Tourist trap is an establishment, or group of establishments, that has been created or re-purposed with the aim of attracting tourists and their money. Tourist traps will typically provide services, entertainment, souvenirs and other products for tourists to purchase.

Are tourist traps less worthy of attention because they are popular? This would exclude classic American destinations like Gettysburg, Martha’s Vineyard, Cape Cod, and the Grand Canyon. And European destinations like Paris, France.

There are places to avoid where hype exceeds experience, but plenty more that are too much fun — or too beautiful — to miss. The trick is finding the right time to visit. For a lot of places that would be before the end of the school year, or after Labor Day. If you don’t have kids in school and you can schedule vacations off-peak, the world is yours. At a discount.

Tourist towns are great, which is how they became so popular.  Are they expensive? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. They can cost less than you expect. The fanciest accommodations might cost more than you can manage, but there are plenty of places from which to choose. That can translate to modest prices, even in the middle of summer. If there’s a place you’re really hankering to see, check it out. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Tourist towns, and the people in them, are glad to see you. They want you to have a good time and come back next year and the year after that. With your credit cards, traveler’s checks, and cash. You are welcome in shops and restaurants. You’ll find plenty of places to stay, lots of things to do. Restaurants from cheap to five-star.

Although a lot of vacationers are looking “get away from it all,” some of us wouldn’t mind getting back into it. Garry and I want to be someplace unlike home. We want to do stuff we can’t usually do. History, shopping, good food. Mountains. Moose. Cities. Interesting people. Comfortable accommodations.

Tourist traps? Probably. Fun? Absolutely.

Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. A reconstructed colonial town with great photo opportunities. Cute tee shirts. Even better? Busch Gardens is next door and it has roller coasters!

Way to go.


Horse and carriage

Real carriage. Fake horse.  It’s a small lane in the middle of the old Gettysburg.

This is one of the many things I love about tourist towns. I know people get all snobby about “tourist traps,” but towns set up for the tourists, while heavily commercial, also have plenty of places to eat, lots of motels, and activities for everyone. Best of all, they are always glad to see you.


That’s no small matter, especially if you have been harassed in less hospitable destinations. No matter what your color or nationality, your money is good in a tourist town. It’s also an easy venue for people who have disabilities and special needs. These towns are ready to cater to your unique requirements.

Blue and gray souvenirs

There’s always a reason a town becomes a tourist mecca. It holds attractions or is very near them. Nice beaches. Historic sites. Skiing. Roller coasters. Gambling. Fabulous food.Terrific views. Wonderful weather. Amazing shopping.

Gettysburg faux horse

A town doesn’t draw crowds without a reason.

The down sides to popular destinations are obvious. Higher prices, crowds and traffic. If you want to travel  where everyone else also wants to go, try to find schedule it off-season. Even a few days before or after peak can make a huge difference in the size of the crowds and the price of accommodations.

Ghoul Soldier


But check it out. Some places close down right after Labor Day, or have nothing open except during peak periods. Beach towns are particularly likely to be locked up tight by early September.

main street Gettysburg

Martha’s Vineyard, for example, bustles with life on Labor Day. The next day, more than half the restaurants and shops are closed. A few stay open longer or are open year round — but that may not be what interests you.

Just make sure the stuff you really want to do and see is available before you book a bargain vacation.

Gettysburg buggy


Road Tripping – ‘Tis the season for road trips — if time and money were out of the equation, what car-based adventure would you go on? (If you don’t or can’t drive, any land-based journey counts.)

We’re a road tripping sort of country. Our rail system is not nearly as good as Europe’s and we love our cars.

Personally, we’re less enamored of cars than we were. Maybe because we can’t afford luxury cars or because the price of gasoline is so high. Or the idea of spending all those endless hours in a car doesn’t sound like fun.

But wait! The WordPress folks are offering to cover all the expenses! So let’s get started. Stretch limo and driver. Get the road atlas. America, here we come.

Arrangements to be made. Someone has to be here to take care of the dogs. And we have to renew all our medications so we don’t run out. I hope the motels have decent beds. Better bring our own pillows.


What else? These days, we take more gear than clothing!

  • Cameras
  • Computers
  • Cell phone
  • Kindles
  • Electric toothbrush
  • Chargers for everything
  • Extra batteries
  • Extension cords
  • Tripod

Clothing. Who knows what the weather is going to be? We’re covering a lot of territory, so we need to be ready for anything and everything. We’d better bring warm clothing for the mountains. Nights are likely to be chilly. And rain gear, comfortable shoes. Sandals, maybe boots too. Bathing suits? From desert to mountain, hot and humid coastline and everything in between.

