Tourism Tuesdays April 10, 2018

Marriott recognizes Grand National with Hotel of the Year distinction
Bicentennial traveling exhibit begins tour across the state
Alabama destinations featured in British Airways travel magazine
The South’s Best Restaurant in Alabama: Acre
What’s new at the beach: New eats, retail in Orange Beach
Alabama announces 47-day red snapper season
Exploring the Deep South on a musical road trip
CNN: 5 food stops with a side of civil rights history
More than 200 take part in April Walking Tours on Saturday
Alabama Tourism Department’s 2018 Spring Tourism Workshop
“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


Marriott recognizes Grand National with Hotel of the Year distinction
From the article by Kara Coleman on

The Auburn/Opelika Marriott at Grand National received honors recently from Marriott International and the editors ofGolf Digest magazine.

Of Marriott’s 634 classic premium hotels in North America, the company designated six as 2017 Hotel of the Year, including the Grand National location. The Hotel of the Year distinction comes after Marriott reviewed guest satisfaction surveys, financial records and overall property performance.

“I think a lot of it has to do with all the renovations and improvements that we’ve done over the past year,” said Brooke Kastner, director of sales and marketing for the Mariott at Grand National. “We’re adding 93 additional guest rooms that we’re going to be opening sometime next month, the spa that’s coming on line at the end of the summer, a full renovation of the restaurant that has just reopened, with a new concept and brand, and everything that goes along with that.

“We’re very honored to be included in that upper echelon of hotels within Marriott International. So that was really exciting for us. And we had no idea; it was just kind of a surprise that we found out last week.”

The other Marriott locations that received the company’s top nod were the Buffalo Marriott Harborcenter, Washington Dulles Marriott Suites, Milwaulkee Marriott West, Louisville Marriott East, and the Sheraton McKinney Hotel in Texas.

Golf resort
That announcement came at the same time the Grand National location was named a Top Golf Resort by the Golf Digesteditors for the third consecutive year. The Auburn/Opelika Marriott is one of the five best golf resorts in the Southeast, as chosen by the magazine editors.

“Overlooking Lake Saugahatchee, the low-profile hotel is adjacent to the 54-hole Grand National golf complex, a key part of Alabama’s famed Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail,” according to Golf Digest.

Making the magazine’s list is “a huge accomplishment in itself,” Kastner said.

“That takes into consideration the hotel, the golf course, and everything that goes into that,” she explained. “And that’s an editors’ choice, so they really look at a lot of resorts throughout the Southeast to determine who gets those. To be honored with that three years in a row is really exciting.”

The area’s only AAA Four Diamond hotel, the Auburn/Opelika Marriott is set to officially become a Marriott Resort this fall. Pool and tennis memberships are available for local residents, and spa and fitness membership packages are expected to be made available in the future.

“Even more is coming later in the year, with the new rooms opening next month, the 20,000-square-foot spa and fitness facility that’s just going to be an amazing addition to our community, I think, that will be opening in September,” Kastner said. “We’re looking for the chance to really create an even better experience for our guests, as well as folks who are in the area.”

For the complete article please see

Bicentennial traveling exhibit begins tour across the state
“Making Alabama: A Bicentennial Traveling Exhibit” made its debut in Montgomery in March, displaying 200 years of Alabama history and beyond. The exhibit is in the Old Supreme Court Library room of the state Capitol and will be on display through August.

Beginning this month, this and other versions of the exhibit will be on tour for 19 months, traveling to all 67 of Alabama’s counties. Four exhibits have been built, and they will travel the state concurrently so that all counties will be able to experience this exhibit.

This extensive exhibit by the Alabama Humanities Foundation blends artistic collages, interactive computer tablets and an audio medley of song and spoken word to tell the story of Alabama – from becoming a territory to achieving statehood. It also conveys a message of Hope in its presentation about the future.

Organizers say AHF was a natural choice for coordinating the traveling exhibit because of its decades of experience through its partnering with the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street traveling exhibits.

“Just like the Smithsonian, where not everyone has the opportunity to view a Smithsonian exhibit in Washington, not everyone can make it to Montgomery to see Alabama Department of Archives and History’s unparalleled ‘Voices’ exhibit,” said AHF Executive Director Armand DeKeyser. “What we are putting together gives them that opportunity.”

In addition, host communities are assembling their own historical exhibits and collateral programming and activities to showcase their own history and put their signature on this event.

