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Tag: railroad park

Welcome to Birmingham!

            We’re so excited you decided on Birmingham for your new home. This city we love has so much to offer from food to the great outdoors. We know it’s not easy being in a new city so we’ve pulled together a guide of our favorite local spots. Enjoy!

Food

Highlands Bar & Grill

Recently named “Most Outstanding Restaurant in America,” this is an iconic Birmingham spot. Don’t forget to try the award winning coconut cake while you’re there!

Chez FonFon

Another charming Frank Stitt spot. Slightly more relaxed atmosphere and excellent French inspired cuisine.

Hot and Hot Fish Club

Classic Birmingham. We recommend sitting at the chef’s table for the full experience.

Jack Browns

Although Birmingham has some outstanding burgers, Jack Browns is arguably one of the best. The extensive beer offering, secret sauce and outrageous burger selections (try one with mac and cheese or peanut butter) make this spot unlike any other.

Fancy’s on 5th

Another great spot to grab an out-of-the-ordinary burger, or oysters. Fancy’s often has live music on the patio and a creative cocktail menu that never disappoints.

El Barrio

The best Mexican food in town. Try their seasonal guacamole and margarita for a real taste of something different!

Bamboo on 2nd

Right across the street from El Barrio, downtown. You won’t find more delicious sushi!

The Essential

This charming new spot on Morris Ave is known for their homemade pop tarts but don’t miss out on their lunch and dinner menus!

Bottega

Dine on the casual side, formal side or al fresco. Bottega is a classic Highland Park spot with a little something for everyone.

Hotbox

A unique dinning experience – don’t let the airstream and low key atmosphere fool you, this food is no joke

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Drinks

Breweries

The Bham beer scene is pretty strong. Head to Good People before a Barons game, take your dog to Avondale or try out the new Back Forty. Did we mention Trim Tab, Cahaba, Ghost Train and Red Hills? Explore multiple stops in one afternoon when you book a Pedal Tour.

The Collins Bar

Let these mixologists create the cocktail you never knew existed and play a few board games while you wait. This is a great spot to grab a drink after work.

The Atomic

Take a time machine back to the 1960’s at this downtown bar. You can even choose a costume off the costume menu. It’s a unique cocktail experience to say the least.

Brat Brot

Birmingham’s first German biergarten. The indoor/outdoor space is uniquely charming and offers bocce and fire pits. Enjoy both German and local beers as well as German food selections.

Lou’s

It might not look like much but you’ll feel right at home with the friendly and knowledgeable staff. Don’t forget to play a round of Yahtzi for a chance to win some cash!

Marble Ring/Zeldas

Birmingham’s 1920’s speakeasy experience. Enter through a phone booth in Hot Diggity Dog’s and enjoy a throwback to the flapper era. Now you can enjoy a glitter themed dance floor out on the patio at Zeldas!

Moon shine

This rooftop bar can be found at the top of The Elyton Hotel. Comfortable seating and great view make this is laid back spot to catch up with friends.

Pilcrow

Coming soon to Morris Ave, we can’t wait to try out this Mezcal speakeasy! A first for Birmingham!

Music & Entertainment

Iron City

This restaurant and event space doubles as a concert venue and when they’re not hosting live music, they’re offering family friendly events, sports viewing parties and more.

Saturn

Coffee shop, bar, concert venue and all around entertainment center thanks to their selection of board and video games. There’s constantly something fun going on here.

Alabama Theatre

This Birmingham landmark offers plays, concerts, and even movie nights! Catch a different Christmas movie every night of the week during December!

Lyric Theatre

The oldest theatre in Birmingham has been restored and is used for concerts, ballets and entertainment of all kinds!

Outdoors

Rufner Mountain

Get some fresh air and hike the beautiful trails of this nature preserve. You can also enjoy family and community events a couple times a month at the nature center.

Railroad Park

This 8-block green space in the heart of the city is a great place to spend time outdoors. Enjoy free exercise classes, summer concerts and ice skating in the winter.

Vulcan Trail

This two mile trail has been recently expanded and leads straight to The Vulcan and Vulcan museum.

Zyp Bikes

The easiest and most affordable way to get around the downtown area. You can rent a Zyp bike at one location and return it to another.

Rotary Trail

A nod to Birmingham’s history, this is a great place in the city to take a stroll!

Find Your “Winter Wonderland” Ice Skating in Railroad Park

ice skating in railroad park

ice skating in railroad park

Living in Alabama, it’s easy to be envious of falling snow and white Christmas movies. Santa’s not quite the same in shirt sleeves, after all. Wintry holidays are supposed to be crisp and a little icy, but that’s rarely been the outdoor experience here in Birmingham. It’s all changing this year, though, with the introduction of ice skating in Railroad Park.

