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Grand Hotel Executive Vice President and Managing Director Ken Hayward awarded Hotelier of the Year

Grand Hotel exterior
Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, Mich. Credit: Grand Hotel

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. — Ken Hayward, executive vice president and managing director of Michigan’s historic Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island has been awarded Hotelier of the Year by Historic Hotels of America®. Hayward was one of six nominees from historic properties around the country.

“Ken Hayward’s commitment to preserving our property’s rich history, while delivering an all-inclusive hotel experience to our guests makes him a true asset to our team and we commend him on this outstanding achievement,” said Dan Musser III, chairman of Grand Hotel. “We are proud to receive national recognition of our operations, especially when it comes to the passion, leadership and unique abilities of the person behind the day-to-day success of this extensive hospitality operation.”

Ken Hayward Grand Hotel
Ken Hayward
Credit: Grand Hotel

The honor was presented on Thursday, Nov. 7 at the 2019 Historic Awards of Excellence and Gala Dinner at Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, North Carolina. Award categories include Historic Hotels of America New Member of the Year, Best Social Media of a Historic Hotel and Sustainability Champion. Award finalists are selected from nominations received from historic hotels and industry leaders across the country. The Historic Hotelier of the Year award is presented to the recipient demonstrating the highest contribution of furthering the celebration of history at a historic hotel as well as leadership innovations.

Ken Hayward is executive vice president and managing director of Grand Hotel and oversees the overall operation of the hotel. In addition, he manages various departments such as sales, marketing, conventions and finance. 

Hayward began his career at Grand Hotel in 1985 as a sales representative. He was soon promoted to sales manager and then director of sales. Haywarfd was appointed vice president in 1993.

Active in the hotel industry, Hayward was appointed to the Michigan Travel Commission by Gov. Jennifer Granholm in 2005 and reappointed in 2008 and served as its chairman from 2008 – 2010 before being term limited in 2012. During his tenure as chairman, Travel Michigan secured funding and developed the Pure Michigan advertising campaign. Hayward was involved in selecting the agency, developing that brand, and has continued to fight for state dollars to fund the campaign.

Hayward is also a board member and executive committee member of Historic Hotels of America. He is a member of the American Hotel & Lodging Association Resort Committee, serves on the board of Michigan Retailers Association and Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association, and is an active member of Meeting Professionals International, Michigan Society of Association Executives, and Letterwinners M-Club, a University of Michigan alumni organization.

Hayward earned a bachelor of general studies degree from the University of Michigan in 1985. Hayward was a decorated athlete during his time at the University of Michigan, recognized as the 1984 Baseball MVP and was awarded the 1985 Bob Ufer Athlete of the Year Award and the Big Ten Medal of Honor.

Grand Hotel is currently closed for the winter and will reopen in May 2020. For more information visit grandhotel.com or contact Grand Hotel directly at 800-334-7263.

About Grand Hotel

Grand Hotel is a proud member of Historic Hotels of America. It has been one of America’s premier summer vacation spots since it opened on July 10, 1887. Throughout its history, Grand Hotel has hosted worldwide dignitaries and five US presidents. For 26 consecutive years it has earned the AAA Four Diamond rating, and has been honored with a number of awards including most recently being named Best All-Inclusive Resort in the country and One of the Top 10 Best Historic Hotels by the readers of USA Today in the 2019 10Best Awards, Travel + Leisure Top 5 Best Resort Hotels in Michigan and Best Hotel in Michigan by Condé Nast Traveler. Grand Hotel scored in the top 10 percent of the Best Hotels in the United States, earning the Gold badge from US News and World Report and was also named a Top 10 All-Inclusive Resort for 2019, as well as the 2018 Platinum Choice award by Smart Meetings. Grand Hotel, along with five on-site restaurants, were recognized with the 2019 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence.

About Pivot Hotels & Resorts

Pivot Hotels & Resorts, the lifestyle and luxury division of Davidson Hotels & Resorts operates with a deep-rooted passion for continuous innovation, exceptional service delivery, revenue generation, inspired marketing and financial responsibility. Constituted by some of the most accomplished leaders in lifestyle hospitality, Pivot caters to today’s experience-, adventure-minded traveler through inspiring design, thoughtful service and one-of-a-kind experiences at each of its hotels and resorts. The Pivot Hotels & Resorts portfolio encompasses a number of hotels and resorts across the U.S. with more in development. More information may be found at www.pivothotels.com.

