Tourism Tuesdays July 19, 2016

  • AJC features Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead! The Mobile Bay you don’t know
  • Southern Living: South’s best college towns
  • Maverick Festival attended by 3,000 UK lovers of Americana music
  • Pokemon Gump: How one game is bringing everyone together
  • Grand Bay Welcome Center welcomes 12,000 travelers in two weeks
  • Sign up for April Walking Tours 2017
  • Summer Clearance Sale at the Governor’s Mansion Gift Shop
  • ‘A good day for justice’: Horton memorialized with community reading
  • Montgomery to host 2016 World Horseshoe Pitching Championships July 25 – Aug. 6
  • Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events




AJC features Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead! The Mobile Bay you don’t know

By T. Wayne Waters, Atlanta Journal Constitution, July 13

Mobile? Most know it for its beaches, as the port of the USS Alabama, as the birthplace of Mardi Gras in the U.S., and for its newest major attraction, the GulfQuest/National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico.

What isn’t so well known about Mobile is that it’s a great city for history buffs. The area has stops on the Mobile Bay Civil War Trail, is home to a fort that saw one of the most famous Civil War maritime battles in history and home of the site of the last major battle of the Civil War. But it isn’t all Civil War. There are grand historic homes with period finery for those with more…delicate historic tastes. And a wide range of historical artifacts in the History Museum of Mobile.

“Mobile is such a great place to visit for its history because it has so many fascinating stories to tell,” said Melanie Thornton, director and public historian at Historic Oakleigh House.  It is a city of many colorful layers.  Its historic fabric is one that portrays its relationship to the water from colonial times to present day; Mobile is a quintessential port city, a gumbo of merging cultures, which can be experienced by visiting its various attractions and restaurants today.”

I’ve visited most of the Mobile Bay area’s historic sites and enjoyed them immensely. I still get chills thinking about the time I stood on its grounds, resolute, with a proper scowl on my face, fist clenched and let loose a full-throated shout: “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!”

The other visitors thought I was goofy.  I couldn’t have cared less.

History Museum of Mobile

Located in the historic downtown of the city, the History Museum of Mobile offers changing and permanent exhibits about the colorful city’s past. The Old Ways, New Days two-part exhibit takes a good look at Mobile’s first inhabitants, the Native Americans, then moves through a 300-year history with prominent features on the Colonial era right up to the Civil Rights movement in Mobile. Another section has artifacts and interactive exhibits highlighting Mobile’s culture and industry. Another special gallery tells the tale of Confederate naval exploits and has on display an original cannon from the Civil War ship CSS Alabama. Through the end of July, a special collection of seldom-seen artifacts is on display including a flag flown by the USS Oneida, a ship in the fleet under the command of Admiral David Farragut during the Battle of Mobile Bay and a complete set of Japanese samurai armor.

History Museum of Mobile, 111 South Royal Street, Mobile. 251-208-7508,

Conde-Charlotte Museum

The “Gateway to Mobile’s History” is an 1850 Federal-style home that was built on the foundation of a building that served as the city’s first jail in the 1820s. Today, it displays French, British, Confederate and American antique furnishings – more specifically a British Commandant’s room, a French sitting room and bedroom, two Confederate parlors, an American Federal dining room and two American bedrooms. A circa-1800s kitchen is entered through jail cell doors. The house is owned, preserved and operated by The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of Alabama and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Condé-Charlotte Museum, 104 Theatre Street, Mobile. 251-432-4722,

Fort Gaines Historic Site

It may be 40 miles south on the eastern tip of Dauphine Island, but no trip to the Mobile Bay area is complete without a visit to Fort Gaines, one of the key sites in the famous Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay. Does this ring a bell? “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” Yep, this is the place. And Admiral David Farragut was the man who uttered those thrilling words in the heat of battle. The fort has original cannons, a blacksmith shop, kitchens, a museum, gift shop and tunnels, not to mention one heck of a view of Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Self-guided and guided tours are available – the latter done in period uniform. There are also regularly scheduled cannon firing demonstrations and blacksmithing demonstrations.

