USA BUCKET LIST | World Travelers reveal the 50 best places to visit in America
The USA is made up of a plethora of beautiful destinations for travelers to explore. You could spend a lifetime in America and only discover the surface of this vast and diverse country. From incredible natural wonders, exotic wilderness areas, historical landmarks, and captivating cities to open roads, foodie hubs, and inviting holiday spots, there’s an abundance of places to travel. The difficult part? Picking the best vacation spots in America is nearly an impossible task. So I got a little help from a handful of my fellow travel bloggers and influencers to compile this list of the best places to visit in the United States of America. Continue reading for a list of must-see cities, national parks, attractions and road trips to add to your USA bucket list.
Tourism in America has grown rapidly since the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, attracting millions of domestic and international visitors each year. It is a region that many people dream of visiting, at least once in their lifetime.
You want to hear some numbers? According to the most recent report, the U.S. travel and tourism is a $1.3 trillion industry, contributing significantly to the country’s GDP, with over 77 million people visiting yearly.
I heard that one of the reasons Americans do not travel internationally as much compared to their counterparts in other countries is because there is just so much on offer, to see and do in their own country. I mean, the country does traverse thousands of miles and have you noticed how different it can be from one region to the next. From the urban jungles to the wealth of cultural activities and nearly 420 national park sites that span across 84 million acres in each state.
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ULTIMATE USA TRAVEL BUCKET LIST: The Best Places to Visit in the United States
Thinking about travelling to the USA but haven’t decided where to go yet? There’s a WHOLE lot of inspiration for you ⇓
Let’s take a trip across the country finding the best places to visit in the United States of America. No matter the season (summer, fall, winter, or spring) we’ve got you covered.
Ready? Let’s go
>> Vacation Spots in the USA
1 | NEW YORK CITY, NY
There’s an energy to NYC that no other place in the world can compete with
The Big Apple is one of the best tourist destinations worldwide attracting millions of visitors each year. From towering skyscrapers and world-class museums to iconic landmarks and trendy neighborhoods, the city delights at almost every turn. As America’s best urban-travel destination and a world leader in art, food, theater, and fashion, New York is one of the cities people across the world most want to visit and that every traveler should have on their American travel bucket list.
Why is NYC one of the best cities to visit in the US?
Well for one, there’s an energy to the city that no other place in the world can compete with. The city that never sleeps is a hub of activity and one of the most vibrant places across the globe. New York City is also one of the best-branded cities in the world, with more than a handful of globally recognized icons. As one of the main centers of US culture, it is well represented in movies, music, books, games, and so much more.
Often referred to as the World’s Greatest City, New York has all the elements of every other great city, and then some.
You need at least five days to see, do and experience all that NYC has to offer, although there are strategies to make the best of limited time in the city. Whether on a quick trip or a longer stay, narrowing down what to see, where to go, and popular food to try is the toughest part – the options are endless.
Here are a couple of attractions and things to do in New York City to get you started:
- Times Square
- The Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island
- Central Park
- Empire State Building
- Brooklyn Bridge
- Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Guggenheim
- Grand Central Station
- Madison square garden
- The High Line
- Top of the Rock Observation Deck
- Broadway and the Theater District
You cannot visit the city without sampling some (or all) of the food associated with NYC. The list includes New York-style cheesecake, pizza, New York-style bagel, Manhattan clam chowder, New York-style pastrami, and pretzels to name a few.
The best time to visit New York City is from April to early November, with September being a local favorite and avoiding July and August. You know what they say: If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere so make that trip to NYC happen for an unforgettable travel experience.
Contributed by 👋 of A Rai of Light
2 | THE GRAND CANYON, ARIZONA
An iconic landmark and one of the seven natural wonders of the world, it is world renowned for its magnificence, views, and visually powerful backdrops
Undeniably, an iconic landmark and one of the world’s premier natural attractions, the Grand Canyon is one of the best places to visit in the United States.
What is the Grand Canyon National Park famous for?
Considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world, it is widely known for its vast natural magnificence, boundless views, towering cliffs, and visually powerful backdrops.
The Grand Canyon has been carved by the Colorado River over millions of years to form an immense steep-sided gorge that spans an impressive 277 miles (446 kilometres) in length, over ten miles (16 km) wide and over 6000 feet (1800 m) deep. Humans have inhabited this region for nearly 12,000 years.
Located in north-western Arizona, the Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most visited sites in America, enticing over 5 million visitors each year. One of the best things to do is to view the Canyon from its north and south rims. Other worthwhile activities include a hike into the Inner Canyon, an aerial tour, or a boat ride along the river.
Don’t miss these local favorites: Mather Point, Bright Angel Trail, Desert View Watch tower, and Hermit Road.
The best time to plan a trip to the Grand Canyon is during the spring or fall months when temperatures are pleasant and crowds are limited. The peak season during summer comes with loads of tourists. It is possible to get a good feel of the Grand Canyon in one day. However, 3-4 days will allow sufficient time to explore the beauty and vastness of this region.
For a first-time visitor, my recommendation is to choose the South Rim that is open year-round. Not only will you be awarded with beautiful views, but there is also an abundance of visitor services, amenities and activities.
Declared a U.S. National Park in 1919, the iconic Grand Canyon is a world-famous natural wonder that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime, making this a must for every USA bucket list.
3 | CHICAGO, ILLINOIS
The city of blues and jazz, rich in history, art and culture is everyone’s favorite Midwestern cultural hub and well worth a visit
Chicago, located in the Midwest on the shores of Lake Michigan in Illinois, is one of the best cities in the USA to explore for any resident or first time visitor to the country. This bustling urban hub, among the largest cities in the country, is famed for its iconic skyline, striking architecture, grand museums, and rich history. The city is also well known for its diverse cultural experiences, jazz music, Chicago-style deep dish pizza, hot dogs, and a whole lot of crazy-loyal sport fans.
Chicago is said to be one of the most beautiful cities in the U.S. Due to its location alongside Lake Michigan, you will find vistas of the some of the bluest water you will ever see, alongside the entirely man-made 28 mile (45 km) lakefront shoreline comprising 24 beaches.
Why visit Chicago and what is there to do?
There is just so much to see and do in the city of blues and jazz, no matter your travel-style. Top sights in Chicago include Millennium Park, Cloud Gate, Willis Tower, Navy Pier, and the Art Institute.
You can’t leave the city without a walk down the Magnificent Mile, exploring Theater District, and an architecture cruise along the river to see the 37 movable bridges that add to the uniqueness of the city.
The skyline is punctuated by skyscrapers that include the iconic 1,451-ft. Willis Tower, John Hancock Center, and the neo-Gothic Tribune Tower. For the best views and to get a real good feel for this urban center, head to 360 Chicago Observation deck, the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier, and Skydeck at Willis Tower.
Rich in art and culture, Chicago is also renowned for its museums. The most famous of these is the Art Institute with its collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works. Other museums worth visiting include the Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, and the Shedd Aquarium.
All of this exploring is bound to leave you feeling famished. The good thing is that in addition to the deep-dish pizza, the hot dogs and Italian beef sandwich are world renowned. Those with a sweet-tooth will feel right at home in this city that is the birthplace of plenty of classic creations that include brownies, twinkies, lemonheads, and cracker jacks.
The best times to visit are April – May and September – October when the weather is pleasant, tourist numbers are reasonable, and festivals are ongoing. I would recommend spending three days in Chicago for first-time visitors.
Iconic architecture, good cuisine, world-class museums, and cultural experiences make Chicago bucket list worthy and I would recommend the city as a destination for anyone wanting to visit the U.S.
4 | YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, WY
Widely held as the first national park in the world, this is a not-to-be missed geological wonderland destination in the United States
Yellowstone, the first National Park established in 1872, is a not-to-be missed geological wonderland destination in the United States.
The park is massive, spanning almost 3,500 square miles primarily in the Northwestern corner of Wyoming, which provides plenty of space for the endless array of wildlife, like grizzly bears, wolves, elk, and bison, to roam about freely.
What is so special about Yellowstone National Park?
While Yellowstone’s ample wildlife, in addition to its mountains, canyons, and subalpine forests, is nothing short of gorgeous, what truly differentiates this park is its location over the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest super-volcano on the continent of North America, creating a stunning amount of geothermal features around the park.
In fact, over half of the world’s geysers are located here! If you want to see one of these in action, head to the world-famous Old Faithful Geyser. While this geyser is not the world’s biggest (Steamboat Geyser, which currently holds the title, is located in the park as well!), it is unique in that park rangers can predict when it will next erupt (ergo its name), which it does some twenty times per day. Per the time tables published daily by rangers, visitors can stake out a spot on a boardwalk to watch Old Faithful spew boiling water 100 feet in the air. The Grand Prismatic Spring is another jaw-dropping geothermal wonder, a hot spring featuring unbelievably vibrant colors of deep blue, yellow, orange, and green, thanks to the thermophile bacteria that call the spring home.
