What’s better than a road trip? How about a road trip to see your favorite U.S. National Team in a city near you. Well, if you’re thinking about hitting the pavement to see Landon Donovan or Abby Wambach, but aren’t sure because you don’t know anything about the city other than where the stadium is, we’ve got you covered with “Player’s Tour.” In this new section, a men’s or women’s national team player from a particular neck of the woods will provide you with intimate knowledge on where to eat, shop, sightsee and go out after another USA victory.
To say that U.S. Women’s National Team defender Cat Reddick loves Birmingham, Ala., is like saying people from the South love college football and barbecue ribs. Such is the fervor held by Reddick for her hometown. The only player reared in Alabama ever to earn a cap for the U.S. women, Reddick loves everything about Birmingham. She loves the people, the ambiance, the food, the football and the fútbol. So for fans traveling to Birmingham for the USA’s first home qualifying match of the Hexagonal on March 30 against Guatemala at the famed Legion Field, who better to give a virtual tour of the hot spots in the biggest city in the Heart of Dixie.
THE BIRMINGHAM ‘CAT’ WALK
We are located at the bottom of the Appalachian Trail. I always say that Birmingham is nestled right up against a mountain, but the people who live in the mountains may call it a hill. It’s so green and beautiful most of the year. We have a lot of industry, but there still is so much nature and so many trees that pretty much everywhere you go is scenic. I have to admit that it does get pretty humid in the summer, and it might even snow an inch or two every winter, but luckily for soccer fans, late March is probably the best time to visit.
For breakfast on game day, I think it has to be Chick-fil-A. I’m a huge Chick-fil-A fan for breakfast. For those of you who don’t live in the South, you must experience Chick-fil-A before you leave Alabama. I always get a Chicken Biscuit and sometimes two. All my friends go there, and it’s just flat out tasty. If you are really hungry you can get some hash browns, which are really good, but I don’t usually get them. They also have these new Chick-N-Minis which are Sister Shubert Rolls with little chicken nuggets inside. Yum! There are lots of Chick-fil-A restaurants in Birmingham, but the most visited one in the whole country is on 280.
For lunch, Milo’s is always my favorite. I get the cheeseburger with just sauce. You can’t not have the sauce! You might as well not go unless you get the sauce. I even get some extra to dunk my fries in. They also give you a little treat inside the burger. It’s like one quarter of a patty, so at some point when you take a bite it’s like your eating a double cheeseburger even though it’s a single. I also love the sweet tea at Milo’s. I could drink gallons of it. Come to think of it, I have.
But if you are not in the mood for hamburger and fries (and perish the thought), I love a little place called Zoe’s Kitchen that is actually in the Summit Mall. You can get all sorts of sandwiches, but I get a spinach-feta and chicken quesadilla which is awesome. I also highly recommend Tazikis, which is a Greek place in an area called Colanade. They have the most wonderful chicken roll-ups.
For dinner, I’m thinking you should check out some good BBQ, which means Johnny Ray’s is your place. They also have great pie. Lemon pie, chocolate pie and banana pie. I love pie.
Birmingham also has all the good chain restaurants, but another place to get some after-game grub is a little Mexican place called El Poblano. It’s cheap, plentiful and good. If you are looking for a nice place downtown, Highlands Bar and Grill is for you. They have a world-renowned chef and the atmosphere is great. I’ve only been there once, but it’s one of my parents’ favorite restaurants.
If I was coming in for just a day or so, I’d definitely make a trip to the Summit Mall, just off 280 at the intersection of 459. It’s real big and outdoors, so you can walk and just window shop on a beautiful spring day. It has all the best stores and all sorts of restaurants to eat at if you are looking for a good place to kill a few hours.
The Galleria is also a great mall. It's off of 459 about 5-10 minutes away from The Summitt going towards Tuscaloosa. It's indoors if the weather is bad, and it has all the stores you could ever want. There is a really nice movie theatre there and a great food court. It's got Chick-fil-A!
I don’t know much about hotels as of course I always stay at home when I come back, but you can’t come to Birmingham without visiting the Five Points area, which is basically downtown. Getting a hotel close to Five Points is a good idea as it is full of cute little boutiques, dance clubs, bars and pool halls. There is a place there called Zydeco where John Mayer started out. They just opened a new club called Toxic, but I haven’t been there. I also heard Bell Bottoms is fun. As you can tell, I don’t go out much when I go home as I spend a lot of time with my family. There is however a sushi place that just opened for midnight sushi! Yes, it opens at midnight. We are crazy in Alabama.
If you have some more time, there are a number of sight-seeing possibilities. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is a great way to spend a few hours. It is filled with multi-media exhibits and gives you a historical trip through the Civil Rights movement. A visit to Vulcan Park might be worth it as well if you are into seeing the largest cast metal statue in the world and the largest statue ever made in the United States. And who wouldn’t be? We do it big in Alabama! Vulcan Park is the 10-acre green space atop Red Mountain that overlooks the City of Birmingham. It’s a really pretty view. Finally, if you have kids with you, a trip to the Birmingham Zoo or the Birmingham Botanical Gardens is fun. They are right next to each other and can easily take up a half-day or more.
You can see why the U.S. National Teams keep coming back to Birmingham! Not only do the fans from the South come out to support the USA, but there is just so much good food and good people, that you can’t help but love Birmingham. I’ll hopefully be back in town for the game, so I’m sure I’ll see you at Milo’s and you can buy me a sweet tea!