Go ahead and pay a bundle for a couple of days in NYC. Or dine just as elegantly in what money-watcher Forbes calls “the most affordable city in the U.S. in 2015.” Birmingham. Yep. Start packing for a getaway that won’t break the bank. Plenty of entertaining hours are spent exploring free or really cheap adventures around the city. Here are just a few:
• One of the Southeast’s finest cultural blessings is the admission-free Birmingham Museum of Art. The museum has a nationally-acclaimed permanent collection of more than 22,000 works representing cultures around the world. Donations are welcome. www.artsbma.org
• The glory of nature in the heart of the city—that’s the promise of the admission-free Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Sixty-seven acres are filled with rhododendron, camellias, wildflowers, roses, outdoor sculptures and a Japanese garden with teahouse. www.bbgardens.org
• The 350-acre Moss Rock Preserve is located just south of Birmingham in the suburb of Hoover. The Preserve is a popular rock climbing site and has 10 miles of hiking trails. http://trekbirmingham.com/places/moss-rock-preserve/
• The tantalizing aroma wafting down Morris Avenue is the wonderful smell of peanuts roasting the old-fashioned way at the Peanut Depot. Buy a buck bag of peanuts, and admire the magnificent old machinery while your children feed the pigeons along the cobblestone streets. www.peanutdepot.com
• Down 4th Avenue North at 18th Street is the Eddie Kendrick Memorial Park, a tribute to Birmingham native and Temptations lead singer Eddie Kendrick, who traveled the world but never forgot his Alabama roots. https://www.birminghamal.org/places/eddie-kendrick-memorial-park/
• For an excellent lesson in the history of America’s Civil Rights Movement visit historic Kelly Ingram Park. The park was a regular congregation area for organizing demonstrations in the early 1960s, including the ones in which police dogs and fire hoses were turned on marchers by Birmingham law enforcement. A free cell phone tour guides visitors through the tumultuous events of 1963. https://www.birminghamal.org/places/kelly-ingram-park/
• More admission-free history about the city can be found at Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark. Sloss is the only 20th century blast furnace in the country that is being preserved and interpreted as a museum. www.slossfurnaces.com
• Ruffner Mountain Nature Center is just ten minutes from downtown. This 1,000-acre nature preserve has easy to moderate hiking trails and a variety of resident and migratory birds. www.ruffnermountain.org
• Grab a quilt and a picnic and head over to Railroad Park, Birmingham’s community gathering place. Situated in downtown Birmingham, the park is a family-friendly spot for exercise and entertainment. Free live music is often going on. www.railroadpark.org
• Roughly half Red Mountain Park’s 1,200 acres are open for hiking and biking seven days a week. If you want to spend a little money for a lot of fun, the park also has a treetop zip line. www.redmountainpark.org

These are just a few of the many ways to spend your time on a dime in Birmingham. For more ideas, go to www.inbirmingham.com.