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Aerial view of tall buildings and trees in Downtown Birmingham

16 Things to Know About Living in Birmingham

Considering a move to Birmingham? One of the best places to live in the U.S., Magic City offers residents a low cost of living, thriving job market, unique dining options, fantastic live music, and more. Here are 16 things to know about living in Birmingham!

Live Affordably in the South

Vertical photo of Birmingham's skyline. Photo by Instagram user @eleanorstenner.

Photo via @eleanorstenner

Moving to Birmingham means you can enjoy inexpensive living. Located in one of the most affordable states in the U.S., Birmingham’s cost of living is 14% lower than the national average. In fact, living in Birmingham is more affordable than in other similarly-sized Alabama cities like Huntsville, Montgomery, or Mobile! There’s also a great real estate market in Birmingham with an average home price of $87,100—nearly half the cost of the national average. Rental prices follow a similar trend, averaging $744. The costs of healthcare, groceries, and transportation in Steel City also fall below the U.S. average, contributing to an overall low cost of living in Birmingham.

Join Birmingham’s Strong Job Market

Photo of Birmingham's skyline. Photo by Instagram user @ericgrayphoto.

Photo via @ericgrayphoto

One of the best things about relocating to Birmingham is the city’s employment opportunities! Birmingham has been recognized among the best cities for jobs in the U.S. and boasts a lower-than-average 2.6% unemployment rate. Though it was known for a while as “The Pittsburgh of the South” for its role in the production of steel and iron, Birmingham’s job market has careers in a variety of sectors, including healthcare, financial services, and more. Looking for major employers in Birmingham? Pursue a job in the medical field at Baptist Health. Hone your trade at Alabama Power, coal leaders Drummond Company Inc., or AMERICAN Cast Iron Pipe Company. Publish houseware magazines like Southern Living, Cooking Light, or Country Living. Seek employment with the City of Birmingham. Or work in finance at the Birmingham headquarters of Regions or BBVA.

Pursue Higher Education in Magic City

Aerial view of a building on the University of Alabama at Birmingham's campus. Photo by Instagram user @exploreuab.

Photo via @exploreuab

Living in Birmingham opens up a lot of opportunities for higher education. Explore the countless degree options in public health, business, and more at the best college in Alabama, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Trying to find a highly-ranked nursing program? Learn in person or online at Herzing University. Pursue an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree at Strayer University. Or if you’re interested in Alabama’s best trade schools, look to Fortis Institute for an HVAC or medical assistant certification. Prepare for a career with fast-track training as an emergency medical technician, physical therapist, or welder at Jefferson State Community College. Or study cosmetology or esthiology at a top-rated beauty school in Birmingham, Aveda Arts and Sciences Institute.

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Home to Civil Rights Movement History

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.

Prepare for Birmingham Weather

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

Photo via @shotsbystevn

If you’re not a fan of snow, consider relocating to Birmingham! The city experiences a lot of precipitation, but its southern location near the Gulf of Mexico make temperatures rarely dip below freezing. During the summer, you’ll want to wear cooler clothes, as Birmingham is known for its heat and humidity. And if you’re moving to Birmingham from a city without tornados, it’s important you learn how to take shelter, as Birmingham is located inside Dixie Alley, a region in the Southern U.S. that’s prone to tornado-producing storms.

Get Outside & Explore

Take advantage of the warm weather in Birmingham with some of the city’s outdoor recreation. Go hiking in Birmingham and learn about the city’s mining history at Ruffner Mountain. Pedal through 16 miles of mountain biking trails or take your pup to Remy’s Dog Park at Red Mountain Park. Pitch a tent, launch your boat, spot native animals in the Alabama Wildlife Center, and more at Oak Mountain State Park. Explore the beautiful outdoors, overlook the city from the Observation Tower, see the world’s largest cast iron statue, or attend annual celebrations like the Thunder on the Mountain fireworks display at Vulcan Park and Museum. Stroll through the Birmingham Botanical Gardens—one of the top free things to do in Birmingham—where you’ll find yoga classes, storytime in the garden, and year-round blooms. Or head to the heart of Birmingham to throw frisbees or walk through nine acres of green space at Railroad Park.

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 appreciate living in Birmingham thanks to the city’s many cultural attractions. Arguably the best museum in The Magic City is the Birmingham Museum of Art, which features everything from modern photography and sculptures to classic paintings and major events like Art On The Rocks. Admire vintage motorcycles and classic roadsters from all over the world at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum—there’s even a racetrack that hosts annual events like the Barber Vintage Festival! Take a self-guided tour at Sloss Furnaces, a National Historic Landmark that lets you peek into The Pittsburgh of the South’s history. Or see more than 6,000 pieces of sports memorabilia and learn about famous athletes like Jesse Owens and Hank Aaron at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.

Find Family Fun in Birmingham

Looking for things to do in Birmingham with kids? Plan a day out at the Birmingham Zoo, home to over 180 species of animals with unique shows like the Sea Lion Chat, Kiwanis Giraffe Encounter, and more! Experience a vibrant LED rainbow light installation in the tunnels of Downtown during Birmingham Lights. Soak up the sun at Alabama Adventure & Splash Adventure. Start a weekly tradition of visiting the Pepper Place Market on Saturday mornings and find your family’s favorite farm-fresh produce. Let your little ones interact with fascinating sea creatures like bamboo sharks, cownose rays, and more at McWane Science Center. Or help your kids burn energy at the climbing center, splash pad, or summer day camps at Hoover Metropolitan Complex.