“It’s amazing what these communities are planning to celebrate their history and the 200 years of Alabama as a state,” DeKeyser said. “We are honored to be able to be a part of this epic undertaking, and we look forward to the next 19 months as it makes its way through towns and cities across our state.”

To learn more about the exhibit and scheduling see

Alabama destinations featured in British Airways travel magazine
Huntsville, Muscle Shoals, Birmingham, Montgomery, Mobile and the Gulf Coast are featured as part of a Southern road trip stretching from Nashville to New Orleans in the next edition of High Life magazine. “High Life” is the in-flight magazine of British Airways and has the highest circulation of any travel magazine with more than 3.6 million monthly readers.

The feature was produced by British Airways in cooperation with the Alabama Tourism Department. It will be in a special issue of the magazine coming out in early May as part of the introduction of direct flights from London to Nashville.

Destinations featured include the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville Botanical Garden, Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment, Monte Sano State Park, the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, Highlands Bar & Grill, U.S. Civil Rights Trail locations, Mobile Mardi Gras festivals and the beaches of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.

“The U.K. is our largest European market,” said Lee Sentell, state tourism director. “International visitors are especially attracted to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, U.S. Civil Rights Trail locations, Muscle Shoals music and other unique cultural sites that Alabama has.”

The feature includes photographs of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, a Mobile Mardi Gras band and also has an illustrated map with interstates, mileage counts and top destinations featured. High Life magazine is distributed in the seat pockets of every British Airways flight globally and in their airport lounges.

The South’s Best Restaurant in Alabama: Acre
From the article by Katherine Owen on

Chef David Bancroft’s restaurant owes much more than its name to the acre of land it sits on in downtown Auburn.

The restaurant is wrapped with an edible landscape, where Bancroft and his team tend crops that thrive in the Deep South climate—fruit trees guard the entrance, while a patch of collard greens, rows of herbs, and a plot of flowers fill the gaps in between. There are heirloom radishes and beets, lettuces, corn, and carrots growing in a 75-foot raised bed; a section of watermelons rounds out the far end of the garden.

It’s the bounty that determines Acre’s everchanging daily menu featuring dishes like roasted Gulf snapper served with creamed popped corn, collard green spaetzle, barbecue peanuts, and Brussels sprout slaw. Swing by on the right night, and you might find an Acre specialty, the Alabama Tamales: deer chorizo and sweet potato masa wrapped in a collard leaf and drizzled with white barbecue sauce and the restaurant’s homemade hot sauce.

Bancroft’s attention to detail—and history—goes beyond the menu. The interior is designed with black walnut floors and walls wrapped in solid oak, salvaged from his grandfather’s farm, and lined with old family photographs.

“The restaurant is fairly new—we just built it four years ago,” he says. “But we put our stories and ancestry and history into it, and that gives it a heartbeat.”

For the complete article please see

What’s new at the beach: New eats, retail in Orange Beach
From the article by Brian Kelly on

The high tourist season is just about in full swing at the Alabama Gulf Coast. The business landscape in Orange Beach continues to grow with the addition of new restaurants, bars and retail shops. Pleasure Island shows no signs of slowing with the start of the new season, and business owners are hoping the influx of tourists will support the latest business additions.

Cactus Cantina
One thing Alabama’s coast is not short on is Mexican-themed restaurants. At last count, Pleasure Island was home to more than a dozen South of the Border eateries. And one of the best is Cactus Cantina, which is opening a new location in Orange Beach. The newest Cactus Cantina was still under construction at the time of this writing in early April at the location of the legendary Hazel’s Seafood Restaurant on the beach highway. Cactus Cantina has a location along Highway 59 in Gulf Shores and a newer location off of Canal Road in Orange Beach which opened a little more than a year ago. Location: 25311 Perdido Beach Blvd., Orange Beach.

Fin & Fork
Wintzell’s Oyster House had a location in Orange Beach but struggled to earn a local or tourist following in the last couple of years. Recently, Wintzell’s shut its doors and many locals wondered what, if anything, would replace the failed oyster bar. What came in is Fin & Fork, owned by Matt and Regina Shipp, who formerly owned Shipps Harbour Grill. Opened just a few weeks ago, Fin & Fork serves fresh Gulf seafood served in a family-friendly atmosphere, according to its website. The menu also serves privately farmed Black Angus Beef, house-made sushi, and a wide selection of fresh Gulf Coast eats. Location: 24131 Perdido Beach Blvd., Orange Beach, Ala.

