Places become popular for a reason. Maybe they are easy to get to, have lots to do, or offer plenty of choices for a diverse group of travelers. Maybe even all three. Even if it has been a while since you’ve visited some of the locales mentioned on the following pages, no worries—this quick guide will show you how to explore your favorite familiar cities in a brand-new way. From underrated venues to refreshed city centers, groups still find plenty to discover in these classic spots.


Looking for America’s top live music show destination? Then look no further than Branson, Missouri, which has more than 100 live shows each day, including comedy, dinner shows, and nationally recognized musicals and theater productions. While it’s a hugely popular locale in the summer months, it has also been gaining a reputation as a warm-weather destination in the fall, when the foliage is on full display, and in November and December, when the entire town gets into the holiday spirit. And for group tour operators who might have been away for a while, you’ll be pleased to see new all-inclusive, world-class resorts surrounding the city and on the banks of Table Rock Lake.

Presleys’ Country Jubilee,
Credit: Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau

The “Colonial Capital” of Virginia might be known for its restoration activities and re-creation of 18th-century America at Colonial Williamsburg, but it has become so much more. One of America’s first planned cities, it continues to innovate and improve even today. The world’s largest living history museum is now full of participatory experiences group tour attendees will love.

Headed to Georgia? “Savannah is now on every person’s bucket list,” says Anjuli King, director of group tour and entertainment at Visit Savannah. “If you haven’t been here in a while, it’s good to know the city has grown quite a bit over the past few years, especially with the launch of a new entertainment district called the Plant Riverside District, which has a grand array of restaurants, retail shops, natural art collections, boutique hotels, and chic rooftop bars. We also have the brandnew Enmarket Arena, home to entertainment, sports, and concerts.”

Skyline of the Historic District,
Credit: Visit Savannah

Meanwhile, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most visited national parks. While the mountainous backdrop never changes, the cities in the area are always evolving to offer new experiences for travelers. “Pigeon Forge is a year-round destination that celebrates four distinct seasons and has so many entertainment, dining, and shopping options,” says Mike Gwinn, senior sales manager of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism. “Each year, we promise and deliver on new shows, attractions, and restaurants to explore.” And in nearby Sevierville, “Our historic downtown has really come into its own,” adds Amanda Marr, director of marketing and communications for the Chamber of Commerce. “A recently completed streetscape program has enhanced the area’s historic nature and attracted new shopping, dining, and nightlife options.


If there’s truly one destination that is sure to please all customers, it has to be New York City. Those who haven’t been to the city in a while will want to include a visit to Hudson Yards, the brand-new built-up neighborhood with a 1-million-square-foot, 100-store retail center; restaurants; cultural performance venue The Shed; a 5-acre smart park; and Vessel, the iconic metal beehive. It’s also home to Edge, which is the city’s highest observation deck.

The Shops Restaurants at Hudson Yards,
Courtesy of Related Oxford

The second-largest city on the East Coast, Philadelphia offers groups a welcoming big-city environment while being an easy-tonavigate city of neighborhoods, says Gregg Caren, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau. “In the past few years, we’ve welcomed many new attractions, hotels, and museums, including the dual Marriott-branded W Philadelphia and Element Philadelphia Downtown hotels, and the Faith and Liberty Discovery Center, located in the historic Old City neighborhood,” he says.


The Grand Canyon in Arizona is a must-see stop for many group tours, and these days visitors can choose adventure options like helicopters
and white-water rafting, or more leisurely choices like traveling the Bright Angel Trail by mule or riding the Grand Canyon Railway between Arizona, Williams, and the South Rim. It’s a 64-mile trip that offers stunning canyon views from the comfort of a railway car.

If your tour attendees haven’t visited Denver, Colorado, in a few years, prepare to be surprised. One of the biggest restorations in the city’s history, the iconic 16th Street Mall will debut next year. Your group will find wider sidewalks, a new amenity zone, and Free Mall Ride shuttle
service. The renovation will also replace and expand the existing tree canopy, creating a refreshing green space in the center of the city.

Downtown Denver,
Credit: Unsplash/Logan Bonjean

Taking a tour of California’s stunning national parks? “The Southern Yosemite region is a treasure trove for group tour operators,” says Brooke Smith, director of sales and marketing for Visit Yosemite. “It’s the perfect destination for travelers looking for natural beauty and adventure. From the towering sequoias of Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park to the sparkling waters of Bass Lake, there is something for everyone in this stunning part of California.” But there’s still a taste of urban life in nearby Oakhurst, which has a growing variety of restaurants, shops, and hotels.

South Dakota is another popular place for group tours visiting the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore. “Rapid City has diverse area attractions that are able to easily accommodate groups of varying sizes,” says Shelby Solano, destination manager of Visit Rapid City. “While we’re the gateway to national parks, monuments, and attractions in the American West and the Black Hills, we’re also the largest city in western South Dakota, with big-city amenities and a thriving culinary scene. New offerings include a narrated trolley tour, newly renovated lodging, and several restaurants that have opened in Rapid City in the last few years.”

Mount Rushmore, Credit: Dennis Guten/Unsplash


With abundant natural beauty, dramatic skylines, exciting professional sports teams, award-winning theater, renowned restaurants, and a booming craft beer scene, Minneapolis and St. Paul are favorites for group tour operators all year long. Plus, there are lots of new spaces and places all over the metro, says Casey Kluver, global tourism sales manager for Meet Minneapolis. “And we have many new food halls, including nationally recognized Malcolm Yards Market, and our latest, Eat Street Crossing,” Kluver says.

On the eastern side of the Midwest, immerse your group in Amish culture. “There’s no doubt about it—visitors to Indiana’s Cool North love everything Amish,” at least according to Indiana’s Cool North website, which adds, “The scrumptious food, intricate hand-stitched quilts, finely crafted furniture, horse-drawn buggies, and quiet farmsteads are truly captivating.” One highlight is The Barns at Nappanee, with sightseeing, shopping, dining, and evening theater performances.

Amish Meal in Elkhart County, Credit: Elkhart County Convention & Visitors Bureau

Written by Julie Kendrick

Main Image: Big Bus Tour in Philadelphia, Credit: K Huff for Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau