Every U.S. city is famous for its major attractions: theme parks in Orlando, casinos in Las Vegas, skyscrapers in Chicago. And while these timeless landmarks are must-sees in their respective cities, there are just as many exciting, lesser-known activities, unique things to do, and local attractions to explore off the beaten path. Read on to discover inspiration to experience these cities like a local on your next vacation with RCI.
1. Chicago, Illinois
Situated on six miles of lake shoreline, the Chicago Botanic Garden is a prized living museum and conservation science center located 35-minutes from Chicago. Twenty seven distinct gardens and four natural areas span the 385-acre estate, which also features horticultural classes, family programming, and even a 40-minute Grand Tram Tour of the property. To the west of Chicago lies Oak Park, a celebrated neighborhood with a rich history and a trove of architectural treasures. Tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple, Ernest Hemingway’s Birthplace Museum, or the Brookfield Zoo.
2. Las Vegas, Nevada
Take a day trip to Red Rock Canyon and enjoy a one-way, 13-mile scenic drive through the Mojave Desert. The conservation area spans almost 200,000 miles of desert featuring stunning views of sandstone cliffs, colorful rock formations, and geologic wonders. There are also 26 numbered hikes and trails throughout the canyon. You can also tour the desert by kayak from the waters of the Colorado River at Black Canyon. Access the 30-mile trail at the base of the Hoover Dam, just one hour outside of Las Vegas, and discover beaches, caves, and springs throughout the park.
3. Orlando, Florida
Jump into the crystal clear waters of the Wekiwa River at Wekiwa Springs State Park. Just 45-minutes from Orlando, this spring-fed oasis offers a variety of outdoor activities including paddling, swimming, and wildlife viewing. Hike through the park’s tropical hammocks and marvel at the natural beauty of the scenic sandhill uplands. For out-of-this-world excitement, travel to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on the Space Coast. Kennedy Space Center offers advanced flight schedules so you can plan your visit to see a live SpaceX rocket launch. Packages offer spectacular views of rocket launches as well as tickets to the main visitor complex.
4. San Francisco, California
Less than 45-minutes north from the City by the Bay is Muir Woods, a federally protected National Monument home to one of the last remaining redwood forests in Northern California. Take a one-hour guided tour of the park’s magnificent old-growth coastal redwood trees or hike 6 miles of shaded trails. To the south of San Francisco, travel 40-minutes to Half Moon Bay for stunning coastlines, pristine beaches, and spectacular eats. The foodie scene in this town is vibrant, with many restaurants sourcing locally grown ingredients from nearby farms and homesteads.
5. Sedona, Arizona
You might not expect it in Arizona, but there are three distinct grape-growing wine regions in the Grand Canyon State. Traverse hundreds of vineyard acres surrounded by mountains and national forests in the Verde Valley region. There are more than 25 wineries on this trail, most within a 45-minute drive from Sedona. For a truly unique experience, kayak down the Verde River and make a stop at Alcantara Vineyards and Winery to sample more than 17 varietals of wine. If you’re looking for nighttime thrills, look up to the skies and explore Sedona Stargazing. This family-friendly activity offers guided explorations of Sedona’s starry skies with certified astronomers.
6. Washington, D.C.
North of the hustle and bustle of Washington, D.C.’s central corridor is the serene greenspace and peaceful refuge of Rock Creek Park. The 1,754-acre city park offers more than 32-miles of hiking trails, horseback riding, a public golf course, a boat center, and more. Situated on the outskirts of the park is the Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens. Founded by Marjorie Post, the majestic manor is home to the most comprehensive collection of Russian imperial art outside of Russia. If it’s a historic retreat you seek, visit the City of Frederick, just one hour northwest of Washington, D.C. This charming town features centuries-old architecture, museums, antique shops, and more.
NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.