BOSTON -- When it comes to developing motorcoach itineraries in Massachusetts, "we try to take the hot topics in the business and find attractions that are off the beaten track," said Mary Hayes, group tour manager for the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism.

The office offers an up-to-date database of hotels, restaurants, attractions, receptive operators, charters and other information for group tour operators "including the latest information on how best to navigate the Big Dig," said Hayes, referring to the massive highway construction project in Boston.

Trends in the motorcoach market in Massachusetts include soft adventure, heritage and cultural tourism, whale watching and the ever-expanding student market, she said.

"The group tour suppliers in Massachusetts are very sophisticated, and they understand that by packaging -- including day and overnight tours -- they make it easy for the tour operators," said Hayes.

Examples include combining amphibious Duck Tours with visits to the Hard Rock Cafe and Boston's long-running play "Shear Madness," she said.

"You also can have dinner at the Union Oyster House in Boston, followed by an evening with Paul Revere at the Old North Church," Hayes said.

Programs with a garden component are popular, she said, citing the Berkshire Botanical Garden, Old Sturbridge Village, the New England Spring Flower Show in Boston and the Garden in the Woods in Framingham.

"Lexington has done a wonderful job putting together an interactive living history exhibition highlighting the different aspects of the Revolutionary War, such as what it was like to be a woman during that period," she said.

Agricultural tours include OceanSpray's Cranberry World in Plymouth, where groups can see how cranberries are harvested, as well as pick-your-own fruit tours in combination with hay rides and sleigh rides.

Tour operators can take advantage of upcoming anniversaries to package products, such as the 25th anniversary of Faneuil Hall marketplace in Boston, which will feature a range of special entertainment.

Also on tap is the 375th anniversary of the city of Salem as well as the 150th anniversary of the printing of Nathaniel Hawthorne's "House of the Seven Gables."

"A big thing in Boston this year will be the exhibition of Jackie Kennedy's gowns at the Kennedy Library this September," Hayes said.

History buffs can take in 18th century reenactments at Olde Deerfield, walking tours of Beacon Hill in Boston and house tours of 19th century homes in Fall River through the local historical society.

"There is a lot of diversity in Massachusetts," said Hayes, noting that two special events -- the Bright Nights at Forest Park in Springfield and First Night in Boston -- have both been ranked among the top 100 ABA events.

The Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism maintains a group tour Web site at www.massvacation.com/grouptour as well as e-mail at [email protected].

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