Tourism Tuesdays May 24, 2016

  • Alabama Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony to be shown on Alabama Public Television
  • Memorial Day celebrations across Alabama
  • Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism new visitor center now open
  • New book tells history, impact of Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail
  • Garden & Gun– Southern Road Trip: Memphis to Muscle Shoals
  • Travel + Leisure selects Acre as best farm-to-table restaurant in Alabama
  • ConventionSouth releases list of “South’s Top Hot Spots for Winter Events”
  • See what Alabama products won 2016 Southern Living Food Awards
  • Deep South Mission in the UK
  • Alabama Makers Marketplace
  • Nominations for Alabama Tourism Awards deadline extended to June 3
  • Vacation Guide/Calendar of Events deadline June 30
  • Alabama Restaurant Week sign up in full swing
  • There’s still time to take pretty outdoor pictures
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events



Alabama Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony to be shown on Alabama Public Television
Highlights from the Alabama Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be broadcast on Alabama Public Television Thursday, May 26 at 8 p.m. The awards show was taped in February at the Marriott Shoals Conference Center in Florence.

The event was hosted by state finance director Bill Newton. Grammy Award-winning artist and Muscle Shoals native Gary Nichols served as emcee for the evening that included a fundraising banquet and several featured performances.

“Our fundraising chair Marty Abroms did a great job in raising a record $94,000 to benefit the Alabama Music Hall of Fame,” said board member Judy Hood.  “We had an unprecedented level of support from the business community.”

The 2016 class of inductees included keyboardist Chuck Leavell, former Grateful Dead vocalist Donna Jean Godchaux-MacKay, record producer Johnny Sandlin, Southern rockers Wet Willie and the Muscle Shoals Horns. 

Leavell, who was on tour with the Rolling Stones, could not attend.  But as a special treat the ceremony includes a video congratulations from Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts.

Performances by several of the inductees are also part of the Alabama Public Television broadcast. Donna Jean Godchaux-Mackay, The Muscle Shoals Horns, and Wet Willie all take the stage, along with Scott Boyer and Tommy Talton of Cowboy. 

Three hall of fame inductees who passed away in the past year were also remembered at the awards show: Percy Sledge, Billy Sherrill and Sonny James.

Memorial Day celebrations across Alabama

Family fun and live entertainment highlight Memorial Day celebrations across Alabama.  Events include everything from one of the Southeast’s largest hot air balloon festivals in Decatur to an outdoor symphony concert in Montgomery. 

Other celebrations include the Smith Lake Park Memorial Day Festival in Cullman, Bluegrass on the Plains in Auburn, the LuLu Palooza music event in Gulf Shores and Art on the Lake in Eclectic. Special Memorial Day tributes are planned at the American Village in Montevallo and at Fort Morgan in Gulf Shores. 

The Alabama Tourism Department suggests the following Memorial Day weekend events.  For a complete calendar of events listing see

Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Festival- Decatur

May 28-29 at Point Mallard Park.  This festival is one of the largest free hot air balloon gatherings in the Southeast, featuring more than 60 balloons with races, key grab, tether rides and a balloon glow.  Free admission.

Smith Lake Park Memorial Day Festival- Cullman

May 28 at Smith Lake Park.  Live entertainment, arts & crafts and food vendors are part of this annual event on the lake.  Free admission.

Memorial Day at the American Village- Montevallo

May 30 at the American Village. Events include musical tributes, historical reenactments, wreath laying ceremonies and special tours. Visitors can experience the National Veterans Shrine and Register of Honor.  Admission is $5; free to veterans and active military.

Montgomery Symphony Jubilee Pops Concert- Montgomery

May 27 on the lawn of the Alabama Archives and History Building across from the Alabama State Capitol in downtown Montgomery. Picnic baskets, coolers, lawn chairs and blankets are welcome at this outdoor concert.  Free Admission.

Art on the Lake- Eclectic

May 28-29 at Children’s Harbor on Lake Martin.  More than 40 artists from across the Southeast will be on hand to display and sell their artwork.  Canvas art, pottery, jewelry, rock work and more. Free Admission.

Bluegrass On The Plains- Auburn

May 30-June 5 at the University Station RV Resort in Auburn. This annual festival includes all-star bluegrass bands, arts & crafts and horse rides.  Admission charged.

