Holiday Magic Pass Offers Discounts to Major Huntsville Holiday Activities

Visitors set their sights on Huntsville as a top destination for family travel, outdoor recreation, space history and – around this time of year – a premier vacation spot for holiday revelry.

To ease the burden for families to enjoy the wide variety of events without breaking the bank, the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), in partnership with area attractions, has released a holiday events coupon sheet providing discounts to six major holiday offerings in the Rocket City.

The free Huntsville Holiday Magic Pass is available online at huntsville.org and at the Huntsville/Madison County Visitor Center.  The Visitor Center is at 500 Church Street in downtown Huntsville and is open seven days a week. The Huntsville Holiday Magic Coupon Sheet is available to visitors and residents of Madison County.

“Although COVID-19 has affected travel and the way people are able to gather this year, Christmas is not cancelled in the Rocket City,” said Judy Ryals, president/CEO of the CVB. “Our partners are working hard to ensure guest experiences remain as safe as possible, while still keeping the magic of the season alive.

“We’re especially encouraging our locals – many of whom will be staying in town for the holidays – to get out and support these events happening right in their own backyard.”

The Huntsville Holiday Magic Pass features the following discounts:

  • $2 off admission to the Huntsville Museum of Art’s Skating in the Park
  • $2 off admission to Skate with Santa or a Winter Wonderland Skate at the Benton H. Wilcoxon Municipal Ice Complex
  • 25 percent off general admission to see Burritt on the Mountain decked out for the holidays
  • $3 off any show at the Intuitive Planetarium or general admission to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center
  • 10 percent off one store item at Harrison Brothers Hardware (excluding sale and consignment), plus free tour
  • 10 percent off the drive-through light show at the Rocket City Christmas Spectacular at Toyota Field

 To redeem the coupons, guests can either present the coupon or show the digital version on their mobile device, available online at huntsville.org/hsvmagic. Additional information on Huntsville holiday events including dates, operating hours, etc., can also be found on the Holiday Magic  page.

Turner Construction Reaches Milestone on Monroe Street Parking Garage

 Turner Construction Company has begun precast erection on the Monroe Street parking garage expansion and renovation in downtown Huntsville, the company announced Monday. The milestone signifies that vertical construction has begun.
The $14.4 million Monroe Street Parking Garage project includes the demolition of the two-story west section of the parking garage that fronts Monroe Street and the construction of a five-story parking garage with an additional entry from Clinton Avenue, containing approximately 725 parking spaces.

Construction is progressing on the Monroe Street parking garage. (Photo/Marty Sellers)

Construction began in July, with completion expected in August 2021. The City of Huntsville engaged Turner, who is collaborating on the project with Fuqua & Partners Architects and engineers SSOE GroupLBYD Engineers and Schoel Engineering.

This project is essential to the redevelopment of the Big Spring Park area, which continues to see new hotels. These include the new Autograph Collection by Marriott hotel, which will be connected to the new parking deck in the southwest corner. The Autograph joins several other hotel projects within walking distance of the nearby Von Braun Center multipurpose complex, which are being built to accommodate larger conferences and events.
“The expansion and renovation of the Monroe Street parking garage is a key project within the ongoing redevelopment of downtown Huntsville. Once completed, this piece of infrastructure will make it possible for residents and visitors to conveniently enjoy one of the many events at the Von Braun Center, Big Spring Park, or at one of the other attractions in downtown Huntsville,” Ricky Wilkinson, director of general services for the City of Huntsville, said in the statement. “The city is very appreciative of the partnership with Turner Construction Company and the rest of the project team for this project. We look forward to seeing the garage go vertical and begin to take shape.”
The garage will feature 3D-printed composite rain screen panels on the Monroe Street and Clinton Avenue entries, which will provide a modern skin for the garage, visually blending its new and old sections together with the Von Braun Center and Mars Music Hall.
“This parking deck represents a commitment to continuing Huntsville’s growth by bolstering its downtown attractions,” said Brandon Tucker, a project executive for Turner. “With start of the precast structure, the look of Big Spring Park will begin to change very quickly in the coming weeks. Turner is proud to be a part of this project with the city of Huntsville and its design partners.”
As part of the project, a parking-control system will be installed for the new entries on Monroe Street and Clinton Avenue, while existing parking control equipment at both Church Street entries will be replaced. This will bring state-of-the-art remote payment options and increased 24/7 accessibility to the deck, which previously required operation by a city employee. In addition, the deck’s new parking systems will incorporate parking integration for the forthcoming hotels, allowing parking densities to increase without taking away from the beauty of downtown Huntsville and Big Spring Park. Security cameras will also be installed at multiple locations in the new construction and the existing deck, and conduits will be created to accommodate License Plate Recognition cameras.
The existing parking deck was built in the late 1970s, and additional floors were added to the east half of the deck in 2005, which will remain standing.

