PEOPLE’s 100 Reasons to Love America in 2024

PEOPLE’S annual 100 Reasons to Love America franchise celebrates the best of what to do, see and celebrate this summer. Topping the 2024 list is the legendary actor-director Kevin Costner, whose ambitious Western epic Horizon: An American Saga premieres later this month, with a second installment coming in August.

As for the other 99 reasons: an exciting mix of natural wonders, intriguing people and other things that make this country great. Keep scrolling for some highlights.

Kevin Costner’s Incredible Ride

Kevin Costner photographed at home in Carpinteria, CA on April 10, 2024.

Eric Ray Davidson


Kevin Costner is busy. Very busy. For one, he’s got back-to-back movies opening this summer—two ambitious installments of his Western epic Horizon: An American Saga, for which he’s cowriter, director and star. A whirlwind promotional tour has taken him from Las Vegas to Cannes, where he was moved nearly to tears in May by the film-festival crowd’s 10-minute standing ovation. The 69-year-old Oscar-winning director and star of classics like The Untouchables, Dances With Wolves and Field of Dreams fronted $38 million of his own money and mortgaged property to help fund the passion project, but he’s undaunted. As he finally brings to the screen an idea he’s kicked around for more than 30 years, Costner is excited to be all in on something he deeply believes in, come what may. “I’ve had an incredibly unusual, and for the most part beautiful, life,” he says, considering his seven decades with gratitude.

For more on the Hollywood icon’s truly remarkable journey, check out this week’s issue of PEOPLE.

The Caitlin Clark Experience

Caitlin Clark of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever.

Jeff Dean/Getty


The 22-year-old juggernaut is shattering records, snagging endorsements and reinvigorating interest in the WNBA. Her impact on the league, by the numbers:

1.32 million – average WNBA per-game television viewership, nearly triple last season’s average

$50 million – amount the WNBA has dedicated to a charter-flight program over the next two seasons, an effort, in part, to protect star players like Clark from crowds while traveling

3.09 million – peak number of viewers who watched the 2024 WNBA draft, four times more than the previous year’s

$28 million – value of Clark’s eight-year deal with Nike, the most lucrative ever for a WNBA player

756% – increase in sales for the WNBA’s online merchandise store

156% – increase in average WNBA attendance from last season

20,000 – seats in T-Mobile Arena, where the Las Vegas Aces announced they’d move their July 2 game against Clark’s Indiana Fever to accommodate 8,000 more spectators

400,000 – fans who attended a WNBA game in May, the largest attendance in 26 yearS

America the Beautiful

Taughannock Falls State Park in Ithaca, N.Y.

Getty


From sea to shining sea, natural wonders abound. Add these five breathtaking destinations to your travel bucket list.

New York State Parks and Historic Sites
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of its parks and sites system — which encompasses more than 360,000 acres of beaches, campgrounds, forest trails and more (pictured: Taughannock Falls in the Finger Lakes) — the Empire State announced an app-based challenge. Families complete tasks, from taking a selfie with a park ranger to picking up litter, to win prizes.

San Diego County’s Bioluminescent Water
Tiny organisms cause evening waves to glow an electric blue. Check out Torrey Pines and Carlsbad beaches now through early fall.

Nebraska Sandhills
Designated as a National Natural Landmark 40 years ago, the wind-sculpted dunes and long grass create a sprawling landscape you have to see to believe.

The Baltimore Blueway
A network of water trails and public access points on the Maryland waterfront allows kayakers and paddleboarders a gorgeous way to experience the city.

Idaho’s Craters of the Moon
Also celebrating its centennial, this national monument and preserve features out-of-this-world lava terrain dotted with cinder cones and sagebrush.

Paralympian Oksana Masters Goes for the Gold Again

Team USA Paracycling athlete Oksana Masters.

Mike Coppola/Getty


A 17-time Paralympic medalist, Masters, 35, has starred at both the summer and winter Games, as a rower, cyclist, skier and biathlete. In Paris she’s looking to earn
more hardware on her bike. “Cycling is a way of life there,” she says. “To be able to do my sport in a city that understands cycling is going to be extra special.”

Read more about Masters, a former PEOPLE Women Changing the World honoree, here.

A New Wiener — Er, Winner — Will be Crowned at Nathan’s

16-time Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Champion Joey Chestnut.

Bobby Bank/WireImage


In a shocking twist, competitive eater Joey Chestnut was disqualified from the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest because of a sponsorship conflict. The absence of Chestnut, who won the competition 16 of the past 17 years, guarantees a new iron-stomached champ on July 4.

