Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Birmingham, AL

  • Published 2022/11/22

Nestled right on the Jones Valley in the heart of the state of Alabama is the city of Birmingham.

Not to be confused with one of the biggest cities in the United Kingdom, Birmingham, Alabama, has the highest population in the state and is the seat of Jefferson County.

Established in 1871, Birmingham was famous for its crucial role in the steel and iron industry, which is why it is nicknamed “Magic City.”

The city of Birmingham is also where Veterans Day originated; it hosts the country’s grandest and oldest Veterans Day celebration regularly.

This city also played a crucial role in the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, especially during the 1960s.

Birmingham attracts many visitors with its rich history and abundance of outdoor areas and being a leader in green spaces within the nation.

If you want to explore Birmingham without breaking the bank, get ready!

Here are the free things to do in Birmingham, Alabama.

Enter Paradise at Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Aerial view of Birmingham Botanical Garden's pond

Winslow Liggett /

Enjoy beautiful flowering plants and luscious greeneries as you explore Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

This beautiful urban oasis on Lane Park Road features at least 67 acres of land filled with gardens and varying terrain that houses diverse trees and plants.

At Birmingham Botanical Gardens, you’re free to explore the gorgeous natural surroundings and learn how to care for plants and nature.

Roam the garden spaces and see all the blooming flowers and luscious foliage.

Large lily pads at Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Bonita R. Cheshier /

You can also join workshops and learning programs to learn more about nurturing plants and other horticultural practices.

Bring your cameras because you’ll want to take many pictures of the scenic views of the gardens here as well.

The best part about all this is that you can step into the beautiful exhibits here for free!

Come along with your whole family and enjoy your time amid the beauty of nature.

Tulips at Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Phillip Foster /

Break a Sweat around Railroad Park

The grounds of Railroad Park

Paul Brady Photography /

Lace up your running shoes and warm up before going for a brisk walk or a jog at Railroad Park.

Located downtown on 1st Avenue, Railroad Park is a green space within the city that spans 19 acres of paved and grassy areas.

This park was established through the collaboration of the Railroad Park Foundation and the City of Birmingham to commemorate the city’s artistic and industrial heritage.

Although it is commonly used as a venue for concerts, events, and other celebrations, you can also engage in recreational activities at Railroad Park.

A trail at Railroad Park

Jimmy Rooney /

Bring your friends or family and enjoy the breeze as you jog around the park!

If you feel too tired, you can take a brisk walk or stroll and admire the view of the city lights as it reflects on the peaceful waters.

You can also rest and cool down by sitting in the grassy areas.

Bikers will also love coasting around this park!

Wooden benches along Railroad Park

Jimmy Rooney /

Learn the History of African American Baseball at the Negro Southern League Museum

Step back in time and learn about the history of African-American baseball at Negro Southern League Museum.

This museum on 16th Street is dedicated to preserving the history and memory of the former Negro Southern League, a popular baseball league for African American players during segregation.

The league was active from 1920 to 1951 and served as an essential stepping stone for players who wanted to further their careers as professional baseball players.

Roam this museum and discover the stories of African American baseball players who once played in the league through the artifacts on display.

From game-worn uniforms and trophies to holograms and historical baseball contracts, you’ll find many vintage memorabilia dating back to the 1800s at this museum!

Enjoy diving into the history of baseball without spending a dime because this museum lets anyone visit for free!

Stop by this destination if you are a baseball enthusiast or a history buff.

Remember a Tragedy at 16th Street Baptist Church

Exterior of 16th Street Baptist Church

Jimmy Rooney /

When you head downtown and reach 6th Avenue, you’re sure to spot 16th Street Baptist Church.

This church is eye-catching due to its striking Romanesque architectural style.

Still, many people are familiar with this institution because of a grim event that happened in its history.

In 1873, 16th Street Baptist Church became the city’s first-ever colored Baptist church.

Aside from a church, this religious institution also served as a social center, meeting place, and discussion hall concerning the activities and lives of African Americans in the city.

At the height of the Civil Rights Movement, this church became the headquarters for civil rights meetings and demonstrations in the 1960s.

Signage of 16th Street Baptist Church

Kelly vanDellen /

In 1963, the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan bombed the stairwell at the back of this church.

The massive blast injured over 20 individuals inside and killed four African-American adolescent girls.

Today, you can visit the church and check out its grand stairwell on the front.

If you have a bit of money, you can join the tours inside the church and dive deep into the institution’s history.

Interior of 16th Street Baptist Church

Jimmy Rooney /

Stand on the Heaviest Corner on Earth

Marker of the Heaviest Corner on Earth

Michael Gordon /

Have you ever wondered if there was a section of the globe that was heavier than the rest?

Explore downtown Birmingham and find the Heaviest Corner on Earth to get answers to your questions!

Located on the corner of 1st Avenue and 20th St., the Heaviest Corner on Earth is a nickname given to the intersection of the mentioned streets where the four tallest buildings in the region were built.

