Quests Across America Everyone Should Complete

A general view of the Golden Gate Bridge seen from Marshall’s Beach on March 3, 2017 in San Fransisco, CA. (Photo by Matthew Baker/Getty Images)

Richmond, Virginia

Richmond, Virginia is a city best known for its long and important history, its gorgeous architecture, and its unique Southern charm. Whether you’re shopping in Carytown or biking along the James River, you’re sure to find a bounty of adventure along cobbled streets and forest paths alike. While you’re in town, don’t miss out on the city’s hidden treasures. These five Richmond quests are the perfect way to spend a day, and with the myriad of boutique dining and shopping options throughout the city, your time will be well spent.

The Richmond Garden Trail
Enchanted Garden

One of the most beautiful and interesting features of Richmond city is the abundance of gorgeous formal gardens amidst the urban landscape. Many of the private residences include well tended gardens, some even dating back before the civil war, but visitors to the city can enjoy these horticultural delights by following the Richmond Garden Trail. It’s more like a scavenger hunt than a physical pathway, with gardens scattered throughout the city open for public viewing. To follow the trail, start at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, a sprawling attraction with a tropical conservatory, children’s garden, and more than 50 acres of splendor. From there, visit the sculpture garden at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and then proceed to the 100 acre estate of Maymont. Next, you’ll want to check out Agecroft Manor, The Virginia Center for Architecture, Capitol Square, and The Valentine. The trail ends at The Edgar Allen Poe Museum, with its enchanted garden including ivy from Poe’s mother’s grave and flowers selected for their mention in the great American writer’s works. As an added bonus, each location on the Garden Trail includes its own unique flavor and even more things to do, so you might find that completing the garden trail takes an entire weekend.

Civil War Landmarks
Confederate Monument at Hollywood Cemetery

When the southern states seceded to form the Confederacy, Richmond was named the capitol of this new nation. Civil War buffs, history lovers, and casual tourists can find an entirely different perspective on the American South by visiting some of the museums, monuments, and landmarks dedicated to this portion of Richmond’s history. There’s nowhere else in the country that honors the sacrifices made on both sides of the Civil War like the City of Richmond. Stop by The American Civil War Museum at the historic Tredegar Iron Works, which is housed in an old gun foundry, and be sure to follow up with a trip to the White House of the Confederacy. For a closer look at the medicine of the time period, plan a visit to Chimborazo Medical Museum on the site of the Chimborazo Hospital. You might find yourself at the Confederate War Memorial Chapel, taking a tour at Battlefield Park or Fort Harrison, or strolling the hills of Hollywood Cemetery where Jefferson Davis is buried and a stone pyramid honors the Confederate lives lost. And, of course, you must take a walk or drive down Monument Avenue while the monuments still stand.

The Canal Walk
Riverside Canal Walk

One of the most charming free attractions in Richmond, the Riverfront Canal Walk also offers easy access to the best of Downtown Richmond. The Canal Walk is 1 and 1/4 miles long, paralleling the James River Canal, Kanawha Canal, and Haxall Canal as they flow through the city. Simply strolling along the pathway, you’ll find boat tours, charming restaurants, hookah lounges, monuments and artwork, and access to some of Richmond’s great natural attractions like Belle Isle and Brown’s Island. Whether you’re into tubing and rafting, fine dining, or browsing educational exhibits, you’ll find something along the Canal Walk. Wear comfortable shoes, be ready for anything, and spend a day exploring one of the most beautiful areas of Richmond.

Tour the Museums
Agecroft Manor

Richmond is one of the most museum-dense cities in the country. From art and history to architecture and science, there’s an exhibit for every interest. Don’t limit yourself to only the big attractions, such as the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts mentioned earlier and the Science Museum of Virginia. Make sure to set aside time to see the John Marshall House, Main Street Station, and those mentioned above in the Garden Trail and the Civil War locations. While it’s a worthy goal to visit all of Richmond’s museum offerings, you might find that it will take more than one visit to the city. If you have children, it’s smart to start with The Children’s Museum of Richmond and Maymont, which include interactive exhibits for little hands. Don’t miss the Executive Mansion, the Auction Houses in Carytown, the Black History Museum, the Virginia Holocaust Museum, or Castlewood Plantation. Whatever your interest, you’ll find a museum for it in Richmond!