Oh, you want to know where we’re going? To see America. Outbound via the northern route across the Rockies, while the weather holds. Down the west coast — Washington through Oregon to California. Long stay in San Francisco, then south through Carmel and Monterey to Hollywood. We have studios to see!

To the southwest, now. A good friend in Arizona beckons. At least a week there. Maybe all of us can take the limo to Monument Valley, see where John Ford shot all those westerns!

Superstition Mtns Arizona

Off to New Orleans. We were there before Katrina. I guess it’s not going to be quite the same city, but we aren’t the same people either. 1997 seems an eternity ago. Sexy, sinful New Orleans … great food, music and some say, vampires.


We’re tired, but we have people to visit in Florida. Then we’ll head up the east coast stopping to see friends and family along the way. The final hop to home. Sleeping all the way from New York to our front door. Too weary to care about anything.

How long were we gone? Seems like forever … or no time at all. Oh, right. We haven’t left yet. Even in a the limo of our imagination, a lot of miles.

Maybe we’ll just take a little trip to Maine. The rest of America can wait.


Share Your World – 2014 Week 29

Have you ever been in a submarine? If you haven’t, would you want to?

About five years ago, Garry and I went on a Caribbean cruise. It was one of Royal Caribbean’s newer, bigger ships and it was a long cruise — almost two weeks. In the Cayman Islands, we took a trip on the Atlantis, a 60-passenger mini-submarine from which we could experience the coral reef.

atlantis submarine

The subs are tiny. Everyone sits on benches, pretty much body-to-body, but there are windows everywhere including the floor. Unless you are crippled by claustrophobia (in which case, why are you on a mini-sub?), it’s all about the windows. You can pretend you are a fish, swimming with those amazing, brilliantly colored citizens of the water world.

They drift by, sometimes in schools, in small groups. Now and then, a big grouper will come to check you out. It was a one-time experience — totally worth it!

Are you a listener or talker?

Mostly a talker, but I’m getting better at the listening thing.

Do you prefer crunchy peanut butter or smooth peanut butter? Anything with your peanut butter?

Neither, thanks. Not a peanut butter person. I like peanuts, though. With salt.

Have you ever been drunk?

I am such a cheap drunk. Give me half a glass of wine and I’m wasted. I got sloshed once in college. I would not want to do it again. I hated the way it made me feel. Fortunately, Garry doesn’t drink, so I don’t have to pretend to enjoy it.


Twenty-five years ago last October, moments before game three of the 1989 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics, fans were thrown from their seats at Candlestick Park as an earthquake shook the Bay Area. The earth trembled for 15 seconds and brought Alameda county to its knees.

The San Francisco–Oakland earthquake registered 6.9 on the Richter scale. It seriously damaged the roads in the Bay Area, causing the collapse of the Nimitz Freeway and a piece of the Bay Bridge. It cost more than sixty lives and injured thousands.

collapsed expwy SF 1989

I was working remotely from our apartment in Boston that year. I had a great contract. It paid enough money so I didn’t need to do any other work. Just as well because Garry and I were getting married and planning a wedding. Which really meant I was planning a wedding. Garry was planning to show up.

Working remotely left me free to get the rest of my life sorted out and our apartment was big, enough room for me to have a spacious office. I loved working remotely and never was happy working a regular office job again. But I digress.


Before I could get started on the project, I had to go to Berkeley and interview the people who used the software for which I was writing the manuals. They were paying for the trip and I’d only been to California once before, to interview for the contract. I was glad to go.


Everything went smoothly until I came down with the flu. In just a few hours, I went from feeling fine to having a heavy cough, high fever, and being utterly miserable. I cancelled the remainder of the trip — three days — and flew back to Boston.

The earthquake occurred the following day. If I had stayed on my original schedule, traveling back and forth on the expressway from Berkeley to Oakland, I’d have been one of the people trapped by the collapsing expressway.

It was a most fortuitous case of the flu. It probably saved my life.


Wrong Turns – When was the last time you got lost? Was it an enjoyable experience, or a stressful one? Tell us all about it.

It was late in the day when we rolled into Gettysburg. Tired, ready for a shower and a meal, we asked Richard our faithful GPS to take us to the nearest motel. We followed his directions carefully.

main street Gettysburg

It was our first visit to the area. Road-weary, we were too exhausted to deal with getting lost and we were (are) often lost. Diligently, we followed Richard’s directions.

After a few turns and one long straightaway, Richard announced in his loud, clear voice: “You have reached your destination!” Indeed we had, though it was not the one we had it mind.

As far as we could see lay miles of tombstones. Richard had brought us to our ultimate destination, what must have been Gettysburg’s largest modern cemetery. It stretched for miles.

Who knew our GPS had a sense of humor? We didn’t stop laughing until we finally found the EconoLodge.