Mellow Mushroom

Out of This World Pizza, Wings and More in a Fun and Quirky “River City” Inspired Setting

When the Mellow Mushroom location in Decatur went up for sale in 2017, the new owner was just next door. Ryan Helsley owned the Moe’s Barbeque next door and was ready for a new challenge. While Ryan knew the Moe’s brand and barbeque, he was a newbie to the pizza game initially, but felt that both brand espoused similar values with a foundation in good food and good service in timely manner.

He called the foray into pizza making “‘intimidating” because there were more moving parts and almost three times more staff than the Moe’s location required. But, ultimately the idea of good food, cold drinks and a unique workforce.

While Mellow Mushroom is known for its pizza variety, Ryan says the most popular at this location seems to be Holy Shiitake, an olive oil and garlic base with shiitake, button and Portobelo mushrooms, caramelized onions, mozzarella and MontAmore. It’s finished with a garlic aioli swirl and spritz of black truffle oil and garnished with fresh chives and shaved Parmesan.

The wings are also a popular choice at the restaurant particularly the new “Cloud 9 Wings” which are double baked and coated in a rich garlic parmesan sauce with a hint if heat. They are garnished with grated aged parmesan and chives and served with the traditional wings sides of carrots, celery and ranch or bleu cheese.

Salads are a surprise favorite at the restaurant something Ryan attributes largely to the fact that the corporate office for Mellow Mushroom is always creating and testing new recipes. The salad menu, which ranges from a basic caesar or Greek salad to a bacon and bleu cheese wedge and an Enlightened Spinach Salad, also features exotic dressings like “Pomegranate Acai” that are sure to delight every dinner at the restaurant.

The location, like all Mellow Mushroom locations, is decorated in a unique style, with a nod to the surrounding area’s history, culture or population. For instance, here in the “River City,” the focal point of the funky interior design is a jon boat that hangs overhead and has been converted into a chandelier.

  • 202 Moulton Street E, Decatur, AL 35601
  • 256.355.5161

Simp McGhee’s

Featured in Alabama Tourism’s Guide “100 Alabama Dishes to Try Before You Die”

When Christy Wheat started working as a server at Simp McGhee’s, she thought it would be a fun way to make some money while she went back to school. “Things changed, I fell in love with it, and I’ve been here ever since,” she said. After ten years, she bought the restaurant.

These days, the 35-year-old Bank Street restaurant is a favorite for locals and is often called “Decatur’s Favorite Corporate Gathering Spot.” Although it bills itself as “fine dining with a cajun twist, “Simp McGhee’s is more than just good food. It has become as iconic as the river boat captain whose name it bears.

Simp McGhee was a notorious river boat captain who was known to navigate the most dangerous stretches of the Tennessee River at full throttle, rather than the slower, safer way the law required. He was also known for his antics around town, including drinking beer at local bars with his pet pig.

Everyone who comes through Simp McGhee’s doors has a different favorite dish, but the Stuffed Mushroom Caps are so legendary the Alabama Department of Tourism declared them one of the “100 Alabama Dishes to Try Before You Die.” Other favorites on the menu include the “Pontchartrain” which is fresh fish, topped with bay shrimp, crab, mushrooms and green onions and served on a bed of brown rice or the “Dean’s Delight” is a prime tenderloin served with gulf shrimp, cajun alfredo sauce and pasta.

From September to April, you can find Christy’s husband, John, shucking oysters at the bar on Friday nights. In fact, most of Decatur can be found there, according to Christy. “You can’t walk through the door without everybody having to stop and talk,” she said. Whether you are looking for cajun food, seafood, steak, pasta or one of Simp McGhee’s other specialty dishes, there is something for everyone and no trip to Decatur is complete without stopping in to experience the old-world charm of the restaurant.

  • 724 Bank Street NE, Decatur, AL 35601
  • 256.353.6284
  • simpmcghees.com
  • @simpmcghees on social media

Moe’s Original Bar B Que

The Perfect Combination of Great Barbeque and Nightly Fun in the Heart of Downtown Decatur

from EXCURSIONS GUESTBOOK HUNTSVILLE, MADISON & DECATUR 10th Anniversary Edition by EXCURSIONS BY CITYVISION

Ryan Helsley was already a devotee to the Moe’s Original Bar B Que brand when he got the chance to purchase the Decatur location of the restaurant. He had managed locations in Tuscaloosa and Auburn and had been a co-owner at a location in Panama City, FL, but Huntsville was home for his wife and Decatur is near her family. The fact that he could move his family closer to their extended family and still stay with the brand he loved made it the perfect choice.

So in 2015, Ryan and his family moved to Decatur and began operating the Moe’s Original Bar B Que in the heart of the downtown arts and entertainment district.Ryan said he loves the culture, family and “bulletproof concept” the Moe’s brand offers.

“There’s a reason I started with Moe’s in 2010 and decided to make a career out of it,” Ryan said. The restaurant is much more than barbeque though, offering a full bar, late-night hours and live music two or three days a week. The location in the entertainment district makes Moe’s a frequent stop for late-night visitors looking for a place to grab food and a nightcap after a show at the historic Princess Theatre or other location nearby. Last year, Ryan also opened a second Moe’s location in Priceville, just seven miles away from his original Decatur location.

While slow-smoked pulled pork barbeque topped in a house-made, sweet and tangy BBQ sauce is what Moe’s has always been known for, Ryan says the jumbo smoked wings are a constant fan favorite. The wings are served with celery and a creamy Alabama-style white BBQ sauce for dipping.

Ryan also said the fried catfish and fried shrimp sandwich are popular for those looking for something different. The sandwich features golden brown fried shrimp served on a toasted bun with creamy tartar sauce and cool, crisp marinated slaw and pickles.

