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