Top 10 travel spots in the United States

travelSo, Orbitz noted when we like to travel … but where do we go? The top 10 destinations in the country were mostly predictable, with big tourist-magnet cities dominating the list. There were a few surprises, according to the information supplied by Orbitz: Boston, for example, didn’t make the list, after having ranked ninth in 2009. Los Angeles, fifth in 2009, also fell off in 2010. New Orleans and Honolulu debuted last year.

In the top 10 U.S. destinations last year, average daily hotel rates rose, yet some spots, like Las Vegas and San Diego, still offered great bargains, with rates well below 2008 levels still.

So, which cities are among our 10 favorites? Let’s take a look below!

1. Las Vegas, Nevada: Vegas was hit hard by the financial crisis – expect to see some deals there for a while

2. New York, New York: how can the Big Apple not be an ongoing favorite?

3. Chicago, Illinois: the top city in the Midwest just had to make the list!4. San Francisco, California: forget Los Angeles, this is the place to see out west

5. San Diego, California: again, this is a great alternative to Tinseltown

6. Orlando, Florida: remember that there’s more to Orlando than the theme parks

7. Honolulu, Hawaii: if you’re going to spend some time on the beach, do it right

8. New Orleans, Louisiana: it may have taken a while, but the recovery following Hurricane Katrina is definitely under way

9. Washington, DC: the allure of the nation’s capital can never be resisted

10. Miami, Florida: where else can you see and sample so many great bodies in one place? You have to check this out!

[photo Fabrizio Monaco via Flickr]

New York remains top U.S. port of entry

Through the first nine months of this year, overseas visitors passed mostly through only 15 ports of entry. These spots, according to the Department of Commerce accounted for 84 percent of entry traffic into the United States, gaining two percentage points over the first nine months of 2008. New York‘s JFK airport, Miami and Los Angeles dominated, pulling in 39 percent of all arrivals, up a percentage point from the same period last year.

Only four of the top 15 ports of entry in the United States saw traffic increase year-over-year: Miami, Orlando, Philadelphia and Fort Lauderdale. Of the 11 that posted declines, three did so at a double-digit rate. Visitation through Chicago fell a whopping 18 percent, which pushed it to seventh on the list, behind Honolulu. Houston fell a mere 3 percent, bringing up to #12, ahead of Boston. Philadelphia’s 6 percent gain moved it to #14, and a 3 percent increase in traffic through Fort Lauderdale brought it into the top 15 at the bottom spot. Detroit‘s 36 percent fall in overseas arrivals caused it to fall from the top 15.

Top U.S. ports of entry

Eighty-six percent of international arrivals to the United States come through only 15 ports of entry, according to data from the Department of Transportation. This represents an increase of one percentage point over last year (measuring the first five months of 2008 to the first five months of 2009.

The top three ports of entry are hardly surprising: New York (specifically JFK), Miami and Los Angeles. How insane is it that the leading first impression of our country is in Queens?! These three spots were responsible for 40 percent of all arrivals so far this year. Their share of all international arrivals – trending with the top 15 – increased by roughly one percentage point year-over-year. Miami, Orlando and Philadelphia were the only members of this group to post increases.

Six of the top 15 ports of entry into the United States sustained double-digit decreases in arrivals. The stream through San Francisco is off 18 percent, moving it into the #6 position on the list (behind Honolulu). Detroit dropped 32 percent, pushing it to fifteenth, behind Boston and Philadelphia, and Agana, Guam fell 9 percent, putting it behind Chicago on the list.

10 places to enjoy May flowers for free

When my daughter was about five we went on a wildflower hike for Mother’s Day. The hike was free and I remember the day’s loveliness even though this was over 10 years ago. May’s flowers are one of life’s great pleasures. It’s a visual feast with the world’s locations offering their own special palate.

With this weekend being the last chance to see May flowers as in “April showers bring May flowers,” head outdoors to look for gorgeous colors and lovely scents–urban areas are included. Go for a long, leisurely walk around a neighborhood known for flower beds–or find a city garden that’s in bloom.

Here are 10 flower hotspots that I’ve enjoyed in my travels. Besides being beautiful, I’ve included them here because they are free and flowers are part of their glory. The list is in alphabetical order. Even if you don’t find as many flowers as you might have hoped depending upon your timing, none will disappoint.

  • Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden, Honolulu, Hawaii. The first time I visited Brenda’s stomping ground, I was mesmerized by its lushness. This botanical garden was designed to “make a place of peace and tranquility.” Featuring endangered and rare plants from several geographic regions of the world that have tropical environments. Stroll here to take in a wealth of diversity, but in one location.
  • Inniswood Metro Parks Garden, Westerville, Ohio. The gardens are exquisite and the children’s area is quite well done. I never tire of going here. Because it’s part of the Columbus MetroParks system it’s free including the fabulous public events that are frequenlty held.
  • Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris. To escape the bustle of the city and tourists who flock to other landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, this is a place to head. People-watching also offers pleasure.
  • Lexington Cemetery, Lexington, Kentucky. Once, my history buff cousin and I spent a few hours walking along the grounds while he pointed out the burial spots of famous Kentuckians. I also noticed the gardens and trees.
  • Munsinger/Clemens Gardens, St. Cloud, Minnesota. Last summer when we were on our great American road trip, we spent an afternoon strolling through these two adjacent garden’s delights. Each section pays tribute to certain flowers in this park that was begun in 1915, enhanced thanks to WPA money in the Depression, and added onto in the 1990s. It’s sublime and a prime example of what happens when a community works together to create something that everyone can enjoy, even those from out of town.
  • Pino Trail in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The first section is a marked nature trail where signage tells you what you’re looking at. You don’t have to hike the whole trail to enjoy the scenery. Take in the smell of juniper and pinons. Wildflowers with a desert twist are on the menu.
  • San Francisco Botanical Garden, San Francisco, California. I strolled through here years ago. Irises, one of my favorite flowers, are in bloom right now.
  • The Singapore Botanic Gardens, Singapore at the edge of Singapore’s downtown is known for its orchids. This is a gorgeous place for wandering, particularly since each section has its own nuances.
  • St. Stephens Green, Dublin, Ireland. This Victorian-style garden in the center of the city has been adding beauty since 1880. When I was here, a group of school children kept wanting to play.
  • The United States Botanic Garden, Washington, D.C. Here’s a garden where a part of it was designed to give people ideas to use at home. Pop into the conservatory for a visual and olfactory explosion. The wonderful aspect of a conservatory is that flowers bloom year round. Paul Busse’s wondrous trains, along with their showing in New York, chug here in December.

For an article that lists sublime places to hike for wildflower viewing, click here. The range is from California to Tennessee.