Blake Walsh

17 Best Things to Do in Jefferson County, AL

  • Published 2023/05/20

Jefferson County is one of the biggest counties in Alabama, covering a lot of cities, townships, and unincorporated communities.

The county seat of Jefferson County is Birmingham, where I saw many of the best attractions Alabama has to offer.

Because it’s a huge county, my experience here is varied, making this a great destination for all kinds of travelers.

You’ll find all sorts of museums here, nature parks, along with unique attractions like historic iron furnaces and mines.

To give you a glimpse of what it has to offer, here are my favorite things to do in Jefferson County, Alabama.

Visit the Birmingham Zoo

Aerial view of Birmingham Zoo

Felix Mizioznikov /

Whether you’re here as a family or as a couple, Birmingham Zoo is one of the best destinations in the county.

Found in the city of Birmingham, this zoo is one of the biggest in the country, so it’s a surefire way to see a lot of wildlife all at once.

I saw tons of huge mammals here, from rhinos, elephants, to big cats like tigers and lions.

A gorilla at Birmingham Zoo

Dane Jorgensen /

Birmingham Zoo has lots of other attractions, so one of the best ways to experience it is through its cute train rides that go all over the place.

Brimming with adventure and fun, put this atop your list when planning a visit to Jefferson County.

An elephant at Birmingham Zoo

Wayne Hsieh78 /

Explore Red Mountain Park

Couple walking along Red Mountain Park

Bob Pool /

Red Mountain Park is an underrated attraction in Jefferson County, found in Birmingham City as well.

The nature here is beautiful to see, but Red Mountain Park also has a lot of other things in store for you that warrants exploration.

There is a historic mine here that’s brimming with history, along with playgrounds that feature ziplines for the little ones.

There’s also a cool treehouse here that’s a must-see.

Of all these things, my favorite attraction here are simply the biking trails that let you wander throughout the gorgeous areas it has to offer.

Take a Stroll Along Cosby Lake Park

Cosby Lake Park is a great nature area in Jefferson County, located in the city of Clay.

The park is home to a beautiful lake with sprawling nature trails that’s most gorgeous during spring and fall season.

It’s a great place to take walks, but you can also do picnics here at Cosby Lake Park.

There’s also a couple of small waterfalls here, accentuating the serenity of the place.

This was my favorite place for relaxation in Jefferson County, so consider adding it to diversify your itinerary.

See the Motorcycles at Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum

Exterior of Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum is a haven for motorcycle enthusiasts, easily being one of the best museums dedicated to this in the country.

A multi-level museum in Leeds, I was in awe with the sheer number of motorcycles found here that go as far back as centuries ago.

Because it’s home to so many vintage motorcycles, this is a great place to take lots of memorable photos while doing extensive learning about automobile history.

Interior of Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum

Brett Welcher /

Beyond the big bikes, Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum also has a couple of beautiful vintage cars here, many of which belong to Porsche.

In my opinion, this is one of the most exciting attractions in Jefferson County, so go give it a shot!

A display in Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum

Brett Welcher /

Go Trekking at Turkey Creek Nature Preserve

Flowers along Turkey Creek Nature Preserve

Eric in SF, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you want a more exciting and adrenaline-pumping adventure, Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is something I highly recommend.

Unlike the more quaint Cosby Lake Park, Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is brimming with outdoor adventure because of its varied terrains.

There are several waterfalls here that are much stronger and bigger, and the preserve is teeming with all sorts of plants and flowers.

You’ll also find the occasional critters here, and a lot of fish as well if you want to try angling.

Found in the city of Pinson, Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is a great place to explore if you love the outdoors—take my word for it!

Have a Blast at Trussville Playstation

Trussville Playstation is one of the best amusement centers in Jefferson County; you can find this place at Trussville City.

The amusement center has all the classics you’d want: laser tag, go kart rides, roller skating, and the arcades.

When I visited here, one thing that caught my attention immediately is the nice atmosphere it has.

It’s lively but not overcrowded, and Trussville Playstation does a great job at keeping things organized but fun for everyone.

The place is also clean and there’s great music being played that’ll really pump up your adrenaline levels.

Visit the Birmingham Museum of Art

Exterior of Birmingham Museum of Art

Tim Daugherty /

Another great attraction in Birmingham is the Birmingham Museum of Art.

This is a huge art museum with a wide range of art pieces, focusing on various styles and techniques as well as mediums.

Lots of artifacts like pottery works are found here as well, giving it a lot of focus to history and anthropology.

The museum also has a sculpture garden here which was a nice surprise when I went there.

Apart from these, Birmingham Museum of Art is also free, making it one of the best attractions to visit if you’re on a budget.

Immerse in Science at McWane Science Center

Exterior of McWane Science Center

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

McWane Science Center is one of the most family-friendly indoor destinations in Jefferson County, found in Birmingham.

Both grown ups and kids will enjoy this, there were even a lot of couples who visited when I went there.

A big reason why it accommodates people of all ages is because of its interactive exhibits—no matter your age, you’ll have a lot of fun rekindling the child in you here.

Dinosaur skeleton in McWane Science Center

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

It also has a lot of exhibits, some of the most prominent ones being about dinosaurs and prehistoric fossils.

McWane Science Center was a lot of fun and should surely be considered as a priority when making any itinerary in Jefferson County.

Interior of McWane Science Center

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

Go Fishing at East Lake Park

East Lake Park is an underrated spot for relaxation and recreation in Birmingham.

