12 Things To Do With Family In Decatur, Alabama

Last Updated on February 29, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Nestled along the banks of the Tennessee River, Decatur is a hidden gem in north Alabama. Known as the “River City”, it offers a surprising number of family-friendly attractions, outdoor activities and events for its modest size.

ActivityDescription
Point Mallard ParkA park offering a waterpark, golf course, ice skating, and trails.
Cook Museum of Natural ScienceInteractive exhibits on natural science, with hands-on activities.
Wheeler Wildlife RefugeA habitat for migratory birds and wildlife, with trails and tours.
Decatur DowntownHistorical sites, shopping, dining, and cultural events.
Riverwalk MarinaScenic spots for walking, boating, and fishing.
Tennessee RiverPaddling, boating, and riverside activities.
Carnegie Visual Arts CenterArt exhibits, workshops, and educational programs.
Historic Depot & Railroad MuseumExhibits on railroad history, with artifacts and train displays.
Princess TheatreVenue for live performances, movies, and cultural events.
Delano ParkPlayground, rose garden, and walking paths.
Blue & Gray MuseumCivil War artifacts and local history exhibits.
Frasier ParkRecreational area with outdoor space and sports facilities.

From exploring historic sites and learning about the city’s role in the Civil War, to paddling down the Tennessee River Water Trail and cheering on minor league sports teams, there are many memorable things to see and do in Decatur with kids of all ages.

This article highlights 12 of the top attractions and activities for families visiting Decatur, Alabama. It covers interactive museums, a charming downtown area, kid-approved restaurants, beautiful parks and nature areas and much more. Read on for the best things to add to your Decatur family itinerary!

Get Creative at the Alabama Center for the Arts

Name and Location: Get Creative at the Alabama Center for the Arts, Decatur, AL

History and Significance: Founded in 1993, this multi-disciplinary arts facility serves over 50,000 annually through visual and performing arts education outreach. The Center spotlights local talent while bringing world-class dance, music and theatre to the Tennessee Valley.

What to Expect: Visitors can view art galleries and public sculpture, catch a play or concert, enroll in creative workshops, or rent event space. Annual performing arts season announced each spring.

Visitor Information: Located downtown, free parking onsite. Galleries open weekdays, performances scheduled evenings/weekends. Visit website for calendar and ticket info.

Situated right downtown, the Alabama Center for the Arts is the perfect place to spark kids’ creativity and imaginations. This multi-disciplinary arts facility houses a children’s museum, 300-seat performing arts theatre, visual arts gallery and classrooms.

The highlight for families is the Alcatech Children’s Museum on the lower level. It features tons of hands-on exhibits where children can paint, make music, pretend to be on TV, explore science concepts and more. Be sure to check the schedule for family workshops, concerts and shows too.

Admission to the children’s museum is just $7 per person. Consider bundling it with lunch downtown or a sweet treat from Big Top Soda Pop Shop next door.

Address: 301 6th Avenue NE, Decatur, AL 35601

Step Back in Time at the Old State Bank

Name and Location: Step Back in Time at the Old State Bank, Decatur, AL

History and Significance: Built in 1833 when Decatur was just a frontier village, this historic bank building still has the original vault and safe doors used by Union troops during Civil War occupation of North Alabama.

What to Expect: Today the landmark hosts a history museum where visitors take a trip to the past exploring Civil War exhibits plus artifacts of 19th century banking, commerce, and home life dating to Decatur’s earliest days.

Visitor Information: Free admission, open Tuesday-Saturday with tours at 10am and 2pm. Perfect for history buffs and students learning about days gone by.

One of Decatur’s most iconic downtown landmarks, the Old State Bank transports visitors back to 1833. Costumed guides recount stories from when the bank served as a pivotal Confederate treasury during the Civil War. The site also highlights the Lost Cause narrative of southern history.

