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Pre-Registration is now open for 2018 groups!

BOOK NOW 2018 RIVER CRUISES at 2017 prices!


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 or email us at

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


select N EPICUREAN travel



VOL.25 NO.1




contents checking in: JILL BECKER

toolbox: conference marketing: LOCAL GUIDES



ON THE COVER: An elephant relaxes near Chiang Mai, Thailand.


10 12 14 46 48 STACEY BOWMAN




Founder and Publisher Partner Executive Editor Associate Editor Senior Writer Creative Director Art Director Circulation Manager Copy Editor Staff Writer/Marketing Coordinator Director of Sales & Marketing


18 trails bardstown 38 FOOD






Select Traveler, the Magazine for Bank, Alumni and Chamber Travel Planners, is published bimonthly by The Group Travel Leader, Inc., 301 East High Street, Lexington, Kentucky 40507 and is distributed free of charge to qualiďŹ ed travel program directors throughout the United States. All other travel suppliers, including tour operators, destinations, attractions, transportation companies, hotels, restaurants and other travel-related companies, may subscribe to Select Traveler by sending a check for $49 for one year to: Select Traveler, Circulation Department, 301 East High Street, Lexington, Kentucky 40507. 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. NAME OR ADDRESS CHANGES: If your copy of Select Traveler should be mailed to another manager in your organization, or if you personally know another travel director who is not receiving Select Traveler, please send your correction to: Select Traveler, 301 East High St., Lexington, Kentucky 40507, or call (859) 2530455.


Introduce your group to the River City where

one-of-a-kind fun flows freely.

Belle of Louisville Waterfront Park

Muhammad Ali Center Museum Row

Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory Museum Row

Grab your group and visit a city with an 85-acre waterfront park featuring numerous riverfront performance spaces. Book a cruise on the historic Belle of Louisville, check out our legendary attractions like the Muhammad Ali Center and the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, all just blocks from the waterfront, and that’s just the first day. Learn more about the endless adventures that await your group visit

P U B L I S H E R ’ S



aise your hand if you’ve heard of Jim Thompson. Now that I’ve visited his museum in Bangkok, I’m wondering why

Tom Hanks hasn’t played him. The mystery surrounding his life and death is that good. Thompson was a World War II veteran and intelligence officer who

was highly trained in jungle survival. He left the United States after the war in 1947 to seek his fortune in Thailand and built a successful company as an international trader of Thai silk. He is credited today with bringing its quality to the attention of the world at large. An architect by trade, Thompson fashioned an authentic Thai home in the center of Bangkok by gathering several structures over the years and moving them to his compound. He became quite the social figure as his silk company grew throughout the 1950s and 1960s. In 1967, Thompson traveled with his wife and friends to the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. On Easter Sunday, he walked into the jungle and was never seen again. Numerous conspiracy stories have existed ever since: He was an intelligence operative who was assassinated; he walked away from his business and started a new life; he was killed and eaten by wild tigers. Nothing in the 50 years since his disappearance has ever been proved or disproved. His home, museum and clothing store are worth a visit if you are in Bangkok. The 50th anniversary of his disappearance is coming up in March. Maybe someone will send Hanks a script.

Email me anytime with your thoughts at

Mac Lacy


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Group Travel with Scenic

All-inclusive, Luxury River Cruising Being the most inclusive river cruise line, group travel with Scenic is perfect for you and your clients. By including all shore excursions in our cruise fare, your group can choose what interests them most… without a thought of the cost. By including all drinks in our cruise fare, your group can toast the day’s experiences… without a thought of the cost. By including our special Scenic Enrich event, your group will share a memory of a lifetime… without a thought of the cost. A personal butler, all meals, all tipping & gratuities, up to 6 dining venues, Ebikes for the more active travelers, airport transfers… the list is long of Scenic’s Signature inclusions which are designed to leave your wallet at home…The difference is Scenic.

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To contact the Scenic groups department call Ad Code: 16_SC299 1.844.572.3642 | 2 0 1 7 November 2016 7




how do you welcome singles on your trips? ANGELA DIMOPOULOS DIRECTOR OF SALES AND MARKETING | UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND “I choose a few trips each year that offer no single-supplement pricing. This makes it more affordable to our solo travelers and keeps them interested.”

ANDY ENGLISH DIRECTOR OF ALUMNI RELATIONS | SIMPSON COLLEGE INDIANOLA, IOWA “The key is making single travelers feel that they are part of the group and not on the trip alone. We charge a minimal fee for single occupancy, which encourages more single travelers. In addition, we have two meetings prior to the excursion so that all travelers can get to know one another on a personal level and feel more connected as a group.”

FRANCES STANFIELD SR. BUSINESS MANAGER | EMORY UNIVERSITY ATLANTA, GEORGIA “We receive many requests to add trips to the program that have no singlesupplement fee. I make it my mission to work with a partner that will waive this fee on one or two popular destinations each year. Additionally, whenever possible, we send an Emory representative to host our trips. This sometimes means that if we have a single traveler, we become their travel companion. This is really the most rewarding part of any trip I host. We both return home with a brand-new friend.”

LINDA MATTINGLY BOARD SECRETARY AND ASSISTANT VICE PRESIDENT | ALLIANCE BANK SULPHUR SPRINGS, TEXAS “It’s hard to get single people to travel because they always have to pay an up charge. When they do travel with me, I include them in everything and make sure they are not by themselves. Usually the group will take them under their wing, and I don’t have to worry about it.”

NANNETTE SCHNEIDER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR | WAPAKONETA AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE WAPAKONETA, OHIO “The chamber offers discounts for single as well as double occupancy. We often have single travelers ask how many other single travelers there are. It is common for these folks to pal around together. It is nice for single travelers to also know that they can take the trip solo and still feel part of a group.”


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checking in JILL BECKER






First State Bank members enjoy lunch together in Lucerne, Switzerland.

MENDOTA, ILLINOIS First State Bank has served an agricultural area in central and northern Illinois for 76 years. With about $850 million in assets, the bank boasts 21 branches and a dynamic travel club of approximately 2,400 people. Bank clients ages 50 years or older with $5,000 in deposits are eligible to travel with the bank’s Vista Club. Born: LaSalle, Illinois Education: Associate arts degree from Illinois State University Employment: Becker has a wide range of jobs on her resume; she has retail, health care and automotive experience. Becker served as a flight attendant for 13 years with ATA Airlines, worked at a travel agency for several years and started as one of the bank’s Vista Club coordinators in 2010. Family: Two daughters, one son and one granddaughter Hobbies: Travel and reading



hen Jill Becker characterizes the First State Bank’s Vista Club as very active, she isn’t exaggerating. Wildly successful might be a more accurate description. “We recently had 174 people go on a Rhine River cruise,” said Becker, travel coordinator for the Vista Club. “We sold out the whole ship and got an exclusive charter. We also already have deposits for nearly two motorcoaches full of members for our 2017 Yosemite trip and for our Bermuda Cruise in 2017. Our club seems to get more popular all the time.” Talking to Becker provides one clue why: contagious enthusiasm. When she describes her job with First State Bank’s Vista Club, it becomes quickly apparent that she finds real joy in traveling with her club members.


“We just have fun,” said Becker. “It feels like we are bringing along our friends and saying, ‘I want you to see this amazing place with me.’” This sense of fun and enthusiasm helps explain how Becker and her other Vista Club partners have happily introduced many of their 2,400 members to wonders across the United States and the world.

PARTNERS IN FUN Because First State Bank includes 21 branches throughout central and northern Illinois, Becker doesn’t have to manage the bank’s Vista Club all by herself. Instead, she works with five other Vista Club coordinators located in various locations, including one co-coordinator that works directly with her at the Mendota branch. Jean Simkins shares Becker’s zeal for the bank travel program. Simkins had previously prepared for retirement before the bank job, but its promise of travel tempted her to stay in the workforce. She and

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Becker tag-team planning, organizing and traveling with the club. When Becker started at the bank in 2010, her branch had only one coordinator, which didn’t faze her, since she came with a plenty of travel planning experience. “I was a ight attendant for 13 years until the airline I worked for went out of business,â€? said Becker. “Then I started working at my family’s travel agency, which they have had for 40-some years. I worked there on and o for a long time.â€? A call from the bank convinced Becker to try a new type of travel planning. As the club continued to attract more members, Simkins came on board to help Becker with the enormous amount of logistics involved in traveling throughout the year.

HYPED FOR HYDROPONICS Becker doesn’t just stick to familiar travel favorites. Her ability to continuously suggest new, outside-the-box ideas helps keep the group interested. For example, the club recently visited a hydroponic factory, which appealed to the local agricultural community in northern Illinois. The visit attracted the curiosity of members who knew a lot about farming but hadn’t seen produce grown in a factory setting before. Becker knows her group well enough to think of attractions that might interest her members, such as a World War II Memorial trip that appeals to the group’s veterans and a Girls’ Day Out to treat the numerous female travelers. Instead of sticking to one demographic, Becker tries to include a variety of travel preferences. From April through December, Becker stays busy with one daytrip a month; a handful of overnight trips; and about four longer trips a year, one of which is usually international. Over the years, Becker has noticed that the group’s age range has expanded. Instead of writing o those still in the workforce, Becker tries to include trips to attract her 50- and 60-year-old members. “We are seeing more people at a younger age get involved,â€? said Becker. “We’ll be talking to people who say they can’t wait to turn 50 so they can go on these trips. That’s good to see people getting involved before they are retired. These are people interested in discovering beautiful and exciting places.â€?

serve as ambassadors for the club out in the community. Other new members come from ďŹ rsthand experience. “Our members are welcome to bring a guest with them on our trips,â€? said Becker. “That’s how we get a lot of new members. They go on the tour and then immediately want to sign up.â€? Demand for the Vista Club’s trips stays high enough that planning for 2017 has wrapped up, with the focus now on 2018 and 2019. Becker’s excitement for those future trips is contagious and will no doubt continue to fuel her program’s growth.



• Never forget the power of a smile. • Know your travelers, and take them to places that will interest them. • Personal experience is the best knowledge. Go and experience a place for yourself, and then bring your group.

