Pure Birmingham: Purely Eccentric

Four Spirits sculpture

Somewhere in the brain there must be a pleasure center that’s stimulated by the slightly eccentric, the somewhat offbeat, the more than regular.  Scientists probably have a name for it.  So while the Birmingham area has its share of scenic beauty, fascinating attractions and white tablecloth dining, some city experiences go beyond guidebook fare.   We will explore places that most tourists just don’t happen upon.   Some are memorably unusual.  Some are downright strange.  Birmingham is full of them, and those who are on the adventurous side will love exploring these out-of-the-ordinary, very-Birmingham places.

Birmingham Skyline; photo credit Glasscock

Who: up to 6 domestic and international IFWTWA journalists..
When: September 21-24, 2017: Thursday through Sunday
Where: Birmingham, Alabama
Host: Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau is happy to support this prestigious group of media members by offering up to $500 travel reimbursement per person, transportation around Birmingham, hotel accommodations, cocktails, meals and gratuities.
Checked baggage costs, parking fees, ticket change or cancellation fees are the responsibility of selected journalists and will not be not covered.
PLEASE Apply by: August 3, 2017.  Acceptance: Applicants will be notified of acceptance by August 10.

Proposed Itinerary:  Pure Birmingham:  Purely Eccentric                                                                   

Thursday, September 21
All day airport arrivals into Birmingham Shuttlesworth International Airport and transported to hotel. Enjoy refreshments made in Birmingham during the short trip to the hotel including: Golden Flake Potato Chips –Bud’s Best CookiesThe Peanut Place PeanutsBuffalo Rock Ginger Ale

Check into Homewood Suites by Hilton-Located in the downtown Birmingham area, close to the historic University of Alabama at Birmingham and Five Points South District.  A charming all-suites hotel conveniently located near a wealth of award-winning restaurants, some within walking distance.

6:30 pm – Depart for cocktails and dinner
7:00 pmHighlands Bar and Grill-Highlands Bar & Grill is considered one of the best restaurants in the Southeast, possibly in the U.S. Famed chef, Frank Stitt, a nine-time James Beard Foundation finalist, is known for his French training that converts Southern standards into new and wonderful dishes. Since 1982 Frank and Pardis Stitt have invited diners to enjoy a French-inspired Southern dinner, where exquisite food and gracious service combine to create one of America’s great restaurants. Retire for the evening.

Highlands Bar and Grill

Friday, September 22
8:00 am – Breakfast-Trattoria Centrale– A daily breakfast menu highlighted with locally sourced eggs, breads, grits, coffee and milk ( the only truly local latte in the city).

10:00 am- Visit The Peanut Place – That tantalizing aroma wafting down historic Morris Avenue comes from peanuts toasting in antique roasters at the Peanut Place. This is a must-see stop if only to admire the magnificent old machinery.

10:30 am – Visit Reed Books Museum of Fond Memories-Jim Reed has amassed a collection of 50,000 books, magazines, newspapers and movie posters listed, with another 250,000 additional titles that are not catalogued.  But wait, he will likely find that obscure item you’ve always wanted.  Just ask, he’ll find it for you!

11:30 am – Visit Joe Minter’s African Village in America-A breathtaking collection of folk art structures that fill the entire side yard at Joe Minter’s modest home on Nassau Street. A construction worker by trade, Minter, probably in his late 60s, was called to build his visionary sculptures when God spoke to him and told him to plant a garden of memory. It is one he’s been building ever since.

1:00 pm –Lunch Johnny’s Restaurant  – At Johnny’s you will find the comfort of classic “Meat & Three” dishes, as well as Greek specialties, such as Spanakopita, Souvlaki, Rolo Kima (Greek Meatloaf w/Lamb) and House Made Yiaourti Cheesecake.  Check out the video link below to get a feel for the place.

2:00 pm – Visit and tour Vulcan Park and Museum-Vulcan, the world’s largest cast iron statue; made of 100,000 pounds of iron and 56 feet tall, he stands at the top of Red Mountain overlooking the city of Birmingham.  Known as the Roman god of fire and forge, watches over all of Birmingham as a symbol of the city’s iron origins–and the ever-present spark of its indomitable spirit

3:00 pm – Visit The Pizitz Food Hall for dessert, coffee and cocktails-Located in the old Pizitz department store the Pizitz Food Hall serves up chef-inspired cuisine showcasing an exciting collection of small restaurant concepts from an array of accomplished restaurateurs:  Cocktails-The Louis; Dessert – Waffle Works; A coffee experience – Revelator Coffee

4:00 pm – Return to hotel to refresh for dinner or explore on your own the beautiful and historic Five Points South- Birmingham’s premier neighborhood and culinary destination. Five Points South is a neighborhood about five minutes from downtown. This National Register of Historic Places neighborhood is one of Birmingham’s first street car lined suburbs and was founded as the Town of Highland in 1887. Today with over 40 culinary destinations and 30 retailers, the area has been labeled “a town within a city “and a true “walkup neighborhood”.

