Regions Field in Birmingham, Alabama. Photo via Shutterstock.

Best Things to Do in Birmingham, Alabama

BY Fifty Grande Editors | March 3, 2021

Welcome to Fifty Grande’s Best of the U.S. Bucket List series. This is your one-stop travel guide to the best, most unique and quintessential experiences of a city, state or event. Want to know how to “do” Birmingham? We’ve got you covered. Curated by experts, vetted by in-the-know locals, this is all you need to have the best trip ever. If we’ve written a Bucket List, we recommend you go. If it’s on this list, it’s the best the city has to offer right now. Consider this your one-stop answer to “What are the best things to do in Birmingham?”

Montgomery may be Alabama’s capital, but Birmingham is the state’s largest city steeped in history and culture. Also known as the Magic City, it is home to a diverse population and known for its scattering of urban green spaces, thousands of forested acres for hiking and the fantastic dining scene. 

Once famous for its contributions to the steel industry, the city took center stage in the United States during the 1960s civil rights movement. Some of the greatest people in America’s history fought for equal rights on the streets of Birmingham, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But, Birmingham isn’t just for history buffs; it’s also home to several family-friendly attractions, including the Birmingham Zoo, the Birmingham Museum of Art, and McWane Science Center. Even outdoorsy folk can get their fill of nature at one of the many state parks or by biking the miles of trails.

When you visit, you’ll find it to be a gem of the South with a laid-back vibe and plenty to do. From colorful nightclubs and live music to local breweries and some of the best barbecue in the world, Birmingham has something for every taste and interest. 

You’re here for barbecue…

Though Alabama is home to white barbecue sauce, Birmingham’s claim to fame is pork shoulder in a tomato-based variety. The Magic City works wonders with a pork shoulder, but you won’t be disappointed if you prefer chicken. 

Dreamland in Birmingham, Alabama.
#1
Dreamland in Birmingham, Alabama.

Dreamland

1427 14th Ave S, Birmingham, AL, USA

Dreamland is widely known for its food—hickory-smoked ribs, people!—as much as its Southern hospitality. Order up a rack of ribs or a traditional sandwich with one of the Southern sides, like baked beans or fried okra. Don’t forget to wash down your meal with Big Daddy’s iced tea.

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SAW’s Soul Kitchen in Birmingham, Alabama.
#2
SAW’s Soul Kitchen in Birmingham, Alabama.

SAW’s Soul Kitchen

215 41st St S, Birmingham, AL, USA

The pig-themed decorations should tell you all you need to know about SAW’s Soul Kitchen, but if not, you just need to walk within a hundred yards of the restaurant and take a whiff. SAW’s offers the finest of Southern soul food with signature barbecue sandwiches and the best banana pudding around.  

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Jim ‘N Nick’s in Birmingham, Alabama.
#3
Jim ‘N Nick’s in Birmingham, Alabama.

Jim ‘N Nick’s

1908 11th Ave S, Birmingham, AL, USA

When you crave a little bit of everything barbecue has to offer, Jim ‘N Nick’s can scratch that itch. Serving a range of meats, including ribs, pork, chicken, brisket and sausage, Jim ‘N Nick’s has something for everyone. Don’t forget to try their hand-breaded onion rings and a slice of homemade lemon ice box pie.

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...and Birmingham’s stellar dining scene

Birmingham’s also home to hot, award-winning restaurants serving up unique and scrumptious dishes. 

Café Dupont
#4
Café Dupont

Café Dupont

113 20th St N, Birmingham, AL, USA

Café Dupont is a Southern bistro that turns local ingredients into menu duets like sous vide Georgia quail and grilled Duroc pork belly. The fried chicken is a staple and—the twist—presented with lemon butter sauce.

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Eugene’s Hot Chicken
#5
Eugene’s Hot Chicken

Eugene’s Hot Chicken

2268 9th Avenue North, Birmingham, AL, USA

If a sit-down meal isn’t your style, try out Eugene’s Hot Chicken food truck. Both spicy and hot-out-of-the-oil, you’ll likely find yourself returning for more of Eugene’s chicken. The menu’s heat levels include “Hot Damn (not too smart, not too stupid)” as well as “Stupid Hot (for the bold & daring).”

