Tourism Tuesdays September 19, 2017

Atlanta Journal-Constitution features Alabama in special fall travel feature  

State tourism website features Fall Color Map

Conecuh Ridge Distillery to base operations in Troy with $13.6M project

Alabama Music Hall of Fame to move forward with lobby renovations

Alabama Bicentennial: Dennis Edwards, Ruben Studdard, Bo Bice on lineup for concert in Birmingham

Alabama Tourism Department Workshop rescheduled

Bicentennial community workshop rescheduled in Opelika

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


Atlanta Journal-Constitution features Alabama in special fall travel feature
Editor’s note:  H.M. Cauley with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution did a special fall travel section on Alabama destinations from across the state.  Cauley worked with Alabama Tourism Department staff members Brian Jones, Tommy Cauthen and Dwayne O’Riley on gathering information and photos for the articles.

Mountain/Lake District
Devotees of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright can quickly name two of his most acclaimed home designs: Fallingwater in Pennsylvania and Taliesin West in Arizona. They’ll also remind you of the Rosenbaum House (601 Riverview Drive, Florence. 256-718-5050) in Florence, the only home Wright created in Alabama and the only one of his plans in the Southeast that’s open to the public. Built in 1939, the low-slung one-story had about 1,500 square feet, but in 1948, the Rosenbaum family recruited Wright to design a 1,084-square-foot addition. The family lived in the home until 1999, when it was acquired by the city that raised funds to restore and open the property to the public.

Established in 1985, the 112-acre Huntsville Botanical Garden (4747 Bob Wallace Ave., Huntsville. 256-830-4447), has long been a favorite of locals. Now the experience is even more pleasurable: In March, the property was enhanced with a $16 million, 30,000-square-foot facility that includes a welcome center, three event areas and Table in the Garden, serving lunch, brunch and to-go picnics. Just beyond its doors, visitors will find wooded pathways, open meadows, an aquatic garden, a children’s garden, a butterfly house, a nature center, a miniature railroad layout, vegetable and herb gardens, and a superabundance of flowers.

Odette (120 N. Court St., Florence. 256-349-5219) has established a reputation for promoting locally sourced and house-made menus, from the charcuterie plates to the coffee. A few years ago, chef Josh Quick’s devotion to Southern cuisine earned him the chance to show off at the James Beard House in New York. Dine on house-ground beef burgers, crisp potato gnocchi, deviled eggs and whole fried okra for lunch, brunch, dinner and late night.

Take a Mediterranean menu, place it in the capable hands of an Alabama-born chef with Hungarian roots and the mix is a tasty delight that has found a devoted following. At Bellini’s Ristorante (6801 Cahaba Valley Road, Birmingham. 205-981-5380), executive chef Ryan Zargo has put his own spin on manicotti, house-made ravioli, seafood risotto and lobster jalapeno mac and cheese. Despite a broad menu that includes veal, chicken and plenty of classic Italian selections, Bellini’s was also nominated as one of the best steakhouses in the state for its rib-eyes, short ribs and filets.

Long before trains laid tracks across the South, the stagecoach was the mass transit of choice. Even after locomotives connected major cities, stagecoach routes provided links between more rural communities. About 20 minutes east of Birmingham, the town of Leeds sat on one of those major routes, a path that dates back to the 1820s when it followed old Indian trails. The Leeds Historical Society has erected more than 20 signs to mark significant houses, churches and businesses along the way. The society also maintains the Rowan House (1900 Montevallo Road, Leeds. 205-699-1760), a farmhouse that was a frequent stop for stagecoaches. Drive or bike this historic route, dotted with several bucolic spots along the Little Cahaba River or Lake Purdy for canoeing, horseback riding, fishing and exploring local history.

The Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument (520 16th St. N., Birmingham. 205-328-9696), created earlier this year, isn’t just one sculpture or edifice. Rather, it’s about four city blocks in the heart of town that have been added to the National Park System. The area includes several properties that played significant roles in the civil rights movement, including the A.G. Gaston Motel, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and colleagues such as Ralph Abernathy planned their strategies to battle the city’s segregation laws; the 16th Street Baptist Church, the site of the infamous Birmingham bombing; and Kelly Ingram Park, where protesters faced down police dogs and water hoses. Also in the district is the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute with exhibits that tell the story of the movement and make an excellent starting point to tour the area.

