Back

Eat, Play, Stay: Visit the ‘Magic City’ of Birmingham

Time to plan your trip to Birmingham!

Written by Trisha Boyer
Eat, Play, Stay: Visit the ‘Magic City’ of Birmingham
Birmingham Skyline; Photo credit: Matt Glasscock

Birmingham earned its moniker the “Magic City” following a period of rapid growth after the Civil War; growth that was fueled in large part by the valley’s abundance of iron ore, coal, and limestone, the three ingredients required for producing steel. The factories have long since shuttered, but the past decade has seen a totally different sort of magic taking hold across the city.

As a destination that regularly garners high praise for its ever-evolving dining scene (including a long list of James Beard Award-winning and -nominated chefs), cozy bars tucked away in historic neighborhoods, and theatre productions that rival cities twice its size, there’s plenty for the 21 and under set to enjoy, too. From a world-class zoo and museums to pine-studded parks and a vast nature preserve, it’s a southern city steeped in history with something everyone in the family will enjoy.

EAT

Pizitz Food Hall; Photo courtesy of Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau
Pizitz Food Hall; Photo courtesy of Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau

Located in the heart of historic Southside, Birmingham Breadworks feels like it was made for easing into weekend mornings. Whether you go all in for one of their tender, made-from-scratch biscuits or pastries, or opt for thin slices of smoked salmon atop their freshly baked bread, be sure to add a hot chocolate or latte to fuel the morning’s adventures. And if a heartier plate of breakfast fare is more your style, Big Bad Breakfast is not to be missed. James Beard Award-winning Chef John Currence modeled BBB after the places he loved eating as a child in his hometown of New Orleans. No matter where you land on the menu of southern-inspired plates (think pepper buttermilk biscuits, breakfast skillets, shrimp and grits, and chocolate chip speckled pancakes made with heirloom grains) be sure to include a side (or three) of bacon. Currence sources leftover pepper mash from Tabasco then blends it with dark brown sugar for the cure before smoking the strips into sweet, spicy, crispy goodness.

When hunger hits midday, answer the call with an old-school pizza parlor experience at Davenport’s Pizza Palace, where the same family has been hand-tossing pies for the last 50 years. The simple menu of salads and pizzas, and the arcade in back are sure to keep the little ones happy throughout the lunch hour. Afterwards carry on the Italian theme at Magic City Sweet Ice with cool scoops of authentic Italian ices, gelatos, sorbettos, frozen custards, hand crafted sodas, and more.

As night falls, satisfy your hankering for barbecue (with yet another James Beard Award-winner) at Rodney Scott’s BBQ. Scott’s whole hog philosophy means pigs are roasted slow and low all night long for melt-in-your-mouth tender meat. The mood in the dining room is casual and convivial. And those tangy vinegar-based sauces and classic southern sides are all but guaranteed to generate smiles around the table. Not in the mood for ‘cue? Group feeling indecisive? Hit up the food stalls at The Pizitz Food Hall and choose from: Pho Pho Vietnamese, Mo: Mo dumplings, Silver Kati: Indian Street food, The Standard (for burgers and dogs), or Unos Tacos, among others.

PLAY

McWane Science Center; Photo courtesy of Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau
McWane Science Center; Photo courtesy of Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau

With four floors of interactive exhibits, an awe-inspiring aquarium, live demonstrations, and a grand IMAX Theatre kids can get lost in a full day of hands-on exploration at McWane Science Center. Through January 5th adventure seekers can also take advantage of two temporary traveling exhibitions: a giant ice slide and an indoor zipline that soars high above the crowds. (Bonus: the ice slide is not real ice so there are no wet pants lingering throughout the day.)

The Birmingham Museum of Art is another museum stop that’s sure to delight both children and adults alike. Located on four acres in the heart of the cultural district, the museum houses a collection of more than 27,000 paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, and decorative arts that span from ancient to modern times. Young art lovers from toddlers to tweens will appreciate ArtVenture, where they can channel their creative spirit into more than 15 creative learning stations.

If the sun is shining, get out and stretch your legs at Vulcan Park and Museum. Vulcan, the world’s largest cast iron statue, is also considered one of the most memorable works of civic art in the United States. The 58-foot god of fire has kept watch over Birmingham from the top of Red Mountain since the 1930s. Visitors can climb to the top of the statue’s 124-foot pedestal for spectacular panoramic views of Birmingham and the surrounding areas from the open-air observation tower. With 10 acres of green space punctuated with interactive exhibits that delve into the statue’s history and the history of the city as a whole, the park offers a unique view of Alabama’s largest city.

STAY

From cozy inns nestled on side streets to modern high-rise hotels, Birmingham is a city has it all. But The Grand Bohemian Hotel Mountain Brook combines the best of both worlds with a stylish-yet-accessible place to rest your head. The 247-room property seamlessly blends luxury, comfort, art, and whimsy into one distinctive property. Whether relaxing on the lawn in the comfort of a purple velvet chair or sipping a beverage alongside the fountain pool, you’ll be greeted by dramatic details at every turn, including an extensive collection of art on display throughout the rooms, public spaces, and hotel galleries.