Ft. Sumter, where the Civil War began

In the year of Lincoln’s 200th birthday, there’s plenty to keep a person busy taking in sites around the United States that are connected to the 16th president in some way. For example, there’s the Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. that has recently reopened and Lincoln’s boyhood home in Indiana, two sites we’ve recently covered. There’s also his home in Springfield, Illinois.

Here’s another. According to this article in the Dispatch, next month marks another anniversary of the day the Civil War began. On April 12, 1861 at Ft. Sumter in South Carolina, the 34 hour battle between the Confederate and Federal troops started when the Confederate army launched an attack on the fort. The Union army that was posted at Ft. Sumter wasn’t able to hold out against the Confederates. After the battle they headed to New York. Once the Confederates took over the fort, they never lost control of it.

After the Civil War, Fort Sumter was used during the Spanish American War and also during World War I. Today the fort is a historic site operated by the National Park Service. Accessible by a ferry that leaves from a dock near the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center, it’s a place to take in an important part of the U.S. past that has influenced its present.

As a note, the park Web site says that Ft. Sumter has one of the best collections of seacoast artillery in the United States. If you go, also take in Fort Moultrie nearby on Sullivan Island. It’s a unit of Ft. Sumter and is significant because of its role in the 171-year history of U.S. seacoast defense.

Recession vacations: do more with less

Vacation plans are changing. This isn’t exactly a surprise. With layoffs mounting and a careful eye trained on every expense, long vacations are becoming short, and short trips aren’t straying as far from home. For some destinations, this is actually paying off.

A handful of smaller cities are pulling in visitors that normally would set off for grander locales. Charleston, SC and Fort Meyers, FL, for example sustained double-digit growth rates in January 2009 (relative to January 2008), according to American Express Travel bookings. Tuscon, AZ, Palm Springs, CA, and Portland, OR have also seen surges – 12 percent, 13 percent and 38 percent respectively.

Even Philly is on the upswing, which makes sense when you think about all those New Yorkers who need a quick break from the city.

So, why do these numbers look so good? Well, it’s hard to say. Drops in airfare and room rates are obvious drivers. Or, it could be some sort of marketing savvy. When you look at the data, there’s no common thread.

What is universal, it seems, is that everything is getting smaller. Trips are shorter, people are spending less and the destinations aren’t as far from home as they used to be. With the many bargains that are available, we may be able to do more with less, but overall, we’re still doing a hell of a lot less.

Aside from places like Fort Meyers and Tuscon, there are a few silver linings. “Girlfriend getaways” are still going strong, but the ladies are stretching their dollars. Renting one car instead of several, chipping in for a vacation home and picking a day spa over a destination spa are popular cost-cutting measures.

Home port cruises are on the upswing, as well. Guests can drive to the port (instead of flying), cutting down on the total cost of the trip. Like everyone else, these folks are cutting some deals, too.

Pick your corner of the travel and hospitality business, and you’ll find more than a handful of bargains. The decisions we make come down to what travelers can afford – rather than what they want. But, we’re still getting out on the road.


Check out some of these other wacky laws, place names and signs from around the world!

Halloween graveyard tours and a graveyard joke

There are haunted prison tours and haunted hotels to sleep in. Here is another way to traipse through some haunts for Halloween.

Graveyards that can seem peaceful during the day are perfect settings at night for finding chills and thrills. If there is a graveyard in a town or city near you, I bet there’s a tour. Regardless of the season, graveyards offer a span of history that includes triumph and sorrow. Each one hold clues and mysteries to the people who have lived before us.

Here’s a Halloween graveyard joke you can say when you are going past a graveyard: “How many people do you think are dead in there?”

(**Continue for answer and a sampling of graveyard tours.)

  • In Alexandria, Virginia, walk along the six blocks on the Ghosts & Graveyard lantern tour with a costumed guide who transports visitors to the 1800s through tales of ghosts and unsolved mysteries. The tour ends in the graveyard. Although Halloween inspired, it goes through November.
  • There are several ghost and graveyard tours in Nova Scotia. Several are offered year-round.
  • Ghosts and Gravestone Trolley Tours of Boston, Massachusetts goes through November 2. This tour is hosted by a 17th century gravedigger who tells tales of Boston’s murderous past. Two of Boston’s oldest graveyards are included.
  • The same company that offers the tour in Boston has similar tours in Savanah, Georgia and St. Augustine, Florida. The Website has a link to haunted tales and while you browse ghost type sounds put you in the mood.
  • In Charleston, South Carolina, there is a tour company that specializes in creepy, scary places. The Charleston Ghost and Graveyard Walking Tours brings people through graveyards where tales of love, loss and prominent people can be found.
  • San Antonio, Texas has several ghost tour options. Many included graveyards, whether you walk or take a vehicle. These tours are also offered year-round.
  • Like San Antonio, San Diego has several ghost tour options. Several include graveyards. If you scroll down the page, you’ll see many links for other ghost and graveyard tours throughout the United States.
  • To amp up a graveyard ghost tour, here’s one that combines a stay in a haunted hotel with a ghost and graveyard tour. This version is in Columbus, Ohio. The Lofts, a boutique hotel that was once a warehouse in the early 1900s has a ghost called “Lady of the Lofts. There’s a package deal that includes a night in the hotel, breakfast and two tickets to “The Haunted Columbus’s Best of 20 Years Bus Tour.” If that tour is sold out the Columbus Landmark’s Foundation has other ghost tours and guided visits through Greenlawn Cemetery. Greenlawn Cemetery is where humorist James Thurber is buried. Perhaps he’d appreciate the graveyard joke.

