Tourism Tuesdays May 2, 2017

Alabama Bicentennial Launches May 5

The New York Times: Expand Your World, Go to the Beach in Alabama

Chris’ Hot Dogs receives historic marker for 100th anniversary

More than 2,500 take part in April Walking Tours

Celebrations planned as Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail turns 25

Freedom Riders National Monument celebration set for May 13

Huntsville will host 2018 Alabama State Games

Carnival to offer longer cruises, new destinations from Mobile

Travel South International Showcase registration open

Welcome Center tourism and travel week celebrations scheduled

Vacation Guide/Calendar of Events deadline is June 30

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


Alabama Bicentennial Launches May 5
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey will help Alabama’s oldest city launch the state’s bicentennial celebration on Friday, May 5.

Gov. Ivey, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, Alabama Sen. Arthur Orr, Ed Bridges, the director emeritus of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, and Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson will open the event in Mobile.

Gov. Ivey said the bicentennial is not just about celebrating Alabama’s past, but its future.

“Alabama has a rich history. As we embark on the three-year celebration of our 200th anniversary, we will be reminded of the hard work, dedication, and resolve of our people,” Gov. Ivey said. “Yet, our bicentennial is not only about our past accomplishments as a people, it is also a launching point for the untold numbers of innovations that will come from Alabamians in the next 200 years.”

The celebration begins at 6 p.m. with a formal ceremony followed by musical entertainment and free admission to many of the city’s historical sites, including the History Museum of Mobile, the Exploreum, and the Mardi Gras Museum.

Mobile’s new Mardi Gras Park will be the hub of activities, including a makers’ market, face painting and live music. The evening will wind up with fireworks over the Mobile River at approximately 8 p.m. Food vendors and musical entertainment will continue until 10 p.m.

Stimpson says Mobile is known as the city “born to celebrate” for good reason. “The first Mardi Gras happened in Mobile,” he notes, “and we hosted the launch of the state’s sesquicentennial.

“There is no better place to kick off this celebration, and the city is poised to make it as memorable, diverse and celebratory as we know how.”

In addition to the activities in Mardi Gras Park and tours of historic sites, visitors can take advantage of specials in the downtown shops and restaurants and an exhibition of work by artist William Christenberry at the Mobile Museum of Art.

Carolyn Feltus, chairwoman, and members of the Mobile Bicentennial Launch Committee have been working with the city since last fall to plan the event.

“We have had enormous support from the mayor’s office, as well as extensive involvement from the Mobile Convention and Visitors Center and other city offices,” notes Feltus. “We want everyone to come visit our beautiful city and help launch this once-in-a-lifetime anniversary.”

ALABAMA 200, a three-year celebration of the anniversary of statehood, will reach every county and corner of the state. But it starts in the historic heart of Mobile, the state’s oldest city.

For more information about the launch, as well as more information about ALABAMA 200, go to

The New York Times: Expand Your World, Go to the Beach in Alabama
From the article “Expand Your World, Go to the Beach in Alabama” by W. Kamau Bell in The New York Times:

My dad and stepmom live in Mobile, Ala., and spend their vacation time an hour’s drive away in Orange Beach, Ala. This means that, throughout my life, I have regularly vacationed there as well.

Whenever I tell people in Berkeley, Calif., where I live, that I’m headed to the beach in Alabama, they are shocked. Most people outside of the Gulf Coast have no idea that Alabama has beaches — even though if you look at a map of Alabama, there is a part of it that looks as if it should belong to Florida. There is even a bar at the Alabama-Florida border that commemorates this fact. That bar is named the Flora-Bama. (Calling it the Ala-Lorida would just be ridiculous.)

I often try to convince my wife, Melissa, that we and our two daughters should vacation in Orange Beach more often.

I try to persuade friends to come, too. It is the perfect fun-and-sun vacation. We stay across the street from the beach, which is perfect for my wife. The resort has an old-school arcade room with one of those claw machines, which is perfect for our older daughter, even though she has never won anything from it. And it has a lazy-river pool, where you can sit in an inner tube and let the underwater jets push you around while thinking that you may be experiencing the pinnacle of human achievement. That’s perfect for me.

But no one has taken us up on the invitation yet, because of one problematic word: Alabama. Nobody I know from the Bay Area has any interest in purposefully spending time in Alabama. Florida, maybe, but Alabama? Nah, that’s a hard pass.

