Updated: Apr 3
This is our current "close to home big city", so we have had an absolute blast exploring when and as often as we can. Besides the fact the the food is stellar, there are so many fun (and FREE) things to do here. I'll detail as many as I can in another post, but for now I want to highlight two of our family favorites. In fact we love them so much, we keep memberships for both.
The McWane Science Center
First thing I'll brag on is from a practical standpoint. We drive a large passenger van and are able to utilize their well lit and easy to navigate parking garage. As a mama that often is shuffling around angsty toddlers, this is a top tier concern of mine when venturing into the city with the kiddos.
Once you're inside it is INCREDIBLE. Themed floors. HUGE i-Max theater. A cafeteria. Weather centers and our boys absolute favorite- an entire floor dedicated to physics and Legos. There is something for everyone. Literally. I have as much fun as the kids when we go explore here and I never leave feeling as though I've seen everything or as if I feel I'd be happy to never return.
They've got an impressive Prehistoric floor that includes a detailed room exclusive to the natural history of the state of Alabama.
We've spent many days exploring all this center has to offer and we love it because not only does it count as a family day out, but I'm able to often work much of our curriculum into our visits.
The membership is fairly affordable at just under $200 for a year at the deluxe level. I get this one because it allows us to bring grandparents in for just $5 each and parking passes are included. Considering tickets range between $19-$45/person, we get our money back by visit #2.
Apart from just being completely spectacular, it is conveniently located in the down town district where food options abound. Once again, something for everyone! There's several great cafes right within a block of the center you can check out while still parked in the garage. One of my favorites that receives all the raves here is Urban Cookhouse. If you'd rather have a chain style place while visiting with kids, there's also a Zoe's Kitchen right around the corner from the cookhouse.
Another option for food, besides the cafeteria, is to hop over to Railroad Park for a picnic. This park is HUGE and full of space and green spaces to play. Be sure to pack a picnic blanket and a soccer ball- End your day of fun running around and being load after such a big day of learning and using inside voices.
Ps. If you need a caffeine dosing and you find yourself at the park- Red Cat Caffe is a stone's throw from the park entrance. It is so worth it. They have an incredible latte line up and a superb iced coffee option if you prefer cold coffee!
The Birmingham Zoo/Botanical Gardens
We ADORE the zoo here! I could go solo and spend all day here. It is always clean. The animals are always happy and well tended to. There are multiple traffic flow options so you can switch up your walking and viewing patterns each time.
They have an awesome petting zoo that our littles BEG to visit next to the cleanest carousel ride you'll find.
In the zoo, there is a rather large green space that is great for running and playing or picnicking. Here you will also find the zoo is always hosting some form a family event on a regular basis. We've enjoyed being surprised a few times with face painting and treats here.
Their 'Go Wild' cafe is also decent to stop at. They've got good tasting food, but we reserve eating here for birthday trips or very special occasions as we find it to be expensive.
Their membership costs us under $200/year and that comes with rides and coupons to the café and other local eateries. We appreciate the coupon book, but always forget to utilize it. That's on me.
Also, while you're here you can take advantage of some of the COOLEST brick mural walls for some cute family pics of the kiddos to document your visit for the 'gram!
One thing I love most about visiting the zoo is that it backs up to a 60+acre botanical garden that is DREAMY. I make sure we stop in here with my horticulture loving hubs since we have the stroller already in tow. It's a great wind down from the excitement of the animals next door. It's rarely 'busy' so our kids are free to roam a little ahead of us making it feel like a pleasant date stroll for the Mr. and I. Not to mention it always smells heavenly. Well, everywhere but by the swamp exhibit. That can smell like stagnant water there, but everywhere else is golden.
There is also a sweet little café here that has great reviews. We haven't tried it out yet as it is a smaller venue than I prefer to take our crew into. But one of these nights, hubs and I plan to get a sitter and check it out. I'll be sure to update on that once we do. Besides the café here, Revelator Coffee is across the traffic circle here in Mt. Brook. HIGHLY recommend. They've been known to have one mean lavender latte.
So there you have it. These two (okay, technically three) places, The McWane Center and The Birmingham Zoo/Botanical Gardens, are our frequent flyer spots here in the 'Ham. I think you'll enjoy them if you're in the area and want to give them a peep!