Budget Travel

Your membership includes:

  • Access to our exclusive booking platform with private rates.
  • Newsletters with weekend getaways, trip ideas, deals & tips.
  • Sweepstakes alerts and more...
  • Don’t have an account?Get a FREE trial membership today. No credit card needed. Sign up now.
  • FREE trial membership. No credit card needed. Limited time only. Already have an account? Log in here.
    By creating an account, you agree to our Terms of Service and have read and understood the Privacy Policy
Close banner
ADVERTISEMENT

Take a Civil Rights Tour of Montgomery, AL

By Zeneba Bowers and Matt Walker
updated September 29, 2021
A view of the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama, with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.
Steven Frame/Dreamstime
Tragedy and triumph take center stage in one of America’s most important historical destinations.

Montgomery, Alabama, has been a flashpoint of Civil Rights activity since the movement’s beginnings in the 1950s. Montgomery is the city where Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man, where a young pastor named Martin Luther King Jr. helped lead the subsequent long (and ultimately successful) bus boycott, and where allies known as Freedom Riders arrived via buses from across the U.S. to march with protesters.

When the National Memorial for Peace and Justice opened in Montgomery in April, we decided to drive the four hours south from our home in Nashville to see it and some of the other important Civil Rights sites there.

NATIONAL MEMORIAL FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE & THE LEGACY MUSEUM

Sometimes called the “Lynching Memorial,” the National Memorial for Peace and Justice pays tribute to the thousands of African Americans who were murdered by white supremacists over the decades. A spiraling walkway leads us past hundreds of huge metal obelisks hanging from the ceiling; each one bears the name of a county, and the names of those who were murdered there. A few counties have just a handful of victims’ names; many have dozens.

The path gradually descends as it proceeds, until we’re looking up at the hanging objects and they become an all-too-evident representation of the horrifying murders that they memorialize. This is a somber and powerful place to reflect on some of the darkest moments of American history.

The Legacy Museum is set in a downtown building that was once a literal warehouse for slaves. It outlines the grim path that U.S. policies have laid out, showing a direct connection from enslavement to Jim Crow laws to mass incarceration. (museumandmemorial.eji.org)

REMEMBERING THE BUS BOYCOTT

Nearby, the Rosa Parks Museum remembers the famous defiance that prompted the 381-day Montgomery bus boycott. The Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached for six years, was the site of many meetings in planning the boycott, as was the Dexter Parsonage, where the King family lived. This house has been restored to its 1950s condition, including furniture and many personal items used by the family. Also preserved is the damage done when a bomb exploded on the front porch. Downtown’s Civil Rights Memorial pays tribute to the people who lost their lives in the struggle for equality and bears one of Dr. King’s favorite quotes, “... until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

FREEDOM RIDES MUSEUM

In the former Greyhound bus station downtown, the Freedom Rides Museum memorializes the bravery and sacrifices of the young men and women who faced violent, racist mobs hell-bent on maintaining segregation in the south. At this and at all the sites we visited, we found the docents to be welcoming and engaging, eager to answer questions and impart their considerable knowledge to curious visitors.

A TASTE OF AFRICAN AMERICAN CUISINE

When it came to eating in Montgomery, we decided to spend our money in black-owned businesses in town. A few blocks west of the Freedom Rides Museum, Margaret Boyd’s Mrs. B’s Home Cooking is a classic southern meat-and-three restaurant, whose sides (like cabbage or collard greens) are cooked with smoked turkey drippings rather than lard. It’s also another “museum”: The walls are plastered with family, military, and celebrity photos, as well as framed press articles of momentous local events. A few blocks southeast of town, Monique Williams’ Cheesecake Empori-yum offers delicious desserts and also, unusually, eggrolls in inventive flavors like “Soulfood” and “Cajun seafood”. Just around the corner from the Rosa Parks Museum is the Savanna Tropical Rotisserie Cafe, where a wood-smoke grill sits out on the sidewalk, enticing customers to partake of authentic Caribbean/African cuisine like savory goat curry or delicious Jamaican jerk chicken.

HISTORIC LODGING

There is more to see in Montgomery than can be covered in a single day. We spent the night at a fantastic Airbnb rental, The Treehouse at Cottage Hill, a full upstairs apartment in an elegant, historic 1892 home in a quiet neighborhood, just three blocks away from the Peace and Justice Memorial.