Wacked Out Weiner
If there was one thing missing from the beaches it had to be a good hot dog joint. While Wacked Out Weiner isn’t actually at the beach, it’s pretty close to the heart of Gulf Shores, and we’re happy out this new hot dog stop. Wacked Out Weiner serves homemade chili, Nathan’s all beef hot dogs and Polks sausage. Customers can choose from more than 30 toppings. Opened on March 1, Wacked Out Weiner should do well this tourist season. Location: 3800 Gulf Shores Pkwy., Gulf Shores, Ala.

Rum Sisters
One of the coolest bakeries anywhere is Rum Sisters, which earned a loyal following in the last few years, baking a variety of bundt cakes from its Gulf Shores location. Recently, Rum Sisters went from two owners to single owner Elizabeth Shay-Jones. The business moved from Gulf Shores to Orange Beach recently. Specializing in alcohol-infused cakes. From the signature Bushwacker bundt cake to the Island Time Rum Cake, Jones also ships nationally from the new Orange Beach location. Location: 25405 Perdido Beach Blvd., Ste. 5, Orange Beach, Ala.

Delta Blue Bar and Grill
Maybe it was the tricky location, but after less than two years ByWater Bistro joined the culinary graveyard that Gulf Shores and Orange Beach populates with the arrival of each new season. In March, a new bar, Delta Blue Bar and Grill, opened at the location along the Intracoastal Waterway, across from Lulu’s at Homeport. Gulf Coast musician Donnie Mathis took over the bar at Waterway Village in early March. Mathis, and accomplished musician in his own right, was in the club business years ago in Arkansas. Delta Blue aims to cater to locals and tourists alike with plenty of live music, a robust bar scene and a limited menu which is expected to expand over time. Location: 103 W. Canal Dr., Gulf Shores, Ala.

Lost Bay Tackle and Guide Service
The unofficial slogan for Orange Beach is “A quaint little drinking town with a fishing problem.” But surprisingly there aren’t many tackle shops so anglers are no doubt excited about the opening of Lost Bay Tackle in Orange Beach in early March. It’s the second location for the bait and tackle shop. Led by Captain Bill Willis, the shop is located along the beach highway and stocks all the tackle items for the pro or the novice angler. Location: 25405 Perdido Beach Blvd., Orange Beach, Ala.

For the complete article please see

Alabama announces 47-day red snapper season
From the article by Dennis Pillion on

Alabama’s recreation red snapper fishing season will be 47 days in 2018, according to a statement issued by Gov. Kay Ivey on Friday.

Alabama received an exemption from the National Marine Fisheries Service that will allow the state to manage its red snapper season for 2018 and 2019, according to the statement.

“This season will allow recreational anglers five more days to fish for red snapper compared to last year,” Ivey said in a news release. “I am proud we have been able to expand the red snapper season, which is a critical part of Alabama’s recreation and tourism industry.”

In 2018, Alabama and federal waters off the coast will be open for red snapper fishing every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from June 1 to Sept. 2, plus July 2-5 and Sept. 3 (Labor Day). The bag limit will remain two per person with a 16-inch minimum length.

The federal season for charter boats is not included in Alabama’s permit and is expected to be announced later this month.

Ivey said the exemption for Alabama was made possible through language written by Sen. Richard Shelby in the 2017 commerce, justice, and  science appropriations bill, as well as the work of Rep. Bradley Byrne and Chris Blankenship, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

“The red snapper fishery means so much to the coastal culture and economy of Alabama,” Ivey said. “I appreciate the work of Senator Shelby and Congressman Byrne on this vital issue.

“The entire state of Alabama is also indebted to Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Chris Blankenship, as this exemption would not have happened without his leadership and his tireless advocacy for Alabama. I am proud of the work Commissioner Blankenship is doing, and I am honored to have him as a part of my cabinet.”

Byrne issued a news release praising the exemption and calling it a “win-win” for coastal Alabama.

“A 47-day Red Snapper season is a huge development for our local fishermen and Alabama’s coastal communities,” Byrne said in the news release. “This is how government should work: take power from Washington and return it to the people who best understand the issue.

“Under this proposal, our fishermen will have adequate time to enjoy a Gulf Coast tradition while our coastal communities will benefit from increased revenue.”

Fishermen are still required to report their red snapper harvest through the Alabama Snapper Check Program.

For the complete article please see

Exploring the Deep South on a musical road trip
Editor’s Note:  Australian travel writer Rebekah Scanlan visited Alabama in September as she trekked across four different states exploring the musical influences of the South. Brian Jones with the Alabama Tourism Department, Randa Simpson and Suzi Shoemaker with Florence/Lauderdale Tourism and Keely Law with the Marriott Shoals assisted with her itinerary and hosted her during her time in Montgomery in the Florence area.

