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table ofCONTENTS VOL 27 | ISSUE 5

CAROLINAS

6 EDITOR’S MARKS 14 C H A N G I N G H O R I Z O N S

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From Liberty State Park in New Jersey, visitors can look across the Hudson River to see the Freedom Tower rising above the National September 11 Memorial in New York City. Photo by Antonino Bartuccio

America’s Memorials

THESE SACRED SITES COMMEMORATE EVENTS THAT SHAPED THE COUNTRY.

FEATURES

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Get your kicks

ROUTE 66 Follow Route 66 for a memorable group road trip.

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MAC T. LACY CHARLES A. PRESLEY BRIAN JEWELL HERBERT SPARROW DONIA SIMMONS DAVID BROWN

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

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ELIZA MYERS CHRISTINE CLOUGH SAVANNAH OSBOURN ASHLEY RICKS KELLY TYNER STACEY BOWMAN

Online Editor Copy Editor Staff Writer Circulation Manager Director of Sales & Marketing Advertising Sales Director

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.


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J O I N U S F O R A M E M O R A B L E C U LT U R A L I M M E R S I O N FA M Countless stories live within the grounds of our plantations, the curves of our river and the depths of our hearts. Come explore the very best of Louisiana’s River Parishes.

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The group will arrive Thursday morning and enjoy an introductory welcome

The first stop of the day will be at Evergreen Plantation,

lunch at Truck Farm Tavern. After lunch, you will head down the Mississippi

which was prominently featured in the movie “Django Unchained”.

River to take a tour of the home and historic grounds of Oak Alley Plantation. Next stop will be the Laura Plantation, where professional guides will share the compelling stories of seven generations of the plantation’s Creole inhabitants.

Taking a tour of the Whitney Plantation will be next. Here you will experience the world through the eyes of the enslaved people who lived and worked on this historic 1830’s Louisiana sugarcane plantation. In addition to learning

Amazing views of New Orleans Plantation Country and fresh seafood will bring

about life on a sugar plantation, you will visit River Road Distillery to see a

the day to an end with dinner at Frenier Landing and Oyster Bar.

family barn turned world-class distillery. The evening will come to a close

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after enjoying dinner and the legacy of hospitality at Nobile’s.

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The Historic Riverlands is a part of the Louisiana African-American Heritage Trail and it has been said that you can “feel the spirit” as you tour their 4 acres of property. Country Andouille is on the menu for the afternoon and visitors will be able to see how the sausage is made. After lunch, you will visit the

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Witness costumed guides interpreting the fascinating legacy of the Destrehan family and the unique architectural features of the home. The plantation offers period craft demonstrations daily, including open

San Francisco Plantation which was declared a National Historic Landmark in

hearth cooking, bousillage construction, indigo dyeing, sugar cane processing,

1974. Next, Arthur will lead you through the swamp and over the marsh on an

weaving, carpentry of the 1780s, and African American herbal remedies.

airboat tour followed by dinner at Ormond Plantation.

R E S E R V E Y O U R S P O T N O W : G R O U P T R AV E L L E A D E R . C O M / N O P C T O U R ( L I M I T E D TO 2 0 TO U R O P E R ATO R S )


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aking group trips can be amazing. But organizing, marketing, selling and collecting payments? Not so much. If you’re like most tourism professionals, you got into the business because you love travel and you love people. Days on the road with a group of your friends can be among the highlights of your year. And your work as a travel planner or a leader might be the perfect job if you didn’t have to handle all the minutia and financial details of every trip you take. For those of you who find yourself in this position — loving group travel but hating the details — I have some good news for you. Though there’s no magic secret for taking the legwork out of planning group trips, there are some powerful new technology tools that can help you streamline and automate your trip planning, promotion and payment, giving you more time to enjoy the parts of the job that you love. The world of high-tech startups seems to have discovered the group travel industry lately, and four recently launched companies now offer services to help group leaders and small tour companies advertise their trips, drive sales, register guests, accept payments online and automate communications with travelers. These companies are Group Bookd (www.groupbookd.com), GroupTools (www. grouptools.com), Tripsi (www.mytripsi.com) and

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WeTravel (www.wetravel.com). Each of these websites works in a slightly different way and comes with its own pricing model, but their core services are similar. They allow you to create online profiles for each trip or departure you operate and then use those profiles to market the trips. You can integrate the profiles with your social media accounts to promote trips on Facebook, create email flyers to send to your members or even embed the trip profiles on your own website. Once you have spread the word about your upcoming trips, these services allow you to automate the registration. Instead of customers calling you to book directly or filling out a registration form and sending you a deposit check, they can go to the trip’s profile online and register there. You have full control of the contact information and details you require for registration, and you can set the deposit amount to hold space. Travelers pay the deposit on the site, and you can configure the system to send them automatic reminders about when their balances are due. And you don’t have to worry about credit card processing; these service providers process all the payments and deposit the funds automatically into your account or, in some cases, make payments directly to your travel suppliers. Once the trip is full, you can use the services’ communication tools to email all guests with important details. You can download spreadsheets with your travelers’ information, giving you a handy contact list to take on the road. If you aren’t technology savvy, managing your travel group via an online service instead of ink and paper can sound intimidating. But I encourage you to try it anyway. The benefits far outweigh the potential risks, and if you don’t like it, you can always go back to your old way of doing things. Technology is fundamentally changing the travel industry in a host of ways. From where I sit, this change is a welcome one.

MAY 2018


Craving exhilaration? Get your wheels turning on America’s longest stretch of the Mother Road. Experience a golden age of neon and classic cars at Clinton’s Route 66 Museum. Time travel with your taste buds at Waylan’s Ku-ku Burger. Relive the heyday of stage and cinema at the opulent Coleman Theater. Then try 700+ fizzy drinks beneath the world’s largest soda bottle at Pops.

Find adventures and itineraries at TravelOK.com/Group.


FAMILY MATTERS

GROUPS ARE DISCOVERING LUBBOCK SALEM, Ohio — Group Travel Family travel planners are always seeking destinations that offer exciting events and friendly hospitality for their members. Many of you are familiar with Visit Lubbock and its effort to spread the good word about a destination that should be on your short list of upcoming tours; but for those of you who are not, we’d like to share this information. Visit Lubbock promotes group tourism with a steady presence at many gatherings, and Lisa Grinstead of Visit Lubbock works with travel planners from across the country. The Visit Lubbock team provides information about local attractions to assist in planning group schedules and will help you create tours and specialty outings for your organization. All the Visit Lubbock services are complimentary and start when your group has confirmed a total of 10 room nights. That could be a total of 10 rooms for one night or five rooms over two nights. “At Visit Lubbock, promoting the Hub City is our full-time job, and we couldn’t be happier to be on the front lines welcoming group travelers,” said Grinstead. “We get 5.8 million visitors to Lubbock each year, and those visitors come with plenty of inquiries. In honor of National Travel and Tourism Week, we rounded up a few of our frequently asked questions and tossed in a few of our favorite questions for good measure.” WHERE IS LUBBOCK? 

“Discovered by the Spanish explorer Coronado on his search for the City of Gold, Lubbock was first named Llano Estacado,” said Grinstead. “Today we call it Lubbock, and it’s located at the bottom of the Texas Panhandle on the South Plains [or High Plains]. From here, we’re four hours from the mountains, eight from the coast and in the middle of cotton country under the biggest skies in Texas.”

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them, Buddy signed on the dotted line, giving him the name he is known by around the world.” WAS THE CHILTON REALLY CREATED IN LUBBOCK?

THE NATIONAL COWBOY SYMPOSIUM IS A CELEBRATION OF LUBBOCK’S WESTERN ROOTS.

Courtesy Visit Lubbock WHY IS LUBBOCK CALLED THE HUB CITY?

“Our city acquired its nickname because it’s surrounded by five major highways,” said Grinstead. “If you look at it on a map, it gives the appearance of a hub on a wagon wheel.” WHAT IS THERE TO DO IN LUBBOCK?

“That’s our favorite question,” she said. “We never let anyone that crosses our path leave thinking that Lubbock is boring. We’re home to five award-winning wineries, world-class art collections, a monthly art trail through Lubbock’s Cultural District, and you can see live music in the city on any given night. There are also plenty of museums with rotating exhibits to explore, and other new entertainment options are set to open within the year.” IS IT BUDDY HOLLY WITH AN ‘LLY’ OR AN ‘LLEY’?

It’s both, according to Grinstead. “Although he went by Buddy, his given name was Charles Hardin Holley,” she said. “When Decca Records drew up his first contract, they mistakenly left off the “e” in Holley. Not wanting to correct

“All our research says yes,” she said. “The story goes that a Dr. Chilton wanted to enjoy a refreshing beverage at the Lubbock Country Club. He instructed his bartender to mix the juice of two lemons with vodka and club soda cocktail and serve it over ice with a salted rim. Texas Monthly magazine did some research of their own and found that the cocktail is virtually unheard of outside of West Texas.” WHERE DO LOCALS GO TO EAT? 

“Lubbock is home to almost 1,000 restaurants, with more being added every month,” said Grinstead. “But even with the soon-to-be additions of places like P.F. Chang’s and In-NOut Burger, there’s still nothing better than our local restaurants.” DO YOU RIDE HORSES TO WORK?

“While we’re really proud of our Western heritage in Lubbock and were named the No. 1 Western Town by True West Magazine, we don’t ride horses on our daily commute,” she said. “But we do like the mental image of a horse heading down Marsha Sharp Freeway.” WHAT’S THAT STAR THAT’S REALLY BRIGHT IN TEXAS?

“As the song goes, ‘all the stars at night are big and bright in Texas,’” said Grinstead, “but in Lubbock, you can see them especially well. Our sunsets are pretty amazing, too.”

To learn more about how your group can visit Lubbock, call Grinstead at 800-692-4035 or visit www.visitlubbock.org.

MAY 2018


OKL AHOMA INTRODUCES DIGITAL TOUR MANUAL

SALEM, Ohio — Destination information is key to building better trips, and the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department is leading the group travel industry with a searchable online tour planner that takes the tour operator manual to the next level. Todd Stallbaumer, travel development manager at Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, has built relationships with travel planners at travel conferences such as the Select Traveler Conference and Boomers in Groups, and kept travel rolling to Oklahoma with the department’s sample itineraries, escort notes and motorcoach information. But the new searchable tour planner takes travel planning into the future. Travel planners can search by city, region, type of attraction, keyword and any combination of these options. Or, one can simply click on the “Go” button and view all the attractions Oklahoma has to offer. The site also allows for searches of dining, events, free-admission attractions, hotels, industry contacts, things to do and highways traveled, from Interstate 40 to the famous Route 66. Group leaders can find the searchable tour planner at www.travelok.org.

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INDUSTRY NEWS EISENHOWER EXHIBIT ON DISPLAY AT GETT YSBURG PARK MUSEUM GETTYSBURG, Pennsylvania — The Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center has debuted a new exhibit, “Eisenhower’s Leadership from Camp Colt to D-Day.” This exhibit, which runs through the end of the year, features a variety of objects from the Eisenhower National Historic Site museum, including equipment issued to an officer at Camp Colt, dog tags, an Army-issued cigarette lighter used by Dwight Eisenhower throughout World War II and a piece of barbed wire from the German defenses at Point du Hoc. Eisenhower first came to Gettysburg to organize and lead Camp Colt in 1918. Following World War II, he and his wife, Mamie, returned to Gettysburg and purchased a farm in 1950. When Eisenhower was elected as the 34th president of the United States in 1952, the

Gettysburg farm became a getaway for the first family, welcoming both family and world leaders. They retired to the farm after Ike’s presidency. Their home is open to the public as part of the Eisenhower National Historic Site, along with the barns and garages with Ike’s collection of cars and golf cars, as well as a working cattle farm. W W W. N PS .GOV/GE T T

A NEW EXHIBIT AT THE GETTYSBURG NATIONAL MILITARY PARK MUSEUM EXPLORES DWIGHT EISENHOWER’S TIME IN THE AREA.

CHICAGO ARCHITECTURE CRUISES ARE POPULAR WAYS TO SEE THE WINDY CITY.

Courtesy NPS

Courtesy CAF

NEW CHICAGO ARCHITECTURE CENTER TO OPEN THIS SUMMER CHICAGO — The Chicago Architecture Foundation is moving to a new location this summer just above the dock for the foundation’s river cruises aboard Chicago’s First Lady Cruises where it will establish the Chicago Architecture Center. The new 20,000-square-foot center will allow the foundation to add to its current historic architecture tours and tell new stories about contemporary architecture along the Chicago River, Lakeshore East and North Michigan Avenue. The new center will have a welcome and tour center on the ground level and innovative exhibition spaces, including a digitally enhanced Chicago Model that will be expanded from 1,200 to nearly 3,000 structures and wrapped in an interactive, cinematic experience. In addition to the Chicago Model, the center will feature a new, permanent skyscraper exhibit in a 26-foot gallery overlooking the Chicago River and the Michigan Avenue Bridge that will showcase some of the world’s most significant and famous skyscrapers and explain how architects continue to push boundaries. WWW.ARCHTECTURE.ORG

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MAY 2018


INDUSTRY EDUCATION

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DOWNLOAD OUR BUYER’S GUIDE E-BOOK

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dozens of travel insiders who give their perspective and experiences on a variety of practical topics. “We meet tour operators and group leaders around the country, and they always have questions about fundamental aspects of the tourism business,” Jewell said. “In B U Y E R ’S the Buyer’s Guide, we set out to answer those questions with direct, no-nonsense information about pricing and best practices, as well as some marketing tips and forecasts about destinations that will be popular with groups in the coming year.” Each chapter of the e-book focuses on a topic that will be helpful to travel planners. One section breaks down the math that goes into pricing tours, helping travel planners choose amenities and services that fit their

o plan the best trips, you need to start with the best information. Putting together tours, cruises and other memorable trips for your customers, colleagues and friends is no small feat, and if you go into the process unprepared, you’re likely to overpay and under-deliver. The latest e-book from The Group Travel Leader is full of up-to-date insights and practical information to help you plan travel with confidence. “Buyer’s Guide for the Group Travel Industry” gives you a look at business factors and tourism trends that will impact the bottom line of your travel operations. Readers will hear from industry experts about how tours are priced, the best way to book motorcoaches, marketing tips and more. Written by Brian Jewell, executive editor of The Group Travel leader, and a contributing team of professional travel journalists, “Buyer’s Guide for the Group Travel Industry” features interviews with

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budgets best. Another delves into the business of buses, giving planners a road map to finding the right transportation provider. The chapter “Your Brand Matters” has a list of 10 things that all travel organizations need to appear professional and competent. And the GU I DE final chapters delve into destinations that are selling at home and abroad. “I’m a strong believer that educating travel planners makes trips better for everyone involved,” Jewell said. “This e-book has so much helpful information that it should be required reading for anyone planning tours in 2018.” The e-book is available as a free download for a limited time. Get your copy today at

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CONFERENCE SCENE MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST HOSTS TRAVEL SOUTH SHOWCASE

LIZ BITTNER DISCUSSES THE U.S. CIVIL RIGHTS TRAIL

B Y S AVA N NA H O S B O U R N

GTL WRITER SAVANNAH OSBOURN TOURED MISSISSIPPI. MISSISSIPPI SHOWTIME!

