Decatur, Alabama is the largest city within Morgan County. A large number of historic buildings are showcased throughout the city, including some of the most significant Victorian-era structures left standing in the state today. Major attractions such as Wheeler Wildlife Refuge, Point Mallard Park, and the Princess Theatre also draw visitors from around the American Southeast for day trips and weekend getaways. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Wheeler Wildlife Refuge
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Wheeler Wildlife Refuge spans 35,000 acres along the banks of the Tennessee River and provides a significant wintering and migrating bird habitat for species such as Canada geese and red-tailed hawks. The refuge, which was named in honor of Major General Joseph Wheeler, was established in 1938 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and is jointly administered today by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, who oversees the refuge’s Redstone Arsenal area. More than 700,000 annual visitors partake in outdoor activities at the refuge such as fishing, hunting, and wildlife watching. Five hiking trails are offered throughout the refuge, along with six boat launch sites, a wildlife observation tower, and several spotting scope stations. Annual events at the refuge include a youth fishing rodeo, a southern wildlife festival, and summer youth day camps.
3121 Visitor Center Road, Decatur, AL 35603, Phone: 256-350-6639
2.Point Mallard Park
© Point Mallard Park
Point Mallard Waterpark is located along the border of Wheeler National Refuge in Alabama, spanning more than 500 acres along the shoreline of Flint Creek. The multi-use recreational park is best known for its J. Gilmer Blackburn Aquatic Center, which was opened in 1970 and showcases a European-style wave pool, 10-meter diving tower, lazy river attraction, and two high-speed water slides. Sporting facilities within the park include the 18-hole Point Mallard Golf Course, the baseball-focused Bill J. Dukes Athletic Complex, the Jimmy Johns Tennis Center, and the Point Mallard Ice Complex, along with a golf driving range and batting cages. Indoor courts, a game room, and exercise facilities are offered at the T.C. Almon Center, while a permanent outdoor stage is located within the Ronald Reagan Spirit of America Fields area. Other facilities include a 210-site campground, an 80-seat prayer chapel, and a covered picnic pavilion seating groups of up to 500. Annual events held at the park include the September Skirmish Civil War Reenactment, held every Labor Day.
2901 Point Mallard Dr SE, Decatur, AL 35601, Phone: 256-341-4900
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3.Cook Natural Science Museum
© Cook Natural Science Museum
Cook Natural Science Museum was the vision of Cook’s Pest Control president John R. Cook, whose private natural sciences collection grew from a supplemental collection used for pest control technician training into a world-class natural history collection. The museum has a privately-owned collection of more than 2,000 specimens and exhibits, ranging from mounted birds and wildlife to extensive displays of minerals, rocks, and coral. Notable exhibits include a Tennessee Valley Lake Exhibit showcasing the region’s native flora and fauna and one of the only displays in the United States to feature both bald and golden eagle taxidermies.
133 4th Ave NE, Decatur, AL 35601, Phone: 256-351-4505
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© Delano Park
Delano Park is Decatur’s oldest public park, developed in 1887 as part of a master plan to reinvent the city following the American Civil War. The park was named in honor of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and has recently been extensively redeveloped to include attractions such as a children’s splash pad play area that features a large-scale map of Alabama’s cities and rivers on its floor. Its Delano Rose Garden reconstructs the historic rose gardens that were planted with the park’s initial development, while its iconic concrete bridge, relocated in the 1930s, remains a popular spot for photographs and reflection. Further redevelopment plans include the addition of historical trails throughout the facility connecting the park’s western and central portions.
825 Gordon Dr SE, Decatur, AL 35601, Phone: 256-341-4930
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5.The Old State Bank
© The Old State Bank
The Old State Bank was originally constructed in 1833 as the home of the Branch of the Bank of the State of Alabama, one of the first moves to establish the city’s prominence within the American Southeast. Though the original bank branch was closed in 1845 due to a nationwide economic depression, its establishment is considered one of the major factors that transitioned Decatur from a frontier village into a modern city. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the bank building saw use as a Union Army hospital, public boarding house, and American Legion hall before its donation to the City of Decatur in 1976. Today, it is open to the public as a living history museum, showcasing a recreated interior first-floor banking lobby and second-floor banker’s apartment.