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Johnny's
#6
Johnny's

Johnny’s

2902 18th St S, Homewood, AL, USA

If the impossible happens and you’re somehow tired of eating fried chicken, head over to Johnny’s. It’s a stalwart casual restaurant (counter serve) with traditional Alabama food and Greek dishes on the menu. Eugene’s chef, Timothy Hontzas, has been nominated as a James Beard Award semifinalist for the past four years. 

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OvenBird in Birmingham, Alabama.
#7
OvenBird in Birmingham, Alabama.

OvenBird

2810 3rd Avenue South, Birmingham, AL, USA

OvenBird is known for its “rustic-chic” atmosphere and global-inspired dishes. Led by chef Chris Hastings, the OvenBird team uses local ingredients and a wood-burning hearth to create memorable, mouthwatering dishes. Start your experience with the deviled eggs or a Spanish charcuterie, then roll into a chef’s favorite, Peruvian chicken. Top off your meal with pumpkin burnt cream for dessert.

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The Essential in Birmingham, Alabama.
#8
The Essential in Birmingham, Alabama.

The Essential

2018 Morris Ave, Birmingham, AL, USA

Step into an industrial-chic dining experience with some of the best buns in the state. The housemade brioche buns take center stage for most diners at The Essential and their desserts will give you something to write home about. Some of the featured finales include a chocolate passion fruit mousse and a slice of carrot cake (topped off with cream cheese brown butter Swiss meringue buttercream).

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Highlands Bar & Grill in Birmingham, Alabama.
#9
Highlands Bar & Grill in Birmingham, Alabama.

Highlands Bar & Grill

2011 11th Ave S, Birmingham, AL, USA

Should you prefer a French-inspired dining experience, head to Highlands Bar & Grill. Imagine a blend of Southern hospitality and service with an exquisite selection of appetizers, dinners and delectable desserts. 

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Cayo Coco in Birmingham, Alabama.
#10
Cayo Coco in Birmingham, Alabama.

Cayo Coco

2015 First Ave. N., Unit-A, Birmingham, AL, USA

This colorful, Cuban-inspired restaurant is a staple of Birmingham’s food scene, where the scenery only takes a backseat to the menu. Cayo Coco offers a variety of appetizers, sandwiches, entrees and desserts with a tropical twist. Taste tradition with an order of a Cubano sandwich or a grilled duroc pork chop. Top off your meal with Caribbean rum cake.

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Good news: You’re also here for the drinks

If you didn’t picture the Magic City as a brewery hub, think again. You’ll have the option to tour — and taste test — your way through some of Alabama’s best beer.

Avondale Brewing Co.
#11
Avondale Brewing Co.

Avondale Brewing Co.

201 41st St S, Birmingham, AL, USA

Avondale Brewing is located in a historic building which formerly served as a pharmacy, saloon and brothel. They’ve named their beers after the “folklore of Avondale, Alabama,” according to their web site. For instance, the Miss Fancy brew (9.2% ABV!) is named after the “city’s greatest spokesperson,” an elephant known as the Queen of Avondale. There’s a lot to unpack while digging into their menu lineup. 

 

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Trim Tab Brewing
#12
Trim Tab Brewing

Trim Tab Brewing

2721 5th Avenue South, Birmingham, AL, USA

Honey granola and vanilla in beer? TrimTab Brewing took a leap and blended the two into an imperial stout that is sure to tickle your taste buds. This craft brewery is no stranger to unique ingredients and smooth blends. From IPAs to imperial sours and everything in between, beer connoisseurs can wet their palate with a unique range of flavors.

 

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Good People Brewing Co. in Birmingham, Alabama.
#13
Good People Brewing Co. in Birmingham, Alabama.

Good People Brewing Co.

114 14th St S, Birmingham, AL, USA

With names like Snake Handler and Bearded Lady, Good People Brewing Co. sounds more like a circus than a brewery. Visitors won’t be disappointed by the selection or flavor of these peculiarly named brews. Stop in for some traditional favorites, or experiment with one of the seasonal offerings. 

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Also check out...

For cocktails, check out The Atomic Lounge on First Avenue, where you can soak in the retro decor and share an appreciation of cultural icons. If you’re brave enough, order the Legendary Sex Panther.

For coffee, check out Revelator Coffee Company on Thirrd Avenue North. Take in cool coffeehouse vibes and sip away the morning with some unique blends, like Tea Cake. 

