Tourism Tuesdays November 1, 2016

  • Automotive editor for The Sun drives from Alabama to Texas in a rented Hellcat and writes about the trip, 2.2 million read
  • The next national monuments? Obama administration officials visit iconic civil rights sites in Alabama
  • The Rise of Civil Rights Tourism in America’s Deep South
  • Why did Bob Dylan pay a visit to Birmingham’s WorkPlay recently?
  • Variety: Sweet Home Alabama lures filmmakers with hefty incentives
  • New film premier for Fairhope Founders Day 201 at museum set Nov. 5
  • For 32 miles of sugar sand beach, head to the coast of Alabama
  • Alabama Gulf Coast seeing wave of butterflies
  • Popular Mechanics names Alabama business among best hardware stores
  • Tacky Jacks restaurant chain named Alabama Retailer of the Year
  • Dothan’s newest mural a lesson in area wildlife
  • The Hotel at Auburn University will host 25th Annual Hospitality Gala
  • Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo to Partner with Auburn University
  • Progress continues on Guest Welcome Center at Huntsville Botanical Garden
  • Fishermen move to Guntersville to train on the lake
  •  2016 Welcome Center Employees Educational Retreat
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events



Automotive editor for The Sun drives from Alabama to Texas in a rented Hellcat and writes about the trip, 2.2 million read

The Alabama portion of this trip was organized by Grey Brennan of the Alabama Tourism Department with assistance in the UK by Della Tully and the Birmingham and Tuscaloosa CVBs.  Journalist Rob Lewis is the automotive editor for The Sun and his October 2015 trip was sponsored by Brand USA. This story appeared one year later on Oct. 30, 2016 in The Sun is the second largest circulation newspaper in the UK with 2.2 million average daily readers.

By Rob Lewis, The Sun, Oct 30


GRAN TOURISTMO Racing a muscle car through the Deep South gets our man in gear to watch Lewis Hamilton win the F1 in Austin, Texas.

You’re behind the wheel of the most powerful all-American muscle car. Where would you go? Route 66? Germany’s Nurburgring race track? Well, I had a meeting with destiny planned for me and my dream Dodge Challenger Hellcat. 

My chequered flag was to see fellow Hertfordshire homeboy Lewis Hamilton seal his third F1 world championship at the glorious Circuit Of The Americas in Austin, Texas.

A road trip through Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas in the all-American Dodge Challenger HellcatIt’s a place he’s often quoted as saying is like a home from home since it was built in 2012 — and somewhere he’s reliably standing on the top step of the podium.

Well, with two out of three wins so far, it was a good SunBet, right?

But en route, I wanted to sample some of the motor racing heritage the Deep South has to offer and settled on starting in Alabama — home of Talladega (and the ballad of Will Ferrell’s Ricky Bobby).

Descending into Birmingham Alabama Airport, my wife Kim and I were treated to without doubt the most beautiful sunset above the clouds we’d ever seen — cue that vintage Lynyrd Skynyrd song.

But the flip side to that glorious moment was that by the time we’d cleared the airport’s queues it was dark — very dark — and I had the small matter of a 707hp muscle car to familiarise myself with.

This is a high-octane petrolhead’s dream.

Mercifully, this first leg of the near 2,000-mile, 11-day road trip clocked in at just a single digit and the grand Tutwiler Hotel in downtown Birmingham was as ready for us as we were for it.

Come the morning, and after some sweet make-your-own waffles, we climbed into our whiter than white Hellcat and took the 20-mile cruise to Birmingham’s Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum.

It’s now the world’s biggest motorbike museum, with 1,400 faithfully restored two-wheeled works of art displayed with due reverence. It’s also home to the world’s biggest collection of Norfolk’s finest Lotus racecars too.

With its own festival and meticulously maintained racetrack and grounds, this place is a high-octane petrol-head’s dream.

But from the manicured majesty of Barber it was swiftly on to the fabled insanity of Talladega Superspeedway, just 35 miles down the road.

We rolled up the iconic, flag-strewn boulevard to the circuit’s gates, where we came across gold-toothed old boy Clive, who explained that the eerie calm was because they were about to start prepping for “the big one”, Nascar’s Alabama 500.

We snuck our Hellcat in for a pre-victory lap, even landing a photo op on the Victory Lane — just minus the fans, fire, guns and grid girls.

We were told that while staying in Birmingham overnight, we had to check out a “juke joint” — and that Gip’s Place was the original and best.

This is 90-plus-year-old blues legend Henry Gip’s tumbledown backyard party — and everyone’s invited. For more than 50 years the blues has lived and been loved here.

No food and no drink is on offer — you bring your own — but for our lengthy travels we were given some equally unforgettable homemade moonshine.

Needless to say, the night was a long one, but come morning it was time to point the Dodge towards Alexander City, Alabama, to meet a guy with more muscle than most.

The fuss-free 75-mile highway cruise was a pleasure and we soon found ourselves pulling up at what seemed like a foreclosed gas station — actually Tim Wellborn’s Muscle Car Museum.

Tim showed us around his jaw-dropping collection of vintage muscle cars including more iconic Mopar (Performance Dodges) than you’ll ever see in one place.

