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10 Best Places to Go in New Zealand

For many travelers, New Zealand is both a dream destination and a once-in-a-lifetime place to visit. If you’re planning your first trip to New Zealand, or if you’re planning a return trip to see more of this beautiful and wild country, you may want to know which places in New Zealand are at the top of the must-see list. Here are our picks for the 10 best places to go in New Zealand.

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Bay of Islands

Bay of islands new zealand

The Bay of Islands is one of the best places to go in New Zealand for fishing, sailing, and other watersports. The Bay of Islands is about three hours by car from Auckland. This gorgeous region is made up of 144 islands between Cape Brett and the Purerua Peninsula.

What’s there to do in the Bay of Islands? Get on or in the water! Try scuba diving with Paihia Dive‘s intro-to-diving course. You will be ferried far out into the bay to explore a whole new underwater world.

[st_content_ad]Or get up close and personal with the marine life in the Bay of Islands on a Fullers GreatSights Hole in the Rock Dolphin Cruise. On a good day, you’ll see both whales and dolphins on this cruise.

The cruise will take you to one of the Bay of Islands’ most famous sights, the Hole in the Rock. You can sail through this unique opening in a rock formation when the tide is right.

Where to stay: Spend a night at the historic Duke of Marlborough Hotel, which has the distinction of holding the oldest pub license in New Zealand and is located on a peninsula that sticks straight out into the middle of the bay.

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Milford Sound, New Zealand

Fiordland

Rudyard Kipling called Milford Sound the “eighth wonder of the world,” and if you visit this region of New Zealand, you’ll see why. Formed by glaciers during the Ice Age, the landscape around Milford Sound still bears evidence of its creation in the form of epic scenery: Cliffs rise from fjords crowned by mountains and waterfalls.

The best way to see Milford Sound is via boat. Take a sightseeing cruise on the fjord to see waterfalls and wildlife such as dolphins and penguins. Or navigate the waters under your own steam on a kayaking tour.

Once you’ve experienced the water from the surface, go underneath with a visit to the Milford Discovery Centre and Underwater Observatory. This is the only floating, underwater observatory in New Zealand, and visitors can go more than 30 feet deep (while staying dry) and get 360 degrees of the underwater environment.

Where to stay: There are not a lot of places to stay close to the Sound, but if you’d rather not drive the three and a half hours from Queenstown, consider The Milford Sound Lodge. The lodge offers several packages for hiking and boat tours, and there really is no beating this spot in terms of access to the Sound.

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Auckland, New Zealand

As both the largest city in New Zealand and its international air travel hub, Auckland is one of the best places to go in New Zealand. Many international flights arrive in New Zealand through Auckland Airport, which makes it an ideal city from which to start your exploration of New Zealand.

Spend at least a day or two in Auckland to get over your long flight and explore the vibrant metropolis before venturing farther afield in New Zealand. Here are our suggestions for what to see and do in Auckland:

  • Get some culture by visiting one of the many museums in Auckland, such as the Auckland Art Gallery. This is the largest art institution in New Zealand, featuring more than 15,000 works of historic, modern, and contemporary art.
  • If the weather is nice, take a stroll through the 185-acre Auckland Domain park. If you’re visiting on a Saturday, include a stop at the nearby Parnell Farmers’ Market, which sells fresh produce in the morning.
  • Auckland is also home to a host of multicultural bars and restaurants serving up all types of cuisine, so be sure to dine in downtown Auckland (and go out for a cocktail or two to check out the nightlife).
  • If you’re looking for adventure activities in Auckland, consider the Auckland Bridge Climb. And if you’re really brave, try the Auckland Bridge bungee jump.
  • If you’re looking for guided trips in Auckland, book an Auckland City Tour or an America’s Cup sailing experience on Waitemata Harbour.

Where to stay: No matter where you stay in Auckland, you will be close to something interesting. Try the accommodations at CityLife Auckland, which is within walking distance of several Auckland highlights like the harbor, both North and Princes Wharf, and the SkyTower.

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Waiheke Island, New Zealand

Just a little more than 30 minutes by boat from downtown Auckland is Waiheke Island, one of the best places to go in New Zealand for wine lovers. For a small island in the middle of Hauraki Gulf, Waiheke Island sure is home to a lot of vineyards. To sample as many of them as you can on your visit to Waiheke Island, you’ll want to find someone else to drive. Our pick is Waiheke Island Wine Tours, whose expert local guides will shuttle you around to three vineyards to sample 14 different wines.

All that wine from the vineyards of Waiheke Island will make you hungry. When it’s time to eat, book your lunch or dinner at the Mudbrick Vineyard Restaurant, a gorgeous eatery with sprawling views of the vineyard and the sea. For a really special meal, book the Mudbrick Vineyard Restaurant’s tasting menu, a seven-course event with wine pairings.

Of course, there’s more to do on Waiheke Island than just drink wine! Waiheke Island is also famous for its vibrant art community, beaches, forests, and olive groves. We recommend booking a culture tour, scenic flight, or hiking trip while you’re there to really see why Waiheke Island is one of the best places to go in New Zealand.

Where to stay: It’s definitely worth staying overnight on Waiheke Island, too. Choose the Delamore Lodge, one of the best-reviewed Waiheke Island hotels on Tripadvisor (SmarterTravel’s parent company). The hotel also offers some great packages featuring everything from wine and food to spa treatments for couples.

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Christchurch, New Zealand

Aerial view of the christchurch gondola and lyttelton port from hills in new zealand

Despite being rocked by four large earthquakes between September 2010 and December 2011, Christchurch has made a true comeback. Visitors to Christchurch will see evidence of the city’s rebirth everywhere, including new buildings made out of old shipping containers and other unique materials like the Cardboard Cathedral.

Of course, many of Christchurch’s original attractions are still standing. One of the best places to visit is the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, a sprawling network of conservatories, walking tracks, and horticultural displays. The gardens also feature some of the largest, tallest, and oldest trees in New Zealand.

Take in the new and the old of Christchurch from above with a journey on the Christchurch Gondola. This cable car lifts you on a scenic ride to the top of Mt. Cavendish.

Where to stay: Pick Heritage Christchurch for its central location and status as a World Luxury Hotel. It might cost a little extra, but it will be worth it.

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Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown from the skyline luge at sunrise

Located on the southwest side of the South Island, Queenstown has a well-deserved reputation as the adventure capital of New Zealand. During the winter and spring months (June to October), Queenstown is known for world-class skiing. Of course, there’s plenty to do in Queenstown year-round. Adventure activities such as bungee jumping, skydiving, jet boating, and river rafting will let you experience the region from dizzying heights and at breathtaking speeds.

Queenstown is also home to the world’s highest cliff jump, the Shotover Canyon Swing, where you can hurl yourself off a cliff in a number of different ways—including backward or tied to a chair.

If you haven’t lost your appetite (or your lunch) on these adrenaline-pumping activities, enjoy the dining scene in Queenstown—it’s one of the best in New Zealand. As locals and tour guides alike will tell you, one of the best places to eat in Queenstown is Fergburger, which CNN says “may be the best burger joint on the planet.”

Where to stay: Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel is located on the edge of town, giving easy access to the restaurants and other shops but also letting you sleep in relative peace away from the hub of activity.

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Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley, New Zealand

Whakarewarewa geyser at te pui thermal park in geothermal valley of rotorua

No list of the best places to go in New Zealand would be complete without mentioning Te Puia, the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute located in Rotorua’s Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley. At this Maori heritage center, you can get an authentic “steambox” meal prepared using ancient geothermal cooking techniques. You’ll also experience a Maori welcome ceremony and traditional song and dance performance.

The Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley is also home to a number of active geysers, including Pohutu, the largest active geyser in the southern hemisphere. Mud pools are another natural attraction in the geothermal valley: These boiling pools reach temperatures of more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Where to stay: The Aura Accommodation in nearby Rotorua is located on the coast of Lake Rotorua. The entire facility is powered by geothermal heat to give you a better appreciation for the valley.

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Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand

Waitomo glowworm caves

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves, naturally illuminated by thousands of glowworms, are among the most unique places to go in New Zealand—and a visit to the caves is one experience you’ll be hard-pressed to duplicate anywhere else. You can take a boat ride through the caves to learn about the history and science behind the phenomenon.

Or, if you really want a unique adventure, try black-water rafting with The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company, which will float you on an inner tube down a subterranean stream. It will be pitch-dark (except for the glowworms), and you’ll get to do everything from jumping off waterfalls to rappelling down cave walls. Choose your own adventure when you book the tour.

There are other (non-glowworm) caves in Waitomo, too. Aranui Cave features ancient cave decorations; Ruakuri Cave has an awesome spiral entrance and unique limestone formations—and, okay, more glowworms, but in this cave, you can do a walking tour rather than a water-based excursion.

Where to stay: The Waitomo Caves Hotel is minutes from the famous glowworm caves. It offers a spa as well as cave tour reservations through its website.

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Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

Franz josef glacier

You can hike an actual glacier in New Zealand. The Franz Josef Glacier plays host to both guided walks and jaw-dropping helicopter tours. Tours offer everything from ice climbing to a more relaxed hike on the 6.8-mile-long glacier.

Won’t you be freezing on top of a giant glacier? Nope! The Franz Josef Glacier receives a lot of sunlight, and temperatures on the ice are usually only a few degrees colder than in the nearby town.

Cap off a day touring the Franz Josef Glacier with a soak in the Glacier Hot Pools. The pools are fed by the waters from the Franz Josef Glacier, and you can use one of the three warm pools or get a private pool.

Where to stay: Franz Josef is a small enough town that precise location won’t make too much of a difference (you’ll be close to everything no matter where you are). Consider the Aspen Court Franz Josef, which has received some of the best ratings in the area.

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Aoraki Mount Cook National Park

mount cook new zealand.

See New Zealand’s highest mountains and longest glacier in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. There are plenty of opportunities for hiking here, no matter what your skill level. For experienced climbers, there are 23 peaks over 9,800 feet. For those looking for something a little more low-key, there are lots of walks along paved trails or boardwalks that still offer spectacular views.

Make sure you stay past sunset for a visit to the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, where light pollution is strictly controlled for amazing stargazing opportunities.

Where to stay: Located inside the national park, The Hermitage Hotel will put you close to everything you want to see and do. Splurge on a room with a view of Mt. Cook—it’s worth it.

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What to Pack on Your Trip

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2014. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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The 19 Best Things to Do in Houston

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Houston has such a diverse range of attractions that you’d need a week to make a dent in the supply. From NASA’s astronaut training center to funky visionary art installations and sprawling urban green spaces, you’ll have your choice of fun things to do in Houston.

Want a whirlwind tour of the major Houston attractions? It’s a snap with the Houston CityPASS, which covers five key sights at a savings of nearly 50 percent compared to the total cost of individual admission. Attractions include Space Center Houston, the Downtown Aquarium, and the Houston Museum of Natural Science, as well as either the Houston Zoo or the Museum of Fine Arts, and either the Kemah Boardwalk or the Children’s Museum. Here’s what to expect from each one.

Space Center Houston

kids at space center houston.

At Space Center Houston, take a behind-the-scenes tram tour through NASA’s Johnson Space Center, checking out the historic Apollo Mission Control Center and the heaviest rocket ever flown. You can also see spacesuits from past missions, explore a replica of the shuttle Independence, and touch a rock taken from the planet Mars.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

purple tunnel museum of fine arts houston.

Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts is one of the country’s largest, with numerous visiting exhibitions complementing a strong permanent collection of works by Picasso, Gainsborough, O’Keeffe, Rembrandt, Chagall, Pollock, and many more. Don’t miss a quick stroll through the small sculpture garden across the street, which is free to explore.

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The Houston Museum of Natural Science

dinosaur skeletons at houston museum of natural science.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science has something for just about everyone, from dinosaur fossils and colorful gems to Egyptian artifacts and seashells from around the world. Between the exhibits, the planetarium, and the butterfly center, there’s enough to keep you busy for a whole day.

Houston Zoo

cheetah at houston zoo.

If you’ve got kids in tow, the Houston Zoo is a must-see stop. Bears, elephants, monkeys, giraffes, and sea lions are among the creatures that roam the habitats here. Animal encounters and behind-the-scenes tours are available for visitors who want a closer look.

Downtown Aquarium

downtown aquarium houston.

Houston’s Downtown Aquarium is smaller than you’d expect—you can see the fish and other animals in less than an hour—but the on-site rides include a carousel and a Ferris wheel as added bonus fun for kids. And the whole family will love the beautiful white tigers.

Children’s Museum Houston

kids at children's museum houston.

Yet another family-friendly Houston attraction is the Children’s Museum, designed for kids up to age 12. Little ones can learn about everything from math to modern-day Korean culture in the museum’s hands-on exhibits.

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Kemah Boardwalk

kemah boardwalk at night.

About 20 minutes outside Houston are the rides, games, and restaurants of Kemah Boardwalk, all perched right on the waterfront. You can also explore a zip-line, rainforest exhibit, and stingray reef.

Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens

bayou bend collection and gardens houston.

