Located less than three hours from Atlanta, Montgomery, Alabama is a fantastic town to travel to for historical significance, a quick growing downtown area (with fantastic food), and Southern charm. Ian and I traveled to Montgomery for 48 hours and I wanted to share all about what we did with you. Also, here is our YouTube video recap (check out the cool murals!):
48 Hours in Montgomery, Alabama
Where to stay:
One thing that I absolutely loved about Montgomery is the fact that it is so walkable. Sure, it was hot and there were hills, but almost everything was in the same general downtown area, which was great. Our hotel, the Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa at the Convention Center was a great home base when it came to everything that we did. Honestly, we probably could have walked to 80% or maybe more of the things we did, but it was a rainy weekend and we did not want to risk getting caught in the rain.
The hotel itself was beautiful! In the lobby, you can find cold water infused with fruit at all times, the AC was blasting (very necessary in Alabama!), the staff were all so friendly and helpful, and the rooms were very spacious and comfortable.
If you have read my hotel reviews in the past, you should know that my biggest pet peeve is when they do not refresh your water bottles that are provided in the room. Well, I’m happy to let you all know that the Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa did, indeed refresh the water bottles. I know, I know – this seems like such a small touch, but when you travel like Ian and I do and want to see everything that a city has to offer, you are parched at the end of each day and a fresh bottled water is just so nice to have.
The Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa really was the perfect place to stay. It was clean, comfortable, accommodating, and in the center of most of the things that you will do when traveling to the area!
Where to eat:
This is my favorite section in each travel guide I write – the food is what makes or breaks a city, in my opinion, and we were very pleased with the restaurant options that Montgomery had to offer! Here is everything we tried:
Capitol Oyster Bar was probably my favorite place (or at least one of my favorite places). Overlooking the Alabama River, Capitol Oyster Bar definitely has the freshest and best seafood in the area. We started with raw oysters (I did not have any, but Ian said they were amazing!) and then ordered the combination platter and frog legs for our main entrees.
I cannot speak about the frog legs personally (once again, Ian said they were amazing), but the combination platter was everything I have ever dreamed about. It reminded me of something that I would find at Safe Harbor, which is my favorite seafood restaurant in Mayport, Florida. It comes with shrimp, oysters, and scallops and let me tell you – the scallops were to die for. Buttery, juicy, and so tender. Just perfectly executed and I highly recommend ordering some for yourself.
You have probably seen Prevail on my Instagram multiple times because it was so insanely good. Ian ordered the Alabama Stinger multiple times and I loved the HVR latte, which was filled with honey, vanilla, and raspberry. Prevail Union Coffee is located in the Kress building, which I highly recommend checking out while you’re in the area!
Vintage Year is one of the places that I would probably recommend driving to instead of walking. According to their website, “Vintage Year is dedicated to providing guests with the finest hand-cut meats, freshest seafood, outstanding wines and spirits along with excellent customer service.” That was definitely true, in our experience. I ordered the special for dinner and Ian ordered the most amazing yellowfin tuna dish with black rice, coconut mirin, squash blossom, + an arugula ginger and radish shower. We also ordered caesar salads while we were there and the white anchovies that came on top were perfect!
Leroy was the coolest bar ever – with the best drinks. Basically, you cannot go wrong with absolutely anything you order there.
- Renaissance Hotel:
We had breakfast at the Renaissance Hotel one morning while in town and it was great! It was a buffet, but they also had an omelette station and everything was so fresh. I ordered lots of bacon, fruit, coffee, and an omelette, which was definitely my pregnant dream meal at the time (especially the fruit and bacon!).
First opened in Tuscaloosa, AL, Dreamland is one of the most authentic Southern Bar-B-Que experiences that you can find. there are ten Dreamland locations and they actually have one about 30-40 minutes from our house, but we had to try it out in Alabama while we were visiting and boy was it good! We ordered pulled pork, fried okra, mac & cheese, and big cups of sweet tea, but we saw another table get an order of ribs and that will definitely be our next taste there when we go back!
