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THE MAGAZINE FOR BANK, ALUMNI AND CHAMBER TRAVEL PLANNERS

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WYOMING’s American appeal

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ARTS & CULTURE ISSUE

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SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016


G R E A T E R

O N T A R I O

C A L I F O R N I A

e r o l p x e Meet, t c e n n o and c

Greater Ontario is excited to host the Select Traveler Conference in 2017! Greater Ontario region boasts scenic mountains, deserts, vineyards and metropolitan areas that are both historic and cosmopolitan in character that make it Ideal for leisure and business travel. We look forward to welcoming you February 5 – 7 to Ontario, California. The Ontario International Airport lets you fly right into the heart of Southern California. A state-of-the-art convention center, world class shopping, awe inspiring weather, access to over 6000 guest rooms. All waiting for you when the business day is done. Greater Ontario offers an abundance of things to see and do such as live entertainment, shopping, sports teams, gaming, skating, exploring, art and history perusing. For more information, visit: discoverontariocalifornia.org 2000 E. Convention Center Way | Ontario, California 91764 909.937.3000 | 800.455.57.55 | info@ontariocvb.org


THE MAGAZINE FOR BANK, ALUMNI AND CHAMBER TRAVEL PLANNERS

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T R A V E L E R

VOL.24 NO.5

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016

WYOMING:

WILD & WELCOMING Courtesy Visit Cheyenne

contents

ON THE COVER: A cowboy and his horse pause in front of some of Wyoming’s colorful aspens.

18 22 cruise

celebrate INTERNATIONAL CULTURE

checking in: AMY KLUS

toolbox: known for: marketing: CRUISE MEMORIALS CHOICES

BOOSTING BUSINESS

career: TOURS FOR WOMEN

10 12 32 38 40 STACEY BOWMAN

ADVERTISING SALES DIRECTOR

MAC T. LACY CHARLES A. PRESLEY BRIAN JEWELL ELIZA MYERS HERBERT SPARROW DONIA SIMMONS DAVID BROWN CHRISTINE CLOUGH ASHLEY RICKS KELLY TYNER

4

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

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888.253.0455

STACE Y@ BANK TR AVELMANAGEMENT.COM

A GRECIAN

43 travel guide GRAND CENTRAL

Select Traveler, the Magazine for Bank, Alumni and Chamber Travel Planners, is published bimonthly by The Group Travel Leader, Inc., 301 East High Street, Lexington, Kentucky 40507 and is distributed free of charge to qualified travel program directors throughout the United States. All other travel suppliers, including tour operators, destinations, attractions, transportation companies, hotels, restaurants and other travel-related companies, may subscribe to Select Traveler by sending a check for $49 for one year to: Select Traveler, Circulation Department, 301 East High Street, Lexington, Kentucky 40507. Copyright The Group Travel Leader, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction of editorial or graphic content in any manner without the written consent of the publisher is prohibited. NAME OR ADDRESS CHANGES: If your copy of Select Traveler should be mailed to another manager in your organization, or if you personally know another travel director who is not receiving Select Traveler, please send your correction to: Select Traveler, 301 East High St., Lexington, Kentucky 40507, or call (859) 2530455.


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


P U B L I S H E R ’ S

perspective

B

aby boomers were born in 1946 through 1964. I was born in 1955. That puts me in the absolute center of the generation. So theoretically, I should be a prototypical baby boomer traveler. I thought it might be fun to put myself to the test. Here are four common assumptions about my generation and my best assessment of where I fit into those generalizations ó and more importantly, how this affects my travel preferences. Baby boomers value independence. I do, without question. I am not a follower. Iíve begrudgingly come to value the services of great local tour guides because they allow me to get a quick take on a destination so I can go back later and find the perfect place to have a meal or drink a beer. Baby boomers will never retire. This assumption comes from two origins: that most boomers will not be able to retire and that most boomers enjoy their careers. Iíve done OK and could probably retire in a few years, but itís not a priority. That means Iíll be taking shorter trips ó say a week to 10 days ó to accommodate my work schedule. Being gone on longer trips will never be a priority for me. Baby boomers are the rock-and-roll generation. This is indisputable. But unlike many boomers, I enjoy discovering new music and new bands. I donít do nostalgia acts. Iím the same way as a traveler ó Iím not as drawn to an iconic site as I am to the people who live around it. Itís the contemporary culture Iím after, not the temple selfie. Baby boomers are socially aware. I am. I personally believe that nothing expands a personís perspective more than travel. In a column about my grandmother many years ago, I wrote: ìThose who see the world, see the world differently.î I believe that. Americans live in the greatest country on earth; as such, we can afford to embrace and enjoy other cultures for what they are.

Email me anytime with your thoughts at maclacy@grouptravelleader.com.

Mac Lacy 6

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P L A N N E R S

T A L K

B A C K

do you find yourself booking flights or hotels very often?

TERI GORDON

LINDA MATTINGLY

CORPORATE TRAVEL SPECIALIST | TEACHERS CREDIT UNION TRAVEL CLUB

BOARD SECRETARY AND ASSISTANT VICE PRESIDENT | ALLIANCE BANK SULPHUR SPRINGS, TEXAS

SOUTH BEND, INDIANA ìUsing tour operators to book flights and hotels helps a lot. Some of the tour operators we use I met at the Select Traveler Conference. Tourism departments can also help.î

ìI book all my tours through Trips out of North Hollywood, California. I donít even try to get involved with the booking process. They are professionals, and they deal only with bank clubs.î

NANNETTE SCHNEIDER

JENNIFER BOHAC

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR | WAPAKONETA AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

DIRECTOR, TRAVEL PROGRAMS TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS

WAPAKONETA, OHIO ìWhen weíre figuring out what flights or hotels to book, we start by reaching out to our organization. Typically, chamber of commerce organizations like to take requests from travelers the prior year to gain insight regarding the most sought-after destinations.î

ìWe donít deal directly with booking air or hotels often. We work with tour providers or vendors that set up the packages for us. We work with fantastic tour providers who do a very good job, and we rely on them for the very best possible rates.î

DISCOVER WHATíS POSSIBLE Thereís plenty to discover in Houston. Hyatt Regency Houston/Galleria is located in the heart of Uptown Houston, steps away from The Galleria Shopping Center - Houston's #1 tourist attraction. This hotel features rooms that were designed with the traveler in mind. Built-in case goods are used throughout to give rooms a spacious, modern aesthetic feel. The theme is derived from the geological aspect of the oil & gas industry. Steel greys accented by earth tones and turquoise are found throughout. Book by June 30, 2016 and receive complimentary on-site bus parking and guest room for bus driver. Minimum of 10 rooms on peak.

HYATT REGENCY HOUSTON/GALLERIA 2626 SAGE ROAD HOUSTON, TX 77056 832 803 1234 HYATTREGENCYHOUSTONGALLERIA.COM

The trademark HYATT and related marks are trademarks of Hyatt Corporation. ©Hyatt Corporation. All rights reserved.

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checking in W I T H

A M Y

K L U S

AM Y KLUS

ASSISTANT DIRECTOR ALUMNI TRAVEL

NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY

Northwestern alumni pose together during a tour of Chile and Argentina.

EVANSTON, ILLINOIS Northwestern University’s alumni association has grown to include 200,000 members since its founding in 1851. Between 500 and 600 of those members travel with the association each year, with about 8,500 travelers who have signed up for one or more trips in the past 10 years. Born: Racine, Wisconsin Education: B.B.A. in marketing Employment: Right after college, Klus landed her first job at EF Education First, a company in the educational travel industry. She started with the Northwestern Alumni Association in 2011. Hobbies: In her spare time, Klus plays co-ed softball, practices yoga and attends a book club to support her love of reading.

BY ELIZA MYERS

W

hen taking calls from au pairs living in American homes, you never know what you’ll hear next. From dealing with language barriers to culture shock, Amy Klus kept busy sorting through issues from students around the world with differing backgrounds and expectations when she worked in the au pair division of EF Education First. “We answered a lot of interesting phone calls,” said Klus, assistant director, alumni travel, for Northwestern University. “There are a lot of cultural things to figure out when working with au pairs. I really learned a lot about customer service.” Those skills would serve her well when her dream job opened up at Northwestern University. Now, instead of explaining American customs to foreign youth,

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Klus facilitates travel for alumni members interested in the organization’s culturally immersive tours.

AN EPIPHANY IN SPAIN A study-abroad program in Spain led Klus to more than just a semester of fun. “I got the travel bug when I studied abroad in Spain,” said Klus. “I had such a good time there. It was my first real experience with another culture. I realized that the educational travel business was a big thing. So I knew when I got back home, I wanted to work in educational travel.” With this career goal in mind, Klus searched for a job and ended up taking the au pair relations job for EF Education First in Boston. Eventually moving back to the Midwest nearer where she grew up,

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she found a posting for a position that seemed created just for her. “I met a lot of people who worked for universities, and they seemed to really enjoy it,� said Klus. “Then I got lucky. There was a posting for an alumni travel coordinator. It seemed perfect for me. I had no idea that alumni travel was a thing before I saw the job posting online.� Now Klus helps plan 40 to 45 educational and entertainment trips for about 500 to 600 travelers a year. She enjoys indulging her love of travel when it is her turn to host one of the trips. “I have hosted several trips, including ones to Istanbul, Argentina and Florence,� said Klus. “It’s been a great experience. I’ve gotten to see a lot of places in the world that I didn’t even know I wanted to go to.�

However, after all of these customer service efforts, Klus says it’s the connections made during the trip that keep the alumni engaged. “People love to travel,� said Klus. “If they can travel with their university, all the better. You really bond with people when you’re with them for seven to 12 days in a row. It’s a great way to connect with your university. You’re more likely to come to other Northwestern events if you have a great experience on one of these trips.�

T R A V E L

A R O UN D T HE WO R LD A N D B A C K When deciding where Northwestern University alumni should venture next, Klus thinks globally. “We try to spread our trips across the world with a few in each continent,� said Klus. “A lot of our trips are in Europe because those are the most popular.� The program even ventures to Antarctica every couple of years. However, the alumni can also opt for tours closer to home. “With everything going on in the world, our domestic trips have picked up quite a bit,� said Klus. “Our trips to national parks, Alaska and the Canadian Rockies have sold very well. We’re seeing a lot more interest in staying in North America.� The alumni program uses tour operators for all its tours except for trips to Northwestern football games and a yearly Broadway-themed trip to New York City. “Northwestern has a very big theater program, so there are a lot of alumni involved in theater,� said Klus. “We plan the trip around shows that are either produced or starring Northwestern alumni.� Connecting the trip to other alumni has become a focus for the travel program because of the enthusiastic response from travelers. Anytime a tour visits a city with a large alumni population, Klus invites the resident alumni and students to an event with the travelers. “When we went to South America in February, we had a lot of alumni and actual students join us at the reception,� said Klus. “People really enjoyed it. We have four to five events a year to cities where we can invite the local alumni.�

tips

• Establish relationships with people who do the same job at other organizations. They are great resources for asking questions and benchmarking your program. • Plan events where your travelers can meet alumni living in the international destinations they’re visiting. • Send well-prepared hosts. Make sure they know their travelers, the tour itineraries and their responsibilities inside out.

KEEPING IN TOUCH Instead of referring traveler inquiries to her tour operator partners, Klus keeps the alumni travel program’s phone number on all of the association’s marketing materials. “We want them to call us instead of the tour operator,� said Klus. “They feel taken care of by us this way.� Not long before each trip, Klus asks each traveler for a personal biography that she can mail out to travelers as a sort of early introduction. The program also sends out numerous souvenirs branded with the college’s logo, such as stickers, luggage straps, umbrellas, posttrip photo albums and bookmarks with upcoming trips, to keep Northwestern top-of-mind for travelers.

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ASK ABOUT

9?< Ăť09<Ăź -97: :963-C

Islands in the Sun Cruises & Tours, Inc. bankclubs@crus-sun.com www.crus-sun.com

800-278-7786

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T R A V E L

T O O L B O X

which cruise do you choose?

C

BY B RIA N JE WE L L

ruising has never been more popular than it is now, and many travel groups include cruises as part of their annual offerings. But the popularity of cruising today means that there are many different cruise operators, destinations and ships from which to choose, which could make planning a group cruise somewhat intimidating. Choosing the right cruise for your group is an important decision that requires you to know your travelers well and make some insightful judgments about what they would enjoy on a trip and, crucially, how much they’re willing to pay for it. Keep these five key factors in mind when doing your research.

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TR AV E L S TYL E Perhaps the most important thing to know when choosing a cruise is how your group likes to travel. Are they looking for an exciting trip at a low price point, or are they willing to pay more for luxury? Are they experienced travelers eager to explore exotic destinations, or are they novices? Would they prefer a high-energy party atmosphere or a more refined approach to vacations? There are cruise lines and vessels tailored to each of those travel styles, and matching your travelers up with the best brand is key to ensuring their satisfaction.

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SHIP SIZE Cruising on a massive ocean liner is an entirely different experience than going on a small river vessel, and each offers its own set of benefits and drawbacks. Large ships are packed full of amenities and often feature multiple restaurants, Broadway-style shows, game rooms, casinos and more. They also carry thousands of passengers. Smaller vessels can carry only a few hundred passengers ó and river cruises carry only a few dozen ó but they tend to offer much less in the way of glitzy entertainment.

TR IP L E NGTH There are numerous differences between a three-night sailing and a two-week cruise. The length of a trip will affect everything from the price of a trip to the passen-

D E S T I NATI O N

ger demographics, the amount of days spent

Though the Caribbean may be the

at sea, and the number of ports and excur-

quintessential cruise destination, cruise

sions offered. Your travelers might prefer to

lines now take passengers to all seven con-

take trips of a certain length, but make sure

tinents, including Antarctica. River cruising

you arenít setting them up for disappointment

offers the opportunity to explore small towns

with brief trips that shortchange them on ac-

and inland destinations in the United States

tivities or long trips that leave them bored with

and throughout Europe. And cruises can of-

too many days on the ship.

fer some of the most comfortable ways to see exotic destinations such as Cuba, Egypt and Vietnam. Different companies tend to specialize in different destinations, so know-

GR O UP E X PE R TIS E

ing where your travelers want to go will help you determine with whom to go.

When it comes to handling the unique needs of travel groups, not all cruise lines are created equal. Some cruise lines are adept at handling group bookings, accommodations and experiences; others are much more focused on individual and family travel. If the group element of a cruise is important to you, consider doing business with cruise lines that have a reputation for handling groups well and that actively pursue group business. Working with a tour operator that specializes in cruises can also help ensure that your groupís trip goes smoothly.

