BIRMINGHAM: THE SHORT AND SWEET OF IT
People like being in Birmingham. This is a generous city, blessed with its geographical good fortune, its stock of year round entertainment, and especially its irresistible Southernness. With a metropolitan population of nearly a million people, this is also a big city. Birmingham, however, embodies that Southern trait of counting family and friends important, not population statistics.
Though Birmingham stands in the heart of the Deep South, it is not an Old South city. Founded in 1871 at the crossing of two railroad lines, the city blossomed through the early 1900s as it rapidly became the South’s foremost industrial center. Iron and steel production were a natural for Birmingham; underground lay abundant key ingredients---coal, iron ore and limestone. As an industry town, Birmingham suffered greatly in the Depression. After World War II the city grew moderately while retaining its strong Southern character. At the same time a profound movement toward diversification was afoot. The huffing and puffing of Birmingham’s legendary iron and steel mills gradually was replaced by a work force of medical and engineering professionals. Today, Birmingham enjoys a balance of manufacturing and–service-oriented jobs in a thriving work force.
The traditional heart of Birmingham’s downtown is an 85-square-block zone encompassing an interesting blend of architectural periods and styles. Early 1900s skyscrapers are within view of their striking contemporary counterparts, and quiet neighborhoods are nestled in the woods just minutes away. On a plateau between Red Mountain and the city center is one of Birmingham’s most celebrated historic neighborhoods, Five Points South. This charming district, incorporated as the Town of Highland in 1887, has always been something of a place apart. Focused on a landmark circle, Five Points South is an intriguing collection of architectural styles including Spanish Baroque and Art Deco. Streets radiating off the circle are similarly blessed with a lively mix of old and new buildings now animated by more than a dozen restaurants and bars, specialty shops, a hotel and a theater.
Alabama has a long and storied history of automobile racing. In May 2003, a new chapter began with the first public race at the newly opened Barber Motorsports Park. The inaugural race was the Grand American Road Racing Association’s Rolex Sports Car Series.
“To say that Barber Motorsports Park is impressive is clearly an understatement,” said Grand American President Roger Edmondson. “Even before construction was complete, it was clear that this track is a world-class facility”
Alabama Splash Adventure, formerly Alabama Adventure,visitors cool down in the Wave Pool and on daring water rides like Acapulco Drop, Neptune’s Plunge, Splashdown and Upsurge. Relax going down the Warrior River. Portions of the park are designed especially for younger children. Park owners announced that the park's signature wooden roller coaster, Rampage, will reopen for the 2015 season.
At McWane Science Center, science becomes an adventure. McWane’s IMAX dome theater treats viewers to the spectacular, realistic film magic that IMAX is famous for. Visitors to McWane also can explore the World of Water, the Challenger Learning Center and ScienceQuest, an assembly of interactive science exhibits.
At the Birmingham Zoo, Trails of Africa features an elephant herd of exclusively male African elephants. It also includes ground and aerial observation opportunities that provide education and entertainment to hundreds of thousands of visitors who can enjoy this one-of-a-kind experience. Across the street the Birmingham Botanical Gardens blanket 80 acres with 24 different gardens including the Japanese Garden with ceremonial teahouse. History buffs will enjoy Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark, where millions of tons of pig iron flowed until the furnaces ceased operation in 1971. The facility is now open for public use and has been carefully preserved and developed as an industrial museum. There is also the interesting speculation that Sloss is haunted by a furnace worker who died a grisly death in molten iron.
Birmingham is filled with stories from the history of African-American citizens here. The city’s prominent part in America’s Civil Rights Movement is the story most often told. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is a comprehensive look at the nation’s journey toward equal rights for all citizens and includes galleries highlighting Birmingham’s momentous role in the movement. The centerpiece of the city’s Civil Rights District, the institute faces historic Kelly Ingram Park and is across the street from the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church National Historic Landmark, site of the infamous race-related bombing in 1963. The nearby Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame resides in the historic Carver Theater and honors jazz greats with ties to Alabama.
Appropriately situated near the Birmingham International Airport, the Southern Museum of Flight preserves equipment and information from the Southeast’s aviation history. Sports fans enjoy exploring the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame Museum. This home for heroes includes memorabilia from the late University of Alabama Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, a tribute to Olympic great Jesse Owens, and other displays showcasing the careers of Alabama-connected sports figures.
Fans of racing get the fun out of the starting gate at the Birmingham Race Course, with year round live and simulcast greyhound racing. Some of the best golf in the region can be found on public courses in the area, including the handsome Oxmoor Valley courses, Birmingham’s link in the state’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.
