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APRIL 2014


What do 500 butteries sound like?

What’s it like to feed a stingray? From learning Irish dance moves to face-to-face encounters with stingrays, Columbus is full of unforgettable hands-on experiences perfect for groups of all sizes. Start planning your Columbus visit today at experiencecolumbus.com/tours or call 800-354-2657.

What do they serve at 125-year-old dinner parties?


VOL. 24, NO. 2 • APRIL 2014

56

Niagara USA

contents

ON THE COVER:

COVER STORY

Niagara Falls as seen from a helicopter. (Photo courtesy Niagara USA)

56 White Walls of Water

BY RANDY MINK

Combine one of Mother Nature’s most awesome spectacles with tamer attractions in the Niagara/Buffalo area.

COLUMNS

6

On My Mind BY JEFF GAYDUK

FEATURES

8

On Tour BY MARTY SARBEY DE SOUTO

15

Full Circle: Interview with Peggy Bitzer

17

Bulbs to Brews

20

Latin America Trip Tips

22 28 40 43

Best of Minnesota: Icons, Events, Theaters

46 50

Discovering Downtown L.A.

53

Kansas Roadside Attractions

60

Top Theatre Picks

10 BY VANESSA DAY

BY NANCY SCHRETTER

BY MARTY SARBEY DE SOUTO

Filming Locations in the South Pittsburgh Panorama Leisurely Laughlin

On Family Travel

66

On Marketing BY DAVE BODLE

BY RANDY MINK

BY DAVE BODLE

BY RANDY MINK

BY JEFF GAYDUK

Wyoming’s Three C’s

BY DAVE BODLE

BY SUE ARKO BY LAUREN REINIGER

BY LAUREN REINIGER

20

Rio de Janeiro: One of South America’s glittering jewels.

4 April 2014

LeisureGroupTravel.com


NUMBER CRUNCHING

ON LOCATION Lance Harrell, director of online media for Leisure Group Travel, soaks in the tropical splendor at Costa Rica’s Punto de Vista Boutique Hotel.

15,739 Rose bushes in L.A.’s Exposition Park

638½ D Size of the World’s Largest Boot in Red Wing, Minnesota

WHAT’S ONLINE? DON’T MISS OUR ONLINE EXCLUSIVES

20

S

ince there’s never enough space room in these pages for everything we write up, what doesn’t make it into print goes on our website, www.leisuregrouptravel.com. Throughout the magazine you’ll see notices directing you to our online articles. Among the freshly posted Online Exclusives: Two articles that focus on group-friendly places outside of Pittsburgh. “Pittsburgh’s Botanical Bounty” spotlights a brand new botanical garden opening this summer and includes a look at a time-honored conservatory as well. And read about the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum and other attractions in Washington, Pa., a half hour from Pittsburgh. Also, you’ll also find online reports on a baseball exhibit at the Reagan Presidential Library, outdoor adventures in Southwest Michigan, and a collection of hands-on and behind-the-scenes adventures for groups in Minneapolis. Visit our website often!

Miles between Niagara Falls and Buffalo, New York

1,300,000 Metro-area population of Grand Rapids, Michigan

1890 Year that Wyoming was admitted to the Union

Brazilian Tourism Board – Embratur

11,000 Bricks in Sedan, Kansas’ Yellow Brick Road

18 Passenger capacity of Pittsburgh’s Duquesne Incline


O N MY M I N D

By Jeffrey Gayduk

Vol. 24, No. 2 April 2014

New Regional Trade Shows— Market Expansion or Threat to Status Quo? I WAS FORTUNATE to be able to spend some time on the phone with Peggy Bitzer, a longtime friend and colleague from Circle Wisconsin. We talked about how she got the job (didn’t want it), how much she travels (too much) and her swansong, the Midwest Marketplace, which takes place May 4-6 near Madison, Wisconsin. The three-day trade show capitalizes on a trend that’s taking place in the group travel marketplace—more regional events. Read about this in the interview with her on page 15. Bitzer and a similar group of entrepreneurs are spurring a trend in the group travel industry towards more regionally focused trade shows. While the concept isn’t new, it is gaining momentum. Sue Arko is one of those entrepreneurs. For 16 years, she has run a successful regional event called Spotlight on the Southwest. This show draws a loyal group of like-minded tourism professionals interested in creating new itineraries in the region. ”I have found that big business is done in small, focused groups,” said Arko. “Spotlight is a cost-effective way to meet with partners who often don't attend the larger shows and this is the only way to reach them.“ In 2012, Arko connected with industry veteran Melinda Hughey to create a new event in the Southeast modeled after the successful Spotlight on the Southwest. Thus was born Spotlight on the Southeast. As Arko explains, Hughey was instrumental in the expansion of Spotlight to the southeastern region. “She is a long-time attendee of Spotlight and felt that the Southeast could benefit from a similar conference. And the Mississippi Gulf Coast (site of this August’s event) has provided awesome support. Everyone is excited about the possibilities.” Meanwhile, a similar story is playing out in New England. Chris Donnelly has been a visible part of the New England travel scene for nearly 30 years. “In the early 1990's I became friends with Jack O' Neil, who worked for the Springfield, Massachusetts CVB,” Donnelly said. “We noticed representation of New England delegates at major shows was very small. We discussed putting a regional show together, but after I opened Sugar Tours it left me no time to move this concept forward. This past year, after talking with tour operators and suppliers I finally decided to move forward with the project.” Donnelly continues, “The response has been fabulous, we have had a dozen tour companies reserve space to attend this November’s show. I am surprised that we already have delegates from Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Mississippi, Florida and Ontario.” With ABA and NTA going head-to-head for tour operator attendees, will their prime candidates be wooed away by more regionally focused shows? The stakes couldn’t be higher. Associations drive, on average, 40% of their annual revenue from trade shows and if buyers don’t come, suppliers won’t either. Both groups have been aggressively marketing their shows, pre- and post. Add in the half-dozen other events that are fishing in the same pond for attendees, and there is a lot of competition for trade show booths and buyer attendance. The solution that would keep everyone happy is that the industry needs to grow the base of buyers by actively promoting the positive virtues of group travel. In the meantime, there are three new shows for tour buyers and suppliers to consider for 2014. And competition is healthy. Competition is good.

Editorial & Advertising Office 621 Plainfield Road, Suite 406 Willowbrook, IL 60527 P 630.794.0696 • F 630.794.0652 info@ptmgroups.com

Publisher – Jeffrey Gayduk jeff@ptmgroups.com

Associate Publisher – Dave Bodle dave@ptmgroups.com

Managing Editor – Randy Mink randy@ptmgroups.com Director, Design & Production – Robert Wyszkowski rob@ptmgroups.com

Regional Business Development Managers Northeast & Eastern Midwest/Canada – Harry Peck P 330.830.4880 • F 630.794.0652 harry@ptmgroups.com

Mid-Atlantic/New England/ Wisconsin/Arkansas – Ellen Klesta P 630.794.0696 • F 630.794.0652 ellen@ptmgroups.com

Southeast/West Coast – Cheryl Rash P 563.613.3068 • F 815.225.5274 cheryl@ptmgroups.com

Frontier & Mountain West/ Illinois/Minnesota/Southwest – Linda Ragusin P 630.794.0696 • F 630.794.0652 linda@ptmgroups.com The publisher accepts unsolicited editorial matter, as well as advertising, but assumes no responsibility for statements made by advertisers or contributors. Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information published, but the publisher makes no warranty that listings are free of error. The publisher is not responsible for the return of unsolicited photos, slides or manuscripts.

Leisure Group Travel (ISSN-1531-1406) is published bi-monthly by Premier Travel Media, 621 Plainfield Road, Suite 406, Willowbrook, IL 60527. The magazine is distributed free of charge to qualified tour operators, travel agents, group leaders, bank travel clubs and other travel organizations. Other travel-related suppliers may subscribe at the reduced rate of $12.00 per year. The regular subscription price for all others is $18.00 per year. Single copies are $4.95 each.

Send Address Change to: Premier Travel Media 621 Plainfield Road, Suite 406 Willowbrook, IL 60527

A

publication

All rights reserved. Materials may not be reproduced in any form without written permission of the publisher.

Happy traveling,

Jeff Gayduk, Publisher 6 April 2014

LeisureGroupTravel.com


WE TH THOUGHT HOUGHT T OF IT. IT T. T. YOUR Y YO OUR O UR GR GROUP ROUP EN ENJOYS NJOYS NJO OYS IT OY IT. T. T. S ISE LE! U CR L AB 5 1 I 20 AVA W NO

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By Marty Sarbey de Souto, CTC

O N TOU R

How Good A Tour Leader Are You? 3 e all know that leading a

W

If leading a group

tour is hard work and takes

a certain kind of person with just the right organizational

and interpersonal skills. Test yourself by answering the following 10 questions:

Tour leading can be rewarding but is not for everyone.

of North Americans

in a foreign country, the leader: A) Must know the language of the country they are visiting. B) Must have been to each of the countries on the itinerary.

1

When you first meet your group, which of the following is not

necessary? A) To greet each member and

C) Should have emergency phone

C) The leader should remind the tour members that they are responsible for their own passports, but you

numbers of each tour member’s fam-

recommend their checking them in a

ily as well as their personal doctor’s

hotel safety box to prevent loss or

name and phone number.

theft.

4

7

welcome him/her to the trip B) To verify that all tour members are present C) To see each tour member’s personal ID

If a tour member is repeatedly late for daily departures:

A) The tour group should leave without her. B) The leader should give her a

2

If a tour member does not want to participate in one or

more tour activities, your policy should be: A) That’s OK with you as long as

One of your tour members

warning on a previous occasion and if

they advise you in advance that they

grabs the front seat on the

she continues to be late may then opt

are not coming so you don’t hold

to leave without her.

things up waiting for them.

tour coach and insists on keeping that seat throughout. Which of the

C) Wait for her regardless.

following is not appropriate? A) You could remind the tour member quietly that the tour literature indicated that specific seats may not be reserved. B) You could announce on the coach loudspeaker that the tour member has behaved badly by keeping the

responsible to meet up with the group

5

An individual who is serious

later and should understand that they

about a career as a tour leader

won’t get a refund for the activity

should always have ready: A) A valid passport

a seat-change game into the day’s activities.

C) An elegant travel wardrobe to impress the group

C) Both A & B are correct.

8

A tour leader, in accepting an assignment with a tour operator,

should clarify before accepting:

6

On an international trip where passports are required:

A) Each tour member is responsible for carrying his/her own passport.

Marty is a Certified Travel Counselor who designs and leads tours. Her travel industry consulting and educational firm is Sarbey Associates (sarbeyassociates.com). Her e-book How to Plan, Operate and Lead Successful Group Trips can be ordered on groupuniversity.com.

skipped.

B) A supply of travelers’ checks

seat and embarrass her. C) You could skillfully introduce

B) It’s OK with you but they are

B) The tour leader should collect

A) Financial aspects, i.e. salary, airfare to/from the tour, meals and expense budget, if any. B) Whether you will have local step-on guides and other similar local

the passports of all tour members and

help or if you are responsible for all

be responsible for them throughout

activities yourself.

the trip.

C) Both A & B


9

If you are considering leading your first trip for a company with which

you are not familiar, you should: A) Research the tour company on the web before accepting the assignment. B) Just be glad to have your first assignment and go for it; ask questions later. C) Consult travel industry colleagues about the companyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s reputation.

10

Some of the negative aspects of tour leading are:

A) Little time en route for taking care of your health, vitamins, exercise, sleep B) Being away from home, family, friends, social connections C) Both A & B Answers: l-C, 2-B, 3-C, 4-B, 5-A, 6-C, 7-C, 8-C, 9-A or C, 10-C Give yourself 10 points for each correct answer. 90-100 youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re on top of this career! 70-89 you should do well. 60-69 you can adapt, but still have things to learn. 40-59 you should give this career serious thought and study before embarking. Below 40 you might want to consider some other career.

LeisureGroupTravel.com

April 2014 9


By Nancy Schretter

O N FAM I LY TR AVEL

The Market is Strong for Family Celebration Vacations

F

amilies and multigenerational

major life events, bond and create

groups are increasingly travel-

shared memories. Families are also

ing together to celebrate mile-

living farther apart than any time in

stone events. Almost two-thirds

history, so a celebration vacation

of leisure travelers took a celebration

can often be the easiest option for

vacation last year according to the 2013

multigenerational families to gather in

MMGY Portrait of American Travelers

one place.

study. Among multigenerational travelers,

It’s not just parents and grandparents

A milestone birthday or anniversary makes a great excuse for a family trip.

value on vacations as a way to

the number climbs to as high as 80%.

who are traveling with children, however.

strengthen these relationships.” Planning

These trips typically mark special occa-

PANKs, Professional Aunts with No Kids,

typically takes place far in advance to

sions such as birthdays, anniversaries,

are also celebrating milestone family

coordinate schedules, often one of the

reunions, graduations and destination

events with their nieces and nephews.

most difficult aspects of these kinds

weddings. Coming-of-age trips are pop-

In addition, the growth of today’s “she-

of trips.

ular as well.

conomy” with women as the key decision

Industry experts expect this trend to continue to grow. In today’s fast-paced world, it’s often difficult for parents and

makers is supporting this celebration vacation trend. “Women want to invest in relationships

Fun for Everyone Choosing venues that provide flexibility and a wide variety of activities to please

children to spend quality time together.

with their families and loved ones,”

all family members is critical to celebration

Travel is increasingly viewed as the best

says Dorothy Dowling of Best Western

vacation success. Tour operators, ranch

way for family members to celebrate

International, “and they place a high

owners and cruise executives mentioned

Thomson Family Adventures

Many travel planners are seizing on the trend in multigenerational trips.

10 April 2014

LeisureGroupTravel.com


LeisureGroupTravel.com

April 2014 11


O N FAM I LY TR AVEL this as key, since vivid memories are

you create an experience for people with

made through shared experiences.

memories that last a lifetime.” Beckley also cites the importance of keeping grandparents happy and involved

they’re always mindful of trying to keep

in multigenerational celebration vacations

every member of the family very happy,”

– a feeling echoed by Erik Elvejord of

says Tyler Beckley, owner of Three Bars

Holland America Line. “While families

Ranch in British Columbia, Canada.

want to make sure that the kids involved

“By doing things that are new or different,

are happy, they often plan multigenera-

Holland America Line

“When I talk with decision makers planning family celebration vacations,

Holland America offers fun tour options in Alaska.

tional celebration vacations to make sure that the matriarchs and patriarchs are having an incredible time.” Certain destinations also meet this criterion. Kurt Kutay, president of Wildland Adventures, says Costa Rica is popular for family celebration vacations because “it’s easy, safe and family-friendly for all generations to enjoy wildlife and outdoor activities, plus there are lovely accommodations.” Africa, Turkey and the Galapagos are also top choices for family celebration trips, says Kutay. According to travel planners, Maui, Cancun and Orlando are other destinations with a broad range of family activities.

