Close to home: 51 fresh summer destinations

MGM Grand continues its march from Las Vegas with a $700 million casino resort in the Foxwoods gaming complex. Just-opened MGM Grand at Foxwoods boasts 825 guest rooms and suites, with 300-thread-count sheets. There's a 4,000-seat performance arena, too. Eateries range from upscale Craftsteak to deli-style Junior's. Introductory rates start at just under $300 a night. 866-646-0050; — Kitty Bean Yancey


The over-the-top estate of an eccentric member of the du Pont clan is back on display after a three-year, $39 million face lift. Nemours Mansion & Gardens, constructed in Louis XVI style for Alfred I. du Pont in 1910, boasts a world-class art collection and formal gardens modeled after those at Versailles. It's named for the French city from which the du Ponts emigrated and later made a fortune in chemicals. Alfred was on such uneasy terms with his family that it's said the estate's perimeter walls topped with glass shards were meant to keep them out. 302-651-6912; nemours — Kitty Bean Yancey

District of Columbia

D.C.'s Extra! Extra! special attraction is the $450 million Newseum, reopened after a six-year hiatus in jaw-dropping new digs on Pennsylvania Avenue near the Capitol. This 643,000-square-foot celebration of the First Amendment has a 90-foot atrium and contains more than 6,000 artifacts (from pieces of the Berlin Wall to a TV traffic helicopter) and 130 interactive stations. Visitors play newscaster, watch 3-D films of headline-making events and view historic front pages. 888-639-7386; — Kitty Bean Yancey


Move over, Shamu: Central Florida's newest water attraction is Sea World Orlando's Aquatica, a South Seas-inspired park that lures the bathing-suit crowd with 36 slides, six rivers and lagoons, and 80,000 square feet of sandy beaches. The Dolphin Plunge sends riders down 250 feet of see-through tubes through a lagoon with black-and-white Commerson's dolphins, while surfers in training can paddle through crashing waves and 5-foot swells at Cutback Cove. 888-800-5447; — Laura Bly


Look, up in the sky! Millions of necks have craned heavenward during suburban Atlanta's Stone Mountain Lasershow Spectacular, the most popular attraction at a park named for a granite dome carved with representations of Confederate heroes. In honor of its 25th anniversary — and the park's 50th — the show is revving up its sound system and adding new tunes and pyrotechnics. Traditionalists needn't worry: Such sacred cows as The Devil Went Down to Georgia are still on the lineup. 800-401-2407; — Laura Bly


It has been a rocky ride for the Hawaii Superferry. Since late last summer, the ferry has launched, canceled and relaunched its inter-island passenger and vehicle service in the wake of local protests and high winter seas that earned it the nickname "barf barge." But the 866-seat Alakai recently added a second Honolulu-Maui trip four days a week, and its summer one-way promotional rate of $49 per passenger is competitive with advance-purchase airline fares. 877-443-3779; — Laura Bly


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