Tourism Tuesdays March 10, 2020

ATD Spring Tourism Workshop April 9

Statewide walking tours begin in April

U.S. Space & Rocket Center sets records as Alabama’s most visited 2019 tourism attraction

Top 10 Admission Charged Attractions 2019

Tourists from around the world visit Guntersville for 50th Bassmaster Classic

48 hours of birding in Birmingham

The best Gulf Shores experiences along Alabama’s Coastal Connection Scenic Byway

These sweet, little Alabama biscuits are beloved nationwide

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


ATD Spring Tourism Workshop April 9

The Alabama Tourism Department will host its Spring Tourism Workshop April 9. The workshop will be held in Montgomery at the Alabama Center for Commerce Building. The workshop is designed to inform our tourism industry partners, event organizers and anyone interested in enhancing tourism in their area. ATD’s staff members will attend this workshop, and you will have an opportunity for one-on-one time with each of them. So, mark your calendars and make plans to attend.

For additional information, please contact Rosemary Judkins at 334-242-4493 or via email at Rosemary.Judkins@Tourism.Alabama.Gov

Statewide walking tours begin in April

More than 25 towns across Alabama will be on display during Saturday mornings in April 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 4, 11, 18 and 25.

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, Old State Bank Building; Elba, Chamber of Commerce; Elkmont, Elkmont Depot; Enterprise, Pea River Historical Society; Eutaw, Fountain at Courthouse Square; Fairhope, Fairhope Welcome Center; Florence, various locations; Foley, Welcome Center.

Huntsville, Alabama Constitution Hall Park (April 4 & 11 only); Madison, Madison Roundhouse (April 18 & 25 only); Mobile, Welcome Center at The History Museum of Mobile; Monroeville, Monroe County 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 City Hall; Shelby, Shelby Iron Works Park; Springville, Springville Museum; Tuscumbia, Cold Water Bookstore.

The tours are being coordinated through 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.  Over 38,000 people have participated in the walking tours since the beginning of the program 17 years ago and the tours keep increasing in popularity every year.

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

U.S. Space & Rocket Center sets records as Alabama’s most visited 2019 tourism attraction

The U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville had more than a million visitors last year, a record-setting total that easily topped Alabama’s list of most-attended paid attractions.

“It is the first time any paid attraction in Alabama has ever come close to accomplishing this, and I couldn’t be prouder,” said Judy Ryals, President/CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau.  “It stands as proof positive of the hard work of the Space Center and its recently retired director, Dr. Deborah Barnhart.”

It was more than a 200,000 increase from the year before, state tourism officials said.

Louie Ramirez, the new head of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, said the 2019 attendance was the proud result of years of planning for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.

“From a ‘Guinness Book of World Records’ model rocket launch to a sold-out dinner honoring the Huntsville engineers who put America on the moon, the Rocket Center was at the center of a worldwide celebration of human achievement,” he said.

Both Ryals and Ramirez said that with the U.S. Space & Rocket Center soon celebrating its own 50th birthday, they hope it will continue to share Huntsville’s legacy in 2020 and beyond.

While the Huntsville space attraction clearly topped the list, other Alabama attractions that also had extremely strong attendance.

Coming in second on attractions that charge admission was the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail with 577,338.  The Birmingham Zoo ranked third with 565,087.

Montgomery’s Equal Justice Initiative Memorial and Museum was fourth with an estimated 500,000 visitors, followed by USS ALABAMA Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile at fifth with 451,601 and Talladega Superspeedway at sixth with 436,000.

Filling out the Top 10 were Barber Vintage Motorsports Park in Birmingham at seventh with 379,083, Huntsville Botanical Garden at eighth with 376,526, Birmingham’s McWane Science Center at ninth with 339,669 and Point Mallard Park in Decatur at 10th with 274,703.  OWA, the entertainment and amusement park destination in Foley, declined to release attendance figures.  Full figures were not available for The Cook Museum of Natural Science, since it did not open until June 2019.

The Alabama Tourism Department also released attendance figures for other categories. The beaches of the Alabama Gulf Coast were the most visited natural destination in the state, attracting more than 6 million tourists last year. The Birmingham Botanical Gardens attracted 347,000 visitors to make it the most attended free attraction. More than 1 million people celebrated Mobile’s Mardi Gras making it the most attended event.

