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Renewal B E G I N S F O R A M E R I C A’ S G R E AT S M O K Y M O U N TA I N S TRAVEL

SOUTH Tour Planner 2017


Pre-Registration is now open for 2018 groups!

BOOK NOW 2018 RIVER CRUISES at 2017 prices!

PLUS UP TO $2,000 SAVINGS PER COUPLE


It's all Included!

Life’s a deluxe river cruise, only on Emerald Waterways. You haven’t had a vacation experience that exceeds your expectations like this. Our exciting, unique destinations and itineraries, exceptional contemporary amenities and service, and amazing range of thoughtful inclusions and options are designed so you can completely relax—and revel—in a truly deluxe trip. Our award-winning international fleet of Star-Ships is the river cruising experience you’ve always wanted, and more:

Exceptional Emerald Value Group Offers Available

 Innovative on board features like a heated pool with retractable roof and cinema†. This space also provides your group with an area to host functions Boutique hotel like accommodations with spacious cabins and our refreshing open-air balcony system in all our suites  A  ll on board meals and a collection of highlight dinners at Reflections Restaurant  A refined selection of wine, beer and soft drinks to accompany lunch and dinner  Tea and coffee available at all times  Bottled water restocked daily in your cabin  Enjoy each port with an included excursion  Extra special included excursions courtesy of EmeraldPLUS

Panorama Balcony Suite

 Biking and hiking guided tours with Emerald Active  Visits to many UNESCO World Heritage Sites  Served right to your suite Continental breakfast, pre-dinner canapés and after dinner treats with Emerald’s Concierge Service*  Excellent service from an English-speaking crew  Knowledgeable local guides at each destination  Complimentary bicycles on board for daily use†  Complimentary WiFi on board  All airport transfers to and from your ship  Plus we even take care of all gratuities

Reflections Restaurant

NEW FOR 2018 Enjoy more amenities on your sailing with our new Emerald Group Value points!

†Cinema & bikes not available on the Emerald Radiance *Owner's One-bedroom, Riverview and Grand Balcony Suites only.

Contact our Groups Department to learn more. Call 857.415.5752, visit emeraldwaterways.com or email us at usgroups@emeraldwaterways.com

Terms and conditions: Our vacations are subject to availability. 2018 groups at 2017 pricing expires March 31, 2017. $1,000 savings per couple for 8-14 day sailings. $2,000 savings per couple for 15+ day sailings. Port charges and taxes are included in pricing. The deposit required is $500 per person and is due at the time of booking. Full payment is required minimum 90 days prior to departure. 2018 itineraries, hotels and inclusions are subject to change. Contact Emerald Waterways for full details on our new Emerald Group Value Points program. Point values vary by destination and sail date. ©Emerald Waterways Ad Code: 16_EW227 2016 | ALL RIGHTS RESERVED | One Financial Center, 4th Floor, Boston, MA 02111. December 2016


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table ofCONTENTS VOL 27 | ISSUE 1

T R AV E L S O U T H

6 EDITOR’S MARKS

TO U R P L A N N E R

14 C H A N G I N G H O R I Z O N S

SPRING I S S U E J A N U A R Y 2 01 7

8 FA M I LY M AT T E R S

THE MICROBREW BOOM THE SOUTH AFTER DARK SOCIAL MEDIA MOMENTS

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GUIDED ADVENTURES O N THE COVER

Spring brings new life to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Photo by Jerry D. Greer www.jerrygreerphotography.com

FEATURES

THESE HAPPENINGS ARE HALLMARKS OF THE SEASON.

AN OHIO Come along on a trip from Columbus to the Lake Erie coast.

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INDUSTRY EDUCATION

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BILLINGS, MONTANA

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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

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

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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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FEEDING GIRAFFES AT THE ZOO WAS THE HIGHLIGHT OF OUR TOUR ‘TIL WE HIT THE DESSERT TRAY AT SCHMIDT’S

Great tours are Made in Cbus. Pair a visit to the zoo Jack Hanna calls home with a cream puff at iconic Schmidt’s in historic German Village. As a leader in experiential tours, Columbus is a perfect fit for a group of any size (or taste)!

experiencecolumbus.com/tours


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arly in the morning on November 29, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I saw a video taken from inside someone’s car as they drove through what looked like an inferno. There were smoke and flames on all sides, and balls of fire were streaking through the air in front of them. I didn’t have the sound turned on, and I was still a bit sleepy, so I didn’t understand at first what I was seeing. But over the next few hours, it became clear: The Great Smoky Mountains were on fire, threatening lives and property in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. It’s always heartbreaking to hear about natural disasters, but this one hit especially close to home. Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are among the most popular visitor destinations in Tennessee, and tourism makes up the vast majority of the local economy. And it’s an easy trip to the Smokies from my home in Lexington, Kentucky, which means that I have visited for short getaways and long weekends many times. These destinations are widely beloved for their natural beauty, live shows, exciting attractions, arts and crafts, and variety of shopping experiences. It’s difficult to overestimate how important the Smokies are as a vacation destination for people in my area. My cousin and his family visit there up to six times a year. All told, 14 people died and almost 18,000 acres burned. Fire consumed dozens of homes and cabins

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in the area, as well as several hotels and attractions. (For more on the status of popular attractions, as well as the area’s recovery efforts, see our story “Wildfire in the Smokies: What You Can Do” on page 10.) This wildfire and its aftermath have been heartbreaking, no doubt. But it’s not hopeless. I have mountains of hope for the Smokies because I know the people there. They are strong people who have built strong communities. They work together. They take care of each other. And they have thousands of fans around the country who are already rallying around them. To honor the spirit of the people and the beauty of their natural surroundings, we decided to put a picture from the Smoky Mountains on this issue’s cover. I love this image because it speaks to renewal and hope, both of which will be themes of the Smoky Mountain communities in 2017. Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are going to come back, probably better than ever. Tourism people are a spirited bunch; it’s hard to get them down and impossible to knock them out. When you think about everything that the tourism community in the United States has overcome, it’s amazing how resilient we are. We routinely brush off natural disasters, terrorist attacks and negative publicity. We endured the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression and came out on the other side. In cities across the country, tourism is booming now more than ever. Last year brought its share of challenges, not the least of which was a bitter and contentious presidential election. There will be more challenges to come in 2017, including some we don’t even know about yet. But what I do know is that like the Smoky Mountains, tourism will always bounce back. We’re in the business of creating memories and helping people’s dreams come true. No matter what happens in the world, there will always be a place for that.

ABOVE: A TOUR GROUP BRINGS HELPFUL ITEMS TO RESIDENTS OF THE SMOKY MOUNTAINS AFTER THE DECEMBER WILDFIRES.

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Explore Georgia’s coastal gems on this unforget table FAM.

SUNDAY, MARCH 26 – WEDNESDAY, MARCH 29 Georgia Tourism invites you to join us on our fantastic Spring FAM highlighting Georgia’s Coast:

LIBERTY COUNTY | SAVANNAH | GOLDEN ISLES ITINERARY SUNDAY, MARCH 26 – MONDAY, MARCH 27 History abounds in Liberty County: Experience a microcosm of America’s past as you visit icons of Georgia’s colonial period, the Revolutionary War, the Civil Rights Movement and Gullah Geechee culture. Charming Hinesville, Riceboro, Sunbury and Midway put Georgia’s natural and culinary beauty on full display.

MONDAY, MARCH 27 – TUESDAY, MARCH 28 Established in 1733, Savannah is the oldest city in Georgia and the location of one of the largest National Historic Landmark districts in the country. Stroll through iconic squares, gaze at amazing architecture, sample incredible food and enjoy the city’s unique blend of rich history and global sophistication.

TUESDAY, MARCH 28 – WEDNESDAY, MARCH 29 Nestled on the Georgia coast is the mainland city of Brunswick and its four barrier islands: St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island. Take historic tours, discover scenic beaches and get lost in the beauty of oak trees draped with Spanish moss.

We look forward to welcoming you to Georgia. Visit grouptravelleader.com/georgiatour if interested in attending. Limited to the first 20 tour operators. *Itinerary is subject to change This FAM invitation is limited to qualified tour operators with at least 2 years of professional experience and is non-transferable. FAM attendance is for BUSINESS associates only. Travel accommodations to and from Atlanta and personal incidentals are NOT included in the FAM trip and is the responsibility of the individual attending the FAM. This FAM includes four nights of accommodations, transportation during the FAM, and all meals and attractions as listed on the itinerary. A pre/post hotel FAM rate will be available for those wishing to extend their stay.


FAMILY MATTERS UCIA O TAPP U T IA PO

ALEXANDER LUCIANO

2017 MEMBERSHIPS ARE NOW AVAILABLE

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SALEM, Ohio — The Group Travel Family has announced the appointment of Alexander Luciano to the position of multi-media producer. The addition signals the growth of the company’s involvement in online and social communications and marketing. The Group Travel Family is the umbrella company for major industry conferences serving the group travel industry and more than 25,000 group travel planners. The organization has built a YouTube channel following that includes more than 90,000 views of group-travel-related videos, most dedicated to destination awareness and training seminars. “Alex comes to us with a fresh objective on group travel and online communications in group travel,”

SALEM, Ohio — The Group Travel Family is opening its 2017 membership drive to the travel industry with the invitation to join any one of its seven organizations. The Group Travel Family serves 25,000 organizers of group travel and has membership categories in each organization. Membership can cover all segments of group travel or target one specific market, such as faithbased groups, bank programs, boomers, AfricanAmerican groups, meeting planners or the mature market. Memberships start as low as $395 annually, with discounts for multiple market members. “Group travel is about building relationships with the travel planner, and membership in The Group Travel Family of Brands is the basis for building those relationships,” said Teresa Burton of The Group Travel Family. For details on membership, please contact Burton at 800-628-0993 or visit: WWW.GROUPTR AVELFAMILY.COM

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BILT MORE HOUSE E X HIBI T WILL HIGHLIGH T CL A S SIC MOVIE COS T UMES ASHEVILLE, North Carolina — More than 40 elaborate costumes from 13 recent movies based on classic books will be on display at Biltmore House from February 10 through July 4, 2017. “Designed for Drama: Fashion from the Classics” will include a costume worn by Robert Downey Jr. in “Sherlock Holmes” and Nicole Kidman’s Isabel Archer costume from “The Portrait of a Lady.” Other films include “Finding Neverland,” “Anna Karenina” and “Pride and Prejudice.” The film fashions will be displayed along with the original books from George Vanderbilt’s 22,000-volume library that served as cinematic inspiration. Vanderbilt began to read at a young age and at age 12, he started keeping a record of books read, numbered consecutively, including the title and author of each work completed. These journals log 38 years and 3,159 books, and will be on display during this exhibition.

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said Charlie Presley, founder of The Group Travel Family. “Mr. Luciano brings a background in video and sound technology as well as media production. He will be responsible for the production and delivery of all multimedia content derived from the organization’s conferences and trade shows. The Group Travel Family began developing multimedia communications in 2013 and has expanded the effort into most of its conference expansion. An example of this effort is the development of conference mobile apps that are now included in more than 40 meetings and conferences annually. “Mobile apps have added great value to the delegate experience for attendees of our conferences, and Alex will simply add his knowledge and expertise to their attendance of these events,” said Presley. To view The Group Travel Family’s YouTube channel, visit:

Courtesy The Biltmore Company THE BILTMORE’S NEW EXHIBIT OF HOLLYWOOD COSTUMES WILL INCLUDE THIS DRESS FROM “PORTRAIT OF A LADY.”


F O R T W O R T H A L E T R A IL S HO W C A S E S L O C A L B R E W E R IE S

FORT WORTH, Texas — The Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau has officially launched the Fort Worth Ale Trail to draw attention to the city’s breweries. The Ale Trail is the only organized program of its kind in the Dallas-Fort Worth region. Ten craft breweries and counting are featured, including: Rahr & Sons Brewing, the 2016 U.S. Open Beer Championship’s No. 10 brewery; Panther Island Brewing; Martin House Brewing; Chimera Brewing Company; the Collective Brewing Project; HopFusion Ale Works; Wild Acre Brewing; Shannon Brewing; Rabbit Hole Brewing; and Revolver Brewing. Trail-goers can redeem prizes for completing part or all of the trail. Participants who complete the first half of the trail by collecting any five stamps in a passport, available at the breweries or local visitor centers, can receive a bottle opener, while those who collect all 10 can receive a T-shirt. An Ale Trail map and digital passport are available at:

RAHR AND SONS BREWERY IS ONE OF 10 MICROBREWERIES HIGHLIGHTED ON THE NEW FORT WORTH ALE TRAIL.

Courtesy Fort Worth Ale Trail

WWW.FORTWORTH.COM/ALETR AIL

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INDUSTRY NEWS B Y TO M A D K I N S O N

WILDFIRE IN THE SMOKIES: WHAT YOU CAN DO

The scenes you saw on national television when the Chimney Tops 2 Fire hit the Tennessee side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park late last month were riveting. As the firestorm raged, it was easy to imagine the worst. As bad as the situation appeared initially, the tourism-driven communities of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville were immediately on the rebound. In a sense, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville never missed a beat, and Gatlinburg’s restaurants and shops were selling pancakes, fudge and mountain crafts less than two weeks later. Dollywood and Pigeon Forge’s businesses were unscathed, and Sevierville was miles from the fire. Firefighters came from across the U.S., but before the last long-distance firefighter departed, visitors already were enjoying “A Smoky Mountain Christmas at Dollywood,” laughing at the Comedy Barn’s down-home humor and shopping at Tanger Five Oaks Mall. Make no mistake — the fire was a tragedy that resulted in 14 deaths, the loss of more than 2,300 residential structures, disruption of business operations across the region and the charring of 17,000 acres of the national park. (Remember, however, that the national park is huge, consisting of 500,000 acres.) The group travel industry certainly knows how much America loves the Smokies and how much the Smokies benefit the industry. Motorcoaches roll into Sevier County every month of the year, whether they are carrying pre-formed groups to enjoy shows and shopping, adolescents to attend religious youth rallies or retirees to see autumn color. Right now is the time for the group travel industry to show its support. Here are some practical steps you can take: • Stay in touch with your group travel contacts in Tennessee. They need to hear from you, if only for the moral support. • Don’t cancel any reservations or tours. Pigeon Forge and Sevierville’s businesses were untouched, and Gatlinburg’s core survived and is rebounding as quickly as possible. • Indeed, consider new trips. Call them

THE SCENIC BEAUTY OF THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS REMAINS DESPITE THE DECEMBER WILDFIRES. Courtesy Eagle’s Ridge Resort

“Support Our Smokies” tours, because keeping businesses active means that employees keep receiving paychecks. • Make contributions to charities devoted to direct local support, such as Dolly Parton’s My People Fund or the campaign of the Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce Foundation. “Tourism is the heart of our economy. It is imperative that everyone understands that our businesses survived and that our mountains are still beautiful. We have the welcome mat out, just as always,” said Mary Hope Maples, director of the Smoky Mountain Tourism Council. As the smoke cleared, the term “mountain tough” quickly came into use, and Maples pointed to Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner as an example of being mountain tough. Werner lost both his home and his business to the fire, but he never stopped being a cheerleader for tourism. “If you really want to do something for Gatlinburg, come back and visit us,” Werner said. Tom Adkinson retired last summer after 42 years in travel journalism and public relations, the last 14 as Pigeon Forge’s media relations contact.

GROUP VISITORS BRING PIGEON GRO UP VIS VISIT ITO RS GIFTS TS TO P IG ROUP OR S BRI BR NG G GIF GEON FORGE HELP LOCALS AFFECTED O FORGE TO HEL PL OCALS AFF ECTED BY THE WILDFIRE. W ILDFIRE. WIL DFIRE RE. R .

Courtesy Pigeon Forge Dept. of Tourism

Courtesy Pigeon Forge Dept. of Tourism

A PIGEON FORGE BUILDING BURNT DOWN TO ITS FOUNDATION Courtesy Pigeon Forge Dept. of Tourism

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T O UR I S M C A R E S A NN O UN C E S J O R D A N P R O JE C T F O R 2 0 18 SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — Tourism Cares, the Jordan Inbound Tour Operators Association and Jordan Tourism Board North America announced a new partnership that will bring tourism leaders to Jordan to support the country’s communities and cultural heritage. The announcement came at the United States Tour Operators Association Conference and Marketplace in December. Called Tourism Cares With Jordan, the effort will include a multinational delegation of travel executives and corporate social responsibility leaders traveling to the country in early 2018. The trip will consist of visits with tourism-based social enterprises to help spur job creation, a volunteer project designed to connect with and help preserve Jordan’s cultural heritage, a corporate social responsibility seminar with thought leaders in the field, and collaboration with Jordanian tourism officials to help create sustainable development and philanthropic infrastructure in the local tourism community. “We want to figure out how best to help Jordan,” Mike Rea, CEO of Tourism Cares, told The Group Travel Leader. “So we’re going to do

some joint investments. We’re going to focus on social enterprises that do goods and services related to tourism. I want travel leaders to have a conversation about who’s doing what, best practices and how to do something new.” Malia Asfour, director of the Jordan Tourism Board North America, said the partnership will help boost local tourism industries in Jordan and help teach stakeholders about the importance of corporate social responsibility. “My hope is to help Jordanian people think about corporate social responsibility,” she said. “It’s already a big conversation. Building awareness by doing it with an organization that has shown how it works and brings expertise is going to be a huge benefit.” Though dates and details on the program are still in the works, both organizations hope that it will serve as a jumping-off point for larger efforts. “The bigger idea is to find other partnerships around the world with like-minded organizations and causes,” Rea said. “We see this as the first step in creating a network of groups that engage their communities in giving back.”

T OURISM CARE S ANNOUNCE S 20 16 HE AR T S OF T R AVEL AWARDS CANTON, Massachusetts — The Tourism Cares board of directors has announced the 2016 Hearts of Travel Awards, recognizing excellence in travel corporate social responsibility and philanthropy. Abercrombie & Kent and Universal Orlando Resort shared the Legacy in Travel Philanthropy Award honoring long-term impact in corporate philanthropy. AFAR Media won the New Innovators Award, recognizing philanthropic achievement among those new to giving, having started a program within the past three to six years. Jonathan Tisch, co-chairman of the board of Loews Corporation and chairman of Loews Hotels and Resorts, was the recipient of the Personal Philanthropic Leadership Award. Abercrombie & Kent’s 30-year commitment

to giving back included corporate contributions, guest contributions and in-kind donations of more than $2.5 million in 2016 alone. In addition to managing 30 projects across seven continents, they also employ full-time community development professionals in eight countries. Universal Orlando Resort’s Universal Orlando Foundation has given more than $14 million to the Central Florida Community, funding projects like Art of Tomorrow — a collaboration among the resort, the Universal Orlando Foundation and Orange County Public Schools that inspires teenagers to stay in school and pursue careers as professional artists and designers. AFAR Media’s has provided 613 scholarships to youth as well as funding various programs across the country. WWW.TOURISMCARES.COM

T O UR I S M V OL UN T E E R S HE L P M A IN TA IN HI S T O R I C A R E A S IN NE W Y O R K H A R B O R TOURISM CARES BROUGHT 300 TOURISM PROFESSIONALS TO A VOLUNTEER PROJECT IN NEW YORK HARBOR.

