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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Are you up for a staycation?

Gas prices are up some 60 cents compared to this time last year and I've read that the average price per gallon is supposed to move back above $3 this summer, even in affordable markets like my hometown of Memphis, where I'm paying $2.60 per gallon now.

Plenty of airfare deals abound, but when low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines advertises "amazing" roundtrip deals in the $250 per person range, you know things are changing when it wasn't that long ago that we expected $99, $150 tops to fly roundtrip with them.

On top of rising gas prices and an uncertain airline industry is the still slow-to-recover economy. While we technically moved out of being in a recession during the last three months of 2009, things are still tight for many.

So for travel lovers who aren't finding the money to book that international flight or even an extended weekend getaway to a major American city, your choices seem limited. You can be satisfied with a weekend trip to grandma's house, or you could sit at home and dreadfully look at pictures online of the places you wish you could be. Sure, you could do that, or you can plan multiple staycations to get you through that travel funk.

It's funny, but you can ask most Memphians if they've ever been to Graceland and the answer would be no. On the other hand, people travel from around the world to Memphis to learn about the city's rich musical heritage and pony up $30 for a tour of Elvis' mansion and grounds.

The same could be said for most American cities. I wonder how many Atlanta residents have ever stepped foot in the highly regarded High Museum of Art.  What about the Arch in St. Louis? And do you think many Dallas residents drive across the Metroplex to tour Fort Worth's amazing zoo?

And it's not just the typical tourist attractions that fill most cities. Here in Memphis, for example, we have the Friday Night Art Trolley Tour the last Friday of every month in the South Main Historic Arts District, one of the best minor league ballparks in AutoZone Park, sunsets on the Mississippi River, concerts at the Levitt Shell, great theater, museums, a great zoo and the nation's largest urban park in Shelby Farms.

Those types of local treasures are always on our list of places to find when we travel. Funny thing is, they're right here in our backyard.

Sure, you know these places exist. You see that cool art exhibit scheduled and think you'll make it there before it closes, only to realize two weeks after it's left town that you never made your way over. 

I encourage you as we enter the heart of spring to consider local attractions in your own place, whether you're able to make that big trip this year or not.

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