It’s a popular fishing spot because of its scenic boardwalk and pier that lets you catch fish while also taking in the gorgeous views.

If you’re fortunate, there are occasional events here by the community as well.

Even if you’re not into fishing, East Lake Park is a serene place for simply walking around.

It’s close to a lot of attractions in Birmingham, so I find it a great stopover when you want to wind down and end the day.

Tour the Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark

Daytime view of Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark

NatalieSchorr /

Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark is one of the most unique things you can do in Jefferson County, located in Birmingham.

I was amazed by the sheer aesthetic of this place, as it was formerly a blast furnace plant that operated during the late 1800s to early 1900s, making iron for the U.S.

Today, you can tour the plant on your own, as they encourage self-guided tours throughout its huge facility.

Building sign of Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

There’s also a story that Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark is haunted, a great bonus for thrill-seekers.

A visitor center is also found here, so go pay it a visit for more information.

A pathway at Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark

Jean Prado R75 /

Hike Vulcan Park and Museum

A statue at Vulcan Park and Museum

RYO Alexandre /

Because Birmingham and Alabama have a rich heritage in the iron and ore industry, it’s no surprise that they have a city symbol in Vulcan Park and Museum to represent this.

Housing the largest cast iron statue in the world, Vulcan Park and Museum is an outdoor adventure that you hike to reach the top.

You’ll get sweeping views of Birmingham when you reach the Vulcan Statue, resting at the highest peak of the park.

If the hike seems daunting for you, there’s good news: an elevator service is also available for a fee.

The museum is cool too—I learned a lot about steel-making and its history dating back to the 19th Century.

Take a Walk at Aldridge Gardens

Located in Hoover City, Aldridge Gardens is another quaint place to take a walk in Jefferson County.

It’s famous for its scenic mini lake that acts as the centerpiece of the garden, giving it a serene atmosphere perfect for dates.

One thing I liked about Aldridge Gardens is that it has several artworks scattered throughout as well.

Plant lovers will be ecstatic to see the variety of species here, with hydrangeas being some of the most common based on what I saw.

One of the most scenic places in the county, add this tranquil destination to ease up your busy schedule.

Exercise at Railroad Park Foundation

Skyline views from Railroad Park Foundation

Jrbawden, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Railroad Park Foundation is one of the primary city parks in Jefferson County, located in Birmingham as well.

There’s a lot to do in this sizable park, but it’s the trails that I find the most appealing.

Whether on two wheels or on foot, the sprawling greenery here incentivized me to tour the area for a couple of hours.

The scenery and overall aesthetics of Railroad Park Foundation are also gorgeous—there are ponds, nature trails, and historic railroad tracks found within it.

You’ll find a nice museum near it as well, along with a sports field and a ballpark.

Hike at Ruffner Mountain

A hiker admiring the view from Ruffner Mountain

JNix /

Ruffner Mountain is a popular hiking destination in Birmingham, known for its trails and historical landmarks.

One of the best things that I saw here are the quarries and old mining sites that truly give life to this beautiful mountain.

There’s an austere charm to Ruffner Mountain as well, as the place features overgrown vegetation that has taken over many of its man-made remnants.

Nature trail at Ruffner Mountain

TugBoatSim2019 /

Once you reach the peak, you’ll be awarded with sweeping views of Birmingham and other nearby cities as well.

Great for small groups or for couples, I highly recommend seeing this gem in the city.

Trail signs at Ruffner Mountain

JNix /

Play with Friends at Paintball is Good

Located in the community of McCalla, Paintball is Good is a go-to place for playing paintball with friends or relatives.

Paintball is Good utilizes the sprawling wilderness that’s abundant in Jefferson County, making the experience authentic and fun.

This is best for large groups, as you can really feel like you’re out waging war with another army.

It’s also a common place for birthday parties or other group events, which is how I ended up experiencing the facility.

One of the hidden gems in Jefferson County, this is a great way to spice up your adventure.

Learn History at Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

Exterior of Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is yet another awesome museum in the heart of Birmingham.

Focusing on the events during the Civil Rights Movement, you’ll learn many things about U.S. slavery, segregation, and all the inequalities that haunted the U.S. for centuries.

As a lover of political history, the exhibits here were thought-provoking and emotional; it’s one of those museums that leave a lasting impression on you.

Building sign of Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

Monica Carvajal Salmeron /

With tons of artworks and real artifacts, I felt like I was being transported back in those tumultuous days in the U.S.

This was a big highlight during my stay, so be sure to consider prioritizing the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in your itinerary.

Interior of Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

Brett Welcher /

Wander Around Avondale Park

A pond at Avondale Park

Lahti213, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Avondale Park is another mainstream open space in Birmingham, known for recreational activities.

Right within the urban heart of the city, this is a great place to just take a breather as there are plenty of ponds and ducks that give it a tranquil vibe.

Avondale Park also houses the Birmingham Public Library, and there’s a cool amphitheater here that’s famous for events.

Lots of walking trails are also found here, giving you access to the creeks that flow within the park.

This was a great stopover during my stay, especially with all the hustle and bustle of Birmingham.

Final Thoughts

Jefferson County is a place packed with a lot of things to do, it’s one of the best counties in Alabama for me tourism-wise.

I appreciated a lot of unique attractions here, with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum being my favorites.

It’s also a haven for outdoor adventure, represented by destinations like Ruffner Mountain and the Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark.

So, if you’re looking to visit this part of the country, consider revising my list of the best things to do in Jefferson County, Alabama.

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