The Return of Panda Diplomacy

Two giant pandas from Chongqing, China.

Costfoto/NurPhoto/Shutterstock 


Giant pandas will soon return to zoos in Washington, D.C., and San Diego, on loan from China as “envoys of friendship.” Officials expect the furry diplomats before year’s end.

Cher and Mary J. Blige Make the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Mary J. Blige and Cher.

Kristina Bumphrey/Shutterstock; Kevin Winter/Getty


Staying true to its efforts to recognize the “ever-evolving amalgam of sounds that impacts culture and moves generations,” the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame extended invitations to nine-time Grammy winner Mary J. Blige, 53, and Cher, 77 — the only artist to have a No. 1 song in each of the past seven decades. The “Believe” singer, who previously felt snubbed by the Hall, confirmed she would attend, but added: “I’m gonna have some words to say. I’m gonna accept it in my Cher [way].”

The World Dog Surfing Championships

Rippin’ Rosie the surfing dog.

Daniel Knighton/Getty


Hang ten with man’s best friend at the World Dog Surfing Championships at Linda Mar Beach in Pacifica, Calif., on Aug. 3. In addition to wave riding, there’s a Frisbee-catching competition, a costume contest and a pet adoption event. Last year’s winners, judged on style and length of ride, included a pit bull named Faith and a Frenchie named Cherie.

Good Buzz: Sabrina Carpenter Scores the Song of the Summer

Sabrina Carpenter in the music video for her hit “Espresso”.

Sabrina Carpenter/Youtube


It was over before it started: The 25-year-old Carpenter released the flirty pop ear worm “Espresso” in April, locking up bop-of-the-season honors. Is it that sweet? We guess so.

The Batanga is the Cocktail of the Summer

a refreshing Batanga.

Getty


Refreshing and unfussy, with only three ingredients, this twist on a classic Cuba libre cocktail is a warm-weather winner. To make it, squeeze the juice of half a lime into a highball glass with ice. Add 2 oz. of blanco tequila, and top with Coca-Cola.

Optional: Rub the rim of the glass with lime and coat with salt!

Thanks to Beyoncé, Country Has Never Been Cooler

Beyonce.

BLAIR CALDWELL


Call it the cowboy-ification of pop music: These days there’s something for everyone in the genre once known for its dusty traditionalism and down-home appeal. Last year’s fastest-growing streaming genre, country continues to find converts everywhere, thanks in part to dynamic  artists putting a thoroughly modern spin on things.

Cowboy Carter, Queen Bey’s eighth studio album — which topped the Billboard country albums chart, a first for a Black woman — paid homage to icons such as Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson, while showcasing new talent like Tiera Kennedy and Brittney Spencer.

And the genre is attracting even more diverse talent, like The War & Treaty. Husband-and-wife team Tanya and Michael Trotter Jr. scored a 2024 ACM Duo of the Year nomination and two Grammy noms, including Best New Artist. “Everyone needs to show up and do their part,” Michael told PEOPLE in May, referencing the need for inclusion in country music. “That’s why we’re here.”

Shaboozey, the 29-year-old genre-bender guested on Beyoncé’s album, then took his own hip-hop-infused single “A Bar Song (Tipsy)” to the top of the country songs chart. “I learned a lot about work ethic from her,” he told PEOPLE.

Glen Powell is Blowing Up

John Russo/Contour by Getty I


The piercing eyes, the chiseled jawline, the megawatt smile. Yes, Glen Powell, 35, looks like he was built in a factory that mints models. But the actor is more than a handsome face. He poured on the charm in last year’s rom-com Anyone but You, proving he had no problem getting silly . . . or naked. This season he affirms his leading-man status in two high-profile projects: the sexy comedic thriller Hit Man (streaming now) and the popcorn extravaganza Twisters. Says Powell: “I couldn’t be more proud.”

Flavor Flav Fights the Good Fight

Flavor Flav at the 2024 Vanity Fair Oscar Party.

Lionel Hahn/Getty


Whether he’s buying every item on the Red Lobster menu in an effort to save the seafood chain from bankruptcy, revealing his Taylor Swift super-fandom or pledging financial support for the U.S. women’s water polo team, the 65-year-old rapper goes all out to support his causes. “I just wanted to help out,” Flav told PEOPLE of becoming the Olympic squad’s unlikely hype man. “To help give women that chance they’re looking for.”

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