The Great Plains
To best comprehend this vast and underappreciated region in the heart of the US, you need to split the name. The first word, 'great,' is easy. Great scenery, great tornadoes, great eats, great people: all apply. The problem is with 'plains.' 'Humdrum' and 'flat' are two words that come to mind. Neither applies.
Vail, Aspen & Central Colorado
If you ask us where you can find the most trillion-dollar sights, where you can run the gnarliest rivers and charge the sickest runs, and to choose one hike that is sure to save your citified soul within a single afternoon, we would take out the map of Colorado, trim the edges and zoom into the center.
Most states have one official state song. Tennessee has seven. And that's not just a random fact – Tennessee has music deep within its soul. Here, the folk music of the Scots-Irish in the eastern mountains combined with the bluesy rhythms of the African Americans in the western Delta to give birth to the modern country music that makes Nashville famous.
Dallas & the Panhandle Plains
Dallas and Fort Worth may be next-door neighbors, but they're hardly twins – or even kissing cousins. Long regarded as being divergent as a Beemer-driving sophisticate and a rancher in a Ford pickup truck, these two cities have starkly different facades. Beyond appearances, however, they share a love of high (and low) culture and good old-fashioned Texan fun.
Yosemite & the Sierra Nevada
An outdoor adventurer’s wonderland, the Sierra Nevada is a year-round pageant of snow sports, white-water rafting, hiking, cycling and rock climbing. Skiers and snowboarders blaze through hushed pine-tree slopes, and wilderness seekers come to escape the stresses of modern civilization.
Beautiful Virginia is a state steeped in history. It's the birthplace of America, where English settlers established the first permanent colony in the New World in 1607. From then on, the Commonwealth of Virginia has played a lead role in nearly every major American drama, from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars to the Civil Rights movement and the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Houston & East Texas
More down-home than Dallas, more buttoned-up than Austin: Houston has money and culture, but wears them like good ol' country boy come to town. What's that mean? Award-winning, chef-run restaurants where ties are rarely required. Attending world-class museum exhibits followed by cheap beer at patio bars.
Few regions highlight the diversity of Florida's geography and character as dramatically as the Northeast. Near the Florida–Georgia border, Amelia Island is a gorgeous Southern belle, resplendent in nature's finest ornamentation. An hour to the south, Jacksonville, Florida's most populous city, is an urban sprawl of high-rises, highways and steel-girded bridges.
The Riviera Maya, a tourist corridor of white-sand beaches, scenic ruins and fun-filled cenotes (limestone sinkholes), was made for road-tripping. Yes, it's growing fast, too fast some will say, but despite all the development, you can still find that small fishing town or head inland to catch a glimpse of the Mexico that tourism forgot.
South of Tampa
People who prefer Florida's Gulf side over its Atlantic one generally fall in love with this stretch of sun-kissed coastline from Sarasota to Naples. These two affluent, cultured towns set the tone for the whole region, where visits sway between soporific beach days and art-museum meanders, fine dining and designer cocktails.
The largest state east of the Mississippi River is a labyrinth of geographic and cultural extremes: right-leaning Republican politics rub against liberal idealism; small, conservative towns merge with sprawling, progressive, financially flush cities; northern mountains rise to the clouds and produce roaring rivers, while coastal marshlands teem with fiddler crabs and swaying .
Shimmering in myriad shades of blue and green, Lake Tahoe is the USA’s second-deepest lake and, at 6255ft high, it is also one of the highest-elevation lakes in the country. Driving around the lake’s spellbinding 72-mile scenic shoreline will give you quite a workout behind the wheel.