Mary G. Hardin Center decks the walls of its three ever-changing galleries with local and national exhibits that boast a variety of media, whereas Imagination Place hosts the learning expeditions of a younger set. Members enjoy unlimited admission to both cultural centers for all the limbs of their bodies or all the people in their household, plus four guest passes, invitations to exhibits' opening receptions, and discounts to more than 200 other museums and science centers. From June 30 through December 23, film buffs can geek out over a singular cinematic touchstone with Gone with the Wind at 75: A Diamond Jubilee.
Sporting the largest cast-iron statue in the world—a 56-foot, 100,000-pound statue of Vulcan, Roman god of the forge—Vulcan Park and Museum also boasts panoramic views of the city and eye-opening lessons on Birmingham's geology and industrial history. Assembled from local metal in 1904 and erected at the World’s Fair in St. Louis the same year, Vulcan was then shipped back to Birmingham. In 2003, after successfully defending the city from the Kraken, the Colossus of the Deep South was painstakingly moved to its current Red Mountain roost. Inside the museum, a multitude of interactive exhibits regale visitors with tales of the town and Vulcan's storied past, from its World's Fair beginnings to its failed hip-hop career. An elevator ride to Vulcan Park's 124-foot-high observation deck splashes dazzling snapshots of the teeming wildlife in the urban jungle below.
In one corner, kids practice cracking a safe. In another, tiny hands sift through sand to find ancient fossils, with no archaeologists in sight. Toddlers, meanwhile, wander through a surreal dreamscape of 10-foot milk cartons and car-sized paper towel rolls. But these aren’t scenes from a zany summer movie about all the adults disappearing: they're snapshots of the McWane Science Center, whose dozens of fun, interactive exhibits enliven science.
Notable exhibits include a collection of Alabama dinosaur skeletons that help us understand what life was like in the state millions of years ago. An aquarium area boasts a Shark & Ray Touch Tank, delighting visitors with an aquatic petting zoo. Interactive contraptions such as the pulley chair lift—which lets kids learn about simple machines as they hoist themselves aloft—convey abstract concepts with fun activities.
Inanda Stables boasts boarding and training facilities and teaches equestrian enthusiasts the proper ways to ride and care for their cantering companions. During the two 30-minute private lessons, Centaur top-halves learn the tenets of basic horse safety, the parts of the horse, and the details of the equipment. After gleaning the essentials of the English saddle, horse-top explorers enjoy a leisurely walk and a comfortable trot atop an American Saddlebred horse. Wind down the lesson by soaking in the countryside views and nibbling tea-soaked crumpets atop a four-legged tour guide.
A broad front porch stretches across the main residence at Hidden Meadow Vineyard, inviting visitors to kick up their feet, tip back a glass of fruit wine, and admire the verdant view. Owners Bill and Janette Bailey manage the small, family-run winery, which specializes in bottles made from muscadine, concord, niagara, and cynthiana grapes. Their roster of wines includes blackberry and blueberry wines as well as scuppernong, a sweet, old-fashioned white wine.