The sleek, dark body of the A-12 Blackbird is invisible to radar detection, but that doesn’t stop it from attracting the attention of every visitor to the Southern Museum of Flight in sight. The retired bomber is just one of the aircrafts in the Southern Museum of Flight’s outdoor collection, and it gives visitors a glimpse of what’s to come. Stepping inside, you can almost hear the purring engines from the Korean War jet or 1920s Huff-Daland crop duster.
Not only does the museum bring high-flown feats of engineering artistry down to earth, it sets its impressive collection of airplanes into realistic dioramas. The exhibits, designed to give life to the history of southern aviation, sprawl across 75,000 square feet and includes photographs, models, original engines, and the tiny gnomes that power them. The Korean War Jets exhibit, for example, uses mannequins and a surprisingly realistic mock-up of Kimpo Air Force Base to tell the story of No Kum Sok, a North Korean lieutenant in the Air Force who defected.
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.
The Alabama Sports Hall of Fame is a stately 33,000-square-foot museum, where more than 5,000 sports artifacts are displayed in glass cases and frames. Memorabilia, jerseys, and photographs commemorate the great baseball players, football stars, and basketball players from across the ages, including Jesse Owens, Hank Aaron, and Willie Mays. The museum gift shop features an eclectic array of souvenir T-shirts, stuffed animals, and local college team regalia.
Sips n Strokes gifts paintbrush-wielding neophytes the tools and confidence to create, with a mélange of masterpiece-making tutorials and a bring-your-own-beverage policy. Artists can elect a class from the shop's calendar to hone the painting style that best complements their home, office, or neighbor's windshield, including picks of imagery from Parisian scenes to funky roosters. Each course, led by an instructor well versed in the trade, pairs well with the liquid inspiration of each student's choosing. Silence-seeking artists or easily corruptible mimes may opt for an afternoon or weeknight session, as the weekends generally garner 20 to 50 rowdy rookies.
Oscar's treats locals to seasonal fare from a calm spot at the Birmingham Museum of Art. The restaurant's produce hails from nearby local vendors, including the Jones Valley Urban Farm, and emerges from the kitchen in various, artfully appetizing ways. Seasonal starters include warm butternut-and-leek gratin with dipping croutons ($6) and the Remington salad, a gathering of mixed greens, roasted beets, grilled red onions, and sliced beef tenderloin ($12). Sandwiches also beef up the menu, including grainy stars such as the smoked turkey reubenesque, which ties together turkey, fontina cheese, and creamy jalapeno slaw inside an unknotted tandem of freshly baked rye ($10.50).
Bryant Art Gallery is committed to bringing one-of-a-kind art and splendid aesthetic displays to Birmingham’s creative cognoscenti. With a collection spanning the pigment-and-canvas styles of the old masters through sculpture, mixed media, and screaming performance artists, Bryant’s friendly staff stands eager to assist patrons in finding the perfect complement for home décor. Selections from a series of 8'x10' oil paintings start at $45.