2021 February Leisure Group Travel

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Culinary Trails: A Food Lover’s Paradise

A diversity of delights awaits you across the country INSIDE:

2021 Religious Travel Planning Guide

Embrace Mississippi’s Array of Attractions

The Magnolia State is a must-visit destination

A Premier Travel Media publication • LeisureGroupTravel.com



Fifth + Broadway to Transform Nashville

Downtown Nashville is set to open this exciting new complex on March 4th


he South’s most exciting new development of the year opens this March in Nashville, and tour planners from across the U.S. will want to be onboard. Occupying prime real estate in the bullseye of downtown, Fifth + Broadway promises to re-energize the heart of Music City and electrify the tourism scene. It’s no secret that travelers like to shop and dine, and that’s what Fifth + Broadway is all about. Happily for tour groups, the complex offers an ambitious program for the travel trade. One of the largest and most transformational mixed-use developments in the history of Nashville, Fifth + Broadway couldn’t be a more centrally located place to live, work and play. The city block, encompassing 6.2 acres that was once home to the city’s convention center, is right across from Ryman Auditorium and Bridgestone Arena and at the end of Lower Broadway’s neon row of honky-tonks. Also nearby are attractions like the Country Music Hall of Fame and Johnny Cash Museum. In addition to retail, dining, office and residential components, Fifth + Broadway boasts its own cultural anchor, the longawaited National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM), which opens LeisureGroupTravel.com <<

January 30. Seven interactive galleries equipped with state-of-the-art technology tell the story of black music, touching on more than 50 genres and styles, including spirituals, blues, jazz, gospel, R&B and hip hop. “Nashville has evolved into a hub for fashion designers, making Fifth + Broadway a shopping mecca with an array of national retailers and eclectic shops,” said Carolyn Feimster, travel & tourism manager for the complex. Stores are clustered around an open-air street that will feature a variety of shopping experiences, from global brands to local artisans and designers. Music City’s dining landscape will be enhanced by Fifth + Broadway’s 112,000 square feet of space devoted to “a culinary experience that will include everything from signature restaurants, downtown diners, rustic farm-to-table bistros, cafes and lounges,” Feimster said. The multi-level Assembly Food Hall, with indoor and outdoor communal tables, will feature more than 20 eateries offering casual dining and takeaway foods. Represented will be Nashville favorites like Coco’s Dolce & Cafe, Coco’s Pasta Bar, Prince’s Hot Chicken, Edley’s BBQ, DeSano Pizzeria and The Pharmacy Burger. Asian specialties (Chinese, Japanese,

Indian and Thai) will be dished up as well. The featured venue at Fifth + Broadway will be the Rooftop Dining Terrace and Entertainment Deck, which will overlook Ryman Auditorium, Bridgestone Arena and Lower Broadway. Holding up to 2,000 people, the terrace will be “the place to see and be seen in Nashville,” Feimster said. “In fact, it will be the perfect venue for groups to hold their welcome reception upon their arrival in Nashville.” Feimster can assist travel professionals with itinerary planning, package development, dining discounts and private events for groups. She can arrange for travel trade members to give their clients a complimentary FASHION + FOOD + FUN Visitor Pass, which includes various offers, amenities and discounts. Meet + greets, project tours and pre-paid dining cards for each member of the group can be arranged.


Carolyn Feimster, Travel & Tourism Manager 718-757-8489 Carolyn@CJFMarketingInternational.com Fifthandb.com

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February 2021 Vol. 31 No. 1



A diversity of delights awaits groups across the country



RELIGIOUS TRAVEL PLANNING GUIDE Some of the best faith-based destinations await your group



Regardless of the season, getting outside in the Magnolia State is the right choice



This attraction features more than 80,000 square feet of exhibits


CENTRAL SUPPER CLUBS By Randy Mink A retro vibe and old school trappings flavor these classic Midwestern eateries



URBAN EXCITEMENT IN UTAH By Christopher Silbernagel Explore the cities and suburbs of the Wasatch Front




Grab a fork and chow down on a variety of delightful Pennsylvania pies

COLUMNS 6 ON MY MIND B y J eff G ay d u k

7 ON TOUR B y M a rty S a rbey


â– February 2021


Amazing pie awaits you. de

S o uto

Photo courtesy of Destination Gettysburg

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harming small towns, cosmopolitan cities and gorgeous, open-air prairies distinguish Iowa as a terrific option for group tours. We are proud to showcase the Hawkeye State’s many attractions in this year’s Iowa Tour Guide—a collaboration with the Iowa Group Travel Association (IGTA). An excellent resource for groups planning their next Midwestern itinerary, the Iowa Tour Guide is brimming with information you won’t want to miss.

Check out the online version or download a print copy at: leisuregrouptravel.com/iowa-tour-guide

VISIT LEISUREGROUPTRAVEL.COM STILL HUNGRY FOR MORE GREAT CONTENT? Check out more recent articles on leisuregrouptravel.com • Take 5 Interview - Melanie Gentz and Steve Grace from Grasshopper Adventures • Tasty Discoveries Await Travelers in Yadkin Valley Wine Country • Take 5 Interview - Allan Wright of Zephyr United


et weekly digests of all the best online content with InSite, our free Friday e-newsletter, at: bit.ly/2nhxPvY

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ON THE COVER: Photo courtesy of Tunica Convention & Visitors Bureau

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By Jeffrey Gayduk

Are We Entering the Golden Age of Group Travel?


ear the end of World War II, Winston Churchill said “never let a good crisis go to waste.” Crisis is a good word to describe the travel industry with OMG levels of unemployment, mothballed airplanes, cruise ships, hotels and motorcoaches. How can I proclaim that we’re entering the golden age of an industry that’s essentially a no-go right now? Follow me on this and I think it will make perfect sense as we turn crisis into comeback. As travel came to a screeching halt last spring, people generally stayed in their backyards. That’s about to change. With more jabs in arms and a herd immunity, the world will slowly open back up to travel again. But everything has changed. First of all, people have missed their friends and family dearly. They will be eager to make up for lost time and starting this summer, we will experience “The Great Reconnecting.” Even people who have sworn off group travel will gravitate toward this. Next, think about all the new hobbies and passion projects people have taken up during the pandemic. In an effort to not go stir crazy, folks explored their inner chef, brewed their own beer, learned Zumba, attended online concerts and gobbled up virtual tours. Finally, while this pandemic has crushed our industry, many folks are doing just fine. They still have their jobs (or retirement income), the investments are soaring and they haven’t spent money on commuting, travel, dining out or entertainment. Add this up and we have a consumer group who hasn’t traveled in over a year, who’s eager to spend time with those they care about and wants to explore new passions with the wherewithal to make it all happen. Group travel is the intersection where all of this comes together. Position yourself at the corner and you’ll fully participate in the recovery of the travel industry as we usher in the new Golden Age of Group Travel. To the future,

Vol. 31, No. 1 February 2021 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 – Jason Paha


Senior Editor – Randy Mink randy@ptmgroups.com Associate Editor – Miles Dobis


Chief of Content & Technology – Lance Harrell


Director, Design & Production – Lisa Hede lisa@ptmgroups.com

Design & Production Intern – Haley Stinson

Vice President – Theresa O’Rourke Midwest, Frontier/Mountain West P 630.794.0696 • F 630.794.0652 theresa@ptmgroups.com

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The publisher accepts unsolicited editorial matter, as well as advertising, but assumes no responsi bility 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 sub scrip tion 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

Jeff Gayduk Publisher


■ February 2021


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

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By Marty Sarbey de Souto, CTC

Bernie Almanzar via Unsplash

5. BE SURE YOU UNDERSTAND what’s expected of you in the way of en route leadership. Will you, as the leader, be expected to operate as tour leader but with local guides assigned to your group at certain times only? Or will the company be assigning a full-time guide to travel with you throughout and you will be along merely to see that all goes well, provide continuity and enjoy your “free trip?”

Planning To Put Together Your Own Group Tour?


o, you’re thinking of putting together a group and leading them on a trip in the future. Maybe it’s to somewhere close to home or maybe it’s way across the country to an interesting destination. Perhaps you envision a weekend cruise when you feel it’s safe to travel once again. Or maybe you’d rather have a custom-made land tour designed for your projected clientele. But wherever and whenever it is, you know you have to make a plan. It can often take a year to promote and actually bring a trip to fruition. Let’s look at some of the things you need to think about in making plans to provide the best group travel experience and to be the best group tour leader you can be.

