Tourism Tuesdays March 8, 2016

  • Year of Alabama Makers: Food, festivals, cars, craft beer and more
  • Southern Makers festival coming to Birmingham
  • Ten fun festivals and events to celebrate the Year of Alabama Makers
  • Business Alabama: Family businesses anchor coastal tourism recovery
  • Business Alabama: All hail the trail
  • RSA, Alabama Black Belt Adventures partnership is boosting outdoor tourism in region
  • AJC lists fun Alabama destinations for the family
  • New-to-Alabama hotel coming to CityCentre in downtown Huntsville
  • Gregg Allman Band is recording a new album in Muscle Shoals
  • Helen Keller for the new ten dollar bill
  • The path less traveled
  • The South’s Literary Legends
  • Bellingrath Gardens and Home’s executive director is Festival of Flowers honorary chairman
  • Bellingrath’s 80th anniversary spotlights architect, George B. Rogers
  • Foley Sports Tourism Complex inks deal with Snap Soccer
  • Alabama Tourism Workshop April 27
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


Year of Alabama Makers: Food, festivals, cars, craft beer and more

By Bob Carlton,, March 3

Alabama’s abundance of chefs, food producers, brewers, winemakers, quilters, designers, musicians, writers, artists and automakers will be in the spotlight all throughout 2016 during the Alabama Tourism Department’s Year of Alabama Makers celebration.

The state tourism agency launched the year-long campaign today at press conferences at Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark in Birmingham and at the C&P Mercantile store in Montgomery.

“The Year of Alabama Makers will celebrate everything from Gee’s Bend quilts to Mercedes SUVs,” Lee Sentell, the state’s tourism director, said in a media release. “This is all about the people who are bringing imagination and art together with commerce and manufacturing. Alabama has so much talent, and we want to showcase it.”

At the Birmingham press conference, Sentell added: “When tourists travel, they always want to buy something from the city or the county or the country that they’re visiting. So what we’re doing this year is introducing people to hundreds of different makers and creators so they can get products or souvenirs from their visits, whether it’s food or handmade glass or a Mercedes or a Gee’s Bend quilt.”

Two of the main events during the year-long celebration will be the Southern Makers festivals — one in Montgomery, where the festival began in 2013, and a new one in Birmingham that will take place this fall.

The two-day festivals will each showcase about 150 to 200 Alabama  makers and their respective products — which include everything from coffee and craft beer to pickles and goat cheese, honey and hand soap to pottery and folk art.

The Southern Makers in Montgomery will take place the weekend of April 30-May 1 at the Union Station Train Shed, and the Southern Makers in Birmingham will be the weekend of Sept. 10-11 at Sloss Furnaces.

Also, the Market at Pepper Place in Birmingham will host a Makers’ Village each Saturday morning during the months of June, July and August. The Makers’ Village will be set up in the parking lot of chef Chris Hastings’ new

OvenBird restaurant and will feature a variety of artisans and craftspeople, along with demos and live music.

The tourism department’s 2016 Alabama Vacation Guide and Calendar of Events includes a special 10-page section highlighting Alabama Makers and the products made in the state. The vacation guide is available at the eight state welcome centers, at local tourism bureaus and online at

Some of the 140 Alabama Makers featured throughout the year include artist Charlie Lucas in Birmingham, Belle Chevre Cheese in Elkmont, Earth Creations in Bessemer, Hyundai Motors in Montgomery, chef Frank Stitt in Birmingham, Wickles Pickles in Dadeville, artist Butch Anthony in Seale, Orbix Hot Glass in Fort Payne and musicians St. Paul and the Broken Bones in Birmingham.

Each month, the tourism website will include expanded profiles on select Alabama Makers. For March, they include the Jack Daniel’s Cooperage Barrel Maker in Trinity, HERObike in Greensboro, Back Forty Beer in Gadsden and clothing designer Natalie Chanin in Florence.

The website also lists places where travelers may buy Alabama-made goods, including C& P Mercantile in Montgomery, Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment in Huntsville, Southern Accents Architectural Antiques in Cullman, Kentuck Art Center in Northport, Cathedral Square Gallery in Mobile and Black Belt Treasures in Camden.

Some of the Alabama Tourism Department’s previous “year of” campaigns have included the Year of Alabama Music, the Year of Alabama Food and the Year of Alabama Barbecue.

To read this entire article online, go to:


Southern Makers festival coming to Birmingham

By Bob Carlton,, March 3

The popular Southern Makers festival, which has sold out in each of its first three years in Montgomery, has added a second festival that will take place in Birmingham later this year.

The two-day event, scheduled for the weekend of Sept. 10-11 at Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark, will showcase the goods and products of more than 200 of Alabama’s most creative cooks, brewers, farmers, builders, artists, designers and craftspeople.

“There are a lot of makers throughout this state that have been doing a craft, whether that’s producing soap, whether that’s brewing beer, whether that’s furniture making or boat making — architectural salvage to art to architecture,” Garlan Gudger, one of the founders of Southern Makers, said at a press conference today at Sloss Furnaces.

“The first year (2013), we thought we might have a couple of hundred people there and (get) a slap on the back and say, ‘Good job,'” Gudger, who also owns Southern Accents Architectural Antiques in Cullman, said. “It sold out — 2,500 tickets — and we realized, ‘We’re on to something here.’. . .

“It’s inbred in you (in the South) not to speak and brag about what you do,” he added. “This is a platform of Southern creativity and innovation that allows people to say, ‘I’m good at what I do, I’m good at making.’

“And we’re proud that these makers are in Alabama, and we’re proud that we’re going to be able to sponsor a second event here in Birmingham, Ala., this year, along with the one in Montgomery.”

Tourism agency announces Year of Alabama Makers

The Alabama Tourism Department will celebrate the state’s artists, entrepreneurs and manufacturers during year-long campaign.

This year’s Montgomery Southern Makers festival takes place April 30-May 1 at the Union Station Train Shed.

Among the nearly 150 makers participating in Montgomery this year are Alabama Chanin, Back Forty Beer Company, Earthborn Studios, G Momma’s Cookies, Great Bear Wax Co., Left Hand Soap Co., Olive & Sinclair Chocolate Co., Revelator Coffee, Standard Deluxe, Stone Hollow Farmstead, and Wickles Pickles.

