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

FIND YOUR

SOUTH America’s cool lies beyond every turn


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

COMES TO BRANSON M A R C H 12-15, 2 017

Don’t miss the opportunity to experience the sights and sounds of the Ozark Mountains as Missouri hosts the Travel South Showcase for the first time ever. Experience award-winning entertainers, world-class attractions and unmatched beauty as America’s live music show capital welcomes Travel South!


THE PERFECT STAGE FOR GROUPS TO

PLAY TOGETHER AMAZING ACROBATS OF SHANGHAI

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.

ExploreBraa nson n Gr Groups m p .com 80 0 - 2 1 4 -3 6 61


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TRAVEL

SOUTH Tour Planner

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2017

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T HE M I C RO BR EW

BOOM

Local breweries are putting a Southern twist on beer.

T HE S O UT H

AFTER DARK

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

T HE A LWAY S

SOCIAL SOUTH

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

PUBLISHED FOR

SO U V E NI R S

3500 PIEDMONT RD. NE, STE. 210 ATLANTA, GA 30305 404-231-1790 WWW.TRAVELSOUTHUSA.COM

TO SAVOR

Take home some of these tasty treats during your next Southern sojourn.

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PUBLISHED BY

NICHE TRAVEL PUBLISHERS 301 EAST HIGH STREET LEXINGTON, KY 40507 888-253-0455 WWW.GROUPTRAVELLEADER.COM

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G U ID E D

ADVENTURES

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

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

MENTIONS

WW W. AL AB AM A . T RA VE L

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

TENNESSEE

WW W. AR KA NS A S . C OM

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

KRISTEN BRANSCUM • COMMISSIONER K E N T U C K Y D E PA R T M E N T O F T O U R I S M WW W. KE NT UCKY T O U RI S M . C OM

K Y L E E D M I S T O N • A S S I S TA N T S E C R E TA R Y LOUISIANA OFFICE OF TOURISM WW W. LO UI SIA N A T RA VE L . C O M

D . C R A I G R AY • D I R E C T O R VISIT MISSISSIPPI WW W. VIS IT MI S S I S S I P PI . OR G

DAN LENNON • DIRECTOR MISSOURI DIVISION OF TOURISM WW W. VIS IT M O. C OM

WIT TUTTELL • DIRECTOR VISIT NORTH CAROLINA WW W. VIS IT N C. C O M

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

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

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

WW W. TN VAC AT I ON . C OM

Tennessee Department of Tourist Development

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

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

WW W. VIR G I N I A . OR G

AMY SHULER GOODWIN • COMMISSIONER WEST VIRGINIA DIVISION OF TOURISM

@kristi_parsons

W WW .GO T OW V . C OM

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


K YL E ED MI S T ON

spurs growth to Southern destinations BY MAC LACY

A

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

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

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

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


AND

L I Z B I T T N ER

headline the year ahead BY MAC LACY

“M

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

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

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

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


Hundreds of Beautiful Quilts

SHOW DATES DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA March 1–4, 2017

World-Renowned Quiltmaking Instructors

LANCASTER, PENNSYLVANIA March 29–April 1, 2017

SPRING PADUCAH, KENTUCKY

Aisles of Fabric, Machines, and Quilting Supply Vendors

April 26–29, 2017

GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN

August 16–19, 2017

For more information visit QuiltWeek.com/Tours

FALL PADUCAH, KENTUCKY

September 13–16, 2017

DES MOINES, IOWA

October 4–7, 2017

CREATE INSPIRE ENJOY TOGETHER Detail: SPUYTEN DUYVIL by Patricia Hobbs

NATIONAL BRAND PARTNER


C RYI NG E AG LE B R E W ER Y Courtesy Crying Eagle Brewery

MICRO

Courtesy Slowboat Brewing Company

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

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

BIRD SO N G B R EW IN G CO . Courtesy Birdsong Brewing Company

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T HE BE E RS O F SW EE TWA T ER BR EWI N G C OM P AN Y H A VE B E C OM E S T AP L ES OF T H E AT L AN T A AR EA. Courtesy SweetWater Brewing Company