 LuLu Palooza- Gulf Shores

May 28 at LuLu’s at Homeport Marina in Gulf Shores.  Live music all day on the outdoor boat stage.  Lucy Buffett will also be on hand signing copies of her book LuLu’s KitchenA Taste of the Gulf Coast Good  Free Admission.

 Memorial Day Tribute- Gulf Shores

May 28 at Fort Morgan in Gulf Shores.  Historical interpreters dressed in U.S. Army uniforms from different eras will conduct special guided tours and give demonstrations throughout the day.  Artillery, small arms and other presentations will give visitors a glimpse of what military life was like at Fort Morgan through history.  Admission Charged.



Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism new visitor center now open, May 19

Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism is hosting its grand opening for the new Gulf Shores Welcome Center on Wednesday, May 25.

The event will take place from 3-6 p.m. with a brief ceremony occurring at 5:30 p.m. The grand opening will feature light refreshments and live music. The whole community and any guests traveling in the area are welcome to stop by and enjoy in the festivities.

“Our team is incredibly proud to present the new Gulf Shores Welcome Center to our invited guests and locals,” Herb Malone, president and CEO for GSOBT, said. “You only have one opportunity to make a first impression and for many visitors, our welcome centers are often the first stop they make in our destination. We look forward to celebrating the hard work of our organization and valued industry partners by showcasing the highly anticipated finished product.”

The 5,400-square-foot building features a spacious lobby, 25-person conference room, public restrooms and a small office space. The building is IFC (insulated concrete form) constructed and was designed by architect Sted McCollough of McCollough Architecture.

The rotunda features pecky cypress wood along its walls. An iconic fountain with a dolphin structure, designed by Frank Ledbetter of Theodore, AL, stands at the front of the building providing a great spot for visitors to take pictures.

The welcome center is meant to serve as a relaxing and inviting space for guests to visit throughout their time in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. 

The Gulf Shores Welcome Center is open seven days a week. It is a great resource for families traveling in to town and provides visitors with free brochures and rack cards for local tourism business, an ample amount of car and RV parking and free WiFi.

Beginning May 27, the welcome center will be open weekdays from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. 

To read this article online, go to:


New book tells history, impact of Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail
By Bethany Davis,, May 22

Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail has become an international tourist attraction, bringing people from all over the world to visit.

As the trail prepares to celebrate its 25th anniversary, a new book is hitting the shelves that tells the history and the impact of the bold investment the Retirement Systems of Alabama made.

No one knows more about RTJ than Dr. Mark Fagan, the author of “The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail: its history and economic impact.” 

“I spent 22 years observing the development of this project,” Dr. Fagan said. “11 sites, 26 golf courses, on 5,700 acres, 545,000 square feet of building space [and] eight resort hotels with 2,065 hotel rooms. This entire project has changed the economy of Alabama, changed the landscape of Alabama, enhanced the image of the state.”

Lee Sentell, director of the Alabama Tourism Department, shares that thinking and points to the numbers as proof. 

“Before the golf trail, the Alabama tourism industry was about $3 billion a year. Since the golf trail, the tourism industry now is $12 billion,” said Sentell. 

In the parking lot at the Robert Trent Jones Trail at Capitol Hill in Prattville, cars are parked from as far away as Arizona and Washington. Sentell said people are even coming in from other countries to play the trail. 

“Europeans, they’ll come and spend two weeks; Australians are the extreme get, because they’ll come to the U.S. and stay for a month or six weeks,” Sentell said.

Sentell watched that time add up to dollars. 

“They’re not coming for the day, they’re going to be coming here for a week or 10 days. They’re not here just to play golf, they’re here to have a great experience,” Sentell said.

And with growing exposure, even more are looking to get in on that experience.  

Fagan pointed out that 2016 Masters winner Danny Willett played at Jacksonville State University for two years, and played at Silver Lakes in the RTJ Trail. 

“Danny Willett just won The Masters, and he played two years at Jacksonville State University, and he played at Silver Lakes on the RTJ Trail. You had the LPGA playing out here, and all the other international publicity that we just got from Yokohama,” Fagan said. “And you have the PGA tour stopping at Grand National coming up on July 14-17.”

