Home to difference-makers like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and Judge Frank M. Johnson, as well as current leaders like Bryan Stevenson, author of “Just Mercy” and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, Montgomery continues to face tough issues head on, initiating unprecedented change and inspiring the nation to fight for justice and equality. The city will inspire you too. A visit to Montgomery provides the opportunity to learn the lessons of our past and discover how you can play a part in creating a brighter future for all.
Get personal and purposeful with your trip by enlisting a knowledgeable and entertaining guide. See Montgomery through a different lens with More than Tours, recently featured in National Geographic Traveler, or let original Civil Rights foot-soldier and Selma-to-Montgomery marcher Jake Williams escort you on a site-seeing tour based on his first-person perspective. Gain encouragement from Wanda Battle with Legendary Tours and see first-hand the places where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. transformed from a young preacher to the internationally known Civil Rights leader at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Church and Parsonage or hear real life perspectives of intriguing landmark site from guide Ann Clemons of Triple E Group Services. Stop for a bite a the 102-year-old Chris’ Hotdogs on historic Dexter Avenue, and you’ll have something delicious in common with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hank Williams, Dr. Martin Luther King and Elvis Presley, all of whom enjoyed their share of this eatery’s famous hot dogs and burgers. Or check out new vegan restaurant Plant Bae, whose owners chowed down on diverse plant-based dishes in foodie meccas like New York, Las Vegas, and Atlanta to find ideas for their menu.
In the Afternoon, uncover what drove the Montgomery Bus Boycott at the Rosa Parks Museum and Library, learn about the martyrs of the movement at the Civil Rights Memorial and Museum and visit a rehabilitated Greyhound bus station, now the Freedom Riders Museum, that tells the tale of a brutal attach. At the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Church and Parsonage, stand in the spots where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. transformed from young preacher to internationally known Civil Rights leader. If you have time, hop across the interstate to Alabama State University’s Interpretive Center, a $5 million center located on ASU’s campus that honors the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March and the martyrs and foot-soldiers who made voting rights history happen.
If you’re staying in the walk-able downtown area, end your day with elevated Southern fare in the rustic yet elegant Central, or check out the options of Alley Station, located in a renovated 1895 warehouse in the heart of the downtown entertainment district.
Start your day the Montgomery way with a plate of biscuits at Cahawba House. Or, if your tastes are more exotic, try the Crazy Eggs and arepas at D’road Café. You’ll need the energy to fully explore two new—and internationally recognized—Civil Rights experiences created by the Equal Justice Initiative that offer complete context for current conversations about racial equality.
Start by spending some time at The Legacy Museum, followed by a visit to EJI’s Pavilion for lunch at Pannie George’s. Next, catch the free shuttle to The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, and don’t rush here. This powerful site is challenging minds and changing hearts by sharing compelling stories and shining a spotlight on truths that need to be told. Re-fuel with a locally roasted coffee and a pastry at Prevail Union, named Alabama’s best coffee by Food & Wine magazine, before your dinner at Old Cloverdale’s best kept secret, EL Rey Burrito Lounge, a funky gem serving up Mexican-inspired, locally sourced food with an array of delicious vegetarian items. After your evening meal, mosey on over to nearby Leroy Bar and sip a libation from its carefully curated craft beer selection or creative cocktail menu.
Begin at Café Louisa and chose from a tempting selection of house-made organic breads, scones, muffins and more. Or cozy up to some Southern comfort food classics at Barbara Gail Neighborhood Grille, where everyone is welcomed like family. Next, load up on local loot at Southern Arts and Makers Collective, an eclectic shop downtown packed with jewelry, paintings, pottery and more all made by Montgomery hands. (Check its social media to find details like pop-ups with local bakers, plus art and craft classes and workshops.)
Take a break and relax with a craft brew at Common Bond Brewers, where the brewers and staff invite you to linger over a pint and make a connection. When hunger strikes, the brewery’s neighbor, Bibb Street Pizza, will send over a pizza, Stromboli, or salad. Or belly up at That’s My Dog Jr., a restaurant run completely by teenagers and designed to empower and employ local youth. Brenda’s BBQ is another tasty option for filling your stomach and your heart; it’s just steps away from some of the moving murals (see pg. 49) created by local artists that express Montgomery’s history through the eyes of present-day activists. And no tour of the city’s meaningful sites is complete without a visit to the Frank M. Johnson Jr. Federal Building and United States Courthouse, where Judge Johnson presided over some of the country’s most pivotal Civil Rights cases.
Grab your last supper at Saza Serious Italian, which offers thin-crust pies and Italian fare in colorful, brick-walled quarters. Then, toast the city goodnight with a craft cocktail on the patio or a game of ping pong with a new friend at Montgomery’s friendliest neighborhood bar, KRU at Mt. Meigs.