'Most scenic' designation could help boost tourism to Bristol

Historic locations, museums, patriotic celebration earn it a spot on the list

EastBayRI.com ·

With its historic locations, museums and picturesque neighborhoods — and, of course, its patriotic reputation — Bristol has been named one of the 33 most scenic towns in North America by travel website Expedia.

The spotlight shined on Bristol in publications targeted at those likely to travel help the town compete in the constant battle for tourist dollars, according to Mike Byrnes of Explore Bristol. It’s not the first time Bristol has been listed nationally in travel publications recently. It has also been listed as a destination for an “affordable winter vacation people often overlook” by national magazines Marie Claire and Harper’s Bazaar; and one of the “most interesting” travel destinations in the country by Expedia, among several listings in statewide tourism publications.

“One of the things we sometimes forget is that Bristol is in competition with all towns within 150 miles to bring in visitors,” Mr. Byrnes said. “It’s a constant battle. When Bristol gets mentioned and Wickford doesn’t, the buzz is about Bristol.”

CarRentals.com, an off-shoot of Expedia, has given Bristol some new buzz on the national level. The website looked for “the best car destinations to visit” in all of North America, publishing the list of 33 towns all over the continent. Some have historical intrigue, others have popular national parks, and some “just make for a beautiful drive down the highway,” the website reads.

Bristol, obviously, falls into the historic category. The company recognized popular destinations like Blithewold Mansion and the other dozen properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Being the site of a huge summer party doesn't hurt, either.

"If you fancy yourself a history buff, the sleepy town of Bristol, Rhode Island, will be your very own slice of paradise," the carRentals blog reads. "Plan your visit around the Fourth of July and you’ll be able to attend the oldest continuously celebrated Independence Day festival in the country. There also happens to be over a dozen places about town that have earned spots in the National Register of Historic Places—including Blithewold Mansion and the Old Customs House, to name a few. Whoever said you couldn’t go back in time during your vacation?"

Local properties on the national historic register include Blithewold Mansion, Mount Hope Farm, Juniper Hill Cemetery, the Mount Hope Bridge, Poppasquash Farms Historic District, Benjamin Church House, Bristol County Courthouse, Bristol Waterfront Historic District, Bristol Custom House, Bristol Ferry Light and Bristol County Jail.

Gaining exposure for those properties, as well as the museums, parks, waterfront resources, restaurants and shops, is critical to keep them in operation, Mr. Byrnes said.

“It helps keep open the great venues we have, the great restaurants we have, because we can’t have them without visitors,” Mr. Byrnes said. “We have some wonderful attributes and we ought to be promoting them, The more visitors, the more vibrant our community. It enhances our economic vitality.”

Bristol is one of just two New England towns on CarRentals.com’s list, joined by Woodstock, Vermont. Some of the other towns include Paia, Hawaii; Sitka, Alaska; Santa Cruz, Calif.; Lake George, NY; Steamboat Spring, Colo.; Lexington, Kentucky; Quebec City, Quebec; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Santiago, Cuba; and Castries City, St. Lucia.

Expedia, Most Scenic towns
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