Tourism Tuesdays April 4, 2017 features April Walking Tours in article and photo slideshow

More than 500 take part in April Walking Tours on Saturday

Huntsville Botanical Garden unveils $16 million facility

Alabama Tourism workshop- April 12

Eater names Highlands and Fisher’s among the “South’s 38 Essential Restaurants”

Auerbach cuts first sessions in revamped Muscle Shoals Sound Studios

“Muscle Shoals” is Paste Magazine’s top Netflix music documentary

Anniston celebrating 15th year of the Noble Street Festival

Tourism becoming big business in West Alabama

ALABAMA 200 workshops offer next step in bicentennial planning

Honda donates vehicles to bicentennial

Element hotel opens in Huntsville

Photo contest celebrates outdoors and bicentennial

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website

________________________________________________ features April Walking Tours in article and photo slideshow
From the article by Amber Sutton on

Looking to get out and enjoy the spring weather while learning more about the history of Alabama’s cities and towns?

Some 28 towns across the state will offer free walking tours every Saturday morning as part of the Alabama Tourism Department’s April Walking Tours. These hour-long tours, which will begin at 10 a.m., will be led by community leaders and offer insight into each town’s times gone by and more.

“Alabama is the only state in the nation to hold statewide, simultaneous walking tours.  These walking tours are a great way to get out and enjoy the spring weather and find out about the history of our state.  More than 32,000 people have participated in the walking tours since the beginning of the program 14 years ago and the tours increase in popularity every year,” Brian Jones, of the state tourism department, said.

For the complete article and photo slideshow please see

More than 500 take part in April Walking Tours on Saturday
More than 500 people across the state took part in the April Walking Tours on Saturday.While numbers are still being reported, so far some of the largest walking tours were Huntsville, 120; Florence, 75; Fairhope, 62; Athens, 52; Cullman, 42; Decatur 35.

A variety of community leaders lead the free tours through the historic districts or courthouse square areas of their hometowns.  The hour-long tours start at 10 a.m. on April 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29.

Towns and starting places for the April Walking Tours are: Athens, Athens Visitor Center; Attalla, Gazebo at 4th St. and 5th Ave.; Bayou La Batre, Mariner Park; Birmingham, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute; Courtland, Courtland Heritage Museum; Cullman, Cullman County Museum; Daleville, Chamber of Commerce; Decatur, Old State Bank Building; Elba, Chamber of Commerce; Enterprise, The Rawls Hotel; Eutaw, Prairie Avenue; Fairhope, Fairhope Welcome Center; Florence, various locations; Foley, Welcome Center.

Huntsville, Confectionary Shop at Constitution Village (April 1 & 8 only); Livingston, McConnell Field on University of West Alabama campus; Madison, Madison Roundhouse (April 15 & 22 only); Mobile, Welcome Center at The History Museum of Mobile; Montgomery; Montgomery Area Visitor Center; Mooresville, Post Office; Moulton, Lawrence County Archives; Pell City, City Hall; Prattville, Prattaugan Museum; Selma, Selma-Dallas County Library; Sheffield, Sheffield Municipal Building; Shelby, Iron Works Park; Troy, Pike County Chamber of Commerce; Tuscumbia, ColdWater Bookstore.

More information about the April Walking Tours is available on the Alabama Tourism Department website at

Huntsville Botanical Garden unveils $16 million facility
From the article by Paul Gattis on

In the gleaming morning sunshine, the Huntsville Botanical Garden on Friday formally unveiled its new $16 million facility that’s expected to increase visitors to an already popular attraction.

The new venue – constructed at the end of the main entrance road off Bob Wallace Avenue – is a stately four-column facility that includes a new welcome center, cafe, restaurant and three areas of varying sizes available for events.

“What we’ve been able to do is put an appropriate face on a beautiful garden,” said Paula Steigerwald, president and CEO of the garden. “It is a beautiful building but the real beauty is behind the building. We’re proud of our conservation efforts, our horticulture efforts and our education efforts. That’s the real focus of the garden. This is just about being able to sustain our mission.”

Steigerwald said that based on “like models,” the garden can expect a 25 to 30 percent increase in visitors because of the new facility.

Officials who attended the opening included U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Madison Mayor Paul Finley and Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell.

“It’s really an attribute, a jewel of the Tennessee Valley that we’re going to enjoy for years to come,” Brooks said.

The botanical garden, along with the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and the Early Works Children’s History Museum, gives Huntsville three of the top 10 tourist attractions in the state, Sentell said.