The outdoor rink made its debut Thanksgiving weekend, but you’ll have until mid-January to visit. Festive features include a custom ice skating playlist on the rink website and Sunday appearances by the Birmingham Figure Skating Club. This is also a thoroughly social rink, so you’ll want to follow the @railroadpark and @brrmingham Instagram accounts and tag your skating posts with #brrrmingham.

Of course, it’s the setting that makes this rink so exciting. Railroad Park celebrates everything the city is becoming, and al fresco ice skating is one more way it brings our dreams into being. What are the holidays for, after all, if not a bit of improbable magic?

In so many ways the Parkside area defines Birmingham right now, from its new construction to its existing transformation, its corporate conveniences and Smallbox startups. Baseball season at Regions Field is the epitome of Birmingham in the summer, and now Railroad Park is offering a quintessential winter balance.

Park staff have also created the ideal holiday shopping spot each Saturday through Christmas Eve: a marketplace of Birmingham-based giftables–in addition to the existing Rainy Day spot— surrounded by the charm of outdoor fun. Reclaim the holiday season from consumerist stress and enjoy where we are right now, simply by ice skating in Railroad Park.  

Two hours on the ice plus a pair of rental skates is only $10, but season passes are available too. Come on down. We’ll see you there.

Rainy Day Bham Brings Smallbox Arts to Railroad Park

rainy day bham

rainy day bham

When we wrote about Smallbox Co., we weren’t sure what to expect of the first one. Would the design itself be super high-concept? And what would it sell? There are practical problems, after all, with trying to stock and shop a true shipping container. But Rainy Day Bham is an excellent fit. It maximizes both the container and the Parkside location to create organic gallery shopping you’re sure to enjoy.

During off-hours, Rainy Day’s Smallbox looks like what it is: a basic shipping container. Open, though, it’s a combination of white box and outdoor room. White shelves along a back wall hold the more substantial goods: colorful abstract art, Birmingham pillows, pottery, even dog treats. Rope swing shelves on the window wall display art and cards and tea towels against the naturalist backdrop of a park view. Go on a sunny day, and you’ll likely be shopping in natural light.

Selling local arts and crafts could easily skew eclectic and folk art-y, but owner Saramia Arenas has kept the shop thoughtfully modern. Her clean but relaxed aesthetic makes Rainy Day Bham exactly the kind of place you’ll want to pop into while you’re in the area. And its local focus makes it easier to justify an impulse buy.

The shop is a little like a permanent Art Crawl, where its community location is just as important as the art on offer. We’ve talked before about Railroad Park being a kind of community center, and with its focus on modern, local craft, Rainy Day only ads to that feel. Meanwhile, the park’s ability to draw in a broad cross-section of Birmingham residents may be just the setting for Rainy Day’s mission to “help grow and nurture the creative community in the Magic City.”

It’ll be there through the end of the year to find out.

Original Parkside at B&A Warehouse

b&a warehouse

 

Before there was a Parkside — before there was even a park — B&A Warehouse was establishing the neighborhood’s modern reclaimed vibe. B&A epitomizes the area’s propensity toward low-slung brick spaces with large windows offering a combination of space and proximity. With its rustic interiors, multiple space options, & in-house catering, it has a lot to offer for your biggest of days.

That barn-chic wedding you’ve admired on Pinterest? B&A’s raw wood beams & strings of cafe lights can give you the look without driving out of the city. Or subjecting your fancy-dress guests to the sweaty indignities of an un-airconditioned Alabama summer.

But its best feature — keep in mind, this is a real estate blog, so you can guess where we’re going — is location. Nestled between LIV Parkside and Regions Field, snuggled into the edge of Railroad Park, a friendly neighbor to Good People and Baker’s Row, B&A offers the full Parkside perspective.

Besides the wedding-themed photos inside, you can easily plan on some of Birmingham’s greatest hits as a photo backdrop, not to mention a wide shot of the city skyline. B&A’s long call list of photo ops exists in part because the neighborhood is so compact. Like the venue, it packs many visual gems in a tidy, linear footprint.

If you time it right, there’s also no reason you couldn’t continue the party at a Baron’s game. There’s no baseball fan like one that shows up in wedding gear, after all. And besides the epic photos you’d earn, we reckon the ice cream float with coffee oatmeal stout is the ultimate cake chaser.

Even if you don’t take advantage, your guests well might. And they’ll love you for it. Before you know it, there will be a neighborhood hotel as well.

Most of all, B&A sets your event at the original epicenter of the neighborhood, the beta version of transforming neglected spaces into true destinations. It’s never been a low budget venue, but like the residential spaces nearby, it offers all sorts of options at an attainable price.

Bham Fit: Workouts for All at Railroad Park

railroad park

 

We started this fitness series with local gyms and fitness studios in mind — the kind of specific small businesses that help define a neighborhood’s wellness bent. But one of Birmingham’s best fitness secret isn’t a business at all; it’s Get Healthy on the Railroad at Railroad Park. If you live Parkside, in the Loft District, or even in the northern sections of Five Points South, this is a seriously wonderful neighborhood fitness amenity.

