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the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C., and discover how God called a humble farmer’s son to preach the Good News of His love to 215 million people face to face. Retrace his dynamic journey as history comes to life through inspiring multimedia presentations and state-of-the-art exhibits. FREE ADMISSION Monday to Saturday, 9:30–5:00 • • 704-401-3200 Reservations are required for groups of 10 or more; email or call 704-401-3270. 4330 Westmont Drive • Charlotte, North Carolina A ministry of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

©2016 BGEA

Your group. This

mountaintop. His purpose .

Give your group a memorable experience this year at Billy Graham’s mountain retreat center in Asheville, North Carolina. With The Cove’s first-class accommodations, distinctive facilities, and attentive

Seminars. Retreats Seminars Retreats. Concerts Concerts.

staf—available year-round to host your next getaway, conference, or ministry program—your members will be free to relax, fellowship, and focus on God. To request a guest groups brochure or to make a reservation, visit or call 1-800-950-2092 (9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. ET / Monday–Friday). Ask about our special rates. A ministry of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

©2016 BGEA

1,200 Secluded Acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains • 458-Seat and 119-Seat Auditoriums • 14 Additional Meeting and Breakout Rooms • Charming Guest Rooms • Complete Audio and Visual Capabilities • Delicious Cuisine • Excellent Service • 24-Hour Complimentary Beverages



[ A P R I L | M AY 2 0 1 6 ]



Colorado Cool

Colorado Springs is brimming with great activities.



Kansas Crossroads

America’s Lakes

Follow historic events from the east to the west.

These destinations were made for peace and relaxation.

DEPARTMEN TS Columns 6 EDITOR’S NOTES: Don’t miss these travel opportunities



8 FROM TEACHING TO TRAVEL Bible study led Mike


Nieland to a new career in travel

ON THE COVER: Pikes Peak appears through an opening in the rocks at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Photos by Buddy Weiss.




26 Southern Music Hotspots 30 The South for Youth Groups 33 Historic Southern Homes

23 WESTERN HERITAGE Destinations

Mac T. Lacy Founder and Publisher

Brian Jewell Executive Editor

Eliza Myers Online Editor

Charles A. Presley Partner

Herb Sparrow Senior Writer

Christine Clough Copy Editor

Donia Simmons Creative Director

Ashley Ricks Circulation

David Brown Art Director

Stacey Bowman Account Manager

Going On Faith is published bimonthly by THE GROUP TRAVEL LEADER, Inc., 301 East High Street, Lexington, Kentucky 40507, and is distributed free of charge to qualified group leaders who plan travel for churches, synagogues and religious organizations. All other travel suppliers, including tour operators, destinations, attractions, transportation companies, hotels, restaurants, and other travel-related companies, may subscribe to Going On Faith by sending a check for $39 for one year to: Going On Faith, Circulation Department, 301 East High Street, Lexington, KY 40507. Phone: (859) 253-0455 or (859) 253-0503. Copyright THE GROUP TRAVEL LEADER, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction of editorial or graphic content in any manner without the written consent of the publisher is prohibited.



do n´t m iss t h e s e TR I PS


he travel program that you organize could be one of the most powerful interactions that people ever have with your church. But many church travel planners miss opportunities to maximize the impact of their efforts on their travelers. Here are five of the most common missed opportunities in the world of faithbased travel.

3. MISSION AND SERVICE TRIPS You might think of mission trips as the domain of your church’s youth group. But travelers of all ages find deep meaning in mission trips, both foreign and domestic. If you’re unsure that your group would respond well to a full-blown mission trip, consider testing the waters with a short, optional service project or “voluntourism” activity on an upcoming trip. You’ll likely find the feedback much more positive than you expected.

1. DOMESTIC TRIPS Many church leaders equate faith-based travel with pilgrimages to Israel. But if your travel program consists only of annual trips to international destinations, you’re missing out on some great travel experiences. Church groups can have great success with shorter trips to domestic destinations or even daytrips to cities or attractions close to home. These trips often attract more travelers than expensive international tours, and they allow you to enjoy some of America’s many treasures with your fellow church members.

4. ADVENTURE ACTIVITIES Too many group tour planners limit their itineraries to slow, sedentary activities. That’s too bad because adventurous outings such as zip-line tours or sea-kayaking adventures can make for some of the best travel memories. It’s true that many church group travelers are near or past retirement age. But baby boomers are healthier and more active than seniors of previous eras, and many are excited to try adventure activities when they travel. You don’t have to force anyone to do anything that makes them uncomfortable, but you should offer optional adventure activities for those travelers who might enjoy them.

2. INTERNATIONAL TRIPS Though some churches focus only on international travel, others make the opposite mistake by limiting their travel portfolios only to domestic trips. It is more affordable to travel within the United States, and the idea of arranging a trip to a foreign destination can be daunting to volunteer travel planners. But the benefits of occasional international adventures outweigh the drawbacks. If you haven’t offered a trip to lands of the Bible, such as Israel, Jordan, Turkey or Egypt, you might not be aware of how much interest there is among your congregation. And enlisting the services of professional tour operators can help make the planning a breeze for you.

5. MINISTRY MOMENTS Like anything else that a church does, the ultimate purpose of your church travel program should be to minister to people and help build their faith. So why does spirituality often get relegated to the back seat of the motorcoach? You don’t have to make every minute of your tours about faith, but you can create some special moments during your trips by integrating opportunities for your travelers to pray or worship together. And since travel builds relationships and lowers inhibitions, you might find opportunities to have deeper conversations with your travelers and help meet some of their spiritual needs.


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e r o l p x Meet, e ect n n o c d n a

Greater Ontario is excited to host the Going on Faith Conference in 2016! Greater Ontario region boasts scenic mountains, deserts, vineyards and metropolitan areas that are both historic and cosmopolitan in character that make it Ideal for leisure and business travel. We look forward to welcoming you August 9 – 11 to Ontario, California. The Ontario International Airport lets you y right into the heart of Southern California. Registrations are now being accepted. A state-of-the-art convention center, world class shopping, awe inspiring weather, access to over 6000 guest rooms. All waiting for you when the business day is done. Meet, explore, connect in Greater Ontario, California. For more information on your next meeting experience, visit: 2000 E. Convention Center Way | Ontario, California 91764 909.937.3000 | 800.455.57.55 |

Following a Call



mike nieland




Many people of faith can tell you stories about Bible studies that impact them deeply. But for Mike Nieland, getting involved in a compelling Bible study changed his life. Nieland is the founder of Blue Marble Journeys, a faith-based tour company based in Ankeny, Iowa. But he hasn’t always been a travel professional. Nieland spent the lion’s share of his career as a schoolteacher. And though he has attended church for most of his life, one specific Bible study opened his eyes to the power of Scripture and, eventually, to the possibilities of faithbased travel.


Mike Nieland takes groups to visit sites throughout the Holy Land, above, as well as to do mission and service projects in the United States, below.

FINDING INSPIRATION Though Nieland had been involved with a number of church denominations throughout his life, an encounter with a Bible-teaching ministry in the early 2000s gave him a new appreciation for the importance of Scripture. “I started going to a Bible study called ‘That the World May Know,’” Nieland said. “It was a series of videos that looks at the Bible in the context, the culture and the geography in which it was written. As I was immersed in that study, I found myself wanting to know more and more. There were so many aha moments with every episode, and it turned me on to being a person who wanted to immerse himself in the Bible.” That experience was so compelling that Nieland began leading the same Bible study at his local church. After several years, some of his students began urging him to plan a group trip to Israel. After resisting for some time, Nieland finally agreed and worked with a tour operator to set up a visit in 2006. “It was a rigorous adventure, with about eight to 10 miles a day of hiking,” 8

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Photos courtesy Blue Marble Journeys


he said. “We had a taste of what the Israelites experienced as they traversed the desert.” Two years later Nieland went with his wife on a trip to Turkey and Greece, and by the time they returned, he began to recognize that God was calling him to become involved in Bible teaching and faithbased travel in a more significant way. “I contacted different travel companies, and some of them had faith-based travel divisions, but they weren’t necessarily immersed in Scripture,” he said. “They went to some places with Christian history, but that wasn’t enough for me. So that’s how Blue Marble Journeys began.”

