Last month, our member businesses gathered at the Hotel Leger for the annual Innovations in Tourism awards dinner. This much anticipated evening is when the Calaveras Visitors Bureau recognizes an outstanding business that has gone above and beyond to attract visitors with new or unique ideas, products or services. Each year, we ask for nominations in the categories of Events, Attractions, Lodging, Restaurant, Retail and Recreation. There’s also an overall winner for the business with the greatest number of total votes.
Calaveras Big Trees State Park took home this year’s overall award and won in the Lodging category, due to the park’s recent opening of its North Grove cabins and winter camping options. In an effort to appeal to more adventurous and budget minded travelers, Big Trees now offers nightly rentals in four furnished, rustic cabins near its North Grove. Each has two bedrooms, kitchen, living room and private bath. For those wishing to sleep outdoors, the North Grove campground will stay open for the winter for the first time this year, with sites available both by reservation or on a first-come basis. (See our winter camping article for more details).
Just two years ago, the park unveiled its redesigned visitor center, offering an interpretive museum space and gift shop on par with what you might find in larger National Parks. Big Trees State Park has long been a popular winter day trip for snowshoeing, cross country skiing and hiking. The new lodging opportunities, according to park spokesperson Danielle Gerhart, will attract younger audiences and provide a more immersive park experience.
Already a popular family destination, Calaveras Big Trees State Park offers easy access to gentle sledding slopes for youngsters in the winter, and guided snowshoe hikes on Saturdays. Don’t have your own snowshoes? No problem; the park provides them free for use on a first-come, first-served basis. Be sure to stop in at the warming hut located next to the North Grove parking lot on your way out. The Calaveras Big Trees Association serves up free hot chocolate and cider here for visitors.
Complete List of 2016 Winners
10th Annual Innovations in Tourism Awards
LODGING and OVERALL WINNER Calaveras Big Trees State Park for opening vacation rental cabins at the park and planning the addition of in-park cabins to appeal to younger adventure travelers.
ATTRACTION Brice Station Vineyards for their Hilltop Concert Series and Shakespeare on the Vine, as well as for excellent social media engagement on Instagram.
EVENT Calaveras Arts Council for their Ovations Series, free Music in the Parks, and their new Ride4Art as a fundraiser for arts in local schools.
RETAIL Sierra Nevada Adventure Company for helping to develop the popularity of disc golf in Calaveras County, inspiring more courses to open up, donating outdoor recreation photography for promotion on social media, and for providing top quality equipment, assistance and advice for visiting adventurers.
RECREATION Moaning Cavern Adventure Park for their Zip Line Pumpkin Smash, Caroling in the Cave with Rappelling Santa and other Concerts in the Cave, bringing WiFi to the bottom of Moaning Cavern for social media sharing, and attempting a Pokemon Go lure drop – offering a discount on walk tours to Pokemon Go players.
RESTAURANT Alchemy for their world class selection of speciality beers and related beer blog, as well as highly regarded special events, including wine and beer pairings.