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Which cities and urban centers in the US do you think are can’t miss?


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Like, if you were going to plan a year-long US RVing tour, whose primary purpose would be parks and nature, but which would be an excellent opportunity for seeing cities, too, which cities would you put on there? 

 

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1 minute ago, Ottakee said:

I like to visit Chicago.  Love the museum's the walk along the water, etc.  

Would never want to live there, but visiting is good.

 

Chicago is the only large city that I've really enjoyed visiting more than once.

 

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New York

Chicago

New Orleans

Nashville

Key West

St Augustine

Boulder (CO)

Seattle

Austin (TX)

Las Vegas (not for the gaming, for the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon)

Albuquerque

San Diego

eta Boston, Philadelphia, San Antonio Texas, Washington DC

 

 

Edited by Seasider too
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I thought San Francisco was fun to visit, though that was years ago. We toured one of the historical ships downtown, rode the trolly, enjoyed the look of homes and shops and view of the bridge.  

 

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Well... NYC, obvs.

As far as I'm concerned, all other cities are superfluous, but you'll probably want to see some of:

Boston

Philadelphia

New Orleans (you'll definitely want to do the tourist thing in New Orleans, I should think)

San Francisco

Chicago

DC

But we can probably be more specific if you're more clear about what you're interested in. Historical sites? Art and music? Fantastic food? Playgrounds and children's museums? Zoos? (If you're interested in reptiles, you can do worse than to go by the Staten Island Zoo. That is the ONLY reason for a non-local to visit that zoo, don't get me wrong, but they do have a good reptile collection.)

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1 hour ago, Acorn said:

I cannot imagine driving/parking an RV in any city.

You generally have to stay somewhere well outside of the city and figure out the logistics of getting in/out of the city -- rent a car, take a train, Uber, etc. We've stayed at a handful of RV parks/campgrounds that had shuttle service.

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I love this thread because I'm sooooo into armchair COVID traveling and it's so nice to see what cities others have loved.

But.

You must trust me on this: urban centers are NO PLACE to drive an RV.  I know NYC best, but, we've taken our itty-bitty camper into Pittsburgh and Portland ME and Boston and: do not do this. There is nowhere to park on the street even during the day; there is ABSOLUTELY no way anywhere you could ever open up all the slide outs to sleep over. Even if you miraculously found a spot the police would chase you off.  And even if you planned on staying in a hotel: the garages don't have either head room, or length room, and the ramps in are very often too steep even for big SUVs, fuggedabout RVs. The heights are not marked on the overpasses: large high-clearance trucks are simply restricted to the perimeter roads. You will be miserable, do not try this thing.

OK now that we've cleared that up...

On the East Coast, the cities with loads of great stuff are (N to S): Portland ME, Portsmouth NH, Boston, Providence, NYC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, WDC.

Then you choose, coastal or inland. I choose inland, so you can do a non-urban but not-to-be-missed Appalachian ridge route: Shenandoah, Blue Ridge Mountains, Smokies, ahhh. This route brings you out in Asheville NC, a great city.  Spend a day winding over to the other side to see Dollyland, because, Dolly, even though it's not really a city.  Other than Asheville, I've only been in Greensboro NC, which is definitely worth a stop as you cross back over to the coast.

Every major city on the coast from that point downward has loads to do and see: Charleston, Savannah. Fort Lauderdale.  But take time also for the barrier islands and beaches which are glorious.

Miami is a GREAT and CRAZILY UNDERRATED city. Yes, if you herald from almost anywhere in the US except perhaps Kansas, Florida is mind-numbingly flat, and you have to plan the season you go or it can be insufferably hot.  But Miami itself is vibrant and lively and has all kinds of awesome food and music and architecture and arts scene. And if you like birding, the Everglades, *chef's kiss.*

That is the route I know *in sequence.*

 

Other cities I've loved, in no particular order:  Louisville. Nashville. Memphis. New Orleans. Santa Fe / Taos. San Diego.  San Francisco. Seattle. Pittsburgh.

Major cities I've loved bits of, or particular sites in, but not the overall vibe: Los Angeles. Las Vegas. Salt Lake City. Portland OR. Chicago. Cincinnati. (Sometimes you just choose your hotel location poorly and that really affects the experience.)