Huntsville/Madison County Visitor Center Temporarily Closed

In efforts to minimize the spread of COVID-19, the Huntsville/Madison County Visitor Center, Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau administrative office, and Huntsville International Airport visitors kiosk will be closed through Wednesday to allow for a thorough deep cleaning. The Visitor Centers and administrative office will resume regular operating hours Thursday.

Visitors should visit the COVID-19 travel resource page at huntsville.org for updates on attraction closures, event cancellations and delays, travel advisories, and more.

Galaxy of Lights Opens 25th Season at Huntsville Botanical Garden this Weekend

Galaxy of Lights, an annual holiday light experience at the Huntsville Botanical Garden, will open Friday for its 25th season. Since its debut, Galaxy has become a regional holiday tradition, and this milestone year will be a tribute to the past and a celebration of new traditions to be made.

Galaxy began as a drive-through light show with 25 displays in 1996. Over the past 25 years, the event has expanded to include both walking and driving experiences in which guests explore nearly 200 light displays along a 2.5-mile route. The displays weave together holiday themes, classic characters, and scenes from the natural world.

This year, in celebration of the 25th anniversary, an immersive experience has been added to the route for Walking Nights. The experience will combine traditional light displays with modern lighting technology and special effects, resulting in a dynamic, sensory experience that transforms the Garden’s natural landscape with light.

“This is a milestone year for Galaxy of Lights, and we are thrilled to be celebrating with our community and volunteers in a really special way,” said Rebecca Turk, director of learning and public engagement at the Garden. “Galaxy has evolved greatly over the past 25 years, and this anniversary celebration will bring together the past, present, and future by introducing new elements into the Galaxy experience that guests know and love.

“It is a year to honor the past, cherish the present, and look ahead into the next 25 years of the beloved tradition that is Galaxy.”

The Galaxy of Lights experience has been adapted in accordance with health and safety guidelines from the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Safety measures include thorough cleaning procedures, health and safety training for all employees and volunteers, requirements for face coverings, social distancing protocols, and use of timed-entry tickets to manage capacity during Walking Nights.

“The Garden remains committed to the well-being of the community, and we have implemented certain adaptations for the health and safety of all guests, volunteers, and employees at Galaxy of Lights,” said Turk. “But guests should rest assured that the magic of Galaxy will be as dazzling as ever.”

Galaxy of Lights Walking Nights will take place 5:15-8:30 p.m. Friday through Nov. 25. Tickets for Walking Nights must be purchased for a designated date and entry time. Guests can bring their dogs on Dog Walking Nights, Nov. 16, 17 and 23.

Galaxy of Lights Driving Nights will take place Nov. 27 to Jan. 2, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Tickets for Driving Nights can be purchased in advance or upon arrival.

Galaxy of Lights tickets are available at the Garden front desk during regular business hours or online at hsvbg.org/galaxy. Proceeds from Galaxy of Lights go directly to support the mission activities of the Garden, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Trash Pandas to Light Up the Area with Drive-Through Christmas Spectacular

MADISON — The home of the Rocket City’s “boys of summer” has been transformed into a “Winter Wonderland.”

Hundreds of thousands of lights will be on display when the Rocket City Christmas Spectacular comes to Toyota Field this Friday through Jan. 3.

Guests can drive through the magical “Santa’s Mountain” themed light show around Toyota Field for just $25 per car. The festivities will begin at 5 p.m. nightly. Visitors will be able to simply tune into their vehicle’s radio and experience a spectacular synchronization of music and lights. Tickets can be purchased online at reserve.imclutch.com/trashpandas, or on the day of the event – credit cards and mobile pay are encouraged.

“We want to turn Toyota Field into the best holiday destination in North Alabama for years to come,” said Trash Pandas President and CEO Ralph Nelson. “Our plan is to expand and improve our Winter Wonderland year after year.”

