Tourism Tuesdays May 30, 2017

Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail celebrates 25 years

15 family-friendly Alabama road trips to take this summer

Alabama beach wins national award for restoration

Birmingham launches film office in effort to recruit movie productions

Recipe for All Pro Hospitality

Redmont Distilling wins Alabama Distillery of the Year award

Birmingham’s Elyton Hotel, formerly the Empire Hotel, opening this summer

Boutique hotel taking shape, to open midsummer in Florence

Tiny house rentals at Lake Martin make lake living easy

New skate park, renovated pool to open this summer in Montgomery

Alabama Scenic Byways hosts summer workshop on June 27-28 in Montgomery

Vacation Guide/Calendar of Events deadline is June 30

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail celebrates 25 years
From the article by William Thornton on

It’s been 25 years since Alabama opened the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail – a project now involving 26 golf courses in 11 locations.

The numbers are staggering.

The Trail hosts more than 1,100 events each year. Almost 12 million rounds of golf have been played on the courses.

More than half a million golfers play on the trail each year. It hosts visitors from all 50 states and an average of 20 foreign countries.

With that in mind, a 25th anniversary celebration kicked off last week at the Silver Lakes course near Glencoe. More than 130 golfers participated in a $25 round of golf special.

The string of golf courses was developed by the Retirement Systems of Alabama, with a construction crew of more than 700 building 18 courses at seven locations over a four-year span – from 1990 to 1993.

“Anyone who has ever developed and built one golf course knows how ridiculous it would be to even attempt something of this scale,” said John Cannon, president and CEO of Sunbelt Golf Corp., which has overseen the trail’s development and management since the beginning.

David Bronner, head of Retirement Systems of Alabama, said the trail was meant to change the state’s narrative. At the time, Alabamians might have said the state had potential, but “never does anything,” he said. But that got state officials to thinking.

“If we created something in the state of Alabama that the rest of the United States doesn’t have, that being the Trail, could we get tourism and industry to look at us and come to us that wouldn’t have otherwise?” he said.

When the trail started, it was a $1.8 billion industry, Bronner said. “Now, it’s an annual $13.3 billion industry.”

Currently, major renovations and upgrades have taken or are taking place at the seven original sites in Birmingham, Huntsville, Auburn/Opelika, Mobile, Dothan, Calhoun County and Greenville. And all 11 sites have received upgrades and renovations.

Over the next year, all 36 greens at Lakewood Club in Point Clear will be resurfaced alongside a new practice facility and short-game area.

Other courses on the trail are offering a round of $25 golf in the coming weeks:

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, Aug. 4
Capitol Hill – Prattville – Monday, Aug. 7
Ross Bridge – Hoover – Monday, Aug. 14
Grand National – Auburn/Opelika – Thursday, Aug. 24
Oxmoor Valley – Birmingham – Thursday, Aug. 31

For the complete article please see

15 family-friendly Alabama road trips to take this summer
From the article by Amber Sutton on

Looking for a fun way to spend some time with the family this summer? There’s no need to travel out of state in order to get in some adventures with your loved ones thanks to all the history, nature and more that Alabama has to offer.

While you may be a resident of Alabama, that doesn’t mean you’ve seen all that the state has to offer. Whether you’re interested in learning more about its history, getting some time in outdoors, checking out museums or just having new experiences with your kids, there’s an Alabama road trip that’s perfect for you.

To get an idea of some of the places you could plan to visit, we’ve put together a list of road trip destinations. Some are limited to certain cities or areas, others are spread across the state. It’s up to you to decide which spots are worth seeing and where you’re headed this summer.

Here’s 15 family friendly Alabama road trips to take this summer.

Alabama Zoo and Animal Road Trip
Got some animal lovers in your family? Sounds like the perfect excuse to take a road trip touring all of the state’s wonderful animal exhibits and zoos. In addition to the obvious spots, such as the Birmingham Zoo, Montgomery Zoo and Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, you could also try out some unique experiences like seeing the eagles and other birds that live at the Southeastern Raptor Center in Auburn as well as going for a wild drive through the Harmony Park Safari in Huntsville.
For more information on the Harmony Park Safari, click here. 

