So, we’re newlyweds still, which means, in a word, we’re broke. Well, let me rephrase, we’re newlyweds who less than a year ago, bought our first house, so, we’re broke. And we’re not, like for real broke, but for obvious reasons, most of our funds trickle into an imaginary house budget that produces new furniture, decor and good food.
So, when the summer came, and all of a sudden we couldn’t fly to New York on a whim, decide to live it up over a short weekend in Vegas or start even thinking about our trip to Italy (estimated for 2015), we had to get a bit more creative.
For starters, we had to stay on the ground, in the car. But, we had to stay within an only-takes-a-tank-to-get-there distance and we had to stay cheap, eat cheap and get our kicks, cheap. But, of course it had to be worth getting out of the house for. #whattodowhattodo
The answer, is look where you least expect a good vacation. I found a retreat in Mobile Bay, Al.. I know. Not only does nowhere in Alabama usually rank tops for a getaway, much less down in the armpit of the state. But, I have to be the first to tell you, if you share my old sense of what Mobile is, you’re wrong.
Mobile is a city full of rich, colorful history. As the (claimed) birthplace of Mardi Gras and the main artery behind the world’s containerization trend, it’s got a lot to offer in the way of partying, sight-seeing, commercing and good eating. I was there for three full days and got to experience a little of everything the city has to offer. In a word, it’s an unexpected good time, a charming place to walk hand in hand and the perfect place to totally wreck any kind of diet you’re on.
Where to Stay: Not at the Candlewood Suites, which is where I ended up (blech!) But, stay somewhere downtown, on a square. Rent a room at the Battle House (coolest, for sure), or stay at a rental house on the coast.
What to Eat: For Mobile’s “best burger” (and what I might argue on a regional scale) and raw, Irish-inspired jam bands, visit O’Calligan’s Irish Social Club. It’s college-aged, but vintage enough for any version of an old-timer. It’s loud though, so knock your Guinness back and forget about the pressure of good conversation. Casual diners and seafood snobs should don jeans with elastic waistbands at Wintzell’s Oyster House. A local classic and always packed, they serve up osyters on the halfshell about a million different ways. If you’re up for paying a bit more, but still want to sport stretchy pants, sit on the patio at Compleat Angler Grille. The unassuming chef may have a few missing teeth, but he makes up for it in incredible knowledge of the gulf’s seafood breadth. And, he makes it taste damn good. I was beyond impressed. Top recommendation.
What to Do: Take a bike tour (Two Wheel Tours) to get a much richer dose of what the city’s all about. The couple who leads the tours might be the cutest couple to sport helmets and spandex, ever. Plus, they’ve lived here for so long, that they slip in knowledge your high-school trained tour guide cannot. Plus, you earn that aforementioned stretch-pant supper. Visit the new Maritime Museum. It opens next summer and boasts five floors of really cool history about the world of importing and exporting. Plus, it overlooks the channel, so they’re constantly something to look at (read, perfect for easily bored juveniles).
What to Block Out Time For: Go visit the Five Deltas. Peruse the museums, spot alligators, stroll through the bird sanctuary (douse yourself, and i mean douse, with bug spray) and soak up rays on the beach. It’s hot, but its breezy and the delta has a new species of wildlife to look at and learn about at every bend. Take an Airboat Ride. It’s the most up close and personal way to experience the Delta, with flying over marshland, knocking on the door of alligator nests and chasing down hatchlings who snuck just a little too far away from Mama.
I grew up along the Gulf Coast, in Baldwin County. Warms my heart whenever I read positive reviews of the area. It really is such a gorgeous place.