The city of Clay, Alabama lies 25 minutes’ northeast of Birmingham. The city was given its name by the type of soil found in the local area.
This fast-growing city was incorporated in the summer of 2000, and is home to picturesque lake parks, mountain preserves and close to world-class museums, making it the ideal place to base yourself for an Alabama adventure.
1. Turkey Creek Nature Preserve
Turkey Creek Nature Preserve attracts visitors from all across the southeast states.
Just 6 miles west of Clay, Alabama, the 466-acre preserve dates to pre-historic Native American times and it played a pivotal role in Alabama’s industrial heritage when iron forges and grist mills occupied the land.
Today, it’s a haven for wildlife and marine life with diverse habitats which attract three endangered fish species: The Watercress, Vermillion and Rush Darters.
It is also home to cascading waterfalls, has 5 miles of recreational trails, and boasts one of the best spots for swimming in Alabama! With a rich heritage to explore, flora, fauna and plenty of superb photo opportunities, this is one nature preserve you shouldn’t miss.
2. Cosby Lake Park
Located just a couple of miles southwest of Clay, Cosby Lake Park is a perfect place for recreational activities.
Surrounded by verdant trees, this tranquil lake has nature trails, boardwalks and wetlands where you can bird watch and you can even fish from the shores for catfish, bass and bream.
Whether you wish to picnic with family and friends, enjoy a leisurely hike or photograph the pretty scenery, you can do it all here.
3. The Outlet Shops of Grand River
If it’s a day of retail therapy you seek, head for The Outlet Shops of Grand River.
The modern shopping mall sells clothing, cosmetics and jewellery at a fraction of high street prices, meaning it’s the perfect place to snag a bargain! You can explore factory and outlet stores such as Gap, J. Crew, Skechers and Tommy Hilfiger, and when you need a break from browsing, there are diners and fast food restaurants on-site where you can stop for a bite to eat.
4. Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve
Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve is home to stone quarries and iron ore mines which at one time provided minerals to Birmingham’s steel mills.
Visitors to the area today can still see remnants of the mines along 14 miles of glorious hiking trails.
The different trails are colour coded giving clues to landmarks, flora and fauna you can see along each route.
It’s a great location for bird watching and boasts a visitor centre containing animals from the preserve which include turtles, owls and snakes.
5. Trussville Antique Mall
If you seek a unique piece of art, vintage jewellery, antique furnishings or an old coin to add to your collection, you can find them all at Trussville Antique Mall.
With a multitude of vendors inside the mall selling all manner of antiques and memorabilia, you are sure to find something which catches your eye.
Whether it’s a gift for a friend or loved one, a rare piece of sporting memorabilia, or one-of-a-kind ceramic vase for yourself, you can find it all here.
6. East Lake Park
Nestled along the north east quarter of Birmingham, Alabama is East Lake Park.
This 100-acre city park was developed in 1886 as a private recreational zone for the East Lake Land Company, and originally comprised a 45-acre lake named “Como”. The company planned to develop the area with housing and business lots, and when the railroad extended its line to this area a year later, visitors and potential investors began to flock to the area.
The company increased the park’s appeal by adding a Ferris wheel, golf course, a casino theatre and pleasure boats to the attractions.
Today, these no longer exist, but the park is just as fun.
It’s a tranquil location where you can go to swim, hike, fish, picnic or barbeque with friends.
There’s a children’s playground to keep the little ones amused, plus you bring a non-motorised boat and glide across the lake whilst catching the sun’s rays.
7. Southern Museum of Flight
One of the largest aviation museums in the deep south, the Southern Museum of Flight is a magnet for all enthusiasts.
Housing over 100 aircraft, models, engines, artifacts and artwork, this museum appeals to all age groups.
You can take a guided tour of vintage and military aircraft with qualified pilots and historians, or you can learn how to take off and land in a Flight Simulator! You can book tours in advance and guides can tailor your experience to your interests, whether it be the aircrafts of World War I or Carrier Aviation.
