These busy locks northwest of Seattle Center are also known as the Ballard Locks. Besides watching the boat traffic move between Puget Sound and the lakes, visitors can seek out the fish ladder, where salmon struggle upstream. Nearby, the Carl S. English, Jr. Botanical Garden is a quieter spot to rest and appreciate well-tended gardens.
Toronto zoo has an outstanding and diverse collection, with approximately 5,000 animals. Some of the favorites include pygmy hippos, lions, tigers, giraffes, penguins, orangutans, and many more. The zoo is divided into several sections, each representing a major region of the globe. Some of the other highlights at the Toronto Zoo include the Gorilla Rainforest; the Tundra Trek, featuring polar bears; and the Great Barrier Reef.
Vancouver’s first tourist attraction opened in 1889 and has been thrilling visitors with its swaying bridge over a plummeting canyon ever since. The footbridge spans a 70-meter deep river canyon leading to an activity park filled with forest trails and a treetop walk through old-growth giants. There’s also a collection of totem poles and a transparent suspended platform known as the Cliffwalk.
For many Vancouver visitors, Canada Place is where a trip begins. The unusual roof creates the impression of a huge sailing vessel. The architecturally remarkable structure is part cruise ship terminal, part convention center and hotel, and part hub for sightseeing bus tours. At the end of the pier, there are panoramic views and the Flyover Canada attraction – a fun flight simulator and Canadian geography lesson. Also nearby, Waterfront Station is a major transit hub with ferries departing for the public market at Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver.
On a hillside overlooking the city from across the Potomac River, Arlington National Cemetery is filled with memorials to American history and the men and women who were part of it. Its best-known landmarks are the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, President John F. Kennedy’s gravesite, and the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial depicting the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima in World War II. The Welcome Center has maps, information (including the locations of specific graves), exhibits telling the story of Arlington National Cemetery and its monuments.
The National Zoo is another part of the Smithsonian, where nearly 2,000 different animals, birds, and reptiles live in habitats replicating as closely as possible their natural environments. Of the several hundred species represented here, about a quarter are endangered. This is one of the world’s best zoos, not only for the quality of the visitor experience, but for its leadership in areas of animal care and sustainability.
Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness showcases some of Colorado’s most spectacular Rocky Mountain scenery and offers a chance to get out of your car and into nature. This area has six mountains over 14,000 feet, along with forests, alpine lakes, meadows, and 175 miles of trails to help you explore the terrain. Alternatively, you can enjoy the views on some of the scenic drives.
Long Beach is another community in the Los Angeles area where you can easily spend a day exploring. Bordering LA to the south, about 20 miles from downtown, Long Beach extends along San Pedro Bay. Things to do here include a visit to the historic Queen Mary ocean liner, now converted into a hotel and museum; the Aquarium of the Pacific; and exploring the unique shops at Shoreline Village. You can also catch the Catalina Express from Long Beach for a trip to Santa Catalina Island.
Santa Monica is a unique destination that is both chic and laid-back, with a population that ranges from surfers, skateboarders, and yoga devotees to techies and business people. The beautiful stretch of golden sand along the coast and the famous Santa Monica Pier, with its iconic Ferris wheel, are what most tourists come to enjoy, but you can find a variety of experiences in this beachfront city next to LA.
The Coral Castle is the result of one man’s 28 years of carving, using his own home-made tools. This incredible creation, made of limestone, was built by Edward Leedskalnin between 1923 and 1951. He kept his methods private and would not allow anyone to watch him work, leaving many people to wonder how he did it. Today, you can tour the property and see the most famous structure, a giant stone gate, which opens effortlessly with the touch of a finger, as well as carvings that include stone tables and chairs, unique figures, and other pieces.
This National Historic Landmark, set on 28 acres, was the luxurious winter home of 20th-century industrialist, James Deering. Built in 1916, the mansion features 34 rooms arranged around a central courtyard. It took more than 1,100 workers and craftsmen to complete the Vizcaya project, many of whom were brought over from Europe to ensure authenticity in design. The Italian Renaissance-style villa is filled with an impressive collection of European furniture and decorative arts from the 15th to 19th centuries.
Balboa Park encompasses a 1,400-acre site with historical buildings, numerous museums, gardens, and green space. The park was created for the Panama California Exhibition of 1915-1916, and most of the buildings remain from that event. The predominant architecture is Spanish-style low-rise buildings that blend in with the natural surroundings. Among the highlights of the park are the botanical gardens and lily pond, the Museum of Man, the Museum of Natural History, the San Diego Museum of Art, and the famous San Diego Zoo. Even if you never go into a building, the park is simply a beautiful place.
The Asian Art Museum is unquestionably one of the most important museums in San Francisco. The museum opened in 1966, with the basis of the collection coming from art collector Avery Brundage. Brundage built up a private collection, which in 1959 he offered to the city of San Francisco “to bridge the gap between East and West.” The museum building was constructed, and on his death in 1975 at the age of 88, the museum also received the rest of his collection of works of art in the form of a legacy.
Cable Cars were introduced in 1873 to help locals contend with the many hills the city is built on. Today, the few remaining cable cars offer tourists a great way to explore the city in historic fashion. Since 1964, these tram-like vehicles have had the unique distinction of being the only public transport system to be declared a historic monument.
World Heritage-listed Fraser Island, between Bundaberg and Brisbane off Australia’s east coast, is the largest sand island in the world and one of Australia’s top outdoor adventures – especially for four-wheel drive enthusiasts. Along windswept Seventy Five Mile Beach, you can see the rusted hulls of shipwrecks, the colored sandstone cliffs of The Cathedrals, and the bubbling fish-filled rock pools called Champagne Pools.
The famous monumental Ellora Caves were built between the 5th and 10th centuries by Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu monks, and make for an excellent excursion from Mumbai, some 300 kilometers to the west.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this remarkable collection of 34 carved monasteries, chapels, and temples-12 of them Buddhist, 17 Hindu, and five belonging to the Jain faith-were built in close proximity to each other, a reflection of the religious tolerance that existed during this period of Indian history.
Khao Sok National Park is a unique mix of very diverse ecosystems. Home to rain forest that’s older than the Amazon, the park also contains a limestone mountain range covered in karst formations, many kilometers of trails, and even a river you can explore on canoes or bamboo rafts. The park is home to Malayan sun bears, tigers, and wild elephants and sightings aren’t rare once you get deep into the evergreen rain forest.
Thailand’s floating markets offer a unique way to do some shopping and eating while supporting local vendors and getting a closer look into a traditional way of life.
While some of the markets do seem to cater more to the tourist crowds, others make for a nice authentic travel experience that involves getting in a boat and letting your guide take you through canals, where you’ll see traditional houses on stilts and run into sellers offering wares from their own boats. You’ll need to get up early to visit a floating market, as vendors are out in their long wooden boats first thing in the morning with their goods, fresh fruits, vegetables, spices, and tasty dishes.
Elephants are revered in Thailand, and statues and paintings of them can be seen everywhere you go, including the royal palaces and many temples. For the ultimate experience, however, nothing beats the chance to see elephants in their natural environment—and Khao Yai National Park provides a great opportunity to do just that.
Even if your plans for Thailand mainly involve frolicking on a beach and eating as much Massaman curry and pad Thai as humanly possible, you’ll probably spend at least a day or two in Bangkok. There are plenty of things to see and do in the capital, but the Grand Palace should definitely be at the top of your list. This is the number one sightseeing attraction in the city, and it’s staggering in both historical significance and craftsmanship.