Birmingham is the largest city in the state. Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, it sprawls along a single valley, while suburbs dot the surrounding valleys. Red Mountain is in the center of town and runs east to west. Along the mountain, iron ore was mined and used in the numerous steel mills that once dotted the landscape. Birmingham’s steel heritage is long gone now, given way to other industries like banking and medical research. The University of Alabama at Birmingham makes up much of the downtown area.

The most interesting place to visit would be Five Points on the Southside. Interesting restaurants, and there’s live music close by. It’s about as close as you can get to local culture.

Birmingham is sort of like Detroit – safe enough, if you know which areas to avoid. Avoid North Birmingham – there’s nothing to see there, and you will likely get robbed.

Anything south of Red Mountain, is safe. Anything north of Fultondale is safe. Anything in between might be safe during the day, and definitely not safe at night.

There’s a restaurant called Niki’s in North Birmingham that serves the best southern home cooking you’re likely to get. It’s worth the risk – go during the day.

If you’re hankering for authentic southern barbecue, ignore the hype about Dreamland BBQ. The legendary restaurant in Tuscaloosa has declined in quality as it has expanded across the region. Your best bet for barbecue in Birmingham is Demitri’s in Homewood. For the real thing, go to Woodrow’s on University Blvd. in Tuscaloosa. That’s the best barbecue in the world — spicy, thin sauce, addictive.

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