Value-Added Packages and Services Many firms in the travel industry are catering to the family celebration vacation market with packages, services and opportunities for personalization. Disney spotted this trend early on and added a wide variety of customized services for family celebration vacations. Holland America offers a family reunion package that includes exclusive amenities and up12 April 2014

LeisureGroupTravel.com


grades, while Carnival Cruise Lines pro-

its growth year after year. Families

their celebration vacations, seeking out

vides a Group Fun Points program with

staying at Colorado’s Lost Valley

villa-style accommodations and venues

flexible amenities for celebrating family

Ranch create their own brand and have

available for large group rentals. The

groups.

it seared into the dining room’s wood

beachfront Grand Residences Riviera

paneling. Check marks show how often

Cancun, for example, is well-suited for

they’ve returned.

family celebration vacations. The resort

“Many family groups plan a group shore excursion with our Group Event

offers one-, two- and three-bedroom

Planning department,” says Mike Julius of Carnival Cruise Lines. Special group photo appointments, complimentary

Family Room

suites, and its events staff arrange

Families often like to spread out on

unique touches and events for reunions,

celebratory lunch events and private receptions are also available through both cruise lines. Resorts such as Curacao’s Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort and Mexico’s Velas Resorts offer family reunion packages with added value for guests. Many properties also have staff on hand to help create unique celebrations, eliminating many of the planning worries associated with family celebrations. Family-friendly tour operators such as Thomson Family Adventures and Wildland Adventures cater to family celebrations with customplanned events and experiences, includ-

“When I talk with decision makers planning family celebration vacations, they’re always mindful of trying to keep every member of the family very happy. By doing things that are new or different, you create an experience for people with memories that last a lifetime.” —Tyler Beckley, Owner of Three Bars Ranch

ing opportunities to create a community legacy to commemorate their trip. Leaving a legacy can be a powerful

Chicago’s North Shore is home to many world-class attractions and is 20 minutes from downtown Chicago. You’ll find many dining and lodging options perfect for groups. For personalized assistance and to make group reservations, contact us today.

Caryn Shulman 847.763.0011 Ext. 25 cshulman@cnscvb.com

TREAT YOUR GROUP to the year-round beauty of the Chicago Botanic Garden, complete with a tram ride. Other attractions: • Charles Gates Dawes House • Illinois Holocaust Museum • Bahá’í House of Worship • Mary & Leigh Block Musuem of Art at Northwestern University • North Shore Center for the Performing Arts • Wagner Farm • Ravinia Festival

celebratory event for families. At five Ohio State Park Lodges operated by

groups.visitchicagonorthshore.com

Xanterra Parks & Resorts, family reunion guests can plant a tree and then chart LeisureGroupTravel.com

April 2014 13


ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: See Nancy Schretter’s article on family volunteering vacations at http://tinyurl.com/mnckko3.

O N FAM I LY TR AVEL

ular for large family reunions and multigenerational celebrations. Paul Gauguin Cruises reports that sometimes family groups will charter an entire ship. “They can have the whole ship to themselves and it makes for a wonderful memory,” says Vanessa Bloy. Three Bars Ranch also can be rented out for private family celebrations and tailors the entire experience to their guests. “Time together is what builds families,” says Tyler Beckley, “and at Three Bars everyone gets a vacation.” Acknowledging family milestones through shared travel experiences is

Family reunion groups can make special photo appointments on Carnival cruise ships.

important. After all, says Wildland Admilestone birthdays and anniversaries,

company’s Ho’okipa Team takes care

ventures’ Kurt Kutay, celebrating life’s

and coming-of-age festivities.

of small event planning and special

moments together can be the greatest

requests. Thomson Family Adventures

gift of all. LGT

Other properties such Maui’s Destination Resorts Hawaii also cater to cel-

has recognized this trend and often

ebrating families with a wide variety of

builds villa stays into their family cele-

villa accommodations, enabling the en-

bration vacation arrangements.

tire family to be housed together. The

Nancy Schretter is the founder and managing editor of the Family Travel Network (www.familytravelnetwork.com) and an industry consultant in family and multigenerational travel.

Full venue charters can also be pop-

There’s something for everyone in your group, including you. From our homestyle cooking that satisfies the pickiest eaters to our country store filled with gifts and games for everyone. With our designated tour bus parking,* dedicated group phone line, and large party seating accommodations, it’s like we were custom built just for you. And as always, a meal for your driver and guide is on the house. It’s just one of our ways of making sure everyone on the road is taken care of.

crackerbael.com/tourgroups • 1-800-576-7693 Sunday–Thursday 6 a.m.–10 p.m., Friday & Saturday 6 a.m.–11 p.m.

All locations company owned and operated.

*DESIGNATED OVERSIZED PARKING AT MOST LOCATIONS. ©2014 CBOCS PROPERTIES, INC. “CRACKER BARREL OLD COUNTRY STORE” NAME AND LOGO ARE REGISTERED TRADEMARKS OF CBOCS PROPERTIES, INC., REG. USPTO.

14 April 2014

LeisureGroupTravel.com


interview: peggy bitzer ❖

Full Circle Peggy Bitzer

T

Peggy Bitzer looks back on 30 years at the helm of Circle Wisconsin

his spring, after nearly 30 years at the helm of Circle Wisconsin, Peggy Bitzer has decided to turn in her passport.

LGT: Why do you think more states don’t have organizations like Circle Wisconsin?

Leisure Group Travel publisher Jeff Gayduk sat down with

PB: I think there are so many entities that don’t recognize the

Peggy to reflect on her accomplishments and perspective on the

possibilities. In this industry you have so many people changing po-

group travel market.

sitions and shifting focus, they lose sight of it. It takes a lot of work

Leisure Group Travel: How did you get in the travel business?

and you have to be devoted to it. And I think that a lot of organiza-

Peggy Bitzer: I was going back to school to be a nurse and at

tions get discouraged. But, it’s interesting to find those who lose

that time, the local hospital laid off something like 150 nurses. I had friends that were nurses and they advised not to pursue the field, so I went to the local technical college and studied marketing and tourism. One day I was at the mall and there was this newspaper called

sight and then come back. LGT: From the member standpoint, how have your numbers changed? Do you still have original members from 1985? PB: We do have several charter members, but you always have attrition. I think people drop out because 1) they haven’t followed

Inside Eau Claire which was produced by the

up with their sales leads and 2) they change

local CVB. I picked it up and thought, “This is

their direction. Maybe one day it’s corporate,

interesting.” I went to the library, researched

another it’s sports. There are always new op-

the CVB and I told myself, “This is where I’m

portunities but groups are constant. To be suc-

going to work.”

cessful, you have to stay visible in your

As it would happen, I was put on the advi-

foundation and grow your other markets.

sory board at the college and met the CVB di-

When we started, our state department of

rector. I positioned myself for an internship

tourism wasn’t focusing on groups other than

and after the internship was over she created

printing a tour planner. We were successful

a position for me in tourism sales.

because we were filling a void, that and com-

I was suddenly in charge of advertising,

mitted to making it grow. That’s good business

publications and going to group travel trade

sense. LGT: On the topic of longevity, after 30

shows. And I had never done any of this. LGT: How did Circle Wisconsin come up?

years does it get stale? How do you keep

PB: There were a couple of people from

things fresh?

Wisconsin that went to Spring NTA and met

PB: I have never felt that way. It has always

with Circle Michigan. At the time they felt

been inspiring for me. I’m not quite sure where

there was a void in the market so they de-

I get my inspiration from but there’s always

cided to model an organization after Circle Michigan. I was totally

that feeling we can do more. There’s many things that if I had the

against the idea and remember saying in a meeting one day,

dollars to do more we would. That was our only limitation.

“Someone is just looking for a job for themselves.” I was aloof to all

LGT: How many trade shows do you estimate you’ve been to?

the meetings. Then one day they called and offered me the posi-

PB: At my 25th anniversary we calculated all the trips and trade

tion! I said, ”Okay, I like a challenge, but under one condition, I need

shows and figured I had been on the road for 12 years. That’s why

to keep my position at the bureau.” My thinking was that if this does-

my husband can say we’re happily married. He’s married and I’m

n’t work I don’t want to give up the bureau.

happy! Along with working our database continuously, I believe we

LGT: At one point did your mind change that you were really on to something at Circle Wisconsin? PB: After six months of doing both, I realized that there was just so much potential here that I decided it’s time that the position become full-time, whether that person is me or someone else. LeisureGroupTravel.com

were successful because we were visible, out in the trenches finding customers. LGT: Any travel memories in particular that stick out? PB: One year I had a particularly heavy travel schedule. I was on the East Coast, then traveled to the West Coast, came home and April 2014 15


interview: peggy bitzer ❖ packed for a two-week trade mission to Germany and the UK with

sure what that will be because I don’t want to fade off into the sun-

our governor. When I came home from the last trip I was sitting at

set, I want to be that social butterfly.

home petting my cat and I asked my husband, “Honey, what’s our

LGT: Does the Midwest Marketplace become your legacy?

cat’s name?” I couldn’t remember it!

PB: I think that it’s a great opportunity for tour operators to be

LGT: When you look back at your time at Circle Wisconsin, what are you most proud of?

able to look at a region and be able to comprehend everything they can do. Not only on one tour but to continue to come back to that

PB: I think building on the foundation,

area and expanding their tours. I am

and then keeping the foundation. It

hoping that everyone will see the ben-

makes me proud to make events hap-

efit of that. LGT: In your opinion is there a

pen for our people – keeping Wisconsin visible in the eyes of the buyer. And it

bright future for group travel?

went by so quickly. The industry gives

PB: In my opinion it’s as strong as

you that energy. When you are going to

you make it. If you make it weak in

all the conventions you’re all charged

your marketing, it’s going to be weak.

when you come back because of all the

But if you are committed to it, there is

opportunities.

so much opportunity you just have to

LGT: Why is now the time to leave? PB: My husband and I decided that now is the time for us to go out and play. It’s our time now. LGT: What are you going to miss most? PB: It’s going to be the people. All the friendships from across Wisconsin and across the country - seeing each other, sharing stories, enjoying each other’s company. I’m going to have to find something because I know in my mind there will be that void. And I’m not

whole crowd has never been so easy. With Planning a group tour that will please the the world along with exciting attractions the largest concentration of waterparks in is one place everyone can agree on. Dells nsin Wisco tions, moda accom e and flexibl om | (800) 223-3557 dells.c s@wis group | m ells.co MeetInTheD

keep knocking at the door and finding new ways to reach groups. Take for instance social media – it’s there – but I’m still finding that being visible, that direct one-on-one contact is best for business. And people cannot forget that. LGT: Any advice for the next executive director of Circle Wisconsin? PB: Stay true to your mission and your members. Understand your purpose and don’t lose sight of it. LGT


Tulip Time Festival

Parades, dance performances and other slices of Dutch life fill the streets of Holland during the Tulip Time Festival, an annual May extravaganza.

BULBS TO BREWS R

ows and rows of tulips, basking in the warm spring rays, create a rainbow effect in the fields. People decked out in Dutch attire

line the streets. For me, however, the idyllic springtime image was difficult to imagine during my February trip. Come May, however, that’s the sight that awaits travelers during Tulip Time in Holland, one of Michigan’s most anticipated festivals. Despite a completely different scene presented to me on my winter visit, residents’ obvious passion

Holland and Grand Rapids highlight a trip to Southwest Michigan By Vanessa Day

for the event is tough to miss. And it’s not just Tulip

One of the best ways for groups to experience everything the festival has to offer is to snag a Dutch-costumed step-on guide who leads a threehour excursion that includes Holland’s historic areas, Tulip Lanes, Pillar Church, city parks and a glimpse of the windmill ($100/coach for up to three hours). Interested in more tours? You’re in luck. You can take in the breathtaking views of Lake Michigan and see the most photographed lighthouse in Michigan, “Big Red,” on a State Park Tour ($65/coach). While in town, be sure to visit Nelis’ Dutch Vil-

Time. Everyone from Holland to Grand Rapids eagerly shares his or

lage, a themed park with Dutch architecture, canals and gardens,

her favorite attractions, restaurants, outdoor spots and local brews.

not to mention traditional performances and food from the Old Coun-

Perhaps it was this friendliness, or the sheer number of activities,

try. Sign up for a pastry-making class, learn some easy folk dance

which made me fall in love with the beautiful simplicity that is West-

steps and see costumed staff create artisan cheeses, carve candles

ern Michigan.

and shape wooden shoes. Take a ride on Zweefmolen (a Dutch

My journey began in Holland, located on the shores of Lakes

swing ride), Draaimolen (a restored carousel) or the new Ferris

Michigan and Macatawa. This quaint, historic town was founded by

wheel. And no visit is complete without a stop at the Dutch Choco-

a Dutch minister back in 1847 and continues to embrace its Dutch

late, Candy and Cookie shop.

roots with landmark attractions such as DeZwaan, the authentic windmill still operating today.

The fun continues over at Windmill Island Gardens, a 36-acre park where the 260-year-old windmill from the Netherlands still

The largest celebration of Dutch traditions is Tulip Time, a week-

grinds winter wheat into flour. Your group can tour the historic struc-

long festival (May 3-10, 2014) that includes three parades, Dutch

ture, climb up five stories and overlook the manicured gardens that

dancers, loads of entertainment, a Dutch market, fireworks, dinner

hold over 100,000 tulips in the spring and summer. Listen to the an-

shows and, of course, tulips—literally tens of thousands of them

tique street organ and enjoy traditional Klompen dances performed

scattered throughout the city.

by ladies in wooden shoes.

Springtime in Holland, Michigan means color-splashed tulip fields. Grand Rapids Public Museum exhibits showcase local history and habitats.

