The Rise of American Tourism

How Did Modern Vacations Come To Be?


Lexi Solé

Have you ever wondered why your family flocks to states like Florida or Hawaii for vacation? Or why so many are quick to book a trip to countries such as Puerto Rico, Fiji, or the Dominican Republic? Why do we vacation the way that we do? Where did it come from? In order to understand why we vacation the way that we do, we need to understand where the modern notion of a vacation derived from. As spring break approaches, it is important to reflect on the way that you vacation. Why do you visit the places that you do? Or participate in the activities that you do?

The present-day concept of a vacation has really only existed for the later half of the century.  Vacations can be traced back to Europe in the  Romantic era (1798-1837) and its close ties to the Industrial Revolution. During this period of Romanticism, Europeans developed a newfound appreciation of nature, architecture, and spontaneity. So called ‘Romanticists’ rejected the ideals of the Industrial Revolution and sought for methods to escape the rapid spread of  industrialization around them. The Industrial Revolution soon spread to the Americas, as well as the ideals of romanticism. After the Civil War, and during the Gilded Age, American author William H.H. Murray published a book titled “Adventures in the Wilderness” which prompted many to consider taking excursions into the wild in hopes of  escaping from the society around them. 

Fast forward to the 1950’s where the modern view of vacationing started to form. The economic boom after the war caused the rise of the “nuclear family” to form as the structure of jobs and education changed. Parents now searched for getaways that accommodated their entire family. The mid-1900’s is where we start to see massive designated vacation spots develop such as Disneyland (1955) or Universal Studios (1964). Also during this time, many celebrities and socialites chose Cuba as their designated vacation destination. Celebrities like Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardener drew tourism to Cuba with their acts. Many enjoyed the tropical atmosphere, food and entertainment. The flights to Cuba out of Miami introduced many to the landscape of Florida, and prompted lots of economic development in the state. The rise of vacationing quite literally altered the landscape of the state of Florida forever.

Florida is one of the most popular American vacation destinations, drawing in over 100 million tourists just last year alone. Florida is very important when talking about the history of vacationing. Florida’s economy heavily relies on tourism and vacations, and it even has entire communities dedicated to vacations and “getting away”. The early 1900’s consisted of developing the land in Florida in order to be habitable. Florida was practically underwater. The coastline was changed in order to accommodate the growing number of resorts and tourism. The portions of the Everglades were drained in order to accommodate the increasing population, which would greatly change the natural landscape and ecosystem forever.

Ultimately, the core reasons that we vacation the way that we do can be traced to the Industrial Revolution. The workplace and education industry has greatly changed in the past 100 years, forcing us to look for ways to escape as a response. In the coming weeks, try to reevaluate your vacation choices and look for alternative ways to clear your mind. 



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