Have A Blast in Branson

Last summer, our family was planning a series of quick jaunts. We wanted to jump in the car and spend a few days somewhere we’d never been! As we tossed around ideas, my husband suggested Branson, Missouri. I snickered a little, remembering the Branson trips Great Uncle Frank and Aunt Ruth had taken to hear their favorite crooners. I pointed out that while I was sure it was a lovely place, it probably wouldn’t be much fun for the kids.

It’s tough admitting to not only being wrong, but off the charts wrong! This beautiful town in the heart of the Ozarks was one of our favorite vacation spots EVER! There was so much to do- we could have stayed much longer! Not only was it super kid-friendly but wholesome fun for the entire family. The people of Branson were gracious and welcoming, the scenery spectacular and the adventures endless!

Titanic Museum - Branson

Both of our children are completely enamored with anything related to the Titanic, so a stop at the world’s largest Titanic Museum attraction was definitely on our agenda. It was like stepping back in time as we each took on the role of one of the original passengers (not even knowing if we survived until the end of the tour!). Artifacts, oral histories and an experience with the frigid waters made our visit interactive and, at times, quite poignant.

Missouri/Branson/Kayak Branson

While I tend to be more of an “indoor” girl, my family loves to explore the great outdoors. Kayak Branson fit the bill perfectly, and we enjoyed a beautiful afternoon gliding through the stunning waters of Lake Taneycomo.

Missouri/Branson/Ride The Ducks

We followed our experience on the water with a drive INTO the water as part of the Ride the Ducks Branson experience. We bumped along as we climbed to the top of the mountain quacking all the way, only to ease into the water for a completely different perspective. We were fascinated as we learned about the unique military vehicles we passed during our 70-minute ride and the kids loved helping the captain by steering the amphibious vehicle once we were cruising the lake.

MIssouri/Branson/The Track Family Fun Parks

The Track Family Fun Park was a definite highlight of our Branson excursion! Featuring three high-rise go-kart tracks (one smooth concrete and metal and two of the jaw-jarring wooden variety), we careened through the twists and turns as we raced to the top and back down. I wish I could say I won, but found my foot on the brake more than the gas and watched as my kids flew right by me! We also happened to be visiting during the inaugural spin of the Ferris Wheel– talk about a breathtaking bird’s eye view of the Live Music Capital of the World! Of course, we couldn’t leave the Track without a visit to Andy’s Frozen Custard, which serves my version of heaven in a dish!

Speaking of heavenly experiences, our show at the Sight and Sound Theater was a phenomenon not to be missed! Moses captured the audience with astonishing special effects and live animals while drawing us in to a story as old as time itself. Remarkable!

Silver Dollar City train

Regardless of where we travel, we seek out the nearest theme park to the destination. My adrenaline-loving family is always game for new coasters and rides while I am usually content riding the benches or taking in a show. Silver Dollar City managed to exceed all our expectations! This 1880’s theme park in the heartland of America was nestled in abundant shade and offered exceptional entertainment and thrilling rides. There was so much to do, we considered going a second day!

National Partner/Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede

Tagged as the “most fun place to eat” in Branson, our dinner and show at Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede did not disappoint. Competition between the North and South is still alive and well in this arena and featured astonishing horse riding stunts, special effects and the tastiest of family feasts. We ate, whooped and laughed, all while cheering on our favorite riders. Loved the energy of this show!

I’ve shared some of our family’s favorite Branson highlights, but really didn’t even scratch the surface of all there is to do- Parakeet Pete’s Zipline, shopping at Branson Landing, the Branson IMAX, and a wonderful visit to Shepherd of the Hills (which I understand is now temporarily closed) rounded out our escapades in Branson. Since our visit, a new family-friendly attraction has been added that just may entice us to take another road trip. Frtiz’s Adventure opened in November of 2016 to stellar reviews. One visitor commented that it is a “fully interactive adventure where everything you see is meant to be crawled under, climbed upon or through.” Who wouldn’t want to check it out?!?
Branson is an amazing and vibrant town, still brimming with the energy of live shows and entertainment daily but with a youthful edge of activity. It is so completely  family-friendly and reasonably priced that it’s a great vacation option for anyone.

