Museums in Vestavia Hills

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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.

4343 73rd St N
Birmingham,
AL
US

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.

200 19th St N
Birmingham,
AL
US

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.

2150 Richard Arrington Jr Blvd N
Birmingham,
AL
US

Founded to commemorate the life and career of one of country music's most beloved stars, the Hank Williams Museum overflows with a tide of the late singer's possessions and memorabilia, including the blue 1952 Cadillac that Williams died in (the museum is only 1.5 miles from Oakwood Cemetery, where Hank and his first wife Audrey Williams are buried). Admire 13 of the icon's stylish suits, and eyeball more than 35 showcases packed with possessions, including toothpicks pulled from one of his suits, and various royal artifacts stolen from the British Museum. The museum also houses several shelves of Williams' records, Hank Jr.'s first cowboy boots, a 1952 steel guitar from Hank's guitarist Don Helms, and much more.

118 Commerce St
Montgomery,
AL
US

Walking down the the streets of Old Alabama Town Montgomery, you might think you hear the sounds of clanking metal coming from the blacksmith shop, or you may swear you smell smoke wafting from a potbelly stove. Your mind might be playing tricks on you, but it's certainly understandable?the founders of this attraction had every intention of whisking visitors back in time. In 1967, the Landmark Foundation began buying historical homes, eventually purchasing 50 of them in a six-block radius. Seventeen of these homes have been restored to their original condition to give guests a glimpse of what 19th century life was like. Here are some more facts about this impressive ode to another era.

  • Eye Catcher: Ordeman House was the first property restored by the Landmark Foundation. SItting on its original site, the interior has been adorned with Queen Anne chairs, sumptuous window dressings, and intricate floral carpets. It looks like it most likely did in its 19th century heyday.

  • Don't Miss: Lucas Tavern?originally built in 1810?and its sleeping room, which features wooden daybeds, a writing desk, and a beautiful brick fireplace

  • Other Buildings: Besides restored homes, everyday businesses have been rebuilt, including an 1888 church and an 1893 blacksmith shop. There's also a one-room school house, which features a wood-burning stove, clapboard walls, and a ghostly apparition of a dunce cap.

  • Past Exhibits: The Richburg Quilt Collection showcased African-American quiltmaking traditions through the creations of mother-and-daughter quilters Sarah Ann Carpenter Simmons and Lovie Simmons Richburg. They were all created over a 110-year stretch from 1875 to 1985.

  • Something to Keep in Mind: Due to the age of the buildings and their historical accuracy, not all of them are wheelchair accessible. However, eight of them are, including the church, drugstore, and cotton gin

  • While You?re in the Neighborhood: Visit Rescue Relics (423 Madison), where you can browse salvaged fixtures and hardware from the restored homes. The collection includes sinks, doors, light fixtures, and balustrades.

310 N Hull St.
Montgomery,
AL
US

The Experience

The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum showcases vintage bikes from 20 countries, which fill the massive showroom at the Barber Motorsports Park, with technicians constantly working to keep each of the museum's 1,300 bikes authentically maintained and road-ready. Additionally, technicians ensure the overall gallery represents the evolution of the motorcycle through the 20th and 21st centuries.

The Highlights

  • Collection contains 1,300 motorcycles, built between 1902 and the present
  • Roughly half of the collection is kept on display
  • More than 50 Lotus racecars
  • Adjacent racetrack, Barber Motorsports Park, hosts test-drives and ride-alongs

Who They Are

George Barber first explored his love of racing in the 1960s, behind the wheel of a Porsche. By 1988, he had begun collecting and restoring classic and vintage sports cars, and his acquisitions soon spilled into motorcycles. His fleet eventually became the Barber Collection and the defacto garage for his own vintage-motorcycle racing team. Today, Barber's Collection has become a full non-profit motorsports museum that has shared its pieces at exhibitions at the Guggenheim in Spain, the Field Museum in Chicago, and the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England.

6030 Barber Motorsports Parkway
Birmingham,
AL
US