6:00 pm – Meet in hotel lobby to depart for dinner at Saw’s Soul Kitchen.  The vibe at Saw’s Soul Kitchen is what keeps customers clambering into this small, cozy place in record numbers since its opening in May 2012. Like its sister restaurant SAW’S BBQ, this location features traditional southern dishes in a no fuss-no muss atmosphere full of piggy paraphernalia. Founder Mike Wilson’s original Birmingham eatery had been going strong since its inception in 2009. He didn’t want to open just a “SAW’S #2”, he wanted to feature the popular cuisine with a few extra twists and some surprises.

Saw’s Soul Kitchen-signature dish

7:30 pm Depart for Birmingham Pedal Tour, Birmingham’s first pedal powered tour committed to transporting riders to the best bars in Birmingham!  Tour originates at Trim Tab Brewing Company

Bham Pedal Tours

10:00 pm– Retire for the evening

Saturday, September 23
8:00 am – Meet in lobby of hotel to depart for breakfast at Bogues Restaurant-A tradition since 1938.  Since opening in 1938, Bogue’s has been the go-to spot for locals seeking a heaping helping of stick-to-your-ribs down-home cooking and old-fashioned Southern hospitality.

9:00 am-Visit The Market at Pepper Place – A vibrant gathering place for the last 17 years, The Market at Pepper Place supports small farmers and makers bringing locally grown produce and Alabama-made goods to downtown Birmingham.  Enjoy chef demonstrations along with a happy, healthy and fun experience for families, friends and pets each Saturday.

Pepper Place peaches

Depart to begin Civil Rights District-National Historic Monument. Tour Conducted by Master Tour Guide-Barry McNealy.
Tour includes:

Kelly Ingram Park- A four acre park located in between 16th and 17th Streets and 5th and 6th Avenue North in the Birmingham Civil Rights District.  Kelly Ingram Park, located just outside the doors of the Sixteenth Street Baptist served as a central staging ground for large-scale demonstrations during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute Richly detailed exhibits in the Civil Rights Institute reveal slices of black and white life in Alabama from the late 1800s to the present. A series of galleries tells the stories of daily life for African-Americans in the state and the nation and how dramatically different it was from the lives white people of that era took for granted. The powerful Movement Gallery presents the Civil Rights Movement for 1955 to 1963. Here a picture emerges of the bad old days of “Bombingham,” a reference to the relentless violence that rocked the city in the late 1950s and early ’60s. In the final exhibits, the Processional Gallery uses life-size figures representing all ages and races to portray the “walk to freedom.”   (Approximate tour time 1 hour)

16th Street Baptist Church, National Historic Landmark- Site of the infamous bombing that killed four African-American schoolgirls while they prepared for worship service September 15, 1963.

1:00 p.m. Lunch-Niki’s West-Niki’s frequently makes best-of restaurant lists due to its 70-item steam table and its Greek take on Southern favorites.  The veggies are vegetarian, unusual in the meat-and-three category (a meat and three vegetables).  Try some southern favorites like collard and turnip greens, country fried steak and mac and cheese.

2:30 p.m
. Depart Niki’s West: Driving tour of other Civil Rights sites

3:30 pm –
Tour Negro Southern League Museum- NSLM tells the story of African-American baseball in America through the eyes of Birmingham, Alabama. The museum features the largest collection of original Negro League baseball artifacts in the country. NSLM also features an on-site research center that is supported by a research team made up of seven of the top researchers in Negro League and Southern League baseball history.

Negro Southern League Museum

4:30 pm – Return to hotel to refresh for dinner

6:00pm – Depart for dinner at The Bright Star Restaurant– Since 1907, The Bright Star restaurant has been serving generations of customers its specialty Greek- style snapper and steak, signature seafood gumbo, luncheon specials, and famous pies. Located in Bessemer, Alabama, the restaurant has a regional following and draws patrons from throughout the Southeast as well as nearby Birmingham.  James Beard Foundation award winner-American Classic.

Depart for Gip’s Place Juke Joint-One of the last true juke joints in America- Henry “Gip” Gipson is a gravedigger by day and a blues man by night.  Some of the best blues acts consider a stop here a career milestone. About 10 miles from Birmingham, Henry Gipson’s back yard is a music lovers’ dream. Parties held each Saturday night (only) in his back yard, where he has strung Christmas lights over the scrap metal he pieced together to make a stage. It is magical.

Retire for the evening.

Sunday, September 24
Enjoy breakfast at hotel according to scheduled flight departures.  Guests transported to airport.

Photo credits: Greater Birmingham CVB unless otherwise noted.

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