Courtesy Tourism Cares

NEW YORK — In celebration of the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, 300 travel and tourism professionals from 80 companies around the country volunteered in cleanup and restoration projects in New York Harbor on November 4. Volunteers at iconic Ellis Island, which is maintained by the National Park Service, assisted on Islands Two and Three to clean and maintain the buildings and grounds to prevent further disrepair. The islands are currently closed to the public. Volunteers at the Statue of Liberty mulched and raked debris that accumulated during the fall. Volunteers also focused on Liberty State Park, overlooking Ellis Island and Liberty Island, home to the Central Railroad of New Jersey terminal, where immigrants were transferred after processing at Ellis Island. They improved the grounds by planting and mulching tree and flower beds. Collectively, volunteers donated more than 1,800 hours at a value of more than $40,000 to state and national parks. WWW.TOURISMCARES.ORG

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USTOA MEMBERS CONFIDENT DESPITE CHALLENGES BY B R I A N J E W E L L JENNIFER TOMBAUGH OF TAUCK TOASTS ACTIVE MEMBERS AT USTOA’S ANNUAL CONFERENCE IN SCOTTSDALE.

THE GROUP TRAVEL LEADER’S EXECUTIVE EDITOR BRIAN JEWELL SHARES “THE SIX TRAVEL PERSONALITIES” DURING THE TERRY TALKS SESSION.

TOURISM LEADERS DISCUSS CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES IN KENYA DURING A GENERAL SESSION.

Courtesy NTA

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Photos courtesy USTOA

any of the largest tour companies in the United States are optimistic about the outlook for tourism and business growth in 2017, according to an economic impact study released by the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) at its annual conference and marketplace last month in Scottsdale, Arizona. The study found that 82 percent of USTOA’s active members anticipate a growth in sales in 2017, with nearly half of those anticipating an increase of 7 percent to 10 percent or more. Slightly more than a third indicated that they expected sales increases of 4 percent to 6 percent in 2017. The study also found that active USTOA members would sell about 4 percent more travel in 2016 than they did in 2015. Researchers projected that the association served 8.5 million travelers in 2016 and created $14.3 billion in economic impact. The survey is conducted biennially on behalf of USTOA by PriceWaterhouseCoopers. This optimism and growth outlook come despite an environment at home and abroad that several association leaders described as “challenging.” “Election, Brexit — we have had a lot of things to deal with this year,” said Paula Twidale, chairwoman of USTOA and executive vice president at Collette. “But ultimately we are seeing stability and an increase in forward advanced bookings.” Though overall business trends look positive, several members of the USTOA executive committee told reporters that terror attacks in Paris and Brussels put a damper on traditionally popular vacation packages to Europe in 2016. Some had anticipated record high travel to Europe, but the November 2015 terrorist attack in Paris led many travelers to cancel or reschedule their trips to the region in 2016.

“For Europe, we’re a little under where we were last year, but we’re happy with that because it could have been worse,” Twidale said. The association also released its list of “hot” destinations for 2017. Cuba topped the list for the first time, and during an association survey earlier in 2016, nearly one-third of member tour operators said they anticipated that the easing of U.S. sanctions on Cuba would help increase their annual revenue. With the election of Donald Trump, who has expressed opposition to the Obama administration’s opening of relations with Cuba, tourism leaders are now re-evaluating their outlooks on Cuban travel and adjusting their government relations efforts accordingly. “Yes, we’re concerned, and we’re reaching out to potential allies,” said USTOA president and CEO Terry Dale. “But we want to wait and see. We are working the channels, but we don’t want to overreact.” Executive committee members also discussed the potential impact that recent populist movements at home and abroad could have on travel. “For the sophisticated traveler, it doesn’t pose much of a threat,” said Harry Dalgaard, USTOA treasurer and president and founder of Avanti Destinations. “They might have to go cap in hand when they travel and explain what is going on in the United States when they travel.” Twidale said these recent developments reinforce the role that tourism leaders play in educating the traveling public. “Part of our job is educating people about what impact tourism brings to the world,” she said. “Inbound and outbound travel both affect trade. There is an economic tie-in to our industry. It fuels jobs. If you want to see growth, you have to be prepared for that.”


NEARLY TWO DOZEN COUNTRIES

ATTEND INTERNATIONAL SHOWCASE B Y M AC L AC Y

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he numbers are staggering: In 2015, nearly 78 million visitors came to this country. Most of us see international travelers from time to time in the towns where we live, but the volume of international travel into America is never really apparent. At the Travel South International Showcase, held December 28-30 in Atlanta, the focus on these visitors was more than apparent. “We’re getting about 7.9 percent of the international visitation into the United States, and we want that to be closer to 10 percent,” said Liz Bittner, Travel South USA’s president and CEO. “I think that’s achievable. It’s worth $8 billion to the South if we can do it.” More than 110 international buyers and receptive operators from 22 countries came to Atlanta to meet with nearly 300 destination representatives from 12 member states. That’s an increase of eight countries from the first meeting held just four years ago. In a workshop held the first day, foreign representatives from several of those countries briefed sellers on the latest trends from their markets. “Chinese travelers are moving away from mass market shopping to high-end gifts, and they are shopping for friends and family while they are here,” Alina Xiang of East West Marketing Group told the group. “There are only 24 million Australians, and 1.5 million of them came to the U.S. in 2015,” said Geoffrey Hutton of Kent Marketing. “The United States is Brazil’s top foreign destination, and our travelers come for an average of 10 days,” said Gisela Martins Perez of River Global. In light of all the attention Chinese travelers have received over the past few years, perhaps it was Andria Godfrey’s revelation that seemed most unexpected: “India will overtake China as the world’s largest outbound travel market by 2030,” said the travel researcher from Georgia’s tourism office. Bittner and her board have moved aggressively to join forces with Brand USA over the past few years as the central focus of their marketing efforts to international markets. Brand USA and its strategists at Miles Partnership

have engaged Travel South USA to pilot various regional initiatives in areas like superFAMs for international tour operators, original video content using first-person accounts from foreign spokespersons and website integration. “They know we’re game,” said Bittner, speaking of Brand USA. “If there is a pilot program, they know we’ll do it. Our focus now is on a ‘road trip’ theme that taps into the foreign traveler’s mind-set about seeing America. Road trips are part of our heritage in the South, and we’ve already designed 22 trip ideas for foreign travelers using themes like “Appalachia” or “Southern coast.” Those are already on their website, www.visittheusa.com. “The goal is to have 20 million unique visitors on that site by 2018,” said Bittner. “Brand USA is tasked with moving millions of international travelers from our major gateways into our secondary cities and back roads. It doesn’t matter to us if these road trips are taken by motorcoach, by bicycle or by car. Our message to our industry at International Showcase is ‘They’re coming, and we need to be ready.’”

DELEGATES ENJOY THE OPENING EVENT AT THE ATLANTA HISTORY CENTER.

W W W.TR AV ELSOU THUS A.ORG

MORE THAN 110 INTERNATIONAL BUYERS MET WITH SOUTHERN DESTINATION REPRESENTATIVES.

THE WORLD OF COCA COLA HOSTS AN ATLANTA CITY TOUR.

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Changing AMERICA’S NATIONAL PARKS: THE SOUTHWEST

BY B O B H O E L S C H E R

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his month, we conclude our four-part series on America’s parklands. Several of the most famous and most heavily visited national parks are in the Southwest, which we are defining as Kansas, West Texas and the states due west of them: Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Nevada and California, as well as America’s island outposts in the Pacific Ocean. Among these great parks are Rocky Mountain in Colorado, Bryce Canyon and Zion in Utah, Grand Canyon in Arizona and Yosemite in California, all of which have experienced overcrowding problems this centennial year. Interestingly, Yosemite became a national park in 1890, well before the Grand Canyon. A number of private investors wanted to develop the canyon, which delayed its designation as a national park. It received Congressional approval in 1919, making it 17th on a list of national parks that now numbers 59. In these Southwestern states, there are also other outstanding but somewhat less-well-known national

parks. Mesa Verde in Colorado, site of spectacular ancient cliff dwellings, was the first site in the world to protect historic cultural resources when it was created in 1906. Others include Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains in Texas; Arches and Canyonlands in Utah; and three in California: Death Valley, Sequoia and Kings, the latter of which was named General Grant when the two now-connected parks were established in 1890. Both Hawaii Volcanoes and Haleakalā originally joined in Hawaii National Park when it was created in 1916, long before the islands became our 50th state. Of course, there are national parks that attract fewer visitors despite offering major scenic delights: Great Sand Dunes and Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado; Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico; Capitol Reef in Utah; Petrified Forest and Saguaro in Arizona; Great Basin in Nevada; Joshua Tree, Channel Islands and Lassen Volcanic in California; and the National Park of American Samoa. Pinnacles in California, a national monument since 1910, became our newest national park in early 2013. Like a number of significant national monuments, it was upgraded to national park status. Both Pinnacles and Kings Canyon are recognized as being extraordinary hiking parks. The Southwest is also filled with an incredible range of national monuments and National Historic Sites, too many to list. Theodore Roosevelt played a major role in founding the collection when he added 18 national monuments under the Antiquities Act of 1906. Magnificent scenery is now protected in such places as Dinosaur in Colorado; A GROUP EXPLORES MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK IN White Sands and El Malpais in New COLORADO. Mexico; Cedar Breaks, Natural Bridges and Timpanogos Cave in Utah; Organ Pipe Cactus and Chiricahua in Arizona; and Devil’s Postpile, Castle Mountains, Muir Woods and Lava Beds in California. Many other units of the National Park Service showcase the people who played significant roles in the population and development of the American Southwest. Primary among them are the native tribes at Chaco Culture, Aztec Ruins, Bandelier and Pecos in New Mexico; Hovenweep in Utah; and Canyon de Chelly, Wupatki, Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot in Arizona. Native Hawaiian culture is celebrated at three sites on the Big Island, all with names almost impossible for non-Hawaiians like me to spell and remember! By Bob Hoelscher

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PLANNER EDUCATION

EFFECTIVE SOCIAL MEDIA BUILDS ATTRACTIONS’ ATTENDANCE BY B R I A N J E W E L L

ocial media has been a dominant platform in digital marketing for well over a decade now, and tourism professionals from every corner of the industry recognize the importance of using it effectively. But because the technology and trends change so quickly, many attraction representatives are unsure of the best ways to use social media to reach potential visitors, and especially groups. If you want to maximize your attraction’s social media impact among group travel planners, or if you work for a destination whose attractions could use some coaching, take advantage of these four tips for making the most of social media opportunities.

FACILITATE SHARABLE MOMENTS Everyone hopes that visitors to their attractions will share their experiences on social media. But are you doing enough to make those interactions fun, easy and instant? Examine your visitor experience from a social media point of view, and see if there are places where you can create shareable moments. Set up an exciting photo op, and create a clever hashtag to encourage visitors to snap selfies and share them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram while they’re on your property. And keep your eye on your social accounts throughout the day so you can react to and share your visitors’ posts in real time.

the things they discuss online. If you want to reach group travelers through social media, find ways to identify the influencers who have a lot of sway in the industry. Make a list of tour operators, bus companies or group leaders you know, and reach out to them through social media, offering to show them around your attraction free of charge. This is also a great way to reach travel journalists, bloggers and other well-known people in your target markets. PLAY SOCIAL GAMES Sometimes visitors may not think to use your hashtag or handles when posting about their experiences on social media. So, to encourage them to include you in their posts, consider offering giveaways or incentives when they mention you online. If a social-savvy group comes through your doors, tell them that one person in the group who posts with your hashtag will win a Starbucks gift card. Or offer a gift shop discount to anyone who checks into, posts about or reviews your attraction on a social site. You can even have a photo contest, offering a small prize to the visitor whose photos from your attraction get the most reactions online.

COURT INFLUENCERS Social media is often considered a democratic platform because it is open to anyone. But not all social shares are created equal. Some users have wide audiences and exert a lot more influence in

WORK TOGETHER Social media platforms are built for sharing, and the impact of your online activities is amplified when others retweet and repost your message. Consider teaming up with other attractions, hotels, CVBs and additional tourism partners in your area to make your social media efforts go further. Share their content with your audience, and ask them to share yours with theirs. The more active and engaged your local tourism community is, the more likely travel planners are to see your message and respond.

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H A R B IN G E R S

Ahead by BRIAN JEWELL

I S S U E J A N U A R Y 2 017

Photos courtesy Keeneland Racecourse

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Courtesy


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he weather may be unpredictable, but these experiences are not: When certain things start to happen, you know spring is on its way. It’s no secret that tourism slows down after the holidays, and most travelers stay home and wait for warmer weather before hitting the road again. So when signs of spring start to appear, it marks the end of cabin fever and the beginning of travel season for groups across the country. From the shores of Alaska to baseball fields in Arizona and antebellum homes in Mississippi, spring brings an awakening of activity. Here are 10 of our favorite harbingers of spring. Though they are not necessarily springthemed events, each of these popular travel experiences is a sure sign that sunshine is on its way.

NATCHEZ SPRING PILGRIMAGE Spring blossoms add one more layer of elegance and beauty to the dozens of antebellum homes that have made Natchez, Mississippi, famous. This town enjoys more than its share of gorgeous historic homes, many privately owned, and opens them to visitors twice a year for tour series known as pilgrimages. The Spring Pilgrimage in Natchez begins this year March 18 and runs through the middle of April. There are 33 homes open on the tour, some that date back as far as 1775. Each house is open on selected dates throughout that period, and groups can select from different packages of several homes each to visit. Throughout 2017, Mississippi will be celebrating its bicentennial, which will bring an added element of history and celebration to the pilgrimage.

CACTUS LEAGUE BASEBA LL They’re known as the boys of summer, but the players of major league baseball begin their work each year at the very beginning of March during spring training. Because March is still wintry in much of the country, 15 major league teams decamp to Arizona for spring training, taking up residence at smaller ballparks in areas such as Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe and Mesa. Much of the spring training regimen consists of exhibition games between teams. Travelers can enjoy these low-stakes contests in intimate settings by attending one of the Cactus League games in the area, which take place nightly between the beginning of March and the beginning of April. Groups can also arrange to attend training sessions during the daytime and may get chances to meet some of the professional players.

NEBRASKA’S SANDHILL CRANE MIGRATION For birding enthusiasts, spring brings a chance to see throngs of majestic sandhill cranes as they travel north for the summer. Kearney, Nebraska, and other nearby destinations in the Platte River Valley see more than 500,000 birds in March and early April, when they stop in the area to eat and rest before continuing their journey farther north. Kearney bills itself as the Sandhill Crane Capital of the World and has numerous places where groups can see the birds up close. The Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary offers guided trips for visitors to see the cranes from observation blinds on the banks of the river. Visitors can also watch the birds from a bridge at Fort Kearny State Recreational Area. WHITEWATER RAFTING In popular whitewater rafting destinations such as West Virginia’s New River Gorge and the Ocoee River

SPRING BRINGS BEAUTIFUL FLOWERS AND STYLISH CLOTHES TO KEENELAND RACECOURSE IN LEXINGTON.

Artwork by Donia Simmons

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of southeast Tennessee, spring brings the beginning of rafting season as runoff from melting spring snow brings high water and temperatures get warm enough for visitors to venture into the water. The New River and Gauley River in West Virginia are considered some of the best rafting destinations in the country, and outfitters there begin operating trips in late March and early April. The height of the water can vary widely during that time, so guides plan their routes daily to take advantage of the best conditions. In Tennessee, near Chattanooga, rafting on the Ocoee River gets underway with dam releases on weekends in mid-March. Groups can take half-day rafting trips on the Middle Ocoee on weekends throughout the spring. Full-day rafting excursions begin in midMay and continue throughout the summer. KENTUCKY HORSE RACING Thoroughbred racing is widely beloved throughout Kentucky, second in popularity only to college basketball perhaps, so after basketball season ends in March, locals are anxious to get out to the racetracks in April to enjoy the beauty of early spring and the pageantry of racing. In Lexington, the spring meet at Keeneland Race Course gets underway in early April and lasts for three weeks, affording visitors great opportunities to try out their new sundresses and hats. Then, at the end of the month, racing starts at Churchill Downs in Louisville. The famous Kentucky Derby takes place on the first Saturday in May, and the meet continues until July. Groups can take behind-the-scenes tours of both racetracks and enjoy priority seating and other special amenities during meets. SAN ANTONIO CELEBRATES The residents of San Antonio don’t exactly endure difficult winters, with average daytime temperatures in January and February topping out in the mid-60s Fahrenheit. But locals still find reasons to celebrate spring with a pair of events that have become signatures of the city. Taking place over 10 days in late April, Fiesta San Antonio is a citywide celebration of the area’s Mexican heritage. Highlights include athletic events, concerts, cultural performances and lighted boat parades on the River Walk. Groups will enjoy the colors, flavors

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and sounds of Latin pride, as well as the beautiful Texas weather. In May, the city follows up with Culinaria, a weeklong festival around town that showcases the many gastronomical delights created in area restaurants and wineries. Visiting groups can enjoy chef demonstrations and all manner of food at a number of daytime and evening events.

ALASKA CRUISES Alaska is one of the most beloved tourist destinations in North America, but due to its northern latitude and extreme weather, much of the state is practically uninhabitable during winter for all but the heartiest of souls. For that reason, the flood of visitors to Alaska is limited to the months between late spring and early fall. Many trips to Alaska involve cruises, and ships start sailing from port cities such as Seattle and Vancouver in late April. These cruises cover the Inside Passage of Southeast Alaska, the first part of the state to thaw, and often include stops in ports such as Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan, as well as views of gorgeous glacier fields. Passengers on these early cruises take a bit of a chance on weather, as spring can still be quite cold in Alaska, but they benefit from fewer crowds and favorable cruise pricing. NATIONA L PARK LODGES OPEN Some of America’s most beautiful national parks are in the mountain West, where harsh winters can make it difficult for lodging staffs to offer full service to visitors. And though parks such as Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Glacier National Park in Montana are open to visitors year-round, it is the opening of park lodges that marks the beginning of spring and the busy tourist season for these destinations. Yellowstone has become known as a bit of a winter hot spot, so Old Faithful Snow Lodge offers accommodations for selected weeks during cold weather. But most of the park’s other accommodations, including Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Lake Yellowstone Hotel, begin to open in late April, with others opening in May. In Glacier, Apgar Village Lodge and the Prince of Wales Hotel open in May, with other accommodations following in June.


