From its origins as an iron and steel town, Birmingham, Ala., quickly grew into a vibrant, big city. Today, it offers something for everyone. History buffs can sift through the city's rich civil rights history, science-lovers can explore the McWane Science Center, and thrill-seekers can attempt the zip line at Red Mountain Park or the water slide at Splash Adventure Water Park.
Whether you visit the city because of its alluring past or present, you'll discover there are many sides of "The Magic City."
-Population: 212,237 people as of 2010
-Namesake: Founders named the city for Birmingham, England, one of the UK's major industrial cities.
-Nicknames: Birmingham, Ala.'s growth from 1881 through 1920 earned it the nicknames "The Magic City" and "The Pittsburgh of the South."
-Big business: Its original major industries were iron and steel production, plus a major component of the railroading industry.
-First place: The population in Birmingham outnumbers the population in any other city in the state.
MONUMENTS AND MUSEUMS
-Birmingham Civil Rights District: The Civil Rights District includes the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, historic Kelly Ingram Park and 16th Street Baptist Church, the site of the 1963 bombing that killed four young African-American girls. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Ticket booth closes at 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 per adult, $5 for youth grades 4-12 and seniors age 65-plus. (520 16th St. N; bcri.org; 205-328-9696)
-Birmingham Museum of Art: Houses collections of art from cultures around the world and has an ongoing schedule of traveling exhibitions. Free admission. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. (2000 Rev. Abraham Woods Jr. Blvd.; artsbma.org; 205-254-2565)
-Vulcan Park and Museum: Home to the world's largest cast-iron statue. Visitors get a panoramic view of the city. Observation tower hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. (1701 Valley View Drive; visitvulcan.com; 205-933-1409)
-Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum: This multi-story museum houses the world's largest collection of antique and contemporary motorcycles and Lotus cars. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. (6030 Barber Motorsports Pkwy., Leeds, Ala.; barbermuseum.org; 205-699-7275)
-Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark: Sloss was once at the heart of Birmingham's booming iron and steel industry and is now preserved as an industrial museum. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. (20 32nd St. N; slossfurnaces.com; 205-254-2025)
-Birmingham Negro Southern League Museum: This new showcase tells the stories of the Birmingham Black Barons and other baseball greats who played at the city's Rickwood Field, the oldest ballpark in the country. Hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and Wednesday-Friday, as well as noon to 5 p.m. Saturday. Free admission. (120 16th St. S; birminghamnslm.org; 205-581-3040)
-Sidewalk Film Festival: The 19th annual Sidewalk Film Festival runs Aug. 22-27. It features more than 250 films, parties and educational events spread across a dozen venues within downtown Birmingham's historic Theatre District, including the recently restored Alabama Theatre. A weekend pass including access to festival films and the event's biggest party is $95 if purchased between by Aug. 27. (205-324-0888; sidewalkfest.com)
-Taste of 4th Avenue Jazz Festival: This annual fest features local and national jazz artists and takes place in the historic Fourth Avenue Business District, once the hub for Birmingham's African-American business community. The event, Aug. 26 from 2-9 p.m., is free. (Urban Impact Inc. office, 1721 Fourth Ave. N, Suite 102; 205-820-9313; 4thavenuejazz.org)
-Breakin' Bread: One of Alabama's premiere food festivals, this event showcases the culinary talents of Birmingham's best chefs and has been satisfying taste buds for 15 years. This year's festival is Sept. 24. (Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark, 20 32nd St. N; birminghamoriginals.org)
-Fiesta: Alabama's largest celebration of Hispanic culture is a colorful event in downtown Birmingham. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the gate. Children 12 and younger are free. This year's event is Sept. 30 from noon to 8 p.m. (Linn Park, 710 20th St. N; fiestabham.com)
PLACES TO EAT
-Bottega Cafe: Italian cuisine including pizza. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Main dish prices range from $14 for cafe mac & cheese with a small salad, to $23 for grilled hanger steak with lady pea and corn relish, though menus change with the season. (2240 Highland Ave. S; 205-939-1000; bottegarestaurant.com)
-Oscar's at the Museum: Located inside the Birmingham Museum of Art, this OpenTable Diners' Choice Award winner offers seasonal lunches from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, plus brunch on select Sundays. Sandwich prices range from $10.99 for the "Top Dog" Angus beef hot dog wrapped in bacon, to $12.99 for the "Remington" house-ground lamb burger. (2000 Rev. Abraham Woods Jr. Blvd.; 205-254-2565; artsbma.org/visit/oscars)
-Chez Fonfon: Casual French bistro with rotating specials of the day and seasonal menus. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and 4:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday. No reservations; first come, first serve. Prices for main plates range from $14 for an omelette with tomatoes, bulb onion, tarragon and farmer's cheese to $26 for steak frites. (2007 11th Ave. S; 202-939-3221; fonfonbham.com)
-OvenBird: Casual fusion restaurant centered around seasonal Southern ingredients. Hours are 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 4:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Closed Sunday. Reservations accepted. Among the "chef's favorite" menu items, prices range from $10 for the OvenBurger to $24 for fried chicken with white barbecue sauce — while supplies last. (2810 Third Ave. S; 205-957-6686; ovenbirdrestaurant.com)
Sources: suburbanstats.org; birminghamal.org; birmingham.gov; birmingham365.org