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Top six patriotic destinations for summer travel savings

This summer, with patriotic fervor high, you can expect American travelers to head to the nation’s top cultural and historical attractions, from Revolutionary War battlefields in the East to the pioneer trails of the West. The good news is that the tourism bureaus of cities and towns that are home to some of these national treasures are rolling out discounts and package savings on hotels, attractions, and more in hopes of attracting visitors.

We’ve researched and ranked our picks for the top six patriotic destinations for bargain-hunters. Rankings were determined based on the number and quality of deals for each location, along with a consideration of the number and quality of patriotic attractions in the area. The destinations are listed from sixth to first and include: Boston, Colonial Williamsburg, St. Louis, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C..

6. Boston

Boston prides itself on its role in the Revolutionary War and its hometown heroes like Paul Revere and John F. Kennedy with numerous museums, historic sites, monuments, and special events. Its compact downtown area ensures that you can see most of the important historic sites in a couple of days, but there’s also enough in the surrounding area to keep you occupied on a longer trip.

This summer, Boston’s Tourism Council is hoping you’ll stick around longer and has negotiated exclusive rates for basic hotels in the area, starting at $84 a night. Also, some luxury brands like Wyndham and Swissotel have cut rates by 64 percent. Visit the Greater Boston Tourism Council website for more details.

For complete travel packages, we looked at Site59 and found a two-night package in June including airfare from Baltimore and accommodations at the Marriott Boston Cambridge priced at $420 per person. Additionally, members can receive $25 off Site59 packages. On Expedia, we found that staying a little longer could be a better value: A package including airfare from Cleveland, four nights at the Hotel Marlowe, and a Discover Boston Trolley Tour was priced at $472 per person for travel in July.

5. Colonial Williamsburg

Travel back in time 250 years and experience American colonial life as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson lived it by visiting the historic recreation town of Colonial Williamsburg, VA. Williamsburg is the largest outdoor living history museum in the country, and, because it has a number of restaurants and hotels onsite, it can offer a wider selection of special packages than other popular U.S. historic sites.

The official Colonial Williamsburg website has a monthly specials page which lists hotel deals. Currently, you can book rooms from $70 per night at the Governor’s Inn for mid-week stays through June 30. Or, try a golf package starting at $113 a night for a two-night stay at the Woodland Hotel & Suites, daily continental breakfast, one round of golf, and a 45-minute semi-private golf lesson, through August 30. Other deals are available, and change monthly, so check back often.

Williamsburg is close to major cities (Richmond, VA, and Washington, D.C.), making it affordable for an East Coast weekend getaway. We checked last-minute Williamsburg getaways on Site59, and found a two-night package priced at $314 per person for weekend travel in June. This includes airfare from New York (LGA), accommodations at the Holiday Inn Patriot, and an Avis rental car.

For a longer vacation, we found that Expedia had a seven-night package priced at $854 per person for travel in July, including airfare from New York (JFK), accommodations at the La Quinta Inn Williamsburg, and an Avis compact car rental.

4. St. Louis

Through 2006, the city that calls itself the “Gateway to the West” will be just that, serving as the gateway for history buffs celebrating the Bicentennial of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. Lewis and Clark left from the St. Louis area to explore the West nearly 200 years ago. And for the next few years, tens of thousands of travelers are expected to memorialize this historic journey by visiting sites along the Lewis & Clark Trail, which stretches from St. Louis to the Pacific coast and back.

St. Louis’ Convention & Visitors Commission is promoting its role in the Bicentennial celebration, and is offering numerous travel discounts to entice visitors to see its Lewis & Clark sites, like the Gateway Arch and the Museum of Westward Expansion, as well as other city attractions. Visit the “deals” page on the St. Louis’s Convention & Visitors Commission website to view all the city-sponsored travel specials.

On the website you’ll find a list of deals for local hotels that include discounted rates and free perks. The St. Louis hotel offers aren’t as good as the offers for cities ranked higher on the list, but St. Louis beats out Boston and Williamsburg with its plethora of discounts for attractions and travel services. You can also read about the how to get the free “Family Attractions Card,” which gives more than $500 in discounts on attractions and restaurants, and details on the “Big Thank You” promotion, a program that gives discounts on admission to certain cultural institutions and events.

