Top Things to See and Do in St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine’s primary claim to fame is its status as the oldest colonial settlement in the United States. In 1513, the famed Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon landed on the southeastern coast of the North American mainland. He claimed the land for Spain and named it La Florida, which translates into English as “land of the flowers.” About half a century later, another Spanish voyager, Pedro Menendez de Aviles, founded the city of St. Augustine. The modern-day city traces its heritage back to 1565.

Visitors will find a wealth of treasures to enjoy in St. Augustine, including lots of family-friendly activities for kids. Here are 12 hot suggestions to help kick off your trip planning…

17. Take a Guided Tour

St. Augustine features many reputable tour operators that offer informative, educational, and entertaining guided experiences. Guided tours are a great way to get acquainted with the city, and operators offer themed outings that cover a wide range of subjects. You can take a hop-on hop-off tour that allows you to explore points of interest on your own, as well as history tours that delve deep into the city’s storied past.

After nightfall, you can experience the spooky side of St. Augustine with mystery tours and ghost tours. Research your options and book in advance to optimize convenience.

Source: Bob Pool / Shutterstock.com

16. Explore The City On A Hop-On-Hop-Off Trolley Tour

Speaking of guided tours, the St. Augustine Hop-On-Hop-Off Trolley Tour is a great opportunity to see the city at your own pace. This tour includes 23 stops all of which you can hop on or off whenever you please.

The tour also comes with an informative guide so you can learn about St. Augustine’s history along the way.

Source: Darryl Brooks / Shutterstock.com

15. See The City From Above in a Helicopter Tour

The St. Augustine Fort Matanzas & Old Downtown Helicopter Tour provides you a unique view of St. Augustine, Florida that you won’t get anywhere else.

The tour departs over the Intracoastal waterway to North Beach where you will be able to enjoy a view of 17 miles of stunning coastline. During the tour, you’ll see Vilano Beach, Porpoise Point, Conch Island, Bird Island, San Jose Forest, Mendez Park, St. Augustine Beach and Fort Matanzas. Finally, on your way back to the airport be sure to take in the view of the Old Downtown.

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14. Stroll Down St. George Street

Historic St. George Street runs through the heart of St. Augustine’s Colonial Quarter, and it is an absolute must-see. This pedestrian walkway passes many of the city’s best-preserved historical sites, including its ancient schoolhouse and the Old City Gates. Along the way, you’ll pass dozens of interesting boutiques, inviting cafes, and independent galleries. Prevailing wisdom suggests that you’ll need between two hours and half a day to get your fill of this beautiful section of St. Augustine.

Source: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

13. Check Out The Alligators At The Alligator Farm Zoological Park

If you’re hoping to see some wildlife on your trip to St. Augustine, be sure to check out the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. You’ll not only have the opportunity to check out every crocodilian species but you’ll also be able to check out their wide range of other animals too.

Once you’ve had an opportunity to check out the wildlife you can add more adventure to your day by zip-lining through the zoo! The challenging course will give you a birds-eye view of alligators and crocodiles and you’ll be able to see tropical birds at eye level and red-ruffed lemurs at an arm’s length!

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12. Discover the Lightner Museum

While you’re in the Colonial Quarter, it’s a good idea to check out the nearby Lightner Museum. Rated as one of the city’s most unique attractions, the Lightner Museum features an unusual collection of 19th-century art. Some of the strange things you’ll encounter include old-school cigar packaging, a collection of shriveled heads, and bundles of human hair. If weirdness isn’t your cup of tea, there’s also plenty of conventional artworks for you to enjoy. The museum is housed in a former hotel that was built in the 19th century, and its beautiful architecture is also a major draw in its own right.

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11. Head for the Lighthouse

The St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum is widely considered another auto-include on visitor itineraries. Built between 1871 and 1874, the lighthouse is the oldest brick building in the city that still stands today, and urban legends claim the site is haunted by several spirits. Visitors rave about heading to the top for a soaring view of the city and surrounding coastline, but be prepared to work for your reward as you’ll need to climb 219 steps to reach the summit.

While you’re in the neighborhood, it’s also worth checking out the Maritime Museum. Both the lighthouse and the museum are open year-round, with the only closures falling on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

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10. Hit the Beach

St. Augustine Beach is located about five miles outside the city’s Colonial Quarter, and it’s a big hit with families. The beach features a kid-friendly splash pad, along with approximately two miles of pristine white sand and warm, crystal-clear waters. It’s rarely crowded, and the north end of the beach is crowned with the St. Johns County Ocean and Fishing Pier. This is a great place for angling enthusiasts to cast a line and try their luck.

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9. Visit the Old Jail

Another supposedly haunted historic location, St. Augustine’s Old Jail was completed in the early 1890s and now serves as a fascinating tourist attraction. Designed to match the city’s existing architecture, the Old Jail is a surprisingly appealing Romanesque Revival building. It remained in active use as an incarceration facility until 1953 before opening to the public the following year.

Guided tours are available and highly recommended, with staff dressing up in authentic period garb and leading visitors on an informative and eye-opening experience.

Photo by: Visit Augustine

8. Hunt for Pirate Treasure

St. Augustine and the Florida coast are rich in pirate lore, and it is perfectly captured at the popular St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum. A convincing character named Captain Mayhem greets visitors at the door, offering free guided tours. One of the tour’s main highlights is a replica pirate ship, which guests are free to explore. As you might imagine, this opportunity is a big hit with kids.

Some of the historical treasures housed in the museum include America’s oldest surviving “Wanted” poster and an authentic skull-and-crossbones “Jolly Roger” flag that dates to the 1600s. The museum isn’t overly large and can be fully explored in just a couple of hours. Yarrrr!

Photo by: St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum Facebook

7. Seek the Fountain of Youth

Florida’s discoverer, Juan Ponce de Leon, is also famous for his efforts to find the fabled Fountain of Youth, a legendary pond whose waters supposedly stopped the natural aging process. According to some, he succeeded in his efforts, and the magical spring is said to be located in Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archeological Park.

In addition to its namesake spring, the Fountain of Youth Archeological Park also houses an old-style blacksmith’s studio, a replica Native American village, and a planetarium. Several dozen peacocks also roam the grounds, putting on a show with their dazzling feather displays.

Ovidiu Hrubaru / Shutterstock.com

6. Explore the St. Augustine Distillery

The St. Augustine Distillery is a locally owned and managed distillery that is famous for artisanal spirits. The distillery is conveniently located downtown St. Augustine in a stunning restored ice plant.

Check out the St. Augustine Distillery for yourself! The tours are free and are offered 7 days a week. During the tour, you’ll learn about their award-winning bourbon whiskey, vodka, gin, and rum and you can even have a taste for yourself (if you’re of legal drinking age, of course).

Source: Angela N Perryman / Shutterstock.com

5. Explore Exotic Wildlife at the St. Augustine Wild Reserve

This isn’t your average run-of-the-mill zoo. The St. Augustine Wild Reserve was founded in 1995 to serve as an animal sanctuary, and the nonprofit organization that operates it is committed to rescuing exotic animals from life-threatening situations.

Some of the fantastic beasts you’ll find within include bears, leopards, mountain lions, and tigers. You can also see a lion that was once owned by pop star Michael Jackson. However, be sure to book your visit online before you head there, as reservations are required.

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4. Head to Castillo de San Marcos

Castillo de San Marcos is America’s oldest surviving brick military fortification. Built by Spanish settlers in the latter decades of the 17th century, the fort served to safeguard St. Augustine from pirate invasions and attacks by the British, who were seeking to strengthen their foothold in North America at the time.

Britain, of course, eventually took control of the modern-day United States, and they went on to use the fort as a base for military operations during the American Revolutionary War. About a century later, the Confederates also used Castillo de San Marcos as a base of operations during the American Civil War. The site has enjoyed National Monument status since 1900.

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3. Ferry to Fort Matanzas

Fort Matanzas is one of America’s most unique National Monuments. It is built completely out of concrete and seashells, and the site commemorates the spot of a major battle fought between Spanish and French colonial powers, who were vying for supremacy during the early years of North American settlement.

The fort itself dates to 1740 and rests in the midst of a 100-acre plot of marshy barrier islands that dot the Matanzas River. Left to decay for many years, Fort Matanzas was carefully restored by the United States Department of War between 1916 and 1924. Today, it is accessible only by ferry, but the trip is well worth it, particularly for history buffs. It can easily be paired with a visit to Castillo de San Marcos, which is its companion monument.

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2. Check out Fort Mose Historic State Park

Fort Mose Historic State Park brings local history to life in unique ways. During colonial times, Fort Mose served as St. Augustine’s northernmost military fortification. As slavery spread throughout the developing American South, it also became an important junction on the famous Underground Railroad escape route.

Founded in 1738, Fort Mose also evolved to become the first free African settlement in the modern-day United States. The Fort Mose Historical Society occasionally stages reenactments in the park, and visitors can enjoy picnics and kayaking all year round.

Photo by: Visit St. Augustine

1. Enjoy A Sunset Cruise

After spending the day exploring the city unwind with a relaxing Sunset Cruise with Florida Water Tours. The adult-only tour is reserved for passengers who are 21 years old and over which ensures you’ll have a relaxing adult atmosphere.

Onboard you can purchase from a great selection of beer, wine, and other non-alcoholic drinks. While you taking in the breathtaking sunset view you’ll also pass many landmarks such as the Bridge of Lions, St. Augustine Lighthouse and more.

Source: Shutterstock

The Top Things to See and Do in Charleston, South Carolina

Founded as Charles Town in 1670 in honor of England’s King Charles II, Charleston was one of the most important cities in the United States during its early history and colonial era. Today, it is known for its rich and fascinating historical heritage, welcoming locals, fantastic beaches, and beautiful architectural treasures. Charleston has won a long list of accolades from major travel publications as an American must-see gem. Travel + Leisure magazine rated it as the “World’s Best City” in 2016, and Charleston has also earned high praise and accolades from periodicals including Southern Living and Condé Nast Traveler in recent years.

