From its perch below Oak Mountain, the Pelham Civic Complex accommodates everything from ice-skating and wedding receptions to MMA fights and Harlem Globetrotters games. Two NHL-sized ice arenas lay out plenty of space for families, figure skaters, and first dates to glide the afternoon away. Pelham also houses 7,000 square feet of banquet and conference space, ideal for business meetings, weddings, or big and tall high school reunions.
Along Stepping Stone Farm's 130 acres of pastures and tree-studded hills, owner Courtney Huguley provides opportunities for students to hone horsemanship skills and connect with natural surroundings. During lessons, Courtney and assistant instructor Elizabeth Stevenson teach students the basics of saddleseat riding, a traditional English style from which many other methods have originated, including jousting with swimming noodles. Once students gain comfort and confidence during private lessons, the instructors introduce them to group lessons with up to four other riders to master walking, trotting, and synchronized neighing.
Weeklong summer camps are also available for younger riders. During these sessions, each camper is assigned to one specific horse, learning responsibility and companionship.
Aldridge Gardens' 30-acre woodland garden hosts a 6-acre lake, a walking trail, and a multitude of the Gardens' signature flower, the snowflake hydrangea, patented by nurseryman and namesake Eddie Aldridge. Though admission to the park is free, membership affords a wealth of bonuses, including invitations to members-only events, a subscription to the gardens' quarterly newsletter "In Bloom," and reciprocal benefits at more than 200 botanical gardens and topiary mazes across the country. A $20 included credit can be used to construct pottery made thousands of years ago in a Native American Pottery class or applied toward any outdoor concert series. Throughout the year, members can also expect additional discounts on seminars and concerts, such as Three on a String, as well as discounts at the gift shop, providing tasteful going-away gifts to visiting stegosaurs. Classes are subject to availability.
At Vestavia Bowl Family Fun Center, kids are encouraged to knock things over. The staff strives to spread a passion for bowling through various youth incentives, from organized leagues to the Kids Bowl Free promotion—a system that awards children complimentary games to take up summer free time. The staff even lends out kits to area P.E. teachers as part of the In-School Bowling Program, furnishing classes with balls, pins, carpeted lanes, and lengthy lesson plans on how to find the ball's finger holes.
By tutoring youngsters in bowling techniques, the center hopes to instill the same fondness for the sport held by its managerial team. Certified bowling coach Keith Henderson heads the pack of competitive players—many of whom boast sanctioned 300 games on their records—and oversees 34 lanes equipped with computers and overhead scoring monitors. For an ethereal gaming environment, black lights illuminate the lanes during select hours and birthday parties. Guests can also test their dexterity at pool tables and arcade games. Meanwhile, the snack bar preps burgers, hot dogs, and wings to pair with draft beers; patrons can even take advantage of Eat & Bowl specials, which offer a combo meal and two games for one price.
Featuring more than 20,000 square feet of play space, iJump's two locations delight pintsize adventurers with indoor attractions and all-inclusive birthday parties. After conquering inflatable slides and imaginary city-states, kids can hone their racing chops on two types of age-appropriate go-karts at iJump's original location. In addition, a 20-foot rock wall beckons explorers to strive towards its summit, and arcade games set kids on a quest for prizes. At the newer location in Crestwood, parents can relax in the lounge outfitted with a huge HDTV and free WiFi—amenities also available at the other facility—while kids safely submerge into the ball pit in search of lost wallets filled with prospective business clients. Committed to clean fun, iJump provides hand-sanitizer stations throughout its spaces.
More than 12,000 different plants line the meandering paths of Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Spread across its 67.5 acres and more than 25 gardens are 30+ works of outdoor sculptures on display, making it one of the largest collections of public horticulture in the US. Between walks in the gardens, guests can relax in a Japanese garden with a traditional teahouse, and kids can opt into one of the educational programs to understand the science behind botany.
The botanical gardens also host events year round, such as antique shows, plant sales, and cocktail parties, so that the plants don't get bored and fall asleep. Additionally, the lecture series brings in big names and novelists to discuss their trade and put on shows for the garden's visitors.
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.