30 Things You Need to Know About Birmingham Before You Move ThereThe cat’s out of the bag: the Magic City is one of the United States’ most creative, affordable and lively places to be.
1. Our Craft Beer is Better Than Yours
The craft beer scene in Birmingham is booming thanks to the state’s loosened liquor laws. Good People, Avondale, Cahaba and Trim Tab Brewing Companies are just among a few of the city’s go-to breweries for live tunes, food trucks and a frothy brew, like Avondale’s Miss Fancy’s Triple.
2. No Matter What Time of Year, Conversation Revolves Around “Roll Tide” and “War Eagle”
This football rivalry is no exaggeration—everything from car colors to pet names is ruled by the age-old contention between the Tigers and the Tide. Whether you’re an alumnus or not, it’s best if you pick a team before the Iron Bowl showdown in November.
3. Birmingham Has Perfected The Gourmet Popsicle
All hail Steel City Pops, Birmingham’s only all natural and locally harvested popsicle store. With seasonal flavors like strawberry balsamic, blueberry basil, and buttermilk, this local chain is the best place to cool off in the face of sweltering southern heat.
4. Sloss Furnace Might Look Creepy, But It’s A Great Place To Catch a Show
The somewhat haunted-looking smoke stacks of Sloss Furnace are hard to miss. While it’s currently the country’s only 20th century blast furnace that’s been turned into a historical site, Sloss remains a prime venue for concerts, festivals and conferences throughout the year.
5. Spring And Summer Calendars Revolve Around Games At Regions Field
When baseball season rolls around, a Birmingham Barons game is the place to see and be seen in Birmingham. The Barons are the reigning Southern League Champions of AA baseball, and on any given “Thirsty Thursday,” newly opened Regions Field is packed to the brim with fans.
6. Frank Stitt And Chris Hastings Are God-Like Chefs
The amount of acclaimed restaurants in Birmingham is impressive enough to please any foodie. Hot and Hot Fish Club, Highlands Bar & Grill and Chez Fon Fon are just a few of the many neighborhood restaurants owned by James Beard award winning chefs Chris Hastings (famous for beating Bobby Flay in Iron Chef America) and Frank Stitt. Don’t think twice before ordering the burger at Chez Fon Fon--it’s out-of-this-world delicious.
7. Birmingham Is A Mecca For Outdoor Adventure
Between paddle boating at Oak Mountain, zip lining at Red Mountain and tube floating down the Cahaba River, there’s really no excuse to stay inside on a beautiful day. The best part? You don't have to leave the Birmingham city limits to experience the great outdoors. If you’re looking for something a little less strenuous, people are always at Railroad Park, a 19-acre green space with ponds, a small skate park and a canopied plaza that’s smack dab in the middle of downtown.
8. The Light-Rails Really Are As Spectacular As They Sound
Otherwise referred to as the “color tunnels,” these LED modern art installations are some of the only of their kind. Aside from making for an awesome picture opportunity (they’ve gone Tumblr viral), the Light-Rail project has helped encourage safety for pedestrians and bicyclists traveling around the area. Only two have been completed so far, but all four downtown underpasses are scheduled to launch in the near future.
9. Birmingham Mountain Radio Finally Has an FM Channel
Once an internet-only sensation for indie music enthusiasts, Birmingham Mountain Radio acquired an FM station in July 2013 and never looked back. Home to Scott Register, the city’s three time winner for “Best Radio Personality,” BMR offers popular shows such as “The Morning Blend,” “Oh Brother Radio” and “Reg’s Coffee House” to make the work commute much more bearable.
10. It’s Home To The Country’s Most Dominant Collegiate Athletic Conference
That’s right—the Southeastern Conference Headquarters are located right in the heart of downtown Birmingham. Even if you’re not a fan of the SEC now, you’ll learn to love it if you live in Birmingham (especially in the face of SEC media days).
11. Your Wallet Will Feel Fatter
The cost of living in Birmingham is unbelievably low. According to a recent studies by Forbes and Kiplinger, Birmingham ranks as the 12th most affordable metro area and fifth most affordable for renters. Cha-ching.
12. Athletic Or Not, Everyone Joins A GoKickball Team
The Birmingham GoKickball league is something every resident must try once. There are non-competitive and competitive leagues, but regardless of which one you choose, kickball is more about the social scene than the game. Every Thursday evening following the round of games at George Ward Park, kickball players swarm Innisfree, a small Irish pub in the Lakeview area (league participants get in free!).
13. The Vulcan Statue Is More Than Just A Symbol
This massive, cast iron representation of the Roman god of iron is Birmingham’s pride and joy. Vulcan Park and Museum hosts one of the biggest Fourth of July firework shows and claims a breathtaking view of downtown. Hoping to catch the explosive spectacular without paying the associated fee? Joggers and non-joggers alike can enjoy the surrounding Vulcan Trail.
14. The Birmingham Botanical Gardens Are Free Year-Round
Looking for a mini getaway? The Botanical Gardens offer a serene environment filled with dozens of rose beds, luscious foliage, secluded trails and even a fine dining establishment near Mountain Brook Village. It’s free, it’s gorgeous and it’s the perfect place to spend a peaceful afternoon.
