Living in Birmingham, AL

Birmingham has remained the hub of Alabama and a staple of the Southeast since a late 19th century economic boom transformed the city from 3,000 to 130,000 residents in just 30 years. Now, more than 1.1 million people call this city and its surrounding areas home.

While some cities are experiencing rapid growth leading to skyrocketing rent and serious congestion, Birmingham’s recent growth has been more controlled, with a 5% population increase within its metropolitan area from 2010 to 2020. From the 1960s to 2000s, downtown’s expansion had lagged behind the suburbs, however that’s now changing thanks to significant investment and revitalization efforts.

Though despite being Alabama’s largest metropolitan area, Birmingham still offers a small-town feel, a testament to the warmth of residents.

Given the city’s hospitality, newly thriving social and entertainment scene, and surprisingly hilly, beautiful terrain that slices through neighborhoods, living in Birmingham makes for a unique experience. But for those not born and raised here, there’s a lot more to learn if you’re considering moving to “The Magic City”.


One of the best aspects of living in Birmingham is its prime location in the Southeast. Short drives to a variety of destinations make weekend getaways to the mountains, beaches, or nearby cities entirely feasible.

  • Atlanta – 2 hours
  • Blue Ridge Mountains – 2.5 hours
  • Nashville – 3 hours
  • Memphis – 3.5 hours
  • Alabama/Florida beaches – 4 hours
  • Chattanooga – 2.5 hours

Schools and Healthcare


The Birmingham metro area is home to three of the state’s 5-best high schools (Mountain Brook High School, Homewood High School, Vestavia Hills High School) and five of the 10-best, according to U.S. News. An additional five land in the Top 25.

These schools’ high rankings reflect their entire school district. As public schools, they present opportunities where you don’t have to spend money for your children to receive a great education.

Within the Birmingham city limits, schools that rank highly statewide include magnet schools like Ramsey High School (grades 9-12) and specialized schools like Alabama School of Fine Arts (grades 7-12).


Birmingham plays a vital role for the region regarding higher education, particularly in the medical field. The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) has not only been one of the fastest growing universities nationwide since its inception in 1969, but its medical center is also one of the best in the Southeast.

UAB Hospital is the 8th-largest hospital in the nation and is routinely named the best hospital in the state, according to U.S. World and News Report.

Down the street from UAB is Children’s of Alabama — the only health system in the state of Alabama solely dedicated to the care and treatment of children — which also ranks among the nation’s best. People from all 67 counties in Alabama and nearly every state receive top-notch medical care at Children’s. These hospitals, which make up the downtown medical district, make receiving emergency care as efficient and reassuring as possible.


Neighborhoods close to downtown with low crime statistics include Forest Park, Crestwood North, Crestwood South, Crestline, Redmont Park, and Eastwood. Though requiring a further drive into the city (20+ minutes), other neighborhoods classified inside city limits with lower crime numbers include Brook Highland, Highland Lakes, Meadowbrook, Inverness, Shoal Creek, and Veterans Park.

Like most mid to large-sized cities, Birmingham has pockets to avoid as a newcomer, but rest assured there are places to live where crime is either near non-existent or trending downward.

Suburbs within short driving distance of downtown that boast lessened crime include:

  • Mountain Brook: < 5 miles
  • Homewood: < 5 miles
  • Vestavia Hills: 5 miles
  • Hoover: 10 miles
  • Gardendale: 10 miles
  • Trussville: 15 miles
  • Pelham: 15 miles


No need to venture far to take in scenic views, enjoy beautiful hikes, or paddle flowing rivers. In fact, you don’t even have to leave the city. Oak Mountain State Park right here in Birmingham is Alabama’s largest state park, featuring a stunning landscape that includes horseback riding, waterfalls, golf, 42 miles of mountain biking trails, and 73 miles of hiking trails.

Other adventure activities in or near Birmingham include hiking, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, kayaking, and rock climbing. If you just want to find a spot to beat the heat in the summertime with the family, there is no shortage of serene swimming spots, such as the Cahaba River.

The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail consists of 468 holes of championship-caliber golf at 11 sites across Alabama, two of which lie in the Birmingham area – Oxmoor Valley (Birmingham) and Ross Bridge (Hoover).