SM A LL- T O W N E F F E C T Becker and Simkins credit some of their program’s success to the bank’s rural location, where locals might not be as travel savvy as those from larger cities and are thus more attracted to group trips than to individual vacations. “People from here are hesitant to take trips,� said Simkins. “They’re worried about what to do with their cars and how expensive it is. They aren’t used to driving in the city and don’t want to. People are grateful and excited to have the conveniences of group travel available to them so they don’t have to worry about anything.� Becker and Simkins send out quarterly newsletters and plan informational events promoting their trips. However, Becker believes a lot of the group’s marketing comes from word of mouth. To encourage members to spread the word, Becker enlists a board of members each year that

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9?< 09< -97: :963-C

Islands in the Sun Cruises & Tours, Inc.





local knowledge matters


hen you take your group to explore a new city, you want the very best local experts to show you around, make you feel welcome and give you insider access to the destination’s highlights. Often that means finding a local guide who has an intimate knowledge of the area, is an expert at managing group dynamics and has the personal charisma to turn history, facts and figures into an engaging experience. In many ways, the expertise and personality of a local guide can be the deciding factor in whether your group has a memorable or a forgettable visit to a city. Some of the most popular destinations on earth have hundreds — or even thousands — of people working as tour guides, so finding the right person is an important step in ensuring that your travelers have a great time. If you are booking trips through a tour operator, that company is going to take care of lining up local guides in the places you visit. But if you’re arranging the trip on your own, here are five things to keep in mind as you search for the best guide for your group.


L ICE NS E In many places around the world, tourism jobs are in high demand, and working as a guide is one of the most lucrative and enjoyable positions available for locals. Guides and other tourism professionals in these places have a vested interest in making sure that people leading tours are trained and knowledgeable, so many have lobbied their local or national governments to put strict licensing rules in place that prohibit noncredentialed people from leading city tours. If you are looking for a local guide for a specific destination, check to see what legal restrictions apply to the profession, and make sure the guide you choose is properly licensed.

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S PE CIAL E X PE R TIS E There are plenty of guides in Paris who can tell you when the Eiffel Tower was built. But if you have a demanding group of travelers or are putting together a trip based around a special area of interest, a garden-variety guide with only general knowledge might not deliver the kind of experience you’re seeking. In popular destinations, it’s common for guides to develop specific areas of expertise, such as indigenous culture, flora and fauna, classical civilization, religious history, arts and cuisine. As you work on finding the right guide in the areas you plan to visit, keep in mind what you know about the interests of travelers in your group, and seek guides who can work in those specialties.

COMP E NS AT ION In a destination with a lot of guides, rates are likely to be set by market forces. You might pay by the hour in some places; guides might charge a day rate in others. It may seem attractive to find the guide who offers the cheapest rate, but remember that you generally get what you pay for: If you want guides with special-interest expertise, a lot of experience or a dynamic presence, be prepared to pay more for them, as they are likely in high demand. Also, you should inquire as to the tipping custom in the places you visit, since some local guides rely heavily on tips from individual travelers to supplement their incomes.

R E FE R E NCE S If the idea of scouring destination websites looking for the right guide seems intimidating, rest easy: Expert travel assistants in cities and countries around the world are standing by to help. In the United States, they work for organizations commonly known as convention and visitors bureaus; abroad they may be known as tourist offices or tourist boards. These are the people in charge of promoting tourism to their

E X TR A S E R V ICE S If you’re planning the details of a tour yourself, you might want to go one step beyond hiring a tour guide and enlist the services of a receptive tour operator. These are tour companies that specialize in hosting groups in their home cities or regions, and they can help group leaders in a variety of ways. In addition to providing local guides, receptive operators can often

destinations, and they’re usually well connected to local suppliers. Ask the professionals at these organizations to recommend the local guides who would be the best fit for your group’s interests and budget.

help with hotel bookings, make restaurant reservations, set up immersive experiences and even arrange motorcoach transportation. If you can afford to pay for their services, you’ll find that the amount of work they take off your plate is a welcome relief.

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elect Traveler Conference attendees are in for a treat: The 2017 edition of the conference will take place February 5-7 in Ontario, California. This will be the first time the conference has journeyed to the West Coast. “We are doing something completely different,” said conference organizer Joe Cappuzzello. The conference will be staged inside the beautiful Ontario Convention Center, with its sundrenched lobbies and its views of the gorgeous San Bernardino Mountains. “It will be in a great venue, an almost-brand-new convention center,” said Cappuzzello. The convention hall offers 225,000 square feet of flexible and divisible meeting, exhibit and function space. Some of the groups that have booked the center liken it to a “high-end hotel experience,” according to the center’s operators. The official conference hotel is right next door to the convention center. Delegates will enjoy the DoubleTree by Hilton, an upscale, resort-type hotel property. Both are just minutes from Los Angeles/Ontario International Airport (ONT), one of the finest small airports located in the region. The convention center district is surrounded by about 3,000 hotel rooms. A to-


tal of 6,000 rooms are available in the Greater Ontario region. Hotel room rates tend to be much lower in Greater Ontario than in the larger metropolitan areas of the region. Ontario, and its tourism partner and neighbor Rancho Cucamonga, are about 35 miles east of Los Angeles. Delegates from winter-weary states will welcome Ontario’s abundant sunshine, dry air and average daily temperatures in the 60s in February.

REGIONAL HUB “We are a hub around which there are a lot of major things to do,” said Michael Krouse, president and CEO of the Greater Ontario Convention and Visitors Bureau. People visiting the area, also known as the Inland Empire, use it as a starting point for tourism travel throughout Southern California. From Ontario, visitors often go on to places like Los Angeles, San Diego, Hollywood and Beverly Hills. “Myself, I like to take a trip out to Palm Springs, just a little over an hour away, because it is 85 to 90 degrees,” said Sue Oxarart, who is the CVB’s director of marketing and communications. “I enjoy the drive through the desert. Winter is gor-

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So H o m eutt h e r n I n d i a n L owe sot t h e Re g i o na . . . B e d Ta ’s x!

t a e r G A t e G r o f s ’ Z Z Z f o Night These Less of …$$$ p

Louisville KY


Southern IN

The Maloof residence mezzanine Photos courtesy Ontario CVB

geous here in Southern California.” People also enjoy visiting Disneyland, the extensive wine region, deserts, beaches, snow-capped mountains, golf courses, casinos and some of the best shopping in the western United States. “We are 45 minutes to an hour from a lot of things to see and do,” said Oxarart. For any Select Traveler delegate who wants to arrive early for the conference or stay past the end of it, convention and visitors bureau staff experts can arrange various itineraries and excursions and help visitors get special group discounts.

SUPER BOWL PARTY The Select Traveler Conference will begin on Super Bowl Sunday. The Ontario CVB has reserved Citizens Business Bank Arena for a fun Super Bowl party for conference delegates. The arena seats 11,000 for basketball and hockey games and concerts and is a popular destination for the community. “We looked at the calendar and thought that we might as well take advantage of this,” said Oxarart. “We manage the arena now, and it will be fun for delegates to be inside a large

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connection sports venue to watch the big game.” The giant LED video board will show the game, and attendees will enjoy the traditional concession stand food you would expect at any game venue. “There will be fan food for sure, like hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza and drinks. We think it’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s the first time we have done this at the arena, too,” said Oxarart.

stores, a cultural arts center, a large modern movie theater and various public plazas ideal for resting and sipping a drink in between scurrying around. The local restaurant scene is noted for its abundance of fusion cuisine.


Select Traveler Conference attendees will be both inspired and entertained by the speakers scheduled to appear. One works in a fascinating field: mental performance. Amber Lattner, founder of Lattner Performance Group, strives to emphasize the power of mind-set and leadership to boost the performance of people in business, academics or athletics. She says her group’s mission is building championship mind-sets. “I hope that we can help people, or their team or business, to find, develop and share their greatness with the world,” she writes on her website. Driven, even as a child, Lattner reveals that one of the highlights of her life was playing soccer at the University of Notre Dame. However, an injury ended her college playing career and “the identity crisis that ensued forced a type of introspection for which I am eternally grateful,” she said. “I became very aware of the power of mind-set and just how critical a solid foundation of self becomes when most else is stripped away.” At the conference, count on Lattner to share more of her inspirational life story and ways we all can improve our performances with the proper mind-set. Another conference speaker will be Suzette Brawner, who is often asked to address groups at universities, corporations, civic organizations and churches. She blends reality with humor to get across her messages about how best to communicate in this comSuzette Brawner plicated world. Brawner believes communication has changed dramatically in the past two decades, mainly because of the internet, and that “misunderstandings often begin with miscommunication.” She says many of us get into trouble not only because of what we say, but because we didn’t carefully listen to what someone else said to us. “And then we have to scramble to get out of it,” said Brawner. Brawner’s observations about communication and the best ways to get our messages across are practical and useful, but also may elicit some hard laughter. She urges people to not take things so seriously and to find a way to roll with life’s punches. “Many people are so uptight,” she observed. “But I love to laugh, and I try to fill my life with laughter. I think it’s good for us.”

The CVB knows that some delegates will want the freedom to go off on their own to explore the area, and they will be given that opportunity during the conference. That may mean some will want to visit L.A. for all its big-city excitement or will want to dip their toes into the Pacific Ocean, perhaps for the first time; The home of Sam and Alfreda some may want to see a desert Maloof and a snowy mountaintop, all in the same day. “Why not offer them that variety?” asked Oxarart. “We are giving everybody a lot of free time to explore.” The CVB will emphasize the wonderful outdoor activities available in the Ontario area. “Most of the people who come to Ontario in February want to take advantage of being outside,” said Oxarart. “They have been cooped up in colder weather — for a lot of people, in snow. They love the idea of just getting outside in the warmth. They take pictures and send them back to their friends and family in cold areas and brag ‘Look at me, I’m standing by a palm tree with shorts on.’” Shopping will be on the minds of a lot of convention attendees. Ontario has some world-class shopping destinations, like Ontario Mills, just two miles from the convention center. “They have more than 225 stores,” said Oxarart. “It is a discount outlet and value one-story shopping center. It is built from a racetracklike design, meaning an oval, and if you walk all around that “racetrack,” you have just put in a mile.” Ontario Mills has some of the biggest names in men’s, women’s and children’s apparel; footwear; jewelry; and sporting goods. Shoppers will find stores from prominent retail names such as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Coach Factory Store and Tommy Hilfiger. Restaurants include RainForest Café, Dave and Buster’s and GameWorks. The Improv Comedy Club and Dinner Theatre will keep people laughing. AMC 30 Theaters screens the most popular films daily. “There is always something fun to do at Ontario Mills,” said Oxarart. Since Southern California has such pleasant weather yearround, shopping outdoors is popular. In nearby Rancho Cucamonga, visitors will find Victoria Mills. It is a walkable, openair, mixed-use community featuring shopping, restaurants and entertainment. Victoria Mills features many top brand-name



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SPONSORS A & S SIGNATURE JOURNEYS Custom Marketplace Drape ANDERSON VACATIONS Delegate Orientation CHEROKEE NATION CULTURAL TOURISM Hotel Key Cards COLLETTE Monday Luncheon DIAMOND TOURS Vendor Spotlight DOUBLETREE BY HILTON ONTARIO AIRPORT Sponsor Booth EAST COAST TOURING Monday Breakfast EUREKA SPRINGS AD.& PROMO. COMMISSION Destination Showcase FATHOM CRUISES Banker Breakouts FED. MOTOR CARRIER SAFETY ADMIN. Seminar FRENCH LICK RESORT Conference Padfolio GLOBUS FAMILY OF BRANDS Closing Luncheon GO AHEAD TOURS Seminar GO NEXT Conference Registration GREATER LOUISVILLE CVB Monday Evening Event GREATER ONTARIO CALIFORNIA CVB Delegate Registry, Travel Industry Report, & Best Practices Handbook ISLANDS IN THE SUN CRUISES & TOURS Super Session JOHN HALLâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S ALASKA Vendor Showcase LITTLE ROCK CVB Sponsor Booth MAYFLOWER TOURS Seminar MSC CRUISES (USA) INC Icebreaker Reception NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINES Sponsor Showcase SONOMA COUNTY TOURISM Marketplace Aisle Signs TRIPS Tuesday Breakfast US TOURS Name Badges

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La Mariposa Cheese is one of many artisan cheese makers on the Oregon Cheese Trail.


