in the neighborhood

Seeing more sights in the Southeast

By Debra Simon and Brack Johnson

There’s nothing like jumping in the car, unfolding a map and hitting the open road.

Here’s good news: You don’t have to put the pedal to the metal for long to see something sensational.

The annual Travel South Showcase, sponsored by a trade group that represents 12 Southeastern states, trumpeted lots of reasons to hit the hotspots in our region, from the bayou to the big city: culture, food, festivals, the great outdoors, music and more.

All the states, even those that suffered terrible destruction in the hurricanes, have fresh offerings for tourists this summer. Here’s a taste of what’s new in Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Virginia and West Virginia.

Click on each state or attraction name for more information.





Discover Albany PassPort Albany

If Georgia — specifically the city of Albany — is on your mind, save on all the best things to see and do with this pass.

Discount attractions include the Flint RiverQuarium, the Parks at Chehaw (a zoo), the Thronateeska Heritage Museum, the Albany Civil Rights Movement Museum and the Albany Museum of Art.

Atlantic Station Atlanta
Big scoop for those who like a trendy home: IKEA has come to the peach state.
The home-interiors store is part of a new, 12-acre, live, work and play community that has arisen on the site of a former industrial area.

Georgia Aquarium Atlanta
You’ll have no trouble finding Nemo, or any other creatures of the sea, at the world’s largest aquarium. From whale sharks to penguins, 100,000 animals represent 500 species that hail from all around the globe.

High Museum of Art Atlanta

More masterpieces than ever are on display at the High Museum of Art, where three additional buildings have more than doubled its size.

Six Flags Over Georgia Atlanta
The new monster on the block is called Goliath, a roller coaster that soars 200 feet above the park, covers 8.5 acres and travels 4,400 feet at up to 70 miles an hour.

SAM Shortline Excursion Train Blackshear
Looking for that midnight train to Georgia? Hop aboard an antique rail passenger car for a 68-mile tour through pretty countryside and historic hamlets, including Plains, hometown of President Jimmy Carter.

Blackstock Vineyards & Winery Dahlonega
The company’s new vino-making facility, built on a 1,600-foot mountain ridge, brings the number of wineries participating in Georgia’s Wine Trial to nine.

Jepson Center for the Arts Savannah
This recent addition to the venerable Telfair Museum of Art features Southern and African-American art, photography and works on paper, as well as interactive exhibits in galleries for kids.

Maritime Center St. Simons Island
For salty dogs and others with an interest in things nautical, this museum — housed in a restored 1936 U.S. Coast Guard station — offers a look at coastal Geogia’s natural assets, as well as its seafaring and military history.


Bourbon Heritage Center Bardstown
No drink is more associated with this state than bourbon. At Heaven Hill Distilleries, you can taste and tour the world’s second-largest supply of the golden spirit.

Portal 31 Coal Mine Tour and Kentucky Coal Mining Museum Benham/Lynch
Known as the “Cadillacs of Coal Camps,” these two towns show visitors artifacts from two centuries of mining in Harlan County as well as the real deal — an actual underground mine.

Beech Bend Amusement Park Bowling Green
The Kentucky Rumbler, a ride built in the tradition of the great wooden roller coasters of yore, roared out of the station for the first time last month.

Muhammad Ali Center Louisville

Offering more than the life story of a heavyweight champion, this international education and cultural center strives to promote the kind of respect, hope and understanding that inspires adults and kids to be as great as they can be.

Old Friends Equine Retirement Farm Midway
Racehorses need old-folks’ homes, too! Among the pensioned champs are 1984 Bluegrass winner Taylor’s Special and 1988 Eclipse-winning Turf Champion.

Artist Relocation Program Paducah
The city’s financial and cultural incentives are luring creative types from around the country to a 26-block historic area, which includes a $44 million performing-arts center on the riverfront.

Golf courses Statewide
State boosters are jumping up and down in their cleats about Golf Digest’s naming three courses in the Kentucky State Park system among the best new, affordable places to hit the links.


Shaw Center for the Arts Baton Rouge
This $55 million temple to creative expression includes an art museum, a theater, rehearsal space and classrooms.

It’s just a block from the Mississippi River and adjacent to the Old State Capitol building; the Louisiana Arts and Science Museum; and the military museum next to the U.S.S. Kidd, a World War II destroyer permanently docked in downtown Baton Rouge.

Louisiana Boardwalk Bossier City
Whether you want to eat, drink, shop, laugh or dance, this $150 million, riverfront development aims to be the place to be. The 50-acre project includes hotels, theaters, clubs, shops, restaurants and a marina.

Poverty Point Reservoir State Park Delhi
Everything’s fishy at this new state park in Richland Parish, which houses a marina, a store, a pier, a fish-cleaning station, a boat launch, a beachy swimming area, a water playground and overnight facilities.

L’Auberge du Lac Lake Charles
Try your luck at the tables aboard the largest single-deck riverboat in the U.S. or meander through the rest of this 227-acre resort, which also includes a 700-room hotel and conference center, a golf course and an array of retail, restaurant and entertainment options.

Atchafalaya Golf Course Patterson
It ain’t par for the course when you’re talking about links that take up 7,533 yards on 40 acres that are home to five lakes and 10 native wetland areas. This is the newest green to be added to the Audubon Golf Trail.

New Orleans

“The most important thing for the rebirth of Louisiana is the rebirth of the tourism industry,” says the head of the state’s visitors’ bureau.

New Orleans wants the world to know it’s open for business. Among the revived attractions: the French Quarter; 100 hotels; 1,000 restaurants; major urban shopping destinations; and attractions such as the Aquarium of Americas, the Imax Theater, the Audubon Zoo and Harrah’s Casino.

