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5 bucket list experiences to enjoy in the U.S. this summer

Hike a national park, take a balloon ride in Napa Valley or wander Central Park on your next vacation


With children out of school and more flexible vacation days, summer is as good a time as any to start crossing some of your travel dreams off your bucket list. Here are five awesome things you can do in the U.S. this summer.  

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What’s on your bucket list? With children out of school and more flexible vacation days, summer is as good a time as any to start crossing some of your travel dreams off of your bucket list.

My family’s use of credit cards to collect miles and points has enabled us to have many bucket list experiences I would have never imagined – seeing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, attending a Pearl Jam concert in the beautiful outdoor setting of Telluride, Colorado, and watching a Cubs game from a suite at Wrigley Field the year they won the World Series.

Here are five awesome things you could do this summer that might shorten your bucket list just a bit, and make use of those miles and points.

See related:  Variety of rewards cards helps cover bucket list trip costs

1. Hike a national park

Like many Americans, I love visiting national parks. They are busier during the summer months, but this season is one of the best times to see these national gems, as many are a bit too harsh during the winter months.

Of course, there are the classics like the Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain and Great Smoky Mountains national parks, but some other absolutely astounding ones include Zion, Bryce Canyon, Glacier and Sequoia. You should also check and see what parks are in your backyard, as that could make for a great road trip.

Keep in mind that many national park lodges sell out at least a year in advance, as do camping sites. But you should be able to find a local hotel or vacation rental to make your home base during the summer months.

2. Fly in a hot-air balloon over Napa Valley

One of the coolest things we’ve ever done is take a hot-air balloon ride over Napa Valley with Napa Valley Balloons. I have to admit I was a bit skittish about getting into a hot-air balloon, but I was utterly fascinated once we took flight.

The way the pilots navigate and land these balloons is amazing, and seeing their colorful designs gently floating in the sky over the rolling vineyards was a once-in-a-lifetime, goosebump-inducing experience. We happened to ride on a super clear day, and at our top height, we could see as far as San Francisco. Amazing!

See related:  5 extraordinary ways to redeem rewards points this summer

3. Take a walk in Central Park

While I love the majesty of the mountains and the beauty of the ocean, I also get a thrill in a big city. You just can’t beat the energy and excitement around you at all times. While Times Square has become a bit of overkill for me as I get older, I love the quieter, but still vibrant parts of the city, like the Meatpacking District, Midtown East, the High Line in Chelsea and the Village.

Central Park is also a gorgeous spot in the city and a way to get in touch with Mother Nature in the heart of the Big Apple. Start on the upper east or west side and make your way down past some amazing sites that include an Egyptian obelisk, a castle, a lake, a theater, countless bridges and a memorial spot for John Lennon, who lived across the street in the years before his death.

4. Make like a child and visit a Disney park

Our family also loves Disney, though we’re not Disney “nuts.” Rather, we appreciate the joy that comes with riding classic rides, getting a thrill on a coaster and the fond memories we’ve made there over the years (we even honeymooned at Walt Disney World).

These days, with children in middle and high school, we like to visit both Disney World and Disneyland (usually rotating years) at Halloween, as we find it puts us in the full Halloween and fall spirit with all the magical décor. Plus, you haven’t done Halloween until you’ve visited Disneyland’s marvelous Haunted Mansion seasonal redo themed around “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” a definite bucket list must-do.

These days, we’re loving the Grove Resort & Spa as a quieter spot to stay near Disney World that lets you spread out with affordable accommodations that have separate bedrooms, full kitchens, washer-dryers. The resort has its own water park and game center and a free Disney shuttle.

See related:  The best card perks for summer travel

5. See the lights in Vegas

A quintessential American destination, Las Vegas is something to see once in your lifetime even if you don’t gamble. A bit like Disney World for adults, the hotels and their themes are phenomenal, and you could spend your vacation just wandering through them.

There are tons of free things to do in Vegas, like watch the volcano erupt at the Mirage, enjoy the choreographed dancing fountains at the Bellagio and wander the “canals” inside the Venetian. Children will also love the water park and aquarium at Mandalay Bay.

For a quieter spot to stay off the Strip, consider Delano Las Vegas, a boutique hotel that connects with Mandalay Bay when you’re ready for more action.

What will you cross off your bucket list this summer?

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