Attendance figures were collected by the Alabama Tourism Department from local tourism organizations.

Top 10 Admission Charged Attractions 2019

U.S. Space & Rocket Center – Huntsville


2019 attendance: 1,050,958

Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail – State wide


2019 attendance: 577,338

Birmingham Zoo – Birmingham


2019 attendance: 565,087

Equal Justice Initiative Museums – Montgomery


2019 attendance: 500,000

USS ALABAMA Battleship Memorial Park – Mobile


2019 attendance: 451,601

Talladega Superspeedway – Talladega


2019 attendance: 436,000

Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum – Birmingham


2019 attendance: 379,083

Huntsville Botanical Garden – Huntsville


2019 attendance: 376,526

McWane Science Center – Birmingham


2019 attendance: 339,669

Point Mallard Park – Decatur


2019 attendance: 274,703

Top 10 – Free Attractions 2019

Birmingham Botanical Gardens – Birmingham


2019 attendance: 347,000

Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment – Huntsville


2019 attendance: 300,000

Alabama State Capitol – Montgomery


2019 attendance: 152,994

Birmingham Museum of Art  Birmingham


2019 attendance: 124,039

Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament – Hanceville


2019 attendance: 115,000

Army Aviation Museum – Fort Rucker


2019 attendance: 100,000

Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts – Montgomery


2019 attendance: 96,355

Aldridge Gardens – Hoover


2019 attendance: 92,464

Oakville Indian Mounds Education Center – Danville


2019 attendance: 60,000

Alabama Department of Archives and History – Montgomery


2019 attendance: 54,460

Top 10 – Events 2018

Mobile Mardi Gras – Mobile


2019 attendance: 1,011,356

W.C. Handy Music Festival – Florence


2019 attendance: 250,000

National Peanut Festival – Dothan


2019 attendance: 212,800

National Shrimp Festival – Gulf Shores


2019 attendance: 200,000

Christmas at the Falls – Gadsden


2019 attendance: 105,000

Barber Vintage Festival – Birmingham


2019 attendance: 82,295

Christmas at Candyland – Andalusia


2019 attendance:  80,000

Gulf Coast Balloon Festival – Foley


2019 attendance:    70,000

Gadsden First Friday – Gadsden


2019 attendance: 71,000

World of Wheels – Birmingham


2019 attendance: 60.000

Top 10 – Parks and Natural Destinations 2018

Alabama Gulf Coast Beaches – Gulf Shores/Orange Beach/Fort Morgan/Dauphin Island


2019 attendance: 6,113,934

Gulf State Park – Gulf Shores


2019 attendance: 2,236,134

Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge – Decatur


2019 attendance: 625,000

Oak Mountain State Park – Pelham


2019 attendance: 540,981

Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park – McCalla


2019 attendance: 520,000

Railroad Park – Birmingham


2019 attendance: 514,721

Lake Guntersville State Park – Guntersville


2019 attendance: 265,465

Wind Creek State Park – Alexander City


2019 attendance: 255,060

Joe Wheeler State Park – Rogersville


2019 attendance: 231,878

J.D. & Annie S. Hays Nature Preserve – Owens Cross Roads


2019 attendance: 215,000

Tourists from around the world visit Guntersville for 50th Bassmaster Classic

From the article by Tiffany Lester on

The so-called Super Bowl of bass fishing brings in millions of dollars for the state.

Hundreds of people braved the bitter cold and wind to see 53 anglers take off from Civitan Park in Guntersville for the 50th Bassmaster Classic.

One group told WHNT News 19 they call Canada home.

“It’s cold for down here. It’s normal for where we are, but we’re on a fairly big lake,” said Canadian resident and spectator Dave Flindall.

They said they were excited to see some of their own representing in the biggest bass fishing competition in the world.

“We came down to see the three Canadians. This is the first time three Canadians have been in the Bassmaster, so the sport is really growing in Canada, professional bass fishing, so it’s pretty amazing to come down and see all this,” said Flindall.

Another group was visiting Marshall County from Indiana.

“I’ve never been here before. It’s pretty cool to see the Bassmaster guys here,” said Indiana resident and event spectator Fred Claar.

Both groups said they have seen nothing but Southern hospitality while in town.

“It seems like it’s just an awesome fishery. Everybody down here has been nice. And it‘s not crowded like you’d think it would be, and it’s just a good time down here,” said Claar.

