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Travel Bucket List
March 21, 2014 12:09 PM   Subscribe

Travel Filter: What would you consider to be the "MUST DO" travel spots in your city/town/state? If I had 50 days left to live, and had time to visit one thing in each state, what would it be from your region?

A close friend/coworker's spouse was recently diagnosed with a fast moving and sudden terminal illness. To say that it's hitting us all hard is an understatement - a few months ago this gentleman was healthy and lively and ready to conquer the world. In recent days one coworker has announced an upcoming "bucket list trip to Rome" and another just walked out announcing that he's leaving for Iceland on Sunday to see the aurora borealis as his own "bucket list."

So that got me to thinking... There's MUCH of this country (and world, I'm flexible) that I haven't seen. I tend to lean on my favorite cities when it comes to vacations (New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto, New Orleans) with repeat visits. What am I missing? What do I need to come to your neck of the woods to see?
posted by librarianamy to Travel & Transportation around United States (39 answers total) 92 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'd say you need to go to Arizona and check out the Grand Canyon and Sedona Red Rocks. If you want to do a road trip and come in from the East on 40 and hit the Painted Desert, it would be a trifecta.

I can't say you're missing anything here in Atlanta, to be honest.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:12 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]


Get a raft or tube with a extra one for a cooler full of beer. Float down the Delaware Water Gap on a hot summer day.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:13 PM on March 21 [3 favorites]


Colorado: 10th Mountain Division Huts
Minnesota: Boundary Waters or the North Shore of Lake Superior
Alaska: Tundra accessible by bush plane
posted by craven_morhead at 12:25 PM on March 21


Lake Superior's North Shore and Split Rock Lighthouse. Fly into Duluth and then take Highway 61 (yes, that one) north along the North Shore. Gorgeous granite cliffs, waterfalls, hiking paths, forests and views of the lake for hours!
posted by jillithd at 12:25 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]


Pacific Northwest and northern California in the summer are wondrous, but especially Mt. St. Helens, Crater Lake, and the redwood forests. The redwoods in particular are magical.
posted by andrewesque at 12:27 PM on March 21 [3 favorites]


I can't say you're missing anything here in Atlanta, to be honest.
Well, there are Pandas. In the US, there are Giant Pandas in Memphis, DC, Atlanta and San Diego. Toronto will have a pair until 2018 when they go to Calgary, so it is possible you have already seen one. I think seeing a Panda is great bucket-list item.
posted by soelo at 12:31 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]


Lake Tahoe
Yosemite
Any old growth redwood forest on the Pacific Coast
posted by Big_B at 12:34 PM on March 21 [4 favorites]


The New Mexico cavern systems are breathtaking. Many focus on Carlsbad Caverns, since it is the largest and deepest. There are tours to the less explored portions of the cavern system that are truly amazing.
posted by Benway at 12:37 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]


Alaska: see humpback whales bubble feed from a sea kayak in Icy Strait, very near Glacier Bay National Park.
posted by charmedimsure at 12:38 PM on March 21 [2 favorites]


Staten Island: visit the Chinese Scholars Garden and the Tibetan Museum. (Yes, we have a Tibetan Museum.)
posted by Soliloquy at 12:39 PM on March 21 [2 favorites]


Utah, Zion National Park: if you are able, hike the Narrows of the Virgin river top-down.
posted by charmedimsure at 12:41 PM on March 21 [3 favorites]


Yellowstone in winter is amazing. I also have done route 66 from Chicago to LA. We camped most of the way and did a detour at the Grand canyon. There were lots of interesting things and fun to be had.
posted by AlexiaSky at 12:52 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]


Montauk, NY and Marin, CA in the spring/summer are two of the most beautiful places I've ever been.
posted by Hermione Granger at 1:05 PM on March 21


A bowl of she-crab soup in Charleston SC, a Philly cheese steak, a benoit and chickory coffe at Cafe de monde in New Orleans are three of my favorite American things.
posted by three blind mice at 1:07 PM on March 21


