If you live in the United States, who says you have to leave the country to travel far? There are quite some beauties right here in the good ol’ US of A that are often overlooked when making travel plans. This year, in addition to my forays around the world, I have resolved to get to know America better as well. While I have visited 45 of the 50 states, there are some monuments and gems I have yet to visit, such as Mount Rushmore…
..and Yellowstone National Park…
When it comes to domestic travel, there is a lot more to America than just Miami and Las Vegas – so if you are looking for a trip ideas within the good old US of A, why not give the following beautiful cities a look?
1. Charleston, South Carolina
Whether it’s shopping at the Charleston City Market, wandering through the city’s famous historic district, enjoying one of the famed restaurants with the undeniable Southern flavor, kicking back and relaxing on Sullivan’s island, enjoying the coastal breeze or stolling along King Street, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in Charleston!
Charleston is one of the South’s best-preserved cities. Today, Charleston is a booming seaport city that is a popular destination for domestic and international tourists for good reason. With great weather almost all year round, beautiful beaches, a charming old historic town feel, Charleston appeals to travelers who are seeking a laid back yet sophisticated getaway.
The main airport is Charleston International Airport (IATA code: CHS) and is just a short 12 mile ride from downtown Charleston. Average summer prices from major airports are as follows:
NYC – $230 round trip
Chicago – $330 round trip
Los Angeles – $550 round trip
Atlanta – $340 round trip
There are also numerous hotel options in Charleston, including the Renaissance Charleston Historic District Hotel which can be booked for around $299/night of a standard room during the summer months or 35,000 Marriott points per night.
2. Park City, Utah
Park City is a resort town located in Summit County, Utah, on the eastern-back of the Wasatch Mountains, and is part of the Rocky Mountain Range. The altitude in Park City ranges from 6,700ft. to about 8,500ft. above sea level and the surrounding Wasatch Mountain rise over 10,000ft. Park City is best known for its skiing and winter season with three world-class ski resorts – Park City Mountain Resort, The Canyons Resort and Deer Valley Resort.
In addition, Park City is also the location that hosts the annual Sundance Film Festival.
The Sundance Film Festival is an American film festival that takes place annually in Park City, Utah. Sundance is one of the largest and best known independent film festivals in the United States. It is held in January primarily in Park City, but also in Salt Lake City, and Ogden, as well as at the Sundance Resort. The festival is a showcase for new work from American and international independent filmmakers. The festival comprises competitive sections for American and international dramatic and documentary films, both feature-length films and short films, and a group of out-of-competition sections.
Celebrities flock to Sundance…
The next Sundance festival dates are January 16th through the 26th. Visit sundance.org to learn more if you would like to visit.
Though Park City is synonymous with being a winter wonderland, there’s plenty to do during the warmer months as well. In the summer, the 3 major resorts convert their lifts and runs into miles of biking and hiking trails and offer summer activities such as horseback riding, hot air balloons, food tours and scenic drives.
To get to Park City, you will have to fly to Salt Lake City International Airport which is just 36 miles from Park City via interstate 80. Average ticket prices from major cities at the time of this posting are as follows:
NYC – $250 – $380 round trip
Chicago – $380 round trip
Los Angeles – $300 round trip
Atlanta – $370 round trip
3. Key West, Florida
Located in the Florida Keys, Key West is a city and an island of the same name and is considered the southernmost city in the continental United States. Key West is about 150 miles from Miami and 90 miles from Havana.
Key West has a diverse population of residents which includes Conchs (natives, tracing their ancestry mainly to the Bahamas), freshwater Conchs (longtime residents who migrated to Key West), Hispanics (primarily of Cuban descent), recently relocated residents from other parts of Florida and military personnel.
Key West is a great place for the family and there is plenty to do for all ages including visiting the Key West Nature Preserve to see the local Key West wildlife such as lizard butterflies, the oft-visited Ernest Hemingway home and museum, swimming with the dolphins, fishing, snorkeling and the popular Conch train tours.
According to U.S. News,
Although the beaches in Key West offer the least number of activities of the Florida Keys, the calm blue waters and offshore reefs still make Key West a popular destination for snorkeling and swimming. Experts recommend Smathers Beach along the coast in the middle of the island and Fort Zachary Taylor Beach at the island’s westernmost end.
Key West’s Duval Street is often compared to Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Duval Street is lined with bars and restaurants that stay open well into the night. Visitors will also enjoy Mallory Square plaza which is known for its nightly Sunset Celebration, when street performers and food vendors fill the area starting two hours before sunset to celebrate the end of the day.
