Coffee: $2; View: Priceless

Birmingham residents enjoy some of the best views anywhere, yet probably take them for granted as we go about our everyday business. You don’t have to be in a home perched atop Red Mountain or the crest at Greystone to enjoy the vistas all around the city.

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One of the best spots you’ll find for catching up with a friend or reading is easily accessible and beautifully maintained by the good folks at the Summit. This is one of the tables on the patio of the Cafe at Barnes & Noble. The table on the other side of the flower bed is private enough for a phone call or conversation but only paces away from a coffee or smoothie. It makes you wonder why you work so hard in your own garden when there’s a spot like this at your disposal.

The Summit has other spots for enjoying the view al fresco, like California Pizza Kitchen or Cheesecake Factory. My kids love to eat outside at PF Chang’s next to the “horse’s rear”, where it thrills them to sit juxtaposed beneath a horse’s behind. (I acknowledge this is entirely appropriate symbolism on some days.) We sit opposite them – and the horses – to enjoy the magnificent view across to the Colonnade and beyond. I’m a little dismayed that so many of the developments here don’t take advantage of the vistas around them, with the new parking deck now taking the most prominent spot. (Isn’t this like buying beach property and then siting the house toward the frontage road?) 

The next time you’re riding along highway 31 and crest Shades Mountain, cut through the Red Mountain on the expressway, or drive down Hwy 280, take a moment to notice. People pay hard-earned money to pause and enjoy distance views similar to ours at mountain resorts all around us. Lucky for us, we don’t have to drive hours up the interstate enjoy the lush trees and receding skyline views have in every direction.