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The Magic of Main Street

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Ask your group what they picture when envisioning a perfect day in a new city in the Southeast. They might tell you they dream of hearing bluegrass music flowing from windows and doors, wandering cobblestone streets lined with bakeries and antique shops, or getting to know the locals over a pitcher of sweet tea on a sunny patio.

Group tours often include stops at the top attractions in major cities, but these simple joys are just as much a part of the quintessential Southern experience as much as trips to Churchill Downs or the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. In addition to touring stately capitol buildings, admiring masterful artworks in lauded museums, and diving into a destination’s past at historical sites, it’s important to find a balance between structured group activities and your group’s need to relax and desire to explore.

The simple solution lies in carving out time for groups to be immersed in the preserved historic districts and beloved neighborhoods that encapsulate the unique character of your destination. Here, colorful small businesses are a great place to shop for souvenirs, a variety of restaurants cater to diverse palates, and a city’s rich history is on display through stunning architecture and winding, brick-paved roads. Make a stop in these storied neighborhoods that are the perfect place to park the motorcoach and start making memories.

In Charleston, South Carolina’s French Quarter, groups will find a bounty of art galleries and antebellum historical sites, plus, Rainbow Row, a street lined with pastel homes. Bulldog Tours is one of the top-rated tour companies in the city and offers guided, customizable walking tours to help navigate this magnificent neighborhood. Also in South Carolina, a visit to Greenville, known as “America’s Friendliest City,” isn’t complete without spending time on Main Street. Follow this central road to restaurants, coffee shops, bookstores, and art galleries. Spend some time relaxing in Falls Park on the Reedy, a revitalized riverfront park and waterfall with walking trails.

Savannah, Georgia’s picturesque Historic Landmark District is known for its collection of 18th-century homes, making it a fantastic place to enjoy an architecture tour. Stop by the Savannah City Market, which was built in 1755 and is full of small shops with products ranging from sweet treats to fine jewelry. In addition to perusing the area’s stores and restaurants, book a trolley tour for a nostalgic ride through the city streets.

Old Savannah Trolley Tour, Savannah, Georgia;
Credit: Visit Savannah

Memphis, Tennessee, is the “Home of the Blues,” and there’s no better place to appreciate the city’s contributions to music history than on Beale Street. Here, there are live performances seven nights a week, filling the air with the wistful, yet wonderful sounds that launched a generation of American music legends.

“Beale Street is known for its rich history as the birthplace of the blues,” says Kirby Boyd, public relations manager for Memphis Tourism. “Known as the ‘Home of the Blues, Soul, and Rock ’n’ Roll,’ Beale Street played a significant role in the development of this influential genre of music. Many legendary musicians—including B.B. King, Elvis Presley, and W.C. Handy—performed on Beale Street, contributing to its iconic status.” In between educational and enriching tours at the Memphis Music Hall of Fame and the Memphis Rock ’n’ Soul Museum, let your group slow down and appreciate the new generation of talent making waves in the city today.

Another historic music destination is Macon, Georgia, where soul music has deep roots. Recognizing the need to build upon and share this legacy, Macon’s investment in downtown revitalization has hit overdrive in the past five years with renovation of historic buildings and adding restaurants, music venues, attractions, and museums. Today, groups can find eight art galleries, 32 entertainment venues, and 36 shops and boutiques. “Macon’s downtown offers a historic, walkable experience for all groups,” says Gary Wheat, president/CEO of Visit Macon. “Designed as a ‘city within a park,’ Macon’s downtown continues to attract new businesses to enhance the cultural draw to visitors and new residents alike.”

The French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana, is one of the most famous historic districts in the Southeast. Visit a historic jazz club, dine on savory Creole and Cajun foods, and discover centuries-old courtyards and markets. Or, for another authentic Louisiana experience, venture to the center of the state to Natchitoches, Louisiana, the state’s oldest city. Established as a French colony in 1714, the city has preserved its European roots while evolving alongside its diverse residents over the past few centuries. This unique character is best exemplified in the National Historic Landmark District, where groups can wander past French Creole townhouses, the Minor Basilica, and the 19th-century Kaffie-Frederick General Mercantile, which is the city’s oldest general store. The Natchitoches Area Convention & Visitors Bureau offers group tours of this district, so travelers can marvel at historic fountains, dine on authentic dishes, and shop antiques and niche gifts.

