Why our city should make the shortlist for your next getaway
Whether you come to Birmingham for a weekend of fun, a business conference, or another activity, there are a number of reasons you’ll be happy you chose the ‘Ham. Seven, to be exact. Seven wonders – some will surprise you and astound you, others you may have read about in publications far and wide. But one thing is certain, you’ll not regret a trip – long or short – to the “Dinner Table of the South.”
1. Food & Drink
There’s a reason people call Birmingham “Dinner Table of the South.” We know that you might well be thinking, “What about New Orleans, or Charleston? Aren’t they culinary destinations?” And, while we certainly can’t knock our fellow Southern cities, when it comes to the breadth of choice, the excellence of the restaurants, and the ease of getting into them for an evening of epicurean or bacchanalian delight, you’d be hard pressed to beat this city. From soul food to barbecue, from brunch to James Beard, we have a foodie culture that’ll tempt the palate of even the toughest food critic. And if you happen to arrive in town during one of our food festivals, you better bring a bigger belt.
But, you know what they say, “All food and no drink makes Jack bored and really thirsty.” Not to worry, we have that covered as well. Our craft brew culture has grown like honeysuckle, with a number of craft breweries to choose from, including Avondale Brewing. Good People Brewing, Trim Tab, Cahaba, Ghost Train, Back Forty, The Grocery Brewpub, Slag Heap, and Birmingham District Brewing. If you can’t find a style you like at any of those, odds are awfully high you’re just not into beer.
And, if that’s the case, our mixologically magical cocktail scene is every bit as potent. In fact, the Birmingham cocktail culture is evolving so rapidly that there will be even more going on by the time you read this. We’ve got everything from tucked away tequila taverns like Pilcrow, to ‘20s themed speakeasies like Marble Ring, to bars that devote themselves to the art of the cocktail like The Louis, Queen’s Park, and The Atomic (to name only a few), to neighborhood joints like Lou’s, Mom’s Basement, and 41st Street Pub & Aircraft Sales.
Birmingham’s music scene is one Birmingham wonder you might not have wondered about. Those who are in the know, though, will tell you that emerging music has found fertile ground here in town. What makes Birmingham so unique has to be our intimate music spaces. Bands like the connection they have with their audiences at places like Saturn, Iron City, and WorkPlay. And our annual Secret Stages music festival is (as implied by the name) a well-kept, audiophilically delicious secret.
3. Motor Sports
When you think motor sports in the South, your very next think almost has to be Talladega. A weekend at Talladega isn’t a just bucket list experience. It’s a souped up, fuel-injected, rubber-blistering experience you won’t even be able to conceive of telling your grandkids about. And, at about an hour east of the city, it’s convenient to all the good stuff in Birmingham when you aren’t watching the boys run fast and turn left.
If stock car racing doesn’t rev your engine, you might want to check out Barber Motorsports. This 17-turn, 2.38-mile track weaving its way through the Appalachian foothills just east of town sends jolts of adrenaline coursing through the veins of motorcycle and Indycar racers and those of us who watch them alike. But, if – sadly – you happen to be here when the track is empty, despair not. Also on site, you’ll find the largest collection of old, new, and rare motorcycles in the world. We’d even bet there’s not a bigger one in the universe. No, really. Or, better yet, have a go on the fabled Barber track with the Porsche Driving Experience.
Here in the ‘Ham, we embrace our history. We’re proud, for example, that Dr. King and the foot soldiers of the civil rights battle made Birmingham a transformational base of operations. In fact, Birmingham is an excellent hub from which you can easily explore the most important civil rights sites in the South via day trips. Here, visits to the 16th Street Baptist Church, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, and Kelly Ingram Park will leave you reflecting on those historic days.
You’ll also find that we’re also proud of the industrial heritage that set Birmingham off on such a blazing trajectory in the early 1900s that it was nicknamed “The Magic City” because it grew so fast. No visit is complete, for example, unless you visit Vulcan Park, a 10-acre parcel atop Red Mountain, crowned by the 50-ton, iron statue of the Roman god of the forge, Vulcan. And, if you’d like to know our iron and steel history more up close and personally, we urge you to tromp around either Ruffner Mountain or Red Mountain Park where you’ll find remnants of the mining industry that served the industry for decades. Or spend a few hours at Sloss Furnaces, a National Historic Monument featuring well-preserved blast furnaces and other industrial infrastructure dating back to the late 1800s.
5. The Great Outdoors
First, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention golf. With tolerable golf weather almost year-round we’re something of a duffer’s paradise. Fact is, we have some of the finest public courses around ranging from Robert Trent Jones courses such as Oxmoor Valley and Ross Bridge, to the oldest course in Birmingham, Highland Golf Course, a par-70, 18-hole course that overlooks the city skyline, and features a couple of short par 4s that make every golfer feel like Bubba Watson. It would be an act of futility to list all of our golf courses here, but, suffice to say that Bubba could stand on the tallest building in Birmingham and durn near hit a handful of them. And, after a day on the course, if you’re still feeling frisky, consider a few more strokes at Top Golf, located just a 3 iron from our convention center.
If you like being outside, but think that golf, as Mark Twain claimed, is just “a good walk spoiled,” you’ll find plenty of opportunities to exercise your hiking boots nearby. Or, if the thought of spending time on or along a placid, pristine river that is home to more species of fish than England, consider an outing to the Cahaba River. Spend an afternoon at Railroad Park, take a day trip to Oak Mountain State Park, of just find a trail and get out and walk. Bottom line: if you need a little fresh air, we’ve got it by the lungfuls.
6. The Equally Great Indoors
If the outdoors isn’t your thing, or if you happen to catch us during one of about four weeks of miserable weather we have each year, we’ve got you covered. From fun, games, food, and drink at The Woolworth, to axe throwing, to indoor climbing, to go-cart racing, you can be sure to find something that melts your butter. Feeling a bit artsy? Visit the Birmingham Museum of Art with its more than 27,000 paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, and decorative arts dating from the days of flint and pottery to today. Or if you have a hankering for art with some movement to it check out our theatre scene. With a number of active theatre companies in town, you’re sure to find a play to suit your fancy. Check out Red Mountain Theatre, Terrific New Theatre, Virginia Samford Theatre, Birmingham Children’s Theatre, and Birmingham Festival Theatre for showtimes and ticket info. You may also want to see what’s showing at one of our restored “grand dames,” the Alabama Theatre (built in 1927), the Lyric Theatre (built in 1914 as a Vaudeville venue) or the Carver Theatre, (built in 1935). If we still haven’t whet your appetite, how about checking out: the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, the Birmingham Southern Negro League Museum (devoted to telling the story of some of baseball’s earliest black heroes), or, if the kids are along a trip the the McWane Science Center is guaranteed to be talked about for years to come.
When it comes to shopping, no, we’re not New York or Atlanta. We’re easier. From the boutiques in our neighborhood villages, to the first (and we think best) outdoor lifestyle shopping center at The Summit, to hip little tucked away shops, we’ve got a shopping experience to fit your fancy. And to prove we’re easier to navigate than the typical large-city shopping destinations, we’ve put together a list designed with the serious shopper (and diner) in mind. So, dust off your walking shoes and let’s get this show started.
Seven wonders: hidden away hideaways, long weekends of fun, weeks of adventure, the great outdoors, the history, the drinking spots, the music, a full menu of culinary delights all tucked away in a place where you’d never have expected them. This is Birmingham, the Dinner Table of the South. And if you haven’t tried us yet, you’re missing out.