As the saying goes — if it's close, we ignore it. But for vacation planning, that's very unwise. We have amazing sights and activities right here in the U.S. that draw visitors from around the world. Plan to experience for yourself America's bold history, monuments and activities from sea to sea.
Begin your California dreaming with a San Francisco cable ride from Powell and Market streets to Ghirardelli Square. Then stroll along the bay to Fisherman's Wharf and on to Fort Point in the Presidio for inspiring views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Just an hour's drive away, savor award-winning wines and soar over the picturesque vineyards of California's Napa Valley in a hot air balloon. Enjoy leading-edge cuisine, perhaps at a Michelin-starred restaurant such as the world famous French Laundry.
Be awe-struck by the Grand Canyon. Words can't describe the emotion of viewing this masterpiece of nature, slicing a mile deep and 10 miles wide through the Arizona desert. This is, after all, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. View it from the South Rim (the Abyss lookout plunges 3,000 feet straight down) or North Rim, from the bottom on a raft ride down the Colorado River or clip-clopping along the canyon walls on a mule. However you choose to experience the Grand Canyon, the memory will last forever.
Share the good times — like nowhere else — in Las Vegas on the legendary Strip. Where to begin? Ride in a Venetian gondola and the new Las Vegas High Roller, the world's tallest observation wheel. Enjoy dazzling shows and restaurants from the Charlie Palmer Steakhouse to the Top of the World restaurant, set 800 feet above the Strip. It might be possible to run through an entire bucket list over a single Vegas weekend.
Celebrate the Big Apple at the top of the Empire State Building. The 360-degree views of Manhattan are incredible — you can see up to 80 miles away — from this 102-story perch. Continue the sky-high fun at the Statue of Liberty, which is revamped and reopened. Memories of your 20-story climb into Lady Liberty's crown and the harbor views will surely linger. Stroll through Central Park or enjoy Sunday brunch in the legendary Rainbow Room atop 30 Rockefeller Plaza. It's set to reopen Sept. 27.
Soak up the tropical rays on shimmering Waikiki Beach in Honolulu. Try your hand at surfing — this is where it began — or piloting an outrigger canoe, or simply relax with a mai tai at the iconic Royal Hawaiian hotel. Hike to the top of Diamond Head for amazing island views and salute U.S. history onboard the USS Missouri, the battleship where WWII ended on Sept. 2, 1945. Watch molten lava flowing freely on the slopes of Mount Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. It began erupting in 1983 and hasn't stopped since.
For more great summer travel options, go to latimes.com/summertravelseries.