USA Travel: The 25 Best Places We’ve Been

April 10, 2021
Washington D.C. is one of the best places we've been in the USA

We love the USA with all of our hearts. This is our home and we are proud to call ourselves Americans. Our country is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, with enough diversity to occupy our dreams and desires for a lifetime. Anything is possible here. We can go wherever we like, whenever we want — And we want to go everywhere all the time!

Our family got off to a slow start in the travel department. Multiple children with autism will have that effect. Now that we’re a touch more organized, our adventures are underway. We want to see it all. All 50 States. All 62 National Parks. All the mountain ranges. All the stretches of sand. All the hamburgers, tacos, and bbq plates this land has to offer. Our newfound ability to maneuver with our children has us on a quest to show them all the people, places, and things.

These are the 25 best things we’ve done in the USA (so far). We expect this list to change a great deal over the next five or so years. We are in no hurry to fly off to foreign shores; that will happen in due time. For now, we will explore the land we were given to the fullest of our capabilities. We hope you enjoy reading about our experiences a fraction as much as we’ve enjoyed living them.

1. The Island of Oahu, Hawaii

Oahu is one of the best places we've been in the USA
Ka’ena Point

Oahu isn’t just the best place for USA travel, it might be the most amazing place on earth. We love the culture and the aloha vibe.  The vibrant blue ocean contrasts fabulously with sandy beaches and rocky benches, all beneath green, folded mountains and a perfect sun. Those who visit Hawaii have their vocal preferences.  Some love Maui, others insist Kauai is by far the best. We don’t disagree per say, but we happen to think O’ahu offers the greatest variety of things to do.  The Hoffmann’s have been known to run a torrid pace when on vacation and O’ahu keeps up with that pace very well. 

O’ahu is the most populated island in the chain; over two-thirds of Hawaiian residents live there.  To some this is a drawback and we sympathize.  Paradise gets a little crowded, you know?  Because of this, we recommend you stay out of Honolulu as much as possible. There are incredible things to do everywhere, from the north shore surf towns, to the windward-side attractions, to the jaw-dropping beauty of the SE corner, to the remote and sacred NW corner.  When you come to O’ahu, be sure to get out of the city and explore this vast, majestic island.  

There are too many amazing places to visit on Oahu to document them here. To learn more, check out our article, the 20 Best Things to do on Oahu.

2. The Big Room, Carlsbad Caverns

The Carlsbad Caverns are one of the best places we've been in the USA
Natural Cave Entrance

It seems preposterous to follow a paradisiacal island with a cave, and to place it ahead of mountains, beaches, and amazing cities. We don’t care that there is no perfect sky above, or turquoise lakes, dramatic cliffs, and craggy peaks. Carlsbad Caverns is the single most amazing thing we have done in the USA. There is nothing like it on earth.

To walk around the Big Room is to come to grips with how ancient is our earth. This is an alien world, unlike any you will ever see. Carlsbad Caverns’ Big Room is the largest cave chamber in North America. The trail that winds throughout the Big Room is 1.25 miles, and you may never want it to end.

Around every turn is something unimaginable. Thousands of cave formations and structures present for your amazement, from fields of “popcorn” to inconceivable curtains of rock. Emperor stalagmites that have been forming for millions of years introduce their magnificent selves again and again, each different in texture, color, shape, and size. Brilliant pools of age old water and frightening abysses add to the unparalleled variety of wonder. In the furtherest part of the room the ceiling is so impossibly high you will stand amazed. If ever there were a “feast for the eyes”, this is it.

And to think a young boy discovered this place, and explored it, before man filled it with lights and stairways… truly incredible. Be sure to enter through the Natural Cave Entrance, just like the boy.

3. Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is one of the best places we've been in the USA
Maid of the Mist

This is the second most amazing thing we have done in our USA travel. Niagara Falls is a quintessential tourist attraction in our country, but truth be told, we were less than excited about this particular stop. It felt more like an obligation. Perhaps those low expectations set us up to have our minds blown.

You see, there is this moment when the boat pushes past where you thought it would, where the water is frothing and the mist is heavy. You can hear the boat struggle as your body begins to sway in the wake. After a moment your mind settles down and the incredible power of the falls captures your complete attention.

