Montgomery, Alabama, is perhaps best known as the birthplace of the civil rights movement. Located on the Alabama River, Montgomery was Martin Luther King Jr.’s home during the pivotal years of the civil rights movement and the location of the Montgomery Bus Boycott initiated by Rosa Parks in 1955.
Alabama’s capital city has played an incredibly important role in United States history, and you can easily spend a day exploring its historic sites and museums. The city is also known for its Southern comfort food and quality antiques.
Here are the best ways to spend a day in Montgomery.
Visit The Legacy Museum
If you only have time to do one thing in Montgomery, spend 2 to 3 hours at The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement To Mass Incarceration. As the name indicates, this unique museum explores the dark legacy of slavery in the U.S. The interactive multimedia museum is set within a former warehouse that once housed enslaved people, and its exhibits focus on the history of slavery and discrimination from the time of the transatlantic slave trade to the Jim Crow era. In addition to exploring the history of racial inequality in the U.S., the museum explores its effects on the present-day criminal justice system.
When purchasing tickets to The Legacy Museum, you can also purchase tickets to the nearby National Memorial for Peace and Justice. Located just a few blocks from The Legacy Museum, it’s a powerful memorial dedicated to the victims of lynchings and racial terror in the U.S.
Tour The Alabama State Capitol Building And Grounds
Constructed in the Greek Revival style, the Alabama State Capitol is located at the end of Dexter Avenue, one of Montgomery’s main streets. The Capitol building was restored in 1992 and features a beautiful House of Representatives, Senate Chamber, Rotunda, and Old Supreme Court Chamber and Library. At the end of the march from Selma to Montgomery for voting rights, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered one of his most famous speeches on the Capitol’s steps.
You could spend an hour or two touring the Capitol building. It’s open Monday through Saturday, and guided tours are available four times a day. Admission is free.
Visit The Rosa Parks Museum
Troy University’s Rosa Parks Museum commemorates Rosa Parks and highlights her work for civil rights.
The museum stands on the ground where Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving up her seat on the bus to a white man. It takes visitors back in time with items such as the fingerprints from Parks’s arrest file, court documents, and a salvaged 1950s Montgomery city bus, among others. As you walk through the exhibits, you’ll feel the injustice of segregation and admire Parks’s courage in resisting it.
The Rosa Parks Museum is open Monday through Saturday, and admission costs $7.50 for adults. Plan to spend about 2 hours at the museum if you want to read everything.
Catch A Montgomery Biscuits Baseball Game
Down the street from The Legacy Museum is the home of the Minor League Baseball team the Montgomery Biscuits. The Biscuits play at the 7,000-seat Montgomery Riverwalk Stadium, which provides an interactive and lively atmosphere during baseball season. Spend 3 hours during a day or evening game rooting for the Biscuits, downing hot dogs, and drinking cold beer. The stadium also sells different kinds of biscuits: plain, with toppings, savory, and even a dessert biscuit ($3 to $4.50).
You can catch a Biscuits game at the Montgomery Riverwalk Stadium between April and September. Tickets to Minor League Baseball games tend to run $8 to $9 per adult.
Travel Back In Time To The Jazz Age At The Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum
Housed in one of the last family homes of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, The Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum commemorates the literary couple’s life together.
Although the Fitzgeralds spent years traveling to many cities and countries, they returned to Zelda’s hometown between 1931 and 1932 to write their respective novels. The Jazz Age, the time when the musical style gained popularity, was in full swing in the South, and its spirit wove its way into many of Scott Fitzgerald’s best-known works.
At the museum, you can see the upstairs Scott and Zelda Suites and even spend a night in them (about $120 per night).
The Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum can be accessed Wednesday through Sunday, and there’s a $10 suggested donation. Perusing the museum will take about an hour.
Stroll Through Riverfront Park
A 5-minute walk from downtown, Riverfront Park sits on the banks of the Alabama River. In the small park, you can see the resident steamboat and stroll up and down the banks of the river. From the riverfront, you can also see the old Montgomery Union Trainshed, which was once a busy train stop.
The park’s 6,000-seat amphitheater hosts events such as concerts, movies, and plays for locals and visitors alike. The grassy area provides ample space for picnics or just a place to rest after a long day of exploring. Visiting won’t cost you a dime -- it’s free to enter and to enjoy as you please.
Visit The Hank Williams Museum
Although Hank Williams was born in remote Mount Olive, Alabama, he moved to Montgomery at the age of 13. He released an incredible number of singles before his untimely death at 29 years old and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961. The country singer became acquainted with music on the streets of Montgomery, and he is now venerated as a local icon.
The Hank Williams Museum highlights the artist’s invaluable contributions to music. The rooms are filled with his clothing, photographs, awards, furniture, and albums. Visitors can even see the blue Cadillac in which he took his final drive. After spending a couple of hours at the museum, drive the 3 minutes to Oakwood Cemetery, where Hank Williams and his wife are buried.
The Hank Williams Museum is open daily, and admission costs $10.
Eating In Montgomery
Montgomery’s cuisine is all about Southern comfort food, but there are a few modern restaurants in the mix. Here are the best spots to grab a bite while exploring Montgomery for the day.
The Alley, located around the corner from The Legacy Museum, is a strip of restaurants and bars. Restored about 10 years ago, The Alley is set between brick buildings and provides a contemporary vibe.
Within The Alley is the Railyard Brewing Company, part of the Tavern & Porter Room. There was once a restaurant portion in addition to a brewery; although the craft brews are still flowing, the restaurant now serves finger-lickin’ barbecue as Dreamland BBQ. Make sure to try the barbecue rib plate with sides like mac and cheese and baked beans. The Big Daddy Bar-B-Que sandwich is also a hearty option.
For Southern-style food, there are several tasty places you could visit, including Cahawba House, a casual order-at-the-counter spot just steps away from Court Square Fountain. Choose from a salad, sandwich, or meat plate with a range of comfort-food sides.
Central, the number-one restaurant in Montgomery on TripAdvisor, provides upscale Southern fare with regionally sourced ingredients. Visit for lunch or dinner and try the burger, oven-roasted salmon, lamb ribs, or barbecue pork chops. Central is conveniently located next door to The Legacy Museum.
Shopping In Montgomery
As steeped in history as it is, Montgomery is the perfect place for antique hunting, thrift shopping, and boutique browsing.
Montgomery Antiques & Interiors on Dexter Avenue is full of solid wood pieces, antique furniture, and classic jewelry. The space is decorated with chairs, rugs, and centerpieces ready to be transported to their new home.
Another equally unique antique store, although outside the city center, is Eastbrook Flea Market & Antique Mall. With 300 vendors spanning three floors of an old department store, you can spend hours looking through all it has to offer. The bottom floor houses a great bookstore, the main floor stores the antiques, while the top floor is home to the flea market. Each vendor has a booth with its own unique look and feel.
If you’d prefer more modern shopping, head to The Shoppes at EastChase. A large shopping mall with more than 85 stores -- both local and chain options -- it’s one of the best places to buy clothes and gifts in central Alabama. The shops offer events such as happy hours, holiday pop-ups, and fireworks.