Part of the Museum of Fine Arts, the Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens displays furniture, ceramics, and other decorative arts in the former home of Houston art collector and “First lady of Texas” Irma Hogg. The stately house is surrounded by some 14 acres of manicured gardens.

The Health Museum

houston health museum exterior.

Walk through a huge model of the human body, including a 22-foot backbone, at the Health Museum. In addition to the permanent exhibits, the museum hosts a number of temporary installations and screens films in its McGovern Theater.

The Menil Collection

menil collection sculptures houston.

Looking for free things to do in Houston? Art lovers shouldn’t miss the Menil Collection, housed in the first American building designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano. The museum is home to the eclectic collections of John and Dominique de Menil, who amassed a wide variety of paintings, sculptures, photographs, and decorative objects from ancient times to the contemporary period, with an emphasis on more modern works. Artists on display include Matisse, Picasso, Ernst, and Johns.

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Discovery Green

discovery green houston.

Visitors can enjoy the great outdoors right in downtown Houston thanks to a 12-acre park, Discovery Green, located across the street from the George R. Brown Convention Center. A perimeter of century-old oak trees provides a natural framework within which designers built the Great Lawn, grand-scale pieces of art, a boating pond, a giant fountain (fun for kids to splash in on hot days), dog fountains and runs, picnic grounds, a playground, an amphitheater, and jogging trails. Check out the events calendar to find out what’s going on during your visit, from yoga classes to concerts.

Sam Houston Park

historic home in sam houston park.

Another lovely green space surrounded by the high-rise towers of downtown is Sam Houston Park, where you can tour a number of historic homes maintained by the city’s Heritage Society.

National Museum of Funeral History

day of the dead display at national museum funeral history.

It may seem like a grim place to visit on vacation, but the National Museum of Funeral History is surprisingly interesting. The 15 permanent exhibits include the history of cremation and embalming, artifacts from presidential and papal funerals, and hearses dating back to the 19th century. The museum also examines how other cultures deal with funerals and death.

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Buffalo Bayou Park

biking in buffalo bayou park houston.

Need some exercise? Hit the walking, jogging, and biking trails that run along the bayou through central Houston in Buffalo Bayou Park. You can enjoy great views of the downtown skyline and even tour an eerie underground cistern that once housed the city’s water supply and now makes for a fascinating tour.

The Orange Show and Smither Park

smither park houston.

Lovers of visionary art should check out two Houston attractions located right next to each other: The Orange Show and Smither Park. The former is a funky, folksy ode to the orange, created over several decades by a retired postal worker using reclaimed materials such as iron, bricks, and tiles. Smither Park is a community project, showcasing the work of hundreds of local artists, including colorful mosaics, found objects, and even a large grotto plastered with pieces of road signs.

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Holocaust Museum Houston

dutch rescue boat at holocaust museum houston.

Fresh off a major renovation and expansion, the Holocaust Museum features a permanent exhibition on Anne Frank and other young diarists, a human rights gallery, a collection of paintings by Holocaust survivor Samuel Bak, and a Dutch rescue boat from World War II, among other moving exhibits.

Sports Venues

minute maid park houston.

Sports lovers can catch a game at numerous venues in Houston, from baseball’s Minute Maid Park (home of the Astros) to the nearby Toyota Center, where the NBA’s Rockets play. Texans football games and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo are held at NRG Stadium.

Buffalo Soldiers National Museum

buffalo soldiers museum houston.

One of the lesser-known things to do in Houston is a visit to the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, which celebrates the military contributions of the African Americans who served in the U.S. Army after the Civil War.

Houston Center for Contemporary Craft

artist at houston center for contemporary craft.

Another unique Houston attraction is the Center for Contemporary Craft, where you can see rotating displays of ceramics, metalwork, jewelry, fiber art, and more. You can also meet the center’s artists in residence and get a look inside their studios.

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Sarah Schlichter was hosted by Marriott and Visit Houston. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration. June Naylor contributed to this story.

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Arts & Culture Cities Food & Drink Weekend Getaways

How to Do a Weekend in Houston

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America’s fourth-largest city is brimming with fun ways to fill a weekend, from world-class cuisine to a vibrant art scene. Check out this Houston weekend guide for a sampler of some of the best sights and eats around town.

The Hotel: Marriott Marquis Houston

marriott marquis houston pool deck.

It’s hard to find a more centrally located hotel than the Marriott Marquis Houston, located within easy walking distance of the convention center, Discovery Green, Minute Maid Park, Toyota Center, and the city’s downtown core. And it’s got just about every amenity you can think of for a weekend in Houston, from one of the city’s largest spas to multiple on-site restaurants and a 24-hour fitness center.

But its most distinctive feature is the sprawling pool deck, where you can float along a lazy river shaped like the state of Texas. (Pool-view rooms on the higher floors are understandably popular.) The area also has a hot tub and infinity pool.

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The Itinerary: How to Do a Weekend in Houston

houston weekend guide.

Friday

Arrive in the afternoon and check into the Marriott Marquis. Enjoy a late-afternoon stroll through Discovery Green, a large park located right across the street, or spend a few hours at the hotel, enjoying a spa treatment or a ride along the lazy river.

You’ve got a couple of options for the evening. If you’re a sports lover and the Astros are in town, grab dinner at Biggio’s Sports Bar, located in the Marriott and named after the Astros’ former all-star second baseman (who occasionally stops by for a visit). Popular menu options include burgers, tacos, and flatbreads. Then make your way to Minute Maid Park for the game, just a short walk away.

Your other alternative is to take a quick Uber or cab ride to Rosie Cannonball, a brand-new Italian restaurant in the Montrose, Houston’s funky “gayborhood.” There are excellent options for vegetarians here, from the wood-fired three-cheese pizza to the delicious charred brassica, featuring broccolini, cauliflower, and endives in a lira rossa cheese sauce. Non-vegetarian dishes include Basque-style chicken with braised tomatoes and sweet peppers, and wood-grilled bone-in steak.

Right next door to Rosie Cannonball is Goodnight Charlie’s, a modern-day honky-tonk where you can listen to live music, have a drink, and play a game of shuffleboard on the outdoor patio.

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Saturday

Today you’ll get to see some of Houston’s most unique sites. Start with breakfast in the gorgeous dining room of The Kitchen at the Dunlavy, where chandeliers glitter overhead and the floor-to-ceiling windows are surrounded by the green trees of Buffalo Bayou. Menu options here range from omelets to avocado toast.

If it’s a pleasant morning, join the locals walking or jogging along the bayou to get to your next stop (it’s about a 40-minute walk), or take a quick ride over to the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern, a former 1920s-era subterranean drinking water reservoir that is now open for tours. The shadowy lighting and hundreds of concrete columns make for otherworldly, almost eerie photos. Advance reservations are recommended.

Walk about 10 minutes north to Platypus Brewing for lunch and a pint of craft beer. Then spend the afternoon exploring Houston’s growing local art scene. One option is to visit a trio of visionary art sites: the Orange Show, Smither Park, and the Beer Can House.

The Orange Show is a fantastical space built by a retired postal worker between 1956 and 1979 to promote his favorite fruit, the orange; its eclectic design includes colorful metalwork, circus-style striped tents, wagon wheels meant to represent the cross-section of an orange, and inspirational messages written in mosaic tiles.

Right next door is Smither Park, a community park full of colorful mosaics created by some 300 local artists. On the other side of town (about a 15-minute drive away), the Beer Can House is also worth a stop; as its name suggests, it’s a home that’s been covered in some 50,000 flattened aluminum cans, including garlands that make a tinkling sound in the wind.

If you’re in town on the second Saturday of the month, consider spending your afternoon at Sawyer Yards instead. Here a cluster of former industrial warehouses has been transformed into studio space for hundreds of Houston artists, and on the second Saturday of the month, they open their doors to visitors. Choose a building and wander in, enjoying the exhibition space in the main halls and keeping an eye out for “open” signs outside the doors to one colorful studio after another. It’s a great chance to chat with the artists and even pick up a new art piece for your home.

Have dinner at nearby Poitin, featuring a Southern menu with global influences. Popular menu items include the shrimp and grits, the buttermilk-fried chicken tikka masala, and the vegan jambalaya with seasonal vegetables. Don’t miss the crispy Brussels sprouts, whose cane syrup vinaigrette and queso fresco offer the perfect combination of sweet and savory.

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Sunday

Start your day with brunch at Breakfast Klub, a Houston institution beloved for its two signature dishes: “katfish” and grits, and wings and waffles. Omelets, breakfast sandwiches, and platters are also available.

Today you’ve got your choice of museums and major attractions to explore. Consider driving about 30 minutes outside of town to Space Center Houston, where you can tour astronaut training facilities, peek inside a model of the International Space Station, and discover what it takes to travel to Mars.

You’ll find plenty of other alternatives in Houston’s Museum District, where you can marvel over dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural Science, stroll the wide-ranging galleries at the Museum of Fine Arts, or learn about 20th-century Jewish history at the Holocaust Museum.

End your Houston weekend with high tea at the St. Regis Hotel. This elegant mid-afternoon affair is accompanied by live harp music and includes sandwiches, pastries, and a fresh, warm scone alongside your choice of teas.

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Restaurants and Bars

Things to Do

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Sarah Schlichter was hosted by Marriott and Visit Houston during her weekend in Houston. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.

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Arts & Culture Cities Food & Drink Historical Travel

Hidden Philadelphia: 10 Under-the-Radar Gems Worth Discovering

You’ve snapped a selfie with the Liberty Bell, toured the hallowed halls where the Declaration of Independence was signed, and climbed Rocky’s steps up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. But that doesn’t mean you’ve seen everything the City of Brotherly Love has to offer. Travelers with extra time to explore can head off the beaten path to discover the gems of hidden Philadelphia—including vibrantly colored murals, museums full of unexpected treasures, and one of the country’s oldest candy shops. Below are a few of my favorite Philadelphia hidden gems.

Shofuso Japanese House and Garden

shofuso japanese house and garden philadelphia

Tucked away in Philadelphia’s massive Fairmount Park is Shofuso, a 17th-century-style Japanese house that was built in Nagoya in 1953, exhibited at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, and then moved to Philadelphia in 1957. Its traditional Japanese garden, complete with a pond, stone lanterns, and a small waterfall, is one of the city’s most serene spots. You can take off your shoes and walk through the house to appreciate the murals, created by contemporary Japanese artist Hiroshi Senju.

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National Museum of American Jewish History

national museum of american jewish history philadelphia

Did you know that the first permanent Jewish settlers in America came not from Europe but from Brazil, all the way back in 1654? That’s just one of many new things I learned at the National Museum of American Jewish History, which isn’t hidden so much as hidden in plain sight. It’s got a prime location just across the street from Independence Mall, and yet it was surprisingly quiet during my recent weekend visit. The museum is a fascinating place for travelers interested in history and culture, telling the stories of Jewish people in the U.S. from the American Revolution to the Holocaust and beyond.

Mural Arts Tours

philadelphia muses mural

As you wander around Philadelphia, it’s not uncommon to turn a corner and happen upon a colorful mural wall overlooking a parking lot or community garden. Many of these were created as a part of Mural Arts Philadelphia, which works with artists and local communities to produce up to 100 public art projects each year.

You can check them out on a guided tour by trolley, train, or foot, learning about the artists and inspiration behind each mural. Can’t make it for a guided tour? Mural Arts offers maps so you can take your own self-guided walking tour.

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The Rosenbach

woman at rosenbach museum philadelphia

Literature lovers won’t want to miss a stop at The Rosenbach, where you can see a re-creation of the poet Marianne Moore’s New York City living room, discover the personal letters of George Washington, and marvel over James Joyce’s Ulysses manuscript. These and other rare books and documents are displayed in a 19th-century townhouse near Rittenhouse Square, amid a collection of decorative arts and antique furniture.

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

magic gardens courtyard philadelphia

Once threatened with demolition to make way for a cross-town highway, South Street has since become one of Philadelphia’s hippest districts, thanks in large part to visionaries like Isaiah Zagar—the artist behind Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. While you can spot Zagar’s mosaic artwork on hundreds of walls across the city, his most celebrated achievement is this unique conglomeration of colorful mosaic tiles and found objects such as bottles and bike tires, covering every square inch of what was once a vacant lot. Zagar began working on the site in 1991, and it opened to the public in 2008.

In addition to tours, PMG also offers special events including family programs, happy hours, and meditation workshops.

University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

penn museum philadelphia with spring flowering trees

Often called simply the Penn Museum, this institution on the University of Pennsylvania campus is the spot to marvel over Egyptian mummies, Middle Eastern funerary relics, Greek pottery, Roman statues, and other treasures of the ancient world. Highlights include the headdress and jewelry of Puabi (a Mesopotamian queen) and Sumerian cuneiform tablets with some of the world’s oldest examples of writing.

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Shane Confectionery

shane confectionery shop phliadelphia

Indulge your sweet tooth at Shane Confectionery, which claims to be America’s oldest candy store. Located at the eastern edge of Old City, the store has been serving up chocolates and other sugary confections since 1863. Employees in period dress ring up your purchases at antique cash registers, just as they would have in the old days.