Is there anything more powerful on the face of the earth than this? It is a stupefying moment, the kind in which we find religion. And as you stand awestruck, your hands clutching the side of the boat, the roar of the falls and the buzz of the boat engine filling your head, your body lost in rolling, rodeo waves, your autistic child jumping and clapping and giggling… you guffaw to yourself, innocent as a child, as if you were watching the creation of the world. And as the moment peaks, a voice is heard over the speakers; it is the Maid of the Mist boat captain, although he sounds as magnanimous as God himself. Every cackling, touristy fool shuts up and listens.

“Ladies and gentlemen, behold… Niagara Falls.”

4. Charleston Historic District

Charleston is one of the best places we've been in the USA
Downtown Government Building

Charleston is the greatest town we have visited during our USA travel. Maybe it was the weather, and maybe there was magic in the air. Whatever was happening those four days in June, no town has ever seemed more pleasant and accessible to us.

For openers, the town rests beautifully on a bayside prominence amidst a trio of gorgeous rivers. Across the surrounding marshlands, boating trails run between big porched homes and the ocean — a splendid sight to any northwesterner. Magnificent beaches like Folly Beach, Kiawah Island, and Isle of Palms make perfect weekend jaunts minutes from town.

Natural beauty aside, Historic Downtown Charleston is the ultimate draw in these parts (other than the people). The colossal homes are endlessly fascinating with their alluring floor plans, classic colors, and tiered balconies (sometimes five high). We spent hours strolling the streets, reading the placards on each home: 1665. 1687. 1703. Each home, each building, each sky-scraping church steeple is a piece of American history, glorious and beautiful. Charleston is a living, breathing museum; charming and active and warm.

Some of our favorite highlights were Fort Sumpter (the first battle of the Civil War), Ravenel Waterfront Park, the historic Charleston market, and eating at Husk. A sunset stroll along The Battery to White Point Gardens is an absolute must-do when in town. Rainbow Row is overrated.

5. New York City

NYC is one of the best places we've been in the USA
Times Square

NYC is the greatest metropolis we have visited in our USA travel. The streets buzz with infectious energy. It is sensory overload and we love it. We’ve been known to hang 10-15 miles per day, pacing from mid-town to Chinatown and back again. There are dozens of touristy things to do, eg, Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Central Park, and no shortage of restaurants, bars, and stores to occupy weeks of your life. You never know where the day will take you in New York City, so we push ourselves to exertion and earn our damn vacation.

Some folks are afraid to bring their children to an uber-bustling city.  They’re afraid of crowds, crime, traffic, rude people, and other things that really aren’t a problem.  We brought three kids aged 10-14, two of whom have autism, and did just fine.  New Yorkers are helpful people, friendly and wonderfully frank.  We hope you find them as vibrant as we did.  To read more about visiting NYC with children, check out our article, 10 Amazing Things to do in NYC with Children.

6. 30-A Beaches, Destin, Florida

Destin, Florida is one of the best places we've been in the USA
The best sand in the world

The best beaches in the USA (not counting Hawaii), are along the 30-A Highway near Destin, Florida. We don’t want to take anything away from the surrounding beaches along the Gulf Coast. From Pensacola to Panama City it is consistently amazing for 80 miles. The water is postcard blue and the sand is fluffy all along the way.

That said, the most lovely portion of this perfect beach is the ten-mile-stretch from Seaside to Rosemary’s Beach along the 30-A Highway. The dazzling water and flawless sand are not significantly better here, but the vibe is capricious as you float from town to town. Be sure to visit Seaside, the largest city along this stretch, with its traditional wood framed cottages and wide bike lanes. It is the perfect place to anchor your beachside getaway. At the other end are Rosemary’s Beach and Ally’s Beach, a pair of posh towns with mega mansions all along their shores.

7. The Oregon Coast

The Oregon Coast is one of the best places we've been in the USA
Ecola State park viewpoint

The Oregon Coast is a heaven apart, where wind-shaped forests glide up to the beach; where the ocean collides with dramatic cliffs; where monoliths and tidepools meet campfires and children. The state of Oregon, coast and otherwise, might be the single most underrated portion of the United States.

