Author Archives

Casie Wilson

Group-Friendly Outdoor Dining Venues in Atlanta

June 10, 2021
A group of friends enjoy colorful cocktails on a restaurant patio

At the heart of the Deep South, Atlanta’s called Hot-lanta for a reason: the summer swelter brings most outdoor diners to the safety of indoor air conditioning. But when the weather is nice, it’s well worth dining outside in the City in the Woods. From high-brow eateries on the riverfront to cozy garden-esque brunch spots, there are plenty of outdoor dining options for your Atlanta eaters to enjoy the scenery, some good food, and good company.

We may be biased, but we at Falcon Charter Bus believe that leaving the transportation to the pros is the best way to take in Atlanta’s outdoor dining scene. Instead of arranging a carpool, hailing multiple rideshares, or having to navigate MARTA after a few glasses of wine, a reliable charter bus or minibus shuttle will be waiting for you—no matter where you dine.

Call 404-400-3545 to learn more about our Atlanta bus rental services, and keep reading to learn more about the best group-friendly outdoor dining spots in the city:

A group of friends enjoy colorful cocktails on a restaurant patio

Bread & Butterfly

Address: 290 Elizabeth St NE F, Atlanta, GA 30307

Atlanta loves to brunch, but very few places in town provide a brunch experience quite like this trendy cafe. While this French-inspired bistro offers a variety of innovative, locally sourced plates into the late evening, the breakfast menu here truly shines. Drop by any day except Monday to dig into omelettes du jour, soft scrambled eggs and cold-smoked trout, quiche, pancakes, or a drool-worthy steak and eggs plate with mixed greens.

When it comes to seating, your brunch enthusiasts will have their choice of the bright and airy sunroom or the spacious patio. The only downside? As of this writing (June 2021), B&B is not taking reservations, so you’ll likely need to get there early and pull up a table or two if your group would like to dine together.

Charter bus rental tip: Street parking in Inman Quarter can fill up quickly—so rather than driving and parking a bunch of cars, renting a motorcoach may be a better alternative. Your driver can drop everyone off within walking distance of this popular bistro and be ready to pick everyone up once they’ve had their fill of brunch-time favorites.

 

Canoe

Address: 4199 Paces Ferry Rd SE, Atlanta, GA 30339

Canoe is a local favorite for rehearsal dinners and private family dinners out—and for good reason. This New American restaurant offers elegant farm-to-table dishes, such as seasonal charcuterie selections, house-smoked salmon, and slow-roasted lamb ribs. To top it all off, this high-end restaurant offers one of the best patio views in the city, overlooking the Chattahoochee River.

What really makes this place stand out, though? The River Garden, which doubles as an event venue for weddings, fundraisers, and large-scale soirees year-round! The outdoor space can accommodate between 30 to 140 guests inside the luxury garden tent—positioned on brick pavers with a tent liner, chandeliers on dimmer switches, and pole curtains. When you contact Canoe to reserve the space, be sure to inquire about the live entertainment package and in-tent climate control to keep your guests comfortable.

Charter bus rental tip: Rather than having your guests have to worry about parking in Canoe’s small lot, reserve a shuttle service on your wedding day. That way, you won’t be bombarded with a dozen “Where’s the venue?” texts on your big day and no one will arrive late to your ceremony or reception.

A chef heats up tortillas filled with toppings on a flat-top grill

Bar Mercado

Address: 99-V, Krog St NE, Atlanta, GA 30307

Krog Street Market’s fall hall is definitely worth visiting if you’re hungry and traveling with a crowd that has diverse palates—but this vendor in particular is an excellent choice if you want to dine al fresco.

Bar Mercado has started pivoting from Spanish cuisine to a more Latin-inspired menu in recent years, so your dinner party can chow down on a variety of small plates like paella, street corn, sweet plantains with crema, and provoleta. In any case, you can expect an eclectic and airy atmosphere and a rotation of weekly drink specials if you choose to stop here for drinks after work or a casual weekend get-together.

 

Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall

Address: 684 John Wesley Dobbs Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30312

If your group has worked up an appetite after a stroll along the Beltline—one of ATL’s most popular greenspaces—consider stopping at this quaint patio space on mile marker 9.25 of the Eastside Trail. This casual New American joint caters to those nostalgic for the days of summer camp, serving up dishes it dubs “elevated campfire cuisine” in dining spaces like screened porches and picnic-style tables with umbrellas.

The adults in your crowd won’t want to pass up ordering a local craft beer, wine, and cocktails from the outdoor bar made out of a vintage camper. Aside from drinks, Ladybird specializes in sharable plates. Oh, and did we mention it’s dog-friendly? Bring your pups and cozy up next to a fire pit for pimento cheese fritters, homemade jerky, or their famous backyard BBQ board.

Want the space all to yourself? Ladybird can accommodate parties and events of all sizes, so swing by for a relaxed office luncheon or a few brews with your extended family.

Three women laugh and eat a snack on an outdoor patio surrounded by plants

Anis Cafe and Bistro

Address: 2974 Grandview Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30305

On a quiet side street in Buckhead, you’ll find this charming bistro in a converted house that’s been renovated to look like a French Provincial home. Dine on rustic French cuisine like croque monsieur with Black Forest ham or truite meunière with roasted artichokes amid Parisian decor and weekly live Brazilian jazz.

As for the patio space, Anis goes out of its way to make the outdoor dining section as romantic as possible. Groups can reserve the garden-like balcony space or the full ground-floor patio along with a three-course meal and bar access.

Charter bus rental tip: Worried about your dinner guests getting home after too many glasses of French wine? We recommend reserving a minibus shuttle to act as your DD for the evening. A professional bus driver will ensure everyone has a reliable ride home, and your guests can relax in a comfortable cabin rather than wait on the curb for multiple rideshares to show up.

 

Bangkok Station

Address: 550 Pharr Rd NE, Atlanta, GA 30305

Wanting Thai food? Atlanta has plenty of eateries to satisfy your cravings. Wanting Thai food in an outdoor setting? Few places offer a patio as picturesque as Bangkok Station!

This Buckhead haunt serves up authentic Thai dishes with a modern twist. Your diners are sure to be charmed by the railroad-inspired decor and warm ambiance, but the patio is really where this restaurant’s atmosphere shines. The outdoor dining space here is open and airy, with furniture that looks like it was pulled from the pages of a Restoration Hardware catalog. Dining groups who frequent Bangkok Station love spreading out across the tables, ordering a round of tropical cocktails for the table, and enjoying plates of boat noodles, massaman curry, lemongrass soup, or matcha green tea cheesecake.

 

Stress-Free Group Dining Shuttles through Falcon Charter Bus

Now that you have an idea of where you can host your next outdoor dining event, all that’s left to do is figure out how everyone will get there Luckily, Falcon Charter Bus is here to help! We pride ourselves on pairing groups of all sizes with the ideal transportation plan to make their travels easy. And with a network of over 3,000 vehicles and a 24/7 reservation team, renting a charter bus or minibus in Atlanta has never been easier.

Give us a call at 404-400-3545 to start planning your Atlanta dining experience. All you need is a headcount and an itinerary to receive a free, no-obligation quote for your personalized bus rental.

The Most Beautiful Places in the Southeast

March 24, 2021
Sun filters through the leaves of Angel Oak, a large tree with many branches growing in all directions

From man-made marvels to untouched nature preserves, the Southeast is home to many beautiful sights. If you’re planning a hiking excursion, sightseeing outing, or day trip to connect with the region’s beauty, we at Falcon Charter Bus put together this guide to help you narrow down your itinerary. And if you’re considering the benefits of taking a hassle-free bus rental, we can ease your travels to the beautiful gardens, beaches, and architectural wonders the Southeast has to offer.

The sun rises over a driftwood tree on Jekyll Island

Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island, Georgia

Address: N Loop Trail, Jekyll Island, GA 31527

A little over an hour away from Jacksonville, you can escape the continental U.S.’s largest city and find yourself someplace beautiful—if not a little eerie. Jekyll Island is one of only four Georgia barrier islands that are road-accessible from the mainland. And while beachgoers from throughout the Southeast come here to see old Rockefeller mansions, colonial tabby structures, and sea turtle rescue centers, Driftwood Beach in particular draws beauty-seekers from far and wide.

Here, visitors can walk along a beach strewn with gnarled and weathered oaks and pines—some fully exposed and some emerging from the depths of the sands—all left behind from years of erosion. Especially around sunrise, these ancient dead trees resemble twisting sculptures and make for beautiful photo ops and stunning backdrops for weddings.

Charter bus parking: Most people who visit Driftwood Beach park their cars along Beach View Drive, the paved access road that runs along the island’s east end. If you visit on a busy day and the streetside parking is limited, consider asking your bus driver to wait for you at the nearby Jekyll Island Campground.