Fort Gaines Historic Site, 51 Bienvile Blvd., Dauphin Island. 251-861-6992,

Historic Oakleigh Complex

Sitting pretty in Oakleigh Garden Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, Historic Oakleigh House is one of the few surviving Reconstruction-era buildings in the South. The beautiful home, built in 1833, is filled with over 1,000 artifacts that represent life in Mobile from 1830-1900, including an extraordinary silver collection and an impressive art collection. There is also a building used by Union troops as a barracks during Reconstruction years on the property, built about 1867. Historic Oakleigh House is home to the Historic Mobile Preservation Society. The other homes in the historic garden district were built from the 1820s to the 1940s.

Historic Oakleigh House, 300 Oakleigh Place, Mobile. 251-432-1281,

Historic Blakeley State Park

About 40 miles across the bay from Mobile, Historic Blakely State Park is situated on 3,800 acres beside the Tensaw River. It’s the largest National Historic Register Site east of the Mississippi River and the site where the last major battle of the Civil War was fought. It has 10 miles of nature trails, bicycle and horse paths, tent camping and an RV campground with full utility hookups. Every year there you can enjoy a Civil War reenactment. This spring’s smaller Living History Day reenactment is complete, but next year there will be a large reenactment on the Civil War battlefield that includes those #*!#! Yankees charging in and capturing Fort Blakely.

Historic Blakeley State Park, 34745 State Highway 225, Spanish Fort. 251-626-0798,

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Southern Living: South’s best college towns

Southern Living, Travel, July 2016

We’ve selected some of our favorite small towns, some true hidden gems of the South. We looked for schools beloved by their fan bases and their alumni, and schools exploring truly exciting academics and research that promise to reach the wider world. We defined “small town” as a city of 350,000 people or less: places in which the college is a driving force in the character of the town.

There’s something magnetic about a college town. Lazy days on the quad followed by homemade ice cream in the town square; the excitement of game day punctuated by school colors draping the city streets; the chance to bump elbows with the leaders of tomorrow over a cappuccino at the local coffee shop. A small town can be a fabulous place to study (there’s plenty to do without big-city distractions) and an idyllic place to live. Small college towns are also among our very favorite places in the South to visit. A weekend trip can bring all the pomp and circumstance of football season in the South, an afternoon spent in charming boutiques and lovely historic theaters, and maybe a picnic on the green. It can be a lovely place to reconnect with family, a spouse, or even with yourself.

Florence, AL: University of North Alabama

The University of North Alabama has one of the most affordable tuition rates in the U.S., making it a great option for students looking for strong academics, small class sizes, and a focus on faculty mentoring. Outside the classroom lies the small town of Florence, where creativity is prized and strong artistic streaks run deep.

The music of the nearby Shoals flows into Florence, and you’ll find live music nearly every weekend, especially at First Fridays, when the town shuts down Main Street for a monthly street fair featuring musicians and artists. Music festivals like the W.C. Handy Music Festival bring hundreds of artists to the streets, and Shoals Theater showcases incredible work. Music lovers can enjoy music and a meal at On the Rocks pub or FloBama Music Hall.

Local clothing designer and textile artist Alabama Chanin runs a fantastic café, The Factory, that adjoins her workshop, and local artists and locally sourced food make Court Street Market a must-visit—be sure to swing by Cafe Woodpecker while you’re there. If nature is more your kind of art, Florence has hiking and swimming opportunities in spades: play in the fountains at River Heritage Park or escape in the beauty of Wildwood Park.

Students get caffeinated at Rivertown Coffee and grab food at Rice Box or Rosie’s Cantina between study sessions. Try a beer pairing at Wildwood Tavern, and don’t miss Odette’s for Alabama-grown ingredients, incredibly Southern cooking, and the best burger in town. To round out the trip, grab ice cream from Trowbridge’s, a Florence institution.

Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama

Some say T Town has all it needs in the Crimson Tide: legendary football games at Bryant-Denny Stadium, some of the best fans a team could ask for, amazing tailgating, and a friendly “Roll Tide” everywhere you turn. But the town, and the school, have a lot more going for it than just sports—even though Alabama’s baseball, gymnastics, and basketball teams consistently bring in fans as well. Alabama students are serious about their studies and downtime, too.

