Thinking of planning a vacation in the USA next year? Are you unsure of where to see and what to explore? This is understandable considering the vast size of the country. Luckily, travel experts devote their time and energy summarizing the best places to help make your decision easier.
Some of the global must-see places covered in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2014 include: Texas and Chicago; however there are more options available when one digs a little deeper. Keep the following on your travel radar. Regardless of whether you are into wineries and beer making, want to explore local and national history, simply want to veg on a beach or are an avid nature lover, there are an abundance of options available.
1. Grand Rapids & Lake Michigan’s Gold Coast
Those who love art, beer and the beach are all apt to agree on this location. Michigan’s 2nd largest city, Grand Rapids, proudly offers something for everyone. The National Beer Examiner Blog voted it the best beer city for 2012 and 2013. Since then, its beer tourism has reached an all-time high. There are more than 25 craft breweries in the area. During February, take in excellent events such as the Winter Beer Festival and Cool Brews Hot Eats. If you are there in August, be sure to check out the Summer Craft Beer Festival. All of these events keep the city festive on an annual basis.
The secret about Grand Rapids’ is the amazing art scene coming to light. Worthy to explore is the Frederik Meijer Gardens, offering their Rodin sculptures and impressive blooms. A fun day trip to check out is the Grand Rapids Art Museum which is refreshing to visit in its cool LEED Gold certified building. ArtPrize, the world’s largest art competition is also here with over 1700 creative masterpiece displays.
The Gold Coast of Lake Michigan is a mere 30 miles away. It may be considered the most unexpected beach getaway in the USA. Some argue that these shores rival Southern California’s and those of Hawaii. There are approximately 300 miles of seemingly endless beaches to explore. Check out the wineries, sugar-white dunes, U-pick orchards, antique stores, Hemingway haunts, berry farms and cider houses. If surfing is more your style, you can enjoy that as well. If you never thought the Midwest had much to offer in terms of vacation, think again! You can enjoy a Cape-Cod style beach vacation here instead!
One of the top pick alehouses to explore is rock-n-roll Founders Brewing Company. The lake’s Oval Beach takes first place for those searching for the smoothest sandy beach.
2. Yosemite National Park, CA
This world renowned national park suffered from a temporary closure due to a government shutdown in 2013. To many people’s relief, the thunderous waterfalls, majestic mountain peaks and sub-alpine meadows are welcoming visitors once again. The monolithic Half Dome and El Capitan provide excellent viewpoints. Consider climbing up to Yosemite Falls, the tallest in North America and visiting Inspiration Point. Here, the air grows thin as do the crowds. You can penetrate the gorgeous back country and plan a hike for months.
During the summer of 2014, the gateway communities and the park will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Grant. This was signed as a precursor to the modern National Park System by President Lincoln! This was the first time in USA history that the federal government set aside a portion of land solely for preservation by and for the people; making it a truly monumental milestone achievement.
3. Boston, MA
The 100th Annual USA Figure Skating Championships were hosted here in January 2014, right after another monumental Red Sox World Series win. These skating championships determine where the US Winter Olympics team will be. Visiting during the spring, you can be a spectator of the Boston Marathon and enjoy being among international sports enthusiasts. Even though the horrific bombings of 2013 were feared to potentially determine entrants from the 2014 race, this will be the 2nd largest Boston Marathon ever. Over 36,000 runners are taking to the course.
Summer arrives with the usual festivities that operate in full swing. All kinds of festivals take root from overflowing restaurant patios, abundant beer gardens and a thriving entertainment and arts scene. Bostonians and visitors alike are content with so many activities to keep them busy. The humidity gives way to a vibrant and impressive autumn display.
The past is very much alive here thanks to the Freedom Trail, where you can follow in the footsteps of America’s revolutionary founders. At the Bell in Hand Tavern, the oldest in the USA, visitors can enjoy some rich history. Omni Parker House is a favorite place to stay. This ancient hotel overlooks the Freedom Trail. Distinguished guests such as Ho Chi Minh, Malcolm X, JFK and Charles Dickens among others have visited here.
4. Central Coast, CA
The Central Coast often has a reputation of being dismissed as a flyover country between Los Angeles and San Francisco; however, it is a destination in its own right. This surreally scenic stretch of the Pacific Coast offers the best of California. Home to Hwy 1, one of the most iconic sea-travelling roadways in the USA, this laid back beach town features amazing wildlife such as sea lion colonies, cliff-top lookouts, and hidden coves. The Hearst Castle and numerous Spanish missions are fun to explore even during foggy weather. There are no crowds and great photo opportunities.
Take an inland trip to Paso Robles wine country, an up and coming spot for scenery rivaling Sonoma and Napa. Head back to the coast after taking in the raw beauty and coastal energy of the 100 mile stretch of the craggy Big Sur coastline. Take in the eco-conscious Monterey Bay Aquarium and its world renowned set up. They recently celebrate their 30th birthday in 2014. Be sure to purchase tickets in advance and arrive at opening time in order to beat the crowds. Bring your camera and experience an out of this world jellyfish exhibit.
Explore the numerous farmers markets that dot the coast line. For instance, San Luis Obispo’s transforms to a complete street festival every Thursday night, while Santa Barbara’s takes place on Saturday mornings and Tuesday afternoons.