A view of the Lover's Leap waterfall at Rock City

Rock City Gardens, Georgia

Address: 1400 Patten Rd, Lookout Mountain, GA 30750

Interested in history as well as beauty? Your group can take in both atop Lookout Mountain, 6 miles from Chattanooga and 2 hours from Atlanta.

While natives and settlers alike have used the rocky outcrop as a scouting point throughout the centuries, Rocky City first became a tourist attraction in the 1920s. Entrepreneur Garnet Carter constructed the country’s first miniature golf course on the site, while his wife Freida curated and maintained a romantic, European-inspired garden around it. During the Depression, the couple commissioned a painter to travel the nation’s highways and offer to paint farmers’ barns in exchange for letting him paint three words on the roof: See Rock City. The letterings appeared as far north as Michigan and as far west as Texas, drawing in travelers from all over the U.S. to the gardens.

Today nearly half a million tourists come every year to see Rock City’s acres of massive sandstone boulders and the meandering Enchanted Trail. Wander through gardens showcasing 400 species of native plants, caverns with interesting rock formations, and a fairytale garden that’s sure to delight your kids and young-at-heart. The real showstopper, however, is the breathtaking views from Lover’s Leap, an outcropping that overlooks the lush valley 1,700 feet below. The falls and gardens are completely manmade, but the view atop Lookout Mountain is all-natural and unparalleled—you can see 7 states on a clear day.

Charter bus parking: The Rock City Gardens parking lot offers designated, free bus parking north of the ticket desk.

Sun filters through the leaves of Angel Oak, a large tree with many branches growing in all directions

Angel Oak, South Carolina

Address: 3688 Angel Oak Rd, Johns Island, SC 29455

If you’re near Charleston and need some time away from the city, consider venturing 13 miles out to this ancient tree. At approximately 500 years old, this Southern live oak may not be the oldest tree in the East—North Carolina’s bald cypresses are over 1,600 years old—but its sprawl of heavy limbs and massive, moss-covered trunk make for a beautiful sight.

Visitors can take pictures with the tree, poke around the gift shop, and enjoy the peace and quiet most days from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays). Signs ask visitors not to climb or sit on the branches or deface the tree—many locals over the years have seen this place as sacred, so approach respectfully.

Charter bus parking: Oversized vehicles like RVs and charter buses are not allowed in the park where the Angel Oak resides. Instead, bus rentals are asked to park along the dirt road that connects the park to Maybank Highway and Bohicket Road.

A heron takes flight in a marshy swamp

Atchafalaya Basin, Louisiana

Welcome Center Address: 1908 Atchafalaya River Hwy, Breaux Bridge, LA 70517

When most folks think of picturesque swampland, the Everglades may come to mind. And while the famous national park may have a broader diversity of animals, when it comes down to beautiful sights, the Atchafalaya Basin takes the cake.

These 140 miles of river delta contain the largest contiguous tract of coastal cypress in the United States. All these acres of protected bottomland forest make the Atchafalaya a haven for rare birds—and a popular spot for bird-watching! Throughout your travels in the basin, you may spot egrets, herons, warblers, and even the largest nesting concentration of bald eagles in the southern United States.

Charter bus parking: Before venturing into the swamp, we recommend first stopping by the Atchafalaya Welcome Center, about 2 hours away from New Orleans. Here, your youth group, class, or friends and family can schedule airboat tours, brush up on the basin’s storied history, and park your charter bus rental in the lot outside.

The Blue Ridge Parkway winds through autumn-colored trees and mountainsides

Blue Ridge Parkway

Main Visitor Center Address: 195 Hemphill Knob Rd, Asheville, NC 28803

Itching for a road trip? Covering nearly 470 miles between Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway is often considered the country’s most beautiful scenic drive. That means your group can enjoy the foliage, waterfalls, and picturesque valley overlooks without ever leaving your bus rental!

The roadway winds through the heart of the Appalachians, which makes for great leaf-peeping come fall and wildflower-viewing throughout spring and summer. Besides taking in the natural beauty, many visitors enjoy making pit stops in the small towns along the way to buy local-made wares and snacks and to learn more about Appalachian culture.

Charter bus parking: There 15 designated visitor centers along the Blue Ridge Parkway, located 20-50 miles from each other (give or take). Each one is wheelchair accessible and should offer plenty of parking space for your charter bus.

Crowds of people enter the huge mansion on the Biltmore Estate

Biltmore Estate, North Carolina

Address: 1 Lodge St, Asheville, NC 28803

Constructed in 1895 as a sprawling mansion for the larger-than-life industrialist George Vanderbilt, this French Renaissance-style chateau is sure to delight your architecture lovers and fans of turn-of-the-century aesthetics. The house itself contains 250 furnished rooms (including 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces), as well as North Carolina’s first passenger elevator and electric refrigerators. Outside, guests are free to roam the 75 acres of park-like gardens and relax on the edge of Bass Pond, just as generations of Vanderbilts have done before.

The Biltmore Estate has been a popular attraction since Vanderbilt’s daughter, Cornelia, opened the home to public tours in 1930. Whether you’re here to tour the estate’s wineries, mansion, and gardens or host an event in the breath-taking garden and balcony venues, the beautiful sights are well worth the two-hour drive from Charlotte.

Charter bus parking: The Biltmore House offers a spacious parking lot with ADA-compliant shuttles running between the lot and the house’s entrance. When you call 866-851-4661 to coordinate your group’s tour or event, a Biltmore representative will be able to tell you where in the lot your bus can park.

Art deco-style buildings in Miami, next to a palm tree

Miami Art Deco Historic District

Welcome Center Address: 1001 Ocean Dr, Miami Beach, FL 33139

The Miami Art Deco Historic District is a square-mile section of Miami Beach dedicated to preserving the architecture and aesthetic that helped make the city such a popular resort town. Nowhere else can you see so many pastel-hued hotels, boutiques, and even post offices washed in neon and gilded geometry designs—all without straying from Miami’s city limits.

The beauty of this neighborhood is not found in one building or monument, but rather in the cohesive style and colors of the whole district. The Art Deco Historic District officially spans 5th Street to 23rd Street, but one of the best uninterrupted stretches of vibrant art deco buildings can be found along Ocean Drive. Here, your group can take in the towering neon of the Breakwater Hotel, grab a bite in the Edison Hotel lobby, and pose for selfies on the nearby beach.

Charter bus parking: Unfortunately, parking a bus in busy Miami Beach is easier said than done. Have your driver drop everyone off near the Art Deco District Welcome Center and find parking closer to downtown while you explore the neighborhood.

 

Experience the Southeast’s Most Beautiful Sights

Whether you’re a group of art history buffs or scout troop planning your next excursion, the Southeast has plenty of beautiful places to visit. And if you ever need a ride to your top scenic destinations, Falcon Charter Bus will be happy to take you there. Let us provide a modern motorcoach and an experienced driver to handle the logistics, so your passengers can sit back, recline in a plush seat, soak in the AC, and enjoy the sights.

Call 1-866-217-2168 today for a free, no-obligation quote tailored to your bus rental needs throughout the beautiful Southeast!

A Group Guide to Visiting the Southeastern National Parks

September 22, 2020
A hiker sits on a rock near a waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains

Nowadays, I know two things to be true:

  1. We all could use a little time outside.
  2. Southeastern national parks don’t get the love they deserve.

If you’re in the southeast or heading this way, hitting up your closest national park is a great way to get some fresh air, stretch your legs, and learn about your region’s ecosystems—all while avoiding large crowds and practicing social distancing.

And while the United States has 62 designated national parks—which doesn’t count the hundreds of national monuments, forests, and wildlife areas also within the National Park System—depending on what you define as “The South,” there are only 7 national parks in this neck of the woods.

So to make it easier for your scout troop, virtual schooling pod, or large family to make the most of your park outing, Falcon Charter Bus has put together this comprehensive guide to every national park in the southeastern U.S. and how to best enjoy them with a group. 

Quick Navigation:

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  2. Mammoth Cave National Park
  3. Congaree National Park
  4. Hot Springs National Park
  5. Biscayne National Park
  6. Everglades National Park
  7. Dry Tortugas National Park

P.S.: If your park-hoppers need a lift to any of the national parks on this list, leave it to Falcon Charter Bus. We’re going the extra mile to ensure every bus rental is thoroughly sanitized between trips, and we’ll work with you if you want to implement social distancing precautions on your charter bus or minibus. Call 1-866-217-2168 today to learn more about our services and to receive a free, no-obligation quote for your national park trip!