Maryland itinerary: Montgomery County

C&O Canal
C&O Canal National Historical Park, Potomac, Maryland
Visit Montgomery - MD Itin#2 11-2019 LB

In Montgomery County, Maryland, travelers will find a broad scope of America’s favorite pastimes, including endless art and some of the country’s most beloved historical sites.

Just a short Metro ride away, Montgomery County is conveniently located adjacent to Washington, D.C., making it an ideal and convenient location for groups large or small, and of all ages. Enjoy culinary crossroads, excellent shopping and outdoor adventures with classic Maryland flavor.

“Our proximity to the nation’s capital, three major airports and wide-range of unique attractions make Montgomery County an attractive destination for group tours,” said Lee Callicutt, destination sales manager for Visit Montgomery, MD.

The county consists of several popular communities including Chevy Chase, Silver Spring, Gaithersburg, Germantown, Rockville and Bethesda. Both Germantown and Bethesda were named one of the “Top 20 Best Places to Live” in the U.S. by Money Magazine.

SEE: The rural side of Montgomery County

Credit: Visit Montgomery, MD

Heralded as one of the best land conservation policies in the country, Montgomery County created an Agricultural Reserve encompassing 93,000 acres of farmland. Among the working farms in the area, Butler’s Orchard offers country gatherings including seasonal fruit picking, private tractor-driven wagon rides, tours, picnics, giant slides and educational fun.

TOUR: A history buff’s dream destination

Credit: Visit Montgomery, MD

Montgomery County is a history buff’s dream. Explore the great outdoors at the ninth most-visited National Park in the United States, the C&O Canal National Historical Park. Home to the bullet that killed Abraham Lincoln, The National Museum of Health and Medicine features a treasure trove of collections dating to the Civil War. A short drive away, take a guided walk along the Underground Railroad Experience Trail at Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park.

EAT: No shortage of flavorful fun

Credit: Malerie Yolen-Cohen — Getaway Mavens

With more than 1,000 ethnically diverse restaurants, there’s no shortage of flavorful fun in Montgomery County. Restaurants such as Clyde’s at Tower Oaks or Chevy Chase, Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Fogo de Chao, are perfect options for group dining. The Mansion at Strathmore is home to intimate artistic programs and offers a popular afternoon tea experience featuring local performances and a light lunch of delectable tea savories.

SHOP: A shopper’s paradise

Credit: Visit Montgomery, MD

The rio is Gaithersburg’s picturesque open-air, lakefront shopping and dining destination. Stroll along the waterfront, ride in a paddleboat, wander into a large selection of stores, and indulge and dine alfresco. For those looking for premium fashions at a bargain price, Clarksburg Premium Outlets is conveniently located off of 1-270 and can accommodate large groups.

Contact Lee Callicutt at lcallicutt@visitmontgomery.com for a customized itinerary.

Visit Montgomery, MD

Magical York: English city has fascinated visitors for 2,000 years

York Minster England interior
York Minster Credit: visityork.org

When my husband and I returned to the English city of York recently, it felt like meeting an old friend again after a long absence — which in a way it was.

Nineteen years ago, our family lived for a semester in nearby Ilkley, a small town in the Yorkshire Dales. On our frequent trips to York we fell in love with the city’s narrow streets, encircling medieval wall and visitor attractions that reveal layers of history dating back to the Romans.

York street scene
York’s Shambles
Credit: visityork.org

On our return visit, York didn’t disappoint. In fact, this city in the north of England has blossomed into an even better tourist destination. That’s due in part to its association with the Harry Potter books: Diagon Alley is said to be based on York’s Shambles, a cobblestone street with buildings dating back to the 14th century. York has found a way to be both hip and historic, with a lively dining scene and a quirky vibe.

Historic highlights

We began our visit with an evensong service at the York Minster, the glorious cathedral that’s visible from nearly everywhere in the city. The choir’s ethereal music soared inside the massive structure, which was built over a span of 250 years and consecrated in 1472. The minster is the symbolic heart of the city and the largest Gothic cathedral in Europe, with splendid medieval stained glass and a museum in its undercroft that covers two millennia of York history.

The next day, we explored one of the city’s most fascinating eras at the Jorvik Viking Centre. Scandinavian warriors conquered northern England in 866 and made Jorvik their capital (Jorvik, pronounced “your-vik,” later became York). In the 1970s, archaeologists discovered the remains of a Viking settlement underneath the streets of the city. A multi-year dig revealed the best-preserved Viking Age settlement ever found, a warren of tightly packed houses, workshops and streets.