Evergreen and St. Joseph plantations Vacherie
Two antebellum, Mississippi River plantations between Baton Rouge and New Orleans recently re-opened to tourists, who can see both the slave cabins and the mansion.

America’s Wetland Birding Trail Statewide
Big Bird would love these big numbers: There are more than 100 sites to view 450 species of feathered friends.

The state’s circuit is a link in the Great Gulf Coast Birding Trail, which will extend from the Yucatan Peninsula clockwise around the edge of the Gulf of Mexico to the tip of southern Florida.


Casinos Biloxi
Attention, high rollers: The Imperial Palace Casino, Palace Casino and Isle of Capri Casino have reopened in this city along the Gulf of Mexico, providing gaming and entertainment 24 hours a day.

More hot tips for gamblers: Tunica’s nine casinos are open, too!

Alluvian Hotel Spa Greenwood
Park Avenue. Rodeo Drive. Downtown Greenwood?

Yes, there’s a cosmopolitan, boutique hotel deep in the Delta, and now it has an upscale spa to match. Credit the Viking Range Corp., which owns the hotel and has its headquarters in the town.

International Ballet Competition Jackson
During the summer, modern dancers descend on Durham for the American Dance Festival. Similarly, from June 17 to July 2, Jackson gets the ballerinas.

Artists from around the globe converge on this town to study, perform and see the world’s best classical performances.

The Return of Elvis Tupelo

The King’s birthplace marks the 50th anniversary of his homecoming with a re-creation of the parade and performance that highlighted his return.

The event will take place in conjunction with the Elvis Presley Festival June 2 to 4.
Also, you can feel his presence at the Elvis Presley Birthplace in Tupelo, as well as at Elvis and Priscilla Presley’s Honeymoon Cottage in the town of Horn Lake.

“Accommodations Availability” Chart Statewide
On its Web site, the state’s visitors’ bureau has provided an accommodating list of the general lodging available in major cities.

There also are links to local convention and visitors’ organizations to help tourists wondering how various areas have recovered from Hurricane Katrina.


Bryce Resort Basye
Snow: Who needs it? This hotel offers the country’s first mountain-tubing run that works without the white stuff.

The Italian-made system offers waterless tubing on special gliding mats that conjure up the same sensation as snow tubing.

Jamestown Settlement Jamestown
History comes alive when told through innovative exhibits on the early Colonial experience in America, including the founding of the first permanent English colony in 1607.

And there’s much history to explore as the city celebrates its 400th birthday next year.

George Washington’s Estate & Garden Mount Vernon
Did he really chop down that cherry tree? The Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center features 23 galleries and theater experiences that explain more about our first president than can be gleaned from a tour of his Mount Vernon home.

Toy Museum at Natural Bridge Natural Bridge
It’s model trains all grown up…way up! Here’s the world’s largest, permanently installed, multi-gauge model-railroad layout.

Norfolk History Museum Norfolk
Whether it’s a look at the decorative arts of furniture and silver or the stories of the military and the sea, the museum at the Willoughby-Baylor House serves as a cultural beacon to illuminate the history of the entire region.

American Indoor Karting Portsmouth
Fun can be found low to the ground with state-of-the-art, European-style karts that reach peak speeds of 40 mph.

Virginia Sports Hall of Fame & Museum Portsmouth

Even die-hard Carolina fans have to admit that our neighbor to the north has had its fair share of good athletes.

Some of Virginia’s greats are represented here, along with hands-on baseball, basketball, football and soccer activities, interactive games and auto-racing simulators.

Science Museum of Virginia Richmond
Float on air, drive a gyro chair, ride a Segway, serve your head on a platter, leap on a moonscape. These experiences and more are contained in three new galleries: Newton in Space, Energy Matters and Light Visions.

Virginia Historical Society Richmond
The society’s 175th anniversary on July 22 coincides with the formal opening of the Reynolds Center for Virginia Business History, which looks at commercial enterprises from the coal mines in the southwest to the bustling ports of the northeast.

Blue Ridge Vintage Car Museum Stuart
Get revved up for these classic automobiles from the early 1900s. One is reported to have been in the fleet of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Yorktown Victory Center Yorktown
“The Legacy of Yorktown: A Nation of Immigrants,” is a long-term exhibition that tells the stories of those who chose to make the commonwealth their home from the 1600s to modern times.

Plus, in October, the town celebrates the 225th anniversary of the defeat of the British.


West Virginia


Glade Springs Resort Daniels
A new hotel adds to the luxury of this southern West Virginia getaway, which features two golf courses, fly fishing, horseback riding, tennis, swimming and a spa.

Canaan Valley Resort Davis
Country roads take me home…with the help of geocaching.

Visitors to the resort can use hand-held GPS devices to explore the woods surrounding the country’s 500th national wildlife refuge.

By the way, Davis was recently named one of the country’s 10 cool small towns by Men’s Journal and USA Today.

Camden Park Huntington
You’ll go batty at this amusement park.

Not only does it feature some of the most historic roller coasters in the country, but it also houses a 5,000-square-foot interactive program, “Masters of the Night,” all about bats.

Greenbrier Resort White Sulphur Springs
The grand dame of Southern resorts has reopened to tourists the Cold-War-era bunker designed to house our nation’s leaders in the event of nuclear attack. It had remained a classified secret for decades.

The New River southern West Virginia

Whether you’re looking for a calm family outing or an adrenaline-buzzing adventure, West Virginia claims to have America’s best white water.

There are many different stretches of rapids to paddle that run with reliability. A perfect complement to the New River is the smaller, steeper and feistier Gauley River.