Alabama Waterfalls Road Trip
Alabama has plenty of natural beauty to behold, and it certainly isn’t running a shortage on waterfalls. If you’re looking for a family road trip that involves the great outdoors, why not check out the gorgeous waterfalls that can be found spread throughout the state? While North Alabama is where you’ll find most, including DeSoto Falls, Rainbow Falls and Pisgah Gorge Falls, there’s falls all over that are worth seeing in person.
To read more about Alabama waterfalls worth visiting, click here. 

Monroeville Road Trip
Fans of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and Alabama’s own Harper Lee? A road trip to Monroeville, the author’s hometown and inspiration for the setting of her beloved novel, may be a good one to plan this summer. In addition to checking out the circa 1903 Courthouse and Museum, you could check out several monuments, go on a tour of the homes that played a role in Lee’s life and more. In addition, you could have a TKAM-themed lunch at the Courthouse Cafe and grab a treat at Mel’s Dairy Dream.
For more information on Monroeville sights, click here. 

Gardens Road Trip
Want to see the beauty that Alabama has to offer at its various gardens? If you have kids that enjoy running free in wide-open spaces filled with colorful blossoms, why not go for a tour of the state’s gorgeous gardens? With lush gardens open to the public in Huntsville, Mobile, Birmingham, Wetumpka, Dothan, Theodore and more, it’s a great way to see the state and spend some time outside with your loved ones.
For more information on the state’s gardens, click here. 

The Shoals Road Trip
Considering the area of Alabama known as The Shoals is home to the state’s attraction of the year- the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, it’s a safe bet that a road trip to see the sights of northwestern Alabama would be time well spent. In addition to checking out the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and FAME recording studios, you could tour Helen Keller’s birthplace and home as well as The Alabama Music Hall of Fame in Tuscumbia. There’s also plenty of parks and museums to see in Florence.
For more information on The Shoals area, click here. 

Montgomery Road Trip
If you haven’t spend time in the Capital City, it’s time you plan a trip for the family to take in all that Montgomery has to offer. Whether you’re interested in history, music, sports or a little bit of everything, Montgomery has lots to see and do. In addition to taking a guided tour of the state Capitol building, you could visit the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, catch a performance at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival or watch a Biscuits game at Riverwalk Stadium.
For more information on things to do in Montgomery, click here. 

Alabama Literary Road Trip
If you want to get in a few more sights in addition to Monroeville, there’s plenty of other spots in Alabama that are connected to well-known novels and books. You could visit the Kathryn Tucker Windham Museum in Thomasville before heading north to grab lunch at Irondale Cafe, inspiration for “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe.” Of course, you could always make a fun stop along the way to check out the town of Spectre, which is the abandoned set for the film based on the novel “Big Fish.”
For more literary road trip ideas, click here

Food Trails Road Trip
If you’re a family of foodies, why not take a road trip to try out the best grub the state has to offer? has put together a series of food trails that offer you a delicious sampling of Alabama’s barbecue, pizza, tacos, doughnuts and more. Once you decide which restaurants you want to hit up, you can find out more about each area and plan a few outings along the way.
To see some of the Alabama food trails we have available, click here.

Civil Rights Road Trip
Looking to keep the learning going even during the school break? Alabama has lots of history that’s important to Civil Rights spread throughout the state. Good places to visit include the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma and the Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center. In Montgomery, there’s the Civil Rights Memorial Center, the Rosa Parks Museum, Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church and more.
For more information on Alabama Civil Rights sites, click here. 

Birmingham Road Trip
For those looking for a road trip that doesn’t involve driving from one town to another, a few days in Birmingham are a good way to get a lot in at one spot. In addition to having some amazing dining options, you can also see a show at the beautiful Alabama Theatre, climb to the top of the Vulcan, check out the McWane Science Center, catch a Barons game and explore Sloss Furnaces. If it gets too hot for you, Alabama Splash Adventure water park is only a short drive away in Bessemer.

