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Best Things to do in Montgomery, Alabama


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    Montgomery, Alabama has something for everyone. It offers American history at its museums and attractions from early settlers onward. It stood at the forefront of the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement. There are music and wildlife spots.

    Montgomery History

    horse and wagon at montgomery's OldAlabama Town

    Old Alabama Town is like a trip back in time to late 19th and early 20th century where you see how early settlers lived and worked here. There are 50 authentically restored structures with "residents and workers" doing the everyday tasks of that time along six blocks of downtown Montgomery. The "Town" is divided into three sections; a Living Section, a Working Section, and Along the Street section.

    Three blocks of Old Alabama Town is their working block with blacksmiths, potteries, and musicians earned their living. Oliver Cotton Gin dates back to 1900. On most days, re-enactors are there "living life" in the town.

    There's the living section with classrooms where students leaned the three "Rs." Unlike today, you'll see desks with inkwells and slates, not computers and IPods.

    Be sure to visit Lucas Tavern. It's the oldest of the buildings in the complex, built before 1818. It was built as a two-room dogtrot. The Lucases bought it, added two additional rooms, and enclosed the dogtrot. This gave them a dining room and access to their outside kitchen. The tavern was originally on the Old Federal Road about 15 miles east of Montgomery, which then was the major connection between Washington D.C. and New Orleans. Taverns were located about every 15 miles, considered an average day's walk then. The Lucas Tavern's biggest claim to fame is that the Marquis de La Fayette stayed here on April 25, 1825 as he traveled to Montgomery.

    a crib used by Jefferson Davis's son at first white house of the confederay

    First White House of the Confederacy was where Jefferson Davis and his family lived at the beginning of the Civil War. It's furnished much as it was when he and his family were there. There are pictures of the family and period artifacts, but what makes you realize there were people with a private life as well as public figures is the small crib reminding you there were children in this family. Jefferson Davis Jr. and his sister, Margaret Howell Davis, had the run of the home. Joseph Evan Davis was the one who would have been in that crib then as he was just a toddler. Varina was pregnant with William Howell Davis while she lived that and gave birth shortly after moving to Richmond, the final capital of the Confederacy.

    two houses of Congress at Alabama Capital

    Which brings me to the Alabama Capital. This was sort of the Confederate DC in 1861 and '62. Since Montgomery was the first Confederate Capital, this was where Jefferson Davis was sworn in as president. It's an impressive three story Greek revival building over a below-grade basement. On February 4, 1861, it was where the provisional Confederate States of America Constitution was approved and just a month later, the permanent Constitution was approved.

    Ironically, in 1964, just over a century later, the third Selma to Montgomery march leading to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, ended at the same Capitol. The portraits and exhibits in here show the history between those events and more.

    You can view the government offices and the two houses of Congress. Remember it is a working capital so many of the offices are in use.

    The Alabama Voices exhibit at Montgomery's Alabama Museum

    Right across the street visit the Alabama Museum. The exhibits are more interactive here. My favorite is the Alabama Voices, which tells Alabama's story from indigenous people to present.

    Montgomery Civil Rights Sites

    exhibit ofbus boycotters boarding taxi at Rosa Parks Museum

    Rosa Parks Museum commemorates the events beginning the Civil Rights movement. The museum honors an ordinary woman who became so much more. Rosa Parks, a middle-aged seamstress who earned her living working in a downtown department store acted on her convictions and refused to give her seat to a white man thus becoming an extraordinary symbol of courage and the spark that began the historic bus boycott where Black citizens just asked for their civil rights. It was the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. The museum is filled with memorabilia related to the boycott like motorcycle jacket, desk nameplate, badge, and life magazine photos of Deputy Sheriff, Captain Frank Kennedy, a motorcycle patrol officer who protected the pickup and drop-off points the car poolers with their makeshift taxies used during the bus boycott.

    The most moving part of the museum is the reimaged bus ride where you fell like part of the crowd that day. You are standing looking in the windows of a "bus" that is becoming more crowded. You see the "white" seats in the front of the bus fill up. Rosa is seated in the first "Black" seat. The next passenger, a white man steps into the bus and stands in the aisle next to her. Rosa was tired physically after a hard day's work and tired of being treated as a second-class citizen just because of the color of her skin. The driver orders Rosa to vacate her seat to the white man. Rosa refuses with a gentle, "No."

    Bruce, the bus driver, threatens her with arrest. "I can call the police."

    "You may do that," she says. Her simple reply touched off the beginning of the battle for civil rights that spread from Montgomery across the nation like a raging wildfire.

    The last section of the museum shows the highly organized effort of the civil rights workers to provide support for the Montgomery African Americans boycotting the unfair bus system.

