Alabama is not a top international tourist destination, and I’m not going to argue that it should be. However, if you are ever in Birmingham, AL…
The restaurant scene if amazing. There are really excellent James Beard award winning restaurants. You can find authentic Southern cooking and BBQ. This is one of the most affordable places to make a foodie weekend. BhamNow curates some good articles on local restaurant news.
Our most famous place is the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. The struggle for civil rights put Birmingham on the map (I don’t mean in a good way).
Something to understand about the city is that it’s small and easy to get around by car. You can do lots of things in one day. You could quickly go from the Civil Rights Institute over to the Art Museum (free admission).
If you like history or big machines then you will appreciate being able to walk through Sloss Furnaces. This is what remains of a real 20th century blast furnace. Unlike the Art Museum, I would say come see it now before it gets demolished or closed.
Also related to the defunct iron and steel industry is the park around the giant Vulcan statue. The park offers a great view of the city. There is a small museum about digging iron ore out of Red Mountain and how people could die in the steel mills. At this point I will mention, for our international audience, that Birmingham was named after the city in England. We aspired to be the “Birmingham of America”.
If you want to hike Red Mountain, a giant network of hiking trails is just a 15-minute drive from the city. The dirt is red. You can tell this was a rich iron seam. Two other good hiking spots are Ruffner Mountain and Moss Rock Preserve. None of the mountains around here are dramatic, but these are nice places to go when the weather is good. You might want to hike so you can justify eating more.
For kids, I recommend Railroad Park. It’s a nice city park where freight trains go by regularly. Birmingham was not built around a river – it was built around a railroad. Close by is the McWane Science Center that has lots of hands-on exhibits for kids. I would not recommend McWane for adults, although their IMAX movie offerings could be of interest and the Pizitz Food Hall across the street is fun.
If you live in the American South and have not yet visited Birmingham for a weekend, then you are missing out! Of course there are many more things I could say about the city, but just what I listed above will keep you busy.