1. W ORK WITH THE BEST. Pick a tour operator or cruise line that’s been around a while, has lengthy experience in providing the type of trip you wish to provide your clientele, is familiar with the destination you’d like to cover and is solid financially. LeisureGroupTravel.com <<

2. B E SURE YOU UNDERSTAND YOUR OPERATOR’S PROPOSAL. Do you know when payments are due and unreturnable should you or a specific traveler cancel his/her trip participation. 3. CLARIFY IF ALL TOUR ACTIVITIES listed as included in the itinerary are firm and are actually incorporated in the tour price that you will be advertising to your group members. If access to certain exhibits or activities is not guaranteed, are acceptable substitutes planned? 4. CLARIFY IF ALL HOTEL PROPERTIES LISTED BY NAME are actually confirmed for your group or are they only proposed properties at the outset? You don’t want to be selling a trip for which you don’t actually hold space. You may prefer to simply refer to hotels as First Class, Deluxe or whatever and not guarantee specific hotels by name until you are assured by your operator they are indeed confirmed.

6. WHAT PROMOTIONAL MONIES OR ACTIVITIES, if any, will your tour operator or cruise line offer you to help you properly promote the trip to your projected clientele? Will they provide you any funding for mailings to potential travelers? And if they will be participating financially, will they be paying these promotional costs at the time or only reimbursing you later if the mailing is successful in producing trip participants? 7. MUST YOU PARTICIPATE IN ALL TOUR ACTIVITIES EN ROUTE? Private groups like this often have the best chance of success if they have strong leadership from the outset. Your group will appreciate your visibility at all included tour activities. Even if you’re not actually doing anything, just seeing you there will make your tour members feel secure. All in all, this trip can be one of the most exciting, challenging, and worthwhile projects you’ve ever undertaken. Give it the time, energy, advance planning and dedication that it deserves and that your participants expect. Who knows? It may lead to a new career and a satisfying personal achievement of your life.

Marty is a Certified Travel Counselor (CTC) with a long history in the travel/tourism industry. She has been a tour operator, worldwide trip leader, college tourism instructor and textbook author. Her consulting firm is Sarbey Associates (sarbeyassociates.com)

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CULINARY TRAILS ACROSS THE COUNTRY Green chile cheeseburgers are popular in New Mexico.


Photo courtesy of New Mexico TRUE

Satisfy Your Taste Buds on These


â– February 2021


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A diversity of delights awaits groups across the country


By Jason Paha

hen traveling across the United States, the diversity that exists within each state is striking. Regardless of where you lay your head in this country, if you travel to a neighboring state or one 3,000 miles away, the differences in culture, language and, of course, food, will be profound. On the cuisine front, states and cities have capitalized on the chance to show off their artisanal skills with food trails that highlight distinctive dishes, bolster regional food economies and create interesting experiences for visitors and locals. Here are nine of the top trails in the country for tour operators to take groups:

Buffalo Wing Trail (New York)

Not surprisingly, Buffalo, the city that created the majestic buffalo wing, is home to a trail that has been described as “America’s tastiest drive.” The trail lists 13 stops in and around Buffalo that highlight the history and atmosphere of these establishments, all of which serve their own version of the wing. Among the more popular stops include Duff’s Famous Wings in Amherst, Anchor Bar in Buffalo (who is credited with inventing the buffalo-style chicken wing in 1964), Gabriel’s Gate in Buffalo and Bar-Bill Tavern in East Aurora.

Butler County Donut Trail (Ohio)

Reminiscent of Colorado’s beer scene, this region in Southwest Ohio is said to sport the largest number of doughnut shops in the Midwest. This trail features a baker’s dozen (13) of the area’s most beloved bakeries. Some of the more interesting (in a good way) flavors that can be found on the trail include Reese’s Cup, s’mores and a purpleglazed, green cake Hulk doughnut.

Cajun Bayou Food Trail (Louisiana)

Louisiana is renowned for its cuisine which stems from generations of traditions, culture and flavor. The Cajun Bayou Food Trail resides 45 minutes from New Orleans and helps guests sample the region’s delicious offerings as it features 23 stops that stem from northern Thibodaux to southern Port Fourchon. The trail spotlights 17 establishments and six festivals and events.

Connecticut Pizza Trail

While New York and Chicago get the majority of the press clippings, Connecticut has quietly staked its claim as a major player in this country’s pizza wars. Known as apizza, New Haven-style pizza is traditionally baked in a coal-fired oven at temperatures above 650 degrees Fahrenheit. Its famous pizza consists of crust, oregano and tomato sauce with a bit of grated pecorino romano cheese. The trail debuted in 2015 and highlights 68 pizza institutions across the state. Some of the more must-see spots include Frank Pepe’s of New Haven, Sally’s Apizza in New Haven and Mystic Pizza in Mystic, which was the inspiration behind the Julia Roberts movie of the same name. LeisureGroupTravel.com <<

Denver Beer Trail (Colorado)

Colorado is home to more than 400 established breweries, a remarkable statistic given the state contains less than 2 percent of the country’s population. Needless to say, Colorado’s beer scene is among the best in the country and an efficient way to savor some of those suds is to embark on the Denver Beer Trail. This trail invites guests to explore the city’s local beer culture and highlights 42 breweries in and near the Mile High City.

Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail (New Mexico) When you think green chile cheeseburgers, your mind shouldn’t drift far from New Mexico, where this culinary treasure is a popular menu item. The New Mexico Department of Tourism offers an interactive trail that showcases 60 locations throughout the state where you can savor this combination of beef, green chile and melted cheese. While you can’t go wrong visiting any of the restaurants on the trail, Blake’s Lotaburger in Alburquerque has particularly impressive bona fides thanks to USA Today naming its burger the best green chile cheeseburger in New Mexico.

Hoosier Pie Trail (Indiana)

The creamy Hoosier Pie (also known as Sugar Cream Pie) was born in Indiana in the 1800s and has attained considerable cultural significance in the state. To honor this tasty creation, the Hoosier Pie Trail was created. Groups can follow this popular trail across the state to enjoy multiple varieties of Hoosier Pie along with a variety of other flavors including berry, chocolate, lemon and traditional apple pie. With 20 stops that visit bakeries, restaurants, orchards, cafes and diners, hungry travelers can explore the Hoosier State from top to bottom.

Kentucky Bourbon Trail

With 95 percent of the world’s bourbon produced in Kentucky, the state opted to flaunt its talents in 1999 with the introduction of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. This trail has something for everyone as it enables travelers to meet some of Kentucky’s artisans while offering tours, tastings, nightlife, Bourbon-themed restaurants and historic accommodations. Eighteen distilleries dot the trail with some as close as one mile from each other and others requiring a bit more of a drive (the farthest distance between distilleries is a manageable 182 miles).

North Carolina’s Historic Barbecue Trail

Barbecue is big business in North Carolina, and this cradle of ‘cue makes a stop at 21 historic barbecue pits. These pits were carefully chosen by the North Carolina Barbecue Society board, with each of the stops having to meet the strict criteria of being in the business 12 years or more, cooking on wood or charcoal pits, creating their own sauces and earning positive reputations within their communities. February 2021 ■ 9



Savor the Great Outdoors in


Photo courtesy of Visit Mississippi

Regardless of the season, getting outside in the Magnolia State is the right choice


By Dave Bodle

â– February 2021

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The park surrounds the 150-acre Shadow Lake. In addition to RV, tent camping and group camping, there are also vacation cabins and the Alfreda-Harris Lodge. There’s fishing and boating, a swimming pool and waterslide, a picnic area and pavilions, playgrounds, a nature trail, softball fields, tennis courts and disc golf. Cabins accommodating four to seven guests offer lake or forest views at Wall Doxey State Park. The park also has a twobedroom cottage. The setting is a wealth of natural beauty just 40 miles from Memphis and seven miles from the historic homes of Holly Springs. Before planning a visit, check out the University of Mississippi football schedule of home games. With a Hattiesburg address, Paul B. Johnson State Park is in the center of the pine belt region. Long leaf and loblolly pines share the land with ancient oaks and gorgeous dogwoods. The 225-acre Geiger Lake is available for freshwater fishing, boating and swimming. There are several options for overnight stays, including 16 cabins, three cottages and a group camping facility. To find the Mississippi State Park that fits your needs begin your visit online at mdwfp.com/parksdestinations/state-parks/. Located at the entrance to the Mississippi Delta, Grenada Lake was a 90,427-acre project of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Hugh White State Park is located on the lake and almost every outdoor enthusiast

Mississippi Parks J.P. Coleman State Park in the upper northeast corner of Mississippi has all types of water sports available, while in the lower southeastern corner of the state Clark Creek Natural Area features more than 50 waterfalls. Located on I-20 between Jackson and Meridian at Morton, Roosevelt State Park is right where you want it to be. LeisureGroupTravel.com <<

