Situated on top of Red Mountain in Birmingham, Alabama sits the world’s largest cast iron statue: Vulcan.
Now you are probably thinking why does a classic southern city have a Roman god as its symbol?
Birmingham, founded in 1871, has a deeply rooted history in the steel and iron industry. With rich veins of coal, iron ore and limestone this city boomed as an industrial city. To help advertise the city and state, Birmingham officials funded the building of a cast iron statue to be revealed at the 1904 World’s Fair, and thus Vulcan was born. Designed by Giuseppe Moretti, Vulcan was revealed on June 7, 1904 and moved back to the city in 1905.
Since his move to Vulcan Park on Red Mountain, Vulcan has been the keep of Birmingham.
If you are looking for a unique perspective of the Magic City and want a history lesson of it’s industrial history, check out the Vulcan Park & Museum. The museum offers an interactive experience of Birmingham and Vulcan’s history.
On Tuesday I celebrated my 28th birthday, but, let’s be real, I celebrated all week!
My birthday celebration started last weekend with a full three days with The Tall Man. I drove over to Raleigh to celebrate, and my man spoiled me! The party started on Saturday with a trip down to the North Carolina Zoo, one of the largest “natural habitat” zoos in the United States. The primary reason for this trip was to see elephants! (I have a slight obsession with elephants.)
The North Carolina Zoo is divided into Africa and North America, and there are around 1,600 animals. We spent hours strolling around and admiring the animals.
Our weekend continued with an amzing birthday dinner at Vivace. Y’all. The Tall Man outdid himself in selecting this restaurant. The food was absolutely delicious. We left compltetly stuffed and satisfied. If you are in Raleigh, make a visit.
On my actual birthday, I headed out to dinner with the parental unit at Roux on Canton and then headed home for presents. I received a brand new camera, Canon 70D!
5 days with The Tall Man. Lake house in the mountains. This was my 4th of July this year, and it was perfect.
Tucked in the White Mountains just outside the quaint town of Rumney is Stinson Lake. This is where I spent the holiday weekend with The Tall Man and his family. We laid out, swam (well I dipped my toes in the icy water), wakeboarded (I watched), ate a ton of food, watched fireworks, and had a pretty amazing time.
The Tall Man and I also had the chance to escape to Clark’s Trading Post in Lincoln for a train ride and dancing bears. They scootered, dunked basketballs and ate ice cream…with a spoon! I wish someone would feed me ice cream like these bears!
During my last visit to New England, The Tall Man and I ventured down to Boston before my flight out to do a little touristing! We opted to check out the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, which is absolutely perfect for any history lover.
The museum recommends purchasing tickets in advance, but we had no trouble getting into one of the shows.
You start off the experience in a town hall type setting the night before the famous tea party. After taking on the identity of someone who participated in the Boston Tea Party, “Sam Adams” provides a compelling speech to teach you about the events that led up to the decision to destroy the tea and why this event had to take place the night of December 16, 1773.
After shouts of “Huzzah!” and donning your secret identity, you head out to one of the two ships docked in the harbor. The museum features two replica ships of the period, the Eleanor and the Beaver.
Once on board, not only do you learn about the destruction of the 340 chests of British East India Company Tea, which weighed over 92,000 pounds, but you also get to see what living conditions were like onboard these vessels that brought trade items into the colonies. Let’s just say, you had to really love your fellow sailors as living conditions were tight!
You also get the chance to throw tea into the sea just like the Sons of Liberty.
After exiting the boat, you enter the museum for a multi-sensory experience where you get to see what exactly occurred in the days and weeks following the tea party. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed but trust me it is a very cool museum! One of our favorite parts of the museum was getting to see and learn about the Robinson Half Chest, one of only two known tea chests from the event that is known to exist.
So, if you are looking for a place to start your Boston visit we definitely recommend starting here — where the American Revolution started.
Weekend before last I flew up to New England to spend some quality time with The Tall Man before he moves to North Carolina this week. (Insert happy dance here!) During my visit, we decided to add another state to our state date list, and took a road trip to Maine!
We spent Saturday in York. It is exactly what you would think when you think of very quintessential Maine. The Tall Man and I drove to Portsmouth and then followed the highway along the coast. The weather was absolutely perfect for a windows-down drive to soak in the salt air. We arrived to Cape Neddick a little before lunch time. We drove up and saw Nubble Lighthouse, but, unfortunately, we I was not prepared for the significant temperature drop so we didn’t spend much time walking around the town.
