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Montgomery, Alabama is well worth a stop on your Deep South Road Trip for its important and inspiring Civil Rights History.
It’s known as the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement as it’s where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat which began the boycott movement which ignited the flame for the African American people to bring about change and make the world a better place.
It’s also where Dr. Martin Luther King rose as a leader of that movement.
Alabama’s capital is reemerging as a destination offering a unique and diverse culture, family friendly attractions, cool nightlife and contemporary eating.
Most of the Montgomery attractions are withing walking distance of downtown.
Montgomery is slow paced and you may wonder where all the people are. Enjoy the space and take time to look at the ginormous government buildings – I’ve never seen anything like it before!
You can read more in-depth information here on the US Civil Rights Trail attractions in Montgomery.
1. Freedom Rides Museum
The Freedom Rides Museum gives an excellent insight into the brave peaceful protest of the Freedom Riders and is told through a series of art works, displays and biographies of key leaders and players within the movement.
This Montgomery attraction is in the site of the original Greyhound bus station and is the site of the attack on the Freedom Riders.
The Freedom Riders were a group of blacks and whites who decided to peacefully ride the buses together from Washington DC to New Orleans in protest against the segregation that was happening on interstate bus rides.
This rehabilitated bus station has been restored to how it looked in 1961 and is the site of the attack on Freedom Riders when they arrived at the station on May 20, 1961.
They were prepared to meet mob violence with non-violence and courage. They prepared farewell letters and wills.
Their goal was to help end racial segregation in public transportation.
They were attacked once they reached the Greyhound bus station in Montgomery and then only made it as far as Jackson before they were arrested and sent to prison for 40 days for breaking segregation laws.
Our guide, Dorothy, was extremely passionate about the museum. Her stories helped us understand more of what happened during this period of the Civil Rights Movement.
I thoroughly enjoyed her tour of the museum.
They also have a scavenger hunt for the kids to help them better understand the museum.
Open Tues – Sat. Noon to 3pm
Tickets: $5 adults, $3 children 6-18 years
2. Dexter Avenue Baptist Church
Our tour of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church has been one of our favorite tours so far on our US road trip.
The Dexter Avenue Baptist Church was built in 1883 and quickly became an important worship and meeting place of the African community.
The old red brick building with views out to the State Capitol feels very symbolic when you consider what the community within this church was able to achieve in the city that was known to be the Cradle of the Confederacy, born from those Capitol steps the Church overlooks.
The Dexter Avenue Baptist Church is where Martin Luther King Jr. had his first and only pastor experience from 1954 to 1959.
It was where he was recognized in the community as an enigmatic leader and was chosen to lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which launched him as a Civil Rights leader.
The tour is fantastic, mostly due to our guide, Wanda who shared the spirit of King and the movement through her songs, and words of love and joy, peace and unity.
It was a moving experience and definitely an attraction to put on your things to do in Montgomery, AL with kids.
Our girls loved it.
Inside the Church, you get to see Dr. King’s office where he wrote many of his speeches and sermons and stand behind the exact pulpit he stood behind when he gave his famous How Long Not Long speech.
You can worship with the congregation on Sundays at 10:30. I’d love to experience it. I can only imagine the love, hope and sense of community that lives within that church service.
Tours hourly from 10am – 3pm. except for noon.
3. Dexter Ave Parsonage Museum
Do you want to see the home that Dr. Martin Luther King and his family lived in during his years as a pastor at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church?
This modest but cute clapboard cottage is in Centennial Hill, which was once a vibrant middle-class African suburb.
You’ll get to see the crater in the porch left over from when his house was bombed and experience the stories of his life within the walls where they happened.
Most poignant part of the tour is the kitchen where Dr King received guidance from within not to quit on the dream when we was most afraid and troubled over it, but to keep standing up for justice.
Tours of the Dexter Avenue Parsonage Museum
Tuesday through Friday: 10am – 3pm, every hour, excluding noon to 1pm
Saturday: 10 – 1pm every hour.
4. Civil Rights Memorial
The Civil Rights Memorial is the best place to visit after you have seen the other Civil Rights Trail experiences.
There is a beautiful memorial out the front, designed by Maya Lin, the same designer of Washington’s Vietnam memorial.
A circular black granite table records the names of the martyrs and chronicles the history of the movement in lines that radiate like the hands of a clock.
Water flows out the center and across the top of the etched names.
On a curved black granite wall behind the table is engraved Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s well-known paraphrase of Amos 5:24 –
We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
It’s a place to reflect and consider how injustices continue today and what you can do to help correct it.
Visit the Wall of Tolerance inside where you can add your name to the wall and take the pledge to stand for justice, peace and love.
By placing my name on the Wall of Tolerance, I pledge to take a stand against hate, injustice and intolerance. I will work in my daily life for justice, equality and human rights – the ideals for which the Civil Rights martyrs died.