Photo courtesy of Visit Ridgeland

ississippi is home to a variety of beautiful locales which are perfect destinations for lovers of the great outdoors. With pristine scenery and a diverse landscape, Mississippi is an unforgettable outing for groups. Lovers of national parks, forests and seashores will find a slew of great stops in Mississippi. Among them are Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield, Tupelo National Battlefield, Gulf Islands National Seashore, Vicksburg National Military Park, Tombigbee National Forest and Natchez National Historical Park. Dahomey National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center is a short drive from Cleveland, Mississippi. Operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it’s well-known for educational programs and trails. A national parkway, The Natchez Trace traverses the southeastern United States from Natchez to Nashville with sections preserved from the original trail. In addition to Natchez, larger Mississippi cities along the two-lane road are Jackson, Ridgeland and Tupelo. Vicksburg National Military Park preserves the site and tells the story of the Battle of Vicksburg that was waged from March 29 to July 4, 1863. The Vicksburg campaign led up to the pivotal battle that gave control of the Mississippi River to the Union Army. Gulf Islands National Seashore in Ocean Springs preserves the natural resources along the Gulf of Mexico, including mainland areas and portions of seven islands. Recreational options are around every corner, including boating, fishing and camping. Near Tupelo, Tombigbee National Forest is located in northeastern Mississippi. Horseback riding, camping, fishing, hiking trails for various skill levels and picnicking areas are great options for an outdoor adventure.

Ridgeland, MS is one of the entrance/exit points on The Natchez Trace Parkway.

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Mississippi Mound Trail The huge earthen works that appear on Mississippi’s landscape were constructed hundreds of years ago. Whether a burial mound

or a platform mound, each has a mystery and story to be told. Many of the more than 30 mounds on the Mississippi Mound Trail are visible from the road, only. A few are welcoming for a closer inspection. trails.mdah.ms.gov/mmt/index.html Grand Village of the Natchez Indians is an important prehistoric site. The on-site museum features a regular lecture series on the history of the Natchez Indians, while displaying artifacts and exhibits obtained through excavations. From a 1723 French map, it’s believed six mounds were originally on the site. Three mounds are still visible. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Spanning approximately eight acres, Emerald Mound is the third largest preColumbian earthwork north of Mexico. Before 1500 A.D., Emerald Mound was the primary town of the Natchez nation

Photo courtesy of Visit Mississippi

will find his or her calling at this inland paradise. Naturally, you can expect boating, swimming, water skiing and world-class fishing for a half dozen species. Hiking, bird watching and golfing are just a few other amenities you can enjoy. Begin your visit at the Grenada Lake Visitor Center to learn the history and cultures impacting the region. Located near Meridian, Dunn’s Falls Park is one of eight parks in the Pat Harrison Waterway District. The park features an 1857 grist mill from Georgia that was moved and reconstructed in 1987 on the site of Dunn’s original mill. The rustic homestead on site is popular with history buffs and the pristine beauty appeals to groups. For more information, visit online at phwd.net/index.html?

Emerald Mound

before moving to Grand Village. In the early 19th century, Emerald was described as eight secondary mounds surrounding a primary platform. It was home to the most significant political and religious leaders of the tribe. From peaceful waterfalls and glorious lake vistas to points of historic significance, Mississippi has an engaging outdoors platform for groups. Make sure to include an outdoor experience in your itinerary. Begin planning your Mississippi tour at visitmississippi.org.

YOUR NEXT BIG IDEA We’re helping groups get back on the road again with an innovative NEW program: Virtual Site InSpections From Leisure Group Travel. In the absence of in-person FAM trips, conferences and personal site inspections, we’re recreating the site inspection experience by reconnecting groups and suppliers across our video, digital and print channels. Join us this month as we discover new destinations and help you parse new product ideas.

Reserve your spot at LeisureGroupTravel.com/VirtualSI


■ February 2021

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Ready for an adventure? Mississippi has your ticket. Paddle downstream or roll some dice on the mighty river. Yeah, we’ve got that. Explore state-of-the-art museums featuring home-grown icons such as B.B. King and Elvis Presley. Yeah, we’ve got that too. Indulge in straight-from-the-garden authentic southern cooking. We’ve got that like nobody else. And if you want to do a little toe-tapping, visit and find out why Mississippi is known as the “Birthplace of America’s Music.” Start planning your Mississippi group adventure at visitmississippi.org.



Jackson, Mississippi Amazes Visitors

From history and heritage to world-class performances, there is so much to discover


ackson is home to incredible music, a delightful art scene and a variety of excellent museums. Here are a few:

and represents 100 years of heritage in the African-American community.

Civil Rights Movement and the Mississippi Freedom Trail

Much of American music has roots in Mississippi, and Jackson is in the middle of it all, from country to blues and gospel. With a dozen Mississippi Blues Trail Markers, it’s easy to see why Jackson is the City With Soul. You might meet your Malaco Records tour guide at the warehouse door. That makes sense since, at one time, they were the kings of gospel music direct mail sales. When in the Farish Street Historic District, visit the Trumpet Records marker and the tribute to Dorothy Moore at the Alamo Theater. Other places you’ll find markers are for Bobby Rush, Cassandra Wilson at Brinkley Middle School, Ishmon Bracey at Jim Hill High School, and Otis Spann & Little Johnny Jones.

The eight galleries at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum tell the story of Mississippi’s place at the center of the national Civil Rights Movement and is the perfect spot to begin your Jackson experience. In the heart of the museum, the This Little Light of Mine gallery honors civil rights activists with music, light, and words. The Museum of Mississippi History is adjacent to the Civil Rights Museum and explores 15,000 years of history. As you leave the museum complex, check out the JXN Icons mural on the backside of Old Capitol Inn. Public art is widely celebrated throughout Jackson, gracing the walls, shared spaces, and streets. Near the State Capitol building, the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center celebrates the African-American experience through art, artifacts, and photography. A visit to the Farish Street Historic District is a must. This late 19th-century neighborhood is on the National Register of Historic Places 14

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Jackson and the Blues

Art Takes Form in Jackson

The city’s contributions to the Civil Rights Movement and blues music do not overshadow modern-day Jackson’s vibrant arts scene. Eudora Welty was the first writer to be honored on the Mississippi Writers Trail. The Eudora Welty House and Gardens

welcomes groups to tour the property. Thalia Mara Hall has a wonderful story to tell. Built in 1968 as the Municipal Auditorium, the Jackson Ballet Guild invited Thalia Maria in 1975 to develop a professional ballet company. Just four years later, she secured the International Ballet Competition (IBC). Jackson was named by U.S. Congress the official USA home of the IBC and the only U.S. city to host the event. Established in 1911 with a small collection, the Mississippi Museum of Art’s collection is now approaching 6,000 objects. The Municipal Art Gallery is housed in a home built in the 1860s and is one of Jackson’s oldest surviving historical structures. The International Museum of Muslim Cultures opened in 2001. The museum shares the beauty of Muslim cultures throughout the world through artifacts and exhibits. Jackson’s Fondren neighborhood is the hub of owner-operated visual arts, unique boutiques, restaurants, bars, and bakeries.


Sherri Ratliff, Group Tour Manager 601-345-2539 sratliff@visitjackson.com www.visitjackson.com

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As you discover all that is Jackson, you will see community culture unique to the state. Our vast culinary offerings, museums, and historical sites are only a few reflections of Jacksonians’ soul. There are hundreds of restaurants to choose from, including momand-pop eateries and James Beard Award-winning fine dining.

Jackson, MS

Experience the Blues in Jackson, MS Day 1

Arrive in Jackson and overnight at the famous King Edward Hotel – now flying the Hilton Garden Inn flag. Built in 1923, the history of downtown Jackson’s Edwards Hotel is as dynamic as the entertainers that once played there. The hotel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 and declared a Mississippi Landmark in 1990. The hotel was the site of temporary studios set up by Okeh Records in 1930 and the American Record Corporation in 1935 to record blues artists Bo Carter, Robert Wilkins, Joe McCoy, Isaiah Nettles, the Mississippi Sheiks and others. The Mississippi Sheiks also performed at the hotel, and Houston Stackhouse recalled that he played here together with fellow bluesman Robert Nighthawk and country music pioneer Jimmie Rodgers.

