TORONTO IS CANADA’S ENTERTAINMENT AND CULTURAL CENTRE
Toronto is Canada’s Downtown—the country’s largest city and most visited destination, where people come for big ticket events. It’s the country’s entertainment and cultural centre, with the most restaurants, music, culture, festivals, and sports. It features the best in theatre—homegrown and from around the world. There are over 9,000 restaurants serving creations inspired by global flavours; festivals celebrating film, comedy, and food; seven major league teams that bring the city and the nation to its feet. And whether viewed from the street or from over 1000 feet, the CN Tower remains the thrilling architectural marvel at the heart of it all!
At the expansive Birmingham Botanical Gardens, more than 30 thematic gardens are spread across 67 acres of beauty. The stunning Dunn Formal Rose Garden blooms with tea roses, floribundas, grandifloras, climbers, and shrub types from late April until frost. The 7½-acre Japanese Garden is an interwoven collection of gardens built in the Japanese style with traditional architectural and garden elements. The Gardens Café is a good choice for a light lunch before more touring commences.
Aldridge Gardens is known throughout the Southeast for its hydrangea collection. Covering 30 acres, Aldridge Gardens also includes walking trails, a scenic lake, and noted Alabama sculptor Frank Fleming’s artwork throughout.
The Market at Pepper Place
The Market at Pepper Place is where everyone wants to be on Saturday mornings. The region’s farming families spread out across the Lakeview neighborhood to sell fresh vegetables and flowers, fresh baked breads, cakes and pies, and even fresh honey. Local musicians and Birmingham chefs join market patrons for entertainment and cooking demonstrations.
Arlington Antebellum Home and Gardens
Because Birmingham was not founded until 1871, the city’s only antebellum home is Arlington Antebellum Home and Gardens. During the Civil War, Arlington was spared from destruction when Union troops used the home as their headquarters. The mansion is fully restored and contains a fine collection of antiques and decorative arts. Group meals also can be arranged at Arlington Antebellum Home and Gardens.
Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark
Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark is an industrial museum reflecting Birmingham’s famed beginnings in the iron and steel industry. Sloss is the only 20th-century blast furnace in the country being preserved and interpreted as a museum. The furnaces there made iron for nearly 100 years until they were closed in 1971. The city bought the property as a museum of history and industry. The site preserves a collection of buildings, machinery, and industrial structures that typify the early years of Birmingham history and the technology that drove America’s rise to world industrial dominance.
The Fish Market
Back in the city, take the group to The Fish Market Restaurant in Birmingham’s Southside neighborhood. There you’ll find the Greek immigrant influence on Birmingham dining that is prevalent throughout the city. This popular spot serves up fresh-daily seafood from the Gulf of Mexico. Everyone loves the Athenian Snapper and Dino’s Baked Oysters. Other dining options for groups are plentiful in the “Dinner Table of the South.”
More to taste
Enjoy memorable meals at local steam tables full of delicious choices or go for barbecue that is some of the country’s best. From steaks to sushi, dining in the greater Birmingham area is something to relish. Tour groups also can arrange to have cooking demonstrations by talented area chefs. The Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau can help with scheduling and providing information on cooking demonstrations.
For more information, contact Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau at 800-458-8085 or visit inbirmingham.com.
Lead photo: Railroad Park Credit: Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau
Soar to nearly 200 feet in a climate-controlled gondola on the Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier where riders can marvel at the stunning Chicago skyline.
Take in a play at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Stroll through Polk Bros Park, a 13-acre green space serving as Navy Pier’s gateway. Enjoy the park’s huge fountain with programmable jets mimicking movements of waves, schools of fish, flocks of birds and other fascinating scenes.
Savor a Chicago deep-dish pizza at Giordano’s. Then head to the Original Rainbow Cone sweet shop for an almost century-old Chicago classic of a sugar cone piled high with five flavors of sliced ice cream.
“Navy Pier is Chicago’s front porch, where the legendary skyline meets beautiful Lake Michigan for the best views of the city,” said Nick Pullia, Navy Pier senior advisor. “Groups can make a day or week of it, with everything they need right on the pier — dinner cruises, architecture tours, fast-food and sit-down dining or private catering, amusement park rides and the new Sable Hotel.”
The pier is home to 71 tenant businesses.
“With nearly a mile of amenities, including the spectacular and historic Aon Grand Ballroom, Navy Pier can host groups of almost any size from intimate parties to immense conventions,” Pullia said. “Discounts are available for groups of 20 or more, and the Navy Pier team can help put together a unique itinerary tailored to your group.”
Stretching into Lake Michigan, the lakefront treasure known as “The People’s Pier” offers 50 acres of attractions and experiences, plus history galore. Originally opened in 1916 as a ship- ping and recreation facility known as Municipal Pier, the facility was officially renamed Navy Pier in 1927 as a tribute to the Navy personnel who were housed at the pier during World War I.
Since its reopening in 1995, the pier has welcomed visitors from around the world.
“Guests are impressed by how much Navy Pier has evolved over the past several years,” Pullia said. “Navy Pier has a year-round schedule of free arts and entertainment programming, including concerts in the park.”
