As we near the end of 2011, I feel compelled to share some of the best travel writing about America - its cities, parks, events, attractions, and festivals - that I have come across over the past year. This is a very subjective list, of course. But I hope that one or several of these articles inspire you to travel to new locations or revisit a place you been before but see it with a new perspective or armed with new knowledge.
Note that these articles are presented in no particular order.
2011 was the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. This piece by David Guterson in Granta recalls the road trip he and some colleagues took shortly after 9/11 when air travel was suspended. The article tracks his trip from Washington, DC, to Washington State, providing some interesting context to the events but also provides a glimpse into the endurance test that is the American Road Trip.
Everyone knows about the rats and the pigeons. They are New York City's most famous wild residents. Writer Ayun Halliday introduces us to New York's other wild things, such as parrots and chihuahuas, and briefs us on how they got there.
Edward Readicker-Henderson gives us a glimpse of the northern finger of Alaska as he explores Nome, the Bering Strait, and the wildlife - past and present - in Alaska.
"But the [Bering Land] Bridge was actually more than six hundred miles, north to south, and it wasn't a bridge at all. It was just that the Bering Sea wasn't there; the Bering was a sea in waiting, was still waiting to happen. All that water that would become a wild sea was locked up tight in the ice of the last ice age, glaciers along the Alaska Range, on the far side of the Mackenzie River. And in the middle, straddling the arctic circle, this vast steppe, hiding from the rest of the world like cookie dough ice cream in the back of the freezer."
From National Geographic Traveler's intrepid Digital Nomad Andrew Evans comes this absolutely frightful story about a haunted hotel in Louisiana. Try not to read this bone-chilling tale while you're alone at night, especially if you're in Louisiana!
Ansel Adams and his beautiful black-and-white portraits of the American wilderness have launched countless dreams of traveling west. This essay by Peter Essick in National Geographic Traveler ventures to Yosemite National Park to learn about the mountains that first inspired the legendary photographer.
This article written by Pam Mandel is a beautiful love letter to the Pacific Northwest:
"'You drive past fields of stumps and clear cuts and then, just past the sign that marks the entrance to the park, the trees change. It’s like there are giant green velvet theater curtains hanging from the sky.'"
Reporting for the New York Times, Porter Fox tours California's southern coast in search of tasty waves and the history behind the Golden State's most iconic sport.
Matt Gross seeks out all the un-touristy things to do in Las Vegas and gets lost in the allure of Sin City for the New York Times. This is a funny and fairly frugal look at one of the USA's most popular tourist haunts.
In 2011, America's largest rivers, the Mississippi, flooded its banks in one of the worst floods in memory. In order to discover what the river was like at its wildest, W. Hodding Carter and two pals canoe 300 miles down the Mississippi, from Memphis to Vicksburg, for Outside Magazine.
Ken Van Vechten tells the little-known story of Seattle's Underground in this article for the Los Angeles Times.
In San Francisco to uncover the city's "Barbary Coast" history for Gadling, David Farley explains how modern fashion was born in San Francisco.