Southern Makers will begin accepting applications for the Birmingham festival sometime after the Montgomery event, Gudger said.

“When we open applications for Birmingham, it’s going to be large,” he said. “I would imagine we’ll have close to 1,000 applicants, and we’ll try to get around 200 to 250 makers here.

“We want to make sure it’s diverse, but the key is that you do your craft with a passion and that it’s quality. This is not an arts and crafts show. It’s totally different. And when you come, you’ll see the difference.”

To read entire article:

10 fun ways to celebrate the Year of Alabama Makers

Throughout 2016, the Alabama Tourism Department is honoring the artists, craftspeople, musicians, writers, designers, brewers, winemakers and food producers who make the state special.

Although there will be a lot of competition for a spot at the festival, those makers who are accepted will not have to pay an entry fee, Gudger added.

“It is an honor, we feel like, if we allow you to be a maker at this show,” he said. “We don’t charge the makers vendor fees or booth rentals like every other show in the world. If you make this, you are our guest of honor and we want to make sure you feel special.”

Tickets for the Birmingham event will go on sale in about a month on the Southern Makers website, Gudger said.

Gudger expects the event will attract about 10,000 festival-goers over the two days.

Guests will enjoy food and beer samples from some of the participating makers, and Saturday’s event also will include a concert that night. The musical guest will be announced later, Gudger said.

Both the Montgomery and Birmingham Southern Makers events are part of the Year of Alabama Makers campaign that the Alabama Tourism Department announced today.

To read this article online, go to:

Ten fun festivals and events to celebrate the Year of Alabama Makers

Throughout 2016, the Alabama Tourism Department is honoring the artists, craftspeople, musicians, writers, designers, brewers, winemakers and food producers who make the state special.

Find out more about the Year of Alabama makers here.

Also, if you want to be part of the celebration, here are 10 festivals and events to put on your calendar.

Fairhope Arts & Crafts Festival, Old 280 Boogie, Panoply Arts Festival, Magic City Art Connection, Southern Makers: Montgomery, Black Belt Folk Roots Festival, Southern Makers: Birmingham, Bluff Park Arts Show, Kentuck Festival of the Arts and the 50th Annual Pike Road Arts & Crafts Fair.  For more events celebrating the Year of Alabama Makers, go to:

To read this article online, go to:


Business Alabama: Family businesses anchor coastal tourism recovery

By Cary Estes, Business Alabama, March

Lodging tax revenue has risen more than 40 percent since the 2009-2010 downturn in Gulf Coast tourism following the recession and BP oil spill, according to figures released in late January by the Alabama Tourism Department.

After increasing every year from 2003 through 2008, the lodging tax contribution to the state’s general fund dropped in 2009 due to the recession, then stayed flat in 2010 following the oil spill. But it rose from $33.2 million in 2010 to $37.6 million in 2011, and has continued to increase every year since. The contribution from 2015 is projected to be a record $46.7 million, a 42 percent increase from the 2009-10 average and nearly double the 2003 value of $24.2 million.

While the lodging tax revenue is not broken down by region, a significant portion of it comes from beach tourism.

The Gulf Coast is easily the number one tourist destination in the state, attracting nearly 6 million visitors last year, according to the Alabama Tourism Department. The next closest attraction in terms of visitors was the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville with 658,000.

“A large portion of the 93-percent increase in lodging taxes since 2003 can definitely be attributed to beach tourism,” Alabama Tourism Department Director Lee Sentell says. “The Gulf Shores-Orange Beach area is the magnet that pulls Midwesterners through the whole state and gives everybody a shot at them.

“So I credit a lot of this increase to the Gulf Coast. Not only did they survive the oil spill, but I think everybody is surprised at how quickly the recovery came.”

Sentell believes one of the main reasons the Gulf Coast bounced back so quickly is because of the area’s large number of independent family-owned businesses, whose owners were reluctant to leave what they consider to be their home.

“A lot of these businesses have been there for two and three generations and have roots in the ground,” Sentell says.

“If a large portion of the businesses had been national franchises, I think a lot of them would have moved out. But these family businesses said, ‘We have no other place to go. This is where we live. This is who we are.’

“So they made it through the oil spill and were still there the next year. I think having so many local businesses is why they’ve been so successful.”

To read this article online, go to:


Business Alabama: All hail the trail

By Cary Estes, Business Alabama, March

It has been said that the journey is more important than the destination. But what if there are numerous destinations within a single journey? What if getting from point A to point B requires an entire alphabet of stops along the way? In that situation, wouldn’t the destinations become the entire reason for the journey?

That is the basic thinking behind tourism trails. Instead of promoting sites and attractions individually, the goal is to link them together either physically or conceptually. Take a specific subject such as barbecue restaurants or bird watching, and then give people multiple places to go and things to see that are connected to that topic, all along one organized route.

“A place like a museum or a park is a single destination. It’s just one point to go to,” says Nisa Miranda, director of the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development. “But if you create a trail, you’re actually connecting several points. So the tourists and outdoor recreationalists come for a longer period of time.”

In Alabama, this concept became popular with the creation in the early 1990s of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, a series of 26 championship-caliber golf courses at 11 sites across the state. Vacation packages have been created that enable golfers to travel from course to course over several days, spending money on food, lodging and entertainment along the way. More than 500,000 people play golf on an RTJ Trail course every year, many of them from out of state.

Officials with the Alabama Tourism Department liked this idea so much that over the years they have created an entire series of tourist trails, with links to 16 of them on the department’s website at

“We started packaging different venues together for people who have strong interests in certain niche topics,” Alabama Tourism Department Director Lee Sentell says. “It’s a way to tell people if they like this one thing, then they’ll probably like these other nine things as well. The word ‘trail’ gives it the appearance of more mass, and therefore more of an allure to a person who is going to travel 100 miles to get there.

“The thing we like to do in tourism marketing is make it easy for somebody to say, ‘Yes, I’m going to buy that experience.’ So if someone has already put together all the different components of a trip for them — what to see, where to eat, where to stay, what else is there to do nearby — and connects things in some way, then people are more likely to visit.”

