Friday, May 13, 2011

A Downtown Guide

In town for Secret Stages? Want to know what to do while you’re downtown? Here’s a list of attractions:

Jim Reed Books: The Museum of Fond Memories
2021 3rd Ave N
A visit to this store is an adventure. You don’t notice the time or the outside world, and you are bound to find a handful of items. Jim Reed’s store is stocked with well-priced used books, records, record players, comics, photos, and random memorabilia. You have to go here.

Railroad Park
1600 1st Ave S
An amazing urban greenspace, Railroad Park is the perfect place to take a break. Strolling along the inner path takes you by several water features: a lake, a rain curtain, wetlands, etc and a lot of the walls and seating areas are made of repurposed and recycled items found around the park. It offers a beautiful view of the Birmingham skyline.

What’s on Second
2706 2nd Ave N
Like Reed’s, this store allows you an afternoon of time travel. Three floors of collectibles  are ripe to get lost in and you will be amazed at the odd things you will find. There are a lot of items that pertain directly to Birmingham and Alabama history.

2329 2nd Ave N
Unique gifts, purses, and jewelry. This boutique is like it’s name - Charming.

Alabama Theatre
1817 3rd Ave N
Although this gilded age theater will not have any movies or concerts the weekend of Secret Stages, it is worth it to just stroll by. You can check out the amazing sign, entryway, and the Alabama Walk of Fame.

Urban Standard
2320 2nd Ave N
Good food, good coffee. Really great coffee/cafe atmosphere with lots of windows and fantastically almost-odd decor.

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
520 Sixteenth Street N
A chronicle of civil rights in Birmingham and around the South.

Eddie Kendrick Monument
4th Ave N, between Seventeenth and Eighteenth Street
A wild monument to the Temptations’ Eddie Kendrick - this statue of the R&B group looks as if it is moving. Kendrick and the dancing back up singers seem to be liquid. It is located in a small park and is usually pretty empty. I absolutely love this piece of Birmingham.

Carver Theater
1631 4th Ave N
Housing the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, the Carver Theatre sits in the middle of the 4th Avenue District and hosts concerts and comedy on their stage. Check out Green Acres restaurant next door.

Trattoria Centrale (sign says ZaZa)
207 A Twentieth Street N
My favorite restaurant in Birmingham. Small, intimate, and amazing. This cafe features local coffee, fantastic pizza and pastas, and their scones are absolutely incredible. The staff and owners are really, really nice. Definitely hit them up for brunch and eat the french toast.

Sojourns Fair Trade
2017 3rd Ave N
A fair trade store full of fantastic gifts, Sojourns is colorful and soothing. Handmade items are really worth the price tag and all the money goes to people who need it.

Sloss Furnaces
20 32nd Street N
Go take a self-guided tour. A,n ironmaking plant where concerts, festivals, and educational and outreach programs take place. It also has open studios, workshops and classes on metal arts. Oh, and I’ve heard it's crazy haunted.

Peanut Depot
2016 Morris Ave
In operation for over 100 years, this historic establishment still honors the old fashioned peanut roasting methods. Flavors available are: fresh roasted, salted, cajun, and raw.

Birmingham Museum of Art
2000 Rev. Abraham Woods. Jr. Blvd
This museum is really wonderful. One of the greatest afternoons I’ve ever spent in Birmingham was walking around looking at renaissance iconic paintings. I love how it seems like a small museum but it goes on forever. You can also have a bite at Oscar’s, the restaurant inside. 

Cafe Dupont
113 Twentieth Street N
This restaurant is pricey but absolutely worth it. They are part of the slow food movement. The atmosphere is really warm and inviting. Fantastic okra and oyster appetizer.

Cool Places to Stay the Night

Redmont Hotel
2101 5th Ave N

Tutwiler Hotel
2021 Park Place

Note: I did not list the bars and galleries that are hosting bands, as they are already mentioned on the Secret Stages site. These areas are all wonderful and you should visit them as well. (Easy Street, German Club, M-Lounge, Matthews Bar & Grill, Metro Bar, Pale Eddie’s Pourhouse, Rogue Tavern, Steel, & the Wine Loft.)

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