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Top 7 travel destinations that have had a serious glow-up

By Kelsy Chauvin
January 12, 2022
Belt Line Atlanta
How some cities are remaking yesterday’s great spaces for the future.

For many Americans, repurposing marvelous old buildings is always better than tearing them down. And while the term “urban renewal” comes with a little baggage, it’s hard to argue with its particular way of salvaging and adapting neglected older spaces for our modern world. City planners and architects across the country have found spectacular ways to reimagine vintage structures.

You’ve seen it at New York City’s High Line, which converted a dilapidated Manhattan railroad into a lovely 1.5-mile “linear park.” And this year in Chicago, the gigantic, abandoned Old Post Office will open its repurposed 2.8 million square feet as a 21st-century office complex featuring a food hall, rooftop park, and restored Art Deco design.

So for those travelers who appreciate the splendors of historic preservation and civic innovation, this shortlist of revitalized urban destinations is for you.

1. BeltLine, Atlanta

One of the great Southern cities has circled back to its roots with adaptive-reuse projects across town – most notably along the BeltLine, itself a remarkable project.

In 2005, Atlanta opened the first BeltLine section, a retired railway corridor–turned–multi-use trail that’s today lined with public art and parks. It drew more residents and businesses to the east side, and sparked the transformation of a massive old Sears distribution complex into Ponce City Market, now a dazzling mixed-use retail, dining, commercial, and residential center. Other industrial spaces along the trail have found new life too, like Inman Park’s Krog Street Market. More are sure to follow as new BeltLine sections open up in coming years, eventually spanning 33 miles.

2. Crescent Park, New Orleans

Waterfronts across the country have been rediscovered in recent decades, thanks to city planners realizing the potential to replace retired wharves with versatile public space. In New Orleans, such creative thinking led to Crescent Park, a 1.4-mile linear park just east of the French Market. What once was a bustling industrial riverfront has since 2014 been a busy 20-acre green space with picnic areas, a dog run, and seasonal events and festivals.

The Crescent City is seeing adaptive reuse elsewhere too, as seen across the Warehouse Arts District, at spots like the Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery, a modern hotel that prizes the building’s 19th-century heritage. In the Central Business District, Pythian Market is a locally curated food hall inside a restored 1908 tower with a fascinating tie to the city’s early civil-rights movement.

3. Discovery Green, Houston

From parking lot to 12-acre park – that’s the story of Houston’s downtown Discovery Green. With the support of local philanthropy foundations, in 2002 the city seized the opportunity to convert concrete lots into an urban park with playgrounds, music stages, trails, gardens, bocce courts, restaurants, and other public amenities. The LEED-certified park now draws more than 1.2 million annual visitors, and has inspired revitalization projects across Midtown and East Downtown neighborhoods.

4. The Wharf, Washington, DC

Washington’s Southwest neighborhood had for decades been a neglected corner of town, due partly to accessibility challenges caused by highways dividing it from major attractions. But that changed in 2017, when a $2 billion development transformed the industrial waterfront into the mixed-use District Wharf.

The 10-acre neighborhood is now more easily accessible from the Metro (with a short walk or free shuttle), by car or cab, or by water taxi or private boat. These days, visitors from around the region flock to the Wharf that’s home to both restored historic structures and new “green” architecture – forming a year-round recreation, entertainment, and dining destination on the Washington Channel.

5. Crosstown Concourse, Memphis

Old warehouses remain prized property for urban developers looking to adapt rather than build anew. Just head to the Crosstown Concourse in Memphis, where a humongous Sears store and distribution center, abandoned in 1983, became a thriving “vertical urban village” in 2017. The art deco complex that once served millions of mail-order customers now accommodates shoppers, diners, residents, and workers across its 1.2 million sq ft. It’s even home to a charter high school, medical clinics, a YMCA, and a contemporary arts organization with galleries and performance space.

(Memphis is one of several US cities that have reused retired Sears complexes. You’ll find similar projects in Minneapolis, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Boston.)

6. Downtown Project, Las Vegas

Not so much a single project as an evolving investment, Las Vegas’s Downtown Project is the city’s ongoing urban-revitalization initiative in its historic Fremont East/East Village districts. Driven (and financed) by Zappos founder Tony Hsieh, who parked the company headquarters there in 2013, the Downtown Project has poured $350 million into the neighborhood’s 61 acres.

Today, Vegas visitors, workers, and residents enjoy new (and newly supported) businesses along the established street grid – from restaurants and bars, to arts spaces and boutiques, all complemented by award-winning urban design and public art. Befitting a project led by an online retail giant, the project’s Container Park houses nearly 40 businesses in repurposed shipping containers.

7. The Steel Yard, Providence

The industrial character of Providence’s Valley neighborhood turned out to be a perfect setting for a vibrant urban arts studio. In 2002, the Steel Yard took over the century-old Providence Steel and Iron building just a year after it shuttered. Since then, all 12,000 sq ft have served as nonprofit workspaces for ceramics, woodwork, welding, blacksmith, and jewelry creators on the banks of the Woonasquatucket River.

The Steel Yard reopened a refreshed space last year, and along the way it’s inspired other proprietors to make use of Valley’s lofty, leftover brick complexes, including the “elevated street casual” eatery Troop. Look for more action in this area over coming years, as city planners develop a linear park called Woonasquatucket River Corridor linking Downtown Providence to Valley in the coming years.