W W W .T R A V E LS OU TH U S A . CO M

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WITH THE UNPRECEDENTED BOOM IN MICROBREWING

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

H OG SHE AD TO URS Courtesy Hogshead Tours

BLUE PANTS BREWERY

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

HOGSHEAD TOURS

PAD UC AH B EER WE RK S

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

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

SWEETWATER BREWING COMPANY

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

Courtesy Paducah Beer Werks

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

PADUCAH BEER WERKS

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


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

#travelky


CRYING EAGLE BREWING COMPANY

SLOWBOAT BREWING COMPANY

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

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

W W W . C RY I N G E A G L E . C OM

WWW.SLOWBOATBREWCO.COM

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

A B U RG ER A T C RY I N G E A G L E B R E WE R Y

Courtesy Crying Eagle Brewery

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SWAMP RABBIT BREWING

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

SL O W B O A T BR E W I N G CO M PA N Y

Courtesy Slowboat Brewing Company

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

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

Courtesy Slowboat Brewing Company

SW AM P R A B B I T BR E W ER Y

MENTIONS ALABAMA

Courtesy Swamp Rabbit Brewery

@hkstaggs

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

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

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

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®


B E ER B R EA KF A S T A T U RB A N C H ES T N U T

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

Courtesy Urban Chestnut Brewery

THE BIE RHAL L AT UR B AN CH E STN UT BR E WE R Y

U RB A N C H ES T N U T B E ER

Courtesy Urban Chestnut Brewery

Courtesy Urban Chestnut Brewery

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

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BIRDSONG BREWING COMPANY

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

www.visitbardstown.com 800.638.4877


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

URBAN CHESTNUT BREWING COMPANY

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

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

B I R D S ON G B RE W ING CO.

Courtesy Birdsong Brewing Co.

Something new to discover everyday.

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

A . CO M

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JOHNSON CITY BREWING COMPANY

JO HN SO N CI TY BR EW I N G

Photos courtesy Johnson City Brewing

hello

Huntsville

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

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

bucket list 1

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

2

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

3

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

4

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

Pam Williams

Tourism Sales Manager HuntsvilleCVB

20

@Go2HuntsvilleAL

256.551.2204 pam@huntsville.org

VisitHuntsvilleAL #iHeartHsv

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

VIRGINIA BREWERY TOURS

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

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

S A M P L I N G RI CHM OND BE ER

WW W. VIR G I N I A B R EW E RY TO U RS . CO M

GREENBRIER VALLEY BREWING COMPANY

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

Courtesy RVA Trolley of Richmond

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

W W W .T R A V E LS OU TH U S A . CO M

1-800-368-3097

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G R EEN B RI E R VA L L E Y B R EW I N G C OM P A N Y Courtesy Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company

LIC KIN GHO L E CR E E K CR AFT BREW ERY O UTS IDE O F R I CH M O N D

V I RG I N I A B R EW E RY T OU RS

Courtesy Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery

Courtesy RVA Trolley of Richmond

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

DON’T JUST LEARN A B O U T H I S TO R Y

AVE E AB HA H BLA LAST LA ST

50 YEARS

CELEBRATING

THIS

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Plan your trip to Virginia now at

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Don’t miss the fun apres sun

B Y S AV A N N A H O S B O U R N

MU S IC CI T Y R O O TS

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

Courtesy Mount Vernon Ladies Association

MOUNT VE R NO N B Y CA N DL E LI GH T

Courtesy Mount Vernon Ladies Association

SOUTHERN

NIGHTS

Courtesy Music City Roots

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ALM OS T HE AV EN STA R P AR TY SH O WCAS ES T H E S I G H T S A B OV E W ES T V I R G I N I A ' S S P R U C E K N OB . By Jiaquan Liu, courtesy Spruce Knob Mountain Center

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WITH GLITTERING LIGHTS AND VIBRANT SOCIAL GATHERINGS,

the South can seem like a different place after dark.

FLORA -BAMA BE FORE D ARK

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

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

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

MYRTLES PLANTATION

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

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


FISHBONE ALLEY

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

M YR T L E S P L AN T AT I ON IN L OUI S IA NA

Photos courtesy Myrtles Plantation

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

L A F AY E T T E T R AV E L . C O M /Groups

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FI SHBON E AL L EY I N G UL F PO RT

Courtesy City of Gulfport

By Alex North, courtesy Visit MS Gulf Coast

Courtesy City of Gulfport

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

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

EXIT 45 I-77/I-64 BECKLEY, WV TAMARACKWV.COM 1.888.262.7225

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

hope to incorporate a variety of themes, from family classics like “The Wizard of Oz” to date-night films and holiday favorites. WW W. GUL F CO AS T . OR G

MUSIC CITY ROOTS

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

M UR A L S I N FI S HBONE AL L EY

Courtesy City of Gulfport

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MUSIC CIT Y R O O TS

Courtesy Music City Roots

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

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

MOUNT VERNON CANDLELIGHT TOUR

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

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

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

Courtesy Music City Roots

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

ALMOST HEAVEN STAR PARTY

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

WWW.MOUNTVERNON.ORG

DA NC IN G AT MO UN T VE RN O N

MENTIONS

Courtesy Mount Vernon Ladies Association

MISSISSIPPI

@tlk3rd

Mississippi Development Authority

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

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

WAIT IN G FOR S UN SE T STA R GA Z I N G AT T HE S PRUC E K N OB M OU N TA I N C EN TE R F O R TH E AR TS

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

MENTIONS VIRGINIA

Courtesy Spruce Knob Mountain Center

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

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

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

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


OUR STORIED ROADS AND RIVERS

W

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Book your group now! mohistory.org/route66tours SPONSORED BY

