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Billings Montana

Crow Indians Settlers Oil Discovery Microbreweries and a Heritage Trail

Billings is the largest city in Montana and is located in the south-central portion of the state. With the Bakken oil development in eastern Montana and western North Dakota, the largest oil discovery in U.S. history, as well as the Heath shale oil discovery, the city’s growth rate stayed high during the shale oil boom. Nicknamed the Magic City because of its rapid growth from its founding as a railroad town in March 1882. It is named for Frederick H. Billings. Billings is the trade and distribution center for much of Montana east of the Continental Divide, Northern Wyoming, and western portions of North and South Dakota. Billings is also the retail destination for much of the same area. With more hotel accommodations than any area within a five-state region, the city hosts a variety of conventions, concerts, sporting events, and other rallies.

downtown billingsThe Crow Indians have called the Billings area home since about 1700

Settlers from the Gallatin Valley area of the Montana Territory formed Coulson the first town of the Yellowstone Valley. The town was started when John Alderson built a sawmill and convinced PW McAdow to open a general store and trading post on land that Alderson owned on the bank of the Yellowstone River. Before the railroad, most goods coming to and going from the Montana Territory were carried on paddle riverboats. When the railroad came to the area, they established the new town of Billings; for a short-time the two towns were linked with a trolley service.

coulson, montanaCoulson was a rough town of dance halls and saloons and not a single church

The downtown area and much of the rest of Billings is in the Yellowstone Valley which is a canyon carved out by the Yellowstone River. A blend of small businesses and office space, together with restaurants and a walkable brewery district, it is home to eight microbreweries, Downtown Billings also has a distillery that makes a variety of handcrafted spirits. Babcock Theater is a 750-seat performing arts theater built in 1907 and at the time was considered the largest theater between Minneapolis and Seattle.

babcock theaterNeighborhoods are at the heart of Billings. The south side is probably the oldest residential area in the city, and it is the most culturally diverse neighborhood. South Park is an old growth City park, host to several food fairs and festivals in the summer months. The Bottom Westend Historic District is home to many of Billings first mansions. Midtown is undergoing gentrification and new growth is mainly concentrated on the West End.

billings downtown met transit centerMET Transit provides fixed-route and paratransit bus service. All MET buses are accessible by citizens who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices. They are wheelchair lift-equipped and accessible to all citizens who are unable to use the stairs. MET buses are equipped with bike racks for their bike-riding passengers.

The Heritage Trail System has well-maintained trails and pathways

Around Billings, there are seven mountain ranges, including the Bighorn and Pryor Mountains, home the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range.

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Muscatine Iowa

Pearl of the Mississippi Watermelon Capital Commerce and Industry

Muscatine is situated on a series of bluffs and hills at a west-south bend in the Mississippi River. The river-bend gives the city roughly 260 degrees of riverfront with two creeks flowing into the Mississippi in downtown Muscatine. From the bluffs there is a beautiful view of the town below and of the Mississippi for miles up and down.  Located 25 miles (40 km) from the Quad Cities, 38 miles (61 km) from Iowa City and 68 miles (109 km) from Cedar Rapids, Muscatine is part of a larger community whose residents commute for work.

Muscatine Island is home to working-class neighborhoods and industry

Transport Muscatine is located along two designated routes of Iowa’s Commercial-Industrial Network; Highway 61 serves as a major agricultural-industry route to the south from Burlington to Muscatine, where it becomes a heavy-industrial and major commuter route to the northeast between Muscatine and Davenport; highway 61 serves as a shortcut for traffic from northeastern Missouri and southeastern Iowa to the Quad Cities, Chicago, and points beyond. Iowa 92 provides access to the Avenue of the Saints to the west and western Illinois via the Norbert Beckey Bridge to the east.

History Muscatine began as a trading post.The name may have been derived from the Mascoutin Native American tribe who lived along the Mississippi in the 1700s. From the 1840s to the Civil War, Muscatine had Iowa’s largest black community; fugitive slaves who traveled the Mississippi from the South and free blacks who had migrated from the eastern states.

