9 Fun Things to Do in Birmingham: Weekend Travel Guide

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Not a lot of people know, probably because it is a seemingly random fun fact, but I used to live in Alabama. Right outside of Birmingham, in fact. For three-ish years, from grade 3 to 6, my military mom was stationed in Alabama and moved us down south. I was a bit too young to really remember any of the fun things to do in Birmingham, not that we did anything besides window shop at Walmart on the weekends.

A few years ago, I spent almost two months road tripping around the American south, and it would be my first time back to Alabama since I left an entire lifetime ago. For a variety of reasons (medical trauma, probably) I don’t remember much of my time living in Alabama. I didn’t know what to expect coming back to Alabama, but I knew I’d be surprised.

Mostly pleasantly I’m pleased to report! But we did get a speeding ticket too #wompwomp

If you’ll be in Alabama soon, whether for something specific or if you’re just curious to what the Yellowhammer state has to offer, then hopefully this post will help you find some fun things to do in Birmingham!


  • State: Alabama
  • Nearest Cities: Atlanta (2hrs), Nashville (3hrs), Jackson (3.5hrs)
  • Closest International Airport: Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM)
  • Ancestral Lands: Choctaw, Cherokee, Muscogee Creek, Shawnee, and other Nations
  • Best season to visit (in my opinion): Spring and Fall
  • Transportation: It’s not a big city, but for convenience I’d recommend a car (and comfort if you visit in the humid summer!)

The name “Alabama” comes from the a Choctaw word meaning “thicket-clearer” or vegetation-gatherers.” The soil in what is now called Alabama has always been incredibly rich and fertile, so the various Indigenous Nations specialized in agriculture, especially crops such as corn, beans, and squash – the three sisters.


Since we were on an extended road trip, our lodging priorities were mostly cost. We weren’t too concerned about being super close to all the things to do in Birmingham because we had a rental car. Thankfully though, we were able to find pretty affordable hotels that were also in the downtown area of the city.

hilton hotel birmingham alabama

I’m a loyal Hilton member (not sponsored) and staying at Hilton hotels when I travel has allowed me enough points to stay at some pretty incredible hotels (like the Hilton Amingiri in the Maldives!!!) for FREE because I can trade in all the Hilton points I earn. For Birmingham, I stayed at the Homewood Suites by Hilton Birmingham Downtown for a mix of budget and comfort. I also had my eye on The Kelly Birmingham, because I love Hilton’s Tapestry Collection hotels, so I’ll probably stay there the next time I’m back in the Birmingham area.

However, if you don’t care about points or hotel chains and want to stay at a place with a bit more unique character, I also found the Hassinger Daniels Mansion. It’s a cozy little bed and breakfast near the university and looks very charming! If you end up staying there, let me know how it is!


The best part about my road trip in the south was the eating. I think I gained at least 10lbs on that trip alone lol, but lemme tell ya every meal is worth it. Alabama, and so Birmingham by extension, is in the BBQ belt, so if you eat nothing else, make sure you get a plate of ribs somewhere.

fried shrimp

A few other menu items to look out for a fried green tomatoes, boiled peanuts, and pecan pie. And of course, order a nice tall glass of sweet tea to wash it all down. Honestly, you could cut all the rest of it out and just say enjoying sweet tea is one of the best things to do in Birmingham hahah. Of all my memories living in Alabama as a kid, drinking sweet tea is the one that is nearest to my heart.


Even though Birmingham isn’t the most hype of cities, you know I had to snag a lil caffeinated bevvie before getting into the nitty gritty of all the fun things to do in Birmingham. There aren’t toooo many cafes, but one that I really enjoyed during my weekend in town was Bizarre The Coffee Bar. There was another that I liked, but it has closed by the time of this blog post ;(

hand holding up a to-go cup of tea

But Bizarre the Coffee Bar is unique in that it is open late (2pm-11pm I believe) which is perfect for me because I wake up late anyway. It’s also helpful for folks who are traveling while working remote, or just work better in the afternoon and need a pick-me-up later in the day. That said, as the night goes on, it shifts into more of a lounge with drinks and hookah (not exactly my scene), but I appreciate their operation hours!


You gotta start off your day on the right food, and along with getting enough sleep, it helps to have a great breakfast to fuel you for all the things to do in Birmingham that you’ve got lined up. We had some hits and we had some misses during out 3 days in the city, but if your hotel doesn’t offer breakfast, here are my recommendations!

breakfast scramble in a small skillet
  • Yo’ Mama’s: THIS is the southern breakfast I’m used to waking up to. They’re known for their chicken and waffles (as they should be!!) but I ordered their French toast and it was equally delicious! I also went back again for lunch lol
  • Big Bad Breakfast: Technically in Hoover (where I used to live!), they actually have a few locations throughout Alabama and the south. They definitely take American breakfast staples and put a lil extra ‘oomph on it.


