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  1. Million Air
November 24, 2023updated May 24, 2024

Birmingham, Alabama: The Deep South’s Cultural Hot Spot

Alabama's Birmingham is enjoying a chic renaissance that makes it a must-see for trendsetters.

By Elite Traveler

The soaring chimneys and former ironworks of Birmingham, Alabama would be the last place you’d expect to find a cultural hub of the US, but the melding of the city’s rich past to its present is building a truly exciting future. Hip new bars, galleries and restaurants are springing up constantly, curating a unique nightlife culture grounded in the city’s industrial, Jazz Age roots.

Spots like The Marble Ring or Paper Doll are well worth a visit. Downtown is peppered with historic architecture of old theatres, a slew of which recently reopened following community fundraising — the vaudevilleera Lyric Theatre, with ornate, gilded ceilings, now hosts rock performances and symphony orchestras.

The neighboring Alabama Theater screens classic movies and hosts the ballet, and the Carver centers the city’s rich Black musical history (and present), with its adjoining museum boasting the instruments of legends like Ella Fitzgerald and WC Handy.

Birmingham’s artistic past and present are interwoven throughout the town. The Birmingham Museum of Art hosts an 800,000-strong collection of regional and international art, ceramics, antiques and archeology, and the Abroms-Engel Institute hosts exciting modern pieces and performances from local artists.

Barber Motorsports Museum
The Barber Motorsports Museum / ©Shutterstock

Heading into its 40th year, The Magic City Art Connection is an unmissable global draw for artists, music fans and gourmets when it is held every April. This cultural history stretches beyond the arts too, with historical sites like the Civil Rights Institute and the Civil Rights National Monument, which commands four city blocks.

There’s sporting history too: Rickwood Field is the USA’s oldest professional baseball field; it is set to reopen for the first professional games in decades in 2024. The Barber Motorsports Museum hosts the world’s largest collection of motorbikes. This incredible, 1000-strong collection of vintage cars and bikes is any motorhead’s dream — and, with a little planning, you can take one for a lap around the attached racetrack.

For those chasing nature, the 67-acre botanical gardens (which hosts the US’s only public horticultural library) provide a perfect spot. Or, head to Red Mountain City Park to get up close to the largest cast-iron statue in the world, a towering 56-ft effigy of Roman deity Vulcan, god of fire and craftsmanship.

Looming over the city, this breathtaking monument transforms the Birmingham skyline: It’s a grounding in the city’s powerful, fiery past — and points the way to an electric, reinvigorated future.

Where to sleep

After a long day discovering Birmingham’s hidden gems, a soft bed and hot bath will be the only thing on your mind — that is where Birmingham’s Ross Bridge Resort comes in. A stone’s throw from the city center, yet surrounded by lush greenery, this palace-like resort is unparalleled in providing true Southern hospitality. The Hospitality Suite has balcony views of the area’s hilly terrain, and the multi-room penthouse sleeps four and has a kitchen, living room and walk-in closet.

4000 Grand Ave, +1 205 916 7677,

Where to eat

Classic Italian fare meets the Deep South at Birmingham’s Bottega Restaurant. This family-owned eatery in the eclectic Five Points area has served sophisticated Mediterranean- inspired cuisine for over 30 years. Dishes feature artisanal produce; pizzas are cooked in a wood-burning oven; and guests enjoy a curated selection of fine wines and cocktails. Internationally lauded head chef Frank Stitt has been inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor for his commitment to ethical, sustainable cooking — this exciting, elevated approach makes Bottega well worth a visit. Make sure to reserve in advance.

2240 Highland Avenue, +1 205 939 1000,,

Where to fly

Million Air at Birmingham airport includes a 10,000-sq-ft terminal to serve pilots, aircraft owners and guests, military, and corporate business travelers; a 24,000-sq-ft hangar designed for smaller, privately owned aircraft; and two 30,000-sq-ft corporate hangars. Totaling 94,000 sq ft of new development, the terminal and hangars will replace old ones at the current East side location. The new FBO will incorporate steel and red brick elements, to pay tribute to the iron and steel companies that gave birth to Birmingham.

Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, 4725 65th Place North Birmingham, AL 35206;, +1 659 223 3660,

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