Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Weekend in Birmingham, Alabama

Every year my mom, sister and I try to go on a girls weekend. Sometimes we make it happen - and sometimes we don't. And it has centered around the Southern Living Idea House over the last few years (Southern Living is a magazine that includes travel, decorating and food) This year the Southern Living Idea House is in Birmingham, Alabama - and we headed there a few weekends ago to see what The Magic City is like. Here are a few things we did:

Alabama White Barbecue
Northern Alabama is known for barbecue -specifically white barbecue,  a sauce made with mayonnaise and vinegar. There are several famous barbecue institutions here, including Dreamland which is probably the mother of them all. We chose to eat at Saw's (there are 3 locations and we ate at the one in Homewood) Delicious, delicious, delicious! I tried the white sauce and deemed it a bit too rich for an entire sandwich so I went with the regular red sauce. It's just a hole-in-the-wall but man, is it good! I highly recommend Saw's - just as it was highly recommended to us.







Sloss Furnace
One of Birmingham's nicknames is The Steel City. All the natural resources were in place in Birmingham to make iron.Starting in 1882, Sloss Furnace produced pig iron-ore and it was the mainstay of the city. But  in the 1950's, there was new technology which was making pig iron-ore production obsolete. By the early 1970's Sloss Furnace - one of the largest pig iron-ore producers in the country - had shut it's doors. In 1971, Birmingham voters agreed upon bond funds which would make Sloss Furnace into a National Historic Landmark. Currently it is the only blast furnace in the US that is preserved as an historic site. You can take a guided or self-guided tour of Sloss, there is a visitor center with a movie and as long as they are not to be sold, you can take photos of this unique piece of the past. 














The Irondale Cafe
Fannie Flagg wrote a book that was made into a motion picture in 1991 called Fried Green Tomatoes (the book is Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe) Irondale Cafe is the cafe that the book was based on (Flagg was born and raised in Birmingham) Today the cafe - now called the Irondale Cafe - is still operating and dishing out delicious, southern style, homemade food. We ate lunch here - it's located about 15 minutes east of Birmingham - and had fried chicken, green beans, mac n cheese and fresh peach cobbler. 













The Civil Rights Institute and District
A six block area of downtown Birmingham is designated as the Civil Rights District. A very important part of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950's and 1960's, Birmingham saw many struggles including the deaths of four young African American girls and the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church. Included in the district are the church, Kelly Ingram Park where many of the protests occurred, the Fourth Avenue Business District, Carver Theatre (now the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame) and The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. You can take a walking tour of the area and visit the Institute. Considered hallowed ground by those in the Civil Rights struggle, the district is one of the most important places you can visit in the city.














Mountain Brook

Mountain Brook is the wealthiest zip code in Alabama. It's a residential area with incredibly large homes and a couple little areas such as English Village with upscale shops and eateries. We took a recommendation for lunch to eat at Olexa's - a small little cafe and bakery in Mountain Brook. The reason: dessert is cake served warm!








The Vulcan
The Vulcan is the largest cast iron statue in the world. It's the symbol of the city and for $6 you can go up in a glass elevator and walk out on the balcony of the statue for views of the city. Fifty-six feet tall, the Vulcan represents the god of fire. We saw a wedding party taking pictures - we just missed the ceremony - and people walking in the park. We also just missed a music festival held there - it was the weekend after we were there!
















Steel City Pops
Steel City Pops are gourmet popsicles made from all-natural and local ingredients. There are six Alabama locations and the pops are split into two lists - fruity and creamy. I went to the Summit location on a Saturday afternoon - it was very crowded - and tried the strawberry basil lemonade. Super refreshing and light!






The Southern Living Idea House at Mt. Laurel
This years Southern Living Idea House was built and decorated in the planned community of Mt. Laurel. Just outside of Birmingham, Mt. Laurel is a small community with a few businesses - a few restaurants, a dentist, small corner grocer and fire station - with a walkable and small hometown vibe. The idea house costs $15 to walk through (partial proceeds go to charity) and you can take all the time you want. Six different designers decorated the house and the "idea" is to get different ideas for your own house. It will only be available to tour until December so if this is something you're interested in, get there before then.










There's more! We just didn't get to it all. There's the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, which I heard is awesome cool; the Birmingham Museum of Art and the Botanical Garden, which are both Free; Railroad Park, a green space downtown; and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

One just can't do it all, can they? 

How about you? Have you ever been to Birmingham? Or done a weekend in a city you've not been to?



This post is part of a linkup with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, The Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog PartyThe Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond and Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute!
















12 comments:

  1. I love the idea of an Idea House - the verandah captured my imagination. What an interesting post - Fried Green Tomatoes!

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    1. It is a beautiful house - supposedly worth over 1 million dollars - and they do sell it. Fun to see all the "ideas" of the designers. And my sister got the fried green tomatoes at the cafe - she said they were delicious!

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  2. I loved reading this as I live in Birmingham, UK. So interesting to what the "other" Birmingham is like!

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    1. That's great! I think your Birmingham is much larger - would love to visit it someday!

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  3. History and food, that's my kind of city. I remember the movie "Fried Green Tomatoes". I have never heard of white barbecue. I'll have to give that a try one of these days. Thanks for linking up this week. #TPThursday

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    1. My kind of city too - history and food, I'm in! I liked the white barbecue but it was very rich so I'm not sure I could eat too much of it. Thanks for visiting!

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  4. What a weekend trip! I am trying to do one with my mom and sister at the end of the year (in New York). I didn't know about white BBQ. I will like to try that. Sunset Magazine (I think it shares Southern Living's publishing house) does an idea house too (but in the West).

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    1. Sunset is also one of my favorite publications and it had an idea house in Denver that I just missed going to - I think it closed about a month before I was there. Hope you get to do your girls weekend in New York! Thanks for visiting, Ruth!

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  5. Not a bad idea for a week-end trip. If only Alabama wouldn't be so far from California.. Thank you for joining us for #TheWeeklyPostcard

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    1. It is a bit far isn't it? It actually was a tad far for us too - but it was fun. And interesting. Thanks for hosting the link-up!

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  6. Great idea for your girls weekends. I have heard that BBQ is huge in Birmingham, Alabama and would love to try it one day.

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  7. I have never been to Birmingham, but now I might just have to put it on my list. The furnace place looks kind of cool. I love that industrial workplace sort of stuff...weird, I know.

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