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table ofCONTENTS VOL 27 | ISSUE 7

OKLAHOMA

6 EDITOR’S MARKS

SPECIAL SECTION

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

GREEN COUNTRY

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C H I C K A S AW C O U N T R Y FRONTIER COUNTRY

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12 C O N F E R E N C E S C E N E RED CARPET COUNTRY C H O C TAW C O U N T R Y O N TH E COVER

Fall brings apple harvest and tasting opportunities to orchards around the country.

FEATURES

SAVOR THE FLAVORS OF AUTUMN AT THESE ATTRACTIONS AND FESTIVALS.

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PALMETTO These hidden gems shine in South Carolina.

WISCONSIN SPOTLIGHT

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ALBANY, NEW YORK

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TRAIN TRIPS

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

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

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

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

888.25 .0455 KELLY@GROUPTR AVELLEADER.COM

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


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EDITOR’S T HE

t’s funny how being a parent changes your perspective. I did a lot of traveling when I was young and single, both for my work here at the magazine and for fun in my personal time. And during those years, I did a number of things that were perhaps dangerous — or at least ill advised — without thinking too much about the potential consequences. I remember riding horseback along the rim of Copper Canyon in Mexico and climbing a rickety ladder to the tin roof of a two-story building after a fresh rain in Costa Rica. I’ve eaten more than my fair share of street food in places not known for cleanliness and ended up with nasty stomach bugs as a result. Today my daughter Daisy is 3 years old, and my son Liam just turned 1. When I travel now, I find myself thinking more carefully about the kinds of activities I participate in. It seems foolish to chase thrills now that I have a family that depends on me. Those kids need a dad, and I’m the only one they have. In addition to changing the way I see adulthood, being a parent has also changed the way I remember

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my childhood. When I was young, my parents often frustrated me to no end; now I understand the decisions they made, and I’m glad they chose what they did. One of my parents’ most remarkable decisions was to encourage me to travel. Whenever a trip opportunity came up, there was no doubt I would go, even if I had to find a way to pay for it myself. They sent me to places that were probably farther away than they liked and let me go probably before they were ready. Consequently, I had some incredible experiences in high school and college that laid the foundation for a life and career in travel. I didn’t know until years later how difficult it was for them to tell me goodbye at the airport and watch me disappear down the jetway. And I probably won’t know that feeling completely until I put my own kids on a plane someday. It would have been easy for my mom and dad to hold on tighter, keeping me close to the nest where all was safe. But they understood what many of us don’t: Safety is a myth. There are no guarantees in life. Risks exist everywhere. The question is whether we’re taking the right risks. I like to think I’m taking smarter risks these By Cara Dee Photography days. And I’m glad my parents took smart risks, too. Because the chances they took when I was a child have made me the man I am today. It’s easy to look around the world and see risk and danger everywhere. It’s tempting to hunker down at home where it’s “safe” and wait for more peaceful times to begin traveling again. But what is the bigger risk: encountering danger on the road or missing out on a life of adventure by staying home? If safety is a myth, we might as well go out and see the world.

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WORD OUT U S E T H E S E S T R AT E G I E S TO GROW YOUR PROGRAM!

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P U B L I S H E D B Y T H E G R O U P T R AV E L L E A D E R I N C .

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FAMILY MATTERS

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SALEM, Ohio — The world is about to become a little smaller for travel groups as the Africa Travel Association (ATA) and The Group Travel Family enter into a promotional partnership to increase awareness of travel possibilities to Africa. The ATA is Africa’s most prominent tourism organization, with a membership that includes travel ministries, tourism bureaus, airlines, cruise lines, hotels, resorts and tour operators. The organization’s purpose is to promote travel and tourism to Africa. The relationship between the two tourism organizations opens great possibilities for creating awareness of group travel to Africa for the 25,000 members of The Group Travel Family. “Our members are open to new adventure travel and take over 1 million travelers on international

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trips annually,” said Charlie Presley, president of The Group Travel Family. In addition to creating awareness of Africa as a destination, the relationship also gives an inside look at the inner workings of group travel in America and how important the group leader is as a travel influencer. A series of workshops is planned to educate ATA member companies on what role the group leader plays in the community and the resulting volume of travel. The relationship will begin in August when ATA has a presence at The Going On Faith Conference, where the organization will introduce Africa as a destination to the more than 200 faith-based-travel planners registered. AJ E NSE N@GROU P T R AV EL FA M I LY.COM

WILDLIFE SAFARIS IN VARIOUS AFRICAN COUNTRIES GIVE TRAVELERS THE OPPORTUNITY TO SEE THEIR FAVORITE ANIMALS UP CLOSE. Photos by Brian Jewell

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MALL OF AMERICA FEATURES NEW LIGHT SHOW AS PART OF BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION BLOOMINGTON, Minnesota — The Mall of America has launched a new nighttime light show as part of the yearlong celebration for its 25th birthday. The seven-minute nightly experience features an original musical score composed by the Broadway songwriting team of Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner along with many new special effects and elements. Taking place at the south side of Nickelodeon Universe, the new show will temporarily replace Universe of Light, the first light show Mall of America debuted in 2013. The daily show is at 9:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and at 7 p.m. on Sundays. W W W.MALLOFAMERICA.COM/BIRTHDAY

UNIVERSIT Y OF IOWA REBOUNDS FROM FLOODING WITH TWO NEW BUILDINGS IOWA CITY, Iowa — Two major arts buildings are set to reopen this fall at the University of Iowa as the school emerges from historic flooding in 2008 that devastated much of its arts campus. The new $176 million Hancher Auditorium performing arts center with an 1,800-seat theater was built just north of the original building and seven feet above the 500-year flood plain. Its exterior features 14,000 brushed steel panels. The glass-lined, six-level $152 million Voxman Music Building reunites under one roof the 450 music students who have been meeting in several interim facilities across the campus. It features a 700-seat concert hall, one-of-a-kind German organ and interior and exterior of twisted terra cotta. W W W.UIOWA.EDU

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INDUSTRY NEWS NEW THEATER, CAFE PART OF ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME TRANSFORMATION CLEVELAND — The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s multiyear transformation, the largest in its 21-year history, continues this year with the opening of a new cafe on the main plaza level and the Connor Theater featuring arenaquality sound, larger-than-life video screens and fan interactivity. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is working with Academy Award-winning filmmaker Jonathan Demme and world-renowned experience design agency BRC Imagination Arts to create the Connor Theater. The new All Access dining, open to both museum visitors and drop-ins, will feature food from Cleveland’s top chefs. The Rock Hall will also open new tour bus parking this summer, create a kitchen and streamline the ticketing and entry experience behind the scenes to better serve visitors.

The transformation will continue over the next three to five years. Last year, the hall of fame unveiled a redesigned atrium, a new retail store with new products, a live outdoor music experience and beer garden and a massive public art installation — seven-foot-high block letters that spell out “Long Live Rock.” W W W. ROCK H A L L .COM

Photos courtesy Rock and Roll HOF IMPROVEMENTS AT THE ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME AND MUSEUM INCLUDE NEW DINING, SHOPPING AND PARKING FACILITIES.

WHEN THE LEAVES CHANGE, BUT YOUR TOUR HASN’T,

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Every fall, our leaves turn to beautiful colors. But, your group may be just as interested in how we change barley, wheat and apples. With 10 microbreweries and even a cidery, the Fayetteville Ale Trail will give your fall-color tour a great finish. To plan your tour, call Julie Pennington at 800-766-4626.


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INDUSTRY EDUCATION

IT PAYS TO MAKE YOUR FESTIVA L GROUP-FRIENDLY BY B R I A N J E W E L L

estivals showcase your destination at its best. Are you doing all you can to make the most of them? Travel groups love visiting festivals and events throughout the country, where they can find entertainment, great food, shopping and abundant local flair, often for an attractive price. Many of the nation’s top events attract dozens or even hundreds of tour groups. If you want to help boost event attendance and hotel occupancy during your city’s signature festivals, consider employing some of these four tips to attract groups.

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1 BUILD G ROUP - E XC LUS IVE OPPORTUNITIES. Sometimes group travel planners can be intimidated by large-scale events, especially if the organizers haven’t optimized the event for group experiences. So instead of asking travel planners to bring their groups to town only to get lost in a sea of other attendees, work with the festival organizers and other local partners to create groupexclusive opportunities and amenities. This can range from reserved grandstand seating for groups to full-scale private functions with catering, music, entertainment and VIP access to elements of the festival not open to the public. Some festivals even allow groups to march in their parades.

2 H O S T A FA M . One of the best ways to boost group business for next year’s festival is to host some group leaders and other influencers at this year’s edition of the event. Tour operators and group leaders will have a much easier time selling your event if they have attended and enjoyed it themselves. Plus, if you have created some inviting opportunities exclusively for groups, a FAM tour allows you to show off these special touches or even test your concepts with a smaller group before launching them to the wider group market. Ask your FAM participants to review the event and the group-exclusive experiences to help you continue to improve the product for future years.

L AU N C H A C A M PA I G N . If you’re having a tough time attracting groups to your festivals and events, it could be because they just don’t know about them. And while you might have some success in pitching these events during one-on-one trade-show appointments or in blast emails, you’ll have a better chance of spreading awareness with a strategic media campaign. There are all sorts of ways to do this: send press releases to the magazines and websites that are read by your target market; organize a social-media campaign around the event, complete with photos and hashtags; or support the event with some focused advertising in print or online. Leverage the resources of your public relations and marketing departments, as well as the festival organizer’s, to get the word out.

4 TA K E A D VA N TA G E O F A S S O C I AT I O N MEMBERSHIPS. If your destination is a member of tourism associations such as the American Bus Association (ABA) or the Southeast Tourism Society (STS), you may have some resources at your disposal to help bring visibility to your events. Both ABA and STS publish highly respected lists of top festivals and events, so consider nominating your local events to be considered among those select few. You might also consider asking your state tourism association to help you publicize the event to its list of travel buyers, journalists and other influencers, which might be more robust than yours.