15. Planter’s Peanuts Don’t Hold A Candle To The Peanut Depot
Nut lovers, rejoice: there’s a reason this southern staple has been around for more than 100 years. Grab yourself a bag of boiled, roasted, salted or Cajun-seasoned peanuts and take a stroll down Morris Avenue’s famous cobblestone street.
16. The City’s Best Cliff View Is Found Atop Ruffner Mountain
State-of-the-art Ruffner Mountain Nature Center is one of the largest urban nature reserves in the United States. The hiking trails are dog friendly, so bring your pup and trek up to the top of the mountain for an aerial view of the metro that’s truly unmatched.
17. There Is A Thriving Underground Music Scene
Workplay, Iron City and Bottletree Café are just a few of the eccentric places you can catch live music from the most recent up-and-coming artists. Over a weekend in August, Birmingham also hosts a music festival called Secret Stages in the Historic Loft District, where attendees can listen to unsigned bands from all over the United States.
18. You’ll Be Drooling Over Half-Moon Cookies
New York can have their black and white cookies, because Full Moon BBQ’s Half Moon cookies are second to none. These made-from-scratch chocolate chip and pecan delicacies are so good they are shipped around the country. Not to mention, they’ve been named as one of the Alabama Tourism Departments “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die.”
19. Tornado Season Is Nothing To Joke About
Birmingham sits right in the heart of a tornado-prone zone known as Dixie Alley, so from March to May, take tornado watches and warnings seriously. In fact, the Weather Channel ranked Birmingham as the third “Top Tornado City” in the country for 2013. Be sure you keep up with local meteorologist, James Spann, during these months. He’s practically a legend for his 2011 tornado predictions and a walking encyclopedia of Alabama geography.
20. What’s On Second is an Actual Treasure Trove
Adapted from the famous Abbott and Costello routine, Who’s on First, What’s on Second is a three-story antique and memorabilia store located on 2nd Avenue North. With everything from wartime postcards to first-edition video games, the possibilities for what knickknacks you might find here are virtually limitless.
21. Saw’s Soul Kitchen Has The Most Mouth-Watering Pork ‘n’ Greens Ever
Almost everyone will agree that Saw’s Soul Kitchen, located in the revitalized Avondale area of town, cooks up some of the city’s best, down home southern cuisine. This mouthwatering combination of made-to-order cheese grits, smoked pork, juicy collards and onion rings is guaranteed to please your taste buds.
22. Everyone Works For A Bank Or A Magazine Or UAB
Have you ever read an issue of Southern Living, Cooking Light, Country Living, Coastal Living or Cooking with Paula Deen? Yeah, they’re all published here. Aside from being a major magazine hub, Birmingham also headquarters prominent national banks, like Regions and BBVA Compass. And last, but certainly not least, the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical Center is Alabama's largest employer and one of the premier international medical centers.
23. Folks Of All Kinds Flock To Urban Standard
Framed vintage magazine covers and eclectic artwork adorn the brick walls of this Brooklyn-meets-Birmingham coffee shop. Creative folks, students and businessmen and women alike will congregate at this loft district joint to savor one of the best cups of coffee (and atmospheres) in town.
24. Pepper Place Farmer’s Market is the Place to Be on A Saturday Morning
From mid-April to mid-December, the indoor-outdoor area surrounding Birmingham’s old Dr. Pepper plant comes alive to showcase Alabama’s thriving agricultural scene. Handmade jewelry, live music, fresh produce and cooking demonstrations are just a few of the offerings you can enjoy on any given Saturday morning.
25. Allergy Season Can Get Kind Of (Ok, Really) Bad
Early March to mid May tends to be a rough time for those with bothersome allergies. You can pretty much forget keeping your car clean during these months--it will stay yellow until the pollen wave passes.
26. Art On The Rocks Is One Of The City’s Most-Anticipated Annual Events
For those of legal age, this summertime social event at the Birmingham Museum of Art is a must-attend. An evening full of gallery walks, gourmet appetizers, cocktails and performances from regional musicians like St. Paul and the Broken Bones—what’s not to love?
27. The Downtown Bar Scene Just Keeps Growing
Cocktail lounges and artisan bars have put Birmingham mixologists on the map. At one of the city’s newest and coziest establishments, The Collins Bar, you’ll find plenty of funky paper airplanes and retro typewriters but not a single drink menu. Just tell your server your flavor preference for the night, and the bartender will whip you up an original concoction.
28. It’s Not the Holidays Without the Alabama Theatre Christmas Series
The Alabama Theatre, built in 1927, is the best place to catch the Alabama Symphony, classic movies and killer concerts. Every winter, they show a special Christmas movie series, complete with pre-movie sing-alongs on the theatre’s original Wurlitzer theater organ (nicknamed Big Bertha).
29. You’ll Want to Bring Your Golf Clubs
Tee off at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, the largest golf course construction project ever attempted. Just ten miles from downtown Birmingham, this course consists of 468 holes of championship golf on 11 different sites running from north to south Alabama.
30. Locals Use “Over The Mountain” As A Point Of Reference
You’ll hear this term a lot around town. Essentially, it’s a fancy way of referencing the city’s more affluent areas of Homewood, Hoover, Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills, which lie just south of Red Mountain.
Zip Codes and Neighborhoods in Birmingham, AL
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