Michelle Obama took a lot of guff for her recent foray to Spain with daughter Sasha. According to the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, the ritzy vacation caused the first lady's approval rating to plummet to 50 percent compared to 64 percent who approved of her in a similar April 2009 poll. Obama has been described as a "modern-day Marie Antoinette" for taking such an expensive trip while so many Americans are pinching pennies.
I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon to attack the Obamas. I don't think the first lady's vacation is any indication on her husband's effectiveness as a president — but it does raise a startling point. In this brutal economy, many families are tightening their belts, giving up vacations altogether to make ends meet and put food on the table. Because of this, many families have been more open to the eco-savvy idea of relaxing with family on staycations that are closer to home.
Staycations are great for the planet and even better for the wallet. They are the perfect way to get back in touch with your own community. With that in mind, here are some ideas for the Obamas' next staycation that are sure to please no matter what the occasion:
Romantic getaways: In February 2009, the president and first lady dashed off to Chicago where the president treated his wife to a romantic Valentine's Day dinner date. No need to travel so far for romance! I'm sure Michelle would have loved a romantic dinner at Citronelle on M Street. Not in the mood for French food? They could head down the street a bit to Asia Nora, an intimate New Asian restaurant with food prepared with organic ingredients.
Relaxation: I'm sure life in the Oval Office must be beyond stressful, but the Obamas don't need to trek to Martha's Vineyard to get away when they can find peace and tranquility on Maryland's Eastern Shore. St. Michaels, Md., is a prime location right on the Chesapeake Bay with golfing, fishing, sailing, horse-drawn carriage rides, historic tours and more.
Beaches: Last Christmas, the Obama family spent 11 days lounging on the beaches of Hawaii. Maybe they didn't realize that Assateague Island in Maryland is a great place for bird watching, seashell collecting, clamming, swimming, surf fishing and beach hiking. And don't forget the wild ponies!
Hiking: Earlier this summer, the Obamas headed to Acadia National Park where they hiked Cascade Mountain. I'm sure that hike was beautiful, but why travel to Maine when they have more than 500 miles of hiking trails in their own backyard? Shenandoah National Park in Virginia has trails that vary in length from short-stretchers to a 101-mile segment of the Appalachian Trail that runs the length of the park.
Culture: Ah, yes, the aforementioned trip to Spain. If the first lady was looking for a little culture, she need look no further then her own hometown. Washington, D.C., boasts a higher concentration of museums and art galleries than any other city in the nation. There's also the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Washington Opera, the Washington Ballet and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.