Day 2


Sherri Ratliff, Group Tour Manager sratliff@visitjackson.com 601-345-2539 www.visitjackson.com

First stop is Sugar’s Place for a chicken and waffles breakfast. Sugar’s doles up hearty plates of soul food Monday through Friday, and the chicken and waffles are a southern staple. From here, it is just a short stroll over to the Historic Farish Street District. This area was once a hub for African American-owned businesses; it was an economically independent community that was the most extensive outside of Harlem. Jackson is home to numerous markers on the Mississippi Blues Trail. These markers recognize the famous musicians and the recording studios and entertainment venues behind the city’s most

LeisureGroupTravel.com <<

recognizable attributes. Several of those markers are located on Farish street, including the Alamo Theatre, Ace Records, Trumpet Records, and H.C Speir. The Alamo Theatre screened westerns and African American films and hosted acts and performing artists such as B.B. King, Nat King Cole, Dorothy Moore, and other top African American performers. While on Farish Street, stop by Big Apple Inn for lunch. As the oldest restaurant in Jackson, this location’s history is as fascinating as the pig ear sandwiches and tamales that 4th generation restaurant owner, Geno Lee, serves up daily. Spend the afternoon at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and the Museum of Mississippi History. The two museums opened in December of 2017 and have welcomed more than half a million visitors worldwide. The Museum of Mississippi History features a replica of an authentic Mississippi Juke Joint, and to understand the blues, you have to understand Mississippi’s history. A visit to the Civil Rights Museum gives you an eye-opening look at its past. It shares some of the experiences and heartache that led to the birth of the blues and gospel music. If you are fortunate enough to be in town on a Monday night, you can join visitors from all over the world that come to Jackson to attend the Central Mississippi Blues Society’s Blue Monday event held at the iconic Hal & Mal’s restaurant. The open-mic event features a house band and regional entertainers. You never know who might show up to sing. Once known as the Crystal Palace Night Club, Johnny T’s Bistro & Blues is an excellent spot for live music and fine dining. Located on Farish Street and just a block away from F. Jones Corner, it is a short walk to one of only a few all-night blues clubs in the state. February 2021 ■ 15





â– February 2021

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Featuring more than 80,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor exhibits, the aquarium is connected by walkways landscaped with native plants

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aquarium. Weekday and weekends between 10:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., there are 11 items on the schedule from Aviary Feed & Chat and Otter Chat to Croc Talk, Feedings and Close Encounters of the Aquatic Kind. There are also special events happening regularly. Many are planned around holidays like Ales at the Sails and Cocoa & Cupcakes in December. The Aquarium is also a great venue and a perfect place for hosting your own event. Whether it is a birthday party for someone in the group or a cocktail reception and dinner with the dolphins, memories will be made. “We offer a beautiful new event space right on Mississippi Aquarium’s campus,” said Kendra Simpson, Mississippi Aquarium vice president of Sales and Marketing. “Guests can book events small and large. We look forward to hosting conferences, luncheons and a variety of other events. One of our three foundational pillars is community, so it was important we provide a space for the community and business professionals to gather right here at the Aquarium,” Groups of 15+ with advance reservations receive discounted admission and personalized itineraries. An online form connects you with the Group Sales Manager. Begin your planning online at msaquarium.org.

Mississippi Aquarium’s Aquatic Wonders

Photo courtesy of Mississippi Aquarium

Photo courtesy of Mississippi Aquarium


By Dave Bodle pened in August of 2020, the pristine Mississippi Aquarium features engaging exhibits and educational opportunities while providing sincere hospitality for visitors of all ages. The museum will tell the fabulous story of all of Mississippi’s aquatic resources from the Delta to the coastline. Groups can view sharks, turtles and much more while walking through the 30-foot-long, 360-degree acrylic tunnel. It’s like walking on water. Go behind the scenes at the Bottlenose Dolphin Habitat with Animal Care experts for a Dolphin Experience. Touch and observe what’s being done to protect this beloved species. There are also a dozen habitats from a Bird Aviary and North American River Otter Habitat to a Shark and Ray Touch Experience and Crocodilian Habitat. Fortunately, there’s no touching experience on the latter. Yes, there is also a Penguin Experience. Visitors can learn all about precious African Penguins. You’ll discover where they are from and what’s being done to protect them, while touching and feeding them. This is a great photo opp. The Backstage Tour takes you behind the scenes with an Aquarium staff member. You’ll gather plenty of insight into the daily operations of the Mississippi Aquarium. It’s now time to go underwater. The aquarium’s newest attraction, SeaTREK, is a guided underwater experience that takes the interactions between visitor and animal to the next level. On a platform, four guests with underwater helmets with wide vision will be immersed into the ocean’s habitat to get up close with sharks, rays and other aquatic wonders. You don’t need a diving certification and, in fact, you don’t need to know how to swim to participate in SeaTREK. Bring your bathing suit and towel and the Aquarium will fit you with a wetsuit to change into and a locker. SeaTREK is only available Friday through Sunday and like all aquarium experiences, requires a charge in addition to the group admittance. Every day there’s something going on at the

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Known as North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks, the Crystal Coast has inspired world renowned authors such as Nicholas Sparks and Kristy Harvey. Let us inspire you with help planning events, selecting outstanding accommodations and making your experience our top priority. We’ll make sure everything is perfect so you can focus on making memories, enjoying our beautiful beaches, unique activities and natural beauty. Call us at 1-888-891-0021 or email groups@CrystalCoastNC.org

North Carolina’s

southern outer banks




Lovely Crystal Coast Welcomes Groups

Itineraries are easily filled with fun options on this North Carolina coastal gem


orth Carolina’s Crystal Coast is an 85mile stretch of picturesque coastline and is made up of an assortment of small oceanfront communities from Morehead City and Beaufort, to Atlantic Beach and more. The area offers a distinctive array of accommodations, with more than three dozen hotels, motels and inns, and well over 5,000 vacation rental cottages, condominiums and villas.

Harkers Island

This peaceful community located 30 miles from Emerald Isle has an abundance of attractions. One of the most popular draws is the Cape Lookout Visitor’s Center, one of two ferry gateways to Shackleford Banks and Cape Lookout National Seashore, where you can see wild horses, go shelling, fishing, lighthouse climbing and kayaking.

Pine Knoll Shores

Thousands of aquatic animals take you on a journey from the state’s grand peaks to the open Atlantic at the North Carolina Aquarium in Pine Knoll Shores. The aquarium offers a variety of learning opportunities for groups, as students can explore the aquarium on a teacher-led tour, participate in a live LeisureGroupTravel.com <<

animal program in the Big Rock Theater, research exhibits and species with interactive scavenger hunts or become scientists through hands-on classroom activities.

Bogue Sound

The Bogue Sound stretches for roughly 25 miles along the Crystal Coast and is a prime destination for mariners, fishermen, watersports fans and those who savor a fantastic sunset. A number of marinas and public docks are located on its edges.


Named by Travel & Leisure as America’s Favorite Small Town, Beaufort is home to a variety of charming boutiques, a downtown marina and the two-acre Beaufort Historic Site featuring six authentically restored buildings. One of North Carolina’s oldest towns, the historic site features more than 150 restored homes. The town’s North Carolina Maritime Museum is one of three state maritime museums, all of which have the purpose of preserving, collecting and interpreting coastal life and history. Inside the museum is the official repository for the artifacts from the wreckage of Blackbeard’s flagship, Queen Anne’s Revenge.

Atlantic Beach

Situated on a beautiful barrier island bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Bogue Sound, Atlantic Beach is known for an abundance of pristine public beaches. One of its more popular spots is Memories Beach Club, which is the only Shag Club on the Crystal Coast. The Carolina shag is a partner dance done primarily to beach music and is a popular regional dance and Memories is the best place to shake your hips.

Salter Path

Located in the middle of Bogue Banks at its narrowest part, Salter Path offers easy access to both the beach and sound for recreation and relaxation. A popular Salter Path attraction is Professor Hacker’s Lost Treasure Golf and Raceway, which features two 18-hole miniature golf courses, a mining train that will take you to the first holes, go-karts, bumper boats, an arcade and kiddie rides.