There are also daily specials and events that make Moe’s Original Bar B Que a great location for family-friendly fun or a night out on the town.

  • MOE’S ORIGINAL BAR B QUE
  • 202 Moulton Street E, Decatur, AL 256.353.6284 (Open Late)
  • 3524 Deere Road, Priceville, AL 256.686.1462 (Closes 8 pm)
  • 200 Main St W, Hartselle, AL 35640 256.502.8092
  • moesoriginalbbq.com
  • @mobdecatur

The Cupboard

The best little locally-owned gourmet kitchen shop in North Alabama

from EXCURSIONS GUESTBOOK HUNTSVILLE, MADISON & DECATUR 10th Anniversary Edition by EXCURSIONS BY CITYVISION

Being north Alabama’s only gourmet kitchen shop is a big responsibility, but Ginger Cobl loves talking kitchen supplies and cooking with anyone who comes through her doors. She also works tirelessly to source her unique items from local farms, small businesses, and crafters.

“From day one, I have tried to make a big focus on bringing in other small or family-owned businesses;” Ginger said. As a result, about 95% of the items she has curated are from small businesses, generating an impressive array of cutlery, cookware, pottery, gourmet food items and more. Among those brands are the local 1818 Farms, which she became the first brick-and-mortar store to sell, and German knife brand Wusthof, which isn’t local but has been family-owned since the early-1800s. The knowledge of the people who make the items she sells, and the assurances of quality items creates a partnership among the dozens of small businesses whose products are featured in the shop.

“It’s fun to be able to work with other small businesses to do fun things,” Ginger said. One of those fun things is her “Cook the Book” event series that is now entering its third year. She chooses a cookbook, and the participants must purchase the book from her and prepare a recipe from it. The participants then enjoy the dishes and discuss the intricacies of each recipe. She describes it as a “book club for foodies.”

“It’s a really great way to delve a little bit deeper into a cookbook than you would on your own,” Ginger said. The books for the event have included Mimi Thorisson’s international books for French and Italian cooking, as well as others, such as “Beautiful Platters and Delicious Boards,” “Ama A Modern Tex-Mex Kitchen” and “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”

The Cupboard is so much more than just a store that sells kitchen items, Ginger has turned her shop into a one-stop for anyone with a love of food and people. In the eight years since she opened, Ginger has met a number of people from all over the world, learned their stories and helped build their businesses together. She loves cooking and helping others cook, but her passion for people is even greater. Helping an individual find the right items for them has set her store apart since it opened and her individual attention to customers keeps the regulars coming back and first-time visitors feeling like family. “Food brings the world together,” Ginger said. “It doesn’t matter what your background is, you can always find common ground around food GOOD food.”

THE CUPBOARD

Princess Theatre Center for Performing Arts

The Entertainment Icon of Downtown Decatur for More Than 100 Years

from EXCURSIONS GUESTBOOK HUNTSVILLE, MADISON & DECATUR 10th Anniversary Edition by EXCURSIONS BY CITYVISION

The historic Princess Theatre anchors the downtown Arts and location is an attraction all by itself, with its unique art deco style from the 1940s, terrazzo floor map of the state in the lobby, landmark two-story marquee on the front and blacklight reactive murals that decorate the auditorium. But the theatre is also home to many local productions and traveling shows that use the 677-seat facility to reach Decatur residents, the North Alabama region and beyond.

photo: Brent Boyd

The Princess Theatre is a boon to the economy, drawing tourism from across the U.S.The building was constructed in 1887as a livery stable for horses, but in 1919, the building was converted into a silent film theatre and vaudeville playhouse. Then, in 1941, the theatre underwent an-other transformation. This time the Princess gained the art deco style that most visitors now associate with the Princess.In 1978, the movie house closed and the city of Decatur was able to purchase and renovate the old building, preserving and revitalizing the 1940s-style decor.

Due to the pandemic, Centennial celebrations took place 101 years after the Princess’s birthday. Now, new concerts, comedy, dance, live theatre and more are being added to the Princess Theatre’s calendar on a weekly basis. The Theatre hosted the inaugural Marquee Awards, a Grammy-inspired event that marks the culmination of the nonprofit’s annual fundraiser with a showcase of the types of entertainment that grace the Princess Theatre’s stage year-round.

One of the ongoing attractions at the theatre is the singer/songwriter series hosted in the theatre’s listening loft. As the series has grown, this elevated experience has gained momentum. Top-tier artists from all over the country request a slot in the lineup. The monthly songwriter schedule is listed on the Theatre’s website, along with movies, concerts, live performances, seasonal shows and more. One of the newest and most exciting additions to the website is a virtual tour of the Princess Theatre.

photo: Brent Boyd

This “bird’s eye’ view of the historic, nonprofit venue, and a full calendar of upcoming events can be found at www.princesstheatre.org.

Contact Info

112 2nd Avenue NE, Decatur, AL 35601; 256.350.1745; princesstheatre.org; @princesstheatrecenter on social media.

Decatur’s Rich History

from EXCURSIONS GUESTBOOK HUNTSVILLE, MADISON & DECATUR 10th Anniversary Edition by EXCURSIONS BY CITYVISION

Delano Park is the oldest park in the city of Decatur, Alabama. It was created in 1887, as part of a master plan to “re-invent” the City of Decatur, then New Decatur.

A Brief History of The River City

By John Allison, Morgan County Archivist. Photographs courtesy of Morgan County Archives, Decatur, Alabama.

Decatur, Alabama’s history has been entwined from its beginning with that of the Tennessee River. The river has sustained the area’s residents with life-giving water and nourishment ever since the first PaleoIndian peoples arrived in the area up to 11,000 years ago. Decatur’s particular location is due to its position at the head of the Muscle Shoals, a rocky area in the river and an obstacle to river traffic in the days before the Tennessee Valley Authority tamed it with a series of dams in the 1930’s.