 

:wub:  :wub:  :wub: roadtrips......    

#PrayForVaccine

 

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If covid isn't a thing and you aren't trying to drive the RV through the cities:  Boston

Washington DC

NYC

St. Louis for the arch, the City Museum, the Basilica, the parks/ zoo/ science museum

Montgomery, Alabama for the Civil Rights Museum

Chicago

Seattle

San Francisco

Baltimore for the Aquarium

Philadelphia

I've never been to Vegas, but I'd like to see it.  Not so much for the ostentatiousness but I'd like to see a lot of shows there.

Denver/ Boulder

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Chicago, for sure. Also:
Washington DC
Boston and Philadelphia
Seattle
San Diego
Albuquerque and Santa Fe

But... totally agree with Acorn about trying to drive/park an RV along the east coast/eastern states. That was our original plan years back when we did our big east coast trip, and thank goodness we didn't. It was hard enough getting around in a medium-sized rental car -- but esp. the non-existent *parking*. Can't imagine trying to take an RV into some of those cities!

We did pull our RV-trailer through a 7-state west coast trip, and it was a bit dicey getting through Seattle, too, until we could park it at the RV site.

Edited by Lori D.
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4 hours ago, Acorn said:

I cannot imagine driving/parking an RV in any city.

I dont think it would go like that, though. It would go like: take public transport into the intended city for the day while settling the RV outside the urban center. 

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3 hours ago, Tanaqui said:

Well... NYC, obvs.

As far as I'm concerned, all other cities are superfluous, but you'll probably want to see some of:

Boston

Philadelphia

New Orleans (you'll definitely want to do the tourist thing in New Orleans, I should think)

San Francisco

Chicago

DC

But we can probably be more specific if you're more clear about what you're interested in. Historical sites? Art and music? Fantastic food? Playgrounds and children's museums? Zoos? (If you're interested in reptiles, you can do worse than to go by the Staten Island Zoo. That is the ONLY reason for a non-local to visit that zoo, don't get me wrong, but they do have a good reptile collection.)

Historical sites, museums (which sometimes means little quirky museums, like the toy train museum in PA, right on to famous museums like the Met), fantastic food is always a plus. Cathedrals or other architecturally significant buildings. 

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2 hours ago, Terabith said:

Baltimore for the Aquarium

That’s “my” city. 🥰 Met dh in the Inner Harbor, May 1990. 

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New Orleans, obviously. 

Ones I've personally visited: San Antonio, Chicago, Memphis, Miami, Key Largo, Sanibel Beach, DC. 

4 hours ago, Pam in CT said:

Miami is a GREAT and CRAZILY UNDERRATED city. Yes, if you herald from almost anywhere in the US except perhaps Kansas, Florida is mind-numbingly flat, and you have to plan the season you go or it can be insufferably hot.  But Miami itself is vibrant and lively and has all kinds of awesome food and music and architecture and arts scene. And if you like birding, the Everglades, *chef's kiss.*

Yes! I haven't been there in many years, but Miami has a great vibe. We lived in Ft. Lauderdale, which is only like thirty minutes away, and I loved that too - but Miami is extra and I swear has a permanent Instagram filter that makes everything look vibrant at all times. 

The only thing I didn't like about south Florida is that everyone wants you to eat black beans all the time, and I don't hate them but I sure don't love them.

 

Edited by katilac
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7 hours ago, Dobby's Sock said:

I would try to stay at a KOA - I big puffy heart love them. 🙂 

They aren't all created equally. Some are nice enough. Some are . . . not. In general RV'ers think of KOAs kind of like McDonald's--okay if you're in a hurry and not too picky.

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13 hours ago, happysmileylady said:

Vegas.  Not necessarily for the gambling, but just to take in the complete ostentatiousness of it all.

We drove our kids through Vegas and they were just completely disgusted by the whole thing. Hubby is anti-gambling and was very happy with their impression! It was so over the top, there were so many people drinking, the traffic was so horrible, etc. 

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7 hours ago, MercyA said:

Chicago!!!