BUILDIN G EXPER IEN CES Determined to create the kind of faith-based trips that delivered on his own love of Scripture, Nieland took a college course in tour directing and did some work for Star Destinations, a mainstream tour operator based in Iowa. Soon he was able to create Blue Marble Journeys — named for the blue marble that Earth resembles when viewed from space — and begin offering trips to destinations both domestic and international. Like most faith-based travel providers, Blue Marble Journeys can arrange trips to Israel, Jordan, Egypt and other lands of the Bible. Groups that take those trips will find themselves experiencing the Scriptures in an in-depth way that bolsters their faith through the destinations they visit. But Nieland has also found quite a few places around the United

States that offer moving faith experiences for visitors. “The Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, is an incredible place,” he said. “It supports the biblical worldview, and for someone who struggles with that it makes a way for them to see some of the contradictions of evolution and to experience the biblical worldview for themselves.” Nieland will take two groups to the Creation Museum this year, and those trips will also include the nearby Ark Experience, a re-creation of Noah’s Ark set to open this summer and run by the same leaders behind the Creation Museum. Blue Marble also helps churches arrange a number of domestic mission trips. This summer, those trips will include an evangelism mission in Utah and two trips to the Voice of the Martyrs headquarters in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, where participants will work to help package and ship materials to assist persecuted Christians in countries around the globe. The trips will also include stops in Branson, Missouri, where passengers will see a musical adaptation of the story of Moses at Sight and Sound Theatre. Nieland also packages trips that take church groups to the Great Passion Play in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where they can explore a large living-history area that depicts Jerusalem during the time of Jesus. Looking back on the adventure that the past 10 years has been, Nieland can see God at work through all the changes and uncertainty in his life. “Sometimes it felt like wandering, but now I say that God was leading me and equipping me for what he has for me to do now,” he said.

DISCOVER WHAT’S POSSIBLE There’s plenty to discover in Houston. Hyatt Regency Houston/Galleria is located in the heart of Uptown Houston, steps away from The Galleria Shopping Center - Houston's #1 tourist attraction. This hotel features rooms that were designed with the traveler in mind. Built-in case goods are used throughout to give rooms a spacious, modern aesthetic feel. The theme is derived from the geological aspect of the oil & gas industry. Steel greys accented by earth tones and turquoise are found throughout. Book by June 30, 2016 and receive complimentary on-site bus parking and guest room for bus driver. Minimum of 10 rooms on peak.


The trademark HYATT and related marks are trademarks of Hyatt Corporation. ©Hyatt Corporation. All rights reserved.

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All photos courtesy Ontario CVB


going on faith [ april | may 2016 ]


unny Southern California is calling this summer, when the Going On Faith Conference heads to Ontario, August 9-11. “I can’t tell you how many of our delegates from past conferences have told me how excited they are to be going to Ontario, California,” said conference CEO Joe Cappuzzello. “We’re talking about perhaps the most enviable climate anywhere in America, and the list of things to see and do out there seems to grow every day. We certainly hope everyone is making plans now to join us out there in August.”

The Maloof Residence offers Southern California style.

Ontario has been climbing the charts for a decade or so as more and more eastern U.S. travelers discover its excellent air service and its proximity to so many of southern California’s hip, cool and trending points of interest. “Ontario is the perfect hub-and-spoke destination for exploring southern California,” said Michael Krause, CEO of the Ontario Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We’re 30 minutes from Los Angeles, 30 minutes from Disney, 30 minutes from ski country in the mountains and 40 minutes from the beach.

Auto Club Speedway

Ontario Mills Mall

Citizens Business Bank Arena

Graber Olive House

We are a regional hub that sits in the shadow of the San Bernardino Mountains. “Your delegates can literally go to the beach in the morning and to the mountains in the afternoon,” he said. “We’ve recently been selected for a new California Welcome Center. That is a huge deal. We’ll see a thousand buses a year at that center easily. It will open this month [April] and is adjacent to the Ontario Mills Mall, which draws 28 million visitors annually.” Here is a rundown of sites Going On Faith delegates will have the opportunity to enjoy:

CITIZENS BUSINESS BANK ARENA — This $150 million center is one of the busiest host venues for concerts and events anywhere on the West Coast. Completed in 2008, Citizens Bank Arena has drawn acts like Metallica, Elton John, Katy Perry, Carrie Underwood and the Eagles to Ontario. The Los Angeles Lakers play annual preseason games in the venue as well. Built by the city and managed by AEG Facilities, this arena accommodates up to 11,000 guests for a concert or event.

ONTARIO MILLS MALL — AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY — Shopping centers of this magnitude have become travel destinations, not just for domestic groups, but for international groups as well. Groups from China, Brazil and many countries in Europe include this mall on their California itineraries. Going On Faith delegates will be astounded at the size and diversity of this shopping experience. Ontario Mills boasts more than 200 stores, from Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue to Nike and Coach, and it contains nearly 60 movie screens.

Do you have any NASCAR fans in your group? Make sure to save time for a trip out to Auto Club Speedway in nearby Fontana. Every March, race fans from across the United States gather for the NASCAR Sprint Series Auto Club 400. This track and complex is California’s finest. Hosting racing 320 days a year, this D-shaped two-mile-long oval track is a favorite with drivers and actors alike. When racing isn’t taking place, this track is used for many movie and photo shoots that call for a racing backdrop.

going on faith [ ]

Maloof Residence kitchen


GRABER OLIVE HOUSE — One of the area’s most heralded cultural stops is this iconic olive producer and retailer. Graber Olive House has earned reviews from culinary writers across the country and beyond for its locally grown and packaged olives. The area’s rich olive-growing heritage is attributed to 18th-century Spanish missionaries who planted groves of trees almost 250 years ago. Since 1894, Graber Olives has been an Ontario landmark. Guests to the Going On Faith Conference will have the opportunity to visit its historic shops and cannery. Gift baskets, olive oils, almonds, dates and other delicacies are staples at this charming gift shop.

MALOOF RESIDENCE AND GARDEN — Another cultural highlight of

any trip to Ontario is a visit to the residence and garden of internationally acclaimed woodworker Sam Maloof and his wife and partner of 50 years, Alfreda. Together, this couple built a worldwide following for Sam’s creations, which included customdesigned furniture and decorative art. Located in nearby Rancho Cucamonga, the site includes the Maloof’s custom-built home, their garden and a museum. “I was just out at the Maloof home,” said Krause. “It’s phenomenal. I walked through the gardens yes-


going on faith [ april | may 2016 ]

Maloof Residence

terday. Artists in addition to Maloof are featured there. The museum has a lot of his furniture, all handmade and made with pegs. He made rocking chairs for Presidents Kennedy, Carter and Reagan. His workshop has been preserved since his death in 2009. There are still molds there for the chair he made for President Kennedy and others. His kitchen hasn’t been touched since the 1970s. The house is a very cool place. You could spend two days there easily.”

CALIFORNIA ROUTE 66 MUSEUM — Route 66 is one of America’s most-visited cultural landmarks. Stretching from Chicago to the Pacific, this historic drive has millions of fans across the world who love its call to the open road and adventure. The California Route 66 Museum in nearby Victorville is an interactive museum that features a 1950s diner, a Volkswagen “Love Bus” van and a Model T Ford.

GOLF — Bring your clubs to Ontario. As you

might imagine, numerous golf courses grace the region, including nearby public-play tracts like Whispering Lakes and Sierra Lakes. Whispering Lakes was renovated and enhanced recently and features a 6,700-yard, tree-lined layout. Sierra Lakes in nearby Fontana offers gorgeous views of the mountains of nearby San Bernardino.

Empire Lakes Golf Course

Big Bear Lake



Need to get away while you’re in Ontario? Head for nearby Cucamonga Guasti Regional Park. A local favorite, this park is the site of choice for paddleboats, fishing, swimming and picnicking. Many other outdoor pursuits, including hiking and bicycling, are just minutes away in the Southern California countryside. “It’s hard to describe how wonderful this area is — you just have to go,” said Cappuzzello. “I would encourage our delegates to come early and stay late. If you’ve ever wanted to relax in Southern California, this conference is the time to do it.” Registration is open now for the Going On Faith Conference in Ontario, August 9-11. Faith-based travel planners can attend for only $95, and that includes two nights’ lodging, all conference meals and sightseeing. For details, visit

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SNAPSHOT The Broadmoor’s Pikes Peak Cog Railway has been taking visitors to see the beauty surrounding Colorado Springs for almost 125 years.




triking mountains and scenic natural beauty surround Colorado Springs, Colorado. The city lies near the base of Pikes Peak, the highest summit of the Rocky Mountains at more than 14,000 feet. It’s the second-most-visited mountain in the world, next to Mount Fuji in Japan. Outdoor recreation takes place year-round in this so-called alpine desert climate that is relatively mild and dry. Located 70 miles south of Denver and just over an hour from Denver’s International Airport, Colorado Springs averages more than 300 annual days of sunshine with crystal blue skies. The Springs’ colorful history began when miners came to seek their fortunes in silver and gold. In 1871, the region’s first narrow-gauge railroad was constructed by Gen. William Jackson Palmer. On its heels in 1872, he planned and

incorporated Colorado Springs as a rival to any city on the East Coast in elegance and refinement. Today, the city offers more than 55 attractions and is home to the United States Air Force Academy and the United States Olympic Training Center, both of which offer group tours. Among the numerous urban parks, Garden of the Gods was once considered sacred ground where the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes could meet in peace and bathe in the mineral springs. Today, groups can hike, horseback ride and visit the completely renovated Visitor and Nature Center. Also popular, the Broadmoor’s Pikes Peak Cog Railway will celebrate 125 years this June. The railway ascends several climate zones on its three-and-a-half-hour round trip from the historic Manitou Springs depot to the summit. Indoor attractions offer a variety of other

Space Foundation Discovery Center

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highlights for groups. Focus on the Family’s Welcome Center offers a glimpse into the heart behind the famous ministry organization. Its theater shows “Welcome Home,” a 12-minute, continuously looping film, as well as “The Last Chance Detectives,” an hourlong drama about four teenagers who solve mysteries. Not to be missed, the enormous bookstore sells inspirational books, music, movies and gifts. Nearby, the Space Foundation Discovery Center displays the its collection of space artifacts, and its Science on a Sphere features a 3-D “globular” movie screen built by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The region also offers whitewater rafting on the Arkansas River, daytime and lantern tours at Cave of the Winds, and the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park in Canon City.