Here is a quick look at some of the tourism trails to be found in Alabama:

Civil Rights Museum Trail — The trail features Civil Rights sites in Selma, Montgomery, Birmingham, Tuskegee, Scottsboro, Anniston, Greensboro and Marion. Highlights include the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma (site of the famous 1965 Voting Rights March), Brown Chapel in Montgomery (where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. launched the Voting Rights Movement), Montgomery’s Rosa Parks Museum, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, and the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham (where four girls were killed in a 1963 bombing).

Food Trail — Details for this trail can be found at It features popular restaurants that represent the tastes in different regions of the state. Included are the North Alabama Trail, Taste of the Magic City Trail, Alabama Heartland Trail, Lower Alabama Trail and the Coastal Cuisine Trail. The trail is part of the Alabama Food marketing campaign that includes the popular brochure “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die.” There is also a smartphone app based on the brochure, as well as the book “Alabama Food: Classic Dishes, Restaurants & Chefs.”

BBQ Trail — Yes, this could be part of the Food Trail, except that barbecue in Alabama is an experience all its own. “Rural barbecue restaurants have a mystique about them,” Sentell says. “The harder it is to find, the better. It has to be a pilgrimage. You have to travel some distance, and hopefully you will shed some stress along the way. It’s sort of a transformative experience.” The BBQ Trail is an app that can be downloaded at The free app has information on more than 75 barbecue restaurants in 52 cities across the state. The app includes history of each of the restaurants, as well as their most popular dishes. It also will allow users to set an alert so their phone will notify them when they are within 20 miles of one of their chosen barbecue spots. The app is based on the book “Alabama Barbecue: Delicious Road Trips.”

Birding Trail — This is one of the most inclusive trail projects in the state, with 270 sites along eight trails in 64 of Alabama’s 67 counties. More than 430 bird species have been documented in the state. The birding trail was first established along the Gulf Coast in the 1990s and expanded to include north Alabama in the early 2000s. The Alabama Tourism Department partnered with the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development in 2010 to organize and manage trails throughout the remainder of Alabama. The website features a searchable online database with photos, mapping and in-depth descriptions written by naturalists, and a list of local bird walks and statewide bird festivals.

Hank Williams Trail — This trail highlights sites where important events took place in the life and career of country music star Hank Williams. The 20-page brochure provides information about sites in Georgiana, Montgomery, Alexander City, Birmingham and Tuscumbia. Highlights include the official Hank Williams Museum, as well as his grave at Oakwood Cemetery, both in Montgomery.

Garden Trail — Seven botanical gardens across the state are featured in the trail brochure and on the companion website Stops include the Huntsville Botanical Gardens, Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Aldridge Gardens in Hoover, Jasmine Hill Gardens in Wetumpka, Dothan Botanical Gardens, Mobile Botanical Gardens and Bellingrath Gardens and Home in Theodore.

Scenic River Trail — At 631 miles, this is the longest water trail within any single state in the country. It starts at the Georgia state line near Cedar Bluff and winds across nine lakes, seven rivers and two creeks before ending at Fort Morgan on the Gulf Coast. The Alabama Scenic River Trail Association publishes five guide booklets, each describing in detail the route through a specific portion of the trail. The booklets also provide information regarding campgrounds, marinas, put-in and take-out locations and points of interest along the way.

Chief Ladiga Trail — Using the existing path of a former Seaboard/CSX Railroad line, this was the first rails-to-trails project completed in Alabama. The 33-mile trail stretches from the town of Weaver near Anniston to the Georgia state line. There it connects to the Silver Comet Trail and continues to just outside Atlanta, making this 90-mile corridor the longest continuous paved rails-to-trails path in the country.

Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail — The one that blazed the way for the trails that followed. “We wanted something that would make people stop in Alabama as opposed to passing through Alabama,” said Retirement Systems of Alabama CEO David Bronner, who helped create the RTJ Golf Trail. The trail has grown to a total of 468 holes of golf, including three courses considered to be of such high quality that they have hosted national professional golf tournaments: The Senator course at Capitol Hill in Prattville, The Crossings course at Magnolia Grove near Mobile and The Grand National course in Opelika.

To read this article online, go to:


RSA, Alabama Black Belt Adventures partnership is boosting outdoor tourism in region

By Michael Tomberlin, Alabama News Center, March 6

The hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreational opportunities in Alabama’s Black Belt region have been an unintentional secret for too long.

Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association
(ALBBAA) and the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) are changing that as they promote the region for ecotourism and outdoor enthusiasts within the state and throughout the country.

A series of television ads featuring Ray Scott, founder of Bassmaster, and Jackie Bushman, founder of Buckmasters, extoll the virtues of hunting and fishing in the region. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley even shows up in some of the spots. Arts, culture and barbecue are also threads that run in the ads.

RSA is using time on the Raycom Media television stations it owns and space in the Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. (CNHI) that it financed to promote recreation and tourism in the Black Belt’s 23 counties. The collaboration is paying off.

“Since 2013, visits to the Black Belt Adventures’ website have almost doubled with more than 60,000 outdoor enthusiasts learning about our region’s recreational assets. We attribute RSA’s donated media placements as a major factor to this success,” said ALBBAA founder and Chairman Thomas Harris. “From the website, people from all over the country find perfect hunting and fishing grounds and spots for great outdoors vacations. It’s because Dr. Bronner and the RSA invested in TV and newspapers that the Alabama Black Belt is able to tell its story on a national stage, from New York to Honolulu.”

“Dr. Bronner” is David Bronner, head of the RSA.

RSA has been leveraging its investments in Raycom and CNHI for years to promote tourism in the state and boost interest in the Robert Trent Jones (RTJ) Golf Trail, a series of golf courses in the state that RSA also owns.

Bronner said when Harris pitched the idea of using some of that advertising time and space to boost the Black Belt, he was all for it.

“Being in Alabama all of these decades, we have seen it has been tremendously difficult to promote the Black Belt for economic development,” Bronner said.

Bronner said the lack of infrastructure, skilled workforce and its low population are among the Black Belt’s shortcomings often cited by economic developers. What it doesn’t lack is an abundance of land and waterways for hunting, fishing, camping, hiking and other recreational uses. The rising number of hunting and fishing lodges and restaurants catering to those enthusiasts is also among the region’s assets. There are even some RTJ golf courses mixed in.

“What (Harris) was talking about made perfect sense,” Bronner said. “I knew Black Belt Adventures didn’t have the ability to pay for a large-scale advertising campaign like we could make possible through Raycom and CNHI.”

