16 Life-Changing Travel Experiences You Can Have Only in America
We’ve all heard some variation of the phrase, “collect memories, not stuff.” When traveling, this means buy less tchotchke and have more experiences. Here’s where you can do exactly that.
Hike the switchbacks to the top of Wizard Island
Simply being up on the rim of the wondrous Crater Lake can be life-affirming, if not changing. A hike down inside the crater followed by a short boat trip to the volcanic cinder cone called Wizard Island, and then a zigzagging hike up 755 feet to the top though is pure, natural magic. Pro tip: bring a full water bottle to drink on the way up and then refill it with lake water that is pristine, cold and delicious. Check out these one-of-a-kind bucket list travel experiences.
Attend the NCAA Final Four
Courtesy W The Foshay
The thrilling conclusion of March Madness is about so much more than incredible basketball games and busted brackets. There are celebrity sightings, athlete autographs to collect, live music, and interactive games, for starters. The next two Final Fours are in Minneapolis and Atlanta, in the shiny new NFL stadiums in those two fun cities, so even if your team doesn’t end up cutting down the nets, you will still have a life-changing time at the Final Four. Stay with the official NCAA partner Marriott; in 2019, we recommend Marriott’s beautiful W Hotel The Foshay in downtown. After the games you can unwind from all the excitement with a cocktail at its Prohibition-style bar on the 27th floor.
Sleigh ride dinner in the Montana mountains
Picture this: you and your favorite person/people are snuggled hip to hip under a warm blanket, beneath a sea of stars undeterred by light pollution, in a wooden sleigh pulled by two majestic horses in the snow through evergreen trees. This 20-minute journey culminates at a cabin in the woods lit only by candlelight. There, you will be treated to a remarkable pot roast dinner, wine pairings, and live acoustic music and stories of a life lived in the mountains. By the time you return to your Lone Mountain Ranch log cabin or car via the same romantic method of transportation, you’re stuffed… and changed. Find out the 32 secrets of people who’ve crossed major items off their bucket list.
See a concert at Red Rocks
Music has changed many lives and still does today. Seeing a band live in concert can be even more life-altering. Now imagine hearing your favorite band perform under the stars at an amphitheater cut into stunning natural red rock, on a stage sandwiched between a pair of three hundred-foot monoliths dating back some 250 million years, in the very place where the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains. This stunning natural setting over 6,000 feet above sea level sits just ten miles west of Denver, Colorado and has played host to The Beatles, U2, and just about every legendary artist of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Tour the Lorraine Motel
Being inside The Lorraine Motel, now the home of the National Civil Rights Museum, is one of the most powerful experiences any American can have in the country and, frankly, is an experience every American should have. This historic site in Memphis, Tennessee is inspiring and deeply emotional. A tour of the National Civil Rights Museum isn’t an easy day out, but it will change you for the better. Here are 50 things to do before you turn 50.
Watch the second largest animal migration on Earth
Courtesy Nebraska Tourism
Bird lovers and wildlife photographers alike will not want to fly over Nebraska because it’s home to the second largest migration on Earth. Every March, the Sandhill Crane migration brings more than 80 percent of the world’s population of sandhill cranes (that amounts to over 600,000 birds) to the Platte River Valley. This is the world’s largest gathering of one of the oldest living species. It’s an event Jane Goodall refers to it as the second best in the world behind the wildebeest migration in the Serengeti! Audubon’s Nebraska Crane Festival in Kearney, Nebraska is the ideal way to experience this natural spectacle.
Spend time with Winnie the Pooh and friends
Maybe you can’t get your family to the south of England to hike in the very real life Hundred Acre Wood but you can still visit with Winnie the Pooh. He and four of his best friends—Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga, and Tigger— are always ready to meet you at The New York Public Library in Bryant Park because Christopher Robin’s original friends have lived there since 1987. Seeing the actual stuffed animals that inspired the famous tales will transport you back to your childhood and help cement the bonds you are developing with your own kids today.
Stand among giants in the Redwood Forest
Nothing in the natural world provides the kind of perspective like the Redwood trees of Northern California. These ancient giants soar some 350 feet into the sky and can only be found in this precious portion of America. To stand and hike among these 1,000-year-old coastal redwoods and sequoias is soul-uplifting and life-changing. Check out 16 more beautiful destinations around the world.
Walking The High Line in spring
It takes less than an hour to experience The High Line in totality but its impact will last far longer. This 1.45-mile stretch of elevated train track on New York City’s west side dates back to the mid-1800s and has since become a world-renowned reclaimed public space. Walking The High Line at any time of year, but on a beautiful spring day especially, will bring about an understanding that forgotten-about things, structures once destined for demolition, can and do still have value, and that with innovative thinking and community support they may bloom anew. You’ll see the city, and maybe the world, in a fresh way up there.
Party at Mardi Gras
A party like no other happens every year down in New Orleans. Whether you fancy a hurricane or a Shirley Temple, or prefer karaoke to jazz, being among the revelry on Bourbon Street with strings of colorful beads around your neck and a drink in your hand during the extended Mardi Gras season in NOLA is a unique travel experience you should try to have at least once in your life.