These buildings were constructed during the city’s industrial boom from 1901 to 1912 and still stand today!

See the Empire Building, constructed in 1909, which was once the tallest structure in the state, rising to 247 feet.

View of the Heaviest Corner on Earth

Michael Gordon /

Then, you can check out the John Hand Building, built after the Empire Building, which stands at 284 feet.

Another structure in the intersection is the Woodward Building, constructed in 1902, which was the city’s first-ever metal structure, rising to 132 feet.

The last of the buildings you can view is the Brown Marx Building, constructed in 1906.

The Brown Marx building is the most aesthetically pleasing among the four.

While this spot downtown is not the “heaviest” corner in the world, it surely deserves this nickname as it significantly impacted the city’s development.

Explore the Civil Rights Movement at Birmingham Civil Rights Heritage Trail

Know more about the civil rights movement by exploring significant sites along the Birmingham Civil Rights Heritage Trail.

This heritage trail, beginning at 6th Avenue and 16th Street, comprises sites important to the city’s civil rights movement.

This trail was created as a self-guided tour allowing visitors to walk the path that individuals who joined the Civil Rights March back in 1963 went through.

Follow the trail and deepen your appreciation for the people who fought for the rights of everyone in the nation.

As you walk this trail, you’ll find posters with cut-outs and photographs that show events that happened during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

Remember the struggles of the movement’s leaders and the bloodshed that occurred when you walk this trail.

You’ll also go through other notable destinations through the trail, like the 16th Street Baptist Church, which also had a significant role in the movement.

Take in the Breathtaking Sights at Red Mountain Park

Fall scene at Red Mountain Park

Bob Pool /

Journey into the great outdoors with your loved ones at Red Mountain Park.

Located on Frankfurt Drive, Red Mountain Park is a public park that features 16-mile trails spanning 1,500 acres of woody forests and luscious greeneries.

Whether you like going on challenging hikes or just having a relaxing walk surrounded by nature, this is the place to be!

Follow the trails here and see all the picturesque natural views around the park!

You can bring your bike if you want a faster way to explore the forest.

There is also a dog park within this spot, a large open area perfect for running around, and benches where you can rest.

Red Mountain Park also offers a smartphone application that you can use to help you roam the park grounds while discovering the area’s history.

This is the perfect place for anyone who likes to hike, explore nature, and even dig deep into the past!

Feast Your Eyes on Extraordinary Artworks at Birmingham Museum of Art

Exterior of Birmingham Museum of Art

Tim Daugherty /

Deepen your appreciation for art at the Birmingham Museum of Art.

This museum on Reverend Abraham Woods Jr. Boulevard is one of the best regional museums that you can find in the country.

Founded in 1951, the Birmingham Museum of Art features a diverse and massive collection of varying works of art from different eras and cultures.

Whether you want to see Asian, African, and even Native American artworks, you can find them all here!

Roam the museum and lay your eyes on more than 27,000 paintings, drawings, sculptures, and many other visual artworks.

There is also an outdoor garden that you can explore to see all the majestic sculptures superimposed in a natural setting.

Stop by the Birmingham Museum of Art if you’re an artist or an art lover.

Learn about the Industrial Revolution at Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark

Exterior of Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

Birmingham played a significant role during the Industrial Revolution, and you’ll know more about this historical period at Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark.

Located on 32nd Street, Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark was once the central hub where companies sourced materials for their manufacturing operations.

Sloss Furnaces was an industrial plant where ore and coal were turned into hard steel for automobiles, construction, and many more.

Although urban legends now surround the plant, many people visit to learn more about the process of producing metals and the people who worked here.

Blast furnaces at Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark

Bob Pool /

While you have to pay to tour around this facility, you can take a self-guided tour to explore the area freely.

You don’t have to worry about getting lost because they will provide a brochure that offers information about the processes and stories behind specific areas on the site.

There are also signs all over the facility which expand more on the site’s history, making it easier for you to discover more about the area on your own!

Bring along a friend or your family and learn how Birmingham made its name in the Industrial Revolution at the Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark.

A pathway below the machines at Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark

Jimmy Rooney /

Keep Active at City Walk BHAM

City Walk BHAM is a large-scale outdoor recreational area built under the city’s interstate bridges.

You’ll love this destination if you are into active outdoor activities, art, or greeneries!

City Walk BHAM covers at least ten blocks within the city and offers its visitors numerous activities with its mixed spaces.

Since it took eight long years to make, this public space will surely not disappoint you!

Visitors to this area can engage in different recreational activities!

You can keep active at the sports space, practice tricks at the skate park, and even get your groove on at the performance space.

There is an amphitheater for those who want to hold performances and a walking trail for those who want to get their heart rate up for the afternoon!

This is the perfect place to bring your whole group of friends, even if you all have different interests!

