Page 1

D E T RO I T ’ S C O M E B A C K

|

A JERSEY JOURNEY

|

M I LW A U K E E I N M O T I O N

GROUP THE

TRAVEL LEADER

mountain time

THIS YEAR FIND SOME

go SOUTH

2019 T R AV E L S O U T H TOUR PLANNER J A N U A R Y 2 01 8


HAN

D TE

DCRAF

All-inclusive luxury river cruising

At Scenic, when we say all-inclusive, that’s what we mean. Your group will enjoy our many amenities: from transfers and gratuities to our exclusive Enrich, Freechoice and Tailormade onshore excursions, they won’t have to worry about money at all. On board, luxuriate in our industry-first Salt Therapy Lounge or savor a hands-on foodie experience at Scenic Culinaire, our exclusive cooking school. Absolutely everything is taken care of as you cruise the rivers of Europe.

2020

Group Space Now Available

Limited Time Group Offers*: Free Flights Scenic Savings Gather 9 guests, earn free travel Bonus Commission... and more!

Half & full ship Charters also available. Contact us for more information.

Call the Scenic Groups Department at 1.844.279.6124 or visit scenicusa.com *Contact us for complete offer details and applicable sail dates. 19_SC0112


SSAANNDDUUSSKKYY

••

I N- B - BAY AY • • KKE EL LL LE EYY PPUUT T - I-N S SI SI SL LAA NN DD • • P P OO RR T TCC LL I NI N TT OO NN

Explore Explore Ohio’sLake LakeErie ErieShores Shores&&Islands! Islands! Ohio’s Makeplanning planningaabreeze breezewith with Make onephone phonecall callfor forcustomized customized one itinerariesand andservices! services! itineraries

Start Startcoasting coastingatatgroups.SHORESandISLANDS.com groups.SHORESandISLANDS.com


GROUP T HE

TRAVEL LEADER T H E

E V O L U T I O N

O F

G R O U P

THE

C H A R T I N G

DEPARTMENTS COLUMNS

T R AV E L

table ofCONTENTS VOL 28 | ISSUE 1

T R AV E L S O U T H

6 EDITOR’S MARKS

TO U R P L A N N E R

14 P R O F I L E : WAY N E C H A N D L E R

M E E T T H E T O U R O P E R AT O R

NEWS

TA S T E S & T U N E S

8 FA M I LY M AT T E R S

THE SCENIC SOUTH

10 I N D U S T R Y N E W S

CHARMING SMALL TOWNS

12 C O N F E R E N C E S C E N E

35

THE FESTIVE SOUTH

Mountain High

O N THE COVE R

Moraine Lake sits in the Valley of the Ten Peaks in Canada’s stunning Banff National Park. Photo by Pietro Canali

FEATURES

THESE DESTINATIONS ARE KNOWN FOR ALPINE FUN.

16

MILWAUKEE

Icons

Groups love these Brew City favorites.

24

NEW JERSEY SPOTLIGHT

20

RESILIENT DETROIT

32

STAFF SOUND OFF

34

.

MAC T. LACY CHARLES A. PRESLEY BRIAN JEWELL HERBERT SPARROW DONIA SIMMONS ELIZA MYERS

Founder and Publisher Partner Executive Editor Senior Writer Creative Director Online Editor

K E L LY T Y N E R 4

CHRISTINE CLOUGH SAVANNAH OSBOURN KELLY TYNER KYLE ANDERSON DANIEL JEAN-LEWIS ASHLEY RICKS

Copy Editor Staff Writer Director of Sales & Marketing Account Manager Account Manager Graphic Design & Circulation

888.253.0455

KELLY@GROUPTR AVELLEADER.COM

The GROUP TRAVEL LEADER is published ten times a year by THE GROUP TRAVEL LEADER, Inc., 301 East High St., Lexington, Kentucky 40507, and is distributed free of charge to qualified group leaders who plan travel for groups of all ages and sizes. THE GROUP TRAVEL LEADER serves as the official magazine of GROUP TRAVEL FAMILY, the organization for traveling groups. All other travel suppliers, including tour operators, destinations, attractions, transportation companies, hotels, restaurants and other travelrelated companies may subscribe to THE GROUP TRAVEL LEADER by sending a check for $59 for one year to: THE GROUP TRAVEL LEADER, Circulation Department, 301 East High St., Lexington, KY 40507. Phone (859) 253-0455 or (859) 253-0503. Copyright THE GROUP TRAVEL LEADER, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction of editorial or graphic content in any manner without the written consent of the publisher is prohibited.


S

TOGETHER

REACH WE

ON T H E M A G A Z I N E F O R FAITH-BASED TRAVEL PLANNERS VOL. 21 - NO. 4

FALL 2018

IRELAND ALWAYS MAJESTIC SEASIDE IN

SARASOTA

H I S TO R I C WISCONSIN GOING ON FAITH

CONFERENCE COVERAGE

GOF Fall 2018.indd 1

PRINT

ADVERTISING

+

DIGITAL

9/7/18 1:43 PM

ADVERTISING

READERSHIP EVENTS + ONSITE DESTINATION FAMS CUSTOM PUBLISHING + CUSTOM CONTENT + EBOOKS

TOGETHER GTL-ADVERTISING.COM

D A N I E L @ G R O U P T R AV E L L E A D E R . C O M

888.253.0455

K E L LY @ G R O U P T R AV E L L E A D E R . C O M


marks

EDITOR’S T HE

A

fter 37 years of explaining this to people individually, it’s time to address it publicly: I don’t drink coffee. There’s nothing morally objectionable to me about coffee. I don’t have any religious conviction against it. I don’t have health concerns, and I’m not too cheap to buy it. There’s just one simple reason why I’m not a coffee drinker — to me, coffee tastes bad. Think back to the first time you tried coffee, perhaps as a child or early in your teens. Can you honestly say you enjoyed your first sip? Or did it taste like rancid, bitter dirt water? Did you smile with delight? Or did you grimace, shake your head and say to yourself, “Why would anyone drink this stuff?” There is a reason people drink coffee, of course. If you became a coffee drinker, something compelled you to take a second sip and then a third. Eventually, you overcame your distaste and made coffee a regular part of your life. So why did you take that second sip? Probably because it made you feel good. Not the caffeine jolt — if you first tried coffee as a child or a teen, you probably didn’t need the stimulant. What made you feel good was the idea of being a coffee drinker. You felt cool, sophisticated and grown up. Your parents

6

GROUP T HE

TRAVEL LE ADER

BY B R I A N J E W E L L

V

drank coffee, your friends drank coffee, and people on TV drank coffee. So, bitter though it was, you continued to drink it. Not because you wanted to drink the coffee, but because you wanted to be part of the coffee culture. So why didn’t I follow this same path? Maybe it’s because my parents didn’t drink coffee. Perhaps I lack the patience to acquire a taste for it. Or maybe I just have a high tolerance to social pressure. No matter how hip or sophisticated a beverage might seem, if it tastes terrible, I’m not likely to drink it. I’m an outlier, though: Coffee is everywhere, and many people around me drink it religiously. And so I find myself wondering: Do they know this stuff tastes bad? Do they care? And how did a drink that tastes so wretched become so entrenched in our society? I find myself asking these sorts of questions a lot, and not just about breakfast beverages. There are all sorts of unpleasant things in life, culture, government and business that we seem to accept without question. So why do we put up with them? From time to time, it’s worth looking at your career, your organization or your business and asking a basic question: Am I participating in things I dislike? And if so, why? It’s also worth asking if you’re forcing your customers to swallow products or experiences they don’t enjoy. Are you packing the itinerary when they want free time? Are you dragging them through educational attractions when they’d rather be shopping? At conferences and events, are you forcing attendees to sit through boring sponsor presentations? Are you feeding them bland banquet food? Are you keeping them out too late or making them get up too early? The older I get, the more I realize that life is too short to keep swallowing things that taste bad. So you can keep your coffee. I’ll be drinking Coke instead.

JANUARY 2019


CUSTOM CONTENT

THROUGH CHURCH, GUITARS AND CARS T U P E L O TA L K S A B O U T I T S T I E S T O E LV I S

T

upelo, Miss., proudly sings the praises of Elvis Presley, its most famous son. But you don’t have to be an Elvis fan to appreciate this small northern Mississippi town. The stories Tupelo shares are universal: tales of humble beginnings, faith, music and small decisions that change lives in big ways.

ELVIS BIRTHPLACE: START WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

AN AMAZING COLLECTION OF AUTOS

Even the Tupelo Automobile Museum--one local’s collection of 150 Many visits begin where it all began, the Elvis Presley Birthplace. The two-room automobiles-- has ties to Elvis. It displays the 1976 Lincoln Mark IV that clapboard home where Elvis was born and spent his early years and modest church Elvis gave a Colorado lawman who provided security for the singer, as well where his family worshipped remind that the Presleys were of modest means. as movie posters from all 33 Elvis movies. Through the magic of video screens, modern visitors feel as if they are sitUnlike other auto museums, this one doesn’t focus on a particular brand, ting elbow to elbow with the Presleys’ fellow parishioners. Often, tour planners instead showing how autos have changed since 1886 through vehicles rare don’t tell their group about this surprise. “The hidden screens come down and common. and you feel like you are in the 1950s Church of God worship service,” said “People will say, ‘my mamma had that car.’” There will always be a car that Jan Pannell, sales manager for the Tupelo Convention and Visitor Bureau. speaks to you,” said Pannell. “But there are also some outrageous cars, some unbeIn a movie theater at the site’s Elvis Presley Events Center, groups can lievable cars.” The museum also has one of the best gift shops around, Pannell said. watch a short film about Elvis’ early days. The center is also perfect for receptions or dinners featuring grilled peanut butter and banana sandTUPELO’S STORY STANDS ON ITS OWN wiches, an Elvis favorite, or Southern specialties like fried catfish or pot Ninety miles south of Graceland, Tupelo is a logical stop on a trip to Memphis. roast. Dinner entertainment can include a visit from the King. “We have But its story is strong enough to stand on its own. many Elvis Tribute artists in the area,” Pannell said. ”We can do 50’s Elvis, “When people think Elvis, they think about Graceland, but you don’t 1968 Comeback Special or Vegas era Elvis. We have them all and they know the whole story unless you see Tupelo,” Pannell said. “This is where it are all professionals.” Another possibility? Gospel music by a local choir. all started.”

TUPELO HARDWARE CHANGED MUSIC FOREVER

Though the birthplace is where Elvis’ life began, Tupelo Hardware Company is where his musical career was born. The downtown store is happy to share the story of its role in Elvis’ incredible career. “It’s where his mom, Gladys, bought his first guitar,” said Pannell. The story goes that Elvis wanted a gun, but his mom talked him into a guitar. “It changed the world,” said Pannell. Tupelo Hardware Company, by the way, still sells guitars. “Lots of them,” Pannell added. The hardware store and every other downtown business are locally owned, which makes dining and shopping a treat. Smells of barbecue, fried chicken, cinnamon rolls and blue-plate specials scent the air. Reed’s department store is as welcoming as it was when it opened in 1905; men’s clothier, MLM, keeps in mind its slogan “dress better than you have to” as it outfits gentlemen.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau 662-841-6521 www.tupelo.net jpannell@tupelo.net


FAMILY MATTERS

THE GROUP TR AVEL FAMILY RESTORES HISTORIC OHIO BUILDING

THE GROUP TRAVEL FAMILY HAS MOVED ITS OFFICES TO THE TRINITY BUILDING, AN 1840 STRUCTURE IN DOWNTOWN SALEM, OHIO.

SALEM, Ohio — The saying “everything old is new again” took on real meaning for The Group Travel Family as it completed restoration of a 180-year-old building in historic downtown Salem, Ohio, and made it its new home. The Group Travel Family is the parent company of a dozen travel conferences serving the group travel industry and sister organization of this publication. Located in Ohio for the past 25 years, it serves the travel industry and travel planners nationwide. “We had the opportunity to purchase a great old building and bring it back to life,” said Charlie Presley of The Group Travel Family. Bring it back to life is an understatement.

8

GROUP T HE

TRAVEL LE ADER

The project became a total restoration, from the original sandstone foundation to two stories of 17-foot-high brick walls. “It became a labor of love as well as a challenge,” Presley said. The challenge of breathing new life into an old building was accepted by the entire Group Travel Family staff, who were involved in the process. “It was rewarding to bring the building into the future,” said Jennifer Ferguson of The Group Travel Family. The future involved everything from high-speed fiber-optic internet cable to a Voice over Internet Protocol telephone system. “The process of taking an historic building into the cloud internet age was fun,” said

Kathleen Presley, who manages all information technology for the organization. The Group Travel Family operates in the cloud, with staff using mobile devices from anywhere in the world to manage conferences and work with the travel planners and travel industry. The building, known locally as the Trinity Building, began its life in 1840 as a carpentry and livery store. Over the years, it remained in the woodworking and horse business, and some say the carpenters turned out a few caskets in the late 1800s. Built with gas lights, state of the art for the 1840s, the Trinity Building is once again at the forefront of technology with The Group Travel Family.

JANUARY 2019


CHEEKWOOD’S FRIST LEARNING CENTER REOPENS AF TER RENOVATION NASHVILLE, Tennessee — Cheekwood’s Frist Learning Center reopened in late August after a multifaceted renovation that includes a restored and interpreted horse stables and tack room, updated art studios, a new gift shop and a new fast-casual eatery, Café 29. The restored stables provide insights for the first time about the Cheek family horses, which played a central role in life at Cheekwood in the 1930s. Historic images and exhibits in the new café also interpret Cheekwood’s connections to Maxwell House coffee. The name Café 29 pays homage to the year 1929, when the Cheek family broke ground on the estate. The café, which features indoor and outdoor seating and a picnic-to-go with a pick-up window, serves the original Maxwell House coffee blend. Leslie Cheek, who built Cheekwood, made a fortune in the 1920s after investing in his cousin Joel Cheek’s Maxwell House business. The learning center renovation came a year after the restoration of the 1930s-era Cheekwood Mansion. W W W.CHEEKWOOD.ORG

THE FRIST LEARNING CENTER RECENTLY REOPENED AT CHEEKWOOD ESTATE AND GARDENS AFTER A RENOVATION OF THE HISTORIC FACILITY.

Courtesy Cheekwood GROUPTRAVELLEADER.COM

GROUP T HE

TRAVEL LE ADER

9


INDUSTRY NEWS KENTUCKY BOURBON TRAIL OPENS OFFICIAL WELCOME CENTER LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — Visitors to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail now have an official starting point from which to gather information and advice about visiting bourbon distilleries around the state. Located on the first floor of the Frazier History Museum in downtown Louisville, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center, a partnership between the museum and the Kentucky Distillers Association, opened in late August. The center features a professional concierge service to help visitors plan their trips and to also help them navigate Louisville’s booming bourbon and culinary scene. “We get dozens of calls every day from visitors around the world who are planning their Kentucky Bourbon Trail journey and asking where to start,” said distillers association presi-

dent Eric Gregory. “Now, we’ll have the perfect answer: the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center at the Frazier History Museum.” Also opening in conjunction with the center the Spirit of Kentucky Bourbon Exhibit on the museum’s third floor features immersive digital displays that trace bourbon’s history and culture from farmers and pioneering distillers to today’s distillery workers. The openings followed completion of major renovations to the building, including a new vestibule and front entrance and a new rooftop garden and park. W W W.FR AZ I ER MUSEU M.ORG

LOUISVILLE’S NEW KENTUCKY BOURBON TRAIL WELCOME CENTER FEATURES EDUCATIONAL DISPLAYS ON THE STATE’S BOURBON HERITAGE. Courtesy KY Distillers Assoc.

BLUEGRASS MUSIC HALL OF FAME AND MUSEUM TO DEBUT NEW BUILDING OWENSBORO, Kentucky — The Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum opened its new $15.3 million building with a three-day celebration October 18-20. The 26-year-old museum closed in June to begin transferring exhibits and artifacts from its former location in the RiverPark Center to its new facility on the redeveloped Owensboro riverfront. The new state-of-the-art facility, which was renamed in April from the International Bluegrass Music Museum, features expanded exhibit space with artifacts and interactive stations and the 450-seat Woodward Theater, which will host a weekly bluegrass series. The museum also has an outdoor festivalstyle stage with a grassy area that can seat up to 1,500. All the living members of the Bluegrass Hall of Fame were invited to the opening weekend, which featured a concert by hall of famer Sam Bush. W W W.BLUEGR ASSMUSEUM.ORG

10

GROUP T HE

TRAVEL LE ADER

A RIBBON-CUTTING AND CONCERT MARKED THE OPENING OF THE NEW BLUEGRASS MUSIC HALL OF FAME AND MUSEUM IN OWENSBORO.

Photos by Alex Morgan, courtesy BMHOFM

JANUARY 2019


FREE TO HOLD GROUP SPACE NEW WATER AT TRACTION OPENS AT GAYLORD OPRYLAND RESORTS

& NO MINIMUMS

Ocean horizons, medieval riverside villages, rocky wilderness coasts, incredible experiences you could have missed if you traveled in a different way. Cruises let you travel at a different pace, and soak in the atmosphere. And, when you book with

NASHVILLE, Tennessee — SoundWaves, an upscale indoor/ outdoor resort water attraction, opened December 1 for guests of the Gaylord Opryland Resorts. SoundWaves’ 111,000 square feet of indoor space intertwines thrilling rides with living walls and plant beds in an 84-degree tropical temperature beneath a roof that provides natural light. Rides include a multi-side tower, double indoor surfing, rapid and lazy rivers and an activity pool with rock climbing, an obstacle course and basketball. Its outdoor seasonal features, which are set to open in the summer, will feature 106,000 square feet of water amenities including a wave pool with giant LED movie screen, multi-slide tower and kids’ pool with multi-level play structure. SoundWaves has indoor and outdoor recreation zones for adults, young children and families. Adults will have exclusive access to adult-only indoor and outdoor pools, bars and lounging areas throughout the water resort.

Collette, there are no group minimums, so you can focus on stunning seaside sights, instead of worrying about hitting an arbitrary headcount.

W W W.G A Y LOR DHOT ELS .COM

journey OVER

LAND & SEA

GUESTS CAN ENJOY 111,000 SQUARE FEET OF INDOOR AND OUTDOOR WATER RECREATION AT GAYLORD OPRYLAND’S NEW SOUNDWAVES ATTRACTION.