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TAP WELCOMES FOUR NEW PARTNERS AT TUCSON MEETING B Y M AC L AC Y DELEGATES ENJOY AN EVENING AT TUCSON’S TRAIL DUST TOWN

A NEW ENGLAND POD MEETS WITH ALL AMERICAN TOURS AT TAP DANCE

TUCSON, Arizona — Tuscon welcomed nearly 200 destination representatives from across the United States and Canada, as well as owners and executives from 28 tour companies that compose the membership of Travel Alliance Partners (TAP) for Tap Dance Tucson, the organization’s annual meeting, June 11-14. The CEOs of both the American Bus Association and NTA were also present for a good part of the gathering. TAP Dance features an innovative pod-based appointment program where representatives of four to six key destinations in various regions meet in unison with each TAP tour company. This regional emphasis allows tour operators to envision entire areas of the country as opposed to cities or states individually. “We have four new owner/operators with us here this week, all of whom bring an exciting new capability to our organization,” said Stefanie Gorder, executive director of Travel Alliance Partners. “Burlington Trailways of Ohio has become our fourth motorcoach company to come onboard. They have a tour planning division that is using TAP Dance as a way of building new product for their company. “Citizen Auto Stage Company/Grayline of Tucson has joined and brings a century of family-owned expertise with them,” said Gorder. “They are a longtime leader in this industry in the Southwest and Mexico and a great fit geographically. “A cool new company, Southwest Adventure Tours of Cedar City, Utah, has joined and they are running trips for smaller groups using Sprinter vans,” she said. “Their owner, Jason Murray, has already signed up to do a SpecTAPular tour for us next year that features houseboating on Lake Powell. “Our fourth new member is actually a former member from several years ago,” said Gorder. “Main Street Tours Inc from Lakewood, California, has rejoined, and Laurie Lincoln is a very respected member of this industry. We

welcome her renewed involvement.” “Most of these joined us last year for our Bet on TAP program, where we invite potential new partners to TAP Dance for a day to see what we’re all about,” said Gorder. “We’re bringing several more in again this week in hopes of adding to our growing base of operation.” Two SpecTAPular tours were approved for 2018 in Tucson. “We’re promoting a tour around ‘The Big E’ next September”, said Richard Durgan of Durgan Travel Service in Stoneham, Massachusetts. “The Big E is the iconic exposition on the Eastern Seaboard that is now a century old and features exhibits from all six New England States. Every state has a replica of its statehouse on the Avenue of States and serves signature foods. “We’ll visit several area museums like the new Dr. Seuss Museum in Springfield and the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge,” said Durgan. “And we’ll go see the largest collection of Indian motorcycles in the world at the Museum of Springfield History.” The other SpecTAPular event takes place across the country on Arizona’s and Utah’s Lake Powell. “We could have 10 to 15 houseboats on this trip if it sells well,” said Jason Murray of Southwest Adventure Tours. “It’s October 1321. We’ll have 12 or so clients on each boat. Lake Powell is geologically fascinating, and at night there is almost no ambient light, so the evening skies are fantastic. “We’ll break the boats up into groups of people who are looking for relaxation versus groups that want more active options like hiking or tubing,” Murray said. “Breakfasts and lunches are fairly casual and dinners are where we really put on a show. This will be something most of these people have never done before.” TAP Dance 2018 will be held June 4-8 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.” W W W.TA PI N T OT R AV E L .COM

By Mac Lacy

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Changing CRUISING FRANCE’S MARNE CANAL ABOARD RAYMONDE

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

HORIZONS

n late April, I experienced a delightful six-night for providing staff appreciation, but my contact at CroisiEurope barge cruise on France’s extraordinarily scenic had suggested in advance that 10 euros per person per night would Marne Canal, traveling from Paris to Epernay be a fair amount for contributing to the crew’s pooled tip box. aboard CroisiEurope’s handsome Raymonde. The French countryside is beautiful: Picturesque homes, villages, vineyards, This vessel, which was built in 2014 and accomfarms and extensive fields of golden rapeseed line the canal along the way, modates just 22 guests in 11 twin-bedded cabins, is plus there are numerous small locks and several historic tunnels to transit. The perfect for upscale group charters, simply because there primary difference between French canal and typical European river cruises is much less risk involved in contracting for exclusive is that on the latter, locks and waterways are much larger; thus, so is the size occupancy of a departure when filling such a small of the cruise vessels. There is also far more commercial traffic on the rivers; number of berths is required. the types of craft we encountered the most along the way were kayaks, rowing During this first-of-the-season sailing, there were sculls and racing shells filled with youngsters honing their waterborne skills only 14 passengers aboard in addition to the six-person during the fine spring days. crew, so we soon melded into one big, happy family. All After a guided tour of Paris that featured the city’s unique covered walkmy shipmates were English-speaking and represented ways, itinerary highlights included lovely Lagny-sur-Marne, the handsome not only the United States, but also the United Kingdom, city and cathedral of Meaux and an opportunity to learn about and sample the Australia and New Zealand. Staff members, except for outstanding “King of Cheeses,” brie de Meaux. I enjoyed this local specialty the captain and chef, were bilingual and spoke English, so much that I went back for both seconds and thirds, and then was too full so translation was provided when necessary, including for to eat dinner back on the Raymonde. the chef’s twice-daily menu introductions. Next were a falconry show and sightseeing on foot in historic Château This was quite a different, though equally enjoyThierry. From Dormans, home of a magnificent World War I memorial, able, travel experience than crossing the Atlantic on we toured the ancient hilltop village of Châtillon-sue-Marne; saw countHolland America Line’s newest ship, the 2,500-plus less vineyards extending far into the distance in every direction; and visited guest, 100,000-ton Koningsdam, which I had done just Hautvillers, the “Birthplace of Champagne,” where Dom Perignon is buried a few days earlier. The Raymonde’s cabins are expectinside the community’s Roman Catholic church. edly compact but quite comfortable once one settles in In Epernay, we toured the cellars of a major Champagne house, one of hunand discovers all the hidden storage spaces. Food, which dreds of wineries we passed on the famed Champagne Route and other area roads. consisted of a continental breakfast buffet and varied Finally, our group embarked on an excursion to Reims for a tour of this historic multicourse set menus for lunch and dinner, was very city and its storied cathedral, where French kings were traditionally crowned. good, and service was excellent. This is an all-inclusive program, except for crew gratuities, so there is no extra charge for shore excursions. There is an open bar throughout, and numerous French wines and cheeses are served with meals. Games, recorded music and other diversions were provided each evening to keep everyone entertained, although after dinner I usually opted A VIEW OF FRANCE’S MARNE CANAL FROM for exploring the towns where ABOARD THE CROISIEUROPE RAYMONDE we were docked. No specific guidelines were given on board

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FAM PARTICIPANTS SMILE AFTER CLIMBING TO THE TOP OF ST. SIMONS LIGHTHOUSE IN THE GOLDEN ISLES.

I thought I had everything planned for my group arriving in Savannah August 26-29, 2017, but I was wrong. We had a great lunch in Savannah at the Pirate’s House, so I’m going to have a group meal there. I never would have gone to Midway, but it’s now on my group itinerary. We will also look at St. Simon’s Island in the future because of trip.” — DEBORAH SINGLETON, SINGLETON & ASSOCIATES

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ON SITE IN GEORGIA SAVAN NAH AN D TH E G EO RG IA COAST WOWE D TR AV E L PL AN N E RS O N TH IS FAM TO U R

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

SPEND A FEW DAYS ON THE SCENIC COAST OF GEORGIA, AND YOU’LL LIKELY WANT TO COME AGAIN.

All photos by Brian Jewell

That’s what 13 tour operators, travel agents and other readers of The Group Travel Leader found during a four-day familiarization tour in Georgia’s coastal region in March. Hosted by the Georgia Department of Economic Development, this tour visited Savannah, Liberty County and St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island in the Golden Isles region. During the trip, participants indulged in amazing coastal cuisine, experienced the rich African-American cultural heritage in the area, explored historic garden squares in Savannah and got to know the beauty of Georgia’s Atlantic Coast. Along the way, they met some of the many tourism professionals who make sure that groups visiting Georgia have a wonderful time. Follow along on this itinerary to enjoy a great trip on Georgia’s coast.

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I found Savannah to be an excellent destination for a girls’ weekend! Lots of shopping, restaurants, river boat cruises and nightly entertainment. The architecture and layout of Savannah make it a perfect destination to walk around and explore.” — LEZLIE HARPER, NIAGARA BOUND TOURS

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• ARRIVAL IN SAVANNAH • DEPART FOR LIBERTY COUNTY • MIDWAY MUSEUM • GEECHEE KUNDA • DINNER AT SUNBURY CRAB COMPANY

Guests traveled from throughout the United States to Savannah, the largest city on the Georgia coast, by air and by car, and met at the local Tanger Outlets to start the tour. The first item on the agenda was a 30-mile trip south from Savannah to Liberty County, a charming rural destination rich with cultural heritage. The group got to know the history of the area at the Midway Museum before taking a fascinating look at the local AfricanAmerican tradition at Geechee Kunda Cultural Arts Center. That was followed by a short walk down the scenic Historic Baptismal Trail, which was an important part of religious culture in the area. The day ended at Sunbury Crab Company, where guests enjoyed an authentic fresh seafood dinner with local hosts.

STEAMED CRABS AT SUNBURY CRAB COMPANY

GEECHEE KUNDA CULTURAL ARTS CENTER

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MIDWAY MUSEUM Liberty County is in the heart of Georgia’s plantation country, and the Midway Museum was established to depict the lifestyle of the men and women who lived on and worked the area’s farms during the Colonial period. A re-created planter’s house is filled with antiques, artifacts and exhibits outlining the area’s history. The museum site also has a 1700s church, where visitors can explore distinctive architectural touches and see how locals worshiped during the 18th century. GEECHEE KUNDA CULTURAL ARTS CENTER One of the great treasures of Liberty County is its AfricanAmerican heritage. The Geechee Kunda Cultural Arts Center showcases the culture of the African groups that lived on plantations in the area. The center is on the site of a 4,000-acre rice plantation and features numerous displays on plantation life and the Geechee culture that developed in coastal areas of Georgia and South Carolina. The center offers a number of interactive experiences, including opportunities to try traditional medicinal remedies or weave sweetgrass baskets. But the highlight for this group was a visit with a Geechee storyteller, who captivated the audience with her interpretation of Geechee dialect and tales from life in the area.

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DORCHESTER ACADEMY DUNHAM FARMS DEPART FOR SAVANNAH LUNCH AT THE PIRATE’S HOUSE RESTAURANT • OLD SAVANNAH TOURS • AMERICAN PROHIBITION MUSEUM • GEORGIA QUEEN DINNER CRUISE

BELOW: SAVANNAH’S FORSYTHE PARK

The second day of the FAM began with more exploration in Liberty County. The group started the morning at the Dorchester Academy, a school established after the Civil War to educate freed slaves. It later served as a retreat for Martin Luther King Jr. Next, participants enjoyed a lovely tea and tour at Dunham Farms. From there, the group returned to Savannah and enjoyed lunch at the iconic Pirate’s House Restaurant. Then they boarded a trolley for a wonderful tour of Savannah’s garden squares and popular filming locations, and enjoyed a sneak-peak tour of the new American Prohibition Museum before it opened. The day ended with a dinner-and-dancing cruise aboard the Georgia Queen.

DESTINATION: SOUL. Macon is a go-to destination this fall. Festivals, celebrations, and ongoing events are taking place throughout the season. Book your group trip and join us. We can’t wait to share a piece of our heritage with you.

800.768.3401 | VisitMacon.org

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DUNHAM FARMS FAM participants were charmed by the mother-daughter pair who own and run Dunham Farms. This 10,000-acre property was originally created in a royal charter from the king of England in 1755 and is the oldest intact Colonial plantation owned by the original family. Today, the owners are dedicated to conservation and preservation on the property, which includes naturalized rose and azalea gardens and saltwater marshes. OLD SAVANNAH TOURS There’s no better way to see Savannah’s beautiful garden squares than on an open-air trolley tour, and the city treated its guests to beautiful weather as the tour guide told them stories of the city’s unique history and highlighted some of its most photographed spots. Many films have been shot in Savannah, and the tour stopped at several of these film sites, where interpreters playing the roles of Forrest Gump, a Civil War soldier and composer Johnny Mercer stepped on board.