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C O N F E R E N C E

connection ENJOY A

FEBRUARY FLING! SELECT TRAVELER CONFERENCE HEADS TO SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

T

Twickenham Antebellum District

BY DAN DICKSON

hink about Greater Ontario, California, located 35 miles southeast of Los Angeles. To be so centrally located in Southern California and an attractive springboard to everything else going on in the region probably makes other cities a little jealous; and for good reason. Ontario, population 170,000, and its smaller neighbor, Rancho Cucamonga, welcome visitors to stay awhile before heading out to the long list of activities from which visitors can choose. “We are 30 to 45 minutes from downtown L.A. We are a hub around which there are a lot of major things to do,” said Michael Krouse, president and CEO of the Greater Ontario Convention and Visitors Bureau. The CVB represents both Ontario and Rancho Cucamonga, and it promotes the area as a team. “The two cities have approximately the same population. Ontario has an arena, convention center, international airport and Ontario Mills, a world-class shopping center,” said Krouse. People may travel to and stay in Greater Ontario, known as the Inland Empire but then take trips to L.A., San Diego, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Disneyland, wineries, casinos, the desert, beaches, snowy mountains, golf courses and some of the

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best shopping west of the Mississippi. Ontario is located at the intersection of three major California freeways, making access to other state attractions as easy as can be. And the lucky attendees at the next Select Traveler Conference, to be held February 5-7, 2017, will all meet in Ontario. By next February, many Select Traveler delegates will be sick of winter back home. Greater Ontario will be just the tonic, with sunny, dry, comfortable days and nights aplenty. High temperatures in February are typically in the 60s. This area is nestled along the beautiful San Bernardino Mountains. “We are doing something completely different. It’s the first time we have been out in California, that far west,” said Joe Cappuzzello, president and CEO of the Group Travel Family, which stages the Select Traveler Conference. “It will be a great venue, an almost brand-new convention center and beautiful weather.” The gathering will be held in the beautiful, sunlight-infused Ontario Convention Center. The official conference hotel, the Doubletree by Hilton, a resort-style upscale hotel, is steps away. Both are located a mere six-minute drive from the LA/Ontario International Airport, one of the best smaller, alternative airports

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Photos courtesy Greater Ontario CVB

Left to right: The Sam and Alfreda Maloof historic home; Ontario zip-line course; Ontario Convention Center

in the region. Krouse said the 18-year-old convention center boasts 225,000 square feet of flexible and divisible meeting, exhibit and function space. Holding a meeting there is more like a “high-end hotel experience” than a traditional convention center gathering. “The food and beverage services are more like what you would find in a fine restaurant than at most convention centers,” Krouse said. The convention center district is surrounded by 3,000 hotel rooms, said Krouse. “We have about 6,000 rooms all together in Ontario and Cucamonga.”

SO MUCH TO DO The cities of Ontario and Cucamonga and their CVB staff want to make sure visitors get the full-fledged Southern California experience about which they’ve heard so much. Some cities don’t dare encourage you to come to their area then leave. But the two cities actively promote the idea that they are a perfect “home base” so visitors can see and do much more throughout the wider region.

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Disneyland, Universal Studios and Knott’s Berry Farm are all major names and popular draws. The theme parks are within an easy drive to the west of Greater Ontario. Visitors can also enjoy a local amusement center located right in Ontario. Scandia Ontario is a family fun center with a roller coaster, other rides, elaborate miniature golfing, arcade games, bumper boats, go-karts, batting cages, concession stands and room for groups to gather. For those with a need for speed, as in NASCAR racing, Auto Club Speedway in nearby Fontana will help them get their fix. The grandstand seats 68,000, and there are 28 skyboxes and a huge fan zone in the infield for campers and other race-day revelers. There are also a lot of activities going on at the track aside from the busy race days. Group tours can be arranged. There is always something going on at Citizens Business Bank Arena, which seats 9,500 people for professional hockey, arena soccer, basketball, concerts, special events, shows, community activities and business conferences. The arena can be expanded by another 2,000 seats to accommodate certain events.

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C O N F E R E N C E

connection Route 66 Cruisin Reunion car show

SHOP ’TIL YOU… Aside from the long list of attractions to visit in this part of Southern California, some visitors can think of only one thing: the shopping. Ontario Mills is one of the region’s busiest tourist attractions. It’s billed as the largest one-level indoor shopping center in western North America, boasting about 200 stores with a remarkable 20 large anchor stores around it. It is marketed as an outlet mall and has some of the biggest brand names in the retail industry. And 10 more stores are set to come online in the next few months. “It is a mile in circumference and is shaped somewhat like a racetrack,” said Krouse. Ontario Mills comprises 10 “neighborhoods” with their own distinct shopping themes; there are numerous entertainment options, like movie theaters, and plenty of restaurants nearby. For an open-air shopping experience that is a bit different, visitors like the change of pace that is Victorian Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga. Foot traffic is the key to this mixeduse district. “This is a cool shopping area,” said Krouse. “It feels more like a quaint little downtown.” Besides the retail offerings, there are also public plazas for lounging, residential areas, offices, a movie theater and a community cultural arts center. It’s a wonderful district in which to walk, browse or shop.

Metallica concert in Ontario

EVEN MORE TO DO Other fun experiences include horseback riding in Norco horse country, a visit to the lush vineyards and wineries in the Temecula Valley, and a hot-air-balloon ride in the clear blue skies. Hikers love Prado Regional Park and the Santa Ana River Trail. Many outdoors people comment on the striking beauty of the desert in the Palm Springs and Coachella Valley areas. It may be warm and dry in the desert, but Ontario can be a launching pad for trips to the mountains for wintertime activities in resort areas like Lake Arrowhead, Snow Valley, Big Bear Lake, Lake Gregory and Silverwood Lake. Heading closer to L.A., visitors can enjoy Orange County’s famed Pacific beaches. Many groups enjoy a tour of the fascinating Graber Olive House. This is a traditional, historic olive-processing factory. Visitors see the manufacturing plant and the old machines that are used to get the olives from the field to the canning assembly line. There is also a country-style gift shop where you can buy some of the delicious varieties of olives to take back home with you. The area has a minor league baseball team, the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. An affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team plays 70 home games April to September in beautiful LoanMart Field, with spectacular views of the mountains over the outfield fence. There is a large area for groups to gather for a meal before or during the game. The famed Mission Inn is worth a visit, for either an overnight stay or just a leisurely meal in a historic setting. There are also several historic Fox Theaters in the region to visit with

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“WE ARE 30 TO 45 MINUTES FROM DOWNTOWN

L.A.

WE

ARE

A

HUB

AROUND WHICH THERE ARE A LOT OF MAJOR THINGS TO DO”

modern shows scheduled year-round. One of the legendary highways of America, Route 66, runs through this part of California, and naturally, there is a fascinating Route 66 museum to visit. The list goes on and on. Several other outstanding attractions include Griffith Park Observatory, where you can go stargazing; the famed RMS Queen Mary ocean liner and the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach; and the iconic Santa Monica Pier. All are within an hour’s drive of Greater Ontario. History enthusiasts will enjoy visiting the presidential libraries of Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. If Select Traveler Conference delegates want to come a little early or stay after the meeting wraps up, the CVB staff will be glad to help arrange itineraries, set up excursions and assist visitors in getting special group discounts.

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T H A N K S TO THESE

SPONSORS GREATER ONTARIO, CALIFORNIA CVB Conference Registration COLLETTE Official Luncheon GLOBUS FAMILY OF BRANDS Closing Luncheon EAST COAST TOURING Breakfast – Day One TRIPS Breakfast – Day Two MSC CRUISES (USA) INC Icebreaker Reception FATHOM CRUISES Banker Breakouts FRENCH LICK RESORT Conference Padfolios ANDERSON VACATIONS Delegate Orientation MAYFLOWER TOURS Seminar LITTLE ROCK CVB Sponsor Booth CHEROKEE NATION CULTURAL TOURISM Hotel Key Cards GO AHEAD TOURS Seminar EUREKA SPRINGS CITY ADVERTISING & PROMOTION COMMISSION Destination Showcase JOHN HALL’S ALASKA Alaska Presentation A & S SIGHTSEEING JOURNEYS Marketplace Logo Drape DOUBLETREE BY HILTON ONTARIO AIRPORT Sponsor Booth

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PARTY in another

language

a ddra raws w about ws Rio Ca Rio Carni Carnival ival draws aabbout bout two two million mililillililion m o on people peeoppllee ffor or a colorful col olor o fu full street st et party. ppar arty tty. By Raphael David, courtesy Riotur


ARTS & CULTURE ISSUE

these international festivals draw American groups BY RACHEL CARTER

F

estivals are celebrations of a place: its crazy cultural quirks, extraordinary geographical marvels and astonishing historical events. Or, sometimes, they’re just an excuse to get into a giant food fight. These international festivals celebrate their cities’ and countries’ art, culture, traditions and industries.

LA TOMATINA BU ÑOL, SPAIN

Spain has no shortage of insane festivals, but rather than the running of the bulls through the streets of Pamplona, the streets of Buñol run red with the guts of 150 tons of tomatoes during La Tomatina. The hour-long festival is always the last Wednesday of August and is considered the world’s largest food fight, with 20,000 people hurling tomatoes at each other. There’s some ambiguity about how it all began, but the festival website says it started in 1945 when the antics of a few local youths caused an uproar during a parade. The fracas spread to the crowd, which started lobbing tomatoes and other produce from an upended vegetable stall. The next year, the local kids brought tomatoes from home and picked a “fight” among themselves in the square. Although the festival has been canceled and resurrected several times over the decades, Spain’s tourism department declared it a “Fiesta of International Tourist Interest” in 2002. After 10 years of increasing popularity, organizers started selling official entry tickets in 2013 to cap attendance at 20,000. Because Buñol is fairly small — it has only 10,000 residents — most festivalgoers stay in nearby Valencia, about 25 miles east of Buñol on the Balearic Sea coast. Participants need to follow a few rules: Tomatoes must be squashed before being thrown to avoid injuring anyone, and no other type of projectile is acceptable. When all is said and done, fire engines hose down the streets and buildings. LATOMATINA.INFO/EN/

BLOEMENCORSO BOLLENSTREEK

(FLOWER PARADE OF THE BOLLENSTREEK) NOOR DWIJK TO HAARLEM, NETHERLANDS

At one point in the mid-1600s, tulips were in such demand in the Netherlands that the bulbs were used as currency. Today, the country

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is still known for flowers in general and tulips in particular. Every year, several flower parades and celebrations take place around the country, but Bloemencorso Bollenstreek is the largest and most impressive. Bollenstreek is the well-known bulb-growing region in Holland. The two-day parade will start Saturday, April 22, 2017, in the town of Noordwijk in South Holland and wind along its 26-mile route, wrapping up in Haarlam in North Holland the following day. But the celebration will begin a few days earlier. Hundreds of volunteers will spend days hand-placing thousands of tulips, daffodils and hyacinths on about 20 floats and 40 specialty cars. Festivities will kick off with the ceremonial “first piercing” on April 19, then visitors will be able to watch volunteers decorate the parade floats in the Deleeuw Flowerbulbs hall in Sassenheim through Friday, April 21. Guests can watch at their own pace, or guided tours are available, but groups should make reservations either way. The illuminated Flower Parade will travel through Noordwijkerhout on Friday night, and the parade departs from Noordwijk on Saturday morning. For the first time, covered grandstand seating on the parade route in Sassenheim will be available and will include restrooms, concessions and an announcer. The parade will once again pass Keukenhof, an 80-acre garden with more than 7 million tulip, daffodil and hyacinth flowers that will be open March 23 to May 21, 2017. WWW.BLOEMENCORSO-BOLLENSTREEK.NL/NL/

RIO CARNIVAL

RIO DE JA NEIRO , BRAZIL

The world’s eyes were on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the 2016 Olympics, which drew an estimated 500,000 visitors to the “Cidade Maravilhosa.” But every year during Rio Carnival, roughly 2 million people party on the city’s streets. Carnival is a countrywide celebration with festivals held in the days before Lent. Although other cities vie for the title, Rio’s Carnival is the biggest and most visited in the world, showcasing crazy costumes and flashing flesh during both the official samba parades and the informal street parties. During the five-day fete, February 24-28, 2017, the city will become one big party. The nightly samba parades will feature different samba schools, each with about 4,000 participants wearing elaborate costumes and singing their school’s “samba songs” as they march through the Sambadrome, a linear stadium with grandstands lining the parading avenue. Visitors who want the full Carnival experience can join a samba

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Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival

school in the parade — schools are more like associations or clubs — but travelers can “carnival” in many other ways. Leading up to and during Carnival, neighborhoods hold street parties with street bands leading parades. Travelers can also attend Carnival balls. Two of the most popular venues include Rio Scala Balls at the Scala Nightclub in downtown and, arguably the most famous, the Magic Ball at the Copacabana Palace. Although costumes aren’t mandatory, many people choose to wear them. WWW.RCVB.COM.BR

HARBIN INTERNATIONAL ICE AND SNOW SCULPTURE FESTIVAL HA RBIN , CHINA

Courtesy Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival

Plant sculpture Plan Pl a t sc ullpt ptur uree in i ara rade d Netherla Neth landds pa de Netherlands parade

Courtesy Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions

Ice tower in Harbin, China

Courtesy Harbin Intl. Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival

During the day, the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival is all blinding white and sparkling ice. At night, colored lights come on and transform the snow sculptures and icy buildings into a Technicolor dreamscape. Centuries ago, fishermen on the Songhua River carved out chunks of ice and placed candles inside to light their way. Today, Harbin is known as the City of Ice, and the festival celebrates that heritage every January and February with icy architecture, snowy cities and thousands of sculptures, all built by 15,000 people using 4 million cubic feet of ice. The festival features a few major exhibition areas. At the Sun Island International Snow Sculpture Art Expo, groups can explore monolithic snow sculptures, go tubing and take a dogsled ride, or visit the neighboring Siberian Tiger Park. Ice and Snow World is an ice city with full-size, ice-block buildings, and at night, colored floodlights make the winter wonderland glow. Visitors will also find an ice maze, an ice bar and an ice hotel, and can try ice climbing, ice golf and ice archery. Zhaolin Park is the site of the annual Harbin Ice Lantern Garden Party, which showcases about 1,500 traditional ice lanterns and ice sculptures. Those who want to enjoy extra special events can take in a giant fireworks display on opening night and smash sculptures with ice picks when the festival is shutting down. WWW.CNTO.ORG/DESTINATION/HARBIN/

digital sponsor Thank you to Globus Family of Brands for sponsoring the September/October 2016 Digital Edition of Select Traveler.

W W W. G L O B U S F A M I LY G R O U P S . C O M 866-821-2752

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MONTREAL INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL

World’s largest jazz festival in Montreal

MONTREAL

New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz. Kansas City added some swing, and Chicago brought its own style to the genre. But Montreal is home to the Montreal International Jazz Festival, the largest jazz festival in the world. The 38th annual festival will be June 28 to July 8, 2017. More than 12,000 people showed up to the first festival in 1980 to hear the likes of Ray Charles, Chick Corea and Gary Burton. Since then, the festival’s numbers have landed it in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest jazz festival: Three thousand musicians from 30 countries will perform 800 concerts for 2 million festivalgoers. Along with many free outdoor concerts, the festival also features miniparades and other entertainment. Guided walking tours through downtown tell the story of jazz and highlight its connection to the city dating back to the 1920s. A guide uses historic photos and old music recordings while discussing important sites, such as former jazz clubs, before ending at the festival’s year-round center, La Maison du Festival, which features a museum, a music venue, a lounge, a bistro and a gift shop. Visitors can also board the Bateau-Mouche for a three-hour jazz dinner cruise on the St. Lawrence River that features a live jazz performance by Paul Ramos. Small groups can arrange to take basic French classes that also include an aperitif — a small pre-meal cocktail — and dinner.

