Tourism Tuesdays January 5, 2016

  • 83 percent of hotel taxes benefit the Alabama General Fund
  • New Alabama Bicentennial tag commemorates statehood
  • Alabama city on Travel Channel’s list of ’11 next great destinations’
  • Birmingham’s Lyric Theatre to present Sam Bush, Mavis Staples, Drive-By Truckers, more
  • Day trips that won’t break the bank: Exploring beautiful Alabama
  • Five Birmingham barbecue restaurants even Memphis fans should love
  • Out-of-the-box Alabama eatery named one of 25 best new restaurants in America
  • Changing gears with the launch of Bikeshare in Birmingham
  • Alabama native, aka MASH‘s Trapper John, Wayne Rogers has died
  • Big crowd on hand for Hank Williams memorial service
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events



83 percent of hotel taxes benefit the Alabama General Fund

A total of 83 percent of hotel taxes paid by tourists will benefit the state’s General Fund in 2016, leaving a record low of 17 percent to market the state, according to the Alabama Tourism Department.

The 2015 Alabama Legislature cut the tourism department’s budget by 8 percent, nearly double the average among agencies statewide, department financial director Scott Burbank says.

For more than 50 years, the General Fund has received 75 percent of the state’s 4 percent lodging taxes with the remaining 25 percent being used to attract visitors from out of state. Some 25 million tourists spent a record of more than $12 billion in 2015, an increase of 7 percent above the previous year’s record, Burbank said.

The $1.7 billion general fund budget provides funding for most non-education agencies.

New Alabama Bicentennial tag commemorates statehood

By Ken Roberts,, Dec. 31

Alabama motorists can now choose a license plate design that commemorates the state’s bicentennial.

“This tag will show that our citizens are proud to celebrate the achievements of our forefathers who established statehood from what was once the Mississippi Territory,” said state Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur, who chairs the Alabama Bicentennial Commission.

The bicentennial license plate features a black and white design with a stylized bold red 200 logo that is available beginning in January at all state courthouses at no additional cost. He said the plate promotes the state’s 200th year celebration that begins in 2017 and continues through 2019.

The Alabama Tourism Department used the red and white colors of the state flag in developing the logo that anchors the left side of the plate design, Orr said. An outline of the state map is inset into the center numeral of the “200” design. Alabama motorists have three choices for standard tag designs: the bicentennial, God Bless America and green and yellow mountain scene plates.

Orr credited Sen. Gerald Dial of Clay County, who chairs the legislative license plate review committee, with steering a bill through the final days of the regular 2015 legislative session approving the design.

Orr said more than 100 volunteers are serving on three major committees that are planning a series of events to commemorate the Alabama’s bicentennial. He said that state-based businesses and organizations will fund the majority of the projects during the three-year commemoration.

“The statewide events and hometown festivals will generate economic development through tourism,” Orr said.

The 13-member Alabama Bicentennial Commission, created in February 2013, is tasked with planning the commemoration of the anniversary of Alabama’s statehood.

On March 3, 1817, President James Madison signed an act authorizing the creation of the Alabama Territory. On Dec. 4, 1819, Congress approved Alabama as the 22nd state in the United States.

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Alabama city on Travel Channel’s list of ’11 next great destinations’

By Leada Gore,, Dec. 29

The Travel Channel has some recommendations if you want to spend 2016 jetting around the world.

What places are on their list for the “coolest passport stamps of 2016?” Bolivia (“food scene here is exploding!”); Coastal Cambodia (“sweet thatched hut for as low as $10 per night!”); and Uganda (“volcano hike to see the golden monkeys!”)

Amid all those exotic destinations, however, is one much closer to home. Birmingham landed on the list of top 11 destinations for 2016. and is the only U.S. destination mentioned. Why Birmingham? Here’s what the Travel Channel had to say:

“This mid-sized southern city can now claim America’s oldest baseball park (Rickwood Field) and one of the newest with Regions Field, opened in 2013. Avondale Brewery, Good People Brewing and Trim Tab Brewing have all opened over the last few years, creating a craft beer scene to go along with the city’s serious culinary talent. The James Beard Awards nominated Highlands Bar & Grill in the national, Outstanding Restaurant category this year.

