Great local restaurants and watering holes

by Eliza Myers 21. June 2013 19:00

We asked the staff of The Group Travel Leader, "What's a great local restaurant or watering hole that you've discovered on the road?" Here are some wonderful places to keep in mind when you're on the road.

"Best dive bar hands down goes to Veets Bar in downtown Mobile, Alabama. It’s cold beer, live music and bartenders with so much personality that they should have their own reality show. Veets is the real deal."

— Stacey Bowman,
Director, Advertising Sales

"Meers is the only thing that remains of a once bustling mining town called Meers, Oklahoma. The restaurant serves the best burgers I’ve ever had, and the atmosphere is great. Check it out at Now, I am starving."

— Donia Simmons,
Creative Director

"I’ve tried, and I agree: You can’t go home again. Likewise, I’m beginning to think you can’t find good barbecue anywhere but home. I’m from Paducah in extreme western Kentucky, where I grew up eating barbecue unlike any I’ve had anywhere else. When I go home and especially when I’m visiting with old friends, barbecue is essential. If you’re ever in or even near Paducah, I recommend Harned’s Drive-In, home of old-fashioned barbecue and the friendliest, most energetic carhops around. I’ll have a large/hot, please."

— David Brown,
Art Director

"Throughout my years of travel, I have had the opportunity to eat at some terrific locally owned restaurants. Here are three that stand out in my mind: Felix’s Fish Camp in Mobile, Alabama, has the most amazing shrimp and grits. Steel Restaurant and Lounge in Atlanta is known for its signature Chilean sea bass — and it’s to die for. Local Gastropub in Memphis, Tennessee, has an avocado stuffed with crabmeat on the appetizer menu. It’s so fantastic I made a meal out of it."

— Kelly Tyner,
Director, Sales and Marketing

"Sometimes, the best trips are trips home. My favorite local joint is Ferrell’s Hamburgers in Hopkinsville, Kentucky: hand-patted hamburgers on a 50-year-old grill, 10 seats at the counter. The only thing green about this place is the waitresses’ aprons."

— Mac Lacy,

"I had a fantastic lunch last fall at Nellie’s, a small local joint in Las Cruces, New Mexico, that serves authentic New Mexican food. My heaping plate of chicken enchiladas came smothered with some of the most amazing green chile sauce I’ve ever tasted, and topped with a fried egg. I had never eaten enchiladas with an egg before, but the experience was so blissful that I now order a fried egg on top every time I go out for Mexican food."

— Brian Jewell,
Executive Editor

"George Street in Newfoundland, Canada, has not just one great local bar but several fun hangouts all in a row. The two-block district is said to have the most bars and pubs per square foot of any street in North America. I loved meeting all of the friendly Newfoundland locals at spots like Trapper John’s and Lottie’s Place, and hearing their recommendations for which pub I should try next."

— Eliza Myers,
Online Editor

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Staff Soundoff

Bush’s Visitor Center

by Bob Hoelscher 7. June 2013 01:10

Virtually everyone will recognize Jay Bush and his dog Duke from the numerous amusing television commercials which have featured the “secret recipe” for Bush’s Baked Beans. Built around the original 1897 A. J. Bush & Company general store in tiny Chestnut Hill, Tenn., you’ll also discover a most unusual visitor facility illustrating the company’s lengthy love affair with the humble bean. 

Jay and Duke will first “roll that beautiful bean footage” and entertain you in Bush’s Theatre. Then you can walk through a giant replica can of the company’s product, learn about Bush Brothers’ history and discover what your weight is in beans. Your group might also enjoy shopping in the old fashioned General Store or eating lunch in Bush’s Café.     

Also free, when you’re in the neighborhood: 
Don’t miss magnificent Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which receives more visitors each year than any other national park in the country.  Although there are plenty of attractions, lodging and dining facilities in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN, as well as Cherokee, NC, that will be happy to take your money, there is no charge to visit the park.

"Roll that Beautiful Bean Footage"

Bush's General Store

In the Neighborhood: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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Three favorite and free commercial attractions

Walmart Visitor Center

by Bob Hoelscher 7. June 2013 01:08

Who doesn’t have a Walmart in or near their community?  Whatever one thinks of this retailing juggernaut, there is no denying that Walmart is a true American success story. Here in Bentonville, Ark., near the corporation’s sprawling headquarters facilities, you’ll find the original little 5&10¢ store that Sam Walton opened on the town square in 1950.

Now housing the Walmart Visitor Center, the building holds an extensive gallery of interactive exhibits showcasing the company’s business philosophy and incredible growth. Guests can also visit a gift shop featuring typical ‘50s merchandise, the Spark Café, the stock Ford F-150 pickup truck that Sam used for hunting, and his personal office, left as it was on the day he died. 

Also free, when you’re in the neighborhood: The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the world-class museum complex designed to “celebrate the American spirit in a setting that unites the power of art with the beauty of landscape.” Opened during the fall of 2011, the museum was financed by, and filled with priceless American art objects collected by wealthy members of the Walton family.

Sam Walton's office

Sam Walton's Ford F-150 pickup truck

In the Neighborhood: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

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Three favorite and free commercial attractions

Korbel Champagne Cellars

by Bob Hoelscher 7. June 2013 01:05

To my knowledge, every state now offers wineries, some great, some good, others not so much, a few of them just plain awful. But champagne production facilities worth visiting are few and far between, which is all the more reason to plan a visit to the renowned Korbel Champagne Cellars in Guerneville, Calif. This commercial attraction produces some of America’s best bubbly, readily available at stores nationwide. 

Nestled on beautiful grounds in a picturesque, out of the way setting in Sonoma County, Korbel offers a film and tours to show guests firsthand they create quality champagne. You’ll also taste the finished product without having to pay the $20 a head that other Sonoma and Napa Valley wineries regularly charge groups for a tour and tastings. 

Also free, when you’re in the neighborhood: You’ll find Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve, one of California’s great parks, right up the road. The park preserves pristine forests of towering coastal redwood trees. Just park the coach and walk the Pioneer Trail to such massive specimens as the 310-foot high, 1300-year old “Parson Jones,” and the 308-foot-high, 1400-year old “Colonel Armstrong” trees.

Beautiful grounds and facilities at Korbel

Korbel's Champagne Tasting Bar

In the Neighborhood: Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve

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Three favorite and free commercial attractions

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