Lofoten Islands, Norway

Courtesy Gaylord Opryland

GROUPTRAVELLEADER.COM

Offer the world to your travelers with journeys to all seven continents. Call 844-445-5663 now or your local Travel Agent to learn about our booking offers! GROUP 11 T HE

TRAVEL LE ADER

CST# 2006766-20 UBN# 601220855 Nevada Seller of Travel Registration No. 2003-0279


CONFERENCE SCENE

NTA INTRODUCES ‘BIZNET’ AND ‘ENGAGE’ IN MILWAUKEE

Photos courtesy NTA

TRAVEL EXCHANGE SCENES, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: A BIZNET ROUNDTABLE; MEETINGS ON THE CONVENTION FLOOR; NTA PRESIDENT PAM INMAN

BY B R I A N J E W E L L

MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin — NTA leaders debuted new initiatives and continued to build on to existing programs at Travel Exchange, the organization’s annual convention, which took place November 4-8 in Milwaukee. Some of the new initiatives are directly related to the Travel Exchange event. “We had over 1,000 people, trending the same as the last two events,” said NTA president Pam Inman. “We’re looking at Travel Exchange in the future to help make the business more successful for our attendees.” At the fore of the new programs was BizNet: The Opening Connection. Taking the place of the convention’s opening session, which tradi-

12

GROUP T HE

TRAVEL LE ADER

tionally features a keynote speaker, the BizNet session featured a series of roundtable discussions among the tour operators, tour suppliers and destination representatives in attendance. “You meet people you never think you’d work with,” explained Paul Larsen, president of Ed-Ventures and incoming chair of NTA’s board of directors. “Then you get some ideas you didn’t expect.” The idea for this roundtable session came from Minding Your Business, a consulting organization that NTA has been working with over the past 12 months to improve member value and modernize event programming. Other ideas implemented at Travel Exchange

were Corporate Concierge, a service that allows national and global hospitality brands to more easily list properties and engage with members, and the China Preferred Partner Program, which allows destinations and tour suppliers to join alongside 200 tour operators that specialize in serving the inbound tourism market from China. NTA is the only organization approved by the China National Tour Association to recommend American tour companies and suppliers to Chinese travelers. At the conference, NTA also announced a new loyalty program for attendees and sponsors. “You get points for coming to Travel Exchange, for being a sponsor and for participating in the CTP [continuing education] program,” Inman said. “Those points will give you a discount on memberships and event registrations.” Travel Exchange also marked the official debut of Engage, an online community platform the association had been developing and testing since August. “It’s the most exciting thing we’ve launched here,” Larsen said. “It’s an online community for tour operators and industry to connect and have discussions. There’s a fun element to it, and millennials are the most active with it.” The association has seen growth in its networks of tour company owners and destination representatives, who often meet in person or online throughout the year to discuss topics of interest. Larsen hopes Engage will further help NTA members build their relationships and cooperative efforts beyond annual events. “Our owner-operator network and DMO [destination marketing organization] networks are our real strength, and those people are sharing ideas,” he said. “We want to connect all year, not just once a year. When we support each other, we all move forward, so my vision is to see all of us working together.” W W W. N TAON L I N E .COM

JANUARY 2019


INTERNATIONAL SHOWCASE DRAWS GLOBAL ATTENDEES TO NASHVILLE B Y M AC L AC Y

NASHVILLE, Tennessee — During the same week that Australia Travel Awards named the Travel South USA region as its top destination for 2018, 125 international travel buyers met with 350 Southern destinations in a busy marketplace during the organization’s seventh International Showcase in Nashville, Tennessee, November 26–29. Travel South USA president and CEO Liz Bittner was straightforward in laying out her organization’s initiative to increase the South’s share of business generated by the nearly 40 million overseas travelers who come to the United States each year. “This is not a one-and-done strategy,” said Bittner. “It’s not a trade show. This is a tactic in our overall marketing plan to make the South a major destination for international travelers. Every international delegate in that room was invited to attend based on our criteria and our target markets. We get inquiries from travel companies in other countries that are not in the plan, and we turn them down.” Nine global marketing partners under contract to assist the organization’s Southern destinations with their sales efforts were in attendance. Markets like Australia, Brazil, China, the Nordic countries, France, Germany, Italy and the Middle East were all represented. That level of ongoing in-country marketing support overseas is also a key component of the overall marketing plan. Coline Chazaux of Express Conseil in Paris said 1.7 million French travelers visited the United States in 2017, and 76 percent were repeat travelers. “French citizens have six to nine weeks a year for travel, and they’ll come to the South on their second or third visit to the U.S.,” she said. “Once they’ve done New York and the West Coast, they’ll consider coming to the South. If they do, they’ll come for two weeks on average. The French are very drawn to culture and history. They’ll come for music, and they are interested in the new Civil Rights Trail. Many are more interested in your country’s history than some of your own citizens may be.” Peter Hannaford represents one of Travel

GROUPTRAVELLEADER.COM

DELEGATES ENJOYED A TROPICAL SETTING ON MARCO ISLAND.

AUSTRALIAN TRAVEL AWARDS WINNER

TOURING HATCH SHOW PRINT LEFT TO RIGHT: TERRY DALE, LESLEY STAHL OF “CBS 60 MINUTES” AND JOHN STACHNIK

South’s newest markets: the Nordic countries of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland. “We started in July and were able to bring four travel companies here this week,” he said. “Next year, we’d like to double that. There is absolutely no language barrier for these countries. They are very English literate. They’ll start in music centers like Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans. For quite a few years, Thailand was Scandinavia’s No. 1 long-haul travel destination, but now America is. “Success for us would be getting these travelers beyond the music states into places like the Carolinas, Kentucky or Arkansas,” said Hannaford. “Scandinavians are used to multiple flights because they have very little long-haul service from their cities. So they think nothing of taking a connecting flight in the U.S. to get further into the heart of the South.” “In all honesty, anything beyond the United Kingdom and Germany is an emerging market for us,” said Bittner. “There is still so much to do and so much left to accomplish.” W W W.T R AV ELSOU TH US A.COM

MARKETPLACE NETWORKING

AN EVENING AT COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME

All photos by MatthewCourtesy Minucci,Travel courtesy USTOA South USA

GROUP T HE

TRAVEL LE ADER

13


EXPERT

insigh t

WAYNE CHANDLER GR A ND OL E OPR Y EN T ER TA INMEN T GROUP

BY B R I A N J E W E L L

W

ayne Chandler has worked for the same organization for 30 years. Employees in today’s economy rarely spend more than a few years at any one company. But at the Gaylord family of tourism and hospitality companies in Nashville, Tennessee, Chandler found a career, an industry he loves and a place to call home. “I came to our company in 1988, three days after graduating college,” Chandler said. “I was student body president at Tusculum University, and one of my duties was to have a convocation once a month for different disciplines. For the business month, I called Opryland USA. I had no idea whether I would get to speak to someone. But the vice president of human resources came and spoke at the college, and he offered me a job that weekend. It was meant to be.” Starting with his first post at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, Chandler began a professional tour through the organization’s portfolio of Nashville attractions, including the now-defunct Opryland USA theme park. “They were training us for 14 areas of the business, from being a step-on guide on the Grand Ole Opry tour bus to housekeeping, reservations and park relations,” he said. “It was an amazing overview of what the company had to offer.” During his rotations through different areas of the organization, Chandler began to identify the kind of professional experience he enjoyed most — working directly with visitors. “Customer interaction was very, very important for me,” he said. “It provided some immediate gratification whenever I got to work with groups and see them enjoy what we had to offer.” Chandler got to work extensively with groups during his time as the performance manager at the theme park. He helped hundreds of church choirs, school bands and other groups set up musical performances and parades in the park. After the park closed, he transferred to the attractions division — now known as the Grand Ole Opry Entertainment Group — whose portfolio includes Nashville staples the Ryman Auditorium, Ole Red and the legendary Grand Ole Opry.

14

GROUP T HE

TRAVEL LE ADER

SALES TIP FROM WAYNE “ It sounds ver y simple, but look people in t he eye a nd sm i le. T hat ’s one of t he cor nerstones of sta r t ing a relat ionsh ip w it h a nyone . It ’s ver y i mpor ta nt.”

“It’s amazing to work here and walk in the footsteps of the artists who have performed here,” he said. “I don’t take that for granted. Sometimes I pinch myself and say, ‘Is this real? Do I get paid for this?’” Today, Chandler is involved in all aspects of tourism sales for the attraction group, including international sales, and he leads a team of people in providing the same level of service and attention to detail that has always been the hallmark of Gaylord companies. “Our main goal is to try to exceed every guest’s expectations when they come,” he said. “If you can delight each one of those guests, even if something doesn’t go as planned, you can find a way to make it right.” When he’s not at the Opry or traveling to represent the company at tourism conferences, you can find Chandler enjoying other Nashville treasures. “Fishing is my No. 1 exercise,” he said. “And, of course, music envelops you in this city. I enjoy going to the songwriters nights at the Listening Room or the Bluebird Café to hear the songwriters do their renditions of the songs they wrote. We have such a unique community of musicians all in one place.”

JANUARY 2019


NEWS FROM US

.

MEE T OUR RE A DER S

T

he readers of The Group Travel Leader represent the largest, most active and most diverse travel planner audience in the tourism industry. To help illustrate the breadth of their influence in the travel marketplace, we recently surveyed our readers with questions about their trip frequency, trip lengths and price points.

1

WHAT IS YOUR AVERAGE NUMBER OF TRIPS PER YEAR?

Here’s what they had to say.

2

FOR WHICH OF THESE PRICE RANGES DO YOU OFFER TRIPS?

3

GROUPTRAVELLEADER.COM

WHICH OF THESE TRIP LENGTHS DO YOU CURRENTLY OFFER?

GROUP T HE

TRAVEL LE ADER

15


High

C O U N T RY BY E L I ZA M Y E R S

By Paul Zizka, courtesy Banff & Lake Louise Tourism ABOVE: BANFF NATIONAL PARK IN ALBERTA IS THE SITE OF SOME OF CANADA’S MOST STUNNING MOUNTAIN SCENERY.

T

here is nothing like staring at a colossal land mass reaching thousands of feet into the sky to give a person perspective. For many travelers, mountain landscapes are some of the most amazing sights in North America. Visitors can take on the mountains with ski adventures in Telluride, Colorado, or sit back to contemplate nature’s magnificence with gondola rides in Banff, Alberta, Canada. Many group tours build in free time so participants can choose whether to relax, hike to an overlook, ride on horseback or paddle a canoe. These six towns offer abundant nature-themed outings and also include urban entertainment, such as local restaurants in Whitefish, Montana; shopping in North Conway, New Hampshire; cultural experiences in Fairbanks, Alaska; and art havens in Taos, New Mexico. Between the cathartic nature fix and group-friendly activities, these mountain destinations will keep groups entertained for days.

By Paul Zizka, courtesy Banff & Lake Louise Tourism

ENJOYING A THERMAL SPRING IN BANFF


PA C K A PA R K A A N D H E A D F O R A M O U N TA I N T O W N

BANFF, ALBERTA, CANADA

Guests visiting Banff, Alberta, remain in a constant state of wonder. The picturesque Canadian Rockies jut straight out of the earth in all directions from downtown. Far from an overcrowded tourist trap, this mountain town attracts both nature lovers and herds of elk out for a morning stroll. The town sits within the Banff National Park and has a population of 8,000 people. Groups love exploring the turquoise waters of Moraine Lake by canoe, the frozen glaciers of Columbia Icefield by all-terrain vehicle and the naturally colorful Banff Upper Hot Springs by taking a rejuvenating dip in the soothing waters of Canada’s highest-elevation hot springs. Whitewater rafting in the area ranges from peaceful floats to rip-roaring adventures for adrenaline seekers.

DINING OUT IN BANFF

Though small, the town stays lively with restaurants, bars, shops, art galleries and museums. The Park Distillery Restaurant and Bar sources pure water from six glaciers in the Rocky Mountains and offers award-winning spirits for groups to sample.

FOR THRILLS: In addition to plentiful skiing routes, the adventurous can ascend Mount Norquay on a via ferrata, a system of iron ladders, cables and a suspension bridge to help mountain-climbing newbies up the jaw-dropping peak. FOR RELAXATION: Groups can immerse themselves in 360 degrees of mountain splendor on the Banff Gondola. An eight-minute ride takes passengers to the summit of 7,500-foot Sulphur Mountain for a boardwalk trail, an interpretive center and a boardwalk. W W W. B A NFFL A K ELOU ISE .COM

WHITEFISH, MONTANA

A former logging and railroad town that once sought to tame the West now helps preserve it as a launch point for exploring nearby Glacier National Park. Whitefish is surrounded by unspoiled mountain scenery so dramatic that promoters dubbed the area “Little Switzerland.” Operators based in Whitefish can lead groups on any type of excursion into the mountainous beauty nearby with custom snowcat rides, boat cruises, scenic lift rides and rafting on Flathead River. Visitors looking

WHITEFISH MOUNTAIN RESORT AND GLACIER NATIONAL PARK

By Paul Zizka, courtesy Banff & Lake Louise Tourism FRESH CUISINE AT A BANFF DISTILLERY RESTAURANT

By Paul Zizka, courtesy Banff & Lake Louise Tourism

GROUPTRAVELLEADER.COM

By Brian Schott, courtesy Whitefish CVB

GROUP T HE

TRAVEL LE ADER

17


for an easy hike can opt for the half-mile Walk of the Cedars, which is an accessible boardwalk trail past a waterfall and ancient cedar trees. Once the summer heat melts the snow off the park’s famous Going to the Sun Road, most visitors take a drive along this scenic route. Groups can take the Red Bus Tours for an informative outing in the park’s iconic 1930s vehicles. Whitefish has begun to win numerous culinary accolades for its range of top-quality cuisine, which includes such options as sushi and elk tacos. Two breweries, a craft distillery, shopping, art galleries and two theater companies can also easily complement a mountain getaway tour.

FOR THRILLS: Groups can traverse the remote mountains by dogsled on a ride with Winter Woods Tours and Guides. Whitefish Bike Retreat offers another exciting winter activity with specialized Fatboy fat bikes designed to ride over snow. FOR RELAXATION: During winter, visitors can snuggle up under warm blankets while draft horses pull them through the snowy mountain scenery. Hot chocolate, homemade cookies and a dinner ensure an all-around cozy experience. W W W. E X PLOR EW H I T EFISH.COM

TELLURIDE, COLORADO

Once a knockabout mining town that attracted outlaws like Butch Cassidy, Telluride now attracts outdoor enthusiasts with its chic resort-town vibe. Deep in a box canyon in the San Juan Mountains, the Victorian-era town whisks visitors onto the mountain slopes with gondola rides that rise to over 12,500 feet. Winter fills the town with ski enthusiasts, since Telluride was recently ranked the No. 1 ski resort in North America by readers of Condé Nast Traveler. However, the town draws guests year-round for its plentiful amenities and gorgeous scenery. Groups can witness the immensity of the San Juan Mountains on the nearby San Juan Skyway. Called the

Road to the Sky, the historic byway loops through 11 towns, two national forests and offers plenty of photo ops. For a Wild West experience, visitors can saddle up with several companies for a horseback ride, a chuckwagon dinner and an overnight trip. More sophisticated experiences take place at Telluride’s thriving art scene, which includes First Thursday Art Walks. FOR THRILLS: If a simple ride down Colorado slopes doesn’t satisfy, Telluride offers helicopter skiing for the daring. In summer, thrill-seekers can opt for hang gliding and a guided off-road driving tour. FOR RELAXATION: Mountain Village draws guests year-round for its cobblestone streets lined with shops and restaurants. Groups can wander through the shopping complex or ride the nearby scenic gondola for breathtaking views. W W W.V ISI T T EL LU R I DE .COM

NORTH CONWAY, NEW HAMPSHIRE

Waterfalls, mountain brooks and forest glens await around every corner along the 100-mile White Mountain Trail Scenic Byway Loop. After a day spent scanning the woods for moose and other natural wonders, guests can retire to the storybook village of North Conway for a quintessential New England town experience. Tucked into the Mount Washington Valley in the White Mountains, the resort town sits just east of White Mountains National Forest. Groups can opt for a scenic driving tour, a hike, a dogsled ride, a canoe ride or a fall foliage tour in autumn with the scenery blazing in color. North Conway offers two rail routes: The Conway Scenic Railroad offers a view of the valleys, and the

Courtesy Mt. Washington Valley COC

MOUNT WASHINGTON COG RAILWAY

TELLURIDE AND THE COLORADO ROCKIES

SKIING AT GLACIER PEAKS IN WHITEFISH

By Brian Schott, courtesy Whitefish CVB

18

GROUP T HE

TRAVEL LE ADER

Courtesy Visit Telluride

JANUARY 2019


Mount Washington Cog Railway climbs a mountain peak. The Conway Scenic Railroad presents an upscale experience with onboard dining. North Conway abounds in shopping opportunities, with 200 tax-free outlets, boutiques and shops throughout the valley. Visitors enjoy strolling through the historic town’s center past a white-steepled church, an 1870s train station and an old-fashioned general store.

FOR THRILLS: North Conway is 30 minutes from 13 ski resorts that range from beginner to expert. The ski heritage here dates to the 1930s’ before the prominence of the Western resorts. FOR RELAXATION: Those who don’t wish to risk a broken limb on the ski slopes can learn about the fascinating skiing heritage of the town at the New England Ski Museum. W W W. M T WASH I NGT ON VA L L E Y.ORG

TAOS, NEW MEXICO

To embrace the local culture of Taos, New Mexico, guests should first slow down. Taos embodies a leisurely paced culture known as Taos Time, which visitors are often eager to embrace. Groups can enjoy a laid-back tour of the ancient, high-desert city at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains for a harmonious blend of nature and art. The 20th century led to an explosion of Taos art, when artists and writers attracted to the Native American and Hispanic culture and the inspiring natural surroundings flocked to the village. The Southwestern art colony mixes modern art, cultural art and historical pieces at various galleries and museums. Taos serves as an easy conduit to mountain-related activities, including popular whitewater rafting trips for rafters of all levels on the Rio Grande River. Accessible hikes are also nearby, including the 2.2mile West Rim Trail, with spectacular views and sightings of wildlife such as bighorn sheep. In the winter, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and skiing are the most popular group excursions. Fall draws leaf peepers to the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway for an 83-mile loop through gorges, valleys, national forests and charming villages. The byway begins and ends in Taos.

FAIRBANKS, ALASKA

North America’s highest peak, 39 species of mammals and more than 100 species of birds thrive in central Alaska’s wild Denali National Park. The park’s remote location requires that guests looking for more cultural amenities stay in Fairbanks for their mountain getaway. Two hours from the park, Fairbanks is also near the northern Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, the scenic Alaska-Canada Highway and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Groups can board the Alaska Railroad, “Backbone of the Last Frontier,” to travel to Denali in style. The second-most-populous town in Alaska, Fairbanks houses numerous museums, such as the artifact-filled University of Alaska Museum of the North. Groups can also spend an evening at the historic Palace Theatre, enjoy an Alaska salmon bake or pan for gold with Gold Daughters.

SNOW IN DOWNTOWN TELLURIDE

FOR THRILLS: Fairbanks Snowmobile Tours take groups on a one- or two-hour trek through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. FOR RELAXATION: For a relaxing excursion, groups can take a sightseeing cruise on the riverboat Discover. The ship cruises along the Chena River with guides who tell local stories along the way. W W W. E X PLOR EFA I R B A N K S .COM

Courtesy Visit Telluride AN OUTDOOR SCENE NEAR FAIRBANKS

AN IDITAROD RACE IN FAIRBANKS

By Sherman Hogue, courtesy Explore Fairbanks

By Sherman Hogue, courtesy Explore Fairbanks

THE VILLAGE OF NORTH CONWAY

FOR THRILLS: Groups can trust a sure-footed llama to carry them through New Mexico’s unspoiled wilderness during a llama trekking adventure. FOR RELAXATION: A scenic chairlift ride at Taos Ski Valley allows guests to breathe in the alpine air and landscapes as they ascend a mountain for uninhibited views. W W W.TAOS .ORG

Courtesy Mt. Washington Valley COC

ADMIRING THE TAOS LANDSCAPE Courtesy Taos.org GROUPTRAVELLEADER.COM

GROUP T HE

TRAVEL LE ADER

19


STATE SPOTLIGHT

NEW JERSEY

2

4

ELIZ ABE TH

SOMERSE T

5 C A P E M AY

20

AT L A N T I C C I T Y

3 W I L D1W O O D S

JANUARY 2019


BY B R I A N J E W E L L

N

ew Jersey is ready to show its colors.

