50 Places You’ve Gotta Visit Before THEY Die
From ruins to rainforests, baseball stadiums to bookstores
Hot take: We’ve been making bucket lists all wrong.
Why? Too much ego.
It’s always “What places can I see before I die?” When really, we should be worrying about seeing the world’s great natural and historical wonders before they die.
Here to help? Our A-to-Z compendium of 50 places to visit before they go for good.
From ruins to rainforests, baseball stadiums to bookstores, you’ll wanna take these trips sooner than later.
The destination: One-fifth the size of the Lower 48, with a bevy of forests, rivers, peaks and tundra to prove it.
The danger: “Seward’s Icebox” is already warming twice as fast as the rest of the nation, and yet, the powers that be continue to call for oil, gas and mineral enrichment, threatening sites like the Arctic National Refuge.
2. Atlantic City
Atlantic City, New Jersey
The destination: Longtime Jersey Shore playground of Sinatra-frequented casinos, concert halls and roller coasters.
The danger: Hurricane Sandy brought New Jersey and the surrounding area to its knees, ushering in a years-long rebuild. Stronger storms could give the national treasure a knockout blow.
3. The Amazon
The destination: A two-million-square-mile tropical rainforest encompassing much of northern South America considered the most bio-diverse ecosystem in the world.
The danger: The place needs rain — it’s right there in the name. But droughts have grown longer, threatening the trees’ survival, and everything else along with ‘em.
4. The Beach beach
Maya Bay, Thailand
The destination: A once unfettered idyllic strand of sand on Thailand’s Koh Phi Phi island, featured in 2000 Leonardo DiCaprio film The Beach.
The danger: Tourists have streamed in steadily for years and damaged the coral reef, forcing a temporary closure. Put it on the backlog and go visit once the place has had a chance to heal. Just don’t tell anyone!
5. Bear Ears National Monument
Utah, United States
The destination: Protected land surrounding the Bear Ears, a pair of sunset-red buttes in southeastern Utah.
The danger: President Trump’s so-called “public lands rollback” to reduce the size and protection of two dozen national monuments. Bear Ears was cut by 85%.
6. Blockbuster Video
The destination: Blockbuster’s mid-2000s demise is apparently news to Anchorage, which as of April was operating two brick-and-mortar DVD rental outposts. (There are four total in the state.)
The danger: They’re a dying breed … we only know they exist thanks to some deep sleuthing by John Oliver’s research team. His Russell Crowe jockstrap stunt seems to have bought us all some time for a visit.
7. Historic Columbia River Highway
Hood River, Oregon
The destination: America’s first planned scenic roadway, a two-laner that weaves through the Columbia River Gorge, offering pinch-me canyon vistas all the while.
The danger: Waterfall chasers create unbearable congestion on the road, and the Columbia Gorge is in danger of being “loved … to death.”
8. Coney Island
Brooklyn, New York, NY
The destination: Epochal American seaside neighborhood brandishing ferris wheels, boardwalks and a few too many hot dogs.
The danger: See Atlantic City above for local hurricane concerns. Just as important: riding the lovable, rickety Coney Island Cyclone, built in 1927, before it’s replaced by some 500-foot steel drop.
9. The Dead Sea
Israel, Jordan, Palestine
The destination: A 1,412-feet below sea level, hypersaline, highly soothing lake wedged within one of the most high-tension regions of the world.
The danger: Between dam construction, a brutal climate and cosmetic companies pillaging its remedial properties, the Dead Sea might be a graveyard by 2050.
10. The Drive-In Movie Theater
The destination: Self-explanatory, we hope. Take your pick!
The danger: Five states (Alaska, Hawaii, Delaware Louisiana, North Dakota) have shuttered all their drive-ins. Go catch a flick with a side of stars and make sure your state doesn’t follow.
11. Easter Island
The destination: Chilean island in the Southeastern Pacific with platformed rows (ahu) of carved monolithic heads (moai).
The danger: The moai were constructed about 800 years ago and survived everything thrown at them (European colonizers included) before undergoing treatment in the ’90s. So see them in their restored glory now.
The destination: An unrivaled cradle of antiquity: pyramids, nasally challenged sphinxes, lighthouses and more.
The danger: There’s the obvious challenges of structures from the freakin’ Ptolemaic reign sticking around forever, plus the travel advisory to Egypt may not always be so tame.
13. The Everglades
The destination: A dizzyingly diverse tropical wetland in South Florida, home to flamingoes, alligators, manatees and airboat cruises.
The danger: The ecosystem is degrading thanks to a sinister cocktail of invasive species, pollution, governmental oversight and rising sea levels, which admits saltwater into natively freshwater areas.
14. Famous Graffiti
The destination: Illicit murals and scribblings all over the world by brilliant graffiti artists.
The danger: Sometimes beauty and inspiration seems to trump the “vandalism” moniker, and from “Flower Thrower” in Jerusalem to “My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love” in Berlin, all we can do is pay the spots enough visits that a fresh coat of paint never arrives.
