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Vacation & Supplement to Tulsa World | Sunday, May 11, 2014

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Vacation & Travel Guide

SUNDAY, MAY 11, 2014

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Planning a vacation can involve a lot of time and work. That’s one reason you should consider using a travel agent, who can recommend lots of destination choices, including cruises.

It’s Time to Take a Vacation

By Kevin Armstrong

Greg Spears, chief executive officer of Spears Travel in Tulsa, agrees. “Travel agents used to be the Are you feeling worn down by the keepers of information,” Spears says. daily grind of work? “You went to travel agents for broAre you growing weary of the same chures, but that’s obviously changed old routine week after week? immensely. Our role has become It sounds like you need a vacation. more of an evaluator or consultant to So, where would you like to go? help people sift through the informaBefore you answer, consider this: tion overload.” Are you looking for rest and relaxThe Internet has changed the proation, an exhilarating adventure, a cess significantly, says Spears, history lesson, quality family time or a whose family has been in romantic getaway? the travel business since If your answer is “all of the above,” 1958. “Most people have then you really need a break. done some research bePlanning a vacation can involve a fore they come in, and lot of time, energy and effort, but then that’s good.” that might just defeat your purpose, right? Your goal, after all, is to take a break, not take on another side job. That’s one of the biggest reasons you might consider consulting a travel agent rather than doing all the planning yourself. “It doesn’t cost anything to come in and get a quote on a trip,” says Danial Karnes, a spokesman for AAA of Oklahoma. “A lot of people don’t know where they want to go.”

Special Sections Editor

But that has its limits, Spears adds. “Everything is not always valid on the Internet,” he says. “We also help evaluate what’s a good fit for individuals and families.” Karnes admits, “The Internet is great for research. Making your own reservations is OK if you just need a hotel for the night and you know the area where you’re going to stay.” But when you’re planning a vacation, a travel agent can save you a lot of work. “Travel agents work to make that vacation as grand as it can be — from the largest detail to the smallest detail,” Karnes says. Spears says today’s travel agents have become “destination specialists.” “If you’re looking for someone who knows Italy,” he says, “we can direct you to someone who knows Italy. We can direct you to someone who is a specialist.” That’s why several years ago Spears Travel became a franchisee

of Travel Leaders, an international organization of travel agencies. If one of Spears’ local agents has not personally visited a destination, then they can find someone within Travel Leaders who has experience with that location or may be based there. Similarly, AAA of Oklahoma offers a network of contacts worldwide who can offer the best advice on what you need to know before you go. “We work with a list of preferred vendors,” Karnes says. “That means they passed our test. We have inspectors who go there.” Picking the right destination is just the first step. Travel agents continue to work on a traveler’s behalf to solve any problems that might surface before, during or after your trip. Karnes recalls how when he got married, he and his wife decided to go to Walt Disney World in Florida. Neither of them had ever been to the Magic Kingdom nor ever flown on an airplane. They booked the vacation through AAA of Oklahoma. “When you’re planning a wedding, you don’t need one more thing to worry about it,” Karnes says. Continued on Page 4

The Vacation & Travel Guide was produced by Tulsa World’s Advertising Department. For more information, call (918) 581-8519.


Vacation & Travel Guide

SUNDAY, MAY 11, 2014

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the grass is always greener...in “Green Country” With 19 of Oklahoma’s 35 great state parks nestled in this northeastern corner of the state, Green Country is a verdant playground for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages. Miles and miles of shoreline sustain year-round water recreation, everything from scuba diving at Tenkiller to angling for trophy bass at Okmulgee. Rolling hills, rocky bluffs, and winding trails roll out all-terrain adventures, including single-trail mountain biking at Osage Hills and off-roading at Keystone. Visit TravelOK.com to discover Oklahoma’s state parks, full of hidden treasures and endless adventures.

Tenkiller #34 of 35

Keystone #16 of 35

Osage Hills #26 of 35

Okmulgee #25 of 35


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Vacation & Travel Guide

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TOP 2014 DESTINATIONS FOR OKLAHOMANS Local travel agents say these are the most popular national and international destinations for 2014: • Disney (Mostly Florida) • European river cruises (These often book one year in advance) • Alaskan and Caribbean cruises (Most go out of Houston) • Italy (Rome and Tuscany) • Mexican beach resorts “Hidden Gems” to consider: Savannah, Thinkstock photos • Bahamas (Atlantis) Ga.; (pictured above); Key West, Fla.; Belize; and European river cruises, such as this one in Germany on the Rhine River, • Costa Rica Croatia’s Dalmation Coast have become popular, and more ships are being added to the fleets.

