Civil Rights Road Trip

With February serving as Black History Month, I thought this would be a great time to plan out a Civil Rights Road Trip. In less than one week, you can take your family to some of the most revered historical sites in Civil Rights history. Follow my travel guide below to make the most of your trip.

Image taken from Google Maps

Day 1: Atlanta to Opelika (1.5 hour drive)

Land at the Atlanta airport and rent a car. Head south on I-85 towards Montgomery, Alabama. Stop for lunch in LaGrange or add on a side trip to President Roosevelt’s Little White House. Arrive at your hotel for two nights, the Auburn Marriott Opelika Resort (note that you’ll cross into the Central time zone at the state border). Your kids will love the evening spent at the hotel’s fantastic pool, and you’ll enjoy the great food. It was my family’s favorite hotel during our two-week Deep South road trip in 2021!

Day 2: Montgomery (1 hour drive)

Have breakfast at the hotel and drive to Montgomery, using my Montgomery Civil Rights Historical Sites post as your guide. My top recommendation is the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. View it and then head downtown to the Legacy Museum (for older kids), the Rosa Parks Museum, or the Freedom Rides Museum. Grab lunch between museums at Dreamland Bar-b-que, and then head back to the hotel for afternoon relaxation and pool time. Near dinnertime, take the kids into next-door Auburn for a fun look at a huge SEC school and to grab lemonade at its famed Toomer’s Drug (note its early closing time). Walk around Auburn’s beautiful campus, taking in its desegregation historical marker. Have dinner at one of the great restaurants – our kids couldn’t pass up a chance to eat at Whataburger but there are some other really great restaurants. For dessert, check out the local bookstore cafe, Well Red.  

Day 3: Opelika to Birmingham (2.5 hour drive)

Check out of the hotel and have breakfast at the hotel or at one of the cute Opelika restaurants. Head south on I-85 towards Montgomery, stopping at Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site. Your kids will enjoy seeing the airplanes, and it’s an important educational stop in Civil Rights history. We were disappointed that it was closed during our 2021 trip, and hope to make it back soon! 

Get back on the road and head towards Montgomery. If you have older kids, take the one-hour detour to Selma, following the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail. The most well-known site of this trail is the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. After visiting Selma, head towards Birmingham, grabbing lunch along the way (maybe at another Whataburger – there are several along 1-65). 

Once you’re near Birmingham, check into a hotel in the Homewood/south Birmingham area for a two-night stay. We stayed at the Grand Bohemian Mountain Brook and loved its quirky decor. Rest and relax at the pool, or take the kids to the next-door Birmingham Zoo or Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Book lovers will enjoy visiting the nearby Little Professor indie bookstore! For dinner, walk from the hotel to several nearby restaurants and shops at Lane Parke. We loved our pizzas at Post Office Pies!

Day 4: Birmingham

Birmingham was the centerpoint of the Civil Rights movement so there is a lot to see here. After breakfast at the nearby Another Broken Egg Cafe or Maple Street Biscuit Company, head to Kelly Ingram Park, using my Birmingham Civil Rights Historical Sites guide to help plan your day. Spend time wandering the park, contemplating the poignant statues dedicated to the fight for Civil Rights. Get tickets for the next-door Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and then explore the sad history of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

Have lunch at a downtown restaurant (if you missed Dreamland BBQ in Montgomery, get it here!). With older kids, you can see some of the other Civil Rights sites nearby (check out this list) or with younger kids, head to the playgrounds at Railroad Park or the McWane Science Center. All ages will find the Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark or the Southern Museum of Flight interesting! 

That evening, take in a Birmingham Barons minor league baseball game or get your shopping fix at The Summit, which also has great restaurants and a movie theater.

Day 5: Birmingham to Atlanta (2.5 hour drive)

Leave Birmingham and head east on I-20 towards Atlanta (note you’ll cross back into the Eastern time zone at the Georgia border). Stop in Anniston to see the Freedom Riders National Monument and then spend the afternoon at Six Flags Over Georgia or the Georgia Aquarium (the best aquarium we’ve ever visited!). 

Check into your Atlanta hotel – I prefer staying in Midtown or Buckhead but most of the sites you’ll want to visit are downtown. Check out the hotels near the aquarium, such as the Embassy Suites, and the packages the aquarium provides. 

Take the kids for a memorable dinner at the famous original Varsity and spend the evening at the hotel pool.

Day 6: Atlanta

Spend the morning at either the College Football Hall of Fame, World of Coca-Cola, or Children’s Museum of Atlanta, depending on your kids’ ages and interests. Visit the National Center for Civil and Human Rights when it opens (noon most days). 

After the museum, get in your car and head to lunch at the famous Mary Mac’s Tea Room and then go to the final stop in the Civil Right tour – the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park. This site is a poignant and important last stop with two museums and Dr. King’s birthplace, home church, and grave to see. Be sure to get tickets in advance if you’d like to tour the birthplace. It’s a great way to end your travels through Civil Rights history.

Atlanta contains many other historic sites to see, including the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum and the Atlanta History Center. You could definitely spend a few more days here if your travels allow!   

Before your flight out, be sure to visit the amazing Delta Flight Museum if you have time!

As you begin to make spring break or summer travel plans, this Civil Rights Road Trip would make a great itinerary! For even more ideas, check out the National Park Service’s We Shall Overcome travel itinerary.

Books to Read:

Be sure to check out my favorite recommendations for Black History Month at my shop here (this is an affiliate link).

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