GEORGIA QUEEN RIVERBOAT

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE MIGHTY EIGHTH IN SAVANNAH

AMERICAN PROHIBITION MUSEUM Workers were busy putting the finishing touches on the American Prohibition Museum in March, but the FAM group got a special tour of the city’s newest attraction before its April opening. Located in a historic building downtown, this 6,000-square-foot museum has 13 galleries that detail the rise and fall of Prohibition and features a working speakeasy GEORGIA QUEEN DINNER CRUISE The day in Savannah ended with a dinner cruise aboard the Georgia Queen, a newly constructed vessel operated by Savannah Riverboat Cruises. The cruise features live music and dancing, as well as a buffet dinner featuring classic Southern seafood dishes.

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• NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE MIGHTY EIGHTH • DEPART FOR GOLDEN ISLES • LUNCH AT IGUANA’S • ST. SIMONS LIGHTHOUSE • TROLLEY TOUR • DINNER AT SOUTHERN SOUL BBQ

The tour’s third day began in Savannah at a wonderful patriotic attraction, the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force. After that, the group departed south toward the Golden Isles and stopped for lunch on St. Simons Island at Iguana’s, a funky, tropicalthemed seafood restaurant. After that they spent some time exploring and climbing the St. Simons Lighthouse, then took a trolley tour for an overview of the island, its beaches and its beautiful resorts. The day ended at Southern Soul BBQ , an award-winning barbecue restaurant in a former gas station.

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My most memorable experience along the Georgia coast was our visit to St. Simons Island. A real treasure with quaint shops and good Southern food, followed by a climb up to the top of St. Simons Lighthouse, was a lot of fun and beautiful views.” — CRYSTAL DELORENZO, WADE TOURS

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Reason No. 212 Right in the midst of the present, you’re invited to travel through history

#noolterneeded


NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE MIGHTY EIGHTH Many Savannah visitors don’t know about the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, which is located outside of the city’s historic area. But a visit to this museum is well worth the time, as guests learn about the Eighth Air Force, which was based in Savannah and ran heroic bombing missions over Europe during World War II. The museum features a number of multimedia presentations that help visitors get a feel for the experience of serving in the Mighty Eighth. ST. SIMONS LIGHTHOUSE It’s a beautiful 80-mile drive from Savannah to the Golden Isles of Georgia’s coast. After lunch, the group got a great introduction to the area at the St. Simons Lighthouse, an island landmark. The lighthouse is 143 years old and is still controlled by the U.S. Coast Guard. Group members explored the on-site museum, and some climbed the steep spiral staircase to the top of the tower for sweeping views of the island below. TROLLEY TOUR St. Simons Island is a popular beach vacation destination and features a number of resorts. FAM participants got to see several of the most scenic resorts and other sites on the island during a trolley tour, which also included historic tales and other bits of trivia. The tour ended by dropping off passengers for their overnight stays at the various resorts around the island.

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DRIFTWOOD BEACH DEPART FOR JEKYLL ISLAND GEORGIA SEA TURTLE CENTER JEKYLL ISLAND CLUB HOTEL DEPART FOR SAVANNAH AND RETURN HOME

The group hit the road for Jekyll Island at an early hour to make the most of their final day in Georgia. They started the day at Driftwood Beach, one of the most photographed spots in the state, and then spent time at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, where injured sea turtles are rehabilitated. From there, it was a short trip to the Jekyll Island Club, a historic resort area that was a playground for some of the wealthiest Americans during the 19th century, and a tour and lunch at the beautiful Jekyll Island Club Hotel. After saying goodbye to the islands, tour participants boarded the bus for the drive back to Savannah, where they left for home after four fun-filled and sun-soaked days on the Georgia coast.

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A GROUP PHOTO AT ST. SIMONS LIGHTHOUSE

DRIFTWOOD BEACH At the northern end of Jekyll Island, Driftwood Beach is often referred to as a tree graveyard. Natural erosion has left the beach littered with thousands of large pieces of driftwood, each smoothed by the crashing of waves at high tide. The beach makes a wonderful stop for group photos, especially as the sun rises over the Atlantic Ocean. GEORGIA SEA TURTLE CENTER Each year, thousands of sea turtles hatch in the sands of Jekyll Island and attempt the perilous trek to the sea under cover of night. The Georgia Sea Turtle Center exists to help rehabilitate turtles injured during that journey, as well as adult turtles that have been brought in with injuries. Guests can see the turtles swimming in rehabilitation tanks in the on-site hospital or tour the museum, where they learn about the life of sea turtles and can watch special feeding demonstrations. JEKYLL ISLAND CLUB HOTEL The who’s who of America’s moneyed elite flocked to the Jekyll Island Club in the late 1800s and early 1900s, built beautiful summer “cottages” and engaged in leisure activities at the resort. Today, the Jekyll Island Club is a historic site, with numerous buildings that visitors can tour, and the Jekyll Island Club Hotel offers overnight accommodations and beautiful settings for group meals. The FAM participants got to see some of the hotel’s distinctive spaces and enjoyed a farewell lunch of shrimp and grits before making their way back to Savannah for the trip home.

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

Gibbs Gardens | Ball Ground, GA

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


FOO D FIN DS by BRIAN JEWELL

Courtesy Basque Cider Tours

I S S U E J U LY/ A U G U S T 2 01 7

Courtesy Experience Grand Rapids


DISCOVER THE FLAVORS OF AUTUMN AT THESE EVENTS AND ATTRACTIONS

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ALL THINGS PUMPKIN

he only thing better than seeing fall is tasting it. Fall foliage brings travelers out in throngs, flocking to destinations that boast brilliantly colored woodlands during the autumn season. But if your groups only admire the colors from the highway, they’re missing out on the wonderful flavors of fall, which are a big part of what makes autumn an ideal season for travel. From pumpkins and cider to chili, maple syrups and signature Oktoberfests, fall brings distinctive seasonal foods, celebrations and culinary experiences. And travelers will find opportunities to experience the bounty of the season all around the country and the world, not just in areas known for fall colors. Here are five food and drink experiences to seek out as you plan your group’s travel, as well as multiple ideas about where you can experience each.

Few things say “fall” like pumpkins, the brilliant orange gourds that are used for decoration as much as for cooking. Pumpkin patches abound in destinations all over the country, but some local farms take the seasonal celebration up a notch with large-scale festivals that offer an abundance of pumpkin products. WALTERS’ PUMPKIN FEST: In eastern Kansas, not far from Wichita, this pumpkin festival is a combination of food and inventive experiences. Visitors can sample pumpkin salsa, pumpkin chili and pumpkin soup, as well as other farm-fresh foods available in the on-site shop. They can also watch as a PumpGun cannon blasts pumpkins hundreds of feet into the air.

THE GREAT PUMPKIN FARM FALL FESTIVAL: A short drive away from Buffalo, New York, the town of Clarence is home to the Great Pumpkin Farm, which hosts a daily festival during the fall season. In addition to seeing and shopping for pumpkins themselves, visitors can take part in pie-eating competitions, pumpkin-decoration classes and other programs, as well as sampling from a wide array of pumpkin foods.

Courtesy Walters’ Pumpkin Patch

SOUTH JERSEY PUMPKIN SHOW: Beyond its urban centers, New Jersey is a fertile farming state, and the South Jersey Pumpkin Show in Woodstown focuses on the abundant pumpkins and other fall produce in the area. Groups can check out the state’s largest pumpkin pie, taste dessert contest entries and see prize-winning pumpkins that weigh more than 1,000 pounds.

ABOVE: YOUNG VISITORS ENJOY WALTERS’ PUMPKIN FEST. OPPOSITE PAGE: TRAVELERS CAN TASTE FRESH APPLE CIDER IN THE BASQUE REGION OF SPAIN (TOP) OR AT ORCHARDS AROUND GRAND RAPIDS (BOTTOM). Artwork by David Brown

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WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP CHILI COOKOFF Courtesy World Championship Chili Cookoff

CHILI THROW-DOWNS

OKTOBERFEST BY THE BAY IN SAN FRANCISCO

Fall brings out the competitive spirit in home cooks across the country, who travel great distances and go to great lengths to win chili cook-off competitions. As the weather begins to turn cool, groups can enjoy some of the world’s best chilis, as well as festive environments, by visiting some of the top chili festivals and competitions around the country. WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP CHILI COOKOFF: The International Chili Society hosts the godfather of all chili competitions each October, moving the event to cities and towns in various parts of the United States. Hundreds of competitors and thousands of guests come to celebrate traditional red, green and salsa varieties that make up America’s rich chili tradition, with the top prize in each category worth $25,000.

By Ed Smith, courtesy Oktoberfest by the Bay

CONNECTICUT STATE CHILI COOKOFF: Travelers may venture to New England more for foliage than for flavor, but groups in the area during October should make plans to attend this one-day event in New Haven, Connecticut. Guests taste anywhere from 25 to 30 chilis in three categories — red, green and salsa — and vote for a People’s Choice winner. Professional judges also pick a winner to send to the world championship. SANTA CRUZ BEACH BOARDWALK CHILI COOKOFF: Travelers won’t find the colors of autumn along the Pacific Coast in Santa Cruz, California, but groups in the area during late October can still get a traditional fall experience by visiting this beachfront festival. The competition attracts amateur chili enthusiasts and professional chefs alike, who compete to make the best chili con carne and vegetarian chilis. Prizes also go to the entries judges deem most creative.

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TRADITIONAL GERMAN PRETZELS AT OKTOBERFEST ZINZINNATI Courtesy Oktoberfest Zinzinnati

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Courtesy Chicago Cultural Alliance


OKTOBERFEST CLASSIC S Few other events can measure up to the German tradition of Oktoberfest, which has become a key component of the fall season in many American cities — even some that don’t have large German populations. And although the term Oktoberfest can refer to a generic beef festival, the highest-rated Oktoberfests are those that stick most closely to authentic German traditions.

OKTOBERFEST-ZINZINNATI: Cincinnati enjoys a robust German heritage that is on full display each year during its mid-September, two-day Oktoberfest celebration. More than half a million people attend the event, first held in 1976. In addition to lots of German beer, the celebration features live German music and other performances on seven stages downtown, as well as more than 30 food vendors.

OKTOBERFEST BY THE BAY: San Francisco has more than 17 local German clubs, they all participate in the city’s three-day Octoberfest at the end of September. The clubs highlight German beer, German food and German music, with a 21-piece Bavarian brass band playing oompah music. Festivalgoers also enjoy the area’s weather, with average fall temperatures in the 70s. OKTOBERFEST MUNICH: For the most authentic Oktoberfest tradition possible, there’s no beating the original. Groups that make the trip to Munich, Germany, for the 16-day celebration in late September or early October will join 6 million other people from around the world who come for the festivities. Along the way, they’ll have opportunities to try traditional German sausages, potato pancakes, roasted pork and grilled fish on a stick, among other specialties.

ENJOY, EXPERIENCE, ENGAGE & EXPLORE! in Williamson County Williamson County engages travelers to enjoy, experience and

explore our beautiful region. Nature lovers and outdoor sportsmen enjoy our scenic landscapes and many lakes. Visitors experience our popular events while families explore our hidden historic treasures, diverse restaurants and unique shopping. Make your memories in Beautiful Williamson County.

HUNTINGTON BEACH IS OFFICIALLY KNOWN AS “SURF CITY USA. ”

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Tour

SOUTHEAST INDIANA

GIRLFRIEND

Getaways

HANDS ON FUN!