Garden of the Gods All photos courtesy Colorado Springs VB

[ BROADMOOR SEVEN FALLS AND SOARING ADVENTURE ] Seven Falls is the only Colorado waterfall included on National Geographic’s list of international wonders and is recently open again after a two-year renovation project. Groups can climb the 224 steps to a series of waterfalls in the towering box canyon. There are plentiful hiking trails, and the on-site Restaurant 1858 serves regional fare. For thrill seekers, the Broadmoor Soaring Adventure offers 10 zip lines up to 1,800 feet long, rope bridges and a rappelling wall with spectacular canyon views. Two additional courses traverse a natural granite arch, steep drops, rock formations, jagged cliffs and Seven Falls Canyon. WWW.SEVENFALLS.COM

[ MONEY MUSEUM ] Seven Falls

In honor of the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games, the Money Museum has unveiled its newest exhibit, “Olympic Games — History and Numismatics.” The exhibit showcases objects and memorabilia that honor the Olympic Games from their ancient beginnings to modern times. Notable artifacts include rare Syracusan dekadrachms and a complete set of award medals from the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, plus participation medals, torches and several mascots. In addition, visitors can watch a demonstration of how coins were made with a screw press from the early 1500s to the 1800s and take home a commemorative coin. WWW.MONEY.ORG/MONEY-MUSEUM


An authentic Western experience, the new summerlong Colorado Springs Rodeo, will take place at the Norris-Penrose Equestrian Center on Wednesday nights. Admission includes prerodeo activities such as a petting zoo and a climbing wall. A chuck-wagon supper is served before the mutton-busting, calf-scramble and barrel-racing events start. The evening wraps up as clowns and bull riders put on a show and riders compete for nightly prize money. Afterward, groups can watch hot-air balloons inflate for a balloon glow in the starry sky, eat s’mores around a campfire and enjoy live entertainment. WWW.COSRODEO.COM

[ CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN ZOO ] A trip to America’s only mountain zoo invites groups to connect with nearly 950 animals from around the world. The zoo’s newest exhibit features the Outback, where wallabies, Australian parakeets and alligators live. Always a highlight is the chance to hand-feed the zoo’s giraffe herd, which is the largest herd at any zoo worldwide. A chairlift-style Sky Ride delivers views of the city and surrounding mountains, and a restored carousel delights visitors of all ages. Animal encounters, training demonstrations and feedings are scheduled daily to showcase the zoo’s black rhinos, wolves, grizzlies, gorillas, Nile hippos and more. WWW.CMZOO.ORG

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

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Kansas highlights, clockwise from top left: Old Cowtown Museum; Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery; a monument at Fort Leavenworth. Photos courtesy KS Dept. of Tourism








T by


ake a tour through Kansas and you’ll find yourself following the footprints of history. As America grew from the Atlantic Coast and the Midwest toward the Rockies and the Pacific Ocean in the 19th century, Kansas became a crucial crossroads of cowboys, soldiers, gunslingers, Native Americans and myriad other figures that made the American West. Though the area is no longer wild, destinations throughout the state have maintained their Western bona fides and give groups a number of ways to experience Kansas’ rich heritage. This itinerary travels from the eastern edge of the state into its far western reaches, stopping to see some of Kansas’ most interesting historic sites. The trip can be accomplished in five days and is guaranteed to teach your travelers things that they never knew about Kansas.

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site





Not far from Kansas City, the town of Leavenworth is home to two notable institutions: a large famous prison and Fort Leavenworth, an Army installation with more than its fair share of history. Used primarily for advanced military education, Fort Leavenworth is open for groups to tour and has a number of interesting attractions. The fort was founded in 1827 and is the oldest continuously active fort west of the Appalachian mountains. It played a major role in keeping the peace among the Indian tribes and pioneers who made their way through the area on their way to settle in the West. Historic tours of the fort include stops at Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery, the Command and General Staff College and the Buffalo Soldier Monument. Also on-site is the Frontier Army Museum, which showcases the Army’s role in westward expansion and has artifacts such as a carriage used by Abraham Lincoln and a Conestoga Prairie Schooner. W H I L E Y O U ’ R E T H E R E : The C.W. Parker Carousel Museum in Leavenworth can bring out the child in even the most seasoned traveler. This museum pays tribute to the Parker company that made carousels in the city during the early 20th century and features dozens of original, hand-carved figures, as well as a working carousel that groups can ride. MORE





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We often think of the civil rights movement as taking place in the deep South, but one of the most pivotal legal decisions in America’s desegregation originated in Topeka. Brown vs. Board of Education was the landmark Supreme Court decision that mandated integration of public schools nationwide in 1954, and today, the Brown vs. Board of Education National Historic Site helps visitors appreciate the significance of this achievement. The historic-site museum is located in a former Topeka school that itself was once segregated. The classrooms have been converted to museum galleries that use multimedia and experiential exhibits to give visitors an understanding of the context of the civil rights struggle to and the difficulties encountered by some of the first black students integrated into all-white schools. The museum encourages visitors to consider the present state of race relations in the country and to find ways to achieve unity and reconciliation. WHILE YOU’RE THERE: A number of businesses in Topeka offer interactive experiences for tour groups. Visitors can learn to fuse glass and make jewelry at Prairie Glass Studio; pick up home decor techniques at Discovery Furniture; make premium soy candles at Marion Lane Candles; and enjoy a candy demonstration and tasting at Hazel Hill Chocolate. MORE




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Kansas has long been a large producer of beef cattle, and during the middle of the 19th century the railroad helped young Wichita become a boomtown for cattle ranchers. Today, Old Cowtown Museum recreates the city’s streets during its Old West heyday. More than 60 years old, Cowtown focuses on giving visitors an experience of Wichita in the 1870s. It has a mix of 70 historic buildings and re-created buildings on-site, where costumed interpreters give first-person perspective and offer hands-on experiences Visitors can explore structures such as an early settler’s cabin, an 1874 middle-class home and an 1870s Presbyterian church. Re-created buildings include a saloon, a drugstore with artifacts from a dentist’s office, and other offices and businesses of that period. Group members may want to look at additional artifacts on display in the museum’s exhibition space or visit the working farm, which features a period farmhouse and livestock. WHILE YOU’RE THERE: As the largest city in Kansas, Wichita offers a number of other exciting tour opportunities for groups. Highlights are the iconic Keeper of the Plains statue, a 44-foot sculpture placed on sacred ground at the confluence of the Big Arkansas and Little Arkansas Rivers, and Exploration Place, the state’s premier science center and home to several flight simulators. MORE







Some 650 feet below the surface of Hutchinson, Strataca gives visitors a look into the cavernous world of an underground salt mine that operated through much of the 20th century and opened as a tourist attraction in 2007. There are some 940 acres of mines under Hutchinson and 67 miles of roads dug out to transport workers around the mines. When groups visit the mine, they can take a “dark ride,” a guided tram tour that highlights some of the ecological and man-made formations found inside the mine. The other half of the tour is the underground galleries displaying old mining equipment. In the galleries, retired mine workers show heavy machinery, a detonator cord and other tools used in the trade. The galleries also feature exhibits on Underground Vaults and Storage, the company that holds thousands of film reels and Hollywood memorabilia in former mine spaces. WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Cosmosphere in Kansas gives visitors a look into the fascinating world of space exploration. The multifaceted attraction includes a planetarium, a digital dome theater and the Hall of Space Museum, which features space vehicles and other artifacts from both American and Russian space missions. MORE




Examining the salt mine at Strataca

Hollywood memorabilia on display at Underground Vaults and Storage

Re-enactors at Old Cowtown Museum


going on faith [ april | may 2016 ]


Miss Kitty’s cancan dancers





It’s best to have your camera ready when your group visits the Boot Hill Museum in Dodge City. This museum is more than just galleries and artifacts. Its collection of historic buildings tell an Old West story that includes characters such as Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. As those legendary names suggest, Dodge City saw its fair share of lawlessness during the frontier days, and the museum takes its name from Boot Hill, the cemetery where gunshot victims were said to be buried still wearing their boots. Groups that visit in the summertime will find a country-style chuckwagon dinner each evening and a gunfight re-enactment in the street. Outside of the scheduled activities, travelers love to visit historic sites on the grounds. Among the favorites are the Fort Dodge Jail, the Long Branch Saloon, the schoolhouse, the blacksmith shop and a 1903 locomotive. WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Old West roots run deep in Dodge City, and there are a variety of ways for groups to immerse themselves in the experience. Nearby the museum, have photos taken in vintage Western garb at the popular Old Dodge Photo Parlor.

