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Praiseworthy Destinations for Faith-Based Tours

Destinations that emphasize simpler ways of living, offer wholesome entertainment, feature friendly faces and serve homestyle cooking have long appealed to faith-based travelers. Add natural beauty and religious attractions, and these faith-based groups find much to praise. Here are some destinations that deliver what the faithful seek.


Amish Country, Indiana

Elkhart County, Indiana, is a collection of small towns and communities in the northern part of the state. The county has a strong connection to Amish and Mennonite culture and its reputation for craftsmanship, art and farmland.

“The appeal of Amish Country is the idea that the Amish, because of their views on technology, live a simple life,” said Terry Mark, director of communications and public relations at the Elkhart County, Indiana, Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Compared to the life that a lot of people are accustomed to, it’s a much different lifestyle.”

Shopping is abundant in Amish Country, with “shingle shops,” small shops on Amish farmsteads where furniture and other goods are sold, as well as shopping destinations like Coppes Commons, a reclaimed cabinet factory where popcorn, ice cream, pretzels and other baked goods are sold in shops and eateries. The Evelyn Lehman Culp Heritage Museum at the Nappanee Center is home to a large collection of works by Emma Schrock, a well-known Amish painter. In the summer, Quilt Gardens, gardens throughout the area designed to resemble quilt patterns, brighten the landscape.

Dining in Amish Country delivers traditional favorites. Groups can arrange to have a home-cooked meal in an Amish home or visit Middlebury’s Das Dutchman Essenhaus, the largest restaurant in Indiana, for Amish favorites like fried chicken, roast beef and mashed potatoes with homemade pies for dessert.


Dallas is known for its sports teams, Tex-Mex cuisine, shopping, a massive state fair and a lively arts and music scene, a combination that appeals to faith-based groups.

“It’s a very family-friendly city,” said Andrea Coker, director of communications at Visit Dallas. “We’re in the heart of the Bible Belt, and there are ways to see the beauty that God made right here in Dallas.”

Among the beauty spots are the Dallas Arboretum and its 66 acres of trails and botanical gardens, as well as the Dallas Zoo, the largest zoo in the state, where more than 2,000 animals live in habitats built across 106 acres.

Art excursions can go in different directions. Guided tours of the Museum of Biblical Art showcase its collection of art with Biblical themes and subjects. The Dallas Museum of Art displays works by Jackson Pollock, Vincent Van Gogh, Georgia O’Keeffe, Claude Monet and other notable artists.  The Perot Museum of Nature and Science’s five floors of exhibits examine subjects like dinosaurs, engineering and outer space.

Near the Perot Museum, Meso Maya Comida y Copas serves tasty authentic Mexican food, like carne asada and pollo con mole. The Exchange Food Hall, an upscale food hall in the AT&T Discovery District, gives tour members the chance to choose from among 11 restaurants and two bars.

Branson, Missouri

A hub for lively fun in the serene Ozark mountains, Branson, Missouri, has been entertaining for a long time. This town of about 13,000 residents on the White River is visited by 10 million people each year. Tourism has been its major industry for over 100 years, and for good reason. “There’s nothing in Branson you can’t take your three-year-old or your 103-year-old grandma to,” said Yvonne Long, senior sales manager at the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We live in a wonderful bubble of Midwestern values and faith and family.”

One of Branson’s top attractions is Silver Dollar City, a 100-acre theme park that’s a throwback to the 1880s. It combines demonstrations by craftsmen with amusement park rides and live entertainment. Groups can see a show, enjoy 1880s-themed meals and ride rollercoasters. With 40 theaters and approximately 110 shows, Branson is definitely a theater town, and it has several shows that appeal to faith-based groups in particular. Sight and Sound Theatre tells stories from the Bible, while Dolly Parton’s Stampede combines musical theater with homestyle cooking and extravagant stunts.

The Ozarks scenery and city’s three lakes bring people outdoors. The Top of the Rock has golf courses and wide views as well as a natural history museum. Pink Jeep Tours go off-road to see the mountains up close. With a host of other attractions, from the Titanic Museum to the Aquarium at the Boardwalk, groups won’t run out of ways to fill their time in Branson.

Charlotte, North Carolina

Some 2.6 million people call the Charlotte metropolitan area home. But this city’s size doesn’t diminish its hospitable spirit, especially for faith-based travelers.

“We’re nestled in the southeastern corner of the Bible Belt, and we have over 700 churches in and around Charlotte,” said Chacara Harvin, travel trade marketing manager at the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. “We have that gracious spirit and welcoming environment.”

One of Charlotte’s most iconic attractions, especially for religious groups, is the Billy Graham Library. The library and museum honor one of the best-known evangelists of all time and share his message of faith and Christian values. Set on 20 acres, the library is shaped like a barn to remind of Graham’s childhood on a dairy farm. After an interactive, multimedia tour, groups can stop at the Graham Brothers’ Dairy Bar for barbecue or homemade ice cream. Not far down the road, they’ll find the Graham Family Homeplace, the house where Graham grew up, which is also available for tours.

To discover even more about Graham’s life, C-Charlotte Tours takes groups through the city, stopping at sites relevant to Graham’s life, including the Bank of America Stadium, where Graham held his last four Crusade events in the 1990s. Groups that visit around the holidays can check out light displays at the Charlotte Motor Speedway and the Orchid Conservatory at Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens.

Charlotte’s culinary scene is a delicious delight. Supperland, in two historic church buildings, is a fusion of church potluck and steakhouse cuisine. Groups can also grab a bite at Nana Morrison’s Soul Food, known for its smothered pork chops and candied yams, or catch dinner with a show at NarroWay Productions.

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

One of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee’s biggest draws is its proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of the busiest national parks in the country. The mountains are a majestic backdrop to the city and an attraction in and of themselves both for hikers and those who simply like to take in the views.

In addition to natural beauty, Pigeon Forge offers a like-minded community for faith-based travelers.

“If they’re a faith-based group, they feel at home here because there’s a kindred spirit,” said Mike Gwinn, senior sales manager at the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism. “It’s very welcoming, and they can sense God’s presence here.”

Many people come to Pigeon Forge to go to Dollywood, Tennessee’s number-one ticketed attraction. Known for a wholesome atmosphere and live music, Dollywood’s dinner shows have themes that range from pirates to the Hatfield and McCoy feud.

The city also is known for its shopping and entertainment districts. Among them is the Island in Pigeon Forge, an amusement park with rides and plenty of local shops and boutiques. Another is the Old Mill Square, the site of a historic mill which is on the National Register of Historic Places. There, groups can enjoy traditional Southern favorites at the Old Mill Restaurant, the Old Mill Pottery House Café and the Old Mill Creamery and visit the district’s general store, pottery store and other shops.