2022 GO South Tour Planner

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BRING FRIENDS

2022 TOUR PLANNER


NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS

PLAN YOUR ITINERARY: I N D U S T R Y.T N VA C AT I O N . C O M / T R AV E L - T R A D E

GRACELAND


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Cook Museum of Natural Science, Decatur

Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, Montgomery

Whether it’s learning about the natural world in Decatur and Gulf Shores, the past and future of space exploration in Huntsville, visiting sights where Rock ‘n Roll hits were made, or the history of the Civil Rights Movement, we can supply you with itineraries for several group tours. Trouble is...deciding which tour to take first. We’ll keep adding to the list, you just keep coming for new adventures. www.alabama.travel To learn how your group can experience Alabama, contact Rosemary Judkins at rosemary.judkins@tourism.alabama.gov or 334-242-4493.


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BRING FRIENDS

SOUTHEAST TOURISM SOCIETY 2022 TOUR PLANNER Courtesy Sevierville CVB

New in the Southeast

Feels Like Family

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THESE DESTINATIONS AND ATTRACTIONS ARE BETTER THAN EVER.

MEET SOUTHEASTERN VISIONARIES AT THESE MOM-ANDPOP ESTABLISHMENTS.

Dining Differently

Natural Attractions

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THE SOUTH IS FULL OF CREATIVE MEAL OPTIONS FOR GROUPS.

THE SOUTH IS RICH IN OUTDOOR EXPERIENCES FOR GROUPS.

Red Carpet Experiences

PUBLISHED FOR

1425 MARKET BLVD., STE. 530-324 ROSWELL, GA 30076-5624 770-355-4002 SOUTHEASTTOURISM.ORG

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PUBLISHED BY

THESE SOUTHERN ATTRACTIONS TREAT GROUPS LIKE VIPS.

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ON THE COVER: Groups can enjoy fresh seafood at Skull Creek Boathouse on South Carlolina’s Hilton Head Island. Photo courtesy SCPRT.

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NICHE TRAVEL PUBLISHERS 301 EAST HIGH STREET LEXINGTON, KY 40507 WWW.GROUPTRAVELLEADER.COM

FOR ADVERTISING CALL KELLY TYNER AT 888-253-0455 S O CIE T Y

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P L A N N E R


Joy: A state of

happiness.

In Louisiana, we pour our heart and soul into everything we do, and what comes out is joy. We call it “joie de vivre,” and it spices up every meal we serve, vibrates in every note we play, and it’s what makes your time here so special.

Come one, come y’all – Come feed your soul in Louisiana. Visit LouisianaTravel.com and plan your good times getaway today. ©2021 Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism


Southeast Tourism Society

LEADERSHIP TEAM

2022 OFFICERS Chair

MEREDITH DASILVA DIRECTOR OF EXECUTIVE OPERATIONS

ANNA PLANTZ PARTNER PROGRAMS WEST VIRGINIA DIVISION OF TOURISM

VISIT FLORIDA

DOUG BOURGEOIS ASSISTANT SECRETARY

MICHAEL MANGEOT COMMISSIONER

LOUISIANA OFFICE OF TOURISM

KENTUCKY DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM

CRAIG RAY DIRECTOR

TRAVIS NAPPER DIRECTOR

VISIT MISSISSIPPI

ARKANSAS TOURISM

ROBYN BRIDGES VICE PRESIDENT

WIT TUTTELL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

LORI SIMMS DEPUTY DIRECTOR

A UBURN -OPEL IKA TOU RISM

VISIT NORTH CAROLINA

MISSOURI DIVISION OF TOURISM

AMY DUFFY CHIEF OF STAFF

MARK JARONSKI DEPUTY COMMISSIONER

SC DEPT. PARKS, RECREATION & TOURISM

EXPLORE GEORGIA

DONNA CARPENTER PRESIDENT & CEO C A BA R RU S COU N T Y CVB

Vice Chair JILL KIDDER PRESIDENT & CEO LOUI SIAN A TRAVEL ASSOCIATION

Treasurer KAREN TREVINO PRESIDENT & CEO NOR T H L IT TL E ROCK CVB

Secretary

Marketing College Provost BERKELEY YOUNG PRESIDENT Y OUNG STRAT EGIES

Immediate Past Chair TIM TODD EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR D I S C O VER U PCOU N TRY CAROL IN A

LEE SENTELL DIRECTOR

MARK EZELL COMMISSIONER

ALABAMA TOURISM DEPARTMENT

TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF TOURIST DEVELOPMENT

JONI JOHNSON DIRECTOR, DOMESTIC SALES & MARKETING VIRGINIA TOURISM CORPORATION

WWW.SOUTHEASTTOURISM.ORG 6

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Courtesy Ruby Falls

BRING FRIENDS

DELEGATES’ SUCCESS IS SMITH’S FOCUS AT DOMESTIC SHOWCASE

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B Y MAC L ACY

rofessional development is a longstanding emphasis of the Southeast Tourism Society (STS), so it’s not surprising that president and CEO Monica Smith is introducing new educational sessions for delegates at the 2022 STS Domestic Showcase in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Sales training for new employees in group travel, technology innovations in the fields of tour design and management, and the latest trends in cultural heritage tourism will all be addressed during the event that takes place February 13-15 in Virginia’s popular beach destination. “We want to set our delegates up for success,” said Smith. “We expect there to be many new destination and hotel salespeople due to the pandemic, and we think these educational sessions will be invaluable to them, and veterans as well.” Smith also plans to provide training programs for attending journalists and media relations professionals, as well as travel buyers. The STS Domestic Showcase will continue to provide a separate marketplace for journalists and media relations professionals to supplement the event’s travel-buying marketplace. Smith and her staff are excited about bringing in new buyers and sellers from Florida and Washington, D.C., that weren’t included in previous iterations of the Domestic Showcase. They know these key markets have strong STS memberships that can provide new sales opportunities for attendees. Federal agencies with tourism roles will also be attending. She will have delegates from the National Park Service and U.S. National Heritage Areas in Virginia Beach for buyers to meet.

As it turns out, Smith is no stranger to Virginia Beach. “I spent my spring breaks during college in Virginia Beach,” she said. “I treasure those times, so it goes without saying that I am excited about going back with a few new friends. Virginia Beach’s convention center showcases the area’s coastal environment well and will provide a wonderful place to meet.” The Domestic Showcase is one of several key annual events that STS produces. Coming out of the COVID-19 downturn, Smith encourages her members to turn out for two events specifically. “If ever there was a time we need to rally for our Congressional Summit, it’s now,” she said. “We have a lot of momentum, and we need to join our voices June 20-23, in Washington, D.C., to highlight tourism’s employment numbers and economic impact. “The same is true for STS Marketing College next summer,” she said. “We offer more than 40 courses on topics as wide-ranging as community engagement, yield management, customer service and sports management. We offer a certificate in producing festivals and events, and this past summer, we had alumni come back for instruction on things like DMO storytelling and how to offer authentic visitor experiences in places with painful pasts.” As serious as Smith is about delivering informed content at the showcase, she also intends to have a little fun, especially at The Group Travel Leader’s evening event at Beachside Social. “We’re putting a team together for your shuffleboard tournament in Virginia Beach,” she said. “And we’re coming there to win it!” For information on any of these events, visit southeasttourism.org.

MON I CA SMI T H

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{

Celebrate the gifts of land and sea with epic Virginia Beach adventures the entire group can enjoy safely. With 400 square miles of wide open space, revel in hands-on experiences and unique access to a group tour that’s as safe as it is memorable.

VISITVIRGINIABEACH.COM/GROUPTOUR

}


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Courtesy KY Dept. of Tourism

CARPENTER SEES VICTORY LAPS IN THE INDUSTRY’S FUTURE B Y MAC L ACY

“I

t’s time we learn how to celebrate again.” As she concluded her last 2021 board meeting as chairperson of the Southeast Tourism Society (STS), Donna Carpenter knew what she wanted to say to her industry counterparts. After another year of enduring the setbacks of COVID-19, she wanted to remind her fellow board members to celebrate the small victories in their destinations. “I’m a go-big-or-go-home kind of girl,” she said, “so it’s been a long road for someone like me and for my staff as well. We’re accustomed to celebrating big successes, not small ones, but I think we all need to recalibrate now and start celebrating small victories until the big ones come around again.” As president and CEO of the Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau in North Carolina, Carpenter does see lots of positives to be proud of, but she knows that her STS associates have had a hard time celebrating just like she has. “We’ve all experienced so much on a professional level and a personal level,” she said. “We’ve reacted to crises all year long, and most of us have offices that are still half empty, so I told them it’s OK to start looking for things to feel good about.” Because of the organization’s two-year

leadership terms, Carpenter has another year at the helm of STS. So she feels the same way about celebrating some of the organization’s successes. “We had a 90% retention rate this year when paying membership dues is a really easy thing to cut from your budget,” she said. “And we added 65 new members this year, which is remarkable. Monica Smith is very plugged in at the federal level, and our staff has the resources it needs to run our programs successfully. They are a team of four, and it’s amazing what they have accomplished. “I said last year that it’s an honor to serve as chairperson of STS, and I meant it. I’m all-in for the year ahead with this great group of travel professionals.” In her own destination, a fast-paced area known for nationally acclaimed car racing, youth sports and the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame, Carpenter has seen a strong return thus far of transient and leisure travel and is the beneficiary of superb special event planning by the Charlotte Motor Speedway throughout the year. So while the cupboard is far from bare in her area, she is more than ready for the better times she knows are coming. “It’s time for all of us to stop looking backward and start looking forward again,” she said. “It’s time for us to change the narrative and create the future we want for our industry and our destinations.”

DONNA CARPENTER

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o S

WHAT’S

NEW?

THE SOUTHEAST HAS BEEN BUSY WHILE GROUPS WERE AWAY

BY R EB ECCA TR EON

CHAR LESTON ’S I NTER NATIONAL AFRICAN AM ERICAN M US EUM

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oing South will soon be better than it has ever been. Though many attractions and cultural institutions shuttered — at least temporarily — over the past two years, some used the downtime as an opportunity to expand and remodel. Other sites have recently opened their doors for the first time. Across the Southeast, popular destinations have added to their rosters of experiences, shining a spotlight on overlooked people and unsung heroes and giving visitors new ways to interpret our world. Here are six new or updated attractions to include on your group’s next trek through the Southeast.