Though it’s

cold outside now,

spring and sum-

mer are on the way, bringing a burst of botanical beauty and eventful celebrations throughout

the Garden State. From the beachside towns of the Jersey Shore to the suburban destinations

just across the bay from New York, New Jersey destinations are preparing to welcome groups with warm weather and memorable experiences.

In the Wildwoods, groups can enjoy crowd-

free beaches and numerous special events throughout the month of May. Nearby Cape May offers historic trolley tours and insiders’ insights into

fishing traditions. And Atlantic City’s famous boardwalk comes alive with fun and games during the spring and summer months.

In northern New Jersey, groups will find a

series of impressive gardens throughout Somerset

County. And the town of Elizabeth offers worldclass shopping as well as Hamilton history.

If your group hasn’t been to New Jersey

recently, plan to take them to some of these destinations in spring or summer.

1

Courtesy Greater Wildwoods TIDA

THE WILDWOODS An outpost on the southern part of the Jersey shore, the Wildwoods has become a popular all-season vacation destination. During spring and summer, visitors can take advantage of its abundant beaches and numerous special events. Lifeguards begin watching beaches in the Wildwoods in May, which means groups have about a month to enjoy the sand and surf before vacationers show up for the summer. If your travelers aren’t interested in relaxing on the beach, though, they may still enjoy an afternoon on the Wildwoods Boardwalk, which offers more than 100 rides and attractions and is open Easter weekend through the end of October. In May, groups will find many special events to add some excitement to their Wildwoods vacation. The Spring Boardwalk Classic Car Show takes place over Mother’s Day weekend and is followed by Murder Mystery Weekend a week later. At the end of May, the three-day Wildwoods International Kite Festival is the largest kite festival in North America. W W W.WI L DWO O D S N J.C O M

GROUPTRAVELLEADER.COM

21


2

22

Courtesy Somerset Co. Office of Tourism

3

Courtesy MAC

SOMERSET COUNTY Spring is a good time to visit Somerset County in north-central New Jersey. Somerville and surrounding communities are known as prime bird-watching destinations — the town of Bernardsville hosts the World Series of Birding in May — and a number of gardens throughout the area blend beautiful scenery with environmental sustainability. Groups can combine a history lesson with spectacular greenery at Cross Estate Gardens, which is part of Morristown National Historical Park. The garden features a formal walled garden, a native plant garden, a wisteria-covered pergola and a mountain laurel allée. Another favorite garden destination is Peony’s Envy, which has one of the country’s most extensive collections of peonies and is available for daytime and evening picnics. Among the biggest annual events in the county is the Tour of Somerville, a three-day festival that takes place over Memorial Day Weekend. This cycling race draws some of the best cyclists from around the world and features street fairs and other festivities for spectators.

CAPE MAY At the southern tip of New Jersey’s Atlantic shoreline, Cape May is famous for its historic district and beautiful architecture. Spring and summer are the best seasons to explore Cape May and learn about its history. Groups should start with a trolley tour offered by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts. These tours introduce visitors to some of the town’s most famous streets and landmarks throughout the historic area. Passengers learn about the importance of historic preservation in the community and see some of the less-visited architectural gems of this seaside town. Next, travelers can learn about Cape May’s fishing industry, which has long been the economic backbone of the community. During a tour of the New Jersey Aquaculture Innovation Center, they’ll discover how Atlantic surf clams and oysters are commercially produced and harvested in the area. Follow that with a guided tour of Fisherman’s Wharf, home of the town’s commercial fishing fleet, to learn about how seafood gets from the ocean to the restaurants throughout Cape May.

W W W.V I S IT S O M E RS E T N J.O RG

W W W.CA P E M AY M AC.O RG

JANUARY 2019


4

Courtesy EDMO

ELIZABETH Just across Newark Bay from Lower Manhattan and Staten Island, the city of Elizabeth bills itself as New Jersey’s “starting point.” Visitors can discover historic neighborhoods, international culture, cosmopolitan dining and one of the largest outlet malls in the United States. Groups will want to make some time to visit The Mills at Jersey Gardens, which is the East Coast’s largest indoor outlet shopping center. The mall features more than 200 outlet stores, including Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Coach and the country’s largest Tommy Hilfiger outlet. Since there’s no New Jersey sales tax on clothing or shoes, the mall is one of the most popular attractions in the region, drawing visitors from more than 150 countries. For a more educational experience, groups can learn the story of famed statesman Alexander Hamilton at the Snyder Academy of Elizabethtown, where Hamilton attended school. There’s more Hamilton history at the Liberty Hall Museum, a 1700s house that was home to Hamilton and was visited by nine U.S. presidents.

5

Courtesy Meet AC

ATLANTIC CITY One of the most-visited destinations on the New Jersey coast, Atlantic City is famous for its multiple casinos as well as the Miss America competition, which takes place each year at Boardwalk Hall. But during the spring and summer, groups can also enjoy numerous outdoor attractions and activities in Atlantic City. Since it was created in the 1800s, the Atlantic City Boardwalk has been one of the most popular attractions in the area. In addition to strolling the four-mile boardwalk to take in the sea air and scenic ocean views, visitors can enjoy numerous attractions. Steel Pier, one of three piers on the boardwalk, features carnival rides and midway games. An endless array of shops, restaurants and casinos can also be accessed from the boardwalk. For a nautical adventure, groups can set sail on Cruisin’ One, the flagship boat of Atlantic City Cruises. The company offers dolphin watching, sightseeing cruises and happy hour excursions. And nature lovers will enjoy hiking at Atlantic County Park at Lake Lenape. W W W.TO U R AT L A N TI C C IT Y.C O M

W W W.G O E LIZ A B E T H N J.C O M

GROUPTRAVELLEADER.COM

23


Best of the

BREW CITY

24

GROUP T HE

TRAVEL LE ADER

JANUARY 2019 All photos courtesy Visit Milwaukee


THESE STOPS ARE ESSENTIAL ON A

T O UR O F MI LWAU KEE BY E L I ZA M Y E R S

M

ilwaukee can be hard to define. The city boasts a European cultural vibe from the wave of German and Eastern European immigrants who brought beer, festivals and culinary customs. Some consider the city both hardworking and laid-back, as industries thrive in the city and, at the same time, beer gardens and sailboats provide downtime fun. Add an architectural mix of historic and renowned modern buildings, and you end up with a city of unexpected charm. Milwaukee is now experiencing a downtown renaissance with an influx of new restaurants, shops and public investments. Groups can try to define Brew City for themselves by visiting some of the town’s most iconic attractions, including the Milwaukee Public Museum, Potawatomi Hotel and Casino, HarleyDavidson Museum, Milwaukee Art Museum and Pabst Mansion. MILWAUKEE PUBLIC MUSEUM The Milwaukee Public Museum walks guests through a thorough re-creation of 1800s Milwaukee. The Streets of Old Milwaukee transports visitors with a nearly life-size courtyard that features 30 historic businesses, restaurants and shops. The exhibit uses realistic building materials, themed storytelling, smells, animatronics and darkened, gaslit lanes. Museum staff expanded and renovated the popular exhibit in 2015. The museum goes beyond Milwaukee, with exhibits ranging from “Exploring Life on Earth” to the “European Village,” which displays recreated 1800s homes and shops from various European cultures. “The Milwaukee Public Museum has everything from dinosaurs to rain forests to Native American culture,” said Kristin Settle, director of

communications for Visit Milwaukee. “It is really something to see. They have a yearly interactive butterfly experience that everyone loves. Especially in the winter, it is great to be able to enter a tropical forest with butterflies flying around.” The Puelicher Butterfly Wing contains the greenhouse-enclosed garden of butterflies as well as the pupae of other butterflies for guests to examine. Dioramas allow guests to feel like they are walking around the world with scenes such as a Masai lion hunt in Africa; a market in Old Delhi, India; and a Native American buffalo hunt. “The Third Planet” examines the world’s largest known dinosaur skull and a life-size replica of Tyrannosaurus rex. POTAWATOMI HOTEL AND CASINO Participants try their luck at Potawatomi Hotel and Casino, located minutes from downtown. The casino offers high-stakes bingo, 3,100 slot machines, a 20-table poker room and nearly 100 table games, including blackjack, craps, roulette and Ultimate Texas Hold ’Em. “The Potawatomi Hotel and Casino welcomes about 6 million visitors each year,” said Settle. “It’s a great place for people to go and do their own thing for a while. They have wonderful theater and comedy shows for those that don’t want to gamble. They welcome groups and make sure they have the entertainment that the group is looking for.” Sports enthusiasts can watch the latest game while chowing down on burgers and sandwiches at the Fire Pit Sports Bar and Grill. Other dining experiences include international eats at The Buffet, signature steaks at Dream Dance Steak and a variety of options at the Menomonee Valley Food Court. A wide range of comedy and musical acts are presented at the Northern Lights Theater; acts have included Lewis Black and Tony Bennett.

The 500-seat venue provides an intimate and exciting experience. Visitors can relax and sample beer and wine at Bar 360. The venue sits in the heart of the casino floor and offers views of the surrounding gaming areas. Patrons can listen to live music while sipping spirits and signature cocktails. Opened in 1991, the Native American-owned casino has announced a hotel expansion due to open this spring. The 180,000-square-foot addition will bring the hotel’s total number of rooms to 500, as well as add a spa and a meeting space. HARLEY-DAVIDSON MUSEUM Even people who don’t care to ever ride a Harley-Davidson motorcycle find themselves fascinated by the company’s importance in American history. At the Harley-Davidson Museum, visitors walk through exhibits detailing the company’s first motorcycles in 1903 to its current influence in pop culture. The oldest known Harley-Davidson sits encased in glass at the Serial Number One gallery. The gallery sits inside the larger HarleyDavidson Journey, which reveals how the company progressed from a 10-by-15-foot wooden shack to the top U.S. motorcycle manufacturer. The Custom Culture gallery illustrates the motorcycle company’s impact on culture, with replicas of the motorcycles used in the film “Easy Rider” and other Harleys featured onscreen. Visitors can sit on 10 motorcycles and learn the history behind some of the museum’s most famous vehicles, such as Elvis Presley’s Harley. “One of the most moving exhibits is a HarleyDavidson from Japan that was washed away during the tsunami all the way to the AlaskaCanada border,” said Settle. “They tracked down the original owner, who dedicated it to the museum in honor of those who had lost their lives. They did not restore it, so you can see the

OPPOSITE PAGE: CONSTRUCTED IN 1892, PABST MANSION IS A MILWAUKEE ICON. GROUPTRAVELLEADER.COM

GROUP T HE

TRAVEL LE ADER

25


MILWAUKEE PUBLIC MUSEUM

HARLEY-DAVIDSON MUSEUM

MILWAUKEE PUBLIC MUSEUM

damage the saltwater did. It is a touching story.” To see the death-defying craziness of motorcycle racing, visitors can examine a replicated wooden board track suspended in the air at a 45-degree angle. The 1920s motorcycles that once raced these types of tracks at 100 miles per hour often ended in rider injuries or death, which led to the banning of wooden board tracks. Groups can tour the museum on their own or take a guided tour for highlights and behind-the-scenes tidbits. MILWAUKEE ART MUSEUM The Milwaukee Art Museum’s Quadracci Pavilion building makes a stunning impression on first sight, but admirers can’t truly appreciate its uniqueness until they see the building move. The structure features winglike brise soleil shapes that gradually open for a wingspan of 217 feet throughout the day and gradually retract in the evening. This remarkable sight sets the tone for the standout works of art inside. Founded in 1888, the art museum contains 25,000 works of art ranging from the 15th century to the present. The museum holds a variety of European and American art, with impressive collections of German expressionism, Haitian and folk art. “They have done a wonderful job of combining artists that everyone knows with local artists,” said Settle. “You see the gamut of artistic styles. These are all works of art that will take your breath away. The museum staff want people to really love art.” Works by Winslow Homer, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso

THE WILDERNESS IS CALLING. WE’LL TAKE A MESSAGE. SET ON THE COAST OF LAKE MICHIGAN WITH A RIVER RUNNING THROUGH THE HEART, MILWAUKEE PROVES THAT YOU DON’T HAVE TO LEAVE CELL RECEPTION BEHIND TO FIND ADVENTURE. IT’S ALL RIGHT HERE.

PLAN YOUR TOUR IN MILWAUKEE

26

GROUP T HE

TRAVEL LE ADER

VISITMILWAUKEE.ORG/GROUPS

JANUARY 2019


HIDDEN GE

A

MS

restored lighthouse, a rooftop sculpture garden and a museum offering beer tastings can prove to be entertaining and unexpected tour activities in Milwaukee. These hidden gems will delight and surprise groups of all kinds. • GROHMANN MUSEUM — An art collection dedicated to the evolution of human work hangs in the Grohmann Museum, located inside the Milwaukee School of Engineering. After a guided tour, groups can enjoy a reception in the museum’s lovely rooftop sculpture garden. • NORTH POINT LIGHTHOUSE — Guests can climb the winding steps to the top of the 74-foot-high North Point Lighthouse for gorgeous views and a history lesson. The attached Queen Anne-style Keeper’s House with a maritime museum reveals the past glory of the 1888 lighthouse with exhibits and guided tours.

• VILLA TERRACE DECORATIVE ARTS MUSEUM — With a dramatic entrance fit for an upscale mansion in Rome, the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum displays an Italian Renaissance-style home and gardens. Inside, groups can view a stunning decorative arts collection or attend a concert with the Cafe Sopra Mare music series. • MILWAUKEE COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY — A more than 60,000-artifact museum, the Milwaukee County Historical Society offers tours of its exhibit space and group excursions that combine a workout, such as a historic kayak trip and a bike ride, with the past. The museum’s extensive collection of more than 1 million documents and photographs paints a thorough picture of the city’s intriguing history. • BREW CITY MKE MUSEUM AND BEER BAR — What began as a special exhibit in the Milwaukee County Historical Society became a permanent fixture to downtown. The Brew City MKE Museum and Beer Bar details the city’s brewing roots with group tours and tastings for a lighthearted yet informative experience.

It’s ALL IN Here! GATHER YOUR GROUP AND PLAN A TRIP TO THE MIDWEST’S #1 ENTERTAINMENT DESTINATION. Over 2,500 Slots Nonstop Bingo Action 100 Table Games Poker & Off-Track Betting 7 Restaurants Live Entertainment 19-Story Luxury Hotel For day trip groups of 10 or more, contact Lisa Pederson at 414-847-7982 or LPEDERSON@PAYSBIG.COM. For overnight stay groups of 10+ rooms, contact Sales & Catering at 414-847-8600 or SALES@PAYSBIG.COM.

GROUP

1721 WEST CANAL STREET I MILWAUKEE, WI 53233 I 1-800-PAYSBIG I PAYSBIG.COM YEARS OLD TO CASINO; 18 TO PLAY BINGO I WINNERS RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL TAXES I MANAGEMENT RESERVES ALL RIGHTS I GAMBLING PROBLEM? CALL 1-800-426-2535 OPEN 24/7 I MUST BE AT LEAST 21 Artwork byENTER David Brown GROUPTRAVELLEADER.COM T HE

©2018 FOREST COUNTY POTAWATOMI COMMUNITY, WISCONSIN

TRAVEL LE ADER

27


POTAWATOMI CASINO

and other renowned artists hang in the museum. Besides paintings, a wide range of art media, including sculptures, photographs and decorative arts, are showcased. In 2015, the museum opened a $34 million expansion: the Shields Building. The building added 30,000 square feet for art display that includes a section devoted to light-based media, photography and video installations. Groups can tour the museum individually or on a docent-led tour. Some tours focus on the building; others give insight into the featured exhibits. Packages can also include meals at the museum. PAB ST MANSION When groups walk into the study room at the Pabst Mansion, they can still smell a cigar, as if Capt. Frederick Pabst had just stepped out. Pabst’s study retains a cigar scent because the smell was infused into the wood. The rest of the house remains similarly faithful to when Pabst first moved into the mansion in 1892, down to the original paint colors. Pabst, the founder of the Pabst Brewing Company, commissioned the architect of the Flemish Renaissance Revival house to outfit the mansion with electric light and an elevator, fancy additions for the time. Pabst’s early death precipitated the 1908 sale of the house to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. For 67 years, five archbishops, priests and sisters lived in the ornate mansion. The mansion had been slated for demolition to make way for a parking structure before a last-minute purchase in 1978 by Wisconsin Heritages Inc. The organization opened the mansion to the public in 1998 after restoring it to its original condition. “It is about more than beer,” said Settle. “It tells the history of the family. It is a true Victorian Gilded Age mansion. The woodwork and gold-foil details are breathtaking.” Guides lead groups on a 60- to 75-minute tour through the home. The mansion staff works with school groups that want to incorporate specific curriculum into the tour or to choose from one of the already developed Learning On Site Tours. During the holidays, groups can see how the family would have decked the Pabst Mansion’s halls for Christmas with period-specific decorations.

TOURING PABST MANSION

All types of tours for all sorts of visitors.

V I S I T M ILWAU K E E

From art to architecture, from serious to silly, there’s a Museum tour perfect for any group.

— WWW.VISITMILWAUKEE.ORG—

mam.org/tours

28

GROUP T HE

TRAVEL LE ADER

JANUARY 2019


ONCE THE RIDE ENDS, THE EXPLORATION BEGINS.

CIRCLEWISCONSIN.COM | 414-545-1100

START PLANNING

IRISH FEST MILWAUKEE

WISCONSIN STATE FAIR

The Fox Cities offer convenience, versatility and venues for every typeof meeting. An array of exceptional dining options, 3,500+ room choices and group activities, along with our walkable downtown areas will complete your experience. NOW BOOKING — Fox Cities Exhibition Center

Plus Wisconsin’s Best Shopping! Contact Amy Karas: akaras@foxcities.org | 920.734.3358

FOX CITIES

FoxCities.org/meeting


Dancing Horses Theatre: Open Year Round! Animal Gardens Petting Zoo: Open May-Oct.

Our 2019 Season Something for everyone!

Dec 31 - Feb 17

Feb 21 - Apr 7

Reservations suggested for family entertainment at its Best!

SHOW & MEAL PACKAGES AVAILABLE!

Wisconsin’s #1 Must See Live Attraction!

Apr 11 - May 26 Visit website for further details

www.thedancinghorses.com

262-728-8200

5065 Highway 50, Delavan, WI 53115 ● Minutes west of Lake Geneva

CHECK IN & CHECK OUT May 30 - July14

July 18 - Sept 1

Sept 5 - Oct 27

Oct 31 - Dec 22

Hudson

©Sobottka Photography

Superb Musicals | Memorable Dining Family Hospitality | Spectacular Shops 1131 Janesville Ave, Fort Atkinson, WI 53538 800-477-9505 | www.firesidetheatre.com

DiscoverHudsonWI.com • 715.386.8411


COMEBACK the

DETROIT WELCOMES VISITORS WITH A RESILIENT SPIRIT

KID BY E L I ZA M Y E R S

By Vito Palmisano, courtesy Detroit Metro CVB

DOWNTOWN DETROIT IS PROVING A RESILIENT RIVERFRONT DESTINATION.