Downtown Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, is a perfect destination for history fans. The quaint downtown area is a National Historical Park, honoring the area’s significance as the site of John Brown’s abolitionist raid in 1859, the Battle of Harpers Ferry during the Civil War, and as a meeting place for the Niagara Movement. Downtown’s historic buildings are a reminder of these bygone eras, but today, they house pottery studios and candy shops that delight visitors.

Also in the shadow of the Appalachian Mountains, Beverley Street runs through the heart of Staunton, Virginia. Follow along this road to find major attractions, like The Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, sitting side-by-side with historic theaters and boutiques housed in Beaux Arts, Romanesque, and late-Victorian architecture. This area is considered one of the most idyllic main streets in America and a wonderful place to relax after exploring the Shenandoah Valley and a myriad of local-favorite museums.

Farther west, Arkansas Tourism describes Eureka Springs as a “shopper’s paradise.” The downtown area, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is centered on Main Street and lined with one-of-a-kind boutiques and art galleries, plus cafes to refuel after a long day of traveling through the surrounding Ozark Mountains.


By Katherine Lawless

Main Image: Harpers Ferry, West Virginia; Credit: West Virginia Department of Tourism

Greater Pooler Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, Inc.

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Pooler Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Bureau

Greater Pooler Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, Inc.
Group Sales Contact:
Sharon Dupont
305 W Collins Street
Pooler, Georgia 31322
Phone: 912-748-0110
Email: sharon@poolerchamber.com
Web: poolerchamber.com

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Itinerary: Portsmouth, New Hampshire

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EXPERIENCE

The New England landscape rearranges when a layer of snow dusts the windowsills of the old colonials and blankets the cobblestone streets. Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is an idyllic place to watch the winter season unfold. For those willing to brave the dipping temperatures, the islands along the coast provide groups with outdoor fun like ice skating while the cultural charms of museums and music halls afford a break from the cold.


WANDER

Picturesque downtown Portsmouth has something to offer every group. Try local cuisine at the bustling Portsmouth Gas Light Co. or The Oar House located in the historic Merchant’s Row. Cap the day off with a visit to The Music Hall, built in 1878 and originally used as a Vaudeville theater. Today, the cultural institution is a great place for a group to catch a play or concert.


APPRECIATE

Portsmouth is home to a number of important sites, including the Seacoast African American Cultural Center, the first Black cultural center in New Hampshire. Groups looking for an outdoor activity with a heavy dose of history can visit the Strawbery Banke Museum and its accompanying Labrie Family Skate at Puddle Dock Pond. The outdoor history museum is situated in a beautiful waterfront neighborhood and showcases historical artifacts and stories beginning with those from Indigenous peoples.


EXPLORE

Portsmouth is surrounded by dazzling state parks. Odiorne Point State Park with its world-class science museum and Great Island Common with breathtaking lighthouse views are both worthy options. For groups looking to stay within the city boundaries, visit Peirce Island’s 27 acres of rocky cliff, salt marshes, and tidal pools to take in Mother Nature.


LEARN MORE

Go Portsmouth

goportsmouthnh.com


Main Image: Labrie Family Skate at Puddle Dock Pond, Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Credit: Labrie Media

John Deere Pavilion

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John Deere Pavilion

John Deere Pavilion
1400 River Dr
Moline, IL 61265
Phone: (309) 765-1000
Fax: (309) 765-1003
Email: JensBrandonD@JohnDeere.com
Web: JohnDeere.com

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Tourism Kingston

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Tourism Kingston

Tourism Kingston
945 Princess Street at Innovation Park
Suite #106
Kingston, Ontario K7L 0E9 CANADA
Phone: 613-484-2387
Fax: 613-546-2882
Email: noelle@tourismkingston.com
Web: visitkingston.ca

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A Western Venture

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The phrase “authentic West” might bring many images to mind: bison, cowboys, free-range horses, and ghost towns. While these iconic symbols and places still exist, there are other aspects to consider when trying to glean a truly western experience.

