AAA to Expand Area Bus Tours

"AAA to Expand Area Bus Tours"
By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News
Tue Apr 17, 2012

A collaborative effort between the American Automobile Association and Preservation Buffalo Niagara could bring a bit more foot traffic to two local not-for-profits this spring.

The organizations began motorcoach tours in October during the National Preservation Conference that featured various stops throughout Western New York. After what was considered a successful showing to architectural buffs from across the nation, AAA and PBN decided to take it a step further.

On Father’s Day this year, the Riviera Theatre and the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum, two of the more popular locations during the conference, will be highlighted.

Five other motorcoach tours throughout the summer also will showcase the Erie Canal, some of the area’s industrial past including the 1,500-acre Bethlehem Steel site, achitectural gems like the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Darwin Martin House and museums such as the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

Carrousel Museum Director Rae Proefrock said they get about 2,000 visitors each year through bus tours and will welcome the newest addition with open arms.

“It excites us even more that we’re chosen,” she said. “It’s tours that really do bring more people to the museum.”

Barbara Hughes, General Manager of AAA travel division, said the tour will include a docent and lunch at a cost of $84 per person. Each bus will hold up to 48 people, a number Hughes anticipates will be at capacity. The Dockside Inn will also benefit from the tour, with lunch being held at the restaurant during the day.

While the current arrangement for tours is one-time-only, Hughes said AAA and PBN may expand their offerings, perhaps as soon as later this summer.

“AAA and PBN have only just begun to show off the amazing landmarks and hidden gems that make Buffalo-Niagara such a growing tourist destination,” she said.

The museum generally runs a 90-minute tour including a guided narration, time on a carrousel and either an opportunity to explore the museum on one’s own or browse the gift shop. Proefrock said those involved in bus tours often buy the most wares from the museum’s gift shop, which helps their bottom line.

“They usually like to fill up a bus or get close to filling up a bus,” she said. “It tends to be 35 to 40 people for each tour, but we’ll do a tour of any size of 10 people or more.”

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Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.