50 Things to Do, Eat & See in 2021—Now That We Can Finally Travel Again!
After a year of putting your travel plans on hold, allow these U.S. destinations to reignite your wanderlust
Lift Off in a Hot Air Balloon
Eat the Best Fried Chicken of Your Life
One bite and you'll understand why people begin lining up outside Willie Mae's Scotch House in New Orleans hours before the restaurant opens for lunch. Their perfectly-seasoned chicken is dipped in a wet batter and deep-fried, creating a crunchy, golden crust that encases the moist meat within.
Hit the Links Like a Golf Pro
Step Up to the Mural Challenge
Stroll through Lexington, Kentucky to find all the colorful street-art installations laced throughout the city's downtown. There are more than 30, including the famous 30x70-ft Louis Armstrong wall, which was painted by graffiti artist Sérgio Odeith after his first mural was accidentally power-washed away. Click here for a full list and map.
Get a Taste of the Magnolia Life
When Chip and Joanna Gaines opened Silos Baking Co. in their hometown of Waco, Texas, in 2016, they hoped visitors would find a relaxing spot for baked treats and views of the bustling Magnolia grounds—a pilgrimage site for fans of the Fixer Upper stars, who recently launched their Magnolia Network. The offerings include many of Joanna's own recipes, including her Silo Cookie—the first item to make it on the menu.
Go Glamping in a Real Tree House
The cozy cottages at the Mohicans Treehouse Resort, a 77-acre destination in Ohio's Amish Country, have panoramic views of the surrounding woods. Choose from nine different tree-lined villas, including the Little Red Treehouse—which was designed by treehouse designer Pete Nelson, who featured the spot on the Discovery series "Treehouse Masters."
Find Your Favorite Lobster Roll
Locals may disagree about the single best lobster roll in Maine, but the sandwich served at The Clam Shack in Kennebunkport is likely high on everyone's list. It's simplicity at its finest: sweet, locally-caught lobster, melted butter and/or mayonnaise piled on a freshly baked, round white roll.
Stare at the Stars from a Dark Sky Reserve
The Milky Way, constellations and shooting stars turn into the ultimate light show over the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve, a 1,400-square-mile territory near Sun Valley with some of the clearest night skies in the United States. Or venture to the north end of Voyagers National Park in International Falls, Minnesota, a 218,000-acre maze of lakes, forests, and islands. From this area, which got the International dark-sky certification in December 2020—you can see the dazzling aurora borealis displays, commonly known as the northern lights.
Watch all the Disney World Fireworks from One Spot
Reserve a table at one of the best spots to view the Disney fireworks, which returned to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot on July 1st. At Capa Steakhouse, the award-winning rooftop restaurant and bar at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando, guests can relax on one of two outdoor terraces and watch as the fireworks light up the sky in the distance—all without having to leave their seats. While the panoramic view is swoon-worthy, it doesn't overshadow the eatery's stellar Spanish-inspired menu. Start the meal with Capa's signature gin and tonic cocktail and a platter of datiles (bacon-wrapped Medjool dates stuffed with almonds), and end the night with warm, cinnamon-and-sugar-dusted churros with chocolate and dulce de leche dipping sauces—quite possibly the best version on Disney World grounds.
Bury Your Feet in the Sand on Hawaii's Newest Beach
Also known as Isaac Hale Beach Park, the Big Island's Pohoiki black sand beach was formed after the Kilauea volcano erupted in 2018, and hot lava poured into the ocean. Enjoy this lush, pristine setting while you still can: The tides may wash away the dark sand in a few years.
Brave the Tallest Roller Coaster in the World
Get ready to scream! At Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey, the ferocious Kingda Ka coaster climbs 45 stories into the air, rockets down a 90-degree spiral drop and hits speeds up to 128 mph—all in a ride that lasts less than one minute. If you visit the park after June 13th, test your courage on the brand-new Jersey Devil Coaster. It's now the world's tallest, fastest and longest single-rail coaster— towering 13 stories, flying at speeds up to 58 miles-per-hour, and propelling riders over 3,000 feet of track.
