Looking for must-visit places to visit in the USA? From big cities to stunning natural areas, there are several best places to travel in the US. Visit the stunning Yosemite, enjoy jazz in New Orleans, marvel at the Seattle skyline, and add Philadelphia to your America travel bucket list. Read now to find the best vacation spots in the USA including the Grand Canyon, New York, California, and Vegas. You may also like our post on 22 Best City Breaks in the USA.
America has been our home for the past 10 years.
We have traveled far and wide in America – from coast to coast – and explored the country from the white sand beaches of the Florida Keys to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.
We have taken road trips through the Southwest and been on scenic multi-day train rides. We have hiked through national parks and camped on the beaches.
We have taken city breaks to several cities including New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, and San Antonio; we have eaten a variety of cuisines from New York-style cheesecake and Chicago’s deep dish pizza to Native American fry bread in Arizona and elk steak in Colorado.
We have traveled solo, with friends, as a couple, with our 2 kids, and also been on multigenerational family trips.
We have loved every minute of exploring America and have several more road trips planned for the future.
This is our attempt to make a list of our favorite places to visit in the USA, which you should add to your travel bucket list.
We update this list after every new trip, so keep checking back from time to time for newer exciting destinations to visit.
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“America — wide, far-reaching, insouciant — has been the amphitheater for our civilization. I wish each of us could appreciate its vast beauty, and could see how far the elements of our civilization fall short of the sheer majesty of our America.”
– Harvey Broome, the American conservationist
Most Beautiful Places in the USA to add to your bucket list
In this list of the most beautiful places in America, you will not only find cities and natural parks but also summer road trips, beaches, waterfalls, memorable hikes, historic sites, fascinating wildlife interactions, and must-have foodie experiences.
While we haven’t visited each and every destination in the country, we know several experts who have and have asked them for their recommendations and advice wherever applicable.
Read on for travel inspiration and share it with your friends and loved ones for travel goals.
New York City
New York City is #1 amongst top places to visit in the USA. It is vibrant, exciting, big, and always welcoming.
New York City has many exciting things to do for every type of traveler and is visited annually by over 60 million visitors. People from all over the world visit New York to experience its unique attractions.
One of the major attractions is the Manhattan skyline. While you can see the skyline from almost everywhere in the city, the best places to see it is from one of the observation decks or from a cruise around the city.
New York also has many world-class museums.
Art lovers should visit the MET (Metropolitan Museum of Art) or MOMA (Museum of Modern Art). History fans should make the trip to the American Museum of Natural History while military enthusiasts will love the Intrepid Museum.
New York is also famous for its parks including the famous Central Park and for its food including New York-style bagels, cheesecake, pizza, and more.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Grand Canyon is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in the USA. The Grand Canyon is one of the natural wonders of the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Seeing this Arizona wonder up close from the rim is a breathtaking, awe-inspiring experience.
There are many ways to experience the Grand Canyon. The South Rim is the most popular access point because it can be easily visited on a road trip from Las Vegas.
The Grand Canyon Village located along the South Rim is the perfect base for exploring the canyon. It has several lodges and campsites that are open year-round.
The North Rim is higher in altitude and less accessible, with a shorter season, but also less crowded than the South Rim. You can access the North Rim from either Las Vegas, Page, or the South Rim / Flagstaff.
Seeing the canyon from the top is well worthwhile but to really experience the grandeur of the canyon, you should hike down to it.
The Bright Angel Trail is the most iconic trail in Grand Canyon National Park and takes you down to the Colorado River.
The trail starts at the South Rim and ends at Phantom Ranch after nine miles and four serious switchbacks. You can also hike partway into the canyon to experience its beauty.
Another way to experience the canyon is to ride the rapids of the Colorado River, camping on sandy beaches and stopping off along the way for hikes into side canyons that are only accessible from the river.
Regular rafts, large motorized rafts, and wooden dories are the three options.
The West Rim has a skywalk from which you can see the Grand Canyon. Finally, you can also fly over the canyon and see it from the air.
Scenic airplane and helicopter flights leave from the airport in nearby Tusayan and also from Las Vegas.
No matter how you choose the experience it, Grand Canyon will not disappoint you.
James at Travel Collecting
Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite is one of the USA’s most visited national parks and is an essential stop on any California road trip.
It is visited annually by over 4 million people and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its stunning landscape of the granite cliffs, waterfalls, meadows, lakes, and valleys.
The park was formed due to glacial erosion and contains many unique geologic features.
Yosemite Valley is open year-round and is one of the most popular places to visit inside the park. It is the base for lodges, campsites, and guided tours that take you around the valley.
From the valley, visitors have fabulous views of the granite domes of El Capitan and Half Dome. Visit the Tunnel View Outlook to get picture-perfect views of the valley.
Other popular things to do in the park include seeing the very old Sequoia trees and seeing the views from Glacier Point overlook.
Another of Yosemite’s wonders is Tuolumne Meadows. It can be reached via the Tioga Pass Road when it is open during the summer. The views at the meadows are breathtaking and a must-visit for anyone visiting Yosemite.
Key Largo, Florida
Key Largo, Florida needs to be on your USA travel bucket list. It is known as the Dive Capital of the World and a place that boasts some of the best island life.
It’s one of our favorite places to visit and definitely worth the stop on the drive from Miami to Key West.
Key Largo has some of the best underwater snorkeling to offer. You can head to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef Park, which is home to one of the last remaining living reef formations in the US, and see it up close and personal.