Courtesy Waterfront Botanical Gardens

Courtesy IAAM

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LOUISVI LLE ’S WATERFRONT BOTANICAL GAR DENS

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Africatown Heritage House and Welcome Center AFRICATOWN, ALABAMA

TH E N EW NATIONAL WOR LD WAR I MON UM ENT I N WAS H I NGTON HONORS THOS E WHO FOUGHT AN D SACRI FICED I N TH E FI RST GR EAT WAR OF TH E 20TH CENTU RY. By Paul Wedig, courtesy National World War I Monument

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n 1860, more than 50 years after the importation of enslaved people was made illegal, a schooner called the Clotilda smuggled 110 captives trafficked from West Africa to the shores of Mobile, Alabama. The vessel, which normally transported sugar and timber, was towed up the Mobile River in the middle of the night. The captives were hidden onshore, and the captors burned the boat. The top went up in smoke, but the bottom half, which was in the water, was discovered in 2018, casting an international spotlight on the story and its modern-day descendants. “The story of the Clotilda is one that is just now coming to light for Alabama and the rest of America — and the world,” said Emily Eiland Gonzalez, vice president of marketing and communications at Visit Mobile. “It’s such an important story because it was the last ship to bring human cargo across trans-Atlantic slave trade routes.”

AN ARTIST R EN DERI NG OF TH E CLOTI LDA AT TH E AFRICATOWN H ERITAG E HOUS E AN D WELCOM E CENTER

Courtesy Visit Mobile

W W W. S O U T HE A S T T O U R IS M . O R G

Courtesy Visit NC

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AFRICATOWN N EAR MOBI LE

The captives were divided up amongst area plantations, where the majority of enslaved people were generational: They had been born in the United States and lived in slavery their whole lives. The recently arrived captives were assimilated only to be freed a few years later when the Civil War began. Many of the group then gathered and established their own town, called Africatown, north of downtown Mobile. “The community and their descendants are still there today, with the graves, the first church, the schools built by Booker T. Washington; there’s history just dripping around every corner,” said Gonzalez. “In 2019, a journalist authenticated the remains of the Clotilda, and the story that everyone thought was folklore is being uncovered. It’s a story of hope and resilience.” When it opens in the fall of 2022, groups will be able visit the Africatown Heritage House Museum, where multisensory exhibits uncover the lives of the individuals who were on the passage and their lives and families and the remains of the boat itself, plus reflect in a meditation garden.

Courtesy Visit Mobile

MOBILE.ORG

Waterfront Botanical Gardens LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY

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ouisville’s Waterfront Botanical Gardens broke ground in 2017 and took advantage of the pandemic shutdown to complete the Beargrass Creek Pathway, a walking and biking trail that connects the gardens to Butchertown, as well as a centrally located plaza fountain with a seasonally rotating horticultural display. “We’ve developed 6 of the 23 acres of the designated space for the gardens; we’re starting our tree aisle of 24 American Dream Swamp white oak trees that will lead to an overlook for bird-watching that is a natural setting and wetlands,” said Lesley Kinney, the garden’s director of marketing and communications. “Our 2-acre Japanese Gardens were designed by Shiro Nakane and have all the things you’d expect in a traditional setting: large rocks, a waterfall and pond, arched bridges, a teahouse, cherry tree promenade and a bonsai garden.” The Waterfront Botanical Gardens also has a rich history that’s worth noting. Once a neighborhood of 135 houses where French New Orleanians kept summer homes, the area suffered two devastating floods, in the 1930s and 1940s. After the first flood, the neighborhood became populated by Louisville’s working class, but after the second flood, the homes were unsalvageable. The city began using the area as a dump. The landfill was capped in the 1970s, starting a plan to stabilize the area to make it a green space. Today, the so-called gateway to the city has gone from landfill to landmark. A facade of one of the original homes, the Heigold House, stands as a monument to the past.

A WATER FEATU R E AT WATERFRONT BOTANICAL GAR DENS I N LOUISVI LLE

Courtesy Waterfront Botanical Gardens

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Groups are welcome to visit the gardens, where they can get docent-led tours, partake in special seasonal events or attend one of the wide range of classes on the roster ranging from fitness and cooking to herbology. Admission to the gardens is free. WATERFRONTGARDENS.ORG

National World War I Monument WASHINGTON, D.C.

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hen the United States entered World War I in 1917, the country had no real military to speak of. Within months, 4.7 million Americans felt it was their obligation to register for the draft to serve their country. Over the span of only six months, more than 2 million went overseas and 116,516 paid the ultimate sacrifice. Their bravery will soon be honored with a permanent memorial in Washington, D.C.: the National World War I Monument. “It was the first time that people in our country joined a cause like this and left our shores to fight for the freedom and democracy of people they never met — they were willing to fight and die for basic humanity,” said Meredith Carr, deputy director of the World War I Centennial Commission. “It was largely

HUNTSVILLE IS A GO FOR RE-ENTRY Our Mission Is Living Life to the Fullest. WATERFRONT BOTANICAL GAR DENS Courtesy Waterfront Botanical Gardens

Home to the world’s largest space museum and U.S. Space Camp, “Rocket City” reignites America’s ingenuity and lively spirit. Featuring a vibrant arts and entertainment district, plus a vast number of natural attractions and cuisine offerings, Huntsville, Alabama, is the perfect destination for those who want to see and do it all. ( 8 0 0 ) 8 4 3 - 0 4 6 8 | H U N T S V I LLE. OR G

NATIONAL WOR LD WAR I MON UM ENT Courtesy National World War I Monument

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DISC OV E R E V E R Y T HING BILT MORE OF F E RS Biltmore offers an unparalleled setting with unique and personalized group tours, two distinctive hotels, historic gardens, dining options, a winery, outdoor activities, beautiful mountain views, and more, all in one convenient destination.

C A L E NDA R OF E V E N T S

forgotten and overshadowed by World War II, so I feel like we’re finally speaking for those who no longer have a voice to make sure they’re not forgotten. We’re not a country that will forget service and sacrifice.” Designed by architect Joseph Weishaar, the memorial will feature a statue of Gen. John Pershing, commander of WWI Expeditionary Forces sent to fight on the Western Front, a stone Peace Fountain featuring a waterfall and pool with a poem by Archibald MacLeish, and exhibits about the role of the U.S. during the war. Pershing Park has been in use for decades but is being refreshed with the addition of the memorial. “Taps is played every single day, rain or shine, at the memorial at 5 p.m. to honor those who served, but it sort of honors all veterans, everyone who came after, which is a wonderful way to visit the memorial,” said Carr. “It’s right off the National Mall, within walking distance of the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the southeast gate of the White House.” There’s a temporary canvas in the place of the last piece of the memorial, slated to be unveiled in 2024, a 12-foot-high, 60-foot-long bas-relief sculpture that hangs above the reflection pool. “A Soldier’s Journey” will feature 38 figures that tell a story of a reluctant soldier in progression to returning home a hero. For now, though, visitors can experience the memorial’s physical features as well as its interactive augmented reality app via the Doughboy Foundation or scan QR codes on artificial red poppies, which were a symbol of sacrifice during the war. WORLDWAR1CENTENNIAL.ORG

Van Gogh Alive Now–March 5, 2022

Monet & Friends – Life, Light & Color March 9–July 10, 2022

Biltmore Blooms April 1–May 26, 2022

Leonardo da Vinci – 500 Years of Genius July 14, 2022–January 8, 2023

Christmas at Biltmore& Daytime Celebration MEETINGS EVENTS November 4, 2022–January 8, 2023

Candlelight Christmas Evenings November 4, 2022–January 7, 2023

BILTMORE.COM/GROUPS | 866-851-4661

MEETINGS & EVENTS Asheville, NC 16

FLOWERS AT TH E NATIONAL WOR LD WAR I MON UM ENT’S R EFLECTI NG POO L By Theo Mayer, courtesy National World War I Monument


International African American Museum CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA

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he role Charleston, South Carolina, played in the slave trade is well known, but a new museum in the city is set to create inspiration where there was once despair. Next year, the International African American Museum will open at Gadsden’s Wharf, the very place where boats loaded with human cargo used to dock. Twenty years in the making, the museum will sit on 18 13-foot pillars so the museum won’t touch the ground and is surrounded by the African Ancestors Memorial Gardens. “One of the top things I’d recommend is touring the gardens,” said Tonya Matthews, CEO of the museum. “We’re right on the harbor, and there’s an infinity pool with an art installation at the bottom of the pool, so you’re looking at both an impressionistic reflection of the ocean and at the people who were brought across the ocean at the bottom of the infinity pool.”

AN ARTIST R EN DERI NG OF TH E COM I NG I NTER NATIONAL AFRICAN AM ERICAN M US EUM

Photos courtesy IAAM

A VI EW OF TH E CHAR LESTON WATERFRONT FROM B EN EATH TH E I NTER NATIONAL AFRICAN AM ERICAN M US EUM

Tour life with the Lowcountry tides. Meet the coastal town that will transform your next tour: Beaufort, SC. With over 70 historic sights to see, a walkable downtown, unique Gullah-Geechee heritage and freshcaught cuisine, Beaufort is the charming Southern destination motorcoach groups can’t stop talking about. BeaufortSC.org

LOOK FOR US AT TRAVEL SOUTH OR CALL US AT 843.525.8526

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TH E I NTER NATIONAL AFRICAN AM ERICAN M US EUM ON ELE VATED PI LLARS AT TH E SITE OF A FORM ER S LAVE MARKET

The surrounding ethno-botanical gardens feature a curated selection of plants that share a common thread between Charleston and West Africa, and there is a sculptural element with kneeling and crouching figures surrounded by a reflective wall with the Maya Angelou quote “And still I rise.” Matthews also recommends a visit to the Center of Family History, an active genealogical library where visitors can get help tracing their family tree and each of the eight galleries. But a particular favorite is the Gullah-Geechee gallery. It features examples of hand-carved canoes and a praise house, among other things. “I think groups will really enjoy a visit to the Gullah-Geechee gallery, which celebrates the African Americans who have been here for 400 years on the sea islands in South Carolina,” Matthews said. “You can hear it in their accents, taste it in the food, see it in the celebration.” There is also an interactive place-based table that will connect users to other African American heritage sites so groups can see other places to visit and other cultural information. There will be programming for people of all ages and special opportunities for charter members. IAAMUSEUM.ORG

Courtesy IAAM

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The Roof at Ponce City Market, Atlanta @gcalebjones

Georgia is best experienced with others. Because around here, moments tend to turn into memories made to share. Whether you’re ready to take in the sights, sounds, and energy of Atlanta, go on a mountain adventure in Blue Ridge, or island-hop just off the coast, there’s a Georgia getaway set to take you away to a place you won’t forget. You’re ready for your group getaway. Get started at ExploreGeorgia.org.


Turning Point Suffragist Memorial and the Lucy Burns Museum LORTON, VIRGINIA

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t’s been just over 100 years since women in the U.S. won the right to vote, but few people know what a struggle the suffragist movement was. American suffragists spent more than 70 years in a bloodless revolution fighting for equality one step at a time. Now, those activists and their efforts are honored by the new Turning Point Suffragist Memorial, which is affiliated with the Lucy Burns Museum in Lorton, Virginia. “The museum is located at the former site of the Lorton Prison, where suffragists were sent to the Occoquan Workhouse as part of their sentences, where there were hunger strikes and various things like that,” said Rebecca Super, director of the Lucy Burns Museum. “Part of the museum is about the suffrage story, and it includes the suffragists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony all the way through the passage of the 19th Amendment. But that’s not the end of the story, because that didn’t include women of color.”

