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The United States isn’t the largest country in the world -- it’s dwarfed by Russia -- but it packs in a lot of attractions per square mile. At the same time, especially in the western U.S. and Great Plains states, there are plenty of wide open spaces where the roads ahead seem almost endless, often framed by mountain ranges, deserts, fields of wheat and corn and, in the northern winter, fields of snow.
Visitors from abroad (and many Americans, too) seek out the glitz of Las Vegas or the ever-popular family theme parks like Disney World in and around Orlando, Florida. Many want to see Los Angeles, California, with its Hollywood glamor and laid-back Southern California style. And they also head for the big city of New York, a world capital of finance, fashion, cuisine, and much more.
But even if Vegas, Disney World, Disneyland, Hollywood, and Times Square top your list of must-sees, there’s a perhaps romanticized but still genuine “real America” also waiting to be discovered.
You may find it in a picturesque New England village, a boisterous college football game in Alabama, a small-town diner in Oklahoma, an artsy enclave like Santa Fe, New Mexico, or at 10,000 feet in the rarefied air of Leadville, Colorado. Even if your tour doesn’t take you to Leadville or Oklahoma, there’s much to be discovered within the union’s 50 states.
California alone could fill years of adventures. San Francisco and its nearby counties of Marin, Napa, and Sonoma form an unbeatable combo of urban delights, pastoral vineyards, and rugged coastlines. North of San Francisco are the redwoods, the world’s tallest trees, and in the central part of the state are the groves of Sequoias, the world’s largest living things, all protected in national parks. Highway 1, which runs along the coast from San Francisco to Los Angeles and then to San Diego, offers scenery equal to that of Europe’s most famous coastal drives. And the blazing hot desert park of Death Valley draws adventurers from around the world.
Heading east from California, the deserts continue into the great Southwest, where you can hike in mountains and canyons (including the Grand Canyon in Arizona), relive the days of the Old West in cities like Tombstone, Arizona, and take week-long horseback treks through New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness. In southern Utah, you can go backpacking in Zion National Park and encounter otherworldly “hoodoos” (rock formations) in Bryce Canyon.
North of California, the states of Oregon, Washington and Idaho beckon with magnificent coastlines, wild and scenic rivers, intriguing islands (the San Juans) and the inviting city of Seattle on Puget Sound. Just to the east, the state of Montana is the embodiment of wid3 open spaces, with expansive scenery to match.
More than a thousand miles farther east, the Upper Midwest is one of the loveliest but perhaps least appreciated regions of the country. Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, northern Illinois -- anchored by Chicago -- and Ohio all border the Great Lakes, as does upstate New York, another unheralded gem.
New England is not to be missed. From the craggy shores of Maine to the green hills of Vermont, the winding roads of New Hampshire to the city of Boston, Massachusetts -- which played a pivotal role in American independence -- New England combines scenic beauty with history, atmospheric inns, tempting seafood, and plenty of opportunities for biking, hiking and skiing.
South of New England and New York come Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where the U.S. Constitution was written, and Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital -- both must-sees for history, architecture, and modern-day vibrancy as well. Along with New York City, Washington offers the country’s top museums.
Heading into the Deep South, the cities of Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, are among the nation’s most alluring. Florida’s beaches are unsurpassed, with Miami and Key West providing a Caribbean vibe.
The last two states admitted to the union couldn’t be more different geologically, but are among the nation’s biggest tourist draws despite being farthest away from the lower 48. Hawaii, a string of eight islands far out in the Pacific, is known for its beaches, warm breezes, Hula dancing and surfing. Far colder Alaska attracts visitors for its Inside Passage cruises, whale-watching, glaciers, snow-capped peaks and Denali National Park, home to the country’s highest mountain.
Wherever you choose to go in the U.S., start your search at Stride -- you’ll find that with our easy-to-use tools, you’ll be seeing the near and far corners of the USA sooner that you might have imagined.
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