Inside, kids can play with pretend currency and old-fashioned toys, try on period clothing, and view artifacts like a Confederate flag made of silk dresses. The museum does a great job bringing Decatur’s past alive for families through hands-on exhibits and engaging tours. Try to visit on a Saturday for living history demonstrations on the hour from 10am to 2pm.

Address: 101 Bridge St SW, Decatur, AL 35601

Paddle the Tennessee River Water Trail

Name and Location: Paddle the Tennessee River Water Trail, Decatur, AL

History and Significance: Flowing through the heart of North Alabama on its way to meet the Ohio River, the tranquil Tennessee River offers paddling access to abundant wildlife and glimpses of Native American history in a National Recreation Trail.

What to Expect: Outfitters in Decatur provide kayak and canoe rentals, lessons, and guided tours so visitors can enjoy days on the water along theatural, scenic Tennessee Water Trail while spotting birds, fish, turtles and mammals.

Visitor Information: Several launch sites located around Decatur, including new E M Stanton Park. check conditions and access points on Tennessee Watertrail Association site.

For outdoor adventure just minutes from downtown, families should grab a kayak and explore the Tennessee River Water Trail. The 22-mile marked course follows the riverbanks from Spruce Pine to the mouth of Shoal Creek, offering paddlers of all skill levels a beautiful journey through native wetlands and flooded forests.

Along the way, you’re likely to spot turtles, herons, deer and other wildlife. There are even remote beaches where you can stop to swim, picnic and explore. Pack a lunch or opt for concessions at Ingall’s Harbor Marina. Don’t miss the historic railroad tunnel and fort site ruins hidden along the banks too!

Outfitters like Warpath Rentals and Port City Paddle offer tandem kayak rentals from $45 for three hours. Guided tours are available too. Just prepare for full sun exposure and bring lots of drinking water.

Explore Scenic Point Mallard Park

Name and Location: Explore Scenic Point Mallard Park, Decatur, AL

History and Significance: Developed along the Tennessee River in 1979, this park spanning over 700 acres offers Active recreation surrounded by wooded hillsides, tranquil coves, nature trails, and picnic facilities.

What to Expect: Visitors delight in hiking, boating, disc golf, an off-leash dog park, sporting facilities, adventure playground, seasonal concerts, holiday events like 4th of July fireworks and more throughout the year.

Visitor Information: Park open daily 8am-sunset. Boat ramp, mini-golf, and retailers available seasonally. Certain amenities like the athletic complex carry separate user fees.

Known locally as the “crown jewel” of Decatur’s park system, Point Mallard Park offers plenty for families to see and do just minutes from downtown. Spanning 750 acres along the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge, the park’s scenic walking trails meander through wooded areas, wetlands and alongside the Tennessee River.

Kids will love spotting turtles, ducks, geese and eagle nests from the boardwalk and observation decks. Be sure to also check out the Raptor Rehabilitation Center to see injured birds of prey recuperating. Don’t forget your camera for the perfect family selfie with the Tennessee River as your backdrop!

When you’re done exploring Point Mallard’s natural splendor, the kids can burn off some energy at the park’s Aquatic Center featuring waterslides, a lazy river and kiddie spray grounds. Other park amenities include lighted tennis courts, a dog park and 18-hole championship golf course with a lounge serving up local brews for mom and dad.

Admission to Point Mallard itself is free. Selected attractions and venues charge separate admission fees ranging from $3 to $20 per person.

Address: 2901 Point Mallard Dr SE, Decatur, AL 35601

Catch a Decatur Red Raiders Baseball Game

Name and Location: Catch a Decatur Red Raiders Baseball Game, Decatur, AL

History and Significance: Amateur baseball has been played competitively in Decatur since the late 1800s. Today the Decatur Red Raiders of the Southern League keep tradition alive playing collegiate athletes from across the country vying to get scouted into Major League farm teams.

What to Expect: Fans flock to historic Wilson Morgan Baseball Park from May to August to cheer on the Raiders during fast-paced wooden bat league play against rivals from Tennessee to Florida. Fireworks and giveaways make it affordable summertime fun.

