San Francisco is one of the most beautiful places on earth, hands down. (51113)

As you might imagine, as a travel writer for over 18 years, I have been to quite a few destinations in my time. However, the list of places I want to go is probably five times as long, as there are just so many wonderful places, people, things, food, cultures and so forth that I want to experience.

So I am always taking tips from friends, browsing through travel magazines and books and watching TV travel shows, looking for my next exciting sojourns. When I saw this article “20 U.S. Places to See Before You Die” by Fodor’s Travel, which publishes some of the best travel books and has an online travel site (, I just knew I had to take a closer look.

Arizona: Grand Canyon

Who can argue that a natural wonder one mile deep, 18 miles wide, 277 river miles long and averaging 8,000 feet above sea level should not be on everyone’s must-visit list? Ask any one of the estimated 5 million people who visit each year.

California: Big Sur

The landscape and scenery here are simply spectacular and this is not only one of the must-see places in the country, but in California in particular.

California: The Hollywood Sign

Fodor’s says it best: “It’d be tough to find an American sign so deeply ingrained in our collective cultural subconscious—the 50-foot, fluorescent white, appropriately extravagant ‘Hollywood’ sign has perched on Hollywood Hills since 1923.”

California: San Francisco

The “City by the Bay” is one of the most beautiful places on earth hands down, from the soaring Golden Gate and Bay bridges; to the iconic cable cars; distinctive Italian, Russian, Asian, African-American, gay and lesbian and other neighborhoods; outstanding culinary scene; and some of the best art galleries and museums in the country.

Florida: Disney World’s Magic Kingdom

Whether you are into amusement parks or not, you might agree with Fodor’s when they say, “The whole scope of the American imagination is represented, from the futuristic Tomorrowland to the classic Fantasyland. It’s a pixie-dusted retreat from reality that can’t be missed, no matter your age.”

Florida: South Beach, Miami

LeBron James and the Miami Heat are not the only things that are hot here! The city offers a distinctive Latin vibe, beautiful beaches, amazing architecture, out-of-this-world gastronomy, exciting nightlife, and a wealth of attractions for people from all ages and walks of life.

Illinois: Millennium Park

Millennium Park is just one of Chi Town’s popular tourist spots, and really like its own little city, it offers a wealth of things to see, do and experience year-round.

Massachusetts: Fenway Park

Arguably America’s most iconic ballpark since it opened in 1912, Fenway Park is as American as baseball, hot dogs and the pursuit of happiness itself.

Louisiana: The French Quarter

I have been to the Big Easy several times, and during each visit, I gain a higher appreciation for the eclectic amalgamation of diverse history, stunning architecture, amazing cuisine, vivacious people and rich musical heritage that underscores everything and every part of the city. Of the French Quarter, Fodor’s says, “A spirit of resilient jubilance pervades the French Quarter, making it an American icon you must experience.”

Maine: Portland Head Light

I have always wanted to visit Maine, and now I have another viewpoint, pardon the pun, from which to enjoy it, thanks to Fodor’s: “George Washington commissioned the Portland Head Light in 1790 to tower over the keeper’s quarters in Fort Williams Park and beckon ships to land. … It’s a truly beautiful and classic lighthouse, with its smooth white stone topped by a black spire against the blazing red roof of the keeper’s quarters, all perched on the romantic cliffs of Maine.”

New Mexico: Taos Pueblo

It has been many years since I have been to Taos, which really lives up to the state moniker, “The Land of Enchantment.” I agree with Fodor’s when they said, “As though frozen in time, Taos Pueblo today appears much as it did when the first Spanish explorers arrived in New Mexico in 1540, and inside, the traditional Native American way of life endures.”

Nevada: Las Vegas Sign

Of the sign, Fodor’s says, “A trip to the strip can’t end without a picture in front of this kitschy, ’50s-style sign. The flashy, diamond-shaped testament to the Vegas spirit is an American icon in primary colors, welcoming all to their quest through the city’s hedonistic streets.”

New York CIty: Grand Central Station

Of all of the historic stations in the country, Grand Central Station is one of the best. But most people might not know that before it was at its current location, its predecessor was called the New York and Harlem Railroad Station, bounded by Fourth and Madison avenues and 26th and 27th streets and built in 1831.

New York CIty: Times Square

What more could you say about Times Square, the focal point of the world on New Year’s Eve and a 24/7 melting pot of visitors and cultures from around the world

Pennsylvania: Philadelphia City Hall

Fodor’s says the “City of Brotherly Love” also deserves some love for its City Hall, which is reportedly the largest city hall in the country and the tallest masonry-bearing building in the world.

South Dakota: Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore has always been on my list, and the beauty of the Black Hills with the mugs of Presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt will continue to beckon me until I see them “in person.”

Washington, DC: Thomas Jefferson Memorial

While lots of memorials get a lot of the D.C. love, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial isn’t usually one of them, but it should, in large part due to the stone materials and statuary elements used to construct this architectural masterpiece.

Washington State: Pike Place Market

Any true foodie absolutely must put Pike Place Market, established in 1907 and part of the nine-acre Market Historic District overlooking Elliott Bay in Seattle, on their must-visit—and must-eat—list.

Wyoming: Grand Teton National Park

I’ve seen the stunning photographs and heard some of the amazing stories of this national treasure that was originally set aside by an act of Congress in 1929.

Wyoming: Grand Prismatic Spring

Yellowstone is on my “Really Want to Go Back” list, and this time, I’ll be sure to check out the Grand Prismatic Spring, the park’s largest hot spring, measuring an estimated 370 feet in diameter and over 121 feet deep.

Lysa Allman-Baldwin writes for numerous online and print publications, including as the cultural travel writer for and as a senior travel writer for, an Afrocentric travel website. Lysa can be reached at