En route to Mississippi we couldn’t help making a couple more stops, Tuscaloosa being top of that list.

We made it in time for dinner.  With barely room to swing a barbeque sauce covered cat, you’ve got to get there early, else you’re chowing down in the parking lot.

The hunger is real for these ribs — and we tasted just why.

To read the entire story on-line, go to


The next national monuments? Obama administration officials visit iconic civil rights sites in Alabama

By Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post, Oct. 27

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis journeyed to Anniston, Ala., and Birmingham on Thursday, providing the clearest indication yet that the administration may declare two civil rights sites as national monuments before President Obama leaves office.

Jewell and Jarvis are holding community meetings in both cities to solicit input on proposals that would commemorate two violent episodes in the 1960s struggle for racial equality in the United States.

On May 14, 1961, a mob attacked a bus in Anniston carrying an interracial group of young men and women seeking to challenge segregation on public buses in the South. Residents in that city are hoping to turn the former Greyhound bus station on Gurnee Avenue and the site of the firebombing of the Freedom Rider bus into a national park site.

The proposed Birmingham Civil Rights National Historical Park would include the site of the Sept. 15, 1963, bombing of the city’s 16th Street Baptist Church, which killed four girls and injured 22 other people, as well as sites such as the A.G. Gaston Motel, which served as an organizing location for segregation opponents.

On Wednesday, National Trust for Historic Preservation chief executive Stephanie Meeks sent a letter to Obama urging him to use his executive authority to make the site in Birmingham a national monument, saying the “designation will ensure the preservation and interpretation of the powerful role Birmingham played in the Civil Rights Movement, and will inspire Americans to think deeply and collaboratively about equality and injustice in our society today and in the future.”

In an interview, Nationals Park Conservation Association President Theresa Pierno said Birmingham deserves recognition because it “broke the back of segregation” in the South.

Both proposals have considerable support from local elected officials, as well as national groups.

Anniston Mayor Vaughn Stewart said in a statement that he believes administration officials back the idea of expanding the national park system to honor civil rights activists. Obama has already used his powers under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to honor abolitionist Harriet Tubman, farmworker and Latino activist Cesar Chavez and gay rights activists who launched the Stonewall riots.

The bus attack was “a most tragic event which inspired a nation to rally against the injustices of Jim Crow laws in the American South,” Stewart said. “The Anniston story is not only an integral part of the historic Freedom Rides and the greater Civil Rights Movement, but is also timely as President Obama pushes to ensure that the story of America’s history is as diverse as its people.”

To read this article online, go to:


The Rise of Civil Rights Tourism in America’s Deep South

By Mia Taylor, TheStreet, Oct. 23

A variety of new museums, memorials and high-tech exhibitions are highlighting the civil rights movement and the African American experience in this country in increasingly diverse and unique ways.A variety of new museums, memorials and high-tech exhibitions are highlighting the civil rights movement and the African American experience in this country in increasingly diverse and unique ways.A variety of new museums, memorials and high-tech exhibitions are highlighting the civil rights movement and the African American experience in this country in increasingly diverse and unique ways.On a warm afternoon in late September, President Obama stood before a crowd of more than 7,000 official guests, including such notable figures as Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith and Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and read the words of Langston Hughes.

“I, too, am America,” Obama said somberly, repeating a passage from the poet’s 1926 book The Weary Blues.

The comments were chosen to mark the long-awaited opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., a 400,00 square foot building displaying more than 36,000 artifacts tied to the African American experience in this country.

The eloquent and deeply meaningful words written by Hughes and spoken by Obama on that day could just as easily be applied to all of the new civil rights venues and educational offerings springing up in the Deep South these days, places that are working to showcase a part of our country’s history that often exists in the shadows, not fully accepted, recognized or seen as central to the American story.

By many accounts there is a burgeoning civil rights tourism industry taking shape across the Deep South.

The Washington, D.C. museum is just the latest in a string of new and notable offerings.

From new museums and memorials, to smartphone apps dedicated to civil rights tourism and multi-million dollar renovations of long existing, iconic museums, the expanding and diversifying tourism opportunities related to this chapter in our history are providing a richer and more extensive exposure to the African American experience than ever before.

“I think there is a movement or a resurgence right now, given the life and times of civil rights today in this country,” says Brad White, chief creative officer at Luckie & Company, an advertising agency that produced both a civil rights tourism smartphone app and an award-winning book for the Alabama Tourism Department.  “It seems like civil rights education has taken on a more pressing need right now given the issues that have surfaced with profiling and police, and Black Lives Matter. It’s a weird parallel between civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s and today.”

Among the new and notable offerings is the planned 2017 opening in Montgomery, Ala. of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive memorial and museum dedicated to the victims of lynching, which is being developed by the Equal Justice Initiative.

There are also plans to open the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in December 2017.

And just a few years ago, in 2014, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights opened its doors in Atlanta.

That same year, the iconic National Civil Rights Museum (located at the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination occurred) completed a $27.5 million renovation aimed at providing interactive exhibits that communicate in more modern ways.

After work was completed, museum attendance increased 27%, reaching 250,000 visitors in 2015. The spike in numbers continues this year as well.

