A Parent’s Neighborhood Guide to Decatur & the River City
The first question you may hear if you live in the River City is “On which side of town do you live?” Decatur residents may think they’re divided into Southeasters and Southwesters but we are all united in our love for our hometown. Decatur is home to some pretty amazing places and events that your entire family will enjoy!
If you’re moving to the River City or new to the area, below are some highlights of what the it has to offer. Be sure to tune in to our “Family Fun in Decatur” series each month!
Adventure Park at Wilson Morgan
Central Parkway/Beltline Road/Sandlin Road (map)
Stroll around the small lake as a family or watch your kids have hours of fun on the wooden pirate ship-esque playground. As an added bonus, lights are usually on and the stands full at the softball fields at Wilson Morgan and it’s home to several tournaments so there’s always something to do or see at this fun park.
Prospect Drive/6th Avenue/Gordon Drive/Somerville Road (map)
Located in Decatur’s Historic District, this park features a one-mile walking/running track and the Playground for All Children, complete with accessible equipment for all abilities. In the summer, the splash pad is a wonderful free water attraction for smaller kids. Take a stroll through the carefully curated Rose Garden and you’ll never want your afternoon at the park to end.
Rhodes Ferry Park
Harborview/Market/Oak Streets NE (map)
Enjoy a picnic on the water while the kids enjoy the playground overlooking the Tennessee River. Your little locomotive lovers will delight at passing trains and the views of the bridges Decatur is known for are phenomenal at this location.
Point Mallard Park
Home to a world famous water park touting “America’s First Wave Pool”, a year-round ice rink and an amateur hockey team, soccer fields, baseball fields, the Spirit of America Stage, a tennis complex, campgrounds, driving range, and a hiking/biking/running trail that winds along the Tennessee River, if you can’t find something to do here, you may as well go home and sleep.
Wheeler Wildlife Refuge
This 35,000 acre refuge attracts thousands of wintering waterfowl each year. The refuge also manages and protects habitat for 12 federally listed endangered or threatened species. America the Beautiful passes are available at the Refuge Visitor Center and make sure to mark your January calendar for the annual Festival of the Cranes.
Dr. Bill Sims Bike Trail
The Dr. Bill Sims Bike trail boasts miles and miles of safe riding space through the River City for serious cyclists, long distance runners, or family riders alike.
Jack Allen Recreational Complex
2616 Modaus Road SW (map)
Jack Allen is a world class soccer complex, host to local, regional, and national tournaments. The park includes 30 acres of laser-graded, irrigated, and fully lighted fields with certified sports turf. It houses nine international soccer fields including one with grandstands. This facility is also home to lacrosse tournaments, baseball fields, and a ninja warrior-like playground for kids.
Indoor Fun in Decatur
Decatur Public Library
504 Cherry Street NE, Decatur (map)
Enjoy special readings and activities for children, infant to 3 years, and their adult caregivers, while building pre-literacy skills in your baby/toddler. Visit the library website to find out about events for older kids including additional story hours, a LEGO hour, an Angry Birds event, summer movies and coordinating activities, and so much more!
Skate Castle & Funland Park
401 14th St SE, Decatur (map)
always a great place for kids to skate off some energy!
AMC Movie Theater
1801 Beltline Road (map)
The AMC Decatur 12 shows all the latest flicks for your family.
112 2nd Avenue, Decatur (map)
Located in downtown Decatur’s Historic District, this theatre is a gem inside and out. A great venue for shows, it’s also a wonderful place to see a classic movie. My favorite is the FREE showing of It’s a Wonderful Life that’s sponsored by the Decatur Rotary club every year after the Christmas Parade. There’s also the Sound of Music Sing-A-Long every December which is guaranteed to provide a night of fun for the whole family.
Museums and Historical Sites
Cooks Museum of Natural Science
133 4th Avenue NE (map)
Originally housed in the Cooks business center near the 14th Street overpass, the museum closed its doors in 2016 to move its world renowned collection of bugs and critters to a brand new location. The new Cooks Museum is slated to open in 2018 and will provide an interactive experience for all ages. The state-of-the-art facility will serve as an educational destination and cultural venue for locals and visitors alike.
Carnegie Visual Arts Center (CVAC)
207 Church Street NE (map)
Housed in the historic Carnegie Library, the CVAC presents local, regional, and national exhibits featuring all mediums of visual art throughout the year. Art classes, workshops, lectures, and children’s camps are offered in the Daikin America Education Center.
Old State Bank
925 Bank Street NE (map)
Still standing after 180 years, this building has seen the history of the River City unfold. It survived the Civil War to become a reminder of Decatur’s rich history. The building now houses a museum and is open to the public for tours.
