As we head into 2018, the question on everyone’s mind is, “Where to next?”
Hoping to construct a bucket list of our own, we asked each member of the Passion Passport team which U.S. location was at the top of their wishlist and why.
Here are our top 2018 destinations.
“A member of our team traveled to Anchorage last summer with a group of friends and raved about her overall experience. Since then, it’s been in the back of my mind.” — Zach Houghton (founder)
Located on the Cook Inlet in the south-central portion of the state, Anchorage is known as “the best of Alaska.” With towering mountains, sparkling glaciers, and commanding wildlife, the city is a gateway to nearby wilderness areas and mountains including Chugach, Kenai, and Talkeetna, a base for those looking to explore Denali. From the serene waters of the Cook Inlet to the fjords of Prince William Sound, and the natural wonders of the Chugach range, Anchorage offers a space for both adventure and reflection.
“I’ve visited the West Coast and lived on the East, but I’ve never really gotten the chance to try the South. The Louisiana bayou feels like it would be a perfect departure from Chicago, and the swamp just looks so darn mysterious.” — Elliot Vernon (social)
Located primarily in the southern reaches of Louisiana, the bayou is a defining feature of this unique part of America. Separate from the rest of the state, bayou life has its own pace, culture, and wildlife. With dark swamps thick with cypress trees and sun-kissed marshes that play host to herons and egrets, this area of Louisiana remains a mystery to many Americans. Although swamps and gators might not be for everyone, the people of the bayou are known for making visitors feel right at home.
“I went on a road trip last summer, but missed Montana. It’s a place my mind keeps coming back to. Bozeman is surrounded by mountains — a dream for anyone who loves the outdoors.” — Rachel Heckerman (design)
Situated in the Rocky Mountains of southern Montana, Bozeman is a city defined by its location. From skiing in the winter to biking and hiking in the summer, Bozeman is a center for endless outdoor recreation opportunities, and a home base for exploring all that southwest Montana has to offer. That said, Bozeman also features a thriving arts community, a “green” public library, a 73-acre cemetery, and an annual Sweet Pea Festival. But no matter which way you turn, Bozeman promises striking scenic views in all directions.
GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS, TENNESSEE
“I’ve driven through Tennessee many times en route to Florida from Ohio, but I’ve never spent any time off the highway. I’d love to visit Nashville, see Gatlinburg in the fall, and explore Great Smoky Mountains National Park.” — Britton Perelman (editorial)
Great Smoky Mountains National Park covers 816 square miles and straddles the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. From the misty peaks of Clingman’s Dome and Mount LeConte to the verdant valley of Cades Cove, these ancient mountains are teeming with wildlife and gorgeous foliage. Feel the cool spray of a waterfall, spend a night camping under the stars, and witness the park’s annual firefly phenomenon. Whatever you choose, the memories you create amid the rugged wilderness will stick with you forever.
HAIKU STAIRS, HAWAII
“The Haiku Stairs in Hawaii have intrigued me for a few years now. The steps wind up the Ko’olau mountain range and end at a breathtaking view of the island below. The hike is ‘technically’ illegal, but hey — a girl can dream!” — Camille Danielich (editorial)
The Haiku Stairs, also known as “the Stairway to Heaven,” is a steep hiking trail comprised of 3,922 steps on the island of Oahu. The stairs were originally installed during World War II so that military personnel could access a radio station antenna that sat roughly 2,000 feet up in the mountains. The majority of the stairs are nearly vertical, and today, the site is actually illegal to visit because of liability issues and land access requirements. That said, dozens of people still trek up the stairs every day, and hikers say that the view is well-worth the risk.
LAKE TAHOE, CALIFORNIA
“I originally came to the U.S. with the idea of backpacking for a year and working the ski season at Lake Tahoe. Although I certainly can’t complain about the events that led me to New York, I would still like to visit the area at some point in the near future.” — Kari Grace (social)
Lake Tahoe is a cobalt-blue lake tucked in the snowy Sierra Nevada mountain range between California and Nevada. A popular destination for both summer and winter activities, Lake Tahoe boasts a variety of beaches, hiking trails, slopes, and lodges. Its southwestern shore is home to Emerald Bay State Park, while its northeastern side encompasses Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, Sand Harbor Beach, and Spooner Lake. Regardless of which area you choose, you can’t go wrong. This scenic locale is adored by visitors and locals alike.