CHICAGO IN BLO OM After the brutal cold and snow that a Lake Michigan winter can deliver, spring is especially pleasant in Chicago. In addition to warmer weather and sunshine, the season brings displays of floral and botanical color at several garden attractions in the Chicagoland area. The Morton Arboretum, a 1,700-acre site in Lisle, has thousands of trees that are beautiful all year long, but spring brings blooms of virbinium and forsythia, as well as a spring bulb sale that is popular with the public. The Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe sits on 385 acres and includes six miles of lake and river shoreline, all of which bloom beautifully in spring. And the Anderson Japanese Garden in Rockford comes alive with traditional Asian plants and water features. HOLLAND AMERICA SHIPS BEGIN SAILING TO ALASKA IN LATE SPRING. Courtesy Holland America Line

MAJOR FO OD FESTIVA LS With the ascendance of the culinary arts in popular culture, large-scale and star-studded food festivals have become headlining events in destinations large and small throughout the country. Many of these events take place throughout the spring, marking a delicious kickoff to warm-weather months. Arguably the most prestigious culinary event in the country, the South Beach Wine and Food Festival takes place in Miami at the end of February — still winter in many places but well into spring for southern Florida. It is followed by other popular celebrations, such as Charleston Wine + Food in South Carolina in March, California’s Pebble Beach Food and Wine in early April, the Austin Food and Wine Festival in late April in Texas and the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience in May.

FIESTA COMMEMORATES SAN ANTONIO’S LATIN HERITAGE. Courtesy Visit San Antonio

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WHITEWATER RAFTING ON THE OCOEE RIVER MARKS SPRING’S ARRIVAL IN SOUTHEAST TENNESSEE. Courtesy Chattanooga CVB C Ch

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ELIZABETH HEY LOOKS BACK ON HER

B U C K E Y E VA C ATIO N BY E L I ZA B E T H H E Y

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O GERMAN VILLAGE IS THE ARCHITECTURAL AND HISTORICAL HEART OF COLUMBUS. Courtesy Experience Columbus

n every corner of the state, Ohio will impress and possibly surprise your group. Unexpected gems in big-city neighborhoods and quaint towns juxtapose gorgeous scenery and numerous activities for a memorable journey. Starting in Columbus and heading north to the Lake Erie region before looping back to Hocking Hills State Park, I received a warm Midwestern welcome when I toured the state last summer.

Lindey’s, one of Columbus’ most distinguished restaurants, featured a medley of tasty American dishes. Another highlight, the Book Loft ranks as the nation’s largest independent bookstore, selling thousands of titles. There is even a map to navigate the store. If it weren’t for the fascinating architecture and Clarke’s stories, I could have spent the afternoon wandering its 32 themed rooms, with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and different music playing in each nook.

GERMAN VILLAGE , C OLUMBUS Like many cities, Columbus has several historic neighborhoods, each with a distinctive story and culture. Just south of downtown Columbus, I stepped into a bygone era at German Village, the city’s first designated historic district. Brick cottages with slate roofs, cobblestone streets, gated gardens and window planters bursting with flowers charm all who visit. Today’s district is smaller than the original, but there are plenty of sights in its 233 acres. Schiller Park, the neighborhood’s 23-acre centerpiece, looks much as it did in 1898. Smaller homes fill the south side of the district, and elaborate Italianates and Victorians occupy the north side. At the red-brick Meeting House, my introduction to the village started with a short video that detailed the neighborhood’s history. Afterward, local author John Clarke took me on a fascinating walking tour, sharing the history of almost every building that we passed. Step-on tours are another of his specialties. It’s all published in his new book, “German Village Stories Behind the Bricks.” “Families came here in the 1830s, and some still live here today,” said Clarke. “This area looks much as it did 100 years ago and has several of the most celebrated restaurants in Columbus.” Lunch at fifth-generation-owned Schmidt’s, with its German buffet and house-made sausages, was a boisterous affair. Dinner at upscale

DUBLIN AND HILLIARD Bridging the gap between Dublin, Ireland, and Dublin, Ohio, this community on the northwest side of Columbus touts a spunky Irish attitude. Downtown Dublin’s limestone buildings reflect the Old World, and boutiques and sweet shops make this a delightful spot. I visited the establishments on the Four-Leaf Clover Scavenger Hunt, which is available for groups: Ha’penny Bridge Imports of Ireland, Our Cupcakery, TehKu Tea and the Sisters Sweet Shoppe. At Ha’penny Bridge Imports, the owner tailors talks around Irish celebrations, and Our Cupcakery offers cake-decorating classes as well as a decorate-your-own-cupcake counter. Near downtown Dublin, many locals and visitors head to the Morgan House for dining and shopping. This former log cabin, named after famed Civil War veteran John Hunt Morgan, has seen several expansions since it was moved to its current site in 1985. A labyrinth of rooms displays Ohio-made products, gifts, clothing, gourmet food, furniture, home decor and more. The restaurant serves lunch only and easily accommodates groups. Afterward, I stopped by the Richens Timm Academy of Irish Dance to watch practice. Irish dancing is a mainstay in this neighborhood. “By far, one of our best group experiences is Irish Dance 101,” said Amanda Mikkelson, group sales manager at the Dublin Convention and Visitors

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AN IRISH SHOP IN DUBLIN

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Courtesy Dublin CVB

A LAKE ERIE SUNSET CRUISE ABOARD THE GOODTIME

APPLE BUTTER PRODUCTION AT COOPERÕS MILL Courtesy Lake Erie Shores and Islands

Courtesy Cooper’s Mill

Bureau. “Owner John Timm won the Senior Men’s World Championship in Irish dancing in 1993.” Established in 1853, the nearby town of Hilliard commemorates its beginnings at the Historic Village at Weaver Park. The village buzzes with activity as costumed docents lead tours and give demonstrations that offer a glimpse into 1800s life. Except for the museum, each original building on the three acres was moved on-site; they include a 19th-century truss bridge, a log cabin, a one-room schoolhouse, an election wagon and a caboose. Tours start in the 1855 Collwell Chapel. The museum displays vignettes of 1800s life: a barber shop, a general store and more.

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may never set foot on Air Force One, but I have walked through a few presidents’ airplanes. You can too in Ohio. There’s a lot of aviation history in the area around Dayton. The Wright Brothers lived in the city and did most of the work of designing their famous Wright Flyer at their bicycle shop, which is now part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park. And just outside the city, the National Museum of the United States Air Force is a massive, immersive institution that educates visitors on the science of aviation and the history of the Air Force. I have visited the Air Force museum several times and always thoroughly enjoy the experience. My favorite part, though, is spending time in the Presidential Gallery, a remote hangar that houses 10 airplanes used by former presidents of the United States. These include some early airplanes used by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower, as well as the Boeing VC-137C that served as Air Force One for eight presidents, starting with John F. Kennedy; it was retired in 1990. Visitors can walk through many of these planes and see them much as their presidential passengers of the mid20th century did. It’s fascinating to see how the airplane technology and interiors have changed over the years. Perhaps the most moving part, though, is standing aboard the plane that carried Kennedy’s body back from Dallas after he was assassinated in 1963 and seeing the spot where a somber Lyndon B. Johnson took the oath of office with Kennedy’s widow at his side. Though it has been more than 50 years since those events took place, a deep sense of history remains. Ñ BRIAN JEWELL

C O OPER’ S MILL , BUCY RUS An hour north of Columbus on the way to Sandusky, Cooper’s Mill makes a tasty stop. Sharon Sparks, daughter of the original owner, told me that her parents started the business in 1969 selling produce from a roadside stand. Throughout the store, I sampled numerous food products made in Ohio. The adjacent factory produces jellies and jams. Among the all-natural, nonGMO and gluten-free products are 40 flavors of jams and jellies; five relishes; and apple butters, including no-sugar flavors. Sharon’s brother, Dan, develops recipes, such as their new line of barbecue sauces. In the deli area, apple cider doughnuts fried daily are glazed several ways,


NG I R P S ’S O I H O M I G R AT I O N

ge,, such all available for sampling. Inventive Inve flavors ssuuch as c with a flav fl avvor orss of o fudge, ffud uddge udge as chocolate ayer, are made several severa veral times time chewy praline layer, mess each each ea h week. weeek. k. Visitors Vis isit itoo can buy fresh it peanut butter made four ways, pies baked O h ed in Ohio, a local cookie Oh h raw hio, raaw honey, hoone ney, and and pancake mixes. ixes. The store also stocks farmfarm-fresh f esh h produce, produce candles made -fr wels, rag rugs and other kitchen ttems. locally, hand towels, en iite items. LAKE ERIE IE SHORES AND ISLANDS Upon arriving ng in the Sandusky area, I checked into S Sawmill aw wmi Creek Resort ers a private beach, on the shores of Lake Erie. This 232-room property offer offers charter fishing for perch and walleye, a Tom Fazio golf course and the delightful Sawmill Shops, former barns filled with a variety of clothes, jewelry and home decor. Even in the Midwest, island hopping and sandy beaches are within reach on a narrated Goodtime Lake Erie Island Cruise. Rented golf carts and bicycles made getting around the islands easy. From Sandusky, we cruised past Cedar Point and stopped at Kelleys Island first, before heading to Put-in-Bay. On laid-back Kelleys Island, the only hotel is the Kelleys Island Venture Resort, with lovely gardens and water views. The island’s North Shore Loop Trail skirts a rocky shoreline, and the picturesque state park beach offers a half-moon of sand and waves, plus kayak rentals. Nearby, the island’s glacial grooves rank as the world’s largest, excavated display. It’s worth taking the trail that overlooks the 396-foot-long and 30-foot-wide grooves. On the way back to the pier, we picked up a to-go lunch of traditional fried-perch sandwiches, fries and house chowder at second-generation-owned Village Pump. In contrast to relaxed Kelleys Island, Put-in-Bay, nicknamed the Key West of the Midwest, bustles with restaurants, bars and shops. Tram tours offer an island overview, and they’re a one-stop shop that’s especially fun for groups. Near town, Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center offers cave tours, a rock-climbing wall, miniature golf, a butterfly house and mining for gems. Groups touring the area should be sure to visit Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, which commemorates the Battle of Lake Erie that took place in the surrounding waters. The visitor center details this significant battle during the War of 1812. Perry’s Monument observation deck rises 352 feet above Lake Erie with panoramic views. The island has numerous eateries, and a mid-afternoon ice cream cone at the Chocolate Café hit the mark. FIRELANDS WINERY, SANDUSKY Award-winning Firelands Winery, the state’s largest producing and distributing winery, is proof that Ohio can make great wines. The winery’s name

Artwork by Donia Simmons

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Courtesy Tuscarawas Co.CVB

f you have bird-watching aficionados in your group, they likely already know about the Biggest Week in American Birding, a 10-day event that takes place at several observatories and wildlife refuges in northwest Ohio. But even travelers who have never spied a bird through binoculars will appreciate the significance of the area if they visit for this spring celebration. The event takes place at the peak of the spring warbler migration in the marsh region around Lake Erie. Known as the Warbler Capital of the World, this area features many other migrating songbirds as well. Experts offer guided trips to birding hot spots, as well as birding workshops, keynote presentations, and parties with regional food, wine and music. The 2017 Biggest Week in American Birding will take place May 5-14 and is headquartered at the Maumee Bay Lodge and Conference Center in Oregon, Ohio, about 10 miles east of Toledo. Other sites include the Black Swan Bird Observatory, the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area. WWW.BIGGESTWEEKINAMERICANBIRDING.COM

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A SECLUDED WATERFALL IN THE HOCKING HILLS

originated from the Firelands region of north-central Ohio, allotted to Connecticut citizens whose homes were burned by the British during the Revolutionary War. As they resettled, they brought with them their winemaking heritage. Firelands’ winemaker for 30 years, Claudio Salvador, hails from Italy. His 2014 Firelands Gewurztraminer won best white wine in the state at the Director’s Choice awards. Grapes are grown on-site and obtained from New York and Pennsylvania, since demand far exceeds the winery’s acreage. The winery also stocks home winemaking supplies. Tasting flights feature four one-ounce samples plus a bonus round, usually an Italian import. Salvador imports Italian wines; one label is from his wife’s family, who are winemakers in Italy. Hourlong group tastings in a cozy upstairs room accommodate up to 60 people. Tastings include a tour that overlooks the wine production area: stainless tanks, riddling racks for champagne and the bottling line. Each person takes home a glass stamped with the winery’s name.

HOCKING HILLS STATE PARK, LOGAN Ohio’s diverse geography offers many opportunities for outdoor recreation. In the heart of the state, approximately an hour south of Columbus, I looped back to visit Hocking Hills State Park. This spot is like no other in Ohio with its dramatic rock formations, waterfalls and caves. Old Man’s Cave Trail leads hikers to its upper, middle and lower falls amid sandstone cliffs and steep hills. The trail is accessed by stairways and paths built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Zip lining, kayaking and fishing round out the park’s outdoor activities. According to locals, spring rains create picturesque waterfalls, and the autumn leaves are spectacular. Hocking Hills Lodge serves renowned brisket, pulled pork, smoked chicken and ribs for groups. Chef Matt Rapposseli, a New England Culinary Institute graduate and veteran chef, uses a wood-fired smoker, whose mouthwatering aroma lures diners in from the parking lot. He cooks meats overnight for fall-off-the-bone tenderness. Except for the ketchup and barbecue sauce, everything on the outstanding menu is made from scratch, down to the salad dressings, potato rolls and pizza crust. Next time, I’ll plan a return visit for the lodge’s popular Sunday brunch.

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Courtesy Hocking Hills Tourism Assoc.

WINE TASTING AT FIRELANDS WINERY

Courtesy Lake Erie Shores and Islands

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All ph photo otos cour ourtes tesyy Visit Visi Billing Bill All photos courtesy Visitt Billings ingss THE BEARTOOTH HIGHWAY OVERLOOKS THE STRIKING MOUNTAINS OF SOUTHEAST MONTANA.

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WALKING IN BILLINGS’ BREWERY DISTRICT

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he people of Billings, Montana, want to get you into their city. They also want to get you out. It’s not that they are inhospitable — quite the opposite. Billings’ location in the southeast of the state puts it within an easy driving distance of some of the area’s most beautiful scenery and most historic sites. Locals want you to enjoy the attractions and amenities within the city limits without missing the chance to explore these nearby treasures. “You could stay here for a week and see all the things in town,” said Alex Tyson, executive director of Visit Billings. “But our community brand is Montana’s Trailhead. It’s a huband-spoke mentality. If you’re going to come here, you should take in a little bit of the United States history and also see the scenic wonders around us. You won’t be disappointed.”


HIKING IN THE BEARTOOTH MOUNTAINS

THE LO CAL LOOK For many people, Montana exemplifies the essence of the rugged outdoors and the Wild West, and travelers often begin their Montana journeys in Billings, which is Montana’s largest city and offers air service from several major national carriers. The landscape of the area immediately surrounding the city is an impressive sight to many first-time visitors. “Montana is one of those bucket-list destinations — Big Sky Country,” Tyson said. “You can see for miles. Billings is situated where the mountains meet the plains.” It’s a short trip from the airport to the center of town, a regional hub of shopping, dining and entertainment. The city has 55 hotels and hundreds of restaurants, along with a wide variety of local shops where visitors can purchase anything from custom-fitted, handmade hats to beautiful artwork created in the area. The city’s geographic surroundings also offer some outdoor highlights. “Our entire city is sheltered by unique, beautiful sandstone cliffs,” Tyson said. “We are situated in between these rim rocks and the Yellowstone River. We have the Marathon Loop trail system that runs approximately 26 miles from the river to the rim rocks.” Tyson said groups visiting town often enjoy watching the sun set over the rim rocks, and some enjoy the experience so much that they return to the spot to experience the sunset again the following night.

N E A R B Y N AT U R E Among Billings’ greatest assets is its proximity to some of the most impressive natural and historic sites in Montana. Groups can reach the northeastern corner of Yellowstone National Park from Billings in a little over an hour. But they should also take advantage of some of the other National Park Service (NPS) sites and scenic stops located throughout the region. “About an hour’s drive south of Billings, we have major U.S. history with the Battle of Little Bighorn and Bighorn National Monument,” Tyson said. “And 90 minutes south of us is Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. It’s one of the most spectacular and undiscovered NPS entities. It’s breathtaking, with 200-foot cliffs.” Pompeii’s Pilar National Monument, site of the only physical evidence of Lewis and Clark’s journey across the West, sits about 30 miles east of Billings. Many of the most popular scenic sites in southeast Montana are connected by Beartooth Highway, a 68-mile-long National Scenic Byway that winds through the area. “Charles Kuralt called it America’s most beautiful road, and USA Today Travel rates it as a top scenic byway year after year,” Tyson said.

WONDERS OF THE WEST Big skies and rugged scenery have given rise to a rich Western heritage in southeast Montana, and a few museums in Billings give visitors a look into that element of the city’s ethos. A great starting point for groups is the Yellowstone County Museum, which is housed in a historic log cabin and has numerous exhibits related to the area’s Western roots, railroad history and local art. “If you go downstairs, there is an old horsedrawn buggy,” Tyson said. “You see a number of old saddles that are intricately carved and detailed. There’s a display on the Native American culture, which is very important to your region. You see tepees, moccasins and hand-beaded leatherwork.” That story continues at the Western Heritage Center, where Montana’s Western culture is examined from both a historical and a contemporary perspective. “There is a man there named Kevin Kooistra who is our community historian,” Tyson said. “He can tell you about everything from the brothels of the railroad days to the sandstone cliffs that surround us. The exhibits you see in there really take a look at what Montana is all about and what the West is today.” During the summer, Kooistra also hosts a downtown walking tour called Hoof-It With a Historian, which features information about historic buildings around town and the landscape surrounding the city. Finally, art lovers will want to stop at the Yellowstone Art Museum. “It’s one of the quintessential art museums of the West,” Tyson said. “They have everything from nationally known Western artists to some great artists in our community, as well as top exhibitions from places like New York and Los Angeles.”

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REFLECTING IN THE BEARTOOTH MOUNTAINS

SUNSET ON THE RIM ROCKS SURROUNDING BILLINGS

DINING AND DRINKING Like many cities in the United States, Billings has undergone an impressive downtown revitalization over the last 20 years, and Historic Montana Avenue is now a visitor highlight. This walkable area is home to many of the city’s best restaurants, as well as its up-and-coming brewery district. There are now seven breweries in Billings, along with two distilleries and a cidery, and groups can tour, taste and even enjoy meals at several of them. “One of the best places to start is Trailhead Spirits,” Tyson said. “It’s in an old train depot that has been completely renovated. The distiller takes wheat and rye from his family farm in northeastern Montana and uses it to distill chocolate whiskey, rye whiskey, vodka and gin. The distiller is very social and will take you on a tour, and you can have a couple of drinks.” Across the street, Uberbrew is a celebrated beer producer that has been winning national brewery awards. There are some smaller breweries in the neighborhood as well, some of which serve food along with beer tastings. Groups can plan their meals around a stop at the Cider House, which uses apples grown locally and throughout the region to create cider products. “They have an amazing chef who pairs their ciders with different tapas,” Tyson said. “They are located in an old historic warehouse, and they just opened a few months ago. It’s very popular.” Tyson also suggested that groups stop in for a bite at the Burger Dive, a small restaurant downtown that has been featured on Food Network and is beloved by locals. “It’s a greasy spoon in the greatest sense,” she said. “It is small and has limited hours, but it’s well worth the wait. If you’re here, you don’t want to miss it.”

