Tourism Tuesdays February 2, 2016

  • Southern Living’s 50th anniversary edition showcases Alabama destinations
  • U.S. Space & Rocket Center is Alabama’s Number One Tourism Attraction
  • Alabama gets kudos on Southern Living list of ‘South’s Most Iconic Music Venues and Festivals’
  • This is the best restaurant in Alabama, according to Business Insider
  • Town & Country’s pick for the most romantic restaurant in Alabama
  • USA TODAY: visit these 50 places during Black History Month
  • Walk inside the International Space Station? Now you can in Alabama
  • Orange Beach to spend up to $10 million on seawall fix
  • Arab Historic Village ranked first by travel site
  • GulfQuest named Project of the Year
  • Learn how to work with the Alabama Tourism Department
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


Southern Living’s 50th anniversary edition showcases Alabama destinations

Alabama’s tourism industry has a major presence in Southern Living magazine’s largest issue ever, the 50th anniversary edition now in travelers’ homes, state director Lee Sentell says.

The state tourism department provided matching funds to organizations and attractions to fill 36 ads on seven pages, the largest co-op ad campaign in its history. “Our industry wanted to make a strong statement that Southern Living is an Alabama product that established the identity of the modern South. The readers of the February issue are ideal prospects to save this landmark issue and to visit Alabama,” he said.

In addition to a full-page branding ad for “Sweet Home Alabama” on page 30, the agency supported the following Travel Planner advertisers: Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism, Brett/Robinson Vacations, The Island House Hotel, Kaiser Realty by Wyndham Vacation Rentals, Romar House Rentals, History Museum of Mobile, USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, Visit Mobile, Mobile Museum of Art, Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center, Montgomery Chamber Convention & Visitor Bureau, Jasmine Hill Gardens and Outdoor Museum, Black Belt Treasurers and Black Belt Adventures, Cullman Area Visitor Center, Dothan Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, Auburn Opelika Tourism Bureau, Bellingrath Gardens and Home, South Mobile County Tourism Authority, Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau, McWane ScienceCenter, Greater Gadsden Area Tourism, Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce & Tourism, Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Lookout Mountain Alabama, DeKalb County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Visit Tuscumbia, Colbert County Tourism & Convention Bureau, U.S. Space & Rocket Center and Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association.

Sentell encouraged advertisers to thank their local legislators for their support of the Alabama Tourism Department that made the marketing campaign possible.

U.S. Space & Rocket Center is Alabama’s Number One Tourism Attraction

More than 658,000 people visited the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville last year, ranking it number one among state attractions that charge admission, followed by the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at second with 580,221 and the Birmingham Zoo at third with 576,974 state tourism officials say.

Seven of the state’s Top Ten attractions charging admission showed an increase in attendance over previous years, spokesman Brian Jones said.  Attendance figures were collected by the Alabama Tourism Department from local tourism organizations.   

The USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile placed fourth with 414,934 visitors and the McWane Science Center in Birmingham was fifth with 367,995.

Point Mallard Park in Decatur was sixth with 291,016.  The Huntsville Botanical Garden ranked seventh with 246,900 and the Montgomery Zoo was eighth with 230,992.  The National Voting Rights Museum in Selma was ninth with 228,670.  EarlyWorks Museums in Huntsville was tenth with 165,000. 

The Alabama Tourism Department also released the Top Ten attendance figures for other categories.  Beaches of the Alabama Gulf Coast were the number one natural destination in the state, attracting 5.9 million visitors last year. The Birmingham Botanical Gardens attracted 350,000 visitors to make it the most attended free attraction. More than 1 million people celebrated Mobile’s Mardi Gras making it the most attended event.  Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa was the number one sports destination with 712,747 fans attending University of Alabama home football games.

To see an slide show of the top attractions, go to:


Alabama gets kudos on Southern Living list of ‘South’s Most Iconic Music Venues and Festivals’

By Mary Colurso,, Feb. 1

Alabama gets high marks today in Southern Living, as the magazine lists “The South’s Most Iconic Music Festivals and Venues.”

Three festivals and one concert venue in our state make the grade, covering points in North, Central and South Alabama. They’re in good company, listed alongside major events such as the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, South by Southwest and New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.


Sloss Festival is a two-day, summer throwdown at Birmingham’s Sloss Furnaces,” Southern Living says. “Focusing on emerging and independent artists across all genres, Sloss’ homegrown approach extends from the merchandise (posters from the country’s best designers) to the food vendors (craft beer only, please). Have a blast in the shadows of a historic blast furnace.”


“Unwind with three days of beaches, blankets, and bands. Enjoy the top-tier acts you’d expect from a major rock and hip hop festival, but one thing sets Hangout apart in a major way: It’s held right on the sand in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Pack your swimsuit.”


“A little over 15 years ago, Alabama re-routed Highway 280 to run south of Waverly, instead of destroying the little town by running it straight through the middle. Overjoyed, residents got together and planned the Old 280 Boogie, a music festival held annually on the third Saturday in April. Housed at the legendary silkscreen shop Standard Deluxe, it assembles a respected lineup of independent Southern talent like Alabama Shakes and Hurray for the Riff Raff.”

