The Best Places To Visit In Colorado

The Best Places To Visit In Colorado

There are many incredible places to visit in Colorado.

In my 2 years at the University of Denver I got to see most of Colorado, and concluded this is one of the most underrated destinations in the United States. Home of the Rocky Mountains and of the high desert of the Colorado Plateau; packed with forests, waterfalls and alpine lake; with a fantastic range of scenic drives that make it perfect for a road trip and with a range of unique archeological sites and quaint small towns, Colorado has loads to offer to its visitors.

Travel there in the spring and summer months, and you will find a plethora of adrenaline filled activities – hiking. mountain biking, rafting and more – to keep busy. Go in the winter, and you’ll soon realize that skiing doesn’t get much better than that.

Curious to find out more? Continue reading to discover the best places to visit in Colorado, and the top activities in each of them.

free things to do in Denver

The Most Beautiful Places To Visit In Colorado

Denver

Known as Mile High City, Colorado’s capital and its largest city is one of the best places to visit in Colorado, and the most obvious starting point for a road trip around the state. Located east of the Rocky Mountains, Denver has an incredible range of attractions, which include a phenomenal Art Museum; the Denver Performing Arts Complex – which is one of the largest art centers in the United States; and the impressive Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

Other must-see attractions in Denver are the Capitol Building; the Mint; the Botanic Gardens and the 16th Street Mall, which is a lovely place for a walk. Make sure not to miss a trip to the historical homes – Molly Brown House Museum is definitely worth visiting, as well as the Center for Colorado Women’s History.

Denver is home to a great range of pubs and breweries where you can enjoy an evening drink, and the food scene is thriving too.

This customized guided tour may be a good idea to better explore the city. Alternatively, opt for one of the free tours on offer.

Make sure to read my post The Best Free Things To Do In Denver.

Red Rocks

Red Rocks Amphitheater

*Submitted by Michelle Moyer, Moyer Memoirs Adventures in Empty-Nest Travel
 
Definitely worth a spot on your Colorado itinerary, Red Rocks Amphitheater is an amazing free site open all year from dawn until dusk to hike and enjoy the miles and miles of trails around the park. 

The amphitheater is a site to see in itself. It often hosts grand music concerts, yoga classes and classic or popular film shows. 

Even if you cannot attend a live event or class there, you should definitely check it out. The amphitheater is framed on each side by huge sandstone red rock formations which make this outdoor stage the most unique in the world. You are sure to be in awe as you stand at the top of the amphitheater and view the stage with Denver and its mountainscape as the backdrop.

After you are done viewing the magnificent amphitheater, you can descend down the 380 steps or return to your car and drive to the main level. 

There are two main hiking trails that you can access at the lower level of the amphitheater park. These trails wind around the red rock formations and circle the park, providing hours of outdoor hiking. You will find a lot of wildlife, nature, and geologic formations along your hike as Red Rocks Park will definitely not disappoint you.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater is just a short 15-mile drive from Denver in Morrison, Colorado.

Trail Hedge Road
Trail Hedge Road is one of the most scenic drives in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Easily one of the best places to visit in Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park is fun to explore in any season.

If you are into hiking, you will be pleased to know that the park boasts more than 350 miles of trails, going through alpine peaks, by clear lakes, and along green meadows. This is also where you will find Longs Peak, one of Colorado’s “fourteeners,” or mountains that are taller than 14,000 feet.

If you visit in the winter, you will find loads to do. If you want to go snowshoeing head to Bear Lake, which is packed with good trails. Glacier Gorge and Hidden Valle – which is a former ski hub – are the only places where you can go sledging.

The park is a fantastic place to admire wildlife. Winter is the best time to spot species such as elk, mule deer, coyotes and other large mammals – these are animals that prefer colder climates and move to lower elevations in the winter months, making it easier to spot them.

Among the highlights of the park there are the scenic Trail Ridge Road or Bridal Veil Falls. Other popular drives such as Upper Beaver Meadows Road and Old Fall River Road are not accessible the winter months.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Rocky Mountain National Park is located about 1.5 hours drive from Denver. The best way to explore it is by car, but if you don’t have one you can join a guided tour such as this full-day trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. The best place to stay close to Rocky Mountain National Park is Estes Park, where you will find a good selection of accommodation, restaurants, breweries and stores.

Make sure to read my post The Best Things To Do In Rocky Mountain National Park.

Estes Park

Estes Park

*Submitted by Michelle, That Texas Couple

Estes Park is truly a quintessential Colorado mountain town about 1.5 hours northwest of Denver. Known for its majestic scenery, outdoor adventures, and wildlife, Estes Park is definitely one of the best places to visit in Colorado.

Not only is this small town located at the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, but it is also a tourist attraction all in itself. There are so many things to do in Estes Park, CO that you could easily stay busy for weeks.  

Outdoor enthusiasts will be in heaven. In addition to Rocky Mountain National Park, you can also enjoy Lake Estes where you can fish, canoe, and boat, or head over to one of the many stables to enjoy horseback riding in the mountains.  

The main street of Estes Park is perfect to spend the day exploring. There are numerous boutique shops and great restaurants.  

While here, don’t miss the historic Stanley Hotel as well. The Stanley is the hotel that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining, and was later featured in the mini-series about the book.

Take note that the local wildlife, especially elk are known the visit the town often as well. They can be spotted in the park, on the River walk, and sometimes even walking down the middle of the main street!

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The best way to get to Estes Park is by car. The town is about 1.5 hours drive from Denver.

places to visit in Colorado

Dinosaur National Monument

*Submitted by Chris Christensen, Amateur Traveler

One of the best places to visit in Colorado if you want to get off the beaten path and into a raft is the Gates of Ladore in Dinosaur National Monument in the northwest corner of Colorado. This is a 3 day rafting trip and once you get in the raft you won’t see a building or road for 3 days. 

The Green River (a tributary of the Colorado River) cuts through Dinosaur National Monument exposing rock that is a billion years old. There is whitewater on this trip but there are also Native American pictographs, fossils and spectacular scenery. You can take a self paddle raft or an oar raft where your guide will do all of the paddling for you. 

Don’t expect a cell signal, a charging station, running water or flush toilets. You will be in the wilderness. This is a great break from everyday life and a great chance to see some of the most beautiful parts of Colorado that most people will never get a chance to see.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Dinosaur National Monument is in northwest Colorado, about 5 hours drive from Denver. The Quarry Visitors Center is the best access to the park as from there you can easily get to Quarry Exhibit Hall, built over the Carnegie Dinosaur Quarry. This is the perfect place for a road trip. You will find several campgrounds in the area. For hotels, you’ll have to go to Vernal.

best places to visit in Colorado

Boulder

*Submitted by Meg Atteberry, Fox in the Forest

Nestled in the foothills of the Front Range, Boulder is a small student city with a ton to offer if you’re a nature enthusiast. Even though the city is fun to explore and offers museums (Leanin’ Tree Museum of Western Art is a must) and walkable streets, the best Boulder has to offer is in its epic natural surroundings where you’ll find yourself in a world of beautiful foothills and stunning rock formations.

Boulder is home to more than 200 miles of trails, and the best thing to do during a visit is to put on your hiking shoes and choose from some of the best hikes Boulder has to offer.

Regardless of your hiking experience, you’ll find many trail options to suit your needs here (great options to get started include the Hessie Trailhead, Chautauqua Open Space, and even Eldorado State Park).

You may want to consider this hike with a local guide.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Boulder is located just a short 40-minute drive from Denver, which makes for the perfect place to start a Colorado road trip or for an epic day trip if you’re in the mood to escape the bustle and hustle of the city. If you don’t have a car, there is a bus route available from Denver as well.

Frisco

Frisco

*Submitted by Karen Warren, Outdoor Adventure Sampler

Frisco is a charming town in the heart of the Rocky Mountains in Summit Count, and one of the nicest places to visit in Colorado. It’s often called the Main Street of the Rockies because the picturesque town is surrounded by snow-capped peaks. Frisco was originally a mining town. Remnants of the past and historic buildings fill Main Street. There are also unique shops and fabulous bars and restaurants in town.

Frisco is a center for outdoor activity. Nearby Lake Dillon has great fishing and boating. Rent a sailboat, kayak, or standup paddleboard at the Frisco Marina for fun on the lake.

Biking is also popular in Frisco. A 55-mile bike path runs from Frisco through neighboring Summit County towns. A dedicated mountain biking community maintains miles of trails for all abilities. Don’t miss the classic bike ride from Vail Pass down to Frisco. An outfitter shuttles you and your rental bike to the top of Vail Pass for an exhilarating downhill ride on a bike path through the mountains.