There are no major cities on the coast, which is a very good thing. Instead, dotting the landscape are dozens of small, seaside towns, each boasting their antique shops, galleries, and candy stores. Some of the lodgings are modern and chic, while some are mature as the boulders themselves.   

The Coastline runs 363 miles from Astoria to Brookings. Vacationers from Seattle and Portland tend to occupy the northernmost stretch of the coast, but every part of Highway 1 is worth exploring. If the California coast is on your list of USA travel destinations, consider Oregon as well. If you want to learn more, check out The 20 Best Things to do on the Oregon Coast.

8. San Antonio Riverwalk

San Antonio, Texas is one of the best places we've been in the USA
NIOSA at Fiesta

Truly, our hearts were left in San Antonio.  Once upon a time we lived here, and we loved every minute of it.  The culture of this city is unlike any we’ve ever visited, perhaps the best you will find in your USA travel.  It is a fun and friendly blend of American, Mexican, and military culture, married together is such a way that it brings out the best of everything.  

Downtown San Antonio is safe and clean.  There is the basic tourist-y area near the Alamo that collects most of the visitors.  The Historic Market Square, Tower of the America’s, San Antonio Missions, and King William district are all within walking distance to downtown as well.  

The River Walk is a collection of stores and restaurants that line a meandering river amid the downtown buildings.  Tour boats run beneath colorfully lit trees, telling the history of the city and its landmarks.  Restaurant seating intimately lines the walking paths.  Footbridges whimsically cross the river.  Horse drawn carriages straight out of Cinderella make fairytale dreams come true.  This is a tourist destination (and that’s ok).

If you want to learn more about all the things to do in San Antonio, check out The Ten Best Things to do in San Antonio.

9. Haleakala National Park Bike Ride, Maui

Maui is one of the best places we've been in the USA
Kapalua Bay

In 2006, Ryan and Monica were Mau-ied on a beach at Kapalua Bay, and it has been fifteen years of mayhem ever since. Following that ceremony and subsequent steak dinner, we proceeded to kick over every rock on the island looking for adventure.

The best of all was the bike ride down the side of the Haleakala Volcano at Haleakala National Park. A company drove us to the top at 03:00. It was frigid beyond belief. We walked about 45 minutes to the outer edge of the volcano, then sat and watched the sun rise over the clouds. It was an unforgettable experience. We then hopped on mountain bikes and rode them down the side of the volcano. Halfway down we stopped for breakfast.

The rental car agency says don’t drive the backside of the Road to Hana — we drove it. Monica almost died snorkeling with turtles (or so Ryan thought). We visited little beach (clothing optional). We cliff jumped and thrift shopped and slow danced to a Rod Stewart song. It was a wild ride. When it was all over, we named our daughter Halea, “House of the Sun”, in honor of that amazing experience.

10. The Biltmore, Asheville NC

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the best places to visit in the USA
The Biltmore

On the surface, there is a lot to like about Asheville, North Carolina.  Start with the temperate climate, then mix in the undeniable beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  People from all over the globe wind up here.  It is a splendid, artsy town with a self-proclaimed “world-wide mindset”.  For those of us who cut our hair, the town is on the strange side, like Seattle and Portland had a baby and let Appalachian wolves raise it.

Any visit to Asheville starts with the Biltmore. The Biltmore is the largest single-family dwelling you will find in your USA travel.  Construction began in 1889 and finished by 1895.  The house spans 175,000 square feet, has 250 rooms, and exemplifies how wealthy were the American industry tycoons.

Any amount of days or weeks can be spent trolling the Blue Ridge Parkway for hikes and vistas. And we cannot speak of Asheville without mentioning the fireflies. One particular evening we witnessed about a million fireflies sparkle on a hillside. We stood there mesmerized for twenty minutes trying to figure out if we were hallucinating. It is a treasured family moment. Fireflies are the most amazing creatures. To read more about Asheville, check out our article The Five Best Things to do in Asheville, North Carolina.

