U.S. Pride Spurs Rise in Patriotic Tourism

Infused with fresh national pride, Americans are hitting the road to visit cities and sites that are important to the country's history.

From Mount Rushmore to Washington, D.C.'s monuments, from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to Boston's historic Freedom Trail, experts say patriotic-themed vacations are becoming more popular. And with spring break around the corner, people are gearing up for their seasonal travel.

"A lot of those patriotic destinations are really attractive to people for reasons of them being driveable," said Heidi Mitchell, associate editor at Travel & Leisure. "And it's reconnecting with your history, your heritage, your culture."

The road trip has always been popular in the U.S., Mitchell said. But the fallout from Sept. 11 has more people visiting uniquely American sites.

Visits to Mount Rushmore increased by 10 percent following the attacks, Mitchell noted. Such trips are great for families who want to spend time together and learn more about history at the same time, she said.

Travel agents predict domestic travel will increase significantly during 2002, according to a recent survey of travel professionals.

"Americans have changed their travel habits since Sept. 11, opting for car trips, getaways closer to home and domestic trips," the report said.

One top historic destination is Boston, home to the John F. Kennedy Library and the famous Freedom Trail, which weaves through the city's colonial and revolutionary historic hotspots, including Paul Revere's house and the Bunker Hill monument.

In Philadelphia, Mitchell recommends visiting the historic homes of Betsy Ross and Benjamin Franklin, as well as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.

Another hot and accessible historic spot is Colonial Williamsburg, Va. The town, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary as a tourist attraction this year, is within one day's driving distance for 40 percent of Americans, Mitchell said.

And though security is tight around the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., has cautiously been reopening monuments to the public, said Victoria Isley, spokesperson for the Washington, D.C., Convention and Tourism Corporation. Tours of the White House recently resumed, the Washington Monument just reopened this week, and even the FBI will begin public tours again in March.

"There is no other city in the world where you can experience the level of focus on our freedom and democracy," Isley said. "It's an inspiring experience."

But flocking to the capital to seek solace is nothing new, she said.

"Historically, after times of crisis, D.C. has seen increased travel, because this is the home of so many signs of freedom like monuments and memorials," Isley said.

And don't forget New York City, said Charles De Gaspe Beaubien, executive vice president for Yankee Holidays, a tour company that facilitated the Red, White and Blue campaign to boost tourism after the Twin Towers attack.

"There hasn't been a campaign this successful in a long time," he said, noting his vacation packages have brought some 30,000 people to the Big Apple. He attributed that success to Americans' desire to support New York City and to witness and honor Ground Zero.

According to Mitchell, some Americans simply want to spend their tourism dollars here, and reconnect with their roots.

"This kind of travel can make you feel like a kid again," she said. "It's fun to re-explore. ... You see the history of the country through a fresh lens."