Between a calendar of signature seasonal events, live music, excellent shopping and restaurants, award-winning museums, and year-round celebration of the arts, there’s always something to do here. And if you want a purely relaxing, do-little weekend – we have serene scenes for that, too.
Here are just a few picks for must-do experiences for living in or visiting Decatur.
If you’re best known as The River City, you’d better live up to the name. Decatur delivers on its Tennessee River location with four marinas and multiple launches for boats, kayaks, and canoes, plus plenty of spots to fish from the banks. Thanks to the River’s Wheeler Reservoir being a top lake for bass, we draw anglers from all around for event-packed tournament seasons.
In addition to a reverence for nature that comes with being a river town, Decatur is home to the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, established to provide a protected habitat for wintering and migrating birds in our region of the country. It’s a popular destination for hikers, kayakers, and nature lovers all year long and is most popular throughout the winter months when we welcome as many as 20,000 wintering sandhill cranes and usually a dozen or so endangered whooping cranes. Visitors can learn about these birds and more at the refuge’s visitor center as well as at the nationally acclaimed Cook Museum of Natural Science in downtown Decatur, which delights visitors of all ages with educational exhibits and experiences for exploring the magic of our natural world. USA Today readers ranked the museum No. 1 in a 2021 poll.
Decatur’s local and national retailers cover just about every category of merchandise, business size, and shopping experience. We have antiques shops and malls for treasure hunters, a collection of splendid home interiors shops, clothing boutiques to keep you on-trend at every budget, specialty gift shops with carefully curated inventories, favorite national brands with familiar stock, plus an assortment of thrift shops beloved by those who enjoy the thrill of a great deal.
Arts in Decatur thrill the eyes, ears, and heart. Take in creative expression across many media at the Carnegie Visual Arts Center, or observe it displayed boldly throughout town on our growing Mural Trail. Between nationally touring music artists at The Princess Theatre for the Performing Arts, local artists performing at local pubs and eateries downtown and beyond, plus Concerts by the River during warm weather months, you’re likely to find live music any given night of the week here. The Princess also delivers when it comes to theater and dance performances, as does the Alabama Center for the Arts.
After we collectively ring in a new year, our year-long celebration begins. January brings the Festival of the Cranes, followed by February’s Carnegie Carnival. Shortly after, May brings nice weather and people to the streets downtown for 3rd Friday events that occur through October. With May arrives the Daikin Japanese Festival and the Dragon Boat Festival, which is then followed by the Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic on Memorial Day weekend. We celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks. A juried selection of arts are on display – and sale – during the River Clay Fine Arts Festival in late October. We close out the year with a splendid Christmas Tour of Homes, our downtown Christmas Parade, and the Parade of Lights, which features bulb-bedecked boats circling from the Riverwalk Marina past Rhodes Ferry Park and back.
Initially settled in the early 1800s, Decatur is rich in history and has many ways to explore it. Between our two historic neighborhoods on the National Register of Historic Places, we are home to the largest concentration of Victorian-era craftsman and bungalow homes in the state. Our Historic Depot and Railroad Museum was Alabama Main Street’s Historic Preservation Project of the Year in 2016 and offers a schedule of free tours throughout the week. The Old State Bank dates to 1833 and is the first stop on the Civil War Walking Tour of Decatur. Nearby, the Morgan County Archives is a popular place for genealogy research and houses several exhibits and special collections.
If you’re just looking to take a leisurely stroll and perhaps unfurl a blanket to take in the sun, enjoy a picnic, or read a good book, we’re here for that, too. Point Mallard Park, Wheeler Wildlife Refuge, Delano Park, Rhodes Ferry Park, Hospitality Park, and Wilson Morgan Park are just a few of our most popular places with easy trails and open, grassy areas perfect for taking a pause. Walking path development has increased with newer neighborhood developments, and some schools have adjacent wooded walking trails that nearby residents enjoy. Explore our many parks and their amenities at the link below.