The Comeback: Birmingham

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In the 1960s, Birmingham, Alabama’s Redmont Hotel hosted politicians touting “segregation forever.” These days, young urbanites mingle over martinis at that hotel’s rooftop bar, called Above.

Things are looking up all across the city, which, in 2013, marks 50 years since Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote his landmark “Letter From a Birmingham Jail.”

Local printmaker Kevin Cleveland, whose father marched with King, embodies his hometown’s revival. “Birmingham is coming alive—it’s flexing its muscles,” he says. Streets that once reeled with riots now embrace community, from contemporary Art Folk Gallery to Second Avenue hot spots like El Barrio with its graffiti-style mural and tequila-spiked cheese dip.

And a cross section of the city’s residents convene for sunset yoga classes, drum circles, and film screenings at Railroad Park, Birmingham’s open-air “living room.” Featuring a natural amphitheater and a pavilion, the green space trumped New York’s renowned High Line park for a design award and is propelling downtown’s renaissance, from the new Regions Field ballpark to the buzzing taproom of Good People Brewing Company.

This piece, written by Kelsey Snell, appeared in the April 2013 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine.