Vestavia Hills is a suburb of my hometown Birmingham, which lies around 6 miles away to the north. Many visitors touring Alabama choose Vestavia Hills as a friendly place to stay, as it’s equidistant from the bustling cities of Birmingham and Hoover, Alabama.
I live in Birmingham, and with Vestavia Hills being so close, I have visited this nice place numerous times. The city is well-known for its parks and recreational activities, shopping, and proximity to the Alabama Wine Trail.
Here is my list of best things to do in and around Vestavia Hills.
1. Temple of Sibyl
Temple of Sibyl is known as the gateway to Vestavia Hills and is one of the city’s most popular landmarks. It was constructed by former mayor, George Ward, who designed it as a replica of Tivoli’s Temple of Sibyl, located just outside Rome.
The temple was once an integral part of his large estate, and many parties were held underneath the ornate gazebo-style temple. The vast 2.5 story estate house which he built to replicate the Temple of Vesta, no longer exists, but Temple of Sibyl lives on. The iconic city structure can be viewed from Highway 31 and appears on the Alabama Register of Landmarks.
2. Birmingham Botanical Gardens
These 67.5-acre gardens, 4 miles north of Vestavia Hills, are abundant with floral, themed and cultural displays. Stroll along winding pathways to discover rare plant and flower species synonymous with the US southeast region.
Alternatively, explore Herb Terrace, and Hill Garden with picturesque lily-pad strewn ponds, before wandering through the torii gate to eloquent Japanese Gardens. The latter is a superb place for relaxation and meditation by the tea gardens, and if you want to develop a new skill, you can even take a fun Bonsai class at the pavilion.
Related reading: 15 Best Day Trips from Birmingham
3. Vulcan Park & Museum
This region of Alabama is known for its industrial heritage, and this can be seen in all its glory at Vulcan Park and Museum.
Vulcan, known as the ‘God of the forge’ in ancient Rome, is a 50-ton cast iron statue which overlooks the city of Birmingham from atop the Red Mountain. The impressive cast iron sculpture was designed by Giuseppe Moretti, an Italian artist in the early 1900s. It was cast from iron from the local area, and today, the park and museum reflect that rich history in displays, photography and exhibits.
The stunning location on top of the mountain boasts 360-degree panoramic views of the cityscape and surrounding countryside. With superb photo opportunities, and a wealth of Alabama history to discover, I highly recommend visiting the Vulcan Park & Museum.
4. Klingler’s Café
Fans of European-style pastries and cakes will enjoy a trip to Klingler’s Café in Vestavia Hills. Established in 1982, Klingler’s used to provide sweet treats for local restaurants and hotels. However, since they opened their own bakery the family business has flourished.
They bake with quality ingredients, and their Black Forest Cake was named as one of the “100 dishes to eat in Alabama”. So, if you’re staying in Vestavia Hills, or even passing through, pop in for a slice of their sumptuously rich Chocolate Bavarian Cake, enjoy a slice of Turtle Cake with caramel icing and pecans, or sample a delicious cookie and cupcake.
5. Byrd Park
This pretty park in Vestavia Hills was named after local developer Charles Byrd who built several early neighbourhoods in and around the city. The park was badly damaged by a tornado in 2011, but since then, the local community worked tirelessly to revitalise it, even planting several new trees.
Today, it’s the perfect place for a walk, cycle, hike, or family picnic, plus there’s a playground area to occupy the children if you don’t wish to venture too far.
6. Birmingham Zoo
Birmingham Zoo lies 10 minutes’ drive north of Vestavia Hills. The 122-acre zoo is home to over 950 animals, included endangered species from over the world. Whether you wish to follow the trail of the Alabama Wilds, watch sea lions swim, or visit flamingos, elephants and African Lions you can do it all here.
Birmingham Zoo is a leader in conservation study, so if you wish you can participate in one their many educational programmes. There’s also plenty for young children to see and do at the zoo, with a Splash Pad, carousel and dedicated Children’s section.
If you’re planning to do multiple attractions/sights in a few days I’d recommend taking a look at the Birmingham Area Multi-Attraction Pass, which includes the Birmingham Zoo.
7. Alabama Wine Trail
See more of Alabama, and sample some of the region’s finest wines at the same time. Just south of Vestavia Hills is the beginning of Shelby County Wine Trail Loop.