11. The Black Hills

Mt Rushmore is one of the best places to visit in the USA
Mt. Rushmore

The Black Hills region of South Dakota is one of the cleanest, most beautiful parts of our country.  The Lakota Tribe named the small, mountainous region “paha sapa”, or black hills, because of how the ponderosa pine trees obscure the hills with their abnormally dark colored bark. Rock formations of all shapes and sizes rise from the earth, dramatizing the landscape throughout the hills. We’ve never seen anywhere else quite like it.

The primary draw to this area is Mt. Rushmore, one of those classic American tourist destinations. It makes for a splendid half day to hike around the area and learn the history of its creation. Beyond this there are many things to do in the area. Lake Sylvan is an active lake in a spectacular setting. Badlands National Park is a highlight of the region and should not be missed. Custer State Park is full of buffalo. Wind Cave National Park, the Crazy Horse Monument, the town of Deadwood, Needles Highway, and many other things provide plenty of entertainment in one of the finest playgrounds you will find in your USA travel.

If you want to read more, check out The Five Things You Have to do in the Black Hills.

12. Outer Banks Islands, NC

The OBX is one of the best places we've been in the USA
Okracoke Ferry from Cedar Island

With all due respect to southern California, the Outer Banks Islands of North Carolina comprise the premier, non-Florida/Hawaii stretch of sand in the United States. Towns with familiar names like Rodanthe and Kitty Hawk parse along a meandering strip, sprinkled with neighborhoods of pastel homes sitting high on stilts above the beach.

The Outer Banks (OBX) run 95 miles from Corolla to Hatteras. From there a 1-hour ferry takes you south to Okracoke Island, the infamous haunt of Blackbeard the Pirate. Blackbeard has his own museum in Hatteras; it’s free and worth an hour of your time. Kittyhawk is where the famous Wright Brothers mastered the craft of flying. The Wright Brothers Museum is one of the absolute highlights of this region. We believe it will appeal to anyone who feels inspired by the driving ingenuity of man. The Wright Bros. were extraordinary human beings.

All in all, the OBX are a family Valhalla to add to your USA travel. The sand is soft and clean. Surfers and surf shops flourish in these parts, so this is an excellent place to teach the kids. The town of Corolla is home to wild horses you can track and spy from afar. We cannot wait to go back here.

13. Mt. Rainier National Park

Mt. Rainier is one of the best places to visit in the USA
Pinnacle Peak Trail

What happens when you hike around the largest mountain in the continental United States? You can’t take your friggin’ eyes off it. There is no way to describe how massive and surreal this mountain truly is. It’s larger than anything we’ve ever seen. It’s like the ocean sat up on its hind legs and ate the sky. It makes us feel so incredibly small and we love it.

Everyone knows Mt. Rainier is going to explode someday — it’s an active volcano, it’s what they do.  We have contingency plans for when it does, so it’s serious and scary.  Until that dreadful day, however, we will enjoy the majesty of Tahoma every chance we get. The three most popular points to approach the mountain are Paradise from the south, Sunrise from the north-east, and Tolmie on the west.  If you like waterfalls, three of the highest in Washington State are in Mt. Rainier National Park Narada Falls, Pearl Falls, and Comet Falls, the later of which is a real stunner and surprisingly easy to reach. 

We recommend every add Mt. Rainier to their USA travel list. To read more, check out our article, the 20 Best Things to do in Washington State (Mt. Rainier is #1).

14. Disneyland

Disneyland is one of the best places to visit in the USA
Hollywood Studios at Disney Land

Good grief, what do you say about the world’s most famous fun park? Are we going to tell you anything you don’t already know? Disneyland is an incredible place to take the kids. See? You know this.

We’ve been to Disneyland twice as a family and Disney World once. We will probably go to Disneyland again (we are self-loathing west-coasters). We would absolutely recommend Disneyland over Disney World, and if you would like to know why, we’ve broken down our analysis in a scintillating, artfully titled piece, Disneyland or Disney World?

