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Birmingham Travel Guide
Get Your Bearings in BirminghamWhere to Stay
Locals recommend visitors stay Southside at Hotel Highland or Downtown at the Tutwiler Inn. The Five Points South area, just south of downtown, is a vibrant neighborhood that encompasses the University of Alabama at Birmingham and plenty of blocks with upscale restaurants and boutiques. Birmingham is not public transit-friendly, so unless you are staying close to your hotel, you’ll need a car to get around.
Avoid: Don't try getting a hotel room on Talladega weekend unless you book way in advance.
Hot Tips: Locals call the Tutwiler Inn the Tut.
What to Eat
Birmingham has many dining options from funky local soul food (Saw's Soul Kitchen is a favorite among locals) to fare prepared by five James Beard Chefs at places like Cafe DuPont in downtown Birmingham. Highlands Bar and Grill in Southside is a veritable institution in Birmingham and celebrated Chef Frank Stitt's menu combines New South cuisine with rustic French influences and a favorite of major food magazines. It’s located within a 1920s Spanish revival building.
Caution: Reservations are hard to snare at Highlands Bar and Grill, so book early; reservations accepted up to a month in advance.
Be Sure to Sample: Head to Irondale Café just outside Birmingham, the diner that served as the inspiration for Alabama novelist Fannie Flagg's Whistle Stop Café in Fried Green Tomatoes.
Things to See
The Civil Rights District is an integral part of the city and many visitors head to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute to explore this important period of American history. It’s also located across from the 16th Avenue Baptist Church and the park where the protesters clashed with police in 1963. The Vulcan Park and Museum chronicle the history of the city and the nearby cast-iron sculpture is the largest and pays tribute to the city’s early iron industry. Another great attraction where you can learn about history is Sloss Furnaces.
Hot Tips: Many concerts and special events occur at Sloss Furnaces in the old steel shed that's since been converted to an amphitheater.
Places to Party
Music plays a starring role in Birmingham’s nightlife scene. Bottletree Cafe hosts great bands (very indie and vegan food is offered). Locals head to Ona's for jazz ,and Gip’s Place, which is a drive out of the city but is worth the trip. Garage Café in Southside is a casual bar tucked away in what remains of an old antique mall and receives great reviews from both locals and visitors alike.
Caution: The Garage Cafe takes cash only and provides very limited parking.
Where to Shop
Birmingham has great artists and funky local businesses, and its shopping reflects its local talent. Check out Charm, Reed Books and What's on Second in downtown Birmingham or go to Forest Park (a B’ham neighborhood) and check out Naked Art for the best in local artists. Visitors willing to trek outside of the city should head to nearby suburb Hoover for Riverchase Galleria, billed as the state’s #1 tourist attraction with shopping and an impressive 9-story glass atrium.
Best Local Souvenir: Don't leave without your own Alabama Dirt shirt: t-shirts dyed with the local iron ore clay dirt which simply say "Do it in the Dirt".
Ready for Your Dream Vacation?
Like its namesake in Great Britain, Birmingham has long been known as a leading industrial center. That said, the waters here run far deeper than iron and steel production these days, and this graceful Southern city has also emerged as a vital cultural and economic center for the region. Today, Birmingham serves as headquarters for one Fortune 500 company and five Fortune 1000 companies, and numerous opportunities draw young people to this bustling part of the New South.
Birmingham is the largest city in Alabama and has been a key contributor in the history of not just this state, but the entire United States. At the forefront is the pivotal role the city played during the era of the Civil Rights Movement, a soul-stirring story that's recounted at the famous Civil Rights Institute.
In fact, the local Convention and Visitor's Bureau dubbed a tagline for Birmingham in 2006, calling it "The Diverse City." Take a few days to explore the area, and you'll no doubt see the CVB's handle is a good fit, as Birmingham's neighborhoods represent a wealth of culture and diversity. The downtown area and Five Points South are particularly thriving areas for eating out and having fun, but new options for living accommodations,... Read more »