Mark Twain lived here during the summer of 1855 while working at the Muscatine Journal

Town Slogans include Pearl of the Mississippi and Pearl Button Capital of the World, referring to when pearl button manufacturing by the McKee Button Company was a significant economic contributor and Weber & Sons Button Co was the world’s largest producer of fancy freshwater pearl buttons harvested from the Mississippi River. Muscatine is also known as the Watermelon Capital of the World, reflecting the agricultural and rural nature of the area.

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Jasper Indiana

German Festivals Wood Capital and Historic Commercial Buildings

Jasper is strategically located one-hour northeast of Evansville, 2 1/2 hours southwest of Indianapolis,1 1/2 hours west of Louisville and 3 hours east of St. Louis, this community is consistently ranked among the best small towns to live in Indiana and the United States, start a business as well as one of the safest.  

The Wood Capital of the World is home to many furniture companies and the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame, which honors players and others associated with the national pastime who were born or lived in Indiana.

The Jasper post office has been in operation since 1832

The Jasper Strassenfest is a celebration between Jasper and its German sister-city Pfaffenweiler, a small village in southwest Germany; the four-day event is held annually during the first weekend in August. Visitors from Germany travel to Jasper around this time of year. The street festival encompasses the entire city square, complete with food stands, rides, a Biergarten and over 1,300 pounds of bratwurst. The Strassenfest culminates in a Sunday parade and evening fireworks. The festival also features a golf tournament, beauty pageant, box parade, fishing tournament, and a network of German Polka Masses at the three Roman Catholic parishes: St. Joseph’s, Holy Family, and Precious Blood.

Louis H. Sturm Hardware Store is a historic commercial building built about 1850; the three-story, three bay, Italianate style brick building houses the oldest continuously operated commercial retail business in Jasper.

Environment the 75-acre central park features two miles of trails, 25 acres of woods and wetlands utilized for nature studies as well as an indoor public event space, musical playground and four exercise pods.

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Hershey Harrisburg and the Susquehanna River Valley

On Day 3 of your travel program, you transfer to the Hershey Harrisburg Region – 2 nights 3 Days.

The Susquehanna River is 464 miles (747 km) long and is the longest river on the US East Coast. With its watershed, it is the 16th-largest river in the United States, and the longest river in the continental United States without commercial boat traffic today. In the Canal Era, navigation improvements were made to enhance the river for barge shipping of bulk goods by water on the Pennsylvania Canal.

DCIM999GOPROHarrisburg, the Capital of Pennsylvania, was inhabited by Native Americans as early as 3000 BC. Known as Peixtin, the area was an important trading post for Native American traders, as trails leading from the Delaware to the Ohio Rivers, and from the Potomac to the Upper Susquehanna intersected there.

Hershey is a year-round, world class travel destination with an amusement park, exclusive resorts and family attractions. In 1906, Milton Hershey opened Hershey Park as a place where his chocolate factory’s workers and their families could relax and be entertained. Surrounded by some of America’s most productive dairy farms, the world’s first modern chocolate factory and model town is a real community.

City Island is a 63-acre tourism and recreational destination containing archeological treasures of the Susquehannocks and Iroquois tribes which established seasonal settlements here. The island was a stopping off-point for Union soldiers during the Civil War; they crossed over it by way of the Camelback Bridge to defend Harrisburg from the threat of invasion by the Confederate Army. Today, City Island is a tourist destination which is home to numerous businesses including the Harrisburg Senators Baseball Stadium, the City Islanders Soccer Stadium, the Pride of the Susquehanna, Island Breezes Gift Shop, Susquehanna Outfitters, H20 Miniature Golf, City Island Arcade/Batting Cages, City Island Railroad, and the City Island Stables.

Millersburg Borough nestled along the Susquehanna River, is quaint community radiating out from a Victorian Market Square Park featuring a Gazebo dating back to 1891. Millersburg evolved along with the introduction new forms of transportation; travel back to the 17th century and visit the Wiconisco Canal in MYO Park and a restored 1898 passenger rail station on West Center Street. The National Historic Register’s Millersburg Ferry System traces its roots to 1817.

