Courier December Courier - Page 44

COMPASS GULF COAST Because it’s ‘a very Mobile experience’ Mobile, Alabama, was one of the Gulf Coast destinations that dodged damage from the 2017 hurricanes. “We had a little flood- ing in our downtown area but it drained within hours,” says Stacy Hamilton of Visit Mobile. “There was no real damage, and everything was back to business as usual the next morning.” For Mobile, that means the business of tourism. The destina- tion boasts mild winters, warm shoulder seasons, sizzlin’ sum- mers and a boatload of things to do, starting with … boats! “Our historical downtown entertainment district is just minutes away from the Mobile Tensaw Delta, the country’s second largest waterway,” Hamilton says. “Group sightseeing tours are available by duck boats, which take you through three splashes on a memorable land and water experience.” And back on dry land, visitors can spend time in any of the city’s 17 museums, with installations and exhibits ranging from maritime history and colon ial life to Mardi Gras. “We’re the home of America’s original Mardi Gras, so a parade or two, combined with a visit to the Mobile Carnival Museum and a walking tour led by a Mardi Gras expert is a very Mobile experience,” Hamilton says. And even though Mobile lies on the southern edge of Alabama, it’s a perfect piece of a tour package. “If you’re coming from the north, a great multi-day itinerary can include an Alabama trip from Huntsville, through Muscle Shoals, Birmingham, Montgomery and ending with a stay at our beautiful beaches in Gulf Shores or Orange Beach,” says Hamilton. “Or if you’re heading west to east, New Orleans, Biloxi/Ocean Springs, Mobile to Pensacola is a great Gulf Coast trip with seafood, water activities and lots of history.” For more details, contact Patty Kieffer at pkieffer@mobile.org or visit mobile.org. In Lake Charles, Louisiana, it wasn’t tourism that was halted by hurricanes. Instead, it was the storm itself. “Thank goodness, Hurricane Harvey basi- cally stopped about 25 miles west of us,” says Anne Klenke of the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana CVB. “While we did have several residential subdivisions flood in the area, none of our tourism product was impacted by flooding from Harvey.” Klenke says she was full of sorrow for friends in neighboring Texas communities. “We in Southwest Louisiana sent prayers, assistance and sup- plies, as we know the whole country and world did.” Lake Charles, located two hours from Houston, offers visitors a multicultural experience that bridges Texas and Louisiana. “We can give your clients Cajun, Creole, cowboy, casino gaming, the great outdoors, seafood, steak, barbecue, king cake—the list goes on and on,” Klenke says. Motorcoach tours that visit the area focus on two activities: following the Creole Nature Trail and visiting the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu. The Creole Nature Trail is one of 43 scenic byways in the U.S. designated as an All-American Road. “It really connects people of all abilities with nature in its most elemental form,” Klenke says. “Right from the vehicle window they will see alli- gators—not in cages, this is where the alligators live—as well as birds galore. Over 400 different bird species are spotted in our area each year; it’s birding nirvana!” 40 December 2017 Creole, cranes and costumes She adds that step-on guides who know and love the trail are available to explain what visitors are seeing and to regale them with local stories. The Mardi Gras Museum showcases the largest collection of Mardi Gras costumes in the world. “And it’s not a behind-glass museum. You can get right up to the pieces to take photos, see the amazing amount of handwork that goes into them and even try on a headdress or two—with the docent’s per- mission, of course,” Klenke says. “My favorite thing about this museum is that people really get an understanding that Mardi Gras is not just a party; it is actually the celebration before repenting on Ash Wednesday, in preparation for Easter.” Klenke says groups need at least a day and a half to tour the area, and that the best rates for accommodations are on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights—“Mardi Gras week excluded.” For more information, contact Klenke at aklenke@visitlake charles.org or go to visitlakecharles.org.