12 Things To Do in Decatur, Alabama

Decatur is a vibrant city in northern Alabama, located along the Tennessee River. With its rich history, charming downtown area, and abundance of cultural attractions and outdoor activities, Decatur has something to offer visitors of all ages and interests.

1Old State BankA museum showcasing Decatur’s early years through exhibits.
2Carnegie Visual Arts CenterArt museum in a historic building, featuring diverse mediums.
3Old Decatur DistrictHistoric neighborhood with Federal and Greek Revival architecture.
4Alabama Beer & Wine TrailLocal breweries and wineries offering craft beers and wines.
5Antiques and Curiosities ShoppingShops with collectibles, vintage finds, and antiques.
6Short Springs State ParkNature preserve with hiking trails and natural beauty.
7Flint Creek TrailPedestrian and bike pathway along the Tennessee River.
8Cultural and Community FestivalsEvents celebrating music, food, and art.
9Cook’s Natural Science MuseumMuseum with a collection of natural history objects.
10Delano Park Disc GolfDisc golf course with varying difficulty levels.
11Tennessee River Water Trail PaddlingKayak, canoe, and paddleboard along the Tennessee River.

From its many festivals that celebrate music, food, and art, to its museums that depict its past, to the wide variety of shops, restaurants and cafes scattered throughout the city—Decatur invites you to stay awhile. The residents, known for their friendly Southern hospitality, welcome visitors to take a stroll along the riverwalk, enjoy some down-home cooking, or learn about the city’s history.

If you’re planning a trip to Decatur or looking for some new local adventures, here are the 12 best things to do in Decatur, Alabama:

Learn About the City’s History at the Old State Bank

Name and Location: Old State Bank – Landmark building located downtown at 101 E Moulton St in Decatur, AL. Now home to the Alabama Center for the Book.

History and Significance: Constructed in 1833 as the Bank of the State of Alabama first branch, this National Historic Landmark hostedevents impacting Alabama’s economic history. Now repurposed as a literary arts center.

What to Expect: Visitors can explore the preserved 19th century bank interior and learn about state history through exhibits from the Alabama Humanities Foundation and Alabama Writers’ Forum. Rotating literature exhibits.

Visitor Information: Free admission. Open Monday-Saturday 10AM–4PM. Guided group tours available by appointment.

The Old State Bank, built in 1833, is the oldest surviving bank building in Alabama and one of the oldest commercial structures in the state. Today, it serves as a history museum run by the Morgan County Archives. Visitors can tour the historic bank building and view exhibits that showcase Decatur’s early years.

Exhibits provide an in-depth look into what life was like for early settlers during the 19th century. From the architectural features of the bank building itself to the household and business artifacts on display, you’ll gain insight into Decatur’s formation and growth during a transformative time in American history. Don’t miss the Basement Burrow exhibit that allows you to explore the building from a rat’s perspective!

Admire Art at the Carnegie Visual Arts Center

Name and Location: Carnegie Visual Arts Center – Located in a 1904 Carnegie Library building in downtown Decatur, AL at 207 Church St. NE.

History and Significance: Originally Decatur’s Carnegie public library, the landmark Beaux-Arts style building now serves as an arts center with galleries, studios, and offices. Showcases local and regional artists.

What to Expect: Visitors can explore rotating fine arts exhibits, watch demonstrations from resident artists, shop for unique gifts and artworks spanning paintings, sculpture, pottery, textiles and more in the galleries and gift shop.

Visitor Information: Free admission. Open Tuesday-Friday 10AM-5PM, Saturday 1-4PM. Closed Sunday, Monday.

The Carnegie Visual Arts Center is Decatur’s premiere art museum, showcasing regional and nationally renowned artists. Located in a historic 1905 Carnegie Library building, the museum features seven galleries with rotating exhibits that highlight a variety of mediums including paint, sculpture, photography, and fiber art.

Special exhibitions have included the quilts of Gee’s Bend, an acclaimed African-American quilting collective from a nearby Alabama community, and the nature-based artwork of famed painter Charley Harper. With dynamic year-round programming like live figure drawing sessions and art sales, the Carnegie Center is the perfect place to immerse yourself in Decatur’s vibrant art scene.

Stroll Through Historic Homes in the Old Decatur District

Name and Location: Old Decatur Historic District – Downtown residential area with homes dating from the 1830s onwards. Roughly bordered by Moulton St, Lee St, and the Tennessee River.