“You’ve got a million people who come to three attractions in Huntsville,” Sentell said. “No other place in Alabama can claim that.”

Garden officials said $14.2 million has been raised of the $16 million needed to pay for the new facility. The cities of Huntsville and Madison have contributed as well as the Madison County Commission and the Madison County legislative delegation.

The 30,000 square foot facility includes three event areas ranging in size from 350 seated guests in The Grand Hall to 56 seated guests in The Conservatory.

The spacious new lobby that provides a gateway to the garden itself is a dramatic change from what visitors have seen in the past.

“One of our goals was to improve all visitor amenities,” Steigerwald said. “Automatic doors, steps are ramps, very accessible, elevator for the upstairs. There are a lot of things we weren’t able to offer before.”

Steigerwald’s favorite new feature, though, is perhaps a most simple one.

“Probably the balcony looking over the garden from a view you never had before,” she said.

For the complete article please see

Alabama Tourism Workshop- April 12
The Alabama Tourism Department will hold its semi-annual Tourism Workshop in Montgomery on Wednesday, April 12.  This workshop is for new tourism industry members, event organizers and anyone interested in enhancing tourism in the area.

For registration and additional information, please contact Rosemary Judkins at 334-242-4493 or via email at

Eater names Highlands and Fisher’s among the “South’s 38 Essential Restaurants”
Eater, a popular online food and dining site, has named Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham and Fisher’s in Orange Beach among the South’s 38 Essential Restaurants.

From the Eater article:

Highlands Bar and Grill
What: The flagship restaurant of the empire overseen by Frank and Pardis Stitt, the South’s first couple of gracious hospitality. Why: Decades before all of America came to worship fried chicken and shrimp over grits, Frank Stitt forged a cuisine that applied French techniques to ingredients grown on Alabama farms and fished from Gulf waters. Highlands opened in 1983, and has stayed strikingly relevant since day one: A recent stunning dinner of lemony pan-seared shad roe, duck ballotine spiced with juniper and cumin, and pastry chef Dolester Miles’ edge-of-spring strawberry cobbler reminded me of its magnificence yet again.

Fisher’s at Orange Beach Marina
The bounty of the Gulf, in its freshest and finest expression. Why: Beachside restaurants across the South often (distressingly) serve fish flown in from elsewhere. This dock-chic treasure, though, offers the true local catch. Chef Bill Briand’s unremitting support of area fishermen and oyster farmers yields dazzlers such as roasted Bon Secour oysters buoyed by garlic-leek butter, or curried grouper collar packed with silky flesh and swathed in a cloak of tomatoes, charred peppers, and mint.

For the complete article please see

Auerbach cuts first sessions in revamped Muscle Shoals Sound Studio
From the article by Robert Palmer in the Times Daily:

The last time Dan Auerbach worked at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, some extra equipment had to be brought in to finish the Black Keys’ Grammy-winning “Brothers.”

Things have changed.

Muscle Shoals Sound Studio is once again a fully functioning recording facility now owned by a nonprofit foundation. The studio, which was renovated with a grant from Beats by Dr. Dre, reopened in January.

Most days, it’s a museum, but the foundation that operates the iconic studio keeps it open for business, as well.

“This is light years away from the last time I was here,” Auerbach said during a break in recording last week. “This what I dreamed it would look like seven years ago.”

Auerbach has assembled a stellar lineup of session players, many of them Muscle Shoals and Memphis, Tennessee, veterans. Among them are Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section members David Hood and Jimmy Johnson, Spooner Oldham, Bobby Wood and Gene Chrisman of American Recording Studios in Memphis, Nashville, Tennessee, A-list guitarist Billy Sanford, and backing vocalists Marie Lewey and Cindy Richardson.

In four days of work, 15 songs have been recorded, he said.

“These guys are in their 70s,” Auerbach said with admiration. “There’s no excuse for the rest of us.”

Though the studio is world renowned, it’s not just the bricks and mortar that make it special, he said.

“These guys have made timeless music. It’s all the good things about American music,” he said. “They recorded soul, rock. They made soulful pop. You can’t manufacture that. That’s why it’s so special. It’s all about the guys in the studios. Every great record label and studio was based on that.”

Auerbach said he is releasing an album of original material this summer on his label Easy Eye Records.

For Hood and Johnson, working again in the studio they founded in 1969 is special.

“It feels like we never left. It’s the strangest feeling,” Hood said.

