Life is short, and as we get older, aging myths might convince us that we should spend our lives indoors reflecting on the good times. But America is a pretty big place. And even if you think you’ve seen it all, chances are there is more to explore.
We found a few things worth experiencing at least once in a lifetime. From visiting famous landmarks to touring the nation’s best beach towns, here are the adventures that should be on every American’s bucket list.
OK, climbing Mount Everest might be out of the picture if you’ve never scaled a mountain in your life. But every American should at least see a majestic mountain once in a lifetime. Mount Whitney in the Sierra Nevada, the Half Dome at Yosemite National Park and Mount Washington in New Hampshire are all breathtakingly beautiful.
The redwood forest in Humboldt Redwoods State Park is one of the most beautiful places in all of America’s state and national parks. Redwoods are mighty in nature and marvelous to witness. Humboldt spans 53,000 acres — twice the size of San Francisco — and one-third of the park is the redwood forest — making it the largest expanse of ancient redwoods left on earth.
Arguably, no road is as iconic as America’s great lost highway — Route 66. Spanning from Illinois to California, the more-than-2,000-mile-long road is a journey worth traveling on your own or with the entire family. Here's how to plan the ultimate Route 66 vacation.
There are plenty of American towns that look like they're stuck in time, but if you grew up watching Westerns or dreamt of being a cowboy or cowgirl, no place is better to visit than the Old West. Towns like Leadville, Colorado; Deadwood, South Dakota; or the famous Tombstone, Arizona, will give you a feel for the era.
When you visit St. Augustine, Florida, you’ll be stepping foot in “the nation’s oldest city.” A fort more than 300 years old, 18th-century style restaurants and century-old homes will make you feel like you’ve been transported back in time. And if you’re searching for fun in the sun and water, St. Augustine is one of the best coastal towns in America.
Thanks to its more than 350,000 Yoshino Cherry Trees, you’ll see the most beautiful cherry blossoms in the world in Macon, Georgia. The cherry blossoms are so plentiful in Macon that it was nicknamed the “cherry blossom capital of the world.” Visit during the spring to experience the International Cherry Blossom Festival, a time when Macon becomes the pinkest city in the world.
Without a doubt, everyone should see their favorite band or musician live at least once in a lifetime. And music festivals from Coachella in Indio, California, to Governors Ball in New York, are the perfect opportunity to hear your favorite popular songs all in one place.
Grabbing a fast food menu item when you’re on the go is fine every once in a while. But you haven’t truly lived until you’ve dined at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Spots like Eleven Madison Park and Alinea are the best restaurants in the nation with menu items that will have your taste buds soaring.
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An underrated city that deserves to be added to your bucket list, Albuquerque, New Mexico, is something to experience for one reason in particular: the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Each year, Albuquerque hosts this nine-day festival in which more than 500 colorful hot air balloons dot the sky.
It might be one of the most popular tourist destinations in the nation, but every American should walk the National Mall. The 2-mile swath of greenery has been around for more than 200 years and stretches from the foot of the U.S. Capitol to the Potomac River. While you’re there, visit historic monuments like the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.
New York City is one of the 101 best weekend getaways in America, and no trip to the Big Apple is complete without going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, famously known as “The Met.” But this acclaimed New York museum is worth seeing with your own eyes. More than 5,000 years of art from around the world are on display.
Yes, traveling to one of the coldest cities in the world might not be on your bucket list, but arguably no other city in the nation provides a more stellar view of the northern lights than Fairbanks, Alaska. Visit between Aug. 21 and April 21 to observe the swirling green, teal and white light show in the night sky.
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Relive the fun, cotton candy-filled days of your childhood by hitting the road and visiting a state fair. Massive turkey legs, red candy apples and other deep-fried food mysteries await. What is cotton candy anyways?
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Watching the Times Square Ball Drop on television every year from the comfort of your home might be fun, but every American should throw on a warm coat and a party hat and witness the event that has occurred for more than a century in person at least once.
You can have some of the most fun you've ever had indoors perusing the Twin City's Mall of America. Located in Bloomington, Minnesota, the infamous mall hosts over 400 events a year — like fashion shows and concerts — and welcomes approximately 40 million people from around the world.
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The magic of Disney World will captivate both the young and the young at heart. But with rides like Splash Mountain and plenty of family-friendly fun, Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is an adventure with attractions worth the wait that bring beloved movies to life.
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So you've visited Disney World. Now it's time to check Disneyland off of your U.S. travel list. Although they share a similar name, the two destinations are completely different places. Disneyland Resort is the home to unique attractions like the Matterhorn, the Incredicoaster and Pixar Pal-A-Round.
