Tourism Tuesdays Dec. 17, 2019

Governor’s Mansion Candlelight Tours draw more than 1,800 visitors

With focus on past and future, Alabama wraps up bicentennial

Lonely Planet
 features Alabama’s Gulf State Park

Alabama Bicentennial honored with another great book

10 fantastic things to do outdoors in Mobile

Tourism group seeks community suggestions

Burroughs elected to Southeastern Tourism Society board

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


Governor’s Mansion Candlelight Tours draw more than 1,800 visitors
More than 1,800 visitors toured the Governor’s Mansion during the three nights of the Christmas Candlelight Tours. The tours were held during the first three Monday nights of December from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Governor’s Mansion gift shop manager Leigh Cross said the biggest selling items during the tour nights were Bicentennial-themed items and food items from Lindsay Farm in Mathews, Crown Mulling Spices in Birmingham and Hornsby Farms in Auburn. The gift shop is located across the street from the mansion on Finley Avenue and specializes in carrying gift items produced in Alabama.

The interior design companies working on decorating the mansion include Tea Olive Designs, Lynne Coker Interiors, CCI Premier ReDesign/Staging, Burrow Interior Design, Patrick Martin and Monday Morning Master Gardener Group.

With focus on past and future, Alabama wraps up bicentennial
From the article by Jack Helean on

Alabama blew out 200 candles on its birthday cake Saturday, as officials and residents gathered to celebrate the state’s bicentennial in Montgomery.

Gov. Kay Ivey spoke and a series of monuments picturing the state’s history were unveiled in a park across the street from the state capitol.

“It’s such a brief time in the history of the world,” the Republican Ivey told those gathered outside the capitol. “And yet, during these many years that parallel the life of our great state, Alabamians have been at the forefront of so many pivotal events that have shaped not only America, but also the world.”

The 16 bronze plaques, each on a base of Alabama granite, depict scenes from the state’s history. State Sen. Arthur Orr, a Decatur Republican who has chaired the bicentennial celebration, said the bronze reliefs focus on ordinary people, showing “history is made every day by people like us.”

Alabama was admitted as the 22nd state on Dec. 14, 1819. Orr noted it was not only the 200th anniversary of the state, but the 170th anniversary of the fire that destroyed the first state Capitol building constructed after the seat of government moved to Montgomery from Tuscaloosa.

Orr noted that outside the second building, which stands today, Jefferson Davis took his oath of office as president of the Confederacy in 1861, George Wallace delivered an inaugural in which he proclaimed “segregation forever” in 1963, and then only two years later, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at the end of the Selma to Montgomery voting rights march. In that speech on the back of a flatbed truck, King famously asked: “How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Orr said Alabama’s history is “marked by much that is good, but also scarred entirely too much by that which is not.” He urged Alabamians to build on their past but not be bound by it.

“Although history shaped who we are today, it does not control our future,” Orr said. “As we begin Alabama’s third century this very day, our future is in our hands.”

As part of the program, Ivey said she received a letter written by then-Gov. Albert Brewer in 1969. She said she in turn would be writing a letter to her successor in 2069 to be sealed in a new time capsule the city of Montgomery is creating.

“We are continuing forward the legacy of our great state and continue to seek ways to make Alabama even better,” Ivey said.

Over the prior two years, the state has held celebrations in all 67 counties. Saturday’s events included a parade up Dexter Avenue featuring a bus similar to the one Rosa Parks rode on when she was arrested and sparked the Montgomery bus boycott. There also was a moon rover replica commemorating Huntsville’s contributions to the space program, and a 150-member bicentennial all-star band that played a song composed for the occasion.

For the complete article please see

Lonely Planet features Alabama’s Gulf State Park
From the article by Dave Parfitt on

Editor’s note: Alabama’s Gulf State Park is featured in the article “Five U.S. state parks that are just as incredible as the national parks” where Lonely Planet talks about five U.S. state parks worth visiting. Here is the exert about our park.

There’s no doubting the natural beauty and cultural significance of the National Parks, but they are only a sliver of the natural and cultural treasures preserved in the U.S. To get away from the crowds and off the beaten track, consider these five state parks just as incredible as their national park brethren.

Alabama – Gulf State Park
This region of the southeast is called the “Amazon of North America” due to its rich biodiversity, nine different ecosystems and more plant and animal species than anywhere in the United States.

Alabama invested $85 million in settlement funds from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster to develop sustainable tourism facilities in Gulf State Park, including the Gulf Coast Center for Ecotourism & Sustainability. The world-class ecotourism and experiential learning facility was created in partnership with Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society.

