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Check out the day tours too.

The Rockin' Rockets Tour

Ever want to be an astronaut? Then you'll want to be a part of the three-day pre-tour for the 2017 NFPW Communications Conference in Birmingham next September. Come go to Space Camp and shoot for the moon! Your guide will be Alabama Media Professionals' Verna Gates, a journalist and experienced FAM guide for the Alabama Department of Tourism. After enjoying a little weightlessness, she'll add some pounds with great dining. Then, get earthy with the music you are still rockin' out to: Mustang Sally, When a Man Loves a Woman, Brown Sugar, and R.E.S.P.E.C.T — find out "what it means to YOU." The Muscle Shoals' Swampers put the funk into music history — meet the legends. And, meet the real Scarlett O'Hara. We'll be "Gone with the Wind," in a tour of Athens, Alabama. We'll hear great music, eat soul food and high cuisine, and reach for the stars.

Day One, September 3

Depart Birmingham for Florence, Alabama, where we will tour the home of the Father of the Blues, W.C. Handy. You might get the "St. Louis Blues" here, but not the Alabama blues, especially when you eat some local barbeque right across the street. A visit to the Alabama Music Hall of Fame celebrates the likes of Emmylou Harris, Lionel Richie, Bobby Goldsboro, Alabama (the band) and the legendary Swampers of "Sweet Home Alabama" fame. We'll dine in the 360 Grille atop the Renaissance Tower, enjoying spectacular food accompanied by equally spectacular views of the Tennessee River. Dinner at the only revolving restaurant in Alabama will be our treat! Afterwards, let's hear some live music!

Day Two, September 4

Tour FAME — the studio that launched and recorded the greats: Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Duane Allman, Otis Redding, the Osmonds, Paul Anka and so many others. Then travel to 3614 Jackson Highway where the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Cher, Paul Simon and Bob Segar "loved that old time rock n' roll" while making their greatest hits. After a soul-food lunch, we head to the Helen Keller Birthplace for a tour. See the original water pump where the world opened to a blind and deaf girl. That evening, we dine in an old cotton warehouse in downtown Huntsville. The fine dining experience is our treat.

Day Three, September 5

We will beg for cocoa biscuits at the Blue Plate Café before heading to Space Camp. A guided tour of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center just might include some original NASA engineers. For a couple of hours, we will bounce around in weightlessness before taking off for Mars. When we return to earth, a luncheon awaits, along with time in the otherworldly gift shop. We depart for Athens, where a guide will follow the path of Margaret Mitchell as she finds the real Scarlett O'Hara. Dinner at Ro's Grille.

Day Four, September 6

Back to Birmingham, just named one of the 52 places to visit in 2017 by the New York Times.

Watch for a registration form on the 2017 conference web site soon!

Pre-conference day tours

Wednesday, September 6, 10:30 a.m.- University of Alabama

photo of media center front desk area

Roll Tide! You depart for a tour at the University of Alabama to see what we have besides a dominating football team. The Digital Media Center (DMC) is located in the famed stadium where Alabama crushes SEC teams, so you can visit both - sports and a place where new journalists cut their teeth. The state-of-the-art DMC is home to four professional media outlets including university-owned WVUA 23, Alabama Public Radio, The Center for Public Television and Crimson Tide Productions. More than 90 staff members work with more than 100 students for real life experience and a 100 percent job placement rate for graduates.

Wednesday, September 6, 6:00 p.m.- Pub Crawl

close-up photo of three glasses of beer sitting on a bar

Birmingham is home to a craft beer scene so hipster, it made the New York Times 52 places to visit list. We will start at Avondale Brewing, where it all began. Built in a former brothel, it celebrates its colorful past with a Brothel Brown. It's symbol, an elephant, comes from Miss Fancy (featured in "Fried Green Tomatoes" at the Whistle Stop Cafe), whose owner lost her in a card game. She lived out her life in Avondale Park giving rides. From there, we visit Cahaba Brewing, located in an old mill. Then, to Trim Tab, which is the newest brewery in Birmingham's Southside. You can go from pillar to post with its Rye Brown beer. Good People Brewing sprang up beside our new baseball field. Try the Snake Handler! The taproom is located right in the brewery for that yeasty smell and the occasional beeping of forklifts. We will eat some Post Office Pies while indulging in a Miss Fancy's Tripel. The real Miss Fancy was known to guzzle some Prohibition-era beer!

Thursday, September 7, 9:00 a.m.- Civil Rights Tour

photo of statu honoring civil rights fight

It began at Bethel — the Baptist church of the unsung hero of the Civil Rights Movement, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth. Known as the most fearless of the Civil Rights leaders, he pushed a more cerebral Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to come to Birmingham and march into history. You can see where Shuttlesworth was bombed out of his bed one Christmas morning. From Bethel, we travel to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, where you begin by entering a segregated world. The passage through the Institute will take you through the Freedom Riders, Children's March, fire hoses, dogs and KKK uniforms to the passage of the Civil Rights Act. We will cross the street to the famed 16th Street Baptist Church, where four little girls were killed in a bombing, sparking legislation. You will see the stained-glass window above the bomb where everything was saved, except the face of Jesus. Across the street, walk the park where freedom marchers meet police resistance. Statues recall the arrests, the dogs and the fire hoses.

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