Be sure to go all the way to the back of the shop to the Chocolate Cafe, where you can sip drinking chocolate spiced with cinnamon, orange zest, jasmine petals, or even chili pepper. If all that isn’t sweet enough, you can stop next door at the Franklin Ice Cream Bar for a Keystone Bar dipped in chocolate from Shane Confectionery.

Schuylkill River Trail

schuylkill banks boardwalk philadelphia

Join the locals for a jog, walk, or bike ride along the Schuylkill River Trail, which follows the river for about 10 miles through Philadelphia, passing by the Museum of Art and the University of Pennsylvania along the way. (The full trail covers some 60 miles, extending well outside the city.) One particularly popular section is the Boardwalk, which continues the trail out over the river from Locust Street to South Street. This 2,000-foot stretch offers four scenic overlooks where you can stop, rest, and take in the city skyline.

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National Liberty Museum

national liberty museum flame gallery

The family-friendly National Liberty Museum tells the stories of inspiring figures from around the globe, including Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, and the heroes of September 11, 2001—as well as “ordinary citizens who make a difference” such as teachers and firefighters. The recently renovated Flame Gallery features a monumental, 21-foot glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly. The museum is located just a few blocks from Independence Hall and is one of the area’s hidden gems.

[st_related]Philadelphia Travel Guide[/st_related]

South 9th Street Italian Market

south 9th street italian market philadelphia

Escape the crowds at Center City’s Reading Terminal Market with a stroll down 9th Street in South Philly. Here’s where you’ll find the Italian Market, one of America’s oldest open-air markets. Shops and sidewalk stalls offer up everything from fresh produce and meats to infused olive oils and specialty cheeses. Visiting at lunchtime? There are plenty of restaurants in the area as well, including the city’s most famous cheesesteak joints: Pat’s and Geno’s.

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Sarah Schlichter was hosted by Visit Philadelphia in her quest to discover hidden Philadelphia. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.

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Arts & Culture Booking Strategy Budget Travel Cities Historical Travel Luxury Travel Student Travel Weekend Getaways

10 Best Hotels in Boston

Boston attracts tops scholars, business travelers, and tourists from the globe-trotting set, lending its hotels a sophisticated atmosphere.

The Best Hotels in Boston

Instead of being concentrated in one area, Boston luxury hotels and boutique accommodations are found throughout the city’s diverse neighborhoods. We’ve handpicked the best hotels in Boston, so no matter what area you want to explore most, you can find the perfect spot to lay your head.

[viator_tour destination=”678″ type=”3-mod”]

The Liberty, A Luxury Collection Hotel

[st_content_ad]The Liberty originally opened its doors in 1851 as the Charles Street Jail, housing some of the city’s most notorious criminals. It closed as a prison in 1990. You may not file a jail under “Boston luxury hotels,” but The Liberty painstakingly fuses comfortable modernity with preserved historic elements (you’ll find jail cells within the hotel restaurant). The former exercise yard is now a private courtyard.

Ask the hotel concierge for a historical tour. Onsite restaurants like Scampo from Boston-based Lydia Shire provide world-class dining. From the hotel, you’re ideally positioned to explore the Charles River Esplanade and the posh Beacon Hill neighborhood.

Amenities: Sparkling wine welcome beverage, two waters daily, Molton Brown bath products, bathrobes, floor-to-ceiling windows, overnight shoeshine, Wi-Fi, pet beds, morning coffee in lobby, 24-hour fitness center, bicycles and kayaks (seasonal), jogging maps, running concierge (seasonal), Saturday yoga (seasonal), and business center.

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XV Beacon

Housed in a Beaux Arts building on the National Registry of Historic Places, XV Beacon is steps from the Boston Common and Faneuil Hall. Inside, you’ll find an original caged-glass elevator and museum-worthy artworks, such as an ancient Roman mosaic and works by Gilbert Stuart.

The individually designed rooms are each decorated with pieces especially commissioned for the hotel. In warm weather, visit the rooftop deck to soak in the sun or step outside to stroll along Beacon Hill’s gas-lamp-lined brick sidewalks.

Amenities: Gas fireplaces, rainforest showers, Frette linens and robes, heated towel racks, cashmere throws, evening turndown service, custom bath amenities, complimentary shoe shine and newspapers, free Wi-Fi, umbrellas, pet-friendly rooms with bed and homemade biscuits, 24-hour concierge and room service, 24-hour fitness center, and courtesy Lexus.

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Kimpton Nine Zero

Not only is the centrally located Kimpton Nine Zero one of the best hotels in Boston, it also has some of the best views in Boston. All rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows, but opt for a Skyline View Room or Suite for sweeping views of the city.

If you’re traveling with your four-legged companion, you’ll find a plush bed, food and water bowls, a list of pet-friendly area attractions, courtesy bags for walking your dog, and more in your room. There’s no limit on the number of pets and no charge. There are plenty of perks for pet-free travelers, too, like the hosted evening wine hour.

Amenities: Complimentary morning coffee and tea, custom-designed PUBLIC bicycles, Frette linens, bathrobes, complimentary newspaper of your choice, complimentary shoe shine, in-room yoga mat, Highball Lounge, in-room spa services, concierge, 24-hour fitness and business centers, and 24-hour room service. 

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Ames Boston Hotel

The Ames Building, on the National Register of Historic Places, was constructed in 1893 and is considered the city’s first skyscraper. Now it’s the state’s first Curio, A Collection by Hilton. Oversize windows look out on historic landmarks like the Custom House Bell Tower, Faneuil Hall, and the Old State House. Bruins fans will want to check in to the Bobby Orr Suite, decked out in black and gold, and lined with hockey memorabilia. Pop by Culitvar from Chef Mary Dumont, who uses ingredients from the onsite Freight Farm hydroponic garden.

Amenities: White marble bathrooms, iHome clocks and docking stations, soothing sound machines, Molton Brown bath amenities, in-room spa services, in-room coffee maker, complimentary bicycles (seasonal), free Wi-Fi, 24-hour fitness center, concierge, pet-friendly rooms, decorative fireplaces, and historic Romanesque arched windows.

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Boston Harbor Hotel

The Boston Harbor Hotel takes the cake for Boston luxury hotels. Arrive by land or sea at this Rowes Wharf icon. The 60-foot archway leads you between the waterfront and the city’s Rose Kennedy Greenway. Light-flooded rooms are decorated in whites and blues, reflecting the seaside location. The staff, many of whom have been with the hotel since its opening, have thought of every detail. Even if you forgot to pack gym clothes, there are shorts, shirts, and socks available to fitness center guests. 

Amenities: Harbor or city views from every room, marble bathrooms, twice-daily housekeeping with nightly turndown, Lorenzo Villoresi Firenze bath amenities, in-room illy coffee machine, Frette linens, in-room tablets, spa with 60-foot lap pool, Jacuzzi, fitness center with complimentary fruit and beverages, saunas and steam rooms, choice of newspapers, three onsite restaurants and bars, 24-hour concierge services and business center, 24-hour in-room dining, gift shop, free Wi-Fi, children’s amenities, water taxi service, and complimentary transportation within a two-mile radius.

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The Langham, Boston

Once home to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, The Langham Boston is still located in the Financial District. The hotel offers glimpses into its 1920s past, but modern amenities keep you firmly rooted in the present. Each room has views of either Norman B. Leventhal Park at Post Office Square or the Boston skyline.

Amenities: Twice-daily housekeeping service, bathrobe and slippers, complimentary newspapers upon request, Italian marble bathrooms, Chuan Spa bath amenities, Chuan Body + Soul spa, heated indoor pool, 24-hour fitness center, whirlpool, sauna, three onsite restaurants and bars, free Wi-Fi, iHome docking station, 24-hour private kitchen, and in-room coffee and tea.

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Battery Wharf Hotel, Boston Waterfront

Located in Boston’s North End neighborhood along the Harborwalk, Battery Wharf Hotel embraces its seaside locale. Visit the onsite Maritime Museum or take in the fleet outside your windows from the 24-hour observation deck. Rooms overlook the neighboring U.S. Coast Guard Base, waterfront, or North End. Part of Leading Hotels of the World, Battery Wharf is also home to Aragosta Bar + Bistro, offering a twist on New England classics.

 Amenities: Granite bathrooms, spa with hammam and sauna, Zen lounge, discounts at Exhale Spa, use of Battery Wharf bicycles (seasonal), 24-hour health club access, use of universal chargers and travel adapters, in-room dining, fire pits, in-room water bottles, water taxi service to airport, free Wi-Fi, and complimentary outdoor yoga (seasonal).

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Four Seasons Hotel Boston

One of the top Boston luxury hotels, the Four Seasons overlooks Boston’s Public Garden in the Back Bay. The 273-room hotel exudes status. From the moment you walk up to the door, you’ll likely spot a few cars worth a double-take. A 15-million-dollar renovation in 2017 has further leveled up the luxury standard. Rooms offer soaring windows and proprietary mattresses designed in partnership with experts and consultations with guests.

Amenities: Marble bathrooms, L’Occitane bath amenities, bathrobes and slippers, daily bottled water, twice-daily housekeeping services, complimentary coffee and pastries, newspapers delivered upon request, 24-hour fitness center with running shoes and clothes available for loan, heated indoor pool and whirlpool with complimentary fruit and flavored water, steam room, sauna, 24-hour business center, concierge, movies, Bristol restaurant and bar, complimentary house car drop-off within two miles, complimentary cookie-making classes, complimentary amenities for teens and children, board games, overnight shoe shine, and babysitting services.

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Lenox Hotel

High ceilings, crystal lamps, wood-burning fireplaces—it’s this attention to detail that makes the Lenox one of the best Boston hotels. That attention applies not just to the furnishings, but to you, too. The hotel prides itself on personalized one-on-one service that allows you to make the most out of your Boston visit.

Amenities: Complimentary bottled water, complimentary newspapers, Beekman 1802 bath amenities, in-room mini fridges, 24-hour room service, nightly turndown service, complimentary morning coffee and tea, free Wi-Fi, 24-hour business center, three onsite restaurants and bars, pet-friendly rooms, Cue radio with Bluetooth, 24-hour fitness center, in-room spa treatments, bike and helmet rentals, and filtered water stations on every floor.

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InterContinental Boston

Overlooking the Fort Point Channel and the Rose Kennedy Greenway at the start of the hip Seaport District, InterContinental Boston places you in the ideal location for exploring this walkable city. The Boston Tea Party Museum is visible from the hotel, and the North End, Chinatown, and Quincy Market are all within walking distance. But what makes it one of the best hotels in Boston is the waterfront and skyline views from each room.

Amenities: Marble bathrooms, Agraria bath amenities, in-room coffee, complimentary newspapers, indoor heated lap pool, steam room, SPA InterContinetnal, 24-hour fitness center concierge services, gift shop and newsstand, limo and town car service, notary public service, 24-hour in-room dining, health club, three full-service restaurants, water tax service, and a 24-hour business center.

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– Original reporting by Kate Sitarz

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Adventure Travel Beach Booking Strategy Budget Travel Cities Food & Drink Historical Travel Island Outdoors Sustainable Travel

9 Hidden Cities in Asia for Your Bucket List

Tokyo, Beijing, Bangkok, Delhi—chances are some of the behemoth mega-cities in Asia have made it onto your bucket list. But you might not know about many of the still-massive metropolises hiding in plain sight across the continent.

Hidden Cities in Asia You Probably Don’t Know About

Little-known off-the-beaten-path Asia hubs like Suzhou, Surabaya, and Hue have just as much to offer, yet far fewer tourists. Here are the hidden cities in Asia you didn’t know you wanted to visit.

[st_related]10 Asian Cities That Should Be on Your Bucket List[/st_related]

Suzhou, China

suzhou china

[st_content_ad]Perhaps one of the most overlooked cities for China travel is the “Venice of China.” Just a 90-minute bullet train ride from towering Shanghai, Suzhou is a city of 10 million—bigger than some better-known cities in Asia like Seoul—that’s rife with bridged canals, exquisite gardens, and hilltop pagodas. The massive city (3,200 square miles) is super accessible for a weekend trip from Shanghai, and hasn’t quite joined the tourist track yet.

Where to Stay: Hotels in underrated Suzhou are ultra-affordable, meaning you can spend a lot less on a big-name luxury hotel that would normally be a splurge, like the Shangri-La Hotel Suzhou.

Chennai, India

Bigger than Kolkata and Jaipur, coastal Chennai might be the perfect introduction to overwhelming India’s colorful temples and fiery Tamil food. British colonial history runs deep here in the form of the East India Trading Company outpost turned museum, Fort St. George. Cathedrals and colonial museums meld with South Indian culture like Hindu temples and bustling Marina Beach, an urban swimming spot where locals and visitors alike love to sun themselves and swim in the Bay of Bengal.

Where to Stay: An Instagram-worthy hotel fit for a queen, the Leela Palace Chennai packs value and style just a five-minute walk from the beach.

