From snowcapped mountains to tropical beaches, from some of the world’s most iconic cities to some of its most incredible deserts, from the east coast to the west, one thing is incredibly certain: there is absolutely no shortage of awe-inspiring, utterly diverse, and incredibly beautiful places to visit in the USA.
Our home country boasts one of the most incredible national park systems on the planet, along with a huge variety of cities, small towns, and other gorgeous places that ensure that a lifetime would not be long enough to see all of the best travel destinations in the USA.
… But that won’t stop us from trying to enjoy as many of the most amazing vacations in the United States as we can.
We teamed up with several other travel bloggers to put together this giant USA bucket list, and definitely added a few new spots to our personal list of places to see in the US in the process!
From coast to coast, city to countryside, here are the best places to visit in the USA.
Table of Contents
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Best Cities to Visit in the USA
New York, New York
From Disha of Disha Discovers
New York is one of the most iconic and beautiful cities in the United States and even the world.
It truly is a city that everyone should visit at least once in their lives even if it’s just for a quick weekend in NYC!
The tall buildings are mesmerizing and awe-inspiring, it’s home to some of the most exquisite museums and galleries in the world, and New York City is brimming with so much to explore and see.
Plus, NYC is a foodie’s heaven with cuisines from all over the world.
… And, these are only a few of the many reasons to visit this magnificent city.
Some bucket-list-worthy things to do in New York City are to watch a play on Broadway, see the Statue of Liberty, hang out in Time Square, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, and take a stroll around Central Park.
A few museums to visit are the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met), the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, the Guggenheim, and the American Museum of Natural History.
Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, 5th Avenue, Empire State Building, and Chelsea Market are must-sees as well.
Whatever you decide to do in New York City, you’re in for a real treat!
This city will leave you feeling inspired and you’ll want to book another trip to come back!
From Veronika of Travel Geekery
Vibrant and colorful Miami is, without a doubt, one of the best places to visit in the US.
The downtown area merges into wonderfully diverse neighborhoods from Little Havana to Coral Gables.
However, most visitors to the vibrant yet laid-back city head to its beaches located on a long stretch of a barrier island.
South Beach especially is where the glamor’s at, topped by stylish Ocean Drive, which is lined with elegant Art Deco houses including Versace’s mansion, trendy restaurants, and nightclubs… the scene is pretty lively there.
The beach itself features uniquely colored watchtowers spread around nice light sand. The waves are mostly mild. Pelicans like it here too and often float on the water near people.
Watching a sunrise on the beach belongs to one of the best experiences one can have in the area.
Miami City and its beaches can easily be visited even without a car.
The public transport network and the ample ride/bike-sharing services make it an easy destination for any type of traveler.
San Diego, California
From Maria of San Diego Explorer
San Diego is the perfect California beach city and a must on any USA bucket list.
Also known as America’s Finest City, San Diego has a lot to offer, whether you are looking for a beach getaway at one of the many beach resorts in San Diego, a fun time in the city, or a mix of both.
Here are some of the best things to do in San Diego!
In Downtown San Diego, there is something for everyone: from eating delicious Italian fare in Little Italy to visiting the Midway Museum to strolling through Seaport Village, and having a fun night out in the Gaslamp Quarter.
If you love the outdoors and animals, visit Balboa Park and the world-famous San Diego Zoo.
And then, there are the beaches: San Diego has some of the best beaches in Southern California.
Some of the most popular ones are Mission Beach, Coronado, and the beaches in La Jolla.
You can relax on the sand, take surfing lessons, or ride your bike along the boardwalk for a fun day on the beach.
San Diego has so much to offer and is simply a fun city, no matter what you are in the mood for.
The Live Music Capital of the World and capital of the state of Texas is located in the heart of Texas Hill Country and offers a fantastic combination of excellent nightlife, plenty of outdoor activities and day trip opportunities, and truly phenomenal food.
Don’t leave without having at least one giant meal each worth of TexMex and barbecue!
While in Austin, be sure to visit trendy South Congress Avenue, watch the bats fly out from under the South Congress Bridge (if you’re visiting at the right time of year, that is), see a show, and go for a hike (or if it’s too hot, hit the lake!).