Visitor Information: Home games run weekends and certain weekday nights all summer long. Visit team website Decatur-RedRaiders.com for schedule and ticket deals, just $6 per person.

No visit to this baseball-loving town is complete without taking in one of the Decatur Red Raiders minor league games. The team plays at J.P. Cain Stadium on the outskirts of Point Mallard Park from May through August as part of the summer collegiate MINK league.

Families will love the upbeat atmosphere, between inning entertainment and scenic location overlooking the river valley. Kids can run the bases after Sunday home games too. And with tickets starting at $5 per person, this summertime activity won’t break the family vacation budget.

Insider’s tip: Grab dessert next door at Big Mill Ice Cream & Milkshakes where they serve up homemade waffle cones heaped with creamy soft serve. Save room for their specialty “Dirt Cups”, vanilla ice cream layered with chocolate pudding and crushed Oreo cookies!

Address: 1220 River Dr SW, Decatur, AL 35601

See Birds of Prey at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge

Name and Location: See Birds of Prey at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, Decatur, AL

History and Significance: Encompassing 35,000 acres along the Tennessee River, this reserve is one of the most significant wintering habitats for migratory birds including threatened species like falcons, hawks, golden eagles bald eagles and more winged predators.

What to Expect: Naturalists lead small group birding expeditions November-March when sightings peak. Three viewing blinds also open year-round access for visitors to glimpse and photograph birds of prey in their natural habitat.

Visitor Information: Refuge open daily dawn to dusk. Stop by visitor center for maps plus schedules on ranger-led programs and wildlife observation. Pack binoculars and zoom lens camera.

Just across the river from Decatur lies the expansive Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, a major wintering habitat along the Mississippi Flyway. Every November through March, tens of thousands of ducks, geese and endangered sandhill cranes descend on the 35,000 acre property. It’s an incredible sight!

The best place for families to observe migratory waterfowl is at the refuge visitor center off I-65. Outdoor viewing scopes offer prime views over the wetlands, plus the center features educational exhibits about the critical habitat. Be sure to also walk the short ADA trail loop behind the center to spot native wildlife like turtles and deer up close.

Check the center’s schedule too for the weekly Birds of Prey free flight program. Seeing these rescued raptors like hawks, falcons and owls soar past you is an awe-inspiring and educational experience for all ages!

Address: 31720 Visitor Center Rd, Decatur, AL 35603

Tee Off at Goofy Golf

Name and Location: Tee Off at Goofy Golf, Decatur, AL

History and Significance: Entertaining families with whimsical mini golf since 1963, Goofy Golf features two imaginative 18-hole courses set amid flower gardens, fish ponds, waterfalls, caves and more silly obstacles adding fun challenge.

What to Expect: Visitors putt past fiberglass dinosaurs, windmills and other themed structures that bring out kids’ smiles. Group tournaments with prizes add friendly competition. Bright lights allow for evening play.

Visitor Information: Affordable fun for all ages. Open daily all year. Check website GoofyGolfDecatur.com for hours and pricing on regular admission, parties, seasons passes.

For budget-friendly family fun just minutes from downtown attractions, head to Goofy Golf mini golf course along 6th Avenue. This Decatur classic features two imaginative 18-hole putting courses complete with waterfalls, bridges and larger-than-life fairy tale characters.

Kids will love the creative castle and pirate themes, with plenty of fun photo opps. Plus, the courses are very beginner friendly so the whole gang can play. When you work up an appetite, grab a slice next door at Monte Sano Pizzeria & Grill. The best part? Unlimited rounds of golf at Goofy Golf are just $6 per person!

Save even more money by heading down the street to Big Top Soda Pop Shop for old fashioned ice cream floats instead. Can you say,Instagram worthy?

Address: 2800 6th Ave SE, Decatur, AL 35601

Picnic & Play in Big Spring International Park

Name and Location: Picnic & Play in Big Spring International Park, Decatur, AL

History and Significance: Developed in 1925 around a natural water source supplying the Tennessee River, this centrally located green space serves as Decatur’s community playground hosting concerts, festivals like the annual Spirit of America Festival, and Recreation for all ages.

