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Something new in the Mid-Atlantic

Courtesy Liberty Science Center

New tourism developments and revitalized attractions have brought a sense of excitement to many destinations in the Mid-Atlantic.

Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey have plenty of history to offer, but these states have not stood still in time. Visitors looking for the latest and greatest ways to enjoy a destination will find no shortage of opportunities in museums, speedways, casinos and breweries throughout the tristate area.

Visiting some of these up-and-coming attractions is a great way to spice up your group tour itinerary as you travel through the Middle Atlantic States.

Liberty Science Center

Jersey City, N.J.
After a 22-month renovation that cost $109 million, the Liberty Science Center reopened in 2007 with eight new permanent galleries and one of the largest domed Imax screens in the world.

“Our Imax theater is magnificent,” said Mary McDonald, director of sales at the museum. “It’s 88 feet in diameter, and it’s really popular with adult groups. We introduce new films every six months. In February, we’re showing ‘Tornado Alley,’ and then later in the year we’ll have ‘Jane Goodall’s Wild Chimpanzees.’”

Groups usually see a show in the theater and then take some time to peruse the museum. One signature exhibit explores the world of skyscrapers, giving visitors a look at the architecture and mechanics behind those impressive buildings. Adventurous souls can strap into a harness and walk a steel I-beam situated 18 feet above the gallery floor.

The museum also offers a number of customizable workshops for groups.

“We work with L’Oreal, and people in the program have an opportunity to make lipstick,” McDonald said. “It’s very popular with women’s groups.”

Wine and Ale Trail

Although wineries and breweries are not a new phenomenon in Delaware, the Delaware Wine and Ale Trail is a new initiative of the state tourism office to help travelers find those attractions.

“The trail was an initiative started by the Delaware Tourism Office to capitalize on the growing craft brew and wine industry that we have here,” said Linda Parkowski, the state’s director of tourism. “The trail includes 13 wineries and breweries in Delaware, ranging from the north to the south. We launched the trail in May and have had overwhelming success.”

A group with a specific interest in spirits could spend two to three days visiting all the sites on the trail. Small groups of 15 to 20 people can tour hidden gems such as Twin Lakes Winery in northern Delaware or the Evolution Craft Brewery.

Nassau Valley Vineyards in Lewes was the first winery in the state and makes a great stop for full-size tour groups.

One of the most popular sites for motorcoach groups is Dog Fish Brewery in Milton.

“They receive over 600 visitors a day,” Parkowski said. “They’re one of the largest craft breweries in the Mid-Atlantic region. They have these wood brewing tanks that are really popular along the tour.”

Hollywood Casino
at Penn National

Grantville, Pa.
Since early 2008, Hollywood Casino has brought the excitement of Las Vegas-style gaming to Penn National Racecourse in the Hershey-Harrisburg area.

“We’re an all-inclusive entertainment facility that includes slots and live table games,” said casino marketing manager Joey Venezia. “We have 10 restaurants that vary from Epic Buffet to a first-class steakhouse called Final Cut. Then we have a sky-box sports bar and a restaurant that overlooks our thoroughbred racetrack.”

Groups can spend time in the casino during the afternoon before attending live evening racing. Nighttime also brings live entertainment in the casino, featuring cover bands and nostalgia acts from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

Nongamers can take in the decor and memorabilia of the casino, such as the 77-foot-wide video ribbon that plays movie trailers and the extensive collection of costumes, props and other items from Hollywood.

“Penn Gaming is one of the leading Hollywood memorabilia owners, so we have a plethora of memorabilia,” Venezia said. “We have a replica of the jewel from ‘Titanic’ and an on-property museum that features the motorcycle from ‘Indiana Jones’ and an outfit that Elvis Presley used for performances.”

International Speedway

Dover, Del.
There’s nothing more “now” than stockcar racing, and at the Dover International Speedway, visitors can have a close encounter with the people and machines that make NASCAR possible.

“We’re excited to host two race weekends, one in May and one in September or October,” said Gary Camp, director of communications at the speedway. “We play host to the NASCAR Sprint Cup series, so the big names will be here — like Jeff Gordon, Jimmy Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.”

Groups can get special packages to attend the races that can include meals, driver appearances and other amenities. In addition to watching the action, many visitors also explore the eight-acre Fan Zone, which has live music, interactive displays and lots of activities on race weekends.

Throughout the year, groups can visit the raceway and the adjacent Dover Downs casino and racetrack. A driving school at the track offers once-in-a-lifetime thrills for aficionados; other group members can get behind the scenes on a tour with the track historian.

“You really get to see the inner workings of the track,” Camp said. “You can go into the garages and see the cars. You can get your photo taken in victory lane, go to the media center and take a couple laps around the track.”

More on the Mid-Atlantic:

Something new
Something old
Lights of Liberty
Aboard Atlantic City’s boardwalk

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.