“The whole idea of the golf trail really was a stroke of genius, and it’s paid off for the state handsomely,” said Sentell. 

You can buy the book “The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail: Its history and economic impact” at Newsouth Books. It’s available in a full-color, coffee table style book or as an e-book.

The Retirement System of Alabama is the primary lender to Raycom Media, the parent company of WSFA 12 News. 

To read this article online, go to:



Garden & Gun– Southern Road Trip: Memphis to Muscle Shoals

By Matt Hendrickson, Garden & Gun, June/July

After breakfast in Memphis the following morning, I barrel on toward Muscle Shoals. There is not much to see on the 111 miles before you reach the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in Tuscumbia, which is a serviceable introduction to the area’s sound. But spine-tingling history awaits just minutes up the road at the Shoals’ Fame Recording Studios.

Located between a CVS and a Pizza Hut, Fame has hosted such legends as Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, and Little Richard as well as current acts, including Jason Isbell, Alicia Keys, and Band of Horses. Fame is still a working studio, but it’s open to the public for tours Monday through Saturday if the soundboard’s not booked. When I arrive, Gregg Allman is just finishing a ten-day stint at the studio, but the co-owner Rodney Hall graciously gives me a tour.

Hall takes me to the record closet where thousands of first-pressing original 45s are kept. I pull one out at random: “When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge. I hold it carefully, but my hands start to quiver and I return it to the shelf. Hall grins. It isn’t the first time he’s seen someone do that. Hall also serves on the board of the nearby Muscle Shoals Sound Studios at 3614 Jackson Highway, where I see the bathroom where Keith Richards finished writing “Wild Horses.” The building is in the final stages of a renovation and is slated to reopen for tours and as a part-time studio this summer.

I’d gotten a tip from Ben Tanner, a native of the area and the Alabama Shakes’ keyboardist, to not miss Bunyan’s in Florence, Alabama (across the river from Muscle Shoals), for its infamous slaw dog—radioactive red, and covered in cabbage mixed with a mustard-vinegar sauce. As I sit in my car while it pours rain (again), I have to talk myself out of ordering six more. Florence has seen an influx of creative types, including John Paul White of the Civil Wars as well as Florence natives, such as Celeste Pillow, who have left and returned home. The gregarious Pillow owns Florence’s top restaurant, Odette, where we belly up to the bar and dig into one of chef Josh Quick’s signature global spins on Southern dishes, a rich catfish and shrimp cioppino. Odette serves as a sort of headquarters for Florence’s creative set, and I follow some locals around the corner to the intimate new club 116 E. Mobile (partly owned by Tanner and White). Inside, the singer-songwriter Langhorne Slim plays under candlelight to a rapt audience. He finishes up his set with a cover of the Warren Zevon classic “Lawyers, Guns and Money,” and everyone spills out into the neighboring alley. Memphis to Muscle Shoals: Even if the skies are gray, the sounds are pure gold.

To read this article online, go to:


Travel + Leisure selects Acre as best farm-to-table restaurant in Alabama
Acre restaurant in Auburn was selected by Travel + Leisure magazine as the best farm-to-table-restaurant in Alabama.

“The Best Farm-to-Table Restaurant in Every State” by Lauren Matison in Travel + Leisure

Alabama: Acre in Auburn

Located an hour east of Montgomery in the historic downtown district of Auburn, Acre in Auburn is known for pairing bold modern flavors and deep Southern roots with a reliable eco-conscience. When Chef David Bancroft’s not in the kitchen or in the on-site vegetable garden, he’s working with local ranchers, farmers, and Gulf Coast fishermen, shaping his seasonally driven menu around ingredients sourced from the Blackbelt Region.