There are tons of amazing things to see and do in Charleston, and these 20 suggestions are great starting points for first-time visitors:

20. Cruise Around Morris Island Lighthouse By Boat

Charleston is a wonderful city but when you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle take a boat cruise to Morris Island. The quaint uninhabited island is only accessible by boat so set sail on the Morris Island Lighthouse Eco Cruise to do some exploring.

The cruise sets sail from Bowens Island and will make its way to Morris Island. Along the way, you may even see marine life such as bottlenose dolphins and sea turtles. Once you make your way onto the island you can explore at your own pace, search for seashells, check out the historic Morris Island Lighthouse, and take in the breathtaking view.

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19. Check Out Charleston’s First Distillery Since Prohibition

High Wire is Charleston’s first distillery since prohibition and would be an excellent site to see during your visit. Conveniently located in downtown Charleston, you can head to High Wire for a tour and tasting Tuesday through Saturday from 11 am to 6 pm.

The tours will provide insight into how the distilling process works as well as a glimpse into the mechanics of a small distillery. Keep in mind, guests must be 18 and older to enter the tasting room and guests must be 21 and older (with valid ID) to taste.

Source: High Wire Distilling

18. Go On A Culinary Walking Food Tour

Why waste time researching where to eat when you can hit all the hottest spots on the Downtown Charleston culinary walking food tour! This culinary walking tour will give you a taste of some of Charleston’s best locally run restaurants.

As a bonus, you’ll get to learn about the history of the city along the way. Be sure to skip your lunch because these food samples are going to fill you up!

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17. Explore The City On A Sightseeing Bus Tour

Kick back and relax on the Charleston See-It-All Sightseeing Bus Tour! The comfortable climate-controlled ride allows you to see the city in a whole new way. Plus the minibusses only sit 15 passengers which means you’ll get an intimate experience.

Touring on a bus instead of on foot allows you to see more in a single outing. Additionally, the bus tours feature 5 departure times so you find a time that works best for you and your schedule.

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16. Ghost of Charleston Walking Tour

Looking for a spooky adventure? Enjoy an eerie night tour on the Ghost of Charleston Walking Tour!

A guide will lead you through the dark to explore the spooky tales and locations of Charleston. Among other stops, the tour also gains you after-hour access to a paranormal hot spot, the Unitarian Church Graveyard.

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15. Go Dancing At The Commodore Music Club

The Commodore is a great place to go to if you’re looking for live entertainment and to go dancing. As soon as you walk into the music club you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a vintage jazz club.

The bar features preserved vintage brass and green velvet bar stools, a glossy black tiled floor, chandeliers, and velvet curtains that surround the stage. Whether you’re looking to hit the dance floor or simply looking for a place to grab a drink, a night out at The Commodore will be a night to remember. Just make sure you’re of legal drinking age!

Source: The Commodore

14. Enjoy A Sunset Sail On Charleston Harbor

There’s no better way to watch a sunset than out at sea. The Schooner Sunset Sail on Charleston Harbor excursion features a 2-hour cruise on a quaint sailboat.

The cruise’s maximum capacity is 15 passengers creating an intimate experience for everyone. During the cruise, the captain and crew will point out historical sites along the way. Also, feel free to bring a picnic or snack but forget the drinks because you can purchase beverages aboard.

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13. Visit The Otters At The South Carolina Aquarium

The South Carolina Aquarium would be a great interactive experience for you and your family. Here you can check out the 6,000-gallon stingray tank, touch and feel several species in the touch tanks and learn about many animals native to South Carolina.

Also, don’t miss your chance to see the river otters at the South Carolina Aquarium! This is a great opportunity considering it’s very rare to spot them in the wild.

Source: South Carolina Aquarium

12. Explore the French Quarter

Art galleries, boutiques, historic churches, and several of the city’s architectural landmarks are clustered in the French Quarter, which is bounded by Market Street to the north, Meeting Street to the west, Broad Street to the south, and Waterfront Park to the east.

While many architectural and history walking tours will highlight this part of the city, it’s well worth exploring in more detail, particularly if you have a strong interest in Charleston’s rich and storied heritage.

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11. Check out Charleston City Market

While Charleston City Market is characterized by some as a touristy cliché, it’s one of the best places in the city to experience the contemporary character of traditional Old South life. Formerly known as the Slave Market, as slaves would be sent here by their masters to buy food for their households in centuries past, Charleston City Market is an ideal place to go people-watching and find some authentic handicrafts.

One recommended option is to seek out the market’s so-called basket ladies, who perform a time-honored type of traditional basket weaving that was originally practiced in West Africa. Practitioners hand-make beautiful baskets from materials like palmetto leaves and sweetgrass, with the craft’s secrets being carefully passed down from generation to generation.

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10. Hit the Beach

Folly Beach is the most popular of the city’s beaches, which offer a welcome respite of lounging and relaxation after a few busy days of sightseeing. Charleston has a humid subtropical climate, which extends beach season beyond the summer months into the late spring and early fall.

Folly Beach is about 12 miles outside of downtown Charleston, and setting it aside as a day trip during your stay in the area is usually the way to go. Interestingly, Folly Beach is where George & Ira Gershwin wrote their famous opera Porgy and Bess during the summer of 1934.

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9. Discover the City’s Museums

Beyond Fort Sumter National Monument, Charleston has many other museums that are sure to interest curious visitors and history buffs. The Aiken-Rhett House Museum offers a one-of-a-kind glimpse into life during the antebellum age, while the Nathaniel Russell House Museum is an architectural masterpiece with a stunning spiral staircase. Charleston Museum, Heyward-Washington House, Confederate Museum, and the Old Slave Mart Museum are other popular options to consider.

All in all, Charleston is home to dozens of museums, so if you’re particularly keen on the city’s history, it’s best to do some research before you arrive so you can learn more about the things that interest you most.

James Kirkikis / Shutterstock.com

8. Cruise to Sullivan’s Island

Speaking of island ferries, you should also make room in your itinerary for Sullivan’s Island. A relatively compact 3.3 square miles, Sullivan’s Island is one of those often-overlooked hidden gems that vacationers rave about after visiting.

The island is home to a charming and welcoming town, which is brimming with beachfront eateries and one-of-a-kind boutiques. A popular option is to plan your day around having lunch on Sullivan’s Island and giving yourself an hour to explore the shops before heading back to the mainland.

Photo by: Sinopse Stylist

7. Brush Up on Your Civil War History at Fort Sumter

Fort Sumter National Monument is forever enshrined in American history books as the place where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. Cannons that were used in the war are still nestled into the fort’s cave network, which is located on an island in Charleston Harbor.

Regular ferry service is available to transport you to Fort Sumter, and once you’re there, it’s also recommended that you spend some time exploring the island’s small but worthwhile museum to learn more about the long list of fascinating treasures still housed there.

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6. Lose Yourself in Beautiful Gardens

Charleston and the surrounding area are home to some of the best-preserved plantations and gardens in the American South. Middleton Place, constructed in 1755, remains one of the city’s most enduring attractions, but there are several others that are definitely not to be missed.

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens has spectacular, postcard-worthy scenery, and charming Drayton Hall, which dates to 1738, is one of the oldest intact plantations still standing in the United States.

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5. Stroll Along The Battery

Ask a Charleston local, and chances are they’ll tell you there’s no way you can leave the city before you’ve visited The Battery. Once the center of the city’s maritime economy, The Battery is now lined with a stunning collection of charming and colorful Southern mansions. As you make your way through this picturesque and unique neighborhood, it’s worth making a stop in White Point Gardens, which is located close by and contains several interesting Civil War artifacts and memorials.

A visit to The Battery is a perfect companion activity to Waterfront Park, as the park doubles as an entry point to the neighborhood.

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4. Relax in Waterfront Park

Located along the banks of the Cooper River, Waterfront Park is a relative newcomer to the Charleston tourism scene, having been completed in 1990. Its shady trees and breathtaking landscaping make it the ideal place to relax and enjoy some quiet time, and it’s a popular place with the locals as well.

Pack a picnic or bring along a good book—chances are good you’ll want to stay here for a while.

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3. Take a Carriage Ride

Carriage rides offer yet another tour option. Like the city’s walking tours and boat tours, carriage rides also dedicate themselves to specific sections and quarters of the city’s historic center.

Popular options explore the city’s residential architecture, downtown core, and historic areas. As with the walking tours, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. However, these horse-drawn carriage rides add an undeniable mystique to your experience, bringing the classic elegance of the South to life like nothing else.

James Kirkikis / Shutterstock.com

2. Head to Charleston Harbor

Charleston is also home to a robust selection of boat tours, most of which embark from historic Charleston Harbor. These tours explore the city’s fascinating maritime history, all while cruising past many of the city’s most iconic landmarks. On many tours, the boat’s captain doubles as your tour guide, creating a truly unique experience.

Also, keep your eyes peeled during your boat tour, as dolphins are known to frequent the waters around Charleston. You might just catch a glimpse of one!

Source: Shutterstock

1. Take a Walking Tour

Tour operators offer dozens of choices to visitors, so it’s best to consider your options in terms of what you’d like to see and learn about. We mentioned a few great options earlier but there are many other tours to choose from.

Some walking tours are dedicated to the city’s fascinating Civil War history, while others highlight its architectural gems. Other possibilities include church tours that delve deep into its religious history — there really is something for everyone!

Source: Shutterstock

25 Most Dangerous Cities In The US In 2019

When it comes to travel, one of the most important things to consider is safety. Most people would assume safety is something they have to worry about when traveling to other countries where they don’t speak the same language or are unfamiliar with the culture, and while that is true, there is also a risk of danger even closer to home. You might be surprised to learn there are many cities within the United States that aren’t exactly all peaches and cream. You wouldn’t want to walk around alone at night or wander aimlessly as a tourist in any of the following cities on this list because they’re considered to be the most dangerous in America.

This list was created based off information from the FBI’s crime statistics which were gathered from US cities with a population over 100,000 between January 2017 and June 2017. The data looks specifically at the amount of violent crimes in a city which includes rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. It’s important to note that the data used to create this Uniform Crime Report is collected voluntarily by police forces in cities across the country and not every city or state chooses to participate, so this list doesn’t necessarily give the full picture. However, it does give a big picture look at some of the more dangerous cities which can be helpful for people who are planning their next big city vacation in 2019.