Want to get out of town?
Austin is within an easy day trip of natural swimming holes, Texas’ wine country, and adorable small towns.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Good food, good music, and good times: of all the best places to visit in the USA, NOLA definitely ranks toward the top of the list for places to go to simply have an amazing time.
There’s far more to New Orleans than Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street, and beignets, though.
With a dark and complex history heavily impacted by slavery and a constantly evolving modern culture, New Orleans deserves more than just partying during your visit–though there’s plenty of time for that, too.
While in New Orleans, be sure to listen to some jazz, learn a bit about the city’s history, visit the famous Jackson Square, head to the Garden District, check out the beautiful oak trees in City Park, and–this is very important–eat your heart out.
NOLA is indisputably home to some of the best food in the country–so good, in fact, that the food alone would be a good enough reason to add New Orleans to your USA bucket list.
For those interested in New Orleans’ spooky legends, a ghost tour through the French Quarter at night is also worth adding to your to-do list!
From Jordan of The Solo Life
One of the best travel destinations in the United States is the nation’s capital, Washington, DC.
With everything from museums to monuments to the White House and Capitol Building, DC has something for everyone.
In addition, DC’s public transportation and numerous free attractions make it a surprising destination for the budget-friendly traveler.
Kid-friendly options include the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and the National Air and Space Museum.
Art lovers will enjoy the National Gallery of Art or the Hirshhorn Museum for modern and contemporary art.
History buffs should check out the Library of Congress and the National Archives Museum.
Besides museums, the National Mall and Tidal Basin are must-visit locations to see the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, and Lincoln Memorial, among others.
The best times to visit DC include early summer before it gets too hot or in the fall once summer break is over.
Although extremely crowded due to the Cherry Blossoms, springtime is also a gorgeous time to visit.
No matter what time of year, Washington, DC is one of the best destinations to visit in the US.
San Francisco, California
The city of hills, ocean views, and the famous Golden Gate Bridge is at the top of many people’s lists of bucket lists for the United States.
And, with an endless list of things to do that cater to all interests, why not?
Be sure to pay a visit to the touristed highlights that most interest you–Fisherman’s Wharf (and its adorable sea lions!), Alcatraz, walking across the Golden Gate Bridge, visiting the Painted Ladies (of Full House fame), and checking out Lombard Street.
Once you cross those highlights off your list, though, make time for a few less-obvious attractions, like San Francisco’s Japanese Garden, the Land’s End Labyrinth, and Fort Point.
And, of course, you can’t forget to go for a walk in the woods while visiting San Francisco!
Visiting the Muir Woods is an unforgettable experience worthy of your time on any weekend trip to the area.
Philadelphia has been one of the coolest US cities to visit for centuries, and–like Boston–it features strong ties to the American Revolution.
This is where the Declaration of Independence and the Consitution were signed, touring Independence Hall and visiting the nearby Liberty Bell are among the best things to do in Philadelphia today as a result!
You can’t miss Philly’s food scene when visiting, either–from whoopie pies to Philly cheesesteaks, the city has a (literal) flavor all its own.
Start–but don’t finish–exploring Philadelphia’s food scene at the historic Reading Terminal Market.
Be sure to also make time to visit some of Philadelphia’s incredible museums during your visit, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of the American Revolution (we loved this one), and touring the dark but fascinating Eastern State Penitentiary.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is also home to another essential stop in this iconic East Coast City: the Rocky Steps.
And, if you’re willing to work up a sweat, definitely consider running up them yourself during your classic American vacation in Philadelphia!
From Wendy of The Nomadic Vegan
Chicago is the third-largest city in the US, and also one of the most ethnically diverse.
Its skyline reflecting off the waters of Lake Michigan is a sight to behold.
No matter what your interests are, whether it’s music, shopping, culture, art, or dining, you could spend months exploring all that Chicago has to offer.
On a shorter USA vacation, though, you can still see quite a few of the best sights in Chicago!
The city’s top museums include the Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Don’t forget to check out the many outdoor sculptures and other public works of art around the Loop, either.
A walk along the Magnificent Mile will take you past upscale department stores and through Millennium Park, home of the famous sculpture known as The Bean.
