TravelChannel.com names the “Travel’s Best: All-American Vacations” for 2014. Whether you want some quiet time alone with nature or are looking for the ultimate family road trip, this year’s 10 best will take you across the country to must-see U.S. destinations that will make you proud to be an American.
The “Travel’s Best: All-American Vacations” for 2014 (in alphabetical order):
Bannack State Park, Montana
If you’re road tripping through southwestern Montana, pull into Bannack State Park for a taste of America’s past. It is a well-preserved ghost town that you’re invited to walk through and discover its beauty. Founded in 1862 after a major gold discovery on Grasshopper Creek, this massive abandoned mine town in Beaverhead County has two campgrounds and over 60 buildings – most of which can be explored. Don’t miss “Bannack Days” during the third 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.
Black Hills, Dakotas
Want remote, rugged beauty with a heaping helping of Americana? Then head directly to the western Dakotas – home to the breathtaking Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorials – some of the world’s largest mountain carvings. Awesome day trips include the historic Wall Drug Store (a rustic mall for weary travelers), Minute Man National Park (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 for a chance to be surrounded by herds of buffalo, chattering cities of prairie dogs and herds of wild horses.
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
It’s arguable that you can comb the United States over and 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. 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 Cove Trail for a swim, try your hand at fishing, or have a relaxing picnic while enjoying the view. Just don’t put off your summer-time visit – Crater Lake’s first snowfall is often in September.
Everglades National Park, Florida
Florida’s Everglades National Park has one of the most unique ecosystems in the U.S., a subtropical paradise of plants, birds and rare wildlife – including manatees. Take an airboat tour and keep your eyes peeled for alligators and crocodiles. It’s the only place in the world where they coexist. With fishing, camping, hiking, biking, kayaking and canoeing, the Everglades offer an array of activities. Explore the tropical mangrove forests and miles of sawgrass. And don’t forget the bug spray.
Finger Lakes, New York
A road trip in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York has been described as a drive of a lifetime – and for good reason. With rolling hills and glacier-hued vistas dotted with Amish farmland, charming small towns and nearly 100 wineries, life slows down as you follow the two-lane blacktops along the lakeshores. Take a detour to Watkins Glen State Park. It looks like a scene from Lord of the Rings, but it’s actually a breathtaking waterfall gorge. Within a two-mile stretch of the state park, the glen’s stream drops 400 feet (over 200-foot cliffs) creating 19 waterfalls along the way.
Joshua Tree National Park, California
* pictured above.
Sometimes you want to escape somewhere so remotely you blissfully experience absolute silence. Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave Desert is a treasure trove of its namesake Joshua trees and such rock formations as Skull and Arch Rock. Spend 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.
Home to both Dead Horse Point 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. There’s no shortage of exciting adventures for both the novice outdoorsman and seasoned explorer – mountain biking, hiking, four-wheeling, rock climbing, touring the Hell’s Revenge Jeep Trail and whitewater rafting down the grand Colorado River.
Nantucket Island, Massachusetts
Just off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass., 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. The Whaling Museum provides the sea legs for future readers of Moby Dick, and Great Point Lighthouse is a family expedition for the books.
Home to more than 30 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 four-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. 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.
Washington, D.C. 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, the Smithsonian Institution (19 museums total), the Washington Monument, Arlington National Cemetery, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, Ford’s Theater, the National Archives and the National Zoo – just to name a few! Another treat, which is only available in the summer, is a free evening concert by the Marine Drum and Bugle Corps (known as the ‘President’s Own’) as well as an impressive precision demonstration by the U.S. Marines’ silent drill team – filled with rifles and fixed bayonets flying!
TravelChannel.com editors enlisted a panel of experts that have collaboratively discussed, debated and determined the 10 best U.S. retreats and escapes. The 2014 “Travel’s Best: All-American Vacations” panelists include: James Fisher (Founder and CEO,Roadtrippers.com), The Martin Family (Cross-Country Road Trippers Randy and Heidi Martin and their children, Kristi and Kyle,thatTripUSA.com), Kinga Philipps (Host, “The Wild Side with Kinga Philipps”), Anna Vawser (Travel Expert and Blogger, The Legendary Adventures of Anna) and Don Wildman (Host, “Mysteries at the Museum” and “Monumental Mysteries”).
For more details on the “Travel’s Best: All-American Vacations” for 2014, go to: http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/travels-best/articles/best-all-american-vacations-2014