By Francesco Yates, courtesy Montreal International Jazz Festival

Elaborate costume from Rio Carnival

La Tomatina festival food fight

WWW.MONTREALJAZZFEST.COM By Fernando Maia, courtesy Riotur Courtesy City Hall of Bunol

Flower Parade of the Bollenstreek

We’re not just any small town. We’re the most beautiful small town in America, according to Rand McNally and USA Today. Journey to the Bourbon Capital of the World®, where bourbon flows from everywhere but the kitchen faucet. Tour one of seven distilleries, learn about bourbon history, and dine on world-class, bourbon-inspired cuisine.

www.visitbardstown.com 800.638.4877

Courtesy Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions

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CR

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AN AEGEAN

Odyssey AUTHENTICITY TRUMPS LUXURY ON A CELESTYAL CRUISE OF GREECE AND TURKEY

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BY BOB HOELSCHER

uring the summer of 2015, I participated in a wellplanned but whirlwind media cruise/tour of Greece and Turkey hosted by Cyprus-based Celestyal Cruises, previously known as Louis Cruises when the line featured a sometimes bewildering variety of rather tired older vessels nearing the ends of their careers. Today it’s a different story, as the line now operates just a few still older but immaculately maintained ships that suit their intended purposes admirably. Happily, providing the spirit, culture and physical beauty of Greece itself, as I’d discovered on a Louis sailing quite a few years ago, still seems to inhabit Celestyal’s itineraries today.

AN ISLAND AGENDA Not only did we cruise aboard both Celestyal Odyssey and Celestyal Crystal and explore the Athens area, including the Parthenon, the spectacular New Acropolis Museum and the Temple of Poseidon, but our itinerary featured nine fascinating and memorable ports: Mykonos, Greece; Kusadasi, Turkey; Patmos, Greece; Heraklion, Crete; Santorini, Greece; Cesme, Turkey; and three lesser-known but incredibly beautiful and uncrowded islands that I particularly enjoyed, Syros, Kos

The Greek Isles feature numerous gorgeous coastal panoramas and churches.

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Celestyal Olympia

and Ios, Greece. We even docked at both ports that serve the Athens area: busy Pireaus, a virtual beehive of activity that always seems to be packed with ferries and cruise ships, and serene and much less crowded Lavrion, which was convenient for our visit to ruins of the ancient Temple of Poseidon nearby. Celestyal Cruises’ ships are not of the most recent vintage — balconies are available only to suite occupants — but they are obviously clean with very comfortable staterooms. We also encountered the line’s Celestyal Olympia continually but were not able to get aboard the vessel. All relatively small vessels by current standards, Celestyal Cruises’ ships are easy to get around without your becoming disoriented. Food is good and plentiful, but not gourmet, although extracost steak and lobster entrees were excellent. Service was generally fine, the poolside barbecue dinner on Celestyal Crystal was very tasty, and both ships offered nice buffet breakfasts. My media colleagues all seemed to enjoy the Greek entertainment a lot, and the traditional Greek attitude and joyful love of life were evident aboard both vessels and must be top selling points, in addition to

Temple of Poseiden

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Ola Village on Santorini

Vineyard grapes

the affordable pricing. For 2017, the line is offering a 20 percent earlybooking discount, as well as new “all inclusive” packages, the prices of which include shore excursions and onboard drink packages. During the past year, Celestyal made several fleet adjustments. When the charter of Celestyal Odyssey concluded, the vessel was replaced with Crystal Nefili, which originally entered service in 1992 as Crown Jewel. The 19,093-ton, eight-deck ship, which underwent a major refurbishment before embarking on her career with Celestyal, accommodates 800 guests based on two to a cabin with a maximum of 1,074, plus 350 crew. Also, Celestyal Crystal has now been homeported year-round in Havana for weekly voyages offering four ports in Cuba, plus Montego Bay, Jamaica. Consequently, Celestyal Nefili and Celestyal Olympia are now handling all of the line’s three-, four- and seven-night Greece and Turkey sailings. For the record, the 37,773-ton, 12-deck Olympia, which began sailing for Royal Caribbean as Song of America in 1982, accommodates 1,448 guests two to a cabin with a maximum of 1,664, plus 540 crew.

Temple of Poseiden in Sounion, Greece

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Monastery of St. John on the Island of Patmos All photos by Bob Hoelscher

GREEK ICONS Incredibly picturesque and popular Mykonos was our first port, and due at least in part to ideal weather, we found it absolutely packed with tourists of every description and nationality. The town center is world famous for its iconic, brilliantly whitewashed businesses, residences and chapels complete with colored domes and decorations, plus traditional Greek windmills, scores of shops, boutiques and waterfront tavernas. Even though I had been to Mykonos several times previously, the scene was so mesmerizing and kept me so busy with my camera that I managed to miss our planned shoreside dinner. Kusadasi, Turkey, is the port for the ancient Kingdom of Ephesus, the extensive ruins of which give testimony to the splendor of the realm during the Hellenistic and Roman times. On foot we explored remains of the Odeon, the Temple of Adrian, the Celsius Library, Agora, the Ancient Theatre, the excavation of terrace houses and other sites. Everything here is not historic and authentic, however, as the bazaar just outside the ruins complex included a booth offering “Genuine Fake Watches” for $10. Nearby also, we visited the Christian shrine

Santorini church

Mediterranean meal in Kos

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Sole Mara Beach Club in Cesme, Turkey

containing a house traditionally identified as having been occupied by the Virgin Mary. Patmos is the island closely identified with St. John and where he reportedly wrote the New Testament Book of Revelation. Included in our tour were visits to the Grotto of the Apocalypse, where he lived, as well as the old Monastery of St. John, filled with priceless icons and manuscripts and overlooking the Aegean in the village of Chora. Heraklion the largest city on Crete, is also the gateway to the extraordinary Palace of Knossos, center of the ancient Minoan civilization. Here, amid elaborate and partially reconstructed ruins, we viewed the Throne Room and the “Prince of the Lilies” fresco, and learned the legend of the Minotaur. Before we returned to the ship, we had a walking tour of modern downtown Heraklion, which was also included. Santorini is an incredibly beautiful island, the buildings of which are magnificently situated along the rim of a huge caldera, the remains of a massive ancient volcano, the sudden and cataclysmic eruption of which some believe sent the legendary “lost” continent of Atlantis to the bottom of the sea. Today, however, whitewashed homes, shops, restaurants and hotels cling to the steep hillsides. We explored the exceptionally beautiful Ola Village, a shopping, dining and lodging community suspended high above the water and, unfortunately, woefully overcrowded with visitors on a delightful Sunday afternoon.

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Home of the Virgin Mary in Kusadasi, Turkey

A SECOND HELPING Following Monday’s arrival of Celestyal Odyssey at Lavrion and our visit to the Temple of Poseidon, we boarded Celestyal Crystal for the second part of our program. The Greek island of Syros was today’s destination, where we began with a guided tour of historic and highly photogenic Ermoupoli, capital city of the Cyclades Islands and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here we visited the landmark Anastasi Church and enjoyed panoramic views of nearby islands before transferring to the charming resort village of Kini for a seaside dinner. Cesme, Turkey, is a resort community of contrasts, boasting an upscale harbor area filled with luxury yachts from myriad countries, even the United States, plus an extended, visitor-oriented shopping arcade adjacent. Just a few blocks away, however, a bustling market and colorful commercial area was filled with scurrying locals of considerably lesser means. Although an excursion was offered to Izmir, Turkey, we headed instead to the exclusive Sole Mare Beach Club on Aya Yorgi Bay for sunning, swimming and lunch. Kos is the Greek island of Hippocrates, the father of medicine, as well as Asklepion, one of the first healing centers of the ancient world. Here we visited vineyards and a local winery at the foot of Mount Dikeos, a family of beekeepers and producer of Greek honey, and then enjoyed exploring the splendid mountain village of Zia and its unique, small “cathedral.”

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Pool deck of Celestyal Olympia

Ios is truly a lovely, uncrowded and wonderfully serene island. Our tour here included the site of Skarkos, a prehistoric settlement that dates from the early Cycladic period, free time for relaxation and swimming at magnificent Manganari Beach, plus splendid panoramic views made possible by climbing the village hill overlooking the picturesque community of Chora, the Port of Ios and Ormos Harbor. Celestyal Cruises does not compete with “big name” cruise lines like Holland America, Princess, Norwegian or Celebrity, to say nothing of vessels on the luxury end of the scale. Instead, it provides an authentic Greek cultural experience combined with a choice of very port-intensive itineraries, sometimes two in one day combined with no days “at sea,” during which guests are likely to spend little time aboard ship other than to sleep, eat and, possibly, take in an evening show. Consequently, the line’s shipboard facilities and amenities cannot compare with those found aboard the latest megaliners, nor are they needed. If you want to do the Greek islands efficiently, affordably and in depth, this is the way to go, and also why shorter Celestyal sailings are incorporated within numerous Greece vacation programs that are sold by top tour operators.

877-337-4665 AMERICAS.CELESTYALCRUISES.COM

Photo credit: Bruno Vega

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

THIS LLAMA IS VALUED AT $168 MILLION.

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

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


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why wyoming? BY ASHLEY RICKS COWBOYS, MOUNTAINS AND NATIONAL PARKS – THAT’S WHY!

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yoming is one of the largest states in the union but also one of the least densely populated, making it a wonderful outdoor destination for groups. The topography is a combination of foothills and rambling prairies coming together to form a varied and gorgeous backdrop for all sorts of outdoor activities. Cities across the state provide urban amenities and a wealth of different activities while still having easy access to the outdoors. We’ve put together a selection of outdoor activities for different skill levels and a list of parks where groups can embrace their adventurous spirits within a short drive of each metro area. With the Rocky Mountains to the west; the world’s first National Park, Yellowstone; and the United States’ first National Monument, Devil’s Tower, your group is guaranteed to find something to love in “wonderful Wyoming.”

Vedauwoo Recreation Area in the Medicine Bow National Forest is a popular spot for hiking, backpacking and climbing.

Galveston’s beachfront

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CASPER

C ODY

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W YO M I N G CHE YENN E

In addition to being a destination in its own right, Cheyenne is a gateway destination for groups visiting Wyoming. The capital is situated between popular Wyoming parks and also features a variety of outdoor activities. Vedauwoo Recreation Area (pronounced Vee-Duh-Voo) is part of the Medicine Bow National Forest and a popular outdoor recreation spot less than 30 miles west of Cheyenne off Interstate 80. The area is known for its breathtaking rock formations that create natural sculptures. The granite formations include large crystals of quartz, pink feldspar and mica, making them shimmer under the open sky; many of the smaller formations look as if they’re balancing precariously on only a few inches of space. Vedauwoo is a great spot for groups to get out and walk around, with maintained hiking trails varying from well-worn flat walks to higher-level hiking and climbing. Elevations range from 5,500 feet to almost 13,000 feet, creating spectacular vistas over the prairies for the sightseers and photographers of the group. Granite Grip Climbing provides guided hiking, backpacking, bouldering and climbing tailored to the skill levels of your group; the company also teaches climbing basics. NEARBY PARKS: Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests, Ames Monument Historic Site, Curt Gowdy State Park, Historic Governorsí Mansion, Wyoming Territorial Prison

Next year will bring a special opportunity for visitors to Casper. On August 21, there will be a total eclipse of the sun that will travel across the nation from the Pacific Coast to the Atlantic. Casper is regarded as one of the best destinations from which to view the eclipse, because of the high percentage of clear and favorable conditions and its location along the center of the line of totality. For groups unable to make it to Casper for the eclipse, there are still plenty of outdoor offerings. Casper Mountain is home to the Lee McCune Braille Trail, a trail specifically designed for the visually impaired. The trail is relatively flat and features a guide rope, making it a good option for those not interested in more challenging trails. Other popular activities on the mountain include snowshoeing and skiing in the winter months, and fishing and hiking during the warmer seasons. Also nearby is the Cirque of the Towers, a popular hiking and climbing area. NEARBY PARKS: Edness K. Wilkins State Park, Independence Rock Historic Site

GILLETTE

Gillette is a popular base location for those who want to visit Devil’s Tower National Monument, being ideally situated on the route between Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Yellowstone National Park. While in the area, groups can visit the Durham Buffalo Ranch, one of the largest and longest-operating buffalo ranches in the world. The ranch is home to about 3,000 head of buffalo, which groups will be able to see on a guided tour. The tour will also provide insights into the holistic and sustainable process by which Durham cares for its

Courtesy Visit Cheyenne

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herd and its rangelands. In addition to the group tours, the ranch offers the added experience of a buffalo dinner following the tour, as well as guided buffalo or pronghorn hunts. Groups looking for other cowboy-state experiences will enjoy Gillette’s Cam-Plex. Gillette has hosted the finals of the National High School Rodeo Association Championships since 2001, bringing in young rodeo competitors from across the United States, Canada and Brazil. Other rodeos and outdoor activities are held throughout the year at the facilities.

There are many biking and hiking trails in the Medicine Bow – Routt National Forest

yellowstone Courtesy Visit Cheyenne

NEARBY PARKS: Devilís Tower National Monument, Thunder Basin National Grassland, Keyhole State Park

CODY

Cody takes its name from the town founder, Buffalo Bill Cody. Groups looking for outdoor adventure in the area can take their inspiration from the Western show star. Nearby is the McCullough Peaks Wild Horse Herd Management Area, a wild-mustang sanctuary where the herd is believed to have descended from the horses in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Groups interested in seeing the mustangs can take a guided tour, offered daily throughout the summer season. Another popular option for groups is a scenic float trip on the Shoshone River Canyon. Groups can kayak, paddleboard or raft down the river at different skill levels depending on which route they take. For the not-so-adventurous, there are also quieter options that allow groups to simply sit back and enjoy the scenery while guides do the work of paddling. Along the shores, rafters may see a variety of wildlife, and those traveling near the mouth of the canyon and the Buffalo Bill Reservoir will encounter an

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Groups love seeing the buffalo herd on guided tours around the Durham Bison Ranch in Gillette. Courtesy Campbell County CVB

Draper Natural History Museum shares the history of the area and how its unique geography was formed.