This January, the historic Lyric Theater (see above gallery) will reopen across from the famous Alabama Theater downtown. Mae West, The Marx Brothers, Roy Rogers and Buster Keaton all found a spotlight in this vaudeville theater and after being shuttered for decades, it’s fully restored to its former glory. Expect national and global acts in performance art and music regularly.”

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Birmingham’s Lyric Theatre to present Sam Bush, Mavis Staples, Drive-By Truckers, more

By Mary Colruso,, Dec. 8

Sam Bush, Mavis Staples, Randy Newman, Taj Mahal and the Drive-By Truckers are among the artists who’ll appear at Birmingham’s Lyric Theatre in 2016, as part of a new “Live at the Lyric” series.

Organizers for the theater — a century-old former vaudeville house set to reopen in January — announced the initial lineup today, along with dates and ticket prices. Eight acts and nine concerts are on the agenda thus far, scheduled February through May. 

More acts will be announced in the weeks to come, according to talent buyer Todd Coder. The goal, he said, is to provide diversity on stage, with musicians who can attract a wide range of concertgoers. 

“From an entertainment standpoint, we’re using a broad brush,” Coder said.  “There’s literally something for everybody.  It’s very important to us to make sure this is a venue for the city to enjoy.  The programming will be well thought out, very intentional.”

Shows in the “Live at the Lyric” series are presented by theater, paid for by sponsorships from area companies. ( is one of the sponsors.) Proceeds from ticket sales will help the Lyric to present more shows in the future, said Brant Beene, executive director of Birmingham Landmarks and a key figure in the Lyric’s revival. 

Birmingham Landmarks, a nonprofit organization, owns the Lyric and a companion office building at 1800-1806 Third Ave. North. It also owns the Alabama Theatre, a movie house and performing arts venue across the street. 

Although Beene expects concert promoters and others to rent the 750-seat Lyric for events — as they do at the 2,150-seat Alabama Theatre — he and other organizers wanted the Lyric to start the year with a compelling series of its own. 

The Lyric, built in 1914, has undergone an $11.5 million restoration over the past two years, bringing the old vaudeville house back to its former glory. Updates to the infrastructure and operating systems have been completed, and the auditorium’s ornate interior — decorated in shades of blue, white and gold — will be finished soon. 

The revamped Lyric will open its doors to the public on Jan. 14-16, offering three variety shows with local performers and vaudeville themes. Two performances of “Romeo and Juliet” by the State Ballet Theatre of Russia are on the agenda for Jan. 17, 

“Live at the Lyric” kicks in after that, along with a Lyric Masquerade Ball on Jan. 23, presented by the Junior Board of the Alabama and Lyric theaters.

Although music is likely to be a constant at the Lyric, organizers expect the venue to be used for theater, dance, comedy, community events and more. If all goes well, they said, the Lyric will fit smoothly into Birmingham’s entertainment scene, drawing audiences downtown and enriching the city’s cultural life.

“This is Birmingham personified, everybody working to make the city better,” said talent buyer Coder. “The Lyric is something that’s really going to put another feather in the cap of Birmingham.”

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Day trips that won’t break the bank: Exploring beautiful Alabama
By Anthony Dezenzio, Budget Travel Examiner, Jan. 3

For anyone planning a vacation in the South might want to consider Alabama. The state offers visitors with tranquility, beauty and a relaxed atmosphere combined with excellent shopping, dining, and recreational activities. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach located along the beautiful Gulf Coast are Alabama’s most popular vacation spots providing visitors with plenty of outdoor activities and fine local cuisine.

A little further along the Gulf Coast lies the port city of Mobile. Visitors can explore some of the city’s unique attractions, museums, and downtown Mobile’s historical section. Be sure to sample the seafood that the city is known for.

Situated in the northeastern part of Alabama close to the town of Bridgeport is the Russell Cave National Monument.