Experience Grand Rapids


on location: midwest ❖ At the end of the day, enjoy a meal

stitute for Contemporary Arts (UICA),

at Alpen Rose Restaurant and Cafe,

Michigan’s largest contemporary arts cen-

Boatwerks Waterfront Restaurant or

ter. For something truly special, arrange a

New Holland Brewing, the city’s very own

Grand Rapids visit during ArtPrize (Sept.

craft brewery (also open for tours).

24–Oct. 12), an event where artists from all

Grand Rapids is a 30-minute drive from Holland. Lonely Planet has named it the No. 1 destination to visit in 2014.

over the world showcase their works and the public votes for its favorites. Tour groups also visit the Gerald R. Ford

The botanical adventure continues in

Presidential Museum. Take a stroll through

Grand Rapids with a stop at Frederik

the Oval Office, see the original Watergate

Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, with

burglar tools, attend a White House state

132 acres of indoor and outdoor gardens

dinner and visit the burial site of the presi-

and one of the country’s most significant

dent and First Lady Betty Ford. Across the

sculpture collections. It hosts horticultural

street is the Grand Rapids Public Mu-

exhibits, summer concerts and the largest

seum, a state-of-the-art center with interac-

temporary butterfly exhibition in the country.

tive history and natural science exhibits.

Grand Rapids is known as an arts des-

Toast the day with a pint of cold, locally

tination, as evidenced by its many displays

made beer. Microbreweries dot the streets

of public art sprinkled around town. Stop by

of downtown and surrounding neighbor-

the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM),

hoods of Grand Rapids, which won the

a well-respected attraction with collections

Beer Cty USA poll in 2013.

that span three floors. In the Division South

Founders Brewing Company has

neighborhood, you will find the Urban In-

ranked among the top breweries in the world and hosts a variety of beer festivals throughout the year. (Try the Breakfast Stout.) A few blocks away is HopCat, rated the No. 3 beer bar in the world by Beer Advocate magazine and No. 2 beer bar in the U.S by craftbeer.com. Brewery Vivant, housed in a former funeral home, is the nation’s first LEED-certified microbrewery. Snow piles lined the streets as I made my way out of Western Michigan, but the sun shone bright in the sky, a subtle promise of the warm, vibrant season ahead. Despite the cool February weather and the gardens hidden under white powder, this trip left an impression. Needless to say, I will be back, preferably when I can witness the grandeur of the tulip fields. To plan a visit to Southwest Michigan, contact Wendy Link, Holland Area Visitors Bureau, wendy@holland.org, www.holland.travel; and Mary Manier, Experience Grand Rapids CVB, mmanier@experiencegr.com, experiencegr.com. LGT ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: For ideas on outdoor activities in Southwest Michigan, see Vanessa Day’s article at http://tinyurl.com/mo4afa7.

18 April 2014

LeisureGroupTravel.com


You donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t need a passport

Windmills & Wooden Shoes Festivals & Events Antiques, Boutiques & Galleries Award-winning Historic Downtown

Holland, MI ...a world away 855.342.7627 | holland.org

Home of the world-renowned Tulip Time Festival!


12 HINTS FOR PLANNING

By Marty Sarbey de Souto, CTC

LATIN AMERICA TRIPS Remember seasons vary. During

ooking group tours anywhere re-

B

4.

quires certain knowledge, care,

beaches of Brazil, Argentina and

capabilities and experience on

Uruguay jammed. But in our summer

your part. However, tours to Latin Amer-

it can be cold and rainy south of the

ican countries have some special re-

border…the farther south you go the

quirements. Follow these tips for a

colder it gets. Close to the Equator it’s

successful Latin American program:

hot year round, but altitude is a major

winter in the U.S., you’ll find the

factor in the weather, not just latitude.

1.

While events like the Olympics or

For example, Quito, Ecuador at 9,350

the Brazilian Carnaval may sound

feet high is right on the Equator, but it

appealing, stay away unless you’re try-

can be freezing cold once the sun

ing to attract a young, hip group. You’ll

goes down at 6 p.m.

find inflated prices, scarcity of accommodations (or worse, sometimes dou-

Go with tour operators who have

ble bookings) and difficulty getting the

5.

best guides and coaches.

history of tourism to the area.

2.

Pick your countries. You can’t do all of Latin America in one trip. You

6.

been around a while and have a

Don’t sell something until everything is confirmed. Get your con-

can probably do one country somewhat

firmations of all space, activities and

thoroughly or two or three superficially.

prices in writing before you start pro-

Learn about the different countries, what

moting the trip.

they offer and the clientele most appropriate. For example, active adventure

Alert your tour members that ex-

travelers will find Costa Rica their

7.

heaven. On the other hand, the sophis-

differ from those in the U.S. In large

ticated traveler wanting theater and fine

cities, dinner is usually not before 7 p.m.

shops will be happier in Buenos Aires.

and often much later. In the countryside,

pected meal hours and menus will

lunch may be the big meal of the day,

3.

If many members of your poten-

particularly Sunday lunch, which is often

tial group will be seniors or suffer

the big family get-together of the week.

from asthma or other respiratory probBe prepared for things to move a

high altitudes. You’ll find that Brazil,

8.

Argentina and some of the Central

ciously. That’s part of the beauty of a

American countries are better bets than

trip to this region.

Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia for those prone to altitude sickness. 20 April 2014

bit more slowly and more gra-

Exploring Costa Rica’s Corcovado National Park with Lindblad Expeditions

Ralph Lee Hopkins

lems, you may want to avoid the

LeisureGroupTravel.com


11.

Try to include some festivities with music, dancing and folklore. For example, Brazil offers wonderful samba shows

with extravagant costumes, and many local school groups or dance clubs are anxious to show off their country’s musical heritage.

12.

Allow sufficient time in your day-to-day schedule for browsing local markets and shopping for artisan works

such as weavings, metalwork, embroideries and ethnic jewelry – often one-of-a-kind items not found in shops at home or only at terRalph Lee Hopkins

ribly inflated prices. LGT

Lindblad Expeditions takes clients deep into Peru’s Amazon wilderness.

9.

Also be prepared to remind your tour members that social manners are more important: shaking hands when being introduced,

frequent use of please and thank you, saying goodbye formally when leaving, etc. Latin Americans may see us as very efficient but not very

10.

Brazilian Tourism Board – Embratur

gracious, even outright rude. Analyze the market to which you’ll be appealing to be sure you’re picking the appropriate countries and areas. Many

ancient Indian sites, such as Tikal in Guatemala, Uxmal in Mexico’s Yucatan or Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes, will require considerable walking/hiking over uneven terrain.

LeisureGroupTravel.com

The mountaintop statue Christ the Redeemer overlooks Rio de Janeiro.

April 2014 21


ICONIC

MINNESOTA It’s not a trip without seeing some of the state’s signature sights By Randy Mink

Any group visit to Minnesota should include a few of its one-of-a-kind attractions—special places prime for photo opportunities and bragging rights. Here are seven of those only-in-Minnesota crowd-pleasers that add pop to a tour itinerary.

Spoonbridge and Cherry, Minneapolis This whimsical water installation draws visitors to the heart of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, an 11-acre green space with more than 40 sculptures from the Walker Art Center’s

The monumental fountain-sculpture Spoonbridge and Cherry by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen is the big draw at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

collection. Spoonbridge and Cherry has been a city symbol since

Meet Minneapolis

its completion by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen in 1988. The spoon tips the scale at 5,800 pounds and the cherry

Around,” the scene of a tam-tossing Mary Richards, the main char-

weighs 1,200 pounds. The free-admission garden, a crown jewel

acter in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, was filmed partially in front

of the city’s park system, is located just across the street from the

of Dayton’s department store (now Macy’s) on the 12-block transit

Walker Art Center, one of the nation’s most visited contemporary

corridor reserved for pedestrians, bicyclists, taxis and buses. Many

art museums and famous for its cutting-edge 20th century art.

tourists assume the pose next to Mary, appearing to fling a hat into

Within the sculpture garden is the small Cowles Conservatory.

the air. Nicollet Mall buzzes from morning to night, offering scads

(walkerart.org)

of stores, restaurants and sidewalk cafes. Visitors gravitate to Target’s two-level flagship store and the three indoor shopping malls—

Mary Tyler Moore Statue, Minneapolis

City Center, IDS Crystal Court and Gavidae Common (with

The opening sequence of a beloved 1970s TV sitcom set in Min-

downtown’s largest food court). Buses are free along the mall, and

neapolis is memorialized by an eight-foot bronze statue on Nicol-

the Minneapolis Farmers’ Market holds forth every Thursday from

let Mall in the downtown shopping core. To the tune of “Love is All

May to October.

22 April 2014

LeisureGroupTravel.com


Mall of America, Bloomington

millions of vacationers since 1937. Made of steel, cement and

Located 15 minutes from downtown Minneapolis and Saint

wood, the giant statues are touched up each year before the

Paul, this retail magnet for the Upper Midwest draws more than

summer tourism season begins. Four blocks west of the mythi-

40 million visitors a year to its 520 stores and restaurants, mak-

cal lumberjack and his trusty ox is the Bemidji Woolen Mills out-

ing it far and away Minnesota’s most popular destination.

let store, which brims with the warm clothes it’s made for loggers

A city unto itself, the nation’s largest shopping and entertainment

and outdoorsmen since 1920. Another group favorite: The historic

complex—all under one roof—contains the largest indoor

Chief Theater, home to the Paul Bunyan Playhouse, a profes-

amusement park, Nickelodeon Universe—and even has its own

sional summer stock company. (visitbemidji.com/bemidji/

zip code. It would take 86 hours if you stopped in every store for

paulbabe.html)

10 minutes. Talk about shop ’til you drop! And remember, Minnesota imposes no sales tax on clothing and shoes. The next phase of the megamall’s expansion is set for completion in 2015. (mallofamerica.com)

Mississippi River Headwaters Post, Itasca State Park A tree trunk sign greets tourists who make pilgrimages to the Mississippi River Headwaters site, where the mighty river begins as a humble stream flowing out of Lake Itasca on its 2,552-mile

SPAM Museum, Austin

journey to the Gulf of Mexico. A trail leads from the Mary Gibbs

A favorite for generations of Americans, SPAM has been manu-

Mississippi Headwaters Center to the Headwaters Post, where

factured in Austin since 1937 by Hormel Foods Corp., one of the

some people wade across the river’s source while others negotiate

largest food production companies in the world. Celebrating the

the neatly placed stepping stones. Outdoor display panels and ex-

luncheon meat in the navy blue-and-yellow pull-tab can, the fun mu-

hibits in the Headwaters Center discuss the river and early explor-

seum is a wonderland of memorabilia, from radio jingles and TV

ers. Minnesota’s first state park, established in 1891, also offers an

commercials to a letter from Gen. Dwight Eisenhower recognizing

excursion boat, a historic lodge with restaurant and exhibits about re-

the importance of SPAM to his troops during World War II. On a

gional lore in the Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center. The town of Park

make-believe production line you can don a white butcher coat and

Rapids, a gateway to the park 20 miles south, has an attractive

race against the clock. The gift shop sells hundreds of different

three-block shopping district along Main Avenue,

SPAM logo items and every variety of the meat. Not far from the

plus a number of summer theater options.

museum, the Hormel Historic Home gives insight into the life of

Nearby is Tamarac National Wildlife

George Hormel, who founded the meat-packing company. In the

Refuge, a place to see migratory

red-brick mansion, groups can take part in a cookie bake and/or

waterfowl and lush beds of wild rice

enjoy a traditional German lunch buffet. (spam.com)

grown by the Ojibwe. (http://dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/

World’s Largest Boot, Red Wing

itasca/narrative.html)

The Red Wing Shoe Store & Museum displays the world’s largest boot, created in 2005 for the company’s centennial. It’s a size 638½ D, stands six feet tall and weighs 2,300 pounds. Tours of the factory are available from May through October. Other diversions in the scenic Mississippi River town include stage entertainment at the 1904 Sheldon Theatre, gaming at Treasure Island Resort & Casino, two wineries and the fall foliage that blankets the bluffs. The Pottery Shopping District on Old West Main features the new Red Wing Pottery Museum in the former Minnesota Stoneware Co. building and Red Wing Brewery, which recently re-opened after a 60-year hiatus. (redwing.org)

Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, Bemidji On the shores of Lake Bemidji in downtown Bemidji, in a landscaped parking area next to the visitor information center, stand the massive statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, a photo opportunity if there ever was one. The col-

Minnesota icons, clockwise from top: Mary Tyler Moore Statue, Mall of America, Mississippi Headwaters, World’s Largest Boot, and Paul Bunyan and Babethe Blue Ox.

orfully painted northwoods folk heroes have awed LeisureGroupTravel.com

April 2014 23


TOP MINNESOTA EVENTS Judy Garland Festival, Grand Rapids June 10-15, 2014 The Judy Garland Museum every year honors the legendary singer and movie star, born Frances Ethel Gumm in Grand Rapids in 1922. There are lectures, stage performances and The Wizard of Oz film showings. Visitors are encouraged to wear their favorite Oz character costume. This year’s 38th annual festival marks the 75th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz (1939) movie, and the museum debuts its new 3,000-piece Wizard of Oz exhibit. (judygarland museum.com) Bayfront Blues Festival, Duluth Aug. 8-10, 2014 Showcasing nearly 30 national performances on two concert stages, this is one of the Midwest’s largest outdoor music festivals. Events also include a Moonlight Mardi Gras Cruise and blues acts at nearly 20 nightclubs. The event takes place in Canal Park on Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world. (bayfrontblues.com)

Hennepin Avenue playhouses in downtown Minneapolis include the historic State Theatre.

MINNESOTA ON STAGE

T

he Twin Cities area has a reputation for the quality and quantity of its theater companies. A marquee theater destination, Minneapolis-Saint

Paul claims 75 professional theater groups and more than 30 performance venues. Another bragging right: Minneapolis boasts more live theater seats per capita than any other city outside of New York. Across the state, groups will find first-rate theatrical fare in smaller towns as well. From Broadway musicals and religious productions to classic works by Shakespeare and Ibsen, Minnesota’s calendar is a theater lover’s dream. The nationally acclaimed Guthrie Theater in downtown Minneapolis is known far and wide for its innovative presentations of both classic and contemporary works, including Shakespeare. Housed since 2006 in an architecturally striking building with a blue exterior, it features three stages and dramatic public spaces, including a 175-foot cantilevered lobby overlooking the Mississippi River. There are many dining and bar options.