Instead, we drove over to York Harbor for lunch at the Ship’s Cellar Pub in the basement of York Harbor Inn. My parents recommended this restaurant after their last trip up to New England. After a delicious lunch of lobster (a must!) we headed down to the beach for a quick walk. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating, so we drove around for a bit before heading back over the state line.
I would love to head back to the York Region and Maine for another visit when the weather is a little better!
It’s me, well you, 10 years from now. I know you have heard this before, but you are about to embark on the greatest journey of your life. College. But before we can do this, we have to cross that stage and become a Walton Raider alumna. Whoopee! My only advice is to be careful with the stairs. They can trip us up from time to time.
The next 10 years are going to be some of the best years of your life as well as the most challenging. We come out on the other end as a stronger woman than when we left the hallowed halls of Walton. So here is my advice to survive what’s coming down the road:
Say yes to adventures.
College is a time to explore and find yourself. Try to break out of your comfort zone a little … I promise it’s worth it. Do not miss a single opportunity to have fun.
I’d only skip the spring break trip to New Orleans your sophomore year, it’s not worth it. I promise you’ll get another opportunity to explore NOLA.
You are pretty awesome. The sooner you learn it the better. It took us a long time to figure it out, but once we learned that lesson life become more enjoyable.
Watch out for boys who don’t treat you well.
You get to date, no worries. There will be some great guys and there will be some not-so-great guys. Avoid the not-so-great guys. Listen to your family and friends and get out of those relationships. Stand up for yourself, and know they aren’t the right guy for you.
Know that it’s completely okay to be a hermit.
You are a textbook-definition of an extroverted introvert. Don’t worry what all the haters say; be proud of your introverted self! But do go out on occasion with your friends, because those are the nights you’ll remember after you graduate college — not the ones with your nose buried in a book.
Go to football games (all of them) and don’t skip class.
I know I don’t have to tell you this, but just making sure that base is covered! You meet some of your favorite people in your college and graduate classes, and football Saturdays in Tuscaloosa are the greatest thing on this planet. Roll Tide! Study before hand and go tailgate on the quad.
Know that the best is yet to come.
You’re going to fall in love, get your heart broken, travel, change your mind about a dozen times about what you want to do after you graduate, and sometimes feel so lost you want to give up (go to Mom at that point … she has the right answers). There will be so many good times in the years to come, and we will get through it and it will all be worth it. I promise.
An hour west of Atlanta is the world’s longest zip line, Screaming Eagle. Surrounded by 300 beautifully wooded acres, Historic Banning Mills offers visitors an adventure resort. The facility offers multiple levels of ziplining courses, high and low ropes courses, Guinness World Record climbing wall, nature trails and more.
I surprised my adventure loving boyfriend with a day at Banning Mills to celebrate his birthday. I opted for us to participate in the Extreme Tour. This provided us the opportunity to fly through and over the treetops with around 24 ziplines and to traverse 20 sky bridges. This tour included the Sky Trek Bridge that is 600 feet long and 190 feet high over the gorge, and Screaming Eagle, which is like stepping off a 30-story building. If you are going to do an adventure course, I highly recommend this tour!
That little dot on the bridge is me. I will say despite being terrifying (for me) the view of Snake River from the sky bridges is absolutely beautiful!
The Tall Man has already asked if we can go back to take part in their ropes courses.
In addition to the ziplining adventure, I also surprised The Tall Man by renting one of the tree house rooms for the night and ordered us dinner at the lodge. It was absolutely worth it! If you get the chance, I highly recommend dining at Banning Mills! The food was absolutely fantastic, and the atmosphere was quite intimate. The room itself was perfectly cozy, and had all the amenities of a hotel…but it was in a tree! Plus the view from the porch makes the perfect setting for sipping your hot beverage of choice before heading to breakfast in the lodge.
Next time you are looking for an adventure be sure to add Historic Banning Mills to your list!
Star Wars has been impacting viewers since it came out in 1977. We have all fallen in love with R2D2, Yoda, Chewbacca, Luke, Leia and Hans. But have you ever thought of the costumes as a character by itself? “Star Wars and the Power of Costume: The Exhibition” is the place where you can experience the costumes, see where the designs came from, and George Lucas’ intention with each costume. Plus – the items you see are the actual costumes worn in the films, not re-creations. Very exciting stuff.
