Birmingham is Alabama’s most populous city, with a rich history that dates back to the 1870s. Since its founding as an industrial center of the south, the city has developed into one of the most important business and banking hubs in the southeastern United States. Once called “The Magic City” and “The Pittsburgh of the South,” Birmingham is now not only the industrial capital of the state, but is also Alabama’s undisputed cultural and entertainment center as well.
Things to do in Birmingham
As the cultural and entertainment capital of Alabama, Birmingham is home to numerous art galleries and iconic performance venues. Discover the largest art museum in the Southeast, the Birmingham Museum of Art, with its nationally-recognized collection of more than 17,000 works. The state’s major ballet, opera and symphony companies are based in Birmingham. The Alabama Symphony Orchestra and Opera Birmingham are both affiliated with the Alys Stephens Center for the Performing Arts, which hosts several series of concerts and lectures each year. The Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex is where you might catch a ballet performance, theater, concerts or sporting event. The Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, located in the Carver theater, hosts performances, but also provides a look at the notable jazz musicians of the state. To learn more about the area’s history, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute offers a compelling narrative exhibit of the city’s history during the Civil Rights Movement. The 16th Street Baptist Church is also an iconic landmark with a longstanding history through the civil rights era. Additional sites for historical insight and perspective include the Southern Museum of Flight, Bessemer Hall of History and the Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark. Another landmark unique to Birmingham is in Vulcan Park, south of downtown, where the world’s largest cast iron statue depicts Vulcan at his force. It rests at the top of Red Mountain, which offers a spectacular view of the city below.
Day trips from Birmingham
Birmingham abounds with a wealth of opportunities to explore, but different worlds await outside the city. Huntsville is one, home to the largest space museum in the world. Located about an hour and a half north of Birmingham, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center exhibits retired rockets and artifacts from space. If Huntsville is all about outer space, then Guntersville is all about waterside recreation. Lake Guntersville, the largest lake in the state, is about an hour’s drive from Birmingham. The lake is known for its fishing, boating and large beach complex. In addition, a 6,000-acre wooded park that surrounds the park includes an 18-hole golf course, nature center and 36 miles of trails. For those who enjoy the water, but prefer a spot along the coast, the Gulf Shores is about three hours from the city. The white sand and clear waters of the Gulf Coast will take you to paradise. Nearby Florida also has stretches of white sand and stunning sea views. A four-hour drive from Birmingham will get you to Pensacola, a popular destination for people around Alabama. Nature lovers might find Dauphin Island the perfect destination for a day trip. Located about three hours from Birmingham, the island is dedicated to ecological study, preservation and education. Visitors can get up close and personal with sea life at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab Estuarium, and learn about the ecological importance of the the Gulf Coast.
From luxury hotels to inexpensive rentals, Birmingham has it all when it comes to accommodations for every fit and budget. Splurge on a luxury hotel surrounded by natural beauty and lush golf courses just outside the city. Or check in at a modern boutique hotel in one of the up-and-coming neighborhoods of Birmingham. Book a room in the bustling financial district for close access to the vibrant city center. The downtown area has a variety of accommodations and a range of price points for guests. Check out Birmingham’s bed and breakfasts, including the 1898 home listed on the National Historic Register. In addition to the Victorian antiques and opulent decorations, visitors will find impeccable hospitality at Cobb Lane Bed and Breakfast. Several hotel and motel options are located close to Birmingham Airport, if getting in and out of town is a priority. If getting to the city’s attractions is of utmost importance, there are numerous inns, rooms for rent and hotels close by, or at least within easy access.
Transportation in Birmingham
Four Interstate Highways serve the city: Interstate 20, 65, 59 and 22, in addition to the southern bypass expressway Interstate 459. The city is closest to the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, which provides shuttle services hourly to and from area hotels and downtown. Bus service to other cities is available via Greyhound Lines and Megabus. Amtrak also operates from Birmingham. In terms of public transportation, the Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority runs bus, trolley and paratransit routes throughout the region.