    Freedom Riders Musuem in Montgomery

    Freedom Rides Museum is one of Montgomery's newest museums. It tells the story of the brave young people most in their teens non older than 22, who risked it all for their constitutional rights. The site was once the Greyhound Bus station where, in 1961, a group calling themselves The Freedom Riders passed through Montgomery and was harassed in this station.

    some of the markers shwoing lynched persons in each county at National Memorial for Peace and Justice 

    The National Memorial for Peace and Justice is somewhat of a cross between a memorial cemetery and a museum. Visit the main building first and watch the short film. Then cross the street to see the sculptural dioramas and gardens with names and dated of those lynched in each county of each state. It is staggering and moving. You can ride a free trolley to your next stop.

    Legasy Museum in Montgomery

    The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration was established on April 26, 2018 on the site of former slave auctions. The museum tells the story graphically of individual enslaved people and their experiences. It is so lifelike you feel these are real people speaking to you. It's an interactive 3D experience where a former enslaved person at each stop talks directly to you about their life.

    front of Southern poverty Law Center

    The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is an impressive monument to the ongoing history, of the Civil Rights Movement. It's a working building that keeps abreast of injustice and tries to correct it but it's also a museum with interpretive panels and interactive displays. Out front, there is a 20-by-40-foot digital Wall of Tolerance Civil Rights Memorial, designed by Maya Lin in 1988 to honor 40 men and women killed in the fight for civil justice for all between 1954 and1968. A waterfall flows across the black granite Martyr's Table. The words, "We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream" are etched into the stone.

    Dexter Parsonage former home of Martin Luther King

    Dexter Ave Baptist Church and Parsonage are a direct link with Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. The church is an active congregation and you must respect services and rules but if you can take a peek inside, it is inspiring.

    The parsonage is not open for tours at this time. When it reopens, do visit it. I had the good fortune to tour it earlier and it is a moving experience. The kitchen where he sat and pondered whether it was his duty to become involved in the emerging Civil Rights movement and the porch that still shows remnants of the attacks made on Dr. King while living there are vivid memories.

    Montgomery Music

    Hank Williams cadillac

    Hank Williams Museum  honors a man who had a bigger influence on American music than almost anyone else in his way-too-short 29 years on this earth. In a career spanning just over five years, he recorded 225 songs, of these he wrote or co-wrote 128. He had 11 No. 1 hits in that short timeframe.

    The museum is filled with items owned or used by Hank and his first wife, Audrey. There are some related to his second wife, Billie Jean, who later married another musical legend, Johnny Horton. You'll see his awards, furniture, horse saddle, portraits, records, albums, and much of his clothing including some designed by the famous Nashville designer, Nudie.

    My favorites are his 1952 Baby Blue Cadillac, 1937 Gibson Guitar, and the life sized stature of Kawliga. On my first visit to the museum, I had the privilege of meeting Lum York. Lum was a lovely man who was one of Hank's original Drifting Cowboys Band. He was generous in sharing stories and photos with me. My first international article came from that interview. If you would like to see that story, I redid it several years ago here.

    Hank Williams grave in Mointgomery

    Hank's died in 1953 in his Cadillac en-route to a concert. He and Audrey are buried in Oakwood Cemetery Annex. The gravesite is easy to find and clearly marked.

    In 1991, Hank's son, Hank Williams, Jr, had a stature of his father erected. Originally, it sat in the park across from City Hall but was later moved to the median at the River Front on Tallapoosa and Commerce streets.

    Montgomery Nature

    Jagure at Montgomery Zoo

    Montgomery Zoo is a pleasure for young and old. You can take the Zoofari Skylift Ride and see the wildlife from a new angle. It has more than just viewing animals. The Giraffe Encounter lets you meet amazing creatures eye to eye. Parakeet Cove puts you inside a habitat filled with eh beautiful flying birds. Kids especially love the Petting Zoo where they meet and touch African Pygmy Goats, Llama, Sheep, Ducks, and Baby Doll Sheep. You can purchase a bag of feed and offer treats to these guys. They will not refuse.

    The Mann Wildlife Learning Museum is attached to the zoo. I have mixed feelings here. While the museum is filled with fantastic exhibits, it is named for a bow and arrow trophy hunter. George Mann, was a killer who deliberately slaughtered these beautiful living creatures for fun and profit. In my opinion, Mann and Manson are just one step apart.

    Montgomery Parks

    canon at Fort Toulose Jackson park

    Montgomery has many beautiful parks. RiverFront, where Hank Williams statue is located, is the boarding point for the riverboat Harriott II.

    The Blount Cultural Park is home to the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. It is also has Bark Park if you're travelling with your furry friend.

    It's worth  the about 15 minutes drive out of town to Wetumpka, Alabama for Fort Toulouse and Jackson Park. There are several historical treasures there, the recreated 1751 Fort Toulouse, the partially restored 1814 American Fort Jackson, and native American Mounds. The campground is very reasonable and, since it is not well known, you will have a lot of privacy at your site.





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