Welcome to the Meeting and Event Planning Guide to Birmingham, a city guide for meeting professionals. Birmingham's unique mix of charm and character, paired with its reputation as the cultural center of Alabama, make it one of the finest meeting locales in the southern U.S. As the state's largest city, Birmingham's popularity stems from its true Southern soul, made apparent in every lushly green park, cozy restaurant and intriguing museum, as well as by its and friendly population. What's most captivating about Birmingham is its remarkable balance of urban and country atmosphere – the city is modern and exciting, yet nestled within a verdant, beautiful setting.
Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, located less than seven miles from the downtown area, serves Birmingham and the surrounding region. The airport sees roughly 130 daily flights to 50 airports in 47 U.S. cities. Passenger services include free terminal-wide Wi-Fi, a business center and variety of full-service restaurants and shops. For added convenience, Birmingham is served by the 200-square-mile Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA), which serves Birmingham and surrounding Jefferson County cities. BJCTA operates 32 public bus routes and three downtown Dart Circulator routes, providing direct service to many of Birmingham's attractions and points of interest, including the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC), which lies along the Dart Circulator Blue Line.
Lending to Birmingham's reputation as a world-class meeting locale, the city's impressive, cutting-edge BJCC is a sprawling venue located in the downtown district. Within a short distance of a variety of restaurants and entertainment options, the BJCC is only 7 minutes from the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. The BJCC offers such spaces as a 220,000-square-foot Exhibition Hall, 19,000-seat Arena, 3,000-seat Concert Hall and 1,071-seat Theater, in addition to 72 meeting rooms totaling 100,000 square feet of space – not to mention the 10-story Medical Forum facility equipped with cutting-edge technology and meeting spaces. What's more, the BJCC also features the on-site 757-room Sheraton Birmingham Hotel.
Birmingham offers many downtown attractions and cultural sites, many of which double as fantastic meeting venues. Get back to nature at the Vulcan Park and Museum, a 10-acre park atop Red Mountain, offering spectacular views of downtown Birmingham. The park is home to the 56-foot-tall statue of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and forge that has acted as a Birmingham icon since 1904. The Vulcan Center Museum features the private Electra Event Room with space for up to 200 guests, while the City Overlook outdoor patio can accommodate 250 guests. Oak Mountain State Park allows guests to get close-up views of hawks and owls in their natural habitat, thanks to its Treetop Nature Trail, as well as features an 18-hole golf course, two fishing lakes and a meeting room with vaulted ceilings and large windows overlooking the grounds. Barber Motorsports Park, home to the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama and its Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, home to more than 1,200 vintage and modern motorcycles, invite groups of up to 900 to slow down and enjoy its private event spaces. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute chronicle the civil rights journey through a series of moving exhibitions, as well as houses such private event spaces as its 300-person Rotunda. Finally, the interactive, sleek McWane Science Center is home to four floors of hands-on science exhibits geared towards all ages – who wouldn't want to climb inside the center's Hurricane Booth and experience Category 1 hurricane-force winds – as well as private rental spaces for up to 5,000 guests.
Birmingham's major industries include manufacturing, banking, insurance, medicine, publishing and biotechnology. Higher learning also holds a strong presence in the city, as Birmingham is home to such schools as the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Southeastern Bible College and Samford University.
Even though it's the state's largest city, Birmingham's still very much a country locale. Nestled in Jones Valley, the 152-square-foot city is one of the southernmost cities on the Appalachian Chain, flanked by long parallel mountain ranges, rolling valleys and ambling streams. Birmingham is within close proximity of many major Southern cities, located just 70 miles outside of Huntsville, 92 miles from Montgomery, 150 miles from Atlanta and 200 miles from Mobile. The city's proximity to such major cities, along with its multitude of cultural activities and sites, lends to the fact that more than 4 million visitors flock to Birmingham every year.
Birmingham features several annual festivals that celebrate the city's heritage and people. The annual two-day Schaeffer Eye Center Crawfish Boil draws more than 30,000 people to listen to live music and savor local food every May. The September Taste of 4th Avenue Jazz Festival features national and local jazz acts, held concurrent with the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival, an independent film festival that together bring more than 60,000 people to the city.
Birmingham's history begins with its 1871 founding at the crossing of two railroad lines. Flourishing in the early 1900s, the city became the South's foremost industrial center, generating massive amounts of iron and steel, thanks to its nearby deposits of iron ore, coal and limestone, the principal raw materials used in steel production. Its astonishing 20th century growth earned Birmingham the nicknames "Magic City" and "Pittsburgh of the South."
