American vacation spots

Created date

July 27th, 2010
Vacation 1
Vacation 1

For the last century, vacations have been a part of life in America. Whether ' at the beach, drink in hand, or barreling down the interstate in search of roadside attractions like the world's biggest ball of yarn, destinations symbolic of our desire for rest and relaxation dot the nation's landscape. Once an activity reserved almost exclusively for the elite, the vacation soon grew to become an expectation rather than a privilege. What started in the ' 1800s as resorts where the wealthy could flee the malarial summer conditions, by the mid-20th century included a collection of national parks, seaside recreation spots, and a ribbon of highway that made campgrounds and natural wonders accessible to American families. Here are a few of them. Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

In the early 1800s, long before mass-produced pharmaceuticals, people suffering from chronic aches and pains were desperate for relief. Many professed to find it in the healing powers of natural springs like those in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. This reputation goes back to the early 1820s, driven largely by the wide variety of spring waters found in the area including freshwater, salt, and sources heavy in such minerals as sodium bicarbonate. In 1821, hotels like the Pavilion and Congress Hall popped up, each able to accommodate 200 guests at a time. Before long, Saratoga Springs was as well known for leisure as it had been for healing. Indeed, historian Cindy Aron, in her bookWorking at Play(Oxford University Press, 1999), cites one visitor's surprise at the number of vacationers who were there simply to have a good time. In 1827, Elihu Hoyt wrote: "One would suppose that we should find everybody here on the sick list but it is far from being the case. . . . Many of the visitors come here probably in good sound health, for amusement, & for the sake of spending a week or two among the fashionable to see & to be seen. . . . We have fashionable balls, . . . concerts, and all descriptions of amusement." Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, Mich. [caption id="attachment_13327" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="The Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, circ., 1900-1906. (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection, LC-D4-19027)"][/caption] The Grand Hotel opened on Michigan's Mackinac Island in 1887, touted as a summer resort where rooms were between $3 and $5 a night. Known architecturally for its magnificent front porch (one of the longest at that time), the resort was a popular getaway for the wealthy, both young and old. Like Hoyt's impression of Saratoga Springs 60 years earlier, the Grand was a fashionable place to visit. Here, guests enjoyed demonstrations of the new Edison Phonograph, attended lectures by such notables as Mark Twain, and strolled along the "Flirtation Walk" with their better halves. In 1989, the U.S. Department of the Interior designated the hotel a national historic landmark, and it continues to accommodate visitors to this day. While its guests now represent a much wider swath of the social spectrum, the Grand still entertains with a style worthy of the elite. Asbury Park, N.J. [caption id="attachment_13328" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Boardwalk and beach at Asbury Park, N.J., circ., 1905. (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection, LC-D401-18704)"][/caption] Few seaside resort towns are as popular as New Jersey's Asbury Park. Built in 1871 by a brush manufacturer named James A. Bradley, the town was popular from the start, with more than half a million people vacationing there each year. Always ' an attractive spot for swimming and walking along the beach, by the 1920s, Asbury Park had begun to develop the many entertainment features that characterize seashore destinations today. Developers added to its boardwalk venues such as the Paramount Theater and Convention Hall, as well as a casino and the Berkeley-Carteret Hotel (now called the Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel). Yellowstone National Park Spread across parts of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, Yellowstone is the nation's first national park. Americans have been visiting its natural wonders and wildlife preserves since the early 1870s, but the park's popularity as a tourist destination skyrocketed with the widespread ownership of automobiles in the 1940s and 50s. According to historian Susan Rugh, author ofAre We There Yet?: The Golden Age of American Family Vacations (University Press of Kansas Paperback, 2010), visits to national parks rose from 21.7 million in 1946 to 172 million in 1970. Particularly popular were the variety of cabins situated around Yellowstone and available for rent, many of them designed to give vacationers the rustic feel of the wilderness but with access to modern amenities.