Skip to site content
Group Travel Leader Group Travel Leader Group Travel Leader

What’s new in the South

NORFOLK — Tall ships return to Norfolk Harbor June 7-12 for OpSail 2012, during which fleets of tall-masted sailing ships will be in port along with a strong U.S. Navy presence. Living-history presentations, lectures and other activities will also be part of the festivities.

ABINGDON — Heartwood, the new gateway to the culture of southwest Virginia, opened in July adjacent to Interstate 81 in Abingdon. There visitors can experience live bluegrass music, see artists and artisans at work and shop for juried arts. The restaurant features local southwest Virginia fare, and there is a coffee and wine bar with regional wines.

FRANKLIN — Built in 1937, the Franklin Theatre has reopened following a four-year, multimillion-dollar restoration. The 300-seat movie house has resumed its tradition of showing current-run and classic movies, and a new state-of-the-art sound and lighting system has allowed it to expand its offerings to include concerts and plays.

NASHVILLE — Opry Mills, the retail and entertainment destination that has been closed since May 2010 flooding, will reopen in the spring after a complete renovation. The soft opening will be March 29, with a major four-day grand-opening event May 3-6.

Most of the previous retailers and dining options have committed to be part of the reopening.

North Carolina
CHEROKEE —The Mandara Spa at Harrah’s Cherokee will complete the resort’s five-year, $633 million expansion when it opens in August. Elements of Native American culture will be integrated into Mandara’s Balinese-inspired treatments. Other components of the resort expansion include the new 532-room Creek Tower, a Paula Deen’s Kitchen and Retail Shop, a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse that is opening in April, an Event Center and the Sequoyah National Golf Club, as well as new lounges and casino areas with Asian-inspired gaming

RALEIGH — The eye-catching Nature Research Center will open its doors in downtown Raleigh on April 20. The centerpiece of the center is the SECU Daily Planet, a three-story, high-definition multimedia space. Other features include the Citizen Science Center, the Science Immersion Theater and a 10,000-gallon aquarium, plus the Daily Planet Plaza and Science Cafe and Terrace. The multifaceted venture is an 80,000-square-foot stand-alone wing of the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences.

SHEPHERDSVILLE — Four wineries and the Jim Beam Distillery are stops on the new Bullitt County Wine and Bourbon Tour.

Brochures and tour passports can be picked up at Jim Beam or any of the four wineries: Brooks Hill, MillaNova, Wight-Meyer and Forest Edge. Brochures also will be available at the Bullitt County Tourism Office, located in Paroquet Springs Conference Centre, and at the Best Western Plus Hotel in Shepherdsville

Participants whose passports have stamps from all five businesses will receive a free souvenir glass when they redeem it at the Best Western lounge.


LEXINGTON — Go for Gin, the 1994 Kentucky Derby winner, went to his new home at the Kentucky Horse Park in August. He is housed in the park’s Hall of Champions alongside fellow Derby winner Funny Cide, two-time Breeders’ Cup winner Da Hoss and racing superstar Cigar.
Go for Gin, who finished second in the Preakness and the Belmont, was donated to the park by William Boniface, owner of Bonita Farm in Maryland, where he had been standing stud since 2004.

Go for Gin was in the money in 14 out of 19 starts with earnings of $1,380,866. His progeny have earned more than $16.5 million.

LITTLE ROCK — In late September, former President Bill Clinton dedicated the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge, an 1899 Rock Island railroad bridge that was renovated into a pedestrian/bicycling thoroughfare as part of the Arkansas River Trail.

The bridge completes the 14.2-mile loop along the Arkansas River in Little Rock and North Little Rock. The structure is located next to the Clinton Presidential Center and Library in downtown Little Rock’s River Market District.

LITTLE ROCK — A new addition to the Little Rock Zoo, the Laura P. Nichols Penguin Pointe Exhibit, features African penguins on a natural rocky beach. Guests can view the penguins from both above and under water.

Zookeepers do daily fish feedings and conduct chats with the public. Two penguins from the exhibit make special appearances outside the exhibit in the zoo’s new Wild Wonders Animal Show at the Civitan Amphitheater.


ENTERPRISE — Southern Broadway, best known for its production of “The Depot,” an original off-Broadway play, is opening a dinner theater on North Main Street in downtown Enterprise. Southern Broadway and Southern Charm Catering will present at least five dinner theaters in 2012.

GULF SHORES — The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is the first in history being built from the ground up that will define every aspect of the term “green.” Scheduled to open in the spring, the zoo will also be almost entirely “hurricane-proof” by being constructed to withstand Category 5 hurricane winds.

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum-certified zoo will be constructed of nontoxic, organic, biodegradable and recyclable materials. It will use an array of alternative power sources using solar panels, wind turbines and geothermal energy.