The Top Things to See and Do in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The City of Brotherly Love is one of America’s most historic and fascinating cities. This bustling metropolis was founded in 1682, and went on to play a pivotal role in the American Revolution just over a century later. It has since maintained its status as one of the most economically and culturally important urban areas in the northeastern United States, and it is also the country’s only officially designated World Heritage City.

If you’re headed to Philly for a first-time or a return visit, these 12 attractions and activities will make worthy additions to your itinerary.

12. Scare Yourself Silly at Eastern State Penitentiary

For a truly unique experience, head over to the spooky Eastern State Penitentiary. First opened in 1829 as an alternative prison where authorities attempted to rehabilitate rather than physically punish prisoners, the penitentiary remained operational until it was finally shuttered up in the 1970s.

Al Capone’s former cell is a key attraction, and Eastern State Penitentiary is also rumored to be heavily haunted. It’s one of the best places in the city to get a dose of the macabre, but unlike the Philadelphia Zoo, Eastern State Penitentiary is most definitely not recommended for children.

11. Take the Kids to the Philadelphia Zoo

Founded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1859, the Philadelphia Zoo is the oldest continuously operating zoo in the United States. Open to the public since 1874, the Philadelphia Zoo has become one of the world’s premier wildlife preservation institutes, and it is well-known for safely breeding critically endangered species in captivity to help boost their populations.

Kids in particular will love exploring the zoo, which is home to more than 1,300 animal species and also features a playground, carousel, paddleboat lake, and loads of interactive educational exhibits.

Photo by: jiwasz via Flickr

10. Enjoy the Sunshine in LOVE Park

Philadelphia is famously known as the City of Brotherly Love, and heading to LOVE Park to snap a photo in front of the well-known LOVE Sculpture is a fantastic way to commemorate your visit. The LOVE Sculpture was created by renowned American pop artist Robert Indiana, and it’s a landmark attraction of LOVE Park, which is officially known as John F. Kennedy Plaza.

Interestingly, the LOVE Sculpture has a Spanish-language counterpart in nearby Sister Cities Park. Known as the AMOR Sculpture, this companion piece is also worth a look if you’re interested in outdoor art installations.

9. Indulge in Masonic Mystery

The early history of the independent United States was shaped by many men with connections to the Freemasons, a notorious secret society. Philadelphia is steeped in Masonic history, with the city’s atmospheric Masonic Temple providing a fantastic opportunity to explore it. The grand Masonic Temple dates to the 19th century, and features decorative accents created by celebrated artist George Herzog. Seven rooms are open to the public, which are best seen as part of organized tours, as members of the public are not permitted to explore the building freely…perhaps because the temple may hide tempting and closely guarded secrets.

Conchi Martinez / Shutterstock.com

8. Stroll Through Rittenhouse Square

Rittenhouse Square is one of five original city parks designated by city founder William Penn in the late 17th century. Based around the intersection of 19th Street and Walnut Street, Rittenhouse Square is often cited as one of the most majestic and beautiful urban parks in the United States. The ritzy residential district surrounding the park is also known for its stunning houses, and if you’re visiting during the warm-weather months, Rittenhouse Square is an ideal place to enjoy a picnic lunch.

7. Visit Boathouse Row

If you’re looking for a break from the hustle and bustle of the city center, Boathouse Row is just the antidote. One of dozens of National Historic Landmarks in Philadelphia, Boathouse Row lines the shore of the Schuylkill River, and consists of 10 charming waterside domiciles. Views are equally impressive during the day and at night, when the boathouses illuminate to create dancing light reflections on the water. Take a leisurely walk down the path on Kelly Drive for the best views.

6. Head to South Broad Street

Philadelphia City Hall is the largest municipal government building in the United States, and it’s also widely considered to be one of the most beautiful. You can enjoy fantastic views of this architectural masterpiece from vantage points on South Broad Street in the city center.

If you’re interested in exploring further, the inside of Philadelphia City Hall is as impressive as its exterior and façade. You can also take tours that head up the building’s tower, where you can enjoy great views of Philly’s skyline. The scenic tower lookout also offers a great panorama of Benjamin Franklin Parkway from its breezy observation deck.

5. Chow Down

Philadelphia is one of America’s gastronomic capitals. For meat eaters, it’s obligatory to try a Philly cheesesteak, but this is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to great eats.

One place foodies will definitely want to visit is the indoor food vendor and farmers’ market at Reading Terminal Market. Here, you’ll find everything from exotic ethnic cuisines to locally grown produce and gourmet desserts. The market comes complete with a generously sized seating area, so you won’t have to wait long to indulge your taste buds after making your choice.

Photo by: Amy Marietta

4. Go Museum-Hopping on Benjamin Franklin Parkway

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is the crown jewel of Center City West’s famed museum district, which is built around Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Other cultural institutions in the cluster include The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, the Barnes Foundation, the Franklin Institute, and the Rodin Museum. Interestingly, Benjamin Franklin Parkway was inspired by and the glamorous Champs Elysees in Paris, complete with a scenic roundabout at its heart.

3. Run with Rocky

Rocky Balboa, the city’s most famous fictional icon, has been memorialized in a statue at the top of the exterior steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The character dashed up the stairs during a training montage in the beloved 1976 Best Picture winner Rocky. Fans of the film and pop culture in general will love this unique photo opportunity, and if you’re feeling sprightly, you can even run up the stairs yourself. Just don’t try to go 15 rounds with Apollo Creed when you’re done.

f11photo / Shutterstock.com

2. Take a Tour of Independence Hall

Once you’ve seen the Liberty Bell, head over to nearby Independence Hall for a fascinating tour of this famous institution. This is the famous site where America’s Founding Fathers debated and eventually signed by the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

The hall itself is the central feature of Independence National Historic Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s jam-packed with historic buildings and points of interest. Nicknamed “America’s most historic square mile,” the park is also home to the enduring Benjamin Franklin Museum, which is well worth a visit if you’re looking to head indoors for a while.

1. See the Liberty Bell

Millions of visitors have this must-see at the top of their to-do lists when visiting Philadelphia. The Liberty Bell, commissioned in 1752, was used to summon the members of the Philadelphia Assembly to meetings. On July 8, 1776, four days after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Liberty Bell was rung to signal America’s freedom from British rule. Ever since, it has served as a prominent symbol of American democracy.

The Liberty Bell is right in the center of Philadelphia, so it makes a great starting point for a day of sightseeing in the city’s ever-popular historic district.

12 American College Sports Venues to See Before You Die

It is a curious, almost inexplicable sociological phenomenon, uniquely American. The fanatical devotion and big business of college and university sport is unmatched elsewhere in the world. College teams often outdraw professional NFL franchises, minus the huge payroll. College sports fanatics (in the true sense of the word) exhibit behavior usually associated with religious fervor or membership in a cult. One Stadium features a Touchdown Jesus and nobody complained about blasphemy. A British sociologist named Desmond Morris has a theory that loyalty to a team is the modern incarnation of our Paleolithic tribal origins. The player/heroes touchdowns, baskets or goals are perceived by our caveman neurons the same way as the hunter’s, whose ‘kills’ ensured the survival of the ‘tribe’ (even if today’s version of the tribe looks like 100,000 plus screaming, slightly inebriated fans). It is rare that technically amateur sport arouses such passion. The venues in which these athletic ceremonies occur have become sports temples where fans gather to worship the brave and noble warriors who ensure not only the tribe survives, but becomes the number one ranked tribe in the nation with the divine status, glory and TV contracts that ensue. Here are the 12 college sport venues who provide the most unforgettable of sports experiences:

12. Cameron Indoor Stadium -Duke University

Home team: Blue Devils
Opened: 1940
Capacity: 9,314

The Duke University Blue Devils is one of the elite programs in all of college sport whose supporters’ fanaticism is up there too. How 9,314 people can make that much noise is a scientific mystery, but much of it comes from the legendary student section, affectionately known as the Cameron Crazies. The program dates all the way back to 1906 but the Cameron’s 75 year history is rich enough with the team’s five national championships.

Photo by: James DiBianco
Photo by: James DiBianco

11. Notre Dame Stadium -Notre Dame University

Home team: The Fighting Irish
Capacity: 80,795

Any place that has a Touchdown Jesus beneficently looking down on the stadium calls for a visit. The brand might have faded in recent years but the illustrious Fighting Irish remains one of the most legendary athletic institutions in the world. It was they who won one for the Gipper, where Knute Rockne reigned and where the great Grantland Rice (after whom the renowned website is named) wrote the most famous lead in sports writing history of the “Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. Unconvinced? Find a copy of the 1993 movie “Rudy” and get back to us.

Notre Dame Stadium

10. Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall -University of Indiana

Home team: Indiana University Hoosiers
Opened: 1972
Capacity: 17,456

Home of the Hoosiers, Assembly Hall has been called the Carnegie Hall of Basketball. Three of the teams five national titles were won here. For 30 years it was home to basketball’s most famous tyrant Bobby Knight ruled with the proverbial iron fist running up an incredible record of 902 wins against just 371 losses. The intensity remains. The Hoosiers do occasionally lose but they never disappoint.

Photo by: Scout.com
Photo by: Scout.com

9. Bryant-Denny Stadium -University of Alabama

Home team: Alabama Crimson Tide
Opened: 1929
Capacity: 101,821

AKA Tuscaloosa’s Treasure. Home to the iconic perennial powerhouse Crimson Tide who spend most autumn Sundays grinding out-matched teams into dust. Originally with just 12,000 seats, its capacity is up to 101,000 and counting. The stadium is co-named after a former University President and one of the game’s great legends Paul (Bear) Bryant who strolled the sidelines for 25 years racking up 323 wins and found a young quarterback named Joe Namath. As the Bleacher Report says “In Alabama, football is life.” The 2015 Homecoming theme was Forever Crimson: Faithful, Loyal, Firm and True.”