The park also boasts a plethora of outdoor activities — over a thousand miles of hiking paths, 2,000 campsites, and year-round lodging. If you want to catch a glimpse of where the buffalo truly roam amidst mind-blowing geological gems, Yellowstone should be at the top of your bucketlist, whether in the United States or beyond.
Contributed By Jessica of Uprooted Traveler
5 | THE BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY
Known as America’s Favorite Scenic Drive
One of the best road trips in the US, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a scenic drive that runs from Virginia to North Carolina. Beautiful scenery, incredible hiking trails, and picturesque overlooks are just some of the reasons to add this drive to your road trip bucket list.
Established in 1936, this National Parkway, that is also America’s longest linear park, is 469 miles (755 kms) long, linking Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Shenandoah National Park. Roanoke, VA, Asheville and Boone, NC are the largest cities along the way with entrances and exits available at intersections with all major highways.
The best spots along the Parkway that are worth the drive include the Natural Bridge, Linville Falls, Blue Ridge Music Center, and Mount Mitchell. Other places to explore the park are the Moses Cone Memorial Park, Mabry Mill, Chimney Rock State Park and Linn Cove Viaduct.
The road is open year-round, but sections may close for maintenance and extreme weather. The best time to drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway is from mid-May to mid-September. There is no fee to travel the Blue Ridge Parkway, only a charge for camping. And no, driving is in no way scary.
How long does it take to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway?
The maximum speed on the Blue Ridge Parkway 45 mph. It would take around 12 hours of driving with no stops, traffic, or road delays. I would recommend taking two full days to relax, take your time, and enjoy the experience.
This all-American road in the United States, known as USA’s favorite scenic drive and noted for its beauty is a must have experience at least once in your life 🙂
6 | GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK, WY
One of the most scenic national parks in the world famous for spectacular mountain scenery and a rich array of wildlife
This American national park located just south of Yellowstone and north of the town of Jackson in northwestern Wyoming encompasses over 310,000 acres of beautiful wilderness. Well worth the visit, Grand Teton is renowned for its spectacular mountain scenery with the park’s iconic feature being the 40-mile-long rugged Teton Range surrounded by alpine lakes, meadows, and lush valley floors.
Grand Teton National Park also supports a rich array of wildlife that live beneath the peaks of the Teton Range. Look out for bison, moose, bears, pronghorn, elk, and others found in each of the four major terrains in the park: forest, alpine, wetlands, and sagebrush flats.
The Teton mountains, the youngest range in the Rocky Mountains, rises almost 7,000 feet above the valley floor. The highest peak is Grand Teton at 13,770 feet above sea level, with many other peaks in this range over 12,000 feet in height. These mountains continue to grow and very little erosion has taken place, forming a magnificent landscape.
What is there to do in Grand Teton National park?
The 42-mile scenic drive loop through the park gives visitors good views of the Tetons and the opportunity to spot the abundant wildlife in the surrounding wilderness. Other worthwhile activities and attractions include Jenny Lake trail, Jackson Lake, Moose Wilson Road. For the best views and photography spots head to Snake River overlook, Schwabacher Landing, Mormon Row, Oxbow Bend or Cascade Canyon.
The best time to visit Grand Teton National Park is from mid-May to September. During this time all the park activities, hiking trails, and visitor centers are accessible. It is possible to drive through and experience the park in one day. For hiking and other activities, add another day or more. Established in 1929, Grand Teton National Park is one of the most scenic national parks, bucket list worthy, and should not be missed in the United States.
7 | SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA
Widely known as America’s Finest City
California’s second largest city and the United States’ eighth largest, San Diego is located along the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, just north of the international US-Mexico border.
Reasons to visit San Diego
Often referred to as “America’s Finest City,” San Diego is most well known for its amazing all-year round climate, miles of beautiful white sand beaches, world-famous zoo, cool surf spots, and illustrious beach towns.
As one of the best places to travel in the United States, San Diego hosts a plethora of attractions, things to do and interesting places worth exploring for visitors of all ages. There is so much to see and do that I would recommend spending a minimum of three days in the city and surrounding area.
Top sights include Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo, and the USS Midway Museum. Don’t miss the historic Gaslamp Quarter, Old Town State Historic Park, Point Loma, and La Jolla Cove.
Nature lovers will find a haven at Torrey Ines State natural reserve. Other must do activities include hiking to catch the view from Razor Point trail and kayaking into a cave. Over 70 miles of beaches line San Diego’s coastline, with some of the best being Mission Beach, La Jolla Shores, and Coronado.
Noted for its unique nightlife and entertainment, San Diego is said to be the 10th most fun city in the USA. If that’s not all, the city also has a substantial Hispanic heritage and some of the best Mexican food north of the border.
The rich city of San Diego is a great city to visit and a compulsory addition to every USA travel bucket list. The best times to visit are March to May and September to November.
8 | JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK, CA
A wonderland of unusual landscapes in southern California, famous for its distinct trees
This ethereal area in Southern California where the Mojave and Lower Colorado deserts meet is one of the best American National Parks to visit.
Why is Joshua Tree National Park a must visit attraction in the US?
Characterized by rugged rock formations, fan palm oases, and stark desert topography, Joshua Tree National Park is a wonderland of unusual landscapes. Located about 40 miles northeast of Palm Springs, it makes for an exciting day trip, but if you really want to do the park and yourself justice, plan to spend two or three days in this vast protected area.
Joshua Tree NP is famous for its distinct twisted, bristled Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia). The park is named after these unusually-shaped trees that are native to the Mojave Desert. The tree was named by Mormon settlers who crossed this desert in the mid-19th century as the tree’s unique shape reminded them of a Biblical story.
As one of the best exotic places to visit in the USA, it was declared a national monument in 1936 and received official status as a national park in 1994. Even though the park is vast, it is easy to navigate and see the majority of the popular sites and hikes in one day. It is recommended to start at the west entrance and drive south.
Rock climbing is one of the best things to do and a popular activity here. Other noteworthy activities include hiking among giant boulders on Arch Rock Trail and exploring Indian Cove Nature Trail. Don’t miss seeing Cholla Cactus Garden, Skull Rock, Hidden Valley, and sunset at Keys View. You might even catch a glimpse of the fabled mountain lion that have long been a part of the natural landscape of this region.
Joshua Tree is also renowned for its dark night skies and is as a popular location for astronomy, stargazing, and night photography.
Although the park is open year-round, the best time to visit Joshua Tree National Park is during the spring and fall when temperates are the most comfortable. Whether you plan an all-day hike, a night camping out under the stars, or an experience in the desert, Joshua tree is a definite bucket list travel destination in the USA.
9 | HAVASUPAI FALLS, AZ
A soothing and sacred space that is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places in the United States
Why is Havasupai Falls a bucket list travel experience?
Brilliant blue-green waterfalls pouring from bright red rock. A deep canyon lit up in an array of reds, purples, pinks, and browns. A soothing and sacred space. The area known as Havasupai Falls is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places in the United States.
It’s located in Havasu Canyon in northwestern Arizona on the Havasupai Native American tribal lands, not far from the Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Canyon, and Grand Falls (also known as Chocolate Falls). It’s not easy to get to — there are no roads leading here, so visiting requires a challenging multi-day hike. Also, visitors must secure a reservation to travel on these sacred lands, and it’s very competitive to get one. Don’t let that deter you, though, as it’s well worth the work.
The hike is steep as you go down into the canyon but once you hit the riverbed at the bottom, it’s mostly level for the remainder of the hike. The canyon is beautifully lit up in color with the shifting sun, and you’ll want to go early before it heats up.
You’ll start to see small turquoise waterfalls and then you know you’re close. You pass through the Supai Village, where the Native Americans live. When you’re ready, go down the last stretch and when you hear the sounds of running water, look to your right to see the most incredibly majestic and stunning waterfall you may ever see.
If you continue walking a short distance, you’ll find another one equally beautiful called Moody Falls. There is a campground all around this area so you can continue to enjoy the waterfalls and swim in the refreshingly-cool water in this peaceful haven.
Contributed by Sam of My Flying Leap
10 | OAHU, HAWAII
The most visited Hawaiian island is a melting pot of ethnicities, natural beauty, art, cuisine, and culture
While the US is filled with beautiful places that a first time visitor should experience, a definite bucket list travel destination is Oahu island. This home to the capital city of Hawaii is popular for its urban Honolulu setting with world-famous Waikiki Beach and the historic and memorable Pearl Harbor. The third largest and the most visited island of the Hawaiian chain, Oahu is a melting pot of ethnicities, natural beauty, art, cuisine, and culture.
What should you not miss on Oahu?
A one day road trip around the island of Oahu is a must and those that take the time and effort to rent a car (or the money to hire a tour), might just discover that Oahu’s most amazing treasures lie beyond the city.
