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Bank managers reveal their favorite Southeast destinations

Courtesy Carolyn Cobb

From Kentucky to Tennessee
Planters Bank in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, has a Planters Passport 50 club; Carolyn Cobb operates it. Day trips to Nashville, Franklin and Columbia, Tennessee, are common.

The club recently visited Fontanel Mansion, former home of Barbara Mandrell, near downtown Nashville. The 27,000-square-foot log home on 136 acres of pristine land is Nashville’s only country music mansion tour. The group also enjoyed the Tennessee Performing Arts Center and its Broadway plays.

Nashville offers Cheekwood, created by the family that established world-famous Maxwell House Coffee. The estate, completed in 1932, includes a limestone mansion and extensive formal gardens inspired by grand English houses of the 18th century.

While at Cheekwood, the group saw the inventive art works of Dale Chihuly, perhaps the most acclaimed glass artist alive today. The dramatic Chihuly exhibit, displayed indoors and out, offers a spectacular array of art forms and color.

The group does Savannah, Georgia, too.

“We tour mansions and eat at Paula Deen’s restaurant — the Lady and Sons — and her brother’s restaurant, Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House, as part of Taste of Savannah, a culinary tour of the city’s better restaurants,” said Cobb. “We also visited the Savannah Riverwalk and the old cotton warehouses that are now shops.”

Abingdon, Virginia, is a Cobb favorite because of the Barter Theater, which earned its name during the Great Depression when the owner let people attend shows in exchange for food or other goods. It’s one of the nation’s longest-running professional theaters. There’s also the Martha Washington Hotel and Spa, fully restored and a delight. “Just a wonderful, historic town,” Cobb said.

Cobb loves going off the beaten path.

Alabama to Georgia
Margaret Dean, vice president of the Prestige program at Aliant Bank in Alexander City, Alabama, loved a trip to Savannah.

“We spent the night and took a city tour the next day around town and the river. We ate at Paula Deen’s restaurant. Later that night, we had a ghost tour with a step-on guide who rode with us around Savannah for the Ghosts and Gravestones tour. She told us stories of ghosts that people claimed they saw.”

Although club members often travel by cruise ship or on flights overseas, some local excursions thrill them just as much, like Atlanta.

“It’s only two and a half hours from here. We go over to see big musicals like ‘The Lion King’ or ‘Phantom of the Opera’ at the legendary Fox Theater,” she said.

Speaking about her travel club members, Dean said: “I think they like the idea that they’re special. Our bank also has birthday and Christmas parties, and luncheons and seminars for them. We do things many other banks don’t.”

Mississippi and Beyond
Nancy Virden is travel director for Bank of Anguilla, in Mississippi. She takes pleasure in the club’s rather modest size.

“Our town has 2,200 people, and we’re a very small, rural agricultural community in the lower part of the Mississippi Delta, or the Deep Delta,” Virden said.

Mobile was an especially worthwhile trip for the group because of the Festival of Flowers, the premier flower and garden event of the Gulf Coast. It’s a horticultural extravaganza that offers floral exhibits and life-size landscaped garden vignettes.

“We usually go in the spring,” said Virden, who ties the flower show in with a visit to Bellingrath Gardens, a 65-acre botanical garden and mansion on Fowl River in Theodore, a suburb of Mobile. The site is on the National Register of Historic Places. If there’s another interesting exhibit or event in Mobile at the same time, such as the symphony, the group will fit it in.

Group members also travel in-state to Biloxi, Mississippi, to visit Beau Rivage, a waterfront casino resort rebuilt in 2006, a year after Hurricane Katrina struck. The Beau Rivage hotel is the tallest building in Mississippi. The term “beau rivage” is French for “beautiful shore.”

Club members also enjoy excursions to theaters in Memphis and New Orleans.