“Everyone has been so friendly. We were speaking to one of the sheriff’s this morning. It was pretty amazing. He stopped to talk to us for about 10 minutes, and everybody’s been so friendly. It’s been very, very welcoming,” said Flindall.

Guntersville Mayor Leigh Dollar told WHNT News 19 that the three-day tournament is bringing in more than $30 million to the state of Alabama.

She said most, if not all, of the hotels in town are booked up.

Mayor Dollar also said the press after the Bassmaster Classic is also a huge benefit to the local economy, which could potentially draw in visitors long after it’s over.

For the complete article please see

48 hours of birding in Birmingham

From the article by Joe Watts on

Best known to most outsiders for the civil rights struggle, Birmingham is also known for a huge iron statue of the Roman god Vulcan, first class medical research, and, increasingly, great food. Missing any of these would be missing the heart of this Southern icon. But, with over 250 birds on the county checklist, there are excellent birds at nearly every step.

Anytime in Birmingham can offer good birding opportunities, but spring in the Magic City really is magic. Migration brings an onslaught of songbirds, some passing through as they head far north to their breeding grounds, others settling down for the season. Winter is usually least productive, and summer is, well, hot. Even in winter, though, waterfowl, from Ross’ Goose to wayward waders, can turn up nearby. In summer, nesting Anhinga are just a stone’s throw away—along with soaring Mississippi Kites. Even Roseate Spoonbills and Wood Storks have been spotted within 30 miles of the city center, though that’s outside the norm.

If flying into the Birmingham Airport, be sure to spend a little time around the edges. Loggerhead Shrike live near the airport in small numbers year-round (Check e-bird for the best spots). Wintering sparrows and Eastern Meadowlarks are also possibilities. As with many airport areas, this one hasn’t had the same growth and redevelopment that other parts of the city have seen in recent years, so don’t expect glamour.

Highlights for any visit to Birmingham include the obvious, or at least obvious to a Birmingham insider: a visit to the Civil Rights Institute, the statue of Vulcan, largest cast iron statue in the world, the Negro Southern League Museum, and Sloss Furnaces. But you can find plenty of information about these places to visit. For birding, the parks, including some very near these attractions, are the highlights.

Day One: In the city in spring

7 a.m. Grab a cup of coffee and a pastry at The Abbey in Avondale before heading to the eastern side of Birmingham for some migrant watching. Anytime during the day can be good here, but early morning offers a symphony of birdsong. Kenucky, Chestnut-sided, and Hooded Warblers get started singing early in the day, so an early wake-up call is really worth it.

Ruffner Mountain is the place to start your morning adventure. A thousand-acre park in the city of Birmingham, Ruffner Mountain has nearly 15 miles of trails, ranging from easy to challenging. Start your morning by sipping coffee (bring your own) at the treetop deck, listening to (and watching for) birds. A walk along one of the trails offers an almost immediate immersion into wilderness and a great opportunity for spring migrants continuing their northward journey, following an exhausting trip across the Gulf of Mexico. Fall brings some of those same migrants back, as Ruffner provides a good place to eat and build strength before the long flight south. Vegetation along the trails can be thick, so you will hear some birds that you never see, but whenever there are open areas, expect to find birds there as well. The park rarely seems crowded or noisy, and the birds are plentiful.

Looking for a lunch spot after exploring? Drive just 3 miles to the Irondale Cafe (made famous by the movie Fried Green Tomatoes as the WhistleStop Café) for a cafeteria-style meal, complete with, you guessed it, fried green tomatoes and hearty slices of pie.

East Lake Park makes a perfect after lunch stop. There will likely be migrants in season, but the reason to visit is the lake and the Black-crowned Night-Herons. The herons usually spend all day on the small island at the center of the lake, away from humans, but close enough to be carefully observed. Water from Roebuck Springs and Village Creek keeps this 45-acre lake full. The 100-acre park shelters the lake (and the birds) from the surrounding urban area. Mature hardwoods are home to resident songbirds, as well as winter feeding flocks of Yellow-rumped Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. Highlights are the resident Black-crowned Night-Herons and, from spring to fall, Yellow-crowned Night-Herons. Green Herons and Hooded Mergansers are frequent visitors in season. Belted Kingfishers work the lake while swallows (Barn, Rough-winged and sometimes Tree and Cliff) swoop over the water. Watch the skies for Red-tailed and Red-shouldered hawks, too.

