The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather


    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower


    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships


    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

2 weeks ago

How Pursell Farms became one of the leading resort destinations in the Southeast

When you think of a weekend getaway in Alabama, what’s the first destination that comes to mind?

Maybe Gulf Shores for a weekend soaking up the sand and sea? Or some time relaxing on one of our state’s many beautiful lakes? You may even think of a bustling city like BirminghamHuntsville, or Mobile for a staycation of sorts.

But if you’ve never considered Pursell Farms in Sylacauga for a weekend away, you’ll want to add this 3,200-acre outdoor leisure resort—complete with an award-winning golf course, Orvis shooting grounds, gourmet dining options, spa, luxury accommodations, and much more—to the top of your list.



Pursell Farms is steeped in history. Even its location in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains is part of the story. Pursell Farms is located on the east side of Sulphur Mountain. On the west is Talladega Springs, a former resort town that hit its peak in the early 1900s when visitors flocked to its luxury 100-room hotel for a stay while enjoying the supposed healing powers of the area’s many sulfur springs. Today, Pursell Farms carries on the resort town tradition with its 40-room boutique inn, cottages, and cabins.

Though Pursell has evolved greatly over the years to become the upscale hospitality giant it is, its roots are a bit closer to the earth. In fact, the Pursells (who still own the business today) started in the fertilizer business in 1904. In 2002, third generation family leader David Pursell created FarmLinks, the world’s only research and demonstration golf course, that was meant to draw customers in to see the remarkable work of the family’s fertilizer firsthand. In 2006, the Pursells sold their fertilizer business and set their sights on creating a premier family farm resort based around the golf course.

What to Do

The Pursells wasted no time building upon their golf course’s reputation for excellence in outdoor sports. The farm partnered with renowned outdoor brand Orvis to create a shooting grounds for sporting clays and wingshooting, as well as a fly-fishing school. For those looking for another type of thrill, the resort offers a mountaintop UTV experience, where guests take a guided tour around the massive property and to the top of Sulphur Mountain. Families can explore the property on regular or e-bikes or on foot via almost three miles of scenic walking trails.

For those who prefer a slower-paced getaway, Spring House Spa is the ultimate destination for a relaxing massage or other specialty treatment. Once you’ve gotten out all the knots, stretch it out at Yoga on the Mountain, a complimentary yoga class held at Secret Place on Chalybeate Mountain with pastoral views overlooking the farm, the Appalachian foothills, and Lay Lake.

After a day of activity, Pursell offers several options for gourmet dining. The Clubhouse Grille, located on the golf course’s 9th hole, offers casual eats for breakfast and lunch. Arrington provides a menu of upscale farm-fresh fare with a Southern spin from Chef Joe Truex, a native of Mansura, Louisiana. In addition to a curated breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu, Chef Truex also hosts regular cooking events and classes where guests can learn from his expertise. For a nightcap or after-hours, Old Tom’s Pub is your spot. The Scottish-themed lounge and pool room offers signature cocktails and traditional drinks alongside a menu of small plates, pizzas, flatbreads, and other pub classics.

Where to Stay

The Pursell’s family land is speckled with plenty of places to call home for the weekend. From cozy cottages and rustic chic cabins perfect for friend groups and larger families, to the massive Parker Lodge ideal for reunions or retreats, and the historic Hamilton House ideal for wedding parties, there’s something for everyone.

In 2018, the resort rewrote the rules for visitors with its luxury three-story inn. Each of the Inn’s 40 rooms is full of dreamy décor and understated elegance with luxurious touches like standalone soaking tubs and plush king beds. Several of the rooms feature oversized balconies that look out onto the 18th fairway. On the bottom floor, you’ll find a resort-style pool, bocce ball courts, fire pits, and plenty of comfortable chairs ideal for sitting back and taking in the views.

The farm regularly runs “Get Out of Town” specials, so it’s even easier to plan your weekend escape.

(Courtesy of SoulGrown)

3 months ago

OWA reveals plans for new waterpark coming in 2022

OWA Indoor Waterpark (

OWA, the amusement park and entertainment destination in Foley, Alabama, has announced plans for a new waterpark coming in 2022. And the best part? It’s largely indoors, so it can be enjoyed all year long.


OWA Indoor Waterpark (


Plans include a dozen waterslides inside, spiraling around in each other in different levels of thrills. The indoor portion also includes a lazy river and a wading pool. So whether your preference is for thrilling or chilling, you have options. Let the kids play while you relax—with a tropical drink in hand—in one of the many colorful Adirondack chairs surrounding the pool. There are even plans for a TV, so you never have to miss the big game.

Outdoor waterpark (

The water park will have a 65,000-square-foot retractable roof and a retractable wall that opens to the outside part of the waterpark to allow guests to go from indoors to outdoors easily. Outside, you’ll find another large wading pool, chairs and umbrellas, a FlowRider surf machine, a large projector screen, and an entertainment stage.

Located near Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, OWA is a popular summer destination for families visiting the Gulf coast beaches. Now, they’ll be able to enjoy even more amenities year-round. Find more information here.

(Courtesy of SoulGrown)

3 months ago

Veo bikes, electric scooters now available for rent in Birmingham

(City of Birmingham, YHN)

The City of Birmingham on Friday announced that Veo shared bikes and electric scooters have launched in a wide service area that includes downtown and many neighborhoods.

The Illinois-based company has a presence in many cities around the nation, now including the Magic City.

Individuals may download the Veo app to identify available bikes and scooters and pay for rentals.

Birmingham’s Department of Transportation has established more than 90 corrals throughout the service area in the city. Veo will reportedly deploy up to 500 devices in the first 90 days of operations. Both the number of devices and service area may expand based on an assessment by the department.


Bikes will be available at any time, while scooters will be not be available from 11:00 p.m. through 6:00 a.m.

Under the city ordinance and in keeping with current traffic laws, bikes and scooters will not be allowed on sidewalks. Police officers can write citations for those who ride on the sidewalk.

Additionally, bikes and scooters should be parked in recommended parking zones established by the city and identified with signage. Users who do not park in the recommended parking zones will be charged a convenience fee by the vendor.

Scooters will have a maximum speed of 15 miles per hour. Users must be at least 19-years-old to operate Veo scooters and have a government-issued driver’s license. Parents can provide permission for a user who is age 18.

This comes after the City of Birmingham approved the applications for Veo and Gotcha powered by Bolt in November. Gotcha powered by Bolt will also begin operations in the coming weeks.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 months ago

Alabama’s Murder Creek Distillery opens location in Downtown OWA

(Murder Creek Distillery/Facebook, YHN)

Alabama’s own Murder Creek Distillery has opened its second location featuring a moonshine distillery and tasting room in Baldwin County.

After opening their first location two years ago in Riverview, Murder Creek Distillery decided to expand its audience to Coastal Alabama. The new location offers onsite tastings of their moonshine as well as complete cocktails straight from the still.

The moonshine is distilled in small batches on location using a double distillation process to ensure high purity and great taste. A family-owned business, Murder Creek Distillery’s new location can be found in Downtown OWA, which is located at the OWA amusement park in Foley.


“We pride ourselves on generating the best hand-crafted moonshines possible and creating one-of-a-kind experiences that can only be found at Murder Creek Distillery,” stated Murder Creek Distillery co-owner Micha McCall. “We are very excited to be a part of OWA. They have given us every opportunity to be successful.”

Guests can purchase a bottle at 80 proof or cut it down to 40 proof that is mixed with one of Murder Creek’s special flavors, such as the Apple Pie Moonshine or new Orange Dreamcicle Moonshine.

For more information on this new addition, visit

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 months ago

How Back Forty Beer Company helped to launch Alabama’s brewery scene

(Back Forty Beer Company Birmingham/Facebook)

About 13 years ago, making beer in Alabama was just a dream for people like Jason Wilson, whose Back Forty Beer Company would go on to help lay the foundation for today’s thriving craft-beer scene.

“I called the ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control) board and said I’d like to fill out an application for a manufacturing brewery in Alabama,” Wilson recalls. “They said, ‘Son, we’ve not given one of those out since Prohibition.’ I said the application should be short then. They said, ‘If you’re willing to try, I’m willing to send it to you.’”

Both as a fledgling beer baron and during his time as president of the Alabama Brewers’ Guild, Wilson helped push for state laws that allowed stronger beers, brewery taprooms, big bottles including growlers, and on-premise sales—all essential to the industry’s growth.


Getting started wasn’t easy for the Gadsden native. While raising capital to equip his Gadsden brewery, he had to use a Mississippi brewery to make his premiere beer, Truck Stop Honey Ale.

“They agreed to let me come down on weekends, as long as I was out by Sunday,” says the gregarious Wilson, who stepped down from daily operations in 2019, becoming chairman of Back Forty’s board and self-styled chief storyteller.

Back Forty, which sold its first beer in January 2009, opened its Gadsden brewery three years later and steadily built a seven-state distribution footprint. In 2018, a satellite brewery, taproom, restaurant, and outdoor beer garden opened in Birmingham under a licensing agreement with Doug Brown.

The Birmingham facility, near historic Sloss Furnaces, opened an expansion early this year that increases brewing capacity, adds a canning line, and provides a venue for rehearsal dinners and corporate events.

It also includes a zone for customers to enjoy special ales that are stored for months in casks, where they take on flavors from the wood. “We’re calling it the Back Forty Barrel Room,” Brown says. “We’re lining the walls with barrels aging beers.”

Brown plans other Back Forty outposts, starting with a Huntsville location that he hopes to have open in a couple of years.