“This is the unofficial home of that Muscle Shoals sound. Located in downtown Florence, Alabama, 116 E. Mobile’s name is its address ‘so you’ll always know where to find us.’ It is a small but mighty place, one that wields big influence—much like the town of Florence itself.”

The goal, Southern Living says, is to note “some of the best festivals and landmark venues that have set the stage for our favorite musicians.”

To read this entire article online and see the videos, go to:


This is the best restaurant in Alabama, according to Business Insider

By Kelly Poe,, Jan. 26

Highlands Bar and Grill’s infusion of French techniques with Southern flavors earned the Birmingham institution the recognition as the best restaurant in Alabama, according to Business Insider.

In April, Business Insider named the restaurant the 18th best in the nation, moving up six spots from the year prior.

Business Insider named the best restaurant in every state using its previous restaurant rankings, James Beard Award nominations, expert reviews and local recommendations, with a focus on fine-dining establishments.

If the ranking heavily weighted James Beard Award nominations, it’s no surprise it picked Highlands: the restaurant has been nominated for the James Beard Foundation Award’s most outstanding restaurant in the country for the last seven years.

Chef-and-co-owner Frank Stitt
 grew up in Cullman before training under Alice Waters at Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California. Stitt opened Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham’s Five Points South in 1982, earning national recognition within two years. 

Highlands serves a seasonal menu that takes advantage of local farms like Snow’s Bend in Tuscaloosa County and Harvest Farm in Cullman County. The menu changes daily, but a few signature dishes remain constant.

To read this article online, go to:


Town & Country’s pick for the most romantic restaurant in Alabama

By Matt Wake,, Jan. 26

Just in time to goose Valentine’s Day dinner reservations, Town & Country magazine has named “The Most Romantic Restaurants In Every State.”

Huntsville’s Cotton Row is the New York based lifestyle publication’s choice for Alabama. Located at 100 South Side Square, the restaurant’s menu focuses on contemporary-meets-classic cuisine and current dinner entrees include such items as Grilled Chilean Salmon and Canadian Muscovy Duck Breast.

Of Cotton Row, Town & Country’s Sienna Fantozzi writes, “If the restaurant’s white linen tablecloths, candles, and historic wine cellar don’t say romantic, the old-world charm and character certainly will. Bonus: Farmers and foragers provide the restaurant with fresh and seasonal ingredients.”

Chef/restauranteur James Boyce and wife Suzan Boyce opened Cotton Row in 2008 after relocating from Laguna Beach, Calif.  

Also of note, given the association many people have of wine being integral to a romantic dinner: Cotton Row received the only “Best of Award Excellence” by an Alabama restaurant in Wine Spectator’s 2015 Restaurant Awards, which recognizes top wine lists.

Cotton Row is housed in a three-story brick building originally constructed in 1821.

The Boyces also operate Southern-tinged Commerce Kitchen (300 Franklin St.) and pizzeria Pane e Vino (300 Church St.) in Huntsville, and in 2014 expanded into Birmingham, debuting the modern, American-French-inspired Galley & Garden (2220 Highland Ave. S.).

Origins: Huntsville restaurateur/chef James Boyce

3 items Cotton Row restaurateur James Boyce always keeps in his home fridge

Cotton Row brunch dining review

Cotton Row lunch dining review

To read this entire article online, go to:


USA TODAY: visit these 50 places during Black History Month

By Sean Speers, USA TODAY, Jan. 29

From the moment the first African slaves arrived in the United States, through Reconstruction, war, Jim Crow and the civil rights movement, they’ve influenced American culture through the communities in which they lived, died, worked and worshipped.

6. Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

Located in the city’s Civil Rights District along with the 16th Street Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park and the Carver Theater, this is an interpretive museum which depicts the challenges of the American Civil Rights Movement. The permanent exhibitions are a self-directed tour through Birmingham’s place in civil rights history.

To read this entire article and see all 50 places, go to:


Walk inside the International Space Station? Now you can in Alabama

By Lee Roop,, Jan. 27

Want to walk inside the International Space Station and practice docking a robotic arm? See the latest in astronaut food? Bedrooms? Toilets?

You can do that and more in a new exhibit opened at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville. It’s called “ISS: Science on Orbit,” and it’s in the main center building on I-565.

Special guests at the opening were dozens of real space station science mission coordinators meeting this week at Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center. They’re in town to plan the next six months of space science with officials including station Chief Scientist Dr. Julie Robinson.

The exhibit seemed to pass their test, based on comments during the tour. “Just like that,” one NASA researcher was heard saying when asked if a certain feature of the bathroom closet was like the one in space.

In opening remarks, Robinson called the Marshall center the “heart and soul of the research that goes on on the space station since this where all of our payload research operations happen.”

The exhibit’s first stop is a mock-up of the multiple monitoring screens and command consoles at the Payload Operations Center at Marshall. The real ops center is on a daily bus tour that leaves from the center.

Space Center CEO Dr. Deborah Barnhart said everyone knows there is a space station, “but very few people know what kind of science is going on. That’s the point of this exhibition, to make sure people understand the benefits of the space station.”