Early Residents

Archaeological evidence at the quad site on the north bank of the Tennessee River at Decatur indicates that people seasonally camped along the river for thousands of years, hunting, fishing and gathering mussels, a dependable source of food. Many rock shelters and riverfront camp sites and at least one mound were excavated in the Decatur area by WPA workers in the 1930’s. These excavations and others yielded thousands of artifacts, including several types of projectile points unique to the area. After construction at Decatur’s Riverwalk Marina revealed ancient human remains in 1999, local people put up a monument commemorating the site.

The area’s earliest residents in historical time were Cherokee and Chickasaw. These people occasionally clashed over control of the Tennessee Valley but for the most part a truce existed in the sparsely populated area. No major settlements were recorded in Morgan County during this time, although nearby chiefs exercised great influence over commerce and travel. A series of four Native American interpretive walking trails are being constructed at Point Mallard Park that tell stories of the lives of these early residents of the Decatur area. The Chief Doublehead and Chief Black Fox walking trails, opened in May 2016, highlight the lives of Cherokees. The Chief Big Foot (Creek) and Chief Colbert (Chickasaw) trails recently opened.

The Treaty of Turkey Town in 1816 ceded Cherokee rights to the area south of the Tennessee River, and in 1818 the U.S. Government officially opened the land to white settlers for purchase. Some whites, known as squatters, had already illegally settled on the land. Most Native Americans in the area who remained after white arrival blended into the local population, their heritage passed down through private family oral tradition.

Decatur Parks and Recreation unveiled four American Indian Interpretive Walking Trails in 2016 to honor Decatur’s Native American history.
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Dedication of the Cherokee Trail of Tears historical marker.

Decatur Established

In 1818, the Alabama Territorial Legislature established Cotaco County, renamed Morgan County after Revolutionary War General Daniel Morgan in 1821. In 1820, entrepreneur Dr. Henry Rhodes began a ferry service at the site of today’s Rhodes Ferry Park in Decatur. Later that year, President James Monroe promoted the establishment of a town at this ferry crossing, at the last consistently navigable point on the Tennessee River above the Muscle Shoals. Tradition holds that the President requested the town be named for U.S. Naval hero Commodore Stephen Decatur, who had died after a duel in March 1820. Rhodes, along with Jesse Winston Garth, McKinney Holderness, Isaac Lane and George Peck founded the Decatur Land Company. They purchased patents for land and laid out the original plan of the town. Settlement began as new residents bought lots and established businesses in the new river town. The beautiful Palladian-influenced Dancy Polk House, built in 1829 by Col. Francis Dancy, is the oldest standing structure in Decatur and is indicative of the promise of wealth in the young community. Decatur’s most iconic landmark is the Old State Bank. The Greek revival structure was originally built as a branch of the Bank of Alabama. The Alabama General Assembly established the staterun bank system, with other branches in Montgomery and Mobile, in 1830. Its creators hoped that the bank would be able to provide investors with the capital to spur development and provide a source of revenue for state government. After a brief period of apparent prosperity, flaws in the system were exposed during the nationwide financial panic of 1837. By 1840, the Decatur Branch had an outstanding debt of one million dollars. The bank’s charter was revoked in 1842. In the years to come, the bank served as a private residence, as a hospital during the Civil War, as a boarding house and tavern, as a bank again and as an American Legion hall. The bank has served as a museum and civic hall since 1934. In 1982, it was restored to its original configuration, including a first floor cashier’s cage and a second floor apartment furnished in the Federal style of the 1830s and 1840s.

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Old State Bank
Union soldiers dig trenches on Bank Street, 1864.

Early Railroad in Decatur

In Decatur’s history, the railroads are second only to the Tennessee River in significance. The Tuscumbia, Courtland and Decatur Railroad was the first rail line west of the Alleghany Mountains. The brainchild of investor and Lawrence County planter Benjamin Sherrod, the TC & D was designed so that travelers and cargo on the Tennessee River could move easily and dependably around the treacherous Muscle Shoals. The railroad was chartered in 1832 by less than 100 stockholders, most of them prominent planters from Morgan, Lawrence and Colbert Counties. Early progress was slow, but by December 1834 crowds welcomed the “Fulton,” the railroad’s first steam locomotive as it rolled into Decatur from Tuscumbia. The little railroad struggled to turn a profit, but Sherrod stuck with his dream, shoring it up with infusions of capital until his death in 1847.

The TC &D’s most famous passengers were displaced Cherokees on the “Trail of Tears.” A new Alabama Historical Commission marker at Rhodes Ferry Park commemorates the passage of the Ridge, Deas and Whiteley detachments of Cherokee people from Georgia and Tennessee through Decatur in 1837 and 1838. A National Park Service trailhead is also in development that will include narrative panels that explain the history of Cherokee removal, the railroad’s role and the “witness structures” in Decatur that stood in 1838.

The TC & D was incorporated into the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, and in 1855 the first railroad bridge across the Tennessee River at Decatur was completed. The location of this river crossing on the South’s most important rail artery from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Coast added to Decatur’s importance.

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The Depot as it appeared in 1905.

By 1860, Decatur was also a terminus of the Nashville and Decatur Railroad, making the River City one of the more important crossroads of rail and river travel in the Southeast. This promising distinction unfortunately led to Decatur’s destruction during the Civil War, as the city changed hands as many as nine times between the Union and Confederate armies.

