Laura and Naomi discuss Big Bend National Park - an underrated treasure!

Here's a synopsis:  

Q. Big Bend isn't as well known as parks like the Grand Canyon. Can you tell me a little bit about Big Bend - where is it located? And why is it a good destination for student travel?
A. Big Bend is located in SW Texas. It's about 10 hours from Houston and 8 hours from El Paso. It's an amazing National Park located on 196 miles of the Rio Grande - at a "big bend" in the river. It has incredible canyons carved by the river, big mountains (8,000 ft) and Chihuahan desert - very diverse ecosystems. There's great opportunities for outdoor adventure including camping, rafting, hiking and soaking in hot springs. It's really at the end of the road, so to speak, so the ability to unplug and unwind is unparalleled.

Cesar chats with our main man in South America, "Galapagos" Pete!


Q: Can you give me a summary of what the trip's all about? 

A: Galapagos Islands are one of the most incredible wonders in the world. What makes it special is being able to see and interact with species unique to the region. And the animals have never learned to be scared of humans because humans haven't been around long enough. Sea lions, marine iguanas, tortoises, flamingoes - it's a natural laboratory for visitors to understand the process of evolution. Darwin's history is well-known. Evolution happens so quickly you can actually see it in sometimes as little as a few years and can show students how that works.

Q: What are the students' and teachers' favorite parts of the trip? 

Kerianne interviews a group favorite, guide "Rainbow Beard" Todd Kane, about Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Check it out! 

Here's a summary:

Q, Can you give us a quick summary of the trip?

 A. Most  trips to The Great Smoky National Park originate in Atlanta where I meet up with the group. If time allows, we’ll stop in Atlanta and visit one of the city's attractions:  The Martin Luther King National Historic Park, Olympic Park (Altlanta served as host of the 1996 Olympics), The Georgia Aquarium, etc.

It’s a four hour drive to GSMP, and we sometimes stop for lunch and hiking in the Tallulah Gorge State Park midway. . An alternate route would take us past the Kennesaw Battlefield State Park in Georgia, an opportunity to learn about the Civil War battle that took place there in which the Union forces of General Sherman launched an attack on the Confederate Army of Tennessee commanded by General Johnson. 

From there it’s on to the Smokies, the MOST VISITED National Park in the U.S.

The next few days are spent in the Park, attending interpretative sessions with the Park Rangers, hiking and exploring, visiting farming museums and an operating grist mill. Our hikes take us from beautiful wildflower fields, to mountain laurel lined trails, up along wooded areas dominated by ash trees, and finally at highest elevations pine forests. Along the way we pass  beautiful waterfalls.

A favorite half-day activity is a guided tour of a deep underground cave where a world of stalagmites and stalactites exists.  There is a rich history in the caves. Here the underground shelter was used for Native Americans’ ceremonial events and more recently as “cover” for early 20th century distillers and  bootleggers.

Before returning to Atlanta, the final full day of the trip usually includes a fun activity. My favorites are zip lining and/or white water rafting in the Pigeon River in Tennessee.

Our Dr. Laura Friedman interviews Grand Classroom New England's Gregg Wachtelhausen to get highlights of our Acadia National Park trip. Check it out!

Q. Acadia National Park isn't the most well known of the national parks, especially if you are not from the East Coast. Tell me a little about Acadia - where is it located? and why is it a worthwhile destination?
A: Acadia is in coastal Maine about 5 hours from Boston, MA. It has a beautiful landscape - forests, beaches, and mountains - to explore. It was the first National Park on the east coast and has a lot of history - this was where wealthy New Englanders like the Rockafellers built their summer getaways.
Q. What are some of your favorite activities on the Acadia trip? What are the highlights?

We miss taking groups to Washington, D.C. Our guides and trip planners miss it too. Naomi from Grand Classroom sat down with our Guide and Motorcoach Manager, Tim Krepp, who spent years as a DC tour guide to let him explain what the trip is like, what he misses, and what's different in the age of COVID.

Here's a synopsis:

Q.  Give a rundown on what you do on this trip and a summary of what the trip is all about.

A. The DC trip can best be explained as a chance to explore our nation in a tactile format. The actual content of the trip will depend on how much time a group has elected to spend in the City itself. Some of the main highlights from almost any DC tour are exploring the monuments and memorials, visiting Arlington Cemetery and spending time at the nation's Capitol. Another high point is letting the students explore the museums along the National Mall with a bit of independence. This can be a really nice growing experience, especially for Middle and High School students.

In June and July we took your questions about how COVID-19 was impacting us and that means for future trips. Our owner, JT Maxwell, took the time to answer them. Check it out!

Here's a summary:

We've been around nearly 20 years and we thank and appreciate all our customers. We'd like to take the opportunity to let you know where we've been, where we are, and where we're going. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we navitaged this uncertain time.

If airlines and hotels were giving back 100% refunds to travelers, why didn’t Grand Classroom give back 100%?

-We start working on trips as soon as someone registers and often before. We have lots of costs beyond just those associated with the actual trip. We had to pay our staff throughout the planning process, we had to pay our rent and ultilties, insurance, and much more. These are costs that happen regardless of whether a trip travels. Part of those costs are what's included in your trip price. We're not able to get or give some of those back even if a trip is forced to be cancelled. The good news is we are implmenting some more protections that will be available for future trips that will help ensure you can get a maximum refund. Stay tuned.