If you stay at the Renaissance Hotel while in Montgomery, Central will be extremely close to you and you will definitely want to check it out. Central is rated as the #1 restaurant in Montgomery on TripAdvisor. In addition, it was also the 2019 OpenTable Diner’s Choice Award recipient for the fourth year in a row. Central was another favorite restaurant find of ours. We ordered the pimento cheese and cajun seafood corn dogs (so unique and good!) for appetizers, Ian had the Ribeye, and I had the hanger steak with spring corn, blistered shisito peppers, pickled red onion, and a chimichurri sauce. SO. GOOD. Since it was our last night in Montgomery, we also just had to order dessert, so we ordered the Chef’s Doughnuts which were drool-worthy.
I’ll admit it – Cahawba house might be intimidating to pronounce at first glance, but RUN, don’t walk to grab some breakfast or lunch from this low-key restaurant. Cahawba House services locally-sourced, Southern classics and not only is it super casual and fun to dine at, but it is very affordable, as well. We ordered biscuits and they were amaaaazing.
Common Bond Brewers is not only a great place to grab a drink in between museums or meals, but it’s also a great place to cool off and mingle with people. Ian had a few flights over the long weekend that we spent in Montgomery and I tried a few sips of his beer here and there and they were GREAT. They had just released a new sour while we were visiting and it was fantastic!
Although we did not try these places, here are a few others that were on our list that we did not get to:
- Martin’s: According to them, Martin’s has been in business since the 1930’s and is a family-owned and operated restaurant serving a meat and three style lunch.
- Chris’ Hot Dogs: Who doesn’t love a good dog?! We almost made our way to Chris’, but didn’t realize that they were closed on Sunday’s!
What to do:
Goodness – if you are traveling to Montgomery, you will have SO much to do. Honestly, your options are endless. More than likely, you have traveled here for the amazing museums and historical sites and I do not blame you one bit because they are amazing. Here are a few of my recommendations:
I thought I knew a lot about Rosa Parks, but I was wrong. While visiting the museum, I learned so much about what actually happened (compared to what they teach you briefly in school). The Rosa Parks Museum includes a permanent exhibit, a time machine, temporary exhibit, archives, and more.
This was definitely one of my favorite things that we did while in Montgomery! The Dexter Ave. Church tour was not only education, but it was just really fun and positive, as well. Honestly, the message you will receive comes down to being the best person that you can be to not only yourself, but those around you. It was amazing. You have to go to experience what I am talking about, but you will leave with a massive smile plastered on your face, I can guarantee that. If you go to Montgomery and only have time for two things, this would definitely be one of the places I recommend visiting.
- Hank Williams Gravesite:
We were not originally going to go to the Hank Williams Gravesite, but I am glad we did. It is a really unique spot and has an amazing view! Also, the actual gravesite was pretty cool to see, but you really only need about 15 minutes here, or so.
- Montgomery Curb Market:
Most of you probably know that my love of farmers markets runs deep. Ian and I try to go to our local market at least once or twice a month, if not more, but the Montgomery Curb Market blows our market away – it was so cool to see! Ian got lucky that we went right before we visited The Legacy Museum, or I probably would have left with quite a few goodies.
I cannot rave about The Legacy Museum enough and after quite a time to process everything that we saw and experienced that day, I am still not sure that I can properly explain how amazing our experience really was. Every school should be taking field trips here and every family should bring their children and other family members to really learn about slavery and mass incarceration. The Legacy Museum is a block from one of the most prominent slave auction spaces in America and just steps away from an Alabama dock and rail station where tens of thousands of black people were trafficked during the 19th century.
