Chances are you’ve dreamed of visiting far-off places like the Eiffel Tower or Mount Olympus. But the truth is, there are so many amazing things to do right here in America. Before you pay thousands of dollars to travel the world, consider looking in your own backyard — you’ll find plenty of things you really should do at least once in your lifetime. To make the most of your vacation time, be sure to take advantage of what the U.S. has to offer.
Cross the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere
The Mackinac Bridge, also known as “Mighty Mac,” is the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere and the fifth-longest bridge of its kind in the world. This suspension bridge is an incredible 8,614 feet in length, or about 1.6 miles long. However, the entire bridge — not just the suspended portion — is 26,372 feet in length, or about 5 miles long. Ever since Mighty Mac opened to traffic on Nov. 1, 1957, an annual bridge walk has been held. On Sept. 6, 2021, you can join Michiganders and bucket list-checking travelers alike in a journey across the historic landmark.
See where the Freedom Riders fought segregation
If you’re not familiar with the subject, the Freedom Riders were a group of African American and white civil rights activists. They rode together on buses through the southern United States in 1961 as an act of protest against segregated bus stations — and they were met with terrible violence by segregationists.
Now, you can visit the spots where these brave men and women stood against injustice. The Freedom Riders National Monument in Alabama is relatively new to the National Parks system and offers four sites where important events occurred, including the famous Greyhound Bus Station where Freedom Riders were attacked by white protesters. The station is actually one of nine sites on the Anniston Civil Rights and Heritage Trail in Anniston, Alabama, so you’ll have plenty to explore.
Peer into a 16-story pit lined with waterfalls and plant life
If you’re already in Anniston, Alabama, you really should stop by fackler, which is just two hours away. This unassuming town is home to one of the coolest places to visit in the U.S. — the neversink pit. The sinkhole-cave combo is 162 feet deep, measuring 40 feet wide at its mouth and double that at its floor. The walls of the neversink pit are lined with waterfalls, ferns and endangered plant species in the spring, making it a nature lover’s dream. If you’re not brave enough to enter the pit, you can at the very least take some pretty impressive pictures at the top.
Visit the place where the spirit of Christmas lives year-round
Believe it or not, you can actually travel to the North Pole, and you don’t have to be an Arctic explorer to do it. In fact, North Pole, Alaska, is about 30 minutes away from Fairbanks International Airport, making it fairly easy to find Christmas magic year-round. The Miller family started the Santa Claus house in the town around 1949, and it offers reindeer-petting, a 42-foot-tall fiberglass Santa and other Christmas-themed fun. The Millers have received tons of wish lists over the years and replied with more than 2 million personalized letters “from Santa” to children around the world.
Watch a ballgame at the home of the Green Monster
Marketed by the MLB as “America’s most beloved ballpark,” Boston’s Fenway Park is also the oldest baseball stadium. It opened on April 20, 1912, as the official home of the Red Sox. Some of baseball’s most iconic figures — Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, David Ortiz and more — played ball as Sox at Fenway, so the historical value alone is worth a trip.
However, Fenway Park’s famous 37-foot-tall, emerald green fence is also noteworthy. Originally built to keep looky-loos out, the Green Monster has become synonymous with the park and is definitely worth seeing. Be prepared, however — the cost to see a game at Fenway Park isn’t cheap.
Observe the Northern Lights on America’s tallest mountain peak
It’s not every day that you get to witness the beauty of the northern lights. So, if you’re planning for a rare opportunity to watch this sky show, why not do it from an amazing vantage point? You can see aurora borealis firsthand during the second week of August each year on Denali — America’s tallest mountain peak — in Alaska. The long hours of darkness also make it a great time to stargaze, if nothing else.
During the day, you can go bird-watching, hike trails and meet the only sled dog team in the National Parks system.
Get your kicks on Route 66
Though an official Route 66 no longer exists — it was decommissioned in 1985 — the legendary path from Chicago to Los Angeles remains a draw for many adventurers. Fortunately, about 85% of the original route is still intact, including many famous roadside attractions. Visit the Gateway Arch in St. Louis; stop at the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas; and stay at the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona. You can get turn-by-turn instructions through eight states via Historic66.com.