Jousting knights at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival

Backstage tours highlight the steps that take a play from conception

Minnesota Renaissance Festival, Shakopee Aug. 16-Sept. 28, 2014 Journey back in time to a 16th century European village at one of the country’s largest renaissance fairs, now in its 44th year. Highlights include jousting by knights in armor, elephant rides, belly dancing, games, entertainment on 16 stages and 120 food booths. Some 250 artisan booths sell everything from period attire to real battle axes. The event, held on weekends, welcomes almost 300,000 people each year. (renaissancefest.org)

to performance, with stops at the costume, props and set shops. Upcoming productions include Hamlet, The Three Musketeers and My Fair Lady. (guthrietheater.org) For splashy Broadway musicals,

The Guthrie Theater offers backstage tours.

top comedy acts and big-time concerts, head to downtown Minneapolis’ Hennepin Avenue Theater District, home to four venues operated by the Hennepin Theatre Trust. Three of the theaters—the State, Orpheum and Pantages—

Minnesota State Fair, St. Paul, Aug. 21-Sept. 1, 2014 Spice up your Twin Cities visit with a late-summer fling at the “Great Minnesota Get-Together.” Savor food on a stick, see farm animals being born and enjoy Mighty Midway carnival rides, big-name touring acts, a daily parade, rodeo, horse shows, agricultural exhibits, and arts and crafts displays. One of the nation’s largest state fairs, it attracts more than two million visitors annually. (mnstatefair.org)

are former vaudeville/movie houses that were restored to their original opulence and reopened in the 1990s. Tours spotlight the history and architectural flourishes of the majestic venues, built between 1916 and 1921. The Orpheum’s interior, done in rich Victorian colors, is highlighted by a 2,000-pound chandelier made from brass and Italian crystal. The 2014-2015 Broadway on Hennepin season starts with a return engagement of The Book of Mormon (Aug. 20-Sept. 7). Also on the schedule are Motown the Musical, Dirty Dancing, Jersey Boys, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, I Love Lucy on Stage and Kinky Boots, the 2013 Tony

Oktoberfest, New Ulm, Oct. 3-4, 10-11, 2014 This Old World celebration, held in a Southern Minnesota town that touts its German heritage, features German brass bands, polka bands and New Ulm’s famous Concord Singers. Fest-goers enjoy German food and August Schell beer, brewed locally since 1860. The festival is held at four locations--downtown (the site of a musical glockenspiel, plus German restaurants and import shops), the brewery, Morgan Creek Vineyards and Holiday Inn. (newulmoktoberfest.com) 24 April 2014

winner for Best Musical. (hennepintheatretrust.org) Ordway Center for the Performing Arts is Saint Paul’s premier performance space, presenting a diverse range of productions, from musical theater and dance to multicultural fare. Fronting Rice Park in the heart of downtown, it is also home to the Minnesota Opera and Saint Paul

Obtain Minnesota visitor guides and itineraries and contact groupfriendly suppliers directly at leisuregrouptravel.com/instant-info

LeisureGroupTravel.com


PLAN YOUR TRIP MINNESOTA ON STAGE

every Friday and Saturday night. (chanhassendt.com) Some of the Twin Cities’ most spectacular performances take

Chamber Orchestra. Recent shows in the 1,900-seat Music

place in a church that was built as a theater seating 1,200 to 1,400.

Theater included Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Wizard of Oz and

North Heights Lutheran Church in Arden Hills stages Easter and

The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, with Bring It On: The Musical

Christmas spectacles that draw groups from all over the Midwest.

and Blue Man Group coming this spring. Construction is underway

Expect showstoppers like flying angels in harnesses and horses

on the 1,100-seat Concert Hall, which will replace the McKnight

and donkeys coming down the aisles. All Things New, an original

Theatre, with completion expected in spring 2015. (ordway.org)

Easter production with music, boasts a cast of 200 (its final season

In Plymouth, a suburb 20 minutes west of Minneapolis, Plymouth Playhouse is home

is this April). Again this December, a cast of Commonweal Theatre Company thrives in the little town of Lanesboro.

125 will present a version of It’s a Wonderful

base for The Church Basement Ladies,

Life with a gospel message. The church has a

which has kept audiences around the nation

huge kitchen that serves a dinner buffet in the

in stitches the past nine years. The Last

400-seat Great Hall before or after select per-

(Potluck) Supper, the fifth and final install-

formances. (nhlc.org)

ment of the series of plays about Lutheran Plymouth engagement this spring, but The Church Basement Ladies (produced by Min-

Commonweal Theatre Company brings Jason Underferth

women in a small Minnesota town, ends its

visitors to the historic town of Lanesboro (pop. 750) in Southeastern Minnesota’s Bluff Country. Reflecting the area’s high concentration

neapolis-based Troupe America, Inc.) will continue touring the

of Norwegian-Americans, the company annually does a work by

country. Returning to the intimate 211-seat theater this July, after

19th century Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, the only theater

a triumphant national tour, will be Troupe America’s Ring of Fire—

in America with such a commitment. The 2014 season features

The Music of Johnny Cash. Though the “Man in Black” himself is

Ibsen’s Brand, Arsenic and Old Lace, Around the World in 80 Days,

never impersonated, Ring of Fire performers take the audience

Every Christmas Story Ever Told and Arcadia. The 200-seat, state-

on a journey through Cash’s life and music, from the cotton fields

of-the-art theater opened in 2007 occupies a former cheese factory

of Arkansas to the Grand Ole Opry, featuring more than 35 of his

and sports an interior design reflecting the region’s history and nat-

hit songs, from “I Walk the Line” to “A Boy Named Sue.” Plymouth

ural beauty, with barn doors as bathroom stalls and stone walls

Playhouse is located in the Best Western Plus Kelly Inn, where

that recall the surrounding bluffs. (commonwealtheatre.org) LGT

groups can sleep, dine and be entertained under one roof. (plymouthplayhouse.com) Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, another Twin Cities-area favorite, has been pleasing crowds since 1968. Recognized as the nation’s largest professional dinner theater and noted for lavish costumes and sets, it serves up the best of Broadway year round and, as the largest restaurant in the state, can serve 1,000 guests a night. Dinner is served at the table with choice of entree, and groups are recognized from the stage. The Midwest premiere of Disney’s The Little Mermaid plays through August, with Hello Dolly! coming after Labor Day and running through January 2015. The four-theater complex also presents concerts (rock, pop, country, jazz), and Stevie Ray’s Comedy Cabaret is ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Groups love Go Minneapolis Signature Experiences. For details, log on to http://tinyurl.com/lgycc4q.

26 April 2014

LeisureGroupTravel.com


SOUTH From Louisiana to Virginia, tours spotlight towns that have served as stage sets for popular movies and TV series

Fort Chaffee Barbershop Museum in Fort Smith, Ark. preserves the shop where GI Elvis Presley got a much-publicized buzz cut in 1958. Fort Chaffee served as the Army base in the 1984 movie A Soldier’s Story.

By Dave Bodle

W

e have a passion for film and television entertainment. How often have we heard, "What's on TV tonight?” or “How did you like the movie?" Both the big and small screens are part of our

culture, and we start the learning process at an early age. Interest in movies and television has not been lost on the group travel industry and Southern destinations in particular. Every Southern state has a film office, as well they should. For locations, the South has so much to offer. A delightful blend of large cities and rural towns can satisfy any script. From mountains and beaches to rivers and fields, there's the perfect location for any story.

Bill Russ/ NC Film Commission

Groups from all over the country and the world visit Southern destinations. It just makes sense they'll want to see where popular shows and movies were filmed. Here's a walk through the Southern states and a chance to look at a few locations you might recognize and the tours they offer.

The University of North Carolina at Wilmington grabbed the spotlight during the filming of an episode of the TV series Dawson’s Creek.

28 April 2014

LOUISIANA Reality television shows are hot. It seems they're on every channel and LeisureGroupTravel.com

Arkansas Dept. of Parks & Tourism

ON LOCATION:


on location: south ❖ I mean every channel. However, with 14 million viewers tuning in to

On a visit to the Robertsons’ hometown, a local guide boards

A&E every Thursday evening, Louisiana's Duck Dynasty is the

the coach. You'll track many of the spots seen in various episodes.

hands-down leader. The Robertson family might be in the business

Of course, you'll visit the Excalibur Family Fun Center for a chance

of manufacturing duck calls, but it's their adventures, humor and

at the purple gorilla. The Corner Coffee Shop is the stop for gour-

faith that attracts viewers. The show has put the Monroe/West

met coffee and Danken Trail serves outstanding Southern BBQ. A

Monroe communities on the entertainment tour map.

stop at the new Duck Commander Store and Warehouse is a must

Bob Cline of U.S. Tours has created a series of trips around

for all that's camo. Remember when Willie thought of buying a

Duck Dynasty. If you're a fan, there's a package for you. He's com-

working vineyard? You'll visit the site, then close your day with din-

bined a “Duck Commanders Hometown Tour” with New Orleans,

ner at Willie's Duck Diner for some of the family’s favorites. (mon-

Lafayette, Memphis and other Southern locations.

roe-westmonroe.org/index.cfm?c=49)

Monroe-West Monroe CVB

Matt Herron, Bogalusa, Louisiana, 1965.

Duck Dynasty fans touring Northern Louisiana might run across the World’s Largest Duck Call.

MISSISSIPPI Published as a book in 2009, The Help became an award-winning film in 2011. The story is set in Jackson, Miss. during the early 1960s at the height of the state’s civil rights struggles. There are two driving tours available, “The Help in Belhaven Neighborhood” and “The Help in Jackson.” You should begin with the Belhaven tour and continue with the Jackson tour. Belhaven has that old Jackson look and many of the venues included in the book are part of the tour. Film locations are included in the Jackson tour. Probably the most recognizable location is Brent's Drugs, where the soda fountain is 30 April 2014

LeisureGroupTravel.com


Give your next tour group more memories per gallon. Bring them to a place that makes eyes go wide and mouths grin ear to ear. A destination with more shows. More shopping. More arts and crafts. More mountain views. And more down-home cooking. A city that offers a wide range of fun for anyone at any age. Welcome to a detour from the ordinary.

PigeonForgeTours.com â&#x20AC;˘ 1-800-285-7557


on location: south ❖ still operational. "The Happy Shopper" mural between Brent's and McDade's Grocery is evidence of the film. Some signs and prints from the film remain on Stop 27 Fondron, North State storefronts. Tours are available at Stop 21, Mississippi State Capitol; Stop 24, Governor's Mansion; and Stop 30, Medgar Evers Home and Museum. The Fairview Inn, Stop 1 in Belhaven, has a well-deserved reputation for gourmet dining. (visitjackson.com/discover-jackson/itineraries)

GEORGIA If we're talking about movies and Georgia is mentioned, Gone With the Wind must be in the conversation. Margaret Mitchell's novel was brought to the silver screen in 1936. The romance and drama of this timeless classic is brought to life on the Gone With the Wind Trail. The Atlanta History Museum has developed a series of options. Arkansas Dept. of Parks & Tourism

“Trails & Tails” takes the visitor on a 40-mile journey uncovering the facts and fiction between characters, locations and set stories. “Petticoats, Pansy & Plantations” introduces you to wardrobe items and props from movie scenes. Stops along the way include the Marietta Gone with the Wind Museum, Margaret Mitchell House, Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System Central Library, Oakland Cemetery and Baseball scenes in A Soldier’s Story were filmed at this Little Rock field.

32 April 2014

the Road to Tara Museum. (atlantahistorycenter.com/explore)

LeisureGroupTravel.com


on location: south ❖ NORTH CAROLINA North Carolina has long been a premier location choice and sports the largest production facility east of Hollywood, EUE Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington. Recently, Moviemaker Magazine recPhoto by Connie Nelson/Wilmington and Beaches CVB

ognized Wilmington as one of the best small cities with a population between 100,000-500,000 for filmmakers to work in. Of the more than 400 projects done in Wilmington and the Cape Fear area, two WB television series received popular acclaim. Dawson's Creek enjoyed six seasons before concluding in 2003. Wilmington doubled as the small fictitious town of Capeside. From 2003-2011 WB’s One Tree Hill filmed in Wilmington. The guided “Hollywood Location Walk of Old Wilmington” and the fun “Hollywood Segway Tour” are great ways to explore the locations. One Tree Hill filmed on location at Port City Java in Wilmington, NC.

(hollywoodnc.com/hollywood_location_walk.html)

10 TOP SOUTHERN

Garvan Woodland Gardens, Hot Springs, Arkansas Stunning architecture from bridges to the Anthony Chapel, along with gorgeous floral displays, are found throughout this 210-acre masterpiece in Hot Springs National Park. (garvangardens.org)

ithout exception every Southern state has showcases of flowering beauty. It may be the moderate climate or simply a love of natural beauty that serves as inspiration. Here are 10 of the best:

W

New Orleans Botanical Garden Conveniently located behind the New Orleans Museum of Art, it boasts “more than 2,000 plants from around the world.” (neworleanscitypark.com)

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Richmond, Virginia BBC.com rated this garden and its spectacular conservatory among “10 North American gardens worth traveling for.” (lewisginter.org)

Yew Dell Botanical Gardens, Crestwood, Kentucky Extensive display gardens appeal to both the amateur and professional gardener. Strong academic and educational programs are a mainstay of the gardens. (yewdellgardens.org)

Bellingrath Gardens and Home, Theodore, Alabama. Dating back to 1932 when Mr. and Mrs. Walter Bellingrath invited a National Garden Club meeting to visit, the exquisite gardens and stately home have been welcoming guests. (bellingrath.org)

Bissonnette Gardens, Wheeling, West Virginia The state’s only display garden, located at Oglebay Resort & Conference Center, is a special joint effort between West Virginia University Extension Service and Oglebay. (oglebay-resort.com/gardens.htm)

GARDEN S

Brookgreen Gardens, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina Located just south of Myrtle Beach, this garden is home to more than 1,400 pieces of sculpture by 350 artists, including a comprehensive collection of American figurative sculpture. All are set in dazzling floral displays. (brookgreen.org)

−By Dave Bodle

Garvan Woodland Gardens is located in Arkansas’ Hot Springs National Park.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens Charleston, South Carolina Magnolia has been welcoming visitors to its natural uninhibited gardens since the 1870s. (magnoliaplantation.com) The Elizabethan Gardens, Manteo, North Carolina Created to memorialize Sir Walter Raleigh and the Lost Colony, this beauty spot features the balance and symmetry of a traditional English garden. (elizabethangardens.com) Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain, Georgia A resort with tennis, golf and even treetop adventures, it’s certainly much more than gardens. The 40-acre Azalea Bowl is an absolute must visit. (callawaygardens.com)

34 April 2014

Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga. is a full-fledged resort as well as a horticultural showplace.