Guests can also park their car after driving through the lights and enter the Winter Wonderland within the stadium at no additional cost. There will be holiday activities for all ages, including hot chocolate stations, cookie decorating, s’mores making, character visits, shopping, and more. The Winter Wonderland will be open through Dec. 24 during the Christmas Spectacular and 11 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

CDC and Madison County health guidelines will be followed at the Rocket City Christmas Spectacular.

Huntsville Brings Home Top Peak Awards from Alabama Mountain Lakes Association

 

GADSDEN — After taking it on the chin for most of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, North Alabama’s $3 billion tourism industry found plenty of good reasons to celebrate at the Alabama Mountain Lakes Association’s 2020 PEAK Awards.

Judy Ryals, President/CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau (left); and Jennifer Moore, vice president of Tourism for the Convention & Visitors Bureau (right); with award winners Pete Doyle, general manager of the Holiday Inn Research Park; and Marie Bostick, executive director of the Land Trust of North Alabama. (Photo/John Dersham)

Presented as part of the AMLA Annual Meeting in Gadsden, the awards recognized 11 North Alabama hospitality industry professionals and venues for their leadership despite extraordinary challenges that threatened to devastate the North Alabama tourism industry.

Five of the 11 awards went to venues based in Huntsville – including one of three President’s Awards.

Jana Kuner, public relations and customer service manager at Huntsville International Airport, received a President’s Award, presented to any person or organization whose tourism-related project created awareness or presented a positive image for North Alabama in the past year. Kuner’s role in helping stop a human trafficking incident at the airport this year earned her the recognition.

“We were honored to receive the President’s Award from Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourism this year,” said Kuner. “Even more than that, we are pleased to be able to shed more light on human trafficking and to hopefully be able to continue to make a difference by keeping our passengers safe.”

“The Peak Awards showcase the work, service, creativity and contributions of those who are leading the way in the North Alabama tourism industry,” said Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association President/CEO Tami Reist. “With the COVID-19 pandemic still looming, it has been and continues to be a challenging year for the tourism industry. This year’s winners have demonstrated a commitment … to showcase the best of North Alabama during these unprecedented times. It is a well-deserved win for each of the recipients.”

Awarded Organization of the Year, the Land Trust of North Alabama was recognized for opening its eighth nature preserve – Bethel Spring Nature Preserve in February, offering new trails for the community and visitors to explore.

“Land Trust of North Alabama was thrilled to be recognized by Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association as Organization of the Year,” said Marie Bostick, the Land Trust’s Executive Director. “North Alabama has a wealth of natural beauty and throughout this unusual and challenging year we were reminded how beneficial and rejuvenating those spaces can be.”

The Apollo 50th Anniversary Celebration at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, a multimonth series of events that culminated the week of the Apollo 11 mission was named Event of the Year.

“We are honored the Alabama Mountain Lakes Association selected the Apollo 50th Anniversary Celebration for its event of the year award,” said Pat Ammons, senior director of communications for the center. “Two years of planning went into the events that brought people from all over the world to Huntsville to celebrate Alabama’s role in putting Americans on the moon.

“It was thrilling to be able to share those accomplishments with so many.”

Pete Doyle, general manager of the Holiday Inn Research Park, brought home the Tourism Professional of the Year award. (Photo/John Dersham)

Pete Doyle, general manager of the Holiday Inn Research Park, an anchor in Huntsville’s MidCity development, brought home the Tourism Professional of the Year award. He moved to Huntsville from Nashville in 1990 to manage the former Holiday Inn Space Center on University Drive and took the helm at the larger Research Park property in 2000. He led the 195-room hotel property through a newly completed $4.5 million renovation.

He is past president of the Huntsville Lodging Association and the Huntsville/Madison County Hospitality Association and serves on the City of Huntsville Lodging Recruitment Committee.

“I am quite honored to be recognized in an industry that has been my life is very humbling and appreciated,” Doyle said. “In over 30 years of work here in Huntsville, I have witnessed massive growth to our community that seems at warp speed now. That makes it a very exciting time and it has always been my pleasure to assist and give my input when asked by either our Convention and Visitors Bureau, Von Braun Center, Chamber of Commerce or City Hall to improve our stature.”

Zenovia Stephens, center, of Black Adventure Crew was named Top North Alabama Ambassador of the Year. (Photo/John Dersham)

Zenovia Stephens of Black Adventure Crew was named Top North Alabama Ambassador of the Year. Originally from Chicago, Zenovia and her husband’s love for exploring North Alabama with their sons and finding creative ways to be adventurous at home, have her active in the community. She serves as a board member for Chaffee Elementary School PTA and a volunteer at the Southeast YMCA.