Lay eyes on the bell that inspired abolitionists, suffragists and Civil Rights leaders
Journey to Pennsylvania’s Independence National Historical Park, home to the State House bell — otherwise known as the Liberty Bell. It was first introduced in 1751 but didn’t become a symbol of liberty until the 1830s, when abolitionists used its inscription as a mantra of sorts. Its side reads, “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof.” The same inscription would inspire suffragists in the mid- to late 19th century, as well as civil rights advocates in the years after that.
Reflect on dark days in US history at the 9/11 Memorial
Sept. 11, 2001, marked a tragic day in American history: A series of coordinated attacks were carried out on the country’s governmental landmarks, resulting in almost 3,000 deaths and nearly 10,000 injuries. It will forever be remembered as the day that the World Trade Center towers fell.
Though it’s hardly a fun outing, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York is a must-see for every American, especially those who witnessed the horrendous events unfold either in person or on television. The museum spans 110,000 square feet and offers two core exhibitions, as well as other rotating ones. The memorial is located outdoors and includes the name of every person who died in the attacks.
Hike to Horseshoe Bend amid beautiful red rocks
Arizona is a hiker’s dream — and it’s even better if you’re aiming for the perfect Instagram shot. The state’s red rock formations are a natural wonder and make for gorgeous photo backdrops. Explore Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona, where the Colorado River curves gently around a massive rock formation, creating — you guessed it — a horseshoe shape. However, remember to be careful! There are no railings around the cliff edges.
Spend a day at ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’
It’s all in the tagline, really. Spend a day — or more — walking around Disneyland, aka “The Happiest Place on Earth.” You’ll meet your favorite characters, watch parades, eat delicious foods and appreciate Disney’s meticulous attention to detail everywhere in the theme park, from the rides to the trash cans. Disneyland, located in Anaheim, California, is one of the most famous places to visit in the U.S., so you have to go at least once.
Tour one of the most notorious prisons in the US
Certainly one of the most historical sites in America, Alcatraz was once an active, high-security prison, home to infamous criminals like George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Al Capone, and Robert Franklin Stroud, aka the “Birdman of Alcatraz.” The prison is no longer functional, but you can visit the empty structure — as well as the surrounding 22 acres of island — via a guided day or night tour. It’s just a little more than a mile off the coast of San Francisco, so you’re likely to get gorgeous views of the Golden Gate Bridge, too.
Check out books from Edgar Allan Poe and HP Lovecraft’s old haunt
Affectionately known as “the Ath,” the Athenaeum library in Providence, Rhode Island, was instituted in 1836. Fortunately, its history has been well preserved. You can view 19th-century copies of famous works like Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass”— with notes in his own handwriting — and stunning, old artwork lining the walls. The library was notably used by both H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe; the latter was famously dumped by his girlfriend in the Ath’s halls.
Drive (or ride a horse) along the Pony Express National Historic Trail
In 1860, the Pony Express was founded. It was a horseback mail delivery service that ran from St. Joseph, Missouri, all the way to Sacramento, California. At the time, the Pony Express was the fastest way to send a letter. Today, you can travel the 1,800-plus miles by car or — if you’re feeling adventurous — take a 10-day horse ride along the trail with hundreds of riders from the National Pony Express Association.
Witness a high-power Tesla coil — plus stunning views of LA
At the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, you can look out over the City of Angels, marvel at the famous Hollywood sign and gaze up at the stars. But there’s a lot of fun to be had inside, too. That’s where a Tesla coil, on display since 1937, entrances visitors with jolts of electricity every hour. Better yet, seeing the coil in action is completely free.
