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Reflecting on Visitor Experiences During National Travel and Tourism Week

National Travel and Tourism Week (May 19-25) spotlights the positive effects the travel industry has on the economy, the communities that offer hospitality to visitors, and travelers themselves. It’s a great reminder to build travel into your life plans, no matter how grand or modest the destination – you’ll be making a difference no matter what! 

We hope you’ll consider adding Cayuga County to that travel list. Whether you come for the foliage in the fall, hibercation during the winter, outdoor adventures in the blooming season of spring, or even more Finger Lakes fun during the summer – you’re always in for a treat.

Cayuga County is also where you can honor Harriet Tubman’s legacy, which is always in season – and there are many destinations within the County where it can be experienced firsthand. 

This is where Ms. Tubman chose to live for the last 50+ years of her life after liberating herself and countless others from slavery, and we’ve had the privilege of introducing several writers and content creators to the County and grounds she once walked. Looking through the lens of these creators helped us gain deeper insight into just how impactful a trip here can be.

In September 2023, writers were invited on a group trip to experience International Underground Railroad Month in Harriet Tubman’s hometown. Their itinerary included historic sites connected to the Underground Railroad – such as the Seward House Museum and the Howland Stone Store Museum – and a guided GLOW Tour led by Ted Freeman.

Two attendees – Martie Bowser and Jeroslyn JoVonn – made personal connections with their experiences, and emphasized the importance of highlighting the stories of individuals of color:

“I also wanted to extend the most enormous ‘thank you’ for coordinating this trip. I don’t think you are aware of the eye-opening experience you provided me, not only into Harriet’s story but also into my own roots (my family are Freemans!), and what I can do to continue to tell these stories that are being erased.” 
-Martie Bowser

The front facade of the Steward House Museum

“Visiting Auburn, NY was so important for tracing my African American roots in this country. So much of our history has been scuttled and even banned in parts of the country. Being able to tour a town with strong abolitionist ties that hold such important parts of our freedom-fighting legacy is a life-changing experience. I want more people, especially those who look like me, to visit Auburn and experience the golden history that’s still visible in the town’s foundation.”
-Jeroslyn JoVonn

This sentiment was also highlighted by Martinique Lewis – an award-winning diversity in travel consultant, President of the Black Travel Alliance, creator of the ABC Travel Greenbook, and host of National Geographic’s Black Travel Across America – who visited in August 2022, the bicentennial celebration of Harriet Tubman’s birth year. In an Instagram post, Martinique emphasizes the importance of keeping Black stories relevant in all areas, no matter how big or small or its demographic makeup, writing: 

“After visiting Auburn, I don’t want to hear that sharing Black stories can’t be done in destinations with a low Black population. Black history is world history, and if you know how BOMB Harriet was, you’re coming to learn anyway!”

During the aforementioned Underground Railroad group trip, the attendees – including a young infant that came along for the journey – shared a light-hearted moment with Harriet Tubman’s descendants who live in the area, as they danced the Electric Slide at Lavish Lounge, Bar and Restaurant. This authentic moment bridged together multiple generations and reflects the type of connection we hope future visitors will make as they immerse themselves in the region – learning the history of individuals who have walked these lands before us, and those who are paving the way forward.

Many of us are already familiar with Harriet Tubman and her important work as an abolitionist and conductor on the Underground Railroad, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue diving into this history and keeping her name top of mind. After all, present-day milestones – such as her statue being erected at CIA Headquarters, continuing discussions of featuring Ms. Tubman on the $20 bill, and the production of feature films and TV shows retelling her story – are keeping her memory very much alive.

Phil Calvert – travel host with a mission to change the face of tourism one country at a time – accompanied Martinique Lewis during the September 2022 trip to Cayuga County. Their experience included visits to sites connected to Harriet Tubman, including her property and Home for the Aged, and her gravesite at Fort Hill Cemetery

Harriet Tubman Home

In social media content, Phil educates audiences on facts about Harriet Tubman, and how visitors can experience them in Cayuga County:

Harriet Tumban, apple trees and road

We’ve had guests hop on a plane, take the train or drive in by car to visit Cayuga County – a reminder that it’s not too long of a journey to history’s hometown.

And perfect opportunities to catch up on our Walk in Her Footsteps podcast! 

That’s just what Kenneth Miles – creator of New Jersey’s The Trenton Journal – experienced during his March 2024 visit. “The scenic views alone are worth the trip upstate to visit the Harriet Tubman Home.” He would share that his family “was so honored to be a part of this trip,” and that “Everything – from the sites and the partners went beyond my expectations.”