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RISMEDIA, January 7, 2011—With the growth of domestic travel expected to continue in 2011, and many U.S. travel bargains readily available, it’s a great time to get out and explore the U.S.A. Moon Travel Guidebook author, and Moon’s American Nomad blogger, Laura Martone, offers her choices for the best U.S. travel destinations to explore in 2011.

Best art lovers’ destination: Nestled amid the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Santa Fe offers a wealth of art galleries, artists’ studios, cultural museums, and markets—many of which feature the handcrafted works of traditional Hispanic and Native American artisans. Given the charming adobe architecture and surrounding desert landscape, it’s easy to see why Santa Fe has long inspired writers, performers, and visual artists alike.

Best city for night owls: With 24-hour eateries, late-night music clubs, and bars that almost never close, New Orleans is definitely the ideal spot for night owls. On any given day, areas like the Faubourg Marigny, the Riverbend, and, of course, Bourbon Street, are hopping well into the morning. Even the historic streetcar operates until the wee hours.

Best destination for history buffs: While America boasts a number of historical sights, from California’s Spanish missions to landmark buildings in Boston and Philadelphia, no city is quite as intriguing as Washington, D.C. The nation’s capital is filled with monuments, memorials, and museums, and many of these sights are free to visit.

Best place for camping: Encompassing parts of Tennessee and North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most popular parks in America—and one of the best places for a camping trip. Outdoor enthusiasts will find an assortment of reasonably priced campgrounds, not to mention an abundance of diversions, including waterfalls, hiking trails, picnic areas, wildlife-viewing opportunities, and curious features like the 6,643-foot Clingmans Dome.

Best city for a family vacation: While many families flock to Disneyland, Universal Studios, and other theme parks in the Los Angeles area, this sprawling metropolis features even more family-friendly destinations. You can experience unique museums, nostalgic diners, and an amusement park on the Santa Monica Pier—not to mention oodles of fun-filled parks and beaches.

Best place for roadside kitsch: For those who enjoy strange roadside attractions, there’s no better trip than the drive along historic Route 66, the spirit of which is still preserved through odd hotels, historic eateries, and other curious attractions. Some of the best can be encountered in and around Amarillo, Texas, home to the Big Texan Steak Ranch, which features a 72-ounce steak challenge and a Texas-shaped swimming pool.

Best shopping destination: Boasting more than 10,000 shops, boutiques, and art galleries, and catering to pretty much every budget, New York City provides endless opportunities for shoppers. Whether searching for souvenirs in Chinatown, trendy furniture in SoHo, gourmet delicacies in Greenwich Village, or high-end fashion on Fifth Avenue, shoppers are guaranteed to find just the right fit in NYC.

Most romantic city: Given its gorgeous beaches, year-round sunshine, picturesque Spanish-style architecture, and first-class resorts, Santa Barbara undoubtedly fits its nickname, the “American Riviera.” Couples in the mood for romance will especially enjoy this beautiful locale, which features a number of fine restaurants, luxurious spas, and nearby wineries.

Top bargain destination: Branson, Missouri, the self-proclaimed “live entertainment capital of the world,” boasts cheaper hotel rates and show ticket prices than most of the country’s other entertainment hot spots, including Las Vegas. Besides live music, visitors will find affordable campgrounds, golf courses, and theme parks, plus a variety of museums, wineries, and outdoor diversions, from biking trails to canoe rentals.

Best city for foodies: Featuring some of the country’s best restaurants—from fancy to affordable—San Francisco is a gourmand’s dream. It’s also home to Ghirardelli Square, and the Ferry Building Marketplace, filled with an array of artisan cheese, wine, pastry, and seafood shops. Wine enthusiasts will also appreciate the city’s proximity to the vineyards of Napa and Sonoma.

Ultimate “big city” experience: With its incredible skyline alongside Lake Michigan, Chicago is an urban metropolis that exudes down-to-earth Midwestern charm, making it a friendly, yet ideal destination for those hoping to experience a big city. Visitors will encounter innovative architecture, incredible museums, trendy shops, high-end eateries, diverse neighborhoods, and an array of theaters and live music venues.

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