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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.

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