Tourism Tuesdays November 20, 2018

Governor’s Mansion open for candlelight tours on Monday nights in December

Mobile’s Exploreum Science Center has new Executive Director

: Get your steps in on Montgomery’s Civil Rights Trail

Science, History, & Arts intersect in Huntsville, Alabama

Alabama amusement park & water park to add additions in 2019

AMHOF director’s search is down to 2

History and hedonism: a trip through Alabama

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


Governor’s Mansion open for candlelight tours on Monday nights in December
Gov. Kay Ivey will open the Governor’s Mansion for candlelight tours on the first three Monday nights in December from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Designers have volunteered their time to decorate the Governor’s Mansion and the neighboring Hill House for the candlelight tours. “This is the people’s house and I want to share it with them during this special Christmas season,” said Ivey.

Tickets for the tours are available free of charge at the gift shop prior to the tours each day.  The gift shop is located at 30 Finley Ave. across the street from the side entrance of the mansion.

The interior design companies working on decorating the mansion include Southern Posies, Lynne Coker Interiors, Magnolia Pointe Designs, Flowers by Amanda, Katherine Trantham Interior Design and CCI Premier ReDesign.

Choirs scheduled to perform include the Forest Avenue Choir on Dec. 3, Albertville High School Show Choir and Diane Shultz on Dec. 10 and Prattville First United Methodist Church and the Saint James Choir on Dec. 17.

The Governor’s Mansion is a 1907 Colonial Revival house located at 1142 South Perry St. in Montgomery and has served as the official residence for governors of Alabama since 1951.  The neighboring Farley-Hill House became part of the Governor’s Mansion complex in 2003 and will also be open for the candlelight tours.

The mansion will be open for candlelight tours from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 3, 10 and 17.   More information is available about the Governor’s Mansion candlelight tours by going online

Mobile’s Exploreum Science Center has new Executive Director
The Board of Trustees of the Exploreum Science Center in Mobile, Alabama, has appointed Don Comeaux as the new Executive Director for the center.

A native of New Orleans, Don came to the Exploreum Science Center in the summer of 2011, bringing more than 25 years of experience in education and leading non-profit organizations. He began his career as a science educator, gaining valuable experience instructing in the areas of Forensics, AP/Honors Biology, Environmental and Marine Sciences, Earth Science, Life Science, Physical Science and Journalism. He has been the Assistant Director of the Exploreum since 2013.

“The Exploreum is a perfect fit for my genuine love of science and education,” said Comeaux. “Working at the Exploreum for the past seven years has been a wonderful experience and a privilege for which I am deeply grateful. I will continue to lead with my eyes on the goals, my ears open to the voices of all and my heart committed to this organization and those we serve.”

“Don has exemplified the qualities and leadership that we believe can carry the Exploreum forward and grow our mission. We are excited for him, congratulate his achievement, and wish him all the success in helping our organization move forward in the future. I am confident Don will give our mission new energy and a new voice,” said Bobby Frost, Board President.

The Exploreum Science Center has brought science to life for people of all generations in Mobile and across the Gulf Coast region for 35 years. The Center offers hands-on science exhibits and engaging public and school programs and is home to the JL Bedsole IMAX Dome Theater. The Exploreum is dedicated to opening minds to the wonders of science and technology and promoting science literacy to all of its visitors.

Forbes: Get your steps in on Montgomery’s Civil Rights Trail
From the article by Adrienne Jordan on

Editor’s Note: Travel journalist Adrienne Jordan visited Montgomery in October on a trip arranged by the Alabama Tourism Department.  She was escorted by Brian Jones with the tourism office.

In just a few square blocks, Montgomery, Alabama is home to several key Civil Rights landmarks that the history-inquisitive traveler should visit. Montgomery was the first capital of the Confederacy before Richmond, so as you can imagine, there are many post-Civil War sites that show the tough road to equality in the city’s downtown area. Take a brisk walk to sites like the Rosa Parks Museum, the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, as well as the new EJI Museum (the site of a former slave warehouse).