LeisureGroupTravel.com


Charming. Intimate. Fun.

1.877.Much.Ado www.AmericanShakespeareCenter.com


M Y R T L E

B E A C H

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TOP RANKED BY TRIPADVISOR.COM

Featuring 6 oceanfront pools (with hot tubs and heated pools), Sanctuary Spa, fitness center, complimentary Hampton “On the House” hot breakfast buffet, and 90-seat conference and meeting facility. Spacious accommodations include 2-BR family suites with kitchenette, oceanfront master BR, and separate kids’ BR with bunk beds and a queen-size bed. www.HamptonInnOceanfront.com or call 877-946-6400 and ask for our Sales Department 1801 South Ocean Boulevard, Myrtle Beach, SC 29577/843-946-6400

on location: south ❖ VIRGINIA As the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War winds down in 2015, Virginia again takes center stage. The siege of Richmond is coming to an end. The Confederates are withdrawing. The city has been laid to waste. The end of the brutal conflict is near. “Lincoln's Last Journey” welcomes visitors to follow in the footsteps of the President as he visits General Grant at the Union Army front lines, March 23 to April 4, 1865. Scenes from Lincoln were filmed at locations throughout the Richmond and Petersburg areas. Your visit begins at City Point, now Hopewell, where Grant made his headquarters at Appomattox Plantation. President Lincoln arrived on the River Queen to see thousands of tents serving as barracks and a hospital with 6,000 beds. Moving on to Petersburg, the site of a 10-month siege cutting off supply lines, you'll visit the Wallace House. It was here that Lincoln and Grant had their nextto-last meeting. In Richmond take a walking/riding tour that follows the path Lincoln and his son Tad took as they witnessed the destruction caused by the Evacuation Fire. (visitrichmondva.com)

SOUTH CAROLINA Beaufort movie history began with Pat Conroy’s The Great Santini, followed by popular films such as The Big Chill, Forrest Gump, GI Jane, Platoon and Forces of Nature. On “Beaufort Movie Tour” see where the films were shot and the places the casts and crews spent their free time. (beaufortmovietour.com)

KENTUCKY & WEST VIRGINIA We’re going off the script, slightly, but a feud that continued for 23 years and is still a subject of interest 125 years later almost brought Kentucky and West Virginia to war. The History Channel’s threepart Hatfields & McCoys mini-series brought critical acclaim. Although filmed primarily in Romania with the Carpathian Mountains serving as the Appalachians, the floodgates were open as interest in the feud and the area exploded. Bill Richardson, an associate professor at West Virginia University, has spent 15 years researching the feud and is often available to step on coaches and lead visitors along the Hatfield & McCoy Driving Tour that threads portions of West Virginia and Kentucky. You’ll visit the ac-


tual site of the election-day death of Ellison Hatfield and the home of Ranel McCoy where two of McCoy’s children were killed in a Hatfield raid. However, the real treat of the tour is Richardson’s passion for the story he loves to share. (hatfieldmccoycvb.com)

ARKANSAS Arkansas native and best-selling author John Grisham was born in Jonesboro and lived throughout northeast Arkansas as a child. Portions of Grisham’s The Firm were filmed in West Memphis at the Marion Hotel, which served as an apartment building and as Southland Gaming and Racing. Although I’m certainly a fan of John Grisham, it’s an earlier movie and the locations that deserve sharing. A Soldier’s Story, released in 1984, featured a prominent cast including Denzel Washington and Patti LaBelle. The story is set in a small Louisiana town where a black master sargent is shot and killed just outside the local Army base. A military lawyer is sent from Washington to investigate. The baseball scenes were filmed at historic Lamar Porter Field in Little Rock. You can still catch a game there. Clarendon, Ark. is the set for the Louisiana town and Fort Chaffee in Fort Smith, Ark. served as the Army base. As a side note, there was a famous haircut done at Fort Chaffee. Find out in a visit to its Barbershop Museum. (littlerock.com,fortsmith.org)

LeisureGroupTravel.com

April 2014 37


on location: south ❖ TENNESSEE If there’s one travel destination that’s on fire right now, it has to be Nashville. The weekly musical drama series Nashville can be seen Wednesday evenings on ABC. It’s all about the music industry and all about Nashville. From street performance scenes to the Bluebird Cafe and Ryman Auditorium staging, you’ll recognize many of the episodes. Get ready for two additional series about Nashville. New this year is Nashville Wives, a look at the spouses of Nashville’s biggest music talents. Not to be outdone, MTV is in casting through early April for the new Kids of Nashville. (visitmusiccity.com)

ALABAMA Many scenes in the The Prince, an American gangster movie to be released in 2014, were filmed in Mobile, Ala., though the story is set in Las Vegas. It stars Bruce Willis, John Cusack, South Korean Arkansas Dept. of Parks & Tourism

singer Rain, the rapper Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and John Patric. Locations included the Battle House Hotel and surrounding area and Alabama’s tallest building, the RSA Battle House Tower. (mobile.org) Entertainment and tourism go hand-in-hand and it can be a great way to fill up the coach. We want to see where it was filmed, how the cast lived and where they ate. Savvy operators and DMOs should Clarendon, Ark. served as the Louisiana town in the movie A Soldier’s Story.

38 April 2014

certainly explore the opportunities—and they’ll have fun doing it. LGT

LeisureGroupTravel.com


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PIT T SBURGH panor ama

Doing the town right in 72 hours Ascend Mt. Washington on the Duquesne Incline for sweeping views of downtown, including Point State Park.

By Randy Mink

T

hree days in Pittsburgh—just enough time to savor its

The steep ride up Mt. Washington, in an antique wooden car

essence. It was my first visit and I wanted to see what

traveling at 6 mph at a 30.5-degree grade, is a Pittsburgh must—for

makes Pittsburgh, well, Pittsburgh.

the views, history and sense of adventure. The restored cars and

My first thought: a panoramic overview was in order. And since

hilltop station are originals, built in 1877 for workers going to and

the postcard image of a boxy red cable car rising above the river

from their homes high above the city. Residents still use the railway,

had always colored my visions of Pittsburgh, I practically sprinted to

one of the two remaining inclines of the 19 that once existed.

the lower station of the Duquesne Incline soon after checking in to

In simple exhibits under glass, the upper station’s waiting room

the Sheraton Station Square on the south bank of the Mononga-

displays vintage postcards and photographs of Pittsburgh and of

hela River.

other famous funiculars around the world. You can also eyeball the

40 April 2014

LeisureGroupTravel.com


picnic on the lawn, check out historical markers, and perhaps catch a festival or other special event. After Point Park, I crossed the Allegheny via the Roberto Clemente Bridge to see what is considered one of America’s great baseball arenas—PNC Park. It was off-season, but at least I got some good peeks of the field and up-close to the statues of Pirates legends Clemente, Willie Stargell, Bill Mazeroski and Honus Wagner outside the stadium. The Andy Warhol Museum, a few blocks from the ballpark, showcases works by the Pittsburgh native (1928-1974) who made his mark in pop art. Everyone knows his Marilyn Monroe portraits and Campbell’s soup cans. My juiciest experience in Pittsburgh was prowling The Strip. No, it’s not what you might think, just a narrow strip of land between the Allegheny and a rocky hillside. Close to downtown, The Strip District brims with ethnic flavor in a hodge-podge of shops and eateries along

cables and gears of this engineering marvel. And don’t forget the little gift shop.

Penn Avenue, the main drag here in the gritty wholesale market area for purveyors of produce, meat and fish. I joined a ’Burgh Bits & Bites walking tour

But it’s the sweeping cityscapes that really

that takes small groups to family-owned shops

captivate visitors who pay $2.50 to ascend Mt.

in The Strip. Our foodie foray started by sam-

Washington. Spread out below are the sky-

pling homemade prosciutto and Genoa salami

scrapers and bridges of downtown Pittsburgh,

at Parma Sausage Co. and then crossed the

along with landmarks like the Pittsburgh Pirates’

street for fresh-made hummus at Labad’s

PNC Park, Pittsburgh Steelers’ Heinz Field and

Mediterreanean Cafe and Grocery. We also hit

Point State Park—a grassy piece of land at the

a biscotti bakery (30 flavors, from banana wal-

confluence of three rivers—the Allegheny,

nut to traditional anise almond) and a Polish deli

Monongahela and Ohio. Drink in the views and

for cheese pierogis sauteed in butter and

watch the river traffic from the station’s obser-

onions. Other tour highlights: Sampling cheese

vation deck.

at Pennsylvania Macaroni Company (founded

Later I walked across some of the bridges and visited Point State Park, the strategic

in 1902) and pepperoni rolls at Sunseri’s, both Italian groceries. (burghfoodtour.com)

chunk of real estate where Pittsburgh had its be-

Lidia’s Pittsburgh, also in The Strip, pro-

ginnings as a French and later British fortifica-

vided my best restaurant meal. Pasta and the

tion. I poked my head into the Fort Pitt Block

flavors of Italy reign supreme at this bright, airy

House, the city’s oldest building (1764), and

gourmet temple with a strong Italian accent. In-

toured the Fort Pitt Museum, which tells the

deed, it should rise to gourmet standards—the

story of Western Pennsylvania’s role in the

woman behind it is Lidia Bastianich of public TV

French & Indian War and American Revolution.

fame. I still haven’t stopped thinking about the

Here at the Forks of the Ohio, at the very tip of

wild boar ravioli and apple cake topped with but-

downtown, you can admire the park’s majestic

tery caramel sauce. For a more down-to-earth

fountain, walk along riverside promenades,

meal one evening, I visited the famous Primanti

Eat your way through The Strip, a centrally located neighborhood full of flavorful food finds.

Bros. in The Strip, giving my jaws some exercise while tackling the signature cheesesteak April 2014 41

Photos courtesy Visit Pittsburgh

Two Pittsburgh landmarks: Carnegie Museum of Natural History and the Pirates’ PNC Park


ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Loads of attractions await groups in Washington, Pa., a short drive from Pittsburgh. Visit http://tinyurl.com/n7whmnx.

sandwich—a hunk of Italian

In the eclectic Oakland

bread (cut in half) stuffed with

neighborhood, dominated by

meat, french fries, coleslaw and two tomato slices. My favorite Pittsburgh museum—I could have used two extra hours there—was the

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Pittsburgh’s Botanical Bounty On Leisure Group Travel’s website, learn about the brand new botanical garden coming to Pittsburgh this summer and get acquainted with the landmark conservatory that’s been around since 1893. Log on to http://tinyurl.com/lyp6uer.

Senator John Heinz History

the University of Pittsburgh, I discovered more treasures revealing the city’s ethnic fabric. Worth a peek are the Nationality Rooms in the university’s 42-story Cathedral of Learn-

Center. Occupying a former ice warehouse in

ing—29 museum-quality classrooms de-

The Strip, the Smithsonian affiliate offers five

signed with artwork and architectural touches

floors of exhibits on Pittsburgh-area history,

representing groups (from Austrian and

sports and industrial heritage. I liked the Heinz

Croatian to Syrian and Turkish) that settled

57 exhibit, which chronicles the packaged

southwestern Pennsylvania. The day in Oak-

foods company best known for its ketchup.

land also included Heinz Chapel, Phipps

Neighborhoods are such a part of Pitts-

Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, and

burgh—it has 89 of them—that I wanted to

the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural

get away from the city center. So I ventured to

History.

Millvale and St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic

My 72 hours in Pittsburgh ended all too

Church. Set high on a hill, it’s more like the

soon, but I’m looking forward to the day when

Sistine Chapel than a neighborhood church.

I can explore more neighborhoods, see more

Visitors go out of their way for tours of Croa-

museums and sample more of the culinary

tian artist Maxo Vanka’s 22 sanctuary murals

bounty of this pretty, gritty American city.

depicting the Virgin Mary, social injustice and the immigrant experience in America.

For more Pittsburgh pearls, log on to visitpittsburgh.com. LGT


Laughlin Leisurely

A comfortable pace and plenty of area attractions make the Southern Nevada casino town a winner with groups

Guests can enjoy some beach time at Harrah’s Laughlin. Right: Publisher Jeff Gayduk with Meg McDaniel of Southern NV Extended Destinations.

By Jeff Gayduk

N

ever having ventured far from the Las Vegas Strip on previous Southern Nevada vacations, I didn’t know quite what to expect on a recent trip to Laughlin. It was the site of

the 2014 Heritage Clubs International Bankers Conference, hosted by Southern Nevada Extended Destinations, the area’s regional convention and visitors bureau, March 10-14, 2014.

rafting, fishing and leisurely cruises.

Arriving from Vegas, I secured my rental car (only 20 miles on

Laughlin is no Vegas, and that’s by design. Sure, there’s casino

the odometer with that new car smell, how lucky!) and pointed

row with household names like Golden Nugget, Tropicana and

south. Once the bright lights of Vegas are in your taillights, the

Harrah’s alongside lesser-known entities like Riverside, Colorado

road opens up and the true West appears. If desert scenery is your

Belle, Aquarius and Edgewater all providing entertainment for

cup of tea, this is pretty country.

gamers and non-gamers alike. But it’s friendlier, certainly easier

Laughlin is just far enough away to provide a breather, but not an exhausting drive (90 minutes) and as you descend upon the

for guests to get around. This fits in with the CVB’s tagline “It’s like you own the place.”

area, the mountain backdrop paints a pretty picture around her.

While here, I sat down with Meg McDaniel, senior manager of

The town of Laughlin is in a valley surrounded by low desert peaks

regional sales for Southern NV Extended Destinations, a unit of

and dissected by the crystal clear Colorado River, which adds a

the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

unique recreational element along with an interesting contrast to the surrounding desert.

When asked why groups come to Laughlin, McDaniel commented, “Groups have always been a staple for Laughlin’s tourism.