Chief Marketing & External Affairs Officer Faith Morris says the swelling crowds has to do with far more than simply exciting renovations.

Many of the issues that were part of the civil rights movement decades ago remain relevant today, such as voting rights in places where people are not being allowed to vote freely and education equity in communities and regions where separate but equal continues to be a reality.

The movement did not die with Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.

“There is this interest and need to understand what’s going on and why,” Morris explains. “If you know your history you won’t repeat it, at least not in the way it was done before because you’re better informed.”

There are few better places to truly understand that history than at the newly redesigned National Civil Rights Museum.

As visitors pass from one exhibit to another there’s chanting from marchers and the shouting of a bus driver ordering Rosa Parks to the back of the bus.

The burning bus from the Freedom Ride is also on display and visitors can sit at the original Woolworth’s lunch counter from the famous 1960 student-sit in Greensboro, North Carolina. On the stools beside museum visitors at the counter are three-dimensional figures that heckle you, providing at least a small sense of what it must have been like for the brave souls who took a stand that day.

“The museum has always been a phenomenal place but we had to take into account how people engage in information now, and technology is a part of that. People want it to be interactive” Morris continues. “Now it’s an immersive experience, you can step right up to an exhibit and take a selfie.”

The Alabama Civil Rights Trail app designed by Luckie & Co, at the instigation of the Alabama Tourism Department, is yet another high-tech way travelers are engaging in such subject matter these days.

The app, which took about nine months to create and has been downloaded about 10,000 times, includes civil rights landmarks across the state, an interactive timeline that takes users through the struggle for equality, from Jim Crow to mob violence and desegregation; it also includes biographies of famous figures such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.  

The app is so comprehensive and informative it’s being used in schools to educate children, a fact that White, the chief creative officer from Luckie, takes particular pride in.

“There’s so much in Alabama connected to the civil rights movement,” White says. “The app allows people to engage in that sort of tourism and gives them a tool to curate their experience.”

He adds that he is hesitant to label the growing number of museums, memorials and travel experiences “civil rights tourism,” because to do so cheapens what is being offered and what is being learned.

“Part of civil rights tourism was about creating authentic experiences for people interested in that subject, so people could visit real locations where these historic events occurred,” White says. “It can be a powerful feeling to stand in the same places where such violent history happened …It’s sobering. And today it’s even more important.”

The tourism department also requested that Luckie & Co. create a book focused on civil rights tourism entitled Alabama Civil Rights Trail.

The award-winning book was developed with the Alabama Tourism Department and features vintage photographs alongside contemporary images of churches and other landmarks where African-Americans challenged racial barriers in the 1950s and 1960s. The book’s aim is to highlight places that are still accessible today.

With that book in hand, a delegation from Birmingham, including city Mayor William Bell, recently traveled to the United Nations in France to lobby for UNESCO World Heritage Site status for select sites along the Alabama Civil Rights Trail.

The visit resulted in the United Nations awarding the designation of “Memory of the World,” for the trail, says White.

“All of the effort, all of the civil rights institutes and all of the dedication to education about civil rights in the South has been about turning that corner so we don’t repeat those mistakes,” says White. “Today I would guess there may be a lot of people saying we did not learn from the past and we need to educate our communities and young people…You just have to pick up the newspaper today to see why that is true.”

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Why did Bob Dylan pay a visit to Birmingham’s WorkPlay recently?

By Mary Colurso,, Oct. 29

Bob Dylan likes WorkPlay.

How do we know? He told owner Tom Williams so on Friday, during a video shoot at the venue’s theater. 

Dylan, 75, one of the most famous names in the rock world, spent about four hours at the Birmingham entertainment complex, filming a video to commemorate Tony Bennett’s 90th birthday. 

According to Williams, the video will be part of an NBC TV special, “Tony Bennett Celebrates 90: The Best Is Yet to Come.” The two-hour show, which airs Dec. 20, also includes performances by Aretha Franklin, Lady Gaga, Elton John, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder and other celebrities.

Dylan couldn’t attend the actual celebration, which was filmed Sept. 15 at Radio City Music Hall. However, Williams said, Dylan wanted to mark the occasion with a song. That’s the tune he performed and filmed with his band at WorkPlay, with a technical crew and gear brought in for the occasion. 

Williams said he watched Dylan’s sound check on Friday, but declined to name the song chosen for the filming, citing the artist’s desire to keep it under wraps until the show airs. 

Dylan, a notoriously private singer-songwriter, didn’t allow outside cameras at the shoot, including cell phones. (Sorry, folks, no selfies!) Williams said, however, that Dylan was extremely cordial during his visit and complimented the facilities at WorkPlay. 

“He was coming around the corner, and the security man said, ‘There’s the owner,'” Williams said. “He approached me. We talked for about three minutes, about WorkPlay and the studios. I told him we could record a live show here. He said, ‘Great place, great place.’ … Afterward, as he was finishing up and coming back through, he said ‘Tom, you have a really nice place,’ and put his hand out.”

Although these encounters were brief, Williams has exchanged more words with Dylan than most people ever will. The star, a recent Nobel laureate, has a reputation for being tight-lipped on the concert trail, with fans, reporters and promoters alike. 