Survive a night at the hotel that inspired ‘The Shining’
Take a pilgrimage to the Stanley Hotel in Colorado, where paranormal happenings are said to have inspired author Stephen King’s “The Shining.” Though his experiences took place in room 217, the hotel plays the horror film on a loop in all of its guest rooms for visitors’ enjoyment. If you book far in advance, you can stay at the Stanley Hotel over Halloween and attend its annual Shining Ball and Halloween Masquerade Party. Currently, a two-night stay between Oct. 30-31 will cost you just under $600 at the minimum.
Dip your toes in one of the famous 10,000 lakes
Minnesota is known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” but here’s a fun fact: There are actually closer to 12,000 in total. No matter which way you look at it, you’ll have plenty of lakes to choose from on a sunny day. Some of the best lakes to visit are Lake of the Isles, Gull Lake and Lake Mille Lacs, according to Thrillist. Whether you decide to swim, kayak, fish or take a cruise, you really can’t go wrong.
Plant your feet on the highest bridge in the US
Cañon City, Colorado, is home to one of the coolest places to visit in the U.S. — the Royal Gorge Bridge. This structure is the highest bridge in America, and it was also the highest bridge in the world before China’s Sidu River Bridge surpassed it in 2009 (which, in turn, was surpassed by the Duge Beipanjiang bridge in 2016). At its highest point, Colorado’s impressive bridge is 956 feet above the valley floor below. What’s even more impressive, though, is the unsettlingly small amount of money used to build the bridge: $350,000.
If you’re brave enough, you can zip line across the gorge or take an aerial gondola. But you can also just walk across the bridge.
Survey the home of an influential American writer
Samuel Clemens, otherwise known as Mark Twain, is one of America’s most beloved authors. So, it’s fitting that his Hartford, Connecticut, house — finished in 1874 — has been turned into a popular tourist stop. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” ”A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” and “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” were all written in Twain’s home. To learn more about the author, you can also visit the museum that was later added to the property.
Discover the historic wonders of the Freedom Trail
Boston’s Freedom Trail includes 16 of the most historical places in the U.S., from the site of the first Boston Tea Party meeting to the home of Paul Revere. You can do the 2 1/2-mile route on your own, but why not take a guided tour? Let passionate historians in period dress explain what life was really like back then. You can even opt for a historic pub crawl, which includes some very on-the-nose Samuel Adams brews.
Look up at a 31-foot-tall statue of the legendary Paul Bunyan
In Bangor, Maine, a gigantic fiberglass statue of folktale favorite Paul Bunyan stands in Bass Park. According to Atlas Obscura, it isn’t just tall — this Paul Bunyan “may also be the most handsome Bunyan in existence. In America, giant Paul Bunyan statues can be found all across the roadways, but many are fairly crudely sculpted roadside muffler men.” You may also recognize the attractive statue from the book “It,” another Stephen King classic.
Enjoy barbecue and blues on iconic Beale Street
Beale Street in Memphis has been called “Tennessee’s top tourism attraction,” “America’s most iconic street” and “the official home of the blues” — those are a lot of claims to fame. See it for yourself and take part in live music as well as delicious food and drinks. You can even download the Beale Street app, which offers live music updates, historical information about the area and more.
Avoid a shark bite at the location that inspired ‘Jaws’
In the summer of 1916, a series of brutal shark attacks rocked Matawan, New Jersey. Surprisingly, two of the incidents occurred in a freshwater creek farther inland than the initial shoreline attacks. A 300-pound bull shark was finally captured and confirmed via its stomach contents — yuck! — to be the culprit. The whole thing inspired Peter Benchley to publish “Jaws” in 1974. The book was famously adapted by Benchley and writer Carl Gottlieb for the screen a year later, and the film was directed by Steven Spielberg. Luckily for fans of “Jaws,” you can visit Matawan Creek free of cost.
Stand among giants — aka the tallest trees on earth
Venture to the Redwood National and State Parks, where the tallest trees on Earth — redwoods, of course — reside. The park spans 37 miles of California coastline and is home to numerous other species of wildlife, including black bears, banana slugs, oak trees and Douglas fir trees. Take a hike, go camping or — if the timing is right — even get married in this magical forest.