Birmingham saw a dark chapter in its history with the nearly 50 unsolved racially charged bombings in the 1940s and 1950s. The city is known for its key role in the American civil rights movement, as it was the locale of several anti-segregation protests that eventually led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While serving time for a nonviolent project, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his famous Letter from Birmingham, a major work in his cause against segregation. Today's Birmingham is dedicated to remembering and honoring its role in the civil rights movement in such arenas as the renowned Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
Diverse cultural groups have always been an integral part of Birmingham, as the city's diversity is one of its greatest strengths, adding to the city's young, vibrant atmosphere. The city's downtown district is known for its world-class dining and accommodations and Birmingham's best nightlife is clustered around the Five Points South and Lakeview districts, while the picturesque Red Mountain area, just south of downtown, is home to rolling hills, awe-inspiring views and multi-million-dollar residences.
Ranging from down-home Southern cooking, fused with French technique to traditional Italian fare and nearly everything in between, Birmingham's diverse restaurant scene is home to James Beard Foundation Award winners and nominees. James Beard Award winner Chef Chris Hastings is behind the modern approach to blending French, Southern and California cuisine at the beloved Hot and Hot Fish Club, while the James Beard Award nominee Ollie Irene specializes in handcrafted food sourced locally, regionally and seasonally. Highlands Bar and Grill is a sophisticated space that serves French-inspired Southern selections, while both La Dolce Vita and Bottega Restaurant and Cafe are known for their zesty Italian specialties.
All average costs based on U.S. Government Per Diem rates as published by the U.S. General Services Administration.
Birmingham experiences a humid subtropical climate, marked by hot summers, mild winters and abundant year-round rainfall. The city's average year-round temperature is a comfortable 62°F, while its annual rainfall averages 62 inches and annual snowfall averages 2 inches. Birmingham's coldest month is January, with an average low of 33°F and average high of 52°F, while its warmest month is July, with an average low of 70°F and an average high of 91°F. Rainfall is pretty evenly spread out throughout the year, with March as its rainiest month, with an average of 6.5 inches of rain. Birmingham boasts pleasant spring and fall seasons, which can sometimes bring cold fronts and strong to severe storms, due to the city's position in the tornado-frequented Dixie Alley. The most popular time to visit Birmingham is in the early spring, which brings low humidity and pleasant temperatures.
Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex
The world-class Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC) is located in the heart of downtown Birmingham and 7 minutes from the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, making the complex easily accessible. Boasting sleek, modern design, the BJCC offers 220,000 square feet of exhibit space, a 19,000-seat arena, 3,000-seat concert hall and 1,000-seat theater, as well as 74 meeting rooms that together offer 100,000 square feet of space and can accommodate 60 to 1,950 people. The 220,000-square-foot Exhibition Hall features two kitchens and the elevated North Exhibition hall lounge, which overlooks the main floor and features a wet bar, seating area and open reception area. The BJCC is connected to the 757-room Sheraton Birmingham Hotel and offers such amenities as two full-service restaurants, in-house catering, audio-visual services and a self-service, 24-hour business center.
The BJCC is also home to the Medical Forum, a ten-story facility that offers 364,000 square feet of classrooms, meeting space, conference areas and commercial office suites. The Medical Forum is equipped with cutting-edge, fiber-optic signals and satellites, as well as wireless response pads, translation services, a 24-workstation demonstration laboratory and a telecommunications and teleconferencing center.
Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM)
Approximate taxi fare: $20-24 USD
The Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport sits less than five miles east of downtown Birmingham. The airport serves approximately three million passengers per year, as they travel on roughly 130 daily flights to 50 airports in 47 cities throughout the United States. As Alabama's largest airport, Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International is currently undergoing a terminal modernization project, which will result in a new concourse, among other updates. The airport welcomes its passengers will full-service restaurants, gift shops, newsstands and an upper-level food court, as well as terminal-wide free Wi-Fi. The business center features laptop-ready workstations, as well as copy, print and mailing services. Hourly, daily and remote parking is available.
Airline carriers serving Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport
Birmingham's public bus system is part of the 200-square-mile Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA), which serves Birmingham and surrounding Jefferson County cities. BJCTA operates along 32 public bus routes and three downtown Dart Circulator routes, serving more than 3.5 million riders annually in an area with a demand population base of nearly 400,000 people. BJCTA serves many of Birmingham's attractions and points of interest, including the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, which lies along the Dart Circulator Blue Line. Adult single-fare rides cost $1.25, while student single-fare rides are $0.80. Transfers cost $0.80. Monthly passes are $44 for adults and $25 for students, while an all-day pass is $3. BJCTA operates daily, with limited service times along some routes.
The Birmingham Amtrak station is located at 1819 Morris Avenue and offers daily operating hours from 9 AM to 5 PM. The station serves the Crescent route, which runs daily service between New Orleans and New York, with major stops in Birmingham, Atlanta, Greensboro, Washington, DC and Philadelphia.
The Birmingham Greyhound station, located downtown at 618 North 19th Street, is open daily from 6:30 AM to midnight.
Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport houses rental car counters for Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National and Thrifty outside of baggage claim on the terminal's ground floor.
Visitors getting to Birmingham via the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport should expect to pay about $12 in taxi fare from the airport to downtown.
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