EXH I BITS AT TH E LUCY BU R NS M US EUM I N LORTON, HOM E OF TH E N EW TU R NI NG POI NT SUFFRAGIST M EMORIAL

Photos courtesy Lucy Burns Museum

V. I.P. Experiences Mint Julep University

This is a fun (and tasty!) experience where guests make their very own Mint Julep and soak up the history of how this beverage became the Kentucky Derby’s signature drink. 2 0 2 2 20

Hatitude

Guests create their very own personally-designed Kentucky Derby hat or fascinator. We provide hat styles and embellishments for men and women. SO UTH EA S T

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DERBYMUSEUM.ORG/GROUPS

Lucky Shoes

Groups will decorate and take home a horseshoe that was once worn by one of the Thoroughbreds at Churchill Downs®. P L A N N E R


DOGWOOD CANYON NATURE PARK

THE GREAT OUTDOORS. THAT’S MY M-O. The name’s Missouri, but you can call me Mo — Outdoor Mo, to be exact. I’ll be your guide to all the adventure you can handle in the Show-Me State. Find your outdoor M-O at VisitMo.com


sts SHINING EX A MPLE

AWARDS

Elizabeth Russell The Southeast Tourism Society presented its 2021 Rising Star Award to Elizabeth Russell. Russell serves as in-market strategist for the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau in Mississippi. The Rising Star Award recognizes extraordinar y on-the-job performance by a person who has worked in tourism or travel for f ive years or less. Nominees are evaluated on leadership, enthusiasm for the industry, innovation, successful programs or events, and other accomplishments. Extra consideration goes to nominees who are involved in the industry outside their normal employment. As an in-market strategist, Russell meets with community partners and event organizers to help them develop tools and resources to enhance the visitor experience in Tupelo. During the pandemic, she made herself available to restaurateurs around the clock, helping them find new ways to operate. She is called a tenacious problem solver and has been recognized for discovering and implementing exciting new programs that elevate the city’s tourism industry.

RISING

Star AWA R D

Groups can visit the memorial, and just two blocks away is the Lucy Burns Museum. The museum is part of the Workhouse Arts Center, which features art exhibitions, classes and special events.

Natchitoches (Nack-A-Tish) welcomes groups of all sizes to experience the charm of the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase territory. You’ll find shopping, dining, unique attractions and affordable accommodations.

SUFFRAGISTMEMORIAL.ORG WORKHOUSEARTS.ORG/ LUCYBURNSMUSEUM

National Museum of African American Music NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE

D

edicated to preserving African American music traditions and celebrating the influence African Americans have had on music, the National Museum of African American Music is a natural addition to Nashville. Right next door to Ryman Auditorium and the Nashville Music Garden, it’s a wonderful addition to the Rep. John Lewis Way (formerly 5th) and Broadway block.

Destination of Travelers Since 1714 800-259-1714 • www.Natchitoches.com

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Experience our stories. Leave with your own. In 2022, Mississippi is offering a truly unique group travel opportunity through a collaboration between three premier cultural institutions – the Museum of Mississippi History, Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, and Mississippi Museum of Art. The museums are working together to present a series of events and exhibitions to increase understanding of the impact and legacy of The Great Migration, a historic exodus that shaped the story of our state, the South, and the nation. For details, go to VisitMississippi.org/GreatMigration. #WanderMS #VisitMSResponsibly

Museum of Mississippi History | Jackson, Mississippi


“Your bracelet will let you download things like playlists and other things to take home with you, like writing your own blues song.” — TUWISHA ROGERS-SIMPSON, NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSIC

TH E NATIONAL M US EUM OF AFRICAN AM ERICAN M USIC LOBBY

Courtesy Ha Ha Tonka State Park

EXH I BITS AT NAS HVI LLE ’S NATIONAL M US EUM OF AFRICAN AM ERICAN M USIC

Photos courtesy NMAAM

“Music is an international language, and this museum is for anyone who wants to dig deeper into history,” said Tuwisha Rogers-Simpson, vice president of brand and partnerships for the museum. “Your bracelet will let you download things like playlists and other things to take home with you, like writing your own blues song.” The museum’s interconnected galleries follow the history of African American music, beginning with “Rivers of Rhythm.” “Wade in the Water” traces the arrival of enslaved Africans in 1619 to the birth of gospel music; “Crossroads” explores the blues as the cornerstone of all American music; “A Love Supreme” digs into the Harlem Renaissance and the emergence of jazz; “One Nation Under a Groove” looks at the music of the civil rights movement; and “The Message” details the birth of hip-hop in New York City. In each of the galleries, there is a combination of instruments, clothing and other paraphernalia on display, as well as the interactive displays that offer activities like recording your own song, videos and other ways to explore history. NMAAM.ORG

TH E NATIONAL M US EUM OF AFRICAN AM ERICAN M USIC EXTERIOR

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THE LODGE AT MOUNT MAGAZINE

BUFFALO NATIONAL RIVER

CLINTON PRESIDENTAIL CENTER, LITTLE ROCK

arkansas.com

Arkansas offers the outdoor adventure and scenic beauty that you would expect from a place called The Natural State. But that’s just the beginning of what you can discover. You can also tour historic sites like the Clinton Presidential Center and Historic Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs. Plus enjoy authentic southern cuisine, world-class art and more. View itineraries here.

CRYSTAL BRIDGES MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, BENTONVILLE

BATHOUSE ROW, HOT SPRINGS


Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

Stonewall Lake & Resort

Jackson’s Mill Farmstead

Asylum operated as a mental

the scenic Stonewall Jackson Lake

steadfast place of learning,

health facility for 130 years.

with breathtaking views from the

leadership and growth for more

Visitors can enjoy daily walk-in

Adirondack-style lodge or quiet

than 90 years. Famous as General

historic and paranormal tours,

lakefront cottages. Enjoy an

“Stonewall” Jackson’s homestead,

festivals and events from

irresistible meal, play the Arnold

the old gristmill still stands. This

April through November.

Palmer Signature golf course,

is an important arena for adult

pamper yourself at the spa, hike

education, special events and

the trails or play on the lake.

meetings—and the State 4-H camp.

The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic

This luxury resort is located on

This historic area has been a

V I SI T U S ONLINE O R CALL TO DAY FOR YO UR FREE L EW I S C OU NT Y, WE ST VIRGINIA TRAVEL GUIDE

WV Museum of American Glass

The museum is dedicated to the

Mountaineer Military Museum Childhood friends were drafted

region and nation’s rich glass

into their country’s service and

heritage. The stories of people and

only one made it home.

processes come to life! See a huge

A graveside promise was made

collection of brilliant colored and

that “I’ll never let anyone forget

sparkling crystal glass by dozens

you guys.” More than 18 new

of American manufacturers from

exhibits, feature personal and

1860 to the present.

historical items from the Civil War to current day.

Appalachian Glass Appalachian Glass is keeping the

tradition of hand made glass alive in West Virginia with offerings of over 500 traditionally produced soda-lime crystal products. Their studio is open to the public for shopping and to enjoy live demonstrations.

STONEWALLCOUNTRY.COM 304-269-7328

Lambert’s Winery Nestled in the heart of West

Virginia is a winery whose beauty is almost as exquisite as the fine selection of wines. The winery’s magnificent tasting room is constructed from hand cut stones gathered from various parts of the state. Tour the beautifully landscaped grounds and browse their gift shop.

MannCave Distilling

With the development of three artesian water springs, the distillery was unearthed out of hand dug coal mines. The smooth, award-winning, top shelf spirits (whiskey, vodka and moonshine) are produced and sold onsite. Tours and tastings are available on Saturdays.



dine

DIFFERENT

EAT OUTSIDE THE ORDINARY AT THESE SOUTHERN STOPS

BY R EB ECCA TR EON

N

ashville hot chicken, gumbo, pralines and beyond: The South is known for its cuisine. One of the best aspects of any visit to Southern states is treating travelers’ taste buds to some of the region’s tasty treasures. These days, Southern innovators are embracing new ideas and trends to offer authentic, one-of-a-kind ways to not just taste food but also experience it. From food halls to Airstream trailers, gas stations to Conestoga wagons, groups can get to know the real deal by exploring local food. With traditional restaurants continuing to struggle with staffing and sometimes unable to accommodate tour groups, travel planners are looking for creative meal options now more than ever. These six destinations’ distinctive culinary experiences showcase the many flavors of the Southeast.

A M EAL FROM TH E YACHT CLU B ON CO LLEG E I N FAYETTE VI LLE

S EOU L OF TH E SOUTH TOU R Courtesy Explore Gwinnett

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Courtesy the Yacht Club on College

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GROUPS G ET TO SAM PLE FOO D FROM A VARI ETY OF KOR EAN R ESTAU RANTS ON TH E S EOU L OF TH E SOUTH TOU R I N GWI N N ETT.

Yacht Club on College FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS

T

Courtesy Explore Gwinnett

he Yacht Club was named for a group of Airstream trailers that gathered off College Avenue in central Fayetteville, Arkansas, that over the past decade have evolved into a hub of food trucks. Under new ownership since 2017, the lot space now focuses on food trucks, community events and sustainability initiatives. “I look for quality stuff and trucks that are different, being unique to the area, and that do good food,” said Russell Ingram, owner of Dot’s Nashville Hot Chicken and the Yacht Club lot. “We have a nice open-air space with picnic tables for people to come and sit; people come and hang out for either lunch or dinner service.” With anchor trucks Dot’s and Chao’s Asian Cuisine, the rotating lineup includes trucks like Fannie Mae’s Kitchen, which offers soul food, and Bartleby’s Seitan Stand, which sells vegan Southern, as well as others that come from elsewhere, like a popup from Seattle that serves traditional ramen bowls.

A YACHT CLU B AI RSTR EAM

Courtesy the Yacht Club on College

W W W. S O U T HE A S T T O U R IS M . O R G

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The Yacht Club is about more than just delicious eats, though. One of Ingram’s passions is sustainability, so everything on the Dot’s truck, from utensils to containers, is compostable. The Yacht Club is the first private business to be a community food waste drop-off site. Locals can deposit their compostable scraps, and the city of Fayetteville collects it to make compost that is then made available to residents. The Yacht Club is designing a permanent structure that will be one of the greenest in the state; its gardens, watered with collected rainwater, will provide produce for the food trucks. Groups can stop for lunch or dinner while enjoying Fayetteville’s nearby attractions, among them the historic Downtown Square and Gardens, Wilson Park and the University of Arkansas.