For a unique dive for experienced divers, the USS Spiegel Grove, a dock landing ship used by the Navy in the 1950s, can be found 70 feet underwater.
If diving isn’t your thing, there’s plenty of activities in Key Largo to do above the surface.
If you want to get out on the water, we recommend hopping aboard the African Queen steamboat for an awesome cruise around Key Largo.
Also, from Key Largo you can make a day trip to the famous Everglades National Park, said to be one of the most ecologically diverse regions in the country.
Not only is there plenty to do in Key Largo, but there is also plenty of amazing fresh seafood to indulge in.
One of our favorite restaurants is The Sol by the Sea that has the best panoramic views of the sunset.
And if you’re a fan of craft beer, Islamorada Brewery, and Florida Keys Brewing are great spots to check out!
Adam at Getting Stamped
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming is one of the busiest U.S. National Parks for several reasons.
It is home to hundreds of animal and plant species and wildlife sightings are common.
The park comprises of many vastly different ecosystems within its 3400 square miles. Yellowstone is also famous for its geothermal activities.
The park has something for every type of traveler to explore including hikes, accessible trails, biking trails, and campsites. Yellowstone also has lots of kid-friendly activities.
There is no better place in the United States to spot wildlife than Yellowstone. Lamar Valley is often called America’s Serengeti.
It is a prime location to drive through and spot bison, pronghorns, black bears, coyotes, bald eagles, grizzly bears, and wolves.
For landscape lovers, there are beautiful vistas in every direction. Some of the must-see places within the park include Yellowstone Lake, Mammoth Hot Springs, and the Yellowstone Falls.
Half of the world’s hydrothermal features and geysers are located in Yellowstone and you can easily spend several days driving around the park to see them all.
Old Faithful is the most famous geyser but you will find many other thrilling geysers that regularly erupt throughout the park.
Yellowstone is vast and you can spend hours getting from one place to another within the park so be sure to plan your trip ahead of time.
Here’s a tip: Factor in occasional bison traffic jams! Yellowstone is a national treasure full of unique geologic features and amazing wildlife and it is a must-see for anyone exploring North America.
Stephanie of Explore More Clean Less
San Francisco is one of the best places to visit on the West Coast of the USA.
This charming city is set on the rolling hills above the Pacific Ocean.
The pastel-colored Victorian houses, modern skyscrapers, oriental architecture in Chinatown, and the striking Palace of Fine Arts make San Francisco one of the best cities for architecture lovers.
Also read our other San Francisco posts:
San Francisco 3 to 5-day itinerary ideas
17 Best Things to do in San Francisco on your first visit
The highlight of a trip to San Francisco is the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
This flaming red suspension bridge is one of America’s best-known symbols and visited by over 10 million visitors annually.
There are multiple ways to view the bridge: you can walk or bike across it, drive to the bridge overlooks at Battery Spencer, or take a cruise with views of the bridge.
San Francisco’s other attractions include Fisherman’s Wharf, the twisting Lombard Street, a tour of Alcatraz, murals of Mission District, dim sum in Chinatown, and shopping in Union Square.
To see the majestic redwood trees, head to Muir Woods National Monument or enjoy the foggy views of the Golden Gate Bridge from Crissy Field.
To plan an epic North California road trip from San Francisco, read our detailed guide here.
Chicago is one of our favorite cities in the USA and definitely one of the most beautiful places to visit. Chicago was our home for more than 5 years and it still feels like home whenever we visit.
Chicago is home to the Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District, the deep-dish pizza, and the Chicago Bears and Cubs.
Chicago is home to world-class museums and urban parks and has many things to do for all travelers.
We recommend starting your visit at Millennium Park. This park has stunning sculptures, beautiful architecture, fountains, secret gardens, and more.
The Bean is an enormous steel sculpture that beautifully reflects the city skyline. Taking a photo with the Bean is an essential Chicago tradition.
Other things to do at Millenium Park include seeing a concert at Pritzker Pavilion, seeing Crown Fountain, and exploring Lurie garden.
Follow your trip to Millennium Park by visiting the Art Institute of Chicago and admiring their stunning collection.
Next, visit the Chicago Cultural Center and see the biggest Tiffany glass ceiling in the world.
Take a stroll along the Chicago Riverwalk and admire the beautiful architecture. Walk all the way up to Navy Pier to take a lake cruise or sit in the Centennial Wheel.
Do not leave without eating the famous Garett’s popcorn.
Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty National Monument while in New York is a destination in itself. The Statue of Liberty has represented America for decades and means freedom and opportunity to all immigrants.
Visiting the Statue of Liberty is essential while in New York. To visit Liberty Island, you can take a cruise from either Manhattan or New Jersey.
Once on the island, you can either take a regular tour or pay extra for the pedestal access.
The Statue crown tours are also available but they are strenuous and get sold out months in advance.
On Liberty Island, you will find the Liberty Museum which has an interesting history about the statue and how its made. There are also exhibits representing the values the statue stands for.
An often forgotten part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument is Ellis Island.
At Ellis Island, you will find the Immigration Hospital and the Museum. Together these throw light on the history of immigration.
You will find interesting exhibits about why immigrants fled their home countries, the path they took to the USA, how they were checked for contagious diseases, and later released to the mainland.
You can also trace your ancestors and how they arrived in the country. Visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island is a beautiful experience and should definitely be on your bucket list.