VACATION Continued from Page 2 Karnes and his wife have since been to Walt Disney World seven more times, and he recalls a problem on one of their return trips. It was in 2009, and the day they were scheduled to return from Orlando to Tulsa, the airline grounded all its flights for required safety inspections. Karnes had reserved the flight through the airline because he was using frequent flier miles. That meant when their return flight was canceled, he had to call the airline himself to rebook. Fortunately, he had booked the rest of the trip through AAA of Oklahoma. The travel agent back in Tulsa was able to get the couple an extra hotel night, and because their plan offered travel insurance, they were reimbursed for the extra hotel stay. “That’s the benefit of having a travel agent,” Karnes says. “Things do happen on trips.” Spears says that there’s never a dull moment with

travel agents, thanks to weather problems, mechanical difficulties on ships and planes, and hotels or airlines overbooking customers. “We hate when these things happen to our clients, but when they do, we can step in and be their hero,” he says. “That’s what our agents do every day.” He says when an airline flight cancels, and you’re already at the airport, it’s not unusual for 150 passengers to be standing in a line trying to make new arrangements. If you booked that flight through a travel agent, you avoid the line and make one phone call to your travel agent in Tulsa, who takes care of everything for you. Spears adds that he knows of cases where his agents learned about airline cancellations on a connecting flight even before the customer, who was still in the air traveling. By the time that customer landed, the new flight already had been booked. Sometimes it’s more serious and a customer might get injured or sick while on vacation. A travel agent can handle

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all the paperwork and red tape for the traveler. “It’s very good peace of mind for people,” Spears says. He adds that customers like having that personal connection to their agent. “You can sit down with us,” Spears says. “You know who you giving your money to. I think people want to feel comfortable with who they are giving their money to.” Spears also likes to add that booking your own vacation doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to find a

lower price. “It’s a misnomer that you’re always going to get a better deal online,” Spears says. “That’s not always true. Those other companies spend a lot of money on advertising that we don’t spend.” Karnes recalls how an AAA member was traveling out of state and left a prescription medication back home. He went to a local drug store on his vacation and learned that the prescription was going to cost $125.

The traveler pulled out his AAA membership card and immediately got a discount of $78. Karnes notes that the vacationer saved more money in that one transaction than his annual AAA membership cost. Spears likes to sum it up this way. Travel agents offer customers three things: service, convenience and expertise. Karnes has his own way of putting it: “Using a travel agent is the best money you are not going to spend.”


SUNDAY, MAY 11, 2014

Vacation & Travel Guide

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Vacation & Travel Guide

Special Sections Editor

Eureka Springs, Ark., offers many opportunities for a short getaway or weeklong vacation. The Brownstone Inn, below, offers overnight accommodations in a tranquil setting. Events are planned all summer long, including the Eureka Springs Blues Weekend where musical artist Walter Wolfman Washington, right, will be one of the headliners in a jam-packed schedule June 12 to 15.

The Brownstone Inn photo

Stone Lion Inn photo

Try a Different By Kevin Armstrong

Courtesy photo

If you’re looking for a night of fun and laughter, consider the Stone Lion Inn in Guthrie, which hosts a Murder Mystery Dinner every Friday and Saturday night. You’re not an innocent bystander; you’re actually part of the cast, right. The event is so popular that you must call months in advance for a reservation. You’re also invited to spend the night in one of the inn’s six guest suites and enjoy a delicious breakfast the next morning.

SUNDAY, MAY 11, 2014

If your next vacation destination remains a mystery, then take that thought at face value and turn it into one. Every Friday and Saturday night, the Stone Lion Inn in Guthrie hosts a Murder Mystery Dinner, and you’re invited to both play a part in the drama and help solve the crime. You also will be treated to a seven-course meal in the 12,000-square-foot stately Victorian mansion, 100 miles west of Tulsa. This evening event is not about relaxation. You will be exercising your creativity, imagination and every muscle related to laughter. Your host is Rebecca Luker, a former English and history schoolteacher who bought this historic house in 1986 to establish a bed and breakfast. She later began writing scripts for murder mysteries that she invited her guests to perform during their stays. Before long, the weekend dinners became an even bigger part of her business. “It’s so much more fun than going to the theater because you’re part of it,” Luker says. “You’re an actor. We are a participatory entertainment event.” The event has become so popular that you have to call months in advance to reserve one of the 40 spots available each Friday and Saturday. It’s also important that you call ahead because you are assigned a role to play, and that information will be emailed or sent to you one week before your visit. When you arrive for the 5 to 7 p.m. Friday check-in (or 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday), you receive a file with more information about your character and a clue or two that you will be asked to read at a particular moment. Depending on the storyline, you might depart for a cemetery or enjoy a cocktail party. That’s where the story begins unfolding. Next is a seven-course dinner where, again, “something happens,” as Luker likes to say.