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The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is often touted as a travel-must, but you don’t have to go down under to experience an amazing reef. Florida's greatest natural wonder is the Florida Reef, North America’s only barrier reef. The Florida Reef has more than 80% of all the coral reef species in the Tropical Western Atlantic and has over 50 species of corals.
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Even if waking up in the wee hours of the morning isn’t your thing, watching the sun rise at one of the best sunrise spots in the world, Acadia National Park, could take your breath away. If you climb the park’s highest peak — Cadillac Mountain — between October and March, you’ll be among the first in the country to greet the sun.
Whether you like it topped with pineapple or loaded with pepperoni, pizza reigns high on the list of America’s favorite dinners. It may not be the birthplace of the dish, but the U.S. has made pizza its own. So it’s a given that you should seek out the best pizza in America. Just head to Frank Pepe in New Haven, Connecticut, and order the clam pie.
Travel to New York and treat yourself to at least one of the best shows in the world on Broadway. And who knows, you might even see someone famous in the crowd. Broadway is one of the places you might spot a celebrity in New York.
Road trips are fun, but when you want to escape the hassles of confusing maps and thick traffic, take a scenic train ride through charming towns, rolling countryside and parts of the country you may not have seen otherwise. Just sit back, relax and enjoy the view.
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A trip to Yosemite National Park is already one for the books, but if you want to view a natural wonder unlike any other, visit the park during the last two weeks of February to watch the park’s Horsetail Fall “catch fire.” Given the right conditions — like clear skies and zero haze — the angle of the sunset will light the water from behind, creating an effect that makes the water resemble cascading lava.
Independence Hall in Philadelphia is the place to visit if you are a history buff or if you are just curious about the nation’s history. Dubbed the birthplace of America, Philly is where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were both debated and signed.
Studies have shown that drinking a glass of wine a day has a myriad of health benefits. So you have the perfect excuse to spend some time traveling a wine trail in the U.S. From Kentucky to California, there are more than 280 wine trails across the nation waiting for you to explore.
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Friday Harbor, Washington, is one of the prettiest towns in America and one of the best places in the world to see orca whales in their natural habitat. When you’re not watching the orcas, you can explore the area on a sunset cruise or go on a kayaking safari along rugged shorelines.
A trip to Vegas is usually associated with wild parties and gambling the night away. But touring the Las Vegas strip is one of the most romantic adventures you can take in America. Stroll with your beau under the bright lights or marvel at the sight of the Fountains of Bellagio, where a water, music and light show takes place under the Vegas sky.
A sure sign that you grew up in New York is you've never been to the Empire State Building. But whether you're a New Yorker or not, everyone should stand on the building’s observation deck once in a lifetime.
The White House is a piece of American history that has been around for more than 200 years. After submitting a tour request through a member of Congress, you can explore the art and history of the nation like a president. But beware: rumor has it that the White House is one of those famous places that might be haunted.
There are plenty of movie locations around the world that can be visited, but Philadelphia might be home to the most iconic of the bunch. The steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, famously known as the “Rocky Steps,” are a popular stop for tourists who want to walk in the footsteps of Rocky Balboa. At the bottom of the stairs is a statue of the larger-than-life figure.
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The World’s Only Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, is one of the coolest roadside attractions in the Midwest. As hinted at by its name, everything in the Corn Palace revolves around corn, from the murals that are decorated with the grain to the annual Corn Palace Festival that has live entertainment, games and, you guessed it, corn.
There are a lot of fantastic times to travel to theme parks, but maybe no time is more festive than the holidays. It may not be part of your traditional holiday festivities, but witnessing a theme park holiday celebration is not to be missed.
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Ditch the haunted houses and go for a more immersive experience: a haunted hotel. From Texas to Illinois, some of the most haunted hotels are in America.
Kancamagus Highway — nicknamed “The Kanc” — is New Hampshire’s most-visited tourist attraction. And the views on this 34.5-mile-long road might be the reason why. Recognized as a National Scenic Byway, The Kanc is boasted to have “one of the best fall foliage viewing areas in the world” as you wind through the White Mountains, Rocky Gorge, Sabbaday Falls and more.
Some things are worth the wait, and in the case of upscale dining, they will make you wait. Some spots like The French Laundry are more than restaurants, they are full experiences So do your research and then dive into trying to score a nearly impossible to get restaurant reservation
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One of the best theme parks you’ve never heard of, Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, is guaranteed to give you an experience of a lifetime. Silver Dollar City is home of the Time Traveler, one of the fastest, steepest and tallest roller coasters in the world.
