Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Team Of Tourist Attractors Offer Vacations Close to Home

Have you ever actually looked at Morris County?

I mean, REALLY looked at it.

If not, then Morristown resident and executive director of the Morris County Tourism Bureau, Leslie Bensley and her team of tourism attractors has the perfect tour for you.

“We think that Morris County is the great American getaway,” says Bensley, who started these tours about 11 years ago.

Bensley’s area of expertise is the Morristown area, as a large portion of her tours take place there. But that’s not to say that the Tourism Bureau isn’t thinking of expanding.

“We try to shake things up every year,” says Carol Barkin, who’s a docent (A tour guide) and a member of the Morris Township Historic Preservation Commission, “We have a Mendham tour [now].”

This summer, along with their Mendham tour, they also have a new tour called Secrets & Lore of Historic Morristown, where tourists are taken through Victorian houses around the town. There’s another one called Trial of the (19th) Century where retired Judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Judge Kenneth C. MacKenzie, takes tourists through an actual courtroom where he talks about the infamous Antoine LeBlanc murders. And finally, there’s another, brand new tour called Morristown’s Jewel: The Green, which takes tourists through the 300 year history of the illustrious Green of Morristown.

All of these tours and more are part of a whole series called Tours @ 10:00, which are walking tours that take place at 10:00 A.M. on Saturday.

“Having them early Saturday morning is good for two reasons,” Bensley says, “It allows the tourists to get on with their day, and it helps them escape the evening heat.”

Bensley has been in charge of tours in Morristown for the past 12 years now. She feels that as a tourism director, “you need to have a certain product to give to the people.”

But that’s not to say that walking tours didn’t exist in Morristown before Bensley came along. They just didn’t exist in the way that they do now.

“We already had walking tours in Morristown,” Bensley says, “But it was more of a self-guided tour.”

Bensley thinks that the secret of the Morris County Tourism Bureau’s success though is that people actually WANT to be guided through their tours.

“I think a lot of people are looking for things that are interactive,” Bensley says, “It’s like going to the museum. You can either zip right through it, or, [you can] put on the headphones and learn things that you never would have learned before.”

And to add to the experience, Bensley and the gang have added a new feature to their tours—flip cameras.

“A flip camera is very inexpensive and about the size of a phone,” Barkin says, “And you can get your video and edit it and take it out for the Secrets & Lore tour.”

You don’t have to be a Morris County denizen to take the tour though, as Barkin says that there are probably 80% people from Morris County, 15% outside of Morris County, and about 5% of people outside of the country, who take the tour.

“There are between 300-400 people who take the tour [every year],” Barkin says.

Bensley acknowledges that she and her group do a lot of work, but she thinks that it’s all worth it, because she loves Morris County and hopes that people who take this tour will love it, too.

“I think Morris County is a blend of being somewhat rural, but still somewhat a city,” Bensley says, “but you still don’t feel like you’re in a densely populated urban center. And I hope it stays that way.”

Tours are ten dollars and last about an hour and a half. To find out more about the Tours @ ten series, visit the bureau’s website at, or by calling them at 973-631-5151.

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