Boot Hill Cemetery





Photos courtesy Boot Hill Museum


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Fresh Water FINDS




reathe in and breathe out slowly. This is the best way to start a tour to one of the many charming lake towns across the country. Calm waves reflect the tranquil attitude of lake town dwellers and vacationers. Without ocean seasickness and beach crowds to worry visitors, lake towns offer the ultimate relaxation experience for church groups. The screen-saver-worthy views of pristine lakes, mountains and greenery found in these five lake towns create an especially serene vibe. Yet faith-based groups do not have to worry about boredom, since each town also contains a variety of attractions both on and off the water.

Kayaking and other paddle trips are a popular way to enjoy beautiful Lake Tahoe.

going on faith [ april | may 2016 ]

Courtesy North Lake Tahoe CVB

[ LAKE GEORGE , NEW YORK ] The town of Lake George sits on the foothills of the majestic Adirondack wilderness and the banks of a 32-mile-long lake of the same name. This vacation town draws guests every year for the panoramic mountain backdrops and numerous activities. “We have a lot of outdoor adventure, but we aren’t as remote as some other Adirondack towns,” said Tanya Brand, group tour promoter for the Warren County Tourism Department. “It’s very much a family-friendly and affordable town.” Groups can choose from two lake cruise companies: Lake George Shoreline Cruises and Lake George Steamboat Company. The former offers more upscale vessels, including the 115-foot Adirondack, and the latter re-creates the paddle-wheeler experience with the Minnie-Ha-Ha vessel’s authentic steam calliope concert. “Another one of our very popular attractions is Prospect Mountain,” said Brand. “It is an iconic landmark for Lake George. There is a view of Lake George, Vermont and New Hampshire. On a clear day, you can even see Canada.” Visitors can either hike or drive up the 2,030-foot summit for 100-mile views and historic ruins of what remains of the world’s largest cable railroad. The Saratoga and North Creek Railway passes similarly inspiring vistas as it weaves its way through the Adirondacks with seven station stops along the route. GROUP-FRIENDLY LAKEFRONT RESTAURANT: The Algonquin Restaurant is one of Lake George’s most popular restaurants for two reasons: upscale dining and breathtaking views of the lake. Groups can either dine al fresco or dine amid rustic decor, with choices of prime steaks, fresh seafood and pasta dishes. [ TAHOE CITY, CALIFORNIA ] Just as paddleboarding can seem like a serene excursion or a physical challenge depending on the participant, Tahoe City offers both adrenaline-pumping activities and serene encounters amid the region’s Sierra Nevada Mountains and crystal-blue waters of Lake Tahoe. “Tahoe City is the hub of North Lake Tahoe, but it’s part of a whole network of small towns,” said Jason Neary, director of sales for the North Lake Tahoe CVB. “You couldn’t ask for a town that is more family-friendly. There aren’t the chains here, but the independently owned businesses. It’s an authentic lake-town experience.” Coffeehouses, galleries and eclectic shops ensure an interesting stroll down the town’s lake-view boardwalk. Tahoe City also serves as a jumping-off point for a number of outdoor recreational activities, such as skiing, zip lining, kayaking, parasailing, biking and paddleboarding. North Tahoe Cruises also offers group boat charters for those looking to passively reflect on the surrounding abundant beauty. Hikers and cyclists can travel the entire length of the north shore or just part along the Tahoe Rim Trail. The relatively flat trail attracts both locals and visitors for its plentiful lakeside vistas. Guests can discover the intriguing history of the 19th-century town at Gatekeeper’s Museum. A reconstruction of an early settler’s cabin, the museum showcases rotating exhibits on the area’s Native Americans, early settlers and resort history. GROUP-FRIENDLY LAKEFRONT RESTAURANT: Groups can experience laid-back but delicious dining at Jake’s on the Lake, which also offers regular live entertainment. Sweeping lake and mountain views complement the restaurant’s selection of fresh fish and seafood.

Courtesy Warren Co. Tourism Dept.

Courtesy Coeur d’Alene CVB

Top: A scenic overlook of Lake George Bottom: Sunset on Lake Coeur d’Alene

[ COEUR D’ALENE , IDAHO ] The French name Coeur d’Alene sounds just as pleasant as the charming Idaho town is; but the name means “heart as sharp as a leather-piercing tool.” The harsh name refers to early traders’ belief that the local Native Americans were difficult negotiators. Nowadays, the city is known as a quaint town set amid pine-forested hills and the deep blue Lake Coeur d’Alene. “We only have a population of about 40,000,” said Katherine Hoyer, director of the Coeur d’Alene Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). “We have a smalltown feel, but we still have all the amenities of a larger city. Our summers here are phenomenal, but we also have skiing and snow activities in the winter.” Groups can explore the Northwest beauty of the area best by kayak with Row Adventure Center. The company leads kayak tours to point out nesting osprey or the evening sunset while educating participants on the interesting heritage of the town. Paddleboarding, fly-fishing, hiking and biking interpretive tours also allow groups to combine active fun with the natural beauty of the area. Lake cruises sail the 25-mile-long lake for a more low-key voyage. Depending on a group’s interest, they can either enjoy Coeur d’Alene’s thriving downtown full of shopping, restaurants and concerts, or ride 15 minutes away to Silverwood, one of the largest theme parks in the Northwest. GROUP-FRIENDLY LAKEFRONT RESTAURANT: Fresh seafood and locally sourced meat arrives daily at Cedars Floating Restaurant. Floating at the confluence of Lake Coeur d’Alene and the Spokane River, the renowned restaurant offers lake views and regional delicacies such as cedar-plank salmon and Biergarten filet.

going on faith [ ]



Twilight Tour Progressive Mansions Dinner

Afer a day at nearby Creation Museum, it’s the perfect time for a Twilight Tour. Venture down the Ohio River Scenic Byway to tour and dine in historic Aurora, Indiana’s landmark estates – Hillforest Victorian House Museum and Veraestau Historic Site.

Guides in costume, Hillforest

Delicious desserts, Veraestau

[ GRAND RIVERS, KENTUCKY ] Nestled between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley lies the small town of Grand Rivers: “The Village Between the Lakes.” Home to two resort marinas and located near the 170,000-acre Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area and many other tourism-related attractions, the town takes downtime very seriously. “It’s a very peaceful little town,” said Christine Thompson, executive director of Grand Rivers Tourism Commission. “It comes to life in the spring and summer when we have our festivals and events. Because our town is very pedestrian-friendly, it’s nice to go up Main Street and shop for antiques.” Groups can either try their hand at the helm during a sailing lesson or sit back on a sailing charter with Lighthouse Landing Marina Sailing School. Captain John Brazell offers group excursions aboard numerous sailboats, depending on the size of the group, for sunset and wildlife viewing. Guests can explore the 300 miles of shoreline and 200 miles of hiking and biking trails at Land Between the Lakes. The park features educational tours, among them birding trips, wildlife viewing and historic demonstrations at the Homeplace, a re-created working farm. The park’s Elk and Bison Prairie allows visitors to see these wild animals up close during a driving tour of the 700-acre enclosure. For a relaxing evening, the Badgett Playhouse shows “Variety,” a Branson-style musical review popular with groups. GROUP-FRIENDLY LAKEFRONT RESTAURANT: Food enthusiasts rave over the two-inchthick pork chops, flowerpot bread and meringue pies at Patti’s 1880s Settlement Restaurant. Within walking distance to both lakes, the Settlement, a re-created historic log cabin village, offers two restaurants and six gift shops. [ GRAND MARAIS, MINNESOTA ] Most towns with populations of under 2,000 don’t have enough going on to attract many visitors. But Grand Marais, Minnesota, is not most towns. The tiny town situated between Lake Superior and the Sawtooth Mountains has an impressive art scene in addition to its sweeping scenes of natural beauty. Lake Superior’s 31,700 square miles holds about 10 percent of all the fresh surface water on the planet. This inspiring body of water helped turn Grand Marais into an art haven, with artists commonly on the docks painting the lake views. Groups can explore a small part of the massive lake aboard a half- or full-day fishing charter. Rainbow trout, pink salmon and steelhead trout thrive in Lake Superior’s cold waters, which is why novice fishing groups join professional sports fishermen on the lake from spring through fall. Outfitters also provide canoeing and kayaking on the lake, as well as popular excursions to the nearby Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. This natural paradise spans a million acres of woods and crystalclear lakes left untouched since the glaciers melted. Groups can also keep busy in Grand Marais without leaving the shore, thanks to local shops, art galleries, studios and the Grand Marais Playhouse. Visitors can tap into their own creativity with an art workshop at the Grand Marais Art Colony or the North House Folk School. Both locations feature artists leading experiential programs for groups, with focuses that include visual arts, glass, clay and woodworking. GROUP-FRIENDLY LAKEFRONT RESTAURANT: Handcrafted meals with fresh and seasonal ingredients ensure a delectable dining experience at Harbor House Grill. There, perched on Lake Superior, guests can overlook the serene expanse of the largest Great Lake during their meal.

