We’re into another summer travel season, one unlike we’ve seen in at least three years, if ever. If you’ve traveled internationally, you know how many other people are traveling this summer as well. It’s night and day compared to the last two summers. And if you’ve tried to book an international trip only to discover that you needed to plan sooner to get space, well, you know too.
But as we reminded ourselves as many international borders were closed, there is so much to see and do right here in the U.S. We’re a big country! No matter where you live, there are landscapes and culture completely different from what you’re used to at home. And there are also places in your own state or the one next door that you may have forgotten and are worth a visit. As we celebrate Fourth of July this week, let’s explore some of the gems of the U.S.
The National Parks
The entire system was designed with returning to nature in mind. While the highest concentration of parks is in the West, there’s almost certainly a national park within a few hours of your home. There are also national trails and monuments throughout the country. Yellowstone’s north loop opened over the weekend after closing for three weeks because of flooding. Glamping options and National Park lodges abound, so you can be in the heart of nature. It’s for good reason that the national parks have been called “America’s best idea.”
Walk the Freedom Trail through past Revolutionary War-era sights (or do it at night by lamplight for a spooky twist) or do a private after-hours tour of the Old North Church in Boston. Spend a day in Valley Forge or see where Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and the first Continental Congress met in and around Philadelphia. Watch fireworks light up the New York skyline from the One World Observatory, or tour D.C. monuments and the National Archives. You can do all this and more with Virtuoso-preferred tour operators.
The Lowcountry of South Carolina and Sea Islands of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida contain a great deal of history among the people, food and architecture. The mention of Charleston or Savannah conjures up images of Spanish moss hanging from ancient oaks, the roots of the U.S. and some of the best meals you could ever hope to have. Venture farther south to Amelia Island and St. Augustine in Florida, and you reach back to even before the founding. All throughout the region, you’ll encounter the Gullah-Geechee culture, kept alive by the descendants of slaves brought from West Africa in the 1700s.
California’s Napa and Sonoma valleys get the most publicity, and with good reason because there are some great wines and wonderful places to enjoy them along with some great views and meals. The Willamette Valley in Oregon and wine regions of Washington are also very nice. If the West Coast is too far afield for you, though, there are ample wineries in New York’s Finger Lakes and North Fork, throughout Virginia and five American Viticulture Areas in Pennsylvania. Wherever you live, there are wineries with vast vineyards and boutique hotels full of charm.