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Summer 2021

Surprising Birmingham: Beauty, Class, Okra, Charm, Cornbread, James Beard, Folk Art, Sweet Tea, and Intrigue

Beauty, Class, Okra, Charm, Cornbread, James Beard, Folk Art, Sweet Tea, and Intrigue
Birmingham, AL---Something we hear time and again from first time visitors to Birmingham is that they never realized the beauty of the area. With the foothills of the Appalachians as a dramatic backdrop, the city is laid out on a series of lush rolling hills, with woodland-covered neighborhoods just minutes from downtown.

That this Southern city has its own cosmopolitan personality is another eye-opener to visitors. It’s hip without the pretense. It’s cool without the exertion. So, if you thought you were coming to the Waffle House---not that there’s anything wrong with that---you’re coming to James Beard country instead.

Speaking of dining, “fine” follows many paths. Should you have us pigeonholed as serving only barbeque and fried pies, just remember that Birmingham is home to numerous James Beard Foundation Award winners and nominees. Dining is one of the great joys of being in Birmingham.  It’s the reason we’re widely known as the “Dinner Table of the South.”  Anyone visiting the city should take delight in the beauty of fine Southern cooking here as well. No one wants to leave without a meal of catfish, fried okra, fresh corn, tomatoes ripened on the vine, cornbread (made without sugar, please), all topped off by deep dish peach cobbler---hot---with a dollop of ice cream.

The art we hold up as fine examples of the talent is intriguing as well. Birmingham has become something of a colony with recent openings of new art galleries of every sort. Clusters of galleries downtown and in nearby suburbs are giving art enthusiasts and collectors options on paintings, sculpture, jewelry, ceramics, fine art, and folk art. In addition, thousands of visitors to the Birmingham Museum of Art each year leave town marveling, “I had no idea….”

The quantity and quality of shopping opportunities is often a discovery for Birmingham guests. The area’s antique shops are noted in upscale lifestyle magazines around the country. Awe-inspiring pieces still can be found at reasonable prices, especially in the shops along the main drag in the Birmingham suburb of Homewood.

Trendy malls have taken root all over the area, bringing posh, high-end shops to our charming burg. Birmingham’s downtown has its own shopping character with shops carrying nostalgic memorabilia, vintage clothing and jewelry, and records (yes, some selling vinyl).

So it is diversity that is this city’s greatest strength and strongest appeal. We are a spectrum of attitudes and cultures that are all a part of the charm and intrigue that is Birmingham and the South.