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Try sweet home Alabama for fun

By By Rep. Ronald Grantland, Guest columnist
Summer is certainly here, along with its constant heat and humidity. The weather has many of us thinking about vacation, yet with the economy as it is and gas prices starting their annual summer increase, we are thinking less about going great distances and instead looking for spots much closer to home.
Everyone already knows that Alabama is blessed with lakes and beaches, the two things that can help beat the heat. There are great state parks across the state right on the water that make for great affordable family vacations, as well as parks in the mountains and forests that offer terrific getaways.
Another great Alabama vacation theme is to take a trip into our state’s history. The Alabama Tourism Department has labeled 2009 the “Year of Alabama History,” and has done a terrific job listing and promoting the hundreds of historical events and places in our history-rich state.
The department’s Alabama history tourism website says it best.
The history-tourism website is easy to use (the website address is listed below), and has an amazing array of historical festivals, events, and places that are sure to attract the history buff and the regular vacationer alike. Using history as a way to build a vacation is nothing new; Boston and Philadelphia have built an entire industry on just that. It is terrific that we can now do the same thing right here in Alabama.
History is just one of the many vacation ideas the Alabama Tourism Department has developed, bringing the state’s wonderful vacation possibilities together in their Sweet Home Alabama campaign.
On their website and in their published materials, the department highlights hundreds of other vacation ideas for all kinds of families and folks: things for the kids, ideas for the sports fan, places for the best food, and events for the best music.
For more information, go online to www.800alabama.com, or if computer access is a problem give them a call at 1-800-ALABAMA.
Not only will you save money by traveling within the state, but by taking an instate vacation you’ll be supporting our local economy and even our schools. Every dollar spent on tourism in Alabama helps creates jobs in the state and generates tax revenue. Last year alone, more than 22 million people vacationed in Alabama and spent nearly $9.6 billion.
Those visitors also paid $702 million in state and local lodging and sales taxes, according to state officials.
State sales taxes are earmarked for the Education Trust Fund, and go to support Alabama’s classrooms.
The Alabama tourism industry has been growing. Over the 10 year period from 1998 to 2008, travel spending in Alabama has increased a whopping 77 percent. The increase is a testament to a concerted effort by thousands of communities to grow the industry, from major developments like the Retirement Systems of Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, to local events like the dozens of music festivals across the state.
Vacation is a time to get away from home. But this summer, Sweet Home Alabama is our best bet for a terrific vacation.

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