The USS Alabama spent 37 months in active duty during World War II. It earned nine battle stars and never suffered significant damage from enemy fire. Following this illustrious military career, the battleship was set to be scrapped because of the prohibitive cost of maintaining a wartime fleet. But in 1964, Alabama schoolchildren put forth a fierce fundraising campaign and raised $100,000 to save the ship. Their efforts inspired a corporate sponsor to supply the $1 million balance, and the navy donated the ship. And so the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park was born.
Today, the ship rests safe and sound in the harbor—a 680-foot mammoth whose enormous mass displaces more than 44,500 tons of water. More than 13 million visitors have trod its deck, wandered through its passages, and gazed at its 29 16-inch and .38-caliber guns.
Resting alongside the ship, the WWII submarine USS Drum welcomes visitors to explore inside its labyrinthine hull, inviting them to climb through hatches and imagine what life would be like if every doorway were round. The memorial park also houses a cavalcade of military equipment, vehicles, and aircraft on display, including a T-55 Iraqi tank, a Cold War–era Lockheed A-12 Blackbird, and a World War II–era Douglas C-47D Skytrain.
The five flags in front of the Condé-Charlotte Museum House represent Mobile’s tumultuous history under the rule of five countries: France, Spain, Britain, the United States, and the Confederate States. Within the house, visitors can see antique furnishing that correspond to each of these periods in time, with a different theme in each room—for example, the British room holds antiques from 1763–1780, when the British occupied the city. The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in Alabama run the house and operate its tours, which traverse both inside and the outdoor, Spanish-themed garden.
Built in 1857, the Southern Market/Old City Hall building served as home to three groups: the mayor and his city council meetings, several local militias, and a food market. Since then, the Italianate building has been deemed a national landmark, and its tenants have been whittled down to one: History Museum of Mobile. With its permanent exhibitions, the museum preserves more than 300 years of Mobile history, starting with the city's first Native American inhabitants. Interactive exhibits and artifacts—including antique silver and a cannon recovered from the CSS Alabama, which sunk during an 1864 battle—usher guests all the way to the present day.
Along with its mainstay exhibitions, the museum hosts events dedicated to film screenings, lectures, and debunking myths purported by Magic 8 Balls. History Museum of Mobile team has also helped open two other historical sites in town, including the Phoenix Fire Museum, which houses horse-drawn steam engines.
Emerald Coast Science Center has 5,000 square feet of gallery space filled with eye-opening, family-friendly exhibits on principles of biology, physics, earth science, and technology. In the Hall of Life, there are microscopes where you can peer at bodily cells, as well as a replica intestine that unfurls to reveal its surprising length of 17 feet. At Color & Light, you can interact with mirrors, colorful lights, and a domesticated rainbow. And in the Critters room, kids get to meet such museum residents as Tickles the Snake and Rosy the Tarantula.
The professional pilots at Timberview Helicopters ferry passengers high into the clouds aboard a sky-scraping whirlybird during flight tours through Destin, Kansas City, and Key West. Having chartered flights for National Geographic and the Travel Channel, these pilots expertly navigate planes toward sweeping, picturesque views, allowing sightseers to steal glances of Fort Walton Beach, downtown Kansas City, and Key West's ocean views from a perspective normally reserved for birds and astronauts with binoculars. Additionally, their high-definition videos grant guests a lasting commemoration of their in-flight experience. When they're not chartering tours, they teach budding pilots the gravity-defying tricks of their trade through pilot training and lug precious shipments from port to port with their cargo-lifting services.
Working from an in-house frame shop and employing high-quality materials, the master framers at Geana's Art Gallery & Custom Framing prepare virtually any item for permanent display. Selecting from an extensive collection of mouldings, an experienced framesmith encases photographs or World's Greatest Doggy-Paddler certificates behind a protective pane of glass (roughly $125 on average), or tears down and refits previously framed pieces to replace broken glass (roughly $50 on average). Alternatively, framers can mount projects on acid-free foam core or stretch canvases (roughly $299 on average) to properly display paintings and prevent torn cotton ligaments. Though prices vary according to size and difficulty, almost any framing challenge is fair game, from shadowboxes and plasma-TV surrounds to priceless uniforms and custom mirrors, both oversize and enchanted.