Rest. Renew. Rejuvenate.

Kathleen Somers

The holidays are over and everywhere you turn people are making fresh resolutions to take better care of their health. Of course there are as many different ways of doing that as there are people on a bus. Some people want to lose weight. Others vow to work out. There’s yoga and improving one’s mental health, or visits to the spa. You’ll find people gravitating towards various types of therapy or stress relief or working on a better mental attitude. While you can’t help everyone with each one of their goals, an emerging trend in the group travel arena is incorporating ways to unwind. Some rejuvenating ideas from healthy stops to health conscious hotels are just the thing for your 2018 itineraries. Here are some ideas to get the creative juices flowing…


If you’ve ever had the pleasure of floating down a river in an inner tube, you know what I’m talking about here. Between the warmth of the sun and the rolling movements of the river, it’s a great way to let go and just relax the mind. Nebraska has come up with a group version of this activity and it’s called tanking. Start with a plastic or metal livestock water tank and outfit it with chairs, a cooler, or maybe even a table. You don’t even have to wear a bathing suit! Shorts and shirt are just fine since you won’t be getting wet. Tanking takes place on many of Nebraska’s calmer rivers and essentially involves a leisurely float. No paddling required as the shallow river gently glides the tanks lazily along. For your part, simply enjoy the scenery, soak up a beautiful day on the water, and maybe pass the sunscreen. Take peace in the fact that tanking is about the safest summer river activity there is. From small kids to older adults, anyone can ride in comfort and enjoy this unique outdoor fun. The tanks are stable on the water and will not tip over. Nevertheless, advise your group to wear a shoe they can get wet, but not a flip-flop. You’ll likely need one person from each tank to get out and pull the tank to shore at the end of the trip. Even though the float itself lasts from two to six hours depending on which outfitter you choose, your group will be talking about this experience for years! There are multiple companies offering tanking in Nebraska, and the rivers include Cedar River, Calamus River, Niobrara River, Elkhorn River and others. You might want to choose an outfitter that will pick your group up at your hotel and return them there.

Still need to calm your mind? A visit to Maharishi Vedic City in Iowa is perfect. Founded as a “lighthouse of peace” for America and the world, the city has banned the sale of all non-organic food and is creating a national center for perfect health and world peace. The city’s architecture is said to promote happiness, peace and prosperity for its occupants. Tours are available every day of the week. Contact Valerie Barnard at to learn more.


When losing weight and getting physically fit is what your group wants, you can win the day with Nordic walking. For this fitness walking you’ll need specially designed poles similar to cross-country ski poles, but shorter and adjustable. These walking sticks come in pairs with different tips to change out for different terrains. It might be easiest to supply the Nordic poles and include the price ($20-$60) in the trip. Compared to regular walking, pole walking uses more upper body and core muscles and results in significant better fitness (up to 46%) for the same perceived effort. You will also want to start with a short class on how to use the poles, so brush up on that yourself or have someone there who can do it. A Google search is all you need! Other advantages to using trekking poles include balance, avoiding slips and falls, raising moods, better and deeper sleep, and just a general feeling of wellbeing. Now who wouldn’t want a bus full of happy, well rested travelers? More good news: this health promoting physical activity can be done easily by beginners or seasoned athletes and appeals to young, old, sick, weak or strong equally. Once you’ve had your quick primer on use of the poles, it’s time to get out there and start hiking!

Circle S Ranch & Country Inn in Lawrence, KS is a great place for your group to use those trekking poles. A leisurely walk on the 2.5-mile Hawk’s Nest Trail winds through the prairie and around ponds, offering the occasional peek at Kansas wildlife. Lost Trail takes you through a more wooded area and over some creeks. There are plenty of photo ops here, plus you can relax under the oak trees. You might even arrange for the chef to prepare a picnic lunch for your group. Star Gazing Garden lets you stroll through raised garden beds or hang out at the Orange Gazebo—another great place for taking pictures.

Hitchcock Nature Center in the heart of the globally significant Loess Hills of Iowa offers miles of trails ranging from easy to challenging. Trailheads are labeled with difficulty level and meander through trees, prairies and ridgelines. No traffic noise, just calming nature.

Taking a break from Nordic walking? Circle S Ranch also offers horseback riding. Tours last 1 to 1.5 hours, depending on which you choose. Beautiful trails meander through hills and valleys and sometimes over streams. Every ride includes basic instructions, a helmet and western saddle. Want to ride with real cowboys and cowgirls? Medora Riding Stables in eastern North Dakota offers friendly trail guides and an adventure through the Badlands along buttes and canyons for a guaranteed unforgettable experience.


Ready for a luscious glass of irresistible ice wine? It’s sweet and delicious and special to cold climates. Most U.S. states cannot produce this decadent libation because it just doesn’t get cold enough. You see, ice wine is made from grapes that have been frozen on the vine. Hand picked at a mere 6-9 degrees, the grapes must stay frozen throughout the entire process. It’s tricky business because the grapes must be harvested at just the right time, and weather can be unpredictable. Oh sure, you could harvest the grapes and then freeze them, making an “ice-style” wine, but such wine cannot be labeled as “ice wine.” There are strict rules governing the harvesting, handling and labeling of ice wine and your group deserves the real deal. Connoisseurs might describe this choice as liquid-gold. Your group just needs a taste to know it is a highly prized delicacy and worth savoring. The flavor is very, very concentrated, and likely the sweetest wine you will ever find.

You can treat your group to an ice wine experience at Staller Estate Vineyard & Winery in southeastern Wisconsin. They have ice wine flights, three different vintages for tasting, or you can even inquire about a 5-course wine dinner where locally sourced food is served “farm to table” and paired with 6 different wines. With a recent 12,000-square-foot addition, I know you will be impressed. Or check out Wollersheim Winery & Distillery, also in Wisconsin. Believed to be the first winery in the state to produce ice wines, what’s in production now will be available in October of 2018. But when it’s gone it’s gone because there’s no way to know if enough grapes will be available for an ice wine harvest. Nonetheless, Wollersheim always has something fun going on. Check to see if you can arrange a Yoga Wine-d Down for your group, which includes sixty minutes of vinyasa flow class with their certified yoga instructor. Class cost includes one mini bottle of wine. Wollersheim also has a distillery with a distinguished line-up of family-crafted spirits and a very interesting story to tell. You can visit the award winning winery in the scenic hillside area across the Wisconsin River in Prairie du Sac.

Michigan is another state ideally suited for ice wine production. With so many Michigan wineries, you can imagine not all offer ice wine, but there are about 15 that do. I’ll mention a few here, in no particular order (and keep in mind, many of these have won awards). At Bel Lago Vineyard & Winery there are no tasting fees except for the ice wines. Five dollars includes a souvenir wine glass. Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery produces a dryer ice wine. At Chateau Chantal near Traverse City you might also want to arrange a wine dinner with their witty wine educator host. Chateau Aeronautique won an award for their 2013 Vidal Blance ice wine. Lemon Creek Winery in the heart of Michigan wine country has their Snow Moon ice wine, described as nectar-like aromas with pear and honey flavors and a sweet lingering finish. Set on the picturesque Leelanau Peninsula is Forty Five North, named because the 45th parallel runs directly through the vineyard. Beyond spectacular, it’s truly a vineyard-to-bottle operation. For more spirits, and restaurants that serve ice wines, be sure to check out Pure Michigan’s nightlife page

No matter how you choose to honor your group’s need to renew and rejuvenate, you can be sure they will be happy to leave the planning to you. Plan the entire trip around health or sprinkle a few R&R activities throughout. Just know the trend is here to stay.


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