Classical Music Vacation Packages: You Can't Get There From Here
Why travel agencies and online vacation planners don't offer classical music packages
by Drew McManus
November 21, 2005
I love to hear orchestras in their home venues. Seeing them on tour is wonderful but you know they’ll have their “A” game ready for those performances, as such, traveling to their home town for a concert provides a better representative example of what their average performance quality is like. You also have the opportunity to experience the acoustics for their respective concert halls, a variable capable of preventing a good orchestra from being great and vice versa. Given the wide variety of good orchestras and the even wider range of concert hall acoustics, traveling around the country or even a given region should provide for a memorable set of concert going experiences.
Unfortunately, you’re on your own if you want to plan such a trip. Finding a travel agent who offers prearranged travel packages focused on symphony orchestra concerts appears to be impossible. I spent close to an hour at Google and online vacation planners such as Orbitz and Travelocity looking for vacation packages which arranged travel, lodging, and tickets for symphonic orchestra concerts. I came away from the experience having discovered that nothing of the kind exists.
Nevertheless, I did find a number of vacation packages designed around European and Russian orchestra concerts. I even ran across some classical music oriented cruises, although, once again, nearly all of them were European based. The only thing I could find which came close to what I was looking for were some opera based vacation tour packages designed and sponsored by classical music radio stations. Regrettably, most of them only had plans to travel to Europe.
It just goes to show how inconsequential classical music is to the American cultural consciousness right now. But it doesn’t need to be this way, given the close proximity of some of the country’s best orchestras; putting together an orchestra vacation package should be quite simple. You could easily travel from Philadelphia, New York, and Boston via Amtrak and never have to worry about renting a car (or messing with the hassle of airports).
In each of those towns, the primary venue for their large orchestras is within a few miles of the train stations so transportation is a snap. Throw in a nice hotel and you’re all done. You could design a trip like over as little as three days.
How about other regional vacations? You could link up Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Detroit easily enough. Then there’s the west coast wine and orchestra trip which could take you from San Francisco, to Portland, and end up in Seattle.
If you’re lazy or really hate to travel, look into a double-for-nothing option where great orchestras are within 90 minutes of each other such as Washington D.C./Baltimore, Chicago/Milwaukee, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Minnesota/St. Paul.
If planning trips to visit orchestras in their natural habitat is so easy, why aren’t travel agencies and online vacation planning services putting packages together? And why are so many of the packages which do exist through places like classical music radio stations going overseas to Europe? I think it simply comes down to perceived demand. I use the term perceived because in order to get this ball rolling, it’s going to take a concerted effort. Either a group of orchestras will need to cooperate on an ongoing basis and offer a regularly occurring package for interested parties or a coalition of organizations will need to approach the larger travel agencies and online vacation planners to design something for them.
In the end, the idea is to get those not directly connected to classical music interested in seeing orchestras as an attractive entertainment commodity. If the business can reach that collective goal, then that’s a good sign.
Postscript: I did find a bountiful number of Broadway oriented vacation packages, but nothing even related to orchestra concerts. It just goes to show you how the outside looks in at classical music.
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