Absolutely! Though NYC is probably mandatory, it is so dirty compared to Chicago. And I was in San Francisco two years ago and just couldn't get over how gross it was (dirty, garbage, etc). But Chicago is so nice and the people in Chicago are really friendly. When we moved to Chicago from both coasts (having lived in Boston for a few years and then Santa Cruz for a few years), I was amazed by the warmth of people in the city.

Boston is a great walking town. So much history. Great cannoli (sp?) at Mike's if the line across the street is too long!

We enjoyed walking around Santa Fe for an afternoon. (Would have enjoyed it more if we had had more money and fewer people!)

Chicago and Boston are great places to park near a train station and then take transit to downtown.

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12 hours ago, Pam in CT said:

I love this thread because I'm sooooo into armchair COVID traveling and it's so nice to see what cities others have loved.

But.

You must trust me on this: urban centers are NO PLACE to drive an RV.  I know NYC best, but, we've taken our itty-bitty camper into Pittsburgh and Portland ME and Boston and: do not do this. There is nowhere to park on the street even during the day; there is ABSOLUTELY no way anywhere you could ever open up all the slide outs to sleep over. Even if you miraculously found a spot the police would chase you off.  And even if you planned on staying in a hotel: the garages don't have either head room, or length room, and the ramps in are very often too steep even for big SUVs, fuggedabout RVs. The heights are not marked on the overpasses: large high-clearance trucks are simply restricted to the perimeter roads. You will be miserable, do not try this thing.

OK now that we've cleared that up...

 

 

:wub:  :wub:  :wub: roadtrips......    

#PrayForVaccine

 

Absolutely! We parked in Staten Island and took the ferry when we drove with our MINIVAN because we couldn't park it in NYC for less than $70 for a day!

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15 hours ago, Acorn said:

I cannot imagine driving/parking an RV in any city.

We have often been able to find a campground right outside the city.  We have a motorhome, and don't even tow a car, but we've found campgrounds that provide transportation into a city, and we've also rented a car and used Uber.  We've visited Boston, New Orleans, Niagara Falls and Dallas/Fort Worth this way. 

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We've done lots of cities on RV trips. Some of my favorite cities to visit are DC, Boston, NYC. St. Louis is a surprise favorite that we've been to more than once. We haven't made it to Chicago yet, but it's on my list. For smaller but still cities, we've really enjoyed Charleston and Savannah and, another surprise--Birmingham. As far as RVing....most but not all cities have at least one reasonable option in or near enough to the city (I consider "near enough" to be within a half hour drive in most cases). The Philadelphia KOA is very nice and very close. In NYC there's Liberty Harbor right in Jersey City, on public transit, but we stayed at Croton Point Park to have more room to spread out (and not have to negotiate Jersey City with the trailer)--train right outside the park and a 50 minute ride. St. Louis has a casino with an RV park and a beautiful view of the arch. If you don't need hookups, Chicago has a truck parking lot they also let RVs use (as well as some city-run parks outside of downtown that are supposed to be nice). We're planning a trip for next summer that will take us to DC, Boston, Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa, Detroit, and Cincinnati. When I was looking at it, I thought: "that's a whole lot of cities!" But we've got good campgrounds and transportation options lined up everywhere (we are skipping Toronto because I wasn't thrilled with our options there), and I think it will be fine.

ETA: I don't know where you are in the planning process, but if you want specific campground recs for any of the cities, let me know! 

Edited by kokotg
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Not a huge urban city, but Huntsville, AL has a lot of fun things to do, plus the US Space and Rocket Center.  Since Covid happened, they haven’t had nearly as many for space camp, so they just announced new mission experiences.  They are things you normally could only do if you were at space camp, but now anyone can come for the day to do them.

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This is a town, not a city, but Ashland, OR is amazing and has a year-round Shakespeare festival when it isn't being battered simultaneously by a pandemic and wildfires in the state.  This would be a fantastic stop between SF and Portland. 

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3 hours ago, EmilyGF said:

Absolutely! Though NYC is probably mandatory, it is so dirty compared to Chicago. And I was in San Francisco two years ago and just couldn't get over how gross it was (dirty, garbage, etc). But Chicago is so nice and the people in Chicago are really friendly. When we moved to Chicago from both coasts (having lived in Boston for a few years and then Santa Cruz for a few years), I was amazed by the warmth of people in the city.

