12 Things To Do With Family in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Last Updated on February 28, 2024 by Emily Johnson


Tuscaloosa is a vibrant college town in west-central Alabama that offers visitors plenty of family-friendly things to see and do.

Situated on the banks of the Black Warrior River, Tuscaloosa provides easy access to outdoor recreation, intriguing museums that spotlight the area’s history and culture, a popular zoo and amusement park for kids, and exciting spectator sports thanks to the nearby University of Alabama.

ActivityDescription
Children’s Hands-On MuseumInteractive exhibits across three floors, including a construction zone and a pretend town.
Tuscaloosa Zoo and ParkHome to over 600 animals, featuring a petting zoo, train rides, and a splash pad.
Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation MuseumExhibits on local transportation history with antique cars, motorcycles, and bicycles.
University of Alabama SportsWatching various university sports, including the famous Crimson Tide football.
Moundville Archaeological ParkExploring a significant Native American ceremonial site with ancient mounds and an exhibit hall.
Gulf Coast Exploreum Science CenterInteractive science museum with aquatic exhibits, touch tanks, and an IMAX theater.
Lake Lurleen State ParkWater fun with slides, swimming, and boating, plus hiking and picnic areas.
Bamahenge Butterfly GardenA butterfly conservatory with educational panels and a variety of butterfly species.
Bama Lanes and Skate CenterIndoor entertainment with bowling, arcade games, and a skating rink.
Theatre TuscaloosaLocal theater offering family-friendly plays, musicals, and concerts.
Ol’ Colony Golf ComplexMini golf and a driving range, with two 18-hole courses and a championship course.
RiverwalkA scenic area along the Black Warrior River with dining, shopping, and entertainment options.

Families visiting Tuscaloosa for a weekend getaway or extended vacation will discover an array of attractions and activities perfect for travellers of all ages and interests. This list highlights 12 top things to do with family in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Explore Hands-On Exhibits at the Children’s Hands-On Museum

Name and Location: Children’s Hands-On Museum in Tuscaloosa, AL

History and Significance: Founded in 1997, this nonprofit children’s museum provides interactive learning experiences to spark creativity and imagination in kids. The museum features a variety of engaging exhibits on art, science, literacy and more.

What to Expect: Interactive exhibits for kids of all ages to enjoy hands-on creative play. Popular attractions include an art studio, farmers market, veterinarian clinic, construction zone and waterworks area. Great for families.

Visitor Information: Open Tuesday-Saturday. Ticket prices: $8 for adults and children over 1 year, free for infants under 1 year. Annual memberships available.


The Children’s Hands-On Museum features three floors of interactive exhibits designed to spark creativity and curiosity in kids. Popular permanent exhibits include Build It!, a construction zone where young builders can wear tool belts and hard hats while playing with giant foam bricks, and Our Town, where kids can pretend to be grocery store clerks, bank tellers and more.

The museum also hosts regular programs like story times, art classes and STEM activities. Parents will appreciate the toddler zone and nursing nook catering to little ones.

See Animals at the Tuscaloosa Zoo and Park

Name and Location: Tuscaloosa Zoo and Park in Tuscaloosa, AL

History and Significance: Open since 1968, this 50-acre zoo cares for over 550 animals. It provides engaging educational wildlife encounters to the public and has breeding programs for endangered species.

What to Expect: Get up close views of exotic animals like big cats, primates, reptiles and more in natural habitats. Kid-friendly attractions include a petting zoo, train and carousel rides. Lots of shaded walking areas.

Visitor Information: Open daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. Ticket prices: $7 for adults, $4 for ages 2-12 years, under 2 free. Annual memberships available.


Home to over 600 animals, the Tuscaloosa Zoo and Park makes for an excellent family outing. Guests of all ages will enjoy seeing the zoo’s diverse wildlife collection, which includes gorillas, alligators, tropical birds, komodo dragons, elephants and more. Don’t miss kid favorites like the petting zoo, train rides and carousel.

Pack a lunch to dine in the picnic area and let kids blow off steam at the large playground next to splash pad. Special events like Night Eyes Nocturnal Zoo Tours, zookeeper chats and holiday celebrations offer engaging educational opportunities for animal-loving families.

