Wish You Were Here
Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: May June 2013
African-American Guide To Meetings, Incentives & Traveling In The South
By: Michael Bennett


It’s a kaleidoscope of colors and natural beauty so majestic it can easily take your breath away. From its mountainous trails to sugary-white sandy beaches and pristine waterways the southern United States offers such diversity of beauty its difficult to capture with mere words. Combined with the cosmopolitan appeal of big city life and its many cultural and family-friendly attractions, the South has truly become the destination of choice for vacations and meetings.

African-American influence can be seen everywhere. From Civil Rights to music, food to recreation the Black experience is thriving. It’s the history and culture of Atlanta’s “Sweet Auburn” neighborhood to the Civil Rights memorials in Birmingham and Memphis, to the soothing sounds of New Orleans jazz and taste of Memphis barbecue, its all here for the taking.

ALABAMA
The blend of affordable outdoor recreational activities, family-friendly attractions and outstanding monuments and museums makes for one of this country’s most appealing and sought-after travel destinations.

Outer space awaits at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville. “The Rocket City” is also known for it scenic natural beauty and outdoor recreation with walking and biking trails, and golf. History comes alive along Mobile’s African-American Heritage Trail. Learn more about naval history at the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park. The Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center & Imax Theater is a great place for the entire family.

Montgomery is home to numerous African-American heritage sites, including the Rosa Parks Library and Museum, the Civil Rights Memorial and Dexter King Memorial Baptist Church. One of the best stops along the Alabama Civil Rights Trail is the legendary Tuskegee University. The National Tuskegee Airmen Museum and the Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center are a must see.

If you are looking for a great hotel property in Alabama, look no farther than PCH Resorts. Known as the Resort Collection on the Robert Trent Jones Trail, PCH has eight different properties throughout the state under the Marriott and Renaissance brand. From balconies overlooking the Tennessee River to bagpipers at sunset, to a cannon firing daily into Mobile Bay, each property offers very different world-class luxury, golfing and spa experiences.

Resorts are located in Mobile, Montgomery, Point Clear, Hoover, Prattville, Opelika and Florence.  Depending on your destination, PCH and the Resort Collection features from 90 to 405 rooms. Many come with their own meeting space such as the Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa at the Convention Center with 140,000 sq. ft. and a 1,800-seat theater. The Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza property has 373 rooms, with 44,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and is connected to the Mobile Convention Center.

BIRMINGHAM
The Birmingham Zoo, Alabama Adventure, Riverchase Galleria, McWane Science Center, the Barber MotorSports Park and the world famous Talladega Motor Speedway are just some of the places to put on your itinerary. The city is a rare combination of affordable family-friendly activities and outstanding infrastructure to support both business and leisure time pursuits. In fact, Birmingham consistently ranks among America’s most affordable destinations and is one reason for their thriving family reunion business.

There are 14,000 hotel rooms in the greater Birmingham area, the largest the 757-room Sheraton Birmingham Hotel. Many of the larger properties have their own meeting facilities and some come with kitchen facilities perfect for in room cooking options. The Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex Center (BJCC) can accommodate virtually any kind of event across four separate buildings – Arena, Concert Hall, Theatre and Exhibition Hall. The BJCC has a large central piazza for outdoor events.  The Exhibition Hall is over 220,000 sq. ft.. The facility has 60 meeting rooms – the largest can accommodate 1,950 people.

Great food is a way of life in Birmingham, so much so that last year the Alabama Department of Tourism declared 2012 the “Year of Alabama Food.” From romantic dinners to family-friendly fare it’s all here for the consumption.

Birmingham is known for its vibrant nightlife with live entertainment and theater throughout the city. In August, it’s the annual Birmingham Arts and Music Festival. Nothing evokes culture and history like Birmingham. The city has embraced the legacy of its Civil Rights through the many museums and monuments that capture those history-defining moments.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the Sixteenth Baptist Church and Kelly Ingram Park should definitely be on your itinerary. Two thousand and thirteen marks the 50-year anniversary of several key moments in the Civil Rights Movement, with numerous citywide events and observances planned.