A hiker sits on a rock near a waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Location:

North Carolina and Tennessee

The Draw:

Even before the pandemic, this national park’s primary draw was its scenic drive potential, especially when the trees turn red and orange in mid-October. While you’re still keeping up with social distancing protocols, now’s the perfect opportunity to enjoy some fall foliage from the relative safety of a well-filtered cabin—without having to leave your plush and comfy seat. As colder weather approaches, though, roadways may ice over or otherwise be closed to motorcoach traffic, so keep an eye out for closures.

Popular Activities and Amenities:

Like I said, one of the main attractions here is the bright autumn colors that sweep the valleys come October. Your group can take in many of the most popular views—the rolling hills of Cades Cove, the heights of Clingman’s Dome, etc.—from the window of a car or motorcoach, meaning this is the perfect place for a scenic drive.

If your group is into hiking or biking, there are plenty of trails of varying lengths for day trips. And if you’re feeling adventurous, try tackling a leg of the Appalachian Trail (about 72 miles of it runs through here).

Group Camping:

Campers be warned: this park is extremely popular in the fall, so if you want to stop by during leaf-viewing season you’ll likely need to reserve your spot at least one year in advance.

Here are all the campgrounds within Great Smoky Mountain National Park that offer group camping (though as of this writing, some may still be closed due to COVID-19, so be sure to call ahead to ensure your site-of-choice is open):

  • Big Creek Campground—1 group campsite with a 25-person maximum
  • Cades Cove Campground—4 group sites with a 30-person maximum
  • Cataloochee Campground—3 group sites with a 25-person maximum
  • Cosby Meadows Campground—3 group sites with a 20-person maximum
  • Deep Creek Campground—3 group sites with a 20-person maximum
  • Elkmont Campground—4 group sites with a 30-person maximum
  • Smokemont Campground—3 group sites with a 20-person maximum

Charter Bus Parking:

The winding roads, steep drops, and hairpin turns can make this national park tricky to traverse with a motorcoach. Before you hit the road, be sure to check the park’s guide to bus restrictions to ensure you can get there safely. That being said, all three of the national park’s visitor centers (Sugarlands, Cades Cove, and Oconaluftee) offer plenty of bus-friendly parking spots for tour groups.

View of the stalagmites inside a cavern at Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park

Location:

Kentucky

The Draw:

Besides being a great place to stretch your legs if you’re venturing out from Nashville, this national park is well-known for a lot of reasons. For one thing, it’s the world’s longest cave system—covering 400 miles that we know of. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site (a half-dozen pre-Columbian mummies were found here, as well as artifacts like grass-woven moccasins and a few petroglyphs) and an internationally designated Biome Reserve, thanks to the unique sandstone formations and 130 species that call the caves home.

Popular Activities and Amenities:

Mammoth Cave offers a range of cave tours—from accessible, well-lit, ranger-led tours of the more popular rock formations to “wild” tours where spelunkers bring their own light sources into undeveloped muddy tunnels and dusty caverns. That being said, if caves aren’t your group’s thing, topside there are over 80 miles of hiking trails, 80 miles of backcountry horseback trails, and two rivers explorable by kayak or canoe.

Group Camping:

There are three campgrounds in the park, two of which provide group campsite accommodations. The first, Mammoth Cave Campground, is a short walk from the visitor center and offers 4 group sites for up to 16 campers each. Maple Springs Group Campground is a little farther away from the visitor center (a 10-minute drive) but has more group-friendly sites available to larger groups—and their equine companions! Both charge $25 per night per group campsite and have a 14-day limit on how long you can stay.

Charter Bus Parking:

The visitors center at the exact center of the park has a spacious parking lot with plenty of room to keep your charter bus while you venture into the depths.

The boardwalk trail at Congaree National Park

Congaree National Park

Location:

South Carolina

The Draw:

A more recent addition to the NPS, Congaree National Park was established in 2003 to preserve the country’s largest tract of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest—in other words, 500-year-old cypress trees and very, very old floodplains. While the hardwood forests out West have been relatively untouched for centuries, finding still-intact, pre-colonial forests on the East Coast is very rare (especially this far south). That means Congaree is one of the only places in the Southeast where you can see landscapes as they would have looked before colonists arrived!

Popular Activities and Amenities:

Most first-time visitors start with a self-guided stroll or a ranger-led tour along the Boardwalk Trail: a 2.4-mile loop through the towering cypresses. If your group includes folks with mobility concerns, the boardwalk is a great place for them to birdwatch, catch fireflies in the summer, and enjoy the outdoors on a relatively smooth pathway. (If you need a ride here, Falcon Charter Bus can set your group up with ADA-compliant coaches at no additional cost!)

All the waterways and creeks also make this park a popular launch point for canoers and kayakers. The stretch of Cedar Creek between Bannister’s Bridge and the Cedar Creek Landing is a popular option for beginners, but if you’re looking for a weekend-long excursion, get a free backcountry permit and take the 50-mile Congaree River Blue Trail.

Pro tip: if you’re coming in with a big group and don’t want to bother juggling cars between put-ins and take-outs, reserve a private bus rental for your trip. Your driver can ensure your ride is right where you want it to be when you’re ready to head home.

Group Camping:

Congaree has two designated campgrounds, and only one of them offers places for groups to camp—Longleaf Campground. There are four group campsites here, where you and up to 23 friends can pitch up to 10 tents for $20 per night. Keep in mind that due to invasive bug problems, Congaree is very strict about what firewood is brought into campgrounds. Your group is better off purchasing from the general store or collecting downed wood within the park when it’s time to roast up s’mores.

Charter Bus Parking:

Congaree is considered a hidden gem of the NPS. In other words, there aren’t many visitors passing through on a given day, so if you’re coming in from Columbia, there should be plenty of room for your bus to park at the Henry Hampton Visitor Center lot at the north end of the park.

A pool at Hot Springs National Park at sunrise

Hot Springs National Park

Location:

Arkansas

The Draw:

Most people come here to see—well—the hot springs!

Established in 1832 (40 years before the concept of a national park existed), this park was the first in the U.S. to be set aside by the federal government for recreational use. Over the decades, the towns surrounding the springs boomed with bathhouses, salons, and health spas—especially during the turn-of-the-century and throughout the flu epidemic.

Nowadays, you can experience the mineral-rich waters of these non-volcanic thermal springs in a number of ways, from soaking your cares away in a bathhouse to bottling up the spring water pouring from outdoor spigots and taking it home.

Popular Activities and Amenities:

The most popular spots in this national park are the two establishments left on the historic Bathhouse Row:

  • The Buckstaff Bathhouse—1912 health spa and the last of the two dozen bathhouses that dotted the park in its heyday. Call (501) 623-2308 for more information about rates, services, and reservations.
  • The Quapaw Bathhouse—A more contemporary facility with thermal pools, private baths, and a steam cave. Call (501) 609-9822 to inquire about rates and reservations.

But if your group would rather be outside, there’s always the Hot Water Cascade on the Arlington Lawn (the park’s largest visible spring). You can’t soak there, but you can dip your hands into the warm pools and enjoy the scenery from the water’s edge.

Group Camping:

While this park does offer a campground—Gulpha Gorge—there are no official group campsites offered, and the spots are limited to eight people and two tents per site. So if your group of campers is larger than that, you’ll need to split up across multiple campsites.

Not feeling like roughing it? You’re in luck. Hot Springs is considered an “urban” national park, so there’s plenty of hotels and lodges within walking distance of the springs, many of which offer thermal baths in every room. Keep an eye out for hotel block discounts and reduced rates for your bus driver—who you’ll have to provide room and board for if you’re traveling overnight.

Charter Bus Parking:

The downside of visiting a national park within a city, however, is the limited parking for oversized vehicles. We recommend reserving a small motorcoach, such as an 18-passenger minibus, so ensure the best maneuverability in this historic town. Your bus rental can only park in one of two places: along the roads surrounding Whittington Park, or at Hill Wheatley Plaza, one block south of the visitor center.

A snorkeler dives near a coral reef in Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park

Location:

Florida

The Draw:

Once a playground of the well-to-do yachters of Miami, Biscayne National Park was set aside for conservation and public use in the 1980s. 95% of the park is water, and all the best sites aside from the mainland visitor center are only accessible by boat. Major attractions include vibrant coral reefs and the Maritime Heritage Trail—six shipwrecks (ranging from an 1870s steamer vessel to a steel-hulled 60s schooner) connected by a system of buoys for easy navigation by boat, scuba diving, or snorkeling.

Popular Activities and Amenities:

Needless to say, this place is heaven for lovers of all things nautical. Kayakers, paddleboarders, and scuba divers are free to bring their own equipment and explore the bay as they please.