The Civil War

Decatur’s unique geographic position made it a prime staging location for campaigns during the War. Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston gathered his forces here in March of 1862 before marching to the battle of Shiloh, where he was killed. In April, Union forces under Col. John Turchin took Decatur and burned the strategic railroad bridge. In 1864, Union troops forced most of the city’s inhabitants to leave so that the city could be fortified to protect one of General Sherman’s crucial supply lines for his Georgia campaign. In the process, most of the town’s structures were demolished. The Old State Bank, the Burleson-McEntire House, the Dancy-Polk House and a Southern Railway. The Nashville and Decatur Railroad was incorporated into the Louisville and Nashville (L&N) in the 1870s and located a massive car repair works at Decatur that employed up to 3,000 workers. The railroad expansion attracted many businesses to Decatur during this period. In 1887, the Decatur Land Improvement and Furnace Company laid out the city of New Decatur, south and east of the old city and contiguous to it. The new development, backed by both Northern and Southern investors, sought to become “The Chicago of the South.” Modern water, electric and sewer services began to be laid out, along with rail branch lines to factories along the southern bank of the river. A yellow fever epidemic broke out in 1888, severely limiting new investment and stunting the massive growth that the investors anticipated. An obelisk in the city cemetery honors the doctors who perished treating those afflicted by the epidemic. Still, the new town’s development was impressive. In spite of many leaders’ efforts to unite the two cities, much animosity developed between them, and residents voted to change the name of New Decatur to Albany in 1916. Many wealthy migrants to New Decatur built stately mansions in the area that is now the nationally registered Albany Historic Neighborhood. The crown jewel of the neighborhood was a beautiful public green space now known as Delano Park, improved over the years with a dramatic rose garden, gazebo and other features.

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Dancy-Polk House
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Burleson-Hinds McEntire House

In October 1864, John Bell Hood and the Army of Tennessee surrounded Union troops at Decatur. Hood wanted to cross the river at Decatur for a quick route to the Union supply depot at Nashville, but strong Union fortifications and Union gunboats above the Muscle Shoals made an assault on Decatur too costly. Hood lost as many as 500 men assaulting the works at Decatur before heading west. Hood’s delay gave Union forces time to prepare for his arrival in Tennessee, where his army was nearly annihilated at the battles of Franklin and Nashville.

Decatur and the surrounding countryside was thoroughly destroyed by the war’s end. After a period of great struggle, the town began to rebound in the 1870s and 1880s with the rebuilding and expansion of the rail lines that passed through the area and the resumption of trade along the Tennessee River. The Memphis and Charleston Railroads rebuilt the railroad bridge in 1866 and later became the rail artery from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Coast and added to Decatur’s importance.

The Civil War exhibit in the Morgan County Archives.
The story of Decatur’s role in the war is dramatically illustrated by a Civil War Walking Trail and by a major exhibit in the Morgan County Archives.

Decatur’s railroad growth was accompanied by the construction of three new train depots, one of which remains standing. Decatur’s Union Depot, so named because both the Southern Railway and the L & N boarded passengers there, was built in 1905. The depot was in operation until 1978. It sat empty from then until 2015 when work began to renovate the space into a railroad museum and offices for the Decatur Police Department.

The railroad also spurred the growth of Old Town, Decatur’s oldest neighborhood, just west of the Union Depot. Old Town was racially integrated, and as the turn of the twentieth century approached it became home to a number of African-American owned businesses. Black professionals and business owners joined churches and civic organizations that provided leadership for the Old Town community. A new gateway marker placed on Vine Street at the entrance of the neighborhood tells the stories of this unique neighborhood.

New Decatur’s business district became the commercial heart of the town, with dozens of businesses, restaurants, hotels and theatres. The historic Princess Theatre was originally built in the 1880s as a massive stable, and later converted into a vaudeville theatre and movie house. It was thoroughly remodeled into its current art deco form in 1941.

The two Decaturs were finally united in 1927, as business leaders united to lobby for the location of the “Bee Line Highway” (U.S. 31) bridge at Decatur. The opening of the Keller Memorial Bridge was a major event and cemented Decatur’s importance as a crossroads of water, rail and road travel. Today’s Hudson Memorial Bridge, named for Captain “Steamboat Bill” Hudson is located at the spot of the original bridge, demolished in 1998.

Wild Steamboat Days and the River Tamed

The completion of the Muscle Shoals Canal in 1890 increased steamboat travel on the Tennessee River. Legendary captains like the infamous Simp McGhee made names for themselves on the river and in increasingly wild port towns like Decatur. One of Decatur’s oldest and finest restaurants on Bank Street is named for the captain. Liquor flowed in the bars and gaming houses near the water. Violence often erupted in “Dead Man’s Alley” behind Bank Street between Lafayette and Church. Even after prohibition, bootlegging and speakeasies proliferated. One local fixture of the vice community was Kate Lackner, a madam who ran a large “sporting house” at the corner of Market St. that entertained customers from the 1880s until the 1940s.

The Princess Theatre was built in the 1880s.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited Decatur in 1932 and declared that poverty in the Tennessee Valley would be a major focus of federal efforts during the “New Deal.” The Tennessee Valley Authority built a series of dams that finally tamed the river and provided hydroelectric power to millions. Decatur billed itself as “the TVA Town” and recruited businesses with the promise of cheap electricity and easy transportation.

Today, Decatur continues to be known as a prime spot for industry, with industries like United Launch Alliance, Daikin America, 3M and many others located along the river.

Adventures Await in Morgan County

From golf courses to museums and historical sites, Decatur/Morgan County has the perfect agenda for every traveler.

Alabama’s Largest Victorian-Era Historic Districts

The Old Decatur and Albany Historic Districts of Decatur make up the largest concentration of Victorian-era craftsmen and bungalow homes in Alabama. Often referred to as “The Painted Ladies,” some date to the early 1800s, while others were constructed around the turn of the century. Both are listed in the National Register of Historical Places. A detailed tour map and brochure are available at the Decatur Visitor Center on 6th Ave.