I have discovered that when you are black, saying “I’m headed to the South” to someone, especially a white person who is not from the South, is like saying, “I’m headed to my own lynching and I decided to bring the rope just to make it easier on the Klansmen.”

It is one of my enduring frustrations with this country. People live in their part of the Union, and if they don’t travel a lot, then there is a tendency to believe that the other parts of America couldn’t possibly be as American as their part. You can see it in the way people in the South scrunch up their faces when they hear words like “New York,” “Chicago” and “challah.” And you can also see it in the way people on the coast narrow their eyes when they hear words like “Louisiana,” “Kentucky” and “pork rinds.”

Sometimes it gets even worse. Some people think that the things going on in other parts are actually anti-American.

I’m happy that I know how to speak “Southern.” I spent a lot of time in Alabama throughout my life. I even lived there for part of junior high and high school, so I learned the true beauty and mastery of the Southern dialect. “Y’all” is one of the greatest and most useful words ever invented. Saying you are “fixing to get ready to go” is useful, because it is a state most of us are regularly in, even if we don’t know it. It means you are thinking about maybe leaving. That is me, every time I try to go out of the house.

Southern is more than just a language. It’s also about understanding someone’s intentions. There are things people in the South say to me that I just let go, but if someone outside the South says the same thing, I’ll think to myself, “Well, I’ll be telling this story onstage tonight.”

I was in a Walgreens in Northern California once, back when I still had long dreadlocks. The cashier, a white woman, asked as she was ringing me up, “Can I touch your hair?” When you have dreadlocks you start to get used to this question. I said, “No, you can’t touch my hair,” but I said it with a smile so that we could both move on without the situation getting weirder than it already was.

A few months later, in Mobile, I was at a Krispy Kreme with my dad. A different white woman asked the same question and I said, “Sure.” I could tell that she was taking a chance by asking. It felt like more than the idle curiosity or simple objectification that I felt in Northern California. Maybe some part of me hoped that she would touch my hair, her eyes would glaze over, and then like Neo from “The Matrix” she would say something like, “I now understand how the institution of slavery is directly connected the current struggle of black people in America, and I also recognize white people’s part in that … also, I know kung fu.” That didn’t happen. But she did give me an extra doughnut.

Those types of interactions prepared me for my current career, where I travel the country and ask (and occasionally answer) “dumb questions.” When I created a pilot for CNN called “The United Shades of America,” I tried to roll all of that experience up into an hour of television. I went to Kentucky and talked to the Ku Klux Klan.

When the episode aired back in a distant time called April 2016, the major criticism I heard was: “Why are you giving the K.K.K. a platform? We already know the K.K.K. is awful.” Well, my mom taught me that there is no such thing as too much knowledge. And as gobsmacked as my liberal friends were by Donald Trump’s victory, they now know that they definitely didn’t know as much about America as they thought.

And if there was ever a time that we all should take a trip to the other parts of America and spend some time to get to know the people there, it is now.

So, who wants to come with me to Orange Beach?

*  W. Kamau Bell is the host of “United Shades of America” on CNN and the author of “The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell,” from which this essay is adapted.

For the complete article please see

Chris’ Hot Dogs receives historic marker for 100th anniversary
From the report by Hunter Beck on WSFA-12:

After a century of serving everyone from presidents and musical superstars to more than a million everyday customers, Montgomery’s oldest restaurant Chris’ Hot Dogs received a historic marker on Tuesday.

Greek immigrant Christopher Anastasios Katechis opened Chris’ Hot Dogs on 138 Dexter Ave., May 1, 1917. At 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Chris’ son Theo and grandson Costas “Gus” joined Mayor Todd Strange in celebrating a century of service to the city.

“Theo, Gus, and their staff are excellent representatives and model citizens of Montgomery and the River Region,” Strange said. “We are honored to join them in celebrating 100 years of service to not only the citizens of Montgomery but also to citizens from around the world.”

Chris’ served millions of customers during its first 10 decades, ranging from local regulars and Alabama governors to four American presidents. President Franklin D. Roosevelt often ordered boxes of hot dogs when his train traveled through Montgomery. Harry Truman, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush ate at Chris’ while visiting.

Other customers ranged from George C. Wallace to civil rights leaders including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and country singer Hank Williams. Elvis Presley even ordered Chris’ hot dogs before a Garrett Coliseum concert.