The studio at 3614 Jackson Highway closed in 1978, and was moved to roomier quarters on the Tennessee River. The Rhythm Section sold the second studio to Malaco Records in the 1980s, but continued to work there.

“It’s been probably 20 years ago that I last recorded here,” Johnson said. “They’ve done a wonderful job on the equipment, and the (control) board has done a magnificent job. It seems to be as good as the one we had. This might be the beginning of us doing more things here.”

Wood said he has known the Muscle Shoals players since the 1960s, but never recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound.

“We play a similar music with a similar groove,” he said. “We listened to their records, and they listened to our records.”

The lobby of the studio remained open for tourists while the recording sessions were underway. Judy Hood, chairwoman of Muscle Shoals Music Foundation, said visitors were given free tickets to the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in compensation.

“As usual, we had visitors from all over the world last week,” she said. “Most of the people who visit 3614 Jackson Highway are hard-core fans to begin with, so they weren’t put off by the fact that they couldn’t go into the studio itself. In fact, the majority of them were thrilled to be standing in the building while history was being made.”

For the complete article please see

“Muscle Shoals” is Paste Magazine’s top Netflix music documentary
From the article by Russ Corey in the Times Daily:

The documentary “Muscle Shoals” is number one on Paste Magazine’s Top 20 music documentaries available on the online movie streaming service Netflix.

Released in 2013, “Muscle Shoals” tracks the rise of FAME Recording Studios founder Rick Hall and the musicians that helped him make hit records and create the Muscle Shoals sound.

The documentary was ranked ahead of films about Justin Timberlake, Levon Helm, the Rolling Stones, Glenn Campbell, Janis Joplin, Notorious BIG and Tupak Shakur.

The magazine not only praised the content of the film, but also its “lush and beautiful” cinematography and the “crisp and precise” editing.

For the complete article please see

Anniston celebrating 15th year of the Noble Street Festival
The Noble Street Festival in Anniston celebrates its 15th year April 8-9 with a combination of eats, treats, tunes and hundreds of bicycles. Saturday events in downtown Anniston include the festival and the Sunny King Criterium.

A second day of professional bicycle racing will be held on Sunday, the McClellan Road Race. The weekend of bicycle races, Alabama Cycling Classic, is sanctioned by USA Cycling and is the only event in the state for amateurs and pros that is part of the prestigious Professional Road Tour.

While the professional cyclists will compete for more than $50,000 in prize money, it is free for all spectators to watch the races. It is also free to enjoy the many city blocks of activities at the Noble Street Festival on Saturday, with the option to purchase Taste On Noble tickets for food and beverages.

“The Sunny King Criterium is know nationwide as the ‘king of all crits’, for the incredible Southern hospitality and huge community support. This event continues as the ‘king’, thanks to the support from longtime sponsors Sunny King Automotive, Alabama Tourism and services from the City of Anniston and Calhoun County,” added Marilyn Cullinane-Hill, who returns as race director for a fourth year.

“There are only a few spots remaining for the pro men in the criterium, and we have a waiting list for Sunday’s road race. These are definitely the best fields for the men’s and women’s pro fields in the history of the event.”

More than 25 professional and elite men’s cycling teams are confirmed for the weekend, and 12 professional women’s teams. On the men’s side for the Sunny King Criterium, 12 countries are represented among the 127 registered riders. The Novo Nordisk Development Team, which is the only pro team comprised of riders living with diabetes, includes athletes from Argentina, Spain, United Kingdon, Uzbekistan and the U.S.

The Alabama Cycling Classic kicks off at 10 a.m. on April 8 with the first of 21 categorized bicycle races on a downtown, one-kilometer course. Races are available for juniors, masters and pros, with a special one-lap youth contest for children ages 3-8. The four-turn course will begin and end at E. 11th Street near Noble Street. Registration is required for all races, costs ranging from $10 to $50 (

The Noble Street Festival provides food and festivities to complement the bicycle races on Saturday. The signature attraction is the “Taste on Noble”, which features food and beverages from a dozen restaurants in the Anniston area.

Returning for 2017 will also be the Mellow Mushroom Mad Dash, Scion Kidzone, and the YMCA Kidz Bicycle Race. Taste on Noble food and beverage tickets are sold in strips of 17 for $20, 13 tickets for $15, and 4 tickets for $5. These can be purchased at the BB&T tent in front of the Kidzone (10th and Noble streets).