SIGHTSEEING ABOARD A SHRIMP BOAT

THE GROUP TRAVEL LEADER LIP SYNC SHOWDOWN WAS A HIT.

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BILOXI, Mississippi — In late March, 693 tourism professionals convened in Biloxi, Mississippi, for the 2018 Travel South Showcase, marking a 10 percent increase in delegate attendance over last year. It has been 10 years since the conference came to Biloxi, a time when the Mississippi Gulf Coast was still reeling from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The 2018 conference also saw a 30 percent rise in attending tour operators, who met with representatives from 485 Southern tourist organizations during the three-day event. “I think the South just resonates well with tour operators, whether you’re doing senior groups or millennials,” said Liz Bittner, president and CEO of Travel South USA. “We’re authentic, we have great food, we’re hospitable, and there’s so much to see and do.” Delegates were housed in the AAA Four Diamond Beau Rivage Resort and Casino and attended scheduled appointments at the Mississippi Coast Convention Center. Several special events were held at the Hard Rock Casino and Resort, including the lavish opening reception and The Group Travel Leader’s second annual Lip Sync Battle, during which attendees took to the stage to lip sync some of

their favorite songs. In addition, many delegates took advantage of organized city tours, culinary tours, boating excursions and more. “I’m really happy about the outcome, but more importantly, the folks at Visit Mississippi and Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast are very pleased with the attendance and level of engagement,” said Bittner, adding that the showcase generated more than $750,000 in revenue for the destination. Celebrating its 36th year in 2018, Travel South Showcase is one of the most distinguished marketplace events in the travel industry; the event provides a unique opportunity for delegates to cultivate new business partnerships and stimulate tourism in one of the country’s most colorful regions. “Everything we do is to promote, foster and encourage travel to the South,” Bittner said. “It’s all about the connectivity.” Thirty-eight travel journalists joined the buyers and sellers at the marketplace, representing a 10 percent increase in media attendance. Over the course of their visits, journalists participated in three different familiarization tours across Tennessee and Mississippi, learned more about the newly launched U.S. Civil Rights Trail at an exclusive reception and sampled rich coastal flavors along the Gulf Coast during postappointment tours. “We could easily expand on the media aspect, and we are looking at that for Myrtle Beach,” said Bittner. The 2019 Travel South Showcase will take place in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and will feature a special guest performance from Grammy Award-winning artist Darius Rucker at the opening reception. Registration typically opens during the summer and closes by mid-December. W W W.T R AV ELSOU TH US A.COM

MAY 2018


JOIN US FOR A TRIP TO NEW ORLEANS PLANTATION COUNTRY IN JULY

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ave you always wanted to experience the magnificent antebellum plantations of Louisiana? Are you looking for ways to learn more about trip possibilities in Louisiana’s River Parishes area and have a great time doing it? Do you have a few days to see New Orleans Plantation Country firsthand in July? Would you like to spend a few days with executive staff of The Group Travel Leader magazine while you’re at it? If so, we have just the opportunity for you. NEW ORLEANS PLANTATION COUNTRY DESTINATIONS, CLOCKWISE New Orleans Plantation Country is FROM TOP: A HISTORIC RIVERLANDS CHURCH; DESTREHAN PLANinviting up to 25 of our travel planner readTATION; LAURA PLANTATION; A SWAMP TOUR. ers to enjoy a four-day site inspection trip July 26-29. Qualified travel planners will be guests of the New Orleans Plantation Country staff and will enjoy visiting several of the gorgeous plantations between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. And once you get to New Orleans, all your expenses are covered. “Join The Group Travel Leader’s executive editor, Brian Jewell, and Kelly Tyner, our director of sales and marketing, for Courtesy NOPC this fun and educational site inspection trip to experience the best of New Orleans Plantation Country,” said publisher Mac Lacy. “Brian and Kelly will travel planners. Applicants will complete a brief travel profile that will be accompany our Louisiana hosts on this trip and will be sharing their travel used by New Orleans Plantation Country staff to select attendees. experiences with everyone in attendance. “Brian and Kelly will be highlighting the trip in real time on social media, and Brian will write an article on this tour for publication in The Group Travel Leader magazine,” said Lacy. “Tour participants will have To submit your travel profile and request a spot on this exciting trip, go the opportunity to share their impressions and experiences about Louisiana to www.grouptravelleader.com/nopctour and fill out your profile online. with our staff and meet some wonderful hosts from the state. It’s going to To inquire by phone or to ask a question, call us toll-free at 888-253-0455 be a lot of fun for everyone involved.” and ask for Kelly. All accommodations, sightseeing, transportation and meals are included Registration for this complimentary site inspection trip in Louisiana once participants arrive in Louisiana. No travel expenses to and from closes June 1, so don’t delay. Louisiana will be reimbursed. Join Brian, Kelly and New Orleans Plantation Country for a wonderful AN AN INDUSTRY INDUSTRY AN INDUSTRY PANEL PANEL PANEL SHOWCASED SHOWCASED SHOWCASED SOME SOME SOME OF OF THE THE OF THE This readership event and site inspection tour is limited to 25 qualified trip July 26-29. INDUSTRY’S INDUSTRY’S INDUSTRY’S BRIGHTEST BRIGHTEST BRIGHTEST YOUNG YOUNG YOUNG MINDS. MINDS. MINDS. All All photos photos All photos by by Matthew Matthew by Matthew Minucci, Minucci, Minucci, courtesy courtesy courtesy USTOA USTOA USTOA

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Changing

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he cruise industry is experiencing boom times, and demand shows no signs of softening. But there are some business and operations issues that cruise lines would do well to address now. Here are three of interest to me.

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1. Plastic water bottles: It’s time for ostensibly environmentally sensitive cruise lines to install readilyavailable water bottle fillers like those found at National Park Service units throughout the United States. Many readers have likely heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where, reportedly, about 10 percent of all the plastic produced worldwide ends up in a gargantuan floating ocean mess. But dealing with mountains of plastic waste generated by 21st-century civilization is a huge problem on land, too. Although I understand the fiscal appeal, at least for most mass-market lines, of selling 10-cent bottles of water for $3 plus 18 percent gratuity, unless they abandon this ill-considered “profit center” and encourage guests to use and easily refill their personal water containers, touting millions of dollars being spent on new green engine technology seems just a bit hollow. 2. Port overcrowding: This month, the mammoth new 167,800-ton Norwegian Bliss begins service to Alaska, bringing about 4,000 guests on each trip. While I’m sure it will be a great ship, it is also the largest vessel ever to cruise Alaskan waters and begs the question of how many more such behemoths can be accommodated in relatively small ports like Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway. During my May 2017 Oosterdam call in Ketchikan, six large ships disgorged enough guests to make simply walking around this normally charming community a significantly compromised, elbow-to-elbow experience. In March, I found a similar situation in Cozumel, Mexico, also with six huge vessels in port simultaneously. And finding three to four vessels abreast is becoming more and more routine in Europe’s river towns. With demand for cruising at an all-time high, I’m not sure I have a solution, but finding interesting new ports would be high on my list. A recent stop at Santo

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Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala, on Norwegian Jade reminded me that I had not visited this country on dozens of previous Caribbean sailings. Here we were the only ship in port, and although the country’s tourism infrastructure is not extensive, an excellent guide and our time at a luxury seaside resort made our visit most worthwhile. 3. Pricing games: A close friend and veteran cruiser just sent me the following story regarding a cruise line we’ll call ABC. “Last April, we paid $2,200 each for a standard balcony cabin on our 16-day cruise. The itinerary has been shown as ‘sold out’ in recent months. Yesterday, I checked again and saw that balcony cabins are now being offered for $899 per person, and there were at least a dozen available. So, I called ABC, and, of course, the lower fare is for new bookings only and cannot be applied to our cruise. “We had purchased the ABC insurance, which includes ‘cancel for any reason’ protection in the form of a future cruise credit for the nonrefundable portion of the amount that we paid. So, I cancelled the cruise, got a refund of $1,100 and a future credit of $3,300. Then I booked a new balcony cabin at the $899 rate. So, we saved a lot, but the only problem now is that we must use the credit within one year. But ABC made it as difficult as possible for us to cancel and rebook, including with the shore excursions and transfers we had prepaid.” Group coordinators and professional cruise agents need to be aware that some but not all cruise lines play games like this and need to be prepared to deal effectively with their sales representative before a group member discovers the “fire sale” and passes the word around that the group has apparently been cheated. SOME PORTS IN POPULAR DESTINATIONS, SUCH AS COZUMEL, MEXICO, CAN BECOME OVERRUN WITH CRUISE SHIPS.

By Bob Hoelscher

MAY 2018


EXPERT

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WENDY DOBRZYNSKI CIRCLE WISCONSIN BY B R I A N J E W E L L

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f you have spent any time at national tourism conferences lately, you have probably seen Wendy Dobrzynski. As the executive director of Circle Wisconsin, it’s her job to travel the country encouraging groups to visit her home state. But her entry into the business came a long time ago in a very different role. “I’ve been in the industry now for 30 years,” Dobrzynski said. “In 1988, I started working for a bank that had the largest bank travel program in the country. Eventually, I became the director of it. We ran lots and lots of tours, both international and domestic. I have that background and know how to run a tour and what goes into creating a tour.” After 16 years at the bank, Dobrzynski took a job at the Milwaukee Public Museum, an attraction she grew to love while visiting with her kids on field trips. That led to an opportunity at Visit Milwaukee, where she spent nine years in the group sales department. Then, when the director of Circle Wisconsin retired in 2014, Dobrzynski was a natural fit to take her place. “We’re a private, nonprofit marketing organization,” she said. “We’re a pseudo-DMO [destination marketing organization]. Our mission is to promote our members and the state of Wisconsin to the group travel industry. I’m the person that attends the shows and meets with group leaders and tour operators and helps them with itinerary ideas. I show them around the state when they come in for FAMs.” That work takes Dobrzynski to several major tourism events, including the American Bus Association Marketplace, where she sponsors the popular cheese booth; NTA’s Travel Exchange; and the Select Traveler Conference. She also runs the Circle Wisconsin Midwest Marketplace, an event that highlights destinations in Wisconsin, adjacent states and the Dakotas. This year’s conference in April included 40 tour operators and about 115 tour suppliers. These wide-ranging experiences in tourism have convinced Dobrzynski that, contrary to what some believe, group travel has a bright future. “Motorcoach travel is always going to be around, and people are always going to want to see different destinations,” she said. “We see motorcoaches all over the state. It’s not a dying industry. The boomers are coming in smaller groups — 50 people on a motorcoach isn’t as common as it used to be 10 years ago — but the groups are coming. People are realizing that getting on a motorcoach is much more convenient and easy than getting in a car and GROUPTRAVELLEADER.COM

SALES TIP FROM WENDY “ I ’m a b i g p r o p on e nt o f u s i n g you r C V B or DMO. I f you do a t r av e l show, h av e s ome one f rom t he DMO come . Nobody c a n g et people e xc ited about a de st i nat ion l i ke someone who l ives t here. T h is is my home. T here’s a rea son I l ive here. I ca n connect w it h t hose people a nd help t hem get e xcited about t he de st i nat ion.”

planning trips themselves.” For Dobrzynski, who dreamed of traveling the world when she was a child, this career has proved thrilling and fulfilling. “It’s been a nice progression over the last 30 years,” she said. “I started out getting people out of the state of Wisconsin, and now I’m getting them into the state of Wisconsin. It’s been an interesting progression, full circle, and I wouldn’t change a thing. I love tourism, I love travel, and I think getting people out to experience their dreams is an incredible thing to do, whether it’s the Wisconsin Dells, Door County or New Zealand.”

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Photos courtesy National September 11 Memorial

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he greatest memorials honor things we can never forget. For more than 500 years, American history has been shaped by heroic figures and monumental events. Some should be celebrated, others mourned. But happy or sad, the events of our history and the people behind them played powerful roles in making us who we are. For history lovers and casual travelers alike, visiting memorials around the country can bring a deeper understanding of America’s heritage. Here are some spots you should be sure to see on your group travels.

