In the heart of the Southeastern USA, take a bite out of two iconic Alabama cities: Selma and Montgomery.
Each is unique, but both leave a lasting impact with their rich food traditions, cultural relevance and Civil Rights Movement history. Travel to these two cities connected by the Alabama River and explore history, local culture and food heritage at hometown restaurants and barbecue joints.
Selma Civil Rights History
At first glance, Selma may appear to be just another small town packed with Southern charm – neighborhoods lined with gracious front porches and tidy little churches. Once downtown, you’ll encounter the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge. Known as a catalyst of change, this bridge was the site of “Bloody Sunday,” when freedom marchers in the 1960s were attacked by local law enforcement. As you gaze at this steel and concrete structure, it’s amazing to imagine the historic walk across this bridge led by Martin Luther King, Jr. To truly get a sense of the magnitude of these historic events and the brave men and women involved, visit the U.S. National Park Service’s Selma-to-Montgomery March Lowndes County Interpretive Center. This museum honoring the peace march from Selma to Montgomery, Jr. offers an enriching experience through exhibits showcasing the fortitude of everyday people to start a movement.
Park rangers demonstrating an immersive exhibit at the Selma-to-Montgomery March Lowndes County Interpretive Center
Where to Eat in Selma
You won’t go hungry in Selma; locals’ Southern hospitality wouldn’t allow it. Going strong for 75 years, Lannie’s Bar-B-Q Spot is a Selma institution that takes exceptional pride in serving tangy, delicious pulled pork. Or, get a full helping of Southern comfort food at the Downtowner when you order a “meat and three” plate. It’s a hearty serving of the entrée meat of the day (one day it’s fried chicken, and the next it could be pot roast) and three appetizing sides such as turnip greens or creamy mashed potatoes and gravy. For a special night out, reserve a table at the Tally-Ho Restaurant, a popular steakhouse nestled in Selma’s historic district that surprises with elevated Southern cuisine.
A no-frills, all-flavor pulled pork sandwich at Lannie’s Bar-B-Q Spot
Montgomery’s Civil Rights & Musical Legacy
In Montgomery, take a deep dive into Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy. Begin with a tour of key historic sites like the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. This small, unassuming red brick church was the site of key meetings leading up to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It’s also home to the Dexter Parsonage, Dr. King’s former family residence. It’s a remarkable step back into history, where the preserved 1960s décor is punctuated with family photos and mementos. Make time to visit the Civil Rights Memorial Center for a touching memorial that chronicles the Civil Rights Movement. A beautiful black granite monument engraved with one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous quotes sets the tone for a transformative experience. Next, forge into the capital city’s musical roots: Check out prolific country singer Hank Williams’ statue at the riverfront, or visit the Hank Williams Museum to learn more about his pivotal role in establishing country music as an art form.
A moment of reflection at the Civil Rights Memorial Center
Where to Eat in Montgomery
If you’re hooked on Southern barbecue, look no further than Brenda’s Bar-B-Q Pit. Sit down for traditional barbecue, including tender, melt-off-the-bone ribs, in a relaxed, come-as-you-are setting. Make sure to end your meal with a swoon-worthy slice of classic sweet potato pie. Over at Stockyard Grill, a Montgomery institution, the savory burgers and seasoned steaks keep diners filing in; classic “meat and three” plates are also a favorite here. At Bibb Street Pizza Company, the vibe is lighthearted, but the pizza is serious business. Create your own pie or order a specialty one like the Cheese Lover, a gooey amalgamation of five different cheeses. Even better, this popular pizzeria is right next door to Common Bond Brewers, a local craft beer company, so pop over for a pint.
Enjoying a meal at Bibb Street Pizza Company
Fly into Atlanta International Airport (ATL) in Georgia, rent a car and drive about 250 kilometers (just under two-and-a-half hours) to Montgomery. You can also catch a connecting flight to Montgomery Regional Airport (MGM). From Montgomery, it’s a 72-kilometer drive (about one hour) to Selma via the Selma to Montgomery Scenic Drive.
This journey that marks the trail of the Selma to Montgomery March, which was strategic in the creation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Because of its historical significance, this route is also designated by the U.S. Park Service as the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail. It’s a road trip you won’t forget.