Road Tripping with the Kids in Alabama’s Capital City
by Marilyn Jones Stamps
When it comes to spring break and summer vacation, kids are always up for an adventure. And what better place to give them some adventure than in Alabama’s capital city. From the Alabama Cattlemen’s MOOseum and the Museum of Alabama to the Rosa Parks Museum and the Planetarium, Montgomery offers an abundance of things to see and do with children.
The MOOseum Get up early, eat a hearty breakfast, then make your way to the MOOseum, (201 S. Bainbridge St.; (334-265-1867) , where the history of Alabama’s $2 billion beef cattle industry is showcased. A children’s educational center, The MOOseum opened in 1995 and the fun and history lessons have been going strong ever since.
See What’s Inside
When you enter The MOOseum, you’ll meet Adam Bainbridge, who serves as the center’s official tour guide. He will gladly show you a film and talk about the rise of the cattle industry in Alabama.
Strolling through various activity areas, including The Cow Pen, Slim’s Kitchen and The Arena, kids will have the opportunity to use their imagination. They can pretend they are chefs as they learn about such things as how many stomachs a cow has, the nutritional value of beef, and food safety. Then, they can also don some western wear and have their pictures taken as they explore the life of a cowboy from the ranch to the rodeo.
The MOOseum is open Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-noon and 1-4:30 p.m. There is no admission charged, however donations are welcomed.
Tip I: Before leaving, don’t forget to stop by The MOOseum Gift Shop, aka “the country store,” where you’ll find the perfect souvenir for your child to take home.
Next Stop: The Museum of Alabama
Located on Washington Avenue and founded in the Alabama Department of Archives and History, which was the first state department of archives and history in the United States, the Museum of Alabama (624 Washington Ave.; 334-242-4364) gives voice to the history and heritage of the state from pre-statehood to the present.
The centerpiece of the museum is the Alabama Voices exhibition which conveys the story of the state from the dawn of the 1700s to the beginning of the 21st century. Here, you’ll learn about Alabama’s struggles over land, the rise of a cotton economy, and the state’s role in the Civil War, civil rights and space exploration.
Other permanent exhibitions include The Land of Alabama, which spotlights the state’s geology and natural resources, and The First Alabamians featuring artifacts, murals, and a diorama encompassing 14,000 years of Native American culture.
The Museum of Alabama and the Department of Archives and History are open Mon.-Sat., 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Admission is free and a gift shop is available.
Playing Around at Discovery Village in Kiwanis Park
Kiwanis Park runs along North Hull Street between Randolph and Columbus Street and is the site of a large playground called Discovery Village. Located adjacent to Old Alabama Town, the playground is perfect for small children. It’s not very big and is enclosed. The children will have fun spiraling down the slides, spinning around on swings made from rubber tires, walking the tight rope, and more. The activity areas are identified by age groups, so you can sit and watch them enjoy themselves for hours without worry.
Tip 2: Be sure and pack some snacks and plenty to drink for the kids. While Kiwanis Park is loaded with fun things to do, the outdoor temperatures can get quite intense in Montgomery, even in the spring.
Spend the Morning at the Rosa Parks Museum Children can immerse themselves in history as they learn about the struggle for civil rights in America during the 1950s and 60s. Dedicated to “the mother of the Civil Rights Movement,” the Rosa Parks Museum (252 Montgomery St.; 334-241-8615) consists of six main areas and a Children's Wing that includes an interactive bus that takes riders into the past to see what it was like before the civil rights movement. There is also a research library.
Strolling through the museum located at the very site where Mrs. Parks was arrested on Dec. 1, 1955 for refusing to give up her seat on a city bus to a white passenger, visitors will have an opportunity to gain greater insight into the 381-day Montgomery Bus Boycott and the landmark court decisions that followed and learn more about civil rights activists like Claudette Colvin, Dr. E. D. Nixon and Attorney Fred Gray.
Tip 3: Allow enough time for touring the museum; the last tour starts one hour before closing. Museum hours are Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Sat., 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Admission is charged.
Go to the Edge of the Universe at the Gayle Planetarium The W.A. Gayle Planetarium (Oak Park, 1010 Forest Ave.; 334-62-4799), located in Oak Park and operated by Troy University, is the region’s premier astronomy education facility and multimedia theater. It features the Super Mediaglobe II, the world’s first full-color single-lens digital planetarium. Through 3-D simulation and satellite technology, audiences can see earth from a whole new perspective and go to the edge of the universe while learning about stars, constellations, planets, and more. Public shows are offered throughout the week, so no reservations are required.
Where to Stay & Eat Local and national hotels and restaurants are plentiful in downtown Montgomery. The Embassy Suites is one of the more economical lodging facilities for those traveling with children. Montgomery’s only all-suite hotel offers a free cooked-to-order breakfast, a complimentary evening reception, two restaurants, a pool and more. Dining options range from barbecue and pizza joints to upscale restaurants. For more information on Montgomery, stop by the Visitor Information Center at 300 Water St., or browse their website at http://visitingmontgomery.com.
This hands-on children’s area is located on the second floor of the Archives. The kids will have the time of their lives rummaging through the collection of antique everyday items that they can actually “try on” or "try out," including old dresses, military and band uniforms, wooden trains and old typewriters. On the same floor and available for viewing is a collection of local Indian artifacts, Civil War uniforms, weapons, flags and more.
Related Road Trips
Selma to Montgomery: Crossing a Bridge into History
The Edmund Pettus Bridge, spanning the Alabama River in Selma, has become one of the most iconic symbols of the modern struggle for civil and voting rights in America. It is also a focal point for the 54-mile route now memorialized as the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail.
Rosa Parks, Paul “Bear” Bryant and Jesse Owens: A Centennial Road Trip
What do Rosa Parks, Paul “Bear” Bryant and Jesse Owens have in common? Besides the fact that each of them has a museum named in their honor, all three of these famous Alabamians were born in 1913, and each played a role in integration.