The American Vacation Town

  1. How vacation towns came about…

Vacationing became increasingly popular in the 20th century, as commercial airlines came into existence which allowed for families that did not live near places like the beach to see these things. Ultimately, this leads to certain places across the country to become somewhat designated “vacation towns” or “beach towns” many of these communities are found throughout the northeast such as Maine and Cape Cod in Massachusetts. The introduction of commercial plains and trains made this easy for Americans to move throughout the country, to go to destinations such as beach towns or places such as ski resorts as well.  [1] 

2. How did beach vacations come about anyway?

To many, beach vacations seem to be a classic vacation, and one that they had ventured on throughout their childhood, and if asked you would probably say it was a classic American Vacation. While true, beach goers actually started in Britain in the lat


e 18th century. People originally attended the beach for the seas supposed “medical qualities” as well for the writings in the bible of the sea. [2] Ultimately this fad became popular throughout Britain, which lead to railroads being directed to the coast, and the introduction of the first Seaside resort called Blackpool. This tradition then spread to the United States, specifically New England and the Northeast first, and eventually to southern coastal states.

3. Vacation Towns are often made up of like minded people…

According to professor Gieseking’s article titled “U.S. National Park Service Essays on LGBTQ History Released”, people in communities such as LGBTQ communities go to places where they can be with like minded people. This is seen with communities such as Provincetown, MA on Cape Cod, where there is a very large LGBTQ community. This happened because of homophobia across the United States, and people within this community wanted to have a place of their own where they were able to escape the hate that they had seen in their old communities on a day to day basis. [3] Vacation towns are places that allow for people to gather, whether thats year round, or for a portion of their year, in order to be with people who are like them.

4. Why places like Provincetown need to continue to thrive…

While researching vacation towns, and then specifically Provincetown, there seemed to be a question as to why they need to still exist as we are trying to move towards a more excepting community overall. To that I say, there still needs to be a place where these like minded people I have mentioned are able to gather. Similar to this, why should any historical community need to change? This community specifically represents hope and change, and should continue to do so in order to shine a light for those who feel disenfranchised within the LGBTQ community.

5. In many towns, there is a divide between rich and poor…

In towns like Nantucket, MA, there is an idea that the island is an oasis for all. But a New York Times article poi

nts out that this is not the case for year round residents. In the summer, towns like Nantucket flourish with business and tourism, but they lack a steady economy in the offseason for year round residents. According to this article, there is also a severe drug problem on Nantucket, where many young men and women are abusing opioids and heroin. Unfortunately, this has been a problem for years, the New York Times article was written in 1985 and notes an apparent drug problem on the island, and it continues to be a problem to this day. [4] [5]  Not everyone in these towns are living the “lifestyle of the Rich and Famous”

6. Economic “roller coaster”

Ever think about the fact that those vacation towns probably don’t see a ton of action in winter/off months? Well you’re right. Many “vacation towns” have steep drop off in employment during their off months in fields that have to do with tourism. According to an article from City Lab, the national drop in leisure and hospitality employment is roughly 3% nationally between August and September, but big vacation spots in the northeast see a much more drastic dip.


For example, Barnstable, MA in cape cod sees a roughly 20% drop in this time frame. [6] Many of these vacation towns, specifically in smaller locations such as Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard,  see very steep drop-offs in their economies strictly because of their isolated locations.

7. Year round residents are fleeing…

Many people that love where they grew up and watched their towns turn into tourist destinations are now leaving and heading to other places. This has to do with a few factors, first of all many of these towns become too expensive because of increased popularity, and secondly they become over populated.


Not only that, but people are becoming more intrigued with moving west rather than staying home in a place where homes cost more than they ever had. [7] It is interesting to see that many residents are actually leaving their once beloved towns. Many leave simply because the tourist season seems to be too much for them, or they were pushed out due to an increase in property cost. This is seen in Nantucket, where the median house cost on the island is more than $1 million. [7.1] This has forced many longtime residents to downsize significantly, or to move all together.

8. Once pristine coast lines destroyed because of development…

As people continue to move to coastal regions, there is a need for more infrastructure to contain the massive amounts of people who are looking to move to coastal regions and vacation towns. This unfortunately causes problems both for the towns themselves, as well as the beach, because while the beach is destroyed, erosion becomes a problem as coastlines are being washed away. [8] [9] People want to keep moving to these beaches, but eventually they won’t be there because of all of this increased development that is happening on and around the beaches.

9. Vacation towns no more…

Although there are still seemingly distinct vacation towns throughout the north east, there seems to be people wanting to move to ‘vacation towns’ year round. This is seen throughout the south and even the midwest, people wanting to ditch city lifestyle to live in a mire quaint town, that still seems to be a tourist destination. “Every year, thousands of working-age people move from big cities to smaller cities, often in scenic areas, that are better known for drawing seasonal tourists and retirees.” [10]

10. Will Vacations end?

Many people love taking vacations, and going to their favorite vacation town. Although, studies have shown that Americans are taking fewer days off on average every year. For the longest time, the average American would take 20 days off from work every year, this number has moved to 16.2 in 2015. [11] People are working harder than ever, which is a good thing, but people also need to understand

that it is necessary to take time off from time to time, in order to keep working as hard as they do. At this rate, it would not be surprising if vacations as a whole became a thing of the past, which would make ‘vacation towns’ a thing of the past as well. Personally, I think that vacation towns are already evolving anyway, becoming regular old towns with many year round visitors as well as full time residents, with a few exceptions. But the message is, keep vacationing, it is good for your health as well as the economies of big and small towns that are visited every year by tourists.

End Notes:

1. Travelex. “History of the Holiday.” Travelex,
2.  Swanson, Ana. “The weird origins of going to the beach.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 3 July 2016,
3. Gieseking , Jack . “U.S. National Park Service Essays on LGBTQ History Released.”, 3 Nov. 2016,

4. “FOR YEAR-ROUND RESIDENTS, NANTUCKET IS NO OASIS.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 12 Oct. 1985,

5. Graziadei, Jason. “ISLAND EPIDEMIC.” Nantucket Magazine, 29 July 2016,

6.  Florida, Richard. “The Roller-Coaster Economies of Vacation Towns.” CityLab, 27 Aug. 2014,

7.  McIntyre, Douglas A. “10 states where the most people are moving (And leaving).” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 3 Jan. 2018,

7.1. Thomas, G. Scott. Nantucket has the highest housing prices of any U.S. county.,

8.  “Illegal Sea Breeze Development & Hurricane Ingrid: Great Example of Bad Idea.” Waiting for the next swell.,

9. Vidal, John. “World’s beaches being washed away due to coastal development.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 15 Dec. 2014,

  10. Martucci, Brian.@Brian_Martucci. “Topics.” Money Crashers,

11.  “The State of American Vacation: How Vacation Became A Casualty of Our Work Culture.” Project: Time Off, 7 June 2017,

2 Replies to “The American Vacation Town”

  1. You should put your sources as foot notes after each quote/ fact and have them cited rather than just the link. there was no number 4 header, and i was really confused with the whole welcome section i didn’t know what it was or why it was there and it covered your writing so i wasn’t able to read some of it.

  2. Nick,
    Your listicle does a nice job of covering the rise in popularity of vacationing and the subsequent development of vacation towns. I found the facts about the off season in vacation towns and the lack of opportunity/drug abuse to be especially interesting. Some things I would change is hyperlink your links so you can click on them directly and get to the webpage instead of copy and pasting. I would also use bigger pictures – If you just drag the picture onto wordpress instead of copying and pasting them or using the “add media” it will let the picture be actual size instead of mini.

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