Made famous by Instagram, the city of Page is now at the top of most USA travel bucket lists.
Page is home to the famous Antelope Canyons and the Horseshoe Bend of the Colorado River. If you have a day in Page, then you can easily visit these top sights.
Antelope Canyons in Page are one of the most visited tourist sites in the country.
The two slot canyons are well known for the beam of light that comes through from the top. They make excellent photo ops.
For more information on visiting the canyons, read our Antelope Canyon travel guide here.
Upper Antelope Canyon is more visited because the sunlight shines directly through to the bottom of the canyon in the summer months.
Another plus is that it is located at ground level so you can walk straight into the canyon after a 4WD drive along a dried-up riverbed.
Lower Antelope Canyon is less popular since it is not as easily accessible as the upper canyon.
You need to descend into the canyon through ladders and stairs and climb back up to the ground level at the end of your journey.
This canyon can be challenging to climb so it’s not recommended for young children or people who have trouble with stairs.
Horseshoe Bend was once a lesser-known stop off of the freeway, US Route 89 to be exact.
The gorgeous site is essentially a horseshoe-shaped meander of the Colorado River located amidst red Navajo sandstone.
It is one of the most beautiful places to catch a glimpse of the Colorado River in the area.
Page, Arizona is definitely one of the best places to visit in the United States, especially for its stunning natural beauty and Instagram worthy stops.
Constance at The Adventures of Panda Bear
Zion National Park, Utah
One of the best places to visit in the Southwestern USA is Zion National Park.
The national park is about 3 hours drive away from Las Vegas and makes for a great weekend trip from Sin City.
Zion National Park mainly comprises of the deep red sandstone formation of Zion Canyon and its surrounding areas.
In the peak summer months, the only way to visit Zion is by taking the park shuttle. The shuttle makes round trips along the Zion Scenic Drive and stops at all popular observation points and trailheads.
One of the best things to do in Zion is hiking the Narrows and Angels Landing hike, you can get to these by taking the shuttle. While both the hikes are strenuous, they are worth it.
The Narrows trail begins via a short riverside trail. This part is easy and almost everyone can do it.
After reaching the Virgin River, the main part of the Narrows hike starts.
The trail follows the river upstream through the canyons and in many places hikers need to wade through knee-high water.
We recommend hiking up to the area known as Wall Street where the colors of the canyon are most vivid.
Carry waterproof shoes and quick-drying hiking gear while packing for Zion if you plan to hike the Narrows.
Angels Landing is a strenuous hike that takes you 450 meters up to the canyon walls.
The view from the top of Angels Landing is magnificent but the trail has many switchbacks and sharp drop-offs and is not suitable for people scared of heights.
For those wanting simple family-friendly hikes, we recommend the Emerald Pools trail or the Weeping Rock trail.
Clare at Ilive4travel
Lake Tahoe, California
If you’re looking to tick two US states off your bucket list, Lake Tahoe is the place to go.
The lake straddles the border of California and Nevada and is easily accessible from both states. The stunning freshwater lake is located in the Sierra Nevadas and is one of the most beautiful places in the USA.
Start your visit by driving around Lake Tahoe to enjoy its natural beauty.
There are lots of pull-outs on this scenic drive where you can take in the views and click Instagram worthy shots.
The Lake Tahoe region offers plenty of hikes for all fitness levels in the summer and some of North America’s best ski fields in winter.
Other ways to experience the outdoors in Lake Tahoe during summer are gondola rides up the mountains, hot air balloon flights, and cruises on the lake. You can also go biking and have a picnic at the lake.
If you’re not an outdoorsy type, head for some retail therapy, dining, and spa treatments or have a fun time at the casinos in Reno, Nevada.
While Lake Tahoe is a year-round destination, it is exceptionally beautiful in the winter.
The 1960 Winter Olympics were held in Lake Tahoe and the legacy of that event has created a destination that is buzzing with winter activities.
You can go skiing or snowboarding or just have fun building a snowman.
There are 12 ski resorts, six of them world-class, in the Lake Tahoe area. The most famous ones include Heavenly Mountain, which has the highest vertical drop in California and North Star, which is perfect for family-friendly facilities and winter village atmosphere.
Another excellent choice is the Sugarbowl. It is the nearest ski resort to Sacramento and San Francisco and great for short trips. Whichever resort you choose, you are guaranteed great winter fun.
Christina at Travel2next
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans, located on the banks of the Mississippi, in the southeast USA, is one of our favorite places to visit every year.
New Orleans is also popularly known as Crescent City or the Big Easy and has lots of fun activities for everyone.
New Orleans has a blend of Spanish, French, and African heritage and you can see it reflected in everything from architecture to cuisine.
One of the best places to explore in New Orleans is the French Quarter.
The St. Louis Cathedral is one of the oldest cathedrals in the USA and has striking architecture. It is also beautiful from the inside with painted ceiling and ornate sculptures.
The cathedral is located in Jackson Square, which is fun for people watching, shopping, and relaxing. Inside the quarters, you will find pretty architecture and balconies filled with ferns and flowers.
New Orleans cuisine is quite famous and includes unique dishes such as po’boys, beignets, gumbo, and jambalaya.
The city has many events and festivals and celebrates them on a grand scale. The biggest of them is Mardi Gras. Attending a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans is a memorable experience.
The month-long celebration of Carnival culminates with a bang on Fat Tuesday when numerous parades are held and events take place all over the city.
