Located in the rolling foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Birmingham was founded in 1871 at the crossing of two railroad lines. The city prospered through the early 1900s, and established itself as the South's leading industrial center. After facing setbacks during the Depression, the city slowly made a comeback and began to re-establish itself in the post- WWII era.
Today, those visiting Birmingham will enjoy discovering a diverse city that successfully balances history, culture and tradition with an eclectic mix of exciting activities. This balance of old and new, with a dash of southern charm is what helps make Birmingham such a popular destination. Birmingham's downtown features a healthy variety of business- including rare antiques, original local art, endless specialty shops, a variety of dining opportunities, and a solid nightlife scene. Five Points South is one of the most popular shopping and entertainment districts the city offers.
Although shopping is a big hit, visitors will also discover several major, nationally recognized attractions in Birmingham that beg to be explored. The Birmingham Museum of Art is one such attraction. Recognized as not only the largest municipal museum in the Southeast, but also one of the premier regional museums in the country. The Birmingham Zoo offers more than 700 wild animals, an interactive aviary, and an alligator swamp. The Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, located in the historic Carver Theatre for the Performing Arts, is dedicated to the great jazz artists whom have ties to the state of Alabama.
Visitors should explore the nearby Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. The Institute honors those who fought against racial discrimination. Both the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, and The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute are located within Birmingham's historic Civil Rights District. Kelly Ingram Park serves as the entrance to this special area. The park hosted a multitude of civil rights demonstrations during the 1960s, and even witnessed attacks on demonstrators, which shocked the nation. Today, the park is considered a place of peace and hope, and sculptures dot the park, honoring those who sacrificed for the civil rights movement.
Those who find themselves in Birmingham during the month of May should make time to experience the Do Dah Day Festival. This outdoor music festival attracts more than 45,000 people each year to the city's Southside.
Visitors will discover several remarkable parks in and around Birmingham. Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park honors Birmingham's iron and steel industry. This is a state park like no other- and one sure to be remembered for years to come. Centered on the ruins of the pre-Civil War Tannehill Ironworks, the park depicts life during the mid-1800s through a pioneer farm, church, cotton gin, and a working grist mill. The park also offers 1,500 acres that are perfect for hiking, and horseback riding. Rickwood Caverns State Park offers visitors a unique, captivating experience. Guided tours of the mile long cavern reveal fascinating natural wonders, such as shell and marine life fossils, an underground pool, and colorful structures. Children will be especially fascinated.
Alabama's Sipsey Wilderness Area is situated 90 miles northwest of Birmingham, and contains an incredible 25,000 acres. This remarkably beautiful wilderness area offers the usual hiking, fishing and hunting, but surprises visitors with its lush canyons and mesmerizing waterfalls.
While visiting Birmingham, two wonderful side trip opportunities exist with visits to the towns of Bessemer and Tuskegee.
Originally named Brooklyn, Bessemer was founded in 1887. The city was largely built around the once-thriving steel making industry. In fact, the industry was so successful it became famous as a leader in the heavy industry arena.
Today, Bessemer boasts a lovely historic downtown, sixteen blocks of which are registered on the National Register of Historic Places. Beautiful architecture and a friendly atmosphere help make for a relaxing afternoon of visiting shops, eateries, and the unique galleries that dot the area.
A sure stop for those wanting to learn more about the area is the Bessemer Hall of History, located inside a renovated railway depot. The museum offers visitors a step back in time, and explores what the city was like years ago through monthly exhibitions.
Those who enjoy golf should consider packing their clubs! Golf is a popular activity in Bessemer, as the area is known to sport a wealth of exceptional public courses. Cyclists will enjoy a wealth of opportunities to explore their sport. Oak Mountain State Park, Cheaha State Park, the Choccolocco Wildlife Management Area, and Bankhead National Forest all offer excellent off-road biking opportunities. More adventure can be found at Visionland Theme Park. The park contains four separate themed areas, including an enormous playground, a water-park, a wooden roller coaster, and a replica of an old-fashioned town.
Tuskegee is home to the famous Tuskegee Institute. Now recognized as a National Historic Site, Booker T. Washington founded the Tuskegee Institute. The site has played a large role in the educational and social advancement of African Americans. The historic site also includes the George Washington Carver Museum.
While in Tuskegee, visitors who enjoy nature should spend a few hours (or days) at the wonderfully preserved, 11,000-acre Tuskegee National Forest.
Birmingham is located near the center of the state, at the intersection of Interstates 20 and 65. Birmingham is about 90 miles north of Montgomery, AL.