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VOL. 130 | NO. 248 | Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Wiedower

Lance Wiedower

Birmingham Offers More Than Bowl Game

By LANCE WIEDOWER

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University of Memphis football fans will head to Birmingham, Ala., next week to celebrate a bowl game appearance that could see the team finish with 10 wins for a second straight season.

It’s been a historical run, and the Birmingham Bowl appearance will give the Tigers a rare chance to play against Auburn University. The game’s 11 a.m. kickoff makes it a plausible day trip, but then Birmingham has plenty to offer anyone thinking of spending a night or two.

Maybe as a Memphis fan you’ve already spent time in Birmingham during the old days of Conference USA road trips against UAB. You’ve likely stopped over for a lunch of Dreamland Barbecue on the way to the Gulf Coast for summer vacation.

Birmingham is more than a road stop for barbecue, though. Like Memphis, the city has a rich civil rights heritage. The Birmingham Civil Rights District is a six-block area of Downtown that includes several important landmarks in the struggle.

At the heart of the neighborhood is the 16th Street Baptist Church, where four African-American girls were killed during a 1963 bombing. It sits near the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, a museum that opened in 1993 and tells the powerful story of the movement, particularly in Birmingham, and the violence that rocked the community in the 1950s and ’60s.

Among the district’s other attractions is the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame at the Carver Theatre, where jazz greats with a connection to the state are immortalized. The museum honors the accomplishments of the likes of Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton.

You don’t have to celebrate Auburn sports greats to still appreciate the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. Yes, Bo Jackson and Charles Barkley are among the former Auburn greats honored here. But the great Paul “Bear” Bryant, who coached his last game for Alabama in the Liberty Bowl game in Memphis is honored at the Hall of Fame, as are the likes of Hank Aaron, Jesse Owens and Willie Mays.

For a view from above the city, check out the world’s largest cast-iron statue at Vulcan Park. The Vulcan statute is made of 100,000 pounds of iron and sits 56 feet tall, providing pretty great vistas of the city of Birmingham and beyond from the top of Red Mountain.

If you decide to just visit Birmingham for the day, Vulcan is a great spot, considering the observation tower is open until 10 p.m. So if there’s a victory to celebrate, do so while watching the sun set over Birmingham before heading back home.

But if you prefer to celebrate with a little nightlife, head over to the Five Points South neighborhood, where there are loads of restaurants and bars. For the beer lovers, check out the local brewery scene at Avondale, Good People, TrimTab and Cahaba, which all have taprooms.

Lance Wiedower can be reached at tripsbylance.com.

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