“He was super-nice,” Williams said. “They had one rule: No cell phones, no cameras in the air while he’s in the building. They just said, ‘Give him his space and no cameras.'”

Dylan had been mentioned in the Nobel speculation for years, but few experts expected the academy to extend the prestigious award to a genre such as pop music.

Dylan, who’s touring to promote his new album, “Fallen Angels,” stopped in Birmingham on the way to Huntsville, where he’ll perform Saturday at the Von Braun Center Concert Hall. The tour brings him back to Birmingham on Nov. 15 for a show at the BJCC Concert Hall. After that, he’s set to play on Nov. 16 at the Saenger Theatre in Mobile. 

Williams said Dylan’s team contacted WorkPlay about two months ago, asking about the possibility of a rental for the video shoot. The connection came through the venue’s sound engineer and production manager, Davy Moire. 

Williams said his initial reaction was, “Of course we can do this! Whatever it takes.”  

WorkPlay has seen its share of stars over the years, from Jack White to the Drive-By Truckers, and the venue hosted a video shoot for Billy Bob Thornton and the Boxmasters in 2014. An appearance from Dylan, however, would be an important milestone. 

Secrecy was crucial, lest the public invade the venue hoping for glimpse of the iconic musician. Only four or five people at WorkPlay, including general manager Joe Benintende and Williams’ wife, Courtney Williams, knew about Dylan’s visit in advance. If word leaked before the the shoot, that would be a deal-breaker, Williams said. 

“It was tough, but not too tough, (to keep the secret) because we didn’t want it to get out,” Williams said. “And we didn’t want to lose it.”

Much of the initial discussion with Dylan’s team involved the precise location of the shoot — WorkPlay has a theater, a soundstage, recording studios, office space and more — and the theater finally won the day. 

A crew arrived on Thursday to ready the theater, Williams said, and the workers brought a substantial amount of equipment, including set design elements and the analog sound gear Dylan prefers. 

“Our preparation was to make sure the room was clean and the sound was right,” Williams said. “We really wanted to impress the crew. They used our soundboard, but I’d say they used about 80 percent of their own equipment. It was a huge production.”

WorkPlay also contacted a local caterer, Jason Marchant of BYOB restaurant in Lakeview, arranging food for Dylan’s team on Thursday and Friday. After the shoot, at Courtney Williams’ suggestion, the leftovers were donated to Brother Bryan Mission in Birmingham.

The famed artist arrived around 2 p.m. on Friday, wearing a hoodie and sunglasses, and later changed into a suit for the video. Williams said Dylan wore tuxedo pants and a white shirt, and “had his hair up.”  A makeup artist was on scene, as well.

Williams said excitement was running high at WorkPlay while Dylan was on scene, but everyone present made sure to keep things cool. Although he knew better than to ask for a photo with Dylan, Williams admits that he was tempted. 

“I came so close to asking him,” Williams said. “I’m a singer-songwriter fan; Bob Dylan and John Prine and Willie Nelson, they’re my thing. It was an honor to have a professional musician and Nobel Prize winner come to WorkPlay and record a song.” 

Williams wouldn’t say much about Dylan’s performance, or any birthday message the singer might have filmed for Bennett. But he described the video shoot as professional and smooth, and said everyone involved was friendly.

Dylan explored the WorkPlay complex a bit during his stay, and even acknowledged the resident dog, Cheetos. 

After the filming ended, Williams opened WorkPlay’s bar to the visiting crew. Dylan left the venue around 6 p.m., he said, and social media immediately became fair game. 

“When I could see the taillights of the bus, I hit Facebook,” Williams said. “It was a great day for WorkPlay and for the city.” 

To read this article online, go to:


Variety: Sweet Home Alabama lures filmmakers with hefty incentives

By Terry Flores, Variety, Oct. 28

With southern hospitality, Alabama has catered to everything from small, independent short films to massive Hollywood productions.

It’s easy to see why Alabama is a popular destination for filmmakers. It easily doubles for multiple North American locations. The past still lives in the Southern state’s cities and towns, while Huntsville is home to rocket technology and an incubator of the space age. Plus, the state offers filmmakers lots of forests, beaches, and rolling hills. Regions include the Tennessee Valley and the Appalachian plateau.

But there are even better reasons for shooting in Alabama. Producers are drawn by the state’s refundable tax credit of up to 25% of production expenditures – and 35% of payroll to state residents.

Specifically, the incentive offers a 25% refundable tax credit on qualified spend – including  non-resident above-the-line and below-the-line payroll.

In addition, the benefit provides for a 35% tax credit on payroll to residents. Here are the details:

Alabama offers a 35% refundable tax credit on payroll to residents.

There’s a per-project cap of $20 million, and a minimum spend of $500,000 is required.

Recent projects shot in Alabama include “Vice” (2015), “Extraction” (2015), “Heist” (2015), “Convergence” (2015), “Rage” (2014), “Selma” (2014), “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (2014), “42” (2013), and “Oculus” (2013),

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New film premiere for Fairhope Founders Day 201 at museum set Nov. 5

The City of Fairhope will honor and show thanks to all war veterans in the Fairhope Veteran’s Day Parade, on Saturday morning, November 5.  Following the parade, the Friends of the Fairhope Museum of History will celebrate Fairhope’s remarkable founders and the 122nd anniversary of their Founders Day from 12-5 pm at the Fairhope History Museum located at 24 N. Section St. Fairhope, AL 36532.


