People are spending over $700 billion on travel to and within the U.S. every year. According to the U.S. Travel Association, nearly 60 million people visited the United States in 2010 to wander around, check out what we have going on and in general delight in a place with rich culture, majestic wilderness landscapes and damn good cuisine. With so many people making the pilgrimage to our own shores, why is that those of us who enjoy travel are always trying to leave? Below are some suggestions that will rival most overseas destinations, but don’t require the long, expensive flights.
Some say that the U.S. is a country without culture. That’s a load of crap. Indeed, our TVs are dominated by the talentless-wealthy who get paid money to sound like idiots and puke on film, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing brewing just below the surface. What about all the music festivals (Colorado’s Telluride Bluegrass Fest, South-by-Southwest in Austin, Coachella in California or New Orleans’ Buku Music and Arts Festival)? What about the saucy richness of New Orleans, where the bars don’t close, the food is spicy, music pulsates, people dance and fish and fish and barbecue and co-mingle to create one lively, vivid place? Prefer highbrow art and cuisine? Head to New York City. Want to reconnect with the American West’s hobo roots? Hop a freighter and sail off into a great desolate nowhere. Want to commune with Mother Earth? Get crunchie – or go hippie – in the Pacific Northwest. Climb the towering redwoods while toking down on some sweet northern California herbal and then descend to plant in a community-run organic garden.
Certain foreign cities are intriguing largely because they’re unknown and reputably dangerous. Few things rival navigating your way through an urban center known for crime. Well, the U.S. has plenty of crime. Thumb your way to the seedier parts of Detroit, St. Louis, Oakland, Baltimore or Stockton, all of which made the Atlantic magazine’s Top 10 Most Dangerous Cities in the U.S. list in 2010. As important and unique as the Gaza strip is, the frontlines of Compton make for an adrenaline-addled warzone in their own right. There is such a thing called “war tourism,” in case you were wondering.
The United States is home to some of the world’s premiere long-distance hiking trails. There’s the Continental Divide Trail, which winds along the Rockies from Canada to Mexico; the Pacific Crest Trail, another border-to-border route traveling through California, Oregon and Washington; and then there’s the East Coast’s 2,000-miles long Appalachian Trail. Yosemite ranks among the highest of rock climbing destinations on Planet Earth. There’s whitewater rafting, fly-fishing, climbing, camping, cycling and even birding to rival most other places that capture your imagination.
None of this is to say the U.S. offers more or better travel options than other places, necessarily, but it certainly can compete. Next time you’re itching for a change of scenery, you might want to think about the neighboring state rather than the next nearest cointinent.
By Bryan Schatz