W

hen Detroit filed for bankruptcy in 2013, the immediate future looked bleak for the city. However, Detroit surprised everyone with a quick financial recovery that has earned the city the nickname America’s Comeback City. Today, the city boasts low unemployment rates and a development boom for both downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. Fresh initiatives like a new streetcar service, a city park and a variety of entrepreneurial projects keep the city bustling. Groups can learn about this inspirational turnaround on a city tour. Locals passionate about Detroit lead these sightseeing tours to share knowledge and love of the Michigan city. These tours come in a variety of topics and types. Whether groups feel the spray from the river on a laid-back cruise or sample the latest concoction from the city’s brewery boom, all will leave with a new appreciation for the Motor City. 32

GROUP T HE

TRAVEL LE ADER

FEET ON THE STREET Many groups like to explore a new destination with their stomachs, which Feet on the Street can arrange with its Come Hungry, Leave Happy tour. The tour enables participants to savor locally made delicacies at the Eastern Market, such as pickles, chocolate, salsa, lava cake, hummus and pizza, among others. “The Come Hungry, Leave Happy tour is one of my favorite tours because you get to meet people and you get to eat. And what’s better than that?” said Deanna Majchrzak, media relations manager for the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau. “You visit the different vendors of the Eastern Market to meet the owners and sample some of the food.” The tours relate behind-the-scenes facts about the market and its stunning art murals, with additional stops at a nearby art gallery, jazz club or letterpress shop. Frequently booked tours from Feet on the Street also include food crawls through other parts of Detroit and creatively themed tours such as Prohibition and All that Jazz, Historic Homes, and Diversity in the D. The 13-year-old company can also customize tours to fit a group’s needs. JANUARY 2019


DETROIT E XPERIENCE FA C T O R Y

MOTOR CIT Y BREW TOURS

Groups can gain insight into Detroit’s past as well as its innovative present during a tour with the Detroit Experience Factory. The nonprofit tour company runs 28 different public tours; most are free. “They have a very knowledgeable staff,” said Majchrzak. “They are very plugged into the city. They are a great resource for group tours.” Founded in 2006, the company strives to present information that can’t be found on Google. It offers a range of walking tours, step-on tours and pub crawls and operates Detroit’s Downtown Welcome Center. The popular Best of Downtown tour outlines the billions of dollars in development seen in recent years for the city’s downtown and beyond. The two-hour tour passes through major developments, local shops and recently renovated residential areas. Other highlights are Campus Martius Park, the Guardian Building and Capitol Park. Groups can choose from several other themed tours, among them the Hidden City Bus Tour, for a glimpse into the secret societies and exclusive clubs across the city. The Downtown and Beyond tour examines the collaborations going on in the community to turn distressed neighborhoods into thriving areas. Similarly, the Detroit Innovation Tour sheds light on Detroit’s current reinvention. Guides provide insider perspective on how Detroit’s past opened doors to the cutting-edge projects now in development all over the city.

Stephen Johnson became a regular at Detroit’s local breweries and beer festivals while earning his master’s degree in nearby Troy, Michigan, in the early 2000s. In 2009, Johnson launched Motor City Brew Tours as a bus transportation service. After researching Detroit’s brewing history, he launched more informative tours that highlight interesting Prohibition stories and the modern history of the city’s brewing scene. “This is a really cool company,” said Majchrzak. “In recent years, we have had an influx of breweries. There are almost a dozen downtown. These tours let you taste some of the beers and meet the brew masters.” Guided bus, bike and walking tours to breweries downtown and beyond now leave plenty of options for groups that want to sample the area’s hopping craft-beer scene. Some favorite downtown stops include Witch’s Hat Brewing, the Kuhnhenn Brewery, and the Traffic Jam and Snug Brewery, Detroit’s first brewpub. Groups not only enjoy a variety of flavors, from extra-hoppy India pale ales to sparkling ciders, but also learn how small brewers first popped up during the mid-1800s to support nearby saloons. Guides also talk about the nonalcoholic beer produced during Prohibition, the consolidation of breweries in subsequent years and the localbrewery craze that started in the 1990s.

A WALKING TOUR WITH DETROIT EXPERIENCE FACTORY GROUPTRAVELLEADER.COM Courtesy Detroit Experience Factory

MOTOR CITY BREW TOURS By Jason Vaugh, courtesy Motor City Brew Tours

D I A M O N D JAC K’ S RIVER TOURS Captain Bill Hoey frequently introduces new visitors to Detroit with a relaxing cruise past the city’s impressive skyline of new and historic buildings. The family-owned and -operated riverboat tour company offers cruises aboard three ships, including the Diamond Jack, which formerly served as a Mackinac Island Ferry vessel. The miniship sails regularly for two-hour narrated cruises of the Detroit River, for both the public and private tour groups. “You can enjoy the open water and a view of downtown and Windsor, Canada,” Majchrzak said. “On a nice day, you can see both sides of the river easily. You also get to see many landmarks, like Belle Isle and the Ambassador Bridge.” Tours also pass by the GM Renaissance Center, Manoogian Mansion and Historic Fort Wayne. Passengers can purchase soft drinks, beer, wine and snacks on the tour while learning about how Detroit was dubbed the Paris of the West during the Gilded Age. Guides also point out various landmarks and interesting tidbits about each one. Diamond Jack’s River Tours can accommodate groups of up to 250 at a time with the addition of two ships it uses primarily for group tours and private charters. Groups can opt for a catered meal of barbecue, Italian, Mexican and various other cuisines for private events.

A DIAMOND JACK’S SIGHTSEEING CRUISE

By Vito Palmisano, courtesy Detroit Metro CVB

VISIT DETROIT — WWW.VISITDETROIT.COM —

GROUP T HE

TRAVEL LE ADER

33


sound-off

STAFF

H AVE YOU E VER FORGOT TEN TO PACK SOME THING IMPORTANT?

If I’m going to a city that has great shopping, I sometimes “accidentally” forget to pack things so I’m forced to go shopping! — Kelly Tyner, DIRECTOR OF SALES AND MARKETING

I’ve forgotten to pack deodorant a few times. I usually fix this by getting some from the front desk or taking an extra-long shower. It hasn’t been a problem yet. — Kyle Anderson, ACCOUNT MANAGER

I’ve left a whole outfit I needed for an event. Luckily, where I went they had a mall close by — an upscale mall at that — so I ended up buying a brand new Express suit. Also, I have left toiletries and cologne. My friend had extra cologne, and the hotel helped me out with the toiletries. — Daniel Jean-Louis, ACCOUNT MANAGER

I have a history of underpacking for events in Louisville, Kentucky, which is about an hour’s drive west from my home in Lexington. The worst was an overnight a couple of years ago: Upon arrival at the hotel I realized I had forgotten my wallet, so I had to sweet-talk the reception agent into letting me check into my room without ID. Then when I went to bed that night, I realized I had also come without a phone charger; luckily, the front desk had one I could borrow. But the worst part was that when I left, I realized there wasn’t enough gas in my tank to get me all the way home. And without a wallet, I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to buy any. Luckily, I found a gas station along the way that would manually enter in my credit card info, so I called my wife and had her read it to me over the phone.

I’m going to take the liberty of transitioning here to a time when my entire suitcase never left Newark for a group trip to Italy. I was with a group of tour operators on a FAM that NTA was running, and two others in our group were in the same predicament. Our tour director took us to a strip mall outside Florence, and I bought a white shirt, black socks, a black wool sweater, a pair of black dress slacks and some great black Italian shoes. I wore this constantly, and as I was in Italy, I actually got a lot of compliments on my sense of fashion throughout the week. I came home considerably more European than when I left. After a few days, my wife told me to knock it off. — Mac Lacy, PUBLISHER

— Brian Jewell, EXECUTIVE EDITOR

I got everything packed for one of my husband’s board meetings, except my pajamas. Luckily, it was only an overnight, so I was able to sleep in one of his extra shirts and pairs of shorts. — Ashley Ricks, CIRCULATION MANAGER

EDITOR’S NOTE Welcome to Staff Sound-Off, the monthly column where our staff members answer questions about their travel practices and preferences. We hope you enjoy these tips. If you have a question you’d like to see us answer, send it to me and it may appear in a future issue. BRIANJ@GROUPTRAVELLEADER.COM 34

GROUP T HE

TRAVEL LE ADER

JANUARY 2019


go SOUTH

BRING FRIENDS

2019 TR AV E L S O UTH TO U R P L A N N E R


“The Angel’s Share” Is Bourbon That Evaporates From The Barrel. When You Visit, Breathe Deep.

BetterInTheBluegrass.com


go SOUTH

BRING FRIENDS

2 0 1 9 T R AV E L S O U T H T O U R P L A N N E R Courtesy Virginia Tourism Corporation

Meet the Tour Operator

12

Charming Small Towns

52

Courtesy www.ExploreAsheville.com

TRAVEL PROFESSIONALS SHARE THEIR SECRETS TO SELLING THE SOUTH.

DISCOVER THE MAIN STREET VIBE OF THESE SMALLER SOUTHERN DESTINATIONS.

Tastes and Tunes

The Festive South

24

64

Courtesy Venkman’s

Courtesy KY Bourbon Festival

SAVOR THE FLAVORS AND TAP YOUR TOES AT THESE ICONIC SOUTHERN ESTABLISHMENTS.

CELEBRATE WITH SOUTHERNERS AT THESE FESTIVALS AND EVENTS.

The Scenic South

PUBLISHED FOR

40

3500 PIEDMONT RD. NE, STE. 210 ATLANTA, GA 30305 404-231-1790 WWW.TRAVELSOUTHUSA.COM

PUBLISHED BY Courtesy Cass Scenic Railroad State Park

TREAT YOUR GROUPS TO THESE GORGEOUS SOUTHERN DESTINATIONS.

4

Courtesy Eastern Shore COC

2 01 9

T R A V E L

S O U T H

T O U R

P L A N N E R

ON THE COVER: Sara Bradley serves guests at the Freight House in Paducah, Kentucky

NICHE TRAVEL PUBLISHERS 301 EAST HIGH STREET LEXINGTON, KY 40507 888-253-0455 WWW.GROUPTRAVELLEADER.COM


BOARD of DIRECTORS LEE SENTELL DIRECTOR

JIM DAILEY TOURISM DIRECTOR

KEVIN LANGSTON DEPUTY COMMISSIONER TOURISM DIVISION

ALABAMA TOURISM DEPARTMENT

ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF PARKS AND TOURISM

GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

W W W . AL AB AMA. T RAVEL

WWW.A R K A N S A S .C O M

WWW.EXPLO R EG EO R GIA.O R G

KRISTEN BRANSCUM COMMISSIONER

DOUG BOURGEOIS ASSISTANT SECRETARY

D. CRAIG RAY DIRECTOR

KENTUCKY DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM

LOUISIANA OFFICE OF TOURISM

VISIT MISSISSIPPI

W W W . KEN T U CKY TOU RISM. COM

WWW.LO U I S I A N A TR A VEL.C O M

WWW.VI S I TM I S S I S S I PP I.O R G

WARD FRANZ DIRECTOR

WIT TUTTELL DIRECTOR

MARK EZELL COMMISSIONER

MISSOURI DIVISION OF TOURISM

VISIT NORTH CAROLINA

TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF TOURIST DEVELOPMENT

W W W . VISITMO. COM

WWW.VI S I TN C .C O M

WWW.TN VA C A TI O N .C O M

DUANE PARRISH DIRECTOR

RITA MCCLENNY PRESIDENT/CEO

CHELSEA RUBY COMMISSIONER

SOUTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF PARKS, RECREATION & TOURISM

VIRGINIA TOURISM CORPORATION

WEST VIRGINIA DIVISION OF TOURISM

WWW.VI R G I N I A .O R G

WWW.G O TO WV.C O M

WWW.DISCOVERSOUTHCAROLINA.COM

missouri mule MISSOURI A twist on the traditional mule, the Missouri Mule contains bourbon, applejack, lemon juice, Campari, Cointreau and fresh mint. The drink was created by the head bartender at the A merican Bar in London for Harry Truman, the only president from Missouri; the mule is also Missouri’s state animal.

6

2 01 9

T R A V E L

S O U T H

T O U R

P L A N N E R

sip THE SOUTH

C O C K TA I L S


E a r t h y a n d o t h e r w o r l d ly. O f t e n at t h e s a m e t i m e .

There are places you see. And others you behold. Blessed with indescribable wonders that stop you in your tracks. Rugged, yet beautiful. Expansive, yet inviting. West Virginia is full of mysteries that pull you in. And memories that will bring you back.

WVtourism.com

Dolly Sods Wilderness


go SOUTH

Courtesy KY Dept. of Tourism

BRING FRIENDS

B R A N S C U M E M B R A C E S C U I S I N E A N D C O O P E R AT I O N B Y MAC L ACY

“W

hy not us?” Kristen Branscum, chairman of Travel South USA and commissioner of Kentucky’s Department of Tourism, has a mind-set that doesn’t allow for second guessing. When it comes to promoting her state, she sees no reason why Kentucky cannot shine on America’s brightest stages. “I started in this position in 2016, and it didn’t take me long to figure out that Kentucky’s culinary assets were deserving of national attention — but we weren’t getting it,” said Branscum. “So I invited the producer of ‘Top Chef’ to come to the Kentucky Derby and experience some of it for herself. She came in May of 2017 and then asked us to show them around that October to scout some sites. They announced the following Valentine’s Day they were coming to Kentucky.” In its 2018-2019 season, Bravo’s wildly popular show “Top Chef” is doing 14 episodes. Ten of those will take place in Kentucky at sites in the state’s two largest cities — Louisville and Lexington — and in one of the state’s most popular outdoor areas, Lake Cumberland. “This is the equivalent of a national ad buy hitting a highly qualified demographic, which we could never do otherwise,” Branscum said. “Kentucky fights above its weight in the culinary scene right now, but in a cou-

ple of years, all that changes. We’ve got people around the country on Twitter saying, ‘If “Top Chef” is going there, it must be good!’ So it’s already working.” Branscum didn’t miss a beat when she was asked if the state’s cuisine ever stood alone without its internationally known counterpart, bourbon. “No,” she answered. “They’re synonymous. Our visitors want bourbon in the food or bourbon in their cocktails. It’s like cheesesteak in Philly.” Branscum said visitors come to Kentucky to disconnect. “They may do that in a houseboat or a cabin, or in the city, but they come to Kentucky to find something they can’t throw away,” she said. When asked if Travel South USA’s 12-state voice brings anything to the table for her state, Branscum was equally quick to respond. “At first, I didn’t know why I needed to meet with my competitors,” she said. “But after a couple of meetings, I realized that we’re also part of a travel region, and it all made sense. The South is competing with all the other regions of the country, especially in the international market, so it’s a must. “This organization is the greatest resource a state travel director can access, so we’re lucky to have it. I’m not sure all our respective industry members always realize how fortunate we are to have Travel South.”

KRISTEN BRANSCUM

sip THE SOUTH

C O C K TA I L S 8

the commonwealth KENTUCKY Kentucky has two favorite drinks: bourbon, the holy grail of Bluegrass beverages, and Ale-8-One, a crisp ginger-and-citrus soda. Locals have long mixed the two to create simple cocktails. Now, W hiskey Dry in Louisville is taking the combination to the next level by adding coffee, sorghum syrup and homemade black-pepper tincture for a new cocktail called the Commonwealth.

2 01 9

T R A V E L

S O U T H

T O U R

P L A N N E R


Montgomery

Decatur

Huntsville

Tuscaloosa

Muscle Shoals

Mobile

Birmingham

GROUPS LOVE ALABAMA “Alabama offers a great value for a solid destination. That directly converts to great profits for me. Multiple sold-out Mystery Tours have taken my groups to outer space in Huntsville and they’ve experienced the trials and victories of the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham and Montgomery.” - Clayton Whitehead, CTP, CITM, Vice President, Sports Leisure Vacations. 9521-H Folsom Boulevard. Sacramento, CA, USA 95827 “Our tour takes participants on a journey through living history in Birmingham, Greensboro, Marion, Selma and Montgomery and teaches one of the most important lessons of the 20th century.” - Steve Cox, International Expeditions, Helena, AL

Contact Rosemary Judkins Sales Manager, Alabama Tourism Department 334.242.4493 rosemary.judkins@tourism.alabama.gov


go SOUTH

BRING FRIENDS

Courtesy AR Dept. of Parks & Tourism

S O M E S O U T H E R N R O A D T R I P S S TA R T FA R T H E R AWAY T H A N O T H E R S

“T

B Y MAC L ACY

here is something about the South that says ‘road trip,’” said Liz Bittner, president and CEO of Travel South USA. “That is a perfect way to approach anyone’s travel interests today, whether they’re from Paris or Pittsburgh. People have a vision of what spending time in the South is like, and the term ‘road trip’ captures that very well.” Bittner, the leader of a 12-state organization that sells its destinations increasingly worldwide, said certain assets are essential to creating that image. “We have to tell great stories to gain new visitors, and we have to illustrate them with great photography,” she said. “Especially in the South; domestic and international visitors want to hear stories about the people they will encounter, and they want to be inspired by great photography. Consumer demand today is the same whether we’re selling to someone in this country or to someone overseas; they want to hear about a slower, more defining local experience.” “Both our Showcase events work because of this mind-set,” said Bittner. “At Domestic Showcase, every state can create a complete travel identity for itself and fill in all the detail for any kind of travel story a tour operator might want to create. We make it very easy to envision a new itinerary and

meet the people needed to make it happen. “At our International Showcase, we’re working with international delegates who need more geographical references, so we use pods of several destinations that serve the same region of any given state. It helps them to connect the dots and see how their travelers could use one storyline to connect a region in Kentucky with a region in Tennessee, for example.” Bittner said the increasing number of international flights into the South, like British Airways’ daily flights to Nashville and New Orleans, and the airline’s new service coming next spring to Charleston, South Carolina, serve both markets. “Most people don’t realize that new international flights can affect domestic fares,” she said. “The airlines are very competitive, and new flights can lower fares no matter where those flights are coming from.” As for the upcoming Domestic Showcase in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Bittner said the timing could not be better. “The Carolinas were hit with storms this year that the media widely reported on, but the media doesn’t come back when the storms are over. It’s great that we can go into Myrtle Beach with 600 to 700 influential delegates and have them return home to tell the story of how those areas are vibrant and healthy after those events.”

LI Z B I T T N E R

WWW.TRAVELSOUTHUSA.COM 10


find the rhythm of the river Float through history in harmony with the sounds of the South.

Image by Geoff L. Johnson

Augusta Canal National Heritage Area Augusta Once a major engine of the Industrial Revolution in the South, the Augusta Canal now draws visitors and locals alike to its miles of trails and gentle waters. Groups can hike, bike, canoe, dive in to history, or even enjoy a sunset cruise with live music.

ExploreGeorgia.org


CONSIDER

the

SOURCE TOUR OPERATORS SHARE WHAT THEY LOVE ABOUT THE SOUTH

12


BY BRIAN J EWELL

G

roups travel from all over the United States and many foreign countries to experience the history, culture and hospitality of the South. Helping them along the way are the many tour companies that package Southern destinations and help facilitate memorable, authentic travel experiences. We talked to five tour operators that are active in the region to find out where they’re going, what kinds of activities their travelers are looking for and what it is about the South that resonates so much with travelers from faraway places. Here’s what they had to say.