Until the 1960’s, Chris’offered curb service for its hot dogs, leading to long lines of cars cued for service. The hot dogs featured Chris’ “secret” chili sauce, known by only a few family members and shipped all over the country.

For the complete report please see

More than 2,500 take part in April Walking Tours the past four Saturdays 
More than 2,500 people across the state took part in the April Walking Tours the past five Saturdays. While numbers are still being reported, so far some of the largest walking tour totals were: Florence, 502; Athens, 462; Fairhope, 355; Huntsville, 170; Birmingham, 129; Tuscumbia, 128; Decatur, 108; Sheffield, 101; Mooresville, 90; Foley, 76; Shelby, 68; Madison, 66.

A variety of community leaders lead the free tours through the historic districts or courthouse square areas of their hometowns.  The hour-long tours started at 10 a.m. on Saturdays.

Towns and starting places for the April Walking Tours were: 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

Celebrations planned as Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail turns 25
A former assistant dean at Alabama’s law school revolutionized access to great public golf 25 years ago, and the rest is history.

While many scoffed at the concept, Dr. David G. Bronner, CEO of the Retirement Systems of Alabama, brought golf course architect Robert Trent Jones, Sr. out of retirement in the late 1980’s and the concept of America’s Original Golf Trail was born. Opened in 1992, golfers have played nearly 12 million rounds of golf on the RTJ Golf Trail. This top golf destination features 26 courses on 11 sites across Alabama. The Trail recently renovated its original courses and encourages golfers to come play the new RTJ Golf Trail.

While maintaining the key course designs created by Robert Trent Jones, renovations of the original golf sites were recently completed. Owned by the Retirement Systems of Alabama, the RTJ courses remain consistent for quality and value while offering new experiences.

“I want to be able to play the U.S. Open on any one of these courses we build,” said Dr. David G. Bronner. “Make every one of them a championship course. I want people to be challenged enough that they will want to come back and try again.”

Professionals Compete on RTJ

While the courses have not hosted the U.S. Open yet, professional golf tournaments have been played on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail for the past 25 years. “This will be the 20th year in a row that women’s professional golf has been played on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and the 21st consecutive year for hosting professional golf tournaments,” said Bronner. “When the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail opened in 1992, we wanted to make Alabama a golf destination. Not only have we had millions of golf rounds, legendary golfers have won on the RTJ Trail including Lorena Ochoa, Se Ri Pak, Karrie Webb, Paula Creamer, Christina Kim, Stacy Lewis, Lexi Thompson, Ariya Jutanugarn and several others. Both Lexi Thompson and Ariya Jutanugarn won their first LPGA tournaments while playing on the RTJ Golf Trail, skyrocketing their golf careers,” he said.

“The first two years of the PGA TOUR’s Barbasol Championship have been tremendous successes with Scott Piercey and Aaron Baddeley bringing home the trophies,” said Bronner. “We look forward to welcoming the Barbasol Championship back to RTJ Grand National in July and seeing the next LPGA greats compete in the Symetra Tour’s Guardian Championship in September at RTJ Capitol Hill. These events showcase our courses around the world with international media coverage and help position Alabama as a great travel and golf destination.”

Courses in Mobile and Prattville have hosted LPGA tournaments for the past 20 years. The PGA TOUR has competed in Opelika in 2015 and 2016. The PGA TOUR Champions’ tournaments were played at RTJ Ross Bridge from 2006 to 2010.

$25 Golf Days Across RTJ

To help celebrate the silver anniversary of America’s original golf trail, golfers are invited to enjoy a round of golf for $25 plus tax including cart at the following sites on these designated days:

Silver Lakes – Anniston/Gadsden – Thursday, May 25

Magnolia Grove – Mobile – Thursday, June 15

Hampton Cove – Huntsville – Thursday, June 29

Highland Oaks – Dothan – Thursday, July 13

The Shoals – Muscle Shoals – Thursday, July 20

Cambrian Ridge – Greenville – Friday, August 4

Capitol Hill – Prattville – Monday, August 7

Ross Bridge – Hoover – Monday, August 14

Grand National – Auburn/Opelika – Thursday, August 24

Oxmoor Valley – Birmingham – Thursday, August 31

Media events with elected officials and other local leaders will be held on these days to celebrate the Trail’s impact on these communities. For the general public, golf reservations with advance purchase can be made by calling RTJ Reservations at 800.949.4444. Tee times can be booked at the specific RTJ sites within seven days of play.