RSA used the media reach of Raycom (53 television stations in 37 markets in 18 states) and CNHI’s more than 130 newspapers to promote the Black Belt. The advertising was valued at more than $4.2 million and has spread the word from the Americus Times Recorder in Georgia to The Cullman Times in Alabama to The Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma to The Daily Item in Pennsylvania and beyond.

“My overall focus is to provide strong returns to the Retirement Systems of Alabama,” Bronner said.

Bronner said a couple of decades ago he looked at a U.S. map and realized that every year a large number of people were traveling from northern states to Florida.

“It was like an hourglass and those people could either pass through Georgia or pass through Alabama,” Bronner said. “We needed to give them reasons to funnel through Alabama and even stop along the way.”

The RTJ golf trail has done that. Bronner and RSA have used Raycom and CNHI to promote other venues, destinations and events in Alabama.

In the two dozen years since the first RTJ courses opened, more than 11 million rounds of golf have been played there. Bronner noted that before the RTJ, tourism in Alabama was a $1.8 billion industry. The most recent figures put that number at close to $12 billion annually.

“Black Belt Adventures now offers visitors other great reasons to come back to spend time and money in our state,” Bronner said. “From golf and spas to hunting and other outdoor adventures, tourism spending helps Alabama financially while enhancing our image internationally. These efforts make Alabama stronger, which is our ultimate goal.”

Tom Lanier, owner of Shenandoah Plantation in Union Springs, said tourism is a sustainable industry in the Black Belt, and a number of small businesses like his are proving the viability.

“Shenandoah has seen the benefits from the efforts of ALBBAA and the contributions from RSA have contributed significantly to the growth of the industry,” Lanier said. “We are seeing visitation reach the levels experienced prior to the recession. It’s a valuable marketing tool that helps us to promote Shenandoah Plantation and brand the region as a hunting destination.”

Nearly 3,000 potential visitors have inquired about a Black Belt visit through the ALBBAA website. Nearly one-third of respondents to recent ALBBAA inquiries said that these television and newspaper ads inspired them to seek more information and visit Alabama’s Black Belt for hunting, fishing and other adventures.

“We are thankful for Dr. Bronner’s generosity and his understanding that tourism is a thriving economic development tool for the Black Belt region and all of Alabama,” said Pam Swanner, ALBBAA project director. “Leveraging state resources with RSA media outlets is a winning combination. Dr. David G. Bronner, like our board of directors, is dedicated to helping Alabama attract visitors and tourism dollars to a region that relies heavily on the outdoors industry as a sustainable revenue source.  We’re thrilled with the results of this advertising campaign.”

To read this article online, go to:


AJC lists fun Alabama destinations for the family

By H.M. Cauley, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Feb. 21

Got a weekend? Get away for more than an escape; go for an experience. Thanks to the world’s busiest airport being nearby, destinations for memorable trips aren’t limited to the distance the car can go on a tank of gas.


For many Atlantans, Montgomery is just the halfway mark to the Alabama beaches. But it’s worth a stopover to see what the city has to offer. In 2014, USA Today readers voted it the “best historic city,” and, as the state capital, there is plenty to take in.

Start at the statehouse (600 Dexter Ave. 334-242-3935,, a National Historic Landmark built in 1851. Inside, visitors can climb the curved staircases to the base of the painted rotunda, stand on the spot where Confederate President Jefferson Davis was inaugurated in 1861, and see the steps where the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march ended in 1965. The Civil Rights Memorial (400 Washington Ave. 334-956-8200,, a black granite table inscribed with the names of those who died for the movement, was designed by Maya Lin, who also created the Vietnam Memorial in Washington.

At Troy University, the Rosa Parks Library and Museum houses a children’s wing, artifacts and a replica of the bus she rode, telling the story of the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955-56 (252 Montgomery St. 334-241-8615, Head down to Riverfront Park (355 Coosa St. 334- 625-2100, to catch a concert, have dinner on a riverboat cruising the Alabama River or catch a ball game with the Montgomery Biscuits, the AA team of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Hank Williams fans won’t want to miss the museum and grave site of the country music superstar (118 Commerce St. 334-262-3600, The Alabama Shakespeare Festival (1 Festival Drive. 334-271-5353, stages many of the Bard’s classics, as well as popular favorites such as “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Cinderella,” and invites everyone to take a backstage tour.

Montgomery Convention & Visitor Bureau, 300 Water St., Montgomery. 334-262-0013,, @MGMCapitalCool.

To read this entire article online, go to:

In another article on Feb. 27:

U.S. Space and Rocket Center

The rockets that sent men to the moon were developed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. Learn all about it, and the space race in general, when you take a tour of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center ($23 adults, $15 kids. 1 Tranquility Base, Huntsville, Ala. 256-837-3400, Experience simulated space flight, Space Camp, rockets galore, Imax — and freeze-dried ice cream just like the astronauts eat.

Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

In Gulf Shores, not far from the beach, you’ll find the “little zoo that could.” The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo ($11 adults, $8 kids. 1204 Gulf Shores Parkway, Gulf Shores, Ala. 251-968-5732, gained national attention in 2006 when it was spotlighted in an Animal Planet series that documented the zoo coming back to life after being swamped by Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina and all of its animals having to be rescued and evacuated. The zoo bounced back with vigor and has expansion plans in progress. The popular Animal Encounters program allows visitors to go inside the enclosures for an unforgettable hands-on experience interacting with baby kangaroos, tiger cubs, lemurs and other animals.

Point Clear resort

Listed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the historic hotels of America, the Grand Hotel (Rates start at $239. 1 Grand Blvd., Point Clear, Ala; 1-800-678-8946,, located in Point Clear on the Eastern shore of Mobile Bay, is a full-service luxury resort steeped in tradition and ideally suited for families with young children. Activities abound at the Grand Hotel, which has its own private beach on the bay and a course on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. Don’t miss the daily cannon firing, which honors the military and commemorates the Civil War battle that took place in the bay.

To read this article online, go to:

To read this entire article online, go to:

And another article on Feb. 27:

From minor-league baseball and some of the world’s best public golf courses, to mountain biking and coastal backcountry hiking, Alabama offers much for those much for those who enjoy active vacations.