Boston is a great walking town. So much history. Great cannoli (sp?) at Mike's if the line across the street is too long!

We enjoyed walking around Santa Fe for an afternoon. (Would have enjoyed it more if we had had more money and fewer people!)

Chicago and Boston are great places to park near a train station and then take transit to downtown.

I've never been to Chicago. I have been to NYC many multiple times and probably wouldn't include it on this (still in the pipe-dream-phase) trip. But Chicago is definitely an idea. 

I have never been to the west coast, save for a brief glance at Seattle when we cruised to Alaska. (I did think Seattle was lovely, though most of my impression was formed from the air or from the port and the day was spectacularly beautiful weather, which is purportedly rare.)

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1 hour ago, NorthwestMom said:

This is a town, not a city, but Ashland, OR is amazing and has a year-round Shakespeare festival when it isn't being battered simultaneously by a pandemic and wildfires in the state.  This would be a fantastic stop between SF and Portland. 

This is exactly the sort of ideas I am looking for. A year-round Shakespeare festival! Who knew?!

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2 hours ago, kokotg said:

ETA: I don't know where you are in the planning process, but if you want specific campground recs for any of the cities, let me know! 

Pipe-dream phase. Dh and I have always *said* we would love to do this, but his business makes it difficult for him to be away for long. Even ten day vacations have been stretching it. But there is a thought in the back of my mind that once the youngest is off to college or otherwise less dependent, if one of our kids could take over property management for several months, it might be possible. But I realize there are a lot of other "ifs," including no idea what is on the horizon for disabled and elderly parents. 

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1 hour ago, Quill said:

This is exactly the sort of ideas I am looking for. A year-round Shakespeare festival! Who knew?!

@Quill Have you ever been to the Shakepeare theater in Staunton, Va.?  I have not had the opportunity yet, but I would like to.

It's a bit closer to you than Oregon...

ETA: https://americanshakespearecenter.com/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwwOz6BRCgARIsAKEG4FXfgy3emQfaIvXi8ls8sASHVSFHCIrTsZA-kW-jYFhmrNjzqQWyB1saAqITEALw_wcB

Edited by Junie
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I have been to several large cities (but not NYC yet!) and I can't think of any that I didn't like.  (Well, I say that I don't like Philly, but that's mostly just talking smack.) 😉

My top three cities (not including Baltimore which is my favorite): Chicago, San Diego, Boston.

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45 minutes ago, Junie said:

@Quill Have you ever been to the Shakepeare theater in Staunton, Va.?  I have not had the opportunity yet, but I would like to.

It's a bit closer to you than Oregon...

ETA: https://americanshakespearecenter.com/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwwOz6BRCgARIsAKEG4FXfgy3emQfaIvXi8ls8sASHVSFHCIrTsZA-kW-jYFhmrNjzqQWyB1saAqITEALw_wcB

I have not. Thanks for that. I have been to Staunton, VA for the Harry Potter Party. That was so great! (Except for the excessive public smoking. But the costuming was awesome.) 

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I like to visit Chicago.  Love the museum's the walk along the water, etc.  

Would never want to live there, but visiting is good.

Chicago offers (or did pre covid) a personalized walking tour of the city.  You can schedule ahead of time and specify what you would like to see.

 

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23 hours ago, NorthwestMom said:

This is a town, not a city, but Ashland, OR is amazing and has a year-round Shakespeare festival when it isn't being battered simultaneously by a pandemic and wildfires in the state.  This would be a fantastic stop between SF and Portland. 

It's been over 20  years, but I have many fond memories of trips to Ashland. I think I went every year for maybe 8 - 10 years (I lived in San Jose then), including a couple nights of honeymoon, then took a break for a couple years to have a couple kids, then went another time or two.  It is or at least was a wonderful small city and the theater experience is amazing.  

We discovered Staunton a few years ago after moving to PA and it also a great place to visit/see theater. Not quite as fabulous as Ashland, but then Ashland has the patina of happy memories attached to it in my mind and heart.

So, a trip up the Pacific Coast Highway from San Diego to Seattle would be an awesome road trip. You would hit some great cities big and small (San Luis Obispo, Monterey/Carmel, Santa Cruz/Capitola, San Francisco... over the Golden Gate and go inland a bit to wine country, back to the coast and up into Oregon, through Portland and then just keep going.

