Let Your Inner Star Shine in Nashville

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Nashville, Tennessee. My husband was attending a conference that highlighted Nashville as a great student destination and we stayed at the Gaylord Opryland Resort. Not only did we stay at the Gaylord, we stayed in the presidential suite at the Gaylord. Wow. It was bigger than my house and certainly more impressive!

Truly, that was my overall impression of Nashville… Wow! Everything is larger than life and so very impressive. Energy seems to pump out of each little honkey tonk and the people are wonderful, warm and welcoming. If you’re looking for a unique student, performance or homeschool trip, Nashville should be at the top of your list!
Tennessee/Nashville/Belmont Mansion
History, science and, of course, music are at the heart of this lively capital city. For a glimpse of southern living at its historical best, visit the Belmont Mansion, the largest house museum in Tennessee. Step into the Hermitage, a jewel of the antebellum south and home of President Andrew Jackson. Backtrack just a bit further in time to The Parthenon, a full-sized replica of the Greek original built in 1897 for Tennessee’s Centennial Exposition.
Tennessee/Nashville/Nashville Zoo
For a more educational slant, be sure to stop at the Adventure Science Center, with interactive exhibits and award-winning programs guaranteed to inspire any budding scientist. Explore the exquisite Cheekwood Botanical Gardens and Museum for beautiful gardens and galleries. Take in the Nashville Zoo, a 200-acre zoo and historic plantation farmhouse just outside of Nashville. So much fun and so much to learn!
Tennessee/Nashville/Grand Ole Opry
At its core, however, Nashville IS the Music City! The sights and sounds of country music are the essence and soul of this town. The Ryman Auditorium, known as the Mother Church of Country Music, is a must-see. Take in a show or tour and you’ll feel the history of the place. Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum for a nitty gritty exploration of the roots of country music. Sidestep over to the Wildhorse Saloon for outstanding grub AND line dancing lessons! Of course, you can’t visit Nashville without a backstage pass to the famed Grand Ole Opry– you never know who you’ll run into!
Tennessee/Nashville/Historic RCA Studio B
Perhaps best of all, you and your students can be stars for a day on the Historic RCA Studio B tour! Walk the iconic halls of the recording studio of Elvis Presley and other music industry giants and spend time in the studio at the legendary microphone with a professional sound engineer. Very cool!

All of these incredible attractions are student friendly, easily accessible and just scratch the surface of what is available. As a destination, Nashville is as “on fleek” as they come (hmm… I will have to ask my ten-year old if I used that term correctly). If you are looking for an exceptional travel opportunity for student, performance or homeschool groups, consider Nashville as an outstanding option. Much like the Gaylord, it is larger than life and very impressive!


If you plan your own trips, check out Group Travel Odyssey’s Nashville page for everything you need to plan your student group’s trip in one convenient place. It really streamlines the process and saves time! If you prefer a full-service travel planner, Kaleidoscope Adventures is an industry leader in student travel and will handle all the details of your trip with precision and personal attention.

Group Travel Odyssey has hand-selected Nashville as an ideal destination for a May 2018 Homeschool Odyssey, a travel experience designed exclusively for homeschool families. GTO has captured the best of Nashville 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!

Kaleidoscope of Voices

I have always admired those who can sing. Heck, I’ve always admired those who can carry a tune! I count myself among the many who aspire to sing and always proudly join my church cantata each Christmas season. Thankfully, there are enough choir members to muffle my off-key efforts to make a joyful noise!


If you are a show choir director and looking for an amazing performance opportunity for your talented singers, The Kaleidoscope of Voices Showcase hits all the right notes. During February 1-4, 2018, your show choir will take center stage on the Marketplace Stage at Disney Springs® as featured cast members. Not only that, but they’ll enjoy a personalized workshop given by the professionals at Walt Disney World® Resort – who better to give your students a boost in the fine art of performing? Your student group will receive customized instruction in performance choreography, vocals and all things show choir as you head into heavy competition season. A magical performance in the most magical place on earth – the Kaleidoscope of Voices Showcase will kick off your performance season with style!
In addition to this incredible opportunity to learn and entertain in an extraordinary venue, the Kaleidoscope of Voices Showcase includes three nights at a Walt Disney World® Resort hotel AND a three-day Magic Your Way Ticket with Park Hopper® Option package. It’s truly a magnificent event not to be missed and so much fun for students!
Now is the time to register for the Kaleidoscope of Voices Showcase. To guarantee your group’s place, call 800-774-7337 today! As for me, I’ll be singing my heart out in my little church Christmas choir while those around me try to sing louder!