The Biscayne Institute offers a variety of nautical excursions and tours—from Sailing 101 classes, to guided scuba sessions through shipwrecks, to tours of the ornamental lighthouse and abandoned fishing village in the middle of the bay, “Stiltsville.” If your group wants to chart your own course, keep in mind that this national park is very particular when it comes to third-party tours, fishing charters, and outdoor recreation with motorized boats. Read up on the NPS’s list of authorized operators before you start planning your itinerary.

Group Camping:

There are also two campgrounds within the park—Elliott Key and Boca Chita Key—but neither of them offer group campsites, and you can only get there by boat, paddleboard, kayak, or canoe. If your boaters don’t mind dividing and conquering, $25 per night will cover any docking fees and allow six people to set up camp on each site.

Charter Bus Parking:

Despite how small and overlooked this park is, the Dante Fascell Visitor Center does have a fair amount of parking—and designated oversized vehicle parking at that (ooh la la). If your group happens to visit on a holiday weekend and all the bus-friendly spots are full of RVs, try the Homestead Bayfront Park lot by the marina.

Two kayakers paddle through mangroves in the Everglades

Everglades National Park

Location:

Florida

The Draw:

The swamp! Well, okay, it’s the country’s largest “subtropical wilderness,” if you want to get technical. These 1.5 million acres encompass coastal mangroves, sawgrass marshes, and lowland pine forests. But most people come here to see the wildlife. The Everglades is one of the only places you can catch a glimpse of several endangered wetland species in their natural habitat, including West Indian manatees, leatherback turtles, and Florida panthers.

Popular Activities and Amenities:

Like I said, a major draw to the Everglades is all the cool animals you can see here. But the swamp is big and hard to traverse on foot. The solution? Airboat tours. The park allows three authorized tour providers to charter airboats here, and all of them can be accessed from U.S. Highway 41 between Miami and Shark Valley.

Of course, there’s plenty else to do and see if your group would rather skip the airboats. Kayakers and canoers of all skill levels can paddle out from Flamingo Marina to explore the mangroves, marshes, and beaches. And bird-watchers will have a field day on any of the designated trails snaking out from the Homestead Entrance—over 300 bird species can be found in that area alone!

Group Camping:

This park may be big, but there are only two places to frontcountry camp: Long Pine Key Campground and Flamingo Campground. Both are accessible from the Homestead entrance of the park, and both offer group campsites (though availability is very limited). These larger sites need to be reserved in advance and go for $35 per night. Call 855-708-2207 to reserve yours.

Charter Bus Parking:

This national park has three entrances in three separate cities—and none of them are connected within the park grounds. That is to say, where you park your charter bus depends on where you enter:

  • Homestead Entrance—This is where the park’s two campgrounds are located. Ask your bus driver to park at either the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center or the Flamingo Visitor Center.
  • Miami Entrance—As you could probably guess, this one’s the closest entrance to Miami. There’s designated bus parking available at the Shark Valley Visitor Center, where your group can take in a bird’s-eye view of the wetlands from the iconic Shark Valley Observation Tower.
  • Everglades City Entrance—If you’re entering the park from the west (like from Naples), this is your gateway to the Everglades. Your bus driver can park near the Gulf Coast Visitor Center while you take airboat tours through the mangroves at Ten Thousand Islands.
Aerial view of the fort in Dry Tortuga National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park

Location:

Florida

The Draw:

If you want to get away from it all, any of these national parks should do the trick. If you really want to get away, this national park is your stop. Dry Tortugas is a collection of seven islands in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico—about 70 miles from Key West—and is only accessible by ferry or seaplane.

Don’t worry though, history buffs and marine-life-lovers will consider this place well worth the trek. It houses one of the U.S.’s largest and most well-preserved 19th-century forts, Fort Jefferson. It’s also one of very few places in the U.S. where you can see the sun rise and set over the water, all from the same spot.

Popular Activities and Amenities:

Most visitors here for a day trip focus on exploring Fort Jefferson. Tours can cover a variety of disciplines—from the general timeline of the fort and its part in the Civil War, to deep-dives into the micro-ecosystems of the moats surrounding the structures.

Snorkeling is also popular here, given the clear blue waters, bright coral reefs, and countless shipwrecks within boating distance of the islands. This park also gives visitors the opportunity to geocache, paddleboard, kayak, canoe, and camp on the beach.

Group Camping:

If you want to camp with a group on Garden Key (the only place you’re allowed to set up a tent), you’ll need to make a reservation. There is only one group site available, and it can accommodate up to 20 people. Keep in mind that there is no fresh water on the key, and all campsites here are primitive—so make sure everyone brings enough water and carries out their garbage when it’s time to head home.

Charter Bus Parking:

It should go without saying that charter bus parking around here is not really a concern—you can’t exactly drive to the islands. Instead, focus on booking a ferry or seaplane from the mainland, and let a professional bus driver ensure your explorers arrive at the dock with plenty of time to load and board.

Explore the Great Outdoors with Falcon Charter Bus

No matter what southeastern national parks fill your itinerary, Falcon Charter Bus is here to take you there. Let our network of experienced drivers and top-of-the-line motorcoaches transport you to your outdoor excursions, and we’ll provide your group with all the small comforts to make the trip more fun.

Charge up your phone before the big hike with individual power outlets, post your favorite landscape photos over the onboard WiFi, settle in with a movie on a flatscreen TV, or simply watch through panoramic windows. Whatever your group wants or needs for your national park trip—from extra storage space for your picnic coolers to ADA-compliant coaches at no additional cost—our 24/7 team can make it happen. Give us a call at 1-866-217-2168 whenever you’re ready to start planning!

The Best Field Trips in Atlanta

July 23, 2020
a child interacts with a gear puzzle in a children's museum

If you’re planning a field trip or school outing, Atlanta is a great place to have one. There are so many family-friendly and educational attractions here, many of which we’ve already covered—like the Fernbank Science Center, the MLK Jr. National Historical Park, and the Georgia State Capitol Building, just to name a few—in our budget-friendly Atlanta guide.

But if you’re still looking for more options for your next outing with the youth group, daycare, summer camp, or after-school club, you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading to see even more destinations your youngsters will enjoy in Atlanta!

Do your little travelers need a ride on your big day out? Let Falcon Charter Bus take the wheel. Our network of buses and experienced drivers means we can provide safe and reliable transportation of nearly any size, scope, and scale—from minibus shuttles for small clubs to a fleet of charter buses for your entire 8th-grade class. Throw in amenities like WiFi so they can stream music or TVs and a DVD player for your Magic School Bus marathons, and you’ve got a comfortable ride that will keep them entertained between destinations on your itinerary. Call 404-400-3545 at any time to reserve your ride, or just to receive a free, personalized quote—there’s no obligation to book if you receive one!

Now let’s get field-tripping:

two marionettes interact during a live puppet show

Center for Puppetry Arts

Address: 1404 Spring St NW, Atlanta, GA 30309

Phone: 404-873-3391

Oft-overlooked by travel guides, this destination is a great way to spend an afternoon with an elementary-aged crowd. As the name suggests, the Center for Puppetry Arts is the U.S.’s largest art center dedicated to, well, puppets. It first opened in 1978 with an opening ceremony hosted by the one and only Kermit the Frog.

Since the 70s, the Center has taken to not only entertaining the public with daily live puppet shows, but also educating the masses on various forms of puppetry arts. When you go to visit, be sure to set aside time to tour the Worlds of Puppetry Museum. There, your class can say hello to a variety of friends, from traditional Japanese Bunraku figures to Crow and Tom Servo from Mystery Science Theater 3000 and costume pieces from Broadway’s The Lion King. The Center’s museum rotates out what’s on display roughly every six months—so even returning educators are bound to see something new every time they come!

Depending on the time of year, your group can also catch any puppet show from the rotation of annual favorites—from “Aesop’s Fantastical Fables” to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and much more! Field trip groups especially are encouraged to coordinate a create-a-puppet workshop that accompanies the program your kids just watched. That way, they can take home a piece of the show and make it their own.

Bus Parking: There’s free parking behind the center, and while it is limited, the lot can accommodate motorcoaches and buses. When you see the Center (it’s bright green, by the way—you can’t miss it), continue along 18th Street until you see the parking entrance on the left.

the exterior fountain of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta
Image Credit

Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum

Address: 441 John Lewis Freedom Pkwy NE, Atlanta, GA 30307

Phone: 404-865-7100

Planning an outing with your Georgia History class, local government enthusiasts, or group of aspiring leaders? There’s no better place to learn about the state’s only president than the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library on the northeast side of town.