These places of interest are only a sampling of many sights to see in the greater Birmingham area. Others topping the list include the Alabama Theatre, a 1920s movie palace showing classics on the big screen.
Birmingham has long been known as the “Football Capital of the South.” The Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex regularly hosts nationally prestigious basketball and tennis events.
The Birmingham Barons are the city’s AA professional baseball team and Michael Jordan’s 1994 home in his second sports career. In May each year the city plays host to the Senior PGA Tour with the highly acclaimed Region’s Charity Classic played on various courses in the area.
Other annual events include the German community’s Oktoberfest and the Greek Food Festival. The prestigious Bluff Park Art Show and the Magic City Art Connection are just two of dozens of arts and crafts fairs that appear throughout the year. The hands-down winner of the wildest Birmingham event is the annual Do-Dah-Day Parade and Party that benefits the local Humane Society.
Venturing Out From the City
If time allows, visitors to the area can explore historical and natural attractions just minutes from Birmingham. Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park, about 25 minutes from Birmingham, is a reflection of Alabama life in the 1800s. It was at Tannehill Ironworks that Confederate forces rolled iron from the cast sheds to produce cannon and ordnance during the Civil War. Also on the grounds are 19th century pioneer homes, farm buildings,crafts cabins and an operating grist mill.
About 20 minutes from downtown Birmingham, Oak Mountain State Park borders a magnificent lake for swimming, fishing and canoeing. Golf, tennis and mountain bike trails also lure visitors for recreation at Oak Mountain. More excellent recreation takes place on the pristine waters of the Cahaba River, where the Cahaba River Society regularly offers canoe trips along this stretch of water.
Climate/What to Wear
Contrary to the notion that the South is always hot, Birmingham enjoys four distinct seasons. The annual average temperature ranges from a high of 72.7 degrees Fahrenheit to a low of 51.3 degrees. The area’s brief winter brings rain and sometimes a little snow. A lovely extended spring finds daffodils and forsythia blooming in late February or early March, with dogwood and azaleas icing the city in April. Summer has usual daytime temperatures in the upper 80s and low 90s, sometimes warmer, moderated by woodland cover in residential areas. A long comfortable fall presents a splendid show of autumn color. Dress lightly from mid-spring to mid-fall, and be prepared for chilly weather throughout the other months.
Birmingham is a city of people who love to cook and love to eat, so the city offers a selection of very good restaurants. No need to stereotype dining in the South; French, Italian, regional American, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine are very much at home in Birmingham dining rooms. Also look for Southern favorites---fried chicken, barbequed ribs,deep dish cobbler---served home-style for the hungry.
The Arts and Entertainment Out of Birmingham’s transition from an industrial to a service oriented community arose a big-city sort of appreciation for things cultural, a fertile environment for the arts. Birmingham’s multifaceted arts community stages a year round schedule of entertainment. The State of Alabama Ballet, based in Birmingham, is a full-time professional dance company.
The city has more than a half dozen professional theatrical companies, including the Birmingham Children’s Theater which introduces the world of the stage to more than 100,000 children every year. The Alabama Symphony Orchestra, a professional opera company and contemporary dance ensembles add to the Birmingham arts scene.
The Birmingham Museum of Art is one of the city’s finest cultural blessings and the largest municipal art museum in the Southeast. Along with a number of significant visiting exhibitions, the museum permanently holds the world’s largest museum display of Wedgwood pieces, impressive collections of Asian and African art, as well as Alabama folk art.
Celebrations of all sorts are carried on in Birmingham nightclubs. Expect the expected fern and sparkling water bars but look for more. Good, some even great music is regularly going down in small out-of-the-way clubs on the city’s Southside and downtown. At other places jazz and blues, cover bands and alternative music entertain. A host of nationally-known music acts fill the schedule all year at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, Verizon Wireless Music Center, the Alabama Theater and in larger music halls around town.
To receive visitor information on the greater Birmingham area before your arrival, call toll free in the U.S. 800-458-8085. Outside the U.S. call 205-458-8000. You can also visit our Web site at www.birmingham.travel. For state information call 800-ALABAMA.
For assistance when you arrive, stop by one of three local Visitor Centers operated by the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau: at Vulcan Park and Museum; on the lower level of the Birmingham International Airport; and downtown near the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex at 2200 Ninth Avenue North. ###
Dilcy Windham Hilley, VP Marketing/Communications|
205-458-8000 or email@example.com