Tourism Tuesdays April 3, 2018


Martin Luther King anniversary: the U.S. Civil Rights Trail
Sweet Roam Alabama, enjoy history, music and rocket science in America’s Deep South
Ten things to do in Alabama
A visit to Space Camp for National Geographic’s ‘One Strange Rock’
Statewide walking tours begin Saturday
Three Georges has been sweet on downtown Mobile for 100 years
Usher and Common to perform for the National Memorial for Peace and Justice opening concert
Travel South International registration opens May 1
Alabama Tourism Department’s 2018 Spring Tourism Workshop
“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website

Martin Luther King anniversary: the U.S. Civil Rights Trail
From the article by Dolen Perkins-Valdez on

Editor’s Note: Dolen Perkins-Valdez traveled to Anniston, Birmingham and Montgomery in March doing research for her article on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail for The Guardian. Dolen is an award-winning writer and the author of The New York Times bestselling novel Wench. Vickie Ashford with the Birmingham CVB, Surinder Manku and Brian Jones with the Alabama Tourism Department assisted with her trip. The Guardian is a British daily newspaper and has one largest print circulation and website views in the world.

If you want to understand America, you must do the U.S. Civil Rights Trail. A deep journey through the conscience of a nation, the sites commemorating the 1950s and 1960s Civil Rights movement reveal a country trying to reconcile its founding principles with its racial inequities. This period marked the most significant division the nation had faced since its civil war. Throughout the trip, I kept asking myself: what would I do for freedom? There is no way to come away from the Trail without feeling transformed. The trip is equal parts history and inspiration.

The U.S. Civil Rights Trail is a visionary idea: it connects the 110 sites and museums – mostly across the south, but stretching from Kansas in the Midwest to Delaware in New England – into a coherent map of a nation’s struggle and triumph. It opened officially in January this year, so in honour of next week’s 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. (4 April 1968), over five days I travel the 700-mile segment from his birthplace in Atlanta to the place he died in Memphis.

I begin at the King Center in Atlanta, the house at 501 Auburn Avenue where the great man was born in January 1929. It’s not possible to book a visit online; visitors are just advised to arrive early at the centre, as tours are filled on a first-come-first-served basis. Both King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, are buried on the grounds, their stone tombs sitting atop a blue reflection pool. The Ebenezer Baptist Church across the square, where both King’s father and he were pastors, plays an audio loop of one of King’s speeches, and I sit in a pew, listening. No matter how many times I hear his voice, it never loses its power.

Of all the cities on the trail, Atlanta is easily the most metropolitan. It’s a successful example of the New South, its historic markers mixing easily with its modern development. This is especially true of the architecturally stunning Center for Civil and Human Rights. Nestled between the World of Coca-Cola museum and the Georgia Aquarium, it connects the struggle for African American Civil Rights with global human rights campaigns. In Atlanta, I am reminded of what is possible when a city’s citizens work together to move out of a dark past.

That optimism is tempered a bit as I head west to Anniston, Alabama, a 1½-hour drive away. It is not lost on me that I am following the trail of the two buses that set out from Atlanta in 1961 to test federal rulings outlawing segregation on interstate buses. The hills rise around me: Anniston is in the beautiful foothills of the Appalachian mountains. Originally, workers settled here to mine iron ore and operate furnaces. I try to imagine what those Freedom Riders were thinking as they gazed out of the bus windows at the passing landscape. The city has created murals to mark the spots where the buses were met and fire bombed by angry mobs.

Some of the injured Freedom Riders made it to Birmingham after being viciously attacked. The city was nicknamed “Bombingham” for the 50 explosions that occurred here between 1947 and 1965 aimed at disrupting racial desegregation. Today, its successful efforts at downtown renewal are evident in many restored historic buildings. Three of the trail’s sites are within the same block: the Civil Rights Institute, 16th Street Baptist Church and Kelly Ingram Park. Inside the Civil Rights Institute, I approach the exhibit that recreates King’s Birmingham jail cell where he wrote Letter from a Birmingham Jail. My guide urges me to touch the bars.

“These are the actual jail bars?” I ask.

“Correct,” he says. “They are not a replica.” The rough iron of the bar feels unusually warm beneath my hands.