Pizitz Building Food Hall (120 19th St. N., Birmingham. 205-214-9999) is the intersection of classic Southern and international cuisines. Opened earlier this year, the upscale food court is home to a dozen market-styled stalls that feature local goodies (Alabama Biscuits, Busy Corner Cheese mongers, Birmingham-based Revelator Coffee) as well as Hawaiian poke, Nepalese dumplings, Israeli falafels and craft ramen noodles. Grab one of the 30 seats at the Louis, the centerpiece bar, or settle in to the full-service Fero (“iron”), an Italian restaurant whose name is a nod to the city’s industrial roots. Also in the mix: an incubator kitchen for up-and-comers ready to show off their culinary flair.

Gulf Coast
Another nominee for the state’s best steakhouse, Nolan’s (1140 Gulf Shores Parkway, Gulf Shores. 251-948-2111), features hand-cut filets, rib-eyes, tenderloins and prime rib that can be personalized with finishes such as a classic bearnaise or a roasted peppercorn cream. But being on the Gulf means plenty of attention is paid to local seafood, including shrimp, oysters, scallops, crab claws and soft-shell crabs that show up in the seafood feast platter. Can’t decide? Dig into the 12-ounce lobster tail paired with an 8-ounce filet.

As if the beaches and quaint seaside towns weren’t enough of a draw, the coast now has 520 more acres of fun. Just opened this year is Owa (10113 Foley Beach Express, Foley. 251-923-2111), a $500 million complex about 10 miles from the beach. Owa means “big water” in the Muscogee Creek language. The property includes a 150-room Marriott hotel, shops, restaurants and a theme park with 21 rides of varying thrill levels and four roller coasters. The main attraction: the Rollin’ Thunder coaster that claims to be one of the longest coaster rides in the country. An indoor events center and a sports complex with 16 fields are set to open this month.

Just opened in June, Hotel Indigo (22843 Perdido Beach Blvd., Orange Beach. 251-981-1737) serving the towns of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach bills itself as the Gulf Coast’s “first upscale beachside boutique” property. The setting is exceptional, between the sandy beaches and the natural charm of Gulf State Park. Inside, guests will find a fitness center, indoor/outdoor pool and 62 rooms, a few of which gladly welcome four-footed guests. The on-site restaurant and bar, Hunter’s Bend, serves breakfast and dinner dishes that showcase local seafood, produce and vendors; the Southern Grind Coffee House provides java and go-with goodies.

It’s more than a ship: The “Mighty A,” as this World War II USS Alabama Battleship is called, is just one of the attractions in this 155-acre park (2703 Battleship Parkway, Mobile. 251-433-2703). The aircraft pavilion recently welcomed Marine One, a restored helicopter that served five presidents, to the 27-piece collection that includes an A-12 Black Bird spy plane used by the CIA. To mark the 100th anniversary of World War I, a new exhibit features a Model T Ford and a diorama of what it was like to fight in the trenches. Explore tanks, artillery and the USS Drum submarine before having a picnic on the grounds. Overnight stays and parties can also be arranged in advance.

Think “Mardi Gras,” and most people immediately conjure images of street parties in New Orleans. In fact, Mobile was the site of the first Fat Tuesday revelry back in the early 1700s. Last November, the city created Mardi Gras Park (148 S. Royal St., Mobile. 251-432-1638) at the corner of Royal and Church streets to remind visitors and locals of that distinction. Anchoring the grounds that once held an old courthouse, the park is dotted with colorful statues of carnival kings and queens, all reminiscent of the party spirit. Across the street is the History Museum of Mobile; the Mobile Carnival Museum, with its collection of costumes, is a few blocks away.

Twenty years ago, famed Atlanta Braves player and Mobile native Hank Aaron tossed out the first pitch in Hank Aaron Stadium (755 Bolling Brothers Blvd., Mobile. 251-479-2327). The stadium’s address also has a historical context: Bolling Brothers Boulevard was named for hometown boys and major league players Milt and Frank Bolling. And it sits at the corner of Satchel Paige Drive, a nod to another home-grown talent who was among the first Negro League players honored in the Hall of Fame. Today, “the Hank” is home to the Mobile BayBears minor league team that just this year became affiliated with the Los Angeles Angels farm system. The 6,000-seat field includes 23 luxury boxes just 52 feet from home plate.