Feeling like you were born to b ticipate in actual cattle round-ups West, from the Flint Hills to Dodge

Somewhere along the way, a cast “dies,” and everyone goes to the libr mage through the clues that have b “We’re always full,” Luker says. “It’s fun evening. The characters are hyst Around 11 p.m., the culprit is mad luckiest of the guests head upstairs in their claw-footed tub or slip into a tub in one of six guest suites. The res into their cars for the short ride hom

Eureka Springs Getaway

If that’s more participatory fun th stand, then try a getaway in Arkansa One of your choices in the Natura Brownstone Inn in Eureka Springs. The structure was built in 1895 an headquarters for the Ozarka Water B which drew its water from the Ozark city remains home to more than 60 springs.) The inn has four suites with tures and a parlor. It underwent an e vation last year after Joe Edwards pu “The building is full of character,” “It’s like a grand old lady: Age had no from her.” The limestone building is nestled valley across from the old train statio trolley route, allowing easy access to being removed from the noise and t “It lets you go to town then leave space to yourself,” Edwards says. “We nomenal deck that is gorgeous. You watch the town go by.” If you’re not familiar with Eureka S been named one of the “top 25 art t


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Vacation & Travel Guide

TULSA WORLD SUPPLEMENT • 7

t Approach to Getting Away

each is near a town with many dining choices. “Weekends at the lodges fill quickly,” Clark says. “If you want to make last-minute plans, weekdays are great: Sunday through Wednesday or Thursday. It’s just the best time to come.”

Sunflower State Escape

If you’re still feeling too close to home, then try heading north to the Sunflower State. One of the more interesting ways to explore Kansas is to travel back in time and experience firsthand the life of a cattle herder and cowboy. Several Kansas ranches offer city dwellers the chance to participate in real cattle drives and other ranching activities. These have been designed as vacation packages where you can ride horses, fish, take a scenic hike or just kick back in your ranch house far from the pace of life back home. Richard Smalley, marketing manager for Kansas Tourism, says the guest ranch experiences range from the relaxed family atmosphere of the Flying W Ranch in the Flint Hills to the more rustic opportunity to be a real horse-riding cowhand at the Moore Ranch in Buckland. If you’re looking for more of a luxurious bed-and-breakfast experience, Travel Kansas photo try the Circle S Ranch near Lawrence. be a cowboy but ended up a city dweller? Kansas is home to several ranches that offer guests the chance to parWant to learn more about the Old West in a fun s and other ranch chores. It’s one of many activities around the Sunflower State that allow you to relive the Old way? Plan a trip to Dodge City, where gunslingers, e City and its famous Boothill Museum. saloons and sheriffs all come to life. Smalley recommends Boothill Museum. “It’s a really well done t member Oklahoma’s state museum on the history of the Old West,” he says. rary to rumparks offer a lot more been collected. If museums interest you, visit the Museum at than camping outdoors Prairiefire in Overland Park, west of Kansas City. s just a really and roughing it. The terically funny.“ The museum just opened and is associated with state has five lodges de known. The the American Museum of Natural History in New with plenty of amenito draw water York City. “There’s nothing like it in the Midwest,” ties to make your stay a private hot Smalley says. as relaxing as possible, st climb back While you’re that close to Kansas City, Smalley from marinas and golf me. recommends visiting one of America’s greatest courses to swimming new thrill rides. “Verrucht” is the world’s tallest pools and nature cenwater slide. It will open this summer at the Schlitters. Picture yourself han you can terbahn waterpark. waking up to sunrises as. Four people at a time are strapped into a raft like this one, left, over al State is The that plunges 17 stories then crests over another Broken Bow Lake. hill before dropping 50 feet into a pool below. It is nd served as not for the faint of heart. Travel Oklahoma photo Bottling Co., Another attraction for real adventurers is k Spring. (The Strataca, an underground salt museum in natural water Hutchinson. Less than two years ago, the museum h various feabegan offering a three-hour hike underground extensive reno- ica.” That includes visual and performing arts. called the Salt Safari. est to Tulsa is outside Wagoner and was formerly urchased it. “You can experience what the miners experiknown as Western Hills Guest Ranch. It has been The city hosts a year-round lineup of special Edwards says. events, including the Eureka Springs Blues Weekenced,” Smalley says. “You board an elevator and renovated as Sequoyah State Park Lodge. ot taken a lot go 650 feet down into the mines.” You also can book a room at Beavers Bend (in end, June 12 to 15. More than 25 artists or bands It’s a unique experience that requires wearing a Broken Bow), Lake Murray (near Ardmore), Robwill perform at venues across the city. d in a shaded lighted hard hat through the dark passageways. bers Cave (near McAlester) or Roman Nose (west on. It’s on the Smalley says the list of things to do in Kansas Oklahoma State Parks of Oklahoma City). o shops while goes on and on, but one of his other favorites is If you’re looking for something different from The lodges offer rest and relaxation amid a traffic. the annual Symphony in the Flint Hills concert the out-of-town hotel room, why not spend a tranquil natural landscape, away from the hustle and have performed by the Kansas City Symphony. weekend or more at one of five lodges located and bustle of your home, office or job. Most offer e have a phe“The symphony starts at twilight as the sun is inside several of Oklahoma’s 35 state parks? pools, golf courses and nature centers. Three of u can sit and setting,” Smalley explains. “It’s out in the country “It’s a totally fun family getaway,” says Keli Clark, the five have marinas where you can rent boats away from any traffic and any power lines.” marketing coordinator for Oklahoma State Parks. and all the fishing gear you need. Four of the Springs, it has “There’s something there for everybody.” The June concert sells out every year, so Smallodges have stables where you can ride horses. towns in Amerley recommends getting tickets early. The largest of the five lodges and the one closAll but one lodge has a restaurant on site, and


