Tiny Kingdom Exclusive,  Wanderlust: Travel Tales

Help A Tourist Out

I need all present and former Birmingham natives to pay special attention to this post, for we are called upon to help a visitor from the North make the most of her stay in The Magic City in April.  Here’s what Mindy told me:

I have been reading your blog for a couple of years now and love your writing. You are always humorous and entertaining and real. My husband has to go to Birmingham on business in April and I am thinking about tagging along. If you have a minute, can you send me any thoughts on hotels, restaurants, things to see and do? I will be on my own during the day and will need to stay in an area where I can see the sights, shop, etc. on foot.

I asked Mindy for more details, because if there’s one thing Birmingham is lacking (besides snow), it’s public transportation. I also wanted to know more about her interests.

My husband will be going to meetings all over the city, and he will have a vehicle so I was hoping to find an area to stay in where I could get around on foot. We will be staying on for a couple of days after he is done, so can hit any sights that require a car then. We have four kids under 8, so this is an escape for me. Weather permitting, I could happily park myself in a lounge chair by a hotel pool with a gin and tonic and a good book, but also interested in good food, good wine and some shopping but not the malls, necessarily. Also a history buff – noticed both the Birmingham Museum of Art and the Civil Rights Institute on the city website.

Fellow citizens: let us help Mindy plan a perfect trip to Birmingham.  Because she’s escaping from all those children, she needs a day to sit by the pool and relax.  Where should she stay?  What sights should she see?  What areas of town are a must?  What food would you recommend?  Will she die if she doesn’t visit a meat and three for lunch and sample grits for breakfast?  And most importantly, how should she travel to all these places?  Do you have a special place that would impress a visitor from Canada?

To leave a comment, look at the small print beneath the post where it says “_ comments.”  Click that and a box will pop up for you to add your two cents.


Four years ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Merry Christmas: Let Me Bum You Out


  • Elizabeth

    I moved from Birmingham 4 years ago after living there for 10 years. I miss it so much, but I LOVE to help people out who are going to visit! First off, it might be worth the extra $$ to rent a car for herself and the kids. It’s true about 0 public transportation. I would recommend staying at Ross Bridge, but there’s nothing within walking distance from there. I haven’t stayed at The Tutweiller (sp?) since it has been remodeled. It is downtown, but that seems like it might be a long walk for small kids to the Civil Rights Institute and the Art Museum. The Mariott Courtyard on Lakeshore is kind of centrally located to several fun areas – we stayed there last year and it has been remodeled and was nice. As for other kid friendly things to do I would recommend the zoo – young kids love it as well as The McWane Center. Vulcan is also a neat experience with great views of the city. Restaurant recommendations are Bottega (southside – cafe side can be kid-friendly if you go early), Cafe Dupont(downtown – probably not as kid-friendly), Surin of Thailand (Southside and Crestline – kid friendly), Davenports Pizza (Mtn. Brook aka The Tiny Kindgom – VERY kid-friendly – shopping in this area is fun). I could go on, but I know others will have great suggestions, too. Enjoy – it’s a great city – I didn’t realize how much I loved living there until we moved to FL!

  • Brittiny

    I would stay at the Tutwiler. The museum is just down the street, and it would be a quick cab ride to the Civil Rights Institute, Vulcan, and boutique shopping in Homewood/Mountain Brook Village. As for restaurants, everyone loves a Frank Stitt classic: Chez FonFon and/or Bottega Cafe. The weather should be perfect for the fabulous patios at both places. Hot and Hot or Ocean would be a great places to go for dinner with the husband.

  • Terry

    Stay at the Hampton Inn on 280 in Mt. Brook. She can walk out the back and down the hill to Mt.Brook Village and the zoo and Botanical Gardens. Can eat at DanielGeorge, Gilchrist, and Olexa’s. Can even walk up a huge hill to English Village and catch those shops and restaurants. Needs to rent a car for downtown stuff or anthing else.

  • Lori

    Stay at Ross Bridge!! It’s beautiful and has a fantastic pool and lots of resort ammenities!

    Eat at 26 in 5 points one evening too.

  • Emma

    I am a Birmingham transplant and really love this city. I would stay at the Tutweiler Hotel or the Redmont Hotel downtown, although I confess I’ve never stayed at either. I just like older, remodeled hotels.