On the basement wall of the 16th Baptist Church hangs the clock that stopped working at the moment the bomb planted by the Ku Klux Klan killed four little girls: 10.22am on 15 September, 1963. Across the street from the church, I see a diverse group of children playing in Kelly Ingram Park. They are too young to recall the days when student protesters in this park were met with fire hoses and police dogs.

I stop for a lunch at Niki’s West, a cafeteria-style restaurant which may have the longest soul food buffet I have ever seen. After lunch, I cross several sets of railroad tracks to reach Bethel Baptist Church in Collegeville. On Christmas Day in 1956, Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth’s home next to the church was bombed, but he walked out of the house with barely a scratch. Thomas L Wilder Jr has been pastor now for nearly 30 years, and he maintains the historic sanctuary for tours. On my visit, he spreads out a large canvas cloth signed by visitors from all over the world.

Montgomery, the state capital of Alabama, has more Civil Rights Trail sites than any other city. I find it remarkable that when King was hired as head pastor by Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in 1954, he was only 25. Tour director Dr Shirley Cherry tells the story so vividly that you can imagine King and his young family living in the home. Across the street, in the basement of the church, King helped organise and plan the year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott that ended in the desegregation of the city’s buses in 1956.

Half a mile away, the small but worthwhile Rosa Parks Museum is on the very site where she was arrested in 1955 for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man, an incident which brought the Civil Rights movement to international attention. I also learn the story of 15-year-old Claudette Colvin, who was arrested nine months prior to Parks. We are all familiar with Parks’ quiet dignity and refusal to be intimidated, but the fearlessness of many young people is woven throughout these stories.

By the time I drive to Selma, Alabama, I am contemplating the courage of all these everyday unsung heroes. The road to Selma from Montgomery is the US-80, the route travelled by those marching for voting rights in 1965. Today the site of “Bloody Sunday”, Edmund Pettus Bridge, is busy with traffic, but tourists line its sidewalks taking pictures. I brace myself against the wind and walk up the bridge to join them.

I’m eager to get to Jackson to see the new Mississippi Civil Rights Museum which opened last December. After a three-hour drive from Selma, I arrive at 9pm and check into a boutique hotel, the Old Capitol Inn. The next morning, I enjoy a perfect bowl of grits (corn porridge) from the hot breakfast buffet before walking across the street to the new museum, with its eight galleries. The website states that the museum focuses primarily on the years 1945-1976, but displays go back to the era of the transatlantic slave trade, and I am stirred by one of the most powerful lynching exhibits I have ever seen.

Another display is devoted to the late Medgar Evers, field secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and I head next to his former home, at 2332 Margaret Walker Alexander Dr. Evers was shot in the driveway in June 1963, and there are still pale blood stains in the carport. A curator and archivist from nearby Tougaloo College, Minnie Watson, narrates the day of his murder and shows me where his frightened wife and children scrambled into the bathroom when they heard the gunshot. Some of Evers’s neighbours still live on the block, and a sense community spirit lives on.

My final stop is my hometown: Memphis, Tennessee, three hours north of Jackson on the Mississippi river where the south-west corner of Tennessee meets Arkansas and Mississippi. When I was a child, the fact that King had been murdered in Memphis was considered a stigma upon the city. City leaders began working in the 1980s to turn the site of his death – the Lorraine Motel – into a museum, and in 1991 the National Civil Rights Museum opened.

Its highlight is undoubtedly the walk past rooms 306 and 307, the motel rooms where King and his entourage stayed. Without being instructed, we keep our voices low. It is a hushed space; the only sound is Mahalia Jackson’s inimitable voice singing Take My Hand, Precious Lord.

King had arrived in Memphis to show his support for a strike by sanitation workers, whose meeting place was the historic Clayborn Temple. After years of disrepair, the church is to undergo a renovation beginning this summer. For now it is open for tours.

My final stop on this five-day tour is another church: Mason Temple, about a mile to the south, where King delivered his prophetic “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech on 3 April 1968. It was the last speech he would ever give.

At the end of the day, I park my car and walk down the hill to the river and gaze out over the rippling current. Though it has been a busy five days, I am not tired. On the contrary, I am rejuvenated. I feel a new sense of understanding of my own life’s purpose and the lives of those who died for this cause. I wonder where this trail will take me next.