Caverns Road Trip
For a road trip that’s a little different, check out all of the caverns and caves located throughout the state. It’s a good way to explore a natural setting without having to spend too much time out in the hot sun. Your options include Cathedral Caverns State Park in Woodville, DeSoto Caverns in Childersburg and Rickwood Caverns State Park in Warrior. There’s also the Russell Cave National Monument in Bridgeport.
For more information about Cathedral Caverns State Park, click here. 

Mountain Views Road Trip
Wanting to take in all the sights that Alabama has to offer? Go for a tour of the state’s most gorgeous mountain views in a vacation that will offer plenty of memories and give your kids lots of opportunity for adventure. While a visit to Lookout Mountain in DeKalb County is a must, you should also see how things look from Bald Rock Overlook at Cheaha State Park, McDill Point and Red Mountain, which offers a great view of Birmingham as well as the surrounding area. For fun, you could also check out Shades Mountain in Hoover and grab a bite at the Tip Top Grill.

Mobile Road Trip
If you’re looking for some serious variety while not having to travel too much, Mobile is packed with fun places to see and things to do. Why not start the day with a self-guided tour of the USS Alabama before heading over to the Mobile Carnival Museum for a look at all the colorful decor that goes into Mardi Gras each year? There’s also the The Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center, which offers a hands-on science experience for kids of all ages, and Fort Conde, a replica fort that allows you to explore the city’s colonial history.

Coastal Road Trip
If you’re wanting to spend some time on the coast, a trip down Alabama’s Coastal Connection may be just what you’re looking for this summer. In addition to spending some quality time at the beach, you’ll be able to see gorgeous views along the drive as well as check out the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, explore dozens of harbors and even set up a day of fishing or water sports for the whole family. Just don’t forget to break for some of the amazing seafood you’ll find along the way.

Huntsville Road Trip
For the space enthusiasts in your family, Huntsville is a great place to visit this summer. While the U.S. Space and Rocket Center is an obvious attraction, there’s plenty more to see in Rocket City. There’s also the EarlyWorks Family of Museums, which includes the Alabama Constitution Village, the Huntsville Depot and Museum as well as the EarlyWorks Children’s History Museum. While you’re there, you can also get some time in outdoors and explore Big Spring Park and the Monte Sano State Park.

For the complete article please see

Alabama beach wins national award for restoration
from the article by Jordan Laporta on Yellowhammer News:

Dauphin Island has won the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association’s Best Restored Beaches Award for 2017, becoming one of only five communities across the nation to do so. The Association gave Dauphin Island the award due to the community’s work on restoring East End Beach.

The other winners from around the country are Palm Beach, Florida; Popponesset Spit, Massachusetts; Prime Hook Beach, Delaware.; and Virginia Beach, Virginia.

The restoration of East End Beach worked to counteract massive erosion. The project, which is the first of its kind on Dauphin Island, cost $7 million. Since the maintenance was performed about a year ago, residents and tourists in the area now have access to a larger beach and sensitive species now have a more fitting habitat.

East End Beach and Dauphin Island play a critical role in South Alabama’s ecosystem as the state’s only barrier Island. It houses several wildlife sanctuaries in addition to other man-made tourist attractions, such as Fort Gaines. Visitors primarily visit East End Beach for fishing and other outdoor recreation.

According to Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier, the restoration will have positive effects on the economy and the environment. “This is not only good for us humans; it’s also benefiting our environment,” Collier told Fox 10. “And eco-tourism is our bread and butter. Anything we do to enhance the environment also enhances our economy.”

For the complete article please see

Birmingham launches film office in effort to recruit movie productions
From the article by Erin Edgemon on

After operating behind the scenes for about a year and a half, the Birmingham Film office is officially open for business.

Film Birmingham, an initiative of Create Birmingham, expects to launch a website targeting the film industry by the end of May.

“We hope to provide what we think has been a missing piece to an already vibrant film community,” said Create Birmingham President and CEO Buddy Palmer.

The Birmingham film office is operating out of Create Birmingham’s headquarters at 310 18th St North in downtown.

Instead of focusing on big budget movies like Atlanta does, Birmingham will focus on recruiting small-to-mid-size productions, Palmer said.

“There is opportunity for Birmingham to be positioned to receive some overflow from Atlanta,” he said.

Alabama offers competitive tax incentives to smaller productions with a budget of between $500,000 and $20 million.

