Buenos Aires: A Weekend Guide for the Curious Traveler - Atlas Obscura

Weekend Guides for the Curious Traveler
Buenos Aires

Find faded grandeur and vibrant street life in Argentina's largest city.

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Day 1
Hidden Histories

Follow the river to where past connects with present.

Looking up at Galería Güemes. Alejandro/ CC BY 2.0
Shopping Arcade

1. Galería Güemes

Make your way among the morning commuters and street vendors to Galería Güemes. Don’t be deterred by the ugly 1980s façade—inside is a beautifully restored Art Noveau arcade, part of this area’s history as a high-end shopping district a century ago. Galería Güemes opened in 1915 and was designed by the legendary local architect Francisco Gianotti, but by the 1990s it had fallen into disrepair and became the victim of a poor remodeling effort. It wasn't until a painstaking restoration in the 2000s that it was returned it to its former glory. The stores inside are curiously random, though there is a good wine store on the Florida Street end. Don't skip the viewpoint on the 14th floor, which offers a panoramic view of the city

Florida 165, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Architecture

2. Old Cervecería Munich

Head down to the riverfront, crossing through the shiny new towers of the renovated old wharfs of Puerto Madero. Behind all the gloss, crossing an avenue where trucks carrying containers transit on their way to cargo ships, lies the old Buenos Aires riverfront. In the first half of the 20th century, porteños regularly flocked here to bathe in the somewhat muddy waters of the Río de la Plata.

Stop to take in the old Munich Beer Hall (Cervecería Munich) a eclectically designed Art Deco building that was once the see-and-be-seen spot of the balneario. Today it houses the kitschy Museum of Humor, but the promenade remains, and has been recently cleaned up. 

Av. de los Italianos 851, 1107, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Grab a bite near the Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur. Federico Suarez
Park

3. Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur

There used to be graceful steps here descending into the river, but today it's a plant-filled channel facing what looks like a tropical island that blocks the view. This is in fact a natural reserve, the Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur, which was built on top of a pile of rubble left over from the country’s last military regime. Back then there were loose plans to extend the city into the water, but the concept faltered upon the return of democracy, and nature took over. The reserve can be accessed either at the intersection of Av. Rosario Vera Peñalosa and Av. Dr. Tristan Achával Rodríguez (in front of the Lola Mora fountain), or near the intersection of Cecilia Grierson and Av. Intendente Hernán M. Giralt. This is also a good spot to go cycling. Get lunch at one of the stands selling classic Argentine street meat. In a sign of the changing times, many now offer delicious, artery-clogging vegetarian options.

Av. Tristán Achaval Rodríguez 1550, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Inside El Zanjón de Granados. Valerie Hinojosa/ Cropped/ CC BY-SA 2.0
Museum

4. El Zanjón de Granados

A nearly 200-year-old mansion situated above a series of underground tunnels that date back to the Buenos Aires’s earliest settlements, El Zanjón de Granados is now a museum that offers one-hour tours to visitors. Some parts of the structure, including a wall comprised of seashell mortaring, date back even further.

Rescued by the amateur historian and Argentine chemical engineer Jorge Eckstein in 1985, the structure took 17 years to restore to its current condition. More than 130 truckloads of debris were unearthed from the tunnels. During the restoration, Eckstein uncovered tiles, fine china, and many other precious objects. Displays in the museum are varied and include photographs of the area that date back to the 19th century.

Defensa 755, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Centro Cultural Kirchner. Barcex / CC BY-SA 3.0
Cultural Center

5. Centro Cultural Kirchner (CCK)

This old post office building was impressively refurbished recently into a cultural center, combining daring architecture with historic preservation in a space that once housed Eva Perón’s charitable foundation. There are constant exhibits to wander through, and free tickets to concerts can be obtained a few hours before scheduled performances. If you need a break, head up to the fourth floor, where you can plop down in recliners beneath ever-changing LED hues emitted by overhead panels that enclose one of the exhibit halls. 

Sarmiento 151, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Bar

6. Taller Regazzoni

If you're up for one more adventure after you grab some dinner (we'd recommend the conveniently located Dada Bistro, a classic after-work dinner haunt), head to Taller Regazzoni, an unusual bar attached to El Gato Viejo and run by the artist Carlos Regazzoni, who uses junkyard metals salvaged from the area in his twisted sculptures. Getting there is a little tricky. There is a parking lot where Suipacha Street ends after crossing Libertador. This is behind the highway entrance, and there are often trucks entering and exiting. There’s a twisted metal archway that’s not labeled, and you walk down the alley until it ends at a door inviting you to the bar. It's dimly lit, and advisable to be discreet and not flash technology or jewelry in this area. Get a drink and possibly light your way with a cellphone flashlight to see the art piled throughout the warehouse.