This would be a dream trip, though things will be a lot different after all the fires. But the west bounces back.  

ETA: And I know this was not the original intent of the thread, because other than San Diego, LA (does it even have an urban center?), San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle, it is pretty much not urban. But the non-urban parts are so wonderful.

Edited by marbel
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6 hours ago, Ottakee said:

I like to visit Chicago.  Love the museum's the walk along the water, etc.  

Would never want to live there, but visiting is good.

Chicago offers (or did pre covid) a personalized walking tour of the city.  You can schedule ahead of time and specify what you would like to see.

 

I would have to say I’m not understanding all of the love for Chicago in this thread. I’ve been there many times as I grew up in the Midwest and went to college with lots of people from the area. It would definitely be way down on my list of places to visit in the US. In the Midwest, I’d put Minneapolis/St Paul way ahead of it.

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Love the escapism this post has given me.

I might turn the question around though.  I'm pretty sure there's something interesting to see in any city of any size in the United States, if only for a day or two.  So, while I love going to art museums, seeing a bunch in a row might get tedious and repetitive.  So, instead, I might think about the things my family might like to do on a trip: See Museums, go shopping, attend professional sports, fine or otherwise interesting dining, theater, visit historical sites, architecture, etc.  Then, for each of these activities, find three of each that are on my way in the general direction I was going.

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1 hour ago, Frances said:

I would have to say I’m not understanding all of the love for Chicago in this thread. I’ve been there many times as I grew up in the Midwest and went to college with lots of people from the area. It would definitely be way down on my list of places to visit in the US. In the Midwest, I’d put Minneapolis/St Paul way ahead of it.

Sounds like you've been enough times that it's old hat for you. 😉 

I grew up in a smaller southwestern city. Chicago continues to be so vibrant and exciting to visit (DH is from there) because there is so MUCH to see and do. The lake. The fantastic architecture and public sculptures. Wonderful museums. A river tour. Concerts, ballet, plays, and shows. Historical society. Frank Lloyd Wright and Robi House. The aquarium and planetarium. Fantastic Art Institute. The Botanical Garden. Two zoos. The Merchandise Mart with floor upon floor of artistic interior designers. Oodles of wonderful ethnic restaurants. Chicago-style pizza... and on and on. What's NOT to love?! 😄 

Edited by Lori D.
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9 hours ago, Lori D. said:

Sounds like you've been enough times that it's old hat for you. 😉 

I grew up in a smaller southwestern city. Chicago continues to be so vibrant and exciting to visit (DH is from there) because there is so MUCH to see and do. The lake. The fantastic architecture and public sculptures. Wonderful museums. A river tour. Concerts, ballet, plays, and shows. Historical society. Frank Lloyd Wright and Robi House. The aquarium and planetarium. Fantastic Art Institute. The Botanical Garden. Two zoos. The Merchandise Mart with floor upon floor of artistic interior designers. Oodles of wonderful ethnic restaurants. Chicago-style pizza... and on and on. What's NOT to love?! 😄 

Having spent my entire life never more than a a couple of hours from the ocean... I am also sent into a total and totally delightful state of cognitive dissonance by the Great Lakes.

It's just just a vast expanse of water extending all the way to the horizon.

THEY HAVE TIDES, PEOPLE!  And seagulls!  And waves (OK, little waves, but real ones nonetheless, lapping and crashing onto the shoreline).  And, in some parts, sandy beaches!

It *looks* exactly like the ocean. If you could constrain your own bodily experience just to sight and sound, you are at The Beach.

But there's no salt in the air.  The *smell* is entirely different.

So whenever I've walked along a Great Lake shoreline I'm jolted into this startled consciousness of my sense of smell that I've never had anywhere else.

 

 

 

I    :wub:   visiting different parts of America.  Loving this thread.

 

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13 hours ago, Frances said:

I would have to say I’m not understanding all of the love for Chicago in this thread. I’ve been there many times as I grew up in the Midwest and went to college with lots of people from the area. It would definitely be way down on my list of places to visit in the US. In the Midwest, I’d put Minneapolis/St Paul way ahead of it.