Fans of the Food Network’s “Ginormous Food” show might recognize Von’s Bistro (69 Saint Michael St., Mobile. 251-375-1113) as the site where chef Von Larson created a foot-long spring roll stuffed with rice, pork, pork belly, shrimp and crab. Larson is noted for blending Asian, Southern and seafood — in much smaller sizes — using many recipes passed down from her family. Gulf crab wontons, pho soup and pad Thai share the menu with shrimp and cheese grits and fish tacos for lunch, brunch and dinner.

If just the thought of staying in a tent makes you start scratching, here’s an option that blends outdoors with not too terribly rustic camping. Head to Roland Cooper State Park (285 Deer Run Drive, Camden. 334-682-4838), about an hour southwest of Montgomery, where four new “tiny house” cabins are a step up from a traditional campsite. The 408-square-foot designs sleep four to six and come with furnishings and a full kitchen (even a fridge with an icemaker). Need more elbow room? The park also features five two-bedroom, fully furnished cabins. Those who prefer being close to nature will find 47 campsites with picnic tables, grills and electric and sewer hookups. Thirteen primitive sites are also available. The park is an ideal spot for fishing, boating and bird-watching.

Before she was the glamorous wife of celebrity author F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda Sayre was the belle of Montgomery society. Her husband called her “the first American flapper,” and the pair married in 1920. After traveling the world, the couple returned to Zelda’s hometown and lived in this two-story, Georgian-style house from 1931 to 1932, the last time they shared an abode with their only child as a family. Today the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum (919 Felder Ave., Montgomery. 334-264-4222) is the only museum devoted to them. The nonprofit that oversees the house not only has amassed a number of Fitzgerald artifacts; it also works to encourage young writers and to promote the reading of the author’s works.

Curious about how all the moving parts come together to produce a car? Wonder no more. These behind-the-scenes tours of the Hyundai factory (700 Hyundai Blvd., Montgomery. 334-387-8000) take the mystery out of the process. Spoiler alert: The Sonatas and Elantras the factory turns out are largely the effort of robots and human supervisors. See the steps from beginning to end during these free excursions offered from Monday through Thursday. An advance registration is required.

For the complete article please see

State tourism website features Fall Color Map
An interactive map on the Alabama Tourism Department’s website allows visitors to see the predicted fall color change for each weekend this fall. The map, a list of recommended viewing sites and a fall colors driving route are all available on the state tourism website at (

Large concentrations of hardwoods make Alabama State Parks some of the best places to enjoy the fall color change.  Joe Wheeler has an excellent viewing spot next to the dam and near the cabin area on the Lawrence County side.  Autumn scenery can be found at DeSoto State Park at Little River Canyon and DeSoto Falls. Monte Sano has views of the Tennessee Valley along the Warpath Ridge Trail and its overlook. Cheaha’s Bald Rock and Pulpit Rock trails both have excellent views. Cheaha is the highest point in the state at 2,407 feet above sea level.

With cooler days and lower humidity, autumn hosts a variety of outdoor festivals. Lee Sentell, director of the Alabama Tourism Department, recommends several events designed around being outdoors and enjoying the fall weather.

Outdoor events scheduled for this fall include the Cullman Oktoberfest on Oct. 4-8 that celebrates German culture with authentic food, costumes, and music. The Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention on Oct. 6-7 will have 18 different categories of live music competitions on the campus of Athens State University. The Barber Vintage Festival at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham on Oct. 6-8 features hundreds of vintage motorcycles. The National Shrimp Festival in Gulf Shores on Oct. 12-15 features fresh gulf seafood, live music and arts and crafts. The city of Mentone celebrates its annual Colorfest on Oct. 21-22 with a weekend of arts & crafts, family activities and live entertainment. The Kentuck Festival of the Arts on Oct. 21-22 in Northport features more than 270 artists and craftspeople.

Alabama Frontier Days in Wetumpka on Nov. 1-4 will have reenactments from French Colonial times to the Early American period. The Oyster Cook-Off and Craft Beer Weekend on Nov. 3-4 at The Hangout in Gulf Shores features all-star chefs and live entertainment. The National Peanut Festival in Dothan on Nov. 3-12 is the nation’s largest peanut festival. The World Food Championships return to The Wharf in Orange Beach on Nov. 6-14 and will feature 400 champion teams from 20 countries and 45 states competing for the ultimate food crown.

A complete list of fall events is available at

Conecuh Ridge Distillery to base operations in Troy with $13.6M project
From the article by Jerry Underwood on

Gov. Kay Ivey announced that the maker of Clyde May’s Alabama-style whiskey plans to consolidate operations in Troy, where the company will build an artisan distillery, rack houses and a bottling hub, as well as a tasting experience center designed to attract tourists.