The Old Decatur Historic District embraces over 116-acres with houses ranging in age from 1829 to the present. Styles vary from the French-influenced Empire period to the Edwardian Cottage and beyond.

The New Decatur

Albany Historic District was founded by northern businessmen in the late 1800’s and was named after the New York state capital. Styles reflect early 20th century trends such as Colonial Revival, California Cottage, Dutch Colonial, and Frank Lloyd Wright influences.

Carnegie Visual Arts Center

Carnegie Visual Arts Center is a not-for-profit organization, the center is a cultural, educational and community service organization providing an environment to promote learning, creation and appreciation of the visual arts. It also preserves one of the area’s historical buildings and serves as a multi-purpose community resource. Check website for latest events. {207 Church Street NE, Decatur, 256.341.0562, carnegiearts.org}

Cook Museum of Natural Science

The Cook Museum of Natural Science is in downtown Decatur. The new 60,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility will serve the people of North Alabama and the Southeast as an educational destination as well as a premier tourism attraction. The museum will be an interactive immersion into North American biomes, from deserts to oceans, to arctic tundra and hardwood forests. Each exhibit will be a part of a narrative explaining how the natural world works. Key features of the new museum will include: educational programs, live animals and aquariums, mounted wildlife from across North America, collections of rocks minerals, fossils, shells and coral, native plant landscaping, café with outdoor patio, three classrooms, theater and museum store. You will experience nature close-up through interactive exhibits, including live animals, an immersive cave experience, a 15,000-gallon saltwater aquarium, and much more. For more information please visit their website, cookmuseum.org.

Hartselle’s Historic Depot and Downtown

Sixty-nine of the buildings in the central business district of Hartselle, including the Hartselle Depot, have been nominated for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places because of their architectural and historic significance. The Depot, built in 1914, includes historical displays provided by the Hartselle Historical Society. The popular downtown shops offer such items as imported Mexican pewter, artwork by local artists and crafters, linens, soaps, and all kinds of antiques, from glassware to large furniture items. {110 Railroad St. SW, Hartselle; 800.294.0692, 256.773.4370; hartsellechamber.com}

Morgan County Archives

Located in the 1927 Tennessee Valley Bank Building in the Bank Street Historical District of Decatur. Holdings total approximately 1,500 cubic feet of archival and manuscript materials including the original estate and guardianship case files, birth and death ledgers, marriage records (1819-1930), tax records dating from the 1920s, county commission records, circuit court records and newspapers. Genealogical materials include census, family histories and bible records. The Morgan County Archives features two new state-of-the-art permanent exhibits on the Scottsboro Boys Trial in Decatur and the Civil War in Morgan County. {624 Bank St. NE, 256.351.4726}

Old State Bank

The Old State Bank was one of three banks authorized by The Alabama General Assembly in 1832. Few structures can boast as varied a past as the Bank. Since its construction, the building has weathered two depressions and a Civil War and has served as a hospital, guardhouse, bank and dance hall. Named to the National Register of Historical Places in 1972, the Classic Revival architecture of the Bank is symbolic of the period in which it was built. The building is decorated with antique pieces from the Federal and Empire period. It is the first stop on the Civil War Walking Tour of Decatur. Founders Park and Daikin Amphitheatre are also located on the Old Bank property. {925 Bank Street NE, 256.341.4818}

Point Mallard Park

Point Mallard Park is designed to provide family recreation opportunities throughout the year. A 35-acre water theme area (open daily summer months) offers America’s first Wave Pool, the Duck Pond and Squirt Factory kid’s pools, Lazy River Ride, two new drop slides and more! The Park also features a scenic 18-hole, par 72 championship golf course; a 25-acre wooded campground; the Strike Zone driving range and batting cages; lighted tennis courts; ball fields; a recreation center; amphitheater; and an indoor Ice Skating complex (open year-round). Call for seasonal facility hours. {256.341.4900. pointmallardpark.com}

Princess Theatre Center for Performing Arts

The historic Princess Theatre anchors the downtown Arts and Entertainment District. The location is an attraction all by itself, with its unique art deco style from the 1940s, a terrazzo floor map of the state in the lobby, landmark two-story marquee on the front and blacklight-reactive murals that decorate the auditorium. But the theatre is also home to many local productions and traveling shows that use the 677-seat facility to reach Decatur residents, the North Alabama region and beyond. The Princess Theatre is a boon to the economy, drawing tourists from across the U.S.

The building was constructed in 1887 as a livery stable for horses, but in 1919, the building was converted into a silent film theatre and vaudeville playhouse. Then, in 1941, the theatre underwent another transformation. This time the Princess gained the art deco style that most visitors now associate with the Princess.

In 1978, the movie house closed and the city of Decatur was able to purchase and renovate the old building, preserving and revitalizing the 1940s-style decor.

Due to the pandemic, Centennial celebrations took place 101 years after the Princess’s birthday. Now, new concerts, comedy, dance, live theatre and more are being added to the Princess Theatre’s calendar on a weekly basis.

The Theatre hosted the inaugural Marquee Awards, a Grammy-inspired event that marks the culmination of the nonprofit’s annual fundraiser with a showcase of the types of entertainment that grace the Princess Theatre’s stage year-round.

One of the ongoing attractions at the theatre is the singer/songwriter series hosted in the theatre’s listening loft. As the series has grown, this elevated experience has gained momentum. Top-tier artists from all over the country request a slot in the lineup. The monthly songwriter schedule is listed on the Theatre’s website, along with movies, concerts, live performances, seasonal shows and more.

One of the newest and most exciting additions to the website is a virtual tour of the Princess Theatre. This “bird’s eye” view of the historic, nonprofit venue and a full calendar of upcoming events can be found at www.princesstheatre.org.