Bryant-Denny Stadium

8. Rose Bowl -University of California Los Angeles

Home team: UCLA Bruins
Opened: 1922
Capacity: 92,542

The venerable American institution is home to the UCLA Bruins and has seen an Olympics and World Cup. But its fame stems from traditional bowl game that bears its name. First played in 1902, it was college football’s premier event on New Year’s Day for decades. Too many legends have trod the sod to count, but included are: 17 Heisman Trophy Winners, 29 national champions, 199 consensus All-Americans and 107 college football legends inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame. It remains a mecca of college football and an afternoon watching elite teams play as the sun sets on the San Gabriel Mountains is not a memory that will soon fade.

Rose Bowl

7. Mariucci Arena -University of Minnesota

Team: Golden Gophers
Opened: 1993
Capacity: 10,000

Named for John Mariucci, the Hall of Fame coach from the 1950’s and 60’s, this is hallowed ground for American hockey. It is a hockey factory for U.S. born players whose alumni include Miracle on Ice coach Herb Brooks. The Golden Gophers 21 Frozen Four appearances are third in the nation. It is considered the premier arena to watch top-tier college hockey for two reasons. Fifteen of the team’s 2015 players were drafted by the NHL. The arena bears a striking quotation from Coach Mariucci: “Through these gates walk the greatest fans in college hockey”.

By Shipguy9 - I took the picture on my phone., CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
By Shipguy9 – CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

6. Tiger Stadium -Louisiana State University

Home team: LSU Tigers
Opened: 1924
Capacity: 102,321

It stands to reason that, starting with the tailgating, the atmosphere of Saturday night football in Cajun Country is like no other. Just the thought of more than 100,000 Ragin’ Cajuns is unsettling. The rabidly hostile AND LOUD fans that religiously pack the stadium for home games has earned the Stadium the charming nickname of Death Valley. A sea of energy in the royal colors of purple and gold makes for a long night on the field for opponents and a memorable experience for the connoisseur of college sport.

Tiger Stadium

5. Rupp Arena -University of Kentucky

Home team: Wildcats
Opened: 1976
Capacity: 23,000

Kentucky is another perennial powerhouse and the Rupp (named after one of the greatest coaches ever) packs an unusually large crowd of 24,000 up into its rafters. It is the winningest college team in history since it came into being in 1903. Some of the all-time greats have played here but as testament to its continuing success, the current crop of Wildcats in the NBA number 4 potential future Hall of Famers; John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. With its size and noise level and consistently elite teams, Rupp Arena is easily one of the most intimidating venues in sport anywhere.

Rupp Arena

4. Michie Stadium -United States Military Academy

Home Team: Army Black Knights
Opened: 1924
Capacity: 38,128

The football isn’t what it used to be. They have lost 13 straight in the iconic Army Navy series, but there are things that make this worth considering. The legions of cadets in the stands is a truly unique setting. The 1912 team featured a young player named Dwight D Eisenhower. The team mascot remains a live mule which was a tribute to a valuable military mode of transport when the football program began in 1890. From 1944 to 1950, their record was 57-3 with 3 national championships behind football legend Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis, memorably nicknamed respectively Mr. Inside and outside. With three national championships. Vince Lombardy and Bill Parcells got their start here. It is like a true Field of Dreams, with ghosts of greatness still gracing the field on the banks of the Hudson.

Michie Stadium

3. The Palestra -University of Pennsylvania

Opened: 1927
Home Teams: UPenn, Villanova, La Salle, Temple, St. Joseph’s
Capacity: 8,772

AKA the Cathedral of College Basketball. Unique in college sport, The Palestra as a kind of sport co-op has played host to more games than any other college arena in history. It is the home of the Big Five Philly based college teams. Named at the suggestion of a Classics professor for its Ancient Greek counterpart, it is a classic venue.

Palestra

2. Allen Fieldhouse -University of Kansas

Opened: 1955
Capacity: 16,300

Since the Allen opened in 1955, the home team Jayhawks have had a record of 666-107. Since the program began in 1898 their record is 2153-831.tradition. The court is named after basketball’s Canadian-born inventor James Naismith, who was the first coach of the Jayhawks. Going to any Big 12 game is worth the drive/flight to Lawrence Kansas to see the blue and crimson at The Phog as it’s also known, the nickname of F.C. Allen the hugely successful early 20th century coach who was also a seminal figure in the development of basketball in the United States. But to take in the atmosphere of over a century of athletic excellence from Naismith to Wilt Chamberlain to NBA Rookie of the Year, Andrew Wiggins, is more than just a game.

By Original uploader - Originally uploaded by Jonnybsay to Wikimedia Commons., Public Domain, Link
By Original uploader – Originally uploaded by Jonnybsay to Wikimedia Commons., Public Domain, Link

1. Michigan Stadium -Michigan State University

Home Team: The Wolverines
Opened: 1927
Capacity: 109,901

It isn’t called The Big House for nothing. It is among the top five largest stadiums in the world. Maybe the only one who can claim to be home to more people on game day than Ann Arbor the town in which it sits. The National Hockey League staged a regular season game there between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings that drew over 105,000 people on a wintry day. A great venue with one of the most powerful tribes in college sport.

Michigan Stadium

7 Legendary Toy Stores That Even Adults Will Love

It is no secret that kids go crazy for toy stores and planning a vacation with a trip to one always brings smiles. But what about the adults, can they have fun too? There are your run of the mill toy stores and then there are legendary, knock your socks off toy stores that appeal to both kids and adults. Think of towering dinosaurs, interactive play areas; classic toys that take you back to your childhood and more Lego than you have ever imagined. These seven awesome toy stores, located around the world will have both kids and adults leaving with a smile on their face.

7. Hamleys -London, England

Established in 1760, Hamleys is the oldest toy shop in the world and one of the most loved. The flagship store in London is located on Regent Street and features over seven floors that house more than 50,000 toys. It is one of the city’s most visited attractions welcoming more than five million visitors each year. The toy store is divided into separate toy categories; each having their own floor and generally the ground floor is devoted to anything soft from teddy bears to life size giraffes and elephants. It’s not just toys here at this toy store though; throughout the year various events take place including appearances by Father Christmas and his elves and incredible birthday party opportunities. Even Snoopy and Charlie Brown are known to make an appearance every now and then. You will have no trouble finding the perfect toy here, if anything you will come out with much more than you expected!

Photo by: Sharonsree
Photo by: Sharonsree

6. Kiddyland -Tokyo, Japan

This toy store appeals to kids and adults that are looking for anything Japanese, as you won’t find many of these toys anywhere else in the world. A constantly changing inventory makes this shopping experience unique every time you visit. Spread over five floors the atmosphere in the store is playful and relaxed, letting shoppers unwind and find their inner-child. Explore the entire Hello Kitty floor, the Snoopy floor and others that include Pokémon, Star Wars and Lego. Kids will love the variety of toys and figurines while adults will appreciate unique souvenirs such as Star Wars chopsticks. To get shoppers even more in the spirit, Kiddyland has decorated their stairs and elevators with characters. Overwhelming at times, this toy store is a must visit.

Photo by: tokyo.parallellt
Photo by: tokyo.parallellt

5. Playthings Etc. -Pennsylvania, USA

It proclaims to be the “world’s coolest toy store” and looking at the outside we may just have to agree, considering the store is actually shaped like a spaceship. Inside shoppers will find toys and hobbies for all ages, over 3,000 toys to discover. What makes this toy store so awesome is the fact the staff let you try out just about anything, inside or out. There are toy stations set up all over the store, where you can try out classic toys and new futuristic ones you have never seen before. Whether you are looking for old classics, futuristic toys or science experiment toys, you will find it all here. The employees who do demonstrations on unicycles, rockets, pogo sticks, magic and more will also entertain visitors to the store.

Photo by: Playthings Etc. The World's Coolest Toy Store!
Photo by: Playthings Etc. The World’s Coolest Toy Store!

4. Nintendo World -New York, USA

Hop into your very own warp pipe into the Mushroom Kingdom and beyond when you visit this incredible store located in Manhattan’s historic Rockefeller Center. There is over 10,000 square feet of gaming goodness here, spread over two floors, awaiting both news fans and old. This store is definitely not “hands off” as there are gaming stations throughout, with both new and old systems to explore. This is also the place you will find more memorabilia and games than anywhere else in the world when it comes to Nintendo. Don’t miss checking out the awesome Nintendo Museum, which is a part of the store and was recently upgraded and renovated. Events are constantly happening here with new releases of games and systems and it doesn’t seem to matter when you visit, we promise you will leave with a new found appreciation for Nintendo.

Photo by: NintendoNYC
Photo by: NintendoNYC

3. The Lego Store -New York City, USA

Lego has been entertaining kids since 1932, when the brand was developed and clicked with children all over the world. Lego has an impressive amount of stores and it can be hard to narrow down which is the best but the award has to go to New York City. Its two-story Rockefeller Center location boasts over 3,000 square feet of iconic plastic bricks, and all the accessories to go with them. The Pick-A-Brick wall is perhaps the most impressive feature of this store. A structure dressed with 116 bubbles filled with individual Lego pieces, ranging from rare colored bricks to flowers to wheels, fences and more. The Master’s Builder Bar is where you can design your own Lego kit and even play Lego inspired video games. If that wasn’t enough to win you over, how about searching the store for the 50 Lego scenes of the Big Apple that are situated throughout. We aren’t sure who will enjoy this store more, the kids or the adults.

