Beauty, Class, Art, Charm, James Beard and Civil Rights
Something locals hear time and again from first-time visitors to Birmingham is that they never realised the beauty of the area. With the foothills of the Appalachians as a dramatic backdrop, the city is laid out on a series of lush rolling hills, with woodland-covered neighbourhoods located just minutes from downtown.
That this southern city has its own cosmopolitan personality is another eye-opener to visitors. It’s hip without being pretentious. It’s very cool without the exertion. Should you have Birmingham pigeonholed as serving only barbeque and fried pies, just remember that Birmingham is home to “the Oscars of dining” with James Beard Foundation Award winners and nominees.
The area’s antique shops are becoming places of legend in upscale lifestyle magazines around the country. Trendy malls have taken root all over the area, bringing the posh, high-end shops to the state’s retail giant.
The city has become something of a colony with the recent openings of dozens of new art galleries of every sort. Clusters of galleries near the downtown area are giving art enthusiasts and collectors wide options on paintings, sculpture, jewellery, ceramics, fine art and funk art.
Birmingham’s most famous story is the city’s role in America’s Civil Rights Movement. Exhibits in the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute document the rise of the movement and the succession of events it bore around the nation.
Just across the street, Sixteenth Street Baptist Church National Historic Landmark became the focus of the world on a September Sunday morning in 1963 when four African-American schoolgirls died in a dynamite blast. The bomb, set by Ku Klux Klansmen, ripped through that side of the church, killing 11-year-old Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Addie Mae Collins, all 14 years old.
Facing the Civil Rights Institute, Kelly Ingram Park served as a congregating area for demonstrations in the early 1960s, including the ones in which police dogs and fire hoses were turned on marchers by Birmingham police.
Also nearby in the district is the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, honouring jazz greats with ties to the state of Alabama. The Eddie Kendrick Memorial Park, just down the block, is a tribute to Birmingham native and the Temptations lead singer.
Some of the best golf on earth can be found at public courses in the area, including Birmingham’s two challenging courses along Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. And as you’ll find during your visit, Birmingham has plenty of other attractions – from the African Safari at the Birmingham Zoo to the panoramic view from Vulcan, the largest cast iron statue in the world.
It is diversity of every sort that is this city’s greatest strength and strongest appeal. And it is charm and entertainment that bring people back time and again to enjoy Birmingham.