MOUNT RAINIER, WASHINGTON
“I’ve always had a penchant for mountains, and I’m enchanted by the way the massive, rugged peak of Mount Rainier looms over the Seattle skyline.” — Devon Shuman (editorial)
Mount Rainier is the highest mountain of the Cascade Range in the Pacific Northwest, and the highest peak in Washington state. It’s also a large, active stratovolcano situated in Mount Rainier National Park, just outside the city of Seattle. With a summit elevation of 14,411 feet (4,392 meters), Mount Rainier boasts stretches of wildflowers, thundering waterfalls, and breathtaking vistas. And, to top it all off, the area is home to over 130 trailheads begging to be explored.
NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK
“I’ve wanted to visit New York City since I was in high school but, for one reason or another, it’s never worked out. I’m still dying to go. The noisy energy, hidden nooks, collision of cultures — I want to experience it all.” — Brad Donaldson (editorial)
New York is a city of neighborhoods. And while there are nearly endless options for eating, sightseeing, and shopping throughout the five boroughs — Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island — the city derives its personality and culture from its communities. With breathtaking views from the Empire State Building, exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and performances at Lincoln Center, NYC is a world-famous, one-of-a-kind city that changes almost daily.
“Portland’s been on my list for years, thanks to ‘Portlandia’ and the countless stories I’ve heard about the city. Its quirky, sustainable culture makes it seem like a vibrant place to be.” — Kate Renaud (editorial)
Known for its parks, bridges, bike lanes, doughnut shops, farmers markets, microbreweries, coffeehouses, bookstores, and eco-friendly lifestyle, Portland hosts thriving art, theater, and music scenes. As Oregon’s largest city, Portland also encompasses iconic sites such as Washington Park, the Portland Japanese Garden, the Oregon Zoo, Pittock Mansion, and the Portland Saturday Market. All in all, Portland is a city full of personality and outlandish things to do.
U.S. ROUTE 50, MARYLAND TO CALIFORNIA
“After over 12 years living in NYC with no car, I made my way to Colorado a few years ago and bought a Jeep. While the Jeep eventually fell apart, I still love the idea of calling a vehicle my home. I’d love to build-out a van and drive it across the country.” — Michelle Starin (business development)
Running coast-to-coast through the heart of America, U.S. 50 passes through a dozen different states, four capital cities, and the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. Along the route are some of the country’s most magnificent landscapes: the Sierra Nevada and the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains, the endless farmlands of the Great Plains, and the desiccated deserts of Utah and Nevada. This 3,200-mile stretch of road follows in the footsteps of pioneers and is often called the “Backbone of America.”
WHITE SANDS NATIONAL MONUMENT, NEW MEXICO
“The first time I ever saw a picture of White Sands was in an article that we published last year. It blew my mind — it looks unlike any other place I’ve been in the United States.” — Kyle Peters (design)
Located in the northern Chihuahuan Desert of New Mexico, White Sands National Monument is known for its dramatic landscape of rare, white-gypsum sand dunes. Noteworthy trails through the dunes include the raised Interdune Boardwalk and the Dune Life Nature Trail, dotted with interpretive exhibits on wildlife and other features. Nestled in the Tularosa Basin between the Sacramento and San Andres Mountain ranges, this one-of-a-kind outdoor experience boasts spectacular vistas, untamable land, an unimaginable adventure.
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, WYOMING
“Yellowstone was one of those places I always heard stories about. But when I was asked to work on our Yellowstone guide, I was completely taken aback by its mysterious beauty. I can’t wait to see it with my own eyes.” — Kacie McGeary (editorial)
Yellowstone National Park spans over 2.2 million acres, has more than 900 miles of hiking trails, and sits on a giant (dormant) volcano. On top of all of that, Yellowstone is home to more geysers and hot springs than any other place on earth, its wilderness encompasses sites such as the Yellowstone Grand Canyon and Old Faithful, and its wildlife sanctuary is booming with creatures. As if the scenery wasn’t enough, the park offers a range of activities for visitors, including camping, hiking, backpacking, kayaking, wildlife watching, cycling, and llama trekking.