Ten Places to See in the U.S. Before You Die

by Jordan Simon Subscribe to Jordan Simon's posts Posted Nov 15th 2009 04:56 PM



Ten Places to See in the U.S. Before You Die

Ever since the author of '1000 Places…', Patricia Schultz, tapped into our collective fantasy about exploration, we have all compiled our own travel bucket lists. But since one traveler's must-see is another's must avoid, a list of America's ten top wonders is equally notable for what's not on it. Our list excludes extraordinary sights like the National Mall in Washington D.C., and we restricted ourselves to the Lower 48, otherwise Hawaii's Volcanoes National Park and Alaska's Denali would have deserved consideration too. Our aim? To include something for every taste and budget, from nature at its most dramatic at the Grand Canyon to the man-made neon circus that is Times Square. And to give you more bang for your buck, we have included a second iconic sight nearby. Whether you agree or disagree with our top ten, it proves there are plenty of amazing destinations to visit without your passport.

Ten Places to See in the U.S. Before You Die

For a small city, Columbus is a major repository of modern architecture, with works by luminaries like Eero Saarinen, Cesar Pelli, and Richard Meier. This destination says design from the get go-you enter the city over a futuristic quadripod bridge. The Visitors' Center dazzles with work by famed glass artist Dale Chihuly, while Eliel Saarinen's 1942 First Christian Church (its rectangular windows and brick tower glow like corn in the sun) faces I.M. Pei's Cleo Rogers Memorial Library (a brick pavilion with long deep recessed windows). In between, Henry Moore's whimsical massive sculpture, Large Arch, is his tribute to Stonehenge.

WHILE YOU'RE THERE: It's 75 miles to Louisville, gateway to the American Bourbon Trail. The 85-mile Louisville-Lexington corridor provides ample opportunity to drink in America's whiskey-making tradition. Our favorite distilleries are Maker's Mark for the marvelous arboretum, and Heaven Hill for its terrific Bourbon Heritage Museum.

Ten Places to See in the U.S. Before You Die

Founded in 1777, Monterey's colonial adobe buildings reflect its Spanish and Mexican roots. Its atmospheric, fog-shrouded shore has lured artists and authors alike, including John Steinbeck who immortalized the fishing industry's Cannery Row. Those same factories are now restaurants, shops, inns, and a state-of-the-art aquarium. Pacific Grove is famed for the West Coast's oldest continually operating lighthouse (Point Piños) and swarms of Monarch butterflies who bring a flash of color late fall through winter. Carmel, haunt of celebs from Jack London to Clint Eastwood, has stunning scenery, cultural history, and increasingly appreciated wines-although they don't mix well with the 17-mile road that winds along the Pacific Coast.

WHILE YOU'RE THERE: Experience the Big Sur-just a half hour drive away-its stunning terrain has boulders that look like abstract art and dramatic cliffs with stomach churning drops. William Randolph Hearst's Castle, near San Simeon, is a crazy combination of Spanish Revival, neo-Baroque, and classical Roman architecture.

Ten Places to See in the U.S. Before You Die

We admire New Orleans not just for its classic Southern belle beauty, sizzling jazz and blues, and fab food, but for its people's indomitable spirit. The Big Easy offers both ooh-la-la lasciviousness in the French Quarter, centered around graceful Jackson Square and spirited Bourbon Street, and genteel antebellum mansions in the Garden District, its oak trees draped year-round with Mardi Gras beads. Did we mention the food? Try the beignets at cafes percolating with debate and chicory-laced coffee, muffaletta and oyster po' boy sandwiches, or go upscale at innovative modern outposts run by top toques John Besh, Susan Spicer, and Emeril Lagasse. Bon appétit!

WHILE YOU'RE THERE: Visit former plantations like Greek Revival-style Oak Alley, where docents in period dress will serve you a mint julep on the patio. And don't miss a fishing and shrimping tour; the Cajun boat captains are fonts of local lore, much of it unprintable.

Ten Places to See in the U.S. Before You Die

The Grand Canyon displays nature at its loveliest and fiercest. For the last 6 million years or so, the Colorado River and its tributaries have collaborated with weather's erosive might to carve a multi-hued gorge one mile deep and up to 18 miles wide along its 277-mile stretch. The South Rim is more accessible, but the craggy North Rim (1,000 feet higher) also provides breathtaking overlooks and trails. The Grand Canyon Skywalk, a glass-bottom walkway projecting 70 feet over the edge, allows visitors to gaze nearly 4,000 feet down. If heights aren't your thing, try rafting down the roaring Colorado River.

WHILE YOU'RE THERE: Manmade Lake Powell offers everything from fishing to exploring the 96 side canyons. Visit the Hopi Mesas, where you can buy exquisite basketry, pottery, silver, and Kachina dolls. Director John Ford used Monument Valley's lonely monoliths as a backdrop to John Wayne in his classic Westerns.

Ten Places to See in the U.S. Before You Die

Calling the signage in New York's Times Square neon is like calling the Grand Canyon an example of erosion. Fittingly for the surrounding theater district, those animated digital advertisements are officially named "spectaculars," and the largest "jumbotrons." Indeed, zoning ordinances require tenants and billboard renters to display gaudy illuminated signs and marquees. Once synonymous with squalor, Times Square cleaned up its act around 20 years ago-restoring historic theaters, expelling porn palaces and drug dealers, and opening tourist-friendly attractions. And the famed ball-Waterford crystal LCD, eco-friendly, and at 12 feet in diameter, bigger than ever-is now displayed year-round.