Here’s a look at some of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. in 2019…

25. Lansing, Michigan

First up on this list is the capital of Michigan, Lansing. Business Insider reported that this city experienced 52.2 violent crimes per 10,000 residents which converts to about 14 homicides in the year 2017. Unfortunately, unlike most cities where crime rates are going down, this was the highest it had been in the previous five years.

In 2017 the poverty rate was 29.5-percent and the unemployment rate sat at about 6.3-percent. Police Chief Mike Yankowski told the Lansing State Journal that their high crime rates were due to domestic violence and mental illness.

24. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis is best known for being a very diverse and artsy city, but now it’s also known as one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. When considering a trip to this city in 2019, just remember that it didn’t fare so well in 2017. Only two years ago the violent crime rates were pretty high in Minneapolis with a rate of about 53.7 per 10,000 residents, according to Business Insider.

USA Today translates this violent crime rate to 1,101 per 100,000 residents with a grand total of 42 homicides in 2017. The poverty rate was 21.3-percent and the unemployment rate was 3.1-percent.

23. New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans is actually a pretty popular tourist hotspot, mainly because if its vibrant music scene, rich history, and round the clock party atmosphere. However what many people don’t often talk about is the fact that it’s actually quite dangerous, statistically. Business Insider writes that this city had 56.1 violent crimes per 10,000 residents in 2017 and 24/7 Wall St. notes that the city has some of the highest murder rates.

USA Today writes that in 2017 this touristy city had a violent crime rate of 1,121 per 100,000 residents and 157 homicides. The poverty rate here was 26.2-percent with an unemployment rate of 5.1-percent. Luckily mayor LaToya Cantrell has vowed to do something about it with a new program called Cure Violence.

Photo by: Bill Staney via Flickr

22. Newark, New Jersey

You’d think we’d see New York City on here ahead of one in New Jersey, but surprisingly, Newark is more prone to violence than the big apple (at least when population is factored in). In fact New York City is actually one of the safest big cities in the country. Not too far away is the city of Newark, New Jersey, one of the most dangerous cities in America. Business Insider writes that Newark had 42.8 violent crimes per 10,000 residents in 2017.

In 2016 there were 36 murders per 100,000 Newark residents which was about three times higher than any other city in New Jersey and the fifth highest in the country, at the time. One of the biggest factors in this city is unemployment. Cities with high unemployment rates tend to have more crime and Newark had an unemployment rate of about 8-percent which is about 5-percent higher than the national average. The poverty rate in 2016 was 29.7-percent which is also 15.5-percent higher than the national average. Not surprisingly, most of the crime takes place in the cities poorest areas, writes 24/7 Wall St. A report by the Safer Newark Council found that most of the violent crime occurred in only about 20-percent of the city streets, primarily in the West and South Wards. The report also said most of the homicide in the city is drug and gang related.

21. San Bernardino, California

In addition to being known as the site for the world’s first McDonald’s and the largest outdoor amphitheater in the United States, San Bernardino also has a reputation for being one of the most dangerous cities in the country (according to 2017 statistics) and the largest city to file for protection under Chapter 9 of the U.S. Bankruptcy code. This bankruptcy plays a huge role in the crime rate of this city because there have been major cutbacks to the police force.

In 2017 there were 1,291 violent crimes reported which includes murder, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults. This is the 15th highest in the entire country. USA Today reports that in 2017 San Bernardino had a violent crime rate of 1,291 per 100,000 residents, there were 34 homicides, and the city experienced a poverty rate of 32.3-percent with an unemployment rate of 6.3-percent.

20. Indianapolis, Indiana

When planning a trip in 2019, keep in mind that Indianapolis had a violent crime rate of 1,334 per 100,000 residents in 2017 which was one of the worst years this city has ever seen. As Indiana’s capital city, Indianapolis, sometimes referred to as ‘Indy’ is densely populated with an estimated population of about 863,002. On Dec. 28, 2017 Fox 59 reported there were 156 homicides in this city. This goes alongside a poverty rate of 20.9-percent and an unemployment rate of 3.6-percent. According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report, the violent crime rate in Indianapolis in 2017 was about 1,334 crimes per 100,000 residents.

19. Stockton, California

California is an extremely popular vacation spot, but it’s also an extremely big state with lots of cities, some nicer than others. We’re sure Stockton would be a lovely place to visit in 2019, but we think tourists should be wary about the unusually high crime rate here, especially in 2019 considering it wasn’t that long ago that the country claimed bankruptcy and landed on many lists as one of the U.S. cities with the highest crime rates. According to 2017 reports, this city had 68.8 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

The city claimed bankruptcy back in 2012 making it one of the most populous cities to do so. The lack of funding could possibly affecting their ability to fight crime by limiting the amount of resources available. The violent crime rate in 2017 was 1,415 per 100,000 residents with a total of 55 homicides. The unemployment rate was 8-percent, which is among the highest in the country, and the poverty rate was 23.7-percent.

18. Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Milwaukee is the largest city in Wisconsin. It’s a beautiful city that has a stunning waterfront along Lake Michigan. To a lot of tourists, this city is known for its cultural events and festivals and for those who live here, it’s a great city that has tons of stuff to do and a booming economy with several universities and Fortune 500 companies, but there is one major thing to be wary about when traveling to this city. It’s has high crime rates. In fact, according to crime reports presented by the FBI for the year 2017,  Milwaukee had a violent crime rate of 1,597 per 100,000. This ranks as the seventh highest in the entire country and means that for every 10,000 residents in Milwaukee there were 75.6 violent crimes in 2017.

USA Today takes a deeper look and reports that there were 118 homicides in this city in 2017, along with a poverty rate of 28.4-percent and an unemployment rate of 4.6-percent. Luckily, the amount of homicides is actually going down. In 2016 it was 141 which is slightly higher than 2017. It seems the Milwaukee Police Department are working hard to lower these numbers by focusing their attention on a two-mile section, where most of these crimes occur.

17. Kansas City, Missouri

We’re not in Kansas anymore Toto! Okay, so it’s not the same Kansas as Wizard of Oz, but close enough. Turns out the state of Missouri is much more dangerous than the state of Kansas, specifically Kansas City (and St. Louis, but more on that later on). You might be wondering what this city is doing on this list considering it was just praised for doing such a good job bringing their homicide rate down. Unfortunately, it was short lived and it’s once again on the rise again. Be wary of this when planning a trip in 2019.

USA Today crunched the numbers from 2017 and found that Kansas City had a violent crime rate of 1,724 per 100,000 residents. There were 150 homicides which is up from the 129 in 2016. In addition to that, the unemployment rate was 4.3-percent and the poverty rate sat at about 18.3-percent.

Sharon Day / Shutterstock.com

16. Rockford, Illinois

You might not have ever heard of Rockford Illinois, but it’s actually the third largest city in Illinois and surprisingly, one of the most violent. While it’s not nearly as bad as Chicago and the number of homicides was actually quite low in 2017. There were only 18 murders reported that year. Rockford is still no walk in the park in terms of safety because homicide is not their biggest problem. According to data collected from 2017, Rockford had 78 violent crimes per 10,000 residents. There were 1,773 aggravated assault cases reported in 2017 which is a lot more than many other cities with the same population. For example, Naperville, Illinois has an even bigger population than Rockford and it’s reported cases of aggravated assault were only 80.

USA Today reports there was a violent crime rate of 1,588 per 100,000 residents and lists an unemployment rate of 7.5-percent and a poverty rate of 22.7-percent. Luckily, this city isn’t exactly a hot tourist spot, especially considering it’s in the same state of Chicago which is one of the most visited cities in the country, so Rockford often gets overlooked.

15. Birmingham, Alabama

Located in the South, Birmingham is the most populous city in Alabama and is often associated as being part of the “deep south.” Sadly, in addition to its southern roots, this city lands in the top 5 on Business Insider’s list of the most violent cities in the U.S., as well as Forbes top 5. Business Insider writes that Birmingham, Alabama had 86.1 violent crimes per 10,000 residents in 2017 and Forbes writes that there were 1,483 violent crimes per 100,000 residents.

If we wanted to look on the bright side of all this, Birmingham is actually making progress despite the fact that it’s still quite dangerous. The crime here is down 40-percent from what it was in the mid-1990s. Forbes writes that according to the U.S. Census Department, much of the crime in this city is due to the high drug trade and the high poverty rate. The poverty rate in Birmingham is 26-percent. This is quite a lot considering the state average is 17-percent.

14. Nashville, Tennessee

There’s no denying that Nashville is having a bit of a moment in terms of tourism. In the past few years this city has been crawling with tourists between the months of May and September. What most people probably don’t realize is that this city is actually statistically one of the more dangerous cities in the country.

In the year 2017 there were 110 homicides in the Nashville metropolitan area. Also, the crime rate was 1,138 per 100,000 residents and the poverty rate sat at about 18-percent. The murder rate in this city is so bad that the Oasis Center of Nashville which works to help at risk youth in the area called it an epidemic, according to 24/7 Wall St. Outsiders traveling in probably didn’t hear about the high homicide rate in this city because Metro Police spokeswoman Kristin Mumford told Nashville News4 that most of these homicides were between people who knew each other and were engaged in “risky behavior.”

13. Cleveland, Ohio

For the past several years, Cleveland has been considered one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. based on national crime rankings. Cleveland is the second largest city in Ohio which means it also has a large population. Unfortunately, a good chunk of this population lives in poverty and is unemployed. The city has some of the highest rates of unemployment in the country. In 2017 the unemployment rate sat at 7.4-percent and the poverty rate was 36-percent.

Not surprisingly, these numbers contribute to the higher violent crime rates. In 2017, Cleveland experienced 107 homicides and nearly 6,000 violent crimes were reported. The violent crime rate was calculated to be 69.2 violent crimes per 10,000 residents or 1,557 per 100,000 residents. While it’s still considered to be a great city to visit (I mean, it is the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), but travellers should just be wary of the high crime rate in this city when traveling here in 2019, and practice common sense.

