Quiz: what do Trøndela County, Norway; the Balearic Islands of Spain; London; and Birmingham, Alabama have in common? They’re all on Condé Nast Traveler’s list of “The 22 Best Places to Go in 2022.” In fact, if you visit the site, you’ll find Birmingham at the very top of that list. Now, for those of us so blessed as to live here, this comes as no surprise. But, if all you know of Birmingham is what you remember from your history books, this may come as a complete mystery to you. Allow us to help solve it!
Okay, let’s begin with a place of familiarity… yep, your history books. If you want to understand the Civil Rights Movement and experience it intimately, there is no better place than Birmingham. Here, the Civil Rights District is a designated National Monument. Comprising 4 ½ city blocks, this national park features destinations that were instrumental in the fight for civil rights – the 16th Street Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park, and the A.G. Gaston Motel, where Dr. King and the brave foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement met to plan peaceful resistance against the atrocities of racism, to name a few. You’ll also not want to miss the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Set aside some time. There’s a lot to take in.
But history is only part of what makes Birmingham a Top 22 destination. Condé Nast Traveler writer, Kelsey Ogletree, points out a handful of places and events you should know about, places such as our newest fine restaurant, Helen, the Elyton Hotel with its rooftop bar, Moon Shine, and City Walk BHAM – an extended park replete with food trucks, green spaces, and pop-up shops, soon to be a key gathering area when Birmingham becomes the first American host for The World Games 2022 this summer.
But there are other hidden gems we are compelled to share with you. Take the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, for example, where more than a million people a year take in the largest collection of vintage motorcycles on the planet. Plan your trip right and you can enjoy one of the many races that take place on the 2.38-mile, 16-turn racetrack, part of the 880-acre park that surrounds the museum.
Not into racing or motorcycles? Well, depending on when you come, can we interest you in baseball? Regions Field is home to the Birmingham Barons, a Double-A team in the White Sox farm system. But if the boys of summer aren’t at play, you can still get your baseball fix at Rickwood Field, America’s oldest ballpark, or at the Birmingham Southern Negro League Museum, where you can learn about such greats as Satchel Paige, Bullet Joe Rogan, and Louis Santop, whose bat, Big Bertha, is on display.
Food and drink. Need we say more? Birmingham is widely known as the “Dinner Table of the South.” With fare ranging from authentic soul food at places such as Eagles Restaurant, Magic City Grille, and Granny’s Fish ’N Grits, to James Beard award-winning fare at places like Highlands Bar & Grill and Hot and Hot Fish Club, you can’t go wrong. And as for drink, we have a bevy of craft brew houses like Good People, Trim Tab, and Ghost Train Brewing Company, as well as first rate cocktail bars such as Queen’s Park, The Margaret, and Juniper.
We’d be remiss if we failed to mention our green spaces. There are exceptional wooded parks built around the abandoned mine systems of Birmingham’s early iron industry at Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve and Red Mountain Park. Or just walk our intriguing city on miles of urban trails, all part of the Red Rock Ridge and Valley Trail System. Travel a little bit south of Birmingham and enjoy Oak Mountain State Park. At almost 10,000 acres it offers up more than 50 miles of hiking trails as well as beautiful lakes, a petting zoo, and a very forgiving public golf course. Speaking of which, if golf is your bag, you’ll want to check out Oxmoor Valley and Ross Bridge, both part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.
How about shopping? If shopping’s what moves you, prepared to get moving. Here in Birmingham, we have everything from boutiques like Billy Reid, Elle, and Manhattan South to home decor stores such as Richard Tubbs Interiors and Soho Retro. If you’re into antiques, you’re in luck as well with excellent shopping at places such as Hanna Antiques Mall, Christopher House, and Found. There are exquisite garden shops like Shoppe and Leaf & Petal at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, fun curio shops like What’s On Second and Sojourns Fair Trade, and excellent shopping malls such as The Summit and Riverchase Galleria. So, pack your credit cards and walking shoes and come on!
Clearly, there’s not just one reason Condé Nast chose Birmingham among such incredible locations as Singapore, the Cape Verde Islands, and Rapa Nui, Chile. In fact, there are many, and these words have barely scratch the surface. If you want to learn more, we have all the resources you need to plan your getaway right here. Or, if you’d prefer to wing it, well then, as we say in Birmingham, get down here!