Head east on HI-72 from Honolulu toward the windward coast to discover beaches that rival the most beautiful in the world. Hanauma Bay greets you with its crescent shaped bay filled with a coral reef that offers the best snorkeling early in the morning before the crowds. Just north is the powerful Halona Blowhole with its picturesque cove on Eternity Beach below. Kailua and Lanikai Beaches are the best places on the island to see the sunrise, and their crystal clear water and white sand beaches are perfect for snorkeling, swimming and beach strolls. If you keep driving along your circle island tour on HI-83, you will arrive at the green and lush Kualoa Ranch with its gorgeous valley and movie scene locations for Jurassic Park, Kong Skull Island, and many other feature films.
Upon reaching the North Shore, you will want to stop at one of the legendary shrimp trucks for lunch, Waimea Bay to watch the locals jump into the ocean from the rocks, and Shark’s Cove and Three Tables for aquarium like snorkeling. Hale’iwa will draw you in with its laid back surfer vibe and tasty shave ice. Waimea Valley offers a beautiful botanical garden with a paved easy walk to a waterfall for swimming. As the sun drops low in the sky, you can choose between watching the sun go down at Sunset Beach or heading back via HI-99 to stop at the Dole Plantation for a pineapple dole whip before closing. You may want to schedule this tour toward the beginning of your stay on this gorgeous tropical island so that you have time to return to your favorite spots because there sure to be many!
Contributed by Sierra of Free to Travel Mama
11 | CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK, OR
Crater Lake is ranked as one of the most beautiful lakes in the US
Found in the Cascade Mountains of southern Oregon in Klamath County, Crater Lake National park is famous for its lake formed from a collapsed volcano. With its deep, rich blue color and water clarity, surrounded by cliffs and an island in the middle, it is a sight to behold.
Crater lake formed over 7,000 years ago when the 12,000-foot Mount Mazama volcano erupted and collapsed, forming a caldera. This volcanic basin eventually filled with water, forming a lake with a depth of 1,949 feet (594 m) making it the deepest lake in the United States.
Having no sediment or mineral deposits allowing sunlight to penetrate deep into the water, it also holds the accolade as one of the clearest lakes in the world and record depths of over 140 feet have been witnessed. As inviting as this sounds, do note that the water is usually desperately cold with the surface temperature ranging between 50°F (10°C) and 60°F (16°C), but swimming is allowed at the end of Cleetwood Cove Trail for the brave.
Have I said you enough to add this natural landscape to your travel bucket list? If that’s not enough to convince you, Crater Lake is also known for having some of the cleanest air in North America, providing breath-taking views of the surrounding mountains and a great option for taking a hike or spending time in nature.
Why visit Crater Lake National Park?
The park has over 100 miles of trails, providing an abundance of hiking opportunities. The hike up Garfield Peak is my favorite. Other options include Discovery Point Trail, Pinnacles Valley, and the Sun Notch Trail. This region is home to plenty of wildlife so keep an eye out for this.
Don’t miss: Rim Drive. A 33-mile (53 km) drive around the lake that follows the caldera rim, offering beautiful views of the surroundings and is one of the best things to do in Crater Lake National Park. Allow at least half a day for this drive with stops and quick hikes or 2 hours for just the drive and no stops. Other activities to consider should you have the time are a boat ride to Wizard Island, camping at Mazama campground, and seeing Plaikni Falls.
The best time to visit Crater Lake is during the summer months of July and August. I would recommend spending 2 days here to fully appreciate Oregon’s only full-service national park and all that this natural beauty has to offer.
12 | NIAGARA FALLS, NY
As one of the most famous waterfalls in the world, this geological wonder has been a popular tourist attraction for over two centuries.
First-time visitors to the United States should include a stop at Niagara Falls. A quintessential travel destination for Americans and tourists alike, the majestic Niagara Falls sit on the border between Canada and the United States.
What makes the Niagara Falls such a popular natural attraction?
This geological wonder, famed for both its natural beauty and as a major source of hydroelectric power, has been a popular tourist attraction for over two centuries. It started forming over 12, 000 years ago from glacier activity and is now one of the most famous waterfalls in the world, said to be the fastest moving waterfall.
Niagara Falls is really three waterfalls: Horseshoe, Bridal Veil, and American Falls. With the waterfalls located on the United States side, visitors enjoy an up-close and personal experience with these majestic waterfalls when visiting from the US side. The Niagara Falls State Park, the area surrounding the falls, is open year-round. Some of the attractions are only open seasonally depending on ice conditions.
Visitors to Niagara Falls should enjoy the Cave of the Winds where they’ll walk right next to one of the waterfalls. At Terrapin Point, they can observe the Horseshoe Falls from the top. Daredevils can step out onto the platform from the Prospect Point Observation Tower for a unique view. The highlight of the trip will be a tour on the Maid of the Mist boats, where you can’t escape being soaked!
Travelers arrive either by flying into nearby Buffalo, New York, or drive from New York City or Philadelphia (rather long drives!). With several attractions in the area, visitors should consider purchasing the Niagara Falls USA Discovery Pass to save themselves some money.
Niagara Falls is the ultimate bucket list travel destination in the United States, though it is best avoided in the crowded summer, making a spring or fall getaway amazing.
Contributed by Annick from The Common Traveler
13 | MIAMI, FLORIDA
An iconic tourist destinations that is a unique blend of colorful cultures and vibrant corners
The beautiful sunny city of Miami is definitely a destination that all visitors should add to their bucket list US cities to visit.
Located in the southern tip of Florida, its climate, culture and atmosphere is simply so different to the rest of the USA. Heavily influenced by the Latin American and Caribbean migrant communities who have moved to Miami over time, the city is a unique blend of colorful cultures and vibrant corners.
Why is Miami one of the best cities to visit in USA?
This iconic tourist destinations with its beautiful beaches, sub tropical climate, relaxed vibe, and a whole lot of fun lives up to the city’s nickname as The Magic City.
Although many peoples’ perceptions of Miami are of bronzed men flexing their muscles on South Beach, or the infamous party strip that backs the beach, there is simply so much more to offer. In one day, you could be listening to live street music in the eclectic Little Havana neighborhood, sampling Caribbean treats in Little Haiti, strolling among the world’s coolest outdoor street art gallery in Wynwood Arts District, and enjoying excellent tapas and flamenco dancing in the street under the twinkling lights of Espanola Way.
Miami also has an abundance of outdoor activities too, including one of only two Everglades systems in the world, plus the only place anywhere where you can see alligators and crocodiles live side by side! Within minutes of Downtown Miami, you could be exploring the beautiful beaches of Key Biscayne, cycling through Crandon National Park or spotting manatees and dolphins from the waterways that connect the many islands of Miami.
Contributed by Claire of Stoked to Travel
14 | GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
The most visited national park in USA guarantees glorious mountain views, terrific hikes, outstanding waterfalls, and coloful sunsets
The bucket list Great Smoky Mountains National Park, located across the Appalachian mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, is home to some of the oldest mountains on the planet. Glorious mountain views and outstanding waterfalls come standard. Fortunately it is relatively easy to reach with most visitors staying in the cute nearby town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
Why is Great Smoky Mountains the most visited national park in the USA?
The beautiful landscape comprises lush forests, an abundance of wildflowers, waterfalls, black bears, and blue-colored mist that blankets the mountain peaks and valleys. This mist looks like smoke and is where the name comes from. In addition to its natural beauty, another reason why the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is so popular is because of its easy accessibility from major nearby cities that include Charlotte, Asheville, Atlanta, Nashville, and Knoxville.
One of the best things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains is to hike, where streams, rivers, and waterfalls regularly appear along hiking routes. Clingmans Dome, located on the highest peak in the Smokies is one of the best hikes in the region. It is especially popular for sunset, showcasing scenic views and colorful silhouettes of the mist-covered mountains in the distance!
The absolute best area to go to for sunrise is Cades Cove. Such a spectacular spot where you get to experience how The Great Smokies got its name. If you arrive during sunrise, you might get a treat of the fog filling the area. Just make sure to visit before the sunrise as the cove gets very crowded quickly.
Are you a lover of waterfalls? The Great Smoky Mountains has waterfalls galore! Some of the most popular trails include Laurel Falls, Rainbow Falls, and Abrams Falls. There are so many waterfall trails to fit your hiking experience. That is why The Great Smoky Mountains is one of the best places to visit in the USA; it has so many terrific hikes and magnificent beauty. You will fall in love with this area.
Contributed by Michelle of The Wandering Queen
15 | SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
Bay City is a popular tourist destination, well known for its landmarks, steep rolling hills, architecture, diversity, and food trends.
San Francisco is truly one of the most remarkable cities to visit in the United States. On a recent stopover, I had the opportunity to experience this city once again and found that there is no shortage of activities and attractions to choose from.