Ellen Johnson, Senior Sales Manager 252-726-8148 x105 ellen@crystalcoastnc.org www.crystalcoast.org

February 2021 ■ 19



Supper Clubs

A retro vibe and old school trappings flavor these classic Midwestern eateries


By Randy Mink


■ February 2021

The white cloth napkins and tablecloths may suggest a nod to the upscale, but the ambience is casual and down-to-earth. There’s a feeling of warmth and coziness that’s not unlike being in a friend’s dining room. Families are welcome. Food-wise, supper clubs emphasize home cooking. This is the place to get a good juicy steak with all the trimmings. The menu also will feature seafood and chicken, with walleye often a popular entree as well. The Friday night fish fry is a staple, and some clubs have prime rib Saturdays. Besides meat, the meal includes a soup or salad, a basket of bread or rolls, and choice of potato (baked, hash browns, au gratin, french fries). Many guests start with a classic relish tray of fresh veggies and dip. Wisconsin claims the most supper clubs, and the Wisconsin Dells vacation area is blessed with three great ones. A road through meadows and forests leads to Ishnala, an enchanted haven of fine dining in the middle of Mirror Lake State Park, just west of the Dells. A 1950s-era canopy sign spelling out “Ishnala” (a Winnebago Indian word meaning “by itself alone”) and a tepee signal that you have arrived. Situated on former Winnebago ceremonial grounds, the building’s core was once a log cabin that served as a Native American trading post and later became a private residence. The stone fireplace in the lounge area is part of the original 1909 cabin, as

is the entrance staircase. Ishnala looks forward to its 68th season in 2021. Ishnala’s Arrowhead Bar, shaped like an arrowhead, is the perfect spot to relax over a brandy old-fashioned, the unofficial state cocktail. Made with brandy instead of whiskey, this Wisconsin supper club favorite derives its flavor from a bitters-soaked sugar

Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Dells VCB

or many people outside the Upper Midwest, the term “supper club” is an unfamiliar one. Though it may offer some low-key entertainment on weekends, a supper club is not a nightclub. It’s not a country club either. Actually, it’s not a club at all—you don’t have to be a member, and there are no dues to pay. A supper club is simply a homey, oldfashioned restaurant with rustic decor and a meat-and-potatoes American menu that has stood the test of time. It’s a comfort zone where locals gather to socialize and have a night out or to celebrate a special occasion in relaxed surroundings. Supper clubs thrived in the 1950s and ’60s and often were located on the edge of town or out in the country, perhaps with views of woods, a lake or a river. (“Supper” is what many people in the country call dinner.) Some supper clubs are now in their third generation of family ownership, and you’re likely to meet one of the owners or their children while you dine. Back in the day, these eateries may have been a little dressier and were more likely to feature live music and dancing. They always had a bar, and many guests would start their evening at the cocktail hour. Soft lighting set the mood, as did design elements like wood paneling, stonework and fireplaces. Happily for groups seeking nostalgia, the Midwest’s remaining supper clubs still deliver the oldtime magic. And no two are alike.

Prime-aged steak is a star attraction at The Del-Bar.

cube that is muddled with orange slices and maraschino cherries, then topped with a splash of Sprite or 7-Up. Every table at Ishnala has a view of placid Mirror Lake and surrounding bluffs. The dining room floor is covered with 76 tons of flagstone, and two giant Norway pines grow through the roof. Popular combo >> LeisureGroupTravel.com

meals are steak or prime rib with lobster tails, butterfly prawns or fried shrimp. The oven-roasted duck is served with orange cognac sauce and brandy cherry sauce, along with sage dressing. Tender, hickory-smoked baby back ribs bathed in a secret sauce is the signature item at House of Embers, a fixture on LeisureGroupTravel.com <<

Wisconsin Dells Parkway since 1959, when Wally and Barbara Obois opened their doors. Today the late couple’s son Mike Obois (a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America) and daughter Deb Christensen run the place with the same precision and gusto. In a specially designed smokehouse, the ribs are smoked

Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Dells VCB

Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Dells VCB

The Del-Bar, a Wisconsin Dells favorite

February 2021 â– 21

areas. Steak is the star at Smoky’s Club in Madison, the capital of Wisconsin. Founded in 1953 by Leonard “Smoky” Schmock and his wife Janet, Smoky’s is still going strong under the leadership of sons Larry and Tom, who grew up above the eatery and worked there as janitors, bookkeepers, dishwashers and cooks. All steaks at Smoky’s are seared on castiron grills and served on 500-degree sizzlers that lock in the flavor and juices. The filet mignon is so tender that you can cut it with a butter knife. Many guests start with the relish try, which consists of raw carrots, celery, radishes and green onions. Another prize appetizer: vodka-battered Wisconsin cheese curds with buttermilk ranch dip. The hash browns, a favorite side, are round patties with a crisp, golden top. Other time-honored sides are Janet’s cottage cheese, Janet’s pickled beets and hand-breaded onion rings. Jax Cafe, a third-generation eatery in Minneapolis, takes pride in traditional ambience, not to mention its premium cuts of beef and seafood that’s flown in fresh from around the world. From a little stream on the patio, you can catch your own rainbow trout and have it cooked for dinner. Another quirk: each guest receives a personalized matchbook cover embossed with a name or message. A Twin Cities institution, Jax Cafe serves up a variety of entrees, including meatloaf and chicken pot pie. The sliced prime rib dinner sandwich is served on a pumpernickel

Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Dells VCB

over hickory logs for a half hour before being basted and slow cooked in an oven for three hours. The restaurant uses a dry spice blend and adds ingredients to that blend based on the meat being cooked. Barbara’s cinnamon rolls, a scrumptious standby, are served before dinner. The House of Embers has multiple dining rooms, including the Tiffany Room with its dual-sided fireplace. Intimate themed rooms for two to eight people are named after movie stars of yesteryear—Humphrey Bogart, Rudolph Valentino and Omar Sharif. The latter, with a table for two, has witnessed some 500 wedding proposals. Across the road from House of Embers, the Wimmer family has been feeding folks at The Del-Bar since 1943. Many of the employees have been there 20 or 30 years. The menu standout is the prime-aged steak, followed closely by the pan-fried walleye. A Friday fish fry features North Atlantic cod (batter-fried or panko-broiled). The Del-Bar’s Prairie-style architectural touches reflect the genius of Frank Lloyd Wright protégé James Dresser, who designed the wood-paneled rooms adorned with geometrical details. Accenting the stylish interior are vintage black-and-white photos of The Del-Bar and paintings by Mary Alice Wimmer, the aunt of current owner Amy Wimmer. While supper clubs tend to be the treasures of small towns, some are in urban

House of Embers, Wisconsin Dells


■ February 2021

bun and topped with mushrooms and onions, with horseradish aoli on the side. In the northwest Minnesota town of Ottertail, folks find good eats at the Otter Supper Club & Lodge on Otter Tail Lake, one of the state’s largest lakes. They flock there on Friday and Saturday nights for the prime rib. The Parmesan-crusted walleye is another favorite. Adjacent to the log restaurant is a 15-room lodge, and there’s a liquor store on the premises. Walleye also takes center stage within the knotty pine-covered walls of Fisher’s Club in Avon, Minnesota. Overlooking Middle Spunk Lake, the restaurant is known for its breadedwalleye dinners and walleye sandwich. There’s a walleye BLT, too. Start the meal with the hors d’oeuvres tray laden with homemade meatballs, liver pate, pickled herring, and assorted crackers and fresh vegetables. In the Tri-State area where Illinois meets Wisconsin and Iowa, locals know a special dining experience awaits at Timmerman’s Supper Club, a destination restaurant that opened in 1961. Sporting a huge sign atop a bluff in East Dubuque, Illinois, it offers dramatic views of the Mississippi River through a wall of picture windows. Timmerman’s slogan: “Where food and beverages are as spectacular as the view.” The menu at Timmerman’s runs the gamut, from steak and lobster to fried chicken, roast duck, pork chops, barbecue ribs, catfish and fettuccine Alfredo. All entrees are accompanied by rolls and a soup or salad (choose between fresh greens, fresh fruit with banana dressing, coleslaw or cottage cheese). Besides the main dining room, there are two private spaces. The Patio Room accommodates up to 30 and has an outdoor deck, while the Palisades Room (with private bar) holds up to 100. Across the river in Dubuque, Iowa, the Moracco Supper Club has been familyowned and -operated for 55 years, with many recipes handed down from generation to generation. The location originally was occupied by the Moracco Truck Stop, but nobody knows where the name came from and why it’s not spelled like the North African country of Morocco. Menu highlights include steaks, ribs, beef tips, pork tenderloin sandwiches and the World’s Best Chicken Dinner. >> LeisureGroupTravel.com

Hold Your Retreat at a Luxury Hotel Groups can use meeting spaces for spiritual gatherings


Help your Fellow Man with these Mission Trips Take part in these soul-enhancing sojourns