Relive spooky times at the center of the 1692 witch trials
Salem, Massachusetts, home to the infamous 1692 witch trials, has truly embraced its dark history. The town offers numerous witchy activities, including tours, plays, museums and documentaries about the trials. Of particular note is the Witch Dungeon Museum, in which a guided tour and award-winning reenactment take place daily from April through November. The area’s tourism site describes it as “the most exciting experience in Salem.”
Ride a mule through the mile-deep Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon runs through the middle of Arizona’s aptly named Grand Canyon National Park. The massive ravine is about 10 miles across, and from South Rim Village to the North Rim Village, it’s 215 miles. Sure, you could drive, but why not venture into the canyon with the help of a trusty mule?
As long as you are at least 9 years old, stand over 4 feet 9 inches tall, weigh less than 200 pounds and can understand instructions given in English, you qualify for a South Rim mule ride. Just be warned, reservations are available 15 months in advance — and they fill up fast. You can also sign up for a North Rim mule ride, but note that this option doesn’t take you down to the Colorado River.
See Lincoln’s rocking chair and the Rosa Parks Bus — in the same place
The Henry Ford museum is home to some pretty amazing artifacts, including the bus on which Rosa Parks stood — or sat, as it were — against segregation, the chair that former President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in, George Washington’s camp bed and more. Make your way to Dearborn, Michigan, to explore 250 acres of history and culture.
Kick your boots up in the capital of country music
Tennessee is home to not only the blues but also country music. Nashville, in particular, is a hotbed of country western activity, including the Johnny Cash Museum, Grand Ole Opry and Tootsies Orchid Lounge, the first honky-tonk. Catch live music, hit the museums or grab a cold one at one of Nashville’s well-loved bars, like Lonnie’s Western Room.
Trek through limestone caverns around 400 million years old
Meramec Caverns is one of the most distinctive places to visit in the U.S. The 4.6-mile cave system located along the original Route 66 gets about 150,000 visitors a year — and for good reason. According to Atlas Obscura, the ancient caverns in modern-day Missouri were “shelter for Pre-Columbian Native Americans, the first cave west of the Mississippi to be explored by Europeans, a saltpeter plant for the Union Army during the Civil War and a hideout for the notorious outlaw Jesse James.”
Pay your respects at the Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard
If you’re a big ice cream fan, you may remember Ben & Jerry’s flavors like Wavy Gravy, Economic Crunch, White Russian or Sugar Plum. Well, they’re all dead and buried now — in Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard in Waterbury, Vermont.
All of the famous dessert duo’s decommissioned flavors are represented on tombstones, each with an adorable epitaph. Take a 30-minute tour of the ice cream factory and its backyard cemetery — Ben & Jerry’s offers these tours every day of the year, aside from Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Climb inside the crown of Lady Liberty
You’ve probably heard of tourists visiting the Statue of Liberty, but you might not realize that you can walk around inside of her crown. The crown is currently closed due to the ongoing pandemic, but in normal times, a round-trip ferry ride and entry to the crown — plus access to the surrounding grounds and museums — costs $23.80 per adult, departing from New York City’s Battery Park. Note that if you want to see the crown, advance reservations are required. You’ll also need to climb 162 narrow stairs, but the views are worth it.
Get swarmed by bats under Congress Avenue Bridge
In Austin, Texas, the Congress Avenue Bridge — which crosses Lady Bird Lake — is home to the largest bat colony in North America. The roughly 1.5 million bats take flight in droves nightly between mid-March to November. You can watch the phenomenon happen from several different vantage points — including aboard a cruise ship.
Step into the famous painting ‘American Gothic’
In Eldon, Iowa, you can visit the real-life house that was used as the backdrop in Grant Wood’s prominent 1930 painting, “American Gothic” — you know, the one with the rather morose-looking farm couple. This spot was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, and now includes a visitor center with information on the house. Get your picture taken in front of the house with your beau, and recreate one of the most iconic paintings in history.
