dotted outdoor pool deck will feel just as serene. A rooftop honey bee colony and herb garden contributes ingredients for cocktails in the lobby bar and at the onsite restaurant, Le Moyne's Chophouse.


The article was originally published by Regan Stephens on April 4, 2024. To read the article on Conde Nast Traveler's website, view the link here