Film Birmingham is seeking $100,000 in funding from the city of Birmingham to help support the initiative. A line item for the film office is included in the city’s proposed 2017-18 operating budget.

“We see this as an opportunity to attract more films to the city and continue to push Birmingham to the world stage while tapping into this industry,” Mayor William Bell said in a statement to

Palmer said the mayor’s office has been working with Create Birmingham on the initiative. He said it’s prudent for the city to invest in the project and not hire its own staff due to the inconsistency of the work.

The mayor’s office has been vocal on its effort to recruit more film production to the Magic City. Late last year, actor Wesley Snipes visited Birmingham City Hall as part of that effort.

Film Birmingham is also receiving funding from the Mike & Gillian Goodrich Foundation, the Alabama Power Foundation, the Hugh Kaul Foundation, the Robert R. Meyer Foundation and the Susan Mott Webb Charitable Trust.

So far, the Birmingham office has operated based on referrals from the Alabama Film Office, Palmer said.

After receiving a referral, Film Birmingham puts together a photography package of sites in the Birmingham area that could possibly meet the needs of the filmmakers, he said. The film office will lead scout expedition of sites and serve as a liaison between the filmmakers and the communities or municipal governments, Palmer said.

Since early 2016, Film Birmingham has also worked to build relationships with hotels, restaurants, municipalities, area landmarks and local film crews, stylists and actors.

“It has been exciting for us to see Birmingham from the eyes of outsiders, and to see the value that is here in terms of the diversity of locations, the deep talent in the crew base and the urban feel of the city,” Palmer said. “We have what they are looking for. We feel like we have been a bit of a secret. What we want to do is not be a secret anymore. We are going to shout about it.”

“We have a lot of opportunity to grow the business here,” he added.

The film industry has the potential to have a significant economic impact on the Birmingham area.

Last year alone, Film Birmingham worked with three feature films and one documentary that accounted for about $11 million in total production, Palmer said.

About 60 percent of that total production cost, just over $6 million was spent in the local community, he said.

Palmer said the first film project Film Birmingham worked with was the Christian-themed film “Let There Be Light” starring Kevin Sorbo. The film is set to premiere this fall.

In that film, downtown Birmingham and the Cahaba Heights area of Vestavia Hills doubled as Manhattan and rural New England, he said.

Palmer said the Bessemer area has also served as the backdrop of a few film productions.

“The productions that have landed here — that we have worked with for the last year and a half — have been blown away with what they have found here,” he said, including the availability of talent, the locations, the hospitality and the food. “They aren’t expecting the urban feel they get here.”

Birmingham and 20-to-30 minutes outside the city in any direction provides a wide variety of settings for film production, Palmer said. Scenery ranges from the urban to suburban and rural to mountains and the beach (at Oak Mountain).

“That is part of the story the website will tell,” Palmer said. “The photography of the region is very important.”

“We want to get out and tell the story of Birmingham,” he said.

The Film Birmingham website (located at will serve as a welcome mat for productions, Palmer said. “It is the landing place for learning about filming opportunities in the Birmingham area.”

The site will include a database of possible filming locations between a 30-to-40-minute drive of Birmingham, a database of local experienced film crews and a list of small businesses that support the film industry.

Following the launch of the website, Palmer said the film office plans to be more aggressive in recruiting productions, in part, by joining the Association of Film Commissioners International and attending national conferences.

For the complete article please see

Recipe for All Pro Hospitality
Editor’s note: Bob Baumhower received the state tourism partnership award for his work during The Year of Alabama Food and The Year of Alabama Parks marketing campaigns and for his continuing efforts in helping promote the state.

From the article by Adrian Hoff in Business Alabama:

Bob Baumhower introduced Alabama to buffalo wings in 1981. “We were first,” he says with obvious pride, before admitting that many people considered him crazy. Despite the naysayers, his privately held Aloha Hospitality now operates 11 restaurants. Annual sales exceed $31 million. A companywide consolidation (except new fine dining eatery, Dauphins) under the Baumhower’s Victory Grille brand emphasizes a shared sports entertainment atmosphere.  While that element adds value, says Baumhower, it’s secondary. Above all else, his brand is about great food and great service.