Barnhart called special attention to the station’s Sally Ride Earth Cam, “a huge camera pointed at a view of the Earth.

We are proud that NASA has chosen the U.S. Space & Rocket Center to operate that camera along with our partners from (the University of Alabama in Huntsville) and Teledyne Brown (Engineering). On our very first mission in November, we had more than 20,000 students from 26 countries get images of their home town from the Earth Cam.”

The exhibit features two walk-through mock-ups of ISS modules with a “connecting node” containing a full-scale replica of the Cupola Observation Module, where astronauts take their famous photographs of Earth and space. 

“ISS: Science on Orbit” is open to center visitors during regular hours and is included in museum admission or membership.

To read this article online, go to:


Orange Beach to spend up to $10 million on seawall fix
By Drew Buchanan, The Pulse, Jan. 28

City of Orange Beach officials are looking to spend up to $10 million to make the once-popular Perdido Pass seawall overlooking the Florida-Alabama state line usable again.

The seawall was once an attractive fishing and sightseeing spot under the Perdido Pass Bridge. The seawall has been closed to the public behind a chain-link fence since 2012 because the structure is falling apart and unsafe for recreational use.

The Alabama Department of Transportation has said for several years that state funds are unavailable to rebuild the wall, estimated to cost up $10 million. In the state’s absence, local officials have stepped up.

City of Orange Beach officials say the initial plan is to convert the area behind the seawall to a beach-like shoreline, removing impervious asphalt and concrete that has continually been eroded. Plans also call for moving the parking lot further inland.

Orange Beach Director of Coastal Resources Phillip West says the project could range from $300,000 to $10 million, depending on what city officials decide to propose to the state. The land falls under the jurisdiction of the state and requires approval from Montgomery.

The seawall surrounding the shore along Alabama Point has been slammed by frequent high surf and has been significantly eroded.

City officials says the failure of the seawall is being caused by rust along the metal barrier that is often overtopped by sea water. Over 30 years, the seawall has corroded, allowing the sand that stabilizes the shoreline to escape through rusted-out holes in the barrier. As sand has been eroded away, the parking lot along the seawall has collapsed over time.

Orange Beach has been working with engineering firm Burk-Kleinpeter to study the extent of the damage and to present a plan to the city to reopen the recreational area to the public.

Officials say an initial fix would seek to bring public access back to Alabama point and may not be a permanent solution. It could take several years to find money to rebuild the wall completely. Other parts of the plan being considered are permanent bathrooms to replace the port-a-lets and a fish-cleaning house.

To read this article online, go to:


Arab Historic Village ranked first by travel site

By Charles Whisenant, The Arab Tribune, Jan. 27

The travel website, recently compiled a list of the top historic villages in Alabama, and Arab Historic Village at Arab City Park ranked number one.

“These historic villages in Alabama will transport you into a different time,” the website says.

The site lists the top villages, tells a little about each and include photos from each.

“There’s no denying that Alabama is filled with great history,” the site says. “With that being said, there are several towns throughout the state with historical villages that capture Alabama’s history and spirit. Listed below are historic villages in Alabama that will undoubtedly transport you to the past.” 

For more, go to:


GulfQuest named Project of the Year

The Mobile Area Council of Engineers (MACE) has named GulfQuest National Maritime Museum its 2016 Project of the Year.

The City of Mobile partnered with the non-profit National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico to construct this 120,000 sq. ft. interactive maritime museum. Opened in September 2015, GulfQuest is the first museum in the world dedicated to the Gulf Coast’s rich maritime traditions – and one of only two interactive maritime museums in the country.

Thompson Engineering was the Engineer of Record on the GulfQuest project, and Thompson’s sister company, Watermark Design Group, provided the architectural design. GulfQuest is the centerpiece of Mobile Landing, also designed by Thompson Engineering.

Officials with MACE elaborated on the project in a statement saying, “the design of the structure features a large globe protruding through the roof, representing the Gulf’s connection to the world, and a bridge that adds to the nautical look that serves as home to the high-tech interactive exhibits. The interior includes a Grand Lobby, a large rotunda that provides ground-floor access to amenities including ticketing, a full-service café and a museum store.

Other features include observation decks, an orientation theater, galleries for traveling exhibits, meeting rooms, classrooms, and event spaces. The museum also contains a flood-proofed basement, and the main floor is elevated to 16-feet.”

“The Board of Trustees and the staff were all very excited to learn about this award,” Tony Zodrow, GulfQuest executive director said. “Thompson Engineering and Watermark Design Group took on a huge project, and of course, the end result is a magnificent building that houses a museum like no other. Our visitors are amazed by not only the interactive exhibits, but by the building itself. We are very proud of GulfQuest, and equally proud that Thompson Engineering is being recognized with this prestigious award.”


Learn how to work with the Alabama Tourism Department

The Alabama Tourism Department will soon host a Tourism Workshop in Montgomery.  This workshop is for new tourism industry members, event organizers and anyone interested in enhancing tourism in their area.  

Watch upcoming editions of this newsletter for information on the workshop.

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


Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

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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