Skip to main content


Amanda Erickson has a really great article over at the Atlantic Cities about Washington DC's efforts to get visitors to branch out from the typical tourist traps and explore the rest of the city.

(from C.M. Keiner on Flickr)

On paper, this sounds great. There's a compelling economic case to be made too - since tourists typically frequent the same attractions and restaurants, there are businesses who don't directly benefit from tourists at all. So while the Hard Rock Cafe downtown probably does 90%+ of its business from out-of-towners, there are some watering holes in DC's neighborhoods who get almost none of their business from visitors. Talk about an untapped market...

Still, tourists often go to unfamiliar cities and they feel intimidated. They want to stick to the tourist traps because that's where they feel safe. So maybe marketing cities and neighborhoods directly to them isn't the best idea. Erickson writes...
But maybe selling neighborhoods straight to tourists is missing the point. The real goal, argues Pat Wheeler of nonprofit Cultural Tourism DC, is to convince locals that the District's history, culture, and ethnic enclaves are worth a visit...

Wheeler's organization hosts regular walking tours of historic D.C. neighborhoods that are aimed not at tourists, but at residents. Part of the idea, she explains, is that the next time participants have out of town guests, they'll remember what they saw and be inspired to take their visitors someplace a little less obvious. And maybe that restaurant or bar will then become a place where the residents themselves will decide to go on their own. In time, they could become the opposite of a tourist. They'll be a regular.
I have to admit, this is so often easier said than done. Too often when friends of this blog come to visit DC from out of town, they make an immediate beeline to the national mall. Yes, they'll let me take them into a neighborhood after the stuff down there has closed for the night, but like a magnet, they're constantly drawn back to those museums and monuments.

The appeal of tourist traps has always fascinated me in a way. Why are people so obsessed with them? When I visit a new city I seek out the hidden gems. I want to go to the places where the locals go, not the places where tradition thinks I ought to go. But I also understand that I'm unique in this regard. I'll keep doing my part in trying to convince my friends there's more to the city than monuments.


Anonymous said…
Sorry but I find your reasoning a bit disingenuous. You say "like a magnet, they're constantly drawn back to those museums and monuments" as if it were a bad thing. The museums and monuments are the reason most people come to DC - if they just wanted to visit nice neighborhood spots they could go to any medium sized city anywhere, but we're lucky we have the unique features that bring them here.
Rob Pitingolo said…
You're right, it's not a bad thing. If someone were in town for say, 7 days, I'd hope they would want to spend at least 1 or 2 of them exploring some local gems. Often, it seems like people feel an obligation to visit as many of the "sites" as possible during their stay - sometimes to the point where I wonder if they're doing it for enjoyment or to cross it off of a list.

Popular posts from this blog

In Praise of Southwest's 'C' Boarding Group

A few weeks ago I saw a tweet from someone complaining that their Southwest Airlines boarding pass had been assigned A20 (meaning they would be at least one of the first twenty passengers to board the plane). Apparently this person though they should have been assigned a higher number, less their flight experience be considerably spoiled.

Despite the complaints, Southwest has resisted demands to assign seats on its flights, a decision which I personally applaud. I'll admit that I was skeptical when they rolled out the newest boarding procedure, assigning both boarding groups and a line number; but in hindsight it seems like one of the best operational decisions they've ever made. If nothing else, it effectively eliminated the infamous "cattle call" whereby fliers were getting to airports hours in advance and sitting in line on the floor as if they were waiting for the midnight showing of the new Star Wars movie.

When I was an intern at Southwest Airlines last winter, I…

So You Want to be a Southwest Airlines Intern?

My personal website must have pretty decent SEO - because in the past year, I've received about two dozen emails from aspiring Southwest Airlines interns looking to draw on my experience in search of their own dream internship. In the past two weeks alone a few new emails have already started rolling in...

(from flickr user San Diego Shooter)

If you've found your way here, you might be hoping for the silver bullet; a secret tip that will propel you above the competition. Unfortunately, I do not know any inside secrets. I can only share my experience as an internship candidate about two years ago and, rather than responding individually to future emails I anticipate to receive, I hope that potential interns will find the information posted here valuable.

Understand: Southwest Airlines is a very unique company. The corporate culture at Southwest is truly unlike that of nearly every other company. But you probably already knew that, since it now seems mandatory for every management,…

Mixing Sports and Business

In the last two days I've devoured every article in the Washington Post about the Nationals painful and epic defeat on Friday night in the NLDS. It was a tough way to see the season end, there's no doubt about that.

(from wallyg on Flickr)
These articles make it clear that there are a lot of people emotionally invested in professional sports. I think they sometimes they forget that, ultimately, Major League Baseball is big business. Each team is a major corporation and the league itself is an organization governed by a bunch of executives. The television networks that show the games are under contract with the team owners and the games aren't usually available to those without cable.

This is why it can be so hard to be a fan in this game. It's the multi-millionaire and billionaire owners that call most of the shots. They get to decide how much they're willing to spend on players. They get to decide who to hire as the CEO of the company. They get to decide how much t…