To get to Key West, you will fly into Key West International Airport (IATA code is EYW). Average ticket prices from major cities at the time of this posting are as follows:
NYC – $430 round trip
Chicago – $450 round trip
Los Angeles – $510 round trip
Atlanta – $520 round trip
There are numerous hotel options in Key West, ranging in price from the $100s to well over $300 for nightly accommodations. If you are celebrating a special occasion, check out the Hyatt Key West Resort and Spa, a 4.5 star hotel offering a wonderful oceanside retreat.
According to the hotel,
After a $10 million renovation, (the) hotel offers contemporary elegance in a dream location. Explore the picturesque Old Town area just minutes from the resort then return for unparalleled sophistication in every regard – from a pampering spa and all new 24 hour fitness center to lavish guestrooms and delectable dining.
Experience your ideal Florida vacation with impeccable service among refreshing waterfront scenery at Hyatt Key West Resort and Spa.
4. San Diego, California
San Diego is a large coastal city in California located on the Pacific Ocean in Southern California just north of the Mexican border, across from Tijuana. San Diego is home to over a million citizens and is the second-largest city in the state. Because of it’s positioning, San Diego is known for its ideal climate and impressive beaches.
Though a large city, San Diego has a somewhat slower paced atmosphere especially when compared to its northern neighbor Los Angeles. Some may find visiting San Diego to be a soothing break from all the hustle and bustle of the rest of Southern California.
In addition to the aforementioned attractions, there are several sights to see in San Diego including Balboa Park where you will find an expansive campus of museums, parks, gardens and arboretums, La Jolla which is an upscale coastal community with secluded coves, beaches and ocean cliffs to explore and dozens of coffee shops, restaurants and high-end shopping outlets, and Old Town, an area which includes preserved buildings and icons of the Spanish heritage of San Diego and the Old West and features shopping, restaurants and living history performances regularly.
While in San Diego, you may also take the opportunity to take a trip into neighboring Tijuana, Mexico. While you can certainly venture into Tijuana yourself, I’d highly recommend doing this with a reputed tour company or hiring a trustworthy and knowledgeable private tour guide, safety first.
San Diego International Airport (IATA code SAN) is less than 10 minutes from downtown San Diego. Average ticket prices from major cities at the time of this posting are as follows:
NYC – $350 round trip
Chicago – $390 round trip
San Francisco – $210 round trip
Atlanta – $370 round trip
When I visited San Diego, I stayed at the Westin San Diego, a dynamic 4.5 star hotel right in the heart of downtown heart of downtown in San Diego’s famous Gaslamp Quarter. The hotel was conveniently located and a short distance to main attractions like SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park and Old Town. I also really loved the architectural detail and the see through glass elevators through which you can get an amazing view of the rest of the hotel and into town. The service was top notch with hotel attendants ready to help you with just about any question you have.
Rates can range from $200 to $350 for a standard room depending on time of year and any advanced booking deals that may be available. If you are part of the Starwood Preferred Guest program, standard rooms will run you 10,000 points/per night.
There is also a complimentary airport shuttle to and from the hotel (which I wish I knew about before going, as I paid for taxis, but now I know). Overall, I would highly recommend this hotel for a relaxing and fuss free stay in San Diego.
5. Portland, Oregon
Portland is a city in Oregon, near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. Portland is Oregon’s most populous city, and the third most populous city in the Pacific Northwest region, after Seattle, Washington, and Vancouver, British Columbia. Approximately 2,289,800 people live in the Portland metropolitan area.
Portland was recently voted as one of the Travelers’ Choice 2013 destinations on the rise. Portland is a young and artsy city with an events calendar filled with festivals and exhibitions throughout the year.
Downtown Portland is the heart of the city, centered around Pioneer Square and home to modern commercial towers, new condominiums, and converted lofts, along with several museums and urban parks of interest to tourists, including Tom McCall Waterfront Park along the river. To the immediate south of Downtown is the campus of Portland State University and South Waterfront, an urban revitalization area at the southern end of the streetcar line with newly built glass residential towers.
You will fly into Portland International Airport (IATA code PDX) which is located approximately 9 miles northeast of downtown on the Columbia River. Average ticket prices from major US cities are as follows:
NYC – $360 round trip
Chicago – $380 round trip
Los Angeles – $210 round trip
Atlanta – $370 round trip
6. Nashville, Tennessee
Welcome to Music City! Nashville is the capital of Tennessee and is located on the Cumberland River in the north-central part of the state. The city is a center for the music, health care, publishing, banking and transportation industries, and is home to a large number of colleges and universities. It is most notably known as a center of the music industry, earning it the nickname “Music City”.
