On Independence Day, this avid U.S. traveler is reflecting on the most beautiful places I’ve seen. They are all in America and for the most part are found in the National Park Service, which according to NPS is America’s Best Idea.  I can’t argue.

In the first six months of this year alone we’ve visited Acadia in Maine, Arches in Utah, Joshua Tree in California and (while it isn’t located in a formal National Park) Adirondack Forest Preserve in New York.  Our country offers such vast beauty from lighthouses to natural red rock wonders, from gnarly Joshua Trees to High Peaks, from rocky coastlines to nature’s arched windows and decorated with wildflowers to blooming cactus.

The beauty goes beyond the landscape to the experiences, people and small towns that help bring America to life.  There’s nothing like biking Moab slick rock especially with 70-something and badass mountain biking guide Alan with SolFun. People like Nancy from Cafe 2 in Southwest Harbor, Maine grows her own herbs for her quaint restaurant and makes you feel like family.

Quirky finds like the Play it Forward Piano behind a tourist shop in Joshua Tree, CA and kisses from furbaby Roscoe in Camden, ME create special memories in Small Town, USA.  So as you celebrate your freedom this July 4th, consider a trip to one of our national parks and along the way get a taste of not only the local food but the small town flavor.