What to Expect: Families enjoy playgrounds, walking trails, sports courts, picnic pavilions, riverfront seating with splash pad and swimming access, plus frequent special events from food truck rallies to traveling carnivals and civic celebrations.

Visitor Information: Park open daily dawn to dusk year-round. Some facilities available for rental. Subscribe for email updates on public programming, volunteer days in partnership with RiversEdge Initiative.

Regarded as one of Alabama’s most beautiful city parks, Big Spring International Park is a must visit for traveling families. Situated above the mouth of Decatur’s namesake “big spring”, this sprawling 64-acre green space features jaw dropping river views along with a Civil War battlefield site and medieval-style Storm Fighter Castle playground.

Kids will have a blast touring the whimsical castle’s hidden nooks, spying torso and battling playmates from up top. There’s also another large playground right next to the picnic pavilions.

When the kids want a change of pace, make sure to follow one of the short woodland nature trails down to the spring waterfall crashing over the century-old dam. Pack a lunch to eat streamside or on the manicured great lawn overlooking the river valley. There’s plenty of open space for frisbee throwing, footballs and just letting the kids run free.

Address: 201 Church St NW, Decatur, AL 35601

Pick Your Own Produce at Stone Hollow Farmstead

Name and Location: Pick Your Own Produce at Stone Hollow Farmstead, Danville, AL

History and Significance: Started in 2010 by husband-wife owners passionate about small farm culture, this pioneer homestead 20 minutes west of Decatur offers Community Supported Agriculture improving regional food security through organic growing methods.

What to Expect: Visitors tour the farm to see how nature’s cycles inform sustainable practices before harvesting ripe seasonal berries, vegetables and herbs firsthand during designated Pick Your Own days that make farm-to-table a fun family experience.

Visitor Information: Free self-guided tours available year-round on Fridays and Saturdays. Visit website StoneHollowFarmstead.com to reserve PYO harvest times slots and view crop availability calendars.

Just 15 minutes from downtown lies the historic Stone Hollow Farmstead, offering families a peek at farm life through hands-on activities like gardening workshops and seasonal “pick your own” harvest days. Kids of all ages will love getting their hands dirty digging up potatoes, picking juicy strawberries or selecting the perfect pumpkin from the patch.

Be sure to also wander through the farm’s magnificent sunflower fields and whimsical garden trails bursting with seasonal color. There’s even a petting zoo area where little ones can get up close to rescued farm animals like baby goats, rabbits and miniature donkeys.

Farm Day activities only run select weekends April through October but are 100% worth scheduling your Decatur visit around. General admission is $7 per person with discounted activity bands available.

Address: 3615 Danville Rd SW, Decatur, AL 35603

Make a Splash at Point Mallard Water Park

Name and Location: Make a Splash at Point Mallard Water Park, Decatur, AL

History and Significance: Opened in 1979 when massive reconstruction converted a former quarry into a 52-acre recreational complex anchored by a wave pool, Point Mallard today features over a dozen wet and wild attractions including water slides, a lazy river, and Olympic pool.

What to Expect: Screams of thrill-seeking delight echo across Point Mallard all summer as visitors ride high-speed waterslides, brave plunges from heights like the AquaDrop and Cliffhanger, or simply relax floating along 650 feet of winding water.

Visitor Information: Season runs Memorial Day weekend through early September. View park map and operating calendar at PointMallardPark.com listing daily hours, ticket rates, cabana rentals and more.

On hot summer days, Point Mallard Water Park is the place to be for water play. Conveniently located inside Point Mallard Park near downtown, the family aquatic center features seven awesome waterslides, a 750-foot lazy river and activity pool with a zero entry toddler area.

Popular attractions include two floor drop slides, a enclosed spiral slide and a “Sky High” freefall body slide with speeds topping 35 miles per hour! When the kids get tired of sliding, they can play on the lily pad walks or hang out by the sandy beach area while Mom and Dad relax poolside.

