Mobile, Alabama, is a city steeped in history and natural beauty where spring comes early with a bright, flowery passion. Winter still holds her cold grasp on the countryside less than a day’s drive north, but a short road trip to the Gulf lets you experience a truly romantic spring weekend. Mobile’s spring is a sophisticated experience from top to bottom with a creole flair, unlike other, more beachy destinations.
Join us for a romantic 24-hour journey through the original Azalea City, where you discover hidden gardens, sumptuous food, and the rites of spring in slow southern style.
Grab a Spot of Tea in Cathedral Square
Our romantic weekend in Mobile begins with al fresco dining on Cathedral Square at downtown Mobile’s oldest restaurant, Spot of Tea. While they do book tea parties, you should expect brunch fare with a Creole flair. In addition to the usual brunch suspects, you can get legit po’boys and banana foster French toast. What’s more, all of this deliciousness is just a few steps away from the circa 1711 Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and the Mobile Carnival Museum.
Cathedral Square is a fabulous microcosm of Mobile history. In a nutshell, Mobile is a lot like New Orleans; only they came first. It was the first capital of French Louisiana and has the oldest organized Mardi Gras celebrations in the United States. The city’s French and Spanish roots can still be seen in her architecture, Catholic churches, and that indescribable feeling that things are just a little different in Mobile. Unlike New Orleans, it was part of British West Florida, so you’ll find high tea in front of the Basilica.
Stroll Bellingrath Gardens and Home
Mobile is known as the Azalea City because, in the 30s, the garden club actively encouraged planting these colorful flowers to attract visitors. Their idea blossomed, and the Azalea Trail grew to be over 50-miles long and attracted over one hundred thousand visitors every year.
Coca-Cola bottlers Walter and Bessie Bellingrath built their namesake mansion and gardens just outside Mobile during the same time frame. They were avid collectors of old south memorabilia, including porcelain, silver, and mature azalea plants. These collectibles were procured from the finest homes and mansions that had fallen into disrepair with the collapse of King Cotton. The Bellingrath’s modern estate had such an old southern charm, it was too unique and beautiful not to be shared. So, on April 7, 1932, they opened their gardens to the public for the first time.
The Azalea Trail, and pretty much all of Mobile, was severely declining by the 1970s. However, Walter Bellingrath established a foundation to preserve his home and gardens in perpetuity to honor his late, beloved wife. Today, the 65-acre gardens have something blooming every season, but it’s hard to match their beauty in March when more than 250,000 azaleas explode in a vibrant collage of color.
Flowers are always romantic, but the love story behind the Bellingrath Gardens makes the blooms that much sweeter.
Refresh at The Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa
The Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa has been a mainstay for travelers since it first opened its doors in 1852. Today, it’s an oasis of luxury in historic downtown Mobile. The rooms were modern and comfortable, with a full-service spa, rooftop pool, and highly functional workout facility.
We loved the amenities, including the three on-site restaurants, but we loved the location even more. The ‘String of Pearls Initiative’ announced in 1992 and pursued through the 1990s revitalized downtown Mobile into a walkable city that’s too inviting not to explore. After the valet parked our car, we didn’t need to take her out again until it was time to check out.
How romantic is it to walk hand-in-hand through history and return to four-star accommodations in a downtown Mobile hotel?
Nocturnes at NoJa
Our first foray from the Battle House was dinner at NoJa, downtown Mobile’s longest-running fine dining restaurant. NoJa’s founder and owner, Master Chef Chakli Diggs, was, at one time, trained as an Ethiopian fighter pilot. Perhaps this background steeled his courage to open a fine-dining establishment in what was, at the time, a rough neighborhood. His vision and perseverance came through, and not only is NoJa one of the most renowned restaurants in the state, but the community has grown up around it. Walking to Noja at night is not only safe but also romantic and beautiful.
They serve a three-course, prix fixe dinner with an extensive wine and cocktail menu. The menu featured cultural cuisine prepared with the utmost attention to detail and unique flavor combinations. We tried to save room for their signature ginger donut with popcorn ice cream, but the hanger steak with goat cheese and red wine reduction and pan-seared chicken with foie gras sauce were too good not to finish. Chef Diggs’s philosophy– great things in life are worth having come from perseverance and a dedication to excellence– not only showed through in his restaurant but is also a lesson we can apply to our relationship.
Breakfast at the Bistro
After a good night’s sleep at The Battle House, we woke up refreshed and ready to explore. Our morning mission was breakfast at Bistro St. Emanuel. Like the previous night, we only had to walk 20-minutes to reach our destination. Only, this time, we headed south on Royal Street instead of west on St Francis.
We found the Bistro in Fort Condé Village, a historic neighborhood with brick streets lit with gas lanterns. Walking through the doors, we felt like we were walking into a turn-of-the-century corner tavern. The food paid homage to everything that makes Mobile unique, including an A’ La Bamian Omelet made with lump crabmeat and Conecuh sausage and traditional favorites like Eggs Benedict. Our meal was as fresh as it was flavorful.
A Historic Half-Mile on Royal Street
With our bellies full, we meandered back to the Battle House down one of Mobile’s most historic roads- Royal Street. Water Street ran behind the docks in the city’s old layout, followed by Royal right behind it. Royal runs in front of Fort Conde, old City Hall, and Mardi Gras Park. We could have stopped at the Condé-Charlotte Museum located in the old Courthouse or the restored Fort Conde Museum. However, we chose to pop into the History Museum of Mobile situated within the old City Hall.
As storytellers, we loved their History of Mobile in 22 Objects exhibit because they told 10,000 years of history with less than two-dozen curios. They weaved a beautifully paced story with compelling and unique objects that spanned the region’s rich natural history and complex colonial expansion. An infant’s sealed iron sarcophagus told the story of yellow fever and plague, and a silver-plated coffee urn from the Creole Fire Company No. 1 spoke to the region’s cultural diversity. When we left the exhibit, we felt a little closer to Mobile’s past and a lot closer to each other.
Farewell to Mobile on the USS Alabama
When our valet returned our car, we knew the romantic portion of the trip was ending, but there was one more Mobile attraction we were compelled to check out – the USS Alabama. Some couples might say this is the man’s quid-pro-quo for the prior day’s visit to the Gardens. For us, it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. How often do you get to explore one of the most powerful ships ever created?
The USS Alabama is a South Dakota Class Battleship that’s over 680′ long with a war-time crew of over 2,500 sailors. The USS Alabama is part of the Battleship Memorial Park, including the USS Drum submarine and an aircraft pavilion. Not exactly romantic, but a fitting farewell to Mobile nonetheless.
Map of Romantic Things to do in Mobile
If you’re anything like us, not getting lost is the key to a successful date night. We actually have wedding vows dedicated to NOT playing the “Dude Where’s My” game. Dude where’s my car after dinner – no bueno. Dude’s where’s my hotel when you’re walking back is even worse.
Don’t worry, we have you covered with an interactive map of all the romantic things to do in Mobile that we called out in the piece. Since we built it using native Google pins, you can even click around and take a virtual tour of romantic Mobile before you even step foot in the Port City. If the map doesn’t render right away, feel free to refresh your browser. We promise it’s worth it