My Favorite USA Destinations – Part 2

All Photos by Randy Stern

I do love to travel – that is, when I can.

A couple of years ago, I began a list of of my favorite destinations. I limited the list to five: Austin, Texas; Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; Los Angeles, California; and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. There was one honorable mention of Fargo, North Dakota.

These six would be sufficient, right? Well, no. I have been to more places that were listed here. Most places I have not been in years – let alone, decades. Still, their fondness sometimes comes up in discussions and memories on social media.

Let me dig deep into my memory bank and talk about another set of my favorite destinations. Places I may not have been in a while – or, recently visited with positive vibes – and go from there. Or, maybe I should go back…

Here's the list…just in time for your summer/fall travel season. And, believe me, I'm still only scratching the surface! There's a lot more I should list here, but for the sake of your bandwidth, I'll have these destinations to go on for now…


ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA: The Blue Ridge Mountains is just minutes away. They also serve as a background for a hilly city nestled in a valley anchoring the western part of the state. What makes this place special is the cool vibe this town yields. Before we even talk about the Biltmore Estate, check out the vibe in the center of town – around where synthesizer pioneers Moog is headquartered. This is not just there, but around town. The west side of town offers an equally cool vibe. Part of the vibe is the food scene – which I thoroughly enjoyed around the town. If you go, explore the town and the mountains – and love every minute of it.

Columbus 07_9

COLUMBUS, OHIO: Speaking of cool vibes, have you been in the Short North or German Village? These are two neighborhoods that are positioned on opposite ends of downtown Columbus, Short North is hip, cool, and full of places to make the scene. German Village is the same, but with an Old World charm. Columbus emerged from just these two places as attractions to cool folks seeking a great place to visit. There is much more to Columbus: The Ohio State University, the Fairgrounds, Easton, Polaris, and Dublin. It is a hub for activity statewide, too. Make it your hub for a visit to Ohio.


DOOR COUNTY, WISCONSIN: Any getaway you can think of should include this wonderful part of Wisconsin. Just beyond Green Bay is a peninsula surrounded by Lake Michigan on one side, Green Bay on the other. It is a point of history – where battles between tribes were fought on these rough waters. It is a place of beauty – from the untamed woods to the lovely shorelines. It is simply beautiful. And, romantic. And, full of unlimited adventures. Take the ferry to Washington Island and explore further beyond the peninsula. Or, dine in Ephraim or Sister Bay. Start at Sturgeon Bay and head northward. That's my only suggestion here.

Radio City Music Hall

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK: You may call this the ultimate American city. It simply is. Skyscrapers for miles in Manhattan, leading to the neighborhoods of Brooklyn, Queens, and The Bronx. Don't forget about Staten Island. If you know someone in the suburbs, follow them out for a local experience. Be open to everyone, thanks to the City’s diversity. By diversity, we are not talking just people. We're talking about dining, culture, the arts, and everyday living. Any trip to New York should not be confined to just Manhattan – though the island could take up your entire trip. That is why baseball is played in the Bronx and out in Flushing, Queens – plus Staten Island and Coney Island, Brooklyn. New York is the ultimate destination in this country. Visit it once in your lifetime.

Portland Bubbler

PORTLAND, OREGON: It is debatable whether the television show "Portlandia" represents the "Rose City" properly. Or, that the phrase "make Portland weird" is apt to describe this city. I always see Portland as a unique locale, offering plenty of one-of-a-kind experiences at the head of the Willamette River. Tri-Met's light rail network run under the hills west of downtown to the deepest station underneath the Portland Zoo. The Zoo is an experience unto itself. You can hang downtown to stay, dine, and party, but you can also discover Portland’s neighborhoods and communities away from the city's center. Incidentally, my favorite hand drum shop in the world is in Portland – Rhythm Traders. Not to mention the biggest independent bookstore in the world – Powell's Books. So, you can take the "Portlandia" vibe – or not – but stay for the experience.

The Capitol 1

WASHINGTON, D.C.: Our Nation’s Capitol…enough said. No matter your personal politics, DC offers more than just the monuments and the halls of power. Top-notch museums – almost all of them cost nothing – telling the American story in many ways. Great parks, shops, culture, the arts, and dining are spread out throughout the District. The fun does not stop at the District Line. Go into Maryland and Virginia for more of the same. My four years in the DC Area taught me a lot about enjoying life and taking advantage of what the region offers to both visitors and residents. Find a local and get a deeper perspective on the most powerful city in the world.

There are other cities that I have not listed on here that are also favorites – and enjoyable places to be that I have experienced in the past. That list includes San Diego, California; Greenville, South Carolina; Seattle, Washington; Dallas, Texas; Phoenix, Arizona…I'll just stop here for now.

Since I am publishing this piece during the week of this country's national holiday, I wish my fellow American readers, colleagues, contacts, and supporters a safe and sane Fourth of July. Be patriotic, be proud, but celebrate nonetheless.

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