Tuscaloosa lives by football, but there’s more to enjoy in this town full of natural beauty. Embrace the great outdoors at Lake Tuscaloosa or the Black Warrior River; you’ll find hiking trails and opportunities to get in the water all over the city. Visit the Alabama Museum of Natural History, the Paul W. Bryant Museum, and the Tuscaloosa Museum of Art. Or just walk down The Strip to find music, shopping, and great places to eat.

Between classes, students are likely to grab burgers at Rama Jama’s, burritos from Pepito’s, or Chinese food at Swen. You’ll find a good Southern brunch complete with biscuits and gravy at Waysider, or a wonderful sit-down meal at DePalma’s Italian Cafe. Since it would be it would be a shame to visit Tuscaloosa without sampling some great Alabama barbecue, take your pick from Dreamland, Archibald & Woodrow’s, Jim N Nicks, Full Moon, Moe’s BBQ, Dickeys, and more.

Auburn, AL: Auburn University

Life on the Plains has a lot going for it. Great academics, incredible school spirit, active Greek life, and a strong athletics program make Auburn University a hot spot for Southern students looking for the ideal college experience. Want to be an Auburn Tiger for the weekend? Be sure to catch a game—shout “War Eagle” and get a high five from Aubie, then grab a lemonade at Toomer’s Drugstore, right across the street from Samford Hall.

You’re sure to bump into students lining up for breakfast sandwiches at Big Blue Bagel or grabbing a quick lunch at Tacorita. Enjoy top-shelf bourbon and fantastic Southern food at The Hound, started by Auburn alums, and check out Acre for fresh, modern twists on classic Southern food like Seafood Gumbo and Grilled Salmon Salad.

With a little extra time, take the 10-minute trip to Auburn’s sister town of Opelika and search for treasure at Resurrect Antiques, a delightfully quirky and well-stocked antique store. Once you’re off campus, embrace the outdoors: Fish or swim on Lake Martin, or venture onto the hiking trails at Chewacla State Park. Students who want a taste of a bigger city love that Birmingham, Atlanta and Montgomery are all close by.

Huntsville, AL: University of Alabama Huntsville

Going to school in Rocket City has its advantages. With NASA in town and research opportunities galore, Huntsville offers the academic and training advantages of much larger cities with small-town benefits like a low cost of living and tons of charm. Situated in the Tennessee River Valley, Huntsville is a city of natural beauty. From its mountains to the Tennessee River, it’s a great place for swimming, hiking and fishing. University of Alabama Huntsville takes full advantage of these research opportunities; they’re also the home of the only NCAA ice hockey team in the South.

When visiting Huntsville, check out the huge selection of antiques at Railroad Station Antiques Mall, and be sure to tour Lowe Mill, the largest privately owned arts facility in the country. At the mill, grab a big Mason jar full of Piper & Leaf tea, made in-house with locally grown fruits and herbs. Round out your trip with a visit to the fascinating Burritt Museum, where historical interpreters interact as they would on a 19th-century farm, or hike in beautiful Monte Sano State Park.

Enjoy the taste of the town at Chef James Boyce’s fine dining restaurants—Cotton Row, Commerce Kitchen, and Pane e Vino Pizzeria—where inspiration from the past meets modern influence. You’re likely to find students enjoying Tex Mex at Little Rosie’s Taqueria; lined up in front of El Cazador 2 (a.k.a. “Taco Bus”), a permanently parked Blue Bird bus; or enjoying beer and house-made gelato at Sam and Greg’s. 

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Maverick Festival attended by 3,000 UK lovers of Americana music

Della Tully, Alabama Tourism Department’s UK In-Market representative, hosted the state’s exhibition booth at the Maverick Music Festival in Suffolk, England over the July 4th weekend.  Maverick is a festival attended by 3,000 UK lovers of Americana music.  Alabama musicians Debbie Bond of the Alabama Blues Project and Hannah Aldridge from Muscle Shoals both performed at the festival.  Debbie Bond and ‘Radiator Rick’ also held their own harmonica workshop.  The main stage was branded with “Sweet Home Alabama” and all festival staff wore T-Shirts with the Sweet Home Alabama logo.  