Homeschool Odyssey Branson by Group Travel Odyssey

Group Travel Odyssey has hand-selected Branson as an ideal destination for a September Homeschool Odyssey, a travel experience designed exclusively for homeschool families. GTO has captured the best of Branson in a six-day package with flexible scheduling and homeschool programming, all at a discounted rate. They’ve done the work, you just have to join the odyssey! For more information or to book now for early bird discounts, go to Branson Homeschool Odyssey. Our family just may join yours for another great week of family fun!

*Photos courtesy of the Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau

Stone Castle Hotel & Conference Center

by Angie Roberts Harris

Hue and Cry

Traveling is about enjoying new experiences; trying new food, seeing different sights, and immersing our family in local cultures and adventures. Choosing a hotel, however, can cause indecisiveness between the regular franchises or being brave and picking privately owned hotels.

Stone Castle Hotel & Conference Center in Branson, MO is a privately owned hotel option that will transport you back in time to the ‘castle era’ of the 9th and 10th centuries along with all the comfort and convenience of 2016.

Medieval elegance with luxurious modern amenities

Throw Down the Gauntlet

Stroll down the indoor corridors within the castle walls where you will be safely tucked into your medieval suite. Relax in the jacuzzi with soothing water pouring from a rock or nestle into the beautiful Ozark scenery with a waterfall, gazebo, and indoor and outdoor sitting areas while savoring the free hot breakfast buffet.

Outside, the castle moat is full of bass fish caught in Table Rock Lake and relocated to the premises. Walk on the beautiful path of Ozarks rock and landscaping features for amazing photo opportunities.

Savor breathtaking views of the majestic Ozarks

You are sure to find a captivating room to fit your style in one of the 36 themed suites.  There are Branson scape themes such as ‘Titanic’, ‘Dixie Stampede’, or a more classical experience in the ‘Presidential’ suite. None of the suites have the same theme so book early to secure your favorite!

By Hook or by Crook

Several areas located around the castle make you feel at home with a comfortable atmosphere such as the large living area with a fireplace and the library which are available 24 hours a day.

Seven rooms with over 10k square feet of conference space are available to rent for weddings, crafting, family/military reunions, etc. The conference center can accommodate all your knights in shining armor!

Expert staff will exceed your every expectation when you plan your event at Stone Castle Hotel & Conference Center

Stone Castle houses all of your modern travel desires; free hot breakfast buffet, two heated pools and hot tubs, indoor corridors, elevators, free Wi-Fi, refrigerators in every room, pillow top mattresses, and even a vintage arcade game room. Various room rates welcome every budget, whether you are seeking a royal experience or an inexpensive place to lay your head.

A Nest Egg

There are over 40k hotel rooms in the Branson area and Stone Castle is a true Branson gem. It is conveniently located on Green Mountain Drive where you will have the best access to any interests on the Hwy 76 Strip.

Conveniently located on Green Mountain Drive, Stone Castle puts you right in the middle of Branson’s best attractions!

‘Your home is your castle’ and when visiting Branson, you will want to make Stone Castle Resort and Conference Center your home and favorite Branson family tradition. Their utmost personal attention and Ozark Mountain hospitality will bring you back with and for generations!

Branson, MO is a first-rate student performing group destination and The Stone Castle Hotel & Conference Center is perfect for student groups! Group Travel Odyssey has a fabulous working relationship with the entire Branson community and understands the best venues and accommodations to fit the needs of your students.  Just click ‘request a quote’ and begin to plan a remarkable trip to Ozark Mountain Country for your group! Call 1-800-774-7337.

 

“If you can think of it, Stone Castle can do it!” Jay Wilson, General Manager, Stone Castle Hotel & Conference Center

Group Travel Odyssey Update

GROUP TRAVEL ODYSSEY

Hello GTO Friends!

We want to thank you for being a part of our Group Travel Odyssey family. 2016 was a banner year and 2017 is already starting to shine. Our destination count is up to 34 with hundreds of suppliers offering great deals to groups. We are excited to introduce the newest member of our GTO team, share a list of upcoming events for 2017 and highlight the trade shows we attended in 2016. Please feel free to share this information as you see fit!