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Budget Travel Lists

51 affordable discoveries across America

Our mission is simple: track down outstanding destinations in all 50 states and Puerto Rico where lodging averages well under $200/night and great food and drink, natural beauty, and vibrant arts and culture share the spotlight. No pressure, right? Here’s to kicking off the new decade with an unparalleled to-do list! Alabama: Muscle Shoals It’s time for Muscle Shoals, Alabama, to take its rightful place alongside America’s major pop music destinations like Memphis, Cleveland, and Detroit. Here, in this small town in the northwestern corner of the state, some of the most popular and critically acclaimed rock and soul music – including seminal works by Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones, and Lynyrd Skynyrd – was recorded at Fame Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. These days, you can enjoy a music-themed visit to the area while also savoring its first-rate comfort food and natural beauty. Tour the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, in Tuscumbia; make a pilgrimage to Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, in Sheffield; and drop by Pegasus Records, in Florence, for its Friday-night showcases of emerging musical talent. Alabama Shakes were discovered at Pegasus – who will you discover? The Kenai Peninsula brings all your Alaskan adventures within reach © CSNafzger / Shutterstock Alaska: Kenai Peninsula Alaska isn’t quite as far away as you think: an authentic Alaska experience, complete with whale watching, hiking, fishing, and ogling wildlife, is available in the Kenai Peninsula, along the state’s southern coast, south of Anchorage. Whether you approach this vacation wonderland via cruise ship or a road trip on the Seward Highway (one of America’s finest scenic drives), you’ll find enough activities to last a week or a month, including a boat tour of Kenai Fjords National Park; hiking in Chugach National Forest, and viewing animals you won’t easily find in the lower 48, including orcas and puffins. And an irresistible perk of visiting this corner of Alaska is that you’ll taste the freshest, most deeply flavorful salmon anywhere in the world. Arizona: Saguaro National Park Some travelers keep a list of rare or unique sights they must see. The saguaro cactus is something every American should visit in person. Saguaro National Park, Arizona, near the always rewarding city of Tucson, is devoted to protecting and preserving a forestful of the immense succulents, which are unique to the Sonoran Desert and can grow to a height of 50 feet and live more than 200 years. In addition to these “kings of the Sonoran Desert,” you’ll also find towering pine-covered mountains alive with wild javelina, coyotes, desert tortoises, and, at higher elevations, black bear and the Mexican spotted owl. The Ozark-St Francis National Forests are great destinations anytime of year © Mark C Stevens / Moment / Getty Arkansas: Ozark-St. Francis National Forests Not one but two major national forests crossed by six US Scenic Byways? Yes, Arkansas delivers thousands of acres of four-season activities in the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests, in the state’s northern and eastern regions. Here, from the shores of the Mississippi River to the deep woods filled with wildlife and opportunities for water sports, visitors discover an unexpected side of Arkansas. Choose between cycling and canoeing, fishing for striped and largemouth bass and catfish, swimming in Bear Creek Lake, camping amid the hardwood trees, and hopping an ATV – or, our recommendation, try them all. California: San Pedro Think you know California? Meet San Pedro, at the southern point of the Palos Verdes Peninsula and home to the Port of Los Angeles, the largest in the US. Here in this up-and-coming must-see city, you’ll delight in packing your days with an array of pursuits: ride the free San Pedro Downtown Trolley with hop-on-hop-off stops at the incredible collection of nautical vessels at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, beautiful Cabrillo Beach, and the jaw-dropping Cabrilla Marine Aquarium, designed by Frank Gehry. History buffs and kids of all ages will want to visit the Battleship Iowa Museum, the only battleship open to the public on the West Coast, and everyone will appreciate a meal at California’s biggest seafood restaurant, the San Pedro Fish Market & Restaurant – get ready to snap a few they-won’t-believe-this-back-home pics of the immense shrimp trays. The lesser-known Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park has Grand Canyon-quality vistas with fewer crowds © AlexeyKamenskiy / Getty Images Colorado: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Southwest Colorado is home to a lesser-known gem: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Located near the city of Montrose, the site is an incredible natural landscape featuring black cliffs (formed 2 billion years ago) towering 2,000 feet above the Gunnison River. Stock up on food and water in Montrose, then head for the canyon’s South Rim, where you’ll find gentle nature trails with Instagram-ready overlooks, backcountry experiences for visitors who yearn to get off the beaten path, and an array of opportunities for camping, fishing, and rock climbing. Consider participating in ranger-led programs to learn about the geology and wildlife of the area. Connecticut: Mystic Seaport For travelers in the Northeast, America’s most important collection of National Historic Landmark maritime vessels is just off I-95 in northern Connecticut. Mystic Seaport’s towering sailing ships will delight children, of course, and grownups (especially fans of the novels of Patrick O’Brien and Herman Melville) who want to step back in time to the days of wooden ships. Tour a whaleship, an active waterfront, planetarium, gardens, and hands-on experiences that help you appreciate the crafts that went into the construction and maintenance of these amazing vessels. Art lovers will savor the excellent Maritime Gallery, which hosts major exhibitions of marine art and intricately detailed miniature ship models. Big things come in small packages in Lewes, Delaware © Mdgmorris / E+ / Getty Delaware: Lewes We believe too many travelers simply pass through compact Delaware on their way somewhere else. It’s time to slow down and enjoy this welcoming mid-Atlantic state, and the charming town of Lewes, where the Atlantic Ocean meets Delaware Bay, is the perfect place to do so. The vibrant downtown is perfect for strolling and popping into unique boutiques and seafood restaurants, and the lovely beaches just minutes away. Have your camera or smartphone ready for iconic shots of Breakwater Lighthouse, cycle or walk the Lewes Canalfront, and devote some time to exploring Cape Henlopen State Park with its scenic trails, beaches, campgrounds, and pier. Florida: St Augustine If “founded in 1565” sounds unusually old for an American city, well, it sure is. St Augustine is commonly referred to as the oldest city in the US (in actuality, it is the longest continually inhabited European-founded city in the nation). Here, visitors find an experience that is decidedly different from – and a wonderful complement to – Florida’s beaches and theme parks. Immerse yourself in 400 years of history that includes an array of cultures, including Native American, Spanish, British, African American, and Greek. Must-see sights include the Castillo de San Marcos (this is the classic I’m-in-St.-Augustine image), the narrow European-style streets, an array of museums dedicated to local history and cultures, and even Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon’s legendary “Fountain of Youth.” Georgia: Alpharetta From the coast to bustling Atlanta to the mountains, Georgia offers well-known vacation charms. We want travelers to add the city of Alpharetta, in the Atlanta metro area, to that list. If you’re looking for a welcoming community with endless eating options (more than 200 restaurants), an exceptional craft brewery experience at Jekyll Brewing, and ample parkland (750 acres), including the eight-mile-long Big Creek Greenway, Alpharetta, an easy drive from downtown Atlanta, makes a great day trip or weekend escape. If all that sounds as if it ought to be topped off with an evening of fine music, head to The Velvet Note, honored by Downbeat Magazine as one of the world’s best jazz venues. Kaua'i's Waimea Canyon is known as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific" © MNStudio / Shutterstock Hawaii: Waimea Canyon State Park Have you seen the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”? On the western side of the Hawaiian island of Kaua‘i, Waimea Canyon is 14 miles long, more than 3,600 deep, and boasts an array of colorful, gorges, and buttes that do, indeed, remind many visitors of Arizona’s famous canyon. And, of course, this being Hawaii, the gorgeous surroundings go beyond the canyon: Waimea Valley is home to a 45-foot waterfall and thousands of beautiful botanicals along an easy paved path. For an elegant splurge, there are 60 vintage restored cottages along the beachfront just south of the park. Idaho: Snake River Valley Another canyon that most travelers have not yet discovered awaits in Idaho, where the Snake River winds through prehistoric lava flows to create a 50-mile canyon where you’ll find photo-ready waterfalls and springs. Stroll along the 10-mile paved walking path on the south rim with access to a visitor center. Then head to the iconic Perrine Bridge, where you can stand nearly 500 feet above the river and recall the exploits of 1970s daredevil Evel Knievel, who attempted to jump the canyon here (unsuccessfully, alas). You may also see BASE jumpers taking the plunge off the bridge. Just south of the bridge, you’ll find scenic overlooks of the canyon and at the beautiful Shoshone Falls; beautiful; Centennial Waterfront Park is just west of the bridge. Route 66 contains many examples of quirky Americana, such as the The Gemini Giant sculpture at the Launching Pad restaurant © Marco Bicci / Shutterstock Illinois: Route 66 Heritage Project Sure, you know kitschy Route 66, and may have driven a stretch or two of the “Mother Road.” But exploring the 300-mile Illinois portion of the quintessential US highway may be the kitschiest stretch of all. Snap some pics at the beginning of your journey, in downtown Chicago at the “Route 66 Begin” sign on E. Jackson Boulevard. Once you’re on the road, there are many tempting places to stop: Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket has been famous or its fried chicken since the 