After spending a few days in Birmingham, my family and I made our way down to Montgomery, Alabama, for the next phase of our trip. I am going to call this the busy trip because we were almost always out exploring the city. We got in quite a few museums, although there were a few things I wish we got to, most notably Dr. King's church on Dexter Avenue. Despite not having enough time to see that church, I feel like we were able to get in quite a bit of sightseeing during our time in Montgomery, Alabama. Keep reading to hear about our adventures.
What To Do
There is so much to do in Montgomery. We hit the ground running as soon as we got into town. On our first day, instead of recuperating and relaxing, we went to our first museum. My family is really into the Civil Rights Movement, and Montgomery has a ton of places to visit. While we were at the Freedom Rides Museum, someone gave us a brochure for the United States Civil Rights Trail, so now we are even more invested.
Rosa Parks Museum
The first museum we visited was the Rosa Parks Museum. Rosa Parks was an amazing woman whose case helped start the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
If you didn't know about this bus boycott, please learn more, it was a fantastic feat. When Rosa Parks refused to get up from her seat, black people in the south had to give up their seats and stand or sit at the back of the bus when white passengers got on. It didn't matter their age, gender, or anything. Refusing to give up your seat could get you arrested and in trouble with the law. By this time, Brown Vs. Board Of Education had already decided that schools needed to be desegregated. Every part of desegregation was slow-moving, though.
The black community in Montgomery rallied around this bus boycott and made some serious changes to their lives because of it. You see, black people predominantly used the Montgomery bus system at the time, so their absence was felt. This boycott lasted over a year from December 5th, 1955 to December 20th, 1956. Blacks in Montgomery had to organize, walk, carpool, and figure out a way to carry on business as usual while giving up their primary mode of transportation for an entire year. This boycott was so significant and well-done, but it had a lot of pushback from officials and people who profited off the bus system.
The Rosa Parks museum walks you through a ton of information about the bus boycott, Rosa Parks, and the people who made this boycott successful. This museum is on the Troy University campus, and they did an amazing job curating the entire experience.
Freedom Rides Museum
While we were in Montgomery, we decided to visit the Freedom Rides Museum. The Freedom Rides Museum was an interesting museum, but I do wish there was a bit more to it. It wasn't an expensive museum, like $5 a person, so I didn't feel too bad about the lack of stuff here. There is some useful information, we spent about 30 minutes here, but I feel like it was a lot of things I'd seen at other civil rights museums. It is inside an old Greyhound bus station, which has a ton of significance to the Freedom Riders movement because they were often trying to desegregate Greyhound buses, bus stations, and public transportation in general. If you don't know much about the history of the Freedom Riders, this is a great museum to visit.
Navigating The National Memorial For Peace And Justice & The Legacy Museum
The National Memorial For Peace And Justice is an experience you can see alone or in tandem with The Legacy Museum. We went to the memorial in the morning and the museum in the afternoon because the memorial is outside.
Pro Tip: Do it in the morning precisely as we did during the hotter months. We spent a reasonable amount of time here, and it was just blazing when we were getting ready to leave.
The memorial and museum are not close together, but there is a shuttle that connects them. I looked on their website, and they encourage you to get timed tickets for the museum. Since the museum was so close to our hotel and I knew we'd be walking, I scheduled the museum for the afternoon, and we went to the memorial in the morning.
You can get tickets for the memorial or the museum, or you can save money by getting them both at the same time.
The National Memorial For Peace And Justice
This memorial was very eye-opening. I knew of this country's history with lynching from college and other museums, but seeing it here was something new. EJI, the team behind this memorial, created something extraordinary here.
I learned so much during my time here. It got close to home because I was able to see my own county's history with lynching, and even learn more about a lynching that happened in my hometown. If you live in the south, chances are they have a pillar with your county on it. These are stories I didn't get taught in history class. Seeing these columns, knowing each one has at least one name on it, and that most of them have multiple was heartbreaking and eye-opening.
If you ever get a chance to see this memorial, please go. It's not an easy history to examine, but knowing our history stops us from repeating it.
There is also a beautiful garden on the property (you can see it in my Pinterest image for this post.) There is so much to explore here. You could be here for hours.
The Peace and Justice Memorial Center
Across the street from the memorial, you can also visit the Peace And Justice Memorial Center. The center is an extension of the work EJI does in the community and to help visitors of the memorial and museum.
Recently, in April 2019, EJI unveiled a new monument you can see when visiting the center. This monument is dedicated to those victims of lynching during the 1950s. While lynchings had mostly happened between 1877 and 1950, some continued after 1950 and this memorial shares that.
Inside the center, there is a gift shop, places to hold presentations, and part of their soil project. EJI is on a mission to collect soil from all over the south where lynchings took place. Most of the collection is on display in The Legacy Museum, but part of the collection is on display in the center. This part focused on Alabama's history with lynching.
