The largest city in the state of Alabama, Birmingham draws visitors year-round for its thriving craft beer scene, acclaimed art and history museums, Civil Rights history, beautiful parks, and picture-perfect neighborhoods dotted with quirky local shops and award-winning restaurants. And while the city's weather is moderate year-round, the best times to visit Birmingham are from March to May and again from September to November. In the spring, the flowers are in full bloom, the city's festival season begins, and the heat and humidity haven't set in, making it ideal for enjoying outdoor activities like golfing and hiking. In the fall, temperatures cool off again, hotel rates are lower, and summer crowds disperse, making it an ideal time to explore the city.
The Weather in Birmingham
Located in the north-central region of Alabama, Birmingham has a humid subtropical climate: be prepared for hot, sticky summers, mild winters, and lots of sunshine. In the summer, temperatures soar to around 90 degrees F in July and August and rarely dip below 70 degrees F. The average low is 32 degrees F in the winter, and highs hover in the low to mid-50s F. The city averages 56 inches of rain per year, and March is the wettest month, with an average of six inches of rain. Snow is rare, as is an accumulation from winter precipitation.
With mild temperatures, cool evenings, and less humidity, spring and fall are the best seasons to visit the city. They're also the height of Birmingham's festival season, which celebrates everything from jazz to barbecue, fine art, and independent film.
Peak Season in Birmingham
Summer is the peak season in Birmingham. Hotel rates are at their highest, and museums and other attractions can get crowded. Temperatures soar into the upper 80s and low 90s F. The humidity can be oppressive, but fun outdoor events like zip-lining at Red Mountain Park and golfing on the city's celebrated courses, as well as annual events like the Sidewalk Film Festival and the Steel City Jazz Festival, make a trip to Birmingham worth the visit during this time.
Winter in Birmingham
Winter is off-season in Birmingham, with crowds dissipating after the December holidays and remaining sparse through early spring. Expect cheaper hotel rates, fewer tourists, and relatively mild temperatures, with highs in the mid-50s and lows hovering just above freezing. If you plan to do a lot of walking, layer and pack a warm jacket, but know that snowfall is rare.
Events to check out:
- Birmingham's Winter Wonderland: Each winter, downtown's Railroad Park transforms into a holiday playground, complete with twinkling lights, holiday decor, and an ice skating rink that's open from Thanksgiving Day through mid-January. Tickets are $10 for the rink, which includes skate rental.
- Glow Wild: An Animal Lantern Celebration: On Wednesday through Sunday evenings in November, December, and January, the Birmingham Zoo lights up with hundreds of large lanterns featuring polar bears, pandas, and other zoo inhabitants. Hours are 5 to 9 p.m. and advance ticket purchase is recommended.
- Birmingham Restaurant Week: Sample everything from local brews to tacos, oysters, and Indian fare from local coffee shops, restaurants, bars, and food trucks at this bi-annual event occurring over two weeks in January and again in August. Each participating establishment offers a set menu ranging from $5 to $50, so there's a price point for every budget.
Spring in Birmingham
With high temperatures in the 70s and 80s, spring is an ideal time to visit Birmingham. Flowers are in full bloom in the city's parks, recreation areas, and historic neighborhoods, and the weather is perfect for enjoying outdoor activities like hiking, golfing, zip-lining, and cycling. It's also prime festival season, with events celebrating everything from juried fine art to barbecue and the blues. Note that March is the city's wettest month, so pack a rain jacket or an umbrella.
Events to check out:
- Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama: The 880-acre Barber Motorsports Park property is home to a vintage car museum—featuring over 1,500 race cars and motorcycles—as well as this annual three-day race car event held annually in April.
- Magic City Art Connection: The city's largest outdoor arts festival, Magic City, takes place the last weekend in April each year. The event features over 200 juried fine artists from across the country as well as dance performances, live music, art workshops for children, and art installations as well as the Corks & Chefs: A Taste of Birmingham, with cooking demonstrations, workshops, and food and drink samples from local restaurants.
- Bob Sykes BBQ & Blues Festival: Held in historic downtown Bessemer, one of the city's southwestern suburbs, this annual May event brings together two Alabama traditions: barbecue and the blues. The $20 advance admission ($25 day-of) includes eight hours of music from local and touring musicians, family activities, and an artist market. Kids eight and under are free with a ticketed adult, and food and drink are sold separately.
Summer in Birmingham
Summer is peak season in the city, with several outdoor events, festivals, recreational activities, and large crowds for museums and other attractions. The season is hot and humid, with high temperatures in the low 90s and lows in the 70s F, so pack sunscreen and lightweight clothing for outdoor festivals and an umbrella for the occasional rain shower. Hotel rates are higher during this peak season, and it's best to book tickets for attractions in advance or go early to beat the crowds.
Events to check out:
- Taste of 4th Avenue Jazz Festival: Listen to local and national jazz and R&B acts as well as DJs, poets, and comedians on the main stage at this annual summer event. The free festival also has a large children's area with a petting zoo, face painting, and carnival games.
- Sidewalk Film Festival: One of the country's top film festivals, this event takes place the last week in August in the city's Theatre District. Watch over 350 independent films in all genres, listen to screenwriter talks, and view accompanying art exhibits with a day or weekend event pass.
- Birmingham Restaurant Week: As in January, this bi-annual event includes set menus at restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and food trucks offering meals of everything from tacos to oysters ranging from $5 to $50.
Fall in Birmingham
In the fall, temperatures cool off, and summer crowds disperse, making it an excellent time to visit the city. September in the city can still feel like summer, with high temperatures averaging around 84 degrees F. But the humidity and heat fade by the end of the month and, combined with the brilliant foliage in Birmingham's many parks and trails, make the season an ideal time to explore the city. In October and November, high temperatures range from the mid-60s to low 70s F, while low temperatures dip into the chilly 40s and 50s F. Hotel rates are high during these prime months, so book early, especially to secure the best rates for downtown.
Events to check out:
- Birmingham Greek Festival: Hosted by one of the Southeast's oldest Greek Orthodox parishes, this three-day free celebration in October includes dancing, music, a marketplace for crafts and souvenirs, and of course, the main attraction: food. Plates are sold individually, and free parking for the event is available a block away on 20th Street (Richard Arrington Blvd) between 3rd and 4th Avenue.
- Bluff Park Art Show: Held the first Saturday in October, this annual event features over 150 artists, ranging from photographers to painters to ceramicists, who display their works at the Bluff Park Community Center. The event also includes children's activities and food vendors, and all proceeds benefit local arts organizations. Note that there is no on-site parking, but free parking and shuttles are available at nearby points, including Bluff Park United Methodist Church, Shades Mountain Independent Church, Bluff Park Village Shopping Center, and Shades Crest Baptist Church.