Great Road Trips From Donna Vissing - Mobile Bay, Alabama
By Donna Vissing
Mobile Bay offers something for everyone as a coastal destination site for relaxing weekend getaways and family vacations. With approximately 20 tourist highlights, an entertaining port to visit before embarking on a cruise with Carnival Cruise Lines and 21 golf courses that will challenge and relax the most avid golfer, Mobile Bay is a great place to book your next getaway.
However in light of this past hurricane season, most recently Hurricane Katrina, there may be unanswered tourist’s questions. “We want everyone to know we are open for business,” shared Landon Howard, VP of Tourism for Mobile Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Mobile Bay is an interesting mixture of the old and new. History is prevalent in the southern-charmed coastal destination site. And history is captured and shared with tourists throughout numerous museums scattered in the Mobile Bay area. Your “walk through history” should begin at the historic Fort Conde` Museum, a replica of the original 18th century French fort marking Mobile’s early beginnings. The Museum is now home for the Welcome Center, which can help layout your visit.
There are unique museums such as the USS ALABAMA Battleship Memorial Park, considered to be one of America’s finest military parks. The Battleship USS ALABAMA, recipient of nine Battle Stars in WWII, and the Submarine USS DRUM are both open for tourists to come on board. Within the park there are also exhibits of a Vietnam PBR River Patrol Boat, WWII tanks and 24 combat aircrafts. With a flight simulator, you can experience the feeling of soaring through imaginary skies and relive history through video presentations that will stir your patriotic spirit. Plan a day to enjoy everything the 175 acres of adventure has to offer.
Mobile Bay also hosts the Bellingrath Gardens and Home, and the Mobile Botanical Gardens. Both Gardens feature Mobile Bay’s commitment to horticulture and preserving the natural environment unique to this coastal destination. Bellingrath Gardens and Home is a warm and charming memorial to Bessie Morse Bellingrath, by her husband, Walter Duncan Bellingrath. The museum home is one of few homes in the country to feature the complete furnishings once enjoyed by the original family members. The museum showcases the priceless collections of antique furniture, porcelain, silver and glassware collected by Bessie Morse Bellingrath. But it is during spring when the flower gardens burst into color through tulips, daffodils, azaleas and manicured lawns, your visit becomes enchanting. All ages will enjoy this walk into history and appreciate the loving tribute to Bessie Morse Bellingrath.
Held each spring, the Festival of Flowers has been heralded as the premier garden event of the greater Gulf Coast. The 13th Annual Festival of Flowers has been moved to a new location due to its success and growth; the event will be held at the Providence Hospital campus March 22-26. The showcase this year will be life-sized “secret gardens”. Featuring Alabama’s finest landscape architects and garden designers, along with Randy Moberg, a guest artist presenting the “secret garden” theme through his original oil works. Men will enjoy this event as well, where they can check out the latest in lawn equipment and outdoor accents such as landscape lighting. The Festival of Flowers also celebrates its own, with Bellingrath Gardens and Home design and collection, which remains a favorite of Festival visitors.
For children, the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is always a favorite tourist attraction, and you can never beat going to the beach! Mobile Bay is lined with white, sandy beaches for those families who want to set aside the day to relax in the sun and around the Gulf Coastline.
The Mobile Bay area is the perfect coastal getaway! Ranked as “one of the top ten golf value destinations in the United States” by Golf Digest, makes this site ideal for golf enthusiasts. The Marriott’s Grand Hotel Resort, Golf Club and Spa combine relaxation with golf. The Resort is the perfect place to bring a family because there is something for everyone. Hosting a 20,000 square-foot European Spa, swimming pools, five restaurants on site, jet-skiing, a biking trail, kayaking, sailing, tennis and more, every family member will find their own way of relaxing and having fun. For the golfer, there are two courses on-site to choose from – Azalea and Dogwood Golf Courses. Both are 72 Par and feature classical architectural features, weaving around lakes, and Magnolia and Oak trees.
