21+ Excellent Things To Do in Birmingham AL (+ Where To Eat, Shop and Sleep)

You may not think of Birmingham, Alabama, as the perfect destination for those who love the outdoors — but you should!

This Alabama city is full of things to do for the outdoor lover in your family. Hiking trails, state parks, botanical gardens, zoos, and so much more make this city a great place to visit and enjoy everything nature offers. Couple that with awesome restaurants, historical sites, museums, family friendly attractions, and a walkable downtown — and you’ve got a perfect long-weekend destination.

Here are 21+ great things to do in Birmingham AL that you and your crew will adore.

COOLEST PLACES TO STAY IN BIRMINGHAM

  • Best Near Gardens and Zoo: Located off of Interstate 459, the Drury Inn & Suites Birmingham Grandview features a daily hot breakfast and a swimming pool. Both Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Birmingham Zoo are 5 miles away.
  • Best Near Homewood District: This Hampton Inn is located next to I-65 in the Homewood district of Birmingham, 7.5 miles from the city center. Guests of the Birmingham Hampton Inn can enjoy the outdoor pool with shaded poolside seating. A breakfast buffet including pastries, juice and coffee is served every morning.
  • Best Historical Hotel: Elyton Hotel, Autograph Collection is home to the former iconic Empire Building, one of the South’s best-known architectural landmarks. Enjoy delicious meals at the onsite restaurant, The Yard, or spectacular views and amazing drinks at their rooftop bar, Moon Shine.

OUTDOORSY THINGS TO DO IN BIRMINGHAM AL

21+ Excellent Things To Do in Birmingham AL (+ Where To Eat, Shop and Sleep)
Birmingham, Alabama

KELLY INGRAM PARK

For those who are interested in the Civil Rights Movement, visit Kelly Ingram Park located in the Civil Rights district.

You’ll pass by statues and hear about the Children’s March held in Birmingham in May of 1963. Across the street is the 16th Street Baptist Church, where four girls were killed when the church was bombed. Also across the street is the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. It’s very powerful and well worth a visit.

VULCAN PARK

Vulcan Park is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Birmingham. This public park is home to the world’s largest cast iron statue, Vulcan, god of fire and forge.

The Vulcan statue was cast from local iron to show off the city for the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. Now Vulcan stands atop a pedestal on Red Mountain. Climb up the pedestal for an amazing view of the city of Birmingham, and check out the small museum here.

RED MOUNTAIN PARK

Red Mountain Park is about a 15-minute drive from Vulcan Park and there is so much to do here. You’ll find 16 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, 2 miles of flat walking trails (perfect for strollers), three treehouses for you to explore (including an ADA-accessible one), a dog park, two overlooks, and three historic iron ore mining sites.

Remy’s Dog Park was recently recognized by Southern Living as one of the “10 Great Southern Dog Parks.” Three distinct dog parks feature shaded areas with benches and open areas for running and fetching.

SLOSS FURNACE HISTORICAL SITE

The Sloss Furnaces National Historical Landmark is the only 20th-century blast furnace in the United States.

Self-guided and guided tours of the site are a great way to understand the history of the Magic City (Birmingham’s moniker) and why it’s here. In addition to history tours, Sloss has some of the most popular special events like Holiday Markets, Día de los Muertos, and Furnace Fest.

PIG PAINTBALL

About 30 miles south of Birmingham, you’ll find PIG Paintball, one of the oldest and largest paintball parks in the state.

PIG Paintball has a huge variety of fields. You can weave in and out between the buildings in Firetown, sneak through the foliage of the Congo, be wary of surprise ambushes at Fort Apache, and one of everyone’s favorites, defend the Castle in their two-story Castle Field. Perfect for all experience levels.

Want more to explore in Alabama? Check out the Best National Parks in Alabama!

FLIPSIDE CABLE SKIING

Oak Mountain State Park has Alabama’s only cable watersports park, Flip Side Watersports. Try “cable skiing,” visit the awesome aqua park, or rent a kayak, canoe, or SUP.