Get to know the city’s history

The Civil Rights Movement remains an integral piece of Birmingham’s identity. Visit the Civil Rights District, located in downtown Birmingham. The area serves as a tribute to the men and women who fought to end segregation, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

You can even visit national historic landmarks, like the 16th Street Baptist Church, which served as a meeting place for the Civil Rights Movement.

 

Birmingham Museum of Art at night. March 7, 2020. Photo via Shutterstock.
#14
Birmingham Museum of Art at night. March 7, 2020. Photo via Shutterstock.

Birmingham Museum of Art

2000 Reverend Abraham Woods Jr Boulevard, Birmingham, AL, USA

Diversity is at the core of the pieces at the Birmingham Museum of Art. It has more than 24,000 paintings and sculptures representing continents from America to Asia. 

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Birmingham, AL - February 10, 2017: The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is a large interpretive museum and research center that depicts the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement. Photo via Shutterstock.
#15
Birmingham, AL - February 10, 2017: The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is a large interpretive museum and research center that depicts the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement. Photo via Shutterstock.

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

520 16th St N, Birmingham, AL, USA

Immerse yourself in history at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, located in the heart of the Civil Rights District. Founded in 1992, this living institution lets you explore the struggles African Americans faced during the Civil Rights Movement. Don’t miss the Oral History Project, a multimedia exhibit that features voices from the movement.

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McWane Science Center in Birmingham, Alabama. Photo via Shutterstock.
#16
McWane Science Center in Birmingham, Alabama. Photo via Shutterstock.

McWane Science Center

200 19th St N, Birmingham, AL, USA

An excellent option for families, McWane offers an interactive science experience and has an IMAX theater with rotating educational films. 

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Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Leeds, Alabama. Photo via Shutterstock.
#17
Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Leeds, Alabama. Photo via Shutterstock.

Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum

6030 Barber Motorsports Parkway, Birmingham, AL, USA

Former Porsche race car driver George Barber opened this museum during his retirement. You’ll be able to view up to 950 bikes at any given time, circulating from a collection of over 1,600 motorcycles.

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A.G. Gaston Motel in Birmingham, Alabama. Photo via Shutterstock.
#18
The old historic AG Gaston motel located in Birmingham, Alabama, was created as a luxury hotel for the African Americans back during the days of segregation. It is a national monument for Civil Rights.

A.G. Gaston Motel

1510 5th Avenue North, Birmingham, AL, USA

The motel may not look like much today, especially since it closed in 1990, but it once played a massive role in the Civil Rights Movement. Since Birmingham remained segregated during the 1950s and 1960s, A.G. Gaston Motel served as one of the only accommodations for African American travelers in the city. It eventually became a meeting place for several groups and saw famous visitors, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

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For Sports Fans

Birmingham is a must-see for baseball lovers. Its Rickwood Field claims the title of the oldest professional baseball park. You can also catch a baseball game at the modern-day Regions Field. 

If your baseball knowledge needs a refresher, the Birmingham Barons is the team you’ll want to root for while in Alabama. When you’ve got your fill of real baseball, head over to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and Museum to learn all about Alabama’s athletic history.

Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama.
#19
Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama.

Rickwood Field

1137 Second Ave. W., Birmingham, AL, USA

Listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, you can take a self-guided tour of Rickwood Field if baseball is your game. Make sure to appreciate its concrete and steel design, as it was the first of its kind in the minor leagues.

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Regions Field in Birmingham, Alabama. Photo via Shutterstock.
#20
Regions Field in Birmingham, Alabama. Photo via Shutterstock.

Regions Field

1401 1st Avenue South, Birmingham, AL, USA

Catch a Minor League Baseball game at Regions Field. Games are scheduled from April to early September, and you can purchase your tickets in advance.

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Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Birmingham.
#21
Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Birmingham.

Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and Museum

2150 Richard Arrington Jr Blvd N, Birmingham, AL, USA

Home to over 5,000 sports artifacts, the three-story building give you the deal on Alabama’s sports history.

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Walk Off All Those Calories

You’re going to need to do your fair share of walking after all of that fried chicken and beer. Luckily, Birmingham offers several beautiful parks for you to reconnect with nature. If you prefer a short stroll where you can read plaques about local history, Kelly Ingram Park has got you covered. Otherwise, consider a longer hike at a nature preserve or Red Mountain Park. 

Above all, Railroad Park is the pride and joy of Birmingham, since it hosts various activities and events throughout the year. Whichever park you choose, make sure to keep your eyes peeled for wildlife.

