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12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Montgomery, AL

Written by Lura Seavey and Lana Law

Montgomery, capital of Alabama, lies in the center of the state on the east bank of the Alabama River. There are a wide range of things to see, including family attractions like the Montgomery Zoo and the unique cow-themed MOOseum. Montgomery's history is one of its most remarkable features, however, and should not be missed whether you are looking for things to do this weekend or planning a vacation itinerary in Montgomery.

Considered by many as the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement, Montgomery's historic attractions can be found throughout the city. From 1954 through 1960, a young Martin Luther King, Jr. served as pastor for a Baptist Church on Dexter Avenue, a building which became the gathering place for early civil rights activists. In 1955, Rosa Parks started a nationwide movement when she sat in the whites-only section of a segregated Montgomery public bus, and in 1961, the Freedom Riders made history at the city's Greyhound bus station. In addition to having several landmarks on the Civil Rights Trail, Montgomery is home to multiple memorials and museums that examine the area's own past, as well as the Civil Rights Movement on a national scale. Learn more about the city's history and find the best places to visit with our list of the top attractions in Montgomery.

1. Civil Rights Memorial

Civil Rights Memorial

Civil Rights Memorial | StretchyBill / photo modified

The Civil Rights Memorial sits across the street from the Southern Poverty Law Center offices, commemorating those who died during the Civil Rights Movement. The memorial is surrounded by a curving black granite wall with the words "until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream" scrolled across. Below the wall is a black granite disc with water flowing over the surface, which is engraved with the names of those who lost their lives in the fight for civil rights. The memorial is located in an open area next to the Civil Rights Memorial Center. Here, tourists will find a variety of exhibits and educational displays, as well as the Wall of Tolerance, which displays the names of visitors who have pledged to work toward tolerance and justice. Visitors may add their own names to the list, which is displayed digitally on the wall of the memorial center.

Address: 400 Washington Avenue, Montgomery, Alabama

Official site: www.splcenter.org/civil-rights-memorial

2. Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church and the Dexter Parsonage Museum

Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church

Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church | dearanxiety / photo modified

The Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church was founded in 1877 on the site of a slave trader's pen. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr served as pastor here from 1954 through 1960, and a mural inside the church features Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's journey from Montgomery to Memphis. King and his family lived in the church's nine-room parsonage during his tenure, and it now houses the Dexter Parsonage Museum. The home, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has been restored to what it was like during the Kings' residence, including a significant amount of the original furnishings. The museum also houses an interpretive center with photographs, exhibits, and timelines, which discuss the civil rights movement in Montgomery and the involvement of the church ministers and members. Behind the museum sits the King-Johns Garden for Reflection, a space set aside for meditation and reflection.

Address: 454 Dexter Avenue, Montgomery, Alabama

Official site: www.dexterkingmemorial.org/tours/parsonage-museum

3. Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts

Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts

Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts | ralph and jenny / photo modified

The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts has a permanent collection of more than 4,000 works, the majority of which are examples of American art from the 1700s through the present. Among these, there is an extensive collection of fragile paper-based artwork including drawings, watercolors, etchings, woodcuts, and engravings by prominent American artists like Winslow Homer and John Marin. Also within the American art collection is an exhibit of regional art, focusing on folk artists and self-taught artists, incuding paintings, drawings, and crafts, with a large quilt collection.

In addition to the American art, the museum houses various examples of European art, as well as a collection of African art, which includes sculpture, furniture, textiles, and masks. Another highlight of the museum is its decorative arts gallery, with several examples of domestic and imported porcelain, and the Weil Atrium Gallery, which houses glassworks from various celebrated glassblowers including Dale Chihuly and Tiffany Studios. The museum also hosts traveling exhibitions and educational programs.

Address: One Museum Drive, Montgomery, Alabama

Official site: http://mmfa.org/

4. Rosa Parks Library and Museum

Photo of Rosa Parks as the Anti-Segregation Ruling Took Effect

Photo of Rosa Parks as the Anti-Segregation Ruling Took Effect | Tullio Sabia / photo modified

The Rosa Parks Library and Museum is located in downtown Montgomery near the site of her arrest after her legendary stand against segregation. Among the historic artifacts on display are a 1955 Montgomery city bus and one of the station wagons used by the boycotters during their movement to end segregation on public transportation. Other exhibits include photographs, court documents, and even Rosa's original fingerprint record from her arrest. Visitors will learn about the social and political climate of 1950s Montgomery and will be moved as they hear the personal stories of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and other important moments in Civil Rights history. The museum also hosts special events, educational programs, and traveling exhibits throughout the year.