Here is how you can take an active walking tour in just one or two days along the U.S. Civil Rights Trail in Montgomery:

Start at the Rosa Parks Museum
Historic markers on concrete designate the site where Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a public bus to a white passenger. The Rosa Parks Museum is located at the site of Parks’ arrest and has two parts to the venue. In one portion, you sit on a 1955 Montgomery public bus and see a visual narration of Homer Plessy and Dred Scott actors as well as other important Jim Crow era events. You will hear the gears hiss on the bus and feel it move as if you are on the bus yourself. The second portion of the museum holds artifacts like the original fingerprint arrest record of Mrs. Parks and a restored 1955 station wagon used to transport boycotters.

Rosa Parks Museum to Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church (.7 Miles or 10 minute walk)
You can attend church service (or decide to take a tour) of the preserved Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his family resided during his pastorate from 1954-1960. This church was the site of mass meetings to organize the 1956 Montgomery Bus Boycott. The church is a National Landmark and has pews from 1899 with cushions added years later to accommodate the elderly. The tour guide leads gospel renditions like “This Little Light of Mine” that visitors can join in on. The Baptist energy is felt all the more with a pianist playing on the church’s vintage, 50-year-old wooden piano.

Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church to Civil Rights Memorial Center (.1 miles or 3 minute walk)
The Civil Rights Memorial Center is sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center and includes photographs and biographies of 40 Civil Rights martyrs; a history of discrimination in the U.S.; and a theater and the Wall of Tolerance, where you enter your name on a computer and then see names rain down on a screen- thousands who have pledged to take a stand against hate, injustice, and intolerance.

Adjacent to the Civil Rights Memorial Center is the Civil Rights Memorial. You enter and immediately take in the inscription, “Until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream” (Dr. King’s famous paraphrase of Amos 5:24) chiseled into a cut of black granite. The memorial was created by Maya Lin, the same architect who designed the Vietnam War memorial as a 28-year-old student. She chose water as an inspiration from a MLK quote in his I Have a Dream speech. The memorial pays tribute to those who died in the civil rights struggle between 1954 and 1968.

Civil Rights Memorial Center to EJI Legacy Museum (.6 Miles or 11 minute walk)
Although not formally listed on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail map, the new Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum opened in April, 2018 and is a must visit for history seekers. The museum is the site of a former warehouse (one of many in Montgomery) and explores how the death penalty became a descendant of lynching. There are also poignant exhibits (both print and film) that explore slavery and segregation, such as Jim Crow era vintage signs like “For Coloreds Only” or “Only Whites Need Apply.” Since the museum is not overwhelming in size, you can get through it in an hour and a half.

EJI Legacy Museum to National Memorial for Peace and Justice (.7 miles or 14 minute walk)
Located only a 14-minute walk from the museum, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice has hundreds of six-foot, corten steel monuments aligned in a structure that hangs from the ceiling, giving viewers from below a symbolic reference to the horrors of lynching in the U.S. The spacious park in which the memorial sits has a monument for every county in America where a racial terror lynching took place. The names inscribed are the ones known since there are many more names lost to history.

For the complete article please see

Science, History, & Arts intersect in Huntsville, Alabama
From the article on

In Huntsville, Alabama, change is constant, but tradition is never forgotten.

A mix of high-tech cool and sublime Southern culture, this city truly has something for everyone. Did you know Huntsville is home to the largest space museum in the world? The U.S. Space & Rocket Center features interactive, hands-on exhibits, an IMAX theater, Space Camp and more.

Since opening its doors in 1970, over 17 million people have toured the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (USSRC). The vast majority of those visitors have been from out of state or across the globe. Many of the more than 600,000 annual visitors are school students on field trips to their future. Dozens of interactive exhibits encourage visitor participation, prompting one official to note: “Here, everyone can be an astronaut for the day.”