Though Nashville is sometimes called the “Country Music Capital of the World”, in recent years, Nashville has done much to escape its country music image and become a regional center of culture and commerce. In fact, Dell, Nissan, and Saturn have all moved some operations to or near the city. The music is various; major rap artists and rock bands (Young Buck, Haystak, Kings of Leon, Paramore, and Ben Folds) claim Nashville as their hometown. Nashville is also the epicenter of the contemporary Christian music industry.
According to Fodors,
Downtown Nashville has much to offer in the way of history, music, entertainment, dining, and specialty shopping. It’s also undergoing many changes. Music City Center, a new convention center complex, offers spruced up museums and streetscapes, with new attractions and hotels to follow.
To get a more complete feeling for the city, you’ll want to explore the area beyond downtown, too. Among the offerings are a variety of museums covering everything from art to cars to science, and some great places for kids, including the Nashville Zoo —not to mention the Grand Ole Opry.
Nashville International Airport (IATA code is BNA) is about five miles from downtown. Average ticket prices from major cities at the time of this posting are as follows:
NYC – $240 round trip
Chicago – $240 round trip
Los Angeles – $480 round trip
Atlanta – $400 round trip
There are also plenty of hotel options in Nashville ranging from inns in the $50s to 4 star hotels in the high $200s. Check out some tours and activities that you can enjoy while in Nashville including trolley tours around town and a visit to the Country music hall of fame.
7. Louisville, Kentucky
Louisville is the largest and most populous city in Kentucky, with about 750,000 people living in the metro area.
Louisville is a major city located on the Ohio River in North Central Kentucky across from Southern Indiana. Because of this positioning, it is known historically as the ‘Gateway to the South‘. Other local nicknames include ‘River City‘ and ‘Derby City‘. Though Louisville is not technically in the deep south, tourists will probably find a bit of the famous Southern hospitality here, along with its varied cuisine and a relaxed attitude toward life. The city also boasts a vibrant arts and music scene.
Downtown, Old Louisville, Highlands, and Frankfort Avenue areas are popular places to visit and are all walkable. Another must-see is the Highlands shopping district, on Bardstown Road roughly from Broadway to the Douglass Loop. Often described as “bohemian”, it includes art galleries, bars, coffeehouses, midrange to upscale restaurants, and is ideally navigated by foot or bike. You can meet some locals on the sidewalks without much trouble, if you are interested. The street life here is particularly active on weekends when the weather is warm.
Louisville is home to the popular Kentucky Derby, a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds, held annually on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs.
The Derby is preceded by a two-week long Kentucky Derby Festival, which starts with the annual Thunder Over Louisville, the largest annual fireworks display in North America and second largest in the world. The Kentucky Derby Festival also features notable events such as the Pegasus Parade, The Great Steamboat Race, Great Balloon Race, amarathon, and about seventy events in total. Esquire magazine has called the Kentucky Derby “the biggest party in the south.”
Of course, celebrities flock to the Kentucky Derby, why wouldn’t they? With the prim and proper old society attire, it’s a great way to show off your fashion sense without actually being interested in horse racing.
…and they do not pass up on an opportunity to wear an exaggerated hat…
My only question is, who sits behind these celebrities, and how are they able to see the horse races?
If you would like to visit the Kentucky Derby, the next Kentucky Derby starts May 3rd, 2014. Visit kentuckyderby.com to learn more.
Though the Kentucky Derby is the most widely known event, there are more reasons to visit Louisville than that. In fact, Louisville is home to a number of annual cultural events.
Usually beginning in late February or early March is the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville, an internationally acclaimed new-play festival that lasts approximately six weeks. Then on Memorial Day weekend, Louisville hosts the largest annual Beatles Festival in the world, Abbey Road on the River. The festival lasts five days and is located on the Belvedere in downtown Louisville.
In July, the Forecastle Festival draws 35,000 visitors annually to Louisville Waterfront Park in celebration of the best in music, art and environmental activism. Past performers include The Black Keys, The Flaming Lips, Widespread Panic, The Smashing Pumpkins, The Avett Brothers, The Black Crowes and hundreds more.
Lastly, the Kentucky State Fair is held every August at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville as well, featuring an array of culture from all areas of Kentucky. This year’s dates are from August 15th to the 25th.
To get to Louisville, you will fly into Louisville International Airport (IATA code SDF). Average ticket prices from major cities at the time of this posting are as follows:
NYC – $320 round trip
Chicago – $220 round trip
Los Angeles – $530 round trip
Atlanta – $220 round trip
Hope you will be able to make it out to one of these great cities soon! Happy travels :-D.
Which cities will you be visiting this year, and next? Which other cities would you have liked to see on this list?