Destination: Montgomery, Alabama
By Rochelle Caviness - August 15, 2002
Have you ever taken a drive early in the morning, when most of the houses you pass are dark and empty looking, and the only signs of life are a few lighted windows through which you can occasionally catch a glimpse of someone going about their morning routine? It seems as if the world is bereft of people, yet there is a feel of energy in the air that lets you know that the world is only minutes away form reawakening. In many regards, this is the way that Montgomery, Alabama feels...
Montgomery is the capitol of Alabama, and it is home to a major portion of the bureaucracy that runs Alabama, including the Capitol and legislative buildings. It is also home to the Governor's Mansion. Montgomery is a vibrant, yet relaxed town, that gives the distinct impression that it is on that magical cusp between sleeping and becoming fully awake. Montgomery has the potential of becoming a bustling metropolis. For the time being, however, you can still revel in its small town feel with its relaxed sense of purposefulness. Best of all, you'll find that the town is full to the brim with old-fashioned Southern hospitality. Montgomery is the perfect destination for anyone seeking a quiet, and relaxing, vacation spot that has plenty of activites for the whole family, ranging from late night Jazz clubs to the Lambert Fun Zone for children.
Most noticeable in Montgomery is the great strides that have been taken to 'awaken' the downtown area. The city has undergone years of revitalization. Most of the older buildings have been completely restored, and the town is one of the cleanest big cities I've ever been in. There is also plenty of space available for new businesses in the downtown area.
Getting Around the Downtown Area
When you're visiting the Downtown area, you're going to want to leave your car behind and ride the trolley! The Lightning Route Trolley transverses the downtown area all day, Monday-Saturday. The trolleys are replicas of 'antique' trolleys, and they make stops at, or near, all the major attractions in the downtown area. An all day trolley pass only costs $1, and you can get on and off the trolley as often as you please. Inexpensive as these passes already are, discounts are available for senior citizens and disabled persons.
In addition to ferrying you to all of the major attractions, the trolley service comes complete with an ongoing commentary by the driver. The driver will point out various landmarks and provide you with a brief history of Montgomery as you ride along.
If you are traveling outside of the downtown area, and don't want to drive, Montgomery has a public bus service, known as Capital Area Transit system. Taxi service is also available.
Getting to Montgomery
Montgomery is accessible via car, bus, and air. The Montgomery Regional Airport is located about a fifteen minute drive away from downtown Montgomery. Rental car facilities are located at the airport, and many of the areas hotels offer shuttle service to the airport and back.
Where to stay in Montgomery?
If you want to stay in the downtown area of Montgomery, I'd recommend the 237-room Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center. The elevators have brailled number indicators, and an audible signal is heard when a car arrives, and as the cars pass each floor. I stayed there this summer and I was very impressed by the courtesy of the staff and size of their rooms. Each room consists of a complete living room that includes a sofa, coffee table, and TV, a small kitchen area with a refrigerator and microwave, and at least one bedroom.
This hotel is well situated to act as a base of operations for touring the city. It is also right across the street, on one side, from the Montgomery Civic Center. In the other direction it is just across the street from the historic Union Train Station, where you'll find the Montgomery Visitors Center. A word of warning about Lek's, if you don't like your food spicy, let them know and they will prepare your dish to the degree of spiciness that you desire - otherwise you may find that you have steam blowing out your ears! Lek's offers a full menu, including several outstanding vegetarian dishes.
In addition to this fine hotel, there are a wide variety of hotels, to fit all budgets, scattered throughout the greater Montgomery area.
What is there for kids to do in Montgomery?
The answer to this question is, a lot! And most of the kid-centric fun activities are educational to boot.
If you're traveling with children, or if your young at heart yourself, you'll want to plan on visiting:
Civil War & Civil Rights
- The MOOseum: This is, to say the least, a unique museum - and its free! Organized by the Alabama Cattlemen's Association, this museum offers visitors a look at Alabama's history - through it's cattle. You'll not only gain an understanding of the importance of cattle in Alabama, past and present, but you'll also gain an understanding of 'how a cow works." Be forewarned, this is a pro eat-beef establishment, however even vegetarians will find this MOOseum educational.
- The Montgomery Zoo houses over 700 animals from five continents, in barrier free enclosures - i.e., no cages!
- Old Alabama Town is an historic district inhabited by costumed interpreters that try to show how life was like in Alabama's past, both in urban and rural areas.
- W. A. Gayle Planetarium
While no major battles were fought in Montgomery during the War Between the States, however the city did serve as the first Capitol of the Confederacy. Montgomery also served a pivotal role during the Civil Rights Movement. Both historical milestones are well document, and acknowledged throughout Montgomery. A few of the sights that explore the history of these events include:
Civil War Sites:
Civil Rights Sites:
Other Must-See Attractions in Montgomery
Need more information?
- The Hank Williams Museum is located in downtown Montgomery, and it is a monument to the memory and legacy of the country music performer and composer, Hank Williams. He was only 29-years-old when he died, yet in this short span he wrote over 128 songs, and recorded countless others. Most of the displays in the museum are behind glass, or are visually oriented. However, the museum does offers a video about Hank Williams and his music.
- The Wynton M. Blount Cultral Park - this park is home to a host of cultural 'must sees' including the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, which offers TourMate Audio Guides. These are taped programs that you can rent at the museum, and which offers information about selected works of art in the museum. Information on the museum is also available in large print. In addition, the museum occasionally offers "White Gloves Touching Tours" for the visually impaired.
You'll also find the Alabama Shakespeare Festival on the grounds of the Blount Cultural Park. At this theater you can attend not just plays written by Shakespeare, but also works by contemporary writers such as Doris Baizley.
- F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum offers an intriguing look at the lives of the Fitzgeralds. Zelda was a Montgomery native, and the museum is located in a house they briefly rented in the 1930's. This is a small museum that is run by a staff that is passionate about preserving the memory and the achievements of the Fitzgeralds. Most of the displays are purely visual, however the staff, especially Mrs. Elena Aleinikov, the Executive Director of the museum, can tell you more about the Fitzgeralds than anything you might ever read about the famous couple. The only problem with this museum is it location. It is not on any of the public bus routes, so you may need to take a taxi to reach it if you don't have access to a car.
- Jasmine Hill Gardens and Outdoor Museum - even if you don't normally 'do' gardens, do this one! Not only does Jasmine Hill present a variety of plantings that tantalize the senses, but the 20 acre garden site is sprinkled throughout with classical sculptures, fountains, and even a replica of a Greek temple dedicated to Hera. Most of these classical works are replicas of works that the original owners of Jasmine Hill, Ben and Mary Fitzpatrick, saw on their numersous trips to Greece. Most of the sculptures arranged throughout the garden are fully touchable, enabling visually impaired visitors to fully experience all that Jasmine Hill has to offer.
Before visiting Montgomery, be sure to contact the Montgomery Convention & Visitors Bureau for more information on all the attractions in the area, as well as locations, hours of operation, and any entry fees. They can also provide you with maps of the city, information on accommodations and restaurants, and they can also let you know what special events might be going on while you are in town.
Once you arrive in Montgomery, be sure to stop by the visitors center at the Union Station in downtown Montgomery. In the center you will find a variety of informative displays that provide an overview of Montgomery's history.
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- The Montgomery Convention & Visitors Bureau can be contacted at:
Convention & Visitor Development Office
300 Water Street, 2nd Floor
Montgomery, AL 36104
Their phone number is: 1-800-240-9452
They also have a website, located at: www.visitingmontgomery.com/
Questions or Comments? Send an email to:
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