All year long the park is open to walkers, joggers, and those interested in body weight exercises on the park’s west side equipment. It may be cold and rainy some days, but it’s always there and always free. (Though the park definitely accepts donations to help fund the upkeep on this jewel of a public/private partnership.)

From April through October, though, the park offers weeknight group fitness classes that are free to the entire city, courtesy of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama. The park’s website has full class descriptions, but we’ve distilled them to a quick guide. Want high-energy music and fun choreography? Try Jazzercise and Zumba. Looking to work on your personal running program? Get help at Happy Feet. Relax with Yoga on the lawn, or rev up your week at Boot Camp. All classes start at 6 p.m.

We like that Boot Camp and Happy Feet can give you ideas for independent fitness pursuits at the park, which comes in handy during the class off-season. And while the yoga classes may not be as hands-on as a local studio could offer, can you think of a more beautiful place to practice?

There’s no exclusivity to the atmosphere at Railroad. It’s the ultimate example of Parkside’s healthy neighborhood branding by making fitness accessible to everyone: You simply show up, sign up, and work out. With the park and Region’s Field at its core, this neighborhood is more or less the playground of the city. Living here means it’s in your own backyard.

Bham Spotlight: The Travel Channel's Birmingham

bham

 

Birmingham’s place on the Travel Channel’s “Next 11 Great Destinations” list isn’t exactly news these days. It’s made the rounds on social media, earned a mention on AL.com, and could easily pass along as another accolade for our emerging city. But we can’t help thinking about what the Travel Channel left out of its Birmingham mention. Baseball, craft beer, Highlands, and the Lyric are worthy mentions, all, but we’re not sure that’s a true distillation of the new Birmingham spirit. So we’ve crafted our own mini travel guide to our fair city, partly to help us convince more far-flung friends to visit but also as a meditation on the things we’re doing right as we start a new year.

 

Affordable Food Adventures

Admittedly, the Travel Channel got it partly right. We maintain that the single greatest reason to visit (or live in) Birmingham is the food. But name checking only Frank Stitt’s Highlands Bar & Grill would be roughly akin to collapsing New Orleans cuisine into John Besh’s August. Everyone should go to Highlands at some point, because it really is that good, and the service that spectacular. But what makes Birmingham food magical is the sheer volume of affordable quality. You don’t have to choose between fine dining and a hole-in-the-wall. There’s a tremendous richness in between.

It would be hard to underestimate Stitt’s impact on local food culture, but John Hall’s story of earning New York culinary bona fires only to return home to Avondale is a more of-the-moment story. Or Hotbox, Avondale’s airstream trailer restaurant that’s earned a mention on Gear Patrol’s list of “The 25 Best New Restaurants in America.” The problem with traveling for Birmingham food, after all, is mostly one of narrowing down your choices. Vague “culinary scene” references simply don’t do Birmingham food justice.

 

Enduring History

Birmingham’s ability to bookend the spectrum of baseball facilities is impressive, but when it comes to historic resources, Rickwood Field barely scratches the surface. And you can’t talk Birmingham history — or Rickwood field, for that matter — without addressing the city’s more lasting legacy of civil rights struggle. While visitors check out Regions Field, they really shouldn’t miss the area’s new Negro Southern League Museum.

A visit downtown would hardly be complete without a stop at the Civil Rights Institute and the chilling police dog sculptures of Kelly Ingram Park. But one of our favorite historical resources is the series of Civil Rights Heritage Trails downtown, a literal (and free) walking tour of the places history happened.

 

Revitalization culture

We’ve heard it said that Birmingham’s secret blessing was the lack of an Atlanta- or Charlotte-style late-twentieth century boom. A lack of big investment money meant fewer historic buildings razed for sharp designs in 80s glass, and the result is an enviable number of intact historic buildings. But what makes Birmingham interesting right now are the things happening in those old buildings — the marriage of modern design ideas and historic spaces, the transition of downtown from a purely commercial space to a thriving live/work loft district.

There’s a very real combination of the past and the present clustered in downtown that makes for a remarkably visitor-friendly experience. Even the exciting neighborhoods outside downtown proper — Avondale, for instance — are an easy Zyp ride away or a cheap Uber fare. Then there’s Parkside, the whole new neighborhood spawned from almost nothing, until a forgotten space became an award-winning urban park, and a swanky new ballpark brought baseball back to Birmingham. And it’s no accident that some of Birmingham’s biggest cultural events worth traveling for — Sidewalk Film Festival and Sloss Fest — are both housed in some of the city’s greatest building icons.