The Gadsden and Birmingham breweries operate independently. Each produces the core lineup that includes Naked Pig Ale and Freckle Belly IPA. They also each produce their own seasonal and specialty beers—traditional and modern styles, and whacky-yet-it-works concepts like Peanut Butter Porter, a strong dark ale made with peanuts and peanut butter essence.

Russ Bodner, the executive chef in Birmingham, is standardizing company-wide the ingredients, recipes, and methods for making his kitchen’s popular pub food, like the Back Forty Burger and Korean Grilled Chicken Sandwich.

“When we open other locations, we’ll mirror everything—the beer menu, kitchen menu, and even the music that we play,” Brown says. “Each location will have some uniqueness but we want a common experience.”

A fifth-generation Alabamian, Wilson says he’s proud of the role breweries like his have played in fabricating Alabama’s nationally recognized food and beverage scene.

He’s seen more than four dozen Alabama breweries open since he filed that ABC application. He’s collaborated with some of the state’s best chefs, including for a dinner at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City.

“We’ve been part of an awesome culinary revolution,” he says.

Back Forty’s Flagship beers

Cart Barn Light (ABV: 4½ percent)

Pawpaw’s Peach Wheat Ale (ABV: 4½ percent)

Truckstop Honey Brown Ale (ABV: 6 percent)

Naked Pig Pale Ale (ABV: 6 percent)

Rollin in the Haze hazy IPA (ABV: 6 percent)

Bama Mosa Brut (ABV: 7 percent)

Freckle Belly IPA (ABV: 7½ percent)

(Courtesy of SoulGrown)

5 months ago

SoulGrown Alabama launches website to show off the very best of our state

(Ellis Terry/Contributed)

ALABAMA, USA — SoulGrown Alabama today announced the launch of

Until now, the popular lifestyle brand had been driven by its social media presence, especially on Instagram. Across the brand’s flagship and regional accounts, SoulGrown currently has more than 44,000 followers.

SoulGrown’s new website is expected to accelerate the already rapidly-growing, go-to source for Alabama-centric food and drink, travel, culture, living, and outdoors content.

With the mission of showcasing the very best of Alabama, SoulGrown’s website launches with an experienced team of content creators led by editor Julia Sayers Gokhale, the former editor-in-chief of Birmingham Magazine.


SoulGrown was founded by Ellis Terry out of a desire to show off the style and beauty found throughout his home state.

“Through our unique perspective on Southern culture, today SoulGrown shares the personality of Alabama with people across the world,” Terry said. “Today’s announcement is the latest in a line of strategic moves to expand SoulGrown’s reach so we can further highlight all our great state proudly has to offer in the 21st century. We continually strive to sharpen the high-quality, engaging content we offer while reaching an even wider audience; our new website will strengthen this mission.”

Businesses and other groups interested in partnering to enhance SoulGrown’s mission of showing off the best of Alabama can reach out online here.

SoulGrown’s social media handles can be accessed as follows:

SoulGrown Alabama, Instagram
SoulGrown Alabama, Facebook
SoulGrown Birmingham, Instagram
SoulGrown Tuscaloosa, Instagram
SoulGrown Montgomery, Instagram
SoulGrown Huntsville, Instagram
SoulGrown Mobile, Instagram
SoulGrown Auburn, Instagram

SoulGrown’s content is people-driven, just as Alabama is. Anyone seeking to become a content contributor (including photography) or wanting to submit story ideas should reach out here.

5 months ago

What to do on a visit to Montgomery, Alabama

(The National Memorial for Peace and Justice/Facebook)

Montgomery, Alabama, is packed with history, landmarks, and some good food to boot. The opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in 2018 has since drawn visitors from across the country (and around the world) to Montgomery. If you haven’t yet been to the memorial and its neighboring museum, consider planning a day in Alabama’s capital city using our suggested itinerary.

Here’s what to do on a visit to Montgomery:


9 a.m.: Grab coffee at Prevail Union

Montgomery’s coolest coffee shop serves up fresh-roasted, sustainably sourced coffee. Try it in classic coffee drinks like an Americana or signature flavored options like the HVR (honey, vanilla, raspberry) and Alabama Stinger. Add on a pimento cheese biscuit to fuel you for the day ahead.

10 a.m.: Visit the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum

There had never been a national memorial acknowledging victims of racial terror lynchings until this six-acre site — funded by the Equal Justice Initiative — opened in 2018. More than 4,400 African American men, women, and children were hanged, burned alive, shot, drowned, and beaten to death by white mobs between 1877 and 1950. This sobering memorial is dedicated to them. After the memorial, visit the Legacy Museum, located on the site of a former warehouse where black people were enslaved in Montgomery. The museum uses interactive media, sculpture, videography and exhibits to immerse visitors in the sights and sounds of the domestic slave trade, racial terrorism, the Jim Crow South, and the world’s largest prison system.

1 p.m.: Lunch at Martin’s

Get your fill of soul food at this long-time favorite meat-and-three. Daily menus are posted on the restaurant’s website, but you’ll notice one item is always on there: Martin’s famous fried chicken. Pair it with sides like homemade dressing, squash casserole, and turnip greens.

2 p.m.: Spend the afternoon sightseeing historic landmarks

Hop in the car and do a highlights tour of some of Montgomery’s most historic landmarks. Here are the ones you shouldn’t miss: Dexter Parsonage Museum, the home of Dr. Martin Luther King from 1954-1960. The Civil Rights Memorial, across the street from the Southern Poverty Law Center, commemorating those who lost their lives during the Civil Rights Movement. Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where Dr. King served as pastor and held many civil rights meetings. The Hank Williams Memorial at Oakwood Annex Cemetery, where Hank and his wife, mother, and sister are buried. Make sure you drive by the Governor’s Mansion and give Governor Ivey a wave!

5 p.m.: Stroll the Riverwalk

Take a sunset stroll along Montgomery’s riverfront. The paved Riverwalk path gives you views of the Gun Island Chute of the Alabama River, as well as the downtown skyline. Take note of the historic Union Station and the old train shed that now plays host to events. The path ends at Riverfront Park, where you’ll find an amphitheater and a riverboat. The Montgomery Biscuits baseball stadium is just across the street.

6 p.m.: Dinner at Central

Central consistently ranks as the best restaurant in Montgomery, offering upscale food in a casual atmosphere. Executive chef Jason McGarry uses regionally sourced ingredients to craft Southern-inspired, inventive dishes. The menu changes seasonally and with availability, but look for dishes like a Deviled Crab Cigar, Oyster Sliders, Aged Cheddar Pimento Cheese, and Alabama Gulf Crab Fried Rice.

(Additional Montgomery activities include visiting the State Capitol, the Alabama Department of Archives and History, and the Rosa Parks museum. However, all are currently closed to the public due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Please refer to their websites before planning a visit.)

Julia Sayers Gokhale is a writer and editor who has been working in the lifestyle journalism industry since 2012. She was Editor in Chief of Birmingham Magazine for five years and is now leading Yellowhammer News’ lifestyle content. Find her on Instagram at @juliasayers or email her at

5 months ago

Where to celebrate Chinese New Year in Alabama

(Tuscaloosa Mr.Chen's/Facebook)

For Chinese New Year, which is February 12, families gather from near and far to sweep out the old and ring in the new. The date is set by a lunar calendar, with each year represented by an animal. Today starts the Year of the Ox.

In Chinese culture, the new-year celebration continues for more than two weeks, ending with the Lantern Festival on the first full moon of the first month in the Chinese lunar calendar. It’s like Thanksgiving and Mardi Gras rolled into one.

Like family reunions worldwide, food plays a central role at Chinese New Year. Certain dishes symbolize luck and portend prosperity, especially when served on New Year’s Day itself (think of it as the Chinese equivalent of the Southern new-year ritual of serving black-eyed peas, greens, and ham).

Many of these symbolic foods are familiar here in Alabama.

What to eat on Chinese New Year:


Spring rolls, which are said to resemble gold bars, signify prosperity for the coming year. Their thin wrappings are made without egg (egg rolls were created in the United States), making the fried snacks crisp and golden. They are filled with seasoned meat, vegetables, or a combination.

Dumplings also are believed to foreshadow wealth in the coming year because they look like old-fashioned Chinese silver and gold ingots. The more you eat, the more money you’ll supposedly make. Served boiled, steamed, or pan-fried, they should have plenty of pleats along the seam where the filling is sealed inside — flat tops signal poverty, according to Similar to the plastic baby in a Mardi Gras King Cake, sometimes a coin is added to one of the dumplings, bringing good luck to the person who gets it.

Noodles are a symbol of longevity, and the tradition at the new year is to serve extra-long strands to slurp without cutting them.

Fish represents surplus, and those powers hit a peak when it’s steamed and served whole. Catfish and carp are considered especially auspicious, but any whole fish will fit the bill. When placed on the dinner table, the head of the fish should point toward a guest or an older relative as a sign of respect. The server utters a wish that everyone enjoys a surplus in the coming year. Don’t flip the fish when the top is picked clean; that could bring bad luck.

Other lucky foods to eat for Chinese New Year include savory cakes made from glutinous (sticky) rice, which symbolizes family togetherness, and tangerines or oranges to bring good luck in the coming year.

Where to celebrate Chinese New Year in Alabama:

If you’re going to usher in the Year of the Ox through Chinese food traditions, you’re best off seeking out restaurants that specialize in traditional Chinese food. The pandemic has left many dining rooms shuttered or at partial capacity, but they offer to-go options. Here are some traditional Chinese restaurants around Alabama, and symbolic New Year’s food they serve:

Great Wall (Birmingham): The gold standard in Birmingham, this restaurant serves a large variety of dumplings, spring rolls and creative dishes like spicy Dan Dan Noodles and whole Steamed Fish with ginger and scallions.