Retrace the Lewis and Clark Expedition across the US
Lewis and Clark’s National Historic Trail spans nearly 5,000 miles across 16 states. If you don’t have a covered wagon handy, you can drive a regular car to retrace the famous explorers’ steps. There are numerous visitor centers and museums in each state, which promise to keep you informed during your epic road trip.
And, if at any point the trip doesn’t feel authentic enough, you have the option of contracting cholera or getting a member of your party bitten by a rattlesnake.
Remember the epic, bloody history of the Alamo
You probably know the phrase “Remember the Alamo” — but what exactly does that mean? If you’re not from Texas or Mexico, you might not be familiar with the bloody history between the two regions. The Alamo, a former mission located in San Antonio, Texas, was the site of a major event in the Texas Revolution between 1835-36. On April 21, 1836, Texians defeated the Mexican Army and won Texas’ independence. Today, the structure is open to visitors, offering battlefield tours, summer camps and exhibits year-round.
Marvel at the gigantic, stony likenesses of 4 US presidents
What’s better than learning about past U.S. presidents from a history book? How about gazing at their gargantuan heads carved into a mountainside in South Dakota?
At Mount Rushmore National Memorial, learn all about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln — from their childhoods to their presidential legacies — by starting with an informational film in the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center and then walking along the approximately half-mile, information-packed Presidential Trail.
Learn the real story behind Pocahontas — not the Disney version
On May 14, 1607, about 100 settlers from the Virginia Company of London landed on Jamestown Island. They established the first English colony in Virginia, but keeping it afloat would prove to be difficult. Over the years, the group faced repeated attacks by Powhatan Native Americans, as well as disease and famine. Seven years later after the settlers arrived, Pocahontas, the daughter of Chief Powhatan, married tobacco grower John Rolfe in an attempt to unite the warring peoples.
It’s a complicated story, one that was loosely interpreted — to say the least — by Disney. The area is worth a visit to understand what truly happened between the settlers and Native Americans.
Take a horse and buggy back to simpler times in Amish country
Speaking of going back to a bygone age, try Amish Country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The area offers tours, museums, children’s activities such as doll-making and, of course, buggy rides. It’s an excellent opportunity to disconnect from technology and see how a resilient, devout group of people get by just fine without everyone’s favorite ladies, Alexa and Siri.
Conduct a seance, buy a voodoo doll and stumble down Bourbon Street
There’s so much to do in New Orleans’ French Quarter that it’s hard to cover it all. You’ll want to explore noteworthy streets like Bourbon and Rampart — the latter has a champagne bar, a restaurant where you can get chicory cafe au lait and Croque-style sandwiches, a 4,000-seat theater and a park dedicated to Louis Armstrong. The French Quarter isn’t something you can truly do in a day — think about all the food you’d miss! — so plan to make this one a proper trip.
Explore the birthplace of the Blues
If Beale Street isn’t enough for you, the Mississippi Blues Trail includes hundreds of sites integral to blues culture, including clubs, churches, cotton fields and cemeteries. Have a favorite blues artist? Try using the Mississippi Blues Trail directory to find markers around the state that mention them. There’s even an app that will help you chart your course and learn more along the way.
Reenact the infamous shootout at the OK Corral
Tombstone, Arizona, is known as “the most authentic Western town left in the United States.” Indeed, you’ll find stagecoaches, a silver mine and a shooting gallery. Watch gunfight reenactments at the O.K. Corral, which is the site where Wyatt, Morgan and Virgil Earp and friend Doc Holliday engaged in a shootout with the Clantons and McLaurys. Don’t worry, though — it’s safe.
Immerse yourself in a play on the biggest stage in America
New York City has so many iconic destinations — including the Empire State Building, Central Park and Times Square — but the Big Apple is perhaps most synonymous with its entertainment. Broadway hosts the country’s most popular musicals, including “The Phantom of the Opera,” “The Lion King,” “Chicago” and “Hamilton,” and its selection changes routinely. If you want to see a mesmerizing show, there’s no better place to do it.