In recent years, the USSRC has expanded its offerings, paying tribute to the German rocket scientists who called Huntsville home and built the engines that took humans to the moon. Every Thursday evening, April through October from 4:30 p.m.–7:30 p.m., the Biergarten features authentic German cuisine. Visitors to the Center can enjoy the festive atmosphere with imported and domestic beers and delicious wines from the German region.

Home to Space Camp®, Aviation Challenge® Camp, Robotics Camp, and now Cyber Camp, the Rocket Center is the most comprehensive U.S. human spaceflight hardware museum in the world, and it’s not just for the kids. In fact, corporate and adult Space Camps are offered throughout the year. The Center’s large rocket and space hardware collection is valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars. From America’s first satellite, Explorer I, to next generation space vehicles like Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser, the museum showcases the past, present and future of human spaceflight. The USSRC serves as the Official NASA Visitor Center for Marshall Space Flight Center and is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.

Huntsville is also home to the second largest university-based research park in the United States and fourth largest globally. Cummings Research Park is a quick five-minute drive away from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and merely a 30-minute drive from Decatur’s United Launch Alliance (ULA). To say that Huntsville and North Alabama play a major role in developing the next vehicles that will take humans to Mars and beyond couldn’t be more accurate. Today, Marshall employees are working on the Space Launch System, the United States’ next space vehicle, while ULA is working to provide reliable, cost-effective and quick access to space.

ULA’s Delta and Atlas expendable launch vehicles carry payloads spanning from weather, telecommunication, and national security satellites, to science missions to protect and improve life on Earth. From Boeing and Lockheed Martin, to Toyota, Remington, Polaris, and HudsonAlpha, Huntsville is home to innovation that spans across industries.

It’s not all science and technology, though. Lowe Mill Arts & Entertainment is the largest, privately owned arts facility in the U.S., and you can find it just southwest of the heart of Huntsville. This historic textile factory building has been redeveloped into 131 working studios for over 200 artists and makers, six fine art galleries, a multi-use theater and performance venues.

Downtown Huntsville is also where you’ll find the Huntsville Museum of Art, a nationally accredited museum that fills its seven galleries each year with a variety of traveling exhibitions and the work of nationally and regionally acclaimed artists. The Museum of Art hosts one of the Rocket City’s most popular winter events, Skating in the Park in Big Spring International Park.

It’s not just art you’ll find in Downtown Huntsville. During the Civil War, the Historic Huntsville Depot—and the city itself—was captured by Union soldiers. The Depot is now a historic museum where the public can see graffiti written on the walls by Confederate soldiers, still on display after all these years.

While many cities in the South experienced great destruction during the war, Huntsville and its now-historic homes were spared. Today, the Rocket City is therefore home to the South’s largest concentration of antebellum homes and offers visitors experiences from antebellum to antigravity.

Huntsville is home to several districts on the National Register of Historic Places. The Twickenham District boasts scores of homes dating from 1819 while the Old Town District contains Victorian homes ranging from 1870-1930. A replica of the Salem Witch House can even be found on Walker Avenue. Charming bungalows dominate the Five Points District and the Merrimack Mill Village, representing the unique personalities of owners.

Visitors can go back in time at family-friendly historical museums like EarlyWorks and Burritt on the Mountain. The EarlyWorks Family of Museums immerses visitors into the life of early-1800s Alabamians, where adults and kids alike can marvel at the birthplace of Alabama’s statehood in the Alabama Constitution Hall Park (reopening for visitors in March 2019 to celebrate Alabama’s Bicentennial). Take in the breathtaking view from Burritt on the Mountain, located atop Monte Sano Mountain, and make friends with the eclectic collection of farm animals that reside among the rustic collection of 19th century houses and the iconic Burritt mansion.

As if the arts, science, and history weren’t enough, you can still check out other attractions like the Huntsville Botanical Garden, where lush greenery, beautiful reflecting pools, and the nation’s largest seasonal open-air butterfly house await. A breathtaking new Guest Center, opened in 2017 and built in the traditional Southern style, adds the perfect touch of charm as you walk through the doors.