 

Washington D.C.- A Civics Lesson in Action

Teachers, homeschool co-ops, scout groups, history buffs… lend me your ears! If you are trying to inspire, educate or simply love this wonderful nation, consider planning a trip to its capital.
There’s no better civics lesson than a trip to Washington D.C. Of course, there are the attractions with which most people are familiar; a visit to the most prestigious address in the world, a tour of the monuments, or an awe-inspiring stop at Arlington Cemetery to witness the changing of the guards. However, Washington D.C. boasts some hidden gems as well! My goal is to shine a light on both to ensure you don’t miss a thing!


National Museum of American History
This Smithsonian is dedicated to the preservation and heritage of American History. View the original Star-Spangled Banner- the actual flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen our national anthem. Explore the integral role of women in our nation’s history or delve into our unique religious heritage from colonial days to the present.


National Museum of Natural History
Feast your eyes on the largest blue diamond in the world or explore ancient Egypt (even the remains of a mummified cat!) The National Museum of Natural History is a treasure trove of must-sees.


National Air and Space Museum
The National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. documents the incredible history of flight and aviation, including the 1903 Wright Flyer and the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia. Don’t forget to rocket over to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center for a close-up of the Space Shuttle Discovery!

Capital Region/Washington DC/International Spy Museum
International Spy Museum
Make it your mission to get to the International Spy Museum, an astounding collection of espionage artifacts that would make Maxwell Smart jealous! Jaw-dropping stories, interactive exhibits and interviews with real spies- awesome!

Capital Region/Washington DC/Newseum
The Newseum
The Newseum is a high-tech, interactive museum highlighting the past, present and history of journalism. The Newseum is a “must-see” in a city of great attractions. Celebrate the freedoms guaranteed to all Americans under the First Amendment.


The Holocaust Museum
The Holocaust Museum is America’s official memorial to the Holocaust. This is an extraordinary and powerful opportunity to learn about and remember both the victims and survivors of the systematic persecution and murder of more than 6 million Jews (reservation required).

The Washington National Cathedral
The Washington National Cathedral is an opportunity to explore a masterpiece of architecture in this active Episcopal Church “for all people.” Look closely- a piece of the lunar surface is housed in one of the stained-glass windows (known as the “Space Window).

National Archives - Washington, DC
The National Archives
The National Archives is a great chance to study how the actions of the Federal Government are based in our Constitution. Participants take on the roles of archivists and researchers completing a very important assignment: providing the President of the United States with real-life examples of our Constitution in action. The National Archives houses the three original “Charters of Freedom,” including the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights.


The Monuments
No trip to Washington D.C. is complete without a visit to these monuments to freedom and sacrifice. Stops at the WWII Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, Korean Memorial, F.D.R. Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial are powerful reminders of those who gave all for every American.


Arlington Cemetery
A stop at Arlington Cemetery allows you to witness the Changing of the Guard, visit John F. Kennedy’s gravesite and the Lee Mansion and pay respects at the Tomb of the Unknown. It’s a somber and incredibly moving experience for visitors.


Ford’s Theatre
Step back in time and experience history at Ford’s Theatre – the site of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Tours, educational programs and even live theatre are available in this historic venue.


House of the Temple
Here’s a unique attraction that most don’t realize should be part of the itinerary! The Masonic House of the Temple offers a glimpse into the secret world of the masons. The building, completed in 1915, is an adaptation of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.


Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
Guided tours are available at this home of famous abolitionist and reformer, Frederick Douglass. Catch a glimpse of the statesman’s life and legacy.

Fort Reno Park
Civil war buffs will love this spot, part of the Rock Creek Park and the site of the only civil war battle to take place in Washington D.C. As Rock Creek is a national park, it’s a quiet escape from the bustle of the city amid majestic scenery. Ranger-led tours are available.

As you plan your trip to Washington D.C., it’s important to note that many of the attractions are FREE (we all love FREE!) There are very few destinations with so much to offer at such a low price point. It truly is a living history lesson that should not be missed. Time to get packing!