There are better roller coaster parks for your USA travel — Magic Mountain, Cedar Point — but Disneyland is the most famous because it is the happiest place on earth (so they tell us). Truth be told, we aren’t even Disney fans. Really, though, it’s happy there. The staff are first rate and the rides are solid. If you’re looking for real life magic, Disney Land at night is about as close to magic as it gets.

15. Hiking in Sedona

Half-way up Bell Rock

Sedona, Arizona might be the most beautiful place in the USA. The stunning red rock formations that define the region endlessly capture our attention. The hiking in and around these gorgeous, bouldered outcrops is world class. Vistas like Devil’s Bridge, the wildly popular Cathedral Rock, and the above pictured Bell Rock are the kind that stick with you for a lifetime.

There is a downside, however. In peak seasons, Sedona is trafficked like Costco on a Saturday afternoon. The highways are bumper to bumper cars from 10:00 onward. The trails are blown out before 09:00. Apparently word gets out when a destination is deemed a five-star icon of natural beauty.

If you want to hike, start before sunrise. The trailhead parking lots fill fast. The trails are packed by 08:30 and it doesn’t let up until dark. We arrived at the Cathedral Rock trailhead by 05:45 and grabbed one of the last parking spots. After the hike, the entrance to the road was closed off by a green-vested guard. It was 08:30.

16. National Mall, Washington, D.C.

DC is one of the best places to visit in the USA
National Mall

Our family walked 14 miles in a single day in Washington DC, which is a family record. The children were made two promises: 1. We would take them to the Natural History Museum. 2. We would eventually feed them. These two carrots worked remarkably well on this particular day. They smiled for the camera and everything.

After arriving via train, our first order in our nation’s capitol was to the White House. Our children were intrigued and confused by the protesters, which was an experience. We then headed to the Lincoln Memorial, which was a certain highlight of the day. After checking out the Korean and Vietnam War Memorials, we walked up the National Mall past the Washington Memorial to the Capitol Building, which we toured. We then spent a few hours in the Natural History Museum (Smithsonian), and ate a big, pink cookie for about a thousand dollars.

It was a perfect day, minus the nagging hunger. Our nation’s capitol is loaded with things to see and do. It surely ranks among the top cities to visit in your USA travel.

17. Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park is one of the best places to visit in the USA
Hurricane Ridge

Olympic National Park is the most visited national park on the west coast, which is saying something, considering Washington’s NW corner is practically outer space.   Where else can you hike a mountain, stroll through a rainforest, sit on a beach, and relax in a hot spring in the same day? We know, we know. There are other places. It’s still cool. OLYNP offers our family something different every time we go, which makes it one of the best places to visit in your USA travel.

The park is 922,000 acres and has over 3,000 miles of rivers and streams.  There are 60 named glaciers.  The western slopes see more average rainfall than any place in the continental US, which makes the Ho Rainforest a terrific place to visit. To read more about Olympic National Park (and other things to do in Washington State), check out the 20 Best Things to do in Washington State.

18. Freedom Trail, Boston

Walk the Freedom Trail in Boston to add to your USA travel checklist
Sam Adams tombstone

We almost didn’t go to Boston. A friend of ours mentioned The Freedom Trail as one of the coolest thing he had done during his USA travel, so we decided to route our trip through old Beantown. The Freedom Trail turned out to be a big winner for the family. Here’s to the recommendations of trusted friends!

So what is the Freedom Trail? It is a 2.5 mile walking trail that passes by 16 historically significant places. It starts at the Boston Common (America’s oldest park), and ends at the USS Constitution (the world’s oldest commissioned warship). FYI, the Constitution is closed one day of the week (whichever day the Hoffmann’s arrive). Created in 1951, along the path you will find interesting places like Paul Revere’s house, the Boston Latin School (America’s first school, with alum like John Hancock and Benjamin Franklin), the site of the Boston Massacre, the Old North Church (where the two lanterns hung signifying the British were arriving by sea), and many graveyards hosting famous historical figures.

It takes a few hours to soak it all in. The kids might be restless by the end, depending on their age and stamina. We may never need to do it again, but it was an awesome experience and we would recommend it to anyone.