HOT WI NGS AT TH E YACHT CLU B ON CO LLEG E

YACHTCLUBONCOLLEGE.COM

Courtesy the Yacht Club on College

Seoul of the South GWINNETT, GEORGIA

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hough New York or L.A. may come to mind when considering the best restaurants for international cuisine, travelers may be surprised to learn that Gwinnett County, Georgia, has some of the best Korean food in the country. Visitors can have an authentic Korean dining experience with Explore Gwinnett’s Seoul of the South Tour. “We have about 150,000 Korean Americans living in Georgia, and a third of those are in Gwinnett County,” said Sarah Park, international marketing coordinator at Explore Gwinnett who is originally from Korea and leads the Seoul of the South tours. “We wanted to let our community know about the Korean shops, markets, spas, karaoke and, of course, restaurants that are right here.” The tour uses an old-fashioned trolley, nicknamed the Seoul Train, to visit four area Korean restaurants for traditional meals, not just samples, so that guests can return and have the same experience on another visit. “A traditional Korean meal is family style, and you get to try about nine different items at each stop,” said Park. “When people go back after the tour, they know what to order, what to do, how to eat it and how to enjoy it.” Park customizes her tours to the audience; so if a group has an interest in history, music, culture or politics, she’ll incorporate those things into the experience. The educational and flavorful tours last about four hours and include a swag bag with items such as chopsticks from local Korean retailers. “I use the tours to embrace the things I was raised with,” said Park. “My intention is to give people an authentic dive into Korean culture — that’s really dear to my heart.” Tours are scheduled only a few times per year and frequently sell out as soon as tickets become available. Groups should contact Explore Gwinnett to inquire about private tours.

SAM PLI NG KOR EAN FOO D I N GWI N N ETT

EXPLOREGWINNETT.ORG/SEOULOFTHESOUTH Courtesy Explore Gwinnett

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Pioneer Trails

INDEPENDENCE AND KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI

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alph Goldsmith’s obsession with local history spurred him to quit his day job, get some mules and build a fleet of covered wagons to share his knowledge with visitors to Independence, Missouri. Groups can join Pioneer Trails for a carriage tour through history, visiting local attractions like the National Frontier Trails Museum, the Truman Home and the Log 1821 Courthouse before stopping for a chuck wagon meal. “We actually take you along the Oregon Trail through the wagon swales where over 400,000 people crossed the nation in a wagon train,” said Goldsmith. “We explain all about the history — the seven-year war called the KansasMissouri Border War, Frank and Jesse James, and we go to a large open area in front of the trails, and we have a campfire and a meal.”

“We actually take you along the Oregon Trail through the wagon swales where over 400,000 people crossed the nation.” — RALPH GOLDSMITH, PIONEER TRAILS

RI DI NG TO A CH UCKWAGON FEAST WITH PION EER TRAI LS ADVENTU R ES Courtesy Pioneer Trails Adventures

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GAS STATION EATS FROM LOUISIANA’S NO MAN ’S LAN D

Groups can enjoy pulled pork, brisket, baked beans, salad, sides and dessert surrounded by the legends of the past. These are the same streets frequented by Wild Bill Hickok, Civil War generals, pioneer settlers and hometown hero Harry Truman. Goldsmith hosts everyone from leagues of schoolchildren to family reunions on a ride through the bygone days of what was once the Western frontier. “I have a favorite Truman quote that says, ‘There’s nothing new in this world except for the history you don’t know,’” said Goldsmith. “Independence has a lot to offer. The Trails Museum houses the largest archive of actual pioneer diaries anywhere in the nation. I’ve been studying this for more than 20 years, and it all goes into the tours.” PIONEERTRAILSADVENTURES.COM

Gas Station Eats Trail NO MAN’S LAND, LOUISIANA

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n the 1800s, No Man’s Land was Louisiana’s Wild West. The seven parishes along the western border of the state remain fairly rural, but luckily, the Gas Station Eats Food Trail offers delicious stops where visitors can fill both bellies and gas tanks. “It sounds crazy, but the best food is down at the gas station,” said Kelli West, marketing and communications director at the Natchitoches Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “One thing every parish has in common is gas stations with these great places to stop and try food, and so we developed it into a food trail.” The No Man’s Land Gas Station Eats Food Trail includes 21 stops throughout the seven parishes of the region — Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu/Cameron, Desoto, Natchitoches, Sabine and Vernon — each visit a unique place where the owner makes something delicious to try. “It’s anything from meat pies to tamales, or homemade cookies and pies to boudin and cracklins, or barbecue plate specials,” said West. “Also, it’s nice to meet the locals, because that’s who you’re going to find at the gas station — people who stop in every day for lunch.” Anacoco Mercantile is known for its plate lunches and hand-dipped ice cream. French Market Express features meat pies, yam pies and baked goods. Grab N Geaux offers barbecue and smoked meats. Groups can download the brochure that maps the various destinations and coordinate them with stops at other landmarks, like the Creole Nature Trail near Lake Charles and Natchitoches’ charming historic district. FR ES H-MADE FOO D AT 3J ’S FOU RWAY I N LOUISIANA

VISITNOMANSLAND.COM/PLANYOURVISIT/ GASSTATIONEATS

Photos courtesy Natchitoches Area CVB

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Discover the secret coast

Coastal Mississippi is the perfect year-round destination, with an incredible amount to do, see, and experience across its 62 miles of scenic shoreline. Whether your group kayaks the area’s stunning waterways, enjoys headliner enteratinment at one of our 12 casinos, or tours of one of our award-winning art museums, you will find southern hospitality at its finest. With the help of Coastal Mississippi, opportunities for memorable experiences are truly endless!

For assistance with group planning, visit www.coastalmississippi.com or give us a call at 228-896-6699. This page was prepared by Coastal Mississippi using Federal funds under award 04-79-07589 from the EDA, U.S. Department of Commerce. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the EDA or the U.S. Department of Commerce.


MADE-TO -OR DER FOO D AT BOXYAR D RTP I N DU R HAM Photos courtesy Boxyard RTP

Boxyard RTP

DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA

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ade entirely of shipping containers, Boxyard RTP is a 15,000-square-foot hub of retail shops and restaurants in Durham, North Carolina, conceived as a way for talented startups to blossom. Though the vendors are all indoors, the space boasts a large indoor-outdoor gathering space, a dog park and a performance stage that hosts everything from music to fitness classes. The original Boxyard is located in Tulsa, Oklahoma; its second iteration is the only one of its kind on the East Coast. “We have all local vendors and local food products, either their first venture or maybe they’re trying something new or expanding their concept,” said director of programs Amanda Ronan. “We opened in mid-November 2021 and are excited to offer the area a cool place to come and hang out, and [we are] building out our programming calendar and ramping up events.” Among the offerings are Lawrence Barbecue, whose sticky ribs, brisket, pulled pork and oysters have earned it a nod from Southern Living; Buzzy Bakes, which traded a vintage camper-turned-bakeshop for a permanent space at Boxyard, serving up homemade cupcakes and locally churned ice cream; Bulkogi, where a pastor-turned-chef offers Korean barbecue and fusion dishes; and Carrburritos, a Cal-Mex joint that serves ultrafresh tacos, tostadas, quesadillas and burritos. Groups won’t be thirsty either: Boxyard is home to the tiki-themed Lagoon Bar; RTP Uncorked, which serves wine by the glass and on tap; and Fullsteam RTP, a brewery that sources ingredients locally.

R ETROFITTED S H I PPI NG CONTAI N ERS AT BOXYAR D RTP By Bull City Photography

BOXYARD.RTP.ORG

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Apple Orchards

Something New to Savor

IN EVERY SEASON.

Local Wine Tasting

Crave-Worthy Food

IT'S ALL ELLIJAY

Famous Festivals

pickellijay.com GEORGIA @pickellijay


Appalachia Kitchen SNOWSHOE, WEST VIRGINIA

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hree hours from the nearest city, Snowshoe Mountain resort is a hidden gem in the West Virginia mountains. The largest East Coast ski resort outside of New England, Snowshoe is a four-season destination that offers winter activities such as skiing, snowmobiling and tubing, as well as summer activities such as hiking, biking, off-roading, golf and horseback riding. Nearby Cass Railway is a popular destination and attracts leafpeepers in the fall. At the heart of it all is the Corduroy Inn, whose restaurant, Appalachia Kitchen, sources its ingredients from regional farms and showcases traditional area dishes. “One of the things we take the most pride in is where our ingredients come from, and they’re all from the Appalachian region: North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and so on,” said owner David Billings. “We do our best to really have the best products you can put on the table.” At Appalachia Kitchen — and its more casual sister restaurant, Tuque’s — popular plates include venison meatloaf — the bestseller has been on the menu since they opened in 2017 — and Parmesan-encrusted trout. The chef’s board features a selection of regional artisan cheeses and locally produced charcuterie. The shrimp and grits features heirloom grits from Wade’s Mill, the oldest continuously operating mill in the Shenandoah Valley, and the bison used in the bison sloppy Joe is sourced from Riffle Farms, just down the road from the hotel. Groups may relish the endless attractions the resort offers, but they will especially enjoy getting an authentic taste of Appalachia. APPALACHIAKITCHEN.COM

GOU RM ET DIS H ES AT S NOWS HO E MOU NTAI N R ESORT’S APPALACH IA KITCH EN

Photos courtesy Snowshoe Mountain Resort

A WEST VI RGI NIA WI NTER AT S NOWS HO E

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Where a sip is a round-the-world trip. Plan your group visit at www.worldofcoca-cola.com/groups/

Call Group Sales at 404-676-6074 or send an email to woccgroups@coca-cola.com to schedule your in-person or virtual visit today. © 2022 The Coca-Cola Company. All Rights Reserved.


sts SHINING EX A MPLE

AWARDS

Rob Masone The Southeast Tourism Society presented its 2021 Best Epicurean Partner Award to Rob Masone. Masone is the chef owner of Kounter, a new restaurant in Rock Hill, South Carolina, built around a historic lunch counter that was the site of local sit-ins during the civil rights era. The Best Epicurean Partner Award recognizes restaurants, caterers, wineries, distilleries or other food and beverage organizations that support their communities. They are exceptional partners during FA M tours, community events and times of crisis. Masone has garnered widespread attention from media outlets and social media inf luencers for Kounter’s unique and interactive dining experience, which blends handcraf ted cuisine with impactive history. In addition to opening the restaurant and shining a spotlight on civil rights, he has helped advance Rock Hill’s tourism community by leading workforce forums to create a pipeline of talent for the area’s hospitality businesses.

best EPICUREAN

PARTNER AWA R D

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o o f t a gre

w o h s t a e r g • d

e m i t t a e r g a s•

narroway.net 803.802.2300


very IMPORTANT PASSENGERS

THESE SOUTHERN SITES SPECIALIZE IN VIP TREATMENT

BY ROBI N RO ENKER

CRAFTSM EN ’S GUI LD OF M ISSISSI PPI

A

merica’s South is rolling out the red carpet for tour groups. From horse farms to distilleries, art museums and Shakespeare festivals, attractions throughout the Southeast celebrate the region’s unique heritage and culture. And though these places are popular among individuals, they offer some of their best experiences for groups. Behind-the-scenes tours, hands-on workshops and other special access allow group travelers to immerse themselves more deeply in the stories of the places they visit and come home with bragging rights their friends don’t have. Here are six Southern attractions with distinctive tour options that will help your group travelers feel like VIPs.