So how does a boy raised in Toledo, Ohio, grow up to sell chicken wings in sports-themed restaurants crisscrossing Alabama?

After vacationing in Florida, his family moved to North Palm Beach, where he started high school. While watching Miami execute the NFL’s only perfect, Super Bowl-winning season sparked Baumhower’s interest in football and converted him into a die-hard Dolphins fan, he certainly didn’t anticipate playing there in five years.

His father’s advancing career moved the family to Tuscaloosa for his senior year. “I had just started playing ball. I was not a guy that grew up loving football. I just kind of fell into it,” explains Baumhower, who wasn’t recruited out of high school. “After the signing date, somehow Coach (Paul “Bear”) Bryant saw me on film, saw me play against a guy that they were pretty high on. He gave me a scholarship, which is how I went to Alabama.”

When Baumhower quit football before his second season, Bryant summoned his ex-lineman and his father. “He made me look at myself in ways that I hadn’t done before. He made me believe that if I thought about who I could be and made a plan to get there, I would have an opportunity to do special things. I believed what he said,” recalls Baumhower. “I begged for my position on the team. And it changed my life.”

Embracing Bryant’s guidance, Baumhower twice was selected a second-team All-American at the University of Alabama. Picked by Miami in the 2nd round of the 1977 NFL Draft, he played eight seasons without missing a game. Then a knee injury in Super Bowl XIX forced him to sit out the ’85 season.

Baumhower still holds team records for most career sacks by a tackle and most single-season tackles by a defensive lineman. With 750 career tackles, two Super Bowl appearances and five Pro Bowl selections, he’s remembered as perhaps the best Dolphins’ nose tackle ever.

Richard Todd followed Joe Namath as quarterback for both the Crimson Tide and the New York Jets. As business partners, they invited Baumhower into the hospitality business. “Richard and I had become best buds at Alabama. We shared an agent, Jimmy Walsh, with Joe Namath,” says Baumhower. “Through those relationships, I was lucky enough to be included when Joe opened his second Bachelors III in Fort Lauderdale in the late ’70s.”

Dolphins’ linebacker Steve Towle unintentionally accelerated things by introducing Baumhower to Wings & Things in Fort Lauderdale. “It was the strangest thing that I’d ever seen, somebody making a living selling chicken wings, which nobody ate back then much,” recalls Baumhower, who quickly grasped the concept’s potential.

After relocating from Buffalo, owner Eddie Hauck had become a Dolphins fan. He and Baumhower became friends, recruited Phillip Weaver in Tuscaloosa, and (using Hauck’s recipe) opened Wings & Things on the UA campus. It was 1981. Few people beyond the Northeast had heard of buffalo wings. “Nobody wanted to try them. We had to give them away,” Baumhower continues. “We quit advertising, and my brother David started taking trays of wings to fraternities, sorority parties and dorms — to get the product out there. It took a couple of years, and then it took off. It was all word of mouth.”

Baumhower opened Wings and Whiskers in Northport after retiring from football in ’88. “I had a catfish farm in Greene County, and we planned to vertically integrate by doing chicken and catfish,” he says, before laughing and admitting, “the name didn’t stick very long, though, because a lot of folks were calling, asking if we were a pet store.” He was the sole proprietor, assisted then as now by wife, Leslie, his “top advisor and boss.”

With seasonal variants, Aloha Hospitality employs between 800 and 1,000 people in Alabama. Payroll exceeds $11.5 million. Another Victory Grille and a “Cuban speakeasy” named El Floridita (both under contract in Mobile) should boost those numbers.

Baumhower’s coastal restaurants have often included outliers, from Calypso Joe’s Caribbean Grille at the Orange Beach Marina, sold in 2005, to his elegant new eatery atop the RSA Trustmark Building in downtown Mobile. He named it Dauphins, a double entendre paying homage to Mobile’s French heritage and his NFL career.

Executive Chef and Sommelier Steve Zucker calls the food, “Gulf Coastal Cuisine with touches of New Orleans Creole Cajun and Caribbean.”