York Jorvik Viking Centre
Jorvik Viking Centre
Credit: Bob Sessions

Staffed by friendly guides dressed as Vikings, the center tells the story of the Norse who lived here in the 10th century. First, we rode in a gondola-like car through a re-creation of a Viking neighborhood, complete with animatronic residents speaking Old Norse and the piped-in smells of manure. Later, we saw some of the artifacts found here, which ranged from tools and pieces of jewelry to a piece of fossilized Viking poop displayed like it was a precious jewel (proving that historians get excited about the darndest things).

Another highlight was a decorated comb made from antler bone. “It took one of our staff members a hundred hours to create a similar comb,” said a guide. “It’s no wonder combs were considered luxury items to the Vikings.”

The Richard III Experience, an attraction tucked into one of the guard towers in the city’s medieval wall, provided us with insights into another chapter of York history. Richard III, who has a villainous reputation thanks to Shakespeare, emerges as a more complex character in the museum’s displays.

“You Americans will never be able to keep all the names straight,” said a guide with a smile as he handed us a cheat sheet detailing the royal dynasties.

From chocolate to ghosts

shop in York, England
A shop in York’s Shambles
Credit: Bob Sessions

Wanting a break from the blood and gore of English history, we next took a chocolate tour, another signature York attraction. During the 18th and 19th centuries the city gave birth to several of the biggest companies in the British candy industry, and it continues to be the main production center for KitKats, one of the world’s most popular chocolate bars. Our tour concluded with the chance to make chocolate treats of our own, including some delicious passion-fruit truffles.

We savored our homemade treats as we strolled the city later that afternoon. York is a walker’s paradise, with a largely car-free historic center and winding streets filled with vintage pubs, charming shops and architectural gems. In the medieval street the Shambles, we were amused to see several stores dedicated to Harry Potter, from the World of Wizardry to the Shop That Shall Not Be Named. Later in the day, we strolled the beautifully preserved medieval town walls that stretch for 2 miles around the city, and then took a sunset cruise on the River Ouse that winds through the center of York.

River Ouse Yorkshire
River Ouse
Credit: Bob Sessions

Finally, we ended our stay with another York tradition: a ghost tour. The city is said to be among the most haunted in Europe and is full of pubs, hotels and shops that claim resident spirits. While we didn’t see any ghosts, we did hear some intriguing tales. We concluded that York is so attractive that even its dead want to remain in residence — and as visitors drawn back after nearly 20 years, we could understand their reluctance to leave.

Yorkshire tour

Fans of the classic TV series All Creatures Great and Small will find that much of Yorkshire looks familiar. This county that surrounds the city of York has emerald hills, windswept moors, paddocks enclosed by stone walls and countless sheep. Two national parks — the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales — offer exceptional hiking ranging from easy strolls to multiday treks.

Rievaulx in Yorkshire
Credit: Bob Sessions

Castle Howard, one of the grandest estates in England, offers glimpses into the lifestyles of the landed gentry. The 18th-century home’s formal gardens, expansive parklands, and an interior are certain to fascinate any Downton Abbey fan.

The ruined abbey of Rievaulx is among the most picturesque of the numerous abandoned medieval churches that dot the Yorkshire countryside (other scenic spots include Fountains Abbey and Bolton Abbey). Deserted after King Henry VIII severed ties with the Roman Catholic Church in 1534, these melancholy abbeys have long provided inspiration to poets, artists and romantics.

Bird lovers (or twitchers, as they’re called in England) will love the National Centre for Birds of Prey, which has dozens of species living in 50 aviaries on the grounds of Duncombe Park. Flying demonstrations allow you to see the birds at their acrobatic best.

Bird of Prey Centre Yorkshire
National Centre for Birds of Prey
Credit: Bob Sessions

And finally, one of the delights of touring Yorkshire are its many delightful small towns. Among the most scenic are the coastal gem of Whitby, famous for its association with Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Thirsk, which celebrates its ties to James Herriot of All Creatures Great and Small fame. Stroll their streets, then indulge in a cream tea — scones with clotted cream and jam accompanied by a steaming pot of tea. The classic English treat is worth every calorie.

