Exploring more of your own turf can be just as enlightening as adventuring beyond your borders.
It’s so easy to forget the novel beauty of destinations within your own backyard. I have dreamed about all the places I would love to see in other countries, when USA travel is at my fingertips with endless travel opportunities offered. I may assume it is the same no matter where you live.
If you have been yearning to put your travel pants on and venture out, but have repeatedly found yourself hesitant to click on that “Book Now” button due to your financial obligations or time constraints, traveling at “home” is a great way to resourcefully travel.
If thinking about configuring a trip gives you a headache, starting locally can also ease you into the traveler mindset.
That being said, flying domestically can be just as expensive as flying overseas, and driving for days on end can get exhausting, too. From my experience traveling within the USA, it’s best to pick an area and max out your time and sight seeing in a couple great places instead of spreading yourself too thin. See how we did this in Arizona, or Oregon.
So, for you that don’t know where to begin when planning a trip in the USA, I’ve selected 3 American destinations that can serve as a starting point – a mountainous town, a bustling city, and a relaxing beach. These destinations all greatly stand out in my mind, as they all would receive an A+ rating in my book.
They exceeded all expectations when it came to food, craft brews, a variety of things to do, and scenery. When I think about each of these destinations, the recollections purely seem too good to have been true!
Even if you don’t have your ideal savings figures in your bank account or can only manage to get a few days off of work, you can make these trips happen. I was in San Francisco for two days (extremely jet-lagged the entire time) and Denver for three.
If you are wanting to expand your travel horizons but the timing for an overseas trip isn’t quite right, here are three trip ideas for the beginner traveler:
Denver is your ultimate mountainous, outdoorsy location year-round. You will find yourself speechless quite often since gorgeous views constantly surround you. In the winter time, it’s the perfect place to cozy up in a cabin and hit up some ski slopes, while the hotter months open up opportunity to take on the hiking trails.
Not only is the landscape incredible, but so is the super hip social scene. Colorado is a booming atmosphere for the craft beer fanatic and for the foodie. My favorite place to visit is Punch Bowl Social, where you can bowl and play parlor games with friends while indulging in funky cocktails and delicious bar snacks! There’s also a plethora of craft beer breweries to choose from, like the Denver Beer Co.
But why hang out inside when you can be exploring the wild landscape?! The Flatirons near Boulder outside of Denver is a breathe-taking hike. It doesn’t require pro hiking skills, and it doesn’t take too long to reach a satisfying height. You can overlook all over Denver and be completely awe-struck and remember why you put in all the effort to make the trip and get here.
I didn’t know the USA had this type of natural beauty until I stood on the Flat Irons. It is a must-see. Near the base of this recreational area is a trendy set of shops. You can find a series of tasty restaurants, boutique outdoor wear, and interesting street performers. It’s a happening place for youngins and families alike.
2. San Francisco
Looking to scout a new city? San Francisco is right up your alley. There is something for everybody in this place. Sight seeing, scrumptious bites, city views, prime weather, the works.
It’s a timeless city. You can walk to the famous Haight Ashberry area and feel like you are living in the 70’s as you see the signature funky artistic style in every direction, and feel the hip vibe as you walk from thrift store to thrift store.
On the historic side of the travel spectrum, the Golden Gate Bridge is incredible to see in person. It’s always neat seeing famous landmarks right before you as they have appeared on TV screens and in movies your entire life, but this particular one is something special. It’s looks larger than it ever has in any photo I’ve ever seen. Getting to walk across it you’ll be passed by runners and bikers alike, and get to take in remarkable views of San Francisco, including seeing Alcatraz nearby, the island prison deserted years ago.
After you do all this walking, you’ll need to grab a bite to eat. San Francisco is known for their sourdough bread bowls and their chowder. The best I found was located in the Fisherman’s Wharf, a busy market area lined with options to pick your chowder-sourdough combo from. You can’t go wrong, so follow your heart and enjoy the best lunch you will ever have.
My favorite meal is breakfast, and breakfast was the first meal Luke and I were going to have upon landing in the US after 3 months. We wanted the ultimate American breakfast, hash browns and the works, so we sought out The Pork Store. It was a highlight, and with an affordable menu, it’s a pretty hot spot so get there before 10am to beat that line out the door!
For the wine-o’s, it’s your lucky day since you are only an hour and a half away from Napa Valley. Depending on your time frame and budget, you can easily take advantage.
One thing to note is to definitely check the weather before you make your trip. I was SO confused as I looked out the window upon landing in San Francisco and seeing pedestrians wearing coats and jackets in August. I spent a good amount of time in thrift shops frantically purchasing layered clothing, so be more prepared than I was and bring your favorite wind-breaker.
With a focus on relaxation rather than exploration, this luxurious option could easily be your cheapest bet. By that I do not say it’s a inexpensive area, because it is as ritzy as a glamorous beach town gets. However, when it comes to costs, all you’ve got to cover is your stay and meals since your activities will be things like laying on the beach, lounging around with sangria in hand or renting bikes to explore the stretch of beaches.
After soaking in some rays on the whitest sand in Florida – it’s made from crushed quartz rather than crushed shells and squeaks as you walk across it – you may be ready for an upbeat afternoon. Seaside is your destination for food trucks, luxury shops and restaurants all along the beach. There’s plenty of public beach access in this area, too.
Back to Destin – shopping. If you are a lover of low prices, as well as brand names, this is your paradise. The Silver Sands Premium Outlets is famous among both Florida natives and tourists. I personally think it’s the best outlet mall in Florida. It has got EVERY store you could dream of. Allow yourself plenty of time for these outlets since they can get quite crowded, and you want time to go through and seek out the best deals possible.
Don’t forget to stop by Donut Hole for the best donuts in northwest Florida.. You will not regret it!
After your successful shopping spree, you’ll need to celebrate with delicious seafood at The Red Bar. I spent my recent birthday in Destin because I love it so much, and celebrated with dinner here.
It embodies the laid-back beach vibes of Destin but has a tasteful atmosphere, often having bands play live music on the weekends. It’s right on the water, so if you get anything more than a 10 minute wait you’ll have time to take a stroll on the beach. Heels or barefoot, this place has something for everybody.
Tt’s on the pricier end, with the crab cakes entree at $28, so be prepared to splurge. Well worth the high price, this seafood cannot be beat. Heads up – it’s cash or check only!
I hope this post filled with tips and travel ideas for a beginner traveler or someone who has been wanting to venture out be reassured that yes, you can take the plunge and still have a great time without having to go too far or spend too much!