Spotlight on Jefferson County: Culture & Recreation

From history to sports to science to nature, Jefferson County has a treasure trove of artifacts, museums and outdoor spaces to explore.

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Photo courtesy of Alabama Tourism Department/Art Meripol

Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument • The Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument is dedicated to telling the history of Black Americans and their fight for equality. Points of interest include the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, with its special exhibitions, galleries and events; and the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, where in 1963 a bomb planted by white supremacists killed four Black girls. The monument also includes the historic Bethel Baptist Church.


Alabama Veterans Memorial Park • The Alabama Veterans Memorial Park in Birmingham honors the more than 11,000 Alabamians who gave their lives in service to the United States in wars and conflicts, from WWI to Afghanistan.


Birmingham Holocaust Education Center • Visitors to the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center can hear stories of survival from the men and women who lived through the Holocaust and Nazi persecution. The center also honors those who perished.

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Lyric Theatre • The Lyric Theatre was constructed in 1914, and major stars like the actress Mae West, Will Rogers and the Marx Brothers performed there. The structure in recent times underwent an $11.8 million restoration and is listed on the National Register. The venue once again hosts performing arts events, from concerts to ballet.


Vulcan Park and Museum • At Vulcan Park and Museum, visitors can climb atop the world’s largest cast iron statue to catch breathtaking views of the city. The park also features an interactive museum where visitors can learn about the city’s industrial past. This year, Vulcan Park and Museum announced the expansion of its annual Birmingham Walking Tours.


Birmingham Zoo • The Birmingham Zoo opened its first exhibit in 1955. Today the zoo occupies 122 acres and houses more than 550 animals representing 180 species from around the world. The zoo in 2020 completed its fundraising campaign to raise $780,000.

Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum. Photo courtesy of Alabama Tourism Department/Art Meripol

Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum • The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Leeds is home to more than 900 motorcycles on display, including Harley-Davidson bikes and the world’s largest Lotus racecar collection. The facility also hosts events such as the upcoming 16th Barber Vintage Festival set for Oct.8-10, 2021, and the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.


Alabama Adventure & Splash Adventure • Located in Bessemer, this water theme park features rides and slides, including interactive play areas, Splash Island, Warrior Lazy River, the new Rocket Racer and the Kahuna Wave Pool with 800,000 gallons of surf.


Birmingham Museum of Art • Established in 1951, the Birmingham Museum of Art houses more than 27,000 pieces of art, including paintings, prints, sculptures and decorative arts from the past and present representing cultures from around the world.


Red Mountain Park • Red Mountain Park in Birmingham is an urban green space stretching more than 1,500 acres. The park’s many attractions include more than 15 miles of walking trails, tree houses and a six-acre dog park.


Railroad Park • With 19 acres of green space, Railroad Park in downtown Birmingham features a bio-filtration wetlands area, ponds and its Rail Trail where visitors can run, jog or walk around the park’s perimeter. The park also hosts concerts and other events throughout the year and is the site of Regions Field, home of the Birmingham Barons baseball team.


Rickwood Field • Open since 1910, Birmingham’s Rickwood Field is the nation’s oldest baseball field. It is where the Negro League’s Black Barons once played. Today, it is one of only two original Negro League ballparks still in existence. The ballpark hosts the annual Rickwood Classic featuring the Birmingham Barons.

McWane Science Center. Photo courtesy of Alabama Tourism Department/Chris Granger

McWane Science Center • McWane Science Center in Birmingham is an interactive, hands-on science museum, including an updated IMAX theater.


Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail • The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail offer golfers challenging fairways, creeks, dense tree cover, undulations and elevation changes.


Market at Pepper Place • For more than two decades, the Market at Pepper Place in downtown Birmingham has connected small Alabama farmers with local residents. The year-round market now offers a curbside pickup service.


Birmingham Botanical Gardens • The Botanical Gardens is a 67.5-acre space with more than 30 thematic gardens, plus a horticulture library and a variety of annual events.


Birmingham Race Course Casino • Located between Irondale and Trussville just off Interstate 459, Exit 31, the Birmingham Race Course features simulcast horse and greyhound racing from around the United States, casino gaming, a driving range, billiards and more.