Av. del Libertador 405, Buenos Aires, Argentina


Day 2
Day With the Dead

This is a city with more than its share of ghosts.

The bookstore and cafe at El Ateneo Grand Splendid. Federico Suarez
Bookstore

1. El Ateneo Grand Splendid

Enjoy a classic porteño breakfast on the stage of the aptly named former Teatro Grand Splendid. This ornate venue once hosted tango’s legendary figures, including Carlos Gardel. In 1929, it was converted to a cinema, and has become a large (and beautiful) bookstore and café in its latest iteration. Check out the former theater boxes for a cozy reading nook, or come back later in the day for occasional live piano accompaniment. Climb up to the balconies for a beautiful view of the books that now fill spaces once intended for audiences.

Av. Santa Fe 1860, 1123, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Cementerio de la Recoleta. Federico Suarez
Cemetery

2. Cementerio de la Recoleta

Best known internationally for housing the remains of Eva Perón, aka Evita, this traditional cemetery is a who’s who of Argentina history. Many of the country's former political leaders have in fact been laid to rest here, and a sign at the door can help point you in the right direction if that's your main interest. But we recommend wandering around the fringe, where decadent mausoleums have fallen into disrepair. Check out the small final resting place of David Alleno near the back. A former caretaker at the cemetery, he scrimped and saved at the turn of the 20th century in order to afford a plot of his own. In a hurry to inhabit it, or so the legend goes, it's said he committed suicide as soon as his headstone was complete.

Junín 1760, 1113, Buenos Aires, Argentina

At the Espacio de Memoria y Derechos Humanos. Federico Suarez
Museum

3. Espacio de Memoria y Derechos Humanos

Argentina’s recent history is marred by many more tangible deaths—the estimated 30,000 victims of the country’s last dictatorship, which ruled between 1976 and 1983. The regime “disappeared” its foes, nominally young revolutionaries, but also thousands of others considered suspect because of their political leanings, associations, or inclination to speak out. The former Naval Mechanics School is one of hundreds of clandestine detention centers that housed the disappeared. It was particularly notorious for serving as a birthing center for pregnant detainees, whose children were later placed in clandestine adoptions. Many of the detainees held here were eventually killed. The site only recently became a museum, after the Navy decamped in 2007, and the center remains bare, illustrated only by testimonies from survivors. Check in to join one of several guided tours that happen each day. There is also a cultural center operating on the campus.

Av. del Libertador 8151, Buenos Aires, Argentina

A sculpture at the Parque de la Memoria. Federico Suarez
Monument

4. Parque de la Memoria

After the museum, walk over to the nearby Parque de la Memoria, a memorial to the victims of the dictatorship featuring contemporary sculptures and panoramic views of the Rio de la Plata. A large wall lists the names of known victims and leads to a small museum that has rotating exhibits focused on political memory. Don’t be startled by what appears to be a man walking on the water just off-shore—it’s a sculpture of a young victim of the dictatorship.

Afterward, grab a bite alongside the cab drivers who frequent Los Platitos, a classic dive parrilla nearby, where you can choose your food right off the grill.

Avenida Rafael Obligado 6745, Buenos Aires, Argentina

The grave of Tango legend Carlos Gardel. Federico Suarez
Cemetery

5. Cementerio de la Chacarita

Compared to Recoleta, this is more of a functioning cemetery, though it has its share of well-known dead, both historical and contemporary. Pick up some gloriously psychedelic artificial flowers at the entrance if you plan to pay homage to any of them. Tango legend Carlos Gardel is here, and the tradition is to leave a lit cigarette in his statue's hand as a token of affection. You can also visit the Pantheon, where the contemporary rock legend Gustavo Cerati’s remains are tucked away among the cremated. You might also run into mausoleums that appear entirely empty, which is  part of the reason why cars, which are allowed to drive among the cemetery’s relatively broad avenues, are inspected on the way out.

After, rejoin the living with a hearty meal at Albamonte, a classic Argentine Italian club de barrio that specializes in pizza, pasta, and grilled chicken. You'll find zero pretensions and a friendly welcome here, along with generous portions. 

Av Guzmán 680, Buenos Aires, Argentina


Where to Stay
Hotel Madero

The Puerto Madero neighborhood makes an excellent launching pad, and the well-appointed Hotel Madero has everything you could need or want, including terrific views from its rooftop terrace.

