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Portland... it isn't a big tourist destination really, but there may be no better example of the ideal small American city. It's a young town and the locals are some of the most genuinely friendly people you'll find anywhere. It has a lively downtown and nightlife. And it's surrounded on all sides by great outdoor hiking areas, including the spectacular Columbia River Gorge. Mt. St. Helens is a short drive away, and if you're into skiing, check out nearby Mt. Hood. It's the only mountain in North America with year-round snow skiing.
Visit Sacramento -- it's a tranquil place. I suggest enjoying a delicious coffee in the naked lounge -- it's great!
Gainesville is mostly a college town, so if you're there you're probably there to do something related to the university, such as going to a game.
From all I have learned about Hyder, Alaska, it appears to be a great place to visit and possibly live. It has the best of two worlds -- one, it can be reached by road and then it in nestled in a remote part of Alaska. It is the farthest south that an Alaska town can be reached by highway!
Big Bear Lake is an awesome town hidden in the mountains. I felt like I was in the Alps! I stopped there on my way to Las Vegas and Joshua Tree. I stayed for three days when I only planned to stop for the night. I went kayaking and hiked to Castle Rock which has great views of the lake and alpine forest. I'd love to come back in winter and try snowboarding!
Come visit for Christmas, if you can. On Christmas Eve, everyone's houses are lined with luminarias (paper bags with candles), and everyone walks through town and visits. It's a beautiful, non-commercial, community-oriented way to spend Christmas! Also, the best restaurant in town is Fuego, in La Posada de Santa Fe-- but it's VERY expensive. If you enjoy the arts or architecture, be sure to visit the Santa Fe Opera House. It's a gorgeous semi-outdoors building-- I saw Carmen there, and during her death scene, we were also watching a lightning storm. Cold, but fabulous! Santa Fe is a great place to visit. Be warned, however, that the shopping is expensive-- and if you don't like pretentious art galleries and boutiques, you probably won't enjoy shopping there at all.
Buffalo is a weird town, not much going on. It seemed strangely deserted when we arrived on a Saturday night. But I would recommend a stay in the Buffalo hostel if visiting Niagara Falls (a short bus ride away).
Stay out of West Baltimore.
Living near Seattle is such a treat. If you get the chance to visit, make sure you get some fresh donuts at the end of Pike's Place Market! They are absolutely wonderful. If you can find a place that serves felafel, try it -- it's surprisingly good!
New Paltz is quite possibly one of my favorite places in the country. The scenery is amazing with the Shawangunks and the Ridge, not to mention Mohonk Mountain and Bonticaue Crag. I would recommend coming here just to see the natural beauty of the area. It has its own unique beauty and people are often shocked that it's New York. The town is friendly and the energy is creative -- a great place to get away and relax.
Seward is a nice little town. The hike at Hardings ice field is a damn good day hike. Reasonably strenuous and we saw a bear and 2 cubs. We had a great lunch at Harbour Dinner Club. Surprisingly, sea food is expensive in Alaska. Expect to pay $20 per head. Another thing to do in Seward is the resurrection Bay Cruise. We went all the up to the Aialik Glacier. Lots of wildlife enroute... bald eagles, puffins, killer whales (we saw about 20!), humpback, lots of other birds, and also sea lions... many :).
I spent two months traveling the U.S.A., and without a doubt the highlight was Chicago. A big city with friendly people, a stunning waterfront, and real vibrancy. The inner northern suburbs like Lakeview and Lincoln Park are full of great bars and restaurants and awesome nightlife. Check it out.
Of course most visitors to Berkeley go to Telegraph to shop, but there are plenty of other areas that offer a completely different type of shopping experience, if the begging teenager/dirty hippie scene isn't your thing. Try College Ave (go several blocks past the dorms) and Fourth Street. Fourth Street is a bit trendier, but both are pleasant, though too yuppie-ish for some.
VIVA Las Vegas!!! Las Vegas rocks. We only slept at the hostel 5 hours daily, we were out on the Strip in the casinos, or at the titty bars or out hiking at the Grand Canyon. Hoover Dam rocks too! You either love or hate this town, and I LOVE IT!!
Pack a sweater! Because Santa Cruz is in California and a beach town, many people think it will be warm and sunny. Actually, it can get surprisingly cold. Also, don't count on swimming in the ocean, unless you wear a wetsuit. As with most of Northern California beaches, the water is freezing.
I've been to Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco. Los Angeles is good if you want to experience "Hollywood". Other than that, if you want to experience social beaches I would head to San Diego. If you want a really great city experience, nothing beats San Francisco. There is a lot to do in Los Angeles but be careful because places like ritzy Beverly Hills will very quickly go into some of LA's very ghetto destricts. Same with Hollywood -- past the main touristy area, the town becomes very ghetto. My experience is nothing feels quite as scary as downtown Los Angles at night. By all costs, stay clear of South Central. Venice is an interesting place and so is Santa Monica for some classic social, if not eclectic, culture. Traffic's horrible. Air is terrible. Hey, it's Los Angeles.
The bus station is very near the airport just west of downtown. The Amtrak however pulls up to a spitoon in the middle of a tiny Native American reserve town half-an-hour out of town. This year in Late September, it's still over 100 degrees F every day. Tempe is probably a more interesting place for 20 somethings to hang out. Phoenix metro is very spread out but there are good desert hikes sprinkled throughout the neighborhoods. Just look for big hills and you're likely to find a trailhead. Phoenix is a hotbed for bar culture and you'll not be want for great happening friendly venues no matter your persuasion. September is also a good time to hit town and score a resort job. Apartments are cheap (compared to LA NY or SF for instance) and roomate situations are plenty. Aparently the one available hostel begs an alternative. If you have a car the 'burbs have $2-$3 second run movie houses. Some communities have cheap-to-get-in community pools but they may not be open all year…
I lived in Fort Stockton for six years. It's not a very nice place to live, but there are some interesting things to visit. The "world's largest roadrunner" welcomes you to town. Be sure and stop by the Comanche Springs pool. (It's much nicer than the regular city pool.) Also, if you are looking for great authentic Mexican food, try a little place called Mi Casita. Bienvenidos is another good one, more on the main road, but not nearly as good as Mi Casita. There are also several nice parks in town, as well as an historic fort, and several small museums.
Syracuse is a very upbeat, small city with lots of young entrepreneur energy and vision. There a great potential here for innovative city-center redevelopment and interaction with the many colleges and universities nearby.
This was a fantastic place, loved the waterfall. Tour was really good, even swimming in the mangroves. I got to see a lot of wildlife -- apparently unusual for this time of year. I recommend the Everglades as a place to stay but you will need a car or hook up with friendly people.


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