Journey Through American History in Montgomery, Alabama

Montgomery's culture, its very essence, tells the story of America—the good, the bad and the heartbreaking.

Montgomery Alabama Travel
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The history of Montgomery, Alabama, is inextricably tied to some of the darkest chapters of American history—slavery, Reconstruction, the Jim Crow era. But the city was also home to civil rights leaders like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, country music legend Hank Williams and, for a time, literary It couple F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Montgomery's culture, its very essence, tells the story of America—the good, the bad and the heartbreaking.

What to see and do

Nicknamed "the most historical short street in America," Dexter Avenue presents a striking opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the leaders of the civil rights movement. The street was the final stretch of the Selma to Montgomery march that led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Start your journey at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where Rev. Martin Luther King was minister, and the nearby Dexter Parsonage, where the King family lived. During scheduled tours of the church, visitors are encouraged to join in prayer services and gospel hymns.

Montgomery Alabama Travel -
National Memorial for Peace and Justice National Memorial for Peace and Justice

Prevail Union looks much like any upscale coffee house but its brick walls were made by slave women. Just outside is the former Montgomery Fair department store, where Rosa Parks worked as a seamstress. Down the street is the Court Square Fountain, once home to Montgomery's slave trade. (In fact, the road was known as Market Street long before it became Dexter Avenue.) And around the corner on Montgomery Street, the Rosa Parks Museum takes visitors on a fact-filled journey of the bus boycotts of 1955 and 1956, including Parks' original fingerprint arrest record and other court documents, a 1950s-era Montgomery city bus, and a restored 1955 station wagon (known as a "rolling church") used to transport boycotters. But perhaps the most striking historical marker in the city is the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, dedicated to the more than 4,000 men, women and children of color lynched and murdered between 1877 and 1950.

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald called Montgomery home from 1931 to 1932, when F. Scott was writing Tender is the Night, and their home is now the Fitzgerald Museum. One of the bedrooms in the house is even listed on Airbnb.

The storefront Hank Williams Museum includes stage outfits, awards, rare photos and other items belonging to the pioneering country singer, including the 1952 Cadillac he died in at age 29.

Montgomery Alabama Travel - Hank Williams Museum
Hank Williams Museum Hank Williams Museum

Across town, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival takes place in Wynton M. Blount Cultural Park, with offerings ranging from Steel Magnolias to Romeo and Juliet. The same park is home to the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, where the exhibits range from glass pieces by Tiffany and Chihuly to watercolors by Homer Winslow. There's a hands-on children's section, as well as children's art and an outdoor exhibition with room for little legs to roam.

Even more to see and do

In case you missed the Hank Williams Museum, there's a statue of the hillbilly Shakespeare you can pose with at the intersection of Commerce and Tallapoosa, and be sure to read the plaques in the median beyond the statue. At Riverfront Park, you can ride a riverboat, let the kids cool off in a splash pad or enjoy scheduled activities and performances in the amphitheater. Baseball fans can catch the minor league Montgomery Biscuits at Riverwalk Stadium and get a taste of a simpler time.

Montgomery Alabama Travel - Montgomery Biscuits
Montgomery Biscuits at Riverwalk Stadium. Montgomery Biscuits

Where to eat

Montgomery's identity is linked to the traditional comfort foods of the South, and river-to-table has been a way of life here for centuries: Think crispy fried catfish coated in golden cornmeal, fluffy dumplings floating in creamy chicken stew. And biscuits. Always biscuits.

Go to the riverfront Capitol Oyster Bar for the food but stay for live music by up-and-coming acts heading to Nashville.

Chicken and dumplings aren't hard to find in Alabama, but the luscious balls of dough at Shashy's Bakery and Fine Foods—light and airy, with large chunks of chicken—are what dreams are made of. And The Vintage Café, housed in a former bank in Old Cloverdale, serves a delectable sausage-egg-and-cheese biscuit.

The Montgomery Curb Market is another great lunch destination, offering fresh crockpot-cooked meals and baked goods from local purveyors. For dinner head to Central, where the homemade cheddar-pimento spread is an indication of the deliciousness to come. The menu is seasonal, with inventive pairings like a salad with charred radicchio and pork belly.

Afterward, taste a flight of local beers at Common Bond Brewers, the city's only production brewery.

Montgomery Alabama Travel - Riverfront Park
Riverfront Park Montgomery Parks and Recreation

Where to stay

If F. Scott Fitzgerald's room is booked, Montgomery offers several familiar accommodations downtown: The Renaissance Montgomery the DoubleTree by Hilton and the Hampton Inn and Suites are all within walking distance of Dexter Avenue and nearby attractions.