Welcome to Decatur, the beautiful and lively town located in north Alabama along the banks of Wheeler Lake.

Decatur was originally known as Rhodes Ferry Landing after Dr. Rhodes, who ran a ferry service on the river. In 1821, the city was eventually incorporated and given its current name Decatur. 

When looking for things to do in Decatur, Alabama, you’ll find a wealth of culture and entertainment. From historical landmarks to sightseeing cruises, there’s something here for everyone. 

As you explore this vibrant city, you’ll find plenty of things to do! Nature lovers will be delighted by Wheeler Lake’s banks and the Tennessee River’s vastness, which offers numerous possibilities for fishing, boating, swimming, and other outdoor activities.

The area also features several parks, trails, and forests perfect for a relaxed stroll or an invigorating jog. In this article, we’ll list some of the most exciting 23 things to do in Decatur, Al.

1) Visit Carnegie Visual Arts Center

Credits: Jay Zdonek

The Carnegie Visual Arts Center is an amazing landmark institution that is loved by so many locals and visitors alike.

Located within the historic 1904 Carnegie Library, it has served as a source of arts and culture for over 70 years. This unique facility is home to over 4,000 square feet of dedicated exhibit, workshop, and studio space.

And with eight to ten public art exhibitions showcased annually, Carnegie Visual Arts Center truly offers something for everyone – from national tour exhibits and works of prominent local and regional artists to a permanent collection of Alabama folk art featuring esteemed creators like Jimmy Lee Sudath and Mose Tolliver.

Not to mention the incredible offerings at its Daikin America Education Center on the basement level, which provides workshops and courses taught by experienced artisans accessible to people of all skill levels, including children’s programming! Carnegie Visual Arts Center is certainly an essential part of the cultural fabric of our area.

2) The Old State Bank

Credits: John Hall

The Old State Bank in Decatur, Alabama, is a timeless testament to the area’s incredible transformation over time.

Built-in 1833 against all odds – during an economic depression, no less!– this Southern landmark has taken on many roles, from the public boarding house and American Legion Hall to its most recent resting place as Union Army Hospital.

Now donated to Preservation of Historic Decatur, visitors can experience first-hand how much growth and progress The Old State Bank brought forth for the city through decades past until modernity today!

Whether it’s finance or history that you’re interested in, visiting The Old State Bank will be sure to captivate your imagination with tales untold. Be sure to add the place to your bucket list of things to do in Decatur, Al.

3) Pickwick Belle

What better way to enjoy a pleasant evening or afternoon than a cruise onboard the Pickwick Belle, a stunning replica paddlewheel riverboat?

This 90-foot vessel is docked at Decatur’s Ingalls Harbor and offers sightseeing cruises twice a week on Thursdays and Saturdays for ninety minutes; if you’re looking for something more special, you can also try their two-hour dinner cruise on Friday evenings.

Pickwick Belle also has diverse special public event cruises throughout the year, such as Elvis-themed concert cruises and Civil War reenactment cruises. So come on board Pickwick Belle and have an unforgettable experience!

4) The Princess Theatre

Credits: David Sherwood

One of the fun things to do in Decatur, Al is a visit to The Princess Theatre. It is a historical landmark that has been expertly transformed from its original livery stable into an iconic art deco-style building.

Boasting unique and exquisite features such as glow-in-the-dark murals and an intricate terrazzo floor map of the state of Alabama, it’s no wonder why The Princess theatre attracts over 60,000 visitors annually to experience its public performances!

Beyond nationally recognized events happening on stage each year, locals can also enjoy shows presented by children’s theater groups or dance troupes under one special venue.

5) Riverfest

Riverfest is an annual tradition providing joy and excitement to Alabama! Competitors battle it out in the Barbeque Championship competition, with winners earning a place at the America Royal World Championship.

Spend your day enjoying views of friendly battles while indulging in delicious treats – everything from BBQ favorites to Mexican-style street food pleases any palate.

