The Best Stops Along I-65 Northbound
All roads lead to Nashville! If you're taking a road trip to Music City, add some excitement to your drive by pulling off at one of these stops to sightsee, stretch your legs, and nosh on some of the best roadside eats around. These spots can be found between Mobile, Alabama and Nashville along Interstate 65 northbound.
By Katie Quine • June 13, 2018
447 Miles to Nashville | Mobile, AL
Get this: Back when Louisiana was a French colony, Mobile was its capital. While New Orleans might draw more attention as “The Big Easy,” Mobile’s Mardi Gras is the oldest Carnival celebration in the country. Learn about the coastal Alabama city’s own floats, coronations, and reverie at The Mobile Carnival Museum. Like Frenchman Street in New Orleans, nearby Dauphin Street delights with its street musicians, charming architecture, and open-container laws. A short distance away, GulfQuest: National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico is massive and filled with interactive exhibits that are enjoyable for all ages.
Once you’ve learned the stories of the gulf, get your fill to eat of one its most delectable residents: oysters. The original Wintzell’s Oyster House serves them “fried, stewed, or nude” and offers a lively, laidback atmosphere from which you can slurp back bivalves and beer while chuckling at the witty sayings coined by the restaurant’s founder, all posted on the wall. If shucked seafood isn’t your thing — and even if it is — don’t miss the bacon-wrapped shrimp. For a more elevated affair that’s still Southern-fried, head to the Southern National for mussels and collard greens or The Noble South for shrimp and grits. Aromatic and brothy, both dishes envelop your senses like a warm hug.
281 Miles to Nashville | Montgomery, AL
Alabama’s capital city has a lot of history, but any classic country music fan who visits Montgomery has Hank on the brain. Hank Williams grew up in Georgina, which is located halfway between Mobile and Montgomery and conveniently right off I-65. You can visit the Hank Williams Boyhood Home & Museum and sit on the very porch where “The Hillbilly Shakespeare” learned to play guitar. Next up: The Hank Williams Museum in Montgomery, which is a treasure trove containing his suits, sheet music, high school yearbook, and the Cadillac in which he took his final journey. Hank Williams’ grave is also in Montgomery and open to visitors. Pay your respects, but please don’t pluck the grass. His gravesite, which is marked with a marble cowboy hat, is now surrounded by Astroturf after too many fans began taking blades of grass home as token. Got more time to spend in Montgomery? Explore the legacies of other American icons with ties to the city at the Rosa Parks Museum; Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. served as pastor; and The F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum, the couple’s former home where you can even spend the night.
Much of this nation’s history has unfolded on Montgomery’s Dexter Avenue, and Chris’ Hot Dogs, which celebrated 100 years as a business in 2017, has been there to witness it. Once you’ve taken in the city’s history for yourself, mull over what you’ve learned while munching on a hot dog — topped with mustard, onion, sauerkraut, and world-famous chili — just like the ones enjoyed by Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, and countless presidents. At Martin’s Restaurant, a traditional meat-and-three, fried chicken is the thing. The restaurant serves up what has become a rare Southern delicacy: “pulley bone,” a particularly succulent cut of chicken with the wishbone still intact. Central, located within a beautifully re-envisioned warehouse, has garnered widespread acclaim for elegant dishes like its 1895 Pork Chop, which is brined with sweet tea and served with fingerling potatoes.
192 Miles to Nashville | Birmingham, AL
Your history tour continues in Birmingham, which was dubbed “The Magic City” after its population soared when iron and steel production became a big business in the 1870s. Sloss Furnaces once produced more pig iron than anywhere else in the world. Now a public landmark, anyone can visit to learn about its role in the Industrial Revolution. Sloss has also become a dedicated space where artists can hone their casting, welding, and blacksmithing skills. In downtown, The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute offers a sobering but important look at the struggle for racial equality in Birmingham, the South, and the rest of the nation. Directly outside of the museum, take a moment to reflect at 16th Street Baptist Church and Kelly Ingram Park, both bearing tragic significance in the civil rights movement.
For great food and craft beer, head to Avondale. The walkable neighborhood is full of hip coffee shops and restaurants. Housed within an old post office, Post Office Pies serves up wood-fired pizza using local ingredients. Steps away, Saw’s Soul Kitchen makes sure no patron leaves hungry with its mouth-watering assortment of barbecue. Get a taste of everything when you order the sampler, but don’t leave without having tried the smoked chicken. The white sauce it’s topped with is mayonnaise-based and an Alabama favorite. Polish off your meal with a pint at Avondale Brewing Company, which has a talent for Belgian-style beers and recently launched a sour program.
113 Miles to Nashville | Huntsville, AL
First stop: Huntsville, then the stars. This northern Alabama city was responsible for the creation of rockets that put the first U.S. satellite into orbit and people on the moon. As the largest spaceflight museum in the world, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center honors Huntsville’s history as a science hub. Learn what life is like aboard the International Space Station, explore the museum’s impressive rocket collection, and experience G-force all in one afternoon. If you never got the chance to go to Space Camp as a kid, you still can as an adult. As part of its Space Camp program, the center offers two-night Adult Space Academy experiences where you can construct your own rocket and perform a simulated mission.
Upon graduation from Space Camp, raise your glass at one of two breweries of cosmic proportions: Rocket Republic Brewing Company, which has a diverse range of ales, and InnerSpace Brewing Company. InnerSpace is part of Campus No. 805, a mixed-use complex that has served as a launching pad for several Huntsville breweries. Enjoy a nice brewery hop if you’ve got time, or hop back on the road. There’s one stop left between you and Music City.
22 Miles to Nashville | Franklin, TN
With a Main Street that is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s best, Franklin is the picturesque place for a stroll. Admire the façade of the historic Franklin Theatre and the iconic neon sign outside GRAY’s on Main, a restaurant housed within an old pharmacy. Shop for artisanal gifts and home items at White’s Mercantile, owned by Hank Williams' granddaughter, Holly Williams; sample a never-ending array of spices at the Savory Spice Shop; and take a piece of Tennessee home with you after perusing locally-made items at Heart and Hands. For those who are Civil War buffs, there are three prominent sites with ties to the Battle of Franklin, all of which can be toured: The Carter House, The Lotz House, and Carnton Plantation. Before leaving town, sit down to a filling, down-home meal at the beloved Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant. While you dine, enjoy some live music before hitting the road — there’s plenty more where that came from.
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