Courtesy Park County Travel Council

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ellowstone is a bucket-list destination for many, with well-known natural attractions such as Old Faithful, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and the Norris Geyser Basin. Groups can try a variety of guided tours, from snow coach, stagecoach or custom bus tours to fishing, hiking or biking trips for a closer look at the parkís stunning topography. Travelers visiting Yellowstone will be treated to about 3,500 square miles of mountain ranges and canyons, lush forest and volcanic features, as Pris Sppring Grand Gr d Pr Prismatic ismaatit c Spring ing pop p op a y ye atchin s a ular ul l ar eye e -cat -c ingg is popular eye-catching well as the worldís destination atio ion for visitors sito tors to e stin i n r visi vi to de st at fo s largest collection of owst o e Nati o al Park ark ston Yellowstone National Yeellllow N ation PPar ak geysers, which make up 60 percent of all of the worldís geysers and hot springs. Groups that want to take part in a less crowded experience will love a Yellowstone ScenicCruise on YelBy Jim Peaco, courtesy NPS lowstone Lake. While on board, travelers can see the wreckage of the SS E.C. Waters and view the wildlife along the lake and on Stevenson Island. Groups will often pair a cruise with a lunch at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Another impressive experience is one of the twilight tours. The Twilight on the Firehole tour will give guests the memorable experience of watching the brilliant colors as day turns to night and the stars begin to peek out over one of the parks thermal areas. The Evening Wildlife Encounters are another great option that will take groups to see the animals when they are the most active. The Lamar Valley is widely regarded as the best wildlifeviewing area in the park and is one of the areas available to groups on various tours.

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extinct geyser basin. Groups often split up, with some travelers enjoying a relaxing float trip and others venturing out to see the wild horses, then trade off.

After a day of outdoor activities, a leisurely exploration of Casper’s historic downtown and galleries is a nice change of pace. Courtesy Co Casper Area CVB

Casper Mountain features many hiking trails including the Lee McCune Braille Trail. Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Courtesy Casper Area CVB

Black bears, elk, bison and many other wild animals can be spotted in the parks surrounding Jackson.

C Courtesy ourtesy our tesy JJac Jackson ackson kso Hole Hole Chambe Ch Chamber amberr of Com Commerce ommerc mercee

National Museum of Wildlife Art overlooks the National Elk Refuge, making it a great spot for wildlife watching.

Courtesy Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce

NEARBY PARKS: Bighorn National Forest, Shoshone National Forest, Yellowstone National Park, Buffalo Bill State Park

JACKSON

Jackson is widely know for its winter sports and arts scene, but the city is also a great yearround outdoor destination perfectly situated to explore the two closest national parks: Grand Teton and Yellowstone. Groups can take any of the many guided tours of the valley or the nearby parks. Tours vary in length from a few hours to multiple days, with options like wildlife watching, hiking, photography and viewing the region’s dramatic scenery. The National Elk Refuge is located on the edge of town. The refuge is a great destination for wildlife viewing, since it is the winter home of the largest elk herd in the world. On average, there are 7,500 elk migrating from as far away as the southern portion of Yellowstone National Park to the area each year in one of the world’s longest animal migrations. The refuge is also home to bald eagles, trumpeter swans, bison, pronghorns and bighorn sheep. For others who want to embrace the area’s well-known wintertime offerings, snowmobiling and skiing are popular activities, as well as a stay at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort or the Snow King Resort. NEARBY PARKS: Grand Teton National Park, John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway, Shoshone National Forest, Yellowstone National Park


known

F O R

MEMORIALS

O K L A H O M A C I T Y N AT I O N A L MUSEUM AND MEMORIAL

OKLAHOMA CITY

N AT I O N A L M A L L

WASHINGTON, D.C. Courtesy Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum

Courtesy Bike and Roll DC

VISITORS WAIT FOR THE DOORS TO OPEN, then step inside a re-created boardroom and sit on a bench against the wall. On a conference table in front of them is a tape recorder. Over the speakers come the mundane sounds of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board convening at 9 a.m., April 19, 1995. Two minutes into the recording, visitors hear the unbelievable roar of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. It’s a moment that causes both chills and tears because it’s a moment that changed the nation. The Oklahoma City National Museum and Memorial added the hearing room as part of a $10 million makeover, completed in 2015, that reimagined its exhibits to be more interactive and hands-on and, ultimately, more meaningful. Galleries show the aftermath, the initial confusion and chaos, the incredible rescue and recovery efforts, and survivors’ stories. “It allowed us to add depth that we had never had before, sharing thousands of people’s stories and artifacts,” Watkins said. People can explore at their own pace, or groups can arrange for guided tours; but no matter how long they stay, “at the end, they’re all getting the same story from different storytellers.” The museum also offers three free group-only experiences. Museum staff will arrange to have a rescue worker, a survivor or a family member speak to the group, provide a behind-the-scenes tour of the archives or schedule a hands-on lesson in its learning lab. Outside, groups can explore a symbolic memorial park.

EVERY YEAR, NEARLY 25 MILLION PEOPLE VISIT the National Mall in Washington, D.C., arguably the heart of the city, with the U.S. Capitol on one end, the Lincoln Memorial at the other and the Washington Monument towering in between. Several other memorials and monuments ring the mall’s two-mile expanse, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. As people explore D.C., “of course they go to those best-known memorials,” said Kate Gibbs, domestic media relations manager for Destination DC. However, visitors may be “delighted” to discover some of the city’s lesser-known but equally impressive memorials, she said, such as the Vietnam Women’s Memorial dedicated to the U.S. women, mostly nurses, who served in the war, as well as the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which was dedicated in October 2014 and is the first to honor disabled veterans. Most visitors know they can ride the elevator to the observation deck of the 555-foot-tall Washington Monument, but groups can experience memorials in several unusual ways. Bike and Roll DC offers various monument tours by bicycle — both day and night versions — as well as private group tours. Bike and Roll, and City Segway Tours take groups on Segway sightseeing trips of the National Mall, and DC by Foot offers name-your-own-price walking tours of the Mall and its memorials and monuments.

WWW.OKLAHOMACITYNATIONALMEMORIAL.ORG

WWW.DESTINATIONDC.COM

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BY RACHEL CARTER

N AT I O N A L S E P T E M B E R 1 1 MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM

NEW YORK CITY

USS ARIZONA MEMORIAL

HONOLULU Courtesy National September 11 Memorial and Museum

THE NATIONAL SEPTEMBER 11 MEMORIAL, or 9/11 Memorial, opened September 11, 2011 — the 10th anniversary of the attacks — to the victims’ families and the following day to the public. The memorial features two sunken reflecting pools on the footprints of the fallen World Trade Towers, and waterfalls on each side pour into the square pools below. The names of the 2,983 people who died in the September 11, 2001, and the February 26, 1993, World Trade Center attacks are listed on the memorial and often bear lovingly placed flowers or carefully written notes. The National September 11 Memorial Museum opened in May 2014, and it has attracted 6.3 million visitors in the past two years. The complex covers eight acres of the World Trade Center’s original 16-acre site. The museum documents and preserves the events and aftermath of 9/11, telling the story of that day’s horrific events through 110,000 square feet of exhibition space. One of the most touching moments occurs on the bedrock level of the museum where remnants of the center’s foundation have been preserved and visitors can see the exposed steel columns and concrete footings that supported the Twin Towers. WWW.911MEMORIAL.ORG

Courtesy World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument/NPS

THE JAPANESE ATTACKED PEARL HARBOR on December 7, 1941, killing 2,335 members of the military — 1,177 of whom were sailors and Marines onboard the USS Arizona, which was bombed about 15 minutes into the air assault. The USS Arizona Memorial is a simple white structure built on top of but not touching the sunken battleship and is accessible only by boat. Guests start at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center to get their free tickets to the memorial; groups can make advance reservations. The program begins with a 23-minute documentary in one of the center’s two theaters, each of which holds about 150 people; then the U.S. Navy takes the group by boat to the memorial. There, they can see the ship below and spend time in the Shrine Room, where a wall bears the names of the Arizona’s dead and a smaller wall carries the names of survivors who requested their remains be brought back to the Arizona so they could rejoin their shipmates. Visitors may also notice the oil still leaking from the ship, which many call the “black tears.” A mythology has been built up around the seepage that says when the last of the ship’s 335 survivors die, “the tears will stop,” said Rebecca Schwab, visual information specialist. Back on shore at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, guests can also visit the Remembrance Circle and see the Arizona’s anchor and bell. The World War II Valor in the Pacific Monument, which operates the USS Arizona Memorial, also operates other attractions at the center, including the Battleship Missouri Memorial. WWW.NPS.GOV/VALR

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KICK OFF

THESE TOWNS HAVE COASTAL CACHE

Courtesy Gervasi Vineyard

YOUR SHOES

BY KEREN HAMEL

Courtesy Emerald Coast CVB

T

hough the beach is the obvious attraction during a coastal vacation, the community that grows up around it is half the fun. These top destinations share breathtaking coastlines in common, but offer vastly different group experiences both on and off the water.

CAPE COD, MASSACHUSETTS

By William DeSousa-Mauk, courtesy Cape Cod COC

Cape Cod is a favorite New England beach escape.

Top: Destin sunset cruises provide a relaxing way to soak in the Emerald Coast’s pristine shoreline.

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Charming Cape Cod, a Massachusetts peninsula that comprises 15 towns and 560 miles of shoreline, has 115 distinct beaches where visitors can sample the pleasures of the Atlantic Ocean. The vast shoreline is dotted with dunes and lighthouses, symbols for this Northern escape. Nauset Lighthouse in Eastham and Race Point Lighthouse in Provincetown give rewarding 360-degree views at the tops of their spiraling staircases. Both were built in the 1800s and harbor tales of sunken ships and daring rescues. Though seals hang out near several shorelines, groups have a couple of options for whale-watching. Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch in Provincetown and Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises in Barnstable offer four-hour cruises. “Sometimes, the whales will follow alongside the boats, which offers a really close view of those majestic animals,” said Patti Lloyd of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce. “You can see as many as 30 during one trip.” Family-run Art’s Dune Tours has a fleet of Suburban SUVs fitted to take on the sand. In addition to a basic tour, specialty tours include chances to fish, sail, kayak or paint a watercolor with a local artist. Provincetown, at the far tip of the peninsula, is the most popular stop for shopping and entertainment. The bohemian seaport, where the Pilgrims first landed in the New World, boasts quirky art galleries, street performers and big-name nightclub acts. Halfway between the tip and elbow of Cape Cod is the fishing village of Wellfleet, famous for its plentiful oyster beds. It’s possible to dig for S E P T E M B E R / O C T O B E R

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your own along the shore, but locals leave dinner up to the professional oyster farmers in the area. Farther south is Sandwich, the Cape’s oldest town, where groups can watch glassblowing demonstrations and tour some of New England’s most beautiful homes. WWW.CAPECODCHAMBER.ORG

OCEAN CITY, MARYLAND

Wild pony on Assateague Island Courtesy Town of Ocean City

Myrtle Beach golf course Courtesy www.discoversouthcarolina.com

Ocean City is a slice of Maryland between the Atlantic Ocean and the Isle of Wight Bay. The sun rises over miles of beaches and sets bayside. The resort town features a three-mile-long wooden boardwalk lined with restaurants and shops with theme-park attractions at the southern end. “Because we are surrounded by the ocean on one side and the bay on the other, being on the water is what we’re all about,” said Jessica Waters, communications manager for the Ocean City Convention and Visitors Bureau. The waters teem with kayaks, paddleboards and tour boats, some of which journey to Assateague Island, a nationally protected park where wild horses and ponies roam free. “Most of our groups are awed by the wild ponies, but you’ll often see deer, rare types of birds and other wildlife, too,” Waters said, adding that groups can also reach the popular island by a five-mile bus ride from Ocean City. Each day, several boats leave the shore and head for deep-sea caverns that are home to tuna, mahi-mahi and huge billfish. Groups can charter a boat and drop their lines to compete for the biggest catch. Activities off the water include 21 championship golf courses, some right along the sea. Meanwhile, nongolfers can peruse several boutiques that have emerged as an alternative afternoon option. Another off-water draw is the Casino at Ocean Downs, which hosts harness racing during the summer and houses a small slot machine facility throughout the year. Recently, however, the attraction getting the most attention is the world’s first go-kart roller coaster at Jolly Roger Amusement Park. At least 40 cars at a time can race down the five-story looping wooden course named the Cyclone. After a full day of play, groups like to pick one of several spots to enjoy the blue crab bounty of Chesapeake Bay, where fishing out the crabmeat is half the fun. WWW.OCOCEAN.COM

Myrtle Beach Skywheel and coast

MYRTLE BEACH, SOUTH CAROLINA

Myrtle Beach is the playful hub of South Carolina’s Grand Strand: 60 miles of beaches and inviting inlets. The area is also popular for its more than 100 golf courses designed by celebrities such as Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Many rank among the nation’s top courses, and none are more popular than Caledonia Golf and Fish Club in Pawleys Island, just south of Myrtle Beach. Built on an old rice plantation, Caledonia is studded with century-old twisted oaks, hanging Spanish moss and natural waterways. “It’s got a great Southern feel to it, and golfers always say the course is relaxing and amazing,” said Dolly Chewning of the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. For more experienced golfers, Chewning suggests Tidewater Golf Club, perched atop river bluffs with stunning views of the ocean below. It’s equally beautiful but more challenging. The beaches connected to the long strip of Grand Strand hotels are rarely overcrowded, but a uniquely serene stretch of sand is Huntington Courtesy www.discoversouthcarolina.com

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Beach State Park. The park is also home to Atalaya Castle, the former winter home of philanthropist Archer Huntington and his sculptor wife, Anna. The couple left the park and the adjacent Brookgreen Gardens — sprawling gardens with more than 1,400 sculptures — as their legacy. Within the city, groups can find several upscale shopping communities. Market Common is a traditional favorite, and Barefoot Landing arranges its shops in a natural bird-sanctuary setting. At night, Myrtle Beach comes alive with Vegas-style live performances and concert venues. “The Carolina Opry is consistently one of our top attractions,” Chewning said, adding that the shamelessly sentimental Christmas show is a best seller. And no trip to Myrtle Beach is complete without a walk down the beachfront boardwalk and a ride on the iconic SkyWheel, the tallest Ferris wheel on the East Coast, with an amazing view over the Atlantic. WWW.VISITMYRTLEBEACH.COM

DESTIN, FLORIDA

Bordering the Gulf of Mexico in northwest Florida, Destin is famous for its sugar-white sands, emerald waters and laid-back personality. Because Destin originated as a small fishing village, the harbor is still the heart of the community, and anglers from around the world flock to the Emerald Coast to try their luck. “We have the largest charter fishing fleet in the state of Florida, and there are so many species just outside our harbor,” said Sherry Rushing of the Emerald Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau. “That’s why we call Destin the luckiest fishing village in the world.” Any size group can charter fishing trips for any length of time, day or night, and head out to the sea for red snapper, king mackerel, grouper, shark and bonito, or troll within Choctawhatchee Bay for an abundance of fresh and saltwater species, including Florida’s famed pompano. To make the experience more fun, more than 30 restaurants along the Emerald Coast will prepare any catch the same day and serve it with sides. Several adventure companies operate out of Destin Harbor and offer unusual experiences like flyboarding and Snuba, along with several usual offerings such as jet skiing, paddleboarding, kayaking, parasailing and dolphin cruises. For a small town, Destin also has a surprising number of specialty boutiques and upscale chains, as well as a popular outlet mall. A few miles from the bustling harbor is Henderson Beach State Park, which includes more than a mile of pristine beach and a nature preserve with dunes, pine and oak trees, and an abundance of coastal wildlife. Park rangers offer group tours that Rushing calls a Destin must. “Seeing this area in its natural state is something you absolutely can’t miss,” she said.