“I’m honored that my work in promoting the adventure and beauty of Alabama, and the need to diversify the great outdoors has been recognized,” Stephens said. “I’m looking forward to continuing to showcase all our state and lead in helping to change the outdoors narrative.”

AMLA is dedicated to the promotion and development of the travel industry in the 16 counties that make up the North Alabama tourism region. The membership consists of chambers of commerce, convention and visitors bureaus, attractions, campgrounds, festivals, communities, counties, golf courses, restaurants, tour operators, accommodations, vendors, financial institutions, and individuals.

Other winners were Decatur’s Cook Museum of Natural Science chosen as Attraction of the Year; Philip Formby, operations director for the Sand Mountain Park and Amphitheatre, won the Good Neighbor Award; and Haley Newton, facilities operator for Joe Wheeler State Park, won the Northern Star Award.

Maryanne Floyd, communications director for Decatur Morgan County Tourism, was named Young Professional of the Year; the Lasting Impression Award went to Scotty Kennedy, curator of the Red Bay Museum; and the Chairman’s Cup went to Fred Hunter of Absolutely Alabama.

There were two additional President’s Award winners: Hilda Smith, director of sales and events for the Hampton Inn by Hilton in Winfield, and Mindy Hanan, president/CEO of the Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Association.

(Top photo: Jana Kuner, public relations and customer service manager at Huntsville International Airport, receives a President’s Award from the Alabama Mountain Lakes Association. Photo by John Dersham)

Huntsville Named Inaugural Cohort of Tennessee RiverTowns Program

Huntsville is one of 15 Tennessee River communities selected for the Tennessee RiverTowns Program. The program is part of the Tennessee RiverLine, a new regional trail system featuring paddling, hiking and bicycling along the river’s more than 650 miles.

Huntsville applied to be a part of the Tennessee RiverTowns Program to emphasize the enjoyment of the Tennessee River. The program offers an opportunity for visitors and residents to seek out activities in communities and towns along the Tennessee River, including Huntsville.

“As Huntsville’s gateway to the Tennessee River, Ditto Landing is always encouraging residents and visitors to enjoy the river whenever they can,” said Quick. “The Tennessee RiverTowns Program will enhance this effort by providing access to activities and events in cities, towns, and communities along the river, while also encouraging visitation to Huntsville.”

Through its participation, Huntsville will leverage the program’s geographic reach and national visibility to position itself as a premier destination for outdoor tourism, recreation, and watersports.

“Outdoor recreation is one of the top tourism drivers to our area, and our access to the pristine Tennessee River at Ditto Landing is a jewel in the crown of our community’s outdoor offerings,” said Judy Ryals, president/CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We’re proud to be selected for this opportunity, and look forward to working with Ditto Landing and the RiverTowns initiative to grow our city’s reputation as a top-of-mind destination for relaxation and adventure.”

VBC Receives ConventionSouth’s Readers’ Choice Award

The Von Braun Center has received the 2020 Readers’ Choice Award from ConventionSouth, the national multimedia resource for planning events in the South. It is the third time the VBC has received the award.

“ConventionSouth readers and fans have voted to decide the best meeting sites in the South, and it is no surprise to us that Von Braun Center has been selected to receive our annual Readers’ Choice Award,” said ConventionSouth Associate Publisher Ashleigh Osborne. “The value in receiving this prestigious recognition is that it comes from the United States’ top meeting professionals who hold events in the South.

“These planners demand the highest level of customer service and quality facilities, and they have contributed in determining that Von Braun Center indeed displays the commitment to professionalism, creativity and service that they require.”

The Von Braun Center is among 380 convention and visitor bureaus, meeting facilities and hotels located across the South to receive this year’s Readers’ Choice Award, which originated in 2001. Throughout the year, meeting professionals nominated the meeting sites they believe provide exemplary service for group events. The nominated sites were then compiled onto an online ballot where meeting professionals and fans voted for the best of the best. With over 8,000 voters participating in the selection process and the highest social media interaction to date, this has been the most successful and engaging year yet!