What is San Francisco best known for?
This popular tourist destination is a famous for its landmarks, steep rolling hills, architecture, diversity, and food trends. The city is home to people of all backgrounds and cultures that have had an influence on its fashion, food, art, history, and lifestyle.
The Golden Gate Bridge is the best place to start exploring the city, followed by a visit to Golden Gate Park, Union Square, Pier 39, and Chinatown.
Another great place to visit is the former high-security prison. Day trips to Alcatraz Island should also be high on your bucket list. In many ways, it is full of contradictions. A prison with an amazing skyline view. The former home of notorious criminals that today gives shelter to various species of nesting seabirds. While dilapidated building meets a garden in bloom. There’s something to learn and discover around every corner. The trip to Alcatraz starts with a pleasant boat ride that offers awesome views of San Francisco and the Bay. Once inside the prison, you’ll learn more about Alcatraz Island from the early Spanish explorers to 1972 when the island became a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Make sure you book at least 2 weeks in advance to avoid disappointment.
One more spot that make this city so special is Fisherman’s Wharf. It is a lovely place to wander around and also boasts some great restaurants. This is where a lot of city sightseeing tours start. It’s also where travelers board their ferries and get whisked away across the bay to Alcatraz Island or for the Bay cruises.
Finally, one thing that distinguishes San Francisco from other cool cities on California’s Coast is its cable car system. Don’t miss out on the pleasures of riding the last manually operated cable car system in the world. It is a real highlight of any trip and a great way to fully experience San Francisco’s charm.
Contributed by Ivan of Mind The Travel
16 | ZION NATIONAL PARK, UTAH
Hiking is the main reason that people from all over the world flock to this national park. The hikes will get your adrenaline pumping and give you views for days
There are a few places in the world that I keep returning to and Zion National Park is one of them. Located in southern Utah, it is one of the smallest National Parks in the US. However, don’t let Zion’s size fool you. It is ranked fourth among America’s most visited national parks attracting over 4 million visitors a year.
Why is Zion National Park so popular and what is it famous for?
The highlight of Zion National Park is a sprawling 2,000 feet deep canyon dotted by natural rock arches. It is one of the best places in the world for canyoneering.
The park’s location close to Las Vegas and other national parks like Bryce Canyon only adds to its appeal and popularity.
Hiking is the main reason that people from all over the world flock here. As soon as you step into the park and gaze around at the sandstone mountains that tower around you, you’ll be itching to get to the top of one.
One of the world’s scariest and renown hikes can be found in Zion, Angel’s Landing. This 5 mile hike takes you to the top of Angel’s Landing and its not for the vertigo challenged. The last half mile has steep drop offs on either side and can only be reached by the assistance of chains bolted into the mountain ridge. This hike will get your adrenaline pumping and give you views for days!
Another famous and sought after hike inside Zion is The Narrows, which takes you up the Virgin River. You’ll get up to waist deep in water as you traverse the riverbed deep inside the canyon walls.
The best time to visit Zion National Park is between the months of May to November. Don’t forget a sturdy walking stick and water shoes to ensure a safe and fun hike. You won’t regret this bucketlist American destination as you explore the United States!
Contributed by Jess from I’m Jess Traveling
17 | BIG SUR, CA
The most incredible meeting of land and sea, Big Sur will make you feel like you’re a thousand miles away from the real world
Big Sur is one of the most incredible places to visit in California and in the US as a whole! Known as “the most incredible meeting of land and sea,” Big Sur is home to dense redwood forests, cliffy coastlines, art galleries, and quaint villages that make you feel a thousand miles from the world.
It runs along the central California Coast, on the edge of a coastal mountain range between San Louis Obispo and Monterey. The enitre Big Sur coastline stretches from just south of Ragged Point all the way up past Garrapatta State Beach, and can take an entire day to drive including all the necessary stops. I do, however, recommend spending at least a few nights in Big Sur to fully appreciate the magic.
Must see sights along Big Sur include McWay Falls, Bixby Creek Bridge, Pfeiffer Beach, and Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. Don’t miss a few forest hikes to see the redwood trees and viewpoints over the ocean and canyons. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park has a very famous waterfall right onto the sand – one of the best photo ops in California for sure. Nepenthe is a great restaurant to visit for a jaw-dropping coastline view, and there are too many walking trails and secluded beaches to count!
What is special about Big Sur? Worth visiting?
The longest and most scenic stretch of coastline in the US is up there among the most beautiful coastlines in the world. This stretch of road makes for a worthwhile road trip destination, especially for outdoor and nature lovers. The dramatic views of the Pacific Ocean, its sandy beaches, the giant redwood trees, and surrounding nature make it totally worth the extra time spent on the road.
Big Sur is also a great place to get off the grid and to recharge, especially if you are taking a California road trip to see other cities and national parks. With over 300 days of sunshine per year, this region can be visited for much of the year, but the best time is from September to November.
Contributed by Kimmie of Adventures & Sunsets Blog
18 | WASHINGTON D.C.
No visit to the USA is complete without a visit to its capital, Washington D.C.
A list of places to visit in the United States of America is not complete without a visit to the capital, Washington D.C. As a first-time visitor to the USA, the names Washington D.C. and Washington State can be confusion. To help you out, Washington D.C. stands for District of Colombia and is located on the east coast of the US, Washington state, which is located on the complete opposite side, the west coast.
Is Washington DC worth visiting?
Yes, besides the fact that Washington D.C. is the capital city of the US, there are plenty of interesting things to see and do, which is why it should not be missed as a city to visit in the US. And best of all, many the majority of things to do in Washington D.C. are free!
The main highlight of a visit to Washington is to check out the two most important buildings in the city (and perhaps in the US), the Capitol, and the White House. Join one of the free tours in the Capitol to learn more about the stunning building and US politics. As the Capitol is where the House of Representatives and the Senate work. Or head to the free visitors center of the White House for more information about the official residence of the President of the United States.
However, don’t worry if politics are not your thing. Washington D.C. has plenty more to offer than just those two iconic buildings. Check out one of the many free museums or sights such as The African American Civil War Memorial and Museum, The National Zoo, the Anacostia Community Museum, or the Botanical Garden. If you’re lucky enough to visit Washington D.C. in springtime, you should definitely wander through one of the many stunning and free National Parks and enjoy the beauty of the cherry blossom trees!
Contributed By Lara from Both Feet On The Road
19 | DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, CA
Expect to see some of the earth’s most remarkably rugged and extreme landscapes stretching for as far as the eye can see
A trip to Death Valley National Park is a must-see for the first time traveller to the USA!
What is so special about Death Valley National Park?
This stunning National Park is a land of extremes and is famous for being the hottest, driest and lowest (below sea level) place in North America. At 3.4 million acres, Death Valley also happens to be the 2nd largest National Park in the USA, with almost 1000 miles of roads to explore within it. This makes it ideal for a California road trip, or dedicated visit, being located 5 hours drive from LAX.
Park permits are available from vending machines prior to entering, and there are many lookouts and points of interest to stop at along the way.
Is Death Valley worth the visit?
Yes, visitors can expect to see some of the earth’s most remarkably rugged and extreme landscapes stretching for as far as the eye can see. 11,000-metre-high mountains topped with snow, windswept sand dunes, the incredible dirt colours of the dusty plains, salt-encrusted flats – all making for some truly striking contrasts.
Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells Visitors Centres, accommodation resorts, camping and fuel stations are all located centrally within the park, and it’s here you can pick up a free Park map and learn about the various outstanding geographical features and abundance of wildlife. Coyotes, Roadrunners, Bighorn Sheep and Pupfish are just some of the native animals that may be spotted during a visit.
Rich in surreal beauty and pioneer history, Death Valley, rather than its namesake is bursting with life and colour – add this park to your exotic bucket list adventures and don’t miss this Californian treasure!
Contributed by Barbara of Let’s Go Mum
20 | SEATTLE, WASHINGTON
The Emerald City is said to be one of the most beautiful cities in the US
Located in Washington State, a list of places to visit in the United States isn’t complete without visiting the gem of the Pacific Northwest – Seattle.
Why visit Seattle?
This bustling city enveloped by mountains and trees is also known for its landscapes, rain, coffee culture and beards and has something to offer everyone. Whether you want to spend time near the water, mountains or in the city your days will be packed full with things to see and do.
If you prefer to hang out on or near the water, take an electric boat out on South Lake Union. Or spend time at one of the many Seattle beaches like Golden Gardens or Alki Beach. If you’d rather spend your days tucked away in the mountains hiking, then don’t miss Rattlesnake Ridge, or Lena Lake. And if you prefer to spend time in the busy city then there’s many ways, both tourist and non-tourist, for you to spend the day.