The Richmond Slave Trail
Manchester Slave Trail

Of everything mentioned here, the Slave Trail is the most quest-like. In order to find the Slave Trail, you’re going to have to do a bit of hiking through wooded trails, so dress accordingly. Follow in the footsteps of African slaves that were imported and sold in Richmond, beginning at the Manchester Slave Docks on the James River. From there, it’s a matter of following the signposts along the banks of the river, beside the flood wall, over a footbridge into Downtown, eventually ending at Lumpkin Slave Jail. You’ll pass the Reconciliation Statue, a Negro Burial Ground, and even see the auction houses where this human cargo was once sold. It’s an emotional experience hiking over that same ground today. Since this path often leads through remote sections of the city with very little traffic, and is frequently rustic in nature, be sure that you don’t attempt the hike alone and that you are prepared appropriately with bottled water, flashlights, and charged cellphones.

San Fransisco, CA

San Francisco might not be the City that Never Sleeps, but it’s pretty close. With foggy-yet-perfect weather and gorgeous views, the City by the Bay is a year-round destination where everyone can find something to do, from riding a cable car to searching for the perfect burrito.

Whether you’re just visiting or you’ve been a city dweller for some time, here are five quests that’ll make your San Francisco experience complete.

Find the best Mission burrito

Ask a handful of San Francisco natives where to find the best burrito and nearly every single one will inevitably tell you to head to the Mission District. Press them for a more specific answer, however, and you’ll find many different opinions. So why not try out a few and find your own favorite spot? Popular places to pick up a Mission burrito include El Farolito, Pancho Villa Taqueria, Papalote Mexican Grill and The Little Chihuahua. Given that burritos are pretty filling and Mission burritos are extra large, you should probably try all these places on different days, but hey, that’s really up to you.

Walk across all of the Golden Gate Bridge

It’s hard to image anyone visiting San Francisco and not at least getting a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge. Most people take a short stroll on the bridge to grab some iconic photos for social media. But rather than taking a few steps and turning back, trying walking all the way across the bridge’s 1.7-mile span. In addition to putting your fitness tracker to good use and getting some bragging rights, crowds lessen the further you go, so you can revel in the views of the Marin Headlands and the city skyline in a quieter environment.

Hitch a ride on a cable car

Cable cars might not be as ubiquitous in the city as they once were, but there are still three routes to choose from. While it’s true you won’t even hit 10 miles per hour, the views from hilltops (that you don’t have to climb yourself) can be breathtaking. Those who crave more adventure can claim a spot on the running board—where passengers in passing cable cars are so close you could high five.

Take a ferry to The Rock

Everyone from the biggest history buff to the photographer who just wants a good shot of San Francisco will enjoy touring Alcatraz Island. Visitors enjoy a Cellhouse Audio Tour, the Gardens of Alcatraz and the aforementioned city views. The island is clearly not as dangerous as it once was, since prisoners like Al Capone are no longer there, but trying to get tickets at the last minute is a scary proposition. This tour can get very popular, so book at least a few days in advance or even a few weeks beforehand in the summer months.

Celebrate Chinese New Year in Chinatown

As the oldest Chinatown in the United States, this area of San Francisco is always densely packed with locals and tourists perusing wares, searching for a good dumpling or chowing down on dim sum. Chinese New Year is an extra special time, with a multitude of activities in January and February leading up to the extravagant night parade with floats, acrobats, lion dancers and other entertainment. Be prepared, though, as the parade isn’t for the fainthearted due to packed sidewalks and busy streets.

San Diego, CA

San Diego’s year-round mild, sunny weather makes it an ideal destination for all kinds of adventures. From brewery tours to private dining in a bank vault to trying out a watersport, you will always find something you haven’t yet checked off your San Diego bucket list. If you want to avoid the ordinary tourist traps and experience a lesser-known side of this coastal city, here are a few must-try, quintessential San Diego activities.

Give Watersports a Try

Kayak through La Jolla’s Seven Caves to discover spectacular sea cliffs and the La Jolla Underwater Park where you’ll see sea lions, leopard sharks and garibaldi. You can also try surfing. If you haven’t surfed before, take a private surfing lesson or go paddle-boarding in Coronado.