Photo by: TimeOut
Photo by: TimeOut

2. Disney Store -London, England

It wouldn’t be a list of epic toy stores if it didn’t have at least one Disney Store on it and the largest one in Europe gets special mention here. From the outside, the store is impressive in itself featuring a 28 foot high Princess Castle with an animated clock. The Princess makes appearances in the windows while Tinkerbell flies across the walls. Guarding the store are Mickey and Donald Sentries. Inside is where the real magic happens though, featuring 8,200 square feet of toys, games and clothes, all featuring Disney’s iconic characters. Free interactive events constantly happen throughout the year including animation classes, storytelling, trivia quizzes and even full fledged parades. Adults will enjoy the interesting map that shows Disney’s connection to London by pinpointing movie locations such as Big Ben and St. Paul’s Cathedral from movies such as Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, 101 Dalmatians and more.

Disney Store london

1. American Girl Place -Chicago, USA

American Girl Place is the ultimate toy store to visit for any doll fan, whether you are an adult or child. Located at Chicago’s Water Tower Place it is the largest American Girl store in the United States. This shop is home to all of the beloved doll characters including the Girl of the Year and more. It is here where shoppers will find an extensive range of doll accessories, clothing, posters and books. Doll lovers will absolutely love designing their own matching doll and girl t-shirts, appearing on the cover of a souvenir issue of American Girl and watching their doll get their hair done in the Doll Hair Salon. There is even an elegant American Girl Café that is open for brunch, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, reservations are highly recommended. Special events happen throughout the year here and include private shopping nights, meet and greet with Santa and holiday parties.

Photo by: Flickr/popaitaly
Photo by: Flickr/popaitaly

North America’s Coolest Indoor Waterparks

Indoor water parks promise endless summer, a perfect getaway as the winter months are quickly coming. These water parks are only getting bigger and better, featuring huge wave pools, wild water slides, ziplines, arcades and even spas inside. From Niagara Falls, Canada all the way to Galveston, Texas we have rounded up 15 incredible indoor water parks across North America.

15. Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park -Erie, PA

This park is loaded with a ton of water slides and rides, along with a tropical colorful atmosphere that sets the stage for the perfect getaway during the long cold winter months. At just over 100,000 square feet, Splash Lagoon is full of exciting thrill rides for the adventurer. Among the unique features here are two bowl rides, The Cyclone which accommodates one and two rider tubes and Hurricane Hole, which sends you flying down at over 40 mph. Watch out for the tipping bucket on top of Tiki Tree House which dumps on unsuspecting riders on the The Cyclone. If you are looking for something a little more relaxing head on over to the Frog Pond Whirlpool where giant lily pads, tall amphibians and splashing fountains set the stage. A large arcade, mini-free fall ride and onsite restaurant compliment this awesome water park.

Photo by: Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park Resort
Photo by: Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park Resort

14. Schlitterbahn Indoor Water Park -Galveston, TX

Although this water park is an outdoor park most of the year, it actually transforms into an indoor park during the colder months and with over 70,000 feet of indoor play, it is one of the best in North America. With four tube slides, three speed slides, a heated pool, a man-made wave and a tidal wave river, there is no shortage of things to do here. The Torrent River is a favorite among visitors as it sends inner tubers along a quarter mile long, 20 foot wide wave filled river, twisting and turning riders throughout. Kids will love their own beach section that is full of tipping buckets, a beached boat, smaller slides and spraying jets. Although this indoor water park is one of the smaller on the list, it deserves recognition for the ability to change from an outdoor park to indoor park, and still offer amazing fun.

Photo by: Schlitterbahn Galveston
Photo by: Schlitterbahn Galveston

13. Palmetto and Palm Water Parks at Dunes Village Resort -Myrtle Beach, SC

There are actually two water parks located at the Dunes Village Resort in Myrtle Beach and guests to this resort get access to both. Palmetto caters to the younger guests with a 250-foot lazy river, a Kiddie Adventure pool with tons of spray features and a lagoon pool with basketball nets. Adults will also enjoy this park with two water slides and two hot tubs. Over at Palm Water Park there is something for everyone to enjoy including a lap pool, teen pool, three hot tubs and more. The Wild Winding Slide and Speed Slide are there for the more adventurous riders. Little ones will love the Silly Submarine, a water play structure that is loaded with spraying water features. The parks are open from 9am-11pm and while there are no lifeguards on duty, there are attendants at the top of each slide to ensure each rider descends safely.

Photo by: Dunes Village Resort
Photo by: Dunes Village Resort

12. Fallsview Indoor Waterpark -Niagara Falls, Canada

It boasts itself as the largest indoor water park in Niagara Falls and visitors will delight in the sheer number of thrilling water slides here. A total of 16 water slides make up this water park, along with a massive wave pool, adult-only whirlpools and a massive beach house play area. From extreme racing slides where riders will shoot down on mats to four different tube slides and one gigantic super bowl; there are enough slides to keep any adrenaline junkie happy. Planet Hollywood Beach Club is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat and is located on the main floor of the water park. Little ones can head to the Tiny Tots Splash Park where they can swim, splash and slide down kid-sized water slides. Don’t forget about the year-round outdoor sun deck which is heated in the winter and operates an outdoor pool in the warm months.

Photo by: Fallsview Indoor Waterpark
Photo by: Fallsview Indoor Waterpark

11. Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark -Boyne Falls, MI

Michigan’s largest indoor water park resort offers plenty of thrills and excitement for the whole family. Always at 84 degrees and open all year around it is easy to make your way here any time of the year, especially in the cold winter months when you are looking to escape the cold. One of the latest additions to this park is The Big Couloir, a water slide which begins in a capsule and shoots riders down a narrow tunnel into a super loop, with powerful g-forces keeping them glued to the sides the entire time. The lazy river on the other hand will lead riders throughout the park, while flowing water features hide around corners. The amazing 800-gallon water avalanche though is perhaps the highlight of this park and when the horn blows you will want to look out below! This climbing structure with its bridges, buckets, slides and climbing wall provides hours of endless fun.

Photo by: Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark
Photo by: Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark

10. Klondike Kavern at Wilderness Resort -Wisconsin Dells, WI

This indoor waterpark offers over 65,000 square feet of water fun for all ages. Guests to this water park rave about the famous Hurricane, a ride that sees riders whip down a 45-degree angle in a four person raft, scoot across a funnel at 20 mph, experience weightlessness and then drop into a splash pool. This ride is made even better with sound effects, fog and strobe lights. For those wanting a little less excitement, head over to the lazy river or the indoor hot spa. Little ones will love Bonanza Bluff, a huge structure that features over 50 squirt features and smaller slides, all situated in a shallow pool. A new ride is currently under construction here and promises to combine exciting water sliding with video game technology.

Photo by: Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort
Photo by: Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort

9. Chula Vista Resort -Wisconsin Dells, WI

Wisconsin Dells is known as the water park capital of the world and Chula Vista is among one of the best indoor water parks in all of North America, and perhaps even the world. The most loved attraction at this park is the Fly’n Mayan; an uphill water coaster that is designed to take riders throughout the park on an exhilarating ride. It prides itself on being on the longest and fastest uphill water coasters in the world! The Jungle Adventure complete with lights and sounds is also one of the famous rides here, a bowl ride that will leave you breathless. The never-ending tropical lazy river is great for relaxing while the oversize wading pool is perfect for little ones to splash around in.

Photo by: Chula Vista Resort
Photo by: Chula Vista Resort

8. Kahuna Laguna at the Red Jacket Mountain View Resort -North Conway, NH

It is New Hampshire’s largest indoor water park and features over 40,000 square feet of fun and excitement. This water park has gone all out to bring the tropics indoor and comes off more like a large tiki hut with its colorful decorations and faux palm leaves. There are only four water slides here, two tube slides and two body slides, totaling 900 feet in length, which means you will want to try them all out. The 67,000 gallon wave pool is one of the highlights of this water park, with three patterns of powerful three foot waves, perfect for those who want to body surf. The pool also features two waterfalls and is no more than five feet in depth. The Adventure Tower teems with slides, sprayers, rope bridges and one huge tipping bucket, which anyone of any age can enjoy. At the end of the day make sure to head over to the adult and kid 25-person hot tub that overlooks the entire water park.

Photo by: Kahuna Laguna Water Park
Photo by: Kahuna Laguna Water Park

7. Big Splash Adventure Indoor Waterpark -French Lick, IN

A retractable roof covers this awesome 40,000 square foot indoor water park, which means whether it is hot or cold outdoors, visitors here can enjoy this space any time of the year. With an abundance of pools, tube slides, body slides and over 50 interactive features; there won’t be any time to be bored. Favorite activities here include the Treasure Lagoon Vortex, a round pool with fun whirling water, as well as the Jolly Roger Jetty, a tube ride that takes riders through seven curves and can accommodate both single and double inner tubes. The Splish Splash Pool has been designed for the youngest of visitors, and they can choose to sit in the swings and bounce until their feet hit the water, or slide down the mini slide.

Photo by: Big Splash Adventure
Photo by: Big Splash Adventure

6. Wings & Waves at Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum -McMinnville, OR

This ultra-cool water park is both a water park and an educational experience, but don’t fear, kids won’t even know that they are actually learning because they will be having so much fun. The water park includes 10 water slides, 91,000 gallon wave pool and a Boeing 747 plane on the roof. Kids are encouraged to learn about water by building tsunami-proof models in the classrooms and then test them in the wave pool. A favorite of visitors here is climbing the 111 stairs up to the plane and then sliding down one of the four water slides, one of which drops a total of six stories. Aquaplay is a favorite among young visitors as the structure is loaded with smaller slides, water guns, spouts, valves and a 300 gallon firefighter bucket that drops on you. Trained and certified lifeguards are on duty at all times at this incredible and educational water park.