ROUTE

66 Main Street Through St. Louis

Missouri History Museum Forest Park | St. Louis

Special Exhibition

May–Aug. 2017

Take whatever you expect from Columbia, and unexpect it. Then take a day, a weekend, a road trip, to see how a midsized Midwest town likes to have a good time. Just don’t feel like you need to take out a small loan or a lot of vacation days to get here. visitcolumbiamo.com

Groups are always welcome! Group rates available! 1-800-332-1286 www.mobot.org/tourism

Nov. 2017–Jan. 2018


True to life. True to us.

SpringfieldMo.org


Sedalia, Missouri where Music History Lives!

www.VisitSedaliaMo.com


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


N ORT H CA RO L IN A M U SEU M O F AR T

Courtesy NC Museum of Art

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

TRENDING

Courtesy Visit Knoxville

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

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S HAKER V ILLAGE O F P L E ASA NT H I L L O F F E R S P LE N T Y O F P I C T U R ES Q U E, S H AR EAB L E S C EN ES FOR S OC I AL - M EDI A- SA VVY VI S I TOR S . Courtesy Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill

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THE SOUTH HAS ALWAYS BEEN SOCIAL,

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

AU IT ORIUM R IUM AUD DIT TO RIUM RIU T HE E M A T THE A R KA NSAS RT O RY ARK K ANS ANSAS S RE PE P E RTO R Y T H E ATR AT R E AS Courtesy Arkansas Repertory Theatre

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

ARKANSAS REPERTORY THEATRE

“ A C HRIST MAS ST O RY ” A T T HE ARK ANS AS RE PE RT O R Y THE AT RE

By Stephen B. Thornton

COLLE GE F O OT BALL HALL O F F AM E Courtesy College Football Hall of Fame

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

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

COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME

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

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


SHAKER VILLAGE OF PLEASANT HILL

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

S H A K ER V I L L AG E O F P LE A SA NT H IL L

Photos courtesy Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill

TO UNDERSTAND THE WORLD, YOU MUST FIRST

understand a place like Mississippi.” -William Faulkner

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

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We Cover

All the Bases for Group Tours

S EL FI E S A T H OT E L V A N DI VO RT Courtesy Hotel Vandivort

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

Courtesy Hotel Vandivort

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

Courtesy Hotel Vandivort

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

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

RE DD ING

Don’t miss our upcoming special exibits:

WHERE MUSIC MEETS THE MAJORS

March 4, 2017 thru January 7, 2018

Opening 2018

Contact Us groupsales@sluggermuseum.com 502-588-7227 S H AK ER VI L L A G E OF PL EAS ANT HI L L Courtesy Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill

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HOTEL VANDIVORT

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

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

P ERF EC T S EL F I E S A T HO TE L VA NDI VOR T

WW W. H OT E L V A N D I V OR T . C OM Courtesy Hotel Vandivort

rejuvenate your mind & body

© Cajun Encounters

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

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NORTH CAROLINA MUSEUM OF ART

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

S OC IA L MO MEN T S A T T H E N OR TH C AR OL IN A MUS EU M OF A R T

Photos courtesy NC Museum of Art

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

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

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MENTIONS WE ST V IR G IN I A

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WHY KNOX

KN OXV ILLE ’S #W H YK N O X C AM P A I GN

Courtesy Visit Knoxville

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

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

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

Gibbs Gardens | Ball Ground, GA

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


RIV E R STR E E T SW EE TS

Courtesy River Street Sweets

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

Courtesy Ale-8-One Bottling Company

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

MRS. HANE S MO R A VI AN CO O KI ES Courtesy Mrs. Hanes Moravian Cookies

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V ISITO RS T O MI SSI SSIP P I CA N TA KE H O M E T H E FA M OU S C U P C A K ES FR OM S U G AR EE’ S B AK ER Y I N NE W A LBA NY. Courtesy Sugaree’s Bakery

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HAVING A DELICIOUS MEAL WHEN YOU TRAVEL

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

MCC LARD ’ S B AR- B- Q

Courtesy McClard’s Bar-B-Q

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

MCCLARD’S BAR-B-Q RESTAURANT

ALE -8 -ON E Courtesy Ale-8-One Bottling Company

AN ALE- 8 L AB E L

Courtesy Ale-8-One Bottling Company

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

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

ALE-8-ONE BOTTLING COMPANY

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

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


SUGAREE’S BAKERY

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

S WE ET TRE AT S AT SU GAR EE ’S I N M I SSI SSI P P I

Courtesy Sugaree’s Bakery

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

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

@freneticfitlisa

MENTIONS

WW W. SUG A RE ES . C OM

TOPSY’S POPCORN

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

ARKANSAS

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W W W .T R A V E LS OU TH U S A . CO M