With unbeatable entertainment on offer, Riverfest promises something special for visitors every year – come once or keep coming back; you won’t be disappointed!

6) Delano Park

Credits: Maxwell Walden

Delano Park is the oldest public park in Decatur and was named after President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

It has recently been renovated and now features a children’s splash pad with rivers and city maps featured on its floor and a Delano Rose Garden.

Another popular destination for tourists is the historical concrete bridge, perfect for taking photos and creating lasting memories. There are also plans to add trails through Delano Park, giving visitors even more, to explore in this captivating destination!

7) Wheeler Lake

Wheeler Lake’s majesty is a sight to behold! Spanning over 60 miles and 67,000 acres of lush nature in the Decatur region, Wheeler Lake welcomes four million guests every year.

Whether they are looking for an exciting adventure on the water with fishing or boating trips, hunting expeditions through its wildlife refuge, or simply camping out for some relaxation – everyone can find something enjoyable at this amazing destination.

To get even closer to nature, one could also visit nearby spots like Wheeler Visitor Center as well as numerous other picnic areas around it that promise an unforgettable experience amidst Alabama’s beauty. A trip to Wheeler lake should be a top thing to do in Decatur, Al.

8) Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Que

Credits: Peter A. Morrell

Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Que in Decatur has been around since 1925 and is nationally renowned as the country’s oldest and most prestigious barbecue joint.

Founded by L&N Railroad employee Bob Gibson, it quickly became famous for its original BBQ White Sauce.

Big Bob Gibson was actually awarded 15+ World Barbecue Championship awards for its unique brisket, pork, ribs, and chicken dishes!

This unbeatable BBQ spot is now managed by the fourth-generation descendants of Big Bob’s family, who operates two locations in Decatur – one on Sixth Street and another at Danville Road.

Whether you choose a few of the barbecue platters, pit barbecue sandwiches or combination meals – Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Que promises a delectable dining experience sure to please your inner BBQ fan!

9) Point Mallard Park

Credits: Point Mallard Park

Point Mallard Park is one of Alabama’s most beloved outdoor spaces, covering 500 acres near the state’s borders with the Wheeler National Refuge.

Point Mallard was founded in 1970 and offered many enjoyable and diverse attractions, such as its renowned J. Gilmer Blackburn Aquatic Center, which features a ten-meter tall diving tower and two high-speed waterslides.

The park also boasts an extensive sports complex, including a baseball field, ice rinks for hockey and curling, and Point Mallard Golf Course.

Batting cages and driving ranges are available for golfers to hone their skills, while the T.C. Almon Centre provides activities such as exercise rooms, indoor courts, and a games room.

Point Mallard stands out among other parks due to its incredible range of activities – something that all visitors can appreciate!

10) Alabama Jubilee

Alabama Jubilee is an incredible event that graces Alabama’s skies every Memorial Day weekend! Its inaugural event was held in 1978, intending to showcase Alabama’s official hot air balloon – one of the first ones in the country.

Now, Alabama Jubilee has become renowned as a top tourist attraction in the Southeast, and it brings over 60 pilots from 20 states every year to Alabama’s “Ballooning Capital.” This makes it one of the best places to go in Decatur, Al 

During its early years, almost two dozen balloonists competed, pushing the newfound popularity of hot air ballooning nationwide. If you’re ever looking for a unique way to start your summer, then Alabama Jubilee is the place to be!

11) Whitt’s Barbecue

Whitt’s Barbecue is a true testament to Floyd Whitt’s vision. After leaving his job in bricklaying, Whitt opened his first restaurant in 1966, and today boasts three Whitt locations around the Northern Alabama area.

Featured twice in Southern Living Magazine, this establishment is renowned for its selection of barbecue dishes featuring savory selections such as beef, pork, ribs, turkey, and more – all smoked with hickory wood.

Visitors visiting Whitt’s Barbecue can enjoy complete plate options or even the family pack option stacked full of Brunswick stew, sandwiches, homestyle sides, pies, mouthwatering dishes, and a selection of delectable cookies.