The museum is located just 16 miles from Clay, so if you are seeking a unique day out and are interested in aircraft past and present, this is the place to be.
8. Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum
The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum is dedicated to everything motorcycle related.
The vast museum features over 1600 pristine vintage and contemporary motorcycles spanning over 100 years from 20 different manufacturers across the world.
Over 900 are on display at any one time, and according to staff, the majority of these can be started with engines running in less than an hour. The unique collection includes 97 Harley Davidsons, BSA Bantams, vintage racers and even sidecars. If you are not into motorcycles, there are also over 50 Lotus cars on display too.
9. Barber Motorsports Park
When you’ve exhausted all of the motorcycles and Lotus cars at Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, venture outside and experience the thrill of speed for yourself at Barber Motorsports Park.
You can visit the garage where they store and maintain bikes and cars, and even jump into a Porsche and race around the track for yourself! Whether you’re a sports car novice or a seasoned professional with your own vehicle, you can enjoy an adrenaline fuelled track day minus the large crowds.
Alternatively, if you prefer to spectate, events are held at the track throughout the year.
10. Bass Pro Shop
If you are into all things outdoor, then you need a trip to Bass Pro Shops in nearby Leeds, Alabama.
Don’t be fooled by the name, this outdoor enthusiast’s paradise doesn’t just cater to anglers, it also sells clothing, footwear, camping gear, boating equipment and clay shooting accessories.
So, if you plan to camp underneath the stars at a nearby nature preserve but have forgotten your tent or walking boots, or you need some lures for a fly-fishing expedition, you can find it all in this store.
11. Irondale Café
Fans of the book and movie “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café” should pay a visit to Irondale Café around 20 minutes’ drive from Clay.
The charming café which overlooks the railroad tracks was the inspiration for the story and this friendly establishment serves some pretty good southern cuisine too! The produce is fresh, local with a balance of wholesome foods and traditional southern recipes which include fried catfish fillet, mac and cheese, buttermilk chicken and the ever-popular dish of fried green tomatoes.
12. Irondale Train Watching Platform
Across the road from Irondale Café, freight and passenger trains travel along the tracks almost all day long.
You can observe the carriages as they pass by from the café window or venture to the dedicated viewing platform.
If you find a seat on the covered watching platform don’t be in a hurry, some of the trains take ages to pass along the tracks due to the sheer length of them! It’s a great stop-off point for kids (or adults) who love trains, so if you find yourself in Irondale, stick around a while and listen to the hypnotic sounds of trains gently shuffling along the tracks, and don’t forget your camera.
13. Ken’s Hickory Pit Bar-B-Que
If its good ole’ southern bar-b-que food you seek after a day’s sightseeing, head for Ken’s Hickory Pit Bar-B-Que in nearby Pinson.
This low-key barbeque joint serves succulent ribs, chicken and pork smothered in a delicious smoky BBQ sauce and spicy sides.
The portions are generous, prices are reasonable, and the food tasty, so bring family and friends and settle down to a feast of barbeque food for lunch or dinner.
14. Pinson Bicentennial Park
If you want a day off from driving and touring Alabama, this recreational area in nearby Pinson ticks all the boxes.
With 20-acres of parkland featuring disc golf, playgrounds and walking trails, your day can be as energetic or relaxed as you want it to be.
During summer months, the newly built outdoor amphitheatre showcases performances and music concerts for locals and visitors to enjoy.
15. Brookwood Village
If you’re looking for an upscale shopping mall with spa facilities, world-famous department stores and charming delicatessens and grill restaurants head for Brookwood Village.
Located a short drive from Clay, just outside Birmingham, this mall features Macy’s department store, New York Jewellers and Victoria’s Secret.
Whether you are seeking a gift for a family member or a new outfit for a night out in Birmingham, Alabama, you can find everything you need here.