For tourist experiences a visit to Pike Place Market, the longest running farmers market in America, is highly recommended. Another popular activity is that should be not be missed is going to the top of the iconic Space Needle for sweeping views over Seattle.
If you prefer a non-tourist experience then brewery hop around the Ballard neighborhood or take the water taxi to West Seattle for lunch at Marination Mai Kai.
Nicknamed the Emerald City due to the city and the surroundings being filled with more than 6,000 acres of lush green forests all year round, Seattle is one of the most beautiful and a must visit city in USA.
Contributed by Kylee of Passports and Preemies
21 | ROUTE 66
People come from all over the world to experience the “Great American Road Trip”
Route 66 is the quintessential American road trip and a definite bucket list experience in the United States.
Called the “Mother Road,” historically Route 66 was important for Americans moving west. Nowadays people come from all over the world to experience the “Great American Road Trip.” Today the route is lined with mid-century motels, important history museums, and kitschy attractions.
Starting in Chicago, Illinois, the route stretches to Santa Monica, California. Make sure to see some of the best spots along the route, including the Round Barn in Arcadia, the Catoosa Whale, and Cadillac Ranch. You’ll also want to set aside time to visit the Grand Canyon and other important National Parks, along with spending a few days exploring important American cities like St. Louis and Santa Fe.
Many who take the trip will spend two weeks exploring, starting with a few days in Chicago and ending with a day relaxing at the Santa Monica Pier. However, you can take longer, or you can just do a small stretch of the route if you have less time.
Make sure to create a great travel playlist ahead of your trip and stock up on fabulous road trip snacks! You might even consider renting a special vehicle for one of the best road trips in the US, like a vintage car or a convertible.
Contributed by Stephanie from Oklahoma Wonders
22 | GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, MT
Don’t miss driving on Going-to-the-Sun Road, an engineering marvel and one of the most thrilling drives in the US
Glacier National Park is one of the best National Parks in the US. It gets its name because of the many glaciers that spotted the mountains when the Great Northern Railway first set its sights on this beautiful area.
The best way to experience Glacier National Park is by going on hikes and enjoying the views. Glacier has more than 700 miles of trails. There are day-long hikes that get you to some great viewpoints or you can go on short and easy hikes on boardwalks. The Hidden Lake overlook trail is a relatively easy hike along meadows and glacial moraines to an overlook of the gorgeous Hidden Lake. Grinnell Glacier is another epic hike in Glacier National Park, it is a day hike of about 10 miles along the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine.
Why is Glacier National Park a nature bucket list US destination?
Don’t miss driving on Going-to-the-Sun Road, an engineering marvel. It is a paved two-lane highway that spans 50 miles. The famous road runs across the Glacier National Park from east to west and spans the width of the park crossing the Continental Divide at 6,646-foot-high Logan Pass. Driving on the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park you can see almost every type of terrain, from glacial lakes and cedar forests in the lower valleys to alpine tundra in the higher elevations. It is considered one of the most thrilling drives in the US and one of the best places in the US that a first-time visitor cannot leave without visiting.
Contributed by Priya from Outside Suburbia
23 | LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
The City of Angels is the entertainment capital of the world
Any regular or first time visitor to the USA should find a way to get over to the city of Los Angeles.
What is so special about Los Angeles?
This global city is the entertainment capital of the world, known throughout for its Movie, TV, and Music industries. This sprawling metropolis in Southern California is also home to some of the best beaches in USA, each with its own unique character. Another attraction point is the enormous amusement parks found throughout the city that include Six lags Magic Mountain, Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, Legoland, Pacific Park include. The city is also a cultural hub with over 100 museums.
Depending on how long you have in the city there are tons of attractions and nightlife venues to visit. However, with limited time in such a big city, you’ll need to know how to maneuver effectively.
For any traveler to Los Angeles, there are two attractions that you can’t leave without seeing. The first one is Hollywood Boulevard for its characters and crowded antics. Not to mention, the Walk of Fame where you get to see all the stars’ names on the sidewalk. You’ll also find tons of good food options and gigantic souvenir shops on the same street.
The second attraction to see while in Los Angeles is the infamous Hollywood Sign. For me, the best view is from the Griffith Observatory campus, but you can get an Uber close enough to the sign to be able to get some great photos without hiking. Both attractions can be visited within the space of an hour but would make a great day out if time permits.
All in all, no US bucket list is complete without a visit to LA LA Land. Modern-day Los Angeles with its significant impact on worldwide culture, fashion, media, and entertainment is a great city to travel to in the US to get absorbed in the American culture and see what all the fuss is really about.
Contributed by Daniel of Layer Culture
24 | FLORIDA KEYS, FL
This tropical paradise is home to a great laid-back atmosphere and is one of the best vacation spots in the US
What makes the Florida Keys such a popular US vacation spot?
The Florida Keys, specifically Key West, is an absolutely STUNNING destination that makes for a definite place to vacation in the United States. The tropical natural beauty, opportunity for adventure, and awesome laid back atmosphere are just some of the things that set Key West apart from other destinations.
Although it may take a bit of time, the best way to get to Key West is to drive from Miami. You can fly there also, but when you drive you get the chance to cross a 7 mile bridge, as well as see all of the beautiful keys on your way to Key West. Key Largo is an excellent snorkeling and fishing destination, and there are great beaches on Marathon Key.
When you get to Key West, there are two adventures everyone HAS to do: an on-water excursion and a stroll down Duval Street. Key West is a stunning tropical island, and has a ton of awesome excursions that take place right from the coast. Parasailing, snorkeling, and jet skiing are awesome here, as is the fishing if that floats your boat. You must do an excursion during your time here. After that, head to Duval Street for a great atmosphere. Live music and local drinks are everywhere on Duval, where the party doesn’t stop all night long. Stay as long as you’d like, and enjoy yourself.
Key West and the entire Florida Keys island chain make for a great must-see destination for a local or a first-time visitor to the country. This tropical paradise is home to a great laid-back atmosphere and one of the best vacation spots in USA. You’ll have a blast on your visit, enjoy!
Contributed by Zach & Julie of Ruhls of the Road
25 | YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CA
Yosemite packs a punch with its majestic scenery in a condensed space featuring massive granite monoliths, huge waterfalls, deep valleys, and giant sequoia trees
Yosemite National Park found in California is an amazing destination and often described as one of the most beautiful places by those fortunate enough to witness its dramatic scenery. The majestic valley was carved by glaciers as they melted away, which shaped Yosemite’s iconic granite rocks that surround the valley including El Capitan and Half Dome.
What is so special about Yosemite NP and why is it a must see?
Yosemite packs a punch with its incredible scenery in a condensed space. Declared a national park in 1890, the natural landscape has been impressing visitors for over 125 years with its deep valleys, massive granite monoliths, and giant sequoia trees. The glacial valley and the elevation of the Sierra Nevada also means that you will find waterfalls everywhere, some really huge ones, that flow in the late winter to summer months.
Some of the many highlights and attractions of Yosemite include Half Dome, Glacier Point and Mariposa Grove. El Capitan, a rock-climber favorite, is a must-see for any Yosemite visitor. Don’t miss Vernal Fall, Mirror Lake, and Tunnel View.
There are harder hikes like the John Muir Trail, the Mist Trail, and Half Dome that take you through Yosemite’s iconic trails, showing California’s alpine wilderness. You can also make the trek to Tuolumne Meadows or walk around the valley and soak in the wildflowers, wildlife, and waterfalls. Just make sure to be respectful, follow Leave No Trace Principals and don’t feed wildlife.
If you’re camping, you can spend the evening cooking dinner over a campfire, then walk a short way away from the campgrounds to enjoy the starry night sky and Milkyway overhead.
Many trails and roads are closed for a large part of the year due to snow. The best times to visit Yosemite are during the Spring when the waterfalls are at their peak and the crowds are low or Fall when the foliage is inviting and temperatures are pleasant. If you’re short on time, it is possible to experience the highlights of Yosemite in a day, or if you have more time, you can spend a week really venturing out to the backcountry.
Whether you’re a hardcore hiker or just enjoy spending a night over a campfire toasting s’mores, Yosemite National Park has something for everyone and is certainly one of the best places to visit in the United States.
Contributed by Jenny of Campsite Vibes
26 | LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
Internationally renowned as the ultimate playground, the sky’s the limit in Sin City
Las Vegas, in the southwestern state of Nevada, definitely deserves a spot on your travel list or any itinerary for places to visit in the United States of America. The party city of the world is great if you love partying, but there are lots of things to do in Vegas even if you do not gamble or party.
Why should you visit Las Vegas?
Also known as Sin City, Vegas is internationally renowned for its gambling, entertainment, and as the ultimate playground.
World-class sights, fabulous dining options, some of the best shows, entertainment, nightlife and shopping in the world, and the opportunity to explore awesome nearby natural areas on day trips are all reasons why you should not pass up the chance to visit this amazing desert city.