Yeah, and drinking beer in the only bar in Hecla, South Dakota.
posted by three blind mice at 1:10 PM on March 21


Michigan: The Sleeping Bear Dunes in the NW portion of the state (preferably during the summer time).
posted by sevenofspades at 1:12 PM on March 21 [6 favorites]


My DC must-see is the National Gallery of Art's Calder installations - both the giant mobile in the East building lobby and the small room on the concourse level with a bunch of small mobiles and sculptures. The sculpture gardens at the National Gallery and the Hirshhorn are also worth a visit, as is the Hirshhorn itself.
posted by EvaDestruction at 1:20 PM on March 21


Wyoming: the Tetons, I suppose, if you have to pick just one thing, but God, I love the whole state. A drive through Shell Canyon or Wind River Canyon, even if you don't stop, is worth it. But it's better to get out and walk just about anywhere.

Now I'm back in Iowa, and while there are things I love here, I can't exactly say I'd recommend any of them all that highly.
posted by newrambler at 1:36 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]


Go to New Mexico. Enjoy the clear air, the turquoise skies, and the green chile. It really is the Land of Enchantment.

On the first Saturday of April each year, the Trinity test site is open to visitors. There's not that much to see, but the weight of history is palpable.

Drive the High Road from Santa Fe to Taos, and the Low Road back. Stroll through the art galleries on Canyon Road in Santa Fe and enjoy the avant garde cuisine.

Visit the White Sands National Monument - they are not exaggerating when the call it "Like No Place Else on Earth". On your way, stop at the Three Rivers petroglyph site. It's fading away, and won't be around much longer.

I'd personally put the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array higher on the list as a modern marvel. Look at the virtual tour and decide for yourself.

And we haven't even got to the ruins at Abo, or the cliff dwellings at Bandelier, or ...

Damn, I should write their tourism brochures.
posted by RedOrGreen at 1:46 PM on March 21 [6 favorites]


I'll let someone else chime in about LA proper, but while I've lived in southern California, I've loved getting out of the city once in a while to see the desert - Joshua Tree National Park, taking a cable car from Palm Springs to the top of Mt. San Jacinto, etc. There some interesting spots between LA and that area that are only slightly out of the way, too (Pioneertown, the Integratron).

In Minnesota: jillithd and craven_morhead have great ideas. Itasca State Park, while a little humbler than those, is the marshy area where the Mississippi River begins - you can walk across it on a tiny footbridge where it is only about 20 feet wide.

In Cleveland: skip the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and see the Cleveland Museum of Art, instead. It's just been reopened after nearly a decade of renovations and is truly breathtaking. Its collections rival those of the most renowned museums in the world in their breadth and quality (if not in sheer numbers), especially in Asian art, and it's free to the public.
posted by Austenite at 2:04 PM on March 21


South Dakota and North Dakota: the Bad Lands. badlands nation park in SD and Teddy Roosevelt NP in ND. they are similar, but different enough to be distinct and both worth time and attention.

Wisconsin: Kayaking into the Sea caves near Cornucopia

Everglades in FL

Sequoias in CA

Salt Flats in UT

Mammoth cave in KY

Devil's Tower WY
posted by edgeways at 2:27 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]


For Wisconsin, the answer is DEFINITELY* House on the Rock, which is the single weirdest place. It's simultaneously the worst and best thing I've ever seen. There is nothing else like it.

* unless you love football, in which case you should go see the Packers at Lambeau, but that's a lot more expensive and also seasonal
posted by goodbyewaffles at 2:43 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]


the french laundry restaurant in yountville, california.
posted by bruce at 3:03 PM on March 21


I'm in Chicago, but originally from Pittsburgh. A Pirates game at PNC Park is fantastic - beautiful park, fantastic view of the skyline, and a great atmosphere and local food.
posted by anotheraccount at 4:12 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]


Washington State: Visit the San Juan Islands. Particularly Orcas Island and Lummi Island. Incredible.
posted by leitmotif at 4:37 PM on March 21 [2 favorites]


And while you're in Washington State, you might visit the Olympic Peninsula for something different and awesome.
posted by aryma at 7:33 PM on March 21 [2 favorites]


John Day Fossil Beds in Oregon.
Glacier National Park in Montana (bighorn sheep are everywhere).
Custer State Park and the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota (although Mt. Rushmore was just ugly and weird) (and Sturgis if that's your thing).
The Salmon River area of Idaho (surprisingly beautiful).
The Bisti Badlands in New Mexico are a long way from anything but so so cool and completely and totally worth the drive.