Address: 252 Montgomery Street, Montgomery, Alabama

Official site: www.troy.edu/rosaparks

5. Hank Williams Museum

Hank Williams Museum

Hank Williams Museum | carolina terp / photo modified

The Hank Williams Museum in downtown Montgomery commemorates one of country music's most famous stars. Visitors can view the museum's extensive collection of Hank's personal belongings, including his powder-blue 1952 Cadillac; a Steinway piano; two Gibson guitars; and a large collection of his clothing, from his first childhood cowboy boots to his stage attire. Other personal items include artwork from his home, musical instruments, and everyday items like his shaving kit and shoe-shine kit. Memorabilia includes a variety of awards, including Platinum Records, as well as sheet music, autographed vinyl records, and photographs.

Also in Montgomery, the Hank Williams Memorial at Oakwood Annex Cemetery is the singer's final resting place, along with his wife and other family members. The grave site is located on Commerce Street and is a popular tourist destination for country music fans.

Address: 118 Commerce Street, Montgomery, Alabama

Official site: http://thehankwilliamsmuseum.net/

6. Montgomery Zoo

A monkey at the Montgomery Zoo

A monkey at the Montgomery Zoo

Montgomery Zoo is a particularly popular Montgomery attraction for families, full of a wide variety of animals from all over the world. The Australian habitat is home to some of the continent's most famous residents, including kangaroos and wallabies. Visitors will find several African animals as well, including cheetahs, elephants, hippos, and giraffes, while Asian residents include the endangered Sumatran tiger and Indian rhino. The South American exhibit includes the emerald tree boa, Chilean flamingo, a wide variety of frogs, and the endangered golden lion tamarin. There is also a North American area with bald eagles, bison, and black bear, as well as a petting zoo where kids can feed the African pygmy goats.

There are several opportunities to get up close to the animals, the most popular being the giraffe exhibit, where you can get face-to-face with these graceful giants and hand feed them. Visitors can also watch zookeepers conduct a lion training session, get to know the zoo's three African elephants at the elephant keeper talk, and walk among birds in Parakeet Cove and the South American Flight Aviary. Those who don't mind taxidermy will also be interested in the Mann Wildlife and Learning Museum, which has lifelike displays depicting a variety of animals in their natural habitats.

Address: 2301 Coliseum Parkway, Montgomery, Alabama

Official site: www.montgomeryzoo.com

7. Old Alabama Town

Old Alabama Town is a series of more than 50 historic homes and buildings in historic downtown Montgomery, which have been restored to their original state and are open to the public for touring. Each property has been authentically furnished and outfitted to represent life in 19th- and early 20th-century Alabama, and interpreters are available throughout the neighborhood to answer questions. The centerpiece of the buildings is the Ordeman House, and admission includes a guided tour of this home, as well as a map and guide to the remaining properties. Among other remarkable buildings are the 1895 Adams Chapel School; the 1892 Corner Grocery Store; and the stunning Ware-Farley-Hood House, which was built around 1850.

Address: 301 Columbus Street, Montgomery, Alabama

Official site: www.oldalabamatown.com

8. The MOOseum

Alabama Longhorn steer

Alabama Longhorn steer

A visit to the MOOseum is one of the more unique things to do in Montgomery, especially popular with younger children. Here, visitors will learn all about Alabama's cattle industry, from its start in 1495 to the present-day, through timelines, history exhibits, and video presentations. You can learn all about cows, from their breeds and complex digestive system to the food and products they produce. Kids can dress up as cowboys and cowgirls in the play arena and learn about beef and food safety in Slim's Kitchen. Another highlight is the "Beef Wagon," a popular place for family photo-ops.

Address: 201 South Bainbridge Street, Montgomery, Alabama

Official site: www.bamabeef.org/p/about/273

9. Freedom Rides Museum

Plaque commemorating the Freedom Riders

Plaque commemorating the Freedom Riders, Kevin / photo modified

The Freedom Rides Museum is located at the former Montgomery Greyhound station, where history was made as the Freedom Riders got off their bus on May 20th, 1961. The station has been restored to appear as it was in 1961 and houses a modest collection of exhibits about the movement that eventually succeeded in ending segregation on public transportation. Exhibits include photographs, documents, and biographies of each of the brave young men and women who were part of the momentous statement. The museum is an official stop on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail.