Learn Local History at the Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation Museum

Name and Location: Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation Museum in Tuscaloosa, AL

History and Significance: Opened in 1996, this museum is named after local pioneer Mildred Westervelt Warner whose collection of 19th/20th century memorabilia formed the basis. It narrates the history of land and river transportation in Tuscaloosa and West AL.

What to Expect: A collection of around 4,000 artifacts, photos and multimedia displays tracing the development of trains, wagons, riverboats and automobiles in the region and their social impact. Gift shop on site.

Visitor Information: Open Tuesday-Saturday year-round. Free admission, donations accepted. Tours need to be scheduled in advance.

Auto enthusiasts of all ages will enjoy the Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation Museum. The museum spotlights Tuscaloosa’s important role in developing road systems with a world-class collection of antique cars, motorcycles and bicycles dating as far back as 1886.

Kids can pretend to drive vintage vehicles in the children’s gallery or view over 70 pedal cars and bikes. Other highlights include a 1918 Model T Firetruck, a 1907 Maxwell Runabout and a 1898 Winton Phaeton. Don’t miss the extensive collection of license plates, gas pumps, road signs and auto memorabilia. The museum brings local transportation history alive through educational exhibits and programs.

Watch Exciting Sports at the University of Alabama

Name and Location: University of Alabama Athletics Home Events in Tuscaloosa, AL

History and Significance: The Alabama Crimsontide teams from the University of Alabama are steeped in traditions and have won multiple national championship titles in various varsity sports over the years, making them an iconic part of the local culture.

What to Expect: Catch exciting live games of the Alabama Crimsontides in football, basketball, baseball, softball, gymnastics and more at the university’s athletic facilities. Games often sell out so book tickets early.

Visitor Information: Home games times vary by sport and season. Tickets can be purchased through the Alabama official athletics website or box office. Prices vary.


No trip to Tuscaloosa is complete without experiencing the thrill of University of Alabama sports dominated by the beloved Crimson Tide football team. Watch the Crimson Tide take on opponents at the iconic Bryant-Denny Stadium, which seats over 100,000 cheering fans, or catch fast-paced hoops action as the school’s men’s and women’s basketball teams face off against SEC rivals.

Baseball fans can catch games at Sewell-Thomas Stadium while soccer, gymnastics, tennis and more provide year-round spectator sporting options. Kids will love the energy, pageantry and excitement surrounding college athletics in this quintessential college town.

Explore Indigenous History at the Moundville Archaeological Park

Name and Location: Moundville Archaeological Park in Moundville, AL

History and Significance: Sprawling across 320 acres, this was once the epicenter of the Native American Mississippian culture from 1000-1450 CE. It contains 26 earthen mounds spread in a ceremonial layout along the Black Warrior River.

What to Expect: Self-guided tours of the ancient mounds and museum displays providing insight into the lives of native peoples that once inhabited this settlement. Recreated buildings and artifacts help visualize history.

Visitor Information: Open all year round. Ticket prices: $8 for adults, $7 for seniors/military, $5 for ages 6-18 years. Free entry for children under 6 years. Special events held through the year.


Transport back in time over 1,000 years at Moundville Archaeological Park, one of the most significant Native American ceremonial centers in the U.S. Occupied between 1000-1450 CE by Mississippian culture people, the 300-acre site invites visitors to walk the same ancient grounds and see many well-preserved remnants of ceremonial mounds, earthworks and artifacts left behind.

Families can explore the exhibit hall, view two educational films about Moundville, hike interpretive trails winding past burial mounds, picnic on site and participate in special living history events and archaeology/crafts classes. It’s an immersive way to discover more about Alabama’s indigenous peoples.

Meet Sea Life at the Gulf Coast Exploreum

Name and Location: Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center in Mobile, AL

History and Significance: Open since 1998, this science museum brings interactive STEM education to children through imaginative exhibits, labs, marine life encounters and more. It promotes science learning in a stimulating environment.

What to Expect: Get hands-on with physics, engineering, biology and marine science via the many educational activity stations. Also features animal exhibits, live demonstrations, temporary exhibitions and an IMAX theater.

Visitor Information: Open Tuesday-Saturday. Ticket prices: $12 for adults, $10 for youth ages 3-17, free entry for children 2 years and under. Membership plans also available.

The Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center in downtown Mobile, about 75 minutes from Tuscaloosa, makes for an ideal family day trip. This interactive science museum brings kids face-to-fin with aquatic animals from the Gulf of Mexico and beyond in the Living Waters exhibit.

Highlights include a touch tank housing stingrays, horseshoe crabs and bamboo sharks, turtle pond, underwater viewing tunnels and more than 100 species like eels, jellyfish, seahorses and octopus. Other favorites include an IMAX Dome Theater, physics playground and exhibits spotlighting space, weather, the human body and local environments. It’s a wonderful destination for curious young minds.

Splash Down Water Slides at Lake Lurleen State Park

Name and Location: Lake Lurleen State Park Water Slides in Northport, AL

History and Significance: This public recreation area opened in 1969 around the man-made Lake Lurleen. It offers natural scenic beauty and facilities for outdoor activities like camping, fishing, hiking and more along with water slides for some thrilling fun.

What to Expect: Enjoy speedy thrills going down the long slippery water slides solo or paired on a double raft. The park also has shaded picnic spots, a snack bar, mini golf course, playground and lakeside campgrounds.

Visitor Information: The water slides operate seasonally from May to September. Day use entry fees $5 per person. Separate overnight camping fees apply.

Enjoy aquatic adventures with a day of water play at Lake Lurleen State Park. Located 20 minutes from Tuscaloosa, Lake Lurleen welcomes families to swim in its cool waters as well as take on thrilling water slides scaling 35 feet tall at the Splash Pad.

Other park amenities include shady picnic areas, campgrounds with full hook-ups, fishing areas stocked with bass and bream, hiking trails that edge the lake and more. Rent a pedal boat, kayak or stand up paddleboard and explore the lake before letting kids expend energy at two playground areas. It’s everything an active family needs for summer fun.

Marvel at Butterflies at Bamahenge Butterfly Garden

Name and Location: Bamahenge Butterfly Garden in Northport, AL

History and Significance: Created in 2002, this quaint 1-acre garden has blossomed into a therapeutic greenspace hosting 50-60 butterfly species alongside flowering tropical plants. It is a peaceful spot to observe nature and de-stress.

What to Expect: Meander stone paths past vibrant exotic flowers and spot diverse native butterflies that are attracted to this habitat. Identify different species with provided guides and charts throughout the garden trail.

Visitor Information: Free admission. Open daily from dawn to dusk year-round. Guided tours can also be scheduled by calling ahead.

Kids captivated by butterflies will love spending time amid hundreds of fluttering wings at Bamahenge Butterfly Garden in neighboring Cottondale. As you stroll along winding paths past blooming flowers and fluttering monarchs, lacewings, swallowtails and more, read educational panels providing info about butterfly species.

The 5,000-square-foot conservatory features tropical plants and trees, trickling water features, benches and paving stones engraved with donor names, all beneath a soaring roof enclosing this magical space. Visit the gift shop for butterfly-themed books and souvenirs after your visit.

Bowl, Skate and Play Arcade Games at Bama Lanes and Skate Center

Name and Location: Bama Lanes and Skate Center in Tuscaloosa, AL

History and Significance: A popular staple for family entertainment since opening in the mid 1990s, this facility houses a bowling alley, skating rink and arcade games all under one roof. They host birthday events and corporate parties.

What to Expect: Features 24 bowling lanes with bumpers for kids, a large skating rink for teens and casual roller skaters alike. Arcade section has modern games, claw machines and redemption prizes to win.

Visitor Information: Open daily. Activity rates start from $7 per person excluding shoe rentals. Book lanes/rink in advance for groups. Night cosmic glow bowling offered Friday and Saturday evenings.

For indoor family fun, head to Bama Lanes and Skate Center in nearby Bessemer. Kids and parents alike will have a ball bowling on 24 lanes outfitted with bumpers for little bowlers. The center also has an arcade packed with video games, kiddie rides, mini-golf and redemption games with prizes.

Adjacent to the bowling alley is a skating rink welcoming families to lace up roller skates or quad skates for a fun whirl under disco lights. The complex offers a cafe serving up classic bowling alley fare like pizza, hot dogs, fries and more to keep energy levels high all day.