Artwork by Donia Simmons

By Amy Dreher


THESE MEMORIALS MARK AMERICA’S MOMENTS IN TIME OKLAHOMA CIT Y NATIONAL MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM Oklahoma City When it took place in 1995, the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was the deadliest terrorist attack in the history of the United States. Today, the site of the attack is home to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, a beautiful and reflective outdoor space marked with 168 illuminated chairs, one for each person killed in the attack. The adjacent museum tells the story of the events that took place that day and recounts the bravery of first responders and the incredible community that rallied to heal and recover in the aftermath. W W W.OK L A HOM ACI T Y NAT IONA L ME MOR I A L .ORG

NAT IONA L S EP T EM B ER 11 M EMOR I A L AND MUSEUM New York Everyone remembers where they were when the World Trade Center fell on September 11, 2001. But to properly remember and reflect on the attack and the series of world events that resulted, groups should plan a visit to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York. The memorial consists of two reflecting pools, each nearly an acre in size, in the footprints of where the Twin Towers once stood. The names of the people who died in the attacks are inscribed in bronze plaques lining the pools. The museum on-site helps guests contextualize the memorial with a host of artifacts and powerful exhibits. W W W.911ME MOR I A L .ORG

Courtesy OKC National Memorial Artwork by David Brown ABOVE: A REFLECTING POOL BRINGS A SENSE OF PEACE TO THE OKLAHOMA CITY NATIONAL MEMORIAL. OPPOSITE PAGE: FLOWERS ADORN THE ENGRAVED FOUNTAINS AT THE NATIONAL SEPTEMBER 11 MEMORIAL IN NEW YORK. GROUPTRAVELLEADER.COM

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USS ARIZONA MEMORIA L Honolulu In the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, December 7, 1941, lives “in infamy” as the day that Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor, killing 2,335 sailors, soldiers and marines and drawing America into World War II. Nearly half of those killed were on board the battleship USS Arizona. Today, the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument pays homage to those who died in the surprise attack, and the centerpiece is the USS Arizona Memorial. The memorial is built on the water above the sunken Arizona and is accessible only by boat. W W W. N PS .GOV/ VA L R

THE USS ARIZONA MEMORIAL NEAR HONOLULU

Courtesy NPS, World War II Valor in the Pacific

WORLD WAR II VALOR IN THE PACIFIC NATIONAL MONUMENT Courtesy NPS/US Navy Photo

WRIGHT BROTHERS NATIONAL MEMORIAL Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina Not all national memorials mark the sites of sad events. At the Wright Brothers National Memorial in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, visitors celebrate one of the greatest achievements in American history: the birth of manned flight. Orville and Wilbur Wright achieved the first successful airplane flight on these beaches in December 1903. Today, guests can visit the spots where the first flight started and ended, see reconstructed 1903 camp buildings, climb into the pilot’s seat of a re-created Wright Flyer and pay their respects at the 60-foot-tall Wright Brothers Monument. W W W. N PS .GOV/ W R BR

WRIGHT BROTHERS NATIONAL MEMORIAL

Courtesy Outer Banks VB

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The American landscape is so many things. It’s vast expanses of sky and THE ALAMO San Antonio Many memorials are built after a historic event has taken place. But the Alamo is different. Constructed in 1718 as a Spanish mission in what was then Mexico, the Alamo became famous for the remarkable 13-day stand that took place there in 1836 during Texas’ war for independence. Though Davy Crockett and his compatriots eventually lost the battle — and their lives — their heroics made the Alamo an instantly recognizable symbol. Today the Alamo is an icon of San Antonio, and visitors can immerse themselves in the original mission architecture and see artifacts from the battle that occurred there.

INCLUDED

ROUNDTRIP HOMETOWN TO AIRPORT

TRANSFERS

endless seas of blue. It’s red rock deserts, fertile fields and boundless beaches. It’s horizons, hillsides and plains. It’s neon-lit cities that glow all night. It rises up to greet you with all of its wonderful grandeur and presents you with the sights that have shaped the American experience since the very beginning. It’s overwhelming and awesome. It’s bold and diverse. It’s America the Beautiful.

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NAT IONA L WOR LD WA R I M EMOR I A L AND MUSEUM Kansas City, Missouri None of the events of World War I took place in the United States, but thousands of brave Americans took up arms in the conflict. The National World War I Memorial and Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, honors their sacrifice and serves to teach visitors about the war, which is often overshadowed by the larger World War II that began 21 years later. The centerpiece of the memorial is Liberty Tower, which stands 217 feet tall. Below is a field of artificial red poppies that symbolize the soldiers who died in the war. Exhibits at the on-site museum give visitors an immersive battlefield experience. W W W.THEWOR LDWA R .ORG

A LIVING HISTORY DEMONSTRATOR AT THE ALAMO

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KANSAS CITY’S NATIONAL WORLD WAR I MEMORIAL

YEARS OF

EXPERIENCE Courtesy San Antonio CVB

Courtesy National WWI Museum and Memorial GROUPTRAVELLEADER.COM

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ROGER WILLIAMS NATIONAL MEMORIAL Providence, Rhode Island It’s easy to take freedom of religion in America for granted, but it hasn’t always been a fundamental right. Many of the first Colonies were governed under strict religious rules, and it wasn’t until Roger Williams left Massachusetts and founded the city of Providence that freedom of conscience became enshrined as a fundamental right. Ostracized because of his personal religious beliefs, Williams established Providence and Rhode Island as a place where anyone could live, regardless of who or how they worshiped. Today, the Roger Williams National Memorial is a 4.6-acre urban park on the site where Williams founded Providence.

THE LINCOLN MEMORIAL IN WASHINGTON, D.C.

W W W. N PS .GOV/ ROW I

WHERE GROUPS

Reach New Heights Discover the heart of Philadelphia's countryside featuring magnificent gardens, renowned museums, unique tours and more. Don't miss the recently revitalized Main Fountain Garden of Longwood Gardens returning May 7.

DE SOTO NATIONA L MEMORIA L Bradenton, Florida Christopher Columbus gets most of the credit for being the first European explorer to land in the New World, but conquistador Hernando de Soto was the first European to come onto what is now the continental United States when he and his crew arrived on the beaches of Tampa Bay in 1539. The De Soto National Memorial marks the spot where they landed and where bloody clashes between the conquistadors and the local indigenous people took place. Visitors to the site today can enjoy living-history camps that take place in the winter and early spring, as well as an annual re-enactment of the De Soto landing each April.

Courtesy Destination DC

W W W. N PS .GOV/ DESO

A RE-ENACTMENT AT DESOTO NATIONAL MEMORIAL IN FLORIDA

Start Planning Today! Contact Courtney Babcock at 484-840-7213 or courtney@brandywinevalley.com

BrandywineValley.com

Courtesy NPS Artwork by David Brown

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WA S H I N G T O N

Memorials

When it comes to memorials, no other American city can top Washington, D.C., which is home to dozens of national memorials, monuments, statues and other landmarks, many of which are spread out on the perimeter of the National Mall. While no tour group has time to visit all of them, here are some memorials most travelers try to see before leaving town. War Memorials: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a wall inscribed with the names of those killed in the Vietnam War. The Marine Corps War Memorial features a larger-than-life statue that depicts the Marines raising the American flag over Iwo Jima, Japan. The National World War II Memorial, dedicated in 2004, features 56 pillars and a fountain.

“THREE SOLDIERS” AT THE VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL Courtesy Monument Tour of Washington

Leaders Memorials: Some of Washington’s most memorable memorials are dedicated to extraordinary single leaders. The Lincoln Memorial is perhaps the most famous, with a 19-foot-tall sculpture of a seated Lincoln overlooking a long reflecting pool and facing the Washington Monument at the other end. The Jefferson Memorial sits on the banks of the Potomac River and features a 19-foot-tall bronze sculpture of the third president. And the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, unveiled in 2011, is centered around a 30-foot-tall granite relief of King with a line from his “I Have a Dream” speech. THOMAS JEFFERSON MEMORIAL Courtesy Destination DC

PL AY A ND GE T AWAY ON T HE

NORTHSHORE

Visit St. Tammany Parish and bring your appetite for great Louisiana cooking, and for living. Come paddle the bayou, tour Honey Island Swamp, do the Dew Drop, toast the town at Abita Brewery or Pontchartrain Vineyards, and sample sweets 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 No r t h s h o r e . c o m /g r o u p s GROUPTRAVELLEADER.COM

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STATE SPOTLIGHT

ILLINOIS

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ncient Indians, religious idealists and

American icons have

all left indelible footprints in Illinois.

For travelers, Illinois offers a cornucopia of his-

tory. There is Abraham Lincoln, of course, who

made his mark in the state’s capital before becoming one of America’s most courageous and visionary

leaders. But Illinois histo ry stretches far beyond

Springfield to include a variety of fascinating places from the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan.

After discovering Lincoln in Springfield, groups

can learn more about him and other remarkable

Illinois residents at the Chicago History Museum.

Not far away, the Indian and Michigan Canal offers opportunities to experience the transportation heritage of the 1840s.

On the eastern side of Illinois, the Cahokia

Mounds State Historic Site tells stories of an ancient Indian civilization that dates back more than 1,000 years. And at Old Navoo, visitors will discover the

remnants of a utopian village established by famous religious leaders of the 19th century.

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Courtesy Springfield CVB

LIFE OF LINCOLN Abraham Lincoln spent much of his adult life in and around Springfield, the capital of Illinois, and the city has become something of a living shrine to his memory. Groups can learn about Lincoln in a number of ways, starting with a visit to the Abraham Lincoln Home National Historic Site. Comprising eight restored blocks in the heart of the city, the historic area centers on the only home Lincoln ever owned. Groups can take an escorted tour of the house, which has been restored to appear much as it did when the Lincolns lived there, or wander the surrounding neighborhood for 19th-century experiences with costumed interpreters. Visitors will find Lincoln heritage at numerous other places around Springfield, including the Old State Capitol, where Lincoln worked as a lawyer and a legislator, and the family’s tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery, a state historic site. Another Springfield attraction, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, features artifacts and multimedia presentations about Lincoln’s extraordinary life. W W W.V I S IT S P RI N G FI E L D I L LI N O I S.C O M

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WINDY CITY HISTORY Chicago enjoys a storied and fascinating history of its own, and the Chicago History Museum exists to tell that story with millions of artifacts and engaging exhibits. The museum was founded in 1856 but lost most of its collection during the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. In the years since, it has replenished the collection to include more than 22 million documents and artifacts, with significant holdings in costumes, painting and sculpture, photography, and decorative and industrial arts. Highlights include items related to Chicago or Illinois history, including personal items that belonged to Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, Michael Jordan’s basketball uniform and Mahalia Jackson’s choir robe. The museum offers a variety of tours and experiences for student and adult groups, including “history scavenger hunts” and customized guided tours for groups of 10 or more. Museum staff can also serve as step-on guides for historical tours throughout the Windy City, as well as for history pub crawls. W W W.C H I CAG O H I S TO RY.O RG

Photos courtesy Chicago History museum

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AT THE CROSSROADS OF I-57 AND I-70, A VIBRANT COMMUNITY AWAITS...

Courtesy VisitDelaware.com

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Photos courtesy Old Nauvoo

HISTORIC UTOPIA On a bend in the Mississippi River, a group of religious dreamers founded a community in 1839, calling it Nauvoo. Led by Joseph Smith, that group was the early members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They erected a temple and numerous other buildings and lived in the area for seven years until they moved westward. Today, Old Nauvoo is a historic district that preserves this unique 19th-century religious utopia. Tours at Old Nauvoo begin in the visitors center, where groups can watch an overview film detailing the settlement’s history and see artifacts related to the Mormons’ time in Illinois. After this orientation, visitors can explore some of the 30 original historic buildings at Old Nauvoo. The village offers numerous activities and experiences to help guests connect with its history. Highlights include brick-oven bread-baking or ropemaking classes in the Family Living Center, as well as wagon, carriage and oxen rides. Old Navoo also produces a number of live theatrical shows during the summer.

www.visiteffinghamil.com 800-772-0750

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Courtesy VisitDelaware.com

Courtesy Downtown Milford Inc

OUTDOOR MUSEUM In the 1840s, an army of workers hand dug a canal 96 miles from the Illinois River to Lake Michigan to help connect the waterways of the eastern and western United States. Today, that canal and the countryside surrounding it is preserved as the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Area (IMCNHA). Established as the first National Heritage Area in the nation, the IMCNHA was designed as an “outdoor museum” that showcased the landscape of Illinois, as well as the history of the Native Americans, French explorers and immigrant canal workers who shaped the landscape throughout the centuries. For groups, one of the most memorable experiences in the IMCNHA is a ride on a replica 1840s canal boat, pulled by mules that walk alongside the canal. The boats depart from the historic downtown of LaSalle. Tours include “Mule Tending 101,” when costumed guides introduce visitors to the mules that will be pulling the canal boats and tell them stories about the history of the canal. W W W.I A N D M CA N A L .O RG

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AN CIE NT CIVILIZ ATIO N In the far eastern reaches of central Illinois, not far from the Mississippi River, today’s travelers can find mountainous evidence of a mysterious ancient civilization. At the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, more than 70 towering earthen mounds are evidence of a city built by a group of Mississippian Indians. Though details on the city and civilization are scarce, historians believe that the mounds were constructed between A.D. 700 and 1000. At its peak, the city covered six square miles and had as many as 20,000 people. Today’s visitors can learn more about the pottery, copper, stone and other evidence of the civilization on a visit to the site. They’ll also marvel at the size of some of the structures. The largest mound covers more than 14 acres at its base and served as a government and ritual building. Another mound was found to be the ceremonial burial site of more than 300 women, and a stockade structure is more than two miles long. W W W.CA H O KI A M O U N D S.O RG

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Courtesy Cahokia Mounds Society

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POP

the Clutch

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GO FOR A DRIVE ON

ROUTE 66

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BY E L I ZA B E T H H E Y

egendary Route 66 promises a journey down memory lane. Commissioned in 1926, the 2,448-mile route from Chicago to Los Angeles rapidly gained notoriety. One of the nation’s original highways, it crossed Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona before ending in California. In its heyday, businesses and communities along the famous Mother Road catered to travelers. Today, traveling Route 66 is a step back to a time when cars were king and Americans were discovering the joys of the open road. Your group can take in the towns, diners, museums and kitschy photo ops while following Route 66’s path across the country.

