Best Places to Visit in USA – Part 7

Boston

Boston is not only a hub for baseball, brownstones and bookish collegiate types. It’s also home to America’s first large free municipal public library, the first subway system, the first public school and the first public park. To say the city is historic would be an understatement, but this wicked smart college town doesn’t linger in the past, either. A well-rounded trip to Boston integrates the classic with the contemporary: Split your time between cherished sites like the Paul Revere House and Faneuil Hall and modern attractions like the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Venture to Beacon Hill and you’ll stumble upon the graceful mansions of yore juxtaposed with chic boutiques and innovative hotels. So, yes, come first for the history, but don’t miss out on the opportunity to sample the unmistakable Beantown flavor. 

The city’s darker side has garnered a rough-and-tumble reputation thanks to Hollywood appearances in gritty films like “Black Mass,” “American Hustle” and “The Town,” but Boston’s cool, cosmopolitan personality characterizes its trendy restaurants, urban parks and modern museums. Passionate residents are still rooting for their beloved Red Sox, but they’re also venturing to the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway for a free yoga class or meandering to the edgy SoWa Open Market for some antique shopping. So, grab a stool and join them at their favorite pub to chow down on oyster shooters and New England clam chowder, or venture to Back Bay to sip a coffee as you stroll along the trendy Newbury Street. You’ll need more than a few days to experience the city’s wealth of cultural and historical offerings, but meandering along Boston’s cobblestone streets is a great way to start your exploration. 

Chicago

“It is hopeless for the occasional visitor to try to keep up with Chicago – she outgrows his prophecies faster than he can make them,” wrote Mark Twain in “Life on the Mississippi.” Although Twain made up his mind about the Windy City before it even reached its 50th year, his impression of Chicago has proven long-lasting. America’s third-largest city has been described in a myriad of ways throughout its lifetime. When Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla were competing for the right to use their forms of electricity to illuminate the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (also known as the Chicago World’s Fair), Chicago was known as a city of industry. When Prohibition set in, notorious mobsters like Al Capone transformed Chicagoland into their own dangerous playground. And intense immigration surges throughout the 20th century brought a host of new identities to the Windy City, including Greek, Polish, Italian, Irish and Jewish.

Today, Chicago remains just as diverse, boasting a thriving arts scene, various shopping districts and a cornucopia of eateries. First-time Chi-Town visitors are sure to have their eyes to the sky for at least a day or two. Chicago’s skyscrapers and public art are absolutely worth admiring: Tag along on a Chicago Architecture River Cruise or pass a few hours in Millennium Park and you’ll find yourself spending lots of time looking upward. For a bird’s-eye perspective, head to Willis Tower’s Skydeck Chicago or the John Hancock Center’s 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck. After, dive headfirst into all the city has to offer – from exceptional museums to a thriving sports culture and deep-dish pizza that takes delicious to whole new depths.

Seattle

Seattle’s laid-back attitude and diverse neighborhoods more than make up for its consistently cloudy weather. Plus, it’s home to some of the country’s best coffee and a thriving arts scene, plenty of history, culture and – when the weather permits – some exciting outdoor activities. Surrounded by water (and resting between Puget Sound and Lake Washington), the city’s favorite outdoor pursuits include kayaking, hiking and camping. Not only that, but the nearby Olympic Mountains and the giant Mount Rainier are visible from many spots in the city; ski slopes are just a short drive away. And while travelers often bemoan the weather, there’s actually less annual precipitation here than in New York or Boston. Overcast skies rarely stop Seattleites from getting out and exploring the city – and it shouldn’t stop you either.

If you’re headed to the Emerald City and not up for strenuous outdoor activities, Seattle still offers plenty to do and see. Art lovers will appreciate the glass-blown pieces at Chihuly Garden and Glass as well as the works on display at the Seattle Art Museum. Maritime enthusiasts can explore the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks and watch the ships putter by. Several of Seattle’s best boat tours even offer an inside look at how the locks operate. Make time to switch gears from boats to brews on a visit here, too. The city boasts dozens of craft breweries and food markets, making it one of the Best Foodie Destinations in the USA. 

More to come in Part 8.

