The Vulcan, the largest iron statue in the world. 

The Vulcan, the largest iron statue in the world. 

Last weekend my friend Brittany and I visited our other friend Amber in Birmingham, Alabama. Now, the fun thing about Brittany and Amber is that they both once dated Jeff. True story.

The story goes… Jeff and Brittany were each other’s first kiss back in middle school while Amber dated Jeff for a short time after he returned from the Peace Corps in 2011 – about a year before Jeff and I met. To my appreciation, neither relationship lasted. I got a husband and two awesome friends out of the deal.

Amber and her husband Jon moved to Alabama after Jon took a new job late last year. We’ve all got our fingers crossed that they’ll move back someday soon, but until then we wanted to go experience first hand where they were living.

Birmingham is the largest city in Alabama and has quite the personality.  Once known for it’s iron and steel industry, there’s now an emerging food and nightlife scene, new high-rise condos and apartments are going up downtown, and young professionals (and families too) are starting to notice. As Amber described it: it’s like Grand Rapids was 5 years ago. It’s growing and quick.

It’s a very industrial looking city – lots of cars, not much walkability quite yet. But what they lack in a bustling downtown, they make up for in pride. Every local we talked to had something positive to say.

And I have to agree. Birmingham showed us a good time!  With the guidance of our hostess Amber, we experienced the city in full:  

The Vulcan – A Birmingham ‘must-see’ (according to Amber) that happens to be the world’s largest iron ore statue. The hike to the top of the tower reveals an excellent view of the city.

Little Donkey – Authentic chips and salsa, tacos, and tequila with a fun atmosphere to boot. Here we discovered Cathead Vodka, a product out of Mississippi. It’s smooth and sweet. 

Irontribe – Both Jon and Amber are big into fitness and nutrition so Brittany and I jumped on board for what was most certainly the sweatiest part of our trip to experience a workout with their ‘tribe.’ They got me to do 400 meter runs, which never happens.

Pepper Place Farmers Market – What was one a former Dr. Pepper bottling facility is now a super cute farmers market complete with shops, fresh produce, and live music.

Sloss 'Haunted' Furnace – Friday night we signed ourselves up for what could have been a live episode straight out of the Walking Dead. Sloss Furnace, an iron producing blast furnace shut down in 1971, now serves as national historic landmark, but also as a haunted house in the fall. It was impressive, extremely interesting, and yes, I got scared.

Dreamcakes Bakery – We took the house special, wedding cake with almond frosting and had we not been on our way to Irontribe, might have gone back for seconds.

Oak Mountain – A 3.5 mile hike to the summit of Oak Mountain and back made for an amazing afternoon activity. Jon came with us and we even brought their pup, Brady.

Saws BBQ – After the hike we died and went to meat heaven with the white BBQ chicken, pulled pork, and ribs. It made me extremely grateful for the emerging BBQ presence back here in GR.

HOTBOX & Parkside – Hotbox is an airstream trailer gone food truck that sits in the backyard of Parkside, a bar. Picture café lights, a roaming cat, and 20-somethings sitting at outdoor patio tables.

Saturn – A coffee house during the day and a bar at night, we channeled our inner child and made idiots of ourselves in the photo booth followed by a game of Candy Land. No joke.

41st Street Pub – Known for its Moscow Mules, we had to go. Copper mugs were everywhere, but came with the warning that if you ‘lost’ your mug you’d be charged a $20 fee. Apparently at $3/piece, the cost for stolen mugs adds up quick!

As we hugged Amber goodbye at the airport we thanked her again for showing us such a good time. She’s adjusted well to her life with Jon in Birmingham and even surprised us with a, “ya’ll” a few times. It suits her well.