Della met with festivalgoers enquiring about Alabama as a tourist destination at the “Sweet Home Alabama” booth that featured maps, brochures and guides. She shared the booth with specialist tour operator Bon Voyage Travel who offer some of the most extensive Alabama self-drive tours.

To find out more about the festival online, go to:


Pokemon Gump: How one game is bringing everyone together

By Andrew J. Yawn, Montgomery Advertiser, July 17

New Alabama Tourism Department staff member Graham Roderick was interviewed by the Montgomery Advertiser for the article on the growing popularity of Pokemon.

Pokemon Go is a game best played outside so it’s no surprise that downtown Montgomery has a new kind of evening crowd.

After only a week of public play, Pokemon Go already has more users than popular dating app Tinder, more daily active users than Twitter and more engagement time than Facebook.

Pokemon Go is a smashing success but not because it is the greatest game ever invented. Instead it’s a result of Pokemon Go redefining what a social network actually is.

The game uses “augmented reality” to allow users to catch Pokemon (pocket monsters) in the real world using the phone’s camera to show the Pokemon around you. Gyms allow teams to compete for bragging rights and eggs containing more monsters hatch after a certain distance is walked. The goal is simple: Explore areas around you to find new creatures. Humans included.

One week after the game released in the United States, a few dozen Poke-masters milled about the steps of the Capitol on Dexter Avenue as dusk began to settle, a common sight since the Capitol boasts three Pokestops and a gym.

On this particular evening, Taylor Smith and Josh Peavey sat on a bench next to the statue of Jefferson Davis while another friend, Graham Roderick, laid at the top of the Capitol steps looking for anything but Zubats.

One of the three put out a Lure, an item used to attract Pokemon to a location. The Pokestops around them give out Pokeballs and other items once every five minutes. For now the three just have to wait.

“Hey guys, there’s a Poliwhirl over here,” Roderick shouts to his friends, eyes still on his phone as he tries to capture it.

“Poliwhirl or Poliwrath?” Smith asks, curious if it was the latter, stronger type of the water Pokemon.

“Poliwhirl,” Roderick answers.

Then Smith said something that would only sound crazy to those not playing the game.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Pokemon Go predates world peace,” Smith said, only half joking. “You meet so many people out here who are so nice and you have really great conversations.”

Smith went on, describing an interaction he and Peavey had with a group of 16-year-olds days earlier. The two groups had met while playing downtown. They had never seen each other before, but talking about the game – what level they were, what their best catch was, what strategies they used – transcended the generational gap dividing them.

“We’re not in any of the same circles and now we’re here side-by-side having this connection. This happens all the time. You’re meshing friend groups, races and ages,” Smith said. “It’s an automatic conversation starter.”

Peavey agreed. Roderick continued his quest to be the best.

“I’m sick and tired of these Zubats,” he said from the flat of his back, looking up at the bat-like monsters that surround the Capitol.

Hours earlier, 22-year-old Andrew Barnett, a level 23 member of Team Valor, had the same problem as Roderick on the Capitol steps.

Barnett is part of a Facebook group, Tri County Pokemon Trainers, that helps players plan hunts and share their catches.

Barnett said he never had a reason to walk around downtown before. Now he has not only walked several miles this week, he is also meeting lots of people connected by the same hobby.

“I’ve conversed with more people than I have in a while. Nice people, too,” Barnett said. “I’ve met people who are 40 or 45. It feels like everybody’s the same age when you’re playing this though.”

Barnett contrasted the game to playing multiplayer games on Xbox Live. Instead of sitting on the couch playing with people you’ll never meet, Pokemon Go players are seen walking for hours at a time and making real human connections.

For Billy Traylor the game is a way to connect with his son, Will. The two were walking around another popular downtown hunting ground, Court Square.

