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The places I recommend most (in the USA)

The places I recommend most (in the USA)

The question that I both love and hate (and get asked often): what’s your favorite place to visit? Obviously, I’m all in on chatting about travel, reminiscing about the trips I’ve taken and giving recommendations on cool places to go. But it’s also such a tough question to really answer! There are so many variations when it comes to how much you want to spend and how much time you have to spend, what time of year you’re traveling (aka peak bloom versus peak foliage) and what you’re looking for: stunning scenery, a dose of fresh air and relaxation, a bustling city or all of the delicious food you can handle.

Ocean Beach in San Diego, California

And although I’ve been lucky enough to travel internationally, I’m constantly amazed by the incredible diversity of cities, landscapes and experiences in the United States. I believe that you don’t have to go across the world to find yourself and that you can have brilliant travel experiences in your own backyard: it’s more about having the curious and celebratory attitude of a traveler than the exoticness of the destination. Stay tuned for the places I recommend most around the world, but until then, here are my favorite places to visit in the United States (and if you need more inspiration: highly recommend keeping this book on your coffee table).

Multnomah Falls in Portland, Oregon Stumptown Roasters in Portland, Oregon House off 23rd Avenue in Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon

Portland is just a gem of a city: we strongly considered moving there, and if the weather was just a tiny bit better (aka I really can’t handle overcast days), we probably would have. But everything else about this city makes it such a fun place to visit! The food and drink scene is incredible, from the food trucks that line the streets downtown to the inventive and delicious ice cream shops like Salt & Straw and all of the cozy coffee shops and breweries. The downtown is walkable and easily accessible via public transportation, and beautiful waterfalls and hiking trails can be found right outside of the city. And Powell’s Books needs to be on every bibliophile’s must-visit list: it’s the world’s largest independent bookstore! More than anything, residents are determined to “keep Portland weird” and they do it well.

Check out: A weekend in Portland, OregonHouses in Providence, Rhode IslandFirst Baptist Church in Providence, Rhode Island Providence Athenaeum Library in Rhode Island

Providence, Rhode Island

Providence is the quirky little capital city of Rhode Island, and it was one of our favorite weekend escapes from New York City. The streets surrounding Brown University are lined with the most adorable houses,

Check out: the best of Providence, via Instagram

Gertie the pug in the Berkshires Book barn in the Berkshires Weekend at a lakehouse in the Berkshires

The Berkshires

Some of my favorite recent summer memories come from our regular trips with David’s family to a lakehouse in the Berkshires. Despite being just a two-hour drive outside of the city, the Berkshires feel like another world: so serene and laid-back, with rolling green hills and so many lakes to enjoy. I especially love stocking up on fresh produce and baked goods at the country farmers markets, and then coming back to the lakehouse to enjoy them with a good book and a lake view.

Check out: a weekend in the Berkshires, a weekend in the Berkshires (with Gertie!) 

View from the San Juan Marriott Resort in Puerto Rico Condado Beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico Condado Beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Beautiful beaches, colorful historic buildings, and a flavorful local culture: San Juan has all of the flair of the Caribbean with all of the convenience and ease of not leaving the United States (aka no passport control!). I’ve been devastated by the current state of emergency post-hurricane in Puerto Rico, but still wanted to include it in this list: primarily because it truly is one of my favorite places to visit (I’ve been three times in the past four years!), but also because tourism is a huge part of its industry. Once it recovers, it’s going to need visitors!

Check out: a weekend in San Juan

Hot Air Balloon riding with Hot Air Expeditions, Phoenix, Arizona Sanctuary at Camelback Mountain, Scottsdale, Arizona Hiking the Phoenix Mountain Reserve with Arizona Outback Adventures

Scottsdale, Arizona

If you’re looking for fresh air and relaxation, I actually think the Southwest is one of the best regions to visit: that crisp desert air is so refreshing! I was blown away by the hiking and outdoor activity options in Scottsdale, as well as the caliber and quantity of luxurious spas. And the backdrop of wide open skies, towering cacti and unique rock formations makes it incredibly scenic. Sedona and Santa Fe are similar options, although with a bit more of a hippie twist.

Check out: a long weekend in Scottsdale

Home Slice Pizza in Austin, Texas Gertie the pug at the Greetings from Austin mural View of Lake Travis from Oasis

Austin, Texas

Austin was another city that we strongly considered moving to: similar to Austin, there’s a strong movement to keep Austin weird. We loved the quirky shops that line South Congress, all of the taco and barbecue joints, the trails lining Lady Bird Lake (and the kayaks you can take out on it), and the wide open hill country that surrounds it.

Check out: a very long weekend in Austin (with Gertie), a weekend in Texas

Cocktail at Bar Sixty Five in New York CityStatue of Liberty at Sunset from Circle Line Cruise Central Park in New York City

New York City + Brooklyn

It’s no secret that I love New York City (leaving was SO hard), and I believe that every American should visit New York City at least once in their life. It’s vastly different than so much of the United States and there’s really not another city like it in the world. The food! The museums! The views! The subway system! The hustle and bustle and chaos! It’s a city vastly worth visiting.

