Birmingham is a dynamic, progressive urban center of great natural beauty. Almost a million people live in the metropolitan area, which includes parts of six counties in north-central Alabama. Because of its rapid growth in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Birmingham has an international flavor and ethnic diversity that are unusual in the South. This diversity has been enhanced in the last three decades by the phenomenal growth of UAB.
Health care and education have replaced other types of industry as Birmingham's economic base, and UAB is now the city's leading employer. Birmingham's economy is fully diversified, with rapid growth in service, financial, insurance and real estate, wholesale trade, construction, and research fields. Construction is thriving in Birmingham, with rapid suburban growth and massive revitalization and renovation of historic structures downtown. Despite the city's rapid growth, the cost of living in Birmingham is reasonable.
In addition to UAB and the University of Alabama School of Medicine, educational opportunities in the area include six other universities and colleges, seven community/junior colleges, five degree-granting technical schools, three law schools, and other specialized schools. The Birmingham area has several houses of worship, representing virtually all denominations. School systems cover 6 county and 13 major city public school systems and more than 40 private and denominational schools. Medical services are provided by 22 hospitals in the metro area.
Located in the Sun Belt, Birmingham enjoys an average year-round temperature of 62°F, experiences approximately 117 days with rainfall each year and, in an average year, gets 2.1 inches of snowfall. The first freeze is usually in November, with the last frost in March.
Birmingham offers its residents and visitors many opportunities for both excitement and relaxation. Ongoing events take place at more than 100 movie screens, several local community theaters, and numerous concert venues, including the Verizon Wireless Music Center amphitheatre and Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center. In addition, a host of nightclubs and restaurants feature live entertainment.
The Birmingham Museum of Art, with a permanent collection of over 17,000 works, is the largest of the area’s museums. The Birmingham Botanical Gardens and facilities at Oak Mountain State Park serve as avenues into the wonders of natural history. For those with specialized interests, the city offers the McWane Center and IMAX Dome Theatre, Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, the Jazz Hall of Fame, the Southern Museum of Flight, and many others. An interactive walk-through history at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, located in the heart of the Birmingham Civil Right’s District, centers on the historic 16th Street Baptist Church.
Special events include the Birmingham International Festival of the Arts, which salutes art and craft from a different country each year; City Stages, a world-class music festival held in the heart of downtown each June; and Do Dah Day, a whimsical parade of pets that marches through the numerous parks on Highland Avenue.
For people and families who are attracted to the outdoors, Alabama offers 24 state parks. Oak Mountain State Park, located in the Birmingham area, is the largest (9,940 acres). Dozens of smaller city parks offer further opportunities for hiking, biking, swimming, rappelling, and other sports as well as quiet places for outdoor reading, studying, and picnicking. Alabama Adventure, Alabama’s theme park, thrills visitors with roller coasters, water rides, and other amusements. The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail takes in the Oxmoor Valley Golf Club; this and other world-class courses make golf a popular pastime for residents and tourists alike. Less than one day’s drive away, the mountains of middle Tennessee and the renowned “sugar beaches” of the Gulf of Mexico showcase the natural beauty of the southeastern United States.
Much of information in this section was drawn from the Birmingham Area Chamber of Commerce (www.birminghamchamber.com).