Tourism Tuesdays August 7, 2018


Awards handed out at Alabama Tourism Department banquet
Alabama Restaurant Week kicks off across the state on Aug. 10
A new Women in Music Weekend is set to debut in Alabama
Rocket City, Alabama: Space history and an eye on the future
An Alabama bucket list, Part 2: 30 things you absolutely, positively need to do in Alabama
2018 Alabama Welcome Center Retreat set for Huntsville Marriott, Oct. 14-16
Registration open for the 2018 Alabama-Mississippi-Tennessee Rural Tourism Conference
“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website



Awards handed out at Alabama Tourism Department banquet
From the article on (WSFA-12)

The Alabama Department of Tourism honored those who have worked to bring people from around the world to the state Monday night.

Hundreds attended the Tourism Department Awards Banquet at the Renaissance Hotel. WSFA’s Tonya Terry was there as well, handing out awards to 16 people and groups.

Leaders announced a record year of tourism, with the state bringing in more than $14 billion.

“The numbers for this year are up seven to eight percent. And that’s very difficult to do when you’ve got an industry as wide as our state,” said Tourism Department Director Lee Sentell. “But that’s what’s happened. Everything from the space and rocket center down to the beach over to Dothan, it’s really been a very strong summer.”

Dr. David Bronner, CEO of the Retirement Systems of Alabama, was among the award recipients, receiving the Alabama Tourism Leadership Award. Bronner landed the development of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, bringing in people from across the country to play.

For the complete article please see

Alabama Restaurant Week kicks off across the state on Aug. 10

More than 90 restaurants will offer lunch and dinner discounts to encourage customers to try new dishes during the seventh annual Alabama Restaurant Week Aug. 10-19, state tourism officials announced.

The two-course lunch specials will range from $10 to $15 while three-course dinners will cost from $10 to $40, not including tax, tip and drink. Restaurants have the option of offering specials at both lunch and dinner or choosing to offer just lunch or just dinner specials.

“This is a great opportunity for people to try restaurants in their hometown and other places in the state while saving money,” said Alabama Tourism Department restaurant week coordinator Courtney Austin.  “There are no coupons or discount books to buy or bring.  Diners at the participating restaurants simply ask for the Alabama Restaurant Week special.”
Restaurants that have signed up to offer the specials include favorites like Cotton Row in Huntsville, Bottega in Birmingham, Cahawba House in Montgomery, The Trellis Room in Mobile and Lulu’s in Gulf Shores.

Restaurants in almost 20 cities across the state have been included in Alabama Restaurant Week. Cities with participating restaurants include: Auburn, Birmingham, Fairhope, Gulf Shores, Huntsville, Madison, Mobile, Montgomery, Orange Beach and Tuscaloosa.

A full list of participating restaurants and the specials they are offering can be found at

The Alabama Tourism Department will be using the hash tag #DineAlabama18 on all of their social media channels to promote Alabama Restaurant Week. These social media channels include:

A new Women in Music Weekend is set to debut in Alabama
From the article by Matt Wake on

“I don’t want this to be a thing, I just want it to be normal.” That comment, made by Downtown Huntsville Inc. CEO Chad Emerson, at the first meeting for what became Downtown Huntsville Women in Music Weekend, stood out to local singer/songwriter Alex Hendrix.

“It should just be a normal thing,” Hendrix says now, “That you’re not walking into a bar downtown and say, ‘Oh a chick is playing.’ Which happens all the time. [Laughs]” She adds, “We don’t have to have our own space, we just want to be here too. We just want to be heard.

“Downtown Huntsville Women in Music Weekend will debut Aug. 9-12, featuring more than 20 female Alabama acts performing at over 15 downtown venues. Nonprofit development organization DHI worked with Hendrix, a Huntsville native, to organize the new mini-festival.

To find artists, Hendrix started with female musicians she’d played shows or festivals with, including singer/songwriter Wanda Wesolowski and, from talented local duo The Retrovales, singer Sarah Jayne. “As soon as I started reaching out to people I knew, they were so excited to give me names of people they knew they thought would be interested,” Hendrix says. “And it really spread out in a web from there.

“Artists scheduled for Women in Music Weekend range stylistically from organic R&B (Victoria Jones) to jazzy alt-pop (Dawn Osborne Band, Ingrid Marie) to more than a few singer/songwriters (Bonner Black, Ally Free, Helaina Brundage, etc.). “We have a lot of acoustic artists just because there are more of us,” Hendrix says. She’s particularly excited about a “songwriters in the round” set Saturday at Straight to Ale. “That will give a splash of a different side of the female artistry that I think we need to push also,” Hendrix says.

