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How to have a magical visit to Birmingham

Birmingham Vulcan Statue A 56-foot-tall statue of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire, towers over the city. | Photo by William/adobe.stock.com

Reconnect with nature while immersed in an urban setting on a getaway to Birmingham. Nicknamed the “Magic City” for its explosive growth as a steel town in the 1800s, this north-central Alabama metropolis still deserves that moniker for its outdoor adventures, intriguing museums, eclectic shopping, and an enviable list of dining options.

What to do

Begin a visit with a bird’s-eye view of the city from Vulcan Park and Museum, home to the world’s largest cast-iron statue. Located in the 10-acre park on Red Mountain, the 56-foot-tall depiction of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire, pays homage to the city’s iron-mining roots.

Birmingham’s comfortable climate ensures the ability to enjoy numerous outdoor activities year-round. Explore 15 miles of walking, hiking, and mountain-biking trails at the 1,500-acre Red Mountain Park, which sits on a ridge that slices through town. You can also climb a tree house, visit a 6-acre dog park, soar on a zip line, and see historical iron-ore mining sites at the park.

Birmingham Botanical Garden

Stroll through more than 30 themed gardens at Birmingham Botanical Gardens. | Photo courtesy Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau

Spend an afternoon strolling Birmingham Botanical Gardens, a 67-acre paradise with more than 30 themed gardens. Sculptures decorate the lush grounds that include a formal rose garden, woodland vistas, wildflowers, and a meditative Japanese Garden with waterfalls, koi, and bonsai trees.

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Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum

The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum has more than 1,600 motorcycles in its collection. | Photo by Ted Tucker

Change gears with a stop at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, which contains the world’s largest collection of vintage and modern motorcycles from some 220 manufacturers.

Other worthwhile museums include:

Where to shop

Pepper Place Market

Vendors sell produce, crafts, specialty foods, and more on Saturday mornings at The Market at Pepper Place. | Photo courtesy Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau

On Saturday mornings, pick up homemade cheesecakes, original artwork, soaps, candles, honey, and many more locally made items at The Market at Pepper Place, a downtown farmers market.

Bibliophiles will delight in a bounty of bookstores. Every book is signed by the author at Alabama Booksmith.

You can nibble on a decadent Breakup Cookie while skimming the latest releases at Church Street Coffee and Books.

Browse an array of toys, collectibles, and antiques at What’s on Second.

Where to eat

Sample the ribs and beef brisket at Demetri’s BBQ, which also offers a satisfying breakfast menu, including a special Sunday brunch.

Pitzitz Food Hall

Choose from sandwiches, pies, poke, tacos, and more at The Pizitz Food Hall. | Photo courtesy Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau

Choose among 12 diverse vendors at The Pizitz Food Hall with stalls in a renovated 1920s department store.

If you’re in the mood for seafood, stop in at the casual Fish Market Southside.

For reservations-required dining, opt for the Italian-influenced Bottega or the French bistro Chez Fonfon, where you should leave room for the life-changing coconut pecan cake.

Indulge in before- or after-dinner drinks and a view of the city at Moon Shine—the Elyton Hotel’s rooftop bar.

Where to stay

Nestled in the woodlands, the secluded Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa looks like a castle. At this AAA Four Diamond retreat, spacious rooms include private balconies. Rates start at $300.

Birmingham-Downtown-Tutwiler Hotel

Experience Southern elegance in the Hampton Inn & Suites Birmingham-Downtown-Tutwiler. | Photo by Ted Tucker

Housed in a historic building, the Hampton Inn & Suites Birmingham-Downtown-Tutwiler offers a complimentary breakfast and is just steps away from the Birmingham Museum of Art. Rates start at $179.

Barbara and Jim Twardowski are contributors from Mandeville, Louisiana.

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AAA Travel Alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.

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