Soulful Oases Mingling with monks makes monasteries memorable

A Premier Travel Media publication • www.ReligiousTravelPlanningGuide.com

Recharge Your Spirit Through Travel


elcome to the 2021 edition of Religious Travel Planning Guide. While 2020 was a difficult year for many and travel was in short supply, 2021 appears to be a year where the religious travel market will return to its pre-pandemic levels. Prior to the pandemic, religious tourism was one of the fastestgrowing travel markets and it appears to be headed back in that direction. Whether you’re organizing a mission trip, monastery tour or a spiritual retreat, this issue of Religious Travel Planning Guide will be a trusted resource. Full of ideas that will help you chart your course, the guide is a valuable research tool for anyone forming tour groups from churches, synagogues and other religious organizations. In this guide, we highlight mission trips where you can help your fellow man, look at luxury hotels that are excellent spots to hold spiritual retreats and we visit monasteries that open their doors to all. We hope this 11th edition of Religious Travel Planning Guide, along with our online resources at religioustravelplanningguide.com, will inspire you to create meaningful travel programs for your community of faith. Happy Traveling,

Jason Paha Managing Editor


Copyright 2018-2020 Buckfast Abbey

VOL. 11 • 2021 EDITION

Southwest England’s Buckfast Abbey


26 Soulful Oases


Mingling with monks makes monasteries memorable

28 Help your Fellow Man with these Mission Trips


Those seeking to do good in the world can take part in these soul-enhancing sojourns

30 Luxury Hotels are Great Spots to Hold Spiritual Retreats

BY JAMAAL BROWN Religious groups can use hotels’ big meeting spaces to hold gatherings like never before

COVER IMAGE: iStock.com/SerrNovik

Religious Travel Planning Guide


Photo courtesy of Extremadura Turismo

Spain’s Royal Monastery of Santa Maria de Guadalupe

SOULFUL OASES W Mingling with monks makes monasteries memorable

By Randy Mink

hile monasteries are often perceived as places cloaked in secrecy, shrouded in obscurity and walled off from the rest of the world, these intimate Christian enclaves welcome all who come. Their guests can take an organized tour, explore the grounds at will, visit the gift shop or attend Mass or evening vespers in the abbey church. Many monasteries have a guest house that accommodates retreat groups or individual travelers. Extending hospitality has been an age-old tradition practiced by the monks and nuns in their peaceful havens. Among the best known are Benedictine 26

Religious Travel Planning Guide

monasteries, which follow the core values set forth by St. Benedict, the founder of Western monastic life. Here is a sampling of tour-worthy Christian monasteries in the U.S. and Europe:

United States In the rolling hills of southern Indiana, located 10 minutes from each other, lie two Benedictine monasteries— one of them inhabited by nuns. The Sisters of St. Benedict, about 150 strong, invite guests to tour Monastery Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand, a small town just off Interstate 64 between Louisville and Evansville.

Dominating the campus is a red-brick, Romanesque-style building crowned by an 87-foot dome that can be seen far and wide. Tours of the church, built between 1915 and 1924, showcase the barrelvaulted ceiling, two rose windows, Italian marble floors and white oak woodwork hand-carved in Oberammergau, Germany. Your guide also will take you to the gardens, labyrinth and Grotto Hill, which has The Stations of the Cross, statues of Our Lady of Fatima and Our Lady of Guadalupe, and a replica of the shrine in Lourdes, France. The monastery gift shop offers German-inspired cookies, Bourbon-Soaked Fruitcake and Prayerful Pretzels from the onsite bakery. religioustravelplanningguide.com


In the welcome center, they can watch a video and peruse displays that explain monastic life at Gethsemani, which was established in 1848. Europe The isolated Spanish village of Guadalupe, 125 miles southwest of Madrid, attracts pilgrims from around the world. They come to the Royal Monastery of Santa Maria de Guadalupe to see the Black Madonna (our Lady of Guadalupe), a statue reputedly carved by St. Luke and discovered in the soil by a local farmer in the late 13th century. Viewing of the polychrome cedar sculpture in the Camarin chapel of the colossal monastery basilica climaxes guided tours, which pass through small museums brimming with ecclesiastical artwork and treasures such as richly embroidered vestments and mammoth leather-bound choir books with beautifully illuminated manuscripts. Maintained by Franciscan monks, the monastery was built in 1340 as a shrine to the Virgin Mary. Pilgrims also enjoy its Moorish-style gardens and making little discoveries as they wander the hilly, narrow streets of the whitewashed medieval village. Balanced precariously on smooth granite pillars towering above the Thessalian plain in a remote region of north-central Greece, the mountaintop monasteries of Meteora date back to

Tasos Lekkas via Pixabay

The town of St. Meinrad, Indiana, a short drive from Ferdinand, is home to Saint Meinrad Archabbey and its 90 monks. Tours of the grounds and historic buildings include the Archabbey Church of Our Lady of Einsiedeln, which was completed in 1907. Built of thick sandstone blocks in the Romanesque style and distinguished by two bell towers, it houses a replica of the Black Madonna statue in Einsiedeln Abbey, the mother house in Switzerland. Adjacent to the monastery’s gift shop is the showroom for Abbey Caskets, which offers handcrafted burial caskets made of cherry, poplar, oak or walnut. Tours of the casket workshop, which also produces wooden cremation urns and keepsake crosses, are available. In the Tri-State area where Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois meet, a community of monks inhabits New Melleray Abbey, set amid fertile farmland and rugged woodlands 12 miles southwest of Dubuque, Iowa. They are members of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, better known as Trappists. Across the road from the monastery (founded in 1849 by monks from Mount Melleray Abbey in Ireland) is Trappist Caskets, where tour groups can see monks and laypersons at work constructing simple wooden burial caskets and urns, products that account for the monastery’s primary means of support. Working as carpenters, they feel solidarity with Jesus and Joseph, who both made their living this way. The Abbey of Gethsemani, another Trappist monastery in a rural setting, is nestled in the heart of Kentucky Bourbon Country, in the hills outside of Bardstown. Many visitors come away with the monks’ prized bourbon fudge and bourbon fruitcake. Though guided tours are not given, guests are welcome to walk the grounds, pray with the monks or attend Mass in the church.

Meteora, Greece

late Byzantine and medieval times. Though seemingly harsh and lonely, the lofty setting was ideal for Eastern Orthodox monks who came to find God, ponder the universe and renounce worldly things. At these dizzying heights, reached by rope ladders and later a pulley system, they certainly must have felt close to heaven. At its zenith during the 16th and 17th centuries, the Meteora community counted 24 monasteries clinging to the perpendicular pinnacles. The six red-tiled-roof refuges that remain today—all are active religious centers and open to tourists—are inhabited by a handful of monks and nuns who serve as guides and curators. These monastic settlements, each built around a central courtyard, offer museums filled with valuable icons and sacred relics. Frescoes, hanging oil lamps and icons adorn their chapels. What intrigues visitors most, though, are the vultureeye’s views of the valley, wooded ravines and surrounding rock pillars topped with neighboring monasteries. England has several abbeys that welcome visitors. Awaiting guests at Buckfast Abbey are a church, gardens, book and produce shops, and the Monastic Way Exhibition. Other facilities include a restaurant, hotel and guest houses for retreat participants. Bordering Dartmoor National Park in Devon, the Benedictine monastery is midway between Exeter and Plymouth. It dates from 1018. Austria’s famous Melk Abbey, with its pleasing ochre-and-cream exterior, sits on a bluff high above the Danube River. Dating from 1089, it is a working monastery owned by Benedictine 29 monks, 15 of whom live there. Most stunning is the abbey church, a Baroque masterpiece sumptuously adorned with frescoes, gilded angels and statues of saints.  Religious Travel Planning Guide


Help your Fellow Man with these

Josh Olalde via Unsplash

Mission Trips


Religious Travel Planning Guide



By Brandie Lorenzen

hether they take place halfway across the world or one state over, faith-based trips are some of the most rewarding excursions one can take. And even though many borders have been closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, faith-based communities still want to lend a helping hand. If you are considering a mission trip when the borders completely reopen, these companies are a good place to start. Matthew 25: Ministries Blue Ash, Ohio What began as a volunteer trip to Nicaragua with founder Rev. Wendell Mettey and a group of doctors and nurses soon turned in a lifelong mission to help give aid to developing countries. Matthew 25: Ministries is an international humanitarian aid and disaster relief organization that not only sends disaster relief, but also helps out with job creation, education and handing out food in villages. Matthew 25 has volunteer opportunities for everyone from the ages of 3 to 93 at its more than 200,000-square-foot facility in Blue Ash. It also suggests off-campus activities for groups of all abilities. m25m.org Edge Impact Bernardsville, New Jersey This organization is a beacon of hope for young people where they are able to not only reach out and volunteer, but grow as Christians. Edge Impact religioustravelplanningguide.com

