If you are driving through Northern Alabama, find out why Decatur, Alabama is worth a detour stop.
Located conveniently off Interstate 65 along the Tennesse River, Decatur is known as the River City. It’s also the perfect halfway stop from Cincinnati to Gulf Shores.
My dad and I stopped in Decatur on the way to and on the way back from, the Gulf. It was a great way to break up the drive and create additional memories along the way.
I’m sharing more about the top things to do in Decatur, Alabama during a visit.
This article is written in partnership with Decatur Morgan County Tourism. This article contains affiliate links.
Outdoor Adventure for All Ages at GoFar USA Park
895 S. Bethel Rd, Decatur, Alabama
I can’t say enough great things about this place. GoFAR USA Park is FUN for both kids and kids at heart. GoFAR USA Park provides hours of outdoor adventures and activities for all age levels.
Some of the highlights are the zipline, off-road electric scooters, paintball target range, human foosball court, obstacle course, and more.
I love the energy of the owners and their passion to create unique experiences and challenges for their guests to connect with the outdoors.
This is a great place to burn off energy and make memories together. There are both age-appropriate sections for younger kids and multi-gen activities that can be enjoyed together.
Hands-on Learning at Cook Museum of Natural Science
133 4th Ave. NE, Decatur, AL
(There is a free parking lot for visitors located adjacent to the museum.)
The Cook Museum of Natural Science truly exceeded my expectations in the best way!
The 62,000 sq ft museum is filled with lots of great hands-on exhibits that are fun for all ages.
Make sure that you check out the kinetic sand table that allows you to change the landscape display. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and so fun to play with, even as an adult.
The Immersive Cave experience at the museum reminded me of the cave exhibit at the Museum of Natural History & Science inside the Cincinnati Museum Center.
Caves in this exhibit are recreated to look like caves that you will find specifically in Alabama. This area is also wheelchair accessible allowing guests of all abilities to join in the adventure.
In the Forest section of the museum, you can take the stairs or climb up the giant tree from the inside.
Once you are at the top of the tree exhibit, admire the view from above at the squirrel’s nest connected by a swinging bridge.
Live Animals at the Cook Museum of Natural Science
You can also see live animals on display at the museum including turtles, snakes, jellyfish, baby alligators, and fresh fish.
I loved getting up close to the sea turtle and the jellyfish on display at the 15,000 sq ft saltwater aquarium located within the museum.
Younger kids will enjoy playing at the Little Larvae section within the Wonderful World of Insects exhibit.
You’ll definitely want to allow for a few hours to try to see and experience everything at the museum.
If you want a healthy meal or smoothie make sure that you stop by the Nature’s Table Cafe located near the entrance within the museum.
Fresh From the Farm at Reeves Peach Farm
447 AL-36 Hartselle, AL
If you want to enjoy fresh produce straight from the source, stop by Reeves Peach Farm. In addition to fresh peaches, Reeves has strawberries that you can pick from around mid-April to mid-June and seasonal produce.
Of course, the main star of the farm is the peach. Reeves Peach Farm can harvest peaches for 15 continuous weeks.
They harvest each peach variety over a 7-10 day period starting at the beginning of June and ending mid-August.
If you aren’t there in time for their peach season you can still pick up a variety of goods including peach ice cream, ciders, wine, salsa, and more.
Additional produce includes:
- Sweet corn and more
Hike Along the Banks of the Tennesse River at Point Mallard Park
2901 Point Mallard Dr. SE, Decatur, AL
During our visit, we walked along the 3-mile hiking/biking trails. We enjoyed both the wooded views and views of the Tennessee River.
In the summer months, visitors can cool off at the Point Mallard Waterpark. The 35-acre waterpark is home to America’s first Wave Pool and also has a lazy river, kids area, water slides, and a sandy beach area.
Additional Amenities / Things to Do at Point Mallard Park
- Picnic at the large covered pavilion with restrooms or other picnic areas
- Three fenced and lighted baseball fields (Bill . Dukes Athletic Complex)
- Sand Volleyball
- Open-air prayer chapel
- Bank fishing along the Tennessee River
- Golf Driving Range at The Strike Zone
- Basketball courts, weight room, game room, and racquetball court at T.C. Almon Center
- 12 championship hard tennis courts, 4 championship clay courts, and two indoor hard courts at Jimmy John’s Tennis Center
- Outdoor stage and 10-acre facility with fields (Ronald Reagan Spirit of America Fields)
Look for Cranes at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge
3121 Visitor Center Rd., Decatur, AL
If you want to see migratory birds, this 35,000-acre refuge along 20 miles of each side of the Tennessee River is the spot!
In the winter, over 20,000 Sandhill cranes and 20+ Whooping cranes can be found at the Refuge.
Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge is home to the Festival of the Crane each year in January, drawing visitors from all over the country.
The refuge is home to 295 species of birds and 30 species of waterfowl.
Nature Trails at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge
There are 5 nature trails at the refuge that are as short as 200 yards and as long as 2.5 miles.
- Wildlife Observation Building (200 yards – 5 minutes)
- Atkeson Cypress Trail (.3 miles – 15 minutes)
- Beaverdam Swamp Boardwalk (1 mile – 30 minutes)
- Flint Creek Trail (1.5 miles – 1 hour)
- Dancy Bottoms Trail (2.5 miles round trip – 1-2 hours)
Inside the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center you’ll find the following:
- Orientation film
- Information desk
- Hunting permits
- Exhibit hall
- Nature store
- Wildlife observation building, and two short nature trails.
- America The Beautiful Federal Recreation Passes are sold here (cash only)
Go Mural Spotting on The MoCo Mural Trail
I’m always on the lookout for street art whenever I visit a city. You can discover more of Decatur by visiting the 15 murals located throughout Morgan County on the MoCo Mural Trail.
Decatur also has bragging rights as the location of the first set of Kelsey Montague wings in the state of Alabama.
“What Lifts You” wing murals by artist Kelsey Montague have been seen in cities all over the world, including Nashville and Batesville.
How to Sign Up for the MoCo Mural Trail Mobile Passport
- Sign up for the MoCo Mural Trail online with your email and phone number (you don’t need to download an app)
- The link will be sent to your email and as a text. Just click on the link and you will have the address, directions, and more information about each mural.
Admire Art at the Carnegie Visual Arts Center
207 Church St NE, Decatur, AL
You can view rotating exhibits throughout the year at Carnegie Visual Arts Center in a building that dates back to 1904.
Admission to view the exhibits at Carnegie Visual Arts Center is free and donations are welcome.
The Carnegie Visual Arts Center is open to the public Tuesday – Friday from 10am- 5pm and Saturday from 10am -2 pm. Evenings and weekends are by appointment.
Step Back in History at The Princess Theatre, Which is Part of the Old Decatur and Albany Historic Walking Tour
112 2nd Avenue NE, Decatur, AL
Architecture fans will love the art deco style featured throughout the building. The colorful two-story neon marquee is an icon in the city.
What started as a livery stable in 1887 has evolved into a beloved theatre that has transitioned from the era of silent films to modern-day films.
The theatre has gone through major renovations over the years and is used as a performing arts center featuring concerts, movies, dance, and theater acts.
The loveseat chairs located throughout the theater are definitely a unique find. The size of the loveseat also gives perspective to how the seat sizes have changed over the years.
On the 2nd Thursday each month, you can listen to Singer/Songwriters in a more intimate setting at the Princess Theatre’s Singer/Songwriter Listening Room!
Take a Guided Tour of The Old State Bank
952 Bank St NE, Decatur, AL
Learn more about the history of the area within the historic building dating back to 1833 on a guided tour.
If you like historic homes, make sure that you also visit The Old Decatur & Albany Historic Districts of Decatur. They have the largest concentration of Victorian-era craftsmen & bungalow homes in Alabama.
During the tour, you can see a replica of the teller’s cages and the original walk-in vault.
On the second floor, you’ll see antiques and furniture from the 1830s that will give you an idea of what life was like in the early Tennessee Valley during that time.
A Few Fun Facts About Old State Bank
- Alabama’s oldest standing bank building
- Listed on the National Register of Historic Places
- Old Bank served as a Union Army hospital during the Civil War
- In its first year of operation, the bank reported a profit of $84,028.22
- The building was originally designed to serve as both a business and a residence
- It took less than a year to build for under $10,000 featuring both Federal and Greek Revival architectural styles
- First National Bank of Decatur occupied the space from 1881-1902 after the Civil War
- The building still has scars from skirmishes fought nearby dating back to the Civil War and was one of the few buildings to survive the town’s destruction
The Old State Bank is a popular location for special events and photos.
The Historic Depot & Railroad Museum
701 Railroad St NW, Decatur, AL
The passenger depot was built by Southern Railway in 1905 and was used by two railroads, Nashville and Louisville.
- 1:30 p.m.
- 2:00 p.m.
- 2:30 p.m.
- 3:00 p.m.
- 3:30 p.m.
Additional hours are available by request in advance.
There was already a railroad history in the area with the first railroad west of the Allegheny, (Tuscumbia, Courtland, and Decatur Railroad) dating back to the 1830s.
Tour groups are encouraged to make advance reservations for their visit to the building by calling 256-341-4818.
View the model train display and memorabilia from the depot’s history over the years.
During your visit, you may even luck out and see a real train pass by the depot.