A HISTORIC BASQUE CIDER HOUSE Courtesy Basque Cider Tours

CIDER REVOLUTION Basket Weaving

Hard cider is surging in popularity across the United States as consumers discover it as a sweet and gluten-free alternative to beer. Since fall is prime season for apple harvesting in general, it is a good time to visit some orchards that produce hard ciders from apples grown on-site, in addition to apple cider doughnuts and other traditional fall apple fare. WESTERN MICHIGAN: Groups traveling in the Grand Rapids area will find a number of local orchards growing apples and making cider products. Sietsema’s Orchard in Ada has been in the same family since 1934 and has a cider-tasting bar, apple cider doughnuts and a you-pick area where guests can gather their own Honeycrisp or Macintosh apples. Robinette’s, another local orchard, has a cider mill in addition to a bakery, a restaurant, a winery, a fresh fruit market and an ice cream bar.

Finger Painted Garden

TRADITIONAL OLD WORLD CIDER IN THE BASQUE REGION

Courtesy Basque Cider Tours

SAMPLING BASQUE CIDER

Courtesy Basque Cider Tours

Fused Glass “Arty Party”

Aurora and Lawrenceburg

OHIO

WILLAMETTE VALLEY: The Willamette Valley area of Oregon is famous for its abundant wine and stunning scenery. In addition to enjoying fall color in the area, groups can get in on the region’s growing cider scene. A good place to start is E.Z. Orchards, which produces “heirloom cidre” from apples specially bred in France and England to produce a signature, crisp cider flavor. Groups can learn about the cultivation and harvesting techniques and can sample the beverages.

Indianapolis

INDIANA

1

Cincinnati

KENTUCKY

Louisville

Lexington

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

www.TOURSoutheastIndiana.com

BASQUE REGION, SPAIN: Though cider is on the rise in the United States, it has been a staple of the Basque region since the 11th century. Groups that tour Spain in the fall can visit various cider houses in the area, where they’ll learn about the tradition of Spanish “sidra” and enjoy typical Basque tapas such as cod, cheese, quince jelly and nuts.

TOURING A BASQUE CIDERY Courtesy Basque Cider Tours

800-322-8198

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ROBINETTE’S ORCHARD IN GRAND RAPIDS Courtesy Experience Grand Rapids

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Mmm... It’s not just for pancakes: Traveling through the Northeast as the weather grows cooler gives groups an opportunity to see where maple syrup is produced and to sample the wide variety of products that can be made with the sweet, sticky stuff. Many groups on fall foliage trips through New England will spend time in New Hampshire. While they’re there, they should take time to visit the New Hampshire Maple Experience, which is housed in a 1906 building on a historic farm in Bethlehem near the White Mountains. The visit includes a walk through an interactive museum and a working sugar house, as well as samples of the mapleflavored foods made on-site. Though maple trees are dormant in the fall — harvesting begins in the winter, and production ramps up in the spring — groups that visit in the autumn still get to learn all about the process. A lot of maple syrup is produced in Wisconsin as well, and groups on foliage tours in the fall can take tours of tree farms and syrup operations. The Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producers Association has more than 300 members.

Artwork by Donia Simmons

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WISCONSIN

STATE SPOTLIGHT

5 B AY F I E L D

3 2 L A CROSSE

DOOR COUN T Y

WISCONSIN DELLS

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4 MADISON

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

I

f you’re in the market for a

great fall destination for your

travel group, take a serious look at Wisconsin. With several of the top

fall festivals in the country, along with

brilliant foliage, shimmering lakeshores

and a culture of hospitality, Wisconsin is a serious contender for the title of best

fall destination in the Midwest. Whether you’re looking for the colors of autumn or the signature smells and tastes of fall, you’ll

find both in abundance throughout this

state.

I S S U E J U LY/ A U G U S T 2 01 7

In Door County, groups get a memo-

rable blend of brilliant shorelines and colorful tree lines. A river cruise in Wisconsin

Dells showcases the natural environment that first drew visitors to this popular

vacation spot. There are several other opportunities to celebrate fall throughout the state, too. Fall produce takes center stage at the Dane

County Farmers’ Market in the capital

city of Madison. In La Crosse, Oktoberfest

USA has been recognized as one of the most traditional German festivals in the

country. And the Bayfield Apple Festival on the shores of Lake Superior showcases the flavors of fall in dozens of ways.

All photos courtesy WI Dept. of Tourism

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IS YOUR GROUP READY FOR A GLIMPSE INTO A LIFE

L SS ORDINARY?

EXPLORE THE DELLS Wisconsin Dells attracts throngs of visitors year-round, many of whom come for its abundance of indoor and outdoor water parks. But it wasn’t the water parks that made Wisconsin Dells famous. It was the dells of the Wisconsin River, which run through the area, that first attracted visitors to town. The best way for groups to explore the natural beauty of the river is with Dells Boat Tours. Tours range from 50 minutes to three hours, depending on which segments of the river they cover, and introduce passengers to the beautiful sandstone cliffs that border the river on both sides. During the fall, the foliage on the cliffs along the riverfront turns brilliant colors, making the scenic dells that much more beautiful. The tour company also offers a special cruise experience on Fridays and Saturdays in September and October called Ghost Boat: Season of the Witch, which takes place after dark and includes excursions on foot through a dark gorge in Cold Water Canyon. W W W.D E L L S B OAT S.C O M

The Harley-Davidson Museum ® in Milwaukee, Wisconsin is more than a nostalgia trip for motorcycle enthusiasts, the Museum offers a glimpse of American history and culture like you’ve never seen before – through the successes and trials of an iconic American company.

Get Booked: groups@h-dmuseum.com 414-287-2799 | h-dmuseum.com T 2017 ©2017 H-D. All rights reserved. Harley-Davidson, H-D, Harley, Harley-Davidson Museum and the Bar and Shield are among the registered trademarks of H-D U.S.A., LLC.


Celebrating our 40th Theatre Season!

July 27 - Sept 10

2 OKTOBERFEST USA German heritage runs deep in many places throughout Wisconsin, and it’s on full display each fall in the Mississippi River town of La Crosse, home to Oktoberfest USA. This festival, held each year since 1961, is consistently ranked among the top events of its kind in the United States thanks to the organizers’ focus on maintaining the German traditions of Oktoberfest. Like any good German festival, Oktoberfest USA offers plenty of opportunities for beer tasting. Among the many activities on the docket is a craft beer night that features 50 craft brewers handing out samples in a large tent. Festivalgoers will find lots of beer available in other areas throughout the entire festival. In addition to the beer, Oktoberfest USA has a wide-ranging lineup of entertainment options. There are multiple parades, pageants, themed dinners and musical entertainment. Carnival rides and craft vendors round out the celebration. This year’s festival will be held September 28 to October 1.

Sept 14 - Oct 29

Nov 2 - Dec 23

2018 Season On Sale Now!

PHANTOM • NEWSIES • 42ND STREET CHURCH BASEMENT LADIES 2 - A Second Helping Disney’s THE LITTLE MERMAID • GREASE ELF THE MUSICAL

W W W.O K TO B E RF E S T USA .C O M

HELD EACH YEAR SINCE 1961, OKTOBERFEST USA IS CONSISTENTLY RANKED AMONG THE TOP EVENTS OF ITS KIND IN THE UNITED STATES ... MAINTAINING GERMAN TRADITIONS.

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


A PERFECT PENINSULA For an exquisite fall-foliage experience in Wisconsin, there is no better destination than Door County, a peninsula between Green Bay and Lake Michigan. At 18 miles wide and nearly 70 miles long, the peninsula is covered with dense forests that turn to brilliant shades of red, gold and yellow during the autumn season. Door County is a popular vacation destination, and the small towns throughout the county offer wonderful visitor experiences. Groups can have a drink at Island Orchard Cider, soak in the fall spirit at the Egg Harbor Pumpkin Patch or experience a different sort of island culture on a visit to Washington Island, which sits off the tip of the peninsula and is reachable by ferry. There are several places to experience nature. Peninsula State Park is a highlight for outdoors lovers. Its 3,776 acres of pristine forest sit along the Green Bay shoreline, and the park has a scenic driving loop and numerous hiking trails for visitors to enjoy the fall color.

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W W W.D O O R C O U N T Y.C O M

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A CAPITOL MARKET Monday through Friday, the grounds of the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison look like most government locations, buzzing with politicians and policymakers. But on Saturday mornings, politics fall by the wayside as the Capitol grounds, also known as the Square, welcome the largest producers-only farmers market in the country. The Dane County Farmers’ Market began in 1972, and Saturday on the Square is its signature event. The market starts in April and continues through early November. Visitors can shop and taste the goods of hundreds of farmers and other producers who sell items as varied as duck eggs, sheep-milk cheese, bok choy and wheatgrass. Since Saturday on the Square runs through early November, groups that visit Madison in the fall can look forward to finding some signature autumn harvest produce for sale. In the last half of November, a special market inside the city’s convention center features more than 50 vendors offering holiday-themed goods. W W W.D C F M.O RG

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A SUPERIOR FESTIVAL It takes some commitment to drive all the way to Bayfield, a town in northwest Wisconsin on the shore of Lake Superior that is accessible only by small country roads. But groups that make the trek during the fall are rewarded with spectacular color as well as a highly rated festival. Now in its 56th year, the Bayfield Apple Festival was named one of the 10 Best Fall Harvest Festivals in the Nation by USA Today in 2015. The three-day festival, scheduled for October 6-8 this year, attracts more than 50,000 visitors from throughout the Midwest. The festival features more than 60 orchard and food booths selling apples from around Bayfield, as well as apple pies, caramel apples, apple tortes, apple dumplings, apple cider and even apple bratwurst, mustard and butter. There are 140 arts-and-crafts vendors on-site, and the Blue Canvas Orchestra, house band for the local Big Top Chautauqua, provides musical entertainment on a grandstand stage. W W W.BAY FI E L D.O RG

Dancing Horses Theatre: Open Year Round! Animal Gardens Petting Zoo: Open May-Oct. GROUPS THAT MAKE THE TREK DURING THE FALL ARE REWARDED WITH Reservations suggested for family entertainment at its Best!

Wisconsin’s #1 Must See Live Attraction!

SHOW & MEAL PACKAGES AVAILABLE!

SPECTACULAR COLOR AS WELL AS A HIGHLY RATED FESTIVAL.

Visit website for further details www.thedancinghorses.com

262-728-8200

5065 Highway 50, Delavan, WI 53115 â—? Minutes west of Lake Geneva T 2017


MILWAUKEE, WI

MILWAUKEE IS A CITY WITH A DIY ATTITUDE THAT NEVER FORGOT THE POWER OF MAKING. LOCATED IN A REPURPOSED 1850S FARMSTEAD, THE WISCONSIN MUSEUM OF QUILTS & FIBER ARTS CONTINUES THE TRADITION OF HONORING MAKERS AND THE ARTISTIC, HISTORICAL AND SOCIAL IMPORTANCE OF FIBER ARTS. PLAN YOUR TOUR IN MILWAUKEE.

VISITMILWAUKEE.ORG/GROUPS

WIQUILTMUSEUM.COM


PA L M E T T O

Courtesy Hilton Head Tourism

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HIDDEN GEMS SPICE UP A TRIP TO

S OUT H CA R OLIN A BY B R I A N J E W E L L

Y

ou don’t have to look far to find travel treasures in South Carolina. But if you’re willing to dig a little deeper, you can uncover distinctive experiences that will take your South Carolina tour from ordinary to extraordinary. From historic Charleston to beautiful Hilton Head and vibrant Myrtle Beach, the South Carolina coast has fascinating stories to tell. And groups that venture inland to Columbia and Greenville will find pristine natural areas, as well as arts and history attractions. If your group travels frequently to South Carolina, consider including stops at some of these hidden travel gems on your next itinerary..

