Three horse and carriages waiting beside the sidewalk out front of a historic church with a civil war statue out front.
Whether you're there for Mardi Gras or not, New Orleans makes for the perfect vacation with its lively nightlife and cultural influences.
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Top 15 Destinations Worth Exploring in the Land of the Free

New Orleans, LA

While New Orleans is best known for its Mardi Gras celebration in February, you can learn about this cultural institution any time of the year (while avoiding the crowds) at a local museum — Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World.

Even when the week-long festival isn’t going on, there are plenty of things to do in New Orleans. The city has a vibrant nightlife scene in the French Quarter and on Frenchmen Street where tons of jazz clubs, bars, restaurants and dance clubs can be found. During the day, the French Quarter’s beautiful historic buildings like St. Louis Cathedral and the Cabildo are worth taking the time to explore.

Even the city’s cemetery has daily tours due to some famous residents residing there such as musicians, pirates and even a legendary voodoo queen. If you’re traveling with children, don’t miss the Audubon Nature Institute, which houses a zoo, aquarium and IMAX theater.

Boats cruising by the Statue of Liberty with the city in the background.There are an endless number of things to do in the Big Apple, whether you like shopping, theater, food, history, art or all of the above!Photo Credit: Getty Images

New York City, NY

There are so many things to do in New York City that even if you lived there it’s nearly impossible to experience everything the city has to offer. As such it’s one of the top places to visit in the US because there’s always something new to enjoy.

Obviously a visit to some of New York’s most iconic landmarks is a must, which includes Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, 9/11 Memorial and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Nothing compares to seeing a play on Broadway or catching a concert at Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center.

For a unique perspective on the city that few others will glimpse, take a NYC helicopter tour! You’ll get a wonderful overview of all the sites you can visit later on while on foot.

Sampling all the deliciously diverse food is a must along with having a slice of New York-style pizza or a water bagel from a Jewish deli. And finally, if you come during Christmas, New York transforms into an even more magical experience with ice skating at Rockefeller Center and festive holiday windows on Fifth Avenue.

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Rocky sandstone edifices in the Garden of the GodsThe strange beauty of the Garden of the Gods will sweep you off your feet.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Garden of the Gods, CO

Pikes Peak may be the more well-known attraction in Central Colorado, but there’s a site that’s even more dramatic than the highest summit in the Rocky Mountain’s front range. It’s Garden of the Gods, a collection of upthrust limestone and sandstone slabs that rise from the ground in great towers. The area got its name when a 19th-century surveyor exclaimed, “Why, it is a fit place for the gods to assemble!”

Indeed, there’s something both dramatic and eerie about the reddish slabs, particularly at night when flocks of small birds fly in and out of their nests in the monoliths. There’s more to do than just enjoy the scenery, too. Garden of the Gods is a public park, and it contains 15 miles of walking trails. Enjoy electric-bike tours or tour the park on horseback.

You can also try your hand at rock climbing, although you’ll need to complete a registration form. (Various local outfitters can give you lessons.) Finally, there’s the onsite Nature Center, which provides perspective on the area’s history and why it’s one of the best vacation destinations in the USA.

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