Kurt Shaver, destination sales executive of California’s Sonoma County Tourism, has a good handle on the authenticity of the West. “When some people hear the term ‘West,’ they might think of gold miners in the Sierra Mountains or cowboys in the desert Southwest,” he says. “But it doesn’t get more ‘West’ in the continental U.S. than the Pacific Coast.”

As such, he says, Sonoma is a good place for tour groups to begin their exploration because there is no dearth to the number of activities and places groups can experience here, including outdoor adventures, plus art, culinary, luxury, and wine itineraries.

California Getaways

No visit to Sonoma is complete without touring the area’s vineyards, and according to Birgitt Vaughan, director of public relations for Sonoma County Tourism, there are plenty to choose from. At the Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery, located in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley, guests can stroll across lush gardens and enjoy expansive views of the vineyard while sipping classic or reserve wines alongside Italian-inspired dishes. Groups can pair wines with handmade pizza or, during a Sunday brunch, with other Italian delicacies.

Sonoma County Tourism offers more suggestions, including 72-hour itinerary ideas for groups wishing to visit the local vineyards. Along the way, explore the cities of Santa Rosa and downtown Sonoma and their boutiques, cafes, cheese shops, and farm-to-table dining options. Make sure to visit Russian Valley, which is known for its production of pinot noirs.

Several adventure out!ts are available in the Sonoma region, but that doesn’t mean your clients have to be thrill seekers. There is plenty for them to do that won’t tax the body. Timber Cove Resort in Jenner, California, offers both a pleasant place to stay and an opportunity to take in the views. The resort sits on 23 acres with breathtaking scenery that will rejuvenate the spirit. Built in 1963 as a place for meditation and tranquility, Timber Cove is earmarked by the Bufano Peace Statue, a 93-foot monument on the nearby cliffs that serves as a symbol of the area’s tranquil beauty. It is said famed photographer Ansel Adams visited the cove time and again to find inspiration. The resort itself has 46 guest rooms, a coastal kitchen with indoor and outdoor seating, and easy access to miles upon miles of hiking trails, including to the monument.

For the adventurous, tap one of several groups to ride the Russian River (WaterTreks EcoTours), zipline beneath a canopy of redwoods (Sonoma Zipline Adventures), or take a guided bicycle, hiking, or kayaking tour (Getaway Adventures). Shaver says to be sure to ask about a tour of Armstrong Redwoods State Park.

While in Sonoma, make other Northern California destinations part of your itinerary, including the cities of Monterey, Napa, Sacramento, San Francisco, and Tahoe City.

The West’s Wild Side

For group planners and tour operators seeking a little more “wild” in their authentic West experience, there is a whole saloon of options. Cross the border to Virginia City, Nevada, where classic novelist Mark Twain once lived and worked as a newspaper reporter. It’s tough to tell how factual the emerging novelist’s reporting was at the time, but the writing he produced helped hone his craft as a great American storyteller. Today, Virginia City offers visitors the opportunity to step back in time at The Way It Was Museum, which boasts the world’s largest collection of Comstock mining artifacts. Visit Piper’s Opera House to watch plays, some that have been known to feature the city’s favorite aforementioned novelist.

Head south to experience Tombstone, Arizona—dubbed “the town too tough to die”—which features all the trimmings of a truly Wild West town, perfect for tour groups looking to hitch a ride to the past. Here, watch gunfight shows—including reenactments at The O.K. Corral—tour museums, and have a drink or watch a play at Wyatt Earp’s Oriental Saloon & Theater.

Deadwood, South Dakota;
Credit: Travel South Dakota/Byron Banasiak

In similar fashion, Deadwood, South Dakota, has its own gunslinger shows, including a reenactment of the cold-blooded shooting in 1876 that dropped “Wild Bill” Hickock while he was playing cards—since then called “the Dead Man’s Hand”—at Saloon No. 10. Every evening, the saloon reenacts the shooting, allowing “Wild Bill” to be resurrected only to go through the same ordeal again. Visit historic hotels; some, such as the Historic Bullock Hotel, rumored to be haunted. There’s even the chance to learn more about the area’s history and hauntings on a paranormal tour of the town.