Downtown shopping in Santa Barbara By Jay Sinclair, courtesy Visit Santa Barbara

WWW.EMERALDCOASTFL.COM

SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA

Blessed with near-perfect weather, Santa Barbara is tucked between a steep mountain range and the Pacific Ocean. The Spanish Colonial city with stucco buildings and red-tile roofs sits 92 miles north of Los Angeles and spans several miles of pristine California coastline. Though Santa Barbara has abundant beaches, East Beach is a favorite with visitors; the wide strip of white sand offers breathtaking views of the offshore Channel Islands. Western-facing Butterfly Beach is where locals and several celebrities watch the sun set over the Pacific. “What makes us unique is that we’re a coastal destination with a mountain range near it, reminiscent of the Mediterranean,” said Michelle Carlen of Visit Santa Barbara.

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Turquoise waters of Destin

Courtesy Emerald Coast CVB

Sunset in Santa Barbara

Groups of any size can take in the dramatic coastline aboard the Channel Cat yacht, the largest vessel in the harbor, from which dolphin, whale and sea lion sightings are possible. More adventurous groups can catch a boat to the Channel Islands and kayak through the caves, or take in views of the mountains by horseback on the beach. In addition to the views, groups are drawn to Santa Barbara because of boutique shopping, cultural offerings and big-city entertainment without all the hustle of L.A. Favorite shopping spots include State Street and boutiques in the Montecito community on the lower foothills of the mountains. “We’re an intimate destination, but we’re also a cultural hub with world-class performances,” Carlen said, listing the usual A-listers who prefer Santa Barbara’s theaters and amphitheater. It’s not uncommon for entertainers like Jerry Seinfeld or big acts like the Lumineers to be in town. Santa Barbara is also wine country and is home to more than 220 wineries and several tasting rooms close to the water. The urban tasting trail is growing in popularity, and along with grapes, local farmers specialize in citrus and nuts, which make their way to several farmers markets. Groups can collaborate with top chefs in the area, who will guide them through a market and help them pick out their favorites, which will go into a meal prepared at a restaurant later that evening. WWW.SANTABARBARACA.COM

By Mark Weber, courtesy Visit Santa Barbara

Ocean C

ity,

aryland

JUST THE BEACH Don’t get us wrong. You’ll love soaking up the sun on our free, 10-mile beach, or swimming and playing in the ocean. But that’s just the tip of the sandcastle when it comes to Ocean City, Maryland. There’s literally something for everyone:

Bacara Resort and Spa in Santa Barbara Courtesy Visit Santa Barbara

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• An award-winning three-mile boardwalk

• Year-round festivals, concerts and events

• 200+ restaurants and exciting nightlife

• Shopping, wildlife and historical museums

• Indoor and outdoor sports facilities

• New 1,200-seat Performing Arts Center in the Roland E. Powell Convention Center

BOOK YOUR TRIP NOW!

Call Norma Dobrowolski CVB Destination Sales & Marketing Manager | 800.626.2326 ococean.com/group-travel

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marketing Y O U R

P R O G R A M

TRAVEL TO BUILD YOUR BRAND BY ELIZA MYERS

A

s anyone in the business will tell you, planning group travel involves a serious amount of organization and time. Whether it’s an immersive tour of the Spanish countryside or a domestic excursion a short drive away, the forethought and follow-through involved is extensive. So why go through all the headaches for a loyalty travel program? Numerous alumni associations, banks and chambers of commerce have developed successful loyalty travel programs to strengthen and grow their organizations as a whole. Instead of treating your loyalty travel program like an afterthought, strive to realize the program’s full potential to promote, build loyalty and further the mission of your company.

WORD-OF-MOUTH ADVERTISING

Kimberly Dockery, vice president and Silver Spirit director at Merchants Bank of Alabama, has tried all sorts of promotions for her travel club. Time and again, the most effective source of advertising has been other customers. Those customers talk about the travel club not only to other bank members who could sign up for trips, but also to nonbank members who might consider switching banks for the added travel bonus. The potential growth in business makes it worthwhile for Dockery to pour time and resources into ensuring that the quality customer service the bank offers is reflected in the travel club. “I’m also their private banker, as well as planning the travel part,” said Dockery. “They only deal with me, so if something happens to them, they know me already. Once they get hooked on our customer service, the travel is just an added benefit.” Similarly, Carolyn Grieve, business development and adventure coordinator for Arvest Bank Benton County, uses every tool she can to stay top of mind with her travelers so they will be advocates for the bank and travel club. To this end, she created “brag books” she sends to passengers after tours with photos, traveler contact information and a chronicle of the trip’s activities. Soon, she had a number of people call to say they had seen a neighbor or a friend’s brag book and wanted to know more. “You offer travel programs to your customers for your customers for a reason,” said Grieve. “You want them to remember your bank and talk highly about your bank.”

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NURTURE LOYALTY

Instead of simply hitting up alumni to donate money, Vanderbilt University uses a more roundabout way of encouraging generosity: travel. Cary Allyn, director of the Vanderbilt Travel Program, knows that developing loyalty to their organization through travel will convince members to donate far more quickly than a cold call. “Loyalty is why they are traveling with us instead of a travel agent,” said Allyn. “It doesn’t matter the age of the people on the trip. Everyone has a common bond: an affinity to Vanderbilt. They are together talking about their college experiences and their favorite professors.” To foster this loyalty, Allyn strives to keep her trips as Vanderbilt focused as possible. She will often plan outings with other alumni or students living abroad for a fun way for passengers to reconnect with the college during the trip. To strengthen ties to the university before the trip, Allyn answers calls from travelers rather than sending them to the tour operators. The one-on-one connection with the university is a large part of why the travel program continues. Personalized gifts also help build loyalty, especially when the items relate to both the trip and the company, such as walking sticks with Vanderbilt’s logo for a trip to Alaska. The affinity built from these trips can be what stops someone from switching banks or what prompts alumni members to reach into their pockets.

munity through dynamic leadership. “Giving people the opportunity to travel helps them understand the world, which in turn helps them become better leaders,” said Marlene Shirley, executive assistant at the Shawnee COC. Webb Brown, CEO and president of the Montana COC, doesn’t use his chamber’s travel program solely as a reward or a fundraiser. Instead, Brown seeks to promote international trade through the tours, as well as raise funds. “If people are traveling internationally, they start thinking, ‘Well, I could do business internationally, too,’” said Brown. “We learned early on not to sell it as a business trip. Don’t give people that idea.” By mixing business and pleasure, the travel program both serves the chamber’s mission statement to encourage international travel to Montana and boosts member support for the organization as a whole.

MISSION STATEMENTS

Some loyalty programs use travel not only to attract new members and keep old ones, but also to promote their organizations’ mission statements. For example, many alumni associations were created not just to raise money for the college but also to further educate alumni. That is why many alumni trips include accompanying professors or educational components. Chambers of commerce also often use travel programs to further their missions, such as the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce (COC) in Kansas. Part of the chamber’s purpose involves enhancing the com-

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C A R E E R

C O R N E R

growing your group

WOMEN-ONLY

should offering women-only trips? YOU BE

BY BRIAN JEWELL

I

t’s no secret that group travel tends to attract a lot of women — significantly more women than men. Because of this, many tours feature a lot of activities that appeal to women, and the attitude of the entire industry is very welcoming to females. Given this background, you might think that you’re already doing a good job of planning trips that appeal to women. But if you don’t offer any women-only tours, or “girlfriend getaways,” you might be missing a valuable opportunity to reach some travelers who have been hesitant to join your group. We caught up with two tour operators who are experts in women-only travel to find out what makes their trips successful and their customers happy. Their insights will prove helpful to any group travel planner who is interested in bringing more women into the program.

SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT

When Debra Asberry wanted to take a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon in 1997, she couldn’t find a trip that was designed for her to participate as a single — they were all set up for couples. A magazine editor in the Baltimore-Washington area at the time, she polled her readers and found that many women had encountered the same problem: They wanted to travel but didn’t want to go on their own or be the fifth wheel with a group of couples. “It wasn’t just widowed or divorced women — it was women in every category,” she said. “Even women who are married have different interests than their husbands do on a broad scope of travel issues. Women have a lot of disposable income these days, and they want to spend that money on travel.” Seeing an opportunity, Asberry started Women Traveling Together, a tour company that takes small groups of women on tours to destinations throughout the United States and around the world. The National Parks of the West are some of her most popular destinations, as are cities such as Savannah, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; and New Orleans. But she also regularly sends groups to London, Paris, Italy and even exotic destinations in Southeast Asia. Asberry said, on the surface, these women-only trips don’t look much different than a standard mixed-gender tour: They visit many of the same attractions and do a lot of adventurous activities. But the female travelers experience the destinations — and each other — in different ways on these trips.

Top: Wandertours group in Santa Fe, courtesy Wandertours Bottom: Women’s group on a Vietnam boat ride, courtesy Women Traveling Together

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“Behavior changes when you take the male element out of it,” she said. “Women don’t feel like they have to wear makeup or get dressed up if they don’t want to. They can go and try new activities in a really supportive environment. “Men like to do things for women, whereas women encourage each other to do things for themselves. So if you’re in a group of just women, everyone is encouraging each other to try new things and stretch their boundaries. Because of this, the groups bond exceptionally well.” Women Traveling Together employs a number of specific strategies to help travelers feel included, supported and valued throughout the entire process. Asberry asks past customers to vote on new trip ideas, which gives travelers a voice in what products she develops. The company has a “tour concierge” assigned to each client, helping them through questions about safety, logistics and other concerns before the trips depart. And during the trips, tour leaders handle much more than just travel logistics. “Our tour leader is embedded with the group 24/7, and her job is really group dynamics,” Asberry said. “We give her a significant amount of latitude. We give her a credit card and tell her to take people out to dinner and let them order whatever they want off the menu. We want our customers to have as much of an authentic girlfriend experience as they can and for them to have someone who is making sure that everyone is having a good time. So the tour leader is kind of the party leader, too.”

Tour

SOUTHEAST INDIANA

GIRLFRIEND

Getaways

HHANDS ON FUN!

Victorian Christmas Ornaments

PERSONAL AND FULFILLING

After writing a book about her own travels, “Wanderlust and Lipstick,” Beth Whitman was approached by a number of women who wanted to travel but were unfamiliar with how to put tours together. So she started Wandertours, a women’s travel company with a focus on experiences that are accessible, personal and fulfilling. “I offer some pretty personalized activities that they couldn’t book on their own, like dinner or cooking classes in people’s homes, anywhere from Santa Fe to India,” she said. “We also always have a giving-back component on an international tour. We’ll go to an orphanage, a nunnery or some kind of organization that is helping the community.” Wandertours trips take groups trekking through Bhutan, on safari in Africa and to explore the wonders of India. There are also culinary-focused trips to cities such as Santa Fe, New Mexico, and New Orleans, which may be more accessible to novice travelers. Whitman said in addition to attracting solo women, her trips have proven popular as bonding experiences for groups of friends and family members. “We get a lot of sisters and a number of mother-daughter trips as well,” she said. “On a Seattle culinary trip, we had a young mother in her 30s bring her 9-year-old daughter. On the other side, we’ve had a lot of 50-year-old women and their 20-something daughters. We also see a lot of cousins traveling together.” When it comes to recruiting women to join trips, Whitman has found that personal enthusiasm is her greatest sales tool. She also promotes the fact that her tours take all of the hassle out of travel planning for busy women and that they can focus on wellness elements that aren’t common in mass-market vacations. “We want to encourage women to travel and do it in a healthy manner,” she said. “We want them to incorporate healthy habits, nutrition and exercise so that they can go home feeling healthy — not just fat and bloated after a cruise.”

“Arty Party”

Fun with Flowers & Fudge

Aurora and Lawrenceburg OHIO Indianapolis

INDIANA

1

Cincinnati

KENTUCKY

Louisville

Lexington

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

www.TOURSoutheastIndiana.com Top: Owner of Wandertours, Beth Whitman, in Bhutan, courtesy Wandertours Bottom: A women-only trip to Ecuador, courtesy Women Traveling Together S E P T E M B E R / O C T O B E R

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800-322-8198

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damascus community bank DAMASCUS, MARYLAND TRIP: Panama Canal Cruise TOUR OPERATOR: Islands in the Sun Cruises and Tours DATE: March 2016 The Damascus Community Bankís Prime Time Club explored the Caribbean for 12 days aboard a Panama Canal cruise. The group members toured ports in Aruba, Columbia, Grand Cayman and Panama. ìThis was an amazing trip to experience the operations of the Panama Canal locks. Entering at sea level, our ship was lifted 85 feet through three separate locks before entering Gatun Lake. A few of our travelers rode the train in Panama, a few opted to take a small boat through the canal on the Pacific side, and another group stayed on board so they could see the locks up close. I am always happy to share their excitement.î

— RUTH B. JOHNSON, PRIME TIME CLUB DIRECTOR

university of alabama TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA TRIP: Egypt and the Eternal Nile TOUR OPERATOR: Odysseys Unlimited DATE: February 2016 For 15 days, the Traveliní With the Tide alumni members immersed themselves in Egyptís wonders without the large crowds. The tour included stops in Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel, the Nile River and Lake Nasser. ìOur trip to Egypt was truly incredible. Our group was able to have once-in-a-lifetime experiences nearly alone in many of the monuments and temples. The opportunity to witness such spectacular history without a crowd was magical. We also had the opportunity to visit with local families and artisans, eat delectable regional cuisine and see stunning papyrus paintings. The entire group took a hot-air-balloon ride over the Valley of the Nobles in Luxor. We look forward to returning to Egypt in 2017.î

— ASHLEY OLIVE, ALUMNI EVENTS & TOUR COORDINATOR 42

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PHOTO OP S | M USEU MS | M AK E IT YOUR SELF | UNIQUE LO DGING | AR TISAN COM M UNITIE

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THE PERFECT STAGE FOR GROUPS TO

PLAY TOGETHER

T H E H AY G O O D S

There’s a reason Branson has consistently been voted a top group travel destination; we take vacationing together seriously. To learn more about group travel packages or to request information on Branson’s 9th Annual Professional Travel Planner FAM April 18-21, 2017, contact Lenni Neimeyer | CTIS, CSTP at lneimeyer@bransoncvb.com.

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Blue Whale, Catoosa


GRAND CENTRAL USA Travel Guide

W

elcome to Grand Central USA, where distinctive group experiences await in the center of the country. Our dynamic travel organization is now almost 10 years old, and in that time we’ve welcomed thousands of groups from across North America to our states of Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. In this 2016 issue of our Grand Central USA Tour Planner, we’re highlighting some of the many diverse experiences that we have for groups. Our states offer numerous popular photo opportunities for groups and plenty of unique hotels and lodging properties to enjoy after a day on the road. Our museums have grown to encompass interactive experiences that will thrill visitors. And the arts are alive in Grand Central — visitors can spend time in one of our numerous arts communities and even make some memorable souvenirs for themselves. For more information about planning your group’s trip, please visit GrandCentralUSA.com or contact any of our Grand Central partner travel offices!