Looking for outdoor activities? Take in the fresh air on one of Huntsville’s many hiking, biking, and birding trails, kayak on the Flint River, or enjoy a picnic on Monte Sano Mountain. It’s only “minutes to the mountain” from downtown Huntsville, making outdoor recreation incredibly accessible from the thriving city center.

Also in downtown Huntsville is Campus No. 805, a renovated middle school turned into an “adult’s playground” of breweries, dining, retail, and entertainment. Hone your axe-throwing skills at Civil Axe Throwing or find the hidden speakeasy at Straight to Ale Brewing. Every summer, catch free concerts and other activities at the greenspace on campus.

After so much adventure, relax and unwind at one of Huntsville’s award-winning restaurants like Cotton Row, Church Street Purveyor, or sip on a local brew at one of the 10 craft breweries that call Madison County home, as well as a variety of taprooms, bars, and bottle shops.

If you want to see more, you can explore the hashtag #iHeartHsv on social media to find what visitors and locals love most about Huntsville and Madison County, Alabama.

For the complete article please see

Alabama amusement park & water park to add additions in 2019
After a record breaking 2018 season, Alabama Adventure Amusement Park & Splash Adventure Water Park are pleased to announce the addition of a swinging pirate ship ride to Alabama Adventure and two new water slides to Splash Adventure, where guests can enjoy both an amusement park and a water park for one low price.

The three new attractions will debut in May 2019 and will feature the Galleon, a swinging pirate ship, as well as the thrilling Twister and Free Fall water slides. The Galleon, by Zamperla Rides, is a beautiful, classic, swinging ship that will take Guests high into the air. Twister is an ultimate body sliding adventure that will have Guests spiraling through back-to-back turns and drops. The FreeFall is an extreme open-flume body ride that plummets riders straight down a near vertical drop of eight stories tall and then ends in six inches of water. The park will also be doing track improvements on the world-renowned Rampage Roller Coaster to make for a smoother ride. Due to incredible popularity, the water park is increasing the number of cabanas available for rent from 29 to 34, following a record-breaking season when 50,000 more people visited the park in 2018 than 2017.

Dan Koch, President of Alabama Adventure and Splash Adventure, said “These new attractions will be popular with guests of all ages. They will increase ride capacity in both our amusement and water park making for an even greater 2019 summer visit. The guests who visited us in 2018 asked for more and we listened.  So, we’re building more awesome fun stuff for families to enjoy.”

For information about tickets, season passes and group outings call 205-481-4750 or visit

AMHOF director’s search is down to 2
From the article by Russ Corey on

The search for a new director of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame has been narrowed down to two individuals, board member Sara Hamlin said Monday.

Board member Judy Hood said 52 people applied for the job that has been occupied by Dixie Griffin since the hall of fame reopened on October 2015.

Griffin announced during the Sept. 25 board meeting that she would be retiring, but would remain at the attraction until the end of the year to help the new director.

“The number of applicants for the directorship at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame demonstrates the importance of the tourism and music industry to the community and state,” Hamlin said.

Hood said Friday the search committee met and conducted some interviews, and hopes to have an announcement by Wednesday. The new director’s salary will be in the $40,000 to $50,000 range.

She said some of the search committee members were attending a tourism-related meeting in Gulf Shores and the full committee was unable to get together for final discussions.

“I hope we can have a discussion very soon to give the new director plenty of time with Dixie before she retires,” Hood said.

The hall of fame has enjoyed a rebirth due to the success of the 2013 documentary “Muscle Shoals,” which looked at the beginnings of the local music history and the success of the late FAME Recording Studios founder Rick Hall.

The attraction is on track to have about 16,000 visitors this year, many of them international music fans.

“The hall continues to welcome visitors from across the country and internationally,” Hamlin said. “We anticipate that number increasing under the leadership of a new director.”

