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Montgomery: Recreation


Sightseeing

The Visitor Center, located in historic Union Station at Riverfront Park, offers maps and brochures for visitors to use in touring the city. Many of Montgomery's most important tourist sites are located in the city's downtown and are within walking distance of one another. The Alabama State Capitol, built in 1850–1851, is a National Historic Landmark and has been restored to its original design. At this site Jefferson Davis was sworn in as President of the Confederacy and Martin Luther King, Jr. culminated the historic march through downtown Montgomery by asking for equality for all Americans.

The Civil Rights Memorial lists the key events in the American civil rights movement, including the names of forty men, women, and children who were killed during the struggle. Nearby is Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. issued many of his pleas for freedom. The church also served as the center of the famous 1955 bus boycott.

Montgomery is also the home of the First White House of the Confederacy, where President Jefferson Davis and his family resided. The Alabama Judicial Building houses the state Supreme Court, the courts of Criminal and Civil Appeals, and the state law library. In nearby Wetumpka, at the site of Fort Toulouse in 165-acre Jackson Park is the William Bartram Arboretum, a museum, historic buildings, and an Indian mound dating back thousands of years.

Old Alabama Town is a collection of restored homes and buildings from the 19th and early 20th centuries, set in the

A museum today, the First White House of the Confederacy contains artifacts and exhibits about the Confederacy and its president, Jefferson Davis.
A museum today, the First White House of the Confederacy contains artifacts and exhibits about the Confederacy and its president, Jefferson Davis.
heart of Montgomery's historic downtown. The site features a walking tour, live demonstrations, and a gift shop. Another popular tourist stop is the U.S. Air Force Heritage Museum, which houses the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Hall. The museum, on the grounds of Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, highlights important achievements of enlisted soldiers and the airplanes they used, as well as vintage military uniforms, historical photos, and paintings. The Air Force Base occupies the site where in 1910 Wilbur and Orville Wright operated the world's first flight training school. Tours of the stainless steel Monument to Powered Flight are conducted there daily and visitors have the opportunity to see vintage aircraft.

The Alabama Science Center encourages hands-on learning through touch-screen interactive computer programs and video presentations.

Renowned country singer Hank Williams, Sr. is a son of Montgomery. The museum that bears his name features his 1952 Cadillac and other items such as his clothing, piano, and band members' possessions. A life-sized statue of the beloved singer stands across the street from the old city auditorium where many of his performances and his funeral took place.

Rosa L. Parks, the African American heroine who was the catalyst for the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott, is honored at Troy State University Montgomery's Rosa Parks Library and Museum, which opened in 2000. The 55,000-square-foot structure was built on the site where Mrs. Parks boarded the bus on which she refused to yield her seat. The interpretive museum is housed in the 7,000 square foot first floor of the three-story building, which also houses the Troy State University Library. Permanent exhibits commemorating the civil rights movement are displayed, including a replica of the bus, original historical documents on loan from the City of Montgomery, and various sculptures. The Museum also contains a 2,200 square foot, 103-seat multimedia auditorium.

The Alabama Cattleman's Association MOOseum tells the story of the agricultural history of the state, focusing on the history of the cattle industry from the explorations of DeSoto to the present day.

Visitors are alerted to "expect the unexpected" at the 40-acre Montgomery Zoo, which displays more than 700 animals from five continents living in a "barrier free" setting lush with vegetation and crashing waterfalls. One of the largest planetariums in the Southeast, the W.A. Gayle Planetarium allows 230 visitors to view the sun, moon, planets, and stars projected on a 50-foot domed ceiling. Laser Lights are a highlight of the facility, which is set in beautiful Oak Park.

Teague House offers visitors a chance to observe one of the south's finest examples of late Greek Revival architecture, while the Murphy House antebellum mansion, which now houses the Montgomery Waterworks Board, is open for free tours. The stern-wheel riverboat Betsy Ann provides nautical tours of the city from its berth in historic Riverfront Park.

Arts and Culture

The 150-acre Wynton M. Blount Cultural Park plays host to two Montgomery Gems: The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts' noted Blount Collection includes works by John Singer Sargent and Edward Hopper and spans 200 years of American art. The museum also displays collections of European art and offers an educational gallery called ARTWORKS, through which patrons can use their five senses to learn about works in the permanent collection and art in general. The acclaimed Alabama Shakespeare Festival makes its home at the Carolyn Blount Theatre in the Cultural Park. The complex includes two separate theaters, a 750-seat Festival Stage, and the 225-seat Octagon Theatre. The Shakespeare Festival attracts more than 300,000 visitors annually. The park's Shakespeare Gardens hosts many events, including acoustic music concerts, lectures, and theatrical productions. The grounds are festooned with numerous lush plantings and an Elizabethan herb garden. Blount Cultural Park is a $21.5 million facility representing the largest single gift in the history of American arts philanthropy.

The Alabama Artists Gallery features the work of the state's artists.

The F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum is located in a former home of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the author of The Great Gatsby and other American classics. It houses a large collection of photos, possessions, partial manuscripts, and original correspondence between Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, a fine artist.