P.O. Box 582, Decatur, AL 35602, Phone: 256-341-4818
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6.The Old Decatur Historic District
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The Old Decatur Historic District spans 116 acres within the city’s Albany and Old Decatur historic areas, showcasing the state’s largest collection of preserved Victorian-era homes and buildings. The district centers around the city’s historic Bank Street, the home of the Old State Bank building, which served as the city’s major commercial hub in the 19th century due to its riverboat, wagon, and railway access. Though many of the district’s original historic buildings were destroyed during the American Civil War and a major local fire in 1877, the structures that were rebuilt in the late 19th century are considered among the most significant Victorian and Italianate structures in the region. Four buildings from the pre-Civil War-era remain, including the Todd House, located on Lafayette Street. In 1985, the district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and today, its buildings are accessible via walking or driving tours.
Bank St. NE & Gordon Dr. SE, Decatur, AL 35601, Phone: 256-350-2028
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7.Carnegie Visual Arts Center
© Carnegie Visual Arts Center
Carnegie Visual Arts Center is housed within the historic 1904 Carnegie Library, which served as the city’s public library facility for more than seven decades. Today, it houses the region’s first art museum and arts education center, which showcases more than 4,000 square feet of exhibit, workshop, and studio space. Eight to 10 public art exhibitions are showcased in the facility’s main level galleries annually, including national touring exhibits and presentations of the works of local and regional artists. A permanent collection of Alabama folk art is also displayed, featuring works by artists such as Jimmy Lee Sudath and Mose Tolliver. Its basement-level Daikin America Education Center presents workshops and courses for community members of all art skill levels, including children’s summer camps.
207 Church St NE, Decatur, AL 35601, Phone: 256-341-0562
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8.The Princess Theatre
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The Princess Theatre is a historic performing arts venue that was originally constructed in 1887 for use as a livery stable prior to its 1919 conversion into a vaudeville and silent film theater. In 1941, it was renovated with an Art Deco-style facade and neon marquee, featuring interior design elements such as glow-in-the-dark murals and a terrazzo floor map of the state of Alabama. Following its purchase by the City of Decatur in 1978, the theater was renovated into a live performing arts venue and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the 677-seat theater hosts more than 60,000 annual visitors to its public performances, which include concerts by national touring artists and stops of Broadway touring shows. Local performing arts groups also present regular performances, including children’s theater groups and dance troupes.
112 2nd Ave NE, Decatur, AL 35601, Phone: 256-350-1745
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Wheeler Lake is the second-largest lake located along the Tennessee River, spanning a length of nearly 60 miles and a surface area of over 67,000 acres. The man-made impoundment was created by the Tennessee Valley Authority in the late 1930s for hydroelectric power generation and regional flood control and has become a popular recreation site in the Decatur region today. More than four million visitors attend the lake annually, partaking in seasonal outdoor activities such as boating, fishing, hunting, wildlife watching, and water sports. A visitor center is offered, along with areas for overnight camping and picnicking. The lake is located adjacent to the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, which also offers a variety of outdoor activities.
P.O. Box 1010, SB 1H-M, Muscle Shoals, AL 35662-1010, Phone: 256-386-2560
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10.Morgan County Archives
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Morgan County Archives was created in 1995 by the Morgan County Commission as a permanent repository for the region’s inactive government and community records. It maintains the community’s major records dating back to 1819, including marriage, census, and court records, and is considered one of the most prominent collections of archival materials documenting the city’s civic history today. The archives are most noted as the only public viewing site of original copies of the Decatur Daily and Harstelle Enquirer local newspapers. They are open to the public on weekdays as a genealogical and community research resource, offering public computer workstations, library volumes, and microfilm access. Small exhibits of specialized collections are displayed periodically, including exhibits related to the city’s Civil War history and notable historical figures.
624 Bank Street N.E., Decatur, AL 35601, Phone: 256-351-4726
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Alabama Jubilee is the largest hot air balloon classic race in the American mid-South. Its inaugural event in 1978 was intended as a showcase for the city’s newly-purchased official hot air balloon, which was one of the first official city hot air balloons in the country. During its early years, it attracted nearly two dozen balloonists from neighboring states such as Georgia, Mississippi, and Louisiana, drawing on the newfound popularity of hot air ballooning as a sport nationwide. Today, the jubilee has been named as one of the top tourist events in the Southeast by the Southeast Tourism Society, attracting more than 60 pilots from over 20 states throughout the country and serving as the region’s annual summer kickoff event every Memorial Day weekend. Its popularity as a major event attracting a national audience has led to the city’s declaration as the “Ballooning Capital of Alabama” by the Alabama Legislature.