Lunch is a pseudo-meal time of day, where it really depends on where a break falls on the itinerary in-between all the things to do in Birmingham. For me personally, I usually gravitate towards a lighter or refreshing lunch, because I get all sweaty running between activities. But I think it also helps because heavier food might give you the itis (especially in the south!) and you might have to tap out for an afternoon nap haha.

acai bowl
  • Farm Bowl and Juice Co: It’s the Californian in me, but I love a good juice joint. I could do a juice anytime of the year, but especially if you’re visiting in the summer you’ll want to swing by. They also have a variety of bowls (juice, acai, and oatmeal) and they’re all equally delicious.
  • T-Bone’s Authentic Philly Style Cheesesteaks And Hoagies: Okayyy okay, we’re not in Philly, but T-Bone’s knows how to throw DOWN a cheesesteak!! It’s perfect when you’re in the mood for a quick sandwich, but want a lil extra flavor and substance to keep ya going.
  • Chopt: It’s a chain, but it’s so good imma need Chopt to go NATIONWIDE. It’s like if Chipotle and Sweetgreen had a baby that decided to be more delicious than either of them combined. Their fresh and creative salads and wraps are the BEST I’ve ever had. I might just open up a location here I need it that bad.


Last but certainly not least – my favorite meal of the day and one of the things to do in Birmingham I was most looking forward to – DINNER. After hours of knocking off things to do in Birmingham, you’ll want to close the day with a nice meal.

girl eating bbq ribs ferociously
  • SAW’s Soul Kitchen: Remember when I mentioned BBQ earlier? Well down in Alabama, their BBQ specialty is their BBQ chicken with white sauce! And for the ribs, you’ll notice it has more of a vinegar kick, which is a personal favorite flavor for me! You can get it pretty much anywhere but I went to SAW’s and everything was delicious!
  • Yo Chef Surf and Turf: If seafood is more your alley, then Yo Chef will treat you right! They also have BBQ but you’ll want to go under the sea on this menu! They also usually have live music too, so it’s an upbeat atmosphere.
  • Eagle’s Restaurant: And of course, you can’t leave the south without grubbin on some good ol’ soul food! This is a community icon and it has definitely earned the merit. They subtly switch up the menu daily


Aight, now we’ve finally made it to the nitty gritty portion of this blog post. What are the best things to do in Birmingham, Alabama?? Again, just so our expectations are in order, although Birmingham is located in the most populous county in Alabama, it also has a population of a little under 200,000. So…it’s more of a town than a city. BUT YANNO WHAT, that’s also what makes it charming, especially for folks who like a slower paced vacation without the crowds.

So with that in mind, here are some fun things to do in Birmingham for your next visit!

 StarDome Comedy Club

I’ve recently become a huge fan of going to comedy clubs when I travel and our night at StarDome really lived up to the hype. Tickets are really affordable and the night we went had a mix of local and regional comedians, including a comedian who was pretty well known in the South. I didn’t end up ordering anything since we had just come from dinner, but the food and beverages were reasonably priced and everyone seemed to be really enjoying the drinks!

I highly recommend checking in advance if any big name comedians are set to perform since tickets can go really fast on those nights. Either way, you’ll definitely want to swing by because it easily became one of my favorite things to do in Birmingham.

Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum

barber vintage motorsports museum

It’s probably not that surprising that there was a collection of motorcycles and bikes SOMEWHERE, but would you have guessed that the largest was in Alabama??

Even if you’re not a big car person (aka me), it’s still super cool to see the advancement of motorcycles and cute lil mopeds. Since it is the largest motorcycle collection in the WORLD, you’ll find every brand you can think of with every make and model too. It’s…very impressive. But what really makes this one of the best things to do in Birmingham is if you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can book a luxury sports car to vroom vroom around the massive track outside.

Or…just watch it for free haha.

Civil Rights Trail

I mean, you can’t really think of Alabama without also thinking about the Civil Rights Movement. There’s a lot of unfair distain placed on the south from people who live on the east and west coasts, usually because of the south’s oppressive politics. Which, yes, we should criticism and fight to improve, but that doesn’t mean the residents of these states are all in favor of oppressive systems.