Photo by: Hydro Logic
Photo by: Hydro Logic

5. Water Park of America -Bloomington, MN

It is one of the biggest and the best water parks in all of North America, hence the name and it certainly doesn’t disappoint in terms of activities. It houses the tallest indoor water slide in all of America, stretching 100 feet into the air, along with a scenic and relaxing lazy river, indoor arcade and the Lake Superior Wave Pool. The 7th Floor Body Slides are among the favorites here as riders can race each other as they travel down twin body slides that actually go outside the building before a final splash. Friends and families should check out the Family Raft Ride, at over a mile long and 10 stories high, this ride offers tight turns, big splashes and lot of laughs. Learn how to body board, shoot a game of hoops in the pool or take the little ones to the zero depth activity pool where they can safely splash and slide.

Photo by: Water Park of America
Photo by: Water Park of America

4. World Waterpark, -West Edmonton Mall, Alberta

It is home to the world’s largest indoor wave pool and more than 17 unique water slides and play features. World Water park is also home to two high water slides, both 83 feet high, and favorites of all visitors. The Cyclone is perhaps the most well known water slide here as it is one of the most extreme slides in all of Canada, where riders enter into a capsule and fall straight down, into a gravity defying loop and ending up in a splashdown chute. The world’s largest permanent indoor zipline is also found here and riders will zip across the water park, over the wave pool and end up near the children’s play area. Speaking of the little ones, World Water park is home to an awesome kid’s area with plenty of water cannons, buckets, rope bridges, slides and pipes to play with.

Photo by: Pinterest
Photo by: Pinterest

3. Great Wolf Lodge -Niagara Falls, Canada

The fun never stops at Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls, especially at the indoor water park that offers thousands of square feet of non-stop fun. From tube rides that can fit the whole family to body slides to an uphill water coaster; the whole family will enjoy this park. The Rapids Run tows tube riders up and sends you plunging down a 15.8 meter vertical drop, along with zipping you through enclosed tunnels and around thrilling curves. An indoor wave pool, lazy river, a multitude of slides and specially designed play areas for the little ones makes this one awesome indoor water park.

Photo by: Great Wolf Lodge
Photo by: Great Wolf Lodge

2. Wild West at Wilderness Resort -Wisconsin Dells, WI

It is the largest indoor water park of four that is located at Wilderness Resort, spanning over 70,000 square feet. Thrill rides are the highlight of this water park, with The Black Hole being at the forefront. This thrilling slide has a huge descent followed by spins and turns, before dumping riders into the unknown. A 4-person raging raft ride provides plenty of laughs and thrills. The four-storey interactive play feature is loaded with body slides, water blasters, cannons and one gigantic tipping bucket! The indoor bumper boats are fun for the whole family where you can battle it out against both family members and other visitors. For a more relaxing activity, make sure to visit the indoor and outdoor hot springs.

Photo by: Wilderness Resort
Photo by: Wilderness Resort

1. Kalahari Water Park at Kalahari Resort -Sandusky, OH

It hails itself as being the largest indoor water park in all of America and at 173,000 square feet, we don’t doubt it is. Kalahari Resort is an African themed resort and throughout the water park this theme stays true with ride names such as Zig Zag Zebra, Cheetah Race and Crocodile Cove. A 920 feet lazy river runs throughout the park crossing through waterfalls and rapids while thrill seekers can head over to Zimbabwe Zipper where they can reach 40mph. A 12,000 square foot wave pool, kids only play area, tons of exhilarating water slides and indoor whirlpools all make up this awesome water park. An uphill water coaster ride and the two FlowRiders are among the most loved activities here. No matter what the weather outside is like; you can certainly play all day here.

Photo by: Kalahari Resorts
Photo by: Kalahari Resorts

America’s 20 Favorite Buildings

Consider it The People’s Choice awards for architecture. The American Institute of Architects commissioned a public poll on the most popular architectural works in the country. There are a number of well-known superstars including The Empire State Building and Faneuil Hall in Boston, but there are also the obscure and surprising; Seattle’s Safeco Field at #135, Denver International Airport at #57. The top of the list is decidedly skewed towards the northeast, especially New York and Washington D.C. who claim between them 16 of the top 20. Overall New York has 32 entries, while D.C. claims 17 and Chicago a respectable 16. Three of the favorites no longer exist: #143 Pennsylvania Station, the original Yankee Stadium of 1923 at #84 and the World Trade Center at #19. Among the architects making more than one appearance are Frank Lloyd Wright with 7 works; Eero Saarinen with 3 and one Thomas Jefferson with 2. Here are the Top 20 American structures that still stand and attract millions of sightseers and pilgrims from around the world:

20. Philadelphia City Hall – Philadelphia, PA

A truly magnificent building, it’s widely considered to be the best piece of French Second Empire architecture in the country. It is massive exercise in granite, sandstone and marble with muscular columns, some 250 pieces of sculpture including a massive 27 ton bronze of William Penn (as in Pennsylvania) on the clock tower. The 24 foot thick walls hold 4 acres of space with 700 rooms. It took 30 years to build, as only a government building can. Money was no object in a futile attempt to regain the city’s pre-eminence over the upstarts in New York and Washington, it was for a brief time, the tallest building in the world. Demolition was considered in the 1950’s and thank goodness rescinded.

Philadelphia City Hall

19. Brooklyn Bridge – New York City, NY

It was a huge deal when it opened in 1883. A sitting President, Charles Arthur, and a future one; New York Governor Grover Cleveland attended. The towers are built of limestone, cement and Maine granite delivered by schooner. It was the longest suspension bridge in the world for 20 years and like other New York landmarks it captured the artistic and popular culture’s imagination from Georgia O’Keefe through Jack Kerouac to Wycliffe Jean. Poet Marianne Moore wrote, “way out; way in; romantic passageway first seen by the eye of the mind, then by the eye. O steel! O stone! Climactic ornament, a double rainbow.” Beginning life on the 100th anniversary of the end of the Revolutionary War, the Bridge captures the enormous optimism of the economic boom of the Second Industrial Revolution. On ArchDaily, Cristopher Henry says the Bridge transformed not only bridge building but the city of New York itself. The Gothic Revival style span lit up at night framed by the Manhattan skyline, does seem like a road to a promised land.

Brooklyn Bridge

18. Hotel Del Coronado – San Diego, CA

What could be more striking, or make less sense, than a perfect example of 19th century British architecture on the California Pacific coast? A California beach house in downtown London perhaps? Though it may seem to an architectural fish out of water, it has been a magnet for celebrities, royalty and U.S. Presidents since it opened in 1888 at the peak influence of the Queen Anne building style. But such was its renown that its guest list includes from the Prince of Wales to Charlie Chaplin to Barack Obama. Queen Anne design is ornate and precious and violates every law of the American School which holds that buildings should be organic as if art of the site on which it’s built. But then architect James Reid apparently never studied law. The jumble of turrets and excess celebrates the Golden Age of decadence. Jay Gatsby would have been a frequent visitor had he actually existed. Gilded Age exuberance.

Vacclav / Shutterstock.com
Vacclav / Shutterstock.com

17. Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York City, NY

The Met, as it’s affectionately known, has been evolving as an idea and entity since 1866. It has added and subtracted whole sections over the decades and has become an imposing if not terribly harmonious mix of International, Modern and Contemporary architecture, yet it somehow fits in the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. Its vast interior holds collections among the best in the world, with a net worth of approximately the Gross National Product of Iceland. Of course everyone would think of fit fondly. It’s a list of the Faves not the Bests.

Nick Starichenko / Shutterstock.com
Nick Starichenko / Shutterstock.com

16. St. Regis Hotel – New York City, NY

It was meant to be the lap of luxury, by and for New York’s insanely wealthy aristocracy. A monument to conspicuous consumption built by the Astor family. In his book ‘Built to Last’ the renowned hotel historian Stanley Turkel described the interior like this: “marble floors and hallways from the quarries of Caen, Louis XV furniture from France, Waterford crystal chandeliers, antique tapestries and oriental rugs, a library full of 3,000 leather-bound, gold-tooled books… beautiful burnished bronze entrance doors, rare wood paneling, great marble fireplaces, ornamental ceilings and a telephone in every room”, a rare luxury at the time. In fact the New York Times reported that the St. Regis offered luxury “on a scale of sumptuosity quite without precedent.” The great Russian writer Maxim Gorky visited and remarked, “Neither the Grand Dukes, nor even the Czar, have anything like this.” It remains a Beaux-Arts gem in limestone.

DW labs Incorporated / Shutterstock.com
DW labs Incorporated / Shutterstock.com

15. Supreme Court of the United States – Washington, DC

The Supreme Court was 146 years old before it got its own building that opened in 1935. Its austere steel-framed marble faced exterior on classic Roma temple lines with its thick Corinthian columns gives way to a more ornate interior with brass friezes, extensive statuary of mythical figures and oak carvings that suggest a place of worship rather than one of sober deliberation. Its surprise that makes it is perhaps the last D.C. project to come in UNDER budget. The website says it combines classical grandeur and quiet dignity. The courtroom alone contains 24 columns of Italian marble from the same area Michelangelo sourced his; the walls and friezes of Spanish Ivory Vein marble floor borders incorporates African marble.

