Nearly everyone seems to have a bucket list of things to do, see and experience before they move on to the next universe.
It’s hard to suggest experiences to add to someone else’s personal bucket list, but the following few stand out for me as life-changing places. Plus you don’t need a passport to experience them, as they’re all in the U.S.
Here’s my top three for now, and later this fall I’ll round out the next few places on my ever- changing and growing bucket list. In the meantime, I’d love to hear what some of your choices and destinations are, so thanks for letting me know!
Arizona’s Grand Canyon is unsurpassed in geological scale, and it’s one of the most humbling places where you could ever spend time.
I never get tired of visiting this rugged, remarkably beautiful and protected place, no matter the season. From summer lightning and thunderstorms, to autumn fog and mist, to winter snows, the light play and constantly changing colors as the weather interacts with the canyon is spell binding. The scale, and distances, are vast, the weather can change in a heartbeat, and in contrast to the South Rim, the North Rim is a higher, cooler, much less traveled part of Grand Canyon National Park.
President Theodore Roosevelt’s foresight helped to preserve this area for future generations. As he said over a century ago, “Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.” Thankfully this has largely been the case since the early 20th century, and here’s hoping that in your lifetime you’ll be able to visit the Grand Canyon’s north and south rims.
Yellowstone in winter is my favorite season in the world’s first national park.
You can palpably feel how stripped down and elemental the world is at this time of year here, as every living thing must make incredible adaptations to survive through Yellowstone’s longest season. Snow and cold generally keep both prey and predator species down lower in elevation, making it an easier time of year to potentially spot wolves, and the elk, bison and other ungulates they like to hunt.
It’s also a magical time to see the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone shrouded in snow, ice and mist, and visit the incredible diversity of thermal features within a short x-c ski, snowshoe or walk from the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. The nighttime skies can be amazing when they appear, and Yellowstone welcomes about 200,000 winter visitors compared to the million-plus crowds that descend on the park both in July and August.
Yellowstone has a way of stealing your heart, so if you’re like me, you’ll likely be pulled back to visit in its other seasons, too.
Spending several days at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. is another bucket list destination.
It’s border line overwhelming with so places to explore and discover near the two-mile long National Mall, which runs from the Lincoln Memorial to the U.S. Capitol Building.
Spend several days in the area if you can depending on your lodging and dining budget. D.C. area prices are high, but thankfully most National Mall area museums and destinations have free admission. Give yourself plenty of time, perhaps make a mini-bucket list of your priorities for while you’re there. Consider lodging in less-expensive Virginia or Maryland and taking public transportation into the city each day.
Some of my favorite places include the National Gallery of Art, The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, The Natural History Museum, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, The Holocaust Museum, and the U.S. Botanic Garden. If you have time, climb up the long winding stairs of the Washington Monument to get a different perspective on Washington, D.C.
In times like this, it’s sobering to know that these places in the nation’s capital are open to everyone, free of charge. They overflow and abound with lessons and stories encouraging us to climb and strive higher for the greater good of all humanity, for the greater good of future generations.