We have made a rather thorough list of every place to visit around Atlanta for either a day or weekend trip, and each month we try to check one of those trips off our list. One of our latest trips was to Birmingham, AL, and we both were pleasantly surprised at how much we loved our visit.
Leaving early Saturday morning, our first stop was to the Sloss Furnace, where we ate our packed lunch and then set out to explore. The furnace is now recognized as a national site and is definitely unlike anywhere we have visited before. The city of Birmingham developed primarily due to industry and Sloss is a remarkable reminder of Birmingham’s history. From 1882 to 1971 the furnace produced iron. The Sloss Furnace both housed and employed hundreds of workers. Only a few industrial sites have been preserved, making this a unique stopping point. The grounds of the furnace are massive and you can roam about the property with little, to no restrictions. We were there while the furnace’s haunted house was set up, which was quite eerie and we would definitely recommend visiting at a time when the haunted house aspect is absent. Overall though, we enjoyed seeing a part of America’s history that is often unavailable to visitors-factories. It is free so if you are on a budget it is a great place to stop at, walk the grounds, and explore Birmingham’s past.
Next we headed right down the street to Avondale Brewery. We were very excited to learn that unlike Georgia, Alabama’s alcohol laws allowed breweries to remain open for more than two hours. Avondale had a wide selection of brews and serves as a concert venue outside as well, making for a very fun location. Whenever we go to new breweries out of town we usually get a flight to try a wide range of beers and we agreed Avondale’s Brewery was a success!
We then checked into our hotel, which we got for an amazing deal! Expedia offers a service called unpublished rates. This service allows you to get hotels for a discounted prices, but the catch is you cannot know where the exact hotel is until you book. While booking without knowing sounds daunting, it still provides the rating, a general area of the location, and other hotel features giving you an idea of the hotel. We have used this feature several times now and each time we have been extremely impressed. These rates don’t appear if you are booking in advance because they are rooms left over that the hotel is trying to still sell, which is why they can’t publish their name with such a low rate. If you are willing to take a little risk, these unpublished rates can lead to a big reward! $90 hotel for $47? Yes please! After checking in we headed to downtown Birmingham to explore some more.
Birmingham is known for not only it’s industry, but also the civil rights movement. There are several museums and attractions in Birmingham delving into the history of the civil rights movement and Birmingham’s part in particular. Downtown there is a park called Kelly Ingram Park, across from 16th Street Baptist Church, (where two African American girls were shot and killed in the 1960’s) that held numerous protests. You can walk around the park that is donned with various life size art work demonstrating the cruel treatment and pain inflicted on protesters. Throughout the park are signs, creating an outdoor living museum.
A few blocks away is Railroad Park, which is a beautiful blend of industrial Birmingham and nature. The park is quite large and has incredible landscaping, paths, and views of the city. We spent quite awhile just walking around and enjoying the sites.
Afterwards we stopped at Dreamlands for dinner. We had a very Southern experience with sweet tea, bbq, and some appetizer consisting of literally bread and bbq sauce. It was delicious and we experienced (for the first time ever) the Southern hospitality that people always talk about. This was my first experience also with sweet tea, and I must admit I don’t understand the hype, but I am glad I tried!
We then headed down the street to Good People Brewing, which is straight across the street from the minor league baseball team in Birmingham. Since we went in October we didn’t get to see a game, but we were definitely impressed by the stadium, which lights up at night! Again we got the flight at Good People Brewing and were impressed how each and every beer was solidly delicious. We often find that a brewery will have one or two really good beers and then the other beers are mediocre (or just plain bad), but thus far Birmingham beers were all turning out to be phenomenal. For microbrewery fans from up North you probably are not use to there being tv sets and sports on, but in the South the entire focus of the microbrewery was the football game. When we walked in it was near the end of the Auburn game and literally the entire room was facing a screen and turned at us. So for those who visit microbreweries simply for beer, be prepared that during the fall, microbreweries are a place to gather and watch football.
After spending the evening relaxing, experiencing true SEC Southern football culture, and driving through the tunnel of lights on 18th street we called it a night and were impressed by Birmingham.
In the morning we headed to First Lutheran Church, which is the most stunning Lutheran Church we have ever visited. The people as well were extremely friendly, welcoming, and gave us a full dose of Southern hospitality.
We then headed to Vulcan Park, which features a statue overlooking the city and demonstrating Birmingham’s industrial identity. The park also houses a museum, the opportunity to go up into the statue, fantastic views, and serves as a venue for events.
Next we went to the Birmingham Zoo, which was the first attraction other than breweries that actually cost us money. The zoo was absolutely adorable! There were lots of different animals and a fantastic small cat house. Also, the layout of the zoo was well done and had creative exhibits. Growing up my (Margaret’s) family always went to zoos on vacation and the little Birmingham Zoo is definitely a new favorite. The zoo was decorated for their annual Boo at the Zoo during Halloween and the displays were both creative and precious.
For lunch we went to Post Office Pies, which is located right next to Avondale Brewery, and we had a delicious pesto chicken pizza. The restaurant definitely went along with the industrial Birmingham, in a very modern way and the food was incredible! Finally, we made our last stop at Cahaba Brewery. The microbrewery is not very big, but is ideal for stopping by and grabbing a quick drink and a game of skeeball, ending our trip to Birmingham perfectly!
We love traveling, but there are very few places we can actually see ourselves settling in and living at, yet somehow Birmingham, AL of all places, captivated us. Our trip was absolutely incredible and we loved every moment of it (minus the fact everyone drives really slow). The city of Birmingham is small, inexpensive, easy to navigate, full of friendly people, and everything is within close proximity of one another. Our Birmingham trip was one of our cheapest trips, as well as one of our favorites! If you are on a budget and want to explore a neat city, full of history and industry, then take a trip to Birmingham, AL.