Life in Mobile
A City of Influence
Mobile, Alabama offers a temperate climate, low cost of living, close proximity to white sandy beaches, and a central location on the Gulf Coast. City streets are shaded by a canopy of live oaks, and the mild climate contributes to year-round outdoor lifestyles with many regional activities. The combined statistical area includes Baldwin County to the east and has a population of over 600,000 (2010 U.S. census). Mobile is home to one of the nation’s busiest ports, contributing to the nickname, "Port City", and to the unique mixing of diverse cultural influences and sets Mobile apart from other cities in the region. The major industries are a mixture of aerospace, construction, manufacturing, medicine, and shipbuilding.
Native American Influence
The city derives its name from the Maubila tribe who inhabited the area upriver from the current location of the city. The Museum of Mobile showcases a remarkably well-preserved, 500-year-old canoe, made from a hollowed-out oak tree, probably by the Maubila tribe.
Believing that Mobile Bay was the mouth of the Mississippi River, the French established the city of Mobile in 1702 to secure access to the river, making Mobile the first capital of the French colony of Louisiana. In 1711 the city was moved to the present location of Fort Conde at the mouth of the Mobile River and just south of the Mobile Central Business District. After exploring the river delta, the French discovered that the bay was not the Mississippi River outlet into the Gulf of Mexico but rather one of the largest estuaries on the North American continent.
French influences persist in the city after more than 300 years. The French introduced Mardi gras to the "New World" in Mobile which today is a favorite annual event, albeit a somewhat more family-oriented celebration than its 15-year younger sister’s party to the west. Mardi gras in Mobile is celebrated with parades along streets with French names, such as Royal, Conde, Iberville, Dauphin and St. Louis. Lower Dauphin Street is the downtown hub of entertainment, including theaters, restaurants, art galleries, shops and after-hour clubs.
The coastal counties of Mobile and Baldwin were part of the Spanish territory of West Florida. Other connections of the “Florida counties” of Alabama are the white sandy beaches, the diverse outdoor activities along the waterfront, and the sub-tropical climate. Spanish Plaza honors the Spanish period of the city between 1780 and 1813 and features the "Arches of Friendship", a fountain presented to Mobile by the city of Málaga, Spain.
Other influences on the city culture include African, British, Caribbean, and Creole influences. Mobile became part of the United States of America during the War of 1812.
The arts, gardens and museums of Mobile provide cultural enrichment to Mobilians. The performing arts are active in Mobile with the Mobile Opera, Mobile Symphony, Mobile Ballet, and the Playhouse in the Park. The temperate climate provides an excellent environment for gardens, such as the Mobile Botanical Garden and Bellingrath Gardens & Home. The city has many museums including the Mobile Museum of Art, the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center, the Mobile Carnival Museum, the Battleship USS Alabama and the Museum of Mobile.
On the second Friday of each month, galleries, studios, shops, and businesses in the Cathedral Square Arts District in Mobile stay open until 9 PM for the Lower Dauphin Street (LODA) Artwalk, celebrating the arts and community. Area restaurants join in with culinary specials only available during Artwalk. Many galleries will feature live music, hors devours and wine. Fairhope, Alabama, has a similar function, First Friday Artwalk from 6 - 8 PM.
The Mobile Ballet Company, directed by Winthrop Corey, a faculty member at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York, began in 1987 and has featured full-length productions of Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, Giselle, Romeo and Juliet, Cinderella, and Swan Lake as well as two original ballets, Dracula and A Streetcar Named Desire. The company welcomes guest artists from New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and other world-renown companies to dance in the principal roles. The Mobile Ballet Company offers educational dance programs, beginning at 3 years of age.
Having been founded as the "Mobile Opera Guild" in 1945, the Mobile Opera is part of the Downtown Mobile Art District and shares rehearsal, administrative and performance space with the Mobile Symphony Orchestra. Featured artists such as Christine Weidinger, Michael Devlin, Anthony Laciura, Barry McCauley, Hal France and Sylvia McNair have made appearances with major opera companies including the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, and the San Francisco Opera. In addition to main stage productions, programs of opera excerpts are presented in schools and community venues throughout the region.