Those looking for larger gatherings can also host parties for up to 25 – Whitt’s also offers customizable group events – making it the perfect place to enjoy a truly memorable, tasty barbecue experience!

12) The RailYard

Credits: The RailYard

At The RailYard, located in downtown Decatur, proprietor Tyler Jones and executive chef Bill Harden have crafted an incomparable menu of global-influenced southern comfort food.

Whether you’re looking for a delightful sandwich featuring locally sourced meat or seafood that will tantalize your taste buds – all washed down with one tasty craft beer or seasonal cocktail prepared with fresh fruits and premium liquors – they’ve got it covered!

13) Decatur Farmers Market

Credits: nicki bl

Decatur Farmers Market promises a rewarding shopping experience. From Mondays to Saturdays, between April and November, Decatur residents can stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables from the numerous stalls in the market.

Plus, a special event is held every month to celebrate any fruit or vegetable in season. Whether you are looking for seasonal produce or unique ingredients, Decatur Farmers Market has it all.

There is no better way to buy food than from those who grew it themselves – So if you a looking for things to do in Decatur, Al, this weekend – Don’t miss out.

14) Carnegie Visual Arts Center

Credits: Hardy Davis 3

With its exquisite displays of public art, The Carnegie Visual Art Center is a must-see in Decatur, AL!

Originally established as the city’s library more than seven decades ago and now occupying an impressive 4,000 sq ft with artistic spaces to explore – this center offers something for everyone.

Its world-renowned collection features work by notable artists such as Mose Tolliver & Jimmy Lee Sudath, making it well worth visiting.

Plus, the Daikin America Education Centre at its base ensures that even more creativity can be enjoyed via summer camps for children or various workshops throughout the year – so don’t miss out on all this iconic landmark has to offer!

15) Alabama Charity Championship Horseshow

Credits: Zach Harper

Don’t miss out on the Alabama Charity Championship Horseshow, a breathtaking annual event held in Decatur.

Be part of an exclusive audience and witness some of America’s best Hackney, Roadster, and American Saddlebred horses as they demonstrate their remarkable athleticism!

Tickets for this highly popular show go quickly, so get ahead to secure your spot at what is considered one of the top four Saddlebred shows in America!

16) Simp McGhee’s

Credits: Mike Hand

Simp McGhee’s invites you to experience the charm of old-fashioned Cajun-inspired dining.

Named for Decatur’s own turn-of-the-century riverboat captain, Simp McGhee’s provides a unique dining experience.

From their crawfish eggrolls and tuna Lafayette to their lamb ratatouille and Cajun seafood gumbo, Simp McGhee’s offers something for all palates.

And if you’re looking for something to wet your whistle, Simp McGhee’s also has specialty liquors, cocktails, gourmet martinis, and fine wines available.

For those who like to dine while breathing in the fresh air, Simp McGhee’s seasonal outdoor pet-friendly sidewalk seating is sure to please. Visit Simp McGee’s and experience delicious Cajun-inspired cuisine and drinks!

17) Cook’s Natural Science Museum

Credits: Cook Museum of Natural Science

One of the top things to do in Decatur, Al, is to visit Cook’s Natural Science Museum, certainly one of the top attractions in town.

With a broad selection of scientific specimens and displays, ranging from wildlife and mounted birds to rocks, corals, and more, visitors are bound to find something that sparks their curiosity.

Don’t miss out on the Tennessee Valley Lake Exhibit either – a popular favorite that embodies the native flora and fauna of the area!

After satisfying your thirst for knowledge, there is no better place to sit back and relax than Cook’s auditorium, where you can enjoy natural science films guaranteed to delight both young and old.

18) Morgan County Archives

Credits: Debbie Hodge

The Morgan County Commission established the Morgan County Archives as a wonderful resource for our community in 1995.

This incredible archive preserves major records dating back to 1819, such as census, court, and marriage records, keeping the history of Morgan County alive!

