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Higher airfares causing fewer people to travel Labor Day weekend

AAA says fewer Americans will travel over the Labor Day weekend than did a year ago because of the weak economy and higher airfares.

The auto club predicted Wednesday that 31.5 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home between Thursday, Sept. 1, and the holiday on Monday, Sept. 5, a decrease of 2.4 percent.

Most will travel by vehicle, but 8 percent will fly. AAA said air travel will decline because fares are 13 percent higher than a year ago. Airlines raised prices early this year to offset jet fuel costs and have held prices steady even as fuel has fallen since April.

If you are one of these place bound travelers here are some touring opportunities in your backyard. I considered these some of the “hidden gems” of the river cities. Get out locally, spend some time and money and support the economy!

You can head about 30 miles downriver to Portsmouth for a day of art, culture and casual dining. My tour stops include the Southern Ohio Museum, a drive by the floodwall murals then refreshments at the Portsmouth Brewing Company.

The Southern Ohio Museum, located in the heart of downtown Portsmouth, has served as a center for cultural opportunities of all kinds since 1979 when it first opened in renovated headquarters donated by the city’s largest bank. The 1917 Beaux Arts building, austerely handsome on its limestone exterior and classically uplifting in the colonnaded interior where ornate grids of ceiling friezes embellish the second floor galleries overlooking the soaring space of the main floor gallery below.

Today it features the “Art of the Ancients: The Ohio Valley” where the Southern Ohio Museum’s new permanent collection of 10,000 Native American Artifacts from 1,500 to 8,000 years old are displayed.

An ongoing permanent exhibit displays the paintings in watercolors, oils and prints of Portsmouth’s native son, Clarence Carter.

A short 3-5 minute drive takes you to the flood wall where murals depict the history of the city and region. After a leisurely stroll past the art work it’s time for lunch at the local brew pub. My plan is to demolish one of their wood fired brick oven pizzas and sample a craft brewski or two.

Heading back to our car we’ll stroll back through the Boneyfiddle district. This is an interesting shopping and entertainment area.

Another journey is just over the might Ohio River to the Kentucky Highlands Museum. Organized in 1984 as a historical and cultural center for the Ashland, Ky., area it was first housed in the historical Mayo Mansion until

taking up current residency in downtown Ashland’s Main Street District in the first floor, basement, and mezzanine levels of the former C. H. Parsons Department Store in 1994.

Tucked away in the rolling hills of West Virginia another local gem is the Huntington Museum of Art. Nestled on 52 acres it is a location where art and nature blend in harmony. Today it is a distinguished museum, the finest in the state and the largest between Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Richmond, Va. It boasts an exceptional collection, innovative exhibitions and educational programs, conservatory and nature trails.

Today, visitors enjoy the beauty of glass, particularly that from the Ohio Valley; the wisdom and whimsy of Appalachian folk art; the functional artistry of American furniture and firearms; the serenity of 19th and 20th century American and European paintings; and the intricacy of Islamic prayer rugs. They can ponder the exotic mysteries of Middle Eastern arts; the exquisite acrobatics of sculptures by Calder and Rickey; and the marvels of nature’s own canvas.

Got travel? E-mail Steve Call at the travelprofessor@gmail.com or dial 740.550.9540.