Red Pearl (Homewood): At this restaurant attached to an Asian market, find spring rolls; dumplings (fried, steamed, soup buns, shrimp haukay); noodles in entrees and soups; and steamed whole fish in brown sauce. A variety of whole-fish dishes are fried or sauteed as well.

Mr. Chen’s Authentic Chinese Cooking (Tuscaloosa, Montgomery, Homewood, Hoover): The multiple locations of this favorite restaurant serve spring rolls; dumplings (steamed, pan-fried, small soup bun); and noodles in entrees and soups.

Mr. Hui’s Peacock Express (Foley): Find spring rolls, dumplings, and noodles in entrees and soups.

Taste of Asia (Opelika): This restaurant’s New Year Dishes include spring rolls (vegetarian or shrimp); dumplings (steamed, fried, or soup bun); pan-fried noodle entrees; and noodle soup.

Ding How II (Huntsville): On the daily menu, you’ll find spring rolls, fried dumplings, noodle soups, and lo mein noodles. A special weekend dim sum menu includes spring rolls, steamed dumplings, fried dumplings, shiu mai dumplings, and dumplings shaped to resemble shark fins.

Eric Velasco is a freelance writer based in Birmingham. He has written for local, regional and national publications for nearly four decades, and was a longtime contributor to Birmingham Magazine. When he’s not cooking, he’s eating.

5 months ago

8 perfect Alabama date ideas for Valentine’s Day

(Photographer: Chris Granger/Alabama Tourism Department)

Treat your sweetheart to the best our state has to offer with one of these unique date ideas for Valentine’s Day.

Go for a hike


(Photographer: Chris Granger/Alabama Tourism Department)

There’s nothing more romantic than sharing a beautiful view with the one you love. Luckily, Alabama is filled with gorgeous natural features that are begging to be explored. Chase waterfalls at Little River Canyon in Fort Payne, DeSoto Falls in Mentone, or Noccalula Falls in Gadsden. If mountains are more your speed, head to Cheaha State Park or Monte Sano State Park where you can extend your day hike into a weekend away with a cabin rental or some good old-fashioned tent camping.

Spend the night at a charming B&B


With Valentine’s Day falling on a Sunday this year, a weekend getaway is an ideal way to spend the holiday. Have the quintessential Southern experience with some R&R in the renovated historic homes at Magnolia Springs near Gulf Shores or Lake Guntersville Bed & Breakfast, where you can enjoy decadent French toast with a view of the lake.

Impress your date with a gourmet pre-fixe meal

valentine's day

If going out for dinner and drinks isn’t in the cards due to COVID this year, you can still celebrate with a gourmet meal from the safety of your home. Birmingham restaurants Helen and Automatic Seafood & Oysters both are offering prix-fixe four-course meals. Helen’s is $100 for two and includes rabbit dumplings and a chocolate peanut butter tart. Automatic’s is $100 per person and features crab beignets, oysters, caviar, and poached lobster.

Sit and sip at a local vineyard

(Ozan Winery & Vineyard/Facebook)

Share a bottle of wine against the romantic backdrop of one of Alabama’s many vineyards. Ozan Vineyard & Winery near Calera is offering a socially distant Valentine’s Day Wine, Spirit, and Sweets deal where guests can choose between five wine tastings or four spirit tastings both paired with sweet treats. For something extra special, add on a train ride from the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum Depot as part of the winery’s special Valentine’s Day experience.

Pack a picnic for a garden stroll

(Bellingrath Gardens and Home/Facebook)

Wicker baskets and red-and-white checkered blankets never lose their charm. Find the perfect spot for a picnic at Bellingrath Gardens near Mobile, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, or the Huntsville Botanical Gardens. Bonus points if you source your picnic goodies from local cafes and sandwich shops.

Explore Alabama’s most romantic town

(Alabama Tourism Department/Contributed)

With streets lined with Spanish moss-draped trees and spectacular views of Mobile Bay, Fairhope is as picturesque a town as it gets. Explore downtown’s twinkle-lit Frenchmen’s Quarter where you can indulge in chocolates at Fairhope Chocolate or peruse bookshop/bar Page & Palette. Cap off a romantic weekend with a couple’s massage at The Grand Hotel’s world-class spa.

Take a cooking class 

valentine's day
(Grand Bohemian Hotel Mountain Brook, Autograph Collection/Facebook)

The only thing better than eating a delicious dinner together is cooking a delicious dinner together. While it may be difficult to attend an in-person cooking class this year, Williams & Sonoma is offering a virtual class from Top Chef Claudette Zepeda where you’ll learn to make umami-glazed roasted chicken with Peruvian potatoes and vanilla crepes spiked with pineapple vinegar cajeta. For Birmingham lovebirds, the Grand Bohemian Hotel offers Kessler cooking classes where you’ll perfect homemade pasta, gourmet tapas, or expertly grilled dishes. For oenophiles, try the hotel’s 90-minute wine blending class.

Spend Valentine’s weekend on the farm

valentine's day
(Pursell Farms/Facebook)

Spoil your valentine with a romantic weekend among the rolling hills of Pursell Farms. Stay in the newly built luxury 40-room inn, take a bike tour of the expansive grounds, and play a round of golf together. For adventurous couples, book a UTV mountain experience or an afternoon clay shooting. As part of the Valentine’s Weekend at The Farm package, you can enjoy a chef-prepared four-course dinner for two at Pursell’s signature restaurant Arrington, as well as 20 percent off treatments at the Spring House Spa.

Tara Massouleh McCay is a writer and editor based in Birmingham, Alabama. She was previously associate editor at Birmingham magazine and has been contributing to local and regional publications since 2015. She loves sports, spicy food, and above all the art of storytelling.

5 months ago

5 ways to safely celebrate Mardi Gras in Mobile this year

(mardi bras excelsior)

While many associate Mardi Gras with the revelry and debauchery of New Orleans’ Bourbon Street, the holiday actually began right here in Alabama. Mardi Gras was first celebrated in 1703 when Mobile resident Joe Cain led an impromptu parade down the port city’s streets in an attempt to bring joy to post-Civil War misery. Today, Mobile continues the 300-year tradition by hosting a family-friendly celebration that still packs the party with brilliantly colored floats, rancorous parades, and grand balls for nearly a million merrymakers each year. 

This year, Mardi Gras Day (also known as Fat Tuesday) falls on February 16. In a typical year, festivities begin early with more than 40 parades rolling through the streets of downtown in the two weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday. However, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s parade schedule has been canceled. Despite the cancellation, Mobile still plans to celebrate safely and in style. Check out our guide to having a safe and spirited Mardi Gras in Mobile this year. Laissez les bons temps rouler!


Join the Porch Parade

mardi gras in mobile
Visit Mobile/Instagram

For residents and visitors used to a jam-packed schedule of parties and parades, this year’s Mobile Porch Parade is bringing the same “good times” vibes but in a COVID-safe format. More than 300 participants have registered to dress their homes in their Mardi Gras best as part of the self-guided “parade.” The Porch Parade provides several neighborhood maps for easy planning, or you can create your own route and enjoy all the purple, green, and gold goodness from the comfort of the sidewalk, your bike, or your car. Rumor has it some homeowners have enlisted the help of local float artists to create one-of-a-kind installations for the occasion!

Pay a Visit to the Mobile Carnival Museum

mobile mardi gras
Tad Denson/Visit Mobile

With a tradition of exclusive societies and lavish displays, Mardi Gras is known for its complicated and riveting history. Get the full background on Mobile’s version by exploring the Mobile Carnival Museum. In 2005, the historic museum opened with 14 gallery rooms filled with Mardi Gras costumes and memorabilia, including gowns, robes, crowns, and scepters of previous Kings and Queens of Mobile Mardi Gras. For $5, you can wander the many rooms solo, or schedule a tour with curator Edward Ladd.

Try the Seasonal Treats

mardi gras in mobile
Pollman’s Bake Shop/Facebook

A true Mardi Gras celebration calls for the immersion of all five senses. Pollman’s Bake Shop, the first bakery in Mobile to sell king cakes, is your spot for the traditional cinnamon pastry. If you prefer your sweets in liquid form, several local coffee shops make seasonal king cake lattes and hot drinks, or you can opt for a king cake bushwhacker from Ed’s Seafood Shed. Of course, you can’t leave Mobile without indulging in the city’s own signature Mardi Gras treat, the MoonPie. Mobile is so obsessed with the spongey marshmallow sandwiches that not only are they the leading parade throw, but the city’s annual New Year celebration culminates in the dropping of a giant MoonPie from the sky. For the ultimate mash-up, head to Rouses supermarket for a MoonPie king cake. 

Cheers with a Local Beer

mardi gras in mobile
Serda Brewing/Facebook

Packing into a crowded bar isn’t a COVID-friendly Mardi Gras practice, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still get your drink on (at a safe distance!). Swap the dark dive bar for a spacious local brewery with plenty of open-air seating, and you’ve got a recipe for success. Mobile offers a growing roster of local breweries creating craft beers of all styles from hoppy IPAs to tart goses and clean lagers. For optimal outdoor space, we recommend Serda Brewing, Braided River, or Old Majestic Brewing Company. Nothing says Mardi Gras like an afternoon spent brewery hopping in the mild Alabama winter.

Get in the Spirit at Toomey’s Mardi Gras

mardi gras in mobile
Toomey’s Mardi Gras/Facebook

Ever wonder where everyone gets their crazy costumes and out-there Mardi Gras accessories? What about the millions of beads and masks? For everything under the sun related to the carnival season, look no further than Toomey’s. You could spend hours perusing the superstore’s 70,000 square feet and still not see it all. Beware: Few visitors make it out without a few trinkets and souvenirs of their own to commemorate their Mobile Mardi Gras experience.  

