Pops 10 Best Places To Visit In the United Statesby Phil Popsrocks
Jul 22, 2007 (Updated Jan 19, 2011)
The Bottom Line This great nation has much to see. I know there are more I would add to this list if I had more time and good fortune to visit even more.
In the travels of this 57 year old guy, I have my 10 favorite tourist destinations in the United States. Some are family favorites and some are my own. I was born in New York City and live on Long Island doing business and visiting NYC for pleasure often. Please understand my reason for the #1 destination in the USA.
New York City
Where does one even try to begin to explore a city that attracts millions of visitors every year. What a site it is to see the Statue of Liberty, in much the same way immigrants did one hundred years ago, as one takes a ferry to it or near it on the Free Staten Island ferry. To look beyond to the glorious mountains of sky scrapers those people built is also humbling.
Times Square is the heart of town with Broadway's exciting lights and theatres. World class museums abound. Shopping is the best and there's a vast amount of culinary choices. From downtown to uptown it's a patchwork of small neighborhoods, each with its own atmosphere, tales and goods to offer. If the city offers too much excitement take a walk through Central park and find the unexpected. There's a castle, gondola rides, a zoo, a small children's amusement park, Shakespeare Gardens, a tribute to John Lennon at Strawberry Fields and so much more. Need more info check out my NYC review. As long as that review is, it still doesn't even cut the surface.
NY, What a town!!
Also in NY State and then crossing into Canada is Niagara Falls. I consider this all one tourist area. The falls themselves are glorious and can be seen from the river just above them or on the river below on the famous Maid of the Mist boats. One can also see them from behind by lowering into caverns dug into the rock. To see the power and hear the sound of the falls from this position is awesome. There are a number of sites to see the falls from both the US and Canadian side. Towers well above the falls give another heavenly view especially at night when the falls are illuminated with mulit-colour lights. Fire works are scheduled ten or more times each month of the summer too.
With the falls also comes other excitement. Gambling is thriving on the Canadian side and it also has Clifton Hill and happens to be one of the most exciting places in the world for kids. There is just a ton of things to do so that the only problem you may have is deciding which to put on your agenda.
Places like Ripley's Believe It or Not, Wax Museums, many themed Mini-Golf sites, fun houses and so much more are fun for the whole family. This is an area where you'll find most every chain restaurant you could imagine and some cheaper local fare too. Every other store front is a souvenir stall. Even so I highly recommend making this a stop with the kids. They will love it!
I love New Orleans and have been there pre and post Katrina. You just gotta experience that town!! Staying in the French Quarter is the best way to do it. We were there during Mardi Gras and not. We had a "party time" either way.
The streets are filled with places to drink cold beers and listen to the most varied types of music one could find in one place. It's very exciting. I also have to rave about the food. Whether eating a $50 breakfast in Brennan's or grabbing something cheap and hot in one hand with a "To Go" cup in the other, nothing tastes so good.
Beads for a flash of boobs was happening every night. A party atmosphere continues all year round.
Do not miss Preservation Hall for some noted Jazz music. Other must stops are having cafe au Lait and beignets at Cafe du Monde and also taking a walk around Jackson Square. There's still so much more to talk about.
Another interesting thing about New Orleans is that there are many National Historic places right in the city and nearby.
The Florida Keys
Being one who loves national parks I'll start just above the Keys at Everglades National Park where my kids needed to use me to block interference when a alligator blocked our walk path. Be sure to take an air power boat ride outside the park, Awesome! Biscaynes national Underwater park offered Snorkeling but down in the Keys, John Pennekamp State park offered some of the best snorkeling my wife and I have ever done. Going south to Islamorada and stopping there is a favorite of ours. they have some excellent places to eat and also watch the sunset with a cold one in hand.
It was nearby there the family rented a large boat and went out on our own for the day. Excellent!
Of course the best of all is Key West. It's a sort of New Orleans with it's music, style and food that meets the Caribbean with it's laid back and tropical feel.
A few highlights there are Mel Fisher Museum, The Hemingway House, and Mallory Square. At the latter you will find food vendors and many street entertainers eager to get a crowd to watch them do their thing, and then pass the hat. The Duvall Crawl is an option for those who like to see a different bar every half hour until they can't see any longer.
I love National Parks and a half day visit to Dry Tortugas National Park on a speedy boat is a must. Have a cheeseburger in paradise at either Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville or let your imagination go when staying at Cocomo beach on the property of the Wyndham Casa Marina on the quieter end of town.
I left my heart there many years ago and have not done any reviews of it but it still calls my name. My wife and I were there on our first road trip across the states over 35 years ago. I returned much more recently for business. It's changed yet hasn't changed a bit!
The Golden Gate Bridge is awesome to see and a stop at Fishermen's Wharf obligatory. I love that place. Chinatown in San Fransisco puts NYC's to shame when it comes to size of the area and its ethnic beauty.
Doing then tourist bit is fun in this city. A ride on a trolley or driving down the crookedest street in the world are two ways of seeing the cities different moods and neighborhoods. Those hills are amazing and its unbelievable how a city was build that way.
I have never made it to Alcatraz but that would be on my top list now. Another place I'll mention is Redwood National Park north of the city. It's worth the drive up there. Amazing!! If you can't get that far try closer Muir Woods.
I've been to Las Vegas a couple of times. Loved it! The hotels on the strip are magnificent with one trying to outdo the next in size and theme. We have stayed at three places and I have to say we enjoyed all of them. Being on the strip is the best. Be sure to take advantage of all that is free. The fountains at the Bellagio hotel were a wonder. Taking a gondola ride in the Venesian splendid and the roller coaster ride at New York, New York almost as cool as Coney Island's Cyclone. Dining in the "Paris" hotel was heavenly.