Single day passes start at $15 for kids under 48 inches tall and $20 for adults. Savings plans are available, though most locals opt for reasonably priced summer season passes at $109 per person. The water park typically operates daily mid-May through Labor Day weekend.

Address: 2901 Point Mallard Dr SE, Decatur AL 35601

Explore the Alabama Wildflower Trail

Name and Location: Explore the Alabama Wildflower Trail, Decatur, AL

History and Significance: Introduced in 2020 extending across North Alabama counties, this nine-site scenic route connects public gardens and state preserves blooming with dazzling floral displays indigenous to the Cumberland Plateau’s unique growing conditions.

What to Expect: From March to May when blooms peak, scenic trails lead visitors through fields of vibrant wildflowers like the rare Alabama croton, Indian pink, and more flowering native plants eye-catching against lush green backdrops perfect for photographs.

Visitor Information: Download printable map and bloom reports from NorthAlabamaTourism.com listing sites open daily in the Decatur area like Old Railroad Bed Trail and Princess Theatre Gardens.

Contrary to popular belief, Decatur has some fabulous native plant habitats right in the city worth exploring. In fact, the Decatur section of the Alabama Wildflower Trail contains over 250 indigenous species spottable year-round across 11 distinct trail sites.

Families can pick up free trail maps at the Alabama Welcome Center downtown and set out to spot rare beauties like the endangered Tennessee yellow-eyed grass and elusive green comet milkweed. Interactive trail markers reveal fun facts about plants’ traditional Cherokee uses too.

For the most family-friendly native plant introduction, venture over to Jack Allen Park Trail just off Wilson Street downtown. Brightly colored trailside blooms and butterflies abound spring through fall on this peaceful woodland loop with educational signage perfect for kids. Time your visit over Earth Day weekend in April too for special wildflower planting activities plus bike safety rodeos and more during their annual NatureFest celebration.

Dine Old School at Pop & Bill’s Drive-In

Name and Location: Dine Old School at Pop & Bill’s Drive-In, Decatur, AL

History and Significance: This vintage walk-up burger stand opened in 1944 as one of Decatur’s first fast food joints. Today the landmark location still delivers tasty classics using founding recipes three generations strong as a celebration of family, quality, and customer service.

What to Expect: Guests feel like a kid again strolling up to order signature sandwiches, fries, shakes, and malts car-hop style at the counter or outdoor tables. Cash only, but there’s an ATM on site.

Visitor Information: Conveniently off Hwy 31. Open 10:30am to 9pm daily except Sundays and holidays. See full nostalgic menu on Facebook; no website.

No family trip to Decatur is complete without experiencing an old fashioned meal at Pop & Bill’s Drive-In. This vintage 1958 eatery, a longtime favorite amongst locals, serves up classic burgers, crispy fries and hand dipped milkshakes perfect for kids.

The throwback venue with roller skating carhops and retro neon signage will transport you back in time! Kids will get a kick out of dining roadside in the main gravel parking lot or at the walk-up patio tables. Just be sure to save room for their signature coconut cream and chocolate-cherry milkshake combo. Yum!

Pop & Bill’s limited indoor seating does fill up quick at peak times. So consider takeout or packing a blanket for picnic dining riverside at nearby Rhodes Ferry Park just down the street instead.

Address: 2907 Danville Rd SW, Decatur, AL 35601

Conclusion

Who would have thought small town Decatur, Alabama could deliver so much family fun? From fascinating museums and major Civil War history to gushing waterfalls and minor league baseball, this Tennessee River hub truly surprises. No matter your family’s interests, you’re sure to discover new adventures without breaking the vacation budget.

So the next time you’re road tripping through north Alabama or visiting nearby Huntsville attractions, be sure to schedule a few days enjoying hometown attractions in Decatur too. The highlight for most families? Quality time spent together making memories that will last long after your River City getaway.

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