Birmingham area dominates state’s top tourist attractions rankings, but we found some huge omissions

Birmingham’s beloved Vulcan, photo by Pat Byington, Bham Now

The Alabama Tourism Department released their 2018 annual lists of top state attractions by attendance, and once again the Birmingham metro area made a strong showing.

Despite that, we did find some glaring omissions.

Thank you Tourism

First things first, we applaud the folks at Tourism for compiling this impressive list. It is not easy, and they must know, folks are going to get disappointed.  And remember, we are unabashed Magic City fans.


Here are our takes and suggestions.

Congrats Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Birmingham Botanical Gardens

It is great to see the Birmingham Botanical Gardens notch the top spot for the Top 10 Free Attractions category.  Along with the Birmingham Museum of Art, which ranked 4th, it is nice to see these two beloved landmarks get some well deserved recognition.

Where is Vulcan?

Birmingham, Alabama, Newcomers' guide to Birmingham, Vulcan
Photo via Vulcan Park and Museum (@visitvulcan) on Instagram

How can you forget the “big guy?”  Nothing against the amusement parks, but how can you leave out the Vulcan Park and Museum!  Vulcan does fall into both the “admission” and “free” category, so perhaps that made them hard to rank.

Where are the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute & Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument?

Birmingham, AL
The 16th Street Baptist Church served as backdrop for the Civil Rights National Monument dedication ceremony.

We don’t know about the Institute’s attendance numbers.  Maybe they didn’t release them to  Alabama Tourism. But, we are pretty shocked that the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, Alabama’s newest National Park unit, did not make the list of free sites.


Sidewalk Film Festival

Birmingham, Alabama, Sidewalk
Knock your socks off at the 2018 Sidewalk Film Festival. Photo via Sidewalk Film Festival

We are just curious about how many folks attend Birmingham’s Sidewalk Film Festival.  Wouldn’t it be great for them to “crack” the top ten list events?

You missed Little River Canyon National Preserve

Birmingham
Fall at Little River Canyon, photo by Pat Byington, Bham Now

Bham Now wrote a story in 2017 about Little River Canyon setting attendance records. According to National Park Service numbers, Little River Canyon National Preserve attracted more than 462,000 visitors in 2016.

What do you have against basketball?

I know we love our football, but no basketball arenas listed on your sports destinations list?  Auburn’s 2018 SEC Champion team soldout nearly every game last year.


Here’s the Alabama Tourism Department’s list for 2018:

Top 10 admission-charged attractions

Birmingham, Birmingham Zoo, pumpkins, trick or treat, Halloween, Boo at the Zoo, October
Photo via Birmingham Zoo

• No. 1: U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville with attendance of 849,981
• No. 2: Birmingham Zoo with attendance of 543,090
• No. 3: Huntsville Botanical Garden with attendance of 353,841
• No. 4: Barber Vintage Motorsports Park in Birmingham with attendance of 352,000
• No. 5: McWane Science Center in Birmingham with attendance of 347,508
• No. 6: USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile with attendance of 343,034
• No. 7: Point Mallard Park in Decatur with attendance of 274,448
• No. 8: Adventureland Theme Park in Dothan with attendance of 250,000
• No. 9: Montgomery Zoo with attendance of 245,620
• No. 10: Alabama Splash Adventure in Bessemer with attendance of 190,134

Top 10 free attractions

Photo by Terri Robertson for Bham Now

• No. 1: Birmingham Botanical Gardens with attendance of 352,000
• No. 2: Lowe Mill Arts & Entertainment in Huntsville with attendance of 285,000
• No. 3: Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery with attendance of 151,156
• No. 4: Birmingham Museum of Art with attendance of 127,693
• No. 5: Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville with attendance of 110,000
• No. 6: Army Aviation Museum in Fort Rucker with attendance of 100,000
• No. 7: Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts with attendance of 94,249
• No. 8: Aldridge Gardens in Hoover with attendance of 87,372
• No. 9: Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Cemetery in Tuscumbia with attendance of 75,000
• No. 10: Jesse Owens Museum in Danville with attendance of 59,000

Top 10 events

The Magic City Classic is on October 28. Get ready for one of the biggest rivalries in Alabama as ASU plays Alabama A&M at Legion Field. Photo via Magic City Classic on Facebook

• No. 1: Mobile Mardi Gras with attendance of 892,811
• No. 2: W.C. Handy Music Festival in Florence with attendance of 300,000
• No. 3 National Shrimp Festival in Gulf Shores with attendance of 250,000
• No. 4: National Peanut Festival in Dothan with attendance of 200,000
• No. 5: Gulf Coast Balloon Festival in Foley with attendance of 165,000
• No. 6: Barber Vintage Festival in Birmingham with attendance of 79,336
• No. 7: Christmas at the Falls in Gadsden with attendance of 77,333
• No. 8: Magic City Classic in Birmingham with attendance of 65,906
• No. 9 (Tie): Ballyhoo Festival in Gulf Shores and Winfield Mule Day both with attendance of 20,000


Top 10 parks and natural destinations

Thousands of sandhill cranes at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge

• No. 1: Alabama Gulf Coast Beaches (Gulf Shores/Orange Beach/Fort Morgan/Dauphin Island) with attendance of 6,700,000
• No. 2: Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores with attendance of 2,320,000
• No. 3: Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Decatur with attendance of 670,000
• No. 4: Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham with attendance of 501,100
• No. 5: Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park in McCalla with attendance of 500,000
• No. 6: Railroad Park in Birmingham with attendance of 395,186
• No. 7: Lake Guntersville State Park with attendance: 295,200
• No. 8: Wind Creek State Park in Alexander City with attendance of 248,500
• No. 9: Joe Wheeler State Park in Rogersville with attendance of 248,458
• No. 10: J.D. & Annie S. Hays Nature Preserve at Owens Cross Roads with attendance of 200,000

Top 10 sports destinations

Birmingham, Talladega Superspeedway, Talladega, NASCAR

• No. 1: Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa with attendance of 609,250
• No. 2: Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn with attendance of 591,236
• No. 3: Talladega Superspeedway with attendance of 420,000
• No. 4: Birmingham Barons baseball with attendance of 391,061
• No. 5: Montgomery Biscuits baseball with attendance of 238,538
• No. 6 Veterans Memorial Stadium in Troy with attendance of 147,160
• No. 7 Legion Field Stadium in Birmingham with attendance of 145,747
• No. 8 Burges-Snow Field at Jacksonville State University with attendance of 101,421
• No. 9: Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile with attendance of 96,383
• No. 10: Mobile Baybears baseball with attendance of 69,504

Who else is missing? Let us know. Make a comment on our social media.

Author: Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.