Adventurous Americans and curious international visitors to the United States will find that every state in the nation boasts unique and exciting travel destinations, but a few states stand out as “not to be missed” travel stops. Beautiful scenery and outdoor adventure activities, historical site exploration, family fun, museum and art gallery hopping, theme parks and nature parks, and seasonal festivals can be found everywhere, but the following states offer a wide variety of the best American sampling for every traveler.
- New York
“The city that never sleeps,” also known as “The Big Apple,” New York City is the nation’s largest metropolitan area and should be the first stop on a traveler’s list. Theater productions on- and off-Broadway and multiple film venues are delightful entertainment, restaurants and cafes represent flavors from around the world, and shopping opportunities are endless. The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), the Metropolitan Museum (the MET), and the American Museum of Natural History are fascinating discovery spots. People watching in Times Square and strolling through beautiful Central Park are favorite activities for locals and visitors, and vibrant nightclub and music venues are abundant sources of fun. Other state highlights include Niagara Falls, the Adirondack Mountains, historic Saratoga Springs and the horse racetracks, and many large, beautiful lakes such as Lake Placid, Lake George, and the Finger Lakes.
- North Carolina
The state’s Atlantic coast beaches are some of the finest in the nation. The northern half of the coast is outlined by the Outer Banks, a 120-mile stretch of barrier islands and home of the famous Hatteras Lighthouse, glorious seashores and sounds, water sports, migratory bird watching, and charter boat fishing adventures from Oregon Inlet. The state’s southeastern tip offers popular Wrightsville Beach, many fine neighboring beaches, and the historic port city of Wilmington along the Cape Fear River, an exciting downtown mix of music, theatre, restaurants, shops, antiques, museums, nightclubs, and galleries. Walking tours and those by trolley, boat, and horse-drawn carriages give visitors pleasant, informative introductions to the city. The western part of the state provides the majestic Smoky Mountains, with whitewater rafting, kayaking, camping, climbing, hiking, biking, cozy inns and cabins, and ski slopes.
- Washington, D.C.
Though the District of Columbia is technically not a state, it merits inclusion as the nation’s capital and for its provision of many iconic monuments, memorial parks, museums, natural parks, and galleries. In the public space National Mall park, The Lincoln Memorial is a moving experience across from the Washington Monument and its serene Reflecting Pool, and nearby is the Jefferson Memorial and Tidal Basin where visitors rent paddleboats and picnic on the grassy grounds. The Korean and Vietnam War Veterans Memorials are also quite moving to visit, and the U.S. Capitol Building and the White House are favored tours. The Smithsonian Institute’s 19 museums and its National Zoo are wonderlands of discovery, especially its Natural History museum and its Air and Space Museum. The National Gallery of Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Freer Gallery, and the National Portrait Gallery house some of the world’s finest modern and classical art and sculpture collections.
Surrounded by water on three sides in northern California, San Francisco, with its steep, rolling hills and ethereal, chilly summer fogs, presents Fisherman’s Wharf with fantastic seafood, specialty shopping, fine dining, tours of the chocolate factory at Ghiradelli Square, and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area alongside the Bay and its famous Golden Gate Bridge. Active cable cars delight visitors and carry them to North America’s oldest and largest Chinatown and other areas for superior restaurants, galleries, and shopping. Further south, Monterey and Carmel are lovely areas to visit on the coast and home of the annual Monterey Jazz Festival. San Diego offers SeaWorld, an exciting 200-acre marine adventure park that more than four million people visit annually, the world-famous San Diego Zoo, golfing, dining, and more than 70 miles of pristine beaches. Los Angeles and Hollywood attract millions of visitors hoping to spot celebrities and taking advantage of great shopping, fashion centers, top restaurants and nightlife, and art galleries.
Known as the Sunshine State, Florida boasts a vibrant East coast, a stunning Gulf Coast to the west, and the adventurous Everglades and Keys at the south tip of the peninsular state. Key West, once the home of Ernest Hemingway, is a popular landmark island for visitors. One of the most popular destination areas in the state is centrally located Orlando, home to Disney World, SeaWorld Florida, and Universal Studios Orlando/ Universal’s Islands of Adventure, three theme park complexes that provide ample opportunities for fun, excitement, and discovery for all ages. The Pinellas County area attracts many visitors for its attractive beaches and Tampa Bay location, with metropolitan Clearwater and St. Petersburg its central cities full of museums, gourmet and casual eateries, golf, boating, bike trails, galleries. Nearby Largo is home to the Florida Botanical Gardens, a vast collection of diverse gardens and wildlife habitat on 90 natural and 30 cultivated acres.
The United States offers travelers so many choices for exploration, discovery, adventure, and recreation, and this list highlights some of the best the nation offers its residents and international visitors to enjoy. It is but a small sampling, however, meant to encourage travelers to explore all the country’s great states.