“Amidst historic Deadwood’s Old West atmosphere and the refreshing pines of the Black Hills National Forest, there’s no better destination for groups to explore,” says Katlyn Svendsen, global public relations and content services senior director for Travel South Dakota. “Offering a wide variety of experiences, including saloons, historic reenactments, live concerts, haunted hotel tours, and delicious, local restaurants, it’s all nestled in the heart of historic Deadwood.”

Visit the Beehive State and the small town of Torrey in south-central Utah to find big adventure, especially since it serves as the gateway to Capitol Reef National Park and Goblin Valley State Park, both where visitors can see Mother Nature’s sculptures. “In my opinion, Goblin Valley is one of the most spectacular experiences that really transports you to another world,” says Anna Loughridge, spokeswoman with the Utah Office of Tourism. “It has short, little goblins—smaller hoodoos—that make you feel like you’re on Mars.”

Also out of this world—or what might seem like a place out of time—is Muddy Creek Mining Co. in the “robbers roost” region, where Butch Cassidy and other Old West outlaws would hide out when fleeing from lawmen. “When I think of the authentic West, I can’t help but think of the Wild West, and so much of southern Utah is wild because it is so rugged,” Loughridge says.

Torrey also offers many options in the way of dining and shopping. “There is so much fun history here,” she adds.

Another place she recommends is Kanab, near the Utah/Arizona border. “Kanab is so amazing,” Loughridge continues. “Every place in southern Utah has some proximity to a national park, and Kanab, on the east side of Zion, is such a unique area.” Among its attractions is Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, the largest animal sanctuary in the U.S.

Fun fact: A number of Western-themed movies were filmed in Kanab, as well as some popular television shows, including episodes of “The Lone Ranger,” “Gunsmoke,” “Grizzly Adams,” and “The Six Million Dollar Man.”

Terry Bison Ranch, located in Cheyenne, Wyoming, allows groups to see what takes place on a working bison ranch that spans more than a century. Although founded by Charles H. Terry, Terry Bison Ranch’s ownership changed in 1881 when F.E. Warren, one of the territory’s first governors, purchased the property and used it as the south headquarters for his Warren Livestock Co., according to Jennifer Galloway, sales director of the ranch. Today, the site is owned by the Thiel family, who purchased 27,500 acres in 1991. #ey opened the ranch to the public in 1993.

“We offer group tour combos that include a meal option and train tour, which is wonderful for groups of all ages,” Galloway explains. “Being able to hand-feed our Bison is an amazing experience.” Besides the bison, there is much more to see and experience at the ranch. Among its offerings are the popular narrated train tours that take visitors around the property to see the bison. Six trains are available for the tours, but each ride has limited seating. Fishing, horseback riding, pony riding, and self-guided tours are also available.

“There is an array of wildlife and different animals to see and visit while at the ranch,” she continues. “We have cabin rentals and an RV park, and you can make a ‘staycation’ out of the trip. … We are open every day, except Christmas day, and all activities are available weather permitting, except the fishing pond in the winter months.”

For the hungry or those who want to take home a souvenir, there’s the Senator’s Steakhouse and Brass Buffalo Saloon and a gift shop. Because of its offerings, Galloway says Terry Bison Ranch helps create the authentic West experience visitors crave, including allowing guests to get up close and personal with the animals. “There is nowhere else,” she says, “to hand-feed bison.”


By Andrew Weeks

Main Image: Scribe Winery, Sonoma, California; Credit: Unsplash/Josh Bean

Itinerary: Iron Range, Minnesota

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EXPLORE

The Iron Range is a region in northern Minnesota known for its ore-mining history and ample opportunity for outdoor recreation. Learn about Minnesota’s mining industry heyday and the people and places that sustained it through a visit to the Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm. This indoor and outdoor museum features numerous exhibits on the Native Americans, immigrants, and miners who call this place home, and groups can also learn about the region’s unique geology. See another side of the Iron Range with a trip to Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park. Here, groups can travel 3/4-mile underground on foot and then in an old ore cart. These guided tours of the old mine offer a fascinating look at the history of Minnesota’s last underground iron ore mine.