Winter visitors will enjoy the easily available Nordic and alpine skiing. You will find six world-class ski resorts within a 30-minute drive. A cross country ski and snowshoe center is located right outside town. Snow tubing at the Adventure Center is a popular pastime.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Frisco is at less than 1.5 hours drive from Denver. There are daily Greyhound buses that depart from Denver Union Station.

Breckenridge

Breckenridge

*Submitted by Ellie Ewert, Ellie’s Travel Tips

Sitting almost 10,000 feet above sea level, Breckenridge is one of the best places to visit in Colorado. This beautiful city welcomes over 300 inches of snow every year—the ultimate skier’s paradise!

Breckenridge has the ability to make every tourist feel like a local, no matter how long they spend exploring the town. There are plenty of activities to try out, which include skiing, fat biking, rock climbing, paddling boarding, and whitewater rafting.

The top spot to start if you are visiting in the winter is Breckenridge Ski Resort. This resort is not only a relaxing accommodation option but also one of the best spots to go skiing in Colorado. Featuring 5 peaks, there are plenty of opportunities for any level skier.

Hiking is a popular summer activity in the area, offering gorgeous views, high alpine lakes, and colorful wildflowers. Alternatively, head over to the Arkansas River to experience some of the country’s best whitewater rafting trips.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: There are several ways to get into Breckenridge from any area of Colorado. If you are flying into Denver, head west along highway 70, which will bring you within miles of this quaint town. You can also visit on day trips from Denver such as this one.

South Park City

South Park City Museum

*Submitted by Shara Johnson, SKJ Travel

The Colorado Territory was founded in 1861, two years after the first prospector shouted “Eureka!” in 1859 and ignited a gold rush. The population exploded with men and women seeking their fortunes. Small towns, cabins and stage coach lines soon dotted and crisscrossed the mountains. Many of the gold and silver mines were dug above tree line where miners toiled in extremely harsh conditions, particularly in winter.

It’s hard to imagine the gritty lives of these hardy people. But a visit to the South Park City Museum in Fairplay will give your imagination a huge boost. Forty four original, restored buildings – not reconstructions – are filled with items donated by local families.

This outdoor museum is a delightful and highly educational stop and one of the most interesting places to visit in Colorado.

Ever wondered what an assay office looked like inside? What equipment processed the ore to separate out valuable minerals? What was a typical miner’s cabin or a homesteader’s house? What kind of room would you sleep in at a stage stop? What were popular tonics and remedies at drug stores in the 1800s? What was it like living inside a covered wagon? Or working in a blacksmith’s shop? Well, all of these burning questions and many more can be answered here.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The open air museum is located 35 minutes drive from Breckenridge, just off Highway 9 in Fairplay. Admission is $20, which is very modest considering how many buildings they maintain.

Mount Evans

Mount Evans Scenic Byway

One of the nicest things to do in Colorado is to drive along Mount Evans Scenic Byway, the highest paved road in the entire country, reaching over 14,130 feet. Driving along you can reach the peak of Mountain Evans, one of Colorado’s fourteeners, with an elevation of 14,271 feet.

Once you get to the summit, the views are absolutely impressive and there are plenty of chances to spot bighorn sheep and other wildlife.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Mount Evans is about 60 miles and 2 hours drive from Denver and the best way to get there is by car. The highway is closed in the winter months.

Vail

Vail

Vail is one of the most famous ski resorts in the country, and one of the best places to visit in Colorado regardless of the season.

With slopes for every level of expertise, the town is a fun place in the winter months and you’ll find a great selection of places to stay, restaurants, shops, designer stores and what not. In the summer, it’s all about hiking.

Being such as famous place, Vail isn’t exactly cheap – but the nearby Glenwood Springs, Breckenridge and even Avon are much more budget friendly.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Vail is at less than 2 hours drive from Denver. Greyhound buses depart daily from Union Station.

Beaver Creek

Beaver Creek

*Submitted by Derek and Mike, Robe Trotting

The romantic mountain village of Beaver Creek is one of the best destinations in Colorado for skiing, hiking, and enjoying the nature of the area.

This upscale and intimate resort town is nestled amongst the aspens in Colorado’s Vail Valley. Part of its beauty is the stunning natural landscape, but some comes from the fact that Beaver Creek is a completely planned village. It exists purely for the pleasure of travelers and skiers who frequent the town.

Unlike many Colorado ski towns, Beaver Creek was never a frontier mining town – it was carved out of the ski fantasies of tourism developers. The former governor jokingly called it the “Tiffany’s of ski resorts” and it holds true for those who are lucky enough to visit.

The ski resorts are the main attraction and the best thing to do in Beaver Creek to hit the slopes. For others, the spas, lodges, and restaurants like Grouse Mountain Grill offer perfect indoor activities. The mountain trails are perfect for hiking in the spring and summer season while fall foliage attracts leaf peepers in late September and early October.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Beaver Creek is about 3 hours drive from Denver. There are buses leaving from Union Station too. Once there, you will find luxury resorts with top-notch amenities and entertainment like the Beaver Creek Park Hyatt Resort. Budget-friendly options also exist like the Pines Lodge or a Beaver Creek Airbnb stay.

Hanging Lake

Glenwood Springs

Glenwood Springs is about 3 hours drive from Denver, and one of the most pleasant places to visit in Colorado. Sitting on the Rocky Mountains, this small town is the perfect place to visit if you want a getaway that combines nature with the comforts of the best tourist destinations.

Looking for a place to relax? Head to the open air hot springs. These historical hot springs are the perfect place to spend a few hours immersed in the water while it’s cold outside, or even snowing. Other nice spots are Yampah Spa and Vapor Cave.

Among the best things to to in the area, there are hiking; visiting the precious Hanging Lake – known for its emerald waters; visiting the Glenwood Caverns underground caves; kayaking and rafting (for an incredible rafting experience, click here); as well as climbing and mountain biking. If you visit in the winter, you can enjoy all sorts of winter sports.

If you want to spot wildlife, head to White River National Forest.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The best way to get to Glenwood Springs is by car, from Denver. Regular buses depart from Denver Union Station.

Aspen

Aspen

*Submitted by Jurga Rubinovaite, Full Suitcase

Aspen is one of the most famous mountain resorts in Colorado. Whether you’re visiting in summer or in winter, this is definitely one of the best places to see in the Centennial State.

The town is loved by the rich and the famous, with high-end luxury resorts, boutique shopping, fine dining, and celebrity vacation homes. At the same time, it’s also a very relaxed place with something to offer for all kinds of travelers.

Best known for its winter activities, Aspen is a real skiers paradise. There are four different ski resorts in the Aspen-Snowmass area with slopes for all difficulty levels. In addition, you’ll find a big variety of other winter activities such as cross-country skiing, tubing, snowshoeing, ice skating, and more.

In summer, Aspen is a great destination for hiking, biking, and other outdoor fun for the entire family. The scenery is stunning and there are many ways to enjoy the mountains even if you don’t hike. You can visit America’s most photographed mountains Maroon Bells or take the Silver Queen Gondola for amazing views from Aspen Mountain. And definitely be sure to drive over Independence Pass, which is one of the most scenic roads in Colorado.

Aspen is also a beautiful fall destination. In September, aspen trees color yellow painting the scenery in the most beautiful colors.

In addition to all the outdoor activities, Aspen also has rich cultural life with a beautiful Art Museum, an opera house, and a big variety of festivals and celebrations. Whether you come here for nature, shopping, culture, or a mix of it all – you’ll find plenty of things to see and do in Aspen.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Depending on which time of year you are visiting Aspen, you may or may not need a car. If you are there in the summer, a car is the best way to get around and reach all the hiking trails. In winter, an efficient public transport system will take you to the main ski areas. Driving there from Denver takes up to 4 hours.

Maroon Bells

Maroon Bells and Crater Lake

*Submitted by Jurga Rubinovaite, Full Suitcase

Maroon Bells just near Aspen in Colorado is one of the most beautiful mountain destinations in the United States. It’s also a photographers’ favorite, with a stunning mountain backdrop and reflections on the lake turning the landscape into a real-life painting.

Just a short hike from here, you’ll find another picturesque mountain lake, Crater Lake. While not as widely known as the Maroon Bells, it also offers some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in Colorado. The area also has a big variety of wildlife and it’s not uncommon to spot moose, especially if you are here during the quieter times of the day.

Maroon Bells is easy to reach and the most beautiful view can be found just near the car parking. So everybody can enjoy this stunning scenery without much physical effort. You can also opt for an easy hike along the northern side of the lake.

Crater Lake requires a bit more effort. It’s a moderate hike of about 1.9 miles one way and you should count about 2 hours to hike there and back.