For more on Mobile’s 2021 Mardi Gras season, visit

Tara Massouleh McCay is a writer and editor based in Birmingham, Alabama. She was previously associate editor at Birmingham magazine and has been contributing to local and regional publications since 2015. She loves sports, spicy food, and above all the art of storytelling.

6 months ago

Celebrate National Pizza Day at the best pizza restaurants in Alabama


Today (February 9) is National Pizza Day. If you plan to celebrate the cheesy and delicious holiday, here’s our list of the best pizza restaurants in Alabama.

Post Office Pies (Birmingham)


Post Office Pies/Facebook

While cooking at top-level restaurants in New York City, chef John Hall also ran a pizza-delivery service from his apartment. Upon returning to his hometown of Birmingham, Hall co-founded Post Office Pies in 2014 with Brandon Cain and the late Mike Wilson. The original is located in — you guessed it — a former post office. A perennial favorite among Magic City pizza fans, POP recently opened a second outpost in Mountain Brook Village. Made with dough that rises for 12 hours, the pies are cooked in wood-fired ovens.
Avondale: 209 41
st St. South; Mountain Brook 270 Rele St. 

Mata’s Greek Pizza and Grinders (Anniston)


Mata and William Rodopoulos ran pizzerias for decades, first in the 1970s near Boston and then in Anniston, Alabama, starting in the 1980s. Mata’s recipes for thick-crust pies have repeatedly earned kudos on lists of the best pizza restaurants in Alabama. Daughter Linda and her husband Rick Burke took over after her parents’ passing. The restaurant makes fresh dough at least a half-dozen times daily. The Extra Special Pizza, a customer favorite, has a little bit of everything — pepperoni, ground beef, sausage, Canadian bacon, onions, green peppers, and mushrooms, all covered in white cheddar.
1708 Quintard Ave., Anniston

Midtown Pizza Kitchen (Montgomery, Prattville)

Midtown Pizza Kitchen/Facebook

Will Meachem opened the Montgomery location in 2011 (one in Prattville followed in 2015). The hearty Five Meat pizza, with pepperoni, pancetta, prosciutto, Italian sausage, and salami is their best-seller. Italian-style pizzas include the spicy Caldo e Piccante and the Genovese (pesto, mozzarella and chicken). Or build your own pie. Plenty of other Italian classics such as pastas, calzones, and Stromboli also are available in a casual, family-friendly setting.
Montgomery: 2940 Zelda Rd.; Prattville: 584 Pinnacle Place

Joe’s Pizza (Woodville)

Joe’s Pizza/Facebook

Open for nearly 20 years in the northeast Alabama town of Woodville, in Jackson County, this tiny family-run restaurant with limited seating does a brisk take-out business. The pizza menu is simple, including cheese, meat-lovers, veggie, and Hawaiian, but the hands-down favorite is the Combination Supreme with sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, green olives, black olives, and anchovies. The dough is made from scratch daily.
6582 U.S. 72 E, Woodville

Big Ed’s Pizza (Huntsville)

Big Ed’s Pizza/Facebook

Big Ed’s was founded in 1961, and longtime owner Steve Denton took over two years later. Now his children run this institution, which also has built generations of fans. Big Ed’s moved into its current location in 2019. Tomato sauce and dough (hand-tossed) is made in-house for pies like the Big 8 with pepperoni, ham, sausage, onions, mushrooms, bell pepper, and both black and green olives. The Italian and White pizzas use olive oil for a base.
255 Pratt Ave. NE Huntsville

Mater’s Pizza and Pasta Emporium (Gadsden, Albertville)

Mater’s Pizza/Contributed

Parts of Mater’s menu read like a tomato seed catalog — pizzas include Better Boy, Better Girl, and Burpee. Michele Atkins and Shelby Cochran opened the original in downtown Gadsden in 1978, and the Albertville franchise premiered in 2013. The 16-inch Better Boy (pepperoni, Italian sausage, ground beef, ham, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, olives, and extra cheese) weighs some seven pounds. You’ll seek an autograph after trying the thin-crust Celebrity, made with chicken, spinach, goat cheese, and dried cranberries.
Gadsden: 329 Locust St.; Albertville: 108 E. Main St.

Trattoria Pizza and Italian (Spanish Fort, Foley)

Trattoria Pizza/Contributed

Jill and Greg Peterson both started in the restaurant business at age 14. (Greg also is a news anchor at WPMI NBC15 in Mobile; he has been a newsman for three decades). Their signature pizza, The Trattoria, has pepperoni, bacon, sausage, ham, onion, bell pepper, black olive, mushroom, and feta cheese toppings. For a different approach, try one of the pizzas made with house-made alfredo sauce, Chicken Alfredo, Philly Steak, or Chicken Philly.
Spanish Fort: 11611 U.S. 31; Foley: 100-F South Owa Blvd.

Broadway Pizzeria (Tuscaloosa, Northport)

Broadway Pizzeria/Contributed

Friends and baseball lovers Eric Wyatt and Rob Coons opened their original wood-fired pizza restaurant on Rice Mine Road in 2002. New York is the inspiration (Wyatt and Coons are Yankees fans) for pies like the Bambino, named after baseball icon Babe Ruth, with pepperoni, sausage, ham, beef, bacon, and cheese. Most of the menu is cooked in wood-burning ovens. Gluten-free pizza is available. A second Tuscaloosa store opened in 2016; now a third location is in Northport.
Tuscaloosa: 2880 Rice Mine Rd, 5400 McFarland Blvd.; Northport: 4550 Station Circle

Carpenetti’s (Moody)


Named “Bama’s Best Pizza” this year by the Alabama Farmers Federation and the Alabama Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, fan-favorite Carpenetti’s was lauded by judges for its chewy crust and balance of sauce and cheese. Owner Frank Carpenetti, the grandson of an Italian immigrant, opened the Moody pizzeria in 1997. Check out the Spinach Alfredo stone-baked pizza. Other options include Sicilian deep dish and stuffed pies. Carpenetti’s fresh-made dough also is utilized in calzones and meat-filled rolls.
740 Park Ave. Moody

Eric Velasco is a freelance writer based in Birmingham. He has written for local, regional and national publications for nearly four decades, and was a longtime contributor to Birmingham Magazine. When he’s not cooking, he’s eating.

6 months ago

5 foods you must try from Buc-ee’s in Leeds

(Julia Sayers Gokhale/YHN)

Buc-ee’s in Leeds is now open, which means it’s time to make a visit to this Texas-sized travel center. Originally opened in Lake Jackson, Texas in 1982, Buc-ee’s has since expanded to include locations throughout Texas, Georgia, and two in Alabama (the other is in Robertsdale). In addition to being a convenient roadside stop due to its excessive number of gas pumps (more than 100 at the Leeds location) and notoriously clean bathrooms, Buc-ee’s is known for its food and snack offerings. Here are five foods you absolutely must try on a visit to Buc-ee’s.

Beaver Nuggets


buc-ee's beaver nuggets
These sweet corn snacks are the most famous of all Buc-ee’s snacks. Covered in a sweet-salty caramel-like coating, these crunchy little corn puffs are especially addicting. Try the classic on your first visit, and then venture into some other flavor variations, including sea salt caramel, white cheddar, and sweet & spicy.


If you thought you’d never see freshly smoked brisket being sliced in the middle of a gas station, think again. Like a well-oiled machine, Buc-ee’s employees slice, chop, and assemble brisket sandwiches from a centerpiece counter called the Texas Roundup station. Grab a sandwich of sliced or chopped brisket with or without pickles and onions. It’s smoky, tender, and tangy-sweet from the signature sauce. Grab a side of fresh-fried Beaver Chips to go with your sandwich. 


buc-ee's jerky
Buc-ee’s is known for its jerky, which comes in multiple types and flavors. It’s as juicy as jerky can be and just the right amount of chewy. Popular flavors include garlic, teriyaki, and mesquite.

Glazed Nuts

buc-ee's glazed nuts
Warm, sugar-coated nuts add to the fragrant smells of Buc-ee’s and make a great on-the-road snack. Grab a paper cone from under a warmer in options like cinnamon glazed almonds, cashews, and pecans.

Sizzlin’ Saltines

buc-ee's crackers
Like the classic southern snack, these party crackers kick things up a notch. The crisp saltine crackers are tossed in a tongue-burning spice mix that’s truly addictive. Spice lovers, stock up on these!

These aren’t the only snacks you’ll find in Buc-ee’s (the fudge also is a fan favorite), so when it comes to exploring it on your own, you’ll find that everything is bigger in (and from) Texas!

Julia Sayers Gokhale is a writer and editor who has been working in the lifestyle journalism industry since 2012. She was Editor in Chief of Birmingham Magazine for five years and is now leading Yellowhammer News’ lifestyle content. Find her on Instagram at @juliasayers or email her at

6 months ago

How a Huntsville family grew a compost company into a national tea retailer

(Piper & Leaf/Contributed)

It all started with compost. When Connor Knapp decided to give up a job in Antarctica to move home to Huntsville, he launched a business with his family to sell compost at the farmers market. Since Connor’s brother-in-law Caleb had been mixing teas made from ingredients in his garden and Connor had always wanted to sell something out of a Mason jar, they also decided to sell a few special tea blends. From the very first farmers market, it was clear what the true product would be: freshly mixed tea, drunk sweetened and ice cold from a Mason jar. And thus, what would eventually become Piper & Leaf was born.