The park is a popular location spot for a weekend getaway. Encompassing some 310 acres, the park was established on May 11, 1961, by land donated by the National Geographic Society. The region was once home to prehistoric people dating back to 1650 A.D. Visitors can explore the park or hike on one of the nature trails. A number of interesting artifacts can be viewed inside the visitor center museum.

A visit to Birmingham, Alabama’s largest city is not to be overlooked. Visitors will find a number of attractions sure to please even the most discriminating. Among the most popular attractions is the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame with exhibits showcasing the accomplishments of some of the greatest jazz legends of our time including the great Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton and Erskine Hawkins and featuring the music that made them famous.

Another attraction not to be missed is the Vulcan Park and Museum. The park is home to the largest cast iron statue in the world. The statue is made up of 100,000 pounds of iron and stands 56 feet tall. Spectacular views of Birmingham can be seen from the top of the park.

Other area attractions include the Talladega Superspeedway and the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame located next door.

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Five Birmingham barbecue restaurants even Memphis fans should love

By Bob Carlton,, Dec. 29

This past spring, during the annual Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest — the Super Bowl of smoked meat — the Alabama Tourism Department seized an opportunity to talk some serious barbecue smack.

Right there on Beale Street, in the buckle of the Memphis blues and barbecue belt, the tourism folks hung a billboard-sized, sauce-splattered banner with the message: “Memphis: Home of the South’s Second-Best Barbecue.”

Last week, Memphis came to Birmingham, as the Tigers from the University of Memphis tangled with the Tigers from Auburn University in the Birmingham Bowl at Legion Field.

And while our distinguished visitors from Tennessee were in town, it was up to us here in the ‘Ham to prove to them that that sign was not just a clever public relations prank and that Birmingham not only can talk the smack but also smoke the ‘cue.

Not that anyone from Memphis (or Auburn) needs much help sniffing out a good barbecue joint, but just in case, we’ve come up with a list of some of our favorite places for ribs, chicken, turkey, pork, and, yes, even brisket.

—> Rusty’s Bar-B-Q

7484 Parkway Drive, Leeds. 205-699-4766

Find out more at:

—> Full Moon Bar-B-Que

525 25th Ave. South, Birmingham. 205-324-1007. Plus six more locations in the metro area.

Find out more at:

—> Dreamland Bar-B-Que

1427 14th Ave. South, Birmingham. 205-933-2133

Find out more at:

—> Bob Sykes Bar-B-Q

1724 Ninth Ave. North, Bessemer. 205-426-1400

Find out more at:

—> Saw’s BBQ

1008 Oxmoor Road, Homewood. 205-879-1937

Find out more at:

Because you can never eat too much ‘cue, here are five more Birmingham barbecue restaurants you might want to try while you’re in town:

—> Miss Myra’s Pit Bar-B-Q, 3278 Cahaba Heights Road, Vestavia Hills. 205-967-6004.

—> Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q, 1908 11th Ave. South, Birmingham. 205-320-1060. Plus seven additional locations in the Birmingham metro area.

—> Rib-It-Up, 830 First Ave. North, Birmingham. 205-328-7427.

—> Golden Rule Bar-B-Q, 2504 Crestwood Blvd., Irondale. 205-956-2678. Plus four additional locations in the Birmingham metro area.

—> Carlile’s Barbeque, 3511 Sixth Ave. South, Birmingham. 205-254-9266.

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Out-of-the-box Alabama eatery named one of 25 best new restaurants in America

By Bob Carlton,, Dec. 23

Hotbox — an unconventional patio restaurant that serves Asian-inspired cuisine out of an Airstream trailer parked in Birmingham’s Avondale neighborhood — has been selected as one of the 25 best new restaurants in America by the online magazine Gear Patrol.

“Though it actually opened in 2014, we’re excited about this Airstream trailer that splits the difference between a food truck and a restaurant, serving highly-craveable dishes from paper trays,” Gear Patrol special projects editor Jeremy Berger writes.