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Courtesy Oregon Cheese Trail



These tasty trails delight hungry travelers BY RACHEL CARTER


path, a track, a trail: They all lead to somewhere, to something. Food trails lead people to the places that help them better understand a destination through traditional cuisine, signature dishes and historical fare. These food trails allow visitors to discover areas that have flavors all their own.


The saying is “It’s as American as apple pie,” but in Indiana, it would be sugar cream pie. Sugar cream pie is known for its caramellike filling, made using brown sugar, maple syrup or both. Although sugar cream pie is not officially Indiana’s state pie, it was popularized in the heart of northern Indiana’s Pennsylvania Dutch country and can be found at all 19 of the Hoosier Pie Food Trail’s stops. In the town of Shipshewana in northern Indiana, the Blue Gate Restaurant is an Amish establishment famous for its family-style dining, and it recently opened a buffet that features all the same foods; both options work well for groups, said Lindsey Skeen of the Indiana Foodways Alliance. Many of the restaurant’s cooks and bakers are Amish, and they use Amish recipes. The Blue Gate is known for its pies, and the dessert menu features a plethora of options, among them Dutch apple, butterscotch and coconut custard. The raspberry cream pie “is one of their most popular” next to the sugar cream pie, Skeen said. The Blue Gate Bakery also sells homemade Amish specialties such as cookies and jams, and the attached Blue Gate Theatre features live music and concerts. Also in Shipshewana, the Bread Box Bakery serves up slices of homemade pies along with saucer-size cookies and gigantic cinnamon rolls visitors can enjoy inside or at the outdoor picnic area that includes cafe tables under a white gazebo. Wicks Pie Company is an Indiana institution. Duane Wick parlayed his restaurant business into a pie-making empire, and in 1961, he bought the building where the company continues to make more than 12 million pies and pie shells a year. After touring the factory, groups can walk across the street to Mrs. Wick’s Restaurant to get a slice of one of 36 varieties the cafe makes every day. At the Gaither Family Resource Center, groups can tour the recording studio of the famous Christian gospel singing and songwriting duo Bill and Gloria Gaither and grab a slice of pie in their Pure and Simple restaurant. WWW.INDIANAFOODWAYS.COM

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The Texas BBQ Trail highlights five communities surrounding Austin, all within an hour’s drive, and in those communities, the trail features “the legends; the barbecue joints that have been around the longest,” said Gena Carter, president of the Elgin Chamber of Commerce. Elgin is home to both Meyer’s Elgin Smokehouse and Southside Market and BBQ, which claims the title of the oldest barbecue joint in Texas. A local butcher started selling beef and pork from the back of his wagon in 1882, and now, nearly 135 years later, Southside continues to serve up Texas barbecue made with four key ingredients: high-quality meat, dry rub, Texas post oak wood and time. Visitors can buy barbecue by the pound on butcher paper or get a plate meal with all the sides. Southside just opened a second location in Bastrop, which in turn landed the town on the trail. The new location features a private dining room and an enclosed patio, and the original Elgin location also works well for groups, Carter said. In Lockheart, four restaurants are on the trail: Black’s Barbecue, Chisholm Trail, Kreuz Market and Smitty’s Market. Both Kreuz and Smitty’s are quite large and can handle big crowds, and they share an interesting tie. Kreuz began in 1900 as a grocery and meat market, and today the restaurant is housed in a red-brick and tin building with open cooking fires and chimneys inside. Nina Schmidt Sells’ father owned Kreuz Market for 50 years, and she opened Smitty’s in 1999 in the former Kreuz building. In Luling, Luling City Market serves its barbecue on butcher paper — no forks, only fingers — and Luling Bar-B-Q dishes it up at its cafeteria-style restaurant. Taylor is home to four more barbecue havens. Taylor Café and West End Café are local favorites for brisket, sausage, chicken and ribs, and the not-so-secret ingredients at Davis Grocery and Bar-B-Q are “patience and mesquite wood.” Louis Mueller Barbecue, which has been in the Mueller family since opening in 1949, is the best for larger groups, Carter said. WWW.TEXASBBQTRAILS.COM


The Oregon Cheese Trail has 16 stops all over the state, but clusters of creameries make for some regional hubs. In the Portland area, the Ancient Heritage Dairy has a small shop right in downtown where


Hoosier Pie Trail

Courtesy Blue Gate Restaurant

Willamette Valley Cheese Co., Oregon

Courtesy Oregon Cheese Trail

passersby can watch through a window as workers make cheese, or visitors can sample and buy it at the chocolate shop next door. Portland Creamery Kitchen is open Wednesday through Saturday, and visitors can try a variety of cheeses made using milk from a private herd of dairy goats. Near Dundee, Briar Rose Creamery and Willamette Valley Cheese Company “are both in the heart of wine country,” said Katie Bray, executive director of the Oregon Cheese Guild. Briar Rose makes a variety of goat milk cheeses and has a farm store and tasting room that’s open Fridays and Saturdays or by appointment during the week. About 20 miles south, Willamette Valley Cheese Company makes its huge variety of cheeses — gouda, fontina, Havarti, cheddar and jack — using Jersey milk. Groups can visit the tasting room at the farm Tuesday through Saturday and seasonally on Sundays. On the southern end of the state, four dairy farms and creameries make a Rogue River/ Applegate Valley cheese hub. By George Farm makes organic, raw-milk cheese from cows grazed on organic pastures. Pholia Farm is known for its aged, raw-milk cheeses and offers a variety of cheesemaking classes. Crushpad Creamery works well for groups because it’s attached to Wooldridge Creek Winery. The two share a tasting room that’s open daily, and the venture just expanded this summer into house-made charcuterie. In that same vein, the Oregon Cheese Guild is working with Travel Oregon to expand the trail to feature specialty food producers such as jam and jelly makers, chocolate shops and an olive oil mill near Dundee, Bray said. WWW.OREGONCHEESEGUILD.ORG

Texas BBQ Food Trail


There are a few food staples that, whenever mentioned, make your mouth water for a taste of Louisiana: beignets, crawfish and boudin. Boudin is a Cajun sausage made with ingreCourtesy Southside Market and Barbecue dients that vary depending on the family recipe but usually include a zesty blend of pork, rice and spices. Boudin can be found all over the state — in five-star restaurants and gas station stores — but the area in and around Lafayette is a boudin hub. The Cajun Boudin Trail includes a dozen boudin locations in the Lafayette region. At Bayou Boudin and Cracklin, visitors will find scratchmade Cajun food as well as a collection of 14 bayou shacks that serve as a collective bayou bed-and-breakfast. Guests can wash down boudin links with a cup of the owner’s homemade root beer. In Lafayette, Johnson’s Boucaniere (Cajun French for “smokehouse”) is known as much for its boudin as its smoked pulled pork or brisket sandwiches. Joseph Guidroz opened Guidroz Food Center in 1959, and his son still runs the family business, a local favorite where the line often stretches past the hot-food counter into the market’s aisles. Along the Interstate 10 corridor west of Full-day excursions departing daily from two locations: Lafayette, Early’s Food Store and Don’s Specialty Chama, New Mexico & Antonito, Colorado Meats, both in Scott, offer their own homemade boudin. Early’s is a Cajun supermarket, and · Mid-May to Mid-October Don’s also sells boudin balls, boudin burritos and · Group Friendly Restrooms boudin pistolettes, which are bread rolls stuffed with boudin and fried. · Lunch Included Now entering its 10th year, the Boudin Cook· ADA Accessible Off in downtown Lafayette is a one-day festival that features samples of regional boudin and a · Bus Parking boudin-eating contest.

Special Summer Pricing for Groups

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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)!


Grading syrup

Inside a syrup sugarhouse

Courtesy Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Assoc.

Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom includes three counties in the northeast corner of the state and was listed in Patricia Shultz’s book “1,000 Places to See Before You Die.” And while visiting, there are 1,000 maple syrups to try — roughly. April’s Maple harvests maple sap on its 800 acres of sugar bush near Canaan. The sugarhouse is open every day except Tuesday, and free tours and maple syrup tastings are available. April’s Maple also has a cafe where groups can have lunch and try the soft-serve maple ice cream. About 45 minutes west, near the town of Derby, Jed’s Maple is a family-owned operation where groups can experience all things related to “sugaring.” The gift shop sells a range of maple goods, such as maple-frosted nuts and maple balsamic vinaigrette. In 2015, the Wheeler family opened a maple museum in a former sugarhouse, where visitors can see a working wood-fired evaporator, antiques and mementos. Just a few miles west, on the south end of Lake Memphremagog, the Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center in Newport is a food hall that acts a sort of living museum of the region’s many specialty foods. There, visitors will find a restaurant, a bakery, a cider house, a tasting bar, a coffee shop and a maple shop. Butternut Mountain Farm’s shop showcases the farm’s maple products: syrups, sugars, candies, popcorn, butters, barbecue sauce and pancake mix. To experience the Vermont tradition of sugaring, the annual Maple Open House is a must. Hundreds of sugarhouses normally closed to the public throw open their doors for a weekend, March 25-26 this year, to teach people about sugar-making. Visitors can enjoy pancake breakfasts and make sugar on the snow, just like Laura Ingalls did in “Little House in the Big Woods.” WWW.DIGINVT.COM

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.


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 22

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f you’re up for traveling halfway across the world, consider going to a place where your palate runs off with a chef, a land where night markets ooze silver and silk, and mountains rise out of the sea. Think about seeing Thailand. My wife, Kim, and I went in October. We flew Louisville to Chicago, Chicago to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to Bangkok. It was worth every inflight movie we watched to get there. Our itinerary was created for us by Ritz Tours, a California-based travel company that specializes in Southeast Asia. They sent us to two “must do” cities on a first trip to Thailand — Bangkok and Chiang Mai — plus an area for which I placed a special request — the beaches and islands surrounding Phuket. “Americans do like the exotic nature of Thailand,” Max Chew of Ritz Tours told me. “There is a mysteriousness there that fascinates them. Being far away has something to do with it. There has been a proliferation of Thai restaurants in the United States that feeds that curiosity. In those places, Americans have tasted Thai hospitality and cuisine. Consequently, they are drawn to Thailand.”

