The bustling city of Bessemer lies 15 miles southwest of Birmingham, Alabama, offering easy access to the city and its myriad attractions.
Bessemer was founded in 1886 by iron and steel magnate Henry Fairfield DeBardeleben, and it quickly became a thriving economic community which earned it the nickname ‘The Marvel City’. Today, Bessemer attracts visitors from far and wide, all eager to discover its rich industrial heritage, and visit its beautiful parks and trails.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Bessemer:
1. Bessemer Hall of History Museum
Located in an old southern railroad depot, Bessemer Hall of History Museum will open your eyes to the city’s past.
Showcasing a range of artefacts, documents, photographs and even furnishings from the 1800s, visitors can soon gain a clear picture of life in this area of Alabama.
There’s a Civil War collection and even a detailed replica of Downtown Bessemer.
There’s also rare artefacts ranging from a 1911 Excelsior Motorcycle, to Martin Luther King’s cell block door, and even a World War II typewriter taken from Hitler’s Eagles Nest!
2. Alabama Splash Adventure
Alabama Splash Adventure is the ultimate, fun day out for all ages.
It’s a waterpark and amusement park combined, so you can choose when and where you want to go.
Whether you dare to experience the 216-feet slide called Upsurge, ride Kahuna Waves or visit Splash Island, you can do it all.
Alternatively, if you wish to stay on dry land, you can enjoy the thrills of Rampage, a world-class wooden roller coaster, or experience the aptly named Drop Zone, which lifts brave visitors 30 ft in the air and delights with a series of drops and bounces.
When you’ve exhausted the large rides and water slides, relax with a journey on the Royal Express – the parks train, or challenge friends at the adrenaline pumping Vault Laser Maze.
3. DeBardeleben Park
DeBardeleben Park is located in the heart of historic Downtown Bessemer.
Covering 4 blocks, you can enjoy a leisurely stroll, a picnic or cycling.
The park is surrounded by buildings which date back to the 1890s when ‘The Marvel City’ began its growth spurt as a blossoming steel town.
The park is named after the founder of the city, Henry Fairchild DeBardeleben, and it’s a fitting tribute, with floral displays, pretty trees and a pavilion.
The park also contains a famous statue – ‘Spirit of the American Doughboy’ – a sculpture representing an American Soldier from the First World War.
Several events are held in the park throughout the year, including live music concerts, Christmas Parades and Bob Sykes annual Blues and BBQ Festival.
4. Watercress Darter National Wildlife Refuge
Within Bessemer’s city limits lies the picturesque Watercress Darter National Wildlife Refuge.
Thomas Spring, a 1,000m2 pond offers a safe place for the watercress darter – an endangered colourful fish measuring up to 2.5 inches long.
This rare species can only be found in five locations in Alabama, within dense aquatic vegetation where they can feed on insect larvae, crustaceans and snails.
Visitors are permitted to visit the refuge for wildlife photography and hiking, but fishing, as you can imagine, is strictly prohibited.
5. Alabama Wine Trail
Embark on a wine-tasting adventure on the Alabama Wine Trail.
Alabama wine country is a short drive from Bessemer.
It’s the perfect place to sample delicious local wines in spectacular settings.
One of the nearest vineyards to Bessemer is Ozan Vineyard and Winery – home to award-winning craft style wines including red, white, semi-sweet and dessert.
Take a vineyard tour, learn about the wine-making process, then break for a delicious alfresco lunch.
6. Bessemer Farmer’s Market
Open each week, this fabulous Farmer’s Market specialises in produce which is grown in Alabama.
Visitors can shop for free range eggs, fresh vegetables, herbs, baked goods, preserves and even essential oils.
Vendors will let you sample some of their delicious fare such as fruit and honey, so you can taste the benefits of purchasing organic and super-fresh produce.
7. Gip’s Place
An original Juke Joint, Gip’s Place has attracted Blues fans and musicians from all over the world.
Jimmy Page and Robert Plant once rocked up unannounced to play here, and Chuck Berry even gifted the owner Gip Gibson his guitar! The owner, Gip, is a legend in his own right, he began his journey by entertaining neighbours in his home garage in the early 1950s.
He recreated the Juke Joint on the same principles, it would be a place with dancing, great beer and incredible live Blues music.
Fans of blues music should put Gip’s Place at the top of their travel itinerary.
But even if you just want a great evening out and the opportunity to meet new friends, you should definitely head for Gip’s Place.