For the complete article please see

Sweet Roam Alabama, enjoy history, music and rocket science in America’s Deep South
From the article by Bella Battle on

Editor’s Note: Bella Battle was part of an Alabama Tourism Department press trip in 2017.

Emma Bonner beams with pride as she watches her baby granddaughter play. The 71-year-old sits elegantly in her Sunday best, the very picture of a doting gran.

But dismiss her at your peril — because Emma helped change the world.

In May 1963, she marched through Birmingham, Alabama, with Martin Luther King to fight for black rights in America’s Deep South.

Then just 15, Emma was menaced by police dogs and blasted with water cannon so strong they could strip bark from trees — their jets slamming teenagers over car roofs and down the city streets.

She spent her 16th birthday under arrest and locked in a barn usually reserved for cattle.

Emma said: “They wanted us to feel like animals.”

But the marchers’ stand helped pave the way for the Civil Rights Act a year later, banning discrimination against black people in America.

That law led to the Fair Housing Act, passed 50 years ago this month, and a new tourist trail traces the history of the civil rights struggle across Alabama.

The Yellowhammer State is home to nearly five million people but few British tourists currently make it here.

A new generation of ’Bamers is working hard to show how far the state has come. Our tour begins in Birmingham with a stop at the Civil Rights Institute and 16th Street Baptist Church next door.

Four girls were killed when the church was bombed by the Ku Klux Klan in 1963.

Today it stands proudly rebuilt, with a touching memorial, reinforced stained glass . . . and walls 3ft thick.

It is a symbol of the unshakeable spirit of Alabama’s “foot soldiers”. There is standing room only here for the roof-raising Sunday services — and tourists are welcome.

Across town, we meet Emma for lunch at Niki’s West, a cafeteria-style diner where you can get “meat and three”. That means steak, chicken or fish and three side dishes for under a tenner.

There is a growing foodie scene in the city, where we stayed at the Westin hotel. You are spoilt for choice with restaurants.

George Clooney was dining at Highlands Bar & Grill the night we were there and it is not hard to see why.

The food here is epic, from tender steaks to traditional Southern-baked grits with prosciutto and mushrooms.

No fewer than 12 schools of medicine in the city have helped foster a craft beer explosion.

We laughed ourselves silly on a tandem party-bike tour after sampling Trim Tab Brewing’s award-winning Paradise Now fruit beer.

The sounds of the South poured from every bar and diner we passed as we pedalled for all our worth.

A museum just outside Muscle Shoals, two hours away, pays tribute to the powerful voices born in the state — Percy Sledge, Nat King Cole, Tammy Wynette and Hank Williams, to name just a few.

Perched on the banks of the Tennessee River is Muscle Shoals itself, a tiny town that looms large in American music history and where we based ourselves at the Marriott Shoals Hotel.

Visionary producer Rick Hall, who died in January, started FAME Studios on a quiet side-street in the Sixties and it quickly became a home for soul, R&B and country talent.

Wilson Pickett and Sledge, a hospital orderly from nearby Leighton, found their voices here.

Aretha Franklin recorded her first No1 hit, I Never Loved A Man, at FAME but fled when Rick began trading punches with her husband.

Its session musicians, the Swampers, set up a rival studio a few blocks away in 1969 and you can tour both by appointment.

Here, your hair will stand up on end. Neither site has changed a lick (you can still see the Rolling Stones’ fag burns on the couch) and the access given to fans is extraordinary.

Forget queuing for hours for a whistlestop dash of Graceland.

Here you can play the piano where Paul Simon recorded Kodachrome or sit in the loo where Keith Richards finished Wild Horses.

The Muscle Shoals Sound Studio is a tiny box of a building once used to store coffins, yet Rod Stewart, Bob Seger and Cher have all piled in to record.

Grown men have been known to cry on the spot where the Stones laid down Brown Sugar.

If you can tear yourself away, head to Champy’s for some sinful buttermilk-fried chicken, fried green tomatoes and hot tamales.

Or dine in the 360 Grille at the Marriott Shoals, a revolving restaurant with breathtaking views of the Tennessee River.

