When it comes to seeing the real America, where should vacationers go?


Mount Rushmore. (Mike Stewart/Associated Press)
John Kelly
Columnist June 3

“What’s a more American destination than Disney World,” reader Susan Miller of Falls Church asked after my recent plea for vacation advice.

I’d asked for help coming up with America’s most American place as a way of de-Anglifying my daughter Beatrice , who has spent the past three years going to college in London but will be moving home in a few weeks.

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

I received dozens of suggestions. The responses illustrated something I knew but too easily forget: The United States is a lot of things. It contains multitudes — diversity in places and people — though as my cartoonist friend Ruben Bolling tweeted to me: “One breakfast at Waffle House will do it.”

Perhaps he’s on to something.

Dennis Lewis of the District recommended a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

“Gotta be Nashville!” wrote Betty Lester of Alexandria.

Riverdale’s Ann Wass recommended Las Vegas. “Every American ought to go there at least once,” she wrote.

Speaking of which, Arlington’s Fred Stokeld Sr. recommended Elko, Nev., describing it as “an American location with minimal traces of British influence.” The entire state, Fred wrote, “was part of the land grab from Mexico in 1848 when we showed that we were just as good as the Brits at acquiring chunks of other peoples’ real estate.”

“And in Elko you can find legalized brothels, something those namby-pamby Brits don’t have. The only problem is that in Elko the English language is still in use so how do you get rid of that annoying relic of British influence?”

And speaking of speaking, Alexandria’s Norm Wood thinks I should take Beatrice to the Deep South, “where the American English language is most certainly so extremely different from the British that she will surely lose all of her affection for the ‘limey scale,’ as you call it. The panhandle of Florida comes to mind as the destination of choice. . . . Some words are so mushed up one has to frequently ask for go-backs. This is not a dig on the region. The ‘accent’ is actually quite charming.”

Alston Fortiere of Sullivan’s Island, S.C., said her daughter spent a year studying in England and came back with a full-fledged Cockney accent. “It was horrible, but after about a year — and teasing friends — it disappeared,” Alston wrote.

Her vacation suggestion? Guthrie, Okla. Except for its now-paved streets, the cowboy town is exactly as it was in the late 1800s and early 1900s, complete with fiddle shop, music hall and custom bootmaker.

Brandywine’s Anita Parins had a rather spare suggestion for the “least English” place to vacation: “A sod hut, uninhabited but furnished and seen through a window with dusty curtains inside, somewhere in a huge, plowed field in the midwest — not a tree or house in sight.”

I’ll look for one on TripAdvisor!

Pennsylvania Dutch Country had its boosters — even if we’d be called “English” if we went there. There were many nominations for our great national parks, too: Yosemite, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Grand Canyon.

Jack Richards of Bethesda said the decision was a “no brainer”: Mount Rushmore. “It was good enough for Cary Grant, and it’s near the Crazy Horse Memorial, Sturgis and the Devil’s Tower,” he wrote. “Plus, with a drive, you can make it to the Little Big Horn.”

You will recall that Cary Grant — who scrambled over the presidential visages in “North by Northwest” — started out in England.

Karen Starr of Chevy Chase wrote: “For a perfect picture of America, I don’t think you can beat the Minnesota State Fair, in St. Paul. If you spend more than a day there, your daughter will pick up a third English dialect, fir shirr.”

Jim and Shelley Novaco of Beltsville are partial to the lands around Lake Superior: the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. “The scenery is purely Americana: picturesque farms, endless forests, beautiful lakes, clear air, etc.,” they wrote.

Josh from Wheaton” said that when it comes to Americana, nothing beats small-town Michigan. “From Lansing rent a car and drive up to Traverse City and then on to the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island,” he wrote. “If that idea doesn’t work how about driving from small town to small town in Iowa over the Fourth of July weekend: a parade or two blocking your non-interstate highway drive that you have to watch go past in order to continue; minor league baseball or town softball; fireworks and town band concert.”

Honestly, I liked nearly all the ideas. They made me want to jump in the car and never look back.

Twitter: @johnkelly

For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.

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