(Information from US News & World Reports)

Best Places to Visit in USA – Part 6

San Diego

Consistently sunny weather and 70 miles of magnificent coastline are what draw active types and sun seekers alike to San Diego throughout the year: that and the mouthwatering Mexican cuisine, thriving nightlife and one of the country’s favorite zoos. And then there are the beaches: Retreat to Mission Beach to catch a wave, to La Jolla to soak up the sun and to Coronado for a leisurely seaside stroll. When you’re ready to ditch your flip-flops and board shorts for more formal attire, you’ll find pockets of vivacious nightlife throughout, especially near the historical Gaslamp Quarter.

Aspen

In terms of winter wonderland status, few destinations can compare to Aspen. This scenic mountain town is straight out of a snow globe, featuring picturesque mountain chalets hugged by the soaring Colorado Rockies. Of course, the main draw here is skiing and there are four premier ski areas nearby that cater to powder hounds of all levels. But there’s more to Aspen than winter sports: With high-end shopping, fascinating museums, funky galleries and fun festivals, it might be a struggle to make it to the slopes. No matter how you choose to spend your time here, it will be a vacation you’ll never forget.

For several decades now, this village has been the diamond in the Roaring Fork Valley, and we’re not just talking figuratively. This small ski town has long been a respite for the rich and famous, with high-end resorts like The Little Nell and Viceroy Snowmass luring celebs with the promise of luxurious privacy. But don’t let the possibility of sticker shock keep you away; instead, you can offset the high cost of deluxe lodging by simply enjoying your surroundings. Some of Aspen’s most popular sites – like Maroon Bells – come to us from Mother Earth, who doesn’t charge admirers a cent.

New Orleans

New Orleans is known for its European-style architecture, mouth-watering Creole cuisine and all-around good-time vibes. And as its backbone is music: Jazz, blues, rock ‘n’ roll and Zydeco tunes ooze from every city crevice. But for many, the main reason to visit is Mardi Gras, an over-the-top party with Carnival traits, such as masks, music, floats and merriment. Even if you don’t make it to Mardi Gras, you’ll still find a party year-round, with revelers pouring out of Bourbon Street clubs until the wee hours of the morning and a festival of some sort almost every weekend.

Despite past environmental disasters – namely the BP oil spill, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Isaac – New Orleans continues to thrive. Over the past several years, major efforts have been made to restore the distinct districts. Today, the Crescent City looks almost as good as new. So start your visit with a walking tour through the French Quarter, where colonial heritage and ghost lore still survives. From here, you can explore the major architectural sites before enjoying a hearty plate of jambalaya and a rowdy evening out.

More in Part 7.

(Information from US News & World Reports)

Best Places to Visit in USA – Part 5

Grand Teton National Park

Towering above Jackson Hole Valley with jagged snow-topped peaks, Wyoming’s majestic Teton Mountains are in high relief at Grand Teton National Park. From the 13,770-foot Grand Teton to the glittering Jenny and Jackson lakes – which reflect the mountains in their depths – the photo ops are endless. But the park isn’t just for mountaineers and photographers. In the peak summer season, the area’s trails call to hikers of all abilities and reveal gems like hidden waterfalls and breathtaking views of the Tetons. Meanwhile, the Snake River appeals to kayakers, rafters and those that simply fancy a float, and historic districts like Menors Ferry and Mormon Row attract history buffs interested in the 19th-century past of this piece of Western Frontier. 

The nearly 500-square-mile park also contains a range of wildlife, including black bears, grizzlies, moose, antelope and bison, and for autumn visitors, the park lights up with golden aspens. Plus, travelers that want to tick off another national park on the same vacation can travel the few miles north to Yellowstone, which adjoins Grand Teton (you’ll save $10 on combined admission if you choose to visit both parks). 

Zion National Park

Named for the Hebrew word “refuge,” Zion National Park – nestled in Utah’s southwest corner – is no longer the quiet sanctuary it once was. In 2016, the park saw a record-breaking 4.3 million visitors, a 17 percent increase from its last record-breaking year in 2015. It’s as if travelers stumbled upon a secret and can’t get enough of the apricot-colored Zion Canyon, which they can view wading through its Virgin River or ascending Angels Landing, with each bend in the river or turn in the trail affording an even more breathtaking view. Plus, the blanket of stars that illuminates the night sky is a welcome nightcap to a day filled with active pursuits. And when it’s time to come back from the refuge to reality, the 166-mile drive from Las Vegas or the 308-mile drive from Salt Lake City is just about the right amount of time to process all the beauty you just experienced.