5. Rosa Parks Museum
See where the Civil Rights Movement began at the Rosa Parks Museum.
They bring the story alive through an interactive display, 3D re-enactments, and gospel music setting the scene.
The Museum is located in the spot where Rosa Park was arrested.
There is also a children’s annex which has an interactive bus taking kids into the past and through the experience making it a worthy stop on your list of things to do in Montgomery, AL with kids.
The Rosa Parks Museum is very well put together and is not too overwhelming with information, you get a great sense of what happened and why.
Hours: Monday-Friday 9am-5pm; Saturday 9am-3pm
Admission Fee: $7.50 Adults; $5.50 Children 12 & under; $1
6. Museum of Alabama
The Alabama Museum tells the story of Alabama’s past from prehistory to the present through award winning and interacting exhibits and programs.
It is located at the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH), a stunning building, and the nation’s oldest state-funded, independent archival and historical agency.
Interactive and educational displays and areas for kids are in the Hands-On-Gallery and Grandma’s Attic where you can dress in period costumes, play with toys from bygone eras, make crafts, listen to stories, and do more.
My girls enjoyed using the typewriter, old telephones, and creating sequined Mardi Gras masks for our trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. (Yes you can do Mardi Gras with kids, here’s how).
This is one of the best things to do in Montgomery Al with Kids.
Open: Monday – Saturday, 8:30 am -4:30 pm.
Admission is FREE
7. Court Square Fountain
For a beautiful view and photo, that many from our community said made Montgomery look European, stand at the bottom right corner of the fountain roundabout and look up towards Dexter Avenue and the State Capitol.
This beautiful fountain is topped by a statue of Hebe, Goddess of Youth and Cupbearer to the Gods and was built in 1885 over an existing artesian basin.
There are quite a few significant historical markers around this fountain.
It’s where the slave market once used to be and is also the spot where Rosa Parks boarded the bus on the day she was arrested.
On the corner is the Winter Building where the orders to fire the first shot for the Civil War were given.
8. State Capitol Tour
We had done so many museums and tours during our Montgomery trip and the girls were getting really tired so we sacrificed a tour of the State Capitol.
I hope you have time to make it one of your things to do on Montgomery, AL as I would have liked to have done it.
It’s a grandiose building built in 1850 in the Greek Revival style with perfect proportions and creamy exterior, which would sparkle against a clear blue sky.
It’s noted as a national historic landmark and included on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Confederacy began here in 1861 and a little over a century later the Voting Rights march ended in 1965.
Out the front of the State Capitol is where the Selma to Montgomery Civil Rights march ended and there Martin Luther King gave his famous speech, “How Long, Not Long!” after the Selma to Montgomery March.
Admission is free.
Hours: Monday-Friday 9am-4pm; Saturday Guided Tours Only at 9am, 11am, 1pm & 3pm
9. Montgomery Riverfront
If you visit during the warmer months, then the Riverfront is possibly a place for you to spend some time.
Be sure to check whether there are any local festivals or concerts on.
There are also river boat rides and a small amphitheater which looks lovely and often has concerts and events. You can bring your cooler, picnic basket and blanket to enjoy them.
We had rainy weather on our visit to Montgomery so didn’t get to do much at the Riverfront. The Visitor Center is worth a look and it is close to Downtown and the Alley.
10. Fly at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival
Not a festival as such but a theater located in Blount Cultural Park.
If the weather is kind to you (it was raining for us) arrive early with a picnic and enjoy the 300 acres of ground that will remind you a little of the English countryside.
The Shakespeare Theater is a fully professional regional theater that produces around ten productions each season.
While Shakespeare plays are at the artistic core of the company, Broadway musicals, children’s productions, American classics and world premieres are also put on.
We attended an afternoon show of Fly, which tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, who trained at nearby Morton Field during World War II, and gained fame during World War II for their bravery.
Their flying skills equaled those of the whites – dying stereotypes and helped lead to the decision to desegregate the American Military in 1946.
Fly was funny, sad, and told the story of the pilots in such a moving and mesmerizing way.
I enjoyed it far more than I though I would. The acting was brilliant. The girls even giggled and enjoyed it despite it being slightly above their age level.
I love them receiving a cultural education like this.
Hopefully, Fly is still playing when you visit Montgomery, Al. If not, have a look to see what is playing as the venue is intimate and it could be one of the fun things to do in Montgomery, Al.
11. Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts
The Montgomery Museum of of Fine Arts is in the same expansive Blount Cultural Park as the Shakespeare Theater.
This Montgomery attraction for kids is in one impressive building.
Unfortunately, one section was closed off to us for a private party, but we could look over it from above and see some of the more modern pieces.
For things to do in Montgomery AL with kids, don’t miss the giant wooden donut and ARTWORKS, the art gallery and studio for kids which has interactive displays and opportunity for the kids to create and engage with art.