WITH BEAUTIFUL COASTAL SCENERY AND A DYNAMIC ENTERTAINM ENT SCENE, MYRTLE BEACH IS A PERENNIAL FAVORITE DESTINATION AMONG TOUR OPERATORS.

Courtesy Myrtle Beach Area CVB

13


go SOUTH

Let’s Go Travelin’

BRING FRIENDS

JUDY JOHNSON, OWNER

B

ased in Hermitage, Tennessee, just outside of Nashville, Let’s Go Travelin’ is an inbound and outbound tour operator that specializes in indepth experiences throughout the South. The company is also a member of Travel Alliance Partners. Tell us about your company and the kinds of trips you do. We have a really strong music background. I’ve always been involved in music, and I worked in the entertainment industry for years, so with my groups in the South, I do a lot of Southern music. We do a lot of unique tours that delve into the history and culture of the music. In Nashville, we go into drum and percussion stores and into guitar stores to talk with those knowledgeable people. We also go to a recording studio to be part of a recording with a new upand-coming artist. You get to listen to them perform and see what the engineers are doing. We want people to feel like they’re part of it, to understand what makes the people who they are. What other Southern destinations are popular with your travelers? We do a lot of music tours along the entire American Music Triangle. It reaches all the way from Bristol in east Tennessee, through Nashville, to Muscle Shoals, Tupelo, over to Memphis, down

14

2 01 9

T R A V E L

to the Mississippi Delta and into Cajun country. A lot of that area is untapped in the tour market. A lot of people drive through the Mississippi Delta, but they don’t get to know the Delta. But there’s so much rich music heritage there that we love to share with them. We also get into the Old South, with Atlanta, Savannah and Charleston. Macon has a beautiful cherry blossom festival that will equal anything in Washington, D.C. What is it about these destinations that is resonating so much with your travelers from other parts of the U.S. and from international destinations? The area is just gorgeous, so they come for that. They come for the music. And then they come back because there are new avenues they haven’t explored before. People have been to Memphis, Nashville and Pigeon Forge, but we’re trying to show them everything that’s in between. We’re really working to get our domestic travelers to understand the history of blues and jazz that came out of the Deep South. We want them to look at states like Mississippi that might be considered poor economically and see that it is one of the richest states in the country in terms of music history. If we can help share that message with them, it gives a whole new view to an area of the country that has been an underdog.

S O U T H

T O U R

P L A N N E R


I NSI DE A NAS HVI LLE R ECOR DI NG STU DIO Courtesy NCVC

ADVENTU R E I N AS H E VI LLE

NORTHERN KENTUCKY

THIS PLACE IS NEWPORTAQUARIUM.COM WUNDERB

HOFBRÄUHAUS NEWPORT BREWERY & RESTAURANT

OF

Courtesy Answers in Genesis

“THE” ATTRACTIONS

TH E ARK ENCOU NTER I N NORTH ER N KENTUCKY

BBRIVERBOATS.COM

HOFBRAUHAUSNEWPORT.COM

A FULL DAY OF FUN! CLOSE TO THE ARK, CREATION MUSEUM, & MANY OTHER CINCINNATI & NORTHERN KENTUCKY DESTINATIONS

Courtesy www.ExploreAsheville.com

15


Friends and Neighbors Tours

PATRICIA MILLS, OWNER

B

ased in Galena, Missouri, Friends and Neighbors Tours has been in business since 1996. The company services preformed travel groups, many from Canada and Michigan. Where in the South are your groups going these days? There’s a lot of stuff in Kentucky that my groups like to go do. We do the horse farms and the Corvette museum. They like entertainment, so they like Nashville and Pigeon Forge as well. We also do the Biltmore in Asheville. A lot of them are wanting to do fall foliage in the Southern states. Instead of doing the New England states, a lot of them want to spend fall in the South. Also, instead of going to D.C. for the cherry blossoms, we can go to Georgia and see them in Macon. It’s not as crowded, and I get great rates on hotels. It’s a different experience for the travelers, and I can include other things from the Southern states.

AS H E VI LLE ’S BI LTMOR E ESTATE

What sorts of experiences are they looking for when they travel with you? Entertainment is the highlight. Also, when they’re in an area, like in the Appalachian area, they want to see

Courtesy www.ExploreAsheville.com

hello

5

Huntsville,AL 4

Huntsville, Alabama | huntsville.org

Get ready for your adventure in the Rocket City!

Marvel at more than 800 illuminated Chinese lanterns at the Huntsville Botanical Garden Shop the nation's largest privately owned arts facility at Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment and stay for a concert

3

Hear stories of spies, lies & ghosts while touring Historic Districts, Historic Huntsville Depot, and The Weeden House

2

Commemorate Alabama's Bicentennial at Alabama Constitution Hall Park

1

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch and moon landing and future human space exploration at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center ...and more!

Pam Williams

Tourism Sales Manager

256.551.2204 pam@huntsville.org

HuntsvilleCVB

16

@Go2HuntsvilleAL

VisitHuntsvilleAL #iHeartHsv

2 01 9

T R A V E L

S O U T H

T O U R

P L A N N E R


sip THE SOUTH

C O C K TA I L S

the mobilian ALABAMA W hat could be better than a drink named af ter the city that started Mardi Gras? From the John Emerald Distilling Company in Opelika comes the Mobilian, a drink made with the company’s special corn-based vodka, along w ith lavender simple sy rup, lemonade and muddled blackberries. This refreshing drink will have you celebrating Mobile’s Mardi Gras all year long.

the culture. They want to see the crafts. It brings them back to when they were younger because it’s similar to what a lot of them grew up doing. So they love arts and crafts, and a lot of them buy those things to bring back. What aspects of Southern culture are so attractive to visitors from outside the region? It’s the hospitality — the kindness of the people and their friendliness. I have people from New Jersey,

and at first, they’re kind of taken aback by it. It shocks them that we’re so friendly with each other. Do their attitudes about the South change over the course of their travels? Absolutely. I see it through the repeat customers. If I do a similar trip back to the same area, I notice that all the names on my rooming list are familiar. The people are coming back because they enjoyed the previous tour.

PLAY AND GET AWAY ON THE

NORTHSHORE

Visit St. Tammany Parish and bring your appetite for great Louisiana cooking, and for living. Come paddle the bayou, pedal the Tammany Trace, tour Honey Island Swamp, do the Dew Drop, toast the town at Abita Brewery or Pontchartrain Vineyards, and indulge your sweet tooth at The Candy Bank.

Less than an hour from New Orleans, the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and Baton Rouge.

8 0 0 - 6 3 4 - 9 4 4 3 • w w w. L o u i s i a n a N o r t h s h o r e . c o m /g r o u p s WWW. T R A V E L S O U T HU S A . CO M

17


Breakaway Tours

CHARLENE TROGGIO, OWNER

B

ased in Newcastle, Pennsylvania, Breakaway Tours has been in business for 27 years. The company runs about 200 departures annually, focusing primarily on destinations in the eastern part of the United States. Where are you taking people in the South? Every year we go to Myrtle Beach. Every year we go to Virginia Beach. We try to do at least one or two trips to Savannah and New Orleans. We do Asheville and the Biltmore. We do Pigeon Forge, and we sometimes do the West Virginia trains. We do a bunch of Northern Kentucky for the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum. We also do Louisville from time to time. We love Louisville — it’s a great city. And we’re in Tennessee all the time: Nashville, Memphis and Pigeon Forge, and we just started doing some of Franklin.

PLEI N AI R ART I N A SAVAN NAH SQ UAR E Courtesy Visit Savannah

What aspects of the South resonate with your travelers? Looking out the window today, I would say weather. But it’s also the charm of the South. Life is different in the South: the hospitality, the lifestyle and the beautiful attractions. It’s a beautiful country no matter where you go, but the South is particularly beautiful. Are you noticing any trends in demand for specific destinations? Nashville is selling itself right now. Savannah started picking up for us after we added the Paula Deen restaurant there. And our beach trips are doing really well. We do trips to places like Myrtle Beach in shoulder season. We take them down there, drop them off, and then we don’t see them again until it’s time to leave. They have the free time to do whatever they want to do, and it’s a fantastic deal. How do these trips affect your customers’ perceptions of the South? I think they know what they’re going to see, and usually their expectations are borne out. There’s a lot of word of mouth about the South. They’ve heard from a lot of other travelers that this or that is great.

318 Howard St reet • Greenwood, Mississippi 662.453.2114 • thealluvian.com

18

2 01 9

T R A V E L

S O U T H

T O U R

P L A N N E R


BRING YOUR GROUP TOUR TO LIFE.

Fall in love with the rhythm of the waves with hands-on experiences and uncommon access offered exclusively for groups. Plan your group’s Live the Life Adventure at VisitVirginiaBeach.com/GroupTour.


Best of Nashville Tours and Beyond

TAMMY BEENE, PRESIDENT

T

ammy Beene’s mother-in-law started Opryland Tours in Nashville in the late 1970s. In 2009, Beene stepped into the business, now called Best of Nashville Tours and Beyond. Today the company operates tours to dozens of cities in the United States. Where are your groups going? In 2018, we did 30 tours. We’ve done a lot in Memphis due to the new Guest House at Graceland. That’s been a big selling point for us. We’ve done a lot in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, and definitely a lot in New Orleans and Louisiana. What kinds of activities are you including in your itineraries? We add as much local stuff as we can. We go to some tourist places, but we also try to get people involved in the cities and small towns. We like to give them a look at what the locals eat or do. People seem to like that.

N EW OR LEANS’ FR ENCH Q UARTER FESTIVAL By Zack Smith, courtesy French Quarter Festival

How are you delivering fresh experiences in familiar destinations? Depending on where we go, we try to put festivals into the itinerary so the customers are doing the same things the locals are doing. There’s not much extra expense in that. And they’re also wanting to do more food tours. Lately, my groups are starting to become really good foodies. So I’m incorporating more food tours in 2019.

Welcome Home Celebration

20

2 01 9

T R A V E L

S O U T H

T O U R

What elements of the South are resonating with your customers? I have people come from as far away as Minnesota. They want to experience the grits, biscuits and gravy. And they love the word “y’all.” By the end of the tour, I’ve got everyone saying y’all, even the Minnesotans. People come because they want to experience our culture. They want what they have seen on TV and what the state tourism offices are promoting up north. And the No. 1 thing that I always get, even on the first day of the tour, is ““Y’all are all so nice and friendly here.” And we’re taking a leadership role in making that happen.”

P L A N N E R


sip

new cherry bounce NORTH CAROLINA The New Cherry Bounce has its roots in a brandy drink served to members of the North Carolina General Assembly in 1792. Today, a bar in Raleigh called Deep South serves an updated version of the drink that features a mixture of cherry vodka, cranberry juice and fresh lime juice served over ice and topped off with club soda.

THE SOUTH

C O C K TA I L S

Colonial Trailways

O LE SMOKY DISTI LLERY I N PIG EON FORG E

RON PARKS, TOUR MANAGER

W

ith offices in Montgomery and Mobile, Alabama, Colonial Trailways is a charter transportation company that owns 56 motorcoaches. In addition to their charter business, they run 25 to 30 of their own tours each year, focusing primarily on the Southern states.

Courtesy Pigeon Forge Dept. of Tourism

What Southern destinations do you visit? We do a lot of Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia and Tennessee. In Tennessee, we go to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. In Kentucky, the Ark is a very popular thing. In Louisiana, we do a lot of Cajun tours and New Orleans. We do a lot in Georgia, quite a few places. Most of it is in Atlanta or around Atlanta. A lot of people want to go to the College Football Hall of Fame over there. And we do a lot of Branson, too. What sorts of Southern travel experiences are your customers looking for? When we put the trip together, we ask people what they want to do. In Tennessee, they do a lot of shows in the theaters there. We also go to a lot of theaters when we’re in Branson. We sometimes take people skiing in Gatlinburg in the wintertime because they can make snow there. And people like to do tours of the mountains, especially in the fall when the leaves are turning. Are you seeing any trends in consumer demand for Southern destinations? It varies from year to year. One year everybody wants to go to Branson; the next they want to go to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. We have some groups that have traveled with us for years, and every year they go somewhere different.

22

2 01 9

T R A V E L

S O U T H

T O U R

P L A N N E R


Your passengers can take a tour and a sip at the legendary Anheuser-Busch Brewery and find out why St. Louis was named “The Best Beer Scene” by USA Today. Or they can cheer on the 11-time World Champion Cardinals at Busch Stadium or Ballpark Village. And no trip is complete until they’ve experienced the city’s thriving live music scene or learned about its history at the National Blues Museum. It‘s the Midwest at its finest. Discover more reasons to tour here at explorestlouis.com.


NOW we’re

COOKING THESE SOUTHERN HOTSPOTS MARRY MUSIC AND FOOD

24


BY SAVAN NAH OS BOU R N

T

he South is full of signature flavors and lively music, and groups traveling throughout the region can find places to experience the best of both. At these unique venues, food and music go hand in hand, accompanied by colorful characters and fascinating histories, to deliver unforgettable Southern travel experiences.

COM BI NI NG SOUTH ER N CLASSIC FOO D AN D EXCITI NG M USICAL PERFORMANCES, VENKMAN ’S HAS B ECOM E AN ATLANTA HOTS POT.

By John Boydston, courtesy Venkman’s

25


go SOUTH

Rattlesnake Saloon

BRING FRIENDS

TUSCUMBIA, ALABAMA

B

ased in northeast Alabama at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, the Rattlesnake Saloon is a spectacular Western-themed dining and music venue built under the shelter of a spacious rock cavern. This establishment traces its roots to 1916, when a farmer named Owen Foster purchased the first tract of a 6,000-acre property for 25 cents an acre. During the farm’s early years, Foster used the rock cave shelter that later became the Rattlesnake Saloon as a hog pen. The 33-foot hole that now runs all the power cables to the saloon was originally drilled through the rock to funnel feed to the hogs without having to climb around the steep bluff. Foster later opened the Seven Springs Lodge and began hosting tourist activities such as trail riding, ATV and motorcycle events and chuck wagon races. Together with the help of his sons, Foster initiated plans to transform the old hog pen into a true Wild West watering hole: a saloon and restaurant nestled under the natural shelter of the rock. During the construction phase, a rattlesnake nest was uncovered nearby, inspiring the Foster family to dub their new venue the Rattlesnake Saloon. Since the saloon’s grand opening in 2009, guests from all 50 states and at least 30 countries have found their way to this remarkable restaurant in the rock. True to its title, the Rattlesnake Saloon showcases a traditional Western aesthetic with swinging bat-wing doors, a wood-paneled facade and hitching posts for horses. Open Thursday to Saturday, with limited hours on Sunday, the restaurant caters to lunch and dinner crowds with country fare such as fried apple fritters, black angus burgers, crispy golden onion rings and fried

26

2 01 9

T R A V E L

dill pickles. Guests can take advantage of more than 30 tables and chairs throughout the open-air portion of the shelter, with additional seating available inside the saloon. During the evening hours, tables fill fast as local rock and country bands fill the cavern with music. WWW.RATTLESNAKESALOON.NET

Floyd Country Store FLOYD, VIRGINIA

F

or over a century, the Floyd Country Store has played a central role in the culture and community of Floyd, Virginia. During the early 1980s, local musicians began hanging out around the general store to play music together, sometimes drawing crowds to listen. The informal gathering became known as the Friday Night Jamboree and has continued to take place on Fridays ever since. Today, the classic event has become more formal, featuring a gospel group from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. and two dance bands from 7:30 to 10:30. What’s more, the Floyd Country Store has garnered international acclaim as music lovers travel from all over the world to hear the timeless music of Appalachia in its purest form. “I think it epitomizes a simplicity and a celebration of life, and a lot of people come to Floyd to see that exercised in a really beautiful way,” said owner Dylan Locke. “We see everyone from 2-year-olds to 90-year-olds on the dance floor, from old-timers to newcomers. It’s got this beautiful cross section of generations.”

S O U T H

T O U R

P L A N N E R


Discover CARTERSVILLE & BARTOW COUNTY

a re a l Ge o rg i a ge m

between Atlanta, GA & Chaaanooga, TN

ALABAMA’S RATTLES NAKE SALOON

BOOTH WESTERN ART MUSEUM

A DAYTI M E S HOW AT RATTLESNAKE SALOON

TELLUS SCIENCE MUSEUM

TOLL FREE 800.733.2280 VISITCARTERSVILLEGA.ORG Photos by Chris Ganger, courtesy AL Tourism Dept.

WWW. T R A V E L S O U T HU S A . CO M

27


When Locke and his wife, Heather Krantz, took over the business in 2014, the couple worked hard to revitalize the cafe, retail shop and live music shows. They expanded the store’s range of entertainment, adding Saturday night dances and concerts, film screenings, community workshops and more. They also reworked the menu, placing a renewed emphasis on fresh, Southern-inspired cuisine.

“It’s incredibly healthy food, all made from scratch and locally sourced, while still connected to the cuisine of Appalachia,” said Locke. Patrons can savor these heritage-rich recipes through menu items like East Carolina-style pulled smoked pork barbecue, or chicken Brunswick stew and pinto beans with onions and skillet-baked cornbread. WWW.FLOYDCOUNTRYSTORE.COM

PECAN PI E AT FLOYD COU NTRY STOR E

FLOYD COU NTRY STOR E Courtesy Floyd Country Store

Courtesy Floyd Country Store

Harrodsburg brings together group experiences that are both unique and memorable. It’s no wonder its been honored with accolades including:

· Named one of Smithsonian Magazine’s “20 Best Small Towns to Visit”

· Named one of BBC NEWS Magazine’s “Five Hidden US Travel Destinations”

Group-friendly activities & adventures with over 300 affordable rooms just minutes SW of Lexington

HarrodsburgKy.com • 800-355-9192 28

• Award-winning Downtown • Unique Shopping/ Dining • Year-round arts, cultural & music events 2 01 9

T R A V E L

S O U T H

T O U R

P L A N N E R


Larry B’s Rhythm Room VAN BUREN, ARKANSAS

W

hen Larry and Hazel Bedell first moved to Van Buren, Arkansas, they knew they wanted to start their own business. After a building opened up for rent in Van Buren’s historic downtown area, the couple joined forces

The Outer Banks

®

OF NORTH CAROLINA

America’s First Beach

DESS ERT AT LAR RY B’S R HYTH M ROOM Courtesy Larry B’s Rhythm Room

with experienced local chef James Thomas to open an upscale dinner club where guests could enjoy fine dining, great service and nightly live music. Their shared dream came to fruition with the grand opening of Larry B’s Rhythm Room in March 2018, and it was not long before locals and travelers alike began pouring through the doors. “We get such big parties every night, we have to rearrange tables — I’m talking about groups of 20 to 30 people,” said Hazel Bedell. “People just love it. They always say they’re glad to have somewhere to go and enjoy gourmet food.” Open from Tuesday to Saturday each week, the restaurant specializes in soul food with a twist, showcasing classic Southern cuisine such as shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, crab cakes and black-andblue burgers. The most famous item on the menu is Hazel Bedell’s specialty: chicken and waffles with rum butter and rum syrup. “We get a lot of people that come and keep coming back because they want to try everything on the menu,” said Bedell. The entertainment brings something new to the table each night as well, whether it is Jazz Night, Ladies Night, Oldies but Goldies or Date Night. Larry Bedell, a seasoned performer of over 50 years, often leads the performances himself on Fridays and Saturdays. WWW.LARRYBRHYTHMROOM.COM

The Outer Banks is a special area. This barrier island chain was where the English first attempted to colonize in the New World. It also plays host to lighthouses, tales of pirates, and the inspiring stories of heroes. Tour the remodeled Visitors Center at Wright Brothers National Memorial. Ride along our country’s first National Seashore at Cape Hatteras, and follow in the footsteps of the first English settlers at Fort Raleigh National Historic site. Contact us for your group’s next adventure. Call Lorrie Love at 877-629-4386, or email love@outerbanks.org

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Local Outer Banks Cuisine

AmericasFirstBeach.com/Planners Courtesy Myrtle Beach Family Golf

29


sip

charboneau distillery’s rum milk punch MISSISSIPPI In Natchez, Mississippi, Charboneau Distillery produces one of the most popular domestic rums in the country. The distillery’s on-site restaurant, King’s Tavern, features mixology classes where visitors can learn to make the decadent Rum Milk Punch. This wintertime drink features white rum, milk, vanilla extract and simple syrup, along with a dusting of nutmeg and chocolate.