12. Detroit, Michigan

It might not be too surprising to see this city on the list. Detroit has a reputation for being a bit of an urban graveyard with thousands of empty buildings, a massive population decline, and a high poverty rate. In 2017 the city’s poverty rate sat at a whopping 39-percent with an unemployment rate of 9.3-percent. Not surprisingly, these traits all contribute to a high crime rate.

A closer look at Detroit’s violent crime rate in 2017 showed that there were 2,057 per 100,000 residents and 267 homicides.

11. Chicago, Illinois

Chicago has a notorious reputation when it comes to crime, but it’s actually not as bad as some smaller cities on this list like New Orleans, Newark, and Detroit. Chicago is the third largest city in the country and while it does have a higher murder rate than the two larger cities, Los Angeles and New York City, it’s still not the most dangerous city in the country. The latest data from 2017 shows that the murder rate in Chicago was 24 per 100,000 residents. That same year 650 people were murdered in this city, down from 771 in 2016, which isn’t hard considering it was the deadliest year the city had seen in decades.

Despite the higher risk of danger in this city, it doesn’t seem to deter tourists at all. In 2017 it was the second most visited city in the United States with 55 million visitors, right behind New York City which had 65 million visitors.

10. Anchorage, Alaska

Tourism is actually a big part of Alaska’s economy, so it does get a lot of visitors throughout the year, but it also has a pretty high crime rate. This is mainly due to the fact that it is such a large state. It is the largest state, the 3rd least populous and the most sparsely populated state in America. This probably plays a big role in why Alaska has higher crime rates because the police are unable to get to a crime scene as quickly as they would in a more densely populated city. This also affects their ability to solve a lot of crimes. In 2017, Anchorage had 57.1 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

Road Snacks writes that Anchorage ranked as the 16th most dangerous city in terms of violent crimes in 2017 with 1,203 per 100,000 residents and the 25th most dangerous for property crimes with a rate of 5,415 per 100,000 residents. 24/7 Wall St. writes that many experts blame drug and gang violence for these high crime rates and that more drug addiction and mental health treatment centers are needed in the city.

9. Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore is no joke when it comes to violent crime. In fact, there’s a reason HBO chose Baltimore, Maryland as the set for the American crime drama series The Wire. This show was supposed to depict a fictionalized version of the real crime issues in this city. So what are the real crime issues in Baltimore? Well for starters, this city has the third highest rate of violent crimes per 100,000 people. In 2017 there were 8,879 robberies reported which means the rate per 100,000 is 959 or 2,027 to 100,000 residents. To give a little perspective, this is nearly 10 times higher than the national robbery rate and the highest in any other major U.S. city. There were also 342 homicides in 2017 and a poverty rate of 23.1-percent. On a smaller scale, Business Insider found that Baltimore had 98.6 violent crimes per 10,000 residents in 2017.

USA Today reiterates this with a look at the violent crime rate per 100,000 residents which is 2,027. It also lists 2017 as having 342 homicides – that is pretty darn close to one every single day. This city also held a poverty rate of 23.1-percent and an unemployment rate of 6.1-percent.

Jon Bilous / Shutterstock.com

8. Pueblo, Colorado

When we think of Colorado we usually think of Rocky Mountains and a ski vacation getaway, but that’s not what Pueblo is known for. This city saw 48.9 violent crimes per 10,000 residents in 2017. What’s impressive is that this city is actually the smallest city on this list, but yet it still ranks pretty high up. It only just clocks over 100,000 people. While it may be smaller than some of the other cities on this list, it ranks in the eight spot for worst property crime rate with the majority of them being burglaries. Road Snacks reports there being 1,052 violent crimes per 100,000 people and 6,167 property crimes per 100,000 people.

mese.berg / Shutterstock.com

7. Chattanooga, Tennessee

Tennessee is a popular tourist destination because of Nashville, also known as ‘Music City,’ which also landed on this list. In addition to Nashville, the lesser known city of Chattanooga is another dangerous city to visit. It has the same kind of feel as Memphis and Nashville, but just not as touristy, and for good reason. It is one of the worst cities in America for property crime. It lands in the number 10 spot for property crime with 5,985 per 100,000 residents and is the 23rd most dangerous for violent crimes with 1,065 per 100,000 residents.

In 2017, there were 31 homicides. In most American cities the number of crime goes down each year, but for Chattanooga, the number of homicides in 2017 was at a record high. Local police said the major thing that did go down in 2017 was gang violence, writes 24/7 Wall St. In 2016 there were 132 shooting incidents, most of which were a result of a bloody gang war. While gang violence in this city is on the decline, the violent crime rate is on the rise. It was 1,023 per 100,000 in 2016, and in 2017 it rose to 1,066 per 100,000.

6. Oakland, California

Despite the high crime rates in this city, it’s actually become a desirable place to live and that’s because it’s so much cheaper than San Fransisco. Even though Oakland’s property prices are cheaper, there may be a price for safety. San Francisco ranks over 30 spots higher on the list of safe cities over Oakland. Now it’s not all doom and gloom for this city. To be fair their crime rates have actually been improving the past few years. It wasn’t that long ago that Oakland was known for having high rates of homicides, rapes, and aggravated assaults. According to 24.7 Wall St., the crime in this area skyrocketed after the recession, then went down, only to go back up again in 2012. Luckily it’s now on the decline again, but it’s still higher than most would like.

According to Road Snacks, “Oakland has the 10th highest violent crime rank in the country and the fifteenth highest property crime rate.” Yikes! In 2017 the violent crime rate was 1,299 per 100,000 residents and 69 homicides. The city had an unemployment rate of 4.2-percent and a poverty rate of 20-percent.

5. Albuquerque, New Mexico

For those who are surprised to see Albuquerque on this list, it’s more due to property crimes than violent crimes, but don’t be fooled by that. This is still one of the most dangerous cities in America. In 2016, Albuquerque had one of the worst crime rates in the country with 1,112 reported incidents of rape, assault, homicide, and robbery per 100,000 residents. Unfortuantely, 2017 didn’t fair much better for this city. In fact, the rates rose by a whopping 23-percent. In 2017 it became the 11th most dangerous city in America with 1,369 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, 70 of these incidents were homicides.

The poverty rate in Albuquerque is 18.9-percent with an unemployment rate of 5.5-percent. What’s even worse than being ranked as the 11th most violent city in the country? It’s ranked as the third most dangerous city for property crimes with 7, 365 per 100,000 residents in 2017. Many of these property crimes are a result of robberies. In 2016 the city reported 2,000 robberies which then rose to 2,930 in 2017.

 

4. Springfield, Missouri

As the first Springfield in America, this city made history. It’s making history once again, but this time as one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. Business Insider looked at FBI data from 2017 and found that Springfield had 40.3 violent crimes per 10,000 residents. According to 24/7 Wall St., this number is on the rise. The homicide rate nearly doubled between 2016 and 2017 going from 4.8 to 8.3 per 100,000. The same source writes, “Murder and non-negligent manslaughter represent a relatively small share of overall violent crime, and Springfield’s violent crime rate remained effectively unchanged between 2016 and 2017.”

Road Snacks lists it as the number one most dangerous city in terms of property crimes with 8,853 per 100,000 people and the 12th most dangerous for violent crimes with 1,338 per 100,000 residents. There were 14 homicides in 2017, a poverty rate of 25.9-percent and an unemployment rate of 3.2-percent. Yet another reason to be wary of traveling to this city in 2019, this city sadly has the highest rate of reported incidents of rape in the country with an average of 209 per 100,000 residents. To give some perspective on this, the national average is 42 per 100,000.

3. Little Rock, Arkansas

Little Rock’s crime rate ain’t so little! This city is the capital of Arkansas and the largest city in the state. Not only did it have the highest crime rate in the state, but is also one of the highest in the country! Little Rock had 87.4 violent crimes per 10,000 residents, says Business Insider and according to Road Snacks, it ranks in the top 10 in the country for both property and violent crimes per capita. The same source lists it as the sixth most dangerous in terms of violent crimes with 1,633 per 100,000 people and the fifth most dangerous in terms of property crimes with 6,932 per 100,000 people.

There were 55 homicides in this city in 2017, a poverty rate of 18.5-percent, and an employment rate of 3.3-percent, according to USA Today. The rate of criminal offenses in 2017 rose 1.1-percent from 2016, and 24/7 Wall St. says the police blame it on rival gang activity.

2. Memphis, Tennessee

Violence and crime probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Memphis, Tennessee. It’s more commonly known for it’s blues on Beale Street, being the home of Elvis, and of course, the site of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. But according to crime data from 2017, it’s currently one of the most dangerous cities in America with one of the highest violent crime rates in the country. In fact, Road Snacks lists it as being the third highest in America.

According to 24/7 Wall St., there were 653,000 violent crimes and 181 homicides committed in this city in 2017 which gives residents about a one in 50 chance at being a victim. We’re guessing the high rate of poverty has something to do with these statistics because Memphis has a poverty rate of about 27.6-percent which is much higher than the national 15.1-percent.

Natalia Bratslavsky / Shutterstock.com

1. St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis is typically known for it’s range of barbecue restaurants and blues music, but it’s also got another trick up it’s sleeve…one that probably isn’t advertised as much to tourists. It lands in the number one spot on several different lists as being the most dangerous city in America. Since this city ranks as the most dangerous city in America, at least based on crime data from 2017, we also consider it to be the most dangerous U.S. city to travel to in 2019.

Business Insider writes that St. Louis, Missouri had 91.5 violent crimes per 10,000 people in 2017. There were 205 homicides reported in St. Louis that same year which isn’t actually the highest number for a U.S. city in 2017, but once it’s adjusted to it’s population, it ends up being the highest murder rate in the country. According to 24/7 Wall St., St. Louis has a murder rate of 67 per 100,000 people which is extremely high, especially when it’s compared to the national average of 5 per 100,000. On top of all the violent crimes, the murder count for St. Louis in 2017 was 6,461 or 2,082 per 100,000 residents. This is the highest violent crime rate of any major U.S. city.

