Given its size, history, varied cultural influences and more than numerous vacation destinations, it's no wonder that the United States receives tens of millions visitors every year. North to south and east to west the country offers up everything from golden beaches to rugged mountains, lush old growth forests to windswept deserts, and bustling megacities to quaint villages on the edges of rolling countryside. The culture of America truly is a global one with pockets of communities peppered throughout the nation, each representing any one of a number of Latin American, Asian and African cultures and societies. This means a seemingly endless stream of foods, events and festivals for visitors and locals alike to experience and enjoy. There are many uniquely American stops of course, far too many to mention here to say the least. Most major cities - including but not limited to New York, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, Dallas, Detroit, Seattle, Chicago and Washington D.C - boast lengthy checklists of visitor musts. And when you look at them together with the rest of the country's gems - manmade and natural both - you see that America has more than a lifetime's worth of things to offer up, so make sure you know what you want to see and do before you get here, to maximize your visit. For those entering the country, particularly those entering by air, it would be prudent to remember that security remains a top concern in all U.S. airports. Joking about things like terrorism and bombs is never funny, but doing so in an airport in post-9/11 America can land you in jail and/or see you banned from the country for life. ~ WBB Staff Writer
The Big D is a city on the move. First time visitors immediately pick up on the energy that radiates from this grand Texas metropolis, the state's third largest city, and that energy certianly takes them places. With a host of new parks, museums, hotels, architecturally-significant bridges and awe-inspiring sports facilities, Dallas has transformed itself and emerged as a destination-worthy location. It’s rich in sights and experiences, offering something for everyone, young and old. There is no question that Dallas knows how to delight in a big-time Texas way, and any trip here - short or long - will leave visitors all the better for the experience.
On November 22, 1963, history changed in a split second. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, while his motorcade passed through the city’s central business sector as part of a two-day Texas tour in preparation for the 1964 presidential campaign. I don’t remember much of this event, as I was a young child at the time, but I do recall my mother audibly weeping as she sat in front of the television watching the news unfold. She was shocked and horrified upon learning that the President she and so many others adored had been murdered, and like the rest of the nation, she tensely waited to hear who was responsible for such a tragedy. For many days, life in my family’s house was chaotic, with the television on 24/7 and my parents in a constant state of agitation and grief. There was a sense of despair and hopelessness. Even as a child I realized that the world around me grew heavier and darker during this period. In ensuing years, my understanding of the event and how it affected our nation grew in both substance and clarity, and I marked it as the moment when America lost its innocence.
Among those I have taken to lunch over the years, I can now add a llama to my list. My dining companion, K-2, was one of six llamas that accompanied our small group on a recent day trek with in Northern New Mexico. A handsome blonde and statuesque creature with plenty of personality, K-2 was ever-alert and curious as we hiked the trails in the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Area of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. I led my trusted wooly friend through the dense woods, over bridges and into the gentle creeks within this picturesque and unspoiled wilderness. With his leather padded, two-toed feet and natural agility, he walked with a self-possessed air, exuding confidence as he navigated the terrain without faltering, while carrying a load of gear. “Llamas are the perfect low-impact, high altitude pack animal,” says Stuart Wilde, owner and head wilderness guide of Wild Earth Llama Adventures. “They are sure-footed because they have the perfect ‘mountain moccasins’ - like mountain goats - and they have little impact on fragile wilderness trails. They exemplify the ‘leave no trace’ ethic we practice and teach out here.”
It’s easy to fall in love with Savannah, Georgia. She woos you with her beguiling charms while seducing you with promises of rich and varied experiences. She’s the consummate Southern belle – a real ‘the hostess with the mostest’ – whose popularity has consistently put her on lists of the top ten places to visit by numerous, world-renowned travel publications and websites. Everyone adores and flocks to this vibrant coastal haven at all times of the year. It’s definitely love at first sight for most newcomers, who are drawn like a magnet to the city’s beauty and its historic-but-hip, and classic-yet-cool vibes.
It’s impossible to be immune to the allure of Charleston. The city oozes and drips charm, overwhelming your senses with its intoxicating ambiance, gracious Southern hospitality, colorful history and rich culture. I was prepared to like Charleston before my visit, based purely on the continuous travel pub awards it receives for America’s Prettiest Place, America’s Most Mannered City and #1 U.S. City, but I was taken aback at just how much I truly enjoyed it. To say I was besotted and smitten with the place would be an understatement; my attraction to the atmosphere and environment was instant and magnetic. Charleston woos visitors with the rustle of Palmetto fronds in the ocean air and the delicious fragrance of Magnolia trees. It’s a city set in a garden full of cinnamon crepe myrtles and Lady Banks rose vines, with stately antebellum homes that sit behind wrought iron gates and meticulously tended flower boxes. History seeps from both the city’s cobblestone streets and the nearly 4,000 pre-Civil War dwellings that are preserved and cherished by local residents.