Big Sur, California
While we love almost all of California, Big Sur along the Pacific Coast Highway has a special place in our hearts.
This gorgeous region is filled with dramatic cliffs and mountains hanging over the Pacific Ocean. Numerous state parks and nature areas offer miles of hiking trails and activities for outdoor enthusiasts.
Beautiful bridges and lighthouses provide architectural contrast and lodges perched above the waves cater to your every need.
Big Sur can only be reached via driving the Pacific Coast Highway.
It can be easily visited from San Francisco or Los Angeles on a weekend. The drive south from SF is more awesome than the drive north because the Pacific is always to your left and you can enjoy panoramic views.
The drive is even more beautiful in spring when wildflowers bloom in the region. To plan a trip along Route 1, read our PCH road trip itinerary.
Alternatively, you can also make a Big Sur day trip from Monterey or San Luis Obispo.
Some of the highlights of a visit to Big Sur include the popular Bixby Creek Bridge, the McWay Falls, Pfeiffer Beach, Point Sur Lighthouse, and San Simeon Elephant Seal Rookery.
Along the way, you will also see California’s Coastal Redwoods and can dine on fresh seafood and fresh farm to table foods in the region.
Death Valley National Park, California
Death Valley, located in California, is one of the most fascinating places in the world.
The Death Valley area is the largest depression in North America and is 86 meters below sea level. It is also the driest and hottest place on the continent.
In July, the temperature in Death Valley hovers around 110 F. The peak tourist season is from October to February when the temperatures are comparatively bearable.
Death Valley is home to many geological phenomena including badlands, sand dunes, saltwater flats, and more.
But the most unique of them is the “wandering stones” at the Racetrack Playa – where weather forces move rocks across the dried lake bed.
The most popular things to do in Death Valley include seeing the panorama from Dante’s View, Zabriskie Point, driving along the Artists Drive, and walking on Badwater Basin.
Visitors can also spend the night in Death Valley at a campground or lodge, but accommodation near the park is limited.
Most of the campsites are open in the hottest months of the year (May to September).
Last but not least, make sure that you take plenty of water and carry sunglasses, and a hat to stay safe on the extreme heat.
Marta at Backpackerswro
Glacier National Park, Montana
Montana’s beautiful Glacier National Park is one of the most stunning places to visit in the USA.
Located on the northern border with Canada, Glacier National Park is full of iconic mountain scenery, diverse wildlife, and abundant plant life.
The national park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most beautiful parks in the country.
The best way to explore Glacier National Park is by driving the famous Going to the Sun Road.
This major road cuts across the Continental Divide and allows visitors to access alpine scenery from the comfort of their car.
The highest point on the road is Logan Pass; it has stunning views of the landscape.
The road is about 50 miles long but we recommend keeping aside a minimum of 2 to 3 hours to drive this scenic route.
The park is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.
There are several miles of hiking trails, turquoise glacial lakes, waterfalls, and streams scattered around the park.
The park’s visitor centers have great learning opportunities and exhibits about the park’s geology and resources.
Wildlife watching opportunities in the park are abundant and you can expect to see grizzly bears, mountain goats, and moose along with a variety of birds.
Glacier National Park is most famous for its glaciers. These huge glaciers are remnants of the last ice age, however, due to climate change, only a few remain. One of the most popular glaciers in the park is Grinnell Glacier.
The glaciers are estimated to melt by 2030, so we recommend visiting Glacier National Park now.
Visitors can stay at one of the campgrounds or lodges in the park and using the red shuttle buses to get around. The shuttle buses are eco-friendly and reduce the number of cars inside the park, making the glaciers last longer.
Mel at TravelingMel.com
As the country’s capital, Washington DC, should definitely be on your list of the best places to visit in the USA.
Washington DC is the epicenter of the country’s politics and has many memorials dedicated to American history.
Add in the variety of Smithsonian museums, trend-setting restaurants, and attractions for art lovers – Washington DC becomes one of the best cities to visit and explore.
Start your visit at the National Mall. This pedestrian mall is home to some of the country’s most famous monuments including Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, and the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial.
The best time to visit Washington DC and the National Mall is during spring when hundreds of cherry blossom trees lining the Tidal Basin are in bloom.
The Mall looks spectacular and you can watch parades, rent paddle boats, etc.
Washington DC is also famous for its collection of Smithsonian museums.
There are 17 museums in total including the National Zoo and they all are always free to visit.
The museums have a vast collection of relics and artifacts and are fascinating to explore. Some of our favorites are the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Natural History, and the American History Museum.
Other must-see things in the city include the Capitol, the White House, and the Washington National Cathedral.
“Without wilderness, we will eventually lose the capacity to understand America. Our drive, our ruggedness, our unquenchable optimism and zeal and elan go back to the challenges of the untrammeled wilderness.”
– Harvey Broome, the American conservationist
Denver and the Colorado Rockies
The Mile High City is one of our favorite places to visit in the country for multiple reasons. Denver has the perfect blend of urban attractions and outdoor adventures to keep all types of travelers happy.
Choose from the beautifully landscaped Denver Botanic Gardens, Coors Field which is Denver’s baseball park, or the Denver Museum of Art to start your visit. Read all about Denver’s must-visit attractions in our post here.
Follow it up with some of Denver’s free attractions including a guided tour of the beautiful State Capitol building, a romantic stroll around Larimer Square, and the busy Union Station.
Denver is also popular for its culinary scene and great for foodies.