THE HARBOUR TOWN LIGHTHOUSE ILLUMINATES THE HILTON HEAD COASTLINE AT NIGHT.

CHARLESTON One of the most visited cities on the southern Atlantic coast, Charleston has a wealth of attractions that highlight local history, architecture, cuisine and culture. While your group is busy hitting the highlights, allow some time to stop by some other sites that will give a deeper understanding of the area. Many visitors enjoy White Point Garden, which is located at the tip of the peninsula and offers views of Charleston Harbor and Fort Sumter. In the 1700s, the garden served as a public square, and pirates were hung there. Local legend says that pirates haunt the garden. The area also housed fortifications for the city during the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, and the edges of the garden are decorated with historic cannons and shells. About a mile away from the garden is the South Carolina Aquarium. “The aquarium is a really good group destination,” said Doug Warner, director of media relations for the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s a great stepping-off point for a Fort Sumter tour. You can catch a boat there to go out to Fort Sumter.” Charleston’s long history has left a substantial

spiritual legacy, and interested groups can learn more about the area’s religious heritage by visiting historic houses of worship throughout the city. Circular Congregational Church still has weekly meetings, and its cemetery has graves that date to 1695. Kahal Kdosh Beth Elohim is a historic synagogue, and visitors can tour the sanctuary as well as an on-site museum six days a week. The synagogue’s cemetery is the South’s oldest Jewish burial ground. Art lovers should also make time to visit the Gibbes Museum of Art. “The Gibbes Museum was one of the first art museums in the country,” Warner said. “It just went through a multimillion-dollar restoration that put the building back in its original configuration, with studio space for local artists. They have works by Charleston Renaissance artists and a great collection of pre-Revolutionary and post-Revolutionary American art.”

HILTON HEAD People travel to Hilton Head, an island destination in southern South Carolina, for its pristine beaches and unspoiled natural environment. The island was one of the first eco-planned destinations in the country, and all its resorts and amenities are designed to blend seamlessly with the area’s lush surroundings. But the island and nearby towns on the mainland also hold fascinating history and culture attractions. “The Coastal Discovery Museum is a Smithsonian-affiliated museum that really paints a picture of who we are as a destination,” said Charlie Clark, vice president of communications for the Hilton Head Chamber of Commerce. “It pays homage to the Gullah history. Since we’re an island, the Gullah culture remains really strong here. They have a sweetgrass gallery that helps people understand the significance of the sweetgrass baskets.” In addition to seeing the baskets on display,

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groups can arrange sweet-grass-weaving demonstrations and classes that are led by seventh-generation basket weavers, who share some of the heritage of the art form, brought to the Carolina low country by enslaved Africans. For another take on local culture, plan a stop at the Bluffton Oyster Company, the last hand-shucking oyster house in the state. During oyster season, visitors can see the day’s catch being unloaded at the dock and watch women shuck oysters. The company also sells fresh shrimp, mussels, clams, scallops and other seafood brought in by local fishermen. “Adjacent to the Bluffton Oyster Company is the Garvin House,” Clark said. “That’s a restored home that was one of the first freed-slave homes along the May River. It’s been beautifully restored and gives an interesting glimpse into that history.” Mitchellville, a town on the mainland near Hilton Head, also offers African-American heritage tours.

THE COASTAL DISCOVERY MUSEUM IN HILTON HEAD

Courtesy Hilton Head Tourism

CHARLESTON’S GIBBES MUSEUM OF ART

Courtesy Charleston Area CVB

A GULLAH SWEETGRASS BASKET Y

Courtesy Hilton Head Tourism

HUNTINGTON BEACH STATE PARK NEAR MYRTLE BEACH

M Y RTLE BEACH One of the most popular vacation destinations in South Carolina, Myrtle Beach attracts groups with its abundance of well-developed attractions, shopping complexes and evening entertainment. If your groups want to find other fun during the day, though, there’s history, wine, beer and distinctive local shopping to be found throughout the Grand Strand area. Among the most interesting stops is Pawleys Island, where Huntington Beach State Park has more than six miles of flat trails through lush terrain. It also features Atalaya, a fascinating historic site. “Atalaya is what we refer to as a Moorish castle,” said Sandy Haines, group tour sales manager at the Myrtle Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s where Anna Huntington lived. She is the artist who created the sculptures at Brookgreen Gardens. You can take a tour through the castle. There’s a good bit of history there.” For a relaxing afternoon break, consider a visit to New South Brewing in Myrtle Beach. Groups get free tours of the microbrewery, where they can learn about beer-making and sample some of the company’s products. In nearby Little River, La Belle Amie Vineyard offers wine tours, as well as the opportunity to try different wines in the tasting room or enjoy a glass in a rocking chair on the porch, with live music in the background. If the shoppers in your group get tired of the large retail complexes in Myrtle Beach, consider taking them to some more-distinctive stores. Little River Mini Mall has 25,000 square feet of antiques, collectibles,

Courtesy Myrtle Beach Area CVB

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crafts, art, jewelry and furniture offered by dozens of vendors. And Gay Dolphin Gift Cove has been in business since 1946; it offers a variety of quirky beach mementos and other souvenirs. C OLUMBIA Columbia, in the center of South Carolina, is the state’s capital and has a number of marquee attractions, including the Riverbanks Zoo and the South Carolina Statehouse. But there are also some hidden gems that are well worth a visit. The South Carolina governor’s mansion sits in the center of downtown but is surrounded by gardens, which give it a peaceful, secluded air. The gardens are open to the public every day, and groups can also schedule tours of the mansion. Just outside the city, Congaree National Park is one of the least-visited national parks in the country. But this blackwater swamp holds some fascinating sights for intrepid travelers. “It’s a hidden gem that has record-size trees,” said Jayne Baker, vice president of marketing for the Capital City/Lake Murray County Regional Tourism Board. “It sits on the river, so you can go canoeing there and see the park from a different angle. There’s a new event there in May and June that we’re really encouraging groups to attend. The Firefly Festival features fireflies that come out at dusk, and we’re far enough outside of the city that it attracts a lot of fireflies.”

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GREENVILLE’S SWAMP RABBIT BICYCLE TRAIL

Epicureans in your group will enjoy sampling the barbecue around Columbia, where the local style is characterized by shredded pork and a yellow, mustard-based sauce. There are plenty of small barbecue joints around town to check out, but perhaps the most unusual is Top of Carolina. “It’s at the top of a high-rise dormitory in the heart of the University of South Carolina campus,” Baker said. “It slowly rotates, so it’s great for people who would like to view the campus and also enjoy a barbecue lunch.” The restaurant is open Fridays for lunch and Saturdays for brunch during the school year. Groups should make reservations.

Courtesy Visit Greenville

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for group rates

america’s oldest preserved

draytonhall.org

Debbi Zimmerman 843-769-2630 groups@draytonhall.org

plantation house

Charleston, SC

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GREENVILLE In the mountainous territory of northeast South Carolina, Greenville is known for its vibrant downtown scene complete with restaurants, shopping, nightlife and history. But groups that venture beyond the downtown area will find a variety of historic and natural sites to visit. In the town of Greer, Suber’s Corn Mill was built in 1908 and is one of the oldest surviving gristmills still operating in South Carolina. Visitors can see the millstone, gears and pulleys that operate the mill and watch as corn is ground into cornmeal. There, meal and other products are available for sale on-site. Six miles outside of downtown Greenville is Lake Conestee Nature Park, which comprises 400 acres along the Reedy River. The hardwood and evergreen forests along the riverbank are inhabited by more than 200 species of birds, as well as deer, raccoons, beavers, foxes and other animals. Active groups might also enjoy a trip on the Swamp Rabbit Cycling Trail. “We have a number of affordable ways to rent bikes, so a whole group could go out on a ride together,” said Taryn Scher, spokeswoman for Visit Greenville. “The trail is more than 20 miles long. It goes through the campus of Furman University and out to the city of Travelers Rest, a charming small town that has exploded in popularity thanks to the trail. There’s a brewery, a rum distillery and about 15 to 20 restaurants.” Meanwhile, back in downtown Greenville, there are more than 70 pieces of public art on display, and visitors can take a self-guided walking tour to see the artwork and learn about the people who created it.

open to the public.

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I hen you visit Myrtle Beach, it’s easy to pack a schedule full of shopping, shows, attractions and other fun. But if you’re like me, you should make some time for one of my favorite activities in the area — a leisurely seafood lunch in a beachside restaurant. No matter where I go, I always look forward to mealtime. Stopping to eat is an afterthought for some people, but for me it’s often the highlight of a day of travel. And although there are abundant options in Myrtle Beach for themed dining, quick bites or national chain restaurants, my favorite way to eat there is on the patio of a local seafood restaurant that offers sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Fortunately, there are plenty of restaurants like this along the Grand Strand area around Myrtle Beach. The first time I met Sandy Haines of the Myrtle Beach Area CVB was at a restaurant like this. It was a beautiful day in late spring, and I enjoyed the crab cakes, the breeze and the smell of saltwater in the air. I have spent a lot of time in Myrtle Beach over the years, researching the area for articles in this magazine. In a destination as popular as this, things can change quickly — there’s always a new attraction, a new hotel or a new experience to try. And sometimes that progress sweeps away older things that had been staples of the beach in past generations. But one thing that time and change will never eliminate is the beauty of the coastline and the delicious taste of fresh seafood. — BRIAN JEWELL

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A DANDY BY E L I ZA M Y E R S

Photos courtesy Albany Co. CVB

AL ANY GREW FROM AN OUTPOST TO A CAPITAL

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magine the constant terror of living in a home that needs gun ports and a palisade to deter potential raiding marauders. Or picture the courage required to leave the only life you’ve ever known to start an experimental religious community. Stories this dramatic abound throughout Albany, New York. Inhabitants have come from numerous intriguing cultures — from ancient Native Americans tribes to wealthy Dutch families — and differ in every way, except for the place in which they chose to live. To experience these fascinating tales, groups can tour several popular cultural heritage sites in Albany. Your group will leave the New York capital excited to tell friends and relatives about the details of Alexander Hamilton’s wedding or the strange worship dances that gave the Shakers their name.

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THE BRICK MANOR HOUSE AT ALBANY’S CRAILO STATE HISTORIC SITE WAS BUILT IN 1707.

