Whichever way you look at it - from the crater of a colossal canyon, staring up from the foot of a cloud-skirting skyscraper, gazing out across a great lake, or peering through the forests of a jungle-swathed island - it’s fair to say that the USA does nothing by halves, as revealed in The Rough Guide to the 100 Best Places in the USA.
Showcasing the most inspiring, exhilarating and compelling places to visit in America in the coming year, this picture-packed whopper of a book - a great gift for all the adventurers in your life - will have you yearning to explore this epic country. Before you start packing, read on to uncover a selection of the extraordinary destinations featured in this inspirational guide.
This vast northern region between Albany and the Canadian border covers an area larger than Connecticut and Rhode Island combined, meaning when it comes to grandeur, the awe-inspiring Adirondacks take some beating. For context, 46 of its peaks scale more than 4000ft. Visit in summer to see the purple-green mountains stretch into the distance as a series of tree-shrouded tiers.
Come autumn, you’ll be rewarded with a shimmering show of russet-red and gold. Once the preserve of fur trappers, loggers and Manhattan millionaires, its rugged wilderness is now better known as a top destination for mountaineers, skiers and hikers.
Whiteface Mountain, Adirondacks, New York © nyker/Shutterstock
Maine more than lives up to its “the way life should be” motto, not least for travellers who like to get out and about in their own time, in their own space. lts forests, lakes and seaside settlements invite leisurely exploration, especially if you’re into food and drink. You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to lobster shacks to stop off in. Local brewery tours are fun and fulfilling, as are the region's culinary tours.
What’s more, though it’s as big as the other five New England states combined, Maine has barely the year-round population of Rhode Island, which means it’s the perfect place to wander and ponder in peaceful, picturesque surroundings.
Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park © Maine Office of Tourism
If you think of New York, chances are Manhattan’s staggering skyline will spring to mind. Chances are, too, you’ll want to see it from atop the 102-storey Empire State Building (try to time your visit to reach the top at sunset, and look to book an express admission ticket to beat those queues). Central Park is another Manhattan icon, and boy is it an experience, with tonnes of criss-crossing paths to walk or explore by bike or electric scooter, and plenty of cool places to sip cocktails at sundown.
Culture vultures won’t want to miss the visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Since you could easily spend weeks meandering the Met, it’s worth buying a skip-the-line ticket in advance. Oh, and while you’ll want to see all these iconic sights, remember that New York has its share of off-the-tourist-trail attractions too.
New York City skyline dominated by the iconic Empire State Building © Shutterstock
The Great Lakes
Most visitors to Chicago are usually immediately stopped in their tracks by its skyline. From Mies van der Rohe’s creations for the Illinois Institute of Technology, to the 110-storey Willis Tower, it presents a masterclass in modern architecture (a great way to appreciate this is to take an architecture-oriented river cruise).
While also known for the magnificent Millennium Park, and the Art Institute of Chicago, the city is perhaps best loved for its live music scene - think backroom jazz and blues clubs exuding atmosphere and top tunes until the early hours. Exploring the city doesn’t have to break the bank either - there are plenty of fun things to do in Chicago for free.
Chicago River © Mark Baldwin/Shutterstock
Indiana Dunes National Park
Clutching over 15 miles of the southern shore of Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes National Park rewards visitors with a remarkable range of landscapes. Alongside the eponymous ancient dunes, here you’ll find wetlands, prairies, pine forests, and rivers – all of which means the park presents especially rich habitats for birdlife, with over 50 miles of trails for wildlife-watchers and walkers to enjoy.
Highlights include Mount Baldy Beach, with its towering 126ft-high sand dune, the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk (best in spring for migratory birds), and the Great Marsh behind Dunbar Beach.
Michigan City Lighthouse from Washington Park, Michigan City, Indiana © Jaclyn Novak/Shutterstock
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
If you’re looking for spectacular get-away-from-it-all coastal scenery, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore has it by the bucket. Spanning 42 miles of Lake Superior, it serves a jaw-dropping blend of multi-coloured cliffs, undulating dunes and secluded sandy beaches, all arguably best seen from a boat.
Take a trip from the little village of Grand Marais to Munising, watching out for the massive Log Slide dune and the Miners Castle geological formation along the awe-inspiring way. This is also a top destination for hikers, with trails running from Hwy-58 to the shoreline.
Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore, Upper Peninsula, Michigan © Lattasit Laohasiriwong/Shutterstock
South Dakota’s Black Hills - where the Midwest meets the West - rise from a sea of plains, extending for a hundred miles between the Belle Fourche River in the north and the Cheyenne to the south. For generations of Sioux, their value was - and remains - immeasurable. They represent a spiritual stronghold, a place where warriors went to speak with Wakan Tanka (the Great Spirit). For most visitors today, the Black Hills mean prairie dogs and bison.
They mean making an excursion to Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial, exploring the enchanting caverns of Wind Cave National Park, and enjoying epic outdoor adventures, including hiking the historic Flume Trail.