Another reason we love Denver so much is because of its stunning mountain scenery and proximity to the Colorado Rockies.
Denver is just an hour and a half away from Rocky Mountain National Park.
Also Read: Ultimate Colorado Road Trip Itinerary
Estes Park is the eastern gateway to RMNP and is a must-visit while in Denver.
We love this charming mountain town for a romantic getaway. It makes the perfect base for exploring Rocky Mountain National Park’s attractions including the famous Bear Lake, scenic drive along the Trail Ridge Road, elk watching, hiking, and camping.
In winter, you can enjoy snowshoeing, skiing, and walk around on frozen lakes. Read our post on planning a winter trip to the Rocky Mountains here.
Las Vegas or Sin City is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in the USA.
The Vegas strip has been featured in countless movies and TV shows and is on the bucket list of most tourists.
The strip is full of iconic casinos and attractions including the Bellagio Fountains, New York New York roller coaster, the ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris Las Vegas, the gondolas inside the Venetian, the architecture of Cesar’s Palace, the acrobats at Circus Circus, and so on.
Las Vegas has several attractions for couples and is the perfect romantic destination to spend an anniversary or honeymoon.
The strip casinos have a variety of slot machines and gaming tables and are the perfect place to learn poker or try your hand at black jack.
However, Vegas is not just about gambling. The city’s nightlife and shows are legendary.
Casino pool parties and rooftop clubs are perfect for those who like to dance and paint the town red.
If you don’t enjoy parties, see a show. Vegas has everything from comedy, drama, magic shows, concerts and revues. There’s something for all ages including the family friendly Cirque du Soleil.
But Vegas is not only about the glitz and glamour of the Strip.
There are many other exceptional attractions in the Nevada Desert including the Red Rock Canyon and Hoover Dam.
Las Vegas also makes the perfect base for exploring the natural areas in neighboring Utah, Arizona, California, and New Mexico.
You can plan an easy day trip to Zion National Park or see the beautiful Grand Canyon in a day from the western rim.
California’s Death Valley or the famous Antelope Canyons on Navajo Nation can also be easily seen on a trip from Las Vegas.
Big Bend National Park, Texas
Big Bend National Park is one of the most underrated places to visit in the USA.
Big Bend is special and needs to be on your USA bucket list for a couple of reasons. The national park is located in West Texas close to the Mexico border and comprises areas of the Chihuahuan desert.
First off, the Chisos Mountain range, which is entirely within Big Bend National Park, is incredible.
The Chisos peaks start from the Texas plains and jut high into the Texas sky, making for enormous cliffs and wonderful views.
You can camp in the mountains to spend more time in the park.
Another reason that Big Bend is so amazing is the diversity of things to do.
You can hike in the Chisos Mountains and explore the landscape.
The South Rim Trail, Lost Mine Trail, and the WIndow Trail are some of the most popular hikes in the park and are musts for any outdoor enthusiast.
Another major highlight is the Hot Springs Historic District located along the banks of the Rio Grande River. Here you can soak in the hot springs and spend a few hours relaxing in the water.
Big Bend is an international dark sky park and has stunning star gazing opportunities. In fact, Big Bend has the darkest sky in Mainland USA.
You can spot hundreds of stars, planets, and even the Milky Way. The park is also great for bird watching and wildlife viewing and definitely worth a visit.
Julie at Ruhls of the Road
Route 66 Road Trip
Route 66 is an iconic road trip for multiple reasons and should be on the bucket list of all travelers.
The road begins in Chicago and ends at the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles. This historic road was initially built to connect small communities from the Midwest to the West Coast.
With time, Route 66 turned into one of the main migration routes for people looking to escape poverty and moving in search of a better life. In the 1960s, the popularity of the route declined with the introduction of the Interstate system.
That might have been the end of the road but several revival projects and famous movies like ‘Cars’ kept interest in the road alive.
Today, Historic Route 66 is one of the essential road trip routes for vacationing families and couples.
It is known as the Mother Road or the Main Street of America and is a great way to explore the country.
The route has many quirky roadside attractions and towns / communities vying for the attention of the tourists.
Nowadays the 2448 mile drive celebrates the times gone by and many people drive it to see small-town America.
On Route 66, you can enjoy the amazing scenery and natural areas.
In Arizona, the road passes through the Petrified Forest National Park while the Grand Canyon National Park is an easy drive from Williams / Flagstaff. There are many historic sites located on Route 66.
Along the road, you will find fantastic retro motels and original neon signs that are lit up at night.
One of the essential stops is the original Wigwam motels.
The local people are also a great attraction of the drive and you can meet some fabulous characters on the road.
The best part about the drive is that the towns that struggled only a few years ago are now seeing a resurgence thanks to tourism.
Kirsty at Lost in Landmarks
Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota should be on everyone’s USA travel bucket list.
Located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Mt. Rushmore is visited by people from all over the world every year. We recommend flying into Rapid City and staying in Keystone to explore the attraction.
Mt. Rushmore National Memorial is one of the country’s most famous sculptures. It has the heads of 4 US Presidents carved on the granite face of the mountainside.
The 4 presidents are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln from left to right.
The memorial is called the Shrine of American Democracy and attracts millions of people every year.
The on-site museum has many artifacts about the project’s creation and the legacy of the presidents.
There are many other attractions in the Black Hills beside Mt. Rushmore. Custer State Park is one of our favorite places to see bison herd and other Great Plains wildlife.