 

5 MORE Awesome Things to Do in the Smoky Mountains

If the first five attractions don’t keep me busy enough when I finally get to the Smokies, these next five certainly will! Here are five more awesome things to do with your group or on your own when visiting the Smoky Mountains…

FAMILY FUN
Ripleys' Aquarium in the Smokies
On the must-do list is Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. Voted America’s #1 aquarium by TripAdvisor, it is also a top destination for viewing penguins. Yep- right in the heart of Tennessee! Pet stingrays and horseshoe crabs, check out 12 ft. sharks and explore the aquarium in a series of clear underwater tunnels. The beauty of Ripley’s Aquarium is that it’s super family-friendly and groups can take advantage of education programs, tours or even music programs.

Wander over to WonderWorks for over 35,000 square feet of “edu-tainment.” The building itself is upside-down (the story behind it can be found inside) and within its walls are more than 100 hands on exhibits to intrigue and explore.

A NEED FOR SPEED
Tennessee/Great Smokies Mountains/NASCAR SpeedPark
Race over to NASCAR SpeedPark for 22 race themed go-kart tracks, rides and attractions. The twists and turns are thrilling and the collection of NASCAR memorabilia is the biggest in the Smokies.
Tennessee/The Great Smoky Mountains/The Track
Zip over the to The Track Family Recreation Center for a fast ride on a three-story go-kart track or a crazy free-fall into oversized safety cushions. Bumper cars, bumper boats, mini-golf and bungee round out a full day of fun!

GOATS ON THE ROOF?
Tennessee/Smoky Mountains/The Coaster at Goats on the Roof
Here’s an attraction that’s sure to get your attention! The Coaster at Goats on the Roof is an alpine coaster, topping speeds of 30 mph and careening down a mile-long track. Follow your ride with homemade ice cream, gem mining and some quality time with the goats!

SHOWS, SHOWS AND MORE SHOWS

Tennessee/Smoky Mountains/Country Tonite Show
While the Smoky Mountains offer a plethora of intoxicating adventures, I’m looking forward to kicking back in a comfy seat and enjoying one of the many superb shows available. Country Tonite, Magic Beyond Belief and the Smoky Mountain Opry are on my short list of energetic and engaging performances. There are so many fantastic shows that are family and group friendly…country classics, comedy, gospel, Broadway, pop, dancing, singing- even live animals! Dazzling special effects and world-class performers make for outstanding entertainment.

THE ISLAND
Tennessee/Smoky Mountains/The Island in Pigeon Forge
When visiting a destination in the middle of a mountain paradise, the word “island” doesn’t quite fit. Unless, of course, it’s The Island in Pigeon Forge! The Island IS a destination, with eating, shopping, play and stay options in one exciting entertainment complex. Ride the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, get lost in the Mirror Maze or check out the Alcatraz East Crime Museum. Use your wits in the Escape Game, jump into the Thunderdome, or take a ride that requires all senses at the 7D Dark Ride Adventure. Foodies (like myself) will love the restaurants, food carts and eateries while shoppers (like myself) will love the 35+ retail and specialty shops. There’s even a four-star Margaritaville Island Hotel where guests can “waste away” in complete comfort!

Tennessee/Smoky Mountains/Pigeon Forge
As stated at the outset of these posts, I have never been to the Smokies. As I finish writing this, I am making reservations for my great Smoky Mountain Adventure… I just might even include my husband and kids in my plans! When you are ready to plan YOUR group trip to Pigeon Forge, Sevierville or Gatlinburg, don’t forget to check the Group Travel Odyssey page for a simple and convenient way to request group pricing at the best accommodations, attractions, entertainment venues or restaurants. Maybe I’ll see you there!

 

5 Awesome Things to Do in the Smoky Mountains

Full disclosure… much to my regret and dismay, I have never visited the Smoky Mountains. My husband has been there (many times), my family has been there and my travel industry colleagues have been there.  My kids’ friends have been there and several high school traveling groups I know have been there. I guess the “take away” from this intro is that everyone I know has visited and fallen in love with the Smoky Mountains. I seem to be the only one who has yet to experience the splendor of this magnificent spot tucked away in Tennessee. I plan to rectify that very soon so that I can write with first-hand knowledge and experience!

Based on discussions with these many and varied groups, it is abundantly clear that Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville are outstanding destinations for families, students, sports groups, performance groups and faith-based travelers. There really is something for everyone in this delightfully appealing region of the country!