48 D O N ’ T

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W W W. A R K A N S A S G R O U P T R AV E L . C O M

501.682.1081 | AMANDA.GLOVER@ARKANSAS.GOV

KELLI HILL IAR D

O P S

C E N T R A L

54 GR AND CENTR AL MUSEUMS OFFER A WEALTH OF EXPERIENCES FOR GROUPS.

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K A N S A S D E PA RT M E N T O F W I L D L I F E , PA R K S & TOURISM

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DO NNA CO RD LE GR AY

REPRESENTING THE MISSOURI DIVISION OF TOURISM

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PICTURE PERFECT

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M E A N S

G R E A T

P H O T O S

by Brian Jewell

ouvenirs, T-shirts and tourist mementos are great, but nothing memorializes a fantastic trip more than an iconic photograph. Photos immortalize our travel experiences and help us remember amazing places long after we have visited them. They document the days that were far outside our routines and help us to inspire people around us. The Grand Central states are full of great places for taking memorable photographs. Whether you want a group photo, a selfie or a simple snapshot, take a few minutes to stop in at some of these iconic spots next time you travel through Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

“We do a country-style chuck-wagon dinner each evening and a gunfight reenactment in the street,” Brehm said. “The ‘Long Branch Variety Show’ is a blending of the actual history of the area and the Hollywood era of ‘Gunsmoke.’ We also have Miss Kitty and her can-can dancers, which is a great group activity.” Brehm said after the gunfights, costumed actors take photos with visitors who watched the show. Besides the scheduled activities, travelers love to visit historic sites on the grounds. Favorites include the Fort Dodge Jail — another great photo op — as well as the Long Branch Saloon, the schoolhouse, the blacksmith shop and the 1903 locomotive. www.boothill.org

Dodge City, Kansas It’s best to have your camera ready when your group visits the Boot Hill Museum in Dodge City. In a town known for its place in the Old West, this museum is more than just galleries and artifacts. “The museum is a collection of buildings,” said director Lara Brehm. “We have exhibits in most of the buildings. Our Front Street has a replica of all of the businesses in historic Dodge. We tell the story of our area, which is an Old West story. It includes the era when Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday would have been here.” As those legendary names would suggest, Dodge City saw its fair share of lawlessness during the frontier days, and the museum takes its name from Boot Hill, the cemetery where gunshot victims were said to be buried still wearing their boots. The cemetery is part of the museum grounds today and makes an ideal spot for a group photo. Groups that visit in the summertime will find numerous other opportunities for great snapshots.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas Few groups visit Eureka Springs without stopping for a photo in front of one of its most iconic sites: Christ of the Ozarks. “Christ of the Ozarks is a seven-story monument statue,” said Kent Butler, director of marketing for “The Great Passion Play”; the statue is located on the same grounds where the play is produced. “It’s the largest statue of Christ that we’re aware of in the Northern Hemisphere. It overlooks the historic downtown district of Eureka Springs. Some of the most beautiful views in the Ozarks are on that mountain, and this is the 50th anniversary of the statue standing on that hill.” The statue is 67 feet tall — if it were any taller, it would require a warning beacon for passing aircraft — and its outstretched arms measure 65 feet from fingertip to fingertip.

The Route 66 Rocker in Cuba, Missouri, was the worldís largest rocking chair for eight years. S E P T E M B E R / O C T O B E R

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Christ of the Ozarks towers above Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

“There are no poured segments of concrete in the statue except for the foundation,” Butler said. “It was all sculpted as it was built. The head was sculpted in a studio, and then the beard was applied on-site as they worked on it.” Many groups include photos with the statue as part of a visit to “The Great Passion Play,” an outdoor drama that runs May through October. The massive production, which features 150 actors and takes place on an outdoor stage some 550 feet wide, tells the story of Christ’s final days on earth. The complex also includes a bible museum, which has numerous rare books, such as a first-edition 1611 King James Bible and a bible printed by Johann Gutenberg. In addition to this museum, guests can tour a re-creation of the Holy Land that shows sites as they might have looked when Jesus lived. www.greatpassionplay.com

Boot Hill Museum

Can-can dancers are some of the numerous colorful historic characters who interact with visitors to the Boot Hill Museum.

Courtesy Boot Hill Museum

“THERE ARE NO POURED SEGMENTS OF CONCRETE IN THE STATUE EXCEPT FOR THE

FOUNDATION. IT WAS ALL SCULPTED AS IT WAS BUILT. THE HEAD WAS SCULPTED IN A STUDIO, AND THEN THE BEARD WAS APPLIED

ON-SITE AS THEY WORKED ON IT.” ó Kent But ler

Courtesy Boot Hill Museum

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Duncan, Oklahoma

Courtesy Duncan CVB

The ìRhythm and Routesî mural highlights Duncanís place in rock ëní roll history.

Elvis Presley owes a debt to a mother-son team from the small town of Duncan, a small town in southwest Oklahoma. “Hoyt Axton was born just south of Duncan,” said L.D. Jones, executive director of the Duncan Convention and Visitors Bureau. “He and his mother, Mae Boren Axton, famously wrote the song ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and gave it to Elvis. She said the song was penned in the lobby of a hotel in southwest Oklahoma. Considering that she lived in Duncan and we only had two hotels at the time, we’re pretty sure they wrote the song in one of the buildings here on Main Street.” That building is now a hardware store, and its exterior features a mural commemorating the town’s place in pop music history. The Rhythm and Routes Mural, as it is called, has become a popular photo stop for people visiting Duncan. “It has an image of Hoyt playing guitar and an image of Mae handing the song to Elvis,” Jones said. “There’s also a massive image of Elvis in his costume. If you position it just right, it looks like Elvis is stepping on you.”

Courtesy Great Passion Play

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The mural is one of several in the historic downtown district. Another depicts the crape myrtle, which is the official tree of Duncan. Many groups also stop for photos at sites around town related to the Chisholm Trail. The Chisholm Trail Heritage Center is a Western heritage museum and has a large bronze statue depicting a Chisholm Trail cattle drive. Chisholm Trail markers around Duncan also commemorate sites that were important in the areaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s history. www.visitduncan.org

North Little Rock, Arkansas In the early 1930s, a real-estate developer named Justin Matthews was seeking to create a memorable park in the Lakewood neighborhood in North Little Rock, so he built the Old Mill, a replica of a water-powered gristmill that might have been constructed by Arkansas pioneers. The mill was constructed in 1933, and soon after that won unexpected fame. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Old Mill is most popularly known for being in â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Gone With the Wind,â&#x20AC;&#x2122;â&#x20AC;? said Stephanie Slagle, communications manager for the North Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s in the opening credits of the film. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s supposed to look like an old abandoned mill â&#x20AC;&#x201D; there are no windows or doors.â&#x20AC;?

The mill is the last structure from the film to remain standing and, as such, the only â&#x20AC;&#x153;Gone With the Windâ&#x20AC;? setting where travelers can have their photos taken. Groups often include a photo at the Old Mill as part of their tours through Little Rock and North Little Rock. Locals use the mill as a backdrop for their wedding, engagement, family and school pictures, too. In addition to taking a photo at the mill, visitors often take time to explore the surrounding T.R. Pugh Memorial Park, which features gardens and a number of distinctive architectural touches. â&#x20AC;&#x153;There are several bridges you can walk across, and all of them were designed by an artist who used a special technique with concrete,â&#x20AC;? Slagle said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;He would use utensils like forks to make the concrete look like wood. He called it his rustico style, but itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s really just fake wood.â&#x20AC;? The park also has picnic tables and a small amphitheater, which groups can use for eating boxed lunches or holding guide presentations. www.northlittlerock.org

Cuba, Missouri

In its heyday, Route 66 was famous for its quirky roadside attractions where travelers would stop for photos as they made their trips westward. In Cuba, a small town in central Missouri located along historic Route 66, a local man has revived that tradition. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We have a giant rocking chair that used to be the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s largest,â&#x20AC;? said Dan Sanazaro, former owner of the Fanning 66 Outpost. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It held the record from 2008 to 2015. Now, we call it the Route 66 Red Rocker. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 42 feet tall, painted red, and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s quite a sight.â&#x20AC;? The outpost opened in 2007 after Sanazaro bought an old roadside service plaza and trans45&10/(6*%&t*5*/&3"3:1-"//*/(t8"-,5)306())*4503: formed it into a Route 66 general store. Building the rocking chair was a way to attract visitors to stop in, much like the original Route 66 roadside attractions. â&#x20AC;&#x153;As a kid, I was totally amazed by a 10-foot rocking chair I saw out in front of a restaurant,â&#x20AC;? Sanazaro said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We needed some type of draw to get people to stop here, so I decided to build 3JOHUIF#FMMBOE#MPXUIF8IJTUMFPG4UFBN-PDPNPUJWF/P the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s largest rocking chair. People kind of thought I was crazy, but we held the world record &YQMPSF'SBOL-MPZE8SJHIUT0OMZ$PNQMFUFE4LZ4LSBQFS for eight years.â&#x20AC;? 7JTJUUIF5BMMHSBTT1SBJSJFBOE8PPMBSPD.VTFVN8JMEMJGF1SFTFSWF Although the Red Rocker no longer holds the &YQMPSF0JM#BSPO)JTUPSZBU'SBOL1IJMMJQT)PNF1IJMMJQT1FUSPMFVN.VTFVN world record, and the store closed earlier this year, (SPVQT-PWF0,.P[BSU'FTUJWBM0LMBIPNB*OEJBO4VNNFS the rocker is still very popular among travelers tracing the historic Route 66, who often stop to Centrally Located in United States take photos. .JMFTUP5VMTB*OUFSOBUJPOBM"JSQPSUt 3PPNT www.cubamochamber.com

TOUR Bartlesville OKLAHOMA

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GRAND CENTRAL INTERACTIVE

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S E P T E M B Courtesy E R / OChickasaw C T O BCultural E R 2Center 0 1 6


M A K E

G R E A T

S T O P S

by Dan Dickson

veryone knows that museums have galleries full of information, artifacts and artwork. But some of the best experiences that museums have to offer take place outside the galleries. Throughout the Grand Central states, museum administrators have created facilities and programs that draw visitors in more deeply than do simple exhibits. Whether itís an interactive, hands-on program, a first-rate restaurant or a high-tech theater with a multimedia program, these museums use every tool at their disposal to thrill and teach groups.

Hutchinson, Kansas The race into space dominated the news for decades and pitted the United States and the Soviet Union in a battle of technology and sheer determination. Cosmosphere tells that story like no other place with the largest collection of combined rocket and space artifacts in the world. “We pride ourselves on being the only museum that tells the space program story in chronological order, which is unusual,” said Janet Fischer, the museum’s group sales manager. “It goes back to World War II early rocket technology and continues to the space programs of the two nations, including our Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs, and us being the first on the moon. Then it gets into the International Space Station.” The museum has four distinct sections. The popular Hall of Space has all the cool space equipment. “We’re preserving history,” said Fischer. “You can read about these things but not really experience them unless you see actual spacecrafts.” Justice Planetarium has a state-of-the-art digital projector that will expand the minds and delight the senses of

group members who grab a seat inside. Dr. Goddard’s Lab is dedicated to the father of modern rocketry, Robert Goddard, and is an “explosive” interactive show. The Carey Digital Dome Theater screens special films and documentaries. Groups can arrange their own activities, such as attending a seminar on the challenges of living in space presented by a space science educator, or constructing paper space rockets and launching them. “These experience are customized, and not on the daily schedule for the public,” said Fischer. Cosmosphere also arranges corporate team building and leadership training. Employee groups attend half-day or a full-day sessions designed especially for them. The sessions will reinforce employees’ problem-solving skills, instill confidence and improve communication. www.cosmo.org

Little Rock, Arkansas With more than 90 hands-on exhibits and ever-changing programming, the Museum of Discovery is a great destination for any group visiting the capital of Arkansas. What group members see and do is strictly up to them. “It depends on what a group wants,” said Kendall Thornton, chief marketing officer for the museum. “Groups can come in and get a tour of the facility. But we also offer special programming for groups. That’s when they come into our theater and enjoy a science show with one of our educators.”

The Chickasaw Cultural Center features indoor exhibits and outdoor gardens. S E P T E M B E R / O C T O B E R

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Exhibits at Cosmosphere detail the history of American space exploration.

Among the educators is Kevin Delaney, director of visitor experience, who has appeared a couple of times on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” He does funny and hip science experiments that captivate groups. For example, on “The Tonight Show,” Delaney created a huge cloud right in the studio. Another time he used liquid nitrogen to explode a giant drum of Ping-Pong balls all around the studio and into the audience. The museum’s staff of educators can wow any group that visits Little Rock with its program called “Awesome Science.” The Museum of Discovery also has a rare Guinness World Record bipolar tesla coil that creates 250,000 volts of electrical current that is the basis for exciting science experiments. It’s just one of many devices and experiments designed to spark visitors’ interest in science. Though the museum reaches out to kids, it is not a children’s museum per se. “We have a lot of adult groups that book this type of programming,” said Thornton. “It’s fun at any age. We shouldn’t stop learning. We want everyone to get excited about science, technology and math.” www.museumofdiscovery.org

Sulphur, Oklahoma The proud Chickasaw people of Oklahoma love to show visiting groups

Groups can try numerous interactive features at the Museum of Discovery in Little Rock.

their way of life and do so at a magnificent cultural center that consists of four large buildings and beautiful grounds for outdoor events. A rocket at Kansas' Cosmosphere “We are home for Chickasaw history and culture and share that with the world,” Courtesy Cosmosphere said Valerie Walters, executive officer for the center. Groups call ahead and arrange the agenda for their visits with the competent marketing and tourism teams. “This may include going through the exhibit hall, participating in the stomp dance, various cultural demonstrations and lunch,” Walters said. Among the buildings is the exhibit center, which houses the mosaic room, the council house, the spirit forest and the gallery, and indoor ceremonial dances by tribal natives take place there; visitors can join in the dances. Another building houses the center for the study of Chickasaw history and culture. There is also a theater and a gift shop and cafe. Outdoors, group visitors can enjoy the honor garden, which is dedicated to those who have been inducted into the Chickasaw Hall of Fame. Nearby is a replica of a traditional 1700’s Chickasaw village and a delightful amphitheater for performances. The landscaping incorporates native plants from Mississippi, where the Chickasaw people began their journey, as well as plants from Oklahoma. There are plenty of special events scheduled at the cultural center

Courtesy Museum of Discovery

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“WE PRIDE OURSELVES ON BEING THE ONLY MUSEUM THAT TELLS THE SPACE PROGRAM STORY IN CHRONOLOGICAL

ORDER.” ó Ja net F i scher Cosmosphere Courtesy Chickasaw Cultural Center

Traditional dwellings at the Chickasaw Cultural Center allow for immersive visitor experiences. Courtesy Cosmosphere

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throughout the year. Many honor people who are special to the tribe. Celebrations are held on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Veterans Day and the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. “If a group decides they want to tour on that day, we are more than happy to help them get involved in the big event going on,” said Walters. www.chickasawculturalcenter.com

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Courtesy Philbrook Museum of Art

The Philbrook Museum of Art offers numerous hands-on workshops for groups.

Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees

Tulsa’s nickname during much of the 20th century was Oil Capital of the World. Among the early Oklahoma oil barons was Waite Phillips who, along with his wife, Genevieve, commissioned the construction of a spectacular 23-acre Italian Renaissance villa in Tulsa. It was completed in 1927, and then 11 years later the couple donated their home as an art center for the city. Today, it is one of country’s finest art museums. Philbrook presents exhibitions from around the world. Its permanent collection focuses on American, Native American, European, Asian, African, Antiquities, and Modern and Contemporary art and design. “We get motorcoaches and other organized groups here on a regular basis,” said Tricia Milford-Hoyt, Philbrook’s communications director. Guided tours are available for groups of 10 to 60. “But we also have a group travel coordinator, so if a group or organization wants a more customized experience, we provide a suite of offerings.” The museum’s program staff puts together a variety of encounters where art is dissected in ways Grove, Oklahoma visitors may never have envisioned. The experiences are based on critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity. The museum has five large studios that together accommodate up to 250 people simultaneously for art-making exercises and other activities. “Our experiences don’t just center on learning the skills of drawing and taking a picture home, but in working together as a group,” said Milford-Hoyt. The museum has a restaurant overlooking the gorgeous formal and informal gardens; it also has catering services, so a group can spend the day in a private meeting space while enjoying a meal. There is also a satellite branch of Philbrook Museum of Art located in downtown Tulsa. www.philbrook.org

, WOW.

Kansas City, Missouri

V i s i t C h e r o k e e Nat i o n . c o m

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You’ll know you’ve arrived at the Nelson-Atkins Museum by the colorful 20-foot-tall shuttlecocks strewn on the lawn of the museum, as if a giant game of badminton had been interrupted. That’s contemporary art but only a tiny sampling of the wide world of art inside the galleries of this impressive museum.

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“We have art from the ancient Western world to contemporary art,” said Marla Allen, a museum educator. The collections are ever changing and range from an elaborately decorated Egyptian coffin to 11th- and 12th-century Chinese art, paintings by French artist Claude Monet, a rawhide Native American shield, black-and-white images by famous photographers and thousands of other treasures available for the public to study and enjoy. Tuesdays are dedicated to school tours; Wednesdays through Sundays are for every other kind of group. The tours are both informative and challenging. “If a group has a really special interest or focus, such as ceramics or depictions of women through the ages, they have the ability to request a custom tour, and that’s free of charge,” said Allen. The museum offers a number of classes and workshops that can accommodate up to 20 people. There are also special talks and lectures, which a group can arrange to attend. “We are one of the friendliest museums around, and everyone on staff is incredibly eager to share the museum with visitors,” said Allen. “We have a strong visitor focus as far as programming.” The museum remains open to all during a rather large renovation, which will be completed in 2017. www.nelson-atkins.org

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This large public sculpture is a hallmark of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.

By Emily Bruhn, courtesy Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

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TRY YOUR HAND

By Amy Cyphers, courtesy More Than Lemons


MEMORIES AS A GRAND CENTRAL GUEST by Keren Hamel

ecause some groups arenít content to watch from the sidelines, several Grand Central destinations offer unique hands-on, interac-

tive experiences. Whether itís digging through Arkansas mud in search of precious stones and diamonds, or playing with fire and blowing hot glass to create pieces of art, groups will head home from these travels with more than just memories.

Holton, Kansas Since April Lemon discovered glassblowing later in life, she can commiserate with first-timers. “It’s difficult to control,” Lemon said, as she described how she sculpts 2,100-degree molten glass into works of art. “You have to think three steps ahead. It’s a rub-your-stomach and pat-your-head kind of thing.” The mother of seven earned her degree in glassblowing last year, and shortly after, she and her husband, John, opened More Than Lemons glassblowing studio on the square in Holton, Kansas. The couple enjoys simplifying the process for groups interested in making pieces of their own. Customers choose from among several project options and blow the hot glass through a long hollow rod as it comes from the furnace while Lemon uses several tools to manipulate and shape it. Along with the glass piece, customers receive an action shot of them working on the project. Groups that want to get their hands on the tools of the trade have the option of making paperweights. In that scenario, they get to choose the colors and shape the glass. If anyone is worried about the heat, Lemon has cold-glass projects she can suggest. Lemon is open to trying anything customers can imagine. Groups of

20-somethings enjoy making beer mugs; other groups request bowls, vases, cups and ornaments. But it’s the kids who get really creative. “A 5-year-old got me started on making Christmas trees,” Lemon said. “They come in and are very specific about what they want. I made a blue ice cube pumpkin with a pink stem for a 4-year-old.” While waiting their turn, group members can take a look around the mini gallery where Lemon sells work by 21 other artists, everything from glass to furniture to photography. www.facebook.com/morethanlemons

St. Louis, Missouri With three unique studios featuring flame working, kiln working and glassblowing, Third Degree Glass Factory is the busiest artisan glass center in the Grand Central region. Roughly 25 St. Louis artists and several visiting artists share the warehouse and offer mesmerizing demonstrations year-round. “What you’re experiencing is live production,” said Third Degree communications director Nick Dunne. “You get to see the artist’s personal style in action.” The artists also welcome groups of beginners into their warehouse on Delmar Boulevard and provide instructions and tools for creating glass beads, tiles, paperweights and seasonal projects like pumpkins and ornaments. Groups can also request team-building projects; for example, each visitor can make a glass tile for a collaborative glass quilt. Each project includes different tools. The production of glass beads, for instance, includes melting down a glass rod through a torch and wrapping it around a thin metal bar to create the center. Eight beads take nearly an hour to complete. Whatever the process, artists are on hand to show the way.

Visitors to More Than Lemons can make their own blown glass under the instruction of experienced artists. S E P T E M B E R / O C T O B E R

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Groups can make fused glass projects at Third Degree Glass Factory in St. Louis.

“It’s very inviting because we want to share our knowledge with the public,” said Dunne, adding that Third Degree draws 30,000 visitors annually. “Everybody seems intimidated at first, but once you get your hands on it, it becomes very addicting.” On top of demonstrations, which are suitable for up to 40 people, and guided activities, Third Degree offers guided tours of the whole facility. The tour includes all three studios plus the spectacularly decorated bathrooms with colorful, twisting blown-glass faucets and ceilings made of melted-down perfume bottles. For groups wanting to get the most out of the experience, Dunne suggests combining a project or a demonstration with the full tour. An added bonus for groups is that Third Degree is sandwiched between two major St. Louis destinations: the Central West End, packed with upscale galleries and delicious food, and the Delmar Loop, one of America’s most famous streets. www.thirddegreeglassfactory.com

St. Joseph, Missouri Famous for its massive stained-glass windows in churches across Grand Central, Tobiason Glass Studio gives groups the chance to work with smallscale stained glass at its location in historic downtown St. Joseph.

Tobiason Glass Studio offers glass workshops for groups.

Courtesy Third Degree Glass Factory

Owners Rick and Terri Rader have been in the business for decades and love showing off their workspace and sending visitors Weaving baskets at the home with a keepsake. Cherokee Heritage Center “We’ve come up with a good whole experience,” Terri Rader said. “You get to put a Courtesy Cherokee Heritage Center piece together and see some of the different things we do: our work, the equipment we use, our warehouse full of glass and some of the finished work.” When groups arrive, half are sent off for the grand tour with Rick Rader while the other half set to work. Eighteen can work at a time. The glass pieces are precut, but it’s up to visitors to pick out their colors and fit them together with 700-degree soldering irons. “For the majority, it’s their first time, and they’re just a little nervous to work with hot irons,” Terri Rader said. “But there’s someone at each table to explain it, and after their first attempt, they think, ‘Wow, this isn’t so bad.’” Groups have created angels in the past — Terri Rader laughs about the time a woman decided to reject the design and solder her pieces into a lighthouse — but the studio plans to come up with a new design for 2016, maybe something in the bird or flower category. One group requested the chance to cut the glass themselves, and the Raders obliged, but cutting is a time-consuming project best left out of the group experience. The usual project takes about an hour and a half. www.tobiasonstudio.com

Courtesy St. Joseph CVB

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Courtesy Crater of Diamonds State Park

Visitors can find and keep diamonds at Arkansasí Crater of Diamonds State Park.

Tahlequah, Oklahoma Tucked away in the Oklahoma foothills of the Ozark Mountains, the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah takes visitors back to 1710. Native Americans dressed in traditional garb showcase ancient games and crafts in a re-created outdoor village. After wandering the village and watching demonstrations such as flint knapping and blowgun-making, groups can choose among a few Native American crafts. The most popular group activity is basketweaving. “For a lot of guests, this is their first experience with Native American culture,” said Candessa Tehee, executive director of the center. “To work on a basket alongside a Cherokee instructor educates them about the culture and tradition through its making, and the object serves as a reminder of their time on campus.” Cherokee basketry dates back thousands of years. Women wove cane, white oak, hickory bark and honeysuckle into the main source of storage. The baskets were also used as strainers, for hunting and fishing and as bassinets of sorts. Visitors make a traditional double-walled round reed basket. Center guides prepare the first wall ahead of time, and groups finish the baskets by weaving the reed around the spokes to create the outer portion. The process takes roughly an hour.

Jay Smith, President, Sports Travel and Tours

OKC-ing is believing.

From whatever direction your tour approaches OKC, you’ll find the intersection of I-44, I-40, I-35 and Route 66 is a modern metropolis with loads of group-friendly attractions like the Bricktown Canal, the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. If OKC isn’t already on your list, it’s time to stop and OKC what you’ve been missing.

/GROUPS

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Currently, the Heritage Center is displaying a basket exhibit that includes the world’s tallest Cherokee basket, standing more than 10 feet, as well as a basket that survived the Trail of Tears. “We’re happy to do other add-ons other than baskets for groups,” Tehee said. “Some are just more time-consuming and more expensive.” Other relatively easy take-home projects are corn-husk dolls and pottery, and more involved projects include feather capes, beadwork and center-seamed moccasins. Group organizers can make specific requests in advance. www.cherokeeheritage.org

Murfreesboro, Arkansas An average of one or two diamonds are still unearthed each day at Crater of Diamonds State Park. Courtesy Crater of Diamonds State Park

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The “finders keepers” policy at Crater of Diamonds State Park makes the $4 entrance fee a worthwhile gamble. “This is the only place in the world where people can search in an original volcanic source and keep anything they can find,” said park interpreter Waymon Cox. The Murfreesboro park stretches for more than 900 acres along the Little Missouri River, but groups spend their time searching through a 37-acre field nicknamed the Pig Pen for its muddy terrain after heavy rain and regular plowing. More than 75,000 diamonds have been unearthed since the first diamonds were discovered there in 1906. An average of one to two diamonds are still unearthed each day. In addition to white, brown and yellow diamonds, visitors find amethyst, garnet, jasper, agate, quartz and other rocks and minerals. Before hunting, groups can either watch an instructional video or learn mining techniques from park staffers. Mining tools are also available for rent. “Mining is not like fishing at a lake,” Cox said. “You don’t just show up and know how to do it.” But it doesn’t take long to get the hang of it. Park staffers are trained to identify and register stones, but they won’t put prices on them. Last year’s most sensational find was an 8.52-carat diamond named Esperanza by the Colorado woman who unearthed it. Gemologists determined Esperanza to be the most perfect diamond ever discovered in the United States, and it’s expected to sell for $500,000 at auction later this year. Gems like Esperanza and Uncle Sam (the 40.23carat diamond discovered at Crater of Diamonds in 1924, which is still the largest diamond ever discovered in the United States) are rare finds, yet groups still venture out in all sorts of weather to try their luck. “We’re open year-round,” Cox said. “Only snow slows us down.” www.craterofdiamondsstatepark.com

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êTOP 5 ROUTE 66ê

ATTRACTIONS

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October 9, 2016 through January 8, 2017 Chocolate and its national tour were developed by The Field Museum, Chicago. This exhibition was supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation.

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Exhibition season title sponsor is the Sherman E. Smith Family Charitable Foundation. Support also provided by Mervin Bovaird Foundation, C.W. Titus Foundation and M.V. Mayo Charitable Foundation.

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GRAND CENTRAL LODGING

Courtesy Hotel at Old Town


ARE OVER THE TOP by Dan Dickson

and built it new. But she loves what it represents today. “It’s the nostalgia and something different. Older people like this stuff,” she said. “We get motorcoaches and car clubs. A Corvette club is coming in summer for a Christmas in July celebration. We had one group from Indiana book the entire place.” To many, the most inviting area of the Wagon Wheel is out front under the trees, where people gather in sitting areas on comfortable furniture. With the 90th anniversary of Route 66 this year, there should be even more visitors happily stopping at the old place. www.wagonwheel66cuba.com

istory has never gone out of fashion at numerous lodgings throughout the Grand Central region. Careful efforts to restore and maintain unique motel and hotel properties is all the rage today, and overnight guests couldnít be more grateful for the opportunity to sleep in one of them. Whether your travelers are into safari huts, motor lodges or historic skyscrapers, there is a unique hotel in the Grand Central states to suit their taste.

Cuba, Missouri The Wagon Wheel Motel, an Ozark sandstone motor court in the tiny town of Cuba, is an architectural gem from a bygone era. It still beckons weary travelers to pull off one of America’s most celebrated highways for the night. The colorful and now-famous neon sign looks like something your grandparents would have seen on their travels. “The motel is 80 years old and one of the last properties that never closed along Route 66,” said Connie Echols, owner of the Wagon Wheel Motel, Café and Station, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. When Echols bought the place in 2009, it had fallen deeply into disrepair with outdated and dangerous electrical wiring and plumbing and floors that were rotten. “The owners were still renting rooms for $11 a night. There was an older couple that had run it for 40 years,” said Echols. The exterior stonework was still in good shape, and the roof, with four old layers of shingles, was still in reasonable condition. The rooms were modernized, and some were combined into suites. Echols said it might have been easier and cheaper to have knocked down the place

Bartlesville, Oklahoma This year marks the 60th anniversary of the opening of Price Tower, the impressive skyscraper of copper and concrete designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright as a corporate headquarters for an Oklahoma pipeline construction company. “The 19-story tower was created as a multipurpose building, and it is just a little bit different today,” said Brittany Bush, the tower’s hotel and restaurant manager. “Originally, it was office, retail and apartments. Today, instead of apartments, we have the inn. The tower is also home to Copper Bar and Restaurant.” The Inn at Price Tower has 19 guest rooms, including three of the original apartments that have been turned into two-story suites. People from around the world flock there to see a piece of Wright’s handiwork and to spend the night. That includes fans of architecture and museums and “the older crowd

The Hotel at Old Town in Wichita offers both accommodations and local history. S E P T E M B E R / O C T O B E R

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that loves to travel,” said Bush. “They are amazed and in awe of the place because this is the only skyscraper that Frank Lloyd Wright built.” One of the hotel’s unique features is that every guest room has two full walls of windows with spectacular views of either downtown Bartlesville or, in another direction, the Oklahoma Plains. The tower’s art museum offers different exhibits that switch out every three or four months. As an example, there was an exhibit by famed movie costume designer Edith Head. Currently, an exhibit called “Mid-Century to Modern: Dinnerware by Russell Wright and Heath Ceramics” is running. www.pricetower.org

The Wagon Wheel Motel is a classic Route 66 stop in Missouri.

