Survive and Thrive: Montgomery, Alabama

Before I moved to Montgomery, Alabama, I lived in San Diego, which felt like the entertainment capital of the world. You could imagine my shock when I googled “fun things to do in Montgomery with kids” and my search results started by listing the many fun church services in town, rather than events sponsored by the city, like I expected to find. I was confused. For families who are not particularly religious, or of the Christian faith, the Christian presence in Montgomery can feel overwhelming.

But, do not fear. I assure you that it’s not bad, and you don’t need to be concerned. Montgomery has a lot to offer families of all backgrounds and faiths!

Montgomery is considered the cradle of the civil rights movement. Several museums display the city’s proud history and role in the civil rights movement. I highly suggest taking a stroll in downtown Montgomery on Goat Hill. There, you can visit the Civil Rights Memorial and Center, Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, Dexter Parsonage Museum, Freedom Rides Museum, National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African-American Culture at Alabama State University, and the Rosa Parks Library and Museum.

From my experience, attending any event that allows you to feel welcomed and accepted is always a good thing. And Maxwell Air Force Base does a great job hosting several fun events. I recommend them all!

The locals love the military…and I mean LOVE. It’s nice to know that we are appreciated. The locals are also very honest and will ask if you have found a church. Try to answer as politely as you can because decorum and manners are very important in the South, and people tend shy away from those who are blunt.

There are several places to live in Montgomery. Many military families and locals live in Deer Creek in Eastchase, which is the fashionable district in eastern Montgomery County. It is about ten minutes from base and very close to all things modern: schools, shops, and movie complexes. The traffic is minimal, but there are several street lights between the blocks.

If you are looking for the old Southern charm of the past, I highly suggest moving to Old Cloverdale, where you can find high society, and students from Huntingdon College wining and dining; other historical districts include the Garden District, Capitol Heights, and Cottage Hill.

If you have a family and are looking to live in a smaller community, I suggest moving to Autuagua County in the city of Prattville, or Wetumpka County in the town of Millbrook.

No one claims Montgomery as the metropolis of the South, but it has its charm and provides comfortable (read: cheap! Remember I just moved from San Diego!) living. We spend the majority of our weekends traveling to nearby cities. Montgomery is an hour from Birmingham (shops!), two hours from Huntsville (rockets!), and three hours from Mobile (beaches!). It will take you two hours and a one hour time change to travel to Atlanta (Hotlanta!). The drive is easy and well worth the experience. The best part of moving to Montgomery is that your sponsor is most likely on shore duty–so more time to plan and execute your vacations!

One of our favorite things to do is hike, and we have visited many national parks across Alabama. Our favorite is Chewacla State Park in Auburn, which is forty-five minutes west of Montgomery. Bring your swimsuits because there’s a creek waiting for your arrival.

It can feel lonely living in Montgomery because it is a small, almost rural town. I suggest joining the several YMCA gyms conveniently located in every district. The schools and churches are always looking for volunteers for their philanthropic services, and the city provides many opportunities for families to be involved locally and stay busy. Or, you can spend your time working on yourself since many people who are stationed here are on shore duty, which means no deployments or temporary duty (TDYs)!

Have you ever been stationed in Montgomery? What would you tell a fellow military family?

Posted by Fari Bearman, NMFA Volunteer and military spouse

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    We are currently finishing up our 2 year assignment in Montgomery, and I have to say that we really enjoyed it. Sure it isn’t SD, and as a California native myself I can relate! The biggest thing I found is that some things aren’t well publicized so it can seem isolating if you aren’t from here. The Alabama Nature Center in Millbrook is beautiful, new, and spacious to hike around in (jogger stroller friendly!), there are free outdoor concerts by the Montgomery symphony at the beginning and end of the summer, “Sesame Street” showings at the planetarium, the u-pick farms are fun, and I feel like everyone should get up to the NASA space and rocket center in Huntsville (we even stayed in Monte Sano state park while there.)

    The one thing I would add is look into Alabama’s agritourism and u-pick farms. We have enjoyed berry picking the last two springs/summers and taking the kids to places like Sugar Hill Farms, Barber Berry Farms, and the berry lot at Southern Growers are both fun and rewarding (not to mention fresh and local!) Oh, and although the farmers markets are small, if you are here in the beginning of July ask if they have O’Henry peaches. They will blow your mind.

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