Aerial view of Las Vegas strip in Nevada as seen at night  USA

The summer travel season is almost here. If you’re seeking a fun getaway that doesn’t require a passport, you’re in luck. There are hundreds of exciting places to visit right here in the U.S., with plenty of attractions and activities to satisfy all kinds of travelers. AAA’s partner TravelBound has a few suggestions on cities you can visit this summer.

dreamstime_vegas_signLAS VEGAS

Las Vegas is a resort city famed for its vibrant nightlife with 24-hour casinos and other entertainment options. Its focal point is the Strip, just over 4 miles long. This boulevard is home to themed hotels with elaborate displays such as fountains synchronized to music as well as replicas of an Egyptian pyramid, the Venetian Grand Canal, and the Eiffel Tower.

For family:

Families with little knights and maidens should book seats at the Tournament of Kings at the Excalibur. There are ten horses in each show, special effects, pyrotechnics, and lots and lots of jousting. Adding to the atmosphere at this theater in the round is a three-course meal eaten medieval style without utensils.

For the foodie:

Forget the expense-account restaurants with their encyclopedic wine lists. The hottest restaurant in the newest attraction on the Strip is Bruxie, a gourmet waffle sandwich shop in The Park, a pedestrian mall next to New York-New York. Waffles are used as bread and fillings include a burger, buffalo chicken, and bacon and eggs.

For the art or history buff:

Not your typical museum, the Neon Museum is a repository for local neon signs dating to the 1930s. You can also take a guided tour of the outdoor “Boneyard” to get the stories behind the rise of a desert community and the eccentric people who’ve called it home over the years.

 

San Francisco, Golden Gate BridgeSAN FRANCISCO

In the northern part of California sits San Francisco, a hilly city on the tip of a peninsula surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. It’s known for its year-round fog, iconic Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars and colorful Victorian houses. The Financial District’s Transamerica Pyramid is its most distinctive skyscraper and in the bay is Alcatraz Island, site of the notorious former prison.

For the family:

At Yerba Buena Gardens, right in the center of San Francisco, children can explore the Children’s Creativity Museum, adjacent comprehensive playground, and nearby recently restored carousel. Oh and there is a bowling alley and an ice rink close by, too.

For the foodie:

Everywhere you turn, there is good food – and often it is on wheels. San Francisco has embraced food trucks and some have found a permanent home in SOMA Street Food Park, just south of downtown. Be sure to check offthegrid.com to find where there will be multiple food trucks at the same time in the greater Bay Area.

For the art or history buff:

Sure, there are plenty of museums in San Francisco, but exploring art off the beaten path can be fun – especially with restless teenagers. Head to the Mission District and discover the numerous murals made by local artists. There are online resources for a self-guided stroll and formal walking tours as well.

 

HollywoodLOS ANGELES

Los Angeles is a sprawling Southern California city and the center of the nation’s film and television industry. Near its iconic Hollywood sign, studios such as Paramount Pictures, Universal and Warner Brothers offer behind-the-scenes tours. On Hollywood Boulevard, TCL Chinese Theatre displays celebrities’ hand- and footprints, the Walk of Fame honors thousands of luminaries and vendors sell maps to stars’ homes.

For the family:

What would your kid weigh on Mars? How about on Jupiter? You can find out at the Griffith Park Observatory, a Los Angeles landmark for more than 80 years. Exhibitions inform visitors about the planets and display objects like the kid-favorite pinhole camera. Don’t leave without seeing a planetarium show.

For the foodie:

There are only 25 seats at Maude, a Beverly Hills newcomer from TV personality Curtis Stone. The lucky few taste their way through a nine-course menu that’s inspired by a different ingredient every month. Offerings are creative and technically close to perfection, and the service is flawless.

For the art or history buff:

A back lot studio tour is a must. Explore 100 years of movie history at Hollywood’s Paramount Studios, whose icons included Rudolph Valentino, Mary Pickford, and Cecil B. DeMille. Visitors can learn how a parking lot was transformed into the Red Sea in the Ten Commandments, tour the prop room, and see the lots where movies like Titanic and Forrest Gump were filmed. Also, TravelBound offers a VIP tour through Universal Studios, offering access to closed movie sets and front of the line access to all rides in the park, perfect for the family.

 

SeattleSEATTLE

Seattle, a city on Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest, is surrounded by water, mountains and evergreen forests, and contains thousands of acres of parkland. It is home to a large tech industry, with Microsoft and Amazon headquartered in its metropolitan area. The futuristic Space Needle, a 1962 World’s Fair legacy, is its most iconic landmark.

For the family:

The Ferris wheel on the Seattle waterfront, the Seattle Great Wheel, is a kid pleaser but adults will enjoy the sweeping city views as well. The eight-person gondolas are enclosed and the waiting area is covered so rain is not a concern.

For the foodie:

A Seattle institution, Pike Place Market lives up to its hype with a farmers market (est. 1907) and owner-operated bakeries, fish markets, butcher shops, produce stands, and specialty food stores. There are 30 restaurants, but why not just nosh through, picking up a warm biscuit, a cup of chowder, Szechuan shaved noodles, and a cheesecake truffle?

For the art or history buff:

Below Pioneer Square is a maze of buried alleys and storefronts that were Seattle’s surface streets until the Great Fire of 1889. City planners built retaining walls and the city was raised; the pathways below forgotten for decades. You can explore these underground passageways on a fascinating tour.

 

BostonBOSTON

Boston is Massachusetts’ capital and largest city. Founded in 1630, it’s one of the oldest cities in the U.S. The key role it played in the American Revolution is highlighted on the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile walking route of historic sites that tells the story of the nation’s founding.

