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5 Memorial Day Alternatives In Troubled Hotspots

PORTLAND, Ore. ( TheStreet) -- Does it just seem like America hasn't had a break since the shootings at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater last year, or have we just been swinging from one tragedy to the next for that long?

They've come with very different faces: A multifronted superstorm in Sandy, yet another gunman in Newtown, Conn., outright terrorists in Boston, negligence in Waco, Texas, a Mother's Day shooter in New Orleans and now a rare F-5 tornado in Moore, Okla. When a headline in The Onion sums it up best -- Americans Dredge Up Last Remaining Reserves Of Grief -- it's tempting to just try to run away from it all.

Unfortunately, the last year has many Americans too shellshocked, spent and stunned to move. TripAdvisor (TRIP - Get Report), the travel site that tends to keep on the sunny side of life around this time of year, just released a survey that's as dour as the rest of the country now. With Memorial Day weekend coming up, only 30% of folks surveyed by TripAdvisor -- regular travelers, mind you -- have plans to go anywhere during the long weekend.

Are gas prices the problem? Nope. They're actually down 36 cents a gallon since Memorial Day 2011 and only 7% of those surveyed by TripAdvisor say those prices are going to affect their plans. What about the expiration of the payroll tax cut that returned that particular levy to 6.2% from 4.2% last year? Well, the New York Federal reserve says 79% of the folks it surveyed planned to cut spending to make up for the loss anyway, so why not put off that Memorial Day trip?

Because your regular Memorial Day hangouts need you now more than ever. When terrible things happen, the people affected rarely say "give us less money to help us through these trying times, please." Folks who showed up on the Gulf Coast after BP's (BP) Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 helped clean the beaches and keep waterfront businesses and towns afloat. Leaf peepers who showed up in Vermont in Fall 2011 helped communities rebuild and helped bring back beloved institutions.

This Memorial Day has that kind of potential for stricken spots across the country. Here are just five places that need your help this summer and reasons to go to each:

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