Birmingham, with a population of over 1.2 million people, is Alabama's largest city, and by extension, offers an impressive array of activities for visitors with a variety of interests. Whether you enjoy fine arts or nature, motorsports or history (or all of the above), Birmingham has something for you.
Vulcan Park and Museum
This massive likeness of the God of Fire is the world's largest cast iron statue, weighing 50 tons and standing at 56 feet tall. Vulcan looms over Birmingham from the top of Red Mountain, and visitors can enjoy the same view, as well as a small museum that focuses on the history of Birmingham and the story of the iron industry in the region. The museum also houses a Birmingham visitor's center, so make it one of your first stops in the city.
Additional Information: Vulcan Park and Museum Website
Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
This interpretive museum and research center, located across the street from the 16th Street Baptist Church (known for the horrific 1963 bombing that killed four young girls) memorializes the heroes and she-roes of the Civil Rights Movement, and the ongoing history of human rights in the United States. The museum, which is part of the Smithsonian museum group and meets the highest curatorial standards, displays a variety of informative and powerful permanent exhibits as well as traveling exhibitions, lectures, film screenings, children's events, and more. The subject matter may be a bit intense for the youngest children, but it is appropriate for any child in later elementary school and up. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is a Birmingham must-visit.
Additional Information: Birmingham Civil Rights Institute Website
The Birmingham Zoo is Alabama's most visited attraction, and it makes for a nice long afternoon stop, especially for families with kids. The main attraction is the menagerie of over 750 animals, including giraffes, gorillas, rhinos, tigers, hippos, and lions. The zoo also features a playground, a carousel, a train, a cafe, and a splash area in the summer, so remember to bring along a change of clothes.
Additional Information: The Birmingham Zoo Website
Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark
Iron production was Birmingham's primary industry for its first century as a city, and Sloss Furnaces are being preserved as a monument and museum of the local iron industry. These former blast furnaces, which once produced pig iron, are the only blast furnaces in the United States that are being federally preserved, and the majority of the site is open for public touring. If you like history or science, this is a good stopover. There are also rumors of ghosts afoot, so if that is your interest, be on the lookout.
Additional Information: Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark
Alabama Symphony Orchestra
The Alabama Symphony Orchestra (ASO) is one of the South's largest and most respected symphonies. Their schedule of performances is packed year-round with everything from masterworks to pops, performed by the full symphony, complete with chorus, and any number of smaller chamber groups, chorales, and other smaller performance ensembles. A special series for children is also part of the symphony's offerings. Worth noting is the free Symphony in the Summer Concert Series, held in Railroad Park each summer. It is a favorite among locals, for good reason.
Location: Various locations in addition to the Alys Robinson Stephens Performing Arts Center, 1200 10th Avenue South
Telephone: 205-975-2787 (Box Office Information)
Additional Information: Alabama Symphony Orchestra Website
Birmingham Botanical Gardens
With 67 sprawling acres of horticultural beauty, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens are one of the city's loveliest attractions. Featuring over 12,000 different types of plants arranged in over two dozen unique gardens, as well as outdoor sculpture, a children's garden, and miles of walking paths, the gardens are a beautiful place to spend part of a day. And the best part: touring the gardens is absolutely free to visitors.
Additional Information: Birmingham Botanical Gardens Website
Birmingham Museum of Art
If the fine arts interest you, the extensive collections of the Birmingham Museum of Art will delight you (as will the free general museum admission). Of particular note is the world-renowned Asian art collection, as well as the Kress Collection of Renaissance and Baroque European art. The museum's African, Native American, and Pre-Columbian collections are also wonderful, as are the European and American art collections, and the rotating exhibits are well-curated and consistently excellent. Admission may be charged for special exhibitions.
Additional Information: Birmingham Museum of Art Website
McWane Science Center
This hands-on museum makes science fun and accessible for children of all ages. Four floors of exhibits get kids digging for dinosaur bones, petting stingrays, forming giant bubbles, playing in the giant water table, crawling through a giant scale model of a bass, dancing on the giant floor piano, and generally having a great time while learning. The McWane Science Center also features an IMAX Dome Theater; IMAX tickets are separate from admission tickets.
Additional Information: McWane Science Center Website
Arlington Antebellum Home and Gardens
Though this Greek Revival plantation home is a short diversion, it is a worthwhile one, particularly if you are interested in Civil War era history or the decorative arts. The house, which dates back to 1845, is older than the city itself, and the collections of fine household items (including furniture, silver, and ceramics) are presented beautifully, as are the manicured gardens. The staff is knowledgeable about the history of the house and the city that arose around it over 160 years. Docent-led tours may be available if requested in advance.
Barber Motorsports Park and Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum
Barber Motorsports Park features a 16-turn road course, used by Grand-Am Racing Series and AMA Superbike, as well as other exciting racing events. The track is also home to several schools of racing, including the Porsche Driving Experience. The other big attraction on the site is the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, which houses over 1200 vintage and modern motorcycles, the oldest of which dates back to 1902, as well as an extensive collection of cars, which includes 43 exceptionally rare Lotus race cars, among other impressive models.
Location: Off I-20 at Exit 140 Leeds, Alabama, east of downtown Birmingham Telephone: (Park Ticket Office) 877-332-7804
Telephone: (Museum) 205-699-7275
Additional Information: Barber Motorsports Park Website
Additional Information: Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum Website
More Birmingham, Alabama Travel Planning
- Birmingham, Alabama Hotels - Rates, Reviews and Reservations
- Alabama Airports
- Birmingham, Alabama Mileage and Estimated Driving Time
- Typical Birmingham, Alabama Weather - Month-by-Month
- Alabama Food Trails (including the Taste of the Magic City Trail featuring six stops in Birmingham)
- The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail
- Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau Website
- Birmingham IN Guide App
About Megan Romer: Megan works as a new media strategies consultant and staff writer for various organizations. She is the guide for New Orleans Travel and the former guide for World Music. You can learn more about Megan on her Twitter and LinkedIn pages.