Road Trip Guide - Page 47 - 5 must sees in Birmingham continued

Road Trip Guide
- Page 47
5 must sees in Birmingham continued
became a national monument in 2017. The area on the edge of downtown was the hub of the civil rights campaign of 1963. Police turned high-pressure water hoses and attack dogs on demonstrators that year. For anyone who has seen them, the images are indelible; they are also memorialized in statues of snarling dogs in Kelly Ingram Park, where marchers congregated.

The park sits across the street from the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, a museum that shines a light on the struggles of African-Americans. One exhibit displays the bars of the cell in which the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was held, along with a presentation of his famous “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” written while he was imprisoned there. The institute is sandwiched between the 16th Street Baptist Church, bombed by members of the Ku Klux Klan, and the A.G. Gaston Motel, where King planned the peaceful protests. (The motel is awaiting renovation.)

The National Park Service’s brochure about the national monument notes the key role the city played. As shocking images of the violence in Birmingham spread throughout the country and beyond, “civil rights were elevated from a Southern issue to a pressing national issue,” and ensuing public pressure ensured the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (1-404-277-5217; nps.gov/bicr; the institute, 1-866-328-9696; bcri.org).

2. Vulcan Park and Museum
Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and forge, presides over Birmingham atop Red Mountain. The 50-ton statue represented Alabama at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, touting the city’s industrial might as a major producer of iron and steel. A museum on the grounds explains that natural deposits of iron ore, coal and limestone, essential ingredients in iron, helped Birmingham grow so fast that it garnered the nickname of Magic City. At its hilltop home, visitors can climb the 159 steps inside the Vulcan or take an elevator to the observation platform for a bird’s-eye view of Birmingham _ or a closeup look at the god’s behind (1-205-933-1409; visitvulcan.com).

3. Sloss Furnaces
To see a blast furnace where iron was made for nearly 100 years, stop by Sloss Furnaces. Now a National Historic Landmark, the machinery and industrial buildings, which bear a ruddy patina, are home to an expansive interpretive museum. The landmark also hosts concerts (think Alabama Shakes) and classes such as blacksmithing and iron forging (1-205-324-1911; slossfurnaces.com).

4. Birmingham Museum of Art
There are many reasons to visit the city-owned Birmingham Museum of Art. One of the most compelling is its English Wedgwood; the museum’s collection is the largest outside of Great Britain. Far beyond dinnerware, the pieces include elaborate vases, cameos and a neoclassical mantelpiece in white and light green decorated with a small army of Greek figures and a clock framed by astronomical figures. This quiet gem of a museum _ with free parking and no entrance fee beyond a donation _ also showcases works by Alabama quilters and folk artists (1-205-254-2565; artsbma.org).

5. Railroad Park
This park — a former industrial rail yard turned into a communal green space — embodies Birmingham’s new energy and modern outlook. A bio-filtration pond reflects the sky, streams cut across the grassy fields, a skate park rises in curves. In a thoroughly contemporary touch, repurposed and recycled bricks and other materials uncovered as the park was built now form dividing walls and benches. The whole park is ringed by a pathway, which leads to the ballpark for the minor-league Birmingham Barons and offers views of the downtown skyline beyond the railroad tracks. It makes for a great place to rent and ride one of the city’s bike-share Zyp bikes (railroadpark.org).

Once you start cruising, there are so many places to go.