Tourism Tuesdays July 25, 2017

  • Alabama’s newest amusement park, OWA, officially opens
  • Alabama Tourism Department to hold marketplace for local vendors on Thursday
  • Officials tout success of Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at 25th anniversary celebration
  • National video blogger visits Alabama
  • Local restaurants still able to sign-up for Alabama Restaurant Week
  • Alabama bicentennial workshop being held in Dothan on Thursday
  • Southern Makers event is Aug. 12-13 in Birmingham
  • Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism is Aug. 19-22 in Birmingham
  • “Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
  • ________________________________________________

Alabama’s newest amusement park, OWA, officially opens

From the article by John Sharp on

With a roller coaster zooming in the background, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians’ coveted Park at OWA amusement park officially opened during a media event Thursday, one day before the public was allowed into it at 10 a.m. Friday.

“From the very beginning, we believed we could create something special here for families whether they are on vacation or are here to play soccer or lacrosse,” said Stephanie Bryan, the chair and CEO of the tribe. “Today, here we are to start having fun and making memories.”

The 21-ride “Park at OWA,” which is part of a 520-acre development in Foley next to the Beach Express, is the first major non-gaming development backed by the tribe through its Creek Indian Enterprise Development Authority.

The venue, dubbed a “family-friendly destination,” is part of an initial $260 million investment that will include a host of restaurants in the nearby downtown district anchored, thus far, by a Wahlburgers restaurant. Also included in that estimate is a 150-room Marriott TownePlace Suites that opened earlier this month.

The overall property includes 16 athletic fields backed by the city of Foley as part of its push into sports tourism. A new 91,000-square-foot indoor events center which the city borrowed $15.3 million to build, is expected to be completed by the end of July.

Foley officials are currently looking for a management company to oversee the center, and the tribe is interested. A decision on the future management of the venue could be determined within the next month.

“We’re in negotiations with that right now,” said Tim Martin, president of the Creek Indian Enterprise Development Authority. “We want the 520 acres … we want it to be seamless.”

On Thursday, the attention was focused on the amusement park and the potential economic development it could bring to Foley, Baldwin County and Alabama.

“It’s going to make Foley a destination,” said Foley Mayor John Koniar. “It will make this whole region a destination. We are proud of it.”

Robert McGhee, vice-chairman of the tribal council, said the aim is to make the park an attraction for residents and tourists who flock to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach to spend their vacations on Alabama’s sugar-white sand beaches. The beaches are approximately nine miles from the amusement park.

“We wanted something fun or if you were at the beach, and get sunburned and want to go somewhere else, you have the 16 ballfields and the sports tourism coming in here,” said McGhee. “(Visitors) play a game and are ready to do something else, this gives them the opportunity.”

The development happened quickly. The tribe first expressed interest in OWA in April 2015, shortly after a previous development idea – once named after the “Blue Collar” Comedy troupe of Bill Engvall, Jeff Foxworthy, Ron White and Larry The Cable Guy – fell through.

Martin said it took eight separate economic analysis of the project in order to get the tribal council to sign off on it.

“Each study said it was economically viable to do this,” said Martin.

The project was first publicly unveiled in November, and construction commenced shortly after that. The amusement park was slated to open Memorial Day weekend, but rainy weather delayed that.

Still, Martin recognized the fast construction time frame to get the project completed.

“Realize and imagine that 14 short months ago, this was a dirt field,” Martin said. “That was quite an accomplishment. We couldn’t do it without putting it on a fast-track.”

The park’s main feature includes the Rollin’ Thunder roller coaster, which has been dubbed as one of the “longest roller coaster” rides in the U.S. The park also features a host of “thrill,” “family-friendly” rides and “kiddie” rides.

General admission is $34.99 for an adult ticket, $27.99 for junior admissions (children 42 inches in height and below) and for active military and senior citizens (ages 60 and up). Toddlers ages 3 and under are free. An annual 12-month pass is $89.99.

The park will open at 10 a.m. daily and will remain open until after 10 p.m. Martin said he anticipates it closing around 11 p.m. this weekend.

“That will be based on what the customer tells us,” he said. “The customer tells us how long they want to be here, then it becomes a safety factor of our employees (in determining when to close each night).”

Martin also said that the amusement park will be open year-round, though limited scheduling is expected during the off-season months in the winter season. Special events are being planned for holidays such as Halloween and Christmas.

The park is staffed with 275 employees, but Martin anticipates hiring to ramp up next year and reach a level of around 700 to 800 people.