A SPICY, SULTRY BEGINNING We were greeted in Bangkok by our guide for three days, Patty. Like our guide in Chiang Mai, she used a single Americanized name with us. She took us immediately to the city’s magnificent Grand Palace. Home to the country’s royal family since 1782, the Grand Palace is a

massive complex from which Bangkok has sprung over the centuries. We joined hundreds of Thais and travelers in removing our shoes to enter the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, where Buddhists pray before a brilliant green statue seated in the traditional yoga position. The Emerald Buddha figurine is made of jasper and is only a little more than two feet tall, but commands the most sacred temple in the palace. It was discovered in the 15th century in northern Thailand after being encased in stucco for safekeeping. In the temple court, a dozen or so adherents sat on steps and chanted. “They wear white to show purity of soul before the Buddha,” said Patty. We stayed at the Pullman Bangkok Hotel G in the heart of the city’s Silom financial district. The Pullman caters to millennials, and we shared a Chang beer and spring rolls with a few in its streetside 25 Degrees Burger Bar during our stay. When the sun sets, Bangkok teems with people seeking restaurants, bars and street food. This is one of the world’s edgiest cities, and when darkness falls, it pounds like a nightclub, earthy and delightful. Patty took us away to a landmark restaurant, Methavalai Sorndaeng, where many Thai families celebrate special occasions. We had a wonderful view of King’s Avenue and Democracy Monument while musicians performed traditional Thai music. Democracy Monument is a city landmark that was built in 1939 to celebrate Thailand’s new constitutional monarchy. Patty ordered and made sure our dishes didn’t overwhelm us. Most Americans have to work their way up to real Thai. “I recommend eating early in the evening so you can digest our dishes before you try to sleep,” she said with a laugh. We had deep-fried shrimp patties, spicy and sour sliced garoupa (grouper) soup, spicy seafood salad, fried chicken wrapped in herb leaves and pad Thai with shrimp. Patty barely ate as she explained the nuance of each dish. The four s’s characterize conflicting flavors built into many Thai dishes: sweet, sour, salty and spicy. We topped the evening off with fresh sliced mango and sticky rice, a favorite Thai dessert. The next morning, we drove southwest from Bangkok to enjoy the Damnoen Saduak floating market. We passed industrial complexes for technology companies and fields carved into fish farms. Opposite page: James Bond Island is a speed boat trip from Phuket.


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A monk blesses followers at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.

Vendors work from boats at the Damnoen Saduak floating market.

peear Rambutan prickly Ra Ramb mbbuttaann iiss a pr pric icckl klyy pear-like a -l -lik ikke fruit frui fr uitt popular with visitors. poopu pular wi w ith llocals ocalls aand nd vi sitors. Photos by Mac Lacy, except where otherwise noted

“They raise tilapia and carp,” said Patty, “also catfish and snakehead fish, and the expensive fish: grouper and sea bass. “We eat a lot of fish, chicken and pork,” she said. “It has always been a custom here to not eat beef, but younger Thais are moving away from that.” We boarded a long-tail speedboat and churned a couple of miles along rural, tree-lined canals, passing homes and rudimentary Buddhist shrines before tying up at the immense river market. Above the din, vendors hawked art, silk goods, toys and clothing. We were more taken with the floating vendors who were frying coconut patties and bananas on wooden boats. Patty grabbed some of both, and we devoured them, washing everything down with ice-cold Coca-Colas served with straws in plastic bags. Back in Bangkok, we had a superb Thai lunch in the riverfront restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Water taxis mimicking Chinese junks ferried people across the Chao Phraya River in front of us. The following morning, Patty escorted us to the airport for our flight to Phuket. To say goodbye, we raised our hands to our chest and bowed, palms together like a prayer. Patty did the same before opening her arms to give us a hug goodbye.

Sunset from the Novotel Kamala Beach Resort

PARADISE ON THE ANDAMAN SEA The Novotel Kamala Bay Resort offers beautiful views of Phuket’s Kamala Bay and the Andaman Sea beyond. A seaside room with a private pool and cabana on the roof awaited us, and we were greeted immediately by executive assistant manager John Cannon, who made a point of seeing us several times during our stay. We got an early start for our daylong speedboat trip to the Phi Phi Islands. There were about 30 of us onboard the Crystal Sea Marine watercraft powered by a trio of 225-horsepower engines. If you’ve seen images of lush green islands breeching like whales from the sea, you’ve seen these. They form one of the most intoxicating landscapes on the planet. It was an hour at full speed to our first stop at Phi Phi Don Island for snorkeling and lunch on the beach, followed by another stop for sunbathing at Phi Phi Ley’s Maya Beach, where Leo DiCaprio’s film “The Beach” was shot. We pulled anchor and made a drive-by of Viking Cave, a site frequented for centuries by Asian mariners who weathered storms there. The cave is uninhabited except for thousands of swifts that nest inside. Bamboo ladders climb into its upper reaches so locals can harvest them

Thailand night markets offer day’s catch. Th T ai ailland land nnig igght h m mar arkkets kets t ooff ffffer e tthe er he dday ay’s ay ’s ccat atch at ch. ch By Max Chew


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T’S A TRAVEL BARGAIN. The dollar in exchange for Thai bahts is a remarkable value. A gourmet meal for two with drinks, dessert and tip runs well under $100. Hand-painted umbrellas sell for $5. A onehour foot massage costs $10. Take $100 to a night market, and you’ll be there all night. IT’S FOR FOODIES. I had soups in Thailand with flavors I’ve never tasted before. What they do with opposing influences is an art form. It’s difficult to characterize what they create using lemongrass, basil, Thai curries and other spices, but the results are distinctly Thai. IT’S FRIENDLY. Thailand is a Buddhist culture. Buddhists believe that what you give to others comes back to you and how you treat others determines where your life will lead. Their culture is gracious, and there is no language barrier. IT’S TRENDING. Ritz Tours alone is taking 1,000 Americans a month to Thailand. From expats who move there to beachgoers who crash there, Thailand has a siren call that travelers are hearing.


Hill tribe kids are hard to resist in Chiang Mai.

for the Chinese delicacy, bird’s nest soup. Back at the hotel, I made a quick change to join John and other guests for a reception he hosts on Wednesday evenings. He sent me up to the roof to catch the last traces of a beautiful sunset before it disappeared. When I returned, he had a cold beer waiting for me. “You need to come back for Songkran, Thailand’s New Year Festival in early April,” he said. “It’s a water festival and everyone celebrates with water guns and water cannons. It takes place all over the country. This lobby literally stands in water. It’s an amazing time to be in Thailand.” Songkran represents Thais’ way of cleansing impurities from the old year and ushering in the new. That’s where the water comes in. They splash it on monks as a means of blessing them and drench each other as well. Kim and I dined al fresco on the hotel roof that evening. The moon was full, and Kamala Bay was iridescent. On our last day in Phuket, Kim got up early to swim beneath the stars in our rooftop pool.


Wat Chalong is a Phuket landmark.

Our first evening in Chiang Mai, our guide, Pan, took us to a traditional Lanna Khantoke dinner show at the Old Chiangmai Cultural Center, where dancers interpret historic Thai cultures. Pan told us that night that Thailand’s revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej was gravely ill. The following day, he confirmed the king had died. Our hotel, Le Meridien Chiang Mai, immediately assembled a tribute bearing his likeness in its lobby.

By Max Chew

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A temple candle

The Grand Palace is the jewel of Bangkok.

As we drove to Maesa Elephant Camp the following day, Pan compared cultures. “The traditional occupation here in the north is farming,” he said. “We grow rice, beans, ginger. But today, tourism is the main business in Thailand. This is the land of the Buddha. Always take off your shoes to enter a temple or home, and bow to those you meet. “Most families today want their children to be exposed to Western culture,” he said. “Only our seniors do not want that progress. Buddhism is flexible. Some go daily to the temple, but others just go on special occasions.” “Elephants are sacred here,” he continued. “When they were used in the forests, most trained for about 10 years to learn how to work. Around 11 to 16, they began working on light jobs. From 17 to 38, they worked eight-hour days. At 50 or so, elephants’ vision and muscles begin weakening. Many are 70 years old or more at death.” We watched as trainers fed the elephants and bathed them in the river. Two elephants embraced Kim with their trunks, and she loved it. “There are maybe 15 elephant camps near Chiang Mai,” said Pan. “They have different philosophies. Many are for people who want to care for elephants. They stay long enough to learn commands and develop relationships with their elephants.” We headed up to a demonstration hill tribe village not far away. The hill tribes are nomadic clans that have spurned civilization for centuries. In this constructed village, they grow rice using traditional methods in hand-tilled marshes. “The idea here is to see them all in one place,” said Pan. “The owner


A young Hill tribe merchant near Chiang Mai

divided the property so they could raise rice and animals and support themselves. To visit real villages, you need to drive a four-wheel-drive vehicle up into the mountains. Backpackers go up there and stay with them — it’s much more adventurous.” That evening, we walked through Chiang Mai’s labyrinthine night market to buy silk scarves and elephant pants. Kim left home with standing orders from half a dozen people, so we checked those off the list. “It is customary in Buddhist tradition to walk around the temple sites clockwise to keep the shrines and Buddhas on your right,” said Pan the following morning as we joined worshippers at the mountaintop temple, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Legend says a white elephant climbed this peak in the 14th century and died, marking the place King Nu Naone would build this sacred site. That afternoon, Pan took us to the Bo Sang Handicraft Centre to see artisans creating colorful paper umbrellas. These decorative parasols are hand-painted on paper created on-site from tree bark. They feature bamboo frames and hinges and have no prefabricated parts. Kim bought one for 140 bahts — less than $5. You could sell them in the United States for 20 times that amount. Our trip was over, and we had one night left in Thailand, so we grabbed a tuk-tuk and headed to Whole Earth, a restaurant we’d noticed earlier in the week. We didn’t have reservations, but we were offered a window table on the second floor, so we removed our shoes and headed up. There, among many Thai diners, we toasted our good fortune and enjoyed a delicious farewell dinner half a world from home.