The idea for Women in Music Weekend came to DHI’s Emerson while attending a local business’ grand opening, which featured a live set by acoustic-rock trio Seeking Babylon. “That had been like the third straight place I’d been to downtown that had live music where it was a female band or female solo artist,” Emerson says. “And I just thought to myself, ‘You know, we have a lot of talent here. I don’t know if it’s more or less than other places, but I know it’s a lot, and we should really just celebrate that and emphasize it.” When it was time to turn the idea into an actual event, “every single venue we reached out to expressed interest,” Emerson says.

In addition to helping curate Women in Music, Hendrix will also perform there.  Her material includes ethereal strummer “Werewolf’s Curse” and ’90s-tinged pop-rocker “Crash Here Tonight.” Primary influences include vintage female singer/songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon Joan Baez and contemporary spitfire Amanda Shires.

“We have our own point of view, which is cool,” Hendrix says of being a female artist. “Just because the situations are different.” That said, she also draws inspiration from dudes like “American Pie” songsmith Don McLean and indie rockers Frightened Rabbit. “Anytime you can hear a new artist perspective, it’s incredibly beneficial to you as a music listener.”

For the complete article please see

Rocket City, Alabama: Space history and an eye on the future
From the article by Marcia Dunn on

The birthplace of NASA’s rockets lies in the land of cotton, hundreds of miles from Cape Canaveral’s launch pads.

From the first U.S. satellites and astronauts, to the Apollo moon shots, to the space shuttles and now NASA’s still-in-development Space Launch System, rocket history inundates Huntsville, Alabama.

Huntsville’s nickname, Rocket City, is thanks largely to Wernher von Braun and his team of fellow German-born rocketeers who settled here in the 1950s. The city has long been home to the Army’s Redstone Arsenal and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. But now it’s attracting new generations of engineers, scientists and techies. Tourists come for the history. Kids and adults come to learn at Space Camp.

It was von Braun, Marshall’s first director, who wanted to showcase Huntsville’s rocket development and testing. Thus was born the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, an official NASA tourist spot that houses one of only three remaining Saturn V moon rockets, this one a National Historic Landmark.

Von Braun planted the seed for Space Camp as well. Why band camp, football camp and cheerleading camp, but no science camp, he wondered. He didn’t live long enough to see Space Camp open in 1982 at the rocket center, but since then, 800,000 youngsters and grown-up space fans have attended daylong, weekend or weeklong sessions with space, robotics and aviation themes.

Its address? One Tranquility Base, Huntsville. As in “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed,” words spoken by astronaut Neil Armstrong when he landed on the moon with Buzz Aldrin. The 50th anniversary of those first moon steps is next July. Huntsville plans to shoot up thousands of little rockets in commemoration.

The DNA from America’s original rocket force still permeates Huntsville, according to Deborah Barnhart, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center’s executive director. It’s Alabama’s No. 1 paid tourist attraction, with bus tours into the restricted Redstone and Marshall, and wild rocket-style rides like Space Shot and G-Force Accelerator.

“We’re all space geeks and we love it,” Barnhart said.

But Hunstville isn’t just about history. Ongoing research aims to return astronauts to the moon and on to Mars. “We’re looking to the future, really looking to travel in space, trying to figure out the problems of living and working in space,” Barnhart said.

Despite Huntsville’s role, author Homer Hickam, a longtime Huntsville resident who’s now retired from NASA, sees Cape Canaveral, Florida, and Houston getting most of the attention when it comes to space travel. Hickam’s 1998 memoir “Rocket Boys” became the movie “October Sky.”

“You look at all this whole great big Saturn V, and the only part that Houston was responsible for was, I don’t know. This little part right here,” Hickam said, laughing, as he pointed to the capsule at the tip of the 363-foot-long rocket, stretching horizontally in its massive exhibit hall.

German-style beer gardens are hosted beneath the Saturn V every Thursday evening, spring to fall. Engineers and their families mobbed a recent one. Beverages included T-Minus, a locally made, tangerine-flavored beer. Monkeynaut brew is also a favorite.

“It’s probably the most scientific small town in America,” said retired Apollo program worker Billy Neal, a volunteer docent who shed his white lab coat for that night’s Biergarten.

