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Mobile is the largest city on the Gulf Coast between New Orleans and St. Petersburg, FL, with a decidedly French influence and an ever-growing arts and culture scene that includes an orchestra, opera house and ballet company. Historically, the fortunes of the city have risen and fallen as it was once a center for the slave trade and cotton exports. After the Civil War era, the city declined until civic leaders reinvented it as a manufacturing center. Today, Mobile's museums, art centers and parks make it appealing to residents and visitors.
The Community of Mobile
Downtown Mobile is set on the Mobile River and is home to most of the city's tourist attractions and a free trolley. Industrial areas line the north part of the city near the water, while the most sought-after residential neighborhoods are in the north and northwest, including College Park and Country Club. The overall crime rate in the city has fallen in the past decade.
What to Do in Mobile
Few people come to Mobile and miss spotting the Battleship USS Alabama stationed in the Gulf. Now considered a memorial park, the Alabama has 12 decks to visit on your self-guided tour as well as a submarine and the USS Drum. The grounds house several historic aircraft and a Flight Simulator that can give everyone in your party a taste of what it's like to take to the air. Open daily; adult admission is $15 and parking costs $4.
GulfQuest, the National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico, is a new museum with more than 90 interactive exhibits to show the history and commerce of the Gulf region. Created to give the feel of a cargo ship, the museum contains five stories with a different theme on each level. Experience a simulator that mimics the training given to real sea captains. Open Tuesday through Sunday with youth admission of $13 and adult admission of $16.
Technically outside of Mobile, the Bellingrath Gardens is worth a trip a few minutes south to experience its 65 acres of plants and flowers. On the grounds, the Bellingrath Museum showcases life in the early 1900s for the well-to-do and houses a top-notch American porcelain collection. During the holiday season, the grounds are transformed into a magical light show.
One Place You Shouldn't Miss in Mobile
Antebellum architecture isn't rare in Mobile, but one of the most stunning examples is a great place to start a review of the city's history. The Historic Oakleigh House, built in the 1830s in Greek Revival style, is open to tours. With displays that really show what comfortable southern living was like before the Civil War during the area's cotton boom. Check the servant's quarters behind the main house to better understand the labor that served as the backbone of a large household. Open Friday through Monday afternoons; admission is $10 per person with kids under 5 free.
Dining in Mobile
Right in the heart of downtown, Noja Fine Dining is a special occasion type of dining experience with excellently prepared steaks, lamb and seafood. Make sure your entreé includes the popular Noja potatoes fried in truffle oil. From the dessert menu, a cinnamon donut and one-of-a-kind popcorn ice cream are not to be skipped.
The Mediterranean Sandwich Company has three locations in Mobile, including one downtown. Delicious gyros are a highlight of the menu, and several types of wraps make for a quick but yummy lunch. The baklava gets great reviews as well.