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ozark originals COME GET ARTSY IN




orthwest Arkansas is exploding with creativity. The wooded landscape and serenity of the Ozark Mountains have long made the area an idyllic getaway destination, complete with postcard charm and a timeless beauty that have drawn visitors decade after decade. But Bentonville, Fayetteville, Eureka Springs and Fort Smith are not places that time forgot; on the contrary, progress and innovation have brought dynamic attractions and great new visitor experiences throughout the region. The 2011 opening of the famous Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art sent a bolt of creative energy throughout Bentonville and beyond, sparking new developments and concepts that are adding layers of fun and ďŹ&#x201A;avor to this region of the state. In addition to old favorite attractions, groups that visit northwest Arkansas today will ďŹ nd ample opportunities to engage the arts, indulge their senses, interact with history and discover the destination in new ways.


Terra Studios

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Since it made its 2011 debut, Crystal Bridges has quickly become a giant on the Bentonville co o ttourism scene. “Crystal Bridges has had more than 2 million visitors,” ssaid John Lamparski, group sales manager for the Bentonville Convention and Visitors Bureau. “But it’s not just a museum that rests on its laurels. They keep adding new pieces all the time.”

Museum of Native American History

Courtesy Fayetteville Visitors Bureau Courtesy Bentonville CVB

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In addition to a regular schedule of popular touring exhibitions, Crystal Bridges has added several significant exhibits. Visitors can tour a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright that was relocated to the museum campus from its original location in New Jersey. Students at the Fay Jones School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas restored the structure, which had fallen into disrepair. Now groups can marvel at the creativity of America’s most brilliant architectural mind as they experience the home the way Wright intended. The museum also recently announced plans to open a second facility in a 63,000-square-foot former factory building downtown. The factory was built in the 1940s and used by Kraft Foods until 2012. The transformed space will be dedicated to contemporary art exhibitions and live performance space and is expected to open in 2018. Groups with an eye for art will also enjoy a visit to the 21c Museum Hotel. The only one of the 21c locations in a purposebuilt facility, the Bentonville outpost includes an entire floor of gallery space exhibiting the work of contemporary artists from around the world. Tours to the city should also include a stop at the Museum of Native American History. “It’s kind of the hidden gem of Bentonville,” Lamparski said. “It started as a private collection of native and ancient American artifacts. As you walk through the museum, you go through 10,000 years of history and see whole cultures form. We can arrange to have the curator or owner of the museum meet groups and tell them about it.”



Groups can engage with the arts firsthand in Fayetteville, a city about 30 miles south of Bentonville that is best known as the home of the University of Arkansas. One of the most beloved attractions in the area is Terra Studios, the birthplace of the Bluebird of Happiness glass figurine. The studio’s staff recently began offering interactive art workshops for groups. “It’s not just about the bluebirds anymore — we’re trying to provide a hands-on experience,” said Julie Pennington, group tour manager at the Fayetteville Visitors Bureau. “There are hands-on things that they can make on-site and then take home with them. They can make simple things like pinch pots or more complicated things like ceramic trolls. They do toad houses and silk-scarf-making. If you can dream it, they can do it.” Groups that visit the studios can also watch glassblowing demonstrations to see how different pieces of art — including the Bluebird of Happiness — are made. Lunch is available on-site as well. Art-themed tours often also stop at Fayetteville Underground, a downtown art gallery and studio complex where visitors can meet some of the artists and discuss their work. The visitors bureau can also help arrange studio visits and meet-and-greets with George Dombek, a well-known local watercolorist and sculptor who has pieces on exhibit at Crystal Bridges. Live theater plays a big role in Fayetteville’s cultural scene. The Walton Arts Center hosts major touring Broadway productions, and Pennington works with restaurants around town to create themed menus for groups that come in to see the shows. A smaller organization called Theatre Squared produces original plays and offers interactive ac-


21c Bentonville

Courtesy Bentonville CVB

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art Courtesy Fayetteville Visitors Bureau

tive and improv workshops for group visitors.

Fayetteville Ale Trail


There’s no place quite like Eureka Springs, a delightfully distinctive town where the streets are laid out up and down the slopes of Ozark hills. The city’s entire downtown area is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is full of local, independently owned restaurants and boutique shops. Many groups enjoy free time to roam the streets of downtown and chat with local merchants. The area also has some signature attractions, as well as some new group experiences that are gaining ground. The Great Passion Play, along with the accompanying Christ of the Ozarks statue, is a mainstay in Eureka Springs. The outdoor drama will celebrate its 50th anniversary this summer,

Terra Studios

Courtesy Fayetteville Visitors Bureau

Courtesy Fayetteville Visitors Bureau

Fayetteville art gallery

Courtesy Fayetteville Visitors Bureau

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t’s impossible to spend much time in Bentonville without encountering the influence of Wal-Mart, which was founded in the thensmall town by local Sam Walton. Groups that spend time in the city should get to know Walton’s story — and thus, the story of Bentonville — with a visit to the Walmart Museum. “The Walmart Museum is located in the very first store that Sam Walton opened on his own,” said John Lamparski of the Bentonville CVB. “It starts with a small five-and-dime store out front. Then you enter the museum itself, which talks about the Walton family and their business. You exit into a 1950s ice cream shop, and groups get a nice scoop of Arkansas ice cream at the end of the tour.” In addition to the nostalgia of the five-and-dime and the ice cream shop, many museum visitors especially en-


joy seeing some of Walton’s personal effects, including the classic red pickup truck and the office where he did his daily business. Virtually every detail of the office remains as it was when Walton worked there, including the woodpaneled walls, the manila file folders and the photos from bird-hunting excursions.

The Walmart Museum Courtesy Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.


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and groups can experience the wonders of this large-scale production in a variety of ways. “The Great Passion Play now has a behind-the-scenes walking tour,” said Karen Pryor, director of sales at the Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission. “It’s pretty interesting. I try to get my groups to see the play before they take the tour because if they take the tour first, they will see how some of the special effects work and then will be expecting them during the performance.” The Christ of the Ozarks statue, which sits on the grounds of the Great Passion Play overlooking the city, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016 and has undergone a topto-bottom restoration. Groups that enjoy shows also make time to take in a performance at Intrigue Theatre, where a couple performs optical illusions and brain-teasing

tricks in an intimate setting. And the area’s tourism community has developed a new experience for tours that includes a dinner experience at Castle Rogue’s Manor just outside the city. “It’s a replica of a medieval castle on the banks of Table Rock Lake,” Pryor said. “You can do a tour of the castle and the gatekeeper’s cottage, and then have a catered dinner there. It’s a complete evening event.”

Downtown Eureka Springs


Courtesy Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion

Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art

The Great Passion Play

The story of Fort Smith is a colorful tale of frontier justice and the characters that inhabited the expanding territory of America in the 1800s. At the southern end of the region, the city grew up around the fort of the same name, which was established in 1817 as a government outpost in what was then the Wild West.

Courtesy The Great Passion Play


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Today groups can explore Fort Smith National Historic Site to see the barracks, the courtroom and the gallows that were used for some 80 years to govern the territory. Many also choose to experience the area’s colorful history firsthand with a performance by Miss Laura’s Players, a troupe of performers led by Carolyn Joyce, tour and travel sales director at the Fort Smith Convention and Visitors Bureau, who plays the titular role of the city’s historic madam. “I have been portraying the character of Miss Laura for 25 years,” Joyce said. “Today it’s a three-person skit, which is all comedy. The group has come to town for a hanging, and Miss Laura comes down to make sure that everyone knows about her business. And a huckster shows up selling a magical cure-all elixir.” Though these experiences have been a core part of Fort

Street art in Fort Smith

Courtesy Arkansas Dept. of Parks and Tourism

General Darby Memorial

Miss Laura’s Players Courtesy Fort Smith CVB


Smith’s appeal for years, exciting new developments are taking place as well. Construction is underway on the U.S. Marshals Museum, which is set to open in Fort Smith in 2018. And a mural initiative called the Unexpected has brought new color to downtown buildings. “They brought in international artists to do some unique paintings on our buildings,” Joyce said. “They’re gorgeous, and it has brought so many people downtown. Each artist has their own concept of what they wanted to paint on the buildings. It’s now included in our driving tour.” The project started in 2015, with 11 murals created in about a week’s time. The results were so positively received that more artists came during the summer of 2016 and created 11 more murals, bringing the city’s total to 22. Groups can arrange tours that showcase all the best public artwork in the city.

Courtesy Fort Smith CVB




Carol y n J o y ce


TOUR & TRAVEL SALES DIRECTOR TF: 800.637.1477 | FAX: 479.784.2421 /TOURISM F E B R @ U FORTSMITH.ORG A R Y 2 0 1 7










EMERALD COAST, FLORIDA Courtesy Visit Savannah

WITH SANDY BEACHES on its eastern edge and a slim web of waterways that put the island just off the coast, minutes from the city of Savannah, Tybee Island has long been a favorite vacation spot for Georgians. The Tybee Light Station first started safely guiding mariners into the Savannah River in 1732. Although the lighthouse has been rebuilt several times since then, the current black-and-white cylinder was rebuilt after the Civil War. Visitors can hike the 178 stairs to the top of the lighthouse for “arguably the best view of Tybee,” said Sara Lane, director of Visit Tybee. Admission includes several other structures at Tybee Light Station as well as the museum, which is housed in one of Fort Screven’s seven batteries. There, exhibits showcase the island’s history and role in the Civil War. Just on the other side of the museum is public access to North Beach, which is “a great spot to ship watch and take in the beach and look back at the lighthouse,” she said. Tybee Beach is a popular sunbathing and swimming spot during peak summer season. The beach is the site of a wooden fishing pier with a picturesque octagonal pavilion that’s available for group rentals. Located at the pier, Tybee Island Marine Science Center offers staff-led eco-tours and beach walks “that are really worthwhile,” Lane said. WWW.VISITTYBEE.COM

Courtesy Emerald Coast CVB

LOOKING AT PHOTOS OF THE SUGAR-WHITE SAND and emerald-green water, people may be surprised to learn the images weren’t captured on a far-off tropical island but right along Florida’s panhandle. Florida’s Emerald Coast is a 24-mile stretch of shoreline along the Gulf Coast where the oval-shaped sand squeaks underfoot and the jewel-tone water surprises first-time visitors. The reason for the sugary sand and teal water? The Apalachicola River delivers quartz from the Appalachian Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico. The coast includes Destin, Destin Harbor, Fort Walton Village and Okaloosa Island, a barrier island surrounded by Santa Rosa Sound, Choctawhatchee Bay and the gulf. The island “is my go-to beach,” said Maureen Morgenthien, deputy director of sales and marketing for the Emerald Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau. Instead of condos and restaurants, visitors will find natural dunes and sea oats, and “it’s quiet and pristine.” If groups are looking for less quiet and more activity, Destin Harbor is the spot. The Destin Boardwalk offers easy access to restaurants, shopping, water activities and fishing charters. “Everything there overlooks the beaches that protect the harbor,” she said. Groups can take sunset or dolphin-watching cruises or rent paddleboards and jet skis. Visitors can also dine at about 30 area restaurants that participate in the “gulf to table” program where “what the fishing fleet catches today is on your plate tonight,” she said. WWW.EMERALDCOASTFL.COM


