Mobile, Ala., is a friendly and fascinating place that that is well worth a visit.
It is blessed with a rich history and good weather year-round. It also boasts a lively restaurant scene, some memorable hotels and many local and nearby attractions. Put this together with a flourishing economy, cultural diversity and a contemporary environment of ethnic and racial cooperation and you have all the attributes that make Mobile a magnet for a simply smart vacation.
Located adjacent to the delta of a large river system that flows into beautiful Mobile Bay, this buzzing city has a well-deserved reputation as the cultural center of the northern Gulf Coast. Perhaps because of its long history of having been under four different flags and its location on the sheltered bay that served as a haven for commerce and people of varied backgrounds, it is a crossroads and a melting pot with surprising sophistication and unique local character.
It is rapidly emerging as a city of great hospitality with a wide spectrum of lodging, great food (oh, those oysters) and enough attractions to keep visitors happy and well-fed for days and days. Along with modern architecture, there is a spirit of historical preservation that includes lovingly maintained historic homes and buildings, an African-American Heritage Trail and a rich tradition of Mardi Gras.
Yes, it was Mobile, not New Orleans, that was home to the original Mardi Gras, and the town celebrates its history with a museum and an active Mardi Gras culture. It begins with events in November, mystic society balls on Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, and culminates in parades and balls in January and February, celebrating through Fat Tuesday, ending at midnight before Ash Wednesday, when the revelry is put on hold and planning begins in earnest for the next year.
Complementing the region’s cultural depth, Mobile has a vibrant economy, with the latest generation of Navy ships being built by Austel on the downtown waterfront and a new assembly line for Airbus commercial jets at Mobile’s airport.
Lastly, the delta, the bay and the region’s many bayous and islands offer substantial opportunities for outdoor recreation and exploration.
Before You Go:
Mobile can be easily reached by highway, air, cruise ship or train.
By car, Mobile is on Interstate 10 and is the southern terminus of Interstate 65.
By air, the nearest airport is Mobile Regional (MOB), 18 miles away. Another nearby commercial airport with good connections is in Pensacola, Fla. (PNS), 58 miles away via 1-10.
By train, the nearest Amtrak station is New Orleans with connections to the north and west. Amtrak provides connecting bus service from Mobile.
Mobile is a cruise port, served by Carnival.
The cruise terminal is downtown, within walking distance to several hotels. New Orleans, 146 miles away, has both ocean and river cruises.
Must-Sees for a Short Trip:
- The Mobile Carnival Museum
- Tour the harbor and downtown area with Gulf Coast.
- Fort of Colonial Mobile
- Eat at Dauphin’s — the food is as good as the view — and Wintzell’s Oyster House.
- Walk Dauphin Street for shops, food and entertainment.
If You Have Several Days:
- Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center
- History Museum of Mobile
- USS Alabama Battleship and Memorial Park
- Bellingrath Gardens and Home in Theodore, Ala. Gorgeous.
- Dauphin Island, 36 miles away. Visit the aquarium, Lighthouse Bakery and Audubon Bird Sanctuary.
- A sunset safari in the delta aboard the Osprey (wildnativetours.com)
- The National Naval Aviation Museum at Pensacola, Fla., 65 miles away
- Harrah’s Casino in Biloxi, Miss., 61 miles away
Ginny O’s Tips for Dressing the Simply Smart Travel Way for Mobile:
Dress comfortably for the season. Resort casual is appropriate for all but the most upscale restaurants. Polo shirts and sundresses are usually fine. Forget the T-shirts and jeans unless you are doing outdoorsy things.
This Destination at a Glance:
Over 50 Advantage: A great town for a leisurely stroll, boat or bus tour. Memorable museums and good restaurants beckon seniors.
Mobility Level: Low. Mobile is on fairly level ground and no special access issues exist.
When to Go: Anytime. Summers are hot, rainy and humid.
Where to Stay: The downtown Battle House and Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza are excellent. A large choice of other in all price ranges properties is nearby.
Special Travel Interests: Mardi Gras, Southern history, coastal life.
Alabama’s original Jewish community of any significance was located in Mobile.
From the late 18th century into the first quarter of the 19th century, Jewish merchants and professionals journeyed there from the large settlement at New Orleans. By 1823, physician Solomon Mordecai settled there permanently and lived in Mobile until his death in 1869. A handful of others followed and became residents.
Today, while Mobile no longer has the largest Jewish community in Alabama (that honor goes to Birmingham), Jews continue to be an integral part of the city, and there are two historic congregations — Springhill Avenue Temple/
Congregation Sha’arai Shomayim (Reform) and Ahavas Chesed Synagogue (Conservative), as well as a Chabad congregation in Mobile. The community also supports Jewish schools and organizations, a Jewish Film Festival and a Jewish Welfare Council.
For about the last century, the Jewish population of Mobile has been around 1,500 out of a total population of about 192,000, although the early 20th century Jewish population was about 2,200 for a while because of an influx of Eastern European Jewish immigrants.
Typically, Mobile’s Jews have been active in the economic, civic, educational and philanthropical lives of the community and have largely positive relationships with the majority-Catholic Greater Mobile community.
Lazarus Schwarz served as mayor from 1911 to 1915, Philip Phillips served in Congress in the mid-19th century and there have been other prominent Jewish politicians and philanthropists in Mobile, including Mayer Mitchell, the only Alabamian ever to serve as president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Anti-Semitism has surfaced at various points in Mobile’s history, but it has not unduly interfered with good interfaith relationships and Jewish life.
The community continues to do well, participating and contributing to the prosperity that has taken root in modern Mobile.