Experience a Private Club

There are a few private dining clubs and bars in San Diego that are hard to find, but worth the secrecy. A favorite with the locals is The Noble Experiment, which is secretly located inside a popular downtown eatery. Make reservations by texting and go inside the restaurant Neighborhood at the appointed time. Once there, visit the vestibule for the bathrooms, push on the wall with the kegs and experience amazing craft cocktails in a sophisticated space.

Go Paragliding Over the Coastline

Visit Torrey Pines Gliderport for a day of paragliding. As you glide through the air, enjoy an incredible 20-25 minute flight over the beautiful Torrey Pines coastal cliffs. If you lose your nerve and don’t want to fly, they have a lovely cafe with breath-taking views of the Pacific Ocean.

Ride the Roller Coaster at Belmont Park

Take a spin on one of only two roller coasters left on the west coast, The Giant Dipper located in Belmont Park, a small amusement park on Mission Beach. While you’re there surf the wave at WaveHouse San Diego or play vintage video games in the arcade.

Take a Craft Beer Tour

San Diego has a huge craft beer scene. If you want to try out a few at once –safely with the proper driver– take a tour with a company like Brew Hop that will help you select or customize a tour for your party led by local beer experts.

Denver, CO

Denver is growing at a rapid pace these days, and with the city bustling and the Rocky Mountains serving as a massive backyard, the list of activities can seem endless. Whether you live in the Denver area or are just visiting, there are certain experiences that are must-dos, because they are uniquely Colorado, and simply because they are enjoyable.

See a Show at Red Rocks Amphitheater

The famous outdoor amphitheater located 30 minutes outside of Denver in Morrison really is as magical as people say. The naturally formed theater is an amazing place to see a concert—for it’s outdoor setting, intimate feel and amazing sound. If you are a live music fan, this is a must do. If you can catch one of your favorite acts, all the better, but almost any show you attend will be an unforgettable experience. Concerts are held from April–October, and ticket prices range from $40–80.

Go to Brunch

Driving around Denver in the morning, it can be easy to wonder, “doesn’t anyone in this city ever work?” Because it seems that, even on weekdays, the most popular brunch spots have people waiting outside until noon. The city is bursting with bars and restaurants, and the mid-morning meal is something Denver does particularly well. Try Jelly (Capitol Hill or DU) for warm homemade doughnut bites, Snooze (Union Station, Ballpark or Colorado Boulevard) for creatively flavored pancakes, The Lobby for bottomless mimosas every day of the week, and Denver Biscuit Company (Colfax or South Broadway) for indulgent biscuit sandwiches.

Tour the Coors Brewery

Trendy microbrewerys abound in Denver, and there are more popping up every day, but there is still one brand of beer that is ubiquitous in Colorado. The Coors Brewery in Golden has been serving up that “Colorado Kool-Aid” since 1873, at the largest single-site brewery in the world. You’ll find Coors Light on tap at most bars in Denver, but the free tour and multiple free samples make it well worth it to head straight to the source for a fresh taste of the beer that’s “as cold as the Rockies.” Self-guided tours are offered daily and the brewery can be accessed via a combination of the W Line Light Rail and the route 16L bus to Golden.

Climb a Fourteener

There are 89 peaks in the U.S. that qualify as “fourteeners”—mountains that exceed 14,000 feet of elevation from sea level and have at least 300 feet of prominence. Of these 89, 53 are in Colorado. The mountaineering elite challenge themselves to climb, or even ski down, all 53, but to climb even one is an accomplishment. There are several fourteeners located in the Front Range that are within easy driving distance of Denver, including Mount Bierstadt and Mount Evans. Both of these are considered two of the easier fourteeners to summit, but the difficulty of hiking in the thin air above 10,000 feet should not be underestimated; be sure to bring plenty of water, food and layers. If climbing really isn’t you’re thing, you can still drive the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, which is the highest paved road in North America and will take you to a parking area just below the mountain’s summit.

Sit Mile High at a Rockies Game

Denver is well known as the Mile High City, but there are a few spots in particular that mark the exact spot where your elevation is 5,280 ft. One of these is on the steps of the Denver State Capitol; another is in the 20th row of the 300s section at Coors Field. The seats in this row are all painted purple, and tickets can be purchased for $15-$25, depending how close you want to be to the infield. These seats aren’t necessarily close to the action, but the views of the mountains are unparalleled, particularly if you attend an evening game in autumn, when the sun won’t bake you too much before it sets picturesquely against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains.

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