Summer vacation doesn't *have* to be premeditated and require months-long planning or expensive flights. Nor does fulfilling that wanderlust call for jumping continents and long-haul excursions.
In fact, some of the most fun-filled family trips are often out of spontaneity for a last-minute weekend getaway. Whether it's an unplanned road-trip, eleventh-hour flight deal or even mapped out the night before, spontaneous trips are often the most exciting!
TripAdvisor has released it's now-annual list of the Top 10 experiences in the US to help you get those ideas stirring. From Ellis Island adventures to Chicago river tours and New Orleans cooking classes, here's which destinations made the cut:
The rich heritage of the South Pacific can be explored with a visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center in Oahu. With activities such as ukulele lessons and canoe rides, travelers can learn traditional customs from villagers spanning Samoa, Fiji, Tahiti, Tonga, Hawaii and more. “If you truly would like to take in the fullness of Hawaii, you must go to the Polynesian Cultural Center. We learned about the culture and history of each Hawaiian group using humor, music, singing, dance and etc. There’s never a boring moment and I have every intention of going back again,” commented a TripAdvisor reviewer.
Travelers can see Washington DC lit up at night on this guided bus tour. The tour drives by and stops at some of the city’s top memorials and attractions, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Marine Corps War Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial. “The monuments look even better by night,” said one TripAdvisor reviewer. “We had a personable, knowledgeable tour guide, who was accommodating to requests made by the passengers.”
8. BostonDuckTour– Boston, Massachusetts, bookable from $44.53 per person
Boston is best seen by land and water, and this duck tour takes travelers from Boston Common to the Charles River on a single excursion, all while riding in a rolling, floating piece of American military history. Traveling by vintage, World War II amphibious vehicle, travelers will see beloved Boston neighborhoods from city streets and the river. “Great tour of the city with a really fun twist. A lot of historical content in a short time presented in a fun way,” exclaimed a TripAdvisor reviewer.
Get views of Chicago’s most famous buildings, as well as insider info from an expert guide, on this architecture-focused cruise. The tour highlights all of the city’s most important buildings, a task hard to accomplish by foot. A TripAdvisor reviewer commented, “Was told by numerous people to take this tour and I’m glad they did. I’m not usually into architecture but found this very informative and interesting. Learned a lot of history in how Chicago started and what the buildings represented.”
At more than 550 feet (167 meters) tall, the High Roller in Vegas isn't your county fair Ferris wheel. Travelers will enjoy a 30-minute revolution in one of the High Roller's 28 air-conditioned compartments. This ride above the Las Vegas skyline won't disappoint. “The LINQ is a must when in Vegas. I would recommend doing it at night. The lights of Vegas and beyond are amazing,” advised one TripAdvisor reviewer.
Travelers will discover New Orleans’ Cajun and Creole cultures on this full-day swamp and plantation sightseeing tour. In a small group, the tour heads deep into the secluded bayous to witness Cajun living and spot native wildlife, followed by a visit to Oak Alley Plantation and Laura Plantation to view the stunning architecture, oak-lined esplanades, and sugar cane fields. “You will learn so much about the Cajon, Creole, New Orleans history, culture, and joie de vivre,” offered a TripAdvisor reviewer.
This small-group tour from Las Vegas gives travelers an inside look at the Hoover Dam. The tour takes travelers to the visitor’s center, on a power plant tour, and lets travelers grasp the dam’s spectacular scale on the “Walk on the Top,” a stroll over the dam. Going both into and over the Hoover Dam on a tour from Las Vegas, travelers will get a firsthand look at the dam’s inner workings and history. A TripAdvisor reviewer noted, “The guide shared tons of information on Las Vegas, the areas and towns around Las Vegas and the history of how it all came together. The Dam and bridge are unbelievable, you cannot tell from photos the size, it is a must see!”
This guided tour lets travelers enjoy a seamless visit to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in New York Harbor. A guide leads the group through Lady Liberty’s pedestal and to its observation decks, as well as through the Great Hall exhibits at Ellis Island. “Fantastic tour from a very knowledgeable guide. The views from the boat on the way out to the islands is fantastic and the monuments themselves are very impressive,” said one TripAdvisor reviewer.
This fun and educational cooking class is a great option for travelers seeking the full Louisiana dining experience. Set in a converted 19th-century molasses warehouse, foodies can expect to learn – and eat! A lively local chef leads experience-goers through the fundamentals of classic Creole dishes and travelers can then dig into the delicious samples, complemented by local beer or a sweet ice tea. “We cooked gumbo, barbeque shrimp, and grits, and it all came out phenomenal. Would definitely love to go back again, highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys cooking and looking for a fun time in New Orleans,” said one TripAdvisor reviewer.
Travelers can maximize their time in Manhattan with this outstanding tour of some of New York City’s most iconic attractions. With insider commentary from knowledgeable guides, the tour takes travelers by land and sea, first via bus for the sights of Federal Hall, South Street Seaport, 9/11 Memorial, and Wall Street. Travelers then take a harbor cruise via luxury boat, with views of Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, and Brooklyn Bridge, before wrapping up on land with a visit to Lincoln Center and Central Park. “It was an intimate tour and very well-organized. You’ll feel like a friend is showing you around, with all of the juicy insider info,” noted a TripAdvisor reviewer.
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Its list was curated through an algorithm that took into account traveler reviews, quality and ratings.
"Experiences are often the highlight of a trip, and a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture, or even explore your hometown," explained Laurel Greatrix, director of communications for the travel site. "These awards highlight the best things to do around the world, with something for every type of traveler.”