OHIO Indianapolis Indian napolis




Sailing on Kentucky Lake




A picturesque marina at Grand Marais

South of I-74 & west of I-275, 20 minutes west of Cincinnati 800-322-8198

By Marty Colburn, courtesy Grand Rivers TC


going on faith [ april | may 2016 ]

Courtesy Visit Cook County



veryone enjoys a good Western movie, but there’s more to the story of the American frontier than just cowboys and Indians. The western half of the United States is a staggeringly large region that has been shaped by numerous events and phenomena. Though cowboys have indeed played a critical role in the history of the West, they are only co-stars in a drama that includes thousands of other people. At Western heritage museums in places such as Texas, Nevada and South Dakota, visitors get a deeper look at the historic events and colorful characters that helped to make the West what it is today. Next time your group travels through the region, take them to one of these sites to learn some of the fascinating stories of the West that they may never have heard before.

Courtesy Washington on the Brazos State Historic Site

Musicians play traditional Texas tunes at Washington on the Brazos State Historic Site.

HIGH PLAINS WESTERN HERITAGE CENTER SPEARFISH, SOUTH DAKOTA The Upper Plains states — the Dakotas, Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana — often get less attention for their Western heritage than other states farther south. But this region has plenty of history all its own, and the High Plains Western Heritage Center in South Dakota exists to share it with visitors. “We cover about half a dozen different areas, such as Western artifacts, art, mining and rodeo,” said executive director Peggy Ables. “The facility was put together by area ranchers to tell their stories.” The two-story museum sits on 20 acres and features more than 20,000 square feet of exhibits. Highlights include an original stagecoach that was used to shuttle travelers between Deadwood and Spearfish up until 1913. The Pioneer and Frontier gallery has one of the country’s largest collection of spurs, and the mining room features artifacts from an area mine that once produced large volumes of gold. “In our rodeo room, we have about 15 world championship trophies, as well as saddles and buckles, on display,” Ables said. “It’s the most of anyone around here.” The museum holds a number of events throughout the year in its 200-seat theater, which is also available for private dining and presentations for groups.

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WASHINGTON ON THE BRAZOS STATE HISTORIC SITE WASHINGTON, TEXAS A small, mostly abandoned town on the banks of a river may not seem to have much historical significance. But without the events that took place in the town of Washington, on the Brazos River, Texas wouldn’t be Texas. “Washington on the Brazos State Historic Site is here because this is where delegates met on March 2, 1836, to sign the Declaration of Independence from Mexico,” said Houston McGaugh, director of the Star of the Republic Museum at the historic site. “Fifty-nine men representing all of the municipalities of Texas gathered here and decided to declare independence and become their own country, the Republic of Texas. They drafted a constitution, elected an interim government and set a date for public elections.” The Republic of Texas operated as an independent government for about 10 years, after which it became part of the United States. The town of Washington survived until the 1850s, but faded away as residents left after the Civil War. Throughout the 20th century, a number of efforts were made to memorialize the events that took place in Washington. Today, Washington on the Brazos State Historic Site has a re-creation of Independence Hall, where the delegates declared their independence and worked to form a new government, as well as a living-history farm and the Star of the Republic Museum. “Our museum focuses on the Republic period of Texas history,” McGaugh said. “The exhibits start with the Native Americans and go back through the Texas Revolution and the Mexican War, which really set the current boundary between Mexico and Texas.” At Barrington Living History Farm, staff members don period clothes and work with farm animals and livestock using the same techniques that Texas family farmers would have employed some 180 years ago. WESTERN FOLKLIFE CENTER ELKO, NEVADA Cowboys, ranchers and other workers in the historic West spent a lot of time in the open frontier and developed a number of ways to express themselves and entertain their compatriots. At the Western Folklife Center, exhibits and events explore the artistic traditions that emerged from the American West. “We’re really about the artistic expression and traditions of the West,” said Darcy Minter, the center’s external communications director. “We do a lot with cowboy and ranching cultures, but our mission is to document, preserve and present the diversity of cultures in the West. That really means anybody living in the West, not just cowboys and Indians.” To that end, the center features numerous rotating exhibits throughout the year that highlight different art forms from around the region. Depending on when they visit, groups might see photography exhibitions, learn about Mexican ballads or see a series of videos in which residents of today’s West tell their stories. The center also has a busy programming calendar, and travel planners can arrange for their group visits to coordinate with a concert, a dance class or another event. The Western Folklife Center is perhaps best known, though, for its annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, held each year at the end of January. “It’s a pretty big deal,” Minter said. “We have about 50 acts, both poetry and music. We have films and discussions about important issues in the West. There are dances, dance classes and workshops of all kinds, like cooking and writing workshops. It’s a very diverse event with lots of different activities.” Though the gathering can become crowded toward its final days each year, Minter said that groups can attend in the earlier days and arrange to have workshops and other encounters with some of the featured performers. 24

going on faith [ april | may 2016 ]

Courtesy Chisholm Trail Heritage Center

By Charlie Ekburg, courtesy Western Folklife Center

Top: “On the Trail” monument at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center Bottom: National Cowboy Poetry Gathering at the Western Folklife Center

CHISHOLM TRAIL HERITAGE CENTER DUNCAN, OKLAHOMA If it weren’t for the Chisholm Trail, the Texas economy might have crashed after the Civil War. “A lot of Texas cowboys didn’t return home from the war, and there got to be way too many longhorns in Texas, so they weren’t worth anything,” said Stacy Cramer Moore, executive director of the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, Oklahoma. “But someone had the idea that if you could get the cattle to Abilene, Kansas, and load them on boxcars, you could send them out East, where they were worth $40 to $60 a head. Between 1867 and 1889, about 8 million head of cattle made the trip up the Chisholm Trail from Texas to Kansas. It’s the largest man-made migration in history, and it is credited with saving the Texas economy.” At the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center, visitors learn this history and hear numerous other fascinating stories from life on the trail. The trip from Texas to Kansas was about 1,000 miles and took about 100 days to complete. Unlike what we see in the movies, the average age of cowboys on the trail was about 14 years, with some workers as young as 8 or 9. The heritage center uses a variety of exhibits and artifacts to tell these stories. But perhaps the most moving experience is in the center’s 4-D theater. “You can feel the rumble of the stampede, just like you’re out in the Wild West,” Moore said. “That’s our guests’ favorite exhibit by far.” Other highlights are a multimillion-dollar Western art collection and a large outdoor monument that depicts life on the Chisholm Trail.

AUTRY MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN WEST LOS ANGELES Located in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park, the Autry Museum of the American West aims to present a comprehensive picture of Western history, art and culture. “Our museum features world-class galleries with Native American art and artifacts, film memorabilia, historic firearms, paintings and more,” said Keisha Raines, communications manager at the Autry. The museum’s core exhibition includes a wide range of historic firearms, Pueblo pottery, cowboy artifacts and many more items associated with the American West. Other galleries present contemporary Western art, as well as artifacts and memorabilia from Hollywood’s depiction of the Wild West in film. “My particular favorite item is our saloon downstairs,” Raines said. “You get the feeling of actually being in a 19th-century saloon in the Old West.” Travel planners may want to coordinate their trips to coincide with one of the many special events that take place at the museum. The Sizzling Summer Nights program takes place on Thursdays in July and August and features an all-ages dance party with live Latin bands and salsa teachers. The Indian Marketplace in November is also popular. “We have more than 200 artists selling pottery, jewelry, paintings and other handcrafted items,” Raines said. We have amazing Indian fry bread during that time, and we usually show an Indian film in our theater.”