A BU RG ER AT VENKMAN'S

THE SOUTH

C O C K TA I L S

Venkman’s

TH E PATIO AT VENKMAN ’S

ATLANTA

V

enkman’s has quickly become one of the most popular dining establishments in Atlanta since its opening in 2015. Based in the heart of Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward, the chic restaurant and music club was founded by two musicians, Nicholas Niespodziani and Peter Olson of the band Yacht Rock Revue, who sought to create a high-end venue where people could enjoy quality food and music in one location. “As we were touring all over the country, we saw a lot of cool venues starting to combine good food and good music,” said Niespodziani. “A lot of places, you have to choose one or the other, and we thought — hey, By Emily Butler, courtesy Venkman's Courtesy Venkman's there’s no reason you can’t have both.” Part of the restaurant’s success is tied to the wide appeal of its entertainment lineup, which ranges from jazz concerts to ’60s tribute shows and classic rock bands. Parents are also welcome to bring their kids for some of the children’s programming, with past shows such as “Beyond the Neighborhood: The Music of Fred Rogers” and “The New Adventures of Brer Rabbit,” a 40-minute musical puppet show. GET THE MOST FOR YOUR GROUP “It was kind of a crazy idea, but we’ve found a lot of niches that are really cool For more information on incentives for you and your group or to and provided a place for people to gather book your group, call toll free 1-877-778-8138 that really wasn’t there before,” said Nieemail: bwebb@harrahs.com or scrowe@harrahs.com spodziani. In the spirit of fostering community, the menu features a number of sharable items, such as hot pretzel bites, pimento grit fritters and pommes frites with pickle sauce. Other options include bourbon cured salmon Benedict, chicken and grits, CHEROKEE, NC hot pastrami and grilled cheese with toMURPHY, NC mato soup.

T W O WAY S

T0 WIN

WWW.VENKMANS.COM

Must be 21 or older to enter casino floor and to gamble, and must present a valid state or federal photo ID upon request. Know When To Stop Before You Start.® Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-522-4700. An Enterprise of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. ©2019, Caesars License Company, LLC.

30

2 01 9

T R A V E L

S O U T H

T O U R

P L A N N E R


300 YEARS OF STORIES

For more than 300 years, New Orleans has been inspiring stories. Our Spanish, French, African and Caribbean influences create a cultural gumbo of distinctive architecture, cool Jazz and celebrated cuisine that only New Orleans knows how to dish out. From second line parades to centuries old streetcars, this timeless city offers something amazing around every cobblestone corner.

NEWORLEANS.COM

Start creating your New Orleans story today!


Puckett’s of Leiper’s Fork LEIPER’S FORK, TENNESSEE

O DELICIOUS FOO D AN D TEN N ESS EE M USIC AT PUCKETT’S GROCERY AN D R ESTAU RANT

Photos courtesy Puckett’s Grocery

riginally founded by the Puckett family during the 1950s, Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant of Leiper’s Fork has been a staple of the Leiper’s Fork community for more than 60 years, attracting a diverse clientele of tourists, farmers and musicians. Though it primarily functioned as a grocery store under the ownership of the Pucketts, later proprietors expanded the shop into a full-scale dining and live music venue. Today, other Puckett locations can be found in downtown Franklin, Nashville, Columbia and Chattanooga. Still serving the Leiper’s Fork community with “real food, real people and real atmosphere,” the original Puckett’s property continues to attract loyal patrons with fresh, home-style cooking and weekly live music. During the week, guests can enjoy open-mic nights and performances from traditional folk bands. A lineup of gospel artists performs on Sundays. Over the years, Puckett’s has won various Sizzle Awards, including Best Catering, Best Meat ‘n’ Three, Best Value, Best Live Entertainment, Best Burger, Best Breakfast, Favorite Retail Merchant and Best Business Lunch. Guests will want to sample a little bit of everything from the restaurant’s award-winning menu, which includes mouthwatering Southern cuisine like buttermilk biscuits, sweet potato fries, fried catfish, pulled pork sandwiches and cherry-smoked ribs. WWW.PUCKETTSOFLEIPERSFORK.COM

Blue Moon Saloon and Guest House LAFAYETTE, LOUISIANA

A

fter traveling abroad for several years during the late 1990s, Mark Falgout decided to purchase an 18th-century Arcadian house in Lafayette, Louisiana, and convert the property into a hostel-style guesthouse.

B LU E MOON SALOON Courtesy Blue Moon Saloon

32

2 01 9

T R A V E L

S O U T H

T O U R

P L A N N E R


moDeRn SPiRit. Southern Soul.

Recipe for a G

ood Time in

Roswell, GAions ingredients &

Just north of Atlanta, 200 independent restaurants, craft breweries, history, nature, art and culture combine for an experience that is Uniquely Roswell.

direct

En tire pa ckag 2 cups

e

Da sh Asso rtm en t e Add to ta st Blen d lly La yer Libera

En dless fun To urs se Museum er Histo ric Hou Na ture Cent d an r ve hee Ri Chatta ho oc an d brew eries Restaura nts utiques lleries & bo Sh opping, ga Th ea tre Profession al s ur G ro up To

“When I decided to come back, I thought, if I can’t be traveling, then I would like to be around folks who are,” said Falgout. “I asked myself, if I showed up in a new town, where would I like to stay? I knew I’d look for a place with a friendly staff, someplace centrally located where I could meet fellow travelers as well as locals.” The Blue Moon Saloon and Guest House officially opened its doors in 2001 and has since become one of the top Cajun music venues in the state. The guesthouse has six rooms: four private rooms and two dorm-style rooms with bunk beds. Next door, the Blue Moon Bungalow offers the most spacious accommodations, with two bedrooms, one bathroom and a full-service kitchen. When guests check in to the Blue Moon Saloon, they receive a free-cocktail ticket and admission to all the live shows, which take place nearly every night of the week. One of the most popular events is the weekly Cajun Jam on Wednesday. “If you want to come down to the mecca of Cajun and Creole music in Lafayette, then Blue Moon is the place,” said Falgout. WWW.BLUEMOONPRESENTS.COM

For more information call 800-776-7935 or visit us at www.visitroswellga.com.

sip THE SOUTH

C O C K TA I L S ic Histors

Site

the sazerac LOUISIANA Considered A merica’s f irst cocktail, the Sazerac was created in New Orleans in 1838 by a French Quarter bartender. The classic recipe includes r ye whiskey or cognac, along with absinthe, bitters and a single sugar cube. This spring, a new cocktail and liquor museum called the Sazerac House will open in New Orleans.

34

2 01 9

T R A V E L

S O U T H

T O U R

P L A N N E R


KENTUCKY ARTISAN CENTER OPEN DAILY 9 - 6 SHOP ● DINE ● EXPLORE www.kentuckyartisancenter.ky.gov

BEREA EXIT 77 859-985-5448 The Kentucky Artisan Center is an agency in the Tourism, Arts & Heritage Cabinet of the Commonwealth of Kentucky

BUSES WELCOME!

“The Greatest “ by Augustin Zarate; “Noble Series” by Brook Forrest White Jr; “American Kestrel” by Jim Sams; Willow bark basket by Jennifer Zurick; “Art Pin” by Mark Needham; Glass by Stephen Rolfe Powell


Take Your Tour

Over the Top

Missouri’s most iconic attraction has reached new heights.

Renovations to the Gateway Arch – including an updated museum, new parks and trails, and more – have transformed the Arch into a completely different experience. But that’s just part of what’s exciting and new in the Show-Me State. Let us show you what else makes Missouri a top stop for your group tours.

Contact Donna Cordle Gray at DonnaCordle@legacydimensions.com for group info.


DINNER AND A SHOW

Amazing music, memorable meals and sweet treats make Missouri a top entertainment spot.

F

rom blues to jazz, bluegrass to country, classical to rock ... the Show-Me State has the music in her – and the venues are as varied as the tunes. Add dinner or a delectable dessert (or both) for an experience you won’t forget. Some of the biggest names in the business perform at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in St. Louis ... names like Jason Aldean, Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers, Ozzie Ozbourne, and Miranda Lambert. Don’t pass on the chance to take in a concert or Broadway show at the opulent Fabulous Fox while you’re in town. Whatever venue you choose, treat yourself after the show to that delicious local invention: gooey butter cake. Park Avenue Coffee’s version comes highly recommended. Fall in love with music – especially classical performances and Broadway productions – all over again amid the amazing acoustics and extraordinary architecture of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City. And while you’re there, be sure to sample some of the best barbecue in the country. More than 100 restaurants – including Jack Stack Barbecue, Gates Bar-B-Q and Char Bar Smoked Meats and Amusements – serve up a variety of meat smoked to perfection. Relax with a glass of wine and a great concert overlooking 40 acres of grapevines at Shawnee Bluff Vineyard near Eldon. In 2019, the beautiful outdoor venue plays host to such entertainers as the Marshall Tucker Band and Diamond Rio. Nearby, the Shawnee Bluff Winery offers wine and brick oven pizza overlooking the Lake of the Ozarks. The Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts in Springfield offers an array of entertainment year-round, with a 2019 schedule that includes gospel singer CeCe Winans and the best musicals from Broadway. When you’re in the neighborhood, visit Leong’s Asian Diner for Springfield’s signature dish – cashew chicken, invented by chef David Leong. Branson has long been known for its country music shows, but you’ll also find gospel, classic rock, bluegrass and more. The music continues at Mel’s Hard Luck Diner, a 1950s-style restaurant where singing servers (many are professional singers and songwriters) deliver deluxe burgers and blue-plate specials topped off with ice cream specialties.

It’s well worth the effort to plan a musical Missouri tour to coincide with the fall Roots N Blues N Barbecue Festival in Columbia. It’s three days of mouthwatering barbecue (and check out the food truck choices) and amazing performances by an impressive lineup of artists that in the past has included the Avett Brothers, Keb’ Mo’, Taj Mahal and Los Lobos. If bluegrass is your heart’s desire, every May and October, Arcadia Valley hosts the free Mountain Music Festival featuring bluegrass, old-time mountain and Americana music. The event is located 80 miles southwest of St. Louis in the Ozark mountains, home to some of Missouri’s most exquisite and popular state parks. To make the experience even sweeter – plan a stop at Thee Abbey Kitchen Restaurant, Bakery and Creamery in Arcadia for made-fromscratch treats and fresh-from-the-farm soups, salads and sandwiches. They say variety is the spice of life, and when it comes to food and music, Missouri knows how to spice up your trip to the Show-Me State.


THE PERFECT STAGE FOR GROUPS TO

PLAY TOGETHER MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET

See for yourself why Branson, MO should be your next group travel destination. Learn more about Branson’s 11th Annual Professional Travel Planner FAM Tour | April 9-12, 2019 Contact Lenni Neimeyer, CTIS, CSTP at lneimeyer@bransoncvb.com.

ExploreBransonGroups.com 417-243-2105

April 26-27 Sept 18-19, 25-26 Oct 2-3,9-10, 16-17, 23-24 Nov 1-2, 6-7, 13-14, 20-21

Oct 18 • Nov 8 • 8pm

Oct 26 at 8pm

Nov 5 & 12 at 8pm

Oct 11 at 8pm Nov 1-2,6-7,20-21 at 3pm

Visit TheMansionTheatre.com or call 417-335-2000

Nov 22-23 at 8pm

Branson MO


so close you can feel it Feel the vibe and proximity of Kansas City. Feel the roots of history and the legacy this area holds. Feel the hospitality of a hometown, even if it’s not your own.

VISITINDEPENDENCE.COM | 816.325.7816 | #SOCLOSE

MISSOURI

DO TIME IN

JEFFERSON CITY History and Ghost Tours Available | www.MissouriPenTours.com 866-998-6998

/missouripentours

/missouripentours


SPEND A

day OUTDOORS

SOUTHERN LANDSCAPES LAST A LIFETIME

40


BY SAVAN NAH OS BOU R N

B

eyond the hustle and bustle of big-city destinations, travelers can experience the South through some of its most distinctive natural treasures, from breathtaking mountain vistas to lush swampland and towering rock formations. These serene retreats offer opportunities to encounter wildlife, see natural landmarks and discover wonderful hidden gems in the surrounding communities. Next time you plan a trip through the scenic South, be sure to check out the following natural wonders.

LAKE FAUSS E POI NTE STATE PARK IS ON E OF N UM EROUS SCENIC WETLAN D AR EAS I N LOUISIANA .

Courtesy Louisiana Office of Tourism

41


go SOUTH

Natural Bridge State Resort Park

BRING FRIENDS

SLADE, KENTUCKY

S

ince 1889, millions of visitors from around the country have traveled to eastern Kentucky to witness the splendor of Natural Bridge, a natural sandstone arch that is 78 feet long and 65 feet high. This geological marvel offers a spectacular view of the Daniel Boone National Forest, especially during the fall when the treetops transform into a colorful array of red, gold and orange. Groups can take full advantage of the 2,400-acre park from Hemlock Lodge, a cozy mountain lodge with a full-service restaurant and 35 rooms with private balconies. On Saturdays from May through October, the park hosts community dances on Hoedown Island, a small event site next to the lodge’s outdoor pool and four-acre pond. During the dances, a local squaredance caller leads guests through traditional folk dances such as Appalachian square dancing, line-dancing, the two-step, the polka and the waltz. To reach Natural Bridge from Hemlock Lodge, groups can follow a three-quarter-mile trail of moderate difficulty that climbs over 400 feet through a beautiful canopy of hemlocks, tulip trees, white pines and thickets of rhododendron. The trail ends just below the arch, where hikers can access the top through a natural fracture in the rock. Visitors can also ride to the summit on a sky lift, which begins a half-mile from the park entrance and stops within 600 feet of the arch. The sky lift is open daily from the first weekend in April through the last weekend of October.

42

2 01 9

T R A V E L

In addition to its namesake attraction, Natural Bridge State Resort Park offers a number of excellent opportunities for camping, canoeing, hiking, fishing and birding. The park encompasses more than 18 miles of hiking trails, with many more trails available in the nearby Red River Gorge Geological Area. Mill Creek Lake, a tranquil 40-acre lake surrounded by forest and sandstone cliffs, is a popular site for boating, as well as fishing for bass, bream, catfish, crappie and rainbow trout. WWW.PARKS.KY.GOV

Yadkin Valley Scenic Byway NORTH CAROLINA

O

ver the past two decades, the Yadkin Valley has steadily grown into North Carolina’s first and largest wine region. Once a major tobaccogrowing region, it is now home to nearly 45 wineries, as well as a professional viticulture and enology program at Surry Community College. Travelers can enjoy all the sights and scenery this thriving viticultural area has to offer along the Yadkin Valley Scenic Byway, which extends 65 miles across Yadkin and Surry counties. Some of the highlights along the route include the Yadkin River; the Brushy Mountains, an isolated spur of the Blue Ridge Mountains; and Pilot Mountain, a 2,400-foot-high granite monadnock that looms over North Carolina’s rolling hills. “Driving through it gives you this feeling of seren-

S O U T H

T O U R

P L A N N E R


NATU RAL BRI DG E STATE PARK I N KENTUCKY Courtesy KY Dept. of Parks

A YADKI N VALLEY WI N ERY Courtesy Visit NC

A CASCADE I N NORTH CARO LI NA’S YADKI N VALLEY By Sam Dean, courtesy Visit NC

WEST VIRGINIA'S GROUP TOUR DESTINATION!

WEST VIRGINIA. BY RAIL. Plan your 2019 groups now and save money! Two day packages beginning at under $200/person! All inclusive.

CALL: 304.636.9477 EXT. 117 MTN-RAIL.COM

43


AMERICAN HISTORY

GUM BO FESTIVAL AT ATCHAFALAYA NATIONAL H ERITAG E AR EA

MISSISSIPPI MUSIC

SOUTHERN CHARM

A WOO DCRAFT DEMONSTRATION AT ATCHAFALAYA

ity,” said Suzanne Brown, media relations specialist at Visit North Carolina. “You’re surrounded by mountains, woodland foothills and farmland. In some ways, the experience makes me think of drinking wine; you take it in slowly and appreciate all the different nuances.” Every winery has an interesting story to tell, and visitors will discover a deeper sense of place and community as they visit some of the region’s family-owned vineyards. Known as “Chianti in the Carolinas,” Raffaldini Vineyards is a Tuscanstyle villa and vineyard that specializes in Italian wine-grape varietals. Groups can arrange special events or behind-the-scenes tours of this picturesque property, which features a sweeping view of the Brushy Mountains. Travelers can also pay a visit to Shelton Vineyards, one of the valley’s oldest and largest vineyards, to enjoy an excellent wine selection and on-site restaurant. The charming “Trail Town” of Elkin is another hidden gem along the byway, marking the confluence of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, the Mountains-to-Sea Trail and the Yadkin River Trail. In Hamptonville, groups can stop by Shiloh General Store to browse a wonderful selection of fresh baked breads, creamery products, deli sandwiches and preserves made by the local Amish community. WWW.VISITNC.COM

the crop duster ARKANSAS

For planning assistance contact,

Ashley Gatian, Sales Manager

800-221-3536 • ashley@visitvicksburg.com

sip THE SOUTH

W E A R E S O C I A L \VisitVicksburg

44

Scan this QR code to visit our mobile site.

C O C K TA I L S

At the Capitol Hotel and Bar, one of the most upscale institutions in downtown Little Rock, mixologists have created the Crop Duster, an A rk ansasinspired reimagination of the classic Av iation cocktail. It features the gin, maraschino liquor and lemon juice of the original mixed with homemade blackberry preserves to create a deep, rich color and f lavor.