On Sunday, the Alabama Cycling Classic moves to the Historic Buckner District for the McClellan Road Race. There are two pro-only races that include multiple laps over the challenging Bains Gap climb. The women’s road race will be 69 miles and the men’s 91 miles, both featuring a new start/finish in the Historic Buckner District, known for its circular, tree-lined park surrounding homes once used for U.S. Army officers.

All cycling events for the Alabama Cycling Classic will be broadcast online, presented by Alabama Power. Last year the online broadcasts were viewed in 123 countries. Webcast coverage is free to watch, and is available at the main event website,, as well as many cycling news sites, including,,,, and

Admission for spectators is free for all bicycle races, making it one of the most unique professional sporting events in the country. Registration is open for racers (,

For information about race registration, calendar of events and downtown activities, visit the Alabama Cycling Classic website (

Tourism becoming big business in West Alabama
From the article by Bryan Davis for This is Alabama:

Less than 30 miles south of Tuscaloosa, just inside the Hale County line, sits one of the largest Native American preserves in the continental United States.

Moundville Archeological Park is one of the area’s largest tourism draws, but it is hardly the only thing worth seeing in west Alabama.

Thanks to a recent collaborative effort between the University of Alabama’s Center for Economic Development, the Appalachian Regional Commission and multiple economic development entities within the region, tourism is quickly becoming big business for seven west Alabama counties.

Visit West Alabama unites Bibb, Fayette, Greene, Hale, Lamar, Pickens and Tuscaloosa Counties under one tourism umbrella designed to attract visitors, not only to the area’s more notable attractions like the archeological park, but also to some of the region’s hidden treasures.

“We found that the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)  had some grant opportunities, specifically for international tourism,” said Candace Johnson-Skelton, project manager at UA’s Center for Economic Development.  “We saw, with Tuscaloosa being one of the hubs for west Alabama, and that being the fifth largest county in Alabama, they had some resources there that maybe some of the other places in Alabama would not.”

The initiative has resulted in a website,, which features attractions from each county, ranging from cultural experiences, outdoor recreation and historical sites, to local culinary offerings.

“We actually developed a BBQ Trail for West Alabama,” Johnson-Skelton said. “That was a neat way to get people to travel the entire region and check it off the passport list that they have.”

From the Bibb County Glades Preserve to the Prisoner of War Museum in Aliceville, each county contributes a unique offering for tourists looking to spend a few days in the west Alabama.

“The whole project has been amazing,” said Patti Presley-Fuller, Pickens County Extension Coordinator. “We’ve brought all of these counties together to talk about their assets and we mapped them and saw where we were and where we needed to go. It has been a tremendous gift to us.”

Presley-Fuller said Pickens County recently secured grant money to produce wayfinding signs for Pickens County.

Tina Jones, a veteran of the hospitality and tourism industry, said attracting tourists, particularly international visitors, often lies in finding the “big ticket item” in an area and using it to direct people to other attractions within the region.

Jones, currently president and CEO at Experience LLC, said the Moundville site is a good example of an attraction that can be leveraged to direct more people to other west Alabama attractions.

“It enables us to connect them to some of the other things in the area,” Jones said. “It’s always all about how you sell it. What is the biggest ticket item, and then you go from there.”

Johnson-Skelton said one of the most impactful results of the Tour West Alabama initiative has been the level of marketing the seven counties have received domestically and internationally. This includes being featured in two international tour itinerary plans in Italy.

This was made possible when Tour West Alabama was invited to attend the Travel South International Showcase and Travel South Domestic Showcase.

“West Alabama was invited to participate with the Tuscaloosa tourism booth,” Johnson-Skelton said. “That allowed us to expand the region, talking to international tour operators that do frequent independent travel…We were able to put together an eight-page document that highlighted the region. We’ve got to meet face-to-face with over 120 tour operators, specifically marketing west Alabama.”

For the complete article please see

ALABAMA 200 workshops offer next step in bicentennial planning
On April 13, the first of a series of ALABAMA 200 workshops will take place in Florence. The workshops will offer community members access to programming ideas, resources and funding opportunities to honor Alabama’s three-year bicentennial commemoration.

The first workshop is at the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library in Florence from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 13. The workshops are free and open to the public. Registration is

Additional workshops have been scheduled at Robertsdale on June 29, Cullman on July 10, Dothan on July 27 and Fort Payne on Aug. 18, with more workshop dates to come. for further details.

Each workshop will be tailored to the region and will include tourism professionals, representatives from area history/heritage and arts organizations, local bicentennial committee members, chamber and county representatives and others.