Local Family-Friendly Dining
209 2nd Avenue SE (map)
With a menu filled with farm to fork Southern comfort food, there’s something from every palate, no matter what your age. Owner Tyler Jones has a preschool aged child and has been known find something fun around the restaurant to entertain kids while they wait on their food.
725 Bank Street NE (map)
Even though Simp’s is one of Decatur’s oldest fine dining establishments, it’s still very much kid friendly. Owner Christy Wheat and Chef Josh Moore go out of their way to make kids feel welcome and comfortable. Not quite on the children’s menu, my kids always ask for a “Chef Salad Plate” which is a plate of finger foods such as cheese, grapes, olives, and tomatoes, perfect for tiny hands.
Big Bob Gibson’s
1715 6th Avenue SE (map)
Yes, this is THE Big Bob Gibson’s that you’ve seen on the Today Show and heard legends of from anyone who’s ever been to a big time barbeque competition. Kids will enjoy the giant barbecue championship trophies that line the entryway. Famous for their stuffed potatoes and ribs.
918 6th Avenue SE / 2532 Spring Avenue SW (map)
Even though you can’t sit down and eat at either of it’s two Decatur locations, Whitt’s offers a pulled meat selection that will keep you coming back through their drive-thru windows day after day (not even kidding). Family packs make it easy to feed your family good food on a budget that won’t break the bank.
608 Holly Street NE (map)
Decatur really is famous for it’s barbecue. Named for the late owner Benny Perrin who was a Crimson Tide footballer and NFL great, kids will delight not only in their delicious menu but in all the sports memorabilia that lines the walls. With a Cheers-like feel to the atmosphere, I can assure you the staff probably will remember your name the next time you come in and you can bet they will treat you like family from the moment they meet you.
2400 6th Avenue SE (map)
Established in 1977, this longtime family favorite Italian eatery is one of the Decatur local favorites. Try their famous calzone or take home a fresh made pizza. Check for kids’ specials.
2613 Highway 31 South (map)
Locals and visitors flock to Francesco’s for their famous garlic bread pinwheels. Your family will love their plated dinners. From lasagna to fettuccini, everything is fresh and authentically Italian.
1051 Grant Street SE (map)
Open everyday from 6am to 12noon, Whisk’d is Decatur’s newest local breakfast hot spot and is the second restaurant of Railyard owner, Tyler Jones and Chef Bill Harden. Features seasonal southern fare and community tables for a fun neighborhood vibe.
While on Second Avenue SE downtown, also check out Mellow Mushroom and Moe’s Barbeque, both owned by the same Franchisee and both kid friendly. Eddie’s Old Towne Social across the street is a great date night choice.
Mark Your Calendar for These Annual River City Events
These Decatur events happen each year and are worth the drive to the River City! Click the orange titles for more details.
February/March, Weekend before Mardis Gras
Join North Alabama’s PREMIER Mardi Gras celebration, making the arts available to all!
Memorial Day Weekend
Cost: FREE, Get some RCM Parent Tips
Enjoy hot air balloons and fireworks, along with fun activities for all ages.
Spirit of America
You won’t find a better fireworks display in North Alabama!
Day or Weekend Pass Required
Going strong for 23 years, this fundraiser for Big Brother’s Big Sisters hosts a world class barbeque competition and family friendly activities including a large kids’ area.
River Clay Fine Arts Festival
Fourth Weekend of September
Cost: $5 per day for adults, Kids are FREE
Decatur’s only juried arts festival, kids will delight in the amazing activities the local art movement hosts for families.
Schools in Decatur
Learn more about Decatur’s Public Schools on Decatur City Schools Website.
Cedar Ridge Middle
Oak Park Middle
Benjamin Davis Elementary
Chestnut Grove Elementary
Frances Nungester Elementary
Julian Harris Elementary
Leon Sheffield Magnet Elementary
Somerville Road Elementary
Walter Jackson Elementary
West Decatur Elementary
Wetlands Edge Environmental Center
St. Ann School
Decatur Heritage Christian Academy
Cornerstone Christian School
Tennessee Valley Christian School
Explore Other Local Neighborhoods
Andi Stewart is a Decatur-native, who spent over a decade living in Miami. She finally returned home, married a boy she’s known since childhood, and loves raising her family in the hometown she adores. She has two children, a son and a daughter. She’s a professional Environmental Engineer who balances a full-time career with motherhood. She’s run more marathons than she can count (mostly because she really enjoys eating) and she loves her daily barre class and traveling. She is passionate about her River City community and when she’s not volunteering, she’s enjoying all her city has to offer.