The pace of life in Georgia may be slow as a Southern drawl, but that doesn’t mean the state is stodgy. Far from it. Because no matter how many times group travelers return, Georgia will always have something new for them.
Maybe the urge to create novel experiences for guests comes from Georgia’s legendary hospitality, or perhaps it’s just part of a statewide drive to do it bigger and better. No matter the reason, groups will enjoy the latest spate of new and improved Georgia attractions.
Mercer Museum at Capricorn
Move over Muscle Shoals. Make room, Stax. Macon’s Mercer Museum at Capricorn, the latest Southern attraction centered around a legendary recording studio, offers not only the original Capricorn Sound Studios but an on-site museum, too.
“The project was spearheaded by Mercer University,” said Visit Macon marketing vice president Valerie Bradley. “Capricorn Sound Studios was in danger of being demolished about five years or so ago, and Mercer University, in partnership with a couple other businesses, stepped in to save the space. It opened last December.”
In its 1970s heyday, before bankruptcy led to the studio’s nearly 40-year vacancy, everyone from the Allman Brothers to the Charlie Daniels Band, the Marshal Tucker Band, Kitty Wells and Percy Sledge made music at Capricorn. Today, the 1,200-square-foot museum gives groups a chance to peek at memorabilia like photographs, T-shirts, album art and ticket stubs. They can also explore the Capricorn catalog through interactive kiosks that look like record store bins and act like record players.
“Motorcoach tour guests can all visit at the same time,” Bradley said, “because while some group visitors may be in the museum, others can be touring the recording studios. It’s a thrill to be able to step inside the same space where some of the country’s greatest music has been recorded. Mercer Music at Capricorn is really a great group destination.”
With more than 10 million gallons of water, the Georgia Aquarium is the largest facility of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room to expand. The Atlanta attraction, which opened its doors in 2005 and has since hosted more than 18 million guests, is in the midst of a massive $100 million project that will include a redesigned entry and ticketing area. It’s the new million-gallon shark exhibit that will bring in group visitors from around the country to see it.
“It will have floor-to-ceiling windows,” said Lindsey Ford, public relations specialist with the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, “so it’ll really allow guests to get an up-close look at these animals. It’s slated to be done in November. We’ve heard that later on, down the road, they’re going to announce some different types of special experiences as well as what sharks will be in the gallery. But the total square footage of the aquarium is going to grow [by] more than 45,000 square feet.”
What kind of offerings might be available to groups has not yet been announced. And of special note, the Georgia Aquarium provides motorcoach guests discounted tickets.
No matter what kind of outdoor experience a group wants to have in and around Savannah, chances are Outside Savannah can make it happen. A recent outgrowth of Destinations DMC, whose roots go back four decades, Outside Savannah offers excursions including electric bike tours and kayak trips. Boat cruises, the company’s specialty, take group visitors to spots like the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, on dolphin watches and beachcombing jaunts and to remote, unspoiled islands.
“I was out on their private island, Page Island, 10 days ago for a fundraiser,” Visit Savannah senior vice president Jeff Hewitt said. “You can only get there by boat. There’s no way to drive to the island, so it’s very experiential. Once you get there, they can tailor the experience to whatever you would like it to be. So you can go on a nature walk where they can serve you lunch, or you can have a low country boil where you shuck oysters and have blue crab and shrimp. It’s a beautiful experience because you get out there and you are really remote.”
As a destination marketing company with a fleet of boats, Outside Savannah can be incredibly flexible when working with clients. And, Hewitt said, “They have a wide range of price points and options, so they can work with the budgets of the motorcoach industry. They do such a good job.”
Savoy Automobile Museum
When Cartersville’s Savoy Automobile Museum finally opens its doors in August of next year, it will be different from any other institution devoted to cars. On 35 acres, the complex will boast a stunning 70,000-square-foot main museum with four galleries and a main hall. But building from the ground up, which few facilities of its kind do, will not be all that distinguishes the Savoy. Only one gallery will be devoted to the museum’s permanent collection; the rest will showcase temporary exhibitions, unlike many other car museums.
As for the collection, groups can expect to see a wide variety of showstoppers, including Corvettes from the ’50s and ’60s, a 1940s Packard “woody wagon” and a 1932 Buick that won the prestigious Concours d’Elegance award.
“We are not focusing our vision on any certain era, make or model,” said Tom Shinall, Savoy Automobile Museum’s director of development. “We want to showcase the unique diversity that has been and is the automotive industry.”
Shinall promises that groups will have plenty of options at the Savoy.
“Group tours will be a big part of what we offer,” he said. “The demographics of those utilizing group tours are right up our alley: the folks that grew up with the history of the importance of the car and the growth of the automotive industry.”
Six Flags Over Georgia
The largest regional theme park in the Southeast, Six Flags Over Georgia opened in Marietta, outside Atlanta, in 1967. Rides like the Dahlonega Mine Train, one of the earliest steel coasters, and Tales of the Okefenokee, a boat-based indoor ride that has morphed into Monster Mansion, point to the park’s sense of tradition. But according to Lindsey Ford, public relations specialist with the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, that doesn’t mean Six Flags isn’t keeping up to date by continuing to add contemporary thrill rides to its 40-some rides and attractions.
“They’re expanding Gotham City this year,” Ford said, “with two new attractions: the Catwoman Whip and the Poison Ivy Toxic Spin. I believe that they’re slated to open in the spring, but I’m not sure what the update on that is. I know that they have some stores and new food places within Gotham City that are going to be opening, too.”
Adventurous group travelers will want to jump aboard the new rides. The Catwoman Whip will spin riders in a horizontal circle before rising seven stories, where the circle will turn vertical. Guests riding on the Poison Ivy Toxic Spin will twirl counterclockwise in pods while the ride whirls in the opposite direction. The park’s group offerings include discounts and a special catered picnic for motorcoach tours of 25 to 99 people.