1940s; the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum is a treasure trove of vintage artifacts; the 19-foot-high Paul Bunyan clutching an immense hot dog across the street from The Palms Grill Cafe announces its presence from a distance and delights passersby; the world’s largest covered wagon awaits not far down the road, alongside a statue of Abraham Lincoln. The road rolls on, and the kitsch rolls along with it, all the way to the Chain of Rocks Bridge across the Mississippi and into St Louis, Missouri. Indiana: Nashville Did you know there was “another” Nashville? And that it’s also a significant music destination? Here in southern Indiana, Nashville was an artists’ colony in the early 20th century, establishing a tradition of creativity complete with galleries and crafts studios. These days, the community has become a mecca for musicians, with a great schedule of performances at the Brown County Playhouse and shops like Weed Patch Music Company with its stash of custom guitars and banjos. Music pours forth from cafes and wine bars, and, of course, on the streets. Sioux City is where small-town charm meets big-city culture © BergmannD / iStock / Getty Iowa: Sioux City This little city in northwest Iowa has earned big honors for its livability, cuisine, and economic development. For travelers, that all translates into an experience that combines small-town warmth with big-city style and culture. Families will especially love the LaunchPAD Children’s Museum and the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center. Culture vultures must see the Art Center and hear the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra. Outdoor fun is a four-season priority here, as the city continues to develop trail connectivity and riverfront development, and a wide diversity of multicultural cuisine sets Sioux City apart from most small cities in the heartland. Kansas: Colby Start at the Prairie Museum of Art and History to get a sense of Colby’s place in the settlement of the prairie and its vibrant artistic legacy; while you’re at the museum, don’t miss its Cooper Barn, the largest barn in the state. Colby’s new 2.2-mile walking trail is a good way to get a sense of this special town, with its especially noteworthy historic courthouse. The best times to get to know Colby may be during its annual festivals: in April, you can take a taste of the Great Oasis Cookoff; in July, you’ll love the Pickin’ on the Plains Bluegrass Festival; and kids will especially appreciate a December visit to Santa City. Kentucky Wild Rivers are overflowing with adventure © Ehrlif / iStock / Getty Kentucky: Kentucky Wild Rivers Say the word Kentucky and most travelers will immediately think bourbon, bluegrass, and horses. While that’s perfectly understandable, don’t forget the wild waterways. With more than 2 million acres of national forest and more navigable rivers than any other state in the lower 48, paddlers can take their pick from more than 1000 miles of running water. Nine of them are designated Kentucky Wild Rivers, which means they are, and always will be, protected from development. Novice paddlers will find gentle waters on the Cumberland River, while experienced whitewater enthusiasts will enjoy the Class IV rapids found on the Big South Fork River; and, of course, there’s something for everyone in between. Louisiana: Cajun Country When it comes to an eye-opening, transformative trip, Louisiana’s Cajun Country may be unrivaled in the US. Here, about a four-hour drive northwest of New Orleans, a diversity of cultural traditions came together in early colonial days, with French, Spanish, African American, and Caribbean people mingling language, cuisine, and religious traditions in a way not found anywhere else in America. In and around the town of Natchitoches (pronounced nack-a-tish), you can tour winding European-style streets, see authentic Creole cottages, partake of distinctive dishes like gumbo and jambalaya, and get to know the history of plantations like Melrose and Oakland, where enslaved Africans created finely crafted artwork that combined West African religious traditions with Christian iconography. Sunset from the Appalachian Trail, Bigelow Mountain, Maine © Cavan Images / Getty Maine: High Peaks Region With Portland as your gateway city, exploring Maine’s extraordinary lakes and mountains is an unforgettable four-season opportunity that rivals the better-known “peak experiences” found out West. Located where the Appalachian Trail reaches its northernmost point, this region contains 10 of Maine’s highest peaks, with seemingly endless opportunities for camping, cycling, camping, and paddling glacial lakes and gin-clear rivers. Wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy a moose photo safari, or just take a memorable drive along one of three scenic byways: High Peaks, Grafton Notch, and Rangeley Lakes. Autumn brings some of the deepest reds, golds, and oranges anywhere in the US, and winter offers cozy cabin fireplaces and some of America’s finest ski resorts. Maryland: Chesapeake Bay Maryland’s star attraction may be the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the US, which manages to touch beautiful waterfront towns, wild spaces, and the state’s biggest city. With such a variety of settings, the activities for visitors are nearly infinite. For starters, be sure to experience Annapolis, the state capital and the sailing capital of America; a ferry ride to Smith Island, where residents still speak with a trade of the Elizabethan accent of the first settlers 350 years ago; Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse, available for tours via a ferry from Annapolis; and Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, with its great seafood, public concerts, and National Aquarium. Many travelers overlook Falmouth, Massachusetts, on their way to Cape Cod, but this coastal community is worth a stop © KenWiedemann / E+ / Getty Massachusetts: Falmouth Some New England visitors know Falmouth only as a name on a roadside sign on the way to points farther out on Cape Cod. But this charming community on the western end of the Cape offers an array of affordable lodgings and activities to satisfy even the most discerning traveler. Eight decidedly New England villages are set along more than 60 miles of shore here, with exceptional seafood, historic lodgings such as the Sea Crest on Silver Beach, and a great local theater scene that dates back to the summer stock of the early 20th century. Start at the Falmouth Village Green to get a sense of place; the bell you hear ringing each hour from the First Congregational Church was cast by Paul Revere – it doesn’t get any more New England than that! Michigan: Charlevoix Even seasoned travelers sometimes forget that the US has four coasts. The pristine beaches of Lake Charlevoix and Lake Michigan are found up north in Michigan, and offer a laid-back vacation experience that reminds many visitors of bygone days. First, there’s the water and all that comes with it: charted sailboats, kayaks, and paddleboards; 20 hiking trails and nature preserves, not to mention the iconic Earl Young Mushroom House and the majestic Castle Farms. In search of seclusion? Head to Beaver Island. Looking for cool boutiques, great food, and public events along Round Lake? That’s exactly what you’ll find in the town of Charlevoix. No wonder visitors become regulars, and the Charlevoix region becomes a summer family tradition. Split Rock Lighthouse on the Lake Superior shore © Gian Lorenzo Ferretti Photography / Getty Minnesota: Lake Superior State Parks Speaking of the beaches of the Great Lakes, northern Minnesota’s Lake Superior shoreline is home to eight state parks where nature lovers’ dreams come true. All reachable from the city of Duluth, some highlights include: Gooseberry Falls delivers not only Lake Superior shore but also Instagrammable waterfalls, rivers, and forest, a paved cycling trail, and excellent cross-country skiing; Split Rock Lighthouse, with a superb visitor center, exhibits, and documentary film; Temperance River offers gorges, footbridges, and waterfalls for hikers to discover; and Cascade River boasts trails that can get you up Lookout Mountain for – what else? – spectacular views. Mississippi: Gulf Coast Islands The Gulf Coast is always a good idea, and Mississippi’s Gulf Islands National Seashore is the perfect place to get up close and personal with the region’s wild side, amazing gourmet seafood, and craft beer. The six barrier islands beckon visitors with attainable adventures like exploring the bayous and marshland of Cat Island; taking a boat ride from Biloxi to the beach at Deer Island; doing some serious pelican watching (and photography) on Horn Island; and hitting up the tiny islands of Round Island and Petit Bois for a look at visiting migratory birds (they’re here for the great seafood, just like you). Missouri: Hermann Just an hour west of St Louis, in the Missouri River valley, the town of Hermann is like stepping into a wormhole to old-world Germany. Start at Historic Hermann Museum for an overview of the settlement of the area from the 1830s to the 1900s. Then be sure to pack an appetite for comfort food and good local wine as you explore local eateries and favorite sights such as: Deutschheim State Historic Site with its exhibits and galleries of artifacts from the days when German immigrants settled here; Hermann Farm with its living history exhibitions; and a variety of excellent local wineries. The mountains are never very far from Bozeman, Montana © Carol Polich / Lonely Planet Montana: Bozeman By Western standards, Bozeman is “near” both Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks, though folks from back East will notice that “near” can mean a few hours in the car. But we love Bozeman not just for its proximity to amazing parkland and amazing skiing but also for the city itself, a college town with great community spirit, food that even Californians envy, and one of the finest museums in the US, the Museum of the Rockies. Set aside most of a day to take in all the museum has to offer, from its excellent planetarium to its Montana history division, natural history exhibitions with a special emphasis on the dinosaur fossils unearthed in Bozeman’s backyard at Hell Creek, and its living history pioneer cabin. In Bozeman, you’re never far from a gorgeous mountain vista or a great meal – we especially love the huge, reasonably priced sandwiches at the Pickle Barrel. Nebraska: Grand Island When it comes to friendly, historic towns, we love Grand Island. The community may be best known for its access to the epic Sandhill Crane migration here in central Nebraska, but