Nostalgia tourism is a specific form of historical travel which targets an era recent enough to be remembered by people who are still alive today. Most of the time periods remembered in nostalgia travel fall into the twentieth century, with the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression and the post-war era of the 1950s and 1960s being popular themes.
Many architectural styles have come and gone over the years. While some of these styles are not commonly used in new construction, many buildings from previous eras still exist:
- Art Deco (from Arts Décoratifs, as featured at the Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes in Paris in 1925) was common from the mid-1920s until the World War II era.
- Googie-themed architecture originated in Southern California in the late 1940s, remaining popular into the 1960s.
- Various forms of architectural modernism, such as that created by Frank Lloyd Wright, became popular in the 1920s.
Cinema and live theatre
Cinematic history dates to the 1920s or earlier, where it was a popular form of entertainment before network radio and television, pre-recorded video or Internet streaming. The drive-in theatre or cinepark was common in the 1950s and 1960s, although they are a dying breed today.
Much of the cinema nostalgia centres on individual films, individual performers or specific cinematic styles (such as classic, monochrome or silent film) which no longer exist today. Some films which were originally created as far back as the 1930s remain popular today.
Hollywood, Burbank and Culver City are the home of much of the American mainstream film industry; there are studio tours. Many locations worldwide are noted for a historically-popular film which was shot there or a show which was set there. In many cities, buildings which originally housed a cinema or a live theatre in the heyday of those media have been restored for various purposes.
In some countries, such as Russia, a handful of people still hold some nostalgia for the Cold War era in which the Soviet Union and the states under its control (the Comintern bloc) represented a vast, sprawling empire. In the former East Germany, this form of nostalgia is known as Ostalgie.
Some products which were made in the communist East, but disappeared from marketplaces after the fall of the Berlin Wall, have been reintroduced. See Cold War Europe#Heritage.
Consumer goods, ephemera and miscellanea
All manner of ephemera, including products and advertisements for brands no longer manufactured, may invoke some hint of nostalgia.
Art and antiques dealers use this as the foundation of a business model, as do flea markets, museums and traders in rare used books, phonograph records, comic books and sports cards. Occasionally an attempt will be made to bring back a once-famous brand which is defunct or a historic marketing campaign (such as signs promoting long-defunct Burma Shave, whose verses appeared along many U.S. Highways from 1926-1963).
In some fields, a presumption exists that a product made "the old-fashioned way" is better; foodstuffs, handicrafts and furniture are common examples. Communities such as the Amish, which never abandoned the old traditional ways, often obtain a premium at market as their work is of better perceived quality. In others, a piece of obsolete technology (such as a vacuum tube radio) is painstakingly restored to working condition simply for old time's sake.
- A Nostalgia and Kitsch Museum (Nosztalgia és Giccsmúzeum) operates in Keszthely, Hungary.
- The Museum of Brands in Notting Hill, London, displays thousands of old consumer products and advertisements.
- The Toy Museum in Vadstena (near Östergötland, Sweden) collects toys which were popular in various eras, from the beginning of the 1900s until today.
The styles of clothing, textiles and fashion change annually or even seasonally. While the use of period costume recreates various eras, including those depicted in re-enactment, role playing and the pioneer village museums, clothing styles have changed dramatically even within the modern era.
Food and lodging
While the wealthy robber barons who ran the rail companies of yesteryear have diminished in stature as rail travel has been supplanted by the motorcar, many grand old hotels from the heyday of rail travel remain in operation, often as historic landmarks at the high end of the restaurant and lodging market.
The explosion in motorcar travel in the 1950s led to many lower-cost alternatives.
Roadside diners, which originally were available as prefabricated buildings to be transported by rail for deployment in key highway locations, provided a very basic-level table service long before fast food joints became ubiquitous. Many modern diners rely heavily on 1950s and 1960s nostalgia in their décor and themes. Drive-in restaurants, in which car hop attendants brought meals into a car park so that diners could eat in their vehicles, were a common fad in the 1950s; the concept is largely dead in Canada, but a few remain in the U.S.
Independent motels, an offshoot of the primitive campgrounds and cabins of the Depression era, became common on most of the two-lane highways of the 1950s and 1960s; a few in Wildwood (New Jersey) have been restored to preserve the Googie architectural style of the era.
In an era when intercity telephone calls were costly and Internet access non-extant, most independents relied on visitors (who had no advance reservations) to simply drop in while driving through each town on the main highways. Neon signage, huge billboards, motels with outdoor swimming pools facing directly onto the roadside and the occasional huge fibreglass statue were among the gimmicks used to attract attention; many motorists simply took their chances that the neon sign at the inn would say "VACANCY" instead of "NO VACANCY" when they drove into town and that the accommodation would meet some minimum standard.
Automobiles were subject to frequent redesign, with styles changing annually to make la voiture de l'année look different from its predecessors. Many of the changes were made for marketing reasons, although the underlying technology has improved by leaps and bounds since the "Tin Lizzie" fad of the 1920s. The motorcars of the 1950s were most distinctive, due to visual cues such as tail fins which gradually fell out of style.
While spare parts are difficult to obtain, many fans of historic vehicles have restored the motorcars of yesteryear to operating, showroom condition. There are antique car shows in various communities; there are also many museums devoted to transport or specifically to cars.
- Ford is based in Dearborn, Michigan; the Ford Museum, Greenfield Village and the Automotive Hall of Fame (21400 Oakwood Blvd) recall the history.