Science Meets Indoor Gardening at Manna House Hydroponic Gardens
747 Fields Rd, Laceys Spring, AL
Manna House Hydroponic Gardens’ “Fields of Green” is a great stop for educational groups, gardeners, and anyone who appreciates creative ways to use science to think outside the box.
Each week Manna House Hydroponic Gardens produces 1500 quality lettuce stalks. The produce from the indoor garden is used for local businesses and 10% of each harvest is given back to the community to help those in need.
During the tour, you’ll learn how the hydroponic garden operates within the 15,000 sq. ft warehouse using nutrient-rich water instead of soil to grow plants indoors year-round.
The tour needs to be scheduled in advance and also includes a take-home Ziploc bag of lettuce.
Tour and Tasting at Piper and Leaf Tea Co
997 Heart of Dixie Hwy, Laceys Spring, AL
You’ll never look at a tea bag the same way again after a tour and tasting at Piper and Leaf Tea Co.
During the guided tour you’ll learn more about the process and passion that goes into blending and creating artisan tea.
The quality of the tea and the blends are essential for optimal flavors with ingredients sourced by local farmers and producers.
Piper and Leaf Tea Co is a family-owned and operated company that blends and packages its teas onsite.
After learning about tea blending, production, & shipping, the best part is of course is the tea tasting!
Did you know that you need to add more tea NOT more time for stronger tea?
A longer time makes tea taste bitter…that explains a lot. MIND BLOWN!
Make sure that you stock up on your favorite flavors in the gift shop before you go.
Dive into More History at Morgan County Archives
624 Bank St NE, Decatur, AL
The Morgan County Archives has records that date back to 1819.
Many of the county’s citizens have donated photographs, documents, artifacts, and personal papers for the public to be able to view.
Exhibits include information on the county’s role in the Civil War, a tribute to the county’s veterans, and images from a trial in 1933 of Hayward Patterson who was known as one of the “Scottsville Boys.”
Take the self-guided Civil War Walking Tour to dive deeper into Decatur’s history which covers Old Decatur and New Albany Historic District.
Decatur has two historic downtown districts within relatively close proximity, Old Decatur (formerly Confederate) and New Albany Historic (formerly Union).
I was pretty excited to see a tie to Cincinnati native, Eva A. Young Sterrs, was the first and only female in Decatur to own and operate a newspaper called “The Guardian” that circulated from 1910- 1917.
History buffs could easily spend hours here pouring through the public records that give you great insight into genealogy and an assortment of documents from significant times in history.
Honor Courageous Heros at Morgan County Veterans Memorial
895 S Bethel Rd, Decatur, AL
The Morgan County Veterans Memorial honors men and women from each branch of the US military and their families.
There is also a military plane, tank, and helicopter on display nearby that you can get a closer look at that makes you appreciate the bravery and sacrifice of our service men and women even more.
Scenic Views of the Tennesee River at Rhodes Ferry Park
100 Market St NW, Decatur, AL
The park is named after Dr. Henry W Rhodes who operated a ferry in the 1810s that crossed the Tennessee River to its current location.
Rhodes Ferry Landing was what the city of Decatur was initially known as.
You can watch the trains pass across the Tennesse River on the train bridge, let the kids burn off some energy on the playground, or walk along the path.
The landing also has a sad history for its role in the Cherokee Trail of Tears as tribes were forced from their homelands and passed through Decatur on their way to Oklahoma.
Stop in for a Sweet Treat at Morgan Price Candy Company
1735 6th Ave SE, Decatur, AL
Enjoy small-batch specialty candy that’s still made the old-fashioned way.
Morgan Price Candy Company is most known for its English Toffee, peanut brittle, and dark chocolate-dipped cherries.
There are about 30 types of gourmet candies at Morgan Price Candy Company.
They also have candy baskets, boxes, and gift sets ready to go for that special person or occasion.
Shop Local in Downtown Decatur and Hartsell
The Bank Street Shopping District is located a short walk from The Old State Bank.
The 2nd Ave Shopping District on 2nd Avenue is another popular location for shops and restaurants.
Shops on 2nd Avenue has 39 unique shops under one roof from local and regional artisans featuring art, jewelry, home decor, gifts, and more.
I also recommend checking out the shops Absaroka and Ottis & Kate located next to each other.
Popular Festivals and Annual Events in Decatur, AL
- Festival of the Cranes (Mid-January)
- Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic (Memorial Day Weekend)
- Spirit of America Festival (Fourth of July)
- Riverfest BBQ & Music Festival (Late August)
- River Clay Fine Arts Festival (3rd weekend of October)
How Far is Decatur From Huntsville, Alabama?
Decatur, Alabama is around 30 minutes from Huntsville, Alabama.
How to Save on Your Stay in Decatur, AL
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