Birmingham baseball

Even though the city doesn’t field a Major League Baseball team, Birmingham has a rich baseball heritage. It’s home to the nation’s oldest still-standing professional baseball park, Rickwood Field, which opened in 1910 (two years before Boston’s Fenway Park, the oldest MLB ballpark). The Birmingham Barons, a minor league team with roots dating back to the 1880s, called Rickwood Field home for decades before moving to a suburban stadium in 1988.

In 2013, the Barons returned to the city with the opening of Regions Field (1401 1st Ave. S., Birmingham. 205-988-3200,

This state-of-the-art ballpark, just 2.5 miles from Rickwood Field, harks back to the glory days of early baseball in design, but steps up to the plate with modern amenities such as a concourse with a 360-degree view that allows you to see the ballgame as you walk through the complex, luxury suites and entertainment areas for kids and adults.

Adding to the allure of Regions Field is what surrounds it: The revitalized Parkview District contains other big draws, such as Railroad Park and Good People Brewing Co., where crowds gather whether or not the Barons are playing.

Take your baseball excursion the old-fashioned way, by train. Amtrak provides daily service to Birmingham from Atlanta on the Crescent line. The train station in Birmingham is within easy walking distance of Regions Field. But, you’ll need to summon a taxi or ride-hail service to get to the nearest hotels, in the nearby Southside neighborhood, where you’ll also find many of the city’s best restaurants and nightclubs.

Don’t forget to make a pilgrimage to Rickwood Field (1137 2nd Ave. W., Birmingham. 205-458-8161, while in town, to pay your respects to the granddaddy of all ballparks.

Gulf Coast trails

There’s much more to Alabama’s short stretch of Gulf Coast than a pretty beach. Natural treasures abound beyond the sands in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, best experienced from one of the backcountry trails running through maritime forests and large secondary dune fields.

The Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail system runs for more than 15 miles through six distinct ecosystems in Gulf State Park (22050 Campground Road, Gulf Shores, Ala. 251-948-7275, and Orange Beach. Alligators peek from the swamp, bald eagles soar overhead and bobcat and white-tailed deer sightings are common. Seven trails, most paved with asphalt, welcome hikers, walkers, joggers, bikers and even campers.

The new Primitive Outpost Campsite area provides one of the best overnight deals on the coast: $50 gets you a wood-framed canvas tent with hardwood floors and four comfortable cots for the night. Firewood is provided, as is a pump sink for fresh water. Pristine natural beauty awaits just outside your tent flap, and the beach is a short bike ride away on the trail, as well as the bathhouse, camp store and swimming pool.

Also worth taking is the Pine Beach Trail inside the Perdue unit of the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge (12295 Ala. 180, Gulf Shores, Ala. 251-540-7720, The 4-mile out-and-back trail runs through scrub forest, dune habitats and past freshwater lakes and saltwater lagoons all the way to the beach. Along the way is a great view of Gator Lake. Also in the refuge, the 1-mile Jeff Friend Trail is an easy boardwalk loop with great views and universal accessibility.

All of the trails mentioned above are stops on the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail, which runs along the coast, around Mobile Bay and into its estuary system.

Oak Mountain biking

Explore one of the most sought out mountain biking trail systems in the Southeast in Oak Mountain State Park (200 Terrace Drive, Pelham, Ala. 205-620-2524,, 20 minutes south of Birmingham.

Mountain bikers from around the country come to ride the Double Oak Trail, or the Red Trail, as it’s more commonly known. This 25-mile system of single-track bliss in the valleys and ridges of the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains features rides suitable for beginners, intermediates and experts. In 2010, the International Mountain Biking Association deemed the Red Trail an “epic ride,” the highest honor the organization bestows on a trail. Less than 70 trails and trail systems worldwide can claim that status.

Plan your trip around a concert at Oak Mountain Amphitheater, a popular outdoor music venue that brings top touring acts to town in the warmer months.

Cabins ($129 per night) and campsites ($18-$30 per night) are available inside the state park.

Motorsports museums

Most racing fans are familiar with Talladega and its famous speedway, which opened in 1969, and the adjacent International Motorsports Hall of Fame, but Alabama has a newer race complex that’s been drawing a lot of attention.

Barber Motorsports Park (6030 Barber Motorsports Parkway, Birmingham. 205-699-7275,, with its winding, curvy track in the rolling hills, brings true Indy-style Grand Prix road racing and motorcycle racing to the South throughout the year.

Founded by Alabama dairy magnate George Barber, a former race car driver, the park also offers the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum (admission $15). The museum contains Barber’s impressive collection of motorcycles and race cars from different eras.

If you’d like to indulge your racing fantasies, the complex is home to the Porsche Sport Driving School, where you’ll get to make those hairpins turns at high speeds yourself after passing the core curriculum (classes start at $1,800).

Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail

It surprises many people to learn that Alabama is one of the top golfing destinations in the country.

Golfers flock to play the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (1-800-949-4444,, a series of public golf courses snaking throughout the state, from the southern coast to the mountains in the north. The New York Times has called the trail, which features 26 courses at 11 different sites, “some of the best public golf on Earth.”

The courses are expertly designed, well-maintained and on par with the best private courses. Many locations along the trail have full-service resorts and spas, as well, making it easy to take a full vacation centered around the links.

To read this article online, go to:


New-to-Alabama hotel coming to CityCentre in downtown Huntsville

By Lucy Berry,, March 3

A new-to-market hotel will begin rising this summer at the CityCentre at Big Spring project in downtown Huntsville.

AC Hotels by Marriott will launch a 150-unit boutique hotel at the site across from Big Spring International Park. The name of the hotel was presented tonight at the Huntsville City Council work session.

Harrison Diamond, the city’s business relations officer, confirmed the news. news partner WHNT 19 reports
 the hotel will serve a variety of price points when it opens.

The AC Hotels website
said guests can look forward to modern rooms, an AC Lounge area, kitchen with self-serve European fare, Wi-Fi everywhere, mobile check-in and check-out, and a 24-hour fitness center.

The hospitality brand currently has eight U.S. locations in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Miami Beach, Washington, D.C., and New Orleans. Several AC Hotel sites are also in operation in Spain, Italy, Denmark, France, United Kingdom, Portugal, Turkey, Mexico and Panama. has contacted CityCentre at Big Spring developer RCP Companies for more details. RCP, a boutique real estate firm based in Huntsville, is also leading the redevelopment of Madison Square Mall.