ARKANSAS

It’s a blend of charming historic towns, bustling cities and sheer natural beauty from towering mountains and rolling hills to clear water lakes and rivers. Visitors can go whitewater rafting on the Ouachita River to prospecting for precious gems at the world’s only public diamond mine. Pine Bluff, nicknamed “The Bass Capital of the World” plays host to 30-35 bass tournaments a year. September is the popular Smoke on the Water Barbecue and Music Festival. Don’t forget the BBQ Cook-Off.

In need of a spa vacation, a trip to Hot Springs and the Hot Springs National Park and Bath House Row is the place to relax those aching muscles or indulge in a little pampering. Experience the heart-pounding rides at the Magic Springs Water and Theme Park. For a little mob history try the Gangster Museum of America, a famous hangout for some of the nation’s most notorious mobsters.

LITTLE ROCK
Situated on the Arkansas River, Little Rock is home to a thriving “New South” culture that offers a vibrant nightlife, world-class attractions and a booming dining scene with dishes from across the globe.



Little Rock is also home to one of the more defining moments in Civil Rights history – the desegregation of Central High School and the story of the Little Rock Nine. The National Historic Site Visitors Center is one of the most visited landmarks in the state. The Clinton Presidential Center and Park in the River Market District overlooking the Arkansas River includes and exact replica of President Clinton’s Oval Office, the presidential limousine and a time-line with exhibits for each year of Clinton’s presidency.

If you love the great outdoors lace up those running shows or hop on a bicycle and cruise the Arkansas River Trail. The trail features 15 miles of scenic riverfront and of the longest pedestrian and bicycle bridges in America. Little Rock is one of the most kid-friendly cities in America, with the award-winning Little Rock Zoo and the Museum of Discovery.

Sample some hometown tastes at several local brew pubs. The best known of these pubs are located in the downtown area or the River Market District. If you need a good Memorial Day celebration try Riverfest, the city’s largest festival with over 250,000 visitors over the 3-day weekend. For accommodations the DoubleTree Hotel near the Statehouse Convention Center, Riverfront Park Amphitheater and shopping districts is one of the premiere properties in Little Rock. The property features 288 rooms and 40,000 sq. ft./ of meeting space. The hotel is located adjacent to The Robinson Center – a historic conference center. The DoubleTree offers several specials and package deals throughout the year.

FLORIDA

From Pensacola to Key West; Florida and its 825 miles of pristine coastline is America’s tropical paradise, loaded with family-friendly attractions, outdoor recreation and nightlife second to none. Daytona Beach hosts this nation’s best-known NASCAR race, the Daytona 500. It’s also the home of HBCU Bethune-Cookman and the annual spring break destination of choice for African-Americans.



Jacksonville is ideal for a family outing or a romantic getaway. It’s home to the PGA Tour – and the Intracoastal waterway, the Atlantic Ocean and the majestic St Johns River – the Jacksonville Jazz Festival, the zoo, spas and so much more. A trip to Tallahassee in the fall should include a stop at a Florida A&M football game for the halftime show featuring the FAMU Marching Band. The John G. Riley Museum of African-American Culture and History is a must. Tampa is synonymous with family. Busch Gardens Tampa, Glazer Children’s Museum, Florida Aquarium, Lowry Park Zoo and the Museum of Science and Industry are just a few of the city’s well-known attractions.

Palm Beach County means golf, tennis, beaches, shopping, nightlife, art and culture. While its upscale reputation is well deserved, there are plenty of family-friendly activities at affordable prices. It’s a little something for everyone.

FORT LAUDERDALE
It’s a tradition that dates back to Emancipation for African-Americans – Ft. Lauderdale and family reunions. Today, those reunions take on an international flavor because of the city’s proximity to the Caribbean and the African Diaspora.

Ft. Lauderdale is also a premiere meeting destination for African-Americans. The 100 Black Men of America, The National Baptist Sunday School Conference, The National Black Accountants have all held conventions here and the National Urban League will hold their 2015 annual conference in the greater Fort Lauderdale area.

