9 Towns Relying On Your Summer Road Trip
Tourist trap, you say? Gatlinburg's ski gondola-style tramway, Ober Gatlinburg theme park and Seattle-style Space Needle would certainly indicate that. As would nearby Pigeon Forge's Branson, Mo.-style theaters, indoor skydiving and Dollywood amusement park that's every bit as outsized and sugar-sweet as Dolly Parton herself. But Great Smoky Mountains National Park gives Gatlinburg a whole lot more heft than your average marquee-and-shirt-shop roadside mess. The park draws nearly 9.5 million visitors a year, the most of any national park, and 5 million more than the second-place Grand Canyon. It accounts from nearly $720 million in local tourist spending all by itself and uses little other than natural charm and cute little corners such as the Cades Cove historic cottages to keep that cash rolling in.
If you can't make the summer trip, don't get too bummed about it. The Smokies' canopy of bold bronze and auburn leaves makes it a great fall getaway as well.
Ocean City, Md.
The hardcore boardwalk crowd still takes it up to Atlantic City for the slots and shows and the tourist dodgers seem to prefer Rehoboth Beach and Ocean City, N.J. Yet if you want the East Coast boardwalk experience without betting the house or fist pumping, your best bet is still Ocean City. The 8,000-person town draws more than 300,000 visitors each weekend for rides, cotton candy, saltwater taffy, wax museums, white marlin fishing, fireworks and free concerts by third-tier music acts. The size, crowds and borderline tackiness of Ocean City are a putoff to some, but they're also what draw families back to the boardwalk for generations at a stretch.
Wisconsin Dells, Wis.
Are the actual Dells along the Wisconsin River beautiful? Sure. Do the Duck Boat trips down that river offer great views of the surrounding landscape, absolutely? Are either of those the reason nearly 5 million people a year come to this 2,500-person city each summer? Absolutely not.