New Face

Group Travel Odyssey welcomes our newest member, Lisa Martin, from Branson, MO. She brings with her 20 plus years of experience in the tourism industry. As an original employee of the Bobby Vinton Theater she held many positions, including sales and marketing management. Lisa and her husband, Tony, have four sons who are active in sports and band related activities.

GTO is thrilled to welcome Lisa Martin to the team

Time to Update

To maximize the benefit of being a supplier on the GTO site, we need to be sure your information is accurate and up to date. Please take a moment to check your listing on Group Travel Odyssey and let us know if we need to update any information.

runDisney

When you runDisney, every mile is magical! Whether you are looking to celebrate your inner princess at the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend or put yourself to the ultimate test during the Star Wars Half Marathon, GTO can help you create the ultimate race package.

Get ready to run in the most magical place on the earth!

Trade Shows

Group Travel Odyssey had a notable presence at the major 2016 industry trade shows. Chances are you chatted with Bud Geissler at any of the following:

Conference attendance is an outstanding benefit of being a GTO supplier!

Make a note to meet the GTO team at the many industry trade shows we attend

Homeschool Odyssey Series 2017

We know travel is a significant part of the Homeschool education process. Group Travel Odyssey is the first to meet the unique needs of homeschoolers and provide opportunities to connect curriculum to reality!

The Homeschool Odyssey Series is designed to offer great discounts in top destinations AND travel flexibility to our homeschool friends. We will be adding destinations throughout the year.

Don’t forget to check out GTO’s comprehensive Homeschool Calendar for great homeschool discounts at destinations throughout the country. If you have dates for homeschool events, let us know and we will add them to our growing list!

Homeschool Series Presented by Group Travel Odyssey

Let GTO help you capture the exploding homeschool travel market

Broadway Workshop at the Calvin Gilmore Theater, Myrtle Beach, SC June 19-23, 2017

Broadway Workshop offers young actors of multiple experience levels the opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of musical theater. Students will take classes in singing, dancing, acting, stagecraft, and more while learning and rehearsing ensemble-based Broadway musical numbers for a final showcase performance for friends and family on ‘The Carolina Opry’ stage.

Top theater professionals instruct students in performance fundamentals, including dancing, singing, stagecraft and more

GroupTravelOdyssey.com

Park Inn by Radisson

Park Inn by Radisson

By Angie Roberts Harris

My family recently stayed at the Park Inn on Maingate Lane in Orlando, Florida and had an awesome visit! If you are considering Orlando as a vacation destination and looking for a great place to stay, Park Inn offers outstanding amenities.

Location

Location is absolutely the greatest benefit of Park Inn! The resort and conference center is less than 5 miles from the entrance to Disney World, 11 miles from Sea World, and 15 miles from Universal Studios. There is also a variety of restaurants within walking distance such as IHOP, McDonalds, Ponderosa, and Burger King as well as shopping areas. Enjoy a leisurely stroll as the area is flat with sidewalks.

The beautiful Park Inn by Radisson on Maingate puts you right in the middle of Orlando's best attractions!

The beautiful Park Inn by Radisson on Maingate puts you right in the middle of Orlando’s best attractions!

Transportation

Park Inn provides a scheduled free shuttle service to Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores, Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, Sea World, and Universal Studios. We took the shuttle to Epcot Center and were dropped off very close to the entrance.

The free shuttle makes getting to your favorite park or shopping quick and stress-free

The free shuttle makes getting to your favorite park or shopping quick and stress-free

The view

The window of our room faced the Walt Disney properties. At night, we settled in to an amazing view of dazzling fireworks from several of the parks. The hotel is tucked in behind the street with a clear view. Animal Kingdom is the closest park and the fireworks are beautiful!

Enjoy spectacular views in the comfort of your room

Enjoy spectacular views in the comfort of your room

The room

Room prices vary, of course, but the rates are reasonable! Our room was clean, had a refrigerator, and included free wireless Internet access. The large garden tub was comforting after a tiring day of walking in the park and the tile floors added a nice touch.

Park Inn rooms are spacious, clean and comfortable with conveniences you'll appreciate!

Park Inn rooms are spacious, clean and comfortable with conveniences you’ll appreciate!

Gift Shop

The gift shop is family friendly and stocks common forgotten items, microwaveable food and snacks, Disney and Florida souvenirs, swim suits, flip flops, and toys.

Forget something? They've got you covered!

