Time travelers take off
History calls vacationers to the roadBy Jenna Milly
(CNN) -- Did Paul Revere truly ride the narrow, cobblestone streets alone warning "one if by land, two if by sea" of the British troop arrival on a foggy Boston night? What was 18th century colonial life like for women who wore a cap, a bodice, a stomacher, a full skirt and as many as eight petticoats in the freezing winters of Williamsburg, Virginia?
Avid historical traveler Stephanie Gleason plans to find out this summer. She, her husband, their two children and au pair want to discover colonial American during several trips from the old city in Boston, Massachusetts, to historic Williamsburg, Virginia.
"Pete and I are very interested in history," said Gleason, a part-time college instructor and stay-at-home mom who lives in Reston, Virginia. "We find that we learn things together."
Stepping back in time to revisit the age of America's formative years fascinates the couple, who enjoy guided walking tours for the rich experiences and face-to-face adventures with personal guides those walks afford.
"We get a more exclusive view of places when we take educational tours," said Gleason, who has been planning historically themed trips for 10 years.
Nearly 93 million Americans included at least one cultural, arts, heritage or historical activity while traveling last year, the Travel Industry Association of America reported in January. Historical and cultural travel volume is up 10 percent from 1996.
While the Gleasons are trotting through the blacksmith shops and market streets of 18th century America, others will honor ghosts from America's wars of the past. Dozens of Civil and Revolutionary war re-enactments from Tennessee to New York are scheduled for summer 2002.
In Granville, Ohio, the Licking County Civil War Reenactment features civilian and military shows the weekend of June 29-30. The Jersey County Victorian Festival in Jerseyville, Illinois, boasts large-scale Civil War reenactments and historical demonstrations during Labor Day weekend. The battle of Antietam near Sharpsburg, Maryland, the bloodiest battle in Civil War history, in which casualties reached 25,000, will have its 140th anniversary on September 18.
American war interest is extremely popular, said Tom Huntington, Editor and Publisher of Historic Traveler, a print supplement published quarterly in American History, America's Civil War, British Heritage, Heritage and Civil War Times magazines.
Historic travelers want to be where their ancestors fought, he said. "People are looking for their own individual connection on these battlefields."
New York and Vermont are planning a series of events starting in June and continuing into October. The battle of Saratoga, a pivotal Revolutionary War battle site, marks its 225 anniversary in 2002.
"Especially this year, people might be thinking a little more about the birth of this country after the events of September 11," he said. "This is a good time to go out and rediscover where this nation came from."
Some history buffs may be looking further back than the last few hundred years when searching for stories of life on the American landscape.
Associate editor Heidi Sherman Mitchell at Travel + Leisure Magazine ranks some Native American sites and wildlife habitats in her top 10 of most historic travel destinations for summer 2002.
The Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore and Alaska's Denali National Park and Preserve are top picks, she said. The Grand Canyon, she said, "is one of the most spectacular examples of erosion in the world."
Visitors can step up to the edge of the sunset-colored canyon, which is 18 miles wide in some areas, and view the craggy landscape just as Native Americans have done for hundreds of years.
Steeped in anthropological importance, the park is the site of many pueblo and cliff-dweller ruins that may indicate occupation by prehistoric peoples. There are also several Indian tribes living on surrounding reservations. Touring the landscape by hiking, biking, camping and taking air trips is popular.
Mitchell ranks the Grand Canyon No. 1 in historical American destinations, citing the park's opportunities for learning. Visitors can study culture, geology, flora and fauna. Mitchell said summer tourists this year have a "good range of all there is to see in this country from historic to cultural to natural." There is something for everyone, from east to west," she said.
Mitchell suggests admirers of early gold-diggers and wildlife fanatics look farther west and discover Denali National Park.
More than 6 million acres of rugged terrain make up the park, which includes Mt. McKinley, the tallest peak in North America. Native Americans called the peak "the high one" or "denali," where the park takes its name.
"It's really rugged and wild if you like the great outdoors," she said. "And in the summer there are wildflowers and great camping."
Whether tourists delve into the history of gold digging, Old West exploration, colonial culture study or American war reenactment, 2002 is a good year to be a historical traveler, Huntington says.
"People like to have a personal link with history. It's very up-close-and-personal," he said. "The only way to do that is to visit the historical sights themselves."
"Use the time machine between your ears. You can really cast yourself back by using your imagination and standing in the footsteps of history."
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
Arizona Historical Traveler
Civil War reenactments
Jersey County Victorian Festival
Licking County Civil War Reenactment
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