that’s just where the fun begins. Start in the town’s historic downtown, known as the Railside District, to take in the finely restored buildings, then grab a craft beer and grub at one of the excellent downtown breweries. Then explore the city’s Stuhr Museum with its Railroad Town pioneer village and beautifully landscaped grounds, and take a dip in one of Grand Island’s public pools. Be sure to visit the gentle Platte River, an important landmark from the days when settlers from the East headed west across the prairie. Located near Las Vegas, Valley of Fire State Park features some of Nevada's most unique landscapes © Alexander Howard / Lonely Planet Nevada: Valley of Fire State Park How did Nevada’s Valley of Fire get its name? How about 40,000 acres of red sandstone? Here in Valley of Fire State Park you’ll come face-to-face with the ancient, including petrified trees and petroglyphs left by native people more than 2000 years ago. Hit the park’s visitor center for an overview and great exhibits devoted to prehistoric times, geology, and the history of the region – pick up maps and tips here as well. As wild as the terrain looks, the park still provides two campsites with tables and grills and running water (including RV hookups), plus miles of trails for those who want to explore this unique environment. New Hampshire: Seacoast When you mention New Hampshire’s “coast” to some people, they look at you kind of funny. Sure, New Hampshire is mostly landlocked, and better known for its mountains and forests, but it also boasts a vibrant Atlantic shoreline that’s just a few miles long but includes the cool small city of Portsmouth with its cobblestone streets, winding alleys, historic John Paul Jones House and Strawbery Banke, and quaint shops like the excellent Riverrun bookstore, plus lovely beaches and more. Take kids to the Seacoast Science Center for a hands-on deep dive into marine life, including a “please touch” tide pool and other stuff the little ones love to explore. Architectural window details in silhouette at historic old casino along the boardwalk in Asbury Park, NJ © littleny / Shutterstock New Jersey: Asbury Park Asbury Park has been dubbed one of America’s Coolest Small Towns in 2017, featured on Bruce Springsteen’s debut studio album and regularly called one of the best destinations on the Jersey Shore. Yet few people have heard of it. It’s time to visit before everybody else gets the word. Conveniently located between New York City and Philadelphia, and boasting amazing seafood, art galleries, and legendary music venues and the boardwalk that Springsteen helped put on the map back in the 1970s, Asbury Park welcomes visitors from everywhere and delivers a first-rate weekend escape. New Mexico: Carlsbad Caverns National Park The jaw-droppingly beautiful Guadalupe Mountains in southeastern New Mexico, not far from the Texas border, are the site of a national park whose secret is about to get out: Carlsbad Caverns National Park offers beautiful terrain to hike, including canyons, cactus, grassland, and its namesake cave – which is a staggering 250ft high and 4000ft long. Ranger-led tours of the caverns, plus hikes and other programs at the visitor center and out in the park’s terrain are a wonderful way of getting to know this noteworthy landmark. Tucked away in America's largest state park, Blue Mountain Lake is idyllic bliss © Patty Barker / 500px New York: Blue Mountain Lake When visiting New York’s six-million-acre Adirondack State Park, it’s easy to forget you’re even in New York – the mountains and lakes make you feel transported to, say, Wyoming. Of all the communities in this, America’s largest state park, Blue Mountain Lake is an ideal place to begin your exploration of the region, thanks to its incredible namesake lake and the Adirondack Experience, an immense museum with state-of-the-art interactive exhibits devoted to the natural history, human history, and wildlife of the Adirondack Mountains. Set aside at least a full day for the museum, or visit more than once in between paddling local waterways, hiking to scenic overlooks, and enjoying great BBQ and craft beer just about everywhere you turn. Just up the road from Blue Mountain Lake, Great Camp Sagamore offers a rustic, unplugged experience you’ll never forget. North Carolina: Boone & Blowing Rock Take the Blue Ridge Parkway into North Carolina and you’ll notice that the area around the town of Boone seems to have received more than its fair share of stunning scenery. Endless hiking trails and scenic overlooks abound outside of town – you must experience the Mile High Swinging Bridge with its views of the Carolina Piedmont. In town, there’s just as fine a variety of living history like the Hickory Ridge Museum and the Daniel Boone Heritage Gardens. In nearby Blowing Rock, you’ll love the Ultimate Adventure park’s ziplines, and the town’s nice array of quaint shops and indulgent spa treatments. Dickinson is the gateway to North Dakota's iconic Badlands © Rruntsch / Getty North Dakota: Dickinson Cowboys + dinosaurs – what’s not to love about North Dakota’s star attractions? The town of Dickinson is best known as the gateway to amazing Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and it enjoys two scenic byways, the Old Red Old Ten and the Kildeer Mountain Four Bears. But the town itself is decidedly ready for its close-up. The Dickinson Museum Center exhibits life-size dinosaurs, fossils, and other reminders of ND’s prehistoric residents; an assortment of beautiful spots like Patterson Lake Recreation Area and West River Community Center for watersports; and annual festivals like Roughrider Days and the Ukrainian Festival bring the community together and are a great time to pay a visit. Ohio: Put-In Bay Ohioans know there’s a 2.5-by-5-mile island in Lake Erie that makes for a spectacular vacation. And now you know too. Put-In Bay is one of those family escapes that pack plenty of great activities and attractions into a small package. The island boasts a cave you can explore, winery tours, parasailing, jet skiing, and fishing for the area’s prized walleye. And don’t miss the chance to ride the elevator up to the observation deck atop of Perry’s International Peace Memorial for endless views of Lake Erie all the way to the Cleveland skyline when the air is clear. Oklahoma's second-largest city is still an underrated charmer © Sean Pavone / Shutterstock Oklahoma: Tulsa You don’t have to be a devotee of folk singer Woody Guthrie, composer of “This Land Is Your Land,” or of novelist S.E. Hinton, who wrote The Outsiders when she was 15 years old, to fall in love with Tulsa. But it won’t hurt. Those two pop culture iconoclasts, whose work happens to have deeply touched and even transformed lives, hailed from this Oklahoma city. That may not be a coincidence: From its unique 100-acre Gathering Place public park along the Arkansas River to the Philbrook Museum’s collection of art from the classics to the modern era in a Renaissance-style villa built by the founder of Philips Oil and donated to the city in the 1930s, Tulsa exceeds expectations. You can even take a tour of a house that played a starring role in Francis Ford Coppola’s film adaptation of The Outsiders – the house has been meticulously restored and outfitted with artifacts and film memorabilia. Oregon: Columbia River Gorge Choosing a National Scenic Area for your next trip guarantees you’ll be surrounded by natural beauty. And the Columbia River Gorge is the largest designated scenic area in America, with vistas that rival any in the world. The Columbia River runs from its source in the Canadian Rockies down through Washington State and into Oregon, where it eventually meets the Pacific. Along the way, it has cut a majestic gorge through the Cascade Mountains, delivering dozens of waterfalls, some of which can be ogled right from the Historic Columbia River Highway. The opportunities for outdoor recreation along the way are extraordinary, including cycling the Post Canyon mountain bike network or hiking up Dog Mountain. And, this being the Pacific Northwest, you can pretty much count on great craft beer, fresh locally raised fare, and an array of pinot noir, chardonnay, and other fine wines. Pennsylvania: Alleghenies It’s time to get to know the Alleghenies, Pennsylvania’s vast south-central region between Pittsburgh and Gettysburg. You can expect a warm welcome in small towns that boast covered bridges and elegant Victorian-era homes. Elsewhere, explore miles of mountain trails on foot or on two fat tires, and dive into this important historical region with its rich Native American legacy, Revolutionary War landmarks, and reminders of the early days of the republic, when this was literally the American frontier. College sports fans will enjoy a stop in State College, home to Penn State and its loyal fans, not to mention tasty comfort food and craft beer. Puerto Rico: Culebra We’ll get this right out in the open: when your friend tells you she’s visiting Puerto Rico but refuses to give away exactly where she’s headed, she may be headed to the 10-square-mile island of Culebra, about 20 miles off PR’s Fajardo coast. Fans of Culebra, which was a US naval base until 1975, have good reason to keep it top secret. Twenty percent of the island is a designated national wildlife refuge, protecting endangered sea turtles and other wild denizens. So far, the island has been untouched by giant hotels, casinos, golf courses, and fast-food restaurants. If that sounds like heaven, get ready to explore Culebra’s “diamond-dust” beaches (the star is Flamenco Beach, but you’ll find others that are more secluded), snorkeling sites, and hiking trails. Narragansett packs Rhode Island's best qualities into an easily digestible size © Shobeir Ansari / Moment / Getty Rhode Island: Narragansett Everybody knows that Rhode Island is the smallest state geographically. What everybody also needs to know is that the small size belies a wealth of vacation opportunities. Narragansett may be Exhibit A: the town is home to four popular beaches, minutes away from affordable hotels, B&Bs, and vacation rentals via the town’s fine public transportation system. You can also opt for camping at Fishermen’s Memorial State Park, which locals prize for its “seaside village” atmosphere. Get ready to snap pics of the Point Judith Lighthouse at the entrance to Narragansett Bay, and set aside some time to explore the unique and vital exhibitions at the Pequot Museum, devoted to Native American history and culture and the natural history of the New England region from prehistoric times through the arrival of European settlers and beyond. South Carolina: Greenville If you