There may be only one place on the planet you could theoretically drive a shiny new Mercedes-Benz off the assembly line, stop at perhaps the most famous rib joint in the Deep South for a whole slab to go, then tailgate with those ribs a few miles away at a University of Alabama home football game.
That place is Tuscaloosa, Ala., and it's no more than a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Chattanooga — unless you're attempting to fight game-day traffic to watch the Crimson Tide play at 101,821-seat Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Built on the banks of the Black Warrior River in the early 1800s, Tuscaloosa certainly is known for the overwhelming success of the university's football program, which claims 16 national titles. But the city is also home to a fine amphitheater, the Children's Hands-On Museum, the Mercedes-Benz plant and the Paul W. Bryant Museum, which chronicles the life and accomplishments of former Tide football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant.
-Namesake: Named for the great Muskogee chieftain Tuskaloosa, whose people were defeated by the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto in 1540, Tuscaloosa became an incorporated town in 1819, just before Alabama was granted statehood.
-Big business: Now home to more than 90,000 residents, the state's fifth-largest city recently was named one of the "Best Places to Launch a Small Business" by FORTUNE Small Business.
-Did you know? Tuscaloosa was the original state capital of Alabama. It held that title from 1826 to 1846 before being replaced by the current capital, Montgomery.
BE SURE TO ATTEND
Any University of Alabama home football game (if you can get a ticket, since almost every game is a hard sellout).
WHERE TO EAT
-The locals have argued for close to 50 years about whether Dreamland or Archibald's serves the best ribs. Judge for yourself.
(Dreamland Bar-B-Q, 5535 15th Ave. E; 205-758-8135; dreamlandbbq.com)
(Archibald's Bar-B-Q, 1211 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Northport, Ala.; 205-345-6861)
-Rama Jama's offers the ultimate Southern diner food, with breakfast served all day. (1000 Paul W. Bryant Drive; 205-750-0901)
-With a capacity of 7,470, the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater is one of T-town's unsung gems. Check out everyone from Kenny Chesney to Kings of Leon at this outdoor venue. (2710 Jack Warner Pkwy.; 205-248-5280; tuscaloosaamphitheater.com)
-The Mercedes-Benz factory tour is a must for any car enthusiast. Offered at select times Monday and Wednesday, reservations are required. (11 Mercedes Drive, Vance, Ala.; 205-507-2252; mbusi.com/visitorcenter/vc-plant-tours)
-The Paul W. Bryant Museum makes it easy to understand why Alabama football is far closer to religion than relaxation in the Heart of Dixie. (300 Paul W. Bryant Drive; 205-348-4668; bryantmuseum.com)