In 2020, the center will launch the Gulf Coast Ambassadors of the Environment program to students in grades 4-12, housed at the Gulf State Park Learning Campus. Future Environmental Ambassador programs will include college students as well as adults.

For the complete article please see

Alabama Bicentennial honored with another great book
From the article by Kenneth H. Thomas Jr. on (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Alabama’s bicentennial of statehood, mentioned last week, continues with another great book.

Alabama Heritage magazine is the sponsor of “Alabama: From Territory to Statehood,” part of the Alabama Heritage Bicentennial Collection.

This is one of the most beautiful books published to tell a state’s history. Each chapter is written by an expert, with the opening chapter by Dr. Edwin C. Bridges, retired director of the State Archives, writing on the long road to statehood.

Other chapters discuss the borders, land claims and surveying, and then Thomas Chase Hagood covers “Alabama Fever Rages: Migrations to the Frontier of Early Alabama.”

Another addresses the cultural landscape; one discusses St. Stephens, the first territorial capital; and it’s followed by “The Three Sisters: How Squash, Beans and Corn Became Southern Food” by John C. Hall and Rosa N. Hall. The first section ends with Mike Bunn’s “The Alabama Territory: Quarter by Quarter.”

Other chapters address the cultural landscape and St. Stephens, the first territorial capital.

John C. Hall and Rosa N. Hall wrote “The Three Sisters: How Squash, Beans and Corn Became Southern Food.”

The first section ends with Mike Bunn’s “The Alabama Territory: Quarter by Quarter.”

The second part of the book covers Alabama statehood, from the early events of 1819; the Constitutional Convention; and William Wyatt Bibb, the state’s first governor.

“The Creek Nation and Alabama” is by Kathryn H Braund.

Another chapter is devoted to banking, newspapers and class in early Alabama. Slavery is addressed by Justin A. Rudder.

Robert Gamble, a noted architectural historian with years of service to the Alabama Historical Commission, ends the text with “This Beautiful and Rapid Rising State: Architecture of the Territorial and Early Statehood Years.”

Each chapter is illustrated in full color with beautiful photographs of people, places, documents and objects. There are biographical sketches of the contributors and a full index, but no bibliography or sources.

If you wanted one book to have to commemorate your ancestors in early Alabama on their bicentennial, this would be the one. The book is available for $39.95 plus shipping from New South Books, 105 S. Court St., Montgomery, AL 36104, or see

For the complete article please see

10 fantastic things to do outdoors in Mobile
From the article by Jill Dutton on

Outdoor adventures in Mobile, Alabama, naturally focus on the Gulf Coast and water activities (kayak with alligators, anyone?). You can explore the Tensaw Delta, Mobile Bay, and the Mobile River by fishing boat, eco tour, kayak, and more. Or, step off the water for a bit to visit a marshland sanctuary, explore the Alabama Bird Trail, or even see what life was like for soldiers in the 1800s.

I visited Mobile previously on a press tour. It was an eco-tour that took us around the area to see up close the diverse ecosystems both on land and water. Since Alabama is one of the most biologically diverse states in the U.S., we discovered a multitude of plants and animals in the area’s wetlands and woodlands. It’s a perfect destination to get outdoors and explore a variety of nature-centric activities.

1. Take a delta eco boat tour
Experience the diversity of the ecosystem in Mobile on a delta safari tour with Wild Native Tours. You’ll travel aboard an enclosed seasonal vessel with padded seats, a PA system, and restrooms for a 90-minute tour. Mobile is home to one of the most diverse ecosystems in the U.S., the fourth largest estuary in North America, and the 11th busiest port in the nation. You’ll travel from the bustling port, through Mobile Bay, and into the Mobile Tensaw Delta. You’ll see local wildlife like alligators, birds, and dolphins, naval vessels, cargo ships, plus historical landmarks like the USS Alabama. You’ll be entertained along the way with funny and interesting stories about the sights you see.

2. Watch for dolphins on a Gulf Coast cruise
Search for dolphins on a cruise departing from Orange Beach during which you’ll view the Alabama coastline while watching for Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. Plus, if time allows, the crew will pull up a crab pot to see if there’s a daily catch — a big favorite with children. And if the dolphins are feeling playful, you may catch them surfing in the boat wake!

According to one Viator reviewer, “The sunset cruise was so beautiful. We saw lots of dolphins and they even put on a little show when the captain created some wakes! They will allow you to bring a small cooler so we got to enjoy some wine and cheese while watching the sunset. I would highly recommend for adults and kids!”

