IF YOU are traveling from Southeast Asia to the US, you certainly want to make those miles and jetlag worth it! With 50 states, 5 Territories and the District of Columbia, it might be hard to choose which ones to visit first.
From Rhode Island’s mesmerizing Gilded Age mansions to Charleston’s secret gardens, and cowboy charm in Fort Worth, Brand USA (Visit The USA), the destination marketing organization for the United States, spotlights five destinations that should be on your radar. Here they are:
1. Rhode Island
Rhode Island may be the smallest U.S. state but it certainly punches well above its weight. The vast golden beaches and grand historic mansions coupled with an abundance of fresh seafood and boutique wineries make Rhode Island a top destination. Just an hour from Boston via Amtrak, Newport is home to summer ‘cottages’ perched atop surf-soaked cliffs, once owned by famous families like the Astors, Rockerfellers and Vanderbilts.
Visitors can take the scenic Cliff Walk which combines the natural beauty of the shoreline with the architectural heritage of The Gilded Age for a glimpse of the mansions that have served as backdrops for films like The Great Gatsby and HBO Max’s new series The Gilded Age. Leaving Newport, head to South County for a tour of Rhode Island’s stunning coastline and explore the quaint, quintessential village of Watch Hill.
Look out for Taylor Swift’s coastal retreat with views over Little Narragansett Bay or stop for a champagne cocktail on the veranda of the historic beachfront hotel, Ocean House. A trip to Rhode Island isn’t complete without sampling the state’s legendary seafood and Matunuck Oyster Bar in South Kingstown is best known for its “pond-to-plate” dining where the restaurant’s oysters are grown directly off their waterfront patio.
2. Cincinnati, Ohio
Winding along the Ohio River, Cincinnati is a collection of charming neighbourhoods from Over-the-Rhine (OTR) to the Riverfront and from Downtown to Mount Adams which collectively have a rich architectural, cultural and culinary heritage.
The eclectic OTR is a foodie’s paradise with a selection of local restaurants, bars, breweries and markets including Findlay Market, Ohio’s oldest farmers’ markets and one of the top 10 food markets in the world. Downtown is for the art lovers and is home to some of the best cultural centres and galleries as well as over 50 murals including one celebrating Neil Armstrong, an Ohio Native and the Cincinnati Toy Heritage Mural showcasing some of the most popular toys made by Kenner Toys including the Care Bears and C3PO.
Sport enthusiasts should head straight to the regenerated Riverfront, home to celebrated NFL team, the Cincinnati Bengals and the MLB team, the Cincinnati Reds. It is also worth checking out the Roebling Suspension Bridge (a forerunner to the famed Brooklyn Bridge, NYC) for the best sunsets over the Ohio River.
3. Fort Worth, Texas
Fort Worth blends cowboy charm and rich Western history with a dedication to urban renewal. Home to the world’s only twice-daily cattle drive, the world’s largest honky-tonk and year-round rodeo, the city serves as the backdrop for TV hits 1883 and Yellowstone, starring Oscar and Emmy winner, Kevin Costner.
There are plenty of familiar sights that will delight fans of the Wild West epic as they explore the famed Stockyards Historic District, the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, sip a cold brew in a saloon, and shop for a pair of personalized cowboy boots downtown in the charming 35-block Sundance Square.
Just 30 minutes south of Fort Worth, experience an authentic guest ranch at Beaumont. The ranch offers almost endless outdoor sports like horseback trail rides, clay shooting, archery, extreme ATV tours, zip- lining, and cattle drives. Make sure to keep an eye out for local longhorns, wild horses and llamas.
4. Sonoma County, California
Sonoma County in Northern California is well known as an award-winning wine region but there are more than 80 kilometres of dramatic Pacific Ocean coastline on the County’s western edge inviting travellers to explore the great outdoors and reset and recharge.
Keen hikers can enjoy the five-kilometre Bluff Top Trail that winds from Gualala Point all the way to the beach and from November to March migrating whales can be seen from the shore. Visitors looking for a more casual beach amble can enjoy beachcombing or tide pooling at Shell Beach in Sonoma Coast State Park.
Further inland, Lake Sonoma beckons with opportunities to fish, swim, canoe or paddle board. Beyond the beach, Sonoma County is home to over 40 spas and wellness centres. Soak in a healing alchemy of a cedar enzyme bath, get a skin refresh bespoke to the region with a Crushed Cabernet scrub, enjoy an al fresco massage or visit Sonoma Roots for a vitamin boost.
5. Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston’s greatest attraction is arguably Mother Nature’s annual show: breathtaking garden blooms. Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is the oldest public gardens in America and the only plantation on the Ashley River that survived both the American Revolution and the Civil War.
Today, it is home to the last large-scale Romantic Gardens in the U.S., designed to transport you from the normality of everyday life to a tranquil escape. Each year, the Historic Charleston Foundation invites green-fingered enthusiasts to some of Charleston’s most exclusive private gardens throughout March and April, showcasing intricately designed and well-manicured ‘secret gardens’ that are usually off-limits to visitors.
From blooming dogwood, to redbud and azalea, these gardens are a feast for the senses. Year-round, travellers can also enjoy the early 1700s plantation and mansion, Middleton Place, featuring a European-style garden blooming all season or visit Wadmalaw Island and ride the trolley through the tea fields. [sources/photo special]