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Beat The Patriotic Travel Rush

WASHINGTON, D.C. , White House, U.S. Capito
CBS
Travel to patriotic sites across America is gaining popularity, which means larger crowds will be waiting when you arrive.

Add in budget cuts and security concerns, and the result might be one big vacation headache this summer. As part of The Early Show's Best of America series, travel journalist Valerie D'Elia gave some helpful advice for those planning to visit historic places.

Here are some destinations with tips for a less stressful getaway:

WASHINGTON, D.C.
Site(s): Lincoln, Jefferson and FDR Memorials, Washington Monument, Arlington National Cemetery, Korean and Vietnam Memorials, White House, U.S. Capitol, National Air and Space Museum and National Spy Museum.

Tip: Find out the best times to visit, and not only beat the crowds, but save. Weekends are the best value. There are Freedom Savings getaways at more than 60 hotels with rates that start at $69 a night. Includes your stay, admission to the new City Museum, (brand new museum dedicated to history of D.C.) and offers savings at theaters and restaurants.

For an update on what's open for tourists, go to www.washington.org, and click on travel update. D'Elia says the best advice is to start out early, or go late to some destinations — some art museums have extended hours on Tuesdays or Thursdays.

Save the monuments and memorials for the weekend. They'll be crowded, but you won't have to wait in line to enter a building and pass through security.

The Washington Memorial has the longest lines. D'Elia says if you go to the National Park Service Web site at www.NPS.gov you can reserve a timed ticket for $1.50 per person. Otherwise you will have to wait in line very early and it's first come, first serve.

D'Elia suggests visiting the FDR memorial, because it is not on the mall and is the least visited memorial.

The Einstein Memorial is tucked away across from the National Mall and is also lightly visited and lots of fun, says D'Elia.

The Arlington Cemetery and the grounds of the National Zoo stay open later, so consider visiting these later in the afternoon.

The National Spy Museum's slowest times are weekdays, first thing in the morning or early in the evening, before closing time. You can buy your tickets in advance either at the museum or via ticketmaster.

The convention and tourism corporation advises using the Independence/ Constitution Ave. entrances and exits from the Smithsonian Museums and National Gallery. Lines may be shorter than the lines on the mall. The National Air & Space Museum has transitioned from bag checks to walk-through metal detectors, such as at the airport, moving you through more quickly now.

PHILADELPHIA
Site(s): Homes of Betsy Ross and Ben Franklin, Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. The new National Constitution center opens July 4.

Tips: Look for coupons and passes. Visit the tourist offices at state borders for discount booklets. Or buy a City Pass in advance. The National Constitution Center is one of the attractions on the City Pass program that offers discount admission and front of the line access to the top tourist attractions in nine U.S. cities. Other City Pass discounts for historical sites include, The JFK Library Museum in Boston, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York, and the Museum of Flight in Seattle. For more information go to www.citypass.net

GATEWAY ARCH, ST. LOUIS
Site(s): The 630-foot tall steel arch on the banks of the Mississippi River commemorates the start of the historic Lewis and Clark journey. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the expedition to map the West. You can take a tram ride to the top and watch a movie depicting the historic journey.

Tip: Be flexible about where to stay. Consider staying in Clayton at the western edge of St. Louis, where you may find better deals and can ditch the downtown crowds. It's referred to as "a second downtown," with its very own mix of hotels, restaurants and shops.

MT. RUSHMORE, SOUTH DAKOTA
Site(s): The giant granite sculpture of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abe Lincoln, represents the first 150 years of American history. Includes a visitor center and museum and the Presidential Trail, providing up close views of the mountain sculpture.

Tip: Check a calendar of events for the area you're visiting. For instance, the largest annual gathering of motorcycle enthusiasts in the world, bringing up to 200,000 road-hog aficionados, rolls into the small South Dakota community of Sturgis each August.

THE ALAMO - SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS
Site(s): Texas' most famous shrine. Formerly a mission, The Alamo, became the "cradle of Texas Liberty." Rebelling against repressions of Mexico's self-proclaimed dictator, Santa Anna, a band of 189 Texas volunteers defied a Mexican army of thousands for 13 days of siege (from Feb. 23 to Mar. 6 of 1836).

Tip: Take a detour with a side trip. For instance, visit the Texas Hill Country north and west of San Antonio. Bring binoculars. Texas is the most popular birdwatching state in the United States.