The 600,000-sq. ft. Broward County Convention Center is the premiere gathering spot for large or small events. This three-level facility nestled on the Intracoastal Waterway is surrounded by six hotel properties known as the Lauderdale Convention Collection. There are 2,700 hotel rooms within 1.5 miles of the Broward County Convention Center. Port Everglades is home base to several cruise lines, which makes planning a meeting-ending trip to the Caribbean or across the Atlantic a breeze.

Just two miles north of Port Everglades, visitors can enjoy a landscaped beachfront promenade with its signature white wave wall and brick paved path. Across the street are luxury hotels, shopping and dining on a 90-minute amphibious tour of quaint Las Olas Boulevard. Visitors can tour historical districts, and view mansions and yachts dotting Millionaires Row.

In March it’s the Annual Jazz in the Gardens. The 2013 event was hosted by radio personality Michael Baisden and drew over 60,000 people from the United States and Europe. Performers included; NeYo, Earth Wind & Fire and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds.

For a little nightlife and gaming Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino – Hollywood is just moments away. Former NBA great Alonzo Mourning holds his “Zo’s Summer Groove” here in mid-July. Previous performers include D.L Hughley and Dave Chapelle.



MIAMI
Miami is spectacular beaches, world-class boutiques, the trendiest hotels, clubs and restaurants. It’s state-of-the-art performing arts centers, bustling downtown, major sports venues, the 650,000+ sq. ft. Miami Beach Convention Center, two national parks, and a convergence of cultures unmatched in America.

The Greater Miami area has over 48,000 hotel rooms with many unique properties. South Beach is home to the largest collection of restored Art Deco, Art Nouveau and cutting-edge boutique hotels. And don’t forget great shopping.

Miami also has over 5,000 restaurants. If you’re looking for the most exciting, outstanding, sensuous and memorable site to hold your next meeting or need a vacation — it’s Miami.



ORLANDO
This central Florida hotspot is that rare combination of world-class meeting facilities, top hotel brands, warm weather, outdoor recreation and theme parks to satisfy your vacation or meeting needs.
The Orange County Convention Center is the nation’s second largest, comprised of two buildings connected by a 1,500-ft. open-air bridge with moving sidewalks. The facility has over 2.1 million sq. ft. of exhibition space plus 480,000 sq. ft. of function space.

Both major theme parks – Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World – contain major meeting venues. Between the two resorts there are multiple hotel properties and over one million additional sq. ft. of meeting space.

PENSACOLA
Water activities are a big part of life in Pensacola, which is exactly what you would expect when you have 52 miles of coastline, pristine rivers and the sparkling Gulf of Mexico. Visitors can jet ski in Santa Rosa Sound, learn to sail, look for dolphins in Pensacola Bay, book a charter for deep sea fishing, scuba dive or float down Backwater River or Coldwater Creek in the “Canoe Capital of the World.”



Food lovers will delight in the cuisine of this charming city from fresh sushi to Southern cuisine fusion to straight-from-the-docks seafood as you dine with the “Pensacola Celebrity Chefs” at their locally-owned restaurants.

The city boasts over 250,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Planners have four key areas to choose from to conduct their events – Pensacola Beach, Perdido Key, downtown Pensacola and the Pensacola Bay area near the National Naval Aviation Museum.  African-Americans played a critical role in settling the Pensacola area. Spend an afternoon exploring the city’s rich history on the African-American Heritage Trial.

Meeting attendees should stop in Belmont-Devillers to visit the Devillers Cultural Heritage Museum and make a pit stop at Five Sisters Blue Café for some Southern fried chicken.

GEORGIA
This state has rapidly emerged from the cradle of the Civil Rights Movement to the South’s top media destination and arguably one of the best places in America for the motion picture industry. Over 700 movies have been filmed throughout the state since 1972, from Driving Miss Daisy, to Diary of a Mad Black Woman to “42” (The Jackie Robinson Story). These films add to the aura that makes this state a premiere destination for meetings, conventions and tourism.

The best known attractions include; the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta and the Tubman Museum in Macon – the state’s largest African-American museum. For natural beauty and outdoor recreation, popular hotspots include; Chattahoochee National Forest, Okefenokee Swamp Park, Desoto Falls and the Chattooga River. Coastal Georgia’s St. Simons Island, Jekyll Islands and Sea Island are perfect for the family or a romantic escape.

