Whether you’re coming from abroad to explore the varied landscapes of North America or searching for a new adventure in your own backyard, there’s something for everyone in the big, beautiful and endlessly fascinating United States of America. From East Coast chic to Hawaiian hospitality, the 50 states are packed with culture, entertainment and natural wonders that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
But where to begin your journey? These five destinations showcase the best the US has to offer.
1. Hawaiʻi aka The Big Island
From the moment you receive your first fragrant lei, you’ll breathe in the aloha spirit of the island of Hawaiʻi, also known simply as “the Big Island.” Check in to Fairmont Orchid for breathtaking views of the blue Pacific Ocean and dive into the best snorkeling spot on the island from the property’s private beach and lagoon. The open-air Spa Without Walls, guided Hawaiian cultural activities and oceanfront restaurants featuring island-inspired fare will envelop you in Hawaiʻi’s famous hospitality.
While you could happily spend your whole vacation relaxing at the resort, adventure awaits you on the Big Island. Visit the fiery eruption sites of the active volcanoes at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. Park rangers have the latest information about viewing conditions at the eruption sites, so start at the visitor’s center or download the National Park Service app for updates on road closures and the best spots to glimpse red-hot lava at this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Before becoming part of the US, Hawaiʻi was an independent kingdom, and its rich cultural heritage lives on across the Big Island. Explore the beautifully restored Hulihe’e Palace with a docent-guided tour and to sign up for a ukulele class to try your hand at the island’s signature sound.
Deep in the heart of Texas lies Austin, the state’s capital and epicenter of arts and technology. An influx of the young and hip have transformed the city into a destination for those interested in experiencing the next big thing before it goes mainstream. To get a taste of what Austin is all about, spend an evening strolling Rainey Street, where you can pop in and out of bungalows transformed into one-of-a-kind bars. Live music abounds, whether on back porches or patios sprinkled throughout the area.
As the sun sets, head to the Congress Avenue Bridge, where a massive colony of Brazilian free-tail bats makes its home. Each evening, hundreds of thousands of Austin’s mascot mammals take to the skies in an exhilarating display of furry faces and beating wings for a unique, natural phenomenon in an urban setting. Afterward, sample downtown Austin’s upscale dining and drinks with a visit to Garrison’s open-flame kitchen at Fairmont Austin.
The Sonoma and Napa Valleys are California’s premier wine regions, justifiably famous for their high-quality reds and whites, beloved around the world. For oenophiles, there’s no shortage of vineyards to visit and vintages to sample. Fortunately, the drives here are scenic, with a gasp-worthy new vista around every bend. Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa provides the perfect outpost for your journey, where you can slip into the geothermal-fed mineral pools and enjoy farm-to-table dining after a day of sightseeing.
Sonoma farmers grow more than grapes. The area features independent farms that provide fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, crusty breads, and other delights. To find a local farm market for items for a picnic to enjoy at majestic Armstrong Redwoods, visit the interactive Sonoma County Farm Trails website. Then head to Armstrong Redwoods for your picnic surrounded by ancient coastal redwoods soaring up to 350 feet above you. Cap off your trip by soaring yourself: take a tour of wine country in a hot air balloon for one last look at this beautiful piece of California.
4. San Francisco
From San Francisco’s earliest days, Nob Hill has been one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in San Francisco. At the heart of this exclusive enclave lies Fairmont San Francisco, the city’s grande dame of hospitality. The neighborhood also hosts a number of Michelin-starred restaurants representing a wide range of global cuisine.
No trip to San Francisco is complete without a cable car ride. From Nob Hill, hop on the California Street line to enjoy the view from one of the city’s hilliest streets. When you reach the bottom, you’re just steps from the historic Ferry Building, a fascinating marketplace where you can browse local wares.
San Francisco is recognized for its world-class museums, but if you don’t want to spend a day indoors head to the Presidio. Now a national park, the Presidio offers a wealth of things to do and see, including a collection of four stunning Andy Goldsworthy pieces, including the breathtaking 100-foot cypress Spire. This sprawling park is also the best place in the city to get up close and personal with the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
5. New York
New York is home to an endless array of landmarks, including those everyone should see: the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and Times Square. But dig a little deeper into the city’s neighborhoods and you’ll be able to answer the age-old question: East Side or West Side?
The posh Upper East Side has long been home to the city’s most affluent residents, luxury boutiques and fine dining. A stay at The Plaza offers a visit filled with Old New York glamour and views of Central Park. Nearby Fifth Avenue is a global shopping destination, but don’t skip Museum Mile, a stretch of the famous thoroughfare packed with museums and galleries, including Frank Lloyd Wright’s spiraling Guggenheim.
The Upper West Side, on the other hand, offers leafy streets lined with classic brownstones and plenty of neighborhood coffee shops. It’s also a cultural hub anchored by Lincoln Center, home of the New York City Ballet and the Metropolitan Opera. Check the calendar to see which excellent plays and musicals are in performance if you want to avoid Broadway crowds.
No matter what you like best, five-star dining, discovering new artists or exploring nature’s beauty, you’ll find it all in the cities we call home. The country’s most glamorous cities and incredible destinations await, so plan your next adventure today.