Monday, March 17, 2014

100 Places to See Before You Die (based on places I've seen)-US/Canada edition

The book 1000 Places to See Before You Die prompted me to attempt thinking of 100 places in US and Canada, that I would recommend you'd see. I only base this on places I've been to, of course. I've been to 41 states and 5 Canadian provinces to date. I will continue to fill these in as you check them.

Pacific Northwest:
West Edmonton Mall
1. Whistler/Blackcomb & Chateau Whistler, British Columbia-The best skiing in North America. Blackcomb is one mile high. Check out the Chateau Whistler for a look at the kinds of luxurious hotels that the Canadian Pacific railroad built back in the day.
2. Banff National Park & Athabasca Glacier, Alberta-Banff is easily a 2 or 3 day trip with lots to do and see. The air is so clean and the water so blue. Athabasca Glacier is where three continents converge and you take a big bus there.
3. Athabasca Falls, Jasper, Alberta-As if Banff wasn't mind-blowing enough, there's also some
Athabasca Falls

surprisingly dramatic waterfalls slightly northwest of the park that can be seen through a nice nature trail.
4. Pedestrian Mall, Calgary, Canada-Calgary fascinated me because it is newer than most cities in North America and therefore much more modern and cleaner
5. Calgary Olympic Park, Calgary, Canada-I went bobsledding there and also saw lugers train. You can take a lift up to the ski jumps, see the Olympic museum and wear Olympic medals.
6. Fort Edmonton, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada-Likely, the best living history museum I've ever seen
7. West Edmonton Mall, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada-Blows the Mall of America out of the water. A large pirate ship and submarine ride, amusement parks, go-kart racing, and more. Like a theme park, different parts of the mall have different themes. When I went there, the WEM was the largest mall in the world.
Columbia River Gorge
8. Columbia River Gorge, Oregon-One of the most underrated vistas in the world. Scenery on par with the Grand Canyon and very few people know about it
9. Vietnam Veterans of Oregon Memorial, Portland, Oregon-War memorials and reminders of dead people aren't usually the thing on a fun vacation but this is a very well-designed site
10. Deschuttes National Forest/Mt Bachelor, Oregon-The town of Bend has a lot of character although it's centered along one stretch of highway. Mt. Bachelor was a very modernized (at least when I went there) ski mountain with some beautifully barren landscapes above the treeline. When I was there, I was impressed with the fact that one pays for the number of lift rides they use rather than a day pass.
11. Craters of the Moon, Idaho-A Martian landscape towards the Northern end of the state. Considered, a dormant volcano, the landscape was formed by an area where the Earth's crust was thinner and lava spread over the area. Astronauts from the Apollo mission trained here.
12. Sun Valley (Lodge/Hotel, Resort, Town Square), Idaho-Among the most charming and picturesque ski towns, Sun Valley can lay claim to being the first major ski resort in the US

Fisherman's Wharf
13. Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, CA-The redwood forest
14. Presidio, San Francisco, CA-A fun science museum overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge
15. San Francisco Cable Cars & Cable Car Musuem, San Francisco, CA-No public transportation is more fun than taking the cable cars
16. Fisherman's Wharf and Alcatraz, San Francisco, CA-Fisherman's Wharf is a place with a lot of character.
Abalone Cove
17. Abalone Cove & Cabrillo Lighthouse, Ranchos Palos Verdes, CA-Abalone Cove is a nice cool
and uncrowded Pacific beach which doubles as a living aquarium as the tidepools
18. Sony/MGM Studios, Culver City, CA-My only studio tour on my recent trip to LA, it's a must to see the inner workings of Hollywood
19. Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA-Very surprising to know that many of the sights (Roosevelt Hotel, Jimmy Kimmel's Studio, the Walk of Fame, the Oscar theater, Grumman's Chinese Theater) are all within two blocks of each other

