It’s that time of year again: time to hit the roads or head to the airport to tour America. The Travel Industry Association has provided its Summer 2005 Wish List: a ranking of the top 10 travel destinations in the U.S. that people wish to visit this summer. The TIA surveyed a sample of 1,300 travelers who plan on taking a trip over the next three months. “In terms of volume, Americans will take 328 million trips this summer, 2.3 percent higher than last summer,” said Cathy Keefe, TIA’s spokesperson. Some of America’s hottest locales can be found among the top 10. “These states are all making the Wish List, because of their savvy outreach marketing. Vegas advertising has been strong, and South Carolina’s ads are more visible — even Tennessee’s marketing for the Smoky Mountains is really in full force,” Keefe noted.
Percent who want to visit: 34 percent
The Sunshine State can get a little steamy during the summer months, but it can get a whole lot cheaper, as well. Despite the onslaught of hurricanes last summer, tourism spending hit record levels last year as it reached $57 billion, up almost 11 percent from 2003. Disney World’s Magic Kingdom was once again the most-visited theme park in the world in 2004, with estimated attendance of more than 15.1 million guests. From January through March this year, Florida hosted 23.8 million visitors, an increase of 11.5 percent over the same period last year.
Percent who want to visit: 22 percent
On the other side of the country is California, whose climate might be a touch better year-round, but its distance doesn’t cater as easily to families from the Midwest, looking to drive to the beaches for their family vacations. Still, destinations such as the San Diego Zoo and Disneyland (this year, celebrating its 50th anniversary) are prime features for kids, while hot spots such as Los Angeles and Ontario Mills, southern California’s largest shopping mall (which holds name brand discount retailers and entertainment venues), offer plenty of activities for adults.
Percent who want to visit: 15 percent
It’s all about Vegas, baby. Hotels and their casinos remain huge attractions, and many are catching onto the idea of attaching some serious retail real estate to their properties. The latest buzz on the strip is the new Wynn Las Vegas, which opened in April. The Wynn Esplanade “raised the curtain on 75,000 square feet of tony retail shops from Dior and Graff to Oscar de la Renta and Manolo Blahnik,” WWD said in May. The Venetian has Grand Canal Shoppes, an indoor shopping area featuring a reproduced setting of Venice for its customers, while Via Bellagio, part of the extravagant Bellagio Hotel and Casino, houses upscale shops such as Prada, Chanel and Tiffany & Co.
4. NEW YORK
Percent who want to visit: 14 percent
New York really is the heart of it all, especially when one can visit the City, the Atlantic Ocean, the Catskill Mountains and Niagara Falls — all in one fantastic road trip. Manhattan’s Times Square and Empire State Building both draw out-of-towners year-round. Macy’s at Herald Square, which proclaims itself the world’s largest department store, is also a must-see, not to mention the array of shops that Fifth and Madison Avenues have to offer. Central Park is alive with wildlife, lakes, gardens and other attractions, including a zoo, a Victorian castle and the legendary restaurant, Tavern on the Green.
Percent who want to visit: 13 percent
Arguably the most exotic state, many travelers put this tropical hot spot on their wish lists, hoping to one day see its beauty. Traveling to Hawaii may not be simple, but once there, tourists can take part in hikes, scuba diving, surfing, even volcano and waterfall explorations. Hotel prices are lowest between April and mid-December, according to Lonely Planet. For visitors who are eager to hit the malls, Honolulu’s Ala Moana Center is the place to be: The mall boasts more than 260 stores and venues in a combined indoor-outdoor environment.
Percent who want to visit: 12 percent
There’s quite a bit of history bundled up in the second-largest state in the nation. Texas is loaded with historic destinations, from the Alamo in San Antonio to the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas, where tourists visit the site of President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. For some down time, the state boasts attractions such as Six Flags, Sea World and Busch Gardens, all of which keep the kids’ interests piqued. And right off the southern tip of Texas is South Padre Island — offering tourists beautiful stretches of beach, deep-sea fishing, bird-watching, scuba diving and golfing.
Percent who want to visit: 11 percent
For individuals and families who are craving the great outdoors, Colorado is waiting. Though well-known for its skiing in the winter, Colorado is an entirely different land in the summer. Outdoor activities abound, including hiking, fishing, biking and more. One of the main attractions to the state is, of course, the Rocky Mountains, which provides a scenic backdrop during intense white-water rafting trips along Colorado’s many rivers.
Percent who want to visit: 9 percent
The Grand Canyon, which stretches across more than 1.2 million acres of land, is considered one of the most impressive sights in the world. Recreation visits to the national park in Arizona totaled 4.3 million people last year. It’s worth the trip, especially since the location offers great views and outdoor activities, such as hikes, boat trips and bike rides. Another frequent destination is Phoenix, Arizona’s capital. WWD noted in March that one of the hottest locales in Arizona was Biltmore Fashion Park in Phoenix: “It is known as the premier upscale shopping center of Phoenix.”
Percent who want to visit: 8 percent
“Location is key for this state,” noted Cathy Keefe, of the Travel Industry Association. “There’s a huge portion of the population that, if you’re within driving distance, you’ll come and tour the entire state as your vacation.” Both Dollywood, whose hours are extended for most of June and July, and Graceland, which provides guided tours of Elvis’ famed mansion from March through October, are popular destinations, along with a whopping
54 state parks and four national parks.
*10. SOUTH CAROLINA
Percent who want to visit: 8 percent
It’s a golfer’s paradise. South Carolina has more than 300 public and private golf courses, located along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, South Carolina owns a piece of golf history: The sport was first played in the U.S. in Charleston. The Country Club of Charleston was formed in 1786, which was the first golf club in the country and was known then as the South Carolina Golf Club. The beaches that stretch along the coast also draw in numerous visitors who aren’t willing to travel as far south as others. South Carolina attracts approximately 30 million visitors each year.
Source: Travel Industry Association. *Indicates a tie.