The 67-acre Birmingham Botanical Gardens is a great place to end a long day of birding. Walk along the mostly level grounds, enjoy the beautiful blooms and watch for some of the 150 birds documented here. The Gardens is listed as one of the top attractions in Alabama for a reason. It is one of the best sites for songbirds in the Birmingham area, particularly during spring and fall migration. Concentrate on the more-natural northern end of the park, especially the Bog Gardens, the Kaul Wildflower Garden, the Fern Glade, and the paved trail loop that begins between the Wildflower Garden and the Fern Glade. You’ll almost certainly find both White-breasted and Brown-headed Nuthatches year-round, along with just about any songbird that passes through Alabama in spring.

Spend the night just across the street from the Gardens at the new Grand Bohemian Hotel Mountain Brook. The hotel is located within 5 minutes of the Birmingham Zoo and less than 15 minutes from the Vulcan Statue and Park and downtown Birmingham. Enjoy family style pizza less than a mile away at Davenports Pizza Palace, serving the same thin crust pizza for over 50 years. Enjoy a nostalgic scoop of ice cream on the way back at Mountain Brook Creamery.

Alternatively, get a head start on the next day by driving south to Oak Mountain State Park (see description under Day 2). Tent and RV camping, along with back-country camping options are available. Spend your evening deep in the woods listening to owls calling before getting up early and avoiding rush hour!

Day 2: Close by, but deep in the woods

Rise early for breakfast at Another Broken Egg or coffee and a pastry at Revelator Coffee before heading out for another day. If you spent the night at Oak Mountain, brew yourself a cup of coffee over a campfire and enjoy the birdsong from your tent-site.

Get started birding with a visit to Oak Mountain State Park, Alabama’s largest state park. With 10,000 acres of ridgeline, valleys, lakes and streams, it is just a 30-minute drive from downtown Birmingham. There are miles of roads to drive within the park, a lake you can paddle on (rentals available) and over 50 miles of trails to hike and bike. Birds abound throughout the park, but a sure spot to find them is the Alabama Wildlife Center on Terrace Drive, a 5-minute car ride from the park entrance. In addition to the many injured birds receiving care in the facility, there are multiple bird feeders that attract a multitude of songbirds. Look along the lakeshore for waders. A hike to Peavine Falls can provide some good woodland birds, but mostly provides a nice hike to enjoy the waterfall. Black-throated Green Warblers and Blue-headed Vireos breed in the highest elevations in the park – be sure you’re familiar with their songs and listen for them as you hike the ridgetops.

Break for lunch, either with a picnic in the park or by heading towards Alabaster, about 20 minutes south. Joe’s Italian has the kind of lasagna that will help you get through the rest of the day, or take a nap trying. Their Lasagna Bianca combines spicy sausage, turnip greens and a rich cream sauce into a dish you won’t soon forget. For a lighter lunch, try their tomato basil soup, but be sure to save room for one of their famous cakes.

Next, head 15 minutes south to Limestone Park, an unusual Tupelo Gum swamp that shares space with an RC aircraft club. The model aircraft is visible (and audible) most mornings, but the birds seem to have decided to accept them, and rarely react. American Coots and Pied-billed Grebes are usually common as are most hawks and both vulture species. Blue-winged Teal are usually here year-round. The real treat, though, are the Anhinga, which have nested nearby in recent years. The park has hosted Roseate Spoonbills and Wood Storks as well, though these were very uncommon sightings.

Ebenezer Swamp Ecological Preserve is another 10-minute drive west of Limestone. An upland hardwood swamp has an accessible boardwalk that leads you into the swamp. Prothonotary Warblers, Northern Parulas, Common Yellow-throats and Yellow-throated Warblers are all present spring and summer, as are Summer Tanagers, Wood Thrushes and Hooded Warblers. Barred Owls are common, as are Pileated and Red-headed Woodpeckers. Keep an eye out for beavers, a keystone species for the park. Glossy Ibis and Purple Gallinule have been seen in the park. Expecting to find them would be a mistake, but knowing that rarities are relatively common here is a reason to expect the unexpected.

Also visit:

Railroad Park: Not a traditional birding hotspot, but right in the heart of Birmingham’s developing downtown, the park is close to several of the city’s museums and offers an excellent place to enjoy a quick walk. Highlights in the park include Peregrine Falcons, Green Herons, Yellow-crowned Night-Herons and other surprises. Stroll across the street to have coffee at the Red Cat or visit the Negro Southern League Museum. Catch a minor league baseball game at Regions Field, within easy walking distance.