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 WWW.VISITBILLINGS.COM 

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INDUSTRY EDUCATION

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NEW BOOK OF GROUP TRIVIA GAMES NOW AVAIL ABLE hen faced with a three-hour motorcoach ride with less-than-exciting scenery, many group leaders turn to group games to combat their passengers’ boredom. A fun and engaging game can not only pass time, but also bond the participants with a memory that otherwise would not have existed. That is why The Group Travel Leader has recently released the “Group Games: Trivia Quiz Motorcoach Activities E-Book.” “Group games have long been our most popular web content,” said Eliza Myers, online editor of The Group Travel Leader. “Our last group games e-book was so popular that we wanted to give group travel planners more resources to help keep their travelers active and engaged on the road.” This edition of the Group Games e-book series focuses on knowledge quizzes and trivia games.

Groups travelers can test their pop culture memories with the TV Trivia game or guess the sources of well-known sayings in the Famous Quotes by Famous People game. Other games focus on facts and tidbits from

popular travel destinations, such as Alaska and Chicago, or travel themes, such as state nicknames and state slogans. “People love these outside-the-box games because they build camaraderie with other passengers, which can lead to lasting friendships,” said Myers. “That’s what you want on a group tour because it enhances passengers’ entire travel experience and makes them more likely to book their next tour with your group.” Each game comes with instructions for the group leader and, if needed, any handouts necessary to play the game. Group leaders can simply print whichever game they think will fit their next trip from the e-book document. The e-book is available as a free download for a limited time at: W W W.GROUP TR AV ELLE ADER .COM / EBOOK

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2017 T R AV E L SOU T H TOU R PL A N N E R

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SOUTH America’s cool lies beyond every turn


T R AV E L S O U T H D O M E S T I C S H O W C A S E

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TRAVEL

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Local breweries are putting a Southern twist on beer.

T H E SO U T H

AFTER DARK

Music, moonlight and other excitement mark evenings in the South.

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Attractions and communities around the region are making memories on social media.

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G U ID ED

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Outdoor experts are waiting to help your group explore the natural South.

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LEE SENTELL • DIRECTOR A L A B A M A T O U R I S M D E PA R T M E N T

MENTIONS

WWW. A LA BA M A . T R A V EL

J O E DAV I D R I C E • TO U R I S M D I R EC TO R A R K A N S A S D E PA R T M E N T O F PA R K S A N D T O U R I S M

TENNESSEE

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KEVIN LANGSTON • DEPUTY COMMISSIONER TOURISM DIVISION G E O R G I A D E PA R T M E N T O F E C O N O M I C D E V E L O P M E N T WWW. E XP LO R EG EOR G I A . OR G

KRISTEN BRANSCUM • COMMISSIONER K E N T U C K Y D E PA R T M E N T O F T O U R I S M WWW. KE N TUCKY T OU R I S M . C OM

K Y L E E D M I S T O N • A S S I S TA N T S E C R E TA R Y LOUISIANA OFFICE OF TOURISM WWW. L O UI SI A NAT R A V EL . C OM

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DAN LENNON • DIRECTOR MISSOURI DIVISION OF TOURISM WWW. VI SI T M O. C OM

WIT TUTTELL • DIRECTOR VISIT NORTH CAROLINA WWW. VI SI T N C . C OM

D UA N E PA R R I S H • D I R EC TO R S O U T H C A R O L I N A D E PA R T M E N T O F PA R K S , R E C R E AT I O N A N D T O U R I S M WWW. DI SCO VE R SO U T H C A R OL I N A. C OM

KEVIN TRIPLETT • COMMISSIONER T E N N E S S E E D E PA R T M E N T O F T O U R I S T D E V E L O P M E N T

Some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Smokies can't be found on a trail that you'll find on your map... They're tucked away in charming and hidden corners waiting for those that seek their beauty... #gsmnp #greatoutdoors #smokymountains #getoutsidetn #friendsofthesmokies #smokiesstrong #visitmysmokies

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R I TA M C C L E N N Y • P R E S I D E N T/ C E O V I R G I N I A T O U R I S M C O R P O R AT I O N

Facebook: Tennessee Vacation Twitter: @tnvacation Instagram: @tnvacation

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AMY SHULER GOODWIN • COMMISSIONER WEST VIRGINIA DIVISION OF TOURISM

@kristi_parsons

WWW. GO T OW V . C OM

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Ins In n pir pirati pi ation at ati on llike on, lii ke k m mu mus u ic, ic c ab a ou oun nds d acr across ac oss ou o r enti ntt re r ssta tate. te S So no ma matte tterr iiff you’ tte y u re r lookin lookin loo ki g ffor or or scenic sc sce nic to ours urs,, c ult ultura u ra l a ural ura attr tt action ttr act ct on ons, s outdoo outtdoo or adve d ntu n re, re aw war a r -wi ard -w wn nni nn ng g res restau tauran ta tau rants ants t or or wor wo lddrenown ren owned own ed d mus music, mu ic, ic c ou ourr maje ajesti aj st c sstat sti tate tat e will w illl inspi in nspi pire re e yo you o in wa w ys y you yo ’ve ve ne ever im imagi agined agi n . Plan ned ne an your you g up gro u get getawa awa aw w y to wa to Nort Nort or h Caro a rolin lina lin a toda oday y by by cont cont nttact acting in Am ing A and nd da Bake Bake er at at 984 844-364 36 -74 7474 74 74 4 orr amanda ama nd .ba nda b ker ker@vi @visit @vi sitnc. si sit nc.com nc om. visitnc.com/group


K Y L E ED M I S T ON

spurs growth to Southern destinations BY MAC LACY

A

t his organization’s International Showcase held November 28-30 in Atlanta, 2016 Travel South USA chairman Kyle Edmiston didn’t hesitate to go off script during the opening breakfast. Unlike most in the room, Edmiston had become aware that morning that Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, were suffering the effects of a massive forest fire in the Great Smoky Mountains. On behalf of 12 Southern states represented at the meeting, he offered a sincere statement of prayers and support for the residents and businesses in that iconic Tennessee travel destination. Two days later, the Travel South USA delegation had collected more than $10,000 for assistance to families that work in that area’s tourism community. It was a spontaneous gesture that sums up well the collec-

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tive mind-set that characterizes this Southern travel organization. As the state travel director of Louisiana, Edmiston has the benefit of having one of America’s iconic tourism destinations in his state. New Orleans, home to Mardi Gras and Bourbon Street, has top-of-mind awareness across the world that rivals that of almost any city in America. Yet Edmiston and his fellow board members embrace the mantra that Southern states need to stick together when selling their destinations. “A rising tide lifts all boats when it comes to selling the South,” he said. “Both domestically and internationally, we’re all stronger by pooling 12 states’ resources and creating an identity for the South. Travelers typically do not care what state they are in — they know what they want to see may involve three or four states instead of just one.”

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Edmiston cited Travel South USA’s recent sales mission to China as a prime example of that cooperative mind-set. “Last September, we took a very good group to Shanghai and Beijing, and we’ll see results from that over the next three to five years,” he said. “We had key cities and states with us, and it was the best mission I’ve been a part of in my time here. We didn’t just sell while we were there; we had educational content along the way that drove home to our attendees the demographics and travel patterns that exist in China today. “Projections are for China’s middle class to represent 300 million people by 2019,” he said. “Many of these will be young professionals 26 to 49 years old, and they want to see America. The potential impact from China in the years ahead can’t be overstated.” While his role with Travel

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South USA revolves around regional efforts, some good news closer to home has Edmiston bullish on new arrivals for his home state as well. A massive new airport will open in New Orleans in 2018 and will result in vastly increased air service for travelers from throughout the United States and across the world. Next spring, his industry will be celebrating two new international flights arriving before that expansion. In March, British Airways will begin service between the city and London Heathrow Airport. In May, Condor Airlines will begin twice weekly flights between New Orleans and Frankfurt Airport in Germany. On the domestic front, the South has long been the nation’s most-visited travel region. In the years ahead, Edmiston and his colleagues want to carry that momentum forward on the international front as well.


AND

L I Z B I T T N ER

headline the year ahead BY MAC LACY

“M

omentum” may be the best word for describing Travel South USA president and CEO Liz Bittner’s mind-set going into 2017. Last year was, in many respects, a year of “start-ups” for her venerable Southern travel organization. Creating two new websites, retaining a new international research firm and bringing the upcoming 2017 Travel South Showcase to the organization’s newest member state all served to underscore her feeling of progress. “Travel South Showcase in Branson is running about 40 percent ahead of last year for tour operator attendance, so we’re incredibly excited about that,” said Bittner. “Tour operators look at Showcase as a one-stop shopping event for their Southern programs. They can see everyone at one time to build an immersive, theme-based program involving several states.”

Bringing her group’s premier industry marketplace to Branson also excites Bittner. “Many delegates will be surprised by the depth of product in Branson,” she said. “Yes, they are known nationally for their amazing array of theaters, but their outdoor appeal is key, too. The Top of the Rock is one of the most impressive resorts I’ve ever visited. Branson’s outdoor product is going to open a lot of eyes in March. “I like our geographical balance from last year to this,” she said. “Since we’re moving from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to Branson, we’ll have a lot of different operators who weren’t with us last year. That makes for happy suppliers.” Comprehensive website overhauls undertaken in 2016 have created dramatic new windows into the South for both her trade partners and consumers worldwide. “We spent six months with [marketing company] Miles en-

visioning and creating our new trade site, www.travelsouthusa. org and making improvements to our consumer site, www.travelsouthusa.com,” said Bittner. “The consumer site is a work in progress, but we’re very pleased thus far. We’re in the process of moving all our consumer content — our trip ideas, videos, landing pages, etc. — to Brand USA’s site, www. visittheusa.com. Strategically, that aligns all our content on the South with their national visibility and dramatically increases the value for our member states. “We’re using ‘road trips’ as the marketing hook for international visitors in everything we do,” said Bittner. “The South personifies the idea of the great American road trip and resonates with international visitors who associate us with the freedom of the road. So, we’ve built something that makes perfect sense for our international marketing efforts moving forward.

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“Our trade site emphasizes all the cooperative marketing activities Travel South USA is undertaking over the next couple of years and encourages our states and cities to participate,” said Bittner. “Those offices plan far in advance, and it’s critical that we get these programs in front of them early for budgeting and staffing decisions. In our business, being prepared leads to good results.” Bittner thinks Travel South’s international efforts took a leap forward with the hiring of Tourism Economics, an Oxfordbased research firm. “Good research makes good marketing,” she said. “This company will give our states hard data based on airline lift, passports and travel patterns from different countries. For the first time, states and cities of ours will be able to look at comparative data from competing destinations and make sound marketing decisions.”


Hundreds of Beautiful Quilts

SHOW DATES DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA

March 1–4, 2017

World-Renowned Quiltmaking Instructors

LANCASTER, PENNSYLVANIA March 29–April 1, 2017

SPRING PADUCAH, KENTUCKY

Aisles of Fabric, Machines, and Quilting Supply Vendors

April 26–29, 2017

GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN

August 16–19, 2017

For more information visit QuiltWeek.com/Tours

FALL PADUCAH, KENTUCKY

September 13–16, 2017

DES MOINES, IOWA

October 4–7, 2017

CREATE INSPIRE ENJOY TOGETHER Detail: SPUYTEN DUYVIL by Patricia Hobbs

NATIONAL BRAND PARTNER


C RYI N G E A GL E BR E WE R Y Courtesy Crying Eagle Brewery

MICRO

Courtesy Slowboat Brewing Company

Courtesy C Cou o u rrte teesy e sy s Mi M Mis Missouri s sou ouu rii Div D Division v isi s on o n off Tou TTourism Touris To r iiss m ris

MAGIC Southern brews are in a glass all their own B Y S AV A N N A H O S B O U R N

BIRDSO N G B RE WI N G CO . Courtesy Birdsong Brewing Company

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T HE BE E RS O F SWE E TWA TE R BR E WI N G CO MP A N Y H A V E B EC OM E S T A P L ES OF T H E A T L A N T A A R EA . Courtesy SweetWater Brewing Company

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WITH THE UNPRECEDENTED BOOM IN MICROBREWING

over the past decade, craft brewers throughout the South are challenging the larger markets with bolder flavors and new fermentation techniques, choosing quality over quantity. For travelers who love to relax with a local brew wherever they go, visiting these up-andcoming Southern breweries can provide insight into local flavors and traditions, as well as tastes of dozens of interesting and innovative beverages. Here are some top destinations where your group can tap into the latest wave of artisan beers. B LUE PAN T S BRE WE RY Courtesy Blue Pants Brewery

H OG SHE AD T O U RS Courtesy Hogshead Tours

BLUE PANTS BREWERY

Madison, Alabama At Blue Pants Brewery and Tap Room, the Spratley family constantly tweaks its product to produce “unreasonably good beer.” In addition to house favorites and seasonal offerings, the taproom features a full view of the brewery operations. Though the brews alternate throughout the year, some current top picks include American Amber Ale, Weedy’s Double IPA, Wheat with Peach, Pinstripe Stout and Chocolate Oatmeal Porter. Twice each week, customers can enjoy live music on the brewery’s 4,000-square-foot patio and stage, accompanied by food trucks and their beer of choice from the taproom. The company continues to expand its reach, offering products on draft as well as in 12- and 22-ounce bottles throughout Alabama and Tennessee. WWW. BLUE P A N T S B R EW . C OM

HOGSHEAD TOURS

PAD UC AH BE E R WE RK S

Fayetteville, Arkansas In 2014, Dustin and Lora Murphy decided to delve into the grow-

ing brewery scene in Fayetteville by founding Arkansas’ first beer, wine and culinary tour company. Guests climb into a classic 1970 Volkswagen van, affectionately nicknamed “Vanny,” and enjoy brewery tours and tastings at three different local breweries. In addition to supporting local business, the tour enables beer lovers to experience a variety of unique brewery styles and backgrounds all in one afternoon. Guests will find a cooler inside the van for purchased growlers, grumblers and six-packs. Hogshead Tours will also pick up and drop off participants at any home or hotel within Fayetteville city limits. Some other available tours include the wine and cidery tour, the farm and food tour, the music and beer tour and the holiday dessert tour. W W W . H OG S H EA D T OU R S . C OM

SWEETWATER BREWING COMPANY

Atlanta In 2013, SweetWater Brewing Company was named one of the country’s top 20 craft breweries by the Brew Association. With the slogan “Don’t Float the Mainstream,” former college roommates Freddy Bensch and Kevin McNerny founded SweetWater as a spot where folks could kick back and enjoy a high-quality, original brew. A few classic offerings are the 420 Extra Pale Ale, the India Pale Ale and the Georgia Brown, made with caramel and chocolate malts. The smooth, blueberry-flavored

Courtesy Paducah Beer Werks

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Blue is always a hit at beer festivals. At different times of the year, patrons can try the Hash Brown, a hop-hash-infused India brown ale, or Squeeze Box, an IPA with tropical hops and grapefruit. Brewery tours are available throughout the week, and the $10 price includes a complimentary pint glass, six samples of craft beer and a tour of the facility. Groups can rent either the Tasting Room or the Reel Room to host private events. WWW.SWEETWATERBREW.COM

PADUCAH BEER WERKS

Paducah, Kentucky In 2014, longtime home brewer Todd Blume transformed an old Greyhound Bus terminal into Paducah Beer Werks, creating a social hub for locals to enjoy craft beer and great food. Though the company has only been open a few years, its beers have already won various awards at craft beer festivals, including the Pale Ale, the Irish Red and the coffee- and chocolate-flavored Robust Porter. A few seasonal brews are the Nitro Stout, a creamy oatmeal stout, and Orange Blossom, a wheat with hints of crisp orange and honey. Groups should not forget to try the food as well. The brewery kitchen serves lunch and dinner starting at 11 a.m., featuring dishes like chicken pesto panini, smoked cheddar burger, margherita pizza and honey barbecue wings. WWW.PADUCAHBEERWERKS.COM


Three days in Kentucky. That’s all it takes to discover that horses, bourbon and bluegrass are just the beginning. For sample itineraries and travel tips, visit KentuckyTourism.com/weekend.

#travelky


CRYING EAGLE BREWING COMPANY

SLOWBOAT BREWING COMPANY

Lake Charles, Louisiana Crying Eagle Brewing offers visitors a warm Southern welcome with handcrafted brews and a view of the surrounding Louisianan scenery. The company’s title comes from the name of the region’s parish or county, Calcasieu, which derives from a Native American word meaning “crying eagle.” The Avery family used a hybrid lager-ale brewing process to create the caramel, fruity flavor of Calcasieu Common. Other options include The Chuck, a golden ale, and Ready to Mingle, which carries lighter aromatic tones. Groups can make themselves at home in the Nest, Crying Eagle’s 4,000-square-foot taproom, or step outside to enjoy the beer garden. The taproom is open Wednesday through Saturday, with tours offered throughout the week.

Laurel, Mississippi Based in Laurel, Mississippi, an area depicted in the recent historical film “Free State of Jones,” artisan brewers Kenny and Carrie Mann specialize in creating unique flavor fusions, particularly stouts and farmhouse ales. They currently offer three signature beers: Into the Mystic, a Belgian witbier brewed with hibiscus and citrus; Diary of a Madman, a milk stout with vanilla bean and chocolate malt; and Wayward Son, a sour farmhouse ale with grapefruit and citrus. The brewery often hosts live music and local events, such as the recent Free State of Jones Jamboree. Tours are held on Saturdays between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and include six 6-ounce beer samples as well as a souvenir glass.

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WWW.SLOWBOATBREWCO.COM

The Avery family used a hybrid lager-ale brewing process to create the caramel, fruity flavor of Calcasieu Common.

