In America's Deep South, Alabama stands out as a center for American history, vintage architecture, and delicious comfort foods. Montgomery is its Capital of Dreams, where the civil rights movement gained its momentum and inspired change. Whether you're visiting for a history lesson, excellent cuisine, or an urban adventure, there are lots of fascinating things to do in Montgomery, Alabama. A visit to some of the city's well-known landmarks is an educating and humbling experience. Also, home to several renowned colleges and a rejuvenated urban core, the city's nightlife is diverse and vibrant.
The Dexter Avenue Church is an enduring symbol of hope and fellowship in the Heart of Dixie. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. began preaching his message of love and nonviolence from the pulpit of this redbrick church, where he served as pastor for six years. King also played a part in organizing some of the civil rights movement's earliest protests, including the 1956 Bus Boycott, from his basement office. Visitors can tour the historic landmark and learn more about King's legacy in Montgomery from the beautiful mural painted by a Dexter deacon. For information on worship times and guided tours, visit the church website.
Steps from Dexter Avenue Church, Alabama's capitol building is an iconic landmark with a storied past. The first and only president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, was inaugurated on the West Portico in 1861. A little over 100 years later, the third Selma to Montgomery protest march culminated in Dr. King's "How Long, Not Long" speech from the front staircase. These days, you can tour the restored building for free to marvel at the art and architecture. The Goat Hill Museum Store, named after the mound from which the capitol overlooks downtown Montgomery, specializes in Alabama-made goods. Stop in for a unique handicraft or one-of-a-kind souvenir.
Though the Civil Rights Movement was well underway by December of 1955, Rosa Parks' arrest on a segregated bus was a catalyst for change in America. Retrace her historic commute with a visit to Court Square Fountain and the stop where she boarded the bus that would drive her into infamy. A few steps away on the Troy University Campus, the Rosa Parks Library and Museum feature civil rights artwork and interactive exhibits for adults and children. You'll need ample time to appreciate the short films and informative displays.
Old Alabama Town is an outdoor museum that stretches for six blocks through the heart of historic downtown. Under the care of the Landmarks Foundation, this collection of over 50 authentically restored structures recreates the experiences of rural Alabamians in the 19th and 20th centuries. A modest fee will grant you access and instructions for a self-guided tour, or you can get in for free on the second Saturday of the month. For a unique keepsake visit Rescued Relics, the foundation's salvage warehouse for building components removed during restorations. Check the website for hours and information.
Montgomery's history is not without controversy. The city has been a stage for some of the most influential moments in American history. Alabama also claims ownership of its violent past, not to justify it, but to inform visitors to the dangers of racism and intolerance. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice is a six-acre site that focuses on the black experience in the United States, from slavery to the modern-day civil rights era. Sculpture, art and stunning design tell the story of racial inequality to educate visitors and progress toward positive change.
Once you've toured the historic sites in Downtown, head for the banks of the Alabama River to Riverfront Park. This waterside location is accessible through a tunnel that runs underneath the railroad, once a speedy route for cotton dealers from the docks. Riverwalk Park is a perfect spot to rest your feet and observe the local culture. Sway to the rhythm of a free concert, or bring a picnic lunch to enjoy while the Harriott II riverboat elegantly bobs in the water. Don't forget to visit the Hank Williams Statue in Downtown for a selfie with the Alabama native.
The Fitzgeralds are arguably two of the most notable icons of 1920s America. F. Scott, famously remembered as the author of The Great Gatsby, and his wife Zelda, a creative mind and Montgomery native, lived a gypsy-like existence. They continually traveled the world, spending only one year in Montgomery until the spring of 1932. Now, the salvaged home serves as the only museum in the world dedicated to celebrating their capricious lives and legacies. A tour of this unique landmark reveals much about the famous couple, from their taste in decor to personal artwork, to a faithful replica of Zelda's record collection. For a reasonable price, you can also stay overnight in one of two suites.
Less than 10 miles from the Riverfront, the Winton M. Blount Cultural Park is a haven for art and nature lovers alike. The manicured, 250-acre compound is perfect for a few relaxing hours in the fresh air. Feel free to bring your pooch, as there are trails, green spaces and even a dog park where everyone can stretch their legs out. Stop by the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, an impressive performing arts complex. From contemporary American plays to classic Shakespearean tragedies and children's productions, the organization presents hundreds of performances a year. Round out your visit with a tour of the Mongomery Museum of Fine Arts.
The Hank Williams Museum in Montgomery is a testament to the legacy of country music's first megastar. This impressive exhibit features memorabilia such as furniture from his house, clothing and the last microphone he used in a performance. The centerpiece of the museum is Williams' restored eggshell blue Cadillac. The country music legend passed away in the back seat before a performance, making the car an artifact of American pop culture. If you get hungry, head to Chris' Hot Dogs, where Williams was a regular customer with his very own booth. The Montgomery institution has served many famous faces since its opening in 1917.
Montgomery prides itself on its revitalized Downtown district. Derelict buildings and neglected landscaping underwent extensive restorations to create beautiful sites for loft apartments, retail stores, and startup workspaces. Walking the scenic streets and alleys is a fun way to work off a meal from one of the dozens of new and established eateries. There are also plenty of hotels in the neighborhood, allowing you to venture into the vibrant nightlife. Get comfortable at a craft brewery, or hop into a few bars as you make your way back to your room.