ILLINOIS

Few states can boast more Route 66 attractions than Illinois. Depending on your group’s starting point, the Mother Road either begins or ends near the Art Institute of Chicago. Stop for a photo op at the “Begin” or “End” Route 66 street signs. Then head to Lou Mitchell’s, a quintessential American diner that has been serving food since 1923. En route to Pontiac, sites include the Gemini Giant in Wilmington and the restored Standard Oil gas station in Odell. Pontiac celebrates the Mother Road at the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum, located in a restored firehouse. For nearly 40 years, Bob Waldmire created artwork that depicts Route 66, and groups can tour the repurposed school bus that was his home, gallery and transportation. Groups can also visit the Pontiac-Oakland Automobile Museum or board the trolley for the Murals on Main Street Tour. “Pontiac remains a gem along Route 66,” said Eric Wagner of the Illinois Office of Tourism. “People love to take a photo beside the world’s largest Route 66 shield at the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum.” Historic Atlanta boasts the iconic Muffler Man statue and the Palm’s Café, known for its pie. And in Springfield, visitors love the Cozy Dog Drive-In. Home of the corn dog, it overflows with mementos, plus souvenirs for sale. Original sections of Route 66 can be seen in the state’s southern leg, including in 1.4 miles of hand-lain-brick road near Auburn. The Litchfield History Museum and the Route 66 Welcome Center showcase local lore, and the Ariston Café has served customers for more than 90 years. Leaving Illinois, the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, one of the world’s longest bicycle and pedestrian bridges, spans the Mississippi. WWW.ILLINOISROUTE66.ORG

WIGWAM MOTEL IN HOLBROOK, ARIZONA, IS A FAVORITE STOP FOR TRAVELERS CRUISING ON ROUTE 66. Courtesy AZ Office of Tourism

MISSOURI

Stretching from St. Louis to Joplin, Route 66 loosely follows today’s Interstate 44. In St. Louis, the Gateway Arch is a can’t-miss attraction, and the Museum of Artwork by David Brown

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ARIZONA’S HACKENBERRY GENERAL STORE

in picturesque Devil’s Elbow, visitors can write postcards and mail them at the historic Sheldon Market. Step-on tours showcase Devil’s Elbow and the Waynesville area, where customized walking tours in Waynesville include the Pulaski County Courthouse Museum and Old Stagecoach Stop Museum. Lebanon claims the vintage Munger Moss Motel. In Springfield, the Spanish Colonial Revival architecture of the 1929 Gillioz Theatre remains an impressive landmark, with performances and behind-the-scenes tours. Also in town, the refurbished Rail Haven boasts eight sandstone cottages built in 1938 and offers Monroe and Elvis suites. In Carthage, the 66 Drive-In dates to 1949 and shows movies from the first weekend of April through mid-September. “Springfield claims to be the birthplace of Route 66 because the 1926 meeting to determine the highway’s name was held there,” said Lori Simms, interim director for Missouri Division of Tourism. WWW.VISITMO.COM

OKLAHOMA

Groups can travel almost all the 400 miles of Route Courtesy AZ Office of Tourism 66 in Oklahoma without getting onto the interstate. Near the state’s eastern border, the Coleman Theatre in Miami OLD STAGECOACH STOP has dazzled audiences since the 1930s with its Louis XV IN WAYNESVILLE, interior and 1929 “Mighty Wurlitzer” pipe organ. MISSOURI “Groups can opt for a customized tour and have lunch on our stage,” said Shannon Duhon, managing director at the theater. “If they spend the night in town, their day can end with a plated dinner in the ballroom, a tour and classic movie shown afterward.” Nearby, the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore pays homage to this larger-than-life actor, American cowboy, humorist, newspaper columnist and social commentator THE BLUE HOLE IN SANTA ROSA, NEW MEXICO from Oklahoma. References to Route 66 as the Will Rogers Courtesy Pulaski Co. VB Courtesy NM Tourism Industry Highway surfaced shortly after Roger’s death in 1935. En route, the 80-foot-long Blue Whale beckons for a photo op as one of the highway’s most recognizable Transportation displays one of the world’s best collections of transportation icons. In Tulsa, the Cyrus Avery Memorial Bridge over Route 66, with vehicles. Dining options are wide-ranging and include the historic Eat-Rite its plaza sculptures and flags, offers another great spot for a group photo. Diner, the Crown Candy Kitchen and Ted Drewes Frozen Custard. Avery was known as the Father of Route 66 and helped create the Federal An hour’s drive west, Meramec Caverns opened as an attraction in 1935. Highway System as Oklahoma’s first highway commissioner. The state’s largest commercial cave, Meramec Caverns offers year-round Chandler’s 1937 National Guard armory houses the Route 66 Interpretive tours that explore its extensive underground chambers. Other Meramec Center. For a fun stop on the outskirts of Oklahoma City, Pops sells more attractions include a zip line, riverboat rides and canoe floats. than 600 flavors of specialty bottled sodas. Your group can eat on the back Dubbed Missouri’s Route 66 mural city, the tiny community of Cuba patio overlooking a large lawn planted with 66 redbuds, Oklahoma’s state tree. boasts 14 larger-than-life paintings of historic vignettes. Step-on tours highNear the Texas border, Elk City’s National Route 66 and Transportation light the murals and their stories. Built in 1935, the Wagon Wheel Motel is Museum complex features automobiles and first-person audio accounts the oldest continuously operating tourist court along the historic highway. from travelers. The museum’s replicated drive-in theater shows clips from Pulaski County claims some of the best-preserved pavement from the movie greats such as “The Blob.” route’s several alignments: an original 1926 gravel section and Hooker Cut, WWW.TRAVELOK.COM which highlights the era’s innovative road construction. At the river’s bend

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PALMS GRILL CAFÉ IN ILLINOIS

A ROUTE 66 ROADSIDE MOTEL IN NEW MEXICO Courtesy IL Office of Tourism

NEW MEXICO

Prairie landscape gradually gives way to high desert in New Mexico along Route 66. Tucumcari boasts the pink-stucco Blue Swallow Motel, where motor court garages separate the rooms. The Tee-Pee Curios trading post sells kitschy souvenirs. The city’s Route 66 Photo Museum showcases restored cars and memorabilia. Built in 1935, the Art Deco Odeon Theatre still shows first-run movies on its single screen. Further west, the 80-foot-deep Blue Hole of Santa Rosa became an oasis for travelers because of its constant 62-degree water temperature. Arriving in Albuquerque, Route 66, now renamed Central Avenue, features 18 miles of motel courts, diners, vintage neon signs and attractions. Because of directional alignment changes in 1937, the Mother Road uniquely crosses itself at Central Avenue and Fourth, and travelers can stand on the corner of Route 66 and Route 66. Also on Central, the historic KiMo Theater offers a full schedule of entertainment. Renovated gas stations that have been turned into nostalgic restaurants include the Standard Diner, the ’66 Diner and Kelly’s Brew Pub, which still has the original gas pumps. “The Best of Albuquerque tour on the ABQ Trolley makes a great introduction to our city’s Route 66 sites,” said Brenna Moore, public relations and communications manager for Visit Albuquerque. “The tour travels down Central Avenue; through Old Town, downtown, the University of New Mexico; and ends in the 100-year-old Nob Hill neighborhood.” Heading toward Gallup, Route 66 bisects the heart of the 42-square-mile Laguna Pueblo homeland, and the green chili cheeseburgers at Laguna’s 66 Pit Stop are legendary. During its glory days, Gallup’s El Rancho Hotel became a mecca for Hollywood actors. Its 49er Lounge has served tequilas and hand-squeezed margaritas for 75 years, and the hotel’s restaurant accommodates groups. Shoppers won’t want to miss Richardson’s Trading Post, which sells authentic turquoise jewelry and beautiful Native American rugs. WWW.NEWMEXICO.ORG

Courtesy NM Tourism Industry

ARIZONA

Crossing into the northwest corner of Arizona, the Mother Road travels through communities bypassed by the interstate system. Along the way, travelers find fascinating historic and geological sites, including the Petrified Forest National Park, Meteor Crater and the Walnut Canyon National Monument, which showcases 800-year-old cliff dwellings. “Arizona has the nation’s longest original road at 137 miles from Seligman to Topock,” said Marjorie Magnusson, spokesperson for the Arizona Office of Tourism. “Near the California border, the former mining town of Oatman stages mock gunfights, and wild burros roam the streets.” Arizona’s La Posada Hotel in Winslow was a favored destination of the Hollywood jet set. Fred Harvey built the showplace in 1929 for the Santa Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees

Grove, Oklahoma

, WOW.

V i s i t C h e r o k e e Nat i o n . c o m © 2017 Cherokee Nation Businesses. All Rights Reserved.

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Tour

SOUTHEAST INDIANA

Bees, Birds &

Butterflies Explore the natural world in Southeast Indiana – where our garden centers, artists, farms, wetlands area, brewery and feed mill offer one-of-akind group experiences and hands-on fun.

Experience the Oxbow Wetlands Finger paint a garden

OHIO Indianapolis

INDIANA

1

Cincinnati

KENTUCKY

Louisville

Lexington

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

www.TOURSoutheastIndiana.com 800-322-8198

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Fe Railway. Rooms feature handmade ponderosa pine beds and handwoven Zapotec rugs. Interior views overlook the lovely gardens, and Route 66 can be seen to the north. Climbing to 7,000 feet elevation, Flagstaff lies within the world’s largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest. Its charming thoroughfare still uses Route 66 signage. Galleries, boutiques, restaurants and coffee shops have taken up residence in late-1800s buildings. A self-guided Route 66 walking tour starts at the visitors center. Afterward, groups can grab a bite at the Galaxy Diner, which sports a soda fountain and walls covered with black-and-white glamour shots of midcentury movie stars. Near the California border, Kingman’s wide range of architecture includes adobe and Victorian. Downtown claims 60 buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Route 66 Museum in the Historic Powerhouse depicts the evolution of automobile travel.

ILLINOIS’ ROADSIDE PAUL BUNYAN STATUE Courtesy IL Office of Tourism

WWW.VISITARIZONA.COM

CALIFORNIA

Crossing into California, the Mother Road spans the southern portion of the state. According to Scott Piotrowski, executive director of Highway Journeys, California has Route 66’s only stretch of unforgiving desert, and on the other extreme, it has metropolitan Los Angeles. For an off-the-beaten-path experience in the Mojave Desert, visit the Kelso Dunes. Your group can hike the maintained trail that climbs around the cone of Amboy Crater, a dormant volcano. One of the quirkiest stops, Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch, displays a forest of “trees” made from bottles of all shapes, colors and sizes that were abandoned near Route 66. And in Victorville, Emma Jean’s Holland Burger Café has served hearty breakfasts and lunch since 1947. Leaving the desert via the Cajon Pass and descending to Rancho Cucamonga, baseball fans can catch a game at the home of the Quakes, the Los Angeles Dodgers farm team. Next up, San Bernardino, with its landmark Wigwam Motel, serves as the gateway to Los Angeles. Route 66 originally ended in downtown Los Angeles in the now-restored Broadway Theater District where actors once flocked to make it big. Celebrating the end of this nostalgic journey at the Santa Monica Pier, your group can ride the Ferris wheel, stroll the beach and dine al fresco at sunset. “In Los Angeles County, nearly 90 landmarks of Route 66 are on the National Register of Historic Places, so the density of historic structures is immense,” said Piotrowski. “Although the pier isn’t part of the road’s history, it’s part of the contemporary view of the road and definitely worth experiencing at the end of the journey.” WWW.VISITCALIFORNIA.COM

OKLAHOMA’S NATIONAL ROUTE 66 MUSEUM By Ron Stahl, Courtesy OK Tourism POPS NEAR OKLAHOMA CITY

By Lori Duckworth, courtesy OK Tourism

ELMER’S BOTTLE TREE RANCH IN CALIFORNIA Courtesy Highway Journeys MAY 2018


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BEHIND ANCIENT FORCES SHAPED MONTANA’S GL ACIER COUNTRY

Courtesy Glacier National Park Lodges HISTORIC RED BUSES CARRY PASSENGERS ALONG GOING-TO-THE-SUN ROAD FOR STUNNING VIEWS IN GLACIER NATIONAL PARK.

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lacier Country history isn’t measured by centuries; it’s measured by millennia. Untold ages ago, tectonic pressure forced the area’s ancient rocks up into the wide expanse of the Montana sky. Today, people must see the snow-capped mountains and crystal blue lakes of Glacier National Park with their own eyes to fully appreciate its mind-boggling splendor. With such a far-reaching past and inconceivable beauty, the area has attracted many fascinating cultures, characters and traditions. Glacier Country covers Glacier National Park and the surrounding region in Montana’s northwestern corner between the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains. Known to the Blackfeet Native American tribe as the Backbone of the World, the mountainous region inspired Native American lore, a railway tycoon eager to turn the area into an attraction and over a century’s worth of tourists. Groups can explore the history and heritage of Glacier Country while admiring its pristine landscapes on tours that feature iconic red buses, historic lodges, a Native American museum and the railway stop that originally opened the way for the outside world. 34

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G R E AT N O R T H E R N R A I LWAY WHITEFISH DEPOT When the first train rolled into Whitefish in 1904, few civilized comforts existed. Within a year, the untamed area huddled beneath a sharp rise of mountains became the incorporated city of Whitefish. The amount of timber needed to house the growing population led to town’s nickname: Stumptown. Groups can discover the early years of Whitefish at the Whitefish Museum, inside the town’s 1927 train depot. Run by the Stumptown Historical Society, the museum traces local history with artifacts, photographs and exhibits. The Whitefish Depot itself fascinates visitors with its Alpine design, using horizontal wood siding and timber framing. On the National Register of Historic Places, the depot largely retains its original appearance on the lower level, with the museum on the second floor. “The Great Northern Railway Depot is a cool, old train depot in the heart of downtown,” said Lucy Guthrie Beighle, public relations and earned media manager for Glacier Country Tourism. “It’s just charming. It’s so centrally located that motorcoach groups could first check out the depot and historical museum before touring downtown Whitefish.” Groups will have an even greater appreciation of Whitefish’s active downtown — full of breweries, shops and restaurants — after seeing how far the town’s tourism industry has come. MAY 2018


DUSK AT THE WHITEFISH TRAIN DEPOT

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A BOAT TOUR ON BEAUTIFUL LAKE MCDONALD

