Travel’s Best All-American Vacations 2014
Photo By: Green River at sunset, Canyonlands National Park
Photo By: South Dakota Tourism
Photo By: Robb Hannawacker / NPS
Photo By: Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images
Photo By: Thinkstock
Photo By: Carmine Sarazen / Visit Pittsburgh
Photo By: Everglades National Park
Photo By: John Elk / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images
Photo By: Lamar Gore / USFWS, flickr
Photo By: Panoramic Images / Getty Images
Home to both Dead Horse State Park and Arches National Park, the resort-like town of Moab offers some of the most stunning red-rock scenery you’ll ever experience, says Anna Vawser of blog, The Legendary Adventures of Anna. Whether you’re a novice outdoorsman or seasoned explorer, there’s no shortage of exciting adventures to be had, including mountain biking, hiking and 4-wheeling. Vawser recommends “rock climbing among the gorgeous cliffs, touring the Hell’s Revenge Jeep Trail and whitewater rafting down the grand Colorado River.”
Black Hills, Dakotas
Want remote, rugged beauty with a heaping helping of Americana? Then head directly to the western Dakotas. “Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorials are some of the largest mountain carvings ever, a testament to the United States’ ‘bigger is better’ motto,” says the Martin family of thatTripUSA.com. “Awesome day trips include the historic Wall Drug Store (a rustic mall for weary travelers), Minuteman Missile National Historic Site (an underground, nuclear-themed throwback to America’s Cold War) and the Enchanted Highway (home to rest stops decorated with a bunch of world-record sized scrap metal sculptures).” While you’re there, visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park, one of the Martins' favorites, for a chance to be surrounded by herds of buffalo, chattering cities of prairie dogs, deer, and herds of wild horses.
Joshua Tree National Park, California
Remember what absolute silence sounds like? Most days, neither do we. That’s when we escape into the Mojave Desert to Joshua Tree National Park, a treasure trove of its namesake Joshua trees and rock formations like Skull and Arch Rock. Kinga Philipps, our resident National Parks expert, suggests “spending days bouldering among Martian-looking landscapes, exploring the palm-fringed oases, watching [fiery] sunsets and experiencing silence so golden that you can hear the rush of air through a bird’s feathers as it flies overhead.”
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
You can comb the states over and not come across a body of water more mind-blowingly beautiful than Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon. “The lake is the purest shade of blue, surrounded by striking, 2,000-foot cliffs,” Vawser says. Formed in a dormant volcano’s crater, the magnificent blue lake is entirely filled from direct precipitation of rain or snow – the crater receives an average 44 feet of snow a year! “You can make your way down the Cleetwood Trail for a swim, try your hand at fishing, or have a relaxing picnic while enjoying the view,” says Vawser. Just don’t put off your summertime visit – Crater Lake’s first snowfall is often in September.
Nantucket Island, Massachusetts
Just off the coast of Cape Cod, MA, Nantucket is full of New England charm, great restaurants, eclectic shops and truly stunning beaches – making it a summer island paradise. The Grey Lady [nicknamed for its mystical fog and weathered grey-shingled houses] educates and delights, says Travel Channel host Don Wildman. “The Whaling Museum provides the sea legs for future readers of Moby Dick and Great Point Lighthouse is a family expedition for the books.”
Pittsburgh in the summer? Hear us out on this one. Home to more than 39 colleges and universities, Pittsburgh is bubbling over with young people helping to redefine the city. Steel City has even become an arts destination thanks to institutions such as the iconic Andy Warhol Museum, as well as the Mattress Factory, a contemporary art museum with room-sized installations spread throughout a 4-story warehouse. “It’s not only one of the hippest cities in America, but also it’s located in the great expanse of western Pennsylvania,” Wildman says. “Spend the day in town at the Carnegie Museums, then head south to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater to see an architectural wonder or to Ohiopyle State Park for thrilling whitewater.”
Everglades National Park, Florida
<a href="http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/road-trips/articles/everglades-national-park-florida">Florida’s Everglades National Park</a> has one of the most unique ecosystems in the US, a subtropical paradise of plants, birds and rare wildlife -- even manatees. But don’t just take our word for it. “Take an airboat tour and keep your eyes peeled for alligators and crocodiles – it’s the only place in the world where they coexist,” says Philipps. The Everglades offers an array of activities, from fishing, camping and hiking to biking, kayaking and canoeing. Explore the tropical mangrove forests and miles of sawgrass, says Philipps. “Just don’t forget the bug spray.”
Bannack State Park, Montana
If you’re road tripping through southwestern <a href="http://www.travelchannel.com/destinations/montana/photos/experience-montana">Montana,</a> James Fisher, founder of <a href="https://roadtrippers.com/">Roadtrippers.com</a>, suggests pulling into Bannack State Park for a taste of America’s past. Just 2.5 hours south of Helena, “Banack State Park is not only gorgeous, but also a perfectly-preserved ghost town that you’re invited to explore,” Fisher says. Founded in 1862 after a major gold discovery on Grasshoper Creek, this massive abandoned mine town in Beaverhead County has 2 campgrounds and more than 60 buildings (most of which can be explored). Don’t miss “Banack Days” during the 3rd weekend in July, when you can see Bannack as a boomtown. The “historical reconstitution” revives gold rush times, with reenactments by miners and an old-timey breakfast served in the old Hotel Meade.
Finger Lakes, New York
The Finger Lakes region of upstate New York is known for its world-class wineries, gourmet restaurants and spectacular scenery, but there is a hidden gem located along Route 14, just 4.5 hours north of NYC. “You should detour to Watkins Glen State Park,” Fisher says. “It looks like a scene out of ‘Lord of the Rings,’ but it’s actually a breathtaking waterfall gorge.” With 19 waterfalls, and 2 miles of lush forest, crystal-clear streams and 200-foot cliffs, road trippers can camp, swim and hike along rim trails that overlook the awe-inspiring waterfall gorge.
Washington DC Metro Area
No childhood is complete without a visit to our nation’s capital. “The list of free or nearly-free attractions is virtually endless: The White House, Capitol Hill, Smithsonian Institute (we recommend the National Air and Space Museum and Museum of American History), Washington Monument, the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, Ford’s Theater, the National Archives and National Zoo; to name just a few,” says the Martins. Baseball fans can choose to root for 2 MLB teams, the Washington Nationals on the SW Waterfront or the Baltimore Orioles, whose throwback-style stadium is within easy driving distance from DC. The Martins say, “Another treat -- during the summer only -- is a free evening concert by the Marine Band and Bugle Corps (known as the 'President’s Own') as well as an awesome precision demonstration by the US Marines’ silent drill team (with rifles and fixed bayonets flying)!”