ATLANTA
This community of five million is easily the South’s most cosmopolitan and thriving metro area. Atlanta has maintained its spot as the top meeting destination for African-American groups. Atlanta has more than 95,000 hotel rooms, 12,000 of which are in the downtown area within walking distance of food, shopping and meeting venues like the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC). The GWCC is the nation’s fourth largest convention center at over 3.9 million sq. ft.. Nearby attractions include the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca Cola, Centennial Olympic Park, CNN Center and Philips Arena.



MACON/BIBB
Sit on the dock next to a life-size bronze statue of music giant and Macon native Otis Redding and contemplate your day’s activities. View the 63-ft. long mural centerpiece entitled “From Africa to America” at the Tubman African-American Museum. Learn more about great Georgia athletes like Hank Aaron, Evander Holyfield, Gwen Torrence and Jackie Robinson at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, the largest state sports museum in the United States.

The historic Douglass Theatre, opened in 1921, pays tribute to African-Americans with live musical, theatrical and film performances. Otis Redding was discovered here, and the theater previously hosted Cab Calloway, Ida Cox and Bessie Smith. The city’s largest and best-known event is Macon’s International Cherry Blossom Festival in March.

SAVANNAH
Georgia’s oldest city, established in 1733, has one of the largest National Historic Landmark districts in the country with over 1,600 buildings. African-Americans played a prominent role in the settlement of Savannah. First African Baptist Church, constituted in 1777 is believed to be the oldest continually active Black congregation in North America. The church building, built in 1859, served as a sanctuary on the Underground Railroad for runaway slaves who were hidden under the floor boards.



The Beech Institute African-American Cultural Center was established in 1865 as the city’s first school built for African-Americans. Visitors can also tour the historic King-Tisdell Cottage, which serves as a museum showcasing African-American history and culture. The Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum was named in honor of the founder of Savannah’s modern day Civil Rights Movement.

For a little WWII military history head to the National Museum of the Mighty Eight Air Force. River Street, bordering the thriving river port is a nine-block brick concourse ideal for strolling and ship watching. There are more than 75 boutiques, galleries, artists’ studios, restaurants and pubs. These establishments are housed in one-time cotton warehouses. City Market is a two-block area surrounded by eclectic retail shops, art galleries, nightlife and restaurants.

EAST POINT
This quaint town is located just outside the Atlanta airport area with easy access to four major highways and the MARTA (Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) system that provides a link to the downtown Atlanta convention area.



There are several hotel properties near Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport and in East Point perfect for family reunions or meetings. Many of the select service, limited service and conference hotels near the airport offered tailored price-points for groups as well as flexible meeting and event space, complimentary shuttle service and ample motor coach parking.

Some of the larger airport/East Point hotel properties are the Crowne Plaza Airport Hotel with 378 rooms and 18,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, and the Wellesley Inn Atlanta Airport boasting 191 rooms and three meeting rooms totaling 2,700 square-feet. East Point is within five miles of over 323 restaurants. Thumbs Up Diner is an Atlanta area institution. Their corporate headquarters is in the Martin Luther King, Jr., historic district, but their East Point diner location is definitely a popular choice. Breakfast is served all day.

Other great places to satisfy your palate are: E’Van’s Bake Shop, Oz Pizza, East Point Corner Tavern, and This is It BBQ & Seafood. While access to the big city life and historical attractions of Atlanta are a mere 15 minutes away, there are plenty of things to do in East Point. Dick Lane Velodrome was built as a training facility for the 1996 Olympics, and attracts some of the best cyclists in the country. The last Saturday in April it’s the Taste of East Point where visitors enjoy music, art, and array of wines and wonderful food. There are two big carnivals in East Point. The Summer Carnival is held the 4th of July weekend, with another festival in the fall.

AUGUSTA

While its arguably best known as the host city for one of golf’s major tournaments, The Masters, Augusta’s blend of Southern charm and hospitality is worthy of a great novel. The sheer physical beauty of the “Garden City” on the banks of the Savannah River adds to its lore.