The author recommends ordering the shrimp pot stickers, lemongrass fried chicken, grilled calamari salad and the namesake Hotbox Burger.

Other restaurants on the Gear Patrol list include Launderette in Austin, Texas; Spero in Charleston, S.C.; The Grey in Savannah, Ga.; and Shaya in New Orleans.

Edward Stacey, a former manager at La Paz in Crestline Village, is the owner of Hotbox, and Ryan Champion, who previously worked at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans and Bottega in Birmingham, is the head chef.

Stacey said in the October issue of Birmingham Magazine that he got the inspiration to use an Airstream trailer for Hotbox after seeing the food trailers parked along Scenic Highway 30-A in Seaside, Fla.

“There is a certain nostalgia involved with the Airstream trailer,” he said. “But a lot of people that dine here for the first time are really surprised by the quality of the food that comes out. It’s just a different experience.”

One of those hidden gems that you might not know is there until you’ve found it, Hotbox is tucked away behind the popular Parkside Café bar at 4036 Fifth Ave. South in Avondale.

Hours are 5 to 11 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The phone number is 205-224-5632, and the website is

To see Gear Patrol’s entire list of the 25 Best New Restaurants in America, go here.

Gear Patrol is a daily online magazine for men with stories and tips on gear, travel, design, food and culture.

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Changing gears with the launch of Bikeshare in Birmingham

By Gina Yu, WBHM / NPR, Oct. 13

Kiosks have been popping up in parking spots around Birmingham. These 40 stations will hold 400 bikes. They’re part of Zyp BikeShare, which starts tomorrow. Cycling has devotees in the Magic City, but plenty still see it as a risky way to travel. Cycling enthusiasts hope more bikes on the road will change attitudes.

Repairs are under way at Redemptive Cycles in downtown Birmingham.  Bicycles hang from the walls and ceiling, and an old horror movie plays in the background.  People wander in and out of the shop, talking to the friendly mechanic, and generally hanging out.  It’s like an old time saloon for cyclists, and that’s fitting, because when you ask executive director Marcus Fetch about cycling in Birmingham, he says, “It’s kind of like the Wild West.”

Redemptive Cycles is where cyclists share their trials from the trail.  “We get to hear from everyone, all the stories,” says Fetch. He says he’s heard hundreds. Stories of drivers yelling at cyclists, veering very close, cyclists getting objects thrown at them, and accidents.

“We just had a dear cyclist die,” laments Fetch. William Robertson was a well known local contractor, founder of the Magic City Cyclers, and a member of Black People Run, Bike and Swim. He was killed in late August when a pickup truck ran into him and two other cyclists. “That man was an incredibly safe rider,” Fetch remembers. “Lights, helmets, reflective gear, the whole thing and he rode very safe. (So for him to be killed) was just absurd.”

“Whenever there’s a tragedy in a community, there is an obligation for motorists to figure out ways they can create a safe environment for cyclists,” says Patrick Packer, co-founder of Black People Run, Bike and Swim, and a friend of Robertson.

Packer leads rides through the city every week. He basically devotes his time to helping black communities live active lifestyles.

“I cycle because I love the feeling of being on the road. It’s in my blood,” he says. “I’m so glad that I was able to begin cycling almost five or six years ago. Now, it’s become addictive.” He cycles on Birmingham’s grid of wide streets, guarded by brown, red and beige stacks of buildings. He says the city center is seeing a return of people by 4 wheels, and now, by two.

“When people see cyclists on the road, they want to join in,” Packer says.  “So how can we help the people join in?  One of the ways is by having a great bike share program.”

To read this entire article online, go to:


Alabama native, aka MASH‘s Trapper John, Wayne Rogers has died

By The Associated Press, Dec. 31

Wayne Rogers, whose Trapper John McIntyre on “M.A.S.H.” was among the most beloved characters on one of the most popular shows of all time, died Thursday.

The actor was surrounded by family when he died in Los Angeles of complications from pneumonia at age 82, his publicist and longtime friend Rona Menashe told The Associated Press.

