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Birmingham, AL

Tucked near the base of the Appalachian Mountains, at the cross-section of two major railroads, lies Birmingham, Alabama's largest city. A bustling metropolitan area with a population more than 240,000, Birmingham is also a model of Southern charm and hospitality.

This wasn't always the case. During the mid-20th century, the city was nicknamed "the Johannesburg of America," thanks to its reputation for racially motivated police brutality. In 1963, local civil rights activists, fed up with racial segregation, campaigned for equality. Their work has earned Birmingham a place in history as the birthplace of the American civil rights movement.

NEIGHBORHOODS AND DISTRICTS

Birmingham is considered one of the country's most livable cities, providing a variety of homes, architectural styles, neighborhoods, and a high ratio of green space per capita. The city spans about 150 square miles and is divided into about two dozen communities. Some notable communities are:

Red Mountain is Birmingham's most upscale neighborhood featuring multi-million-dollar estates. The prominent college preparatory school Altamont is located here.

Southside encompasses the southern half of downtown Birmingham and is home to University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Huffman offers a diverse population; community life centers around the Huffman Baptist Church.

ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES

Although Birmingham was the southern United States' foremost industrial center until the Depression, iron and steel manufacturing account for only a small portion of employment today. Now, with approximately 41,000 businesses, Birmingham has transformed itself into a medical research, banking, and service-oriented economy. Some of the area's largest employers include:

  • University of Alabama at Birmingham.
  • UAB Health System
  • Baptist Medical Centers
  • BellSouth
  • Jefferson County Public Schools

BEST BETS

Vulcan Park contains the world's largest cast-iron statue. Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and craftsmanship, is considered the symbol of Birmingham due to its iron and steel manufacturing roots.

McWane Science Center is a hands-on science museum with interactive exhibits allowing participants to make animated movies, build roller coasters, and explore aquatic habitats. The facility also contains a giant dome-screened IMAX Theater.

Ruffner Mountain Nature Center, a defunct iron ore mine, was transformed into a nature refuge in the 1970s. Visitors can hike ten miles of trails, study rock formations and wildflowers, or turn their eyes skyward to revel in the soaring hawks overhead.

Robert Trent Jones Golf Club features an amazing 378 holes. The largest golf course ever built, it's often described as the best public golf course in the world.

EVENTS

Each year, Birmingham hosts several festivals, including:

  • The City Stages annual music festival, which features everything from the mellow tones of jazz to intense rock to soul-stirring gospel. Touting 150 acts on 10 stages, this popular event draws 250,000 people every year.
  • Do Dah Day, Birmingham's longest-running festival. This annual dog-and-cat street festival and parade benefits local animal charities and shelters.
  • The Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival, which melds the cultural ambiance of a film festival with the bustle of a street festival. Held in late September, the event features more than 80 independent films, live music performances, workshops, seminars, panel discussions, and script readings.

ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT

Birmingham is the cultural capital of Alabama, boasting numerous art galleries, and major ballet, opera, and symphony orchestra companies including the Alabama Ballet, Alabama Symphony Orchestra, Birmingham Ballet, Birmingham Concert Chorale, and Opera Birmingham.

  • The historic Carver Theatre offers concerts and plays, as well as jazz classes.
  • Alabama Wine Trail allows travelers to experience the harvest of five different wineries along the route from Birmingham to Montgomery.
  • The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute recounts the story of Birmingham's role in the civil rights movement.
  • Arlington Antebellum Home and Gardens showcases Greek revival architecture. The city's only pre-Civil war mansion, it offers tours of 19th-century furniture and decorative arts.
  • Located inside the historic Carver Theatre, the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame highlights native Alabamians' contributions to jazz.

EDUCATION

Birmingham is home to three universities, three colleges, four junior colleges, three technical schools, three religious training schools, and four business schools. These include:

  • University of Alabama at Birmingham. The UAB School of Medicine is nationally acclaimed.
  • Samford University
  • Birmingham-Southern College
  • Birmingham School of Law
  • Virginia College in Birmingham
  • Jefferson State Community College
  • Lawson State Community College
  • Southeastern Bible College