- The Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum's collection includes an original Fabulous Hudson Hornet.
- The San Diego Automotive Museum in California has lots of antique cars on display.
- Oshawa's automotive history pre-dates the General Motors presence in Ontario; the Canadian Automotive Museum (99 Simcoe Street S) remembers.
- Castlemaine is the self-proclaimed 'Hot Rod Capital' of Victoria, Australia with multiple, small private automotive collections open to the public.
Many musical styles have come and gone over the years. Some have been short-lived fads (like the disco style of 1970s dance music) while others have evolved to the point where the modern version of a genre differs greatly from earlier works which are remembered as nostalgia. Musical bands or radio stations which play the music of yesteryear are popular among those who grew up when that music was mainstream; the original vinyl records and paraphernalia remain in circulation as used items or memorabilia.
- Jazz has existed since the post-Civil War era, but became popularised in New Orleans and Chicago during the 1920s. The Jazz Track is an itinerary of big band and traditional jazz cities in the United States.
- The big band era of the 1940s was part of the golden age of radio; network broadcasts from New York City reached the nation.
- Rock and roll has its own lengthy history, which goes back to the 1950s. Cleveland, Ohio is known for its Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Elvis Presley's Memphis mansion Graceland operates as a museum.
- Nashville is the home of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (222 Fifth Ave S). The legacy of singer Dolly Parton is commercialised by Dollywood, a Tennessee amusement park which she founded in 1961.
- Soul and the African-American music of the 1960s is remembered at Hitsville U.S.A, the Motown Museum in Detroit/New Center.
In Uruguay, August 24 (the night before Independence Day) is Nostalgia Night (Noche de la nostalgia); nightclubs and broadcasters play oldies music while Uruguayans party the night away.
There are many marine museums with extensive coverage of the steamboats and sailing vessels of yesteryear. Often, a former warship becomes a museum ship; occasionally, a decommissioned ocean liner is transformed into a floating hotel. There are also modern ships built as exact replicas of historic vessels (such as Halifax, Nova Scotia's famed Bluenose II).
Occasionally, a historically-authentic steam or sail vessel is painstakingly restored and put back into service.
- Battleship Cove in Fall River (Massachusetts) claims the largest collection of preserved U.S. Navy ships (from World War II onward) in the world; there's also a Marine Museum at Fall River.
- The Belle of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky is the oldest operating Mississippi River-style steamboat; the PS Waverley on the Firth of Clyde in Scotland is the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world. See Steam#Steamers, ships and boats.
- Newport (Rhode Island) hosts an annual gathering of Tall Ships, historic wooden sailing vessels. Amsterdam, Netherlands holds a similar gathering every five years, Halifax holds a Tall Ships Festival every few years and several other cities hold similar events periodically.
Much of the nostalgia around spectator sports memorialises the most famous and skilled players of yesteryear. Rarely, one of the original stadiums from the era will still be standing – either still in operation, or re-purposed for other uses as a team moves to a newer venue (which has more space, but typically no history and an annoying pattern of changing names every few years to accommodate the latest corporate sponsor).
There are various Halls of Fame to immortalise the history of the games and the players:
- The Basketball Hall of Fame commemorates Springfield (Massachusetts) as the birthplace of the sport of basketball.
- National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown, Central New York
- Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame (Salon de la Fama del Beisbol), Avenida Alfonso, Monterrey/North Central
- Pro Football Hall of Fame, Canton (Ohio)
- There's a Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto and a smaller collection of ice hockey memorabilia in Kingston (Ontario).
- Softball Hall of Fame, Oklahoma City
- National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum, 405 West Hall of Fame Avenue, Stillwater (Oklahoma)
- Baltimore County has a museum and hall of fame displaying the history of lacrosse with photographs, memorabilia, displays and videos
- Holyoke contains the Volleyball Hall of Fame
Often, the hometown of a famous player will immortalise a local son who made it big in the big leagues; for example, there's a nine-foot tall statue of Mickey Mantle on a high school baseball field in his tiny home town of Commerce, Oklahoma.
While Karl and Bertha Benz first unleashed their infernal machine on German roads in 1886 and the Wright Brothers first launched their strange contraption into the Kitty Hawk skies in 1903, many older forms of transport remained in use for many decades thereafter. Steam trains plied the rails in many regions for years after the first lines began to gradually dieselize or get electrified; ocean liners continued to ply the seas long after air travel became commonplace. Paddlewheel steamboats still invoke a perhaps-idealised view of what travel might have been like on the Mississippi River of yesteryear.
- Aviation history recalls various eras, including the military history of two world wars, the Cold War nuclear era and the civilian "jet set" of an era before budget travel turned flying into a less-pleasant, no-frills but slightly more affordable form of transport.
- Various heritage railways and tourist trains have restored historic rolling stock to service; it's also possible (to varying degrees) to attempt to retrace the path of routes such as the original Orient Express, which ran behind the Iron Curtain to Istanbul until the 1960s. Many museums depict rail travel of prior eras.
- U.S. Route 66 has not officially existed since 1985, but continues to be marketed on the basis of nostalgia. Roadside diners, novelty architecture and neon signs promoting small, independent motels are common themes, along with historic vehicles to appeal to fans of the automobile. There are more than a few ghost towns along the route, as well as the occasional bit of rail history as the 1926 route follows the path of earlier railways, which in turn followed the path of the original native trails.