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It's easier than ever before to access information that shines a light through the dark tunnels of the past, whether for an event that forever changed history or the culture that established a now-thriving community.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation defines heritage tourism as, "traveling to experience the places, artifacts, and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present." It includes visitation to cultural, historic and natural resources.

Heritage tourism raises awareness for and celebrates the distinct culture of a community and provides historic neighborhoods with revenue to continue preservation efforts—ensuring groups can visit and continue to learn for years to come. Groups looking to delve into the deeper history of a destination will find no shortage of opportunities in these cities and states.

The Old State House Museum | Little Rock, Arkansas
One of the many historic sites worth visiting in Arkansas, the Old State House Museum is the original state capital and has been witness to some of the most important events in Arkansas history: the admission of Arkansas to the Union, a fatal Bowie knife fight between two sitting legislators, the Arkansas vote to secede from the United States and join the Confederacy, pioneering medical research into hookworm and malaria, and two acceptance speeches by the president of the United States—to name a few.

Calusa Heritage Trail at the Randell Research Center at Pineland Pine Island | Pineland, Florida
Florida is home to rich a Spanish Colonial heritage and multiple ways for groups to explore it. This trail is an interpretive path that leads visitors through the mounds, canals and other features of the archaeological site at Pineland. Drawing on Spanish accounts and archaeological remains, the Calusa Heritage Trail tells the story of the Calusa—the group of people the Spanish met when they arrived in the early 1500s—and includes interpretive panels on the interaction between the Calusa and Spaniards. Groups can also check out the Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail, a 190-mile marked canoe and kayak trail that meanders through nearby coastal waters and inland tributaries.

Arna Bontemps African American Heritage Museum | Alexandria, Louisiana
Within the Crossroads region of Louisiana—the heart of the state—groups can immerse themselves in Creole, French and Spanish heritage. The Arna Bontemps African American Heritage Museum was home to one of Louisiana's most prolific African-American writers. Although Bontemps left the state at an early age, much of his writing dealt with black life in Louisiana and the South. As a novelist, poet, playwright, essayist and historian, he continually opposed the injustices of segregation.

Waco Mammoth National Monument | Waco, Texas
Groups can see the amazing Columbian mammoth that has called Waco home for approximately 65,000 years. Discovered in 1978 and declared a National Monument in 2015 by President Barack Obama, the five-acre Waco Mammoth National Monument sits within over 100 acres of wooded parkland along the Bosque River. Surrounded by oak, mesquite and cedar trees, the site offers groups an escape from the modern world and provides a glimpse into the lives of Columbian mammoths so many years ago.

What heritage sites are on your bucket list?

Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for Groups Today

Photo courtesy of Old State House Museum/Department of Arkansas Heritage.

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