Avondale Park: A small, urban park, Avondale Park is at the heart of one of Birmingham’s developing entertainment venues. A brewery and a dozen restaurants are within easy walking distance of the park. What the park lacks in size and wildness, it makes up for by providing reliable Brown-headed Nuthatches and occasional rarities for the area, such as Common Loons and Ross’ Goose. The park can be birded in 30 minutes. Walking across the street for dinner at Melt, a grilled cheese sandwich restaurant, or Saw’s BBQ and a local beer at Avondale Brewery make this park an easy choice.

Moss Rock Preserve: A 349-acre nature preserve and 10 miles of trails, you may find Blue Grosbeaks, Yellow-breasted Chats, and American Woodcocks in season. The plant biodiversity found in sandstone glades within the park is surprising, with multiple rare and sensitive species. More than 140 species of birds have been recorded on the preserve.

Turkey Creek Nature Preserve: A fast-flowing stream and a series of waterfalls along with botanical diversity makes this park an outstanding spot to bird on all but the hottest days of summer. Hooded, Black-and-white, Kentucky and Pine Warblers breed here, along with Scarlet and Summer Tanagers. Watch for Louisiana Waterthrushes and Acadian Flycatchers in the warmer months. Located northeast of Birmingham, it would be easy to spend a half-day birding the park.

For the complete article please see

The best Gulf Shores experiences along Alabama’s Coastal Connection Scenic Byway

From the article by Sara Broers on

Editors note: Sara Broers experienced some of these attractions on a sponsored press trip, but all recommendations and opinions are her own.

Alabama’s Coastal Connection Scenic Byway runs along the Gulf Coast and is a unique way to explore Gulf Shores, Alabama. As you drive, you’ll find yourself immersed in history and nature.

Here are some of my favorite Gulf Shores experiences along this delightful drive.

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge

The Jeff Friend Loop Trail at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge is one of the best places in the area for bird-watching and spotting other critters. Park in the refuge’s parking lot and be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes. You will also want to bring bug spray, sunscreen, binoculars, and bottled water. Coastal development has impacted the natural habitat of the endangered Alabama beach mouse, and Bon Secour provides a home for them.

The trail, a mix of crushed limestone and a boardwalk, is 0.9 miles, relatively flat, and ADA compliant. If you plan on fishing along the way, be sure to purchase your Alabama fishing license before casting your line into the waters.

Allow 2 hours to explore this sliver of paradise. You’ll love the colorful birds that frequent the area!

Fort Morgan State Historic Site

Fort Morgan is at the tip of the peninsula that lies west of Gulf Shores and along Alabama’s Coastal Connection. This massive fort was constructed between 1819 and 1833, but what I love most about this attraction is that it offers more than just history. From the top of the fort, you can see for miles around. Beautiful beaches, a picnic area, and a boat launch are all nearby.

If you enjoy taking photos of historic spots, you will find many photo opportunities at Fort Morgan. The volunteers stationed throughout the site are available to answer all of your questions.

Plan to spend a minimum of 2 hours on-site, as you will find something interesting around every corner. The Fort Morgan grounds are open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. except on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.

I had the opportunity to fly over Fort Morgan with Beach Flight Aviation in Gulf Shores, and the area was even more beautiful from above. If you want a unique perspective, consider flying over Fort Morgan.

Mobile Bay Ferry

The Mobile Bay Ferry boards near Fort Morgan. This is one of the easiest ways to travel to Dauphin Island, which is a continuation of the scenic byway. Taking the ferry is a unique way to see a part of the Gulf Shores area that many visitors do not see. On my last trip across the bay, we spotted several jellyfish in the water.

If you have never driven your car onto a ferry, this is an experience you will want to make time for. If you want to ride the ferry and leave your car in the parking lot, you can do that as well.

The hours vary by season, so it’s important to check the website before your trip.

Gulf Shores Museum

The Gulf Shores Museum exists today because of the generosity of the local people. The museum features several permanent exhibits, including Portrait of a Fishing VillageDrawing a Line in the Sand, and Hurricanes: What You Need to Know. Rotating special exhibits are also on display.

