From the rain forest to 20,000-foot mountains, from deserts to some of the world’s most famous cities, the United States offers the avid traveler much to stay interested without ever needing a passport. Thanks to the system of interstate highways, you can travel the continental United States with ease — or drive to an airport and easily access the nation’s non-contiguous states.
New York City’s Central Park boasts natural beauty in the middle of one of the world’s most vibrant cities.
New York City
From the Statute of Liberty to Ellis Island to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City never sleeps because its residents have so much to do on a daily basis. Even nature lovers aren’t left out of New York City’s allure. An afternoon stroll in the 25-acre Central Park should fill their need for trees. Don’t leave out visits to Carnegie Deli to eat huge roast beef sandwiches. Take in a Broadway show.
Sedona’s famous red rocks rise out of the desert about two hours’ drive from Phoenix. The stunning rocks draw artists and other travelers while the so-called vortexes of high energy draw new age-types looking to meditate and heal. Travelers can stop in town on their way to the Grand Canyon, about another two hours from Sedona. The massive, 277-mile-long Grand Canyon was carved over thousands of years by the Colorado River. The canyon averages 4,000 feet deep, but reaches 6,000 feet into the ground at the deepest point. Visitors can hike or raft the canyon, or simply stare down into it.
Hawaii’s six major islands include Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai and the Big Island. Many people know Oahu since it’s home to the state capital of Honolulu. Each island has developed its own personality and features different sites. For example, many visitors like to drive up the 10,000-foot Haleakala Volcano on Maui and watch the sunrise. Other activities include hiking Kauai’s rugged Na Pali Coast and visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island or Papohaku Beach on Molokai, which, at three miles long, ranks as one of the state’s longest beaches.
Glacier National Park
Explore Glacier National Park in Montana’s Rocky Mountains, which features more than 700 miles of trails and more than 1 million acres of forests, lakes and meadows. View 70 mammal species such as the grizzly bear and gray wolf. More than 270 bird species, such as golden eagles and harlequin ducks, also call the park home. Glaciers carved the park’s terrain millions of years ago. If you only visit the park for a short time, drive the 50-mile Going-to-the-Sun Road, on which you can view the park’s interior without hiking it. Call the park during the winter to check on the road’s status, since snow sometimes forces the park to close portions.
Home of Mardi Gras, the historic French Quarter and a world-famous music scene, New Orleans attracts visitors with its diverse and strong cultural roots. The city has worked diligently to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina devastated it. Locals have even created a new branch of tourism called voluntourism in which visitors — families and singles alike — arrive in New Orleans to help with the rebuilding efforts. If you just want to come and have fun, the city will welcome you for that, too. Ride the city’s famous streetcars and explore St. Charles Avenue with its historic mansions and huge Audubon Park with nature trails and lakes.
Denali National Park
Alaska features some of the United States’ most wild terrain, and Denali National Park showcases much of it. View the 20,000-plus-foot Mt. McKinley. If you don’t feel like backpacking the Vermont-size park’s trails, take a bus along the 92-mile long Denali Park Road — the park’s only one. Rides on the bus provide visitors with ample chances to see wildlife. In fact, riding the bus gives people more opportunity to see wildlife than hiking, according to the National Park Service, since animals are more accustomed to the sound of the bus than hikers and so are less likely to run away.
Explore California’s coast, where wine country meets cliffs that fall off into the sea. Adventures in this area include wine tasting, driving the famed Pacific Coast Highway, and visiting attractions such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Hearst Castle. Explore the Big Sur coast near Carmel or scuba dive in Monterey Bay. Walk through downtown San Luis Obispo, full of shops and restaurants, or visit Ojai, a 90-minute drive north of Los Angeles, but a world away with a policy prohibiting chain stores.
The natural playground of Southern Utah features Bryce Canyon National Park, Lake Powell, Zion National Park and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Those are just the nationally designated wonders in Kane County, Utah. Also visit five state parks. The area features red rocks and mind-boggling rock formations that can serve as your backdrop for hiking, four-wheeling, camping and playing golf. Also visit Frontier Movie Town, where you can tour old movie sets from the Western movies shot in the area.
Explore Colorado’s mile-high city where urban living meets outdoor wonderland. Visit the Denver Art Museum or the Museum of Nature and Science. Walk down the milelong 16th Street Mall, packed with more than 500 shops and eateries. Explore the city’s wild side in the 23-acre Botanic Gardens or in the city’s zoo. Bike along the city’s 850 miles of paved trails that provide access to an even larger network of dirt trails. You can also sign up with the city’s bike sharing program, which allows you pick up a bike at one station and leave it at another.
Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville, North Carolina welcomes visitors with a mixture of cosmopolitan flair and Southern charm. The city’s downtown teems with locally owned cafes, street musicians and boutiques. Attend the Bele Chere festival, the Southeast’s largest free street festival that Asheville puts together every July. Visitors flood downtown and enjoy art, food, music and a children’s play area. Visit historical attractions such as the Biltmore House, a 250-room house on an 8,000-acre property that the public can tour. Also visit the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, where the author grew up.
- Lonely Planet: Top 10 Places to Go in the US in 2011
- Sedona Chamber of Commerce: The Allure of Sedona’s Vortex Sites
- National Park Service: Grand Canyon National Park Service: Nature and Science
- California’s Central Coast: Ojai Visitors Bureau
- National Park Service: Glacier National Park: Nature and Science
- National Park Service: Denali National Park and Preserve: Wildlife Viewing
- New York City: The Official Guide
- Sedona Chamber of Commerce
- National Park Service: Grand Canyon National Park Service
- Hawaii’s Official Tourism Site
- National Park Service: Glacier National Park
- National Park Service: Denali National Park and Preserve
- Official New Orleans Tourism Website
- California Central Coast Tourism
- Kane County Utah Office of Tourism and Film Commission
- Visit Denver
- Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce
- Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images