Real carriage. Fake horse. A small lane in the middle of the old part of Gettysburg. This is one of the many things I love about tourist towns. I know people are always turning their noses up at “tourist traps,” but towns set up for the tourist trades may be heavily commercialized, but they also have places to eat, plenty of motels, things to do. They are also, unlike many out of the way and off the track locations, glad to see you. No matter what your color or nationality, your money is good. It’s a safe haven for people who sometimes get harassed in little insular destinations where tourists are uncommon.
There’s always a good reason a town becomes a tourist mecca. Usually, it holds attractions or is very near to them. Nice beaches. Historic sites. Skiing. Roller coasters. Gambling. Fabulous food.Terrific views. Wonderful weather. Amazing shopping.
A town doesn’t draw crowds without a draw. The down sides to popular destinations are obvious: higher prices, crowds and traffic. If you want to go someplace everyone else also wants to visit, try to find a time at least slightly off-season. Even a few days before or after high season can make a huge difference in crowds and costs. But do you homework. Some spots pretty much close down after Labor Day or have almost nothing open except during peak vacation times.
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; there are some places open all year round but they may not be the places in which you are interested.
Just make sure the stuff you really want to do and see is available before you book that bargain vacation.
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