THE Popularity of Washington DC is proof that the US political system - both past and present - is picking up votes as a major tourist attraction.
Presidential scandals and revelations have helped to increase the UScapital's ratings in destination popularity polls and boosted short-break business to the city.
After the sights of Capitol Hill, the Lincoln Memorial and the Smithsonian Institute, visitors can get a taste of some lively jazz at Butler's and Blues Alley, sample the growing number of speciality-brew pubs and dine out at trendy restaurants in the Adams Morgan and Georgetowndistricts.
Travelscene commercial manager Paul Stanley said: "Washington was by far the most successful of the four new US destinations we introduced last year, with sales well outstripping San Francisco, Chicago and Las Vegas."
According to Premier Holidays North America product manager Rob Haynes, Washington has got rid of its staid image associated with monuments and memorials.
He added that the city also fitted in well with Virginia - another of the Capital Region states along with Maryland - which was beginning to be recognised as an alternative to New England for its stunning fall foliage.
Five new self drive itineraries have been put together to track the life and achievements of George Washington - Virginia is marking the Bicentennial of his death this year.
Highlights of the tours include his home in Northern Virginia; his birthplace in Fredericksburg and a "politics and revolution" tour of Williamsburg and Yorktown.
Operators planning more product in Virginia include Premier, with a new fall foliage tour in October, and golf packages from Destination Golf. New specialist operator America As You Like It is introducing country inns, packages based on Civil War trails and sporting and adventure options.
American Connections has a dedicated 24-page Capital Region USA programme offering a wide range of hotel stays, self-drives and coach tours covering all three states.
According to Haynes, Baltimore in Maryland is also becoming more popular as a city-break destination. He said: "It has an attractive harbour area and a wide selection of shops and restaurants. Most visitors combine it with a trip to Annapolis which was very briefly the US capital and is full of historic houses and churches."
United Vacations has increased its presence in the region with a tailor-made section replacing a previous flydrive package.
Product and marketing manager Zia Bapuji said: "Washington is a big gateway for United Airlines with three flights a day in summer, so we wanted to do more in the area."
Travel 4 reports that the Capital Region's biggest growth is coming from people interested in its history. Product manager Louise Davis said: "Virginia is the biggest draw with its wealth of colonial sites such as Jamestown, which was the first ever English settlement, and Williamsburg which in recent years have been restored to offer visitors a vivid impression of 18th-century life."
"Heading south from Washington DC towards North Carolina, clients can visit historic battle sites at Fredericksburg and Petersburg, and this area also boasts some great estates which are well worth seeing."
Davis said there was also a developing fall foliage market in the Capital Region.
"Many clients see New England as overcrowded and Virginia in particular offers a superb alternative," sheadded.
capital region attractions
In Richmond, the African American heritage of the historic Jackson Ward region. The Valentine Museum. Civil War battlefields, including Petersburg. Whitewater rafting on the falls of the James River. The lively nightlife districts of Shockoe Slip, Shockoe Bottom, Carytown and The Fan. Edgar Allan Poe Museum. In Northern Viginia, Arlington National Cemetery, the Mount Vernon home of George Washington. The Historic Triangle of Colonial Virginia. Marine attractions at Portsmouth and Norfolk.Virginia Beach and the Eastern Shore, the Piedmont region and Shenandoah Valley.
The walking tour of Capitol Hill, including stops at the Rotunda, visitors' galleries overlooking the floors of the House of Senate, and the Library of Congress containing more than 100m items. The Smithsonian Institute with its impressive museums and art galleries. The National Air and Space Museum. National Museum of American History, Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. The FBI Building and the Martin Luther King Memorial Library. The White House tour includes eight rooms.
In Baltimore, the Inner Harbour and National Aquarium, Baltimore Maritime Museum, Walters Art Gallery, Edgar Allan Poe House and Cross Street Market for seafood. The US Naval Academy and State House at Annapolis. Chesapeake Beach and Jefferson Patterson State Park in southern Maryland. Bass fishing in Charles County. The western foothills for hiking trails and spectacular views of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, and the Appalachian Trails. Ocean City resort on the Eastern Shore.
"As the nation's capital, Washington has a tremendous store of history with free entry to 13 museums and galleries which make up the Smithsonian Museum."
Travelscene commercial manager Paul Stanley
"The Capital Region is for the more mature visitor who has an interest in Civil War history, as well as its beaches and culture, and we have enhanced our programme to cover this."
United Vacations product and marketing manager Zia Bapuji
"In addition to the historic sites the Capital Region has magnificent scenery, including Shenandoah National Park and the famous Skyline Drive through the Blue Mountains.
"The best way of enjoying the region is by car and self-drive holidays are definitely the most requested products."
Travel 4 product manager Louise Davis
"Virginia offers Civil War battlefield sites, the Shenandoah National Park, and Williamsburg, which has been restored to how it was in the 18th century."
Premier Holidays North America product manager Rob Haynes
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