Other golf course choices in Mobile Bay include Magnolia Grove Golf Course, one of Robert Trent Jones Golf Courses. Considered the premier golf architect of the 20th century, Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed Magnolia Grove, along with 18 other golf courses covering Alabama, and known as the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. Magnolia Grove, along with The Crossings golf course totals 54 holes. The course captures the natural environment and provides a challenging round. With creeks, marshlands, lakes, waterfalls and hilly terrain, the course will entertain and excite any golf enthusiast. The Crossings is also home to the LPGA’s Mitchell Company Tournament of Champions.
With numerous hotel choices and price ranges, 21 golf courses, and unique tourist attractions, a full weekend of fun can be expected.
Mobile Bay is also a coastal destination for Carnival Cruise Lines. After Hurricane Katrina hit and left so many homeless, Carnival Cruise Lines responded to the need by providing several ships for use as temporary housing. Before the ships are returned to the fleet for future cruise destinations, the ships will be completely renovated and become a fresh cruise experience for visitors.
Carnival Cruise Lines is planning to leave Mobile Bay port, for the first time since Hurricane Katrina on March 27, 2006. For scheduling and booking, you can access the Carnival Cruise Lines information from www.mobilebay.org. Before embarking on a relaxing cruise to a tropical destination, arrive a few days early and enjoy time in Mobile Bay.
Meeting Planners – Points of Interest Mobile Bay Convention & Tourism make planning a conference and/or business meeting a pleasant experience. The Mobile Convention Center is conveniently located downtown. Winner of numerous architectural awards, and state-of-the-art, the Convention Center is fast becoming one of the premier centers in the country. With 100,000 square foot Exhibit Hall, 42,000 square feet of meeting rooms and ballroom/banquet facilities, along with 52,000 foot pre-function area, there is spacious room to host any sized conference. Listed as one of the top 25 Most Active Convention Centers in North America, the center offers all the amenities to help make your conference as successful as you plan it to be.
Connected to the Center via a skywalk is the Riverview Plaza Hotel. With 377 guest rooms, 11 deluxe suites, and additional meeting, banquet and exhibit room space, the Riverview is a great hotel partner for your future conference. There are additional hotel accommodations scattered throughout the city for other lodging options.
To begin planning your next conference in Mobile Bay, visit their website at www.mobilebay.org and click “Meetings & Conventions”.
Celebrating Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent, is a tradition renowned in New Orleans; but where does Mobile Bay fit into the celebration? This Christian celebration scheduled from January (the Epiphany) until Ash Wednesday, originated in Mobile Bay in 1703 by the French inhabitants. Mobile Bay is proud to continue this tradition and takes great pride in being the home of “America’s Family Mardi Gras”.
Organized by secret societies, years of planning go into making each Mardi Gras celebration exciting. One place to spend time building appreciation for the tradition is the Mobile Carnival Museum. The Museum has created a haven for families who’ve had sons and daughters crowned; a place where their gowns, robes, and finery are on exhibit for visitors to see up close. These exhibits are incredible with some of the robes costing in the tens of thousands of dollars, most custom-made by seamstresses living in Mobile Bay.
For two weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday, downtown Mobile will be overflowing with the fun and excitement surrounding this historic French-originated celebration. Parade schedules are listed on www.mobilebay.org. Beginning February 10, there will be parades the following two weekends. Starting February 16, there will be parades everyday leading up through Fat Tuesday. All the excitement associated with Mardi Gras parades will be there - including the much anticipated “throws” of candy, moon pies, doubloons and beads.
Location! Location! Location!
For assistance in planning a conference, hotel booking, vacation packaging, cruise schedules and general information on Mobile Bay, go to www.mobilebay.org or call 1.800.5.MOBILE.
Driving to Mobile Bay is an easy drive from anywhere in the south, central, Midwest and eastern part of the country.
Atlanta, GA 350 miles Birmingham, AL 280 miles Houston, TX 550 miles Jackson, MS 190 miles Memphis, TN 400 miles Montgomery, AL 150 miles Orlando, FL 550 miles Louisville, KY 621 miles Cincinnati, OH 726 miles Indianapolis, IN 735 miles St. Louis, MO 680 miles