A historic interpreter at Washington on the Brazos Courtesy Washington on the Brazos State Historic Site

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hen someone says “music” and “the South,” do you think of New Orleans jazz, Nashville contemporary country, Elvis’ greatest hits, Kentucky barn dances, Appalachian rhythms? Or do you think of ’70s and ’80s rock? Just as the first American settlers laid their roots in the South, most major American musical genres have done the same. From one state to the next or even from city to city, groups can experience the evolution of American music from early African tunes to the origins of today’s chart toppers.

Macon celebrates local hero Otis Redding.

Courtesy Macon CVB

Nashville’s famous Grand Ole Opry

By Joe Joell D Dennis, en is, enn is cou co courtesy urtesy esy Na Nashville ashv shvill illee CVC CVC C

The Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival showcases the native music of New Orleans.


going on faith [ april | may 2016 ]

By Cheryl Gerber, courtesy New Orleans CVB


NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE Nashville’s musical roots run far, far deeper than the pop country focus of popular television show “Nashville” would lead you to believe. As early as the 1890s, the city was a hotbed of ground-breaking gospel music at the Union Gospel Tabernacle, which went on to house the Grand Ole Opry for 30 years before becoming the Ryman Auditorium, one of the most important music venues in the city today. The Country Music Hall of Fame peels back these layers, walking visitors through the history of not only country music, but also American music generally. “It tells the story of America’s music in a chronological fashion, how music came into America and the development of other genres,” said Laurel Bennett, director of tourism sales for the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation. “A lot of people go into the Hall of Fame skeptical about country music and come out realizing how closely all the different genres are connected and that they are in fact country music fans. Right now they have an exhibit on Bob Dylan.” An expansion in 2014 catapulted the attraction to the status of the world’s largest museum dedicated to music. A satellite part of the Country Music Hall of Fame in downtown Nashville is RCA Studio B, where Elvis recorded more than 200 songs. Today, groups tour the studio and also lay down their own tracks. Bennett recommends groups start there in the morning before touring the Country Music Hall of Fame and wind up at Wildhorse Saloon for lunch and line dancing lessons, where their Studio B recording is debuted to the crowd. In the evenings, groups can catch a show at the Ryman Auditorium, where the acoustics from the original church’s hardwood floors and stained-glass windows creates a bucket-list performance environment for musicians, or the Grand Ole Opry, where the performance is heightened by the fact that it is a live radio show complete with commercials. Downtown, all of Broadway rocks from 10 a.m. until 3 a.m. at honky-tonk bars. Out of town, groups can have a more tranquil live performance ambiance at the Fontanelle, a restored historic home run by a group of music producers that have filled the space with memorabilia from their charttopping artists.


RENFRO VALLEY, KENTUCKY While country music has become more strongly linked with Tennessee, and Nashville in particular, Kentucky’s Renfro Valley’s country music legacy is matched only by the Grand Ole Opry. “The Renfro Valley Gatherin’,” which started on the airwaves in 1943, is the second-oldest continuously running radio show in the United States after the Opry. John Lair, a Chicagoan with Kentucky roots who ran the radio show “National Barn Dance,” which inspired the “Grand Ole Opry” show, wanted to host a live barn-dance event to match his immensely popular show. Naysayers told him he’d have to turn the venue back into a tobacco barn because no one would come, but today his entertainment center has grown into a 55-acre campus with shops and restaurants. Though Nashville is full of urban music venues crowded in on one another, Renfro Valley’s music venues give country music space to breathe,

often quite literally. In John Lair’s day, “there’d be some nights where they had 3,000 people here, and they’d open up the sides of the barn,” said Renfro Valley sales and marketing coordinator Jerred Harris. Groups have a wealth of options to enjoy Renfro Valley’s energetic country music. Thursday through Sunday, groups can enjoy a new show called the “Hazzard County Hoedown,” which “is a tribute to the Dukes with hilarious hijinks with Boss and the Dukes,” said Harris. Friday nights typically feature a major headliner like Trace Adkins, and Saturday holds the Mountain Gospel Jubilee for bluegrass gospel and the Renfro Valley Barn Dance that started it all. During the day, groups can visit the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame to learn more about the origins of Kentucky country music and the Bittersweet Cabin Village, with transplanted structures dating from the 1700s through World War II, to understand the people who produced the music. The Hall of Fame is open seasonally, and the village is open year-round.


MACON, GEORGIA Macon’s musical heritage may be a newer phenomenon than many other Southern music capitals, but with bands like the Allman Brothers, powerhouse producers like Capricorn records, and smash-hit solo artists like Otis Redding coming up there, it’s the undeniable heart of modern Southern rock and soul. One of the best ways to get the lay of the land is to take your group on a Rock Candy tour and request Jessica Walden as your guide. One of the company’s owners, Walden offers an especially detailed introduction to Macon’s music history by incorporating stories from her upbringing as the daughter of Capricorn Records founder Phil Walden. Groups can opt for a step-on guide for a customized driving tour or use Rock Candy as a Friday or Saturday night outing. The walking tours can be customized in length, but typically run two and a half to three hours. Macon’s must-see music stop is the Big House Museum, dedicated to the Allman Brothers Band. The house where the musicians lived, worked and cultivated their unique sound has been restored and redecorated to what the house looked like in the musicians’ day, with memorabilia creating individual bedrooms bringing each band member’s style to life. By appointment for groups, private tours are also available at The Douglas, a historic music venue where Phil Walden discovered Otis Redding. For a musical meal, bring your group to H&H, a local soul food restaurant run by Mama Louise. “When the Allman Brothers were a struggling band, you could tell they were kind of up-and-coming, and they got up the nerve to ask if they could have one plate of food to share,” said Macon-Bobb County Convention and Visitors Bureau director of communications Valerie Bradley. “She formed a relationship with the band, and they took her on the road with them on tour. She’s still alive and has a chair behind the counter.” going on faith [ ] 27



An outdoor concert in Charleston on the banks of the Kanawha River Courtesy Charleston WV CVB

From its days in the early 1940s through the 1960s as a key stop on the “chitlin’ circuit” for Southern African-American musicians like Nat King Cole and James Brown to today, as the home of National Public Radio’s “Mountain Stage,” Charleston has long been a regional focal point for both the largest acts in Appalachian music and touring national stars. “We have live music every night because we’re the home of ‘Mountain Stage,’ which is like ‘Austin City Limits’ but older,” said Alisa Bailey, CEO of the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau. “A lot of musicians have been attracted to the city because of that and the Maier Foundation Performance Hall at the Clay Center for the Arts, which is arguably the third-best acoustic hall in the world because when they built it, it was across from the hospital, and they could hear the helicopters, so they redid the acoustics.” Beyond the Clay Center and Stage, which hosts national acts like Diana Ross and Taylor Swift, the free summer concert series Live on the Levee and bluegrass-focused bars Milton Opry House, Bluegrass Kitchen and The Empty Glass offer groups more casual ways to take in the local music scene. You can even charter a boat and enjoy the Live on the Levee shows from the water, as the amphitheater is right on the riverfront. Meanwhile, “often after performances of ‘Mountain Stage,’ the featured performers can be seen jammin’ at the Empty Glass for the Post Mountain Stage Jam,” said Bailey. “[It’s] comparable to a 40-person VIP experience, a room filled with people from the show and Grammy-winning and nominated musicians.”

Experience where New Orleans goes to meet and unwind!

Reserve a peaceful retreat from the bustling big city. Just a beat from New Orleans, experience Kenner, Jefferson’s largest city and home to the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. In Kenner, our 75,000 square foot Pontchartrain Convention & Civic Center and over 2,000 of the parish’s 7,500 hotel rooms are ready to host your group. Jefferson Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc. Call 504.731.7083 Toll Free 1.877.572.7474


going on faith [ april | may 2016 ]


NEW ORLEANS New Orleans may be the birthplace of jazz as we know it, but its musical roots run much deeper and broader. A melange of immigrants in the colonial years — from French to Spanish to African — created a heady framework of local musical flavor when ragtime rose to national prominence in the beginning of the 20th century. To differentiate the New Orleans variation from the growing national style, jazz began first as Dixieland with brass marching bands accompanied by dancing, before morphing into the more bluesy style associated with New Orleans today. To orient groups to the local music, begin at the New Orleans Jazz Historical National Park, where the Preservation Hall venue can host private groups for a two-hour event that includes a live performance, a question-andanswer session with musicians and a private tour of the hall. Though it’s hard to miss the music scene wandering the popular French Quarter and Frenchmen Street areas, New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau sales manager Thu Tran said the perfect jazzy day in New Orleans begins with a jazz brunch, followed by a visit to the national park, free time in the French Quarter, and a dinner jazz cruise along the Mississippi or a visit to Mulate’s on the river, which bills itself as the original Cajun restaurant and features live music and dancing every night.