promotes and encourages young people between the ages of 13 and 25 to go out and foster a relationship with Christ and share in the love that he gives them. This organization works closely with inner city youth, instilling the necessary life skills to help them prosper. Teens and young adults are given the chance to develop these skills and become entrepreneurs. One of the trips this organization offers is a tri-state mission experience in Pennsylvania, New Jersey as well as New York. Attendees will work with inner city at-risk teens in New Jersey, run a four-day motocross camp for young riders in Pennsylvania and then spend two days of street ministry in New York, exploring the city and reaching out to people in need with love, prayer and hope. edgeimpact.org Global Field Evangelism Adamsville, Tennessee There is one goal in mind for Global Field Evangelism and that is to help spread the good word to countries that may not have the opportunity to worship. Hence the name Global Field, which is to not only speak the word to the people of the world, but to connect with them in their own communities and lift themselves up with the message of God. Global Field offers a variety of mission trips including a Guatemala trip where you can be a part of transforming a poor village; a trip

to Nicaragua, where volunteers will carry out four medical-dental clinics in rural, mountainous communities where families survive on less than $1 per day; and a mission to Mexico where skilled and unskilled workers can help build homes in the Ensenada area. wegotothem.com Operation Mobilization This global organization features 6,800 people working in 118 nations to build communities of Christ followers, provide humanitarian assistance and demonstrate compassion. It accomplishes its core values through church planting, evangelism, relief and development and mentoring and discipleship. One of its mission trips pays a visit to Ukraine, where the goal is to support the ongoing ministry to village churches in the Vinnitsa province to establish children’s and teen ministry and Sunday schools. Those who wish to mentor will cherish this excursion. This trip has been described as an extreme summer camp where visitors can be part of igniting the flame for children’s ministry that 70 years of communism has all but put out. omusa.org ď •

Zach Vessels via Unsplash

Those seeking to do good in the world can take part in these soul-enhancing sojourns

Mission trips are good for the soul. Religious Travel Planning Guide


Religious groups can use hotels’ big meeting spaces to hold gatherings like never before


s the tourism and hospitality industry continues to suffer under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic, religious groups are seeking an escape. In some cases, luxury hotels are providing those escapes for spiritual retreats. While there are countless nationally ranked luxury hotels to choose from, here are some highly rated hotels in five major cities that religious groups can safely book.

Luxury Hotels

are Great Spots to Hold Spiritual Retreats By Jamaal Brown 30

Religious Travel Planning Guide

Photo courtesy of The Drake Hotel

The Langham, New York, Fifth Avenue Groups looking for a luxury hotel with some of the best views in New York City will find The Langham the place to be. Guests can book a reservation at The Langham, which provides 7,500 square feet of event space for conferences or meetings. Kips Bay Suite is the largest venue that enables religious groups to host and arrange a theater-style occasion. Lotte New York Palace Lotte New York Palace has 30,000 square feet of meeting space that accommodate 23 rooms and 86 suites for guests. This historic landmark in midtown Manhattan is an excellent locale for religious groups as it has three floors of museum-worthy settings. Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown Art meets architecture in the heart of Tribeca, one of New York’s hipper areas. Steps away from the city’s most authentic neighborhoods, the Four Seasons will help groups rejuvenate in a globally inspired religioustravelplanningguide.com

The Blackstone, Autograph Collection In the heart of downtown Chicago with great views of Grant Park and Lake Michigan, The Blackstone promotes a sophisticated collection of rooms and suites. The boutique business travel hotel houses flexible and historically creative meeting rooms and workspaces for events. The hotel’s 12,223 square feet of meeting space is perfect for groups aiming to hold any form of gathering. Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel Contemporary hotel rooms and suites provide a host of amenities and boast panoramic views of the Chicago River and downtown landscape. The hotel houses 40,000 square feet of stylish venue space and has a range of service offerings, including event rooms, 28 breakout rooms, audio/visual technology and mobile event management. The Drake Widely known as one of the most famous properties in Chicago, The Drake, which is located near Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, has more than 30,000 square feet of space capable of accommodating five to 600 guests. Its two full-size ballrooms provide views of Lake Michigan and the city of Chicago and its state-of-the-art technology and world-class banquet facilities make it an ideal spot to host a religious outing. Loews Miami Beach Hotel A beloved hotel with a beautiful oceanfront location in the heart of Miami’s Art Deco District, Loews Miami Beach is home to 790 guest rooms and 69 suites. religioustravelplanningguide.com

With 65,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor function space, meeting rooms, salons and 28,000 square feet of ballrooms, religious groups of any size can enjoy the Miami sun while also holding a retreat. Fontainebleau Miami Beach Housed in Versailles Tower, Fontainebleau Miami Beach is one of the most historically significant hotels on Miami Beach. This 15-story high-rise building has a total of 107,000 square feet of indoor meeting space, signature restaurants by award-winning chefs, two chic nightlife venues and a two-story spa. Royal Palm South Beach Miami A celebrated icon among South Beach hotels and resorts, Royal Palm features 139 suites infused with Art Deco style. The hotel offers 10,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space that fits a group of 300 people. The Great Room, the largest space, features 2,590 square feet of meeting space. Peninsula Beverly Hills The only AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five Star-rated hotel in Southern California every year since 1993, the Peninsula Beverly Hills offers 195 guest rooms including 38 suites and 17 private villas. It houses one of the Top 10 spas worldwide according to readers of SpaFinder and has a rooftop pool and hot tub surrounded by panoramic views of the Los Angeles skyline. The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles Situated in downtown Los Angeles at L.A. Live, the Ritz-Carlton allows guests to soak up the sun by the rooftop pool. Guests can also head to the 24th floor for fine dining with skyline views. The hotel offers more than 100,000 square feet of meeting space for groups to organize large-scale events, board meetings and other occasions. The Garland Offering a retro chic vibe, The

Photo courtsey of The Drake Hotel

spa and pool. Groups can also dine in CUT by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. There are a number of business amenities available at the hotel, including airline reservation services, administrative services, interpretation/translation services, internet, newspapers, and presentation supplies.

The finest hotels offer the finest food and snacks.

Garland in North Hollywood is an urban oasis with seven tree-shaded acres and more than 20,000 square feet of event space. The Garland offers 13 venue options, including a 130-seat private screening room. St. Regis San Francisco Considered as one of the top luxury hotels in San Francisco, the five-star St. Regis has more than 22,000 square feet of event space that houses a modern ballroom, a conservatory with a built-in stage, a room with walls of floor-to-ceiling windows and contemporary sculptures. Fairmont San Francisco Known as one of San Francisco’s most renowned hotels and standing atop Nob Hill in the heart of the city, Fairmont San Francisco offers luxurious accommodations, meeting spaces and services. This hotel features 72,000 square feet of space for meetings and events. Palace Hotel, A Luxury Collection Hotel, San Francisco An iconic hotel in the heart of downtown San Francisco, Palace Hotel is a great place for religious groups. This historic landmark features a 38,000-square-foot meeting space featuring three ballrooms and four boardrooms.  Religious Travel Planning Guide




Photo courtesy of Visit Ogden


Peery’s Egyptian Theater in Ogden



By Christopher Silbernagel

isitors to the Wasatch Front will be taken aback by the Wasatch Mountain Range, which provides a beautiful, natural backdrop to the skylines of Salt Lake City, Ogden, and Provo. While the region is famous for its nearby ski resorts and Olympic history, and visitors would be hard-pressed to pass on a


â– February 2021

tour to take in such wonders when in-season, urban life in these locales, including the Utah Range, has even more to offer your group than you initially might think.


Of course, no visit to Salt Lake City would be complete without visiting the historical

sites within the city itself. Guided tours from Visit Salt Lake range from 1.5 to 5 hours in length, each of which covers a number of key spots providing insight into the foundation of the city and its religious roots as the world headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A visit to the Salt Lake Temple at the 10-acre Temple Square is a >> LeisureGroupTravel.com


Located just a 30-minute drive north of Salt Lake City, the city of Ogden also boasts many historic sites but is most prominently known for being a major railway hub—hence its nickname Junction City. Paying tribute to its railway history and the Nine Muses from Greek Mythology—each of which represent a unique form of artistic expression—Ogden’s flourishing art district has been appropriately called Nine Rails Creative District. Within this district are several key artistic venues for groups to enjoy. For those looking for live musical or theatrical events, Peery’s Egyptian Theater offers a colorfully decorated auditorium design which creates a delightful atmosphere for performances. The Eccles Community Art Center, located within the David Eccles mansion, provides alternating exhibits from regional and local artists alike. If your group is looking to hold or attend a creative conference in Ogden, look no further than The Monarch. Its painted exterior expression can’t be missed with a vibrant monarch butterfly design. The building interior is contemporary in design but is built LeisureGroupTravel.com <<


South of Salt Lake City near the dramatic, snow-laden Mount Timpanogos is Utah Valley. Containing the city of Provo and its suburbs, Utah Valley has plenty for groups to take in both in its city life offerings and surrounding nature. Located in Provo, Brigham Young University (BYU) is one of Utah’s most prominent private research universities. Named in honor of religious leader and politician Brigham Young, BYU has an attractive campus which provides tours and other attractions such as exhibits from local and contemporary artists at the B.F. Larsen Gallery within its Harris Fine Arts Center. For those looking for a treat in Provo, a visit to Brooker’s Founding Flavors Ice Cream is a fun stop. Not only will you be able try some homemade ice cream but also enjoy the tavern’s Revolutionary America theme. Lehi, a suburb of Provo, has many attractions that will interest a wide range of group members at Thanksgiving Point. For starters, the 40,000-squarefoot Butterfly Biosphere contains over

Photo courtesy of Visit Salt Lake and S Greenwood

with historic architecture. This combination allows its rooms to capture plenty of bright, natural light.

