Kaleidoscope is a full-service student tour operator providing student and group travel, school and class trips throughout the world for over 20 years!

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5 MORE Awesome Things to Do in the Smoky Mountains

If the first five attractions dont 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


On the must-do list is Ripleys Aquarium of the Smokies. Voted Americas #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 Ripleys Aquarium is that its 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

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.

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?

Heres an attraction thats 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


While the Smoky Mountains offer a plethora of intoxicating adventures, Im 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 friendlycountry classics, comedy, gospel, Broadway, pop, dancing, singing- even live animals! Dazzling special effects and world-class performers make for outstanding entertainment.

The Island

When visiting a destination in the middle of a mountain paradise, the word island doesnt quite fit. Unless, of course, its 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. Theres even a four-star Margaritaville Island Hotel where guests can waste away in complete comfort!

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, dont 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. If you prefer to let someone else handle the details, contact the experts at Kaleidoscope Adventures at 800-774-7337 or info@kaleidoscopeadventures.com. Maybe Ill see you there!

 

 

Group Travel Planning- Choose Your Destination

Youre on a roll now! You have a solid purpose for traveling with your group and know exactly when you want to go; now you need to pinpoint WHERE you want to go!


Its easy to fall into the routine of going where you know when traveling. Its comfortable, familiar and, well, routine. The point of traveling, however, is to break out of your comfort zone and experience something new, unique and exciting! Inhabit a different culture, make new friends, sample regional cuisine or take in the sights of an exotic location. So where do you start when searching for a new destination for your group?
Simple! Your purpose for traveling will help you choose the perfect destination for your group. Consider the following examples

If you are a history teacher planning your own student trip, theres no better living history lesson than a trip to Boston, a stunning city in which the past co-exists beautifully with the present. In addition to the already well-known Freedom Trail tour, where you are escorted by 18th century costumed actor-historian guides to some of the most famous historic sites of Boston, you can also take advantage of specialty tours; The Pirates & Patriots Tour, The African-American Patriots Tour, The Revolutionary Women Tour and the new after dark Lantern Tour, to name a few.


Philadelphia has so much to see and do, you may need to stay an extra day! Take a self-guided stroll through the home of the iconic symbol of American independence (the Liberty Bell) followed by a guided tour of Independence Hall. Visit the National Constitution Center or Congress Hall and stand where the foundations of America began. Tour Franklin Court (the site of Benjamin Franklins home) or the Franklin Institute for a glimpse of scientific genius. Dont forget to pick a favorite cheesesteak- Genos or Pats!

As a music director, your plans may include a dazzling, once-in-a-lifetime performance at the iconic Carnegie Hall in New York City. Manhattan Concert Productions is unparalleled in providing first rate performance opportunities in New York City. The quality and diversity of MCP is second to none and a great option for bands, orchestras and choral groups.

If you want to take in the fabulous Aladdin or Lion King Disney shows on Broadway, you can jump on a behind the scenes tour with your group as part of the Behind the Magic Theatre Tour.

OrlandoFest allows your students to showcase their talents in a high-energy environment. Ensembles may choose either a non-competitive or competitive music festival performance or a customized workshop. All options are open to bands, orchestras, choirs, dance groups and more and are coupled with the fun and excitement of an admission into Universal Orlando Resort.


Maybe you are spearheading a trip with your church group (like my less than successful trek to Cape May!) or planning a family reunion. A great destination like Branson or Pigeon Forge could be a perfect fit. Both are in stunningly beautiful locations and offer family friendly activities and wholesome fun.
Fritzs Adventure is a new and dynamic family attraction in Branson that brings the excitement and challenges of outdoor adventure into a multi-dimensional indoor environment. The Track Family Fun Parks allows you to enjoy classic go-karts for all ages, laser tag, bumper boats/cars, kids rides, the high-speed sprint track, the 100-foot-tall skycoaster, mini golf, batting cages, arcades, and more at 4 Branson locations.


Ripleys Aquarium of the Smokies was voted Americas #1 Aquarium by TripAdvisor and Top Destination to see penguins by USA Today Travel!

Visit the worlds largest Titanic Museum attraction for an interactive visit aboard the ill-fated voyage or a group dining experience like no other in the Secret Dining Room.
Theres so much to see and do in both destinations- the possibilities for your church or family group travel planning are endless!

There are so many options when choosing a destination for your group travel! If you need a little help connecting the needs of YOUR group (homeschool, sports, drama, STEM, etc.) to the right spot, contact the experts at Kaleidoscope Adventures to help break you out of your travel comfort zone! KA is a full-service group travel planner that will help streamline and guide you through the process of group travel planning.

Next in the Series- Set Your Travel Timeline

 

Group Travel Planning- Tips and Tricks to Make It Easy!

When I was 13, our church youth group decided to take a trip to Cape May, NJ. We thought it would be a great bonding experience and great fun, since most of us hadnt yet traveled beyond the borders of our small town. This was, of course, long before the days of the internet and access to abundant information on group travel planning.
We piled into cars marked with Cape May or Bust, loaded down with sleeping bags, pillows, LOTS of beach gear, and even a TV (yep- someone thought that was a good idea!) What we didnt have was enough deodorant for our teenage passengers or a clear idea of our travel plan. As a result, we slept on the floor a local church, showered with a hose in the back yard of said church, and returned home feeling less like we bonded and more like survivors of a catastrophic event!

Fortunately, todays travelers have it a bit easier. A quick search online can help identify resources and help you plan for a fabulous group travel experience for all ages! As a fellow travel enthusiast, Im going share some of the best tips for planning group travel directly online in this series.

Purpose of Your Trip
Theres a reason for every adventure! While it may seem obvious, its very helpful to identify your groups purpose for traveling. Perhaps you are the leader of your youth group looking to create a bonding experience (good luck!) or a classroom teacher hoping to connect your curriculum to real world experiences. Maybe you are a coach taking the team to a tournament in an unfamiliar state or a music director aspiring to showcase your groups talents at a new and exciting venue. Think about the purpose of your trip and what you want your group to take away from the experience- it will really help clarify your planning!


When to Travel
The best time to travel depends on a number of factors – weather, school schedules, vacation time, tournaments, etc. Consider the following

Spring: The weather in March through May is warmer in the southern states than the northern. If you travel during this period, reserve flights and hotels far in advance to avoid disappointment during this busy group travel period. Remember, most school trips take place in March, April and May due to spring break, grad nights, and more.

Summer: Summer offers the most flexibility, but keep in mind that if your trip includes youth, many students may have summer jobs, travel with their families, participate in sports or go to camp. If you are a religious, reunion or sports group, a summer trip is probably one of the best times for you to travel.

Fall: This is prime time for corporate meetings, religious retreats, scouting trips and more. Airfares are traditionally less expensive in the fall which can benefit your budget.

Winter: This is a marvelous time to travel since you probably wont encounter the congestion of a summer trip. Many groups travel to warmer climates to escape the cold while others embrace it through winter activities like ski excursions. Remember though, if you are flying, airfares are higher and winter weather could force flight delays. You may also have trouble recruiting because the winter holidays are times for family gatherings.

Choose Your Planning Resource
Once you have identified your purpose and time frame for traveling, youll be ready to tackle the rest of the trip details. Planning your own group travel can be overwhelming if youve never done it before or are using the wrong resources. However, travel planning companies like Kaleidoscope Adventures can help simplify the process with tons of great resources available at the click of a button (a little different than planning our ill-fated Cape May trip!). Once you have identified your purpose and time frame for traveling, youll be ready to tackle the rest of the trip details.

Next in the Series- Choose Your Destination