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Five favorites: Hidden gems


Tenakee Springs, Alaska

For our recent Group Travel Industry Buyers Guide, I was asked to compile a list of five favorite places I’ve been that could be considered hidden gems.  Here are four in the United States and one in Italy that certainly fit that description for me.

Ground Zero, Clarksdale, Mississippi
There are a lot of great stops on the Mississippi Blues Trail, but one I particularly enjoy features live bands, great tamales and fried catfish, and lots of star power. Academy-award winning actor Morgan Freeman is one of the owners and is known to hang out there when he is not on location somewhere.  The acts there are not necessarily name bands; they are more often local blues bands that honor the tradition of Mississippi blues. Live music is offered Wednesday through Saturday nights.

Tenakee Springs, Alaska
You don’t drive to Tenakee Springs. You arrive by small vessel or seaplane. Tenakee Springs is in southeast Alaska on Chichagof Island. The little community of roughly 100 residents is a favorite stop for fishermen, and it gets its name from the natural spring that warms the water in the community bathhouse.
The day we arrived, the town was buzzing about the arrival of a new dog. They had lost one that winter, and the new puppy, a lab, came walking up the pier on a leash while we were there.

Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia
At the Going On Faith Conference in Richmond last summer, I asked Janie Lawson where I could go for a couple of hours for a run and some relaxation. She recommended Hollywood Cemetery, an urban preserve tucked away in Virginia’s historic capital city. This meandering cemetery lies inside a canopy of trees and includes the graves of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy; U.S. President James Monroe; and numerous other historic figures. Walking tours are offered Monday through Saturday at 10 a.m., April through October.

Fertitta’s Delicatessen, Shreveport, Louisiana
Don’t ask me how to get to Fertitta’s Delicatessen because I can’t tell you. But anyone in Shreveport can. We came here for lunch a couple of years ago when we were doing a site inspection for the Small Market Meetings Conference. Our hosts suggested this local favorite that serves muffalettas, sandwiches of Italian origin consisting of olive mix, ham, salami, cheeses and mustard.  This unassuming place was filled with local diners dressed in anything from suits to hardhats. And the mint tea you poured yourself in the back was one of the most refreshing drinks I’ve ever had.

Todi, Italy
A hidden gem in Italy may be a misnomer simply because so many people put this country at the top of their travel lists. But Todi isn’t Rome or Venice or Florence. And it isn’t in Tuscany, which gets so much press as well. It’s a beautiful small city high atop a hill in the region of Umbria. I was there at Christmastime, so its ancient town square was lit for the holidays. Someone in that square was playing old Christmas songs by American artists such as Andy Williams over a loudspeaker that night. Enjoying that holiday music in this heavily garrisoned old city was a memorable paradox to me.

Mac Lacy

Mac Lacy is president and publisher of The Group Travel Leader Inc. Mac has been traveling and writing professionally ever since a two-month backpacking trip through Europe upon his graduation with a journalism degree from the University of Evansville in 1978.