20. Las Vegas Strip, Las Vegas, NV-It's a city dedicated to artifice but it's also the heart of the American tourist experience. I see it as the eventual end point of all tourist traps if they kept ramping up their allure.  I was only 16 when I went so it was a relatively innocent trip. Even if it was a relatively innocent trip, there was a lot to do and I could easily stay there all week seeing sights and attractions without gambling or doing an adult activity.
Hoover Dam
21. Hoover Dam, Las Vegas, NV-One of the US's biggest construction projects in history, you can see man's ability to influence nature on a massive scale with the creation of Lake Meade. The place is also the state-border of Nevada and Arizona (hence Pacific and Mountain time zones) and stands as an important piece of Depression era history.
22. Monument Valley, AZ/UT-It's the background of many Westerns as well as the Wile E Coyote and Road Runner cartoons. It's as amazing up close as it looks in those cartoons.
23. Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, AZ-It's the place where the planet Pluto was discovered (before it was demoted in 2006).
24. Oak Creek Canyon/Slide Rock State Park, AZ-It's a fairly ordinary forest but when you're in the middle of 100 plus weather and you come across this refreshing cool patch of wooded area, it's like those Bugs Bunny cartoons where Daffy Duck sees a little bit of water in the dessert. There's a plateau overlooking the forest where one can get a beautiful view. Slide Rock state park is a spring with a natural rapid chute that forms a slide
Meteor Crater
25. Meteor Crater, Winslow, AZ-Located fairly close to the interstate, it's a giant crater formed by a meteor that fell to Earth. Actually, it's pretty much self-explanatory.
26. Grand Canyon, AZ-Yep
27. Downtown Santa Fe, NM-One of America's oldest cities has a zocalo in the center of the downtown and is just a charming place.
28. Los Alamos, NM-The place where the atomic bomb was developed
29. Taos, NM-A preserved living village of Indian pueblos. I was five when I saw it so my memory of the place is slightly clouded.

The Rockies:
Park City, Utah
30. Steamboat Springs, CO-A charming Rocky mountain town has a natural hot springs with a killer slide. I have fond memories of the ski mountain as well but it might have more to do with the fact that I came of age as a skier there. I was 10 the last time I skied there and I would estimate I've been there about 7 or 8 times.
31. Park City Mining Center/Main Street, Park City, UT-Park City has gained in affluence with the Sundance Film Festival. An old mining town, you can actually revisit the mines. There are also three great resorts in bus commuting from downtown. There's also the Sundance Film Festival which wasn't happening either time I was there but the independent spirit and cultural reside is there year round.
32. Grand Teton National Park and Elk Reserve, WY-Part of scenic Wyoming. You can take a tour of the elk. You can also eat Elk on the menu at many area restaurants which is kind of sad.
33. Silver Dollar Bar/Wort Hotel, Jackson, WY-Jackson Hole is a charming town. This is a great authentic piece of the Old West

Upper Midwest:
St Anthony's Falls
34. St Anthony's Falls, Minneapolis, Minnesota-Where the Mississippi River officially starts. You can see it over a bridge which brings you to downtown Minneapolis. A great picture spot which isn't lost on landscape artists who I've seen on more than one occasion on the river bank painting.
35. Lake District, Minneapolis/St Louis Park, MN-On the border of Minneapolis and St Louis Park are four interconnected lakes on whose trails, you can see Minnesotan's penchant for exercise: Roller blading, cycling, boating, even windsurfing. The world pond hockey championships are held here.
36. Mall of America, Bloomington, MN-Nowhere near as impressive as the West Edmonton Mall but the amusement park in the middle is quite fun and it's a point of pride. There's also a neat underground aquarium and a great show space in the middle. It's highly accessible as well: Only a couple mass transit stops from the Minneapolis airport
37. Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, IL-An impressive building with a recreated Pacific Northwest habitat complete with whales. So many aquariums and zoos try to recreate the Amazon, I'm impressed that they went in a different direction.
38. Sears/Willard Tower, Chicago, IL-Tallest building in the US (I believe). The view from the top is dizzying. Like New York, Chicago is an amaing place visually to see with a bird's eye view.
39. Oliver Perry Tower, Put-in-Bay, OH-A towering monument in the middle of Lake Erie.
40. White River State Park (Indiana State Museum, Canals), Indianapolis, Indiana-The Indiana State Museum is pretty interesting and there is also a series of canals that goes through downtown. I don't know many other cities where you can kayak through downtown
41. Indy Speedway, Indianapolis, Indiana-You can see the history of cars and car racing and take a tour around the track with a certificate of completion. It's quite enormous

Lower Midwest:
42. Churchill Downs, Louisville, KY-I went to Louisville once but didn't
43. Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, TN-A very somber trip but a necessary one to take if you're in Memphis. Additionally, it's not just a great museum, but I would cite it as a great example of why museums are a better way of learning and more holistic experience than just looking something up on the internet and the library. The highlight of the hotel it's location: The hotel room where Martin Luther King Jr. stayed, the balcony where he got shot, and the room of the shooter are all preserved from the day of his assassination.
44. Mudd Island, Memphis, TN-The island's highlight is a recreation of the entire Mississippi River that you just have to experience. There's also a cool tram one can take to get to the island and paddleboats one can take through the Gulf of Mexico.
45. Memphis BBQ, Memphis, TN-One of the two items for Memphis that are listed in the actual "1,000 Places to See Before You Die" book (the other is the Civil Rights Museum), and I won't argue with this. Although the Memphis BBQ was sickening to my travel companion on this trip, I would advise anyone to try some Memphis BBQ no matter how skittish their stomach is, but to choose carefully. I don't have anything else listed that's solely a culinary experience on this 100 list.
46. World's Fair Grounds, Knoxville, TN-Urban planners would probably have a field day with this park and be able to have several wonderful adjectives to describe how it's a great use of urban space. I concur and also think it's just neat that there's a giant Tesla ball in the middle of the city.

