Irondale is a city and suburb of Birmingham, Alabama, and is known as the inspiration for the book and 1991 film “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café”. The city was named Irondale in 1887 after the Irondale Furnace, the first furnace to resume operation following the Civil War.
Today, the city’s rich heritage can still be explored along mountain trails, in museums, train stations and parks in the area.
Irondale appeals to all ages, with abundant activities to enjoy.
Whether you wish to explore hiking trails, play a round of golf or enjoy a thrilling, challenging Train Escape Room, you can do it all here.
1. Ruffner Mountain
Ruffner Mountain was once mined for its abundant iron ore reserves.
Between the late 19th century to the mid-20th century, the mountain’s mines produced more than 200 tons of ore a day.
This iron ore was taken to nearby Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham, one of the busiest blast furnaces in the world for smelting.
Today, the mines are no longer in operation, but you can explore the mountain along 14 miles of scenic trails, or you can visit the Ruffner Mountain Nature Centre which is home to a variety of native species including the common garter snake, little brown bat, red fox and green tree frog.
2. Irondale Train Watching Platform
For train and railway enthusiasts, a trip to the Irondale Train Watching Platform is a must.
It’s surrounded by history, and if you wait a while you can see several lengthy freight trains shuffling along the tracks each day.
Bring your camera, and a snack from the famous Irondale Café across the road and find seating areas on the historic wooden covered viewing platform to await the trains.
3. Irondale Café
Set in Downtown, opposite Irondale Train Watching Platform is the famous Irondale Café.
The charming café was the inspiration for the book and 1991 movie “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café” starring Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy and Mary-Louise Parker.
The café has been a huge part of the community since 1928, popular with locals and tourists alike.
Whether you wish to try the Buttermilk Fried Chicken, Windy Hill Farm Raised Catfish or a plate of Fried Green Tomatoes, you can sample all these delicious dishes here.
4. Irondale Furnace Trail
The city of Irondale was named after the first blast furnace to operate after the American Civil War, and this area’s scenic hiking trail leads to the spot where the furnace, blacksmiths shop, foundry, housing, tramways and stables once stood.
You can learn about the region’s history as you wander along the trail, as each historic location is marked with information for visitors.
Whether you wish to hike, run, take your dog for a walk, enjoy a picnic, or sunbathe on grassy areas alongside the pathways, you can do it all along this fascinating 1.3-mile long trail.
5. Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum
If you love motorsports, especially vintage and contemporary motorcycles, Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in nearby Birmingham is the place for you.
The museum is the brainchild of George Barber, a former Porsche racing driver who won 63 races throughout the 1960s.
When he retired from racing, his attention turned to collecting and restoring classic cars.
His long-time friend Dave Hooper, an ardent motorcycle fanatic, suggested that Barber focus on motorcycles instead, as there was no museum in the world which would have a vintage motorbike collection so large.
Together they put the wheels in motion and today the museum houses over 1600 motorcycles with several hundred on view each day.
Over 200 manufacturers are represented from across the world from Indian to DSK, Honda and Harley-Davidson.
Don’t worry if you’re not into bikes though, the museum also displays a collection of rare racing cars, including a selection of Lotus sportscars and the 1964 Ferrari F-158 in which John Surtees won the Formula 1 World Championship.
6. Statue of Liberty Replica
If you are driving along the southern bypass of Birmingham Alabama, a familiar structure may come into view.
Towering above the road, set next to billowing stars and stripes of the American flag, stands a replica of the Statue of Liberty.
Located in Liberty Park, a commercial complex on the south side of the city near Vestavia Hills, it stands at one-fifth scale to the original and is highlighted at night with a continuously burning flame.
7. Alabama Veterans Memorial Park
Delve deep into American military history at Alabama Veterans Memorial Park near Irondale.
This picturesque park honours men and women of Alabama who gave their lives in service for their country.
Their legacy is upheld in a poignant Regiment of Columns, 36 x two feet diameter, 20 feet high columns etched with family letters, stories and artwork from Alabama artists.
You can also visit the Hall of Honour which displays names of all Alabama veterans who were lost through war during the 20th and 21st centuries.
