From Iron Age to Space Age
Copyright Greater Birmingham
Convention & Visitors Bureau
For a peek into Birmingham's past, start at Sloss Furnaces downtown. This gritty attraction once pumped out 400 tons of pig iron a day. Now, it's a unique National Historic Site, complete with a museum of industry.
Take a few minutes to view a short historic film, then allow an hour to tour Sloss' surreal landscape of gargantuan blast furnaces, mazes of pipes, and towering chimneys. You'll hear oral histories and see company housing for the mostly African-American workers who labored here from 1882 through the middle of the 20th century.
These days, a few furnaces still get fired-up, as is on view in the building's sculpture garden (with picnic tables).
McWane Center copyright
Convention & Visitors
Next, leave this hulking symbol of the city's past behind, and rocket into the future at the McWane Center -- a kid-friendly museum of science housed in a former department store -- a five-minute car ride from the furnaces. There are marvels for kids of every age here.
In the Science Quest section, kids can stretch out on a bed of nails or strum a laser harp. Young astronauts take a rattling ride on the Morphis Motion Simulator, then "do launch" at the Challenger Learning Center, where they can fire a probe into a comet entering the solar system. Toddlers can scurry through "Just Mice Size," a learning and play area with a 10-foot milk carton, a fence made of giant crayons, and a soda bottle the size of a bus.