Courtesy Destination D.C.
Published September 01, 2017
There’s only one country that offers the chance to hike beside flowing molten lava on the side of a volcano, sail through icy fiords to watch glaciers calve and watch hundreds of buffalo stampede across the plains: the great USA.
America’s top tourist stops can prove ideal for groups finding it difficult to sell strictly international tours because of travelers’ budgetary restrictions or sense of safety.
These 10 domestic bucket list destinations appeal to groups of all ages and sizes for their enduring once-in-a-lifetime appeal.
Many locations claim massive glaciers, ice-capped peaks, breathtaking fiords and abounding wildlife, but few offer such an all-encompassing natural paradise as Alaska. A dream destination for foreigners and citizens alike, the enormous state is twice as big as France but has a population of only 750,000.
Cruises explore the stunning Kenai Fjords National Park so passengers can hear the thunderous roar of glaciers crashing into the sea. The Alaska Railroad delivers guests through a piece of 6 million-acre Denali National Park, which is home to North America’s highest peak and a wildlife reserve. Wildlife expeditions let groups witness grizzly bears, caribou and moose roaming the Alaskan landscape.
Tropical rain forests, jaw-dropping canyons and bubbling lava make Hawaii much more than a beach destination. Though tours always incorporate some time on the white-sand beaches, they also venture inland to see lush valleys, coffee plantations, dramatic cliffs and volcanic craters.
At Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, visitors can walk impressively close to a volcano that has been continuously erupting since 1983, smelling its sulfur and hearing the hiss as the lava hits the ocean. The tropical wonderland also has the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” — Waimea Canyon — which makes an awe-inspiring photo op. For a historic stop, visitors can tour the USS Arizona Memorial, which memorializes the lives lost in the fateful 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
3. New York City
Even the most seasoned traveler will rarely tire of New York. The City That Never Sleeps delivers so many varying attractions and cultures that groups can return numerous times with completely different itineraries. Whether the tour revolves around history, art, culinary arts, shopping or theater, the Big Apple offers more than enough world-class options.
Most tours include the iconic Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island for a memorable look at the city’s immigrant heritage. A trip to the top of the Empire State Building remains another beloved outing, since it gives viewers an idea of the immense scope of the sprawling city.
The 9/11 Tribute Museum Walking Tour stays with guests long after it ends. Guides with firsthand experience of the tragedy educate participants on the history of the World Trade Center, the September 11 attacks, the aftermath and their personal experiences.
Even in person, it takes a while for the brain to comprehend the vastness of a canyon so massive that all the water from all the lakes in the country wouldn’t fill it. One of Mother Nature’s most impressive views, the Grand Canyon stretches 18 miles wide, more than a mile deep and 277 miles long. Visitors can learn about Earth’s geological past on a ranger-led tour that explains the formation of the canyon’s colorful walls.
Since the northern Arizona park sits next to other extraordinary canyons in nearby southern Utah, the area is known as Canyonlands. Many groups include Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park in their Grand Canyon tours.
Bryce’s crimson hoodoos and Zion’s steep red cliffs seen from below shock and awe viewers just as much as their more famous neighboring canyon.
5. District of Columbia
Within a two-square-mile section of D.C., a visitor can touch a moon rock, see the original Star-Spangled Banner and stand next to the 45-carat Hope Diamond. The National Mall between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial shines as a guardian of America’s history and culture, along with the Smithsonian Institution’s world-renowned museum collection. Guests can wander through museums that focus on art, indigenous culture, natural history and botany.
Visitors also reflect at the Mall’s numerous monuments commemorating heroes that have shaped America’s past, such as the World War II Monument, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial.
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