It’s summertime, and the kids are bored! What to do? Plenty!
Published: June 1, 2019
By: Lori Chandler Pruitt
Birmingham is full of great attractions, some of which are free of charge. Get out of the house and into a whole new world with these great attractions. As always, check with each attraction for hours, admission, events and more before you go.
Aldridge Botanical Gardens
This 30-acre botanical garden in Hoover opened in 2002. It showcases hydrangeas and much more. The gardens also feature an outdoor pavilion, a five-acre lake and a half-mile walking trail. The gardens host many special events, from fishing days to bird walks to classes. www.aldridgegardens.com.
Alabama Splash Adventure Amusement Park & Splash Adventure Water Park
This park is located where I-20/59 and I-459 meet, and one admission price gets you fun in the sun all day long! Choose the great water park attractions or all the fun rides. Free sunscreen, drinks and parking! This family-owned attraction is back and better than ever. www.alabamasplash.com
Alabama Sports Hall of Fame
Located in Birmingham’s Uptown District, this museum has more than 5,000 sports artifacts displayed in a 33,000 square foot building and surrounded by a three-story atrium. It’s the place to see all things sports. www.ashof.org.
Alabama Wildlife Center
The AWC is located within Oak Mountain State Park and is the state’s oldest and largest wildlife rehabilitation facility. It cares for more than 2,000 wild bird patients from more than 100 species each year, and thousands more native wild animals. It also offers special events, education programming and much more to the public. www.awrc.org.
The American Village in Montevallo is an American history and civics education center. Located next to the Alabama National Cemetery, it also is dedicated to honoring America’s veterans and their service and sacrifice as a Veterans Living Legacy. It also is open to the public for tours. www.americanvillage.org.
Barber Motorsports Park & Museum
This 2.38-mile racing track and a 230,000 square foot museum was built by Alabama native George W. Barber. The racing facility hosts many national and international events, including the IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Alabama. It also includes the Barber Vintage Motorsport Museum, with a huge collection of motorcycles, automobiles and more. barberracingevents.com.
Birmingham Botanical Gardens
A 67.5-acre park adjacent to Lane Park at the foot of Red Mountain, the gardens have long been a favorite destination. Among its many gardens includes the internationally-known Japanese Gardens, Wildflower Garden, Fern Glade and Southern Living Garden. It has a café, classes, special events and more. Its website includes maps of the gardens and walking trails. bbgardens.org.
Birmingham Civil Rights Institute/Civil Rights District
BCRI is an interpretive museum and research center that depicts the struggles of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. The institute also is a part of the city’s Civil Rights District, which includes Kelly Ingram Park, Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame and the Fourth Avenue Business District. www.bcri.org. The entire district also is part of the larger Alabama Civil Rights Trail, which highlights several sites across the state that played a key role in the movement. www.bcri.org.
Birmingham Museum of Art
BMA is one of the finest regional museums in the U.S., housing a collection of more than 27,000 paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings and decorative arts that range from ancient to modern times. The museum also features traveling exhibits and activities for families. artsbma.org.
The zoo is one of the state’s most popular attractions, with about 700 animals of 200 species and endangered species from six continents. The 122-acre zoo features a children’s zoo, Trails of Africa and much more. The zoo also offers daily and special events. www.birminghamzoo.com.
Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum
This museum in the heart of Shelby County is the official state railroad museum of Alabama, dedicated to preserving, restoring and operating historically significant railway equipment. And of course, there are train rides! The museum also has several special events during the year. www.hodrrm.org.
McWane Science Center
This science museum is complete with an aquarium, 280-seat IMAX Dome Theater and so much more! The museum features special events, permanent exhibits and traveling exhibits. www.mcwane.org.
Moss Rock Preserve
Right in the city of Hoover is Moss Rock Preserve, a 349-acre nature preserve that offers 12 miles of hiking trails along with waterfalls, wildlife, natural forests and much more. The preserve has a boulder field for climbers of all skill levels. There are hiking trail maps available. www.hooveral.org/214/moss-rock-preserve.
Oak Mountain State Park
Alabama’s largest state park is atop Double Oak Mountain in Shelby County. It has one of the widest varieties of outdoor activities of any state park, offering mountain biking, hiking, a BMX course, boat rentals, basketball courts, nature programs, Peavine Falls, an interpretive center, a golf course/driving range, swimming area, fishing lakes picnic areas, horseback riding facilities, a demonstration farm and more. www.alapark.com/oak-mountain-state-park.
Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve
This privately-held, 1,040-acre urban nature preserve is located in east Jefferson County. It’s a favorite for bird watchers, hikers with trails ranging from easy to difficult, and nature lovers. It boasts a visitor center with programming and native Alabama animals. Ruffner was mined for iron ore from the late 19th century through the 1950s, and is a living history site for that industry. ruffnermountain.org.
Southern Museum of Flight
The museum, now located near the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, will move to a new 24-acre location next to Barber Motorsports Museum in early 2020. The museum is home to more than 100 different aircraft, flight artifacts, authentic fighter planes, photography and unique engines. There are lots of special events for enthusiasts of all ages. www.southernmuseumofflight.org.
Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park
With 1,500 acres in west Jefferson County, Tannehill offers hiking, camping and outdoor recreation. The park has many events throughout the year, with craftspeople demonstrating their trades, along with special holiday events. Tannehill features a working cotton gin, pioneer farm and gristmill. www.tannehill.org.
Vulcan Park & Museum
Vulcan is the world’s largest cast iron statue and is considered one of the most memorable works of civic art in the country. Vulcan was cast from local iron in 1904 by Italian artist Giuseppe Moretti, and the statue has overlooked Birmingham from atop Red Mountain since the 1930s. The beautiful 10-acre educational park includes a museum, walking trails and much more. Visitvulcan.com.