Family Adventures Are Around Every Corner
Found in the heart of Alabama lies a small city that is big on family fun. Whether exploring inside or out, Birmingham has something for every age. Think animal encounters, hands-on science discoveries and splashing around in cool water. In fact, there’s so much to see and do, families may find it hard to choose just where to start.
Just about everyone loves animals, and the Birmingham Zoo (2630 Cahaba Rd., Birmingham, AL) is home to more than 900 animals of 230 different species. See everything from sea lions and rhinoceros to giraffes, monkeys, red pandas and more. Daily activities include animal feedings, train and carousel rides, zip lining and more; these require additional fees. Educational programs also are available throughout the day at no charge. Plus, if you visit on a Tuesday, everyone pays half-price admission.
At McWane Science Center (200 19th St. N., Birmingham, AL), kids of all ages will love the interactive exhibits spread throughout the four-floor facility. On the lower level, learn about our oceans and rivers, and the marine life that calls them home. There’s even a shark and ray touch tank. On level one, discover the science behind shooting hoops, test symmetry at the anti-gravity mirror and blow up some fun in the Bubble Room. Level two holds dinosaur exhibits, sea monsters from the past and information on earth science. Level three features traveling exhibits, plus the Art & Tech Gallery, where art and science come together. For kindergarten-age kids and younger, visit Itty Bitty Magic City on level two, where the little ones can hit the climbing structure or indulge in make-believe along Main Street, where they’ll shop at a market, work in a vet clinic or grow crops on a farm. For a few hours or for an entire day, the McWane Science Center is sure to be a big hit with the entire family.
Cool off in spring and summer at Alabama Splash Adventure (4599 Splash Adventure Parkway, Bessemer, AL), where visitors spend the day rushing down water slides, spinning on tubing rides and conquering the waves in the wave pool. There’s also a lazy river, a water obstacle course, a water maze and a splash pad with a climbing structure, water sprayers and dumping buckets. For children 48 inches or shorter, Salamander Bay offers pint-sized water fun that includes water slides, water sprayers and more. Alabama Splash Adventure also offers amusement park rides ranging from roller coasters and a train ride to bumper cars and tea cups. On-site restaurants are available, and cabanas can be rented. Admission to the park is required for all guests age 2 and older and includes free amenities such as parking, soft drinks, sunscreen, inner tubes and Wi-Fi.
For a fun cultural experience, head to the Birmingham Museum of Art (2000 Rev. Abraham Woods Jr. Blvd., Birmingham, AL). While the museum is home to interesting exhibits like the world’s largest collection of Wedgwood china, the kids will want to visit Bart’s ArtVenture. This interactive, hands-on gallery invites kids of all ages to create their own art. The gallery is divided into two spaces, the Sonat Gallery for toddlers and the Hess Gallery for children ages 5 to 12. When taking children into the museum's main gallery, look for the Family Focus labels and activity guides that spark conversations about the artwork. This is a great museum for introducing children to art, and admission is free for the whole family.
Take the family and head outdoors to Red Mountain Park (2011 Frankfurt Dr., Birmingham, AL), where there is no shortage of entertainment to be found in Mother Nature. Enjoy a hike on 15 miles of trails that include city overlooks and treehouses. All trails are open to mountain biking. For added adventure, try the Vulcan Materials Zip Trip, Hugh Kaul Beanstalk Tower and Kaul Adventure Tower & Mega Zip at the Kaul Tower. You can even bring your pet to play in the 6-acre dog park. Red Mountain Park offers families a great place to be active and tune into nature, one where memories are created.
Depending on the itinerary, Birmingham is a wonderful place to visit year-round, with plenty of attractions for families to enjoy that fit all budgets. If outdoor activities are included, spring and fall offer the most pleasant weather, with average high temperatures in the mid-70s. Winter definitely brings cold weather into the area, so you may want to avoid those months if planning to be outdoors.
Karon Warren has covered travel for nearly 20 years with numerous print and online publications. Her byline has appeared in USA Today, USA Today’s 10 Best, WorkingMother.com, FamilyVacationCritic.com. and many others. She is a member of both the Society of American Travel Writers and the American Society of Journalists and Authors. In addition to her freelance work for other clients, she also writes for her own travel site, ThisGirlTravels.com