If you go

York is a two-hour train ride or four-hour car trip from London. For more information on York, see visityork.org, and for information on Yorkshire, see yorkshire.com.

Article by Lori Erickson

American Printing House for the Blind breaks down barriers

American Printing House for the Blind tour
American Printing House for the Blind, Louisville, Ky. Credit: American Printing House for the Blind

For more than 160 years, the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) in Louisville, Kentucky, has helped make independent life possible for blind and visually impaired individuals.

Groups can tour the 280,000-square-foot production facility that develops and creates more than 1,000 products, including material in Braille, large print, audio recordings and technology. There’s also an on-site museum.

APH display
American Printing House for the Blind, Louisville, Ky.
Credit: GTM/Courtney Birchmeier

“Our historic roots in Louisville start before the Kentucky Derby and even the Civil War,” said Rob Guillen, APH’s special programs coordinator. “Our celebrated legacy is one of hope and independence for people with vision loss. Our mission for 160 years has been to create products for anyone who is blind, to support their education and life.  Mystery Tour operators love our location — because, in a region that’s known for horse-racing and distilling, we’re completely unexpected.”  

On guided tours, groups see the production of Braille books and magazines, listen to a live recording of Talking Books, view a demonstration of educational materials designed for students who are blind and visually impaired, and explore an interactive museum.

APH tour
Tour, American Printing House for the Blind, Louisville, Ky.
Credit: American Printing House for the Blind

At the APH Museum, visitors can play a computer game designed for blind students, see the first book ever embossed for blind readers in France and view Helen Keller’s writing desk. Artifacts, photographs and electronic displays show the development of Braille, the history of Talking Books and the history of accessible technology.

“We teach all of our guests to write their names in Braille, and they all love it,” Guillen said. “It’s fun, but it’s also easy, which is unexpected. Guests leave the tour with a memento of their visit — their name, or their children’s names or even a secret love note in braille!”

APH can accommodate groups of 60 people at one time. Tours can be customized to meet the needs of the group.

“Many of our guests leave full of hope, knowing that APH is passionate about accessibility and independence for people who are blind,” Guillen said. “Before they leave, our guests frequently say, ‘I never knew.’ They never knew how Braille worked.  They never knew how much time, effort and materials it takes to create products for people who are blind. They never knew that an organization like ours even existed.”

For more information American Printing House for the Blind, call 800-223-1839 or visit aph.org.

Kentucky itinerary: Oldham County

Horse Farm Tour
Credit: Oldham KY Tourism & Conventions
Oldham Co Tourism Comm LB Itin#1 Nov 2019

Oldham, KY is a very unique Kentucky Hub that’s home to all things Kentucky in one place. Conveniently located 20 minutes from downtown Louisville on I-71, and 70 minutes from the Ark Encounter, Oldham is known for our hands-on horse farm tours, craft bourbon tours and tastings, our Underground Railroad history and famous people, and for having the only town in the world for shopping and dining alongside a freight train running on its historic Main Street.

You will enjoy LOW hotel room taxes and complimentary itinerary planning assistance with Group Perks that are only available through the Oldham KY Tourism office. You’ll love our one-payment-option for all things in your Oldham itinerary and enjoy our step-on residents. Oldham is the go-to destination for Operators needing a less expensive cure for the been-there-done-that of the city, yet close enough to enjoy the city’s new attractions. Found ONLY in Oldham, Kentucky!

Oldham KY Tourism & Conventions
OldhamKYGroups.com – Live Chat!


Credit: Oldham KY Tourism & Conventions

April to November in Oldham – the “Farm Tour Capital of Kentucky,” – TOUCHING is not only allowed, it’s encouraged – on our horse farms, too! 15 different Oldham Farm Tours create memories for your group that will last a lifetime. Horses, alpaca, bison, a dairy, sheep, botanical gardens, and nature preserves. ONLY in Oldham, KY.


Credit: Oldham KY Tourism & Conventions

Kentucky Artisan Distillery is the ONLY distillery on I-71 between Cincinnati, OH and Louisville, KY! This one-of-a-kind craft distillery offers a behind-the-scenes tour through the world of 2 high-end bourbon brands, Jefferson’s bourbons and Whiskey Row. A favorite on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour! ONLY in Oldham, KY.


