Aerial view of tall buildings and trees in Downtown Birmingham

11 Things to Know About Living in Birmingham

Are you considering moving to Birmingham? Known as “The Pittsburgh of the South” for its role in the production of steel and iron, Alabama’s most populous city is ranked in the top 100 Best Places to Live in the U.S., thanks to its low cost of living, thriving job market, on-the-rise dining, fantastic live music scene, and more. Here are 11 things to know about living in Birmingham!

Join the Thriving Job Market

Tall buildings next to water at sunset in Birmingham, AL. Photo by Instagram user @zacksyl
Photo via @zacksyl

One of the best things about relocating to Birmingham is the employment opportunities. Birmingham has been recognized among the best cities for jobs in the U.S. and boasts a 2.7% unemployment rate. Combined with a cost of living that’s 18% lower than the national average, and you can see why Birmingham is a hot place to be for young professionals and families. This Alabama market has jobs in a variety of sectors, including healthcare, manufacturing, and government. Looking for top employers in Birmingham? Check out Baptist Health System Inc.City of BirminghamAlabama Power CompanyDrummond Company Inc., and American Cast Iron Pipe Company.

Home to Civil Rights Movement History

MLK Jr. holding his hand up. Photo by Instagram user @intokaleidoscopics
Photo via @intokaleidoscopics

Did you know Birmingham played a huge role in the Civil Rights Movement? In 1963, the city became the location of Project C, more commonly referred to as the Birmingham Campaign. Led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., this influential series of peaceful demonstrations—which included marches, boycotts, and sit-ins—protested segregation laws. Thanks to the efforts of Civil Rights leaders and all who joined them, Project C was viewed as the “beginning of the end” for segregation and is considered one of the major turning points in the movement. Today, you can learn more about Birmingham’s history in the Civil Rights Movement at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

Enjoy the Excellent Museums

Two women looking at a wood painting. Photo by Instagram user @bhammuseum
Photo via @bhammuseum

Art, history, and culture lovers will love living in Birmingham, thanks to its more than 20 cultural attractions. Arguably the best museum in the city is the Birmingham Museum of Art, which features everything from modern photography and contemporary sculptures to classic paintings. There’s also the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, which showcases vintage motorcycles and classic roadsters from all over the world—there’s even a racetrack where you can attend annual events like the Barber Vintage Festival! Looking for things to do in Birmingham with kids? Spend a day at the McWane Science Center, where you can explore hands-on exhibits, catch a film in the IMAX Dome, or check out family-friendly events. And don’t forget to swing by the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame to see more than 6,000 pieces of sports memorabilia and learn about famous athletes like Jesse Owens and Hank Aaron.

Get Outside & Explore

Aerial view of parks and buildings in Downtown Birmingham. Photo by Instagram user @shotsbystevn
Photo via @shotsbystevn

While the city of Birmingham has plenty to offer indoors, make sure to experience some of the city’s outdoors as well. Spend a day at Rufner Mountain, an amazing hiking location that offers incredible views of the city and a chance for visitors to learn about Birmingham’s mining heritage. Visit Vulcan Park and Museum to explore the beautiful green space and see the world’s largest cast-iron statue. Plan a day out at the Birmingham Zoo, a 122-acre facility that’s home to over 230 species of animals and features fun events like Boo at the Zoo. Or stroll through the Birmingham Botanical Gardens—one of the top free things to do in Birmingham—where you’ll find gardening classes and year-round blooms.

Don’t Sleep on the Music Scene

Two girls playing guitar on stage. Photo by Instagram user @saturnbham
Photo via @saturnbham

If you’re moving to Birmingham, you better be ready to jam out to some amazing music! Take in a show at Iron City Bham, a no-frills concert hall that showcases artists and bands like Whitey Morgan, Bad Religion, and Andy Grammer. Feeling like a mid-week show? Head to Saturn, a cozy live music venue where you can catch indie favorites like Jenny Lewis, Band of Skulls, and Iron & Wine—they even host fun events like vintage game night! Enjoy a local or touring show at The Firehouse, one of the best-kept Birmingham secrets that’s all about up-and-coming artists. And if there’s one spot you absolutely cannot miss, it’s the Alabama Theatre, an intimate old-school space that’s been around since the 1920s and hosts a variety of music acts. No matter what kind of music you’re in the mood for, Birmingham has it!

Root, Root, Root for the Home Team!

Baseball player bunting a baseball. Photo by Instagram user @hstonephoto
Photo via @hstonephoto

Love sports? Take in some baseball history at Birmingham’s Rickwood Field, the oldest baseball stadium in the U.S. For a more modern experience of America’s pastime, catch a game featuring the Birmingham Barons (the Chicago White Sox Double-A affiliate) at Regions Field. Fond of college sports? Get out and cheer on the University of Alabama at Birmingham in a number of Division I NCAA sports, including the locally beloved Blazers football team. You’ll also need to pick a side in the Auburn vs. Alabama football rivalry. Although neither university is located in Birmingham, the city serves at the dividing line between these two fierce foes—so choose your side wisely!

