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.
Designed by celebrated architect Frank Gehry, the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art exalts the work of George E. Ohr, a ceramic artist and moustache enthusiast known as the "Mad Potter of Biloxi." After it was destroyed in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina, the campus reopened in 2010 amidst a grove of ancient live-oak trees, featuring a series of six aesthetically impressive pavilions that include a welcome center, a gallery of African-American art, and an interpretive center inside a reconstruction of the house of emancipated craftsman Pleasant Reed. Current exhibitions include collections from some of the art world's biggest names, including Andy Warhol and ceramic sculptor Jun Kaneko, as well as selections from Ohr's Gulf Coast collection, which inspired the American Modernist movement and several MLB baseball teams to wear ceramic pots instead of baseball hats.
Run by the adventurers at Wild Native, City Safaris' urban expeditions invite participants to discover the unlikely thrills hidden within some of Mobile's stateliest settings. Whether they're recreating the festive fun of Mardi Gras, exploring downtown's historical haunts, or snooping through the inside of the U.S.S. Alabama and the surrounding grounds at Battleship Park, participants compete with one another while flexing their problem-solving muscles. Since friendly competition often brings out a participant's true nature, Wild Native's adventurers also schedule singles hunts that pair up prospective dates for an evening of strategizing.
Staff captains set sail on boats that have been outfitted to provide passengers with unforgettable views of wildlife and chances at making a big catch. Throughout the year, dolphin cruises take place aboard the Sunny Lady, which can hold up to 133 passengers and is equipped with a glass-bottom viewing area, snack bar, air conditioning, and restrooms. Alternatively, the 65-foot, walk-around Tropical Winds takes anglers out into the Gulf of Mexico on fishing charters, where they can catch mackerel, red snapper, or amberjack, depending on the season.
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.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Condé-Charlotte Museum House has collected artifacts from Mobile's distinct periods under French, British, Spanish, American, and Confederate control and preserved them under the roof of this 19th-century Colonial-style townhouse. Originally erected as an 1822 jail house, the building was converted to a residence in 1850, when it was expanded with handmade bricks and expunged of all loitering ghosts. Imagine yourself in 1711, relaxing among the floral drapes and pale pink upholstery in the museum's French bedroom, then calibrate your consciousness to 1775 in the British "commandant's room," where a gleaming silver tea set enhances historical veracity by whining about colonists and demanding more Yorkshire pudding. Artifacts of American heritage include the lavish red-velvet sofa in the Confederate parlor, the white-laced four-post bed in the original master bedroom, and a to-scale replica of Teddy Roosevelt's mustache in the closet. Finally, move outside to explore the kempt hedges forming brick-and-tile corridors through the sun-washed garden, an homage to the late 18th- and early 19th-century Spanish presence. Tourists who wish to know the age and origin myth of each artifact can join a guided tour, which lasts 45 minutes.
Sportations connects amateur adrenaline jockeys to certified professional adventurers, drawing from a nationwide network of aeronauts and speed demons to introduce habitual pedestrians to the wonders of skydiving, ballooning, hang gliding, and stock-car racing. Thrill seekers can zipline across a forest canopy, hollering like Tarzan or taunting nearby birds until they agree to race. Helicopter tours ferry patrons skyward over landmarks and cityscapes, whereas paragliding adventures get up close and personal with blue skies and clouds. For most sports, Sportations accommodates groups of any size, from physics classes empirically proving gravity's existence to solo ballooning supervillains declaring dominion over all they see.