GO “GLAMPING”

Nestled in the heart of the beautiful Smokies is Aunt Bug’s Cabin Rentals, a leader in luxury cabins in Pigeon Forge. Cabins range from one to eight bedrooms, and are surrounded by shopping, shows and stunning vistas. Amenities can include jacuzzis, private indoor pools, game rooms, theater rooms or even rock climbing walls- there’s a cabin for every budget or group size! I love the outdoors but appreciate creature comforts when planning my lodging- Aunt Bug’s definitely unites the two in spectacular fashion!

DOLLY PARTON’S DIXIE STAMPEDE
National Partner/Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede
If you’re looking for a break from the usual vacation dining experience, look no further than Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede. It really is a dining experience! Horses, pageantry, trick riding and a good ole’ rivalry between the North and South, the Dixie Stampede will keep you cheering while enjoying a fabulous, southern-style meal. Bring a group and salute the red, white and blue!

DEFY GRAVITY

Flyaway Indoor Skydiving Shoot Smoky Mountains

Flyaway Shoot

There are two really cool opportunities to defy gravity while in the Smokies- Flyaway Indoor Skydiving and Outdoor Gravity Park. Flyaway Indoor Skydiving lets you experience the freedom of skydiving in the safety of an indoor wind tunnel. There is nothing more exhilarating than the moment you realize you are soaring through the air with nothing more than a flight suit (well, and an instructor, goggles helmet, gloves and earplugs!)
Tennessee/Smoky Mountains/ Outdoor Gravity Park
Roll down a 1000 ft. hill in a spaceship-like OGO (wet or dry- depending on the season). Outdoor Gravity Park is the only place in America where you can experience three, unique zorb experiences. Individuals or groups of 3 can roll along zig-zagging tracks or speed down the hill in a ventilated and sometimes wet giant plastic ball. This is extreme adventure like no other!

TAKE TO THE WATER (OR THE TREES!)
Tennessee/Smoky Mountians/Whitewater Rafting with Smoky Mountain Outdoors
Whitewater Rafting with Smoky Mountain Outdoors is a great option for groups or individuals looking to raft the scenic Pigeon River. Class III-IV whitewater for ages 8 and up or milder Class I-II river floats for ages 3 and up are available with a professional guide leading you all the way. Experience the splendor of the Smoky Mountains from an entirely new perspective. I will be choosing the “float” option… 😊
Tennessee/Smoky Mountains/Rafting in the Smokies
Start the day Rafting in the Smokies with Class I-IV rapids, or take to the tree tops with a zip line course. You can hike, complete a ropes challenge course, or cross a 150 ft. suspension bridge to a 10-acre Adventure Island and playground. This is family friendly fun at its best!

TITANIC ADVENTURE AWAITS
Tennessee/Smoky Mountains/Titanic
The ill-fated voyage of the Titanic holds a unique place in American history. It continues to intrigue and beckons us to explore the stories of its passengers. Now visitors can learn more about Titanic at the immense, ship-shaped permanent attraction in Pigeon Forge. Completely interactive and filled with artifacts, groups can investigate all the museum has to offer, even participate in the Titanic’s First-Class Dining Experience.
If this agenda doesn’t wear me out when I visit the Smokies, the next five awesome attractions will definitely test my travel mettle- read more in my next post about the dazzling and fun-filled Smoky Mountains!

 

Kaleidoscope of Dance in Branson

This past weekend I took my daughter to the local “dancer’s closet” for our annual gouging… I mean shopping trip… in preparation for dance season. While she enjoys dancing and looks forward to getting back to class, I find myself appreciating her interest on a “recreational” level. In other words, I can still afford to feed my family!

Those who truly know and love dance on a fundamental level will pay any price for the experience of performing. It’s a passion and an art form, one that is embraced with dedication, endless hours of hard work and patience. Opportunities abound to showcase those hard-earned skills, usually at a premium fee. Students and studios plan, prepare and fundraise well in advance to participate in these types of events. As you begin thinking about the 2017-18 season, consider the Kaleidoscope of Dance in Branson, MO as a fabulous option for highlighting your dancers’ talents- at an incredible price point!
Kaleidoscope of Dance will take place June 11-15, 2018, and will feature masterclasses and workshops with some of Branson’s top performers. Following a week of intensive instruction, dancers will take the stage in front of a national audience at Silver Dollar City.

