After I posted the previous article regarding my favorite stops around the globe, my friend Jayne hit me up on Facebook and ask me what my top spots in the United States were. This led to a great deal of thinking. I slowly came to realize that I couldn’t answer the question in the same fashion as I had addressed the previous one. Every time that I sat down and tried to come up with a short list, it turned out to be a long list. When I attempted to delete places from the list I only ended up adding more places to the list.
I’m not attempting to say that America somehow has a great many more spectacular places than the remainder of the planet. I think we would all come to see that as ridiculous. I’m saying that it’s harder to narrow down that field because I’ve spent more time at so many more places in America. The more time you spend in a place, the more it gets rooted into you (Like the Louvre in Paris or the British Museum in London have for me internationally.) Because I’m American, I have spent more time travelling around America. In this case, decades more time. So, simply saying to someone that may not know as much about America has to visit this place and that, I think would be disingenuous.
Alright, with that out, what did I end up deciding to do with this? Within this article is a list of places that I think anyone would enjoy immensely. They are not the top items, nor are they in any particular order. They are simply ones that have floated to the top of a very long list.
#1 Chicago, Illinois
Where I’m not a natural fan of U.S. cities, I do have a great affinity for the city of Chicago. Though I hail from New York (not the city), I have spent nearly a decade of my life wandering in and out of Chicago. This city, pressed tightly against the side of Lake Michigan, has everything one could want from a city. World class museums, great theater, all the major sports teams, and excellent concerts. It has a major airport system at it center, so getting in and getting out are not a problem. (I have flown from Chicago directly to both Hong Kong and Rome, so they have adequate air service.) Also, where I think that there is a case to be made for Chicago living up it its reputation for horrendous winters, they also have excellent summer. Catching concerts at night on the lake front is one of the joys of summer in Chi-Town.
#2 The Adirondacks and ST. Lawrence River Valley of Upstate New York
Second disclaimer, I grew up in the ST. Lawrence River Valley. It was, and will probably always continue to be, my home. The rivers and woodland, dotted with dairy farms and rolling field are beautiful in their splendor, year round, only giving way to the majesty of the Adirondack Mountains to the south. There is a peacefulness in the Adirondacks that I have experienced in few other settings.
There are some regional airports, but the most realistic way to get there is to fly into Syracuse, New York, and then rent a car. Though the Adirondacks occupy a state park big enough to be an actual state, they are surprisingly accessible. Where most tourists venture no farther than Lake Placid, I would suggest taking the time to explore.
3# Las Vegas, Nevada
Okay, I admit it. It may be cliché, but I love Las Vegas. It’s the quintessential American Weekend City! And, if you’ve ever watched the traffic coming into town from the interstate out of Las Angeles on Friday, you know that statement is true. Admittedly, three days in Sin City can feel like a week, but that’s also part of its charm.
I have been to Vegas many times over the years. These days gambling and all-night drinking as been (mostly) replaced by golfing with my good friends Vicky and Frank. I suck at golf, but we still have a great time.
Over the years I have been to the city for many reasons. I have rented motorcycles from the Harley Dealer and road around the southwest with my friends (Billy, Leonard, and The Puma). I have spent nights in the trance of the Electric Daisy Carnival. I have been in the arena with the screaming masses for the UFC fights. And yes, I wandered The Strip semi-intoxicated, looking for a slot machine that liked me. I day tripped to Hoover dam, and used it as a convenient airport for canyoneering in Utah. If you can think of it, Vegas can accommodate you.
There’s no real reason to explain how to get there. Every airline knows how to find it. And, if you’re driving in, you can’t miss the signs!
#4 The Four-Corners Region, Southwestern United States
Okay, sorry about the picture quality above. I took the picture with a disposable camera, and then forgot to get it developed for like five years. It happens with travel pictures sometimes. I could tell you stories!
Nevertheless, The four corners area of the southwest is my favorite area of the United States, after the Adirondacks. The sandstone formations of monument valley and the surrounding area have to be seen to be truly appreciated. The majority of my explorations in the area have been on motorcycle. I would submit that this is the best way to see the landscapes of the region. An iron horse is as close to the old west of the movies that any of us are like to get these days. And, the area is also purpose built for riding. It has a lot of wide-open and magnificent. It also has fairly good infrastructure scattered around for the wayward motorcycling enthusiast. A car works equally well, though it is one of the places on earth where I would recommend a convertible.
I used Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Las Vegas, Nevada as good entry points to the area. I have also utilized Reno, Nevada and a Phoenix, Arizona, though they aren’t necessarily as convenient. You can fly into Salt lake City as well (Which I have also done), if you choose. However you get there, you enjoy it.
#5 Yosemite Valley, California
The first time I went to Yosemite, I was just looking for somewhere new to go. I was looking to climb something about the height of Half Dome, and it seemed like a good a place as any. I didn’t end up summiting the monolithic piece of granite, as you have to scale exposed rock at the top and I am scared of heights. (Sad, but true.) I did however, fall in love with the place. It was entitled as America’s third National Park for a reason. (I haven’t been to Yellowstone NP yet. When I do, I’m sure that you’ll hear about it.)
Even today, with paved roads and Park’s Services Buildings occupying the valley floor, the natural beauty of the place is in no way diminished. Looking skyward in amidst the giant sequoia and towering granite, you get a sense for why John Muir lobbied congress relentlessly. It is awe-inspiring.
I tend to fly into San Francisco, California, when I go out. It a big airport, with good rental car options, and isn’t terribly far away. The drive out of the bay area, and up into the Sierra Nevada Mountains is also quite enjoyable. there aren’t a lot of hotel options around Yosemite, so plan ahead. The park books up all but completely during the good summer months.
Okay, so that’s my say on the Good Ol’ USA. It is mostly an overview of great places. There were some others I wanted to add, but it seemed fair to keep this list the same length as the international list.
I hope that you found something interesting in this. I certainly enjoyed going back through travel pictures to find the photos for it.
Now get out there. Go explore someplace new!