The Group Travel Leader

JUL-AUG 2017

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Page 49 of 59

5 0 T 2 0 1 7 GROUP TRAVEL LE ADER T H E W ith 120,000 miles of shoreline and more than 10 lakes, Chickasaw Country provides endless opportunities for outdoor adventure in the south-central part of the state. "Many planners have been taking their groups to the same places for years," said Paige Williams Shepherd, director of corporate development and tourism for the Chickasaw Nation. "They're looking for a fresh and interactive experience, and that's what Chickasaw Country has to offer." SI G N AT U RE AT T R ACT I O NS CU LT U R A L E X PERI EN CES During the 1900s, the Artesian Hotel was iconic to the town of Sulphur, serving patrons like John Wayne and U.S. President William Howard Taft. After the boutique hotel burned down in 1962, the Chickasaw Nation eventually built a replica, as well as an adjacent art gallery where visitors can purchase handcrafted goods and design their own souvenirs in "make and take" art classes. Not far from the Artesian Hotel, the Chickasaw Recreational Area offers lush hiking trails, a natural cold spring and a free-roaming bison herd. Guided tours from park rangers are available. The park recently opened a suspension bridge within walking distance of the Chickasaw Cultural Center. In Ardmore, groups can explore Lake Murray State Park, the oldest and largest park in Oklahoma. Surrounding a 5,700-acre crystal-clear lake, the park includes the Tucker Tower Nature Center, which displays fossils and a 288-pound meteorite. The towns of Sulphur, Tishomingo and Milburn form a Native American cultural triangle. The Chickasaw Cultural Center has hosted more than half a million visitors since its opening in 2010. Located in Sulphur, the center explores regional history through engaging exhibits and discussions led by local experts. Groups can sample authentic Indian dishes, observe local artisans at work and peruse educa- tional exhibits. It also gives visitors the chance to interact with local artisans as they bead necklaces or carve bows and arrows. "From a group perspective, it's phenomenal," said Shepherd. "You can get traditional Indian food and drinks, plus a private guided tour, for just $10." The city has also been developing the accessibility of its attractions. Last April, it opened a new suspension bridge that connected the Cultural Center to the Chickasaw Recreational Area. In the nearby city of Tishomingo, groups can tour the historic Chickasaw National Capitol, which served as the Chickasaw government headquarters until Oklahoma became a state in 1907, as well as the Chickasaw Council House Museum, which houses one of the largest existing collections of Chickasaw art and artifacts. The Chickasaw White House in Milburn was originally built as a summer home for governor Douglas H. Johnston in the 1800s and is listed on the national historic registry. Photos courtesy Koch Communications SULPHUR'S NEW CHICKASAW CULTURAL CENTER BUFFALO SPRINGS IN CHICKASAW NATIONAL RECREATIONAL AREA WWW.CHICKASAWCOUNTRY.COM CH I CK ASAW CO U NTRY

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