Case in point, my hotel has a beach! Harrah’s Laughlin features

I think what they like most about the destination is that it’s defi-

a recreational white sand beach, complete with beach chairs and

nitely manageable. It’s not overwhelming for travelers and has a

palm frond umbrella to catch a little shade. Swimming is encour-

very friendly atmosphere.”

aged here, as is a variety of water sports up and down the Col-

Laughlin’s affordability has also been one of its strong suits, with

orado River, whose swift pace (7 knots) is a delight for kayaking,

inexpensive hotels and dining options on casino row making it an af-

LeisureGroupTravel.com

April 2014 43


Laughlin Leisurely

fordable group getaway. While here, you’re

Laughlin is also a mecca for birders. Over 435

bound to find headline entertainment in one of the casino

species come here in the spring and the area is the

show lounges or the new 9,000-seat Laughlin Events

largest Western raptor flyway. Red-tailed hawks, golden

Center, which opened this March to Championship Bull

and bald eagles and grey-horned owls are frequently

Riding. Frontline entertainment acts scheduled for the

sighted.

spring include Reba McEntire, Rascal Flats and Alan Jackson.

To recognize the importance of motorcoach group travel,

While the casinos and entertainment is a huge draw for groups,

Laughlin created the inaugural motorcoach appreciation event last

the region also makes an outstanding hub & spoke destination. Just

December. McDaniel commented, “We worked with Sue Arko to

outside of Laughlin, the hustle and bustle of the casino strip quickly

create the appreciation event and we wanted to keep it small, fo-

gives way to Mother Nature. For instance, just seven minutes away

cusing on Southern California, Vegas and Phoenix operators. As

is Lake Mohave – with fishing, swimming, jet skiing, boating and

word has gotten out we already have interest from Canada to be

white sandy beaches. This protected area is a recreational haven.

part of the event so we are excited about growing it for 2014.”

McDaniel commented, “We are finding a lot of our travelers are

The event included a bus rodeo –12 drivers participated in a

more active. For instance, many visitors enjoy walking the North

series of driving and parking tests and obstacle courses as 18

Reach, which is about 5.5 miles of trails that extend from the River

coaches cruised in unison down Casino Drive. Leaders from the

Walk and go all the way up to Davis Dam. The pedestrian trail is

major associations were on hand to christen the event. The 2014

about two miles and it parallels the river. There are nice interactive

event is scheduled for Dec. 1-5. The bureau hopes motorcoach op-

Groups have always been a staple for Laughlin’s tourism. I think what they like most about the destination is that it’s definitely manageable. It’s not overwhelming for travelers and has — Meg McDaniel, Senior Manager of Regional Sales, Southern NV Extended Destinations a very friendly atmosphere.

The Colorado River flows through the town of Laughlin, a mini Las Vegas at the southern tip of Nevada, close to many Northern Arizona attractions.

signs, shaded areas, fishing nodes, plus there are equestrian and

erators will use the event as an opportunity to build new packages

biking trails.”

during this traditionally down time for the industry.

Farther from town, Hoover Dam is a short 86-mile drive. Groups

At the same time, Laughlin is expanding its reach to niche and

can also visit the West Rim of the Grand Canyon in less than three

affinity groups, targeting family reunions, weddings, military

hours. Other attractions nearby include the London Bridge, Lake

groups, smaller association meetings, board and sales retreats.

Havasu and Oatman, an old mining town that hasn’t changed much

Cherie Westbrook, sales executive for the organization, said,

in 100 years. Oatman’s wooden sidewalks, historic buildings and

“We’re that perfect affordable destination for family and friends;

feral burros that roam the streets give guests a taste of the Old

everyone can afford to come and there’s something for everyone

West. Coupled with the history of Route 66 (which passes by town),

to do.”

there is lots of history to soak up here.

Westbrook continued, “We are located within a four-hour drive

Groups also enjoy the Keeper of the Wild exotic animal sanctu-

from the major feeder markets of Los Angeles and Phoenix and

ary in Northern Arizona. Here, 29 big cats including Bengal tigers,

people generally find us a great spot to congregate. It’s away from

Siberian tigers, leopards, cougars, a jaguar and lion call the sanc-

the big city, but not too far away.”

tuary home. Plus, there are scores of primates, wolves, coyotes,

All in all, Laughlin makes a great unpack-once destination, with

reptiles and other exotic species. Many of these animals were res-

plenty to experience in town and major attractions within an easy

cued from show business where they were part of acts.

drive. Just perfect for groups. LGT

44 April 2014

LeisureGroupTravel.com


Little did you know “VIP” stood for Very Important Planner.

Give people a dinner party and they’ll probably give you a smile. Give people a dinner party overlooking the Colorado River and a chartered dinner cruise, kayaking, waterskiing, championship golf 300+ days a year and spa facilities, all at an incredible value, and they’ll write a song about you. Plan a winning get-together by calling our Laughlin sales staff or filling out an RFP at VisitLaughlin.com/meetings/rfp.


Travis Conklin/LA Tourism

on location: west ❖

Discovering Downtown Pulsing with energy, downtown Los Angeles abounds with cultural magnets like the Nokia Theatre (top left) and Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (below).

L.A.

Michelle & Tom Grimm/LA Tourism

Don’t miss the revitalized city center, a hip sector bristling with entertainment options everly Hills. Hollywood, Pasadena.

Good things are happening in the re-ener-

Each is a familiar name and all are a

B

gized downtown area, where in the past 15

part of the greater Los Angeles metro

years the population has grown from 28,000 to

area. Each has the ingredients that make it a

52,000. With major development dollars being

tour destination in itself. However, it’s downtown

spent, the area adjacent to the Los Angeles

Los Angeles that intrigued me on my visit during

Convention Center has received a dramatic

February’s NTA Travel Exchange 2014.

facelift.

46 April 2014

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

By Dave Bodle


The L.A. Live complex has become the go-to place for entertainment and dining in downtown. At the heart of L.A. Live is Nokia Plaza, the scene of festivals, events and concerts year round. The Plaza connects two of L.A. Live’s premium performance venues. The Staples Center is the L.A. sports fan’s fantasy and home to the Lakers, Clippers, Kings and Sparks. Groups can find entertainment on the streets of Chinatown or in the stands at the Staples Center.

The more intimate Nokia Theatre seats 7,100 and hosts the Emmys,

John Paul “Boomer” Iacoangelo/LA Tourism

Travis Conklin/LA Tourism

ESPYs and American Music Awards. An adjacent avenue and the boulevard to the Plaza can be closed,

Angeles and it’s this area of downtown where we begin our walking

allowing easy pedestrian access between the two venues and red-

journey. Olvera Street is the city’s birthplace and well worth a visit.

carpet treatment for special events.

The area abounds with historic buildings, authentic Mexican restau-

The GRAMMY Museum at L.A. Live is a wonderful addition to

rants and open-air vendor stalls and carts selling everything from art

any itinerary, especially for student groups taking advantage of its

and souvenirs to leather and clothing. The bright colors and con-

interactive educational programs. (grammymuseum.org/education)

stant buzz are almost hypnotic.

Does it make any sense to visit L.A. and not see a movie? The

Certainly you brought another shopping bag because we’re just

14 theaters of Regal Cinemas at L.A. Live, along with 800 seats at

beginning. If there’s one thing each ethnic neighborhood has in

the Premier Theatre, promise an experience to remember. Group rates for 10 or more are avaiiable. From a casual coffee at Starbucks to a Smashburger lunch, or fine dining at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar and the Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill, L.A. Live offers more than 20 restaurants. Lucky Strike Lanes & Lounge makes for a fun evening for groups interested in bowling. In just three years L.A. Live (lalive.com) has certainly become the place to be in downtown Los Angeles. The adjoining condo tower (it looks like a razor!) provides a residence and tax shelter for celebrities and athletes. Aside from L.A. Live, there are several little neighborhoods to explore, so you better plan for a few extra days. First of all, let’s decide how we’re going to get around. At one time Los Angeles had a streetcar system that rivaled the New York subway system. Those days are gone and L.A. became the blueprint for an automobile culture. Today, the Metro is an option with buses and a few trains servicing downtown. Traveling by coach, you can certainly add a step-on-guide or join an openair double decker tour. But walking is really the best way to discover downtown L.A. In 1781 the second pueblo in what is now California was founded. It would go on to become Los LeisureGroupTravel.com

April 2014 47


on location: west ❖ Olvera Street and you’re in Chinatown with its emerging art scene, fascinating shops and great food. Near Alameda Street you’ll discover five blocks of Little Tokyo. Great ramen and sushi can be expected, but you’ll need to save time for shopping and the Japanese and American Cultural Center with its Japanese garden. In Exposition Park, built for the 1932 Olympics, see the seven-

John Paul “Boomer” Iacoangelo/LA Tourism

common, it’s good food and good shopping. A short walk from

The landmark Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is home to USC’s football team.

acre rose garden, which boasts 15,739 rose bushes. The garden is closed from January through mid-March when pruning is under-

for the 1932 Olympics and hosted the 1984 Olympics, too. On any

way. The nearby Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was also built

given fall Saturday, the University of Southern California football Trojans put their storied history on show at the Coliseum. Also in Exposition Park are the California Science Center (home of the Space Shuttle Endeavour and an IMAX theater), California African American Museum (CAAM) and Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Each stop is ideal for student groups. In Grand Park is the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, home to many of the city’s performance events. The exceptional view of City Hall (remember TV’s Dragnet?) from the tiered park’s lovely fountains is a great photo opportunity. You certainly will not want to miss Old Broadway Street with the 1920s movie palaces that grace the area. Within six blocks you’ll find a dozen of these gems. Judy Garland was discovered performing vaudeville in what is now a Pentecostal church. The old Rialto is now an Urban Outfitters. To experience the energy of today’s downtown, take a walk on Spring Street. The old Wall Street of the West and its long gone banks are being converted into condos with street-level businesses. You’ll find it all here – clubs, a large used bookstore, boutiques, art galleries, restaurants and one of the neatest barbershops you’ll ever see. At the end of Spring Street the Garment District awaits the shrewd shopper. The Jewelry District with diamond prices that will amaze isn’t far off. Downtown L.A. has become very hip. Let’s finish by saying thanks to the Angelenos and investors who had the foresight not to tear down those great buildings with their magnificent historic architecture. Downtown L.A. is truly alive. LGT ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: For a look at the Reagan Presidential Library’s current baseball exhibit, see Dave Bodle’s article at http://tinyurl.com/pgrn3m8.

48 April 2014

LeisureGroupTravel.com


Buffalo Bill Center of the West

Wyoming’s

Three

C

Rodeo action highlights Cheyenne Frontier Days. At the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, tour the Cody Firearms Museum (below) and perhaps catch a powwow (left).

Cheyenne Frontier Days

s ’

Legends of the Old West come to life in

Cheyenne, Casper and Cody By Sue Arko

Buffalo Bill Center of the West

hen traveling through Wyoming, the long stretches of open

Railway Trolley. The hop-on, hop-off tour includes stops at

highways will take you through some of the country’s most

the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum, Nelson Mu-

stunning vistas. The scenery may not be all that vivid, but yes-

seum of the West, Wyoming State Capitol, Wyoming State

terday’s colorful legends live on in the vibrant Western cites of

Museum, Historic Governors’ Mansion and Cheyenne Botan-

Cheyenne, Cody and Casper.

ical Gardens.

W

After enjoying the sights in town, head south nine miles to CHEYENNE

Ron Thiel bought the ranch to raise bison, but then decided to start

railroad, Cheyenne’s lifestyle exemplifies the romantic lure of the

a company that would allow people to get up close and personal

West that attracted rowdy town bars alongside elegant opera

with the great North American bison.

houses and thriving business establishments. Hat Photo/Matthew Idler

Terry Bison Ranch for a train ride to see a herd of bison. In 1993

Explored first by the pioneers and molded by the path of the

End your day in Cheyenne by watching the Western skits and

Begin your tour by visiting the Cheyenne Depot, a National

escapades of the Cheyenne Gunslingers at 6 p.m. most week-

Historic Landmark that has been restored to its original glory. The

nights (noon Saturdays) in downtown during June and July. Then

Depot’s museum depicts the railroad and its relationship to

enjoy Bit-O-Wyo Horse Barn Dinner Theater in the mountains

Cheyenne; inside, purchase tickets for the Cheyenne Street

west of town (May to August). In July catch the Old-Fashioned

50 April 2014

LeisureGroupTravel.com


Live the Legend of Cheyenne! July 18-27, 2014 July 17-26, 2015 ) Top Name Entertainers ) 9 Pro Rodeos ) USAF Thunderbirds ) Free Pancake

Breakfasts and Parades ) Indian Village and More!

www.cfdrodeo.com 800-227-6336

Cheyenne Frontier Daysâ&#x201E;˘ Old West Museum Historic Cheyenne Depot and Museum Wyoming State Capitol and State Museum Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley Western Shopping Galore Big Boy Steam Engine Terry Bison Ranch Bit-O-Wyo Horse Barn Dinner Show

Plus NEW Turnkey Group Experiences!

At the I-80 and I-25 Intersection ~ www.cheyenne.org ~ 800-426-5009

LeisureGroupTravel.com

April 2014 51


on location: west ❖

Obtain Wyoming visitor guides and itineraries and contact groupfriendly suppliers directly at leisuregrouptravel.com/instant-info

Melodrama at the historic Atlas Theatre, where

migration. Other themes include the Pony Ex-

you can cheer the hero and hiss the villain.

press and transcontinental telegraph. The cen-

Every July, the city hosts Cheyenne Fron-

ter offers a virtual wagon ride across the North

tier Days, the West’s largest outdoor rodeo.

Platte River where you feel every bump and jolt

Often referred to as the “Daddy of ’em All,” this

of the wagon. Or sit in a virtual stagecoach and

10-day celebration includes a Western art

ride by wagons and a buffalo herd. An18-minute

show, rodeos, Indian dancing, carnivals and

film entitled Footsteps to the West re-creates

entertainment.

the lives of the pioneers as they traveled west.

CASPER

CODY Cody was founded as a hospitality center

the city of Casper. Before settlers arrived in the

in 1896 by the legendary Colonel William F.

area, Native American tribes flourished on the

“Buffalo Bill” Cody. A popular gateway to

Matthew Idler

Just under 200 miles north on Interstate 25 is

plains for over 12,000 years. Known today as the Plains Indians, they include the Arapaho, Arikara, Bannock, Blackfeet, Cheyenne, Crow,

Tap your feet at Bit-O-Wyo Horse Barn Dinner Theater in Cheyenne.

Gros Ventre, Kiowa, Nez Perce, Sheep Eater, Sioux, Shoshone and Ute tribes. Casper is the perfect location to explore Native American life in Wyoming.