Admission is free.
12. Explore Historical Cloverdale
Stroll through the tree-shaded streets of the historical Cloverdale to see charming bungalows and stately columned mansions.
It’s a quiet, gorgeous area with brick paved roads, historic churches and homes, boutique stores and trendy restaurants (see Vintage Year below).
Places to Eat in Montgomery, Alabama
13. Chris’ Hot Dog
If you’re a lover of tradition and hot dogs, then you’ll love Chris’Hot Dogs.
Situated on Dexter Avenue, it’s been around since 1917.
Yep, that’s over 100 years of selling hot dogs and their signature sauce. It’s super cheap as well, so perfect for families traveling on a budget.
Chris’ Hot Dogs is run by second and third generations of the founding family.
Hot Dog all the Way is the signature dish which s drenched in Chris’s secret sauce, onions and kraut. It makes the list of things to do in Montgomery, AL for it’s nostalgic value!
14. Prevail Union Coffee Montgomery
Looking for the best coffee in Montgomery, Alabama?
We weren’t sure we were going to find any in Montgomery, but a local pointed us down the street to Prevail Union Montgomery, a craft coffee roaster.
This is located next to the vintage hipster Chop Shop Barber.
The café space is decorated with local art and a few lounge chairs to sit and relax with the views out to the fountain and Dexter Avenue.
The coffee is good. And the barista was Australian!! Can you believe it? An Australian barista in Montgomery Alabama.
I love life’s little random surprises and anomalies.
15. Central Restaurant
For those looking for something a little more elegant and upmarket, you can’t go past Central in The Alley region.
Sophisticated, yet laid-back, Central is housed in an 1890’s grocery warehouse. It’s rustic décor, low lighting and open air kitchen provides a welcoming and homely atmosphere.
Central’s food is fresh, seasonal and regional, artfully presented and simply Delicious.
It was by far the best steak (filet mignon) I’ve had in the US. Don’t miss the fried brussel sprouts with dried cranberries, preserved lemon vinaigrette, mozzarella curds.
16. Dreamland BBQ
For cheap and delicious BBQ, head to Dreamland BBQ. Good news parents – kids eat free on select days.
Famous for its succulent ribs and homemade sauce. Grab some hickory-fired bbq, ribs and chicken and a serving of baked potatoes, beans and mac and cheese
Save room for the famous Banana pudding as it’s the desert not to miss with vanilla wafers, ripe bananas, creamy pudding and whipped cream and a secret sauce over the top. Check out reviews here.
17. Wintzell’s Oyster House
This seafood restaurant has been serving up fresh Gulf Seafood for over 75 years.
Get your oysters any way you like, or try the signature Oyster sampler with Rockefeller (spinach lovers), Bienville (shrimp, crabmeat, parmesan cream sauce) Chargrilled (over an open flame and smothered with pepper butter and cheese).
You may want to schedule out a bit of time here so you can peruse all the funny quotes and sayings that completely cover every wall.
18. Mellow Mushroom
It’s worth stopping in here for pizza just to appreciate the funky, and Mardi Grasish décor and design.
Decked in the Mardi Gras colors of purple, gold and and green with funky design and creative artwork, it’s a very unique part of a growing chain.
The pizzas at Mellow Mushroom are good as well (they also have gluten free bases) so a place we often stop in at on our travels as a result.
19. Sunday Brunch at Vintage Year
I love how the South does brunch.
You won’t be disappointed with the class and sophistication of brunch at Vintage Year. Kir Royayle champagne cocktail are a must of course!
The food at Vintage Year is innovative and delicious. We went for the daily special of salmon with local blue stone grits and a creole cajun sauce. Wow. Bursting with creamy deliciousness.
Vintage Year is a fine dining restaurant dishing up elegance on a plate for over a quarter of a century.
They aspire to serve simple, local, fresh food that rocks with flavor and style.
You can read more reviews on TripAdvisor to see people raving about the food, ambiance and service.
It’s a don’t miss foodie things to do in Montgomery, Al.
Where to stay in Montgomery Alabama
The Hampton Inn
In the heart of the historic downtown area and within minutes walk to The Alley, the premier and revitalised restaurant and nightlife area – think cobblestone alleyways and trendy eating spots is the Hampton Inn Downtown.
We loved the prime location and the room was large, which is always welcome with kids.
There was a separate sitting area and a small kitchen. The bathroom was small with a vanity area outside.
If that was a little smaller and the bathroom a little bigger, it would be perfect. Other than that, it’s in a great location and the service was excellent.
Breakfast is also supplied, which was perfect for the girls – they love bagels and sausages – but Craig and I skipped on it. We’re gluten free and don’t like buffet breakfasts.
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What are your favorite things to do in Montgomery, AL with kids?
Our visit to Montgomery was hosted by Sweet Home Alabama Tourism. All opinions are our own.