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CENTRAL OREGON COAST Courtesy Eugene, Cascades and the Coast

WHERE THE PACIFIC OCEAN clashes against central Oregon, visitors will find a combination of craggy, churning coastline punctuated by vast swaths of sandy beaches. People often don’t realize central Oregon’s sand is special; “because of the rain, it’s very clean, and it’s really round,” said Angie Riley, digital marketing manager for Eugene, Cascades and Coast. “That’s why a lot of people from around the world come here just to play in the sand.” The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area stretches 40 miles from Florence south to Coos Bay with massive dunes looming over the coastline. Sandland Adventures and Sand Dunes Frontier offer two types of dune buggy experiences: Sandrails seat two to four people and can only be compared to a roller coaster on sand. Larger dune buggies that can seat about 25 people aren’t as speedy, but it’s still thrilling to crest the top of a dune not knowing what awaits on the other side: an ocean view, sand-buried trees or a shockingly steep slope. C&M Stables takes groups of about a dozen on horseback beach rides. The trail ride winds through coastal woodlands and wetlands before cresting a dune to expose the wide beach and gentle waves below. Once on the beach, riders can spread out and even trot through the foaming surf. North of Florence, the 1894 Heceta Head Lighthouse sits on a rocky outcropping overlooking churning water below. The lighthouse offers tours and a bed-and-breakfast in the lightkeeper’s house. WWW.EUGENECASCADESCOAST.ORG

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OUTER BANKS, NORTH CAROLINA Courtesy Outer Banks Visitors Bureau

THE OUTER BANKS is a skinny 200-mile stretch of peninsulas and barriers islands that jut into the Atlantic Ocean, putting the string of land near the Gulf Stream from the south and the Labrador Current from the north. “It’s a natural environment that’s really hard to come by,” said Lee Nettles, executive director of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau. The unique geography of the OBX islands contributes to its lure and lore, making it a popular place for bird-watching, sport fishing and shipwreck hunting. On the sound side, i.e., facing the mainland, Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head is the site of the tallest “living” or active sand dune system on the East Coast. Visitors can walk the mile-and-a-half Tracks in the Sand trail over the dunes to the sound, take the milelong Soundside Nature Trail loop that leads to an overlook or stick to the 360-foot-long boardwalk with interpretive displays and a deck that delivers dune views. Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge has a visitors center where guests can use scopes trained on North Pond to view some of the 350 migratory bird species that nest and rest in the refuge. Two trails also allow visitors to explore the habitat and spot wildlife. Cape Hatteras National Seashore is home to two lighthouses: Cape Hatteras and Bodie Island. Both are open seasonally for selfguided climbs to the top, where visitors can take in sweeping views of the coastline. WWW.OUTERBANKS.ORG


Kentucky Railway Museum


Fine dining in Bardstown


Bourbon Heritage Center Photos courtesy Bardstown CVB



BY BRIAN JEWELL hough it has only 12,000 residents, Bardstown is known to people all around the world as My Old Kentucky Home. The sun shines bright on this picturesque Kentucky destination, where even cloudy days can’t obscure the history, scenery and Southern hospitality that make it a memorable stop for groups traveling through the Bluegrass State. Bardstown presents enough activities to pack a group’s itinerary full for a couple of days. Located roughly halfway between Lexington and Louisville, the town typifies the state’s culture in both historic and modern ways.


Settled in 1780, Bardstown is the second-oldest city in the state, and evidence of this history can be seen all around. The town boasts more than 200 buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, many of which now serve as restaurants, inns, shops and other establishments that serve visitors. Beyond historical experiences, groups have a wide range of other things to do when spending time in Bardstown. The area is home to a famous outdoor musical production, an active monastery, a basilica, a scenic dinner train, several museums and numerous bourbon distilleries.

MY OLD KENTUCKY HOME Among Bardstown’s chief attractions is My Old Kentucky Home State Park. Near the heart of town, this park preserves Federal Hill, a farm owned by a prominent local family that was immortalized by American songwriter Stephen Foster in his classic “My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night.” Groups can tour the mansion with expert costumed guides to see the large collection of original family furnishings on display and hear stories of life at the farm. Last year, the park

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also introduced interactive programs for tour groups, among them culinary demonstrations. The park is also home to “The Stephen Foster Story,” one of the country’s most famous outdoor dramas. This classic summer musical has run for 58 years and commemorates the life and career of Foster; the play deals with the issues of slavery and race that he saw firsthand at Federal Hill. “We get to depict scenes that actually happened on these grounds when Stephen Foster saw a family friend sold on the plantation,” said artistic director Johnny Warren. “The story is structured as a year in his life when he’s trying to win the affection of Jane. He is also struggling with the idea of composing music for a living. He was the first American to do that.” Performances take place in an on-site amphitheater and feature a cast of 50 professional actors and singers who wear colorful, dazzling costumes that have become a hallmark of the show. “We’re known for the costumes in the show as much as we are the songs in the show,” said Warren.

BOURBON CENTRAL If your group enjoys learning about and sampling local spirits, there is no better place than Bardstown to learn about bourbon, Kentucky’s native whiskey. The town is located near the heart of Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail and is home to several distilleries large and small. Groups can take tours of the small family-owned Willett Distillery or walk through the large industrial Barton 1792 Distillery for an in-depth look at its bourbon production. Tastings at both facilities introduce visitors to the wide range of flavors and techniques that make up the bourbon tradition. Groups should also make time to visit the Bourbon Heritage Center at the Heaven Hill Distillery. This museum gives guests a comprehensive look at the history of bourbon in Kentucky and includes a tasting experience inside a room designed to look like the inside of a bourbon barrel. The newest player on the town’s bourbon scene is Bardstown Bourbon Company, which opened last summer. The company takes a modern, scientific approach to distilling and uses a “farm to bottle” concept, with ingredients harvested from around the region.

CIVIL WAR MUSEUM Considered by many enthusiasts to be among the most important museums of its kind in the country, Bardstown’s Civil War Museum houses Kentucky’s largest collection of Civil War artifacts. The museum focuses specifically on the Western theater of the war. Galleries showcase weapons, uniforms and other military items, and the museum also has displays dealing with the cultural and political forces at work in the United States during the Civil War. The museum is part of a complex that also includes the Women’s Museum of the Civil War, one of the only national museums to focus on the role of women in the war, as well as the War Memorial of MidAmerica and a pioneer village with about a dozen historic structures.

CATHOLIC HERITAGE Catholic heritage runs deep in Bardstown, where the first diocese of the West was established in 1808 and oversaw territory stretching from Chicago to New Orleans. Today, groups can tour the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral, which was constructed in the middle of the wilderness in 1818. During a tour, they will discover the art and architecture of the building and learn more about the area’s Catholic history. About 12 miles outside of town, the Abbey of Gethsemani is a working monastic community that is open for visitors. Tour groups can stop at the visitors center to learn about the work of the monks who live there. A gift shop sells bourbon fudge, fruitcake and cheese made on-site, as well as other handmade items from monasteries around the world.

MY OLD KENTUCKY DINNER TRAIN Bardstown sits surrounded by the hills and woodlands of Kentucky’s Bluegrass Country, and one of the best ways to experience the landscape is aboard My Old Kentucky Dinner Train. Departing from a historic depot near the center of Bardstown, this excursion combines the best of fine dining and natural sightseeing. The dinner train consists of a pair of dining cars from the 1940s with a kitchen car in between. Trips take place during lunch and dinnertime and last two to two and a half hours. The train rolls through the scenic Bernheim Forest and onto the grounds of the Jim Beam distillery. Passengers get historic and scenic narration and three- or four-course meals.

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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 the Bourbon Capital of the World®, where bourbon flows from everywhere but the kitchen faucet. Tour one of seven distilleries, learn about bourbon history, and dine on world-class, bourbon-inspired cuisine. 800.638.4877








efore air travel became commonplace, Americans’ love of the open road was spurred on by Route 66, one of the nation’s original highways. Beginning in Chicago, the 2,448-mile route originally crossed Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona before ending in Santa Monica, California. This American icon recently celebrated its 90th birthday and continues to take travelers on a nostalgic American journey.


Original brick road portion of Route 66



Driving Route 66

Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket

Photos courtesy Illinois Office of Tourism

Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant



ew states have more Route 66 attractions than Illinois, which has nearly 300 miles of the iconic highway. Today, visitors can see several portions of the original route, including a short section of the original red-brick road just north of Auburn, off Route 4. The Mother Road begins or ends, depending on your group’s starting point, in front of the Art Institute of Chicago on Michigan Avenue. Many groups celebrate their journey at the classic American diner Lou Mitchell’s on Jackson Boulevard. Serving breakfast and lunch on a cash-only basis, it’s been in business since 1923. Another noteworthy eatery just outside of the city, Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket, has served finger-licking fried chicken since 1938. About 90 minutes from Chicago in Odell, the Standard Oil Gas Station no longer sells gasoline but serves as a welcome center with daily tours. The station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and its old-fashioned gas pump and Standard Oil sign hanging from the roof look ready to serve the next customer. Quintessential Pontiac celebrates the Mother Road in several of its 24 murals painted on downtown buildings. The Route 66 Hall of Fame Museum, sponsored by the Route 66 Association of Illinois, displays history of the entire route and unique memorabilia. For nearly 40 years, Bob Waldmire traveled Route 66 and created artwork depicting scenes along the way. In the museum parking lot, groups can tour his trickedout school bus that he used as a home, an art gallery, a library and transportation. The city’s Oakland Automobile Museum on the courthouse square is also worth a stop. The town of Towanda offers a pedestrian walk on an old alignment of Route 66; it’s lined by information posts depicting each of the route’s eight states. Tourists can buy maple syrup at Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup store where a full-production syrup operation existed even before Route 66 was constructed. The popular, giant Muffler Man in Atlanta, Illinois, still holds an enormous hot dog in his hands, and across the street, Palm’s Café and Grill serves blue-plate specials and delicious pie on tables graced with funky plastic palm trees. The corn dog was invented at Springfield’s Cozy Dog Inn, which makes a welcome stop before crossing into Missouri. At the state line, pedestrians and cyclists can cross Madison’s Chain of Rock Bridge, which features a slight curve suspended over the Mississippi River. WWW.ENJOYILLINOIS.COM