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MRS. HANE S M O R AV IA N C O O K IE S

T O PS Y ’ S PO PC OR N Courtesy Topsy’s Popcorn

T O PS Y ’ S PO PC OR N Courtesy Mrs. Hanes Moravian Cookies

GO

Courtesy Topsy’s Popcorn

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

explore THE OUTER BANKS

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

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The Outer Banks

P L A N N E R OF

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outerbanks.org

®


“One time, one of the girls from the Golden Girls came in,” said Blake. “It can be pretty exciting.” W W W.T OPS Y SPO PCO RN . CO M

MRS. HANES MORAVIAN COOKIES

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

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

H AN ES TE MP L I N

M R S. H A NE S O F CO OK IE F A M E Photos courtesy Mrs. Hanes Moravian Cookies

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

RIVER STREET SWEETS

PRAL IN E S A T R IV ER ST R E E T SWEE TS

Courtesy River Street Sweets

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

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


You know that expression

“NEVER A DULL MOMENT,” it originated here.

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

W E ’ R E P R O U D T O H O S T T R A V E L S O U T H S H O W CAS E 2 0 1 8 .


MENTIONS NORTH CAROLINA

T O PP I N G T H E B EA R C L AW S AT R I VE R S T R EE T SW EE T S

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

Courtesy River Street Sweets

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

V isit Nor th Carolina

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


VI SI T

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


SCE N I C VI EW I N T HE L AN D OF W A TE R FA L LS

Courtesy Visit North Carolina

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

Courtesy Gross Savanne Eco-Tours

AN INSIDER’S

Find your South with an expert guide

K A YAK I NG V IR G I N IA’S E AST ER N S H O R E Courtesy Southeast Expeditions

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TRU E ADV EN TU RE SPO R TS CA N TA KE N O VI CE S O N C L I M B I N G A N D R A P P EL L I N G EX C U R S I ON S I N A L A B AM A’ S D ES OTO S TA TE P A R K. Courtesy True Adventure Sports

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THE BEST WAY TO EXPLORE THE NATURAL WONDERS

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

G UIDE D C LIMBIN G AT D ESO TO S T AT E PARK .

Courtesy True Adventure Sports

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

DESOTO STATE PARK

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

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

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TYBEE BEACH ECOLOGY TRIPS

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

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

T Y B EE B EA C H EC OL OG Y TOU RS

Courtesy Tybee Beach Ecology Tours

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

CO LORF UL WA TE RF O WL IN LO UI SI A N A ’S GR O SSE SA VAN NE M AR S H LAN D

W W W . CE A S U RF . C OM

Courtesy Lake Charles/SWLA CVB

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GROSSE SAVANNE ECO-TOURS

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


locations in the United States. Herons, cranes, storks and roseate spoonbills are just a few of the feathered friends that visitors can hope to meet. During the boat tour, visitors are treated to a narrated overview of the area’s unique ecosystem and history as they drift past flowering lily pads, nesting birds and the occasional alligator hiding in the reeds. Though the water may seem deserted at first, make no mistake, the smallest disturbance can bring alligators to the surface in the blink of an eye. Visitors are encouraged to leave as early as possible, since birds and other wildlife tend to come out during the morning. Boats can accommodate up to eight passengers at a time. WWW.G ROS SE SAV AN N E E CO TO URS .CO M

HORSEBACK WATERFALL TOURS

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

G R OS S E S A VA N NE E CO -TOU RS

Courtesy Lake Charles/SWLA CVB

Gro up R ates Ava ilab le.

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

PRE PAR IN G TO P AD DL E BO AR D WI TH SO UT HEA ST EX PE DI T IO N S

Courtesy VTC

W W W . H OR S EB A C K W AT ER FAL L T OU R S. CO M

SOUTHEAST EXPEDITIONS

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

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ADVENTURE WILD, WONDERFUL WEST VIRGINIA

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

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TWIN FALLS PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP

TWIN FA LL S PHO T O GR A P H Y WO R KSH O P

By Wayne Rotsch, courtesy Twin Falls State Park

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

Owensboro, Kentucky

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


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Travel South Tour Planner 2017  

The 2017 Travel South Tour Planner features the top attractions, experiences and destinations from across the southern states. Brought to y...

Travel South Tour Planner 2017  

The 2017 Travel South Tour Planner features the top attractions, experiences and destinations from across the southern states. Brought to y...