In October, RCP said CityCentre
will feature almost 50,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, more than 270 “upscale” apartment homes, two parking garages, modern office lofts, as well as two hotels with more than 230 rooms. 

RCP said Alabama-based Yedla Hotel Management, which owns and operates Starwood, Marriott and Hilton franchises, would run the hotels.

A timeline presented at the council work session said hotel construction should begin in May/June, followed by internal roads, a parking deck, retail space and multi-family units from July through September.

To read this article online, go to:


Gregg Allman Band is recording a new album in Muscle Shoals, March 7

Early this year, guitarist and bandleader Scott Sharrard revealed plans for The Gregg Allman Band to enter the studio to record original material, rumored to be called All Compositions By Gregg Allman. The session is currently going down at the legendary Fame Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, where Allman has plenty of history already. 

According to a heartfelt message from Sharrard’s Facebook page, this is “Gregg’s first studio album with his own band since the 1980’s (Searching for Simplicity and Low Country Blues were done with mostly studio sidemen instead of Gregg’s touring band).”

Allman Brothers’ percussionist Marc Quiñones is in the band, as well as bassist Ron Johnson, saxophonists Art Edmaiston and Jay Collins, trumpeter Marc Franklin, keyboardist Peter Levin, and drummer Steve Potts. They’ve got Don Was as their producer and are recording songs co-written by Allman and Sharrard, as well as some Scott Sharrard Band covers, like “Love Like Kerosene”.  

If you haven’t experienced Gregg Allman with his new band, we highly recommend it. The band takes a refreshed approach to some original ABB tunes, while also introducing more recent work by Allman and Sharrard.

To read this entire article online, go to:


Helen Keller for the new ten dollar bill

Social media is being used by the Treasury Department to solicit ideas and “votes” for the person whose image will appear on the new ten dollar bill. 

To see the video that describes the process of going to the U.S. Treasury site or Tweeting #thenew10 to advocate for Helen Keller as the choice for the new bill, go to:

The link to the Treasury site is: 

In exercising the responsibility to select currency features and design, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has made clear that the public’s input is an important and valuable part of the process for the redesign of the $10 note.  The Treasury wants to hear from the American people and engage in a public dialogue about how we can use the new $10 note to best represent the values of our inclusive democracy. Treasury staff will also seek public comment through other forums including round tables, and open houses. Share your ideas, symbols, designs or any other feedback that can inform the Secretary as he considers options for the $10 redesign.

The next step in the process is that the Treasury Dept. will go through all the activity across the social stream, and highlight some favorite #TheNew10 posts on the website. The path less traveled

By Martin Kaufmann,, Feb. 22

Here’s a term you’ll probably never hear on the practice tee: “lupulin phase shift.”  Brad Wilson dropped that doozy on me before I had even worked my way through my wedges on the range at Silver Lakes, a 36-hole facility here on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.

I had arrived in northeast Alabama assuming I’d spend a relaxing day with some good ol’ boys from Back Forty Beer Co., based a few miles from Silver Lakes, in downtown Gadsden. We’d play a little golf, drink a few pops, have a few laughs. Good day, right?

And before we had even reached the first tee, Wilson was giving me a tutorial that was part chemistry, part consumer marketing. Lupulin, it turns out, is the active ingredient in hops, which puts the bite in your brew. The “phase shift,” Wilson explained, refers to the consumer’s desire, over time, for increasingly hoppy ales.

Who knew drinking beer was so complicated? That was one of the lessons I learned during a trip to two rural stops on the Jones Trail, first here in Gadsden and later in Muscle Shoals, the unlikely musical hotbed that has been producing hit records for more than 50 years. The trip was a reminder that value-driven golf is just one of the reasons to explore some of the trail’s more remote outposts.

The folks at Back Forty Beer Co. are almost as serious about golf as they are about their beer, which they refer to as “liquid folk art.” Brad and his brother Jason, who founded the company, were “golf brats” growing up in Gadsden.

While their father worked at the town’s Goodyear factory, the Wilson boys often would play all day at the company course next door.

When Silver Lakes was being developed, Brad Wilson recalled, “I remember my dad saying, ‘This is going to be the coolest thing in your golf life.’ . . . It’s a part of my life and my brother’s life.”

The brothers used to work on the maintenance crew at Silver Lakes, with Brad driving to work at age 15, before he even had his driver’s license. (His friends have an informal drinking game for every time he mentions that he worked there.)

The Wilsons’ lives began to change 15 years ago, when Jason ordered a Red Lady Ale at the now-defunct Crested Butte Brewery in Colorado. That ale made such an impression that Jason began dreaming of launching his own craft brewery. He finally made the jump in 2008 with $31,000 in seed money from friends and family, and in 2012 opened Back Forty’s brewery and taproom in a renovated Sears repair center in Gadsden.

The name Back Forty is an old agricultural term referring to the acreage farthest from the barn, and thus the most difficult to farm.

“The irony of the back forty is, if you’re willing to do the hard work, you actually get a tremendous yield off that soil . . . because it hasn’t been harvested in a long time,” Jason Wilson said.

Similarly, he knew that establishing a craft brewery in the Bible Belt and winning acceptance among city residents would be difficult.

“We said, ‘We know it’s going to be tough, but we know what we’re getting into,’” Jason said.

There was more to it than just creating Back Forty’s highly drinkable beers. Wilson had to lobby the Legislature for laws that allowed for the brewing of stronger beers, public taprooms and packaged beers larger than 16 ounces. The result is that the state’s craftbeer industry has undergone its own phase shift, of sorts.

Seven years ago, there were no craft breweries in the state; now there are 34.

Similarly, Silver Lakes has changed dramatically since it opened in the early 1990s. A tornado ripped through the property on April 27, 2011, destroying some 50,000 trees, and damaging the clubhouse and maintenance barn.

“To me, it looks like a nuclear bomb went off,” Brad said as he and I, along with Tripp Collins, Back Forty’s director of operations, headed for the par-5 first on the Heartbreaker nine at Silver Lakes. “I say it like it just happened, but every time I come out here it just hits me.”

The heavily treed nines where the Wilson brothers first worked and played nearly 25 years ago now sometimes look more like a wide-open prairie course set on rolling terrain. That theme was established on the first hole, an uphill par 5 defended entirely by its bunkering and narrow green.