Address: 210 South Court Street, Montgomery, Alabama

Official site: ahc.alabama.gov/properties/freedomrides/freedomrides.aspx

10. Alabama State Capitol

Alabama State Capitol

Alabama State Capitol

The State Capitol building in Montgomery was rebuilt in Greek Revival style after the original was destroyed by a fire in 1850. This historic building served as both the state Capitol and the Capitol of the Confederacy during the Civil War and was later the backdrop for one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s most famous speeches, delivered at the end of the Selma to Montgomery March for voting rights. Both a National Historic Landmark and a U.S. Civil Rights Trail destination, the capitol building is now a working museum. Visitors can tour the Senate and Old Supreme Court Chambers, the House of Representatives, and the Rotunda. Highlights include historic murals in the Rotunda and trompe l'oeil paintings on the ceiling of the Senate Chamber, as well as the gardens and statues that adorn the five-acre grounds.

Address: 600 Dexter Avenue, Montgomery, Alabama

Official site: https://ahc.alabama.gov/alabama-state-capitol.aspx

11. Alabama State Archives and History Museum

Alabama State Archives and History Museum

Alabama State Archives and History Museum, TranceMist / photo modified

The State Archives and History Museum explores the history of Alabama through artifacts and historic documents. Artifacts include Native American and pioneer artifacts, as well as a selection of Civil War items, including regimental flags and portrait galleries. In addition, multimedia presentations expand on various moments in Alabama history and explore broader topics like the cotton industry and civil rights.

The State Archives in Montgomery was founded in 1901 as the first state archival agency in the nation. This turn-of-the-century building features marble walls and staircases of Tennessee gray marble and Alabama white marble. The second floor of the archives is a room dedicated to former Vice President William Rufus King. The room displays King's personal furniture, silver, china, and some of this clothing. Documents on display allow visitors a glimpse of this fascinating man and the period in which he lived.

Address: 624 Washington Ave, Montgomery, Alabama

Official site: http://archives.state.al.us/

12. Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice

The Legacy Museum is dedicated to preserving the history of racial injustice and bringing its many aspects into the public awareness. Located on the spot where thousands of slaves were once warehoused while awaiting their unknown fates, the museum utilizes a variety of media to discuss slavery, segregation, lynching, and modern issues of racial profiling and mass incarceration.

About a 15-minute walk from the museum is the newly unveiled National Memorial for Peace and Justice, the first memorial in the nation to be made in memory of the African Americans who were affected by slavery, lynchings, and racial injustice. This memorial, covering a total of six acres, includes sculptures, monuments, and artwork, which honor major figures in the Civil Rights movement. Perhaps the most impactful statement is the field of 800 monuments, each representing a county where lynchings occurred, and each engraved with the names of the known victims. These monuments are waiting to be claimed by their respective counties in hopes that acknowledgement of a dark past will lead to a brighter future.

Museum Address: 115 Coosa Street, Montgomery, Alabama

Memorial Address: 417 Caroline Street, Montgomery, Alabama

Official site: museumandmemorial.eji.org

Where to Stay in Montgomery for Sightseeing

We recommend these convenient hotels in Montgomery with easy access to the city's most popular museums and memorials:

More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com

Exploring Alabama: Montgomery is home to some of Alabama's top tourist attractions, but there is plenty more to see in this southern state. Just an hour-and-a-half drive to the north, Birmingham has a variety of popular attractions, from important civil rights landmarks like the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church to family favorites like the McWane Science Center. Tourists will also find plenty to see and do in Mobile, Alabama's largest coastal city. Mobile is known for its maritime history and lively cultural scene, home to the oldest Mardi Gras celebration in the nation.

Civil Rights Landmarks and Attractions: Alabama is home to several stops on the Civil Rights Trail, as are its neighboring states. Tourists can take an easy day trip from Montgomery to see the sites of Atlanta including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Birth Home and National Historic Park, the King Center, and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

A longer drive from Montgomery but a straight shot on the highway, Jackson, Mississippi offers the chance to see several more historic civil rights sites. Among Jackson's many popular attractions, tourists will find the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, the Medgar Evers Home Museum, and the Mississippi Freedom Trail.

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