Railroad Park in Birmingham, Alabama.
#22
Railroad Park in Birmingham, Alabama.

Railroad Park

1600 1st Avenue South, Birmingham, AL, USA

Maintained by the Railroad Park Foundation, this large green space is a beloved Birmingham park. If you’re lucky, you might encounter a concert or cultural event between the park’s ponds, streams and lake.

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Red Mountain Park in Birmingham, Alabama.
#23
Red Mountain Park in Birmingham, Alabama.

Red Mountain Park

2011 Frankfurt Drive, Birmingham, Alabama, USA

The massive Red Mountain Park includes 1,500 acres with over 14 miles of trails and the 56-foot-tall Vulcan statue. Bring your dog if you have one — Fido will love the six-acre dog park.

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Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham, Alabama. Photo via Shutterstock.
#24
Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham, Alabama. Photo via Shutterstock.

Kelly Ingram Park

500 17th St N, Birmingham, AL, USA

Part of the United States Civil Rights Trail, Kelly Ingram Park is a public park in the Civil Rights District. The grounds feature statues that depict the movement’s struggles and pay homage to groups who assembled there during the 1950s and 1960s.

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Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve in Birmingham, Alabama. Photo via Shutterstock.
#25
Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve in Birmingham, Alabama. Photo via Shutterstock.

Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve

1214 81st St S, Birmingham, AL, USA

Twelve miles of hiking trails and a 6,000-square-foot visitor’s center await you at this peaceful preserve that’s tucked back in a Birmingham suburb.

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See a Show

You’re going to need to rest your weary legs after all that walking. And what better way to do it than watching a film or show? We’ve got three beautiful theaters in Birmingham for you. If you’re a lover of the arts, make sure to allow enough days in the city so you can visit each one, as they all have their unique attractions.

Alabama Theatre in Birmingham, Alabama. Photo by Shutterstock.
#26
Alabama Theatre in Birmingham, Alabama. Photo by Shutterstock.

Alabama Theatre

1817 3rd Avenue North, Birmingham, Alabama, USA

Paramount Studios founded the Alabama Theatre. Once used as the Mickey Mouse Club, nowadays the theater hosts films and an impressive 300+ events per year.

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For the Kids

If you left your fur baby at home, you might be craving some time with animals. Birmingham offers a zoo with over 550 animals ranging across six continents. It won’t be the same as being able to hug your four-footed friend, but your visit will support the zoo’s conservation goals as they take care of many endangered inhabitants. 

Of course, the zoo isn’t the only way to connect with animals while you’re in Birmingham. Exploring the parks we mentioned will get you up close and personal with lots of Birmingham wildlife.

Birmingham Children’s Theatre in Birmingham, Alabama.
#27
Birmingham Children’s Theatre in Birmingham, Alabama.

Birmingham Children’s Theatre

2130 Richard Arrington Jr Blvd N, Birmingham, AL, USA

That’s right — Birmingham has a theater strictly for children’s performances. Choose from a show at one of three theater rooms with performances from children as young as 3 years old. 

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The Birmingham Zoo in Birmingham, Alabama. Photo via Shutterstock.
#28
The Birmingham Zoo in Birmingham, Alabama. Photo via Shutterstock.

Birmingham Zoo

Birmingham Zoo, 2630 Cahaba Rd, Birmingham, AL, USA

An excellent activity for children, this zoo offers rare species, such as the red panda, as well as monkeys, tigers and among many other animals.

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Birmingham’s must-try live music hubs

Avondale Park in Birmingham, Alabama.
#29
Avondale Park in Birmingham, Alabama.

Avondale Park

4101 5th Avenue South, Birmingham, AL, USA

One of Birmingham’s best live music sites is also a popular meeting space and green space known as Avondale Park. A mature rose garden, gazebo, renovated villa for special events and even some athletic fields make Avondale Park seem like any other city park. However, the outdoor amphitheater sets it apart, especially when it plays host to a jazz fest.

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Saturn in Birmingham, Alabama.
#30

Saturn

200 41st St S, Birmingham, AL, USA

Step into this cool venue to take in some of the hottest local musical acts and an array of visiting musicians from around the world. Saturn also hosts game nights and leases the space for private events.

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Gip’s Place is so hip it doesn’t have a website because people just know what to expect — an authentic blues experience. Kick back, enjoy the eclectic decor and enjoy the tunes.

