Stay in historic hotels, connect with history lovers
The Royal Hawaiian, known to the world as “The Pink Palace of the Pacific”, opened in 1927 in Honolulu. (Historic Hotels of America)
Two new websites are helping US history-lovers explore the iconic destinations of years past in more depth.
Historic Hotels of America allows travellers to book lodging that has historical significance. The Omni Parker House in Boston, for example, hosted every American president since Ulysses S Grant and was the birthplace of the distinctively shaped Parker House roll, for which the recipe was kept secret until 1933 when President Franklin Roosevelt requested it for a state dinner at the White House.
Travellers can narrow their search by using a map-based hotel finder, and sort by 39 different architectural styles — from Art Deco to Victorian — 15 different property styles — from monasteries to mansions — and four levels of luxury. Local events, activities, museums, battlefields, historic sites and some 2,400 packages are listed for more than 235 hotels across the country. Additionally, the site’s interactive timeline matches historic events, famous people, inventions and economic milestones with hotel opening.
“This is the one time in life when you are encouraged to sleep in your history class,” said Lawrence Horwitz , executive director of Historic Hotels Worldwide, which oversees Historic Hotels of America.
Gozaic, a website created by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is in part, a social network that connects like-minded travellers. Civil War buffs or those interested in railroad tourism find each other through online discussion circles. It is free to join.
The site also lists upcoming heritage and cultural events, profiles museums both large and small and recommends guided tours, some of which travel internationally. An upcoming trip follows in the spirit of the 19th-century European Grand Tour.
“It’s never been a better time for historic heritage travel, as there are so many more resources available to the public than ever before,” said Sharr Prohaska, a New York University associate professor that specializes in cultural heritage. But she cautions travellers to do their research and to choose programs and tours carefully. “There is a fine line between people promoting heritage travel and understanding what it is.”
Other good resources for history-themed travel include Unesco’s World Heritage list which highlights close to 1,000 sites considered to be of cultural or natural significance, and the US National Park Service site, which provides detailed information about locations listed in the United States National Register of Historic Places. The site also lists dozens of travel itineraries, highlighting different geographic regions and themes like aviation and women's studies.