Primary Ryan Castillo 2 e1508874544461

Mobile, Alabama – Government Street

Main Streets 2017 – Alabama

Carnival Museum Wikipedia
Mobile Public Library Ryan Castillo
Carnival Museum Wikipedia Mobile Public Library Ryan Castillo

Mardi Gras is celebrated here unlike anywhere else in North America. That’s because it was introduced to North America right here in 1703, in the “Little Easy,” a city that once was the capital of colonial French Louisiana.

That rich history is very much alive on so many streets and beautiful tree-lined squares throughout town. But it’s down Government Street, leading west from the banks of the Mobile River, that pretty much every one of the city’s unique Mardi Gras parades passes.

Government Street is a central point of reference for Mobile. It’s home to the Mobile Carnival Museum, celebrating all that is Mobile’s Mardi Gras, and it’s right in the heart of the parade routes. Up near the river is the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center, which is dedicated to increasing science and math literacy and to “igniting curiosity in the world around us.”

Mardi Gras Park itself is a relatively new addition to that was dedicated last year along Government Street. Developed where courthouses once stood, this beautiful green space conveys the colorful traditions of Mardi Gras and Mobile’s history with bright statues that represent various aspects of the annual celebration.

Even when some of what makes Mobile so charming and unique isn’t actually right on Government Street, it’s just a short walk away. Across the park on South Royal Street, for example, sits the grand History Museum of Mobile, where the city’s rich heritage is preserved and shared. Just two blocks off Government is Dauphin Street, an open-container district where locals and visitors alike can celebrate Mardi Gras any day or night, drink in hand. It’s also chock full of restaurants whose fare ranges from burgers to fine dining.

A block or so off Government on South Claiborne Street, the cornerstone of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception was laid in 1835. Mobile was the first Catholic parish on the Gulf Coast, and the cathedral remains a spiritual and cultural landmark.

Mobile is also a place of commerce and industry. The USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park on Mobile Bay pays homage to the ship’s role in World War II, and also honors Mobile’s shipbuilding roots. The relatively new Gulf Quest National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico overlooks the Mobile River and the Port of Mobile as it recognizes this area’s storied maritime heritage.

Primary + Mobile Public Library photos taken by Ryan Castillo
Mobile Carnival Museum photo taken by Scot Terry
Mobile, AL is the home of a 2016-17 LifeChanger: Stephanie Wheat

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Gadsden, Alabama – Broad Street

Main Streets 2016: Alabama

Everyone loves a comeback story, and Gadsden has a great one.

After rebuilding from two devastating fires in the 1880s that destroyed dozens of businesses and homes on or near Broad Street, the city became one of Alabama’s major industrial and shipping centers by the mid-20th century, serving as the home to steel, textile, and manufacturing facilities. In the 1970s and 80s, however, most of its major industries closed, and the city became known as a place with some tough challenges. The community knew it needed to rally — and that’s what it did.

Today, Broad Street is a vibrant thoroughfare at the center of Gadsden, connecting residents and visitors to economic, educational, social and cultural activities. On First Fridays, Broad Street closes to traffic, and thousands gather to enjoy a festival-like atmosphere with antique cars, live entertainment, special events, food and artists from throughout the area. From May to October, the Third Thursdays concert series offers the chance to kick back and enjoy some great local music.

Broad Street is also home to the Gadsden Museum of Art and the Mary G. Hardin Center for the Cultural Arts. Located in an old department store, the Hardin Center is a catalyst for revitalization that draws droves of visitors to its art exhibits, its Imagination Place children’s museum, its Courtyard Concerts from April through August, and to events staged by its Etowah Youth Orchestra and Downtown Dance Conservatory. Other popular community events include ghost and history walks, RiverFest, and live performances at the Historic Mort Glosser Amphitheater and Gadsden Convention Hall.

Outdoor enthusiasts will find lots to do in and around Gadsden, including the James D. Martin Wildlife Park and Noccalula Falls Park — home to a dramatic, 90-foot waterfall — as well as camping, hiking and other recreation activities.

All photos courtesy of Downtown Gadsden Inc.

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