Supreme Court of the United States

14. The Gateway Arch – St. Louis, MO

2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the date the final piece was put into place completing the majestic span across the Mississippi and putting the iconic Arch up there with other quintessential American sites like Mount Rushmore and the Statue of Liberty. It is a memorial to the settlers who passed through the Gateway City of St. Louis. It also is a tribute of Thomas Jefferson who as President “championed the Louisiana Purchase and sent Lewis and Clark on their expedition westward. Technically it is a weighted catenary curve of over 17,000 tons of perfectly symmetrical concrete and steel. It is 630 feet high and 630 wide. The Finnish American architect Eero Saarinen is now considered one of the masters of American 20th-century architecture and furniture design. He won the design competition for the Arch in 1948 but sadly didn’t live to see construction begin in 1963 let alone to see it finished.

gateway arch

13. Grand Central Station – New York City, NY

A grand European palace masquerading as a New York train station. It looks like a transit point exclusively for the well-to-do, but in fact shepherds 750,000 people on their way, merrier for having passed through a great work of art on their way to work and home. On the outside are 50 foot high statues of Roman gods; Minerva Goddess of Wisdom, Mercury; God of financial gain, travelers, luck, trickery and thieves, eminently qualified to be the patron site of Manhattan not to mention Hercules. Within the classic Beaux Arts exterior lies a vast interior, larger than Notre Dame in Paris featuring too many masterpieces to list, bronze and stone carvings, Tennessee marble floors, frescoes of zodiac constellations. All illuminated by ten lavish chandeliers of nickel and gold, now containing energy efficient bulbs. The New York Tribune wrote, “Here is a space like the nave of an Old World cathedral. It compels to silence.”

pisaphotography / Shutterstock.com
pisaphotography / Shutterstock.com

12. Washington Monument – Washington, DC

It’s interesting that plans for a monument to George Washington were first discussed in 1783, construction began in 1848, and completion came in 1884 and the public got in in 1888. His followers wanted to build one as huge as their respect and devotion and many were rejected for being too grandiose for the new Republic. The elevator that was added in 1889 is still what visitors ride to the observation decks and their tremendous views of the capital. Technically, it is a classic Greek- inspired obelisk of 555 ft. in marble, granite and bluestone gneiss. It also contains some 193 memorial stones donated for inclusion. The donors ranged from the Sae of Utah, the Welsh people of New York to the Ottoman Empire.

National Mall and Washington Monument

11. St. Patrick’s Cathedral – New York City, NY

The neo-Gothic Cathedral of St. Patrick is the largest Catholic Church in the United States and certainly among the most beautiful. Its marble-clad brick facade must been a powerful, imposing site when it opened in 1879. Its 330ft twin neo Gothic towers soared above the neighborhood and were said to be visible for twenty miles, since dwarfed by sprouting skyscrapers.
Inside it has the traditional shape of the Latin cross. Its altars were designed by a Borgia, a Medici and Tiffany &co. Its renowned stained glass was crafted in England but the rose window, in the Gothic tradition was crafted by Charles Connick, a master of stained glass who the New York Times described as “the world’s greatest contemporary craftsman in stained glass.” A Pieta, three times larger than Michelangelo’s in the Vatican was added in 1906. Five million people go every year to worship and just experience this architectural wonder.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

10. Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial – Washington, DC

No doubt full of intangible meaning for Americans, the memorial is a profoundly moving experience wherever you’re from. Simplicity can engender an eloquence the grandest design may not. The façade of the 600 foot straight black wall of Indian granite lists the names of the 58,175 names Americans who died in the war. Its effect is intensified by the decision to build down rather than up, as if to mirror the descent into the depths of the carnage on the descent into the and eventually, after the last name to emerge a touched and changed person, back into the land of the living. Maya Lin, a Chinese American from Ohio was just 21 years old when she won the commission. There are 57,939 names on the original. At last count, that has grown to 58,286. In a
1983 interview published in the AIA Journal, Lin explained her inspiration, “I thought about what death is, what a loss is. A sharp pain that lessens with time, but can never quite heal over. A scar. The idea occurred to me there on the site. Take a knife and cut open the earth, and with time the grass would heal it.”

Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial

9. Chrysler Building – New York City, NY

Like many masterpieces the Chrysler Building opened to bad reviews. It was dismissed as a publicity stunt by Chrysler to beat the Manhattan Bank to completion and dethrone the Eiffel Tower as the world’s tallest building at the time. Its architect William van Alen was also dismissed as a “Dr. of Altitude.” But its Art Deco style has grown in stature since its heyday in the 1920’s and 30’s. It came to be regarded as over the top kitsch but went to become its own school of furniture, poster art and telephones. The Chrysler is one of the last of its kind, the Art Deco skyscraper. A counterpoint to the sombre Vietnam memorial the Chrysler emits the brash, confident futuristic exuberance of Art Deco at its best. If it had an observation deck, it may well have eclipsed the Empire State building in popularity. Its interior is yet more stunning. Lonely Planet guides suggest the best views are from the corner of 3rd and 44th. Or ironically from the observation deck of the Empire State. Where else could you see gargoyles in the image of Chrysler car parts?

Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com
Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com

8. Biltmore Estate – Asheville, NC

The British writer and with Oscar Wilde once said that “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” He might have had George W. Vanderbilt, one member of the wealthiest and influential American families in history, who contemporary descendants include CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. George W. fell in love with the Blue Ridge Mountains and bought 125,000 acres of it to build his summer estate. Only the best for a Vanderbilt, he hired Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer and architect-in-chief of Central Park. The French Renaissance ‘summer home’ has a copper roof monogrammed with the owner’s initials. Just the interior floor covers 4 acres. There are 34 bedrooms, 65 fireplace and at a time when indoor plumbing was rare, 43 bathrooms. Despite its excess it is a beautiful piece of work, intended to rival the old estate manors of Europe. The largest private home in America is a Historic Site and open to the public for tours.

Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock.com
Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock.com

7. Lincoln Memorial – Washington, DC

It is by no means a late Italian Renaissance piece or the ages but the Lincoln Memorial is a fascinating and compelling structure. Its grand exterior is a stunning Greek temple with 36 sturdy Doric columns, one for each state in the Union in 1865. The expectation that something of this classic magnitude would be a memorial or tomb of a great champion or god even. And there is inside a sculpture of the Great Emancipator himself but if you didn’t know his history you’d wonder if he won or lost the battle. The great American sculptor Daniel Chester French presents not a triumphant demi-God but a man, seated rumpled and not just tired but so weary from having seen too much grief. This was partly aesthetic genius partly astute politics. Construction of the Monument began in 1914, less than 50 years after the Civil War ended and any celebratory construct would have been deeply offensive to the South. The Southern Wall contains an elegant rendition of the Gettysburg Address while the north wall holds his second Inaugural Address which ends with the famous words…”With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds… to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Lincoln Memorial

6. U.S. Capitol – Washington, DC

The U.S. Capitol’s design was selected President Washington in 1793. Construction quickly began but they had to start over after the British burned it in the War of 1812. Like so many buildings in DC, it is classic Greek and Roman, the neoclassical style favored by Thomas Jefferson as befitting a modern empire. In fact he wanted the Capitol to be patterned after the Roman Pantheon. It has what might be called an intimidating charm of imposing size, symbolism and history. Expanded many times to its present 4 acres and 600 rooms, its most famous addition was the cast iron dome in 1858 weighing almost 9,000,000 pounds. Inside are of course the chambers of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the home of the Legislative Branch of the U.S. Government. Lesser known is the impressive collection of art accumulated and donated over the years. The Hall of Statuary is breathtaking as is the fresco in the Rotunda painted by Italian Constatino Brumidi in the Di sotto in sù (seen from below) style depicting the Apotheosis of Washington entering heaven with an escort of Roman gods representing among others War, Science and Agriculture.

US Capitol building

5. Golden Gate Bridge – San Francisco, CA

One of the greatest engineering and design accomplishments of the 20th century, a rarely surpassed combination of strength and beauty. They said it would be impossible to build a bridge across the Golden Gate Strait. It took four years and the equivalent of $600 million but at is completion in 1937 it was the longest and tallest suspension bridge in the world at almost 2 miles long. The two famous towers are 820 feet tall. The distinctive red Art Deco profile framed by the Pacific Ocean has made it known around the world a masterpiece in steel and concrete.

Golden Gate Bridge

4. Thomas Jefferson Memorial – Washington, DC

Jefferson didn’t get his wish for The Capitol to be built after the Pantheon in Rome but his memorial in Washington D.C. certainly is. It was inaugurated by President Franklin Roosevelt on the bicentenary of Jefferson’s birth in 1743. FDR proclaimed ““Today in the midst of a great war for freedom, we dedicate a shrine to freedom.” Jefferson’s intellect and influence towered above any of the founders, save for Washington himself. So it is more than fitting that the grand bronze statue of him inside the classic Roman architecture that he loved should tower over the interior showing him at the peak of his powers, with what is believed to be the Declaration of Independence in his hand.

Thomas Jefferson Memorial

3. Washington National Cathedral – Washington, DC

A majestic Gothic Revival work in Indiana limestone, its construction was launched with a speech from President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907 and was completed only in 1990. A hallowed place of ecumenical worship the church is also deeply reflective of American history. It was the las pulpit from which the Reverend Martin Luther King preached before his assassination in 1968. The funerals of Presidents Reagan and Eisenhower were held there. Woodrow Wilson is buried there. There is stained glass devoted to the Apollo moon landing with a piece of moon rock. Recently, the church stewards decided to remove two stained glass panels honoring Confederate Generals Robert TE Lee and Stonewall Jackson containing the Confederate flag. The top of the lofty Gloria in Excelsis vault is the highest point in the capital. It tries be user friendly, incorporating a young person’s design of Darth Vader gargoyle on the roof. Still, really more popular than the Golden Gate?

Washington National Cathedral

2. The White House – Washington, DC

Construction of the original Presidential residence began in 1702. It was nothing like the current version, especially being not white but a grayish Georgia mansion. Its first tenants were the second President, John Adams and wife Abigail. The British torched it in 1812 and Hoban rebuilt it but I wasn’t til a major renovation in 1824 that the portico and pillars turned the modest Georgian home into a neoclassical white building. The West Wing burned in 1929 and with is rebuilding it became what we know today. The whitewashed sandstone walls are the originals. Inside it contains 132 rooms, 28 fireplaces and 32 bathrooms, Interesting trivia: running water was not installed until 1835.