DCIM107GOPROPreserving America’s Antique Automobiles

The Antique Automobile Club of America Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania opened its doors in June 2003, with over 100 cars, motorcycles plus memorabilia, collectibles, and special exhibits. Vehicles of all types 25 years or older are welcome in the AACA.  In 1993, the AACA started a nonprofit organization to further preserve these antique automobiles and educate the public.

Susquehanna Art Museum is the cultural anchor for the Central Pennsylvania community, providing innovative, relevant and engaging exhibitions and experiences for members and visitors of all ages that excite, inspire, and stimulate life-long learning.

Union Canal Tunnel Park was designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1970 and received its recognition as a National Landmark in 1994. Open dawn to dusk for hiking, bird watching, picnics, and recreation.

The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC) is the premier facility for historical research on U.S. Army history and is dedicated to “Telling the Army story…one Soldier at a time.” The expansive campus includes the Visitor and Education Center, the U.S. Army War College Library, the U.S. Army Military History Institute, and the Army Heritage Trail. Open to the public, key features of the USAHEC include interpretive and interactive exhibits, the research library and archive.

Army Heritage Trail the mile-long outdoor Army Heritage Trail allows visitors to experience history in a new way, through interactive and full-scale military exhibits. Exhibits include a Cobra helicopter, Civil War encampment cabins, WWI trench system and more highlighting the different eras of American military history. The trail is open from dawn to dusk.

The National Civil War Museum seeks to tell the whole story of this most troubled chapter in American history, focusing on the issues, the people and the lives that were affected. The causes and ramifications of this conflict that divided a Nation are investigated; both Northern and Southern viewpoints are presented; and military as well as civilian perspectives are highlighted.

The State Museum of Pennsylvania presents the State’s heritage from the Earth’s beginnings to the present. Archaeological artifacts, decorative arts, fine art galleries and industrial and technological innovations are on exhibit. The Civil War exhibit includes the 1870 painting “The Battle of Gettysburg: Pickett’s Charge”. Curiosity Connection is a hands-on learning environment for children. Other features: a Planetarium, Mammal Hall, Dino Lab and a restored Marshall’s Creek Mastodon Skeleton.

Gettysburg Museum of the American Civil War has twelve exhibit galleries featuring artifacts, interactive displays and several films that will further immerse you in the Battle of Gettysburg and the larger context of American history and understanding its relevance in our lives today.

The Amish Village provides an authentic experience, beginning with a guided tour of an Amish farmhouse. Explore a 12-acre village, complete with a one-room schoolhouse, local crafts and treats, blacksmith barn, animals and more.

The Pennsylvania Capitol is a National Historic Landmark and Palace of Art. The dome is a 1/3 replica of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and the grand staircase inside the main rotunda was inspired by the opera house in Paris.

Pride of the Susquehanna River Boat is one of the last remaining authentic paddle-wheel riverboats in America. Since her construction and launch in 1988, “The Pride” has carried almost a million passengers who have enjoyed themed cruises and River School Educational Trips.

San Francisco BridgeFood Wine and Craft Beer

Turkey Hill, located in nearby Lancaster County, features interactive exhibits allowing you to learn about dairy culture, how the company’s ice cream and iced tea flavors are selected and created, as well as a chance to create your own virtual ice cream flavor; free tastings!

The Millworks is a local and sustainable restaurant, bar with an outdoor biergarten, art galleries with 23 artist studios, & a live music venue located in the heart of Harrisburg’s Midtown District including the Broad Street Market; Susquehanna Museum of Art; and Midtown Scholar Bookstore.

The Wineries and Breweries of the Hershey Harrisburg Region invite guests to go beyond just tasting the wines. Learn more about the process and walk away with a deeper appreciation of winemaking and Pennsylvania’s agricultural heritage. Experience the rich tastes of each winery’s blends, ciders and specialty collections. The region is also home to many small batch brewers who are following their dreams and creating trendy, welcoming spaces for beer-lovers to appreciate their favorite brews.