Try a peach in the state nicknamed after the sweet fruit. Here’s a fun fact: Georgia isn’t the leading producer of peaches. That mantle goes to California.
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Every skier knows that Colorado is the premier destination for those who love the slopes, and Aspen is home to one of the most popular ski resorts in America. With more than 5,300 acres of terrain and over 360 trails, Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort is one of the most famous ski areas in the world.
If you appreciate a cold one and are in search of the best place to sip in the world, look no further than Hill Farmstead in Greensboro, Vermont. For the seventh year in a row, Hill Farmstead was selected as the best brewery in the world out of more than 30,000 contenders.
If baseball is America's pastime then you should see where it all started. And the two oldest Major League Baseball parks still in commission are Fenway Park in Boston and Wrigley Field in Chicago. While you're there, continue a baseball-watching tradition by enjoying a delicious hot dog.
Baseball might be America’s favorite pastime, but the nation’s most-watched sport is football. Football players take to the field in all types of weather and the atmosphere can be electric. Ditch the television screen and catch your favorite sports team live in action on the field.
Regardless of your faith, Arlington is an awe-inspiring site to bear witness to the sacrifice the men and women in the military make.
They say everything is bigger in Texas, and the same goes for its Christmas celebrations. The Austin Trail of Lights in Austin, Texas, is one of the most amazing Christmas lights displays in America. More than 400,000 people come out every year for over 60 displays and 2 million lights. But the best, and biggest, sight is The Zilker Holiday Tree. This Christmas tree stands at a whopping 155 feet and has more than 3,300 lights.
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Most of America's biggest cities have an NBA team, and you can enjoy your favorite basketball team dominating the court. And don’t worry about the price — catching a game on a weekday or early in the season will save you some money.
One of the most underrated vacation spots in the nation also happens to be the "Sweetest Place on Earth." Chocolate lovers will relish Hershey, a city in Pennsylvania with a Chocolatetown dedicated to all things Hershey’s chocolate. Visitors can “ride the sweetest coaster,” or have a chocolate-inspired spa day.
Luxurious hotels, shops and restaurants all dot the streets along California’s Rodeo Drive. But the famed road merits the trip even if you don’t plan to buy anything. Towering palm trees and the bright sunshine make this drive like no other. And chances are you might spot a celebrity out and about.
The Grand Canyon, the Rocky Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains are all popular national park destinations, but if you want to skip the crowds without missing stellar views, add an underrated national park to your travel list. Baxter State Park in Maine and Big Bend National Park in Texas are two worth the trip.
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The fall foliage on the East Coast is unmatched. Nature’s beauty comes to life as luminous bursts of orange, red and yellow color the trees and streets.
Whiskey lovers should indulge in a Manhattan in the place where the drink is rumored to have originated: Manhattan, New York.
Whether you’re a pro or beginner, riding the gnarly waves on a beautiful beach in Hawaii is the opportunity of a lifetime worth giving a go at least once.
Nicknamed the "Wildflower National Park," Great Smoky Mountain National Park is one of the best places in the world to watch spring bloom. More than 1,500 varieties of flowering plants — the most in any North American national park — come to life in the spring. And each spring, the park hosts the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, an annual event in which a guide takes hikers through the park to explore its history and natural beauty.
According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, the largest active volcano on the planet can be found in America. Hawaii’s Mauna Loa rises more than 13,000 feet above sea level and covers half of the island of Hawaii.
Times have changed, and now you can easily stream a movie from the comfort of your couch. But if you want to experience an American tradition more than 80 years old, visit a retro drive-in movie theater and enjoy a classic film from your front seat.
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At Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, you can put your astronomical knowledge to the test while watching stars under the stars. Red Rocks is an open-air amphitheater 6,450 feet above sea level that was geologically formed. And although it opened in 1941, the sandstone monolith in the park tells the story of animals and plants for the past 250 million years.
Planning an island vacation might sound time-consuming and heavy on the wallet. But there are plenty of islands in the U.S. where you can lounge on the beach without a passport. Key West in Florida and South Padre Island — dubbed the “only tropical island paradise in Texas” — are perfect island destinations.
You’ll find some of the best fudge in the nation in Mackinac Island, Michigan. The creamy, chocolatey bites are a staple of the city — so much so that it’s known as America’s Fudge Capital. Visit Mackinac Island in late August for the Mackinac Island Fudge Festival — a three-day-long celebration packed with fun fudge activities and one of the best food festivals in America.