Less than 150 miles away, the Little River has its own impressive show at the gorgeous DeSoto Falls.

Alabama’s biggest state park has 3,000 acres of forests, rivers and canyons and makes a great stop-off for a weekend of hiking and camping.

While you are there, grab a bargain at Unclaimed Baggage.

This legendary secondhand store sells lost luggage (airlines wait 90 days to sell cases to them) for next to nowt.

You can pick up a MacBook for £100.00 ($140.00) and designer handbags for a fraction of that.

The only rule is No Pets Allowed, a disappointment to the man ejected in front of us for the live parrot on his shoulder.

We then travelled to Huntsville, staying at the Marriott SpringHill Suites.

It was at the US Space & Rocket Center that Nasa scientists developed the rockets that put Americans on the moon.

We gawped at a vast Apollo Saturn V rocket and a priceless fragment of moon rock.

There was just time for a ride in a brain-melting G4 simulator before heading back down to Earth — a welcome return to Sweet Home Alabama.

For the complete article please see

Ten things to do in Alabama
From the article by Neil Davey on

Editor’s Note: Neil Davey is a contributing writer to The London Economic. Neil was part of an Alabama Tourism Department press trip in February coordinated by Surinder Manku, Verna Gates and Brian Jones.

Shall we get the obvious out of the way first? Because, yes, Alabama does not have the best reputation of the American states. In fact, it’s almost become shorthand for a particular type of American attitude, with much more than a foot in some of the more disturbing aspects of American history. However, Alabama is a state of remarkable contradictions, a place where most of the people you’ll meet will acknowledge the flaws and, impressively, where many are working to change the world’s perceptions of their home. From the Civil Rights Trail to the South’s original Mardi Gras, via music, literature and remarkable food, there’s considerably more to Alabama than you might have considered. Here are ten things to do on a trip over.

The Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma
In order to have founded a Civil Rights Movement, Alabama also had to have centuries of civil rights abuses. However, unlike many places, Alabama openly acknowledges the latter point – both historically and currently – and there’s a distinct feel that there is progress (see the recent election of Doug Jones, for example). The state’s moving and powerful Civil Rights Trail will feature heavily in this feature but Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge is a very good place to start, the location of the Bloody Sunday beatings, a chance to walk in Martin Luther King Jr.’s footsteps, and see where the first march for voting rights began.

Attend a Mardi Gras Ball in Mobile
Like we say, contradictions… While the New Orleans’ Mardi Gras is the internationally famous one, Mobile’s is: a) the original one; and b) the bigger one. According to the locals, Mobile’s Mardi Gras starts the day after New Year, gaining momentum and good natured craziness as “Fat Tuesday” – Shrove Tuesday – approaches. Local societies known as “Krewes” each throw a parade and a ball during this time. While some of the krewes are highly secretive, others allow members of the public to attend their parties. Local websites such as are a fine source of information on all things ball-related.

Bethel Baptist Church, Birmingham
“It began at Bethel…” In June 1956, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, pastor of the Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham, founded the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, effectively the start, the catalyst, for some of the most dramatic social and legal changes of the last century. Over the next few years, such local groups joined together to form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, headed by Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. In December 1956, the parsonage was destroyed by a bomb – one of three such attacks made on the church. Shuttlesworth walked out of the wreckage unharmed. The outline of the parsonage ruins remains today as a record of the attack, and the church’s place in Civil Rights History.

Chris’s Hotdogs, Montgomery
At the risk of sounding facile – particularly when the restaurant is located between the spot where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat and the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, the church where Dr King was a pastor – Chris’s Hotdogs is a must visit. Founded in 1917, the restaurant has served people from all walks of life over the last 101 years, including Dr Martin Luther King Jr., both Presidents Bush, Roosevelt, Truman, Elvis, Clark Gable and Tallulah Bankhead and every Alabama Governor during that time. Country music legend Hank Williams was a devoted regular too – legend has it that he wrote “Hey Good Lookin’” while sitting at the counter.

Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, Montgomery
The only church where Dr King served as a pastor, the Memorial Baptist Church is steeped in history. Before the impressive red brick structure was built – between 1883 and 1889 – the site has been used for worship services and educational purposes since it was purchased by a breakaway segment of another local church in 1879. Its current name dates back to 1978, to acknowledge the important part the site played in the Civil Rights movement, including the 1956 Bus Boycott inspired by Rosa Parks directed by Dr King from his office, which remains in the lower part of the church to this day.