For the complete article please see

History and hedonism: a trip through Alabama
From the article on (TheWeek)

From Martin Luther King Jr to Mardi Gras, the quintessential Deep South state has plenty to offer in these turbulent political times.

Every year in London, there’s a huge media and trade show called World Travel Market. For a journalist like me, it’s an opportunity to sit down with representatives of locations from all around the world and plot some feature ideas and potential trips for the following 12 months. Last year, the Trump effect was on many people’s minds. There were reports of a considerable slowing of U.S. tourism – the “Trump Slump” as some papers had it – and, rather than leave it as the elephant in the room, I asked many U.S. travel representatives about it. Answers typically went along political lines.

Representatives of left-leaning California were critical of the president, both for his politics and his effect on visitor numbers. Traditionally Republican states adopted fixed grins and denied there was any problem whatsoever – with one exception. One very unexpected exception: Alabama.

Rather than sweep the state’s sometimes inglorious past under the carpet, Alabama’s representatives acknowledged the “Trump Slump” and explained that they’re putting their history front and centre, with heavy promotion of the Alabama Civil Rights Trail. “We can’t deny it happened,” one told me. “Besides, you don’t get a Civil Rights Trail without having a terrible record in civil rights.”

It was a surprising turn of events, a contradiction to the attitude of some of their close neighbours and their own reputation, but then contradiction appears to be something of a theme in Alabama. When Jeff Sessions’ senate seat was available 12 months into Trump’s presidency, Alabama swung dramatically to the left and voted for Doug Jones, making him their first Democrat senator for 25 years. And when I accept an invitation to visit Alabama a few months later, it contains its own contradictory element: as well as exploring the Civil Rights Trail, we’ll finish the week with a massive party. Mobile is the birthplace of Mardi Gras in the South and they party there longer and harder than they do in New Orleans.

We start our trip in Birmingham, with a lesson on pronunciation. “I know y’all have your Birmin’am,” explains our guide, local author and journalist Verna Gates, “but this is Bir-Ming-Ha-Am. Four syllables.”

Bethel Baptist Church is our first stop and Collegeville, its barren location, is swift shorthand for segregation of the black workers that lived here, a marshy floodplain, dotted with simple, run down houses that stand in stark contrast to the skyscrapers and stunning architecture of the city centre.

Our guide is Dr Martha Bouyer, a local African American historian and executive director of the Historic Bethel Baptist Church Foundation, and she starts – inevitably – by pointing out the structure to the right of the church. A metal frame marks the outline of the parsonage where The Reverend F. L. Shuttlesworth lived with his family. It’s an outline because local Klansmen destroyed the parsonage, with 16 sticks of dynamite, on Christmas Day 1956, an explosion that very nearly cost Shuttlesworth his life.

The bomb – the first of three such attacks on the church – came about because Shuttlesworth was a leading figure in the Civil Rights Movement, a close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Bethel was at the heart of many of the peaceful protests that finally, slowly, resulted in, well, positive if limited, change. Inside, Dr. Bouyer runs through some of the history, with snippets of quite astonishing legislation – still enforced in the 1960s – designed to deny black citizens basic human rights, including having to give way to white people on the sidewalk, and “eyeballing”; essentially being perceived to have looked at a white person in the wrong manner or, indeed, at all. By the time I’m asked to read a poem – Alabama Centennial by Naomi Madgett – we’re tearful, and bristling with silent rage, and deeply aware that this hint of injustice we’re feeling is only a very, very microscopic fraction of what those affected have lived with in the U.S. for centuries.

Some three miles away stands the 16th Street Baptist Church. On the back wall hangs a clock, stopped at 10:22 a.m., a reminder of the time on Sept. 15, 1963 when a Klan bomb killed four girls – Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair – and injured 22 others as they prepared for a “Youth Day.” If it’s possible to find any silver lining in this senseless, racist murder, it’s that it’s generally seen as the incident that forced president Lyndon B. Johnson to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Just across the street stands the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. If your time is short, this is the stop you must make, as it relays the history of the region and its struggle in compelling, efficient and moving style.

