Where we’re at: I’m covering my road trip in the American South in April and May of 2022.

What even is the south?

It was a question I found myself mulling on my inbound flight to Mobile, Alabama, the start of a three city, three state Southern USA road trip that would also take in Tupelo, Mississippi and Memphis, Tennessee. A speaking gig at a travel conference in the final destination had prompted the journey; the promise of my perpetual fellow yes-girl Katie of Traveling Spud in the passenger seat prompted the rest.

My travels in this particular region of my homeland were limited. If you exclude Texas and Florida, which many boundaries of this nebulous region do, I’ve only ever visited big mega cities like Nashville, New Orleans, and Atlanta, with some quick stops to festivals in Tullahoma, youthful summers in Myrtle Beach, a college scouting trip and a sister weekend in Savannah. Thus, I’m going to try not to let the novelty get the best of me and make every other sentence of this post a southern anachronism like Bless your heart but I cannot make any promises, people!

Painted oyster in Mobile, Alabama
Alex in front of a decorated storefront that says Downtown Mobile, AL

Katie, Alex, and Catherine in front of a Welcome To Mobile mural

Alabama was my 25th state — an exciting halfway mark on my journey to someday experience every state in America! And I couldn’t think of a better opportunity to add it to the list.

We’d started our trip here courtesy of our Wander Women Retreat guest turned friend Catherine — beware, I will take you up on all invitations, casual or otherwise, to visit you in your home city. I walked out of the airport into the thick spring evening air to find my two friends drinking champagne in the parking lot; a warm welcome indeed.

We headed to our Airbnb, a gem of a find, and crashed into bed. This being a longer trip with some built in work time, we had opted for something more homey for our four nights in Mobile — though I was tempted by the chic boutique hotel The Admiral, which I’ll check out shall I ever return!

Historic house in Mobile, Alabama
Adorable Airbnb in Mobile, Alabama

Fireplace in an Airbnb in Mobile, Alabama
Desk in an Airbnb in Mobile, Alabama

Chic living room in an Airbnb in Mobile, Alabama

The next morning, our weekend began with a bang — or a bike, more accurately. Catherine scooped us up for a morning event that was more or less made for me! It was an outdoor fitness pop-up with local gym Crew Fitness, which instantly reminded me of my own hometown sweat fix, Anatomie.

The event included post-workout brunch and bubbles onsite at The Cheese Cottage, which was every bit as adorable as it sounds. It was the best way to start the day! Afterwards, we spent a lazy day catching up at Catherine’s parents’ beautiful pool, them bringing a local crawfish boil to Katie’s absolute delight. 

Crew Fitness Row+Ride class in Mobile
The Cheese Cottage in Mobile, Alabama
 
Early that evening, we got gussied up to head down to Dauphin Street. Here, we strolled around marveling at the city’s cute murals, noting great restaurants and cafes, and spotting the city’s painted sidewalk oysters — officially known as The Oyster Trail, and getting the lowdown from Catherine on all things Azalea City. Turns out, this here was the first municipality in Alabama, dating back to 1702 — and was also the birthplace of America’s Mardi Gras.
 
We settled on dinner at El Papi, where in true small town style, Catherine seemed to know just about everyone on the patio, but also bookmarked Noble South for a future meal.

Storefronts on Dauphin Street in downtown Mobile, Alabama

Crescent Theater in Mobile, Alabama
Saenger Theatre in Mobile, Alabama

We also stopped for a post-dinner cocktail at Post, a chic wine bar, and I reminisced on a favorite wine bar by the same name back in Albany. It wasn’t the first time and it wouldn’t be the last I drew comparisons between the two cities on opposite latitudes. 

POST Bar in Mobile, Alabama
Outdoor space at POST Bar in Mobile

The next morning we got our steps in with a walk back downtown for breakfast.

Alex in front of a mural that says Welcome To Mobile Alabama

Our reward was breakfast tacos and iced caffeine at Nova Espresso, a spot so hip it wouldn’t have been out of place in Austin or Brooklyn. Catherine had told us since we met that we’d be surprised by Mobile — and we were.

Inside of Nova Espresso in Mobile
Nova Espresso in Mobile, Alabama

Nova Espresso in Mobile, Alabama

We were fueling up for a big day. Originally, Catherine had tickled us with stories of Florabama, a waterfront bar on the state line featuring cheap buckets of beers, a Sunday morning church service, and more pickup trucks than you could even dare to dream; memorialized in song by many a top country artist.

Sadly, yet also delightfully, that weekend was the bar’s famous annual Mullet Toss — which, after marveling at an event where everyone threw around a bunch of out-of-fashion wigs, I was informed was a get together in which people throw fish — which meant traffic would be backed up clear to Mississippi.

River Shack in Mobile, Alabama
Boat on Mobile Bay

So instead, Catherine created a multi-stop Mobile Bay dive bar tour, inviting the neighborhood and renting a party bus complete with a pole and someone’s left-behind branded prom cups. I could not even imagine a better outcome if I tried.

We kicked things off at River Shack, where we tried our first bushwackers — it’s a mudslide, basically! — and giggled at alligator bites on the menu. Frankly though, things were a little classier than I was hoping for.