Miss Baker, the squirrel monkey who preceded Mercury astronauts into space in 1959, is buried at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Space Campers sometimes leave bananas at her tombstone.

Nearly 1,000 campers from around the globe swarmed the rocket center during a typical week this summer. They launched small rockets and got the feel of walking in space while dangling from the ceiling in harnesses or scuba diving in a water tank smaller but similar to what astronauts once used for practice. They were strapped into a mock cockpit coming in for a Mars landing and sat behind computers as flight controllers for the Mars mission. They even live in dormitories that look as though they belong on the moon or Mars.

Camp counselors — called crew trainers — are mostly university students or recent graduates in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering or math.

In July, campers got to meet the first Space Camp graduate to actually launch into space, Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger. She attended a Space Academy for older students the same month that shuttle Discovery delivered the Hubble Space Telescope to orbit in 1990. She went on to fly aboard Discovery in 2010 as a NASA astronaut-educator.

Space Camp’s simulations are “as realistic as they can be for what’s done in a week,” she said. “We can’t train kids on a whole bunch of switches and circuit breakers and systems, but we can give them the big idea.”

Her goal is to help campers “see that what they were doing this week isn’t so very different than what we did in the program and how it prepares you for real space … and then also to hopefully impart some things like all of us are going to go through rough times, but there are ways to stay plugged in.”

As Metcalf-Lindenburger shook hands with each of the nearly 1,000 graduates at week’s end, another Space Camp graduate, Serena Aunon-Chancellor, orbited Earth aboard the International Space Station. The roster of Space Camp alumni includes many other engineers and scientists, among them two others who lived on the space station and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who attended as an adult during his early tech days.

“This is a thinly veiled workforce development program,” Barnhart said. “We’re trying to inspire people in STEM. We’re trying to inspire aviation-oriented people” as well as robotics and cyber-security specialists.

She added: “These young people, here, they’re going,” into outer space some day.

Can’t make space? Visit Rocket City instead.

For the complete article please see,-Alabama:-Space-history-and-an-eye-on-the-future

An Alabama bucket list, Part 2: 30 things you absolutely, positively need to do in Alabama
From the article by Michelle Matthews on

Editor’s note: The first part ran in the July 31, 2018 issue Tourism Tuesday.

This list is really just a sampling of some of the things you simply must do in the great state of Alabama.

Visit Hank Williams pilgrimage sites in Montgomery and Georgiana.
Fans of the legendary Alabama singer shouldn’t miss touring the Hank Williams Boyhood Home and Museum in Georgiana (Alabama’s answer to Graceland), the Hank Williams Museum in Montgomery (where you’ll see the restored baby blue Cadillac in which he died) and the Hank Williams Gravesite, which is visited by about 25,000 people every year.

Stroll through the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Birmingham.
Even if you’re not a motorcycle enthusiast, this place is fascinating. And its collection of more than 1,400 motorcycles are gorgeous, stylized pieces of art.

Eat fresh seafood on the Causeway between Mobile and Spanish Fort.
You can’t go wrong with any of the seafood restaurants along the Causeway. From the flaming oysters at the Bluegill, to the oyster poboy at the Original Oyster House to the she-crab soup at Felix’s to crawfish at R&R Seafood and everything in between, there’s a dish and a view for everyone.

Explore Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman.
See “Jerusalem in Miniature,” the life’s work of Brother Joseph Zoettl , a Benedictine monk of St. Bernard Abbey, who created a city out of recycled materials. His miniature fairyland covers three acres and attracts visitors from all over the world.

Tour the Battleship USS Alabama.
Since 1965, the “Mighty A” has served as a floating museum in Mobile Bay, at Battleship Memorial Park. Alabama school children raised more than $100,000 to bring the battleship, which served for 37 months in World War II, home to Mobile. More than 14 million visitors have toured her decks to the tune of 1940s swing music.

Experience the Zip Trip at Red Mountain Park.
Take an aerial tour over the area where Birmingham began on this one-hour zip line tour 40 feet anove Red Mountain. Or, if you’re feeling more adventurous, try the Mega Zip, a 1,000-foot zip thrill ride that goes up to 30 miles per hour, at the Kaul Adventure Tower.

For other cool, scenic zip line rides, check out Gulf State Park and Lake Guntersville State Park’s Sreamin’ Eagle.

Watch the community theater version of “To Kill a Mockingbird” in Monroeville.
Alabama’s Pulitzer Prize-winning author Harper Lee grew up just a few blocks from the Monroe County Courthouse in Monroeville, where the community stages their own version of her magnum opus, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” each spring. But even if you miss the play, the Old Courthouse Museum is worth a visit.

