Selma, AL is an ideal place for history buffs, social justice advocates, and water lovers. This gem offers proximity to miles of riverway and is home to many significant events that shaped United States history.
Let us help you plan a day trip to Selma, AL, and make sure you see the best of the best while there. Let’s get started!
Reasons to Visit Selma, AL
Located in Dallas County on the Alabama River, Selma is known as the butterfly capital of Alabama and the Queen City of the Black Belt. Established in 1820 with four separate historic districts, it makes up the largest historic district in Alabama.
You may know Selma, AL, for its rich history from the Battle of Selma during the Civil War. Or, you may recognize it for its role in the Civil Rights era with Bloody Sunday, Turnaround Tuesday, and the Selma to Montgomery March.
It’s the second-oldest city in Alabama. It’s been a transportation hub with 49 railroads and steamboat traffic due to its proximity to the Alabama River. Home to Craig Air Field, a previous Air Force base closed in 1977 and the largest flying field in the United States.
With outdoor recreation opportunities thanks to the Alabama River, you’ll have so much to see and do during your visit to Selma.
How to Spend 24 Hours in Selma, Alabama
From delicious southern fare to experiencing momentous historical moments, here’s how we recommend spending 24 hours in Selma, AL.
Grab a Cup at The Coffee Shoppe
Address: 308 Broad St., Selma, AL 36701
Start your day at this coffee shop in historic downtown Selma. It is well-known and loved by locals for the service and welcoming atmosphere. Grab one of their popular frozen hot chocolates if the weather is smoldering, or enjoy a smoothie, latte, or just stick with a delicious cup of coffee. And go ahead and grab a bagel, scone, or muffin too. Whatever you choose, you won’t be disappointed in this hidden find.
Paddle Down the Alabama Scenic River Trail
Paddle on the Alabama Scenic River Trail. It’s the longest and most diverse river trail in the country. It has over 5,300 miles of water trails with a historic 650-mile one.
While here, you can paddle in the Upper Alabama William F. Danelley Lake, located in District 8. From there, you can go directly under the famous Edmund Pettus Bridge (which you’ll later visit on this trip).
You’ll also see the back of St. James Hotel, the last building remaining in Selma from the historic steamboat days. And, you’ll have a glimpse of Live Oak Cemetery, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Here, you’ll find the burial plot of Selma founder and U.S. Vice President William Rufus King.
Enjoy a BBQ Lunch at Lannie’s Bar-B-Q Spot
Address: 2115 Minter Ave., Selma, AL 36703
Get you some award-winning barbeque at this landmark restaurant in residential Selma. Lannie’s Bar-B-Q Spot made it into the Alabama Barbeque Hall of Fame and holds other awards, like the Alabama Barbeque Battle of 2015.
Choose from specialties like their praised pulled pork, a Swamp Burger (double cheeseburger with bologna, barbeque pork, and fixings), rib or catfish sandwiches, or their fried bologna sandwich. Yummy sides include corn nuggets, fried okra, and their popular fried pork skins.
With rave reviews like “Best Q in Bama,” “Best skins in the world,” and the “Sweet tea is among the best in the south,” this is southern soul food at its best.
Remember History on the Edmund Pettus Bridge
Address: Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, AL
Over a century after the Civil War ended, Jim Crow laws continued to impact Blacks living in the southern states. According to the Selma and Dallas County Chamber of Commerce, in 1965, over 600 unarmed Black Civil Rights Movement demonstrators marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge toward the capital city of Montgomery to attempt to get equal voting rights.
Law enforcement officers met marchers at the end of the bridge and gave the demonstrators two minutes to disperse. When the peaceful protestors stood their ground to take a stance on their lack of voting rights, the officers attacked them. Now called Bloody Sunday, people worldwide witnessed recordings of the brutal attacks that injured 60 people.
Following this, a judge ruled the peaceful demonstrators could march across the bridge to Montgomery. President Lyndon B. Johnson sent federal troops to protect the marchers. Congress also passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
On March 21 of the same year, 4,000 people marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and 300 marched on to Montgomery in celebration. Months later, over 7,000 Black individuals from Dallas county voted — up from the 156 registered Black voters in Dallas County four years prior.
Today, the Edmund Pettus Bridge remains a National Historic Landmark and a Civil Rights landmark.
Visit the National Voting Rights Museum
Address: 6 US Hwy. 80 East, Selma, AL 36701
After visiting the Edmund Pettus Bridge, head on over to the nearby National Voting Rights Museum & Institute in the historic district of Selma. The museum is a living reminder of the historic journey for the right to vote.
It features stories about the struggles and victories of all who’ve journeyed to vote freely. And, it has artifacts and materials showcasing the Civil Rights Movement, including Bloody Sunday and the Selma to Montgomery March. Finally, it preserves the history of Selma and Alabama.
The museum is open throughout the week and by appointment only during the weekend, so be sure to plan accordingly.
Eat Dessert First at Candy Lady Selma
Address: 2101 Broad St., Selma, AL 36701
With ice cream, shaved ice, and a bakery serving cakes and cookies, you can satisfy that sweet tooth in the late afternoon.
Oh, and have you seen those fried Twinkies and fried Oreos found at carnivals and fairs? Yep, they have those, too, along with a ridiculous selection of gourmet funnel cakes. You’ll have to try to leave room for dinner.
Enjoy a Southern Meal at Tally-Ho Restaurant
Address: 509 Mangum Ave., Selma, AL 36701
With southern specials mixed with international and European flair, you’ll enjoy this fine-dining experience for dinner. When you think of Tally-Ho, think of upscale fares like oysters, escargot, and crab claws, but in an Old English style pub. It is cozy yet sophisticated, refined but not stuffy. Choose the shrimp and grits or chicken tenders, or go big with the filet mignon or ribeye.
The historic building was first a cabin, then became a tea room, an officer’s club for nearby Craig Air Force Base, and even a dancing room. Aside from the delicious food, you’ll love the historic building and the unique experience while eating at Tally-Ho.
Is Selma, AL Worth a Visit?
It just doesn’t seem right to travel through Alabama without visiting Selma. Although you could spend much more than 24 hours here, we think this is a good start to give you a taste of the culture and history of this area.
During your visit to Selma, you can expect rich history lessons with some good ol’ southern food thrown in there and sweet tea to wash it all down. Selma offers so much history to experience, covering pivotal moments in our country’s history. Because of that, we think this is a must-stop.
If you have more time, be sure to visit the Selma Interpretive Center, follow the Selma to Montgomery National Park Service interpretive route, or book a longer paddle on the Alabama Scenic River Trail.