A B U R G ER AT C R Y I N G EAG L E B RE W E R Y

Courtesy Crying Eagle Brewery

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SWAMP RABBIT BREWING

Travelers Rest, South Carolina Nicknamed the “godfather of beer,” Ben Pierson originally received classical training in Germany as a brewer and spent the past 30 years establishing more than 20 craft breweries throughout the United States. In 2014, he opened Swamp Rabbit in Travelers Rest, South Carolina, and introduced award-winning brews like the Double IPA, which won gold in the 2015 World Championship in Chicago. Other favorites are the Marzen, a German Pilsner malt, as well as the White Ale, a Belgian-style blend of barley, wheat

SLO W B OAT BR EW I N G CO M P A N Y

Courtesy Slowboat Brewing Company

SL O W B OA T BR E W I N G CO M P AN Y

MORAVIAN CULINARY TRAIL • HEIRLOOM GARDENS COLLECTION HISTORIC HOMES TOUR • GATEWAY TO YADKIN VALLEY WINE REGION

Courtesy Slowboat Brewing Company

SWA M P R AB B I T BR E WE R Y

MENTIONS ALABAMA

Courtesy Swamp Rabbit Brewery

@hkstaggs

Alabama Tourism Department Facebook: Sweet Home Alabama Twitter: @tweethomeala Instagram: Alabama Travel Summer means The Miracle Worker @ Ivy Green #bestdateever #sweethomeAL #masterteacher #AnneSullivan #HelenKeller

Step-On Guides • Welcome Reception with Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Mystery Tours • Fam Tours • Itinerary and Marketing Support

FOR DETAILS, CONTACT: Kay Calzolari, Group Tour Manager Kay@VisitWinstonSalem.com 336-728-4237 • 866-728-4200 VisitWinstonSalem.com

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B EER B R EA K FAS T AT URBAN C H ES T N U T

and oats with hints of orange and chamomile. Groups can relax on the back patio with a cold glass of beer and play a round of Scrabble as they listen to live music. Food trucks are available outside. W W W . T HE S W A MP R A BBI T B R E W E R Y. COM

Courtesy Urban Chestnut Brewery

THE BIE RHALL AT UR BA N CH E STN UT BR E WE R Y

U R B AN C H ES T N U T B EER

Courtesy Urban Chestnut Brewery

Courtesy Urban Chestnut Brewery

We’re not just any small town. We’re the most beautiful small town in America, according to Rand McNally and USA Today. Journey to a place that slows the world down to the pace of a carriage ride. Relive history, tour bourbon distilleries, indulge in Southern cuisine, and embark on an a ernoon of shopping.

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BIRDSONG BREWING COMPANY

Charlotte, North Carolina Birdsong Brewing prides itself on offering fresh, unfiltered American-style ale, with more than 12 beers on tap. What started out as a couple of Charlotte locals with a pipe dream back in 2010 has quickly grown into a thriving venue in the heart of the community. A few top picks are the Jalapeno Pale Ale; Fake Plastic Trees Hoppy Wheat, with

www.visitbardstown.com 800.638.4877


hints of citrus and lemongrass; and Mexicali Stout, a festive mix of coffee, cinnamon, chocolate and chili spice flavors. Birdsong Brewing features an inviting outdoor patio, along with live music on weekends. Families and pets are welcome. On Thursty Thursdays, groups can learn about beer-making during a free brewery tour, accompanied by a sample of the latest weekly concoction. WWW.BIRDSONGBREWING.COM

URBAN CHESTNUT BREWING COMPANY

St. Louis, Missouri With a “new world meets old world” philosophy, Urban Chestnut strives to provide top-notch German artisan beers that reflect the “revolution” of American

craft beers, with “reverence” to the product’s European heritage. One of the most popular beers in the Revolution line is the Winged Nut, a nutty ale brewed with finely milled chestnuts, and in the Reverence series, many people gravitate toward Zwickle, a vitamin-rich German lager that won gold in the 2015 World Beer Championship. Visitors can take the selfguided tour that follows 10 stops in the Bierhall, Fermentation Hall and Packaging Hall, or participate in the complimentary group tour and tasting offered on Saturday mornings. The group tour accommodates up to 12 people. Urban Chestnut’s three locations also offer a variety of German cuisine, including chicken and dumplings with mushrooms, rotisserie chicken, liege waffles and German pork sandwiches. WWW. UR BA NC H ES T N U T . C OM

B I R D S ON G B R E W I NG CO.

Courtesy Birdsong Brewing Co.

Something new to discover everyday.

In New Orleans, there is something to amuse and delight visitors around every cobblestoned corner. Enjoy dishes like seafood gumbo or listen to live music every day of the week. We don’t need a weekend to have a good time, because our Tuesdays have just as much going on as our Saturdays. W W W . T R A V Ex L5018 S O Uor T visit H U S Contact Rachel Funel at RFunel@NewOrleansCVB.com, 800-748-8695 NewOrleansCVB.com/TravelProfessionals to start planning your trip today.

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JOHNSON CITY BREWING COMPANY

JO HN SO N CI TY BR E WI N G

Photos courtesy Johnson City Brewing

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Huntsville

Get ready for your adventure in the Rocket City! Huntsville, Alabama | huntsville.org

Johnson City, Tennessee Based in the heart of historic Johnson City, Johnson City Brewing constantly experiments with new fusion recipes, with a unique focus on storytelling. Channeling the idea that beer culture centers on great conversations and memories, each beer comes with a brief description about the history of its namesake. The brewery offers something to satisfy everyone’s palate. Some popular beers are the award-winning Apple of My Rye, Perfect Tennessee Blonde Ale, J-Town Brown Ale and Little Chicago Stout. Designated drivers can sip a glass of nonalcoholic, homemade sarsaparilla, while those with other drink preferences can take ad-

bucket list 1

Embrace adventure at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center

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Discover the nation’s largest seasonal butterfly house at the Huntsville Botanical Garden

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Shop the Artist Market at Lowe Mill and stay for a concert & picnic

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Hear stories of spies, lies, alibis & ghosts while touring our Historic Districts, Historic Huntsville Depot, Weeden House ...and more!

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vantage of one of the guest taps, like Ace Pineapple Cider or Rain Dancer Dry Cider. A few seasonal offerings are Blackberry Pie and Oak-Toberfest, which is whiskeybarrel-aged Oktoberfest. WWW.JOHNSONCITYBREWING.COM

VIRGINIA BREWERY TOURS

Richmond, Virginia The Virginia Brewery Tours take groups on an exclusive journey to some of the best craft beer in the state. Groups can choose from one of four available tours that each feature a different beer theme, currently Pale Ale, Pilsner, Lager and Imperial. Led by a trained guide, guests learn about Virginia’s craft beer history and culture as they enjoy tasting flights at three local breweries, with at least one facility tour.

Tours may be customized to the interests of a group so that each experience is unique and engaging for all the guests. Tour vehicles can hold anywhere from two to 55 people, and groups are welcome to schedule private tours for parties or corporate team-building events.

S A M P L I N G R I C HMOND BE E R

WWW. VI R G I N I AB R EW ER Y TO U R S . C OM

GREENBRIER VALLEY BREWING COMPANY

Lewisburg, West Virginia With the slogan “Get Out, Explore, Bring Beer,” Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company inspires a sense of adventure, with each beer named after a West Virginian myth or legend. The company uses first-rate grains and hops from England, Germany and the Pacific Northwest.

Courtesy RVA Trolley of Richmond

Museums, dining, maritime history, waterfront cruises and shopping make Norfolk, Virginia a distinct destination offering a variety of itineraries for your group to enjoy. With so much to see and do, the possibilities are endless. To learn more, visit us online or contact Melissa Hopper, Associate Director of Tour & Travel. Discover it all at visitnorfolktoday.com.

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G R EEN B R I ER V AL L EY B R EW I N G C OM P A N Y Courtesy Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company

LIC K IN GHO L E CR E E K CR A F T BRE WE RY O UT SI DE O F R I CH M O N D

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Courtesy Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery

Courtesy RVA Trolley of Richmond

Some of these daring drinks are the Wild Trails mix of mango, tangerine and pine; the Devil Anse IPA, a yellow ale with an exotic balance of citrus and tropical fruit; and the Mothman Black IPA, which carries floral and citrus flavors with hints of roasted toffee and chocolate. The first Saturday of every month, the brewery offers food, specialty drinks and live music, along with games like Jenga, Wii, chess, cornhole, foosball and checkers. Groups of all ages are welcome to join. Greenbrier Valley also features monthly movie showings on a projection screen; past films have included “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles.” Tours are $8 per person and by appointment only. W W W. G VBE E R . COM

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Don’t miss the fun apres sun

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Courtesy Alabama Cooouu rt Cou C rrte tee sy sy A Al Ala l a ba bbam aam m a TTourism ouu r ism oour m De D Dept. pt pt pt. Courtesy C Cou o u rrte teesy e sy s Mi M Mis Missouri s sou ouu rii Div D Division v isi s on o n off Tou TTourism Touris To r iiss m ris

Courtesy Mount Vernon Ladies Association

MO U N T VE R N O N BY CA N DLE L I GH T

Courtesy Mount Vernon Ladies Association

SOUTHERN

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ALMO ST HE A VE N STA R P A R TY SH O WCA S ES T H E S I G H T S A B OV E W ES T V I R G I N I A' S S P R U C E K N OB . By Jiaquan Liu, courtesy Spruce Knob Mountain Center

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WITH GLITTERING LIGHTS AND VIBRANT SOCIAL GATHERINGS,

the South can seem like a different place after dark.

FLO RA-BAMA BE FO RE DARK

For many people, evening is a special time to laugh with friends and make unforgettable memories. There’s an abundance of opportunity to do so in the Southern states. From stargazing to haunted tours and live music shows, here are some of the region’s best venues for an evening of entertainment. Include these on your itinerary next time your group travels to this iconic part of the country.

FLORA-BAMA

Orange Beach, Alabama Along the Gulf Coast, there are few places as festive and funloving as Flora-Bama Lounge and Oyster Bar, which rests directly over the Florida and Alabama state lines. Since its opening in 1964, the bar has attracted a colorful mix of patrons, including a few celebrities. Former Oakland Raiders and Alabama quarterback Kenny Stabler once called Flora-Bama "the best watering hole in the country,” and Jimmy Buffet’s song “Bama Breeze” was inspired by the bar. Claiming the title of America’s Last Great Roadhouse, this beachfront bar and grill invites people of all backgrounds to gather and relax with a glass of its legendary drink, the Bushwacker, a creamy, frozen cocktail made with chocolate and coffee liqueurs. Other menu favorites include the Bamaburger, coconut shrimp and oysters served raw or baked with Gouda cheese. Featuring daily live music

from two outdoor stages, the bar frequently plays host to birthday parties, wedding parties, senior groups and more. “It’s a bar for everyone,” said Jenifer Surface, marketing and public and community relations director for the bar. “You can have a millionaire sitting next to a biker.” The bar hosts a variety of local events throughout the year, but the most popular is the famous Interstate Mullet Toss, when thousands of locals and tourists alike gather on the beach to partake in the tradition of throwing a mullet, a type of ray-finned fish, over state lines. Prizes are offered to those who toss it the farthest. Throughout the weekend event each spring, friends and families celebrate with music, food and many other activities. W W W . FL OR A B AM A. C OM

MYRTLES PLANTATION

St. Francisville, Louisiana A trip to Myrtles Plantation is a journey back in time. With more than 220 years of history, this antebellum house holds more than just elegant furnishings and Southern charm; it also happens to be one of the most haunted places in the United States. The plantation now functions as a bed-and-breakfast, and visitors come from far and wide to tour the property, which includes the original manor, a restaurant and several cottages. “You get to stay where many of the ghostly encounters have

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taken place,” said Hester Eby, who has worked at the home for more than 30 years. Some of the most common encounters include taps on the shoulder, sounds of children laughing, unfamiliar figures in photographs and faces peeping out of windows. In the Fanny Williams room, nicknamed “The Doll Room,” many people swear that the doll on the mantle sings or changes positions. “It’s nothing to harm you,” said Eby, who enjoys the stories of children the most. “You might hear footsteps in one of the cottages that sound like children running across the room; but at one time, that was probably their playground.” Eby recalled how a group of old college friends recently sent her a photo they took by one of the fountains on the grounds. A young man was standing beside them in the picture, though none of them remembered seeing him at the time. “His face was as clear as the rest of them,” she said. “Nothing smoky like you see in the movies.” On the weekend, visitors can take a 40-minute evening tour of the house, during which both the history of the home and mystery stories are discussed. They are encouraged to stop by the restaurant and enjoy a Southern-style meal, such as the catfish po’boy, the shrimp platter, Louisiana oysters or bread pudding. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner. WWW.MYRTLESPLANTATION.COM


FISHBONE ALLEY

Gulfport, Mississippi When visitors stroll through Fishbone Alley today, there is little trace of what was once a forgotten utility alley barely a year ago. In 2016, the city of Gulfport decided to transform the alley into an urban event space, placing an open call for local artists to redesign the strip. The response exceeded all expectations, as people from all different ages and backgrounds stepped forward to pour their creativity into the community area. “We’ve got a 17-year-old senior doing one painting project, and a Waffle House line cook doing another project,” said Chris Vignes, public information officer for the city of Gulfport. “And

M Y R T L ES P L A N T AT I O N I N L OUI S I A NA

Photos courtesy Myrtles Plantation

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

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FISHBO N E AL LE Y I N GULF P O R T

Courtesy City of Gulfport

By Alex North, courtesy Visit MS Gulf Coast

Courtesy City of Gulfport

they’ve all got these different vibes with a really great feel to them.” After Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Gulfport had no more than five or six restaurants in operation. Today, that number is pushing 40, and Fishbone Alley reflects that growth. “It’s given a whole new energy to an already vibrant downtown,” said Vignes. Near the alley entrance, a billowing octopus stretches across the “dumpster corral” fence at the Fishbone Alley entrance, which hides restaurant trash cans from view. One woman is working on a mural of a huge wave that appears to be crashing over the buildings; others plan to paint stencils of crabs and other animals using water-activated paint so that the alley becomes a whole new scene every time it rains.

SEE FOR YOURSELF Stop in and browse handcrafted, West Virginia-made products. Grab a bite of our famous fried green tomato sandwich, or stretch your legs in our beautiful courtyard. Tucked in the hills, yet right off the interstate, Tamarack is here to be the favorite part of your journey.

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In addition to the artwork, the alley features a vintage walkway made with brick pavers from 1906. Globe lights stretch across the buildings to create a bright, friendly space for evening social outings. Thanks to the city’s recent “go cups” ordinance, people can carry their alcoholic drinks between the bars and restaurants, mingling along outdoor patios. As a result, many of the bars and restaurants along 13th and 14th streets now have a new front door. With this influx of traffic, one bar owner embraced the change by painting the alley entrance in bright colors and refurbishing parts of his establishment. Along with concerts and other events, the city is also working with Cinema by the Shore to organize movie nights on a projection screen in Fishbone Alley. They

hope to incorporate a variety of themes, from family classics like “The Wizard of Oz” to date-night films and holiday favorites. WWW. GU L FC OA S T . OR G

MUSIC CITY ROOTS

Franklin, Tennessee Located in the thriving music hub of Franklin, Tennessee, in a former factory building, Music City Roots brings audiences together each week through the universal language of music. The radio show takes place every Wednesday from 7 to 9:30 p.m. and broadcasts live nationwide on Hippie Radio 94.5 as well as on PBS television stations. Each show features four musical groups that perform in separate segments and discuss their work with Grammy-win-

M U R AL S I N FI S HBONE A L L E Y

Courtesy City of Gulfport

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MUSIC CI TY R O O TS

Courtesy Music City Roots

ning host Jim Lauderdale, along with Nashville star Keith Bilbrey, the announcer. All genres come together in this music hall, from rock to country and Americana. At the end, the bands combine their styles in a one-of-a-kind free-style jam session. “If you’re a music lover, then you’re going to love it. And if you’re not, then it’ll make you one,” said Matthew Maxey, public relations coordinator at Visit Franklin. Notable musicians from past shows have included Ashley Campbell, the Doobie Brothers and John Oates from Hall and Oates. Groups receive discounted rates and are welcome to add food or drink vouchers to their tickets. With the venue’s ample space beyond the entertainment hall, many groups reserve a side

room in advance to enjoy a private dinner before the show. Music City Roots collaborates with Monell’s Dining and Catering to host private functions. Shuttle and ground transportation is also available to and from any location in central Tennessee. WWW.MUSICCITYROOTS.COM

MOUNT VERNON CANDLELIGHT TOUR

Alexandria, Virginia For more than 20 years now, Mount Vernon has treated guests to a holiday candlelight tour, which generally takes place during the three weekends after Thanksgiving. Visitors can experience George and Martha Washington’s beloved country estate as if the Washingtons them-

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selves had invited them over for a Christmas evening celebration, with live music, glittering decor and costumed actors. “You can put your hand on the banister that George Washingon touched,” said Melissa Wood, director of media relations at Mount Vernon. “I get chills every time.” One thing that surprises many guests is the lack of Christmas trees, but the estate holds true to history; Christmas trees are a Germanic tradition that did not transfer to American culture until the 1900s. The tour begins in the kitchen, where the Washingtons’ cook busily prepares dinner. Later, visitors might run into Martha and the valet in the hallway discussing plans for upcoming holiday gatherings. The characters act as walking biographies of 18th-cen-

A L I V EL Y EV EN I N G A T MUS I C CI TY R OOTS

Courtesy Music City Roots

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tury people and culture, so guests are free to engage them with any questions or comments. “So many people walk away thrilled to have had that face-toface experience with Martha,” said Wood. Some highlights of the tour include the parlor where Washington frequently met with colleagues such as Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, as well as his private office, which was strictly closed off to outsiders during his lifetime. “Just imagine George in his study as he looked at the globe on his desk, thinking about the United States and its future in the world,” said Wood.

ALMOST HEAVEN STAR PARTY

Spruce Knob, West Virginia Every year at the end of summer, amateur astronomers from all walks of life gather at West Virginia’s Spruce Knob Mountain Center for the Almost Heaven Star Party, a weekendlong stargazing event hosted by the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club. Thanks to its elevation of 4,000 feet and low light pollution, the 400-acre nature preserve lends itself to some of the highest-quality stargazing in the country.

WWW.MOUNTVERNON.ORG

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Courtesy Mount Vernon Ladies Association

MISSISSIPPI

@tlk3rd

Mississippi Development Authority

Facebook: Visit MS Twitter: @visitms Instagram: @visitms Mississippi, you're full of hidden gems #liveauthentic #visualfolk #discovermississippi

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“We’re in one of the darkest places left on the East Coast,” said David Martin, program officer at the Spruce Knob Mountain Center for the Arts. The event consistently sells out, with an average of 250 participants. Once they arrive, stargazers can either find a campsite at a nearby campground or take up residence in one of the center’s dormitories. During the day, there are a variety of available activities to pass the time, such as caving, bird walks or guided hikes to the Spruce Knob Summit, which is the highest point in West Virginia. There are also astronomy-focused seminars in the center for those interested in stargazing tips or developing technologies in the field. When dusk finally sets in, center employees close the surround-

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ing roads to prevent headlights from impairing the view, and groups begin setting up their telescopes. With so many different angles of the sky to appreciate, people often walk around and share alternative perspectives with each other, making it a true community experience. W WW . A HS P . OR G

MENTIONS VIRGINIA

Courtesy Spruce Knob Mountain Center

Thankful for last night's Blue Ridge Sunset #AppalachianTrail #ShenandoahNationalPark #loveva #travel Virginia Tourism Corporation

Our doors are always open in Mississippi VISITNATCHEZ.ORG | 800.647.6724 34

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S E Q U E L S R A R E LY L I V E U P TO T H E O R I G I N A L . U N T I L T H E Y D O.