haven’t already heard the great word-of-mouth generated by folks who have visited Greenville, take it from us: if your idea of vacation perfection is a charming Main Street packed with great art galleries, excellent local restaurants, and a cycling- and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure and outlook, this is a place you must see for yourself. Start in lovely Falls Park, where the 345-foot-long Liberty Bridge crosses the Reedy River (you can grab a great cup of coffee at the bridge entrance). Cyclists will want to hit the curiously named Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail (say it five times fast, or just call it “Swamp Rabbit,” as locals do), which runs more than 20 miles from Lake Conestee Nature Park to the nearby town of Travelers Rest. Tour local craft breweries, visit one of the local live theaters, hit up local galleries, studios, and public murals, and you’ll soon be one of the people spreading Greenville’s great word-of-mouth yourself. Boxwork is an rare type of rock formation that forms honeycomb-like structures in caves © Zack Frank / Shutterstock South Dakota: Wind Cave National Park What’s the oldest national park you’ve perhaps never heard of? Wind Cave, in the prairie grasslands in the southwestern corner of South Dakota, where the buffalo roam along with elk and other wildlife, was founded in 1903 and consists of lovely preserved prairie aboveground and an intricate cave system below, known for rare rock formations called boxwork. Easy hikes and ranger-led programs abound, including a 1-mile round-trip hike from Elk Mountain campground, a loop from Prairie Vista visitor center, and, of course, tours of the cave. Note that as we publish this story, the elevators at Wind Cave are closed for maintenance – please check nps.gov/wica before planning your trip. Ranger programs, including an excellent documentary film, and above-ground activities remain open daily, and access to the cave will resume when maintenance is complete. Tennessee: Franklin Psst: seventeen miles south of Nashville, the welcoming small city of Franklin beckons with history (for starters, it was founded way back in 1799 and named for Founding Father Benjamin Franklin), great dining (there are more than 500 restaurants to choose from, and we especially love the upscale versions of Southern favorites like fried chicken and oyster po’boys), and unique shopping for locally made apparel, crafts, and snacks (if you haven’t the Tennessee favorite Goo-Goo Clusters, do yourself a favor). Start on Main Street, designated a “Great American Main Street,” learn about the 1864 Battle of Franklin (and see the bullet-riddled Carter House), and spend some time on the Natchez Trace Parkway, which runs through Franklin and the village of Leiper’s Fork, where great art galleries rub elbows with fantastic BBQ ­– the Natchez Trace runs from Nashville all the way to Natchez, Mississippi, and is the eighth most-visited site in the National Park system. El Paso is a cultural melting pot with influences from the Southwestern USA and Mexico © Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock Texas: El Paso El Paso’s unique location, in the far western corner of Texas, bordering both Mexico and New Mexico, utterly defines the city’s culture. As national attention has focused on this border region, El Paso has been in the midst of a construction boom, including new hotels, the restoration of a streetcar lines, new craft breweries, and even a Minor League Baseball team, the Pacific Coast League’s Chihuahuas, part of the San Diego Padres franchise. Reasons to get to know El Paso include the beautiful El Paso Museum of Art with its collection of 12th-through-21st-century works; Franklin Mountains State Park, the largest urban park in America within city limits, with elevations reaching more than 7,000 feet above sea level; and, of course, a unique culinary tradition that blends Mexican traditions like exquisite tacos with Texas’s love of good steak, plus upscale taverns serving innovative dishes and great cocktails. Utah: Moab Sure, you want to visit Utah’s amazing national parks, but, like many travelers, you’re not sure where to start? One word: Moab. The Utah town is in close proximity to both Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, providing you with a comfy home base from which to explore the incredible red rock landscape that makes some visitors feel as if they’ve landed on Mars. Here in Moab, affordable lodging, great Southwestern and gourmet food, and the Colorado River make for a beautiful stay. When you’re not hiking in one of the two national parks, be sure to set aside time to discover Dead Horse Point State Park, along the Colorado River with its seven-mile rim trail and great vistas that include some of the terrain in Canyonlands. Groton, Vermont, in the state's Northeast Kingdom region, is great in the fall © Nan Zhong / Moment Open / Getty Vermont: Northeast Kingdom As the name may suggest, Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom region, including Caledonia, Esses, and Orleans counties, is a world unto itself. You won’t find cities up here, but you’ll find plenty of elbow room, pristine lakes, and forests just waiting for you to discover them. An array of state parks serves as the best way to plan your Northeast Kingdom adventure, offering campsites, cabins, and cottages – and in some cases a lodge – from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. Groton State Forest will keep you busy with more than 26,000 acres of fly fishing, swimming, and hiking. Virginia: Jamestown Settlement If you’re looking for a living history experience that dates back to the early colonial days, Virginia is the place to be. Jamestown Settlement is where the first permanent English colony was settled. Here, visitors are introduced to the settlement’s origins as a business venture, the ways in which the English arrival affected the local Powhatan Native American way of life, and the arrival of the first enslaved Africans on Virginian soil. You’ll want to spend most of a day exploring gallery exhibits, documentary films, and outdoor re-creations of a Powhatan village, a 17th-century fort, and even a replica of a sailing ship that brought the first English colonists to what they called the New World. While you’re in the Jamestown area, you can further immerse yourself in colonial history with a visit to nearby Colonial Williamsburg and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. A path through the Hoh Rain Forest is filled with old temperate trees covered in green and brown moss © Roman Khomlyak / Shutterstock Washington: Olympic National Park Yes, the American West is so packed with amazing national parks, we can forgive you if you’ve overlooked a true gem on the Washington State coast. Olympic National Park covers nearly 1 million acres that includes an exceptional variety of ecosystems, including mountains, old-growth rainforests (yes, it may be drizzling during your visit, but that’s all part of the experience), and more than 70 miles of coast. Visit the Elwha Valley, just 11 miles from the town of Port Angeles (a good place to find charming, affordable lodging), which is home to the popular Elwha River and the surrounding mountains that make for a lovely introduction to the park’s offerings. Hurricane Ridge is easily reached and the views on a (rare) clear day are incredible. Hit the Olympic Hot Springs Road and Whiskey Bend Road for access to a number of great trails like the Boulder Creek and Humes Ranch loop. West Virginia: Lewisburg If you love truly cool small towns as much as we do, you must discover Lewisburg, on the Greenbrier River, with its fabulous arts, outstanding artisanal food scene (think way beyond traditional Southern fare here, with menu items like the Middle Eastern spiced lamb burger), and eminently shoppable downtown. Don’t miss the unique Salt Cave and Spa and its indulgent treatments and unusual location within a cave system. The opulent Greenbrier Resort is worth-it splurge that delivers value, and the grounds and restaurant are worth a visit even if you’re not spending the night. Head out along the stunningly beautiful Greenbrier River Trail, a repurposed railroad route that’s part of the West Virginia state parks system, for a hike or cycling trip; you won’t run out of things to see – the trail is 70 miles long. The statue of coach Vince Lombardi outside the Historic Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers and also known as The Frozen Tundra © Action Sports Photography / Shutterstock Wisconsin: Green Bay Sure, the name Green Bay is synonymous with NFL football, but there’s a lot more to this beautiful region of Wisconsin than adorning one’s head with an immense cheese replica. The city if named for the big bay on which it stands, and you’ll find plenty of “green” in the city’s wild-ish places, like the Brown County Reforestation Camp and the Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve. Families will love the Children’s Museum of Green Bay with plenty of hands-on experiences, the National Railroad Museum, including train rides through October and a Polar Express at holiday time. For grownups, brewery tours take you behind the scenes for a taste of the fine crafting going on here. Oh, and if you absolutely must have a football-themed experience in Green Bay, the Packers Heritage Trail is a cool city walk that takes you to commemorative plaques dedicated to the creation of the Green Bay Packers franchise. Wyoming: Rockies to Tetons First of all, yes, we adore Yellowstone. But we want you to know that Wyoming offers a wealth of other outstanding outdoor adventures. One of our favorites is the Rockies-to-Tetons road trip that takes you from the Snowy Ridge, in southeast Wyoming, all the way to Grand Teton National Park. Your first step will be visiting the Snowy Ridge Range, which includes the 12,000-foot Medicine Bow Peak, via nearby Laramie. Then you’ll have to tear yourself away from all that gorgeousness on your way to Dubois, where affordable hotels and the Longhorn Ranch Resort are options (as is taking in a Friday-night rodeo in summer). From Dubois, you’ll head toward the Grand Tetons, ideally with a stop for rafting the Snake River in Jackson, then enter the beautiful national park, where you can try your hand at shooting some of the iconic peaks and landscapes made famous by photographer Ansel Adams. (And from Grand Teton National Park, you can sneak a visit to adjoining Yellowstone with no additional entry fee.) Produced by Budget Travel for GEICO. All editorial views are those of Budget Travel alone and reflect our policy of editorial independence and impartiality.