The park has mountain lakes, historic sites, hiking trails, and it is great to spend a day or two camping under the pine trees.
The nearby scenic drives of Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road are a delight to drive. Crazy Horse Memorial is a good place to learn about Sioux Indian history and culture.
While you are in the area, we also recommend visiting Badlands National Park as a part of an ultimate South Dakota road trip.
This is one of the most underrated national parks in the country and has a surreal landscape of erosion work carried out by wind and water.
The Badlands Loop Road is a great way to explore the park while hiking in the Badlands is our favorite activity.
Red Rock Canyon, Nevada
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is located in Nevada’s Mojave desert. It is only 215 miles from the Sin City of Las Vegas and it takes roughly forty minutes for the drive.
The canyon has a wild, rugged beauty that you see frequently depicted in Westerns.
Red Rock Canyon is perfect for a day trip from Vegas as well as for camping overnight.
You can view the area from the comfort of your car on a scenic drive or go hiking or rock climbing to explore in-depth. At only $7 entrance fee per car, it is a steal for budget travelers.
Despite being surrounded by rocky mountains, this vast area consists of a flat and sandy plateau.
You must drive the 13 miles long Scenic Drive that takes you along the highlights.
Along the route, there are several pull out points from where you can view the panoramic landscape and geological landforms. You will also find several trailheads along the drive.
What you will love about this park is that nowhere is out of bounds.
You can climb on any rock, hike on any path, and generally just enjoy the area and everything it has to offer.
The Red Rock Canyon area is home to 600 different types of plants, including the unique prickly looking Joshua tree. You can also spot a variety of wildlife ranging from tiny lizards and frogs to the docile, lumbering burros.
If you’re close to Las Vegas, then Red Rock Canyon is an unforgettable trip and must be on your list.
Emma at Journey of a Nomadic Family
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
One of the best things to add to your USA bucket is a visit to one of the US National Parks. There are so many amazing National Parks to choose from, and some don’t get as much recognition as some of the more popular ones.
If you ever plan a trip to the East Coast, make sure to visit Shenandoah National Park.
Located along the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, Shenandoah National Park is a must-visit when planning a trip to the area.
Shenandoah is less than a couple of hours from Washington DC and is the perfect mountain getaway.
One of the best things to do at Shenandoah is a drive along Skyline Drive. There are over 70 lookouts along Skyland drive to admire the breathtaking mountain scenery.
The drive is especially beautiful in the fall when you can see the colorful foliage over the mountains.
If hiking is your thing, Shenandoah has over 500 miles of hiking trails that branch off into the Appalachian Trail.
Many of these hikes lead you to some of the most amazing views, waterfalls and vistas! There are also many kid-friendly hikes in the park that are easy enough for young ones.
You can even stay within Shenandoah National Park, at one of two park resorts – Skyland Lodge and Big Meadows Lodge.
The lodges feature cabins with some of the most amazing views. Just make sure to reserve rooms in advance, especially in the fall, as rooms are almost always sold out.
There are also a few campgrounds and RV parks if you’re planning to go that route. Entrance fees are $30 per vehicle, but there are admission-free days, especially during National Parks Week.
Skylar at Skylar Aria’s Adventures
Arches National Park, Utah
Arches National Park, in spite of being the smallest national park in the state, is by far the most popular of Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks.
And for good reason too, there is so much to do there from hiking to scenic drives and more!
Located about 10 minutes outside of Moab in eastern Utah, Arches is a fascinating landscape of over 2000 sandstone arches and is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the USA.
The best way to explore Arches National Park is via the Arches Scenic Drive.
You can drive the entire 18 miles through the park in under half an hour but we recommend stopping at various viewpoints along the way to check out the vistas.
Along the scenic drive, you will also find trailheads for some of the best hikes in Arches National Park. There are a variety of hikes in the park suitable for all activity levels.
The first stop in this park is Park Avenue which offers the perfect introduction to the scenery here. A little further on is the popular Double Arch, which is the tallest arch in the park.
It is a quick 10-minute hike to Double Arch and it is also one of the few places in the park where you can experience some shade from the afternoon sun.
Probably the most famous Arch in the park is Delicate Arch. This arch is the symbol of Utah and found on the state license plate.
It takes about 1 hour to hike up to the arch and the hiking trail is often busy throughout the day.
The 1.5 miles (one way) trail will take you uphill to the arch making it an intermediate level hike. The arch looks best at sunrise or before sunset.
No matter where you go in Arches National Park, you are sure to be amazed by the breathtaking views!
Nicole at American SW Obsessed
If you are planning a trip to the USA, then you should put Sedona right up at the top of your bucket list.
Sedona, Arizona offers a unique getaway experience surrounded by dazzling natural beauty. When you visit this part of the country, it may remind you of an alien landscape from Star Trek.
But this natural wonder world is actually located in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert and quite accessible.
In Sedona, you can hike on breathtaking trails through brilliantly colored red and orange sandstone structures that surround this unique town.
The numerous trails will get you up close and personal with the region’s stunning formations and unique vistas.
Apart from hiking, you can go horseback riding, rafting, and biking.
A number of ancient cultural sites are also easily accessible from Sedona and worth a visit.
The nearby Red Rock State Park and Oak Creek Canyon provide more opportunities to explore. Campgrounds nestled into the green forests that hug the banks of the Oak Creek are perfect for roughing it.