“Selling compost started as a family project and hobby to create community,” Knapp says. “Long story short, we never sold any dirt while we kept selling out of tea. Our motivation has always been to bring the community together.”

Piper & Leaf started out small, selling at farmers markets in Huntsville and then eventually Birmingham. At each market, lines and lines of people showed up to get a 32-ounce Mason jar of one of Piper & Leaf’s weekly ready-to-drink flavors. As the company grew, regular customers showed up week after week with their reusable jars ready to be filled.


piper & leaf
Piper & Leaf/Contributed

In addition to tea for drinking on-site, Piper & Leaf also offered loose-leaf tea bags for sale. They began to expand their flavors steadily and now have a roster of 16 year-round flavors as well as seasonal options. Their tea leaves are sourced from tea-growing regions such as Sri Lanka, India, China, Japan, and Africa and are blended with fresh produce from Alabama farmers. Several herbs and fruits such as apples, beets, figs, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and more are sourced from the north Alabama region.

Piper & Leaf’s flagship and most popular tea blend is the Front Porch Special, a fancied-up take on the classic sweet tea. Locally sourced jasmine, spearmint, and cornflower are mixed with bergamot-infused Assam and Ceylon black tea leaves in this tea that Southern Living honored in its annual food awards in 2015.

As Piper & Leaf built a loyal following and found its place in the community, it was time for them to grow yet again. The lessons they learned from working farmers markets set the foundation for an expanded business model.

“At the farmers markets, we fortified our process and values with the importance of working together with other local businesses for the best success,” Knapp says. “We went from a disjointed but adorable weekly tent to a hard working and efficient team.”

Piper & Leaf/Contributed

In 2014, Piper & Leaf opened their first brick-and-mortar location at Lowe Mill Arts & Entertainment in Huntsville. There, they could offer items like hot loose-leaf tea, tea lattes, Italian sodas, boba tea, and more. They could further educate people on tea while also providing a space for the community to gather. After the success of that location, they went on to open a second location in Huntsville, one in Madison, and one in Birmingham.

Knapp says the goal of Piper & Leaf is to learn and grow as they work to improve and brighten the culture, health, and education of people who come in contact with their tea. They now ship and sell all of their teas nationwide via online sales (which was the core of their business in 2020 throughout the COVID-19 pandemic), as well as brew kits, boba tea kits, and tea subscription services. As they look forward to growing even more — Knapp says a mobile tea trailer to trek across the country is in the works — they will always remain driven by their family values, their desire to foster community, and their North Alabama roots.

Julia Sayers Gokhale is a writer and editor who has been working in the lifestyle journalism industry since 2012. She was Editor in Chief of Birmingham Magazine for five years and is now leading Yellowhammer News’ lifestyle content. Find her on Instagram at @juliasayers or email her at

6 months ago

Alabama-based Iron Tribe Fitness releases new PRIME program, provides semi-private training


After more than 10 years of offering group fitness classes, Iron Tribe Fitness is adding a program that offers semi-private training, giving members more tools to reach their personal nutrition, strength and fat-loss goals.

The new program, which will run in addition to current classes, is named Iron Tribe Fitness PRIME and is currently being rolled out across all Birmingham-area gyms. With exceptional coaching as the foundation of the program, PRIME gives members the opportunity to experience a one-to-four coach-member ratio, customizable training and much more.

Longtime fitness entrepreneur and Iron Tribe Fitness founder and CEO Forrest Walden said in a statement that he believes PRIME perfectly aligns with where the modern fitness industry is headed.

“We’ve listened to our members and the public and believe that PRIME will deliver an experience like none other,” Walden stated. “Iron Tribe Fitness has been a staple in the health community for a while and we will continue to offer our regular classes, but we believe PRIME offers a new, elevated experience that our current and new members will love.”


Through coaching and accountability, PRIME trainers will help members achieve improved body composition, strength, mindset and energy. Each PRIME member will reportedly get an individualized assessment, goal-setting, personalized programming, holistic training and re-testing to ensure they reach their goals. Iron Tribe Fitness believes in the PRIME program so much that they’re offering a 100% money-back guarantee if members are not satisfied.

“We’ve spent a long time perfecting PRIME and can’t wait for the community to experience this new program,” Walden advised. “If COVID-19 taught us anything, it’s that our collective health is extremely important. Our goal is to help all PRIME members experience radical changes in their health and fitness. This is an exciting time for all of us at Iron Tribe.”

Iron Tribe in recent months debuted the PRIME program to a few current members. The reviews, Walden noted, were all very positive.

“The workouts are tough, but they are laser-focused to move me toward my goals,” commented Dr. Kierstin Kennedy, a member at Iron Tribe Fitness in Homewood. “The combination of strategic programming and adaptability has led to some pretty awesome results and at a faster pace than what I was seeing without PRIME.”

For more information on the PRIME program and to book a free consult, click here.

Iron Tribe is headquartered in Birmingham, with its name paying homage to the “Iron City” where it was founded in 2008.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 months ago

Fundraiser for donation-based Alabama restaurant helps provide meals to those in need

Drexell & Honeybee's/Contributed

Drexell & Honeybee’s, a donation-based restaurant in Brewton, is holding a fundraiser to be able to continue providing meals to those in need. Musician Maxamiliano Nelson wrote a song called “I Was Hungry (and You Fed Me)” for Drexell & Honeybee’s, and is giving 100% of the proceeds of his song downloads to the restaurant.

The soul-food restaurant has always been a “pay-what-you-can” place, which means customers choose how much they want to pay for the meal, whether it’s a generous donation, a few coins, a handwritten note, or just simply a thank you. There are no prices listed anywhere on the menu or in the restaurant, so customers don’t feel pressure. Owners Lisa Thomas-McMillan and Freddie McMillan have created a safe haven where everyone knows they can come get a hot meal when they need it. To them, food is about the joy of serving others and that doesn’t come with a price tag.

However, Drexell & Honeybee’s has been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why they’re hosting a fundraiser.


“With all of our donations based on anonymity and the pandemic forcing us to offer only take-out meals, we’ve had to unfortunately stop accepting contributions as we don’t want to take the chance of someone not getting a meal because they feel embarrassed about what they can or can’t provide in these unprecedented times,” Lisa Thomas-McMillan says. “Feeding the needy has always been a higher calling for us and with this initiative, we’re hoping we can rally additional support from the community and continue delivering hot meals to those who need it most for many years to come.”

Maxamiliano Nealon is a multi-lingual, Spanish-English singer/songwriter who lives in Portland but sings with a goal of spreading hope in a troubled world. He believes in the mission of Drexell & Honeybee’s, and the song “I Was Hungry (and You Fed Me)” is an homage to it. It serves as a tribute to the spirit, charity and togetherness the restaurant has shown the community over the years. The song can be purchased for $1 and downloaded here.

Lisa and Freddie have enthusiastically embraced the song, calling it the restaurant’s theme song. As passionate music lovers themselves, they saw it as a unique opportunity to raise awareness of their mission. Living by the motto “We Feed the Need,” Drexell & Honeybee’s puts serving their community at the forefront of everything they do. Now, they’re hoping their community can help to support them.

RELATED: Lisa Thomas-McMillan is a 2020 Woman of Impact

Julia Sayers Gokhale is a writer and editor who has been working in the lifestyle journalism industry since 2012. She was Editor in Chief of Birmingham Magazine for five years and is now leading Yellowhammer News’ lifestyle content. Find her on Instagram at @juliasayers or email her at

6 months ago

Where to get locally made king cakes in Alabama

(Rachel Ishee for Edgar's Bakery/Contributed)

It’s officially Carnival season — the period of time after epiphany (January 6) and before Lent (starts Ash Wednesday) — which means Mardi Gras celebrations are beginning to kick off. And you know what goes hand in hand with Mardi Gras? King cake. No Mardi Gras would be complete without this sugary sweet delicacy topped with colorful icing. Thought to have been brought from France to New Orleans in 1870, king cake tastes like a cross between coffee cake and French pastry. Sometimes stuffed with filling and always stuffed with a plastic baby, the oval-shaped cake is iced with the colors of justice (purple), faith (green), and gold (power).  If you can’t make it to New Orleans this year, here’s where you can get locally made king cakes in Alabama.

