10 Things I’ve Learned as a Beginner Birminghamian
The majority of my life has been lived 90 miles south of Birmingham. Growing up in Montgomery, the capital of Alabama, I developed an interest in travel and “bigger cities”. From Boston to Las Vegas, New York to Miami, even Houston to New Orleans, I’ve been fortunate to experience some of our nation’s top destinations and it has most definitely created a healthy appreciation and increased desire to explore more.
So, when offered the opportunity to relocate to “The Ham” less than a year ago, I packed up & moved.
Two weeks later.
And it is proving to be even better than I imagined. As Director of Marketing at LIVE design group, my office neighborhood is Pepper Place. Located in what one can only refer to as a “Designer District”, Pepper Place features 5 architecture/design firms within ¼ mile, 16 design companies within ½ mile.
Few things I’ve learned (or think I have)
- Getting Around – It doesn’t take long to get anywhere around here, once you get used to everyone giving numeric directions, as the most traveled thoroughfares are 280, 65, 31, 459, 20/59 and 119.
- Over the Mountain – Best I can tell, this commonly used phrase refers to the more “preferred” suburbs of Birmingham - Hoover, Vestavia Hills & Mountain Brook, all located “over the mountain” when coming from downtown.
- Chef’s Paradise – From the cooking classes at Sur La Table to the endless options for exquisite, fresh ingredients, Birmingham is the perfect home for the inspired chef. Grocery shopping becomes a culinary adventure when you start at Pepper Place Farmer’s Market, swing by Whole Food’s, Sprout’s and Trader Joe’s before heading home to try a new recipe.
- Savory Spots - For the days you don’t feel like flexing your cooking muscles, the restaurant options are endless, featuring every cuisine imaginable. The home of 2 James Beard award winning restaurants, I’ve heard rumors Birmingham is making a play to be the host city for Top Chef. I personally have a running list of restaurants to try, all locally owned. As the list is constantly growing, the struggle becomes the agonizing decision do we go back to that awesome place or try a new one? Some of my personal favorites include:
- Bright Star– Recognized as one of America’s Best Historic Restaurants, I love stepping back in time while I enjoy anything from the extensive menu, specializing in Greek style snapper & steak
- Babalu – easy to ensure the guacamole is fresh, since they make it at your table
- Bettola - the most fresh and authentic Italian cuisine I have ever had
- Avondale Common House – the cool, funky atmosphere is the perfect starting place for a fun night with friends in Avondale
- Moss Rock Cantina – neighborhood Mexican café has amazing nachos, best enjoyed on their patio overlooking Moss Rock Preserve
- Can’t forget Big Bad Breakfast, Cafe’ Dupont, Red Cat Coffeehouse, The Fish Market, DreamCakes, Hamburger Heaven, Post Office Pies, Silvertron Cafe’, Church Street Coffee & Books (must try The Break Up Cookie)
- Spots for Sippin’ Cocktails –
- Moonshine (beverages with a view on the rooftop terrace)
- Marble Ring (speakeasy only accessible through a phone booth in hot dog stand),
- Dave’s Pub (for friendly, neighborhood old-fashioned pub)
- and too many breweries to name
- Magic City’s Music Scene – From intimate indoor venues like Iron City, Saturn and Zydeco, to outdoor venues like Oak Mountain Amphitheatre and Avondale, to the annual Sloss Fest, if you enjoy live music, you may find yourself having a hard time deciding where to go first. (Just this week, I stumbled upon an article about a couple that hosts a music series in their backyard)
- A little further off Broadway – Birmingham is home to numerous theatre companies including Alabama School of Fine Arts (ASFA) and Red Mountain Theatre, featuring classical musical theatre productions as well as new works.
- Alabama’s Hollywood – as I type this, streets are closed within 3 blocks of my office due to the filming of an action movie. Since I’ve lived here, I understand Emma Stone, John Travolta, Aaron Eckhart and Ben McKenzie have all filmed on location. I know they are disappointed they never ran into me.
- Opt Outside – Not gonna lie - haven’t experienced these yet, but thought I’d share some of the top picks from my “Birmingham Bucket List” - Moss Rock Preserve, Ruffner Mountain, Red Mountain, Ross Bridge hiking trails, Cahaba River tubing, just to name a few.
- Think Like a Tourist - Historic & visitor’s attractions are worth checking out and usually one of my favorite things, FREE – Alabama Theatre, Magic City Rotary Trail, Alabama Walk of Fame, Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Vulcan Park, the light tunnel & welcoming murals – not only are they already everywhere, they are still popping up. Just last week, I noticed 2 exquisite new ones on my every day route!
I started this post about a month ago and I keep adding to it. I know I’m leaving out tons of great spots - native Birminghamians are most certainly screaming at their screens “But you left off the best parts!” Thankfully, Birmingham is my home and I get to add & explore. Gotta go - a follow-up awaits!