Troy State University's Davis Theatre for the Performing Arts, which opened in 1930, is a renovated former movie palace that now hosts professional musicals, drama, chamber music, symphony concerts, dance, and other performances. It is home to the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra and the Montgomery Ballet. Faulkner University's Dinner Theatre holds claim to Montgomery's only dinner theater venue.

The Montgomery Symphony Orchestra began in 1976 as a community orchestra with 30 musicians. Now, with 75 musicians and a full-time maestro, the symphony performs 7 concerts per season and oversees a variety of educational programs as well as the Montgomery Youth Orchestra. The Montgomery Ballet professional dance company and school features performances of classics throughout the year. Two of the Ballet's annual traditions are The Spring Gala and Ballet and the Beasts, a free performance at the Montgomery Zoo.

The 34,406-square-foot Armory Learning Arts Center, a one-time National Guard Armory that underwent complete renovation in 1983, brings art, music, dance, and gymnastic instruction to the community. The Center is the permanent home of the Alabama Dance Theatre, which presents both contemporary and classical dance performances, and twice a year presents major productions at the Davis Theatre. The company offers a free performance each summer at the Armory Center. The Capri Theatre features art, foreign, and classic films.

Festivals and Holidays

Autumn is the season for many annual events on Montgomery's calendar. September brings the annual Ballet & the Beasts at Montgomery Zoo, the Alabama Jazz and Blues Federation River Jam, the annual Storytelling Festival, and the Alabama Highland Games.

October's calendar features the 10-day Alabama National Fair at Garrett Coliseum. Also in October, residents have enjoyed the Festival in the Riverfront Park (formerly the Festival in the Park) in downtown Montgomery since I972. The festival features arts and crafts exhibitors, children's activities, food, and a 5-kilometer run/walk. November brings the Turkey Day Classic at Crampton Bowl, where Alabama State University takes a stand against its biggest rival, Tuskegee University. Events kick off with the Turkey Day Classic Parade down Dexter Avenue.

January brings the Fitzgerald Museum Gala & Auction, and DESTA, a festival that highlights African-American arts and culture. March brings the annual Miss Rodeo Alabama pageant during the week-long Southeastern Livestock Exposition Rodeo, and the Junior League Rummage Sale. The Jubilee City Fest is a three-day music, arts, and food festival held near the State Capitol building in May.

Culture blossoms in the summer air with July's free Montgomery Ballet Performance on the Green at Wynton M. Blount Cultural Park and the free Day of Late Summer performance by Alabama Dance Theatre. The Montgomery Symphony Orchestra bids summer adieu with the "Broadway Under the Stars" free performance at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival grounds.

Sports for the Spectator

As the home of Alabama State University, Auburn University Montgomery, Troy State College, and other colleges, Montgomery offers a variety of football and baseball games and other college sports for fans to watch. The Montgomery Biscuits AA Southern League baseball team (Tampa Bay Devil Rays affiliate) makes their home at Montgomery's new (2004) Riverwalk Stadium, at the corner of Coosa and Tallapoosa Streets. Victoryland Greyhound Park offers daily races witnessed by up to 4,000 people per day. Montgomery Motorsports Park offers year-round drag racing and weekly events.

Sports for the Participant

Montgomery has 19 city parks that cover more than 400 acres. Among the most popular are Buddy Watson Park, Oak Park, Riverfront Park, Overlook Park, Vaughn Road Park, and Woodmere Park. Tennis and softball facilities dot the parks, and arts, crafts, and fitness programming is available at The Armory on Madison Avenue. The 26,000 square foot Therapeutic Center on Augusta Street features a gymnasium, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a weight room, game room, locker rooms, meeting rooms, a kitchen, and tennis courts. Lagoon Park Golf Course offers year-round opportunity to play on a 6,773 yard par 72 championship course.

Shopping and Dining

The Shoppes at EastChase opened in 2002 with an open-air "main street" concept and feature fountains, street lamps, lush landscaping, and upscale tenants. Montgomery Mall is anchored by JCPenney and Parisian and features more than 100 other tenants. Eastdale Mall, with 80 stores, is the site of Dillards, Sears, Parisian, and JCPenney department stores. Festival Plaza offers 110,000 square feet of shopping and entertainment. Cloverland Shopping Center features everyday necessities, and Eastbrook Flea Market and Antique Mall offers something a little different for the antique and bargain shopper. The Mulberry Shopping District features unique boutiques, antique shops, galleries, and restaurants. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and home-cooked specialties are for sale year-round at the State Farmers Market; the Montgomery Curb Market and Fairview Farmers Market are open seasonally.

Tourist-friendly Montgomery offers restaurants featuring a variety of cuisines from country to Cajun, Mexican, and Thai. Specialties include down-home Southern fare and just-caught seafood from the Gulf of Mexico. Others choices include Indian restaurants, an Australian steakhouse, Italian, Chinese, and the Farmers Market Café, which features fresh fruits and vegetables.

Visitor Information: Montgomery Area Visitor Center, 300 Water Street., Montgomery, AL 36104; telephone (334)262-0013; email tourism@montgomerychamber.com


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