With roots going back to 1970, the Mobile Symphony Orchestra incorporates performance and education into its mission. The Orchestra shares its music director Scott Speck with the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra. Performances have included Yo-yo Ma, Chee-Yun, Benjamin Grosvenor, Jens Lindemann, as well as YouTube sensation and "The Sing Off" 2011 winner Pentatonix. While performances are principally at the Saenger Theater in Downtown Mobile, the youth and adult educational programs extend into the Mobile area community, culminating in the Mobile Symphony Youth Orchestra.
Gardens and Parks
Bellingrath Gardens and Home is a 65-acre arboretum sponsored by the Bellingrath Estate, located in the midst of the gardens. The magnificent spring bloom of the azaleas highlights the official flower of the City of Mobile, the summer features the award-winning rose garden, and the cool-weather camellias close out the year. The Holiday in Lights draws special attention from late November through early January.
Bienville and Cathedral Squares
Bienville Square, a historic city park in the center of downtown Mobile, Alabama, had its beginnings as a public park in 1824 when the United States Congress passed an act that transferred a large plot of land to the city of Mobile and specified that the property be forever used as a city park. Bienville Square was named for Mobile’s founder, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville. It takes up the entire block bordered by the streets of Dauphin, Saint Joseph, Saint Francis, and North Conception.
Cathedral Square, the site of the Campo Santo, an 18th century Catholic cemetery adjacent to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, lies between North Claiborne, Dauphin, North Jackson, and Conti Streets. It is the epicenter of the Cathedral Square Art District and the Lower Dauphin Street Art Walk.
Langan Park, the largest of the parks operated by the City of Mobile, is a 720-acre park in the Springhill neighborhood. Opened in 1957, the park features lakes, tennis courts, children’s playgrounds and picnic areas. It is also home to the Azalea City Golf Course, the Mobile Botanical Gardens, the Mobile Museum of Art, and Playhouse in the Park.
Mobile Botanical Gardens
Adjoining Langan Park, the Mobile Botanical Gardens encompass 100 acres of gardens, woodland trails, and a longleaf pine restoration. Established in 1974 by a dedicated group of horticulturists, the Gardens strive to educate people about and provide a means to preserve the natural aspects of the local environment.
Battleship Park, a maritime museum, includes vessels from World War II up to today in one of America’s finest military parks. Visitors walk the decks of the USS Alabama, tour the engine room and go below to the eight floors of the substructure. A World War II submarine, combat aircraft, army tanks, a Vietnam River Patrol Boat, and a plane like the one flown by the Tuskegee Airmen make it a exciting place to learn history.
Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center
The Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center is a non-profit, science center promoting learning of science through inquiry-based educational and entertaining activities. Located in downtown Mobile, Alabama, the mission of the Exploreum is "to promote science literacy among the people of South Alabama and the Gulf Coast Region. The Exploreum strives to make life better for future generations. Focus areas include science, math and technology education; quality family experiences; workforce development for hard-to-fill positions; and economic development for downtown Mobile." The Exploreum features include exhibits, IMAX films, demonstrations, workshops and teacher professional development. Patrons can attend demonstrations or workshops in the ChemLab, BioLab or new ExploreTEC lab and see a film in the J.L. Bedsole IMAX Theater
GulfQuest Interactive Museum
GulfQuest, National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico, strives "to inspire people of all ages and backgrounds to understand and appreciate the gulf coast's rich maritime heritage through exhibits, programs and activities." With interactive exhibits, simulators, displays and theaters, the museum is housed on multiple decks of a life-sized replica of a container ship; so, come ready to walk and browse but take your time. There are many places to sit and enjoy the view, both inside the museum and outside overlooking the beautiful Mobile River, the downtown waterfront, and the busy of Port of Mobile.
Mobile Museum of Art
The seeds for the Mobile Museum of Art began in 1957 and bore fruit with the opening of the original museum in Langan Park in 1964. The permanent collection consists of an outstanding assemblage of American, European, African and Asian art including paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings and decorative art. Highlights of the collection include 19th century American landscapes, realist paintings from the WPA era, contemporary international studio glass, turned wood and ceramics. Special exhibits are part of the Highsmith art group and MMOA offers art classes and lectures as well as film and performance exhibits.
Living on the Gulf Coast allows a year round outdoor lifestyle. The mild winters allow the out of doors to remain a part of daily life all year, while the summers are perfect to head to the nearby beaches of the Alabama Gulf Coast.