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NFL games are fun, but college football games are a whole other level of spirit. It is a loud, energy-packed event where all ages gather on beautiful college campuses to show school spirit. Tailgating is one of the best parts of the experience. Grab a beer, perfect your game day recipes and get ready for a good time.
Standing in four places at once sounds like a task best fit for Superman, but you can do it too. The Four Corners Monument is an iconic landmark in Arizona and the only location in the nation where four states converge. When you stand on the brass and granite landmark, you’ll be in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado all at once.
The San Diego Zoo is one of the best zoos in the nation and the ideal travel destination for every animal lover. From apes to lions, the zoo has over 3,500 rare and endangered animals from more than 650 species and subspecies and more than 700,000 exotic plants.
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The Ocean City Boardwalk is an iconic East Coast destination and a New Jersey staple. While strolling along the boardwalk, you can eat fresh popcorn, ride a roller coaster at Trimper’s Rides or ditch walking altogether and rent a bike.
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“Field of Dreams,” the movie about an Iowa farmer who builds a baseball diamond on his land, is an iconic baseball film that defined our childhoods. You can relive those moments by playing a game of catch on the farm where the movie was filmed. You can also even tour the farmhouse.
Let your inner child run loose at this iconic destination. Coney Island is packed with roller coasters, an aquarium, boardwalk fun and sandy beaches.
We all dream of living the life of the rich and famous. Luckily, there are celebrity vacation hotspots even someone on a budget can afford. Pick from popular destinations like New Orleans, Miami or Aspen and live it up like the stars.
Visiting Alcatraz Island in San Francisco is one of the fun things you can do in California that isn’t Disney or the beach. The prison lives in infamy because it was once a maximum-security federal penitentiary that housed the likes of Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly. And in 1969, Native American activists stayed on the island for 19 months to protest the U.S. Government's Termination Policy, a bill that sought to eradicate tribes and relocate American Indians. Today, you can tour an exhibit dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the protest or take a guided tour and explore the prison’s history.
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There are plenty of jolly facts you might not know about Santa, but here’s a fun one: you can visit his home any time of the year. North Pole, Alaska, is a small town in the state where the spirit of Christmas lives 365 days a year. Several street names are dedicated to the holiday — like Mistletoe Road and Saint Nicholas Drive — and the “official” home of Santa greets all travelers who pass through the town.
Skip watching your favorite talk show from the comfort of your home and see it live and in person. Shows like “The Tonight Show,” “The View” and “The Ellen Degeneres Show” all have ticketing systems that give travelers the chance to see their favorite show in action.
Minnesota might be nicknamed the “Land of 10,000 lakes,” but there are actually 11,842 lakes waiting to be explored. Spend a day with the family playing at the beach or enjoy an evening of paddleboarding or canoeing.
The 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center in New York City is a place of remembrance dedicated to the men and women whose lives were lost on that tragic day.
Thrill-seekers must make a trek to The Royal Gorge Bridge, the highest suspension bridge in the nation. Located less than 15 miles from Cañon City, Colorado, The Royal Gorge Bridge gives visitors the opportunity to walk 955 feet above the Arkansas River, or, if they’re feeling bold, zipline across.
Fans of Stephen King will know the Paul Bunyan statue in Bangor, Maine, attraction from the bestselling novel, “It,” and others might know it from the American folklore story about the giant lumberjack. Either way, visitors to the state should find the time to stand next to the 31-foot-high, 3,700-pound attraction that you need to see to believe.
Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, dubbed the “Home of the Blues,” is the soul of the south. This famed street is lined with historic establishments like B.B. King’s Blues Club and Blues City Cafe, where famous legends like Al Green and Samuel L. Jackson have taken the stage and dined.
Every American should see the natural wonder that is the Grand Canyon at least once in a lifetime, but you should do it in style. Year-round, visitors can take mule rides around the south rim and north rim of the park. But be sure to plan ahead: rides can be booked up to 15 months in advance.
There are plenty of museums worth exploring in Washington, D.C., but the National Museum of African American History and Culture is a national treasure up there with the best museums in the country. It is the only national museum dedicated solely to the documentation of African American life, history and culture, with more than 36,000 artifacts.
The Battle of the Alamo in 1836 is one of the most notorious battles in not just Texas, but national history. And now guests can “remember the Alamo” on the grounds where the battle took place.
Relive America’s history at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota’s most famous gem. See giant carvings of four of the presidents who Gutzon Borglum — the creator — thought “represented the most important events in the history of the United States.” If you want to avoid the crowd, visit during May, October or September, the best month for your vacation.