“It’s more community building than anything else out there,” Traylor said. “Here you’re meeting people face-to-face who you had no idea you had so many things in common with.”

Back at the top of the Capitol steps, Peavey, Roderick and Smith were ready to go home for reasons familiar with any Pokemon trainer: Roderick’s Lure was running out and Peavey’s phone battery was at 1 percent.

“Race you home?” Smith asked Roderick as he walked by.

“No way I’ve still got eggs I’ve got to hatch,” Roderick replied.

Augmented reality indeed.

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Grand Bay Welcome Center welcomes 12,000 travelers in two weeks

The new Grand Bay Welcome Center on I-10 at the Alabama-Mississippi line welcomed more than 12,000 travelers since its opening two weeks ago.

“Grand Bay has been incredibly busy,” said welcome center administrator Debbie Wilson.  “This is our prime tourism season with people traveling from all over on their way to our Gulf Coast beaches.”

The welcome center provides travelers with a host of information on area attractions and accommodations.  “Travelers love the look of the new center with the replica of a light house in the middle and the Gulf Coast inspired interior designs,” said Wilson.

The increase in visitors has required additional staffing at Grand Bay and other state welcome centers. Job openings for welcome center positions can be found at


Sign-Up now for April Walking Tours 2017

Towns interested in participating in the 2017 April Walking Tours should respond with an email giving their town’s name, starting location, contact person and shipping address to  The deadline to sign-up for the walking tours is Aug. 1.

Towns already signed-up for 2017 include: Athens, Attalla, Bayou La Batre, Cullman, Daleville, Decatur, Elba, Enterprise, Eutaw, Fairhope, Florence, Foley, Huntsville, Madison, Montgomery, Mooresville, Moulton, Selma, Sheffield, Shelby and Tuscumbia.

More than 2,500 people participated in this year’s April Walking Tours. Some 27 towns across the state hosted the tours. Towns with the most participants included Athens with 474, Huntsville with 310, Fairhope with 295, Tuscumbia with 124, Pell City with 110 and Cullman with 101.

The hour long tours start at 10:00 a.m. each Saturday morning in April. Dates for the 2017 April Walking Tours are April 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29.

“These tours are an excellent way for towns and communities of any size to be involved in a state-wide tourism campaign,” said Brian Jones with the Alabama Tourism Department.  “There is no cost to participate and state tourism provides all the posters, brochures and collateral materials. More than 20,000 people have participated in the tours since the beginning of the program twelve years ago” he said.

Media coverage of the April Walking Tours this year included the Montgomery Advertiser, The Decatur Daily, Times-Daily, Moulton Advertiser, Cullman Times, The Demopolis Times, Dothan Eagle, News Courier, Selma Times Journal, Anniston Star, Courier Journal, Madison County Journal, Alabama News Center, WSFA-12 NBC Montgomery,  WAAY-31 ABC Huntsville, WCFT 33-40 ABC Birmingham and WVTM-13 NBC Birmingham.

Email your town’s name, starting location, contact person and shipping address to to register for the April 2017 tours.


Summer Clearance Sale at the Governor’s Mansion Gift Shop

The Governor’s Mansion Gift Shop is having a summer clearance sale to make way for fall merchandise.  Selected items have been discounted up to 75%.  Featured items include tourism t-shirts for $2, Sweet Home Alabama polo shirts for $5, tote bags for $1, BBQ aprons for $1 and discounted Christmas ornaments and other small gift items. The summer clearance sale continues through July 29.   

“This is a perfect time to pick up some of our Alabama-themed items at some great prices,” said gift shop manager Leigh Cross with the state tourism department. “A lot of these are items you can’t find anywhere else and they make wonderful gifts.”

A video highlighting some of the sale merchandise can be viewed by liking the Alabama Governor’s Mansion Gift Shop page on Facebook.  The gift shop is located in Montgomery at 30 Finley Ave. across the street from the side entrance of the Governor’s Mansion.  Store hours are M-F from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Phone orders are available by calling 334-241-8824.  


