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These Museums Make Great Stops in Grand Central USA

Chickasaw Cultural Center

Sulphur, Oklahoma

The proud Chickasaw people of Oklahoma love to show visiting groups their way of life and do so at a magnificent cultural center that consists of four large buildings and beautiful grounds for outdoor events.

“We are home for Chickasaw history and culture and share that with the world,” said Valerie Walters, executive officer for the center.

Groups call ahead and arrange the agenda for their visits with the competent marketing and tourism teams. “This may include going through the exhibit hall, participating in the stomp dance, various cultural demonstrations and lunch,” Walters said.

Among the buildings is the exhibit center, which houses the mosaic room, the council house, the spirit forest and the gallery, and indoor ceremonial dances by tribal natives take place there; visitors can join in the dances. Another building houses the center for the study of Chickasaw history and culture. There is also a theater and a gift shop and cafe.

Outdoors, group visitors can enjoy the honor garden, which is dedicated to those who have been inducted into the Chickasaw Hall of Fame. Nearby is a replica of a traditional 1700’s Chickasaw village and a delightful amphitheater for performances. The landscaping incorporates native plants from Mississippi, where the Chickasaw people began their journey, as well as plants from Oklahoma.

There are plenty of special events scheduled at the cultural center throughout the year. Many honor people who are special to the tribe. Celebrations are held on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Veterans Day and the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

“If a group decides they want to tour on that day, we are more than happy to help them get involved in the big event going on,” said Walters.

Philbrook Museum of Art

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tulsa’s nickname during much of the 20th century was Oil Capital of the World. Among the early Oklahoma oil barons was Waite Phillips who, along with his wife, Genevieve, commissioned the construction of a spectacular 23-acre Italian Renaissance villa in Tulsa. It was completed in 1927, and then 11 years later the couple donated their home as an art center for the city. Today, it is one of country’s finest art museums.

Philbrook presents exhibitions from around the world. Its permanent collection focuses on American, Native American, European, Asian, African, Antiquities, and Modern and Contemporary art and design.

“We get motorcoaches and other organized groups here on a regular basis,” said Tricia Milford-Hoyt, Philbrook’s communications director. Guided tours are available for groups of 10 to 60. “But we also have a group travel coordinator, so if a group or organization wants a more customized experience, we provide a suite of offerings.”

The museum’s program staff puts together a variety of encounters where art is dissected in ways visitors may never have envisioned. The experiences are based on critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity.

The museum has five large studios that together accommodate up to 250 people simultaneously for art-making exercises and other activities. “Our experiences don’t just center on learning the skills of drawing and taking a picture home, but in working together as a group,” said Milford-Hoyt.

The museum has a restaurant overlooking the gorgeous formal and informal gardens; it also has catering services, so a group can spend the day in a private meeting space while enjoying a meal. There is also a satellite branch of Philbrook Museum of Art located in downtown Tulsa.

Nelson-Atkins Museum

Kansas City, Missouri

You’ll know you’ve arrived at the Nelson-Atkins Museum by the colorful 20-foot-tall shuttlecocks strewn on the lawn of the museum, as if a giant game of badminton had been interrupted. That’s contemporary art but only a tiny sampling of the wide world of art inside the galleries of this impressive museum.

“We have art from the ancient Western world to contemporary art,” said Marla Allen, a museum educator. The collections are ever changing and range from an elaborately decorated Egyptian coffin to 11th- and 12th-century Chinese art, paintings by French artist Claude Monet, a rawhide Native American shield, black-and-white images by famous photographers and thousands of other treasures available for the public to study and enjoy.

Tuesdays are dedicated to school tours; Wednesdays through Sundays are for every other kind of group. The tours are both informative and challenging.

“If a group has a really special interest or focus, such as ceramics or depictions of women through the ages, they have the ability to request a custom tour, and that’s free of charge,” said Allen.

The museum offers a number of classes and workshops that can accommodate up to 20 people. There are also special talks and lectures, which a group can arrange to attend.

“We are one of the friendliest museums around, and everyone on staff is incredibly eager to share the museum with visitors,” said Allen. “We have a strong visitor focus as far as programming.”

The museum remains open to all during a rather large renovation, which will be completed in 2017.