Top Things to See and Do in Birmingham, Alabama

The Alabama Theatre is one of two theaters remaining in the theater district of Birmingham, Alabama
The Alabama Theatre is one of two theaters remaining in the theater district of Birmingham, Alabama | © Clarence Holmes Photography / Alamy Stock Photo | © Clarence Holmes Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
Shay Lee

Birmingham is one of the most iconic cities in Alabama. During the 1950s and 1960s the city attracted international attention as a center of the Civil Rights Movement. Since then, Birmingham has evolved into a major tourist city, providing insights into the civil rights struggle, as well as science and industrial evolution. We have selected the best sights and activities in the city.

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Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute’s mission is to enlighten the world about civil and human rights by exploring the past and working to build a better future. The institute is a living memorial of civil rights history. As visitors tour the museum, they will be able to appreciate and gain an understanding of the significance of the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham. There is also an emphasis on the international struggle for human rights. Since Birmingham Civil Rights Institute opened its doors in 1992 it has been visited by more than two million people, including adults, students, families, researchers, and scholars. The institute encourages visitors to examine the issues of morality, law, justice, and responsible citizenship.

Railroad Park

Railroad Park is a 19-acre expanse that celebrates Birmingham’s industrial and artistic heritage. The park is considered ‘Birmingham’s Living Room’ since it connects the downtown area with the University of Alabama campus at Birmingham. This park is the ideal location for local recreation, family celebrations, concerts, and cultural events. Railroad Park is a good place to enjoy nature while jogging, eating out or playing frisbee. The scenic landscape consists of hardwood, evergreen, and flowering trees, with annual, biennial, and perennial flowers. Recycled and re-used objects are scattered throughout the park. The park also offers breathtaking views of Birmingham at its highest point.

City skyline of Birmingham from Railroad Park

Birmingham Museum of Art

The Birmingham Museum of Art is dedicated to providing an unparalleled cultural and educational experience for the diverse Birmingham community by collecting, presenting, interpreting, and preserving works of art. There are more than 26,000 paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, and decorative arts in the museum. Visitors can enjoy works from Asian, European, African, Pre-Columbian, and Native American cultures. The galleries of the museum host changing exhibitions. This is the ideal location to experience art crossing genres from different centuries and locations.

P1542H Birmingham Museum of Art in Birmingham, Alabama, USA.

Sloss Furnaces

Colonel James Withers Sloss was a merchant and railroad man who contributed to Birmingham’s foundation. He convinced the L&N Railroad to complete the South and North rail line through the Jones Valley. He founded Sloss Furnaces after he helped form the Pratt Coke and Coal Company. A 50-acre (20.2 hectare) site was donated by the Elyton Land Company and in June 1881 the construction of Sloss Furnaces began. Sloss Furnaces was the first of its type built in Birmingham. In its first year, it sold 24,000 tons of iron. In 1981, the company became a National Historic Landmark, and currently, the furnaces produce 400 tons of iron. The original furnaces no longer exist due to reconstruction and remodeling, but the imposing site will give visitors an insight into Birmingham’s industrial background.

Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame

The mission of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, founded in 1978, is to educate and foster an appreciation of jazz music. It showcases a continued and sustained program illuminating Alabama’s contribution to the genre and immerses visitors in the rich musical heritage. The museum sponsors jazz performances throughout the city and brings jazz to local students. One of the tour guides, Dr Frank Adams, uses his personal charm and vivid anecdotes to paint pictures of jazz history during the tours.

Birmingham Zoo

The Birmingham Zoo is Alabama’s most famous attraction – with more than 575,000 visitors each year. The entire zoo extends over 122 acres (49 hectares) and is home to 950 animals, including sea lions, rhinos, and endangered species from all over the world. Visitors can observe bats, koalas, black-footed penguins, a komodo dragon and the interactive lorikeet aviary. In 1999 Birmingham Zoo became a non-profit organization, and it is currently working on elephant conservation. Through the exhibit Trails of Africa the zoo cares for and protects threatened elephants.

Birmingham zoo.

McWane Science Center

McWane Science Center aims to change people’s minds through science and wonder. To accomplish this mission, the center provides unique hands-on experiences that children, parents and teachers will love. There are many permanent exhibits, from a Shark and Ray touch tank to a dinosaur area. The museum strives to inspire children through science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Students are encouraged to learn by exploring the center, asking questions, and creating their own hypotheses.

Barber Motorsports Park

Barber Motorsports Park is a multipurpose racing facility, attached to the Barber Vintage Motorsport Museum. The museum is a non-profit organization and is considered the largest philanthropic project in Alabama. The park’s road course is a 17-turn 2.38 mile (3.8km) course, which is meant to be ran clockwise, with plenty of elevation changes and two cut-off turns that allow the track to be shortened for club events and testing sessions. Barber Motorsports Park hosts many races, such as Grand Am, Pirelli World Challenge, Vintage Racing Series events, and the Verizon IndyCar Series.

2D99AYP There are great views of the race track at Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Alabama.

Alabama Theatre

In 1927, the $1.5 million Alabama Theatre opened – and it was one of the first buildings to have air conditioning. In the 1930s the 2,500-seat theater was home to the Mickey Mouse Club, where children would meet every Saturday to perform for each other, watch Mickey Mouse cartoons and participate in various activities. Alabama Theatre was also a place where silent films were shown, the Mighty Wurlitzer organ was used as the instrument for the movies. Thanks to this organ the theater was saved from demolition. It is currently non-profit organization.

BTJMYM The Alabama Theatre, view of the Spanish lounge, Birmingham, Alabama, erected in 1927, photograph circa 1990s.

Bottega Café

Bottega Café is a cozy Italian restaurant serving lunch and dinner. The menu celebrates Italian cuisine while offering the best seasonal ingredients of the American South. Bottega Café invites patrons to have a seat on the patio and enjoy a chilled glass of wine with antipasti, homemade chips, charred onion dip, or a refreshing salad. The airy dining area has Pompeii red walls, which create a warm ambiance. The kitchen’s centerpiece is a wood-fired oven, which is great for making crisp pizzas, roasted vegetables, meats and seafood.

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