One of the closest wineries is Corbin Farms Winery in Calera. Set on 5-acres of verdant farmland, the farm is one of the region’s oldest wineries. At Corbin Farms, you can enjoy all manner of wines, ranging from a light, fragrant Strawberry Chardonnay, to their most popular choice, Tuxedo Junction – a full bodied red with scrumptious notes of chocolate, raspberry and caramel.
Pair your wines with delicious food at the winery’s charming bistro, then sit back and enjoy live entertainment on the patio with music from local artists.
8. Riverchase Galleria
There are great shopping opportunities in Vestavia Hills, but if you don’t mind travelling a few miles to Riverside Galleria just outside Hoover, you are sure to find everything you’re looking for.
With a range of independent and high street stores ranging from Aveda, Sears, Abercrombie and Fitch to Forever 21, there’s fashion and beauty for all. If you fancy a light bite or meal during your retail therapy spree, I suggest exploring the several food outlets and takeaways to suit your taste and budget.
9. Moss Rock Preserve & Waterfalls
Just outside Vestavia Hills is Moss Rock Preserve and Waterfalls. With over 12 miles of hiking trails and cascading falls, it’s the perfect place to get back to nature.
If you’re a keen photographer, I highly recommend to walk around the ‘Waterfall Loop’ to gain incredible shots of the falls, myriad birds and wildlife. The 1.5-mile circuit will take you across rocks and through woodland trails to the best viewpoints.
Take the family, take a picnic and your rock climbing gear if you feel inclined, and discover the beauty of this picturesque Alabama preserve.
10. Vestavia Bowl
Enjoy a fun night out with friends and family at Vestavia Bowl. If you enjoy the thrill of the strike, and avoiding the dreaded ‘gutter ball’, this is the place for you.
Not only can you enjoy an evening of bowling in your own private lane, you can also tuck into a range of delicious, yet calorie-laden munchies, combo meals and beverages as you beat the competition.
11. Birmingham Museum of Art
The Birmingham Museum of Art displays over 27,000 sculptures, prints, paintings and decorative arts spanning centuries. Showcasing art works ranging from European and Pre-Columbian to Native American, there’s a diversity of creativity which everyone will want to see.
Whether you are browsing early Navajo textiles, European oil on canvas art work, or Asian bronze sculptures, there’s always something new to discover, courtesy of the museum’s ever-changing exhibitions.
12. Christenberry Planetarium
If you wish to delve deep into the mysteries of the universe, you can do so at Samford University’s Christenberry Planetarium. Lecturers bring the wonders of space to life, with a range of live and interactive shows, covering everything from astrophysics and planetary science, to looking at the Alabama sky at night.
If you would like more one-on-one time to ask questions, call in advance to arrange a private audience, and see how much you can learn about the galaxies far, far away.
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13. Birmingham Railroad Park
Birmingham Railroad Park is 19-acre green space on the banks of Railroad Park Lake in Downtown Birmingham, Alabama. The park was built to celebrate the city’s industrial heritage, and it’s a wonderful place for jogging, walking, picnicking and discovering city landmarks and attractions.
Walk or cycle the Railroad Lake Path, stop for lunch at Boxcar Café, or take a detour to see the art installation at Rainbow LED Tunnel underpass.
14. Southern Museum of Flight
The Southern Museum of Flight is one of the largest aviation museums in America’s southern states. It houses engines, models, photographs and paintings, and over 100 aircraft! Take a trip back in time at the Vietnam War Helicopters Exhibit, a true story of American heroes from the 16th Cavalry Regiment or visit the many aircraft on display at the museum’s outdoor collection.
Discover how the crop duster was designed and its role across the skies of America’s farmland. Alternatively, explore Korean War Jets exhibits, or listen to interesting talks from experienced guides about all things aviation.
15. Lake Purdy
The picturesque 990-acre reservoir is surrounded by verdant woodlands, making it a prominent destination for bird-watching, walking and hiking. Depending on the season you visit, you could be lucky enough to see Great Blue Herons, Hooded Mergansers, Ospreys, and even a Bald Eagle or two! There are boats to rent on Lake Purdy if you wish to take to the water.
The lake is a popular area for angler’s trying to hook bass, catfish and crappie. If you’re a lover of all things nature related, bring a picnic, your binoculars and walking shoes, because you may be here a while.
Related reading: 15 Best Lakes in Alabama