Brush up on your knowledge of the Carter administration, catch a glimpse of the president’s Nobel Peace Prize, and take a seat in the full-scale replica of the Oval Office (which includes a reproduction of the iconic Resolute Desk).

Field trip programs are offered during the school year—September through May. Tour Reservation Forms are processed on a first-come, first-served basis, so be sure to reserve well in advance if you plan to visit in the spring (reservations tend to fill up quickly then). Groups of 70 or more students are asked to reserve multiple tour times or visit across multiple days.

When you come to visit, your group has two options when it comes to exploring the museum: a docent-guided tour or a self-guided tour with your teachers and chaperones leading the way.

If you opt for a guided tour, be prepared to reserve your tour slot with a $25 deposit, which will be refunded upon your arrival.

Since no place inside allows food or drink, we recommend planning a picnic lunch somewhere in the surrounding Freedom Park.  And don’t worry about running out of space for your coolers and bagged lunches—your charter bus rental will come with plenty of storage space under the cabin, and your driver can help you unload everything when it’s time to eat.

Bus Parking: Free motorcoach-accommodating parking is available adjacent to the library. Enter from East John Lewis Freedom Parkway, and the Library entrance should be on your left.

a group of students and chaperones gather around a display at a history museum

Atlanta History Center

Address: 130 West Paces Ferry Rd NW, Atlanta, GA 30305

Phone: 404-814-4110

First founded in 1926, this 33-acre history museum, research center, and garden is dedicated to exploring and preserving the history and culture of Atlanta. Explore the city’s near-200-year history through six permanent exhibits and several rotating showcases—from the Trail of Tears to the emancipation of slaves, the rise of Coca Cola to the famous Battle of Atlanta cyclorama mural. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Centennial Olympic Games Museum—set to be renovated by the end of Summer 2020. Check out memorabilia and art from the 1996 Summer Olympics, and see how the games’ legacy still influences city planning even 20+ years later.
  • Turning Point: The American Civil War—review the broad strokes of the Civil War and Atlanta’s role in it through the Center’s collection of 1,400 Civil War artifacts.
  • Gatheround: Stories of Atlanta—explore the past, present, and future of Atlanta culture by hearing from the people who have and still do create it.
  • Shaping Traditions: Folk Arts in a Changing South—trace how Southern folk art has developed through the decades through clothing, food, singing, and storytelling.
  • Down the Fairway with Bobby Jones—centers on the life of Bobby Jones, Georgia’s most famous golfer, and how the sport has shaped the state.
  • Philip Trammell Shutze: Atlanta Classicist, Connoisseur, and Collector—features the life and work of one of Atlanta’s most prolific architects. Afterward, swing by the Swan House (also on the Center’s grounds) to see his handiwork in-person.

Field trip groups are encouraged to reserve a tour slot ahead of time by reaching out to schooltours@atlantahistorycenter.com. You have an option to tour the grounds yourself or enlist the help of a History Center volunteer to help guide your students through the exhibits.

Bus Parking: There’s a dedicated bus parking area within the center’s parking lot. If you’re entering the lot from the Andrews Drive entrance, have your driver take the second left past McElreath Hall and The Kenan Research Center (there’s plenty of signs to direct them to the right place). If your group is getting dropped off at the main Center building beforehand, have your driver enter the lot from West Paces Ferry Road, unload in front of the entrance, and loop back into the parking lot. The bus spaces are to the left of the small parking deck.

a whale shark swims by a crowd of observers in the Georgia Aquarium

The Georgia Aquarium

Address: 225 Baker St NW, Atlanta, GA 30313

Phone: 404-581-4000

Have you ever wanted to meet the largest fish in the world? Now’s your chance!

As one of the most-visited attractions within Atlanta city limits, there’s a chance this field trip destination is already on your itinerary. And for good reason! It’s the largest aquarium in the Western Hemisphere and the third-largest in the world, and it’s home to thousands of aquatic animals from across the globe—from beluga whales to Amazonian piranhas, African penguins to seadragons, and much more. The aquarium’s pride and joy, however, is the 126-foot-tall gallery wall of the Ocean Voyager wing, which houses multiple endangered whale sharks (the biggest living fish) and larger-than-life manta rays.

Depending on how big your group is, you can receive a discounted rate for general admission, meal vouchers, and even complimentary tickets. You’ll have your choice of a self-guided tour of the galleries you can take at your own pace or an instructor-led tour tailored to your age groups’ curriculum standards. Programs can include conservation sciences and the basics of marine biology, as well as the physics of the tides and how water affects light and sound waves—so even if you’re visiting with a crowd that’s not a biology class, you can still incorporate what they’ve learned into your lesson plans!

Bus Parking: The Aquarium is in the heart of downtown, which means parking (let alone bus parking) is very limited. Your driver’s best bet is to reserve a spot at the Georgia World Congress Center Marshalling Yard. It’s only a half-mile from the aquarium and can even offer overnight parking if your group is taking part in a sleepover program.

a child interacts with a gear puzzle in a children's museum

Children’s Museum of Atlanta

Address: 275 Centennial Olympic Park Dr NW, Atlanta, GA 30313

Phone: 404-659-5437

If you’ve already hit up all the most popular field trip spots and are looking for a change of pace, consider paying a visit to an attraction that often doesn’t get the love it deserves: the Children’s Museum of Atlanta. Here, your little learners can launch rockets, stage their own treehouse puppet shows, and build out a model city’s infrastructure—all in a hands-on playground environment, of course.

Admission for field trip groups is discounted during the school year and over the summer, and the museum offers both guided and self-guided tours of the exhibits and play areas. There are two things you should know before planning your visit.

  1. You cannot purchase tickets at the door—all admission must be reserved online.
  2. When you buy tickets, you’re signing up for a specific time slot to explore the museum. After your two hours is up, your group will be asked to leave.

With those factors in mind, it would behoove your group to set up a game plan before you embark. Field trip groups are usually scheduled for Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursday mornings, so you’ll need to pack a lunch to eat afterward. Indoor eating space is scarce, so we recommend taking your PB&Js to Centennial Park across the street, where your kids can eat up and even cool off in the splash fountain.

Bus Parking: The museum is located a mere block away from the Georgia Aquarium, so the parking situation is much the same: your driver will need to get a pass at the nearby GWCC Marshalling Yard on Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard. You can reserve the parking pass through the museum, but you’ll need to call to get the exact pricing information for your visit.

Get Going on Your Atlanta Field Trip

No matter where your travels take you, you can count on Falcon Charter Bus to make your Atlanta field trip a breeze. Our 24-hour reservation team is always here to help you find the perfect ride to suit your group’s size, schedule, and comfort requests. Whether you need an ADA-compliant vehicle at no additional cost or a shuttle service that operates on a route you create—we’ll make it happen for you.

Don’t believe us? Give us a call at 404-400-3545 and see for yourself! We’ll be more than happy to offer you a free, no-obligation quote tailored to your travel plans in the ATL.

The Best Budget-Friendly Group Activities in Atlanta

June 3, 2020
a woman in a headscarf admires the Atlanta skyline from Piedmont Park

As the cultural hub of the Southeast and one of the most affordable major U.S. cities, Atlanta is a great destination for travelers and sightseers on a budget. Even so, making the most of the ATL without breaking the bank can be a challenge, especially if you’re traveling with a large group of friends, family members, kids, or coworkers.

That’s why Falcon Charter Bus has put together this list of some of the best places to spend your time in Atlanta on the cheap. And whenever you need to hash out a group transportation plan for your visit, be sure to call 404-400-3545—we’ll make every step of your travels stress-free, and we can even offer a free, no-obligation quote for your rental!

a woman in a headscarf admires the Atlanta skyline from Piedmont Park

Piedmont Park

Address: 400 Park Dr NE, Atlanta, GA 30306

One activity that’s almost always free? Enjoying the great outdoors!

This public park is sometimes considered the “Central Park” of Atlanta—it was designed by the same landscape architect, after all. Here, you can scope out local fresh produce and crafts at the Green Market (Saturday mornings between March and November, just inside the 12th Street and Piedmont Avenue Gate), learn more about growing your own food in the community garden, dog-spot in either of the two off-leash areas, or simply stroll along the miles of walking and running trails.

As for parking, Piedmont Park is in the heart of bustling Midtown, so finding a motorcoach-friendly spot might be tricky. But depending on your itinerary and plans, your group may have some options:

If your lodging is nearby—it will probably be easiest if your driver drops you off at the park and returns to the hotel parking lot to wait for your next pick-up time. When you rent a bus for multi-day journeys, you’ll need to reserve lodging for your driver with easy access to bus parking anyway, so if you’re staying in Midtown, you’ll want to take advantage of the hotel’s parking arrangements when you can. Also, many hotels offer special rates for bus drivers and bus parking, so be sure to inquire about a discount when you book your hotel block!