Dixieland in the French Quarter Courtesy New Orleans CVB

We’ve got you covered. Plan your next motorcoach tour with someone you know … your friends on the A-Team. We know tours inside and out and can help you plan itineraries or suggest destinations you may not have considered. That’s why we’re the A-Team. FIND OUT MORE BY VISITING OR CALLING 1-800-872-1259.

going on faith [ ] 29





olding a youth group’s attention has always been challenging, but in today’s constant barrage of social media updates, a trip that’s lame can get viral on Facebook or Snapchat quickly. Thankfully, all the favorite Southern destinations are way ahead of the game, rolling out attractions to make sure younger guests stay engaged, entertained and sending smiling selfies only to their friends. Here are some Southern destinations that are sure to be a hit with youth groups.

Pigeon Forge’s Outdoor Gravity Park

Courtesy Pigeon Forge Dept. of Tourism

Airboat exploration in Mobile Bay

Courtesy Mobile Bay CVB

Myrtle Beach’s many amusement rides make it a perennially popular youth destination.


going on faith [ april | may 2016 ]

Courtesy Myrtle Beach Area CVB


PIGEON FORGE, TENNESSEE Surrounded by more than 500,000 acres of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is among the most visited national parks in the nation, Pigeon Forge is often used as a base for exploring the Smoky Mountains. It’s also packed with attractions of its own that will appeal to younger visitors. “Dollywood is a major magnet and is appealing for youth groups in a big, big way; it has one of the best collections of rides at any amusement park,” said Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism spokesman Tom Adkinson. This spring, the park is launching a new ride that is sure to top thrill-seekers’ bucket lists: the $22 million Lightning Rod, which will be the world’s fastest wooden roller coaster. Pigeon Forge is also home to one of the world’s only WonderWorks — an interactive entertainment center designed to make science fun for children — as well as a number of go-kart tracks and miniature golf courses. “For a youth group, they can be an absolute treat,” said Adkinson. “They take up time, the ticket price is modest, and we have quite a lot of them.” Firehouse Golf, Lost Treasure Golf and The Track are ideal for youth groups. One of the most popular activities in Pigeon Forge with the youth market is the Outdoor Gravity Park, home to an activity museum and an 11-foot-tall inflated plastic ball in which visitors sit while they are pushed off the side of a hill; the result is a rollicking roll that’s ideal for the Snapchat generation to capture and share on their smartphones. Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers 150 hiking trails, including a quick, quarter-mile hike up to the highest point in Tennessee, Clingmans Dome. “When you get up to the observation tower, there’s quite a sense of accomplishment,” said Adkinson.


MOBILE, ALABAMA At the end of a river delta on a bay protected by barrier beaches, Mobile has the perfect location to get out on the crystal-clear Gulf of Mexico or boat up the backwaters for an entirely different kind of adventure. To orient groups before heading out on the water, make the first stop the $62 million GulfQuest National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico, which opened in September. The five-story, 90-exhibit facility brings the Gulf Coast’s maritime history to life through interactive exhibits especially fitting for youth groups, including virtual opportunities to scuba dive in the Gulf of Mexico, drive tugboats through hurricane-force winds and captain a pirate ship cruising between the shore and the Caribbean. Stacy Hamilton, vice president of marketing and communications for Visit Mobile, recommends that after the museum, groups take a pontoon boat from Five Rivers Delta Safari out on the delta for live encounters with turtles and alligators. Each boat holds up to 40 guests, and the operator can pick

up groups at the convention center downtown. Before the tour, “walk around the historic downtown,” she said. “There’s so many sights and buildings, and kids like to be able to walk on the sidewalks and see the square and explore on their own.” In the evening, depending on the time of year, youth groups can rent a trolley for a tour of the historic district with refreshments and punch, or catch a concert at the Saenger Theatre of Mobile. The CVB can assist with trolley rentals, and Hamilton also advises that duck boat tours, which combine land- and sea-based driving tours in the same vehicle, will be launching in Mobile later this year, although the start date has yet to be determined.


MYRTLE BEACH, SOUTH CAROLINA Myrtle Beach might as well be called South Carolina’s capital of entertainment for the number of attractions found throughout the region. B roadway at the Beach, a mega shopping, dining and entertainment complex, has everything from escape rooms, mirror mazes and a water park to zip lining and behind-the-scenes tours and a Ripley’s Aquarium. The 100-exhibit WonderWorks interactive museum along the waterfront also offers laser tag and the opportunity to virtually pilot a NASA shuttle. Barefoot Landing, a sister property of Broadway at the Beach, gives groups a chance to get out on the water on the Barefoot Princess Riverboat, which is ideal for an evening activity for youth groups thanks to the DJ on board. “The Boardwalk is really fun for kids as well,” said Sandy Haines, group tour sales manager for Visit Myrtle Beach. Ripley’s Believe It or Not and the 187-foot-tall Myrtle Beach SkyWheel ferris wheel anchor the 1.2mile promenade, which opened in 2010. Hopsewee Plantation, which dates back to 1735 and is one of the oldest Southern plantations open to the general public, is about an hour’s drive south along the coast, but Haines recommends youth groups consider adding it to a Myrtle Beach itinerary because of the recently launched program for youth groups. Originally owned by one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, Hopsewee was a rice plantation for centuries, and visiting groups can try their hands in the rice paddies, learn to cook rice in a cauldron over the fire and bring home a pot of their own Carolina gold rice. “Our peak season is Memorial Day to Labor Day,” said Haines. In the fall, “the rates are good, and the average air temperature is 85 degrees, and the average water temperature is 80 degrees. I love September because the weather is still amazing and the water is warm. In the spring, the water hasn’t started warming up yet.” going on faith [ ] 31

Pigeon Forge’s Wonders of Flight

Myrtle Beach mini-golf Courtesy Myrtle Beach Area CVB

Courtesy Pigeon Forge Dept. of Tourism


ORLANDO, FLORIDA Orlando is paradise for youth groups of all ages; the only problem is figuring out where to take your group without having them get upset that they’ve missed other great attractions. Teenagers, in particular, have turned “fear of missing out,” or FOMO, into a social media phenomenon. Disney World is constantly adding new offerings to keep up with the latest technology and popular Disney releases, and 3-D activities great for older groups include the opportunity to design and ride a custom roller coaster at DisneyQuest and compete in a pirate duel at the new Pirates of the Caribbean interactive experience. Disney’s Animal Kingdom and nearby SeaWorld are ideal for adding a bit of edutainment to your itinerary. Hollywood Studios at Disney World includes the attraction’s main roller coasters, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Rock ’N’ Roller Coaster, created in collaboration with Aerosmith. Teen and preteen groups will gravitate toward Universal Studios’ Island of Adventure, which has the most and best roller coasters in town, from a 3-D “Terminator” battle and a “Men in Black” alien attack to the beloved “Jaws” ride and NBA City, a basketball-themed experience. One of the newer additions to the Orlando attraction lineup that works well with mixed-aged groups is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Universal Orlando Resort. In addition to dining and shopping areas straight out of the books and movies like Diagon Alley, Hogwarts castle and Hogsmeade village, the attraction includes roller coasters, a 3-D ride that simulates the escape from Gringotts Bank in mining carts and a full-scale Hogwarts Express train to transport visitors between the two Universal parks.





© EPE. Graceland is a trademark of EPE. Elvis Presley™; Photo © 2016 ABG EPE IP LLC


going on faith [ april | may 2016 ]

Though it’s known for its sprawling, 173-acre historic site Colonial Williamsburg, which now also includes a modern shopping area and an allinclusive resort, Williamsburg has a lot more to offer than period shoemakers and blacksmiths. One of the best ways to offer your group an exclusive historical experience is to take one of the themed tours available in Greater Williamsburg. The 90-minute cruises depart each morning aboard 105-foot vessels; they recreate Captain John Smith’s ship and give youth groups the opportunity to run up their own sails, steer the ship and try their hand at the life of a pirate. Segway tours run through downtown Yorktown for urban history or New Quarter Park, adjacent to Colonial Williamsburg, where groups can see what the area was like when the settlers first arrived. By night, your group can take in a very different kind of nightlife with a combination history and ghost tour such as the Dead of the Night or Witches of Williamsburg tour, or go full “Ghostbusters” with their own paranormal activity detectors. Colonial Williamsburg is a can’t-miss stop on any Williamsburg itinerary, but it has a rotating schedule so that different buildings are opened to the public and operated by re-enactors every day. For groups with multiple days in town, it can make the most sense to visit the site in the morning over the course of several days to see it all and use the afternoon for other attractions. For a break from history, the 383-acre Busch Gardens Williamsburg, a SeaWorld Entertainment attraction, takes visitors back to “the old country” in a modern way with roller coasters themed around European countries that re-create areas like San Marco in Italy and Killarney in Ireland.





hether your group gravitates more toward Colonial history, complete with hearth cooking and blacksmithing demonstrations, or the gilt and glamour of the Roaring ’20s, there’s a Southern historic home museum to fit its needs. Historic-home tours are a staple of group travel in many destinations, but the homes of the South offer architecture, art and memorable stories that make them stand out from the pack.


