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Did You Know … ?
- In 1910, Orville and Wilbur Wright established the first civilian flying school in Montgomery.
- F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald lived in Montgomery while he was writing “Tender Is the Night.”
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was pastor at only one church, Montgomery’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.
- Hyundai Motor Manufacturing in Montgomery makes more than 1,000 vehicles a day.
- Singer Nat King Cole was born in Montgomery (1919).
From the Civil War to civil rights
It seems reasonable that part of a tourist’s visit to Montgomery should be devoted to history, the story of both the city and the nation. That’s because Alabama’s capital managed in a century to morph from being the birthplace of the Confederacy (it was the first capital of the breakaway states) to the flashpoint for America’s Civil Rights Movement.
In the latter instance, the triggering event was Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up a bus seat to a white man in 1955. Her arrest led to the yearlong Montgomery bus boycott and, well, the rest is the history that is retold at an impressive list of sites in town. Relevant attractions are the Civil Rights Memorial and Center, Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, the Dexter Parsonage Museum, Freedom Rides Museum, National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African American Culture, and the Rosa Parks Library and Museum.
As for that earlier phase, visitors can tour the Alabama State Capitol, where the Confederate President Jefferson Davis took the oath of office, and his residence there, the First White House of the Confederacy.
Having said all of that, there are other quite varied options for the vacationer in Alabama’s capital, ranging from college sports or motor racing to a year-round Shakespeare festival (which presents more than the bard), a range of other performing arts plus the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.
Museums remembering local figures Hank Williams and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald appeal to quite different interests, as do the Hyundai carmaker’s plant and an annual livestock exposition and rodeo.
Visitors may be out and about in a variety of ways, ranging from a riverboat trip on the Alabama River to whitewater rafting on the Coosa River or mountain biking on area routes. And then, there is the Alley, which literally was an alley with no apparent future until it was revitalized recently with new eateries, nightspots, galleries and loft apartments. Now, city fathers say, a once moribund downtown is alive again.
Things to do for Venturers
- Compete in the Montgomery Half-Marathon in autumn, or sign on for the Capital of Dreams Triathlon in spring.
- Make a lively night of it in the Alley, the redeveloped entertainment district that was an abandoned patch of space between buildings.
- Rent a mountain bike and take on the 12-mile Swayback Bridge Trail in Wetumpka. You could also compete in the Attack on Swayback race in the summer.
- Attend the springtime Festival of New Plays. If you have a qualifying script, submit your own work for consideration.
- Check out the whitewater rafting on nearby Coosa River. Class III is as vigorous at it gets.
- Go to the races at Montgomery Motorsports Park or the Montgomery Motor Speedway. Events Vary.
Things to do for Centrics
- Attend the Montgomery Dragon Boat Festival in summer. Teams race on the Alabama River adjacent to Riverfront Park, and the festival is a big deal here.
- It’s the South, not the West, but in winter, you can attend the Southeastern Livestock Exposition and Rodeo.
- Eat like a local. That means Southern-fried foods. Order meat and three, meaning a meat (or fish) and three side dishes. Also, shrimp and grits is a local favorite. And do have a sweet made with pecans.
- Follow the downtown Civil Heritage Trail. At the Civil Rights Memorial and Center, enter your name on the electronic Wall of Tolerance joining a half a million others who have pledged their support for social justice. The names constantly scroll on the wall.
- Ice skate any time of year inside Eastdale Mall’s Ice Palace.
- Tour the Hyundai Motor Manufacturing plant. Admission is free.
Things to do for Authentics
- Roll on down the Alabama River on the local riverboat, the Harriott II. Or, see the city from a horse-drawn carriage with the driver adding narration, or take a guided Segway tour.
- If a country music fan, put the Hank Williams Museum on your itinerary.
- For some bits of local history, tour the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum (the literary couple lived in Montgomery for a time) and/or the First White House of the Confederacy.
- Play golf. There are plenty of courses to choose from.
- Get tickets to the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, held in Montgomery each year.
- Spend time in Old Alabama Town, a six-block 19th century neighborhood preserved as a living history museum. Costumed interpreters are on hand.
For more information, consult the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Convention and Visitor Bureau at visitingmontgomery.com