20 Things You Need to Know Before Moving to Birmingham

Steel production put Birmingham on the map back in the late 1800’s (it’s the only place in the world where all three raw ingredients needed for steel production —coal, limestone and iron ore — are found). Then, the city took center stage during the turbulent years of the Civil Rights movement, becoming ground zero for social change.

Today, Birmingham has grown to represent the rich cultural fabric of its past and present. From breweries and baseball to some of the best barbecue south of the Mason Dixon, the city has a lot to offer. Before you make your move to Alabama’s largest city, however, make sure you’re well-versed in all its nuances and character.

1. Birmingham is big on beer.

Birmingham’s craft beer movement started with Good People Brewing Company, founded by two Auburn University grads who had a penchant for hops. Avondale Brewing Company carried the torch, leading the way for a handful of others to move in and brew. Most breweries are in walking distance of each other, so you can easily make a day out of visiting all of Birmingham’s boozy haunts.

2. Thursdays are for the Barons.

Ever since Regions Field relocated from the ‘burbs to downtown, it’s been attracting crowds looking for a good ball game. On Thursdays, the field overflows with patrons seeking to start the weekend early. Thirsty Thursdays have become one of many favorite local traditions.

3. Speaking of baseball, we have the nation’s oldest baseball stadium.

The oldest professional baseball park in America that still stands today is in Birmingham. Rickwood Field, located downtown on Second Avenue West, was built in 1910 for the Birmingham Barons by industrialist and team-owner Rick Woodward. Today, the park serves as a museum where baseball’s history can be experienced.

4. Don’t miss out on the Greek food scene.

Thanks to several generations of Greeks who planted roots in Birmingham, the city has numerous authentic-style Greek restaurants like Nabeel’s Café & Market and John’s Restaurant. There’s even a Greek Festival every fall that celebrates the city’s rich Greek history.

5. James Spann is our weather man.

When the weather gets dicey, locals turn to James Spann. This meteorologist comes clad in suspenders and a passion for alerting Birmingham residents about any impending weather-related doom. Because Birmingham has seen its share of tornadoes, we take James Spann and his weather savvy very seriously.

6. Historic blast furnaces double as concert venues.

Birmingham loves reclaiming old architecture — like dormant blast furnaces — and turning it into something cool. Sloss Furnaces is where the city once pumped out pig iron. Today, the furnaces play host to several arts and culture events, namely Sloss Music and Arts Festival, the city’s annual music festival that attracts musicians from across the nation.

7. We love Vulcan.

Vulcan is Birmingham’s unofficial mascot. He’s the largest cast iron statue in the world and stands tall as the city’s ubiquitous symbol, giving a reverent nod to our industrial past.

8. We’re home to the nation’s best restaurant.

If you’re a foodie, then you need to know about Frank Stitt. He’s best known for his trifecta of gourmet restaurants — Bottega Café, Chez Fonfon and Highlands Bar & Grill. Highlands was recently named outstanding restaurant by the James Beard Foundation. Dine there at least and make sure to order a slice of the coconut cake..

9. Don’t forget about the suburbs “Over the Mountain.”

While downtown is definitely in the midst of a long overdue renaissance, Birmingham’s suburbs shouldn’t be overlooked. Homewood, Mountain Brook, Vestavia and Hoover are all located “Over the Mountain,” as they say, and each have their own charm.

10. Avoid Highway 280 during rush hour.

Just don’t do it. While Birmingham pales in comparison to the rush hour madness of other nearby cities, Highway 280 is an exception. Avoid the insanity and pick a back road.

11. Learn to live in humidity.

Embrace it. Your hair will refuse to be tamed come summertime and doing anything outside will resemble an aquatic activity. It’s our tradeoff for not having to shovel all the snow in the winter.

12. Try the white sauce.

Every southern city has their take on barbecue sauce. For Birmingham, it’s all about the white sauce. It’s mayonnaise-based and made tangy with vinegar, horseradish and mustard. Drench your plate of ‘cue with it.

13. And while you’re at it, try all the other barbecue pits.

Birmingham is brimming with barbecue. From Full Moon Bar-B-Que in Southside to Moe’s Original Bar & BBQ in Lakeview, our city has no shortage of finger lickin’ barbecue

14. On Saturdays, we go to the market.

If you like fresh produce and locally-sourced goods, then wake up early on Saturday for The Market at Pepper Place. The weekend tradition began in 2000 in response to a growing need to help small family farms. Today, the market boasts a little bit of everything. Handmade baskets, pottery, fresh doughnuts — it’s all at the market.

15. We’re outdoorsy.

When we’re not busy with beer and barbecue, we’re likely outside, enjoying the natural splendor of Alabama. Trails abound throughout Birmingham. Red Mountain Park, Ruffner Mountain and Moss Rock Preserve are just a few local favorites.

16. And we love music.

Countless songs have been written about the Steel City (insert “Sweet Home Alabama” right here), and a handful of local musicians are pioneering Birmingham’s reputation as a burgeoning music city. Check out a concert at Iron City or Saturn in Avondale. You’ll find out that Birmingham’s music scene isn’t limited to country and southern rock.

17. Rent is reasonable.

If you’re looking to settle down in Birmingham, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find out how cheap it is to live here. You can get a downtown loft or a historic abode at a reasonable price. Find which neighborhood suits you best, and then plant some roots.

18. Alabama or Auburn — pick your allegiance.

Birmingham’s football allegiance is pretty evenly divided. Come fall, you better know which colors you’re wearing — crimson red for the Tide or orange and navy for the Auburn Tigers.

19. The Alabama Theatre is our crowning jewel.

Located in the heart of downtown, the Alabama Theatre is a stunning calling card for the city. Built in 1927, the theatre has hosted countless shows. If you snag tickets to an event at the theatre, make sure to arrive early. There’s usually a pre-show sing-a-long hosted by the organist.

20. We don’t forget the past.

Birmingham pays its respect to the Civil Rights movement at numerous spots throughout downtown, including the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. While we’ve come a long way, we make sure to never forget our city’s role in moving the nation forward.



Sarah Cook