Editor’s Note: During this period of social distancing, Group Tour magazine will continue to provide group travel inspiration. Many attractions and destinations are closed at this time; please contact them directly for updated information.
From bootleggers to flappers, the extravagant culture of 1920s America dramatically shifted traditional social and political customs. Women gained the right to vote, wore shorter hair styles and increasingly participated in the work force. Harlem boasted legends like Duke Ellington and Langston Hughes. Mobster Al Capone ran the bootlegging business in Chicago.
Slow down with a stop at destinations celebrating literary legends or kick up the evening with stories of speakeasies and gangsters. Whether in the hustle and bustle of one of the most influential regions of the Jazz Age or in the home that inspired Jay Gatsby’s “East Egg,” groups will find that the history and culture of 1920s America still mesmerizes modern-day America.
The 18th Amendment passed in 1919 prohibited the sale, transportation and consumption of alcohol. In response, speakeasies popped up across the nation. Bootleggers smuggled alcohol into the U.S. The term “bathtub gin” was first coined in 1920 in reference to poor-quality spirits produced in low-quality conditions.
The American Prohibition Museum is the only museum in the nation solely dedicated to the story of Prohibition and is located in what was known as the “Bootleg Spigot of the South,” Savannah, Georgia.
“The mission of the museum is to provide guests with an unbiased view of temperance, Prohibition, gangsters, moonshining, NASCAR, speakeasies and the entirety of the Prohibition story while being immersive, informative and fun,” said Kayla Black, museum director.
The museum features numerous life-like exhibits highlighting Prohibition history and culture, as well as Congress Street Up, a speakeasy serving Prohibition-styled cocktails and cocktail classes for groups.
Costumed docents relay exciting stories in an authentic setting full of immersive exhibits with audio and visual enhancements, as well as realistic wax figures.
“The American Prohibition Museum is not your typical ‘dry’ museum,” Black said.
Housed inside a former federal courthouse and U.S. Post Office in Las Vegas, The Mob Museum: The National Museum of Organized Crime houses multiple exhibits and galleries spanning four floors, many of which are centered around Prohibition and 1920s culture and crime.
Since its opening in 2012, The museum has received awards from TripAdvisor, National Geographic, USA Today and more.
“Exhibits highlight important cultural movements of the 1920s — jazz music, flappers, the Harlem Renaissance, tabloid journalism, Hollywood starlets and more,” said Ashley Miller, vice president of marketing, communications and sales at the museum.
See actual forensic ballistics evidence from the crime scene of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. View artifacts like a flapper dress, a 1920s Ouija board and a bootlegger’s briefcase.
The Mob Museum also is home to the Underground, a speakeasy providing Roaring ’20s-inspired drinks. The on-site distillery produces moonshine and gives groups insights into the origins of Prohibition.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Known for his depiction of 1920s flamboyant culture, author F. Scott Fitzgerald received much of his critical acclaim after his death and continues to be a well-known figure today.
Groups can tour Fitzgerald’s and his wife Zelda’s Montgomery, Alabama, home to see family memorabilia, galleries themed after his novels and special exhibits.
“The museum is essential to history because it is the only surviving home in which the Fitzgeralds lived together,” said Alaina Doten, executive director of the Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum.
2020 marks the 100th anniversary of not only the publication of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel, This Side of Paradise, but also the Fitzgeralds’ marriage.
If looking for the more extravagant side to Fitzgerald’s works, look no further than Long Island’s Gold Coast — home to 10 historic mansions that hosted some of the Jazz Age’s lavish parties and wealthiest families. These mansions are open for tours.
Explore Sands Point Preserve on the original Guggenheim Estate — inspiration for the famed “East Egg” owned by The Great Gatsby’s notorious character, Jay Gatsby. OHEKA CASTLE was known for holding some of the largest and grandest parties during the 1920s — entertaining royalty, heads of state and Hollywood stars.
“The homes have played a huge role in American art, being featured and portrayed in movies, music literature and more. Without these opulent homes, we would not have the same story that The Great Gatsby is now,” said Kathleen Duffy, communications coordinator at Discover Long Island. “We have the homes to remind us about what life was back in the 1920s.”
Groups hear interesting stories, view splendid architectural features and discuss 1920s culture — all while learning about the history of each property.
From poetry and painting to jazz and swing, Harlem boasted some of the greatest intellectual and artistic minds of not only the 1920s, but the 20th century as a whole. This cultural explosion came to be known as the Harlem Renaissance, which celebrated African American contributions to music, literature, art and more. Visit the Langston Hughes House to honor the influential poet. Stop by the National Jazz Museum in Harlem and experience a major hotbed of this genre from the early 20th century through today.