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U.S. Bucket List Destinations

  • SuperStock

    Hawaii

    En español | No matter how you define paradise — basking on black-sand beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii, taking a helicopter ride over the waterfalls of Kauai or cruising the shops of Lahaina on Maui — you’re likely to find it in our 50th state. Some tourist traditions are worth preserving: witnessing an authentic hula dance or quaffing a mai tai adorned with a paper umbrella. So is a pilgrimage to Oahu’s memorial sites that are dedicated to those who lost their life in the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

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  • Johnny Haglund

    Alaska

    Cruising past ice fields and spotting a whale in Glacier Bay appear on many a boomer’s bucket list. So does driving through the 6-million-acre Denali National Park, with your eyes peeled for moose, bear or a glimpse of the 20,310-foot-high Mount Denali, North America’s tallest peak. The Alaska Railroad offers trips to the park and other scenic spots. Or you can marvel at the artistry of totem poles in Ketchikan or hop a floatplane to Kodiak Island, where tracking the world’s largest grizzly bears (aided by a guide, of course) is a summer attraction.

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  • Danita Delimont

    California

    The Golden State offers a wealth of vacation choices, including that well-known wish-upon-a-star spot, Disneyland. Spot stars of the human variety in Beverly Hills — the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel remains a good bet — or cruise down 17-Mile Drive along the Monterey Peninsula before stopping in the shopping and artists’ haven of Carmel-by-the-Sea. And though the thrill hasn’t gone out of hopping a trolley (or leaving your heart) in San Francisco, you can venture off the beaten track on a desert jeep tour along the San Andreas Fault outside Palm Springs.

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  • Steve Lewis Stock

    Nevada

    To check out what’s new in Vegas — last year, a record 42.9 million visitors did — take a stroll through the Park, a year-old outdoor dining and entertainment district on the Strip that is operated by MGM Resorts International. But there’s far more to the Silver State than Sin City: Lovers of outdoor wonders can drive (or bike!) the one-way, 13-mile scenic desert loop at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, which is 17 quick miles west of the neon. (Hiking trails thread the canyon as well.) Farther north, Lake Tahoe — the nation’s largest alpine lake — lures anglers, skiers and lovers of water sports.

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  • Julie Quarry / Alamy Stock Photo

    Arizona

    If you’re relatively fit, trek down the narrow Bright Angel Trail to take in stunning views of the Grand Canyon gorge; others can soak up the panorama from atop a mule on a Canyon Vistas ride along the South Rim. Repeat visitor? Don’t miss the canyon’s more remote North Rim. Elsewhere in the state, booming Scottsdale — in the Sonoran Desert, outside Phoenix — attracts spa-goers, shoppers and golfers. And Tucson’s Mexican food scene alone is worth the trip to Arizona, as is the drive through Saguaro National Park outside of town. 

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  • Kike Calvo

    New York

    Plenty of new visitor attractions beckon in the Big Apple: There’s the One World Observatory at One World Trade Center, which was rebuilt after the 9/11 attacks (check out the view from the 100th floor), while the nearby National September 11 Memorial & Museum examines that dark day and honors its victims. On Ellis Island, the Peopling of America Center completes the picture of those who came to the U.S. before the processing center opened in 1892 and after it closed in 1954. And a $70 million Statue of Liberty Museum is due in 2019.

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  • M. Timothy O'Keefe / Alamy Stock Photo

    Florida

    Orlando-area theme parks are a big draw, but the Sunshine State sizzles from the Atlantic Space Coast (Kennedy Space Center near Cocoa Beach) to the Gulf of Mexico (miles of white-sand beaches). New hotels and restaurants keep Miami Beach kinetic, while downtown Miami’s Museum Park seems unable to stop growing; the newest draw, the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, is set to open by spring. To reach the natural Florida beloved by writers John D. MacDonald and Dave Barry, glide among gators and mangroves on an airboat tour in Everglades National Park, the country’s largest subtropical wilderness.

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  • Michael Lee

    Pennsylvania

    Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell will ring visitors’ chimes in Philly, as will a sloppy cheesesteak sandwich or a selfie with the Rocky Balboa statue in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. (Don’t neglect a tour of the collection itself, notably its stirring new “American Watercolor” exhibit that opens March 1.) History buffs always feel at home in the Keystone State, whether they’re retracing the movements of federal and Confederate troops across the Gettysburg battlefield or spending a back-in-time day exploring Amish country in Lancaster County. Don’t leave without sampling the shoofly pie. 

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  • Inge Johnsson / Alamy Stock Photo

    Washington State

    Seattle galvanizes visitors — and why shouldn’t it? There are briny oysters and bracing coffee at Pike Place Market (a major expansion opens this summer), miles of bike trails and many 360-degree views of the surrounding wonderland, whether you catch them from atop the iconic Space Needle or from the deck of a ferry plying Puget Sound. Farther north, pristine Olympic National Park — with its snow-capped peaks and deep, mossy forests — is a UNESCO World Heritage site. And make a point of visiting Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier — both are more impressive up close.

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  • Kristin Braga Wright

    Colorado

    Don skis in Aspen, Breckenridge, Snowmass, Steamboat Springs, Telluride or Vail. Lace up your hiking boots for a memorable mountain moment (or an easier walk) among the sandstone formations of Colorado Springs’ Garden of the Gods park. Taking the world’s highest cog railway up Pikes Peak — elevation 14,115 feet — is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Or sample a craft beer (the state brews 10 percent of the nation’s supply) in one of Colorado’s 200-plus small breweries. With the Centennial State having legalized recreational marijuana use in 2012, you also have a choice of Rocky Mountain highs.

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