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Budget Travel readers' 2020 bucket list

©Witold Skrypczak/Alamy Stock Photo Big Bend National Park in Texas provides some of the best stargazing sites in North America. ©John Woodworth/Getty Images Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming is beautiful, and Yellowstone is a short drive away! ©f11photo/Shutterstock Las Vegas is a perennial favorite (albeit difficult to do on a budget). ©Yukinori Hasumi/Getty Images New York, New York, the city of lights. ©mtnmichelle/Getty Images Lots of Budget Travel readers are planning trips to Alaska in 2020! ©Valentin Prokopets/500px/Getty Images Who among us wouldn't want a trip to Hawaii? ©pics721/Shutterstock Cruises to the Bahamas can be found for cheap rates! ©f11photo/Shutterstock Charleston, South Carolina, is a great place for a long weekend. ©CPQ/Shutterstock Witness the thunderous natural power of Niagara Falls. ©Micha Weber/Shutterstock New Orleans, Louisiana (or NOLA), known for throwing a great party. ©Martin Wheeler/EyeEm/Getty Images San Juan in Puerto Rico is an explosion of color! ©cdrin/Shutterstock Seattle, Washington, has great weather and mountain views! ©Matt Munro/Lonely Planet Sedona, Arizona, might be a center of mysterious spiritual vortexes. ©lightphoto/Getty Images The Catskills in New York are a great road trip!

