The United States of America is an incredible country, as big as diverse, with hundreds of things to see and do. Because it would be so long to list them all, and I am sure you have many travel books to help you with that, I am just listing for me the top places to go to in the US. They are not necessarily in the right order, but all have something very special that are worth the travel.

Southern Utah: If you’ve never seen the amazing rock formations and colored landscape of Southern Utah’s canyonlands, you’re missing out on one of the most mesmerizing landscapes in the US. Utah is the closest most of us will ever come to setting foot on another planet, as the landscape is unlike anything seen throughout the rest of the US. Why go now? Southern Utah’s national parks like Zion and Bryce Canyon have miraculously not been overrun with tourists, other than Europeans who seem to be ahead of Americans in discovering one of the exceptionally gorgeous and mind-boggling natural wonders of the world. But that may change with Danny Boyle’s thrilling film 127 Hours adding renewed excitement about the region. Just make sure you don’t go hiking alone!

Grand Canyon NP: A lot of National Parks came up on our shortlist but Grand Canyon National Park won out over the rest. A perennial favorite and a jewel of the National Parks system, Grand Canyon recently opened Phase V of the new Grand Canyon Greenway trail. With its opening there is now a continuous, paved, accessible trail all the way from Grand Canyon Village to the South Kaibab Trailhead. The two rims of the Grand Canyon offer quite different experiences and, as they lie more than 200 miles apart by road, are rarely visited on the same trip. Most visitors choose the South Rim, which boasts easy access, the bulk of services and the panoramic vistas for which the park is famous. The quieter North Rim has its own charms; at 8200ft elevation, its cooler temperatures support wildflower meadows and tall, thick stands of aspen and spruce. For many, the Grand Canyon epitomizes the ultimate American travel destination. If you haven’t been yet, don’t wait another year.

New York City: New York City was named the #1 city in the world to visit in 2011 by Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2011 and our US-based staff agrees that it’s a top destination for the coming year. Since 9/11, the site for the World Trade Center’s twin towers has stood out as a closed-off, out-of-view, painful gaping void. This year that changes, as the former WTC site finally reopens to the public with the National September 11 Memorial. For all of New York, September 11, 2011 will be a defining moment. The city is also experiencing a renaissance: half of the roads in Times Square have been given over to pedestrians, the 85-acre Brooklyn Bridge Park continues to see old piers transformed into parks and apartments, and the universally loved High Line, a reinvention of an elevated train line as a landscaped walkway, opens its second stretch in Chelsea this year. Also, Brooklyn’s Coney Island finishes its much-needed $30 million makeover this summer. And on May 23, another icon will have a historic moment when the New York Public Library turns 100.

New Orleans: Beloved New Orleans had a hard time attracting tourists in the first few years following Hurricane Katrina. But five years and millions upon millions of dollars later, New Orleans has recovered and its tourism numbers are again approaching pre-Katrina levels. This year is a particularly good year to go: it’s Tennessee Williams’ 100th birthday and also the 25th anniversary of the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, which is held in March. It’s also the 5-year anniversary of New Orleans’ unique version of the ‘Running of the Bulls’ – roller derby style. Add in all the great music and culture festivals and restaurants and really, how can you not go to New Orleans this year?

Denver, Colorado: Another sesquicentennial – bet you didn’t know it’s the 150th anniversary of Colorado Territory. Maybe you did. The Colorado Gold Rush started in 1861 and brought an influx of settlers into the region. We’re lucky that Colorado is now much easier to get to as it has some of the best skiing in the country with over 26 resorts, including the country’s first ski-in/ski-out ballroom at the Viceroy Snowmass.
Even though Boulder often gets all the love, we highly recommend Denver. This sparkly-clean mile-high city is nestled amid beautiful mountains yet urban delights abound. The Denver Art Museum, designed by Daniel Libeskind, is an architectural feat where you can see modern art as well as historical exhibitions. The shopping area near 16th Street features some fabulous stores including Tattered Cover, one of our favorite independent bookstores in the US. And IM Pei, who designed the Louvre pyramid, also designed several projects in Denver like the Mile High Center and Courthouse Square. It’s like Paris in the West.

Palm Springs, CA: When Northern Californians want to escape our cold and fog for a taste of summertime, we head to Palm Springs. But Palm Springs isn’t just for resort hounds. Nearby Joshua Tree will satisfy the hiking and rock climbing desires of any wildergeek. And the Coachella Festival has hosted the likes of Prince, The Cure and Jay-Z. But we especially love Palm Springs’ annual Modernism Week. It has events across the city celebrating all things mid-century: clothes, cars, architecture, music, food. We don’t have the details for next year’s event but it looks like they may cook up a tribute to mid-century fashion this year. Very Mad Men, no?

Northern California: No one will deny that Northern California is like no other place in the country. Come for the stunning natural scenery, incredible food, biodynamic wineries, micro-brewing companies, wildlife, beaches, and you might find yourself staying a long time. And how about those World Series champion Giants? Their first home game is April 8! I personally recommend: Big Sur, Anderson Valley Brewing Company, Santa Cruz,Lassen Volcanic National Park, Yosemite National Park, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, San Francisco burritos and Oakland’s taco trucks, Eastern Sierra hot springs, Mt Shasta, mushroom hunting in the forests, and visiting local cheese makers.

“My travel tips” gives you… travel tips and travel ideas.

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