For those who wish to explore this critical part of Morgan County’s past, the archive offers various resources such as microfilm access, public computer workstations, library volumes, and genealogical and community research opportunities.

Additionally, special collections related to popular historical figures and Civil War history are displayed periodically so everyone can learn more about their local heritage!

Come and explore Morgan County’s rich past at the Morgan County Archives – you won’t be disappointed!

19) Wheeler Wildlife Refuge

Credits: Raquel Fernandez

Wheeler Wildlife Refuge is a place of unparalleled beauty and adventure. Located on 35,000 acres near the banks of the Tennessee River, it’s no wonder why this wildlife refuge draws over 700,000 visitors each year!

Established in 1938 by President Franklin D Roosevelt to honor Major General Joseph Wheeler’s service to American history – there are plenty of activities for everyone at Wheeler Wildlife Refuge, including hunting, fishing, or simply admiring various species.

It offers something special thanks to its partnership with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and the United States Fish & Wildlife Service – making sure you never run out of ways to explore nature!

20) Historic Railroad Depot

Credits: Thomas Garner

The Historic Decatur Union Depot of 1905 is an amazing sight to behold. This award-winning Historic Preservation Project of the Year for Public Buildings in Alabama Main Street has been fully restored and is steeped in railroad history.

Visitors can explore the miniature theatre room with its railroad video collection and view a fascinating array of vintage memorabilia and artifacts from 1905, including authentic signage, tools, and devices.

As a bonus, the facility boasts a picnic area and a superb train viewing platform. The public may visit for free during regular business hours (Monday through Friday) or arrange for a Saturday visit by appointment. This Historic Railroad Depot is truly a unique treat not to be missed!

21) Blue & Gray Museum of North Alabama

The Blue and Gray Museum of North Alabama is a great place to go if you want to explore the history of the American Civil War.

As the most extensive collection of privately owned artifacts about this period of U.S. history, this museum offers a comprehensive experience to visitors.

A day spent here will give you deep insight into Decatur’s past and present with access to educational, historical exhibits that can be both informative and entertaining for all ages – particularly those kids who are intrigued by the fascinating facts about this important chapter in our nation’s history.

No matter your level of interest in historical cases, this museum promises a memorable and enjoyable outing!

22) The Old Decatur Historic District

The Old Decatur Historic District offers a delightful tour through an area of 116 acres that is home to the state’s largest collection of preserved Victorian-era buildings and homes.

Originally focusing on Bank Street, which served as a commercial nerve center of the city in the 19th century, development came about quickly through riverboat, railway, and wagon access.

The area has seen destruction due to various fires and wars throughout its lifetime. Still, with tireless effort, it was continually rebuilt so that the stunning Italianate and Victorian structures could live on within the district.

The Todd house is one of those remarkable structures from the pre-Civil War era, which is still standing for visitors to marvel at. If you’re looking for an exciting viewing experience filled with history and culture, The Old Decatur Historic District awaits!

23) Trapped

Morgan County Archives, located in Decatur, Al., has recently introduced something adventurous to do in the area.

Trapped, an escape room facility is a great addition to the list of Things to Do in Decatur, Al. It provides visitors with a diverse gaming experience where they can utilize and sharpen their problem-solving skills while engaging in team-building activities.

With four inviting rooms to choose from, guests must work as a team to find clues and solutions to help them escape the themed mystery within the given hour.

Escape From Alcatraz, Treasure of the Emerald Isles, The Morgue of Dr. G. Reaper, and The Bank Robbery rooms are available for public booking and private events such as school functions and corporate events.

Plan a trip to Decatur, Al

Decatur, Alabama, is bursting with things to do that truly have something for everyone! History buffs can visit the Carnegie Visual Arts Center and The Old State Bank.

Art enthusiasts will be delighted at the art galleries and performance venues like The Princess Theatre.

Adventure-seekers should take a scenic boat ride on Pickwick Belle or attend Riverfest for an unforgettable experience in nature.

Whether you’re looking to explore as a resident or planning your next vacation destination, Decatur won’t disappoint!