The iconic Mansion Theatre (which has hosted greats such as Wynonna Judd, the Oak Ridge Boys, Clint Black and Sara Evans) will be home base for the week. Students will participate in ballet and hip-hop master classes, workshops in choreography, jazz/theatre, tap and acting for dancers. They’ll have an intro to Irish dancing, fine tune audition skills, and engage with one of Branson’s local celebrities for a “Life of a Performer” Q&A.

Once dancers have wrapped up a week of rigorous instruction, they’ll be spotlighted on the Silver Dollar City stage for the showcase performance of a lifetime. This 1880’s theme park in the heartland of America is nestled in abundant shade and offers exceptional entertainment and thrilling rides (cool side note- the new Time Traveler™, the world’s fastest, steepest and tallest spinning roller coaster, opens in the spring). Starring on the Silver Dollar City stage as featured performers promises to be a life-changing experience!

The Kaleidoscope of Dance program is an exceptional value at $524/person- especially when you consider it includes 5 hotel nights (quad occupancy), 5 breakfasts, 3 lunches and a meal voucher for Silver Dollar City. It ALSO includes 3 evening shows, 3 pre-shows (if available), a 2-day pass to Silver Dollar City and a free student gift. I spent almost as much on shoes and leotards over the weekend!

As you begin thinking about presentation opportunities for your dedicated dancers, remember that the Kaleidoscope of Dance in Branson, MO is a performer’s dream. It’s an amazing event in a fun and friendly town with tons of great attractions geared specifically for students. For more information, call 888-440-5245 or email info@grouptravelodyssey.com. Someone from the team will be happy to answer any questions you may have and guide you through the process of registering. Spaces are limited so get in touch as soon as possible!
As for my tiny dancer, she’ll be enjoying her new (and very expensive shoes) this Tuesday at our local dance studio. I’m preparing to write yet another check!

The Candlelight Processional

Those who know me know I have a special affinity for two things (husband and children excluded, of course!) – Christmas and Walt Disney World ®Resort! The anticipation and excitement that precedes each is something I’d like to capture in a bottle and sprinkle out all year long! It’s a singular sense of joy and child-like wonder each time Christmas or a Walt Disney World ® trip is approaching. Imagine my delight when I first discovered that Walt Disney World ® has artfully combined the two in a stunning display of light and music set in a sparkling winter wonderland!

The Candlelight Processional at Walt Disney World® Resort tells the inspirational story of Christmas in a magical setting.  Celebrity guest narrators share the greatest story ever told while surrounded by an array of student choirs and the Voices of Liberty, accompanied by a fifty-piece, world class Walt Disney World ® Resort Orchestra. The candles held by the cast during the performance add a beautiful touch.

This dramatic holiday spectacular is held three times per night during the holiday season in the World Showcase at Epcot® Theme Park in Orlando, Florida. The open-air American Gardens Theatre sits on the banks of the World Showcase Lagoon near the American Adventure Pavilion.

Celebrity guest narrators tell the age-old story of Christmas each year with visitors from around the world. This year, the list includes Neil Patrick Harris, Pat Sajak, Trace Adkins and Jaci Velasquez. Narrators are subject to change.


The Walt Disney World ® Candlelight Processional is part of ‘Holidays Around the World at Epcot®’ which celebrates the traditions of eleven countries with live musical performances, seasonal culinary treats and beverages, and holiday merchandise. Student groups across the country apply for the privilege of performing in this prestigious event.

 Who can apply?

All choirs 9th grade or higher can audition to be a part of the grand celebration! To apply, submit a copy of ‘O Holy Night’ from the production piece and a non-returnable DVD of a recent performance by September 15, 2017. Your group will be evaluated on interpretation and execution of music, showmanship and stage presence, accompanists, and overall show value.

When is rehearsal?

You will receive the show music 6-8 weeks before your appearance and a pre-performance rehearsal will be arranged with a guest conductor and professional Walt Disney World ® Resort singers.

What about costumes?

Students are required to furnish full-length black dress pants (no jeans), a plain white shirt (no turtlenecks), black socks, and closed-toe black shoes (no sandals, flip-flops, or athletic shoes). Hair must be one solid natural color and make up must be modest. Jewelry is not allowed. Walt Disney World ® Resort will provide robes and collars to wear during the show.

