Smack in the center of the Bible Belt's buckle is the exact opposite of where you would expect to find a thriving cultural hub, but that's exactly what Birmingham, Alabama, is becoming. Talk about the Deep South, and you're bound to draw mixed emotions from pretty much everyone, even those who were born and raised there—including me. Sure, there’s that adorable, if antiquated, notion of Southern charm, but there's still a lot of negativity associated with those living in areas south of the Mason-Dixon and east of the Mississippi. Well, it’s time to change those perceptions, because Birmingham is actually... cool. I grew up in this city, and I'm not sure whether its cultural activity is new or if it's just new to me, but it's definitely a welcome surprise every time I visit.
And it's not just me who's surprised. Even those people who have lived in this city forever are finding new things to enjoy, which is why it's my pleasure to let you in on Birmingham's secrets. Sharing is caring after all, and I still have a little Southern hospitality left in me (even after living amongst Yankees for almost five years).
So though the South has long been (erroneously) regarded as devoid of cultural cachet, there are many pockets where artists flock and build their communities. We’ve already shown you around Nashville and Charleston, so read on to find out an insider’s perspective on the best places to eat, drink, stay, and shop in the ‘Ham (yeah, I said it).
WHERE TO STAY
Redmont Hotel: Redmont is the oldest hotel in Birmingham, but that in no way means it's outdated. If you find that you prefer a night in, you can still grab a meal at Harvest or a nightcap at The Roof, both of which are located inside the hotel. Take it from me, you won’t want to miss the views from that rooftop bar.
Elyton Hotel: What used to be the Empire building, one of Alabama’s most celebrated architectural landmarks, is now the Elyton Hotel, and it has an elegant and structured aesthetic you'd expect from a building of such historical caliber. Even though it’s located in the heart of Downtown (and you'll definitely want to explore the area), you can have an adventurous night in at this hotel, too. It has its own rooftop bar, Moon Shine (again, views!), and a restaurant called The Yard.
Grand Bohemian Hotel: This hotel is located in posh Mountain Brook area, so you know you'll be in good hands here. Case in point: There's an on-site spa that you won't want to ever leave. This area has its own attractions, but it's also just minutes from Downtown.