Dhaka, Bangladesh

dhaka bangladesh

A very off-the-beaten-path Asia destination, the capital of Bangladesh is becoming more popular to travelers looking for undiscovered Mughal forts, colorful palaces, and intricately decorated mosques. One of the megacities in Asia, 100-square-mile Dhaka is home to over 8 million people.

Where to Stay: Live like a (futuristic) local by opting for apartment-style digs at Space Hotel and Apartments Dhaka, which have big kitchens and terraces for the best city views.

Yokohama, Japan

South of Tokyo, Japan’s port city of Yokohama is a smaller seaside option when it comes to cities in Asia for botanical gardens, skyscrapers, and a sprawling Chinatown. Yokohama’s waterfront, museums, and historic pagoda-style homes attract visitors already, but far fewer than overwhelming Asian cities like Tokyo and Hong Kong, so you can slow down and get more familiarized with the culture.

Where to Stay: Stylish Japan hotels don’t need to cost a fortune: Hotel JAL City Kennai in Yokohama is surprisingly affordable considering its roomy shared outdoor space and streamlined rooms put you right downtown near the wharf.

Incheon, South Korea

incheon, south korea

You might know Incheon as South Korea’s award-winning, high-tech airport, rather than the city home to almost three million people. Much smaller than Seoul, the city is a favorite for its island beaches, amusement parks, and a replica of New York’s Central Park: Songdo Central Park. Manmade lakes, parks, and markets make it a great stopover for family-friendly fun.

Where to Stay: Famously expensive South Korea is affordable if you’re staying at the sky-scraping Orakai Songdo Park Hotel, which visitors love for its pool and close proximity to Songdo Central Park.

Hangzhou, China

The capital of Zhejiang province, Hangzhou sits at the end of China’s Grand Canal and is home to scenic lakes, ancient cave temples, and cultural institutions like the National Tea Museum. Don’t miss the historic temples, gardens, and scenery here that date back centuries. Home to almost 10 million people, Hangzhou isn’t unknown to all—it gets its fair share of tourism. But this off–the-beaten-path Asia destination is an underrated city worth including in your trip plans.

Where to Stay: Another opportunity to book a typically expensive hotel in surprisingly affordable China, the Intercontinental Hangzhou starts at under $150 per night.

Surabaya, Indonesia

Sitting opposite well-known Jakarta on the island of Java, Surabaya, Indonesia is a smaller city that still boasts a diverse population of 2.8 million people. Adjacent to Bali, Surabaya’s unique scenery ranges from peaceful Javanese gardens and historic mosques to towering skyscrapers and Dutch colonial architecture. Museums, Buddhist temples, and a bustling Arab quarter make it an intriguing cultural stopover on the way to beach relaxation in Bali.

Where to Stay: Spend a lot less for luxury in super-affordable Surabaya by booking a five-star hotel like the Hotel Majapahit Surabaya, a white-washed property frequented for its day spa and close proximity to landmarks like Ampel Mosque.

Sapporo, Japan

sapporo japan

Perhaps the fastest-growing travel destination in the world right now, Sapporo, Japan is drawing attention for its well-known beer and winter activities like skiing and snow festivals.

TripAdvisor (SmarterTravel’s parent company) recently recognized the 433-square-mile city of two million people as its number-one locale for year-over-year search increase: TripAdvisor users showed 87 percent more interest in Japan than they did last year, and Sapporo saw the largest nation-wide growth with 143 percent more interest. This may mean it’s about to get a lot more touristy—so visit now while it’s still relatively unknown.

Where to Stay: The stylish Unwind Hotel&Bar beckons Sapporo visitors to do just that with rooftop fire pits, cozy internal decor like fireplaces and wood-paneled walls, and a bar/lounge where you can curl up with an inventive cocktail and fur blanket.

Hue, Vietnam

Vietnam’s intricate temples, tombs, and palaces are especially royal in Hue, a small city of 400,000 that was home to the Nguyen dynasty of the 19th century. Not far from Da Nang, a city of 1.4 million people, Hue is rife with historic sights like Khai Dinh Tomb and Thien Mu Pagoda, many viewable from a scenic boat tour along the Perfume River.

Where to Stay: Dynastic Hue calls for the royal treatment at a hotel like the Indochine Palace, which has a large pool and luxurious rooms near the Perfume River for a low nightly rate.

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SmarterTravel Editor Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her on Instagram at @shanmcmahon.

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Family Travel

Kid-to-Kid Travel Advice: Fun Things to Do in Berkeley with Kids

Berkeley may be best known for its world-class university and liberal politics, but it’s also a wonderland for kids. A visit to Berkeley with kids can mean constructing your own playground, feeding cows, or riding a (sculpture of a) whale.

Kids Give Advice: Activities in Berkeley with Kids

Kids know how to have fun. Here’s advice from 22 local kindergartners on the best places to go in Berkeley with kids.

Adventure Playground

Entrance to adventure playground
Berkeley’s Adventure Playground

[st_content_ad]Adventure Playground is a playground unlike any other. Here, kids can help imagine and build the actual playground. Existing wooden structures get new additions—checked out by the staff—daily. Kids can climb giant nets, swing from tires, scramble around on boats, explore structures, or help build and paint. There are also tables for kids who want to create take-home wooden projects.

What Kids Say: “Have you ever wanted to build your own playground? Go to Adventure Playground! You can ride a zip-line or, if you collect 10 nails, you can paint or build part of the playground yourself. It’s open on Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.” – Dylan and Dylan

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Bay Area Children’s Theater

Bay area children's theatre cast- beautiful oops
Bay Area Children’s Theatre Cast- Beautiful Oops

Shows at the Bay Area Children’s Theatre get kids excited about theater. Plays and musicals geared to kids include adaptations of popular books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Elephant and Piggy, and Pete the Cat. The BACT Berkeley Center is close to other Berkeley performance venues including Berkeley Rep and Freight and Salvage.

What Kids Say: “Did you know there are talking caterpillars in Berkeley? At the Bay Area Children’s Theatre, you can see Eric Carle’s Mr. Seahorse and other characters come to life. To plan your visit, visit bactheatre.org.” – Justin and Damari

The Berkeley Marina

Kite festival at the berkeley marina
Kite festival

With its 100+ acres of park space, seven miles of trails, and kid-favorite Adventure Playground, the Berkeley Marina is an ideal spot for families. The Marina is also home to a hotel, restaurants, the Shorebird Park Nature Center, and watersports classes.

What Kids Say: “Where can you see a pier and go fishing? At the Berkeley Marina. It’s also a great place to fly kites because it is so windy. The marina is a good place to go when it is sunny.” – Janiah and Baxter

Little Farm at Tilden Regional Park

Pig and children at little farm in tilden park
Little Farm in Tilden Park

Tilden Regional Park is full of family-friendly gems, including a miniature steam train, a merry-go-round, and a botanic garden. But it’s Little Farm that draws the most animal-loving kids. Pack celery and lettuce (the only approved items to feed these constantly snacking farm animals) and let kids visit with and feed cows, goats, and other animals. After you’ve done the Little Farm circuit, stop by the Environmental Education Center or go for a short hike to Jewel Lake.

What Kids Say: “Where can you feed cows, sheep, and goats? The Little Farm! There are baby chicks running around and hungry cows to feed. You can also feed goats and sheep, so bring lots of lettuce and celery. It’s open every day until 4:30 p.m.” – Keira and Jacob

Berkeley Farmers Market

Berkeley farmers market
Berkeley Farmers Market

Three farmers’ markets a week—with locations all over Berkeley—offer up the abundance of local farms year-round. Visitors to Berkeley with kids can explore, sample, snack, and play. Stock up on picnic supplies or find local items to take home as souvenirs. Ready-to-eat prepared foods and live music keep kids coming back.

What Kids Say: “From fresh fruits to warm croissants, the farmers’ market has yummy smells and tastes. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, you can eat lots of fruits and vegetables, hear live music, and buy treats. On Saturdays, it is open from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. On Tuesdays, the hours are 2:00 to 6:30 p.m. And on Thursdays, the farmers’ market is open from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m.” – Adeline and Eliza

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University of California, Berkeley

UC berkeley campus
UC Berkeley Campus

The UC Berkeley campus is the thriving heart of Berkeley. Kids love to race along the tree-lined paths, explore creeks and bridges, and lounge alongside students on the expansive grassy areas. Prefer something a little more structured? Sign up for a free public walking tour, available every day of the week at 10:00 a.m.

What Kids Say: “Where can you find a bunch of students or a Cal party? At UC Berkeley. You can have lots of fun on campus. You can go to Cal Day, or see dinosaur bones, or go to the top of the Campanile. It is open every day but not at night.” – Anna and Maya

The Berkeley Art Museum

doing art at the berkeley museum
Berkeley Art Museum

The Berkeley Art Museum has settled into its new digs downtown, close to all the action (and easily accessible by BART). Classes and the art lab let kids get hands-on with art. Best of all for families, the museum is free for kids 18 and under—and each child 13 and under can bring a grownup into the museum for free.

What Kids Say: “Where could you find amazing artwork in Berkeley? At the Berkeley Art Museum. The museum is closed on Monday and Tuesday.” – Laila and Wilson

Lawrence Hall of Science

nventors lab at the lawrence hall of science
Inventors Lab at the Lawrence Hall of Science

This popular science museum perched on the hill above the UC Berkeley campus yields kid-centric science exhibits and great Bay Area views. The Lawrence Hall of Science features exhibits that encourage kids to touch, climb, design, build, and test. Natural science comes alive for kids at this beloved center.

What Kids Say: “Where can you go to climb on a whale and see a view of the Bay Area? The Lawrence Hall of Science. Watch movies about sea monsters or make paper airplanes here. But the best part is climbing on the huge blue whale outside. The Lawrence Hall of Science is open every day except Monday.” – Raydan and Payson

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Cheeseboard Bakery and Pizza

Cheeseboard collective exterior
Berkeley’s Cheeseboard Collective

This Berkeley institution serves up baked goods in the morning, a global selection of cheese throughout the day, and, next door, pizza in the afternoon and evening. Next door to the Cheeseboard Bakery and Cafe, Cheeseboard Pizza serves up one kind of vegetarian pizza each day. The usually long line feels festive with the addition of live jazz.

What Kids Say: “What makes people crowd around the block? Pizza! There’s only one Cheeseboard in the whole world. In the morning, you can find fresh baked goods like cheese rolls, chocolate things, and pecan rolls. Yum! It is open every day except Sunday and Monday and is on Shattuck Avenue.” – Stella and Augie

Berkeley Public Library – Central Branch

Berkeley public library central branch
Berkeley Public Library Central Branch

An entire floor is dedicated to kids and children’s books at the Central branch of the Berkeley Public Library. The 1930s Moderne-style building and its contemporary addition offer enough room to read, play, and learn. The children’s library features a story room, kid-friendly decorative touches, and librarians who give great advice about reading.

What Kids Say: “Where can you go to be surrounded by thousands of imaginary worlds? The Berkeley Library! You can read all kinds of books, from storybooks to chapter books. The Berkeley Library has it all and it’s open every day of the week.” – Juno and Julian

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Live Oak Park

Sign at live oak park in berkeley
Berkeley’s Live Oak Park

Live Oak Park is part community gathering place, part playground, and part urban nature adventure. At this great place to go in Berkeley with kids, you’ll find two playgrounds plus basketball courts and a community center with a theater and art gallery. Bisecting the park is a creek with paths, bridges, and picnic areas in the shade of tall trees. A large grassy area provides room to run, play, and lounge.

What Kids Say: “Where can you play in water and climb under bridges? At Live Oak Park. There’s something for everyone: a twisty slide, bridges that cross over a creek, and swings. It’s open every day and the best time to come is on a sunny day.” – Wynn and Simon

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Arts & Culture Cities Historical Travel

23 Must-See Washington, D.C. Attractions

To many visitors, Washington, D.C. is another world—one where politicians are like rock stars and where even the most cynical citizens feel patriotic at the sight of the Capitol Building lit up at night. Washington is also a place where history happens before your eyes. You can visit the Senate and House chambers to see government in action. You can stand where Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. You can visit dozens of monuments dedicated to the people and events who shaped this country. But history and politics aren’t the only Washington, D.C. attractions worth seeing.

Washington, D.C. Attractions

You could spend your entire visit just exploring the 19 museums of the Smithsonian, all free of charge. And don’t forget the city’s green spaces; join the local joggers and dog-walkers along the National Mall, or visit in early spring to see the fluffy pink blooms of the cherry trees along the Tidal Basin, a gift from Japan in 1912. For the essential places to visit in Washington, D.C., keep reading—and start planning.

U.S. Capitol

washington, d.c. attractions

[st_content_ad]The U.S. Capitol is the seat of the legislative branch of the U.S. government. If you would like to visit the House or Senate chambers to see the politicians in action—highly recommended—write or call your Congressperson’s office before your trip for passes. You may be able to get passes at the last minute by visiting his or her office in person (a directory near the ticket booth will tell you where your representative’s office is located). International visitors can visit the galleries by stopping by the House and Senate Appointment Desks in the Capitol Visitor Center. To see the rest of the majestic building, take a free guided tour, not including the chambers, with guides outlining the history and architecture.