In Las Vegas, walk the famous Strip to ogle the beautiful exteriors of the resorts. From the Statue of Liberty at New York, New York and the Fontana de Trevi at Caesar’s Palace to the canals of Venice at the Venetian, there’s a lot to see! The resort interiors are just as extravagant, with the Bellagio featuring a Chihuly ceiling in its lobby and the Venetian sporting a replica of St. Mark’s Square.
Book tables at the fine dining restaurants of your choice ahead of your visit: you can eat at restaurants owned by a number of celebrity chefs, from Food Network’s Bobby Flay and Giada to Thomas Keller, one of the most famous chefs on the planet. Also, do not forget to reserve tickets for the shows you want to see!
With Las Vegas as a base, you can explore some of the most amazing natural scenery in the US. Take a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon. Do a day trip to Death Valley National Park, or to Valley of Fire State Park.
Whatever you choose to do in Vegas, the sky’s the limit when it comes to fun!
Contributed by Dhara from It’s Not About the Miles
27 | COLORADO ROAD TRIP
Rent a car and get ready for one of the best experiences of your life in one of the most picturesque states in the US
Colorado is one of the most picturesque states in the US. We fell in love with it on our road trip across the US and ended up lingering for much longer than we originally planned.
Reasons to add a road trip through Colorado to your US bucket list ideas
Colorado comprises four national parks and eight national monuments that encompass a plethora of natural beauty, wildlife, landmarks, and things to do. Being among snow-capped mountains, soaking in hot springs, hiking, and exploring the area’s rich culinary and shopping scenes are some of the main reasons why first time visitors MUST do a Colorado road trip.
A Colorado road trip can be completed in a loop starting and ending in Denver. The “Mile High” City has a vibrant arts scene and lots of trendy cafes and breweries to explore while you kick off or end your trip.
Boulder is known for its close proximity to the Rocky Mountains and interesting performers at Pearl Street Mall, while the next stop Glenwood Spring has an unbeatable laid back vibe and great hot springs to enjoy. Grand Junction is known for its peach orchards and wine vineyards, as well as spectacular canyons, red rocks, and sandstone towers. Mesa Verde has the dwelling remains of the Ancestral Pueblo people and Colorado Springs is home to the cog train… and that’s just a few of the great places to visit along a Colorado road trip!
We quickly learned that to properly enjoy all that Colorado has to offer, you really need to spend 2 or more weeks exploring the state. Rent a car and get ready for one of the best experiences of your life.
Contributed by Oksana & Max from Drink Tea & Travel
28 | ALASKA, AK
A fascinating land of wilderness and wildlife
The land of wilderness and wildlife, Alaska is teeming with bears, moose, whales and puffins roaming the mountains, lakes, glaciers, and waterways that make up much of this picturesque land.
Alaska has around 100,000 glaciers and more coastline than the rest of the United States combined as the only state to have coastlines on three different seas: the Arctic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and Bering Sea.
As a bucket list travel destination in America, Alaska also offers the opportunity to witness the Northern Lights which can be seen in Fairbanks over 240 days a year.
You also get to visit Santa Claus House, located in none other than the North Pole. North Pole, Alaska that is.
Santa Claus is a universally recognized figure, so the fact that there is an actual location to visit him and his reindeer, is not to be missed. The entire town of North Pole is decorated with candy cane stripes on all the light posts and signage throughout the year. Beautiful Christmas murals can be seen on Santa Claus house that is filled with North Pole souvenirs and yummy treats found nowhere else. Reindeer can be found right outside and depending on the time of the year, you may even be able to interact with them. Don’t miss the many photo opportunities, both inside and outside, to commemorate visiting this special place.
Contributed by Rachel of The Rx For Travel
30 | NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
The most unique city to visit in the USA, bubbling with excitement and history at every turn
New Orleans is a city in the southeastern part of the country straddling the great Mississippi River in the state of Louisiana. It’s often described as the most unique city to visit in the USA, bubbling with excitement and history at every turn.
What is New Orleans known for?
The city is is famous for its unique jazz music, Creole cuisine, distinct dialect, and annual celebrations and festivals, such as Mardi Gras. The French Quarter, the heart of the city, is renowned for its French and Spanish Creole architecture and vibrant nightlife along Bourbon Street.
One of the many reasons to visit New Orleans is because it has some of the most delicious food and drinks in the country. Be sure to try gumbo, a po’boy and a beignet while you’re there (just to name a few of the delectable dishes). I highly recommend taking a food tour while in NOLA too, so you can get a fantastic sampling of all the local cuisines and learn the difference between their Creole and Cajun cooking.
New Orleans is also the place where jazz was born. Here, you’ll find many incredible live jazz shows at night. It’s also said to be the place where Voodoo was introduced in the United States. So, there are many haunted history and Voodoo tours to choose from! Many first-time visitors say this is the highlight of their experience in NOLA.
And if that isn’t spooky enough for you, don’t miss out on a cemetery tour while here! NOLA’s tombs are above ground (due to the high water table), and are actually quite beautiful to see. If you get the chance to visit New Orleans, do not hesitate.
Contributed by Lindsey of Have Clothes, Will Travel
31 | FLORIDA EVERGLADES, FL
The fragile ecosystem is the largest subtropical wilderness and one of the last remaining wild areas in the USA
Located at the southernmost tip of mainland Florida before you reach the Florida Keys, the Florida Everglades is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the only sub-tropical wilderness in the United States. For adventure or nature travelers visiting the USA for the first time, it’s one of the last remaining wilderness areas in the country, yet just an hour from Miami and Southwest Florida.
What makes Everglades National Park unique?
The largest subtropical wilderness in America, the Everglades are a network of wetlands, forests, and tributaries fed by a river flowing out of Lake Okeechobee into Florida Bay. Everglades National Park was created to protect a fragile ecosystem that provides a crucial habitat for rare and endangered species such as the Florida panther, American crocodile, and the manatee.
This unparalleled landscape is perfect for eco travelers who love hiking, fishing, and paddling. Most travelers visit during the winter months of December through April when the weather is perfect for exploring. But visiting the “River of Grass” and Everglades National Park in the summer also has its rewards. The “Mosquito Season” can be daunting, although it’s nothing a good bug repellant can’t handle. Spotting wildlife is one of the best things to do in the Everglades. The estuaries and rivers swell from the daily summer rains, making it perfect for paddlers to spot wildlife life alligators, deer, black bear, raccoons, and snakes.
Everglades National Park is one of the most underrated and under-visited US National Parks. No matter what time of year you visit, the region is filled with interesting wildlife and natural beauty. The Florida Everglades should be on every outdoor-lovers USA bucket list!
Contributed by Lori of Travlinmad
32 | WASHINGTON STATE MOUNTAINS
Head to the vast and unique beauty of Washington State for a day of adventure at one of the most beautiful places you will ever see
You cannot visit the US without seeing the vast and unique beauty of the Pacific Northwest region, and what better way than to visit the natural landscape of Washington State.
Reasons to visit Washington State
For adventurers and outdoors lovers, few places in the United States compare to the Pacific Northwest. From hiking and camping to rafting and glacier trekking, the state has mountains upon mountains and some of the most beautiful and untouched landscapes in the U.S. In addition to attracting nature lovers from all over, Washington state is also known for its delicious apples, producing more than any other state.
The mountains of this state are so surreal, they not only make up one but consist of 3 National Parks: Mount Rainier National Park, North Cascades National Park, and Olympic National Park, each of which has its own world of beauty that can not be missed. If you are short on time, however, there are endless options of hiking trails and viewpoints within the parks that would make an excellent day hike from Seattle.
One of the most visited parks is Mount Rainier National Park, and it is located a short 2 hour drive from the city of Seattle. Mount Rainier, the highest summit of the Cascade Range, is actually a volcano and the most topographically prominent summit of North America. The national park consists of the peak plus a surrounding area of nearly 370 square miles (956 km2). While you can visit nearly any time of year, the mountain and surrounding trails are especially beautiful in the summertime, from June to late August, when the snow is generally melted, and wildflower blooms cover the alpine meadows throughout the park.
To visit, head to the Paradise (yes, Paradise) Visitor’s Center, and come early to ensure parking. Be sure to stop by Narada Falls on your drive in, and try to spot the rainbow in the falls. Once you are at the lodge, stop in to ask the rangers about current conditions and the best hikes for you and your party’s comfort level, and then head out for a day of adventure at one of the most beautiful places in the USA you will ever see!
Contributed by Michele of Adventures Abound
33 | SANTA CRUZ, CALIFORNIA
The quintessential Californian beach town is famous for its high-stoke surf culture, for having some of the best beaches in California and the world’s best off-shore breaks
The quintessential Californian beach town, Santa Cruz gives you that chilled vibe the Golden State is so famous for. Located under an hour from San Francisco, a day trip to Santa Cruz is a great way to explore this charming town.