Credit: Oldham KY Tourism & Conventions

Oldham, Kentucky holds 2 Underground Railroad designations by the National Park Service Network to Freedom! Learn about freedom seekers in Kentucky and Underground Railroad conductors who at great risk, sought to abolish the institution of slavery. Tour the NEW History Center museum and enjoy a catered lunch with expert speaker. ONLY in Oldham, KY.


Credit: Oldham KY Tourism & Conventions

NEW! Oldham welcomes its new 84-room Holiday Inn Express & Suites. Located just minutes from historic downtown La Grange where guests can experience shopping and dining in the only town in the world with a freight train running ON its Main Street! ONLY in Oldham, KY.

Pushing boundaries: Artist-driven museums reveal revolutionary movements

art chihuly museum museums
Chihuly Garden and Glass, Seattle, Wash. Credit: Chihuly Garden and Glass

All museums have a story to tell. Some zero in on the complex lives and work of talented individuals who, through their extraordinary visions, changed the landscape of art forever. Thought-provoking art can elicit powerful sentiments uniquely positioned to move people — inspiring the ambitious, inciting new questions and stimulating curiosity, excitement or even outrage.

Most art allows for diverse interpretation, but there are scholars and docents who can help groups uncover the creative thinking and expression behind famous works. Schedule an artistic group tour to not only entertain, but also to empower and cultivate an appreciation for aesthetics and ultimate artisanship.

Dale Chihuly: Glassblowing in Seattle, Washington

Chihuly glass museum art museums
Chihuly Garden and Glass, Seattle, Wash.
Credit: Chihuly Garden and Glass

Over the course of five decades, Dale Chihuly has explored new and old techniques, pushing the boundaries of contemporary art. His work at Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle was inspired from the world around him, catapulting the imagination beyond conventional ideas.

“Dale Chihuly’s work can be described as bold, unexpected and always colorful,” said Kathy Gerke, director of sales at Chihuly Garden and Glass. “The impressive scale of his work, the way he uses color and light, how his work interacts with the outdoor garden — all of that together allows people to see art in a way they’ve never experienced.”

Chihuly was a leader in the United States studio glass movement, taking glass from traditional factory production to a fine art. He created a new way of working with glass, using gravity and centrifugal force to let the glass take shape in its own organic way. 

Located at Seattle Center below the Space Needle, “Chihuly Garden and Glass is a great destination for groups, whether they want to explore the exhibition on their own or reserve an exclusive, interactive experience,” Gerke said. “Guests can enjoy a private tour, led by an Exhibition Host, and explore the exhibition like never before.”

Not only will guests walk away with unforgettable memories, but they’ll also receive keepsakes from the experience, including digital photos and a Chihuly Garden and Glass book. Private hosted tours are available for groups of any size; one host is required per 30 guests. The tour lasts one hour and includes the Galleries, Glasshouse and Garden. Combination packages with the Space Needle Observation Deck also are available.

The Community Hot Shop returned to Chihuly Garden and Glass this fall. Operated out of a retrofitted 1967 Airstream, the Community Hot Shop offers groups the opportunity to watch live glassblowing demonstrations led by local artists.

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Salvador Dalí: Surrealism in St. Petersburg, Florida

Dali Museum art artist
Gallery, The Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg, Fla.
Credit: The Dalí Museum

Salvador Dalí’s mind-bending works belong in a building that shares their same imaginative soul; The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg sure does them justice.

“The Dalí Museum is unlike anything you have experienced in your life — a mecca for inspiration and creativity,” said Beth Bell, marketing director of The Dalí Museum. “Before even entering the museum, groups marvel over the dream-like building that was custom-designed and built to house the Salvador Dalí collection donated by A. Reynolds and Eleanor Morse.”

What is most notable out of the simple structure is the large free-form geodesic bubble that erupts from the rectangle-shaped building. “The Enigma” is made up of 1,062 triangular shaped pieces of glass, stands 75 feet tall and is a 21st-century homage to the dome that adorns Dalí’s museum in Spain.

“Inside, the museum houses another unique architectural feature, a helical staircase, recalling Dalí’s obsession with spirals and the double helical shape of the DNA molecule,” Bell said. “The museum has been named one of Architectural Digest’s ‘10 Most Beautiful Museums in the World’ and is the only three-star, Michelin-rated museum in the Southeast.”

The structure houses more than 2,000 pieces, with 96 oil paintings including eight masterworks, as well as dozens of drawings, sculptures and films. In addition to the permanent collection, The Dalí Museum has special exhibitions from worldwide collections.