What’s for supper?

Walt Disney World ® Resort will supply a boxed meal and beverage on the evening of the performance. During the rest of your stay on park, Disney Meal Cards may be purchased as part of your package. This allows each student the freedom of eating when and where according to their own preferences.

Is there time to play?

Absolutely! Your students will have the opportunity to experience the park as Walt Disney World ® Resort cast members and enjoy awesome hospitality as Disney guests. They will receive two one-day, one-park tickets to the Walt Disney World Theme Parks.

The Disney Experience

Performing alongside the high caliber Walt Disney World ® Resort orchestra and crew exposes your students to the extremely professional standards of Disney Performing Arts OnStage.  This student program encourages excelled performance, increases self-confidence, and fosters artistic discipline.

Where do we start?

If you share a common love of all things Christmas and Disney and know of a student choir that would benefit from this spectacular holiday experience, call Kaleidoscope Adventures! Kaleidoscope has been traveling across the country every year since 1993 with thousands of students. They can create customized itineraries that include transportation, overnight accommodations, meals, and amazing educational and performance opportunities.

Kaleidoscope is located in the heart of Orlando and have worked with the Walt Disney World ® Resort family for decades. An experienced tour director will know every detail of your itinerary, stay with your group throughout the entire trip, and ensure a magical and wonderful experience! Kaleidoscope Adventures is synonymous with student group travel and take the time to plan every element of your exciting adventure!

CALL 1-800-774-7337 FOR MORE INFORMATION

Make Way for Students

The first time I visited Boston, I was fresh out of college and working for a non-profit. I directed a program in conjunction with public school librarians and had the opportunity to travel with them throughout the country. I distinctly remember leading the way through the Boston Public Gardens as a naïve, bright-eyed 22-year old, with 14 librarians trailing behind me. It was oddly representative of the “Make Way for Ducklings” story by Robert McCloskey, with a quirky twist of characters. Even now I vividly remember marching past the bronze duckling statues and trying not to snicker at the irony of it all!

I fell in love with this charming city (even in the middle of the “Big Dig”) and have returned many times over the years. It is a spectacular choice for student travelers and librarians alike, always evolving and always exciting. If you travel with students and are looking for a fresh destination, consider Boston as a unique alternative.

Photo courtesy of the Freedom Trail Foundation

Boston is a stunning city in which the past co-exists beautifully with the present. Rich in history, student groups can walk the Freedom Trail and experience the genesis of the American Revolution. They can stand in the hallowed space of Faneuil Hall and imagine the inspirational oratory of our forefathers. They can browse the market place, explore the shops, or sample of traditional New England “chow-dah.”

Massachusetts/Boston/USS Constitution

The USS Constitution is out of dry dock and ready for visitors after a 2 year, meticulous conservation effort. Students can learn about the Constitution and the War of 1812 through narratives, hands-on experiences and self-guided or facilitated programs. The beauty of this attraction is that the education department will work with your group to meet your curricular needs.

Boston/Massachusetts/New England Aquarium Whale Watching Cruise

Boston Harbor Cruises offers an incredible historical tour of the inner and outer harbors, highlighting tales of land and sea both past and present. Students will also get a crash course in ecology, focusing on the cleanup of the harbor and learn about the nation’s oldest, continuously manned lighthouse. Very cool!

Massachusetts/Boston/New England Aquarium

While your group is hanging around the harbor, they can stop by the New England Aquarium to check out a four-story Caribbean coral reef, the Amazon rainforest, or an adorable colony of Penguins. Follow your indoor adventures with an outdoor ride on a wicked fast catamaran. This sleek, high speed vessel (seating up to 400) will quickly take you to the whale-watching action- an experience not to be missed!

Boston/Massachusetts/Boston Duck Tours

Moving from water to land (and back to water!) is the famous Boston Duck Tours. You’ll hop aboard an amphibious landing vehicle and travel through the streets of Boston right into the Charles River for the best and most unique views of the city. The ConDUCKtors narrate with both wit and skill, highlighting the very best Boston has to offer.

NY New York City Blue Man Group

Wide eyes, blue bodies, paint and percussion… your students will LOVE a performance by the Blue Man Group! The silent humor is infectious, the drumming loud and the toilet paper abundant; a perfect recipe for entertaining teenagers. Even those quiet-loving librarians were hooked on the controlled chaos of the show!