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Watch out for any chimp-gator hybrids lurking in the tea-colored water of Honey Island Swamp.

Sink Into 7 of Louisiana's Swampiest Secrets

Louisiana has long had a complex relationship with the wet world. Chitimacha, Choctaw, and Atakapa peoples built communities among the knobby knees of bald cypress trees; French fur traders and pirates eventually made their own marks. Later still, modern engineers attempted to corral waters with levees and dams, or to reclaim land where there had been none. Across the 50,000-odd square miles that make up the state, troves of special places are becoming concealed by rising water. Here are seven places water has revealed or covered up. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

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Diego Rivera's mural sprawls across a light-flooded room in the Detroit Institute of Arts.

7 Mechanical Marvels in Michigan

Michigan is famous for its steep, sweeping sand dunes, freckling of lakes, and unique fossils—but across the state, you'll find slews of automated wonders, past and present. From old animatronic toys to the ruins of early assembly lines, here are seven places to be dazzled by industry. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

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Who doesn't love an old tree?

11 Wholesome Spots in Nevada

Here at Atlas Obscura, we have a fondness for the forbidden, a hunger for the hidden, a gusto for the grim. (You get the point.) But it wouldn’t be so intrepid to simply highlight Nevada’s underbelly, would it? There’s more to the state than extraterrestrial-themed brothels and nuclear bomb test sites. Kids and grandparents might enjoy enormous Ferris wheels, unusual geysers, or pristine parklands. Even Nevada—home to Sin City—has a family-friendly side. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

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All aboard for a plate of pancakes.

7 Places to Glimpse Maine's Rich Railroad History

Maine is widely known for its mottled red crustaceans and stony-faced lighthouses, as well as bucolic towns and the top-notch hiking outside of them. But before all that, Maine was all about one thing: trains. As America industrialized in the 19th century, there was an insatiable demand to build and a hunger for lumber. Maine had plenty of it, and the state’s rivers became swollen with the fallen bodies of pine and spruce, much of which was hauled by rail. Trains did the heavy lifting to coastal hubs including Bangor and Ellsworth, and by 1924, there was enough railroad mileage in Maine to get from London’s King's Cross station to Mosul, Iraq. Over the years, some of the old cars were fashioned into eateries, but many were simply abandoned in the woods. Now, relics of Maine’s railroad history are scattered in museums, restaurants, and more. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

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At Glacier Gardens, the tree canopies are flowers in bloom.

11 Places Where Alaska Bursts Into Color

Picture Alaska. You might see in your mind's eye the granite and stark white snowcaps of Denali National Park, or the dark seas that surround 6,000-plus miles of coastline, or the muted olive of its tundra in the summer. But as anyone who's been there knows, the country's largest, most sparsely populated state can absolutely burst with color, from the luminous green of the Northern Lights, to the deep aqua of its glaciers, to the flourish of wildflowers fed by its long summer days. Here are some places to see the full spectrum of The Last Frontier. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

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Workers assess the exterior of the Washington Monument after an earthquake in 2011.

9 Places in D.C. That You're Probably Never Allowed to Go

The District of Columbia is home to a number of places that you need to flash the right ID to access. From restricted rooftops to government storage facilities and underground tunnels, the city is filled with places that are off-limits to the average visitor. What’s more, many of them are hidden within popular tourist destinations and densely populated neighborhoods—so you might catch a glimpse of them, but never get any closer. These are a few of our favorite restricted spots in D.C., and the stories behind them. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

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2 Perfect Days in Pensacola

If you thought Pensacola, Florida—with its powder-white sand beaches, near-perfect weather, and fresh seafood—was just a place to soak up the sun, think again. In fact, the city and beach of the same name is the site of the first European settlement in the continental United States. Established by Spanish explorer Tristán de Luna in 1559, it was christened Panzacola, a name of Native American origin and the precursor to the city’s modern name. The destination is also the birthplace of U.S. naval aviation and is still home to a naval air station and the thousands of service members stationed there, as well as the Blue Angels, the flight squadron famous for their death-defying fighter plane stunts. This delightful coastal city is an ideal, if somewhat quirky, blend of historical sites (on land and underwater) and activities to get your adrenaline flowing.

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Taste of Tucson

The people of Tucson have been eating off the land for 4,100 years. From grains to livestock to produce introduced by missionaries in the 1600s, this UNESCO City of Gastronomy is home to some of the oldest farmland in North America. What once was old is new again in The Old Pueblo where ancient flavors are found in nearly every dish — trendy to traditional.