Kauai

Brilliant sunsets, pristine beaches, aquamarine skies – Kauai has mastered seduction. But the oldest island in the Hawaiian chain doesn’t have to resort to over-the-top luxury or tourist traps to entice; instead, it appeals to a no-muss, no-fuss type of traveler. You prefer rural to resplendent? Kauai’s your island – there are only two major highways, and some regions can only be explored on foot. Resorts are no taller than a coconut tree (literally).

Some would say that you need little more than a good pair of hiking boots, an umbrella and an adventurous spirit to visit. But we should warn you: You might also need a little cash. Kauai has put a premium on its natural beauty and prized hiking trails, and room rates during the winter can reach $500 a night. To get the most and save the most, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons. 

More about the Top Vacation Places to Visit in Part 6.

(Information from US News & World Reports)

Best Places to Visit in USA – Part 4

Jackson Hole

Sandwiched between Grand Teton National Park to the north and miles of national forest in every other direction, the Jackson Hole valley has remained relatively isolated from the burgeoning travel industry. Instead it has survived on local industries like logging, ranching and, during the 19th century, fur trading. But recently, Jackson Hole has encouraged the rise of tourism. Former blue-collar settlements like Jackson and Grand Teton now boast notable art and performance venues, and mega ski resorts have transformed the region into an up-and-coming winter wonderland. When planning an opulent getaway, many people don’t give western Wyoming a thought. To those travelers, we say: Think again.

Sure, you won’t encounter the glitz and glam of Aspen or Lake Tahoe, but the beauty and vastness of the Jackson Hole region has caught the attention of Hollywood celebs like Harrison Ford and politicos like former Vice President Dick Cheney. Yet, even with its fresh and luxurious upgrade, Jackson Hole remains first and foremost the heart of mountain country, with rugged trails and miles of open space that recall a time before the West was won.

Lake Tahoe

Incredible, extraordinary, mind-boggling … try as you might, you’ll have difficulty finding words that do justice to the sheer beauty of Lake Tahoe. Resting on the California-Nevada border, Lake Tahoe has long been a favorite vacation spot, welcoming upward of 2.7 million people a year. Visitors are drawn here by the steep granite cliff sides and towering mountaintops, as well as the crystal-clear waters that have earned Lake Tahoe the reputation of being one of the most beautiful bodies of water in the United States. While the stunning blue lake alone is worth a trip, the surrounding area, also known as Lake Tahoe, boasts miles of hiking trails, dozens of picture-perfect vistas and some of the best skiing in North America.

But wait – there’s more. Lake Tahoe seems to have adopted the major traits of its neighbors. You’ll find San Francisco-style high-end shopping and dining along the lake’s north shore, while opportunities to test your luck reside in the south shore’s Reno-esque casinos. You’ll also find plenty of activities that Lake Tahoe is proud to take credit for, including mountain gondola rides, hot air balloon adventures and scenic cruises across the mirror-like water.

Juneau

Juneau is a pit stop for most travelers. Cruise ships pull into harbor, dump their passengers at the dock and allow them to wander around town for a few hours. However, the astute journeyman (or woman) will see Alaska’s capital city as a gateway to Mother Nature. While the seriously intrepid may venture to Glacier Bay National Park and Admiralty Island National Monument, less-experienced nature lovers will find incredible scenery right in Juneau’s backyard at Mendenhall Glacier and Tracy Arm Fjord. This small town (with only about 30,000 residents) is no longer fueled by mining, fur trading and whaling; outdoor enthusiasts are the economic driving forces here. And now, the citizens of Juneau brandish cheap souvenirs rather than hunting equipment. But don’t take the bait: The best souvenirs will be the priceless photos you shoot with your own camera. Juneau’s majestic setting leaves many in utter awe.

More Best Places to Visit in USA in Part 5.

(Information from US News & World Reports)