Birmingham’s Best Bets For Fun
Modern Birmingham delivers quirky and interesting diversions for visitors.*
By Lynn Grisard Fullman
Within its mountains and valleys, Birmingham (www.birminghamal.org) holds certain places dear to the hearts of those who live there. Some of these havens are obvious places to visit. But what about less-trodden spots where the locals play? They, too, are the pulse of the Magic City and are worth checking out next time you’re in town.
The world’s largest cast-iron statue, Vulcan (205-933-1409 or www.vulcanpark.org), 1701 Valley View Dr., has long been a Birmingham landmark. Perched atop Red Mountain, it’s a romantic spot to overlook the city and share a picnic. The observation tower is open nightly until 10 p.m. A June 3 bash celebrating the statue’s 103rd birthday will include music, clowns, entertainment and food.
Birmingham's famed Vulcan statue can be seen from miles away.*
One man’s obsession with motorcycles has evolved into an alluring museum. It is laden with hundreds of motorcycles from around the world, spanning 100 years of production. At Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum (205-699-7275 or www.barbermuseum.org), 6030 Barber Motorsports Pkwy., Leeds, bikes built in 1902 are housed alongside modern models. Most still run, and some are being restored.
Visitors can feel the need for speed at Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum.*
With eye-dazzling shines are Harley-Davidson, Honda and India, plus the lesser-known brands of Showa, DSK and Cagiva. Stroll up and down the helical ramp of the five-story building, which opened in fall 2003.
Last Days of Pompeii
The Southeast’s largest municipal museum, the Birmingham Museum of Art (205-254-2566 or www.artsbma.org), 2000 Eighth Ave. N., displays some 21,000 objects, dating from ancient to modern times. The “Pompeii Exhibit: Tales of An Eruption” runs Oct. 14 to Jan. 27, 2008.
Later this year, travelers might head to Birmingham to view the Pompeii Exhibit at the Birmingham Museum of Art, with bracelets and a cast from the exhibition pictured above.*
Birmingham is one of several U.S. cities (others being Houston, TX and Chicago, IL) hosting this international exhibition. It relates riveting stories of the final days of Pompeii. The exhibition boasts 500 artifacts, including body casts, marble statues, large-scale frescoes, jewelry, gems, coins and armor.
Take your pooch for a walk at one of two Highland Avenue parks on historic Southside. Plenty of fetching and romping goes on at Rhodes and Caldwell parks. They are popular year-round with dogs and their owners. Thousands of people with their pets will be at the parks on May 19 for the 28th annual Do Dah Day Festival (www.dodahday.org). Highlights are a pet parade, children’s area and music.
Books and Quirky Stuff
To say that Jim Reed Books (205-326-4460 or www.jimreedbooks.com), 2021 Third Ave. N., is just a bookstore doesn’t do the place justice. You have to go to know.
Reed himself describes it as a museum of fond memories. The shop overflows with hard-to-find books and magazines, posters, souvenirs, trivia, artifacts, antiques, collectibles and, well, fun stuff.
The handiwork of folk artist Joe Minter (205-322-7370 or www.orangehillart.com/ArtistInfo.asp?ArtistID=1096), 931 Nassau St., Southwest, surrounds the exterior of his Birmingham home. A chain-link fence protects the work that seasonally is swaddled in colorful flowers. His pieces salute the accomplishments of such African-Americans as Rosa Marks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The quirky folk art of Joe Minter uses every imaginable device.*
Once a mechanic in the U.S. Army, Minter uses wood, metal and junk (from rusted tricycles to old dolls) to create his art. Hand-scrawled messages offer commentary on the world, eternity and the importance of being kind.
Those wanting to escape outdoors without traveling far can find refuge south of town at Moss Rock Preserve (205-739-7141 or www.hooveral.org), off Stadium Trace Parkway in Hoover. The 250-acre sanctuary has trees, plants, rock outcroppings, streams, waterfalls and wildlife. Opened several years ago, it is also home to several rare plant species.
With the sound of traffic sometimes within earshot, hikers can traipse some 10 miles of footpaths. Rock climbers test their skills at the preserve’s Boulder Field.
South of Birmingham, Oak Mountain State Park (205-620-2520 or www.dcnr.state.al.us/parks/state_parks_index_1a.html), 200 Terrace Dr., Pelham, is Alabama’s largest park. Spread across 10,000 acres, the pine-studded land has vacation cottages, golf, camping, picnicking, swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, mountain-bike trails, backpacking, a demonstration farm and horseback-riding facilities.
Also the park is home to the state’ largest wildlife rehabilitation center and a tree-top nature trail, allowing close-up views of injured hawks and owls.
Be entertained by Summerfest Musical Theatre (205-324-2424 or www.summerfest.org), whose venues include the Virginia Samford Theatre at 1116 26th St. and Summerfest Cabaret Theatre at 301 19th St. North.
Summerfest showcases veteran performers and stars on the rise. Planned this season are "Back to the Dream" (Feb. 15-25), Amanda McBroom in Concert (March 30-31), Sisters of Swing (May 3-13), "The Wizard of Oz" (May 3-13) and "Damn Yankees" (June 26 to July 14).
Hightail it to Racing Events
After visiting Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, (205-699-7275 or www.barbermuseum.org), you’re likely to be infected with a need for speed. Or you might just want to witness some racing action. You’ll get the chance to do just that at the spectator events on tap at Barber Motorsports Park (205-967-4745 or www.barbermotorsports.com).
* April 13-15: World Karting Association
* April 20-22: AMA Superbike Championship
* May 4-6: WERA Nationals
* July 6-8: Sportscar Club of America
* July 20-22: Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series
* Sept. 22-23: WERA Regionals
* Oct. 13-14: National Auto Sport Association
* Oct. 19-21: AHRMA, the third annual Barber Vintage Festival
For More Information
For visitor information on Birmingham, visit www.birminghamal.org.
A professional writer based in Birmingham, AL, Lynn Grisard Fullman has written six books, and countless newspaper and magazine articles. She has won numerous awards for her writing.
*Photos on this page are owned, copyrighted and shown courtesy of the Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau. All rights reserved. Do not copy or link to these photos. Thank you.