Stay in state this fall break
Rep. Ronald Grantland, Guest columnist
Although it may not feel like it outside, autumn is officially here. Last week marked the official end of summer, and it's hard to believe that school has been in session for nearly two months. I remember back when I was in school, class got out around Memorial Day and went back in around Labor Day. Nowadays, it seems our children have just weeks instead of months of summer vacation.
One of the byproducts of a short summer vacation is the creation of the fall break. The first week in October marks the beginning of fall break in many Alabama schools, and nearly all school systems will have a break sometime during the month. With a couple of days off from school and, hopefully, a decrease in temperature, Fall break is a great time to get out and experience all that our state has to offer.
When you think of tourist destinations, you probably think of Disney World in Florida or our nation's capital. However, you should really look at Alabama. Our state is beginning to take advantage of all the resources it has been blessed with and is creating its own homegrown tourism industry.
Tourism is very important to Alabama. According to the Alabama Department of Tourism and Travel, over 20 million people visited Alabama last year, generating $7.3 billion for the state and creating over 150,000 jobs.
Tourism also provided $548 in state and local tax revenue, which goes to fund our public schools. So by vacationing in-state, you can do your part to improve the schools for all of Alabama's children.
Probably the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about autumn is fall foliage. Luckily, Alabama has some of the best around. Beginning Oct. 1, the Department of Tourism will begin updating the leaf conditions in most of Alabama's state parks on their website.
From Wheeler Park to Cheaha Park and all across the state, Alabama's state parks are absolutely beautiful this time of year and something that everyone should take advantage of.
Early fall is also a wonderful time to experience the Alabama gulf coast. Fortunately, much of the coast escaped Hurricane Katrina with little to minor damage. All of our beaches are open for business and are nearly 100 percent operational and Mobile is rebounding as well. Although the U.S.S. Alabama is still under construction, many other events such as the National Shrimp Festival, the Mobile Bay Fest, and Bellingrath Gardens' "Octoberfest" are just a few reasons to get back down to the gulf coast.
Alabama also offers a wide variety of events for the sports enthusiast as well. The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is a series of world-renowned public golf courses throughout the state and offers first-class golf at a reasonable price. The newest addition, Ross Bridge in Birmingham, is a beautiful facility and is sure to be a delight for any golf lover. However, golf isn't the only sport that is perfect for autumn. Whether you're a serious fisherman or just looking for an enjoyable way to spend a fall afternoon, the Alabama Bass Trail presents some of the country's best fishing and a good time as well.
For the history lover, Alabama's Civil Rights Trail offers a unique insight into one of the most turbulent, yet fascinating periods in the history of the state.
The trail has just been redone and showcases marquee stops at some of the state's most famous areas of the civil rights era in Montgomery, Birmingham, Tuskegee, and Selma. In addition, the Tourism Department has just published a new brochure for the trail.
As you can see, our state has a wide variety of places and activities and many more that I haven't mentioned. For more information go to www.800alabama.com or call 1-800-Alabama. This fall break, stay in Alabama and enjoy all that it has to offer. By doing so, you can help ensure that our schools get better and our homegrown tourism continues to grow for many years to come, no matter how short the summers may be.