Yellowstone National Park, Cody is located 50 miles from its east entrance. Yellowstone boasts the widest array of geothermal features in the world, with its geysers, hot springs, fu-

maroles and mud pots. While in Cody, revel in the Wild West at rodeos, gun fight

The National Historic Trails Interpretive Center provides

re-enactments, cowboy music sessions and a world-class museum.

interactive exhibits that bring Wyoming and U.S. history to life,

Outdoor adventure includes hiking, kayaking, fly-fishing, horseback

interpreting Native American culture and the trails of Western

riding and river rafting. Three scenic byways offer opportunities to view wildlife and spectacular landscapes. Board the Cody Trolley, which utilizes two live narrators, historical photos, pass-around relics and entertaining audio clips to share the story of "Buffalo Bill" Cody while historical sites, scenic vistas, geology, wildlife and Western attractions are spotlighted. Cody’s Red Canyon Wild Mustang Tour is considered the premier wild horse tour in America. Travel 22 miles outside Cody to McCullough Peaks Wild Horse Management Area. Stand in the open prairie and observe the grace of a wild mustang. During the two-hour excursion, also see pronghorn antelope, golden eagles, coyotes and black-tailed prairie dogs. Since 1927, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, formerly known as the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, has been committed to keeping Western experiences alive. An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, it encompasses the complete American West experience—history and myth, art and Native culture, firearms, and the nature and science of Yellowstone. The Center of the West was the recipient of the 2012 National Tour Association’s Award for “favorite museum for groups.” The Cody Cattle Company offers an all-you-can-eat dinner buffet followed by entertainment from June to September. The show ends in time to attend the Cody Nite Rodeo, which takes place every night from June through August. Your group is invited to relive that Old West spirit and enjoy the unsurpassed Western hospitality of Cheyenne, Casper, and Cody. LGT

52 April 2014

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S A S N A K Top

Cameron Cross

(artist)

s n o i t c a r t t A e d i s Road

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Our list of a dozen worthwhile stops— historical, artistic or just plain quirky —takes groups off the beaten path By Lauren Reiniger

It’s worth getting off the bus for pictures of: Van Gogh’s sunflowers, the largest ball of twine, Garden of Eden sculptures and Buffalo Bill Cody.

C

harles Kuralt, the American journalist known for his long career with CBS and especially his “On the Road” segments, once said, “Interstate highways allow you to drive

coast to coast, without seeing anything.” Stray from the super highways, though, and you’ll find great slices of Americana worth getting out for a picture. With this in mind, here are some favorite roadside attractions that will spice up your next group trip through Kansas.

4-State Lookout, White Cloud Visitors can see Kansas, Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska from a viewing platform overlooking the Missouri River. Named one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas, the lookout is located in the small historic town of White Cloud, 84 miles northwest of Kansas City, Mo. (dpcountyks.com)

Kansas Travel & Tourism

LeisureGroupTravel.com

April 2014 53


Big Brutus, Inc., West Mineral

The Garden of Eden, Lucas

Big Brutus, at 16 stories tall and 11 mil-

Civil War veteran Samuel Perry Dinsmoor created sculptures

lion pounds, is the second largest electric

around a stone log cabin between 1907 and 1932, using concrete

shovel in the world. The dipper could hold

and native post rock. The three-story concrete structures show the

three railroad cars. It cost $6.5 million in

story of the Garden of Eden. Also located at this site is Dinsmoor and

1962 and is now at rest as a Regional His-

his wife’s mausoleum, where visitors can view his concrete coffin

toric Mechanical Engineering Landmark.

sealed behind a glass wall. Guided tours are available.

(bigbrutus.org)

(garden-of-eden-lucas-kansas.com) Big Brutus, Inc.

Buffalo Bill Bronze Sculpture, Oakley Buffalo Bill Cody earned the legendary title “Buffalo Bill” in this

Ghost Riders of the Chisholm Trail Silhouettes, Caldwell

part of the country. The bronze sculpture is 16 feet tall and weighs

These silhouettes are life-size iron cutouts that help tell the story

9,000 pounds. Visitors can walk up the hill to touch, take pictures of

of the original Chisholm Trail. The “ghosts” serve as a reminder of

or simply gawk at one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas.

the great cattle drives from 1866 to 1886, when millions of Texas

(buffalobilloakley.org)

longhorn cattle passed here on their way to legendary railheads such as Caldwell. The trail was established by Native American

Circle's Pecans & Country Store, McCune If you’re craving a snack, stop by Circle’s Pecans & Country

tribes and made famous by Jesse Chisholm in the settlement of the Old West. (caldwellkansas.com)

Store. This family-owned and -operated store sells pecans fresh from the family’s 3,000-tree orchard. They also offer pecan candies, fudge,

World's Largest Ball of Twine, Cawker City

jams, jellies, sugar-free specialties and gluten-free products. Pecans

This ball of twine is the world’s largest built by a community. It

are processed at the family’s shelling plant, the largest shelling

weighs 17,320 pounds, has a 40-foot circumference and includes

operation in Kansas. (circlespecans.com)

over 7,938,709 pieces of sisal twine. Each year, Cawker City Com-

C on n eoc t with Ou Our r St Stories ries

Oak Oakley, ley, K Kansas ansas • 785 785•671•1000 •671•1000 Tourism@D isc o verOak le y.c om Tourism@DiscoverOakley.com 54 April 2014

LeisureGroupTravel.com


munity Club hosts a twine-a-thon in conjunction with the annual

Davis Memorial, Hiawatha

Cawker City Picnic and Parade; the ball never stops growing. Frank

The Davis Memorial, located in Mount Hope Cemetery, is a

Stoeber started the twine ball in 1953 on his farm, and it weighed

nationally recognized site that was featured on Ripley’s Believe It or

5,000 pounds by 1957. (kansastravel.org/balloftwine)

Not. Made in Italy during the 1930s, it features 11 life-size marble statues of John and Sarah Davis and a marble canopy that weighs

Yellow Brick Road, Sedan

over 50 tons. (kansastravel.org/davismemorial)

Walk along the world’s longest yellow brick road with 11,000 yellow bricks. The road features bricks with celebrity names, a

Bronze Pony Express Horse & Rider, Marysville

special veterans section, 28 foreign countries and all of the states

The Pony Express bronze statue commemorates the young

in America. People can buy bricks to have their names engraved

riders and their ponies that carried mail from St. Joseph, Mo. to

on them. The VIP section is in front of the Emmett Kelly Museum,

Sacramento, Calif. and back. Although the Pony

which honors the famous clown, a native of Sedan. There is an

Express lasted only 18 months from 1860-1861,

annual parade on the Yellow Brick Road at the end of May.

a re-ride route takes place every year in June.

(cityofsedan.com)

(marysvillekansaschamber.org)

Giant Van Gogh Painting, Goodland

Eight Mile Corner Windmill, Elkhart

With Kansas being the Sunflower State and Goodland at the

Visitors to this site, located eight miles west

center of the local sunflower industry, this is the spot for an over-

of Elkhart on State Line Road, can view or stand

sized replica of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. This particular painting,

in three states—Kansas, Colorado and Okla-

known as the American Easel, is a part of The Big Easel’s Van Gogh

homa—at one time. The monument, built in 1903, is a windmill with

Project, which involves giant—approximately 23 by 33 feet—replicas

the three states’ names on the blades. In fact, the windmill does not

of Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings. Other paintings are located in

mark the connecting point between the three states, so a brass plate

Canada and Australia. (thebigeasel.com)

is placed on the ground to mark this spot. (ci.elkhart.ks.us)

LeisureGroupTravel.com

Eight Mile Corner Windmill

April 2014 55


White Walls of

Niagara Falls lures groups to the wet ’n’ wild side of western New York State By Randy Mink

S

ince it was discovered in 1678 by

staple for the U.S. market as well and never

French explorer and missionary

fails to awe. Groups in northwestern New

Father Louis Hennepin, Niagara

York will find plenty to do in and around the

Falls has been regarded as one

cities of Niagara Falls and Buffalo, situated

of the great natural wonders on earth. As

about 20 miles apart on the Niagara River,

Father Hennepin wrote, “Betwixt the Lake

across from Ontario, Canada.

Ontario and Erie, there is a vast and

At Niagara Falls State Park, the oldest

prodigious Cadence of Water….The Uni-

state park in the country, visitors can view

verse does not afford its Parallel…The

the 1,000-foot drop of the American Falls at

Waters which fall from this horrible Precipice do foam and boyl after the most

Prospect Point, where a visitor center has Frontier history comes alive at Old Fort Niagara, at the mouth of the Niagara River in Youngstown.

Photos courtesy Niagara USA

hideous manner imaginable, making an outrageous Noise, more terrible than that of Thunder.” The thundering phenomenon, in which more than 750,000 gallons of water flow over the falls each second, attracts millions of

exhibits and a movie, Niagara: Legends of Adventure. (Niagara Falls is actually three

falls—American and Bridal Veil Falls on the New York side, Horseshoe Falls on the Ontario side. Carved out along their path is a seven-mile canyon known as Niagara Gorge.)

visitors a year. Considered a must-see by many international

Beyond the visitor center at Prospect Point is the Observation

tourists traveling around America, Niagara Falls is a group-tour

Tower and its glass-enclosed elevators that travel down to the foot Maid of the Mist boat rides, a must-do experience, take poncho-clad tourists within spraying distance of North America’s most powerful falls.

56 April 2014


Water

Expect to get totally drenched on a Whirlpool Jet Boat Tour—and bring a full change of clothes.

of the falls, where Maid of the Mist boats dock. A classic Niagara

Seneca Niagara Casino dominates downtown Niagara Falls,

Falls activity dating back to 1846, these wooden vessels take rid-

offering about 2,600 slot machines and 90 table games. Main

ers, clad in slickers, right to the bases of the falls. From the rock-

Street abounds with souvenir shops. Other attractions include

ing boats, you’ll feel the spray and witness the roaring water on its

Aquarium of Niagara (sea lions, harbor seals, penguins, sharks,

way from four of the Great Lakes—Superior, Michigan, Huron and

Great Lakes fish) and Niagara’s Wax Museum of History. The

Erie—to the fifth, Ontario. Even more adventurous is a whitewa-

Niagara region also offers agritourism opportunities, with many

ter experience with Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours, with boarding at

beautiful farms and vineyards along the Niagara Wine Trail.

three locations, including Lewiston, N.Y. The 1500-horsepower jet

In Youngstown, north of Niagara Falls, Old Fort Niagara

boats tackle the rapids in the lower Niagara Gorge, reaching

(adjacent to Fort Niagara State Park) captivates groups with

speeds of 65 mph and leaving you absolutely drenched.

commanding views of Lake Ontario and costumed soldiers who

The Cave of the Winds Trip, also calling for rain ponchos, is a

interpret the history of the stone fortress built by the French in

guided tour following a wooden walkway to the base of Bridal Veil

1726 at the mouth of the Niagara River and later occupied by

Falls; expect to be doused while standing on a deck just 20 feet

British and American forces. Military re-enactments and fife and

from the cascades. The trip starts with an elevator ride into the

drum drills highlight the summer schedule.

gorge on quiet, wooded Goat Island, located in the middle of the

Herschell Carousel Factory Museum in North Tonawanda,

Niagara River, upstream from Prospect Point in Niagara Falls State

midway between Niagara Falls and Buffalo, occupies a former

Park. For a look at the falls’ geological history, check out the ex-

plant that produced more than 50 carousels a year during the

hibits and multimedia show at Niagara Gorge Discovery Center,

1920s and 30s. Admire the menagerie of magical merry-go-round

also in the park.

creatures (hand-carved entirely of wood until 1928) and take a

April 2014 57


on location: northeast ❖ whirl aboard a 1916 carousel. Also on display are new carved animals. Buffalo (pop. 261,000) is New York’s second largest city and perhaps best known as a sportcrazy town. Residents are passionate about football’s Buffalo Bills, the NFL team that plays at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The NHL Buffalo Sabres take the ice at downtown’s HSBC Arena, while the Buffalo Bisons, the Cleveland Indians’ Triple A team, play at Coca-Cola Field, also downtown. For a birds-eye view of Buffalo, Lake Erie and the Niagara River, take the elevator to the 25th wynton marsalis, managing and artistic director

floor of the Art Deco Buffalo City Hall and then walk three flights to the observation deck. At the southern end of downtown along Lake Erie is the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military

feelin’

good

Park, where visitors can board a submarine, destroyer and guided-missile cruiser. Also downtown is the Theater District, which has a half dozen theaters and cabarets along

take your group on a swingin’ adventure. reserve your seats today. PHOTO BY MARYLENE MEY AND WHIT LANE

with shops, galleries and restaurants. Its center-

212-258-9875

jalc.org/groups

piece is Shea’s Performing Arts Center on Main Street, a former 1920s movie palace decorated in marble and gilt. Your group can see a Broadway play, dance production or perhaps an opera; theater tours are available. The streets of Allentown, a historic neighborhood northwest of the Theater District, are lined with Victorian homes, many of which are now boutiques, art galleries, eateries and antique shops. The 1838 Wilcox Mansion is the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, where the 26th U.S. president took the oath of office after President William McKinley was assassinated at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo in 1901. Artifacts include the handkerchief that assassin Leon Czolgosz used to cover his gun. The only remaining permanent building from the exposition is now the museum of the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, one of several attractions in or near Delaware Park, north of downtown. Across the lake is the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, known for its outstanding collection of modern and contemporary art. Also in Delaware Park is the Buffalo Zoo. Tour planners who package the natural splendor of Niagara Falls and urban treasures of Buffalo can expect happy clients gushing with cascades of compliments. LGT

58 April 2014

LeisureGroupTravel.com


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BOOK FOR YOUR GROUP TODAY!


Prather Entertainment

Top Theatre Picks

By Lauren Reiniger

F

rom musicals to comedies to classic plays, theatres across America cater to groups’ wishes to include stage entertainment in their travels, whether it’s a matinee performance or a night on the town. Here are some choices for dinner theatres, outdoor spectacles and everything in between.

