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A Jewel in the Heart of Dixie

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Located in the heart of the southeast U.S.—86 miles from Montgomery, 138 miles from Atlanta, 183 miles from Nashville, and almost equidistant—some 212 miles from Mobile and Memphis—Birmingham, Alabama, affectionately referred to as “The Ham” by many of its denizens, is a jewel in the Heart of Dixie.

Founded in 1871, the city has grown and changed dramatically from its early railroad history into an industrial and manufacturing powerhouse (and at one point it was known as “the Pittsburgh of the South”), a major player in the Civil Rights Movement, a center for ground-breaking medicine and engineering, and today as a true cosmopolitan city.

Although Birmingham is Alabama’s largest city, it is still relatively boutique in size, yet it is bustling with a great deal to offer from history to recreation, culinary, family, nightlife and cultural adventures, plus most likely its greatest asset–wonderful Southern charm.

Historical and Family Adventures

A great way to gain an overview of the city is by visiting the Birmingham History Center, featuring over 3,000 square feet of exhibit space detailing the city’s history and growth through the decades. The Reynolds Historical Library, located at University of Alabama in Birmingham in the Lister Hill Library, also lends another aspect to the city’s history through its collection of over 13,000 rare books and manuscripts dating from the 14th to the early 20th centuries relative to the history of science and medicine.

General city and area sites and attractions include the Aldridge Botanical Gardens, a picturesque 30-acre woodland garden with a six-acre lake, walking trail and their star feature—a bounty of multi-hued hydrangeas, camellias and other native Alabama plants; and the Birmingham Zoo, featuring close to 800 animals of more than 200 species, including 60 mammal species, and 80 species each of reptiles and birds.

The McWane Science Center is a great place for interactive family activities including their aquarium, dinosaur collection and four floors of exhibit space, and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, referred to by some as “The Canton, Ohio of motorsports,” is highlighted by an astounding array of historic racing vehicles and memorabilia from 1902 to the present.

Towering high above the city at the top of Red Mountain is the Vulcan Park and Museum, an icon of the Birmingham landscape. Weighing over 101,000 pounds and standing at 56 feet tall upon a 124-foot pedestal which brings the entire statue to a height of 180 feet, Vulcan is the largest metal statue ever made in the U.S. and the largest cast iron statue in the world.

Although historically Vulcan is the mythical Roman god of fire and forge (a forge is basically a hearth for heating metals from which tools and other instruments are made), the statue is really a symbol of Birmingham’s early history dating back to the 1900s when it was known for its profusion of workers needed to produce iron.

In addition to the statue, visitors can explore the interactive museum encompassing interactive indoor and outdoor exhibits, a life-size replica of Vulcan’s massive foot, educational youth programs, and of course, spectacular sweeping panoramic views of the city.

Speaking of mountains, the Ruffner Mountain Nature Center, located on one of the last undeveloped stretches of the Red Mountain ridge known as Ruffner Mountain, is the second largest urban nature preserve in the country. Here you will find a 1,000-plus acre natural oasis chocked full of wildlife, wetland areas, forested trails, remnants of the area’s mining history, beautiful overlooks, and a great deal more for the senses.

Diverse Cultural Attractions

For a city of its size, Birmingham is home to a diversity of cultural attractions that make the city attractive to a wide range of people and interests.

One of the most prominent is the Birmingham Museum of Art, home to one of the finest art collections in the Southeast. In fact, the collection of Asian art is considered to be the finest and most comprehensive in the Southeast, its other collections gaining high praise as well including the museum’s world-renowned collection of Wedgwood (the largest outside of England), their Vietnamese ceramics, Baroque and Renaissance decorative arts, paintings and sculpture and from the late 13th century to the 1750s, French furniture and more than 24,000 objects highlighting the rich works of Native American, African, European, Pre-Columbian, Asian and American cultures.

There is also the Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark. Named after Colonel James Withers Sloss, a north Alabama merchant and railroad man who played an important role in Birmingham’s founding, the landmark is now a museum and the only facility of its kind anywhere in the world. Here, visitors can explore and learn all about this influential company that was in the forefront of the industrial age for 90 years through its collection of artifacts, including two, massive, 400-ton blast furnaces, and 40 other buildings on site.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of all that Birmingham has to offer.

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