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issouri was the first state to complete construction of Route 66. In the middle of the state, Pulaski County claims some of the best-preserved pavement of the original route, including an original 1926 gravel section. In St. Louis, the Museum of Transportation maintains one of the largest and best collections of transportation vehicles in the world. Ted Drewes Frozen Custard on Chippewa Street opened in 1941 and still serves some of the nation’s best custard. Further west, Meramec Caverns was a popular stop, and the cave tour highlights this hideout once used by outlaw Jesse James. Nearby Cuba boasts 12 outdoor murals, and groups can stay overnight at the completely remodeled Wagon Wheel Motel, a Route 66 destination since 1934. Route 66 runs right through the heart of Rolla. On the west end of town, a giant 1933 totem pole marks the oldest original business still in operation on Missouri’s Mother Road: the Totem Pole Trading Post. On the east end, folks are welcomed by the iconic Route 66 Mule. In Pulaski County, groups can explore the revitalized Waynesville Square, the Pulaski County Courthouse Museum and the Old Stagecoach Stop Museum. In St. Robert, the new Uranus Route 66 General Store offers plenty of activities and themed photo ops. Visitors can mail a Route 66 postcard, postmarked from Sheldon’s Market and Post Office in the quaint river town of Devil’s Elbow. Sites include the Elbow Inn Bar and BBQ, originally the Munger Moss Sandwich Shop. Nearby, Hooker Cut highlights the innovative road and construction techniques of the era. “Pulaski County offers step-on tours from Devil’s Elbow to Richland, plus DVD and trivia games to enhance the experience,” said Beth Wiles, executive director of the Pulaski County Tourism Bureau and Visitors Center. Lebanon claims the Munger Moss Motel, built in 1946, with a vintage neon sign and auto court. Further west, the restored 1929 Gillioz Theatre is an impressive landmark in Springfield. The marquee sat directly on the road to attract patrons. Silent films, accompanied by an organ, talkies, vaudeville and, later, more sophisticated movies entertained locals and those passing through. In Carthage, the Romanesque Revival styled Jasper County Courthouse, completed in 1895, is said to be the second-most-photographed building in the state. Carthage’s 66 Drive-In dates to 1949 and shows movies from the first weekend of April through mid-September.

Uranus Fudge Factory and General Store

Step-on guide on Route 66

Courtesy Jackson Hole Mountain resort

Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is the perfect jumping-off point for a visit to Grand Tetons.

Pulaski County Museum

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Photos courtesy Missouri Division of Tourism







oute 66 was conceived in Oklahoma. Cyrus Avery, a Tulsa businessman and Oklahoma’s first highway commissioner, spearheaded the national committee that created the U.S. Highway System. He championed a Chicago-to-Los Angeles route and picked the now famous double sixes as the road’s official number. The country’s longest section of Route 66 is in Oklahoma, where visitors can travel 400 miles of old Route 66 without getting on the interstate. The elegant Coleman Theatre in Miami presented vaudeville shows and movies and still offers a full entertainment schedule. A local mining magnate built the opulent structure, with its Louis XV interior and 1929 “Mighty Wurlitzer” pipe organ that dazzled audiences from the 1930s through today. Big-city theaters of the era housed stylish shops, and in that same spirit, the theater offers exclusive boutiques. Group options include a tour and lunch served onstage where Will Rogers and fan dancer Sally Rand performed, or a plated dinner in the ballroom along with a tour and a classic movie. Northeast of Tulsa, Totem Pole Park near Chelsea claims the world’s largest concrete totem pole. This quirky stop along the Mother Road started in 1937 as a tribute to Native Americans. Additional totems are scattered throughout the park, and the 11-sided Fiddle House contains ornate, hand-carved fiddles. Between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, one-of-a-kind memorabilia epitomizes the Route 66 Interpretive Center in Chandler. A 1937 National Guard armory of hand-chiseled sandstone bricks houses the museum. Visitors hop in the seats of a 1930 Model-A Ford, a 1948 Willys Jeep and a 1965 red Mustang while watching short informational films. The museum’s collection includes historic brochures, travel guides, vintage billboards and virtual “hotel rooms.” On the outskirts of Oklahoma City, an iconic 66-foot-tall pop bottle landmarks Pops. This modern roadside attraction features more than 12,000 soda pop bottles and 650 different kinds of ice-cold soda from which to choose, plus a diner serving meals and snacks. A must-see in Elk City near the Texas border is the National Route 66 and Transportation Museum. A replicated drive-in theater where visitors watch clips from classic period movies features a 1959 red Impala. The Route 66 Museum follows the journey from Illinois to California with photos, murals, vehicle exhibits and first-person audio accounts from life along the Mother Road.

Oklahoma Route 66 Museum

Totem Pole Park Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is the perfect jumping-off point for a visit to Grand Tetons.

Photos courtesy Oklahoma Tourism



Pops 66 Soda Ranch

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KiMo Theatre

Santa Rosa Blue Hole

Local jewelry

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Courtesy New Mexico Tourism Dept.

Courtesy New Mexico Tourism Dept.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is the perfect jumping-off point for a visit to Grand Tetons.

or many travelers on Route 66, New Mexico marked their introduction to the Southwest. Native American culture blended with the neon signs of hotels and restaurants inviting travelers to stay and spend their money. At the Texas border, groups enter New Mexico across a vast prairie that eventually leads to the high desert and adobe villages. The 20-mile stretch of original highway from Glenrio, at the Texas state line, to the tiny town of San Jon is part of the road that John Steinbeck described in “The Grapes of Wrath.” From there, the town of Tucumcari basked in the Mother Road’s success. Today, travelers can stay at the pink-stucco Blue Swallow Motel, built in 1939; motor-court garages are located between the rooms, and the lobby gift shop sells souvenirs. The city’s Route 66 Photo Museum showcases key sites and events along the Mother Road, and the Art Deco Odeon theater still shows movies. TeePee Curios trading post makes a great photo op and sells kitschy souvenirs and memorabilia. Back on the road, the Blue Hole of Santa Rosa lies in the middle of the desert, and the aqua waters became an oasis for Route 66 travelers. In Albuquerque, Central Avenue follows the former Route 66 and features preserved motel courts, diners, vintage neon signs and numerous attractions. Central Avenue connects numerous neighborhoods, including 100-year-old Nob Hill, where the original Jones Motor Company, a National Historic Landmark, is now Kelly’s Brew Pub, with gas station pumps still outside. Another landmark, Skip Maisel’s Indian Jewelry and Crafts, offers wholesale pricing on Native American jewelry. Down the street, the Pueblo Deco KiMo Theater celebrates its 90th birthday this year with special events. Heading toward Gallup, groups can order green chili cheeseburgers, a New Mexico staple, at the 66 Pit Stop in Laguna Pueblo. On the state’s western edge, Gallup is known as the “Indian Capital of the World.” During its heyday, Gallup’s El Rancho Hotel was where Hollywood stars stayed while shooting films in the area. Its 49er Lounge has served tequilas and hand-squeezed margaritas for 75 years, and the adjacent restaurant can seat groups of up to 250 people. “Gallup’s decades-old Richardson’s Trading Post has an iconic neon sign out front and sells more turquoise than you’ve probably seen in your lifetime, plus beautiful rugs,” said Heather Briganti, communications director for the New Mexico Tourism Department. “They’re also knowledgeable about each piece.”

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rossing the northern portion of the state, the Mother Road still connects several communities in Arizona’s northwest corner that the interstate system bypassed. In 1984, the section of roadway near Williams was the last point on U.S. 66 to be replaced by the interstate system. In nearby Seligman, the first Route 66 association was established by a local barber in 1987 and, as a result, the nation’s first “Historic Route 66” designation was placed on the segment between Kingman and Seligman. During its heyday in the 1930s, La Posada Hotel in Winslow was a favored destination of the Hollywood jet set. Fred Harvey built the showplace in 1929 for the Santa Fe Railway. La Posada is known as architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter’s Southwest masterpiece. The total budget, with grounds and furnishings, was rumored at $2 million — about $40 million in today’s dollars. Rooms feature handmade ponderosa pine beds, handwoven Zapotecan rugs, and Mexican tin and Talavera tile mirrors. Some boast the original 1930s black-and-white mosaic tile bathrooms, complete with cast-iron tubs. Interior views take in the lovely gardens, and Route 66 can be seen to the north. “Our Turquoise Room’s history and cuisine guarantees that groups will enjoy unforgettable dining,” said Bob Hall, CEO of the Winslow Chamber of Commerce. “From stuffed squash blossom appetizers to the grilled lamb with tamales and a decadent chocolate souffle for dessert, our from-scratch menu incorporates local products for an authentic Southwest experience.” Route 66 signage is still in use on Flagstaff ’s main thoroughfare, where art galleries, boutiques, restaurants and coffee shops inhabit buildings dating from the late 1800s. A self-guided Route 66 walking tour starts at Flagstaff ’s visitors center and focuses on the original stretches created before the mid-1930s. Phoenix Avenue has several operational 1930s motor inns such as Motel DeBeau. Afterward, groups can grab a bite at the Galaxy Diner, which sports a soda fountain and walls covered with black-and-white glamour shots of midcentury movie stars. Near the California border, the Route 66 Museum in Kingman’s Historic Powerhouse, which supplied power for the construction of the Hoover Dam, depicts the evolution of travel along Route 66. In nearby Oatman, one section of the highway challenged motorists with numerous hairpin turns and was most likely the steepest section along the entire journey — some early travelers hired locals to navigate this treacherous stretch.

La Posada Hotel lobby

Historic building in Oatman, Arizona Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is the perfect jumping-off point for a visit to Grand Tetons.

Photos courtesy Arizona Office of Tourism



La Posada Hotel exterior

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Route 66 in Devore, California



ruising into California, Route 66 covers approximately 325 miles across the southern portion of the state from Needles to Santa Monica. According to Scott Piotrowski, secretary of the California Route 66 Association, more than 90 percent of the highway is still drivable but parallels several interstates. Needles, which owes its name to the needlelike mountains surrounding it, and the Mojave Desert greet travelers with extreme temperatures in summer that warrant the town’s designation as the hottest in the nation. From Needles, the route follows approximately 150 miles of desert. The Route 66 Mother Road Museum in Barstow describes the road through California. One of the quirkiest stops is Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch, a forest of bottle trees made from bottles of all shapes, colors and sizes that were abandoned near Route 66. In Victorville, Emma Jean’s Holland Burger Café has been serving hearty breakfasts and lunch since 1947. The noteworthy California Route 66 Museum showcases vignettes of family life from that era and gives a unique perspective of the journey. On the edge of the desert, the Cajon Pass is the route’s last and highest peak before it descends toward Los Angeles. San Bernardino serves as the gateway into Los Angeles. The town’s landmark Wigwam Motel offers individual rooms shaped like tepees, with modern features like cable TV and free Wi-Fi. Formerly part of a chain of seven similar establishments, two on Route 66, they served travelers from the 1930s to the 1950s. In Ontario, the fifth annual Route 66 Cruisin’ Reunion will celebrate America’s love affair with the automobile. Held in September, the event invites aficionados to immerse themselves in three days of cruising, contests, live entertainment and food. On historic, tree-shaded Euclid Avenue, classic cruisers, convertibles, hot rods and woodies come out in full force at this jam-packed Mother Road party. Heading into Pasadena, the iconic Colorado Street Bridge makes a great photo op. Highland Park, northeast of downtown Los Angeles, offers several attractions, including the Soda Pop Stop, with more than 600 handcrafted sodas; the Chicken Boy statue; Highland Theatre; and the Southwest Museum of the American Indian, which opened in 1913 as the city’s first museum. Finally, the Pacific Ocean stretches out before travelers at the Santa Monica Pier, the “spiritual” end of the road. The road originally ended in downtown Los Angeles at Broadway and Seventh Street, which, at the time, was the busiest intersection in the world. At the pier, travelers can ride the Ferris wheel, stroll the beach or dine at sunset to celebrate their all-American journey.