Massachusetts/Boston/Legoland Discovery Center Boston

Younger students or homeschool groups will appreciate a trip to LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Boston, the ultimate indoor Lego® playground. Build, play and engage in STEM or Language Arts activities with those wonderful brightly colored building blocks! There’s so much to explore and enjoy!

Massachusetts/Boston/Plimoth Plantation,Plimoth Grist Mill, Mayflower II

Don’t forget that just a quick drive south is Plimouth Plantation, a completely interactive living history museum detailing America’s founding story and its shared history with the Wampanoag people. It’s an amazing journey through time as students chat with Pilgrims going about their daily business or participate in Wampanoag life in the Native American village.

We’ve just scratched the surface on what Boston offers students- they can tour Harvard, go behind the scenes of Fenway Park, board the Boston Tea Party ships, get lost in the Mapparium, or check out the new Dreamland Wax Museum. Of course, there are tons of great choices for student accommodations, transportation and dining as well.

If you plan your own trips, check out Group Travel Odyssey’s Boston page for everything you need to plan your student group’s trip in one convenient place. It really streamlines the process and saves time! If you prefer a full-service travel planner, Kaleidoscope Adventures is an industry leader in student travel and will handle all the details of your trip with precision and personal attention.

Every time I visit Boston, I think I’ve finally done it all, and every time, Boston surprises me with something new. That’s why Boston is one of the hottest destination trends for student groups and librarians alike. Oh, and when you do visit, check out those bronze ducklings in the Public Gardens and think of my friends trailing behind their 22 year-old “leader”- I guarantee you’ll giggle just a little!

“PARDON ME, BOY, IS THAT THE…….”

I dare you to finish the title without humming just a little! This iconic ditty by Glenn Miller, which was the #1 song in America in December 1941, inspires nostalgia and yearning for a simpler time. Complete with train sounds and a whistle, the lyrics promise to transport the singer home to Tennessee and his girl in Chattanooga where he won’t roam again. When you visit this charming destination, you’ll understand why!

Photo courtesy of Chattanooga CVB

The Chattanooga Homeschool Odyssey is an opportunity to experience the very best of Chattanooga at deeply discounted rates. Join other homeschool families for these exclusive savings and incredible family fun! History buffs, music lovers, rock hounds and train enthusiasts (like my husband!) will love this trip. If science, aquamarine life or zoo animals are more your thing, the Chattanooga Odyssey has that covered as well. There’s even a stop at the International Towing Museum– so interesting and so much fun!

 

Photo courtesy of Chattanooga CVB

Of course, your adventures in Chattanooga will begin with a visit to the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, offering rides on a full-sized steamer throughout the day. Next stop, the famous Chattanooga Choo-Choo Terminal Station for shopping, the Glenn Miller Formal Gardens and lots of great dining choices. Don’t forget to check out the Grand Dome Lobby, the world’s largest free-standing brick dome building.


If geology plays a part in your curriculum (or if you just love really cool places), you’ll be stunned by Rock City Gardens and Ruby Falls. Rock City is a massive ancient rock formation at the top of Lookout Mountain with gardens featuring over 400 native plants and a panoramic view of 7 states. Ruby Falls is a breathtaking waterfall more than 1200 ft below the surface of Lookout Mountain- truly a marvel of nature!

Photo courtesy of Chattanooga CVB

Perhaps you’re looking for a bit of cultural immersion for your family. Look no further than the Bluff View Art District and the Hunter Museum of American Art, boasting the largest collection of American Art east of the Mississippi. If music is your passion, you’ll love the Songbirds Guitar Museum, an incredible collection documenting musical evolution from the 1950s-70s. The Bessie Smith Cultural Center celebrates the life of blues legend Bessie Smith and her contributions to music.

Civil War devotees will enjoy stops at Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, Battles for Chattanooga Museum and Point Park Battlefield. These were pivotal battles in the war between the states and definitely worth visiting as part of your Chattanooga excursion.

Photo courtesy of Chattanooga Zoo

The magnificent Chattanooga Zoo will offer homeschool education programming as part of the Chattanooga Homeschool Odyssey. Get to know the animals, wildlife rehabilitation and zoo conservation efforts. You’ll be so close to the chimpanzees, you’ll think you’re part of the family!
You’ll explore above and below the surface at the Tennessee Aquarium, home to a “richly diverse living collection of the world’s most fascinating animals.” Check out the IMAX theater while there.