Baumhower adds that Creole cuisine originated in the Caribbean en route to Mobile and New Orleans. “Restaurants in Haiti, Cuba and Jamaica: there are a lot of Creole influences there. So we bring all of that together at Dauphins.”

Structural issues are delaying El Floridita-related renovations to Trustmark’s basement. When completed, it will pay tribute to its Cuban namesake, says Baumhower, who three times accompanied the Alabama Department of Agriculture to Cuba — presenting dishes that showcased chicken and other Alabama products. “We went to El Floridita in Havana; Mobile is Havana’s sister port, and we want to have some fun with that.”

After stressing his parents’ role, Baumhower credits Coach Bryant with providing his foundation for success, in life and business.

“We’re very particular with the specs on our food: how it’s prepared, how it’s presented, flavor, texture, temperature. All of those things, to me, are Xs and Os, like how you run your plays.”

Bryant’s “you’ve got to have a plan” mantra suffuses Baumhower’s focus on infrastructure: including an operations manual and training manuals for every position, plus position-specific mission statements that define expectations. “Say it’s a wing cook: His or her mission is to create hot, crispy, well-seasoned and sauced wings in a timely manner. If you don’t deliver on that, you’re not getting the job done — it’s like me playing as a defensive lineman. I could thrash around, run fast and look good, but if I didn’t get to the ball carrier and stop him I wasn’t getting the job done,” he continues.

“The number one thing you’ve got to have in the hospitality business is a good vision for what you want your brand to be and who your customer is. But once you get that piece down and the model works, it’s always about your people. You’ve got to want to make people happy in our business.”

That attitude spawns regular statewide store-to-store trips (in an Alabama-made Tiffin motor home). “I want to go fishing more,” laughs Baumhower, who keeps a boat in Fort Lauderdale for Caribbean excursions. “But if you’re committed to that, it’s hard to take your hands off the wheel.”

Eldest son Spencer, in his second year at the company, should help boost dad’s fishing time.

For the complete article please see

Redmont Distilling wins Alabama Distillery of the Year award
From the article by Kelly Poe on

Birmingham’s Redmont Distilling has won Alabama distillery of the year at the New York International Spirits Competition after only a year in the market.

Redmont, Birmingham’s first legal distillery since prohibition, also won Bronze awards for the Alabama Cotton Gin in the gin category and the Satsuma Vodka in the vodka category.

Stephen Watts and Jake Hendon, two Florence natives and Auburn graduates, cofounded the distillery in 2015, but their spirits didn’t hit shelves until early 2016.

“The New York International Spirits Competition is one of the most rigorous competitions worldwide and this honor is truly appreciated” Watts said in a press release. “This award is the result of years of hard work and dedication by the Redmont team. We will continue expanding and improving our brand and product portfolio, and strive to maintain the title in 2018.”

The owners of Redmont believe the Alabama Cotton Gin to be the first gin in the world to use cotton as its botanical. The Satsuma Vodka is made with Alabama-grown Satsuma orange peels.

For the complete article please see

Birmingham’s Elyton Hotel, formerly the Empire Hotel, opening this summer
from the article by Kelly Poe on

The last floor is being laid, the last light fixtures going up, and the last painting being done on the long-anticipated hotel in the Empire Building in Birmingham.

The Elyton Hotel is putting finishing touches on the building before its scheduled summer opening in the historic building at 1928 1st Ave. N.

The 1909 building became vacant a century later when Colonial Bank moved out of the building in 2009. In August 2015, Buford, Georgia-based Ascent Hospitality announced it would bring the building back to life with a $45 million project to include two Marriott hotels, a restaurant, event space and a rooftop bar.

The project includes the adjoining former Tony’s building and former Alagasco headquarters, which will be a Fairfield Inn and Suites. That building recently started construction.

The inside of the hotel maintains a largely neutral color palette with pops of turquoise, and blends the building’s historic touches like the antique chandeliers and marble staircase with new touches like bright blue paint and creative light fixtures.

The inside of the rooms almost feel like a whole different hotel – bright yellow accents create a totally modern feel. Each room has a 49-inch, high-definition flat-screen TV and complimentary Wi-Fi. Each also has a “smart fridge” – meaning the fridges won’t use full power to refrigerate until something is put inside it, saving energy.

