Best Things to Do in Birmingham AL (According to a Local)

A cityscape view of Downtown Birmingham Alabama featuring a mix of modern and historic buildings under a clear blue sky with scattered clouds.

In Birmingham, Southern hospitality meets urban vibrancy. It is a city full of captivating attractions and activities that make unforgettable memories. Discover the best things to do in Birmingham, AL, with these insider tips from a local. 

This article is part of my Wander Like a Local series, where guest writers reveal the best-kept secrets, must-see spots, and unique experiences that only locals know. Discover hidden gems and authentic tips from those who call it home.

A collage featuring Birmingham, Alabama skyline, a view of a cathedral, and a statue in a park, with text: "11 Fun Things to Do in Birmingham Alabama (According to a Local).

    

Have You Visited Birmingham, Alabama?

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Where is Birmingham, Alabama?

Also known as The Magic City, Birmingham is the largest city in Alabama. It is nestled in the heart of the southeastern United States and serves as a cultural and economic hub within the state. Located in the north-central region of Alabama, Birmingham is surrounded by rolling hills and lush greenery, which contribute to its picturesque landscape. 

Geographically, Birmingham lies in Jefferson County, which is part of the larger Appalachian foothills region. It is approximately halfway between the major cities of Atlanta, Georgia, and Nashville, Tennessee.

A statue of Martin Luther King Jr. stands on a stone pedestal, surrounded by trees and a paved walkway in a park.
Photo Credit: Cherith Fluker.

Things to See and Do in Birmingham, AL

There are so many fun things to do in Birmingham. Here are a few of my favorite experiences.

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

Address: 520 16th St N, Birmingham, AL 35203

Immerse yourself in Birmingham’s rich history at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. It’s so much more than just a museum. Here, you can explore thought-provoking exhibits and interactive displays that chronicle the city’s pivotal role as the center of the Civil Rights Movement

The Civil Rights Institute is the perfect place for history buffs or anyone looking to dive deeper into Birmingham’s pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement. This experience is suitable for people of all ages and backgrounds. 

Helpful hint: The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute hosts several events throughout the year. Check the calendar on the website to see if there is an event scheduled during your visit. Also, make sure to check out Kelly Ingram Park, right across the street from the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. There, you’ll see lots of powerful sculptures depicting significant struggles during the Civil Rights Movement.

Birmingham Museum of Art

Address: 2000 Reverend Abraham Woods Jr Blvd, Birmingham, AL 35203

The Birmingham Museum of Art is somewhat of a hidden gem. I’m usually very surprised by the number of Birmingham residents who have never visited this amazing place. At the museum, you can experience the vibrant fine arts scene of Birmingham. It houses a diverse collection of exhibits spanning thousands of years and cultures. 

To keep things fresh and interesting, the museum often hosts traveling exhibits from other museums and institutions. 

A cityscape at sunset with buildings and a bridge in the distance, seen from an elevated vantage point among trees. Stage lights are visible in the upper-left corner.
Photo Credit: Cherith Fluker.

Red Mountain Park

Address: 2011 Frankfurt Dr, Birmingham, AL 35211

Outdoor enthusiasts are in luck in Birmingham. There are several beautiful parks that are perfect for outdoor activities. One of my favorites is Red Mountain Park. 

Red Mountain Park is a local favorite. Its miles of trails lead to stunning overlooks, and families enjoy walking, hiking, and biking them. On sunny Birmingham days, you’ll likely also spot people reading, picnicking, or people-watching. 

Helpful hint: There is no parking or admission fee for Red Mountain Park.

The conservatory at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens is a large greenhouse with a glass facade and metal framework, surrounded by vibrant purple and green landscaping.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

Birmingham Botanical Gardens​

Address: 2612 Lane Park Rd, Birmingham, AL 35223

Escape the hustle and bustle of the city at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. As empty nesters, my husband and I enjoy wandering through the lush oasis of the beautifully landscaped gardens. There’s no shortage of beauty here. 

Depending on the time of year you visit the gardens, you’ll likely stumble upon a photographer in search of the perfect shot. I’ve even witnessed a few marriage proposals against the beautiful backdrop of blooming flowers and beautiful foliage. 

Helpful hint: Spring and Summer are the most enchanting times to visit the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. However, there’s something unique to experience year-round, so don’t be shy to visit during the fall and winter months.

A city skyline featuring tall buildings reflected in a calm body of water under a blue sky with clouds.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

Railroad Park

Address: 1600 1st Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35233

Located in the heart of downtown Birmingham, Railroad Park is a vibrant urban oasis. Head to this urban park to enjoy a leisurely stroll along the walking paths, relax by the water, and take in stunning views of the city skyline. 

Known by locals as “Birmingham’s Living Room”, Railroad park often hosts live music events and family activities that make it an excellent place to check out during your visit the The Magic City. 

Helpful Hint: If you plan to take a bike ride through the park, make sure to ride along the designated bike paths along Powell Avenue. 

Three people smiling and standing together in front of a scenic view of a city landscape with trees and buildings in the background.
Photo Credit: Cherith Fluker.

Vulcan Park and Museum

Address: 1701 Valley View Dr, Birmingham, AL 35209

Vulcan is one of Birmingham’s most notable statues. Perched atop Red Mountain, the iconic attraction stands as a testament to the city’s industrial past. It’s also one of the best places to enjoy a panoramic view of Birmingham. 

You can also take a guided tour of the park and explore interactive exhibits. Other popular activities at Vulcan Park and Museum are jogging along the scenic trails, picnicking, and enjoying cultural festivals and other special events. If you ask several locals about must-see places in Birmingham, many will list Vulcan park and Museum. 