Relive the life of Twain or hit the road along the more than 280 miles of Route 66 in Missouri. With group tours in the Show-Me State, some stories are even better the second time around. Enjoy the encore. Call 800.535.3210 or contact Donna Cordle Gray at DonnaCordle@legacydimensions.com for group info.


OUR STORIED ROADS AND RIVERS

W

hen it comes to blues music in Missouri, the thrill is far from gone.

That’s perhaps the most important lesson learned when you visit St. Louis, home of the National Blues Museum and myriad spots to hear the blues. Playing a significant role in the development of the blues, St. Louis gave rise to several prominent musicians who had an impact on and were influenced by the genre. Perhaps most famous is St. Louis native Chuck Berry, whose unique sound sprang from the blues, though he’s widely known as “The Father of Rock ’N Roll.” While St. Louis’ ties to the blues already are deep, they’re continually growing, thanks to blues-focused clubs and restaurants such as The Beale on Broadway, Blues City Deli, Highway 61 Roadhouse and Kitchen, and BB’s Jazz, Blues and Soups. You’ll also hear strains of blues music coming from Scottrade Center, home of professional hockey’s St. Louis Blues, whose moniker comes from a bluesy W.C. Handy tune of the same name.

The National Blues Museum is located at 615 Washington Ave. Groups of 20 or more qualify for discounted rates. NationalBluesMuseum.org While the blues tradition is alive and well in St. Louis, it’s not the only place to find excellent music in Missouri. Across the state, Kansas City has a lively jazz scene and is home to the American Jazz Museum, where the legacy of that genre takes center stage.


HAVE AUTHORED AMERICA’S MUSIC Located in the Historic 18th and Vine District, the American Jazz Museum is noted for its interactive exhibits and for focusing on musicians such as Charlie Parker (who lived in the Kansas City area), Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. Inside the museum, The Blue Room jazz club is an outstanding venue for live music four nights a week and it’s one of many places to enjoy jazz in Kansas City. Other hot spots include Green Lady Lounge, The Phoenix, and The Majestic Restaurant. The American Jazz Museum is found at 1616 E. 18th St., and is co-located with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Rates for groups of 25 or more are available. AmericanJazzMuseum.org While names like Berry and Parker are wellknown to music lovers, there’s another musician who is often overlooked, but equally influential. Scott Joplin wasn’t a Missourian by birth, but he spent many years living in the ShowMe State and composed some of his most popular works here. Joplin’s first major contribution, Maple Leaf Rag, helped cement his reputation as “The King of Ragtime.” You can glimpse into Joplin’s life in St. Louis, where the Scott Joplin House State Historic Site is found near the heart of downtown. Joplin lived in St. Louis when he composed The Entertainer, which became one of his best

known works, thanks in part to it being used as the theme music for the 1973 film, The Sting, which won seven Oscars, including one for best musical score. Joplin lived in Sedalia at the time the Maple Leaf Rag was published. Today, his life and music are celebrated annually at the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival (May 31-June 3, 2017) in Sedalia. The festival includes a guided bus tour that follows Joplin’s footsteps around Sedalia, along with concerts, symposiums, dances and after-hours jams. ScottJoplin.org


Come celebrate with us If the sights, sounds and tastes of festivals appeal to your groups, Missouri has a variety of options to consider.

musical traditions of the Ozarks and features local and regional musicians.

One such celebration is the annual Dogwood-Azalea Festival held each spring in the southeast Missouri city of Charleston.

The festival also celebrates folk-life traditions of the Ozarks, with cooking, blacksmithing, quilting and pottery making demonstrations a part of the mix. Groups are welcome to attend this festive event. OldTimeMusic.org

Ranked as one of the country’s top spring flower festivals by Fodor’s Travel, Charleston’s Dogwood-Azalea Festival (April 20-23, 2017) is a long-running tradition, celebrating 49 years in 2017. Along with showcasing the area’s floral beauty, the festival includes live music, a carnival, home tours, carriage rides and an ice cream social. CharlestonMo.org/ festival Live music also is a focus of the annual Old Time Music/ Ozark Heritage Festival in West Plains. Held June 16-17, 2017, this festival focuses on

A couple of hours to the west, the holiday season is the center of attention during Ozark Mountain Christmas, with Branson serving as a hub for variety of activities. From the beginning of November through New Year’s Eve, Branson’s attractions and live shows are decked out in their holiday best with performances and activities inspired by the season. Among the must-see stops is Silver Dollar City, which hosts the An Old Time Christmas festival. The event includes live holiday-themed shows, 5 million lights and more than 1,000 decorated Christmas trees. The 2.5-mile Shepherd of the Hills Trail of Lights also is a popular destination during the holidays, thanks to millions of multi-colored lights, displays and the chance to ride to the top of the 230-foot Inspiration Tower to see it all from above. Many activities in Branson are group-friendly, including those happening as part of Ozark Mountain Christmas. ExploreBranson.com/Christmas


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Branson is a small town filled with big time entertainment... and heart-to-heart hospitality. Located in the Ozarks in the state of Missouri and surrounded by rolling hills (actually one of the oldest mountain ranges in the U.S.A.) and three pristine lakes, Branson is world-famous for its Live Music Shows and fondly dubbed “America’s Favorite Hometown” by visitors.

Grand Country Music Hall features Grand Jubilee (one of Branson’s longest running shows), Comedy Jamboree, Amazing Pets, Down Home Country, New South Gospel, Branson Country USA (as seen around the world on television), and Sunday Gospel Jubilee. Check out their all inclusive vacation packages. Find out more at GrandCountry.com, call 888-506-6278.

Day Time and Night Time – It’s Always Show Time in Branson, Missouri! During a visit to Branson visitors can experience a fabulous smorgasbord of singing, dancing, comedy, and more. The variety of musical experiences includes pop, country, rock-nroll, gospel, Motown, western, Broadway, blues, swing, big band, music from every era from today’s favorites to the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and more.

Yakov’s Theatre is home to the Acrobats of China featuring the New Shanghai Circus, entertaining Branson visitors since 1998. Yakov himself, well known as the Famous Russian Comedian, tours throughout the U.S. Find out more at AcrobatsOfChina.com, call 877-212-4462.

Along with the variety of music, our family friendly shows offer comedy, magic, acrobats, dancing, theatrical dramas, ventriloquists, exotic animals, a diversity of cultural performances, and more. From classic stars to touring headliners to our homegrown shows the quality and diversity of shows available in Branson is truly amazing. The cool thing about Branson Shows is the connection to the folks on stage and their connection right back to their audiences. Our stars on stage have heart...and a good beat too! Speaking of a good beat, here are five theaters where you can find unique shows – the Hughes Brothers Theatre, Grand Country Music Hall, Yakov’s Theatre, the Branson IMAX Little Opry Theatre, and The Dutton Family Theatre. Each of these theatres offers compelling, awesome, and totally different shows. Hughes Brothers Theatre features the “it” show with the World’s Largest Performing On-Stage Family, the Hughes Brothers Christmas Show, the SIX show, and Oh Happy Day. You can also add a meal with your show! Find out more at HughesBrothersTheatre.com, call 800-422-0076. The Dutton Family Theatre features The Duttons of America’s Got Talent fame, The Duttons Christmas Show, All Hands On Deck, and The Blackwood Morning Show. Ask about the Dutton Family Inn! Find out more at TheDuttons.com, call 800-942-4626

Branson IMAX Little Opry Theatre is home to Smoke on the Mountain (a hilarious comedy), Petersen Family Bluegrass, The Sons of Britches, A Tribute to George Strait, George Jones Remembered, A Tribute to John Denver, Sanders Family Christmas, and A Tribute to Marty Robbins & Friends. The complex includes dining, shopping, and movie theaters along with a historical film on the Ozarks. Find out more at BransonIMAX.com, call 800-419-4832. On a visit to Branson you’ll find entertainment that bridges the generation gap...everybody has fun! Along with experiencing our unique shows, see the Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Drama, visit Silver Dollar City Theme Park, take in some of our museums, go on a world class eco-adventure at Branson Zipline Canopy Tours, shop for unique souvenirs and dine on cuisine special to the Ozarks.

Find out more by visiting www.ShowsInBranson.com – the official website for Branson Shows, Attractions, Shopping, Dining and Things To Do in Branson! Look for special events throughout the year including Ozark Mountain Shindig, Hootenanny in the Park, Jammin’ at Area 57, Party with The Stars, The Fiddle Festival, Falltastic Show Spree, Ozark Mountain Christmas, and more!


N O RT H C AR O L I N A M USE UM O F A R T

Courtesy NC Museum of Art

NOW Courtesy C Cou o u rrte teesy e sy s y Mi M Mis Missouri s sou ouri u rii Div D Division v isi s on o n off Tou TTourism To r iiss m ris

TRENDING

Courtesy Visit Knoxville

Southern places love to get social B Y S AV A N N A H O S B O U R N

HOTE L VA N DIVO R T Courtesy Hotel Vandivort

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S HAKER V ILLAGE O F P L E A SA N T H I L L O F F E R S P LE N T Y OF P I C T U R ES Q U E, S H A R EA B L E S C EN ES FOR S OC I A L - M ED I A -S A VVY VI S I TOR S . Courtesy Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill

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THE SOUTH HAS ALWAYS BEEN SOCIAL,

but technology today has made traveling throughout this region more fun now than ever.

AU A AUDIT AUD UD DITO ITO T O RIU RIUM M A AT T THE T TH HE E ARKANS A R K ANS ANSAS AS S R RE E PE P E RTO R RT O RY Y TH HE E A TR TRE Courtesy Arkansas Repertory Theatre

In recent years, many museums and attractions have begun using social media to give visitors a more interactive and personal experience. Through social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, guests can participate in contests, share memories and post hashtags of the event or venue. The following organizations have shared some of the creative ways they have used technology to engage their local communities and visitors from out of town. If your group travelers love a good selfie, include some of these socially savvy attractions in your next tour of the South.

ARKANSAS REPERTORY THEATRE

“A CH RIST MAS ST O RY ” A T THE ARKAN SAS RE PE RT OR Y THE AT RE

By Stephen B. Thornton

COLLE GE FO O T BALL HALL O F FAME Courtesy College Football Hall of Fame

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Little Rock, Arkansas There is no question that the Arkansas Repertory Theatre has developed a loyal online following over the past few years. Since 2014, the theater’s Instagram feed has increased from 55 followers to 5,000, and the 11,000 likes on its Facebook page now exceed 23,000. “Social media is huge for us,” said Allyson Gattin, director of marketing and audience engagement. The source of this expanded reach might surprise some: Facebook contests. Partnered with several local eateries, the Rep often sponsors production-inspired ice creams and beers, and people who follow the company on Facebook can participate in a naming contest for the product. 2 01 7

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“We wanted to do more than offer these products to our patrons. We wanted them to actually be a part of naming them,” said Gattin. Initially, the theater promotes the contest through social media as well as local media networks. After people submit their entries, theater representatives pick the top five to post on Facebook, and the online community votes on their favorite. The winner receives his or her name on the product, a sample of the ice cream or beer, and two free tickets to the show. The most recent contest involved naming a productionthemed ice cream for “A Christmas Story”; more than 400 people voted. Some favorite submissions were “You’ll Shoot Your Ice Cream Out, Kid” and “Triple Dog Dare Ya Spice Ginger Bread.” Guessing games are another fun way to engage locals. During the production of “Spamelot,” the Rep posted pictures on Facebook of the Holy Grail in abstract locations throughout the city, and the first person to correctly name its whereabouts in a comment won a poster from the show. Likewise, when “Mary Poppins” was playing, the theater photoshopped images of her flying into different parts of the city, and people had to guess where she was. W W W . T H ER EP . OR G

COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME

Atlanta Located in the diverse hub of Atlanta, the College Football

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Hall of Fame invites football fans to experience their favorite teams and players like never before with interactive displays and games that make guests feel like part of the team. With each purchased ticket, visitors receive an All-Access Pass credential with a chip inside that stores all their museum experiences inside a digital “locker.” Once they register their pass with their football team of choice, the pass automatically brings personalized content right onto the screens in front of them as they move through the exhibits. “It allows fans to immerse themselves in college football history on a whole new level,” said Dennis Adamovich, CEO of the Hall of Fame. One of these exhibits is the Coco-Cola Fans Game Day Experience, which caters to the passion and loyalty of the fans themselves by showing the world of football through their perspectives. In this area, fans can paint their faces digitally, sing their favorite team’s fight song in a karaoke challenge or join ESPN hosts Chris Fowler and Desmond Howard via green screen for a game day analysis. They can later share these interactive experiences with friends on social media so that “each person becomes their own broadcast tower,” according to Adamovich. Since the Hall of Fame is always at the heart of sports events in Atlanta, the museum also builds a bridge of communication with fans by updating them on upcoming special guests or events. W W W. CF BHA L L . COM


SHAKER VILLAGE OF PLEASANT HILL

Harrodsburg, Kentucky Spread across 3,000 acres of rolling Kentucky countryside, Shaker Village was once home to the third-largest Shaker community in the country. Today, Shaker Village often uses social media platforms like Instagram to connect modern crowds with the property’s rich history. “We’re trying to tell Shaker stories in a contemporary way,” said Rebecca Redding, creative marketing manager for the village. During the fall of 2016, the village opened a Shaker Selfie exhibit, which demonstrates how self-documentation was just as important to past cultures as it is today, although modern technology has made it easier. With black-and-white pho-

S H A K ER V I L L AG E OF P L E A S A NT HI L L

Photos courtesy Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill

TO UNDERSTAND THE WORLD, YOU MUST FIRST

understand a place like Mississippi.” -William Faulkner

It’s not all moonlight and magnolias in Mississippi. We are the creative, complex place where rock 'n' roll was born and the civil rights movement was sparked. A land fertile with imagination, here you can experience the roots of American pop culture in state-of-the-art museums. Our historic homes and downtown districts guarantee a taste of Mississippi’s signature hospitality, and maybe a little moonlight and magnolias, too. Take a trip through the past and experience the future at visitmississippi.org.

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We Cover

All the Bases for Group Tours

S EL FI ES A T H OT EL V AN D I V OR T Courtesy Hotel Vandivort

You don’t have to be a baseball fan to love Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory — we’ve got something for everyone.

Courtesy Hotel Vandivort

Tour the actual factory where we make bats for baseball’s greatest. We can customize your tour based on your group’s interests, and everyone gets a free mini-bat. Our Museum Store has a winning lineup of unique souvenirs, including personalized bats. And since we’re walking distance to other fantastic attractions, we offer package deals to some of Louisville’s best museums.

Courtesy Hotel Vandivort

tos of Shaker families and homes on display, the exhibit reveals the hidden stories, hopes and daily concerns behind these mysterious faces from another time while encouraging visitors to take selfies throughout the grounds as well. “The Shakers were a progressive group of people, so it’s in the Shaker way to use technology and whatever comes next,” said Redding. Village staff also plan to install displays in the welcome center so that people can see their pictures and posts pop up on the screen instantly when using the Shaker Village hashtag. In addition, these screens will draw attention to the beautiful trails and other parts of the property that people sometimes overlook, since there is so much to explore. WWW.SHAKERVILLAGEKY.ORG

“The Shakers were a progressive group of people, so it’s in the Shaker way to use technology and whatever comes next.” — RE BE CCA

R E DDI NG

Don’t miss our upcoming special exibits:

WHERE MUSIC MEETS THE MAJORS

March 4, 2017 thru January 7, 2018

Opening 2018

Contact Us groupsales@sluggermuseum.com 502-588-7227 S H AK ER V I L L A G E OF P L EA S A NT HI L L Courtesy Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill

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HOTEL VANDIVORT

Springfield, Missouri When the Hotel Vandivort opened in 2015, the staff never expected the bathrooms to become one of its key attractions. Before long, guests began noticing that the bathrooms produced the perfect conditions for flattering selfie photos, and the hashtag #Hotel VandivortSelfie was born. “It’s the lighting,” said Tessa Diehl, director of sales and marketing at the hotel. “And we have this beautiful deep maroon backdrop, so the combination of the two makes for beautiful photos.” People in the area quickly rallied around the concept. The bathrooms now play a role in community scavenger hunts, prom pictures, engagement par-

ties, trolley tours and more. Some locals even consider the venue a must-see in Springfield. “The funny story is that we almost replaced those fixtures because we felt they were a bit too bright for the small space,” said Diehl. “But when the advent of the selfie took off, we knew we couldn’t touch it.” The Vandivort embraced the selfie craze by introducing a new feature to its website called “Your Story,” which pulls user-generated content directly onto the site when people use the hashtag or check in online. This interactive element allows hotel guests to broadcast their experiences, and those interested in booking a room can view personal images and descriptions.

P ER FEC T S EL FI ES AT HOTE L VA NDI VOR T

WWW. H O TE L V AN D I V OR T . C OM Courtesy Hotel Vandivort

rejuvenate your mind & body

© Cajun Encounters

Adventure, Excitement, Relaxation & Inspiration. That’s what you’ll find in St. Tammany Parish. Visit the Northshore and bring your appetite for great Louisiana cooking, and for living. Only 45 minutes from New Orleans.

LOUISIANA’S NORTHSHORE

8 0 0 - 6 3 4 - 9 4 4 3 į 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 W W W . T R A V E LSO U T H U SA . C O M

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NORTH CAROLINA MUSEUM OF ART

Raleigh, North Carolina The North Carolina Museum of Art demonstrates that art is meant to be experienced, not just viewed from afar. When the museum hosted an M.C. Escher exhibition last fall, staff set up a spherical mirror outside the gallery as a selfie station, since photography was not allowed inside. The mirror alluded to a famous Escher drawing called “Hand With Reflecting Sphere,” in which the artist looks at himself in a reflective sphere in his hand. Taking pictures in front of the similar mirror gave visitors a more personal take on the artist’s style. Sometimes, an art experience extends beyond the gallery walls.

S OC IAL MO ME N T S A T TH E N O R TH CA R O L I N A MUS E UM O F A R T

Photos courtesy NC Museum of Art

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On the museum grounds outside, artist Maria Elena González designed an interactive art piece called “You and Me” using raised platforms on opposite ends of the lawn. As one person stands on a platform, a friend takes his or her place on the other, creating the impression of both individuals stepping into a painting. Visitors shared this imaginative experiment with the hashtag #NCMAyoume. “It all plays on perspective,” said Emily Kowalski, communications specialist at the museum. “People love not having to be too careful about art and have fun with it.” Also outdoors, the museum featured an exhibit with giant inflatable white rabbits called “Intrude,” created by Australian visual artist Amanda Parer. During the 10-

day exhibition, more than 25,000 people showed up to take pictures with the fairytalelike figures. “They were a social media craze,” said Kowalski. “We had signs throughout the event with the hashtag they could use.” Since Snapchat is already regularly used to create memes of famous paintings, the museum recently organized a meme scavenger hunt for teens. Likewise, when Beyoncé visited Raleigh for a concert, museum staff captioned several works of art with Beyoncé lyrics on Snapchat. “Memes are such a trend on Snapchat right now, so we’ve been working to make art more accessible to younger people by putting funny captions or pop culture references with it,” said Kowalski.

