Taking a Sunday drive on Highland Avenue can be a great way to lose yourself in the character and charm of Birmingham’s Southside — and remind you why you should come over the mountain more often! It’s also easy to actually get lost. The streets are windy and hilly, and without realizing it, you’ll end up on a road that allows you to gaze down upon houses and out at the downtown Birmingham skyline. It’s a picturesque weekend destination that’s definitely worth setting your sights on. Here’s a guide to the history and current happenings at Highland Park — including great spots to eat, drink, and play!
One of Birmingham’s oldest neighborhoods, Highland Park was established in 1884 and began as a single boulevard with three parks. These days, the community is nestled in between Highway 280 on the west, Highland Park Golf Course on the east, and the avenues of Clairmont, Arlington, and Pawnee on the north and south. According to the American Planning Association, former Mayor Henry Caldwell (after whom Caldwell Park and Caldwell Avenue are named) and engineer and developer Willis Milner (after whom Milner Street and Milner Crescent are named) planned and designed Highland Park Avenue to ebb and flow along with the topography.
This Red Mountain community is full of diversity. There are varying housing options, from one-bedroom apartments to upscale condos and updated Craftsman-style homes. Whether you’re looking to meet friends for a drink, enjoy a celebratory birthday meal, sweat off calories at the gym, attend church, or take a coffee break, all of those activities are within walking distance. Plus, there are three fantastic parks to choose from. The bottom line? Highland Park offers city living with enchanting neighborhood appeal.
Where to Dine
2921 Highland Ave, Birmingham, AL 35205 • (205) 328-4733
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; closed Monday
Owners Laney DeJonge and Clark Lopez opened Rojo back in 2002, and it’s been a Southside staple ever since. A casual, family-friendly restaurant that serves American and Latin cuisines, Rojo is located in the heart of Highland Park and offers seated dining as well as to-go and catering options. It’s a wonderful place to gather for weekend brunch, and they even have vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free dishes. This funky eatery also offers outdoor seating with an expansive view of Rushton Park.
2915 Highland Ave, Birmingham, AL 35205 • (205) 250-1195
Hours: Daily, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Skip the coffee chains – local always tastes best, don’t you think? Birmingham orthodontist Dr. Henry Bright turned his love of coffee into an entrepreneurial endeavor: O’Henry’s Coffee. Dr. Bright’s year-long research of brewing coffee beans led him to open his first location in Homewood, and the Highland Avenue location began serving specialty coffees and treats in 2013. Stop in for a latte and a Conecuh Cheddar Biscuit, and see what the buzz is about!
2608 Highland Ave, Birmingham, AL 35205 • (205) 407-5263
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; closed Sunday and Monday
Opening in 2019, shortly before the pandemic, EATS Highland is the brainchild of Chef Wendy Cruse. The eatery serves Southern and Cuban-inspired Latin cuisine, including tacos, enchiladas, and maduros (fried sweet plantains with sorghum-citrus sauce). Conveniently tucked near Caldwell Park, EATS proudly prepares each dish in a dedicated gluten-free kitchen, and offers dine-in service as well as catering and takeout.
Where to Play
Virginia Samford Theatre
1116 26th St S, Birmingham, AL 35205 • (205) 251-1228
Birmingham’s oldest performance arts venue, the Virginia Samford Theatre, opened in 1927 under its original name, The Little Theatre. In 1955, UAB purchased the building and announced its closing in 1999. Thankfully, the Metropolitan Arts Council restored the historic landmark and renamed it after its most generous donor, Virginia Samford Donovan. Check out the season lineup to reserve tickets for musicals such as The Sound of Music and Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5: The Musical.
(Timely SB Tip: For a production that offers a sense of nostalgia, Junie B. Jones is running from March 3 through March 6, 2022, followed by Stephen Sondheim’s Company.)
Highland Park Golf Course
3300 Highland Ave, Birmingham, AL 35205 • (205) 322-1902
Hours: Daily, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Earning the distinction of being the oldest golf course in Alabama, Highland Park Golf Course was initially established in 1903 as the Country Club of Birmingham. It’s not only a beautiful course with spectacular views of Birmingham, but it also possesses an adjoining tennis club and clubhouse facilities. Play a round, pick up a new hobby, or simply park and enjoy the sunset!
Where to Enjoy the Outdoors
Highland Park is home to William J. Rushton Sr, Caldwell, and Rufus Rhodes Parks. All three of these beautiful spaces host annual events such as jazz festivals, block parties, cookouts, and other community-centered events. On any given day, as you drive down Highland Avenue, you’ll spot dog walkers, joggers, and couples casually strolling. A few things to note about each of them:
Rushton Park: This park features a volleyball park and small playground, and it’s named for Birmingham alderman and Board of Education president, Dr. William J. Rushton, Sr.
Caldwell Park: This is where many of the local events happen, with more frequency since a stage was added in 2005. Dr. Henry Caldwell aided with the design of Highland Avenue, and this park was named in his honor.
Rhodes Park: This unofficial “Highland Doggy Park” is where you can attend the ever-popular Do Dah Day celebration, a music festival that takes place each May, complete with a pet parade and fundraising efforts. Rufus Rhodes, a Birmingham news publisher, is memorialized as the namesake of this park.
The Highland Park community certainly has a lot to brag about, but it’s also a short hop, skip, and jump from many other prominent areas. The winding roads take you to English Village, Forest Park, Downtown, Five Points South, and the Lakeview District. Highways 31 and 280 are nearby for grocery shopping, trips to the zoo, or even a quick road trip out of town.
Head to Highland Park to experience a different, diverse area of Magic City!
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