This feature originally ran in the October issue of At Home Memphis + MidSouth.
A Southern city historically known for its iron trade roots and suburban sophistication, Birmingham, Alabama’s recent focus on its Downtown corridor has unfolded a newfound identity as a coveted cultural icon. Its unique culinary and recreational stops, airy rooftops and greenspaces, and expansive bike trails culminate a bucket list trip this year.
Home of the nation’s first bike-share program with electric pedal-assisted bikes, Birmingham’s city limits have welcomed the accessible transportation option despite its mountainous Southern topography.
Check out a green Zyp bicycle from a bike-share kiosk and enjoy a 1.5-mile ride along an abandoned railroad recently reborn as the Rotary Trail. Ending at Railroad Park, the 19-acre architecturally-enhanced greenspace is molded with materials reclaim from old neighborhood warehouses. The park is a communal crossroad of gardens, walking and running trails, hills and streams, skating ramps and pop-up yoga and Zumba classes. The three-quarter-mile loop path, occupied by leisurely or active adventurers of all ages, includes gorgeous views of the Downtown skyline and new baseball park.
Cool off with a pint of just-tapped pale ale from the catty-corner Good People Brewing Co., an expansive warehouse surrounded with picnic tables, cornhole sets, food trucks, and plenty of TV screens for some Alabama football.
Further explore the history behind the iron-clad “Magic City” with a pitstop at Sloss Furnaces, a National Historic Landmark that hosts metal foraging classes, concerts and festivals.
The darling Avondale’s expansive park and streetscapes have become surrounded by trending tap rooms and eateries. Whether exploring Avondale Brewery for a beer or grabbing a slice at postal office-turned-pizza joint Post Office Pies, the character of the familiar yet fascinating area will, indeed, charm its visitors.
Just a mile away sits the up-and-coming Second Avenue North neighborhood in Downtown Birmingham, where Ovenbird captures the culinary passion of the city and its tourists. The restaurant’s cast-iron cuisine—every item of its global-meets-Southern menu is prepared over open flame—reflects the space’s rustic-chic décor and patio.
For a sweet ending, Big Spoon Creamery’s brick-and-mortar stop in Avondale gathers the greatest of ice cream aficionados. The scooper staff, who will let you taste every artisanal flavor from Almond Peach Cardamom to Black Forest Brownie, dresses in darling denim aprons with red bandana hairpieces. The bustling line will yield the richest, most satisfying snack.
THE SOUTH’S FOOD HALL
Enter Pizitz Food Hall, a restored building in the heart of Downtown Birmingham, and one will find it impossible to exit without two or three tastes of the global array of cuisines and cocktails. Don’t miss the Alabama Biscuit Co. outpost, whose fried chicken biscuit with Alabama white sauce and mustard seeds will blow your mind. A board of farmstead and artisanal cheeses and charcuterie from Busy Corner Cheese & Provisions work excellently on the ledge of The Louis, the food hall’s 360-degree craft cocktail bar.
ROOM WITH A VIEW
Downtown Birmingham is now home to multiple boutique hotels, including the Redmont Hotel and the Elyton Hotel. Refined yet approachable, the building restorations combine attention to historical detail with an appreciation for contemporary charm. Elyton’s marble staircase leads to rooftop restaurant and bar Moon Shine, which provides expansive modern seating with fire pit for communal gatherings. The sought-after cozy barstool seats on the deck overlook a quintessential Southern sunset.