19. Sunset at Mallory Square, Key West

Key West Southernmost point is a classic USA travel photograph
Our church in Key West

Key West is the last island in a chain of islands off the southern tip of Florida.  Made famous by Ernest Hemmingway, Jimmy Buffett, Harry Truman, and others, Key West has more than its share of folklore.  Once here, you can see why so many famous people have haunted the conch republic over the years.  It is a funky paradise, the stuff dreams consist of:  Blue water, palm trees, good atmosphere, and bad behavior.  

At sunset, it feels as if the entire island gathers in Mallory Square to watch the celestial show.  Grab a seat on the outer wall facing Sunset Key and dangle your feet over the edge.  You will have to get there early, before the crowd files in.  Afterward, head over to Duvall Street. The bars, the music, the unadulterated idiocy, all the lyrical Buffet references and the alluring magic of Key West lore is summarized at night on this iconic, southernmost strip.

We recommend adding Key West to your list of USA travel destinations. To read more about Key West, check out our article, The Ten Best Things to do in Key West, Florida.

20. Gettysburg Driving Tour

Gettysburg's is an incredible experience for USA travel.
Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln are significant events in U.S. History. We learn about them in our history books (hopefully) when we study the Civil War in grade school. A less significant event was when the Hoffmann’s bored the crap out of their children as we listened to the narrative CD while tooling around the vast Gettysburg area. It’s a big property with over 20 stops, each accompanied with stories, statues, and landscapes — making it the perfect venue to exasperate a posse of tweens. The day went on so long that there was a mini-revolt in the Winnebago. This unfortunately resulted in us skipping the last few stops (including the cemetery).

Until that breakdown moment, the Gettysburg tour captured all adults’ attention. The stories transported us to the dreadful days surrounding to the battle. They showed us the folly of Pickett’s Charge, the savagery of Devil’s Den, and the heroics of the soldiers. Every monument seemed worthy of our examination. At the end of the tour, the Gettysburg Cemetery where President Lincoln gave his rousing address brought the day to an emotionally stirring conclusion. Or so we’re told. We wouldn’t actually know. We were at a WAWA gas station on our way to New York City. Maybe next time.

21. 17-Mile Drive / Big Sur

The Lone Cypress is an iconic stop along 17-mile-drive.
Lone Cypress along 17-mile-drive

From Morro Bay to Monterey, the California Coast is at its finest around Big Sur.  Here, the Cabrillo Highway meanders along the mountainsides, turning in and out of rocky inlets, encouraging all who wander to take their time.  Not that Californians ever take their time – they run right up your backside in these parts.  Regardless, there are many pull-outs along the way to let them pass and take in some of the most spectacular views you will find in all your USA travel.

While someone could drive this stretch of Highway in a half-day or less, we would encourage you to take as much time as you can.  To read more about Big Sur, check out our article, The 15 Best Things to do in the Big Sur Region.

Of all the Big Sur sights, views, and hikes, we found 17-Mile-Drive to be the most enjoyable. A ritzy neighborhood nestled in a gorgeous setting charges $10 to drive along a circular route between Carmel and Monterey.  The district is home to the world-famous Pebble Beach Resort.  The homes are beautiful, some beyond compare.  The primary attractions are numbered on a map and easy to find along the way.  There’s an assortment of restaurants, all expensive, amongst the sensational beaches and vistas.  After you pay at one of several gates, you are invited to linger long as you’d like.

22. Delicate Arch, Arches National Park

Delicate Arch is a classic site for USA travel.
Delicate Arch

Located in Eastern Utah, Arches National Park is most recognized for the above pictured Delicate Arch, one of the most iconic USA travel vistas. The hike to the arch is all uphill and not especially pleasant. To get there, the masses parade across a sprawling rock incline to the tune of wailing children. If you pass this essential test, the meandering path leads through sandy alcoves and eventually around the side of a large rock outcrop.

As you crest the trail and drop into the bowl surrounding Delicate Arch, perhaps you will feel overcome with reverence. This is a special place. One could sit and contemplate for hours, read a book, sketch the tableau, or take a thousand photos. The crowds don’t detract here, either. You might have to wait in line to get your photo taken under the arch, but everyone is helpful and friendly.