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Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau photos

Bricktown is the entertainment center of Oklahoma City’s downtown area and is the hub to many other districts worth exploring.

Chesapeake Energy Arena is one of nine major projects that were built through a 1993 sales tax increase that has revitalized the downtown area.

Capitalize on What OKC Has to Offer By Kevin Armstrong Special Sections Editor Living in Northeastern Oklahoma, you likely have gone to Oklahoma City more times than you can recall. You might have traveled there to conduct business, or to catch a game or cultural performance, or maybe to see a friend. But what about visiting our state’s capital city as a vacation destination? There’s a lot more to explore there than you know, whether it’s a day trip, overnight stay, weekend or weeklong getaway. Oklahoma City has undergone a major renaissance in the last 20 years, and downtown is full of new energy. Oklahoma City voters passed a one-cent sales tax in December 1993 to rejuvenate the city’s central business district, and it has paid off hand-

somely. Since then, Oklahoma City has seen more than $5 billion in public and private investment in the types of projects that draw visitors. That 1993 effort funded nine projects: • New baseball stadium • Mile-long waterway canal that sparked the growth of Bricktown’s restaurants, clubs and shops • Convention center renovation and expansion • Renovated music hall • 20,000-seat sporting and special events arena that helped lure the National Basketball Association’s Thunder • State Fairgrounds improvements • Turn-of-the-century trolley system • New downtown library • Revitalized Oklahoma River waterfront. More recently, voters approved a sales tax extension to fund a new 70-acre

park downtown, more than 50 miles of biking/walking trails and more facilities renovations. “There’s so much to do here, and so much of it is within walking distance,� says Tabbi Burwell, marketing and communications manager for the Oklahoma City Conven-

                  

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downtown. “Bricktown is very much Explore eight districts our entertainment district,� Bricktown, with its Venice- she says. “The baseball field is here, and, of course, the style canal, seems to get most of the attention from Chesapeake Energy Arena.� Oklahoma City visitors, but Burwell says one of the Burwell points out that it’s first areas visitors see as they just one of eight distinct drive into Oklahoma City districts worth exploring Continued on Page 10

tion & Visitors Bureau.

