Did you know that Mobile, Alabama is the birthplace of Mardi Gras in America?
This little city has a lot of history behind it, and is in the midst of a booming revitalization, with cruises departing twice weekly, world-class dining and upscale accommodations.
So, this week, Peter donned his tails to broadcast radio show from the verandah of The Battle House in historic Mobile. We checked in with some locals to find out where they like to eat and play …
George Moore, Battle House concierge, local historian and 76-year Mobile resident
Not to be confused with its New Orleans counterpart, this small park in downtown Mobile is a quiet little spot to sit back and scope the locals. Mobile is the U.S. sister city to Málaga, Spain, so be sure to check out the statue of Queen Isabella I, which was sculpted in Madrid in 1967 and shipped over to its permanent home in Mobile.
Cooper Riverside Park
Mobile’s heart and soul is its busy port, where cargo ships and Carnival cruise ships sail in and out daily. Take it all in at Cooper Riverside Park along the waterfront—and if you happen to be in town for Independence Day, this is where you’ll catch the best view of fireworks in the city.
Bellingrath Gardens and Home
Springtime in Alabama means azaleas, and this is the place to see them. Bellingrath has been open to the public since 1932, and draw huge crowds each year to view the award-winning seasonal blooms that span 65 acres, and the 10,000-square-foot historic Bellingrath Home. During the holidays, the gardens are transformed into a winter wonderland with 3 million lights and 12 scenes set throughout the property. 12401 Bellingrath Garden Road, Theodore; 800-247-8420, www.bellingrath.org
Charles Mereday, Executive Chef of Trellis at the Battle House
Chef Mereday gives props to Chef Wesley True’s eponymous restaurant. Think of it as a trendy New York-style establishment deeply influenced by down-home Southern cuisine and seasonal ingredients. Try the five-course tasting menu for $55 (add another $50 for wine pairing). 9 Du Rhu Drive, Suite 201, Mobile; 251-344-3334, www.truedine.com
Wintzell’s Oyster House
On his off nights, Chef Mereday likes to takes his family to the Gulf Coast’s favorite oyster house. Known for its oysters served “fried, stewed or nude,” this 70-year-old institution is opening up branches throughout Alabama, but head to the original location on Dauphin Street. You can’t miss the walls filled with wise and witty Wintzell’s sayings, such as: “No matter what happens, there is ALWAYS someone who knew it would.” 605 Dauphin Street, Mobile; 251-432-4605, www.wintzellsoysterhouse.com
Lance the limo driver, Modern Limousine
“It’s a unique little place: not too casual; not too formal.” As a New Orleans transplant, the Bakery Café’s gumbo is Lance’s favorite among the Mobilian restaurant scene. It’s all about the roux, he says—after all, the sign of a true New Orleans-style gumbo is its base of flour and fat, cooked until it’s a deep chocolate brown. 1104 Dauphin Street, Mobile; 251-433-2253
Felix’s Fish Camp Grill
If you’re in the mood for some high-end dining, Felix’s is “top-notch,” says Lance. Dine on fresh-shucked oysters on the half shell, the catch of the day topped with crawfish Oscar, and good old shrimp and grits as you watch the sun set over scenic Mobile Bay. If dining on fresh seafood makes you want to cast your own line, check out the adjoining tackle shop. 1530 Battleship Pkwy., Spanish Fort; 251-626-6710; www.felixsfishcamp.com
Ed Edwards, Owner, Ed Edwards Glass Studio
Former Napa Valley resident Ed Edwards has a few favorites among Mobile’s local art scene, starting with the Mobile Museum of Art, which he says is “a real nice little place.” He also suggests Gallery 54 on Upham Street and Ashland Gallery on Old Shell Road. But you know what? Ed’s own glass studio is a real gem on Dauphin Street. You can watch him in action right there in the studio, layering flat pieces of glass that will then be heated in the kiln to create “fused and slumped” one-of-a-kind pieces. 501 Dauphin Street, Mobile; 251-406-1587, https://edwardsartglass.com
Hank Burch – Manager of the 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center
Blakely State Park
Burch, a nature lover, often points folks in the direction of Blakely State Park. It was the site of the last battle of the Civil War (which ironically occurred after the war ended—back then, news didn’t travel very fast). “You can spend all day exploring the park,” Burch says, with with 3,000 acres of land, and trails running along the waterfront and battlefields. www.blakeleypark.org
Bartram Canoe Trail
If you’re into paddling, the Bartram Canoe Trail is a prime location for canoers and kayakers with a network of rivers, streams and bayous along the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. Hikers can choose from a dozen day and overnight trail routes, where local wildlife is abundant. www.BartramCanoeTrail.com
5 Rivers Delta Resource Center
The five rivers, in case you were wondering, are the Mobile, Spanish, Tensaw, Apalachee and Blakeley. 5 Rivers, a conservation and education center, is at the point where they meet. Though he is loath to promote his own organization, Burch couldn’t help but mention that the Center is definitely worth a visit. Activities include backpacking and hiking trips, outdoor education workshops and various children’s programs. 30945 Five Rivers Boulevard, Spanish Fort; 251-625-0814, www.alabama5rivers.com
By Sarika Chawla for PeterGreenberg.com.
Photos courtesy of Mobile Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau
Get destination guides for more locations with this map of Peter’s previous radio shows…