A country as large as the United States has more to offer vacationers than magic kingdoms and theme parks, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation offers a list of “distinctive destination” ideas to help plan your escape.
The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit started its list in 1999. To date, there are 120 Distinctive Destinations located in 43 states throughout the country. Here are its dozen destinations for 2009:
Athens, Ga.- Neo-classical architecture combines with a great music scene and the influence of the University of Georgia.
Bristol, R.I.- A historic New England waterfront town offers stunning vistas, plenty of recreation, stately historic homes, museums and great seafood.
Buffalo, N.Y.- A lakeside city that boasts 500 walking tours, a park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and a National Historic landmark by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Fort Worth, Texas – The Old West comes into focus at the Fort Worth Stockyards and the world’s only daily cattle drive.
Franklin, Tenn.- The trust describes Franklin, with its Civil War battlefields and antebellum mansions, as 100 years and a few miles south of Nashville.
Hot Springs, S.D.- The crowds at Mount Rushmore melt away in this Black Hills town, close to the Wild Horse Sanctuary and Native American ceremonial sites.
Lake Geneva, Wis.- Pristine natural beauty, Gothic Revival cottages and Queen Ann-style mansions are all on view from the 21-mile Geneva Lake Shore Path.
Lititz, Pa.- Old stone mills, log homes and wooden covered bridges reach back to another era that’s an easy drive from New York and Philadelphia.
Santa Barbara, Calif.- This sun-drenched city between the mountains and the sea boasts a stunning harbor and beaches, and a culture-rich downtown of shops and retaurants.
Santa Fe, N.M.- The oldest city in the country, high in the juniper-covered foothills of the southern Rocky Mountains, offers an unparalleled richness of history and culture.
Saugatuck-Douglas, Mich.- Rolling dunes to the west and lush orchard country to the east surround these neighboring lakeside towns.
Virginia City, Nev.- The Gold Rush shaped this historic mining boomtown, and you can still catch a glimpse of its frontier mansions, saloons, museums and old mines.