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Weekend getaways: A booming idea

Courtesy Maury County CVB

Having trouble capturing those baby boomers or even Gen Xers in your bank club travels? Feeling frustrated because these up-and-coming folks, the faces of your group’s future, are too busy or financially unable to participate in your worldwide travels?

Maybe they’ve joined you on a day trip to a Broadway show or a ballgame in the big city. But wouldn’t it be nice to have them experience the true convenience of group travel?

A weekend getaway might be the answer.

A 48-hour excursion can be anything you choose. From a fascinating historical tour that brings fresh perspective to today’s world to a scrumptious culinary adventure that opens minds to different cultures, or just relaxing on the beach, weekend jaunts are often timed and priced to please group members of all ages.

Mackinac Island, Michigan
When the last ferry leaves in the evening from Mackinac Island, “that’s it,” said Mary McGuire Slevin, executive director of the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau. “There are no cars or freeways. All you hear are the clip-clop of horses. It’s a great sleepover.”

Eighty percent of the island, situated where Lake Huron and Lake Michigan converge in the Straits of Mackinac, is a state park, and groups can see it all on a narrated tour with a historian.

“We have 42 hotels here; but no matter where a group stays, they must see the Grand Hotel,” said Slevin. “Offering 300 years of American architecture, it’s like a cruise ship on land, with one of the longest porches in the country — two football fields long.

“There are antiques to see and gardens to explore. The Mission Point Resort, a midcentury-masterpiece-meets-rustic-lodge-luxury, is also a must-see.”

Shopping nooks and 17 different fudge stores line downtown streets.

“We are known for our fudge, and we warn guests to not fight the temptation, as the aromas are irresistible,” said Slevin.

Annual events include yacht races, the Festival of the Horse and, of course, the Fudge Festival. In mid-June, the island’s Lilac Festival showcases lilacs as tall as trees.


Fredericksburg, Virginia
With 34 historical attractions, the Rappahannock River city of Fredericksburg oozes stories from the days of George Washington to modern times.

Three themes dominate itineraries for bank groups: the Civil War, Colonial history and the 40-block National Historic District.

“We have four major Civil War battlefields. Both the Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg battlefields have visitors centers that offer education, tours and more,” said Lura Hill, tourism sales manager for the Fredericksburg Regional Tourism Partnership. “With the 150th anniversary of the Civil War coming up, we will have a reenactment every May for the next four years.”

Colonial history includes Washington’s boyhood home at Ferry Farm. “We also have his sister’s home, and his brother’s home has been turned into a tavern reflecting the era,” said Hill.

Old Town Fredericksburg Historic District, once a Colonial marketplace, has brick walkways and 120 independently owned stores.

“This is the place for groups to stay in a historic inn and be right in the heart of things,” said Hill.
Groups will also want to enjoy one of the area’s many wineries and an evening at the Riverside Center Dinner Theater, where classic Broadway shows are often on the marquee.


Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Weekend packages at resorts and historic inns in the charming Ozark Mountain town of Eureka Springs include entrance to attractions such as “The Great Passion Play.”

“Performed on a 550-foot stage from May through October, this world-famous play brings to life ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told,’” said Karen Pryor, sales director of Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission.

Known as Mid-America’s Art Capital, Eureka Springs is home to 60 art shops full of such wide-ranging creations as paintings, stained glass and abstract wall hangings. “Our town is always described as a great shopping destination. There are no big-box discount stores,” said Pryor.

“Over 250 artists live here, and groups can take advantage of hands-on art opportunities. We also offer many chef-owned restaurants, where groups can enjoy a gourmet hamburger or a five-course formal dinner. Several of those chefs also offer afternoon cooking classes.”


Dearborn County, Indiana

One-armed-bandit fans know Dearborn County because of the glitzy Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg, but historic homes are also on the itinerary.

“Two sites in Aurora stand out: the Hillforest Victorian House Museum and Veraestau,” said Sally McWilliams, group sales specialist for the Dearborn County Convention, Visitor and Tourism Bureau.

“Hillforest, an Italian Renaissance home that sits high above the Ohio River, offers a glimpse of the life of a wealthy industrialist.  Groups can enjoy a Victorian tea or lunch, and entertainment provided by costumed guides.

“Veraestau, a 19th-century country estate, offers a magnificent view of the Ohio River Valley and more than a behind-the-ropes experience,” said McWilliams. “Visitors can sit on the furniture and truly enjoy the home. Both homes offer twilight tours, and groups can enjoy dinner at one and dessert at the other.”

McWilliams suggested that groups do a good deed with their meal on the Tour for the Cure Luncheons.

“When groups make arrangements to eat at the Applewood Restaurant or Whisky’s Family Restaurant, they receive a delicious wellness lunch that includes a dark chocolate boost dessert,” she said. “Part of the proceeds go to the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer.”


Maury County, Tennessee

Other than the White House, the only existing home of President James K. Polk is in Columbia, the county seat of Maury County.

“While he is one of our least talked about presidents, he is almost always on everyone’s list of favorites,” said Brenda Pierce, executive director of the Maury County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“Groups can tour this Federal-style house that contains over 1,000 of the Polks’ possessions and visit the Presidential Hall next door in a restored church. What I find so interesting about this workaholic president are the portraits of him throughout the years. The aging process that took place while he was president was dramatic.”

Rippavilla Plantation and Elm Springs are two examples of the many antebellum homes in Maury County, which bills itself as the Antebellum Homes Capitol of Tennessee.

“Rippavilla, restored to original grandeur and furnished with original pieces, offers a dramatic piece of Civil War history,” said Pierce. “Elm Springs, today the International Headquarters for Sons of Confederate Veterans, has a great gift shop for anyone interested in the Civil War.”

Located in a rustic barn behind Rippavilla, the Tennessee Museum of Early Farm Life displays horse- and mule-drawn equipment dating to the early 1800s.


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A booming idea
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