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MENTIONS WE ST V IR G IN I A

West Virginia Division of Tourism Facebook: Wild, Wonderful West Virginia Twitter: @GoToWV Instagram: @GoToWV

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WHY KNOX

KN O XV ILLE ’S # WH YKN O X CA M P A I GN

Courtesy Visit Knoxville

Knoxville, Tennessee Last year, the city of Knoxville led an eight-week Instagram challenge called #WhyKnox, where locals were asked to submit 15-second videos that illustrated what they loved about their city. The contest featured a $5,000 grand prize, a $1,000 fan favorite award and weekly $500 prize winners. “We had a tremendous turnout,” said Angie Wilson, senior director of marketing at Visit Knoxville. “We had a total of 114 videos submitted, with about 80,000 clicks and 66-plus hours of views.” The campaign drew attention from all different members of the community, from professional photographers to students and local chefs. “The idea was that locals tell their own stories best, so we asked them to show ‘Why Knox,’” said Wilson.

While the submissions showed traditional tourist spots like the waterfront, many showed unique angles of Knoxville that the average visitor might never see, such as glassmaking in action or chefs preparing a signature local dish. At the end of the challenge, the city compiled a sizzle reel of the best clips, which can still be found on YouTube. “It was a win-win for the city because we got locals to speak on our behalf while reminding the community all there is to do here,” said Wilson. Many people continue to use #WhyKnox, and visitors to the area can take advantage of the videos or images as inside tips for sightseeing in the city. W W W . V I S I TKNOXVI L L E . COM

MENTIONS SOUTH T CAROLINA

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Facebook: Discover South Carolina Twitter: @Discover_SC Instagram: @discover_sc @Laura_FWC

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When your group tour guide really doesn’t have to say anything.

Gibbs Gardens | Ball Ground, GA

Plan an unforgettable vacation for your next group tour. Make it fun, ďŹ ll it with adventure. Embrace the culture, the taste, nightlife and picture perfect scenery at every turn. Because in Georgia the experiences are endless and they are all Pretty. Sweet. Plan your trip today at ExploreGeorgia.org.


RIV E R STR E E T SWE E TS

Courtesy River Street Sweets

BRING IT Courtesy C Cou o u rrte teesy e sy s y Mi M Mis Missouri s sou ouri u rii Div D Division v isi s on o n off Tou TTourism Touris To r iiss m ris

Courtesy Ale-8-One Bottling Company

HOME These Southern foods are too good to leave behind B Y S AV A N N A H O S B O U R N

MRS. HAN E S M O R A VI A N CO O KI E S Courtesy Mrs. Hanes Moravian Cookies

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V ISIT O RS TO M I SSI SSI P P I CA N TA KE H O ME T H E FAM OU S C U P C A K ES FR OM S U G AR EE’ S B AK ER Y I N NE W A L BA NY. Courtesy Sugaree’s Bakery

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HAVING A DELICIOUS MEAL WHEN YOU TRAVEL

is a great experience. Finding a signature food product to take home with you can be even better.

MCCLARD’S BAR-B- Q

Courtesy McClard’s Bar-B-Q

The South is full of amazing food, from barbecue to seafood, grits, gumbo and other iconic calling cards. But many of these famous dishes don’t travel well. Luckily, visitors looking to bring their culinary memories home with them can do so with a wide range of packaged and bottled products that manage to encompass essential flavors of the region. When your group travels throughout the South, give them opportunities to pack up the tastes of their travels by stopping to visit, taste and shop at these food sites.

MCCLARD’S BAR-B-Q RESTAURANT

ALE -8 -O N E Courtesy Ale-8-One Bottling Company

AN ALE -8 LABE L

Courtesy Ale-8-One Bottling Company

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Hot Springs, Arkansas In Hot Springs, Arkansas, nothing satisfies an empty stomach like a fresh order of brisket or ribs from McClard’s Bar-B-Q Restaurant. Each week, this fourthgeneration, family-owned restaurant serves 250 gallons of spicy barbecue beans, 3,000 handrolled hot tamales, 3,000 pounds of homemade french fries and 7,000 pounds of hickory-smoked beef, pork and ribs. “I get down here at 2 a.m. and start making the sauce from scratch,” said owner Philip McClard, who runs the restaurant with other family members. That special sauce recipe goes all the way back to 1928, when McClard’s grandfather ran a small barbecue stand by a gas station. “He had some cottages in 2 01 7

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the back that he rented to people, and the story goes that one man couldn't afford the rent, so he offered the barbecue sauce recipe as payment instead,” said McClard. Unlike sweeter barbecue sauces, McClard’s barbecue sauce has a spicy kick to it that mixes well with the meat, which is cooked in traditional brick ovens. Some other popular restaurant items include ribs, beans, coleslaw, fresh-sliced french fries and a tamale spread that comes with onions, cheese, meat and corn chips. “We’ve got tamales that we hand roll, and they’re different from Mexican tamales. They’re bigger and spicier,” said McClard. Bottles of the barbecue sauce are available for purchase, along with salsa, seasoning and pepper sauce. W W W . M C C L AR D S . C OM

ALE-8-ONE BOTTLING COMPANY

Winchester, Kentucky When G.L. Wainscott first founded the Ale-8-One company during the 1920s, he held a regional naming contest for his new product. “A Late One” emerged as the winning slogan, meaning the latest trend in soft drinks. Now celebrating 90 years, Ale-8-One (also known simply as Ale-8) has developed into a staple product in Kentucky, which is a rare feat for a family-owned soft drink company. Today, it is carried throughout Kentucky and

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Indiana, as well as parts of Ohio, Tennessee and Illinois. “We have a pretty unique flavor profile, being ginger with a hint of citrus,” said Samantha Jackson, marketing coordinator at the bottling plant. “It’s a lot smoother going down, without the bite of your typical ginger soft drink, and that’s what makes us stand apart from a lot of other brands.” Factory tours are held on Thursdays and Fridays by appointment only. An Ale-8 representative begins the tour with a video about the history of Ale-8 and then leads guests through several key areas of the building to observe the production. Afterward, visitors receive a free bottle of Ale-8 for the road and can peruse the T-shirts, bottle openers and other drinkware in the gift shop. Several other Kentucky Proud products are available in the shop, such as barbecue sauce, spicy salsa and sweet salsa, which are made with locally grown onions, peppers and sorghum. In addition to supporting local business, the company participates in annual events like the Winchester Pioneer Festival and the Beer Cheese Festival, though its biggest impact on the community stems from the donations it makes to more than 900 organizations statewide. Ale-8 also practices a returnable glass bottle policy with longneck bottles that may be returned and reused. W W W . A L E 8 ONE . COM


SUGAREE’S BAKERY

New Albany, Mississippi For those craving a good, old-fashioned homemade cake, look no further than Sugaree’s Bakery in New Albany, Mississippi. “We’re a Southern-heritage bakery, so we specialize in Deep South culinary traditions,” said owner Mary Jennifer Russell. The cakes are baked in small batches and iced by hand. To make the icing, employees melt granulated sugar in a skillet and ice the cakes one at a time, completing between 30 and 40 cakes per day. “It’s a slow process, but it adds a lot of depth of flavor to our product,” said Russell. With a specialty in layered cakes and homemade pies, the

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bakery’s signature product is the layered caramel cake; other offerings include coconut cake, strawberry cake, chess pie, sweet potato pie and pecan pie. And if those options do not sound filling enough, try the chocolate meringue pie, which is made with homemade butter-lard crust and three pounds of filling. “It’s a huge, mile-high kind of dessert,” said Russell. The bakery also prides itself in serving as a community leader for New Albany’s 8,500 residents. “Some years, I spend almost half my time at community events,” said Russell, who helped found the local farmers market and runs a co-op booth there that features local meats, cheeses, grains and ice cream. “We try to provide things that

our farmers don’t have, to round out the offerings at the market and compete with larger markets in the area,” said Russell.

@freneticfitlisa

MENTIONS

WWW. SUG A R EES . C OM

TOPSY’S POPCORN

Kansas City, Missouri As the oldest merchant on the Kansas City Plaza, Topsy’s Popcorn originally opened in 1929 as Patsy’s, eventually changing the name to Topsy’s. What has not changed is the popularity of the store’s caramel popcorn, cinnamon popcorn and cheddar cheese popcorn. “We have people in their 70s come in and say, ‘I used to come here when I was a teenager,’” said store manager Rhonda Blake. “And now they bring their kids and grandkids.”

ARKANSAS

Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism Facebook: Arkansas State Tourism Twitter: @artourism Instagram: @arkansas

W W W . T R A V E LSO U T H U SA . C O M

Solo ride today, dirtbag stylin in my bamboo shades & @oskarblues swag shirt #dalespaleale #arkansas #explorenlr #mountainbike #girlswhoride

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MRS. HAN E S M O R A VI A N CO O KI E S

T OP S Y ’ S P OP C OR N Courtesy Topsy’s Popcorn

T OP S Y ’ S P OP C OR N Courtesy Mrs. Hanes Moravian Cookies

GO

Courtesy Topsy’s Popcorn

In addition to specialty popcorns like kettle corn, vanilla corn and caramel corn with pecans or peanuts, Topsy’s also makes its own line of sweets, such as maple fudge, ice cream treats and limeades. Since 1950, the store has popped over 37 million pounds of popcorn and shipped its products all over the world. “Just today, I’ve had four people call, two from Arizona, one from California and one from Michigan,” said Blake. “It’s usually people who either grew up here or got it from somebody as a gift, and now they buy it every year.” Compared to other brands, Topsy’s popcorn has a thicker coating and holds more flavor, garnering its world-famous status. Even many celebrities stop by to take advantage of the tasty snack item.

explore THE OUTER BANKS

For group adventures, contact Lorrie Love; love@outerbanks.org, or call 877-629-4386

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outerbanks.org

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“One time, one of the girls from the Golden Girls came in,” said Blake. “It can be pretty exciting.” W W W.T O PSYSPO PCO R N . CO M

MRS. HANES MORAVIAN COOKIES

Clemmons, North Carolina Mrs. Hanes Moravian Cookies is one of the few bakeries left in the country where customers can still find hand-cut Moravian cookies. “It’s a dying art,” said Mona Hanes Templin, daughter of the original Mrs. Hanes. “There used to be a lot of Moravian women who made these cookies around the holidays.” The business was originally started by Templin’s grandmother, who developed a unique recipe for Moravian sugar cookies, and that recipe has been passed down through Hanes generations ever since. The current building rests over what was once the grandfather’s cow pasture. “We still make our cookies by hand, using rolling pins and cookie cutters. There’s no machinery involved,” said Templin. “It’s definitely a labor of love.” Some of the cookie flavors include sugar, black walnut, lemon, chocolate and butterscotch, although ginger is the store’s bestseller. All the cookies are hand packed in tins. “They’re very thin, too,” said Templin. “One customer described them as a cookie with only one side.” In anticipation of the holidays, employees begin baking batches of the ginger cookie as early as January, essentially a year in advance. They are the only kind

“We still make our cookies by hand, using rolling pins and cookie cutters. There’s no machinery involved. It's definitely a labor of love” — MONA

H AN ES TEM P L I N

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offered with such a long shelf life. “It actually tastes better the older it gets,” said Templin. “Like wine, the flavors are enhanced with time.” The shop bakes around 100,000 pounds of cookies each year. Groups are encouraged to call in advance to tour the building and production area. W W W . H AN ES C OOK I ES . C OM

RIVER STREET SWEETS

Charleston and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina No one makes pralines like River Street Sweets. Composed of cream, sugar, butter and Georgia pecans, these mouthwatering candies are made hot and fresh every 20 minutes.

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Courtesy River Street Sweets

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“We actually make more pralines than anybody in the country,” said Jennifer Strickland, who helps manage the business with her family. Pralines are native to New Orleans and the surrounding region, so when River Street opened new locations in Charleston and Myrtle Beach, many people had never heard of them. “When we first moved to Myrtle Beach in 1997, no one knew what pralines were, but they do now,” said Strickland. Other River Street products include glazed pecans, salted-caramel dark chocolates, saltwater taffy, log rolls and bear claws, which are similar to chocolate turtles with caramel and pecans. Customers are welcome to sample many of these items before purchase as well. “What sets us apart is that we


You know that expression

“NEVER A DULL MOMENT,” it originated here.

Give your group an adventure to remember, right here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Here you’ll find 62 miles of coast for you to explore. Or you can just kick back, relax, and order up some gulf-fresh oysters. Plan your escape at GulfCoast.org.

W E ’ RE P R O U D T O H O S T T R A V E L S O U T H S H O W CASE E 2018.


MENTIONS NORTH CAROLINA

T OP P I N G T H E B EAR C L A W S A T R I V ER S T R EET S W EET S

Spent yesterday at @GrandfatherMtn and was absolutely amazed. I need to return again soon. @VisitNC

Courtesy River Street Sweets

make all of our homemade candies right in front of our guests, and we’ve been doing that for a long time,” said Strickland. River Street Sweets often participates in local festivals and will cater events, such as weddings or other gatherings. Dessert lovers can order any of their favorite sweets online to be shipped in tins, towers, boxes or baskets. WWW.RIVERSTREETSWEETS.COM

V isit Nor th Carolina

Facebook: Visit North Carolina Twitter: @VisitNC Instagram: @VisitNC @BarnetteJason

NASA Visitor Center

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See the world’s largest collection of space artifacts and explore the fascinating future of space travel! Looking to stay a bit longer? Sign up for an inspiring experience at Space Camp! Two- to six-day Camps are available for all ages: children, families, adults and corporate groups.

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


VI SI T

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


SCE N I C VI E W I N T HE LA N D O F WA TE R F A LLS

Courtesy Visit North Carolina

OUTDOORS Courtesy C Cou ouu rrte teesy e sy s y Mi M Mis Missouri s sou ouri u rii Div D Division v isi s on o n off Tou TTourism Touris To r iiss m ris

Courtesy Gross Savanne Eco-Tours

AN INSIDER’S

Find your South with an expert guide

K AYA K I NG V IR G IN IA ’S E AS TE R N SH O R E Courtesy Southeast Expeditions

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THE BEST WAY TO EXPLORE THE NATURAL WONDERS

of the South is with an expert guide by your side.

G UID ED C LIMBIN G AT D ES OT O ST AT E PARK .

Beyond the bustle of city attractions, many groups visiting the South take advantage of the surrounding scenery through a guided outdoor excursion or program. These activities range from educational classes to highadventure fun. Visitors can explore waterfalls, hone their photography skills and see marine life up close. Next time your group travels South, be sure to check out one of these special outdoor experiences.

DESOTO STATE PARK

Fort Payne, Alabama Located on Arkansas’ Lookout Mountain, DeSoto State Park features waterfalls, spectacular rapids, granite cliffs and 25 miles of hiking and mountain biking. The rock-climbing and rappelling sites in the area are some of the finest in the country, with sweeping views of the river below. There are several companies

Courtesy True Adventure Sports

in the area that offer great outdoor programs. At One World Adventure, people can participate in wilderness survival training, beginner backpacking classes and even a plant discovery program that involves preparing a food dish with wild ingredients. Meanwhile, thrill-seekers often gravitate toward True Adventure Sports. With the help of an instructor, people of all ages and skill levels can experience rappelling, rock climbing, canoeing, kayaking, caving, zip lining, hiking or backpacking. One key attraction is the sky swing, which carries brave individuals 80 feet through the trees before flinging them 40 to 45 feet into the air. Groups meet at the main office to check in before following the guide to the location of the activity. Some people may feel uncertain or nervous, but the guide is prepared to provide as much instruction as needed. “Our guides are all trained, so they can spend that extra one-onone time with you to make sure everyone is able to participate,” said Israel Partridge, a staff member at True Adventure Sports. For school groups, tours can be customized to the needs and interests of the class, with focuses on geological formations, plant species and more. Likewise, if a group has a limited amount of time, guides may be able to adjust the timeframe of the activity. W W W . A L A P A R K. COM W W W . TR UE A DVE NTUR E S P OR TS . COM

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TYBEE BEACH ECOLOGY TRIPS

Tybee Island, Georgia As a marine science professor at Savannah State University, Joe Richardson frequently took his classes out to Tybee Island for educational excursions. After he retired in 2007, many local schoolteachers and community leaders asked him to continue the trips. Next thing he knew, he was taking groups out to the beach nearly every day, “and I’m still having a great time,” he said. The trips take place at the north end of Tybee Island by a lighthouse. Each one is scheduled around low tide, which is the best time to comb the beach for shells and other wildlife. Richardson provides buckets, shovels and dip-nets, as well as large plastic

pans to fill with seawater for temporarily housing the live animals people find. Along a nearby rock jetty, people can find many small tidal pools with creatures buried in the wet sand. Throughout the trip, Richardson discusses the characteristics of each animal with the group and answers any questions. Many people are interested to hear about how animals have adapted to their environment through specific colors and body shapes. To make it even more exciting, people can experience the animal behavior firsthand, using the water-filled pans as makeshift touch tanks. When asked about the most surprising thing he has seen, Richardson described one instance where a young boy asked him to help pull something out

T Y B EE B EAC H ECOL OG Y TOUR S

Courtesy Tybee Beach Ecology Tours

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from under a rock in a tide pool. “I saw something fall into my net and thought it was a starfish. It was kind of orange and about that shape,” said Richardson. “Then its legs started stretching out, and my eyes about popped out of my head — it was a small octopus.” Despite having visited the beach for more than 30 years, Richardson said there are always unexpected discoveries. One year, there was a surplus of starfish. Previously, groups were lucky to see two or three on a given trip, and then suddenly starfish began showing up by the dozens. “You never really know what you’re going to find out there from one day to the next,” said Richardson.

