Most people I've encountered from outside the Southeast can't even fathom the idea of the state of Alabama having actual “cities.” They assume Alabama is more or less some mix of Forrest Gump and My Cousin Vinny, with a beach at the end. And those that actually have heard of the state's largest city typically as the contentious epicenter of the Civil Rights Movement. But contrary to popular belief, our biggest exports today are actually not racial strife and episodes of The First 48. Birmingham has a metro population of over 1.1 million which is roughly equivalent to pro sports towns like Salt Lake City, Buffalo, and New Orleans. Which basically means it's big enough to go out and experience depravity, without running into the same people every night. Though “clubbing” will never be synonymous with Birmingham, it does have incredibly sneaky great options for restaurants, bars, and outdoor activities.
Yeah, we've got great barbecue, namely Dreamland and Saw’s. But we also have nationally recognized chefs: Frank Stitt’s restaurant Highlands Bar and Grill has been a finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Most Outstanding Restaurant in the Country for eight years in a row. Hot & Hot Fish Club’s Chris Hastings also won the 2012 James Beard's “Best Chef in the South” and beat Bobby Flay on an episode of Iron Chef.
As Alabama was dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, we passed legislation relaxing permissible alcohol content, which has opened the way for craft beer to take hold, with local favorites Good People Brewing, TrimTab, and Avondale.
But Birmingham is still a Southern city, so you may as well take advantage of warm weather and beautiful country. Without even leaving town you can canoe, kayak, or tube down the Cahaba River, which flows through the city. The Cahaba, believe it or not, contains more species of fish than all freshwater bodies of water in California... COMBINED. On land, you can hike the rails at Oak Mountain State Park, hop on a zip line at Red Mountain Park, or even stick around Downtown and take a jog along the green space of Railroad Park. -Jeff Zanotti, Contributing Writer