Beautiful, passionate, lovely 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.
Though the 70-or-so miles of sparkling Atlantic shoreline from Hollywood to Jupiter earned its nickname from the gold salvaged from area shipwrecks, it could easily have come from the mix of sapphire skies, cinnamony sands and wealthy residents bejeweling the region. Here, the coastline has a split personality.
Gulf Coast, Beaumont & South Texas
OK, although the hills in south-central Texas are more like molehills than mounts, they – and the rivers that flow through – are the defining factor in the region. Dotting Hill Country are small Texasy towns that show the influence of early German and Czech settlers. Here you can eat great BBQ, dance across an old wooden floor or spend a lazy day floating on the river.
Orlando & Around
While it's quite easy to get caught up in the isolated worlds of Disney or Universal Orlando, squeezing in one more ride, one more parade, one more show and never venturing beyond their constructed environments designed precisely to keep you there, Orlando has so much more.
Palm Springs & The Deserts
California’s outback is where the Wild West lives on. Though spliced by ribbons of interstate, the desert state of mind is as far from Los Angeles as Shangri-La. It’s the lair of escapists, hedonists, rabble-rousing ranchers, prophetic environmentalists, Native American tribes, eccentric folk artists and daredevil test pilots.
In 1902 speed catapulted Daytona into the national psyche when playboy racecar drivers Ransom Olds (of Oldsmobile fame) and Alexander Winston waged a high-profile race along the unusually hard-packed sandy shore, reaching an unheard of 57mph.
The beaches up here are some of the state’s best, with translucent aquamarine seas lapping against white sugar-sand formed by quartz crystal from the Appalachians. Known as the Emerald Coast, the area from Pensacola to Panama City Beach has also earned the nickname ‘Redneck Riviera’ for its proximity to the southern states whose residents flock here.
Think laid-back, pickup truck and boot-scooting town meets high-powered, high-cultured and high-heeled metropolis. During the day, chill out in your flip-flops, take in museums and shopping, then hit happy hour on a leaf-shaded deck. At night, revel in culinary or cultural bliss – the foodie scene and theater district are both nationally renowned.
Most states have one official state song. Tennessee has seven. Here, the folk music of the Scots-Irish mountain-dwellers in the east combined with the bluesy rhythms of the African Americans in the western Mississippi bottomlands to give birth to the modern country music that makes Nashville famous.
The vast open stretch of the Texas Panhandle and Plains is a region of long drives on lonely two-laners. Its cities are few and small.
The most populated state in the Plains, Missouri likes to mix things up, serving visitors ample portions of both sophisticated city life and down-home country sights. St Louis and Kansas City are the region's most interesting cities and each is a destination in its own right.
Vastly different at each of its edges, Georgia – the largest state east of the Mississippi River – is in many ways the perfect distillation of everything the South has to offer.
More, more, more – Michigan is the Midwest state that cranks it up. It sports more beaches than the Atlantic seaboard. More than half the state is covered by forests. And more cherries and berries get shoveled into pies here than anywhere else in the USA. Plus its gritty city Detroit is the Midwest's rawest of all – and we mean that in a good way.
It's hard to put a label on Phoenix. Just when you've dismissed it as a faux-dobe wasteland of cookie-cutter subdivisions, bland shopping malls and water-gobbling golf courses, you're pulled short by a golden sunset setting the urban peaks aglow. Or a stubborn desert bloom determined to make a go of it in the dry, scrubby heat.