Courtesy Visit MS

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TOU RI NG TH E BI LTMOR E

Courtesy the Biltmore Company

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GROUPS CAN G ET S PECIAL B EH I N D-TH ESCEN ES TOU RS AT TH E BI LTMOR E I N AS H E VI LLE .

Biltmore Estate

ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA

T

Courtesy the Biltmore Company

he Superior Bathhouse Brewery is the only brewery inside a U.S. national park, and it may be the only one that uses hot springs water in every beer it brews. When the National Park Service put together a program to allow small, private businesses to lease and repurpose vacant buildings, Rose Schweikhart signed up. She leased a 1916 brick building that had operated as a bathhouse in Arkansas’ Hot Springs National Park until it closed in 1983. The building sat vacant for 30 years until Schweikhart opened her brewery in July 2013. A trip to Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina, America’s largest privately built home, takes travelers to a wonderful world of 19th-century extravagance. Built by George Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895, the elaborate French Renaissance-style mansion includes 35 bedrooms, 135,280 square feet of living space and an ornate collection of original furnishings and artwork still on display.

ALABAMA S HAKES PEAR E FESTIVAL

Courtesy ASF

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TH E I M MACU LATE GROU N DS OF TH E BI LTMOR E

Courtesy the Biltmore Company

“A CH RISTMAS CARO L” AT TH E ALABAMA S HAKES PEAR E FESTIVAL

Though self-guided visits to Biltmore are the most popular activity for groups, planners that want a bit more in-depth insight into the property can opt to book a step-on guide that can meet the group at the estate’s entrance and offer more insight into the Biltmore. “This affords groups with a very personal welcome and provides detailed information about Biltmore House and the vision of George W. Vanderbilt and his renowned design team,” said Tim Hill, the Biltmore’s director of sales. Additionally, immersive, guided tours led by an interpretive host are an option for small groups of up to 12 guests that are able to traverse the mansion’s many staircases. The Rooftop Tour offers a rare view of the expansive Biltmore property from the mansion’s rooftop; the Biltmore House Backstairs Tour allows visitors to explore passages and areas previously reserved for George and Edith Vanderbilt’s guests and house staff. A complimentary wine-tasting experience is included in the standard Biltmore ticket price, but the on-site Biltmore winery also offers VIP tour experiences. For example, the popular Vanderbilt Tasting and Guided Production Tour, for up to 30 guests, takes visitors into the production facility where the property’s wine is bottled and labeled. For groups wishing to dine on property, the Stable Café can provide lunches for groups of at least 20. With 60 days’ notice through the group sales department, private breakfasts, lunches and dinners can also be arranged at select Biltmore event locations. Biltmore’s group sales representatives can assist groups in setting up additional activities on the property and at nearby attractions, including guided hikes along the Biltmore’s many trails, a falconry experience and a guided raft float on the French Broad River. BILTMORE.COM

Alabama Shakespeare Festival MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA

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ow celebrating its 50th season, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival (ASF) has been delighting audiences with live theater in Montgomery for generations. The ASF’s current building opened in 1985 and, since then, has been home to countless transformative theater experiences for locals and visitors alike. The theater company’s upcoming season of performances includes a range of classics and audience favorites, from “Macbeth” and “Little Shop of Horrors” to the smash off-Broadway hit “The Marvelous Wonderettes,” which includes favorite musical hits of the 1950s and 1960s. “We are a professional producing theater,” said Layne Holley, director of marketing and communications for the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. “Almost everything you see on our stage is produced here by hand in our shops.” By Frank Williams, courtesy ASF

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sts SHINING EX A MPLE

AWARDS

Herb Malone The Southeast Tourism Society presented its 2021 Beacon Award to Herb Malone. Malone recently retired as the CEO of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism in coastal A labama. The Beacon Award recognizes individuals that exemplif y outstanding leadership in the pursuit of excellence and have advanced the tourism industry. Judges consider the nominees’ accomplishments, innovations, performance, integrity and empowerment of others over the course of an entire career. Malone has been referred to as the “grandfather of tourism” in A labama by his peers in the state. He led the area’s tourism community through several crises, including Hurricane Ivan in 2004, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, and the COV ID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Sally in 2020. He also led the growth of A labama’s Gulf Shores region from a sleepy beach community to a year-round tourism destination that welcomes more than 6 million visitors each year.

the

BEACON AWA R D

ACTUALLY, YOU CAN PLEASE ALL THE PEOPLE ALL THE TIME.

Inspire miles of smiles for your tour group with hundreds of unique attractions conveniently located in one beautiful mountain town. Stunning views, shows, Dollywood, down-home cooking, arts, crafts and much more make us a destination to remember.

PigeonForgeTours.com

1-800-285 -7557

PFT004153_Mrr_GroupTravelLeader_8x4.5.indd 1

12/14/21 3:33 PM

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A LEXI NGTON HORS E FARM TOU R

While COVID-19 has dampened the breadth of behind-thescenes tour options, ASF eventually hopes to re-establish backstage tour options for groups, since they are so popular. “Groups love going back and seeing our shops and seeing behind the stages,” Holley said. “People are always fascinated by our scene shop and costume shop. Our prop shop is just amazing. We have rooms and rooms of things that our prop masters have built by hand over the years.” Visiting groups should follow ASF’s social media channels for updates on upcoming special events, including a summer garden concert series featuring local chamber music groups and other performers. ASF.NET Courtesy VisitLex

Horse Country

LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY

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f you travel to Kentucky but don’t see a horse, does your trip even count? Luckily, the folks at Horse Country make visiting a horse farm so simple that your groups will never have to worry about missing out on one of Kentucky’s signature experiences, complete with VIP access. Through an easy-to-navigate online booking platform, you can quickly schedule any of Horse Country’s popular standard tours at sites such as Claiborne Farm, Mill Ridge Farm and Spendthrift Farm. But if your group is looking for full VIP treatment, consider booking one of Horse Country’s growing list of expanded experiences. These include small-group breeding tours in the spring, where visitors will get to speak one-on-one with farm stallion management. Small groups can also work with Horse Country to customize private tours at many of its partner sites. “It’s possible to book private experiences at several of our locations — just for your group — and you can tailor the content of the experience to meet your group’s needs or interests,” said Anne Sabatino Hardy, Horse Country’s executive director. Many groups particularly enjoy the behind-the-scenes tour options at Keeneland, a famed horse racing track in Lexington. The Behind the Racing tour offers insights into track operations, and Keeneland’s new, seasonal Behind the Sales tour offers a rare look into how its world-class Thoroughbred auctions and sales are run. Need even more VIP treatment? With Keeneland’s new Owner’s Experience, visitors can watch races from premier, grandstand seating and go into the winner’s circle following races in April and October. “You can really see what it feels like to be a successful owner at the races,” said Hardy. VISITHORSECOUNTRY.COM

A KENTUCKY EQ U ESTRIAN ENCOU NTER

Courtesy Horse Country

UP CLOS E I N HORS E COU NTRY Courtesy Horse Country

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DISCOVER BOURBON CITY’S BLACK HERITAGE

Evan Williams Bourbon Experience

Groups will take a step back in time when discovering Louisville’s Black heritage with the Unfiltered Truth Collection. These eight immersive experiences feature perspectives and stories that you may have never heard before at some of the city’s most unique and iconic attractions. Learn more at UnfilteredTruthCollection.com


Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi RIDGELAND, MISSISSIPPI

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he William “Bill” Waller Craft Center in Ridgeland, Mississippi, home to the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi, welcomes visitors from across the country who want to experience high-quality, handmade Southern arts and crafts. The 20,000-square-foot facility includes an expansive retail gallery where artisans from across Mississippi can showcase and sell their work. Visitors are sure to find something that captivates them, whether their tastes tend toward traditional folk items like quilts, handmade baskets and wood carved bowls and spoons, or more modern pieces like fused-glass ornaments, metal sculptures and handcrafted jewelry. Every item sold comes with information on the artist who created it, so when you purchase an item, it’s like taking home a piece of Magnolia State culture. The center offers special events throughout the year and frequently hosts workshops and classes led by the artisans themselves. Groups should check the site’s calendar to learn more about opportunities to learn skills in woodworking, pottery, quilt-making and more. During their visits, group leaders can also inquire about private workshops and artisan encounters.

Discover where New Orleans goes to meet, eat & unwind!

MSCRAFTS.ORG

Just next door to New Orleans, reserve a peaceful retreat from the bustling city in Jefferson Parish! We are home to the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, and with two convention centers, over 8,000 hotel rooms, themed venues, and attractions, we are ready to host your group! Our diverse culture and cuisine make this a destination worth savoring. Your adventure awaits!

COMMITTED TO YOUR HEALTH & SAFETY A DEMONSTRATION AT TH E CRAFTS M EN ’S GUI LD OF M ISSISSI PPI

V I S I TJ E F F E R S O N PA R I S H . C O M /G R O U P T R AV E L 5 0 4 . 7 3 1 . 7 0 8 3 | 1 . 8 7 7. 5 7 2 . 74 74 Courtesy Visit MS

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Rollins Museum of Art WINTER PARK, FLORIDA

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ituated on the campus of Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, the Rollins Museum of Art invites visitors to surround themselves in world-class art — for free. Admission is always free at the museum, which is open to the public daily except on Mondays. “Accessibility is very important to us,” said Gisela Carbonell, the museum’s curator. “We don't shy away from organizing exhibitions and collecting works that touch on serious topics or things that are being discussed in contemporary discourse.” Current exhibits at the museum include “American Modernisms,” which reexamines the definition of the artistic style to include new, previously lesser-known perspectives. In the spring, an exhibit will celebrate Greek art from the so-called Geometric Period, c. 900-700 B.C.. Groups can spend hours on self-guided strolls through the museum’s expansive collections, some 6,000 pieces. Each art piece offers an opportunity for exploration, thanks to extensive information labels that provide context for the art and its artist; audio guides are also available. Every Saturday at 1 p.m., the museum offers free docent-led highlights tours that spotlight different pieces each week. The museum also offers free specialized guided tours on various themes periodically throughout the season. Check the Events tab online for dates and times. Groups that wish to immerse themselves in art may want to consider booking a stay at the Alfond Inn in Winter Park. This boutique hotel is owned by Rollins College, and its proceeds help support scholarships for students there. Currently, 112 art pieces from the Rollins Museum’s contemporary collection are on view at the hotel. “Visitors can go in and see work from renowned American artists like Jennifer Bartlett,” said Carbonell. “It’s a high-caliber contemporary art collection, and these pieces at the inn also feature extended labels and audio guides.” ROLLINS.EDU/RMA

