9:00 a.m. Breakfast/brunch at Whisk’d Café. Located at 1051 Grant Street, SE in Decatur, Whisk’d has a neighborhood atmosphere and a full menu of favorites to start your morning off right. Omelets, breakfast sandwiches, waffles, muffins and a la carte items are offered alongside potatoes prepared 5 different ways and unlimited free coffee. As a local, you will appreciate the art on the walls and the long history of the building.
10:00 a.m. Cook Museum of Natural Science. The newest attraction in Morgan County is a great place to spend the first morning of your staycation. It has been ranked one of the best new museums in the U.S. and deserves its accolades. Visitors are invited to explore insects, rivers, oceans, caves, forests, space and the desert with the help of live animals, a large aquarium, and dozens of interactive exhibits. Cook Museum is particularly enjoyable with children or grandchildren in tow, but adults will enjoy it, as well.
12:30 p.m. Lunch at Big Bob Gibson’s Barbecue on 6th Avenue. This is arguably the most distinctively-Decatur meal you can enjoy. Since 1952 on 6th Avenue and long before that in his backyard, Big Bob prepared smoked meats and served it with his unique white sauce. Enjoy pork, beef, brisket, chicken or turkey on a plate, in a bun, or topping a huge potato or salad. Save room for pie. Coconut, chocolate, lemon meringue and pecan are the best sellers with peanut butter making occasional appearances.
1:30 p.m. Head outside for the afternoon. Enjoy a round of golf at Point Mallard Golf Course or take a short drive to Hartselle to play at Quail Creek Golf Resort and Conference Center. If you prefer to be on the water, make your way to Decatur Boat Harbor or Ingalls Harbor to put in your boat for fishing or a relaxing cruise down the river. Walking trails are available at Delano Park, Point Mallard, Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge or Rhodes Ferry Park in Decatur, and Sparkman Park in Hartselle.
If the weather doesn’t cooperate, don’t worry. Spend some time browsing the stores at Decatur Mall and take in a first-run movie at AMC CLASSIC Decatur 12 or hone your skill at recently-refurbished AMF River City Lanes for a few games of bowling.
Relax a little, get freshened up, double-check your reservation time, and then head to dinner.
7:00 p.m. Have a fabulous dinner at Simp McGhee’s on Bank Street. The cuisine has a decidedly Cajun flavor with lots of seafood and Louisiana dishes, but you can also find steaks, chops, lamb, chicken and pasta. Read the menu and quiz the waitstaff to hear the sizzling tale of Riverboat Captain Simp and his mistress Miss Kate.
If Day One falls on a 3rd Friday of the month, Second Avenue will be hopping with visitors enjoying live entertainment, street vendors and shops open for extended hours.
You can also check the calendar of the Princess Theatre before your staycation. Maybe you will be lucky enough to take in a concert or play.
Enjoy a restful night in your own bed, looking forward to Day Two of your Morgan County Staycation.
8:30 a.m. Eat a hearty, Southern breakfast at City Café. This location at 101 1st Avenue, SE in Decatur has been in continuous operation as a popular diner since 1933. You will likely see someone you know, and you are sure to find your favorite breakfast items on the menu. Go ahead and splurge. After all, you’re on staycation!
9:30 a.m. Drive a couple of blocks toward the railroad overpass and spend a few minutes at the Morgan County/Decatur Farmer’s Market. Another Decatur icon, the Farmer’s Market has been operational since 1937. You’ll find a bounty of fresh produce, flowers, breads, and jams brought in from local farmers and growers. The early birds get to pick from all the best items, so you might even want to visit the market before breakfast. Saturdays often mean special days with free giveaways. Think watermelon slices or tomato sandwiches. Yum!
10:00 a.m. Take a short drive south on Highway 31 or I-65 to Exit 328 to Hartselle and find a parking space on Main Street or in one of the lots behind the stores on Main Street. Start at The Depot and work your way down both sides of the street. Admire the antiques, the boutiques, the home décor, the children’s clothes and even one of Alabama’s premier centers for wedding attire, Something Blue Shoppe. You’ll pass Robin’s Nest, Southern Sass, Shoefisticated, Zoey’s, Beehive Bathhouse and plenty of delightful surprises. You’ll be intrigued by the enticing number of eateries within a couple of blocks.
12:30 p.m. Make a choice for a great lunch: Cahoot’s Café, The Freight House, Bentley’s at the Outhouse or Pizza Ed’s. All are locally-owned, and you won’t even have to move your car. Cahoot’s has an eclectic menu to match its startling décor. There will be something fascinating in every corner. The Freight House offers great salads, Poulet de Normandy and other substantial dishes. Bentley’s has a dozen different varieties of hamburgers, and Pizza Ed’s is, of course, Italian.
Before you leave Hartselle, pass back by one of the snack shops you noticed earlier and pick up a treat-to-go from Sugar Mama’s, Oliwia’s Shave Ice, Warehouse Coffee, or What’s Popp’N?
2:00 p.m. Head back to Decatur and find a parking spot on Bank Street. Continue browsing locally-owned, non-chain shops for furniture, light fixtures, jewelry and accessories, upscale kitchen gadgets and clothing. Plan to spend plenty of time in Bank Street Art and Antiques, The Cupboard, Tammy Eddy’s Antiques, Tennessee Valley Pecan Company and others.
Of course, your Staycation can be mixed and matched according to the weather, your personal preferences or special events. Increase the outdoor time and decrease the shopping or vice versa. The important point is to enjoy as many Morgan County attractions, businesses and restaurants as you can.
Take some time to put away your purchases, relax and freshen up again before dinner.
7:00 p.m. Dinner at The RailYard Restaurant in Decatur. With the same chef and owner combination as Whisk’d Café, you will again find great Southern comfort food prepared with creativity and abundant flavor. End your fantastic staycation with a slice of Toffee Crack Pie, Kentucky Derby Pie or Oreo Cheesecake.
Spend the night in the comfort of your own bed, dreaming about all you’ve seen and tasted in Morgan County/ Decatur Where It’s Greater.
Thank you to Connie Pearson for this wonderful Two-Day Staycation in Morgan County.
Connie Pearson is a travel and food writer/blogger who lives in Hartselle with her husband Steve, a native of Decatur who has fished on the Tennessee River all his life. They both enjoy traveling, writing and spending time with their 3 adult children and 14 grandchildren. Connie’s blog is There Goes Connie.