I feel the same way about Philadelphia.  But I forget that people can get excited about the historical sites (though even the first time the Liberty Bell was pretty underwhelming). The art museum is amazing, and the Barnes Foundation collection is world-class. Pre-Covid I did like taking the train in and walking around certain parts of the city. But much of it is ugly and rundown and if we moved I wouldn't miss it. But, I've seen it all, and except for the art, pretty much once is enough. ETA I shouldn't say I've seen it all because most big cities have places even residents can discover. I have only lived here 13 years and the first several were short on time for fun.  Certainly by Philly time I am a newcomer and always will be!  

Edited by marbel
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2 hours ago, Pam in CT said:

Having spent my entire life never more than a a couple of hours from the ocean... I am also sent into a total and totally delightful state of cognitive dissonance by the Great Lakes.

It's just just a vast expanse of water extending all the way to the horizon.

THEY HAVE TIDES, PEOPLE!  And seagulls!  And waves (OK, little waves, but real ones nonetheless, lapping and crashing onto the shoreline).  And, in some parts, sandy beaches!

It *looks* exactly like the ocean. If you could constrain your own bodily experience just to sight and sound, you are at The Beach.

But there's no salt in the air.  The *smell* is entirely different.

So whenever I've walked along a Great Lake shoreline I'm jolted into this startled consciousness of my sense of smell that I've never had anywhere else.

 

 

 

I    :wub:   visiting different parts of America.  Loving this thread.

 

I have vivid memories of camping by the ocean as a child. I was talking about it one day and my mom looked at me like I was crazy. Turns out we camped on Lake Erie all the time. 😂

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5 hours ago, Pam in CT said:

Having spent my entire life never more than a a couple of hours from the ocean... I am also sent into a total and totally delightful state of cognitive dissonance by the Great Lakes.

It's just just a vast expanse of water extending all the way to the horizon.

THEY HAVE TIDES, PEOPLE!  And seagulls!  And waves (OK, little waves, but real ones nonetheless, lapping and crashing onto the shoreline).  And, in some parts, sandy beaches!

It *looks* exactly like the ocean. If you could constrain your own bodily experience just to sight and sound, you are at The Beach.

But there's no salt in the air.  The *smell* is entirely different.

So whenever I've walked along a Great Lake shoreline I'm jolted into this startled consciousness of my sense of smell that I've never had anywhere else.

 

 

 

I    :wub:   visiting different parts of America.  Loving this thread.

 

Lake michigan can have huge waves.  We have surfers that surf in Lake Michigan regularly.

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6 minutes ago, Ottakee said:

Lake michigan can have huge waves.  We have surfers that surf in Lake Michigan regularly.

I just posted about this on the lakes thread the other day. We lived on the shore of Lake Ontario and there were enormous waves that would crash into the back of our house. It really was a lot like living by the ocean.

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8 minutes ago, Ottakee said:

Lake michigan can have huge waves.  We have surfers that surf in Lake Michigan regularly.

Wow. WHO KNEW?  

(Well, obviously you did, LOL.  See: the gifts of America.)

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My mother and I did a memorable week-long coastal road trip in Florida, from St. Augustine to Pensacola via Key West.  It was a great mix of nature and cities. Each day usually included a few hours of driving, a little sightseeing including a museum, a little beach time, and meals overlooking the water. We spent a night in the Everglades, where we were thoroughly ambushed by mosquitoes, but it was still a must-see along the way.

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1 hour ago, slackermom said:

My mother and I did a memorable week-long coastal road trip in Florida, from St. Augustine to Pensacola via Key West.  It was a great mix of nature and cities. Each day usually included a few hours of driving, a little sightseeing including a museum, a little beach time, and meals overlooking the water. We spent a night in the Everglades, where we were thoroughly ambushed by mosquitoes, but it was still a must-see along the way.

Lol, that’s what I remember about the Everglades: the mosquitoes. We were kids; the folks drove a VW bus to Florida in August (what?!) and we camped in the Everglades. Some of us were in a tent but two sisters and I slept in the VW with the hatch open and mosquito netting affixed to it. However, it fell down in the night. Our legs looked like we had Chicken Pox! 

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