15 Best Things to Do in Gardendale (AL)

Written by Lucas Adams
Updated on
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Gardendale is a suburb of north Birmingham, Alabama.

Once a farm settlement, the area was founded around 1825, and was originally known as “Jugtown” after a jug and churn factory located nearby.

Today, this charming suburb caters to all ages with a range of shopping and dining opportunities, parks and gardens.

The suburb is just 13 miles from Downtown Birmingham, offering easy access to world-class museums, historic trails and landmarks.

I’m from Birmingham, Alabama and therefore know Gardendale quite well. It’s a nice place to stay, and with Birmingham being so close by, there’s plenty to do in the area. Let’s have a look at the best things to do in and around Gardendale:

1. Turkey Creek Nature Preserve

Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, AlabamaSource: darren_y2001 / Flickr
Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, Alabama

Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is home to 466-acres of scenic woodland and creek side trails.

The park’s history dates to prehistoric times, when Native American tribes lived here, and in later years, an iron forge and grist mill were built as industry made its way into the region.

The waters around Turkey Creek are home to endangered fish known as the Watercress, Rush and Vermilion Darters, and there are several rare bat, turtle and flower species to discover too.

Whether you wish to hike woodland trails, photograph cascading falls, or spot rare species of wildlife and birds, you can do it all here.

More on Alabama: 25 Best Things to Do in Alabama

2. Gardendale Flea Mall and Antique Center

Gardendale Flea Mall And Antique CentreSource: facebook.com
Gardendale Flea Mall And Antique Centre

Gardendale Flea Mall and Antique Center is also known as ‘Alabama’s Largest Treasure Chest’. For me it’s always a good reason to visit Gardendale.

Set in a 44,000 square foot building in northern Gardendale, the space accommodates over 300 dealers each selling collectibles, artwork, rare antiques and furnishings.

If you enjoy browsing antique stalls, wish to find a historic piece of Alabama memorabilia, or are looking to purchase a gift for a friend, this is the place to be.

3. Birmingham Museum of Art

Birmingham Museum of ArtSource: Tim Daugherty / shutterstock
Birmingham Museum of Art

One of the best regional museums in America, Birmingham Museum of Art was founded in 1951, and today displays over 27,000 paintings, prints, decorative arts and sculptures.

Featuring artifacts and artworks from Africa, Asia and Europe, there’s much to admire, plus its displays of pre-Columbian and Native American art are truly awe-inspiring.

Don’t forget to check out the Kress Collection of Italian Renaissance pieces, and Albert Bierstadt’s captivating landscapes of the American West before you leave.

4. Southern Museum of Flight

Southern Museum of Flight, BirminghamSource: kellyv / Flickr
Southern Museum Of Flight

Discover the history of aviation at the Southern Museum of Flight.

A must for all aircraft enthusiasts, you can attend a “pre-flight briefing”, see early aircraft and explore aviation dioramas showcasing scenes from World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam.

If you want to experience a take-off and landing for yourself, spend time in one of the museum’s Flight Simulators.

Many of the instructors are real-life pilots so they can take you through everything from map-reading to cockpit instrumentation before you embark on your simulated flight! If you venture outside, there are several military aircraft and helicopters displayed, offering enthusiasts amazing photographic opportunities.

If you are planning to visit the museum, you might be interested in the Birmingham Area Multi-Attraction Pass. It not only includes admission to the Southern Museum of Flight, but also to other top attractions on this list.

5. Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

Birmingham Civil Rights InstituteSource: Brett Welcher / shutterstock
Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

The informative museum set in the heart of Birmingham’s Civil Rights District tells of the struggles African-American citizens endured from the 1800s to the 1960s in Alabama.

You can explore myriad exhibits which show a replica of the Freedom Riders bus, the jail cell door which incarcerated Martin Luther King Jr., and experience life in a 1950s segregated city.

With photographs, videos and moving stories from those who lived through these life-changing times in American history, I think this is one museum not to be missed during your stay.

Also see: 15 Best Day Trips from Birmingham, Alabama

6. Our Place Restaurant

Our Place RestaurantSource: facebook.com
Our Place Restaurant

Our Place in Gardendale is a small, locally owned diner which has catered to locals and tourists for years.

With its simple décor, laid-back atmosphere and reasonable prices, I always love coming here.

Whether you venture there for a full American breakfast or want to sample their famous char chicken salad, there are dishes to suit everyone.

They can also prepare sandwiches and snacks to take away, perfect for a summertime picnic in the park or nearby nature preserve.

7. Rickwood Caverns State Park

Rickwood Caverns State Park, AlabamaSource: Jason Patrick Ross / shutterstock
Rickwood Caverns State Park

Rickwood Caverns State Park offers a wonderful family day out 20 minutes’ drive from Gardendale.