The Legacy Museum was definitely the most moving experience that we had while in Montgomery. I did not see a single person leave the museum without tears rolling down their cheeks and those tears started not even five minutes into our experience visiting the museum. Because I do not think that I can properly describe our experience and how moving it truly was, I want to include a quote from the EJI website:
“EJI believes that the history of racial inequality and economic injustice in the United States has created continuing challenges for all Americans, and more must be done to advance our collective goal of equal justice for all. The United States has done very little to acknowledge the legacy of slavery, lynching, and racial segregation. As a result, people of color are disproportionately marginalized, disadvantaged and mistreated. The American criminal justice system is compromised by racial disparities and unreliability that is influenced by a presumption of guilt and dangerousness that is often assigned to people of color. For more than a decade, EJI has been conducting extensive research into the history of racial injustice and the narratives that have sustained injustice across generations. Our new museum is the physical manifestation of that research.
The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration opened to the public on April 26, 2018, in Montgomery, Alabama. The 11,000-square-foot museum is built on the site of a former warehouse where enslaved black people were imprisoned, and is located midway between an historic slave market and the main river dock and train station where tens of thousands of enslaved people were trafficked during the height of the domestic slave trade. Montgomery’s proximity to the fertile Black Belt region, where slave-owners amassed large enslaved populations to work the rich soil, elevated Montgomery’s prominence in domestic trafficking, and by 1860, Montgomery was the capital of the domestic slave trade in Alabama, one of the two largest slave-owning states in America.
The Legacy Museum employs unique technology to dramatize the enslavement of African Americans, the evolution of racial terror lynchings, legalized racial segregation and racial hierarchy in America. Relying on rarely seen first-person accounts of the domestic slave trade, EJI’s critically acclaimed research materials, videography, exhibits on lynching and recently composed content on segregation, this museum explores the history of racial inequality and its relationship to a range of contemporary issues from mass incarceration to police violence.
Visitors encounter a powerful sense of place when they enter the museum and confront slave pen replicas, where you can see, hear, and get close to what it was like to be imprisoned awaiting sale at the nearby auction block. First-person accounts from enslaved people narrate the sights and sounds of the domestic slave trade. Extensive research and videography helps visitors understand the racial terrorism of lynching, and the humiliation of the Jim Crow South. Compelling visuals and data-rich exhibits give visitors the opportunity to investigate America’s history of racial injustice and its legacy, drawing dynamic connections across generations of Americans impacted by the narrative of racial difference.”
If you only have a couple of hours in Montgomery, The Legacy Museum is definitely where you want to spend your time. I urge everyone to make the trip to Montgomery to visit it. The museum and memorial are open daily, except for Tuesdays.
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice is the Nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people who were terrorized by lynching. I recommend visiting the memorial after you visit The Legacy Museum and there is a shuttle that runs between the two locations. At the memorial, you will walk around and under 800 monuments to symbolize thousands of racial terror lynching victims. Each monument represents each county in the US where racial terror lynching took place, which blew me away.
We absolutely love art and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts is the perfect place to go when you need to decompress after the memorial and The Legacy Museum. It is completely free to visitors, which is so nice. It is the oldest Fine Arts Museum in the state and also home to ARTWORKS, for children. If art is not your thing, you might want to consider Jasmine Hill Gardens – it looks beautiful!
It can be extremely hard to sum up a trip such as this one in a blog post. For me, it is very easy to write about a laid-back beach trip, or our food tour through Italy, but our trip to Montgomery, Alabama was filled with so much education, history, and emotion, and that is just really challenging to actually put into words. The experience truly was unlike any other and I highly recommend taking the (less than) 3 hour drive from Atlanta to visit Montgomery so that you can experience this all for yourself. We had such a fantastic time and I cannot wait to see how the city keeps growing within the next couple of years!
Thank you so very much to the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce for hosting us during our time in Montgomery. Although we were graciously hosted, all of the opinions expressed in this article are 100% my own and I am so grateful that we had the opportunity to visit Montgomery and learn so much while we were there. Ian and I could not thank you enough!