We’re taking Sunrise on a magical Mystery Tour of the USA next week – and you get to decide where they go! Choose from 15 mystery locations in Hawaii, California, Nevada, Texas and the South. Viewers can vote online each day to choose the next morning’s broadcast spots, sending Sunrise on a United Airlines mystery flight. To help get you thinking, here are some of the highlights of each destination in the running.
Monday – Hawaii
This famed beachfront neighbourhood of Honolulu has been a playground for Hawaiian royalty and world travellers alike, with a vibrant hotel and resort strip that boasts world-class shopping, dining and entertainment. The sparkling waters of Waikiki, where the father of modern surfing Duke Kahanamoku learnt his trade – are just the spot for a surfing lesson. And if you can tear yourself away from the beach, the Honolulu Zoo and Waikiki Aquarium will keep the whole family happy.
The lava-lined western coast of Hawaii, the Big Island, is home to the sunny Kona district, where the world-famous Kona coffee was born. Visit historic Kailua Village (Kailua-Kona) for shops, nightlife and restaurants, or delve into Kona’s history – it’s where King Kamehameha spent his final years – at Hulihee Palace, Mokuaikaua Church and the Ahuena Heiau. It’s also a great place for snorkelling and diving – you might spot dolphins, green sea turtles (honu) and manta rays.
One of Oahu’s largest cattle ranches, Kualoa provides such scene-stealing landscapes that it is a favourite setting for Hollywood films and TV shows – notably Jurassic Park, Godzilla, LOST and Hawaii Five-0. Its sacred rainforests, valleys and beaches are perfect for horseback riding, hiking and ocean excursions.
Tuesday – California
One of the great cities of the world, LA is ground zero for celebrities. From Hollywood to Disneyland, it’s where you’ll find the stars of the silver screen. But there’s also high-end and outlet shopping, a foodie scene that runs the gamut from food trucks to 5-star dining, and a nightlife that’s hard to beat.
The ultimate beach city, sunny San Diego has diverse coastal, urban and inland neighbourhoods, including the historic Gaslamp Quarter, plus dazzling nightlife (it’s the craft beer capital of America, after all), as well as family fun (we’re talking Legoland and the San Diego Zoo). And don’t miss sampling the delectable Cali Baja cuisine.
Fall head over heels for this enchanting city by the bay, known for the Golden Gate Bridge, colourful Victorian houses and historic cable cars that traverse its many hills. There are so many highlights, from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square to the gorgeous Palace of Fine Arts, but it’s the theatre scene the locals love.
Wednesday – Nevada
Whether you go for the snow or to drink in the views of its pristine waters, Lake Tahoe – the largest alpine lake in North America – never disappoints. In winter, go skiing, snowshoeing, skating or sledding, while in summer there’s fishing, beaches, hiking, biking and camping. Plus there are plenty of sweet towns to explore, top restaurants to try and even an Ale Trail to follow.
A desert oasis of dazzling neon, Las Vegas puts the thrill into any holiday. Walk the Strip for an endless carnival of delights, from the fountains of Bellagio to the eye-brow raising passing parade. Soar above the Strip on a scenic helicopter flight for a night-time treat like no other. Or step inside the casinos for a roll of the dice, to catch the acrobatics of Cirque du Soleil (Michael Jackson ONE is a hit), or to sample the overflowing buffets. Everyone’s a winner.
Discover a rich heritage of old mining towns, the Hollywood of yesteryear and the Wild West at the Pioneer Saloon in Goodsprings, Nevada. Clark Gable drank here, movies have been filmed here, prospectors drowned their sorrows here, and there was even a murder (you can still see the bullet holes in the pressed-metal walls). It’s pretty much unchanged since it was built in 1913, and represents a genuine slice of history. It serves great food, too.
Thursday – Texas
This is cowboy country, with a year-round rodeo and a twice-daily cattle drive. But there’s also a healthy dose of culture, including world-class museums, art galleries, theatre, opera, ballet and more. Check out the Old West at the Stockyards National Historic District, shop and dine in Sundance Square or sate your need for speed at the Texas Motor Speedway.
Houston has high-class hotels and laid-back hospitality, live sports and boot scootin’ high times, museums and space bases. Experience a simulated blast-off at the Space Center Houston, marvel at works by Picasso and Rembrandt at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, or time your visit to see the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Remember the Alamo? It’s in San Antonio, Texas, along with several other Spanish colonial missions, which together form a UNESCO World Heritage site. The lovely river winds through the downtown area – take a stroll along the Riverwalk – and dine at one of the restaurants on the water’s edge. The city also has a huge Mexican history and you may hear mariachi, folklorico and flamenco music during one of its many celebrations.
Friday – South USA
The ‘capital of the South’ boasts a host of cool new brew pubs and dining spots, and the gorgeous Living Walls street art project has enlivened the city with more than 100 murals. Add to that the Atlanta BeltLine – a network of trails that follow old railroad segments – and a growing Hollywood influence, and you have a vibrant city on the move.
Music is the raison d’etre for this foot-tapping Tennessee city. Begin your country music education at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and hear authentic country at the Grand Ole Opry. Spice up your tastebuds with some Nashville hot chicken and take the kids to the Nashville Zoo and Adventure Science Centre.
Another music mecca, New Orleans intoxicates with the sounds of jazz and blues, Creole cuisine and lively Mardi Gras parades. Stroll the picturesque French Quarter, ride the streetcar to the Garden District to marvel at its amazing mansions, and tour its unique above-ground cemeteries. Must-eats include gumbo, po’boys and a Hurricane cocktail, or two.
* Featured image: Waikiki draws tourists to Honolulu. Image: Getty