The city of Birmingham is one of the most historic places to visit in the United States, and there is a lot to learn about this historic city in Alabama. From important civil rights events to scientific discoveries, iconic landmarks, and cultural performances, this city makes an excellent vacation destination or weekend getaway. To help you plan your trip to Birmingham, here are some the top must-see things to do while you’re in town.
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Learn About Civil Rights History
It’s essential to learn about civil rights history when you come to Birmingham, and there are lots of local museums and historic sites to check out. You can start your trip at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute to see the self-guided exhibits that take you through the movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Contemporary human rights issues are also highlighted here. Another local place to see is the 16th Street Baptist Church, which was bombed by the Ku Klux Klan in 1963. This is one of the events that led to the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and is an important part of local and U.S. history. Check out nearby Kelly Ingram Park in the Civil Rights District because this is where demonstrations were held during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.
Get Active in Railroad Park
Railroad Park is a beautiful outdoor space in Birmingham that is south of the rail lines that go through the downtown area. It is a city park that is popular for outdoor recreation, family picnics, and summer concerts. The park spans nearly 20 acres of green space and features ponds, streams, trees, and lots of space for kids to run around and play. Railroad Park is located along 1st Avenue South and between 14th and 18th Street, making it an easy destination to get to from nearly anywhere in the city. Check the park’s website before your visit to see if you can join in a yoga or boot camp class, a healthy cooking class, or scheduled family fun events.
See a Show at the Alabama Theatre
For arts and entertainment, it doesn’t get any better than the Alabama Theatre in Birmingham. This theater was built in 1927 to showcase films and has been used for many purposes since then, including beauty pageants and the Mickey Mouse Club. The theater is right downtown and regularly features live music, classic movies, ballets, symphonies, dance competition, and other exciting events. Visit the venue’s website to see what’s playing during your trip and to buy tickets. You can also take a one-hour tour for $10 per guest to get a behind-the-scenes look at the theater and learn about its history from a knowledgeable guide.
Explore the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum
Another fun place to check out during your trip to Birmingham is the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum. Here you’ll find some amazing vintage motorcycles that are the collection of the famous race car driver from the 1960s, George Barber. He built this museum after retiring from racing, and there are so many manufacturers and motorcycle types represented here. In fact, it is recognized by Guinness World Records as the largest motorcycle collection in the world! The museum has been open since 1995 and is located on Barber Motorsports Parkway. From Harley-Davidson to Honda, Indian, and many more brands, any motorcycle enthusiast will love this museum.
See Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark
The Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark is also worth visiting on your trip to Birmingham, as this is the site of a blast furnace that was operational from the 1880s until the 1970s. It has been well preserved over the years and is an ideal place to learn about the role of the iron industry in Birmingham’s local history. You can take a self-guided tour any time or join a guided tour on most Saturdays and Sundays.
Walk Around the Birmingham Botanical Gardens
To take a break from the museum and landmark circuit in Birmingham, get some fresh air and natural beauty at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. These lovely gardens span over 65 acres and feature native plants, a formal rose garden, Japanese garden, and many other themed areas. This is a great botanical garden to visit because both admission and parking here are free. It’s also open from dawn to dusk every day of the year.
Experience the McWane Science Center
Both children and adults will love Birmingham’s McWane Science Center to have fun while learning through interactive exhibits and hands-on experiences. This is a fixture in downtown Birmingham in a renovated historic building and has plenty of things to explore as a family. Come here to learn about dinosaurs, exploring space, energy, sound, aquatic animals, water, and much more.
Get Outdoors at Oak Mountain State Park
If you head outside of Birmingham about 20 miles south, you can also visit an excellent state park called Oak Mountain State Park. This is a 9,940-acre park on top of Double Oak Mountain and actually the largest state park in Alabama. Come here for mountain biking and hiking because there are over 50 miles of trails to explore here. The Red Trail is a particularly epic mountain biking trail, and there’s also a BMX course, cable skiing, boat rentals, and water sport rentals here. It’s easy to spend the whole weekend at the park because there’s also an 18-hole golf course, driving range, swimming area, lakes for fishing, and picnic areas. Park hours are 7am to 6pm. Another great park to visit in the area is Vulcan Park on top of Red Mountain, which is home to an impressive statute of the Roman god of fire.