The Fitzgerald Museum, Montgomery
Before her marriage to F Scott Fitzgerald in 1920, Zelda Sayre was a native of Montgomery and the couple lived in the city from 1931-32. Their home during this time was a house on Felder Avenue. The property was changed to apartments after the Fitzgeralds left, and scheduled for demolition in 1986 before Julian and Leslie McPhillips stepped in and purchased the site, turning it into the world’s only dedicated museum to the loves of F Scott and Zelda. It now houses a remarkable collection of photos, novels, letters, artworks and other memorabilia. You can also, with advance notice, stay in some of the upstairs rooms.

16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham
While the Civil Rights Movement began in Bethel, it was the tragic events at Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church that galvanised the Government into action. On September 15th, 1963, members of the Ku Klux Klan bombed the church, killing four young girls – Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley (all 14) and the 11-year old Denise McNair, and injuring many others. While it resulted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it took until 1977 before the Klansmen responsible were charged.

Walk in a Mardi Gras Parade
As well as allowing access to their celebratory balls, some Mardi Gras Krewes allow non-members to walk in their parade. And it’s a quite remarkable thing to do, if you want to feel like a rock star. Thousands of people line the streets for the biggest parades, all clamouring to be thrown the traditional Mardi Gras treats of coloured beads, Moon Pies – a marshmallow filled, graham cracker sandwich – and assorted other goodies, from cuddly toys to frisbees. And it’s the job of those walking or riding in floats to throw such things into the crowd. While wearing a costume. And a mask. It’s a bizarre but brilliant experience.

The Old Courthouse Museum, Monroeville
As a child, Harper Lee often sat in the balcony of the Monroe County Courthouse, watching her father practice law. It’s perhaps no surprise then that the lcoation became the setting for the courtroom scenes in her novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, perhaps many people’s first exposure to the civil rights abuses and injustices in the US? The Old Courthouse is now a museum, and a local group stages a play adapted from Lee’s novel at certain times of the year to raise funds for the building’s renovation and upkeep.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
Located opposite the 16th Street Baptist Church, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute has been called one of the finest museums in the US. It’s certainly one of the most moving, tracking the evolution of Birmingham, and the nation’s civil rights, from the 1960s. It’s either a beacon of hope to the steps that have been made, or an indication of just how far there is clearly left to go. In either case, it’s a powerful history lesson that, thanks to knowledgeable staff, audio recordings, and remarkable exhibits, puts the visitor inside the integration movement – and the appalling injustices, attitudes and events that inspired it.

For the complete article please see

A visit to Space Camp for National Geographic’s ‘One Strange Rock’
From the article by Tommy Cook on

I never wanted to be an astronaut. Even when I was seven, I looked up to the stars and the blackness surrounding – and thought, ‘Nope, not for me.’ There was something terrifying about the infiniteness of space – the blackness, only blackness with tiny specks of illumination. I found the night sky deeply unsettling. I remember, as a child, watching the 80s film Space Camp (with Kate Capshaw, Tate Donovan and twelve-year-old Joaquin Phoenix) and being absolutely mortified when the five kids accidentally get launched into space. If that ever happened to me – I’d be doomed, lost forever in the blackness. I vowed right then and there (mostly to myself) that I would NEVER go to Space Camp.

Twenty years later – I broke that vow.

In conjunction with the release of One Strange Rock, Nat Geo invited a group of journalists to travel down to Huntsville, Alabama – the home to Space Camp and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. The thinking – to promote a docu series told from the astronaut’s perspective, let’s teach a bunch film & science journalists what its actually like to be an astronaut (well, more so the Space Camp version of what being an astronaut is like). This involved two space missions, a deep ‘sea’ diving experience, astronaut simulations, mini-rocket & shield building, and a tour of the campus.