The park’s mystical subterranean caverns contain 260-million-year-old formations, with gravity-defying stalagmites and stalactites which will captivate the imagination.

The underground caves maintain a temperature of around 60 degrees too, so on hot summer days you can cool off, and during winter months, stay warm!

To get the best from the ancient caverns, take a cave tour with a local guide, or if you wish to remain above ground, the park also features a Fossil Mountain Hiking Trail, gemstone mining attraction, picnic areas and swimming pools.

8. Black Creek Park Rails to Trails

This 7.2-mile long out-and-back trail north of Birmingham is a great recreational area for fitness fanatics.

The hiking, jogging and cycling trail follows an old railway line staying close to the banks of Black Creek.

It’s a superb place for dog walking, and there are picnic tables in the woodland areas if you wish to stop for a drink or snack.

The trail is shaded by canopies of trees and it features narrow paths and forests for the most part, offering a superb place for mountain biking and team running practice.

9. McWane Science Center

McWane Science Centre, BirminghamSource: Ritu Manoj Jethani / shutterstock
McWane Science Center

McWane Science Center in Birmingham, Alabama is a great place to discover more about science and innovative inventions.

There are three levels of exhibits to explore, one of which includes ‘Science on a Sphere’. This advanced exhibit uses computers to project planetary data onto a central sphere, showcasing weather patterns, ocean temperatures and more.

You can also experience what it’s like to ride a ‘High Cycle’ on a wire, leaving your fate to the laws of gravity.

When you’ve seen all the museum has to offer, sit back and admire McWane’s version of the Tesla Coil at the Rushton Theater.

10. Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark

Sloss Furnaces Historic LandmarkSource: IA Fillm Group / shutterstock
Sloss Furnaces Historic Landmark

During the industrial age, when iron ore was discovered in parks and mountains surrounding Birmingham, it was taken to Sloss Furnaces for smelting.

At one time these furnaces were the busiest in the world, and today, years later, it’s a National Historic Landmark towering above the Industrial district.

This fascinating interpretive museum holds food festivals and events throughout the year, and it’s also the site for sculpting, metal art classes and paranormal night tours.

So, if you want to learn more about Birmingham’s rich industrial heritage or wish to partake in a class or tour at the iconic city landmark, you can do so easily from Gardendale.

11. Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum

Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, Leeds, AlabamaSource: Ritu Manoj Jethani / shutterstock
Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, Leeds, Alabama

If you love classic motorcycles and racing cars just as much as I do, you should visit the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum.

The largest motorcycle museum in the world displays over 1,600 vintage and modern motorbikes dating from 1904 to the present day over 5 floors.

It’s not just for motorcycle enthusiasts either, this first-class museum also features a sizable collection of around 50 Lotus racing cars.

Behind the museum, sits the Barber Motorsports Park racing track which plays host to the Annual Barber Vintage Festival and Porsche Track Experience Days.

So, if you are a car fanatic and feel the need for speed, you can see exactly what its like to race the track for yourself.

12. Pinson Bicentennial Park

Pinson Bicentennial ParkSource: facebook.com
Pinson Bicentennial Park

Pinson Bicentennial Park is a new recreational area in the nearby city of Pinson which was built to celebrate the city’s 200th anniversary.

Set on 20 acres, on the site of an old farm, the new park features a children’s playground, walking trails, an amphitheater and community center.

If you wish to cool off on warmer days, there’s a fun a Splash Pad with super soakers, water features and fountains, and on balmy summer evenings, you can sit outdoors and watch movies or enjoy a performance at the tiered amphitheater.

13. Cosby Lake Park

Cosby Lake ParkSource: Lisa Park / Facebook
Cosby Lake Park

Around half an hours’ drive from Gardendale is picturesque Cosby Lake Park.

With changing seasonal shoreline landscapes, tranquil waters and a mini-wetland area which attracts birdlife and beavers, there’s much to entice nature lovers.

Whether you wish to hike forest trails, enjoy a waterside picnic, or hook your catch of the day, you can do it all here.

If you plan to fish you have to obtain an Alabama Fishing License, but once that’s done, you’ll discover the lake is stocked full of catfish, bass, brim and crappie.

Cosby Lake Park is particularly beautiful to visit during autumn months, as trees reflect on the water in shimmering coppers, bronze and gold colors.

More on Alabama: 30 Amazing Hidden Gems in Alabama

15 Best Things to Do in Gardendale (AL):

  • Turkey Creek Nature Preserve
  • Gardendale Flea Mall and Antique Center
  • Birmingham Museum of Art
  • Southern Museum of Flight
  • Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
  • Our Place Restaurant
  • Rickwood Caverns State Park
  • Black Creek Park Rails to Trails
  • McWane Science Center
  • Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark
  • Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum
  • Pinson Bicentennial Park
  • Cosby Lake Park