SEE

In Orr, the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary is home to dozens of black bears that visit the area every summer. The sanctuary is built on the former homestead of Vince Shute, who wanted to “promote a better understanding of the black bear through education, observation, and experience.” This peaceful wildlife experience gives groups an up-close look at black bears through guided observation, educational programming, and even photography classes.


SNACK

Stop into Canelake’s Candies in Virginia, Minnesota, which has been this charming town’s go-to sweets shop for three generations. Both a historic site—it’s the state’s oldest candy store—and a place to indulge your sweet tooth, groups can stock up on handmade chocolates, hard candies, gels, and even attend a group-friendly candy-making demonstration. Plus, find packaged favorites, a gift store, soda fountain, and an ice cream bar.


LEARN MORE

Iron Range Tourism Bureau

ironrange.org


Main Image: Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park, Minnesota; Credit: Iron Range Tourism Bureau

Carolina’s Castles

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Group tours to North Carolina can discover a wealth of stories within the majestic mansions that dot the landscape. Far from just being large homes, these historic Carolina castles serve as portals to different times, providing groups with an opportunity to explore the evolution of American society and artistic expression.

The colonial world comes to life at Tryon Palace in New Bern. Once the administrative headquarters of the British governor, the home was built to impress—but with a price tag paid by taxing the colonists. It was little wonder that patriots seized the residence during the Revolution.

Today, the meticulously reconstructed mansion transports visitors to the eve of war and the birth of America. Costumed reenactors greet groups in the stately chambers. Groups can hear the tales of the influential figures who shaped the early days of North Carolina. “Life on the Lesser Stairs,” a special experience for groups, highlights the lives of those who worked to make the household function. This tour covers the three main buildings of Tryon Palace with a special focus on the cellar, stable, and kitchen.

The Smith-McDowell House in Asheville is the oldest surviving mansion in the city. The brick home was built by enslaved individuals for one of the wealthiest landowners and businesspeople in the area. Today, the home has been restored to its original interior and houses exhibits and a timeline telling the history of western North Carolina and the people who lived here. The home is part of the new Asheville Museum of History, which enriches groups’ visits with exhibits, guided tours, and a variety of educational programs.

Nearby, groups can explore the grandeur of Biltmore, the largest privately owned home in the United States. One of the best examples of Gilded Age architecture, the mansion was designed by Richard Morris Hunt. It boasts 250 rooms, including 35 richly decorated bedrooms for family and friends, 43 bathrooms, and three kitchens. From the banquet hall and sunken winter garden to the library and bachelor’s wing, guests are surrounded by masterpieces of painting, statuary, and tapestry—to say nothing of the interior finishings of the mansion. Visitors will also see examples of turn-of-the-century innovations that made the home a “modern” marvel.

There is more to see than the mansion on this 8,000-acre property. Antler Hill Village is home to plenty of eateries and two hotels that allow groups to extend their stay and imagine living like the Vanderbilts. Whether groups desire an active or leisurely retreat, Biltmore has an abundance of offerings. Groups can find activities as diverse as yoga, croquet, guided bike adventures and horseback rides, afternoon tea, wine tastings, workshops, or specialty tours.

Reynolda House, Winston-Salem, North Carolina;
Credit: Reynolda House

Reynolda House in Winston-Salem fuses traditional architecture styles with contemporary art. The 1917 home is a beautiful backdrop for an impressive collection of American art that spans the family’s original collection to the modern day. Through workshops and a menu of specialty tours, groups can unpack the collection of masterpieces and the stories they tell. The establishment is set on 170 acres and comprises Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Reynolda Gardens, and Reynolda Village Shops and Restaurants.

“Group tours are a great way to experience Reynolda’s extraordinary estate,” says Stephani Eaton, coordinator of tours and volunteers. “Consider a guided walkthrough of the formal gardens or village, a general highlights tour of the historic house, or a curator-led discovery of our permanent collection of American art masterpieces. Each experience provides visitors with an expert guide who brings the history and present-day joys of Reynolda to life.”