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 in every genre. Rent out the VIP bar and sing along to local and national acts at Birmingham’s WorkPlay. Catch an underground rock concert at membership-only The Nick. Feeling like a mid-week show? Catch indie music favorites and fun events like Vintage Video Game Night at cozy live music venue Saturn! Enjoy performances from up-and-coming artists at The Firehouse Community Arts Center—one of the best-kept secrets in Birmingham. And if there’s one spot you absolutely cannot miss, it’s the Alabama Theatre, an intimate 1920s space where the Alabama Symphony Orchestra performs.

Let Magic City’s Performing Arts Transport You

While living in Birmingham, you can take part in a thriving performing arts scene! Catch a variety of performances—from Patti LaBelle, to Smokey Robinson, to plays like Winnie the Pooh—at the Alys Stevens Performing Arts Center. Don’t miss high-quality performances of classics like The Nutcracker or Cinderella from the Alabama Ballet. Check out the historic Lyric Theater for live music, themed dance nights, and more! Spend an evening with your family watching The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or Goldilocks and the Three Bears at the Birmingham Children’s Theatre. Sign the kids up to help build their stage skills in Theatre Camps at Red Mountain Theatre. Or strengthen your comedy skills with improv classes at Positively Funny Improv!

Root, Root, Root for the Home Team!

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

Photo via @hstonephoto

Looking for sports in Birmingham? Take in baseball history at Birmingham’s Rickwood Field, the oldest baseball stadium in the U.S. For a more modern experience of America’s favorite pastime, catch a Birmingham Barons game (MiLB) at Regions Field. Stop at Protective Stadium to cheer on the Birmingham Legion FC (USL) or Birmingham Stallions (USFL). See the Birmingham Squadron (NBA) at Legacy Arena. Rally behind the University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers as they run into the end zone. Or pick a side in the Auburn Tigers vs. Alabama Crimson Tide rivalry.

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 exploring! Celebrate your local Greek community with authentic food and performances at the annual Birmingham Greek Festival. Head to an annual freelance motion picture celebration that includes speakers, screenings, and parties at Sidewalk Film Festival. 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. Line up for the parade and catch creative floats and best-dressed pets at Do Dah Day to support homeless animals. Experience live performances and nature-inspired works from over 100 artists at the annual Moss Rock Festival. Or view the creations of nearly 200 artists at the Magic City Art Connection.

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 can you get your hands on this smokey treat? Pop into Miss Myra’s Pit Bar-B-Q, a city staple that’ll satisfy your smoked meat cravings and sweet tooth—especially with the famous Banana Pudding. Order Stuffed Taters, Smoked Pulled Chicken, or BBQ Fries at Saw’s BBQ, an upscale joint called “the best barbecue in America.” Try another local favorite where the ribs are the go-to—just don’t skimp on the vinegar-based slaw or famous Half Moon Cookies at Full Moon Bar-B-Que. Or grab a plate of Pulled Pork, Beef Brisket, or Wings at Carlile’s Barbecue—one of the best BBQ restaurants in Birmingham!

Discover Delectable Dining

A turkey sandwich and a salad are pictured on a plate. Photo by Instagram user @fonfonbham

Photo via @fonfonbham

Looking for the best restaurants in Birmingham? Sample delicious dishes like Coq au Vin, Venison with Sweet Potato Gratin, Lemon Trifle, and an expansive wine list at Chez Fonfon. Grab homestyle favorites like Famous Meatloaf, Bourbon Glazed Pork Chops, and more at John’s City Diner in Downtown Birmingham. Enjoy date night at Gianmarco’s Restaurant—a sophisticated Italian venue with some of the best homemade pasta in the city. Enjoy a taste of the Caribbean with authentic island dishes like Mofongo or Caribbean Jerk Chicken at quaint Miami Fusion Cafe. Or lick up ice cream flavors like Cherry Cheesecake, Lemon Elderflower Sorbet, or Sea Salt Chocolate at Big Spoon Creamery.

Birmingham’s Beer Is a Big Deal

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. Snag a six-pack made of ingredients from Alabama farms at Cahaba Brewing Co. Taste rotating beer selections and stick around for events like Taco Trivia Tuesdays and more at Ghost Train Brewing Company. Make The Grocery Brewpub your one-stop shop for local brews, house cocktails, and wines! Taste why the number one-selling IPA in Alabama is Good People IPA when you order at Good People Brewing Company. Sip signature brews like a Lose Your Way IPA or Imperial Sucker Punch Sour from Birmingham District Brewing Company. Or try more experimental beers like Beach Please or Helix Rising at TrimTab Brewing Company—one of the best breweries in the nation.

Soak Up the Nightlife

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

Photo via @joshweichman

You might be looking for spots to kick back and relax—Birmingham’s nightlife will happily oblige! Watch up-and-coming comics or take comedy classes StarDome Comedy Club, a popular comedy club in Birmingham. Relax and sample house cocktails like Buffalo Bill, Not My First Rodeo, or Fightin’ Words at Carrigan’s Public House. Ditch the cocktail menu and create your own drink concept at The Collins Bar. Snag your pals for a friends night out at Zydeco—a two-level club known for its awesome tribute bands and wild dance floor. Visit New Orleans-inspired Birmingham Daiquiris to find Bourbon Street decor, karaoke, and nearly 20 flavors of signature daiquiris. Or chill out at Oasis Bar, a true neighborhood dive bar with strong, inexpensive drinks, a small stage for local bands, and plenty of dartboards to share.


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Birmingham, AL - 16 Things to Know

About Mike Beutler

Mike Beutler is a writer and digital content specialist who transitioned to self storage in 2020 after several years in the airline industry. His travels cultivated a passion for exploring cities across the U.S. and abroad and inspired him to learn more about practical insights for urban living. With 14 moves under his belt, both locally and cross-country, he also has a passion for minimalism and organization, and sharing tips to help others make any space feel like home while staying organized.