    Places to eat: Bettola (fabulous pizza and pasta cooked in an imported oven from Italy), Cantina (next door for cheap but very good Mexican food). Both are located at Pepper Place which is near downtown. Other food favorites: Highlands (expensive, need reservation, but extremely good and romantic); Chez Fon Fon (French, much cheaper than Highlands and owned by the same person); Taj India for good Indian food, also near downtown; Little Savannah, also pricey, but great food, cozy and near downtown; Jinsei is nice, but great Japanese food and is in SoHo. Check out http://www.bhamdining.com/ for more options. Also, if you want to have casual pizza that is good and eat outside, Dave’s Pizza is a good option and is also in SoHo.

    Shopping: if you don’t want to go to the malls, I recommend Mountain Brook Village, Crestline Village, English Village, and SoHo in Homewood. The first three are in Mountain Brook and have various clothing, furniture and antique options. SoHo is a new development in Homewood that is also within walking distance (a block) of other great shopping. Around SoHo you will find clothing shopping, furniture and antique shopping as well. All of these places have good options for lunch or dinner.

    Mountain Brook and Homewood are also inner ring suburbs of Birmingham and are a short drive from downtown (10-15 minutes tops). You will probably want to rent a second car, unless you can drop your husband off at his meetings.

    Vulcan, the Civil Rights Museum and the Art Museum are all good places to visit as well. Our art museum cannot compete with the bigger cities in America as it relates to famous art, but it is still a good museum. If the weather is nice, you could take a walk in the Botanical Gardens (minutes from English and Mtn Brook Villages).

    Just google these names and you will find websites for most of these places. I hope you have a great time!

  • Kathy

    I think she’ll need a car. Yes, Ross Bridge would be nice. A friend of mine from FL came up with her hubby last year on business and stayed at the newer Marriott on 280. She was close to the Summit and other things that way. She said their pool was nice. Also, the Winfrey would be good if she liked to shop and would keep her from needing a car too much during the day. She’ll need to be close to southside, though, for better food. They need to be sure to get some Alabama BBQ while they are here. And for that, I’d recommend Moe’s BBQ on Rocky Ridge. Mmm.

  • Mindy

    Thanks so much for doing this Anne – I am really looking forward to seeing everyone’s ideas. I will not have my kids with me – yippee – so definitely focused on the adult friendly activities! Thanks again, Mindy

  • Sam

    The Tut is a great place to stay and is pretty close to a number of amenities like the Birmingham Library, Civil Rights Inst., McWane, and real live homeless people in Linn Park.

    I hear that the Tut has good food since it renovated, but most of the good restaurants are in Crestline or Southside. In that light, they might want to stay in the renovated Pickwick Hotel. It has a new name. There they can enjoy some of Birmingham’s best food options. Boy I love food!

    If they stay at one of these hubs, the is supposedly good public transportation. However, when the gas prices were up last year I wanted to ride the bus, but the BJCTA couldn’t even explain to me how to get from point A to point B. Argh.

    The Vulcan is nice with a great view of the city and Sloss would be pretty cool too. If they are looking for something fun to do in the evenings try Sips N Strokes. There are a few Birmingham locations. I did it for the first time last weekend with my wife and had a blast! The kids might be too young though.

    If the weather is nice, there are super walking trails through out B’ham. Jemison Park is one located on Mtn. Brook Parkway, and the Ruffner Mountain trails are awesome.

    Sam’s last blog post..Super Hottt Wife

  • graylady

    For a day without the kids, I would recommend a stay at Ross Bridge with a full day reserved for the spa, then lunch and an afternoon poolside. Another day, I would fill with shopping in the village and a stroll at the Botanical Gardens.

  • Rachel

    I would definitely recommend Ross Bridge. My husband and I get away for a weekend there every year. It is far away from anything though. The spa and pool are very nice.

    Vulcan is nice, as well as The McWane Center and The Botanical Gardens. Shopping in SoHo is great.

    I would recommend Surin in SouthSide one night for dinner. She will definitely need to get some Alabama BBQ at Jim N Nick’s or Full Moon. We also love the Superior Grill for some great Mexican Food!

    Rachel’s last blog post..A Jack Handy Moment…

  • Lisa Burnette

    I’m glad someone else mentioned the Bham Public Library. I LOVED visiting it when I was growing up. I also recommend the Botanical Gardens and Museum of Art. I haven’t been to the Civil Rights Museum yet (I moved away 15 years ago), but would definitely put it on my list, as well. My favorite restaurant is Silvertron Cafe.

