The New American Hot Spots
Immerse Yourself in 5 Up-and-Coming Destinations
You've bustled around Times Square, moseyed through the White House, and been to the best theme parks. So what's next?
You haven't exhausted the best of the United States yet. Keep investing in experiences, starting with these five up-and-coming destinations that beg to be explored:
1. South Carolina's Lowcountry
When it comes to edible delights, a gastronomic tour of South Carolina's Lowcountry will satisfy any appetite. The highly rated Charleston Culinary Tours introduces visitors to down-home victuals and dining innovations in historic Charleston. A walking flavors tour invites guests to immerse themselves in the culture of the Lowcountry with a knowledgeable guide to accompany every bite. Wash down tastings of pulled pork, Cuban sandwiches, grits, and fried green tomatoes with sweet tea, and leave room for gourmet donuts and chocolates.
2. Montana's Rocking Z Ranch
Crave wide open spaces? At Rocking Z Guest Ranch in Wolf Creek, Montana, Patty and Zack Wirth welcome solo riders, couples, and families to their “relaxed and casual" setting. An intimate atmosphere – the ranch's rooms accommodate up to 18 people – and hearty, family-style meals give guests the energy to throw themselves into cattle work, fly fishing, shooting, hiking, and, of course, horse riding, which cater to all abilities. If you feel the need to head off the property, nearby Helena hosts rodeos, rafting, shopping, and tours of ghost towns.
3. Aurora Ice Hotel
Scandinavia doesn't have the monopoly on cool ice digs. The Aurora Ice Hotel in Chena Hot Springs, Alaska, operates year-round using an “absorption chiller" to maintain the freezing cold during warmer months. Tour the Aurora Ice Museum and throw back a few drinks in the ice bar, but you have to ask to stay the night in one of the museum's four non-advertised cold rooms (or, if you can't handle the chill, one of the warm rooms), which hover at an average temp of 20°F. To completely immerse yourself in cold culture, try nearby activities like dog sledding, ice sculpting, or Northern Lights tours.
4. New York's Hudson Valley
The Hudson Valley stretches 150 miles from the tip of Manhattan to New York's capital city of Albany. This National Heritage area isn't only picturesque, it's full of history, culture, wine producers, and a growing foodie scene. Plan your trip carefully to hit the landmarks that interest you most, from West Point to Franklin D. Roosevelt's boyhood home, and don't miss the majestic campus -- and wonderful food -- of the Culinary Institute of America. Be sure to leave room for going off schedule. You're bound to run into a trendy boutique, museum, or military landmark that deserves your time and attention.
5. Panning for Gold
Ready to try to strike it rich as a gold miner? You can give this hobby a fair shake in Arkansas, Montana, Alaska, and California. But modern '49ers see their visions of gold coming to life in, perhaps surprisingly, Alabama. The state's “gold belt" is home to the Alabama Gold Camp, which invites adults and children to pan and sluice to their heart's content for gold, citrine, and garnet, and camp at “primitive" or “luxury" levels. For a slightly more sophisticated experience, Consolidated Gold Mine in the Appalachian region of North Georgia offers mine tours, hands-on instructions, and panning opportunities.
You don't have to shell out for luxury hotels in major cities to experience a refreshingly new way of life. Try one of these hot spots for a true American adventure.
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Photo: Thinkstock/lightphoto | Elizabeth Weiss McGolerick is a freelance writer and web content developer. Her work has been featured on MSN, SheKnows, and AOL.