Introduction Birmingham is a city that embraces its past, celebrating the good and learning from the bad. Founded in 1871 as a railroad stop, it was chosen for its rich iron ore, coal and limestone deposits—all necessary ingredients for steel production. Much later, it was the site of some of the country’s most violent racial conflicts. Today you’ll find these phases of its history as well as a strong commitment to the arts reflected in its attractions.
The Vulcan Statue salutes the city's industrial heritage. This 56-foot-tall, 60-ton rendering of the Roman god of fire and inventor of metalwork was created for the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. Surrounding the statue is a 10-acre public park, where you can get a closer view of Vulcan from an open-air balcony in the observation tower.
Explore Birmingham and Alabama civil rights history at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Exhibits recount the bus boycott in Montgomery during the 1950s, violence directed against Freedom Riders, and the Selma voting rights march that took place in 1965. Visit the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Birmingham's first black church and the embarkation point for many of the city's early '60s civil rights marches. The church overlooks Kelly Ingram Park, an assembly point for those participating in boycotts, sit-ins and marches to protest segregation.
More than 27,000 paintings, sculptures, decorative arts and other works from American, Asian and European artists, await you at the Birmingham Museum of Art. The Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame contains artifacts that belonged to legendary performers, and hosts performances March through November.
By CarSeveral major highways intersect in Birmingham, providing easy access from all directions. North-south I-65 cuts straight through the city, affording direct routes from Montgomery and Nashville, Tenn. From Chattanooga, Tenn., and other points northeast, I-59 runs through the Appalachian foothills before merging with I-20, intersecting I-65 near the city center and continuing southwest into Mississippi.
I-459 branches off from I-59 just east of the city limits and loops southward to bypass downtown traffic, rejoining I-20/59 near McCalla. Approaching from due east, I-20 meets the I-459 bypass before merging with I-59 downtown.
Street SystemLaid out in an orderly grid pattern, Birmingham is fairly easy to navigate. The downtown area is bounded by I-20/59 to the north, I-65 to the west and US 31, the Red Mountain Expressway, to the east. North-south thoroughfares are designated as streets, while east-west routes are avenues. Both streets and avenues are numbered, although some also have names, such as University Boulevard (Eighth Avenue South).
Unless otherwise posted, a right turn on red is permitted after a complete stop.
ParkingWith numerous public and private lots, parking is not a problem in Birmingham. Garages generally charge from $5 to $10 per day; on-street metered parking is available downtown.
AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.
State, county and city sales taxes total 10 percent in Birmingham. A lodging tax of 16.5 percent also is levied.
Princeton Baptist Medical Center, (205) 783-3000; St. Vincent's Birmingham, (205) 939-7000; St. Vincent's East, (205) 838-3000; Trinity Medical Center, (205) 592-1000; UAB (University of Alabama at Birmingham) Hospital, (205) 934-4011; UAB Hospital-Highlands, (205) 934-3411.
2200 Ninth Ave. N. Birmingham, AL 35203. Phone:(205)458-8000 or (800)458-8085
Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport
One of the largest car rental agencies in the city, Hertz, (205) 591-6090 or (800) 654-3080, offers discounts to AAA members.
Amtrak trains destined for New York and New Orleans depart from the station at 1819 Morris Ave.; phone (205) 324-3033.
Greyhound Lines Inc., at 618 19th St. N., provides commercial bus service to and from the city; phone (205) 252-7190 or (800) 231-2222.
Taxis are on the meter system. The typical charge is $4.50 initially and $2 for each additional mile. The two largest companies are American Cab Co., (205) 322-2222; and Yellow, (205) 252-1131.
Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority provides bus service around town and into the outlying suburbs. Basic bus fare is $1.25. The authority also manages DART, a system of vintage trolleys serving the downtown area; the fare is 25c. Exact change is required for both buses and DART. Phone (205) 521-0101 for schedule and route information.