Space Camp, at first blush, feels a bit like a mix between an amusement park and a prestigious learning center. In the middle of the campus, there’s an almost exact replica of a rocket, but then less than twenty feet away from it, there’s a ‘Space Shot’ launch – aka one of those amusement park drop towers. It’s this intermingling of the fun and serious that makes Space Camp stand out most. On the one hand – you could spend hours touring their excellent museum (complete with an actual rocket & miscellaneous space memorabilia) or you could spend your time riding a series of carnival-esque ‘space’ attractions (besides the drop tower, there’s a Orbital Spin Simulator – aka a swing ride).

When I arrived at camp, I was handed a bright blue space jumpsuit, complete with the Space Camp insignia emblazoned onto the pocket. I’ll admit to feeling slightly ridiculous, especially considering that other than the journalists, every other person on campus seemed to be under the age of fifteen. I could even sense a couple snickers from the ‘cool’ kids as I passed by… But within twenty or so minutes, these feelings dissipated. The suit felt like an official uniform and I – an official Space Camp trainee.

It’s amazing how serious everything felt. Ostensibly we (the journalists/Space Cadets) were asked to complete two missions – one as Flight Crew, the other as Mission Control. The missions were fairly simple – you’d hit a series of buttons, perform a couple tasks, read out a line or two and then land the spacecraft. The worst-case scenario – you crash or the shuttle blows up and then the simulation ends, and you go back to the Marriott for a drink. Yet this simulation (designed for high-schoolers) felt like life and death. Failure simply wasn’t an option. Also it would be really embarrassing.

I asked our guide (a Space Camp counselor) if it was even possible to fail a mission. He assured me that, in fact, it happens all the time. I naturally followed up – ‘Have after crashing, any children cried?’ He laughed the question off, ‘No – of course not.’ I don’t think he realized I was mostly asking for myself. As luck and dignity would have it though – we didn’t fail either mission, successfully completing a low orbit trip to space & back, and later a far more hypothetical trip to Mars. Tears and disappointment were spared.

Around the Space Camp facility – there are plaques and boards listing various notable alumni (Elon Musk, Charlize Theron…); but I noticed a curious lack of any Space Camp (the film) memorabilia. Even the gift store doesn’t sell the 80s flick. Yet during lunch, Pat Ammons, Director of Communications, mentioned that the film continues to be one of the main reasons kids come out to the camp. In fact – Space Camp is so ingrained in many children’s heads that some are disappointed when they find out every mission is a simulation and they don’t actually end up in space on a frightening life-or-death trip.

Before Space Camp, I would have called these kids crazy and/or suicidal. Someone should really have a talk with their parents. But after spending a couple days at the camp, I must admit – I get it. There’s something to the communal experience of working with a group of strangers, solving problems, conducting experiments and ‘flying’ in space. My time at Space Camp scratched an itch I didn’t even know I had. Suddenly I too began to wish our missions weren’t just simulations, that we were actually in space, staring down at the Earth, taking commands from NASA headquarters. Don’t get me wrong – the infinite darkness of space still absolutely terrifies; but, hey, who doesn’t secretly want to stare into the abyss?

I guess, in the end, I really do want to be an astronaut… Damn you, Space Camp.

For the complete article please see

Statewide walking tours begin Saturday
Editor’s Note: The Alabama Tourism Department’s April Walking Tours promotion has been featured in a host of media outlets including ABC News, U.S. News and World Report, Associated Press, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Seattle Times, The Anniston Star, The Culliman Times, The Sand Mountain Reporter, The Moulton Advertiser, WSFA- NBC 12, WBRC- Fox 6, WAFF- NBC 48, WAAY- ABC 31, WVTM- NBC 13, WKRG- CBS 5, WVUA-23, WTVY- CBS 4, WTVA- NBC 9 and WLOX- FOX 27

Some 30 towns across Alabama will be on display during Saturday mornings this month as part of the Alabama Tourism Department’s April Walking Tours.

A variety of community leaders will lead the free tours through the historic districts or courthouse square areas of their hometowns. The hour-long tours will 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

Three Georges has been sweet on downtown Mobile for 100 years
From the article by Michelle Matthews on

Becoming the owner of Three Georges Candy Shop in downtown Mobile might have been Scott Gonzalez’s destiny. Gonzalez, who once thought he wanted to become an architect, appreciates history and old things – which is apropos for the owner of one of Mobile’s oldest businesses.