It’s a city steeped in culture and heritage. African-American heritage is celebrated at the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History, dedicated to the educator who founded the first kindergarten and nurses’ training class for Black students. The Springfield Baptist church, founded in 1787 is the oldest African-American congregation in the United States. Visitors can also explore the childhood home of President Woodrow Wilson, who lived here during the Civil War.

Augusta was the childhood home of the “God Father of Soul,” James Brown. The 8,500-seat James Brown Arena was named in his honor and a bronze statue of Brown is located on Broad Street. For meeting planners and family reunion organizers Georgia’s newest exhibition center the Augusta Trade, Exhibit and Event Center offers 38,000 sq. ft. of column-free exhibit space with plenty of nearby hotels. Outdoor activities include lots of golf, boat cruises, fishing, canoeing and kayaking.

KENTUCKY

It’s the “Horse Capital of the World,” the birthplace of Muhammad Ali and Abraham Lincoln, the home of great bourbon and two highly successful college basketball programs, including the 2013 national champion Louisville Cardinal.



In Louisville, the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs features exhibits on the important contributions of Black jockeys and trainers. The museum features over 10,000 sq. ft. of functional meeting space. The Muhammad Ali Center and the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory are premiere visitor destinations.

Lexington’s African-American Heritage Trail offers great insight into the city’s Black history. The trail symbolizes the historic passageway from the site of the 19th century slave auctions to freedom. Celebrate the living history of Kentucky Bourbon at five distilleries in and around the Lexington area. The city features numerous historic homes including the Mary Todd Lincoln House, the first in the U.S. to honor a first lady.

LOUISIANA
The Louisiana African-American Heritage Trail starts in New Orleans and winds its way through the state.

The New Orleans African-American Museum of Art, Culture and History is located in Tremé – the oldest surviving Black community in the United States. It’s just one of several historic sites throughout the Crescent City. In addition to the famous French Quarter and Mardi Gras, New Orleans hosts one of the largest cultural events in the country each July – the Essence Festival.

The Multicultural Center of the South and the Southern Museum of Art at Southern University are Shreveport and Bossier City’s top heritage sites. Among the top Bossier City attractions are the 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale AFB and the Louisiana Boardwalk.

The largest meeting facility in the region is the Shreveport-Bossier City Convention Center with over 350,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Attached is a 300-room Hilton hotel.

BATON ROUGE
Louisiana’s capital city is a treasure trove of culture, art, food and recreation. The city’s rich musical heritage is captured in events such as Baton Rouge Blues Festival and Bayou Country Fest. The city is home to the internationally famous Southern University Human Jukebox. The group is redefining the style of college bands by performing rhythm and blues, classics and impeccable drill steps. As the main campus for the nation’s largest historical Black university, the Southern University Museum of Art is a must.



For outdoors adventure BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo, Hilltop Arboretum at Louisiana State University and the swamps at Alligator Alley not only offer great activities, but each has space for meetings and receptions. Other places of note for both cultural/heritage and meetings are the Louisiana State Museum-Baton Rouge, the Louisiana Art and Science Museum; the USS Kidd docked on the banks of the Mississippi River, Old State Capitol and Old Governor’s Mansion.

A bust honoring P.B.S. Pinchback, the nation’s first Black governor during Reconstruction, sits in the front lobby of the State Capitol. The 34-story, 450-ft. high Art Deco structure is the nation’s tallest state capitol with an observation deck providing a panoramic view of the river and city below. Restaurant Week in mid-July is a great time to experience the wonderful Baton Rouge cuisine. Each Wednesday it’s the “Food Truck Wround Up,” where food trucks hit the streets of Baton Rouge choosing a different location offering a variety of Louisiana favorites.

For large meetings, the newly renovated Baton Rouge River Center, on the banks of the “Mighty Mississippi” offers 200,000 sq. ft. of space and an Arena and Theater for the Performing Arts. The 70,000-sq. ft. Exhibition Hall can be combined with the Arena to create more than 100,000 sq. ft. of contiguous exhibit space with 19 breakout rooms.