There’s also the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame if you can’t seem to get your fill at Gip’s Place. Founded in 1978, the Jazz Hall of Fame shares the history, culture and music of Alabama’s jazz history.

Neighborhoods to know

Birmingham is an eclectic city with unique neighborhoods that each offer a different flavor of fun. These are some of our favorite places to spend time, shop and mill around.

Sign in Avondale neighborhood in Birmingham, Alabama.
#31
Sign in Avondale neighborhood in Birmingham, Alabama.

Avondale

Avondale, Birmingham, AL, USA

Aside from a popular park, brewing company and music venue, Avondale is a chic, eclectic neighborhood that reflects a distinct cultural appreciation. Expect to find a diverse range of shops, restaurants and attractions.

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Birmingham, Alabama, downtown skyline. Photo via Shutterstock.
#32
Birmingham, Alabama, downtown skyline. Photo via Shutterstock.

Downtown

Downtown Birmingham, AL, USA

The heart of the city is a bustling center of culture, dining, history and entertainment. Home to popular attractions, including the Alabama Theatre, downtown Birmingham is a spectacular display of the best the city has to offer.

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Highland Park neighborhood in Birmingham, Alabama.
#33
Highland Park neighborhood in Birmingham, Alabama.

Highland Park

Highland Park, Birmingham, AL, USA

Marked by Tudor-style residences and lush greenery, the historic Highland Park district is lovely and relaxing. Stop by during the spring and summer to catch some of the best blooms in the city.

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Five Points South sign in the southside neighborhood of Birmingham, Alabama.
#34
Five Points South sign in the southside neighborhood of Birmingham, Alabama.

Southside

Southside Birmingham, AL, USA

Home to the University of Alabama (Roll Tide!), this neighborhood is one Birmingham’s busiest. Make sure you check out Railroad Park for a picnic and some live tunes.

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Homewood

This popular suburb is a must-see because it’s home to Red Mountain Park (named for the iron ore mined there) and Birmingham Botanical Gardens. You will find some of the city’s best green space, plants and trails in Homewood.

Filed under “cool and unique"

If you’re still eager for some fun experiences or seeking something a bit outside the usual, these attractions may fit the bill.

Alabama Booksmith in Birmingham, Alabama.
#35
Alabama Booksmith in Birmingham, Alabama.

Alabama Booksmith

2626 19th Place South, Birmingham, Ala, USA

Book lovers can’t miss the opportunity to explore the impressive collection of books signed by their authors. 

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African Village in Birmingham, Alabama.
#36
African Village in Birmingham, Alabama.

African Village in America

931 Nassau Ave SW, Birmingham, AL, USA

Created by artist Joe Minter, the African Village in America is filled with life-sized decorative arts. Joe Minter used everything at his disposal to make his yard into a tribute to folk art. Most of his pieces make moral and political statements.

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Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham, Alabama. Photo via Shutterstock.
#37
Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham, Alabama. Photo via Shutterstock.

Sloss Furnaces

20 32nd St N, Birmingham, Ala, USA

A National Historic Landmark, Sloss Furnaces pays tribute to the steel and iron industries that served as Birmingham’s foundation. It was a pig-iron-producing blast furnace for almost a century.

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Vulcan Park in Birmingham, Alabama. Photo via Shutterstock.
#38
Birmingham, AL - October 7, 2019: Observation Tower in Vulcan Park in Birmingham, Alabama. Photo via Shutterstock.

Vulcan

1701 Valley View Drive, Birmingham, AL, USA

Vulcan Park is home to the Vulcan statue, the largest cast iron statue in the world. The statue depicts the Roman god of fire and remains a symbol of Birmingham’s ties to the iron and steel industries.

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FAQ on Things to Do in Birmingham

By now, you should have a great feel for the best things to do in Birmingham. But just in case, we’ve rounded up answers to some of the most common questions visitors to Birmingham have.

What can you do in Birmingham for free?

You can do various free things in Birmingham, including visiting the parks we mentioned above or attending a free performance at the Symphony Hall.

What are the top attractions to visit in Birmingham?

The Vintage Motorsports Museum, Red Mountain Park, Rickwood Field and Railroad Park are some of Birmingham’s top attractions.

What are the most popular things to do in Birmingham with kids?

The best things to do in Birmingham are to attend a family activity at Railroad Park, wander around the Birmingham Zoo, explore the McWane Science Center and attend a game at Regions Field.