Only in Decatur

Only in Decatur

Words by Paige Townley

Decatur is a vibrant community in north Alabama’s Morgan County. Situated on the banks of the Tennessee River, the city is conveniently located in the center of it all—only 20 minutes outside of Huntsville and an hour outside of Birmingham and Nashville—and offers a rich history that dates back to the early 1800s. Along with its storied past and rich tradition, Decatur has become known for its natural environment, cultural attractions, and culinary treats. Check out our list of Decatur’s five most unique destinations that make the city more than than worthy to be your next weekend getaway.

Cook Museum of Natural Science

The Cook Museum of Natural Science is nothing if not interactive. This incredibly unique destination combines learning and nature with hands-on fun and excitement. Situated in downtown Decatur, the science museum is home to a wide variety of animals, from different species of saltwater fish to insects and alligators, as well as a number of exhibits that are sure to provide enjoyment for kids and adults alike.

Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge

Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge has been providing a home to animals for more than 80 years. Consisting of approximately 35,000 acres, the Refuge features naturally preserved woodlands that provide a natural habitat for wildlife. As it’s also one of the South’s largest educational centers for waterfowl and wildlife study, it’s also a environment for visitors to learn and explore. While here, guests will enjoy self-guided tours through a large glass-enclosed observatory, wildlife films, and resources that illustrate the beauty and importance of wildlife. In addition to providing opportunities for visitors to interact with wildlife, Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge is also a top destination for hiking, biking, and bird watching and features five established nature trails.


Outdoor adventure abounds at GoFAR USA Park. Nestled in a forest, this 60-acre outdoor park includes activities of all types, including ziplines, a climbing wall, and petting zoo. If you’re looking for more to get your heart going, there’s also trails for. Hiking, running, and biking, and even obstacle courses.

Big Bob Gibson BBQ

Big Bob Gibson BBQ has been drawing hungry visitors since it opened up nearly 100 years ago. The establishment practically put Decatur on the map for barbecue, and it’s widely known as one of the oldest and most prestigious barbecue joints in the country. In fact, the restaurant has won 15 World BBQ Championships and five Memphis in May World BBQ Grand Championships.

Big Bob founded the restaurant back in 1925 after working as an L&N railroad worker and honing his culinary skills on the weekends. Five generations later, and Big Bob Gibson BBQ is still serving up its delicious offering of smoked meats. The restaurant is especially famous for its Original BBQ White Sauce, which it still serves today and many restaurants continue to try to replicate.

Point Mallard Water Park

Point Mallard Water Park is all about family fun. The 35-acre water theme area is home to the first wave pool in the country, a duck pond, and Squirt Factory kid’s pool. Beyond the water park, the facility includes a variety of other activities to keep you going all day. There’s the scenic 18-hole championship golf course, 25-acre wooded campground, driving range, batting cages, lighted tennis courts, and ball fields.


 Support and funding provided by the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area.