Dauphin Island, a barrier island south of Mobile, AL, is home to Audubon Bird Sanctuary, Fort Gaines, and Dauphin Island Sea Lab, which houses the Estuarium and a public aquarium. Dauphin Island is 50-minute drive (40 miles) from Mobile, AL.
Although the island has several bird sanctuaries, the main one is the 164-acre Audubon Bird Sanctuary. Dauphin Island is the first landfall encountered by many birds as they migrate north from South America, and as a consequence many species can be found resting there before continuing their journey.
Fort Gaines on the eastern tip of the island was built between 1821 and 1848. It was occupied by Confederate forces in 1861, and captured by Federal troops during the Battle of Mobile Bay. The phrase, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead," was spoken by U. S. Admiral David Farragut just a few hundred yards from Dauphin Island's shore.
Gulf Shores was voted the best beach by Coastal Living magazine due to its "soft underfoot and ultra-bright white" sand and summer water temperatures that "hover at bathtub levels, and gentle waves make the beach safe for even the youngest waders." Ten golf courses, deep sea fishing, and interactive activities with dolphins may have helped. The beach is the backdrop for the annual Hang Out Music Fest in mid May, and the town is home to the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. Stretching six miles from Gulf Shores Parkway to the end of Dolphin Drive, Gulf Shores is a one-hour drive (48 miles) from Mobile, AL.
Gulf State Park
It can be stated no better than the Gulf State Park describes itself: "Located in the city of Gulf Shores on the coast of Alabama, white sun-kissed beaches, a surging surf, seagulls and seashells greet you at Gulf State Park. Consisting of 6,150 acres with two miles of sugar white sand beaches, Gulf State Park has a modern campground with cabins, cottages, back country trails, and the largest fishing pier in the Gulf of Mexico!
"We also have an interactive Nature Center, new tennis courts, a beautiful Beach Pavilion, the 18-hole Refuge Golf Course, and a 900 Acre Lake for fishing in our picnic area on Lake Shelby."
Gulf State Park is a 1-hour drive (51 miles) from Mobile, AL.
Orange Beach is a resort island community on the Alabama Gulf Coast. It borders Perdido Key, Florida to the east and Gulf Shores, Alabama to the west. It is a 1 hour drive (52 miles) from Mobile, AL. The white sandy dunes and beaches provide the venue for the annual Arts Festival in early March.
Mobile Area Schools
There are several public, parochial and private schools in the area. The Mobile County Public School System offers magnet schools focusing on specific academic interests, such as the Alabama School for Mathematics and Science (grades 10-12), the Phillip Preparatory Middle School (grades 6-8), the Dunbar Creative and Performing Arts Magnet School (grades 6-8), and MCPSS Magnet School of Mathematics and Science (grades K-5). The Eastern Shore area of Spanish Fort, Daphne, and Fairhope are in the Baldwin County Public School System. When moving to Mobile, check the Alabama Department of Education for score cards on every elementary, middle and high school.
The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is located in Gulf Shores and has educational programs that include summer camps, job shadowing, and field trips for schools and churches. Children can have contact encounters with tiger cubs, lemurs, reptiles and kangaroos.
The Dauphin Island Sea Lab is located on the eastern end of Dauphin Island across from Fort Gaines. It is a marine education and research center and home site of the Marine Environmental Sciences Consortium. The Sea Lab includes a 10,000 square foot exhibit hall, the Living Marsh Boardwalk, and the George F. Crozier Estuarium, a public aquarium featuring organisms from the estuary.
The Exploreum Gulf Coast Science Center is a children's interactive museum which is home to the J. L. Bedsole IMax Dome Theater. There are three permanent exhibits. Children explore human anatomy and physiology in "My BodyWorks". "The "Hands on Hall" includes lessons in the movement of air, the force of weight and the creation of sound. "The Wharf of Wonder", a community project of the Junior League of Mobile, "is filled with objects that foster dramatic play, promote tactile exploration, stimulate sensorimotor learning and encourage peer interaction."
Five Rivers Delta Resource Center is a state park where the Mobile, Spanish, Tensaw, Apalachee and Blakeley rivers flow into Mobile Bay. The Resource Center has educational programs in conservation, hunting and fishing.