  • Casey Magnolia

    I would definitely reccomend the Tutwiler, the Vulcan, Botanical Gardens, the McWane Center, and Bongiorno Italian Restaurant in Crestline…of course, that has nothing to do with the fact that my in-laws own it and all to do with the fact that the food is good! 🙂

  • Melinda

    I recommend staying at the Winfrey or at one of the newer hotels on 280 by the Summit. Renting a vehicle is a must. But staying at one of these locations puts her within 5 miles of everything she wants to see. The Birmingham Botanical Gardens should be beautiful at that time of year. Or the Birmingham Museum of Art, which is fabulous. Do the Birmingham Barons play that time of year?

    Shopping at Summit or Galleria, Mtn. Brook Village or down the 280 corridor. For a nice dinner out, I recommend Flemings Steakhouse at the Summit or Shula’s at the Winfrey, or Dreamland Barbeque downtown, or Jim & Nicks Barbeque on 280 or at the Galleria, The Fish Market restaurant is best for seafood. Vulcan Park is also quite nice.

    Ross Bridge is nice, but it would require quite a drive for most things.

    Melinda’s last blog post..Finished at last!

  • Brandy Poole

    Ross Bridge has a shuttle service to ferry people to various shopping centers and attractions. Ask the concierge

    You must have lemon pie from Johnny Ray’s, and if you can secure a reservation, go to Highland Bar and Grille. Pricey, but worth the splurge.

    The Wedgewood Collection at the museum is gorgeous, and the main branch of the library has some really neat photography collections taken by local photogs. The Civil Rights Institute is a must.

    Brandy Poole’s last blog post..School days, dear old golden rule days

  • Sara

    I’d recommend an evening (or just dessert) at the J. Clyde on Cobb Lane. The biscotti s’mores are SO good. And although the service has always been a little iffy, all of their food (gourmet Southern) is excellent.

  • Karin

    Either hire a driver or rent a car to get around no matter where you will be staying. Birmingham is a beautiful city in April. Unfortunately, Birmingham does not have its own culinary tradition, so most of the restaurants are borrowed in tradition. Highland Bar and Grill is great but expensive. Bottega serves Italian food. The Fish Market restaurant on the 21st (Richard Arrington BLVD) is a wonderful Greek style place but it does serve Southern style seafood. Golden Rule is the best barbecue place and there is one now in Crestline Village (in MTBrook) that I think is absolutely the best. The Birmingham Museum of Art is the largest in the Southeast (I think) and the gift shop there has many unique and original pieces of art and jewelry from Alabama for sale, including T-shirts and local cookbooks.

  • andrea

    Hey, if you want to go out while you’re here, you need to see what’s happening at the Alys Stevens Center, at Workplay, or at someplace like Speakeasy’s. The Garage is awesome for a sandwich lunch, with its crazy garden full of antiques. The Birmingham Weekly and Black&White have calendars every week of things going on around the area: http://www.bhamweekly.com/index.php, and http://www.bwcitypaper.com/

    And as for the art museum, who said it can’t compete with museums in bigger cities? I beg to differ. I went to the Chicago Art Institute a few weeks ago, and it was all the same stuff! Same artists, same pottery, same everything. I laughed and said next time, I’ll just stay home.

    Also, in April, the neighborhood festivals start up–it’ll be too early for Doo Dah Day, and you missed the Chili Cook-Off in Homewood, but again, read the weekly magazines for suggestions.

    And definitely go to Highlands. AMAZING.

  • andrea

    Oh! And you should check out Forest Park for Naked Art, Zoe’s, and Little Savannah. AND during April 24-26, the Magic City Art Connection will be happening down in Linn Park (https://www.magiccityart.com/index.html)–it has lots of artists from around the country, as well as the Corks and Chefs local food/restaurant sampling.

  • Charro

    Wouldn’t it be fun to organize a native to be a hostess for a day or a half day ? If we knew the exact dates, maybe that would be something that we could do.What does anyone think of that idea?

  • Bhamdining

    Emma, thanks so much for mentioning my web site! If she’s looking for a high-end meal, I’d say Highlands is a must because of the way they blend traditional Southern foods with French cooking techniques. It was the first place I learned to like grits! Also it’s an excellent place for wine.

    At the other end of the scale, she might want to check out one of downtown’s iconic hot dog joints, either Gus’ or Pete’s Famous.