N E W YO R K S TAT E M U S E U M

At the New York State Museum, a full-size replica of an Iroquoian longhouse, prehistoric pottery artifacts and lifelike dioramas help tell the story of the native people who once populated the area. The nation’s oldest and largest state museum showcases New York’s natural and cultural history through 16 million scientific specimens and 1 million cultural objects. One exhibit on the state’s Native Americans spans from 10,000 B.C. to the ethnology of today’s Native groups. The museum highlights numerous other topics, including the prehistoric geology of the Adirondacks and Harlem culture in the 1920s. Signature exhibits include the skeletal remains of a mastodon excavated in 1866 and the full-size, operational 1912 carousel. “I would recommend reaching out to ask for a guide,” said Molly Belmont, director of marketing for the Albany County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s a great experience. The museum can offer customized tours and supplement other experiences you might be having. For example, it has a wonderfully moving 9/11 exhibit that you can add to a tour of New York City. T 2017


C R A I L O S TAT E HISTORIC SITE

Before Albany developed into the metropolitan state capital it is today, it was a somewhat vulnerable frontier settlement. Groups of French and Native Americans sometimes attacked Albany inhabitants, which is why when Hendrick van Rensselaer built his brick manor house in 1707, he built it prepared for violence. At the Crailo State Historic Site, visitors can tour this fortified Dutch home built outside the protection of the nearby fort. Guides point out where the gun ports and palisades once stood to fend off raiders. Notably, British Army surgeon Richard Shuckburgh reportedly penned the ditty “Yankee Doodle Dandy” while staying in the home in 1755. Guests also learn how the estate fit into the broader colonial Dutch history with exhibits on household objects, games, furniture, weapons and other items typical of the period. The Dutch settled Albany nearly 100 years before the English arrived in the New World, and Crailo stands in testimony to the Dutch legacy. “The basement has a large Dutch fireplace where the home’s traditional cooking area would have been,” said Belmont. “They demonstrate traditional cooking methods there, where they talk about the original family’s diet and food preparation techniques. It’s an interesting program.”

WAT E R V L I E T S H A K E R N AT I O N A L H I S T O R I C DISTRICT

Ann Lee had a radical vision that defied all convention. She founded the first Shaker settlement in America on ideals very different from the 18thcentury England in which she grew up. Groups can learn the scandalous nature of these radical ideas on a tour at Watervliet Shaker National Historic District, where the Shaker Heritage Society maintains nine of the original buildings from the religious community. “The Shakers are an interesting piece of American history,” said Belmont. “The Shakers were very forward thinking. They believed in the equality of the sexes and races. A lot of the ideas and sentiments were precursors for how we live today and the values we have now.” Though some Shaker values — sustainability, equality and hard work — seem normal today, other ideas, such as their belief in celibacy, stand out as strange. To keep their movement alive, Shakers relied on new members joining from outside the community, which eventually led to their downfall. Guided tours of the district’s historic structures and the cemetery where Lee is buried help groups understand how the Shaker ideology shaped its

A PORTRAIT AT SCHUYLER MANSION

communal lifestyle. Visitors explore the Meeting House to see where the religious dances took place, walk through the herb garden to learn about the Shakers’ invention of the first commercial garden seeds and stop inside the barn for information on the community’s self-sufficiency. Groups visiting in July, September and December can plan their trip around the site’s annual craft fairs.

SCHUYLER MANSION

Stories of an attempted kidnapping, a prisoner guest and Alexander Hamilton keep visitors captivated at the Schuyler Mansion. The Schuylers, an affluent Dutch family, had eight children and played a role in the Revolutionary War, in which Philip Schuyler served as major general. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s recent Broadway smash “Hamilton” recently thrust the family into the spotlight, since the sisters dramatized in the musical grew up in the Schuyler home. Hamilton even married Elizabeth Schuyler in the mansion’s living room. “Schuyler Mansion is a great piece of early colonial Dutch history” said Belmont. “They have a new tour called Women of Schuyler Mansion, which focuses on the famous Schuyler sisters. They also have the relatively new tour ‘When Alexander Called Albany Home,’ which focuses on Alexander Hamilton’s local connections to Albany.”

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TRACK STARS

THERE ARE TR AINS FOR EVERY INTEREST IN YOUR GROUP

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rain travel harkens back to the early 1900s during the Golden Age of rail. Ribbons of steel crisscrossed the nation and made travel efficient, affordable and popular. Today, restored vintage cars capture the elegance of the era, and travelers can opt for this more leisurely mode of transportation. Groups will find that trains cater to a wide variety of interests, such as scenery, history, food and wine, murder mystery dinners and holiday events. Here is just a sampling of trips that can add delight and depth to any itinerary.

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1 SPECTACULAR SCENERY —

A L AS K A A quintessential experience, the Alaska Railroad cuts through wilderness that showcases shimmering rivers, towering forests and still-frozen tundra. Photographers can hang out on the open-air platforms to capture the stunning mountain scenery and wildlife foraging near the tracks. The railroad’s packages highlight the best lodges and attractions along each route, from Anchorage to Seward, Denali National Park and Fairbanks. Gold Star service offers a new dining menu and dome cars for excellent viewing, the ultimate in Alaska travel. Between Anchorage and Seward, the gateway to the Kenai Fjords National Park, the Coastal Classic Train winds around Turnagain Arm where the mountains meet the ocean. Between Anchorage and Fairbanks, the Denali Star Train delivers passengers to this iconic national park and stops at the tiny town of Talkeetna, a charming throwback to old Alaska. Heading south from Anchorage, the Glacier Discovery Train offers noteworthy excursions such as kayaking a glacial lake and salmon bakes. W W W. A L ASK A R A I L RO A D.COM

By Michael DeYoung, courtesy Alaska Railroad,

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A L A SK A R A IL RO A D —

C A L IF ORNI A ZEPH Y R —

CH I CAG O

Courtesy Pikes Peak Cog Railway

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TO

SAN FR AN CIS CO

The Amtrak California Zephyr runs daily between the skyscrapers of Chicago and the waters of San Francisco Bay. In between, it slices through the plains of Nebraska before crossing the front range of the Rockies, the Continental Divide, Glenwood Canyon, the Utah Desert and the High Sierras. Between Salt Lake City and Sacramento, the route follows a portion of the original 1860s Transcontinental Railroad. A group itinerary can be built to include stopovers including skiing at Winter Park, Colorado; soaking in the hot springs at Glenwood Springs, Colorado; or gaming in Reno, Nevada. Sleeping cars provide a range of private rooms with amenities. Coach offers wide, reclining seats with headrests and footrests. Dining cars feature full-service hot meals. W W W. A M T R A K .COM

TOP: THE ALASKA RAILROAD’S COASTAL CLASSIC TRAIN MIDDLE: THE HISTORIC PIKES PEAK COG RAILWAY Courtesy Napa Valley Wine Train

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BOTTOM: A FIRST-CLASS COACH ON THE NAPA VALLEY WINE TRAIN

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HISTORIC JAUNTS

FOOD AND WINE EXCURSIONS

PIK E S PE A K COG R A ILWAY —

MAN ITO U S PR I N GS, CO LO R A DO

— NAPA

N A PA VA L L E Y W INE T R A IN — TO

ST. H E LE NA , CA LI FO R N IA

Year-round since 1891, the Pikes Peak Cog Railway has transported passengers from the historic Manitou Springs Depot to the 14,115-foot summit of Pikes Peak. In the late 1880s, Zalmon Simmons, inventor and founder of the Simmons Beautyrest Mattress Company, first rode to the summit of Pikes Peak on a mule. He spearheaded the funding needed to build the railroad. In the 1960s, the railway began requisitioning railcars from the Swiss Locomotive Works in Winterthur, Switzerland. Views from the railway, the highest in North America and the Northern Hemisphere, inspired the song “America the Beautiful.” The three-hour trip spans nearly nine miles of track and follows cascading streams and dense spruce forests before it climbs above timberline. Passengers often see one of the state’s largest herds of bighorn sheep.

The Napa Valley Wine Train is, foremost, a restaurant. Your journey begins with a taste of private-label wine bottled by Raymond Vineyards from its Reserve Selection. If your group is dining in the Champagne Vista dome car, the trip starts with a glass of the featured California sparkling wine. The award-winning wine list, with wines available by the glass or the bottle, features many of the selections on the route. Each menu item has a suggested pairing. The Napa Valley Wine Train offers a 36-mile round-trip from Napa to St. Helena that lasts three hours. Most of the cars were built in 1915 by the Pullman Standard Company as first-class coaches for the Northern Pacific Railway. Tour packages provide a multicourse, gourmet meal on board and a wine tasting and tour at a partner winery. 

W W W.COGR A I LWA Y.COM

W W W.W I N E T R A I N.COM

GR A ND C A N Y ON R A ILWAY —

C A PE COD CEN T R A L R A IL RO A D

WI LLIAM S, AR IZO NA

HYAN N IS, MASSACH US E TTS

Since 1901, the Grand Canyon Railway has transported passengers 130 miles round trip — two hours and 15 minutes each way — from Williams to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. With five classes of restored passenger service, historic railcars range from 1920s Harriman-style Pullman cars to luxury dome cars and refurbished parlor cars built in the 1950s. Part of the fun is the trip’s authentic characters and onboard musicians who bring the Old West to life. Groups embark at the Williams Depot, built in 1908 by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. Upon arrival at the South Rim, your group will disembark at the 1910 Grand Canyon Depot. The two-story, log and wood-frame structure is one of only three remaining log depots in the nation. Nearby, the El Tovar Hotel was built in 1905 by the railroad. Groups can combine the train with packages that include accommodations, meals, activities and more.

In 1848, rail service in Massachusetts extended to the town of Sandwich on Cape Cod, but the Cape Cod Central Railroad wasn’t founded until 1999. Much of the track had been replaced with a rail trail and a bikeway, but the train still runs on approximately 27 miles of original track. The Cape Cod Central Railroad offers Yankee Clipper Brunch Trains, Cape Cod Dinner Trains and special events. This two-hour journey runs May through October. The trip pairs three- and five-course meals with views of sand dunes, salt marshes and cranberry bogs. Weekday lunches serve seafood chowder for a starter, with a choice of entree and dessert. The dinner train travels through quaint villages, accompanied by romantic music and soft candlelight. New this year, dinner menus will be changing throughout the season. W W W.C A PE T R A I N.COM

W W W.THE T R A I N.COM

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4 MURDER MYSTERY DINNERS —

K A NS A S BEL L E DINNER T R A IN — BA LDWI N CIT Y, K ANSAS

Hop aboard the vintage cars of the Kansas Belle Dinner Train for the 22-mile round trip through the countryside. Murder mystery dinners are catered by the 23rd Street Brewery in Lawrence, Kansas. Four dining cars, each uniquely decorated, have been remodeled to resemble railroad cars from the 1940s era. W W W.K A NS ASBEL L E .COM

NE W P OR T A ND N A RR A G A NSE T T B AY R A IL RO A D — NO RTH KI N GSTOWN , R H O D E IS L AN D

Help solve a 1920s Gilded Age whodunit aboard the Newport and Narragansett Bay Railroad. Murder on the Rails includes a dinner and mystery while experiencing how society’s elite once traveled to Newport for the summer. The route follows the west side of Aquidneck Island, often only a few feet from Narragansett Bay. Newport’s Marley Bridges Theatre Company presents a fully interactive

murder mystery during dinner. Different scripts and multiple endings for each play include twists, turns, red herrings and surprise suspects. Groups also can opt for the Murder Mystery Luncheon Charter, which includes a four-course meal. W W W.T R A I NSR I.COM

MURDER M Y S T ER Y DINNER T R A IN — FO RT MY E RS, FLO R I DA

A five-course dinner and live murder mystery unfold on the Murder Mystery Dinner Train in Fort Myers. Since the early 1990s, the train has traveled along a working freight rail line for a 40-mile round trip and crosses the Caloosahatchee River. Guests are seated at tables of four in refurbished vintage cars. The interactive journey takes place throughout the five-course dinner, with clue sheets collected before the final act so that everyone can discover the culprit. One prize is awarded to a supersleuth in each dining car. The railway employs its own actors, and there’s a variety of new shows to choose from — including special themed plays around the holidays. W W W.SE MGU L F.COM

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MURDER MYSTERY DINNER TRAIN

Courtesy Murder Mystery Dinner Train

5 AN INDEPENDENCE DAY RIDE ON THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAIN RAILROAD

Courtesy Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

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5 HOLIDAY HAPPENINGS —

SE CRE T CI T Y S CENIC E XCUR SION T R A IN

OAK R I D G E , TE N N ESS E E For Valentine’s Day, the Secret City Scenic Excursion Train offers dinner with fresh flowers, china and white tablecloths. Take a leisurely 90-minute trip in former Southern Railway Pullman Dining Car No. 3164, restored to its 1960s splendor. The train winds along Poplar Creek and Highway 327 in the hills and valleys of eastern Tennessee; the northern portion of the route was featured in the movie “October Sky.” W W W.SECR E T CI T Y R A I L RO A D.COM

P OL A R E X PRE S S T R A IN

Guests are served hot chocolate and a treat by dancing chefs and enjoy a reading of the book. Everyone receives a silver sleigh bell after Santa boards the train to greet passengers. Attendants lead caroling on the return trip to Union Station. Passengers also receive a souvenir tumbler with their hot chocolate to take home. W W W.CH IC AGOTHEPOL A R E X PR ESSR I DE .COM

GRE AT SMOK Y MOUN TA IN R A IL RO A D

B RYSO N CIT Y, NO RTH CARO LI NA

CH I CAG O Board Amtrak’s Chicago The Polar Express Ride at Chicago’s Union Station, and step into the classic children’s story. While the motion picture soundtrack plays in the background, the festively decorated train speeds though tunnels, rail yards and neighborhoods along the Chicago River.