Picnic in a Purple Haze
Eat Your Way from Miami to Key West
Don't miss these food finds along the Overseas Highway—the southernmost leg of U.S. Route 1—one of the most scenic drives in the country.
At Pilot House, a local hangout in Key Largo, guests can enjoy jerk fish tacos while watching fish swim at the glass bottom bar.
Robbie's of Islamorada, a Florida Keys rite of passage where tourists flock to feed tarpon off the dock, boasts the Hungry Tarpon restaurant where you can get a massive (and delicious!) breakfast burrito for less than $10.
At Burdines Waterfront in Marathon, chilled key lime wrapped in a flour tortilla, then deep-fried and dusted in cinnamon sugar is the star of the show.
Finally, make sure to stop on Stock Island at Roostica for the best pizza in the Keys. If you like heat, try the Hell's Kitchen Diavola pie with spicy salami and lots of garlic.
Follow the Path for Civil Rights
With more than 100 stops through 15 states and Washington, D.C., the Civil Rights Trail marks locations where pivotal battles for racial justice and freedom took place—like the Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., where Black college students staged sit-ins, and the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was fatally shot outside room 306.
Tour Virginia's Wine Country
Stand on a Corner in Winslow, Arizona
It's such a fine sight to see tourists flock to this park inspired by the Eagles' 1972 hit "Take It Easy." The photo-ready spot also features a mural of a woman in a flatbed Ford, clearly slowing down to have a look.
See Dinosaurs Bust Out of the Museum
At the Children's Museum of Indianapolis — a massive facility sitting on 29 acres — life-size dinosaurs crash through the building's exterior walls. Now imagine how fun it is once you step inside!
Sail on a Micro-Cruise Around Alaska
The smaller vessels, which often carry fewer than 200 passengers, can access dazzling fjords, bays, caves and waterside towns that large ships simply can't reach. Offering different expeditions ranging from five to eight nights, Alaskan Dream Cruises specializes in sails through the state's most scenic routes.
Sample Street Food from Singapore
Roam with Wild Horses
On Assateague Island off the coasts of Maryland and Virginia, more than 200 feral horses peacefully wander around the beaches and sandy dunes, much to the delight of visitors. The ponies are likely descendants of ones brought by mainland owners in the late 17th century.
Stay in a Real-Life Movie-Location House
Avengers: Endgame: Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) retreated to this lakeside cabin (see image) in the final Avengers movie—and now you can too. Located about 30 minutes outside Atlanta, the secluded three-bedroom house is listed on Airbnb.
Twilight: Spend the night in the same room Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) shared in the first Twilight movie. The owners of the Twilight Swan House in St. Helens, Ore., now on Airbnb, redecorated the interiors to resemble the look of the film—even down to the clothes in Bella's closet.
Steel Magnolias: This charming B&B in Natchitoches, La., served as the southern home where Shelby (Julia Roberts) and her mother, M'Lynn (Sally Field), lived. When you book, ask for the pink Shelby Room, designed in the character's "signature color."
Groundhog Day: Although the 1993 movie was set in Punxsutawney, Pa., exterior shots of the Victorian bed-and-breakfast where TV weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) woke up—again and again!—were filmed at the Cherry Tree Inn in Woodstock, Ill.
Dine at the Newest Celeb Hot Spot
Priyanka Chopra Jonas's restaurant, Sona, opened its doors in Manhattan in March, while strict COVID-19 restrictions were still in place. That didn't stop diners from quickly snatching up reservations and buzzing about the eatery's chic decor (inspired by India's art deco period) and executive chef Hari Nayak's delicious menu that celebrates cuisines from the different regions of the Indian subcontinent. From masala-stuffed chicken wings to crispy, stuffed samosas, the food showcases "the flavors I grew up with," said the actress.
Catch a Show at an Open-Air Venue
Red Rocks Amphitheater: In Morrison, Colo., the bright-red sandstone monoliths that jut out from either side of the stage create one of the few acoustically perfect natural amphitheaters in the world (see image).