ADVERTISEMENT
Keep reading
Inspiration

5 Secrets to Perfect Leaf Peeping

Blink and you’ll miss it: That short stretch of time when you can catch the autumn leaves at their peak color. We talked to some outdoorsy experts for pro tips on how to get the most out of this season's splendid display of reds, golds, and yellows.  1. Be an early riser  (Daveallenphoto/Dreamstime)Jim Salge has a background in meteorology and environmental science and spends time observing the weather from up on New Hampshire's Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast. He’s also a widely published nature photographer. If Salge has one piece of advice for leaf-peepers, it’s this: get up early. “So much of the magic happens at dawn in the fall in New England,” he says. “There’s morning mist, amazing sunbeam patterns, dew on the ground, and fog over lakes and settling over valleys. You miss so much of what fall is if you get out at nine or ten in the morning and the sun is already bright.” That means superior photographs and envy-worthy Instagram posts for early birds. And tranquility. Salge is out before dawn every day between mid-September and November, so he’s well familiar with the serenity to be found when there’s just a few others around to share the majestic landscape. 2. Know the science (Brian Lasenby/Dreamstime)It tends to take people by surprise when you put it in these terms, but foliage is essentially death. When a tree shuts down for the winter, photosynthesis--the respiration process that produces the chlorophyll that gives leaves their green hue--stops. To hear Chris Martin, director and state forester at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, explain it, that allows the leaves’ other pigments, many of which are always present, just not visible under the predominant green, to pop through as they take a longer time to die off. Fun fact: those other pigments play familiar roles elsewhere in nature, like carotenoids, the stuff that makes carrots orange and buttercups and bananas yellow. Each leaf is like a snowflake: unique in its own way. Salge suggests looking at leaves backlit by the sun to see the singular vein structure.  3. Follow the map Considering there are apps for identifying stars in the night sky, it’s almost a wonder that foliage trackers didn’t have many digital guide options until recently. A few popular regions have their own up-to-the-moment live maps to follow. The Adirondacks, for one, has reintroduced its Foliage Meter this year (adirondacksusa.com/fall), which indicates, by region, what percentage of the trees are at peak. At the time of writing this in late September, they were only at an average of 10% around the Adirondacks. The site also provides itineraries for day trips and guidance on where to eat and stay. Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection website offers predictions and advisories as well as suggestions for prime viewing locations and day trips. Newengland.com shows where the wave of peak is occurring—or where it’s expected, at least, notes Salge with a wink. But perhaps most impressive of all is the effort from SmokyMountains.com, an extensive tourism website. Their predictive map involves an algorithm that analyzes a few million data points, like historical temperatures and precipitations as well as forecast temps and precipitations, all of which are based on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s figures. The algorithm is designed to forecast the precise moment when peak foliage will happen. And this year there are even more features to enhance the experience. "After having dozens of conversations with our fall foliage map users, I realized the data-driven predictive process seems magical to the average layperson,” Wes Melton, the map's creator and co-founder and chief technology officer of SmokyMountains.com, said in a statement. “This year, I decided to make a secondary interactive graphic with regional and state data related to temperature variations. The temperature data supplied by the NOAA is one of the most important factors and now leaf map users can easily visualize the impact of regional precipitation on peak fall dates." Fall prediction map for October 1, 2018. (Courtesy smokymountains.com) 4. Park your car When you’re looking at the foliage at 65 miles per hour, it’s one giant blur of color, making it easy to think every tree looks like all the rest. Not so fast. Most people like scenic vistas, Martin notes, so find a precipice and park your car for a long view of the scenery. With their hills and varied terrain, the northeast and northwest corners of Connecticut provide excellent observation points. And for a deeper understanding of foliage’s glorious diversity, get out of your car and take a hike. 5. Make a plan As you now know from the interactive map of the Smoky Mountains, the moment’s foliage is not simply dependent on the week’s weather. Year-round conditions contribute to the ultimate color show. This year there have been drought issues in northern New York and northern Vermont, which could mute the colors, so if this season’s spectacle doesn’t quite compare to that of last year, that’s why. In Connecticut, however, there was lots of rain in August and the damp forestry lends itself to some vivid color across the area’s diverse trees. Anyone south-bound will be happy to know that the recent hurricane did not have an impact on the foliage in the Blue Ridge. Asheville experienced only 1.5 inches of rainfall from the storm, so they're expecting as jaw-dropping of a show as always in the area, including along the Blue Ridge Parkway. As far as planning, there are some general things to keep in mind. Peak color takes about six weeks to move across New England. It starts at high elevations and moves downhill then south and towards the ocean over that time. But let’s be honest: even the most avid nature buff can only tree-gaze for so long. Salge reminds that for many people, foliage is about more than just trees. Most plan their travels as a bonus to traditional fall events, like going to a farm, a fall festival, or apple orchards. “I’ve been doing this for ten years, and it’s amazing to go out and enjoy looking at leaves, but natural sites are second to traditions.” he says. And everyone knows that leaves look even better with cider and a donut in hand.

