Seattle’s Museum of Flight is home to a wide array of airplanes, educational exhibits, and flight-related historical objects. An outdoor gallery displays the largest aircraft in the collection, including a Concorde, the first jet Air Force One, and military planes like the B-17F Flying Fortress. The indoor Great Gallery gives onlookers the thrill of seeing many of the planes suspended in flight, and the Lear and Space galleries focus on space travel, both its history and future. History buffs will especially love the Personal Courage Wing, which is dedicated to remembering the important role of aviation during World War I and II. Exhibits include 28 restored fighter planes, personal stories of pilots and air support troops, and interactive experiences like a flight simulator. Housed in the barn that once held the fledgling Boeing Airplane Company, the Red Barn collections explore the earliest days of flight.
The center of Queen Elizabeth Park, Little Mountain, marks the highest point in Vancouver and its elevated position affords excellent views of the city center and the mountains to the north. Park recreational offerings include pitch-and-putt golf, tennis, disc golf, dining (at Seasons in the Park Restaurant), an extensive outdoor arboretum, and the lovely enclosed tropical environment of Bloedel Conservatory. The sunken Quarry Garden makes a lovely spot to stroll on a warm summer day. For more horticultural explorations, head a couple of blocks west to VanDusen Botanical Garden, where there is always something in bloom amid beds representing various regions and species.
Oceanfront English Bay centers on one of the city’s loveliest and busiest beaches. Part of the West End neighborhood, English Bay offers shopping and high-end restaurants, but is also a popular outdoor area where people come to walk, bike, rollerblade, or hang out with the public art installations. The biggest event comes in summer when thousands crowd the shores to watch three nights of fireworks set to music. Another popular event is the New Year’s Day Polar Bear Swim, when hardy swimmers take a dip in the chilly Pacific waters.
One of the most popular of the Smithsonian’s many museums that line the mall, The National Museum of American History traces the political, cultural, scientific, and technological history of the U.S. since the Revolution. It displays important pieces of Americana, including Thomas Jefferson’s desk, one of Edison’s light bulbs, and the original flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the words to The Star Spangled Banner.
The National Air and Space Museum is one of the world’s most popular museums, with a collection of history-making air and spacecraft that includes the original 1903 Wright Brothers Flyer and Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, the first plane to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
In southern Colorado, the town of Durango has a lovely setting at the base of surrounding mountains. The historic downtown area has some well-restored, grand old buildings that function as hotels and restaurants. Some are done in southwestern décor, with an Old West feel.
The ski resort town of Vail is one of the best places to visit in Colorado in winter but it’s also a pleasant place to enjoy at any time of year. When it comes to skiing, this is one of the top ski resorts in Colorado, with seemingly endless runs for all levels of skiers. The town at the base of the ski hill is postcard cute, with chalet-style restaurants, shops, and hotels that make you feel like you are in the heart of the Alps. This is a high-end resort with luxury hotels, fine dining, and designer stores.
While the Natural History Museum has numerous galleries and an extensive permanent collection that covers a range of topics, it is best known for its collection of dinosaurs. The 14,000-square-foot Dinosaur Hall has an awesome display of dinosaur skeletons, including a series of Tyrannosaurus rex fossils, known as the growth series, featuring three full skeletons that range from baby to adult. Also on display are a Triceratops and a Stegosaurus.
Venice Beach deserves its reputation as a place to see and be seen, making it perfect for people watching, although the area definitely has its own unique vibe. This stretch of golden sand and the Venice Beach Boardwalk are always thronged with people walking, cycling, rollerblading, and jogging.
Just outside Los Angeles, Disneyland is California’s premier family vacation destination, attracting visitors since the 1950s. Disneyland Park, with rides and experiences in elaborately created theme sets, is what most people picture when they imagine Disneyland. The Disneyland California Adventure Park, created during one of the expansions, holds even more action and adventure, with seven lands based on movie themes.