P.O. Box 2601, Decatur, Alabama 35602-2601, Phone: 800-232-5449
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Pickwick Belle is a 90-foot replica paddlewheel riverboat that offers public and charter leisure cruises along the Tennessee River. The boat was christened in 2007 and operated out of Pickwick Landing State Park until it was docked at Decatur’s Ingalls Harbor in 2012. Today, it offers 90-minute sightseeing cruises on Thursdays and Saturdays, with two-hour dinner cruises available on Friday evenings. An upper deck offers spectacular views of the city and river while guests travel along the water at a maximum speed of five miles an hour. A variety of public special event cruises are offered annually, including a Civil War reenactment cruise and an Elvis-themed concert cruise. The riverboat may also be rented for private special events, including wedding receptions and corporate outings.
802-B Wilson St NW, Decatur, AL 35601, Phone: 931-254-0533
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Trapped is Decatur’s first escape room facility, challenging groups of visitors to work together to figure out clues to solve a themed mystery and escape from several enclosed room traps. Each team is allowed one hour to figure out their way out of their themed room, creating a real-life gaming experience emphasizing team-building and problem-solving skills. Four rooms are offered at the facility, including The Morgue of Dr. G. Reaper, Escape From Alcatraz, The Bank Robbery, and Treasure of the Emerald Isles. Visitors may play in public groups or reserve rooms entirely for private groups, including corporate team-building events and school functions.
209 Grant St, Decatur, Alabama 35601, Phone: 256-822-1413
© The RailYard
The RailYard is a downtown Decatur restaurant operated by owner Tyler Jones and executive chef Bill Harden, one of the pioneers of the region’s farm-to-fork movement. The restaurant emphasizes globally-influenced southern comfort food creations using fresh, locally-sourced ingredients whenever possible. It is open seven days a week for brunch, lunch, and dinner and serves a wide variety of entrees in a casual tavern setting. Menu favorites include specialty sandwiches with locally-sourced meats, craft pub-style burgers, and a variety of entrees emphasizing southern seafood options. Seasonal cocktails highlight fresh fruit and fine liquors, while a draft beer menu showcases regional and national microbrewery favorites.
209 2nd Ave SE, Decatur, AL 35601, Phone: 256-580-5707
15.Big Bob Gibson's Bar-B-Que
© Big Bob Gibson's Bar-B-Que
Big Bob Gibson's Bar-B-Que was originally opened in Decatur in 1925 and has become nationally known as one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious barbecue joints. The restaurant was opened by L&N Railroad employee Bob Gibson and originally gained notoriety for its famous Original BBQ White Sauce. Since then, it has been the recipient of more than 15 World Barbecue Championship awards for its unique pork, rib, brisket, and chicken creations. The restaurant is under fourth-generation family management today and offers two locations in Decatur, including a Danville Road location and a restaurant on the city’s Sixth Street. Dine-in and takeout menu options include award-winning barbecue platters, combination meals, and pit barbecue sandwiches.
1715 6th Ave SE, Decatur, AL 35601, Phone: 256-350-6969
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© Simp McGhee's
Simp McGhee's is named for Decatur’s infamous turn-of-the-century riverboat captain, whose boisterous character and unconventional riverboat operations made him a local legend before the revoking of his piloting license in 1917. The restaurant is located within the city’s historic Bank Street district and offers fine old-fashioned dining with Cajun-influenced charm for dinner and tapas service. Unique menu options include crawfish eggrolls, tuna Lafayette, lamb ratatouille, and Cajun seafood gumbo. A variety of specialty liquors and cocktails are available, including gourmet martinis, spiked coffee beverages, and fine white, red, and sparkling wines. Outdoor pet-friendly sidewalk seating is available seasonally, and a second-story dining room may be booked for private special events.
725 Bank Street Northwest, Decatur, Alabama 35601, Phone: 256-353-6284
© Whitt’s Barbecue
Whitt’s Barbecue was the vision of hobbyist barbecue pit builder Floyd Whitt, who left his job as a bricklayer to open his first restaurant location on Labor Day of 1966. Today, three Whitt’s Barbecue restaurants and stores are operated throughout the northern Alabama region, including two locations on Decatur’s Spring and Sixth Streets. The franchise has been featured in Southern Living magazine and is noted for its 100% hickory wood-smoked barbecue creations, including pork, beef, chicken, turkey, and rib options. Family pack and full plate options are offered, along with barbecue sandwiches, Brunswick stew, and a variety of homestyle side dishes, pies, and cookies. Catering is available for groups of 25 or more, including customizable menus for private special events.