The rest of the park is impressive as well. Remarkable sights like Three Sisters, Balanced Rock, the Devil’s Garden, and many others are worth exploring over a weekend or longer. We will definitely be returning to Arches National Park.

23. Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon is must-do USA travel.
South Rim, Grand Canyon

It’s a big hole in the ground and everyone plans to see it in their USA travel. If we sound unimpressed it is our own fault. We visited the South Rim and spent 3-4 hours checking out the view points between the entrance and the visitor center. It was stupid crowded in the park and the busloads of tourists absolutely detracted from the experience. Needless to say, the views are spectacular if not redundant along the path we chose.

Ryan’s parents and his brother have rafted the Colorado through the Grand Canyon and ranked it among the very best things they have ever done. We have also been told the North Rim, while less convenient, is just as beautiful and far less crowded. We will have to give this one another try down the road.

24. Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park is a USA travel destination.
Bear Lake

Rocky Mountain N.P. is defined by 12,000′ peaks, thick forests, and mirrored lakes. Hiking is superlative and abundant all throughout the park, with over 350 miles of trails to wind your ways. The park itself is over 400 square miles, and it quietly nestles to Estes Park.

Estes Park is an active town poured into the basin of mountain peaks. A river twists along its funky streets, giving a whimsical, stroll-able feel. Storefronts boast glass-blowing parlors and river ride extravaganzas. The vibe is hippie-riche, which is alluring.

On an aside: We’ve found something unfortunate happens in remote, beautiful places where the wealthy and the artists coalesce. You see it in Sedona and Carmel, and it’s happening in our beloved Cannon Beach — the arrogance of the residents/merchants creates an almost hostile vibe. Tourists are needed, yet the enemy. These type of places become Milford Academy-esc: children are neither seen nor heard because the artists are not amused. Our children struggled a bit in Estes Park, which means Monica struggled, too. Ryan and his pretentious, douchey-side loved it.

25a. Las Vegas and Surrounding State Parks

Seven Magic Mountains is a lesser-known attraction outside Las Vegas.
Seven Magic Mountains

Vegas is a string of mega-hotels replete with the hope of sex and fortune.  Truth be told, we don’t gamble, get high, or rent friends for the evening.  We come to Vegas for the pools, restaurants, shows and state parks.  We also enjoy the features of the hotels.  

Vegas represents an affordable way to shove off for the weekend, eat some amazing meals, soak up the sunshine, hike in the desert, and people watch. Sometimes we need it to be easy and Las Vegas is super easy for USA travel. Check out our article, The 15 Best Things to do in Las Vegas, to learn more.

25b. Gorge Trail, Watkins Glen

USA travel should take your through Watkins Glen.
The Gorge Trail, Watkins Glen

If you find yourself in the Finger Lakes region of NY state, be sure to check this place out. Some have called it, The Prettiest Mile in the United States. Locals call it “The Glen”, so when pontificating in these parts be sure to drop the Watkins.

Walking into Watkins The Glen is akin to visiting the elves in Rivendell. Sure, the elves are unwashed coffee drinkers, and the LOTR soundtrack has been displaced with tourist prattle, but these minor assaults on your good senses are a small sacrifice for otherworldly beauty.

The Gorge Trail is the best hike in the park. It is approx. 1.5 miles one-way and the single best way to spend your time here. Along the path are 19 waterfalls, each more stunning than the next, which culminate in a magnificent setting around Rainbow Falls (intentionally not pictured). There are also 800 well-maintained stairs and an assortment of beautiful bridges that cross the river.

Watkins Glen is a lesser-known USA travel destination, which means it is still cool.

Conclusion

No real conclusion here. Just wanted to mention that if USA travel sounds like something you want to do, but you don’t know how to pull it off, or you need a few pointers (or chuckles), check out the best thing we’ve ever written: How to Plan a Trip: The Skills to Cultivate a Lifetime of Travel. It is a professionally designed, 25-page ebook full of colorful photos, hilarious stories, and the best of our knowledge. It is free, our gift to you for stopping by.

We hope you have enjoyed this article! Please check out our other articles for more information. And feel free to leave a comment or drop us an email. We always love to hear from you!

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