The entrance to McWane Science Center in Birmingham, Alabama, featuring the IMAX Dome Theater with banners for "Design Zone" and science-themed graphics on either side.

McWane Science Center

Address: 200 19th St N, Birmingham, AL 35203

Fuel your curiosity at the McWane Science Center in downtown Birmingham. This kid-friendly science museum and research center houses four floors of hands-on exhibits and interactive displays. Onsite, there’s also an Imax theater that shows a diverse range of educational and entertaining films. 

A visit to McWane is one of the best ways to entertain children for hours on end. From exploring the human body to uncovering the wonders of outer space, this family-friendly attraction has something for everyone.

Iron City

Address: 513 22nd St. S, Birmingham, AL 35233

If you’re into live musical performances, you’ll want to check out Iron City. This unique entertainment venue was built in the 1920s and was repurposed and revitalized around 2013. Iron City has three concert stages that host a range of musical genres. The venue features both established artists and up-and-coming bands, catering to a wide variety of tastes and preferences. There is also a restaurant and two bars on site. 

Check the live performances calendar to see if there’s a group you’re interested in performing during your visit to the Birmingham area. 

Pepper Place Market

Address: 2829 2nd Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35233

One of my favorite places to hang out on Saturday mornings is Pepper Place Market. Here, you can experience the vibrant energy of Birmingham’s culinary scene. Browse through local vendors offering fresh produce, artisanal goods, and handmade crafts. After shopping, grab a bite to eat at one of the food trucks, restaurants, and cafes lining the market.

There is also a bookstore located at Pepper Place. And you will definitely want to take some time to enjoy one of the many live musical performances and live food demonstrations at Pepper Place Market. 

Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum

​Address: 6030 Barber Motorsports Pkwy, Leeds, AL 35094

If you’re a motorsports enthusiast, make sure to add Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum to your itinerary. The museum is located near Birmingham and proudly houses the world’s largest collection of motorcycles. It offers a thrilling journey through the history of two-wheeled machines. 

With over 1,600 vintage and modern bikes on display, there’s something for every motorcycle enthusiast to appreciate. From iconic classics to cutting-edge models, the museum showcases the evolution of motorcycle design and technology in a captivating way. You’ll also find a fascinating array of racing memorabilia and artifacts that tell the story of motorsports through the ages.

Birmingham Zoo

​Address: 2630 Cahaba Rd, Birmingham, AL 35223

The Birmingham Zoo boasts an impressive collection of over 800 animals representing diverse species from around the world. It’s a place where you can wander through beautifully landscaped habitats, immersing yourself in the sights and sounds of nature. Every corner of the zoo offers a new and exciting encounter with wildlife. 

As an educator, I’m continually impressed by the zoo’s commitment to conservation and education. Through engaging exhibits, informative signage, and interactive programs, the zoo inspires visitors of all ages to develop a deeper appreciation for the natural world and to take action to protect it for future generations. Whether you’re attending an animal encounter, participating in a guided tour, or simply enjoying a leisurely stroll through the grounds, the Birmingham Zoo is a great place of discovery and learning for all who visit.

Photo of a sign reading "Rotary Trail Magic City" in front of buildings and trees. The sign is made of metal with bold letters in red and white.
Photo Credit: Cherith Fluker.

Fun Things to Do in Birmingham, AL

Living just 20 miles east of the city center, I frequently drive into the city to enjoy the fun events and attractions available. One of the best ways to spend a day in Birmingham is by exploring the charming streets of downtown, where you’ll find an eclectic mix of shops and cozy cafes. For outdoor enthusiasts, nothing beats a hike along the scenic trails of Red Mountain Park or a leisurely stroll through the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. 

Birmingham’s culinary scene never disappoints. The Magic City offers an array of restaurants serving everything from Southern comfort food to international cuisine. Birmingham also has a growing craft beer scene. You’ll find an array of breweries and taprooms offering locally brewed beers to suit every palate.

Frequently Asked Questions About Free Things to Do in Birmingham, AL

You can enjoy Birmingham without spending lots of money. In fact, there are several free activities in the city. Here are some frequently asked questions about free activities in The Magic City.

Are there any free museums or art galleries in Birmingham?

Yes, there are several free museums and art galleries in Birmingham, including the Birmingham Museum of Art, which offers free admission to its permanent collection. The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts also offers free admission. 

Can you recommend any free events or festivals happening in Birmingham?

Throughout the year, Birmingham hosts various free cultural events and festivals, including the Sidewalk Film Festival, the Greek Food Festival, and the Birmingham Artwalk.

Are there any parks or outdoor spaces in Birmingham that don't charge admission?

Birmingham offers several parks and outdoor spaces that don’t charge admission, such as Railroad Park, Red Mountain Park, and Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve.

Where can I find free live music or entertainment in Birmingham?

Free live music and entertainment are often available at venues like Railroad Park, Avondale Brewing Company, and Good People Brewing Company, especially on weekends and during special events.

Are there any free walking tours or self-guided tours available in Birmingham?

While there aren’t many organized free walking tours, you can explore downtown Birmingham on your own with self-guided tours available online.

What free educational or cultural experiences are available in Birmingham?

Take advantage of free educational and cultural experiences in Birmingham by visiting libraries like the Birmingham Public Library, attending free lectures and workshops at universities, and exploring public art installations scattered throughout the city.

What are Your Favorite Things to Do in Birmingham, AL?

What experiences did you enjoy when you visited The Magic City? Any additional tips or tricks to pass along? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Looking for more information to plan your Alabama vacation? Check out my additional recommendations to help you plan your trip to Alabama, including what to see and do in Alabama, the best places to stay in Alabama, where to eat in Alabama, and more!

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