Best Cities To Visit In The US In 2019

Top Things to See and Do in Boulder, Colorado

Boulder enjoys a reputation as one of Colorado’s most forward-thinking cities. Its longstanding spirit of innovation is powered by the University of Colorado-Boulder, whose anchoring presence has influenced generation after generation of local residents. The city is also nestled into the sweeping Rocky Mountain foothills, and its spectacular alpine scenery and excellent outdoor recreation are major tourist draws.

If you’re a skiing or snowboarding aficionado, the best time of year to visit is between January and March, during the height of the winter sporting season. Otherwise, your best bet is to arrive between June and August, though fall visits are also rewarding as the city and surrounding area enjoy dazzling displays of foliage. Here are 10 things other than hitting the slopes that you’ll want to make room for during your time in Boulder:

10. Enjoy a Photo Op at the Flatirons

If you’ve ever seen a photo of Boulder, chances are it featured the Flatirons. These iconic rock walls overlook the city from their perch on its southwestern flank, and are accessible free of charge every day between dawn and dusk.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure you have a more enjoyable visit: some of the hiking trails can be very steep, and they can also get pretty slippery after a rainfall or snowfall. Make sure you bring professional-grade hiking gear if you plan on attempting some of the more difficult climbs. Also, don’t forget your camera. You’ll see stunning landscapes you’ll want to capture.

9. Check Out Chautauqua Park

Chautauqua Park is adjacent to the Flatirons, and is another must-see outdoor attraction. Now a National Historic Landmark, Chautauqua Park began building its reputation for breathtaking beauty in the late 19th century, when it was founded as a nature preserve. Amazing gardens, idyllic paths, and landscapes that could inspire artistic masterpieces await visitors at every turn. As with the Flatirons, don’t forget your camera. Chautauqua Park offers free general admission, but the guided tours are affordable and make for an excellent educational opportunity.

8. Head to Eldorado Canyon State Park

While Chautauqua Park is known for its gentle beauty, Eldorado Canyon State Park is equally famous for its dramatic and rugged landscapes. Stunning waterfalls, jagged cliff faces, rolling canyons, and dense coniferous forests are among the main attractions you’ll encounter here.

If you’re up for a challenge, many locals recommend hiking the Rattlesnake Gulch trail. The entire circuit covers just over three and a half miles, and leads to unbelievable vistas of the Continental Divide. You’ll also pass the ruins of the ill-fated Crags Hotel, which was destroyed by a mysterious inferno about a century ago.

7. Hike Along Boulder Creek Path

By now, you may be noticing a theme: hikes, hikes, and more hikes. Boulder’s population is among the healthiest in the United States, and with amazing trails like these surrounding the city, it’s little wonder why.

Boulder Creek Path is one of the prettiest, and it’s also easy on newbies and novices. If you want to enjoy a healthy dose of fresh air but don’t want to scale the Flatirons or meet the demands of Rattlesnake Gulch, Boulder Creek Path is an excellent alternative. The path is nestled in the heart of a reserve that is completely inaccessible to motorized vehicles, so you’ll also enjoy perfect peace and quiet.

Photo by: AboutBoulder.com

6. Climb to the Peak of Flagstaff Mountain

This family-friendly activity isn’t as demanding or difficult as it sounds. While the peak does rise to an altitude of about 7,000 feet, there are easy routes that are suitable for school-aged children. Once you reach the top, you can enjoy a rest and an educational adventure at the mountain’s kid-oriented nature center, which delights young visitors with its interactive exhibits and fun activities.

Did you pack a picnic? Great! Outside the nature center, you’ll find picnic areas with soaring vantage points of the surrounding countryside.

Photo by: The Trail Girl

5. Go shopping on Pearl Street

Pearl Street is a shopper’s paradise that runs through the heart of Boulder. After you’ve had your fill of outdoor recreation, it’s a great place to browse for unique crafts and brand-name merchandise.

The street’s main attraction is its pedestrian mall, which includes a wide range of independent boutiques and franchise retailers. Ready to relax after a long day on the trails? Pearl Street is a great place to unwind, with loads of restaurants, microbrew pubs, cafes, and spots to people-watch.

Arina P Habich / Shutterstock.com

4. Sip Afternoon Tea

Boulder is one of America’s tea capitals. Celestial Seasonings, the largest manufacturer of tea products in North America, is headquartered in the city. Readers of USA Today recently ranked its factory as one of the best food company tours in the country.

A visit to the Dushanbe Tea House is also highly recommended. Named in honor of Boulder’s sister city, the Tajikistani capital of Dushanbe, this Central Asian-style team room is a true one-of-a-kind building. It was actually made in Tajikistan, and every piece of the façade was shipped over to the United States, where it was faithfully reassembled by a team of experts.

Photo by: Boulder Teahouse Facebook

3. See a Show at Boulder Theater

In second place behind the Flatirons as an instantly recognizable icon of Boulder is the Boulder Theater. Open since 1906, this classic music venue has hosted some major concerts over the years, with A-listers like Sheryl Crow and Shawn Colvin among those who have graced its stage. The Boulder Theater is also a central part of the city’s thriving local music scene, and it’s a great place to catch up-and-coming regional bands before they hit the big time.

Photo by: Boulder Theater

2. Tour the University of Colorado-Boulder Campus

Boulder’s CU campus is widely recognized as one of the most beautiful in the American West, and it’s well worth exploring if you have an hour or two to spare. If you happen to be visiting during football season, sports fans will also love the experience of attending a Buffaloes game.

During the summer, the campus takes on a more refined and cultural air. Between June and August, it plays host to the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. This world-renowned celebration of The Bard’s legendary works draws rave reviews, and its stage performances have been known to attract crowds of up to 20,000 people.

Photo by: University of Colorado Boulder Facebook

1. Head to the CU Museum of Natural History

Chances are you spent a good deal of your visit to Boulder outside. The CU Museum of Natural History is an excellent place to put what you saw into context. This university-operated science museum is home to more than four million specimens, curiosities, samples, and artifacts drawn from the region’s diverse natural surroundings. The exhibitions are expertly designed and skillfully displayed, and the world-class museum also houses a fascinating collection of precious metal samples from the state’s gold rush era. Small and intimate, the museum entertains and educates without ever feeling overwhelming.

Photo by: Gaurav via Wikimedia Commons

The Top Things to See and Do in Madison, Wisconsin

Madison is Wisconsin’s scenic state capital. Built around five beautiful lakes, the city and its surrounding suburbs are home to about 650,000 people. However, Madison offers a range of things to see and do that put it on par with much larger cities. It’s a hub of Midwest culture, with live performances and events throughout the year. The city is also well-known for having a highly educated population, and it is one of the region’s best places to raise a family. Many students from the city’s University of Wisconsin campus end up sticking around after graduation, just because Madison is so livable.

If you’re in town, these 12 recommended activities will help ensure you have a pleasant and memorable visit:

12. Marvel at the Wisconsin State Capitol

The Wisconsin State Capitol is famous for its Roman-inspired headquarters, which is home to the only classical granite dome ceiling in the entire country. In addition to this awe-inspiring architectural feature, the Wisconsin State Capitol building is also constructed from more than 40 different varieties of stone, and features hand-crafted antique furnishings and beautiful wall murals. The building is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful state capitols in the U.S., and if you’re visiting during the summer months, you can also head to the observation deck for panoramic vistas of the city and its famous lakes.

11. Go for a Bike Ride

If you’re visiting Madison between about mid-April and mid-October, it’s a pretty safe bet that your stay is going to be snow-free. Getting active is one of the best ways to see the city, and Madison enjoys a reputation as one of the best cycling metro areas in the United States. It holds a rare “platinum” rating from the League of American Bicyclists, thanks to its strong biking culture, outstanding cycling infrastructure, and ease of access to fantastic trail networks.

You can rent a bike by the day, week, or month from numerous sources in the city, and Madison also supports affordable access to municipal bike-share services.

Juli Hansen / Shutterstock.com

10. Discover the University of Wisconsin–Madison Arboretum

The University of Wisconsin–Madison is often cited as the place where the American nature restoration movement began, and the campus’s beautiful arboretum offers compelling evidence that its conservation tradition remains alive and well. Open year-round, the arboretum is also free to enjoy, making it a fantastic opportunity for budget-conscious travelers to experience some authentic Midwestern scenery without spending a dime.

Inside, you will find over 1,200 acres of breathtaking natural vistas. In addition to many different native Wisconsin plant and tree species, visitors can also see a varied range of landscapes including plains, lakeshores, woodlands, natural springs, and more. The arboretum features more than 20 miles of hiking trails and 4 miles of paved cycling routes, making it easy to explore.

Photo by: UW-Madison Arboretum Facebook

9. Stroll Through Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Speaking of nature, Olbrich Botanical Gardens has long been one of the city’s most popular outdoor attractions. It is particularly famous for its conservatory of tropical plants, which offers a unique viewing experience considering Madison’s relatively cool climate. This beautiful park also houses a stunning garden of perennial plants and flowers, as well as wildflowers, artistically arranged rock gardens, and collections of herbs, roses, and wildflowers. It’s a great way to enjoy a summer day, but fall visits are also fantastic as you can walk amid brilliantly colored leaves as the foliage starts to change.

Photo by: Olbrich Botanical Gardens Facebook

8. Pull up a Chair on the Memorial Union Terrace

This local institution has been a favorite place to relax and people-watch for decades. Founded in 1928, Memorial Union Terrace is an icon of the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus, but you don’t have to be a student, staff member, or faculty member to enjoy it. The terrace is open to all visitors during the spring, summer, and fall.

A wide range of beverages, including alcoholic drinks, are available for purchase with proper ID, but you’ll need to have a guest pass to buy them if you’re not a Wisconsin Union member. Visitors can get up to three guest passes per year by visiting the Memorial Union’s restaurant, café, or front desk. They are also available online through the Wisconsin Union website.

Photo by: The Wisconsin Union Facebook

7. Sample Some Suds

Wisconsin is almost as famous for its craft beer as it is for its cheese. Visitors have a wide range of options when it comes to Madison beer tours, including guided visits to local breweries and organized pub crawls.