Hershey Park
Pennsylvania and New York:
47. Hershey Park, Hershey, Pennsylvania
48. Gettysburg, PA
49. Falling Water, Ohiopyle, PA
50. Union Square/Monangahella Incline, Pittsburgh, PA
51. Watkins Glen Gorge, Watkins Glen, NY
52. Erie Canal &
Salt Museums, Syracuse, NY
53. Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York, NY

54. Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island, New York, NY
55. Flushing Meadows, Queens, New York, NY
56. Lake Placid, NY
57. Niagra Falls, NY

New England:
58. Small town Bed & Breakfasts, Vermont
Bathe Shipyards, Maine
59. Franconia Notch (Mt Washington Hotel, Man on the Mountain, Cog Railway), NH
60. New England Ski Museum, Bretton Woods, NH
61. Portland Waterfront & South Head Lighthouse, Portland, Maine
62. Bathe Ship Yards, Bathe, Maine
63. Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine
64. Freedom Trail, Boston, MA
65. Boston Harbor, Boston, MA

Eastern Canada:
66. Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Parliament Hill
67. Old Guard, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
68. Grand Banks, Ontario, Canada

69. Catoctin Mtns (Gateway Mountain Orchard, Shamrock's, Cross-Country Skiing), Maryland
70. Inner Harbor, Baltimore, MD
71. Capitol and Mall, Washington DC
72. Air and Space Museum, Washington DC
73. Old Town, Fredericksburg, VA
74. Jamestown Settlement, Jamestown, VA
75. Shenandoah Caverns, Mt Jackson, VA
76. Monticello, Charlottesville, VA
77. Harper's Ferry, WVA
Inner Harbor
78. Berkley Springs, WVA
79. Blackwater Falls State Park, Davis, WVA

80. Tobacco Museum, Durham, NC
81. Cape Hatteras, Avon, North Carolina
82. South of the Border, Dillon, South Carolina
83. St Simon & Brunswick Island, Georgia
84. Underground Atlanta, Atlanta, Georgia
85. Coke Factory, Atlanta, Georgia
86. Cape Canaveral, Florida
87. Epcot Center, Orlando, Florida
88. Universal Studios, Orlando, Florida
89. Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables, Florida
90. Everglades National Park, Everglades, Florida
South of the Border
91. Miami Seaquarium, Miami, Florida
92. Robert is Here, Florida City, Florida
93. Florida Keys Wild Bird Center, Tavernier, Florida
94. John Pennekamp State Park, Key Largo, Florida
95. Lignum Vitae Key, Florida
96. Key West, Florida
97. US Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, Alabama
98. Natchez Trace, Mississippi
99. Blues Highway, Mississippi
100 Audoban Park & Zoo, New Orleans, LA
101. French Quarter, New Orleans, LA

Some runner-ups:
1. Cave and Basin, Banff, Alberta, Canada
2. Jasper, Alberta, Canada
3. Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA
3. Chinatown, San Francisco, CA
4. Lombad Street, San Francisco, CA
5. Waterfront, Redondo Beach, Los Angeles County, CA
6. Venice Beach, CA
7. Vail, CO
8. Four Corners, Colorado/Utah/New Mexico/Arizona
9. Window Rock, New Mexico
10. Big Sky, Montana
11. Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, WY
12. Peabody Hotel, Memphis, TN
13. Beale Street, Memphis, TN
14. Ninth Ward, New Orleans, Louisiana
15. Garden District, New Orleans, Louisiana
16. Old Town Savannah, GA
17. Islamorada Seafood Restaurants, Islamorada, FL
18. Miami Beach, Miami, FL
19. B&O Railroad Museum, Baltimore, Md
20. Old Town Alexandria, Alexandria, VA
21. Busch Gardens, Williamsburg, VA
22. Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY
23. Museum of the Moving Image, Queens, New York, NY
24. Wall Street/Battery, New York, New York
25. Toronto Skydome, Toronto, Canada
26. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Cape Cod, MA
27. Corning Glass Factory, Corning, NY
28. Barrell Falls, Rochester, NY
29. Eastman Kodak Mansion, Rochester, NY
30. Princeton, NJ

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