After enjoying a day filled with world-class art, visitors can go downstairs to Café Gala for Spanish-themed light fare and drinks, or explore the outdoor Avant-garden on the beautiful Tampa Bay waterfront.

“If a visit to the Dalí has guests feeling aspirational, it is said to be good luck to tie the admission wristband from the museum to the Wish Tree and whisper a wish,” Bell said. The Wish Tree is a focal point of the Avant-garden.

The Dalí Museum

Clyfford Still: Abstract expressionism in Denver, Colorado

Clyfford Still Museum art museums
Clyfford Still Museum, Denver, Colo.
Credit: James Florio

Dramatic and emotive, Clyfford Still’s revolutionary art and mysterious life draws visitors to Clyfford Still Museum in Denver.

“Given the scale of Still’s work and the intimacy of the individual galleries, museum visitors become immersed in his works, almost becoming part of the paintings themselves,” said Sanya Andersen-Vie, director of marketing and communications at Clyfford Still Museum. “Abstract expressionism is marked by abstract forms, expressive brushwork and monumental scale, all of which were used to convey universal themes about creation, life, struggle and death. Described by many as the most anti-traditional of the abstract expressionists, Still is credited with laying the groundwork for the movement.”

Clyfford Still was among the first generation of abstract expressionists who developed a new, powerful approach to painting in the years immediately following World War II. Unlike other artists, Still tended to resist fame and remained fiercely independent. In 1951, he ended his relationship with commercial galleries and after that time, only a few of his works entered the market.

“Because he ended his relationship with commercial galleries, the Clyfford Still Museum houses 95 percent of his total output, making its collection the most intact body of work by any major artist from any century,” Andersen-Vie said. “Groups have the opportunity to deeply immerse themselves into a single creative genius’ career. The evenly dispersed natural light that fills the museum’s exhibition rooms not only presents Still’s canvas surfaces in the most compelling and truthful way; the gentleness of the daylight also enlivens the senses as visitors move through the variously proportioned spaces.”

The intimate gallery spaces encourage individuals to absorb Still’s artwork. Private tours led by gallery teachers, as well as public tours, are available. Visitors also may deepen their appreciation for Still’s art at The Making Space, a hands-on creation studio that encourages experimentation with a variety of art materials. •

Clyfford Still Museum

Artistic roots in Berea, Kentucky

Student potter, Berea College, Berea, Ky.
Credit: Berea College

Every working artist started somewhere — and many start in Berea, Kentucky. Located just south of Lexington, Berea is home to a thriving population of weavers, instrument makers, furniture artisans, jewelry designers, glass workers, potters, painters and sculptors.

The city’s story is interwoven with the historic Berea College, the first interracial and coeducational college in the South. Groups can become familiar with locals through interactive classes with master artists and specialized itineraries. Contact Berea Tourism to start planning a journey for artistic visionaries.

Berea Tourism

Pierce County destination marketing organizations announce new name, new brand, new tagline


TACAOMA, Wash. — As part of a merger process began in January of this year, Pierce County’s two largest destination marketing organizations have announced a new joint name, new logo and new tagline. 

The organizations formerly known separately as Travel Tacoma + Pierce County and the Tacoma South Sound Sports Commission will now jointly be named Travel Tacoma – Mt. Rainier Tourism and Sports. Their new tagline is MOUNTAIN CITY SEA. 

The merger allows the organizations to reach all visitor channels; those visiting Pierce County for meetings, conventions, sporting events or leisure. 

The new name

The new name contains two major geographic locators for visitors: Tacoma and Mount Rainier. Mount Rainier serves not only as Pierce County’s most visible and identifiable tourism asset, it’s also an icon that represents Washington state to both in-state and national audiences. 

“Mount Rainier represents Washington state on our state quarter, our license plates, our state postage stamp and in too many other ways to name, and we’re lucky that it also happens to be here in Pierce County,” said Dean Burke, president and CEO of Travel Tacoma – Mt. Rainier Tourism and Sports. “You can see the mountain from lots of places in Washington, but it rises over our cities and our waterways in a way that makes everything in its shadow that much better. You can feel its gravity when you’re here. And when someone really wants to get on the mountain and experience it through hiking, snowshoeing or climbing, they’re going to do it in Pierce County.” 

Adding “tourism and sports” to the name reflects that the new organization serves all channels of visitor: meetings, conventions, sports and leisure. 

