“America the Beautiful” was originally a poem written in 1893 by Katharine Lee Bates, who was inspired to pen the historic words after taking a memorable — and clearly, scenic — cross-country train trip from Massachusetts to Colorado. In the late 1800s, such a trip might have been grueling, but it was nonetheless considered exotic — whereas nowadays, it sometimes seems travelers aren’t impressed unless they’re crossing vast oceans and getting multiple stamps on their passports. But America is still the fair beauty of Bates’s poem, and tons of gorgeous sites and settings can be found right in our backyards. Even better, local travel is often relatively cheap and easy: There’s no currency exchange, language barrier, or passport required, and even if you do fly, flights are certainly less expensive than those to far-flung international locales. Here are six amazing sites in the U.S. that you’ve got to see. (And don’t worry. If you really must cross an ocean to feel like you’re on vacation, we have some U.S. destinations where that is a necessity as well).
If you’ve ever questioned whether the U.S. could be exotic, the Bioluminscent Bay in Puerto Rico’s Fajardo will have you properly convinced. Just a short drive from Old San Juan, this famed “Bio Bay” puts on nature’s most magnificent light show: At night, when the bay is inky black beneath the light of the moon, microscopic plankton glow turquoise as you paddle or swim through the water.
Where to Stay: El Conquistador Resort, A Waldorf Astoria Resort is just about as close as you can get to the Bio Bay. Even better, this luxe resort offers some of the Caribbean’s most epic views.
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A waterfront vacation doesn’t have to mean a trip to the beach. River locales, such as charming San Antonio or rugged Snoqualmie, offer plenty of the same draws as oceans and lakes. Flowing past some of America’s best cities, around mountain ranges, and through desserts, these rivers are the optimal alternative vacation spots for boating, fishing, hiking, and more while on vacation. So get ready to dive into our favorite river destinations.
1. May River in Bluffton, South Carolina
The May River is just one corner of gorgeous Carolina Lowcountry.
Carolina Lowcountry is a truly other-worldly corner of the United States. Here, salty marshes and mossy forests are connected by scenic waterways. The May, Cooper, and New Rivers wind through the region’s haunting landscapes, providing visitors with unique ways to soak in the beauty of the region. Boating and kayaking are popular, especially since bottlenose dolphins are common in this area. You can also go fishing, crabbing, or shrimping.
STAY: The Inn at Palmetto Bluff
This “inn” in Carolina Lowcountry is really more akin to a sprawling estate, offering a range of recreational facilities, including golf, bicycling, tennis, croquet, kayaking, and swimming; plus, the luxury spa is highly acclaimed. Read More »
There’s nothing like a roaring blaze to make nippy nights more pleasant, and a bonfire is a cozy — and fun — addition to any fall vacation. We’ve found five charming hotels in the U.S. making the most of this toasty tradition.
Hidden Pond, Maine
Hidden Pond’s outdoor bar and grill sits on a “sand bar,” with chairs circled around fire pits. This upscale boutique hotel in the Maine forests has 36 bungalows and two-bedroom cottages, a tranquil environment, and top-notch farm-to-table cuisine. Read More »
Here’s one way to cope with the end of summer: Start planning your first weekend fall getaway. The Graham & Co in the Catskills is an attractive contender, drawing groups and young couples with free beer upon check-in, hipster-friendly decor, fire pit, projector for movie nights, quiet lounge with outdoor seating and low music, free loaner bikes, and a convenient location a couple of blocks from Main Street in Phoenicia.
With no TVs, spotty cell service in the area, and a location surrounded by nature (but within walking distance of restaurants and shops), The Graham & Co. lets guests get away from it all. It is relaxing, clean and simple, with 20 rooms of varying sizes (some have kitchens) featuring Tivoli radios with iPod hookups, reclaimed wood furniture, and large comfy bean bags — but little else.
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Fire Pit at The Graham & Co.
York Harbor on Maine's coast is a wonderful place to explore
America’s Eastern region is a diverse area filled with just about every type of terrain an active traveler could want: Mountains, marshes, lakes, cliffs, forests, and so much more. We took a trip down the coast, and then headed inland, to some top spots in the East for getting active — from the tip of Maine, to the Florida Keys. Take a look at what we found along the way!
It's a pink explosion in the Barbie Suite at the Palms!
Hotels often incorporate themes into their rooms, but these so-called themes are usually “classic elegance,” “boho chic,” or “understated luxury.” In the case of the rooms in this slideshow, however, the themes are a bit more specific — and over-the-top. From a suite that Barbie would approve of, to a room dedicated to David Beckham (and, in particular, his abs), we’ve found some amazing themed rooms and suites that are worth a visit (or at least a look).