History and Significance: Showcases antebellum and late Victorian era architectural styles in one of Alabama’s oldest neighborhoods. Homes feature river rock foundations, ornamental details. Tree-lined streets.

What to Expect: Visitors can stroll by historic homes along streets like Johnston, Jackson, and Lafayette to admire preserved 19th century dwellings in Federal, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate and other period styles.

Visitor Information: Free outdoor self-guided walking area during daylight hours. Guided tours offered certain seasons through local groups.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Old Decatur is a historic neighborhood comprised of over 150 homes built in the 1820s and 1830s. Many of Alabama’s early governors and prominent leaders settled here along the banks of the Tennessee River. Today, the homes have been carefully preserved or restored, making the district seem frozen in the early 19th century.

Visitors can take self-guided walking tours along the brick sidewalks and tree-lined streets while admiring some of the state’s best examples of Federal and Greek Revival style architecture. For a more in-depth experience, schedule a guided tour that grants you access inside select homes and landmarks throughout the neighborhood.

Sample Local Brews on the Alabama Beer & Wine Trail

Name and Location: Alabama Beer & Wine Trail – Collection of over 20 craft breweries, wineries, cideries, meaderies and distilleries throughout North Alabama open for tastings and tours.

History and Significance: Established in 2017 promoting Alabama’s growing wine, mead, cider and alcohol production industries from locally sourced ingredients. Member locations hold regular events.

What to Expect: Visitors can embark on self-guided trail tours sampling signature beverages at member locations’ tasting rooms regarding brewing/vinting processes and products available. Purchase drinks and merchandise onsite.

Visitor Information: Trail map online shows participating locations across North Alabama. Business hours/offerings vary individually. Age 21+ for drink purchases.

Decatur has become a hub for craft beer production in North Alabama. You can visit the taprooms of InnerSpace Brewing and Roosters Landing Winery & Brewery to sip craft beers and sample wines produced right here in Decatur.

As members of the North Alabama Beer & Wine Trail, you can also pick up an alcohol passport to get stamped at each location you visit. Once you collect enough stamps, you can redeem your passport for a commemorative pint glass.

Don’t miss InnerSpace’s weekly Taco Tuesdays or the Friday night live music at Roosters Landing! Trying local alcohol beverages is a fun way to support Decatur’s food and drink scene.

Shop for Antiques and Curiosities

Name and Location: Pacesetter Antique Mall – Large antique retail center located just outside Decatur, AL in nearby Hartselle at 1605 Sparkman St NW.

History and Significance: Open over 25 years, Pacesetter holds an extensive, ever-changing inventory of antiques, vintage goods, repurposed items spanning over 24,500 sq ft of retail space. Largest antique mall in north Alabama.

What to Expect: Shoppers can browse booths and aisles holding thousands of unique antique vendors under one roof selling mid-century decor, glassware, toys, furnishings, vinyl records, jewelry, advertising, and more. Onsite estate appraisals.

Visitor Information: Open daily 10AM-6PM. Located off I-65’s Exit 334. Booth seller applications available online for antique dealers.

Downtown Decatur is filled with shops offering rare collectibles, vintage finds, and antiques you won’t find anywhere else. Longtime staple, Rust and Roses, has an eye-catching selection of salvaged architectural pieces, upcycled furniture, and repurposed home goods sourced from buildings and barns throughout the South. Looking for classic vinyl records? Global Records is home to tens of thousands of records across all genres.

You can spend hours getting lost browsing their vast collections. For rare oddities and curios, meander through Harrison Brothers Hardware, the oldest hardware store in Alabama.

Beyond tools and building supplies, they have intriguing items on display like massive wasp nests, pickled specimens, and elephant tusks. From boutique clothing stores to record shops to a 114-year-old family-owned hardware business, shopping local is a fun way to explore downtown Decatur.

Hike the Short Springs State Park Trails

Name and Location: Short Springs State Natural Area – 1,100 acre nature preserve and trail system located 9 miles north of Decatur, AL.

History and Significance: Showcases forest, wildflowers, springs, rock formations unique to the southern Cumberland Plateau. Civilian Conservation Corps constructed trails/facilities in the 1930s.