8. Doughboy Monument at DeBardeleben Park
Spirit of the American Doughboy is a copper sculpture crafted by E.M. Viquesney.
It was created to honour soldiers of the First World War and an inscription on the plaque reads ‘To the memory of our World War heroes who died that civilization might not perish from the earth’. The statue depicts the doughboy clutching a rifle in one hand, a grenade in the other, and such was its popularity, that it has been replicated and displayed in over 140 U.S cities.
9. Red Mountain Park
If you wish to get back to nature following several days of sightseeing, Red Mountain Park offers hiking and cycling trails through historic locations and verdant woodland.
Located just over 6 miles from Downtown Birmingham, the park boasts excellent running trails of different lengths and superb mountain biking courses.
If you’re a fan of local history, Red Mountain Park was once an iron ore mining site, and remnants of this can still be seen sprinkled throughout the trails.
If you wish to make new friends during your visit, check out the zip lining activities, or join up to 60 other like-minded fitness fanatics on the Tuesday night running trail.
10. Moss Rock Preserve & Waterfall
The natural 349-acre preserve with waterfalls, wildlife and lush forests is the perfect place for leisure activities and relaxation.
There are almost 12 miles of hiking, running and climbing trails, from where you can view beautiful cascading waterfalls.
Enter from Boulder Field and walk the sloping hill which ends by the stream at Hurricane Creek.
It’s a tranquil place for a picnic next to flowing streams and falls, and you may catch a glimpse of the park’s abundant wildlife.
11. Autobahn Indoor Speedway
The most effective way to get your adrenaline pumping is at Autobahn Indoor Speedway.
This superb indoor race track in Bessemer is the perfect location for a party, or friends and family day out.
Jump into a safe, electric Italian pro-kart, and navigate your way around the race track, reaching speeds of up to 50 mph.
Whether you wish to race against a group of friends, or up the fun stakes with a Blindfold race or Pit Crew Challenge, there’s an activity which everyone can enjoy.
12. Bob Sykes Bar-B-Q
Locally owned Bob Sykes Bar-B-Q has been serving legendary southern BBQ cuisine in Bessemer since 1957. The BBQ sauce is so good at Bob Sykes’ it’s been voted Number 1 in all of Alabama State.
The popular grill restaurant is known for it’s southern BBQ pit to plate dining, so, if you enjoy pork, beef, burgers, chicken or ribs, this is the place to be! Each serving of meat is fired over fragrant, smoky, hickory coal giving that authentic southern flavour which we all know and love.
That’s not all, the famous BBQ joint also offers a range of sumptuous desserts to tempt those with a sweet tooth.
13. Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park
Set in 1500 acres spanning three counties, Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park is a place to discover the past, while enveloping yourself in abundant nature.
Early settlers to the region realised that this scenic tree-lined valley was a major source for ore, and they could use the plentiful materials nature provided to forge successful businesses in the area.
In the park today, you can step back to the 1900s to experience how life was back then.
Walk through exhibits showcasing the lives and trades of blacksmiths, craftsmen and millers, or take a train ride to the pioneer farm and cotton gin.
Visit the Iron and Steel Museum to discover artefacts and huge stone furnaces utilised in bygone days, before hiking through the forest to enjoy peace and tranquillity of the park.
14. Historic Downtown Bessemer
Bessemer was founded in 1886 by pioneer industrialist Henry Fairfield DeBardeleben.
His main aim was to build a pleasant liveable city which would attract people to move from elsewhere in the US to work in his new iron and steel factories.
He purchased the first commercial lots in the same year as he arrived and within a few short months Bessemer had reached 1,000 citizens.
This rose to 4,000 people living in Bessemer in under two years.
The Marvel City’s growth was so rapid that buildings were springing up on every street corner to accommodate its burgeoning population.
When you visit Historic Downtown Bessemer and follow the trail you can still see some of the city’s earliest buildings today.
15. Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
If you’re visiting the Deep South, you may wish to learn more about the Civil Rights Movement.
Fortunately, at Birmingham Civil Rights Institute you can do just that.
The exhibition showcases how black and white lives intertwined in Alabama from the 1800s to the present day.
Several galleries tell real stories of day-to-day life and detail violence which rocked Alabama in the 1950s and 60s, as the Civil Rights Movement was truly highlighted for the first time.
Don’t miss the Processional Gallery which displays life-size figures of all races and ages participating in the ‘Walk to Freedom’.