If you’re looking for history, culture, and Southern charm, this surprising and underrated U.S. destination is perfect for your next trip.

Birmingham, Alabama is often overlooked in favor of larger Southern cities like Atlanta and Nashville. However, this surprising city is growing in popularity, with a 10% increase in visitors since 2019.

Nearly 4 million visited Birmingham, nicknamed the Magic City, in 2023.

Wanna go somewhere unique and underrated for your next trip? This is why you should consider visiting Birmingham.

1. Civil Rights History

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

One of the things I find the most interesting about Birmingham is its civil rights history. The city is deeply intertwined with the civil rights movement of the 1960s and today there are numerous historical sites, monuments, and museums dedicated to the work of civil rights activists.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is a good place to start if you want to learn more about the city’s history with the civil rights movement.

I think Birmingham pairs well with a visit to Atlanta, which is less than 2.5 hours away by car (and you’ll probably want to fly into Atlanta first to visit Birmingham since it has the biggest airport in the country.)

In Atlanta, you can also visit many historic sites related to civil rights and check out the world-class National Center for Civil and Human Rights, which is one of my favorite museums.

2. A City For Arts And Culture

Alabama Theatre

Aside from its historical significance related to the civil rights movement, Birmingham is also a thriving hub for arts and culture.

One of my top recommendations? Definitely pay a visit to the Birmingham Museum of Art, which offers free admission and an impressive collection of art from around the world.

Historic venues like the Alabama Theatre and the Lyric Theatre are also cool spots to check out for concerts, dance performances, and other live entertainment.

3. Delicious Food

Southern Comfort Food

Like any Southern city, Birmingham is an amazing foodie destination.

Obviously, classic Southern comfort food is a must here. Some favorite spots to try include Eugene’s Hot Chicken and Saw’s Soul Kitchen. (My mouth is watering just thinking about it!)

But you can also enjoy creative twists on Southern cooking at restaurants like Bottega, which combines Southern flair with traditional Italian cuisine, and Hot and Hot Fish Club, which takes influence from Southern, French, and Californian cuisine.

Birmingham is also quickly becoming known for its craft breweries. You can easily spend a whole weekend just eating and drinking your way through the city.

4. Unexpected Southern Charm

Birmingham Botanical Gardens

What comes to mind when you think of Southern charm? Spanish moss-draped live oak trees and stately squares in Savannah, or the pastel-colored houses and palm trees of Charleston?

Well… Birmingham doesn’t have all of that. It’s actually a city with an industrial history.

But somehow, this city which is even called the Pittsburgh of the South because of its history of iron and steel production still manages to have an unexpected charm to it.

Some of the prettiest parts of the city to visit include the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and the Vulcan Park and Museum, which is dedicated to the city’s steel-making history — it also offers one of the best views in the city overlooking all of Birmingham.

5. An Affordable Destination

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Let’s face it, traveling has become so expensive recently. But Birmingham is actually one of the cheapest cities you can go to right now.

Alabama as a whole is one of the least expensive destinations in the United States (and Gulf Shores, Alabama is one of the best-kept secrets in the country if you’re looking for a cheap beach vacation!)

Birmingham, too, is surprisingly affordable, especially when you compare it to more popular destinations in the United States like Florida, California, and New York.

How cheap are we talking?

You can expect to pay about $125 per night for a nice hotel in Birmingham, which is a pretty good deal in my book. Other expenses like a rental car, attractions, and food are all pretty inexpensive.

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