Art and culture lovers can take advantage of the town’s thriving art scene and visit numerous galleries highlighting the characteristic Southwest and Native American art.
Wondering where to stay in this little town? For creature comforts, you can pick from many bed and breakfasts, inns, hotels, and resorts to accommodate you while you hike, bike and relax your way through this one-of-a-kind American experience.
Rebecca at KwaFare
Disney Theme Parks
The Disney Theme parks in the USA are on the bucket list of many visitors from across the world. The Disneyland parks in California and Walt Disney World parks in Florida have many exciting experiences for visitors of all ages.
We have been to the parks by ourselves and with kids and have found them to be truly the happiest places on the planet!
Some of the essential things to do at Disney include meeting the characters and dining with them.
Kids love meeting the popular characters including Mickey Mouse and friends, Chip and Dale, and Disney princesses Cinderella, Snow White, and Belle.
Little girls can also get their favorite princess makeover at the boutiques inside the theme parks.
Seeing Cinderella’s Castle is one of the highlights of a Disney trip.
The parks have many rides and roller coasters for all age groups.
Wildlife fans can visit the Disney Animal Kingdom in Florida while foodies should definitely head to Walt Disney World’s Epcot to eat dishes from around the world.
Disney’s special celebrations like Mickey’s Halloween Party and the Holiday season are also one of the best times to visit the parks.
To read more about planning the ultimate Disney trip, check out our Disney posts.
The island of Oahu, Hawaii deserves a spot on your USA Travel Bucket List due to its incredible beauty, adventurous activities, and cultural opportunities.
The best way to start your days in paradise is by watching the sunrise on the windward side of the island.
Lanikai Beach offers perfect views with the Mokulua Islands silhouetted in the orange sky.
As the day starts, spend time on the powdery white sand beach at Lanikai before going swimming in the clear, turquoise water next door at Kailua Beach.
While visiting the beaches on the east side is reason enough to add Oahu to your bucket list, adventure lovers will love all the other opportunities that the island has to offer.
Oahu’s hikes are legendary.
There are several to choose from including the Lanikai Pillbox or Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail for those looking for a beginner to moderate experience.
The Crouching Lion trail is popular with advanced hikers.
For a unique experience, head to Kualoa Ranch and visit several filming locations from Jurassic Park / World. You can tour the ranch via ATVs, jeeps, or overhead on the zipline course.
No trip to Oahu would be complete without a visit to Pearl Harbor. The Visitor Center, ferry ride to the Arizona Memorial, and grounds are free to the public, with add-on options for touring the submarines.
This landmark is a beautiful place to learn and pay your respects.
There are plenty of snorkeling spots that are gentle enough for beginners, like Three Tables on the North Shore in summer months (stop for shrimp trucks and shaved ice while you are at it!), and Hanauma Bay year-round.
If you are lucky, you will find yourself swimming near the sea turtles – an experience to last a lifetime.
Sierra at Free to Travel Mama
Sequoia National Park, California
There are plenty of must-visit places to see across the US but if you love the outdoors then you should definitely add Sequoia National Park to your USA travel bucket list.
This park, as the name suggests, is known for its huge Sequoia trees that will leave you in awe…but there are also lots of other fun things to see and do in Sequoia while you are here!
The highlight of your visit is sure to be the unique Sequoia trees. These giants are found only in this specific part of California. Although the Sequoias are not the tallest trees in the world, when measured by volume, they are the largest.
Seeing a Sequoia up close is a wonderful experience, the trees feel very grand and imposing.
And the national park even boasts of hosting the largest tree in the world—the General Sherman Tree!
This remarkable tree stands at around 275 feet tall and has a 36-foot diameter at its base, which is both breathtaking and incredible to see in person.
After seeing these stunning trees, you can enjoy hiking through them and explore the stunning Sierra Nevadas outdoors.
One hike you won’t want to miss is climbing Moro Rock, which offers breathtaking 360° panoramic views from the top. It’s the perfect place to enjoy the sunset and has the best views in the park.
So if you’re looking for something unique and outdoorsy to enjoy, Sequoia National Park is the place to go. You certainly won’t regret adding it to your list of the best places to visit in the USA!!
Abi at Happy Go Abi
Shelling Beaches of Southwest Florida
If you’re looking for a laid-back, tropical beach vacation, then the United States has many beaches to choose from.
But what makes a beach truly bucket list worthy? How about a beach with year ‘round sunshine, sugar-white sand, few crowds, and a lush tropical landscape? Southwest Florida has it all!
This part of the state is renowned for some of the best beaches in the US.
From Sanibel and Captiva Islands to Marco Island and with so many great beaches in between, the opportunities for that tropical vacation are endless.
But there’s something even more special that sets these beaches apart — seashells and wildlife.
Thousands of seashells wash up on the shores of SWFL for the lucky beachcomber to scoop up by the handful.
In fact, the barrier island of Sanibel near Ft. Myers is known as the Shelling Capital of the World because of its coastal location and geological formation.
You can spend your entire vacation scouring the best shelling beaches on Sanibel or take a dedicated day cruise just to continue the hunt.
The beaches in Southwest Florida are also known for their abundant wildlife.
Throughout the year, you’ll see dolphins and rays in the water.
A great place to see them up close is the Naples Pier where you can walk the length of it for over 1,000 feet into the Gulf of Mexico. In the summer and fall, manatees and sea turtles also make an appearance.
With such good accessibility to SWFL, that perfect beach vacation is closer than you think!