Visit Historic People at Oak Hill Cemetery

Headstones at Oak Hill Cemetery

Chris Pruitt, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Pay your respects to some of the city’s pioneers and iconic individuals at Oak Hill Cemetery.

Nestled on 19th Street, Oak Hill Cemetery is the city’s oldest cemetery.

Founded in December of 1871, this cemetery is probably as old as the city of Birmingham itself!

This was also the very first cemetery in Alabama included in the National Register of Historic Places.

As the official cemetery of the city, it is no surprise that many historical individuals are buried all over its 22.3 acres.

Apart from the final resting place of veterans, you’ll also find the graves of Frank Dixon and William Hugh, two state governors, at this cemetery.

When you head to this cemetery, you can also pay your respects to Fred Shuttlesworth, a civil rights movement pioneer.

Other graves you can find here include Phillip Mock, a survivor of the Titanic, and founder of Sloss Furnaces, James W. Sloss.

Marvel at the Striking Architecture of the Cathedral of Saint Paul

Exterior of the Cathedral of Saint Paul

Chris Pruitt, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Cathedral of Saint Paul is one of the most visited churches in Birmingham, and it’s not hard to see why.

This church on 3rd Avenue is a masterpiece, thanks to its Gothic architectural design.

Built during the city’s industrial boom in the later 19th century, the Cathedral of Saint Paul is a prime example of the Americanized version of the Neo-Gothic design popular among religious buildings.

Due to all the vertical lines in its architecture, this church seems to pull your gaze toward the sky every time you look at it.

Interior of the Cathedral of Saint Paul

Chris Pruitt, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Two towering spires on each side of its facade will surely capture your attention, even if you’re still a few steps away from the area.

When you step inside the church, you’ll immediately notice the striking contrast between its red exteriors and white interiors.

After seeing its Gothic architecture, you’ll be transported to another place because of the grand interior.

Marvel at the domed ceilings and stained-glass artworks all over!

Whether an architecture buff or a devout Catholic, you must visit the Cathedral of Saint Paul.

Check Out Unique Works of Art at AEIVA Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts

Located at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the AEIVA Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts features unique and rotating exhibitions and stunning visual art.

This art gallery was established in hopes of connecting more individuals with art and artists with other visual creators.

Explore this art gallery and look at over a thousand pieces of stunning artwork.

From paintings and sculptures to photographs and videos, you’ll find a wide range of visual works of art that will pique your interest here!

At this gallery, you can also find works of famous artists like Andy Warhol, Sally Mann, and even Pablo Picasso.

Stop by the AEIVA Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts and lay your eyes on extraordinary artwork!

Dive into the History of the Civil Rights Movement at Kelly Ingram Park

Statue of the praying priests at Kelly Ingram Park

Malachi Jacobs /

Look at beautiful statues depicting some of the struggles that civil rights leaders faced at Kelly Ingram Park.

This public park on 17th Street once served as the meeting place for different civil rights movement members.

In 1963, cops and firefighters assaulted demonstrators of the civil rights movement at this park, provoking a public outcry.

Today, the park features statues that give all the visitors of the area a glimpse into the history of the Civil Rights Movement.

Police man and a protester statue at Kelly Ingram Park

Adam Jones from Kelowna, BC, Canada, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One sculpture is called “Foot Soldier” and depicts a young man being grabbed by a police officer as a police dog lunges at him.

Another mighty statue is “Four Spirits,” which features four young girls symbolizing the ones who died in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church.

Stroll around the park and witness all the powerful and triggering sculptures on display.

Chained dogs statue at Kelly Ingram Park

Jimmy Rooney /

Strike a Pose at the Iconic Sign at Rotary Trail

View of the Iconic Sign at Rotary Trail

Kelly vanDellen /

Grab your cameras and head to Rotary Trail to take memorable photos with the famous Magic City signage!

Rotary Trail, which begins downtown on 1st Avenue, was established by the Rotary Club of Birmingham as a gift to the community.

This trail was finished in 2015, on the club’s 100th anniversary.

Throughout the years, the Rotary Trail has become a popular tourist destination and is one of the top-photographed areas in the city.

When you head to this trail and see its iconic signage, you won’t be surprised that many people take photos here.

This towering signage bears the words “Rotary Trail in the Magic City,” which lights up with a red light at night.

Don’t forget to stop by the iconic sign at the Rotary rail because your visit to Magic City is incomplete if you don’t take pictures here!

Final Thoughts

There is plenty to do in Birmingham, even if you don’t want to spend a dime; these are only a few attractions this city has to offer.

If you’re looking for a fun and exciting place to visit, add Birmingham to your list of travel destinations.

Don’t hesitate to come and explore this historic city because it has something for everyone.

Discover the free things to do in Birmingham, Alabama!

Discover More of Jefferson County, AL

Best Things to Do in Hoover, AL

Best Things to Do in Bessemer, AL

© All rights reserved.