2532 Spring Ave SW, Decatur, AL 35601, Phone: 256-350-2748
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17 Best Things to Do in Decatur, Alabama
- Wheeler Wildlife Refuge, Photo: Courtesy of knowlesgallery - Fotolia.com
- Point Mallard Park, Photo: Point Mallard Park
- Cook Natural Science Museum, Photo: Cook Natural Science Museum
- Delano Park, Photo: Delano Park
- The Old State Bank, Photo: The Old State Bank
- The Old Decatur Historic District, Photo: Courtesy of babaroga - Fotolia.com
- Carnegie Visual Arts Center, Photo: Carnegie Visual Arts Center
- The Princess Theatre, Photo: Courtesy of Sergey Nivens - Fotolia.com
- Wheeler Lake, Photo: Courtesy of HeKu - Fotolia.com
- Morgan County Archives, Photo: Courtesy of Guy Sagi - Fotolia.com
- Alabama Jubilee, Photo: Courtesy of William R. Gates - Fotolia.com
- Pickwick Belle, Photo: Courtesy of knowlesgallery - Fotolia.com
- Trapped, Photo: Courtesy of Olivier Le Moal - Fotolia.com
- The RailYard, Photo: The RailYard
- Big Bob Gibson's Bar-B-Que, Photo: Big Bob Gibson's Bar-B-Que
- Simp McGhee's, Photo: Simp McGhee's
- Whitt’s Barbecue, Photo: Whitt’s Barbecue
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of knowlesgallery - Fotolia.com
Attraction Spotlight: Wheeler Wildlife Refuge
Wheeler is a National Wildlife Refuge in northern Alabama, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Primarily founded as a breeding ground for migratory birds, the 35,000 acre refuge is visited by close to 300 species of birds annually, including 30 species of waterfowl.
The refuge is the first of its kind, having been established in an area impounded by a hydroelectric dam. The waterfowl refuge is home to ducks and geese, as well as a growing population of Whooping cranes and Sandhill cranes. In addition, over 100 species of fish, over 70 species of reptiles and amphibians, 38 species of freshwater mussels and 26 species of freshwater snails make the swamps, embayments, deep creeks and tributaries their home. 47 species of mammals within the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge include the endangered Gray bat as well as eleven other critically threatened or endangered species.
Diverse habitat within the refuge includes bottomland hardwoods, pine uplands, agricultural fields, riparian wetlands and backwater embayments. These habitats offer important nesting, roosting and feeding sites for native and migratory birds. Thousands of acres of farmland are managed in partnership with the Wildlife Refuge. Farmers agree to leave a portion of crops left unharvested as food for the visiting birds, and during the winter months wheat is planted to serve as cover for wintering geese. Flooding is mitigated by water control structures that control water levels, ensuring riparian areas have enough water for plant growth.
A Visitor Center on the premises hosts educational exhibits on the wildlife of the Wheeler Refuge. Detailed maps, a classroom, 126-seat auditorium and birding station are all located at the Visitor Center. A Wildlife Observation building offers wildlife viewing through telescopes, from the comfort of an enclosed glass-walled structure. The Observation Building overlooks an area designed to replicate a backyard habitat, with plants to attract hummingbirds and butterflies among the waterfowl. Additionally, a Wildlife Observation Tower is located on the north side of the Tennessee River on the Beaver Dam Peninsula.
Five hiking trails are located throughout the refuge. Trails wind past the rivers, through agricultural fields, woodlands and meadows. Bicycles and horses are permitted on any gravel roads. Pets on leashes are allowed in all outdoor areas. Most of the waterways are open for fishing year round. Popular catches include bass, sunfish, crappie, bluegill and catfish. The refuge has six available boat ramps, and while jetskiing and waterskiing is restricted, day-use boating is allowed. Hunting for small game, feral hogs and deer takes place seasonally.
History: President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the refuge in 1938 as an experiment to see if migratory birds could be attracted to impounded bodies of water. The mission of the refuge is to protect and preserve wildlife of northern Alabama for generations to come, both within the refuge and beyond, through partnerships with private stewards of land outside of the refuge’s borders. The refuge is one of 550 maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service nationwide.
Wheeler Wildlife Refuge has been tracking waterfowl since the 1940’s. A wood duck banding program tags ducks each year to provide information on success of breeding and the health of current populations. Studies at Wheeler have also included Whooping crane counts, bobwhite quail counts, a summer grassland bird survey, surveys of acoustic bat routes and water quality evaluations.