Inspiration

Hotel We Love: Little America, Cheyenne, WY

If you’re from the western U.S., you’re likely familiar with Little America, which has large, longstanding properties in Salt Lake City, Flagstaff, and Cheyenne. Named for a research station in Antarctica, the company's resorts have a charming “Western luxe” look and feel, with low-slung buildings spread out over grounds—sort of the open-range version of the sprawling properties that made the Catskills famous in the 1950s and '60s. The Cheyenne location is no exception, but its wide prairie views are an added bonus. THE STORY  Little America Cheyenne was its own town before hoteliers came along in the first half of the 20th century, transforming the one-time municipality into their inaugural property. The carpeted lobby leans heavily on its Western influences, with couches, a fireplace, and rodeo-themed sculptures and lamps. Restaurants and a shop with cowboy- (and cowgirl-) influenced clothing, jewelry, and paraphernalia are located around the lobby's perimeter. THE QUARTERS Among the 188 rooms, there are eight sizes to choose from, and even the smallest of the bunch—the Deluxe King and Deluxe Two Queens—are spacious. Each room is adorned with art chosen by the owners, and larger rooms include a comfy sitting area. The property underwent a renovation in 2006, and all of the rooms were updated to include mini-fridges and microwaves, among other improvements. Additional amenities include a Keurig coffee maker, flat-screen TVs, and complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi. Pet-friendly rooms are available.  THE NEIGHBORHOOD The resort is equal parts a family hotel suitable for extended stays and an oasis for long-haul travelers and cross-country road-trippers, as it’s located at the intersection of I-80 and I-25. It’s a quick ride (about $10 in an Uber) to Cheyenne Frontier Days Park as well as downtown, so if you’re looking for a night of bar-hopping, you’re covered. The current proprietors also own Sinclair Oil, a Wyoming refinery and gas-station chain with a number of locations, including one at the end of the hotel’s parking lot, which makes for an easy fill-up before you get back on the road. FOOD  Hathaway’s Restaurant and Lounge, a family-friendly, old-school-glam eatery, evolved from the hotel’s original restaurant, Cheyenne’s Coffee Shop and Western Gold Dining Room. It still serves the homemade turkey roll that was early restaurant’s signature, but now it's merely one of many hearty dishes on offer, like prime rib, chicken-fried steak, and lots of burgers, sandwiches, and salads. The menu is also available in the lounge, a low-key space where travelers from around the nation rub elbows. Breakfast at Hathaway's is well-regarded, drawing locals for the weekend brunches, especially the elaborate and abundant affairs on Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Easter. ALL THE REST A Golf Association–rated course extends across the property and, accordingly, draws travelers working on their swing. There are sporty activity options beyond the golf course too, from a heated outdoor pool to a cute playground to a modern fitness center. For business travelers, there's a business center with computers and printers as well as plentiful meeting rooms and convention services.  RATES AND DEETS Starting at $119. Little America2800 West Lincoln WayCheyenne, WY 82009(307) 775-8400 // cheyenne.littleamerica.com 