Budget Travel Lists

10 wild and tasty North American food trails

Eating locally is a delicious way to enjoy your travels. But some corners of the United States and Canada offer more direct routes to falling for regional fare: food trails. Sure, there are food trails that are familiar for their states. (We’re looking at you, Wisconsin Cheese Tour and New York’s Buffalo Wing Trail!) This list, on the other hand, will direct you to 10 food-loving paths where eccentric and scrumptious tastes converge. 1. Cajun Boudin Trail, Louisiana Southern Louisiana serves up several culinary-trail choices, which take travelers along the I-10 and LA-90 corridors for specialties like gumbo, jambalaya, alligator, and crawfish. But even more homegrown is the Cajun Boudin Trail, centered around Lafayette. Pronounced “boo-dan,” boudin is a sausage filled with meat, rice, and herbs that’s served across bayou country. The boudin trail will lead you to markets and restaurants to taste the best locally made links – plus other savories like fried boudin balls, cracklin (fried pork skin), smoked meats, and more. Bonus: Visit in October and fill up at Lafayette’s annual Boudin Cookoff. 2. Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail, New Mexico You may wonder what’s so special about a burger topped with cheese and chiles that it’s earned its own food trail. One bite of this juicy New Mexican specialty, however, should answer your question. When it comes to the magical flavor formula of salt, fat, acid, and heat, the Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail has it all (including plenty of other chile-licious dishes). Navigate with the state-wide interactive map to tickle your taste buds with green-chile burgers from Taos down to Las Cruces. 3. Country Ham Trail, Kentucky You wouldn’t be wrong to think of Kentucky for its Bourbon Trail or even its Fried-Chicken Trail. But the simply delicious Country Ham Trail is the state’s showcase for producers who have been curing ham for more than a century (sometimes inside bourbon rickhouses, for even more local flavor). Better still, visit the trail in September as it leads to Marion County’s annual Country Ham Days food and music festival. 4. Nova Scotia Chowder Trail, Canada Atlantic Canada is easily one of the continent’s best seafood regions. And while the Lobster Trail is sure to impress travelers, Nova Scotia’s Chowder Trail leads to nearly 60 unforgettable chowder houses across the province. Let the interactive map guide you to the best bowls from Halifax to Cape Breton and beyond, and don’t forget your “chowder passport” to earn stamps along the way. 5. Tehama Trail, California Northern California is famous for wine. But drive north towards Redding and Shasta Cascade to discover the riches of the Northern Sacramento Valley along the Tehama Trail – where olives and olive oil are beautifully cultivated. Starting from the town of Corning, the trail leads to some of America’s best olive farms, many of them with tasting rooms to sample artisanal oils, vinegars, and all manner of olives. Don’t miss the region’s honeys, pies, fresh produce, and, of course, spectacular wines. 6. Lowcountry Oyster Trail, South Carolina Come for the scenery, stay for the sea-to-fork riches. The famous bivalves of South Carolina’s coastal Lowcountry region anchor this oyster trail, where travelers can sample every type of preparation – from fried to Oysters Rockefeller to raw on the half-shell. Find a handy map with suggested itineraries on the Lowcountry Oyster Trail site, covering oyster farms, shucking facilities, and oh-so-many great seafood restaurants, some serving oyster-loving craft-beer and wine pairings. 7. Richmond Dumpling Trail, British Columbia, Canada Neighboring Vancouver is the city of Richmond, where Asian cuisine is abundant, and so delicious it may be the best on this side of the Pacific. Dumplings stand out in particular, making the official Richmond Dumpling Trail one of British Columbia’s gastronomic highlights. With the help of the trail website, you’ll learn about types of dumplings, best times of day to enjoy dim sum, and which restaurant-crawl itinerary is going to lead to the most satisfying dumplings for your eager chopsticks. 8. Fruit Loop, Oregon For 35 miles, travelers to Hood River County can get loopy tasting the natural bounty of 17 farm stands, 10 wineries, three cideries, six berry farms, and two lavender farms. They’re all on the Fruit Loop, which marks its 27th anniversary in 2020. Download a map for easy touring by car or bike, then plan to take in the seasonal produce and year-round bites and beverages found only in central Oregon. Pick up a brochure at any site, get stamped at 14 farm stands, and get a Fruit Loop bag to help tote your edible souvenirs. 9. Tenderloin Trail, Indiana Save your calories for this Hamilton County food trail, showcasing a mighty indulgent staple of the Hoosier State. Behold the tenderloin sandwich, composed of an oversized slice of pork that’s been pounded, breaded, and deep fried, and usually served on a comically small bun with burger fixings. (You can try grilled too, but why would you?) With the help of the trail’s online map, you can try more than 50 restaurants serving up this Indianan classic, and print your own Tenderloin Trail passport for July’s annual Tenderloin Tuesday specials. 10. A to Z Foodie Trail, Iowa Pella, Iowa, may be a small town, but its bursting with tasty delights. So many that the region offers an A-to-Z Foodie Trail to showcase 26 different dishes and drinks unique to Marion and Mahaska Counties (southeast of Des Moines). The trail is a top tourist activity, guiding hungry travelers to sample a bevy of local foods, from apple pie at Pella Nursery and gouda cheese curds at Frisian Farms; to pigs in the blanket at Vander Pleog Bakery and Yoga Poser Pale Ale at Nocoast Beer Co.