Travel Tacoma logo
New logo for Travel Tacoma – Mt. Rainier Tourism and Sports

The new logo

Along with the new name, Travel Tacoma – Mt. Rainier also unveiled a minimalist, text-based logo. The new emblem representing the organization is meant to be seen on top of vivid photography of the region. 

“Photography sells our destination,” Burke said. “When people see images of our geographic platform, convincing them to come is a much easier proposition. Most tourism logos have some graphic element, but it’d be a shame for us to have a logo that competes with what nature has given us.” 

The new tagline

Burke brought the MOUNTAIN CITY SEA tagline from his previous role as executive director of the Tacoma South Sound Sports Commission. 

“With your feet in the saltwater shores of Commencement Bay, you could shine a laser at the peak of Mount Rainier, and it’s only 42 miles away,” Burke said. “In that 42 miles, you have incredible geographic and cultural diversity, and the experiences those mean for a visitor are rare and valuable. This is the trifecta of what a destination can offer. Most destinations have one of the three. A few have two. We’re one of only a handful in the country that have all three: A major mountain, a metropolitan city and a saltwater sea.”

Keeping it in the family, Austin Adventures’ Kasey Austin-Morrissey is promoted to president

Kasey Austin-Morrissey Austin Adventures
Kasey Austin-Morrissey Credit: Austin Adventures

BILLINGS, Mont. — After decades of running his company, Austin Adventures’ founder and CEO Dan Austin is ready to make a change. Luckily, he has been grooming someone to run operations for the company for some 30 years — his daughter Kasey Austin-Morrissey.

“While I’m not going anywhere anytime soon, it made perfect sense to elevate Kasey to the position of president,” Austin said. “When it comes to this company, no one is more experienced than she is. I mean, she was literally born into it.”

Austin noted that Austin-Morrissey guided her first trip at the age of six. It was an itinerary in Yellowstone and the guides gave her a ‘Rookie of the Year’ trophy that she still proudly displays in her office. Twenty-four years later, Kasey now trains and manages the company’s entire guide team of dozens of guides from all corners of the globe.

Austin-Morrissey’s accolades didn’t stop with her trophy. Further recognition included:

  • Named the world’s top family travel guide by Outside Magazine (2014)
  • Recognized by Vacation Agent magazine as a “2012 Rising Star in the Tourism Industry
  • Named a “40 under Forty” by the Billings Gazette
  • Graduated with honors from the Davidson Honors College at the University of Montana (Missoula, Mont.)

“I’m thrilled (and extremely fortunate) to get to follow in the trail blazed by my dad,” said Austin-Morrissey. “I’ve got some very big hiking boots to fill but I’ll continue to learn from him as my CEO — until the day that he’s finally ready to step aside and let me take over entirely.”

Austin will stay on as CEO to provide the company vision and direction, while his daughter will be responsible for day-to-day management decisions and strategies.

To further support Austin-Morrissey, Austin Adventures also added additional support positions to her operations team, including promoting 18-year company veteran Christy Hamill to logistics manager.

Austin added, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, “Kasey will be outstanding in this role. She knows literally everything about this company and there is no one that I would trust more with the day-to-day operations of this brand. She’ll do exceptionally well, as she always does … especially if she stays true to my vision….”

About Austin Adventures

Based in Billings, Montana, Austin Adventures has spent more than 35 years building an international reputation as a top provider of luxury, small group, multisport tours for adults and families to the world’s most captivating destinations. Austin Adventures has perfected the art of creating one-of-a-kind itineraries featuring exceptional regional dining, distinctive accommodations, incredible guides and exhilarating activities, all while keeping all-inclusive rates and services the norm. In addition to scheduled group departures on all seven continents, Austin Adventures has developed a reputation as the leader in customized trip planning and execution. All are backed by the industry’s best money-back satisfaction guarantee.

Connecticut itinerary: Waterbury

Waterbury CT skyline
Waterbury, Conn.

Located on Interstate 84, Waterbury is nicknamed The Brass City. That’s because the city became famous in the 19th century for manufacturing brass items. “Whether you’re interested in learning about American art and cultural history, taking in a musical or sampling chocolate or craft beer, the city of Waterbury offers a rich mix of activities for all interests — all just a short trip from major Northeast cities,” said Randy Fiveash, director, Connecticut Office of Tourism.