The National Wildlife Refuge system was established as early as 1864, with the first officially designated Wildlife Refuge in Florida in 1903. The refuges were founded in part in response to the failure of national parks to protect wildlife from unrestricted slaughter for food or commerce. The Migratory Bird Act was the first legislation specifically drafted to protect migratory birds, and was enacted in 1913, unknowingly signed by outgoing President Taft, as it was tacked on to an unrelated bill. In 1918, the Migratory Bird Treaty was agreed upon by Canada and the United States, further protecting migratory birds.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Educational programming is available for organized groups. Presentations include guided walking tours, wildlife presentations and outdoor classroom activities. Annual events include summer camp programs and a youth fishing rodeo.
Children ages five to fifteen may join the Junior Refuge Manager Program at the Visitor Center. Children earn a badge and certificate by completing a set of age-appropriate Refuge Manager activities in a booklet designed by the Fish and Wildlife Service.
3121 Visitors Center Road, Decatur, AL 35603, Phone: 256-350-6639
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Attraction Spotlight: Point Mallard Waterpark
Decatur, Alabama’s Point Mallard Waterpark is the home of America’s first wave pool and offers a variety of recreational water activities from late May to early September each year.
The waterpark includes an aquatics center which offers an Olympic sized pool surrounded by deck loungers, three Olympic-sized diving platforms and a giant wide and easy slide. A Lazy River winds around the exterior of the park, perfect for a slow float in an inner tube. A Scenic Lagoon is for pool lounging, while the Sky Pond Speed Slides, three Flume Slides and Pro Bowl Slide offer thrilling water rides. A Splash Pad for the park’s littlest visitors includes the Squirt Factory playscape, Duck Pond, and a Kiddie Pool complete with swings, a slip and slide, and giant mushroom-shaped waterfall. A Sandy Beach with lounge chairs offers swimming within a roped off area of the Tennessee River. Picnic pavilions with several umbrella-shaded tables are located throughout the park. A wooden sundeck shaded by trees offers additional lounge chairs.
A gift shop at the Waterpark provides souvenirs, sunscreen, swimwear, towels and other small necessities. Three concession stands include the Hard Duck Café, Icy Oasis and Point Pizza. Restrooms and shower facilities are located within the park.
History: Point Mallard Waterpark opened in 1970, and is officially named the J. Gilmer Blackburn Aquatics Center, for the former Mayor of Decatur, J Blackburn, who served from 1962 to 1968. While in office, Blackburn spearheaded a plan called Operation New Decatur, which called for a new city masterplan to revitalize Decatur’s downtown area, build a new city hall, and several recreational facilities to serve all residents of Decatur. Point Mallard Park was the centerpiece of the city’s recreational plan, and the Mayor was instrumental in moving the park’s development forward.
Blackburn got the idea for the waterpark after visiting Germany and seeing wave-making pools there. Thinking that wave pools could be a good tourist attraction in the United States, Blackburn worked with pool designer J Austin Smith to have the pool built. Although Decatur claims their wave pool as the first in America, Tempe, Arizona’s Big Surf pool opened in 1969, less than one year earlier.
The facility is managed by the City of Decatur Parks and Recreation Department, although it serves a much wider community with its location between Nashville, Tennessee and Birmingham, Alabama, and its appeal to tourists.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Birthday party packages include admission for ten children and four adults, plus ice cream, drinks, plates and napkins. Corporate event packages can be customized for any sized team to enjoy a day at the waterpark.
Annual events within the Point Mallard Park complex include the Wet Dog Triathlon, Balloon Festival, Soul Stock, Memorial Day weekend’s Alabama Jubilee, a Fourth of July Festival and a Civil War re-enactment that takes place each year on Labor Day Weekend. The Battle of Decatur was a four-day battle that took place on the park grounds and is replayed each year at the September Skirmish Reenactment.
What’s Nearby: In addition to the waterpark, there are several recreational facilities within Point Mallard Park, a 750-acre complex on the banks of Flint Creek, a major tributary of the Tennessee River. A championship golf course is open year round, offering 200 acres surrounded by wooded flatlands. Facilities at the golf course include restrooms, a clubhouse and pro shop. The Point Mallard Ice Complex is an indoor skating rink offering free skating, figure skating lessons, hockey leagues and curling year round. The Strike Zone is open year round, weather permitting, and includes baseball and softball batting cages, a golf driving range and putting green.