Rogers was born in Birmingham on April 7, 1933.

As army surgeon Trapper John on “M.A.S.H.,” Rogers swapped wisecracks with partner in martinis and mischief Hawkeye Pierce, played by Alan Alda.

Rogers was on the show for just the first three of its 11 seasons on CBS, but his run, and his character, are especially revered by show devotees.

An Alabama native and Princeton graduate, Rogers had parts on many short-lived shows before “M.A.S.H.,” specializing in westerns like “Law of the Plainsman” and “Stagecoach West.”

In the years after MASH he returned to TV regularly, with a recurring role in the early 1990s on “Murder, She Wrote.”

He moved beyond acting to see serious success later in life as a money manager and investor. In 1988 and 1990 he appeared as an expert witness before the House Judiciary Committee to speak in favor of maintaining the Glass-Steagall banking laws of the 1930s.

In recent years he was a regular panelist on the Fox News stock investment show “Cashin’ In.”

Rogers is survived by his wife Amy, two children, Bill and Laura, and four grandchildren.

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Big crowd on hand for Hank Williams memorial service
By Alvin Benn, Montgomery Advertiser, Jan. 1

Cold, drizzly weather couldn’t deter Hank Williams fans from gathering at Oakwood Cemetery Friday morning to honor the memory of an iconic entertainer whose legend continues to grow with each passing year.

One of the largest crowds in the history of the memorial was on hand to hear “I Saw The Light” again and no one left the site as it got chillier and wetter following the 10 a.m. start

“We’ve had good weather for most of these events,” said Jeff Petty, who has served as emcee at the memorial for the past 12 years. “We had no thoughts of canceling and this big turnout just keeps us going.”

After the ceremony, everybody adjourned to the Hank Williams Museum in downtown Montgomery where musical entertainment provided a warm, dry respite for those who attended the event.

Williams died on Jan. 1, 1953 while enroute to an engagement in Ohio. An apparent heart attack claimed his life in the back seat of his new Cadillac, which has been on display for years at the Williams museum.

A funeral believed to have been one of the largest in Montgomery history attracted thousands of fans devastated by Williams’ death at the age of 29.  The memorial service was the first of 63 that have been held since that time.

The turnout continues to grow each year and Friday’s was no exception with fans arriving in Montgomery from across the country.

Pennsylvania transplants Michael and Jodie Wagner came on their motorcycle from Birmingham where they’ve lived for the past two years. Michael wore a bright yellow “shock mask” that helped keep him warm.

“I grew up listening to Hank because my father was a big fan himself,” said Michael, 52. “I also like Johnny Cash and other country singers, but Hank has always been my favorite.”

Bill Jenkins, 89, may have been the oldest to attend the memorial. He said he saw Williams at concerts several times, including some at the Grand Old Opry in Nashville.

He said he wasn’t bothered by the cold, wet weather and pointed to the big turnout at the final resting places for Hank and his former wife, Audrey.

“This crowd shows you there was only one Hank,” said Jenkins, who added his support of country music artists, particularly Williams, is as strong today as when he was a young man.

Reginald and Mamie McClure were the only black fans at the ceremony and while they may have stood out in the crowd it didn’t bother them because they shared the same love for Hank Williams as other admirers standing around them.

“He was able to cross the color line and it all seemed to happen during a 5 year period,” said Reginald McClure, who mentioned Tony Bennett’s decision to record “Cold, Cold Heart” in 1950. It was one of Williams’ most popular songs and Bennett’s version introduced him to a whole new audience across America.

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Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

Jan. 9 – 12                    American Bus Association                                  Louisville, KY

Jan. 15 – 17 & 20-24   Cincinnati Travel Sport & Boat Show                Cincinnati, OH

Jan. 26 – 27                  Snowbirds Extravaganza Show                              Lakeland, FL

Jan. 27 – 31                  Louisville Boat, RV & Sport Show                     Louisville, KY

Jan. 31 – Feb 4             National Tour Assn Travel Exchange                       Atlanta, GA



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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Alabama Tourism Department