Burning Man; Aug. 26-Sept. 2, 2013; 415-863-5263
7. Soul food
It's difficult to pin down the most American of foods. Almost every candidate has roots in other countries, but, of course, that's what makes them American.
Soul food makes the top of the list because it's delicious, unapologetically artery-clogging and it brings us face to face with our turbulent past.
African-American slaves on Southern plantations were often given scraps and leftovers to eat, and had to make do with whatever vegetables they could grow nearby and with little care, as so much time was spent working. From these restrictions arose some of the finest recipes in American cuisine.
There are thousands of spectacular soul food restaurants -- many of the best are in the South -- but Sylvia's in New York is maybe the most well known.
Sylvia's, 328 Lenox Ave., New York; 212-996-0660
8. Juke joints
While we're in the region, one of America's great art forms, Blues music, grew up in the juke joints of the South. Jukes arose after emancipation, taking the form of shacks and private houses where African-Americans gathered to listen to and play music, gamble and dance.
A few classic juke joints still remain, some along Highway 61, aka the Blues Highway, which stretches from New Orleans to the town of Wyoming, Minnesota, an American experience in and of itself. Po' Monkey's, opened in 1963 outside Merigold, Miss., is considered one of the last remaining original jukes. It's only open Thursdays, and it's not easy to get to, but the music and crowd make it worth the trip.
Po' Monkey's; Po Monkey Road, Merigold, Miss.; 662-843-2712
9. Outdoor Christmas light displays
Sure, other countries have Christmas lights (or fairy lights, in the UK), but no one else takes it quite as seriously as Americans.
The lighting of the approximately 80-foot tall Norwood spruce at Rockefeller Center in New York is practically a national event. But the greatest displays of holiday spirit can be seen in more rural areas. Take Magical Night of Lights in Lake Lanier, Ga., which consists of seven miles and millions of lights, or the six-mile long Oglebay Winter Festival of Lights in Wheeling, W. Va.
Magical Night of Lights, 7000 Lanier Islands Parkway, Buford, Ga.; 770-945-8787
Winter Festival of Lights, 465 Lodge Dr., Wheeling, W. Va.; Nov. 8, 2013-Jan. 5, 2014; Sunday through Thursday until 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m.; 800-624-6988
Americans know how to make praising Jesus memorable. Just look at Gospel music and tent revivals.
In modern times you needn't look much further than Gospel brunches (wash away your sins from the night before with spiritual songs and mimosas) and megachurches.
Those giant boxes of worship are where thousands of Christians gather not simply to pray and praise, but in many cases to eat, shop and work out.
The United States has more than 1,300 of them, and more than 50 draw a weekly attendance between 10,000 and 45,000.
The mega-ist of American megachurches is Lakewood Church in Houston, led by senior pastor Joel Osteen. Every week his message is broadcast to 7 million viewers in more than 100 countries.
Lakewood Church; 3700 Southwest Freeway, Houston; 713-635-4151