The T.C. Almon Center, operated by Decatur Parks and Recreation offers indoor basketball and volleyball courts, racquetball courts, a weight room, game room, craft room and shower and locker room facilities. The Center is surrounded by sixteen outdoor tennis courts, twelve championship hard surfaced courts, and four clay courts.
The Point Mallard Campsite offers 233 RV campsites with full hookups, free wifi and 6 tent sites on twenty-five wooded acres. Campsite facilities include laundry, restrooms and showers, as well as a dump station. The campsite is within walking distance to all recreational activities within Point Mallard Park. The Point Mallard Park campsite and recreational facilities are surrounded by a picnic pavilion suitable for up to 500 guests, a 3-mile bicycling trail, three baseball fields, sand volleyball courts, and an open-air chapel with seating for up to 80 people. Fishing along the banks of the Tennessee River is a popular activity.
2901 Point Mallard Drive, Decatur, AL 35602, Phone: 256-341-4900
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Attraction Spotlight: Cook's Natural Science Museum
The Cook Museum of Natural Science is located in Decatur, Alabama and serves northern Alabama as an educational and cultural destination. The museum exhibits focus on STEAM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math, with a mission to promote the biodiversity of the Tennessee River Valley of northern Alabama, and inspire stewardship of the area’s natural resources.
The museum’s first floor hosts the natural science exhibits. Galleries include the Wonderful World of Insects, with a specially highlighted section on Little Larvae. Forests of the Southeast focuses on the local flora and fauna of northern Alabama and the southeastern United States, and includes over 50 species of native insects. Additional first floor galleries include a Cave Exhibit, an Arctic/Desert Exhibit and an exhibit on Rivers and Streams. The Oceans Exhibit includes a 15,000 gallon salt-water aquarium, and the museum is the only in Alabama to exhibit an endangered green sea turtle. The museum is one of just a few in the United States authorized by the government to display both a bald eagle and a golden eagle.
The museum’s second floor is home to interactive play stations designed to inspire an interest in STEAM and the natural world, and includes the Adventure Lab and the Maker’s Space. Exhibits are designed to be touchable, talking, and interactive. Second floor galleries also include a Salamander Room and a space for temporary exhibits.
Many of the exhibits at the museum contains mounted animals from Cook Pest Control’s founder John L. Cook’s private collection. The collection was originally used to supplement the training of his employees, and has been housed in a small facility open to the public since 1980. This space received over 30,000 visitors per year. Consultants expect 200,000 annually in the new museum, which supplements these taxidermied specimens with over 50 species of live animals.
Additional facilities at the 62,000 square foot Museum of Natural Science includes a gift shop, café, auditorium, and event space and conference room.
History: Cook’s Pest Control was founded in 1928 by John L. Cook, who responded to an increasing need to defend businesses and residences from a growing termite problem in northern Alabama. Cook was a pioneer in the pest control industry, and the first to offer a five-year guarantee that a home would be termite free after service. He offered extensive courses in entomology and natural science to his employees, and kept a collection of mounted birds and animals, coral and shells, reptiles and geological specimens out of personal interest and to help train his workers.
In 1950, when Cook Sr. passed, his oldest son, John R. Cook took control of the company, giving up a dream to become an architect in favor of returning to Decatur. Under Cook Jr’s leadership, the company grew from having one full-time employee, to the eighth largest pest control service in the United States.
The Cook family founded the museum in 2018 with a capital investment of nearly $35 million, $16 million of which came through fundraising. The museum is a project of the Cook Family Foundation, a non-profit organization, which was founded as a way for the Cooks to give back to the community and encourage tourism in Decatur. The Cook Museum of Natural Science is currently under construction and opens to the public in 2019. No opening date has yet been announced.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Educational programming at the museum supports the state of Alabama’s science curriculum requirements. Goals of the educational programming include the promotion of conservation and ethical stewardship of natural resources, as well as inspiring collegiate studies and careers in science, technology, engineering, art or math, the foundations of STEAM.
Guided group tours are available. The museum’s auditorium hosts natural science videos. Volunteer opportunities are available in animal care for marine species and insects. The museum is also seeking volunteers for its live animal educational programs, retail shop and events.
What’s Nearby: The Cook Museum of Natural Science is located in downtown Decatur among several other points of interest. Nearby are the Decatur Public Library, post office and City Hall. The Alabama Center for the Arts, a 44,000 square foot arts education facility, and the Princess Theater, a historic art-deco theater built in 1919 are also nearby.
133 Fourth Avenue NE, Decatur, Alabama 35601, Phone: 256-351-4505
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