Snap a selfie 605 feet over Seattle
The Seattle skyline wouldn’t be complete without the Space Needle, which was originally made just for the 1962 World’s Fair, themed “The Age of Space.” The futuristic structure has seen many renovations over the years, and now features floor-to-ceiling glass walls on its observation deck and boasts the world’s first and only glass floor that rotates. If you’re not afraid of heights, grab a bite at the top and look out at the city, ocean and mountain range beyond.
Avoid getting shanghaied in these seedy underground tunnels
Portland, Oregon — now known as a hipster’s paradise, thanks in part to sketch comedy show “Portlandia” — was once known by a darker name: the Forbidden City of the West. From 1850 to 1941, citizens and visitors to the Pacific Northwest city were at risk of being kidnapped and sold into slavery to corrupt ship captains. The method of the so-called Shanghaiing is a subject of debate among historians, but some theorize that Portland’s more unscrupulous business owners would ply victims with alcohol, drug them or knock them unconscious, and then drop them through trap doors to the city’s underground tunnels. After a period of imprisonment, men would be sold as slaves while women were sold into prostitution overseas.
The Cascade Geographic Society offers tours that start above ground and go below to parts of the original tunnels.
Walk through one of the bloodiest battlegrounds in US history
At the beginning of July 1863, the Union and the Confederacy collided in what would be one of the most significant and pivotal battles of the Civil War: Gettysburg. There were over 7,800 fatalities cumulatively and over 20,000 injured on the Pennsylvania land.
Today, you can watch living history demonstrations at Gettysburg National Military Park and learn from knowledgeable historians. Modern-day America is a divisive place, so it’s more important than ever to familiarize yourself with its troubled past.
Gaze at colorful, bubbling geothermal systems in wonder
Spanning three states, Yellowstone was the first area to be named a national park, due in part to its 10,000 thermal sites, including geysers and hot springs. Some of the geothermal systems include entrancing, rainbow-colored pools that are among the hottest environments on Earth. Not only can you explore these natural aquatic wonders, but you can also experience all the wildlife that the giant park has to offer. Drive through and spot black bears, bison, coyotes, foxes, deer, eagles and more.
Hop on a big bus tour of the Nation’s capital
Washington, D.C., is the capital of the U.S. for a reason — it’s home to many important governmental and historical buildings, including the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, White House and Capitol Building. Luckily, you can conquer them all by taking a tour. The Red Loop tour offered by Big Bus Tours takes you to the National Mall as well as the city’s most important landmarks.
Smell the flowers in America’s longest-running rose test garden
Portland, Oregon, is home to a rose test garden that’s not only vast and beautiful but also the oldest in the country. The International Rose Test Garden, aka the Portland Rose Garden, offers visitors a peek at more than 10,000 roses. What’s more, you can get spectacular views of nearby Mount Hood and downtown Portland from the gardens.
Trace the grizzly history of this uniquely shaped mountain
Devils Tower in Wyoming doesn’t have a grisly past — as the name might suggest — but it does have a grizzly one. A Kiowa folk legend says the mountain got its distinctive shape when two girls were chased to the top by giant bears that left claw marks in the mountain’s sides. Whether it’s true or not, you can climb the national monument or simply snap a picture of it from the safety of the ground below.
Honor fallen Americans at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
On a hill overlooking Washington, D.C., lies the 624-acre Arlington National Cemetery — a final resting place of America’s service members. In 1921, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was created with approval from Congress to bury the unidentified remains of a World War I soldier. Inscribed on the tomb are the words, “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”
Today, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is also known as the Tomb of the Unknowns, as unknown service members of all branches of the military have been interred there in nearly every war since World War I. You can pay your respects to the fallen heroes who protected the U.S., especially those who had no one to mourn them.
Stash your loot in a hideaway used by Jesse James, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Have you ever used the term “hole-in-the-wall” to describe a bar or restaurant as off the beaten path and maybe kind of seedy? Well, this is the real deal. In the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming, the Hole-in-the-Wall Outlaw Hideout was a spot beloved by train robbers, cattle rustlers and other criminals. Big names like Jesse James, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid have used it to lie low.