RAILROAD PARK FOUNDATION

Railroad Park is a beautiful 8-block green space celebrating downtown Birmingham, Alabama’s industrial and artistic heritage. This is the ideal greenspace for grabbing lunch, taking the dog on a walk, or playing frisbee. Railroad Park is 30% water, with a beautiful lake, a stunning rain curtain, a bio-filtration wetlands area, and ponds & streams everywhere. Onsite wells irrigate these many water features.

BIRMINGHAM BOTANICAL GARDENS

If you’re looking for free things to do in Birmingham AL, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens is the place to go. The Gardens have 67.5 acres with more than 30 thematic gardens, including a Japanese Garden and a Southern Living Garden.

RICKWOOD FIELD

See a baseball game like they did in the heyday of the sport with wooden scoreboards, and old fashion grandstands at Rickwood Field! Rickwood Field opened in Downtown Birmingham in August of 1910, and it’s considered America’s oldest ball park!

Baseball is still played here all year long with youth leagues, high school and college teams, but once a year in June, the park hosts one of the most anticipated Birmingham events, the Rickwood Classic. This vintage baseball game brings Birmingham’s minor league team back to the old field for a special game.

BIRMINGHAM BARONS

If you can’t wait for the Rickwood Classic, you can still catch a Birmingham Barons game, a double-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. They now play at Regions Field, a new facility that opened in 2013 on the Southside of Birmingham.

FIVE POINTS

When I asked readers for suggestions on what to do in Birmingham AL, Five Points came highly recommended by pretty much everyone.

This neighborhood on the National Register of Historic Places is one of Birmingham’s first street-car-lined suburbs. The area is a popular living, shopping and recreational community, particularly influenced by its great dining establishments like Highlands Bar and Grill, Hot and Hot Fish Club, Bottega, Ocean, and Dreamland BBQ.

While you’re there, consider taking a walking tour of the area that begins at the famous Storyteller Fountain.

BIRMINGHAM ZOO

At the Birmingham Zoo, you can see animals such as red pandas, lions, giraffes, orangutans, rhinos, bears, elephants, sea lions, zebras, a jaguar, a hippo and many more.

With approximately 550 animals of 180 species and endangered species from 6 continents on 122 acres, the Birmingham Zoo is the perfect place to visit any time of the year.

INDOORSY THINGS TO DO IN BIRMINGHAM

INDOORSY THINGS TO DO IN BIRMINGHAM
Courtesy of the Southern Museum of Flight

SEE A SHOW AT THE ALABAMA THEATRE

See live music, enjoy ballets and symphonies, or enjoy seeing a classic movie (they even have sing-alongs!) at the Alabama Theatre.

Since 1927, the Alabama Theatre has been the home to shows and performances ranging from movies, concerts, beauty pageants, silent films and even the Mickey Mouse Club!

BARBER VINTAGE MOTORSPORTS MUSEUM

The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum holds over 1600 motorcycles spanning 100 years of technology and beauty: The Guinness-approved largest motorcycle collection in the world. The museum also displays rare race cars, including the 1964 Ferrari F-158, in which John Surtees won the 1964 Formula 1 Driver’s World Championship. You’ll also find the most extensive collection of Lotus cars.

THE BIRMINGHAM MUSEUM OF ART

The Birmingham Museum of Art is one of the finest regional museums in the United States.

The BMA houses a diverse collection of more than 27,000 paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, and decorative arts dating from ancient to modern times. The collection presents a rich panorama of cultures, featuring the Museum’s extensive holdings of Asian, European, American, African, Pre-Columbian, and Native American art.

The BMA’s popular summer series — Art on the Rocks — has become a downtown tradition, bringing together thousands of guests in celebration of art.

MCWANE SCIENCE CENTER

At the McWane Science Center, you’ll find unique, hands-on, science-learning experiences that everyone in your group will love.

With permanent exhibits such as Itty Bitty Magic City, Alabama Dinosaurs, Sea Monsters, Shark and Ray Touch Tank, and more, you’ll never run out of things to do here. There’s also an IMAX Dome Theater.

SOUTHERN MUSEUM OF FLIGHT

The Southern Museum of Flight is one of the largest aviation museums in the Southeast.