Since Maroon Bells and Crater Lake are located at a higher altitude, Maroon Creek Road is closed in winter. The best time to plan a visit here is between late May and early October. In summer, the road gets closed to private vehicles during the day and you have to take a shuttle for the last few miles.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Maroon Bells and Crater Lake are located in the Elk Mountains, at over 200 miles and 4 hours driving from Denver, and as such not really suitable for a day trip. For more information and tips, please check this complete guide to visiting Maroon Bells.

Best places to visit in Colorado

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

*Submitted by Lotte, Beste voor Kids

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP is a very worthwhile place to visit. Vertical stone walls seem to go on forever and at some viewing areas you can’t even see all the way to the bottom of the canyon because it’s so steep and narrow. In fact, at the narrowest point, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is just 12 meters wide!  

You can visit both the North as well as the South rim. Take into account there is no bridge connecting the two rims. As such, it takes approximately two hours to drive from one side to the other.

When visiting the South Rim (the most developed one), pick up a map at the Visitor Center and follow the Rim Road Drive along several viewing points (there are 12 in total). Or follow one of the hiking trails leave from the visitor center and High Point. If you plan to stay overnight, you can book a spot at the Black Canyon Of The Gunnison Np South Rim Campground online.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is located in southwest Colorado. The best way to get to this splendid NP is with your own vehicle. Don’t underestimate the time it takes to drive here from Denver, it’s a 250-mile drive that will take at least 5 hours (not taking stops into account). 

Best places to visit in Colorado

Steamboat Springs

*Submitted by Talek Nantes, Travels With Talek

Colloquially and affectionately referred to as “The Boat,” Steamboat Springs is one of the best places to visit in Colorado, as it offers a myriad attractions and activities anytime of year.

Steamboat Springs is an internationally recognized ski resort with dramatic and stunning slopes. In fact, more winter Olympic athletes come from Steamboat Springs than any other city in the U.S.  

Some of the best-known ski slopes include Howelsen Hill, Mount Warner, and Outlaw Mountain. There is something for all ski lovers in Steamboat, no matter your level, from ski school to cross-country to Alpine skiing.

The month of February salutes the skiing culture with the Steamboat Winter Festival and Parade, the only parade where the performers march on skis!

But there is more to Steamboat than skiing. Summer offers lush, green mountain hikes, sparkling water sports and the famous Steamboat Balloon Festival in June.

Lincoln Avenue, the town’s main street, is also the center of activity. The street is lined with cute shops. The eateries offer Restaurant Week in late September. There is something going on every night at the various venues and you can buy the freshest produce at the regular Farmers Markets.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Steamboat Springs is about 3 hours drive from Denver. Greyhound Buses depart from Denver Union Station.

Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak

*Submitted by Jessica Sefcik, Unearth the Voyage

Pikes Peak is one of the best places to visit in Colorado for many reasons.

Pikes Peak is one of the only 14,000 foot mountains that you can actually drive to the top of, so it’s definitely worth it to take a day to do so, and the drive is magnificent. There is a really nice visitor center at the top that sells donuts that are specially made due to the high altitude.

Besides driving to the top of Pikes Peak, you can also take a cog train to the top which is a really unique experience if you’ve never been on a cog train before.

One important tip if you do decide to drive to the top of Pikes Peak is to make sure that you know how to down shift in your car. It is important to not use your brakes the entire time you are driving down from the top of Pikes Peak because they could overheat. If you make sure that you know how to do that, overall Pikes Peak is a wonderful place to spend a day.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Pikes Peak is very easily accessible from the larger cities in Colorado: it’s only an hour drive from Colorado Springs and a 2-hour drive from Denver.

Royal Gorge

Royal Gorge

Corritta, It’s a Family Thing
 
One of the most unique places to visit in Colorado is the Royal Gorge Bridge in Canon City. This bridge is the highest suspension bridge in the United States, with impeccable views of the Arkansas River. The bridge is a staggering 950 feet above the gorge, making it one of the most terrifying and beautiful places to visit.

The Royal Gorge Bridge isn’t the only attraction in the area. There are other adventurous things to do while there. The gondola ride will take you over 2,000 feet to the other side, with 360-degree views of the canyon. The word beautiful is an understatement for this view. It is magical. 
 
After getting across to the other side of the bridge there is an action-packed adrenaline SkyCoaster. This is one of the world’s scariest SkyCoasters, so if you are an adventure-seeker, this ride is for you. For people looking for something more chill, there is a zipline that runs parallel with the gondola, so you’ll get an uninterrupted view of the Gorge from 1,200 ft. in the air.
 
As if the bridge, SkyCoaster, and zipline aren’t enough, there is a train ride through the Gorge alongside the Arkansas River. This will be a ride of a lifetime with a train from the 1940’s panoramic views, food, and drinks. You’ll be able to take in the fresh air with open cars, take pictures, and even see the bridge from below.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Canon City is 2 hours from Denver, so it’s perfect for a mini road trip.

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods

*Submitted by Jyoti, Story at Every Corner

This is one of the most visited parks in the country and one of the best places to visit in Colorado because it has so much to offer. On top of that its free every day of the week.

Garden of the Gods really is the most appropriate name for this Colorado park, because it’s so beautiful! It would make the perfect playground for the divine beings. It has huge red rocks just scattered about and towering mountains sticking up into the sky, and it one of the best places for rock climbing near Colorado Springs.

Besides rock climbing, Garden of the Gods is great for a walk around the park, jeep rides and Segway rides. You will also find biking lanes and plenty of opportunities for mountain biking and horseback riding.

The Garden of the Gods Park Visitor & Nature Center is typically the best starting point for a visit, as there is a nice exhibit and short video that explains a bit more about the park. That’s also where you can sign up for guided nature walks.

For more information about jeep tours of the park, click here. For segway tours on the Juniper Loop, click here.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: To get to Garden of the Gods, you’ll ideally be staying in Colorado Springs or one of the nearby cities. To get to the park, you’ll first want to stop at the beautiful visitor center for information and great panoramic views of the park. Plan to get there early in the morning as the local parking lot fills up quickly.

Great Sand Dunes National Park 1

Great Sand Dunes National Park

*Submitted by Jarrod Heil, Ramble Around the World

Great Sand Dunes National Park, located in a somewhat remote part of southwestern Colorado, is a haven for adventurers and is unlike any other place in the country. Rolling sand dunes span 30 square miles of terrain at the base of the towering Sangre de Cristo Mountains to create one of the most unique juxtapositions in the state — and the country.

The best time to visit Great Sand Dunes National Park is during the late spring, summer and early fall due to good weather and the dry dunes. When the dunes are dry, there are a few local shops that rent out sandboards, so you can go roaring down the dunes like you’re snowboarding the Colorado slopes. If that’s your cup of tea, you’ll need to avoid going during the rainy season because the boards don’t slide on wet sand.

Other than sandboarding, the main activities are hiking the limitless dunes and going off-roading down the 19.9-mile Medano Pass Primitive Road. There aren’t any designated hiking trails on the dunes, so you can hike wherever you want at your own pace.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: This NP is about 4 hours drive from Denver, but visiting on day trips is not a good idea. Mosca is the closest town, at little over 20 minutes drive – you can base yourself there to explore the park.

Colorado things to do

Ouray

Daria Bachmann, The Discovery Nut

Nicknamed “The Switzerland of America,” Ouray is a small but mighty town in the heart of Colorado’s San Juan mountains.

Contrary to many other better known places to visit in Colorado, Ouray lacks the development and crowds of many other mountain towns largely because it doesn’t have a ski resort. However, it does have many other amazing things such as hot springs where you can soak; countless backroads that are perfect for ATV rides; incredible hiking trails and top notch camping right in the middle of town.

Ouray offers tons of history with its Victorian-style houses, local restaurants and breweries, so take some time to explore local culture.

If you are a thrill-seeker, take a ride along the famous One Million Dollar Highway that connects Ouray with Silverton. Considered one of most scary rides in the United States, this highway has plenty of sharp turns and steep drop-offs, so be careful! If you are brave enough, you will be rewarded with incredible views of the mountains ahead of you.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Ouray is a remote town in Southwest Colorado, and getting there is not easy. If you decide to drive, the easiest way to do it is from Durango, however, if you are driving from Denver, get ready to spend a lot of time on the road: the journey will take you between 6-7 hours. Alternatively, you can also fly into Montrose or Grand Junction along Interstate-70 and rent a care there.

