By Lynn Grisard Fullman
People travel hundreds of miles to explore Birmingham, which has a wealth of places to visit, to learn and to frolic.
Lucky you, these attractions are mere minutes from your home. Here are a few suggestions:
• With its scores of creatures and critters, the Birmingham Zoo always is a favorite. Even better, spring break activities, slated for March 25 through April 2, include favorites such as Predator Zone, Children’s Zoo Splash Pads and Schaeffer Eye Center Wildlife Shows.
• With a focus on springtime, McWane Science Center through April 15 is offering deals and what it describes as “awesome educational programming.” For starters, on Mondays you can buy combo tickets for $10. A traveling exhibit, Going Places, offers the chance to pilot an airship, ride a hovercraft or control city traffic, all while focusing on the technology of travel. A worldwide celebration, Brain Awareness Week, takes place March 26 through March 31 and brings together scientists, families, schools and communities. Under supervision of UAB staff and graduate students, visitors may dissect a sheep brain or cow eyeball and take part in interactive activities that detail how the senses work. Check the center’s website to learn about special themes slated for the week.
• With about 1,500 acres along the Red Mountain ridge, Red Mountain Park has more than 15 miles of walking, hiking and mountain biking trails, two city overlooks, a six-acre off-leash dog park and adventures such as the Vulcan Materials Zip Trip, which is a 90-minute zip-line adventure; the Hugh Kaul Beanstalk Forest, which is 20 rope and cable treetop challenges; an 80-foot climbing/rappelling tower and a 1,000-foot Mega Zip. Intriguing destination sites such as the historic Redding Hoist House, three treehouse views and glimpses of iron ore mine entrances, add to the fun.
• Need more hiking trails? Head east to Ruffner Mountain Nature Center, where trails wind, exhibits intrigue and views steal your breath. While you’re this close, plan to have lunch at the Irondale Café where, of course, you must have the fried green tomatoes.
• Railroad Park, which has been called “Birmingham’s living room,” is a great place to picnic or toss a Frisbee, and the 250-acre Moss Rock Preserve in Hoover is a great place for hiking and rock climbing.
• With a collection of more than 27,000 works representing cultures around the world, the Birmingham Museum of Art includes a sculpture garden, American and Asian art collections and a vast collection of Wedgwood. The gift shop always has fun things, too.
• Adjacent to the Birmingham Zoo, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens includes 67 acres with flowers, outdoor sculptures, a Japanese garden with teahouse, and the possibility of bird sightings.
• Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark is a great place to explore. On about 32 acres, the landmarks is the site of blast furnaces where iron was made for almost a century. Sloss is the country’s only 20th century blast furnace being pre- served and interpreted as a museum.
• The world’s largest cast-iron statue, Vulcan, designed by Italian artist Giuseppe Moretti and cast from local iron in 1904, stands atop Red Mountain. You likely pass it often, but this spring break take a closer look at what is considered one of the country’s most memorable works of civic art.
• Recently named a National Monument, the Birmingham Civil Rights District provides a stark look at the history of America’s Civil Rights Movement. Don’t miss monuments in Kelly Ingram Park, a gathering place for demonstrations in the early ’ 60s. A must-see is the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, adjacent to the park and alongside the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, where four girls were killed in a 1963 bombing.
• One of the country’s largest motorsports museums, Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, east of Birmingham, focuses on racing history with a fascinating collection of motorcycles and vehicles.
For more information on area attractions and special events, contact the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau at inbirmingham.com or 458-8000. Also, call before going as most city-operated attractions are closed on Mondays.
No Cost, No Kidding
Many Attractions Charge No Admission Fee
Scores of Alabama sites do not charge admission, which can make for an affordable outing. Here are a few suggestions:
• Alabama’s beaches, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach
• Birmingham Museum of Art
• Birmingham Botanical Gardens
Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark, Birmingham
• MOOseum, Montgomery
• Alabama’s State Capitol, Montgomery
• First White House of the Confederacy, Montgomery
• Moss Rock Preserve, Hoover
• Phoenix Fire Museum, Mobile
• Cook’s Natural Science Museum, Decatur
• Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, Morgan County
• Coon Dog Cemetery, Colbert County