 

Parkside Spotlight: Railroad Park

railroad park

The thing about Railroad Park is the space. It feels expansive, even though it’s really only a few city blocks. Its native grasses and streams manage to be both manicured and wild. Water drips across a landscape of wide lawns while train tracks highlight a charming city skyline.

We tend to think of it as the most integrated place in the city, not just racially but socioeconomically as well. With fitness classes and special events it’s almost equal parts outdoor community center and urban oasis. And for those who like the convenience of a running track but not the circular monotony, Railroad’s multiple paths and shifting views are a refreshing option.

Most events are both public and free, creating an enduringly democratic feel about the park. This is truly a space for everyone, and that feels like real growth in an oft-divided city. But what’s really generated attention for Railroad, of course, is the role it’s played in Birmingham’s revival. Consider the accolades:

2012 Urban Open Space Award Winner:

Railroad Park occupies the historical seam created by a rail viaduct that bisects downtown Birmingham. The new topography integrates the train experience with a variety of new open-space activities that help organize and stimulate growth in the southern part of downtown while promoting connections north of the railroad.

USA Today’s 10 Best: Parks that have helped revive their cities:

Alabama’s largest city had been an industrial powerhouse that largely ignored its physical environment, [Urban Land Institute CEO Patrick] Phillips says. But this 19-acre park turned a former rail yard into a city showcase with outdoor event spaces, adult exercise areas, a central dining pavilion and high-quality design. “It’s an outstanding transformation.”

Thrillist’s 14 Coolest Urban Spaces (#7):

Once a weed-ravaged eyesore, Birmingham’s 19-acre Railroad Park now boasts nine acres of open lawns, a natural amphitheater, a 2-acre pond, and a series of undulating trails that will make that 3/4 of a mile loop feel like a lot more. If you really want to hit it hard, check out the Muscle Beach, California-style outdoor gym equipment. Or… you could always just sit in the grass and enjoy that free WiFi. Up to you.

Railroad is also helping create a more walkable lifestyle in the city, which may be its most important development contribution. Beyond getting folks out to sweat, it’s helped fill in some dead lands between areas north and south of the tracksa connectedness noted by both the Urban Space Award and Suzanne LaBarre for Co.Design. It’s made an area that you could walk through feel like a neighborhood you want to walk through. One that, as Parkside branding suggests, is best explored on foot.

Perhaps our very favorite part of the Railroad conversation, though, is the suggestion that Birmingham has embraced its own uniqueness. Instead of a sad-sack, downsized re-creation of innovation in bigger cities, Railroad Park has laid its own track: “At a time when several American cities want to build their own High Line, Railroad Park is an object lesson in how a small metropolis can create an affordable, valuable public park by exploiting the stuff it’s got instead of mindlessly aping the particulars of west-side Manhattan,” LaBarre opined.

But there are also folks suggesting we shouldn’t rest on our development laurels. The Birmingham Business Journal’s Ty West says now’s the time for another Railroad-level move, without the usual dance of dragging our feet. And we tend to agree. “It means we need to find a transformative project, idea or initiative that we’ve been talking about for years, build the necessary consensus and make it happen,” he writes. The only question is, where is it?

Loft District Spotlight: A Dog's-Eye View

2014-04-22 17.13.03

We often see some hesitation from dog owners when we float the idea of loft living. After all, they think, you can’t just let a dog into your backyard at all hours when your backyard is a main street several stories down. If you’re not used to purposeful walks with your pet, the maintenance level will certainly go up. But often the biggest concern is whether or not the downtown landscape can really support nature’s calls. For that issue, we have plenty of reassurance to offer.

The first step is to realize most dogs aren’t all that picky. In fact, stereotypical fire hydrants exist on concrete as well as grass, and our frequently tree-lined streets offer several small patches of nature in a single block. That being said, it is easier to convince any dog to go if there’s grass and/or the scent of other dogs around.

The good news is the Loft District is lousy with dogs. Here are our tips on where they hang out:

  • Parking lot behind Morris Avenue. There’s lots of space to roam over this equivalent of several city block, especially during off hours, and there are several grassy patches Exercise caution, though, if your dog doesn’t do well around off-leash dogs, since this place tends to be the de facto neighborhood dog park in peak morning and evening hours.
  • Urban oasis park at 19th and Morris Avenue. Small but charming and slightly private. This one might officially be private, but the gates are always unlocked, and no one’s given us grief. With the large-scale fountain, tidy courtyard lawn, and screen of mature bamboo, this place feels like it should be attached to a high end doggy day spa.
  • Cadence Bank drive-thru on 3rd Avenue. Good lighting and a well-trafficked grass patch make this area a good bet any time of day.
  • Railroad Park. Admittedly, this is not your go-to for a quick bathroom break, but it’s worth remembering how close the Loft District is to the city’s loveliest park. There’s also the reassurance of multiple waste bag stations and frequent trash bins to make cleanup as painless as possible.