See a Show at Theatre Tuscaloosa

Name and Location: Theatre Tuscaloosa in Tuscaloosa, AL

History and Significance: In operation for over 4 decades, this 410-seat non-profit community theater stages up to 10 in-house productions per season spanning comedies, dramas and musicals, alongside hosting touring shows.

What to Expect: Catch entertaining performances in a mid-sized theater setting. Annual play selections include contemporary works, modern classics and theatre for young audiences. Occasional concerts also held.

Visitor Information: Show timings vary by production, typically 7:30pm evenings with 2:30pm Sunday matinees. Ticket costs $19.50 for musicals, $16.50 for plays. Season flex passes available.

Introduce kids to the performing arts by taking in an engaging production at Theatre Tuscaloosa. This local community theater stages an array of family-friendly plays, musicals and concerts in two on-site theater spaces.

Annual children’s series productions like Disney’s Moana Jr., Elf Jr. and more cater to pint-sized audiences while regular season shows like Steel Magnolias appeal more to adults and teens. From ballet performances to puppet shows, there’s always an entertaining option for parents seeking to expand their kids’ cultural horizons during vacation downtime.

Play Mini Golf at Ol’ Colony Golf Complex

Name and Location: Ol’ Colony Golf Complex in Tuscaloosa, AL

History and Significance: Open since 1985, this public golf facility stretches across 520 acres featuring 36 championship holes, driving range, pro shop and other amenities alongside mini golf, footgolf and events venue rentals.

What to Expect: Features an 18-hole mini golf course set amid lovely landscaping. Also has footgolf combining soccer with golf. Sheltered event pavilion available for hosting parties. Nice spot for family recreation.

Visitor Information: Open daily 8am onwards. Mini golf rates $8 for adults, $7 ages 6-12, free under 6. Footgolf $12 weekdays, $15 weekends. Reservations recommended for groups 6+.

For family-bonding fun in the Tuscaloosa area, playing a round of mini golf at Ol’ Colony Golf Complex can’t be beat. Both novice and experienced golfers will enjoy navigating two creative 18-hole mini golf courses. The Azalea course features beautiful flowers and traditional obstacles like bridges, ramps, slopes and tunnels while the Links course offers water features and trickier elements modeled after real golf hazards.

The complex also has a driving range and Pro Shop with equipment rentals for playing the adjacent 18-hole championship golf course. Finish up with homemade ice cream from the Old Barn Creamery on site.

Shop and Dine on the Riverwalk

Name and Location: Tuscaloosa Riverwalk Park in Tuscaloosa, AL

History and Significance: Constructed along the banks of the Black Warrior River in 2005, this scenic urban park serves as a hub for community gatherings and outside recreation connected by multi-use paths stretching across the downtown area.

What to Expect: Features landscaped green spaces, an amphitheater hosting concerts, seasonal festivals and holiday events. Also home to restaurants and shops. Nice spot for a riverside stroll. Can rent bikes, boats nearby.

Visitor Information: Park open daily 5am-11pm. Riverwalk site office organizes many free public events. Other amenities like boat rentals, restaurants have separate fees/timings.

No family trip to Tuscaloosa is complete without visiting the vibrant Riverwalk along the banks of the Black Warrior River. Stroll pedestrian walkways linking restaurants, shops and hotels or take a History Trolley Tour to see top city sights. Kids love climbing aboard luxury yachts docked in the marina and seeing the iconic 116-foot-tall Roxy Theater sign.

Catch a movie at the Hollywood Cinema Grill, fill up on BBQ at Dreamland or sip sweet tea on the veranda of the antebellum 1837 Steamboat Gothic House. With so much to see, taste and explore, the scenic Riverwalk anchors any family Tuscaloosa getaway.

Conclusion


With an array of museums, parks, attractions and entertainment options, Tuscaloosa enthralls families seeking quality time together filled with lasting memories. Kids can feed their curiosity by exploring hands-on museums and archaeological sites, meeting animals from around the world at the zoo, making waves speeding down epic water slides and discovering local history brought to life.

Grown-ups will relish campus life excitement surrounding SEC sports events, live performing arts and evenings strolling the vibrant Riverwalk dotted with restaurants and shops. For an unforgettable Alabama family vacation brimming with adventure, education and bonding moments, make Tuscaloosa your next destination.

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