Home, Sweet Home

Branson, Mo., anyone? Don't all raise your hands at once. "Where's that?" you may ask. It's where the Silver Dollar City Amusement Park is. And you may well cast a supercilious glance westward (or eastward, depending on your location) upon the attractions of America's midsection. They are looking good.

Going to Europe is going to cost you your child's college tuition. And there are the worsening intangibles associated generally with going far from your house: airline service, for example, we won't even talk about; or general fear of the unknown, anxiety about the local water, strangers offering cheap cab rides to the wrong side of Santorini; language skills.

There's also the legitimate fear of being recognized as an American, given our status these days. Meaning that one has to work twice as hard--probably meaning a lot of cash spent with a dialect coach before traveling--to create an elaborate ruse to convince locals in other lands that you come from somewhere else. "Me? I from Reykjavik."



Local and state travel bureaus are clued in to this. Under normal circumstances I would think it a coincidence that so many states, cities, and regions are simultaneously launching campaigns to entice tourists. After all, it's summer! And that means driving season, gas prices be damned. Places like New Jersey, New York, and yes, Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo., are all talking about their locales as solutions to gasoline and exchange-rate woes.

Yes, I know I'm putting the Winnebago before the horse. Many of these places do yearly pre-summer campaigns. Still, back when gas was cheap and people liked us, would New Jersey's Pine Barrens really have competed with the Amalfi Coast or Aix en Provence (Brangelina notwithstanding)?

Places like Motel 6 are getting in the game. The company is touting U.S. road trips on its new Web site. "Faced with rising fuel prices, the site allows vacation seekers to plan a one-tank trip and use their hard-earned dollars toward fun activities and gasoline rather than on accommodations," says the grammatically challenged company.

If you need ideas, Uniroyal Tire has brought in unfortunately named travel expert Kimberly Danger to offer money-saving vacation tips: "Financially overextending yourself can lead to anxiety down the line. If you're going to be paying for months to come, reconsider." That sounds like a pitch for staying single.

Here are some of Danger's suggestions, some of which sound like perfect stress storms to me: Visit family to cut down on hotel expenses (visit? Why not move back in? "Hi, mom. I'm back. Not long, like ten years?"); Use your house as home base for fun day trips; Consider church mission trips as a way to see another country ("Thanks for volunteering; how's Sierra Leone sound? The kids will love it! Can they shoot?"); Travel with another family and share a condo or cabin (Also a great way to preclude any future relations with that family.).

And, I have to confess, I have begun thinking favorably of local destinations for tourism. Suddenly Fargo, N.D. is looking exotic. There are places in the Bronx that, if you use a little imagination, could be another country. And there's Disney World, which actually HAS other countries, sort of. I mean, if you really must go overseas, why not do it in Orlando, which has a fake Europe?

And if you just have to visit the Amazon, well, there's Branson, Mo., which has the water adventure ride Roaring Falls, taking riders on an Amazon-themed journey ending with a five-story splash finale (from the release).

On the way there you could stop at the St. Louis Arch. Which I've never seen, but have heard is wonderful. And I may go soon. No trips to Calais for me.

Next story loading loading..