By Brian Schott, courtesy Explore Whitefish

RED BUS TOURS

Courtesy Courtesy NPS

MUSEUM OF THE PLAINS INDIANS Visitors can learn the traditions behind the feathers, the detailed beadwork and the bright colors of the area’s Native American groups on a tour of the Museum of the Plains Indians. On the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, the museum tells the story of the people who lived in Glacier Country before the Great Northern Railway enabled easy access to the area. “The museum has beautiful beadwork and other historic artifacts from the Blackfeet Tribe,” said Beighle. “You can see aspects of their traditional way of life.” The Museum of the Plains Indians focuses on Blackfeet, Crow, Northern Cheyenne, Sioux, Flathead and other nearby tribes. Opened in 1941, the museum displays the art and history of these native peoples through historic clothing, horse gear, weapons, household implements and toys. Wooden sculptures and murals from noted Blackfeet artists greet visitors before a short film on Blackfeet history. Guests learn the symbolism and importance of regional tribal ceremonies with life-size dioramas. After the history lesson, groups can view contemporary Native American works of art; a museum gallery features oil paintings, watercolors, sculptures and beadwork for sale. GROUPTRAVELLEADER.COM

Riding down a steep mountainous hill on hairpin turns can feel jarring enough, but the added sound of car transmissions jamming might infuse an extra jolt of adrenaline into the experience. The park’s famous Red Bus vehicles have offered tours of the park since their construction in the 1930s. For many years, the bus drivers were called jammers because of the noise the vehicles made when double clutching on the steep roads of the park. Fortunately, groups riding in these tour buses today won’t hear that sound as they go up and down the park’s roads, since park officials replaced the original standard transmissions with newer automatic ones in 1989. The park still operates 33 of the original red buses with iconic black trim. The 17-passenger convertible touring sedans remain among the oldest intact fleets of passenger-carrying vehicles in the world. Larger groups can book several Red Buses at once for tours of a half-day to full days. “The Red Bus tours are fantastic,” said Beighle. “They [drivers] give you a history of the park as they are driving. One of their most famous routes is the Going-to-the-Sun Road.” The 50-mile Going-to-the-Sun Road spans the width of the park between the east and west entrances. Completed in 1933, the Historic Civil Engineering Landmark is notoriously difficult to plow in the spring, with up to 80 feet of snow at the top of Logan Pass. The road typically opens from early June to mid-October.

G L A C I E R N AT I O N A L PA R K L O D G E S When Louis Hill first beheld the mighty mountains and valleys of Glacier Country, he knew others would want to see this grandeur. Though he stayed busy as president of the Great Northern Railway, he worked to develop Glacier as “America’s Switzerland” by building lodges throughout the park in the 1910s. They attracted thousands of visitors to the remote, stunning location. Some of his hotel buildings remain, including the 1915 Many Glacier Hotel, which he styled to mimic a Swiss chalet. Eventually, the railway also bought Lake McDonald Lodge, another Swissstyle lodge built around the same time. Guests can stay in both properties, though groups need to book in advance, since both the 205-room Many Glacier Hotel and the 82-room Lake McDonald Lodge are in high demand. Both National Historic Landmarks offer fine-dining restaurants, glacial lake views and recently renovated rustic rooms. “Regardless of whether you are staying there or just visiting, these hotels have wonderful architecture and history,” said Beighle. “At both places, you can dine or just sit on the deck and look out at the lake.” Groups can enjoy local cuisine at either hotel before embarking on a lake cruise with the Glacier Park Boat Co. The company contracts informative boat tours at four lakes in Glacier National Park, including Many Glacier and Lake McDonald. The company takes group reservations and can add a guided hike to the boat ride for even more background information on the park’s flora, fauna and history. A RED BUS TOUR IN GLACIER COUNTRY

Courtesy Glacier Country RTC

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CHARACTERS LIVED HERE S OU T H E R N

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eople are nosy. They want to know why someone would build an octagonal structure with a Byzantine dome in Natchez, Mississippi. They visit Andrew Jackson’s mansion to uncover how he went from a penniless orphan to president of the United States. Forward-thinking Southern cities that preserved their historic homes now draw in these curious tourists eager for secrets from the past. Tours of historic homes provide intimate glimpses into the characters who lived there and illustrate traditions from the broader period. These Southern towns known for their historic home tours will delight visitors by immersing them in the intriguing day-to-day life of a bygone era.

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NE W ORL E A NS PL A N TAT ION COUN T R Y, — LOUISIANA

Between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 10 plantations showcase the pinnacle of wealth and the bottom of poverty. Known as the New Orleans Plantation Country, the area offers 10 plantations that, though not far apart, differ greatly in experience. Over the years, New Orleans Plantation Country drew a mix of immigrants from France, Germany, Spain, Africa, and other places. Groups touring the various plantations will learn how the crops shifted from indigo to corn to rice, only to land firmly on sugarcane when the plant proved dependably profitable. By 1860, New Orleans stood as the fourth-largest city in the country and the largest in the South. The city emerged from the Civil War mostly unscathed, which left many plantations intact. Of all the grand houses in the area, Oak Alley Plantation is perhaps the most recognizable. The quarter-mile avenue of 28 giant, live oaks leading up to the Greek Revival mansion is one of the most photographed plantations in the state. The plantation also shows up in various movies and television shows. Groups will enjoy touring the 1839 home’s interior of shimmering chandeliers and hardwood floors, as well as its lush grounds, where they can watch the mighty Mississippi River flow past. The plantation’s restaurant sits in a 19th-century cottage on the grounds with a menu full of traditional Cajun and Creole dishes. Other plantations include the historic St. Joseph Plantation, a working sugarcane farm. The San Francisco Plantation impresses groups with its over-the-top colorful opulence in a building that is compared to a giant layer cake. To learn more about the slaves who made the lavish lifestyles of the Southern plantation owners possible, groups can visit Destrehan Plantation, Laura: A Creole Plantation and Whitney Plantation. Each of these sites weaves firsthand accounts of slavery into its tour for a more complete picture of life on a plantation. W W W. N EWOR L E A NSPL A N TAT IONCOU N T RY.COM

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OAK ALLEY PLANTATION IS AN ICON OF THE SOUTH AND THE CENTERPIECE OF THE NEW ORLEANS PLANTATION COUNTRY REGION.

MAY 2018 Photos courtesy Oak Alley Plantation


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NATCHEZ, MISSISSIPPI

When news of the Civil War reached Longwood in Natchez, Northern craftspeople finishing the mansion dropped their paintbrushes and tools on the spot and headed north to fight. The interrupted construction never restarted, since Longwood’s creator Haller Nutt died when only nine of the 32 rooms were completed. Today, the unfinished home, also known as Nutt’s Folly, remains one of Natchez’ most popular attractions. Groups can see the home’s unusual octagonal shape, Byzantine Dome and Oriental Revival architecture while listening to fascinating stories about the owners. For visitors, this home is only the beginning of a long list of homes groups can tour in Natchez, on the bluffs of the Mississippi River. The town boasts one of the highest concentrations of antebellum homes in the United States. French, English and Spanish residents left lasting marks on the architecture of the town, which stands out in walking tours that pass magnificent house after magnificent house. During the Spring and Fall Pilgrimage festivals, certain private homes open for tours. Regardless of the time of year, though, numerous public homes, such as Rosalie, Stanton Hall and Dunleith, welcome groups. The tour is far from monotonous, as the homes reveal varying stories and architecture. Rosalie tells the tale of Peter Little, who married a 14-year-old orphan; nearby, Dunleith’s tours explain tricks used to disguise native cypress as more expensive imported mahogany.

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NATCHEZ’ BRANDON HALL

Photos courtesy visit Natchez

W W W.V ISI T NAT CHEZ .ORG

2 LONGWOOD’S UNFINISHED INTERIOR AND PICTURESQUE FACADE

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THOMAS EDISON’S ESTATE IN FORT MYERS

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Courtesy Lee Co. VCB

A GARDEN PATH AT THE HERMITAGE IN NASHVILLE Courtesy Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage

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FORT MYERS, FLORIDA

Wealthy citizens looking for a winter getaway have long been drawn to Fort Myers’ beautiful scenery, ideal weather and relaxing beach. During the early part of the 20th century, millionaires designed extravagant mansions in every significant architectural period, such as the Spanish, Mediterranean and Italian Renaissance styles. Visitors can see the rows of ostentatious homes along the Caloosahatchee River or during tours of public homes like the Edison and Ford Winter Estates. Thomas Edison and Henry Ford became friends and neighbors at their respective winter homes here during the early 1900s. Groups can choose a guided tour or a self-guided audio tour to explore the two estates and the Edison Botanic Research Lab. Tours relate stories about the two great inventors and their families. The 1929 historic landscape of the Edison property has been well-maintained; Edison’s Moonlight Garden, orchard and original trees he planted are still intact. The Edison Ford Museum contains an impressive collection of inventions, artifacts and special exhibition galleries for a comprehensive look at the two men’s contributions to business and science. Students can also participate in the Edison and Ford Young Inventors Tour by joining an assembly line, playing a phonograph or making their own rubber. Groups can package several different food options into the tour, from light refreshments to a dinner of local seafood. After enduring many biting Montana winters, John Murphy decided during a business trip to Fort Myers to embrace the city’s winter sunshine. The 1901 construction of his winter retreat, now called the Burroughs Home and Gardens, kicked off the building boom in the area as more visitors were inspired to design their own beach mansions. The Georgian Colonial Revival home remains one of the most popular mansions on Millionaire’s Row on First Street, with remarkable stained-glass windows, indoor plumbing and a secret garden. For a more complete understanding of Fort Myers’ fascinating past, True Tours offers professional tours of the historic downtown. W W W.F ORT M Y ER S-S A N I BEL .COM

5 AUTUMN AT MAYMONT IN RICHMOND

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Courtesy Richmond Region Tourism NASHVILLE’S BELLE MEADE PLANTATION

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Courtesy Nashville CVC


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NASHVILLE

From orphaned and virtually penniless at age 14 to the seventh president of the United States by age 62, Andrew Jackson lived an extraordinary life. His home, known as Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage, draws people not just as a National Historic Landmark but also as a window into the former president’s headstrong character. Today, the well-visited home is one of Nashville’s top-rated attractions, alongside other intriguing antebellum homes. Groups can wander amid the 1,120-acre site’s 30 historic buildings, take a seasonal wagon tour and explore walking trails and manicured gardens. Staff keep the home preserved much the way Jackson arranged it. After a peek into his home life, guests can learn more about this fiery leader at the exhibit “Andrew Jackson: Born for a Storm,” which chronicles his life with videos and artifacts. Interesting stories also keep guests captivated at Nashville’s Belle Meade Plantation. First built as a simple log cabin, the property is a Greek Revival mansion on one of the largest private estates in the city, at 5,400 acres. Visitors can explore the remaining 30 acres past the original cabin, a slave cabin and an 1892 carriage house containing an extensive carriage collection. Tours reveal how Belle Meade’s owners dabbled in many endeavors, including a cotton gin, a grist mill and thoroughbred racing. Costumed guides lead groups through the plantation’s 1845 mansion. Other historic homes with entertaining stories to tell are Belmont Mansion, an Italian villa from 1853, and Cheekwood Mansion, an American Country Place estate built by the owners of the Maxwell House beverage company. W W W.V ISI T MUSICCI T Y.COM

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RICHMOND, VIRGINIA

Business boomed in Richmond, Virginia, for so long that over the years, wealthy townspeople called upon notable architects to construct their mansions. Tours of the town highlight Richmond’s architectural treasures, with examples of Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, Queen Anne and other design styles. Not everyone associates the city with New Orleans, but many of the historic parts of town resemble the Louisiana city, with its prominent use of cast-iron architecture. Historic canal cruises, trolley tours and Segway tours point out the architecturally significant homes in the town and the broader history behind them. For a closer look at a historic Richmond home, groups can tour Maymont Mansion, on the banks of the James River. With a design that interweaves elements of the Romanesque Revival and Queen Anne styles, the 12,000-square-foot home became a well-preserved monument to the Gilded Age lifestyle due to its early designation as a museum in 1925. Groups can tour the upper rooms and in the basement browse exhibits that illustrate the interplay between the working and wealthy classes. Though Richmond was incorporated in 1742, the Agnes Hall and Gardens’ story reaches much further back, since the Tudor mansion came to Virginia in pieces from Manchester, England. The 500-year-old manor home illustrates the lives of the landed gentry in England’s Tudor and Stuart periods, as well as the Roaring ’20s, since the house completed its move in the few months before the stock market crash of 1929. W W W.V ISI T R ICH MON DVA.COM

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As summer looms around the corner, many travel groups are ready to escape the big-city bustle and head out to the coast. The Carolinas offer many choice waterfront locations, from the sandy beaches of Wilmington, North Carolina, down to the colorful port city of Charleston, South Carolina. In these cities, groups can wander down cobblestone roads, explore vibrant downtown markets, visit historic homes and feast on coastal cuisine, enticing options for every member of the group. Next time you are on the lookout for that perfect coastal getaway, consider traveling to one of the following destinations. 40

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Courtesy Myrtle Beach Area CVB MAY 2018


NEW BERN GRAND MARINA

SUNSET ON CHARLESTON’S SHEM CREEK Courtesy New Bern-Cravel Co. CVC

M Y RTLE BE ACH, SOUTH C A ROLINA

One of South Carolina’s most diverse regions, the Grand Strand spans a 60-mile stretch of the East Coast, with 14 cities that include the bustling entertainment hub of Myrtle Beach and the charming seaside communities of Pawleys Island and Little River. When travelers visit the Myrtle Beach area, they can enjoy all the sights and attractions of this unique destination within easy driving distance. “You can drive along the entire Grand Strand in 60 minutes,” said Kim DaRoja, director of group sales at the Myrtle Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. For a day of fun and relaxation on the water, groups can choose from over a dozen local sports outfitters and boat tour companies. A few popular choices are the Crazy Sister Marina in Murrells Inlet and Hurricane Fleet Marina in Calabash, which claims the title Seafood Capital of the World. “We have every type of water sport and experience imaginable, from swimming with dolphins to deep-sea fishing to taking a shrimp boat excursion to see firsthand how the fishermen harvest the shrimp,” said DaRoja. For those who prefer to relish the ocean view without getting their feet wet, the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk Entertainment District offers a variety of dining and entertainment venues along a beautiful 1.2-mile boardwalk. RipTydz Oceanfront Grille and Rooftop Bar is one of the latest installments on the boardwalk and features a stunning overlook of the beach from its waterfront dining deck and rooftop section. W W W.V ISI T M Y RT L EBE ACH.COM