Photo courtesy of Chattanooga CVB

Take hands-on learning to a new level with the little ones at the Creative Discovery Museum, or let the older kiddos take part in the Challenger Center Space Program, designed to engage and enrich STEM education.
The Chattanooga Homeschool Odyssey offers an impressive array of experiences guaranteed to meet the needs of your individual family education plan. The breadth and depth of this itinerary will exceed your expectations and maximize your family’s fun! Pardon me, Boy, is that the best time you’ve ever had? We’re guessing it will be! Sign up today to join the odyssey!

Hawaii’s Traveling Classroom

 

Photo courtesy of emihawaii

A warm island breeze is blowing, the heady perfume of gardenias gently tickling my nose. The sounds of a ukulele fill the air as a beautiful sarong-clad woman drapes my neck with lush tropical flowers… “MOM! I HAVE TO FIND A BATHROOM!!” Wait, what? Something is interrupting my fantasy. Oh yes, now I remember. This is a family trip and the little girl doing a dance beside me is actually mine. It’s funny, I never really thought about including the kids when I imagined our first trip to Hawaii. I assumed it was too expensive and more of an adult destination. A little research and a fabulous new travel opportunity exclusively for homeschool families has proved that sometimes reality is better than fiction!

Photo courtesy of emihawaii

During the week of October 7-14, 2017 or again in October 2018, homeschool families have an incredible chance to experience the unique beauty, culture, land and history of Hawaii. The Big Island and Oahu Educational Immersion Homeschool Program offers an in-depth study of island life and tons of family fun. Imagine hiking through lush, green tropical forests with the clouds surrounding you at the Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary. Once you get your head out of the clouds, train your gaze to the night skies with a narrated astronomy workshop- a “stellar” moment for star-gazing! This is just a taste of what’s in store during your week-long Hawaiian adventures.

Photo courtesy of emihawaii

As many children do, my daughter Molly went through a deeply obsessive “volcano” phase during which she wanted to learn about all things volcano. During your traveling classroom experience, an interpretive guide will join you in exploring these natural wonders, from the black sand beaches of Punalu’u to the volcanic reef below the crystal waters teeming with tropical fish. You will explore the Thurston Lava Tube, a 300 ft cavern where lava flowed thousands of years ago in the middle of a giant fern forest. You’ll even have a chance to hike the Devastation Trail, baron fields of cinder formed by the 1959 Kilauea Iki eruption. A stop at the VNP Visitors Center will include discussion about tectonic plates and the Ring of Fire, which contributed to the formation of the island chain. The Steam Vents, Jagger Museum and Halemaumau Crater round out this full day of volcanic fun.

Photo courtesy of emihawaii

If U.S. history is part of your homeschool curriculum, a visit to Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial will top your bucket list of hands-on learning experiences! We’ve all studied that fateful day in December 1941 in textbooks, but to experience the place that launched us into World War II is the ultimate history lesson. It promises to be a significant and powerful teaching tool for your entire family.

Photo courtesy of emihawaii

If world culture is your focus, look no further than the Polynesian Cultural Center, highlighting the diverse cultures of Polynesia and the Hawaiian Islands. Of course, your studies won’t be complete until you feast on local cuisine at the Ali’i Luau Grounds with traditional Hawaiian music, followed by the “HA” The Breath of Life show. Awesome!
While you are exploring the Aloha State, don’t forget that this island paradise is home to one of the most famous beaches in the world- Waikiki. You’ll have a chance to “hang loose”, try your hand at surfing, or dive into an underwater world of colorful fish, dolphins and giant sea turtles during a catamaran snorkeling adventure. Don’t forget that a stop at the Waikiki Aquarium is included, with a special workshop highlighting Hawaii’s delicate coral reef system.

Photo courtesy of emihawaii

The Big Island and Oahu Educational Immersion Homeschool Program is the perfect marriage of education and vacation. It’s a fantastic option for comprehensive study and quality family fun! While my fantasy for Hawaii was lovely, it’s even better to know that entire families can enjoy a week in paradise together, exploring all the mystery and history of this magical place! Check out all the details at Hawaii’s Traveling Classroom on the Group Travel Odyssey website!