Forget something? They’ve got you covered!

Events

The conference center features 30k square feet of flexible meeting space. Park Inn can accommodate up to 1,300 attendees with a full service sales and catering team on property.

The Park Inn will host your group in style with a full service sales and catering team

The Park Inn will host your group in style with a full service sales and catering team

Restaurant

Savannah Bar and Grill serves convenient and delicious food at affordable prices. Room service is available and cocktails can be ordered at the Poolside Sand Bar.

Relax and enjoy a tasty bite at the Savannah Bar and Grill or Poolside Sand Bar

Relax and enjoy a tasty bite at the Savannah Bar and Grill or Poolside Sand Bar

Sports Groups

Park Inn has sports approved status with Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group and a proven track record of catering to the unique needs of sport teams. The resort and conference center offers:

 

  • Team breakfast options
  • Complimentary Wireless Internet Access
  • Special recognition upon arrival
  • Special recognition for coach or team manager
  • Pre-keyed and pre-blocked group rooms
  • Complimentary meeting space for team meetings
  • Directions to fields, sports complexes, etc.
  • Discount coupons for on-property restaurant
  • Internal ‘Sports Group Resume’ prepared and shared with staff
The Park Inn knows how to expertly handle the unique needs of your sports group

The Park Inn knows how to expertly handle the unique needs of your sports group

How to schedule your group:

Park Inn is located at the center of all the Orlando excitement in a comfortable and enjoyable setting. Superb for groups!

Check Group Travel Odyssey for the best group rates!

Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament

Journey back to medieval times when you breach the castle walls

Storming the Castle Gates

By Angie Roberts Harris

The castle is incredible! I was stunned by the magnitude and reality of the castle and surrounding grounds. My family arrived an hour early to find a crowd of people already storming the castle gates. Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament is the #1 dinner attraction in North America.

Inside the Castle

Browse the market fares, take part in a knighting ceremony or quench your thirst with a frosty ale

The castle doors open for dinner seventy-five minutes before show time. Arrive early as seating is on a first come, first serve basis. Once inside the ‘Hall of Arms’, check out the intriguing artifacts, visit the amazing gift shop, walk through the medieval torture museum, grab a refreshing drink at the bar, do a jig on the dance floor, and witness a knighting ceremony.

Call of the Trumpets

At the sound of the trumpets in the great hall, all the Lords and Ladies are gathered together to enter the banquet hall for the grand feast! Serfs and wenches lead honored guests to their tables and begin the evening with a drink of stout brew or Pepsi. Make sure to wash your hands before entering because true to medieval fashion, they are your dinner utensils.

Even the heartiest appetite will be satisfied with this feast fit for a king!

The Royal Feast

The royal feasts begins with delicious tomato bisque soup and garlic bread before the main course of roasted chicken, corn on the cob, herb-basted potatoes, and a soft flaky apple turnover for dessert. Our excellent wench kept the Pepsi flowing throughout the evening.

 

It’s time to cheer on your favorite knight (and maybe gain his favor in return!)

Let the Games Begin

The suspense builds as the tournament commences. The king and other royal family members attend and sit high on their thrones to watch the knights compete. The banquet hall is divided into six colors, representing different cities within the kingdom.

The crowd roars as blades clash and wood splinters during non-stop arena action

We were seated in the red knight section and of course, he was awesome and won the battle! Out of the many categories in the competition, jousting was my favorite. The snap of the stick and flying splinters were very realistic and I was afraid that somebody was going to lose more than an eye with that big stick!

Exhibitions

These noble knights battle for honor and king while the crowd cheers them to victory!

In addition to the tournament, there are demonstrations of stunning horsemanship, a falcon exhibit, and sword fighting. Flying sparks and loud noise fill the banquet hall at the clash of the great swords. Awesome!

Oh what a knight!

Medieval Times Dinner &Tournament was highly entertaining with excellent customer service, and I certainly left very full and smiling! The nine castles are located in Dallas, Texas; Orlando, Florida; Atlanta, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; Baltimore, Maryland; Lyndhurst, New Jersey; Buena Park, California; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Tickets

Group Travel Odyssey offers a direct link for the best priced tickets in every location. Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament adventures make amazing gifts!  www.GroupTravelOdyssey.com