A top draw for groups is a lake cruise, Pullia said, including the must-see Chicago Architecture Tour featuring more than 50 skyscrapers, moveable bridges and historic sites.
Get some itinerary inspiration with these group-tour stops in Sacramento, California.
“We promise that you’ll leave Sacramento pleased and delighted with your visit. It’s a city that surprises people with its easy mixture of history and modern experiences,” says Sonya Bradley, chief of diversity, equity and inclusion at Visit Sacramento.
Explore the Old Sacramento Waterfront, a 28-acre National Historic Landmark District and State Historic Park along the Sacramento River. See early Gold Rush-era commercial buildings. Wooden sidewalks, horse-drawn carriages and living history characters provide a peek into 19th-century life. Discover shopping, dining and entertainment options.
The California Museum, the official state history museum, relates California’s history, arts, diversity and influence in the world. Guided tours, private group visits and box lunches can be arranged.
The California State Railroad Museum tells the story of the transcontinental railroad and the heyday of rail travel with walk-through vintage train cars, engines and interactive exhibits. Guided tours are not currently available.
The R Street Corridor is now a vibrant entertainment district. The area was California’s first railroad and industrial corridor. Instead of warehouses and industrial shops, R Street’s historic buildings hold the city’s top bars, restaurants, art and design. R Street encapsulates Sacramento’s historic beginnings, creativity, ingenuity and newness. Find murals, custom bike racks and the now iconic R Street Archway.
Board a City Cruises by Hornblower vessel in the Old Sacramento Waterfront and take in scenic views of the city from the Sacramento River during a cruise. Several sightseeing and dining cruises are available.
The Delta King, a 285-foot paddlewheel riverboat built in 1927, has been restored and converted into a boutique hotel with dining and meeting facilities. The Delta King is located on the waterfront and makes a good option for a group dinner to end the day of touring the city.
Stroll along the 624-foot-long Kinzua Sky Walk in Kinzua Bridge State Park and enjoy one of the top 10 most beautiful skywalks and scenic vistas in the world. An engineering marvel known as “Tracks Across the Sky,” Kinzua Sky Walk in Bradford, Pennsylvania, features a partial glass floor.
“The Kinzua Sky Walk is the reinvention of the six towers of the original Kinzua Viaduct left standing following a tornado in 2003, in which 11 of the original towers were toppled by a tornado,” said Linda Devlin, executive director of the Allegheny National Forest Visitors Bureau in Bradford, Pennsylvania.
“When the Kinzua Viaduct was first constructed in 1882, it was the highest and longest railroad viaduct in the world,” Devlin said. “The Kinzua Visitors Center has two floors of interactive exhibits, including a replica train car where one can experience what it was like to travel across the original Kinzua Viaduct.”
Tour groups can request a variety of complimentary programs offered by the park’s interpretive staff. For overnights in Bradford, groups can visit the Zippo/Case Museum (a popular stop that celebrates two iconic American-made products — Zippo lighters and Case knives), Marilyn Horne Museum (famous opera star born in Bradford) and Penn Brad Oil Museum (learn about the first billion-dollar oil field in the world). In nearby Ludlow, tour and dine at Olmsted Manor.
“Two of the museums — Zippo/Case and Marilyn Horne Museum — offer ‘Nights at the Museum,’” Devlin said. “This is an exclusive tour of these facilities arranged just for group tours and they both include refreshments. At the Marilyn Horne Museum, group tours have the option of creating a Venetian mask to take with them as part of the program.”
At the Allegheny National Forest, established in 1923, groups can enjoy beautiful scenic drives of the only national forest in Pennsylvania.
“It features 514,029 acres of public access lands located in northwestern Pennsylvania,” Devlin said. “It was established to bring new concepts in forest management and is known as ‘The Land of Many Uses.’” n
For more information, contact Allegheny National Forest Visitors Bureau at 800-473-9370 or visit visitanf.com.
Main image: Kinzua Sky Walk; Credit: Courtesy of Allegheny National Forest
New Jersey’s diverse attractions range from Atlantic City nightlife to Revolutionary War sites, seaside boardwalks to a modern sculpture garden, and wineries to amusement parks. Victorian Cape May, Battleship New Jersey, Morristown National Historical Park and Princeton University are just a few memorable tour stops. Get inspired with unique itineraries like America & Artisans, Fame & Fortune and Glitz & Charm. Plan at visitnj.org/groups.
With a mid-Atlantic location conveniently located between New York City and Philadelphia, the fourth smallest state is packed with enthralling attractions and destinations—from Princeton’s classic campus to the world’s first boardwalk, the oldest operating lighthouse to Thomas Edison’s historic laboratory. Add in 130 miles of Atlantic shoreline, amusement parks, wineries, historic monuments and cultural attractions, and you’ll discover why New Jersey is for groups!
Gear up your group tour for good times and great memories with New Jersey’s iconic landmarks and inspiring tour itineraries. Pick and choose from these featured suggestions:
America & Artisans: Tour a colonial village, Battleship New Jersey, large-scale art installations, Liberty State Park (Ellis Island) and the New Jersey State Museum.