One popular pub crawl, the Trolley Pub Madison, even carts participants around on a shared trolley bicycle so you don’t have to worry about stumbling around if you indulge a little too much. This option is particularly popular with young people, so if you’re looking for something a little more mature, consider Hop Head Tours instead. Hop Head Tours visits breweries, wineries, distilleries, and brew-pubs, with an emphasis on refined tastes and educational experiences.

Photo by: Trolley Pub

6. Bask in the Genius of Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright is a legend of American architecture, and his creations can be seen in locations throughout the United States. One of his most popular buildings, Taliesin East, is located about 35 miles outside Wisconsin near the city of Spring Green. Taliesin East has drawn throngs of Frank Lloyd Wright fans for generations, and it is widely considered one of his most iconic homes. Some experts even describe it as Wright’s signature masterpiece.

Construction of the home began in 1911, and continued until Wright’s death in 1959. Today, you can enjoy educational guided tours of the property, which shed light on the visionary skill that went into its creation and the unique features that make it well worth the drive from Madison.

Photo by: Tailesin Preserve Facebook

5. Head to the House on the Rock

Frank Lloyd Wright was unquestionably a genius, and geniuses inspire others to follow in their footsteps. One such man was Alex Jordan Jr., who designed House on the Rock, an architectural curiosity that’s well worth a look if you want to see something that’s truly one of a kind.

House on the Rock sits atop Deer Shelter Rock between Dodgeville and Spring Green, and you can easily pop in for a visit on your way to or from Taliesin East. Featuring over 3,200 windows and the bold Infinity Room, which extends 218 feet over the Deer Shelter cliffs, House on the Rock is a oddity you won’t soon forget.

Photo by: The House on the Rock Attraction Facebook

4. Go Museum-Hopping

Madison has a thriving arts and culture scene, and there are many museums to discover during your stay. The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art is definitely on the list of must-sees, and history buffs will love the Wisconsin Historical Museum. However, if you’re only going to see one, many locals would tell you to make it the Chazen Museum of Art, which houses one of the region’s most complete collections of American and European photography and fine artwork.

Photo by: Madison Museum of Contemporary Art Facebook

3. Take the Kids to Henry Vilas Zoo

Since 1924, Henry Vilas Zoo has been one of Madison’s most enduring attractions. Now owned and operated by municipal officials, the zoo spans 28 fascinating acres and draws over one million visitors each year. Kids will love riding the old-style carousel, and they can also learn more about nature with a session at the site’s Zoo School. Dozens of animal exhibits are featured, including exotic beasts like lions and apes.

Photo by: Henry Vilas Zoo Facebook

2. Head out on the Water

Madison is built around five beautiful lakes: Kegonsa, Mendota, Monona, Waubesa, and Wingra. Lake Monona is one of the most popular, and if you didn’t get your fill of Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin East, you can explore further at the shorefront’s Monona Terrace. The terrace was conceived and proposed by Wright in 1938, but his original plan was rejected by Wisconsin city council. Wright’s original designs were finally brought to life in 1990, more than three decades after his death.

1. Lose Yourself at Lake Kegonsa State Park

All five of Madison’s lakes are gorgeous, but Lake Kegonsa is especially worthy of a visit thanks to its eponymous state park. Ideal for a summertime camping trip, Lake Kegonsa State Park features a beach, a varied range of perfectly conserved landscapes, and miles of hiking trails. Visitors can also enjoy outdoor activities including boating, fishing, swimming, and water skiing. The park is located just southeast of the city, and makes for an easy drive.

The Best Things to See and Do in Orlando, Florida

Orlando is well-known for its fun and family-friendly theme parks, which are headlined by Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World, home of Epcot Center. While you’d surely have a fine time if you focused your trip on one or both of these world-famous attractions, you’d also miss out on the many other things Orlando has to offer.

With that in mind, we’ve curated a list of 12 things to see and do in Orlando besides these popular theme parks.

12. Ride the Orlando Eye

This towering, 400-foot observation wheel is the tallest on America’s east coast, and delivers stunning views of the Orlando skyline. It’s a great way for first-time visitors to get oriented in the city, as long as you don’t have a fear of heights.

When your ride on the Orlando Eye is over, you can amuse yourself at the wheel’s companion entertainment center. Situated on the same grounds as the Orlando Eye, the I-Drive 360 center is an expansive, multimillion-dollar entertainment facility brimming with great eats, themed attractions, and live entertainment.

11. Take a Drive to Winter Park

Winter Park is an upscale suburban community situated just north of Orlando. Its interesting history dates back to the 19th century, when the town became a preferred winter destination for wealthy Americans from colder climes. It now boasts an enviable collection of amazing boutiques and gourmet restaurants that are every bit as fashionable and luxurious as those found in places like Beverly Hills, only they’re much more welcoming and accessible.

After your shopping excursion, head to the Winter Park History Museum to learn more about this unique community. Then, cap off your visit with an unforgettable dining experience at one of the city’s many fine establishments.

Photo by: City of Winter Park Facebook

10. Blast Off Into Outer Space

Okay, we might be cheating a little bit on the “no theme parks” rule with this one, but it’s primarily educational so we decided it doesn’t count. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is home to an incredible collection of fascinating interactive exhibits that bring the mystery and wonder of the “final frontier” to life like nothing else.

Be sure to check out the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame, try a simulated blast-off with the Shuttle Launch Experience, and check out the Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit.

Photo by: Kennedy Space Center Facebook

9. Get Cultured in Orlando’s Museums

Few visitors realize it, but Orlando actually has one of the most active and engaging arts scenes of any city in the eastern United States. To get a sampling, start your exploring with a visit to the Orlando Museum of Art, which is renowned for its Art of the Ancient Americas permanent exhibit. Then, if you’d like to sample the local arts scene, head to downtown Orlando’s CityArts Factory, which displays the work of up-and-coming Florida artists.

The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art also merits an honorable mention. This gallery will be of interest to anyone who enjoys jewelry, glass, and ceramic artwork.

Photo by: Orlando Museum of Art Facebook

8. Experience the Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve

This beautiful 440-acre nature park is the perfect way to enjoy a break from Orlando’s intense sunshine and heat while still enjoying the outdoors. With dense trees casting deep natural shade, this lakeside park offers breathtaking views and fantastic photo opportunities. Peaceful and scenic, the nature preserve’s well-maintained trail network makes for easy walking through idyllic flatwoods and perfectly conserved marshlands.

Pro tip: Don’t forget the mosquito repellent. The park is home to Lake Tibet-Butler and thick marshes, which tend to attract mosquitoes. While these bloodsucking bugs are most active around dawn and dusk, you’ll want to be protected no matter what time you visit.

OnTheTrail / Shutterstock.com

7. Take a Day Trip to Kissimmee

This charming city lies just south of Orlando, and makes for an easy day trip if you’re looking for a break from the fast pace of urban life. Its main attraction is Kissimmee Lakefront Park, where you can wander walking paths, turn the kids loose on beautiful playgrounds, or head to the pier to go fishing.

The park’s boat tours are also highly recommended, and can be booked for as short as 30 minutes if you’re pressed for time. However, many who have visited Kissimmee rave about the boat rides, and especially the airboat experiences. If you aren’t in a hurry, a longer tour is well worth the extra time and money.

Photo by: Steven Lemongello, Orlando Sentinel

6. Dance the Night Away in Thornton Park

If you’re over 21, aren’t in town with young children, and are looking for some after-hours adventure, head to Thornton Park. Based on and around East Central Boulevard, Thornton Park is a drinks-and-dancing hotspot, with dozens of trendy bars and nightclubs drawing throngs of fashionable partygoers practically every night of the week. If you want to make a whole night of your Thornton Park experience, get dressed up for dinner and head for one of the neighborhood’s many eateries before hitting the party scene.

/ Shutterstock.com

5. Shop Till You Drop

Orlando is one of the best shopping cities in the region. The most convenient way to enjoy the best of the city’s bustling retail scene is to head to one of its three designer outlet malls, which house dozens of boutiques carrying famous brand-name fashions. First and foremost, there’s Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets, which has undergone a recent expansion.

Then, if you’ve still got some money left over, head to Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores. Conveniently, the Lake Buena Vista outlet center provides free shuttle service to and from dozens of local hotels. Last but not least, there’s also the high-end Mall at Millennia, which is the preferred destination of discerning and demanding fashionistas looking for upscale brands including Breitling, Yves Saint-Laurent, and Prada, among others.

4. Traipse Through Tropical Gardens

The Harry P. Leu Gardens offer a quiet respite from busy city life even though the site is just a short drive from downtown Orlando. This natural paradise dates back to the 1930s, when local entrepreneur Harry Leu founded the gardens as a place to plant the seeds and saplings he collected during his extensive travels around the world. Today, the gardens now include more than 50 acres of stunning botanical specimens, including centuries-old oaks, tropical and semitropical blossoming plants, and breathtaking flower collections.

Guests are also welcome to enjoy picnics on the manicured lawns, and visitors can learn more by popping into the Leu House Museum. Oh, and be sure not to miss the park’s Tropical Stream Garden and its picturesque water features.

Jillian Cain Photography / Shutterstock.com

3. Paddle the Afternoon Away

Lake Eola Park is a breath of fresh air in downtown Orlando. With a serene pond and professionally landscaped collection of parks and gardens, Lake Eola Park is home to a wide range of plant and animal life. You can take a leisurely walk around the park by following its main path, which covers about half a mile. Visitors can also rent paddleboats and head out on the water for a relaxing ride that also delivers fantastic views of the sleek city skyline.

Karen Fields / Shutterstock.com

2. Enjoy a Bike Ride

Another enjoyable off-the-beaten-track option is to head into Baldwin Park, which is just a few miles outside of central Orlando. This relatively new, master-planned community features upscale homes, quiet coffee shops and cafes, and a great collection of suburban retail outlets. You can also rent a bike and enjoy a ride around Baldwin Park’s beautiful lake. A smooth, easy cycling and jogging trail runs around its perimeter, delivering two and a half miles of idyllic beauty. The best time to visit is early in the morning, when temperatures are still nice and cool.