What makes Santa Cruz unique?
The county of Santa Cruz, with 29 miles of sun-drenched coastline, is known for having some of the best beaches in California. In addition, it also has some of the world’s best off-shore breaks, renowned for its high-stoke surf culture.
It is the birthplace of mainland surfing in the US, so if you are a fan of the sport and you are visiting the US for the first time, Santa Cruz should be on your travel bucket list. There is a lot of surfing history here, which can be explored at the Surfing Museum in Lighthouse Point. Housed in the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse, this little museum covers 100 years of the sport in Santa Cruz. While you are here, head to the viewpoint to watch local surfers catch some waves in style in Steamer Lane. This is where local legend Jack O’Neill developed the modern surfing wet-suit.
The most iconic local attraction is the 100-year-old Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, a classic seaside amusement park where some of the rides have been declared National Historic Landmarks. And right next to it you have Santa Cruz Wharf, which has a great atmosphere and where you can see the resident sea lions.
One of the highlights of Santa Cruz is its coastline, and the best way to appreciate it is by taking a walk along West Cliff Drive, a 3-mile long scenic walking path that follows the coastal road. It starts at the Natural Bridges State Beach, a beautiful spot in its own right, and it takes you to Cowell Beach and Santa Cruz Wharf. There are a few points of interest along the way, such as Mitchell’s Cove Beach, Lighthouse Point and the Surfers Memorial.
The best time to visit Santa Cruz is from September through November when the weather is still fine, but the summer crowds have dissipated leaving you to enjoy the natural beauty and alternative community lifestyles.
Contributed by Teresa of Brogan Abroad
34 | PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY (PCH)
Nothing compares to the 656 miles of the most scenic coast in America
America has maybe a handful of truly epic road trips: Route 66 from Chicago to LA, Skyline Drive down the ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountain, or US Highway 1 to the tip of Key West. Still, nothing compares to the Pacific Coast Highway that runs along the coast from Mexico to Oregon.
What should you not miss on the Pacific Coast Highway?
Even though Highway one begins south of Los Angeles, it doesn’t find its form until north of the city. Once you clear the mansions of Malibu, it’s ocean and open road until you reach Oxnard. Small state beaches dot the route, and you’ll surely recognize the rock at Point Mugu from commercials everywhere.
From Oxnard to San Simeon, the PCH a bit of a drag. You keep popping inland for large portions only to come tantalizingly close to the ocean. Don’t worry; the best is yet to come. From San Siemon, north is the Big Sur Coast. You’ll pass through one of the southernmost groves of redwoods and discover innumerable vistas. Perhaps the most beautiful view of the entire drive is McWay Falls tumbling 80′ off a sheer cliff into the ocean and the iconic Bixby Bridge. This stretch of the PCH is a narrow ribbon of asphalt between jagged mountains and the wild Pacific ocean.
North of Big Sur are the coastal towns of Monterey, Santa Cruz, and Half Moon Bay. They are the mixing ground between beach cities and redwoods. Once the PCH crosses the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the nature of the road changes, Highway 101 takes all the heavy traffic to Mendocino. Highway 1 runs through farms and ocean vistas. Wineries and small B&Bs dot the route all the to Mendocino, the northern terminus of the PCH.
You’ve now covered 656 miles of the most scenic coast in America that makes for an epic road trip.
Contributed by Jenn and Ed of Coleman Concierge
35 | PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA
A city notable for its rich history on display as the birthplace of the USA
Philadelphia, famous as the birthplace of liberty and the pursuit of happiness, is the largest city in Pennsylvania. There is so much more to the city that I wasn’t aware of before I arrived. All I knew of Philadelphia is what I saw in the “Rocky” movies, and so I was desperate to re-live my childhood and visit “the Rocky steps” of the Philadelphia Museum of Art for myself.
Why do people go to Philadelphia?
To my surprise, the city has such beautiful architecture and is full of history as it is the birthplace of the United States. There is so much to see there that the Rocky Statue was no longer on my priority list. Who knew that you would find the oldest Street in America with homes still in residence and the grave of Benjamin Franklin.
You must visit Independence Hall as this is where The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were adopted, which you can now find displayed as the centerpiece in the Independence National Historical Park. Do not forget to include Elfreth’s Alley, The Betsy Ross House, The Eastern State Penitentiary, the Liberty Bell, and other American revolutionary sites on your list of things to see.
If you only have a short time to visit, then the on-off bus will allow you the luxury of touring all the major attractions in this fantastic city. Oh and if you have time visit The Bourse Hall where you must try the famous Philly Cheesesteak and soft pretzels. This city of national historic sites, interesting museums, cool parks, and delicious food is a great city to visit in America.
Contributed by Paula of Truly Expat
36 | MAUI, HAWAII
That tropical and aloha vibe is unlike any place in the rest of the mainland USA
For first time visitors to the United States, a visit to Maui is unlike the rest of the mainland USA. You get that instant tropical and aloha vibe the minute you land at the airport with gorgeous weather, sunny skies, palm trees, and even leis greeting you right away.
What makes Maui one of the best vacation destinations in America?
Maui has so many stunning and beautiful sandy beaches but you can also enjoy being in the water, snorkeling, surfing and other water sports. Outside of the water, there is a multitude of other wonderful adventure activities from hiking and biking to zip lining and horse back riding, all to connect and enjoy the beautiful landscape around the island. Do not miss Road to Hana, the most popular day trip on Maui.
For foodies, delicious street and local foods, foodie trucks and food courts to high end dining with sunset views cater to all whims, tastes, and pocket books.
There are so many other things you can do for free around the island or inexpensively such as enjoying a lovely sunrise or sunset on the beach. Do visit the fun and cool city on the waterfront at Lahaina, the historic capital city of Maui. There is plenty of things to see and do in Lahaina and other cool things to explore around the city.
With a mix of unusual landscapes, lush valleys, good food, amazing snorkeling, and rich Hawaiian culture, its reputation as a top vacation spot is well-deserved. So definitely visit Maui in Hawaii if you want to see something different and more tropical in the USA.
Contributed by Noel of This Hawaii Life
37 | MOAB AND THE MIGHTY FIVE, UT
An adventure hot spot filled with natural wonder and home to the mighty five, offering unparalleled natural beauty in Utah
No trip to the US is complete without a stop in the tiny desert adventure town of Moab, Utah. Located in the heart of the American Southwest, this adventure hot spot is filled with natural wonder.
What attracts visitors to Utah?
The state is home to the mighty five national parks, namely Zion, Arches, Bryce, Capitol Reef and Canyonlands, offering unparalleled natural beauty that is unique to Utah. This makes the area a getaway for outdoor adventuring and mountain biking. Utah is also known for having some of the best skiing in the United States of America and you can also check out authentic dinosaur fossils.
The region is also a hiker’s paradise. One of the best ways to experience the area is to head out on one of Moab’s best hikes. You can choose from two national parks (Arches and Canyonlands National Park), a state park, or just wander local trails. You’ll be awe-struck by the incredibly beauty of sandstone arches and unique rock formation. Seemingly defying gravity, these wonders are a sight to behold. Head to Dead Horse Point State Park for sweeping canyons views and mellow trails.
If hiking isn’t your thing, there’s still plenty of adventure. ATV and Jeep tours are also a famous activity as is rafting, rock climbing, photography, camping, and more. Due to its remote location, it’s best to visit Moab while on a road trip. Otherwise, there is a small regional airport you can fly into, but you’ll need to rent a car, preferably a high-clearance, 4WD SUV to manage the desert roads.
Pleasant temperatures and moderate crowds in April–May and September–October make this the best time to visit Utah and its national parks. There is no place on earth quite like Moab, Utah. Moab’s unique and inspiring natural beauty are not to be missed for your US travel bucket list.
Contributed By Meg Atteberry of Fox in the Forest
38 | BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS
There’s a refreshing mix of English and American sensibilities in the unique city that offers a little something for everyone
Boston, nestled in the North East of the States, is the capital of Massachussets and home to around 700,000 people. Following almost three hundred years of independence from Britain, there’s a refreshing mix of English and American sensibilities in the unique city. It’s pleasant and there’s just something about the place that begins to fill you with affirmation over time.
What is there to do in Boston?
Hippiness aside, there’s a little bit for everyone in the city. For the Historians, walk the Freedom Trail to remember the bloody history of the American Revolution, the Boston Massacre, and the scenes of the Boston Tea Party. Finish at Bunker Hill Monument, the site of the June 1775 battle, and climb the steps to the top for views of Boston. The Skywalk Observatory at the top of the Prudential Tower should not be missed on a sunny day in Boston, providing 360-degree views of the city and surroundings.