Faith & Fun: Be inspired by lighthouses, stained glass and a historic seaside tabernacle and church camp, or enjoy wholesome fun on a family-friendly boardwalk.
Fame & Fortune: Discover the intriguing people who comprise New Jersey’s “who’s who,” ranging from Frank Sinatra to Bruce Springsteen, Thomas Edison to Albert Einstein.
Glitz & Charm: Explore two very different seaside gems—first, the hot spots of Atlantic City, and then the Victorian charm of Cape May.
Tax-Free & Trendsetting: Shop labels and pay no sales tax on clothes and shoes at New Jersey’s outlets, shopping districts and malls.
Wet & Wild: Have a blast at Six Flags Great Adventure, Cape May Zoo, Adventure Aquarium and New Jersey’s seaside boardwalks and amusement piers, where you can hop aboard whale/dolphin-watching excursions.
New Jersey also offers a wide variety of accommodations, ranging from budget to luxury, with competitive rates in comparison to NYC and Philadelphia. For assistance in planning your student, family, faith-based, senior or inbound tour, call 609.292.4239 or go to https://www.visitnj.org/travel-agent-and-tour-groups-resources
A sea of colors representing the flags of Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland fly proudly above the Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot, North Dakota. The cultural heritage park honors and preserves authentic Nordic culture and traditions.
Groups can marvel at intricately carved wooden steeples, towering statues and replicas at over 15 attractions throughout the park. The Scandinavian Heritage Association created the park in 1990. The Nordic heritage-focused destination commemorates and honors the legacy and influence of Scandinavian immigrants who endured challenging journeys across the Atlantic Ocean to this region of North Dakota in the late 1800s. Groups can take docent-led or self-guided tours to view various interpretive sites within the park.
“Tour planners can call ahead to schedule docent-led tours, which lead groups throughout the park to see displays and artifacts from five Scandinavian countries,” said Marilyn Wagner, a tour guide at the Scandinavian Heritage Park. “Groups can see everything from a log cabin, called The Sigdal House, which was built in Norway in the 1700s and shipped to the park over land and sea; to various statues of prominent figures from Nordic history, including explorer Leif Erikson and winter Olympian Casper Oimoen.”
The Edward T. and Leona B. Larson Visitors Center hosts a variety of information for groups and tour planners to make the most of their visit. In addition to the Scandinavian gift shop, the building also houses the Norsk Høstfest Association, the official hosts of North America’s largest Scandinavian festival: the Norsk Høstfest. Held every October, Norsk Høstfest features educational cultural programs and entertainment for the public, including food and drink, artisan goods and music.
Other building replicas give groups a glimpse of Nordic tradition, architecture and ways of living. Replicas include a stabbur, a storehouse from a farm near Telemark, Norway; a full-size replica of Norway’s Gol Stave Church; a Danish windmill; a 30-foot-tall Dala horse, which is the national symbol of Sweden; and an authentic Finnish sauna.
“The Scandinavian Heritage Park is unique, and our region is known as a home for Scandinavians who came to this region and continue to pass on their legacy to future generations today,” Wagner said.
Groups should call ahead to schedule docent-led tours. Free motorcoach parking is available.
Main image: Stave Church and Gate House, Scandinavian Heritage Park; credit: Scandinavian Heritage Association, Minot, N.D.
Get itinerary inspiration with these group-tour stops in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
“You have to see Sault Ste. Marie for yourself to truly believe all our city has to offer,” says Linda Hoath, executive director of the Sault Ste. Marie Convention and Visitors Bureau. “From cruising along the St. Marys River to exploring Tahquamenon Falls, you’re guaranteed to make memories that last a lifetime. In the Soo, you can find manmade marvels and the wonders of Mother Nature all within a short distance of each other.”
Every year about 10,000 freighters go through the Soo Locks, which are located at the northern end of the St. Marys River connecting Lake Superior and Lake Huron. The locks make it possible for vessels of all sizes to traverse the 21-foot difference between the upper river and the lower river. “Locking through” is the opportunity to experience the tour boat raising, or lowering, with 22 million gallons of water fed by gravity (no pumps) into the Poe Lock. Famous Soo Locks Boat Tours and Original Soo Locks Boat Tours offer 90-minute-plus tours. Pass under the International Highway Bridge and see historic attractions.
Soo Locks Park offers great sightseeing. The observation deck peers over the MacArthur Lock and is as close to the Poe Lock as a person can possibly get.
At Tahquamenon Falls State Park, take a paved trail to the iconic waterfalls or hike a rustic trail at the river’s edge. Check out the brewpub, gift shop and outdoor fireplace.
River of History Museum’s 11 interactive galleries chronicle the 8,000-year history of the St. Marys River.
The Museum Ship Valley Camp, a retired Great Lakes freighter, brings shipboard life into focus.
Rising 210 feet above Sault Ste. Marie, the Tower of History provides groups a 360-degree view of the entire Sault area from the Soo Locks and the St. Marys River to the Canadian wilderness. An express elevator takes guests to the top for a panoramic view of up to 1,200 square miles.
Head to Kewadin Casino for gaming and entertainment.