Where should I go (besides the Freak States)?
March 2, 2008 5:46 PM   Subscribe

where should I go in the lower 48, and what should I do when I get there?

Last x-mas i got myself bumped from my flight in exchange for a free roundtrip voucher anywhere in the lower 48.

I don't know where to go. The place that intrigues me most in the U.S. is Alaska- but it's not in the lower 48. I am probably limited to two weeks at most in the place I choose, and I'm not sure I even want to waste my vacation for the year going somewhere in the lower 48.

I have been to NYC before and love it, but I'm not sure exactly what I would do when I got there, and I don't want to spend a fortune when I get there. And honestly the idea of spending time there alone doesn't strike me as all that enjoyable. But I am open to any specific events/occasions in NY I could check out.

I live in L.A. Not particularly fond of SF and anyway, a ticket up there would be so cheap it wouldn't be worth using the voucher. Same goes for Vegas.

I grew up in Baltimore/DC area and have had enough of it for several lifetimes.

I've never been to Chicago really, and I know it's a great city, but I don't know exactly what i'd want to do when I got there, besides maybe try to recreate Ferris Bueller's day off.

So, I'm kind of at a loss. I am not particularly keen on standard tourist attractions. Things I do like: music and music history, outdoors and nature, film, literature. I like museums, although I tire of them fairly quickly (and I work within 100 yards of the L.A. County Museum of Art). I would like to see the sights of Utah (Zion, etc), but not sure how close I can get to them in a plane, and if it wouldn't be easier to just drive out there from L.A. anyway.

Sadly, I have no friends or relatives that live anywhere but L.A. or Maryland. Well, maybe happily, since all my friends are near me. But there's no one I could go visit really. I thought about the summer music festivals, Sasquatch has a pretty good lineup, but I'm just not that keen on doing the whole "camp in a muddy smelly field" experience on my own.

so... where do i go? what do I do when I get there? the more off-the-wall your idea, the more i will probably like it. Otherwise I will probably just end up using this thing for a ticket home next Xmas, and that depresses the hell out of me. No one should have to use a free plane ticket to go to Baltimore in the winter. If there was a way to give it to charity or transfer it someone else, i would probably do it, but as far as I know that is not possible.

posted by drjimmy11 to Travel & Transportation (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Head down to the Gulf Coast & spend two weeks doing this.
posted by headnsouth at 5:52 PM on March 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by unclejeffy at 6:00 PM on March 2, 2008

These are areas that I loved for the nature:
-Yellowstone in Montana (very unique)
-Seattle/WA area - Olympic Park; kayaking in the San Juan islands (and hiking); and Seattle was a fun city to visit; Mt. St Helen for the unique volcano geology. I can't stress how much I enjoyed the outdoor activities and nature.

For literature/museums/nature - The Boston area. An hour outside Boston is a little town called Concord, and you can visit the homes and hear about the lives of Thoreau, Mary Louis Alcott, Emerson, and Hawthorne. For the nature break, walk around Walden Pond. There are places to rent canoes in Concord, too.
Boston is great for the history, art museums, etc. Perhaps you could stay in the outside of the city to save money, and run into that area for a day or two.

Have fun.
posted by Wolfster at 6:06 PM on March 2, 2008

Response by poster: thanks for the ideas so far.

Seattle is a possibility. I have been to Yellowstone before, although i was a kid at the time.

I'm pondering Minnesota- maybe I could combine a tour of Fitzgerald-related sites with something nature-ish. Any ideas on natural wonders up there? I know there are a lot of lakes, but that's the limit of my knowledge.
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:09 PM on March 2, 2008

"Things I do like: music and music history, outdoors and nature, film, literature. "

Seattle's not bad for a lot of that. We have the Experience Music Project music museum, and a ton of great outdoors and nature experiences nearby.
posted by litlnemo at 6:10 PM on March 2, 2008

(IAAFellow expat Marylander)

Chicago really is an obvious choice here -- it's the biggest cultural center you're not already familiar with.

