MoonPie A La Mode In Mobile, And More

Wednesday, March 23, 2016 - by Ann N. Yungmeyer

Much like Chattanooga’s renaissance that began more than two decades ago, Mobile is revitalizing its downtown with new attractions and a focus on the area’s history, culture and ecology. The port city on Mobile Bay thrives on its coastal heritage and multicultural roots, reflected in a blend of historic traditions, architecture and cuisine.
 
A lively culinary scene in Mobile’s downtown offers eclectic menus and local favorites – from oysters, crawfish and Creole dishes to Irish burgers and West Indies Salad.
But I was surprised to learn on my first visit to the city that one of the most celebrated foods is Chattanooga Bakery’s MoonPie, featured a la mode and in fancied-up recipes from banana pudding to cake balls. What’s more, a giant replica of the chocolate marshmallow treat suspends like a work of art from one of the city’s tallest buildings!
 
Why such fascination with the famous lunchbox dessert? Mobile is home to the first Mardi Gras celebration in the New World, documented in 1703, and the annual pagentry continues with more fervor every year. The MoonPie, replacing Cracker Jacks, became the favored throw from parade floats when it was first flung to revelers in 1952. Since then, the city fell in love, not just with the original chocolate, but each new flavor that emerged seemed to take the city by storm.
 
In 2008, Mobile’s famous New Year’s celebration, “MoonPie Over Mobile,” began when city leaders teamed up with Chattanooga Bakery to create a giant MoonPie to drop from a high-rise building as an entertaining feat to ring in the new year. In fairytale fashion, MoonPie Over Mobile gained national notoriety from the start, and the MoonPie became an informal emblem of the city.
 
Though Mobile consumes more than four million of the packaged treats annually, MoonPie didn’t exactly put Mobile on the map. The 300-year old city has a colorful history reflected in its diverse architectural styles, including Spanish, French Colonial, Victorian and Greek revival influences.
 
A variety of cultural attractions depict the area history – from colonial days to the Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay. The WWII battleship, USS Alabama, is docked at the fabulous Battleship Memorial Park, and the new shining star along Mobile’s riverfront is GulfQuest, a national maritime museum in the shape of a container ship. Spotlighting the heritage and economic importance of the Gulf of Mexico, the museum has an educational focus on Gulf Coast activities including fishing, shipping and commerce. About 90 interactive exhibits and simulators engage visitors in all kinds of seafaring ventures – from tying nautical knots and charting a course to navigating ships in realistic simulations.
 
Visitors looking to enjoy the outdoors will find beach activities at Dauphin Island and fishing and boating throughout the River Delta area. Just south of the city, a longstanding attraction is the magnificent Bellingrath Gardens and Home, built by philanthropists, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Bellingrath. The historic 65-acre estate was originally the fishing camp and riverside retreat of Mr. Bellingrath, owner of the first Coca Cola Bottling franchise in Mobile. The couple first opened their gardens to the public in 1932 and expanded to include many features – from a formal Rose Garden in the design of a Rotary pin to the colorful Camellia Parterre and natural habitat of the Bayou Boardwalk.
 
The Bellingrath home is also part of their legacy and open for tours, showcasing the couple’s extensive collection of antiques and Coca-Cola keepsakes. Visitors will see the framed document of Walter Bellingrath’s purchase of the new Coca-Cola Bottling franchise in 1903, as well as his sales awards and brand collectibles. 
 
Mobile Carnival Museum makes it possible to experience Mardi Gras season year-round, though festival enthusiasts may want to head to Mobile during carnival season, which begins shortly after MoonPie Over Mobile and spans several weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday. The 10-year old museum in a restored mansion tells the history of the carnival through a fabulous collection of Mardi Gras memorabilia. Visitors can get a bird's-eye perspective from atop a float replica, as well as a look at the collection of jeweled crowns, lavish gowns, and robes worn by past Mardi Gras kings and queens. For the uninformed, exhibits explain the mystic societies, dens, beads and masks associated with the historic pageantry.
 
Regardless of the season, Mobile’s variety of attractions for all ages makes it one of the South’s great urban destinations. There is much to discover in a weekend trip, and while you’re there, why not enjoy a MoonPie and bottle of Coke!
 
If you go: Mobile offers a choice of hotels within easy walking distance to city attractions. Among the four-star retreats, the landmark Battle House Renaissance Hotel and Spa is a member of Historic Hotels of America. www.mobile.org

---

Ann Yungmeyer is a freelance writer in Kingsport, Tn.



Airbnb Announces Home Sharing Tax Agreement With Tennessee

Airbnb, a community driven hospitality company, announced a statewide tax agreement with the Tennessee Department of Revenue that will allow the company to collect and remit state and local sales taxes on behalf of its 7,700 Tennessee hosts.   With the tax agreement in place, the state will be able to fully capitalize on people visiting Tennessee and staying longer ... (click for more)

A Party In The Sky Celebrates Natural Aviators With IMAX Film, Crafts, Games And Animal Encounters

From Atlas Beetles’ ponderous lift off to Starlings’ gracefully synchronized aerial maneuvering, Conquest of the Skies 3D  covers the full gamut of natural flight. On  Jan. 27 , the newest film to fill the IMAX 3D Theater’s six-story screen gets even more incredible thanks to A Party in the Sky. This one-time event will feature pre- and post-screening activities that ... (click for more)

Fleischmann Blames Senate Democrats For Government Shutdown

Congressman Chuck Fleischmann blamed Senate Democrats after the Senate’s failure to pass the Continuing Resolution (CR), putting a government shutdown into place. He said,  “I cannot fathom how Senate Democrats, knowing the severity of the issues in question, acted with such insensitivity using our children and our military as pawns, putting party over country. ... (click for more)

From Green Window Shutters To Forks And Spoons, Mount Vernon Restaurant Up For Auction

From the green wooden window shutters to the forks, knives and spoons, the landmark Mount Vernon Restaurant is up for auction. Marc Gravitt, of Gravitt Auction, said there will be an online auction starting Thursday morning and running through Saturday at noon. It will be handled as a "staggered close," he said. The first item will go first, then the second 30 seconds later, ... (click for more)

DACA Or Amnesty To Become The Majority?

As we have the political drama that we see in D.C. let’s be honest about what DACA is all about. We understand as the liberal policies of abortion, dependency on the government and an anti-American globalist / progressive agenda that many have come to realize these policies no longer represent their core beliefs and have left a certain party. Without an influx of new dependency ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: What’s The ‘Super’ Done?

The headline on Jan. 10 in the Times Free Press read, “Report shows Hamilton County students still lagging behind Tennessee peers.” In smaller type underneath, the sub-head added, “Less than 33 percent of county elementary, middle school students read at grade level.” Then, just seven days later, this on Friday, the same newspaper bannered, “Hamilton County Schools superintendent ... (click for more)