Learn about the Freedom Riders in one of Montgomery's historical plaques Credit: Judy Antell / Vegetarian TMOM

Learn about the Freedom Riders in one of Montgomery’s historical plaques
Credit: Judy Antell / Vegetarian TravelingMom

Summer is hot in Alabama, but on a recent trip to Montgomery to see the new Hyundai Sonata, I was surprised by relatively moderate temperatures; humid, yes, but cooler than New York City. There were also a number of free family activities to let you save money (such as for a new car).

1. Movies in Riverfront Park

Every Monday in July, you can watch free family friendly movies at Riverfront Park. If you have a lawn chair, great, but a blanket is fine – and you can bring your own food. The first movie is Frozen on July 7, 2014; even it the heat returns, the movie will keep you cool.

2. Free Play: Discovery Village

You have to pay to explore the retired historic structures of Old Alabama Town, but the fantastic playground next to it, Discovery Village is free. There are slides, swings, a climbing wall, sandbox and shady area.

3. Walk Back in Time: The Civil Heritage Trail

Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama plant tour  Credit: Judy Antell / Vegetarian TMOM

Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama plant tour
Credit: Judy Antell / Vegetarian TravelingMom

There is a $3 trolley that takes you to a dozen sites on the Civil Heritage Trail, but if you go down to Union Station, where you pick up the trolley, you can get a free map and walk around town. Be sure to check out the train shed, a National Historic Landmark, just behind the old train station. Union Station has been meticulously restored and should be explored by anyone with an interest in architecture.

The heritage trail is marked by historical plaques around Montgomery; at the Freedom Rides Museum, you can read all about the protest in 1961, on panels outside the museum (admission is charged to the museum, however).

4. Modern Montgomery

Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama offers free tours Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at  9:30am, 12:30 2pm, and Thursdays at 6:30pm. The 90 minute tram tours take you through the surprisingly quiet and clean factory, where robots and people assemble 1,500 Hyundai cars daily. The free tours require a reservation, and are for ages six and up.