In 2013, American Express asked more than 2,000 U.S. adults if they would rather buy experiences or things. Seventy-two percent said they'd rather spend money on experiences. A year later, in 2014, a related survey of American Express Travel Counselors found that 34 percent of their customers are seeking "cultural immersion" above all else from their vacations. Since then, interest in experiential travel and cultural immersion has only increased. Booze trails that combine local sites with local beverages are an increasingly popular way for meeting planners to satiate attendees' appetite for them. Here are five that will give groups a taste of their meeting destination.
Fort Worth Ale Trail (Fort Worth, TX)
The Fort Worth area is home to ten breweries, including Rabbit Hole Brewing, Panther Island Brewing, Shannon Brewing Co., and Rahr & Sons Brewing Co., which produces 20,000 barrels of beer a year and was named one of the top ten breweries of 2016 in this year's U.S. Open Beer Championship. Groups can visit all of them when they travel the Fort Worth Ale Trail
, according to the Fort Worth CVB, which offers a Fort Worth Ale Trail passport that visitors can have stamped at each of the local breweries they visit.
Brew Bus (Tampa, FL)
Another hot spot for craft beer lovers is Tampa, where the best way to experience local breweries is aboard the Brew Bus
, a beer-themed shuttle bus that provides public and private charters to local breweries across Tampa Bay. Buses seat groups of 14, 19, 22, or 33 passengers and can visit any of more than 50 breweries, brewpubs, and tasting rooms, such as Cigar City Brewing Co., Coppertail Brewing Co., and Tampa Bay Brewing Co., among many others. The company also provides charters in South Florida, visiting breweries in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Boca Raton.
Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail (Southwest Michigan)
Just a short drive from Chicago to the west and Grand Rapids to the north is the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail
in Southwest Michigan. Home to more than a dozen wineries and tasting rooms along the southeastern shore of Lake Michigan -- including Lemon Creek, Tabor Hill, and Round Barn, to name a few -- it's an ideal place for groups that want to have a grape-stomping good time. And in case a group wants to mix things up with more than wine, the same wineries that constitute the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail are part of the Makers Trail
, which also includes breweries and distilleries.
Kentucky Bourbon Trail (Lexington, KY)
Kentucky's bluegrass region is famous not only for its racehorses but also for its barrel-aged bourbon, which groups can sample while traversing the Kentucky Bourbon Trail
. The trail is home to world-famous distilleries, where visitors can learn the art and science of crafting bourbon, such as Jim Beam, Maker's Mark, Wild Turkey, and Woodford Reserve. All told, the trail is home to nine bourbon distilleries, each of which will stamp your souvenir Kentucky Bourbon Trail passport when you visit.
Oregon Distillery Trail (Oregon)
If groups are looking for hard liquor instead of soft -- vodka and gin instead of beer and wine -- then a good choice is the Oregon Distillery Trail
, which forms a large loop through Western Oregon, where it encompasses more than 30 distilleries pouring whiskey, vodka, gin, brandy, rum, and other libations. In Portland alone, the trail includes at least a dozen distilleries, such as Bull Run Distilling Co., House Spirits Distillery, and New Deal Distillery, the last of which is one of eight independent distillers constituting Distillery Row
in Southeast Portland.