Sunday, May 8, 2011

MY Birmingham

  I have lived in Birmingham now for right about 3 years.  Within the last year and a half I have finally had enough money (non-AmeriCorps stipend now!) and opportunity to really check out Birmingham.  I have kind of mapped out the areas of Birmingham that I frequent or that make Birmingham the city it is to me.
  Birmingham is a small, big city.  It is a big city in that it is relatively well-known, with a downtown full of high rises, and a bustling university and hospital system.  Despite that, Birmingham can feel surprising small sometimes.  Within Birmingham, everyone knows everyone else, or at least someone they know.  The city shuts down on the weekends, especially on Sundays, and there are blocks of beautiful architecture and potential life that are virtually empty.
  I am not complaining about Birmingham, but merely pointing out what I notice.  I actually think Birmingham is growing and will continue to grow into a cooler city than it already is.  The longer I live here, and work in downtown, the more I discover new places and appreciate Birmingham.  The trick is finding the best places to go - below is a map of MY Birmingham and my favorite areas to be.

  This is the downtown Birmingham that I know.  I work at the YWCA on the North side in the heart of the downtown high rises, near the courts and Loft District.  We are only a couple blocks from Sloss Furnaces, an old blast furnace in the middle of the city. As you cross over the railroad tracks you get into the South side.  They recently built Railroad Park, which is an awesome green space in the middle of the city.  They have done an amazing job with play areas, walking paths and a pavilion. It has begun to bring tons of people into the city and they are talking about what new feature to put next to it now.  Even though I don't go to UAB, the University and the hospital system brings in tons of people - many young and progressive - which helps make up a large part of Birmingham's culture and economic life.  Right in the University area is Five Points.  Although Five Points can feel a little lackluster at times, it can be a pretty nice area and has great potential to become a serious nightlife hot spot in Birmingham. East of the UAB and Five Points area is the Highlands area with great parks and beautiful homes.  


Another big reason I love living here in Birmingham is how close we are to some of the coolest cities in America.  The map shows the distance Birmingham is to a load of great cities.  Here's a breakdown of how far we are to certain things:
  *Birmingham to Atlanta - 2.5 hours
  *Birmingham to Mobile/Pensacola/The Gulf Coast(BEACH!!) - 4 - 4.5 hours
  *Birmingham to New Orleans - 5 hours
  *Birmingham to Memphis - 4 hours
  *Birmingham to Chattanooga - 2.5 hours

I won't go through and list everything, but the farthest distance is Birmingham to Charleston with about 8 hours.  In other words, we are within an easy drive to some awesome cities.  In less than 3 hours we can head north to Chattanooga and go camping in the mountains; and in about 4.5 hours we can be down at the Gulf Coast on the white sand beaches.  We are so close to amazing cultural cities like Memphis and New Orleans.  My friend and I have a list about 6 months long of all the places we need to go on the weekends.  There are not many areas of the U.S. where you are within such short drives to some really awesome places. Having said all of that, I will now include my travel to regional areas in the "My Birmingham" section because it is one of the things that Birmingham offers. 


All in all, I think people underestimate Birmingham - both residents and outsiders.  It has an amazing amount of history and charm.  It's actually a very cool city and is continually growing to become better. 

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