Tourism Tuesdays January 9, 2018

Birmingham named to Zagat’s list of the 30 Most Exciting Food Cities in America
Cast of ASF play gets tour of historic Tuskegee site
Samantha Brown Hosts New PBS Travel Series ‘Places to Love’
A Kiwi in Alabama Part 2 – Selma
Rolling Stones keyboardist to perform at Alabama Music Hall of Fame Induction Banquet
Alabama Tourism’s website updated
Attendance Figures deadline is Wednesday
“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


Birmingham named to Zagat’s list of the 30 Most Exciting Food Cities in America
Zagat recently released its year-end list of the 30 Most Exciting Food Cities in America. Birmingham was the only Alabama city featured on the list that also included such food destination cities as New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco, and New Orleans.

From the article “30 Most Exciting Food Cities in America 2017” on

No. 24: Birmingham, AL
All eyes are on The Magic City, especially after Food & Wine relocated much of its staff to Birmingham earlier this year. It’s delivering with a wave of globally focused eateries like the popular Pizitz Food Hall with stalls representing cuisines from Ethiopia, Asia, the Middle East and more, plus Fero, an Italian restaurant from lauded NYC chef Akhtar Nawab (Alta Calidad). Favorite local sushi chef Abhi Sainju opened his first solo concept, Abhi, and hip EastWest serves modern Asian fusion.

Birmingham continues its legacy of Southern cooking and fine-dining establishments like chef Frank Stitt’s Highlands Bar and Grill (James Beard Award finalist) with top-notch farm-to-table concepts like Roots & Revelry from chef Brandon Cain (Saw’s Soul Kitchen, Post Office Pies) and Root to Tail from chef and Food Network host Ben Vaughn.

On the sweets front, Big Spoon Creamery, a small-batch ice cream concept from two Bottega vets, opened a storefront, and hit pop-up Hero Doughnuts found a permanent home in Homewood.

For the complete article please see

Cast of ASF play gets tour of historic Tuskegee site
From the article on

The cast of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival’s upcoming play “Fly,” which is focused on the Tuskegee Airmen, were immersed in history Thursday.

Friends of Tuskegee hosted a special event at Moton Field, where the Airmen trained, welcoming the cast. They got to tour the historic site and learn more about stories and the historic figures they portray.

“They portrayed something that they have read about..and something that they have studied. but here, you actually get the feel. you walk the grounds, enter the buildings. you see the replicas and the actual artifacts from the Tuskegee Airmen,” said event coordinator Milton C. Davis.

“Fly” will have it’s first performance in Alabama at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival starting Jan. 26.

For the complete article please see

Samantha Brown Hosts New PBS Travel Series ‘Places to Love’
From the article by Beth J. Harpaz, AP Travel Editor on

You may know Samantha Brown from her years as a Travel Channel host for shows like “Great Hotels,” ”Green Getaways” and the “Passport” series about Latin America, China and Europe, among others.

She’s back with a new series on PBS called “Places to Love,” with 13 weekly episodes through March.

“‘Places to Love’ is about finding the experiences, the destinations, but, most importantly, the people who really make us feel like we’re part of a place,” Brown said in an interview for the AP Travel podcast “Get Outta Here!”

Destinations featured on the show range from Shanghai to places Brown says you might not think of going “but should,” like Huntsville, Alabama, nicknamed Rocket City for its work with NASA and the space industry.

For the complete article please see

A Kiwi in Alabama Part 2 – Selma
From the article by Janice Nieder on

Travel writer Janice Nieder takes a fascinating road trip to Alabama, and discovers “small towns and cities sizzling with a new energy, cultural excitement, compelling historic offerings, and some damn fine eating!” Part 1 ran in the Dec. 19, 2017 edition of Tourism Tuesdays.

We woke up at the crack of dawn, for a final beach walk before driving to the “real Deep South”. In preparation for the next few days, I had sent Jules a list of books and films (Selma, To Kill A Mockingbird, Malcolm X, etc.) to check out for some background info.

While researching her list, I came across the following quote,

“Confrontation of good and evil compressed in the tiny community of Selma generated the massive power to turn the whole nation on to a new course” by Martin Luther King, March 25, 1965, so I thought it was only fitting that we begin our civil right’s journey in Selma, the “Queen City of the Black Belt.”

Dianne Harris, our incredibly knowledgeable Selma guide (after spending the morning with her I think she should be nominated as Queen of the Queen City!) was waiting for us on the steps of the Historic Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church. She quickly shooed us in so we could get a good seat for Sunday services.

Although Browns Chapel is an imposing work of architecture, built by a black architect, we were there mainly to honor its historical importance since not only did Martin Luther King preach here whenever he was in Selma. but it was also the starting place for the Selma-to-Montgomery Voting Rights March.

After a rousing service, Dianne took us to see the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the site where one of America’s most violent civil rights confrontations took place on March 7, 1965. This pivotal event, “Bloody Sunday” precipitated President Lyndon Johnson’s signing of the Voting Rights Act a month later.

The highlight of Dianne’s tour was visiting the Jackson House Museum. This National Register-listed bungalow was the home of Sullivan Jackson, an African American dentist who was active in the civil rights movement. This outwardly, nondescript home served as headquarters for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Ralph Abernathy and Rev. Andrew would meet to discuss important events such as Bloody Sunday and the 1965 March to Montgomery.