Celebrating Silver

While celebrating its 25th year, The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail continues to be one of Alabama’s tourist attractions with guests coming from around the world. Dr. Bronner has been honored by the golf industry for his vision to make great golf available to both professionals and the general public.

The Trail’s artfully designed and beautifully landscaped courses, according to The New York Times, are “some of the best public golf on earth.”  The Wall Street Journal said the Trail “may be the best bargain in the country.” The Boston Globe reported, “In Alabama, a genius in course design created 18 (now 26) jewels for everyone to enjoy at one-third the rate of comparable facilities.” The Atlanta Journal Constitution called the Trail “the finest public courses in the country.”

To start planning your trip to Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, visit or call 1.800.949.4444. Special golf packages for the 25th anniversary will be offered throughout 2017.

Freedom Riders National Monument celebration set for May 13
The National Park Service and local partners will host a community celebration in Anniston on May 13 to mark the recent establishment of Freedom Riders National Monument.

The dedication event is 3 pm to 7 pm, Saturday, May 13 outside the historic Greyhound bus depot at 1031 Gurnee Ave. The event is free and open to the public. Organizers include Calhoun County, the City of Anniston, The Conservation Fund, the Freedom Riders Park Committee, and the National Park Service.

Freedom Riders National Monument was established as a unit of the National Park System by Presidential Proclamation on Jan. 12, 2017 in recognition of the nationally significant events that took place in Anniston and Calhoun County in 1961 during the modern civil rights movement.

On May 14, 1961, a small interracial band of “Freedom Riders” challenged discriminatory laws requiring separation of the races in interstate travel. They were attacked by white segregationists, who firebombed the bus. Images of the attack appeared in hundreds of newspapers, shocking the American public and spurring the Federal Government to issue regulations banning segregation in interstate travel.

For more information on the Freedom Riders National Monument please see

Huntsville will host 2018 Alabama State Games
From the report by Caitlan Dallas on WHNT-19:

Last week, Huntsville-Madison County leaders announced that the 2018 Alabama State Games will held in Huntsville for the next two years.

“It really took a whole team to get them here. Senator Arthur Orr was tremendous in bringing the planners here so they could see first-hand what Huntsville has to offer,” said Judy Ryals, President of the Huntsville-Madison County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The games feature over 20 different sporting events with athletes of all ages and skill levels competing.

“The logical place is Huntsville, because it has the facilities. The Von Braun Civic Center for the opening ceremonies, you don’t have to worry about the weather. The Natatorium,” explained Senator Arthur Orr.

Senator Orr said the games will mean millions of dollars for North Alabama.

“Anywhere from 5,000 to 6,000 athletes we expect to come. And they bring their moms, their dads, their grandparents, their friends, and others all leasing hotel rooms across the area,” he said.

Adding to that, they are opening the games up to Tennessee athletes as well since Tennessee doesn’t have their own state games.

“Whether it’s volleyball, whether it’s swimming whether it’s soccer, any of these events they’d be welcome to participate in. So the metro Nashville area, of course and then Chattanooga, they’re a little bit closer, so trying to pull them down,” said Senator Orr.

The state games will take place June 8-10 of 2018.  Huntsville is already set to host the games for the 2019 season as well.

For the complete article please see

Carnival to offer longer cruises, new destinations from Mobile
From the article by Lawrence Specker on

Mobile tourism and government officials trumpeted the news last week that the Carnival Fantasy will sail out of Mobile on some longer voyages in 2018.

New destinations apparently will include Key West, Nassau, the Panama Canal and the Costa Rican port of Limon.

Visit Mobile was quick to express hope that the longer trips – which include six-, eight- and 10-day trips, will be a boon to the city in multiple ways. The tourism bureau embraced the possibility that the longer trips will provide cruisers “an even greater opportunity to visit and spend time in Mobile before or after they set sail.”

“We are excited that Carnival Cruise Line has continued to expand opportunities for tourists in our great city of Mobile, says David Clark, President/CEO, Visit Mobile. “We appreciate Carnival’s investment and partnership in our port city to offer multiple entertainment options for our tourists.”

City Finance Director Paul Wesch, speaking before the Mobile City Council on Tuesday morning, said the development reflected reports that “Carnival has been exceeding all their expectations” since resuming service from Mobile last year.

Wesch said that a variety of groups, including cruisers, travel agents and the city administration, “had been asking Carnival to consider some more lengthy cruises.”