6 Places to get King Cakes in Alabama


Edgar’s Bakery – Huntsville, Tuscaloosa, multiple locations in Birmingham

The king cake from Edgar’s Bakery has been named one of the best king cakes in the nation, according to USA Today. This popular bakery offers traditional or filled king cakes (choose from strawberry, cream cheese, or pecan praline). And the best part about Edgar’s king cakes is that they can be shipped nationwide. So if you don’t have a location near you, don’t fret, sweet goodness can still come your way!
Price: $30

Savage’s Bakery & Deli – Birmingham

Savage’s Bakery has been making their famous cookies, cakes, and pastries since 1939. It’s no surprise they also make a killer king cake. They offer a filling of traditional cinnamon or cream cheese and two sizes of the cake. Savage’s also ships nationwide.
Price: $16 (small), $21 (large)

Pollman’s Bake Shop – Mobile

Pollman’s is known as THE spot in Mobile to get a king cake. They’ve been pumping out king cakes — made fresh every day during Mardi Gras season — since 1950. In fact, they were the first bakery in Mobile to make king cakes. The thick king cakes come in three sizes and are topped with colorful sugar. Pollman’s also makes cute decorated Mardi Gras cookies. You can order Pollman’s cakes to be shipped.
Price: $16.99 (small), $18.99 (large), $32.99 (extra large)

(Angie Mosier for Hero Doughnuts/Contributed, YHN)

Hero Doughnuts & Buns – Birmingham

Hero is known for its huge, fluffy, brioche-style donuts (and handmade buns for sandwiches). In Mardi Gras season, they make king cake donuts and full king cakes (which they call King Rings). The donuts are available daily during season, and King Rings are made to order with a 48-hour notice. The cakes serve 14–16 people. This shop is the king cake hero you didn’t know you needed.
Price: $30 (King Ring)

Mason Dixon Bakery & Bistro – Huntsville

Mason Dixon Bakery is known for being a place that’s inclusive of all dietary needs and offers allergen-friendly foods and baked goods. During Carnival, they offer a traditional king cake as well as a dairy-free option for those with sensitivities. The cakes are large enough to feed 12.
Price: $35 (standard), $40 (dairy free)

Sugar Rush Donut Company — Mobile

This donut shop offers king cakes year-round, so you can get your fix anytime. Covered in a generous amount of icing and sprinkled in the traditional colored sugar, they are decadent and delicious. The donut shop also offers king cake donuts, when you want a quick fix on the run.
Price: $18.99 (small) or $24.99 (large)

Julia Sayers Gokhale is a writer and editor who has been working in the lifestyle journalism industry since 2012. She was Editor in Chief of Birmingham Magazine for five years and is now leading Yellowhammer News’ lifestyle content. Find her on Instagram at @juliasayers or email her at

6 months ago

Try this new Italian deli inside a Birmingham clothing and accessories store

A new Italian deli has opened in Birmingham — and it’s located inside Ore Mercantile, a micro-retailer offering men’s and women’s clothing, home accessories, and locally sourced items. The large store in Avondale expanded its space late last year and added Ore Deli & Bodega, offering deli sandwiches, fresh-made sides, and takeaway goods like meats, cheeses, snacks, drinks (they’ll be adding beer and wine in February), and a limited number of grocery items. Walk through racks of clothing and tables displaying local goods to the back of the store, where you’ll see a deli counter, shelves stocked with dry goods, and drink coolers lining the wall.


ore mercantile and deli
Ore Mercantile/Julia Sayers Gokhale

The menu for Ore Deli is straightforward but well executed. Choose from a variety of hot panini-like sandwiches or cold deli sandwiches. The Avondale sandwich is a nod to its neighborhood and features mortadella, capicola, provolone, shredded lettuce, tomato, red onions, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a house-blended Italian herb seasoning. The namesake Ore sandwich is hot pressed and includes smoked turkey, swiss, shaved onions, and honey bourbon barbecue sauce.

Millennials will love what’s called the “Lunchable” on the menu, a throwback to a favorite childhood school lunch. This customizable snack lunch includes 1/4 pound of meat, 1/4 pound of cheese, 1/4 pound of olives, and crackers. Grab sides to take home for later, including Italian green beans, marinated mozzarella, pasta salad, and more, all sold by the 1/2 pint, pint, or quart. And don’t forget a cannoli for dessert!

ore mercantile and deli
Ore Mercantile/Julia Sayers Gokhale

A smattering of tables inside the mercantile allows for socially distanced dining in, or you can take your sandwich to go. Pro tip: a 6-inch sandwich is more than enough (they’re huge!), but if you want a meal for now and a meal for later, go for the 12-inch. And if you’re REALLY daring, they offer a 24-inch sub! In case you’re doing the math, that’s two feet of goodness.

When you’re done with your sandwich, browse Ore Mercantile’s non-food offerings. The shop is arranged by vendor, and you’ll find booths for Original Bham, Faith Skate, Filson, Deep Creek Trading Co., Boho Vintage, and more. Other curated items also are sprinkled around the store. Alabama Peanut Company even holds real estate in Ore with a “snack bar.”

ore mercantile
Ore Mercantile/Contributed

The shopping center on Fourth Avenue South that Ore Mercantile is located in has recently undergone a revamp. Its neighbors include Puerto Rican restaurant Tropicaleo, the relocated Seasick Records, and newly-opened kombucha taproom of Harvest Roots Ferments.

Julia Sayers Gokhale is a writer and editor who has been working in the lifestyle journalism industry since 2012. She was Editor in Chief of Birmingham Magazine for five years and is now leading Yellowhammer News’ lifestyle content. Find her on Instagram at @juliasayers or email her at

7 months ago

Get fit at these 13 unique workout studios in Alabama

Noelle Connor/Contributed

New year, new you, right? Well, at least that’s what they say. You don’t need to do anything drastic, but if you’re looking to get back in a fitness routine after quarantine (most gyms have re-opened with COVID safety procedures in place), there are plenty of workout studios in Alabama ready to host you. From yoga on the beach to HIIT (high intensity interval training) boxing workouts to workouts with goats (yes, goats!), here are 12 unique workout studios in Alabama.

Combination Classes


workout studios in alabama
Maddie Moore Photo/Contributed

Burn Collective – Huntsville

This fitness studio was created as a place where women could feel safe, empowered, and free of judgment. Burn Collective’s unique method combines yoga, pilates, barre, and traditional strength-training moves to create a balanced fitness routine. Since each class is so different, you won’t have to worry about getting bored or hitting a plateau.

Mission Fitness — Mobile

This studio has two missions in mind: get fit and give back to the community. With a variety of classes from HIIT to barre to pilates to cycle, combined with killer playlists and expert instructors, Mission has something for everyone. So what about giving back? Each quarter, the studio finds a local nonprofit to partner with and highlight through different initiatives. Mission accomplished.

Three15 – Birmingham

The premise of Three15 is that you can do anything for 15 minutes. These 45-minute workouts combine 15 minutes of cycling, 15 minutes of barre, and 15 minutes of strength work. It’s a great way to get your cardio, toning, and strength training all in one place. Three15 also offers cycle-only classes for those interested.

True40 – Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Auburn

The True40 method — a mixture of cardio bursts, controlled movements, and dynamic stretching — caught on so quickly that they now have three studios in the state. The signature workout is designed for people of all ages and abilities to be able to complete. You’ll be highly empowered after this low-impact workout!


workout studios in alabama

Ignite Cycle – Birmingham

Owner Tiffany Martin created not just a cycling studio, but an emotional and empowering experience for riders at Ignite Cycle. Focused on riders finding strength in their own abilities rather than reaching a numerical value, Ignite’s classes consist of fun jams, inspirational songs, and encouragement from instructors and other riders. (Classes are currently held in an open-air covered dock due to COVID-19 precautions.)

Zoom Indoor Cycling – Huntsville

This beat-driven “cycling sanctuary” is the passion project of husband-and-wife owners Justin and Cara Goodman. Mood-boosting lights and pumping beats fuel the classes at Zoom. The goal is for riders to unlock their inner strength, transform their body, and have a euphoric fitness experience.

Yoga & Pilates

The Fitz Pilates – Huntsville

This boutique-cum-pilates studio is located in Downtown Huntsville and lives by the phrase “Be a badass with a good ass.” They teach pilates using a reformer — a machine on which you do a number of moves designed to give you a killer workout. It’s not as intimidating as it sounds! Grab a new pair of leggings or sticky socks from The Fitz’s shop side.

Glow Yoga – Gulf Shores

Get your hot yoga on Glow Yoga. The studio is heated to 80–95 degrees so you can sweat out all those toxins while getting a really good stretch. Choose your class type, from restorative deep yoga to sweaty power flow. The workout studio also is currently offering virtual yoga for those who can’t join in person.

Goat Yoga Bham – Helena (Birmingham-area)

It’s yoga, but with goats! Find your place on the mat — in the pen — and work on your downward dog as adorable little goats nose around. If you get into a flat back position on your hands and knees, they might just jump up on you. More emotionally fulfilling than calorie blasting, goat yoga is a fun way to get outside with your friends and mix up the workout routine.

Orange Beach Yoga – Orange Beach

Take your yoga to the great outdoors — and then some. Orange Beach Yoga offers yoga all over town, from yoga on the beach to paddle board yoga to yoga at the Flora-Bama. The classes are meant for any ability, so choose your location and then breathe in, breathe out.

HIIT Workouts

workout studios in alabama
Telegraph Creative/Contributed

Battle Republic – Birmingham

Now with two locations in Birmingham, Battle Republic blends boxing with HIIT moves for a well-rounded workout. You’re assigned a punching bag, and instructors take you through combinations of punches interspersed with kettle bell exercises, jumping jacks, crunches, and more.

Studio Fitness — Mobile

This women-only gym offers group fitness and training workouts geared toward, well, women. Dedicated to pushing women beyond their limits in a space where they can feel comfortable, Studio Fitness offers a broad range of classes for both beginners and workout fanatics.

sweatlocal – Huntsville

Founded by a group of certified personal trainers, sweatlocal designs workouts to create a strong and lean physique while preventing injury and over-training. With a mix of high- and low-impact classes, you’ll be able to find one that fits your routine and needs.

Julia Sayers Gokhale is a writer and editor who has been working in the lifestyle journalism industry since 2012. She was Editor in Chief of Birmingham Magazine for five years and is now leading Yellowhammer News’ lifestyle content. Find her on Instagram at @juliasayers or email her at

7 months ago

Birmingham Restaurant Week Winter Edition seeks to support local restaurants

(Info Style Advertising/Contributed, YHN)

To help combat the difficulties restaurants are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Birmingham Restaurant Week is holding its annual Winter Edition to highlight and support local restaurants. The event, which will be held January 14–31, will showcase more than 40 restaurants offering special menus for takeout or socially distanced in-person dining. Prefixed two- or three-course menus range from $5–50 and include breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. The event is a spinoff of the original Birmingham Restaurant Week (BRW), held each summer.