Dianne had arranged for Jawana Jackson, the charismatic daughter of Sullivan and Richie Jean, to take us on a very personal tour of her well-preserved family home, a cache of American history filled with original artifacts from The Voting Rights Movement, priceless books and century-old original oil paintings. However, the most invaluable part was hearing stories that Jawana shared about her early childhood here. During our lunch (we ate at the same table where Martin Luther King and Ralph Bunche shared their dreams of achieving civil rights through peaceful demonstrations) Jawana reminisced how when she was 5 years old, she would make mud-pies for “Uncle Martin” who she remembers as a lovely, caring man who always made time for her.

She showed us her blue and gold bedroom, strewn with dolls, which she happily loaned to King for several months while he was planning the Selma march.

“Wait, she exclaimed, “Don’t look yet. It’s missing something.”

She quickly rummaged through the closet producing the finishing touch, a neatly-folded, plastic-wrapped pair of his pajama’s, “since he was always forgetting to take them with him!”

As we walked into another room, where King often sat to write his famous speeches, Jawana stopped, dramatically pointing out an old-fashioned rotary phone that King used for making private calls to President Johnson to discuss voting and other civil rights issues.

We ended up back in the living room, where an overstuffed chair was perched in front of a squatty tv. My eyes flickered back and forth from this commonplace setting to a Life magazine Jawana handed me. The magazine’s cover featured the exact same view, with the addition of MLK sitting in the chair as he watched LBJ call for new legislation to guarantee every American’s right to vote. It was wonderfully surreal.

Unfortunately, we had to cut our tour short because we had to drive to Camden, where we were staying at what we thought was a casual lil’ B & B that night. It turned out (with absolutely no complaints from me) that our accommodations were at Liberty Hall B & B, one of the most intact antebellum mansions in the Black Belt region. We were a slightly awestruck as we gazed at the impeccable Greek Revival plantation home, surrounded by gardens, ponds and ancient Magnolia trees, and filled with museum-worthy family heirlooms.

We felt like we should have we dressed up a bit, but after meeting the delightful owners, Dudly and Julia, (Julia is a 5th generation descendant of John Robert McDowell who built the home in 1850) who were surprisingly hardworking and unpretentious, and, un-surprisingly (this is the South after all) warm and gracious, we immediately felt right at home!

We spent an hour touring the rooms, as Julia regaled us with mesmerizing stories about the complicated family history, however, the portraits of her ancestors, hung throughout the mansion, served as cheat-sheets.

I felt very Scarlett O’Hara-ish as I climbed into my antique sleigh bed laden with a pile of hand-stitched quilts, particularly after discovering a secret stairway behind my closet door that led up to the nursery.

We loved waking up to a delicious full-southern breakfast, courtesy of Dudly, complete with homemade strawberry-figgy jam to slather on our steaming hot biscuits.

For the complete article please see

Rolling Stones keyboardist to perform at Alabama Music Hall of Fame Induction Banquet
Alabama Music Hall of Fame 2016 inductee Chuck Leavell will perform at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame Induction Banquet and Awards Show on Feb. 3 at the Marriott Shoals Conference Center in Florence. Leavell is the keyboardist for the Rolling Stones and was an original member of the Allman Brothers Band. His piano and keyboard work has also been heard on the works of Eric Clapton, John Mayer, The Black Crowes and George Harrison among others.

Other performers include Mac McAnally, Walt Aldridge and Jamey Johnson. The stage band will be the Muscle Shoals All-Stars. Alabama Music Hall of Fame inductees this year include McAnally and Aldridge, two of country music’s best songwriters, Eddie Hinton, who was one of the music industry’s best session players, and Odetta Holmes, whose music made her a civil rights icon.

“Each one of these well-deserving inductees has brought international acclaim to our state.” said AMHOF Executive Director Dixie Connell. “The banquet celebrates everything that is great about Alabama’s rich and diverse music heritage. Several of Alabama’s music business celebrities stepped up to support the 2018 show and we appreciate that so much.”

For table/ticket info call AMHOF at 256-381-4417.

Attendance Figures deadline is Wednesday
Thank you to the more than 200 attraction and event representatives who have already entered their attendance figures into the state tourism department online database. If you have not already done so- please take a few minutes and enter your figures today.

The Alabama Tourism Department is asking representatives of state attractions and events to turn in their attendance figures for the year 2017. These attendance figures are the basis for the annual “Top 10” listings. The figures serve as a vital guide for the media, state government and local organizations.

* In order for you to be counted we must have your data by the end of the day on Wednesday, Jan. 10. The online reporting process should take less than 5 minutes to complete.

Please follow this link to enter your attendance figures

Note: There is only one event or attraction per online form and only one classification can be chosen. The Alabama Tourism Department reserves the right for final determination of classifications.

Alabama Tourism’s website updated
Have you seen our new look? Alabama Tourism started 2018 with a website update! You’ll begin to experience Alabama as soon as you are on the site through captivating videos. Events, vacation guides, visitor tips, and more are easy to find on the new website header. The new footer boasts four apps, social media links, and helpful contact information. All tied together with new, clean fonts and colors. Check out the update at today!

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
Inspire Me is a feature designed to help travelers find events and activities happening in Alabama based on their feelings and interests. For example, a user may select “Central Alabama,” “Family Fun,” and “Science and Discovery” and a list of Partner events and locations with those tags is generated. So, when creating an event or location, use appropriate tags that relate to the feel and activities offered. Those tags then direct users to your event when they use the Inspire Me tool.

Need to touch up your partner account? Go to today.


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