When you hear anyone mention Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the first thing that pops into most people’s minds is the University of Alabama. And assuredly, the school is a huge presence there, what with all their national championships. In Division 1 of the NCAA, Alabama holds the distinction of being national champions for 2012 in football, as well as in women’s team gymnastics, softball, and golf. This year, the men’s golf team won the championship. And of course, every Bama football fan is hoping for another national championship this year.
But whether you’re a Bama fan or not, if you’re in the T-town area, take the time to visit these campus museums and sites:
The Paul W. Bryant Museum houses not only an extensive collection of Bear-related memorabilia, but exhibits about all of Bama’s coaches, including their current coach, Nick Saban. Plenty of trophies are also on display and a substantial gift shop gives visitors a chance to pick up t-shirts and other souvenir items from garden flags to handbags and books to houndstooth hats. Admission is a surprisingly low fee of only $2, adults; $1, adults 60 or older; $1, kids ages 6 to 17; plus there’s free admission for kids under age 6. Open daily 9am-4pm.
Another campus must-see is the Alabama Museum of Natural History, which is packed with exhibits from the Age of Dinosaurs, the Coal Age, and the Ice Age. Among its treasures is the Hodges meteorite, the only meteorite on record as ever having struck a human being. On November 30, 1954, Ann Elizabeth Hodges of Sylacauga was napping on her living room sofa when she was awakened by the sound and impact of a grapefruit-sized rock that had fallen from the sky, through the roof, and onto her. It’s a remarkable story and sight to see.
The Museum is located on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Capstone Drive and is open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 4:30pm. Admission is $2 for adults and $1 for children and retirees.
The Gorgas House Museum is the oldest structure on the University of Alabama campus. Built in 1829, it was one of only seven campus structures to survive being burned in 1865 during the Civil War. Today it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Named for the Gorgas family who lived there from 1879 to 1953, the Museum houses family memorabilia and a collection of 19th century artifacts. Open weekdays 9am to noon and 1pm to 4:30pm. Admission is $2.
The University’s Arboretum is pleasant place to walk and enjoy the variety of plant life. Located adjacent to the University Golf Course, near the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center and the intersection of Veterans Memorial Parkway and Pelham Loop Road, it’s open daily from 8am to sunset, except New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Trail maps and species maps are available for download from their website.
Moundville Archaeological Park, a short drive away from the campus proper, encompasses burial mounds and ruins from the Mississippian culture dating back to about 1000AD. Research indicates that Moundville reached its peak about 300 years later and was abandoned by 1450AD. Today visitors to the park get a glimpse into the life of these ancient people.
Onsite is the Jones Archaeological Museum with more than 200 artifacts. Inside and out, the Mississippian culture is highlighted by life-size figures, pottery, artwork, and more. The half-mile Douglas Nature Trail and boardwalk gives visitors a real Alabama woodlands experience.
The park is open daily from 9am to dusk; The Museum is open 9am to 5pm. Admission to the Park and Museum: $8, adults; $7, seniors, $6, students; $6, children; kids under 5, free. Native Americans get in free when they present a tribal membership card.
The Park includes a campground with improved sites going for $12 a night – $10 a night for seniors. Five primitive campsites are available for $8 a night. All sites are rented on a first come, first served basis. The camping area includes a bathhouse, dump station, and trash bin.
Tuscaloosa is so much more than this brief article covers. Check out the details at: www.VisitTuscaloosa.com or by phoning the Tuscaloosa Tourism & Sports Commission at: (800) 538-8696.