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North Iceland’s Untamed Coast

Any travel enthusiast would be hard-pressed to open any social media channel and not see photos of Iceland, with its jaw-dropping peaks, natural hot springs, pure glaciers, northern lights and snow-covered landscapes. But the island nation’s appeal goes well beyond the well-worn paths of Reykjavik, the Golden Circle and the southern region's countryside. Travel to the untamed north along the Arctic Coast Way to discover otherworldly beauty—sans crowds—around every bend.

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Look closely and wander widely: Parliament Square is full of charm.

Hidden Edinburgh

Crowds clog Edinburgh's Royal Mile, the main artery between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace. The road is dotted with stores selling Nessie trinkets and lined with bagpipers and street performers pulling off dazzling tricks. But look beyond the tartan tourist traps, and you’ll discover tucked-away gardens, remnants of the city’s medieval past, and much more.

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Hidden Haight-Ashbury

In 1967, 100,000 artists, activists, and hippies gathered in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood for the Summer of Love. Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix played free concerts for fields of college dropouts, and San Francisco established itself as a countercultural capital. More than 50 years later, in a city increasingly known for Twitter and tech rather than art and activism, travelers who come on a pilgrimage are often disappointed to find expensive, skin-deep psychedelia. But if you know where to look, you’ll find a walk down Haight Street to be wonderfully weird, full of historic links to hippiedom and modern takes on the vibe.

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The Many Flavors of NYC’s Five Boroughs

More than eight million diverse individuals call New York City home, and many of them share their heritage through food. Whether it’s a billiards hall that serves stellar Bhutanese fare or a mosque where Malian vendors sell snacks for just a few hours each Friday, the city offers a vast culinary landscape for those willing to explore it. Venture beyond the flashy hotspots with months-long waiting lists and you’ll find New York’s true flavor lies within the small restaurants and stands rooted in its thriving immigrant communities.

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Musical instruments in the courtyard of SecondLine Arts and Antiques in New Orleans' French Quarter.

Hidden French Quarter

It may be famous for Mardi Gras, but New Orleans has subtle, surprising wonders on tap all year long—even in the touristy French Quarter. Around every cobblestoned corner, you’ll find historic ephemera, bits of Creole culture, environmentalism, and no shortage of spooky stories, whenever you happen to visit.

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art

From the street, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is hard to miss: The institution’s two-million-square-foot main building, at 1000 Fifth Avenue, spans four New York City blocks and stretches into Central Park. Inside the galleries, you’ll find thousands of objects spanning 5,000 years of world history. With so many treasures under one roof, it's inevitable that some fascinating pieces are tucked into the museum's lonelier nooks and crannies, hiding in plain sight. The next time you spend a day at the museum, keep an eye out for these overlooked wonders.

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The RV/MH Hall of Fame.

Motown to Music City Road Trip

Detroit and Nashville are synonymous with two all-American music genres. It’s no surprise that visitors flock to these cities each year to get a feel for the places where artists such as Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross &amp; the Supremes, Johnny Cash, and Dolly Parton began their careers. A (relatively) straight, north to south route connects the two cities, as does musical heritage. Load up the RV, make sure your speaker system is in tip-top shape, and create a playlist filled with old-school Motown and Country hits. If you're not driving on the trip down south, you should be dancing.

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The East Texas Bayou.

Gulf Coast Road Trip

The terrain along the Gulf of Mexico is sometimes called the “Third Coast,” but for an offbeat road trip, it’s second to none. Starting in Houston and ending in Pensacola Bay, this journey takes you through some of America’s most diverse landscapes. You’ll cross Cajun swamps, drive along sparkling white sand beaches, and even spend some time in the Big Easy. Take an RV and camp along the way to truly immerse yourself in this wondrous region. The world’s largest gulf, it turns out, holds some of America’s best-kept secrets.

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Coachella Valley Preserve.

Hidden Coachella Valley

The Coachella Valley and its environs boom in the spring, when tens of thousands of music lovers flock to catch their favorite artists perform in front of a dramatic, mountainous backdrop. But this region stays wonderfully weird all year long. If the festival drew you to the area and you only have a day to explore, choose a direction: Either head north, toward Joshua Tree and Landers, or southeast to the Salton Sea and nearby oases for a blissful respite. If you can spare a couple of days, lucky you—go forth and see it all.

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A view of L.A. from the top of Highland Park.