Excellent question. I'm sorry about your friend.
posted by Beti at 7:51 PM on March 21


Mississippi has little enough for a bucket list, but if for the sake of completeness you really wanted to do something there, the Double Decker festival in Oxford is coming up, and it's a neat town (full disclosure: I went to Ole Miss). If you're into Elvis, there's some memorial of his birthplace in Tupelo, and the wacky, wonderful "Graceland Too" in Holly Springs. In Alabama, if you are at all interested in motorcycles, the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum is a pretty amazing collection that includes things like 100+ year old models that are steam-powered.
posted by solotoro at 12:10 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


The Panhandle of Florida: go to Santa Rosa Island (which is Pensacola Beach) or Port St Joe for the white beaches and warm water. The food is amazing if you like seafood of any kind. You can snorkel or whatever sort of water stuff you like. It's not like the east coast of Florida which looks like California (sorry, Californians, I lived there and I love you), but unique in that the beaches are soft, flowing, and spectacularly colored. (Do yourself a favor and eat flounder stuffed with crab while you're there.)
posted by syncope at 12:30 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


Niagara Falls is still Niagara Falls despite the fairly shitty cities that have grown up around it on either side of the border. When you visit, take a picnic lunch with you, go straight to Goat Island (assuming you're on the American side), have your picnic lunch there on the cheap, go stand on the brink of the falls and get the mist in your face, and then get the hell out of city. Or if you need to get up near the bottom, take the Maid of the Mist boat ride and then, but otherwise try to spend no time or money in town. You could drive north to Toronto in 1.5 hours or Stratford in 2.5 hours, or drive east a couple of hours to make a pilgrimage to Seneca Falls.
posted by pracowity at 2:15 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


Maine: eat fried fish and onion rings at the lobster shack at two lights state park in Cape Elizabeth. then go for a long walk on the rocks and get as close to the crashing surf as you dare.

NH: rent a hot car and drive the Kancamagus Highway. Stay at Thayer's Hotel in Bethlehem. hang out in the bar till late, buy drinks for everyone.

VT: Stowe, get a glider ride over Mt.Mansfield and the upper Connecticut River valley.
posted by Abinadab at 5:26 AM on March 23 [1 favorite]


Nebraska: The western part of the state and The Sandhills in the panhandle during May-June-July. Sights: Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Toadstool Geologic Park, Carhenge, floating down the Niobrara River in tubes or canoes, time spent looking at the stars at night (it's one of the darkest places in the U.S. due to low population.)

(While you're up there, the Black Hills and Custer State Park across the border in South Dakota are beautiful.)

Viewing the springtime Sandhill crane migration through central Nebraska, going on right now and every year (for millions of years now) near Kearney and Gibbon. Watch 500,000 cranes lift off the Platte River or come to roost at twilight in a blind at Audubon's Rowe Sanctuary.

MN: backpack/canoe trip in the Boundary Waters up near the border

WA: backpack North Cascades, Olympic National Park (Alpine lake and undeveloped hike-in Olympic hot springs are favorites), kayaking around quiet inlets or islands of Puget Sound in the summer (my experiences were all in the south sound around Olympia), seeing all the weird creatures at low tide, picnicking and eating oysters.