Budget Travel Lists

New York City’s 7 best old-school steakhouses

Before most US cities could even build a steakhouse, the island of Manhattan was serving up some of the country’s most prime cuts. Their steaks were so good and service so sublime, several of those classic eateries remain in full swing today, serving up dry-aged perfection to discerning diners. Then with the 20th century came a wave of steakhouses that mastered their own strips and styles, too. And while new beefy restaurants are always cropping up, there’s still a special, refined handful that have thrived over the decades, serving steaks that are simply a cut above the rest. 1. Delmonico’s Deep in the Financial District is one of America’s great all-time restaurants. Delmonico’s opened its corner-lot doors in 1837, when Andrew Jackson was president and California was 14 years away from statehood. But for polished New Yorkers, the restaurant was an instant staple, becoming the first to use white tablecloths and printed menus. Today, diners can find themselves in the same timeless dining room where chandeliers and original artworks hang, and career servers cater to every wish. Likewise, Delmonico’s menu remains classic, showcasing its divine Delmonico signature boneless rib-eye steak, prime New York strips, and on-the-bone beef dry aged up to 60 days. The menu reads like a culinary time capsule with dishes like brandied mushrooms and creamy Delmonico potatoes, with tempting modern specialties too. The restaurant also invented a few famous dishes – including baked Alaska, so be sure to leave room for dessert. 2. Smith & Wollensky In terms of vintage restaurants, it may be one of the newer steakhouses. But Smith & Wollensky established its elite reputation as soon as it served the first prime rib back in 1977. Its iconic green-and-white building is parked on the corner of Third Avenue and East 49th Street in Midtown, where inside its wood-lined walls, diners choose from a succinct classic menu and seasonal specials. The seafood is outstanding, but it’s the beef that built this cosmopolitan house. The classic, 26-ounce prime rib is the juicy go-to; though it’s rivaled by the Colorado rib steak and boneless or bone-in filet mignon, both seared to perfection. Sirloin, veal, lamb, and other steaks do indeed dazzle, just be sure to round out your meal with indulgent steakhouse sides like hash browns and creamed spinach. 3. Old Homestead Steakhouse Since 1868, Chelsea has been able to enjoy flavors of cattle country at the Old Homestead, where a cow sculpture hangs over the entrance as if marking an Old West eatery. The family-run restaurant has been turning out USDA prime for more than a century and a half, claiming to be “the King of Beef” in a city populated by steak lovers. Within its clubby dining room, you’ll find a robust menu of seafood, burgers, and tempting sides ­– and more importantly, a selection of expertly prepared chops and dry-aged steaks that span Japanese Wagyu, filet mignon, porterhouse, New York sirloin, and the mouth-watering, 24-ounce Gotham rib steak on the bone. 4. Sparks Steak House A stone’s throw from Grand Central Terminal is this legendary house of steak, where the old-school menu of chops, strips, and filets has endured since 1966. Spacious Sparks still draws a steady crowd, who pack in for memorable dining and suave service, plus a dose of NYC-mafia mystique. (A Gambino family mobster was shot outside the restaurant in 1985.) Above all, though, Sparks prepares an unrivaled, signature prime sirloin that’s considered one of the city’s best cuts. 5. Keens Steakhouse For a mashup of timeless décor, service, and food, reserve your spot at Keens Steakhouse. Open since 1885, the Herald-Square restaurant is a throwback to the days of checking your pipe at the door – in this case, hand-carved, long-stemmed pipes that now line the ceiling. Though the mutton chop is the signature here, you’ll find a mighty assortment of seafood, serious prime steaks, plus the rarely seen, super-tender Chateaubriand-style steak for two. 6. Gallaghers Steakhouse It began as a speakeasy, but today, Gallaghers is one of Manhattan’s top steakhouses, with its always-stocked meat fridge visible from the sidewalk on West 52nd Street. The restaurant has sated Times Square’s theatergoers since 1927, and these days has a modern look and 21st-century menu, thanks to a mid-2010s renovation. Still, the legend lives on with Gallaghers’s unique hickory coal–grilled steaks, including a 12-hour slow-roasted prime rib, which you can call in advance to order. 7. Frankie & Johnnie’s Steakhouse Don’t be fooled by the understated entrance of Frankie & Johnnie’s. Just up a flight of stairs is an elegant dining room that’s one of the Theater District’s oldest and best. When the joint opened back in 1926, it was a speakeasy that hosted luminaries and mafioso outlaws, from Frank Sinatra to Bugsy Siegal. These days, it’s a go-to wonderland of seafood, pasta, old-school dishes like chicken livers and scampi – and flawless steaks. Bring a friend to share the tomahawk rib eye for two, or porterhouse for two or for three. If you’re catching a show, the three-course theatre menu is a daily bargain (except Sundays).