This is gonna be sacrilegious in some ways, but since it’s a bye week for GT I’m going to talk about traveling for something non-football related.
WAIT NO DON’T LEAVE!
It does still take place in a football town, so hopefully that will satisfy some of you. This weekend I will be attending the 50th anniversary of the Kentuck Music and Arts Festival in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (technically it’s in Northport, but that’s basically Tuscaloosa). The Tide will also be out of town to take on Mississippi State, so this trip will pretty much be about enjoying the town of Tuscaloosa while it is less busy than normal and seeing a unique art festival full of Southern culture.
Travel How To: Getting from Atlanta to Tuscaloosa
From Downtown Atlanta, the drive to Tuscaloosa is a 3-hour drive straight down I-20 all the way. The trip will take you by Talladega National Forest (as well as the speedway) and Birmingham, Alabama, if you need a pit stop where you can stretch your legs. The police presence on the interstate tends to be heavier as you enter and leave the Birmingham area (Leeds police are particularly well-known for handing out fast driving awards), so keep an eye out.
There are flights from Atlanta to Tuscaloosa, but unless you book ahead of time they tend to be pretty expensive. Currently flights are listed at $500 +. You can also fly into Birmingham, flights are listed at $300, but this will still leave you about an hour down the road from Tuscaloosa. My recommendation would be just to drive.
There is a biking trail called the Silver Comet trail, which follows a defunct rail line. While I have ridden it pretty far in the past, I have never ridden it from Atlanta to Tuscaloosa although Google Maps indicates that the Silver Comet trail is an option. If you bike the Silver Comet from Downtown Atlanta to Tuscaloosa, it will take you approximately 20 hours and 20 minutes of straight biking. So unless you are dead set on avoiding polluting through car emissions, I still recommend driving.
Places to Stay
Hotels in the Tuscaloosa area are pretty cheap when there isn’t a game in town. The prices can range from $100 to $150 a night if you are staying on campus. The Hotel Capstone and Hampton Inn are both on campus. The Hampton Inn is farther out from the main strip, but the small size of the city leaves everything within walking distance from both hotels.
Downtown there is Hotel Indigo which is on the Black Warrior River and has a rooftop bar with music. The Indigo tends to be a bit more expensive with prices closer to $200 a night for the weekend.
This will probably be one of the few times I do not recommend using Airbnb. Most of the Airbnb locations for rent near campus are overpriced during the entirety of the fall. This is not completely unwarranted as most of those locations are large and well furnished buildings within walking distance of downtown, but that doesn’t make me feel better about spending $250 a night on a fancy house when I can just get a hotel. Maybe think about Airbnb if you have a large group, 5+ people sharing the space.
Things to See: Downtown and the Campus
Unlike last week, where Duke and Durham developed as separate entities, the University of Alabama campus and the downtown Tuscaloosa area developed alongside each other. This means there is very little separation from the town and the campus, and there are plenty of things to see and do in both.
Obviously you can walk the Alabama campus and check out the stadium. Bryant-Denny Stadium towers over everything and is very difficult to miss. Denny Chimes is also one of the key historical monuments on campus. The chimes were erected in honor of school president George Denny and the tower itself has a walk of fame displaying the hand and footprints of past football captains from the University of Alabama.
If you’re interested in college football history you can check out the Bear Bryant Museum on campus. Paul “Bear” Bryant wasn’t kind to Georgia Tech while he coached Alabama, but he had a large impact on college football and has many fun stories and history tied to his name.
You can always take the river walk along the Black Warrior River and watch the shipping boats drift by as you make your way from U of A campus into downtown. There is a hands on children museum in downtown and the Dinah Washington Cultural Museum worth checking out.
For food, Rama Jama’s at the south west corner of the stadium is the most well known breakfast spot in the area. RJ’s offers large biscuits and full course breakfast all day. If you’re not feeling breakfast try out Central Mesa for Tex Mex style food or Urban Bar & Kitchen for a more upscale establishment Downtown. Heat Pizza is a popular pizza place which should be accessible for the whole family if you have sensitive eaters. If you’ve ever had Dreamlands BBQ in Atlanta, it actually started in Tuscaloosa, so if you’d like another taste come try the original location across the river.
For bars International Alcove, Loosa Brews, and Black Warrior Brewing offer some fantastic options for enjoying a night out on the town. The Houndstooth is a well-known hangout on gameday. It may be crowded, but it is the place to watch football on campus.
Now for Something Completely Different: The Kentuck Fire Ant and Art Festival
The name is slightly misleading. The Kentuck Art Festival is named after the Kentuck Park in which it resides and has absolutely nothing to do with the state of Kentucky (even though we are all rooting for the Wildcats this weekend). Kentuck is also one of the original names of the city of Northport, which references the large stands of cane plant that were native to the area. The first festival was generated on the centennial of the city’s founding in 1971. Since then, Northport has essentially been assimilated by the growth of Tuscaloosa, but the festival still remains as an expression of folk art and culture.
The art on display includes woodwork, needlework, fabrics metalwork, glass blowing, paintings, pictures, clay, jewelry, and many other unique pieces. While the artists come from across the country to participate most artists try to bring the theme of the regions from which the come. The artists also have “how to” classes where you can learn how to do some of the clay and metal working art styles... or at least get the basics. They also have displays where you can see artists in the act of glass blowing or wood carving. The artists are very kind and will be glad to talk with you if you have any questions about what they do.
There is a large section of the festival reserved as an entertainment zone. Live music plays in this area. It is traditionally bluegrass, but different bands play throughout the day. There are story telling and plays put on for children which cover folk tales and legends in the area. There are also arts and crafts tables so that families can work together to create their own art.
Overall, this is a fun event where you can see a side of the art world you don’t usually expect. Many people view art as being a bit hoity toity and for rich people. This art is by standard folks who take what they see and make statements that people can appreciate from it. This is an event that is fun for the whole family and worth checking out if you get the chance.
If you can’t make it though don’t worry. Since there is no football this weekend, just make sure you take the time to enjoy yourself. Eat some good food, relax, spend some time with the family, whatever else you need to do to unwind. Just have a good time out there so you can come back refreshed and cheering twice as hard next week.