Telluride

Telluride

*Submitted by Becky, SightDOING

On the western side of Colorado, Telluride sits in a box canyon surrounded by epic mountains. Here, the breathtaking views are just the start: you’ll also find mining history, outdoor adventures, and restaurants to suit every mood and budget.

Like many other places to visit in Colorado, the best activities depend on the season you visit.

There is prime skiing in winter, without the crowds on other mountains, as well as everything you’d expect from a winter wonderland, including resorts with hot tubs, cocktail bars, and other winter sports.

In the summer, activities switch over to hiking, biking, and jeeping. One of the most popular trails is Bear Creek Falls, which combines forest, mountain, and waterfall views into just a few easy hours. You can enjoy shopping, dining, and the Telluride Historical Museum year-round.

Downtown Telluride is walkable and there’s even a free gondola to head to Mountain Village. The ride up is worth a trip even if you don’t have plans to explore: the view from 9,545 feet overlooks Telluride and you can see for miles on a clear day.

PRACTICAL AIRPORT: The closest airport to Telluride is in Montrose, about an hour and a half away, although taking the six-hour drive from Denver to Telluride can be a good way to save on airfare and enjoy gorgeous scenery along the way.

Durango

Durango

*Submitted by Mama Pinot, Wine Travel Kids

Durango is in the southwestern part of the Rocky Mountains state of Colorado. It is most famous for the historic narrow-gauge railroad that connects Durango with Silverton, its craft beer (it has 6 award-winning craft breweries), and is an outstanding mountain biking destination.

You won’t be short of things to do in Durango. Make sure not to miss the Narrow Gauge Railway to Silverton for breathtaking views of the mountains. Another must see is the Durango & Silverton Railroad Museum, which is filled with interesting artifacts about the history of the railroad and locomotives.

Visit the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for some of the best chocolate ever! Finally, tour one or all of the six local, award-winning craft breweries. And if you are in search of adventure, hike, bike, or go white water rafting down the Animas River.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Durango has an airport that you can fly into. If you have time and enjoy driving, you should really consider a road trip around Colorado, as you’ll see some of the most spectacular views driving into Durango and can get to experience the magical Million-Dollar Highway. The historic downtown district has lots of great lodging to choose from. Try the famous Strater Hotel or stay at the DoubleTree downtown for the great views of the Animas River.

Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde National Park

*Submitted by James Ian, Parks Collecting

Mesa Verde is home to many of the most spectacular cliff dwellings and one of the most unique places to visit in Colorado. The ancestral Puebloans built their homes in alcoves in the cliffs and seeing and visiting them is to step back in history.

There are several cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde that you can tour. The most famous is Cliff Palace, which is also the largest of the dwellings. It is not actually a palace, but was a small village and ceremonial site housing about 100 people at its height in the early thirteenth century.

Visiting most of the dwellings involves walking down steep stairs, along narrow paths with steep drop offs, and usually climbing down and up ladders. Some of the smaller sites, which can only be reached on small special tours, require you to climb down the foot and hand holds that the ancestral Puebloans carved into the cliff face hundreds of years ago.

These days, there is a rope to help you, but it gives you a real insight into how precarious it was for them to climb down from the top of the mesa/ plateau, often carrying crops they had harvested there, into their homes in the cliffs.

Whether you see the dwellings on one of the main tours, do a special small tour or see them from the many overlooks around the park, seeing these incredible places is a fascinating experience.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The closest town to Mesa Verde is Cortez, which is about 50 minutes drive from Durango. From there, it’s another 45 minutes to Mesa Verde. Ranger-led tours of the Cliff Palace are available via the visitor center.

Colorado National Monument

Colorado National Monument

One of the most breathtaking places to visit in Colorado, Colorado National Monument is one of the state’s best destinations for hiking – you will find plenty of day hikes that take you through the landscape made of rock spires, canyons, cliffs and the short bushes. There are also plenty of good biking trails.

You can drive through Colorado National Monument if you follow to Rim Rock Drive – there are various lookout places.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The closest access point to Colorado National monument is Gran Junction, which is about 4 hours drive from Denver. You will find plenty of accommodation options there.

Further readings

For more places to visit and things to do in the United States, check out these other posts:

Discover the best places to visit in Colorado - via @clautavani
Where To Get The Best Views In New York

Where To Get The Best Views In New York

New York is an incredible city – the kind of place you fall in love with as soon as you set foot there (I only know too well!). But where are the best views in New York? 

The short answer would be “anywhere” – because really, no matter how you look at it, New York is a gorgeous place. But I suppose this isn’t truly helpful if you are visiting New York for the first time and are looking for good photo opportunities. 

Worry not! I certainly have my favorite places for a great New York City view, but I am here to tell you about all the ones I know of. Ready to discover them? Read on!

DISCLAIMER: This list of New York views is by no means exhaustive! There are more places where you can go if you have more time – for example Hoboken in New Jersey, for a great encompassing view of Manhattan; and there is about a million rooftop bars!

Views in New York

12 Places To Get The Best Views In New York

One World Observatory

You can get one of the best views in New York from the One World Observatory. With its 541 meters (1775 feet) and being the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, this skyscraper located where the World Trade Center once stood is an incredible vantage point from where you can get 360 degrees New York City views that go all the way to Upper New York Bay and the Statue of Liberty, as well as Brooklyn Bridge on the other side.

For an even better view, go right before sunset. 

Tickets for the One World Observatory start at $43 USD and must be booked in advance. You can get them here.

best views in New York

The Empire State Building

The ones from the Empire State Building are easily the best views in New York – at least when it comes to views from above. The skyscraper was completed in 1931 and back then was the highest building in the world. It may have lost its record since then, but definitely not its charm (if you are curious to see which are the tallest buildings in the world, check out this post).

Book your visit of the Empire State Building Observatory in advance here. Between the line for the elevator and standing in awe of the view, you can factor in about 1.5 hours for your visit.

3 days in New York

Top of the Rock

For more stunning views, go up the Top of the Rock. This Art Deco skyscraper was built in the 1930s. Although it is not as tall as the Empire State Building, the views from there are impressive as you can see Midtown and Downtown skyscrapers as well as Central Park.

You need to book a time slot for your visit. You can get yours here or here.

The High Line

For beautiful and completely free views of the city, the High Line is a great place. It once was a railway viaduct cutting down the west side of Midtown Manhattan and abandoned in the 1980s. Since then, it’s been turned into an elevated park, which was opened in 2009 and which you can access it from Chelsea. Over the 2 km walk you can get great views of the Hudson River.

Staten Island Ferry

Staten Island Ferry

For incredible, free views of the city, make sure to ride the Staten Island Ferry – but watch out! One of the most common scams in New York takes place right before embarking, with people trying to sell you tickets for something that is completely free. The ferry ride lasts about 25 minutes, and you can get beautiful views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, as well as those of Lower Manhattan.

The Staten Island Ferry works 24/7, every day.

Liberty State Park

Liberty State Park is in New Jersey (just as the Statue of Liberty, by the way!). From its waterfront you can get impressive views of the skyline of Manhattan and of the Statue of Liberty. 

Make sure to visit the Empty Sky Memorial, which was dedicated to the victims of the 9/11 terror attacks.

a day in New York

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge is one of the symbols of the city. Its view is incredible, and just as well the views of New York from the bridge are out of this world. The bridge has a pedestrian walkway and several places where you can rest and from where you can take amazing photos, so it is just about perfect. To top it off, it is 100% free!

Brooklyn Bridge Park

If you walk along the East River down to Brooklyn Bridge Park you can get great views, as you will be able to spot lower Manhattan. The best spot there is Old Pier 1, where you will see the wooden pier pilings. 

brooklyn heights view

Brooklyn Heights Promenade

The views of Lower Manhattan from Brooklyn Heights Promenade are incredible, and actually my favorite. I discovered it when I lived in the city and visited a friend, and what shocks me every time I go is that there aren’t more people around – which means you can enjoy the views without being surrounded by a million other people. You will be looking at Lower Manhattan and can also see New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty.

For more views you can also walk to DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Overpass), once an industrial area turned artistic district and thought to be one of the most famous photo spots in New York.

a day in New York

Williamsburg Bridge

Williamsburg Bridge is quite a sight! First of all, the bridge (which was inaugurated in 1903 to connect Brooklyn to Manhattan) is beautiful to look at in and of itself – you will recognize it immediately from its bright pink color. Secondly, from there you can enjoy great views of New York and of Brooklyn Bridge. There is a pedestrian walkway and a bike lane, and it is obviously free to access. 

Roosevelt Tram

This is a bit of a local secret. You can get on Roosevelt Island tram with your Metro Card. This cable car is guaranteed to give you impressive views of the city!