Historic Decatur Union Depot Museum

The restored Historic Decatur Union Depot Museum links the historic downtown to the city’s oldest neighborhood and to the city’s historic center of its African-American cultural heritage. Today, the museum portion occupies the foyer and west passenger waiting room (for artifact display), a second portion of the same waiting room (theater) and the ticket office (model train display). The entire loading area has been restored and is open to the public for amazing train watching with the nearest main track only 12 feet from the loading dock. {701 Railroad St, Decatur}

The Region’s Premier Destination for Art Education

Founded in 2012, the Alabama Center for the Arts is a partnership between Athens State University and Calhoun Community College, with collaboration from the City of Decatur and Morgan County. The campus, located in beautiful downtown Decatur, consists of two state-of-the-art buildings, where students can take several types of courses in art, theatre, graphic design, and music. College courses taught here can lead to Associate of Science and Bachelor of Arts degrees.

At 44,000 square feet, the Performing Arts Center features a 150-seat recital hall with a digital projector for films and lectures, a 300-seat black box theatre, a recording studio with two booths for sound engineering, sound-proof rehearsal rooms, a space for set construction, a music lab, computer lab, dressing rooms and smart classrooms. alabamacenterforthearts.org

Trails and Tours

The Alabama Scenic River Trail is the longest and most experience-rich river trail in America—from mountain streams to multi-class whitewater to river delta and the salty waves of the Gulf of Mexico. Paddling and powerboat experiences and exploration abound along over 5,300 miles of accessible waterways with over 50 adventure services to serve and assist you. We have organized a network of volunteer Trail Angels who can help you plan and conduct your journey. We have amenities and campsites to support everything from long-distance touring to organized paddles to races, overnight trips or any kind of day trip you might imagine. alabamascenicrivertrail.com

Point Mallard Indian Interpretive Trail

The Point Mallard Indian Interpretive Trail is a 5.5-mile natural walking trail through the wooded areas of Point Mallard Park. Divided into four trails, all connected throughout the park, we honor local Cherokee chiefs, Doublehead and Black Fox; Creek Chief, Bigfoot; and Chickasaw Chief, George Colbert. The walking trail will celebrate Indian culture in Morgan County and the Tennessee River area, as well as provide a beautiful walking experience for all to enjoy. The trail also includes a children’s amphitheater for educational experiences and performers.

Battle for Decatur Civil War Walking Tour

The Civil War Walking Tour is located in the Old Decatur and New Albany Historic Districts, just off the southern bank of the Tennessee River near downtown Decatur. Covering 13 blocks, the self-guided walking tour chronicles events surrounding Confederate General John Bell Hood’s attempt to advance across the Tennessee River, a four-day battle that took place in October of 1864.

North Alabama Birding Trail

Decatur-Morgan County is part of the central loop of the North Alabama Birding Trail, which features over 50 designated stations that allow visitors to observe the birds in their native habitats. There are eighteen stations located along the central loop, including eight within the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Morgan County. The Refuge embraces both banks of the Tennessee River and is home to more than 300 species of birds.

Amen Trail

The Amen Trail is located in Decatur and throughout Morgan County. Many of the churches are at least 100 years old, on its original site and still hold services today. This self-guided tour recognizes churches that define the heart of Decatur and Morgan County’s rich and diverse cultural and spiritual heritage. Two of the 19 churches listed on the Amen Trail are also a part of North Alabama’s Hallelujah Trail, which was published in The National Geographic’s Driving Tours of Appalachia.

Downtown Turtle Trail

Take the Downtown Turtle Trail and find 10 bronze turtles located along Decatur’s historic 2nd Avenue. Learn about the significant places and events that helped make Downtown Decatur what it is today along the way! decaturdowntown.org/turtle-trail

MoCo Mural Trail

Take a free mural tour of Morgan County Alabama! Unique and vibrant murals are popping up all throughout MoCo! You can mix and match any of the locations on the MoCo Mural Trail to best fit your location and itinerary! Did we mention it’s FREE?

Flint Creek Canoe Trail

The Flint Creek Canoe Trail opened in 2018, providing access to the interior of the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge and the many birding and recreational opportunities that surround it. Additionally, the nearby Sipsey River in Bankhead National Forest is a popular spot for canoeing. The river, designated a “Wild and Scenic River,” is best in Spring and late Winter. This is part of the Alabama Scenic River Trail.

Appalachian Recreation

Morgan County is the focal point of all outdoor recreation on the 67,100-acre Wheeler Reservoir (Wheeler Lake) on the Tennessee River. It’s the largest lake in the region, stretching approximately 60 miles. Wheeler Lake is basically a wide river until it flows through the City of Decatur, after which it widens considerably and takes on more of the appearance and characteristics of an impoundment. Decatur has played host to many national fishing events, including the Bassmaster Top 150 Tournament, Bassmaster Invitational, Walmart FLW and the Crappie USA National Championship. Wheeler presents a mixture of deep drop-offs and shallow banks; narrow tributaries and wide-open spaces. There is flooded timber, grass beds and seemingly bottomless depths; quiet coves, brushy sloughs and wave-washed cliffs. Wheeler represents the southernmost point for the natural habitat of smallmouth bass, making the area home to many lunkers. Largemouth bass, spotted bass, crappie, stripe and catfish are all popular game fish. Wheeler Lake is on the Alabama Bass Trail and is considered one of the country’s best fisheries for catfish.