From the article “Exploring the Deep South on a musical road trip” by Rebekah Scanlan on Yahoo!:

En-route to Memphis, we detoured to Muscle Shoals in northern Alabama, home of FAME Studios, where the likes of Aretha Franklin and Cher recorded hits. A must see is the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio which has been lovingly restored recently, thanks to a generous donation from Jay-Z.

Despite shutting down production in the 80s, everything has been lovingly put back in order, it even has a modern TV — used to show visitors a clip explaining the history of the studio — that has been kitted out with a custom made ’70s casing to make it look as if it is from that era. So retro!

With its upgrade, it’s now back to being a working studio, so you could bump into an artist as you roam its corridors.

For the complete article please see

CNN: 5 food stops with a side of civil rights history
From the article by Ella Buchan on CNN:

Editor’s Note: One of travel writer Ella Buchan’s five civil rights food stops was in Alabama. She visited Alabama in October researching several articles on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail. Brian Jones with the Alabama Tourism Department and Meg Lewis with the Montgomery Convention & Visitors Bureau assisted with her itinerary and hosted her during her time in Montgomery.

2. Chris’ Hot Dogs, Montgomery, Alabama
King’s first church posting was at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, steps from the green awnings and tiny Formica tables of this narrow diner.

Before the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott propelled him to civil rights leadership, King would swing by Chris’ Hot Dogs to say hello and pick up his morning paper.

Operating since 1917 on Dexter Avenue — the very street where Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat — this hot dog joint was one of few eateries to ignore segregation laws and feed all its hungry customers equally.

In addition to King, Chris’ counts Franklin D. Roosevelt, Hank Williams, Elvis Presley and Whoopi Goldberg among those who have enjoyed the no-frills (but delicious) dogs smothered in mustard, onions and chili sauce.

But you get the impression most diners would barely bat an eyelid if Barack Obama stepped through the doors. They’re much more interested in the food and catching up with old friends — like King’s former barber, Nelson Malden, who swings by regularly for a hamburger.

Chris’ Hot Dogs
, 38 Dexter Ave, Montgomery, AL 36104, 334-265-6850

For the complete article please see

More than 200 take part in April Walking Tours on Saturday
More than 200 people across the state took part in the April Walking Tours on Saturday even though several cities had to cancel their walks due to weather. While numbers are still being reported, so far some of the largest walking tours were Florence, 77; Mooresville, 36; Huntsville, 20; Cullman, 12; Fairhope, 10.

A variety of community leaders lead the free tours through the historic districts or courthouse square areas of their hometowns. The hour-long tours start at 10 a.m. on April 7, 14, 21 and 28.

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

Huntsville, Confectionary Shop at Constitution Village (April 7 & 14 only); Livingston, McConnell Field on University of West Alabama campus; Madison, Madison Roundhouse (April 21 & 28 only); Mobile, Welcome Center at The History Museum of Mobile; Monroeville, Old Courthouse Museum; 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.

The tours are being coordinated by Brian Jones with the Alabama Tourism Department. “Alabama is the only state in the nation to hold statewide, simultaneous walking tours. These walking tours are a great way to get out and enjoy the spring weather and find out about the history of our state. More than 35,000 people have participated in the walking tours since the beginning of the program 15 years ago and the tours keep increasing in popularity every year,” Jones said.

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

Alabama Tourism Department’s 2018 Spring Tourism Workshop
The Alabama Tourism Department will host its semi-annual Tourism Workshop tomorrow, April 11. The workshop will be in Montgomery at the Alabama Center for Commerce Building, 401 Adams Ave., from 10 a.m.–3 p.m. This workshop is designed for new tourism industry members, event organizers and anyone else interested in enhancing tourism in their area. Many of ATD’s staff members will be in attendance at this workshop and you will have an opportunity for one-on-one time with each of them. There is no registration fee. For additional information, please contact Rosemary Judkins at 334-242-4493 or via email at Rosemary.Judkins@Tourism.Alabama.Gov

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
Does your location feature multiple location-specific amenities? It is to your advantage to list each separately. For example, a hotel with a restaurant or a resort with a golf course, a separate location listing with specific descriptions insures greater exposure. This also provides website visitors more relevant travel planning information. Even multiple location listings with the same address will be individually displayed and easier for website visitors to find in their search for the perfect travel plan.

Need to add a location listing? Click the link to get started!


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