Tourism & Gaming: Adjusting To A New Normal

Your favorite attractions will have a different look this year. Hint: Star Wars troopers will be enforcing social distancing rules and Mickey will be wearing a mask.

By the BF Staff
From the July/August 2020 Issue

Visitors to the most-popular theme parks this summer will find them adjusted to the reality of life in a pandemic: temperature checks at the entrance, staff (including characters like Goofy) wearing masks and social distancing being enforced—even on roller coasters.

“In preparing to reopen during this unusual time, we have to manage our theme parks in a very different way from what we’ve known before,” the Walt Disney Co. said in a statement announcing plans for a phased reopening of its Florida parks starting July 11.

You’ll feel like you’re immersed in undersea life at the Wonders Of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium in Branson. (Photo: Missouri Division of Tourism)

At its Disney Springs shopping complex in central Florida, which started to reopen in May, Star Wars Stormtroopers keep watch from a balcony and issue warnings to visitors about wearing masks and staying distanced. Theme parks have temporarily eliminated fireworks shows and parades. Six Flags said all parks would move to an online reservation system to manage how many people could attend and assign guests staggered arrival times.

In Paris, the Louvre will require all visitors to book a time slot once the museum opens in July.


Mississippi has a depth of cultural richness that few regions can match. Here, you are only steps away from authentic adventures for music fans and history buffs, while down-home cooking, star-studded cuisine and friendly smiles await around every corner.

The sheer variety of the regions of Mississippi, from the beaches of the Gulf Coast to the Blues in the Delta, surprise and engage first-time visitors. Among the state’s most popular attractions are the Mississippi Blues Trail, Vicksburg National Military Park, Tupelo’s Elvis Presley Birthplace and the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, known as the Two Museums. When these attractions are paired with live music and authentic southern cuisine, visitors soon feel the warmth of Mississippi’s hospitality.

The Trails of Mississippi—Blues, Country Music, Writers and Freedom—provide an education on Mississippi’s music, literary and civil rights history. Our music and cultural marker programs tell the stories of Mississippi’s musicians, artists, venues, trail stations, sites, cities, writers, civil rights activists and happenings that makes Mississippi “The Birthplace of America’s Music” and the haven of this country’s most talented authors.

Mississippi is one of the last frontiers of the famous blues juke joints. You can enjoy Morgan Freeman’s blues club Ground Zero in Clarksdale. While you’re there, stop in Red’s and stay at the Shack Up Inn. You will want to stop in B.B. King’s Club Ebony and the B.B. King Museum in Indianola. While in the Delta, visit Cleveland, home to the only GRAMMY Museum in America other than Los Angeles. One of the last standing true juke joints is the Blue Front Café in Bentonia. Our music venues span from Lyric Theatre in Oxford, to Greenville’s Hickory Street Blues Bar, to Tupelo’s Blue Canoe and Tunica’s Hollywood Café. On the Gulf Coast, stop at 100 Men Hall DBA in Bay St. Louis. There is no shortage of authentic, fully energized music that provides good times for visitors. Our music venues don’t stop at blues clubs and bars. We have some of the most high-tech and well-developed venues in the Southeast. The Mississippi Arts & Entertainment Xperience in Meridian is a state-of-the-art interactive museum and music venue. The Brandon Amphitheater is a 9,000-seat outdoor concert hall, featuring top acts from across the country.

For those who enjoy the outdoors, golf course designers like Tom Fazio and Jerry Pate make Mississippi a golfer’s paradise. Publications like Golf Digest, Golfweek and GOLF Magazine have rated Mississippi courses as some of the best in the nation. Take advantage of the year-round golf season and the more than 140 golf courses.

Soon to open in Gulfport is the world-class Mississippi Aquarium, which will be the window to the waters of Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. The aquarium includes multiple interactive exhibits, a shores of Mississippi exhibit, an outdoor boardwalk, an aviary and habitats for various marine life, including otters, crocodiles, fish and more.

While you’re visiting the Gulf Coast, you can take a charter fishing trip, ride a boat to Ship Island and visit the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum in Biloxi. When you get hungry, there are restaurants on almost every corner serving fresh, wild-caught Mississippi seafood.

Mississippi has created a vibrant and nurturing film, television and media environment coupled with a strong incentive cash rebate program. In Laurel, husband-and-wife duo Ben and Erin Napier have been working to revitalize their community, and their efforts are featured on HGTV’s hit show Home Town.


There are many reasons to go to Kansas City, Missouri. Here are three: the food—barbecue, anyone? The fountains—with more than 200 located throughout the city. And the football—home of the reigning Super Bowl Champions, the Kansas City Chiefs.

But there are many more facets to the city, which proudly promotes itself as the “New Midwest.”

KCMO has remarkable museums, including The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, which tells the story of African-American baseball and its profound impact on the social advancement of America; the American Jazz Museum, which recounts the musical influence of the historic 18th & Vine district; and the National World War I Museum and Memorial. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art features an extensive collection of Asian art. The Kauffman Performing Arts Center, designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie, is a premier venue for music, opera, theater and dance.

The KC BBQ Experience will guide you to the places that made Kansas City famous—including Arthur Bryant’s, Gates and Jack Stack—as well as newer hot spots like Char Bar and Q39.

When you think of St. Louis, the Gateway Arch is often the first thing that comes to mind. The soaring 630-foot-tall structure, designed by Eero Saarinen, and the surrounding 90 acres became the country’s 60th national park in 2018.

St. Louis is in the midst of major revitalization projects to refresh some of its most beloved institutions, including The Muny, the country’s oldest and largest outdoor musical theater, and the Missouri Botanical Garden, one of the top botanical gardens in the country. With an array of restaurants featuring award-winning chefs and flavors from around the world, St. Louis has also become a popular destination for foodies.

Family friendly attractions abound in St. Louis, including the Saint Louis Zoo, the Science Center and the one-of-kind City Museum that’s more whimsical playground than museum. A new aquarium is located in the city’s historic Union Station, and just outside is a new 200-foot observation wheel, yet another way to admire the iconic Gateway Arch.

Nearby St. Charles, which celebrates its past as the place where Lewis and Clark launched their expedition, also is a popular stop on the Katy Trail, the country’s longest developed rail-to-trail project, attracting thousands of hikers each year. St. Charles and the surrounding Historic Missouri Wine Country is home to some of the finest wineries in the Midwest. Wineries in the Augusta area were designated as the first American Viticultural Area in U.S. in 1980.

Springfield, MO and Branson, 30 miles to the south, have been top Midwest vacation destinations for many years. The world HQ for Bass Pro Shops in Springfield and the Silver Dollar City theme Park in Branson draw a steady stream of visitors. Family-friendly activities in Branson include the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium. Just 15 minutes south of Branson is Big Cedar Lodge, a premier wilderness resort offering rustic luxury and a 50,000 square foot activity center.

Columbia, Missouri’s quintessential college town, hosts the annual Roots ‘N Blues Festival and the True False Film Festival, one of the top documentary film festivals in the country.

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