1. Go Alligator Watching

Florida is well-known for its alligator population, and while you definitely don’t want to get too close to these vicious reptiles, there are many safe ways to see them. One popular option is to take an airboat tour in a gator park, with Wild Willy’s on Lake Tohopekaliga being a particularly popular option. Wild Willy’s is just a short drive from Orlando, and offers affordable gator-watching experiences you won’t soon forget.

If you’re interested in venturing a little further from Orlando, there are also many excellent spots to explore Florida’s unique brand of nature around Sarasota. Myakka State Park is a particularly recommended option if you’re in this area.

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The Top Things to See and Do in Bend, Oregon

Bend is the largest urban area in central Oregon. With a permanent population of around 77,000 people, the modestly sized city is a testament to just how sparsely developed and unspoiled this beautiful region of the Pacific Northwest really is. Bend makes an excellent base for visits to the area, which draws large numbers of tourists each year. Central Oregon has a wealth of outdoor activities to enjoy, with Bend also serving as a noteworthy hub of local history and culture.

If you’re planning a visit, here are 12 activities you’ll want to make room for in your itinerary:

12. Trek Through Smith Rock State Park

This 651-acre state park is open all year round, and features a network of gorgeous hiking trails that offer stunning views of the unspoiled wilderness that extends for miles in every direction. Part of Oregon’s high desert plateau landscape, the park has an elevation of around 3,000 feet, delivering incredible vantage points you’ll remember for a lifetime.

Smith Rock State Park is also a rock climber’s paradise, with well over 1,000 climbing areas. Bear one thing in mind as you plan your visit: conditions can be very hot in the summer, and daytime temperatures can break the 100-degree barrier. Spring and fall are generally the best times to visit.

11. Drive the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway

Also known as Forest Route 46, the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway is one of the most beautiful drives in the western United States. This 66-mile route passes eight beautiful lakes, where you can pause to take pictures or spend a few hours exploring. Breathtakingly beautiful Cultus Lake is a particularly appealing place to spend some time, as it has well-developed tourism and visitor facilities including a lodge and restaurant as well as boat rentals and overnight cabins. If roughing it is up your alley, you can also pitch a tent and camp.

10. Hit the Slopes at Mount Bachelor

The Mount Bachelor skiing area is a short drive from Bend, and is reachable from the scenic Century Drive Highway. With a total area of more than 1,000 acres, the Mount Bachelor ski area is Oregon’s largest, and it features one of the most generous skiing seasons of any resort in the country. Visitors can hit the slopes anytime between the middle of November and the end of May, though weather conditions can affect slope availability, especially in spring.

Mount Bachelor is well-known for its high-quality, naturally dry snow, and the mountain averages over 450 inches of snow per year. During the summer, the Mount Bachelor ski area transforms into a mountain biking hotspot, so you can enjoy its beauty no matter what time of year you visit.

9. Head Out on the Water at Elk Lake

Once you’re finished at Mount Bachelor, you can head about 11 miles further down the road to Elk Lake, which offers some of the most beautiful mountain scenery you’ll find anywhere in the world. The lake’s crystalline waters are ideal for sports and boating, and it is a particularly popular place to go fishing.

If you’re looking for a laid-back good time in a peaceful natural setting, Elk Lake is perfect. Motorboats are banned to help maintain the lake’s sense of calm tranquility. Elk Lake also boasts a beach with excellent swimming, amazing sunsets, miles of hiking trails, and a convenient on-site restaurant that serves some of the best burgers in Oregon.

Photo by: Elk Lake Resort and Marina Facebook

8. Check out the Newberry National Volcanic Monument

Designated in 1990, the Newberry National Volcanic Monument is housed within the beautiful Deschutes National Forest area. It covers about 50,000 acres of unique landforms, including volcanic caldera lakes and obsidian lava flows. Its Lava River Cave and Lava Cast Forest are especially popular tourist draws, with the forest resting atop a lava flow that’s about 6,000 years old. Its haunting molds make excellent photo opportunities.

The site’s Newberry Caldera serves as a camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation base. Campgrounds, indoor lodgings, and an excellent trail network encircle the scenic volcanic lake, which is accessible throughout the year.

7. Tour the Oregon Badlands Wilderness Area

If you want to experience another area filled with fascinating landforms, the Oregon Badlands Wilderness area beckons. Part of the National Landscape Conservation System since 2009, the Oregon Badlands Wilderness is a desert area that houses ancient Native American pictographs, arid canyons, centuries-old juniper trees, and formations of ancient igneous rocks that bear uncanny resemblances to castles. You can also enter the Oregon Desert Trail from the park, as its western end point exits into the badlands.

6. See Stars at the Pine Mountain Observatory

About 25 miles southeast of Bend, you’ll find one of the region’s premier places for gazing up into the heavens. The University of Oregon’s Pine Mountain Observatory serves as one of America’s leading astronomical research centers, and it is open to the public during the summer months. Several powerful telescopes deliver wondrous close-ups of celestial objects, which you can experience for yourself on weekends. The observatory is accessible on Saturdays and Sundays between Memorial Day and the final Sunday in September.

Photo by: Pine Mountain Observatory Facebook

5. Experience the Dreamlike Serenity of Mirror Pond

Central Oregon is brimming with natural lakes, but this artificially created pond is one of its most interesting places. Well worth a visit, Mirror Pond was formed by construction activities dating back to the early years of the 20th century, when the Bend Water, Light & Power Company built a dam to power Bend’s first electricity services. Mirror Pond is now a serene, quiet place to relax, and is surrounded by deciduous and evergreen scenery with snow-capped mountain peaks rising in the background.

4. Enjoy Local Food and Shopping in the Old Mill District

If you’re looking to head indoors for a little while, Bend has a wide range of shopping and dining options, especially considering the city’s relatively cozy size. Its Old Mill District is a great place to start, as this historic quarter of town occupies a pretty perch on the banks of the Deschutes River and houses an intriguing lineup of restaurants, locally owned shops and boutiques, galleries, and bars. Many of the area’s original buildings have been preserved and repurposed into award-wining and innovative mixed-use facilities.

Photo by: Old Mill District Facebook

3. Visit Bend’s Educational Museums

Bend has a long and interesting history, and the city’s story is well-told at the Deschutes Historical Museum and the High Desert Museum. The Deschutes Historical Museum is housed in a heritage schoolhouse, and features exhibits that cover the region’s history from prehistoric times to the pioneer era and beyond. The High Desert Museum is an excellent place to learn more about central Oregon’s deserts and badlands, and it’s a great place to visit either before or after you visit these unique geological regions in person.

Photo by: Deschutes Historical Museum Facebook

2. Attend the Bend Film Festival

If you’re in town during October, the Bend Film Festival is a highly recommended cultural activity. With screenings featuring the latest offerings from the region’s most renowned independent filmmakers, the festival also prioritizes cinema education through a fascinating lecture series.

Known for its staunch support of artistic expression over commercial objectives, the Bend Film Festival is a breath of fresh air on the annual movie circuit. Screenings take place in a range of interesting venues, including state-of-the-art projection rooms as well as historic theaters and eclectic performance spaces.

Photo by: BendFilm Festival Facebook

1. Delve into Oregon’s Storied Past

Bend has 10 sites that are part of the United States’ National Register of Historic Places, with several standouts that reward curious visitors. The Drake Park Historic Neighborhood district is a fantastic place to go for a walk if you want to see some great residential architecture, while the one-of-a-kind Goodwillie-Allen House is the oldest house within Bend’s city limits. Other noteworthy entries on this list include the N.P. Smith Pioneer Hardware Store, which dates to 1909 and stands as a rare and authentic glimpse into the old ways of bygone years, as well as the Gothic Revival-style Trinity Episcopal Church.

Photo by: Ian Poellet via Wikimedia Commons

The Top Things to See and Do in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Portsmouth, New Hampshire is a popular seasonal destination that attracts thousands of visitors during the warm-weather months. Located about 60 miles north of Boston on America’s northeastern Atlantic coast, Portsmouth is a charming and historic city of about 22,000 people. It makes for a popular day trip from points throughout the region, and it ranks as one of the oldest surviving cities in the United States. Its founding dates back to 1623, just three years after the famous early colonial settlement in nearby Plymouth, Massachusetts was established.

Beyond its highly walkable historic city center, Portsmouth offers a long list of unique activities to visitors. The city is a unique mix of the historic and the modern, which you can see on full display in these 10 itinerary suggestions:

10. Get Oriented at Discover Portsmouth

Operated by the Portsmouth Historical Society and located in the city’s downtown core, Discover Portsmouth is an ideal first stop for first-time visitors. The information center has a wealth of resources and lots of suggestions for unique things to see and do during your stay. Its knowledgeable staff can point you in the direction of attractions and sites that match your interests, and they can also help you book tours or secure tickets to shows and events.

Photo by: New Hampshire Museum Trail

9. Take a Cruise to the Islands

Enjoying ferry cruises to Portsmouth’s scenic offshore islands is a popular option for visitors. You can visit the Isles of Shoals, Peirce Island, and more.

The Isles of Shoals are made up of six small islets that straddle the border of New Hampshire and Maine. Desolate but beautiful, each of the six members of the Isles of Shoals also has its own unique story, which you can learn more about during a guided boat tour. On the other hand, Peirce Island is a 27-acre island just off Portsmouth’s south end. Owned and operated by the city, Peirce Island is a perfect place to take a stroll or enjoy a beautiful view, as it features a surprising variation of landforms including meadows, tidepools, cliffs, and salt marshes.

8. Stroll Through Moffatt-Ladd House and Garden

Constructed in 1763, Moffatt-Ladd House is a charming manor property that now resides on the United States’ National Register of Historic Places. This idyllic home was opened to public visitors in 2011, and is conveniently located in downtown Portsmouth near the city’s Old Harbor area.

Inside, visitors can view perfectly preserved antique furniture, as well as an eclectic collection of period documents and artifacts. Outside, you can traipse through the site’s beautifully manicured gardens, with spring, summer, and fall visits each offering their own unique rewards.

