The Group Travel Leader

JUL-AUG 2017

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Page 48 of 59

4 9 GROUP TRAVEL LE ADER T H E C haracterized by the wooded hills and winding rivers of northeastern Oklahoma, Green Country offers a serene setting for outdoor recreation. "Green Country earns its name," said Hayley McGhee, publications manager for the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department. "It's a very lush region." The Grand Lake o' the Cherokees holds a wealth of outdoor activities, with 10 state parks surrounding the lake. Boating and fishing are popular on the lake, which hosted the Bassmaster Classic in 2016, a professional bass-fishing event. Meanwhile, the gentle rapids of the Illinois River near Tahlequah create the ideal setting for f loat trips on canoes or kayaks. The region's natural attractions are offset by the metropolitan hub of Oklahoma's second- largest city: Tulsa. In addition to exploring the vibrant arts and entertainment district, many groups enjoy a visit to the Tulsa Zoo or the recently opened concert hall designed by world- renowned architect C├ęsar Pelli. SI G N AT U RE AT T R ACT I O NS CU LT U R A L E X PERI EN CES At the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, groups can drive along a 10-mile loop to catch a glimpse of the preserve's 2,500 free-ranging bison and 300 species of birds. In spring, nearly 700 bison calves populate the hills, along with a colorful spread of wildflowers. In Tulsa, the Woody Guthrie Center traces the life of beloved American folk musician Woody Guthrie, who penned the clas- sic song "This Land Is Your Land." The center provides an in-depth look at the artist's creative process through features like a lyric-writing station, an interactive map of his travels and several of his original instruments. Housed in the historic former residence of Waite and Genevieve Phillips, the Philbrook Museum of Art presents an exquisite collection of art pieces from around the world, in addition to outdoor Italian- and French-style gardens. Walking tours are available. Groups can delve into the region's Native American history at the Cherokee Cultural Center in Tahlequah. The center offers several living-history exhibits, including replicas of Cherokee villages from the 1700s and 1800s, where interpreters in period clothing offer demonstrations on basket weaving, tool- making and traditional Native American games. Near Oktaha, the Honey Springs Battlefield marks the site of the largest Civil War battle in Indian Territory, and re-enactments of the event take place regularly. Visitors can follow self-guided tours along six walking trails lined with 55 educational signs. Each fall, Tulsa hosts a three-day celebration of Scottish music and culture called Scottfest. Groups can enjoy alterna- tive Celtic rock and folk music, whiskey tastings, international beers and Scottish and Irish dance demonstrations. Green Country is home to two iconic Route 66 roadside attractions. The Coleman Theater, near Miami, is a restored 1929 vaudeville theater with an elegant red-and-gold interior and a traditional Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ. The theater presents musical and theatrical performances year-round. In Catoosa, it is hard to miss the enormous Blue Whale just off the highway. Originally built in the 1970s as an anniversary gift, the 80-foot-long sperm whale extends over a pond and once served as a swimming playground where visitors could walk inside its gaping mouth, slide down its fins and jump off its elevated tail into the water. The attraction is now open only for photos. WWW.GREENCOUNTRYOK.COM H I D D EN G E M S OPPOSITE PAGE: A 66-FOOT-TALL SODA BOTTLE OUTSIDE POPS DINER ON ROUTE 66 By Lori Duckworth SUNSET OVER HONEY CREEK AT GRAND LAKE O' THE CHEROKEES G REEN CO U NTRY

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