Summer has just begun and I am already tired of hearing about some vacation destinations. But not so tired that we won't run stories about these places ourselves. Sometimes the beaten path is the beaten path for a reason.
Still, there is a certain amount of eye-rolling repetition in the news these days about places tied to big summer events. Or a certain trend. Here's my list of the most overhyped and overexposed places of the summer of 2008:
• Your home: Every few years a cutesy new vacation term dreamed up by some marketing types starts making the rounds. There were "babymoons" (a trip just before having a baby) and "oblications" (those mandatory trips to see the relatives something an Orange County Register writer more than a decade ago termed "tours of duty"). There are "mancations" where guys go off to blast birds or just drink a lot.
This year the term I became tired of in, oh, late March is "staycation." A combination of "stay" and "vacation." The idea is that you don't go anywhere this summer because of high gas prices, high airfares and recession worries. The Washington Post even came up with a version where you tell people you are leaving town, then hide in your house: a "fakation."
It's true that fewer people are planning a trip of over 75 miles this summer 57 percent, down from 63 percent in 2007, according to a survey by national leisure marketing firm Y Partnership. But most people still realize that the term "vacation" has at its root the word "vacate" as in leave, blow town, get away.
Here's my advice: If you were planning a two-week vacation, make it 10 days. If you were planning a week, make it five days. Go three-star instead of four-star. Eat only one meal a day in a restaurant, using markets and bakeries for lunch.
There are lots of ways to enjoy summer without boring yourself to death at home. I have dubbed these with trendy new names: "a short vacation" and "a budget vacation."
• Beijing: The world comes to one of the most populous and least freedom-loving countries on the planet. No Summer Olympics has been quite so controversial since Moscow in 1980 (or perhaps Berlin in 1936). Between the protests about Tibet and the police swarms on Tiananmen Square, there will be a respite when the greatest runners, swimmers, gymnasts and javelin throwers get their once-every-four-years moment of glory packed between baseball's All-Star Game and the opening of the NFL season. But this is one country that probably doesn't need the post-Olympics tourism bump. China is expected to be the No. 1 tourist destination in the world by midcentury.
• Minneapolis: President Bush's ratings may be at an all-time low, but the Republicans are hoping for resurgence at their national convention Sept. 1-4. Though modern Minneapolis gets first billing, the convention will actually occur across the river in St. Paul. That's OK with me I prefer the town that was home to F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose namesake theater is the headquarters of the radio show "A Prairie Home Companion."
• Denver: The looooong race to pick a Democratic nominee luckily ended before the donkey delegates arrive in the Mile High City for their national convention Aug. 25-28 at the Pepsi Center. The Dems should take time out to tour the LoDo district of warehouses and bookstores, and the gun lobby will love the firearms collections and game (no elephant) served at The Buckhorn Exchange. The Democrats are hoping the nominee can go further than the Denver Nuggets did against the Lakers.
• Philadelphia: Boston has the fireworks, New York has the crowds, Los Angeles has the concerts. But July Fourth is Philly's annual moment in the spotlight. Independence Hall. The Declaration of Independence. The Liberty Bell. As a former resident of eastern Pennsylvania, I can attest that sweaty, smelly July is one of the worst times of year to visit the city. The Founding Fathers undoubtedly came around on a compromise on the Declaration just to get out of town before August.
• Washington, D.C: Congress leaves town just as the tourists start flocking in. Maybe they realize that 100 degrees with sopping humidity doesn't make for a lot of fun. Especially when you are on one of those forced marches from monument to monument, all of which seem to be in treeless plazas surrounding by glaring white marble. Instead, visit in April when the cherry trees are blossoming. The politicians know that summer is only for amateurs.• Yankee Stadium: The House That Ruth Built and Steinbrenner Renovated Badly closes at the end of the year, and a new Yankee Stadium (higher ticket prices, more luxury boxes) opens across the way in the Bronx in New York. A 1970s makeover took away some of the old charm, giving it a less authentic feeling than Boston's Fenway Park or Chicago's Wrigley Field. But if you can endure the summer heat and overwhelming hotel prices in New York, check it out before it goes away. As for Shea Stadium, home to the Mets, that is also closing: Don't bother; it's a dump. A dump with a lot of great baseball memories, but a dump nonetheless.
Gary A. Warner can be reached at: [email protected]. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.