2020 was a hard year for the hospitality industry. Restaurants had to pivot their business models and deal with dine-in restrictions or lockdowns that forced many to close. According to the National Restaurant Association, one in six restaurants, representing close to 100,000 units, have closed either permanently or long-term. In Alabama, the leisure and hospitality industry has accounted for 49% of all jobs lost since March. This puts the state’s $9 billion restaurant economy at a severe risk as more than 75% of Alabama’s 8,620 eating and drinking locations are in danger of closing permanently amidst the ongoing pandemic.


After the 2020 summer BRW — held August 14–31 — statistics showed a 54% average increase in sales for participants vs. during recent non-BRW weeks. Tortugas Pizza, a first-time BRW participant, saw a 125% increase in sales during BRW vs. a recent non-BRW week.

Only locally owned businesses are allowed to participate in BRW, as nearly 65% of the revenue from local independent restaurants recirculates in the local economy (compared to about 30% for chains). During summer BRW, pandemic restrictions allowed restaurants to incorporate new additions, such as family-style meal options, cocktail kits, and to-go alcohol. The standard 10-day event was increased to 18 days, therefore allowing more days for patrons to partake and more opportunity for incoming sales for participating businesses.

In addition to the economic benefits, BRW also has raised more than $75,000 for local nonprofits in its 11 years of existence. Organizers donated $2,500 to the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama (CFBCA) after BRW 2020 to help aid in its mission to end hunger tomorrow.

Before and after BRW, you can support local restaurants by ordering takeout, purchasing gift cards, and lobbying for the Restaurants Act, which if passed will generate $1.8 billion economic benefit for Alabama.

Julia Sayers Gokhale is a writer and editor who has been working in the lifestyle journalism industry since 2012. She was Editor in Chief of Birmingham Magazine for five years and is now leading Yellowhammer News’ lifestyle content. Find her on Instagram at @juliasayers or email her at

7 months ago

Live local, eat local is the philosophy at Farmhouse of Springville

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

For Ryan Zargo, the chef-owner of Farmhouse of Springville, the idea of local is serious business. It’s personal, too. That’s exactly why he opened his fresh, new restaurant near where he lives.

“I’m local,” he says. “I grew up in Trussville; I live in Odenville. I’m very passionate about food, and … there’s just not a very big variety of food out in this area. … It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, just bring that variety of … fresh food to the people in this area.”

“Business has been good,” he says. “Reception from the community has been great. I’m just glad to be a part of the Springville community.”

The restaurant, just off Interstate 59, is the realization of a long-held dream for Zargo. But the chef took an interesting, detour-filled journey to get where he is today.


Just out of high school, Zargo tried out for a semipro baseball team. He spent time in south Florida playing ball until a shoulder injury cut short that career. After rehabbing that injury, he joined the Marine Corps and served his country for four years.

It was after his time in the military when a television ad for classes at Culinard Culinary School caught his attention. So Zargo, who grew up with a hands-on appreciation for freshness that comes from a family garden and food made at home from scratch, decided on a new career track. “When I find something I enjoy doing,” he says, “I take it and I run with it.”

After finishing culinary school, Zargo worked at The Fish Market on Southside, where he says owner George Sarris taught him general restaurant management and how to handle high volume. He also worked at The Club, where the chefs helped him hone his skills in French techniques and fine dining. Along the way, he worked at barbecue and meat-and-three restaurants. He spent the past five years as executive chef at Bellinis Ristorante, putting it all together. But he always wanted his own place.

So after 15 years in the food industry, Zargo opened his Southern-style Farmhouse. He describes it as “family owned and locally operated; we have a little bit of something for everybody – from barbecue to seafood, to a good old-fashioned burger to steak.”

Farmhouse of Springville has been open for about six months but already has a local following. It’s attracting customers from Birmingham and Gadsden, too. The restaurant, with its certified Angus 8-ounce filet and 16-ounce ribeye, was named “Best Steak Restaurant” by the Trussville Tribune.

Those steaks are one good reason to visit; the chicken is another. That’s because they, like lots of things here, benefit from Zargo’s solid techniques with a smoker. The steaks are “cold smoked” before grilled; so is the salmon. It’s a technique Zargo picked up at The Club. He even cold smokes the Gouda for his mac and cheese. The result is a layer of flavors including notes of wood. The rich, mouthwatering scent of hardwood smoke surrounding ingredients is one of the first things visitors notice. It originates in a small shed out the restaurant’s back door.

While simple salt and pepper will go a long way, Zargo isn’t afraid to mix things up in his kitchen. Even the breading for the fried homemade pickles is a subtly complex combination of about 20 ingredients, including celery seed, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, onion powder and a touch of confectioners’ sugar. This sort of mixture makes the fried okra and green tomatoes special, too. It’s the kind of thing that sets a restaurant apart; Zargo says he’s simply trying to bring something different to the Springville area. “I like building layers of flavors.”

Of course, this kind of detail takes time. Sometimes days.

The restaurant’s award-winning pastrami is brined for three days with cinnamon, ginger, bay leaves and a Marsala pickle spice, among others. Then it’s dry rubbed with similar spices, rested for 24 hours and hot smoked for 12 more hours. The smoked chicken, which is one of the most popular items on the menu, also takes time. It is bathed for a day in a simple brine of brown sugar and salt, then dry rubbed to sit for another day before being smoked for three hours.

Zargo uses the chicken for dishes like the popular “mid-night chicken Cuban,” where he layers pulled smoked chicken with avocado, smoked provolone, chipotle-caramelized onions, spicy mayonnaise and homemade pickles.

Burgers, made with certified Angus beef that’s ground in-house, are another favorite here, and there are several options, including a classic farmhouse burger, another with melted blue cheese and another with smoked Gouda sauce, honey-glazed onion rings, and sweet and spicy barbecue sauce.

There are soups, salads, catfish, shrimp and grits and pan-seared grouper, too.

Farmhouse, as the name implies, is about using the best of what’s fresh and locally grown, and sometimes that means produce straight from Zargo’s own 1,000-square-foot backyard vegetable garden where he grows cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and squash.

What he doesn’t grow, he tries to source locally from producers like Allman Farms & Orchards in Oneonta. He gets extra tomatoes from nearby Sand Mountain. Zargo relies on quality meats and fresh Gulf seafood from Evans Meats & Seafood.

“We really have a passion for what we do,” he says. “We try to provide a variety of things – very fresh and flavorful food – for everybody.” Word has gotten out, business is steady and customers range from lunching ladies to date-night couples.

“They’ve been great,” Zargo says. “And especially at the opening, they really came out and supported us. We’ve been real thankful for that. We still get a lot of regulars coming in. It’s been a real supportive community, and we’re trying to … get more involved … trying to get out and do things for the community to give back.” He says they are starting small but doing what they can, donating to the nearby schools and a food pantry. “We donated to (the food pantry) for the holidays and are going to continue trying to donate and keep it stocked for the people in need through the holidays.”

Zargo figures that his entire career up to now has prepared him for owning his restaurant. Ingredients in his success are the dedication, commitment to hard work and a deeply instilled affinity for teamwork that gave Zargo the confidence to pursue a professional sports career and then led him to serve our country. The teamwork, he says, is especially important.

“I’m real team-oriented,” he says. “You know … I don’t look at certain positions in my kitchen … A lot of people say, ‘Here’s your grill cook, your fry cook.’ We have those, but we’re all a team; we all have got to help each other. That’s what I relate to a lot. That teamwork. That feeling of camaraderie.”

Farmhouse of Springville 

85 Purple Heart Blvd.
Springville, Alabama 35146



Tuesday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Closed Monday

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

7 months ago

Five unique ways Alabama celebrates New Year’s Eve

(Pixabay, YHN)

Ringing in the New Year in fun and unique ways is a tradition for many places in Alabama. Several embrace their history, heritage, and quirky attributes through ball drops and celebrations geared specifically to their city. From a peanut drop to a meteor strike, here are five unique ways Alabama celebrates New Year’s Eve.

Although we’re all ready to say goodbye to 2020, some of these celebrations might be a little different this year due to COVID-19 restrictions. Please check with the city before making plans to attend.


Moon Pie Drop – Mobile

Mobile has become synonymous with MoonPies, so the city hosts a MoonPie drop to commemorate that. The chocolate-and-marshmallow treat is thrown from floats during Mardi Gras parades, which is how the city became known for it. During the annual MoonPie Over Mobile celebration, a 12-foot-tall, 600-pound MoonPie drops at midnight.

Peanut Drop – Dothan

Dothan is the peanut capital of Alabama and home to the annual National Peanut Festival each fall. To celebrate New Year’s Eve, downtown Dothan hosts a celebration where a lighted, suspended peanut drops from the sky to count down to midnight.

Meteor Strike – Wetumpka

The area where Wetumpka is located was struck by a giant meteor 83 million years ago. It left its mark with a crater that’s five miles wide. The city honors that history with a New Year’s Eve meteor drop. When the clock strikes midnight, a meteor “strikes” with fireworks.

DUD Parade — Livingston

The town of Livingston rings in the New Year with a parade. Locals dress up in elaborate costumes and march down the street in this annual tradition. Although no one knows how it really came to be, it’s believed that the DUD Parade originated in 1857 and was a custom carried over from England and Scotland. In the older days, the maskers were dubbed the “Indomitables.” Eventually, someone called them “Damned Ugly Devils” and thus, DUD came to be.

Kids Confetti Drop — Orange Beach

If you don’t want the kids up until midnight, let them count down the New Year until 12 p.m. instead of a.m. The Wharf at Orange Beach hosts a Kids Confetti Drop that includes a DJ, slime zone, climbing activities, and more. At noon, confetti will drop from the sky to celebrate the New Year.