GETAWAY TH E J U NG LE GAR DEN AT LOUISIANA’S AVERY IS LAN D Photos courtesy Louisiana Office of Tourism

Atchafalaya National Heritage Area LOUISIANA

S

panning 14 parishes across the state of Louisiana, the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area is the largest wetland and river swamp in the United States. This vibrant landscape covers a vast range of topography, from bottomland hardwood forests to winding bayous and backwater lakes. The Atchafalaya Basin is a prime example of how Louisiana earned the nickname “Sportsman’s Paradise.” Groups can explore the rich wilderness along bicycle or paddling trails, pitch a tent under a canopy of ancient live oak trees or plan a fishing excursion to hunt for catfish, shrimp, oysters and crawfish. The heritage area is also home to more than 270 species of birds, providing fantastic bird-watching opportunities. There are numerous outfitters based in the area that offer guided paddling excursions and swamp tours, taking passengers along remote waterways as they keep an eye out for wildlife like egrets, alligators, bears and raccoons. In addition, visitors can take advantage of many distinctive restaurants, shops and festivals throughout the region showcase Louisiana’s lively Cajun culture. “It’s such a diverse area,” said Justin Owens, assistant director of the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area. “You can go fishing in the morning and go to a Mardi Gras celebration in the afternoon. There’s nowhere else on earth like it.” Notable festivities in the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area include the Gumbo Festival in Thibodaux and the Rougarou Fest in Houma, an event inspired by the Cajun iteration of Big Foot. Another popular event, SugarFest, pays homage to Cajun culture through craft demonstrations, fresh local cuisine and live music. WWW.ATCHAFALAYA.ORG

Ridgeland offers your group a getaway complete with beautiful shopping, the Mississippi Craft Center, over 1600 hotel rooms and 140 restaurants and fun in the sun. To assist you, we offer: - Group Rebate Programs - Itinerary Planning - Spouse Programs - Welcome Bags and Name Badges In Ridgeland, the more the merrier...Inside + Out.

Arts, Wine and Wheels Weekend - April 2019


Elephant Rocks State Park BELLEVIEW, MISSOURI

I

mpressive rock formations may not be the first visual that comes to mind when it comes to Missouri’s natural scenery, yet Elephant Rocks State Park is home to one of the state’s most fascinating geological features: a series of huge red-and-pink granite boulders that stand in a row like a line of circus elephants. Formed more than 1.5 billion years ago, the unusual rock formations have at-

M ISSOU RI ’S ELEPHANT ROCKS STATE PARK

tracted the curiosity of geologists and visitors alike for generations. The largest boulder in the park weighs around 680 tons, stretching 34 feet long and 27 feet tall. “The elephant rocks are very striking,” said Liz Coleman, public relations specialist at the Missouri Division of Tourism. “It’s amazing to find that kind of feature in Missouri, compared to the farmland in northern Missouri and hills and valleys of the Ozarks.” To reach the boulders, groups can follow a paved, one-mile path called the Braille Trail that was designed as the state’s first accessible trail for those with physical or visual disabilities. Along the way, visitors will pass several remnants of the park’s former days as a rock quarry, including a dig site that has since become a pond and wildlife-viewing area. Groups can include several other major outdoor destinations in the area with their visit to Elephant Rocks State Park, such as Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park and Taum Sauk Mountain State Park. Taum Sauk Mountain State Park is home to the highest point in Missouri, as well as the highest waterfall, which is best viewed during the spring when the water flow runs at its heaviest. Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park is known for the unique rock formations in the East Black Fork River that create “shut-ins,” or little pools and waterfalls for visitors to swim in. WWW.MOSTATEPARKS.COM

Courtesy Missouri Div. of Tourism

Savor the South!

Enjoy southern hospitality just a beat from New Orleans; experience Jefferson Parish. Enjoy festivals year-round, historic districts, shopping and value priced accommodations. Catch the adventure on our swamp and bayou tours, then savor classic Cajun cuisine. Jefferson Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc. 3 Call 504.731.7083 3 Toll Free 1.877.572.7474 3 VisitJeffersonParish.com

46

2 01 9

T R A V E L

S O U T H

T O U R

P L A N N E R


VI SI T

T Y B EE Picture your group here. We can. Discover yourself on Savannah’s Beach. Just 20 minutes from historic Savannah. VisitTybee.com


firefly sweet tea vodka and lemonade SOUTH CAROLINA On Wadmalaw Island just south of Charleston, Firef ly Spirits has become one of the most popular distilleries in the South. Though it produces a variety of f lavored products, its most iconic is Firef ly Sweet Tea Vodka. Locals love to combine this infused vodka with lemonade to create a cocktail that showcases the signature f lavors of South Carolina.

sip THE SOUTH

C O C K TA I L S

Cass Scenic Railroad State Park CASS, WEST VIRGINIA

N CASS SCENIC RAI LROAD STATE PARK Courtesy Cass Scenic Railroad State Park

#

Official NASA Visitor Center

1

N

IO ATTRACT •

A

ALABAM

estled in the rugged mountain country of Pocahontas County, West Virginia, the historic lumber town of Cass was founded during the railroad boom around the turn of the 20th century. Today, visitors can stop by Cass Scenic Railroad State Park to hitch a ride on the 11-mile-long heritage railway that once carried lumber to the mill in Cass. Transporting guests to a time when steam locomotives played a pivotal role in everyday life, the Cass Scenic Railroad takes passengers on a 4.5-hour round-trip journey up to the overlook at Bald Knob, the third-highest point in West Virginia and home of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. One of the trains, the Class C-80 Shay #5, has been climbing up Cheat Mountain for nearly 100 years, making it one of the oldest engines in continuous service on its original line and the second-oldest Shay locomotive in existence. Along the way, the train stops for 30 minutes at Whitaker Station, giving guests the chance to use restroom facilities and explore a re-created 20th-century logging camp. A King of the Road hobo lunch is served on board after the Old Spruce junction. Groups can also stop by the old Cass Company Store to pick out a special souvenir, enjoy hand-scooped ice cream from the soda fountain or grab a bite to eat at Last Run Restaurant, which was featured in West Virginia’s “101 Unique Places to Dine.” WWW.WVSTATEPARKS.COM

See the world’s largest collection of space artifacts and explore the fascinating future of space travel! Celebrate the 2019 50th anniversary of the moon landing in Huntsville, Alabama - where it all started with Dr. Wernher von Braun and his rocket team!

48

Huntsville, Alabama • (800) 637-7223 www.rocketcenter.com

2 01 9

T R A V E L

S O U T H

T O U R

P L A N N E R


Skyline Drive VIRGINIA

T

he gateway to Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive is widely recognized as one of the most famous mountain drives in America. In addition to providing access to more than 500 miles of trails throughout the park, the route includes 75 dramatic overlooks that offer panoramic views of the Shenandoah Valley and the Virginia Piedmont. “From the road, you’ll see streams, lakes, valleys and all kinds of animals: bears, deer, fox — maybe even a horse or two,” said Rita McClenny, president and CEO of the Virginia Tourism Corporation. “It’s just a timeless, scenic feast for the eyes.” Four overlooks stand out as visitor favorites: Hogback, Spitler Knoll, Big Run and Crimora Lake. Another distinctive feature along the route is Mary’s Rock Tunnel, a 670-foot-long tunnel that was carved through the solid granite of Mary’s Rock in 1932. Every season of the year brings a new shade of beauty to this special mountain vista. During the winter, visitors can see the mountain valley wreathed in snow and ice, and spring brings in a wealth of colors as wildflowers like azaleas and mountain laurel bloom along the roadside. From late September to mid-November, a stunning display of fall colors takes over the landscape.

gg Since 1817

Star of the Western Frontier Relive 200 years of history that inspired True

Grit, Lonesome Dove, Hang’em High and more.

WWW.VISITSKYLINEDRIVE.ORG

Explore the Ozarks by train and savor all the flavors of Arkansas Wine Country. Discover a growing collection of public art

by world-renowned urban contemporary artists.

U.S. Marshals Museum Opens Fall 2019

@ExperienceFortSmith

Contact Us!

@ExpFortSmith

Carolyn Joyce | Tour & Travel Sales Director | (800) 637-1477

gg TourFortSmith.com

VI RGI NIA'S S KYLI N E DRIVE

carolyn@tourfortsmith.com

Courtesy VTC

50

2 01 9

T R A V E L

S O U T H

T O U R

P L A N N E R


LIF E MOV ES PRE T T Y FAS

L I FE MOV ES PRE T T Y FAS T Mississippi’s fertile ground has given rise to incredible music, cuisine and culture made famous around the world. Travelers and adventurers will find authentic Mississippi moments from the Delta and northern hills to the Gulf Coast. Don’t miss out on your next adventure in Mississippi.

VISITMISSISSIPPI.ORG/DONTMISSOUT

LEVON’S BAR AND GRILL—CLARKSDALE M O N M O U T H H I S T O R I C I N N & G A R D E N S — N AT C H E Z BILOXI LIGHTHOUSE—BILOXI


MAIN street MOMENTS EVERY STORE HAS A STORY IN SOUTHERN SMALL TOWNS

52


BY SAVAN NAH OS BOU R N

W

ith centuries of history, colorful arts communities and a heritage of hospitality, small towns offer groups an idyllic way to spend an afternoon experiencing Southern culture and grace. These charming destinations allow visitors to rub elbows with locals, take in beautiful architecture, enjoy a great meal and revel in a leisurely lifestyle, if only for a short time. Plan on spending time in one of these small-town treasures on your next trip through the South.

NOT FAR FROM MOBI LE , TH E TOWN OF FAI R HOPE EXEM PLI FI ES H ISTORIC SOUTH ER N CHARM .

Courtesy Eastern Shore COC

53


go SOUTH

Shepherdstown

BRING FRIENDS

WEST VIRGINIA

T

racing more than 300 years of recorded history, Shepherdstown has much to offer as the oldest city in West Virginia. This wonderful historic gem embodies all the best traits of the small-town South: a warm and welcoming community, a dynamic downtown and the beautiful surrounding scenery of the Appalachian Mountains. “We are a 21st-century town in 18th-century clothes,” said Marianne Davis, director of the Shepherdstown Visitors Center. “The whole town is part of the National Registry for Historic Places, so we’re very fierce about historic preservation.” There are no chain stores or traffic lights in historic Shepherdstown. In the heart of town, visitors will discover a colorful selection of gift shops and specialty stores along German Street, with original brands such as the Tonic Herb Shop, Grapes and Grains Gourmet, German Street Chandlery and Coffee, and O’Hurley’s General Store. Other cultural highlights include six art galleries, the Shepherdstown Museum and the Two Rivers Chamber Orchestra, one of only three professional classical music orchestras in the state. To learn more about the local lore and landmarks, some groups might show interest in scheduling a tour with Shepherdstown Mystery Walks, a candlelit walking tour of Shepherdstown’s most mysterious and historic locations. A newer company called Shepherdstown Ghost Tours offers a similar excursion with more emphasis on local tales of murders, strange deaths and other unusual occurrences.

54

2 01 9

T R A V E L

Shepherdstown also provides a great base for pursuing outdoor recreation in the surrounding area. Visitors can rent bikes, kayaks or canoes from Shepherdstown Pedal and Paddle in downtown to paddle down the Potomac River or to ride along the scenic Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath. Groups can also bike from the city to Antietam National Battlefield, site of the bloodiest day in American history. “We like to let Shepherdstown surprise our visitors,” said Davis. “People love the fresh air, the friendly people, the variety of things to eat and places to shop, hike, bike or fish. They’re amazed we haven’t destroyed it all and put up shopping malls.” WWW.SHEPHERDSTOWN.INFO

Laurel

MISSISSIPPI

T

he beautiful downtown of Laurel, Mississippi, has experienced unprecedented revitalization over the past 10 years, with enterprising millennials who grew up in the area beginning to open new restaurants, boutiques and businesses, transforming the town center into a thriving tourist destination. Standing at the forefront of this movement are Ben and Erin Napier, a young couple who brought national attention to the small Southern town through their hit HGTV show “Home Town.” Now entering its third sea-

S O U T H

T O U R

P L A N N E R


A S H EPH ER DSTOWN GAR DEN

Courtesy Shepherdstown Visitors Center

S HOPPI NG I N LAU R EL Courtesy Visit Jones Co.

LAU R EL TV PERSONALITI ES B EN AN D ERI N NAPI ER

MAY DAY I N S H EPH ER DSTOWN Courtesy Visit Jones Co.

Courtesy Shepherdstown Visitors Center

S T A Y L A F AY E T T E Plan your escape to t he Happiest Cit y in America.

L A F AY E T T E T R AV E L . C O M /Groups

800 346 1958

55


son, the show follows the Napiers throughout their beloved hometown as they renovate historic homes for first-time buyers and families. Visitors can take a driving tour of Laurel to see some of these wonderfully restored homes up close, as well as stop by the Napiers’ two downtown shops, the Laurel Mercantile and the General Store. A few other signature venues in downtown are the Slowboat Brewing Company; the Knight Butcher, a local butcher shop; Adam Trest

Home, a popular home decor and design shop; and the historic Lott Furniture Shop. Those who enjoy the arts will appreciate a visit to the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, which opened in 1923 as Mississippi’s first art museum. The museum houses an excellent collection of American art, European art and Japanese woodblock prints, with featured works from esteemed artists such as Rembrandt van Rijn and Jean-François Millet.

FAI R HOPE H ISTORY M US EUM

FLOWERS I N FAI R HOPE

Courtesy Eastern Shore COC

56

2 01 9

T R A V E L

S O U T H

Courtesy Eastern Shore COC

T O U R

P L A N N E R


Throughout the year, the city hosts a variety of vibrant cultural festivals and events in downtown, including an annual music festival called Laurelpalooza; the Loblolly Festival, which celebrates Laurel’s heritage as a sawmill town; and community cook-offs like the Crawfish Cook-Off and Laurel Main Street’s Chili Cook-Off.

GROUP FRIENDLY

WWW.LAURELMS.COM

Fairhope ALABAMA

B

ordering the deep blue waters of Mobile Bay, the small town of Fairhope, Alabama, is known for its charming city parks, eclectic downtown shopping and sweeping views of the Gulf Coast. Travelers can begin their visit with a trip to the city’s cultural center at Fairhope Municipal Pier, a bayfront property that encompasses a quarter-mile pier, a beautiful rose garden and fountain, a large sandy beach, covered picnic areas and several beachfront restaurants. The pier and beach mark the beginning of the Eastern Shore Mobile Bay Loop of the Coastal Birding Trail, which extends more than 200 miles through six distinct birding regions in Alabama. Within a short distance of the pier, visitors can stroll through the lovely cobblestone courtyard of Fairhope’s French Quarter, where they can grab a hot, fresh beignet from Panini Pete’s or sample artisan chocolates at FMC Chocolates and Confectionaries. Groups will stumble across many other quaint specialty shops as they wander through town, with popular stops such as the Happy Olive, an olive oil and balsamic vinegar shop; Paige and Palette, a third-generation family-owned independent bookstore; and Christmas Around the Corner, a Christmas-themed shop that remains open 365 days a year. Fairhope also harbors a thriving arts community. Each March, the prestigious Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival draws thousands of people from across the Southeast to enjoy live music, tasty Gulf Coast cuisine and more than 230 exhibitors in downtown. “It’s a great way for people who are traveling to be exposed to a lot of local art that you may not be able to experience in other places,” said Liz Thompson, director of tourism and special events at the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce.

crafted

the well experience your travelers are looking for

For a hand crafted experience call the ShelbyKY Tourism Office and let us build you a custom itinerary full of local favorites. Located between Louisville and Lexington.

WWW.ESCHAMBER.COM

WWW. T R A V E L S O U T HU S A . CO M

57


richland coffee GEORGIA This sweet coffee cocktail features Richland Single Estate Old Georgia Rum, which is distilled in the town of Richland, Georgia, as well as dark-roast coffee from one of the state’s numerous coffee roasters. Bartenders add a half-ounce of Richland’s pure cane sugar, stir and top it with a layer of heav y cream.

sip THE SOUTH

C O C K TA I L S

Blowing Rock NORTH CAROLINA

S A SCENIC OVERLOOK N EAR B LOWI NG ROCK Courtesy Blowing Rock TDA

H ISTORIC BRATTONSVILLE

Courtesy Culture and Heritage Museums of York Co.

ince the early 1900s, Blowing Rock, North Carolina, has served as a popular mountain retreat for families traveling from the Charlotte and Raleigh areas. The town is situated right along the famous 469mile Blue Ridge Parkway, providing the perfect home base for outdoors enthusiasts as they hike and enjoy other recreational activities in the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. This section of the route winds past landmarks such as Julian Price Memorial Park, a 4,200-acre heritage site at the foot of Grandfather Mountain, as well as Tweetsie Railroad, a Wild West-themed amusement park. In Blowing Rock, travel groups will feel right at home as they explore the walkable town center, visiting unique and quirky stops like the century-old Hanna’s Oriental Rugs and Gifts, Neaco’s Hip Home Décor and the town’s original 1800s-era post office. The city is also home to more than 30 restaurants within a three-mile radius, making it easy for groups to split up and pick their dining venue of choice. “It’s great to be able to spend time in a small, friendly town where you can park your car once and walk to everything,” said Amanda Lugenbell, assistant director of the Blowing Rock Tourism Development Authority. Travelers can relish the local scenery from town as well. In the center of town in Annie Cannon Gardens, just a block from Main Street, the 1.2-mile Glen Burney Trail travels 800 feet down into John’s River Gorge past several stunning waterfalls. Other major attractions in town include Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, a lavish country estate and Neocolonial manor; Mystery Hill, an interactive history and science museum; and the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum. “The art and history museum is one of our hidden gems,” said Lugenbell.

When’s the last time the smell of smoke in your clothes brought back the memory of a perfect day? Your first time won’t be your last time. It’s the timeless craft of a local cooperage that gives our town a certain something that other places can’t quite capture. To find out where you can see bourbon barrels being made, go to visitlebanonky.com.