COLORFU L WAT E RFO WL I N L O UI SI A N A ’S GR O SSE SAV AN NE M A R SH LA N D

W W W . C EAS U R F. C OM

Courtesy Lake Charles/SWLA CVB

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GROSSE SAVANNE ECO-TOURS

Bell City, Louisiana The Grosse Savanne EcoTour takes place on a 50,000-acre property of fresh and salt-water marshes, cypress swamps, coastal prairies, pine forests and farmland. It is a paradise for nature lovers, who can enjoy boat tours, miles of secluded trails and unparalleled bird-watching. Though the land was severely damaged by rice production during the early 20th century, restoration efforts over the past decade have brought back hundreds of native plants and animals. More than 400 species of birds migrate through the region each year, making it one of the top birding


locations in the United States. Herons, cranes, storks and roseate spoonbills are just a few of the feathered friends that visitors can hope to meet. During the boat tour, visitors are treated to a narrated overview of the area’s unique ecosystem and history as they drift past flowering lily pads, nesting birds and the occasional alligator hiding in the reeds. Though the water may seem deserted at first, make no mistake, the smallest disturbance can bring alligators to the surface in the blink of an eye. Visitors are encouraged to leave as early as possible, since birds and other wildlife tend to come out during the morning. Boats can accommodate up to eight passengers at a time. WWW.GRO SSE SA VA N N E E C O T O URS.CO M

HORSEBACK WATERFALL TOURS

G R OS S E S A V A N NE E CO-TOUR S

Pickens, South Carolina There are few scenes as serene and awe inspiring as a surging waterfall. For almost five years, Rhett Leonard has been leading groups on a two- to threehour horseback tour through the Land of the Waterfalls in South Carolina, a region with more than 250 waterfalls. Leonard began organizing the trips because of his deep passion for horses as well as the surrounding waterfall country, and he enjoys sharing the unique experience with others. Just past Table Rock Mountain, groups arrive at Leonard’s horse ranch, where he pairs each person with one of his Tennessee walking horses, then loads the horses into a trailer. After

Courtesy Lake Charles/SWLA CVB

Gro up R ates Ava ilab le.

FOLLOW IN THEIR FOOTSTEPS

It should have been impossible. Crossing the world’s widest ocean to answer an attack made by a powerful adversary. Through hostile terrain and untold suffering, millions of Americans pushed past impossible to win the Pacific war. Follow in their footsteps on The Road to Tokyo, a new immersive experience at the The National WWII Museum.

#1 Attraction in New Orleans #4 Museum in the United States #11 Museum in the World

945 MAGAZINE STREET, NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA | 877.813.3329 W W W . T R AxV222 E L S | ONATIONALWW2MUSEUM.ORG U T H U SA . C O M

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commencing their journey, riders typically follow Little River to three distinct waterfalls — High Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Triple Falls — with water occasionally splashing at their heels. Each one is a majestic view to behold. “I’ve had two couples get engaged on the tour,” said Leonard. Along the way, the trail passes sweeping views of pine trees and granite ridges. At Triple Falls, riders can dismount and watch water cascade 120 feet from three stone platforms like a giant staircase, where scenes from “Last of the Mohicans” and “The Hunger Games” were filmed. Tours are offered year-round, depending on the weather, and must be scheduled in advance. Each trip accommodates up to six people.

PRE PARIN G T O P A DDLE BO A R D WI TH SO U T HE A ST E XP E DI TI O N S

Courtesy VTC

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SOUTHEAST EXPEDITIONS

Cape Charles, Chincoteague and Onacock, Virginia Before Dave Burden founded Southeast Expeditions in 1999, no one else had tapped into the potential of Virginia’s Eastern Shore as a great paddling destination. Today, the company offers guided kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding tours from four locations along the Southeast coast. Participants of all ages will relax and feel like a kid again as they explore and experience nature. “Our original goal was to connect people with the salt marshes and help them understand what’s so unique about this part of the world,” said Burden. Along the journey, paddlers may see blue heron, osprey and even wild ponies. Each guide is a trained naturalist and will point out details about the environment, although, according to Burden, “it’s more of a nature experience than a class.” Southeast Expeditions also founded the first ever winerykayak tour, called Paddle Your Glass Off, where groups paddle to Chatham Vineyards for a tour and tasting. Once paddlers hit the shore, they stroll past the farm’s 20 acres of grapevines, enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour of the facility and wrap up the afternoon with a wine tasting. The best aspect of the winery-kayak tour is that it motivates people to step outside their comfort zones. Some individuals might be dubious about the physical effort of kayaking; others might consider a wine tasting too highbrow. But the combination encourages people to let their guard down and give it a try. “It’s great because it’s a gateway to two really interesting activities,” said Burden. W WW . S OUTHE A S T EX PE DI TI ONS . COM

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ADVENTURE WILD, WONDERFUL WEST VIRGINIA

YOU’LL FIND IT HERE. T k the Take h whole h l group on a wild ild ride! id ! From F winter i backcountry to making a summer splash, discover all the excitement together in Wild, Wonderful West Virginia. Get your 2017 travel guide at GoToWV.com/GroupTravel.

GoToWV.com | 800-225-5982 #GoToWV |


TWIN FALLS PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP

TWIN FALLS PHO TO GR A P H Y WO R KSH O P

By Wayne Rotsch, courtesy Twin Falls State Park

Twin Falls State Park, West Virginia Twin Falls State Park has been leading photography workshops for nearly 30 years; they are offered twice annually, in September and April. The 4,000-acre resort state By Wayne Rotsch, courtesy Twin Falls State Park park is a prime location for aspiring photographers, with 26 miles of hiking trails that feature birds, salamanders, rhododendron, waterfalls and a restored pioneer farm. “What makes it a special experience is that people can spend one-on-one time with professional photographers who approach it as a passion, not just a job,” said Scott Durham, superintendent at Twin Falls State Park. By Steve Shaluta, courtesy Twin Falls State Park Currently supervising the workshop are seasoned professionals Steve Shaluta and Steven Rotsch. Now retired, Shaluta spent more than 30 years working as a staff photographer for the West Virginia Department of Commerce and running a successful freelance photography business. Rotsch is an internationally recognized photographer, with published work in the Associated Press, the Illinois State-Journal and the Clarksburg Exponent-Telegram. He also serves as the personal photographer for West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III. The weekend retreat begins on Friday evening, when the group convenes in a classroom for an introductory session on basic photography. The next morning, the photographers head out on field trips throughout the park to put their new skills to the test, typically visiting the pioneer farm and local waterfalls. “We adapt the schedule to the wants and needs of the group,” said Durham, who participates in the workshop each year. “Quite often, we go out for a night excursion as well.” Saturday afternoon and evening are divided into classroom sessions on more advanced topics, such as night photography, portraits and lighting. Finally, on Sunday morning, participants submit three of their best photos for a class critique.

Owensboro, Kentucky

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BRING YOUR GROUP TOUR TO LIFE. Once and future heroes find what moves them with hands-on experiences and uncommon access offered exclusively for groups. Plan your group’s Live the Life Adventure at VisitVirginiaBeach.com/GroupTour.


A L A BA M A | A R K A NS A S | GEORGI A | K EN T UCK Y | LOUISI A NA | MISSISSIPPI | MISSOUR I

TRUE

SOUTH Discover the path to your true SOUTH.

NORTH C A ROL INA | SOU TH C A ROL INA | TENNESSEE | V IRGINI A | W EST V IRGINI A


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OVERNIGHT SUCCESSES T HESE T HE M E HOT EL S A R E DEST I N AT IONS U N TO T HE MSELV ES

BY A S H L E Y R I C K S

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hen it comes to hotels, themed properties can send a great hotel stay over the top and enhance an already memorable trip. A hotel doesn’t simply have to be where you crash at the end of a busy day. What could be better for book lovers than being surrounded by a handpicked selection of tomes with which to curl up before bed? Wine aficionados will love the extensive selection of wines and being immersed in the viticulture and character of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Everyone will enjoy the fantastic experience of staying in a boutique hotel that focuses on the experiences of their guests. Here are five themed hotels we’ve picked to please everyone in your group, from the unimpressed to the enthusiasts.

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THE LIBRARY HOTEL

NEW YORK CITY

The Library Hotel in New York City is a library for book lovers. The hotel features more than 6,000 books throughout its 60 guest rooms, and if that’s not enough of a selection, the hotel is located on Library Way, only a block from the New York Public Library. The hotel has also partnered with publishers Simon & Schuster to create an e-book lending app that allows guests to check out an e-book to read on their electronic devices during their stay. Each of the hotel’s floors is based on a different category from the Dewey Decimal System, and each room of books features a different genre. For example, the 700s are literature, so the seventh floor is the arts floor and includes rooms based on architecture and fashion design among others. Other rooms throughout the hotel include the Mythology room, the Fairy Tales room and the Astronomy room. A popular spot with guests staying at the Library Hotel is the rooftop area, which includes the Writer’s Den and the Poetry Garden — indoor and outdoor reading and social spaces— and the Bookmarks Lounge, a literary-themed bar that serves cocktails such as the Tequila Mockingbird. “The beauty of a themed hotel is it somehow speaks to your heart, it speaks to you,” said Adele Gutman, the senior vice president for the hotel. “It’s not necessarily meant for everyone, but for the ones who do like those things, there is nothing better.” Accordingly, if books are not your forte, the Library Hotel Collection also includes other themed hotels like Aria for music lovers and the new Hotel X Toronto, which features numerous wellness and sports activities of all types. It will open later this year. W W W.LIBR ARYHOTEL .COM

THE DESIGN OF THE LIBRARY HOTEL IS BASED ON THE DEWEY DECIMAL SYSTEM

THE READING GARDEN IS A POPULAR SPOT TO CURL UP WITH A BOOK.

THE LIBRARY HOTEL HAS OVER 6,000 BOOKS. Photos courtesy The Library Hotel Collection

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EACH 21C GUEST ROOM FEATURES WORKS OF ART.

Courtesy 21c Louisville

21C LOUISVILLE

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY

Most of us have probably heard of this collection of “museum hotels” and the iconic colored penguins spreading across the country over the past 10 years. The Louisville hotel is the original museum hotel created by owners Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson to help revitalize the growing downtown area by infusing it with new life through their love of art. 21c stands for 21st century and the hotel incorporates contemporary art into its three components: the museum, the hotel and the restaurant. Contemporary art pieces covering a variety of mediums from sculpture to photography are featured in each area of the hotel and all guest rooms. The museum space makes up the public areas of the hotel, and each 21c location combines site-specific exhibits with its rotating collection. The Louisville location features a colorful wallpaper commission created by artist Virgil Marti and red penguins. Each 21c has its own color. The Louisville location also includes the restaurant Proof on Main, which is a stop on the city’s Urban Bourbon Trail. The museum hotel concept has since spread to other cities and growing downtown areas. The Louisville hotel is on Main Street and is a short walk from popular attractions like the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience and the Louisville Slugger Museum. 21c hotels are now found in six cities throughout the country: Cincinnati; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Bentonville, Arkansas; Durham, North Carolina; and Lexington, Kentucky. A seventh location is set to open this spring in the historic Gray & Dudley Building in downtown Nashville. 21c also collaborates with other museums and art institutions by loaning pieces from its private collection. W W W. 21CMUSEUMHOTELS.COM / LOUISV ILLE

21C STANDS FOR 21ST CENTURY. Courtesy 21c Louisville

21C IS LOCATED IN DOWNTOWN LOUISVILLE.

PROOF ON MAIN IS INCLUDED ON LOUISVILLE’S URBAN BOURBON TRAIL.

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Courtesy 21c Louisville

Courtesy 21c Louisville


F.O. STANLEY’S COMPANY INVENTED THE STANLEY STEAMER.

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STANLEY HOTEL

ESTES PARK, COLOR ADO

Lovers of the paranormal will enjoy a trip to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. The hotel has become famous for being the inspiration for the Overlook Hotel in Stephen King’s 1977 novel “The Shining.” For many years, the hotel has embraced the paranormal and the role it plays as a part of its past. “A lot of people love the history and love the Stephen King component,” said hotel spokesman Reed Rowley, “but it’s more about our history and the Stanley family.” The hotel hosts two tours where you can explore the haunted history of the hotel as well as the architecture and notable spots throughout the property. An interesting experience on the tours is seeing the rare Stanley steam cars; the hotel’s original owner, Freelan Oscar Stanley, also co-founded the Stanley Motor Carriage Company, which manufactured Stanley Steamers. The other component of the hotel’s ambiance is its connection to the Stanley family history. F.O. Stanley and his wife, Flora, came to Colorado seeking a respite for F.O.’s health but chose to make the most of rural life by creating a resort worthy of East Coast elite. The Stanleys subsequently played a big role in developing the Estes Park area and in the establishment of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Aspire Residences, 40 additional rooms in a separate building from the original hotel, brings this part of the family’s history to the modern era. The rooms feature panoramic views of the surrounding national park and Lake Estes. There are now about a dozen buildings that make up the Stanley hotel property, including the Marys Lake Lodge and the Pavilion, an amphitheater and event space.

Courtesy Stanley Hotel

W W W.STA NLEYHOTEL .COM

THE STANLEY HOTEL SITS BENEATH ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK.

THE RANCH ROOM Courtesy Stanley Hotel

VIEW OF THE ROCKIES FROM THE STANLEY HOTEL PROPERTY Courtesy Stanley Hotel

Courtesy Stanley Hotel

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EACH ROOM AT KIMPTON HOTEL VINTAGE IS BASED ON A WILLAMETTE VALLEY WINERY.

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KIMPTON HOTEL VINTAGE

PORTL AND, OREGON

The Kimpton Hotel Vintage embraces the wine culture and personality of its city, Portland, Oregon. The hotel incorporates the wines of Oregon’s Willamette Valley throughout the different spaces, along with the quirky style found in the Portland area. There are 117 guest rooms at the Vintage hotel, and each is named for one of 117 wineries from the Willamette Valley, Oregon’s center of viticulture. The winery helps to create the look and feel of the room by supplying photography or art from its vineyard. They also supply two bottles of wine, which are made available to the guest staying in the namesake room. Wines from all 117 wineries are available from the Bacchus Bar wine list, which is “unmatched in the city.” The Portland vibe has been incorporated here with a tattooed mural of Bacchus on the backlit glass wall and graffitistyle art in the game room. There is also a nightly wine hour where guests can sample the different wines from the region. Weekends bring live music to the wine hour, and guest speakers from the featured wineries occasionally give talks on their wines. W W W.HOTELV I N TAGEPORTL A N D.COM

VIEW OF THE KING CORNER ROOM

THE BACCHUS BAR

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INFOGRAPHIC ON HOW WINE IS MADE Photos courtesy Kimpton Hotel Vintage Portland


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ORLANDO’S THEMED RESORTS

ORL ANDO, FLORIDA

A LUAU BUFFET AT THE LOEWS ROYAL PACIFIC RESORT AT UNIVERSAL ORLANDO

Travelers heading to Orlando’s theme parks will enjoy the perks and interesting surroundings that come with staying at one of the many themed resorts. Shuttle service to and from the parks is a great time-saver and comfort after a long day, and affords the option to have your purchases brought back to your room instead of lugging bags around the parks. Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort and Disney’s Pop Century Resort are great when seeking the most bang for your buck. Universal Studios Resorts has also been expanding its properties and has opened the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, a Caribbean-inspired hotel, this past summer. With floor-to-ceiling windows, views of the waterfalls and a sand beach, this resort embodies the laid-back relaxation of a Caribbean vacation. A sixth resort, the Universal Aventura Hotel, is now under construction and is set to open in summer 2018. The new modern-style hotel will feature a rooftop bar — a first among the Universal Resorts — that will have dramatic views of the new Volcano Bay Water Park and Krakatau’s nightly volcano effects. W W W.V ISI TOR L A N DO.COM

Courtesy Visit Orlando

Photo credit: Bruno Vega

With more than 2.5 million travelers visiting Peru’s 11 World Heritage Sites each year, it comes as no surprise that the country’s $168 million annual tourism revenue is on the rise. That’s why in 2011, Tourism Cares selected Peru for a sustainable tourism initiative that engaged peers from both the North American and Peruvian tourism industries to make an impact through volunteering and distributing $80,000 in grant funding.

THIS LLAMA IS VALUED AT $168 MILLION.

Join a growing roster of industry-leading companies committed to preserving the places we love and depend on.

Visit TourismCares.org to see how your company can help make global sustainable tourism a reality.

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On a trip to New Orleans we stayed in the historic Omni Royal Orleans in the French Quarter. The hotel is gorgeous, the service was excellent, and the food was amazing. We enjoyed a quiet dinner of tender steak and chef-created cuisine at the on-site restaurant, the Rib Room. Afterward, we returned to our room to sit on the balcony overlooking Royal Street and enjoyed the live jazz that drifted up from the streets.

The most memorable hotel I have ever been to is the Hotel Del Coronado in Coronado, California. We visited this hotel when I was a very young child, and although I have traveled around the world and stayed in some pretty amazing hotels, this one will forever be my favorite. It’s an iconic destination that should be on every traveler’s must-see list, and the Sunday brunch is not to be missed.

— Ashley Ricks, CIRCULATION MANAGER

— Kelly Tyner, DIRECTOROF SALES AND MARKETING

Several years ago, I was traveling through southern Italy with a friend and accidentally booked a hotel in the mountains above the town where we wanted to stay. Our mistake turned out to be the highlight of the trip. The hotel had beautiful, flower-covered trellises leading up to the entrance, with blue-tiled floors inside. At night, we could see the sun setting over orange groves in the distance. To get to town each morning, we had to take a 20-minute bus ride down winding cliff roads, but the breathtaking view of the Amalfi coast made it worth every minute.

I think my most memorable hotel stay was at the Beausite Park Hotel in Wengen, Switzerland. It is a familyowned hotel that sits above this small town high in the Swiss Alps. In 2006, Kim and I took our sons to Switzerland in the summer and stayed there. The meals are wonderful, but somewhat formal, and we had a lot of fun watching our teenage sons navigate their way through Swiss dining protocol. I like to think they did the best they could.

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A Super 8 Hotel in South Dakota. It truly is an experience I’ll never forget. — Stacey Bowman, DIRECTOR, ADVERTISING SALES

The Chattanooga Choo Choo is an institution in southeast Tennessee. This hotel is built into a former train station that serviced a rail line that first arrived in town in 1880. The former station’s grand terminal now makes a grand lobby and entrance area to the hotel. And though there are some standard rooms available, I enjoyed sleeping for a few nights in one of several dozen historic Pullman train cars that have been converted into guest rooms. — Brian Jewell, EXECUTIVE EDITOR

— Mac Lacy, PUBLISHER

— Savannah Osbourn, STAFF WRITER

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 114

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*Valid only on purchases of twenty (20) or more by groups as indicated above. Full payment required within three (3) weeks after booking tickets. Offer not valid on previously purchased tickets and cannot be combined with any other offer. All sales are final – no refunds or exchanges. Service charges apply to internet orders. A $25 shipping and handling fee will be applied to all orders requesting ticket delivery. There is no charge for tickets being held at the Radio City Music Hall Box Office. Offer may be revoked or modified at any time without notice and is subject to availability. Other restrictions may apply. Offer expires 2/1/17. Accessible and companion seats are available via the Disabled Services Department at 212-465-6115. Š2016 MSG Sports & Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved.

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The Group Travel Leader January 2017  

The Group Travel Leader January 2017 issue features group trip ideas for themed hotels, Ohio, Billings Montana, and the 2017 Travel South US...

The Group Travel Leader January 2017  

The Group Travel Leader January 2017 issue features group trip ideas for themed hotels, Ohio, Billings Montana, and the 2017 Travel South US...