The United States certainly isn't perfect, but when it comes to travel destinations, we really do have it made. This great nation of ours is home to thousands of lakes, a multitude of cities, amazing coastlines, spectacular natural beauty, theme parks galore, and more historical sites than you could see in a lifetime. Whatever it is you like to do to get away, you can do it here.
Here's my list of the top ten places to travel in the United States of America, just in time for Independence Day. Get out there and love every 3.797 million square miles of our great nation.
(Note: making a list of just ten places was nearly impossible. Putting those ten in order was even harder. This list is also limited by my experiences and preferences, so keep that in mind.)
10. Southern Pennsylvania
Filled with historic sites and beautiful landscapes, southern Pennsylvania should be on your bucket list. If you can visit in the springtime, you'll enjoy comfortable weather and trees covered in blossoms, which makes for a lovely experience. Towns like Gettysburg, Lancaster, and Hanover are quaint and full of friendly people. Go for a weekend and stay in a B&B. I promise it will be worth your while.
From the San Antonio Riverwalk to the Space Center in Houston, there's a little something for everyone in this all-American state. I can't pick just one city in Texas for this list, so I thought I'd just include them all. Texas teaches us to be strong yet hospitable, and those are vibes you'll definitely get while visiting.
8. Orlando, Florida
From its theme parks to its colorful culture, Orlando is one place every American should go (though perhaps not in July, when the humidity is usually through the roof). I hate to say it, but there are few things more American than Disney World. Innovation, creativity, the entrepreneurial spirit, and capitalism run amok? Disney World has that in spades. It's also hard not to love a city that paints its streetlights purple.
Again, I'm keeping an entire state on the list, because Vermont is just generally a great place. Beautiful hikes, wonderful skiing, and quaint towns with steepled churches abound here. Vermont is the perfect place for day-trippers and leaf-peepers. A trip to Burlington in the fall is something every American should experience at least once. Preferably with a stack of pancakes slathered in fresh maple syrup. Yum!
6. Baltimore, Maryland
Sports, sailboats, and seafood? You can find all three in Baltimore. For the second two, the Inner Harbor is truly a treasure. With great food, live music, and lots of harbor cruise options, it's a wonderful place to spend an afternoon. Baltimore really does have something for everyone. Hit up a baseball game at Camden Yards, visit the USS Constellation, or spend the day at the National Aquarium. Also, what can be more American than the birthplace of the National Anthem?
5. Memphis, Tennessee
Deep in the heart of these United States, Memphis reflects the American soul, with music that speaks to our deepest emotions and food that soothes our collective spirit. This place is all about living honestly and accepting the grit and reality of whatever may come. There's something refreshing about that. And who doesn't love a city best known for live music and barbeque?
4. Ogunquit, Maine
One of the most peaceful places I've ever encountered is a very specific bench overlooking the Atlantic along the Marginal Way in Ogunquit, Maine. The Marginal Way is a mile-long path bounded on one side by the ocean, dramatic rocks, and tidal pools, and on the other by beautiful seaside homes and gorgeous gardens. The trail connects the town of Ogunquit and its beach to Perkins Cove, a petite town of boats, shops, and classic New England cuisine. If you're looking for a classy seaside retreat perfect for couples and families alike, this is the place. (Technically, the pictured lighthouse, Nubble Light, is not in Ogunquit, but it's very nearby and is a classic piece of Americana.)
3. New York City, New York
The city that never sleeps is one of the most entrepreneurial places on earth, much less in America. Just there to see the sights? You could spend an entire lifetime in Manhattan alone without running out of things to do, but the city's fast pace might be a bit overwhelming if you're from out of town. A weekend trip is the perfect way to ease into the Big Apple's hustle and bustle. It's a great place to consider America's past as a nation of immigrants, and it's still one of the most diverse places on earth.
California is a lot of things to a lot of people, and its vast size makes it really not one entity at all, but rather many distinct geographic regions, each great for a different reason. If you're looking for one state that has it all, California might be it. Deserts, mountains, scenic drives, national parks, beaches, vineyards--the list goes on and on. I'm actually pretty sure the state of California had a series of TV advertisements a few years back arguing just that--the state is diverse and provides something for everyone.
1. Boston, Massachusetts
In the spirit of Independence Day, I have placed Boston at the top of this list. America wouldn't be America without it. You could argue that Washington, D.C. should have topped the list, being our nation's capital, and it's certainly a wonderful city. The same is true of Philadelphia for its historic importance. But Boston does what I feel other cities haven't quite mastered-- it takes its remarkable history and role in the founding of our nation and makes it truly accessible to all of its diverse residents as well as to the countless tourists that walk its Freedom Trail. Boston is a respectful, thriving city founded on the backs of patriots (and loyalists), kept alive by the hard work of immigrants, and carried into the future by Americans of all backgrounds. Boston is clean and quiet, as cities go. It's on the ocean and offers spectacular views. It has a top-notch science museum and aquarium, a multitude of amazing historical sites, world-class cuisine, a thriving sports scene, and is one of the business world's key players. Boston is home to many of the world's best universities, art museums, and performance groups. For me, Boston does what New York City just can't, despite their similarities--it welcomes everyone, educates everyone, and lifts everyone up, all without pretense or self-grandeur. And that, to me, is what America's all about.
Happy Independence Day to you all, wherever you may come from and wherever you're spending the holiday. God bless America!