You haven’t really seen Seattle at its finest until you’ve journeyed to the top of the Space Needle. Towering 520 feet, the Space Needle provides a 360-degree view of the sparkling city below. And now, guests can view the city on the world’s first and only rotating glass floor, The Loupe.
From mega moguls to famous people you might not know, the Hollywood Walk of Fame is one of the world’s most famous sidewalks honoring the stars. Strike a pose next to your favorite star (literally) or, if you plan your trip accordingly, watch a live star ceremony.
Lady Liberty is a national monument that can be explored from top to bottom. Guests can make reservations to visit the statue’s pedestal or purchase tickets to ascend 377 steps to the statue’s crown.
One of California’s most famous landmarks — the Hollywood sign — is a thing of legend, seen frequently in films and on television. Although it is illegal to get too close to the famous LA sign, there are several locations near the sign where you can take envy-worthy photos with it as a backdrop.
Disneyland might be the happiest place on earth, but for film buffs — or anyone who’s ever wanted to live like Harry Potter — Universal Studios in Hollywood, California, is where dreams come true. Fun attractions include Jurassic World film and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Join the more than 10 million travelers each year who cruise down the Golden Gate Bridge and take in San Francisco’s beautiful sights.
Any midwesterner native to Chicagoland will likely tell you that you can’t plan a visit to Chicago without seeing Cloud Gate, best known as “The Bean.” The Bean is one of a kind and reflects a gorgeous view of the city’s skyline.
We’ve all dreamt of putting on a spacesuit and jumping weightless like an astronaut. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. offers the opportunity to come pretty close to that dream — no outer space travel required. Visitors can take a glimpse at the suit Neil Armstrong wore on the Apollo 11 moon landing or learn the history behind the technology that led to humans landing in space.
Nicknamed “The Birthplace of Rock ’N’ Roll,” Sun Studio, located in Memphis, Tennessee, is a must for music buffs. Rock legends like B.B. King, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis have all recorded there. Guided tours of the studio are offered seven days a week.
Antelope Canyon in Arizona is a sight you’ll have to see to believe. Sunlight shines into the slot canyon, hitting the rock formations and creating a perfect Instagrammable shot of beautiful, bright colors.
Lake Tahoe is an affordable family-friendly vacation dream with pristine waters and even better views. Visit North Lake Tahoe in the summer to enjoy fun activities like paddleboarding and parasailing, or visit South Lake Tahoe in the winter to go ice skating or snowboarding. There are also options for winter fun — even beginner-level skiers are in for a good time at Lake Tahoe.
Think of St. Louis and one famous attraction likely comes to mind: the Gateway Arch. Visitors to the famed attraction will be able to brag that they traveled 630 feet to the top of America’s tallest man-made monument.
Pike Place Market is one of the oldest farmers markets in the nation and one of Seattle’s most well-known attractions. Grab a cup of some of the best coffee in America while you tour the market, or stop by the Pike Place Fish Market, where fishmongers are famously known to throw the fish.
If you want to gain a deeper understanding of the nation’s history, no place is better than Boston’s Freedom Trail. The 2.5-mile-long trail contains 16 significant sights covering more than 250 years of American history. Seeing this sight is just one of the 50 things to do before turning 50.
Aerosmith, Bob Marley, Guns N’ Roses and James Brown are only four of the iconic inductees in Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a must-see destination in the American heartland. You can spend hours listening to and learning about giants that have defined the music industry.
Route 66 and Rodeo Drive might be iconic roads, but the Overseas Highway is probably the coolest. Dubbed the “Highway that Goes to Sea,” the Overseas Highway connects the Miami mainland to the beautiful coastline of Key West. Travelers drive over the water as they take in the gorgeous Florida scenery.
Sure, you can purchase a book online or from your local bookstore, but it sounds so much cooler to snag a bestseller from the largest independent used and new bookstore in the world. Powell’s City of Books is a Portland, Oregon, treasure with nine color-coded rooms and more than 3,500 different sections. Powell’s has a stunning library of books you’re bound to get lost in.
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Any spirited fan of spirits should head to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and it's one of those tourist traps even locals love. The classic tour takes you to 18 different distilleries from Louisville to Woodford County and you'll sip fresh bourbon at spots like the Wild Turkey Distillery and the Jim Beam American Stillhouse.
According to legend, a UFO containing extraterrestrial beings crash-landed in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947. Today, Roswell honors its “alien heritage” with sites like the International UFO Museum And Research Center, a museum dedicated to that day. Roswell is one of the most mysterious places in the world. And once you’ve checked all 101 of these things off your bucket list, you can move on to the 101 things every American should do abroad.
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