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The best HotelsRestaurantsCultural Attractions , and just plain Fun Stuff  to do and see in Birmingham.

 

Hotels: Birmingham

Legions of pro and scratch golfers who consider Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort and Spa, the largest golf course in North America and third largest in the world, a priority on their bucket lists. Ross Bridge also ranks as the newest course on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, a chain of 26 golf courses and 468 holes across Alabama. The course totals 8,200 yards of playable turf from the back tees. Designed in a cloverleaf pattern, the course loops back three times, keeping the sharp, pointed gables and spires of the 259-room resort always in plain view. Such a big course offers more privacy, the size making it less likely that golfers bump into each other.

 

Restaurants: Birmingham

Grab a table at Central Trattoria for breakfast. Frank Stitt—a James Beard award winner who owns the standout Birmingham restaurants Bottega and Highlands Bar in Grill—recommends the eggs. It’s easy to see why Stitt likes Central Trattoria (205.202.5612) for breakfast. The downtown Italian diner is clean, quiet, and upbeat, run by one of Stitt’s former sous chefs. “It really captures the new urban energy of downtown,” he says. The scrambled eggs are tender and buttery, served with a side of fresh fruit, sausage, and grits, a ni

ce regional touch.

For lunch, head to Jim ’N Nick’s, a locally owned barbecue joint. “They’re reinterpreting a lot of Southern classics,” Stitt says. “Several steps above your average soul food.” I order the pulled pork sandwich. Slow smoked for 14 hours over hickory coals, the meat arrives perfectly moist and topped with a thick dollop of sweet, mildly spicy barbecue sauce.  

For dinner: Bettola—a “little Italian place with some of the best pizza I’ve found,” Stitt. A gem on the menu: the white pizza topped with cherry tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, olive oil, garlic, and basil.

Kick back at the Garage Café, a casual, cash-only bar with one of the city’s largest patios.

Indulge in the chocolate nut tart at Chez Fonfon, a French café located next door to Highlands Bar and Grill. 205.939.3221

Sip on Birmingham’s best java at Urban Standard, an independent coffee shop modeled after a European café and located in the loft district downtown.

Order the fried green tomatoes at Green Acres Café, a soul food restaurant that radio host Steve Harvey once deemed the best in the United States

 

Cultural Attractions: Birmingham

Take in sobering sights on a private tour of Birmingham’s Civil Rights District ($200). Kelly Ingram Park across from the 16th Street Baptist Church, is the site of the1963 Ku Klux Klan bombing that killed four black girls. The statue-studded park pays tribute to the children, and tells the story of the civil rights demonstrations that May, when hundreds of peaceful protesters were arrested, clubbed, and mauled by police dogs. The statues of fire hoses and vicious, cast-iron dogs at first it seem gloomy and uninviting. But another unforgettable statue depicts a pair of defiant children standing across from an upside-down cell. The inscription: “I ain’t afraid of your jail.” Next stop, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, a world-class interpretive museum that includes photo exhibits and archival footage of the freedom riders and Birmingham’s early struggle to desegregate schools and businesses. Farther along, you can see the door to the cell where Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail.”

Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame: Book a tour ($3) at the with musician Frank Adams, one of the museum’s charter members.

Visit the Lamprecht Cast Iron Collection at the Birmingham Museum of Art, the only collection of 19th-century cast iron artwork in the United States.

Listen to some of the most successful jazz performers in the world, including seven-time Grammy nominee Kurt Elling during the touring version of the Monterey Jazz Festival at the Alys Robinson Stephens Performing Arts Center.

See the remnants of Birmingham’s industrial heyday during a tour of the Ruffner Mountain Nature Center

 

Fun Stuff: Birmingham

Haul your clubs next door to Oxmoor Valley, a 54-hole course that sits on top of former mining land.

Dance to the music at Eddie Kendrick Memorial Park, a monument to the Temptations’ lead singer at 18th Street and Fourth Avenue, where Motown hits play on a constant loop.

Visit Vulcan Park, where on a clear day one might see couples lounging on blankets and tourists dropping tokens into the giant, swiveling binoculars pointed toward downtown. A126-foot sandstone pedestal supports the 56-foot Vulcan, the tallest cast-iron statue in the world. A series of panels explains the statue’s history. Built for the 1904 World’s Fair, Vulcan represented Birmingham’s explosive growth (hence the nickname “Magic City”) fueled by its rich concentration of coal, iron ore, and limestone—the only city in the world where you can find the three elements of iron in one place.

Watch a live iron pour ($15) at Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark. They take place on Wednesdays and select weekends.

Swap your golf cart for a Carrera at the only official Porsche Sport Driving School in North America.

 

 

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