“We are very proud to have been chosen as one of the best meeting sites in the South by the readers of ConventionSouth,” said VBC Director of Sales and Event Services Marie Arighi.  “It means so much to be chosen by our peers.  The VBC hosted over 487 events last year with over 675,000 people attending those events and we value each and every one.”

The VBC will be featured as an award recipient in the December 2020 Awards issue of ConventionSouth magazine.

Survey: 9 in 10 Support Another COVID Relief Bill to Help Distressed Businesses

Americans are concerned about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on all aspects of the economy. A new survey shows some 90 percent support Congress passing another economic stimulus bill to help distressed small businesses and employees.

The survey of 1,994registered voters was conducted Oct. 7-9 by Morning Consult and commissioned by the American Hotel & Lodging Association. It showed 89 percent agree that Congress should remain in session until reaching an agreement on an economic stimulus package. The survey has a margin of error of plus- or minus-2 percentage points.

“Millions of Americans are out of work, and thousands of small businesses are dying,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA. “It is well past time for our leaders in Washington to pass a stimulus bill to help these employees and businesses in the hardest-hit industries, including and especially, ours.

“It is unacceptable for Congress to adjourn without passing a bill.”

There is widespread concern about the effects of COVID-19 on all elements of the economy, including small businesses (93 percent very/somewhat concerned), unemployment rates (90 percent), and Americans’ own personal/family financial situation (75 percent). As Congress considers how to respond to the ongoing pandemic, voters agree on the importance of helping families (74 percent very important) and small businesses (68 percent) that are struggling.

Key findings of the survey include the following:

  • Travel and tourism most affected industry: Voters believe the travel and tourism industry was the most affected by the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 (50 percent selected travel and tourism as a top two most affected industry). Other highly affected industries include food and beverage (34 percent selected), education (26 percent), retail (19 percent), and health care (18 percent).
  • Strong support for a stimulus bill: Nine in 10 voters (90 percent) support Congress passing an economic stimulus bill to provide aid to small businesses and protect jobs that have been impacted by the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ninety-two percent of Democrats, 87 percent of independents, and 89 percent of Republicans support another economic stimulus bill.
  • No recess without relief: Nearly nine in 10 voters (89 percent) agree that Congress should remain in session until reaching an agreement on an economic stimulus package. Agreement is high among Republicans (88 percent agree), Democrats (91 percent agree), and independents alike (86 percent agree).
  • COVID>SCOTUS: 48 percent of voters say the COVID-19 pandemic is the most important issue for Congress to focus on right now, while 23 percent say the economy and jobs should be the priority. Just 5 percent name the Supreme Court vacancy as the top priority.

Survey Methodology

This poll was conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of AHLA. The survey was conducted Oct. 7-9, 2020 among a national sample of 1,994 registered voters. The interviews were conducted online, and the data were weighted to approximate a target sample of registered voters based on age, educational attainment, gender, race, and region. Results have a margin of error of plus- or minus-2 percentage points.

 

Huntsville International Airport Flying High After FAA Approves New Master Plan

After months of consulting with and gaining input from community leaders, business owners, and residents on the future of the Huntsville International Airport, a new master plan has been accepted by the Federal Aviation Administration, laying out a new blueprint for the long-term development of the region’s busiest airport.

The new master plan has several goals. Among them:

  • Provide a graphic representation of  airport features, and use anticipated land-use models to lay out any future development.
  • Establish a realistic schedule for the implementation of that proposed development along with a realistic financial plan to support it.
  • Establish a framework for a continuous planning process while taking technical, economic and environmental issues into consideration in that process.

The plan will be presented to the public while addressing relevant issues and satisfying local, state and federal regulations.

According to the FAA, a key objective of the future airport plan is to assure the effective use of airport resources to satisfy aviation demand in a financially feasible manner. The new plan is centrally focused but uses local, state and national guidelines and goals to be efficient in its development.

The project team was led by Michael Baker International, a provider of engineering and consulting services that specializes in municipal governments.

“Huntsville International Airport team members, regional leaders, local business owners, and residents in our community worked in tandem discussing and developing this long-range vision for the airport,” said Rick Tucker, Huntsville International Airport CEO. “This was a collective effort from many individuals that both care about the airport and understand that Huntsville’s economic future is tied to our airport’s success.”

Huntsville International Airport (HSV) is operated by the Port of Huntsville. It was recently named by USA Today as the No. 1 Small Airport in the U.S., and is the largest commercial airport in North Alabama, serving more than 1 million passengers annually.