21192 S KEELER DR, PARK HILL , OK 74451    3


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CAPITALIZE From Page 8 via I-44 is the Boathouse District, located along the Oklahoma River. The area is alive with kayaks, canoes, dragon boats and riverboat cruises. Evening riverboat cruises operate Wednesdays through Sundays from April to October, with four landing stops. The Midtown District used to be a heavy commercial area that is now full of restaurants and plays host to a major block party on the last Friday of each month from March to October. Centered at Hudson Avenue and Eighth Street, the event often draws crowds of 20,000 people. Business also has boomed in the Class & Curve District, off Broadway Avenue. The area was revitalized when Chesapeake Energy invested heavily in building its office campus there. It’s now home to high-end boutiques and eateries, Burwell says. Nearby, also off Broadway, is Automobile Alley. This was once the home of most of Oklahoma City’s major auto dealerships, which gave birth to the district’s name. Most of those auto dealers have moved to the suburbs, and a lot of restaurants and shops have taken their places in recent years. A monthly street festival takes place there on the third Thursday. Off 23rd Street you will find the Plaza and Arts districts. Burwell says Oklahoma City’s Arts District dates to the 1920s, and it’s a little bit off the beaten path but well worth a visit. Watercolorists, potters and more than 60 artists display their skills while they work, and 17 galleries showcase their products. Before you leave downtown, stop by the Myriad Gardens and stroll across the Crystal Bridge. “That place is very remarkable,” Burwell says. “It’s just beautiful.” The Adventure District is more than a walk from downtown. It is home to the zoo, cowboy museum, science museum, softball hall of fame and Remington Park horseracing track. “There’s a lot to do in this district,” Burwell says. “When we have families coming

Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum photo

The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum features these outdoor chairs, each representing one of the 168 people killed in the April 1995 terrorism attack. in, this is an area we like to push.”

Reflecting on ‘95 attack

No visit to Oklahoma City would be complete without visiting the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. It offers a much different way to spend time in the city that was struck April 19, 1995, by terrorism. That was the day Timothy McVeigh parked a rental truck with explosives in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and killed 168 people by detonating the device. The explosion sheared the entire north side of the building. McVeigh was executed for the crime, and the building was demolished. That 3.3-acre site is now home to the memorial and museum. The free-admission outdoor memorial is a somber tribute designed to remember the victims and survivors of the violence, as well as the rescue workers. The indoor paid-admission museum offers a self-guided tour recounting the moments leading up to the attack as well as the healing that took place in the weeks that followed it. The museum tells visitors the story through interactive displays that include video and more than 300 artifacts. Whether you have visited the museum in years past or

never before, it’s worth your time. The museum is undergoing a $7 million enhancement and continually adding artifacts and exhibits. “There are amazing things you can see that you didn’t see before,” promises Executive Director Kari Watkins. She says many people are starting to donate artifacts to the museum that they previously hesitated to share. Some arrived after the trials, some came from the FBI investigation and others were donated by survivors. “They realize this is a better place to have these artifacts on display so others can view them,” Watkins says. The museum can display only a portion of the 1 million items in its collection. The museum will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the bombing next spring, and several special events will be planned. “We’ve seen a lot of folks come a long way in their healing process,” Watkins says, “and we want to celebrate it.” The memorial’s top two priorities are remembrance and education. Watkins reminds parents that “most of us have kids who weren’t born in 1995, and there are stories that we should teach the next generation. We have a responsibility to do that.”

Making tracks to Texas

Among the other popular Oklahoma City attractions developed in the last two decades is the passenger train that runs daily to Fort Worth, Texas. The Heartland Flyer leaves the Oklahoma City station

downtown at 8:25 a.m., making stops in Norman, Purcell, Pauls Valley, Ardmore and Gainesville, Texas, before pulling into Fort Worth at 12:39 p.m. The return trip departs at 5:25 p.m. and arrives back in Oklahoma City at 9:39 p.m. The rail passenger service began in June 1999 as a joint venture between Amtrak and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. It revived passenger train service between Oklahoma and Texas after a 20-year absence. “Most of our travelers are recreational travel,” says Catina Jordan, administrative programs officer for Oklahoma Department of Transportation. “Typically, Tuesday through Thursday are our less demand days for travelers.” Travelers are allowed to check in two standard size bags and one carry-on. No extra fees are charged for baggage. Passengers do not have to return on the same day they depart, and they can connect with other trains that travel all the way west to Los Angeles and north to Chicago and points east.

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Whoosh

It’s the sound of skirts as young women swing ’round in a centuries-old dance of their Scandinavian ancestors. With its lively festivals and traditional foods, there is no place like Kansas to experience the heritage of the Heartland. 800.2.KANSAS · TravelKS.com

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