Conecuh Ridge Distillery LLC’s project calls for an initial investment of $13.6 million in the Pike County city, where it expects to employ 50 people in the fifth year of operation. The average annual wage for those jobs is around $54,000.

“The announcement affirms that our state’s sound business climate is a positive attraction for companies looking to find a home. We are glad Conecuh Ridge Distillery has chosen Troy for their operations center,” Ivey said.

“In addition to the 50 jobs being created, we are excited about the potential economic impact this company will have in Pike County as this becomes a tourist destination for the official spirit of Alabama,” she added.

The company’s plans to consolidate its operations in Pike County represent a homecoming of sorts for the brand, which is named for Clyde May, a celebrated moonshiner who began making his high-quality whiskey in the area back in 1946.“We continuously market our Clyde May’s brand in the spirit of our founder, Clyde May,” said Roy Danis, president and CEO of Conecuh Ridge Distillery. “His values of quality, integrity and craftsmanship are the building blocks of our company today.

“Coming home to Troy, Alabama, where the brand got its start, reinforces these values and makes all of us who work for this great brand so very proud,” Danis added.

‘Project Clearwater’
The Long Island, New York-based company supplies its products throughout the United States and will make the Troy facility its distilling and bottling headquarters, according to Vince Perez, a project manager for the Alabama Department of Commerce who supported the recruitment of what was codenamed “Project Clearwater.”

One of the objectives of Conecuh Ridge Distillery’s project was to develop an artisan distillery in Alabama so that fans and connoisseurs of the company’s products could experience the craftsmanship that goes into making Clyde May whiskey, Perez said.

“Becoming the home of the Clyde May brand is a great opportunity for Troy,” Alabama Tourism Department Director Lee Sentell said. “Making a premium product in a site that will become a tourist destination is a great strategy. We look forward to working with Troy and the distillers for this venture to become a success.”

Troy Mayor Jason Reeves said the city is excited to welcome Conecuh Ridge Distillery home to Alabama.

“As mayor you work and hope for large capital investment in your community that creates good-paying jobs; this project does not only that but will create a destination location,” Reeves said.

“This will be a creative addition to Troy’s diverse manufacturing base as well as another wonderfully unique reason to visit Troy.”

For the complete article please see

Alabama Music Hall of Fame to move forward with lobby renovations
From the article by Russ Corey on

For well over a year, the Alabama Music Hall of Fame has wanted to renovate the lobby to accommodate larger audiences for its intimate concerts.

Because of a lack of funds, the project never materialized. Until now.

Bobby Bryan, of Bobby Bryan Builders of Florence, said the Shoals Homebuilders’ Association has money available for an annual community project. He said there would be up to $10,000 available for materials and labor.

He said the project will involve removing the 8-foot-tall wall on the east side of the building behind the ticket counter and turnstiles. The wall separates the lobby from the gallery featuring portraits of past hall of fame inductees.

Bryan said it would open up maybe 50-60 more seats for shows.

The ticketing area and turnstiles would be moved to the west side of the building near the gift shop. After their visit, patrons will exit the museum through the gift shop. The exit on the east side will be closed. A bluegrass exhibit behind the east side wall has been on loan to the hall of fame, Hall of Fame Manager Dixie Griffin said.

Griffin said they would do something to preserve the wall, which features signatures of inductees and famous visitors, including Alabama bassist Jeff Cook and singer/songwriter Donnie Fritts, both hall of fame inductees.

The move to rearrange the lobby began in the Spring of 2016 when Curator John Moseley told board members the renovations could expand seating capacity for shows.

The lobby has hosted Secret Sisters, bluegrass band Iron Horse, Bobby Denton, Jackson Nance, Hannah Aldridge, Aaron Wilburn, Mark Narmore and Bobby Tomerblin, the Wildwood Ruminators and Three Wheel Drive to name a few. Jason Isbell hosted a workshop in the lobby in 2014.

The shows would often sell out and a second performance would be added. The lobby can only accomodate about 100 people.

Bryan said a small stage would be built in the area just in front of the east portrait wall for the performers. Bryan said the expanded area would still be an intimate setting for shows.

The builder said there would have to be some new flooring added that might not exactly match. Griffin will be involved in selecting the new flooring, but will get approval from the board.

“This is really so important to us,” board member Judy Hood said. “This will be a way for us to make more money.”