National Mall

washington, d.c. attractions

Monuments and memorials are some of the most vital things to see in Washington D.C. Most are clustered in and around the National Mall, which runs about two miles from the Lincoln Memorial to the U.S. Capitol, with plenty of grassy area in between (the setting for festivals, Frisbee matches, rallies, picnics, and protests). The space was planned by original Washington designer Pierre L’Enfant as a grand boulevard and place for remembrance, observance, and protest.

Lincoln Memorial

washington, d.c. attractions

The Lincoln Memorial was dedicated in 1922 and overlooks the Reflecting Pool, the Washington Monument, and the U.S. Capitol. Inside the Greek temple design, with its 36 columns, is a 19-foot marble statue of the 16th president. The memorial was also an important backdrop for the Civil Rights Movement, including Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Jefferson Memorial

washington, d.c. attractions

Located in a structure reminiscent of the Pantheon, the Jefferson Memorial displays a 19-foot bronze statue of the third President of the United States. The memorial was dedicated in 1943, and includes one of Jefferson’s favorite design elements, the rotunda, in its structure.

Washington Monument

washington, d.c. attractions

The Washington Monument stands 555 feet above the Mall, an Egyptian-style obelisk completed in 1884 as a tribute to George Washington. Around the base are 50 flagpoles representing each state. Access to the top is closed until spring 2019 for elevator modernization.

Other Memorials and Monuments

washington, d.c. attractions

Other memorials and monuments of note include the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, located along the Tidal Basin; the powerful Vietnam Veterans Memorial, near Constitution Gardens; and the National World War II Memorial, on the eastern end of the Reflecting Pool.

White House

washington, d.c. attractions

The White House has been the home of every U.S. president since John Adams. The White House currently offers tours only for those who make advance reservations through a member of Congress. You can apply up to three months before your trip.

Smithsonian Museums

washington, d.c.

The 19 museums of the Smithsonian Institution are free of charge and can easily occupy several days of Washington, D.C. sightseeing. Which you chose to visit is up to your personal interests, but I highly recommend the National Air and Space Museum, where you’ll find such icons of flight as the original Wright Flyer, the Spirit of St. Louis, SpaceShipOne, and the Apollo 11 command module.

The newest Smithsonian institution—and one of the hottest Washington, D.C. attractions right now—is the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which offers a moving, comprehensive overview from the arrival of the first African slaves to the present day. Check the website for ticket policies, as you may need to book in advance.

National Zoo

washington, d.c. attractions

The giant pandas are the main draw at the National Zoo, also part of the Smithsonian system. In addition, there are thousands of other exotic animals and a re-creation of the Amazon rainforest.

Art Museums

washington, d.c. attractions

The National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum share a building (at 8th and F Streets NW) constructed in 1836 as the U.S. Patent Office. The Portrait Gallery highlights famous Americans from George Washington (the famous “Landsdowne” portrait) to Marilyn Monroe and Shaquille O’Neal; one newer addition is a portrait of President Obama. The American Art Museum boasts one of the largest collections of American art in the world, including works by Edward Hopper and Georgia O’Keeffe.

Washington, D.C. attractions for art lovers include the free National Gallery of Art, which has in its West Wing a collection of international masterpieces from the 13th to 19th centuries and in its East Wing a collection of modern and contemporary art. The Phillips Collection was the first modern art museum in the U.S., and is where you’ll find Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party,” as well as works by Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse, O’Keeffe, Degas, and more.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

washington, d.c. attractions

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum may be the single most rewarding and emotionally harrowing of Washington, D.C. attractions. Plan a half day to see the museum and then recover from the devastating exhibits on display. The museum traces the history of the Jewish persecution under the Nazis from 1933 to 1945 through artifacts, photos, and oral histories. From March through August, timed passes are required to view the permanent exhibition, with free passes given out on a first-come, first-served basis. You can avoid the lines by purchasing passes on the museum’s site in advance for a small fee.

Kennedy Center

washington, d.c. attractions

For a night out, see what’s on at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the nation’s top performing arts facility. Even if you don’t want to spring for a ticket, there are free theatrical and musical performances offered daily at 6:00 p.m.

International Spy Museum

washington, d.c. attractions

If you’re looking for Washington, D.C. attractions that you won’t find anywhere else, visit the unique International Spy Museum. It explores the craft, practice, history, and role of espionage, and serves up an impressive collection of espionage-related artifacts—like lipstick guns and cufflink compasses. Interactive experiences include Operation Spy, which combines special effects and live action to help participants feel what it’s like to be a spy. Lines to get in can be long during busy tourist seasons, so book your tickets in advance (for an extra fee) to avoid the wait.

Ford’s Theatre

washington, d.c. attractions

You can still catch a play at Ford’s Theatre, where President Lincoln was assassinated. Or just come by for a tour of this historic site—you’ll walk through the theater itself as well as the house across the street where Lincoln died.

Cathedral and Basilica

washington, d.c. attractions

There are several two religious Washington, D.C. attractions worth noting. The Washington National Cathedral has not only a stunning stained-glass windows and extensive needlepoint collection, but also a gargoyle in the shape of Darth Vader (you’ll need binoculars to see it). Another church worth a visit is the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest Roman Catholic Church in the U.S.

Library of Congress

washington, d.c. attractions

Bibliophiles won’t want to miss a visit to the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library. You can check out the historic building’s grand architecture and look out over the beautiful Main Reading Room. Free guided tours are available.

Mount Vernon

washington, d.c. attractions

Mount Vernon, George Washington’s mansion and estate, overlooks the Potomac River about 16 miles from the city. George and Martha lived in the mansion after their marriage in 1759. You can visit the 21-room mansion house and more than a dozen outbuildings including the slave quarters, stables, and kitchen, as well as a working farm. The gardens offer a lovely setting for a stroll. Just three miles away, George Washington’s Distillery and Gristmill is open seasonally for a look at the first president’s entrepreneurial spirit.

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—Original reporting by Fran Golden

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The 10 Best Day Trips from Phoenix

Within a few hours of Phoenix, you can discover wineries, natural wonders, mining towns turned into artist colonies, and more. Rent a car, and discover one of these enticing day trips from Phoenix.

The Best Day Trips from Phoenix

Thanks to its location in the center of the state, Phoenix is a good base for day trips to many parts of Arizona. In some cases, you might want to add an overnight to stretch your Phoenix day trip a little longer.

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Grand Canyon National Park

[st_content_ad]If you have time for only one day trip from Phoenix, make it a journey to the Grand Canyon. Even though the drive is four hours each way, a few hours at the South Rim is enough time to stop at the scenic overlooks and explore a few of the visitor centers and museums there.

You may also have enough time to hike just below the rim, rent bicycles to explore the national park, or enjoy lunch at El Tovar as you gaze out over the ancient rock walls.

Jerome

Located 100 miles north of Phoenix, Jerome nearly became a ghost town when the nearby mine closed in 1953. Hippies resurrected it during the 60s when they moved in and turned the hillside community into an arts colony.

Today, you can discover its mining past at the Jerome State Historic Park, browse the art galleries and shops, sample locally produced wines, and hunt for ghosts at the Jerome Grand Hotel, reportedly the most haunted hotel in the state.

Tombstone

Old west frontier town, tombstone, arizona

The legendary town of Tombstone is a Phoenix day trip you won’t want to miss, especially if you love the Old West. Many of the buildings, including the Bird Cage Theater and Big Nose Kate’s Saloon, date back to the days of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday.

For a fee, you can visit the O.K. Corral—the site of the famous gunfight between the Earp brothers, Holiday, and the Clanton gang—and watch a reenactment. Don’t miss the Boot Hill Graveyard, where the gunfight’s victims were buried.

Bisbee

School house inn, bisbee, arizona

Since Bisbee is just a half-hour south of Tombstone, it’s possible to visit both on a day trip from Phoenix. But if you love history, art galleries, and quirky characters, you may want to spend the whole day in Bisbee.

The Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum is one reason to allot plenty of time for a visit. A Smithsonian affiliate, it’s packed full of artifacts and information. You’ll also want time to take the Copper Queen Mine Underground Tour and admire the city’s Victorian architecture.

Tucson

One of the most popular day trips from Phoenix, Tucson has tons of attractions worth the drive, including the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, Mission San Xavier del Bac, and the Pima Air and Space Museum.

It was also the first city in the United States to be recognized as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy thanks to its 4,000 years of agricultural and culinary history. While in Tucson, sample a Sonoran dog, a hot dog wrapped in bacon and topped with pinto beans and cheese.

Flagstaff

Temperatures in Flagstaff average 20 degrees cooler than Phoenix throughout the year, making one of the best day trips from Phoenix for escaping the summer heat. Its historic downtown has boutique shops, great restaurants, and architecture from the early 1900s. You can also pick up a passport and spend time sampling craft beers on the Flagstaff Brewery Trail.

On Mars Hill, minutes from downtown, Lowell Observatory features the telescope used to discover Pluto and offers day and night viewing programs. The Museum of Northern Arizona houses more than five million Native American artifacts, natural science specimens, and fine art pieces.

Route 66

The mother road: historic route 66

Even though it no longer appears on most maps, you can drive portions of the infamous Mother Road through Arizona. On a day trip from Phoenix, start by retracing the well-marked route through Flagstaff. To the east, you can pick it up in Holbrook, Winslow, and Petrified Forest National Park.

West of Flagstaff, the main streets of Williams and Kingman were both once Route 66. In between the two, at Exit 139 from Interstate 40, you can drive the longest remaining continuous stretch of Route 66, complete with vintage signage. Stop at Seligman, the town that inspired Radiator Springs in the Pixar movie Cars.

Sedona

Known for its red-rock surroundings, Sedona combines outdoor adventure with art galleries, shopping, and a New Age vibe. Hiking and Jeep tours are two of the most popular ways to discover the unique terrain here, but you can also rent mountain bikes or take a helicopter tour for a bird’s-eye view.

There are a number of shops and art galleries along State Route 89A, and just before downtown, the Chapel of the Holy Cross, perched on the red rocks, is open to the public. You can also hunt for “vortexes,” or pockets of energy, using maps available online.

Sonoita

Arizona has three major wine regions, but some of the state’s best bottles are produced in the wineries surrounding Sonoita and neighboring Elgin, including Dos Cabezas, Canelo Hills, Kief-Joshua Vineyards, and Callaghan Vineyards. Designate a driver, and spend a day sampling Arizona wine.

Between tastings, consider a visit to Kartchner Caverns State Park, just 30 minutes away and considered one of the 10 most beautiful caves in the world. The tour is accessible, but strollers, pets, and cameras are not permitted. Some of the tours have age restrictions, too.

Tubac

Established in 1726, Tubac was the site of the first European settlement in Arizona and the starting point for Juan Bautista de Anza’s expedition to what became San Francisco. Today, the historic presidio showcases nearly 2,000 years of history.

But Tubac is more than a historical site. It’s an arts colony with more than 80 shops selling everything from hand-painted tiles to Mexican pottery, carved wooden furniture, and jewelry. The Tubac Golf Resort’s course was featured in the Kevin Costner movie Tin Cup.

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—Original reporting by Teresa Bitler

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10 Must-See San Diego Attractions

Deciding which places to visit in San Diego can be a daunting task. This sunny city offers world-class cultural experiences, theme parks aplenty, a vibrant food and beer scene, many of the country’s best beaches, and much, much more. Still, to those who know the city intimately, certain San Diego attractions do stand out above the rest; below are 10 you’ve got to see.

San Diego Attractions

The following San Diego points of interest have something to offer any type of traveler, from couples to kids.

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Balboa Park

things to do in san diego

[st_content_ad]When it comes to San Diego attractions, Balboa Park is the one you should not miss. As the city’s most important cultural destination and America’s biggest urban cultural park, it’s home to wonderful performing arts centers, as well as California’s best collection of museums. There are 16 of them here, including the Fleet Science Center, the San Diego Natural History Museum, the San Diego Museum of Art, the San Diego Air and Space Museum, the San Diego History Center, and the Botanical Building.

At the Museum of Man, climb 125 stairs into the iconic 200-foot-tall California Tower to get to its top deck, where you can see all the way to Mexico. Balboa Park also has wonderful outdoor spaces—the gorgeous Japanese Friendship Garden, five children’s playgrounds, three dog parks, tennis courts, a golf course, lawn bowling, and hiking and biking trails.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

The world-famous San Diego Zoo Safari Park is one of the most beloved San Diego attractions, and for good reason. This century-old institution in Balboa Park lets you meet its 3,500 animals on foot or via an engaging double-decker bus tour, a favorite especially among children. Don’t miss the hummingbird house, the elephant exhibit, the Skyfari aerial tram, or the safari tour during which you can see 300 roaming species, including cheetahs, giraffes, and lions.