What to Expect: Visitors can hike over 6 miles of scenic trails ranging from easy to rugged that meander by sandstone walls, hemlock groves, historic quarry sites, Springs Rockhouse with year-round waterfall and scenic overlook above the Tennessee River.

Visitor Information: Park open daily 8AM–sunset. Use main parking lot off Highway 65. Day-use fees $5 per vehicle apply.

Just minutes from downtown lies Short Springs State Park nestled deep in the Appalachian foothills. The 1,100 acre nature preserve features 7.5 miles of moderate hiking trails that wind through hardwood forests, wildflower meadows, and limestone streams. Walking along the Fern Trail in springtime when the wildflowers are in bloom is particularly beautiful.

The park also contains two naturally formed stone bridges which are highlights along both the Natural Bridge and Caved Rock Trail.

With picnic areas and rustic cabins available for overnight stays, Short Springs State Park is perfect for enjoying the outdoors through hiking, stream-wading, wildlife viewing, and more. Late September is a nice time to visit to experience the vibrant fall foliage in the region.

Pedal Along the Tennessee River on Flint Creek Trail

Name and Location: Flint Creek Trail – Paved 8+ mile greenway path following Flint Creek through Decatur. Trailhead located off Old Moulton Rd/Danville Rd SW. Connects Delano Park and Point Mallard Park.

History and Significance: Constructed along historic railway starting in 2008. Showcases forest, creek, bridge and viaduct structures along the route. Part of expanding North Alabama greenway/blueway trail network.

What to Expect: Multi-use trail supports walking, running and cycling. Benches situated alongside creek. Interpretive signs highlight railroad and natural history. Arrives at Delano Park with playgrounds, gardens and ball fields (2 miles).

Visitor Information: Free to use from dawn til dusk year-round. Trailhead parking off Old Moulton Rd/Danville Rd SW. Connects Decatur downtown across US-31 bridge.

For nearly 14 miles, the Flint Creek Trail follows the winding Tennessee River through Decatur on a paved pedestrian and bike pathway.

As an Rails-to-Trails conservancy project, the path was converted from unused railway corridors that used to serve the riverfront industrial facilities throughout the city. Today, the scenic trail is perfect for walking, running, biking, and even rollerblading as it takes you from residential neighborhoods to downtown to the river harbor.

The trailhead at Wilson Street provides easy access to restaurants downtown. You’ll also pass several riverfront parks which are ideal spots to stop and enjoy views of the river. Interpretive panels installed along certain sections of the trail provide insights into Decatur’s river history and industrial past.

Celebrate Culture & Community at Festivals

Name and Location: Community festivals – Varied annual music, food, cultural heritage and community festivals and events hosted in and around Decatur.

History and Significance: Decatur has hosted community festivals for decades celebrating its riverfront culture featuring live music, arts, recreational activities that attract locals and visitors. Events utilize riverfront parks and downtown spaces.

What to Expect: Recurring events like the Riverfest music festival, Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic, Mardi Gras parade, food truck rallies and craft fairs offer attendees music, food trucks, arts, entertainment in lively atmospheres that bring the community together.

Visitor Information: Various free admission community events hosted through the year. Event schedules posted through Decatur-area tourism boards online.

Decatur loves bringing the community together through citywide events and cultural festivals. On the first Tuesday of each month, residents gather downtown for First Tuesday, Decatur’s suped-up food truck festival. Beyond serving delicious eats from over a dozen mobile eateries, these monthly street parties have live music and entertainment plus drinks and lawn games that foster community engagement.

Several times a year at the Cook Museum, Southeastern Storytelling events draw captivating storytellers and musicians that represent oral traditions related to Southern culture. Annual music festivals like Mud Creek Music & Arts Festival and Spirit of America Festival bring local and national performers ranging from bluegrass to classic rock. From cultural celebrations to outdoor concerts to quirky gatherings, Decatur’s event calendar has something fun happening year-round.

Tour the Historic Cook’s Natural Science Museum

Name and Location: Cook Museum of Natural Science – Museum located within Northeast Alabama Community College campus. Located at 100 Sportsplex Drive, just off Interstate 65 in Decatur.

History and Significance: Founded by Gerald Cook to showcase his assembled collections of mounts, fossils, artifacts. Transferred into the state’s repository in 2020. Features species from six continents in realistic habitats.

