Arts & Entertainment
Birmingham is renowned across the Southeast as a premier cultural arts center. Its world-class theaters, symphonies and cultural organizations provide people of all ages endless opportunities to enrich their communities and enjoy all the wonderful benefits that the arts have to offer.
The Alabama Ballet consists of 17 professional dancers and 18 apprentices from all over the world who perform classic and contemporary ballet. Under the artistic direction of former American Ballet Theatre star Wes Chapman, the company has achieved national prominence as one of only five ballet companies in the world permitted by the Balanchine Trust to perform Balanchine's Nutcracker. The Alabama Ballet also offers dance education, including CityDance, an eight-weeks course for youth from inner city schools.
Theater enthusiasts will marvel at the newly renovated Virginia Samford Theatre, a Romanesque playhouse that was built in 1927. Here, artists and performers entertain year-round, and the facility is also used as a meeting place for local non-profit or community groups, corporate functions, and a venue for weddings, receptions and other private functions. The Metropolitan Arts Center (MAC) is also headquartered here.
Don’t miss a performance at the Birmingham’s Children’s Theatre, one of the city’s greatest cultural venues. With an audience of nearly 400,000 students annually, it is one of the largest children’s theaters in the country. The Birmingham Children’s Theatre operates a three-theater complex and produces five national tours.
The Alabama Theatre, which was built in 1927, is one of the last working movie palaces. Each year the theater hosts more than more than 300 events, including films and concerts, that are attended by half a million residents of Birmingham. In 1998, the theater underwent a complete restoration, and it is now renowned as one of the most elegant theaters in the Southeast. Birmingham also hosts several of Broadway’s hottest shows throughout the year through the Birmingham Broadway Series.
Opera Birmingham, founded as the Birmingham Civic Opera in 1955, returned to the stage in 1999 with full-scale professional productions that consistently receive rave reviews. The Opera has been extremely successful in building enthusiastic new audiences in Birmingham and throughout the country, and is expanding its educational outreach programs by staging productions aimed for children. Opera Birmingham also holds an annual vocal competition that fosters opera education and has served as a stepping-stone in the careers of two generations of opera singers.
The Birmingham Museum of Art offers the perfect escape from the stresses of a busy life. Renowned for its Oriental art collection, the museum is the largest municipal museum in the Southeast. It boasts a nationally recognized permanent collection of over 21,000 works of art dating from ancient to modern times. It is best known for its Wedgwood China and porcelains and collection of 19th-century French decorative arts.
For more than 70 years, the Alabama Symphony Orchestra (ASO) has been delighting audiences with performances of varying styles of music throughout the year. The 54 musicians of the ASO represent some of the nation’s finest, and are led by resident conductor Christopher Confessore, who has received rave reviews from the Birmingham News for his “special talent for drawing the broadly lyrical out of his orchestra.” The ASO also offers a series for school children, the Young People’s Concerts, where thousands of students attend a total of six concerts. Teachers receive study guides in advance to help prepare students for these concerts and to enhance the educational experience. The Strings for Students program, another successful educational program developed by the ASO, offers violin instruction and ensemble performances by ASO musicians in Birmingham public elementary schools.
Since 1996, the Alys Robinson Stephens Performing Arts Center (ASC), located on the campus of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has welcomed approximately 250,000 people each year to more than 300 cultural events. From classical, pop and world music to dance, comedy and children’s programming, the ASC has become the center for entertainment in Birmingham. This state-of-the-art facility houses four performance venues and hosts several local arts organizations.
When the sun sets, Birmingham’s nightlife shines. Hundreds of bars, clubs, wineries and cafés are scattered throughout the city, so there is never a lack of places to gather with friends for a late-night drink or fun night on the town. The Five Points South and Lakeview Entertainment Districts are two of the city’s top party destinations. Here, you can dance, enjoy live music, dine in some of the city’s finest restaurants, stroll along the historic, tree-lined streets, or simply people-watch. A Frank Fleming fountain sculpture, The Storyteller, overlooks partygoers of all ages.
Be sure to check out The Garage Café, which was named among the top 10 bars in the world by GQ magazine. What started out in the 1920s as a storage area for chauffeur-driven cars was eventually turned into an antiques showroom with a café/bar for those who wanted a drink while they shopped. Today, The Garage Café boasts a funky, hip atmosphere while retaining the charm of an antique store.
The city is home to some of the finest jazz venues in the country. The Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame resides in the historic Carver Theatre for the Performing Arts, and not only educates visitors about the city’s rich musical history, but entertains them as well. A number of performances are held at the theater throughout the year in conjunction with its legendary Jazz Jam Fest.
In addition to Birmingham’s rich array of arts venues and festivals, hundreds of internationally acclaimed artists, entertainers, and performers visit Birmingham to complete a full schedule of year-round cultural events.