At the end of the trail, The American Flag Plaza and StepStones provide a fitting tribute to veterans with names, platoons and ranks etched on bricks beneath the flagpoles.
8. Flora Johnston Nature Park
If your aim is to reconnect with nature, you don’t have to travel far.
The Flora Johnston Nature Trail in Irondale has two picturesque trails which you can walk along, passing tree carvings, rock walls, woodlands and creeks.
It’s a great place for bird-watching during spring and autumn months, and hiking and photography is a joy during any season.
The trail takes around an hour each way and isn’t too challenging, so you can bring the kids too.
9. Train Escape
If you’re travelling with family and friends, why not spend a fun-packed hour or three at Train Escape in Irondale! In these scenarios your escape rooms are located inside old railroad carriages, and feature a set of puzzles, scavenger hunts and challenges which you must solve within 60 minutes to escape.
There are three options to choose from, including Sabotage Room where you have infiltrated the enemy train to stop a missile strike before time runs out! It’s a fun way to spend a cloudy or rainy afternoon, and if you are staying in Irondale, it’s right on your doorstep.
10. Saw’s Juke Joint
Some of the region’s best Bar-B-Q food and entertainment can be found near Irondale at Saw’s Juke Joint.
This bustling establishment offers a menu of authentic southern barbeque food paired with live blues and jazz music.
It has a laid-back friendly vibe which all the family will enjoy, and décor packed with fun memorabilia.
You can sample cuisine such as Saw’s Original Pulled Pork with slaw sandwich, a Sweet Tea Fried Chicken Sandwich, Catfish ‘n’ Greens, Jumbo Smoked Wings or Smoked Sausage.
If you are heading out for the day, you can even order from the ‘To Go’ menu.
If you are seeking a lively night out where you can enjoy great food, superb music and meet new friends, head for Saw’s Juke Joint.
11. Southern Museum of Flight
Southern Museum of Flight is located less than 10 minutes’ drive from Irondale and is home to over 100 aircraft, models, engines, paintings and artifacts.
It’s a fascinating place for aviation fans to visit and for those who wish to learn all about the history of flight.
You can view realistic dioramas, discover how to fly for yourself in a plane simulator, or venture outdoors to the military aircraft and exhibits surrounding the venue.
12. East Lake Park
East Lake Park was founded way back in 1886, and over the years has been home to a zoo, amusement park and concert venue.
These days it’s a tranquil fishing hotspot with a picturesque lake and piers where you can spend many hours trying to hook your catch of the day.
There are several nature trails to walk around the lake through verdant woodland, or you can soak up the sun and relax on the grass with a picnic.
13. Five Points South
Five Points South is a historic district on the outer fringes of Birmingham, Alabama, 7 miles from Irondale.
It’s the city’s premier entertainment and dining district, and home to several architectural buildings of significance.
The thriving area is a great for picking up a souvenir of your Alabama stay, or browsing the latest gifts and fashions.
It’s also a superb place to enjoy an evening out, with a selection of upscale bars, grills and fine dining restaurants.
Don’t forget to stop at the pretty Storyteller Fountain designed by renowned local artist Frank Fleming which perfectly showcases his affinity for animals and nature.
14. McWane Science Centre
The McWane Science Centre in Birmingham is the perfect day out for curious children and anyone else who enjoys scientific experiments.
This state-of-the-art centre in Birmingham features an IMAX Done Theatre, an aquarium and theatre where you can view McWane’s version of the Tesla Coil.
Whether you wish to explore different marine species, browse Native American artifacts and minerals from Red Mountain, or want to supervise the younger kids in Itty Bitty Magic City, there’s something for everyone.
15. Heaviest Corner on Earth
Located on the corner of 1st Avenue North and 20th Street in Birmingham, Alabama, is an area known as the ‘Heaviest Corner on Earth’. It’s so called because the buildings were the first steel constructed skyscrapers in the southeastern states, and it conjured an image of weighing the corner down.
The buildings which were all built between 1902 and 1912, included the Empire Building, Brown Marx Building, the American Trust and Savings Bank and Woodward Building.
Although the buildings may now have changed names, the historic structures remain and are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.