For the complete article and photo gallery of OWA please see

Alabama Tourism Department to hold marketplace for local vendors on Thursday

The Alabama Tourism Department will assist local vendors with getting their goods sold at gift shops across the state when it holds the Alabama Makers Marketplace on Thursday, July 27 in Montgomery.  The event is free and will be open to the public.

“This is a great opportunity to bring producers of Alabama-made goods together with gift shop managers,” said marketplace coordinator Leigh Cross with the state tourism department.  “Travelers are always looking for things that are authentic and represent our state. We want to make sure that the gift shops at our top tourist attractions feature items from companies that are producing goods and creating jobs here in Alabama.”

The Alabama Makers Marketplace is 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on July 27 in the exhibit hall of the RSA Activity Center at 201 Dexter Ave. in downtown Montgomery.

More than 25 vendors have already registered for the marketplace including: Aunt Bee’s, Montgomery; Aqualime, Montgomery; Carol’s Botanicals, Mobile; Charmed Heirlooms, Huntsville; Cottage Industry Soap Company, Prattville; Cricket Dust Mystic Seasoning, Montgomery; Earth Creations, Bessemer; Earthborn Studios, Leeds; First Contact Sewing, Toney; Heather Baumbach Art, Madison; Helena Pepper Company, Helena; Jeffery Long Designs, Alex City; Kami Watson Studio, New Market.

Also coming are: Koontz, Greensboro; Made In The Shea, Daphne; Patriot Strong, Florence; Piper & Leaf Tea Company, Huntsville; Poppyseed Paper, Vestavia Hills; Priester’s Pecan, Fort Deposit; Regina K’s Cobbler’s, Leighton; Smokehouse Market, Boaz; To A T Embroidery, Montgomery; To Your Health Sprouted Flour Company, Fitzpatrick; Todd Farms, Headland; Who,What,Where Art, Athens; Woodwizard, Tuskegee.

Officials tout success of Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at 25th anniversary celebration

From the article by Gregg Dewalt in the Times Daily:

The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail’s 25th anniversary celebration continued Thursday at the Shoals trail site, as local officials touted the benefits of David Bronner’s expansive plan to make Alabama a destination state for visitors instead of a drive-through state on their way to Florida.

Bronner’s grand plan, a once-in-a-lifetime project has more than lived up to his expectation twenty-five years later, and despite a downturn in the golf industry. The 11 trail sites, including the Shoals, continue to attract golfers from the United States and around the world while pumping money into local economies.

Although the local RTJ Golf Trail stop is the second youngest of the 11 sites (it opened in 2004), Florence City Council President Dick Jordan said Bronner’s promise of an improved community has come to fruition.

“In 2002, David Bronner told us we wouldn’t recognize our community after this project,” Jordan said. “He was right. After the golf courses, the Marriott Shoals opened, followed by seven other hotels in Florence. An excitement prevailed that helped lead to a revitalization in our historic downtown. Across the city, new restaurants and retail emerged. People came from across the country and across the world to play our courses and experience our life.”

According to RTJ Golf Trail officials, the 11 sites attract golfers from all 50 states and an average of 20 countries annually. More than 500,000 rounds of golf are played annually across the trail.

Susann Hamlin, the executive director of the Colbert County Tourism and Convention Bureau, said the opening of the RTJ Golf Trail at the Shoals provided exposure to the other aspects of the community.

“We can always get the attention of travel agents and tour operators when we start out without fabulous RTJ courses,” she said. “The international traveler saves their money all year and takes a vacation and stays two or three weeks. When we talk to them, we especially promote the RTJ golf courses … we then have an opportunity to promote Muscle Shoals music and all of the wonderful attractions we have in our area.”

Not only are the courses a boon for tourism dollars, but local golfers help sustain them year round through specific programs to attract them, Steve Mack, director of golf at the RTJ Golf Trail Hampton, said.

“There’s no question about it,” Mack said. “(Local golfers) play the majority of the rounds that we actually do. That’s why the programs that we have set up – the Trail card, the annual pass, the range programs – are all geared toward our Alabama residents. We are very cautious that we don’t run any special rate that undercuts the Trail card. We want the people of Alabama to have the best rates of anybody.”

Tim Cole, the head professional at the Shoals trail site for three years, said visitors from as far away as Australia have played here.

“Not only are they spending money here on food and beverage and merchandise, but they are going out in the community and spending,” he said. “Was it worth it to build this? Yes. Not only is it bringing golf to the community, but it is doing exactly what it was envisioned for.”

