When D.C.-area native Annie Agnone isn’t exploring “America by Night” as a Nat Geo Young Explorer, she’s pursuing a MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. In 2011, when her new hometown was hit hard by a tornado, Annie was impressed by how her neighbors came to each other’s aid. In addition to the generous local spirit on display, Annie has also become a fan of lubbers, palmetto bugs, boiled peanuts, pines, and big-leaf magnolia trees since moving to the home of the Crimson Tide. Here are a few of her (other) favorite things about living in Tuscaloosa.

Follow Annie as she uncovers “America by Night” on Twitter and Instagram @annieagnone and on Tumblr at americabynight.tumblr.com.

Tuscaloosa is My City

When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is the University of Alabama Arboretum for a stroll, then to the Tuscaloosa Farmers Market.

Mid-fall and mid-spring are the best times to visit my city because it’s warm enough to play outside, but the heat and mosquitoes are on hiatus.

You can see my city best from the upper deck of Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Locals know to skip Dreamland Bar-B-Que and check out Archibald & Woodrow’s instead (though both are pretty darn good).

Must-visit souvenir shop: Southern Letterpress  (Photograph by Annie Agnone)

Must-visit souvenir shop: Southern Letterpress (Photograph by Annie Agnone)

The Southern Letterpress is my favorite place to buy authentic, local souvenirs.

In the past, notable people like Barry Hannah, Dinah Washington, and Paul “Bear” Bryant have called my city home.

My city’s best museum is the Tuscaloosa Museum of Art because it’s got a great collection of 19th- and 20th-century art–and it’s free.

If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s that you’ll be happiest if you allow yourself to not be in too much of a hurry on home football game days.

The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is Capitol Park or the Tuscaloosa River Walk.

My city really knows how to celebrate the arts. Tuscaloosa and Northport (just across the Black Warrior River) play host to many events that celebrate local, regional, national, and international artists throughout the year–including the Druid City Arts Fest in the spring, Kentuck Festival of the Arts in the fall, and monthly art nights in both cities. There are also regular gallery shows and readings from local and visiting writers and, of course, the Bama Art House film series at the historic Bama Theatre.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they own at least one item of houndstooth clothing and start feeling chilly when it hits 75° F.

For a fancy night out, I have dinner at Epiphany, then head to Alcove for drinks.

Just outside my city, you can visit Moundville Archaeological Park, the site of what was once the ceremonial center of an ancient Mississippian (Native American) society. Try to make it for the Native American Festival in early October.

The Moundville Archaeological Park was named a National Historic site in 1964. (Photograph by Annie Agnone)

The Moundville Archaeological Park was named a National Historic site in 1964. (Photograph by Annie Agnone)

My city is known for being a football town, but it’s really got a vibrant arts scene as well.

The best outdoor market in my city is the Homegrown Alabama farmers market.

Waysider is my favorite place to grab breakfast and Big Daddy’s is a solid spot for late-night eats.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read The Crimson White or The Tuscaloosa News.

My city’s biggest sports event is the Iron Bowl, when long-standing rivals Auburn University and the University of Alabama duke it out for the victory. Watch it live at Bryant-Denny Stadium (on even-numbered years) or on TV at the Downtown Pub.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I walk around the city’s historic districts and drool over the lovely porches and gardens (some of the historic homes and sites offer free admission, too).

To escape the crowds, I go for a long hike at Lake Lurleen.

The dish that represents my city best is BBQ sauce and white bread, and either a beer from Druid City Brewing Company or the “Nicodemus” at Nick’s in the Sticks is my city’s signature drink.

Foster Auditorium, an enduring symbol of the painful desegregation process at this Southern university (Photograph by Larry Miller, Flickr)

Foster Auditorium, an enduring symbol of the painful desegregation process at this Southern university (Photograph by Larry Miller, Flickr)

Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama is my favorite building in town because Vivian Malone and James Hood stepped through its doors in 1963, marking the desegregation of the university, despite then-Governor George Wallace trying to stand in their way.

The most random thing about my city is probably that we have a burgeoning German population because of the nearby Mercedes-Benz factory. Because of this we’re lucky enough to have a lot of really great people, as well as Edelweiss, a German bakery and cafe. Also—unrelated—NPR music critic Ann Powers lives here.

Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, Bama Theatre, and Egan’s are the best places to see live music, but if you’re in the mood to dance, check out Icon.

Saying “Roll Tide” to mean just about anything (and being understood) could only happen in my city.

In the spring you should go see the lilies that bloom on the shoals of the Cahaba River (they’re in peak bloom in late May-early June).

In the summer you should enjoy the slightly slower pace. Swim and hike at Rocky Branch or Lake Nicol, pick blueberries, and grab a popsicle (pineapple-jalapeño and buttermilk are my favorite flavors) at Steel City Pops.

In the fall you should see the Crimson Tide play at Bryant-Denny Stadium. If sitting in the stands isn’t your bag, head to the University of Alabama quad for some quality tailgating, stop by Big Bad Wolves for some BBQ nachos, then watch the game at Egan’s with one of Bo’s Bloody Marys in hand.

The "Crimson Tide" on the field in Tuscaloosa (Photograph by Annie Agnone)

The “Crimson Tide” on the field in Tuscaloosa (Photograph by Annie Agnone)

In the winter you should attend a gymnastics meet or basketball game at the University of Alabama.

If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss the Children’s Hands-On Museum.

The best books about my city are Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer: A Road Trip into the Heart of Fan Mania by Warren St. John, and Tuscaloosa Runs This, an anthology of Tuscaloosa writers edited by Brian Oliu.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is “Hold On” by the Alabama Shakes.

In 140 characters or less, the world should heart my city because the heat brings people together. It doesn’t matter who you are because we’re all just really sweaty all the time. We’re all in it together.