Photo with a caption that says Expose Yourself To Art
Katie and Alex at Traders in Mobile, Alabama

I was beyond satisfied at Trader’s On the Causeway, a quirkily-shaped bar located on yes, the causeway, which served up the true nostalgic dive vibes my Banyan-loving heart craves every once in a while. My usual tipsy dive bar order of “your finest glass of champagne!” got the usual laughs it always does (depending on how many non-champagnes have been consumed, a British accent may or may not be added), and our White Claws were perfectly complemented by the free crockpot meatballs on the bar.

Free meatballs? Five stars.
 
The Ice Box Bar in Mobile, Alabama
Hanging out at The Ice Box bar in Mobile, Alabama

We made our way back towards Mobile, where we continued our bar crawl with some local watering holes like Ice Box, swapping our party bus for a gold cart chauffeured by a very patient designated driver. A few delivery pizzas back around the kitchen island later, we declared it a wildly successful Sunday.

And the next morning, we were back to — ever so slightly groggy — business.

Katie in front of Mobile murals

For one rare moment demonstrating that we have the capacity to learn from our repeated mistakes, Katie and I had actually scheduled in some purposeful work days during our trip, rather than hoping the time space continuum would rupture and we’d suddenly discover extra hours in the day.

Luckily, we had some beautiful settings for work calls and email binges, between our spacious Airbnb and local coffee shops like Knucklebones.

The Social Experiment in Mobile, Alabama
Tables at The Social Experiment in Mobile, Alabama
Floor at The Social Experiment in Mobile, Alabama

We paused for a break at the Mobile Carnival Museum, which honors the Mobile roots of Mardi Gras. It brought back many of my own special memories of the more well-known New Orleans version with my sister, and is a nice way to get a feel for an event I think everyone should experience once in their lifetime!

The small museum is packed with displays but a quick stop overall, making it easy to pop into a busy day. 

Exhibit at the Mobile Carnival Museum
Mardi Gras art at the Mobile Carnival Museum

Mobile Carnival Museum

Katie at the Mobile Carnival Museum

The Big Easy on our minds, we couldn’t help but make “lunch” a stop at Mo’Bay Beignet Co., in my mind a Mobile must-do! We loved the signature syrups for dipping our favorite southern treat into.

Mo' Bay Beignet Co in Mobile, Alabama
Treats for sale at Mo' Bay Beignet Co

Mo' Bay Beignet Co in Mobile

The shop was pretty dang Instagrammable, too! And paired with the Mardi Gras museum, made for a cute little tribute to another favorite Southern sister city.

Alex at Mo' Bay Beignet Co in Mobile
Beignets at Mo' Bay Beignet Co

After our break, it was back to work! Doesn’t remote work look good on Katie?

Katie with her laptop in a Mobile Airbnb

Katie with her laptop in Mobile, Alabama

Alex's laptop in a Mobile Airbnb
Cheeky shower curtain in a Mobile, Alabama Airbnb

When we finally signed off for the day, Catherine had one more treat in store for us. Friends we’d met on the bar crawl had generously offered to take us out for a short sunset sail on the Bay. 

Mobile Bay in Mobile, Alabama
Boating on Mobile Bay

Boating on Mobile Bay
Sailboat on Mobile Bay
 
I couldn’t imagine a more perfect end to the weekend than this one. Reminiscing about our Wander Women adventures in Lebanon, Egypt, and now right here in Catherine’s hometown — with Wander Women Israel right ahead on the horizon.
 

Boating on Mobile Bay
Alex on a boat on Mobile Bay

As usual, Katie and I pulled out of town the next morning (after a rental car drama you’ll definitely read about in my next re-started recap!) chatting about our inevitable return trip — which will definitely involve a side-trip to Dauphin Island, Mobile’s nearest beach getaway.

I only had the vaguest notions of what Alabama would be like before my arrival and yet Mobile still surprised me. I can’t imagine this trip without the warm hospitality of our amazing host, and am grateful to her for a truly incredible girls’ trip in the most unexpected of locations.

Stay tuned for Mississippi up next!

Have you been to Alabama? Tell me about your trip! And if not… is this what you expected?

Thanks to Visit Mobile for welcoming us with media passes to local attractions!

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8 Comments...
  • Leslie
    September 29 2022

    Hi Alex, Matt was just transferred to Mobile, so all this great info will come in handy when I visit him. It looks like a really interesting and fun city.
    Where is your home base now?
    xx

    • Catherine
      September 29 2022

      Mobile is great! Reach out if you ever need suggestions.

  • Big Papa
    September 29 2022

    LOVE these photos! Sounds like you had a pretty awesome time in Mobile!

    • Catherine
      September 29 2022

      Loved reading this. It made me reminisce on yalls weekend and some of these stories are so tame I’m laughing. Come back anytime!!!

  • Aussie Jo
    September 29 2022

    Even this Aussie has heard of Mobile Alabama, great post

  • Noel G
    September 30 2022

    Hi Alex and Catherine!! OMG, so fun to see you visit Catherine 🙂 I love seeing some of the ladies from our Egypt trip on other retreats, I spied a bunch of y’all in Israel. Love Love Love!! <3

  • Valerie
    September 30 2022

    I also thought it was wigs when she told me about the mullet toss haha. Gonna go in February for Mardi Gras, can’t wait!!

  • Sydney
    October 4 2022

    Like you, I wouldn’t be sure what to expect from a trip to Alabama, but nevertheless, what you’ve described was definitely a surprise. Thanks for sharing, happy you’re writing again 🙂

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