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The Group Travel Leader Small Market Meetings Going on Faith

Known for Sports

Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis is synonymous with the Indianapolis 500, the largest single-day sporting event in the world, which celebrated its 100th running this year.

The Indy 500 is the highlight of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s five signature events. The speedway can arrange tickets and parking for groups, but “even if you’re not in town during a race, there are plenty of options to experience racing in the hometown of auto racing,” said Lisa Wallace, senior communications manager for Visit Indy.

Speedway tours include a narrated bus ride around the 2.5-mile track with opportunities to kiss the Yard of Bricks and take a picture on the victory podium, as well as a visit to the on-site Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

Guests can also take a 60 mph lap in the passenger seat of a two-seat Indycar, NASCAR or pace car during the on-track Victory Lap experience, and the Bucket List experience allows visitors to hurtle around the Oval in a two-seat IndyCar doing 180 mph.

Groups can tour the Dallara IndyCar Factory operations and check out an interactive zone with exhibits and racing simulators. Visitors can also take the pit stop challenge or ride down Main Street in a street-legal IndyCar that has been modified to fit two people.

In April, former IndyCar racer and owner Sarah Fisher opened Speedway Indoor Karting, where groups of 48 can race in karts that are “not just regular go-karts; it’s all the latest technology,” Wallace said.

Augusta, Georgia

Ever since the Masters Tournament was founded in 1934, it has been played at the Augusta National Golf Club, where the only time nonmembers are allowed in is during the tournament. The club doesn’t even do tours.

Augusta National Golf Club is so exclusive and Masters tickets so coveted, it’s nearly impossible for groups to attend, said Staci Cooper, communications manager for the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau. But there are plenty of other ways for groups to experience Augusta as the golf retreat it was long before the Masters Tournament came around.

Visitors can tee off at public or partially private area courses, including Forest Hills Golf Club, which is home to the Augusta University Jaguars golf team. Over the Savannah River in North Augusta, South Carolina, the River Golf Club is a “beautiful and popular course”; the Goshen Plantation Golf Club in Hephzibah, Georgia, and the Jones Creek Golf Club in neighboring Martinez are both favorites as well.

The “Celebrating a Grand Tradition: The Sport of Golf” exhibit at the Augusta Museum of History explores how the sport has evolved over the centuries; subjects include technology, fashion, memorabilia and golf’s great players. SouthStar Trolley also offers a Golf and Heritage tour led by local golf enthusiast, author and expert Stan Byrdy. Tours focus on the city’s history as a golf retreat and can be customized to a group’s interests.

Oahu, Hawaii

Hawaii is the birthplace of surfing, and Duke Kahanamoku is the godfather of the sport. The native Hawaiian introduced the islands’ ancient sport to the world, and without him, “California wouldn’t have surfing, Australia wouldn’t have surfing,” said Noelani Schilling-Wheeler, senior director of sales and marketing for the Oahu Visitors Bureau.

Duke’s OceanFest is an annual weeklong festival held in Waikiki that celebrates the ocean sports that were close to the Big Kahuna’s heart, namely, longboard surfing, but also tandem surfing, swimming, paddleboard racing, stand-up paddleboard and beach volleyball.

Vans Triple Crown of Surfing is the be-all and end-all of surfing competitions. The annual event is held on Oahu’s infamous North Shore, the holy land of professional surfing. The competition is open to the public, but the beaches are crowded. Groups wanting to get a taste could spend a couple hours watching surfers ride big waves before stopping by Turtle Bay Resort’s Surfer the Bar, a watering hole/venue in partnership with Surfer magazine. Guests never know who will drop in to take the stage, maybe a Hawaiian musician or a professional surfer for a “talk story,” a Hawaiian term for a casual chat.

Groups can also learn to surf at a variety of surf schools, among them the Hans Hedemann Surf School, with locations on the North Shore and at Honolulu’s Waikiki Beach, where Waikiki Beach Services and Waikiki Beach Activities both offer group surfing lessons as well as stand-up paddleboarding and outrigger canoeing.