Highland Park

Los Angeles’ Highland Park is a diverse, eclectic neighborhood that Native Americans and Latinx communities have inhabited for centuries. Celebrated for its history, art scene, ethnic diversity, and cuisine, Highland Park is filled with surprising delights that more and more people are discovering every day. Exploring the neighborhood's nooks and crannies is one of the most rewarding ways to spend a day in L.A.

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The heart of Venice.

Venice

Once referred to as “The Coney Island of the Pacific,” L.A.’s beachfront neighborhood of Venice has long been a popular tourist destination. Its colorful characters, quirky architecture, and carnivalesque atmosphere are well-known the world over. But take a moment to look past the kitsch, and you’ll discover a place where artistic ingenuity thrives more than a century after Abbot Kinney endeavored to bring a grandiose version of Venice to America. The bohemian beehive has always attracted artists and performers, and everyone is welcome to enjoy the show.

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Artist Colette Miller's tribute to the City of Angels.

L.A.’s Downtown Arts District

The 1970s brought a wave of artists into this former industrial area in Downtown Los Angeles. They sparked a fuse of creative imagination that burned for years. Up-and-coming creators took advantage of the then-low rents and built a foundation for the creative mecca that exists here today. In its infancy, L.A.’s Downtown Arts District came to life behind-the-scenes, with artists mostly working in closed studios. Today, the art has spilled onto the streets in the form of colorful murals, attractive gallery spaces, and stylish storefronts. But the curious explorer can still find literal and figurative traces of the ‘70s. In addition to the more historic spots that remain, a creative, entrepreneurial spirit abounds.

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The Whitehall Banqueting House is full of topsy-turvy views.

Hidden Trafalgar Square

Wedged between Charing Cross and Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square is known for the throngs of people flocking to its famous attractions. Weave around the tourists on the National Gallery stairs and dodge the crowds clogging the street corners. Instead, duck down dreamy alleys and pop into unique, overlooked museums and shops. There, a secret side of this busy area waits to reveal itself.

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An elevator shaft in Tribeca opens to reveal a museum of small wonders.

Secrets of NYC’s Five Boroughs

Few cities on Earth are as well-trodden as New York–but as any intrepid traveler knows, the more you explore a place, the more wonders you find. You may not be able to discover all of these spots in a single trip, but that could be a good thing. No matter how many times you return, the city that never sleeps never ceases to surprise. Visit NYCGo to uncover more of the city’s secret spots.

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Plenty of sweet treats are on offer at Pastelería Ideal

Mexico City's Centro Histórico

Anchored by the Zócalo plaza and the architectural splendor of the Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City's historic center rightfully draws scores of visitors from around the world. If you look, smell, and taste carefully, you’ll also find a universe of culinary offerings that tells stories of immigration, adaptation, and imagination. With the help of Culinary Backstreets, we assembled a primer on eating and drinking your way through the district.

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View of the Hollywood Sign from Babylon Court

Hidden Hollywood

Hollywood Boulevard is world-famous—for the Oscars and the Walk of Fame, for schlocky souvenir shops and crowded tour buses. But beyond the terrazzo stars and the occasional celebrity sighting, there’s plenty left to discover. Here’s how to make Hollywood’s acquaintance, whether you’re a visitor or a local who keeps a practiced distance from these busy, saturated blocks. Look closer and you'll find a neighborhood full of nature, history, and wonder.

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A subway entrance in Times Square.

Hidden Times Square

There's the Times Square you know, full of blazing billboards, selfie sticks, and costumed characters. Then there's the less familiar one, beyond the lights—the nooks and crannies that most visitors to Midtown Manhattan overlook. They're not obvious, but surprises can still be found along this world-famous stretch of real estate.

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Upper Hoh Road, Olympic National Park, Oregon.

Summer Radio Road-Trip

Follow along on our 2,200-mile adventure with NPR's 'All Things Considered.'

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Amsterdam

Forge your own path in this tourist magnet, toward places that are less crowded but no less wondrous.

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Chicago

Just when you thought you knew the Windy City, it finds new ways to surprise you.

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Detroit

Find secret vistas, labyrinthine bookstores, and eclectic public art.

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The dome of Estrela Basilica in Lisbon.

Lisbon

In the homeland of explorers, your best bet is to keep looking.

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Miami

Go beyond the beaches in the continental United States’ only truly tropical city.

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Queens

New York City's most diverse borough is also its most rewarding.

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San Diego

Southern California's second city holds plenty of sparkling secrets.

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Savannah

Find surprises around every corner in a U.S. city that embraces history like no other.

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