Publisher's Note: Staycation
By Jody Reese
Gas prices still got you down? Then make a vacation out of staying in the area.
It’s the topic of our cover story this week and includes lots of neat stuff to do locally.
With high gas prices increasing the cost of everything, taking a night out in Nashua, Derry, Milford, Manchester or Concord can provide an affordable alternative to the Maine vacation. If a night out will break your bank then there’s the option of eating at home and going out for dessert. There’s a ton of stuff to do right here.
A recent front page story in USA Today headlined “Reinventing America’s Suburbs” examined the new trend of bedroom communities trying to develop downtown-like amenities such as stores and offices to create walkable neighborhoods.
With gas at $4 a gallon, economic reality is driving this trend in places like the Sun Belt and elsewhere. But here in southern New Hampshire, we’re in front of this wave, if only by accident. Why? Because Manchester, Nashua, Concord and even smaller communities such as Milford already have walkable downtowns that predate the automobile age.
So it’s one example of how high gas costs can bring business opportunities for our area, both for the long term (such as incentives to further redevelop our classic downtowns) and for the short term, such as (drum roll, please) ... being more welcoming to visitors.
Really. With the high cost of gas, families are doing a lot of rethinking about how far and where to drive. And that means potentially more interest in places such as the Merrimack Valley, especially if we reach out and make more of an effort to draw in visitors.
The basics are there, especially for families and history buffs. Among the paper’s staff, we’ve had a couple of families with young children visit the area, and they were thrilled with the SEE Science Center, Amoskeag Fishways, the Budweiser brewery in Merrimack and other attractions.
And in Manchester, the Millyard ranks as a must-see wonder. Queen City residents see these sights every day, of course, but most communities have nothing like them. Visitors are eager to explore them and learn their story.
We do make an effort, but it’s not enough. If we’re going to capitalize on this silver lining of high gas prices, we need to think differently about how to welcome visitors.
While clearly private business ought to be taking the lead here, our local governments should be helping with existing resources. In Manchester they have a four-person economic development office that should be taking the lead in helping promote the city (especially since the visitor bureau was closed) — as should the Mayor’s office. Nashua and Concord too have shopping, food and attraction amenities that it should be promoting to people in the Merrimack Valley.
In the end, we’ve got the goods, we just need to communicate it to our neighbors.