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"Dark tourism" destinations may not be the easiest and happiest places to visit, but the footfall of tourists registered at such spots is growing by the day. Travelers sometimes include places associated with human tragedy, suffering, and death in their itinerary mainly due to their historical significance. In this post I'll be discussing three such sites in the US that have been attracting a large number of tourists from all corners of the world.
A site in Lower Manhattan where the former Twin Towers of the World Trade Center used to stand, this memorial cum museum is one of most talked about and visited dark tourism spots in the world. It draws 4-5 million visitors a year. 9/11 commemorates those 2,977 people killed in the pre-planned terrorist attacks. Dark tourists can see the ground zero, an underground museum, names of the victims inscribed on bronze parapets, a lone pear tree that survived the attacks, and the last column of the WTC still standing. The timing for the memorial is 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST daily while for the museum it is 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST daily. There is a nominal fee for entry to the museum but access to the memorial is free.
This memorial site in Oahu's Pearl Harbor, Oahu is a grim reminder of the Japanese military strike on the U.S. naval base here on December 7, 1941. Visitors are allotted a specific time slot of their visit along with the tickets. A 23-minute long informative documentary film is shown on a movie theater. One can also see the names of all those perished in the attack engraved on a white marble wall. In total, 2403 people including civilians were killed in the airborne attacks. Outside the memorial, a large panel displays a detailed plan of the USS Arizona both before the attack and the wreck as it is at present. With around 1.5 million visitors per year, it is a must-visit site on a USA trip.
Located in San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz is a former prison island that attracts more than 1.5 million visitors annually. It became a military fort in the mid-19th century. Visitors can witness cell blocks and old barracks. Alcatraz’s historical exhibitions retell the story of the prison from start to finish. There is also a cinema hall in the basement of the barracks that shows films on Alcatraz in a variety of languages. An audio tour of the cell house, visit the water tower, and other ruins make a core part of a visit to this rocky island. A trip to the island also includes a tour of the prison kitchen, dining hall, recreation park, and a morgue.
By nature and purpose, dark tourism may be different from mainstream tourism but its merits and growing popularity cannot be denied. Students, researchers, scholars, and ordinary tourists visit these destinations in droves with a single objective - to pay tribute to the departed souls and learn a thing or two about the events surrounding such historical sites. Most travelers taking USA tour packages may find this class of tourism solemn and odd but it is one of the best ways to come to terms with the dark phases in human history.
For Indian travelers, have a look at our USA tour packages from Mumbai or Ahmedaba.