If your group wants to grab a quick meal—swing by The Varsity before heading to the park. This fast-food stop not only offers cheap eats (burgers, hot dogs, fries, and shakes), it’s an iconic Atlanta landmark every out-of-towner should experience before you leave. Just be sure you know your order before the person behind the counter asks “What’ll you have?”—this place is fast-paced and you won’t want to hold up the line. After you’ve grabbed your chili dogs and Frosted Oranges, your driver can park the bus in the huge parking lot behind the restaurant, and your group can walk the few blocks to the park for a picnic lunch.

two women, one standing and one in a wheelchair, tour an art exhibit in a museum

High Museum of Art

Address: 1280 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta, GA 30309

This modern art museum is one of the oldest and most highly acclaimed museums in the city, with roots in the Atlanta art scene tracing back over 100 years and more than 15,000 pieces in its permanent collection. Whether you want to see sketches by renowned African American artists or Southern Gothic photography, the High delivers.

Normally, group admission to this local-favorite modern art museum runs anywhere from  $8 to $15 per patron (not exactly ideal if you’re a large group that’s strapped for cash). But if you visit between 12 and 4 p.m. on the second Sunday of the month, your group can visit free of charge!

Besides receiving access to the High’s permanent collection and rotating exhibitions, Second Sunday visitors can make and interpret art hands-on with interactive family workshops, story-times, and even a sensory room with noise-canceling headphones, crash pads, and objects of varying textures.

The High Museum is an especially group-friendly destination, with free designated bus parking and loading/unloading zones available to motorcoaches.

a woman used her smart phone to take a picture of dinosaur models in a science museum

Fernbank Science Center

Address: 156 Heaton Park Dr, Atlanta, GA 30307

Science enthusiasts on a budget will not want to pass up this stop. Here, your group can cover a lot of different scientific subjects in one afternoon—from small animals of the slimy and scaly variety to large-scale space capsules like the ones used in the Apollo 6 missions.

This is also where you’ll find the Dr. Ralph L. Buice, Jr. Observatory. This 30-foot dome houses a 36-inch Cassegrain reflector—the largest telescope in the Southeast and one of the country’s largest instruments dedicated to education and public viewing. Your group can join a free, astronomer-led observation session any Thursday or Friday evening from sundown until 10:30 p.m. (weather permitting). Call 678-874-7102 ahead of time to confirm your preferred session’s hours before you plan your visit.

Not to be confused with the Fernbank Museum (which does charge admission), the Fernbank Science Center is free to the public and offers free parking. If you want to pop into the planetarium for a show, you’ll need to pay $7 per adult and $5 per senior or student. Depending on how busy it is during your visit, your charter bus may park along the pull-through lot out front or on the street near the center entrance.

the crypt containing Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta King in Atlanta, Georgia
Image Credit

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park

Address: 450 Auburn Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30312

If you’re in Atlanta to brush up on your Civil Rights history, this national park is probably on your itinerary already. But did you know that touring Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park—the site of MLK’s childhood home and final resting place—is free to the public?

This site is less of a singular park and more of a collection of smaller sites all in one location. So the best course of action when touring it is to have your charter bus driver drop you off on Irwin Street. Your bus driver can wait for your group in the coach-friendly lot on John Wesley Dobbs Avenue so everyone can take their time exploring these historic sites on foot.

Here are just a few of the highlights your group can expect to see here:

  • Visitor Center—The best place to start your tour. Stop by the information desk to pick up a map and sign up for a time slot to tour the Martin Luther King, Jr. Birth Home. This is also where you’ll find the  “Children of Courage” exhibit: a showcase of how children have contributed to the Civil Rights Movement and continue to change the world today.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Birth Home—Come tour the two-story house Dr. King called home for the first 12 years of his life. The ranger-led tours of this building can only accommodate 15 people at a time, so if you’re visiting with a larger group, be sure to split up and account for multiple tour slots when you build your itinerary.
  • Ebenezer Baptist Church—This is where Dr. King was baptized and served as a minister with his father, and this site is where his funeral was held in 1968.
  • The King Center—This site serves as the final resting place for Dr. Martin Luther King,  Jr. and Coretta Scott King. Here, visitors can explore exhibits about both of their legacies, take a moment at the reflection pool, and pay respects at The Eternal Flame installation.
the Georgia State Capitol Building amidst trees and a statue

Georgia State Capitol Building

Address: 206 Washington St SW, Atlanta, GA 30334

Whether you’re field-tripping with a government class, Model UN club, or another group of aspiring leaders—or you’re just curious to see the “the room where it happens” in terms of Georgia law—this free-to-tour destination won’t disappoint.

That’s right, the state capitol is open to the public! Your tour of the building will last anywhere between 25 and 40 minutes. (If you check out the museum, expect to spend an additional 30 minutes there.) Both the self-guided and guided tours are geared to student groups, but anyone can tour to learn a thing or two about the basic democratic government structure in Georgia, the history of the state’s former capitals, unique features of the building, and Georgian historical figures.

Groups big and small are invited to tour the golden-domed beauty of the Georgia State Capitol Building, but how you go about scheduling your visit depends on how many people are tagging along:

  • Groups of 10 or fewer should opt for a self-guided tour of the capitol building. If you pick up a brochure from the entrance, you can still access all the same general information and tour areas you could on a guided tour, but you’ll be able to explore at your own pace.
  • Groups of 10 to 60 people are asked to reserve a guided tour a couple of weeks in advance and to arrive at least 15 minutes early for their tour. Available tour times depend on the season, but most slots are scheduled for weekday mornings between 10 and 11:30 a.m. Call 404-463-4536 to schedule a tour time.

Traveling by motorcoach? If you’re visiting on a weekday, buses and vehicles that hold more than 15 passengers should park on the west side of Washington Street in front of the capitol. Otherwise, your driver may need to park at the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) Marshalling Yard. This lot is one of the most accommodating parking situations you’ll find for your charter bus rental in this part of town, so if your group is seeing any other downtown attractions after you tour the capitol building, it might be worth paying the $25 parking fee so your driver can access it throughout your day of sightseeing.

Start Your Budget-Friendly Atlanta Trip Today

When it comes to hitting every stop on your Atlanta itinerary, your group doesn’t have to spend a lot of money to keep everyone safe, on time and all together. When you rent a bus from Falcon Charter Bus, you can get all the on-the-road comforts you can’t get anywhere else: free onboard WiFi, TVs and a DVD player, power outlets, reclining seats, you name it!

And the best part? Renting a charter bus or minibus service can save your group money, time, and frustration in the long run, especially if you’re coming in from out of town. Split the cost of your rental across every group member, and you’ll often spend less per person than you would when paying for a flight and multiple rideshares or taxis. And when you reserve through Falcon Charter Bus, you know exactly how much your ride plan will cost before your trip—no surprise fees or surge rates! Just call 404-400-3545 with your headcount, itinerary, and desired amenities, and we’ll connect you to an Atlanta bus rental that will make all your group travels simple and easy.

The Best Field Trip Spots in Tampa

May 20, 2020
a chaperone and student admire a stone sculpture in an art museum

If you’re a Tampa educator, youth group coordinator, or any other authority figure for a group of kids, you already know that coordinating an outing with your students can be stressful. But you also know there’s so much to experience and learn from in this city.

That’s why Falcon Charter Bus is here to ease two parts of the planning process: where to go and how you’ll get there. We’ve put together a list of the best field trip destinations for little learners in all subjects—from art to zoology.

And whenever you’re ready to chart your course, call Falcon Charter Bus at (813) 944-3146 for safe and comfortable school trip transportation you can trust. We only work with certified professional drivers and well-maintained vehicles, so you know your students will arrive safe and sound to every destination on your itinerary.

For future scientists…

two lions lounge on a rock in Busch Gardens Tampa

Busch Gardens

Address: 10165 McKinley Dr, Tampa, FL 33612

Phone: (813) 884-4386

Okay, sure, this popular Tampa destination may not be your first thought when it comes to educational trips, but there’s more to Busch Gardens than roller coasters and thrill rides!

The on-site zoo park offers various field trip programs for different age groups and specific subjects—from the impact of physical science on ecosystems to exploring careers in the animal science fields. Depending on the program you choose, Busch Gardens can even provide pre- or post-field trip assignments that fit Next Generation Sunshine State Standards. Just call (813) 884-4386 to start setting up your students’ walk on the wild side.

