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The first time you go to New York, go ahead and be a sight-seer—everyone should visit the Statue of Liberty, the Met, Times Square, etc. But on a return trip, pick a neighbourhood and go deep. You’ll find hole-in-the-wall bars, great delis, quirky shops… exploring the non-touristy side of New York is an incredibly rewarding experience for a traveller.
If watching the sunrise from atop a 10,000-foot volcano, swimming under waterfalls, hiking through craters and luxuriating on white-, red- and even black-sand beaches sounds like paradise, then Maui awaits. Maui is the place to surf and windsurf. Or hop a catamaran to scuba and snorkel on Molokini Island, a crater emerging from the sea that hosts a wealth of marine life. Golf, fine dining, a winery, museums and sipping a mai tai on the beach round out the perfect tropical holiday.
Ecologically diverse and sparsely populated, the Big Island of Hawaii is larger than all the other better-known Hawaiian islands combined. Rental cars allow visitors to discover wonders from snow-capped mountains to rainforests to deserts. Best known for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home to the longest volcanic eruption in recorded history, the Big Island caters both to those who crave adventure and to those looking for luxury, with the flotilla of decadent mega-resorts dotted along Kohala Coast.
Say aloha to tropical breezes, oceanfront luaus and iconic Diamond Head on Oahu, the most populated Hawaiian island. Follow in the footsteps of surfing forefather Duke Kahanamoku on Waikiki Beach, visit the royal quarters of Iolani Palace and tour Pearl Harbor. Sample hot malasadas (local doughnuts) and shaved ice while shopping for vintage floral-print shirts on Honolulu's Kapahulu Avenue. Get off the tourist trail with a hike to Makapuu Lighthouse on the South Shore. You can even learn to hula.
Is there any possible way Las Vegas could not be on our "best nightlife" list? The only way we could possibly omit it is on a technicality—since you can do pretty much anything 24/7 in Vegas, it might be wrong to call it "nightlife."
Orlando’s theme parks are (obviously) a big draw. But there's much more to Orlando than thrill rides and costumed characters. How about a hot-air balloon ride? Indoor skydiving? Parasailing? You’ll find it all here. And whether you're in town for a romantic weekend or on a budget family holiday, there's a hotel in Orlando to suit your taste and budget.
If you’re a history buff and a die-hard foodie, Chicago’s your kind of town. Take an architectural-history walking tour, then dine at Alinea (the most celebrated molecular-gastronomy restaurant in the U.S.). And don’t miss the Museum of Science and Industry, the biggest science museum in the Western Hemisphere.
Looking for a classic California beach experience, with a boardwalk, beach volleyball, even a classic amusement park? You can find it at Mission Beach in San Diego. After you’re done swimming and sunning, hit one of the many beachside restaurants and bars for some live music, dancing and a tropical drink.
Who cares about a little fog (okay, a lot of fog) when there’s so much to do in San Francisco? By day, explore Fisherman’s Wharf and the Aquarium of the Bay, ride a cable car, and stroll around the Presidio; by night, have a fabulous dinner (at a Michelin-starred restaurant or a tiny place in Chinatown), then hit some of the best clubs on the West Coast.
Key West has great nightlife—and a perfect cover story for someone who wants to enjoy it. A Hemingway fan simply must toss back a few at their hero’s favourite bar! You’re not reliving Spring Break, you’re immersing yourself in great American literature. Yeah. That’s the ticket.
As a visitor in New Orleans, you can expect the locals to pull out all the stops to show you a good time. And it's way more than just a demonstration of Southern hospitality-- "laisser les bon temps rouler," or "let the good times roll" is the city's unofficial motto. So take a tour of the elegant Garden District, hit a jazz club, dine at the Commander's Palace, or join the crowds on Bourbon Street. The Big Easy has much to celebrate these days, now that it's had nearly five years to rebuild from Hurricane Katrina, and you'll be welcomed with open arms.
Make sure you bring cash to Washington, D.C. Not that it’s expensive (actually, many museums are free) or that no one accepts plastic (they do)—it’s just an awful lot of fun to hold up a $5 bill next to the actual Lincoln Memorial, or a $20 in front of the White House. In between touring monuments and historical sights, check out the quirky International Spy Museum, watch pandas at the National Zoo, or catch a military band playing an outdoor concert on Capitol Hill.
Anyplace can have an amazing pool and spa, but an amazing pool and spa in the middle of a gorgeous desert? That’s what you’ll find at Sedona’s resorts. If you do feel like taking a break from lounging poolside and sampling different kinds of massages, you'll find miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback tours. Afterward, of course, you'll need another massage. It's the good kind of vicious cycle.
Charleston is known for great food (you won’t find better grits on the planet) and colourful history. But why do travellers return year after year? We’ll blame the genuine Southern hospitality this city extends to each and every visitor.
Savannah is a classic Southern city—mannerly, to be sure, but with a rich and complex history. Stroll historic Savannah and visit places you may remember from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (especially Bonaventure Cemetery)… then enjoy a mint julep on your hotel’s verandah.
It's called the Live Music Show Capital of the World-- on any given day, almost 90 music, magic and comedy shows run at 50+ theatres. You might catch into Tony Orlando, the Osmonds or Marty Stuart, all regulars. (Think Las Vegas without the casinos and people drinking margaritas-by-the-yard at 10 am.) Between shows, enjoy nature in the Ozarks-- you'll find great fishing, hiking, biking and water sports in the area.
With live music to be heard all across town, 24/7, 365 days a year, Music City lives up to its name. From honky-tonk bands jamming at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge to songwriters in the round at the Bluebird Cafe and country music legends rocking the Grand Ole Opry, you never know who you might see. The creative spirit from Nashville's music landscape flows into the area's myriad art galleries, up-and-coming fashion scene, historic landmarks and chef-driven restaurants.
What outdoor activity can’t you do here? In the winter, there’s skiing (regular, cross-country, snowcat and heli-), snowshoeing and dogsledding. In summer, there’s fly-fishing, rafting (white-water or scenic) and hot-air balloon rides.
Moab attracts all types of outdoor adventurers. Mountain biking is huge here—experts claim it has some of the best trails in the world—as are rock-climbing and hiking. And the setting, with its gorgeous red rocks, can't be beat.
If you’re into eating locally and supporting sustainable agriculture, go to Ashville—and eat, eat, eat. This town of less than 100,000 people has 17 farmers’ markets, and the local restaurant scene is all about taking advantage of the seasonal produce sold there. And don’t miss the area’s microbreweries.
You've got to walk the Freedom Trail the first time you visit Boston. That's just a given. Make sure you step off the line on the pavement, though, and explore some of Boston's fine museums (try the Gardner—art masterpieces displayed in their collector's mansion) and old neighbourhoods (like the North End, where you can get the best cannoli this side of Italy). You can't claim to have experienced real Boston culture, though, unless you've watched a Red Sox game from the bleachers.
It’s no wonder Napa made three of our lists this year… it might just be the world’s most perfect spot for a weekend getaway. What more do you really need than romantic inns, great food and wine, and relaxing spas?
At the shore in Miami Beach, visitors can swim, surf and jet ski in the warm and crystal-clear Atlantic waters. You can also nap on the white sands, work on a tan or simply watch the beautiful people, especially at South Beach, a favourite of models and celebrities.
Everyone knows Aspen as a top-notch winter resort town. But outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy it in the summer, too, when the mountains become a perfect setting for hiking, biking and horseback tours. Some may be surprised to find it’s a top romance destination—but after all that outdoor exercise, who wouldn’t want to repair to a luxurious hotel room or a cozy, firelit bar?