From the sky

This is an easy one – hopefully! The best views of New York are by far from the sky. I won’t recommend a helicopter ride because I am against those unless really necessary – they pollute, they are loud and what not. But you can get just as amazing views from a window seat on a plane, so make sure to factor that in when booking your flights to and from New York. I promise you the view is impressive and it’s worth paying the small extra fee to get the seat you want!

Further readings about New York

If you are planning trip to New York or the United States, make sure to read these posts:

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Find out there the best views in New York are - via @clautavani
A Great Itinerary For A Week In New York

A Great Itinerary For A Week In New York

A week in New York is just about the perfect amount of time to see what the city has to offer, and to do at a leisurely pace. However, with so much to see and do you will want to have at least a rough plan, so that you avoid wasting time deciding where to go and what to see.

If you aren’t a master of organizing, don’t worry. I have lived in New York and I know the city well, so I am doing all the work for you and I have created the perfect itinerary that will take you to the most famous landmarks, to some lesser known ones and even out of town for a day.

Continue reading for a bunch of tips, hacks and fun things to do.

5 days in New York
The Staten Island Ferry

A Fantastic Itinerary For A Week In New York

Day one – The Financial District 

Map of day 1 

Click here to download the map you need to follow.

9/11 Memorial and Museum

If you have a week in New York, 9/11 Memorial and Museum is a must-see.

Made up of twin reflecting pools representing the footprints of the Twin Towers, and home of the largest man made waterfall of North America, at the Memorial you will also see the inscriptions of the names of the victims of the 1993 and 2001 terrorist attacks. The Museum will guide you through the history of 9/11.

Book your visit of 9/11 Memorial and Museum in advance. The best tours are this 9/11 Memorial Tour & Priority Entrance 9/11 Museum Tickets and this 9/11 Memorial Tour with Priority Entrance Observatory Tickets. For a more budget friendly option, click here. Factor in about 2 hours for your visit.

Check out my post “How To Get 9/11 Museum Tickets And Skip The Lines.”

9/11 Memorial
9/11 Memorial waterfall

World Trade Center Observatory

The World Trade Center Observatory is one of the best places to get views of the city. The tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, it measures 541 meters (1775 feet). It’s located where the World Trade Center used to be before 9/11. 

If you intend to go up, you have to book your tickets in advance. You can get yours here. Factor in about 1.5 hours for your visit.

4 days in New York
The stunning architecture of the Oculus

Oculus

One of the coolest places to visit in New York, the Oculus was built to serve the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, but it also is a shopping mall. The architecture will leave you speechless. South of it you will find Eataly, a great spot for lunch.

Wall Street

This popular street is where you will be able to admire the statues of the Charging Bull and that of the Fearless girl, as well as the exterior of NYC Stock Exchange. Not far from it you will find the Gothic-style Trinity Church, in which cemetery Alexander Hamilton is buried.

Staten Island Ferry

A fun thing to do is taking the Staten Island Ferry. It runs between Manhattan and Staten Island – the ride lasts about one hour there and back and you get amazing views of the city. 

Beware of people trying to sell you tickets for the Staten Island Ferry. It’s free!

5 days in New York
Incredible views of the Statue of Liberty

Day two – Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Lower Manhattan

Map of day 2 

Click here to download the itinerary you need to follow.

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

With a week in New York, you can’t skip the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The symbol of the United States, the statue – which is actually located in New Jersey territory, was donated from France in the 19th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Ferries to the Statue of Liberty depart from Battery Park – the first one at 8:30 am. I recommend getting the first ferry out and being there in advance as there is a line to board.

Tours typically make a stop at the statue, where most people visit the Pedestal and – if you picked that added option – climb to the crown. Then they move on to Ellis Island before returning to Manhattan. The overall duration of most tours is 4 hours. You need to book them in advance. You can consider this Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island early access tour or this early access Statue of Liberty Tour with Statue Pedestal Access & Ellis Island Tour.

For a more budget friendly and quicker option go for the 60 minutes cruise around the statue. You won’t disembark but get beautiful views. You can book it here.

Chinatown
Chinatown is one of the most fun neighborhoods in town

Chinatown

Once you get back from the Statue of Liberty tour you can head to lunch in Battery Park or go to Chinatown, one of the most fun neighborhoods in New York where you will find lots of Asian food restaurants, shops and interesting attractions. It’s your chance to shop for asian goodies.  

Little Italy

On the other side of Canal Street from Chinatown, Little Italy is packed with American-Italian style restaurant and a fun, interesting neighborhood.

If you want to do a food tour of Little Italy and Chinatown you can opt for this whopping 3 hours tour here. Otherwise, there is this guided food tour of Little Italy – check it out here.

New York in 2 days MET
The MET is the biggest and best known museum in New York

Day three – Museums, Central Park and Midtown Manhattan

Map of day 3 

Here you can find the itinerary you need to follow. I suggest the MET as your starting point, but you can move the cursor to point to the museum you’d rather visit.

OPTION 1: Metropolitan Museum of Art

Among the most famous museums in New York and the best art galleries in the world, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) has collection spanning from ancient Egypt artifacts to contemporary art. It’s so big that you need a full day to visit, so I recommend picking a map at the entrance and focusing only on the collections you are most interested in. 

At the time of writing, Met opens from Thursday to Monday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Tickets are $25 and you can leave and come back on the same day if you want to explore more. You are better off booking in advance: get your tickets online here or here.

OPTION 2: Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

If you are looking for a museum where you will be able to see some of the most iconic pieces of contemporary art, this is the one to visit. Included in the exhibit are the works of Vincent van Gogh, Warhol, Matisse, Gauguin, Picasso, Dali and Pollock. 

MOMA is open every from 10.30 am to 5:30 pm. Admission is $25. Advanced bookings are recommended. You can can buy tickets here.

4 days in New York
The Guggenheim is a perfect mixture of great exhibits and fabulous architecture

OPTION 3: The Guggenheim

If you are looking for a place that combines quirky architecture and an interesting exhibit look no further and go to the Guggenheim. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and first opened in 1959, this is one of the most interesting museums in town. Exhibits change regularly so check if what’s on is of interest before you go. 

The Guggenheim is open from Thursday to Monday from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm. Tickets are $25 and can be bought online here or here.

Central Park

Central Park

With a week in New York, a walk around Central Park is a must. Look around for the best photo spots, enjoy the atmosphere, hop on a bike to get to all the attractions – spots not to miss are Strawberry Fields, aka John Lennon’s memorial; Bethesda fountain and terrace; Belvedere Castle; the Lake and Gapstow Bridge. You can book your bike rental here. Avoid riding the horse pulled carriages. Read why here.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

On Fifth Avenue, near the south corner of Central Park, New York’s cathedral is a Gothic style church, dating back to 1878. You can pop in to browse around for a short while.

4 days in New York
Breathtaking views of the Empire State Building from Top of The Rock

Rockefeller Center and Top of the Rock

Close to the Cathedral you will find the Rockefeller Center, a series of Art Deco style buildings commissioned by oil magnate Rockefeller. Famous for the Christmas tree and ice rink right below, it is connected to the Top of the Rock, a 1930s Art Deco skyscraper from where you can get beautiful views of Manhattan. 

If you want to go up the Top of The Rock, you need to book a time slot for your visit. You can get yours here or here.

Grand Central New York
Grand Central – more than just a station

Grand Central Terminal

One of the main transport hubs in New York, you will likely go through during your week in New York. Make sure to observe the building, which dates back to 1913. You will find shops, restaurants and a fabulous oyster bar.

Times Square

Another of the most iconic places in town, It’s central and easy to reach, ad it’s free so you can go as often as you want. 

3 days in New York
Incredible views of the Empire State Building

Day Four – The Empire State Building and the Village

Map of day 4 

Here is a map you can follow. It’s a lot of walking, but pleasant.

Bryant Park

This nice park is less touristy than Central Park. New Yorkers go there to exercise, do yoga, and watch movies on Monday evenings during the summer. It used to be a hub for drug dealing and prostitution but none of that remains now. It’s close to the public library.

New York Public Library

Located on Fifth Avenue, New York Public Library has a magnificent facade. It has an impressive collection of books in any subject you can imagine.

Free guided tours are offered Mondays to Saturdays at 11:00 am or 2:00 pm.

Empire State Building

If you only go up one skyscraper during your week in New York, it has to be this one. The views from the observation deck are impressive. Completed in 1931, back then it was the tallest building in the world. 

Book your visit of the Empire State Building Observatory in advance here. The whole experience will take you around 90 minutes – that includes the line for the elevator.

Flatiron Building
New York’s famous Flatiron Building

Flatiron Building

Located on Fifth Avenue, at the end of Madison Square, this building in the shape of an iron was completed in 1902 and measures 87 meters (285 feet).. You’ll pass by it on your way to the High Line and it’s a fun sight.

High Line

The High Line is a fantastic attraction. Once a railway viaduct and abandoned in the 1980s, it opened again in 2009, once it was completely remodeled by Dutch landscape architect Piet Oudolf.

The walk cuts through Midtown Manhattan from Chelsea Market all the way to Greenwich.

For a more in depth experience, you can opt for this tour of the High Line and Chelsea Market that lasts 2 hours.

Greenwich Village
Greenwich Village is one of New York’s most charming neighborhoods

Greenwich Village

One of New York’s prettiest neighborhoods, you will have seen it in many TV series, such as the popular Sex And The City – it’s where you will find Carrie Bradshaw apartment. It’s a lovely area to explore, and you can do it for free. And if you want a more in depth visit, you can even take a guided tour such as this one.

Washington Square Park

A lovely place to head once you are done exploring, Washington Square is close to Greenwich Village and a favorite of people living in the area and of street performers. 

new york in 4 days
The many lights of Broadway

OPTION 1: Broadway 

If you have a week in New York, you should go see a show at least once! With 41 theaters (some with century-old signs) in Broadway you will have plenty of choice. Shows are not cheap. Check the calendar to see what’s on.

OPTION 2: Metropolitan Opera House

For more sophisticated tastes, the Metropolitan Opera House may be a better pick. The building, located in Lincoln Center, is a modernist one and quite a sight. The stage inside is massive and perfect for state of the art choreographies. 

Brooklyn Heights
The views of Manhattan from Brooklyn Heights

Day 5 – Brooklyn

Map of day 5 

Here is the itinerary for this day. Bushwick is actually quite far from DUMBO: only go if you are a fan of street art.

Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn Heights

Connecting lower Manhattan to Brooklyn across the East River, the bridge was completed in 1883, being the first suspension bridge in the world. You can walk or bike across it for stunning views.

From there, walk through Brooklyn Bridge Park to get to Brooklyn Heights, the first suburb of New York City. It’s a quaint area with Victorian style buildings and historic churches. The highlight is Brooklyn Heights Promenade where you’ll find amazing views of Lower Manhattan. 

For guided tours of Brooklyn, consider this 2-hour Brooklyn Bridge bike tour.

DUMBO

DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass) is one of the places to visit in Brooklyn. It’s a fantastic photo spot.

street art in brooklyn
You can find lots of street art around Brooklyn

Bushwick

If street art is your thing, head to Bushwick to see murals, art galleries and much more.

A guided tour will help you make the most of it. You can check out this graffiti and street art 2 hour walking tour or this Bushwick street art walking tour.

Williamsburg Bridge

Opened in 1903 to connect Brooklyn to Manhattan, this bridge can be easily be recognized by its color: it’s bring pink. Walk across it for great views of the city and of Brooklyn Bridge.

Harlem
Harlem is one of the most interesting areas of New York

Day six – Harlem

This part of town, which in the 20th was a terribly run down borough known for the gang activities, is now a popular place to go see gospel choirs. It’s honestly a touristy thing to do – it became so in the last 15 years. But I promise it’s a lot of fun.

Guided tours of Harlem go to see the Gospel Choir and they will also take you to Apollo Theater and Columbia University. You can book your tour here. 

Niagara Falls
You can visit the Niagara Falls on day trips from New York

Day seven – A day trip out of town

There are many day trips you can take from New York. Here are two you may enjoy:

PHILADELPHIA – A 90 minutes train ride from Penn Station, this is a cool town with lots of history, a fabulous Museum of Art (you will certainly recognize the steps filmed in the movie Rocky) and an incredible food scene. 

NIAGARA FALLS – One of the most popular places to visit in New York State, right on the border with Canada. You will have to fly from JFK to Buffalo airport and from there hire a rental car to drive to the waterfalls, where you can take a guided tour. You can book the tour here.

Don’t want to get out of town? Opt to visit one of the museums you have skipped, or spend your day shopping!

Brooklyn
Walking around New York – a fantastic way to discover the city

Practical Tips To Make The Most Of A Week In New York

Using A New York Pass

If you are spending a week in New York, the New York Pass may help you save on attractions and skipping the lines. City passes usually come with a Metro Card, so they are perfect if you plan to use public transportation. You can get your pass here or here.

When purchasing your city pass, you will have to pick the number of attractions to include in it. Don’t forget you’ll have to reserve your visit to each of them separately.

Where to stay

There are plenty of excellent places to stay in New York – but it’s an expensive city. The map below helps you compare the various accommodation options – Airbnbs and hotels. You can enlarge it to select something within your price range in the location you prefer.

How to get to New York

There are 3 airports in New York, but the one that is best connected to the city is JFK – so I recommend flying there. You can find great flight deals from the elsewhere in the US or from anywhere in the world on Skyscanner.

Getting from the airport to the city is easy. These are the main options:

TAXI AND UBER – This it the most expensive option, but also the most comfortable. Taxis have a flat fee to Manhattan, which is $52 and to which you need add a $4.50 surcharge during peak hours (4:00 pm to 8:00 pm on weekdays). You also have to pay the tolls. Uber costs more or less the same, but you need data and the app to call a car.

SHUTTLE – A great mid-range option. Prices start at around $20 and you can book your shuttle in advance here.

AIRTRAIN – Tickets cost $8 USD, so this is the most budget friendly option. There are 3 different lines.

2 days in New York City
Moving around New York is fairly easy

How to move around

The best way to explore New York is on foot, and most of this itinerary is best explored this way. You will need to use public transportation to get to your daily starting point, and to get back to your room in the evening.

The public transport web in New York is fantastic, with many bus lines and the subway, which is the most efficient way of getting around; to which you can add the yellow cabs and Uber. Subway tickets cost $3 USD per ride – unless you have a Metro Card, which you top up when needed and on which a ride costs $2.75. The New York CityPass comes with a metro card. 

4 days in New York
The Meatpacking District in Manhattan

Other useful tips

Finally, here are some other things that may come in handy:

BOOK YOUR VISITS TO ATTRACTIONS IN ADVANCE – Even if you have 7 days in New York, you surely don’t want to line up at the ticket counter.

WATCH YOUR PACE – I have reported the estimated time for visiting most sites: this itinerary is based on them.

LUGGAGE STORAGE – Found in most stations – Grand Central Terminal, Port Authority Bus Terminal, Penn Station, and Times Square. You need to book it in advance. The best site to use is LuggageHero.

GUIDE BOOKS – If are a fan of the classic paper-book, you will want the Lonely Planet New York City guide.

SMARTPHONES – Not all companies will cover data when traveling. Make sure yours does so that you make use of apps such as Google Maps.

SCAMS – A common issue in big, touristy cities. The most common scam in New York happens at Battery Park, where they’ll try to sell Staten Island Ferry tickets. Pity the ferry is free! Watch out when taking photos in the area around Times Square. Some people may run after you for money if they see you do that – even the cartoon characters masks that seem to be posing. Taxi scams are also a thing. Finally, beware of pickpockets in crowded places.

INSURANCE – New York is one of the best places to travel alone, but you’ll still need a good travel insurance. Get yours here. Read why here.

Further readings about the United States

If you are planning a trip to the US, these posts may be useful:

Pin It For Later!

Discover what to see and do in a week in New York - via @clautavani
3 Hostel Nightmares To Remember

3 Hostel Nightmares To Remember

We’ve all spent at least one nightmare night in a hostel during our backpacking years, haven’t we? Well, I can count at least 3 hostel nightmares in my traveling experience. That’s at least 3 hostels that have been less than memorable in terms of getting proper rest, but which somehow managed to stick to my memory for the hilarity and absurdity of what happened.

Continue reading to discover my worst hostel nightmares.

3 Hostel Nightmares To Remember 

Fighting the drunk hordes in The Terrace, Antigua (Guatemala)

I had only been in Guatemala for four days. This was meant to be the beginning of my 6 months adventure across Latin America. I was sure I had everything under control and I would be able to face any bad experience that may occur along the way. After the first three nights in Antigua, I decided to spend an extra night before making my way to Lake Atitlan.

Unfortunately, the lovely hostel where I had been sleeping was all booked up, so I decided to make online reservations for another one. Back then I had a tight budget, so I was looking for something cheap. The Terrace, at $ 8 per night, breakfast included, in a 4 beds dorm, looked good on the pictures and it had good reviews. One of the most popular hostels in Antigua, indeed: there must be a reason for this, I thought!