Hollywood Bowl: The stunning performance space built under the Hollywood Hills has hosted everyone from the Beatles to Aretha Franklin. This year stars like Christina Aguilera and H.E.R. will perform under the iconic band shell.
Tanglewood: Lawn seats are the way to go at this Lenox, Mass., gem tucked inside the Berkshire Hills. Pack blankets and a picnic to hear the Boston Symphony Orchestra or Boston Pops perform here in the summer.
Jay Pritzker Pavilion: Designed by architect Frank Gehry in Chicago's Millennium Park, the stage is crowned with crisscrossing steel ribbons and pipes that stretch over the Great Lawn.
Discover the Rockies by Train
Launching in August, the luxe Rocky Mountaineer—with panoramic over-sized windows—will take travelers from Denver to Moab, Utah, to see breathtaking desert landscapes, rock canyons and natural archways.
Gaze Up at the Art at a Sculpture Park
Three hours from Yellowstone National Park, Montana's Tippet Rise Art Center is a 12,000-acre working sheep and cattle ranch dotted with large-scale sculptures placed in the middle of spectacular wide-open vistas.
Play on the Field of Dreams Diamond
Bliss Out During a Boozy Massage
Treat yourself to a lavender and vanilla-bourbon "body drench" treatment (which includes a whiskey-spiked body-butter rub) at Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tenn.
Spot Humpback Whales in the Wild
From April to October, Provincetown, Mass. — known for its thriving LGBTQ+ scene and lovely Cape Cod setting—is a prime whale-watching destination.
Take a Moment Under Angel Oak
Soak in a Natural Hot Spring
In Thermopolis, Wyoming, Hot Springs State Park allows visitors to wash away the day in relaxing and therapeutic 104° waters—for free!
Dive Into the Original Detroit-Style Pizza
Stop at Buddy's for a famous square pie, which they introduced in Detroit in 1946. The dough is first topped with pepperoni, then covered edge to edge with cheese, drizzled with red sauce (yes, on top of the cheese!) and baked until the edges are crisped and browned just right.
Fly Down an Epic Zipline
With more than 10 miles of cable, Atlanta's Historic Banning Mills course runs across 300 acres and flies over a gorge, treetops and a creek at 60 mph.
Consumer Lots (and Lots) of Food on a Stick
State fairs are making a triumphant return this year, and that means all the portable, deep-fried snacks you could ever imagine. Past years' menus have shown that creativity in this category knows no bounds—like Minnesota's Dilly Dog, a battered bratwurst stuffed into a hollowed-out dill pickle, and Wisconsin's brownie wrapped in a waffle shell and drizzled with chocolate.
Explore an Airplane Boneyard
Established in 1946 to store World War II bombers and transports, the yard at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base outside Tucson holds more than 4,000 military aircrafts. Look out for personal notes etched on some planes by former pilots. The base also made an appearance in the 1987 movie Can't Buy Me Love, starring a young Patrick Dempsey.
Cure a Barbecue Craving
Cruise the Pacific Coast Highway
From Monterey to Big Sur along California's coast, this 30-mile stretch of Highway 1 is one of the country's best road trips for sparkling views of the ocean and cliffs.
Pose Next to Quirky Roadside Attractions
At the Seven Magic Mountains in Las Vegas, towers of colorful stacked boulders stand more than 30 ft. high for a can't-miss roadside photo opportunity.
Visit the Fake Prada Store
No shopping here! In Valentine, Texas, the faux Prada Marfa boutique on the side of a barren highway is an art installation by Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset.
Swing by the Softer Stonehenge
Stop in Natural Bridge, Virginia., to see a Foamhenge: A full-size replica of Stonehenge made entirely out of Styrofoam.
Take a Picture Next to a Massive Pistachio
Touted as the World's Largest Pistachio, this giant concrete shell stands 30 feet tall and is located near a pistachio farm in Alamogordo, New Mexico.
Snap a Pic in Paul Bunyan's Hand
The welcoming Paul Bunyan Statue in Akeley, Minnesota, invites visitors to crawl into the palm of Paul's hand for a Instagram-ready photo.