Hot dogs and hamburgers will be served at the free picnic lunch from 12-2 pm.  Mayor-Elect

Karin Wilson will be at the Museum from 12-1 pm in support of the importance of Fairhope’s

extraordinary history and how it must be protected and projected for future generations.


The Museum Celebration will include a Premiere Film Showing of Fairhope Founders Day, the

story of Fairhope’s ‘Round-Up Day’ celebration held in the Fairhope Colony Cemetery.  Hollywood (now Fairhope) filmmaker John O’Melveny

Woods, along with Producer Gary Scovil of Scovil Productions, will host the first public co

showing of the film with viewings every hour from 1:00-5:00 pm. The play was written by

Museum Director Donnie Barrett and enacted by 24 friends of the museum. Standing at the

burial sites of each character, the actors portray, in full costume, the significant contributions of

Fairhope Founders and significant contributors to Fairhope’s early survival and ultimate success.


The Nov. 5 event also marks the official opening of a special Fairhope Founders exhibit in

the Museum balcony display room. Graphically and verbally the key Founders of Fairhope are

brought to life.


Commemorative items available for purchase at the museum include a DVD carrying the filmed

play, a story of its making and a music track of an original song, written and produced in

Hollywood called the ‘Fairhope Rag’; a T-shirt of this year’s Founder’s Day Celebration. The T-

shirt features an original painting by nationally renowned Fairhope artist, Dean Mosher. His

mural-sized painting depicts Fairhope’s brave and dedicated Founders gathered majestically

hillside overlooking the Bay.


For more information about the film, contact Donnie Barrett, Fairhope History Museum, (251)



For 32 miles of sugar sand beach, head to the coast of Alabama

By Katherine Rodeghier, Daily Herald, Oct. 28

Alabama? Seriously?

Yes, I tell my surprised friends. We spent our vacation in Alabama. In fact, in 40 years as a travel journalist, stepping onto all seven continents, I’ve had the pleasure of staying on the Gulf Coast of Alabama three times, once with my professional organization and twice on family vacations. The first time was decades ago with my kids; last year we took a grandchild. 

I’d go back in a heartbeat.

The communities of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores sit on Alabama’s Riviera, 32 miles of sugar sand beach, as local boosters like to say. It’s unlike the rest of Alabama as its tourist office tries to convey with the slogan: “It’s a whole different state.”

Pull up a map of Alabama and take a look. See those “toes” sticking into the Gulf? That’s a prime vacation destination. Clean and family-friendly with hotels and rental condos fronting creamy sand and boasting some of the best seafood you’ll ever salivate over. None of the glitzy casinos you find along Mississippi’s coast to the west. And none of the sleazy pawnshops that litter the road to the nearest major airport in Pensacola, Florida, an hour’s drive east.

My favorite time to visit? Spring and fall. Summers can be hot and humid, winters too cold for sunbathing. But time your stay wisely and you’ll find plenty to keep you happy.

A few from my own experiences:


The sand squeaks between your toes as you walk the beaches, dodging surf and sandpipers. So white it practically glows, it contains shiny grains of quartz eroded over the ages from the Appalachian Mountains up north. Spread a towel and soak up the sun or rent a beach chair with an umbrella from a vendor, cooling off now and then with a dip in the clear blue-green Gulf of Mexico. Build a sand castle with the kids; help them hunt for shells.

For something more active, book an ocean kayak or motorized watercraft and do battle with the waves. Float above them on a parasailing adventure.

If you’re not staying at a property with beach access, take a ride to Gulf State Park,, with more than 3.5 miles of beaches split between the main park in Gulf Shores and access points in Orange Beach. There’s a nature center with exhibits on plant and animal life in the park, an 18-hole golf course and the 15-mile Hugh Branyon Backcountry Trail for a leisurely bike ride, walk or jog. You can reserve a cabin or campground space, too.


The state park also boasts a fishing pier extending more than a quarter mile into the Gulf. Stroll along with fishermen towing their wheeled rigs and watch them as they haul in their catch. Or rent a rod and reel and try your luck. You can buy bait and a license right on the pier. Kids fish for free with an adult.

If you want to fish from a boat, you have two choices: inshore and offshore charters, The smaller vessels used for inshore, think parties of six or less, usually stick to the back bays or bayous but may venture a mile out in the Gulf if weather permits. The bigger offshore boats can be booked from four hours to two days and often go 12 miles out.

Your captain will most likely have you put your line in along the largest artificial reef program in the nation, started by the local charter fishing fleet in the 1950s with the sinking of car bodies and later including Army tanks, voting machines, Liberty ships and more. With luck you’ll pull in amberjack, grouper, trigger fish, mackerel and, in season, red snapper.

The crew cleans your fish for you so you can ship your catch home, take it back to your condo to cook or bring it to one of the area’s “hook and cook” restaurants. At Shipp’s Harbour Grill,, the chef will turn your catch of the day into a gourmet meal.