Legoland

If you’re traveling to San Diego with children between the ages of 2 and 12, Legoland is a definite must-do. The 128-acre family theme park opened in 1999 and is primed for making memories, whether or not your kid is obsessed with the popular Danish bricks. Legoland has 60 exciting rides, plus engaging themed zones, wonderful shows, and worthwhile shops—not to mention thousands of Lego models created from millions of colorful bricks.

Highlights include the Legoland Water Park (bring bathing suits!), the Star Wars mini land, Sea Life Aquarium, Ninjago World and its interactive ride, and Deep Sea Adventure, a new submarine ride complete with live sharks and stingrays. Stay at the original Legoland Hotel or the brand-new Legoland Castle Hotel, with its three themed floors and ocean views.

SeaWorld San Diego

Sea world

SeaWorld is one of the most famous San Diego attractions, best known for its orca and dolphin shows. It’s also worth a visit for its many rides, excellent aquarium, and animal exhibits that get you eye-to-eye with penguins, sharks, and polar bears. For the littlest visitors, there’s a Sesame Street-themed area with rides and a parade.

Gaslamp Quarter

The Gaslamp Quarter is a lively 16-block district centered around dining and nightlife. This energetic neighborhood is simultaneously historic and modern, with preserved Victorian-era buildings alongside contemporary architecture.

The Gaslamp is one of the best San Diego attractions for socializing—it’s got trendy rooftop bars, hot new restaurants, and stylish lounges that stay thumping late into the night. Also here: unique shops, an array of excellent hotel options and upscale art galleries, plus the Padres’ Petco Park and the San Diego Convention Center, home of Comic Con.

La Jolla

best beaches in san diego

La Jolla means “the jewel” in Spanish, and there could not be a more appropriate name for this treasure of a town, perched on a scenic stretch of coastline. In addition to waterfront hotels, charming boutiques, and remarkable restaurants (such as George’s at the Cove), there are amazing beaches, like La Jolla Shores, and one-of-a-kind attractions, including the fascinating Birch Aquarium at Scripps.

Art lovers should check out the town’s public murals and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Down in La Jolla Cove, a protected marine enclave with sea caves and a kelp forest, adventurers dive, snorkel, and kayak among pelicans, seals, garibaldi, sharks, and rays.

Old Town San Diego

History buffs—and lovers of Mexican food—shouldn’t miss Old Town San Diego, a state historic park where old-timey exhibits and businesses pay tribute to California’s first people and the state’s Spanish settlers. Catch costumed docents giving demonstrations of quilting, blacksmithing, and carpentry, and play games that date back to the 1800s. You can also visit California’s first mission and try the authentic tacos at Casa Guadalajara or a tasty margarita at Cafe Coyote.

Little Italy

San Diego’s Little Italy district got its start when fishing immigrants from the Mediterranean landed here in the early 1900s. Food is important to Italians, so there are many wonderful restaurants here, including celebrity chef Richard Blais’s hotspot du jour, Juniper & Ivy.

Highlights in this hilly neighborhood include the San Diego Firehouse Museum, Amici Park and its recipe tables, and excellent nightlife spots like M Winehouse and Waterfront Bar. Don’t miss the lively Mercato Farmers’ Market every Saturday, where vendors hawk fresh fish, colorful fruits and vegetables, and bright flowers.

Seaport Village

Overlooking the harbor, Seaport Village is a waterfront shopping, dining, and entertainment complex featuring cobblestone sidewalks and ocean scenery. It’s a lively collection of more than 50 shops, more than a dozen casual eateries, four fine-dining restaurants, lots of live music, a historic carousel, and wow-worthy street performers.

Adjacent to Seaport Village is its sister property, The Headquarters, featuring unique boutiques, artisan food makers, and upscale restaurants like Puesto for fantastic tacos. As the restored site of the former San Diego Police headquarters, the center was once a jail, courtroom, and shooting range, so it’s got a tiny museum with preserved jail cells and a wall showcasing historical mugshots.

Cabrillo National Monument

A gem among San Diego points of interest, Cabrillo National Monument, now run by the National Park Service, commemorates the place where explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo became the first European to land on the U.S. West Coast in 1542.

Explore the teeming tidepools, check out the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, photograph the monument itself, stop in at the visitors’ center and gift shop, watch whales from shore, and inspect the onsite WWII bunker. Casual hikers will love the easy 2.5-mile Bayside Trail and its spectacular views over the Pacific.

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—Original reporting by Avital Andrews. Follow her on Twitter @avitalb.

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10 Fun Things to Do in San Diego

“Fun” and “San Diego” are practically synonymous, which is the reason most of its laid-back, life-loving population chooses to live here. There are endless things to do in San Diego, but the following 10 activities are ones you won’t want to miss.

Fun Things to Do in San Diego

For a memorable and varied trip, add the following San Diego activities to your must-do list.

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Taste Beer

things to do in maine beer trail

[st_content_ad]If you don’t have beer tasting on your list of things to do in San Diego, add it. The beer-making scene has exploded to the point that San Diego is now to American craft beer what Napa and Sonoma are to American wine. With more than 100 breweries within city limits, you could even theme your vacation around suds and hops. Make it a point to visit Karl Strauss, Ballast Point, Lost Abbey, and especially Stone Brewing Co.’s whimsical World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido.

San Diego’s breweries converge around Highway 78 (“Hops Highway”), along which small, independent microbreweries operate tasting rooms. On 30th Street (“Beer Boulevard”), pubs serve dozens of local beers, while the Mira Mesa district is home to excellent brewers like Rough Draft and Green Flash. To best experience the city’s thriving craft beer scene, book a tasting tour with Brew Hop, which gets you from taproom to taproom in safety and style.

Go Diving

best beaches in san diego

If you’re a dedicated scuba diver, you probably already know about San Diego’s Wreck Alley, an underwater treasure trove of sunken ships to explore. Lying 105 feet under sea level is the 366-foot-long HMCS Yukon, a Canadian destroyer that transformed into an artificial reef after it sank. Divers brave these depths to get a close-up look at the ship’s old deck and gun turrets, and to swim through its light-filled hallways.

The protected La Jolla Cove is another world-class dive site—its kelp forest teems with garibaldi, leopard sharks, bat rays, and shellfish. If you’re interested in what’s underwater but would rather stay up top, La Jolla Cove is also a great place to snorkel alongside the seals.

See Whales

Sea world

When you’re thinking through things to do in San Diego, don’t forget that from mid-December through April, some 20,000 gray whales travel through these waters during their annual migration from Alaska to Mexico and back. If you’re here between mid-June and September, you’ll see blue whales instead—a group of at least 2,000 of these 100-foot-long behemoths frequent San Diego’s coast during the summer months.

Viewing from shore can be fantastic, but for a truly exhilarating experience, board one of the small boats operated by Hornblower or Flagship for a harbor excursion during which an experienced captain steers you out toward these endangered giants. At SeaWorld, you can see captive orcas and belugas up close, and at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, you can take a whale-watching tour with a marine biologist, then hang out at the aquarium to get to know other types of marine life.

Go Hiking

San diego, california

When planning out your San Diego activities, don’t forget to leave time in your itinerary for exploring the city’s stunning landscape on foot. Much of San Diego is quite spectacular, and its outdoor jewels are best experienced at a walking pace.

San Diego’s best place to hike is gorgeous Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, where windswept bluffs meet the bluest of skies and seas. If you’re heading out around dusk, point your compass toward scenic Sunset Cliffs National Park, strap on your hiking boots, and get ready to enjoy a magnificent way to bid the sun adieu.

Hang 10

What to pack for san diego

San Diego is, of course, a surfer’s paradise. There are dozens of stellar beaches where you can ride the Pacific waves, whether you’re a lifelong pro or just a beginner. Bring your own surfboard and saunter into the saltwater at your leisure. If you would rather borrow a board and need a few pointers, book with Surf Diva at La Jolla Shores—you’ll be up and gliding in no time.

Ride a Bike

san diego travel guide

San Diegans love to stay fit and active, and bicycles are one of their favorite ways to get around. Join the tanned, toned crowd at Mission Bay Park or on the boardwalk along Mission Beach.

Take a Side Trip to Mexico

Transportation in tijuana: san diego trolley

If you’ve traveled a long way to visit San Diego, you may as well travel a bit farther to be able to say you’ve visited Mexico too. The San Diego Trolley’s Blue Line stretches the 20 miles down to the border for a memorable Tijuana day trip. Consider stopping at Barrio Logan along the way—it’s a vibrant and artistic Mexican-American neighborhood whose Chicano Park murals are one of the newest National Historic Landmarks.

Get Cultured

San diego, ca

What to do in San Diego? Immerse yourself in culture at beautiful Balboa Park, where more than a dozen engaging cultural institutions include the San Diego Museum of Art, the San Diego History Center, the Museum of Man, and a beautiful Botanical Building. There are frequent multicultural festivals and performances at America’s largest urban cultural park, as well as the May S. Marcy Sculpture Court & Garden, an outdoor space featuring sculptures by important artists.

Time Travel

You might not have an actual time machine, but you do have Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, a charming district that transports you back to when San Diego was just being established. This is the site where Spaniards first settled on the U.S. West Coast, and most of what was here in the mid-1800s remains well-preserved: historic buildings and ranch homes depicting colonial life, old-timey shops selling souvenirs and candy, the Whaley House Museum, and 19th-century homes and businesses, including the still-running Cosmopolitan Hotel.

Old Town’s Hillside Presidio Park has the Junipero Serra Museum, where Father Serra founded the first California Spanish Mission in 1769. Dine in the neighborhood’s authentic Mexican restaurants, enjoy daily mariachi performances, and peruse colorful Bazaar del Mundo.

Take Flight

Of all the fun things to do in San Diego, perhaps nothing is more fun than taking flight with nothing but air surrounding your body for hundreds of feet below. You can do just that at Torrey Pines Gliderport, America’s most popular coastal soaring site. Go tandem paragliding along with an instructor, who’ll pilot your contraption to ensure that your launch off these dramatic cliffs is safe and exhilarating.

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—Original reporting by Avital Andrews. Follow her on Twitter @avitalb.

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Top 11 Places to Visit in New York City

From arts, architecture, and parks to dining and nightlife, New York attractions set the standard in all categories. This limitless blur of activity can be overwhelming, especially for first-timers. When deciding which places to visit in New York, plan to tackle one must-see sight per day; then save time for wandering the city’s diverse and unique neighborhoods. For as every local and frequent visitor knows, the easiest way to slip into the dream state known as a “New York state of mind” is simply by walking one densely fascinating block after another.

The Best Places to Visit in New York City

Here’s your guide to the most essential places to visit in New York City. Note that you can save money by purchasing a CityPASS, which offers discounted admission at select New York attractions—including many of the ones below.

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Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty

Ellis island and the statue of liberty

[st_content_ad]In a city chock-full of iconic sights, no place symbolizes the spirit of the great melting pot like Ellis Island. Between 1892 and 1954, the isle located off the southern tip of Manhattan in New York Harbor served as the gateway to America for more than 12 million immigrants hoping to begin life anew. Through passenger records, arrival interviews, and exhibits displaying clothing and baggage, visitors gain a deeply personal perspective on those who entered the Great Hall and the hardships they faced.

Immerse in the experience with a 45-minute audio tour, available in nine languages (there’s also an engaging version for kids). Combo tickets are the best deal and include the round-trip ferry ride to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, along with admission and an audio tour of the Ellis Island Immigrant Museum. Tickets to the base and crown of Lady Liberty can be reserved separately; keep in mind that a trip to the top involves more than 400 steps.

Central Park

central park new york

With cameo roles in more than 350 films, America’s first public park is embedded in our collective consciousness, yet experiencing Central Park in person is always awe-inspiring. These 843 acres of serene green represent one of the most relaxing places to visit in New York City.

Visit the Great Lawn or Sheep Meadow to see New Yorkers at play, throwing frisbees and soaking up the sun. Rent a bike or go for a run on miles of mixed-terrain trails incorporating hills, flats, and a motivating buzz of activity. Rent a paddleboat at Loeb Boathouse or go fishing in Harlem Meer. In winter, take to the ice at Woolman Rink.

Hudson River Park

Hudson river park

For a window into the daily life of New Yorkers, there’s no better vantage point than the longest waterfront park in the U.S. This 550-acre riverside park, anchored by a series of historic piers, serves as a communal backyard and recreation spot.

The bounty of active and leisure pursuits is as diverse as the city’s population. Golfers take swings at Chelsea Piers’ driving range with a view. Water lovers paddle, kayak, and sail from multiple pier-side outfitters. Circus-wannabes learn to fly at the Trapeze School of New York. Cyclists soak up river views along four miles of bikeway (and beyond, via a connector to Riverside Park on the northern end). And, of course, you can simply sit on a park bench or lie in the grass to watch the city in perpetual motion.

Museum Mile

Museum mile

A scenic stretch of 5th Avenue, from 82nd Street to 105th Street along Central Park, packs in more artistic treasures than any other mile in America (and possibly the world). Whether your taste is contemporary or classic, history or design-inclined, this is one of the essential places to visit in New York City.