Not everyone in the south is stupid or “backwards,” and so many folks are equally distraught over the region’s legislation. The civil rights that most of us in the USA enjoy today are a direct result of SOUTH and people’s tireless efforts to better justice and quality of life for everyone. Gerrymandering and voter suppression run so deep in the south (on purpose) that the systemic racism is overpowering – but they are doing what they can.

That is why taking a trip through the city’s civil rights trail is one of the best things to do in Birmingham. You can either take a guided civil rights tour (highly recommend!!), or do your own self-guided tour and check out sites such as Kelly Ingram Park, foundational to the story of the Freedom Riders, and Bethel Baptist Church, the first colored Baptist church in the city and the site of not one, not two, but three BOMBINGS by the state.

And it’s not the only church (or park, or neighborhood, or city…) to experience that. Don’t ever tell Black Americans they don’t know what it’s like to be the target of bombs.

bethel baptist church in birmingham alabama

Negro Southern League Museum

Because this is America, Black people couldn’t play on the same sports teams as white people. And thus Black Americans carved out their own baseball table, the Negro American League.

For linguistical context, the accepted identity for African-Americans was the term “colored,” so Black baseball teams had names like the National Colored Baseball League (~1887). But around the time of the 1920-1930s, “Negro” became the legal and professional nomenclature, which led to organizations such as baseball teams replacing “colored” for “Negro” in their names. It wasn’t until the 1970s-ishhh when the term “Negro” began to be phased out, but by then baseball was desegregated so there wasn’t a need to change the name of the Negro American League because it was more of a historical entity.

ANYWAYS, background aside, the Negro Southern League Museum (NSLM) tells the story of African-American baseball in America through the eyes of Birmingham, Alabama and features the largest collection of Negro League baseball artifacts in the country. It’s a super dope spot, even if you aren’t a baseball fan, and it is free of charge making it super accessible to both visitors and the community (though, please consider making a tax-deductible donation if you can!). It’s a super fun and unique experience and one of the most memorable things to do in Birmingham.

Vulcan Park

vulcan park birmingham alabama

There aren’t toooo many blog posts on things to do in Birmingham, but the few I have seen hype up Vulcan Park a lot. IMHO….lower your expectations. The great part is that it’s free (if I remember correctly) to just walk around. The park is named after the giant statue standing over the city, Vulcan, and the world’s largest cast iron statue.

Birmingham has alotta records.

Technically you can climb up to the top of the statue, but I believe there was a cost AND we arrived too late to do it anyway. There’s also a small museum explaining Birmingham’s mining past and the early founding of the city we know today. You’ll probably spend about…an hour here, but it is a nice view of Birmingham so I’d say it’s worth stopping by. If you’re a fan of big statues, you can also see a Statue of Liberty Replica at Liberty Park. That’s…all there is to it, but it is a large statue.

Ave Maria Grotto

There’s also a grotto!

I’m not a monk expert, but if you are looking for a little bit of quiet reflection, visiting the Ave Maria Grotto is one of the best things to do in Birmingham. Founded in 1891, St. Bernard Abbey, the only Benedictine monastery of men in the State of Alabama. The grotto is open every day and costs $10 per adult.

I’d say budget for one to two hours, depending on how much you like to stroll and/or meditate. You don’t have to be Catholic – or even religious for that matter – to visit. No dogs tho.

For the Photographers

Now, if you’re not into photography or going somewhere for the sake of taking a picture of it, then these two spots might not be for you. BUT IF YOU ARE, then these just might become your favorite things to do in Birmingham…or rather, favorite photo ops.

instagrammable spots in birmingham alabama

The first is the Sloss Furnaces. The Sloss Furnaces operated as a pig iron-producing blast furnace from 1882 to 1971. After closing, it became one of the first industrial sites (and the only blast furnace) in the U.S. to be preserved and restored for public use. Technically there is a guided tour available if you’re more interested in the history, but for photos I recommend going self-guided. The building complex is pretty cool and you’ll find lots of different angles.

The second are the “Birmingham Lights” or the “Rainbow Tunnel” located in downtown Birmingham at 14th, 18th, 19th and 20th Street. There, you’ll find colorful LED light strips lining the city’s historic viaducts. It makes for a really dope picture. And…well, that’s about it, but it’s cool to look at and I appreciate that 🙂


It’s a small city, but contrary to popular belief, there ARE some cool things to do in Birmingham. This was my first time back since living in the area as a child, so I’m sure I’ve missed a few gems. If you’ve visited, what were your favorite things to do in Birmingham? Let me know in the comments below!

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