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TAP into Americana

Everyone knows the saying “as American as apple pie,” but some places are even more American than that. Williamsburg, Virginia, played a pivotal role in the Revolutionary War, helping the 13 British colonies become the United States of America. President Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the most famous speeches in American history in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. And because Route 66 runs from Chicago to the West Coast, it helped shape cities such as Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Travel Alliance Partners tours travel to these Americana destinations to showcase the nation’s history and its modern, all-American culture.

Branson, Missouri

In 1982, Roy Clark built the Roy Clark Celebrity Theatre in Branson, making him the first musician to establish his own theater in the city. Branson’s many lakes and outdoor activities had already made the region a popular destination, but with the addition of entertainment, the city began to boom. Perhaps it was also the type of music coming to Branson — homegrown country — that spoke to people.

“Roy Clark was very popular coming off ‘Hee Haw,’ so that may have been a reason it was something that really touched people in the Midwest,” said Lynn Berry, director of communications for the Branson/Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and Chamber of Commerce.

Branson first burst onto America’s radar with a 1991 segment on CBS’s “60 Minutes.” After that, Branson was “a 103-year-old overnight success story,” Berry said.

Today, the city’s motto of “faith, family and flag” makes it a draw for families, church groups and military reunions. At most of the 120 shows that take the stage every day, visitors will find a patriotic set during the performance, and each show usually takes time at some point to honor veterans, Berry said.

At the Starlite Theatre, the Texas Tenors put on a performance that blends country, classical and gospel, and the “Six” show features six brothers singing a capella in a performance that includes incredible renditions of patriotic songs. “Buckets N Boards” is a high-energy, family-friendly percussion show where the performers go into the audience to ask veterans about their stories.

At Shepherd of the Hills, “Roundup on the Trail” is a chuck-wagon dinner show. While dining on barbecued brisket, baked beans and corn on the cob, the audience is also asked to participate in traditional cowboy songs and cowboy poetry.

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, has always been one of America’s most iconic history destinations, said Carl Whitehill, director of communications for Destination Gettysburg.

“When you want to learn about American history, you’re going to group Gettysburg in with Boston, Philadelphia and D.C.,” he said.

But many people don’t realize that the community of 8,000 people has used that legacy — and the 3.7 million visitors it brings in every year — to build an arts, entertainment and cuisine culture that’s not found in many other small cities.

Visitors come to the city for the historic site of the July 1863 Battle of Gettysburg known as Gettysburg National Military Park. Groups can take a bus tour of the Civil War battlefield or reserve a licensed battlefield guide who can customize the experience. For example, a group from Illinois can learn where the Illinois regiments fought. Groups can also tour the battlefield by Segway, bicycle and horseback.

“Gettysburg is such a familiar name to so many people, but a lot of people are surprised when they get here and realize the depths of it,” Whitehill said.

Beyond the battlefield, Gettysburg offers museums, culinary experiences and an emerging hard-cider industry, which surprises a lot of people, he said. The Gettysburg countryside is a big fruit-growing area with 20,000 acres of apple orchards. The region is home to three hard cideries, and many area wineries have downtown tasting rooms.

In addition to wineries and orchards, the Gettysburg Wine and Fruit Trail incorporates farmers markets, including the Historic Round Barn and Farm Market. Groups can pick fruit at local orchards, and Hollabaugh Brothers Fruit Farm and Market offers orchard tours on a hay wagon. Visitors can leave with pies, breads and dumplings from the market’s in-house bakery.

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.