Whether you’re considering a day trip, a weekend getaway, or a break en route to the beach, Alabama’s capital city of Montgomery is a stop well worth making. Located on the Alabama River, Montgomery is the second largest city in the state with a population of just over 200,000. In 1886 Montgomery installed city-wide electric street car service, making it the first town in the U.S. to do so.
The Civil Rights Movement is a huge part of Montgomery’s history, beginning with Rosa Parks’ December 1, 1955 refusal to give up her bus seat for a white passenger. This single act launched the famed Montgomery Bus Boycott, involving Civil Rights greats including Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ralph Abernathy. Ten years later, the march from Selma to Montgomery led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which enforced the voting rights of all minorities.
Civil Rights-related attractions include the Civil Rights Memorial & Center at 400 Washington Avenue; the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church where Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. pastored from 1954 to 1960; the Freedom Rides Museum on S. Court Street; and the Rosa Parks Library & Museum on Montgomery Street.
What else to see and do in Montgomery? On Columbus Street you’ll find Old Alabama Town, a 19th-century village, sprawling over six blocks and featuring restored authentic 19th and early 20th century homes and buildings. Now serving as a living history museum, visitors enjoy self-guide walking tours, meeting costumed interpreters along the way. Open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 4pm, admission is $10 adults, $5/children 5-18, and free for children under 5. Discounts are offered to AAA members, visitors with military IDs, and senior adults.
Downtown Montgomery includes the Hank Williams Museum on Commerce Street, complete with his baby blue 1952 Cadillac convertible and a host of other memorabilia. Admission is $10/adults, $3/children, with discounts given to AAA members and those with military IDs.
A short drive from downtown is the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, one of the top ten Shakespeare Festivals in the world, drawing more than 300,000 attendees every year. But don’t let the name fool you: in addition to Shakespeare, this multi-theater complex offers a variety of contemporary and original productions, such as “Ring of Fire: the Music of Johnny Cash,” running now through August 4. Admission varies per program and seating choice.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
One of the city’s newest attractions is the Harriet II Riverboat. Docked at Coosa Street on the scenic Alabama River, this elegant 19th century riverboat offers day and night cruises, lunch, dinner, dancing, and live entertainment. Prices vary according to your choice of cruise.
The Montgomery Zoo includes over 500 animals with habitats divided into five continents. Enjoy African elephants, North American river otters, and countless other interesting creatures – there’s even a Giraffe Encounter where visitors get a chance to do some hand-feeding. Adding to the fun: paddleboats, a skylift, a playground, and a train. Mann Wildlife Learning Museum is also inside the park and features over 275 mounted animal exhibits. Tickets for the zoo or museum may be purchased individually or a combo ticket is available at a discounted price.
Golfing opportunities abound. Within Montgomery: Lagoon Park Golf Course; Gateway Golf Course; Cottonwood Golf Club; and Tallapoosa Lakes Golf Course. The Robert Trent Golf Trail surrounds Montgomery with Capitol Hill in Prattville; Cambrian Ridge in Greenville; and Grand National in Opelika.
Talk about a town that’s easy on your budget! Along with the Shakespeare Festival, the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts is located within the Wynton M. Blount Cultural Park not far from Eastern Boulevard. Permanent collections include 19th and 20th century American paintings, Southern regional art, Old Master prints and decorative art, plus ArtWorks, an interactive gallery for children. Admission is free.
A favorite and cost-free stop is the State Capitol on Dexter Avenue. Self-guided tours are offered every weekday from 9am to 4pm. On Saturdays, guided tours are offered at 9am, 11am, 1pm and 3pm. Also on Dexter Avenue, the Alabama Judicial Building houses the Alabama Supreme Court and the Courts of Criminal and Civil Appeals. Open Monday through Friday, admission is free. The beautiful Governor’s Mansion on S. Perry Street is also open to visitors. For further info about times and dates, phone (334) 834-3022.
The First White House of the Confederacy on Washington Avenue is another Montgomery landmark. This 1835 home was the residence of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his family during the spring of 1861 when Montgomery served as the Capital of the Confederacy. The house contains many of the Davis’s personal belongings as well as period furnishings. Admission is free Monday through Friday from 8am to 4:30pm and Saturdays from 9am to 4pm.
A fun stop for the kids is the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association “MOOseum on S. Bainbridge Street, a hands-on children’s educational center with a unique agricultural theme. Interactive displays allow kids to dress up as cowboys and cowgirls. Open weekdays; free admission.
Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama produces over 1,000 Hyundai vehicles every day, thanks to the hard work of its 2,700 Alabama Team Members. By reservation only, anyone age 6 up can enjoy a free 1.5-hour guided tram tour. All visitors are required to wear safety glasses and a headset. See their website for dates and times and to make reservations.
Montgomery offers so much more than this brief article covers: shopping, accommodations and many more attractions. To learn what else Montgomery has in store, check out www.VisitingMontgomery.com or phone the Montgomery Area Convention & Visitors Bureau at: (800) 240-9452.