In Tuscumbia, the birthplace of Helen Keller, the annual outdoor production of “The Miracle Worker” by playwright William Gibson is staged at Ivy Green from early June through mid-July.

Go to the top of Mt. Cheaha, the highest point in the state.
Cheaha Resort State Park, at 2,407 feet above sea level in the Talladega National Forest, provides breathtaking views year-round.

Drive around the rim of Little River Canyon National Preserve.
The 23-mile scenic drive known as Little River Canyon Rim Parkway winds around the rim of Little River Canyon National Preserve, said to be the largest canyon east of the Mississippi River. Though it’s beautiful all year, spring and fall are the best times to take this scenic drive. You can also see Little River Falls on this road.

Go skinny-dipping in the Gulf of Mexico.
Well, you don’t have to get naked – but every Alabamian should dip his or her toes into the beautiful, warm, salty Gulf at least once.

Look up at the rotunda in the State Capitol.
Every 4th-grader in the state has the opportunity to lie on his or her back in the circa-1851 Alabama State Capitol building in Montgomery and gaze at the rotunda overhead. If you do the same, try not to think about the ways in which you’re embarrassed by Alabama politics.

View the landscape from the observation deck at Vulcan.
“The original Iron Man” has towered over Birmingham from the top of Red Mountain since the 1930s. The world’s largest cast iron statue, Vulcan is made of 100,000 pounds of iron and stands 56 feet tall.  (And congratulate yourself if you climb the 159 stairs to get to the observation deck.)

See a race at Talladega Superspeedway.
The 2.66-mile race track, NASCAR’s longest and fastest, opened in 1969 as Alabama International Motor Speedway. Some people believe the track is cursed because it’s built on ancient Indian burial grounds. One thing’s for sure: a ‘Dega race is loud, so bring earplugs.

Go snow skiing in Mentone in northeast Alabama.
Every winter, when the temperature falls into the mid-20s, Cloudmont ski resort in Mentone starts making snow for skiing, snowboarding and tubing on its slopes. Cloudmont has two 1,000-foot beginner-intermediate slopes with an elevation of 1800 feet and a vertical rise of 150 feet.

Watch the sun set on Dauphin Island.
This barrier island is well known for beautiful sunsets – so much so, in fact, that the town council, with the support of the Alabama Tourism Department, voted to call it the Sunset Capital of Alabama.

2018 Alabama Welcome Center Retreat set for Huntsville Marriott, Oct. 14-16
The Alabama Welcome Center Retreat gives the Alabama Tourism Industry the opportunity to showcase our communities with the devoted staff of the Alabama Welcome Centers. Each center closes so that all employees participate in this educational retreat. The industry trade show gives us the opportunity to share with the staff members of each center exactly what we have for them to share with their guests, the thousands of travelers stopping at Welcome Centers for travel advice! Hopefully, we will give them enough to entice their visitors to stop, see and stay a little longer with us!

The Registration Fee is $150 for all industry partners, with or without a table top. This fee includes a table top in the Tourism Partner’s Showcase and functions through Tuesday morning breakfast. Each additional partner pays $150 as well. This fee goes up to $175 on Oct. 1. There will be NO refunds after Nov. 1 as we will have given all guarantees to our sponsors and to the hotel by then.

For Details Contact: Patti A. Culp, Alabama Travel Council:

Registration open for the 2018 Alabama-Mississippi-Tennessee Rural Tourism Conference
Registration is now open for the 2018 Alabama-Mississippi-Tennessee Rural Tourism Conference, which will be hosted at the historic Pitman Theatre in downtown Gadsden on Oct. 22-24. The Pitman Theatre will be the site of all educational sessions and the host hotel is the Holiday Inn Express and Suites. Speakers will share their experience and expertise on a range of topics including social media training, agritourism and wineries, marketing to millenials, and tourism and the digital movement. Conference events will also be held at Noccalula Falls Park, Back Forty Beer Company and Gadsden Museum of Art. An early bird rate of $95 per person is available until Oct. 5. Registration is $150 per person after Oct. 5. To register for the Alabama-Mississippi-Tennessee Rural Tourism Conference, visit

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
Is there a new hotel, great restaurant, or event happening in your area? Let us know. We will provide resources, so they too can become a Partner. Reach out to to support new business within the state.

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