If you want to vacation here, you’ll have to make a reservation request through Willow Creek Ranch’s website — and they don’t come cheap, depending on the activities you choose and the amount of time you plan to stay. But, if you’re a cowboy fan, the price might be well worth it.
Visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial in Honolulu
The Pearl Harbor National Memorial in Hawaii marks the Japanese attack on the U.S. in World War II. On Dec. 7, 1941, the USS Arizona was bombed, killing 1,177 sailors and Marines — 900 of whom could not be recovered and remain on board the sunken ship to this day. To never forget the terrible attack, which ultimately claimed the lives of 2,390 people, a memorial was constructed over the sunken USS Arizona.
Pose next to the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
When you picture Hollywood, you might think of the Walk of Fame. The celebrity-dedicated stars have lined Hollywood’s sidewalks for over 50 years — and the number of them keeps growing. There were over 2,600 stars as of July 2018, according to Mental Floss. You can find star maps in many places, including on Amazon, where a comprehensive guide can be purchased for your Kindle for $10.
Dine at a UFO-shaped McDonald’s in Roswell, New Mexico
Roswell is famous for its connection to the extraterrestrial. Is an alien ship being kept in a government facility? Do UFOs abduct unsuspecting people passing through? Are the aliens themselves being held captive? Does this conspiracy go all the way to the top? Who knows.
Regardless, you can explore all things weird in this city that has embraced its alien ties — even its McDonald’s is shaped like a UFO. And the burgers? Well, they’re out of this world.
Uncover a long-buried city destroyed by fire
Like its sister city of Portland, Oregon, Seattle has a fascinating underground history that you can explore. The original city — largely consisting of wooden structures — burned to the ground in 1889, and newer, sturdier buildings were built right on top of the old ones. Luckily, you can take a guided tour of parts of the city’s underground that still exist today.
Stroll along a special black sand beach in Hawaii
Due to volcanic activity in the area, Punaluu is a black sand beach. Its unique shores are lined with coconut palms and large green sea turtles that like to sunbathe there, making it a literal paradise. Hawaii is such a gorgeous place with so many activities to participate in — tours, festivals, water sports and more — but Punaluu is a truly unforgettable experience that you shouldn’t pass up.
Call on gorgeous Antebellum mansions — and learn the dark history of plantations
Take a tour down River Road in New Orleans, which is lined with Antebellum mansions from the days when cotton was the biggest moneymaker. The architecture is stunning, and properties are kept in tip-top shape for visitors. However, you’ll want to find a tour that doesn’t sugarcoat or gloss over the dark past of these gorgeous homes. They were maintained by slaves who worked the land and served the families who resided there — and it’s important to remember that.
Tour a massive dam constructed during the Great Depression
The Hoover Dam is situated on the Colorado River, on the border between Nevada and Arizona. The structure is a sight to behold, with the American Society of Civil Engineers dubbing it one of the “Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders” in the U.S. The dam is also a testament to American resilience, as it was built during the height of the Great Depression. It’s open to the public year-round from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. if you want to visit on your own, but you can also take guided tours of the facilities.
Backpack through beautiful and mountainous back country
Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park offers impressive views of the Teton Range, as well as beautiful wildflowers and wildlife. You can backpack, camp, take a ranger-led hike or simply relax in nature. However, you should also note that the elevation gets up to 13,770 feet, so be prepared if you’re planning to trek through the park.
If you favor something more low-key, a charming area known as Menors Ferry has an old-time general store you can visit, plus a chapel and a ferry to ride — weather and water levels permitting.
Volunteer to be an audience member on your favorite show
America is known for its television and movie industry, so it only makes sense for you to get in on that Hollywood magic. You can request tickets to one of your favorite shows — whether it’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “The Voice” or “The Price Is Right” — and land yourself in the audience. There are few things cooler than seeing your favorite star up close and getting to peek behind the scenes of a beloved show.
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