Butterfly enthusiasts will love the museum’s butterfly garden. The garden can get quite crowded, so build some extra time into your schedule for butterfly viewing. Benches and tables are nearby, so guests can rest their feet while they observe the colorful butterflies.

Gulf State Park

Gulf State Park is home to 2 miles of pristine beaches along Alabama’s Coastal Connection Scenic Byway. There is nothing like sinking your toes into the fine, sugary sand that these beaches are known for.

At Gulf State, you can fish, bike, kayak, or canoe to your heart’s content, and picnic areas are available for when you need a lunch break. Birding and hiking are also popular in this area. If you enjoy riding Segways, the state park offers a Segway tour. Even if you’ve never ridden one, the tour guides will keep you upright and make sure that you enjoy your experience. I can attest to their patience, as they helped me quite a bit when I took this tour.

Cottages, cabins, lodges, RV campsites, and primitive campsites are all available in the park if you decide to stay the night. If you enjoy tent camping, Gulf State Park is a great place to do so, since the park is very clean and well maintained.

Kayak Fishing

Kayaking is one of the easiest ways to explore the Gulf Shores area along the scenic byway.

On my most recent visit to Gulf Shores, I had the opportunity to try kayak fishing with Whistlin’ Waters. Scott, our friendly guide, knew everything there was to know about the area and helped us maneuver our kayaks. He provided all of our fishing gear as well. I knew nothing about fishing or kayaking at the beginning of our adventure, but I still had the time of my life!

The kayaks we used were peddle kayaks, or lazy man’s kayaks, as I like to call them. The next time I hop in a kayak and need to use my arms, I might be complaining a little!


I am not into geocaching, but during my visits to Gulf Shores, I noticed that it was a popular activity along the scenic byway. Participants in this international treasure hunt flock to Alabama’s Coastal Connection in search of hidden objects at particular GPS coordinates.

Visitors of all ages can participate in this activity, and your chances of connecting with fellow geocachers are pretty good. If you’re interested in seeing what all the fuss is about, visit the Geocaching website. Participants have told me that this is a great way to explore this scenic part of Coastal Alabama.

Note that there are rules to follow when searching for these treasures. One very important one is that you do not move the cache when you find it.

Lulu’s Gulf Shores

Food is an important part of every vacation, and some of the best food in the country can be found along Alabama’s Coastal Connection Scenic Byway.

If you’re skeptical, head to Lulu’s Gulf Shores, which serves up spectacular Southern dishes. The fresh Gulf red snapper sandwich is a fan favorite, and the fried green tomatoes and tuna dip are also popular. I order the tuna dip every time I visit; a waitress insisted that I try it several years ago, and to this day, I am grateful that she did!

If you love a decadent dessert, don’t miss Lulu’s bread pudding. You’ll leave the restaurant wanting more!

Consider heading to Lulu’s for an early or late meal, since the restaurant is packed all year long. Ask to be seated along the coastal waterway for a meal with a gorgeous view.

How to make the most of your byway experience

Gulf Shores is home to one of the finest scenic byways in the country. Alabama’s Coastal Connection offers something for everyone in your party, from the birders to the foodies to the grandkids. I have driven this scenic byway several times, and I’ve experienced new things on every single visit.

That said, there are a few measures you can take to make the most of your experience. Be flexible, since volatile weather can force you to change your plans. When traveling along Alabama’s Coastal Connection, have your rain gear and jackets handy in case you need them. Memories can just as easily be made in rain boots and under an umbrella!

Alabama’s Gulf Coast is home to miles of beauty that you can only find along Alabama’s Coastal Connection. Don’t be afraid to slow down when you see something that piques your curiosity. After all, this is why you’re taking a scenic byway instead of flying down the interstate at 75 miles per hour.

For the complete article please see

These sweet, little Alabama biscuits are beloved nationwide

From the article by Bob Carlton on

Go ahead, we bet you can’t eat just one.

But try not to fill up before your dinner gets here.

To anyone who’s ever bitten into one of those addictive little cheese biscuits they serve at Jim ’N Nick’s Bar-B-Q restaurants, it’s no surprise they’ve become almost as famous as the Birmingham-based barbecue chain’s pulled pork sandwiches and coconut-cream pies.

“If you’re wearing our shirts or hats out in public and people see the Jim ’N Nick’s name, they’re like ‘cheese biscuits,’’’ company co-founder Nick Pihakis says. “It’s really cool how they became part of our identity, along with our barbecue.”

