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Perform and Play Destinations for Students

Start with an open stage. Throw in some teaching moments and a heaping helping of fun, and you have the makings of a perfect student group tour.

Many of America’s most enthusiastic artists belong to high school choirs, marching bands, orchestras and dance troupes, and they love to travel almost as much as they love to perform. Performance tours are among the most popular types of student tours, and destinations across the country open the doors for young performers to reach new audiences when they travel.

Here’s a look at six of the most popular performance tour destinations in the United States, along with some ideas of the educational activities and can’t-miss fun stops for groups to enjoy while they’re there.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Abundant Atlantic beaches, affordable accommodations and high-profile attractions make Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand area of South Carolina a popular destination for performing student groups. Travel organizers will find a wealth of places for their young musicians to play.

Performance Opportunities: Nearly every major attraction in the Myrtle Beach area offers opportunities for student bands, choirs and other groups to perform. Groups can play the main stage at the House of Blues; entertain guests shopping at Broadway at the Beach; and play a preshow at the Calvin Gilmore Theater, home of the Carolina Opry, among many other choices.

Educational Activities:  Several Myrtle Beach theaters, including the Calvin Gilmore Theater and the Palace Theater, offer educational workshops for student groups, and the young performers get to meet the professional singers, dancers, actors and technicians who work there. For an alternative educational experience, Crazy Sister Marina offers eco-tours for students; on these, students get to go on boat excursions in the ocean and pull up nets full of sea life with marine biology experts.

Just for Fun: Broadway at the Beach is the headquarters for fun in Myrtle Beach. This shopping, dining and entertainment complex features theme restaurants such as Margaritaville and a new Hard Rock Café, attractions such as Wonder Works and Ripley’s Aquarium, and dozens of stores.

Branson, Missouri

With more theater seats than New York’s Broadway district, Branson, Missouri, is known nationally for its live performance scene. In addition to taking in music, comedy, and acrobatic and variety shows, student groups can demonstrate their own chops with performances at venues and events throughout town.

Performance Opportunities: Many student groups that travel to Branson to perform do so as part of large-scale competitions, such as Director’s Choice for band groups and FAME, an event for show choirs. But no matter when they visit, groups can find stages on which to perform at many of the Branson theaters, as well as attractions such as Showboat Branson Belle and Silver Dollar City.

Educational Activities: Teaching moments happen often in Branson. The Titanic Museum is a wealth of information and experiential activities, and the College of the Ozarks gives young visitors an overview of the history and culture of the area. Young performers can also meet and learn from professional counterparts during the city’s Branson On Stage program.

Just for Fun: The Branson Ferris Wheel made its debut in 2015 after a long career thrilling visitors to Navy Pier in Chicago. Standing 150 feet tall, it features 40 gondolas and more than 16,000 lights, and offers riders an unparalleled view of Branson and the surrounding Ozarks.

San Antonio

The historic Alamo, the stunning River Walk and a colorful culture make San Antonio one of the most popular destinations in the United States, particularly with student groups. Young travelers can perform in the heart of the city’s tourist district and learn plenty of things along the way.

Performance Opportunities: The Arneson River Theater is an outdoor amphitheater on the banks of the River Walk, and student groups can perform there to the delight of visitors to nearby restaurants and passengers on passing canal boats. Other memorable performance venues include a ranch, the San Antonio Zoo and Sea World San Antonio, as well as the 18th-century Gothic San Fernando Cathedral.

Educational Activities: The Alamo was recently named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and tours there give visitors an insider’s look at the Battle of Texas. But the Alamo is only one of five Spanish Colonial missions in town, and each is open to visitors. San Fernando Cathedral is the site of “Saga,” a 24-minute outdoor video presentation that outlines the city’s history.

Just for Fun: Treat your group to some great food by visiting the Culinary Institute of America’s campus at Pearl, an up-and-coming shopping and dining district in San Antonio. Students can dine in the on-site restaurant or even participate in a hands-on cooking class of their own.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.