And if your group of youngsters is tempted by Tigris (Florida’s tallest launch coaster) or Sheikra’s 90° 200-foot drop—well—you know what they say about all work and no play. Besides, time your daredevils’ visit right and they can learn a thing or two while they ride the coasters! In early December, Busch Gardens treats physics students to a day of thrills and practical education appropriately named ‘Physics Day’. The gates open an hour early for participating students, accelerometers are mounted on select rides throughout the park, and interactive stations and live shows are displayed for even more hands-on learning experiences.

Bus parking comes complimentary when you purchase a group admission package, and your bus driver gets in free! Just ensure your driver knows to drop off everyone near the Nairobi Gate along East Busch Boulevard and enter the parking lot from the designated bus entrance on Route 60.

a child presses her hand to the glass of a large aquarium wall

The Florida Aquarium

Address: 701 Channelside Dr, Tampa, FL 33602

Phone: (813) 273-4000

Out and about with aspiring marine biologists? There’s no better place to visit in Tampa than The Florida Aquarium—voted one of the top three aquariums in North America in 2018 by USA Today and one of the state’s most frequented attractions.

So what makes this aquarium a great destination for your next field trip? To start, the exhibits here cover a lot of topics and environments—from local wildlife of the Florida wetlands to coral reefs of Australia, and so much in-between. Beyond what you can see on the regular tour, the Florida Aquarium also offers educational programs tailored specifically to school groups! Sign up for onsite activities and labs—like tracking rehabilitated sea turtles and meeting plankton eye-to-eye—or treat your honors students for their good grades with an overnight tank-side sleepover amongst their favorite aquatic friends.

School groups wishing to tour the Florida Aquarium can receive a reduced admission of $10 per student ($6 per student if you qualify as a Title 1 school in either Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, or Pinellas county). The aquarium asks groups to bring one chaperone per every 10 students, and chaperones get in free.

Despite the aquarium’s close location to bustling downtown and various cruise ship ports, finding adequate parking for your charter bus or minibus should not be a problem for your driver. Have them drop you off in the traffic circle at the front entrance, where you can then pose for a selfie in front of the big stingray sculpture. Your driver can park the bus in the adjacent lot. Just be sure to be back at the front entrance with plenty of time to board the bus when you’re ready to leave.

a small child wears a construction helmet and holds a pipe in a science museum

Museum of Science and Industry

Address: 4801 E Fowler Ave, Tampa, FL 33617

Phone: (813) 987-6000

If you’re looking for a destination to entertain and educate your STEM students, this is your stop. Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry (MoSI for short) features over 100 hands-on activities spanning a spectrum of scientific fields. One minute your little learners can study nutrition science first hand with a life-size game of Operation, and the next minute invent their own ingenious contraptions in the engineering-focused Idea Zone®. From paleontology to astrophysics, MoSI has a little something to pique all your aspiring scientists’ interests.

Most veteran visitors would agree the museum’s exhibits mostly cater to younger visitors (let’s say kids under 11 years old), but MoSI offers field trip programs for grade levels K-12—robot designing, DNA splicing, and crime scene investigating workshops, just to name a few!

If your school group of 15 or more field trippers reserves at least 14 days in advance, you qualify for the discounted admission rate of $4 per student, with one free adult ticket for every 10 students. Additional programs—including access to the planetarium and the ropes course—cost an additional $4-$5 per person. For more information about group reservations, contact MoSI at (813) 987-6000 or reservations@mosi.org.

The parking situation at MoSI is less-than-ideal—the closest lot to the museum is small and holds very few vehicles at a time, and the larger overflow lot is quite the trek away from the front entrance. Luckily, your bus driver can easily drop you off at the designated unloading zones near the ticket gate and handle the parking plan while your group heads inside, so you’ll spend more time exploring the exhibits and less time finding the perfect spot!

For history buffs…

American Victory Ship and Mariner’s Memorial Museum

Address: 705 Channelside Drive, Tampa, Florida, 33602

Phone: (813) 228-8766

Ready for an up-close-and-personal with one of only four fully-operational ships that served in World War II? Because that’s what you can expect from this warship-turned-museum recognized by the National Register of Historic Places.

This ship, dubbed the SS American Victory, once patrolled the waters of the Pacific Theater and continued to carry ammunition and military cargo between the U.S. and South Asia throughout the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Nowadays, the ship is permanently docked in Tampa, serves as a window into the United States’ recent decades of naval history, and invites visitors to take in the hull and machinery as it would have looked during the war.

The American Victory Ship offers discounts for groups of 10 or more, and special field trip rates for school groups—$4 per child under 12 years old and $6 per teen between ages 13 and 18. Field trip programs include an hour-long guided tour of the SS American Victory’s decks and living quarters, and can include an age-appropriate hands-on activity if you request one with your reservation.

Henry B. Plant Museum

Address: 401 W Kennedy Blvd, Tampa, FL 33606

Phone: (813) 254-1891

If you ever find yourself on or near the University of Tampa’s campus (whether for a tour with prospective students, an academic competition, or another field trip stop in nearby downtown), you’d be remiss to pass up this attraction.

The Henry B. Plant Museum once operated as the Tampa Bay Hotel: a 511-room resort hotel during the United States’ Gilded Age (aka: the late Victorian Era) that offered channel-side rest and relaxation to the wealthy guests who stayed here. Now, this 6-acre-long building boasts gorgeous Moorish Revival architecture, one of the oldest still-working elevators in the country, and many exhibits about Victorian tourism. Come visit these well-preserved halls and learn about the leisure activities of the elite guests who frequented the hotel and the building’s role in the Spanish-American War!

From January to November, this museum offers docent-led tours for schools, youth programs, and scout programs with 10 or more kids. These groups are encouraged to reserve at least two weeks prior to visiting by calling (813) 258-7301 or filling out a field trip reservation form.

The Henry B. Plant Museum is especially welcoming and accommodating to visitors with disabilities. If you’re visiting with folks who have sensory sensitivities, the museum offers an illustrated pre-trip overview with a breakdown of what to expect and how to interact with exhibits safely. And despite the fact that the building was constructed in 1891, most of the museum is friendly to users of wheelchairs and mobility devices and offers plenty of places to sit during your tour.

Just pull up to one of the ramped entrances—either on the north side of the building or near the back—and someone from the front desk can help you in. (By the way, if you need an ADA-compliant motorcoach, Falcon Charter Bus can find you one at no additional charge! Just let your reservation rep know when you call and book your ride, and we can provide a bus with wheelchair ramps, wider aisleways, and plenty of space to store mobility devices en route.)

For aspiring artists…

Tampa Theatre

Address: 711 N Franklin St, Tampa, FL 33602

Phone: (813) 274-8981

This downtown attraction served as the city’s primary movie theatre from 1926 well into the 1960s. Back then, admission was 25 cents per person, and the theatre was the only commercial building in Tampa with air-conditioning—making it extremely popular in the sweltering summer. Since then, the near-century-old theatre has been restored and can now screen digital films, though volunteers still play the theatre’s original pipe organ before screenings (as would have been done before shows in the 1920s).

But this destination isn’t just for movie buffs. The Tampa Theatre also serves as a stage for community play productions, local and touring musical acts, and dance troupes from far and wide. Inspire your young actors, drama club, tech crew, or dance class by taking them to a show at Tampa’s historic theatre!

If you’re an educator in a Hillsborough County public school, you’ll need to call the theatre’s Field Trip Program office at (813) 272-4763 in order to reserve a theatre tour or tickets to a show.

If you’re an educator in a private school or another county, or another youth coordinator for an afterschool group, you’ll need to contact the specific company presenting the show you wish to see. Contact information for upcoming performance companies is usually available on the Theatre’s website.

The Tampa Theatre is in the heart of downtown—which is to say parking can be tricky. Rather than searching for a spot on the street and feeding the meter throughout your visit, or finding a garage and walking multiple blocks to the theatre, your group may want to opt for a charter bus rental. That way, your driver can drop everyone off within walking distance of the box office and find parking elsewhere while you enjoy your tour.

Pro tip: free bus parking in Historic Ybor is available along 12th Avenue between 15th Street and 17th Street.

a chaperone and student admire a stone sculpture in an art museum

Tampa Museum of Art

Address: 120 W Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa, FL 33602

Phone: (813) 274-8130

If fine art is more of your school group’s focus, venture out to the Tampa Museum of Art for a mix of contemporary art and pieces from Ancient Rome and Egypt. Whether your class would rather see exhibitions showcasing glass work throughout the ages (from ancient pottery to modern abstract art) or get inspired by the museum’s photography gallery filled only with pieces by women artists, this riverside cultural hub has a little something for everyone.

Depending on the museum’s current exhibits and events, opting for a self-guided tour of the museum may mean paying the $5 admission fee per student. However, docent-led group tours are available for classes and clubs of 10 or more and are free to all students. Your docent can either focus on a specific exhibition or topic of your choice, or provide a tour of all the galleries. All tours are available during the academic school year, Monday-Friday starting at 10 a.m. 