Wheeler Wildlife Refuge

Established in 1938 as an experimental home for waterfowl, the Refuge encompasses 34,500-acres of preserved woodlands. The Givens Wildlife Interpretive Center serves as the welcome center for the Refuge and is also one of the South’s largest educational centers for waterfowl and wildlife study. The center features a large glass-enclosed observatory and is open to self-guided tours with displays, pamphlets and wildlife films. The Givens Center is open free to the public daily {Highway 67, 256.350.6639. fws.gov/wheeler}

Marinas

Ingalls Harbor

The marina is also one of the sites on the Alabama Bass Trail. Includes fishing boat launch, parking and green space suitable for family gatherings and festivals. Future additions include a riverboat docking area, visitors center and Tennessee River Heritage Museum. {701 Market Street, NW. Mile Marker #303.5} decaturparks.com

Riverwalk Marina

Includes private slips and boathouses, public launching ramps, vending area, Hard Dock restaurant, boat sales and dockside gas/oil. {Located on the north bank of the Tennessee River on Hwy. 31. Mile Marker #305} decatursports.com

Brickyard Landing

Includes 240 dry docks, boat repair, waterfront marina store, dockside gas/oil. No public launch ramp. {Located on the south bank of the Tennessee River on Hwy. 20. Mile Marker #303.5} brickyardlandingmarina.net

Jay Landings Marina & RV Park

Includes wet-slips, vending, RV sites and public launching for a fee. {Located on the south bank of the Tennessee River on Hwy. 20. Mile Marker #302.5} jaylandingsmarina.com

Golf Courses

Point Mallard Park – Decatur

Redesigned by South Carolina golf course architect John LaFoy, the course features 18 manicured Tiftdwarf Bermuda greens designed to United States Golf Association specifications Tee time reservations may be made up to three days in advance and group or company outings are welcome. Recognized as “The Best Public Course to Play” by the Tennessee Valley Golf News and as one of the best three public courses to play in the state by members of the Dixie Section of the Professional Golfers Association of America. Point Mallard golf course facilities include a modern clubhouse with a pro shop, restaurant and shower and restroom areas. Open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. 15 percent discount for Senior Citizens. Tee times: 256.341.4921, Pro Shop: 256.341.4925

Quail Creek – Hartselle

An 18-hole, par 71 course laid out on 6,007 yards on Nat Key Road. Open year-round. qcresort.com

See Decatur Morgan County Tourism or ExcursionsGo.com for more.

Best Places to Ring in the New Year in North Alabama

2021 is coming to a close, and we’ve got the best places to ring in 2022 in north Alabama! Happy New Year!

Hopper’s Bar & Grill

Don’t miss the exciting New Year’s Eve party at Hopper’s Bar & Grill in the Holiday Inn in Huntsville! There will be three bands, a DJ, and a dinner buffet to ring in the new year.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House – Huntsville

Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Huntsville invites you to make plans to join them at their new “Home of Serious Steaks” at Twickenham Place. After 10 years of distinctive Huntsville dining, they’ve moved to a brand new location and designed a restaurant space where you can enjoy Happy Hour daily from 4-6:30 PM in our bar and lounge and dinner nightly from 5 PM on in our dining rooms. New Year’s Eve – 3pm-midnight.

Photo: Ruth’s Chris Steak House

Stella’s Elixir Lounge

Stella’s Rooftop NYE 2022 will kickoff celebrating among the Stars! Celebrity guest, Aiden Zhane from RuPaul’s Drag Race, will be featured for the evening at Sapphire Starlington’s always spectacular Drag Show! After the show, we will be ringing in the New Year with DJs Caleb and Dustin starting at 11pm and toast to 2022 with champagne!

Stovehouse

To celebrate the new year, Stovehouse is offering a sneak peek of The Electric Belle, our new bar inside The Belle at Stovehouse. Dress up or dress down, and come inside The Belle at Stovehouse from 9pm until 1am on New Year’s Eve for a night of music, drinks, and games! Signature cocktails and an all-night DJ will keep things rocking until that ball drops! Warm up your voice for Auld Lang Syne and come ring in the new year—Stovehouse-style! 21+ only. Tickets are $10. Free advance tickets are sold out!

SideBar

Don’t miss SideBar’s New Year’s Eve Bar Crawl! Click SideBar for more info and passes!

Oasis Bar

Spend New Year’s Eve at Oasis Bar watching the CFP games! Opens at 2pm on Friday, December 31.

Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse – Birmingham

Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Birmingham will be open from 3pm-midnight in order to celebrate New Year’s Eve in style! Ruth’s Chris is situated in the lobby of the Embassy Suites Hotel, conveniently located just off the Red Mountain Expressway between the Homewood and Mountain Brook neighborhoods.

Photo: Ruth’s Chris Steak House

Mom’s Basement 

Spend New Year’s Eve at Mom’s Basement in Avondale! Open from 2pm-2am.

‘Tis the Season to be Merry!

‘Tis the season for Christmas lights and fun! Nothing can get you in the Christmas spirit like checking out beautiful Christmas lights and attending fun holiday events! Check out these fun places and let us know what your favorite is.

Cruising with Santa – Rocket City Rover

Join Santa for a grown up Christmas crawl with Rocket City Rover in downtown Huntsville. Everyone becomes Santa’s bad little elves on December 19 and 20. Christmas trivia games, naughty Holiday jokes and of course “Christmas Spirits” to keep you in a festive mood.

FAMILY FRIENDLY RIDE on December 19th at 4:00PM
Santa will put away his bad Santa alter-ego for this family friendly ride. He’ll be back to his jolly old elf self to delight children and their adults with carols, stops for sweet treats, Tinsel Trail photo ops, and kid’s trivia with prizes. No alcohol is allowed on this ride.

Galaxy of Lights at Huntsville Botanical Garden

The Huntsville Botanical Garden is a magical place during the holidays! Drive the Garden and see thousands of bright lights going on now through January 1.

Mannheim Steamroller Christmas at the VBC

Do you remember the first time you heard the Christmas sounds of Mannheim Steamroller? You can again celebrate the holiday magic of Mannheim Steamroller in 2021 when they bring their annual holiday tour to fans throughout the country. While 2020 was the first year the group was unable to tour in 35 years, 2021 will reunite the #1 Christmas music artist in history with its legion of long-time fans. Experience the music that has become the hallmark of the holidays and a tradition for multi-generational families: Mannheim Steamroller Christmas live in concert in 2021!