Experience boundary-pushing modern works illuminated by the dramatic backdrop of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpiece, the Guggenheim Museum. Explore America’s largest art museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, covering five millennia with more than two million works, including stellar European Masters and Islamic Art collections.

Don’t overlook smaller institutions like the Jewish Museum, the oldest museum in the world dedicated to Jewish art and culture; El Museo del Barrio spotlighting Puerto Rican, Caribbean, and Latin American art; and Cooper Hewitt National Museum of Design for all things design-centric. Learn more about the story of NYC with a visit to the Museum of the City of New York.

Empire State Building or Top of the Rock

Empire state building

Two iconic New York attractions provide bird’s-eye views of the city’s glittering skyline and dense urban tangle. Queues can be long to visit the Empire State Building, so snag a VIP Express Pass to fast-track up to the 86th- and 102th-floor observation decks. Don’t miss the magnificent art deco architecture in addition to the stunning views. For an over-the-top New York sightseeing experience, reserve a sunrise ticket (just 100 passes are granted each day).

Another art deco masterpiece, Rockefeller Center opened in 1933 with the aim of being a city within a city. That mission is intact today, as the space is home to NBC TV studios, acclaimed restaurants, a seasonal ice-skating rink, and a world-famous Christmas tree. From Top of the Rock’s three viewing platforms, including an open-air 70-floor observation deck, the Big Apple skyline shines. Epic views of Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, and Central Park make the short wait for timed admission tickets worth every minute.

9/11 Memorial and Museum

Freedom tower

Freedom Tower, aka One World Trade Center, soars skyward where the Twin Towers once stood, defining Lower Manhattan in view and spirit. A visit to the site’s 9/11 Memorial & Museum provides insight into the tragedy while honoring the sacrifice of nearly 3,000 people, including first responders, killed in terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and February 26, 1993.

Plan your time so there’s no need to rush through the gardens. In the footprint of the original twin towers, two beautifully designed reflecting pools feature the names of those lost and provide a serene setting for quiet contemplation following the emotional exhibits.

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn bridge

For a quintessential New York experience, join the flow of traffic gliding along the elevated pedestrian walkway on one of the world’s most celebrated bridges. Since 1883, the steel suspension bridge—an engineering marvel—has soared above the East River, connecting lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. Every day, a blur of cars, bicycles, and feet traverse the 6,000-foot span while taking in unrivaled views of the city as well as Lady Liberty.

Sunrise and sunset are magic, but there’s never a wrong time to pedal a Citi Bike or walk 2.6 miles across and back. Indulge in a delicious pit stop on Old Fulton Street, under the bridge, at Juliana’s Pizza—often heralded as the best pizza in America.

Chinatown

Chinatown

Moving from one New York neighborhood to another sometimes feels like entering a new country, and entering lively Chinatown is a good example. At street level, underneath shop signs illuminated with Chinese characters, fish and vegetable markets spill onto sidewalks and exclusive sunglass and jewelry shops share walls with trinket stalls and dim sum parlors.

Broome, Mott and Grand Streets always offer bustling activity and deliciously cheap eats. For a classic Chinatown experience, schedule a therapeutic massage at no-frills, but impressive-skills Fishion Herb Center, then eat your way through Chinatown, starting with vegetable or pork soup dumplings at beloved hole-in-the-wall Deluxe Green Bo Restaurant. Don’t leave without a stroll through Columbus Park to hear Chinese musicians playing traditional folk music and to watch old-timers playing mah-jongg.

Times Square

Times square

In 1904, fueled by advertising genius and electrical currents, the first lighted billboard went live and the phenomenon known as Times Square launched. More than a century later, the lights and action are even brighter. The very mention of this neon neighborhood causes many a New Yorker’s eyes to roll, but every first-time visitor should see Times Square—especially at night (with the caveat that you should also venture well beyond this tourist mecca). Watch the show unfold from an elevated seat on the red steps near Duffy Square.

New York’s wackiest and most wonderful characters enter the stage as costumed superheroes such as Batman and Lady of Liberty. When snapping Instagram-worthy shots with your favorites, be sure to offer a tip.

Skip the plethora of chain eats and try local favorites like coal-oven pizza at John’s or brisket sandwiches in the historic bar of Joe Allen Restaurant. Experience a rarity in today’s Times Square, an old-school dive bar with cheap drinks and a good jukebox, at Jimmy’s Corner.

The Great White Way

The great white way

The heart of New York City’s Theater District runs along a historic stretch of Broadway that became one of the first electrically lighted streets in the U.S., earning it the moniker “the Great White Way.” No visit to the city feels complete without experiencing at least one Broadway or off-Broadway show.

For the best deals, plan for Tuesday nights or matinee performances and check out same-day discount ticket offers at one of four TKTS booths around the city. If you have a specific show in mind—hello, Hamilton—check individual theaters’ policies for day-of-show lottery tickets and last-minute rush deals.

Theater lovers should visit during Broadway Week, a biannual event in January and September, when most shows offer two-for-one tickets.

The High Line

The high line

NYC’s evolutionary nature is embodied in this abandoned freight railway line transformed into one of the city’s most beloved parks. Elevated tracks running above West Side streets and alongside industrial and residential buildings now serve as a dramatic setting for self-seeded gardens and lush landscaping. Works of art including site-specific sculptures, benches made of repurposed materials, and eye-popping murals that add visual interest along every stretch of the nearly 1.5-mile expanse.

The balance of natural beauty and urban grit is in perfect harmony, and views of the Hudson River are hard to beat. Take a seat in the amphitheater space at 10th Avenue to breathe in the city’s rhythm and color. While you’re here, don’t miss other prime places to visit in New York, including Chelsea Market and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

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—Original reporting by Jess Simpson

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Active Travel Arts & Culture Cities Miscellany

10 Hidden Gems in New York City

In the shadow of attention-grabbing attractions like the Empire State Building, Central Park, and the Freedom Tower lies a beautiful assortment of museums, sights, and experiences that may not generate as much star power but offers no less enlightening experiences. Many of these hidden gems in New York City are hardly hidden to locals, but they often fall just outside the spotlight for visitors, especially first-timers.

Hidden Gems in New York City

Here’s a good starting point for discovering local favorites and hidden gems in New York City.

Tenement Museum

hidden gems of new york city

[st_content_ad]More guided experience than traditional museum, this hidden New York City attraction shares stories of immigrants and refugees who started life anew on the Lower East Side between the 19th and 21st centuries. Two historic Orchard Street buildings, estimated to have housed more than 15,000 people from different countries and walks of life, make up the Tenement Museum. The recreated spaces, including apartments and businesses, illuminate how real people lived, struggled, worked, and strived for a better life.

Walking tours showcase the neighborhood’s significance and provide insight into how immigrants shaped, and continue to shape, the city and country at large. The sweatshop workers tour is particularly eye-opening and moving.

Randall’s Island

hidden gems in new york city

Randall’s Island is one of the hidden gems in New York City that surprises locals and visitors alike. This urban oasis, located just off Manhattan in the East River, hosts many large-scale marquee events such as the ultra-popular Governors Ball Music Festival. Wildflower gardens and bird and butterfly sanctuaries exist in harmony with spaces for recreation and athletic pursuits. Miles of cycling and walking trails run along the waterfront, offering skyline views, and there are plenty of playgrounds and picnic areas for families.

The island also features dozens of athletic fields, tennis courts, a driving range, and miniature golf courses. Pedestrians and cyclists can access the park via the 125th Street bridge, and water taxis run frequently during special events.

Joe’s Pub

hidden gems in new york city

For intimate, cabaret-style performances, there’s no better spot than this club in The Public Theater. From jazz and world music to modern dance, comedy, and burlesque, Joe’s Pub showcases a diversity of talent, including rising stars and renowned artists. Both Amy Winehouse and Adele had their first U.S. headlining gigs at Joe’s, and many legendary performers have lit up the marquee including Leonard Cohen, David Byrne, Prince, and Lady Gaga.

The recently renovated space features superior acoustics, great sight lines, and a warm, engaging vibe. Table service is efficient and doesn’t distract from the show, making for a romantic setting for dinner, drinks, and entertainment.

Conservatory Garden of Central Park

hidden gems in new york city

More than 40 million visitors a year know that Central Park is one of NYC’s greatest attractions, yet only a small percentage make it to the northern reaches where the Conservatory Garden rests in serene solitude. Six acres of formal gardens showcase European landscaping traditions. You’ll see more flowers and birds than visitors as you stroll through lush and ornate zones including Italian, French, and English gardens.

Fittingly, the English garden features a lovely fountain in honor of Frances Hodgson Burnett, the author of the children’s book The Secret Garden. Look for the enormous wrought-iron gate on the park’s east side on Fifth Avenue between 104th and 105th Streets. Once the entrance of a grand mansion, Vanderbilt Gate provides magical entry to this hidden New York attraction.

Rubin Museum of Art

hidden gems in new york city

The manageable scale and Zen atmosphere of this museum in Chelsea make for one of NYC’s most alluring artistic showcases. The Rubin spotlights Himalayan art through works from Nepal, Pakistan, India, China, Tibet, Bhutan, Afghanistan, and Mongolia, weaving together cultures dominated by the highest mountains in the world. Buddhist imagery, sound installations, scroll paintings, textiles, and sculpture stand out in airy galleries set around a striking spiral staircase.

Check the schedule for frequently offered hands-on activities with artists in residence, and consider visiting during special evening hours on Friday when admission is free.

Staten Island Ferry

hidden gems in new york city

Serving as the last vestige of a once-expansive public ferry system, the Staten Island Ferry has whisked passengers between lower Manhattan and Staten Island since 1906. Although most of the 70,000 daily passengers are commuters traveling to and from work, the five-mile, 25-minute ride is a hidden gem in New York City for visitors seeking dramatic views of the Manhattan skyline, Ellis Island, and Statue of Liberty.

And the price is always right—this ferry ride is free. Boats run every 15 to 20 minutes on weekdays during rush hour and every 30 minutes at non-peak times and weekends. There’s just enough time to grab a beer and hot dog onboard before arriving at St. George, where you can walk along the Esplanade to the stunning memorial Postcards, created in honor of the 275 Staten Island residents killed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Have a glass of wine and charcuterie platter at popular restaurant Surf before embarking on a return ferry.

The Met Cloisters

hidden gems in new york city

In the upper reaches of Manhattan lies one of the true hidden gems in New York City: America’s only museum dedicated solely to the art and architecture of the Middle Ages. This branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is dramatically perched in Fort Tryon Park overlooking Hudson River. The collection, including stained glass panels, tapestries, and illuminated scrolls, is housed within reconstructed sections of a French abbey. The museum’s centerpiece is a monastery with covered walkways surrounding a lushly planted open courtyard.

One of the most popular works, The Hunt of the Unicorn, is composed of seven tapestries dating from 1495 to 1505, portraying a medieval hunting party and its magical prey. The work’s complexity and grandeur are alone worth the subway ride to 190th Street.

Dizzy’s Jazz Club

hidden gems in new york city

New York City offers no shortage of extraordinary jazz clubs, from Blue Note to Smalls and Village Vanguard. What sets Dizzy’s Jazz Club apart is the sophisticated setting inside Jazz at Lincoln Center’s base in the Time Warner Complex. From the entrance near Columbus Circle, take the Jazz elevators up to Dizzy’s and sister venue Rose Hall, both acoustically designed to illuminate the warmth and tones of jazz.

Evening shows feature headlining talents, but the best deals—and often the most lively shows—are special late-night sessions, with doors opening at 11:15 p.m. Snag a bar seat for the best view of the performers and the NYC skyline through the venue’s floor-to-ceiling windows.

The Lightship Frying Pan

hidden gems in new york city

Docked at Pier 66 at the Hudson River Park, you will find one of only 15 remaining floating lighthouse ships once commissioned by the U.S. Coast Guard. While the fleet was created to guide ships into safe passage, the Lightship Frying Pan could have used a guide of its own. The vessel ended up on the bottom of Chesapeake Bay before being salvaged and finding new life as a seasonal and mostly hidden New York City attraction.

Take a tour of the deck and keep your eyes open for barnacles still attached from the submersion, then grab a drink on the neighboring barge, itself one of New York’s under-the-radar hot spots.

Washington Square Park

hidden gems in new york city

One of NYC’s favorite gathering spots serves as open-air theater at its Greenwich Village finest, as an endless parade of street performers and buskers—including many students from neighboring NYU—show off their talent. Washington Square Park‘s fountain and marble arch honoring George Washington set the stage for classical pianists, folk singers, brass bands, dancers, jugglers, painters, and beyond, representing the city in full, bold color.

For Instagram-worthy images, gaze north along Fifth Avenue for a dramatic view of the Empire State Building, framed by the arch. Then look south to the Freedom Tower in Lower Manhattan.

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—Original reporting by Jess Simpson

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Active Travel Arts & Culture Cities Miscellany Outdoors

10 Must-See San Francisco Attractions

Visiting San Francisco can be overwhelming, just for the sheer amount of wonderful things there are to do and see. How to pare down the endless list of worthwhile San Francisco attractions? Just refer to our list below.