From Birmingham (don’t forget that fourth syllable), it’s around a two-hour drive to the next “must see” stop: Selma. It’s a quiet, rural town that seems an unlikely setting for so many key events in Civil Rights history. Brown Chapel is an unassuming building, again in a barren part of town, that was the starting point for several marches including the famous Bloody Sunday march that attempted, on 7 March 1965, to walk from Selma to Montgomery, but met with the violent intervention from State Troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Today – particularly thanks to Ava DuVernay’s film “Selma” – the bridge is a practical monument to the struggle. On this crisp winter’s day, with the surrounding sparse countryside, vast grey sky and the greenish brown Alabama River flowing, there’s an almost sepia quality to the bridge, and it’s easy to picture the marchers, in news-reel style, crossing to the other side – and impossible to understand the level of violent force with which they were met.

It took two further attempts before Martin Luther King Jr., and, by now, some 25,000 interfaith demonstrators, successfully crossed the bridge and marched the 54 miles to Montgomery, the state capital. For us, it’s a straightforward hour’s drive, past endless fields, many of which served as impromptu camp sites during the walk.

The State Capitol building stands at the end of Dexter Avenue – at a high point known as Goat Hill – and opposite Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, an imposing, red brick structure, and the only church where Dr King ever served as a pastor.

The street itself is regarded as one of the most historic in the U.S. The State Capitol was where the South formed the Confederacy. At the other end stands the Winter Building, from which the order to fire on Fort Sumter – the act that started the American Civil War – was sent. Court Square Fountain can also be found on Dexter and marks the site of a former slave market. A stone’s throw from that is the spot where, in 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus. And, on a lighter note, on the other side of the road “since 1917” stands Chris’ Hot Dogs, the simple diner famed for its hotdogs, burgers and for being where local resident Hank Williams often ate.

We’re shown around Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church by Wanda Howard Battle, whose knowledge is matched only by her enthusiasm. As we stand in Dr King’s office, surrounded by the books that inspired him, Wanda urges us to go home and tell the stories. We’ll try, Wanda. We’ll try.

And then it’s on to Mobile and, while enjoyable, it’s almost impossible to shake the mood of the previous few days. It’s perhaps appropriate then that it rains heavily the day we march in a parade, our brightly coloured costumes, masks and fancy dress becoming heavier as the day progresses.

Parades are pretty much a daily occurrence during Mardi Gras season, which runs from February until “Fat Tuesday.” Although much of Mardi Gras is controlled by a hierarchy of “mystic societies” or “krewes,” with planning it is possible to attend one of the many balls thrown during the season, or to march in a parade. The former is sold to me as “an extravaganza, like the best Broadway show you’ve ever seen.” That might be the reality with some, but I suspect most are like the one I see: the best Broadway show you’ve ever seen where everyone involved has been drinking since midday.

It’s slightly shambolic but oddly compelling. The parade is the more interesting element, where you get to walk the streets, throwing gifts to the crowds, from Moon Pies (an incredibly sweet marshmallow and biscuit confection) to toys and, particularly, strings of coloured beads. The noise of the crowds is remarkable, and even the wet can’t diminish the volume of their clamouring and screaming for necklaces. There’s a final intriguing contradiction too as the majority of those marching give a particularly wide berth to the one family on the route wearing MAGA hats and standing behind a pro-Trump banner.

So should you go to Alabama? To paraphrase Wanda, the stories must be told, to hopefully one day see the “brighter tomorrow” that she and so many others are working to create. The people are lovely and hospitable and the food scene – which offers a very strong culture of farm-to-fork dining alongside the more traditional BBQ and soul food – is very exciting.

As for the Civil Rights Trail, recent concern about voter suppression across the South makes it more relevant than “just” a series of tourist destinations but, for a glimpse of how life was and, for a very large percentage of the world, still is, it’s one of the most essential things I could recommend in the U.S.

For the complete article please see

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