3. Kayak the Bartram Canoe Trail
Start with a tour of the 5 Rivers Delta Center, a $10 million facility located where the Mobile, Spanish, Tensaw, Apalachee, and Blakely rivers flow into Mobile Bay. Experience the exhibit hall, learning center, walking trails, and campsites — four of which are floating platforms — and gift shop before putting into the water for a guided kayaking tour. This facility serves as a gateway to more than 250,000 acres of waterways, woods, and wetlands. Follow the Bartram Canoe Trail and be prepared to view alligators in their natural habitat.

4. Try mountain biking at Chickasabogue Park
The Chickasabogue Park offers 12 loop trails for a total of 14 bikeable miles. There are challenging single-track paths for experienced bikers plus easier trails for beginners. It’s an interesting journey across boardwalks that carry you over wetlands and bogs, intertwined loops, and swales if you’d like to do some mudding. To keep the trails from wearing down over time, the park alternates days you can ride certain trails.

Rootsrated, a platform for finding the best, hand-picked outdoor activities, says many riders call this the best set of trails in the Mobile area. The trails are rated intermediate but have options for beginners that allow everyone to “get their feet wet in the sport,” and technical challenges for experienced bikers. “The paths are root strewn with a few rocks, some sandy patches, some hills to climb, and plenty of swales so you can do a little mudding. There are also several boardwalks over wetlands and bogs to make the trips even more interesting.”

5. Bird watching
If birding is your interest, you’ll want to explore the Coastal Alabama Birding Trails on nearby Dauphin Island. If you go for spring viewing, know that Dauphin Island was named one of the top four locations in North America for viewing spring migrations. At the Audubon Bird Sanctuary, you can hike a three-mile trail system that includes maritime forest, marshes, and dunes with a lake, a swamp, and a beach. Located on 137 acres, the sanctuary is the largest segment of protected forest on the island and “the first landfall for neo-tropical migrant birds after their long flight across the Gulf from Central and South America each spring.”

The Audubon Bird Sanctuary was recognized by the National Audubon Society as being globally important for bird migrations. On a visit to the sanctuary, you can enjoy hiking, photographing the wildlife (we saw turtles and a small alligator from the dock of one lake along the trail), bird watching, and the various colors of each season.

6. Explore Fort Gaines
While you’re on Dauphin Island, stop by Fort Gaines to see how soldiers lived in the 1800s. This 19th-century brick seacoast fort houses a working blacksmith shop with live demonstrations, the Officer’s Quarters, and costumed interpreters who put on exhibitions like the firing of the actual cannons used in the Battle of Mobile Bay.

7. Explore the USS Alabama
Take a self-guided walking tour of the historic battleship USS Alabama, the submarine USS Drum, tanks, artillery and the aircraft pavilion. Step back in time as you see this 100-acre battleship park up close.

The mission of the USS Alabama Battleship Commission when created in 1963 was to “establish, operate, and maintain a state memorial park to honor the Alabamians who participated so valiantly in all armed conflicts of the United States … and, as a permanent public memorial to educate the public on the contributions and sacrifices of the veterans of all branches of the United States Armed Services in all conflicts.”

8. Visit an alligator sanctuary
At Alligator Alley, you’ll find a swamp sanctuary, home to more than 200 American alligators and other wildlife. Walk along the elevated boardwalk to view the alligators close up. About halfway through, you’ll come upon Captain Crunch, a 13-foot, 2,982-pound alligator said to have the world’s strongest bite. View the alligators in all manner of poses, with gators from hatchlings to mature adults relaxing, sunbathing, courting, and nesting. During the tour you may also see turtles, ospreys, owls, and bullfrogs.

The alligator farm was opened by Wes Moore in 2004. Moore rescues the alligators, bringing them from unsafe areas to the farm, which is designed to give them a natural environment. The alligators are considered “nuisance animals” because they’ve lost their natural fear of humans, making them dangerous. If an alligator is more than 4 feet in length and determined dangerous to humans or their property, they must be removed. Alligator Alley becomes their new home and the safe educational walking tour is an excellent opportunity to view these massive creatures.

9. Walk Around Downtown
In addition to the busy port, downtown Mobile is a creative hub with art galleries, shops, restaurants, and bars best explored on foot. Evenings and weekends are filled with festivals, open-air markets, live concerts, and special events. Home to America’s original Mardi Gras, you can experience the oldest organized Carnival celebration in the U.S. here. Find everything there is to know, see, and do in downtown Mobile at the Downtown Mobile Alliance.