ConventionSouth releases the 2016 list of “South’s Top Hot Spots for Winter Events”

After a thorough review of our entire 16 state coverage area, our editorial team selected 20 destinations that they feel exemplify the ideal “Hot Spot for Winter Events”.  These destinations were posted on the ConventionSouth Facebook page for voting.  Our social media followers voted the following destinations as the top 5 “Hot Spots for Winter Events.”  Voting was determined based on the number of likes, shares and comments on social media.  The below destinations are listed in order of top votes.  The July 2016 Issue of ConventionSouth will showcase the below cities with an editorial spotlight:

1. Victoria, TX

2. Mobile, AL

3. Cajun Coast, LA

4. South Padre Island, TX

5. El Paso, TX

“It is with great honor that we recognize the 2016 ‘South’s Top Hot Spots For Winter Meetings & Events’ as their Southern locations and seasonably warmer climates make these destinations a cold weather reprieve for groups from across the country,” said ConventionSouth Senior Editor, Marcia Bradford-Strong.  “The late Fall, Winter and early Spring months are often the most popular time to hold a meeting, event or convention—especially due to the lower rates that can be found during this non-peak season. Therefore, Southern destinations like these are a top choice for meeting planners who need to boost attendance and participation rates by attracting those who seek warmer weather. Meeting planners can also feel confident that these destinations come recommended and have year-round attractions and festivals, ample meeting sites and outdoor recreational opportunities during the winter.”

See what Alabama products won 2016 Southern Living Food Awards

By Kelly Poe,, May 20

Four Alabama makers won nods from Southern Living for having some of the best food products in the South. 

From Atlanta to Austin, Southern Living Editors tasted samples to determine winners of the 2016 Southern Living Food Awards.

Here are the Alabama products that won nods: 

To read this entire article online, go to:


Deep South Mission in the UK
Della Tully, UK in-market representative for Alabama has been on the road with the other UK Reps for TN, MS, KY and LA recently as part of a ‘Deep South Mission’ to visit and educate some of the largest UK tour operators and key travel industry professionals. Della and the Deep South partners held product meetings with TUI, Thomas Cook, Cosmos and Virgin Holidays to discuss the region and ways of adding new Alabama destinations to their programs and boosting UK numbers. Over 250 travel industry sales team members received training to help them understand the geography and highlights of each Southern state.

Della also exhibited with leading specialist Bon Voyage Travel and Tours at a leading retail park in Southampton, UK over the weekend of May 21st to promote Alabama to consumers. This provided an excellent opportunity to provide brochures and maps of Alabama to educate new potential visitors to the state as well as existing customers of Bon Voyage. Bon Voyage has an extensive range of Alabama self-drive tours of any UK tour operator:

To read this article online, go to:

Alabama Makers Marketplace

The Alabama Tourism Department is hosting its annual Alabama Makers Marketplace on Thur., June 9, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the RSA Activity Center in downtown Montgomery.

Alabama Makers are being showcased in order for the owners/managers of Alabama Gift Shops to see firsthand the products created and crafted right here in Sweet Home Alabama. 

Meet with buyers from Alabama Gift Shops in order to wholesale product(s) to them. 

Makers need to register now for free booth space and owners/managers need to RSVP.

The market will be open to the public for retail sales as well.

To RSVP or register, contact Leigh Cross at:


Nominations for Alabama Tourism Awards deadline extended to June 3

Deadline for nominations for the Alabama Tourism Awards have been extended to Friday, June 3.  Award categories include:  Attraction of the Year, Event of the Year, Organization of the Year, Welcome Center of the Year, Tourism Executive, Government Advocate, Media Advocate, Tourism Partnership, Rising Star, Themed Campaign, Governor’s Award and the Tourism Hall of Fame.

Please submit nominations to Cynthia Flowers via email at or mail to Alabama Tourism Department, Attention Cynthia Flowers, P.O. Box 4927, Montgomery, AL 36103. 

Awards will be presented at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism on Aug. 22 in Orange Beach. 5



Vacation Guide/Calendar of Events deadline June 30

It’s time to get your 2017 information in for the official annual Alabama Tourism Vacation Guide and Calendar of Events.  The deadline for submitting items for the printed version is June 30. 

Using the Alabama Tourism industry partners website will simplify entering and managing your events/attractions in the database at  Sign up for an account if you don’t already have one and then you will be able to create/update items for the Guide. 


For assistance please contact Pam Smith at 334-353-4541 or email at

Alabama Restaurant Week sign up in full swing

Restaurants are being asked to sign up for Alabama Restaurant Week 2016.  The sign-up period began May 9 and will run through July 29. 