For the family:

A Swan Boat ride has been a rite of passage for generations of Bostonians and visitors alike (the first boats were put in the water in 1877). Allow an hour for the Boston Public Garden, including the 15-minute ride and a pause to see the engaging Make Way for Ducklings statues. Then cross Charles Street to visit to the Tadpole Playground and Frog Pond Carousel.

For the foodie:

If you’re always on the hunt for the Holy Grail of burgers, take the T to Harvard Square for Boston’s entry: Mr. Bartley’s. Divey and lively, Mr. Bartley’s has been perfecting its burgers since 1960. Everyone from Johnny Cash to Al Pacino has chomped into its signature sandwich, and this icon has made cameos in “Good Will Hunting” and “The Social Network.”

For the art or history buff:

Visitors can follow the red line of the Freedom Trail by themselves but a private tour will make them feel so much more connected to the extraordinary moments in history that shaped our nation. On the 2.5 mile walk covering 16 sites including the Old North Church and Bunker Hill, you will hear tales of high treason and mob agitations and reboot your knowledge of the American Revolution.

 

Night view of the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument reflected in the Potomac River.WASHINGTON, DC

Our nation’s capital, Washington, DC borders the states of Maryland and Virginia. The awe-inspiring monuments and buildings include the Capitol, the White House and the Supreme Court, each housing the federal government’s three branches. It’s also home to iconic museums like the Smithsonian Institution and performing arts venues such as the Kennedy Center.

For the family:

No trip with kids to DC would be complete without a few hours at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. The sheer scope of its acres of collections is awe-inspiring. See the Space Shuttle Discovery, Enola Gay, Charles Lindbergh memorabilia and so much more. There’s a planetarium, observatory, and 3-D IMAX theater as well.

For the foodie:

With one of the largest Ethiopian populations outside of that country itself, Washington, DC has many excellent and authentic Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurants to choose from. You will use your hands to pick up flavorful stews with injera, a spongy bread. A tried and true favorite is Dukem on U Street.

For the art or history buff:

Technology, politics, and popular culture are covered in the comprehensive collections of the National Museum of American History. Objects as diverse as clothing, military artifacts, advertisements, quilts, and early computers tell the story of how we got to where we are now. Bonus: It’s free!

 

French Quarter party spot on Rue BourbonNEW ORLEANS

New Orleans is situated on the Mississippi River, near the Gulf of Mexico. Nicknamed the “Big Easy,” it’s known for its round-the-clock nightlife, vibrant live-music scene and spicy, singular cuisine reflecting its history as a melting pot of French, African and American cultures. Embodying its festive spirit is Mardi Gras, the late-winter carnival famed for raucous costumed parades and street parties.

For the family:

If you’re traveling with kids, take a riverboat Uptown right to the entrance of the Audubon Zoo. Walk through a swamp, marvel at albino alligators, and see highly endangered species like the Amur leopard and whooping crane. If that weren’t enough, there’s a splash park with a lazy river, sand beaches, and water slide. Oh, and a carousel. The kids will never want to leave.

For the foodie:

There is nothing quite like brunch at Brennan’s. The first order of business is an “eye-opener” (a solid choice is the brandy milk punch) followed by the turtle soup, eggs Hussarde (a version of eggs Benedict), and bananas Foster. The latter two dishes were created here. In perfect weather, sit in the courtyard with its flickering gas lamps and lush tropical foliage. If you want to explore more than one place, book a tour through some of the city’s famous bars and restaurants lining the French Quarter.

For the art or history buff:

Conveniently located by St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter, the Cabildo is a destination history lovers will not want to miss. A Spanish colonial building that was the site of the Plessy vs. Ferguson trial and the Louisiana Purchase, it is now a Louisiana State Museum and houses fascinating artifacts such as Napoleon’s death mask.

 

New York, New YorkNEW YORK

New York City is comprised of 5 boroughs sitting where the Hudson River meets the Atlantic Ocean. At its core is Manhattan, one of the world’s major commercial, financial and cultural centers. Its iconic sites include skyscrapers such as the Empire State Building and sprawling Central Park.

For the family:

After a day of city sightseeing, families can cool off this summer with a 30-minute invigorating Shark speedboat ride. Visitors can get a new perspective as they zip by the famous skyline and get close to the Statue of Liberty with an energetic pop music soundtrack playing. Getting drenched is more than half the fun! Kids need to be 40 inches tall (about 4-5 years old).

For the foodie:

Six of NYC’s 24,000 restaurants earned the coveted three Michelin stars for 2016. Sample 15 courses at the $306-per-person Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare or settle in for a $595 Japanese sensory experience at Masa. Vegetarian gourmands are in heaven at Per Se, which also offers a non-vegetarian tasting menu; both are $325. Pescatarians have been swooning over Le Bernardin for decades. Eleven Madison Park and Jean-Georges complete this elite list. If you find yourself in Harlem, you can learn about the history of Jazz and enjoy traditional Southern cuisine.

For the art or history buff:

A wide variety of holdings at the New-York Historical Society appeal to a cross-section of visitors. Admire paintings by Frederic Edwin Church and Gilbert Stuart; peruse Elie Nadelman’s legendary American folk art collection; see one of the largest collections of Tiffany glasswork. There’s also a floor just for kids with interactive exhibitions. The collection also includes priceless documents like the Emancipation Proclamation and letters from George Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

These activities and attractions don’t even begin to scratch the surface of what you can experience in these cities. If you’re interested in planning a trip to one of these incredible locales, or want to learn more about options in other U.S. cities, contact a AAA Travel Agent for more information.

 


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