Find Romance in the "Little Easy"
Older than the country it's a part of, Mobile feels like a more manageable—and more affordable—version of New Orleans. Its streets, architecture and spirit are akin to the Big Easy two hours away, but on a smaller, less-hedonistic scale. It's been a port town since the early 1700s, and the flags of many nations have flown over it. Mobile may not spring to mind for a romantic getaway, but it will surprise travelers with its charms.
Tour Bellingrath Gardens
Every city of a certain size has its botanical gardens, but Bellingrath Gardens puts many big-city gardens to shame. Located on the Fowl River south of downtown, this 65-acre property can easily fill up an afternoon of strolling hand in hand through its idyllic grounds. Take the house tour to round out the afternoon with a dose of history. The holiday season is an especially memorable time to visit for the "Magic Christmas in Lights," when the former estate is illuminated with three million lights on display.
Enjoy Mardi Gras
Many associate Mardi Gras with New Orleans, but it started in the New World in Mobile before it spread there. Mobile can trace its Fat Tuesday roots back to 1703. Sure, New Orleans' celebration is bigger, rowdier and more famous, but if it's tradition you're after, Mobile residents take it very seriously. If you're traveling with the kids, Mardi Gras is also more of a family-friendly affair in Mobile, with plenty of parades where kids can collect "throws" from the many floats of the krewes passing by. After the parades, hire a sitter so you and your partner can indulge in late-night Mobile during Carnival season, where you'll find plenty of adult fun at the gala balls thrown around town by the different krewes and their societies.
Stay at the Battle House
Conveniently located in the heart of downtown within walking distance to plenty of restaurants, nightlife and shopping, the Battle House has been named one of the Historic Hotels of America. What could be more romantic than staying in one of the country's most historic hotels? Better yet, it has a full-service spa on the premises for pampering. Even if you don't stay there, a walk through the soaring and immaculate lobby is a must. This is old-school Mobile at its finest, where guests get to feel like royalty staying in a palace. Open since 1852, the Battle House also served as a hospital during the Civil War. The current structure has been standing since 1908, when it was rebuilt after a fire.
Take a Cruise
Mobile is called the Port City for a reason. Carnival Cruise Line operates out of Mobile with its ship, the Fantasy. The cruise terminal is downtown, within walking distance from the Battle House and many other attractions such as Fort Conde, where the town's visitor center is located. The Fantasy cruises the Caribbean and makes ports of call in Mexico. When cruising out of the bay, you'll be plying the same waters where the Union's Adm. David Farragut uttered his immortal battle cry, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" during the Civil War's Battle of Mobile Bay. Worth noting: Hurricane season is at its peak between mid-August and early October, so have a backup plan on land in case your romantic excursion on the high seas gets interrupted by Mother Nature.
Listen to the Music
If you and your partner love a bustling music scene, plan a trip around one of the city's two big music festivals: SouthSounds in the spring or Ten Sixty Five in the fall. Both take place downtown and cover a wide range of genres. If you're bringing the kids along, these festivals also feature music and activities for children.
Enjoy music any time of the year at Callaghan's Irish Social Club. This longstanding neighborhood pub features Americana, rock and singer-songwriters nightly. The Alabama Shakes and Jason Isbell played there before they became breakout sensations on the national scene. Southern Living magazine named Callaghan's "The South's Best Bar" in 2017. Callaghan's is more of an adults-only music destination by night, perfect for a date. But by day, the whole family will love the food, especially their famous hamburgers, which feature the local delicacy of Conecuh sausage ground into the patties for that sought-after backyard barbecue taste.
Blake Guthrie covers travel, entertainment and outdoor recreation for many outlets, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where he is a regular contributor. With years of experience as a professional cook, Guthrie also relishes writing about food and beverage topics. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in mass communications from Auburn University.