Seven Wonders Of The Usa

#7: Niagara Falls

If this list was composed 50 years ago, the Falls would likely have been number two. The Honeymoon Capital of the World suffers from a suffocating overlay of tackiness, wax museums, huckster shops and casino jackpot lights flashing around the clock, but nothing can detract from the prodigious grand falls and the Maid of the Mist’s trip right into the heart of it.

#6: The Florida Keys

When you first start heading south on the causeway, you may be unimpressed as if you’ve been in Florida for a while there’s causeways everywhere. However, this is quite different. Pretty soon you’ll be suspended over an endless sea with no land in sight, just you in your vehicle on a ribbon of concrete smoothly swooping over the waves faster than a speedboat. When you finally reach the end of the road, the lazy, languorous, tropical island of Key West, dine on real Key Lime Pie and hang out at Hemingway’s haunts, you’ll know you’re having the experience of a lifetime.

#5: Yellowstone National Park

A park so large it spreads over three states, Yellowstone is the ultimate natural experience to be had in the Lower 48. The park is far more than Old Faithful, it’s a magical country owned by bears, wolves, elk and buffalo who are allowing you to temporarily share their domain. The park is even more thrilling in the winter when the crowds are gone and the land wears a mantle of dazzling snow. Yellowstone is the greatest park in the country, bar none.

#4: The whole state of Alaska

It dwarfs Texas, it’s largely unexplored, the weather in the southwestern section is much milder than you would think, and it’s a natural wonderland unlike any other. Whatever you are looking for in the magnificence of nature you’ll find in Alaska with the possible exception of tropical desert. Alaska has endless mountain ranges that no one has ever climbed. It has huge swaths of rolling land that go on and on to the horizon. It has temperate rainforest swarming with bears gorging on salmon. It has the friendliest people in the entire United States. When you finally visit Alaska, bring lots of your stuff with you as you may never want to go home.

#3: California Highway 101

Leave Interstate 5 to the truckers and the travelling salesmen. The only way to really see California is on the sea-hugging majesty of what is arguably the greatest highway in the world, 101. From the broad beaches of Santa Monica, all the way up through to Silicon Valley, 101 is a delight mile after mile. The list of amazing wonders is endless. The stretches between Ventura and Santa Barbara, and the whole of Big Sur present simply mind-bending scenery and natural beauty that’s easily accessible from any major California city. And who has not dreamed of riding a Harley Sportster across the Bixby Creek Bridge while the violins play the Then Came Bronson theme?

#2: Walt Disney World

To the detractors who call the wonder in the swamp just a money grubbing capitalistic scam, it is obvious they must never have been children or seen the park through the eyes of a child. Walt Disney World is one of the great American wonders in the way that it compresses an entire planet into one beautiful, clean, idealized version that can be traversed in a couple of days. From the souks of Morocco to the studios of Hollywood; from the African Savannahs to the Canadian rainforest gardens of Victoria; the world is here waiting to be discovered. The jury is still out on whether it’s preferable to visit EPCOT’s perfect, clean and lovely Piazza San Marco or the real one which is blighted by flood control walls and the nauseating smell of rotten fish on a hot summer’s day.

#1: The Grand Canyon

The magnificent Arizona chasm defies the senses. Its magnificence and grandeur will inspire awe in the most jaded Wii-addicted teenager. However, it is nowhere near enough to just drive to the South Rim, elbow some Japanese tourists for a quick peek and then head back to Flagstaff for a Denny’s Grand Slam. There are two Must Dos at the Canyon and if you haven’t completed both of them, you might as well have just stared at a postcard.

a) Take the mule ride to the river. You ride on a recalcitrant donkey on some precarious stony paths all the way down to the Colorado River where you camp, have dinner around a campfire and the next morning go all the way back up. It’s dirty, gritty, uncomfortable, occasionally scary and one of the most exhilirating experiences you’ll have in your entire life.

b) Skip the South Rim. Although it’s a good day’s drive each way, loop around towards the northeast and end up at the North Rim. Not only is the high forest scenery unforgettable on the way, but you’ll end up at the historic and unforgettable Fred Harvey Lodge and see the Canyon from a much higher elevation. Many people don’t realize that the North Rim’s Point Imperial is at 8,803 feet which is more than 2,000 feet further up than the South Rim. The difference in view and experience is palpable.

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