Image: Dick’s Drive-In Restaurant, Seattle
Dick’s Drive-In Restaurant, in Seattle's Wallingford neighborhood was built in 1954, and is the earliest outpost of the quintessential drive-in chain. Loyalists of all ages come for drive-in classics like fresh burgers, hand-whipped shakes, and house-cut fries.
updated 4/26/2009 2:23:33 PM ET 2009-04-26T18:23:33

Does your generic local multiplex get you down? Are you pining for a little movie action under the stars, snack bar included? A legit drive-in theater is hard to come by these days, but if you’re anywhere near Cape Cod this summer, point your wheels toward Wellfleet, where a vintage al fresco theater is showing double features all season. To make the nostalgia even tastier, order up a vanilla shake at the Dairy Bar & Grill between flicks.

Given the struggling economy, many potential tourists today are fantasizing about their pre-recession lives. We’re talking about going further back than, say, 2007. A stressed-out populace is waxing nostalgic for much simpler times. Call it comfort travel: taking a trip into the warm and safe memories of a bygone era.

And with old-timey options available across the country, even the most cost-conscious traveler can find a retro retreat a short distance away. Maybe a spin around a 1930s dance hall will put you back in the swing of things. Or perhaps a 1980s-era roller-derby match at L.A. Derby Dolls will help get out some of that AIG-related aggression.

Seeking comfort in the past can be quite beneficial, according to psychologist Wendy Kaufman, founder of the health-and-wellness company Balancing Life’s Issues. Kaufman has been leading employee de-stressing seminars for nearly 19 years, and one of her strategies is to encourage people to find a “comfort place”: “I tell them to take the time to sit back and pick out those personal memories,” she says. “So many people end up saying, 'I forgot how much I loved ...,’ whatever the case may be for them.”

Comfort places aren’t necessarily tied to a particular geographic location. If the amusement park was your favorite childhood spot in Virginia, going to the Santa Cruz boardwalk rides in California will probably be a scream as well. Pining for the cherry-red MG you had in your hot-rodding days? The 200 retro cars at the Keels & Wheels show in Seabrook, Texas, will bring back the fond memories—without the maintenance costs.

For those who find it hard to pinpoint an ideal, stress-free moment to revisit, Kaufman prescribes a bit of research. “I suggest revisiting photo albums,” she says. “I encourage people to talk to their moms and dads, aunts and uncles, people who have lived through worse recessions—and find out what they did during those times to have fun.”

Get ready to relive a little history—and to take your mind off the problems of the present—with these vintage vacation ideas.

Copyright © 2012 American Express Publishing Corporation


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