Celebrate Independence Day onboard the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad’s Freedom Train. Passengers will enjoy American classics like a barbecue picnic-style dinner, a slice of apple pie, sunset views on the Fontana Trestle and a visit from Uncle Sam himself. The train will depart the Bryson City Depot on July 4 at 7 p.m. and follows the Nantahala Gorge route, returning in time for the Bryson City Freedom Fest fireworks show. W W W.GSM R .COM

MAKE YOUR

NEXT ADVENTURE A

MOUNTAINRAIL ADVENTURE!

Six trains, three depots. Trains depart from Elkins, Cass and Durbin.

866.457.3418 • MTN-RAIL.COM

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FI N D YO U R P L AC E

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

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SIGNATURE AT TR ACTIONS

GREEN COUNTRY

At the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, groups can drive along a 10-mile loop to catch a glimpse of the preserve’s 2,500 free-ranging bison and 300 species of birds. In spring, nearly 700 bison calves populate the hills, along with a colorful spread of wildflowers. In Tulsa, the Woody Guthrie Center traces the life of beloved American folk musician Woody Guthrie, who penned the classic song “This Land Is Your Land.” The center provides an in-depth look at the artist’s creative process through features like a lyric-writing station, an interactive map of his travels and several of his original instruments. Housed in the historic former residence of Waite and Genevieve Phillips, the Philbrook Museum of Art presents an exquisite collection of art pieces from around the world, in addition to outdoor Italian- and French-style gardens. Walking tours are available.

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haracterized by the wooded hills and winding rivers of northeastern Oklahoma, Green Country offers a serene setting for outdoor recreation. “Green Country earns its name,” said Hayley McGhee, publications manager for the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department. “It’s a very lush region.” The Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees holds a wealth of outdoor activities, with 10 state parks surrounding the lake. Boating and fishing are popular on the lake, which hosted the Bassmaster Classic in 2016, a professional bass-fishing event. Meanwhile, the gentle rapids of the Illinois River near Tahlequah create the ideal setting for float trips on canoes or kayaks. The region’s natural attractions are offset by the metropolitan hub of Oklahoma’s secondlargest city: Tulsa. In addition to exploring the vibrant arts and entertainment district, many groups enjoy a visit to the Tulsa Zoo or the recently opened concert hall designed by worldrenowned architect César Pelli.

CULTUR AL EXPERIENCES Groups can delve into the region’s Native American history at the Cherokee Cultural Center in Tahlequah. The center offers several living-history exhibits, including replicas of Cherokee villages from the 1700s and 1800s, where interpreters in period clothing offer demonstrations on basket weaving, toolmaking and traditional Native American games. Near Oktaha, the Honey Springs Battlefield marks the site of the largest Civil War battle in Indian Territory, and re-enactments of the event take place regularly. Visitors can follow self-guided tours along six walking trails lined with 55 educational signs. Each fall, Tulsa hosts a three-day celebration of Scottish music and culture called Scottfest. Groups can enjoy alternative Celtic rock and folk music, whiskey tastings, international beers and Scottish and Irish dance demonstrations.

WWW.GREENCOUNTRYOK.COM

SUNSET OVER HONEY CREEK AT GRAND LAKE O’ THE CHEROKEES

HID D EN GEMS Green Country is home to two iconic Route 66 roadside attractions. The Coleman Theater, near Miami, is a restored 1929 vaudeville theater with an elegant red-and-gold interior and a traditional Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ. The theater presents musical and theatrical performances year-round. In Catoosa, it is hard to miss the enormous Blue Whale just off the highway. Originally built in the 1970s as an anniversary gift, the 80-foot-long sperm whale extends over a pond and once served as a swimming playground where visitors could walk inside its gaping mouth, slide down its fins and jump off its elevated tail into the water. The attraction is now open only for photos. By Lori Duckworth OPPOSITE PAGE: A 66-FOOT-TALL SODA BOTTLE OUTSIDE POPS DINER ON ROUTE 66

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CHICK ASAW COUNTRY

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ith 120,000 miles of shoreline and more than 10 lakes, Chickasaw Country provides endless opportunities for outdoor adventure in the south-central part of the state. “Many planners have been taking their groups to the same places for years,” said Paige Williams Shepherd, director of corporate development and tourism for the Chickasaw Nation. “They’re looking for a fresh and interactive experience, and that’s what Chickasaw Country has to offer.”

During the 1900s, the Artesian Hotel was iconic to the town of Sulphur, serving patrons like John Wayne and U.S. President William Howard Taft. After the boutique hotel burned down in 1962, the Chickasaw Nation eventually built a replica, as well as an adjacent art gallery where visitors can purchase handcrafted goods and design their own souvenirs in “make and take” art classes. Not far from the Artesian Hotel, the Chickasaw Recreational Area offers lush hiking trails, a natural cold spring and a free-roaming bison herd. Guided tours from park rangers are available. The park recently opened a suspension bridge within walking distance of the Chickasaw Cultural Center. In Ardmore, groups can explore Lake Murray State Park, the oldest and largest park in Oklahoma. Surrounding a 5,700-acre crystal-clear lake, the park includes the Tucker Tower Nature Center, which displays fossils and a 288-pound meteorite.

CULTUR AL EXPERIENCES

WWW.CHICKASAWCOUNTRY.COM

SULPHUR’S NEW CHICKASAW CULTURAL CENTER

BUFFALO SPRINGS IN CHICKASAW NATIONAL RECREATIONAL AREA

The towns of Sulphur, Tishomingo and Milburn form a Native American cultural triangle. The Chickasaw Cultural Center has hosted more than half a million visitors since its opening in 2010. Located in Sulphur, the center explores regional history through engaging exhibits and discussions led by local experts. Groups can sample authentic Indian dishes, observe local artisans at work and peruse educational exhibits. It also gives visitors the chance to interact with local artisans as they bead necklaces or carve bows and arrows. “From a group perspective, it’s phenomenal,” said Shepherd. “You can get traditional Indian food and drinks, plus a private guided tour, for just $10.” The city has also been developing the accessibility of its attractions. Last April, it opened a new suspension bridge that connected the Cultural Center to the Chickasaw Recreational Area. In the nearby city of Tishomingo, groups can tour the historic Chickasaw National Capitol, which served as the Chickasaw government headquarters until Oklahoma became a state in 1907, as well as the Chickasaw Council House Museum, which houses one of the largest existing collections of Chickasaw art and artifacts. The Chickasaw White House in Milburn was originally built as a summer home for governor Douglas H. Johnston in the 1800s and is listed on the national historic registry.

Photos courtesy Koch Communications

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HID D EN GEMS

THE ARTESIAN HOTEL IN SULPHUR

Photos courtesy Koch Communications

At the Bedré Fine Chocolate factory in Davis, groups can sample fresh gourmet chocolates as they observe the production through wall-length windows and later pick up a few tasty treats for the road. In the lively little town of Ada, the birthplace of country music star Blake Shelton, travelers will find a small hub of art galleries and mouthwatering eateries like Vintage 22 and Papa Gjorgjo, as well as fine regional wines from Waddell Vineyards.

NATIVE AMERICAN DANCE DEMONSTRATION AT CHICKASAW CULTURAL CENTER

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FRONTIER COUNTRY

SIGNATURE AT TR ACTIONS At Oklahoma City’s Museum of Art, groups should keep an eye out for a special exhibit from acclaimed glass sculptor Dale Chihuly called “Magic and Light.” The collection features an array of illuminated glasswork and will remain on display until July 2018. One of his glass towers can be viewed in the lobby. Though sometimes referred to as the Dinosaur Museum, the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History and Science exhibits much more than dinosaur fossils, with over 10 million objects and specimens in 12 distinct collections. The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum contains one of the country’s foremost collections of Western art and artifacts. Groups will find plenty of active outlets at Riversport Rapids, which opened last year in Oklahoma City’s redeveloped Boathouse District. The multimillion-dollar adventure complex offers rafting, tubing, kayaking, zip lining, highspeed slides and three BMX tracks.

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ocated in central Oklahoma, Frontier Country captures the heart and history of the state through world-class museums, diverse festivals and classic roadside attractions along Route 66. It is also home to the state capital, Oklahoma City. “Oklahoma City celebrates the history of the state’s best,” said Hayley Riggs McGhee, publications manager for the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department. “It has a lot of character.” Outside the big city, Yukon holds a wildly popular Czech festival each fall, which is the largest free outdoor festival in the state, featuring over 150 craft vendors with authentic Czech cuisine like kolaches and klobasa. The small college town of Stillwater is widely recognized as the origin of red dirt music, a unique blend of rock, country and bluegrass with an emphasis on storytelling. In spring, Stillwater hosts the annual Red Dirt Music Festival, which helps raise money for artists in need.

CULTUR AL EXPERIENCES At the beginning of summer, Oklahoma City hosts the Red Earth Festival in celebration of Native American dance and culture. The energetic event kicks off with the Grand Entry of Dancers and later includes a competitive PowWow dance. Beadwork, pottery, paintings and traditional dress are featured throughout the festival. An influx of Vietnamese immigrants during the 1970s led to the development of Oklahoma City’s now-famous ethnic food scene in the Asian District. Some favorite dishes among locals include the pho cuong and the pho lien hoa. For a Western-style dining experience, groups can stop by the historic Stockyards City, which hosts events like Wines of the West. Along this route, visitors would be remiss not to sample one of the legendary, juicy steaks from Cattleman’s Steakhouse.