The century-old Three Georges is housed in a historic building at the corner of Dauphin and Joachim streets that was originally Harris Grocery, built in 1866. Employees use tried-and-true recipes handed down from the original owners to make their confections. And they make them using the same marble slab, giant mixer and other equipment that’s been used in the candy shop for decades. Even their logo is original.

In the 1990s, Gonzalez had started his own business creating Southern gourmet gift baskets. He approached Euple Pappas, the widow of the son of one of the founders, George Pappas Jr., who was running Three Georges at the time, about including her candy in the baskets and asked her if she might be interested in subletting part of the shop for his business.

She said she didn’t want to lease it, but she would sell him the whole thing. And with that, in 1992, Gonzalez became only the third owner of the building in 150 years. He also took on a candy business that, at the time, was a 75-year-old Mobile institution.

Meanwhile, Euple continued to “look over our shoulders,” he says. She just couldn’t let the family business go completely. In a charming blog post on Three Georges’ website, Gonzalez describes what it was like to make divinity for the first time under the watchful eyes of the Pappas clan:

Three Georges was a treasured Mobile Southern confection tradition, so I wanted to soak up all I could from the Pappas (Pappolamporous) surviving family members about the company they had owned since it began in 1917. Euple, George’s widow; Myro, George’s sister; and Earl, George’s little brother, were well into their 70s and they filled me with 75 years’ worth of candy stories.

The whole family was training me to make candy. The time had come for my first batch of divinity. I was nervous. We checked the weather. It had to be a dry day. Out came the big copper kettle. We opened George’s small, fragile, hand-written notebook and read his instructions. The sugar, corn syrup, water and egg whites had to be measured to the tape mark on George’s glass jar. I imagined that precious glass jar falling off the shelf and George’s recipes lost forever.

We mixed the divinity ingredients in the copper kettle and then it was time for Suzie Q, the big, old mixer. We added egg whites, filled them to the tape mark and whipped them until they peaked. Next we waited for the syrup to reach molten lava stage.

The little book said, “Take it off the fire and put it on the barrel.” What? George had an old wooden barrel he would set the kettle on while the syrup cooled enough to add the whipped egg whites.

We changed the whip attachment to a paddle, put Suzie Q on low, slowly drizzled the syrup, then added vanilla and a dash of salt. The trick is in the beating. There will come a point when the mixture sets like fudge. If you miss it, you will beat all the fluffiness out of the divinity. We looked really close to see that moment and then added a fresh crop of pecans.

He quickly got the hang of it, learning the art of candy-making from the experts. In addition to divinity, Gonzalez and his team use other treasured original recipes for the decadent Three Georges hand-dipped chocolates and other candy displayed in glass cases in the shop: turtles, heavenly hash, pecan pies, fruitcake, white chocolate butter pecan pound cakes and more.

“When you have recipes that are 100 years old or more, why change perfection?” Gonzalez says.

Little pieces of Mobile
The candy store was founded in 1917 by three Greek Mobilians named George – George Pappolamporous (later changed to Pappas), George Pope and George Spero – whose original concept was to combine a candy shop with a soda fountain and sandwich shop. The first Three Georges was located where the venerable Saenger Theatre is now.

“That gives you an idea how old 100 years is,” Gonzales says.

Over the years, Three Georges moved around downtown a few times before settling at its current spot at 226 Dauphin St. in 1972. When George Pappas Jr. bought the building, “It was the first time they actually owned the place,” Gonzales says.

“The interior of the store looked a lot like this when I bought it, with the same counters, the old mixer and the marble countertop,” he says. “We added the soda fountain, expanded the ice cream selection and added lunch again.”

Three Georges’ menu “concentrates on Southern things,” he says, like a Central Grocery-style muffaletta, homemade chicken salad and a roast beef sandwich with debris. He also brags about the award-winning gumbo.

Most of the new additions Gonzalez made to the shop are actually old: the soda fountain once served as the teller stations at AmSouth Bank; the stools came from the old Woolworth’s counter; and the marble at the base and top of the bar came from the Scottish Rite Temple, which Gonzales bought in 1995.

“There are little pieces of Mobile all over the place,” he says.