Photo by: Moffatt-Ladd House & Garden Facebook

7. See a Show at the Music Hall

The Music Hall is the oldest theater still standing in New Hampshire, and there are only 13 theaters in the entire country with longer histories. Over the decades, the Music Hall has hosted performances by some of the world’s leading musical and literary luminaries, including Tony and Grammy Award winners as well as Pulitzer Prize laureates. Shows come in a wide range of styles and formats, including concerts, abstract and interpretive dances, poetry and prose readings, and cinematic exhibitions. It is an excellent place to kick off a romantic evening in this charming New England city.

Photo by: The Music Hall Facebook

6. Tour the USS Albacore Submarine

Designed during the World War II era, the USS Albacore submarine became the prototype upon which many later American underwater vessels would be designed. Fast and agile, the USS Albacore served as a research U-boat, and is now open to the public for tours and visits.

Inside, you’ll see how crew members lived during their time aboard the vessel, learn how the ship was operated, and discover the important contributions the boat and its personnel made to the American war effort.

Alizada Studios / Shutterstock.com

5. Enjoy a Meal or Drink at the Book and Bar

Nestled into the street level of a heritage building that dates to the mid-19th century, Book and Bar is a Portsmouth institution. Filled with shelves upon shelves of books, this bar-restaurant combination feels more like a library than a pub. It serves bistro-style fare that features a tasty lineup of locally inspired soups, sandwiches, and light meals, and offers an excellent selection of beer and wine. The venue doubles as a café, and visitors can pop in any time of day to enjoy a tea or coffee in its welcoming atmosphere.

Photo by: Portsmouth Book and Bar Facebook

4. Head to Prescott Park

Situated just a few blocks outside Portsmouth’s historic downtown area, Prescott Park is a 10-acre preserve with quiet views, beautiful lawns, dock access, and charming pier boardwalks. It’s a great place to enjoy an outdoor meal, as there are picnic tables dotted throughout the park and grills available for visitor use. During the spring and summer, Prescott Park becomes the focal point of the city’s cultural scene, hosting a long list of festivals, concerts, and outdoor events.

Photo by: Bostonian13 via Wikimedia Commons

3. Delve into the Past at the Strawbery Banke Museum

Portsmouth’s fabled South End is the city’s oldest remaining neighborhood from its colonial era, and it is where you’ll find the famous Strawbery Banke Museum. This outdoor museum is made up of 40 buildings, which date back as far as the 17th century. Members of the public can venture into 10 of these buildings, which have been carefully restored and outfitted with genuine period furniture. The museum’s staff also dress in authentic centuries-old garb, creating a fun and lively historic atmosphere.

Photo by: Strawbery Banke Museum Facebook

2. Explore Portsmouth Harbor

Portsmouth’s harbor heritage lives on in the form of boat tours that cover more than four centuries of local and national history. Visitors can book with a range of tour operators, who deliver up-close views of sights like the city’s charming lighthouses and its historic dockyard. The best of these tours also help you learn about the region’s storied past through informative narration.

If you’re not sure which of the many options to pursue after doing your own research, the friendly folks at Discover Portsmouth will be more than happy to help.

1. Soar Above the City

The Dream Flights experience at Seacoast Helicopters is a unique way to take in amazing bird’s-eye views of the city and surrounding area. These 90-minute adventures deliver soaring vistas of Portsmouth’s historic downtown core, its Atlantic coast, the Isle of Shoals, and a group of four historic lighthouses in the harbor area. You’ll also have the opportunity to steer the ride by taking over the controls for a few minutes…with your experienced pilot close by, of course.

Photo by: Seacoast Helicopters Facebook

The Top Things to See and Do in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe may not be the biggest city in the United States, but it’s certainly one of the most interesting. It is the oldest state capital in the country, and this New Mexico gem consistently ranks as one of the top tourism destinations in the nation. Well-known for the natural beauty of the surrounding area, Santa Fe boasts one of the liveliest and most vibrant arts and culture scenes in the country, and it is also among the most diverse and welcoming cities in the American Southwest.

Get your visit started by checking out these 12 popular attractions:

12. Get Off The Beaten Path

The curious traveler can also take advantage of a long list of unique and lesser-known opportunities, from the pre-Columbian petroglyphs at La Cieneguilla to the De Vargas Street House, a one-of-a-kind building that claims to be the oldest home in the United States. Visitors can also see the stunning spiral staircase at Loretto Chapel, which is said to be held up by a miracle as it appears to defy physics, and the immersive House of Eternal Return, which is co-funded by Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin. 

11. Hit the Slopes

Santa Fe isn’t usually the first place that comes to mind when you think about great American ski destinations, but the city is surrounded by mountains. Hidden way up in these peaks are some of the best ski slopes in the American Southwest, with elevations reaching a dizzying 10,000 feet. From there, you’ll enjoy stunning vantage points of the city and surrounding area, all while enjoying some healthy outdoor activity. Travel + Leisure magazine is among the Santa Fe skiing scene’s most enthusiastic endorsers.

Photo by: Ski Santa Fe Facebook

10. Go Golfing

Santa Fe is a golf enthusiast’s paradise. While it doesn’t have as high a profile on the recreational golf circuit as neighboring Arizona, this can actually be to your advantage. The courses are world-class, but tend not to attract crowds as thick as those seen in the next state over.

All in all, there are over 10 great golf courses in the area, with the Marty Sanchez Links de Santa Fe generally being considered the best of them. Characterized as a must-play course for golfers, the Marty Sanchez Links course and country club is located eight miles from downtown Santa Fe, and makes for an unforgettable sporting experience.

Photo by: Marty Sanchez Links de Santa fe Golf Course Facebook

9. Go Shopping, Southwest Style

According to readers at the travel rankings website 10best.com, Santa Fe is the top shopping destination in the entire United States. This is largely due to its heavy presence of independent shops, eclectic boutiques, and owner-operated stores that sell hand-crafted goods you can’t find anywhere else in the world.

Santa Fe is particularly well-known for its furniture and fashion stores. If you’re looking for a unique piece to tie a room together or fancy a pair of authentic cowboy boots, you could hardly find yourself in a better city.

8. Sample Local Cuisine

Southwestern cuisine is distinctive, flavorful, zesty, and brought to life by tantalizing spice combinations. In Santa Fe, you’ll find plenty of options for all tastes, from locally inspired barbecue to vegetarian and vegan establishments. Locals will be more than happy to suggest places for you to eat if you can’t make up your mind based on your own research, and you’ll find an endless range of options to enjoy during your visit. Santa Fe also has an excellent fine dining scene.

Andriy Blokhin / Shutterstock.com

7. Catch a Show at the Santa Fe Opera House

The open-air Santa Fe Opera House has been a local institution since 1957, and is widely considered to be one of the finest such venues not only in the United States, but in the entire world. With enough capacity to hold about 2,200 spectators, the Santa Fe Opera House has hosted some of the greatest operatic talents of recent generations. Its performance season runs during the summer, so if you’re in town then, be sure to book your tickets early.

Sopotnicki / Shutterstock.com

6. Check Out The Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier National Monument is one of the best-preserved Native American historical sites in the continental U.S. For hundreds of years before Europeans arrived in the United States and settled the country, what is now the American Southwest was a loosely aligned group of independent city-states, which were populated by various Native American tribes. The monument houses the remains of one of these settlements, providing a rare glimpse into New Mexico’s ancient past. This is highly recommended if you have young children, as a system of ladders lead into explorable dwellings inside the caves, delighting kids of all ages.

5. Enjoy Local Fare at the Santa Fe Farmers Market

This welcoming and delightful farmers’ market is open year-round, and features dozens of local independent vendors offering perfect fresh produce, amazing cheeses, fresh-cut New Mexico flowers, and local delicacies like spicy salsa. You can also grab coffee and refreshments at a charming snack bar, but there are a couple of hot tips you should follow to enjoy a more relaxing visit. For starters, arrive early. The market tends to get extremely busy, especially in summer. On-site parking is convenient and affordable, but you can also take the free Santa Fe Pick-Up shuttle service, which stops close to the venue.

BHammond / Shutterstock.com

4. Take Home a Treasure From Liquid Light Glass

This fascinating artsy shopping attraction merits mention in its own separate section. Open since 1986, Liquid Light Glass is a shop and gallery on Baca Street in the Arts District, which features an amazing collection of hand-blown, expertly crafted glass art. Vases, ornaments, sculptures, and trinkets are available for purchase, and the shop’s owner is a local icon who is more than happy to let visitors observe while he plies his trade.

Photo by: Liquid Light Glass Instagram

3. Channel Your Inner Art Lover

No visit to Santa Fe is complete without spending time in the city’s famously engaging museums. The city’s famed Canyon Road arts district is probably the best place to get started, but there’s a dizzying lineup of other options, including the Museum of International Folk Art, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, and the New Mexico Museum of Art, among others. These institutions house treasures created by both local and world-renowned heavyweights of the art world, and rival the best museums in the country.

While it isn’t an art museum, we’d also be amiss not to mention the New Mexico History Museum and the Palace of the Governors, which also dates to the city’s 1610 establishment. The city has one of the most interesting historical stories of any settlement in America, and these venues provide great places to immerse yourself in Santa Fe’s colorful past.

Photo by: Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Facebook

2. Head to Santa Fe Plaza for a Blast From the Past

Santa Fe Plaza is a historical treasure, and has been a major part of life in the city since its 1610 founding. The plaza has long served as a central focal point of cultural life in the city, and plays host to a long list of annual festivals and municipal events. Best of all, many of the city’s oldest and most famous architectural treasures either line the square or are located nearby, within easy walking distance.

Must-see architectural sites include the Palace of the Governors, San Miguel Mission, the Loretto Chapel, and the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, among others. These are some of the oldest and most beautiful churches and missions in the United States.

1. Take a Tour

There are dozens of walking tours available in Santa Fe, and they are an ideal way for first-time visitors to orient themselves after arriving in the city. Central Santa Fe is fairly compact, and is perfect for exploring on foot. Tours highlight themed attractions including the city’s beautiful architecture, fascinating history, artistic treasures, and haunted past.

If you’re interested in a creative alternative to walking tours, various operators also offer guided outings on horseback, Harley Davidson motorcycles, bicycles, and streetcars, among other options.