3 surprising things about Birmingham—from a new transplant

Sarah and Callie at sidewalk
The Birmingham newbie (me!) is on the right. Callie’s been here for a while. (Nathan Watson / Bham Now)

In case you’ve ever wondered what an Alabama-native-who-didn’t-grow-up-in-Birmingham thinks about the Magic City, here you go.

I was born in raised in Huntsville, Alabama and worked with our sister brand Hville Blast up there. Recently, I moved to Birmingham (which I never thought would happen). Here are some things that I found surprising.

P.S. If you’re thinking I’m going to make a judgment about which city is better—Huntsville or Birmingham—I’m not. I’m still a newbie here, and don’t want to jump to any conclusions.

1. The excitement for Birmingham shows, festivals + arts is incredible.

sidewalk Alabama theater 2023
Walking inside Alabama Theater for the first time on Sidewalk Film Festival’s opening night was stunning. (Nathan Watson / Bham Now)

Before moving here, I heard that a big difference between Huntsville and Birmingham was the amount of interest in cultural events—art, music, festivals, theater, you name it.

I had to see it to believe it—and now I do. One day, as I was driving through downtown, I noticed a stream of people on the sidewalk. As I kept driving, the line kept going. My curiosity took me to the door of the Alabama Theater.

People lining up for multiple blocks to get inside a theater? I’d never seen anything like it.

It was a fascinating (and pleasant) surprise. My fascination grew when I got to attend Sidewalk Film Festival for the first time. This time, I got to go inside the Alabama Theater, and my jaw dropped. My coworker can confirm.

The theater was packed and the enthusiasm contagious. I loved it.

2. The food is really good in Birmingham.

Sarah and Lauren frothy monkey
Midday coffee pick-me-ups with coworkers in downtown Birmingham—this time from Frothy Monkey—are the best. (Callie Morrison / Bham Now)

When I told my Huntsvillian friends that I was moving to the Magic City, there was one common response (other than “Why?”—Huntsville was named the best place to live in the nation, after all).

Besides “Why?”, everybody had three words for me, “Really good food.” And boy were they right.

Exploring the food scene in Birmingham has been one of my favorite parts about living here. I’m still working my way through all of our food guides and finding my favorites! Some of the ones I keep going back to are Bamboo on 2nd, Tasty Town and Pizza Grace.

3. Birmingham is really big (oh, and there’s a lot of dogs).

Call me a small town girl if you want, but Birmingham feels huge. (Sarah Gronberg / Bham Now)

Growing up in Huntsville, I definitely thought of Birmingham as “the big city.” However, since Huntsville recently became the biggest city in Alabama, I thought it couldn’t be that different. Right?

Wrong. It’s different. Maybe it’s because I’m so used to Huntsville’s highways and downtown streets, but Birmingham definitely has more of a big city vibe.

Plus, I was surprised when I routed my GPS to somewhere that ended up seeming like a whole other city—even though it was still in Birmingham. The first time I visited Hoover, Homewood and the other mini cities (as I affectionately call them—that’s definitely not an official name), I was so surprised. This place is huge—and it keeps going and going.

I said there were three things, but there’s actually one other little thing that deserves mentioning.

There are so many dogs. That’s all.

If you’re a newbie like me in Birmingham (or even if you’ve been here all your life), Bham Now is such a fun way to connect with the community! Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and LinkedIn to keep up with all that’s buzzy in Bham.

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Sarah Gronberg
Sarah Gronberg
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