Between 2017 and 2019, ALABAMA 200 will engage residents and visitors in educational programs, community activities and statewide initiatives that teach, inspire and entertain. Local communities, though, will be the heart of the commemoration.

The regional community workshops will encourage cross-county partnerships, development of timelines, access to available projects, exhibitions, speakers and fundraising opportunities.

There will be many ways that individuals, groups and communities can involve themselves in the state’s milestone birthday.  These include everything from family reunions, school service projects, museum exhibitions and common reading programs to recipe collections and oral history interviews.

The workshops are co-sponsored by Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourism, Alabama League of Municipalities, University of Alabama Center for Economic Development, Main Street Alabama, Design Alabama, Alabama Historical Commission, Black Heritage Council, Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama, Alabama Tourism Department, Alabama Association of Regional Councils, Alabama Communities of Excellence and the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

In 2013, the Alabama Bicentennial Commission was established by Gov. Robert Bentley and the Alabama Legislature to begin planning for the state’s 200th anniversary. For more information about the bicentennial, visit, or call 334-242-4537.

Honda donates vehicles to bicentennial
Alabama’s Bicentennial celebration will be traveling in style thanks to the generosity of Honda Manufacturing of Alabama.

HMA donated a 2017 Honda Ridgeline and a 2016 Honda Pilot – both with less than 500 miles – to Alabama 200. The white vehicles bearing Alabama 200’s bright red logos will not only be the official vehicles of the Bicentennial, but will serve as rolling billboards for the 200th anniversary of Alabama becoming a state.

“We’re thrilled we could be a part of this,” said Honda’s Stephanie Alexander noting that the official vehicles of the Bicentennial are “Alabama built, built by Alabamians.” More than 95 percent of the 4,500-member workforce are Alabamians.

HMA President Jeff Tomko noted, “When you see an Acura MDX, Ridgeline, Odyssey or Pilot anywhere in the world, they are only built in Lincoln, Alabama. We export more than $1 billion in vehicles from this facility.”

Jay Lamar, executive director of the Bicentennial, thanked HMA for its sizable gifts.

“We are so grateful,” she said noting that the Bicentennial is not just a celebration of Alabama’s history, “it’s about where we are going. We are not only acknowledging our history, but we are looking to our future.”

Honda is certainly a part of that future as a state, she said. “It is meaningful for Honda to be a part of this through these vehicles.”

Tomko added that the future looks good for Honda and Alabama. Honda just announced another $85 million expansion at the Lincoln plant.

Element hotel opens in Huntsville
Element Hotel is a new 150-room hotel occupying the 7th-11th floors of The Westin at Bridge Street Town Center in Huntsville.  The hotel opens Monday, April 10 and features a free-flowing design with natural light, complimentary Wi-Fi and breakfast, a free evening wine reception, studios and one-bedroom suites, fully-equipped kitchens, flat-screen TVs, large desks, custom closets and more.

For more information on the Element Hotel please see

Outdoor Alabama photo contest celebrates outdoors and bicentennial
From the article in The News Courier:

Photography enthusiasts who love snapping photos of nature are encouraged to enter the annual Outdoor Alabama photo contest, which this year simultaneously celebrates the state’s natural resources and Alabama’s bicentennial.

The contest is a joint venture between the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Alabama Tourism Department and Department of Transportation. The photo contest is open to state residents and visitors alike, but qualifying photos must have been taken in Alabama.

Entries will be accepted through Aug. 31. First, second and third prizes will be awarded in each category, and the winning images will be featured in a traveling display across the state during 2018.

“This partnership will allow us to reach more potential photographers and to share the winning images with more people,” said Kim Nix, contest coordiantor. “Our goal is to encourage residents and visitors to explore Alabama’s outdoor spaces and document them through photography.”

The contest is open to adults and youth. A total of 10 photos per person may be entered in the following categories:
Birds of a feather; Bugs and butterflies; Coastal life; Cold-blooded critters; Nature-based recreation; Watchable wildlife; State park adventures; Sweet Home Alabama; Shoots and roots; Water under the bridge; Advanced amateur; and Young photographer.

Category explanations and additional entry information may be found at Entry is restricted to the online upload of digital images, which can be completed from a computer, tablet or mobile phone.

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
Adding images to your partner profile not only makes your location or event more appealing, it also greatly increases the chances of it being selected to be featured elsewhere on the site. For best results and quicker load speeds, images should be 100k or smaller, with a maximum width of 480 px, and provided as a jpg, gif, png files.

Polish up your partner page by going to today.



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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