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.
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.
There’s something undeniably artistic in the way the landscape unfolds in the California desert. Weathered volcanic peaks stand sentinel over singing sand dunes and mountains shimmering in hues from mustard yellow to vibrant pink. Hot mineral water spurts from the earth’s belly to feed palm oases and soothe aching muscles in stylish spas.
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.
Gulf Coast & South Texas
America's 'Third Coast,' as it's dubbed itself, is a place of many contrasts. The mellow beach town scene of Port Aransas is a sea of calm compared with the frenetic hedonism of South Padre Island, for one. Yet there is also much that is the same. At both Aranasas National Wildlife Refuge and Padre Island National Seashore, you can get lost in nature.
Take the best bits of the Deep South – friendly ('howdy y'all!') people, a molasses-slow pace, oak-lined roads and fried green tomatoes – then add sugar-white beaches, clear natural springs and bountiful seafood and you're beginning to conjure up the magnificent, diverse and highly underrated Florida Panhandle: so overlooked in the bigger Florida picture that we almost want t.
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.
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.
With one foot on either side of the Continental Divide and granite behemoths in every direction, Colorado’s northern mountains provide a glimpse of the top of the world. Here, the northern Rockies make an irresistible call to mountain-lovers, regardless of whether the season calls for climbing them in hiking boots or shushing down them on skis.
Moss-draped oaks. Stately mansions. Wide beaches. Rolling mountains. And an ornery streak as old as the state itself. Ah yes, South Carolina, where the accents are thicker and the traditions more dear. From its Revolutionary War patriots to its 1860s secessionist government to its current crop of outspoken legislators, the Palmetto State has never shied away from a fight.
Most people think of the state's south when conjuring images of Florida's famed beaches, which may be why the eastern half of the Gulf Coast has been dubbed the Forgotten Coast. The name is apt for the entire shoreline here, unless you're local and already familiar with the region's magical beauty.
All right, time for your Ohio quiz. In the Buckeye State you can 1) buggy-ride through the nation's largest Amish community; 2) lose your stomach on one of the world's fastest roller coasters; 3) suck down a dreamy creamy milkshake fresh from a working dairy; or 4) examine a massive, mysterious snake sculpture built into the earth. And the answer is…all of these.