Tucker AutomobileUS Mid-Atlantic Travel an eight-day program for Families Schools and Groups

Philadelphia, Hershey, Harrisburg, Washington DC, Maryland Brandywine Valley

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Lafayette Louisiana

history geography local culture and transport services

History the Attakapas Native Americans inhabited this area when French colonists founded the first European settlement, Petit Manchac, a trading post. In the late eighteenth century, numerous Acadian refugees settled here after being expelled from Canada; intermarriage led to the Cajun culture which fostered the French language and the Catholic religion. Vermilionville was renamed in 1884 for General Lafayette, the French aristocrat who aided the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. The city and parish economy continued to be based on agriculture into the early 20th century. In the 1940s, after oil was discovered in the parish, oil and natural gas became dominant.

downtown lafayette, louisianaLafayette lies along the Vermilion River in southwestern Louisiana and is nicknamed The Hub City

Geography Lafayette is located on the Western rim of the Atchafalaya Basin, the largest wetland and swamp in the United States where, during the Quaternary Period, the Mississippi River cut a 325-foot-deep (99 m) valley between what is now Lafayette and Baton Rouge. The southwestern Louisiana Prairie Terrace does not suffer significant flooding, outside of local flash flooding.

hilliard art museumLocal Cultural Organizations include the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra and Conservatory of Music, Chorale Acadienne, Lafayette Ballet Theatre and Dance Conservatory, The Lafayette Concert Band, and Performing Arts Society of Acadiana; as well as the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum and the Acadiana Center for the Arts.

Lafayette is the Center of Acadiana Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole Culture

Transport Lafayette Regional Airport (LFT) is located on the southeast side of the city with daily scheduled passenger airline services to Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, and Atlanta. Charter services depart Lafayette Regional as well as helicopter services and cargo jets.

cajun domeAmtrak’s Sunset Limited offers service three days a week from New Orleans and Los Angeles with selected stops in Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. Intercity passenger bus service is via Greyhound that operates a Station Downtown and Lafayette Transit System provides bus service within Lafayette City Limits.

The Lafayette MPO Bicycle Subcommittee has developed long-term goals for bicycling and Bike Lafayette, the local bicycle advocacy organization, actively promotes bicycle awareness, safety, and education in Acadiana. TRAIL promotes bicycling, canoeing, and pedestrian activities.

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Fort Wayne Indiana

 architecture manufacturing the arts culture and the river greenway

Located at the center of northeastern Indiana, Fort Wayne is located 18 miles (29 km) west of the Ohio border, 50 miles (80 km) south of the Michigan border and within a 300-mile (482 km) radius of Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Indianapolis, Louisville, Lexington, and Milwaukee.

canoeing on st. marys riverOrigins built in 1794 by General Anthony Wayne as the last in a series of forts built near the Miami village of Kekionga, this European-American settlement developed at the confluence of the St. Joseph, St. Mary and Maumee rivers and later underwent growth with the Wabash and Erie Canal and the railroad. The term Summit City refers to the city’s position at the highest elevation along the canal’s route.

The Three Rivers Area was the Capital of the Miami Nation

fort wayne in 1812Geography the most important feature of the area is the short distance overland between the Three Rivers system, which flows to the Atlantic, and the Wabash system, which flows to the Gulf of Mexico; hence, the portage over which passengers and cargoes moved from one system to the next. This natural crossroads attracted the Native Americans for thousands of years. Chief Little Turtle of the Miami Nation called it “that glorious gate through which all the words of our chiefs had to pass through from north to south and from east to west.” It later attracted explorers, traders and pioneer settlers who continued to develop the area as a transportation and communications center.

Recent History at the turn of the 20th century, there was a large influx of Germans and Irish who formed Fort Wayne’s urban working class in an economy based on manufacturing and many innovations such as the gasoline pump, the refrigerator, and even the first video games. Following a long period of economic decline, efforts by local leaders during the 1990s focused on crime reduction, economic diversification, and downtown redevelopment which continued in the 21st century.

allen county war memorial coliseumArchitecture during the 19th century, Fort Wayne was dominated by Greek and Gothic Revival as well as Italianate architecture. Popular early-20thcentury architectural styles found in the city include Queen Anne, Romanesque, Neoclassical, Dutch Colonial Revival, Prairie, Tudor Revival and Art Deco.