Maybe it was the Back Forty Naked Pig Pale Ales and Freckle Belly IPAs that we bought on our way to the par-3 fifth, but I found Silver Lakes to be a pleasing variation on what typically is found elsewhere on the trail.

For comparison’s sake, regular trail visitors probably will find Silver Lakes to be more like The Senator course in Prattville, home to an LPGA tournament, or the one I would be visiting next, Fighting Joe in Muscle Shoals.

Fighting Joe, on the banks of the Tennessee River, just feels enormous. It was the first trail course to exceed 8,000 yards, and it feels even bigger than that, even for those of us who play it well forward of the tips.

I was joined there on a rainy November morning by two staples of the Muscle Shoals music scene: Nick Martin, general manager of Big River Broadcasting and also a Golfweekcourse rater; and Rodney Hall, president of FAME Studios.

Hall’s dad, Rick, often is referred to as “the father of the Muscle Shoals sound.”

The day Rodney was born, he said, Rick was in the studio cutting Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally.”

“So he missed my birth, but I forgive him. At least it was a hit,” Rodney deadpanned as we sat in the clubhouse after our round.

Rick Hall co-founded a music-publishing business, and later built FAME Studios. He began producing hit records in 1961, starting with Arthur Alexander’s “You Better Move On.” But it was FAME’s release of Percy Sledge’s No. 1 hit, “When a Man Loves a Woman,” in 1966  that caught the attention of the music industry. Before long, some of the biggest acts – Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Little Richard and Etta James – began arriving in town to record with Hall and local musicians. Later, the gold and platinum records kept coming as Hall began working with pop and country acts. More recently,

Rodney Hall has worked with Rascal Flatts, Tim McGraw and Jason Isbell, among others.

“If you look at the majority of stuff that’s been produced here, it has stood the test of time and it’s still being played on air,” Martin said. “Versus a lot of stuff that is produced today – they can’t find any air play.”

Muscle Shoals always was an unlikely musical hub, said Norbert Putnam, who was part of Hall’s original rhythm section, later played with Elvis Presley and other big acts and still lives in the area.

“It was remarkable that it happened here,” Putnam said.  “You would think that in a city the size of New Orleans, Memphis, Philadelphia, Detroit, you could find five or six good players. But you’re down here in a town of 23,000 people, and a lot of good musicians were developed here. I don’t think a town as small as us had the success Muscle Shoals had.”

Whatever the reason, the hits just keep on coming, and Rodney Hall could be heard singing them as he drove his cart down Fighting Joe’s expansive fairways.

He said The Shoals facility, which includes Fighting Joe’s sister course, Schoolmaster, and the Marriott Shoals that looks out over Wilson Dam, haven’t been a draw just for golfers. He said they have helped sustain the local music industry.

Before the Retirement Systems of Alabama funded construction of the hotel, Hall recalled, FAME lost a Lionel Richie album “because there wasn’t a four-star hotel here, and he wouldn’t come because of that.”

And the golf courses, he said, are an incentive for the many visiting musicians looking for a place to tee it up when they’re not recording.

“It gives us a little more of a carrot,” he said. “Having the amenities that a superstar would appreciate is huge.”


The South’s Literary Legends

By Mary Ann Desantis, Lake & Sumter Style Magazine, March 1

The South is known for its stories, especially those written by legendary writers whose works transcend time. Some of these great authors have left behind homes in the South that became mythical destinations for generations of readers.

The late poet and author Maya Angelou said, “When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading…”

Spending a day at the homes of these literary legends provides a glimpse into how they lived, found writing inspiration, and gained their own sense of self. You also might discover your own reading muse.

F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald, Montgomery

“The Great Gatsby” author may not have been Southern, but his stunningly beautiful wife Zelda Sayre was a Montgomery native, and during one of their saner moments she talked him into moving to her hometown where they could have some semblance of a normal life. After all, the Fitzgeralds were known for living like gypsies, averaging only five months per stop during their two decades of marriage. Although they resided in Montgomery less than a year, it is the only existing home where the Fitzgeralds lived as a family. The home is a showcase of historical materials from the Jazz Age and Fitzgerald’s writing career. It’s also where the seeds for the Southern Literary Trail — which officially runs from Georgia to Mississippi — were planted when the organizational meeting was held there in 2005.

Most visitors are surprised to learn that Zelda was a talented artist. Many of her works were destroyed, but a sizeable collection is displayed in the home. After Zelda’s death, scholars reappraised her artwork, which shows influences from Vincent van Gogh and Georgia O’Keefe. One noted curator said the surviving art “represents the work of a talented, visionary woman who rose above tremendous odds to create a fascinating body of work—one that inspires us to celebrate the life that might have been.”

Harper Lee, Monroeville

Just down the road from Montgomery is Monroeville, the hometown of legendary writer Harper Lee. The author’s roots run deep in this southeastern Alabama town that was the model for her fictional Maycomb in “To Kill a Mockingbird” and the more recent “Go Set a Watchman.” Lee’s childhood home was demolished years ago and a historical marker stands at the corner, but the Old Monroe County Courthouse is now a museum dedicated to Lee and her childhood best friend Truman Capote, who lived in Monroeville and inspired her character Dill in her most famous novel.

The 1904 courthouse is a beautiful example of Romanesque and Georgian architecture. Lee often sat in the courtroom’s balcony to watch her father, who was the model for Atticus Finch, practice law. The room was replicated in Hollywood for the 1962 movie starring Gregory Peck.

To read this entire article online, go to:


Bellingrath Gardens and Home’s executive director is Festival of Flowers honorary chairman

Bellingrath Gardens and Home’s Executive Director, Dr. William E. Barrick, is the Honorary Chairman of the 2016 Festival of Flowers, which will be held March 10-13 at the Providence Hospital Campus in Mobile.

Dr. Barrick has been a member of the Festival’s design team for more than 10 years and serves as a board member of the Providence Hospital Foundation. He is recognized for his continued contribution of talent and commitment, which has strongly influenced the achievements of the Festival throughout the years, according to Carroll O’Neill of the Foundation.

