If you go | Birmingham, Ala.
Getting there: Southwest Airlines has two nonstop flights from Tampa to Birmingham for about $220 round-trip. The city is about 550 miles from downtown Tampa; drive time is about 9 hours. Birmingham is not a walking town; you'll need a car.
Where to stay: We stayed at the historic Tutwiler Hotel, which is now a Hampton Inn, 2020 Park Place N downtown. Call (205) 322-2100 or go to www.thetutwilerhotel.com for more information. Room rates are $169 to $209, breakfast included. If you're looking for good dining recommendations, talk to the car attendants, especially Calvin. They're fonts of information and very friendly.
Where to eat
Birmingham has a lot of restaurants, especially in the Five Points South and Lakeview entertainment districts. We especially liked:
• Highlands Bar and Grill, 2011 11th Ave. S; (205) 939-1400; www.highlandsbarandgrill.com. Dinner entrees are $27 to $34. The menu, French-inspired and Southern-conceived, changes frequently, but if there is foie gras the evening you're there, order it.
• Hot and Hot Fish Club, 2180 11th Court S; (205) 933-5474; www.hotandhotfishclub.com. Dinner entrees $22 and up. Much of the food is locally sourced; we recommend the Fudge Farms pork trio: leg with creamed Vidalia onions, loin with roasted baby vegetables and belly on fennel-Mirliton slaw.
• Dreamland BBQ, 1427 14th Ave. S; (205) 933-2133; www. dreamlandbbq.com. Entrees $6.96 to $18.50. Start with ribs and finish with banana pudding.
• The Fish Market, 612 22nd St. S; (205) 322-3330; www.birmingham menus.com/thefishmarket. Entrees $10 to $16. Vast, funky and super-fresh; we especially liked picking up our meal at the windows marked "even" and "odd."
• Chez Lulu, 1911 Cahaba Road, Mountain Brook; (205) 870-7011; www.birminghammenus.com/chezlulu. Entrees under $15. Just outside of Birmingham and not far from the city zoo and botanical gardens, this French-inspired cafe gets its bread from the owner's fabulous bakery next door.
Where to play
• Marty's, 1813 10th Court S. Open 4 p.m. to 6 a.m. every day of the year with live music most days. Food served until 5 a.m. American Idol winner and hometown hero Taylor Hicks still drops in for a set from time to time.
• The Tragic City Rollers kick out the jams in monthly roller derby matches. The women rollers' home court is the Zamora Shrine in nearby Irondale (3521 Ratliff Road). The season runs through July. Go to www.myspace.com/tragiccityrollers for more information.
• Jefferson County Truck Growers Association Farmers Market, 344 Finley Ave. W; (205) 251-8737. Open 24/7 every day of the year, though peak season is May to October.
Civil rights sites
• Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, 1530 Sixth Ave. N; (205) 251-9402. The church where four young girls were killed in a 1963 bombing is still a vibrant city church. Parishioners give tours regularly; check in at the office for times.
• Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, 520 16th St. N; (205) 328-9696, toll-free 1-866-328-9696; www.bcri.org. The museum is dedicated to the civil rights movement in the South. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays; closed major holidays. Admission is $3 to $11. Watch footage of news events, including speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and listen to hours of oral histories.
• Kelly Ingram Park, Fifth and Sixth avenues between 16th and 17th streets N. The 4-acre park contains several statues commemorating the civil rights movement, including an attacking police dog and one representing a children's march. The park was a staging ground for many marches and protests of the 1950s and '60s. Today, it is a place to reflect on the past.
Janet K. Keeler