A HAN DS-ON WORKS HOP AT RO LLI NS M US EUM OF ART

ADM I RI NG A RO LLI NS M US EUM OF ART EXH I BITION I N WI NTER PARK

“CAB EZA” BY RUFI NO TAMAYO AT TH E RO LLI NS M US EUM OF ART

Photos courtesy Rollins Museum of Art

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Even Our Cookie Cutters

Are One of a Kind

Centrally located in North Carolina, Winston-Salem is easy to get to and even easier to navigate. Enjoy touring our vibrant nightlife, historical museums, heirloom gardens, a Moravian Culinary Trail, art, culture, shopping, and more— all within a walkable city center. And with 5,000 hotel rooms—including 1,200 downtown—our city welcomes groups of all sizes. Come see why we were voted as one of Forbes’ “Top 10 Best Downtowns!” SIP & SAVOR

TOUR

DISCOVER

Yadkin Valley Wineries

Historic Homes & Gardens

Moravian Culinary Trail

For Details and Group Itineraries, Contact: Kay Calzolari, CTIS

Kay@VisitWinstonSalem.com

336.728.4237


B EH I N D TH E SCEN ES AT JACK DANI EL’S

JACK DANI EL’S DISTI LLERY I N TH E LYNCH BU RG H I LLS Photos courtesy Jack Daniel’s

Taste of Lynchburg LYNCHBURG, TENNESSEE

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TH E JACK DANI EL’S VISITOR CENTER

THE VIKINGS

BEGIN

Support for The Vikings Begin provided by:

J.L. Bedsole Foundation Nan A. Altmayer Charitable Trust

ack Daniel’s, the whiskey that’s synonymous with Tennessee, welcomes guests from across the country to its visitor center and distillery in Lynchburg. The distillery offers a range of daily tours, including the popular 90-minute Angel’s Share Tour, which offers guests a chance to tour the distillery and taste whiskey drawn from individual barrels. On this tour, visitors can enjoy sips of the distillery’s premier, higher-proof and limited-edition whiskeys. “All of our tours start with the rich history of Mr. Jack himself, as well as the history of our distillery,” said Emily Sledge, manager of visitor experience operations for the Jack Daniel’s Visitor Center. “Guests will also come away understanding a little about the art that goes into making our Tennessee whiskey.” But for groups wanting a little something extra, the distillery’s Taste of Lynchburg Tour delivers. This three-hour tour includes a full experience of the distillery; a VIP whiskey tasting with samplings of Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel, Jack Daniel’s Barrel Proof, Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select and others; and a full meal at the nearby Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House Restaurant. “Miss Mary Bobo’s is something you do not want to miss,” Sledge said. “It’s truly great Southern food.” Meals here are often served family-style, with fried chicken, meatloaf and catfish frequent highlights of the menu. While in Lynchburg, visitors will want to shop at storefronts in the downtown historic square and stop by the Lynchburg Hardware and General Store, home to a huge selection of Jack Daniel’s merchandise and memorabilia. JACKDANIELS.COM

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family OWNED FAVORITES

SOUTHERN INGENUITY HAS CREATED THESE COOL STOPS

BY PAU LA AVEN G LADYCH

WAN DER NORTH G EORGIA

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ehind every extraordinary travel experience is a dreamer who created it. The Southeast is full of wonderful locally owned and family-owned businesses that cater to group travelers, from Hampton, Virginia’s first Black-owned brewery and a Black cowboy festival in South Carolina to a wildlife refuge focused on rescuing the planet’s largest felines. Groups traveling in the region can enjoy curated shopping experiences in north Georgia, take part in a quilting retreat in Quilt Town USA or tour the candy factory where Kentucky’s famous bourbon ball was first created, all while getting to know the hard-working innovators and entrepreneurs behind them. Consider some of these mom-and-pop opportunities on your next group tour in the Southeast.

Courtesy Wander North Georgia

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1865 BR EWI NG CO.

Courtesy 1865 Brewing Co.

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GROUPS CAN M EET A CELEBRITY OF TH E Q UI LTI NG WOR LD AN D LEAR N N EW TECH NIQ U ES AT TH E M ISSOU RI STAR Q UI LT CO. I N HAM I LTON.

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge

EUREKA SPRINGS, ARKANSAS

Courtesy VisitMO

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ituated on 459 acres in the Ozark Mountains, the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge got its start as a big-cat sanctuary 30 years ago. The foundation was started in 1992 by Don and Hilda Jackson, who already had experience caring for two lion cubs before they were asked if they could take care of 42 lions and tigers that needed a home. The couple had already been looking for a suitable property to house big cats when they found their current location in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Although they couldn’t help all of the 42 animals because of legal issues, they did rescue some of the cats. The refuge is now home to about 100 animals, including big cats, bears and one hyena named Rambo. The foundation’s mission is to provide a lifetime refuge for abandoned, abused and neglected cats with an emphasis on tigers, lions, cougars and leopards.

TU RPENTI N E CR EEK WI LDLI FE R EFUG E

Courtesy Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge

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“We don’t buy, sell, trade or breed any animals. There is no interaction,” said Cheryl King, promotions coordinator for the refuge. “When the animals are brought here, we let them live their lives as the apex predators they are. They don’t snuggle up with human beings. They don’t like us.” Groups who visit can take a covered tram tour through the facility, stopping at each habitat to learn about the animals and their history and to hear any colorful anecdotes about them. The tram can hold up to 70 people at a time. The refuge has 10 different lodging units available, from glamping tents and lodge rooms to a family-friendly treehouse. Groups that want to stay on property can take one tram tour of the refuge daily as part of their stay.

A TIG ER AT TU RPENTI N E CR EEK WI LDLI FE R EFUG E I N EU R EKA S PRI NGS

TURPENTINECREEK.ORG Courtesy Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge

Wander North Georgia CLAYTON, GEORGIA

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osh and Alex Brown moved to north Georgia in 2015 after having visited the area for many years. They started a popular tourism blog called Wander North Georgia that details their exploration of the area they now call home. It includes cool restaurants, hikes, waterfalls, rafting trips and area towns. They also take pictures and post them on Instagram. They gained a large social media following fairly quickly and began offering Wander North Georgia stickers and T-shirts online. They would organize meetups across the area, from barbecues and hikes to rafting trips down Class V whitewater. The couple has since expanded into a physical outdoor store in Clayton, Georgia, that sells Wander North Georgia-branded merchandise as well as backpacks, hiking boots and locally made items such as candles and soaps. “One of our biggest categories is books,” said Josh Brown. “We just moved into 10,000 square feet, and 3,000 of it is like a small bookstore, a store within a store.” He pointed out that many people feel Main Street America is dying at the hands of big-box retailers, but his store is doing really well, with only 2% of sales coming from online purchases. When the pandemic is in the rearview mirror, the couple hopes to get back to organizing fun events every weekend. Groups wanting to find out what the Browns have to offer should visit their blog and travel guides about north Georgia. North Georgia “is a really interesting place that goes underlooked for outdoor spaces,” Brown said, pointing out that the area has just as many interesting and scenic places as visitors would find in the West or Pacific Northwest. The couple also opened Admiral Axe, an axe-throwing business in April 2019.

LOCALLY MADE M ERCHAN DIS E AT WAN DER NORTH G EORGIA

WANDERNORTHGEORGIA.COM

Courtesy Wander North Georgia

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Rebecca Ruth Candies FRANKFORT, KENTUCKY

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ebecca Ruth Candies is a third-generation, familyowned business that has been making homemade chocolates and confections in Frankfort, Kentucky, for more than 100 years. Founded in 1919 by Rebecca Gooch and Ruth Hanly Booe, the company is known for using only the best ingredients. And although many candy-makers have turned to cheaper ingredients or more automated processes to make their candy, Rebecca Ruth prefers to make the same high-quality product it has always made, said Charles Booe, Ruth’s grandson and current owner of the candy factory.

“One of our biggest categories is books.”

TH E WAN DER NORTH G EORGIA OUTPOST I N CLAYTON

A GUI DED H I KE WITH WAN DER NORTH G EORGIA

— JOSH BROWN, WONDER Photos courtesy Wander North Georgia

With our wide array of beautiful meeting spaces, flexible itinerary customization, and lagniappe such as multilingual tour leads, group travel is made easy in Louisiana’s River Parishes. Let Willma Harvey, CTP, CTIS customize the perfect trip for your group. willma@lariverparishes.com | 985-359-2783


Most processes are done by hand, but the factory does use a few pieces of machinery that range in age from 50 to 100 years old. Rebecca Ruth’s claim to fame is that it developed the first-ever bourbon ball, a chocolate-coated confection full of bourbon-infused cream with a pecan on top, back in 1938. Now many companies make similar chocolates, but Rebecca Ruth still makes its original bourbon ball, as well as many custom recipes for local Kentucky distilleries such as Maker’s Mark and Buffalo Trace. Even making everything by hand, the company still produces about 5 million chocolates annually that are shipped across the country. The candy factory is located in a large house in the middle of a residential neighborhood about a half-mile from Frankfort’s Capitol neighborhood. Groups are invited to take a 30-minute tour of the factory that showcases all aspects of candy production, from the mixing of the fillings to the coating of the chocolate. The lobby has a gift shop that sells the company’s candies, including a fill-your-own-box area, and an area with historical pictures and a video that shows the history of the candy factory.

R EB ECCA RUTH BOU R BON BALLS

R EB ECCA RUTH CAN DI ES I N FRANKFORT

REBECCARUTHONLINE.COM

Photos courtesy Visit Frankfort

INTERNATIONAL CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL Join us in Macon and witness the majesty of over 350,000 Yoshino cherry trees, attend festival events, experience delicious food and more.

March 18-27, 2022

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60 MILES OF BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER Myrtle Beach is where groups can reconnect and let loose with endless fun. With 60 miles of sandy beaches, amusement parks, live music and more, your group is going to have an unforgettable time. Get connected with our team to start planning your next gathering at The Beach.

VisitMyrtleBeach.com/Groups


1865 Brewing Co. HAMPTON, VIRGINIA

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A FLIGHT OF FLAVOR ED S ELTZERS AT 1865 BR EWI NG CO.

WI LLIAM COM ER

RO DN EY MALON E Photos courtesy 1865 Brewing Co.

odney Malone and William Comer started 1865 Brewing in 2020. They have partnered on a number of small businesses in Virginia, but this is their first brewery. Randy Jones, a local man with brewing experience, approached them with the idea of opening a brewery. Once Malone and Comer did their research, they realized that only 1% of breweries across the country are owned by minorities. “We thought that was pretty intriguing,” said Malone. The trio worked for more than a year trying to bring their brewery to fruition, fighting supply chain issues and waiting for different licenses to come through from the state. They were finally able to open their business in July. From the beginning of their planning, the friends had decided that 1865 should be more than just a brewer of craft beers, so they added a coffee shop with lattes, pastries and 10 to 12 assorted teas, seltzers and spritzers for people who don’t drink alcohol, as well as flatbread pizzas for those wanting good food to go along with their beverage of choice. The brewery is best known for its signature India pale ale, but it also offers stouts, brown ales, light beers and seasonal offerings like an Octoberfest brew. The brewery is in a quaint Hampton neighborhood called Phoebus, which was home to Fort Monroe, a Union fort during the Civil War that became a safe haven for escaped slaves in the 1860s. It was in 1865 that the 13th Amendment abolished slavery. 1865BREWINGCOMPANY.COM

sts SHINING EX A MPLE

PARTNER

AWARDS

Topside Tap Trail The Southeast Tourism Society presented its 2021 Partnership Award to the Topside Tap Trail. The Topside Tap Trail is a cooperative effort of destination marketing organizations in Roswell, A lpharetta and Sandy Springs, Georgia — all suburbs in the northern part of the Greater Atlanta area — to highlight local breweries. The Partnership Award recognizes effective partnerships within the tourism industry. Nominees demonstrate how the partnership has affected their organizations and share plans for further collaborations. The Topside Tap Trail is a collaboration across communities to showcase seven craf t brewery locations. It was established to ensure that the area’s beer culture was recognized by locals and visitors alike. The CV Bs in the three participating cities partnered to name and brand the trail, create a website, develop a video to highlight the trail and each of its breweries and print a trail guide to help travelers explore the breweries at their own pace.

