As the largest city in Alabama, Birmingham is the cultural and economic heart of the state. A relatively new city that was not founded until 1871, Birmingham got the nickname of the "Magic City" for its rapid growth after the arrival of the railroad near the turn of the 20th century. Today the city is most remembered as a site of racial protests and violence during the 1960s and the letter Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote from a jail cell in this city.

WHAT TO DO

As an important population center in the Deep South, Birmingham offers tourists a mixture of historically interesting and physically beautiful sights. To get a great understanding of the city, visit the Arlington Antebellum Home and Gardens located on the city's west side. The home, which is older than the city itself, is a well-preserved emblem of Southern heritage. The gardens are beautiful and staff well-versed on the city's heritage and civil rights struggle.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is a great place for any history buff to visit. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from the Birmingham Jail" became one of the great statements of the nonviolent movement for racial justice in America and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute symbolizes the healing process from within and presents a much different picture of a transformed city. Here you can learn about the various important struggles that happened in this city. Plus, it's free on Sundays.

Those interested in music can take a self-guided tour of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame and learn about the many famous jazz musicians of the South.

GETTING THERE

Birmingham International Airport (BHM) is served by several major U.S. carriers, so finding a flight to Birmingham shouldn't be too difficult. Located in the heart of the city, the airport is easy to reach by taxi and/or car.

If you travel to the airport by car, reserving Birmingham airport parking in advance can be a great way to save both time and money.

WHERE TO STAY

All of the major chain hotels have branches in Birmingham and there are a few high-end places to stay in the city as well. With the variety of options from budget to more expensive, someone on any budget can find a hotel in Birmingham. While there may not be a hostel in Birmingham, those who are trying to find a place on a show string budget do have a few very inexpensive options in this city.