‘A good day for justice’: Horton memorialized with community reading
By Rebecca Crooms, Athens News Courier, June 23

An inconspicuous lard bucket served as the backdrop for the Judge Horton Day ceremonies held Wednesday at the Center for Lifelong Learning on Marion Street.

“This is no ordinary lard bucket,” said Limestone County Archivist Rebekah Davis. “It’s kind of like a time machine.”

Inside the bucket were more than 700 postcards, telegrams, newspaper articles and letters James Horton saved during the 1933 Scottsboro Boys case. Eighty-three years after his landmark decision to set aside a guilty verdict against Haywood Patterson, Horton’s legacy was honored in his hometown during a ceremony called Pen Strokes of Justice.

Participants in the ceremony read primary documents from the day. Some of the readers were direct descendants of the authors and others had connections to the source from which the letters came. All the letters shed light on popular — and unpopular — public opinions on how Horton handled the trial of a man, accused along with eight other black men, of raping two white women on a train in 1932.

“We’re so delighted to see the way this community turns out to honor one of its own,” Davis said about the packed crowd in attendance.

The purpose of the reading was also to raise money for a planned Judge Horton statue to be cast in bronze and placed at the Limestone County Courthouse upon completion. Davis announced enough money had already been donated to get the artist started on the sculpture, but another $20,000 would allow the Judge Horton Statue Committee to buy the pedestal and informative plaques to accompany it.

Kathy Garrett, Horton’s granddaughter, said it meant a lot to her family for the Athens-Limestone community to want to honor her grandfather’s service. To her, Horton was a man who wore a tie every day and drove an old Ford pickup, but she later learned of his role in American history. To see how her grandfather is still remembered more than 80 years later was enough to bring tears to her eyes, Garrett said.

“This is so overwhelming,” she said. “It means so much to my family.”

Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks dedicated June 22 as Judge Horton Day. Having the judge’s legacy remembered by the public on the anniversary of his historic decision made for a “great day,” he said.

“What a great day for history; what a great day for justice and what a great day for truth,” Marks said.  

To read this article online, go to:


Montgomery to host 2016 World Horseshoe Pitching Championships July 25 – Aug. 6

Alabama’s capital city set to welcome over one thousand visitors for unique two-week sporting event.

The 2016 World Horseshoe Pitching Championships will be held in the Multiplex at Cramton Bowl, this July 25 – Aug. 6. Around 1,000 competitors are expected to participate over the twelve- day tournament, bringing an estimated economic impact of $1.5 million to the Montgomery area.

Dawn Hathcock, Vice President of the Montgomery Area Convention & Visitor Bureau, expects the world championship to bring the city of Montgomery excellent exposure:

“We are thrilled to host this event for the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association, which boasts over 15 million members in both the United States and Canada. Our Multiplex is the perfect spot for a tournament of this size, with room for 60 horseshoe courts and comfortable seating for over 1,000 spectators. With such a wide scope of participants traveling to our city for this event, we hope to attract even more world championships to our facilities in the future.”

As of today, 934 entrants are confirmed to compete in eight different divisions for their share of over $160,000 in cash and scholarships.

Competition will begin by 8 a.m. each morning, starting Monday, July 25, with a break for NHPA convention and Hall of Fame banquet on Sunday, then will resume at 8 a.m. Monday, August 1. Admission is free and spectators are encouraged. Concessions and souvenirs will be available.

The event will be live streamed online at

For more information on Montgomery visit or at 334-625-2100.  


Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism deadlines

The Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism (AGCT) will be Aug. 20 – 23, at the Perdido Beach Resort in Orange Beach. 

This conference provides tourism professionals a chance to gather and learn about the economic impact of the industry on the Alabama economy, learn new strategies for marketing local Alabama attractions and amenities to visitors, raise money for scholarships through silent auctions and to celebrate achievements.

For more information and registration, go to:


Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

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

Sept. 7 – 9                               STS Fall Forum                                                          Birmingham



Tourism Tuesdays is a free electronic newsletter produced by the Alabama Tourism Department. It contains news about the state tourism department and the Alabama tourism industry.

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Alabama Tourism Department