I was recently in Montgomery Alabama for a press trip as a guest of Visit Montgomery. I loved the city and here are some things you should do that will also make you fall in love with the capital of Alabama.
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- Visit the Legacy Museum and National Memorial to Peace and Justice
- Cruise from Riverfront Park
- Attend the Alabama Shakespeare Festival
- Visit the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts
- Tour the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church
- Attend A Montgomery Biscuit Baseball Game at Riverwalk Stadium
- Attend A Festival
- Record A Podcast
- Visit the The F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum
- Visit The Rosa Parks Library and Museum
The Legacy Museum looks at the dark side of the black experience in the U.S. It follows the story through slavery, the half-fulfilled promise of freedom, the terrorism of lynching to civil rights but also to mass incarceration. It is a sobering museum that is on my top 10 of the best museums in the United States.
The National Memorial to Peace and Justice is a memorial to those known and unknown black men and women who were lynched in the United States between the Civil War and 1952. It is composed of 800 different steel monoliths that are suspended from the ceiling. There is one for each of the 800 different counties in the United States where a lynching was documented by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) which opened both the museum and the monument.
read more about the Legacy Museum and the Memorial here: Montgomery, Alabama – Civil Rights, Slavery, Lynching and the Legacy Museum (Video #98)
Cruise from Riverfront Park
Montgomery is situated on the Alabama River, but because this river is known to flood, there are few buildings right up against the river. Instead, it is a green park with foot/bike paths, a concert shell and riverboat rides on the Harriott II Riverboat. The Harriott II features site seeing cruises as well as dinner cruises. Dinner cruises must be booked at least 48 hours in advance. Check the cruise schedule for more details.
Attend the Alabama Shakespeare Festival
If Shakespeare is not the first thing you associate with Alabama, then I have news for you. The Alabama Shakespeare Festival is among the 10 largest festivals dedicated to the Bard in the world. Patrons Wynton and Carolyn Blount helped bring the festival to Montgomery in the 1980s, not only rescuing it from insolvency but building a beautiful theatre complex with 2 indoor and one outdoor stage. The large theatre has 762-792 seats, depending on the configuration. The festival features Shakespeare plays as well as musicals and commissioned theatre pieces.
In the Summer kids can take part in technical theatre camps and acting camps, including “Camp Shakespeare”.
The theatre buildings are in the massive and beautiful 77 acres Blount Cultural Park. Mr. Blount founded a large international construction company based in Montgomery and the one-time postmaster general did pretty well for himself as well as for his hometown.
Visit the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts
You can find the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts also located in the Blount Cultural Park. The museum has a fine collection, appropriate to the size of Montgomery but what I think is special about the museum is the kids area of the museum.
For example, the museum’s collection includes a painting by Edward Hopper called New York Office (1962). In the children’s area is a re-creation of the painting as a 3D scene and a collection of easels so that kids can try there hand at painting their own version of the scene. There is a place where kids can design their own quilt and another where they can see which frame works better with different pictures. It is the best children’s exhibit I have seen at an art museum.
The museum has not just one but three cell phone-based tours so you can get an adult tour, a youth tour, and a collector’s tour. They also have events like live Jazz and “Artful Yoga” held in the collection space. They encourage photography for personal use (no flash or tripods). In the Fall of 2018, they opened a new sculpture garden. In the art museum world, what is the opposite of “stuffy”?
Right by the Alabama Capital Building is the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. You can attend a service on Sunday morning or get a guided tour of either the parsonage or the church. The tour of the church starts in the basement where the leaders of the Montgomery Bus Boycott met to create the Montgomery Improvement Association. They enlisted the 26-year-old pastor of the church Martin Luther King Jr. to head up the organization.
See other historical and heritage tours in Montgomery.
Hear the story of the bus boycott, Dr. King and the Civil Rights movement as you sit in Dr. King’s office or try out his pulpit.
Attend A Montgomery Biscuit Baseball Game at Riverwalk Stadium
I love a major league baseball game, but there is nothing quite like a minor league game for a good family outing. The local baseball team is the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits which is a farm team for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. You won’t find a bad seat in the stadium as nothing is more than 24 rows from the action.
When we were told that we would watch the game from a luxury box I laughed. Certainly, a Double-A team wouldn’t have luxury boxes… right? I was so wrong. This stadium has a JumboTron, instant replay and yes luxury boxes just like a major league stadium. It also has a train running back and forth beyond the outfield wall that kids can ride and the kind of fun activities between innings that only minor league baseball offers (like the biscuit toss and racing around the bases).
We attended on a night when parachutists from nearby Maxwell Air Force Base started the game by doing a precision landing on the field. Montgomery has a large Air Force presence. This is where the Wright Brothers opened their first flight school in 1910.
Get your picture taken with “Big Mo” who is an “an orange beast that loves biscuits”. If you are lucky maybe they will be playing the Biloxi Shuckers, the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, or the Pensacola Blue Wahoos.
Attend A Festival
We happened to be in town for the annual Taco Libre festival. This festival puts together a bunch of food trucks offering traditional and way outside the box taco choices. I loved the Kansas City burnt ends taco and the corned beef tacos I had. The festival also includes live music and you can upgrade from the standard entrance fee to get unlimited margaritas.
Check out the Montgomery calendar of events for other festivals and events.
Record A Podcast
I am a big fan of podcasting (I host 4 shows) and storytelling. If you have a story to tell, you can record your own episode of a podcast or just record a story at the Storybooth + Podcast Studio in the Kress Building on Dexter Avenue. The Kress building is an old department store that has been recently renovated and converted to a multi-use space.
F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald met when he volunteered for the army in 1918 and was stationed in Montgomery at Camp Sheridan. They later came back to live in the area which was Zelda’s hometown from 1931 to 1932. The house where they lived is now a museum dedicated to the couple. It includes information about their literary achievements as well as many original pieces of art painted by Zelda.
Visit The Rosa Parks Library and Museum
Right next to the spot where Rosa Parks was arrested in 1955 for not giving up her seat on a local bus to a white man, you can now find the Rosa Parks Library and Museum. The Museum is a small but impactful museum that walks you through the over a year-long bus boycott that kicked off the modern Civil Rights Movement. You start in a room with a full-sized bus that you can see into as the events of that fateful night are replayed. There is also a kid’s museum but the “adult” version would be pretty good for older kids on its own.
For a more in-depth experience, you can take a Civil Rights tour of Montgomery.
I stayed at the Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa at the Convention Center which is a beautiful large hotel located in the heart of downtown 2 blocks from Riverfront Park, the Rosa Parks Museum, and the Legacy Museum. It has an onsite restaurant, a business center in the spacious lobby, and a fitness center. My only regret is that I did not get time to try the rooftop pool.
There are plenty of things to do in Montgomery for families and adults alike… and we have not even started to talk about the food