The Legacy Museum
Next, let's talk about The Legacy Museum. I've visited my fair share of Civil Rights themed museums. I've gone to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis several times, and I also went to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta and wrote about that in my Atlanta travel guide.
The Legacy Museum does a phenomenal job, though, at differentiating itself from other museums I've been to. The Legacy Museum takes you from enslavement to mass incarceration with interactive exhibits, videos, and more. It is an educational experience that I won't forget.
Since the museum doesn't allow photography, you have time to sink your teeth into the entire exhibit. At the end, they have a photo booth you can use to take a free photo to commemorate your time at The Legacy Museum. Here are some of the pictures we took at the photo booth:
I think The Legacy Museum is worth your time. Again, the EJI team did a fantastic job distilling it down and making the subject matter approachable.
What To Eat
Next, let's chat about where to eat. We had a couple of meals while in Montgomery. It was challenging because our hotel didn't have a fridge in the room, but we were still able to fit in a few food experiences.
If you are looking for a place with good food and some great atmosphere, I loved visiting Dreamland BBQ. It was a short walk from our hotel and overall a great place to eat some good food. I will say, their barbecue might throw you off depending on the barbecue style you are used to. I was not a super fan of their sauce, because it was a bit runny and vinegar-based. I'm used to a thicker sauce. I still think you would love stopping by this place and eating some good food in the process.
Momma Goldberg's Deli
After a long morning of visiting the National Memorial For Peace And Justice along with the Freedom Rides Museum, we decided to swing by Momma Goldberg's Deli for lunch. We decided to walk to grab lunch and then walk back to our hotel after a quick pit stop for something to eat. Momma Goldberg's Deli was in the perfect location, about halfway between the Freedom Rides Museum and our hotel.
Momma Goldberg's Deli is not a fancy place, but it's the perfect place to grab a quick and cheap lunch. I got a sandwich, drink, and chips for under $10, making this the perfect lunch after being on vacation for a few days. I would say that my sandwich was a bit too saucy, but I got Asian Chicken wrap, so I knew it would have a bit of sauce to it. My parents also ate here and had some more traditional deli sandwiches and loved their food.
After we left The Legacy Museum, it started raining, so we decided to stay in for a bit and get some Grubhub instead. Grubhub is one of our favorite ways to eat local food without leaving our hotel if we aren't feeling it. We had already seen so much, and we wanted to spend the afternoon relaxing.
Where To Stay
Finding a place to stay in Montgomery was a bit difficult. There weren't many to choose from in the area I wanted to be in. Those in the area were some of the more expensive hotels to be in. I used Hotwire to help me save as much money as I could, but I still ended up spending around $274 for two nights at the hotel I chose. For this one, I didn't chance it on Hot Rate deals as I did in Birmingham. I needed to stay where I did, so I found this hotel specifically.
DoubleTree By Hilton Downtown Montgomery
I have some mixed feelings about the DoubleTree in Downtown Montgomery. Compared to the room I stayed in at a Hilton in Birmingham, this room just felt super small. There was three of us staying in the room, and it might have been a mix of being on vacation for a few days or the room. I felt like when we were in the room, we were always clamoring over each other. There was a desk and chair in front of my bed, and it always seemed to be in the way. Plus, the rooms we were in had queen-sized bed frames with full-sized mattress in them. If you know anything about full vs. queen, you know you can't tell the difference much until a situation like that. I am pretty sure I hit the bed frame about five times while I was there.
So, why am I recommending this hotel? It's convenient AF, y'all. Especially if you want to see the civil rights history of Montgomery like my family did, you honestly can't be much closer to it all. This hotel is right across the street from the Montgomery City Hall, a short walk from The Legacy Museum, close to a ton of different restaurants, et cetera. If it's not close, you can probably take a quick Lyft or Uber ride to get to what you need.
We saved a ton on Lyfts while we were here and walked to quite a few of our plans. If you visited Montgomery during late fall or winter, it'd likely be even more walkable.
A lot of our evenings in Montgomery were spent outside exploring the city. This city has a rich history, especially when it comes to slavery and civil rights. There were some parts of town like the First White House Of The Confederacy that I didn't want to visit. I feel like those places glorify the south in a way I am not comfortable with. Those places are a part of history and deserve to be preserved, if only as a reminder about how icky some people in this country were. I am glad that Montgomery does have quite a few places to explore Civil Rights history, though.
Since we were in downtown, we were able to walk a ton during our time in Montgomery. We did occasionally grab a Lyft for places that were further away. I loved being able to explore so much of the city on foot. I want to go back, though, because there is a ton of Montgomery history we didn't get to tap into while we were in town.
Whew! We fit a ton of stuff into our small visit to Montgomery. Upon thinking about all the things we did, I am honestly shook. We were able to see so much in so little time. I know we only scratched the surface on this trip, but I am excited that we were able to see as much as we did.