The Tall Man and I had a chance to visit this exhibit during our weekend getaway in New York City, and it was one of our favorite parts of the trip. We both totally geeked out as we wandered around the exhibit. If you have a serious Star Wars fan in your life, this is the exhibit for them! Take a stroll through this fun exhibit with me.
Five years. 1, 462 days. 35,088 hours. 2,105,280 minutes.
Some times it feels like April 27, 2011 was a lifetime ago, and there are other times when it feels like it just occurred. If you grow up in Alabama, every spring the one sound you hear frequently, unfortunately, is that of tornado sirens screeching through the still air.
We had been warned that April 27th would not be like any other day. Tornadoes are frequent in Alabama in April, in fact not 12 days before one had passed through the south side of the city. But on this day, the conditions were just right for a super tornado outbreak. It was the week before finals during my first year MBA. I was anxious to attend those last classes to gain that one last piece of information that would help me pass my finals. In the early morning hours, the city of Tuscaloosa was awoken by massive thunder storms and sirens, and we would later realize was the start of this infamous day. I moved through my day like any other only paying closer attention to the radar during my spare minutes of studying and with James Spann talking in the background.
Waiting for my night class to start, my best friend called me from Montgomery and told me to head to campus for cover. She said a super cell containing a tornado was heading for Tuscaloosa. I grabbed my books, computer and ran to campus. I called my brother on the way and told him to not mess around; this was going to be the storm to beat all storms.
As I made it to the MBA Lounge in the basement of Bidgood Hall, there were other students hanging out and studying. I started up my computer, found the radar, turned on the TV to James Spann, and watched as the tornado crossed into Tuscaloosa County. We watched helpless as it moved towards us. We moved across the hall to get away from windows unsure where the storm was going to strike in the city. We watched on my laptop (thanks to internet being one of the items on the generator) as James Spann reported on the storm tearing through the city trying our best to figure out the path based on landmarks mentioned. It only took minutes for it leave our city, and it when it was over we had no clue what was left. As we quietly left the building, the only thing we noticed was broken branches lying on the Quad and the sound of sirens in the distance. There is nothing as helpless a sound as when all the fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars in your city converge to an area a mile away from you.
It took several attempts to get in touch with my parents to tell them I was safe. And that’s when I heard the rumor that Central High School was gone. That was a little over a mile away, and all I knew was my brother was in the apartments behind it. I told my parents what I had heard, and I sat on the steps of my building calling my brother repeatedly until he picked up. It felt like a lifetime, but in fact was about 30 minutes. He was safe.
The hours that followed were a blur. My friends checked for me that my apartment was standing and my car was safe. Those of us in the Lounge went to the grocery store down the street for beer and food. Our dinner that night consisted of chips and Bud Light. We sat in the halls of Bidgood unable to process what had just occurred. My apartment had no water or power, so instead my friend, Rachel, and I slept on the couches in the Lounge. The next morning I stepped out to survey the carnage for the first time ever. I walked the couple of blocks to 15th Street, and the only thing I remember is the smell. The smell of wet, splintered wood and severed gas lines produces a distinctive odor that stands apart from any other smell I had ever encountered.
Not really being able to function in my apartment, I packed a small bag and headed to stay with my Tuscaloosa family. In the days that followed, I’d get up early and head to Emergency Serves on 15th Street to distribute food and go through all the donations. And in that metal warehouse, I saw first hand the outpouring of love and support. It was in little things like someone driving the 45 minutes from Birmingham with a hundred Krispy Kreme doughnuts. It was running into Home Depot to buy tarps for friends and realizing that the gentleman helping me was from Tennessee. It was strangers driving from all over to lend a helping hand in clearing debris.
The hands and feet of Jesus were alive and well in the days, weeks and months that followed April 27, 2011. The people who came may forget that this tornado outbreak ever occurred, but I can tell you their presence was a healing balm on our wide open wounds. The state still has its scar marks in the landscape, and the its people even more. But Alabamians are resilient, and we never let something like this get us down. We come back stronger than ever, and even though Tuscaloosa will never be the same again it is very much alive and beating. #TTownNeverDown