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Lures of international travel are numerous. Culture, cuisine and castles, along with wine and wildlife, are some of the prime reasons we wander abroad, in search of enlightenment, education and awe. Sure, you can eat tapas in Texas or sip wine in Washington, but those experiences can’t replicate imbibing in Barcelona or Burgundy. And certainly, traveling within one’s own country cannot duplicate the cultural seasoning that spices up overseas trips. Still, there are opportunities in the United States to enjoy reasonable facsimiles of your favorite foreign forays.
Out in the wild
Okay, you aren’t going to encounter lions or tigers or giraffes on safari in the U.S. But if you are willing to expand your zoologic must-see list, you can find wildlife in this country that you will go ape over. Want to experience a home where the buffalo roam, and the deer and the antelope play? Make a beeline to Custer State Park in South Dakota. It’s home to nearly 1,500 North American bison, colloquially referred to as buffalo. And yes, the deer and the antelope play there as well, along with mountain goats, elk, bighorn sheep, wild turkeys and prairie dogs. A drive along the park’s wildlife loop road can feel like a mini-safari. While you can overnight in nearby Custer, a more authentic experience can be had by staying in one of the on-site state park lodge. While in the neighborhood, explore nearby Black Hills attractions, including Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial, a fascinating work in progress. Kids will also love the 1880s train, a steam-powered locomotive that takes you from Hill City to Keystone and back.
Another popular destination for an American-style safari is Yellowstone National Park. You have your bison, your mule deer and elk, your bighorn sheep and mountain goats, and your bears, mountain lions, bobcats and wolves. In all, Yellowstone sports the largest concentration of mammals in the Lower 48. For a sense of true immersion, stay a few days, overnighting in one of the park’s cozy lodges
A taste of the grape
While American oenophiles may not be heading to Bordeaux or Portugal’s Duoro Valley right now, varietals of options are available in the USA. Of course, everyone knows about California wine country, but Virginia, believe it or not, is for wine lovers, as well. Loudoun County, just outside of Washington, DC, is where horse country meets wine country. The county boasts more than 40 wineries and tasting rooms, many of which are located along scenic country roads dotted with roadside stands, antique shops and horse farms. For a resort experience, stay at Salamander Resort and Spa or at Lansdowne Resort and Spa. Or book a stay at a quaint country inn, some of which are located a stone’s throw from vineyards.
An Empire State of wine
New York State is the fourth-largest wine-producing state in the country, and the largest east of the Mississippi. Viticulture regions include the North Fork of Long Island, the Finger Lakes in central New York and the bucolic Hudson Valley, which is home to the country’s oldest winery (that’s Brotherhood Winery, circa 1839). For a taste of ice wines, head to the state’s northernmost vineyards, located near Niagara Falls and the Champlain Valley. Visiting that region in autumn also serves up a vibrant splash of fall colors.
Castles, chateaux and palaces
Yes, queen, the United States actually has an authentic royal palace. Iolani Palace in Honolulu was built in 1882 by King Kalakaua. It remained a royal residence until Queen Liliuokalani, the king’s sister and successor, was deposed and the Hawaiian monarchy overthrown in 1893. Like any palace worthy of the name, the massive residence has a throne room, a grand hall, royal bedrooms and a state dining room. Unlike other palaces, it also has an Imprisonment room, where the deposed queen was held for eight months. Docent-led and self-guided tours offer a history lesson likely to be new to most mainlanders.
Rhode Island, it’s more than calamari
They were originally called cottages when they were built, but make no mistake: The Gilded Age mansions of Newport, Rhode Island more likely resemble French chateaux, Italian villas or English country estates. About a dozen of these sumptuous structures, built in the late 1800s by wealthy East Coast tycoons, are open for tours. Just like your average visit to a European castle, the combination of ornate architecture, magnificent furnishings and treasured artwork is likely to leave one’s mouth agape. After visiting Newport’s mansions, don’t miss the chance to chow down on local specialties like clam chowder or the now-famous Rhode Island-style calamari.
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