Fresh fish is all well and good, but the Alabama coast is all about seafood found in abundance at local restaurants.

King Neptune’s Seafood Restaurant has been around for 23 years, occupying an unassuming ma and pa place that looks like a repurposed gas station on the main highway in Gulf Shores, Feast on local Bon Secour oysters, blue crab and, by all means, shrimp. The supersized, succulent royal reds make the word, shrimp, an oxymoron. Owners Al and Diane Sawyer serve up 45 chef specials, including a seafood gumbo to rave about. Weekday lunch specials start at $4.95 and happy hour, with $1.50 well drinks and $2 margaritas and bloody marys, lasts from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Sawyers keep the kids happy with high chairs and crayons for coloring on place mats.

Highly rated Gulf Shores Steamer, which is actually in Orange Beach, takes a heart-healthy approach with steamed seafood, Families love to dig into colorful combination platters while those above drinking age go for pitchers of beer and buckets of shrimp.

If oysters are your preference, head to the Alabama Gulf Coast the first weekend in November for the annual Hangout Oyster Cook-Off.


If you want to see where that seafood comes from, book a nature tour with Capt. Skip of Sailaway Charters, A state-certified nature guide, he takes families on his pontoon boat through bayous and back bays to catch and identify oysters, blue crabs and shrimp as well as the fish and birds that follow along. With luck you may spot a dolphin.

Dolphins also might show up on Sail Wild Hearts cruises on a 53-foot open catamaran equipped with life vests for little ones not even old enough to walk, Stretch out on netting above the waves and enjoy the view on a sunset cruise, or book fishing, snorkeling, kayaking or dolphin cruises, including some with the Navy Blue Angels flying in formation overhead. Push your visit into December and you can sail with Santa.

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Alabama Gulf Coast seeing wave of butterflies

By Robert DeWitt, Alabama NewsCenter, Oct. 28

As if Alabama beaches weren’t beautiful enough, now migrating butterflies are adding to their splendor.

The colorful monarch is just one group of butterflies that fly across the Alabama Gulf Coast on their fall migration to Mexico, according to Robert DeWitt’s story on the Alabama News Network.

There are few better places to observe the flight of these butterflies than Alabama’s coast, says Brittany Petersen, assistant refuge manager for the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge.

“As they come south and hit the Gulf, they turn and go along the coast,” said Homer Singleton, who recently led a group of 12 out onto the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge’s Gator Lake Trail.  “They don’t try to go the 600 miles across the Gulf of Mexico.”

Petersen said that as monarchs migrate from all over the U.S. and from Canada, there are areas of habitat that are important and along the Alabama coast is one of them.

The Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge offers people an opportunity to take advantage of the seasonal butterfly bounty with its Monarch Walks, which began Oct. 19. Twice a week, Singleton, a refuge volunteer, takes groups on a two-mile walk through the refuge, just west of Gulf Shores, in search of monarchs and other colorful species such as common buckeye, Gulf fritillary, painted lady and viceroy.

To read this article online, go to:


Popular Mechanics names Alabama business among best hardware stores

By Lucy Berry,, Oct. 28

One of Huntsville’s longest-running businesses is among the best hardware stores in America in Popular Mechanics.

Lewter Hardware, open since 1928 on 222 Washington St. N.E. in downtown Huntsville, was recognized in the magazine for its old-fashioned, small-town vibe and years of service to the Huntsville community.

“When Alabama got a rare heavy snowfall in 2015, word got out that the truck delivering sleds to Lewter Hardware would be arriving at 11:15 a.m.,” the article reads. “The store, which has been serving the area since 1928 carrying butter churns alongside Skilsaws, had a line wrapping through the store that day. The community knows where to turn to, even for the most rare of needs.”

Jincy Lewter, who handles sales and marketing for Lewter Hardware, has been a part of the family business since she was a baby. The longtime Popular Mechanics reader said the article is “an enormous compliment.”

“Speaking as the youngest member of the Lewter family to work in this fine store, while only having worked here for the past few months, I’ve been around the store for all of my 24 years, and I’m so proud of my hardware family for their tireless effort in providing friendly, personal and attentive customer service,” she said. “If we don’t have it, we will try to recommend someone who does. We love our customers!”

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Tacky Jacks restaurant chain named Alabama Retailer of the Year

Mullet Wrapper, Oct. 27

George W. Skipper III, managing partner of Tacky Jacks, today earned the Silver Alabama Retailer of the Year Award in the Annual Sales $5 Million to $20 Million Category. The waterfront dining restaurant chain, with locations in Orange Beach, Gulf Shores and Fort Morgan, was one of 13 businesses honored as Retailers of the Year by the Alabama Retail Association.

Tacky Jacks received several letters of recommendation for the award by members of the community and city leaders, including Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft, whose letter read in part, “They are good business people, and they are good citizens. Tacky Jacks pays it forward making Gulf Shores a better place to live.”

