USA’s WEEKEND Annual Travel Report

Issue Date: May 18, 2003

The 10 Most Beautiful Places in AmericaCanadian Buyers

It’s a nation so blessed with sights — natural and man-made — that you could ask all 300 million residents for their favorites and expect 300 million different answers. So how do you go about picking the country’s 10 most beautiful spots?

Well, for starters, you go about it very boldly. You solicit opinions from travel writers and photographers, poll your colleagues, and talk to outdoor enthusiasts, historic preservationists and relatives who, every time you see them, seem to have just returned from another fabulous trip. In putting together USA WEEKEND Magazine’s annual summer travel story, our editors did all that. To help frame the unenviable — all right, nearly impossible — task of limiting America’s most beautiful attractions to a mere 10, we also offered a few guidelines. Nominees had to be publicly accessible and reasonably well-known. Iconic stature wouldn’t hurt a place’s chances, and, given the want of any objective way to measure beauty, sentimental favoritism was an acceptable tiebreaker. In other words, we instructed our experts to follow their hearts. After reading the top 10 list they produced, we hope you’ll do the same.

1. Red Rock Country (Sedona, Ariz.)
Ever since the early days of movies, when Hollywood has wanted to show the unique beauty of the West, it has gone to Sedona, a place that looks like nowhere else. Beginning with The Call of the Canyon in 1923, some hundred movies and TV shows have been filmed in and around town. We fell under Sedona’s spell, too, and while debating our No. 1 spot kept returning to it for the same reasons Hollywood does: The area’s telegenic canyons, wind-shaped buttes and dramatic sandstone towers embody the rugged character of the West — and the central place that character holds in our national identity. There’s a timelessness about these ancient rocks that fires the imagination of all who encounter them. Some 11,000 years before film cameras discovered Sedona, American Indians settled the area. Homesteaders, artists and, most recently, New Age spiritualists have followed. Many cultures and agendas abound, but there’s really only one attraction: the sheer, exuberant beauty of the place. People come for inspiration and renewal, tawny cliffs rising from the buff desert floor, wind singing through box canyons, and sunsets that seem to cause the ancient buttes and spires to glow from within. We hear the canyon’s call and cannot resist. For more, go to www.sedona.net.

2. Nighttime view from Mount Washington in Pittsburgh
3. The upper Mississippi River
4. Hawaii’s Na Pali Coast
5. Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
6. Grafton, Vt.
7. Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
8. From Key Largo to Key West in Florida
9. Clingmans Dome on the Appalachian Trail
10. The squares of Savannah, Ga.