MISSISSIPPI
The state’s place in African-American history is captured through a series of trails and sites. The Mississippi Blues Trail tells the story of men and women who shaped this quintessential American art form. Sites run the gamut from city streets to cotton fields and churches. A recent addition is the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale.

Visitors can retrace the steps of civil rights workers on the Freedom Summer Trail in Hattiesburg. Gulfport features the 562-room Island View Casino Resort, the CEC & Seabee Memorial Museum and the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center.

The Black history of Natchez might surprise many. It’s the birthplace of author Richard Wright, R&B sensation Alexander O’Neal and the first African-American U.S. Senator, Hiram Rhodes Revel. Historic homes here include; the Evans Bontura House, built by free African-American businessman, Robert Smith. Grand Village of the Natchez Indian Villages captures hundreds of years of Native American history.

JACKSON
The city’s musical legacy is captured at the Jackson Rhythm and Blues Festival pre-concert in mid-July and the two-day festival itself slated for mid-August. Both events feature Rock and Roll Hall of Famers and Grammy Award winners.



Immerse yourself and your attendees in the vibrant renaissance of downtown Jackson. Discover the Jackson Convention Complex, the centerpiece of the Jackson convention district. Host an amazing Jackson, Mississippi convention with world-class amenities that include over 330,000 sq. ft. of meeting and conference space, a Crystalline, folding-glass façade, a 382-seat, state-of-the-art theater equipped with the latest technology and audiovisual capabilities as well as a 9,000-sq. ft. kitchen and catering facility.

Housing conference attendees can be a critical phase in the meeting planning process. With all the amazing hotels in the Jackson area, finding the right fit for your group will be a breeze. Well equipped with 303 rooms and full service amenities, the Jackson Marriott-Downtown is an excellent choice of lodging for meeting planners to explore. Right in the heart of downtown, this Jackson hotel’s location is perfect for the business or leisure-traveler. The property's 35,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space provides you with a variety of options, whether you will be organizing a meeting with a small group or hosting an elaborate reception.

The Farish Street Historical District, once the center of Black life is home to Ace Records, Trumpet Records studio, the Alamo Theater, Farish Street Baptist Church, the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center and Birdland – the live music venue where jazz legends, Armstrong, Ellington and Hampton performed.

The Medgar Evers Home Museum and the Margaret Walker Alexander National African-American Research Center are great places to visit.

NORTH CAROLINA
From the sunny coast to its scenic Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountain range North Carolina truly has something for everyone. In the mountains it’s hiking, golfing, whitewater rafting and rock climbing. In the winter it’s time for skiing, tubing and snowshoeing. Along the coast it’s boating, swimming and saltwater fishing.  North Carolina is home to NASCAR and arguably the best college basketball in the country.

Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts & Culture in Charlotte is a must stop for history and culture. A series of bronze statues along Parrish Street in Durham chronicles the history of an area once known as “Black Wall Street.” African-American heritage also includes a stop at Stagville, a plantation now dedicated to the preservation of African-American history.

Winston-Salem and the HBCU that bears its name is a great stop for African-American heritage attractions.



GREENSBORO
A seminal moment of the Civil Rights era occurred on February 1, 1960, when four Black North Carolina A & T University students sat down at the F.W. Woolworth “whites only” lunch counter. That act of defiance launched the sit-in movement. The International Civil Rights Center and Museum is now housed in the same building as the Woolworth store. The original lunch counter and stools are still in their same location. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday year-round. The African American Atelier Gallery provides rotational exhibits, gallery talks and artist forums from local, regional, national and international artists.

SOUTH CAROLINA
It’s “Just Right” for vacations and meetings too. From Table Rock in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains to wide sandy beaches, the Palmetto State awaits your arrival. Much of the African-American experience originated on the shores of Charleston. It is estimated that 40 percent of slaves entered the United States in Charleston. Much of the early Black experience has been preserved at Drayton Hall and the Old Slave Mart Museum.



Columbia is a robust destination with top entertainment spots like the Vista in the city’s warehouse district. For African-American history, stop at Mann-Simons Cottage, home of Celia Mann, who walked from Charleston to Columbia to gain her freedom. Myrtle Beach has ranked as a top 10 tourist destinations for decades. Popular attractions include; gambling onboard a casino cruise ship, the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Promenade, NASCAR Speedpark, golf and of course the beaches.