Find Your Favorite Festival

People sitting in a theater watching a movie at the Sidewalk Film Festival. Photo by Instagram user @sidewalkfilm
Photo via @sidewalkfilm

If you enjoy new experiences, Birmingham’s festivals are worth checking out! Head to Sidewalk Film Festival, an annual freelance motion picture celebration that includes speakers, screenings, and parties. Grab dinner from a food truck and listen to some of the best jazz musicians in the country at the Taste of 4th Avenue Jazz Festival. Take in the parade or watch the coronation of the Royalty Pet King and Queen at Do Dah Day, a unique local event that supports homeless animals. Drink up at Magic City Brewfest, a beer lover’s dream come true that features more than 150 different beers from breweries around Alabama. Or view the creations of nearly 200 artists at the Magic City Art Connection. Didn’t see something that fits your festival nature? Find more annual Birmingham festival ideas here!

Experience Birmingham’s Barbecue

Plate of pulled pork and baked beans from Saws BBQ. Photo by Instagram user @saws_bbq
Photo via @saws_bbq

While all cities claim to have the best barbecue, Birmingham definitely has the most unique BBQ—and it’s slathered in a white barbecue sauce. Where should go to get your hands on this smokey treat? Pop into Miss Myra’s Pit Bar-B-Q, a city staple that’ll satisfy all your smoked meat cravings and sweet tooth, especially with the famous Banana Pudding. Called “the best barbecue in America,” you can’t miss a meal from Saw’s BBQ, an upscale spot that’s highly-rated for their smoked chicken. Try another local favorite with Full Moon Bar-B-Que, where the ribs are the go-to—just don’t skimp on the vinaigrette slaw or fresh-baked cookies. Or for a true mom-and-pop BBQ experience, grab a plate of pulled pork or chicken wings at Carlile’s, one of the best restaurants in Birmingham!

Eat at Award-Winning Restaurants

Veal tenderloin on creamed corn from Highlands Bar and Grill. Photo by Instagram user @highlandsbarandgrill
Photo via @highlandsbarandgrill

Looking for the best restaurants in Birmingham? Book at table at Highlands Bar and Grill, a high-end eatery that won the award for best restaurant in America for its French-heavy style and delicious takes on venison and quail. Grab a bite at John’s City Diner in Downtown Birmingham, where you’ll find homestyle favorites like meatloaf, porkchops, and more. Enjoy date night at Giarmarco’s, a sophisticated Italian restaurant with an expansive wine list and some of the best homemade pasta in the city. Enjoy a taste of the Caribbean at Miami Fusion Café, a quaint little spot that happens to be one of the top restaurants for authentic island dishes like Caribbean Jerk Chicken. Or if you’re just in the mood for a sweet treat, visit Big Spoon Creamery, where you’ll find fun ice cream flavors like Lime Yuzu Pie and hearty ice cream sandwiches.

Birmingham’s Beer Is a Big Deal

Wooden box that has samples of beer in it. Photo by Instagram user @avondalebrewing
Photo via @avondalebrewing

Don’t mess with Birmingham’s breweries—the city takes their suds pretty seriously! Stop in for samples, stories, or even live music at Avondale Brewing Company, a brewery inspired by an elephant that supposedly loved to guzzle beer. For a truly local taste, snag a six-pack at Cahaba Brewing Co., where you’ll find a collection of local brews that are made using only ingredients sourced from Alabama farms. Want cool events with your beer? Check out Ghost Train Brewing Company, which offers mainstay and rotating beer selections alongside  events like the Great Alabama Chili Cookoff. Or maybe you’re in the mood for more experimental beers? Visit TrimTab Brewing Company, where you’ll find flavors to suit everyone.

Soak Up the Nightlife

African man jumping around on stage. Photo by Instagram user @joshweichman
Photo via @joshweichman

After a long week, you might be looking for some new spots where you can kick back and relax with a cocktail. Birmingham’s nightlife will happily oblige! Enjoy a handcrafted drink and quirky decor at relaxed hangout The Atomic Bar & Lounge—and don’t be surprised if you see people wearing costumes. Sip on a custom cocktail at The Collins, a bar where you help create your own drink concept. For a high-energy experience, try Zydeco, a bi-level club known for its awesome tribute bands and wild dance floor. For a New Orleans-like feel, visit Birmingham Daiquiris, where you’ll find Bourbon Street decor and nearly 20 flavors of signature daiquiris. Or chill out at Oasis Bar, a true neighborhood dive bar with strong drinks for cheap prices, a small stage for local bands, and plenty of dartboards to share.

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