American Shakespeare Center

ner, the show begins as the stage descends from the ceiling; the hy-

Staunton, Virginia

draulic stage has been in operation since the theatre opened. The Barn

American Shakespeare Center mimics how a Shakespeare play would take place in the Renaissance era, complete with au-

Dinner Theatre is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and will present the musicals Groovin’, Showtime in Harlem and Soul Sistas. (800-668-1764, barndinner.com)

dience engagement, authentic costumes and large wooden platforms for sets. This

Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre

season presents The Merry Wives of

Indianapolis, Indiana Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre is a

Windsor, Othello and Henry IV. The playhouse offers snacks and drinks for purchase before the performance

year-round, professional dinner theatre

and during intermission. The playhouse is handicap-accessible and

that provides a complete experience: a

offers hearing assistive devices and large print copies of scripts.

freshly-prepared dinner buffet, full bar

(540-885-5588, ext. 24, americanshakespearecenter.com)

service at your table, gourmet desserts

The Barn Dinner Theatre Greensboro, North Carolina Since 1964, The Barn Dinner Theatre has been producing Broadway-style per-

and the professional production that follows. Most shows are Broadway musicals, with the occasional comedy or play. Productions showing this season include Disney musical Mary Poppins, Anything Goes, A Mighty Fortress Is Our Basement, Oklahoma and Fiddler on the

formances, or “dinnertainment,” making it

Roof. Groups are offered discount tickets and are acknowledged

the oldest continually operating dinner the-

from the stage before shows. (317-876-0503, beefandboards.com)

atre in the United States. Dinner features a buffet, salad bar and dessert bar. After din60 April 2014

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, set in Oregon in the 1850s, plays through May 11 at the Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre in Lancaster, Pa.

LeisureGroupTravel.com


Chaffin’s Barn Dinner Theatre Nashville, Tennessee Chaffin’s Barn Dinner Theatre has produced comedies, musicals and mysteries since 1967, making it the second oldest professional dinner theatre in the nation. It has been voted Music City’s Best Dinner Theatre, received five stars in customer serv-

ice and has been rated one of Nashville’s Top 25 Tourist Attractions. This season’s productions include A Bad Year for Tomatoes, Grease, A Fox on the Fairway, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Gone But Not Forgotten and A Christmas Carol. (615-646-9977, ext.11, dinnertheatre.com)

Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse Rock Island, Illinois Circa ’21, housed in a restored 1921 vaudeville-movie theatre,

is the only professional dinner theatre in the Quad Cities. Dinner features a five-entrée buffet and a choice between soup or salad served at your table. This season will present Fiddler on the Roof, Love, Lies and the Lottery, Funny, You Don’t Look Like a Grandmother and youth musicals. Groups are offered personalized service, complimentary tickets for escorts and drivers, and fresh home-baked cookies for motorcoach groups to take

on their way home. (309-786-2667, circa21.com)

Cornwell’s Turkeyville Marshall, Michigan Cornwell’s Turkeyville features a hotel, various events, a gift shop and, of course, the dinner theatre with a 250-seat restaurant and 175-seat theatre. This season will show Boogie Woogie Swing Time, Suds, Ring of Fire—The Johnny Cash Story and Cornwell’s

Christmas Carol. Group benefits include special pricing, personal greetings and a complimentary dinner and show for every 20 tickets bought. (269-781-4293, turkeyville.com)

Dallas Summer Musicals Dallas, Texas Celebrating its 75th anniversary this summer, Dallas Summer

Musicals is the largest producer of live theatrical entertainment in the Southwest and the second oldest summer theatre organization in the nation. Productions are shown year-round and always feature Broadway musicals. This season features Evita, Mamma Mia! and Nice Work If You Can Get It. Private, post-show Q&A with cast members is available to groups. Suites in the Music Hall can be used for group gatherings and pre-show parties. (214-426-4768, dallassummermusicals.org)

Das Dutch Village Columbiana, Ohio

Das Dutch Village is an all-inclusive destination, including the Das Dutch Village Inn, Das Dutch Haus Restaurant & Bakery and Das Dutch Village Shops, which are all located within walking distance of each other in the quaint village. All productions are original modern retellings of Bible stories. This season will show St. John’s Revival with the Walking Roots Band, The Jesus Stories and Just Give ’Em the News. Groups are offered overnight dinner theatre packages that include a night in the groupfriendly hotel, a buffet dinner and show tickets. (330-482-5050, dasdutchvillage.com) 62 April 2014

LeisureGroupTravel.com


Derby Dinner Playhouse Clarksville, Indiana Derby Dinner Playhouse will celebrate its 40th anniver-

sary this year with Mary Poppins, A Mighty Fortress is our Basement, A Wonderful Life and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. The theatre provides an intimate environment and is close to attractions in Louisville, Ky. A group packaging service includes pre-planned and customized itineraries with step-on guide service. Dinner features Derby Fried Chicken and a full salad

bar. (812-288-2632, derbydinner.com)

The Fireside Dinner Theatre Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin The Fireside is Wisconsin’s only Equity Dinner Theatre and recognized as Wisconsin’s No. 1 year-round motorcoach attraction. This season, the theatre is celebrating its 50th anniversary and will present Mary Poppins, Smokey Joe’s Cafe, Les Miserables, Fiddler on the

Roof, Driving Miss Daisy and the new anniversary edition of A Fireside Christmas. Except for Thursday buffets, Sunday brunches and Saturday five-course dinners, shows include a full three-course dinner served at the table. (800-477-9505, firesidetheatre.com)

The Great Passion Play Eureka Springs, Arkansas The Great Passion Play is

“America's #1 Attended Outdoor Drama” according to the Institute of Outdoor Theatre of East Carolina University in Greenville, S.C. The play is located on the hillside and features over 170 cast members and dozens of animals. The site also includes the Christ of the Ozarks, Holy Land Tour, Bible Museum and Sacred Arts Museum. Backstage tours and buffet dinners are available. (800-882-7529, greatpassionplay.org).

Maine State Music Theatre Brunswick, Maine Maine State Music Theatre is a professional summer theatre that

produces four Broadway-quality musicals, three special events and two children’s shows at the Pickard Theater on the Bowdoin Campus in Brunswick. This season will feature Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, Chamberlain – A Civil War Romance, Seven Bridges from Seven Brothers and Footloose. Each group gets a personal concierge who provides assistance throughout the experience. Other group benefits include discounts, preferred seating and post-show discussions. (207-725-8760, msmt.org) LeisureGroupTravel.com

April 2014 63


Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament Atlanta, Georgia; Baltimore/

three theatres across the country. Broadway Palm will show MidLife The Crisis Musical, The Music Man and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The Palms will show Burt and

Washington, D.C.; Buena Park, Cali-

Me. Dutch Apple productions will include Shrek The Musical, Hair-

fornia; Chicago, Illinois; Dallas, Texas;

spray and A Wonderful Life. Each theatre is close to a tourism

Lyndhurst, New Jersey; Myrtle Beach,

area, so groups have exciting itineraries for the entire region.

South Carolina; Orlando, Florida; Toronto, Ontario

Groups enjoy dinner buffets or even an upscale linen service in

Set within the walls of an 11th century-style castle, Medieval Times

the Florida theatre. (Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre, 800-933-3759;

is North America’s longest running and most popular dinner attraction,

The Palms Theatre, 480-924-6260; Broadway Palm Dinner

now celebrating 30 years and more than 50 million guests. This sea-

Theatre, 800-475-7256; pratherentertainmentgroup.com)

son features a new educational matinee where students see a curriculum-based production. For all groups, shows feature a story line

Rainbow Dinner Theatre

filled with medieval-style horsemanship, swordplay and other skills in

Paradise, Pennsylvania

a jousting tournament. Guests eat medieval-style meals with their

Rainbow, celebrating its 30th season,

hands and various group packages are available. (866-543-9637,

is the only all-comedy dinner theatre in

medievaltimes.com)

the U.S. Owned and operated by a hus-

Palace Theatre Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

band and wife, the theatre offers personalization and a sense of family. The summer show is Always A Bridesmaid,

Palace Theatre hosts a touring pro-

followed by Drinking Habits, a new farce about nuns who secretly

duction company as well as events such

make and sell wine to save their convent. All food is cooked fresh

as competitions, festivals, concerts,

and on-site. (800-292-4301, rainbowdinnertheatre.com)

Easter Masses and religious conferences. This season’s productions include the musical Hot Jersey Nights and Illusions of Magic, which will

Wagon Wheel Theatre

feature Ben Blaque and his crossbow from America’s Got Talent 2012,

Warsaw, Indiana

the first indoor human cannonball and five 200-pound Bengal tigers.

Wagon Wheel Theatre, dating from

Groups are offered meet-and-greets, personal greetings, discounts

1961, is one of Indiana’s oldest theatres,

and dinner options. (843-626-8927, palacetheatremyrtlebeach.com)

featuring concerts, shows and Wagon

Prather Entertainment Group Lancaster, Pennsylvania (Dutch Apple

Wheel Jr. for kids’ productions. This season’s production line-up includes Disney’s Mary Poppins, Catch Me If You

Dinner Theatre) Mesa, Arizona (The

Can, Gypsy, Fiddler on the Roof, And Then There Were None,

Palms Theatre) Fort Myers, Florida

The Marvelous Wonderettes and Rent. Groups are able to book

(Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre)

lunch or dinner buffet reservations in a private banquet room.

Prather Entertainment Group has

(574-267-8041, wagonwheeltheatre.org)

A R I Z O N A

A R I Z O N A

ndta.us

THEATERS ARE LISTED ALPHABETICALLY BY STATE


N O R T H

C A R O L I N A

P E N N S Y L VA N I A

W I S C O N S I N

T E N N E S S E E I L L I N O I S

I N D I A N A

ndta.us

THEATERS ARE LISTED ALPHABETICALLY BY STATE


By Dave Bodle

O N M AR K ET I NG

Taking stock of your email practices may improve your business.

Follow These Tips on Effective E-mail Strategies

L

ately, there has been an



Get to the point by including

abundance of online and print

your call to action very early in your

space dedicated to just how

e-mails. Do not be afraid to tell

important e-mail marketing has

them what you want in the opening

become. I doubt my readers question

sentence, or even on the subject line.

that importance. In fact, many are already

Being entirely too wordy is my

heavily involved. If you’re still on the

biggest challenge.

fence, Google “E-mail Marketing” and



©Bigstock/chagin

Speaking of subject lines, always

third attempt, find someone else in the

select one of the top entries from the

keep it short. The previous sentence has

1,240,000,000 choices you’ll get in .42

47 characters including spaces. Recently,

seconds.

an article recommended keeping the

e-mails. I use them and I read them

company to approach. 

I really like sound bullet points in

subject line fewer than 50 characters.

when I’m on the receiving end. Suppliers,

more information available about the

That’s way too many. According to a 2012

when you’re prospecting or following up,

importance and procedures of e-mail

Adestra Report, subject lines with 10 or

bullet points provide a great opportunity

marketing than fits in this column. What I

fewer characters enjoyed an open rate of

to summarize “why an operator should

want to share here are some thoughts

38 percent.

do business with you.”

You get the picture. There’s far

and suggestions for your personal



I still receive e-mails that close by



Personal business e-mails are just

suggesting I call at my convenience. I’m

that, personal. One size does not fit all

to call and hear a pitch or sales presen-

and neither does your message. So, why

horror stories to share. There’s that

tation? Really? Back in the day before

do we sign off with the same signature?

message to a fellow employee followed

e-mail a direct marketing mentor of mine

Consider having a few different ones. A

by a conversation a day later that is met

used to close business correspondence

signature may only show your LinkedIn

with the proverbial deer-in-the-headlights

by saying, “I’ll call Thursday (presuming

or Facebook graphics and links. Another

look. How about that e-mail to a prospect

you’ll be in) at 3:30.” I’ve modified it

signature might include a YouTube link.

asking for an appointment and a month

slightly, but still close e-mails with “I’ll

Think of the customers and segments

later is returned, “It’s been really crazy

reach out to you Thursday, April 23 at

they represent and develop the appropri-

busy.” You know the ones I mean.

3:30. I hope you’re able to take my call.”

ate signatures.

business e-mails. You certainly have your own e-mail

So, what can we do about being

I put the responsibility on me to connect.

In summary, send business e-mails

more effective with our personal business

I’m not asking the recipient to do

during the business day, keep it short

e-mails? Here are just a few thoughts on

anything.

and to the point, use bullet points, keep it

what I believe really makes a difference



In the previous example, if you get

personal and take the onus off connecting.

voicemail on the follow-up telephone call,

Of course, if you’re crazy busy--and we

acknowledge this must not have been a

all are--please don’t wait a month to

time of day to send an e-mail and you

good time. Proceed with setting another

say so.

might get three different answers. In my

time that you’ll call. On the morning of

world I’ll give you a window between 10

the call, send an e-mail reminding the

and 4 of the business day. Entirely too

recipient of your scheduled call. After the

in getting the response you want: 

Ask three marketers when’s the best

Contact Dave at 843-997-2880 or email dave@ptmgroups.com.

many promotional and social e-mails

Looking Ahead To Our

are waiting for me the first thing in the

JUNE ISSUE

morning. Unless it’s someone I recognize there’s a good chance it









North Dakota Iowa Washington, DC West Virginia  Montana  Utah  Alaska Florida  North Carolina  Sightseeing Cruises  Rail Travel  Canada  South Pacific

will get minimal attention. Usually



that means it keeps sliding down the

See our page-flip edition & past issues at LeisureGroupTravel.com We can help showcase your business to groups. Call us 630.794.0696 or advertising@ptmgroups.com

inbox as my day begins to unfold. 66 April 2014


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❑ Owatonna Tourism Bureau, MN ❑ Palace Theatre, Myrtle Beach, SC ❑ Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, Palm Springs, CA ❑ Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism, TN ❑ Rainbow Dinner Theatre, Lancaster, PA ❑ Rapid City CVB, SD ❑ Rolling Hills Zoo, Salina, KS ❑ Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum, Simi Valley, CA ❑ Salina, KS ❑ SPAM Museum, Austin, MN ❑ Staunton CVB, VA ❑ St. Cloud CVB, MN ❑ Stonewall Jackson Hotel & Conference Center, Staunton, VA ❑ The Barn Dinner Theatre, Greensboro, NC ❑ The Fireside Dinner Theatre, Fort Atkinson, WI ❑ The Great Passion Play, Eureka Springs, AR ❑ The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA ❑ The Outlets at Tejon Ranch, CA ❑ The Palms Theatre, Mesa, AZ ❑ The Wagon Wheel Theatre, Warsaw, IN ❑ Tour Kansas ❑ Turkey Hill Experience, Columbia, PA ❑ U.S. Tours ❑ Visit Cheyenne, WY ❑ Washington County Tourism Promotion, PA ❑ Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau, WI

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April 2014 Edition of Leisure Group Travel