It doesn't have such impressive nature nearby though, apart from a really big lake. Another option might be Seattle -- you can split your time between there and nearby Vancouver, getting a little multinational culture. You'd be very close to some really spectacular nature (though I'll leave it to the natives to make specific recommendations.) The anthropology museum at UBC has a spectacular collection of art from the natives of the Pacific Northwest, so you can even get a cultural taste of Alaska.
posted by escabeche at 6:11 PM on March 2, 2008

I'm not sure why you would think you'd be at a loss for things to do in Chicago. Based on your list of interests that's exactly where I'd send you.

Any day/night of the week you can see great art, listen to fantastic music, tons of histroy, etc.

Check out MetroMix
Chicago Reader

If you like the outdoors you might want to consider a two week tour of the southwest: Flagstaff, Sedona, Taos, Santa Fe, Albuquerque and all the various little towns around them.
posted by FlamingBore at 6:11 PM on March 2, 2008

Maine (fly into Portland, drive up the coast leisurely to Acadia, maybe take the ferry to Nova Scotia)
Glacier National Park in Montana (a long drive from any airport, tho)
Buffalo NY (see Niagara Falls and spend time in Toronto)
Seattle (the San Juan islands and Olympic peninsula)
SXSW in Austin TX
Grand Canyon
Chicago has great art and great food
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:15 PM on March 2, 2008

Minneapolis is very cool, too
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:16 PM on March 2, 2008

nthing Chicago -- it's an amazing (and friendly) city, with great music, art, architecture, film, museums, galleries, parks, neighborhoods, and some of the best bars and restaurants on the planet. Given your interests, about the only way you could be at a loss for things to do is if you get a hotel out by the airport and never leave your room. Get a copy of The Reader and a CTA pass, and you'll pretty much be set for a week or two.
posted by scody at 6:24 PM on March 2, 2008

Lake Tahoe (Nevada and California sides). Depending on when you go, you'll be able to ski/snowboard, hike, or bike.

If you want to get to Zion, you could just get a flight (or drive) to Las Vegas, and drive up. Virgin is ~4hrs from LV. As you said, you could probably drive out there anyways.

Word of advice: Don't go to Montana for your trip. Glacier and Yellowstone are nice, but last summer was pretty bad for forest fires.
posted by fleeba at 6:34 PM on March 2, 2008

Re: Minnesota and nature areas.

If you can convince a friend to go with you, I would drive north up to Boundary waters. You can rent a canoe for several days, and row plus carry the canoe on land (a few steps to a few miles), -- but basically camp out along one of the many lakes. Really beautiful area, you explore during the day by paddling and exploring many areas.
posted by Wolfster at 6:36 PM on March 2, 2008

South Florida, the Keys, OR Maine....
posted by gnutron at 6:42 PM on March 2, 2008

New Orleans?
posted by rhapsodie at 7:18 PM on March 2, 2008

I think you should consider smaller places on the other coast, especially up north. reasoning here being that a flight to chicago or another main hub is relatively cheap to get. small cities that require connections are the expensive places that you are far less likely to get back to soon again. so, not knowing who you are and what you like, let me suggest some small town new england, a rental car and a roadtrip? you might end up in canada or rhode island or who knows there... make it about discovery.

(then again: chicago is kind of nice. just don't go between october and march, when it's brutally cold. trust me, I lived there.)
posted by krautland at 7:24 PM on March 2, 2008

Plattsburgh, NY is so close to Montreal that its airport is starting to become a de facto auxiliary Montreal airport. I'm sure there are shuttles to the city, or you could rent a car and drive across the border.
posted by PercussivePaul at 7:26 PM on March 2, 2008

