Practically all of America’s most popular destinations all share something in common – a waterfront setting. Whether it’s a national park or the greatest cities, if you think of your favorite spot, it’s probably located along a mighty river, tranquil lake or spectacular ocean. But if you’re still looking for more ideas for your next trip, here is a look at five of the best waterfront destinations in America.
With a scenic 18-mile lakefront trail and nearly 30 public beaches, Chicago truly ranks among the nation’s best waterfront destinations. Located along the shores of Lake Michigan, the Windy City offers a number of water activities, particularly during the summer when the lake’s water temperatures average in the high 60s. Among the top waterfront attractions in Chicago are Navy Pier, Shedd Aquarium, Soldier Field and Willis Tower, America’s tallest building located one block from the Chicago River. Other must see attractions include Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs and the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the largest and most prestigious museums in the world.
New York, NY
South Street Seaport, Chelsea Piers, Battery Park and even Coney Island are shining examples of why New York makes for a spectacular waterfront destination. The most populous and certainly one of the most important cities in America, New York boasts many of the world’s most iconic landmarks. The Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor is a must-see attraction for any first time visitor. The best time to visit Liberty Island and neighboring Ellis Island is early morning or late afternoon, but both can be viewed from a short distance on the free Staten Island Ferry. Other attractions not to be missed in New York, particularly on the island on Manhattan, include Times Square, Central Park, Rockefeller Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and One World Trade Center. Lastly, when it comes to dining, nothing quite compares to the Big Apple, boasting many of the world’s most famous dining establishments.
New Orleans, LA
One of the most influential music artists in American contemporary music history once said, “there are a lot of places I like, but I like New Orleans better.” And countless other people from all over the world share the same sentiment as the man who famously said it – Bob Dylan. This vibrant city along the Mississippi River is one of the most unique destinations in America, filled with a rich diversity of cultures along with extraordinary architecture, dining and entertainment. The best waterfront attractions in the Crescent City are in the world famous French Quarter, where visitors can stroll through Jackson Square, have cafe au lait and a beignet at Café Du Monde, or take a journey back into time by riding a riverboat on the Mississippi. But there’s so much more to see and do in New Orleans. After all, Bob Dylan also said “everything in New Orleans is a good idea.”
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco is an easy choice as one of the best waterfront destinations in America. That’s because there is so much to see and do in a city that’s bordered by water on three sides. Many of the most famous landmarks are located along the waterfront, such as AT&T Park, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge and of course Alcatraz Island is completely surrounded by water. Even more incredible waterfront locations can be found along the northern and western borders, such as the Marina District, the Presidio of San Francisco and Crissy Field, Ocean Beach and Land’s End. Along with all of the breathtaking vistas is a world-class collection of hotels, dining, shopping, culture and entertainment scattered all over the City by the Bay.
Waikiki Beach, HI
No list of the five best waterfronts in America would be complete without mentioning the Hawaiian Islands. Several outstanding waterfront destinations can be found throughout America’s 50th state, such as Kahului and Lahaina on Maui and Hilo on the Big Island. But the most famous and most accessible is Waikiki Beach, one of the world’s most famous beaches on the island of Oahu. With the Diamond Head crater serving as a dramatic backdrop, Waikiki Beach offers plenty of things to do, particularly water sports. The waves aren’t as challenging as on the North Shore of the island, but surfing is very popular at Waikiki Beach as are other fun activities like outrigger canoe rides, jet skiing and snorkeling with sea turtles. At night, a great way to cap the evening is to attend a traditional Hawaiian luau right on the beach.
Related: Have A Romantic Vacation In Hawaii
Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com