The Magic City
If diversity were a place, it would be Birmingham. People who visit here get a taste of that variety—in entertainment, cuisine, the arts, nightlife, the great outdoors—that brings them back time and again.
|The McWane Science Center|
Birmingham was born out of iron and steel. Remnants of these early beginnings are preserved in places such as Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark. The city is also well-known for its prominent role in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. A visit to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute gives visitors an in-depth look at that important era.
The area’s antique shops are becoming places of legend in upscale lifestyle magazines around the country. Trendy malls have taken root all over the area, bringing tony, high-end shops to the state’s retail giant. Dozens of new art galleries surprise enthusiasts and collectors with a wide variety of paintings, sculpture, jewelry, ceramics, fine and funk art.
Should you have us pigeonholed as serving only barbeque and fried pies, just remember that Birmingham is home to “the Oscars of dining” with James Beard Foundation Award winners and nominees. Anyone visiting the city should take in the beauty of down-home cooking as well. And visitors with an appetite for live music will find that it is the city’s signature entertainment.
So it is diversity that is this city’s greatest strength and strongest appeal. We are a spectrum of attitudes and cultures that are all a part of the charm and intrigue that is Birmingham.
Birmingham Facts and Superlatives
|Vulcan Park and Museum|
Like most cities, Birmingham has its own list of largest, greatest, oldest places and things to brag about. Here are a few:
- No need to pigeonhole Birmingham as serving only fried chicken and barbeque. The city is home to James Beard Foundation Award winners and nominees. People come from around the Southeast to dine at chef-owned restaurants across the city.
- The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s University Hospital is among the world’s top kidney transplant centers.
- Birmingham has one of the “Top Ten Bars Worth Flying For,” according to GQ magazine. The article lists the top ten bars in the world, among them “The Garages” in Birmingham for its eclectic, authentic charm.
- Birmingham Rail Road Park is a 19 acre green space in downtown Birmingham that celebrates the industrial and artistic heritage of our great city. Situated along 1st Avenue South, between 14th and 18th Streets, the park is a joint effort between the City of Birmingham and the Railroad Park Foundation. Hailed as "Birmingham's Living Room," Railroad Park provides a historically rich venue for local recreation, family activities, concerts, and cultural events, while connecting Birmingham's downtown area with Southside and UAB's campus. Soon the new Regions Field will be completed and will become the home of The Birmingham Baron's baseball team.
- TIME magazine named Birmingham’s Sidewalk Film Festival among its choices of “Film Festivals for the Rest of Us.” Says TIME: “The September fest in the theatre district of Birmingham, Ala., is an industry favorite, named a MovieMaker ‘film festival worth the entry fee’ and one of Chris Gore’s ‘best film-festival vacations.’”
- Displaying more than 1,200 vintage and modern motorcycles and racecars and the largest collection of Lotus cars, Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum houses the largest collection of its kind in the world. The adjacent Barber Motorsports Park is considered the “Augusta of Motorsports,” referring to the quality of the world-class course and home of the Porsche Sport Driving School.
- Bon Appétit named Birmingham’s Hot & Hot Fish Club among the “Great Neighborhood Restaurants in the South.”
- The Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), the global Catholic television giant, is headquartered and broadcasts from its studios in Birmingham to millions of viewers around the world.
- Birmingham is Alabama’s largest city.
- Birmingham’s Ruffner Mountain, just ten minutes from downtown, is the second largest urban nature preserve in the country.
- Begun in 1975, Birmingham’s annual “Miss Apollo Pageant” is now the second oldest continuously running drag queen pageant in the country.
- Birmingham’s role in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s placed it “at the center of the most significant domestic drama of the 20th century….”
- In 1995 Mercedes Benz chose a site just west of Birmingham to build its first assembly plant outside Germany. The plant produces the popular M-Class All Activity Vehicle. A $600 million expansion was recently completed.
- Birmingham is the only place in the world where all the ingredients for making iron are present: coal, iron ore and limestone—all within a ten-mile radius.
- Vulcan, the mythical god of metalworking, is the largest cast iron statue in the world and is second in size only to the Statue of Liberty. The statue was Birmingham’s entry in the 1904 World’s Fair, where it won first place.
- The Club’s multi-colored dance floor was director John Badham’s inspiration for a key icon in the definitive 1970s movie Saturday Night Fever starring John Travolta.
- Southern Living, the nation’s most successful regional magazine, is published in Birmingham.
- With 10,000 pieces, the Birmingham Museum of Art houses the largest museum collection of Wedgwood in the world.
- With the opening of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail throughout the state, Alabama has been called “…one of America’s top 10 golf destinations.”
- Birmingham is home to the nation’s oldest baseball park, Rickwood Field, which opened in 1910 and hosted baseball greats such as Jackie Robinson, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Lorenzo “Piper” Davis, Willie Mays and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson.
- The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Kirklin Clinic was designed by world-renowned architect I.M Pei.
- Vonetta Flowers, the first African-American to win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics (2002 –bobsledding), is a track coach at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
- Birmingham’s world-class musical talent has put the city in the national spotlight with two winners from the mega hit TV show American Idol. Ruben Studdard won in 2003 and Taylor Hicks came home with top honors in 2006. In between, Birmingham’s Bo Bice won first runner-up in the 2005 competition.
- Birmingham was voted “America’s Bass Capital” by readers of BASSMASTER magazine. Anglers were challenged to submit their choice for the country’s best “big city bassin’.”
- In a recent interview in the New York Times, NYC mega-restaurateur Danny Meyer was asked about up-and-coming food cities. His response: “There are so many! Both Portlands—Maine and Oregon—are obsessed with good food. So are Seattle, Boston and Birmingham, Alabama.”
- Country singing legend and Alabama native Hank Williams spent the last night of his life at Birmingham’s Redmont Hotel before leaving for a New Year’s Day performance January 1, 1953, in Canton, Ohio. Somewhere along the way, Williams’s friend and driver found him dead in the back of the famous blue Cadillac.
- Birmingham has a three-year contract with the Indy Racing League to host the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, making Birmingham the only Deep South city on the North American Indy circuit.
- Sloss Furnaces produced iron for nearly 90 years during the early days of the city’s emerging as an industrial giant. Today it is a city-operated museum and recognized as a National Historic Landmark, the only facility of its kind being preserved anywhere in the world.
- The Alabama Theatre is one of only a handful of 1920s movie palaces still in operation. The “Mighty Wurlitzer” pipe organ still rises from beneath the theatre floor for live accompaniment to silent movie screenings.
- The Irondale Café is a home-style cafeteria with strong Hollywood ties. The café was the inspiration for author and actress Fannie Flagg’s successful novel Fried Green Tomatoesat the Whistle Stop Café and hit movie by half that name.
- Birmingham is known as the founding city for the recognition of Veterans Day and hosts the nation’s oldest and largest Veterans Day celebration.
- Wine enthusiasts often are surprised to find vineyards and wineries in the greater Birmingham area. They are also eager to do sampling along the local Wine Trail, especially the delicate peach wines made from local fruit.