Another church - as many others, destroyed by an earthquake
Another church in Antigua – as many others, it has been destroyed by an earthquake

I made my way there in the morning, wanting to drop my backpack and have time to browse around town more. I missed the front door a couple of times before actually finding the place – it was hardly visible. When I finally found it, I walked in to be welcomed by a 20-something American receptionist (and her lovely dog). She seemed nice enough.

The hostel seemed a bit old and in need of refurbishment but I did not think too much of it. I would only be staying here for one night after all. When I was shown to my dorm, I realized it would be worse than I had expected. A dressed guy was sleeping in his bunk – considering it was around 12 pm, it was a bit odd to me. The dorm was tiny, to say the least.

The only window faced an internal covered patio and hardly any natural light or fresh air would come in. You can imagine the stench. The toilet and bathroom in front of the dorm had the moldiest rug and shower curtain I had ever seen. The wooden door was so rotten that I thought it would fall apart if I pulled it too hard. The electric shower had wires coming out – I thought I might get electrocuted if I did not pay attention (or even if I did).

But alas, it would only be for one night.

After a day of walking around and a lovely dinner, still a bit jet legged, I wanted to have an early night and went back to the hostel. I then realized I had accidentally booked a night stay at a party hostel, were all the other backpackers except me were in their early twenties.

Noise travelled easily in the badly organized place: young backpackers were all getting ready to spend a night out and party. I thought that, as soon as they would leave, I could finally fall asleep. Wanting to be extra safe I even wore earplugs. I jumped on the bed to find out that I could feel the wires – this was by far one of the least comfortable beds I had ever slept on.

I thought of sleeping on the floor, but there was not enough room to do that. The synthetic sheets on my bed were so old that they would come off the mattress, revealing stains. I kept my clothes on, in an attempt not to catch bed bugs (luckily, it worked).

Worried but exhausted I fell asleep but my rest only lasted two hours: that’s when the other guests started making their way back to the hostel. Completely drunk, they kept laughing loudly, screaming, opening doors (which I kept on closing). To top this off, despite my earplugs I could hear them gagging and vomiting (and then laughing about it).

The entire affair must have lasted about one hour, without anybody from the reception intervening to stop the noise. When the drunken crew finally collapsed, I sighted and thought I could finally rest a bit more.

Or not. Or it wouldn’t be one of my worst hostel nightmares!

One hour later, somebody entered the room, pointing a flashlight at my face, calling for a girl named Myra. I told him off, and said there was no Myra in that room: I was the only girl there and I definitely wasn’t Myra. He then asked if I knew where she was, as he had to wake her up for her bus. I told him to go away, I did not know who this Myra was and I had no idea where she may be.

That was the end of my attempts to rest – I decided to get up, shower, and wait for my ride to Lake Atitlan – where I found a super cool hostel and finally rested my sore bones. However, the cherry on the cake was finding out that The Terrace was actually meant to be the hostel where I was supposed to volunteer in Antigua – I had talked to the owner several times over Skype, but I had forgotten the name and despite being offered the position I decided I did not want to work on my first week of traveling.

The lesson I have learned? Always always always check TripAdvisor reviews, and also check the age of the reviewer. Always read the bad comments – they are usually the most honest ones. And, more than anything else, stay away from The Terrace, in Antigua. It is one of the worst hostel nightmares that can ever happen to you.

where to stay in Cartagena

Dancing the night away in Cartagena (Colombia)

I was happy to find Mama Waldy when checking for places to stay in Cartagena, Colombia. Conveniently located in the heart of Getsemani, a cool area undergoing constant restoration, popular among backpackers and with a lovely relaxed feel to it. I soon discovered that the location was just about the only positive thing about this hostel. Little did I know that this would be one of my worst hostel nightmares.

As soon as I checked in, I knew I had made a mistake. This is possibly one of the worst hostels I found in my entire life. It used to be an old colonial house. By the look of it, it had never been restored – let alone cleaned. I arrived there at night, after a day of traveling – only to find there was a party going on.

My dorm was just on the main lobby, and since there were no keys to the dorms, people could walk in and out as they liked – and by people I mean people, not just guests. In fact, while I was there, somebody who was at the party just did.

All the guests belongings were left around for people to grab them if they liked. The room was so dirty (paper, food, clothes, shoes and what not on the floor, under the bed, etc; no bins to place garbage), the bathroom so cramped, small and filthy, that I did not even consider using the toilet. I just locked my stuff away and ran out to eat and breathe.

As I got back past midnight, it was finally quiet. But the dorm was so hot and suffocating (there were no windows in any of the room, just a door to the lobby) that I soon realized I would be unable to sleep there. I walked out and I must have looked so disheartened that one of the owners saw me and asked what was wrong, and I plainly said that my dorm was filthy, hot, and I could not sleep there. That one one of my hostel nightmares there and then.

He eagerly explained that they cleaned the rooms regularly but there was little they could do against messy backpackers. Possibly, what would help would be putting less beds in a dorm and maybe a hanger and a basket to throw away stuff? Anyways, he thankfully offered to put me in a private room, which was only slightly better – yet, no shower curtain, tiny bathroom, and covered in an inch of dust.

Breakfast was supposedly included, and surely paid for, but consisted of 2 slices of toasted bread (with, I guess, cream cheese or butter), and coffee. Not even served on plates. After all, the kitchen hardly seemed equipped.

There was a laundry service. That’s if you fancy your clothes being hung to dry on the roof of the hostel. By which I do not mean hanging lines in the roof, but being placed on actual tiles.

Yet, what really bothered me the most about Mama Waldy was the music and noise. It only stopped past midnight and was so loud that, if you were up for an early night and felt tired, you wouldn’t be able to sleep. It felt like being in a disco, really. And since noise travelled really easily and by 6 am people would start waking up, my sleep would be cut short every day. Definitely one of my worst hostel nightmares.

For better places to stay in Cartagena, check out this post.

hostel nightmares
Suchitoto, home of one of my worst hostel nightmares

Running water in Suchitoto (El Salvador)

I arrived in Suchitoto after a very long day of travelling from Leon, Nicaragua, during which I took a bus to the village of Potosi, where I did my immigration formalities; waited on the beach for 3 hours without having the possibility to go back to the village in search of shade, water or food (by then I was legally already out of Nicaragua!), as the Nicaraguan marina would not allow the boat to leave due to the rough sea conditions; eventually, 2 hours on the speed boat along the challenging Gulf of Fonseca during which I got completely soaked due to the bumping and the waves, and various more hours on a bus from La Union to Suchitoto.

By the time I reached my final destination, I was grateful that my hostel room at El Gringo had not been given away, since it was so late. The owner drove me to the hostel, on the other side of town from where he lived. His wife showed me to my room and explained how the keys worked. They immediately left and there was no staff on site. And I was in for one of my worst hostel nightmares.

The reality of the hostel was not hard to spot. My room was below a restaurant, the only window was on a living room which faced an internal living room (mind you, that is a big word).

The bathroom, which was shared with another room, was no more than a sink in the patio, a wall to separate a toilet and a cold water only shower. And for as hot as it is in Suchitoto, I was not ready to have a cold shower that late at night, and went to bed with my hair full of salt from the Gulf.

The room was so humid that it was covered in mould stains and paint was coming off the walls.

The sheets so small and so acrylic that they would slide off the bed, so that despite all my efforts to arrange them, I ended up sleeping on the mattress. The floor below the bed was so dirty and full of dust, hair, and garbage, that I wondered if it had ever been cleaned. I was so tired anyhow, that I could hardly be bothered with any of this.

A refreshing shower the morning after and a lovely day in Suchitoto almost made me forget about the terrible hostel. That was, until the new Canadian guest came in. Hard to avoid him since my window gave into the living room where he was relaxing on a rocking chair. So, we chatted along for a few moments, until eventually he decided it was bed time and he’d brush his teeth, and I laid on my bed to do some emailing.

That’t when I heard a crushing noise, like that of porcelain plates being broken, and the poor Canadian kid screaming “what the heck!” I ran out to check what had happened. Water was splashing all over and he was completely wet.

The remains of the sink were scattered on the floor: apparently, he had leaned on the sink with his hand while brushing his teeth, but despite being a fit guy the sink did not hold his weight and collapsed! You can imagine the hilarity of such a scene.

We took pictures, we laughed and eventually we decided that if we did not want to flood the entire place, we had to close all the pipes. It worked, but it meant that we were not even able to flush the toilet.

Suchitoto, El Salvador
Los Tercios waterfalls look a bit like the Giant Causeway

The morning after I was glad to have an early start and having to leave at 6:00 am, leaving the other guest alone to explain to the owner what had happened, and that perhaps restoration and refurbishing was much needed in the hostel! This was one of my worst hostel nightmares proper!

