10 Suggestions For A Field Trip to Montgomery, Alabama
Fourth-grade students in public schools across Alabama spend their year learning state history, and most of them take a field trip with their teachers to Montgomery, Alabama's capital city. The majority of those field trips happen in the spring, but this year, Alabama schools were forced to close from mid-March until the end of the academic year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Parents everywhere were put in the position of becoming homeschool teachers, but traveling was prohibited. When "the world opens back up for business," let me strongly urge you to create your own field trip to Montgomery. My guess is that you will relearn many things you've long forgotten AND be surprised at all of the new things waiting to be discovered.
I was lucky. With my travel writing, I had been on a quest to visit as many Alabama sites as I could that are on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail. The birthdays of two granddaughters, Penelope and Rosemary (ages 11 and 10), coincided with a planned trip to Selma and Montgomery, so they joined me for a couple of days in mid-February of this year. We were extremely fortunate to have Mrs. Ann Clemons as our guide, and with her help, we covered a lot of territory in the time we had available. (Check out her credentials here. I highly recommend her. She is so knowledgeable and highly entertaining).
Here are some of the places we visited that you might want to include in your itinerary when you go.
To visit the Archives, the First White House of the Confederacy AND the Alabama State Capitol, may I suggest that you find a parking spot in the lot beside the Alabama Cattlemen's Association building. It is across the street from the Archives, and all of the other sites are within easy walking distance.
Two exhibit areas were especially interesting to us. Grandma's Attic and Alabama Voices. The Alabama Voices Museum covers 300 years of Alabama history, and Grandma's Attic displays lots of fun memorabilia.
It's important to acknowledge Alabama's position during the Civil War and the role Jefferson Davis played in the secession and establishment of the Confederacy. The home was built in the 1830's, and it is remarkable that it survived the war.
The Alabama State Capitol building is an impressive, imposing structure. Visitors can gain a better understanding of the workings of our state government while admiring the portraits, statues and stunning architecture.
Old Alabama Town has been arranged to provide a graphic depiction of life in Alabama in the 1800's and early 1900's. The buildings on the grounds are original structures that have been moved to the property and preserved. Craftspeople and docents are scattered through the buildings to present information on such activities as weaving, blacksmithing, typesetting, etc. They are very skilled in relating to children, and my granddaughters enjoyed them thoroughly. A visitor center and gift shop are also popular with school groups.
Across the street from the entrance to Old Alabama Town is a place you might want to stop in for a sweet treat. Tucker Pecan Company smells amazing, and their gift/boutique section has very attractive merchandise. I needed more time there. :)
When you talk to your children (or grandchildren) about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama, the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, very near all of the government buildings, can provide a focus for teachable moments.
We didn't get past the gates at the Governor's Mansion, but tours can be arranged. This is a good time to remind your children that Governor Kay Ivey is a graduate of Auburn University and is the second woman governor of the state. :)
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice is one of the newest sites in Montgomery. It opened only about a year ago and has already seen thousands of visitors. The museum and the memorial are very graphic and can be highly disturbing for young children. The emphasis is on the lynchings that took place throughout the country -- not just in the south. It's extremely important for us to remember and acknowledge what happened, so that we NEVER repeat such despicable acts. I talked generally about it with my granddaughters but chose to NOT have them go in with me. Instead, they waited in the beautiful flower gardens outside. I would say this is more suitable for ages 13 and up.
While we were in Montgomery, we stayed at the SpringHill Suites by Marriott downtown. I wrote a review of it for Trip101.com. Here's that article: https://trip101.com/article/new-springhill-suites-by-marriott-montgomery-al
Two restaurants that we enjoyed were D'Road Cafe and SAZA Italian Restaurant. I reviewed both of them in TheYums.com. Here are those reviews: https://www.theyums.com/droad-cafe-venezuela-meets-montgomery-alabama/ and https://www.theyums.com/saza-great-italian-eatery-in-montgomery-alabama/
Now, let me encourage you to design your own field trip, with or without kids, and enjoy the many attractions of Montgomery.