Just a little over two hours due west from Atlanta, the city of Birmingham, AL makes for the perfect weekend getaway spot. The former industrial hub was nicknamed The Magic City for the abundance of limestone, coal, and iron ore, but these days it has become a favorite destination thanks to its museums, outdoor spaces, and breweries.

Get your motor – and history – running

Barber Motorsports Park and Museum.

Opened in 1995, the Barber Motorsports Park & Museum (barbermuseum.org) has the largest collection of motorcycles in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Founded by famed Porsche race car driver George Barber, the museum boasts more than 1,400 motorcycles in its collection (from Harley and Honda to Indian and Cagiva) with more than 600 usually on rotating display. If you’re a race car fan, you’ll also find some sweet rides to gawk at too. If you really want to get your motor running, you can also take a day-long course that ends with driving a Porsche at the park’s 16-turn professional racetrack.

Need more speed? The Southern Museum of Flight (southernmuseumofflight.org) has 90 civilian, military, and experimental aircraft on exhibition, along with artifacts, engines, memorabilia, models, and more. Exhibits include the Korean War Jets, Tuskegee Airmen, and Vietnam War Helicopters. The museum is also the home of the Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame.

Birmingham Museum of Art.

For something a bit statelier, the Birmingham Museum of Art (artsbma.org) has a permanent collection of more than 25,000 objects covering a range of cultures, including American, European, African, Native American, Pre-Columbian, and one of the best Asian art collections in the Southeast. Currently on show through July is contemporary artist Rico Gatson’s lobby installation “Wall to Wall” and through May is Majari Sharman’s rumination on Hindu deities, “Expanding Darshan.”

Another must-see is the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (bcri.org) featuring archives, galleries, and temporary exhibits. You can take a self-guided tour of the permanent exhibit, which includes a journey from the 50s and 60s Civil Rights Movement to contemporary human rights issues.

Music lovers will appreciate the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame (jazzhall.com), with exhibitions of instruments, paintings, and memorabilia. It’s located inside the historic Carver Theatre, which just underwent a $4 million restoration to host jazz concerts and other programming. 

Outdoor adventures

The statue in Vulcan Park.

Vulcan Park (visitvulcan.com) is home to Birmingham’s iconic 56-foot-tall iron statue of the Roman god of fire, which sits atop Red Mountain overlooking downtown. The view alone is worth the trek. The giant statue of Vulcan, the largest cast iron statue in the world, was designed by Italian sculptor Giuseppe Moretti in 1903 using local iron as the city’s entry into the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. It was moved to its permanent home in the park in 1936. The park surrounding it is perfect for a picnic or to watch the 4th of July fireworks. There’s also a small museum that hosts exhibits and other events.

Beyond the Vulcan sculpture, the 1,500-acre Red Mountain Park (redmountainpark.org) has 14 miles of trails for biking and hiking, an off-leash dog park, historic iron mines, zip lines, and much more.

Railroad Park (railroadpark.org) is a downtown greenspace known for hosting city events and gatherings. Located near the convergence of the city’s two railroad lines, the park is full of paths, flowers, and a lake.

Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve (ruffnermountain.org), located on former iron ore mines, is named after noted geologist William Henry Ruffner, who surveyed the area in 1883 and discovered the iron deposits. Today, there are 12 miles of hiking trails and the Treetop Visitor’s Center and Education Pavilion to learn about the flora and fauna of the preserve. 

Drink up! 

Birmingham has become well-known for its local breweries with more than a dozen operating around the city. Be sure to include one – or more – in your weekend itinerary. 

Avondale Brewing.

Located in a historic building in downtown, Avondale Brewing Company (avondalebrewing.com) offers tours and pours in its taproom. Be sure to taste Miss Fancy’s Tripel, a strong Belgian golden ale; the Spring Street Saison, a Belgian-style farmhouse ale; or the tangerine-infused Brunch Punch Shandy.

Good People Brewing Company (goodpeoplebrewing.com) invites visitors to bring their own food to the taproom as they sample its seasonal brews like the Peanut Butter Chocolate Coffee Milk Stout, Pina Colada Lager, Hitchhiker IPA, and more.

Trimtab Brewing (trimtabbrewing.com) regularly offers live music in its taproom and tours of the facility, which concocts expressive IPAs, experimental stouts, and fruited sours. While the season menu changes regularly, be sure to try a “core” brew like the 205 Pale Ale or Trimtab Lager.

Back Forty Beer Company (backfortybeer.com) offers a variety of American and European craft beer styles, with more than 50 different beers introduced annually and as many as 25 different options on tap at any given time. This brewery is also known for its kitchen, which serves up cheeseburgers, pizza, and salads.  

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.