NEW BERN, NORTH C A ROLINA

New Bern, North Carolina, is a charming riverfront city at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers near the North Carolina coast. Its most notable attraction is Tryon Palace, which once served as North Carolina’s first permanent state capitol. Though the original building burned down, a faithful replica was constructed during the 1950s and opened to the public for guided tours. The city is also the birthplace of Pepsi Cola, and groups can still visit the historic Pepsi Store, where a local pharmacist first invented the product. “Our hospitality and sense of community around here is just unparalleled,” Shannon Erdley, tourism and sales executive at the New Bern-Craven County Convention and Visitors

Courtesy ExploreCharleston.com

Center. “You leave here feeling warm and welcome and wanting to come back.” In the heart of town, groups can explore quaint downtown boutiques, waterfront dining and a scenic one-mile riverwalk. Persimmon’s Waterfront Restaurant frequently hosts live entertainment and offers a sweeping view of the Neuse River from a spacious outdoor deck. Based on the other side of town in the DoubleTree Hotel by Hilton, Christoph’s on the Water is a prestigious dining venue that overlooks the marina and passing sailboats. Another engaging way to soak in the sights and scenery of the waterfront is through some of the city’s guided tour experiences, which range from tugboat tours to ghost tours and historical trolley tours. W W W.V ISI T N EW BER N.COM

W ILMINGTON, NORTH C A ROLINA

In Wilmington, North Carolina, most of the city lines border the waterfront, with the Cape Fear River to the west, the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Intracoastal Waterway dividing the two. Along the river, groups can board and tour the Battleship North Carolina, a nine-level World War II battleship that now serves as a memorial to the 11,000 North Carolinians who died during the war. Wilmington’s three beaches can be reached within minutes from downtown. Wrightsville Beach spans five miles of uninterrupted shoreline and attracts many swimmers and sunbathers during the summer months. Just south of Wilmington, Carolina Beach and Kure Beach form what is locally known as Pleasure Island. A few of the major highlights of this area are the Carolina Beach Boardwalk, the North Carolina Aquarium and the Fort Fisher Historic Site, where the Civil War’s largest amphibious battle took place. With so many colorful shops, restaurants and landmarks to explore, many groups enjoy learning about the region through a culinary tour with Tasting History Tours. “It’s great way to learn about the history of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Fort Fisher, as well as walk around and experience the food,” said Connie Nelson, communications and public relations director at the Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau. W W W.W I L M I NGT ONA N DBE ACHES .COM

OPPOSITE PAGE: A KAYAKER PADDLES THROUGH THE WAVES IN MYRTLE BEACH. GROUPTRAVELLEADER.COM

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EXPLORING THE WETLANDS NEAR WILMINGTON Courtesy Wilmington and Beaches CVB

BE AU F OR T, S OU T H C A ROL I N A

Named the South’s Best Small Town by Southern Living Magazine in 2017, Beaufort is based on Port Royal Island, one of the Sea Islands of South Carolina’s low country region. It is the second-oldest city in the state behind Charleston. In the city’s 304-acre National Historic Landmark District, visitors can stroll down avenues lined in towering live oak trees and antebellum mansions, some that span more than half a block. “Beaufort is unique in so many ways,” said Robb Wells, vice president of the tourism division at the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce. “Our downtown sits right on the water, and visitors can access it all from their hotel or meeting venue.” Though travelers could spend days admiring local architecture and historic landmarks in Beaufort, there are also many ways to explore the surrounding island scenery. Higher Ground Outfitters provides customizable kayak or paddle-

A CYPRUS SWAMP NEAR CHARLESTON Courtesy ExploreCharleston.com

boarding lessons for all ages and skill levels, and Beaufort Coastal Adventures offers several different inshore fishing trips, from shark expeditions to cobia hunts. At the end of the day, groups can watch the sun set over the waves from Panini’s on the Water, an Italian restaurant that specializes in brick-oven pizza, gourmet pasta and homemade Italian desserts. Plum’s is another local favorite that serves traditional low country cuisine such as gumbo, cornmeal-crusted okra and fried oysters. W W W. BE AUF ORT SC .ORG

CH A RLESTON, SOUTH C A ROLINA

One of America’s most historic port cities, Charleston, South Carolina, offers a rich combination of historic sites, culinary arts and waterfront culture. Founded during the 1600s by early English settlers, Charleston quickly evolved from a Colonial seaport to one of the most prosperous cities along the East Coast. Later in 1861, the city’s naval base of Fort Sumter witnessed the first shots of the Civil War between defending Federal forces and Confederate soldiers. “The waterfront has always been a vibrant part of who Charleston is,” said Doug Warner, director of media relations at Explore Charleston. “It’s the reason it’s more cosmopolitan than many other communities of its size.” Groups can learn more about this storied history by visiting Fort Sumter, which is accessible by boat from Charleston Harbor, or by taking a tour of the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum. Coastal Expeditions offers a selection of adventure excursions along the coastal marshes and barrier islands, including guided kayak trips, paddleboat tours and a ferry ride to Bulls Island. Likewise, Charleston Outdoor Adventure leads group activities such as fossil-hunting tours, lighthouse tours and dolphin tours. Tavern and Table, Fleet Landing Restaurant and Bar, and Charleston Harbor Fish House are just a few of the outstanding seafood venues in the city. Two regional staples worth checking out are the she-crab soup and the low country boil, a hearty dish with shrimp, sausage and corn. W W W.CH A R L EST ONC V B .COM

USS YORKTOWN IN CHARLESTON Courtesy ExploreCharleston.com

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800.488.8998 | MyrtleBeachGroups.com Fresh Itineraries |Diverse Accommodations | Live Entertainment | History & Nature Coastal Carolina Cuisine | Incredible Shopping | Southern Hospitality


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Sprawled across the Appalachian Mountain range, the mountain towns of North Carolina and South Carolina are some of the East Coast’s best-kept secrets, often imbued with a rich heritage of Appalachian crafts, music and food. Groups can reap all the benefits of staying in these active communities, from exploring main street artisan shops to sampling local craft beer, and can then travel just minutes outside town to relish the stunning wilderness of the mountains. Here are five destinations to keep in mind for your next trip to the mountain region of the Carolinas. 44

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Courtesy Blowing Rock TDA MAY 2018


A TRAIL RIDE IN THE CATALOOCHEE VALLEY OF NORTH CAROLINA Courtesy Visit NC Smokies

H AY WOOD C OU N T Y, NORT H C A ROL INA

SURVEYING THE LANDSCAPE FROM THE BLOWING ROCK

Courtesy Blowing Rock TDA

SPA RTA NBU RG, SOU T H C A ROL INA

Just west of Asheville, Haywood County, North Carolina, is Ten years ago, few travelers would have considered known as the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountain National Spartanburg one of the top destinations in upstate South Park. The county encompasses five towns — Waynesville, Carolina. Many of the beautiful surrounding lakes and rivers Maggie Valley, Lake Junaluska, Canton and Clyde — which were once inaccessible on private land, and it was not until are clustered together within a 20-minute drive of each other. Spartanburg joined forces with nearby state parks and other Nearby, groups can access Cataloochee Valley, one of the organizations to actively promote the area that tourism began most unusual and to develop. remote sections Lake Bowen, Lake Blalock and Lake Cooley eventually of the Great opened to the public, and the county parks department opened an Smoky Mountain outdoor recreation outfitter to supply visitors with canoes, kayaks National Park. and paddleboards. Soon after, Spartanburg’s food scene began “It’s kind of to flourish as places like the RJ Rockers Brewing Company and an old ghost town the Farmer’s Table opened in downtown, providing hikers and with an abandoned boating enthusiasts a terrific location to unwind after exploring schoolhouse, chathe local natural highlights. pel, barn and other “Residents started to realize, ‘Wow, we don’t have to go to historic buildings,” Asheville or Charlotte. We have A TRAIL RIDE IN THE CATALOOCHEE VALLEY OF so much to do right here,’” HIKING THE NORTH CAROLINA SMOKIES said Ben Wilder, said Chris Jennings, executive vice president at the Spartanburg tourism developConvention and Visitors Bureau. “It was almost like the perfect ment manager at storm. A plan was put in place, the plan was implemented, Courtesy Visit NC Smokies Visit NC Smokies. and infrastructure started to grow. It’s a great time to be in “Often, our groups will pack a lunch and spend a few hours Spartanburg because it’s really starting to come together.” touring the different buildings.” Another prominent draw for groups is Croft State Park, one Cataloochee Valley is also a popular spot for elk sightings, of the largest park systems in South Carolina. The park is on a particularly early in the morning and close to dusk. former World War II training ground and now serves as a mecca In addition to visiting the national park, many outdoor for mountain bikers with over 20 miles of trails. Spartanburg enthusiasts enjoy driving along the famous Blue Ridge Parkway, is also home to the BMW Manufacturing Co. and BMW a 469-mile scenic route that winds through Virginia and North Zentrum, where groups can learn about the colorful history of Carolina. Forty-six miles of the parkway run through Haywood the BMW brand and even take a drive around the track at the County, passing incredible overlooks such as Waterrock Knob, Performance Center. a 6,000-foot-high peak, and Graveyard Fields, a flat mountain W W W.V ISI T SPA RTA N BU RG.COM valley with two waterfalls. The county seat of Waynesville features a charming Main Street district with craft shops, art galleries, the Boojum Brewing Taproom and the old-fashioned Mast General Store. In the evening, visitors can enjoy a show at the Haywood Arts Regional Theatre, which presents musicals and plays throughout the year. Though there are various lodging options throughout PADDLING THE TYGER the county, the hotel properties surrounding Lake Junaluska RIVER IN SPARTANBURG tend to draw the most groups. W W W.V ISI T NCSMOK I ES .COM

Courtesy Spartanburg CVB OPPOSITE PAGE: HIKERS TAKE IN THE VIEW FROM THE BLOWING ROCK, THE NAMESAKE GEOLOGICAL FORMATION OF BLOWING ROCK, NORTH CAROLINA. GROUPTRAVELLEADER.COM

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THE LIBERTY BRIDGE AT FALLS PARK IN GREENVILLE

A TREETOP ADVENTURE NEAR GREENVILLE Photos courtesy Visit Greenville SC

BLOW ING ROCK, NORTH C A ROLINA

Nestled amid the Blue Ridge Mountains, Blowing Rock, North Carolina, welcomes nature lovers with a host of outdoor activities and attractions, from treetop ropes courses at High Gravity Adventures to the Mile High Swinging Bridge overlooking Grandfather Mountain. At Moses Cone Memorial Park, groups can tour Flat Top Manor — an estate mansion with white pillars — and explore 25 miles of carriage trails through forests and fields. Just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, Price Lake presents an inviting location for water recreation such as canoeing, kayaking and fishing. “Blowing Rock has this contained villagelike atmosphere, but within 10 minutes, you can be somewhere that feels totally off the map,” said Amanda Lugenbell, assistant director of the Blowing Rock Tourism Development Authority. “It’s one of the things that makes it so special.” Throughout the year, Blowing Rock hosts a number of city-

wide festivals and events, such as Art in the Park, the Monday Night Concert Series and the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, a celebration of Scottish culture. Many visiting families enjoy a trip to Tweetsie Railroad, a Wild West theme park with amusement rides, gold-panning activities, a petting zoo and a three-mile ride aboard a historic steam engine train. Travelers can choose from a variety of cafes and pubs in town for lunch or dinner, though Timberlake Restaurant at Chetola Resort and the Chestnut Grille at the Green Park Inn are the two that cater most to groups, enabling larger groups to stay at the hotels and dine on-site. W W W. BLOW I NGROCK .COM

GREEN V ILLE, SOUTH C A ROLINA

Greenville, South Carolina, has experienced tremendous economic growth over the past decade, with a barrage of new hotel properties, attractions and award-winning restaurants opening every year. Groups will find numerous ways to explore this cultural hub, from Segway tours to architecture tours and culinary Award Winning tours. Beyond the city, travelers can drive a short distance north to hike Paris Mountain or lounge by the crystal-clear waters of Lake Jocassee. “Part of Greenville’s charm is that you can have both the city feel and the country feel,” said Taryn Scher, spokesperson for Pasta Station Visit Greenville, SC. “You could spend the day on a pontoon on Lake Jocassee Hibachi Grill and then come back and have a world& Full Bar class dinner at Husk and catch a Broadway performance at the Peace Center.” Greenville also boasts a thriving food scene that features over 100 restaurants on Main Street alone and nearly 600 countywide. More active groups can take advantage of the 20.6-mile Greenville Health System Swamp Rabbit Trail, which starts in downtown Greenville and extends to the outlying town of Travelers Rest. Many cafes, coffee shops and other businesses have sprung up along the trail, enabling cyclists and walkers to hop off at their leisure and grab a bite to eat.

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© 2018 The Biltmore Company

EXPERIENCE TIMELESS INSPIR ATION Inspire your group with a visit to Biltmore, featuring acres of century-old gardens, the nation’s most-visited winery, and two distinct hotels.

JOIN US FOR CHIHULY AT BILTMORE May 17–October 7, 2018 Discover the first garden exhibition of Dale Chihuly’s works in North Carolina, showcasing breathtaking large-scale glass sculptures in an equally breathtaking setting: the historic gardens of America’s Largest Home®.