    A couple of places we like to go that aren’t exactly tourist destinations but definitely have their own charm are Charlemagne records in Five Points and Reed Books & Museum of Fond Memories (http://jimreedbooks.com/)

    Bhamdining’s last blog post..Restaurant Row at the Colonnade

  • red_queen

    If you go for a meat and three. be sure it is at Cedar House out Highway 79 toward Tarrant – the Tallapoosa Street exit off I-59/20. Excellent food!

    If you are here on April 22, be sure to watch and visit at Aunie Litter’s Earth Day event. Kelly Ingram park just in front of the Civil Rights Museum.

    Might be fun to meet Mindy for lunch oe day while she is here. All the followers of The Tiny Kingdom that actually live here.

  • Tiffany

    If she wants pool and relaxation then Ross Bridge for sure, especially if they have a shuttle service as someone mentioned above, but its so far out that its almost not like even being in Birmingham. I was also going to suggest the Hampton Inn on 280 because of the ability to walk to Mt. Brook village. Its also convenient by car to all the best shopping imo: Homewood, Summit, English Village, Crestline. I think Southside is shady now and wouldn’t recommend it at all except a trip to Highlands for dinner, which is a must. April is a busy month and there might be an either the Mt. Brook art show or the Magic City Art connection going on. Lastly, isn’t the new new boutique hotel in Homewood opening in April? That might be worth checking in to.

    Tiffany’s last blog post..Coldplay

  • nicole

    i am from DC, moved to bham and lived there 3 years. i miss it terribly!! i would moved back in a heartbeat if i could. my favorites and the things i miss:
    -hot and hot for a fancy dinner. other mentioned highlands, but i prefer hot and hot
    -homewood gourmet for lunch while shopping in quaint homewood. must get a baby blue salad. it is delicious, healthy and so bham!
    -i’d stay at ross bridge and as others recommended rent a car. there are great things to see in bham but unfortunately they are in all difft spots. ross bridge will give you the “sit by the pool and have a drink” feel
    -if you want a mall to shop, go to the summit rather than the galleria

  • Kelly

    I don’t live in B’ham so I’m probly not qualified for this, but my son does, so I’m giving it a shot. I can’t think of ANYWHERE you can stay and get a lot covered without a car. The Summit would be great as far as shopping, but is there a hotel there, that’s not across 280? The Tutweiler downtown is awesome, my daughter stayed there when they played UAB in basketball but I don’t think I would try walking to the Civil Rights museum – And I agree with all those above – staying in the Tiny Kingdom would put her close to the botanical gardens and zoo, and I’ll bet the BGardens are gorgeous with all this warm weather we’ve been having. Too bad the Mt. Brook Inn is closed, huh?

  • Jerri Ann

    This is kind of funny to me because living here all my life, the last thing I can think of is “why would anyone want to come here and visit?”

    But, alas, after reading the other comments, I agree that there are some noteworthy places to visit.

    I know that Mindy mentioned that shopping in a mall wasn’t necessarily what she had in mind, however, if she stayed at the Winfrey, she is connected to the mall, she can walk across the street in 3 directions and get to almost any kind of store or food establishment and I mean Jim ‘n Nicks, Costco, Michaels, shoes stores, convenience stores, Johnny Rockets, Best Buy, Walmart, Sams club, and Barnes and Nobles along with any other kind of small boutique store all the way up to the big Costco and Sams type stores.

    Stix is right there along with almost any kind of restaurant imaginable. And, these are all walking distance – if you are a good walker. I’m not a very good walker and I would even attempt all of these places.

    Also, I thought this idea was awesome as well,
    Wouldn’t it be fun to organize a native to be a hostess for a day or a half day ? If we knew the exact dates, maybe that would be something that we could do.What does anyone think of that idea?

    Jerri Ann’s last blog post..Media Criticism

  • Sandie

    After reading all the great stuff to do, I want to come to Birmingham! It’s in Alabama, right?! 🙂

  • Mindy

    Thanks so much everyone! I have to admit when my hubbby first mentioned B’ham, I thought, why? I knew nothing of your fair city. But after your great responses, I am definitely looking forward to a visit. Unfortunately, the combination of business and babysitters means it won’t be in April, but hubby visits a few times a year – I will definitely be joining him soon. I would love to meet some of you, so will leave a comment with Anne when the time comes. Thanks again everyone. Mindy

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