Last year 196 restaurants participated in the promotion. 

Courtney Austin with the state tourism department will serve as special coordinator for Alabama Restaurant Week.  She will be assisting with sign-up and formatting entries.

Alabama Restaurant Week is a marketing event that highlights restaurants in the state.  This culinary event unites the state’s diverse range of cuisine into a 10-day event.  

Participating restaurants offer two-course lunch and/or three-course dinner offerings at an attractive set price.  A three-course dinner should include a starter, main course and dessert while the two-course lunch should include a main course and either a starter or dessert. Specialty restaurants with very limited menus may have pre-fixed meal offerings that are not multi-course.

There are no coupons or discount books to buy or bring. Just ask for an Alabama Restaurant Week meal at a participating restaurant during the promotion time period and enjoy.  With the promotion’s pre-set prices, you know before making your plans what your cost will be. 

Participating restaurants are listed on the website with exact meal offerings once they are known.  The Alabama Restaurant Week pricing is fixed at $10, $20 or $30 for dinner and $5, $10 or $15 for lunch.  In all cases, the price is per person and does not include tax, tip and drink.  Restaurants may offer a meal at all or just one of the preset prices.  A restaurant’s regular menu will also be available.

When is Alabama Restaurant Week?  Alabama Restaurant Week is set for Friday, Aug. 12 through Sunday, Aug. 21.

Which Restaurants Can Participate in Alabama Restaurant Week?  To qualify for participation, a restaurant must be a locally owned and operated restaurant in Alabama and/or a restaurant in the state that is important to the Alabama tourism industry.  Most chain restaurants do not quality.  The Alabama Tourism Department reserves the right to include or deny any restaurant.  A restaurant does not have to be featured in the popular “l00 dishes to eat in Alabama before you die” brochure to participate. 

How Many Different Meal Preset Prices Must a Restaurant Offer?  A restaurant may participate in all three preset prices for both lunch or dinner, or just one or any combination.  It is not necessary to participate in both lunch and dinner. 

What about a Restaurant’s Regular Menu?  In addition to the Alabama Restaurant Week meal listings, a restaurant should still use their regular menu. 

Is There a Cost to Participate?  The Alabama Tourism Department does not charge a fee. 

How does a restaurant sign up?  Go to  Restaurants that participated last year should click on the highlighted area that reads “Already a member?  Click here” and update their entry form, paying close attention to check the box that reads “I want to participate this year.”  Restaurants that have not participated before, should click on the highlighted area that reads “Sign up your Restaurant It’s quick and easy.”

Restaurants may register to participate and later put in their Alabama Restaurant Week special. The Alabama Tourism Department will send promotional material to restaurants that sign up.

Can a local restaurant week be conducted during Alabama Restaurant Week?  Yes, Chambers, Convention and Visitor Bureaus and other destination marketing organizations who conduct a local restaurant week during the same period and with the same guidelines are requested to let the Alabama Tourism Department know.

For more information, contact or

There’s still time to take pretty outdoor pictures

Here are a few helpful hints on how to get the best images for your efforts.

Take only interior images between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.  Old Sol is just too brutal at that time of day to get good outdoor shots.  When shooting exteriors make sure the sun is shining on the object of your lens.  Taking a picture in the afternoon of anything facing east doesn’t usually yield good results.

Also, attractive people can add a lot of interest to your images.  Make sure they’re wearing solid and bright-colored clothing.  Shorts and blue jeans should be worn only when they are appropriate to the location and/or event.  Have them face the camera and appear to be having a wonderful time – if they’re really having a great time that’s a bonus.

In tourism, as in real estate, it’s all about location, location, location.  Try to frame the images so that the location, attraction, event or other subject is obvious to the viewer.

Of course the Alabama Tourism Department always wants to get new images so, once you’ve captured all those green trees and flowering shrubs with your camera, you can send them to us.  We are looking for images that are at least 4” X 6” and 300 dpi.

Contact Peggy Collins at 334-242-4545 OR for information on how to send them.



Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

June 9, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.          Alabama Makers Market                                            Montgomery

                                                RSA Activity Center, 201 Dexter Avenue, 36104

Aug. 20 – 23                           Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism            Orange Beach


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