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American Destinations

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Las Vegas

Spanish for The Meadows, Las Vegas often goes simply by the name Vegas, in testament to its slangy allure. Calling itself The Entertainment Capital Of The World, as you no doubt know by now, the city rides high on casino gambling, entertainment, nightlife, shopping and being a huge spangle of mostly legal commotion in the Nevada desert.

The attractions of indoor casinos have over the years made Las Vegas outdoors more entertaining as well, with huge musical fountains, buildings shaped like pyramids, and enough neon to be seen from space. Clearly, this is the place where the badder angels of our nature cut a little loose. It’s one of world’s most visited tourist destinations, and a favorite place for business conventions. (Note: Business conventions are not here defined as sin.)

It’s difficult differentiating amid the free-floating aura of lubricious fun in the city; step out of the car and it just happens. However, a few well-known diversions may get you started. Among the more conventional fun parks and casinos we find—machine gun shooting ranges? Indoor sky diving? Spinning at 40 mph hundreds of feet over the ground?

And indeed, all the streets in this famous sin city field an abundance of interesting attractions, from the Cirque du Soleil at Bellagio to artifacts from the Titanic at Luxor, to Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay, to a volcano at The Mirage, to the Hollywood Cars Museum on the strip.

But maybe you want something more real and down-to-earth? Las Vegas, in American history an oasis for pioneers, is also significant as an important stop in the manifest destiny of America’s westward expansion. You will know this if you visit the Nevada State Museum, with its real-history exhibits on John C. Fremont, irritant of Abraham Lincoln and basically the founder of Las Vegas; also exhibits on the geology of the Great Basin upon which Las Vegas lives.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles, City of aAngels, a small Spanish town become sovereign metropolis, creative capital, LaLa Land, dimension of dreams, font of fantasy, ground zero of American popular entertainment and therefore the most influential city in the world. Big things happen here, among the blazing highways and desert arroyos.

Cartoon mice become movie stars, space empires go to war, extra-terrestrials visit the earth, the American South burns on a backlot. This says nothing yet of the other industries devoted to the arts, music, theater, painting, architecture. A population goes off to work here every day making lasting artistic artifacts.

Los Angeles is a sprawling hectic city, actually a county, with a downtown area called Los Angeles, and a greater metropolitan area larger than the Republic of Ireland. It uses only the most American-approved form of transport. Which means that unless you have time to master the giant confusing but efficient metro system of buses and trains, you’ll want to rent a car, which additionally entitles you to a true LA experience. Once on the freeway, do not expect courtesy from other drivers, but a kill-or-be-killed mentality that you had best adopt yourself. Trains run north and south along the coast from Union Station in downtown LA, and connect to the rest of the country.

Attractions here are too diverse and numerous to even hint at. You could start with the original Disneyland in Anaheim, tour movie studios in Culver City and Burbank, drive along the famous beach in Malibu, hike to near the Hollywood, indulge in high-ticket shopping on Rodeo Drive, thread your way among movie-star houses, sample any of a thousand ethnic restaurants. This is before you even look at the traditional cultural amenities like museums and orchestras, which the city also has in abundance.

Los Angeles is a year-round outdoor city with dry comfortable air, a surprisingly active and athletic city, where the temperature seldom drops into the 50s and it rarely rains. It may experience occasional mudslides, earthquakes and wildfires, but the climate is the best in the world.

St. Petersburg


The problem with St. Petersburg, a nice place to visit, is that you might also want to live there. Named one of the 20 best places to live by Coastal Living Magazine, St. Pete’s combines beaches, relatively affordable living, art, music and funk. When you include Tampa and Clearwater, the two other towns in the triangle—officially called the Tampa–St. Petersburg–Clearwater Metropolitan Statistical Area, population 2.8 million—you get a concentrated seaside punch. But not just from beachy things.

There is, for example, the Salvador Dali Museum, opened in 1982, which devotes an entire fancy new building, opened in 2011, to more than 2,100 paintings, drawings, sculptures, book illustrations, photos and manuscripts created by one man: Jerry Lewis.

No! It’s Salvador Dali, who arguably got more artistic expression out of his mustache than many artists do from the full paint-dripping panoply of artist gear. Once you tire of bending clocks and surreal Madonnas, you might boogie out to one of the many music festivals that tune the local calendar. Or food festivals. Or, in March, the annual Firestone Grand Prix, an IndyCar race through downtown. Or one of the many art festivals. Or the Green Thumb Festival, held to promote tree beautification in town.

Notice we haven’t said anything yet about the miles and miles of white beaches. So here we go. At St. Petersburg you will find miles and miles of white beaches, some 35 miles of them. And just the right weather to make use of them. With more than 300 days of sunshine per year, and the holder of Guinness World Record for longest consecutive sunshine (768 days), is it any wonder St. Petersburg is often called The Sunshine City?

Get in through the Tampa International Airport. A trolley runs downtown, provided by the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority. CSX Transportation runs a railroad line that sees daily rail traffic thoughout the state.

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