• 81°

Plenty of vacation destinations are nearby

Since the oil from the spill in the Gulf coast has washed ashore, many travelers have considered altering plans to the coastline for inland trips.

Edith Parten, communication director for the Alabama Tourism Department, is encouraging people to keep Gulf Coast vacation plans, despite the current conditions of the water.

“There are still things to do on our Gulf Coast,” Parten said. “Just don’t be tied down to getting in the water.”

Parten has received phone calls from concern citizens asking how to aid in the cleanup efforts. The best way to aid the efforts is to keep vacation plans, helping businesses and local economy by bringing tourism dollars to the area, Parten said.

If visiting the Gulf coast still isn’t in your plans, there are many destinations within driving distance.

For families traveling on a tight budget, there are at least five out-of-state destinations to visit, all within the one-way reach of one tank of gas or less.

This span encompasses Atlanta; Vicksburg, Miss.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Jackson, Miss.; and Memphis, Tenn.

If visiting another city is not an option, Selma still has a variety of activities and destinations.

Families can visit The Selma Children’s Museum, take a Historic Churches of Selma walking tour, explore Paul M. Grist State Park off of Highway 22 or meander through the grounds of Old Cahawba.

“You can wander around and have a picnic out [at Old Cahawba],” said Candace Johnson, director of the Selma-Dallas County Tourism and Convention Bureau.

Johnson encourages families to rediscover all Selma has to offer.

“It helps you appreciate what we have here and build pride for your community,” Johnson said.

Here is a look at what a tank of gas can offer for a family vacation:

Jackson, Miss. is 196 miles west of Selma.

Tourists can visit the Mississippi Museum of Art, sit in the Russell C. Davis Planetarium, see the animals at the Jackson Zoological Park or learn about pre-historic sharks at the “Megalodon: Largest Shark that Ever Lived” exhibit at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science.

Downtown museums are within walking distance from each other, which will save visitors from continually paying for parking at venues.

“We have over 200 unique restaurants here in Jackson that offer anything from your southern fare to eclectic Greek and Mediterranean cuisine,” said Kelly Shannon, public relations manager for Jackson Convention & Visitors Bureau. For more information, contact (601) 960-1891 or visit www.visitjackson.com.

Atlanta is 209 miles northeast of Selma. The city offers something for every interest.

Visitors can watch an Atlanta Braves baseball game, walk around Centennial Olympic Park, see underwater creatures at the Georgia Aquarium, taste flavors of the world at the World of Coca-Cola, ride roller coasters at Six Flags over Georgia, tour the CNN building, visit the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum or pay respects at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.

For more information, contact (404) 521-6600 or visit www.atlanta.net

Vicksburg, Miss. is 238 miles west of Selma. History lovers should visit the 1,800-acre Vicksburg National Military Park, Vicksburg Battlefield Museum and the Old Court House Museum.

The historic downtown has a variety of shopping, art galleries and specialty shops like The Corner Drug Store with vast collection of Civil War artifacts, the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum where Coca-Cola was first bottled in 1894, the Antique Doll and Toy Museum and the Children’s Art Park at Catfish Row.

For more information, contact (601) 636-9421 or visit www.vicksburgcvb.org.

Chattanooga, Tenn., is 238 miles northeast of Selma. The city has indoor and outdoor activities, most which are family-friendly and low-cost.

“Once you get here, there’s ways you can save money,” said Candace Davis, marketing and public relations manager for Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “If you’re staying at any of the downtown hotels we have the free electric shuttle you can go to one of the attractions and restaurants and back to your hotel.”

Visitors can go to Tennessee Aquarium, see an Imax 3-D movie, take a guided kayak trip on the Tennessee River drive less than ten miles to Lookout Mountain or travel on a walking tour of the downtown.

“There’s just so much to do in a small space that’s definitely affordable, but you have all the amenities of a big city, but you have the space to do it in.”

For more information, contact (423) 756-8687 or visit www.chattanoogafun.com.

Memphis, Tenn. is 314 miles northwest of Selma. Home of Elvis Presley, blues music and barbecue, Memphis is a haven for the food and music enthusiasts.

Visit the Rock ‘n’ Soul museum, National Civil Rights Museum, Gibson guitar factory, Graceland, Memphis Zoo, Stax Museum of American Soul Museum, Sun Studios, watch the NBA Grizzles play at the FedEx Forum and see the ducks at The Peabody hotel process by red carpet into the fountain in the main lobby.

Taste the barbecue cuisine of B.B. King’s Blues Club, Blues City Café, Central BBQ, Corky’s BBQ, Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken and Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous.

For more information, contact (901) 543-5300 or visit www.memphistravel.com.