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TAP Adventures Outside the Lower 48

Thinking beyond the boundaries of America’s lower 48 states can take travelers to the United States’ only royal palace, allow them to walk on the ocean’s floor and let them look a polar bear in the eye. Travel Alliance Partners (TAP) tour operators take travelers to destinations above and below the continental United States: to Canada, Alaska and Hawaii.


Niagara Falls

Niagara, Ontario, Canada

There are two sides to Niagara Falls: the New York side and the Ontario, Canada, side. And if you haven’t been to the Ontario side in the past 10 years, “you need to come back because we’re no longer a little kid; we’re all grown up,” said Vittoria Wikston, director of business development for Niagara Falls Tourism.

What used to be a little tourist town today boasts five-star hotels, celebrity-chef-led restaurants and brand-new operators at the falls, she said.

There are three ways to do Niagara Falls: in the falls, behind the falls and above the falls. And visitors should experience each one, Wikston said.

Being in the falls means getting on the river, going to the base of the falls and being soaked by the mist. The classic Maid of the Mist boat tours are available on the American side. But in April, a new operator, the Hornblower, opened on the Canadian side.

In addition to daytime cruises, the Hornblower offers sunrise and sunset tours, and the Falls Fireworks Cruise, a nighttime trip that features fireworks over the falls. The boat also has a full bar, and passengers have individual headsets that they can set to nearly any language.

“The falls are illuminated beside you, the fireworks are exploding above you, you have a glass of wine in your hand — it’s just incredible,” Wikston said.

Journey Behind the Falls takes groups through the tunnels behind Horseshoe Falls. Visitors take an elevator through 150 feet of bedrock to reach tunnels that lead to portals behind the crashing curtain of water and to observation decks at the base of the falls.

Groups can also experience the falls from high above during a helicopter trip. Niagara Helicopter’s fleet is large enough that the company can take larger groups above the falls. 


Alaska Native Heritage Center

Anchorage, Alaska

The Alaska Native Heritage Center acts like a living museum that preserves and shares the traditions and languages of Alaska’s 11 indigenous cultures. In addition to exhibits, the center’s daily schedule includes traditional storytelling, dance performances and demonstrations of the Alaska Native games, which include the mind-boggling Alaska high kick and the two-foot high kick.

On its grounds, the center also has six life-size replicas of traditional Alaska Native dwellings. Visitors can step into a sod house or a southeast clan house and handle traditional tools. They can touch oil lamps made of volcanic rock, feel a coat made of seal intestines or pass around furs, baskets and snow goggles made of wood.

They also get to meet native people. Many elders are involved, and the center runs an internship program that employs about 60 Alaska Native high school students during the summer. The center also has an artist residency program that featured more than 30 Alaska Native artists this summer, said Melissa Stanley, director of sales and marketing for the center.

“It’s really meeting the people and hearing the Alaska Native stories and how they lived and how they grew up and hearing their language,” she said.

Groups can opt to do even more at the center. An elder will show them how to make “akutaq,” which is similar to ice cream. Although it’s traditionally made of whipped reindeer fat or seal oil with berries, visitors make it with yogurt and fruit, Stanley said. Groups can also take dance lessons, participate in games or watch a salmon be filleted with an Alaskan ulu knife before enjoying a fish bake, she said.

Rachel Carter

Rachel Carter worked as a newspaper reporter for eight years and spent two years as an online news editor before launching her freelance career. She now writes for national meetings magazines and travel trade publications.