WWW.OKTOURISM.COM

SAM NOBLE OKLAHOMA MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

By Lori Duckworth

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HID D EN GEMS The American Banjo Museum features the largest collection of banjos on display in the world, highlighting the instrument’s influence on bluegrass, folk and jazz. Along Route 66 near Arcadia, travelers can marvel at the Arcadian Round Barn, which was constructed during the late 1800s using a special soaking process to bend the wood beams and rafters. One of Route 66’s newer roadside attractions is a soda shop and burger joint called Pops, where groups can sample over 700 brands of soda. In addition to classic flavors like orange, ginger and cream soda, the store offers over 100 brands of root beer alone. Out front, the 66-foot, LED-lit soda bottle is a popular photo spot for tourists.

take your next tour somewhere

new

A GLASS SCULPTURE BY DALE CHIHULY AT THE OKLAHOMA CITY MUSEUM OF ART

What tour doesn’t need to stop somewhere new to ensure an experience that’s fascinating, fresh and fun? In Oklahoma City there’s something new to discover on every corner. From our gleaming new downtown to the Old West at the National Cowboy Museum. From a new appreciation of our spirit at the Oklahoma City National Memorial to being welcomed like a new friend everywhere you go. Add us to your next itinerary and you’ll soon discover that around here, things are more than just new. They’re OKC new.

By Lisha Newman

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GREAT PL AINS

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ituated in southwest Oklahoma, Great Plains Country stirs the imagination with sweeping fields of golden short grass and granite mountains. Visitors will feel right at home in this soothing environment, especially when they connect with the local communities. “No matter where you travel in Great Plains Country, you’re going to be welcomed with open arms,” said Brooke Miller, executive director at the Great Plains Country Association.

The 60,000-acre Mountain Wildlife Refuge, along the oldest mountain range in North America, protects native species such as free-range bison, Texas longhorn cattle, prairie dogs and elk, making it a prime destination for photography and hiking. Travelers may not have time to see all the roadside attractions along Route 66, but they can uncover the history and highlights of the iconic highway at the two Route 66 Museums in Elk City and Clinton, which explore the myths, culture and history surrounding the road.

CULTUR AL EXPERIENCES

At the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, groups can learn about the historic cattle trail that once extended from Texas to Kansas. At the center, guests can admire WWW.GREATPLAINSCOUNTRY.COM period art in the Garis Gallery of the American West; learn how to rope a steer at one of the interactive exhibits; or visit the 4-D sensory theater that simulates a cattle run where audience members can feel the rumble of the stampede as hot dust kicks up around them. “It’s a great opportunity to experience what cattle driving would have been like in the 1800s,” said Shepherd. Based near the entrance of the Mountain Wildlife Refuge, the city of Medicine Park is a historic cobblestone village with just over Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees Grove, Oklahoma 400 residents. Visitors can peruse the small collection of art galleries and shops in town, or take a dip in Bath Lake to cool off.

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

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Courtesy Great Plains Country Association

, WOW.

HID D EN GEMS The General Franks Institute and Museum in Hobart was founded by five-star Army General Tommy Franks and his wife to educate the public about the history of the U.S. military. The museum now features a 9/11 exhibit with a 3,000-pound steel beam from the World Trade Center, New York City firefighter gear and memorial videos dedicated to the victims.

THE HISTORIC COBBLESTONE VILLAGE OF MEDICINE PARK

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RED CARPET COUNTRY

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ncompassing the Oklahoma panhandle, Red Carpet Country is named after the northwestern region’s rich red soil and looming mesas. As part of the southwestern tablelands that extend from Colorado to New Mexico, Red Carpet Country’s rugged canyons and sweeping plains are reminiscent of classic Western films, reminding visitors of the pioneers, cattle drivers and Native Americans that once navigated the terrain.

STAR IN YOUR OWN WESTERN MOVIE ONLY IN ENID, OKLA!

WWW.REDCARPETCOUNTRY.COM

SIGNATURE AT TR ACTIONS At Black Mesa State Park, groups can hike to the highest point in the state on Black Mesa. At Alabaster Caverns State Park, the largest gypsum cave in the world is open to the public. This expansive cavern is nearly a mile long and is composed of alabaster, a rare form of gypsum. Visitors can follow a guided tour or explore at their leisure. In Ponca City, the Pioneer Woman Museum in Ponca City celebrates women who braved the rugged terrain of the American Frontier, as well as women throughout history who served as pioneers in their field.

CULTUR AL EXPERIENCES Cowboy culture is alive and well in Guymon, also known as the Saddle Bronc Capital of the World. This year, Guymon celebrates its 85th annual Pioneer Days Rodeo, where thousands gather to enjoy trail rides, Western-style dance, period clothing and handcrafted goods. Later in the fall, the colorful and award-winning Azuma Festival commemorates African culture and cuisine with exotic dishes from Ethiopia, South Sudan and Eretria.

HID D EN GEMS In addition to bearing the state’s highest peak, Black Mesa State Park is also known for its low light pollution, making it an optimal star-gazing destination. Every year in September, the Oklahoma City Astronomy Club hosts the Okie-Tex Star Party, a weeklong, catered camping excursion under the sweeping, clear skies of the tablelands. A 55-room castle in Ponca City called the E.W. Marland Estate is modeled after the Davanzati Palace in Florence, Italy. The site is a National Historic Landmark.

• Movie is 20-30 minutes long • Professional Cinematographer • Minimum group size: 35 • Group Tour Leader will get final edited copy • Enjoy a watch party set up by Group Tour Leader and see yourself on the big screen!

To be a movie star call 580.616.7368 or email Marcy@VisitEnid.org VisitEnid.org/group-tours/movie


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CHOCTAW COUNTRY

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overing four mountain ranges, the southeastern region of Choctaw Country lends itself to some of the most stunning panoramas in the state, as well as a host of outdoor activities in 12 state parks. The area’s heavily wooded hills are famous for their vivid display of colors in fall. Nature themes extend to the cities of Durant and Idabel, which are known, respectively, as the Magnolia and Dogwood Capitals of the World. In springtime, groups can take floral tours to admire the trees in full bloom. Approximately two hours south of Tulsa, Krebs is often called Oklahoma’s Little Italy for its thriving Italian-food scene, and the nearby town of McAlester features unusual attractions like the McAlester Scottish Rite Temple and the Oklahoma State Penitentiary Museum. Due to its long history with circuses, Hugo has become home to North America’s secondlargest Asian elephant herd, which resides at the Endangered Ark Foundation’s elephant sanctuary. WWW.CHOCTAWNATION.COM

Surrounded by the Kiamichi and Wichita Mountains, Beavers Bend State Park is one of the state’s most frequented parks. Visitors can spend the night at the scenic Lakeview Lodge, take out a boat on Broken Bow Lake, fish in the Lower Mountain Fork River or hike along the 26-mile David Boren trail. The city of Poteau is known for its annual hot-air-balloon festival. From town, groups can hike to the top of Cavanal Hill. Nearby, the Talimena National Scenic Byway spans a 50-mile drive where travelers can witness the region’s legendary fall foliage. Colors typically peak from late October to November.

CULTUR AL EXPERIENCES Krebs began as a small coal-mining camp during the 1800s, drawing many Italian immigrants, who eventually developed the town into their own Little Italy. Today, visitors can get a taste of that Italian heritage at restaurants like Pete’s Place or the grocery and meat market Italian Foods of Lovera’s, which features authentic homemade cheeses and salamis. Every year in May, the nearby town of McAlester hosts an annual Italian festival, now in its 46th year. The Choctaw Nation Headquarters holds a Heritage Day celebration the first Monday of every month, where visitors can learn about the tribe’s language and culture. Traditional pottery classes are sometimes available upon request.

HID D EN GEMS Founded by D.R. and Ilsa Miller, the Endangered Ark Foundation in Hugo serves as a retirement ranch for circus elephants and houses the second-largest Asian elephant herd in North America. Groups can tour the facility and admire the majestic animals up close on weekends, though visits must be scheduled in advance. The Scottish Rite Temple in McAlester is an early 1900s structure used by the Freemason community and gives visitors the opportunity to better understand one of the world’s most mysterious societies.

RESCUED ELEPHANTS AT THE ENDANGERED ARK FOUNDATION

BEAVERS BEND STATE PARK

By Lori Duckworth

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By Keli Clark


In Oklahoma, you’ll have

ONE ELEPHA TIME. Commune with gentle giants at the Endangered Ark Elephant Sanctuary. Behold a thundering therapod at the Museum of the Red River. Visit vibrant vistas on a fiery Talimena foliage tour. Then join a jumpin’ jamboree at the Beavers Bend Folk Festival and craft show.

Pack your trunk for Oklahoma, where jumbo-sized adventures await!

Find adventures and itineraries at TravelOK.com/Group.


sound-off

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Sorry, I can’t think of anything. I guess it’s still hidden. — Stacey Bowman, DIRECTOR, ADVERTISING SALES

Hanging Lake in Colorado. I first visited it on a hike during church camp and was awestruck when we finally arrived at the end of the trail. It’s not the easiest hike, but the destination was so worth it. At the end of the trail is a small, crystal-clear lake with a waterfall and infinity-edge rim that looks like something out of a fairy tale. It used to be a little-known place, a secret only native Coloradans were aware of, tucked away in a tight and secluded canyon. In recent years it has become a popular destination many want to see. Fortunately, it remains somewhat protected and pristine due to its place in a tight Colorado canyon with limited parking available. Only so many people can hike the trail in one day. The last time we tried to take our children, we couldn’t get in the parking lot. After four tries, looping around the canyon highways, we had to head on down the canyon toward home. — Donia Simmons, CREATIVE DIRECTOR

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I was really impressed by the Biblical History Center in LaGrange, Georgia. This museum has a lot of buildings and exhibits that demonstrate what life was like in Israel during biblical times, and the interactive Passover lunch that we had really brought the story of the Last Supper to life for me. — Kelly Tyner, DIRECTOR OF SALES AND MARKETING

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A couple years ago, while visiting family in Louisiana, Graham and I didn’t know what to expect when they drove us an hour out into the country before finally pulling into a gravel lot full of cars, but I was amazed at what we found. The buffet, White’s Seafood in Tangipahoa Parish, served some of the best seafood I’ve ever had! I loved the whole baked catfish and, of course, the fresh Louisiana crawfish. Needless to say, it was well worth the drive.

When I was traveling through the Florida Keys, I made a last-minute decision to stop by the Turtle Hospital, which is housed in a former motel just off the highway. I expected to see some cute turtles in water tanks, but I wasn’t prepared for how incredibly heartwarming and educational the experience was. During the tour, we watched an emotional video of the local community returning a rescued turtle to the ocean, and then walked through the rehabilitation facility to meet many of the current patients up close. I was so enthusiastic by the end, I spent a good 30 minutes googling a career in marine biology, though clearly that plan didn’t last long.

I’m going to go with Taybeh Beer and Brewery in Taybeh, Palestine. I enjoyed a fascinating trip through the West Bank of the Palestinian Territories about 10 years ago, and we visited this small brewery. This tumultuous land is predominantly Muslim and alcohol is either frowned on or forbidden in many places, but an Americaneducated Palestinian couple returned to their homeland two decades ago and established this brewery against all odds. Their beer is good, and their bravado is unquestioned.

— Savannah Osbourn, STAFF WRITER

— Mac Lacy, PUBLISHER

— Ashley Ricks, CIRCULATION MANAGER

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

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The Group Travel Leader July August 2017  

The Group Travel Leader July August 2017 issue features travel ideas for fall food finds, themed train trips, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Albany...

The Group Travel Leader July August 2017  

The Group Travel Leader July August 2017 issue features travel ideas for fall food finds, themed train trips, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Albany...