Based on a survey by Travel Leaders Group, the responses from nearly 2,900 Americans were literally all over the map. The top destination was Hawaii, followed by California, Alaska, Florida and New York.
Its distance from the continental United States, along with its tropical climate, makes Hawaii a dream vacation spot for many travelers. The Aloha State is a paradise for lovers of the outdoors, from the vibrant resorts of Oahu’s Waikiki Beach to the hiking trails in Maui’s Haleakala National Park. Any of the four major islands (Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island) have countless resort options ready to welcome your family with an all-inclusive type of experience.
Looking for that perfect romantic destination, Hawaii fills all the requirements. Kauai, the Garden Island, is my favorite for a romantic stay with its beauty and less tourists than Maui or Oahu. Take the steep, winding drive to Waimea Canyon, stopping at all the lookouts. And just you wait until you reach the Kalalau Valley lookout at the top; it will take your breath away! Magnificent Wailua Falls is easy to view from above but if you are feeling adventurous, take the path that starts about 500 yards from the end of the parking area to reach the bottom. These falls were featured in the opening of the television series Fantasy Island. An exciting way to see the Na Pali Coast is by boat and you may see some of the local dolphins surfing the bow wave. The only other way to see the coast is by helicopter or a challenging 11-mile hike.
California has something for everyone, from the movie magic of Los Angeles to the wineries of Napa to colorful San Francisco. From Aug. 10-12, the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival takes place in San Francisco at Golden Gate Park, a celebration of music, food, wine, beer, art and comedy. One of the state’s more unusual events is the Pageant of the Masters, from July 7 to September 1 in Southern California’s Laguna Beach. It’s a 90-minute performance in which famous works of art are brought to life onstage.
For spectacular scenery some of my favorites are the magnificent redwoods, the wild Pacific coastline or Sierra Mountains, home to beautiful Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park. My personal favorite area for visiting wineries are the various Sonoma County wine regions, less crowded than the smaller Napa Valley. You can visit the scenic and cooler Russian River appellation to taste some elegant Pinot Noirs. But do not miss a drive through the Valley of the Moon with its string of wineries culminating in the town of Sonoma which surrounds the colonial-era historic plaza. Another town worth visiting in Sonoma is Healdsburg, with its multitude of wine tasting rooms and some excellent restaurants surrounding another plaza.
Alaska’s mountains and glaciers make the 49th state unlike any other. Cruise season runs from May through September, and it’s a great way to take in all that breathtaking scenery. Combine it with land a tour to experience the beauty of places like Denali National Park. Cruises are family friendly with activities and excursions for all ages. Follow the trail of the 19th century Klondike Gold Rush and pan for gold or hold an adorable husky puppy in your arms.
Some of my favorite experiences are a visit to Mendenhall Glacier followed by a walk through the city of Juneau with a visit to the Red Dog Saloon, a ride on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad in Skagway, and the Riverboat Discovery in Fairbanks. Looking for a meal of fresh fish in Anchorage, don’t miss the Glacier Brewhouse restaurant. For more excitement you can zip-line on the world’s longest, over one-mile long with a speed up to 60 miles per hour, at Icy Strait Point; go white water rafting down the Nenana River in Denali National Park; or flightseeing of Denali or Mendenhall Glacier. You can even land on the glacier and go dog sledding.
Florida’s beaches and sunny climate are big draws, along with its theme parks. Last year, Disney World unveiled “Pandora – World of Avatar.” Based on the popular movie, it includes a boat ride into the rainforest and a flight simulator. Disney's Hollywood Studios will open Toy Story Land in summer 2018. Disney Springs introduces Star Wars™: Secrets of the Empire, a transformative story by ILMxLAB and The VOID that merges our world with virtual reality.
For a different side of the Sunshine State, consider taking a trip to historic St. Augustine, on the northeast coast, with its Spanish colonial architecture and wildlife sanctuary. Founded in 1565, it lays claim to be the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the continental United States. I enjoy just strolling down the narrow streets and alleys with a new discovery waiting to be found just around the next corner.
Of course, to most travelers, New York means the Big Apple. Whenever you plan a trip to New York City, you’re guaranteed an array of options for world-class dining and entertainment. New York Restaurant Week is held twice a year in winter and summer. It next runs from July 12 to Aug. 12, offering deals on three-course lunches and dinners at 300 restaurants. Classical music buffs can take in the Mostly Mozart Festival, July 25 to Aug. 20 at Lincoln Center.
Some free things to do in New York City include a visit to Grand Central Station or the New York Public Library Main Branch. Both are listed in the National Register of Historic places. My favorite place to stay is the Blakely, located just a few blocks from Central Park, Trump Tower, the Museum of Modern Art, and shopping on Fifth Avenue. You do save some money by doing some free sightseeing. Happy Travels.
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