For the nature lovers, wander the Boston Common to relax. For the artists, the Museum of Fine Arts is a fantastic half day trip. The scholars will want to see Harvard and MIT, and maybe hear about John Harvard’s statue – the statue of 3 lies. Animal lovers can take to Franklin zoo or head to the multitude of whale watching boats that depart from the harbour. The sports fans can check the Red Sox out at Fenway Park, the oldest baseball park in Major League Baseball. The spooks can take the train or ferry to Salem to check out the grisly “witch” hanging past. Or you can just do it all!
It’s a fantastic city with a blend of great bars, good food, attractions and historical buildings. My favourite – the Boston Public Library. The place leaves you awestruck and though you can enter as a visitor, if you ever need to work, this is the place to find inspiration. Dig a little deeper and discover a number of reasons that make Boston one of the best cities to visit in America.
Contributed by Dave of Dave Chant
39 | SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK, CA
The first park created to protect a living organism and the best place on earth to see the biggest trees on the planet
Sequoia trees are the biggest trees on earth (though their more famous Redwoods cousins are taller), and Sequoia National Park is the best place on earth to see them.
What is unique about Sequoia National Park?
Located in the southern Sierra Nevada east of Visalia in California, Sequoia NP was the first park created to protect a living organism. The massive sequoia trees are found only in this environment comprising 404,064 acres of forested mountainous terrain.
The largest tree in the world, the General Sherman Tree, stands at 275 feet (83 m) tall and more than 36 feet (11m) in diameter. Seeing these trees in real life and being dwarfed by their incredible size, is a truly amazing experience. You will feel small, insignificant, and totally in awe of nature all at the same time.
A highlight is the Congress Trail loop trail. The trail starts at the General Sherman Tree and proceeds in a 2-mile (3.2 km) loop past many of the largest trees. They have all been given names, including the President Tree, Lincoln Tree and Chief Sequoya Tree. The Senate and the House are small groves of trees and walking between them will leave you breathless. There is even one tree – the Room Tree – with a hollowed out inside that you can easily walk into.
Another highlight is the Big Trees Trail. The flat 1.2-mile trail loops around a grassy meadow. This is a great spot for wildlife viewing too, and seeing black bears at dusk is common. Don’t miss the small but informative Giant Forest Museum to learn all about the giant trees. This national park is top pick for national parks and places to travel to in the USA.
Contributed by James at Travel Collecting
40 | PORTLAND, OREGON
There is something for every type of traveler in Oregon’s largest metropolis
With craft beer, independent bookstores, parks, farmers markets, and lots of live music, there’s so much to love about Portland. Whether you’re there for the quirky hipster shops, the world-class dining (with sustainable farm-sourced ingredients, of course), or the nightlife scene, there is something for every type of traveler in Portland. This laid back city with a small town feel has charming neighborhoods and a trendy downtown area.
What’s so great about Portland?
One of the best things about Portland is that it’s not only a super fun city to explore, but its proximity to epic nature gives visitors the chance to experience some incredible waterfalls, forests and mountains as well.
The closest natural wonder to check out is the Colombia River Gorge. Teeming with waterfalls, this area isn’t more than 40 minutes from downtown Portland and is a dream for nature-lovers.
And if you’re really up for an adventure, consider taking a road trip along the coast or head inland to explore the mountains and hot springs of central Oregon. Whatever you come for, you’re sure to leave Portland with lots of memories and adventures!
Contributed by Katie from Two Wandering Soles
41 | THE ROAD TO HANA, MAUI
This scenic drive passes through alluring waterfalls, thriving rainforests, and beautiful dramatic scenery
One of Hawaii’s great drives, the Road to Hana, officially the Hana Highway (HI-360), is one of the more exotic places on this list and a must visit U.S. destination. Stretching 64.4-miles-long, it connects Kahului in east Maui with the chilled town of Hana, considered one of the last unspoiled places in Hawaii. Built in 1900 and paved in 1962, today it serves as a way for the locals to travel from one area of the island to another and as a tourist attraction.
Why is Road to Hana famous?
This scenic drive found on the northeast coastline of Maui encompasses over 600 curves and 59 bridges through dramatic scenery, alluring waterfalls, thriving rain-forests, and beautiful surroundings.
The beautiful island views do come at a price though. A significant part of the road is narrow, twisting, often single-lane with hairpin turns, making it the 5th most dangerous road in the world. That said, the road is paved all the way and as long as you’re careful around the blind spots, there’s nothing to worry about.
A couple of the most well-known stops along the Road to Hana include the Pools of Oheo in Haleakala National Park, Twin Falls, and Wai’anapanapa State Park. Don’t miss seeing Huelo Lookout, Ho’okipa Beach Park, Keanae Peninsula, Wailua Valley State Wayside, Pua’a Ka’a Falls, Hanawi Falls, and the Garden of Eden.
Road trips here are especially scenic during the months of September to November. During this time there are also fewer tourists than during the summer and winter months. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Road to Hana is without a doubt USA bucketlist worthy and should not be missed.
42 | NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE
Best known as the birthplace of country music, a visit to Nashville will open an enlightening window into the history of this region in USA
Nashville, located in the south eastern United States in Tennessee, is best known as the birthplace of country music. The best time to visit is from April to October when the good weather brings this music city to life.
Where should you visit in Nashville?
No first time visitor to Nashville should miss a visit to the iconic Grande Olde Opry, an auditorium and live music broadcast that has been taking place since 1925. Widely considered to be the origin of country music, it all started in the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville, and moved to its present home in 1974. Even if you aren’t a country music fan, you can’t help but get chills walking across the same stage where so many music legends have performed.
Other music related highlights in Nashville include the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Ryman Auditorium, and RCA Studio B (where many music greats including Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton recorded some of the most well known music of all time).
Nashville still has a lot to offer those who are not seeking a country music themed vacation. You could spend a day picking up a picnic at the Nashville Farmers Market, then drive 8 minutes away to eat in Centennial Park in front of the world’s only full scale replica of the Parthenon. Food lovers will relish a visit to Arnold’s Country Kitchen, which has been serving up authentic southern food in an unpretentious atmosphere for more than 30 years. Broadway Street, filled with bars and restaurants, is the most fun place in Nashville.
Don’t miss a stop at the city’s famous Music Row district. Those who are looking for a dash of history will want to visit President Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage. The Belle Meade Plantation is also a popular option for history lovers. A visit to the plantation will open an enlightening window into the history of this region of the US.
Contributed By Shanna of There and Back Again Travel
43 | THE OREGON COAST, OR
Travel the entire 363 mile coastline and continually be amazed by the beautiful scenery that varies from beaches to mountains to dense forest
The Oregon Coast is one of the most beautiful places in the United States. Located on the northwestern coast of the country on the Pacific Ocean, in a region that is affectionately called the PNW (Pacific Northwest), this area covers 363 miles from one end of the state to another.
Why is the Oregon Coast a bucket list destination?
One of the coolest things about the Oregon Coast is that you can travel the entire coastline and continually be amazed by the beautiful scenery that varies from pretty beaches to mountains to dense forest. Every season has something new to offer and the wildlife is plentiful. Some seasons bring whales migrating up or down the coast, another season will bring seals and sea lions to the shore, while other seasons bring out crabs and clams. There are beaches full of shells, too, if you can get up early enough. And if you want more than just views and beaches, the coast has got you covered.
Last summer, my family and I did a trip up and down the Oregon Coast when they came to visit me. We found hundreds of sand dollars on a beach near Seaside before heading up to Astoria to visit movie sites and historic sites. We drove down the coast stopping at the remains of a shipwreck, lighthouses, the Tillamook Cheese Factory for cheese samples and ice cream, overlooks to see the sea lions, famous restaurants to sample clam chowder and freshly-caught seafood, and forested areas for hiking and picnics. It was such an amazing experience to be able to explore the Oregon Coast with my family. It truly is a special place that nowhere else in the world comes close to.
Contributed by Erin of Traveling Thru History
OTHER NOTEWORTHY PLACES IN THE UNITED STATES TO TRAVEL
Other great USA destinations worth adding to your bucket-list include:
- Rocky Mountains National Park
- Antelope Canyon
- Bryce Canyon
- Monument Valley
- The Wave
- White Sands
- Cape Cod
- Puerto Rico
- San Antonio Missions
- Freedom Trail
- Mammoth Lakes
- Red Rocks
- Space Needle
- Acadia National Park
- Charleston, South Carolina
- Disney World Orlando
- Hot Springs National Park Arkansas
- Redwood National Park
- Olympic National Park
- Horseshoe Bend
- Taos Pueblo
- Minnesota Lakes
- Mount Rushmore
- Kentucky Derby
- Mackinac Island
- Space Centre
- Fenway Park
- Valley of Fire State Park
So many place, so little time, am-i-right?
OVER TO YOU GUYS. Which destination is at the top of your bucket list?
What is the one place you have to visit in the US before you die?
Never stop exploring,