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ship AWA R D



Missouri Star Quilt Co. HAMILTON, MISSOURI

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amilton, Missouri, is known as Quilt Town USA thanks to the Missouri Star Quilt Co., which opened a quilt shop in town in 2008. Since then, the company has grown from a single brick building with a long-arm quilting machine to 12 themed quilt shops and a Sewing Center for retreats and events right downtown. Jenny Doan started the company with the help of two of her children, Alan and Sarah. It all started when Jenny took some fabric to a local quilt shop to get it quilted and was told it would take a year to get the job done. Her children told her she should open a shop and offer that service since it seemed as if it was in high demand. To advertise the shop and its online presence, Jenny began filming quilting tutorials on YouTube. The videos took off and made Jenny something of a “sewlebrity.” She now has more than half a million subscribers and is the most popular quilting channel on YouTube. Missouri Star began expanding its inventory as viewers began calling in to request the same fabrics and supplies Jenny used in her online tutorials. As the original building started running out of space, the family would buy another building on Main Street and add another fabric shop. Each of the company’s 12 shops has a different theme. One sells only floral fabrics, another sells only licensed fabrics, and another sells more modern prints. Hamilton is now a bucket list destination for quilters and quilt guilds that travel to Hamilton from all around the world to shop, take quilting classes and work on quilting projects. Many want to meet Jenny, who has her sewing studio in town, or take part in a quilting retreat at the company’s Sewing Center, which features a huge sewing room and lodging for up to 37 guests. So far, the company has 63 retreats scheduled for 2022. MISSOURIQUILTCO.COM

A WORKS HOP AT M ISSOU RI STAR Q UI LT CO.

VISITNATCHEZ.ORG Lynsey Gilbert

M ISSOU RI STAR Q UI LTI NG SUPPLI ES

TH E M ISSOU RI STAR EXTERIOR I N HAM I LTON

Director of Sales lynsey@visitnatchez.org 601.446.6345 Photos courtesy Visit MO

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Friends Grille + Bar Kinderlou Forest Golf Club

GUD Coffee

Wild Adventures Theme Park

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rom adrenaline-pumping colossal coasters & peaceful, serene fairways to locally brewed craft beer & signature southern cusine, the Heart of South Georgia welcomes you to stay the night.

Splash Island Waterpark

come

stay

e l i h w A Georgia Beer Co.

Plan Your Perfect Weekend Trip VisitValdosta.org


B LACK COWBOYS GATH ERI NG I N SOUTH CARO LI NA

Black Cowboy Festival REMBERT, SOUTH CAROLINA

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ark Myers always wanted to be a cowboy. As a child growing up on a farm, he idolized Ben Cartwright from “Bonanza,” and he wondered why he never saw any African Americans portraying cowboys on television. Photos courtesy Black Cowboy Festival In 1981, he bought his first horse and 5 acres and began to learn horsemanship. He traveled all across the country to different rodeos and horse shows, but never saw anyone who looked like him. “His thirst for finding a Black cowboy was great,” said his wife, Sandra. Eventually, he started meeting other African American horse enthusiasts and learning the history of the Black cowboy. The Come See What’s New! couple founded the Black Cowboy Festival as a way to tell the story of African American cowboys, horsemanship and agriculture. The festival is held on the couple’s 60-acre ranch, Greenfield Farms, and averages more than 2,000 attendees annually. The event will be celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2022. The four-day festival usually begins on a Thursday with a big fish fry. On Friday, all of the visiting cowboys go out on a trail ride together and then celebrate with a Western dinner dance that night. On Saturday, the festival hosts various horse shows throughout the day, as well as a youth horse competition and a traditional rodeo with calf-roping and bucking broncos. There are artisan and food vendors on different parts of the farm and entertainment from blues and gospel to jazz. A Motown Jam State Capitol, Buffalo Trace Distillery, Rebecca Ruth Candy Factory show closes out the evening. On Sunday, visitors end the festival with church and brunch before going New Group Experiences • New Memories To Make their separate ways.

A B LACK COWBOY FESTIVAL TRAI L RI DE

FRANKFORT

BLACKCOWBOYFESTIVAL.NET

visitfrankfort.com

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CUSTOM CONTENT

Horsing around is what Aiken’s all about BY VICKIE MITCHELL

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iken, South Carolina, is a Southern charmer. Live oaks create canopies over boulevards. Wellkept historic homes stand proud. Local shops and restaurants dominate a personable downtown. It’s easy to see why Vanderbilts, Rockefellers and Astors wintered here, 20 minutes east of Augusta, Georgia, and 2 ½ hours from Atlanta, Charlotte, Charleston and Savannah.

A distinctly different experience And while Aiken does echo other Southern towns, its equine inhabitants make it distinctly different. Here, horses — like pedestrians — have the right of way. Shops offer equine art and wares. Dirt roads meander off boulevards, leading to Aiken’s historic Horse District, where the clay pathways pass mansions, farms, polo fields and training tracks. The district, developed as rich early visitors brought their horses along, is an established training and competition center that welcomes visitors, including groups.

Horsing around in Aiken “The horses are hidden away from the hustle and bustle, so you have to be intentional about going to see this,” says Jessica Campbell, whose staff helps groups plan itineraries. Most experiences are no-cost or low-cost, and there are a variety of them. On spring and fall Sundays, groups can load up on Aiken’s trolley (motorcoaches aren’t allowed at some Horse District stops) for an afternoon of tailgating at Whitney Polo Field, a tradition that dates to 1882. It’s an afternoon of action and relaxation that invites the crowd to get in on the act at halftime and stomp divots back into the field. The Triple Crown each March features different events each of three weekends — flat racing, steeplechase and polo — and all of Aiken emerges in spring finery, cocktails in hand. At the Aiken Training Track, visits with a trainer or a jockey give insight into Aiken’s influence on horse racing. A newer addition, Bruce’s Field at the Aiken Horse Park is a competition facility with events year-round in a variety of disciplines including dressage and hunter/jumper. “Pick a day,” says Campbell, “and we can get you in front of a horse.” A stop at the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum is two attractions in one. The museum’s exhibits detail more than 40 racing champions who trained in Aiken, plus it is located in Hopelands Gardens, a 14-acre city park. Another garden spot, Hitchcock Woods, is one of the country’s largest urban forests, with 70 miles of trails favored by horseback riders, walkers and runners.

Finish strong with a visit to one of Aiken's museums Of course, Aiken’s attractions go beyond horses. Four other museums, all free and downtown, offer different perspectives on Aiken’s past. The Savannah River Site Museum delves into Aiken’s role in the Cold War. Locals loan their treasures to the Aiken County History Museum; the Center for African American History, Art and Culture explores African American contributions to local culture. Learn how train travel led to Aiken’s development at the Aiken Visitors Center and Train Museum, before heading downtown to sit on a sunny patio at one of Aiken’s varied restaurants, a soothing end to a memorable day.

visitaikensc.com

803-293-7846

SAM RADFORD 803-642-7647 SRADFORD@CITYOFAIKENSC.GOV VISITAIKENSC.COM


the

OUTDOORS

IS IN EXPLORE THESE ADVENTURES THAT SHOWCASE THE SOUTHEAST

BY PAU LA AVEN G LADYCH

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KAR EN B EAS LEY S EA TU RTLE R ESCU E CENTER

dventure awaits under Southern skies. Outdoor experiences and ecological tour opportunities abound in the Southeastern region of the country. Travelers can explore beautiful natural caverns in Florida and Tennessee, marvel at unusual rock formations in West Virginia, visit a sea turtle rescue in North Carolina and enjoy swamp tours and shrimping expeditions in Louisiana and Mississippi. If you have nature lovers in your group, include one of these fascinating outdoor attractions and excursions in your next tour through the Southeast.

By Eric Lindberg, courtesy Cajun Encounters

Courtesy KBSTRRC

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GROUPS CAN EXPLOR E TH E BAYOUS N EAR S LI DELL ON AN EXCU RSION WITH CAJ U N ENCOU NTERS TOU R CO.

Florida Caverns State Park MARIANNA, FLORIDA

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By Laura Grier, courtesy Cajun Encounters

he highlight of Florida Caverns State Park is its extensive cave system, the only dry-cave tour system in Florida. Along with its amazing stalagmites and stalactites, the system features rimstone pools, soda straws and drapery formations. The caverns, which opened to the public in 1942, were created in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, which chiseled pathways through the caves and widened rooms to make them accessible to visitors. Guided tours of the caves are offered daily, but groups that want a more unusual experience can book a nightly lantern tour on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. The cave is still alive, meaning that its formations are still evolving as water drips in from the surface or the water table rises, sending a large amount of water through the cave at once. During the 45-minute tour, experienced guides point out features that were created slowly through the millennia. Visitors learn how they were formed and how they are still evolving to

FLORI DA CAVER NS STATE PARK

Courtesy Jackson Co. TDC

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A FLORI DA CAVER N TOU R Courtesy Jackson Co. TDC

this day. The cave itself stays a balmy 65 degrees Fahrenheit yearround, making it a pleasant stop, especially during Florida’s hot and humid summer months. The cave tour doesn’t comply with Americans with Disabilities access guidelines, but groups with limited mobility can watch a recorded tour of the cave in the museum. The museum also talks about the endangered plant and animal species that make the park their home. The 1,000-acre park has picnic areas, campgrounds and plenty of trails for hiking, horseback riding and bicycling. The Chipola River and the Blue Hole Spring provide areas for fishing, canoeing, swimming and boating, and the nine-hole Florida Caverns Golf Course is adjacent to the park’s entrance. Bat houses are placed around the grounds, and one of the many highlights of the park is watching hundreds of bats flying in and out as they go on their nightly hunt for bugs. FLORIDASTATEPARKS.ORG