“It looks like Carnival is happy enough to be experimenting,” Wesch said, implying that Carnival wouldn’t be adding more ambitious offerings if it weren’t happy with business in Mobile.

Carnival officials have generally downplayed the notion that such developments mean Carnival plans to commit to a longer contract with Mobile. Corporate Communications Manager Christine de la Huerta reiterated that stance on Tuesday.

“Our current contract with Mobile runs through December of this year,” de la Huerta said via e-mail. “However, it is customary with all ports we operate from, that we will open inventory approximately 18 months out.”

Huerta said that it is “not uncommon for us to change up an itinerary rotation on an occasional basis to offer new options to our guests,” but said the company was “excited to be offering these new voyages from Mobile.”
According to de la Huerta, the new offerings are:

  • Two six-day cruises to Cozumel and Grand Cayman or Mahogany Bay (Isla Roatan) departing April 29 and Nov. 11, 2018.
  • A pair of eight-day voyages – one visiting Costa Maya (Mexico), Mahogany Bay, Belize, Cozumel, and Progreso, Mexico departing April 21, 2018, and another visiting Key West, Freeport, Nassau and the private Bahamian destination of Princess Cays departing Nov. 3, 2018.
  • A 10-day Carnival Journeys cruise that includes a partial transit of the Panama Canal and calls at Limon (Costa Rica), Mahogany Bay and Cozumel departing Sept. 17, 2018.

For full information on upcoming cruises out of Mobile, visit

Tourism officials said that since the Carnival Fantasy began sailing from Mobile last fall, “Visit Mobile has spearheaded several new initiatives that have improved the overall visitor experience.” Those include a “Very Important Cruiser” program for hotel guests; suggested itineraries for cruisers who have time to tour the city’s attractions; and a “Cruising From Mobile” Facebook page that serves as a resource for up-to-date visitor information.
That’s in addition to the website

According to a statement, Visit Mobile also has assigned a sales manager “to strengthen travel agent relationships in key markets to continue to promote pre and post cruise packages.”

For the complete article please see

Travel South International Showcase registration open
Travel South USA has opened registration for 2017’s International Showcase.  The show will be held in Charleston, South Carolina, Nov. 27-30.  This will be the 6th annual Travel South International Showcase.

More than 100 qualified international tour operators from at least 20 countries around the world are expected to attend.

“If the international visitor is important to your hotel, attraction, or destination, I suggest that this is a must show.  Only tour companies wanting Southern destination information attend this show,” deputy director of state tourism Grey Brennan said.

“This show sells out each year so it is important to register early.  Priority is given to those that register to be in a single appointment table or pod,” added Brennan.

Early bird registration ends Aug. 31 with pricing starting at $1,295 per person in a three-delegate pod.  Pods with less than three are based on availability and will not be confirmed prior to Sept. 1.

For more information please see

Welcome Center tourism and travel week celebrations scheduled
The eight state welcome centers will celebrate National Tourism and Travel Week on different dates during the month of May to give tourism industry partners the opportunity to attend several of the events.  The goal of the events is to help kick-off the vacation season and show appreciation to guests stopping at the centers by offering special promotions to local attractions, hotels and restaurants.

The welcome centers and days are: Lanett Welcome Center- May 4, Baldwin Welcome Center- May 9, Houston Welcome Center- May 11, Sumter Welcome Center -May 11, Ardmore Welcome Center- May 18, Cleburne Welcome Center- May 24, DeKalb Welcome Center- May 25, Grand Bay Welcome Center- May 26.  Each celebration will take place from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. on the date scheduled.

Vacation Guide/Calendar of Events deadline is June 30
The deadline for submitting items for the printed version of the Alabama Tourism Vacation Guide and Calendar of Events is June 30.  Use the Alabama Tourism industry partners website at to enter and manage events/attractions in the database. If you need assistance please contact Pam Smith at 334-353-4541 or email at

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
Submitting a repeating or recurring event for online publication is easy. For events that repeat on a weekly or monthly basis, simply enter a start date, end date, and time of event. Then, select “Repeat Event.” Choose “Weekly” plus select every week or every two weeks; OR choose “Monthly” and select the day of the month the event repeats. Complete all fields with your event details, photos, descriptions, and video to inspire more visitors to click through to your site or attend your event.

Need to polish up your location/event listing? Go to today.



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