A list of must-visit spots for outdoors enthusiasts living in Birmingham includes:

Location Activities Distance
Oak Mountain State Park Hiking, Horseback Riding, Biking, Golf, Mountain Biking Birmingham
Ruffner Mountain Hiking Birmingham
Red Mountain Park Hiking, Mountain Biking Birmingham
Cahaba River Swimming, Tubing, Fishing Birmingham
Moss Rock Preserve Hiking, Rock Climbing Hoover
Horse Pens 40 Rock Climbing 45 minutes
Cheaha State Park (State High Point) Hiking, Camping, Golfing, Ziplining, Fishing 1 hour
Bankhead National Forest Hiking, Camping, Fishing, Hunting, Biking, Horseback Riding 1 hour
Coosa River Kayaking, Whitewater Rafting, Swimming, Fishing, Tubing 1 hour
Little River Canyon National Preserve Hiking, Bird Watching, Hunting, Kayaking, Rock Climbing 90 minutes
Cathedral Caverns State Park Hiking, Gem Mining, Cave Tours 90 minutes
Desoto State Park Hiking, Fly Fishing, Ziplining, Kayaking, Horseback Riding 90 minutes

Entertainment and Lifestyle

You can’t talk about Birmingham – and the people that live here – without mentioning the collective love for all things “social” like sports and live music.


While the overall sports landscape is fairly dominated by the legendary Alabama vs. Auburn rivalry, the city offers more than just “Roll Tide” and “War Eagle”.

Downtown Birmingham’s brand new, state-of-the-art 47,000-seat Protective Stadium is home to the UAB Blazers and Birmingham Stallions football (USFL). Just next door is Legacy Arena, a 19,000-seat arena home to Birmingham Squadron basketball (G-League affiliate of the New Orleans Pelicans), also hosting a plethora of concerts and shows with big-name artists. In 2023, Legacy Arena will be one of eight NCAA March Madness regional host sites.

Regions Field, just across the street from downtown’s Railroad Park, hosts Birmingham Barons baseball (AA affiliate of the Chicago White Sox). The Pelham Civic Complex is home to minor league hockey’s Birmingham Bulls.


Birmingham has become known for its exceptional and underrated food scene.

Fodor’s, a popular travel site, recently ranked Birmingham in their Top 10 of “U.S. Cities with a Surprisingly Good Food Scene.” TV personality Andrew Zimmern also included Birmingham as one of the best food cities in the U.S.

This year, three Birmingham restaurants are semi-finalists for 2023 James Beard awards, and last year seven area restaurants and chefs were honored by “The Oscars of the Food World”.

Breweries are also dotted everywhere throughout the city and suburbs, many of which have large, grassy outdoor seating areas making for a great afternoon outing with the kids or pups. Last year, Birmingham was named one of the best “beer towns” in America.


No matter what genre you prefer, you’ll be able to see great live music at a host of venues across Birmingham, including Iron City, Saturn, Avondale Brewing Company, Protective Stadium, Legacy Arena, and the historic Alabama Theatre and Lyric Theatre. Also in the works is a new 9,000-seat downtown Birmingham amphitheater.

Plus, concert tickets are notably cheaper here than the vast majority of U.S. cities.


Several landmark nationwide historical events either happened in Birmingham or would not have happened without the city’s influence throughout its 152-year history.

Because of this, there continues to be a heavy emphasis on learning, and learning from, the city’s past. Museums (or landmarks) well-worth visiting include:

  • Arlington Historic House
  • Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame
  • Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum
  • Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
  • Birmingham Negro Southern League Museum
  • Southern Museum of Flight
  • Sloss Furnaces
  • Vulcan Park and Museum
  • 16th Street Baptist Church

Family Entertainment

There’s no shortage of things to do with your family in The Magic City. Living in Birmingham, you will rarely have to put up with large crowds, long wait times, or standstill traffic when leaving your house.

Some popular places to take the family include:

  • Alabama Theatre (particularly around the holiday season for Christmas shows!)
  • Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum
  • Bartow Arena (UAB basketball)
  • Birmingham Botanical Gardens
  • Birmingham Civil Rights Museum
  • Birmingham Zoo
  • City Walk BHAM
  • Legacy Arena (concerts, shows, Birmingham Squadron basketball)
  • McWane Science Center
  • Oak Mountain State Park
  • Protective Stadium (UAB football, Birmingham Stallions football, concerts)
  • Railroad Park
  • Regions Field (Birmingham Barons baseball)
  • Topgolf
  • Vulcan Park and Museum