Gatorland has thousands of alligators, crocodiles, and other reptiles, some of which perform in daily shows and demonstrations. The “Alligator Jumparoo” show and “Gator Wrestlin'” are two examples. The facility is also home to rare leucistic alligators, which are white. A small train does rounds on the grounds, and an observation tower provides views of the breeding marsh and surrounding region. One of the more recent additions to Gatorland is the zipline that runs over the top of alligators and crocodiles. For the less adventurous there is still the self-guided swamp walk, and kids will enjoy the Gator Gully Splash Park.
This lovely park along the Schuylkill River and Wissahickon Creek is home to the Philadelphia Zoo, the Rodin Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Japanese House and Garden, along with numerous other attractions and things to do. There are also gardens, ball fields, swimming pools, tennis courts, hiking paths, picnic areas, and playgrounds. The park is a National Historic Landmark, and it is one of the nation’s first parks created to serve as both a public green space and a watershed protection area.
SeaWorld San Diego is one of the city’s main attractions, particularly for families. It is located along the waterfront in Mission Bay. For many Americans, SeaWorld has been a longtime family tradition, having been around since the 1960s. Among the highlights are shows featuring killer whales, sea lions, dolphins, and other sea life. There are all kinds of rides, from roller coasters plowing into water to more sedate carnival type rides for tots. SeaWorld is an aquarium that allows close-up looks at sharks and other sea creatures that can be seen through an acrylic tunnel, along with touch tanks and close encounters with dolphins and inhabitants of tidal pools.
In Golden Gate Park, the de Young Museum is a fine arts museum, and one of the largest public art institutions in San Francisco. Exhibits cover a variety of time frames and geographical locations. While art and period interiors from North America feature strongly in the collection, there are also many exhibits from Egypt, Greece, Rome, and the Near East. British art and folk art from Africa, America, and the Pacific Islands, are also well represented.
The Golden Gate Bridge is a California icon gracing San Francisco Bay. It is the most photographed site in the city, with the orange structure backed by blue water, or in many cases, peaking through low lying cloud. At night, the flood lit structure is equally striking.
A remarkable act of smart city planning and preservation can be seen in Shanghai’s splendid riverside promenade, the Zhongshan Lu, perhaps better known as the Bund (Wàitan). As you stroll this wide pedestrian zone along the Huangpu Jiang River, you’ll almost forget you’re bang-smack in the middle of China’s largest city (Shanghai’s population exceeds 24 million people). Famous for its European feel, a fact owed to the district’s past as the location of the city’s International Settlement, the Bund is popular for its 52 preserved English- and French-influenced buildings, many now restaurants, cafés, stores, and art galleries.
Considered one of the world’s most important historic gardens hence their designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site the Classical Gardens of Suzhou should rank highly on your China travel itinerary. Located in the historic city of Suzhou in Jiangsu province, these magnificent gardens were established in the 11th century, at a time when the city was experiencing unprecedented growth, and were among some 270 or more gardens planted here. Of the surviving restored gardens, the most famous is the delightful Garden of Lingering, a seven-acre site laid out in 1800 on the site of a park originally created during the Ming Dynasty.
The town of Guilin, in the northeast corner of Guangxi, boasts some of China’s most beautiful countryside and is famous for the Li River, which meander through the town and surrounding karst mountains. While for hundreds of years this unique scenery has attracted poets and artists and has been the subject of countless fairy tales and legends, these days it’s popular with tourists from around the world wanting to see this natural splendor up close.
Construction of Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid, one of the world’s largest mosques-and one of the oldest in India-began in 1614 during Mohammed Quli Qutub Shah’s reign and took almost 80 years to complete. Large enough to accommodate 10,000 worshipers, this beautiful mosque’s 15 enormous arches and pillars were each wrought from single slabs of black granite dragged to the site by huge cattle trains reputedly consisting of up to 1,400 bulls.
Built as the summer residence of King Rama VI, who reigned until 1925, this unique teak palace is stunning in many ways. The king originally ordered its construction following a suggestion by his doctor, who thought an airy seaside climate would help the king’s rheumatoid arthritis.
The palace was then built in Hua Hin, a sleepy seaside town about three hours south of Bangkok. Today, Hua Hin is a popular destination for families and travelers who want to enjoy the beach in a relaxed atmosphere away from the crowds.