Birmingham, Alabama has been called the Portland, Oregon, of the South, a “surprising foodie city” and one of the best places to travel in the eastern U.S. in 2018. So, it’s no wonder that Alabama’s most populous city is a noteworthy southern destination for meeting and event planners.
It’s also unexpectedly green, in the literal sense. “Planners who haven’t been here before are always surprised to see what Birmingham is,” said Steve Pierson, director of convention sales for the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We’re hilly, and we’ve got a lot of parks.”
Amanda Baker, director of sales and catering for Aldridge Gardens located near Birmingham, added, “There’s a lot of green space within the city, which has done a good job of protecting our gardens and our parks.”
After a year of rebuilding, Interstate 59/20 reopened in January 2020, allowing regional meeting attendees to get to Birmingham “a lot easier and safer,” Pierson said. “It’s totally redone and working well.”
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And along with being convenient and affordable, Birmingham doesn’t stick to the status quo. “We’re a great alternative from the cities that planners always seem to gravitate to, like the Atlantas and the Nashvilles,” Pierson said. “One group a couple of years ago, after a site visit, told me, ‘My question before was, I don’t know why we chose Birmingham? Now my question is, when can we come back?’ Those are the kinds of things we hear when people get here.”
When considering Birmingham as a destination for your next meeting or event, get inspired by these noteworthy venues in and near the city.
Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex
For large groups and events, the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC) downtown is a reliable choice. It boasts 220,000 square feet of exhibit space, 74 meetings rooms and a theater that seats 1,000. The complex also has adjoining hotels for easily accessible accommodations, including the Westin Birmingham and the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel.
The Legacy Arena is also within the complex and seats 19,000—which will close at the end of March this year for about 18 months to undergo a renovation “inside and out,” Pierson said. “It’s going to be a state-of-the-art arena, down to the dressing rooms and locker rooms.”
Photo: The Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex has 220,000 square feet of exhibit space, 74 meetings rooms and a theater that seats 1,000.
Sheraton Birmingham Hotel
Connected to the BJCC, the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel is a meetings destination in its own right, offering more than 385,000 square feet of meeting room space in a variety of room styles. This includes a ballroom at almost 25,000 square feet and 66 meeting rooms and breakout spaces.
Just outside the hotel doors is Birmingham’s Uptown Entertainment District where seven new restaurants have recently opened. That was enticing for attendees of the International Institute of Municipal Clerks (IIMC) Annual Conference, which was held in Birmingham in May 2019 and brought more than 1,000 people to the city.
“On our first site visit, they had just opened up a lot of restaurants right where the Sheraton is,” said IIMC executive director Chris Shalby. “We anticipated that being a good draw. And with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the history, there were plenty of ancillary attractions besides our education program. We could all be housed in one hotel, and the convention center was great to work with. All of those factors went in to why we chose Birmingham.”
In Hoover, a suburb about 15 minutes away from downtown Birmingham, meeting planners will find the Finley Center, a 155,000-square-foot sports complex and event venue. About 83,000 square feet of that can be used for an exhibit hall or banquet. The center’s three meeting rooms can accommodate 75 people each, or 225 people combined.
“This is another area that gets a lot of activity,” Pierson said. “The Finley Center does a lot of events from volleyball tournaments to trade shows.”
Hyatt Place Birmingham/Hoover is about a 10-minute drive away from the Finley Center and offers 126 guestrooms.
Located downtown, Regions Field is home to the Birmingham Barons, the Double-A baseball team affiliated with the Chicago White Sox, and is popular for hosting private events. The Dread River Lounge inside the stadium can accommodate up to 1,000 guests. It offers unobstructed views of the stadium from behind home plate and the city skyline with floor-to-ceiling windows on both sides.
“A lot of groups use it for opening or welcome receptions and things like that,” Pierson said. That includes the IICM Annual Conference, which hosted its welcome reception at Regions Field in 2019.
Photo: Regions Field is home to the Double-A baseball team the Birmingham Barons and is popular for hosting private events.
Barber Motorsports Park
An event space truly unique to Birmingham is located about 25 minutes east of downtown. The Barber Motorsports Park is a racing facility and home to the largest motorcycle museum in the world (according to Guinness). There are more than 900 motorcycles on display in the museum at any one time, but the collection features over 1,600 bikes.
Photo: The Barber Motorsports Park is a racing facility and home to the largest motorcycle museum in the world, which is a fun offsite venue option.
“There’s nothing like it in the world—it’s just phenomenal,” Pierson said, adding, “This is a meeting space that we use for a lot of events, such as reception-type banquets and conventions. Attendees can tour all of the motorcycles.”
The Grand Atrium inside the museum can accommodate up to 800 guests seated or 1,500 reception style, and the space is surrounded by the museum’s world-class collection. A smaller atrium, also on the first floor of the museum, can seat up to 48 in round tables of eight.
Also located in Hoover, Aldridge Gardens is a 33-acre woodland garden with a lake and walking trail known for its many varieties of hydrangeas. It’s an ideal setting for small- to mid-sized corporate and meeting groups looking for a respite.
Photo: Aldridge Gardens is a 33-acre woodland garden with a lake and walking trail that can host small- to mid-sized corporate and meeting groups.
“A lot of corporate groups that come here are looking to get outside of a hotel room or convention center space where there’s not a whole lot of personality,” said Baker, of Aldridge Gardens. “The gardens can provide a retreat-like atmosphere. Our art gallery overlooks our lake. It’s just more intimate and personable.”
Since the gardens are typically booked for in-season weddings and social events on the weekends, corporate and meeting offerings are only available during the week. Along with small-to-medium meeting rooms, the gardens also feature an outdoor classroom. Attendees also have access to the gardens, walking trail, picnic area and boathouse.
Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau | 205.458.8000
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