Inspiration

Just Back From: Mexico City

When a friend suggested a trip for her banner-year birthday, we needed a destination that was reasonably priced, close enough for a short visit, and, in early September, warm enough to make us forget that summer was ending. With Mexico City, we got two out of three: It is indeed reasonably priced, both in terms of getting there ($250 roundtrip from New York!) and getting around ($5 to Uber from the airport to the city center!), and the time change is negligible, making it more than manageable for a holiday weekend. The weather wasn’t as unrelentingly hot and sunny as expected, but we packed northern California-esque layers, and it was perfectly pleasant.  Mexico’s capital is a sprawling metropolis that offers so much to see and do that it’s practically impossible to check everything off your list in just three or four days. Which is fine—you’ll be planning your next visit before your return flight has left the runway. Here’s a little taste of what to expect from one of the world’s most populous urban centers. 1. A Network of Neighborhoods Home to more than 20 million people spread across some 571 square miles, there's no chance of seeing all of the city in one go. Your best bet is to focus on a few colonias, or neighborhoods, and even then, you’ll probably be frustrated by the sheer volume of museums, galleries, shops, restaurants, and bars in each that you don’t have time for. We stayed in the Centro Historico—a friend called it the Times Square of Mexico City, but with more monuments and historical landmarks. It may not be the prettiest or the trendiest, but true to its name, its central location makes it a convenient base of operations. Check out the Zócalo, the city’s main plaza; visit the ruins of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlán at Templo Mayor, and hit a museum or two before taking an Uber (or the metro) to one of the outlying neighborhoods. West of the Centro, a half-hour cab ride away, the moneyed, tree-lined streets of Polanco provide a respite from the downtown scrum, with posh boutiques (and plenty of upscale chains familiar to the American eye), fancy restaurants, and chic cocktail joints. Southeast of Polanco, Condesa offers ample opportunities for people-watching, with sidewalk cafés and bars that draw tourists and locals alike. And to the east, the neighboring Roma is a hipster hangout par excellence, with great restaurants, coffee shops, and bookstores. 2. A Collection of Curiosities For unique sights and experiences that give a distinct sense of place, look further afield. The Museo Frida Kahlo (museofridakahlo.org.mx), for one, sits in the peaceful suburb of Coyoacán, and it’s worth braving the throngs for a glimpse into the private lives of two of Mexico’s most iconic artists. Pro tip: For the best chance of avoiding the crowds, book tickets in advance for the earliest timed entry available, and go on a weekday. Allot plenty of time to wander through Frida’s bedroom, gaze out onto the idyllic gardens from her studio window, and imagine yourself at the kitchen table, sipping tea with Diego Rivera. Directly north, in the decidedly nondescript environs of Buenavista, is Biblioteca Vasconcelos (bibliotecavasconceles.gob.mx), an architectural marvel designed by Mexican architect Alberto Kalach. With interlocking, towering metal-and-glass stacks holding more than 600,000 volumes, this public library is pretty much heaven for bibliophiles.   3. An Array of Fantastic Food Anyone who’s nibbled on a subpar burrito and dreamed of the real deal, rest assured: You'll find it in abundance here in the motherland. From perfect little three-bite tacos in the Centro to upscale bistro fare and chi-chi tasting menus in the outlying neighborhoods, a culinary revolution is underway in the Ciudad de México. We booked a table at Máximo Bistrot Local (maximobistrot.com.mx) in Roma for a leisurely—if unfashionably early—lunch. (The cognoscenti don’t sit down until at least 2:00 p.m.) A swank, smart-casual spot, Máximo specializes in beautifully plated, Frenchified takes on classic Mexican dishes, from an outstanding sea urchin tostada to an unparalleled octopus ceviche. Also in Roma is Fonda Fina (fondafina.com.mx), a small space that treats Mexican cuisine with the reverence it deserves. Try the memela, a masa cake topped with octopus, pressed pork, and roasted cauliflower; the tortilla soup and the squash blossom–laden salad are also standouts. On the other end of the scale, the tiny tortillas from Taqueria Los Cocuyos in the Centro are as good before a night on the town as they are after one. The suadero (brisket) is good, as is the lengua, but the mixed-meat campechano was my personal favorite. If a sugary nightcap is more your speed, the 24-hour outpost of Churrería El Moro is not to be missed. Four churros and a side of dipping chocolate will set you back less than $2, and you’ll have sweet dreams to boot. Do note, though, that almost all sit-down spots close at 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. on Sundays, so plan your meals accordingly.  4. A Booming Art Scene From hyper-colorful graffiti to carefully preserved murals by national treasures like Diego Rivera, and from sleek contemporary galleries and museums to grand dame institutions, Mexico City is a hotbed of artistic activity. In the Centro Histórico, the Palacio de Bellas Artes (palacio.bellasartes.gob.mx) is a must-see. This extraordinary theater was completed in 1934 and boasts a neoclassical facade, Art Deco interiors, and eye-catching murals. Take a tour or catch a show (the folkloric ballet is particularly memorable; see below for details), but whatever you do, get there before the curtain—a shimmering stained-glass number from Tiffany & Co.—goes up. A few blocks away, the Museo Nacional de Arte (munal.mx) focuses on art produced between the late 1500s and the early 1950s, with rotating exhibitions on subjects as varied as landscape master José María Velasco and modern muse Nahui Olin. A few miles to the west, the 1,655-acre Bosque de Chapultepec plays host to a number of noteworthy sites, including the Castillo de Chapultepec, a mansion with historic displays, a solid gift shop, and a terrace with sweeping city views; the Museo de Arte Moderno (museoartemoderno.com), featuring assorted work by 20th-century Mexican painters, sculptors, photographers, and more; and the Museo Nacional de Antropología (mna.inah.gob.mx), a supremely cool collection of galleries arranged around a central courtyard and dedicated to the country’s pre-Hispanic history. Just be aware that most museums are closed on Mondays.  5. A Show of National Pride The citizens of North America’s largest capital have plenty of reasons to be proud of their city. I visited just before the country celebrated its Independence Day on September 16th, and Mexico’s red, white, and green were on full display throughout the streets. But you don’t need a special occasion to get a feel for the city’s national pride. Performed year-round, twice a week, at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, the Ballet Folklórico de México de Amalia Hernández (balletfolkloricodemexico.com.mx) is a high-energy interpretation of classic Mexican dance. Through costumes, characters, and music that reflect the country’s heritage, the members of this skirt-swirling, lasso-twirling, tap-dancing company channel the traditions of days gone by. For 300 pesos (roughly $15), you can snag a seat in the nosebleeds, and you won’t find better value for the money. ¡Viva México! indeed.

