Eventually, all roads lead to America because it has the best of everything, the worst of everything, and everything in between. People think America is the land of milk and honey and that all streets are paved with gold. I saw it on CNN so it must be true.

Americans can do anything they want and don’t consider class to be a barrier to their dreams.  In Texas, you can see an oil tycoon wearing Gucci loafers drinking scotch with a real cowhand wearing boots and spurs. One smells like cash while the other smells of horses.

America is exciting because it’s a nation of contrasts. The expression that “New York is not America” is exactly true because people there are decidedly different than those from Tulsa.  People in Los Angeles can sunbathe on the beach in the morning and ski on snowy mountains two hours later.

So, let’s take a brief but exciting virtual trip around these here United States to find some of the best places to eat, drink, and make merriment.

Rainbow Room and the Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog: New York, New York

This legendary restaurant/bar and dancing venue near Rockefeller Center offers majestic views of Manhattan and presents sumptuous fare. This is elegant, old-fashioned fine dining at its best. The Rainbow Room requires gentlemen to wear a coat and tie and ladies fine evening dresses.  After dinner, dance to Count Basie-style music played by a big-band orchestra.

Eat lunch at the Dead Rabbit the next day. This a hip joint on the southern tip of Manhattan has an Irish motif and is renowned for serving amazing hand-crafted cocktails. Have a “toddy for the body”, eat some outstanding Irish Stew, and take lots of pictures.

Meet Rocky on the Steps of the Art Museum: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

extraordinary places to visit in the us

Made famous by Sylvester Stallone running up those steps, this is one of the most respected museums in America. It houses 227 thousand pieces of art in 200 separate galleries. Marvel at world-class paintings like Sunflowers by Van Gogh, Japanese Footbridge by Monet, and Three Musicians by Picasso. You can also see Rocky’s statue at the top of the steps.

Then go eat the world’s best cheese steak sandwiches at Gino’s or Pat’s King of Steaks in downtown South Philly. Those sandwiches are serious greasy/salty/cheesy delights.

The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History: Washington, D.C.

Washington DC - April 12, 2015: The Smithsonian Institution Building in the spring season.

The Natural History Museum is wonderful beyond words. You can see the history of the earth, learn how the dinosaurs evolved, play with chunks of asteroids, and review a precious gem selection that will knock off both your socks. Ogle at the Hope Diamond, the world’s largest deep blue diamond at 45.5 karats. This place has 120 million other specimens of animals, rocks, minerals, and plants from all parts of the world. Amazing in the extreme.  

Play golf at Stone Mountain: Atlanta, Georgia

extraordinary places to visit in the us

Just 15 miles East of Atlanta, Stone Mountain is a quartz monzonite dome that climbs 1,686 feet. This awesome bit of geology has replicas of three Confederate heroes carved into its face. These 50-foot reliefs honor Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis. Right in the shadow of those historical figures sits Stone Mountain Golf Club. This is a grand golfing venue with two championship courses that are hilly, tree-lined, and very challenging while the views of Stone Mountain and the lake are spectacular.

The Olde Pink House and Waterfront: Savannah, Georgia

The Olde Pink House

This resplendent colonial 18th Century mansion offers a modern twist to traditional southern cuisine. While there is no formal dress code, people wear proper evening attire at this fine establishment. The Pink House has outdoor dining and live music most in the timeworn and cozy bar downstairs. Try the Blackened oysters with watermelon relish and fried shrimp with Savannah red rice.

The cobblestone streets of Savannah’s waterfront present rough-hewn wooden buildings and shops jammed together like sardines to evoke memories of pirate days. Have an after-dinner drink at the Boar’s Head Grill or Lizzy’s Tequila Bar.

Bayou Airboat Ride and Steamboat Cruise: New Orleans, Louisiana

extraordinary places to visit in the us

You must be brave when skimming across the snake-infested bayou at 50 mph on a flat-bottomed, prop-driven wind machine. Disturbing hostile alligators and giant swamp rodents is dangerous. But its more fun than you’ll ever have with clothes on.

Reward your courage that evening by having dinner on the elegant Steamboat Natchez. The calliope music adds a nice touch while the live jazz dance music ensures a grand time. It’s not the Rainbow Room, but it’s a noteworthy experience nevertheless.

San Diego Zoo and Gaslamp Quarter: San Diego, California

Beautifully designed elephant aviary with pond and rocks. San Diego Zoo

This zoo is world-famous for its extensive gallery of 600 animal species from 10 regions of the globe. Watch the Panda Cam, see the gorilla cage or spy on the big snake enclosure where anacondas lurk.

The Gaslamp is San Diego’s version of the French Quarter without all the heat and humidity. It’s a great place to people watch, go pub crawling, have a great meal, or listen to live music. Meat lovers will appreciate Rei Do Gado Brazilian Steakhouse or The Greystone. The Rei is an “all the meat you can eat” place while The Greystone is an upscale surf and turf eatery with a more relaxed atmosphere.

Tour Hearst Castle: San Simeon, California

extraordinary places to visit in the us

From Los Angeles, drive north on Highway 1 to experience one of the most spectacular drives on California’s bucolic coast. The trip winds through exotic towns like Ventura, Santa Maria, Pismo Beach, and San Luis Obispo. Then spend the night in San Simeon and visit the Castle the next day.

Hearst Castle is a National Historic landmark perched on the San Simeon hills. Built in 1919 by newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, it was opened to the public in 1958. The main building is Casa Grande which has 60,645 square feet of living, dining, and entertainment space.

Eat lunch at Greens; Take the Ferry to Sausalito: San Francisco, California

extraordinary places to visit in the us

Greens Restaurant is a historic vegetarian venue and a great departure from the usual city fare of meat and seafood. Their award-winning menu will surprise even big meat lovers. Enjoy the Indian Thali or Wild Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie while sitting on furniture carved out of giant Redwood trees.

After lunch, take the short cab ride to the Ferry Pier on Fisherman’s Wharf. Take a few Dramamine pills and don a warm coat, however, before your exciting ferry ride to the quaint, old town of Sausalito since the seas can be choppy and the winds can be strong. Bring a camera because you’ll enjoy spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and the San Francisco skyline.

Explore the Grand Canyon: Flagstaff, Arizona

extraordinary places to visit in the us

This canyon is one seriously big ditch, for sure. It’s 227 miles long, 10 miles wide on average, a mile deep and was carved by the Colorado River over millions of years. You can take a nice, slow and peaceful guided mule tour to the canyon floor. The mule trail hugs the canyon walls and puts you in direct communion with God and nature because some of those steep, dramatic cliffs will make you pray.

For those who are more courageously gifted, however, they can arrange a breathtaking white-water rafting tour down the mighty Colorado. You can book one-day tours or marvelous week-long expeditions. In either case, you’ll register memories that will last a lifetime.

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