Tinsel Trail

The Tinsel Trail is a display of live Christmas trees in Downtown Huntsville’s Big Spring Park. Over 300 trees will decorate the park for the holiday season. Join us in this festive Downtown tradition going on now through January 2!

Skating in the Park at Huntsville Museum of Art

Did you know you can ice skate in Big Spring Park in downtown Huntsville? Located behind the Huntsville Museum of Art, you can lace up a pair of ice skates and glide across the ice.

Photo courtesy of Skating in the Park.

Vulcan Park’s Magical Nights

Vulcan Park and Museum is transforming the park into a magical holiday experience. Go enjoy the holiday light experience along with food trucks, music, Santa, and so much more.

Give the Gift of Experience

From kids to adults, we have tons of stuff that just takes up space, so instead of getting another thing to sit around why not give the gift of experience this year? A gift membership to one of these amazing attractions is a gift that your friends or family will enjoy all year long.

Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum

Have you considered how exquisite a motorcycle is in its styling, mechanics, and capabilities? Their artistry is what Birmingham native George Barber saw when he began collecting motorcycles in 1988. Six years later, he established the Barber Museum as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Today, it is home to the largest collection of motorcycles in the world.

Burritt on the Mountain

Burritt on the Mountain — A Living Museum has been referred to as a “Jewel on the Mountain.” Start with Dr. William Henry Burritt’s eclectic mansion, add a historic park with restored 19th century houses including barnyard and animals, and finally throw in the artistic side with concerts, plays and exhibits, and you have a delightful mixture of old and new for young and old!

In 1955, Dr. Burritt willed his mansion and surrounding 167 acres of land on Round-Top Mountain to the city of Huntsville (making it Huntsville’s first museum). Since that time, volunteers and community activists have brought original homes from the area to Burritt to be restored and utilized as an educational facility. Our interpreters are always busy demonstrating activities as one would see on a 19th century farm. Blacksmithing, spinning, and cooking over an open hearth are just some of the skills employed in our historic park. In the Burritt Barnyard, visitors can get “up close and personal” with an animal that would have been used for work, wool, or even food for the farmers and their families.

Cook Museum of Natural Science

The Cook Museum of Natural Science, located in downtown Decatur, Alabama, is a hands-on, immersive experience where guests can explore, interact with, and learn about nature.

Huntsville Botanical Garden

Spring, summer, fall, or winter – the Garden is an oasis of natural beauty in every season! Open year-round, the Huntsville Botanical Garden has 112 acres to explore, learn, and discover the beauty and wonder of plants. From grassy meadows to woodland paths, aquatic habitats to stunning floral collections, the Garden invites guests of all ages to make memories together in nature.

On a visit to the Garden, you can stroll along the nature trails while admiring collections of Alabama’s native plants. If you visit with little ones, head to the Children’s Garden for play, pretend, and hands-on learning. From May through September, you won’t want to miss seeing over 1,000 brightly colored butterflies the nation’s largest open-air butterfly house. Finally, at the end of the day, you can find a moment of serenity in the cool shade of the trees, surrounded by the sounds of nature.

The beautiful Guest Center features additional amenities to make your trip extra special, including recommendations for dining and a gift shop with a hand-picked selection of unique items for your own home and garden.

With additional events, exhibits, and programs happening throughout the year, the Garden is a place of beauty, education, and celebration for all in every season.

McWane Science Center

Fun and learning never end at McWane Science Center, a nonprofit, hands-on museum and IMAX® Dome Theater. Four floors of interactive exhibits celebrate science and wonder — from an amazing collection of dinosaurs to innovative environmental showcases, imaginative early childhood playgrounds, and an awe-inspiring aquarium. The energy and excitement of discovery spring to life through an extensive lineup of science demonstrations performed daily by talented educators. The adventure intensifies in the IMAX® DomeTheater, where wide-eyed visitors experience the sights and sounds of breathtaking films on a 5-story-tall screen surrounded by 3 tons of high-intensity speakers.

U.S Space & Rocket Center

Since opening its doors in 1970, nearly 16 million people have toured the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. The vast majority of those visitors have been from out of state or from foreign nations. Many of the more than 550,000 annual visitors are school students on field trips to their future. Dozens of interactive exhibits encourage visitor participation, prompting one official to note: “Here, everyone can be an astronaut for the day!”


Home to Space Camp® and Aviation Challenge® Camp, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (USSRC) is the most comprehensive U.S. manned spaceflight hardware museum in the world. Its large rocket and space hardware collection is valued in the tens of millions of dollars. From America’s first satellite, Explorer I, to next generation space vehicles like Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser, the museum showcases the past, present and future of human spaceflight.
The USSRC is more than just artifacts! Experience the physics of astronaut training like never before in simulators like Space Shotand G-Force. Our Spacedome IMAX® Theater transports you to different worlds with amazing documentary films like Hubble, and live demonstrations in the Discovery Theater will have you seeing space science in a whole new light. There’s always something happening at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center!

Notable Artifacts:

National Historic Landmark Saturn V Moon Rocket
Pathfinder – the world’s only full-stack space shuttle display
Apollo 16 Command Module
Skylab Orbital Workshop
Apollo 12 Moon Rock

Vulcan Park & Museum

What kind of city builds a huge statue of a burly, bearded, bare-bottomed man to tower over its entire population? One that never forgets its roots. Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and forge, watches over all of Birmingham as a symbol of the city’s iron origins–and the ever-present spark of its indomitable spirit. Visit the Vulcan Park & Museum to see this magnificent statue.