Alabama's Tween Scene

By Scott Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 18, 2007

Q. My 11-year-old niece and I are planning to go to Alabama next June, after she has studied it in school. What part of Alabama has the best activities for a tween? All she wants to do is go to the zoo.

Karen Abell, California, Md.

A. When it comes to Alabama, it really pays to know your tween, as there are Montgomery tweens and Birmingham tweens, and ne'er the twain tweens shall meet. Let me explain.

The studious 11-year-old well-schooled in America's civil rights history will find that history pristinely preserved in Montgomery. In fact, no book could ever substitute for a stroll down Dexter Avenue, beginning at the State Capitol, where the famous 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery ended and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "How Long, Not Long" speech. Less than two blocks away is the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church (, where the civil rights leader preached his first sermons, and not far from that, on Montgomery Street, is the spot where in 1955 Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a public bus, now the site of the Rosa Parks Library and Museum ( The museum's children's wing includes clever exhibits, including a time-traveling city bus that vividly brings the era to life.

Birmingham is the spiritual home of that other sort of tween, namely the pop-culturally inclined. This is the area, after all, that spawned "American Idol" winners Ruben Studdard and Taylor Hicks (not to mention cult favorite Bo Bice), all of whom have been known to perform at the Alabama Adventure amusement park ( And while Birmingham has its own civil rights district, it's such places as the McWane Science Center (, a children's museum, that will captivate tweens. That and the Birmingham Zoo (, of course.

We wanted to go somewhere special to celebrate our wedding anniversary on Feb. 29, and someone suggested Catalina Island. Do you think that's a good idea?

Annette Hennessey, Falls Church

Indeed it is, right up there with changing your anniversary date so you can celebrate it more often than every four years. Donna Harris of the Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce allows that you'll bump into your fair share of the newly betrothed ("We have a lot of weddings here") and Southern Californians ("They want to escape the stress of the mainland"), but Catalina's popularity as a romantic destination endures. Just an hour's boat ride, it's worlds away from both La-La Land and the February blues.

Lodging near the beach is preferred, and among the possibilities are the Avalon Hotel (310-510-7070,; Feb. 29 rooms start at $195) and Hotel Villa Portofino (888-510-0555,; rooms start at $159). But don't overlook the romantic vistas of the Inn on Mt. Ada (800-608-7669,; rooms start at $350), a spectacular six-room hotel in a mansion once owned by chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. -- on a mountain named for his wife.

Send queries by e-mail ( or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and town.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company