The displays at the 23rd Annual Festival of Flowers, “Taking Flight to a World of Gardens,” will offer creative interpretations of English, Spanish, American, Japanese, Italian and French garden styles. The central garden, designed by Barrick, along with Chuck Owens and Barbara Smith of Bellingrath’s Horticultural Team, will represent France and will feature a large pool with fountains surrounded by colorful patterned floral displays. 

The hours for the Festival of Flowers are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thur. – Sat., and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.  Tickets are $12 in advance and $14 at the gate.  There is no charge for ages 12 and under.  Group rates are available.  For details about the festival, or to order tickets, go to

Bellingrath Gardens and Home is also offering a special group rate for the weekend. For details about special group packages for those who would like to visit Bellingrath Gardens and tour the festival, please call or email Shanna

Bennett at 251.973.2217, ext. 165, or


Bellingrath’s 80th anniversary spotlights architect, George B. Rogers

Mobile history buffs have a chance to learn more about Bellingrath Gardens and Home’s renowned architect, George B. Rogers, during the weekend of March 11-12.

The featured home on the Historic Homes Tour near downtown Mobile is the Turner-McElhaney Home, designed by Rogers for Marshall Turner in 1922.  The Spanish Revival gem with its matching garage stands on the southeast corner of Government and Monterey streets.

Rogers designed many homes and buildings in Mobile, but his crowning achievement was Bellingrath Gardens and Home. In 1927, Rogers was hired by Coca-Cola bottler Walter D. Bellingrath and his wife, Bessie, to transform their Fowl River fishing camp into a garden estate.  Five years later, the couple opened the property to the public and in 1935 began construction on their 15-room mansion.  The 80th anniversary of its completion is being recognized this year.

Rogers did double duty, acting first as a landscape architect and then as the architect to the couple’s home, which he described as “a mingling of French, English and Mediterranean influences.” 

The home tour, which benefits the Historic Mobile Preservation Society, will coincide with the peak weekend for azalea blooms at Bellingrath Gardens and Home, and those who attend the home tour are encouraged to come to the Gardens to see more of Rogers’ designs.

The Azalea Trail Maids will stroll through the Gardens as a reminder that Mobile’s famed Azalea Trail got its start thanks to the Bellingraths’ azalea garden, formerly on South Ann Street.

In addition, the Friends of Magnolia Cemetery will be conducting a free, two-hour walking tour of the cemetery located at Ann and Virginia streets on Saturday, March 12, at 10 a.m.  The largest monument in Magnolia Cemetery belongs to the Bellingraths and is also attributed to George B. Rogers.

Bellingrath Gardens and Home opens at 8 a.m. daily and the first tour of the Home begins at 9 a.m.  The Gardens close at dusk; the last ticket to the Bellingrath Home is sold at 3:30 p.m.


Foley Sports Tourism Complex inks deal with Snap Soccer

The Foley Sports Tourism Complex (FSTC) announced an agreement with locally­based tournament management company, Snap Soccer, to produce and manage multiple soccer tournaments at the new sports park. Construction of 16 full­sized, grass playing fields is well underway with an expected completion date of late spring. The inaugural soccer tourney, the Memorial Day Showdown, is slated for May 27­ – 30.

“The guys at Snap Soccer have a proven track record of running successful soccer tournaments,” said Don Staley, FSTC Executive Director. “They’ve been doing tournaments since 2007 mostly in the Gulf Coast area but have also managed tournaments as far away as Houston for the professional team over there. We’re very lucky to be teaming up with a group of people who not only know the game of soccer but also how to bring in quality teams from outside of the area.”

Snap Soccer is one of the Southeast’s most prolific and respected soccer tournament management companies producing dozens of youth soccer events. Their largest tourney, the Publix Supercup, attracts more than 240 teams from as far away as Texas and Indiana. 

“A lot of teams do come from Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida,” said John Guidroz, 

Snap’s president. “But we also get teams from Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas and there’s a club in Indiana that brings two charter buses to the event every year.”

Some 10,000 players, coaches and family members come to the Gulf Coast for the Publix SuperCup, which spans two back­to­back weekends and yields an economic impact in excess of $1 million dollars.  

“We’re thrilled to be working with Don and his team at the FSTC,” Guidroz said. “Not only is the venue perfect but Don is a former college Division 1 soccer coach (University of Alabama) with over 300 collegiate wins so he gets it.”   

“Most of our tournaments are held at multiple locations which can be problematic for parents with kids playing at different parks” Guidroz continued. “So utilizing Foley as a single estination park is a much better situation for teams coming from out of town.”

In addition to the Memorial Day Showdown, Snap and the FSTC are planning several other major soccer events throughout the year.  

“Thanks to Snap Soccer, this area is already known as a great place to come for soccer tournaments,” Staley said.

“We plan on taking it to the next level so that our complex in Foley becomes known nationwide as a soccer Mecca.”

Guidroz elaborated. “We have great weather most of the year, we have amazing restaurants, some of the world’s best beaches and now a world­class soccer park. Foley is offering the total package and we’ve already communicated that to the clubs we work.”

To learn more about the new Foley complex, go to:

For more information on Snap Soccer, go to:

About Foley Sports Tourism Complex: Foley Sports Tourism Complex is a proposed sports destination, unlike any other, designed with the athlete and their fans in mind. Our mild climate makes the outdoor complex ideal for year­round play. Not to mention, the facilities are located only 9 short miles from Alabama’s beautiful Gulf Coast! The outdoor complex will feature 16 state­of­the­art, multi­purpose field’s designed for soccer, lacrosse, and other competitive sports. While the Foley Event Center will feature ample indoor space to hosts volleyball, basketball & gymnastics tournaments and more.

To top off our exciting sports complex, an adjacent family friendly entertainment destination will soon be underway. The destination will feature something for every age whether it’s thrills and chills in the theme park to name brand hotels with conference facilities to a variety of dining and shopping opportunities. 

For project updates visit: or like us on Facebook.


Alabama Tourism Workshop April 27

The Alabama Tourism Department will host the semi-annual Tourism Workshop in Montgomery on Wed., April 27.  This workshop is for new tourism industry members, event organizers and anyone interested in enhancing tourism in their area. 

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

April 2, 9, 16, 23 & 30            April Walking Tours

April 27                                   Alabama Tourism Department Workshop                  Montgomery



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.

The newsletter can also be accessed online by going to:

To subscribe to the weekly Alabama Tourism News, please contact Peggy Collins at:

Alabama Tourism Department