Bryan said he hopes to begin work in the next week or so and the work could be completed in about a month. He said the hall of fame will not have to close down while the project is underway.

The renovations were discussed by the hall of fame board of directors during their meeting Thursday at the hall of fame.

Through the help of hall of fame benefactor Bobby Denton, the planters outside the building that had been causing water damage to the builder were repaired, as was the fountain outside, Griffin said.

For the complete article please see

Alabama Bicentennial: Dennis Edwards, Ruben Studdard, Bo Bice on lineup for concert in Birmingham 
From the article by Mary Colurso on

Birmingham will launch its celebration of the Alabama Bicentennial with an Oct. 27 concert that includes the Temptations Review featuring Dennis Edwards and  “American Idol” winner Ruben Studdard.

“Idol” runner-up Bo Bice, original “Dreamgirls” star Jennifer Holliday and a 50-piece orchestra led by Henry Panion III also are on the lineup for the event at the Lyric Theatre, 1800 Third Ave. North.

Tickets for the 8 p.m. show go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 15, via Ticketmaster, priced at $28.50-$42.50, plus service charges.

Most of the artists on stage will have Alabama ties, in accordance with the city’s bicentennial theme, “I’m Coming Home.”

Edwards, from Fairfield, joined the Temptations in 1968 and performed with the fabled group, on and off, through 1989. The touring review is his tribute to the Temptations — an R&B powerhouse that included several Alabama natives — and their famous songbook. The Temptations won three Grammy Awards during Edwards’ tenure, and he was inducted with the band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.

Studdard, an R&B singer from Birmingham, and Bice, a Southern rocker born in Huntsville, helped to put Alabama on the reality TV map during their runs on “Idol” in 2003 and 2005, respectively.

Panion, chairman of the Birmingham Bicentennial Committee, is a professor of music and director of music technology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“Alabama’s history is rich in music,” Panion said via a prepared statement. “This musical history is what inspired incredible groups like the Temptations. Having these artists come home to celebrate our state is a great honor.”

“This celebration is as much about our past as it is about our future,” Mayor William Bell said in the statement. “We want to celebrate our accomplishments and lay the groundwork for the flourishing future of Birmingham.”

Alabama will commemorate its 200th birthday in 2019. From 2017 to 2019, events and programs throughout the state are drawing attention to this milestone and highlighting the achievements of Alabamians.

For the complete article please see

Alabama Tourism Department Workshop rescheduled
The Alabama Tourism Department’s tourism workshop has been rescheduled for Oct. 12, in Montgomery.  This workshop is designed for new tourism industry members, event organizers and anyone else interested in enhancing tourism in their area. Many of ATD’s staff members will

be in attendance at this workshop and you will have an opportunity for one-on-one time with each of them. On Thurs., Oct. 12th, the workshop will be at the Alabama Center for Commerce Building, 401 Adams Ave., 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.  There is no registration fee. For additional

information, please contact Rosemary Judkins at 334-242-4493 or via email at Rosemary.Judkins@Tourism.Alabama.Gov 

Bicentennial community workshop rescheduled in Opelika
The Alabama Bicentennial Commission community workshop, previously scheduled for Sept. 15 in Opelika, has been rescheduled for Oct. 20.

The workshop will be from 10 a.m. to noon at the Lewis Cooper Jr. Library on 200 S. 6th St.

It has been developed by the Alabama Bicentennial Committee to share information, resources, and funding opportunities regarding Alabama’s three-year bicentennial commemoration. The event is free and open to the public but registration is required at

From family reunions to school service projects, from museum exhibitions to common reading programs and from recipe collections to oral-history interviews, there will be many ways that individuals, groups and communities can involve themselves in the state’s milestone birthday.

The Alabama Bicentennial Commission works to support, create and execute programs that commemorate the past 200 years of Alabama places, people and stories.

From 2017 to the end of 2019, the commission will engage residents and visitors in educational programs, community activities and statewide initiatives that teach, inspire and entertain.

For more information, visit or contact Sam Blakely at, 334-242-5864.

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website

Have you updated your events for 2018? If you have a 2017 event that will reoccur in 2018, you can “duplicate” it in your partner account. By clicking “duplicate” you will be able to alter dates and details without having to redo the entire listing.

Ready to fill the 2018 calendar? Go to and get started.
Tourism Tuesdays is a free electronic newsletter produced by the Alabama Tourism Department. It contains news about the state tourism department and the Alabama tourism industry.

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