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www.HamptonInnOceanfront.com or call 843-946-6400 and ask for our Sales Department 1801 South Ocean Boulevard, Myrtle Beach, SC 29577

ADMIRING THE GARDENS AT BILTMORE ESTATE

By Art Meripol, courtesy ExploreAsheville.com

“The cycling amenities here are great,” said Scher. “We have a number of places where you can rent bikes by the hour or day.” W W W.V ISI T GR EE N V I L L ESC .COM

A SHEV ILLE, NORTH C A ROLINA

Asheville, North Carolina, one of the most well-known destinations along the Blue Ridge Parkway, is characterized by a vibrant arts community and a burgeoning craft brewery scene. There are now 41 craft breweries in the Asheville area, 30 within city limits. In addition to providing a convenient home base for exploring the region, Asheville hosts a number of outdoor attractions right in town. The French Broad River runs through the heart of the city, providing a scenic place for kayaking, canoeing or stand-up paddleboarding. At Adventure Center of Asheville, guests can zip line through a canopy of trees and scale an aerial ropes course within view of the downtown skyline. For a more hands-on experience in nature, groups can sign up for a wild food foraging tour with No Taste Like Home, an Asheville-based ecotour company. During the excursion, a guide takes guests “off the eaten path” to identify edible plants such as berries, mushrooms, flowers, nuts and roots, highlighting species that participants can often find in their own backyards. No trip to Asheville would be complete without a visit to the Biltmore Estate, an 8,000-acre property with a 250room Châteauesque-style mansion. It is the largest privately owned house in America. From May 17 through October 7, the Biltmore will be featuring a special art exhibit from celebrated glassworks artisan Dale Chihuly. The exhibit will include exclusive after-dark viewings, with the glass sculptures set against the dramatic lighting of the sunset over the Blue Ridge Mountains. WWW.EXPLOREASHEVILLE.COM

FORAGING ON A FOODTOPIA TOUR IN ASHEVILLE

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By Jared Kay, courtesy ExploreAsheville.com 4/11/16 2:54 PM

MAY 2018


f o s t h g i l h g i h e h t f o One ife ! - Brian from my l Tennessee

“... The Billy Graham Library was very inspirational and encouraging. It was on my bucket list.” Visit Charlotte, N.C., and walk in the shoes of a farm boy who became pastor to presidents and shared God’s love with millions. Discover what God can do through an ordinary life surrendered to Him as you explore state-of-the-art exhibits and spend time reflecting in the Memorial Prayer Garden. Admission is free, and the experience is unforgettable. Come—just as you are. “Come and see what God has done.” —Psalm 66:5, ESV

A ministry of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

©2017 BGEA

Monday to Saturday, 9:30–5:00 • BillyGrahamLibrary.org • 704-401-3200 Reservations required for groups of 10 or more; email LibraryTours@bgea.org or call 704-401-3270. 4330 Westmont Drive • Charlotte, North Carolina


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T H E W O R L D A W A I T S I N A N D A R O U N D AT L A N TA B Y R AC H E L C A RT E R

Atlanta is a boomtown of business, a mecca of music and the focus of film and television producers who are flocking to the metro region. In Atlanta, group favorites abound — the World of Coca-Cola, the Georgia Aquarium and the College Football Hall of Fame — but hidden gems are also plentiful. When visiting, most groups will spend time in the city and at major attractions, but “it’s always fun to try some of the other areas, try to get them off the beaten path,” said Randi Greene, Atlanta Metro Region tourism project manager for the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

W H AT ’ S H O T I N H O T L A N TA

Ponce City Market is a newish attraction in an old building. The mixed-reuse development is housed in the sprawling 1925 Sears, Roebuck & Co. building. Groups can spend hours exploring the market’s 2 million square feet filled with stores and boutiques and a gourmet food hall with craft cocktails, an Italian market and a cookie dough counter. Visitors can take the freight elevator to The Roof where they’ll find a beer garden, a bar and Skyline Park, a carnival-themed rooftop attraction. Skyline Park has its own bar, skee ball, ring toss games, miniature golf, a slide and a “heege tower” ride, where guests use a rope to hoist their seat to the top and then slowly fall back down the tower. The High Museum of Art will customize tours for groups. Staff at the museum, which has more than 14,000 pieces in its permanent collection, can arrange to have docents lead “curated” and behind-the-scenes group tours that focus on architecture, black history, African-American art — nearly anything a

Courtesy Avalon A GROUP ENJOYS THE OUTDOOR FIRE AT THE AVALON DEVELOPMENT IN ALPHARETTA.

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group may be interested in. The Center for Puppetry Arts is a one-of-a-kind experience. It’s both a performance art center and an active museum. Groups can explore puppetry from around the world in the Global Collection; see the Jim Henson exhibit, which includes the bulk of the Henson family’s collection; take in a performance; or take a create-a-puppet workshop. This April marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site offers total immersion into King’s life and legacy, including his birth home, the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church and the King Center, where visitors learn about his leadership of the civil rights movement and his assassination. At the center, guests can also visit the recently renovated iconic reflecting pool, where King and his wife are entombed side by side in a white crypt. At the Center for Civil and Human Rights, visitors can explore the civil rights movement at interactive exhibits. Guests can sit at a lunch counter display and hear people yelling at them or whispering racial slurs in their

headphones as the chairs buck beneath them, or walk through a re-enactment of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The center also explores global human rights, and in addition to guided tours, groups can arrange for diversity and inclusion training programs. The World of Coca-Cola is unique to Atlanta, which is both hometown and headquarters of the Coca-Cola Co. At the museum, groups can explore 130 years of Coca-Cola memorabilia, visit the vault where the soda’s secret formula is stored, get a behind-the-scenes view of the bottling and taste over 100 beverages from around the world. When the College Football Hall of Fame moved from South Bend, Indiana, to Atlanta in 2014, it became an entirely new, customizable experience complete with interactive exhibits that greet guests by name, feature their favorite teams and store their scores to download later. Visitors will find a wall of 768 helmets that represent all college football teams and can try their skills on a 45-yard indoor playing field, give broadcasting a shot at the ESPN Game Day Desk, watch the “Game of Your Life” movie in the Game Day Theater and explore the Hall of Fame with its 900-plus players and coaches.

SIGHTSEEING IN THE SUBURBS

BURIAL CRYPTS AT THE KING CENTER IN ATLANTA By James Duckworth, courtesy ACVB

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Outside city limits, the suburbs ringing Atlanta offer many attractions and seemingly endless activities. About 30 miles northeast of Atlanta, Gwinnett County boasts some of the most diverse demographics in the Southeast. The county is home to a large Asian population with many Korean residents, and “there are a ton of Korean restaurants in the area,” said Victoria Hawkins, marketing communications director for Explore Gwinnett. In 2017, Explore Gwinnett started offering Korean food tours to the public, which the agency will also arrange for groups. A staff member who is fluent in Korean and “a big-time foodie” leads the tours, either on a trolley or as a step-on guide, and talks about Korean food traditions. For example, Korean fried chicken isn’t an entree, but rather a snack food that people might munch on before dinner. The tour typically lasts four hours and includes four stops: a traditional Korean restaurant with all the side dishes, a Korean barbecue where guests grill their meat at their tables, a Korean snack food place and a Korean bakery with pastries. Gwinnett County is also home to BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, the largest Hindu temple in the United States and one of the most-visited attractions in the region. “It is a magnificent structure,” Hawkins said. Nearly every surface of the elaborate temple is covered in hand-carved marble friezes and figures. Visitors can opt for a free self-guided tour, pay for an audio tour or arrange for a guided group tour to learn about the temple’s design and workmanship; participate in Hindu rituals; or learn

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about Hinduism. The temple is an active place of worship, and guests must follow a strict dress code. Tops must cover the shoulders, chest, navel and upper arms, and legwear must be below the knee. It’s also customary to remove shoes, so socks are encouraged. At Stone Mountain Park in DeKalb County, a massive bas-relief sculpture on the mountain face shows three Civil War Confederate heroes: President Jefferson Davis, Gen. Robert E. Lee and Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. One of the best ways to view the carving, which was started in 1923 but wasn’t completed until 1972, is by way of the Summit Skyride. Each 80-person cable car gives passengers a close-up view as it glides above the sculpture to the summit, which offers views of the Atlanta skyline and the North Georgia Mountains. The park’s signature event, the Lasershow Spectacular, runs from spring to fall. The 45-minute laser light show is projected onto the mountain carving, and the finale includes fireworks. Visitors can also hike, fish at Stone Mountain Lake, ride the train or ride the Ducks. About 30 miles north in the city of Alpharetta, Avalon is a mixed-use development with over 60 upscale stores and boutiques, lots of local dining, an outdoor “living room” with a bocce court and a community fire pit, a seasonal ice-skating rink and a plaza for free concerts and other community events. The neighboring town of Roswell is home to the Southern Trilogy, a trifecta of three historic house museums: Barrington Hall, Bulloch Hall and Smith Plantation. The trio of antebellum homes and grounds are open to visitors to tour and explore. A few miles west, Marietta is “a prime example of a wonderful, historic downtown that’s thriving,” Greene said. Marietta Square is surrounded by restaurants, shops and museums, although the Gone With the Wind Museum relocated this spring from the square to Brumby Hall and Gardens. The

Historic Marietta Trolley Co. offers a one-hour driving tour that includes the historic downtown, antebellum homes and battlefields at Kennesaw Mountain. But the area also has a relatively new addition: In spring 2017, the Atlanta Braves moved from Turner Field in the heart of Atlanta to the team’s new ballpark, SunTrust Park, outside the city in Cobb County. On Atlanta’s west side, Douglasville’s historic downtown is packed with shops and restaurants, Greene said. And though Six Flags Over Georgia sits just outside the city limits, most people who visit the massive amusement park stay in Douglasville, she said. At the nearby Sweetwater Creek State Park, visitors can walk a wooded trail that follows a stream to the ruins of the New Manchester Manufacturing Co., a textile mill that burned during the Civil War. Groups can also arrange ranger-led hikes or rent fishing boats, canoes, kayaks and paddleboards to enjoy the park’s 215-acre George Sparks Reservoir. The park’s visitors center features history exhibits and wildlife displays and has a rentable room that seats 40 people. When Margaret Mitchell wrote her novel, “Gone With the Wind,” she chose Clayton County south of Atlanta as the setting for the fictional Tara plantation because it was where she grew up visiting her grandparents’ home, Fitzgerald Plantation. In Jonesboro, a costumed guide leads a 70-minute Gone With the Wind trolley or step-on tour of the area’s ties to Mitchell, the novel and all things Scarlett, Rhett and Tara. At the Road to Tara Museum, housed in Jonesboro’s 1867 train depot, groups can take tours with a costumed guide or explore exhibits on their own; there they’ll find reproductions of Scarlett’s most famous dresses, portraits displayed during the movie’s 1939 Atlanta premiere and authentic Civil War artifacts. Groups can also tour the 1839 Stately Oaks Plantation to experience a real-life version of the book’s fictional setting.

A WHALE SHARK AT THE GEORGIA AQUARIUM

By Gene Phillips, courtesy ACVB

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H I G H C O U N T R Y E L E VAT E S A T R I P T O G E O R G I A B Y R AC H E L C A RT E R

Tucked into the far northwestern corner of the state, Georgia’s Historic High Country region is known as “the land of sights and legends” because “we have a lot of history, and we have beautiful scenery,” said Kristi Kent, director of communications for Georgia’s Rome Office of Tourism.

The region, which includes 17 counties, starts in the area around the city of Carrollton, about 50 miles west of Atlanta, and stretches up the western border of Alabama to the Tennessee state line. The Carrollton Center for the Arts puts on a variety of concerts, dance performances and live theater productions and mounts various exhibitions in its art galleries. The center sits just a block from the heart of downtown — Adamson Square — where the AMP, an outdoor covered amphitheater, has been welcoming events and concerts since opening in 2012. Also in the downtown area, the Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum owns over 100 quilts that it rotates on display along with special exhibits and textile stories. Just north of the city, the town of Bremen is known for antique shopping and is home to the Mill Town Music Hall, a popular concert venue for country and bluegrass bands, although groups can also catch acts such as Herman’s Hermits and Chubby Checkers. The West Georgia Museum in Tallapoosa tells local history through a series of replica stores showing how the area would have looked around the beginning of the 20th century, a scene that includes a horse-drawn buggy. In Cartersville, the Booth Western Art Museum “is a beautiful museum” that features Western and Civil War art and artifacts, Kent said. The American

All photos courtesy GA Department of Tourism THE BERRY COLLEGE CAMPUS IN ROME FEATURES A 1903 MILL AND WATER WHEEL.

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THE HISTORIC DALLAS THEATRE

West Gallery displays more than 100 traditional paintings and sculptures, and the Cowboy Gallery celebrates the iconic archetype of the cowboy and the cowgirl with more than 35 pieces of art. Paintings in the Civil War Gallery take visitors on a chronological journey through Civil War battles. But the museum’s highlight is the Carolyn and James Millar Presidential Gallery, where visitors will find a hand-signed letter from each of the 45 U.S. presidents, along with portraits and other presidential memorabilia. Bartow County is all about the outdoors. The region’s best paddling can be found on the 163-mile Etowah River Water Trail. A variety of outfitters rent canoes, kayaks and tubes and provide shuttle service to groups who will float by Native American fish weirs, Etowah Indian mounds and antebellum estates. Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site in Cartersville is a 54-acre site that protects six earthen mounds, a plaza, a village site, borrow pits and a defensive ditch. There, groups will also find a museum, a gift shop, bus parking and benches fronting the river. Visitors can also take in water views via the Etowah River Walk Trail in Cartersville or the Etowah River Park in Canton. The Cherokee County History Museum and Visitors Center in Canton is housed in a historic marble courthouse and recounts the region’s rich history through artifacts, photographs and interactive iPad presentations. The Cherokee County Historical Society also manages the historic Rock Barn that’s available for special events. InCOVINGTON’S Summerville,NEWTON the historic train depot and neighboring Dowdy Park COURTHOUSE act asCOUNTY the staging grounds for special events, summer concerts, markets and HAS NUMEROUS festivals. The town is FILM also home to Paradise Garden, the home of Baptist AND TV CREDITS. minister and folk artist Howard Finster, who “turned his home into a piece of art,” Kent said. Finster believed that he had received a message from God to create sacred works of art, and by the time he died in 2001, he had created nearly 50,000 works at his home and grounds. Groups can take self-guided tours of Finster’s fever dream of found-objects folk art. Rome’s claim to fame is in Berry College, the world’s largest contiguous college campus. Georgia’s Rome Office of Tourism provides tours and stepon guides that show off highlights of the 27,000-acre campus, including historic buildings, many funded by Henry Ford, and the 1930 Old Mill and water wheel. The 42-passenger Sulzbacher Roman Holiday excursion boat docks at Heritage Park in downtown Rome, where the city’s three rivers converge. Groups can schedule private outings or reserve spots on public tours. Visitors can also catch a Rome Braves baseball game. Another folk art favorite is the Rock Garden in Calhoun, where guests will find more than 50 small, sculptural buildings made entirely of stones, shells and other salvaged material. Not to be confused with Rock Garden, Rock City Gardens sits just south of the Tennessee border on Lookout Mountain. Groups can explore massive rock formations and cliffs, take in panoramic views of seven states, see the waterfall at Lover’s Leap and cross a suspension bridge.