Inspiration

Hotel We Love: Hotel deLuxe, Portland, OR

If the name doesn’t tip you off to the hotel’s ambiance, consider that the Czech chandeliers that dominate the lobby are masterpieces from the 1960s. Consider also that the property was inspired by the Golden Age elegance of Hollywood. But this standout in the heart of Portland is luxury without pretension, or the hoity-toity price tag. Opened in 1912 as the glamorous Mallory Hotel, it underwent a $20 million renovation in 2005, re-opening as Hotel deLuxe, an homage to the opulence and elegance captured in the classic films of the 1950s and 1960s. THE STORY The Mallory was a longtime institution and the go-to accommodation for any member of American high-society that came to town. As such, it aimed to impress. It was the first hotel in the city to install air conditioners in each room and, later on, the first in Portland to offer Wi-Fi. In 2004, it was purchased by an art collector and devoted patron of the city’s institutions, who kept the décor relatively unchanged—including the original letterbox next to the elevator, a classy mailbox by any standard—as a salute to the hotel’s heyday. THE QUARTERS That heyday is largely defined by Hollywood, which explains the 400 photos—film stills and studio shots—adorning the corridors. Each of the eight floors is devoted to a thematic group of silver-screen greats, to wit: the Dance and Music Masters (Gene Kelly, Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire), the Masters (Frank Capra, Billy Wilder, and George Cukor), and so on. The spacious rooms also nod to the era, with Art Deco–style crystal lamps and leather accents. Of course, there’s no nostalgia in the tech department. Each room features a flat-screen TV, Wi-Fi, and a clever “Make It So” button on the phone that connects you to the front desk for all requests—even creative ones, within reason. There's a Spotify Menu, a Spiritual Menu offering books, beyond the bible, that are central to a variety of religions, and a Pillow Menu, which is exactly what it sounds like. Want memory foam? Full body? Soft? Just ask. The honor bar shines a spotlight on locally made treats, many designed to take home as souvenirs, like tins of sea salt from Jacobsen Salt, honey from Bee Local, olive oil from Red Ridge Farms, and Kettle Chips made in Oregon. Make sure to try a nip of Portland-produced Burnside Bourbon for a nightcap. THE NEIGHBORHOOD If you’re looking for convenience, this is as good as it gets. Situated in Portland’s West End, the hotel is walking distance from the downtown shopping district, which is chock-full of bars and restaurants, but the adjacent Providence Park, a sprawling sports facility that hosts Portland State football, Major League Soccer, and various community events, separates it from the hustle and bustle. It’s also on the light-rail line, which has direct service to Portland International Airport. THE FOOD The hotel has an exclusive partnership with Salt and Straw, a local ice cream company known for its creative handmade flavors. There are scoop shops throughout the city and all over the west coast, but no need to run out for a cone—the deLuxe will deliver a pint to your room. As far as dining, Gracie's, an elegant, cheery eatery specializing in modern food with local ingredients, is open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday, and there are dinner hours on the weekend. The Art Deco–accented Driftwood Room, which looks much the way it did when it opened in the 1950s, draws a local crowd for its excellent spirits selection and classic cocktails. ALL THE REST One of the city's best-kept secrets is Pop Up Cinema (hoteldeluxeportland.com/signature-events), which happens about twice a month on a giant screen in the hotel lobby. They mostly screen classic flicks, as befits the ambiance, but every so often you can catch a newer movie. RATES AND DEETS Starting at $189. Hotel deLuxe729 SW 15th Ave. Portland, OR 97205(503) 219-2094 // hoteldeluxeportland.com