15. Fenway Park
The destination: The oldest ballpark in baseball (opened in 1912), home to the Green Monster and Pesky’s Pole.
The danger: Someday a new generation of fans might get sick of those obstructed view seats. It’s not as crazy at it sounds; only six ballparks today were built before 1989.
The destination: Nation comprised of 300 that’s-where-I-want-my-honeymoon islands in the southwestern Pacific.
The danger: Despite barely affecting global carbon emissions (even its resorts are particularly eco-conscious), the islands face an unforgiving climate change cocktail of tropical cyclones, drought and rising sea levels.
17. Florida Keys
Florida, United States
The destination: Big sky, soft-hued beach town at the tip of America’s stray hair.
The danger: Same story as a most coastal cities here, except the reckoning is well on its way. Historic hurricane seasons and encroaching ocean continues to erase a once happy coastline.
18. Glacier National Park
Montana, United States
The destination: Million acres of jagged peaks, Caribbean-blue lakes and ancient glaciers in northern Montana.
The danger: Devastatingly, the park’s glaciers will not last the century, and may be all gone in the next few decades. Go now. Bring your kids and pay your respects.
19. Great Barrier Reef
The destination: The mecca of marine life, a 1,400-mile reef off the north coast of Australia.
The danger: Warmer oceans mixed with pollutants has caused unprecedented coral bleaching (the algae in the corals dies, and it turns skeleton white), and now half of the Great Barrier Reef is gone. Yes, you read that right.
The destination: Largest island in the world, land of ice sheets and prehistoric fjords, Danish side hustle.
The danger: Of all the places on this list, Greenland really is disappearing, in the most literal sense of the word. The higher temps have oddly made it a more desirable destination, but don’t tell that to the polar bears.
21. The Hague
The destination: Capital of South Holland and the Netherlands’ third-largest city, a cobblestoned fairy tale of castles, courts and academia on the west coast.
The danger: 2.5 million people in The Hague and the surrounding area will be affected by rising sea levels, the highest number in Europe.
The destination: Cuba’s preserved, misshapen capital, featuring ‘50s Chevys, street-corner Afro-Cuban rhythms, Fidel murals and the Malecón.
The danger: The world wants in. Luxury resorts are opening, following the coin of American tourists. See it for what it was before Havana’s got a baseball team and Joe & the Juice.
The destination: Fire-breathing, geyser-erupting fifth Nordic nation in the upper Atlantic.
The danger: People used to blink when they heard a friend had visited Iceland. Hyper-cheap flights and Northern Lights-mania are changing the island. Not to mention, those volcanoes are waking up.
24. International House of Pancakes
The destination: You know.
The danger: IHOP is inexplicably changing its name to IHOB. Get there and eat as many pancakes as possible before they become bancakes. No one can vouch for the tastiness of bancakes.
25. Leaning Tower of Pisa
The destination: Freestanding cathedral bell tower just a bit off center in the Tuscan town of Pisa.
The danger: It’s just gotta keel over at some point, right?!
26. Machu Picchu
The destination: Dry-stone Incan citadel built 600 years ago nearly 8,000-feet above sea level in Peru.
The danger: The surrounding area has steadily been built up, as tourists have flocked to the Inca City in recent decades, and deforestation (re: landslides) is already contributing to eroding away the modern wonder of the world. The government is also considering increasingly strict regulations on visitation to limit human impact.
The destination: South Asian nation made up of over a thousand islands, many of them atolls (ring-shaped coral reefs ensconcing lagoons).
The danger: The Maldives are just four feet above sea level. For the idyllic islands to avoid flooding and ocean erosion will take a miracle.
28. Marshall Islands
The destination: Sovereign Pacific island state with a history of American involvement, spread out over islets and coral atolls.
The danger: See Maldives, above. It’s already happening here.
29. The Matterhorn
Switzerland and Italy
The destination: An inimitably picturesque peak Alpine peak straddling the Swiss-Italian border.
The danger: According to Outside, the Matterhorn’s glaciers are “shrinking by 3% annually, and could disappear within four decades.”
30. A New York Irish Pub
New York, New York
The destination: Swift Hibernian Lounge, Ulysses’ and others.
The danger: The familiar corner pub has taken a hit from the microbrew and craft-cocktail movements. Remember to give pubs like the ones listed above their fair shake. They literally never disappoint.
31. New York Public Library
New York, New York
The destination: America’s library; owner of famous wide-set stairs flanked by two lions, situated next to Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan.
The danger: If we’ve learned anything collectively the last couple years, it’s that no institution is completely safe. Pay the NYPL a visit, pay your local library a visit, support them as you can.
32. The Outer Banks
The destination: Two hundred miles of ocean-facing barrier islands along the North Carolina coast, and a frequented beach vacation spot for many on the East Coast.