The White House

 

1. Empire State Building – New York City, NY

Honestly, if you were making King Kong in 1933 and deciding on which building in the entire world on which the huge protagonist to meet his dramatic demise, what other choice could you make but the Empire State, the tallest most glamorous building in the world? It has appeared in 250 movies from the sublime (An Affair to Remember) to the ridiculous (A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas). The 86th floor observation deck has had over a 100 million visitors, among the most popular in the world. While there are superstar architects with multiple entries in the list (Frank Lloyd Wright, Eero Saarinen), the New York firm that built the Empire State has just he one. At the very top. It’s not just the view or the gorgeous Art Deco façade. It is the architectural version of swagger, the iconic image that says you are in the home of the Leader of the Free World. When Canadian Far Wray, the actress who played King Kong’s love interest, died in 2004, the Empire State went dark for 15 minutes in silent, eloquent tribute.

Empire State Building

The 7 Best Urban Parks in America

When you hear ‘urban park’ and ‘America’ in the same sentence, one immediately thinks of Central Park in NYC, but it may surprise you to learn that all over America there are incredible urban parks. Parks play a key role in making a city desirable for both visitors and locals and it explains why cities are investing more and more money into them. From trapeze lessons on Governor’s Island to the impressive San Diego Zoo located in Balboa Park to parks that host awesome parties and festivals, here are seven urban parks that make these cities even more attractive to both live and visit.

7. Grant Park, Chicago

It is refereed to as Chicago’s “Front Yard”, a 319-acre public park that includes many notable features including Millennium Park, the Art Institute of Chicago and Buckingham Fountain. As well this park happens to be the site of three world-class museums, baseball diamonds, tennis courts, performance venues, gardens and sculptures. The beautiful lakefront recreation center, Maggie Daley Park opened in 2014 as well as the ice skating ribbon, a skating experience unlike any other that winds its way through a rolling landscape with a city skyline as a backdrop. It is also home to the famous shiny reflective bean shaped sculpture that has become both a city icon and popular photo-op.

grant park

6. Schenley Park, Pittsburgh

This beautiful park is worth a visit anytime of the year, but especially in the summertime where free movies play on Flagstaff Hill, or during the fall where the leaves turn brilliant shades of yellow, orange and red. There are enough sports for everyone here, from the 13 tennis courts to the soccer field to the running track, high-jump area to the 18-hole Frisbee golf course. Visitors can also choose to take it slow, wander through the Phipps Conservatory and gaze at the rare miniature orchids or the primitive tree ferns. The free Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix also takes place here during July and 150 sports cars navigate 23 turns around the parks Paddock Drive, while some 200,000 visitors cheer them on.

Joshua Haviv / Shutterstock.com
Joshua Haviv / Shutterstock.com

5. Balboa Park, San Diego

Sitting at just over 1,200 acres, this stunning park packs in more attractions than you could possibly visit in just one day, including the Tony Award-winning Old Glove theatre. It is here where visitors will find the world-renowned San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Museum of Art, numerous hiking and biking trails, a handful of playgrounds and more. There are a ton of restaurants to choose from here including tea pavilions, cafes, grills and pubs. Overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean and including buildings so stunning they have been used in movies and television shows, consider yourself lucky if you happen to have this incredible urban park as your backyard.

Balboa Park, San Diego

4. Encanto Park, Phoenix

This 222-acre oasis lies just a few blocks from the busy central corridor and features awesome picnic areas, a lagoon, boat house, swimming pool and more. Rent a paddle boat or canoe and enjoy the lagoon along with the opportunity for fishing and observing ducks. One of the best attractions here is the Enchanted Island Amusement Park, a park that features a ton of rides and activities for the whole family. There are a ton of free things to do as well here such as rollerblading along the paved trails, getting in a good workout at the exercise field, check out Art in Park or toss a Frisbee around in one of many green spaces.

Encanto Park, Phoenix

3. Discovery Green Park, Houston

This downtown paradise was made when the city decided to tear up numerous concrete parking lots and turn this otherwise unattractive part of the city into Discovery Green Park. This 12-acre park features awesome amenities such as a man-made lawn, 12-foot high arcing water jets, rolling green lawns and fine dining restaurants. Throughout the year numerous wacky competitions take place here, along with the dog jumping competitions and free classes. During the winter an amazing ice skating rink is open to the public as well as a field of lights, an awe-inspiring art installation that shines against the dark sky. Playgrounds, stages, trails, art installations, gardens, reading rooms and other awesome surprises await visitors at this awesome urban park.

goodcat / Shutterstock.com
goodcat / Shutterstock.com

2. Governors Island, New York City

This former military base off the tip of lower Manhattan has been turned into an amazing urban park, offering visitors and locals of NYC a second choice in awesome parks. It is here where you will find electric arts, food events and even a sandy beach to hang out at. Get here by taking the free ferry ride from Manhattan’s Battery Maritime Building or take the Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6, which offers stunning views of the skyline and State of Liberty. Circus nerds will go nuts over the trapeze lessons that are offered on the weekends and music fans unite to rock out to some incredible waterfront concerts. The island is car-free so many choose to rent bikes and cycle around, go on Fridays between May and October and even get your bike for free!

Keith Sherwood / Shutterstock.com
Keith Sherwood / Shutterstock.com

1. City Park, New Orleans

This park is as magical and historical as the city of New Orleans itself, boasting the largest collection of mature live oaks in the world. These sculptural-looking marvels include some that have their branches spread out twice as wide as their height (up to 75ft)! There are way too many things in this park to mention, but some of the most notable include the New Orleans Botanical Garden, Big Lake, Art and Sculpture Garden, City Splash and numerous playgrounds and sports fields. Summertime brings genteel parties complete with mint juleps and performances at the Botanical Gardens and live bands at the annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Marathon. Enjoy the 18-hole golf course, the famous antique carousel and the beautiful Couturier Forest.

City Park, New Orleans

Best Winter Adventure Parks in America

While not all of America sees winter in terms of cold, snow and ice; many states do and instead of hibernating inside, they are choosing to embrace when winter. Resorts and parks are creating awesome winter playgrounds that include snow tubing, sleigh rides, snowshoeing, mountain coasters and more. Instead of sitting inside complaining about the cold weather, we are urging you to bundle up and discover the 6 best winter adventure parks in America.

6. Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, Colorado

This adventure park is open all year round and sure knows how to draw in a winter crowd, offering 500,000 twinkling lights, a giant Christmas tree that plays a musical light show, winter rides and caves, a 4-D winter movie and fire pits! Ride to the park aboard a scenic tram with views of the lights and valley below. Once in the park take a ride on the Soaring Eagle Zip Ride and the Alpine Coaster, both lit for night riding. Tour King’s Row Cave which is lighted with colorful lights throughout. Follow two jolly snowmen on their adventures when you have the winter ride of your life in the $-D theater which plays Winter Wipeout. Warm up around the fire and roast smores or in one of the warming huts that also offer hot cocoa and other warm winter beverages. Experience a different side to this awesome adventure park when the snow falls.

Photo by: Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park via Facebook
Photo by: Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park via Facebook

5. Keystone Resort, Colorado

Day or night is the time to head to Adventure Point at Keystone Resort in Colorado to get your tube on. A massive tubing hill has been designed to be fun for all ages here. Boasting a unique enclosed state-of-the-art conveyor system, you can ride as many times as you want on this hill. The hill is multi-lane, ensuring that it is never overcrowded and you won’t wait around for your turn. Beside the massive hill is a smaller free children’s tubing area for those under 36 inches tall. The tubing sessions run an hour long and reservations are required. Although there are no multi-rider tubes, you can ensure that this will be one of the most fun hours of your winter life.

Photo by: Keystone Resort via Facebook
Photo by: Keystone Resort via Facebook

4. Avalanche Tubing Park, Ohio

This tubing park is Ohio’s largest and features 10 lanes that stretch 1000 ft. long. This is one of the only tubing parks where there is no minimum height for riders and parents with young children will love it here. Each rider must be able to ride in their own tube though, although linking tubes together is allowed. Getting down is the most fun but getting up the hill is just as easy thanks to the two magic carpet conveyor belts. There is also no time limit here, allowing tubers to slide as long as they want. With a base lodge that includes a snack bar and an outdoor fireplace to warm up, it’s easy to spend the day or night here. Just be aware that this tube hill is only open from Thursdays through Sundays and holidays.

Photo by: Mad River Mountain via Facebook
Photo by: Mad River Mountain via Facebook

3. Rocking Horse Ranch Resort, New York

This winter fun park offers awesome activities for people of all ages and plan on indulging in them all at the Rocking Horse Ranch Resort in New York. With an upgraded snow making machine, winter is here all season long with plenty of the fluffy white stuff. Snow tubers will love the 500 ft long Timber Chutes where single riders will blast down the hill. Luckily you won’t have to walk back up as the magic carpet conveyor lift will give all riders a way back up. If you are after a more relaxing winter activity here, join one of the horse drawn sleigh rides through the magical 500-acre woods. Or take that one step further and hop on the horse yourself for an incredible trail ride. Skaters will love the brand new ice rink available and skates are available at the Sports Shack to rent. And when you are too cold to handle being outdoors anymore, just head inside to the year-round indoor waterpark, where it is summer all year round.