SENECA
Located in South Carolina’s northwest corner at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Seneca is home to the Lunney House Museum. This home has been completely restored to its 1909 appearance and open for regular visits. The home was built by Dr. William and Lillian Lunney and was occupied by Mrs. Lunney until 1969.



This Queen Anne style bungalow is registered on the National Register of Historic Places. Features of the site include; a carriage house, a “two-seater” outhouse, Victorian furnishings and period costumes. The property is close to Clemson University and several major parks and lakes. Among the many events celebrated here is Black History Month.

South Cove County Park is located on the southern shore of the 18,500-acre Lake Keowee. There are 86 campsites with three boat ramps, four tennis courts, basketball and volleyball. Seneca’s historic district features Ram Cat Alley, a pedestrian-friendly block of one-of-a-kind shops, restaurants and festivals.

On Thursdays from April to October is “Jazz on the Alley” featuring America’s touring jazz musicians. The Memorial Day weekend is synonymous with great food, rides and music at the annual Seneca Fest celebration.

TENNESSEE

Few places have the diversity of sites and sounds as the Volunteer State. Along the shores of the Mississippi River its Memphis where it’s all about Beale Street and barbeque. Head northeast from Memphis, it’s “Music City” and the Grand Ole Opry. Farther east sits the majestic Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

For a taste of Knoxville African-American history visit a 12-ft. high bronze statue of “Roots” author Alex Haley in Morningside Park. The Beck Cultural Exchange Center features a history of African-Americans from the 1800s to the present. Just blocks from the Tennessee River sits the half-million-sq. ft. Knoxville Convention Center.

The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis is a complex of museums built around the former Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated. Nashville is home to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and coming soon, the National Museum of African American Music.



CHATTANOOGA
Tucked between the mountains of Southeast Tennessee, along the Tennessee River the views of the “Scenic City” are breathtaking. The New York Times named Chattanooga one of the “45 Best Places to go” in the world. That’s high praise considering only four of those 45 were in the U.S. The other three were in California.

For a little sightseeing, take a river cruise or head to Lookout Mountain and hop on the world’s steepest passenger railway for views of the mountain, the city and Ruby Falls – a 145-ft. waterfall deep within Lookout Mountain. The Tennessee Aquarium on the banks of the Tennessee River is one of the city’s top attractions. The Aquarium recently added the “River Giants” exhibit, a collection of freshwater megafish.

The Chattanooga African American Museum and the Bessie Smith Cultural Center are great places for culture, history and the arts. The city has become the family reunion destination of choice for many and a great place for romantic getaways.

Top Chattanooga festivals include RiverRocks held in early October and Riverbend in early June. The 185,000-sq. ft. Chattanooga Convention Center is the largest meeting venue. The city features 9,000 hotel rooms and a world-class airport.

VIRGINIA

It’s a state steeped in history from Colonial Williamsburg to Jamestown to the Appomattox Court House National Historic Park. Virginia has myriad African-American sites that include: the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial and the Jackson Ward Neighborhood both in Richmond, and the site of the Nat Turner Rebellion in Southampton County.

Virginia has several HBCUs with their own historical footprint starting with the Hampton University Museum. There’s also Norfolk State and Virginia Union. One of the state’s largest recreational sites is Shenandoah National Park. The park features a 105-mile scenic Skyline Drive with hiking trails and waterfalls.

Outdoor activities are abundant from whitewater rafting on the James River to skiing at one of the mountain resorts, to hiking, biking or horseback riding on the 343-mile Virginia Creeper Trail.

NORFOLK
This modern port city nestled where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean has long been a top destination for tourists and meeting planners. One of the city’s signature events is the annual Norfolk Jazz Festival held in late July. Shelia E and Stanley Jordan are scheduled to perform in 2013.
It’s all about the water in Norfolk with fishing, boating, harbor cruising, jet skiing, crabbing and water skiing for starters.



