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My Cultural Tourism Adventure – Part Two

Downtown Niagara Falls

After our amazing visit to Cooperstown, my family headed farther upstate to Auburn, NY. (We also stopped in Elmira to see where Mark Twain wrote most of his books.)

When we arrived in Auburn, we headed for the Seward House. The Seward house was the home of William Seward who was Governor of New York, a U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State to Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. In addition to serving as the family home, it was also a stop for the underground railroad.

The house has been perfectly preserved as the family kept everything, including receipts for many of their purchases. The Seward family resided in the house until the late 1950s when it was made into a museum.

The next day, I was lucky enough to meet with representatives from a few of Cayuga County’s arts and history organizations, along with the economic development director, the director of the Cayuga County Office of Tourism, and the head of economic development for the county. We discussed cultural tourism in the county and how they might enhance the visitor experience by developing a cultural district in downtown Auburn.

After Auburn, we kept traveling in the Finger Lakes region, took a boat ride on Lake Canandaigua, and visited the New York Wine and Culinary Center. Next we headed for the big city–Rochester–to visit the National Museum of Play. It was a really fun museum with a huge toy collection.

Finally, we traveled up the road to Niagara Falls. The views were spectacular, but we were less impressed with the recent addition of casinos both on the New York and Canadian sides of the Falls.

We were saddened to see the once quaint downtowns of both Niagara’s looking unkempt and run down–like a pair of old shoes.

I was reminded of how the other communities we just visited relied on their quaint and unique downtowns and local events to attract the cultural visitor. It was clear that in Niagara the casinos were one of the main attractions beyond the Falls, but that the once lovely downtowns were not a priority. (On a happier note, I just learned that Niagara Mayor Paul Dyster plans to seek authorization of a cultural district for their downtown. Hooray for Mayor Dyster and Niagara Falls!)

To top our trip off, we ventured south to Pittsburgh to see the Pirates. What a ballpark, what a city!

We were so impressed with the friendliness, the beauty, and the liveliness of Pittsburgh.

We finally arrived home after stopping in West Virginia at our cabin: happy with our trip. What a 10 day vacation it was!

Here are my top cultural tourist take-aways:

•    Keep it Real: authenticity is the most important part of the cultural tourism experience
•    Wayfinding is Necessary: good signage really is a must for the traveler
•    Plan, Plan, Plan!
•    Weather: good weather always helps!
•    It’s All About the Local Experience: local food, local people, and their local culture topped our list of what made this trip so memorable.

Here is list of resources on a few of the areas we visited along with a few other links on tourism resources:

Facts on Cultural Tourism
Official NY tourism site

Mark Twain’s cottage
The Finger Lakes Region
Cayuga County
City of Canandaigua
Visit Pittsburgh
U.S. Travel Association

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