Photo by: Rocking Horse Ranch Resort
Photo by: Rocking Horse Ranch Resort

2. Camelback Mountain, Pennsylvania

It is known as boasting some of the best skiing and snowboarding in Pennsylvania, but in addition Camelback Mountain is home some pretty epic winter activities. It is here where you will find Pennsylvania’s only mountain coaster, one that traverses through the trees and down steel slopes of the mountain, running over 4000 ft long. The snow tubing is the favorite winter activity here though, other than skiing or snowboarding of course. Featuring up to 42 lanes of sliding and two surface lifts, it calls itself the biggest snow tubing park in America. Offering both single and double tubes, it is easy to challenge friends to a race to the bottom. Magic carpets carry riders back up time and time again. Depending on when you visit, snow tubing is limited to 3-hour sessions, or visit during the week for unlimited riding. How many times can you race down these exhilarating slopes?

Photo by: Camelback Mountain Resort via Facebook
Photo by: Camelback Mountain Resort via Facebook

1. Wintergreen Resort, Virginia

The Plunge is Virginia’s largest tubing park and is often referred to as the “scream machine.” That is because the hill is 10 storeys high and as long as three football fields. Speeds can reach up to 30 mph and although only single tubes are offered, riders are welcome to hook onto each other for an even faster, twister ride. The resort is also home to a 45X90 rink that can accommodate up to 60 skaters at one time. For the younger kids that are too small to visit The Plunge, this resort has an awesome adventure park for just them. Ridgely’s Fun Park boasts a mini-tubing carousel, bear paw snow shoes, tunnels, visits from the mascot and even a small hill for tubing. Great for ages 3 and up, this is the perfect way to spend an hour before warming up with some much needed hot chocolate.

Photo by: Wintergreen Resort
Photo by: Wintergreen Resort

The 10 Best Stargazing Spots in the Northern Hemisphere

We’ve told you where to find the best views of the heavens in the southern half of the world; the southern hemisphere’s positioning makes it a particularly good location for aspiring astronomers to get a glimpse of our galaxy. But that doesn’t mean that those of us in the northern hemisphere have to miss out on awe-inspiring starscapes. There are dozens of dark-sky reserves and parks and prime viewing spots in more northerly climes. You’ll want to pack your telescope if you plan to travel to any of these 10 locations.

10. Brecon Beacons National Park, United Kingdom

Head to south Wales and you’ll quickly find that sheep outnumber people in this part of the world. Brecon Beacons National Park is a prime stargazing location because of its seclusion. The ruins of the Llanthony Priory provide a stunning backdrop for the night sky. The area near the park is home to 33,000 people and within easy access for nearly 1 million, which means that residents have worked hard to ensure that lighting within the communities near the park are dark sky-friendly. Most of the park is open grass moorland, which makes for plenty of open viewing of the night sky. The park was originally designated in 1957, and in 2013, it became an official International Dark Sky Association Dark Sky Reserve. Once you’ve done some stargazing, be sure to step into the Priory to grab some authentic Welsh ale—the ruins have been converted into a pub.

Llanthony Priory

9. Westhavelland, Germany

The Westhavelland Nature Park, in the state of Brandenburg, Germany, was established in June 1998. With an area of 1,315 square kilometers, the park is the largest protected area in Brandenburg and is home to the largest contiguous wetland in all of Europe. It has also become renowned for its dark skies, despite being just 70 kilometers west of Berlin, Germany’s most populous city. Its location also means easy access for the nearly 6 million people living in the region—and tourists to Berlin. The Dark Sky Reserve, which was certified by the IDA in 2014, is approximately 750 square kilometers within the park. The park offers an extensive education program, including the annual WestHavellander AstroTreff Party and an interpretive program. The Milky Way shines in full splendor over Germany’s first and foremost “star park”!

Brandenburg Milky Way

8. Mauna Kea, United States

Although there are several locations in the Hawaiian islands that are prime stargazing spots, Mauna Kea has to claim the top spot. Located on the Big Island, Mauna Kea Observatory sits 13,756 feet (4,205 meters) above sea level, on the slopes of the mountain, high above the town of Hilo. Here you’ll be able to see northern hemisphere favorites, including the Milky Way, Ursa Major, the bands of Jupiter and Orion, with perfect clarity. Although the largest optical telescope in the world will be off-limits after nightfall, you can still peer through telescopes offered at the visitors’ center, located at 9,200 feet. Free lectures and Q&A sessions at the observatory are complemented by tour packages offered by adventure companies, some of which include dinner. Although Mauna Kea isn’t an IDA-certified site, it remains a popular location for stargazers from around the world.

Mauna Kea night sky

7. Tenerife, Spain

You can probably pick any of Spain’s Canary Islands to get a good view of the stars. In fact, the island of La Palma is a protected area, although it’s not officially a park or reserve. For the best views, however, hop over to Tenerife, the largest island in the chain. Tenerife has passed a law controlling flight paths, specifically with the quality of stargazing in mind. From April through December, you can take a tour of the Teide Observatory. Visitors can also enjoy a cable car ride up to the top of the volcanic Mount Teide to really get a good gander at the stars. Cap off an evening by enjoying dinner at the mountain-top restaurant, with the stars as the romantic backdrop. The semi-annual Starmus Festival is also a popular attraction, celebrating science, music and the arts.

Tenerife Night sky

6. Kiruna, Sweden

The northernmost settlement in Sweden, the town of Kiruna lies about 120 miles north of the Arctic Circle, which means that between December 11 and January 1, there is a period of continuous night. While some of us may not be enthused by the idea of constant darkness, it does make for an amazing opportunity to view some of the spectacular skies. Given the remote location, the skies are truly dark, creating the perfect canvas for the aurora borealis. Visitors can book a stay at the world-famous Icehotel, just 11 miles from Kiruna in Jukkasjarvi. Nighttime “picnics” are offered on northern lights tours. Other activities include ice-sculpting and wintertime sports like skiing. You can also tour the Esrange Space Center, which developers hope to turn into a spaceport in the near future.

Sweden aurora borealis

5. Cherry Springs State Park, United States

There may not seem to be a lot of reason to visit Pennsylvania, but stargazers are drawn to the 82-hectare Cherry Springs State Park. This highly regarded site provides one of the best glimpses into the center of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. The park sits atop a 2,300-foot (701 meter) peak, which allows you to leave civilization (and light pollution) down on the ground. The park offers various programs throughout the year, including its annual Black Forest Star Party in early September, a popular event for amateur astronomers. In 2014, stargazers were lucky enough to spot the aurora borealis not once, but 4 times in Cherry Springs. First designated a dark sky park by the state in 2000, Cherry Springs was proclaimed an International Dark Sky Park by the IDA in June 2007.

Photo by: karenfoleyphotography/Alamy via Travel and Lesiure
Photo by: karenfoleyphotography/Alamy via Travel and Lesiure

4. Kerry Dark Sky Reserve, Ireland

The County Kerry in Ireland is considered one of the most picturesque areas in the country. Situated between the Kerry Mountains and the vast Atlantic Ocean, the Iveragh Peninsula is home to the Ring of Kerry, with numerous scenic attractions along its length. In 2011, the Kerry Dark Sky Reserve became the only gold-tier reserve in the northern hemisphere, and it was officially designated in January 2014. The night sky has long been important to the inhabitants of the region; Neolithic stone formations dating to 6,000 years ago were used to observe astronomical events and track the sun and moon. The area, which is approximately 700 square kilometers, incorporates territory along the Wild Atlantic Way. It is naturally protected from light pollution, although the inhabitants are working to create dark sky-compliant lighting systems to improve the quality of the night skies even more.

ring of kerry

3. Jasper National Park, Canada

Jasper, located in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, is probably one of Canada’s most famous national parks. Not only is it a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was also declared a dark-sky preservation area in March 2011. Although Jasper is not certified by the IDA, sites in Canada must adhere to the strict guidelines set out by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. The guidelines were developed to protect wildlife that is sensitive to light pollution. Every October, Jasper holds a Dark Sky Festival, which includes daytime solar viewings and rocket launches to entertain the kids. There are approximately 100 year-round campsites scattered throughout the park, meaning that you don’t need to visit in the fall to get some spectacular views of the night sky over the Canadian Rockies.

Jasper at night

2. Zselic Landscape Protection Area, Hungary

In the past, the starry skies were essential for Hungarian shepherds guiding their flocks back to fold. Today, Hungary is home to some of the best dark skies in the world; in August 2015, Wanderlust named it the third-best stargazing spot in the world. Zselic Starry Sky Park is located within the National Landscape Protection Area, which was originally established in 1976 to protect the natural assets of the North Zselic region. The Triangulum Galaxy is visible to the naked eye here, and in the spring, you can spot Orion and the Orion Nebula, along with the zodiacal light. The Lighting Society of Hungary and 17 surrounding municipalities have worked with the park to minimize the impact of lighting both within and outside the 9,042 hectares of parkland.

Photo by: RAFAEL SCHMALL / SCHMALL RAFAEL PHOTOGRAPHY
Photo by: RAFAEL SCHMALL / SCHMALL RAFAEL PHOTOGRAPHY

1. Natural Bridges National Monument, United States

This Utah national park was the first IDA-designated International Dark Sky Park, declared in 2007. The park is renowned for its 3 natural bridge formations (hence its name), one of which is the second-largest in the world. The area was first designated a park in 1908. In the summer, the park provides astronomy ranger programs to help share its gorgeous nighttime skies with some of the 95,000 people that visit each year. The Milky Way is very clearly visible and the desert conditions of the area make for many nights of clear viewing throughout the year. During an assessment by the NPS Night Sky Team, the park registered as a Class 2 on the Bortle Dark-Sky Scale, making it one of the darkest skies in the lower 48 states.