** Answer to graveyard joke: “All of them.”

This joke gets people every time. Here is the joke in its entirety if you forgot the question.

If you are passing by a graveyard say, using a voice that evokes the idea that you are looking for a number: “How many people are dead in there?”

Answer: “All of them.”

Elite Green Car – and other unusual word combinations

Here’s a Super-Duper Secret Leif Pettersen Tip to Hilarious Writing (SDSLPTHW): when you’re hurting for a joke, just throw in unexpected word combinations.

Examples: “muscular fart”, “righteous taco”, “likeable president”

Accordingly, when I tried to write the first paragraph of this post and had to arrange the words ‘luxury’, ‘eco-friendly’, ‘chauffer’, ‘Lexus’, ‘hybrid’ and ‘Atlanta’ in an interesting way, it was unexpectedly funny. Not ha-ha funny, but you know…

Elite Green Car is the cause of today’s wordsmith oddity. Launched this month, the company offers eco-friendly chauffeured transportation in the Atlanta area via their fleet of luxury full-size Lexus RX 400 hybrid cars. (See what I mean? Tee hee!)

All kidding aside, there’s a certain inexplicable thrill to tooling around in a swanky, Super Ultra-Low Emission Lexus that boasts “maximum fuel efficiency along with capturing lost energy from braking and deceleration as electric power to recharge the battery”, currently rated as the most energy efficient car on the market.

Elite Green Car is the brainchild of entrepreneur Mike Kersten, a certified pilot, avid outdoorsman and father of two. Concerned about Atlanta’s notorious environmental stresses, Kersten resolved to “fuel” his passion for the planet by launching the Elite Green Car service in his adopted home town.

So, you’re traveling in style with a minimal carbon footprint, what else do you get for your money? Elite’s vehicles are equipped with XM NavTraffic, GPS Tracking (“ensuring that the fuel-efficient ride travels the most efficient routes, minimizing toxic emissions”), WiFi services, Sirius Satellite Radio, DVD, CD, surround sound capabilities and DriveCam’s behavior-based risk mitigation solution. Is technology great or what?

Elite’s primary services include airport transportation, corporate travel, VIP/Executive transportation and special events and occasions. Though, I don’t think they’d be opposed to (unexpected word combination warning) “environmentally responsible gnarly joy ride, dude” (SDSLPTHW: that’s called a “throw back joke”).

Kersten is planning on expanding to Nashville, Charleston, Birmingham and, the eco-friendly center of the universe, San Francisco in 2008.

Haunted Tours for Halloween Fun: East Coast Edition

Want to get spooked this Halloween? If your travels find you in any of these ten East Coast cities, be sure to check out the haunted tours happening on and around Halloween.

Alexandria, VA: This Colonial Tour Group runs their original Ghost and Graveyard Tour, as well as a special enhanced Halloween version, several times throughout the autumn months.

Atlanta, GA: How about a haunted tour on two wheels? City Segway Tours runs a Ghosts and Legends Tour.

Baltimore, MD: Fells Point Ghost Tours is now called Baltimore Ghost Tours. They offer several ghost walks (including a Haunted Pubwalk) and a Haunted Harbor Cruise.

Boston, MA: Boston by Foot will run a one-time-only tour called Beacon Hill with a Boo! on Halloween night.

Charleston, SC: Bulldog Tours offers a variety of spooky walking tours, including the Haunted Jail Tour and the Dark Side of Charleston.

Pensacola, FL: The Historical Society hosts a Haunted House Walking and Trolley Tour – a “frightseeing tour”!

Philadelphia, PA: A walking Ghost Tour of Philadelphia departs daily at 7:30 pm through November.

Newport, RI: Nightly walking tours by Ghosts of Newport run through Halloween. They also run Carved in Stone, a 90-minute tour of the colonial Common Burying Ground.

New York, NY: Ghosts of New York runs an Edgar Allen Poe and his Ghostly Friends Tour each week, plus other haunted city walks.

Washington, DC: Washington Walks hosts a DC Haunted Houses Tour every Wednesday through Halloween.

Don’t miss the list of haunted tours on the West Coast.