Julia Sayers Gokhale is a writer and editor who has been working in the lifestyle journalism industry since 2012. She was Editor in Chief of Birmingham Magazine for five years and is now leading Yellowhammer News’ lifestyle content. Find her on Instagram at @juliasayers or email her at

7 months ago

Mobile mother creates national skincare line for those with eczema

Keller Works/Contributed

When Krystn Keller’s three-month-old son Elliott developed a rash on his face, she was told that it was just standard baby eczema and should go away if she switched laundry detergent. However, over the next nine months, Elliott’s condition worsened. The Kellers saw 14 doctors, tried prescription creams, bought soap for sensitive skin, and had Elliott tested for food allergies. When nothing seemed to show results, Krystn knew she would need to take matters into her own hands.

“The prescription creams caused many unwanted side effects like facial hair growth, skin thinning, and one even had a cancer warning,” Krystn says. “I wasn’t comfortable putting these things on my baby, so I wanted to try making an all-natural option myself at home.”

She began doing research and eventually ended up on YouTube, where she found a vast amount of soap-making tutorials. After several months of trial and error, she finally had a recipe for an all-natural soap specifically designed for those with eczema. When Elliott’s skin began to clear up, friends began asking Krystn if they could purchase her soap. She realized there was a need in the market for a product like this, and thus, Keller Works was born.


Keller Works/Contributed

Based out of Mobile, Keller Works is now a thriving natural soap business, which includes products in 35 stores, international shipping, and a brick-and-mortar location on Government Boulevard in Mobile. “We went from making soap in my kitchen to producing it in a 2,500-square-foot warehouse,” Krystn says.

The most popular products are those in the Elliott’s Care line. The original product that launched Keller Works is Elliott’s Soap, made with organic and sustainable palm oil, organic coconut oil, organic refined sunflower oil, organic shea butter, rice bran oil, castor oil, and gluten-free organic oats. After the success of the soap, Krystn also added an herbal zinc-based salve to combat itch and a whipped shea butter and coconut oil moisturizer.

keller works soap
Keller Works/Contributed

Keller Works has since expanded to include a line of roll-on essential oils, body care (items like dry shampoo, bath salts, and beard oil), and other organic soaps.

Now, Krystn says Elliott’s skin is completely clear, and although the initial plan wasn’t to create a business, she is thankful to be able to help other families going through the same thing.

“We have customers based all over the country and are able to provide jobs to our local community in Mobile, all while making a positive impact and helping other families in need,” Krystn says.

Learn more about Krystn’s story below:

Julia Sayers Gokhale is a writer and editor who has been working in the lifestyle journalism industry since 2012. She was Editor in Chief of Birmingham Magazine for five years and is now leading Yellowhammer News’ lifestyle content. Find her on Instagram at @juliasayers or email her at

7 months ago

Where to see the best Christmas lights in Alabama

(Noccalula Falls Park/Online)

It wouldn’t be the holidays without festive, extravagant Christmas light displays! From drive-through parks to illuminated caverns to glowing zoo animals, here are the best places to see Christmas lights in Alabama. (Be aware that some activities may be limited due to COVID-19 safety precautions.)


Glow Wild at the Birmingham Zoo – Birmingham

christmas lights in alabama
Birmingham Zoo/Online

Instead of Zoolight Safari, this year the Birmingham Zoo launched a new stunning light experience: Glow Wild. The ticketed event includes glowing lantern creations of animals from around the world. You’ll see lions, tigers, and bears — oh my! — some reaching up to 30 feet tall.

Pricing: Non-members:
Online Tickets/Pre-purchased

Peak Nights (Friday–Sunday)

Onsite Tickets/Purchased at the Gate
All Nights  (Wednesday-Sunday)

Members: 30% discount on above prices

Galaxy of Lights – Huntsville

For 25 years, the Huntsville Botanical Garden has hosted Galaxy of Lights. You’ll be able to walk through 2.5 miles of magnificent light displays featuring holiday themes, classic characters, and scenes from the natural world.

Pricing: Non-members: $14/adult and $9/child
Members: Free

Christmas Nights of Lights – Mobile

christmas lights in alabama
Christmas Nights of Lights/Online

This drive-through light attraction is Alabama’s largest synchronized light show. See more than one million lights synchronized to traditional and newer Christmas music played through your own car stereo. You’ll drive through twinkling tunnels, past looming nutcrackers, and see plenty of lit-up Christmas trees.

Pricing: $8/person

Festival of Lights – Oxford

Festival of Lights is a drive-through light show at Choccolocco Park. Before or after going through the spectacular light display, you can visit Santa’s Village, where you’ll find photos with Santa, synthetic ice-skating, food-vendors, merchandising, inflatables, slides, and more. (Some attractions are an additional cost.)

Pricing: Car – any vehicle which has seats for eight (8) or less persons.
$17 – Advance Online Ticket (valid for any night)
$20 – At the Gate – Mondays through Thursdays
$25 – At the Gate – Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays

Van – any vehicle which has seats for nine (9) to fifteen (15) persons.
$25 – At the Gate – Mondays through Thursdays
$30 – At the Gate – Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays

Winter Wonderland – Cullman

This year, the 18th annual Winter Wonderland Christmas Light Display at Sportsman Lake Park has more light displays than ever before. Guests can enjoy driving through the park, train rides (safely separated from others by plexiglass), carriage rides, hot chocolate, and pictures with Santa.

Pricing: $10/vehicle

Christmas at the Falls – Gadsden

christmas lights in alabama
Noccalula Falls Park/Online

Enjoy millions of lights throughout Noccalula Falls park, with spectacular views from the paved walking trails or from the vantage of a ride on the park’s train. A socially distanced Santa will be in the post office/general store this year, and concessions will be for sale.

Pricing: $8/ticket (Monday–Thursday) and $10/ticket (Friday–Sunday)

Christmas Lights Montgomery Zoo – Montgomery

The Montgomery Zoo transforms each year into a winter wonderland, displaying thousands of sparkling and twinkling lights and festive decorations. Stroll through the zoo or enjoy a train ride around the grounds. Safely visit Santa and the Guardian Credit Union Christmas Tree Village at the Mann Museum; enjoy live entertainment at the Overlook Cafe; and warm up with hot chocolate and fresh baked cookies from the cafe.

Pricing: Non-members: $10/person
Members: Free

Magic Christmas in Lights at Bellingrath Gardens – Theodore

Bellingrath Gardens and Home is hosting its 25th year of Magic Christmas in Lights. Guests can stroll through a dazzling light display featuring more than 1,100 set pieces, 3 million lights, and 15 scenes throughout the 65-acre Garden estate. In addition, the Bellingrath Home is decorated in its holiday best and filled with beautiful poinsettias.

Pricing: Garden & Home: $25/adult and $14/child
Gardens Only: $16/adult and $8/child

Christmas at the Cave – Childersburg

christmas lights in alabama
Desoto Caverns/Online

Desoto Caverns’ Christmas extravaganza includes the “Illuminations of Advent” light show in the caverns; multiple cheery park shows including storytelling with Saint Nick; caroling and sing-a-long shows; rides on Santa’s very own sleigh on the Destiny Express; holiday treats; and twinkle lights galore. It’s an interactive experience that you won’t want to miss.

Pricing: Starts at $29.99/person

Julia Sayers Gokhale is a writer and editor who has been working in the lifestyle journalism industry since 2012. She was Editor in Chief of Birmingham Magazine for five years and is now leading Yellowhammer News’ lifestyle content. Find her on Instagram at @juliasayers or email her at

8 months ago

First-ever Alabama Black Restaurant Week kicking off

Eugene's Hot Chicken/Contributed

The inaugural Black Restaurant Week is debuting in Alabama December 11. The 10-day event is designed to celebrate the flavors of African-American, African, and Caribbean cuisine nationwide. Patrons are encouraged to support Black-owned restaurants in their area by dining out or ordering food to go.

Founded in 2016, Black Restaurant Week aims to introduce businesses and professionals to the community through events, culinary initiatives, and promotional campaigns. There are 11 states/areas/regions participating in the national celebration. This year is Alabama’s first year participating. Each area has a different week, with the first event kicking off in June in Houston. Alabama’s event concludes the year, running December 11–20.

Participating Alabama restaurants include Eugene’s Hot Chicken, Bitty’s Living Kitchen, Nawlins Style Po’Boys, Kuntri Kitchen, and Good Health To Be Hail. In addition to restaurants, the event will also spotlight food trucks, bakeries, caterers, and other culinary professionals.


If you are unable to make it to a restaurant, there are other ways you can support Black-owned restaurants during and after Black Restaurant Week. Ways to do so include following their social media sites, liking their posts, and sharing photos. It’s also encouraged to leave a positive review on the BRW website, Google, or Yelp. You can also support restaurants by ordering takeout through delivery services, purchasing gift cards, or booking catering services.

The event is presented by Pepsi and Maker’s Mark. This year, Black Restaurant Week also includes fun activities like giveaways of gift cards, cash prizes, and more. You can download a BRW bingo card from the website and see if you can complete a row to get bingo and be entered to win a prize. Squares on the bingo card include eating at a food truck, trying a Caribbean meal, and dining out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Find more info on Alabama’s Black Restaurant Week via the website and the event’s Facebook page.

Julia Sayers Gokhale is a writer and editor who has been working in the lifestyle journalism industry since 2012. She was Editor in Chief of Birmingham Magazine for five years and is now leading Yellowhammer News’ lifestyle content. Find her on Instagram at @juliasayers or email her at