“No two rooms are exactly alike because of the age of hotel,” Elyton’s Director of Sales Melanie Reno said.

The Elyton will be part of Marriott’s Autograph collection.  The only other Autograph hotel in the area is Mountain Brook’s Grand Bohemian Hotel  in Lane Parke. There are more than 100 autograph hotels wordwide, and the concept is that each hotel will be different from each other and from other hotels.

The Elyton will have 111 rooms and six suites. It’ll also have a 710-square-foot gym. The neighboring Fairfield Inn will have an additional 120 rooms.

The Yard restaurant and Moon Shine, the rooftop bar, will also open this summer.

Haller Magee, formerly the head chef at Satterfield’s Restaurant and at Sky Castle, will be the executive chef of the Yard and Moon Shine. The Yard will serve Southern progressive food with global influences and use local and seasonal ingredients. The main entrance will be on 20th street and breakfast, lunch and dinner will be served.

Moon Shine will be open for lunch, dinner and late night, with small plates, wood-fired pizza, desserts and crafted cocktails.

For the complete article with a photo slideshow of the hotel please see

Boutique hotel taking shape, to open midsummer in Florence
From the article by Robert Palmer in the Times Daily:

The transformation of a former gun and pawn shop in downtown Florence is becoming more evident every day.

Billy Ray Casteel, who bought the building in 2016, is creating a 10-room boutique hotel on the upper floor of the East Tennessee Street building. It will be the first of its type in northwest Alabama.

“I’ve got people trying to book rooms now,” Casteel said this week.

He said the target opening date is Aug. 1, but a soft opening could occur the week of the W.C. Handy Music Festival.

Inside, while carpenters are busy framing doors and measuring wood, Project Manager Brett McMeans said the stripped down industrial feel of the building will be retained, including a large freight elevator that will be transformed into a catering bar.

“We’re keeping it as original as possible, but clean,” he said.

Exposed brick is visible everywhere, and the high, beamed ceiling will be left as is. The thick-planked floor will be cleaned but not refinished, McMeans said.

The rooms, however, will be luxurious, with large tiled showers, iron balconies and sitting areas.

Each room will be themed, with local artists and designers putting their touches on them.

The Billy Reid room will feature a ladder and sleeping loft, while the Frank Lloyd Wright room will be designed in the style of the Usonian Rosenbaum house.

“I’m taking a lot of inspiration from the Rosenbaum house,” said Keith Rhodes, who is designing the room.
Other room themes will include Sam Phillips, Single Lock Records, Muscle Shoals Sound, Lion’s Den, Glencoe, Smithsonia, 4C, and Devil’s Backbone.

Glencoe was a thoroughbred horse owned by James Jackson at the Forks of Cypress in the early 19th century, Casteel said. Someone showed him research that suggests most of the thoroughbred race horses in the U.S. can trace their lineage to that horse, he said.

A ground floor room will be designed for guests with mobility issues, Casteel said. The hotel will not have an elevator, but will have a double staircase with a large back-lit window in the center.

The 10 rooms wrap around a 3,200-square-foot space that can be used for meetings or gatherings. Room service dining will be catered by Odette, he said.

“I feel about 50 percent of my revenue will come from people who want to rent the whole thing,” Casteel said, adding that a company has already leased all the rooms for a meeting early next year.

Reservations may be made only online at He said reservations will be accepted beginning this summer.

For the complete article please see

Tiny house rentals at Lake Martin make lake living easy
from the article by Amber Sutton on

Want to get in some lake living this summer without having to worry about the stress of camping or having to spend big bucks on a lake house stay? Eagles Landing at Lake Martin is getting in on the tiny house movement by creating a tiny home community for vacationers to enjoy.

Nestled along the wooded shoreline of Parker Creek at Lake Martin, the tiny home community offers views of the lake and is conveniently located for Birmingham, Montgomery and Auburn residents seeking a unique and affordable way to enjoy the lake life. During their stay, guests can experience Lake Martin’s 44,000 acres and 761 miles of continuous shoreline while enjoying recreational boating, fishing and swimming in one of three custom tiny homes near the popular waterfront restaurant The Landing at Parker Creek.