Ruffner Mountain Nature Center • Ruffner Mountain is a nature preserve spanning 1,011 acres with hiking trails throughout. The nature center, however, will remain closed the remainder of 2021 for administrative strategic planning.


Arlington Antebellum Home and Gardens • Birmingham’s only antebellum home is a two-story, Greek Revival-style building constructed between 1845 and 1850. The fully restored home, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, rests on six acres and holds a collection of 19th century antiques, paintings and textiles.


The Alabama Theatre in Birmingham. Photo courtesy of Alabama Tourism Department/Art Meripol

Alabama Theatre • The Alabama Theatre is one of the few operating movie palaces still in existence in the United States. Paramount Studios built the Alabama in 1927; it now features first-run films and special events.


Aldridge Gardens • Located in Hoover, Aldridge Gardens spans 30 acres and showcases hydrangeas and native plants, as well as a walking trail that surrounds a six-acre lake. The facility also hosts events throughout the year.


Moss Rock Preserve • Moss Rock Preserve in Hoover is a 349-acre nature preserve with wildlife, streams, waterfalls and 12 miles of hiking trails. The park’s Boulder Field provides ideal conditions for rock climbing. Currently, Moss Rock Preserve is home to forests, more than 100 bird species and sandstone glade outcrops.


Alabama Sports Hall of Fame Museum • The Alabama Sports Hall of Fame Museum in downtown Birmingham displays more than 6,000 pieces of sports memorabilia. This includes memorabilia from the late University of Alabama Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and a tribute to Olympic gold medalist James “Jesse” Owens, who triumphed at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.


Birmingham Negro Southern League Museum  • In 1920, a group of African American businessmen and baseball enthusiasts established the Negro Southern League. The League included teams like the Birmingham Black Barons and, until 1951, was a feeder route for the Negro American League and the Negro National League. The museum presents the history of African American baseball, with displays such as the uniforms of Satchel Paige and Willie Wells and 1,500 original single signed baseballs.


Sloss Furnaces • Sloss Furnaces is an industrial museum and National Historic Landmark located near downtown Birmingham. The factory operated from 1882 to 1970 and was once the world’s largest manufacturer of pig iron. The museum gives visitors valuable insight into the Industrial Revolution and the city’s industrial past.


Southern Museum of Flight • The Southern Museum of Flight is a 75,000-square-foot facility with vintage aircraft, as well as photographs, engines, models and artifacts on display.


Festivities & Events:

Mercedes-Benz Marathon Celebration Weekend – February — The Mercedes-Benz Marathon marks its 20th anniversary in 2022. The event will feature races for children and adults during race weekend.

Magic City Art Connection – April — The city’s premier fine arts festival will take place at the Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark. The event will feature more than 170 booths, special exhibitions and installations, as well as live music.

Bob Sykes BBQ & Blues Festival  — April — Participants can enjoy a day of food, fun and music at DeBardeleben Park in downtown historic Bessemer.

Doo Dah Day – May — Thousands of local residents and their pets gather each year to raise monies for local animal advocacy groups. The event includes live music and more.

Juneteenth Celebration – June — The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute will present its annual Juneteenth Celebration. The festival commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people with exhibits, musical performances and more.

Art on the Rocks – June, July & August

Sidewalk Film Festival – August — Established in 1999, the Sidewalk Film Festival features more than 350 feature length and short films for screening. MovieMaker Magazine has listed this event among the top film festivals in the world.

Taste of 4th Avenue Jazz Festival — August — Located in the historic 4th Avenue Business District, the festival showcases performances by renowned jazz artists, food and more.

Artwalk – September — Downtown Birmingham’s loft neighborhood is the site of Artwalk, a free, two-day arts festival. Artwalk presents the works of more than 50 visual artists, musicians and street performers.

Birmingham Greek Festival — October — Sponsored by Holy Trinity – Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Cathedral — the Birmingham Greek Festival entertains visitors with Greek music, traditional dance and cuisine prepared by parishioners.

Veterans Day Parade – November — The city of Birmingham is home to the oldest, and, at one time, the longest Veterans Day Parade in the United States.


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