The diversity of entertainment is incomparable. We say some magic shows, Cirque Du Soleil and even the ol' kid Wayne Newton. Some tickets you must order months in advance.
One reason we came here wasn't for gambling. It was for national parks. We stayed at one hotel a few days and then rented a van and went to three national parks including the North Rim of the Grand canyon, Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. All were awesome in their own way.
Acadia National Park/Bar Harbor
People look at me strange when I tell them that Acadia national park is my favorite of all I have seen to date. it's much small than so many others. It's one of the most visited of national parks and it's much harder to get away from the crowds in this one than most other park. Even so, it has it special moments and magical places. It's know as, "Where the mountains meet the see" and though people from the west would laugh at the size of these "mountains" they may understand their beauty and magnificence
by spending a week on and among them.
We happen to enjoy riding the loop drive and seeing the sites there being sure to get off and hike some of the trails including our family favorite, the Bee hive.
The rugged seacoast is inviting every part of the day. Early mornings bring a warm sun and the sound of lobster boats bringing in their delicacy. the afternoon brings people out to the beach that is made of tiny delicate particles of shell. The cold waters are not for the meek.
We sit on rocks in the late afternoon having a glass of wine and sitting comfortably while reading a book and watching the sun settle in the west.
At night the beach once again beckons, This time for some wonderful night sky viewing that can also be done from the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the east coast. People who watch the sun rise from there are the first in the US to see it.
Mixed in between the park land are many small boating villages and towns. Bar harbor is the largest with museums, restaurants of all sizes, price and cuisine. Shops and boutiques share the storefronts along with old book stores and kayak and bike rental shops.
My children were so taken by Maine's coast that one spent his honeymoon at Acadia/Bar Harbor and my daughter elected to go to a college up that way.
Pennsylvania Dutch Country
In less than 4 hours I will once again be in this area where some people turn back the clocks and live without electricity. We go to the Lancaster area that is the heart of the "Amish Country". Many tours of farms and buggy rides give the history and show how these people still live today.
The countryside of farmland is peaceful. The serenity is broken up by the sounds of the whistle of the Strasburg railroad that gives open car rides through the country side. There's also a train museum and a miniature train museum for enthusiasts.
I love the food. A number of places specialize in the "Dutch Country Cooking". Some like Good and Plenty serve to tables family style. Friends, family and strangers share the table and pass the food around. We like that. Many others serve their food buffet style. The cooking is stick to the ribs goodness. Mmm!!
The are also has a fine mix of Christian theme shows at the Sight and Sound Theatre and Living Water Theatre. great shows and the theater will blow you away. The show even competes with NYC's radio City shows with its grandeur.
We usually make a stop at one of the many outlets stores or the small country farm shops on the roads.
We are going this time with our grand daughters. There is always plenty for kids to do besides learning about the people who farm the land there. Dutch Wonderland is perfect for children 3-13. A 45 minute ride can get one to Hershey park too. We like the local mini-golf courses and the many motels have pools. Ours even has live animals that the children can pet.
South Dakota's Black Hills
We have been privy to visit this area twice in our lives. Once 35 years ago when the construction of the Crazy Horse Memorial was just beginning. This is a privately funded monument that is being built by a Polish family. We saw it then when it was hardly a chip off the ol' mountain. now, even though its a lifetime from being completed, is now taking shape.
Completed many years ago is Mount Rushmore. (Actually there was more work to be done that wasn't completed)This is one of those sites that draws one to take photo after photo. The museum is informative too.
This is all nearby Badlands National Park. We slept in it and its one of our favorites though we do have a number of them. Scenes of the movie Dances with Wolves were filmed there.
I also have to mention Custer State Park that is one of the most beautiful I have seen anywhere across America.
We were fortunate one year to be in this area at the same time as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Very Cool. Pops had a photo taken. Pops was wearing a white golf shirt and white shorts with white sneakers. Surrounding him in the photo are about seven or eight rough lookin' characters all in black leather as we posed with Mount Rushmore in the background.
Whether the bikers are in town or not be sure to visit Wall Drugs. We saw signs for it hundreds of miles away. It's a tourist trap that is worth a look.
Washington D C
One of the best part about Washington DC is it's free. OK so you still have to pay heavy prices for food and lodging and a couple of prime destinations will cost ya but, the Smithsonian Institute, that covers many museums, memorials and monuments offer an incredible amount of sites that would take months to even scratch the surface.
Just walking along the Washington Mall is a wonder any time of year. My wife and I were there at Cherry Blossom Festival time this year. WOW!!
Besides seeing sites like the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and Jefferson Memorial, there are many others that many people never have the time to see.
The new WWII Memorial is fitting after following the honor given to those in the Vietnam War and Korean War. Both of those are haunting to visit. I try and visit every time I visit that city.
To walk the halls of the Capitol Building and also through the rooms of the White House shows the freedom we still have in this nation. I can add to that my being able to march in many protests over the years.
Washington DC also has many neighborhoods that are well worth exploring and excellent restaurants within them.
This has always been a favorite for many reasons. It's so hard to pick the best of ten places to visit in the USA, but it sure is fun trying to find out which it is.
Let me know your favorite top ten favorite tourist destinations too.
Looking for a good time.
New York City
Keys and Key West
Pennsylvania Dutch Country
Acadia National Park/Bar Harbor