Upstate NY, hike in the Adirondaks.
New Mexico.
Maine coast, Acadia National Park.
Florida had wonderful state parks, really interesting springs in the north and beautiful beaches elsewhere.
Merle Watson Festival in NC in April if you like bluegrass and more, not a roll in the mud type festival at all.
posted by starfish at 7:35 PM on March 2, 2008

Best answer: You said you were thinking about music festivals, one of the best ones I can think of would be Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, in Manchester, TN. As far as I know, they used to be more of a jam band festival but this year they have a ton of different acts: Metallica, Kanye West, Pearl Jam, Jack Johnson, B.B. King, Death Cab for Cutie, as well as tons of other mainstream and indie bands. Check that out for sure. Minnesota is definitely fun, especially the lakes and Boundary Waters, but neither would be fun by yourself and it would be tough to just enjoy the lakes without having someone to visit-resorts are amazing but expensive. Minneapolis is a very exciting place, my last question here got answers as to what to do in the Twin Cities area. Downtown is very cool, and I imagine you would enjoy it, being from L.A. - it's a pretty trendy place.

Western North Dakota is a very cool place as well, with the badlands along the border of Montana and South Dakota. There is a lot of history to be seen throughout North and South Dakota, and if you haven't seen Mt. Rushmore, a trip through the Dakotas would be great. You could check out Theodore Roosevelt National Park, if you're into nature. You can visit lodges where Lewis and Clark stayed, you can see General Custer's house in Mandan, ND, and work your way down to see Mt. Rushmore. From there you could check out historic Deadwood, which is about as close to realistic "Old West" as it gets. There is also Bear Country USA, which is pretty much a ton of bears and wolves hanging out in their environment (last time my family went there, it was bear mating season-hilarity ensued), or the Reptile Gardens, a pretty cool zoo-type facility, clearly centered around reptiles. If nothing else, the Cosmos Mystery Area makes your trip worth it. People think they have it figured out, maybe they do, but if you go there you'll be amazed. They have a house that defies the laws of physics. Tennis balls roll uphill, a short person can be viewed as much taller than a very tall man, you can sit on a chair on a wall (I think), it's just a weird place. If any of that sounds good to you, you can fly into Fargo, hang out on the east side of the state, and take a trip west and south. It's worth a shot.
posted by whiskey point at 8:19 PM on March 2, 2008

Seconding Nashville or Memphis for music stuff. And you could take a side trip to Knoxville and the Appalachian mountains, home of some pretty amazing music and music history (Tri-Cities airport in Johnson City or Knoxville's airport is probably the closest you'd get to the southern stretch of mountains). Though this might be impossible without a car..

This site is a little on the "kooky" side of things, but I've found some pretty amazing and interesting (vs. just novelty) museums and sites in the US there.
posted by ethel at 11:12 PM on March 2, 2008

Get a friend to go with you, perhaps offering to split the cost of their airfare since yours is free.
posted by happyturtle at 12:42 AM on March 3, 2008

It sounds like this is the perfect opportunity for you to tour New England. You live on the west coast; I would think you'd like to take advantage of a free long distance ticket, so fly across the country. From what you've said it sounds as though you've never been to Boston. Florida would another possibility, although honestly it's a pretty desolate place. I'm a little baffled as to why you would consider going to some place like Minnesota.
posted by thomas144 at 8:03 AM on March 3, 2008

Moab, UT
Zion, UT
Colarado Springs
Yellow Stone
posted by WizKid at 9:51 AM on March 3, 2008

As I recommended in a previous question, why not head to New Orleans for French Quarter Fest in April?

If that doesn't do it for you, how about Savannah? The Savannah Music Festival is coming up at the end of this month. You can get your nature fix at the barrier islands -- Little Tybee Island, for example, is a boat-accessible nature preserve with beaches, marsh trails, bird watching, etc. I think you can camp there, too, with a permit.
posted by somanyamys at 11:11 AM on March 3, 2008

recommended to someone else, I mean, not to you. didn't mean to sound snarky.
posted by somanyamys at 11:12 AM on March 3, 2008

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