The danger: Stilted vacation homes and hostels along the sea are at the mercy of a shoreline that has cut 3,000 feet closer into the Outer Banks over the last century and a half. Go and take in the beach’s beauty. Just don’t build a mansion.
The destination: Part of Japan’s second-largest greater city area, alongside Kobe and Kyoto in the Kansai region, Osaka is a yes-that’s-gotta-be-Japan port town with old imperial architecture.
The danger: Yes, same story … but it’s worth repeating: 5.2 million Japanese in Osaka would be displaced by a steady rise in sea level, rendering one heck of a city unrecognizable.
The destination: Network of volcanic ruins preserved from the Mount Vesuvius eruption two millennia ago, first unearthed in the late 18th century.
The danger: There is a pizza parlor inside the Pompeii ruins called “Snack Bar Pizza.” Not only is the quality inconsistent with Neapolitan fare, the parlor’s mere presence is a deeply upsetting reminder of the all-places, all-hours consumption of global capitalism.
35. Portland and Seattle
The destination: Simpatico Pacific Northwestern cities with great food, music and arts scenes, sports teams and outdoor access.
The danger: “The Really Big One,” as prognosticated by the New Yorker in 2015. Basically, seismology suggests that the region is overdue for a massive earthquake that could foment a paranoia-scale tsunami.
36. Puerto Rico
The destination: Mainland America’s Commonwealth cousin to the southeast.
The danger: The current state of Puerto Rico is a national travesty. The death toll is up to 4,600 people, easily making Hurricane Maria the deadliest hurricane to ever strike the island. Help, at the very least, by visiting and spending your money.
37. Roman Forum
The destination: Forum Romanum: the temple and basilica-ringed plaza of ruins in modern-day Rome, and epicenter of social and political activity in the ancient city. (See: History of Oratory, Cicero.)
The danger: Witnessing the might that was Rome, all boiled down to some stray columns and few chipped arches (though, admittedly the Colosseum is a stone’s throw away) is dually humbling and triumphant. It’s looked after, but erosion will take its toll.
38. Route 66
The destination: A quintessential slice of Americana, this winding highway begins in Chicago and terminates at the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles.
The danger: The tryanny of the thruway and no-identity rest stops deemed Route 66 (and other byways like it), “archaic,” “impractical” and “slow.” In reality, there are small businesses and big-time views all along the passage.
39. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Santa Cruz, California
The destination: California’s oldest surviving amusement park, founded in 1907.
The danger: See Coney Island Cyclone.
40. Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica, California
The destination: California amusement park pier, darling of the silver screen and endless tourists.
The danger: This place has already been decimated by sharks in Sharknado, and its real-life concerns — over a 100 years old, situated along a fragile California coastline — aren’t far off.
The destination: Bustling Chinese city with a population over 24 million people and the world’s biggest container port.
The danger: Rising sea levels could displace an unfathomable 17.5 million people and alter the city forever.
42. The Snows of Kilimanjaro
The destination: Perhaps the archetypical snow-capped mountain, as memorialized in a brilliant short story Ernest Hemingway wrote for Esquire in 1936.
The danger: Pretty simple: they’re melting. The ice sheet “shrank by a whopping 85%” between 1912 and 2007, according to Business Insider.
43. Solomon Islands
The destination: Sovereign country spread across hundreds of islands in the South Pacific.
The danger: Entire islands are now submerged with water, a cruel twist of fate for a people that has always been in relative harmony with their environs.
The destination: Mythic ring of standing stones constructed close to 5,000 years ago in southern England.
The danger: Annual partying over the summer solstice opens up the stones for climbing and heavy drinking … which just clearly isn’t a good idea.
45. Taj Mahal
Uttar Pradesh, India
The destination: A 240-foot marble mausoleum in India that welcomes eight million visitors each year.
The danger: Bureuacratic incompetence, steady decay, rampant pollution … India’s magnificent monument to opulence deserves better treatment, but it’s unlikely it will receive it.
Northern Territory, Australia
The destination: Sacred russet sandstone monolith in Australia’s Northern Territory.
The danger: Don’t climb on the rock!
The destination: City in northeastern Italy made up of 118 different islands, may or may not have patented the word “charm.”
The danger: Of all mankind’s this-will-probably-flood designs, this one is the height of brashness.
48. World of Birds Park
Cape Town, South Africa
The destination: Africa’s largest bird park.
The danger: Financial crisis by way of the avian influenza disease … which wiped out more than 500 birds.
49. Wrigley Field
The destination: Storied American baseball park with those ivy-adorned outfield walls built in 1914, now reprieved of a 108-year-old curse thanks to a World Series victory in 2016.
The danger: See Fenway Park.
50. Your Favorite Bookstore
The destination: Anywhere you buy books that requires you to leave the house.
The danger: It’s not just the You’ve Got Mail corner gem shops struggling anymore; even Barnes & Noble can’t keep up with the soul-sucking efforts of you-know-who. Help ’em out!
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