Check out: 10 things you can’t miss in NYC, why it’s worth visiting Brooklyn

Pacific Beach in San Diego, California Pigment in San Diego, California

San Diego, California

Last but not least: our newly adopted hometown of San Diego! We chose to move here for the laid-back lifestyle and sunny weather, and we’ve been surprised by the excellent food and drink options, variety of outdoor activities and excellent museums. If you’re looking for a beach destination in the United States but you want more to do than just sunbathe: I can’t recommend San Diego enough! Bonus: it’s only 20 miles from the border, so it makes it a great jumping off point to explore the craft beer scene in Tijuana, Mexican wine country and the birthplace of fish tacos.

Check out: a weekend in San Diego

And the places in the USA that are top of my list to visit next:

  • Denver, Colorado (we’re actually going this weekend to visit friends!)
  • San Antonio, Texas (mostly to stay here)
  • Utah: Park City, Zion National Park, Arches National Park
  • Nashville, Tennessee (mostly to stay here)
  • Jackson Hole, Wyoming (we’re planning a family trip there next summer, and I’m already so excited!)

What are your favorite places to visit in the USA?

  • Love seeing my home city of Portland on this list! 🙂

  • Becky

    We went to Jackson this summer and it.is.so.gorgeous! There’s a really cute little coffee shop called Persephone http://www.persephonebakery.com/ that I went back to again and again.

  • Add Atlanta to that list, especially if you make it to Nashville! It’s the coolest!

  • Look up Traverse City, Michigan – you’d absolutely LOVE it. Right on Lake Michigan, it has incredibly hiking, some of the best scenery in all the USA. Plus, one of the craft brewery scenes in the USA (about 20 microbreweries for a population of only 15,000), home to some of the best chefs (hello…Mario Batali!), and incredible festivals (the National Writers Series, the Traverse City Film Festival…run by Michael Moore but not political, etc.). It is also home to Interlochen Center for the Arts…the national music school that’s trained Josh Groban, Norah Jones, etc. Seriously put it on your list! 🙂

  • omg Denver is my FAVORITE!!! i’ve yet to go to Nashville though and am absolutely dying to. also scottsdale! it looks so beautiful! when you go to Denver, try to hit Boulder too – some AMAZING food and shopping is there. and hiking! 🙂

  • stacey

    thanks for this list … scottsdale is lovely. i hope you make it down to tucson one day — great restaurants, beautiful desert landscape/sunsets, and the world’s largest airplane boneyard!

  • Jill

    I’m not a city person so my favorite three – Nashville, New Orleans and Charleston – all have a small city feel. My favorites places to visit in the US are Maui& Kauai, Maine (anywhere in Maine), San Diego, any wine country and surprisingly, Minneapolis and the lake regions of Minnesota. You’ll love Jackson Hole!

  • Mimi Rose

    Beautiful list – the only one I’d disagree with is Portland. I tried living there for a year and a half and couldn’t believe the nativism mindset – there was such a distrust and dislike for outsiders. It was surprising to find that kind of mentality in one of the most “progressive” cities in the US. I especailly love San Diego, NYC, and Austin though!

  • Caitlin

    I could not agree with you more about everyone having to visit NYC at least once in their life. After living there for 5 years, I would tell family and friends that everyone should have to LIVE there for some period of their life! NYC exposes you to so many different cultures and ways of thinking that I think it was really good for me, after moving from a mostly-white suburban town. Living in such a vibrant city really opened my eyes to diversity and inclusion and (in my opinion) made me a better, more understanding person. It is so important and I wouldn’t have had the exposure without living in NYC.

  • Briel79

    That’s disappointing to hear about Portland! I’ve only been 2 times but I plan to visit again next July and kind of have this little hope in the back of my mind of living there one day.

  • Mimi Rose

    Yeah, honestly I thought I would love living in Portland. Don’t get me wrong, I made some lovely Portland friends during my time there too, I just felt like the overall attitude of the city needed a bit of an adjustment. I don’t think it helped that I’m from California either, because they kind of hate us. It was like night and day once I had an Oregon license and people thought I was actually from there. The city wasn’t for me, but I know friends who loved living there and others who hated living there like me, so it really just depends on the person I think…and the personal experiences you have with the city.

  • camorose

    Yes! I love it there, always looking for an excuse to go there for work!

  • camorose

    Woohoo! Will definitely make it there next summer 🙂

  • camorose

    Yes! I was there all too briefly for work earlier this year, and really liked what saw. Need to make it back!

  • camorose

    SOLD. Thanks for the rec!!!

  • camorose

    I have been to Tucson! I went with my parents in high school, and while it probably does deserve another trip, I did quite enjoy it! We went to a really great desert garden 🙂

  • camorose

    I’ve actually heard great things about Minneapolis and Minnesota! Need to make it there –but in good weather! 🙂

  • camorose

    Interesting! I wonder if part of that is because so many people are moving in. A lot of cities that we considered moving to are getting a little overrun with people like us, and I can see where there’s a bit of a pushback on people coming in and driving up prices, etc etc. We saw a really similar attitude in Austin actually!

  • camorose

    Haha I get that everyone wouldn’t necessarily love living there–but I am certainly so, so, so glad that I did! Such a wonderful experience, and it does really open your eyes and make you a better person–I agree with you!

  • camorose

    I think it’s totally worth visiting, but definitely something to keep in mind if you consider moving!