WWW.BLOWINGROCK.COM 18leto11819v1_Grp Trv Leader_Bourbon_5x4.5.indd 1

58

10/19/18 1:23 PM

2 01 9

T R A V E L

S O U T H

T O U R

P L A N N E R


narroway.net

the Broadway of Christian Entertainment


McConnells

TH E BIG OAK I N THOMASVI LLE

SOUTH CAROLINA

H

DOWNTOWN THOMASVI LLE Courtesy Thomasville Visitors Center

Courtesy Thomasville Visitors Center

H ISTORIC BRATTONSVI LLE I N SOUTH CARO LI NA

Courtesy Culture and Heritage Museums of York Co.

istoric Brattonsville is a 775-acre Revolutionary War site and living-history attraction in McConnells, South Carolina, where visitors can interact with costumed interpreters, engage in traditional 18th-century activities and learn about the region’s fascinating history. Originally home to Brattonsville Plantation, the property was owned and occupied by three generations of the Bratton family. It was also the site of the 1780 Battle of Huck’s Defeat, one of the first significant Colonial victories over the British during the American Revolution. Today, there are more than 30 historic structures still standing on the grounds, including the 1700s-era Colonel William Bratton House, Hightower Hall, the family homestead and an outbuilding believed to be used for storing dairy products. Several re-created structures have been added to complete the experience, such as a replica slave cabin and kitchen. “It can be very moving for visitors to walk inside the slave quarters and learn about the things that happened there,” said Kevin Lynch, site manager at Historic Brattonsville. “You don’t get the chance to experience that many other places.” Throughout the year, groups can take advantage of interactive, family programming such as Sheep-Shearing Family Day in May and a reenactment of the Battle of Huck’s Defeat in July. In September, the museum partners with local descendants of former plantation slaves to produce an annual event called “By the Sweat of Our Brows,” a powerful program that highlights early African-American social traditions, music and art. During the first and second weekends of December, the Christmas Candlelight Tour showcases the historic Christmas traditions of the Carolinas through festivities and hands-on activities. WWW.CHMUSEUMS.ORG/BRATTONSVILLE

Thomasville GEORGIA

J

ust 35 minutes north of Tallahassee, Florida, Georgia’s Thomasville epitomizes small-town appeal with a romantic aesthetic of wrought-iron benches, vibrant flowerbeds, family-owned shops and artisan eateries. “We’re very lucky to be such a small town in rural southern Georgia, yet we have 60

2 01 9

T R A V E L

S O U T H

T O U R

P L A N N E R


SOME HISTORY IS WRITTEN IN BOOKS. OURS IS FORGED IN STEEL. Visiting Birmingham lets you experience a city on the rise while seeing first-hand the foundation upon which it was built. The Industrial Heritage Tour that features Sloss Furnaces and Vulcan Park offers a glimpse into a steel industry past that’s still on display today. Book your next tour in a place rich with history. Book your next tour in Birmingham. inbirmingham.com | # INB irmingham | 800 - 458 - 8085


mountain martini WEST VIRGINIA At Hill and Hollow restaurant in Morgantow n, bartenders rely heavily on West Virginia ingredients to create a variety of cocktails. The restaurant’s signature Mountain Martini is a twist on the classic drink. It features Wicked Spirits Endless Wall Vodka, produced in Harrisville, West Virginia, along with a second ramp-infused vodka, dry vermouth and olives.

sip THE SOUTH

C O C K TA I L S

a very active cultural and artistic community, and our downtown is absolutely thrilling,” said Bonnie Hayes, tourism director at the Thomasville Visitors Center. Thomasville’s charming downtown is the city’s No. 1 attraction, drawing visitors from all over the state to shop and dine. The city center comprises more than 100 independent shops and boutiques, some in buildings dating back to the turn of the 20th century. Visitors can sample specialty cheeses in the awardwinning Sweet Grass Dairy Cheese Shop or browse through fine leather handbags, belts and other home goods in South Life Supply Company, which custom designs leather goods for big-name clients. “We have to keep a waiting list of people wanting to open shops in downtown,” said Hayes. “We have very few empty shops, and they’re never available for more than a month.” Thomasville’s downtown has also become known as a popular foodie destination, showcasing reputable venues like Jonah’s Fish and Grits, George and Louie’s Seafood Restaurant, and Sass Sweet and Savory Sisters. Visitors also enjoy visiting some of the city’s beautiful antebellum and Victorian homes. On weekends, groups can tour the Lapham-Patterson House, one of the most unusual specimens of Victorian architecture in the nation. WWW.THOMASVILLEGA.COM

GROUP RATES AVAILABLE

In the wake of Japan’s attack, American soldiers marched into battle while citizens rallied on the Home Front. In ration lines and victory gardens and factories across the United States, they built an Arsenal of Democracy. Experience how the Home Front supported the front lines and helped win the war—at The Arsenal of Democracy, a permanent exhibit at The National WWII Museum.

#1 Attraction in New Orleans #3 Museum in the United States #8 Museum in the World

62

2 01 9

T R A V E L

S O U T H

945 MAGAZINE STREET, NEW ORLEANS, LA 70130 P L A N N E R 504-528-1944 x 222 | NATIONALWW2MUSEUM.ORG/GROUPS T O U R


Come take in all of the soul–satisfying sights, sounds, flavors and places Louisiana serves up daily. Plan your getaway today at LouisianaTravel.com. Š 2019 Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism


LOCAL

and LEGENDARY

FESTIVALS IN THE SOUTH HAVE WORLDWIDE FOLLOWINGS

64


BY SAVAN NAH OS BOU R N

L

ocal culture comes alive during the festivals and events of the South, where travelers can sample distinctive cuisine, purchase beautiful handcrafted goods and experience some of the South’s rich musical heritage. Consider incorporating some of these distinctive events next time your group travels South.

VISITORS GET UP-CLOSE VIEWS OF HOT-AIR BALLOONS AT THE GREAT MISSISSIPPI RIVER BALLOON RACE IN NATCHEZ.

Courtesy Historic Natchez Foundation

65


go SOUTH

BRING FRIENDS

National Banana Pudding Festival

CENTERVILLE, TENNESSEE

W

hat began as a simple effort to raise funds for local nonprofit organizations has become a cultural hallmark of Hickman County, Tennessee. The National Banana Pudding Festival takes place the first weekend of October each year, attracting thousands of banana pudding lovers and chefs from around the world. “There is so much community pride in the festival,” said Peggy Owen, co-chair of the festival. “When we do exit interviews each year, we always ask what guests enjoyed the most. Of course, the first thing they say is the banana pudding, but the second most common answer is the hospitality and warm welcome of the people.” During the two-day event, cooks can put their best pudding recipes to the test during the National Cook-Off for Best Banana Pudding in America. Winners receive cash prizes of up to $2,000 as well as bragging rights to the best banana pudding in the country. In addition to watching this event, guests can visit the Puddin’ Path to sample 10 different banana puddings prepared by local nonprofit organizations. After sampling the puddings, visitors can vote for their favorites by placing dollar bills in the nonprofit’s donation jar. All proceeds are divided equally among the nonprofits. Throughout the weekend, groups can enjoy family entertainment by over 50 performing artists, including musicians, storytellers, puppeteers and dancers, among others. Other highlights include the Little Nanner’s Children’s Area for small children and Banana Land, “Where

66

2 01 9

T R A V E L

the Big Kids Go Bananas.” Visitors can also purchase the National Banana Pudding Cookbook, with recipes from previous competition winners. The National Banana Pudding Festival takes place the same weekend as the Hickman County Quilt Show and the Country Arts and Crafts Fair, two other trademark events in the county. WWW.BANANAPUDDINGFEST.ORG

Kentucky Bourbon Festival BARDSTOWN, KENTUCKY

B

ased in Bardstown, Kentucky, also known as the Bourbon Capital of the World, the Kentucky Bourbon Festival draws more than 50,000 people to town each September to celebrate America’s native spirit. The festival began in 1992 as a simple bourbon tasting and dinner and has grown exponentially over the past 27 years. Today, it continues to support and celebrate local bourbon distillers, including internationally recognized brands such as Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey, Evan Williams and Woodford Reserve. “We are so fortunate to be here in the Bourbon Capital of the World and have access to so many of these great leaders in the bourbon industry,” said Jill Hawkins, executive director of the festival. “That kind of access is very important for a lot of our fans. They love having the opportunity to engage with the distillers and their families and get to know them.” Over the course of the weeklong event, visitors can savor different bourbons, browse arts and crafts, watch live demonstrations from local distillers and root for

S O U T H

T O U R

P L A N N E R


A BAR R EL R ELAY AT TH E KENTUCKY BOU R BON FESTIVAL

NATIONAL BANANA PU DDI NG FESTIVAL

Courtesy KY Bourbon Festival Group Travel_StCharles _Dec_18.pdf

1

Courtesy National Banana Pudding Festival 11/20/18

4:12 PM

C

M

Y

CM

MY

CY

CMY

K

WWW. T R A V E L S O U T HU S A . CO M

67


their favorite distillery brands during the World Championship Bourbon Barrel Relay. The bourbon barrel relay is an opportunity for distilleries to showcase the skill and athletic abilities of their staffs as team members work together to roll 500-pound bourbon barrels throughout a designated course, earning points based on speed and accuracy.

Groups can also pick up a few tricks of the trade by attending classes on bourbon-based cocktails, food and bourbon pairings, bourbon production and other topics. The event culminates in a formal black-tie dinner, during which more than 1,200 guests join together to raise a glass to the industry and dine with bourbon dignitaries. WWW.KYBOURBONFESTIVAL.COM

Arkansas Folk Festival MOUNTAIN VIEW, ARKANSAS

S ARKANSAS FO LK FESTIVAL

Courtesy Mountain View Area COC

et amid the Arkansas Ozarks and charming small-town community of Mountain View, the Arkansas Folk Festival is an annual spring event that celebrates the music, crafts and culture of the Ozarks. The festival takes place on the third weekend in April each year, marking the seasonal opening of the Ozark Folk Center State Park. During this time, thousands of visitors flood into town to browse beautiful handmade crafts, tap their toes to live folk and bluegrass music, dance on the Courthouse Square and watch a colorful downtown parade. “People will come out and bring their folding chairs

O F F TH E E AT I N P R E D AT H N A W

The journey to an unforgettable dining experience begins when you venture a ways off the main road and follow the bayou as it flows through wetlands and authentic Cajun communities. Your groups can discover generations of unique traditions, culture and flavors in the eating establishments, culinary festivals and events on the Cajun Bayou Food Trail, just 45 minutes south of New Orleans. Plan your trip at lacajunbayou.com/foodtrail. 68

2 01 9

T R A V E L

S O U T H

T O U R

P L A N N E R


sip THE SOUTH

C O C K TA I L S

blue ridge punch VIRGINIA In Charlottesville, Virginia, Ragged Branch Distillery produces a bourbon whiskey and uses the spirit to create a Blue Ridge twist on the classic island punch. The cocktail features Ragged Branch W heated Bourbon, Pineapple Gomme, Campari, fresh lime juice and blueberries. The ingredients are shaken together, poured over ice and garnished with a pineapple frond.

before anything has even started and leave them overnight just to have a good spot,” said Nikki Morrow, executive director at the Mountain View Area Chamber of Commerce. “It’s funny; while we’re here setting up cones and barrels, there’s the courthouse lawn with all the empty chairs. It shows you the kind of laid-back atmosphere that exists here in Mountain View.” Nearly 60 floats and bands participate in the lavish festival parade on Saturday morning, which draws local dignitaries such as the state’s governor and Miss Ar-

kansas. Visitors can stop by the Artisans Market on the Square to see the handiwork of some of the state’s finest craftspeople, who create items such as beeswax products, hand-blown glass beads, goat milk soaps, ornate woodcarvings and stoneware pottery. The festival heralds the spring opening of Ozark Folk Center State Park, so visitors can take advantage of free shuttles between the center and downtown. The Ozark Folk Center carries on the festival’s mission to showcase the heritage and culture of the Ozarks

WWW. T R A V E L S O U T HU S A . CO M

69


throughout the summer and fall seasons. The center encompasses a heritage herb garden, a dedicated craft village with more than 20 working artisans and a 1,000seat theater that hosts live folk concerts on Thursday through Saturday nights. WWW.MOUNTAINVIEWTOURISM.COM

National Tom Sawyer Days HANNIBAL, MISSOURI NATIONAL TOM SAWYER DAYS

T

ens of thousands of visitors flock to Hannibal, Missouri, each July for the weeklong National Tom Sawyer Days, a time-honored tradition of more than 60 years that pays homage to the life work of beloved American author Mark Twain. Held during the week of the Fourth of July each year, the festival takes place in historic downtown Hannibal, where visitors can enjoy live music, arts and crafts and various festivities based on Twain’s characters and stories. “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” one of Twain’s best-known classics, comes alive during the annual Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher competition. Seventh-grade schoolchildren must demonstrate their knowledge of local history and literature during a 100-question interview

Courtesy Hannibal CVB

DON’T JUST LEARN A B O U T H I S TO R Y

HAVE A BLAST

Plan your trip to Virginia now at

Get to know where the world’s finest bourbons are born at visitbardstown.com.

70

HISTORYISFUN.ORG

2 01 9

T R A V E L

S O U T H

T O U R

P L A N N E R


Take your Group On an adventure to remember

From the places and the people, to the feeling and the attitude, we offer a unique variety of group entertainment definitely worth the visit. Personalized Itineraries History and Architecture Arts and Culture Home-Town Hospitality

StJoMo.com | 800-785-0360

JDempster@StJoMo.com


value . location . variety

from a panel of judges. Once the contestants have been narrowed to five Toms and five Beckys, the children are then judged based on how they stay in character as they interact with visitors throughout the festival. The winners are announced on the Fourth of July and retain the title until the subsequent year. “We have to choose new winners every year because, of course, Tom and Becky never grow old,” said Megan Rapp, assistant director at the Hannibal Convention and Visitors Bureau. Another major highlight of the festival is the State Fence-Painting Contest, during which contestants receive points for authenticity of costume, speed and quality of painting. At the signal, participants run to pick up a large paintbrush and a bucket of whitewash, then race to paint their designated four-by-five-foot fence piece. Other events include a mud volleyball competition, a Tomboy Sawyer Competition for girls and a frog-jumping competition based on Twain’s short story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” Kids can either bring their own frogs to the event or rent one from a local Boy Scout troop. If groups have time, they may also want to stroll down Main Street to stop by Mark Twain’s Boyhood Home and Museum.

So Many Reasons To choose PULASKI COUNTY, MO

EXPLORE:

WWW.VISITHANNIBAL.COM

trail of tears MILITARY MUSEUMS Route 66 & devils elbow

Great Mississippi River Balloon Race NATCHEZ, MISSISSIPPI

D

uring the third weekend of October this year, more than 20,000 visitors will flock to the historic city of Natchez to watch dozens of vibrant hot-air balloons fill the sky over the Mississippi River for the 33rd annual Great Mississippi River Balloon Race. The celebration is one of the Magnolia State’s most colorful and iconic events, showcasing worldclass musical acts from all over the country, arts and crafts, carnival rides for children and over 40 hot-air balloons. “The whole town — hotels, restaurants, businesses — pretty much plan their year around it,” said Carter Burns, executive director of the Historic Natchez Foundation. “It’s a really special event because of its beautiful location in the middle of downtown. A lot of balloon races are held near airports and other removed areas.” The festival is held on the lovely grounds of an antebellum mansion high on the bluffs above the Mississippi River, allowing festival attendees to easily spot the balloons flying overhead during the races. The festival kicks off on Friday night with a Balloon Glow as balloon pilots inflate their balloons and hit the propane burners to create a stunning display of gigantic lanterns in the night. Afterward, the evening concludes with fireworks over the river. Visitors can enjoy watching three sets of competition ballooning over the course of the weekend, with two on Saturday and one on Sunday morning. The races are judged on accuracy, not speed, as pilots carefully steer their crafts past designated targets and attempt to throw beanbags as close to the targets as possible. After the three races, points are tallied to award each contestant their final score. Each year, an original festival logo is designed for shirts, hats and posters so visitors can take home an unforgettable piece of their experience.

fun stops ozarks beauty photo opps customized rich history itineraries GUIDED TOURS

EXPERIENCE:

T YOU? HOW MAY weaAnSnSinISg to day! LET’S start pl -FREE Welcome Receptions -Lodging/Dining Assistance -Museum Tour Coordination -Step-On Guide Referrals

.

WWW.NATCHEZBALLOONRACE.COM

GR EAT M ISSISSI PPI RIVER BALLOON RACE

PULASKI COUNTY

Branson

PulaskiCountyUSA.COM 573-336-6355

karenh@pulaskicountyusa.com

Courtesy Historic Natchez Foundation

72

2 01 9

T R A V E L

S O U T H

T O U R

P L A N N E R


HISTORY NATURALLY MADE

THE LITTLE ROCK NINE MONUMENT AT THE ARKANSAS STATE CAPITOL COMMEMORATES THE STUDENTS WHO PAVED THE WAY FOR INTEGRATION. MOSAIC TEMPLARS CULTURAL CENTER IN LITTLE ROCK SERVES TO EDUCATE VISITORS ON AFRICAN-AMERICAN CULTURE. VISIT THE LITTLE ROCK CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE AND LEARN MORE AT CIVILRIGHTSTRAIL.COM.

ARKANSAS.COM


long island iced tea TENNESSEE Though its name sounds Northern, the Long Island Iced Tea was created in K i ng sp or t , Ten ne s s e e, i n t he m idd le of t he P rohibition era . A local man named Charles Bishop developed the original recipe, which combined f ive liquors and a drizzle of maple syrup. The modern recipe also features lemon, lime and cola, and is served throughout Kingsport.

sip THE SOUTH

C O C K TA I L S

Synchronous Firefly Season CONGAREE NATIONAL PARK, SOUTH CAROLINA

O

f the 2,000 species of fireflies in the world, only three known species of synchronous fireflies can be found in North America. Fortunately for U.S. travelers, Congaree National Park in central South Carolina provides an excellent viewing area for this curious phenomenon. During a brief period between midMay and mid-June, hundreds of fireflies appear at dusk below the canopy of trees in the park’s old-growth bottomland hardwood forest to create a splendid naturallight display of synchronous flashing. “The first time I saw the fireflies come out, it was like Christmas lights in the forest in spring, with hundreds of fireflies blinking in unison. It took my breath away,” said Jonathan Manchester, interpretive park ranger at Congaree National Park. “Every year I come back, and it’s phenomenal every time.” During the event, groups can take advantage of extended opening hours at the Harry Hampton Visitors Center. Park staff section off part of the Bluff Trail to create a one-way Firefly Trail with guide ropes and low-light markers to help visitors see the path. WWW.NPS.GOV/CONG

you bring the group. we’ll bring the smiles.

VISITSAVANNAH.COM

THIS ISN’T ORDINARY. THIS IS SAVANNAH.

74 THE GINGERBREAD HOUSE


Plan your visit at ArkEncounter.com Williamstown, K Y (south of Cincinnati)


ALABAMA | ARKANSAS | GEORGIA | KENTUCKY | LOUISIANA | MISSISSIPPI | MISSOURI

go SOUTH

BRING FRIENDS

NORTH CAROLINA | SOUTH CAROLINA | TENNESSEE | VIRGINIA | WEST VIRGINIA

W W W .T R A V E L S O U T H U S A . C O M


Select Traveler Bank Travel Clubs Select Traveler February 4-6, 2018 Bank Travel Clubs Louisville, Kentucky February 10-12, 2019 800-628-0993 French Lick, Indiana selecttravelerconf.com 800-628-0993 A Proud Sponsor: selecttravelerconf.com

AATConference

April 30 - May 2, 2018 AATConference St. Charles, Illinois Diversity Travel 800-628-0993 April 16-18, 2019 aatconline.com French Lick, Indiana 800-628-0993 A Proud Sponsor: aatconline.com

Going On Faith

Church Travel Groups September 4-6, 2019 Grand Rapids, Michigan 800-628-0993 gofconference.com

Small Market Meetings Meeting Planners

Small Market September 23 Meetings - 25, 2018 Meeting Ontario, Planners California September 24 - 26, 2019 800-628-0993 Green Bay, Wisconsin smmconf.com 800-628-0993 A Proud Sponsor: smmconf.com

Boomer in Groups

Boomer Planners BoomerTravel in Groups October 26 - 28, 2018 Boomer Travel Planners French Lick, Indiana October 25 - 27, 2019 800-628-0993 Franklin, Tennessee boomersingroups.com 800-628-0993 A Proud Sponsor: boomersingroups.com


y r o t S r ou

OUR BOARDWALK A world of entertaining and exciting experiences awaits in Atlantic City. Up and down our world-famous Boardwalk, and throughout your entire Atlantic City stay, you’ll experience the ultimate in tax-free shopping, award-winning dining for every taste, fun

Y

amusements and great local attractions. Atlantic City offers the perfect setting to experience an exciting getaway and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Atlantic City Expert Heather Colache is available at 609-449-7151 or hcolache@meetac.com to make sure you enjoy Atlantic City as it was meant to be experienced. Call today to book your Atlantic City Experience.

Meet AC received funding through a grant from the New Jersey Department of State, Division of Travel and Tourism.

TourAtlanticCity.com

Profile for The Group Travel Leader, Inc.

The Group Travel Leader 2019  

Find group travel ideas for mountain destinations, New Jersey, Milwaukee, Detroit and the 2019 Travel South Group Travel Guide.

The Group Travel Leader 2019  

Find group travel ideas for mountain destinations, New Jersey, Milwaukee, Detroit and the 2019 Travel South Group Travel Guide.