What to Expect: Habitat dioramas feature animals, birds in realistic poses including an elephant, tapir, cheetah, baboon troops alongside local examples like otters, wild turkeys, black bears positioned in immersive recreate environments reflecting research.

Visitor Information: Free admission. Located off I-65 Sportsplex exit. Open weekdays 9AM–4PM or on Saturdays with reservations for groups/events.

Founded in 1975 by retired professor Emery Cook and his wife Opal, the Cook Museum is a beloved Decatur institution housing an eclectic collection of natural history objects. Expansive exhibits feature birds, mammals, shells, Native American artifacts, botanical specimens, rocks, and minerals collected from around the globe by the museum’s founders.

Of particular note is the rare elephant bird egg from Madagascar placed alongside a regular chicken egg for scale—it’s more than 100 times larger! With knowledgeable staff and new discoveries made even today from specimens in the collection, the Cook Museum is an intriguing place to spark curiosity about the natural world. Don’t miss Opal’s Attic on the upper level showcasing vintage oddities assembled over Cook’s lifetime.

Play Disc Golf at Delano Park

Name and Location: Delano Park – Park spanning 175 acres located 2 miles southwest of downtown Decatur with sports facilities, playgrounds, gardens. Fronts the Flint Creek Trail.

History and Significance: Historic recreational greenspace providing community athletic facilities alongside gardens, picnic grounds with a central pond and fountain since establishment in 1925. Hosts area teams/groups.

What to Expect: Visitors will find baseball fields, soccer pitches, disc golf range, swimming pool, playgrounds, walking paths around central lake, memorial gardens, and open lawn spaces for relaxing within wooded surroundings.

Visitor Information: Park facilities open daily sunrise to sunset. No entrance fees. Some amenities like the pool have seasonal hours/rates. Shelters available to rent for gatherings.

Since opening in 1976, Delano Park has been regarded as one of the top disc golf courses in the state of Alabama—perhaps even the entire Southeast. Winding through the woodlands around Ingalls Harbor along the Tennessee River, the course features 27 holes interspersed with challenging elevation changes and tricky navigation around natural obstacles.

With three sets of tee placements catering to different skill levels, both amateur disc golfers and seasoned pros can enjoy time on the course.

The park plays host to over a dozen tournaments each year, including the annual Music City Open which draws professional disc golfers from all over the country. Bring your own discs or rent them at the harbor marina.

Paddle Along the Tennessee River Water Trail

Name and Location: Tennessee River Blueway Trail – Over 600-mile signed paddling trail system along the Tennessee River from Knoxville, TN to the Ohio River confluence.

History and Significance: Created by the Tennessee Valley Authority in 2012 to promote recreation/stewardship along the federally-managed Tennessee River and tributaries like the Elk River flowing through Decatur as part of the inland waterway system.

What to Expect: Maps identify river access points, day stops, & overnight camping sites along the river/reservoirs. Outfitters in Decatur provide paddle craft rentals/transport for self-guided trips exploring scenery, islands, & inlets along the local water trail section.

Visitor Information: Maps available through TVA site. Decatur access via Trailhead Park, private marinas. Use caution & wear life jackets especially in river currents.

Named after the Native American phrase “River of the Big Bend,” Tennessee River has long been the lifeblood of Decatur throughout its history. Today, residents and visitors take to the water to kayak, canoe, and paddleboard along the Tennessee River Blueway.

As part of the overall Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association water trail system, the Decatur section contains numerous launch points, ample opportunities for wildlife viewing, and waterside attractions like the historic Cotaco Creek Canoe Launch.

Paddling is enjoyable year-round, but trip lengths vary based on water levels and current strength at different times of year. The fall foliage colors reflecting off the river make autumn a particularly scenic season to be on the water. Guided tours and boat rentals are available from businesses downtown.


This old river city in North Alabama has charm around every corner. From its vibrant downtown district to historic neighborhoods to abundant natural beauty, Decatur offers memorable experiences for all visitors. Learning about local history in beautifully preserved museums, browsing the shops for rare finds, and hiking scenic state park trails are just a sampling of adventures awaiting you in Decatur.

And between its community events, cultural celebrations, and sterling Southern hospitality, you’re sure to feel welcomed during your visit. Whether it’s your first time or fiftieth, there’s always more to explore across this bend in the Tennessee River.

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