Hawaii: Beat some of the crowds and head to the Big Island (drive all the way around and experience the diversity of ecosystems, snorkeling at Pu'u Honua O Honaunau, stay in South Kona) or Molokai (stay and hike or horse ride at Pu'u O Hoku Ranch, visit Halawa Valley at the end of the road, hike to Kalaupapa the former leper colony)
posted by dahliachewswell at 12:09 PM on March 23


Maine - Acadia National Park. Camp, hike, watch the sun rise. In Portland, take a ferry to Peaks Island, have dinner, take the ferry back, or stay on the island at a B&B. Portland also has many excellent restaurants.

National Parks are pretty awesome. There are lots in the southwest, and in Alaska.

But, it's *your* bucket list. Go to libraries, visit great museums, World Heritage sites, pick a theme that appeals to you.
posted by theora55 at 4:47 PM on March 25


I just wanted to thank everyone who took the time to respond. Last night at the visitation, I looked over the photo collage that his family put together and picked out all of the pictures from his travels - Alaska, Disney, the cruises, the world. They were all full of family and smiles, and an inspiration from an otherwise heartbreaking time. So that's been my take-away - we're just going to start getting out there and GOING. I'm taping shows on the Travel channel I'd normally have ignored and think at this point we've got plans through at least 2017... less of a list and more of travel paradigm shift. So thank you all.
posted by librarianamy at 4:45 AM on March 26


If I had to pick my ultimate favorite things in each state I've visited, I'd go with:

Oregon: Crater Lake (the lake is an amazing shade of blue I've never seen elsewhere)

California: Yosemite NP (the Disneyland of national parks, there are about a dozen amazing things to see in the Yosemite Valley

Hawaii: Big Island Volcanoes National Park (amazing to see an idling, but active volcano, fun to see lava hitting the ocean too)

Arizona: Grand Canyon (it blew me away when I first got to see it, it's overwhelming but not everyone loves it)

Utah: Antelope Canyon (the famous twisty tight canyons that are hundreds of feet deep but you can touch both sides, down near the border with Arizona, takes a 5mi hike to get in)
posted by mathowie at 2:36 PM on April 3


Virginia: Skylike Drive in Shenandoah National Park.
posted by psoas at 6:59 PM on April 3


Sunset on Mallory Square on Key West, then a long walk through Old Town. Avoid tourist season.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:09 PM on April 3


In North Alabama, there are several things that are really neat:

1) The US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL: lots of NASA history.
2) Mooresville, AL: one of the few intact antebellum towns in the south.
3) Vulcan: a giant statue of a Roman god looming over Birmingham (you can go inside!).
4) The Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman, AL: a collection of miniature buildings from Rome and Jerusalem (and a few more fanciful works) created by a Benedictine monk in his spare time from discarded construction materials. (I went to high school at the monastery where this is located; it's one of my favorite things in the state.)
posted by ocherdraco at 9:31 AM on April 4


In Pennsylvania between September and October, I'd recommend Hawk Mountain. The North American raptor migration channels through that narrow passage of the Alleghenies. It's an amazing opportunity to see almost every eastern American raptor species, all in the same day, and from a beautiful vista.

In the north central part of the commonwealth, I recommend the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. Didn't know we had one, did ya? From 80, take 15, but not the highway, take the Business 15 along the river. It's an absolutely beautiful drive along an old logging road, and through lovely little logging towns that time forgot. Then take 6 to the park.

In Philadelphia I recommend the Mutter Museum. It's the most amazing collection of medical oddities and history you could ever imagine. I've never been to another museum that has filled me with such wonder and awe.

In Pittsburgh, I recommend The Carnegie Museums, particularly the Warhol museum. As Andy redefined art, so too does his museum redefine what you think of as a museum. It's really, really fun.

If you're interested in early American history and the role beer played in it, and who isn't, I recommend a trip to Pottsville and a visit to Yuengling, the oldest brewer in the country. Not only will you learn a great deal, but free samples. And if it's just about the samples, consider Straub's in Saint Marys, also an historic brewery, but with "The Eternal Tap" which is basically a beer fountian that vistors can put their stein under.

I'm sure there are probably better destinations in Pennsylvania, but these are a few of my favorites. Yinz mileage may vary.
posted by Toekneesan at 6:18 AM on April 5 [1 favorite]


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