The Attucks Theatre, a state and national landmark and is the oldest legitimate theatre in the nation that was completely financed, designed, constructed and operated by African-Americans. Built in 1919, this theatre was named after Crispus Attucks, the first American to lose his life in the Boston Massacre. The Chrysler Museum of Art has a major collection of photography chronicling the Civil Rights Movement and has event space available, as does the Attucks Theatre.

Another gathering venue is the L. Douglas Wilder Performing Arts Center at Norfolk State University. Named after the Commonwealth’s first African-American governor, the Wilder Center concert hall features state-of-the-art acoustics and three large conference rooms.

Norfolk has over 5,400 hotel rooms; 1,200 of those downtown. One of the largest hotel properties with meeting facilities is the Norfolk Waterside Marriott and Waterside Convention Center. This property has 405 guestrooms and 60,000 sq. ft. of meeting space with 23 full-size meeting rooms that can be broken down into 45 breakout rooms. The largest meeting room, the Norfolk Ballroom seats 2,400.

The Sheraton Norfolk Waterside has 445 rooms and 34,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. The Tide light rail system makes it easy for visitors to get around. If you stay in the downtown area the NET Connector – the electric trolley system can get you from place-to-place on its 2.2-mile circuit.

VIRGINIA BEACH

Sand, surf and outdoor fun are the hallmarks of this thriving beach community. The 35-miles of coastline and expansive beaches means there’s room for everyone. The 3.3-mile boardwalk along Resort Beach offers a park-like atmosphere perfect for strolling biking, running or roller-blading. Entertainment is offered nightly during the summer months with oceanfront stages at 7th, 17th, 24th and 31st Streets.



Virginia Beach is a noted spring break destination of choice for African-American college students and one of the top family reunion locales in the country. The Virginia Legends Walk is one of the leading historical attractions with tributes to Ella Fitzgerald, Arthur Ashe, Booker T. Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Edgar Allen Poe.

Meeting planners will love the LEED® Gold Certified Virginia Beach Convention Center. Just a few blocks from the ocean, this 525,000-sq. ft. facility is one of the largest on the east coast and arguably the premiere meeting venue in Virginia. There are nearly 12,000 hotel rooms citywide, with 3,500 within a two-mile radius of the convention center.

Town Center is the place to go for dining, shopping and entertainment offering many of the name brands that are familiar to us all.

WEST VIRGINIA
It’s a celebration for the ages as this proud state commemorates their 150th Birthday with a host of year-round festivities. As the only state born out of the turmoil of the Civil War, the sesquicentennial takes on a special significance. The actual date of statehood, June 20 marks a day of celebration that includes exhibits, reenactments, festivals, music and a whole lot more. There are celebrations throughout the year. For a complete list, go to http://www.birthday.wv.gov/events/Pages/default.aspx.

 

Charleston has a number of attractions chronicling the African-American experience. The Mattie V. Lee Home is the residence of the first Black female physician in the state. The Samuel Starks House was home to the nation’s first librarian.

West Virginia’s mountainous terrain makes the state a prime location for outdoor activities from hiking, whitewater rafting, fishing and horseback riding to skiing and snowboarding. Recreation areas include the Monongahela National Forest and the Greenbrier River Trail.

GETTING IN TOUCH
Alabama Tourism Department
(800) ALABAMA
www.tourism.alabama.gov
Arkansas Tourism
(800) NATURAL
www.arkansas.com
Florida Tourism and Marketing Corp
(888) 7-FLAUSA
www.visitiflorida.com
Georgia Department of Economic Development
(800) 847-4842
www.exploregeorgia.org
Kentucky Department of Tourism
(800) 225-8747
www.kentuckytourism.com
Louisiana Office of Tourism
(800) 677-4082
www.louisianatravel.com
Mississippi Division of Tourism Development
(866) SEE MISS
www.visitmississippi.org
North Carolina Division of Tourism
(800 VISIT NC
www.visitnc.com
South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism
(888) SC SMILE
www.discoversouthcarolina.com
Tennessee Department of Tourism Development
(800) GO2TENN
www.tnvacation.com
Virginia Tourism Corp.
(800) VISITVA
www.virginia.org
West Virginia Division of Tourism
(800) CALL WVA
www.wvtourism.com
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