The museum presents a renowned art collection in a historic and incomparable setting: the original 1917 interiors of Katharine and R. J. Reynolds’ 34,000-square-foot home. Its collection is a chronology of American art and featured exhibitions are offered. In the village, the estate’s historic buildings are now home to a vibrant mix of boutiques, restaurants, shops, and services.


By Michael McLaughlin

Main Image: Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina; Credit: The Biltmore Co.

Waterfalls & War Stories

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The Niagara Falls and the Finger Lakes region offer a blend of natural and cultural wonders in Upstate New York. Nothing quite compares to the inspiring spectacle of Niagara Falls that cascade across the Canadian border.

The most iconic view of the Falls is from the deck of the Maid of the Mist. The thunderous roar of the waters and sheer power of nature combine for a 20-minute sensory experience like no other. Visitors should prepare to get wet from the 600,000 gallons of water that plunge over the falls every second, right before their eyes.

Extending out dramatically over Niagara Gorge, Prospect Point Observation Tower offers panoramic views of the falls and the raging whitewater below. Bird enthusiasts can spot peregrine falcons, bald eagles, and the many different gull species present in the Niagara Gorge, which has been designated an Audubon Important Bird Area. “It is worth noting that while the falls themselves are the primary reason many groups visit the Niagara region, attractions from museums to historical sites offer groups plenty of diverse activity to enhance their itineraries,” shares Sara Harvey, director of communications, Niagara Falls USA.

For example, Old Fort Niagara will entertain and educate history buffs. The fort offers beautiful views of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario. It features 22 acres of original buildings and fortifications that predate the American Revolution. “At Old Fort Niagara, history comes to life through living history programs and special events year-round,” says Robert Emerson, executive director of Old Fort Niagara. Historical reenactors and interpreters in period costumes give a glimpse into what life was like at this strategic colonial stronghold.

“Groups visiting the fort can request a guided tour,” Emerson says. “They can also enjoy a musket demonstration that illustrates the uniform and equipment of 18th-century soldiers. During the summer months, the fort also presents artillery firing demonstrations and other living history programs.”

Two hours east of Niagara, the Finger Lakes region welcomes visitors with its picturesque vineyards and communities nestled along the shores of 11 lakes. The region is the largest American wine-producing region outside of California. Groups will appreciate their next glass—try a Riesling!—is just a hop, “sip,” and jump away from more than 130 wineries. Many of these operations are family-run, making for an intimate visit. Groups can often arrange a private tasting and tour, or take part in specially hosted events like festivals, live music, wellness programs, or painting classes.

Watkins Glen State Park, Watkins Glen, New York
Credit: New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation

The southern end of Seneca Lake is home to Watkins Glen State Park. Nature enthusiasts enjoy exploring the well-marked trails that wind between 19 waterfalls. As visitors traverse the gorge, they encounter stunning geological formations and the interplay of water and light. Rainbow Falls creates a symphony in color on sunny summer afternoons while the shaded Frowning Cliff remains frosted in ice until late spring.

Watkins Glen International, known as “The Glen,” offers thrilling automotive races. Group leaders can rev up the excitement with an adrenaline-fueled experience. Spectators can hear the roar of engines and revel in the electric atmosphere while they immerse in racing culture by getting up close to the cars, drivers, and pit crews at meet-and-greets throughout a race weekend.

For those looking to hop into the driver’s seat and live out their racing fantasies, consider reserving a spot to drive The Glen on select weekends. Those ultimate fans can find out what it feels like to drive three (escorted) laps around the storied road course while piloting their personal vehicle.

Upstate New York’s appeal as a group tour destination lies in the diversity of its attractions. The Niagara and Finger Lakes regions offer a stunning setting for groups to explore and enjoy a wide range of activities!


By Michael McLaughlin

Main Image: Old Fort Niagara, Porter, New York; Credit: Destination Niagara USA/Grant Taylor Photography

Ross-Chillicothe CVB

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Ross-Chillicothe CVB

Ross-Chillicothe CVB
230 North Plaza Blvd.
Chillicothe, Ohio 45601
Phone: 740-702-7677
Fax: 740-702-2727
Email: melody@visitchillicotheohio.com
Web: visitchillicotheohio.com

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