For the complete article please see

National video blogger visits Alabama

From the article by Ben Flanagan on

Casey Neistat made his first trip to Alabama, and of course, he vlogged about it.

Neistat, a filmmaker with 7.4 million subscribers on YouTube, recently headlined as guest speaker to a sold-out crowd in the Lyric Theatre at the technology and entrepreneurship festival.

The wildly popular Neistat also started Beme, a tech company he eventually sold to CNN for a reported $25 million.

On the latest episode of his vlog, this one titled “ALONE IN AN AIRPORT,” he details his travels to Birmingham, starting with a cab ride to LaGuardia Airport in New York and ending with a trip back home, including stops in Birmingham and Dallas.

“I could be wrong about this, but I don’t know that I’ve ever actually been to the state of Alabama before,” he says as he rides his skateboard through Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.

He reiterates this to his driver Willie, who then implores them to take in a Crimson Tide football game.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been to the great state of Alabama,” Neistat says. “I’m a guy who travels a lot, too. I’m not sure I’ve ever been here.”

“You’ve got to come get you an Alabama football game,” the driver says, noting Neistat should put it on his bucket list. He laughs and responds, “I’ve got to get an Alabama football game.”

After a travel montage showing road signs for various downtown Birmingham destinations, Neistat arrives at the Lyric Theatre downtown where he preps to speak at Sloss Tech, alongside fellow headliner Tiki Barber, who later appears in the vlog.

We also get Neistat’s standard gorgeous drone footage through downtown Birmingham, accompanied by “Stars Fell on Alabama.”

Often experimenting with his drones, Neistat also successfully flies it inside the Lyric Theatre during rehearsal, plus we see some cool time-lapse shots of Third Avenue North. Moments later, he heads outside the theater where he greets several fans and even hears the obligatory “Roll Tide” and “War Eagle” on his way back inside.

For the complete article and a link to the video please see

Local restaurants still able to sign-up for Alabama Restaurant Week

More than 150 restaurants have already signed up for participation in Alabama Restaurant Week.  Locally owned and operated restaurants are still able to sign up for the statewide promotion at  Signing up is quick and easy.

Alabama Restaurant Week is Aug. 11- Aug. 20

Participating restaurants are listed on the website with their meal offerings. Alabama Restaurant pricing is fixed at $10, $20, $30 and $40 for dinner and $10 and $15 for lunch. In all cases, the price is per person and does not include tax, tip and drink. Restaurants may offer a meal at all or just one of the preset prices.

There is no cost for restaurants to participate in this statewide promotion. For more details and sign-up information please see

Special Coordinator for Alabama Restaurant Week is Courtney Austin, staff member at the Alabama Tourism Department.  You may contact her at 334-242-4674 or by email at

Alabama bicentennial workshop being held in Dothan on Thursday

The fifth regional community workshop for the bicentennial will be held Thursday, July 27 at 9 a.m. at the Wiregrass Museum of Art in Dothan. The workshops have been developed by the Alabama Bicentennial Committee to share information, resources, and funding opportunities regarding Alabama’s three-year bicentennial commemoration. The event is free and open to the public but registration is required at

“We have many partners in Dothan, Elba, Enterprise and Daleville but hope to have the opportunity to make more connections throughout the wiregrass,” said Jay Lamar, Executive Director of the Alabama Bicentennial Commission.

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

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 the governor and the legislature to begin planning for the state’s 200th anniversary. For more information about the bicentennial, visit, or call 334-242-4537.

Southern Makers event is Aug. 12-13 in Birmingham

Tickets are on sale for the fifth annual Southern Makers, an event Aug. 12-13, at the historic Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham.  The event moves to Birmingham for the first time this year after previously being held in Montgomery.

More than 100 of Alabama’s top makers, including nationally renowned fashion designers, textile artists, screen printers, jewelers, brewers, winemakers, contemporary artists, farmers, woodworkers, chefs, bakers, architects, industrial designers, preservationists and entrepreneurs, will come together in Birmingham to celebrate Southern creativity and innovation. For more information and to purchase tickets please see

Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism is Aug. 19-22 in Birmingham

The Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism is Aug. 19-22 at the Sheraton Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.

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

For an agenda, list of speakers and registration information please see

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website

Mark your calendars- Alabama Restaurant week is Aug. 11-20. Make sure your restaurant can be found on by creating a partner listing for it today.

Need to touch up your partner account? Go to register today. To learn more about Bicentennial, visit


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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