The 75,000 square foot facility houses over 100 aircraft, as well as engines, models, artifacts, photographs, and paintings. In addition, the Southern Museum of Flight is home to the Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame with over 70 biographical plaques presenting Alabama aviation history.

There’s also an indoor playground for little ones, and five flight simulators for those 12+.

ALABAMA JAZZ HALL OF FAME

Founded in 1978, the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame honors Alabama’s jazz greats.

The hall honors the pioneers who shaped jazz history, the players, the teachers, and the community leaders who gave rise to the art form. By sharing their stories, they hope to inspire the next generation of jazz greats.

WHERE TO FIND TREASURES TO TAKE HOME

Shopping and eating in Birmingham, AL.
Courtesy of the Farmers Market at Pepper Place

THE MARKET AT PEPPER PLACE

Every Saturday one of the best things to do in Alabama is head to the Pepper Place Market for chef demos, live music, and of course some local shopping. You’ll find plenty of locally made goods and produce here.

If you’re looking for something to do in the summer months, Pepper Place has children’s activities too.

WHAT’S ON 2ND

What’s On 2nd is a very eclectic shopping experience unlike any other. They carry everything that has ever been made in one convenient shopping location. They carry collectables, antiques, memorabilia, and more.

BIRMINGHAM RESTAURANTS WORTH TRAVELING FOR

BIRMINGHAM RESTAURANTS WORTH TRAVELING FOR
Courtesy of Fancy on Fifth

CHEZ FONFON

Our stay in Birmingham started on a high note with dinner on the terrace under the lights at Chez Fonfon. If we didn’t know better, we could have been in Paris sipping craft cocktails before a sumptuous dinner topped off with coconut cake. 

MARBLE RING SPEAKEASY

What’s a telephone booth doing in modern Birmingham? Well, try to make a call and you could find out.

The booth is actually the entrance to the Marble Ring Speak Easy, a fun trip back in time to the Roaring 20s. Keep your wits about you – there are little touches everywhere, from the rather risqué wallpaper to the pull chains at each table for service.

SAWS BBQ

You can’t visit the South without getting some really good BBQ, and Saw’s is the place in Birmingham. It was named the #1 Best BBQ in America by Paula Dean and Men’s Journal.

There are five different Saws locations, but we visited the original location in Edgewood where Ms. A delivered our meals that included smoked chicken with Saws signature white sauce, my tender pork BBQ, and ginormous pork-stuffed baked potatoes that I don’t think anyone could finish.

BRIGHT STAR RESTAURANT

Opened in 1907, Bright Star is the oldest restaurant in Alabama. It’s also been recognized by CNN as one of America’s Best Historic Restaurants.

In addition to legendary southern food (Fried catfish! Shrimp remoulade! Fried green tomatoes!), it’s also known for its murals.

HOT AND HOT FISH CLUB

Hot and Hot Fish Club, located in Five Points, was recently featured in a New York Times article as the hottest ticket in town, and I’ve got to say, their menu looks divine. This restaurant takes a modern approach to blending Southern, French, and California-styles of cooking. Reservations are highly recommended.

BOTTEGA

The American South meets the Italian countryside at Bottega. Bottega features flavors inspired by Italy’s wine bars and trattorias, from Venice to Palermo. They offer a cafe menu with pizza, sandwiches, and salads. Their dinner menu is a bit fancier.

BIRMINGHAM AL FAQ

What is Birmingham AL known for?

Birmingham AL is known as the founding city for the recognition of Veterans Day and hosts the nation’s oldest and largest Veterans Day celebration.

Why is Birmingham AL known as the Magic City?

Birmingham AL is known as the Magic City because its rich soil contained all the necessary elements to produce iron. Those elements are limestone, coal, and iron ore. This allowed Birmingham to become one of the most successful industrial centers in the post-Reconstruction South.

What are Birmingham AL’s top attractions?

Birmingham’s top attractions are Vulcan Park and Museum, McWane Science Center, Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, and Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark.

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MORE PLACES TO STAY IN BIRMINGHAM AL

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21+ Excellent Things To Do in Birmingham AL (+ Where To Eat, Shop and Sleep)