While you’re downtown, explore Mobile’s award-winning food scene with Gulf Coast dishes like gumbo, pralines, and oysters, plus hear stories about more than 300 years of Mobile history covering everything from Bienville to Hank Aaron to the Moon Pie on a food tour.

10. Tour A Maritime Museum
Although only part of this tour is actually outdoors, for anyone interested in the maritime history of the area, a visit to GulfQuest National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico shouldn’t be missed. The mission of the museum is “to inspire people of all ages and backgrounds to understand and appreciate the Gulf Coast and its rich maritime heritage through exhibits, programs, and activities.”

With 90 interactive exhibits including theaters, simulators, and displays, it will be a day-long visit. If you don’t have an entire day to spend at the museum, don’t miss the GulfQuest Theater with its 16-minute film on the rich maritime history and culture of the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Bay from past to present. The Take the Helm pilot simulator is another popular exhibit where visitors can try navigating a variety of vessels around the Port of Mobile, Mobile Bay, and the Tombigbee River in a simulator identical to those used to train professional boat pilots.

For the complete article please see

Tourism group seeks community suggestions
From the article on

The Athens-Limestone Tourism Association is looking forward to 2020, but it is seeking the public’s help with several projects.

Specifically, tourism officials are trying to compile a list of dog-friendly businesses in Limestone County, identify restaurants with kid-friendly dining options, and single out natural public spaces that could be included in the state’s Year of Natural Wonders initiative.

Dog friendly
Cayce Lee, social media specialist for the Tourism Association, said she’s been asked if a list of dog-friendly places could be put together.

“Many of our residents and visitors have dogs that are an active part of their life, and they like to involve their furry family member in all aspects of their daily routine, including dining, shopping and relaxing,” she said. “We just need a little help from the community identifying businesses, shops, restaurants and outdoor space throughout the county that welcome our furry friends.”

Kids’ eats
Finding options at restaurants that are palatable to kids can also be a challenge for some parents. The Tourism Association wants to identify those restaurants that feature menus for kids, specials for kids and kids’ favorite menu items.

“Our community families are our best resource for this special project, especially when it comes to the menu items kids love the most, so why not turn to the experts, the families and kids themselves, and ask for help?” Lee said.

Public views
Finally, the Tourism Association is seeking ideas on public spaces that offer amazing views, pictorial settings or some other awe-inspiring attribute that would make it worthy for inclusion in the Year of Natural Wonders. The campaign is being promoted by the Alabama Tourism Department.

“It is not just a matter of identifying spaces themselves, but if there’s a best time of day to visit, like sunset or sunrise, or perhaps a time of year, like spring or fall when things bloom or colors change,” Lee said. “Maybe there is something visitors should look specifically for, like the eagles on the Elk River, cranes at Swan Creek Wildlife Management Area or other migrating fowl.”

For the complete article please see

Burroughs elected to Southeastern Tourism Society board
From the article by Russ Corey on

Tourism industry veteran and Alabama Music Hall of Fame Director Sandra Killen Burroughs has been elected to a two-year term on the Southeast Tourism Society Board of Directors.

Burroughs has been in the travel and tourism industry since 1995. Her term on the regional board will last until the end of 2022.

“The STS Board of Directors are leaders within the travel and tourism industry, who we look to as the visionaries for our organization,” Monica Smith, president and CEO, of Southeast Tourism Society said in a news release. “The Board’s leadership provides valuable insight as STS continues to grow and support the tourism industry, particularly in regards to promoting travel to our 13 member states.”

Smith said each board member brings a unique skillset or expertise that helps the organization develop programs to enhance professional development within the tourism industry.

“I was surprised and thrilled to be asked to join the board for STS,” Burroughs said. “With this being a regional association, I feel that me being on the board will bring more marketing and promo ideas to the hall of fame as well as increase our exposure in the 12 states that STS represents.”

Founded in 1983, STS promotes travel and tourism throughout a 13-state region. The organization focuses on Education, Advocacy, Recognition, and Networking for travel and tourism industry professionals and their respective destinations.

Burroughs began her career at the Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa in Florence.

With her extensive background in hotel sales and management, she was later hired as the membership director and legislative liaison with Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association (AMLA), a 16-county tourism organization promoting tourism all over north Alabama. She spent 11 years with the organization.

Burroughs was tapped to become director of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in November 2018 after 11 years with AMLA.

For the complete article please see

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