Bagdad Cafe Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is the perfect jumping-off point for a visit to Grand Tetons.

Photos courtesy California Historic Route 66 Assoc.


Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch

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marketing Y O U R




hen Mary Beth Kurasek of Busey Bank started digging around, she realized that a plethora of incredible destinations lay within easy driving distance of Champaign, Illinois. Previously, her bank had only booked longer trips. But once she saw the fall foliage tours, baseball games and other enticing festivals that lay within a short drive, she began embracing the group day trip. Though exotic destinations immediately attract attention, there is normally a significant portion of loyalty program members who don’t want to expend the time or money involved in a long international trip. Engaging a wider net of travelers with day trips develops more loyalty to your organization, as well as a stronger comfort level with the group. Someone who loved a day trip to a Chicago Cubs game is much more likely to find the money and time to go on a longer trip than someone with no previous group travel experience. For day trips to be successful in encouraging engagement and recruiting travelers for longer trips, they must be impressive. These tips can help you plan an exciting day trip.


Generally, a day trip’s destination is no farther than three hours away. Any farther requires a rest stop, which adds more time onto the trip and starts to feel like you are spending more time riding than at the destination. Contact your local or state convention and visitors bureau to discover what travel possibilities exist within a three-hour radius of your town. These tourism officials will often know of attractions and group experiences previously unknown to you. While deciding where to go, also experiment with what day of the week to attract different age groups. When Carolyn Grieve with Arvest Bank Benton County in Arkansas looked over her past trips, she noticed all the bank’s trips fell during the week. “The only people that can go during the week are retirees,” said Grieve. “So I put together my first nontraditional trip on a Saturday night. It’s designed for the person who can’t go at other times.” Thanks to her efforts, the travel club started attracting people 41 to 93 years old, with about 50 percent of the participants still in the workforce. Trying day trips at various times can surprise you with who shows up.



Instead of simply taking the group to a nearby city’s museum, make the tour more tempting with a behind-the-scenes tour or an experiential activity. If the focus lies on an experience that only groups can access, it makes a place that may seem everyday to a local suddenly worth traveling for. For example, sell your trip to the Indianapolis Art Museum with an Evergreen Wreath Workshop or a Ladies Night Out tour that combines both an impressive museum with an event they won’t want to miss. Local tourism officials can help you construct a themed tour or experiential activities that give your trip more interest than if you planned everything yourself. Susie Cleckner of Mechanics Bank in Mansfield, Ohio, always tries to choose day trip themes she knows her travelers will sign up for, such as a wine tour of Geneva on the Lake or a nostalgic musical theater trip to central Ohio. If not a themed trip, she relies on another popular day-trip angle: events. Watching the Cleveland Indians play while enjoying club seating and dinner remains one of her club’s favorite outings. Day trips often revolve around sporting events or festivals. These types of events appeal to travelers who want to avoid the logistics of parking in a crowd, acquiring tickets and other hassles present at certain events.

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For many loyalty travel program directors, organizing a day trip can sometimes seem like more work than an international trip, since they can’t hand off all the details to a tour operator. However, by partnering with a convention and visitors bureau, you can receive a lot of direction for choosing restaurants that accommodate groups and other planning logistics. Even with this assistance, you will need to plan everything, including a backup plan in case something goes awry. Because you have only a day, it’s important to make every minute count, but not to the point where the group members feel rushed. Build in extra time at every stop so members don’t feel hustled through the day. Day trips always involve some time on a motorcoach, so try to add fun to the ride

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itself. Kimberly Dockery of Merchants Bank of Alabama in Cullman fills her motorcoach with drinks, candy, cookies, snacks and anything else she can think of to add to the experience. The snacks can set a more sociable tone to the trip from the start. Other group leaders help pass the time on the motorcoach by playing movies, passing out games or even providing entire meals. For example, if your motorcoach sets out early in the morning, providing a boxed breakfast of muffins, miniature ham biscuits and juice both avoids a meal stop and adds a tasty element to everyone’s morning. Once everything is planned, use these short and sweet trips as an appetizer for any longer trips your program offers in the future.





interest tours


make local foods a defining feature BY BRIAN JEWELL


ulinary curiosity continues to captivate our culture, and many people today are looking for foodcentric experiences when they travel. Affinity groups can attract a lot of travelers and, perhaps, some new members by offering culinary tours to tasty destinations. But the mechanics of a foodfocused trip are substantially different than those of a traditional group tour. We spoke with representatives of two destinations with great food cultures — New Orleans, Louisiana, and Columbus, Ohio — and gathered five tips for helping you plan culinary trips for your group.


Trying to arrange culinary experiences in cities you don’t know well is a daunting task. But many destinations now have local tour companies that specialize in culinary expeditions that showcase the flavors of the city. “New Orleans Secrets offers a Magazine Street foodie tour where you will find some of the culinary giants in the city, including James Beard Award winners,” said Kristian Sonnier, vice president of communications and public relations at the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. “They can also take you to the French Quarter to some of the grand dames of creole dining for the quintessential New Orleans experience.” In Columbus, a company called Columbus Food Adventures can customize its offerings to large groups. “They can do afternoon tours or even all-day tours,” said Roger Dudley, senior tourism sales manager at Experience Columbus. “They can really act as a receptive operator to do the whole culinary side of Columbus.”



Travelers can only eat so much food in a day, but epicureans will enjoy visits to attractions that are focused on the culinary arts. In Columbus, that means shopping at Crema Nut Company, makers of organic peanut butter, as well as tours of Anthony Thomas Chocolates. “They make the buckeye, which is our staple here in Columbus,” Dudley said. “There is a catwalk on the second floor so you can overlook the production area and see how chocolate is made.” The food culture in New Orleans offers plenty of attractions as well. One of the most prominent is the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, where exhibits trace the history of creole and Cajun flavors of Louisiana, as well as other regional traditions from throughout the South. In addition to learning about the food itself, visitors are introduced to the farmers, fishermen, hunters, processors, inventors, chefs and businesspeople who contribute to the Southern food scene.


Many food enthusiasts relish opportunities to get their hands dirty preparing food when they travel. An ideal way to provide that experience is to take your group to a cooking class. “Right next door to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum is Isaac Toup’s new restaurant with a performance kitchen,” said Sonnier. “It’s 20 seats in a box shape with the chef in the middle. You watch the chef prepare everything; then you can get behind the stove yourself.”

Top: Beer tasting in New Orleans, courtesy New Orleans CVB Bottom: Group cooking class, courtesy Experience Columbus

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The Kitchen in Columbus’ German Village offers interactive experiences for groups as well. “They break groups up into pods,” Dudley said. “One might make a salad while the others make entrees or desserts. They provide recipes and give everyone an apron. In some groups, people just want to have a glass of wine and watch, and others want to get their hands on.”


The people who sign up for a foodfocused trip are likely to want to experience some of the best restaurants in the places they’re visiting. And although it can be difficult to get a full group into the hottest spots in every city, the local CVB can often recommend high-end establishments that also accommodate groups. “In downtown we have Hubbard Grille, which is a wonderful restaurant,” said Columbus’ Dudley. “They have a specialty dining space on the second floor. We also have M, one of Cameron Mitchell’s high-end restaurants. A lot of groups like to end their visit with a nice meal there. It’s a steak-and-seafood restaurant that overlooks the riverfront and the Columbus skyline.” In New Orleans, Arnaud’s is an iconic restaurant with tuxedo-clad servers and a flair for dramatic presentation. It is also perfectly equipped to handle large groups. “It’s a huge building, almost a whole city block,” Sonnier said. “They have lots of rooms that can be opened up to accommodate a lot of people.”


If you’re looking for exclusive experiences or other VIP perks on a food tour, working with the experts at the local CVB can help take your trips to the next level. “Give us a call and let us help,” Dudley said. “We have some options with restaurants that we can get people into or that will work with us to open a private dining space that they don’t normally do for groups.” In New Orleans, the CVB can help connect travel groups with chefs and venues for memorable, customized events. “There are a lot of communal spaces around the city that lend themselves to groups that want to have a celebrity chef come in and teach them,” Sonnier said. “Chefs here are used to doing unconventional things in places like warehouses or park pavilions. They can provide excellent dining experiences in various settings.” Top: New Orleans fine dining, courtesy New Orleans CVB Bottom: A local pretzel bakery named Brezel, courtesy Experience Columbus J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y

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w e ’ v e


university of north georgia alumni DAHLONEGA, GEORGIA TRIP: Paris and Normandy TOUR OPERATOR: Collette DATE: July 2014 Since the University of North Georgia is a senior military college, many of the alumni have served in uniform. This made the university’s 10-day trip built around the World War II history of Normandy, France, extremely special. The group also spent three days in Paris. “We organized a special visit to the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer. During the tour, the group was honored to visit the gravesites of three of our own alumni who are interred there. It was a moving experience for all present. One of our travelers brought a small amount of Georgia’s red clay to sprinkle upon the hallowed ground of that national treasure.”


PBK bank STANFORD, KENTUCKY TRIP: Nature’s Best: Alaska TOUR OPERATOR: Globus DATE: August 2016 The Pretty Big Kids Club of PBK Bank explored Alaska’s scenic outdoors on a 14-day tour and cruise. The group saw Alaskan beauty up close on a cruise of Kenai Fjords National Park and a motorcoach ride through Denali National Park. The tour also introduced the group to Alaskan culture in Talkeetna, Juneau and Haines. “The cruise was breathtaking. We saw humpback whales, seals, eagles and so much more. It was beautiful to see the whales jumping out of water. The whole trip was wonderful. It was easy to understand why so many fall in love with Alaska and want to stay. It will definitely be a trip that will be repeated by our group.”


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Select Traveler January February 2017  

The Select Traveler January February 2017 features trip highlights from Thailand and group travel ideas for arts in Arkansas, Route 66, food...

Select Traveler January February 2017  

The Select Traveler January February 2017 features trip highlights from Thailand and group travel ideas for arts in Arkansas, Route 66, food...