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Alabama Travel Tips


Statehouse, Montgomery (334) 242-3935
The front portico of this 1850 Greek Revival Capitol is famous for two occasions: In February 1861 Jefferson Davis was inaugurated here as the President of the Confederate States and one hundred and four years later, March 1965, on the same spot, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ended his Selma-to-Montgomery Civil Rights march. The front doors from this famous portico open to a grand foyer flanked by a pair of white spiral staircases curling up and around three stories. The Capitol's pink and gold neoclassical Rotunda features a bright, stained glass skylight installed in 1906. Its walls are decorated with eight large murals designed in the late 1920s by Alabama artist Roderick MacKenzie. The murals feature scenes from Alabama's history, such as the arrival of deSoto, the French settlement, early pioneers, antebellum life, the Confederacy and commercial development.

Check it out . . . The original "Governor's Suite" and the "Secretary of State Suite" preserved on the first floor with furnishings and documents representing the period of 1870s-1880s present a wonderful peek into the past.

Check it out . . . On the shady, parklike grounds is a semicircular stone walkway called the "Walk of States" where every state flag waves from a tall flagpole with the state's name carved in stone beneath the wavering flag. Each state donated its own nameplate made from material indigenous to its terrain. Some of the materials selected are absolutely beautiful, including some semi-precious stones.

State Archives and History Museum, Montgomery (334) 242-4363
Founded in 1901 the Alabama Department of Archives and History was the first state archival agency in the nation. The museum, housed in a beautiful turn-of-the-century building, with marvelous marble walls and staircases of Tennessee gray marble and Alabama white marble, displays changing exhibits relating to Alabama history, including interpretive hands-on galleries. Of particular note are the 19th century gallery on the second floor featuring such items as human hair jewelry, antebellum quilts, and the Alabama State Bible. Also on the second floor is a room dedicated to former Vice President William Rufus King. Not only does the room display King's personal furniture, silver, china, and some of this clothing, but it presents documents that reveal more about this fascinating man and the interesting time in which he lived.

First White House of the Confederacy, Montgomery(334) 242-1861
A simple, unassuming dwelling, the First White House of the Confederacy was the makeshift executive mansion quickly established to serve as temporary living quarters for the newly elected President Jefferson Davis and his family. Conveniently located across the street from the Capitol, the house was donated by a local merchant. The Davis family lived here for three months before the capital was moved to Richmond. Self-guided tours allow visitors to see all the rooms on the first and second floor. Period furnishings, personal items belonging the Davis family, photographs and documents present a keen insight into the early days of the war, the South's prominent leader and his personal struggles.

Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, Montgomery (334) 242-3935
The first pulpit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this church served as headquarters for the 1950s bus boycott. A large mural in the church basement depicts the influential people and landmark events of Civil Rights movement, from the 1950s to 1970s. A short film supplements the mural.

Civil Rights Memorial, Montgomery (334) 240-9455
Just outside the Southern Poverty Law Office, kitty-corner to the State Capitol and a block away from the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, is the impressive The Civil Rights Memorial, dedicated on November 5, 1989. It was designed by sculptress, Maya Y. Lin, who also designed the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. Etched on a round altar of smooth black granite is a chronology of the Civil Rights events and the names of 80 martyrs who died in the struggle for racial equality. Water bubbling from the center of this round, black altar spills across the fluid timepiece and flows past the words of Martin Luther King, paraphrasing from the Bible, "Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream."

Jasmine Hill Gardens and Outdoor Museum, Montgomery (334) 567-6463
The Olympian Center, featuring a replica of the Greek Temple of Hera, is the centerpiece of this 20-acre flower garden ablaze in colors yearround.

Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Montgomery (334) 271-5353
Located in the expansive green gardens of Wynton M. Blount Cultural Park, the nationally-acclaimed Alabama Shakespeare Festival is the fifth largest in the world. Presenting both classic and contemporary productions it also offers yearround educational programs. The Alabama Museum of Fine Arts is also on the grounds. With its acres of ponds, gardens, museums and theaters, the Wynton M. Blount Cultural Park the place to go for art and nature.

Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum, Montgomery (334) 264-4222
The museum features personal belongings, furniture, photographs, and manuscripts of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, as well as rare diaries and unpublished paintings done by his talented, Montgomery-born wife Zelda. The exhibits are displayed in the modest home where the Fitzgeralds lived in the early 1930s while he wrote "Tender is the Night." A film of their sad story, told through interviews of surviving relatives and friends, is shown on the screened-in side porch of this old, rambling house. Each room showcases memorabilia that speaks volumes of their unusual personalities and strange life together.

Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site, Tuskegee (334) 727-6390
In the post-Reconstruction era, during rising segregation and disenfranchisement of blacks, educator Booker T. Washington established Tuskegee Technical Institute, a black college with the specific aim of training students with the employable skills to meet the times. Washington's goals were to provide qualified workers to meet the growing need of a more industrialized America. The first school term in 1881 was begun in an old barn donated by a sympathetic farmer. The following year the Institute moved to a 100-acre farm, purchased with a $200 loan. At the time of Booker T. Washington's death in 1915 Tuskegee Institute had grown to include 161 buildings on 268 acres with a community of 5,000 students and staff. All but three of the school's buildings were built by the students themselves -- 37 of which remain today. African American Robert Taylor, Harvard graduate and former Tuskegee student, was the architect for most of the buildings.This national historic site provides a self-guided walking tour of the campus, a guided tour of Booker T. Washington's elegant Victorian home, also built by the students, and the George Washington Carver museum. The Carver museum shows an inspiring film about this amazing agriculturalist (he invented 300 uses for the peanut), teacher, inventor, and humanitarian. Exhibit floors display his many inventions and personal accomplishments. An old bus in the back of the museum , what Carver referred to as the "Movable School" or "School on Wheels" demonstrates one of Carver's strongest dedications, that is, reaching out to poor farmers in the community to teach them better crops to plant, better ways to plant, and better ways to market their products. All of his work with local farmers was done on his own time at no charge. Carver worked endlessly to serve the students of Tuskegee and his fellow man. None of his inventions were patented for he believed his genius should be shared freely, so others may learn from him and possibly take his discoveries even further. Many people, including Henry Ford, benefited immensely from the mind of this great man.

Wind Drift Campground, Shorter (334) 724-9428
I don't know what it is about this place but as soon as we parked the RV I felt at home. Perhaps it's because we're on a pond, and I grew up on a pond. All around us are blue heron, ducks, geese and bunches of blue and yellow birds. The facilities are clean, too -- They even provide a FREE laundromat. The Club House is modern and equipped with a modem hookup with a desk, for a very comfortable place to do Internet work. A bumper-pool table, dart board and other games are also provided in this small, but comfortable Club House with lots of windows and a deck overlooking the pond, where a fountain spouts off like a mini geyser. Guests are not allowed to swim in the pond but may fish to their hearts' content. The hosts even provide a sink by the lake to clean your "Catch of the Day," and many a fisherman line the shores on weekends to take advantage of this. Picnic tables and grills dot the green lawn around the pond. Hard to believe, this quiet and vacation-like campground is 300 feet off the highway, for easy on/easy off access to all Montgomery sites. But the highway is wonderfully disguised by landscaping that focuses on the rustic beauty and veils the rushing traffic. The only drawback is the campground office is a gas station/pub/convenience store. Local customers line up to fill kegs and jugs with draft beer.The host is so busy manning the pub and the convenience store, that she has little or no time to help RVers with questions. One must wait in line to ask a question, and receives a curt and rather abrupt answer -- very uncomfortable, especially when one is a bumbling stranger to begin with. RV guests are pretty much on their own for finding their way around -- No travel brochures or any tourist info that one normally finds displayed in racks at other RV office are provided here. (I never realized how much we relied on our RV hosts. And now that it's denied me, it seems all the more valuable.)

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