Who needs to watch a ball drop when you can have the truly Southern experience of watching a giant Moon Pie drop from the sky instead? Yes, you heard that correctly. In Mobile, Alabama on New Year’s Eve, a 12-foot-tall, 350 lb. cookie descends 317 feet from the RSA BankTrust Building downtown while people line the streets cheering in the New Year.
The day starts with a Mardi Gras style parade of floats and live entertainment. It then carries into the night with a laser light show, fireworks and musical entertainment from the band, Three Dog Night. And the best thing- it’s all free. “Downtown Mobile is going to be the place to be this New Year’s Eve,” says Mayor Sam Jones. “Last year we had more than 40,000 people attend Moon Pie Over Mobile and we hope to make it even larger this year.”
Why a Moon Pie you ask? Well Mobile is home to America’s first Mardi Gras celebration and in 1952, Mobilians decided they wanted something softer to throw to the crowd than the usual trinkets, so they came up with the idea to throw moon pies instead. It stuck and Mobile has adopted the delicious marshmallow sandwich cookie as its informal emblem, consuming more than four million moon pies each year.
But there’s much more to Mobile than just Moon Pie’s, and here are some of the “don’t miss” attractions.
- Since Mobile is the birthplace of Mardi Gras in the United States, be sure to visit the Mobile Carnival Museum. Guides will walk you through the history of Mardi Gras and explain how the krew’s were formed and became secret societies. Also on display are many of the gowns and robes worn by past Mardi Gras kings and queens.
- Make sure to make a stop at A&M Peanut Shop on Dauphin Street to pick up some peanuts or cashews. This family business (Owner Deborah DeGuire took over the shop from her dad) has been in business since 1947 and still roasts nuts hourly using a 100 year old roaster.
- The Museum of Mobile occupies the Old City Hall Building, which itself is a national landmark and over 180 years old. The museum houses and interprets 300 years of Mobile history through numerous exhibits and artifacts and includes a lot of history on the civil rights movement.
- Next, step inside the Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. This historic cathedral was built in 1850 and has magnificent stained glass windows brought overfrom Germany. It also houses a coat of arms from Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, who was the founder of Mobile.
- The Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center is fun for all ages. It has an IMAX theater, a full-scale interactive chemistry lab and a large Bodyworks exhibit where you can watch an open heart surgery, take your own blood pressure, and perform virtual surgery. Right now through Jan 2nd, you can also get a taste of Australia with their Kangaroo Kraze exhibit. Here you can experience life from “down under” while petting and interacting with Wallabies, Kangaroos and Kookaburra birds.
- When you’re looking for a place to stay, the Battle House Renaissance is the top pick in Mobile. Located in downtown Mobile, this four diamond hotel was recently named one of the top 500 hotels in the world by Travel + Leisure magazine. It is old world charm and luxury all the way. The hotel just reopened in 2007 after a $200 million dollar renovation. Once known as “Mobile’s Living Room”, it was the center of local high society and during the war of 1812 it served as the site of Andrew Jackson’s military headquarters. Also, the upstairs balcony is the perfect spot to watch the moon pie drop or see a Mardi Gras parade.
- Mobile also offers great food. From a Spot of Tea located in a turn of the century building that serves up great sandwiches and strawberry tea (and has jazz brunch on Sunday) to Wintzell’s Oyster House which has been around since 1938 and is a Mobile landmark renowned for oysters served “fried, stewed, or nude”.
- There’s also Bimini Bobs. This local eatery is located on Mobile Bay and their deck is a great place to watch the sunset while drinking one of their fresh fruit drinks and listening to the provided live music. Or there’s Callaghan’s Irish Social Club which just won Alabama’s best burger contest and is a great place to have a pint of Guinness while catching up on the day.