“THEY ARE AMAZED AND IN

AWE OF THE PLACE BECAUSE THIS IS THE ONLY SKYSCRAPER THAT FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT BUILT.”

Courtesy Wagon Wheel Motel

ó Britt a ny Bu sh I n n at P rice Tower Safari lodges surround a fire pit at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas. The Inn at Price Tower reflects its surroundings in Frank Lloyd Wrightís only skyscraper.

Courtesy Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge

Eureka Springs, Arkansas Lions and tigers and cougars — oh my! Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge has them in abundance. This U.S. Department of Agriculturelicensed refuge for big cats in the Ozark Mountains is open to visitors and overnight guests. Visitors get a close-up view of these magnificent beasts in the compound area. “We have rescued more than 200 cats in the last 24 years,” said Lori Hartle, the lodging manager at the refuge. In addition to the cats, the refuge is also home to black bears and grizzly bears and a variety of other smaller rescued creatures. Turpentine Creek has eight different overnight units. The owners are considering adding several more in the future. There are two suites, ideal for families, called Siberian and Bengal. There are also

By Christian Korab, courtesy Price Tower Arts Center

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Courtesy Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge

A lion plays at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge.

“FROM THE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE I

HAVE TALKED TO, IT IS THE MOST UNIQUE PLACE THAT THEY HAVE EVER STAYED.” — L ori Ha r t le T u r pent i ne Creek Wi ld l i fe R ef u ge Sa fa rei L od ges

five safari lodges or cabins with names like Kalahari, Okavango and Kilimanjaro. These units are all decorated in exotic styles and colors. Group planners should note that if they rent all five of the safari lodges at once, one of them will be free of charge. The other popular accommodation is the cozy Tree House, which provides the unusual experience of “sleeping in the trees.” The unit sits on stilts 15 feet off the ground but is nestled comfortably among the tree branches. The refuge sees a lot of wedding groups, family reunions, girls’ weekends and so on. “From the majority of people I have talked to, it is the most unique place that they have ever stayed,” said Hartle. Lodging guests gets free admission to the refuge included with the price of their room. Groups can also arrange for guided tours of the refuge, where they will hear all about the resident animals. www.turpentinecreek.org


Lawrence, Kansas

Lawrenceís historic Eldridge Hotel underwent two renovations in the early 2000s. Courtesy Eldridge Hotel

The site of the present-day Eldridge Hotel was formerly part of the region known as the Kansas Territory. Since the mid-1800s, there have been four hotels on this spot, and the colorful stories about their rise and fall are part of local and state history. The present hotel was constructed in the 1920s. But by the 1970s, with the advancement of hotels and motels on interstate highways, the downtown hotel began to fail and was converted to apartments. In 1981, a group of investors bought the property and converted it back to a hotel. Two successful major restorations took place in the 2000s. “It is a wonderful place, out of this world, a jewel in downtown Lawrence, with all of its history,” said David Longhurst, the hotel’s assistant general manager. “We converted all the common areas to as close to the original lobby and ballrooms as possible. That’s everything on the ground floor, including the flooring, lighting and trim work.” The guest rooms, which include 48 two-room suites, have all been modernized and “are really, really nice,” said Longhurst, who also has some ghost stories to share. Groups often stay at the historic hotel. There are people who travel to Lawrence for corporate meetings and seminars or who are in a wedding party or attending University of Kansas events of all kinds. “We feel privileged to carry on the spirit of Colonel Eldridge,” said Longhurst. Downtown Lawrence, located 25 miles east of Topeka, is a particularly striking spot. Its main thoroughfare, Massachusetts Street, is considered one of the most pleasant main streets in America. There are many beautifully restored buildings with boutiques, restaurants and entertainment districts aplenty in this big university town that adores its college basketball team. www.eldridgehotel.com

Wichita, Kansas In 1906, the Simmons Hardware Company built a warehouse in Wichita adjacent to a rail line that it used to ship goods around the region. In 1999, the structure was gutted and converted into the fabulous Hotel at Old Town. The hotel features a four-story atrium and a piano bar that specializes in jazz on weekends. There are 103 guest rooms and 12 one-bedroom suites above. All the rooms have fully equipped kitchens.

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“The guest rooms still have a lot of the exposed brick in them,” said Karen White, the hotel’s sales manager. “They tried to preserve as much of the building as possible but still update it.” The property is not only a hotel but also an independently owned history museum. The building owner gathered as many artifacts and memorabilia related to the property as possible to create a place where residents and out-of-town guests can appreciate local history. “Our cupola on top of the building still has the original Keen Kutter name painted on it,” said White. The hotel sits in the middle of Wichita’s historic Old Town District with the original brick paver streets and a lot of rich history. The entire neighborhood is a busy place. There are more than 40 restaurants, shops and museums within walking distance of the hotel’s front door. Groups should note that the hotel has partnered with restaurants, bars and other businesses and attractions for free perks, discounts or extra special customer service in what it calls the Gold Cap program. Guests’ hotel room keys are their passports to all of the special treatment. www.hotelatoldtown.com

The Hotel at Old Town occupies an 1800s railroad warehouse.

Courtesy Hotel at Old Town

Beautiful

Acres of sunflowers, bathing in golden light. A violet-peach sunset over the lush, rolling Flint Hills. A million stars gazing down upon a stone fence that stretches for miles. Thereís no place like Kansas for placing yourself into natureís canvas. 800.2.KANSAS ∑ TravelKS.com

Near Lawrence

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AUTHENTICITY FIRST

Courtesy NOTO Arts District


C O M M U N I T I E S H O N O R T H E I R H E R I TA G E by Keren Hamel

he artisan landscape in the Grand Central region is looking brighter than ever, and artists are throwing open studio doors to bring groups in for a visit. In addition to long-standing communities like Little Sweden in Kansas and Mountain View in Arkansas, new artisan communities are forming in unexpected locations like a vintage resort town in Oklahoma and the dilapidated north side of Kansasí capital city. Even up-andcoming artists invite groups to watch as they practice their crafts at College of the Ozarks in Missouri.

Popularly known as Little Sweden, Lindsborg has been a thriving arts community since Swedish immigrants settled there in 1869. The charming town of 3,500 is one of the eight wonders of Kansas. Swedish Dala horse sculptures scattered around town serve as the Lindsborg welcoming committee, and they make the perfect photo opportunity for groups that spend the day exploring galleries and museums and sampling Swedish cuisine. A good starting spot is the Birger Sandzén Memorial Gallery on the Bethany College Campus. The gallery has more than 10,000 works, including Birger Sandzén’s famous landscapes, as well as several pieces from local and national artists. Tour guides tell the story of how the Swedish artist made Lindsborg a community of firsts. In 1899 Sandzén and his friends hosted the first Midwest Art Exhibition, which continues today. Cori Sherman North, curator for the gallery, said part of Sandzén’s legacy is weaving art into the very fabric of Lindsborg culture. “The most amazing thing is that the artists around here are completely

enmeshed in the community. They are the community — they’re not separate in any way,” she said. “Children grow up just having art as a part of their everyday regular lives, and that’s how Sandzén wanted it. Even our banks are filled with local art.” Downtown Lindsborg is lined with several galleries as well as a Swedish craft gallery, where guests can tour the workshop and watch the craftsmen build clocks, chiming door-harps and other Scandinavian knickknacks. Another group favorite is the Red Barn Studio, which was the working studio for the late Lester Raymer, considered the Picasso of the Plains. The Red Barn Studio is filled with Raymer’s prolific art and handiwork from nearly every artistic genre. Farther up Main Street, groups can meet National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson at his Small World Gallery, where he exhibits his greatest work. Small World also displays fascinating jewelry created with unusual materials that his wife, Kathy, finds during their travels around the globe. www.lindsborgcity.org

Built as a planned resort within the Wichita Mountains more than 100 years ago, Medicine Park is a tiny town along the banks of Medicine Creek. The perfect rows of homes were constructed with red granite cobblestones formed in the mountains. With a landscape more reminiscent of Colorado than Oklahoma, Medicine Park stands at the entrance to Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, where the free-roaming bison, longhorns, elk and prairie dogs far outnumber the town’s population of 400.

A mosaic mural welcomes guests to the NOTO Arts district in Topeka. S E P T E M B E R / O C T O B E R

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Red Door Gallery displays work by Oklahoma artists.

Courtesy Ozark Folk Center State Park

Despite its size, the town supports a surprising number of local artists who are experiencing a revival of sorts with new galleries and artisan shops to prove it. Artist Jean Schucker, whose own back door heads into the refuge, recently helped open Red Door Gallery in a creek-side cobblestone shop. The gallery showcases work by more than 60 local artists. “We focus on art from Southwest Oklahoma,” Schucker said. “We have a lot of artists who live here in Medicine Park, and several of our artists come from Lawton, our big neighbor.” Just down the street is Kathy’s Caravan, another cobblestone-and-mortar store, filled to the brim with artisan beads and jewelry. Owner Kathy Freeman is happy to give group tutorials on beading jewelry. Another haunt for local artists is the Branded Bear, which specializes in handmade Native American jewelry, pottery and artifacts from 20 separate tribes, including a few from Oklahoma. A few doors down, groups can gather to watch artist Mary Wunderlich paint cards and stationery in her quaint little shop, Mew and Company. In addition to her work, Wunderlich showcases handmade accessories, prints, children’s essentials and home goods from artisans with a fresh, happy style like her own. “Until recently, our local artists were showing only occasionally, but we’re raising the level of art appreciation,” Schucker said. “It’s not so much for business as it is for pleasure.” Ozark Folk Center State Park feawww.medicinepark.com

A College of the Ozarks art student draws outdoors.

Courtesy Red Door Gallery

Internationally acclaimed as the Folk Music Capital of the World, Mountain View prides itself on preserving the Ozark Mountain music tradition. In one night, as many as 3,000 string musicians will descend on the courthouse square for an tures numerous traditional crafts. all-night jam session. It’s not in the title, but Mountain View equally celebrates folk artisanship and has become a regional hub for craftsmen. The artisan community exists largely because of the Ozark Folk Center, a state park designed to promote mountain music and crafts. Located on a mountain just north of Mountain View, the center hosts a craft village, where artists demonstrate their skills in several workshops. Blacksmiths, potters, fiber artists, woodworkers, gunsmiths and several other craftsmen encourage groups to crowd around and ask questions while they work. “We have this nucleus of artisans and musicians that has become generational in some cases,” said Folk Center superintendent John Morrow. “And we continue to bring folks from outside of the area who settle here because of the culture.” Groups could spend a few days at the Folk Center alone, but Morrow suggests they make time to see the thriving downtown artisan community as well. The Arkansas Craft Guild is based in Mountain View, and those artists show off their work in the Arkansas Craft Gallery on Main Street. Several artists who exhibit their work at the gallery have organized one of the most popular rural studio tours in the nation. The Off the Beaten Path tour directs groups to 30 studios scattered in the hills around the valley. In its 15th year, the tour runs every third weekend in September

Courtesy College of the Ozarks

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and serves as a model for artisan communities around the nation. The guild also gave rise to the downtown Arkansas Craft School, which offers classes in media like glass and clay. The highly accomplished faculty offers nearly 45 weekend workshops that groups can attend April through November. www.ozarkfolkcenter.com

Students give free guided tours of the campus, or groups can wander at their own pace. Every tour includes a stop at Edwards Mill, a fully operational replica of an 1800s gristmill powered by a 12-foot-diameter water wheel turned by runoff water from nearby Lake Honor. Inside the mill, some students grind whole-grain meal and flour while others work in the weaving and basket studios. Similarly popular are the stained-glass studio, the pottery studio and the fruit-and-jelly kitchen, where groups can expect demonstrations and free samples. “People can talk one on one with students, or students can give talks to whole groups at a time,” Cummings said. The Ozarks’ high level of craftsmanship is on full display at the Williams Memorial Chapel in the center of campus. Students took years to build the architectural gem made of limestone, wood and stained glass. In addition to creations by students, the art department brings in works from around the world. The Boger Art Gallery draws crowds with rotating exhibits from nationally prominent artists throughout the year. The college is also proud of the Ralph Foster Museum, which houses thousands of pieces dedicated to the history of the Ozarks. The eclectic collection has everything from Thomas Hart Benton’s historic cover for “The Grapes of Wrath” to the original clunker used in “The Beverly Hillbillies.” www.cofo.edu

Abandoned after the devastating floods of 1951, North Topeka’s business district became notorious for disrepair and high crime. Tourists and locals alike avoided North Kansas Avenue. A two-block stretch has been transformed in the span of a few short years into what is today the thriving North Topeka Arts District, known locally as NOTO. Nikki Sloup, co-chair of the NOTO board, said the dramatic turnaround came much faster than organizers anticipated. “Everyone’s getting behind this,” Sloup said. “There’s so much to see and do, and we’re growing exponentially.” Artists have flocked to North Kansas Avenue from across the Midwest, and nearly 30 now call NOTO their permanent home. Originally built in the late 1800s, business facades and interiors have been restored to their High Victorian glory and transformed into galleries, boutiques, cafes, eateries and antique shops. Many artists work from second-floor studios where they can watch the lively street below. An artist hand-paints stationery at Groups are best served by visiting NOTO Mew and Company in Medicine Park. on weekends, when the district hosts meet-andgreets with artists, gallery tours and antique Courtesy Mew and Company crawls. Weekends are also the best opportunity for visitors to attend workshops in an array of media. The first renowned artist to commit to NOTO was Barbara Waterman Peters. Visitors can watch her work in Studio 831, where she is joined by many more artists. Another important stop is the 80-foot mural that backs into an alley off North Kansas Avenue created by Philadelphia muralist Isaiah Zagar. “We really have tremendously talented artists to celebrate and want to give them a platform to amplify their work, to give them a stage and an area where they can be celebrated,” Sloup said. She expects NOTO to overtake two to three more blocks in the coming decade. www.notoshopping.com

Grand Central’s future artisans are perfecting their skills in 90 open workshops at College of the Ozarks, just south of Branson. The college, which provides on-campus work for students to fully fund their educations, invites groups to stop in to see their progress. “What’s interesting is that it gives students the opportunity to create and make beautiful things, but to do it in a way that benefits them,” said Richard Cummings, associate professor of art at the college. Many students graduate to become successful artists and art teachers, he said.

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