What are your worst hostel nightmares experiences to date?

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The 10 Best Cities In The United States

The 10 Best Cities In The United States

What are the best cities in the United States? That’s a hard call – the country is packed with gorgeous ones. Some are world-famous, some not so much. 

According to a United Nations study, the United States welcomes over a million migrants every year, and it’s the country with the highest number of foreign residents living inside its borders (45.8 millions).

Tourists regularly choose the United States as a vacation destination because the country offers a huge variety of attractions that please the whole family: from cultural rides and adventure tourism, to the possibility of experimenting the unique lifestyle of the Americans.

The US is also a culturally varied country. It’s incredible to walk, for example, in New York and find people from all around the world. That mixture of languages, with the typical sound of a big city and the clicks of the cameras that one can only find in the Big Apple is amazing.

If you are still in the process of planning your first trip to the US, you may be curious to discover the best cities. I have selected my favorite ones for you.

The 10 Best Cities In The United States

New York

There is little doubt that New York is one of the best cities in the country.

How can you not fall in love with the Big Apple! Sure enough, it took me a second to do so. And after that one time I vowed to live in the city. Which I did! Postcard to varied movies and theme of emblematic songs as “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra, and “Empire State of Mind” by Jay Z, the “city that never sleeps” enchants people with its skyscrapers, parks and the cosmopolitan life.

Between the tourist routes, the mandatory stops are the Statue of Liberty (which, believe it or not, is actually located in New Jersey state), which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park and the Rockefeller Center. And of course, how can you go to New York and not reserve a day to go shopping! Fifth Avenue is almost every woman’s dreams, with its famous stores like the giant Macy’s.

When it’s time to eat the city presents a great gastronomic variety, for all tastes and budgets (from a hot dog car and food truck to the most acclaimed restaurants).

Don’t miss a Broadway show or a typical New York bar like McGee’s, the one that inspired the TV series ‘How I Met Your Mother’. As the Jay Z song said, “there’s nothing you can’t do” in New York.

Denver
Denver has some unique attractions

Denver

Denver is one of the most underrated city in the country. I have special bond with it. I love quietness and nature, and without a doubt Denver is my city to go for that! I lived there for more than two years while I completed my studies. There are over 200 parks spread around the capital of Colorado.

But the advantages do not end there. The biggest Colorado city is also known for encouraging sports and healthy life. There are over a thousand kilometers of bicycle lanes, transforming Denver into the city with the biggest interconnected lanes line of all the United States.

In terms of food, various chefs chose to work with local products, using fresh food, artisan cheese, organic meat to create healthy, innovative and flavorful plates.

Denver is also surprising for its street art: diverse murals, paintings and sculptures are spread through its lanes. Another curious fact is a program called Denver’s Public Art Program that directs a part of the council’s monthly budget for the inclusion of art in the city’s constructions.

If you like skiing, you will be happy to know that Denver is pretty close to the most known stations of the United States, Aspen and Vail.

Check out my posts:

Portland
Portland is one of the most beautiful cities of the West Coast

Portland

It’s easy to see why Portland is one of the best cities in the US.

The biggest city of the state of Oregon is known for its unique personality, one of the reasons that attract thousands of tourists every year. Wherever you walk, you’ll find a park, with lots of trees everywhere.

Make sure of visiting the Japanese Garden and O Lan Su Chinese Garden, both downtown. Another Portland curiosity is that a big part of its population are followers of recycling, sustainability, public transport and bikes.

The Portland Art Museum, in the heart of the cultural region downtown, is famous for its permanent modern art collections. In the popular neighborhood Old Town, people line up to taste the Voodoo Doughnut inventions, with flavors like bacon, cereals, and marshmallows, among others. Close to that place is the Portland Saturday Market, the biggest fair of arts and crafts in the United States.

Chicago
Gorgeous Chicago

Chicago

The city of celebrities like Mr. Obama and Mrs. Oprah Winfrey, Chicago is known for being the land of the blues and jazz, with unique and authentic rhythms. The starting point for visiting the city is the Millennium Park, with over 99 thousand square meters of green areas above the train stations.

Another postcard you should not miss is the Cloud Gate, better known as The Bean, created by the designer Anish Kapoor, inspired by liquid mercury. Whenever you are looking for a wider vision of the city, head to two of the main skyscrapers; the 360 Chicago (the old John Hancock Observatory) and the Skydeck, the famous Willis Tower.

And no trip to Chicago is complete without a stop at Art Institute. Inside the museum it is possible to find five thousand years of history narrated in different paintings, sculptures, fabric, photography, objects and decorative arts from all around the world.

3 days in San Francisco

San Francisco

No trip to the United States is complete without visiting San Francisco. The city breathes life and enchants with its beautiful landscapes. I’ll try to resume some of the places that you must visit: the colorful buildings in Valencia Street, neighborhood known for its pre-hispanic inhabitants.

The Mission Dolores area is another must see.

A walk between Bay Bridge and Fisherman’s Wharf is mandatory, and taking this journey you always get some of the nicest views of the city, as the bridges Golden Gate and Bay Bridge, the Island of Alcatraz and the sea lions of Pier 39. The Lombard Street is one of the most inclined of the world, with its accentuated curves. The view from the top is amazing, but from the bottom it’s even more enchanting.

If you like biking, you can rent a bike and cross the Golden Gate to Sausalito and come back with the Ferry. Make sure to go for a ride with the F line that connects the Castro (alternative neighborhood), to Fisherman’s wharf. This line has historic trains that come from different cities of the world!

To end up, make a stop at Market Place, this brings together a variety of stores that sell all types of food one can imagine. If you like experimenting new flavors, this will be your place.

South Beach
South Beach is one of the must-see spots in Miami

Miami

Many will argue against this, but other will say that Miami, Florida – allegedly the weirdest State of the Union – is one of the best cities in the United States. 

Needless to say, the first place you have to hit in town would be Little Havana, to get some Cuban flavor and some much needed Cuban food. And while at it, make sure to go salsa dancing and practice my steps. I would definitely recommend to spend some quality time toasting in the sun and swimming in the clear waters of Miami Beach.

Seattle

The famous city in Washington State deserves the title of one of the best cities in the United States. The quirkiest town in the United States is where popular TV shows such as Grey’s Anatomy (incidentally, my favorite TV show!) and Frasier (though younger generations may not know this one). It’s where the grunge music movement originated from – ever heard of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain, guys? 

Among the places to visit in Seattle, make sure to hit the Space Needle – I am pretty sure you have seen it in all TV shows. Pike Place Market is another one, as well as Pioneer Square. You should also go to Discovery Park and Lake Union. 

New Orleans
New Orleans is a popular destination for its Mardi Gras

New Orleans

One can’t talk about the best cities in the United States and not mention New Orleans, in Louisiana. Famous for its carnival, this city has so much to offer to its visitors. If you happen to visit, make sure not to skip the incredible French Quarter and Marigny, a neighborhood just east of it. The City Park and the Museum of Art are two more places you really don’t want to miss. 

New Orleans is also famous for its jazz scene – that should be enough to have you packing, if you ask me! 

austin
Austin definitely is one of the nicest cities in the United States

Austin

Rumor has it that Austin is the coolest city in Texas, and with that one of the best cities in the United States. If you happen to visit this part of the country, definitely make it a point to go.

Austin has quite a bit to offer to visitors, and between that and the laid back attitude of its inhabitants it is an extremely pleasant place. Make sure not to miss places such as the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum, the Capitol Building and the Museum of Art. 

The Continental Club is a great place to listen to music and Magnolia Café is one of those diners that seem to have come out of a movie set. 

Boston
Boston is a lovely place to visit

Boston

Last, but definitely not least in my pick of best cities in the United States there is the elegant Boston. Once again the set of one of my favorite TV Shows from the 1990s – have you ever heard of Ally McBeal? – the city is so Victorian in style that you will often think you are in England rather than in the US. But alas, it’s a fantastic place. 

Among the must see in Boston, you can’t miss Boston Common and Public Garden, the Museum of Fine Arts, Old North Church and North End – the oldest residential part of town. 

The Waterfront is a great place for a walk, much like Charles River Esplanade. Make sure not to miss Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum.

Have you ever visited the United States? What’s your favorite city there?

Don’t forget that in order to enter the United States a visa is necessary. Believe it or not, I forgot I needed it once when I had a layover on my trip back from Mexico, and I almost got stuck. Thankfully, it is possible to stay organized and make ESTA applications before traveling.

Further readings about the United States

Make sure to read my other posts about the US:

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Discover the best cities in the United States - via @clautavani