The University of South Alabama has a myriad of summer programs for 3rd through 8th grade children, including Art Camp, cartooning & comic book creation, video editing and Geology FUNdamentals. The USA Recreation Center has activities onsite, which include swimming, rock climbing and fitness education, as well as off site outdoor adventures, which include kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, and hang gliding.
The Parks and Recreation Department of the City of Mobile has summer programs for children 5 years of age through adulthood. The programs include art, athletics computer skills, dance, tutoring, and much more.
With the year round outdoor lifestyle that our temperate climate offers, sports and recreation are a big part of life in the Mobile area.
Five Rivers Delta Resource Center
Five Rivers Delta Resource Center is an outdoor resource center located in Mobile Bay. Visitors can rent kayaks or canoes as well as take guided kayak or 25-passenger pontoon boat tours. The facility is a popular location for weddings, receptions, parties, meetings, etc. The park derives its name from the 5 rivers that flow into Mobile Bay forming the delta (Mobile, Spanish, Tensaw, Apalachee and Blakeley Rivers).
Mobile Parks and Recreation Department
Mobile Parks and Recreation Department coordinates adult and youth baseball, softball, basketball, soccer and football leagues each year, including youth, men's, women's and coed teams in many sports.
USA Recreation Center
The University of South Alabama Recreational Center offers multi-purpose athletic courts, a cardiovascular theater, weight room (with machines and free weights), heated indoor and outdoor pools, spa, saunas, racquetball courts, multi-purpose rooms for activities such as aerobic classes and martial arts, a rock climbing, wall, a dining facility featuring smoothies and other healthy refreshments, and a children's play area. Our recreation program provides structured intramural activities, fitness activities, open recreation options, outdoor adventures, sports clubs, and aquatic opportunities. Faculty, residents, fellows, and employees of the USA Health System benefit from discounted memberships.
Other Recreation Centers
Baseball and Softball
The Mobile BayBears, a Double-A Southern League farm team of the Arizona Diamondbacks, play in Hank Aaron Stadium, named after baseball's home run king and Mobile native. The BayBears, were affiliated with the San Diego Padres from 1997 thru 2006, reaching the playoffs in each of their first two seasons and winning the Southern League Championship in 1998 and 2004. In 2007 the BayBears began a player development agreement with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Mobile Parks and Recreation Department have youth and adults leagues, including men's, women's and coed leagues.
Fishing and Boating
Mobile lies in close proximity to some of the most plentiful and diverse fishing along the Gulf Coast. For inshore anglers, Mobile Bay and its tributaries offer close access to year round speckled trout and redfish. For offshore anglers, a short drive to Orange Beach or Dauphin Island provides close access to the the Gulf of Mexico. The summer months are the peek season for reef fish such as red snapper, amberjack, and grouper which are readily caught within 20 miles from shore. For the more adventuresome anglers, marlin, tuna, wahoo, and mahi mahi are caught year round around the numerous oil rigs that begin around 50 miles offshore.
Boating in the Mobile area, however, is not limited to just fishing enthusiasts. There is something for everyone including enjoying a summer afternoon raft up with friends at Robinson Island in Orange Beach or idling down the intracoastal waterway to enjoy waterfront dining at vacation destinations such as Lulu's or The Wharf.
For college football fans, the University of South Alabama Jaguars have expanded their football program to become a full member of the Sun Belt Conference. Additionally, the annual Senior Bowl and GoDaddy Bowl are played in Mobile. Mobile Parks and Recreation Department has fall flag football leagues for youth up to 14 years of age as well adults.
Southern Alabama is a golfer's paradise with two courses of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, the Magnolia Grove in Mobile, AL, and Lakewood Golf Club in Point Clear, AL. The City of Mobile also operates the Azalea City Golf Course.
There are several amateur soccer leagues in the area with youth and/or adult teams in both recreational and competitive leagues. Alabama Soccer Association and South Alabama Soccer Association are amateur soccer leagues for men and women ages 18 to 45. The Alabama Youth Soccer Association, Mobile Bay FC and Fairhope FC fields dedicated recreational teams for boys and girls ages 4 - 18. The Alabama Soccer Festival is an annual event held in Orange Beach, AL, drawing over 50 teams from4 states.
Being on the Gulf Coast makes getting into the water a regular activity for many Mobilian. The close proximity of the Gulf Coast beaches and the numerous swim clubs provide ready outlets for all ages to spend a day enjoying in the water.