The Must-See Attractions in San Francisco

Here are the top attractions to check out when you come to San Francisco.

Golden Gate Bridge

san francisco attractions

[st_content_ad]The Golden Gate Bridge isn’t just one of the most iconic San Francisco attractions—it’s one of the most iconic attractions in the world. In the U.S., the only structure more famous is the Statue of Liberty. So it’d be a crime to visit San Francisco and not make your way across—or at least get a good look at—this stunning bridge, which is truly a sight to behold.

Spanning 1.7 miles from scenic Fort Point to Marin’s headlands, 120,000 cars drive across the Golden Gate Bridge daily. When it debuted in 1937, it cost $0.50 to cross this magnificent landmark by automobile. The toll has since changed (it was $7.75 at publication time) but the awe-inspiring architecture has not. Experience it for free—and see the bay in all its splendor—by walking or biking across.

Alcatraz Island

san francisco attractions

Relive some dark spots of U.S. history on “the Rock,” where you can stand in the prison cells of notorious criminals like Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly. This natural outcropping in the middle of San Francisco Bay served as an inescapable federal penitentiary between 1934 and 1963. Today, it’s part of the 80,000-acre Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which encompasses many worthwhile San Francisco attractions.

A fascinating audio tour helps visitors understand what life on Alcatraz was like for the prison’s doomed convicts. Ferries to the island depart from Pier 33, and reservations are required.

Chinatown

san francisco attractions

When you’re deciding on places to visit in San Francisco, don’t forego the 24 lively blocks that comprise Chinatown toward the northern end of the city. Enter through “Dragon’s Gate” on Grant Avenue and walk up into these bustling lanes; they’re packed with tourist-friendly shops, colorful markets, authentic restaurants, fragrant tea shops, and small pagodas and temples. Don’t miss the Golden Gate Cookie Factory on Ross Alley, where every day, two women hand make 20,000 fortune cookies.

North Beach

san francisco attractions

San Francisco’s charming Little Italy neighborhood will make you feel like you’ve somehow landed in Europe. Columbus Avenue, its main street, is lined with restaurant after restaurant serving the best pastas on the West Coast—all housemade, of course—as well as bakeries, fashion boutiques, art galleries, and animated characters sitting out on patios sipping strong coffee.

Presiding above North Beach is historic 210-foot Coit Tower, where you can get a fantastic bird’s-eye view across the bay. Take the elevator, or climb about 400 stairs, to get to the viewing platform, and keep your eyes peeled for the famous green parrots of Telegraph Hill.

Two other things to see in San Francisco’s North Beach: City Lights Bookstore, where the 1950s Beat movement was born, and Beach Blanket Babylon, a raucous theater experience that holds the title of America’s longest running revue—this hilarious show been going for four decades now.

Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf

san francisco attractions

You haven’t gone San Francisco sightseeing if you haven’t seen Fisherman’s Wharf and its festive Pier 39, San Francisco’s most visited destination. Jutting out over the bay, the pier’s carnival-like collection of attractions, food vendors, shops, and live entertainment makes for a very cheerful way to spend a day. Add spectacular ocean views, the fascinating Aquarium of the Bay, plus a hilarious colony of California sea lions on the marina’s western docks, and you’ve got an experience you won’t soon forget.

Step off the pier into Fisherman’s Wharf to see talented street buskers, stands selling hot clam chowder, and quirky attractions like the Musee Mecanique, Madame Tussauds wax museum, Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, and the San Francisco Dungeon.

Haight Ashbury

san francisco attractions

If you’re looking for historical places to visit in San Francisco, remember that the Haight Ashbury district was the epicenter of the revolutionary 1960s counterculture—and yes, there really is an intersection of streets called Haight and Ashbury. Today, this neighborhood retains much of its “Summer of Love” hippie-bohemian vibe, despite some gentrification.

Psychedelic history lives on in the former homes of Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead, amid an eclectic mix of vintage shops, organic restaurants, and rockin’ nightlife. Don’t miss Amoeba Music, the beloved record store, or Piedmont Boutique’s famous giant legs dangling out the window.

Union Square

san francisco attractions

Union Square is a convergence of many things to see in San Francisco. At the center of it all is the Dewey Monument, a tall, triumphant sculpture of Nike, the goddess of victory, that went up in 1903 to commemorate Admiral George Dewey’s success during the Spanish-American War. Bustling around the square itself is the city’s shopping and cultural hub.

This very active district contains San Francisco’s major entertainment venues—the Orpheum and the Curran theaters, both of which put on Broadway-level shows—plus any luxury brand name you’d want, from Tiffany & Co. to Jimmy Choo to Hermes, sold in intimate boutiques as well as in luxury department stores including Saks Fifth Avenue.

Also here: Michelin-starred restaurants, hotels of every caliber, art galleries galore, yoga studios, and beauty salons. By night, the area comes alive with eateries that stay open into the wee hours, and huge, thumping nightclubs.

Golden Gate Park

san francisco attractions

One of the largest urban parks in the world (it’s bigger than NYC’s Central Park), Golden Gate Park forms a long and narrow rectangle jutting from the breakers three miles into the city. On weekends, its main drive closes to let people bike and jog between the gardens, lakes, and museums.

Indeed, many of the best things to see in San Francisco are right here in Golden Gate Park: the amazing California Academy of Sciences, the expertly curated de Young Museum, the magical Conservatory of Flowers, and the memorable Koret children’s playground and carousel. These 1,017 acres are also home to lovely windmills and tulips, a small herd of American bison, idyllic ponds with pedal boats, and the annual Outside Lands festival, a major musical event that has presented headliners like Muse and Tom Petty.

The Cable Cars

san francisco attractions

More than a century after the cable car system’s creation for transportation purposes, these dinging trolleys operate today more as a key San Francisco attraction—and are absolutely worth the experience. Sit outside and hang on tight as an underground cable pulls your adorable mode of transit over clicking tracks during an exhilarating open-air ride.

Take the line that stops at Lombard, often called the crookedest street in the world (though it’s not) to see this famous attraction on Russian Hill, with its banks of flower gardens, gorgeous bay views, and circa-1922 hairpin turns that manage the hill’s steepness. Get your best Instagram shot from the bottom looking up.

Palace of Fine Arts

san francisco attractions

If you’re interested in architectural San Francisco sightseeing, don’t leave the majestic Palace of Fine Arts off your list. The ornate Beaux Arts-style domed monument in the peaceful Marina District, with its many Greco-Roman columns, is the city’s most popular spot for engagement photos, a testament to the place’s beauty and elegance.

It was originally built for the 1915 world’s fair in San Francisco, and its picturesque pond is frequented by swans and migrating birds. An adjoining theater presents shows and special events.

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–Original reporting by Avital Andrews. Follow her on Twitter @avitalb.

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Adventure Travel Arts & Culture Cities Family Travel Historical Travel Road Trip Theme Park Weekend Getaways

10 Best Day Trips from Chicago

From nature parks, historic sites, and specialty museums to shopping and cultural encounters, these destinations within 40 to 90 minutes of downtown are affordable, fun day trips from Chicago.

Day Trips from Chicago

Many of these Chicago day trips have no admission fee and are conveniently accessible via public transportation on Chicago’s elevated trains (called the “L”) or Metra commuter railroad lines.

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Oak Park

Oak park

[st_content_ad]The world’s largest concentration of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings and prairie-style homes, 25 in total, is just 10 miles west of Chicago in Oak Park. Start with a docent-led tour at the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio to get grounded in the architect’s unique design aesthetic. Then walk the surrounding blocks of the Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District to see homes designed by Wright and other prairie-style architects. Allow time to tour the restored Unity Temple, Wright’s first public building and one of the earliest in America to feature exposed concrete. Metra and green line elevated trains commute frequently from the Loop to Oak Park.

[st_related]8 Unforgettable Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings You Can Visit[/st_related]

Hyde Park

Hyde park

Just seven miles south of the Loop, the lakefront Hyde Park neighborhood is one of the easiest and brainiest day trips from Chicago. The neighborhood was part of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition fairgrounds, and the colossal Museum of Science and Industry was originally the fair’s Palace of Fine Arts. On the ivy-clad University of Chicago campus are two free museums (though donations are appreciated):  the Smart Museum of Art and the venerable Oriental Institute, with its Near East archeological exhibits. Those passionate about prairie-style architecture can tour the Robie House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It’s near the soaring Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, hosting concerts and recitals. Also worth a stop is the DuSable Museum of African American History.

Cantigny Park

Cantigny park

Tranquil Cantigny Park in suburban Wheaton, 30 miles west of the Loop, is the former estate of Robert R. McCormick, publisher of the Chicago Tribune. The estate’s name commemorates McCormick’s experience as a U.S. Army colonel in the Battle of Cantigny, the first American victory of World War I. Visit the estate’s free First Division Museum tracing the history of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division; kids love climbing on the real tanks. Docents guide tours through the McCormick mansion, while the manicured gardens can be explored on your own. Visitors attend free concerts, seasonal garden events, lectures, and historic war re-enactments.

Morton Arboretum

Morton arboretum

Head to Morton Arboretum for fresh air and active fun year-round. A 25-mile drive west of downtown, this 1,700-acre natural oasis in suburban Lisle was established in 1922 by Joy Morton of Morton Salt Company.  Guided tours, educational signage, and self-guided excursions using the arboretum’s app showcase some of the 222,000 plants growing in woodlands, wetlands, and prairies. Visitors can bike, walk, snowshoe, or cross-country ski the 16 miles of paths (equipment rentals are available). Families spend hours at the interactive Children’s Garden and Maze Garden. Special events include giant art installations, theater productions, and holiday illumination and model railroad displays.

Oak Brook

Oak brook

While the upscale Oakbrook Center 20 miles west of Chicago draws thousands of shoppers year-round, there are plenty of other reasons to take a day trip to Oak Brook. Drury Lane Theatre stages popular Broadway musicals, comedies, and dramas performed by top-notch casts for reasonable ticket prices. Open year-round, the Family Aquatic Center’s pools and splash parks delight kids. Walks in the wooded DuPage County Forest Preserve promise scenic solitude in every season. Also consider touring the 1821 mansions and gardens of Mayslake Peabody Estate, or exploring 1800s farm life and Underground Railroad history at Graue Mill and Museum.

Naperville

Naperville

The 32-mile drive to Naper Settlement in Naperville is one of the best day trips from Chicago for history buffs and families. Open year-round, the living history museum recreates a Midwestern settlement of 30 buildings original to the area including a log cabin, blacksmith shop, fort, and one-room schoolhouse. In the warmer months, costumed interpreters explain pioneer life to visitors. Kids can try on period clothing and view antique toys at the visitor center. Seasonal events include summer concerts, Civil War days, Oktoberfest, and All Hallows Eve.

Evanston

Evanston

A vibrant college town 14 miles north of the Loop, Evanston is home to Northwestern University and accessible via Lake Shore Drive, the elevated train purple line, or the Metra commuter train. Visit the free Block Museum of Art or rent paddleboards, kayaks, and sailboats at the beachfront Sailing Center. Or just chill on one of Evanston’s five beaches. For a peek into Lake Michigan sailing history, tour the 1873 Grosse Point Lighthouse, surrounded by a leafy beachside park. Down the street in Wilmette is the  gleaming Baha’i House of Worship.

Glencoe

Glencoe

Twenty miles north of Chicago one of the world’s most famous gardens grows in Glencoe, the free Chicago Botanic Garden. Visitors wander through four natural Midwestern landscapes and 27 themed gardens including the popular English Walled Garden, Malott Japanese Garden, and Grunsfield Children’s Growing Garden. Year-round programming highlights include tram tours, gardening workshops, flower shows, cooking classes, art festivals, carillon bell concerts, and holiday events. Bike paths wind throughout the acreage and connect Glencoe to neighboring North Shore communities. Metra trains stop near the garden.

Historic Illinois & Michigan Canal Heritage Corridor

Historic illinois & michigan canal heritage corridor

Southwest of Chicago is a scenic region linking Lake Michigan to the Illinois River, incorporating sections of famous Route 66 as well as preserved canal towns brimming with museums and historic sites. Hiking, birding, fishing, biking, and horseback riding are offered year-round in Starved Rock State Park. Spot wildlife along the Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway, a great place to see bald eagles in winter.

McHenry County

McHenry county

The rambling woods and rolling farmlands of McHenry County, located on the Illinois-Wisconsin state line 63 miles northwest of Chicago, provide one of the most scenic day trips from Chicago. Pedal the 26-mile Prairie Trail connecting eight quaint villages, hugging the shores of  the Fox River and winding through 3,300-acre Glacial Park. Chain O’Lakes State Park has sand beaches along 488 miles of shoreline. Fish at Moraine Hills State Park and hike in the Three Oaks Recreation Area. Fun small towns for lunch, specialty store shopping, and seasonal farmers’ markets include Crystal Lake and Woodstock, where the comedy Groundhog Day, starring Chicagoan Bill Murray, was filmed.

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—Original reporting by Kit Bernardi