With custom-designed floor plans by interior designer Morgan Holiday, each tiny home sleeps up to four adults and is artfully decorated to suit lakefront living. Each tiny home comes fully furnished with all the necessary amenities, including a fully equipped kitchen, 13-foot vaulted ceilings, a spacious screened-in porch facing the lake, brushed-nickel and stainless steel appliances, marble and granite countertops, a flat-screen TV, cable, double French door-entry from the porch, individual HVAC units and a stacked washer and dryer.

Sleeping arrangements include a queen bed in the master bedroom as well as stacked bunk beds in the hallway. Other amenities include a tiled walk-in shower, a fully equipped kitchen with microwave, stove, refrigerator and dishwasher as well as ceiling fans in the master bedroom, living room and on the porch.

Those staying in the homes have use of a free boat slip during their stay as well as access to the beach and large swimming area. Each unit also has its own barbecue grill and picnic table area. In addition, Eagles Landing provides guests with special offers such as one hour of playtime on the famous Tarzan boat during their stay as well as a $50 food voucher for The Landing at Parker Creek restaurant.

“Tiny homes are an up-and-coming trend in real estate and design, and these cabin-style tiny homes are unlike anything you’ve ever seen,” says Herb Winches, founder and developer of Eagles Landing. “They provide the opportunity to experience lakefront living without the maintenance or cost of owning a home on the lake.”

Reservations for the tiny home rentals are available for four and seven-day stays.

The cabins are 550 square feet which includes a 144 square-foot screened-in front porch. For more information see

For the complete article please see

New skate park, renovated pool to open this summer in Montgomery
From the WSFA-12 report:

The city of Montgomery announced Thursday that residents will soon have access to a city pool and new skate park, located on a 14-acre property near Gunter Air Force Base.

According to the city, the property was previously leased by the department of defense through the base. Mayor Todd Strange says not only will this property give residents access to the pool and skate park, it will also house the building maintenance organization.

Strange said the organization, which was previously housed on the back side of Oak Park, has moved into buildings located on the property.

“As you look around at the old hangers and the old buildings, it seemed quite appropriate that we could consolidate a lot of those operations into those buildings,” Strange said. “Over the last several months, completing about two months ago, we have relocated and housed together all of the building maintenance operations.”

After moving building maintenance onto the property, Strange says the city made the decision to also renovate the pool by bringing it up to code and making it operable for residents. The bath houses have also been renovated for public use. It will officially open to the public on Saturday.

The pool will be open for early swim during the following hours:
Monday thru Friday 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. with lap swim only from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The pool will then reopen for afternoon swim during the following hours:
Mondays and Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Wednesdays through Fridays 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.,
Saturdays 10 a.m. 6 p.m.
Sundays 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

As the city monitors usage of the pool more swim programs may be added to the schedule, city officials say.

In addition to the city pool, the old remnants of the city skate park have also been moved to the property. Strange says over the next month, workers will begin installing the old pieces along with some new items to the skate pad.

City officials hope to have the skate park up and running by mid-July.

For the complete report please see

Alabama Scenic Byways hosts summer workshop on June 27-28 in Montgomery
The Alabama Scenic Byways Program in partnership with the Alabama Association of Resource Conservation and Development Councils will present a summer workshop on June 27-28 at the Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa at the Convention Center.  The theme of the workshop will be “Using Your Historical Assets: Making the Places and Stories Along Your Byway Stronger” and will include discussions on resources, tax credits and building history-based itineraries.

This free workshop is open to 50 participants with 25 scholarships available for assistance with hotel room expenses.

Registration information is available at

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
Utilizing the ability to add images to your partner profile not only makes your location/event more appealing, it also greatly increases the chances of it being selected to be featured on either the homepage or a page within the www.Alabama.Travel site.

To add an image to your event or location, log into, select your event or location, select Edit, scroll to the Images box, select Choose File and select the image you would like to display and add a caption for the image. You may add up to 6 JPG, GIF, or PNG images.

Need to polish up your partner account? Go 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.

The newsletter can also be accessed online by going to:

To subscribe to the newsletter please contact Brian Jones at:

Alabama Tourism Department