If the weather allows, why not plan a picnic lunch to accompany your students’ gallery tour? The Museum of Art features a park along the scenic waterfront, as well as a playground where your younger patrons can burn off some energy before returning to the galleries. And when you reserve a charter bus for your museum travels, you’ll have plenty of storage space under the bus for your coolers and bagged lunches and compartments in the cabin where you students can stash their backpacks.

Start Planning Your Next Tampa School Trip

Tour reservations: check.

Chaperones: check.

Bagged lunches: check.

Transportation plan: …

Don’t leave the ride plan up to chance. Let Falcon Charter Bus provide your students with a reliable and efficient bus rental.

Sure, traditional yellow school buses are a staple of most kids’ field trip experiences, but that doesn’t mean they’re the most comfortable mode of transportation. When you book with us, your students and chaperones have access to our wide network of coaches and certified professional drivers, as well as amenities to make their ride more enjoyable. They can catch up on assignments over onboard WiFi, watch a nature documentary or Bill Nye over TV screens, or lean back in a plush reclining seat and snooze the ride away—all these amenities (and more!) are available upon request, so don’t hesitate to ask your rep to include the features you think they’ll need.

Call (813) 944-3146 today for assistance with your rental and a free, no-obligation quote personalized to your Tampa field trip itinerary!

Budget-Friendly Group Activities in Orlando That Aren’t Disney World

March 12, 2020
a woman kayaks on clear spring waters at Wekiwa Springs near Orlando Florida

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of visiting Orlando? Probably Disney World, right?

But not everyone has the funds or desire to pay a visit to the Most Magical Place on Earth. Not to worry, though—there’s so much more to Orlando than mouse ears and singing princesses, even if you’re visiting on a tight budget.

Keep reading to see what budget-friendly group activities we recommend in and around Orlando. And be sure to call Falcon Charter Bus at 407-274-9808 whenever you’re ready to hash out how you’ll get there.

For Outdoor Adventurers…

Need to get out and stretch your legs? We’ve all been there. And enjoying the great outdoors is always a budget-friendly way to liven up your Orlando trip! Here are some destinations where you can get your dose of the outdoors for cheap.

view from the lakeside trail at Lake Eola Park of the downtown Orlando skyline

Lake Eola Park

Address: 512 E Washington St, Orlando, FL 32801

Looking for a getaway without straying too far from city limits? This park can offer your group some peace, quiet, and fresh air—right in the heart of downtown Orlando! Enjoying the calm waters, birdwatching, and walking the mile-long paved trail is completely free to the public. And if your budget allows, your group of peddle-pushers can rent swan-shaped pedalos—$15 for a 30-minute venture on Lake Eola. Time your visit right and you can catch a free concert at the Walt Disney Amphitheater, check out the local wares at the weekly farmers market, or sit back and enjoy the fireworks on nearly any major holiday.

the boardwalk walking trail extends into wooded marshland at Mead Botanical Garden near Orlando Florida

Mead Botanical Garden

Address: 1300 S Denning Dr, Winter Park, FL 32789

Here you can explore a swath of Florida ecosystems without straying too far from city limits—it’s only a 20-minute drive from Orlando—and without spending a lot of money. Entry is free to everyone! Say hi to the resident gopher tortoises, take in the salty air over the marshland boardwalk, or admire the camellias, orchids, caladiums, and begonias throughout the grounds. There’s also a butterfly garden, a grove of citrus trees, and plenty of shady trees that are perfect for picnics. Pack up your charter bus with coolers, blankets, and your favorite snacks, and you won’t have to worry about cramming everything into the trunk of a carpool.

a woman kayaks on clear spring waters at Wekiwa Springs near Orlando Florida

Wekiwa Springs State Park

Address: 1800 Wekiwa Cir, Apopka, FL 32712

Leave the lights and bustle of the city behind and snorkel, kayak, or take a dip in the beautiful Wekiwa Springs. The crystal clear waters of this natural spring are 72 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, making it a great spot to cool off on a hot day. And once your adventurers have had their fill of the great outdoors, you can load up your tents, coolers, and equipment and enjoy the comfort of a climate-controlled charter bus.

This state park offers both developed group campsites for up to 160 people and primitive group campsites that can accommodate up to 60—so whether you’re looking to get cozy in a cabin or rough it out on the trail, your camping crew has options.

For Art Aficionados…

If you’re traveling with the artistically-inclined, you’re in luck! Plenty of Orlando art museums offer free or cheap admission. Here are just a few we recommend for cost-conscious travelers who want to explore Orlando’s art scene.

a misty rain settles over metal statues and surrounding gardens at Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens near Orlando Florida

Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens

Address: 633 Osceola Avenue, Winter Park, FL 32789

With over 200 sculptures and a collection of preserved antiquities from when the sculptor lived there, this museum used to be the home and studio of local Czech-American artist Albin Polasek. Expect to pay no more than $8 per person if you plan to tour this quaint attraction, and be sure to register your group tour at least a week in advance. The facility is fairly small—it can only accommodate groups of 50 or less at a time—so the more heads-up you can give the docents, the smoother your tour will be.

visitors admire a lineup of paintings at The Mennello Museum of American Art near Orlando Florida

The Mennello Museum of American Art

Address: 900 E Princeton St, Orlando, FL 32803

Lovers of American Impressionism, contemporary folk art, or Earl Cunningham, won’t want to miss this diverse collection of sculptures and paintings. The priciest admission cost is a mere $5 per person, and students and kids younger than 17 can get in for $1. This museum is a fan-favorite for scout troops and field trips, so call 2 weeks ahead to secure your tour availability.

If your group is hoping to squeeze in some sketching practice while you’re here, make sure they have a ride with plenty of room to store their pencils and sketch pads. For this, we recommend a 20-passenger minibus—it has plenty of overhead storage, yet is compact enough to fit in the Science Center parking lot across the street.

closeup of a Tiffany glass lampshade on display at The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art near Orlando Florida

The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art

Address: 445 N Park Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789

Most visitors are drawn to this Winter Park museum because it houses the most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany—including pottery, jewelry, paintings, and his iconic leaded-glass lamps. You can even catch a glimpse of the sparkling chapel interior Tiffany crafted for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Docent-lead group tours are available in both English and Spanish—though the museum asks that you reserve your tour at least 2 weeks in advance. Admission prices depend on age, but all tiers are less than $6 per person. Pop in on a Friday after 4 p.m. between November and April for free entry!

For Window Shoppers…

Even if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on your Orlando group trip, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a little window shopping. Especially with so many diverse shopping malls within a quick drive of downtown, a trip to any of these popular destinations will be a crowd-pleaser for any group looking for entertainment on the cheap.

a young couple look at a window display at the Florida Mall in orlando florida

The Florida Mall

Address: 8001 S Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL 32809

As you’d expect from a mall that simply names itself after the state it calls home, this shopping complex is one of Orlando’s most popular destinations for out-of-towners. If you choose to be one of the 20 million visitors that pass through this mall every year, you’ll find over 250 stores and restaurants to keep your window shoppers busy.

Traveling with kids? Great! They can burn off some energy at the free playground, marvel at the colorful and interactive Crayola Experience attractions, or squish their own slimy concoctions at The Slime Factory!

a mall visitor inspects a rack of suit jackets at the Mall at Millennia in Orlando Florida

The Mall at Millenia

Address: 4200 Conroy Rd, Orlando, FL 32839

For those seeking designer stores (or just somewhere to grab a soft pretzel in an airy atmosphere), this mall is for you. This shopping center boasts glass ceilings, futuristic architecture, and all your favorite upscale brands—from Gucci to Prada, Louis Vuitton to Chanel, and much more. And if big-name brands aren’t your thing, don’t worry. There’s plenty of other shopping mall staples (Macy’s, LUSH, American Eagle, etc.) to peruse as well.

Hit the Road for Nickels and Dimes

Making the most of Orlando’s attractions doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. When you reserve your ride through Falcon Charter Bus, you can rest easy knowing we won’t surprise you with hidden fees. You’ll know exactly how much your motorcoach rental will cost from the beginning, so you can spend less time budgeting and more time enjoying Orlando!

From connecting you with a single minibus shuttle to assembling a fleet of full-sized charter buses, our team is always here to make the reservation process stress-free. We can even find you with a bus that offers WiFi, TV screens, reclining seats, and more, so friends and family can stay connected, entertained, and comfortable—no matter where you go. Just give us a call at 407-274-9808 and let us know how we can make your Orlando group travels easy, and we’ll provide you a free, no-obligation quote for your personalized bus rental plan!