Family outing! My brother was doing some training at Maxwell Air Force Base, and since he was now within three hours of us all, the whole family convened in Alabama’s capital city, and I of course dragged Kevin along. We barged into town with hardly a plan and what resulted was an eclectic mix of sites, so here are our seven things to do in Montgomery:
Visit the Alabama State Capitol
When in the state capital, it’s imperative you visit the capitol building, so we Alabamians had to show Kevin around. Alabama has had five capitals throughout its history, one of which was my hometown of Huntsville. Montgomery became the capital in 1846. This capitol building has seen the important events in Alabama’s history, from Jefferson Davis’s inauguration as President of the Confederacy to the end of the Selma to Montgomery march and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech at the base of the marble steps.
Free tours allow you to see the entry stairhall, the old Governors Office, the old State Supreme Court, the old Supreme Court Library, the rotunda, the old House of Representatives, and the old Senate Chamber.
See the First White House of the Confederacy
Just across from the capitol’s Avenue of Flags sits the First White House of the Confederacy. This home, moved and restored from its original location a few streets away in the 1920s, served as Jefferson Davis’s home the short time that Montgomery was the Confederate capital. The home is filled with items donated by Mrs. Davis, including Davis’s personal belongings, period furniture, and Civil War relics.
Admission is free for self-guided tours of the home.
Stroll along Lower Commerce Street Historical District
The old commercial district of Montgomery has been revitalized in recent years, restoring the gorgeous Italianate, Classical Revival, and Renaissance Revival style buildings. Find a place to eat along Commerce, duck into The Alley for some live entertainment, or head down to the Riverfront to take in the view of the Alabama River.
Pay Your Respects at Hank Williams’s Grave
Famed country singer Hank Williams is buried next to his wife in a grave covered in AstroTurf. The grave was covered in fake grass in the 1950s after it became clear that grass would never grow there due to fans plucking it and keeping it as souvenirs. The grave is located in the Oakwood Cemetery Annex, not Oakwood Cemetery as is typically reported. So if you get confused, like we did, just look for the large granite Hank Williams Memorial sign at the annex entrance.
Tour the Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum
Being the book nerd that I am, I had to squeeze in a little literary pilgrimage. The home that F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda lived in for six months is the last home the Fitzgeralds lived in as a family. The Fitzgerald Museum also holds the distinction of the only museum dedicated to both Scott and Zelda. The museum takes you through the Fitzgeralds’ lives showcasing Scott’s writings, Zelda’s paintings, their letters to friends and each other, and more.
Tours are either guided or self-guided, and admission is free, though they will happily accept donations.
Shoot at the Montgomery Indoor Shooting Complex
We were feeling adventurous and wanted to deviate from the norm, so we set out for the Montgomery Indoor Shooting Complex. After watching a short safety video, we donned our stylish purple ear muffs, picked out our target, and made our way into the shooting range. While Kevin saved us from a vicious neon skeleton enemy, I did not do so well, only managing to hit the center of the target once by a stroke of pure luck.
Explore Maxwell Air Force Base
Maxwell AFB is located on one of the sites of the Wright Flying School, and it is headquarters of Air University for professional military education. Because the base is a closed base, you can only get access if you live or work on the base or have a military ID, so thanks to my brother, we got to walk around the airpark and look at what we affectionately refer to as planes on sticks.
But in April, the base is open to the public during the Maxwell Air Show, and admission is free! On April 8-9, Maxwell AFB is celebrating the Air Force’s 70th anniversary with the USAF Thunderbirds demonstration, other flying acts, and static displays (planes not on sticks).
Let me know your favorite thing to do in Montgomery in the comments!