LONGWOOD N AT C H E Z , M I S S I S S I P P I What might have been one of the most outstanding architectural achievements of its day remains frozen in the Natchez historic district. Longwood, a six-story, 30,000-square-foot mansion, remains incomplete, as workers abandoned the project when the Civil War broke out. “People love the fact that Longwood is unfinished,” said Lynn Beach Smith, director of sales for Natchez Pilgrimage Tours. “They love the size of it and the fact that when the Civil War started, the house was abandoned by Union supporters from the North that were building it. They dropped their tools and headed for home to fight in the war. For years, the upstairs was riddled with these tools in the very places where they dropped them. Now the tools are still there, just moved so people can tour the upstairs, finished rotunda part of Longwood.” All visitors to Longwood take a guided 45-minute tour of the home, so groups are required to reserve a time in advance through Smith, as the home can accommodate only 90 people at a time. Natchez is home to more than 500 antebellum homes, including 13 National Historic Landmarks. Eleven are available for tours through Natchez Pilgrimage Tours, including Linden, which was the inspiration for Tara’s front door in “Gone With the Wind,” and Melrose, which is overseen by the National Park Service due to its exceptional contributions to American architectural history.

A blacksmith demonstrates historic handcraft at North Carolina’s Tryon Palace.

Courtesy Tryon Palace

going on faith [ ] 33



CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA As a presidential home, architectural experimentation ground and living-history museum, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello offers group leaders the opportunity to combine many history-oriented activities into one location. To preserve the integrity of the grounds, which include a working farm that furnishes produce for the site’s cafe, groups can park in the ample bus parking at the bottom of Monticello’s hill at the visitor center, which reopened in 2009 with a historical-film screening room and a museum with rotating exhibits to hold objects excavated from the site. After a short shuttle ride up the hill, groups have their choice of tours. Options include the seasonal garden- and slavery-focused programs on Mulberry Row, where the estate’s workshops were historically located, or a traditional or behindthe-scenes tour of the house. Outdoor tours run mid-March through October. The recently launched behind-the-scenes tour takes groups into areas of the house that were previously closed to visitors. “The house is three stories, and the top two stories were more the living quarters for [Jefferson’s] family and extended family, and they’ve been restored and reinterpreted,” said Steve Geis, director of guest relations. “They’re very popular and in-depth, but one thing about the Monticello house is that Jefferson thought staircases took up too much room, so he hid them, and they’re very narrow.”

Longwood, one of the most popular historic homes in Natchez

Geis recommends that groups visit the site in the fall, when many tours come to Skyline Drive and Shenandoah to see the leaves. The site is opening several new restored areas this fall as well. The cottage that was the first structure Jefferson built on the site and the north dependencies, or work rooms and storerooms, will be reinterpreted for visitors beginning this October.



NEW BERN, NORTH CAROLINA Tryon Palace is an unusual historic site in that the building, a reconstruction of the Colonial Carolina governor’s mansion, which burned to the ground in 1792, is historic both for the prior home it represents and the landmark rebuilding that brought the palace to us today. The home takes its name from William Tryon, the Colonial governor who built it. To fund the construction of the towering edifice, Tryon raised taxes so much that it started a battle that was a precursor to the Revolutionary War. During the war, the revolutionary army captured the building and turned it into the state capitol, until the capital was moved to Raleigh. After the 1792 fire, the site was used for many other purposes until the original plans were discovered in the 1930s and a 30-year campaign began to move the modern buildings and reconstruct the original mansion in its exact location in exacting detail. The group sales team offers three different packages for groups: the historic homes and gardens; the North Carolina History Center and its 1835 experiential village; or the all-inclusive day pass, which allows access to both the historic and interactive interpretive areas. The staff can also customize group experiences. “It’s really fun to watch people do hands-on things and really experience history,” said Sarah Risty-Davis, visitor program manager. “Everyone knows what a nail is, but it’s amazing to see people experience that being made.” Risty-Davis cautions that during March and April, the historic site can hit daily capacity with school groups, but “October is magical here,” she said. “We have really pretty fall weather and crowds are not really bad that time of year.”


Courtesy Natchez CVB

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

Courtesy Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello


going on faith [ april | may 2016 ]


BENTONVILLE, ARKANSAS While the intactness of the 1875 Peel Mansion Museum is a gift to visitors today, the original home was something of a gift as well. “Colonel Peel built it for his wife,” said Carol Harris, who oversees the museum’s volunteer docent program. “It was her promise from him that he would build her a house, but they went through the Civil War and five children first. The reason the house was saved was that Peel was the first Arkansan elected to Congress after the Civil War.” Wal-Mart purchased the house, which is near the company’s headquarters, and sold it back to the Peel House Foundation for a dollar in 1992 to kick off the process of opening the house to the public, and members of the family donated furnishings and memorabilia that had been in the family for generations. Today, the collection includes the Peels’ personal silverware, china,

Swan House at Atlanta History Center

letters, pictures and books, some of which date back to the 1700s, according to Harris. “We have a family tea set that was in the family for 130 years, along with Bucky the rocking horse,” she said. “Four generations rode on that rocking horse.” Tours run 35 to 45 minutes for about 12 people per docent, with no more than 50 in the house at one time due to the historic setting. “We try to make them step back in time when they come in the front door,” said Harris. “We introduce them to the main characters of the house, as well as its secret hiding places.” For larger groups, the home can be visited in an open-house fashion, with docents in each room to interpret as much as visitors are interested in. Interpreters can also be costumed in period attire upon request. Groups can take a private lunch or tea in the conservatory or the carriage house, or enjoy a special “drink the garden” cocktail hour. “We use our herbs and have local mixologists come and make drinks based around herbs that are grown here,” said Harris.

Courtesy Atlanta History Center


design, and we know it was originally designed to look this way with the plants,” said Clarke. Guided tours are available for private groups, and Clarke said she can create a package for groups that includes a tour with lunch at the Swan House restaurant in a private or semiprivate setting, depending on the size of the group.


AT L A N TA Though it has long been a gem among Atlanta’s numerous historic home museums — so much so that the Atlanta History Center uses it as its base of operations — the Swan House has catapulted to national acclaim in recent years thanks to its cameo in the “Hunger Games” film franchise as President Snow’s home in the movie’s capitol district. The Atlanta History Center now offers special behindthe-scenes tours focused on the areas of the house used in the film, with an exclusive exhibit of memorabilia from the “Hunger Games” productions along with photo opportunities in areas of the house that have been reset to re-create scenes in the film. An Official O Off NASA Visitor Center Traditional house tours at the Swan House use an IST open-house format with interpreters stationed through# 1 TO U R ION T C A out to bring to life the daily existence of cotton barons in ATTR A M A B A L A the 1920s and 1930s. The Inman family bequeathed the NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) home to the Atlanta History Center as part of an estate, ensuring that the original furnishings and family possessions made their way into today’s museum experience. “Almost all of the interior is original: the library, the dining rooms and the morning room,” said Katy Clarke, director of guest experience at the Atlanta History Center. “In the bedrooms, we want people to engage and touch things, so those are typically items from our collection.” The gardens were designed by Philip Schutze, the same architect who worked on the house, as well as the Fa Fascinating asc scinating ttw twowo- tto o ssix-day ix-day American Academy in Rome and the Georgia Institute immersive ccamps amps ffor or a ges: immersive allll a ages: of Technology. c h i l d r e n, n , f a m i l i e s , a d u l t s a nd children, families, adults and “One of the things that is really unique about Swan Huntsville, Alabama • (800) 637-7223 Hunt House is that the landscape architecture is the original corporate p pr rog grrams! corporate programs! •

going on faith [ ] 35

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Going On Faith April May 2016  

The Going On Faith April May 2016 issue features group travel ideas for American lakes, western heritage sites, the South, Kansas and Colora...

Going On Faith April May 2016  

The Going On Faith April May 2016 issue features group travel ideas for American lakes, western heritage sites, the South, Kansas and Colora...