Plus, check out the website’s sections on “St. Louis Vacation Savings” and “St. Louis Coupon Savings” for even more travel deals. Some examples of coupon savings include two-for-one admissions to special exhibits at the Missouri History Museum, and 50 percent off Enterprise car rentals.

3. New York City

While it’s not the Nation’s capitol or the cradle of liberty, no other city feels quite as American as New York. The city has been pushing a nationwide campaign to bring travelers into the city by promising a more tourist-friendly experience and offering deals on travel services and packages. The deals aren’t as plentiful as they were last year, but you still have some good options.

For travel through September 5, NYC & Company, the city’s official tourism bureau, is promoting Summer Breaks 2003, a series of accommodation packages and individual offers for various attractions, restaurants, etc. The travel packages include one-, two-, or four-night stays at a hotel of your choice (participating hotels are listed on the website and grouped by price level), tickets to a Broadway show, dinner, and a sightseeing tour. Prices start at $126 for stays in June, and $116 for stays the rest of the season.

American Express cardholders can get the free Summer Breaks Card, which gives discounts at more than 300 New York hotels, restaurants, tours, and more, including 15 percent off tickets to performances at Lincoln Center and 15 percent off boat tours with the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance.

If you’d rather arrange your own travel package, try Site59 for last-minute weekends away or Expedia for longer trips. On Site 59, we priced a June weekend trip including two nights’ accommodation at the Holiday Inn Wall Street and a round-trip flight from Boston at $249 person. On Expedia, a July package including round-trip airfare from Atlanta, four nights at the Habitat Hotel, and a New York CityPass was priced at $453 per person.

2. Philadelphia

The city of brotherly love also loves visitorsÂ?and shows it too.

Stuck in between two huge tourist magnets, New York City and Washington, D.C., Philadelphia has had to put forth extra effort to attract its share of visitors. The Convention and Visitor’s Bureau promotes Philly as “The place that loves you back,” touting its many free historic attractions and offering city-wide discounts and free hotel nights.

The Convention and Visitor’s Bureau is offering a free night at 45 hotels in Philadelphia, and 18 hotels in the surrounding area when you stay at least two consecutive nights. Prices for the package start at $119, equaling about $60 per night. This offer is good from June 26 to September 14 for stays Thursday through Sunday. You’ll also get free hotel parking and a gift bag that includes a trip planner, various city guides, and a coupon good for a two-for-one ticket to the Lights of Liberty show.

You can also get 20 percent off the best available Amtrak fare to Philadelphia between June 27 and September 17. The discount is offered on travel within the Northeast corridor on unreserved regional trains. Make a reservation by visiting the Amtrak website and entering the Promotion code V707.

Finally, budget-minded travelers will be happy to know that many of Philadelphia’s top patriotic attractions are free year-round, including Independence National Historic Park, home to Independence Hall; the Liberty Bell; Christ Church Burial Ground (where Ben Franklin is buried); and many other important Revolutionary War buildings.

1. Washington, D.C.

The nation’s capitol is our top pick, simply because it has the greatest number of patriotic attractions, most of which are free, and because it has the most travel deals that are accessible to all visitorsÂ?no strings attached. Travelers can save on accommodations, food, transportation, and other travel services thanks to the Washington, D.C., Convention and Tourism Corporation’s “Summer FREEdom Savings” season which runs until August 31.

D.C.’s Convention and Tourism Corporation website details this city-wide savings program by dividing its city guide into two sections: a “blue” section which lists all the travel-related discounts in the city, and an “orange” section, which includes general attractions, event listings, and more.

You’ll find that more than 60 hotels in the city and surrounding area are offering special rates and packages, with prices starting at $69 a night. All packages include free passes to the new City Museum, a personal travel journal, and a city savings guide. Some hotels offer extra perks that might include free meals, free parking, or room upgrades.

The blue section also lists restaurants, attractions, shops, and transportation services that give discounts or special perks. For example, you can learn how to get four tickets for the price of two on the Capitol Hill Walking tour, or reduced admission to performances at the Kennedy Center.

In terms of general savings, you could literally spend weeks visiting all the free museums, monuments, parks, and historic sites in the city and neighboring Virginia. A small sampling of these impressive attractions include the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the National Gallery of Art, the U.S. Capitol building, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. You might as well take in all the free sights you can on a trip to D.C.: They’re all funded by your tax dollars.

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