Lodging and Restaurant / Bar COVID Warning
COVID has done a number on all restaurants and bars. I’ll keep this as updated as I can, but be aware that things could change fast.
If one of these places is going to make or break your trip, check with the hotel, restaurant or bar
This is the most variable logistical consideration. And as noted in the disclaimers, unless you’re staying with family or friends, there are no perfect options – cheap, nice and close to stadium is a pipe dream.
Keep in mind, there are 7 game weekends a year, and the hotel operators look to these to make their other 45 weeks a year profitable.
- Many hotels require reservations for all seven weekends, at a two- or three-night minimum for each.
- If you can find a room, you will pay full rack rate. There will be no bargains.
- If you are coming in for one game only, and have to be near campus, start calling in the spring and go for a cancellation.
- All rooms will be expensive. The main tradeoff is availability vs. distance from campus.
- I cannot emphasize enough: Make your reservations well ahead of time – like April / May time frame. For big games (think LSU and Auburn), even that might be late.
- Hotel Capstone – Literally right on campus, between Coleman Coliseum and Bryant-Denny Stadium. Has one of the full-season arrangements I mentioned above. There is a 100% chance it will be 100% packed on game weekends.
Best bet if you don’t already have a reservation is to get a cancellation. And it will be expensive. Still, if you can handle the cost, it’s worth a long shot try for the incredible convenience of the location.
- Embassy Suites – Downtown Tuscaloosa, in the middle of a lot of downtown restaurants and bars. Excellent in-house restaurant called Side By Side. Owned by chef Chris Hastings. If you don’t know Hastings, Google him. He’s the real deal. About 12-14 block relatively flat walk to the stadium, or there are shuttles a few blocks away at the Downtown Parking Deck (see parking topic below).
- Home 2 Suites by Hilton – A couple of blocks west of the Embassy Suites. Really designed for extended stay (includes kitchen), but will book shorter terms. As such, rooms are functional and clean, but not terribly luxurious. A short flat walk to downtown restaurants and bars.
- Homewood Suites by Hilton – Just down the hill from Embassy Suites, but a block or two closer to downtown from the Indigo (see below). At this writing, in the final stages of construction, and should be open well before football season. From the outside, looks nice. Real difference between this and Embassy Suites is that your walk to the downtown entertainment district will be about 1 – 1.5 blocks longer, and uphill.
- Hotel Indigo – On the edge of downtown, easy walking distance to the Amphitheater, but about a two-block uphill walk to the downtown nightlife. Could walk to the stadium if you don’t have mobility issues, but it will be a longer, somewhat hillier walk.
- AC Hotels by Marriott – At this writing, appears to be in the middle stages of construction. Sign on the site says opening winter 2021. We’ll see. Probably open by football season, but caveat emptor. Location at the intersection of Lurleen Wallace Boulevard and 6th Street is a couple of blocks from the downtown entertainment district. From the outside, rooms look functional but not luxurious.
- Residence Inn by Marriott – This is new, but is on the north side of the river, not walking distance to the stadium, downtown or The Strip. The reason I mention it is that it’s on the north side of the river. That’s huge in regards to getting to your hotel after the game.
- Comfort Inn & Suites – New and open on Jack Warner Parkway. I’ve never been in, but from the outside, it looks generically functional. Don’t expect a snazzy bar or turndown service. Will be about a 5 block walk to the downtown entertainment district. As the crow flies, it’s shorter than that. Problem is, there’s a cliff between the hotel and the district. So you have to walk about 3 blocks to Greensboro Avenue, take a left, walk three blocks uphill to University Boulevard, turn left again and backtrack a block or so. I haven’t checked prices, but it should be the least expensive of all the options named here.
- Holiday Inn Express – Not walking distance, but is across a busy street from University Mall, where there is a gameday shuttle. I think the shuttle is $10, but you’d need to check.
- Other Hotels – There are dozens of other hotels that are not within walking distance to the campus, and don’t provide a shuttle. Chances of getting a room will be better. Just understand that (1) you’ll have to find gameday parking on your own, and (2) there are no bargains on hotel rooms on game weekends.
- Air BnB and VRBO – There are options for Tuscaloosa on both sites. Just be real clear on where you’ll be. Caveat emptor.
All things considered, this is a good option for a one-off game weekend. There are several hotels at or near the I-459 / US 280 interchange. Easy hop onto I-459, then to I-59/20 to Tuscaloosa.
Also, lots of options downtown, which is experiencing a renaissance. If you haven’t been here in a while, you probably won’t recognize the place.
Downtown, Uptown, Lakeview and even Avondale are buzzing, and the restaurant scene can hold its own with any city in the country anywhere near its size.
In 2018, Highlands Bar & Grill in Five Points South won the James Beard Award as the best restaurant in the country. They take reservations 30 days in advance, and it’s booked up really quickly after they start taking calls for a given day.
Bottega and Galley & Garden are all nearby and first rate.
Hot’n’Hot Fish Club had to move (landlord is demolishing the building in favor of high-rise condos). It’s now in the Pepper Place complex near Lakeview. Same owner / chef Chris Hastings, and same food. Just a new location.
Both downtown and the 459/280 interchange are about normally 60 – 75 minutes to Tuscaloosa in non-gameday traffic. Depending on how close to gametime you need to add 15-30 minutes to your travel time.
I don’t know much about Meridian, but it has a Naval Air Station, and so has a lot of mid-range chain hotels near the interstate. About 90 minutes to Tuscaloosa in non-gameday traffic.