Utah stars

6 Christmas Attractions You Can Visit Year Round

For most of us, Christmas only comes once a year and although festivities may start as early as November, most are over by January. For those looking to extend the holiday season just a little bit longer, you are in luck. Cities, towns and attractions all over North America have taken the Christmas spirit and started celebrating it all year round. From towering Santa Claus statues to the largest Christmas store in the world, to roller coasters and even breakfast with the big guy, here are six attractions and towns where Christmas is celebrated all year round.

6. Santa Claus, Indiana

The southern Indiana town was originally called Santa Fe when it was established in 1854 but quickly had to change its name as there was already another Santa Fe in the state. The town meeting was held on Christmas Eve to determine the town name and thus in the Christmas spirit, it was named Santa Claus. The town boasts street names such as Jingle Bells Drive and Candy Cane Lane as well as themed attractions such as Santa’s Candy Castle, Santa Claus Museum and Santa’s Lodge. Visitors pack the Holiday World theme park which is loader with wooden roller coasters and waterslides. The most visited attraction here may just be the post office where residents make it a habit to stop in and read and respond to the letters addressed to the town’s namesake.

Photo by: Napkin Dreams
Photo by: Napkin Dreams

5. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Today the city is known as “Christmas City, USA” and indeed it was born on Christmas eve in 1741, founded by missionaries who set up a commune on the banks of the Lehigh River. This city attracts visitors all year round with its impressive 91 foot tall star that is lit from 4:30 pm until midnight every night of the year. Along with the star are many displays where visitors can learn about three centuries of Christmas history. Although accessible year round, the holiday season is really when this city shines offering one of the country’s most impressive Christmas markets. Stock up on presents while you enjoy traditional German cuisine and the sounds of holiday tunes. Horse drawn carriage rides and walking tours are also offered throughout the city.

Photo by: CN Traveler
Photo by: CN Traveler

4. Castle Noel, Ohio

It calls itself America’s largest indoor year-round Christmas entertainment attraction and Castle Noel is sure to get visitors into the holiday spirit no matter what time of year it is. It is here where you can find the largest collection of Hollywood Christmas movie props and costumes from movies such as “the Grinch” and “Elf”. Castle Noel also boasts an incredible array of animated New York City Christmas windows featuring thousands of toys from stores such as Sak’s and Bloomingdale’s. Make sure to take a ride inside the 25-foot-tall animated Christmas tree where it is snowing inside and you will earn a place on the “Wall of Fame”. The gift shop is the perfect place to pick up any Christmas themed presents as well as check out the world famous Mark Klaus sculptures.

Photo by: Castle Noel
Photo by: Castle Noel

3. North Pole, Alaska

Situated 1,700 miles south of the actual North Pole, visitors to this suburb of Fairbanks can celebrate Christmas all year round. The town was named North Pole when a development company bought the area in 1952 and named it that in hopes of attracting a toy manufacturer or theme-park developer to the area. That didn’t happen and instead the town turned itself into a Christmas destination all year round complete with candy colored street signs for St. Nicholas Drive and Snowman Lane. Santa Claus House is where visitors will find live reindeer, Santa photo ops, ornaments and gifts to purchase. If you really want to experience the Christmas Spirit head here during the annual Winter Festival where fireworks and an ice festival brings in sculptors from around the world. Completing the town is a 42-foot tall, 900-pound Santa statue.

Photo by: Alaska.org
Photo by: Alaska.org

2. Santa’s Village, Ontario

Although you cannot visit this attraction year round (as it closes during the winter for a few months) it is one of the only outdoor Christmas attractions you can visit during the summertime, and thus deserves a spot on this list. The unique 60-acre attraction features Santa Claus and his elves along with his deer in various forms and activities. Have breakfast with Santa in the morning to start your day or take a ride on the Ferris wheel or paddle boats. Cruise the river on Santa’s Summer Sleigh Jet Boat or tour the village by miniature train. Daily live shows featuring magicians, entertainers and musicians.

Photo by: Santa’s Village
Photo by: Santa’s Village

1. Frankenmuth, Michigan

This whole city just screams Christmas and regardless of the time of year, visitors will leave feeling in the holiday spirit. Founded in 1845 as a Bavarian mission colony for Lutherans, this tiny village is now known as Michigan’s “Little Bavaria”. Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland is at the forefront of things to experience here. It is considered one of the world’s largest Christmas stores with a half-mile walk lined with thousands of lights. Vivid outdoor displays wow visitors along with a life-size replica nativity scene. The Silent Night Chapel is also a big draw, a replica of a church in Austria where the song “Silent Night” was written and sung for the first time. Other than Bronner’s, visitors here can explore the Old Christmas Station, a German museum that features incredible old-fashioned pastries.

Bronner's Christmas Frankenmuth, Michigan

7 Pieces of US Topography Worth Checking Out

There’s no denying that the U S of A is an incredibly large country. It’s not the largest (falling behind Russia and Canada, then slightly ahead of China), but it’s still pretty darn huge. Ranging an entire section of a continent, and even reaching into boarders that aren’t connected to its majority. (Shout out to Hawaii and Alaska, as well as the Virgin Islands.) It’s not necessarily the space that makes it so impressive, however, but the ability to inhabit virtually every portion of the land. Countries like Australia, Canada, and Russia host citizens only in specific areas, while others are too harsh for sustainable living. Leaving them with areas that are thickly populated, and others that are completely free of life. Within the US, however, there are houses and cities in virtually every corner. Of course, there are areas left free for farming and wildlife, but a house is never too far away. The land simply allows for it. Throughout each burst of mountains, desert, intense forests, etc., there are those who call the space home. What that means for travelers, however, is great news. Rather than land that’s untraveled and unsafe, virtually everywhere is up for exploration.

7. The Coast

No matter which direction you head, The states are sure to offer up some beautiful ocean views. The West Coast is more calm and comes with warmer weather, South is ideal for fishing and taking in tropical views, while the East will show you just how incredible Mother Nature’s force can be. Not to mention the natural sight of cut rocks and Oceanside cliffs. In order to get the full effect, make plans to visit all over throughout a lifetime. Not only is it a good excuse for travel, it will provide you with a more cultured idea as to what the US coasts have to offer. In both experience and views.

west coast california

6. Northwestern Rivers

Often thought of as chilly or hosting inclement weather throughout much of the year, the Northwest is actually home to some incredible topography. Raging rivers cut through colorful rocks – which run straight through towns and city centers. Visitors can walk bridges, or check out power plants that are entirely run by moving water. With steep hills, there’s plenty of gravity to keep everything moving, and all the different types of rocks, it’s a sight that’s worth driving hours upon hours to see in person. Photos and posters simply can’t do it justice.

Multnomah Falls Columbia River Gorge Oregon

5. The Mountains

Whether you head to Colorado or Tennessee, even California, you’re in for a beautiful, mountainous sight. Better yet, each range has is own set of sights. They might be rocky, forest-filled, or full of steam from an incoming rain. Whatever its unique features, you’re sure to be in for breathtaking photo opps. Sure be sure to check your brakes when driving through – these roads are rough on vehicles and call for frequent stops and slow driving. But considering all you get to see for less-than-ideal driving conditions, virtually all who stop by see it as more than a welcome trade.

Smokey Mountains Tennessee

4. Niagara Falls

Located in New York (and in Canada), this jaw-dropping landmark is a must-see for anyone in the area. It’s force is so loud, so tremendous, that it can be heard and seen for miles around. Each second, the falls drop more than 750,000 gallons of water. Which drop for an incredible 167 feet before hitting its watery bottom. (An incredible stat that lands it as the country’s biggest waterfall.) Visitors can admire this giant from afar, or take a boat tour that encompasses both the American and Canadian sides of the Falls. Just don’t forget to wear a poncho – with a drop that forceful, visitors are sure to get soaked even without venturing too close.

Massimiliano Pieraccini / Shutterstock.com
Massimiliano Pieraccini / Shutterstock.com

3. The Great Lakes

Just how great are the Great Lakes? They’re, individually, the four largest lakes in the entire United States. Yet they’re packed in right next to one another. In fact, three make it into the list of top-five biggest lakes in the entire world. Accompanied by lake Victoria in Africa, and the Caspian Sea in Europe. (The latter is controversial, as it hosts a large salt water section, leaving some to classify it as more ocean than lake.) Superior is also the largest lake in the world, aside from Caspian, and holds more water than all other three great lakes combined. And then some. Still not convinced these lakes will make for a great view? Come winter they’ll be coated in a beautiful layer of icy frost, while summer leaves them blue and watering plenty of green plants. It’s a combination that simply can’t be beat, no matter what time of year you visit.

Lake Superior Michigan

2. The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is huge, vast, and deep. And unlike most landmarks, you can explore it right to the very depths – that is, if you dare. When proper planning is done, visitors can hike straight into the canyon’s center. Though it’s dangerous, those who’ve traveled say there’s nothing quite like walking that deep into the earth. (Or that hot.) However, for the rest of the population, there are also plenty of walking paths that provide a great view, but without the dangers of hiking treacherous terrain. Besides, up high provide the best views and layout of the land.

Grand Canyon National Park

1. The Giant Forest

In many cases, if you’ve seen one forest, you pretty much have an idea as to what the rest will look like. But that simply isn’t true of the Sequoia forest inrn in California. These are some of the largest trees in the entire world – in height and width, and there’s an entire forest of them to be explored. In fact, the General Sherman Tree is listed as the biggest in existence, and its neighbors are no slackers. Most are about 26 stories tall, and are wider than two streets. Impressive? Yes. It turns out trees can grow pretty huge when they’re more than 1,000-2,000 years old. Visitors can hike through to get up-close views, check out the trees from afar, or even stand right next to some of the biggest among them. Just to see how small they are in comparison. Either path will offer some seriously unforgettable views.

 

General Sherman Tree