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SUMMERVILLE DEPOT

THE ROCK GARDEN IN CALHOUN

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H A I L TO THE CH I EF S

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PRESIDENTIAL REALMS REST IN GEORGIA B Y R AC H E L C A RT E R

The phrase “U.S. president” recalls images of Washington, D.C. — maybe the white dome of the U.S. Capitol or the white spike of the Washington Memorial. Georgia doesn’t necessarily inspire ideas of American presidents, but the region southwest of Atlanta was home to two: Jimmy Carter and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. There are many ways for groups to take in the area’s presidential history and enjoy the state’s heritage and scenery. In the city of Cordele, 140 miles south of Atlanta on Interstate 75, groups will find the main depot of the Historic SAM Shortline Railroad. The train runs from Cordele 47 miles west to the community of Archery and offers a variety of itineraries: generally, full-day excursions with a layover stop in one of the cities. But 90 percent of SAM’s departures are to Plains, where Carter still lives and where passengers disembark to visit the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site. “They’re going to see President Carter’s hometown, where he still lives and is his community,” said Terry Miller, site manager for the railroad.

Courtesy GA Department of Tourism CALLAWAY RESORT AND GARDENS IN PINE MOUNTAIN HAS A LAKE AND 2,500 ACRES OF WOODLAND GARDENS.

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At the historic site, Plains High School serves as the park visitors center and museum, and the Plains Train Depot, which Carter used as his campaign headquarters, houses a self-guided museum with exhibits that focus on the 1976 presidential campaign. A little farther down the tracks, the train stops just steps from the front porch of Carter’s boyhood home in Archery. At the Jimmy Carter Boyhood Farm, groups can arrange guided walking tours that take them back to when Carter lived there, from 1928 to 1941. But SAM itineraries stop in other cities as well. At the Georgia Rural Telephone Museum in the town of Leslie, “everybody that goes in there, comes out amazed,” Miller said. The museum is housed in a restored cotton warehouse, and although exhibits feature antique telephones and switchboards, they also include classic cars, tractors and nautical items. The city of Americus delivers lots of Victorian charm and plenty of quaint shops. The Windsor Hotel is an elegant 1892 redbrick hotel complete with a tower and a turret in the heart of downtown. The historic landmark closed its doors in 1972 and reopened in 1991 after a $6.5 million renovation.

THE HISTORIC SAM SHORTLINE RAILROAD CARRIES PASSENGERS TO THE JIMMY CARTER NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE.

Photos courtesy Historic SAM Shortline RR

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“It literally looks like a castle in the middle of downtown,” Miller said. One block over, guests can take in a show at the restored 1921 Rylander Theatre. Americus is also home to Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village and Discovery Center, a six-acre village where visitors can see life-size replicas of Habitat houses from countries around the world. Guests will also learn about Habitat’s founders, Millard and Linda Fuller, and how Carter’s personal involvement helped raise awareness and promote Habitat’s cause. The region offers more to see and do, including more presidential sites. Warm Springs was a healing retreat for Roosevelt, who first visited the area in 1924 in search of a cure for his polio-caused paralysis. The 88-degree spring waters didn’t cure him, but they did give him relief. He bought the property and founded the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation. A year before he was elected, he built the Little White House as his personal retreat. He died there in 1945. Today, groups can take guided tours through the carefully preserved home, see FDR’s 1938 Ford convertible with hand controls and listen to his “Fireside Chats” on a 1930s radio. Guests should also bring their bathing suits. Tickets to the house and museum include admission to the springs, where visitors can swim in the same pools as FDR did. At the nearby 9,000-acre F.D. Roosevelt State Park, visitors will find several structures built by the Civilian Conversation Corps, one of FDR’s New Deal programs, including a stone swimming pool and Dowdell’s Knob, where he would take polio patients on picnics. A couple miles south of FDR State Park, Callaway Resort and Gardens has two golf courses, a spa, a lake and 2,500 acres of woodland gardens. In addition to the 150-room lodge, the resort offers cottages, villas and the more affordable Mountain Creek Inn. Guests can rent bikes or a Callaway

“ I T L I T E R A L LY L O O K S L I K E A CASTLE IN THE MIDDLE O F D OW N TOW N,”

Cruiser, the resort’s four- and six-seat golf carts, to explore the forest, gardens and trails. AMC’s wildly popular show “The Walking Dead” is filmed in Senoia. Tours include stops at the Alexandria Safe Zone and the Woodbury Shoppe, a store that sells official AMC souvenirs, clothing and accessories. Columbus’ revitalized downtown sits on the Chattahoochee River, which doubles as the Georgia-Alabama border. There, groups will find a riverwalk, a man-made whitewater rafting course and “a zipline from Georgia to Alabama over the river,” Miller said.

THE 1892 WINDSOR HOTEL IN AMERICUS

Courtesy GA Department of Tourism

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A PLACE FOR ALL SEASONS Discover LaGrange Conveniently located just a short drive from Atlanta, LaGrange is the perfect year-round destination for your tour group. A visit to Hills & Dales Estate and the Biblical History Center provides a full day of beauty and historic exploration. When the day is complete, settle in at the new Courtyard by Marriott in downtown LaGrange. From there, you can enjoy unique shopping and savor a great dinner at one of the locally owned restaurants. You’ll #BeSurprised by all LaGrange has to offer. Plan your journey our way at visitlagrange.com or call 706.884.8671.

hillsanddales.org LaGrange, GA | 706-882-3242

IN LAGRANGE, HISTORY LIVES AND INSPIRES. Combo Ticket With advance reservations, tour groups enjoy a special discount ticket price. Big on the “wow” factor and tiny on your budget, a $50 ticket includes admission to Hills & Dales Estate and the Biblical History Center, including the popular Biblical Meal.

biblicalhistorycenter.com LaGrange, GA | 706-885-0363


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Agritourism

Land of Plenty By Lynn Coulter

Georgia’s agriculture group tour offerings are as diverse as they are delicious.

With more than four million acres of cropland, Georgia’s agriculture industry is big business–and it’s also big fun. Much of our land not only produces amazing foods and products, but also offers tourism destinations and sites for visitors to explore and enjoy their bounty. So hit the road, and wine and dine your way around our amazingly diverse state, from vineyards in the North Georgia Mountains to the fresh seafood eateries along the coast. In between, you’ll find dairies churning creamery butter, orchards bursting with peaches and apples, small town cafes dishing up family recipes, as well as roadside markets, honey farms, and from-scratch bakeries. You’ll make great memories, and you won’t go home hungry.

MERCIER ORCHARDS Blue Ridge


Day 1: The Bounty of North Georgia STOP 1: MERCIER ORCHARDS, Blue Ridge Pick your own apples, warm from the sun, when you book a tractor tour at Mercier Orchards, or buy them already harvested. More than 50 varieties grow on this family-owned farm, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. Depending on the season, you’ll also find blueberries, strawberries, peaches, and other produce. Mercier presses, ferments, and bottles its own hard ciders and wines. STOP 2: ENGELHEIM VINEYARDS, Ellijay See Georgia wines go from grape to glass at Engelheim, where the Bavarian-style architecture reflects the owners’ German heritage. Tours include the winery and vineyards, which are planted with 11 different varietals, and tastings are available for a small charge. Bring a picnic or purchase small plates of grapes, cheese, and other snacks. On weekends, come for live music on the patio. Inquire about group discounts. STOP 3: R&A ORCHARDS, Ellijay R&A Orchards grows Galas, Red Delicious and some 48 other apple varieties, along with sweet potatoes, nectarines, peaches, and other crops. Make an appointment for a tour in a tractor-pulled wagon. Groups may also tour the apple house and hear the history of this family-owned business, which dates back to 1947. Apple-picking weekends run the month of September. STAY OVERNIGHT IN DAHLONEGA

Day 2: Picking Your Way through Middle Georgia STOP 4: DICKEY FARMS, Musella Step back in time at Georgia’s oldest, continuously operating peach packinghouse, where you can rock on the porch while you enjoy award-winning peach ice cream. Take a bus or van tour into the peach orchard from mid-May to mid-August and watch as the fruits are packed. Strawberries start ripening in April, and pumpkins mature in the fall. STOP 5: LANE SOUTHERN ORCHARDS, Fort Valley Pick your own strawberries in the spring, peaches in the summer, and enjoy the corn maze, pumpkin patch, and fall festival come October. Check out the market store and the daily lunch specials (fried chicken, country-fried steak, salmon croquettes), then finish up with some peach cobbler with ice cream. They also host corporate outings, special events, and birthday parties. STAY OVERNIGHT IN MACON

Day 3: Supper & Sweets in South Georgia STOP 6: MI-LADY BAKERY, Tifton Stop in for a red velvet cupcake or sweet potato pie at Mi-Lady. The most popular items at this oldfashioned bakery are the chocolate, glazed, caramel, and filled doughnuts, but it also serves breakfast and lunch. The fresh, local produce comes from South Georgia’s own Lewis Taylor Farms and Southern Valley. STOP 7: RAISIN’ CANE, Valdosta Wear walking shoes to tour this working farm, which opens to the public from late-September to earlyNovember. Its 150 acres produce satsuma (a version of tangerine) and rotating crops of eggplants, squash, and bell peppers. Shop the market for Georgia-made pepper jellies, pickles, and Oliver Farm artisan oils. Take a sack lunch to the picnic area, or indulge in fried chicken, butterbeans, and other Southern favorites from the indoor buffet. Explore the corn maze in the fall (guides available upon request). STOP 8: STEEL MAGNOLIAS, Valdosta Chef and owner Keira Moritz creates this restaurant’s recipes and trains her chefs to make them from scratch. Enjoy customer favorites like fried green tomatoes, pulled pork and pimento cheese wontons, and shrimp and grits with andouille sausage gravy, pepper and onion roux, and Georgia-grown Gayla’s Grits. Other fresh Georgia products served here include Sweetgrass Dairy cheeses, Sparkman’s Cream Valley butter, and Georgia Olive Farms oils.

Plan a group tour of the Peach State’s most memorable tastes at ExploreGeorgia.org/Groups.


Sink Your Teeth Into

ADVENTURE Indoor & Outdoor Adventures • Hands-on Science Giant Screen Movies • Interactive Exhibits • Fossils & Artifacts

June 9 - Aug. 19*

Oct. 6 - Jan. 6*

Group and Education Discounts Available Contact us at 404.929.6306 or group.visits@fernbankmuseum.org to book your trip! FernbankMuseum.org | @FernbankMuseum

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sound-off

STAFF

WHAT’S YOUR DRE AM ROAD TRIP THROUGH THE UNITED STATES?

Honestly, I’m not much of a road tripper, but if I had to choose one, it would probably be around the Northern states and mountains, down through the Rockies and the Grand Canyon, over through Oklahoma and Texas, and back to Kentucky. I would most likely try to see a lot of the West that I have not seen before and hike up a lot of peaks while traveling around the area. — Kyle Anderson, SALES ASSISTANT

I’ve always wanted to bike down the Pacific Coast on U.S. 101 and Highway 1, probably starting somewhere in Oregon and ending in San Francisco. It’s a very popular route for cyclists, who can camp in state parks and explore coastal towns along the way. It would require a great deal of training and preparation, but I think the payoff would be more than worth it. — Savannah Osbourn, STAFF WRITER

Anywhere on someone else’s dime — beggars can’t be choosers. — Stacey Bowman, DIRECTOR, ADVERTISING SALES

My wife thinks I’m crazy, but I would love to get a big, tricked-out RV when we retire and use it to travel around North America. We could go at our own pace, sleep in the same bed each night and enjoy the changing landscape. The ultimate route for me would be a coastto-coast trip, maybe from the Outer Banks in North Carolina all the way across to San Diego. — Brian Jewell, EXECUTIVE EDITOR

I used to live in Massachusetts, but I’ve never driven the New England coast in one trip. I’d love to start out on the Cape and drive all the way up along the coastal roads through New Hampshire into Maine and enjoy the picturesque fishing towns, historic sites and, of course, a couple lobster rolls and a stop in Boston to catch a Red Sox game along the way. — Ashley Ricks, CIRCULATION MANAGER

My dream road trip is as much about how as where. My basset hound and golden retriever have gotten too old to do it with me now, which is a shame. They both would have been all in. I will do the trip with dogs or a likeminded friend, and it will be out West through the Badlands, Monument Valley and everything in between. Nothing will be planned, so nothing will go wrong. For me, this will be an Atlas trip, not a Yelp trip. — Mac Lacy, PUBLISHER

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 66

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Profile for The Group Travel Leader, Inc.

The Group Travel Leader May 2018  

Find trip ideas for American Memorials, Route 66, Southern historic homes and Montana's Glacier Country in The Group Travel Leader May 2018...

The Group Travel Leader May 2018  

Find trip ideas for American Memorials, Route 66, Southern historic homes and Montana's Glacier Country in The Group Travel Leader May 2018...