Even as Three Georges branched out to other locations over the years, including on the Eastern Shore and west Mobile, the business never abandoned downtown Mobile. “Three Georges was the center of downtown when everything was drying up,” Gonzalez says. “It kept cranking along.”

In the late 1990s, another Mobile institution, H.M. Thames Pecan Co./The Nuthouse, approached Gonzalez about making glazed pecans and pralines for them. Gonzalez ended up buying that company in 1997, bringing his staff of fewer than 10 to close to 100 people with the addition of the Nuthouse’s 40,000-square-foot plant on Broad Street.

“That’s how I got this gray hair,” he jokes.

But in 2008, the market crashed and Three Georges’ sales “dropped in half,” he says. “We had to rethink it, just like our predecessors did.” After all, the candy store had been founded during World War I, when sugar was being rationed all over the country. Survival was in the shop’s DNA.

Of the four Three Georges locations, the smallest one – in downtown Mobile – was growing the fastest. “To me, it was important for the community to keep it going down here,” he says – and it’s still going strong today, as the sole Three Georges location.

In addition to paring down to one store, he started marketing his products on the Internet and in grocery stores. This past Christmas, Gonzalez sold cheese straws, malted milk balls and pecan logs in 25 stores. He hopes to be in 65 stores by the end of the year.

The highly visible downtown location, painted a color Gonzalez’s late friend Eugene Walter picked out and called “cerulean blue,” is a favorite of locals and tourists alike. It’s a popular spot on the Bienville Bites food tours on Saturday afternoons, with the funny and flirtatious Tasha Thompson entertaining guests as she stirs the ingredients for pralines in a huge copper pot.

“This is the cornerstone of everything we do,” Gonzalez says, gesturing around the sunny yellow shop with the windows overlooking Dauphin Street. “We want to be the little candy store that could.”

For the complete article please see

Usher and Common to perform for the National Memorial for Peace and Justice opening concert
From the article on (WSFA-NBC12)

A Concert for Peace and Justice with a lineup that includes Usher, Common, The Roots and Kirk Franklin has been announced for the grand opening of a memorial in Alabama to victims of lynching.

WSFA-TV reports that the Equal Justice Initiative announced the lineup for the April 27 concert celebrating the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. Concert tickets start around $50 and are on sale now. The memorial also will have an opening ceremony , featuring Sweet Honey in the Rock and Rep. John Lewis. And there’s a two-day summit with an array of national leaders and civil rights advocates on April 26 and 27.

The memorial overlooking downtown Montgomery is dedicated to racial terror lynchings of African Americans and the legacy of slavery and racial inequality in America.

For the complete article please see

Travel South International registration opens May 1st
The 7th annual Travel South USA International Showcase will be in Nashville, from Monday, Nov. 26 – Thursday, Nov. 29. Alabama will be front and center at our state appointment booth, two road trip appointment booths, a sponsored lunch and several FAM trips.

To have the best representation of Alabama tourism products available, we need our industry partners to attend.

“This show sells out every year and we don’t want an Alabama destination, hotel or attraction to miss out meeting with top tour operators from around the world, so I would encourage you to find your partners and register early,” said Grey Brennan, Deputy Director of Alabama Tourism Department. “This is the time to talk to your local industry partners about sharing a booth so when registration opens you are prepared to register as a group to secure attendance. Those that register as a single or even double person booth are not guaranteed admission even if you have paid.”

As in prior Travel South International Shows, only those booths with three registrations are secured entry to the show – first come, first serve. Booths with double or single registrations are confirmed last and only if space is available. Most people partner with a CVB, hotel and an attraction from the same area in their booth.

The early bird special on registration will end on Friday, Aug. 31, by which time the show is usually sold out. Contact Travel South for registration costs.

For more information, or contact Travel South at or call 404-231-1790.

Alabama Tourism Department’s 2018 Spring Tourism Workshop
The Alabama Tourism Department will host its semi-annual Tourism Workshop, Wednesday, 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
Connect with us on Facebook! We’ve launched a new Facebook page for industry partners. We want to tell you about exciting updates, hear your thoughts and know what you’re up to so we can share them with our networks. Follow the link, give us a “like” and get connected. Email Jo Jo Terry, for more information.


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 Dwayne O’Riley at:

Alabama Tourism Department