Cajun Encounters Tour Co. SLIDELL, LOUISIANA

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A SWAM P TOU R I N LOUISIANA’S ST. TAM MANY PARIS H

roups that want to tour one of the most pristine swamps in Louisiana should book an excursion with Cajun Encounters. The company uses small pontoon boats that can take up to 22 passengers each into narrow bayous with snakes hanging from the trees and the swamp’s natural beauty all around. The boats can cruise through water less than one foot deep — meaning they aren’t limited to canals made by people — including through a Nature Conservancy area with old-growth cypress trees dripping in Spanish moss and with more than 200 species of birds, alligators, snakes, wild pigs, bears, foxes and nutrias. Because airboats are not allowed into the Honey Island Swamp, the area is undamaged. Informative guides talk about the ecology of the swamp, what happens when there are floods and hurricanes and the distinct types of flora and fauna that make the swamp their home. Groups can also book a shrimp or crawfish boil before or after their tour prepared by their boat captains, who cook the meal over propane burners on the main dock at Cajun Encounters. Groups of up to 150 people can enjoy the crustaceans, along with new potatoes, sausage and corn, all piled onto tables for visitors to enjoy beneath a covered pavilion. Guides will show visitors new to the area how to peel a shrimp or a crawfish and even organize competitions to see who can get to the meat first. Cajun Encounters also recently started offering kayak tours of the swamp. It acquired Pearl River Eco-Tours, which will eventually be the company’s main launch point for smaller boats and tours. It also combines swamp tours with tours of area plantations and New Orleans attractions such as the French Quarter and the National World War II Museum. CAJUNENCOUNTERS.COM

By Eric Lindberg, courtesy Cajun Encounters

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Biloxi Shrimping Trip BILOXI, MISSISSIPPI

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iloxi Shrimping Trip has been taking group visitors on ecological and scenic tours along the Mississippi coastline since 1954. And although the company’s ownership has changed hands eight times, the 49-passenger vessel Sailfish remains the same. Its mission is to educate guests about the flora and fauna along the Mississippi coast. As the captain talks about various points of interest, the vessel drops nets to pick up sea creatures in its path. The nets are brought on board, and any fish are placed in onboard saltwater tanks so that passengers can see them up close. The catch typically includes shrimp, crabs, oysters, starfish, sea robins, pufferfish and, sometimes, seahorses. Guests learn about the creatures and their place in the ecosystem before they are released back into the ocean.

Join us for a HISTORICAL ADVENTURE. When visiting Charleston, include a stop at Patriots Point,where honor, pride, and excitement unite.

“We go along the beach, but we can’t keep anything. We are shrimping where no one else can.” — CAPT. BRANDY MOORE, BILOXI SHRIMPING TRIP

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum features unique and interactive exhibits from all key American conflicts. The centerpiece is World War II aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, 1 million square feet of history you won’t want to miss. We offer fully customizable and unforgettable experiences for your crew.

B LU E CRAB CAUGHT ON TH E BI LOXI S H RI M PI NG TRI P

Courtesy Biloxi Shrimping Trip

To plan your visit, call (843) 971-5051 or email groupsales@patriotspoint.org For more information, visit patriotspoint.org/groups 67


“We catch anything floating out there close enough to us,” said Capt. Brandy Moore, co-owner of Biloxi Shrimping Trip with her husband, Michael. “We go along the beach, but we can’t keep anything. We are shrimping where no one else can.” The boat travels between Deer Island, a long and skinny island that is home to 10 types of endangered species, and Biloxi Beach on the mainland. The waters are calm and the ride comfortable. Along with shrimping trips, the couple offers travel packages for groups that include culinary demonstrations and lunch; a 70-minute ride on the Sailfish; a city tour of Biloxi, Mississippi; and tours of Beauvoir, the Jefferson Davis Home. The Sailfish, which is nearly 70 years old, was pulled out of the water in September for a major overhaul. The boat will be taken apart and its frame replaced with new wood. The couple hopes the boat will be back in the water by February 17, which is the start of their tour season.

TH E VI EW FROM RU BY FALLS’ LOOKOUT MOU NTAI N TOWER

BILOXISHRIMPINGTRIP.COM

Ruby Falls

CHATTANOOGA, TENNESSEE

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hattanooga’s Ruby Falls is the largest and deepest underground waterfall in the United States at 1,120 feet below the summit of Lookout Mountain, and it was discovered by accident in 1928. Leo Lambert, a local cave enthusiast, knew that Lookout Mountain Cave was under the mountain, but it was inaccessible because the entrance was blocked when a railroad tunnel was built through the mountain. He spent a decade rounding up investors to fund the digging of an elevator shaft that would take visitors down for tours of the cave. During excavation, the crew encountered another cave about 260 feet down. Lambert named it after his wife, Ruby. After a 17-hour exploration of the new cave, the explorers found the Ruby Falls waterfall, which is 120 feet tall. Lambert decided to open both caves for tours, but after a couple of years, he realized that Ruby Falls was the more popular cave and that Lookout Mountain Cave was too close to the railroad tunnel. Groups can sign up for a 75-minute guided tour of the cave’s impressive features, from Frozen Niagara, a flowstone formation formed by minerals deposited by muddy water that looks like a frozen waterfall, and drapery formations that are thin and wavy like folded drape material. The Bacon is a drapery formation with a strip of iron oxide running down the middle of it, making it look like bacon. A natural rim pool was formed by dripping groundwater and is the only body of water in the cave not connected to the outflowing water from the falls. The mile-long roundtrip path through the cave has a mild elevation that is broken up by a total of 50 steps in three- to fivestep increments, so it is fairly accessible to most visitors.

TH E U N DERGROU N D CASCADE AT RU BY FALLS N EAR CHATTANOOGA

RUBYFALLS.COM Photos courtesy Ruby Falls

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for everyone

Laid-back fun

In Panama City, Florida, thereʼs something for everyone in your group. From varied dining options featuring the Gulf Coastʼs freshest seafood to walkable neighborhoods filled with character and charm, weʼll help your group make the most of their visit. LEARN MORE AT DESTINATIONPANAMACITY.COM/GROUPS


Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center SURF CITY, NORTH CAROLINA

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aren Beasley began rescuing sea turtles when she was just 7 years old. She found a turtle nest behind her family’s North Carolina beach house and wanted to protect it. Over the years, she and a group of volunteers began protecting more nests, nesting females and hatchlings along 26 miles of coastline on Topsail Island. Beasley passed away from leukemia at a young age, and her mother, Jean, picked up the torch of the Topsail Turtle Project. The group would find injured turtles every so often and realized they needed to start a sea turtle hospital to nurse them back to health. The center opened its doors in 1997. It moved into a new 13,000-square-foot facility on the mainland in 2013. Groups can tour the facility with a knowledgeable volunteer to learn about the history of the organization. They go into a hallway with education stations that describe the species of sea turtles found off the North Carolina coast and tell why sea turtles get stranded. Then they can look through the window into the sea turtle sick bay, where turtles in critical condition are cared for. At the end of the tour,

A S EA TU RTLE R ELEAS E AT KAR EN B EAS LEY S EA TU RTLE R ESCU E AN D R EHABI LITATION CENTER

UP CLOS E WITH A S EA TU RTLE

©Laura Grier

Photos courtesy KBSTRRC

TH E TU RTLE R EHABI LITATION AR EA

Tri-Parish Itinerary

SOUL OF THE SOUTH

On the multi-day itinerary, groups will learn about the stories and traditions that honor the contributions and untold history of Louisiana’s Native, Creole, and African Americans. The route begins on the Louisiana Northshore and features destinations in the tri-parish region of St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana River Parishes, and Jefferson Parish. 70

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#L ANorthshore • LouisianaNorthshore.com/SSL A


Kentucky State Parks Get away from it all, to discover all we have. Whether for 20 or 500, we will help you find the perfect environment. From seminars and retreats to holiday events and weddings, one of our 17 state resort parks is waiting for you.

Speak to a group sales professional to learn more about Kentucky State Park opportunities and discover your next destination: jovan.wells@ky.gov or call 502-892-3341. parks.ky.gov/meetings-weddings


SCENIC H I KES AT WEST VI RGI NIA’S B EARTOWN STATE PARK

groups can visit Turtle Bay, where recovering turtles are allowed to swim around and interact with other recovering turtles. Once they are deemed healed, the turtles are released back into the wild. If they have injuries that won’t allow them to be released, the center finds homes for them at zoos and aquariums across the country. The facility closes for two months beginning in mid-December, as it is the beginning of the cold-stun season. When the water gets too cold, many turtles get trapped foraging too close to shore and become hypothermic. In January 2020, the facility cared for 109 cold-stunned turtles. SEATURTLEHOSPITAL.ORG

Beartown State Park MARLINTON, WEST VIRGINIA

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Photos courtesy Beartown State Park

eartown State Park is a 110-acre natural area on the eastern summit of Droop Mountain in West Virginia’s Greenbriar and Pocahontas counties. It is known for its unusual rocky formations, massive boulders, overhanging cliffs and crevices. The land was purchased in 1970 with funds from the Nature Conservancy and a local donor who wanted to honor the memory of her son, who died in the Vietnam War. The development of the park has been minimal to preserve the natural beauty of the area. The main attraction is a half-mile-long boardwalk — with informative markers that explain the geological processes at work in the area — that takes visitors past some of the park’s most spectacular formations. The park is open to visitors from April through October. It is closed to tourists from November through March, as winter storms coat the boardwalk with ice that doesn’t thaw until sometime in March because the nearby sandstone outcrops conduct the cold. Originally, the boardwalk was built in a horseshoe shape, and people could climb on the rocks. Because of the degradation to the various rock features of the park, the boardwalk was transformed into a circle with fencing to keep people from climbing the rocks. The boardwalk is accessible to groups, and the park is about five miles from Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park, site of the last battle of the Civil War, as well as New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. WVSTATEPARKS.COM

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sts SHINING EX A MPLE

AWARDS

Steve Morse The Southeast Tourism Society presented its 2021 Dorothy Hardman Spirit of STS Award to the late Steve Morse. Morse was the dean of the School of Business at Middle Georgia State University in Macon. The Spirit of STS Award recognizes an individual that best expresses the genuine love and devotion that Dorothy Hardman had for the organization, its members and its purpose. Winners are selected by a small, anonymous committee. Morse was an academic expert in the area of hospitality, tourism and economic development. He developed the Economic Signif icance of Tourism Toolkit, which was used by STS and others to showcase tourism’s power for creating jobs, payroll and tax revenues for destination marketing organizations. He served as a professor at Southeast Tourism Society Marketing College for 11 years until his death in April, 2021. His wife, Mary Morse, accepted the award on his behalf.

SPIRIT of STS AWA R D

NE W I N

TASTE OF

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BIBLE MUSEUM

COKE MUSEUM

HISTORIC HOUSE

ESTATE GARDEN

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318-387-5281 | 800-362-0983 | bmuseum.org T O U R IS M S O CIE T Y T O U R P L A N N E R Monroe-WestMonroe.org for Hotel Information

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5¢ Coca-Cola in glass bottles


THINK

BIGGER

ArkEncounter.com Williamstown, KY (south of Cincinnati) an attraction of Answers in Genesis



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