What 50 top tourist destinations looked like 50 years ago
Tourism and traveling have transformed over the last half-century. In 1969, the Boeing 747 made its maiden flight and revolutionized air travel. Additionally, technological advances like travel websites home sharing services have made traveling significantly cheaper, simpler, and more comfortable.
Another dramatic change in modern tourism and traveling is how little people travel today compared to 50 years ago. A 2018 trend report from Skift Research found that 57% of Americans hadn't taken an extended leisure trip (one that lasted over three days and was at least 100 miles away from home) in the last 12 months. A 2019 U.S. Travel Association report revealed that in 2017 Americans left 705 million vacation days on the table, meaning that only 52% of Americans took the vacation time allotted to them.
However, change is coming. Nearly 100 million Americans, or four out of every 10 adults, will go on a family vacation this year, and 68% of those families will vacation in the summer, according to a recent AAA Travel survey. So, with the summer travel season here, Stacker looks at the top 50 tourist destinations and what they looked like in 1969.
For this list, Stacker chose some of the most popular tourist destinations over the last five decades. From Mount Rushmore to Amsterdam, these destinations have consistently attracted a significant number of visitors. Some destinations on the list have been preserved and restored over the last half-century—thanks to the foresight of organizations like UNESCO and the National Parks Department. Others have faced natural disasters, tremendous population growth, or didn't exist in 1969.
Click through Stacker's gallery to see how much these destinations have changed, or, in some cases, how much they've stayed the same.
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Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, USA
Constructed from 1927 to 1941, Mount Rushmore was originally a simple, nondescript roadside pullout. The tourist destination went under significant redesign in the 1990s, partially to accommodate the growing number of visitors. A massive new visitor's center and sit-down cafe will now greet the 3 million people annually who make the pilgrimage.
Lake Calhoun, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
Take a trip to Lake Calhoun today, and it will look mostly the same as it did 50 years ago (albeit a little more developed). What's really changed over time is the politics surrounding the lake. Over the last several years there have been a half a dozen court cases regarding the name of the lake—whether to restore the original Dakotan name of the lake, Bde Maka Ska or keep the Calhoun name. Former Vice President John C. Calhoun, the person the lake was named after, is widely acknowledged as being a racist and a slave owner.
Gamla Stan, or the Old Town, is where Stockholm was founded in 1252 and is one of the largest and best preserved medieval cities in Europe. From the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century Gamla Stan was considered a slum, and just after World War II, a large section of it was demolished to enlarge parliament. However, it became a major tourist attraction in the 1980s, and today the district is protected by the government and much effort is put into preserving things as perfectly as possible.
St. Moritz, Switzerland
Ever since hosting its first Winter Olympics in 1928, St. Moritz has been a popular destination for many sports events: skiing, polo championships, cricket, sailing, and windsurfing. In 1987, the Swiss Alps resort town branded itself “the top of the world” and became an over-the-top vacation destination for the super-rich. In the last 20 years, iconic hotels like Badrutt's Palace Hotel and The Hotel Soldanella have gone under massive renovations making them more luxurious than ever before.
Piccadilly Circus, London, U.K.
In the 1980s, Piccadilly Circus underwent significant renovations. The road junction, which connects four major thoroughfares, has become more pedestrianized, making it easier for tourists to explore the area and get the perfect picture. Additionally, the billboards, which were at one point scattered all around the square, are now relegated to a single building, often called “Monico” after Cafe Monico which used to be inside.
Acropolis Parthenon, Athens, Greece
One of the oldest buildings on this list, the Acropolis Parthenon in Athens has been undergoing major renovations since 1975. Today there is scaffolding around large sections of the ancient temple as preservationists work to save what remains of the building. The surrounding neighborhood has changed significantly as well—both major roads that lead up to the Parthenon are now pedestrian only, and the once-vibrant neighborhood on the ancient agora was knocked down in the 1950s to expand the archeological site.
Washington D.C., USA
Over the last 50 years, Washington D.C. has become whiter, wealthier, and younger—thanks to an influx of new residents. While the gentrification has happened in pockets, it's dramatically changed the look and feel of the nation's capital.
Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
Salt Lake City has come a long way from its origins as a sleepy Mormon city and developed into a booming Western hub and winter-vacation destination. The development of the ZCMI Center, a downtown shopping mall, the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, and several city beautification projects have turned the city into a thriving metropolis with a bustling city center. New developments are set to begin shortly, adding a handful of skyscrapers to the city's skyline, and are sure to add to that “big city” feel.
Central Park, New York City, USA
The nation's first landscaped public park, Central Park in New York City owes much of its change and development to the Central Park Conservatory which started in 1980. Over half of the park's funding comes from this nonprofit group which has done everything from reseeding the laws to removing graffiti and restoring some iconic buildings like Belvedere Castle. Before the development of the group, the park was massively under-funded, which meant it had fallen into a state of disrepair. Today, it's become the urban oasis it was always meant to be.
Mt. Kilimanjaro, Amboseli National Park, Kenya
One of the most visited safari parks in Kenya, Amboseli National Park wasn't designated as a national park until 1974. Before that year, tourists wouldn't have had to pay a fee to access Mt. Kilimanjaro. However, they also wouldn't have had such easy access to safari lodges and tours and would have had to make all of their arrangements independently.