Recreation in Birmingham
The Birmingham region is blessed with an abundance of recreational opportunities. Located at the southern terminus of the Appalachian Mountains, the area’s diverse landscape and distinctive beauty is part of what makes Birmingham so special. From city paths to state parks, there are hundreds of opportunities to exercise and enjoy the great outdoors in Birmingham and the surrounding area.
Outdoor enthusiasts will revel in the unspoiled beauty of Dismals Canyon, claimed by some to be “Alabama’s last secret hiding place.” Secluded and refreshingly private, the canyon boasts a wilderness tucked deep in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The canyon was designated a “National Natural Landmark” in 1975, one of only 587 in the United States and its territories. Dismals Canyon is an 85-acre natural conservatory that offers romantic cabins, campsites, hiking, swimming, a country store, breathtaking wildflowers and fall foliage.
Birmingham is a bicyclist’s dream come true. Bike trails wind throughout the city, including the mountain bike trails at Oak Mountain State Park, which are among the finest in the nation. Birmingham’s hilly terrain and designated bike lanes create an exciting ride for the amateur and experienced rider alike. Local bicycle clubs sponsor races and group outings. Many scenic hiking trails are also within close proximity to the city and the surrounding region.
As Alabama's largest park, Oak Mountain State Park encompasses 9,940 acres and offers vacation cottages, golf, a pro shop with snack bar, camping, picnicking, swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, mountain bike trails, backpacking, a demonstration farm and horseback riding facilities. It is also home to The Wildlife Center, the largest wildlife rehabilitation center in the state. The Wildlife Center cares for more than 2,000 injured and orphaned creatures annually. Visitors may view the rehabilitation process through one-way glass or witness hawks and owls in their natural habitat enclosures from an elevated walkway in the woods.
Whitewater enthusiasts travel from across the country to raft the Locust Fork River, which is listed in the top two percent of American rivers for its cultural heritage, scenic beauty, fisheries, geological interest, historical significance, wildlife and recreational opportunities. The river is home to jagged cliffs, waterfalls, sandy beaches and of course, thrilling areas of whitewater. In addition, the Cahhaba River, the longest, essentially free-flowing river in Alabama, is a popular destination for canoe trips. Part of the larger Mobile River basin, the Cahaba River is nationally recognized for its picturesque beauty, foliage and diverse wildlife.
Ruffner Mountain, a 1,011-acre nature preserve in the heart of Birmingham, is a popular destination for hikers, bird watchers and nature lovers. It offers a quiet retreat from the busy city life. From the 1880s to the 1950s, Ruffner Mountain was the site of iron ore mines that served Birmingham’s industrial needs. Today, its protected forest, ridges and valleys provide a refuge for a wide variety of native plants and wildlife.
Get your thrills at Visionland theme park, conveniently located one mile north of I-459 on I-20/59 west in Birmingham. Home to Splash Beach Water Park and Magic Adventure Theme Park, Visionland boasts The Rampage, one of the largest wooden roller coasters in the country; Marvel Mania, a kids’ roller coaster; a 60-horse carousal; bumper cars; Wild River Gorge, a whitewater raft ride; Quarry Bay, a children’s water activity area with waterfalls and slides; Acapulco Drop; a nine-story tall waterslide; a wave pool; a lazy river; the Coca-Cola Amphitheatre, home to shows and special events; and of course, plenty of other rides and water activities that will delight children and adults of all ages.
Birmingham is famous for its expertly designed, beautiful and challenging golf courses. The Greystone Gold and Country Club is home to two championship golf courses, the Founders Course and the Legacy Course. Designed by renowned architect Bob Cupp, the Founders Golf Course has earned several awards of distinction, and hosts the Bruno’s Memorial Classic. The Legacy Course, which is nestled among placid lakes, meandering streams and the striking Appalachian Mountains, is renown as a challenging course for both the novice golfer and PGA professional.
Tee off at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, which was sculpted from the peaks and valleys of the Appalachian Mountains. The trail is home to the Oxmoor Valley Golf Club, a 54-hole golf course that has become one of the Alabama’s most frequented tourist attractions, and boasts eight courses that span the state. Other reputable courses that make up the trail include Cambrian Ridge and Highland Oaks, both which have been named in the top 10 public courses in the country by Golf Digest. The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is the largest golf course project ever attempted, and was hailed by Money magazine as one of the top eight “world-class” vacation spots across the globe.
Other popular golf destinations include Bent Brook, a course that was transformed from a dairy farm; Old Overton, which was rated as the “best new private golf course in the country” in 1994 by Golf Digest; Eagle Point Golf Club, which was designed by architect Earl Stone and is renowned as one of the top courses in the Southeast; Limestone Springs, an 18-hole, semi-private course surrounded by hills, valleys, breathtaking rock formations, streams and an abundance of wildlife; Oak Mountain Golf Course, nestled in the rolling terrain of Alabama’s largest state park; and Timberlane Golf Club, a challenging course that was designed by U.S. Open champion Jerry Pate. Several other public and private courses welcome players of all levels.
Baseball fans can step back in time at Rickwood Field, the last remnant of the early days of American baseball. As the world’s oldest ballpark, Rickwood Field is currently being restored to the dazzling diamond of its early days. Eventually, the field will be a “working museum,” a place to actually see and experience baseball as it once was. The museum will house memorabilia and nostalgia from the old ballfield, where some of baseball’s biggest names once played, including Babe Ruth and Willie Mays.
Car and motorcycle racing doesn’t get better than at the Barber Motorsports Park, which boats a world-class 2.3-mile road course located on a wooded, 740-acre site. While there, visit the Barber Vintage Motorsport Museum, home of a collection of over 750 exotic motorcycles and various rare automobiles, including the largest single collection of Lotus racing cars in the world. Are you in the mood for some serious betting? The Birmingham Race Course offers live greyhound racing year-round with simulcast wagering from the nation’s top thoroughbred and greyhound tracks.
A variety of professional sports teams call Birmingham home, including the Birmingham Barons, the minor league farm team of the Chicago White Sox, and the Birmingham Steeldogs, the city’s professional football team. In addition, each spring Birmingham hosts the Bruno’s Memorial Classic at Greystone Gold Club. As one of the most prized spots on the PGA Senior Tour, the sport’s top players and hundreds of golf fans flock to Birmingham annually to partake in this legendary event.
For those who like to exercise their minds, the Birmingham Public Library offers a variety of activities for children and adults, including a summer reading program, the Wednesday brown bag program and the regional library computer center classes. The library has 19 branches throughout the city, so it is easy to find a convenient location.