The original settlement of Waterbury dates to 1674. The city’s name refers to its proximity to the Naugatuck River and its tributaries, which flow through the heart of the city.

Connecticut Office of Tourism


Palace Theater Waterbury
Palace Theater, Waterbury, Conn.
Credit: Connecticut Office of Tourism

Soak up onstage history and backstage mystique on a guided tour of the Palace Theater. The historic theater was closed for 18 years beginning in 1987. After a $30 million, three-year renovation, it is now a performing arts center and community gathering place that provides a focal point of cultural activity and educational outreach for diverse audiences.


Mattatuck Museum, Waterbury, Connecticut
Mattatuck Museum, Waterbury, Conn.
Credit: Connecticut Office of Tourism

Established in 1877 as a historical society, Mattatuck Museum is an art and regional history museum. Guided tours of the museum’s collections and special exhibitions can be tailored to meet the needs and interests of each group. Tours need to be arranged at least three weeks in advance. Don’t miss the display of more than 10,000 buttons.


Brass Works Brewing pint glasses full of beer
Brass Works Brewing Company, Waterbury, Conn.
Credit: Brass Works Brewing Company

Brass Works Brewing Company was established in 2015, but brothers Michael and David Ieronimo began as home brewers in their mother’s kitchen in the late 1980s. They soon added David’s brother-in-law Christopher Urban and later co-worker Kyle Ondrush. Together these beer enthusiasts brew, experiment and share their passion for good beer.


Fascia Chocolate candies, Waterbury
Fascia’s Chocolates, Waterbury, Conn.
Credit: Connecticut Office of Tourism

The Chocolate Experience & Tour at Fascia’s Chocolates uses a multimedia and interactive session to teach about the origins of chocolate. Tastings and demonstrations, including a behind-the-scenes look into the factory via remote controlled camera, complete the experience. Participants have the opportunity to make their own chocolate bar with toppings they choose.

Ohio itinerary: Worthington

Worthington Farmers Market
Farmers market, Worthington, Ohio Credit: Experience Worthington

Worthington, just north of Columbus, is situated in the center of Ohio — at the intersection of U.S. 23 and State Route 161. Steeped in New England tradition, Worthington is a vibrant community with a variety of activities and attractions for group tours.

“We’re proud of Worthington’s friendly, small-town welcome,” said Elizabeth Dekker, tourism director. “Visitors and residents love our walkable historic city center lined with pubs, coffee shops, bakeries, wine stores, studios and shops. There’s plenty to do for all ages, whether you’re staying for an afternoon, a day or a full weekend. You can stroll our parks, tour museums and historic sites, discover art galleries, enjoy a pint at our local brewery or experience the many makers and craftsmen.”

Experience Worthington Convention and Visitors Bureau


The Candle Lab Worthington
The Candle Lab, Worthington, Ohio
Credit: Experience Worthington

Play around with scents at The Candle Lab in Worthington. Scent stylists guide groups in pouring custom-scented soy candles. The Candle Lab has more than 120 unique scents. While the candles set (about an hour), stroll next door to House Wine or enjoy a meal at one of many great neighboring restaurants.


Highline Coffee Shop Worthington
Highline Coffee Co, Shift Studios and Branch Line Leather Co., Worthington, Ohio
Credit: Experience Worthington

Visit the collaborative space at Highline Coffee Co., Shift Studios and Branch Line Leather Co. Highline offers hot and cold locally roasted coffee creations, tea, smoothies and pastries. The modern, handmade jewelry at Shift Studios incorporates reclaimed materials with quality craftsmanship and design. Branch Line Leather offers customers the option to design and customize a unique, handmade leather article.


Printing press at Igloo Letterpress
Igloo Letterpress, Worthington, Ohio
Credit: Experience Worthington

Head to Igloo Letterpress to make something together. Learn how to hand-set antique hand-carved wooden type. Explore how a variety of factors help create textures, colors and impressions. Use Igloo’s collection of type and vintage images to print a project to take home, create a personalized piece or hand-bind a journal.


American Whistle whistles Worthington
The American Whistle Corporation, Worthington, Ohio
Credit: Experience Worthington

Take a guided tour of The American Whistle Corporation, the only manufacturer of metal whistles in the United States. The 45-minute tour of the plant includes interesting information about whistles and fascinating machinery — some state of the art and some dating to the beginning of the company. Everyone leaves with a shiny new “American Classic” whistle.