On the move: The very best of America awaits...
Where are America’s best places? Having visited 35 of the 50 states – I’ve passed through another five, but didn’t see enough to comment on them – this is a question that after more than 20 years of travelling here, I finally feel able to answer:
1. Yosemite National Park, California. It thankfully re-opened this week after huge forest fires in the area. Two nights camping and hiking here will bring you into contact with some of the country’s most exquisitely beautiful, awe-inspiring landscapes.
2. Oregon. Massively underrated, but with far fewer forest fires than its southern neighbour. The Oregon coast is more spectacular than California’s and its interior is an all-you-can-eat buffet of forested hikes, hot springs, balmy lakes and wild rivers.
3. Central Washington state. From Seattle, drive east to Mount Rainier National Park and Yakima to experience almost every type of scenery, from glaciers to rainforest to desert canyons.
4. Alaska. Size is everything. Imagine being in an area bigger than Switzerland, with a population of less than 50. That’s Wrangell St Elias National Park. Hire St Elias Mountain Guides to get the most out of it, from walking on glaciers and through ice caves to the fascinating history of the Kennicott mine. If you’re sick of people, Alaska will make you appreciate them and human development once again.
5. The Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming; Glacier National Park and nearby ranches, Montana. Fly to Jackson for wild landscapes of heartbreaking beauty and drama. Go from eerie silence and free-roaming wildlife to the quintessential cowboy scene of horses, barbecues and campfires.
6. Indian reservations of the south-west. Crossing the borders of Utah, Arizona and Colorado are the dry, time-scoured landscapes of groups such as the Hopi, with national parks including Canyon de Chelly offering a glimpse of a classic American environment as it was originally inhabited.
7. Marfa and Big Bend, west Texas. Experience everything from hipster motels, superb restaurants and an art scene best known for the presence of Donald Judd, to a lonely sunset drive along the Rio Grande and the Mexican border – along which Donald Trump wants to build a wall, which will, if it ever happens, ruin one of America’s most scenic, peaceful and contemplative drives. See this surprisingly undeveloped, unspoilt, unfenced and unpeopled natural border while you still can.
8. Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia. Atlanta has a fascinating history of being at the centre of the civil rights struggle and, generally, its key figures were on the right side of history. In more recent years, developments such as the Beltline have greened and gentrified once industrial areas to thrilling effect. A few hours’ drive away is Savannah, which features America’s largest protected historic district – an architectural feast of fantastical old mansions, planned parks and trees dripping with Spanish moss.
9. Miami Beach, Florida. Glorious, Caribbean-quality beaches with a quintessentially American feel, Art Deco architecture and fabulous hotels and restaurants, plus an exciting art scene and Latin edge.
10. New York City. I secretly look down on the surprising number of people – journalists included – who have yet to visit New York. How could you not want to match the endless images from your mind’s eye with their exhilarating reality? Monuments and testaments to human ambition and failure.
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