#4: Durham, North Carolina
This one-time Tobacco Road warehouse town has plenty of genteel charm, but its farm-to-table restaurant renaissance and cutting-edge cultural offerings make it quite worldly. The beneficiary of tobacco barons, Durham is where Wall Street hedge-funders retire early to grow heirloom vegetables on riverside farms. It’s also home to prestigious Duke University and the nearby Research Triangle, which give it a kinetic energy. Throw in the sun-dappled North Carolina climate, perfumed by honeysuckle and pine, and you have a winning U.S. destination. Stroll Duke’s neo-Gothic campus and admire the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. Cheer on the Durham Bulls, the minor league baseball team featured in the 1988 movie Bull Durham. Downtown, eateries in former tobacco warehouses serve Southern classics with contemporary twists. Try shrimp and grits at Watts Grocery or southern French cuisine at Vin Rouge. The Magnolia Grill and Nana’s also put Durham on the culinary map.
#5: The Big Island, Hawaii
The Hawaiian Islands provide enough exotic scenery to satisfy a serious case of wanderlust without leaving the country. The Big Island, however, has 12 of the world’s 14 climate zones and everything from quintessential beaches to lush rain forests to volcanic peaks. Indeed, it has one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Kilauea, which has been spewing fire since 1983. It’s part of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where you can stand on black-rock lava fields overlooking the Pacific. Get out on the water to watch humpback whales during the December to April migration, or take a tour with Earth Bound Tours; see how vanilla, coffee, or mushrooms are cultivated in rich volcanic soil; and have a farm-to-fork lunch. And for perhaps the most stunning mountaintop view you’ll ever experience, head up to the collection of astral observatories atop 13,000-ft Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano that’s now home to several of the world’s best telescopes.
Also of interest: 9 stunning waterfalls NOT named Niagara.