Capitol building in Salt Lake City

1,000 types of butterflies from around the world. During its operating season, which is from spring to autumn, Ashton Gardens provides visitors 50 acres to relax as they stroll stately gardens, feed fish at the koi pond, and take in the largest manmade waterfall in the Western Hemisphere. Also within Thanksgiving Point is the Museum of Natural Curiosity. Although this is a great spot for people of all ages with more than 400 interactive learning experiences, those with children in their group will be even more pleased with age-specific activities on hand at the town of Kidopolis. Some of the most popular activities involve exploring ancient ruins and chambers in the Rainforest as well as pretending to fly at Piper Club.

Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City

Photo courtesy of Visit Salt Lake and S Greenwood

must for its religious significance as well as its eye-catching architecture and gardens. Situated at the center of the city, the designated National Historical Landmark District not only houses the sixth Mormon temple but also two visitors’ centers for guests. While This is the Place Heritage Park is certainly a great spot to learn about the foundation of Salt Lake City, it’s also equally as important to find some natural relaxation within the surrounding urban atmosphere. The newly renovated Utah State Capitol is also a must for history buffs. The Corinthian style building was originally completed in 1916 and offers tours of its five floors and grand views of its adamellite exterior. For some time away from the historic side of the city, and another relaxing spot to take in some natural environments, a visit to Liberty Park is a must. Most notably, the Tracy Aviary located within the park is a unique free-standing structure—one of only two free-standing aviaries in the country—which hosts 135 different bird species in seven exhibits.

February 2021 ■ 33



7 Reasons to Visit Myrtle Beach in 2021

Approaching 20 million annual visitors, Myrtle Beach hosts groups of all sizes


ith miles of beaches and plenty of shopping, Myrtle Beach is the place to be in 2021.

face with some of the world’s most beautiful and most fierce reptiles.

is the beautiful 2,500-acre Huntington Beach State Park.

1. Ocean, Beach & Boardwalk

3. Groups Always Need to Shop

If one Tanger Outlet Center is good, then two must be great. With about 100 stores in each open-air environment, you can enjoy social distancing and great bargains. Coastal Grand Mall along with Myrtle Beach Mall, the latter with Bass Pro Shops, each have a great anchor store and shops. The Market Common features big-city shopping and small-town charm.

6. You’ll Never Go Hungry

It’s no mystery 60 miles of beaches, a pleasant year-round climate and the perfect spot for social distancing draws visitors to Myrtle Beach. There is pier and charter fishing and you can enjoy a meal on The Big M casino ship as you cruise to international waters for your favorite slots and table games. The Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Promenade runs alongside the ocean, extending 1.2 miles.

2. Beyond the Beach

See more than 10,000 sea creatures at Ripley’s Aquarium Broadway at the Beach. WonderWorks entertainment center is an upside-down-building with four distinct zones to discover. On 21st Avenue at Broadway at the Beach is TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark, home to Chicago Cubs minor league affiliate the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. At Barefoot Landing, you can make a stop at Alligator Adventure and come face-to34

■ February 2021

4. What’s New?

A new, exciting tour option is the Black History Tour. Visit the Georgetown Rice Museum and Hobcaw Plantation and see its original slave quarters. The grounds of Hopsewee Plantation have stories to tell. Brookgreen Gardens was built on two former plantations.

5. Outdoor Adventures

Myrtle Beach State Park encompasses more than 300 acres of an oceanfront maritime forest. Opened in 1936, it was the first of 16 state parks built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Just a bit further south

Myrtle Beach has everything from fast food and casual dining to seafood and formal white tablecloth dining. You’ll find all the southern favorites and creative chefs with their own inspired entrees. Wicked Tuna in Murrells Inlet provides an awesome view along with a menu that’s inspired by what comes back from their fishing boats.

7. Night Time is the Right Time

The Myrtle Beach area has a long history with music and entertainment. The group Alabama was the house band at The Bowery, a restaurant and bar located just off the Boardwalk. Today, The Carolina Opry is an awardwinning two hours of music, dance and comedy with magical special effects.


Sandy Haines, Group Tour Sales Manager 843-916-7248 (o) 843-448-3010 (F) Sandy.Haines@visitmyrtlebeach.com www.visitmyrtlebeach.com

>> LeisureGroupTravel.com



Savor Scrumptious Pie on the Adams County Pie Trail Grab a fork and chow down on a variety of delightful Pennsylvania pies

By Jamaal Brown


ourism in Adams County, Pennsylvania is a growing industry that has generated millions of visitations from people who travel across the Gettysburg region to enjoy local cuisines. In Adams County, a place widely recognized as one of America’s most visited historic destinations, there is more to restaurants than just food and beverages. The Adams County Pie Trail offers visitors a great way to navigate the local area while displaying the diversity of pie-related products.

seeking to relish sweet and savory pies can enjoy the tavern’s trendy pecan pie and deep-dish apple pie.

Dunlap’s Restaurant

Gettysburg Eddie’s

Appalachian Brewing Company

Farnsworth House

Established in 1999, Dunlap’s Restaurant is a family-owned business that serves a casual family dining experience in Gettysburg. Among various homemade seasonal desserts, the restaurant produces chocolate, coconut and meringue pies.

This Gettysburg brewpub offers boundless choices: beer, desserts or both. While the Appalachian Brewing Company (ABC) is one of the largest brewpubs in the nation, the privately-owned family brewpub group also offers a delectable homemade dessert: peanut butter pie, which features peanut butter mousse on a chocolate cookie crust topped with chopped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and chocolate sauce.

Dobbin House Tavern

Photo courtesy of Destination Gettysburg

The Dobbin House Tavern, Gettysburg’s oldest home established in 1776, is a colonial and continental tavern that delivers an authentic historic dining experience to its patrons. For dessert, enthusiasts

Garryowen Irish Pub

Food enthusiasts seeking an authentic experience can venture to Garryowen Irish Pub, where they can try Shepherd’s pie. This pie is made with ground beef and vegetables in a rich gravy topped with lightly browned mashed potatoes.

At Gettysburg Eddie’s, the peanut butter pie is a can’tmiss dessert for peanut butter lovers. This restaurant serves homemade peanut butter pie topped with chocolate sauce, whipped cream and crushed peanuts.

One review of Farnsworth House from TripAdvisor declares, “Game pie is a must have.” The house produces the aforementioned game pie that contains turkey, duck and pheasant; mushroom, bacon lardoons, red currant jelly and wild rice filled with crust and cooked golden.

Countryside Markets

There are plenty of baked goods and authentic pies available at Adams County countryside markets, including Hollabaugh Bros, a family-owned farm. As Adams County markets homemade pies to serve foodie enthusiasts, could Gettysburg and Adams County become the pie capital of the world?

Dunlap’s Restaurant

LeisureGroupTravel.com <<

February 2021 ■ 35


The Story Continues Excitement awaits in Atlantic City, including miles of sandy beaches, our world-famous Boardwalk and the thrilling Steel Pier. Enjoy tax-free shopping, award-winning dining, live entertainment and other great attractions. Here you can experience the ultimate getaway and create a lifetime of memories.

Atlantic City Expert Heather Colache is available at 609-318-6097 or hcolache@meetac.com to make sure you enjoy Atlantic City as it was meant to be experienced.

Meet AC received funding through a grant from the New Jersey Department of State, Division of Travel and Tourism.



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Journey through the evolution of Naval Aviation, from the earliest flying machines to NASA space missions. Watch the Blue Angels soar overhead or experience the magic of flight in the Giant Screen Theater. See and touch beautifully restored aircraft and discover out of this world fun.


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