Highway 280 is portal to a plethora of day trips out of Auburn. Taking a left onto the highway and driving a swift two hours down the road lands a traveler in the beautiful city of Birmingham, Alabama.
As Christmas nears, take a trip to Birmingham to see the sights and the lights. Birmingham is renowned for its food, activities and scenery. The foothills of southern mountains line the city, accompanied by rolling roads and twisting turns. Downtown remains rich in history, with up and midtown showcasing the newer, innovative edge of the city.
When looking for a bite to eat, Birmingham is overflowing with options. For a morning brunch, visit Maple Street Biscuit Company or Another Broken Egg for home-style cooking and a cup of orange juice. Downtown Birmingham is also home to Pizitz Food Hall, which hosts several restaurants from within the Birmingham area. Food options include home style meals from Ashley Mac’s, “peaux boys” from Broad Street, pies from Edolyn’s, Indian street food from Silver Kati and more. The food hall is open Monday- Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and closed on Sundays.
The Summit, a popular shopping center, also offers a list of delicious options. Fine dining can be found at Fleming’s Steakhouse and Seasons 52. Travel the world of taste with North Italia, P.F. Chang’s, Chuy’s and Abhi. Finally, Steel City Pops offers delicious frozen treats, complete with ever-changing seasonal flavors.
Brick & Tin, located at 2901 Cahaba Road, offers meals from local vendors made with sustainable ingredients, sold at reasonable prices. For the best barbecue in town, visit one of four Saw’s locations: Saw’s BBQ in Homewood, Saw’s BBQ in Southside, Saw’s Juke Joint in Crestline or Saw’s Soul Kitchen in Avondale. Also located in Avondale is Avondale Brewing Company, which offers a broad selection of its latest handcrafted beverages.
Mountain Brook, a small city on the outskirts of Birmingham, holds even more dining options. The city offers limeades from Gilchrist, cocktails from the Grand Bohemian Hotel, pizza from Davenport’s, brews from Church Street Coffee Shop and French cuisine from Chez LuLu. Adjacent to the restaurant is Continental Bakery, which offers breads, sweets and other sundries.
The image of Birmingham is nearly inseparable from the image of the Vulcan. Built in 1904 by Italian artist Giuseppe Moretti, the Vulcan has overlooked Birmingham since the 1930s. Despite his shocking appearance, a quick climb up the staircase or ride in the elevator provide some of the most beautiful views in the city. The Vulcan is located at 1701 Valley View Dr. Beneath the Vulcan’s gaze lies several museums: the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (520 16th St. N.), the Birmingham Museum of Art (2000 Rev. Abraham Woods, Jr. Blvd.) and the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum (6030 Barber Motorsports Parkway).
Additionally, downtown Birmingham offers several other sites to see and events to experience. The McWane Science Center (200 19th St. N.) is a family-friendly entertainment center complete with activities for children and parents alike. Families are also sure to enjoy a baseball game at Regions Field (1401 1st Ave. S.) or a day at Pepper Place’s Saturday Market (2829 2nd Ave. S.).
Plenty of sites in downtown Birmingham harken back to the history of the city. Sloss Furnace, located at 20 32nd St. N., was once a fully functioning furnace but now stands as a historical marker open for tours and haunted houses in the fall.
The Alabama Theatre, sitting at 1817 3rd Ave. N., is still running after nearly 100 years and showing films year-round. This is the perfect Christmas destination as they show Christmas movies this time of year. Check out Elf, White Christmas or maybe catch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Finally, the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame is located at 1631 4th Ave. N. and documents musical history.
There are also several parks scattered throughout the greater Birmingham area: Railroad Park (1600 1st Ave.), Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve (1214 81st St. S.), Red Mountain Park (2011 Frankfurt Dr.) and Oak Mountain State Park (200 Terrace Dr.). Each park offers a variety of activities — from hiking and biking trails, to skate parks and petting zoos.
If you’re looking to find some animals, take a trip to the Birmingham Zoo, located on 2630 Cahaba Road. The zoo offers each visitor the opportunity to lay eyes on animals, big and small, from around the world. Additionally, there are annual events and new activities every season to keep people coming back. General admission is $17.95 for adults and $12.95 for children ages 2 to 12.
Just down the road from the zoo lies the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. In the overarching garden lies several smaller gardens, broken down into plants and flowers from different areas of the world. The space also offers classes, such as its Yoga in the Gardens series. Both admission and parking are free of charge.
Experience the Christmas season in this busy city just two hours from Lee County.