Manufacturing is deeply rooted in Fort Wayne’s economic history, dating to the earliest days of the city’s growth as an important trade stop. From 1900 to 1930, Fort Wayne’s industrial output expanded by 747 percent. Despite economic diversification, the city was significantly impacted by the early 21st century financial crisis, losing nearly a quarter of its manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2014.

embassy theatre and indiana hotelArts and Culture since its establishment in 2010, the Cultural District has been home to several of the city’s cultural institutions, including the Auer Center for Arts and Culture, the Arts United Center, and Hall Community Arts Center. The Embassy Theatre hosts over 200,000 patrons annually and Foellinger Theatre hosts seasonal acts and outdoor concerts during warmer months. Located west of downtown, Arena Dinner Theatre is a nonprofit community arts corporation with a focus on live theater production, annually hosting seven full-length theatrical productions. Established in 1921, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art specializes in the collection and exhibition of American art.

The History Center Manages a Collection of 23,000 Artifacts Recalling Local History

three rivers fort wayneRiver Greenway is a system of recreational trails along the riverbanks designed to beautify the riverfronts and promote an active lifestyle for Fort Wayne residents. It comprises 180 miles (290 km) in the city and county and has about 550,000 annual users. With the expansion of trails, cycling has also become an emerging mode of transportation for residents.

Transport Fort Wayne is connected by air with five airlines offering direct service to 13 domestic connections. Amtrak’s Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited are the closest passenger rail services to Fort Wayne, with a stop located 25 miles (40 km) north in Waterloo. Mass Transit consists of 12 bus routes through the cities of Fort Wayne and New Haven via downtown’s Central Station.

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Lake Charles Louisiana

Creole and Cajun Traditions Mardi Gras and a Pirate Festival

Lake Charles, also known as Port of Jean Lafitte, River Lafitte and Charleston, was founded by merchants and tradesmen as an outpost. Located on a level plain about 30 miles (48 km) from the Gulf of Mexico with an elevation of 13 feet (4.0 m) on the banks of the Calcasieu River in Southwestern Louisiana, it borders Lake Charles, Prien Lake, Henderson, English and Contraband Bayou.

ryan street lake charles 1903Creole and Cajun Traditions the local culture includes the Lake Charles Symphony, founded in 1938, that hosts concerts at the Rosa Hart Theatre and the Lake Charles Little Theatre. The Imperial Calcasieu Museum features a permanent historical exhibit with artifacts, an art gallery and is home to the 400 years old Sallier oak tree. Historic City Hall Arts and Cultural Center hosts the Charlestown Farmers’ Market and the USS Orleck Naval Museum, located in North Lake Charles is a Veterans memorial and museum.

Historical Charpentier District is named for the carpenter-architects who built the mixed-style homes in the district. It features the Black Heritage Art Gallery, which is on the Louisiana African American Trail and the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu with the largest collection of Mardi Gras memorabilia in the South.

arts and culture centerThe Louisiana Pirate Festival is a twelve-day annual festival held during the first two weeks of May. The celebrations are filled with savory Cajun food, family fun, and live entertainment. Following the legend of piracy on the lake and Contraband Bayou, the festival begins with pirate Jean Lafitte and his crew capturing the city and forcing the mayor to walk the plank.

Ocean-going Ships Sail from the Gulf of Mexico via the Calcasieu Ship Channel

The Port of Lake Charles is the thirteenth-busiest in the United States, the fourth-largest liner service seaport in the U.S. Gulf, and a major West Gulf container load center. The Calcasieu Ship Channel provides direct access to the Gulf of Mexico 34 miles (55 km) downstream. The ship channel intersects the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway just north of Calcasieu Lake.

henderson bayouPublic Transportation Lake Charles Transit provides five bus routes throughout the city which is also served by an intercity bus station and Amtrak’s Sunset Limited train route.

Industry petrochemical plants, an oil refinery and facilities for LNG receipt, storage, and regasification are located along the Calcasieu Ship Channel. Local industry also includes companies which services airplanes and a facility which manufactures and exports parts for nuclear power plants.

Commerce Lake Charles serves as the shopping and retail hub for a five-parish area. The Cottage Shop District is home to a dozen small businesses and the L’Auberge du Lac Casino offers upscale boutiques.

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