The sweet, cheesy mini-muffins come with every meal served at Jim ’N Nick’s Bar-B-Q, which has 41 locations across the South and in Colorado, including 14 restaurants in the company’s home state of Alabama, where Pihakis started the business with his father, the late Jim Pihakis, in 1985.

“People love the idea of that little gift,” Pihakis says. “That’s what people see those cheese biscuits as – it’s a little gift that they get.”

Jim ’N Nick’s started serving their now-famous biscuits sometime in the mid-1990s, Pihakis says.

“We were trying different things,” he remembers. “A lot of the barbecue restaurants were serving Texas toast, but we wanted something special and unique.”

Before he and his father opened their first Jim ’N Nick’s Bar-B-Q in a former Pasquale’s Pizza & Pasta location on Clairmont Avenue in Birmingham, Pihakis had worked for a few months at John’s Restaurant, a downtown Birmingham dining institution famous for its complimentary cornbread sticks and cinnamon rolls. “It was so cool because they would bring you these corn sticks and cinnamon rolls, so you would have something sweet and you would have your traditional Southern cornbread,” he recalls. “I really, really liked that idea.”

Pihakis thought it would be pretty cool, too, if their guests at Jim ’N Nick’s had a similar sweet-and-savory experience.

‘Tickles all of your senses’

After partnering with Wendy’s operators Mike Bodnar and Wayne Lewis to grow the Jim ’N Nick’s brand, Pihakis began experimenting with a muffin recipe, adding a little sugar here and some cheddar cheese there until he hit on the perfect blend of flavors.

“It’s got that real cheesy, rich flavor, and the sweetness,” he says. “So, it sort of tickles all of your senses.

“It’s a nice starter,” he adds. “You would think that something sweet would be something that you would have at the end of your meal, but it’s a nice starter.”

At first, though, Jim ’N Nick’s served the cheese biscuits with its dinner plates and entree salads, he says.

Then, Pihakis came up with the idea of bringing a complimentary basket of the biscuits to the table for guests to share while they waited for their meals to arrive – just like they used to do at John’s.

“We would give it to the customers when they sat down, so it’s something they got to nibble on while they were waiting on their food,” he says.

“I went to our partners and said, ‘We need to put this on the table as a true bread service for our guests.’ And they were like, ‘Give it away?’

“And I said, ‘Let me tell you, it works.’ It’s just a nice tip of the hat to say, ‘Hey, we appreciate you being here.’

“Lo and behold, that made us famous for our cheese biscuits.”

And as their business grew from a single father-and-son barbecue joint to a regional barbecue empire, so, too, did the popularity of those melt-in-your-mouth biscuits.

These days, Jim ’N Nick’s serves about 52,000 cheese biscuits a day at all its locations combined, the company estimates.

And while the Alabama Tourism Department has included the cheese biscuits on its list of “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die,” their reputation has spread well beyond the state’s borders.

‘From Maine to Alaska to Hawaii’

For fans who want to make them at home, Jim ’N Nick’s began selling the cheese biscuit mix in its restaurants about 10 or so years ago, Pihakis says, and expanded into grocery stores in 2014.

Now, the mix is in about 3,500 supermarkets throughout the Southeast, including Publix, Winn-Dixie, Walmart, Kroger and Piggly Wiggly locations, according to Joe Molay, president of JNN Retail, which distributes the mix for Jim ’N Nick’s.

The cheese biscuit mix is also available via the Jim ’N Nick’s website, and every year, Molay says, they get orders from customers in all 50 states, as well as Canada.

“It’s from Maine to Alaska to Hawaii,” Molay says. “It’s everywhere.”

Internet food sleuths have even come up with their own copycat recipes, which pop up when you Google “Jim ’N Nick’s cheese biscuits.”

While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, nothing beats the original recipe, Pihakis says.

“The best recipe you can get is you can go and buy our cheese biscuit mix,” he says. “Then you don’t have to try to figure out how to make ’em. It’s all right there.”

And who knows?

Maybe one day those sweet little biscuits that began in Alabama could even bring us world peace.

“If we took those cheese biscuits and went around the world, it would solve a lot of differences,” Pihakis says. “That’s what food does.’’

We won’t argue with that.

Now, pass those biscuits, please.

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