WHILE YOU'RE THERE: Don't dismiss Midtown Manhattan as an urban playground for gawkers, diners, and shoppers. In barely one square mile, iconic attractions within easy walking distance include the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center with Radio City Music Hall, St. Patrick's Cathedral, MoMA, and the deliciously Deco Chrysler Building.

Ten Places to See in the U.S. Before You Die

Santa Fe is a treasure trove of beamed adobe Spanish Pueblo Revival architecture. Despite its size, the nation's oldest and, at 7,000 feet altitude, highest state capital boasts an amazing concentration of arts, music, and fine dining. Artists Georgia O'Keeffe and Marsden Hartley, and photographer Alfred Stieglitz jumpstarted its arts scene; later, classical musician Igor Stravinsky helped open the internationally renowned Santa Fe Opera. There are picturesque churches (Loretto Chapel's miraculous staircase has no visible means of support), fab year-round festivals, and a world-class gallery scene around Canyon Road. There's also the scintillating setting between the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and desert, lending itself to hiking, cycling, horse riding, and skiing.

WHILE YOU'RE THERE: Nearby Taos has tours of historic and working ateliers; the homes of Kit Carson, Mabel Dodge Luhan, and D. H. Lawrence Ranch; the Millicent Rogers Museum for remarkable Southwestern art; and beautiful Francisco de Asis Church.

Ten Places to See in the U.S. Before You Die

Yellowstone was the world's first national park, an eco-pioneer established in 1872 that vibrantly paints and sculpts 3,500 square miles of rivers, lakes, soaring mountains, and plunging canyons through Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Forged by volcanic and glacial activity, its ongoing geothermal features include iconic Old Faithful Geyser, blasting 184 feet every 60-100 minutes. This is a water world of cascading falls and 136-square-mile Yellowstone Lake. The park is also renowned for wonderful wildlife watching; Lamar Valley is nicknamed "the American Serengeti."

WHILE YOU'RE THERE: Grand Teton National Park is only figuratively overshadowed by Yellowstone, as its peaks reach 13,770 feet. Over 100 alpine and backcountry lakes filigree this glorious terrain, which is perfect for hiking. The wildlife is nearly as abundant as Yellowstone, including black bear, buffalo, moose, mountain lion, and elk, while Jackson Hole refers both to the rustic-chic Wild West town and the even wilder ski area.

Ten Places to See in the U.S. Before You Die

The 40-mile Cape Cod National Seashore, established by JFK in 1961, embraces diverse eco-systems including beaches, sand dunes, marshes, wetlands, ponds, and uplands, embroidered with walking and biking trails. The glacial erratic known as Doane Rock, standing 18 feet high, is also located on the seashore. Cape Cod's architecture offers much more than the obligatory lighthouse, there are also striking examples of postmodern architecture at Wellfleet, designed by such iconic names as Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer. And everyone, straight and gay, should experience artsy anything-goes Provincetown (P-Town), where the peninsula's tip appropriately curls like a tongue stuck out at convention.

WHILE YOU'RE THERE: Take the ferry from Hyannis to Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard, both summer colonies for the wealthy, politically powerful, and creative, with striking scenery, splendid concentrations of historic buildings (white-and-gray clapboard whaling captain's homes, lighthouses, and Greek Revival mansions), as well as charming Currier and Ives-style villages.

Ten Places to See in the U.S. Before You Die

Charleston was the first U.S. city to pass a historic preservation ordinance, and it shows in the impressive array of architecture. The stately Battery District is arguably the apotheosis of antebellum architecture, culminating in Rainbow Row, named for its cotton-candy-pastel 18th-century homes. The elegant streets are lined with Cabbage palmettos and grand oaks dripping Spanish moss, while steeples pierce the "Holy City's" sky. Market Hall and Sheds, which houses the Museum of the Confederacy, has colorful open-air vendors and stands where you can take a horse-drawn carriage tour that evokes a more genteel era.

WHILE YOU'RE THERE: Visit the Low Country for sublime seafood, including the offshore Sea Islands where Gullah culture, the proud heritage of African slaves, thrives with its own traditions and language. Stop by Hilton Head, a beautiful eco-centric barrier island, where several noteworthy Gullah festivals are held, for a round of top-hole golf or lazy beachcombing.

Ten Places to See in the U.S. Before You Die

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Oak Alley Plantation, without a doubt.

December 16 2014 at 9:30 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

To include something for every taste and budget, from nature at its most dramatic at the Grand Canyon to the man-made neon circus that is Times Square. And to give you more bang for your buck, we have included a second iconic sight nearby. Whether you agree or disagree with our top ten, it proves there are plenty of amazing destinations to visit without your passport.

April 26 2010 at 1:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to quena01's comment

@quena01, I agree with you that there are n number of amazing destinations to visit but the information given here is adorable. I just love the way it describe. Thanks for showing such a wonderful photos. Recently I spend a one day at Grand Canyon with my family members and it was lifetime experience for us. It is a good place for adventurous activity. Glance at http://www.etraveldestinations.com/ to explore more new places.

November 22 2012 at 1:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David Ford

In my opinion Yosemite Nat'l Park should be #1!

April 09 2010 at 8:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hoteles Machu Picchu. Perú también como otras ciudades, cuenta con lugares turísticos, que hablan de su historia, como lo es el Machu Picchu, conocido por su increíble destaque de ingeniería y arquetecturainca, a demás de ser seleccionado como una de las maravillas del mundo. http://www.hotelesmachupicchu.net/

March 24 2010 at 7:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ali ali

i try to travel to US
a good trip with a save money

March 20 2010 at 6:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply