A tour bus pulls up in front of a popular tourist spot.
Before the doors even open, you know who's going to get out -- schoolchildren or senior citizens, right?
If the trip is organized by Anne Macey, coordinator of Trips & Tours for the county's Department of Recreation and Parks, the group is much more likely to be a mixed bag -- young and old, singles and couples, working and retired people.
"There's so much for the seniors already," said Macey. "That's why we try to arrange trips for working people . . . although senior citizens are certainly welcomed."
Despite her best efforts to plan trips that appeal to a cross-section of county residents, Macey said lots of people still think sight-seeing trips are for little old ladies. She's trying to break that stereotype by showing people -- one at a time -- how convenient, cost-effective and fun it is to travel by bus.
And once people tryher trips, which run from September to May each year, they often gethooked, she said.
"Everyone just goes to relax and enjoy themselves," said Kitty Kirbyof Annapolis, who has been on at least 10 of thetrips. "When you come back, you feel like you've been on a vacation."
Recreation and Parks has offered the Trips & Tours program for the past three years. Trips -- which range from shopping sprees at outlet malls to performances of the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall -- are selected by Macey to entice residents to explore new places andthings.
Macey said she picks places that are close enough to do as day trips but far enough away that people could not get there easily by themselves. Most trips, which take about 12 hours including travel time, have been to Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York, the District of Columbia and spots in Maryland.
The first trip this fall is to Westminster in Carroll County on Sept. 21 to take the Entertainment Line, a train trip on restored railway cars from the 1930s, '40s and '50s. The trip includes a buffet dinner, drinks, dancing and a deejay.
Other fall trips include: the discount outlets in Reading, Pa., in October; "Joys of Christmas" at Sight & Sound, a live stage show in Lancaster, Pa., along with a trip to Miller's Smorgasbord, in November; a crafts show, in Harrisburg, Pa., also in November; and a trip to New York City to see the Rockettes in December.
Macey said she gets ideas for trips from magazines, brochures she picks up on other trips and recommendations from friends and patrons. Shehas so many possibilities for future trips that she doesn't think she'll ever have to repeat outings.
The only repeat trips, she said,are those back by popular demand, such as this year's trip to see the Rockettes. So many people asked to go again after last year that Macey booked another trip this year.
Many of the shows and tourist attractions that require tickets offer small discounts to groups, Macey said. All savings are passed along to patrons, who must cover the cost of each trip through ticketsales.
"We try to be economical," she said, so trips are affordable to as many people as possible. Most trips cost $25 to $40 a person. The most expensive is the annual overnight trip, which costs $150 or less.
Last year's trip, which included a show and dinner, accommodations at the Sheraton in Valley Forge, Pa., breakfast the next morning and a day at Atlantic City, cost $125.
The cheapest trips are usually to outlet malls, such as Reading, Pa., Potomac Mills, Va., and Franklin Mills Mall in Philadelphia.The cost is usually $18 to $20.
Macey said she plans at least twoshopping trips a year because "people just love to shop."
The downturn in the economy hasn't dampened the spirits of her avid customers, who continue to register for trips. But Macey is always looking toexpand the program's appeal and bring in more people.
"I really try to make the trips interesting, to make them easy and reasonably priced," she said. "I think most people would really enjoy themselves."
For more information about the program or upcoming trips, call Macey at 222-3600 or 621-9552.