Lori at TravlinMad
Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
Visiting the US National Parks is on the bucket list of many travelers.
But while most visitors flock to iconic sites such as Yosemite, Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, there is one pretty amazing park that is often overlooked, Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.
The park had been on our bucket list for a while now, and we finally got the chance to visit last summer.
Great Sand Dunes National Park is located in south-central Colorado, near the town of Alamosa, CO.
The openness of the park and the sheer size of the Sand Dunes is quite breathtaking, especially if you have never seen sand dunes like this in person before.
There is an informative visitor center, trails, and even a great campground too. But of course, the highlight is getting out there to walk, hike, slide, and play on the sand.
After parking in the main dune lot, you will need to walk along paths through some shrubs and depending on the season, you may also have to wade through Medano Creek (snow water runoff in the late Spring but dries up in the summer).
Then you arrive at the base of some pretty amazing dunes, some of which tower more than 700 feet above! It’s a dramatic scene.
Another reason we loved visiting the Great Sand Dunes National Park is how dog-friendly it is. There is so much room out on the dunes that you can run around and play with your pup all day!
Josh at Peanuts or Pretzels
North Carolina Waterfalls
North Carolina may be well known for its fantastic barrier island beaches but it also has incredible mountains with hundreds of waterfalls!
Whether you’re heading to Brevard, also known as the Land of Waterfalls, to slide down the Natural Water Slide or you’re in Asheville looking for some gushing beauty, Western North Carolina is a bucket list place for chasing waterfalls.
For a long 3 mile hike worth the trip, visit the 100 ft tall Catawba Falls in Pisgah National Forest.
Or choose the 45 feet tall roadside Walker Falls near Asheville. There is a waterfall in almost every nook and cranny in North Carolina.
We recommend lacing up your boots and hiking the mountains off of the Blue Ridge Parkway and going off the beaten path to chase water.
One of our favorite hidden gems that belong on your bucket list is Mingo Falls near the Smokies.
Located near Cherokee, North Carolina, Mingo Falls is the tallest waterfall in the Southern Appalachians. Sitting on the Cherokee Indian Reservation, it’s not uncommon to see elk either on your drive to the falls or in your hike there.
The 120-ft beauty snakes through the mountainside and is an easy 160 steps from the parking lot. Here’s a tip: the parking lot only accommodates 6-7 cars, so coming early is the best way to ensure you’ll be able to park!
Mingo Falls is just one of the many waterfalls located in Western North Carolina, but we find it bucket list-worthy because it’s not only an incredible sight, but it also not as traveled as some of the other waterfalls making the pictures so much more beautiful!
Christina at NC Tripping
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
From dramatic mountains to glacial lakes to diverse wildlife, Grand Teton National Park has something to inspire the adventurer in all of us.
Located in northwest Wyoming, this park should be at the top of your list if you love exploring nature…and, maybe even if Mother Earth isn’t typically your thing.
At sunrise, drink in the beauty and practice your photography skills at Schwabacher’s Landing. The colorful sunrise and majestic mountains reflecting in the pristine water are an extraordinary way to start the day.
Then drive the Teton Park Road which will take you to the park’s most scenic and historic sites.
If you enjoy hiking, consider the 2-mile long hike to Jenny Lake, which is one of the most popular destinations in the park.
The trail is often crowded and the parking lot full but the view is worth it all. The regal Tetons soar behind the pristine glacial water of the lake making for a very photogenic landscape.
There are multiple ways to explore Jenny Lake.
Hike the 7 miles long loop trail around the lake or take a short boat ride to explore the lake from the water. You can also take a water shuttle across the lake to Cascade Canyon Trailhead and explore Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point.
If you have more time, continue hiking into Cascade Canyon and watch out for wildlife.
There are many ways to spend a day in the Grand Tetons.
But, ultimately, no matter what you choose, you’ll marvel at the sheer size and beauty of the mountains and be inspired to explore our country even more.
Tiffany at The Stoke Fam
Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
The minute you land on the Big Island of Hawaii, you realize you are in a land like no other.
Where else can you drive a highway with the Pacific Ocean on one side and black lava fields on the other? And the best place to learn more about the volcanoes and lava flows is the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is located in the southeast part of the Big Island of Hawaii.
It is about 2-hours drive from Kona and about 45-minute’s drive from Hilo. The park encompasses the summits of two active volcanoes – Mauna Loa and Kilauea.
This is a national park so regular US national park entrance fees are required.
Within Volcanoes National park, you can experience lava in many cool ways.
As you make your way by car down towards the Pacific Coast, you will pass a place to park and explore the amazing lava tubes!
Lava tubes are essentially a cave created by flowing lava. To walk through one is really neat and something you won’t get to do every day.
As you drive through Volcanoes National Park, you will pass several lava fields marked by the date of the eruption.
You can pull your car over and walk around on the black stone. Lastly, if you are up for it, and weather conditions permit, you can hike to see an active lava flow.
Other things to do in the park include stopping at the Kilauea Visitor Center to learn more about volcanoes and taking the scenic drives to explore the national park.
On the Crater Rim Drive, you can spot steam vents while the Chain of Craters Road will lead you to the end of the road where the lava flows into the ocean.
Here’s a tip: On your way back to Kona from the park, stop by the black sand Punaluʻu Beach and watch for green sea turtles!
Harmony at Momma To Go
Did you like our epic list of best places to visit in the USA? Did we miss on any amazing places? Let us know in the comments.