Guide to Birmingham Day 2: Outdoor Activities

We love being outside.  One of the best parts of living in Birmingham is that we have a change of seasons and really get to enjoy the fall and spring weather.  Two of my favorite days of the year are that first cool, fall day after a hot summer season and that first warm spring day after a cold winter season.  We get outside as much as possible during the fall and spring, and often have a few winter days that are comfortable enough to be outdoors.
* Oak Mountain State Park.  Hiking, swimming, horseback riding, picnicking, plus all kinds of other activities you can do here.  The hiking trails are great, and there are tons of them so you always have a new route to try.  It’s crazy how you can just drive 15 minutes and basically be in the mountains.  Tannehill State Park and Ruffner Mountain Nature Center are also great parks.
* Going to the lake.  We have a lot of them nearby, all within an hour or so.  During the summer, hearing “we’re heading to the lake for the weekend” is pretty common place.  I have to admit, we were a little skeptical of this having moved from the beach ourselves, but quickly realized the draw.  It’s relaxing, laid back, and oh so southern. 
* Music and fireworks at Morgan Creek Winery.  This is one of our favorite events during the summer months (once a month starting in May and going through September).  Just pack a picnic, plenty of wine, blankets and chairs (although we also tend to go all out with tables, candles, decorations, etc) and enjoy a live band, wine tasting and fireworks show.  We look forward to these events every year.  Check their website or call for the dates.
* On that note, visiting all of the local wineries is a great afternoon activity.  We have several local wineries and you could really take a beautiful day and visit them all (just make sure you have a designated driver, ha!).  Check out the Alabama Wine Trail for a list and map of all the stops.  (Our favorites are Morgan Creek and Vizzini.)
* Birmingham Zoo.  I love our zoo!  It’s so nice and well kept and the variety of animals and exhibits is really great.  There’s always something new and I never get tired of going.  I imagine when we start a family we’ll have to get annual passes.  Plus they have the BEST events.  We look forward to Zoo Gala and the Crawfest every year.
* Although we just went for the first time a couple weeks ago, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens is really lovely.  I had no idea how big it was and how much there is to see.  On a nice day, it’s a great place to get out and walk around and see all the beautiful flowers and foliage.  It’s pretty educational too.  Plus they have a great little lunch cafe on the grounds.
* Canoeing, tubing or kayaking the Cahaba River.  The river is beautiful and goes for miles and miles.  Lots of territory to cover and see.  I love canoeing and kayaking because it’s such good exercise.  And there’s nothing better than tubing on a hot summer day.
* Outdoor dining.  I L.O.V.E. eating on a restaurant’s outdoor patio when the weather is nice.  In fact, if it’s a pretty day, I basically insist that we only go to a restaurant that has an outdoor patio.  Birmingham has a ton of great options for outdoor seating…Bottega, Chuy’s, Jacksons, Chez Lulu, Cajun Steamer, California Pizza Kitchen (at the Summit), Avo/Dram are just some of our favorites.
* Just in general, there are TONS of great outdoor events all throughout the year, especially in the spring and fall.  Everything from crawfish boils, film festivals, art shows, sporting events, fundraisers, galas and concerts.  You just have to keep your eyes and ears open.  This is a great website to stay up to date on upcoming events.
(Check back tomorrow for our favorite watering holes!)
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