By Bill Newlin
I've always been fascinated by presidential nominating conventions, both Republican and Democratic. My father worked for the government in Washington DC, where everybody follows politics, and I've watched every convention on TV from start to finish for more than 40 years.
One key aspect of any convention is the host city, which often makes a lasting impression. Chicago, 1968, when hippies and yippies squared off against Mayor Daley's police force, and probably cost Humphrey the election. Miami Beach, 1972, the last time both parties held their conventions in the same city, and George McGovern's vice presidential selection process devolved into a very public farce. New York City, 1980, when the spectacle of urban grit and decay helped convince many voters to abandon Jimmy Carter. Denver, 2008, when Obama's speech in front a record-breaking 84,000 attendees and the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains launched him to the presidency.
In 2012, both parties have chosen vibrant, forward-looking cities that speak to their positive visions of America. It's the first time either city has hosted a nominating convention, and they're ready to put on a show.
Visitors to the Democratic convention at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte  will find themselves in the middle of the historic Uptown neighborhood, surrounded by world-class sights, restaurants, shopping, and nightlife. Museums within walking distance include the Levine Museum of the New South , the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the extraordinary science exhibits at Discovery Place, and of course the NASCAR Hall of Fame .
The Republican convention in Tampa , at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, is surrounded by waterfront, with five miles of gorgeous Bayshore Boulevard leading past the American Victory Mariner's Memorial, the Florida Aquarium , and shopping, dining, and entertainment at Channelside.
Here at Moon Travel Guides we pride ourselves on publishing the most extensive and insightful coverage of U.S. destinations, and we're celebrating the election season by making the eBook editions of Moon Charlotte  and Moon Tampa & St. Petersburg  free for download through September. The free eBooks, which are packed with helpful travel tips and insider info on hotels, restaurants, attractions, and more, are available for download at the Apple iBookstore , barnesandnoble.com , the Amazon Kindle store , and the Sony Reader Store . Please note that the Sony Store is only carrying Moon Charlotte. Our eBooks are designed for easy browsing and reference on a wide range of smartphones, tablets, and eReaders, and are perfect for taking a break from the convention floor during the rules committee discussion (kidding), or helping to plan a night on the town.
So, to all of you coming to Charlotte and Tampa this summer: welcome! Choosing our president is important work, but we hope you'll find time to explore these two great American cities along the way.
Bill Newlin is the publisher of Avalon Travel , the publisher of Moon Travel Guides.