Tacky Jacks began in 1979 as a small tavern on Cotton Bayou, known for its access by land or sea. Today, all three locations feature the same unique water and land access, as well as retail gift shops with souvenirs and items from local artists. “We want to offer a great product along with fun for the whole family,” said Skipper. “People come to the beach for the seafood, the water, beautiful views and relaxation. We feel we can offer all of those things,” he added. “But, we also want to make a difference.”

Skipper said what makes him the most proud of his business is the work they do to support veterans. Last year, for example, Tacky Jacks gave away an Action Track wheelchair to a disabled veteran. The wheelchair allowed the driver to go to the beach, hunting, camping or across any rough terrain that would have been impossible without it. The funds to purchase the chair came from the voluntary donation box outside Tacky Jacks, which the business then matched to pay for the chair. “The cost of these special chairs starts at $11,000, but they are priceless to the recipient – they’re life-changing,” said Skipper. “People need to support our veterans.”

Tacky Jacks also raises money for the Alabama Gulf Coast Reef and Restoration Foundation through the sales of a specially developed Saltwater Mafia/Tacky Jacks shirt. Locally, Tacky Jacks was nominated for and received the Coastal Alabama’s Business Chambers Distinguished Business of the Year in 2015. This award is based on involvement and leadership in the community.

Yolanda Johnson, the vice chair for Retail & Business Services for the Coastal Alabama Business Chamber, who nominated Tacky Jacks for the award, said, “Tacky Jacks is our nominee because this company is a shining example of a very well-run organization that has exhibited strong growth, superior employment practices, market leadership and exemplary community involvement.” The Alabama Retailer of the Year awards, started in 1999. This year’s winners came from a pool of more than 70 nominees. “George Skipper is a retailer of the year EVERY year to the Tacky Jacks customers, its 75 employees and the Orange Beach, Gulf Shores and Fort Morgan communities,” said Alabama Retail Association President Rick Brown.

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Dothan’s newest mural a lesson in area wildlife

By Lance Griffin, Dothan Eagle, Oct. 27

Dothan’s new wildlife mural is so authentic it almost looked like one of the mural’s huge wild turkeys had landed on the shoulders of Payne Henderson during the official ribbon cutting Thursday morning.

An audible gobble probably wouldn’t have surprised anyone.

Alabama wildlife artist Eddie Leroy spent much of the summer painting scenes of local wildlife along the walls of the new Bob Woodall Air Care Systems building downtown at the corner of Burdeshaw and Saint Andrews streets. What resulted is a lifelike depiction of whitetail deer, turkeys, birds, fish and other animals often seen in the Wiregrass.

The wildlife mural joins a host of other downtown murals that tell Dothan’s story.

“They all mean something special,” Murals of the Wiregrass Chairman Payne Henderson said.

Much of the wildlife depicted on the mural can be found at the wildlife refuge located near the Farley Nuclear Plant. About 400 acres is dedicated to electricity generation at Plant Farley, but the surrounding 1,400 acres is a nationally certified wildlife refuge.

The Murals of the Wiregrass partnered with the Alabama Power Service Organization to move the mural forward. Alabama Power is owned by the Southern Company, which owns Farley Nuclear Plant.

Regional Extension Agent Phillip Carter said the attention to wildlife will pay dividends.

“This is about the best exposure you can have for wildlife,” Carter said. “In today’s world, a lot of youth are not exposed to this and they lose appreciation for the environment.”

Henderson said Dothan City and Houston County fourth graders will soon have a tour of the city’s murals as part of their Alabama History curriculum.

According to Murals of the Wiregrass, the wildlife mural is Dothan’s 24th mural downtown.

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The Hotel at Auburn University will host 25th Annual Hospitality Gala

Gala event to celebrate award-winning chefs, winemakers and auction to benefit Auburn University’s Hospitality Management Program

The Hospitality Gala is returning for its 25th year to The Hotel at Auburn University on Thursday, November 17, 2016 at 5:30 p.m. The 2016 Gala promises an evening of elegant atmosphere, experiential dinning and global wine pairings from top chefs and winemakers from around the country with the goal of topping last year’s record of $305K raised.

The Gala has served as the main fundraising event for the Hospitality Management Program at Auburn University since 1992. As proceeds directly benefit the program, students and faculty from the department have a hand in planning, executing and facilitating the event from start to finish. Limited tickets are available for $150 per person.

For additional information on The Hospitality Gala or to purchase tickets, please visit

“In addition to allowing students to work with top chefs and winemakers, last year the Gala raised $305,000 for the hospitality program,” said The Hotel at Auburn University’s Managing Director Hans van der Reijden. “The Hospitality Gala supports the next generation of top-tier hospitality leadership, and we are proud to be a part of Auburn’s nationally recognized program.”

This culinary occasion includes five notable guest chefs working together with four local chefs to craft the Gala’s signature four-course meal. Gracing the list of guest chefs are Chef Matt Bolus of The 404 Kitchen in Nashville, Tenn.; Chef Donnie Ferneau of The 1836 Club in Little Rock, Ark.; Chef Lee Styer of Fond in Reading, Pa.; and chefs David Campbell and Andrew Litherland of The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds in Greensboro, Ga. The list of local chefs include Auburn University Hotel and Restaurant Management alumni Chef Rob McDaniel, Chef David Bancroft, Chef Brandon Burleson and The Hotel at Auburn University’s own Executive Chef Leo Maurelli III. Wines for the evening will be provided by California winemakers Joe Davis and Fritz Stuhlmuller and South African winemaker Matthew van Heerden.

“Combining the talent of both Auburn alumni and our guest chefs makes for a truly over-the-top Gala dining experience,” said Chef Leo. “It is always exciting to welcome world-renowned chefs during The Hospitality Gala. We all walk away with incredible new culinary ideas and invaluable professional and personal relationships.”

The Hotel at Auburn University is currently coordinating item and package entries for the Gala’s highly anticipated live auction. The live auction has included items such as trips to Santorini and Napa, to safaris in Africa and one-of-a-kind works of art. For further inquiry, please contact Allison Duke with The Hotel at Auburn University (

To learn more about The Hospitality Gala, please visit or call 334-844-4261.



Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo to Partner with Auburn University
By Debbie Williams, WKRG News 5, Oct. 26

The next thing that grows in this old peanut field could be a new crop of veterinarians and their training ground could be a real zoo.

“Absolutely the most exciting news that I’ve heard in a long time,” says zoo director Patti Hall.

Before Auburn University decided to build a $12 million education complex, including a satellite teaching hospital for its vet school, the zoo was on their radar.

“When we get here there are going to be so many good opportunities for us to pursue,” says dean of veterinary medicine Calvin Johnson. “Some we have not even thought about, others that are pretty obvious.”

“We will be working on partnering up on the programs that Auburn is going to be offering,” says Hall. “At this point, I can’t give a lot of details but there will be a partnership and a relationship with the vet school.”

Financing for the next construction phase at the new zoo location is still being worked out but Auburn’s announcement is expected to boost that process as well. “Maybe I can talk them into really explore the exotic animals a lot more,” says Hall. “With the zoo being in their backyard, it will give them the opportunity.”

There is still a lot of work to be done according to Hall. “I’m looking forward to a wonderful relationship with them and we don’t know where it’s all going to go but I think it is all for the good.”

Twenty-six acres just north of County Road 8 may not look like much now, but it is full of possibilities especially for the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo.

Auburn expects construction to begin next Spring with students arriving for classes by 2019.

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Progress continues on Guest Welcome Center at Huntsville Botanical Garden

By Bob Gathany,, Oct. 25

Progress continues on Huntsville Botanical Garden’s new 30,000 sq. ft. Guest Welcome Center. It is designed to resemble a traditional Southern-style home. Construction began in January of 2016 and plans are to have the facility ready for use in the spring of 2017.

A 3500-sq.-ft. Atrium main entrance will be the guest center check-in. It will feature state-of-the-art resources for orientation, streamlined ticketing processing and will provide a gathering place to ensure an exceptional guest experience.

There will also be a café with both interior and patio seating for casual dining without paying garden admission. A new gift shop across from the café will more than double the current square footage.

An open mezzanine around the Atrium will offer gallery space for exhibits. This level will also include office space, restrooms, storage and a conference room with a balcony overlooking the Garden.

The building will be home to three new rental facilities to accommodate meetings, receptions, weddings and other special events. The Grand Hall will accommodate up to 350 seated guests. It will feature a catering kitchen with separate entrance, library, bride’s room, groom’s room, and a covered drop-off area.

The Carriage House is a unique facility that will open along both the east and west sides of the building allowing a casual indoor/outdoor experience at the garden for more than 200 guests.  

There will also be an elegant glass conservatory offering an intimate space for small weddings, meetings or events for up to 40 guests.

The building team for the Welcome Center includes Turner Construction, Matheny Goldmon Architecture + Interiors, 4Site Incorporated, PEC Structural Engineering and SSOE Group. 

With expanded facilities Huntsville’s Botanical Garden will continue to be an amazing attraction for residents and visitors to our city.

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Fishermen move to Guntersville to train on the lake
The Advertiser-Gleam, Oct. 21

Former Bassmasters Classic champion Boyd Duckett said so many bass pros are moving to Guntersville because the lake offers a training ground.

Either here or within an hour’s drive, he said, pros can practice any technique they might need at any lake in the country.

“You can develop your skills on that kind of fishing,” Mr. Duckett said.

He made the comments in an online documentary that aired this week about why so many professional anglers are moving to Guntersville. made the documentary and noted nearly a dozen pro anglers now live in Guntersville or the surrounding area.

Mr. Duckett said Guntersville is a great community too and that plus the fishing is a big draw.

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2016 Welcome Center Employees Educational Retreat

Registration continues for the 2016 Welcome Center Employees Educational Retreat at the Sheraton in downtown Birmingham.  The event includes a new format.  Welcome Center employees will engage in a speed dating type set up similar to National Tour Association and Travel South.  Industry partners will be stationary and get one on one time with each center and their employees. 

Dates for the retreat are Nov. 13-15.  

For registration forms, schedule of events and hotel information contact Patti Culp at: OR 334-271-0050.  

Sponsorships are still available. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to showcase your community with the devoted staff members who welcome our visitors to Sweet Home Alabama. 


Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

Nov. 13 – 15                           Welcome Center Retreat                                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