A visit to Bronzeville, also known as “the Black Metropolis”, is a must to learn about the city’s rich African-American history.
Architecture buffs will be interested to know that this is where Frank Lloyd Wright established the Prairie School architectural style. You can find some of his earliest buildings here in Chicago.
You’ll work up an appetite walking the streets of this massive city. This is a good thing, because the restaurant scene here is amazing!
You can find pretty much any cuisine you could imagine, from stylish Japanese to homestyle soul food, and there are even lots of vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Chicago.
From Thanh of The Traveling Asian
Houston, Texas is one of the coolest places to visit in the United States, and while an unexpected vacation option, certainly one that will impress.
After all, it is the 4th largest city in the USA and is often ranked as the most diverse city in the country!
Because of this size, you can expect there to be all kinds of things for you to see and do here in this city.
One of the most iconic places you must visit in the city is Space Center Houston.
There you can learn about NASA and space travel as well as take a tour around the famous mission control center. If you love space, then this place is for you.
Houston is also home to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo which is the biggest rodeo of its kind in the country.
There, you’ll be able to eat some delicious rodeo foods, pet some livestock, learn about animals, play at the amusement park, and even watch a concert by famous celebrities.
But aside from the attractions, Houston is known for its food. Since it is the most diverse city in the country, you can find just about everything available here in this city.
For instance, you can find Tex-Mex, Chinese, Ethiopian, Greek, and many other ethnic cuisines available all around the area.
So if you love food and all things fun, then Houston is definitely the place for you.
Las Vegas, Nevada
From Kimberley of Two Travelling Toques
If you’re looking for a cool place to visit in the USA, you can’t get much cooler than Las Vegas.
This well-known city has been depicted in numerous movies such as The Hangover and Ocean’s Thirteen as party central.
And if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll definitely find it in Vegas.
Long known as both the wedding capital for a quick place to get married, or the perfect spot to hold a bachelor or bachelorette party, either way, it’s the spot to bring your friends, let loose, and have fun!
Gambling has been a big draw to Las Vegas since the early 1930s, and there is no shortage of showy and extravagant casinos to choose from.
Nightlife also takes center stage here.
From world-class musicians to top-notch magical acts, to dependable artists like Wayne Newton who have had a residency here for years.
During the day, you can grab a fancy drink and chill by the pool. Or hit up one of the pool parties and listen to the headlining DJ.
Either way, be sure to bring lots of money for the high-end shops, ever-flowing drinks, and dazzling casinos looking to draw you in.
Without a doubt, the small but stunning city of Savannah, Georgia is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the USA.
Featuring absolutely stunning architecture, 22 of its original 24 town squares, endless oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, and some of the best food in the country, spending a few days in Savannah is bound to be a delight.
While you’re there, be sure to meander down beautiful Jones Street, check out Forsyth Park, hear some of the city’s most enduring legends on a ghost tour, enjoy views from River Street, and take in some of Savannah’s complex history at its various house museums and houses of worship.
Don’t forget to set aside plenty of time to eat!
While there are dozens of incredible restaurants in Savannah, favorites include The Olde Pink House and The Grey for special occasions, The Collins Quarter for their legendary lavender mocha latte, and Leopold’s Ice Cream for a scoop of their famous Tutti Frutti ice cream.
Have enough time for a quick day trip?
Tybee Island–also known as “Savannah’s Beach”–is less than a 30-minute drive away, and while you certainly won’t want to swim in the summer, strolling along the sand and climbing the lighthouse are a treat.
Los Angeles, California
From Trijit of Budget Travel Buff
Looking for the coolest place to visit in the United States?
Visit Los Angeles; a unique combination of the entertainment industry, gorgeous beaches, great food, and vibrant nightlife.
It is certainly not the cheapest place in California, but for the right travelers, LA is definitely worth the price tag.
Los Angeles is a large city full of tourist attractions that won’t let you stay idle.
If you are a beach lover, LA won’t disappoint you with its stunning beaches that include Malibu, Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach, Venice Beach, Hermosa Beach, and so on.
There are several fantastic museums in LA. LACMA is the most popular one for its diverse art collections and special exhibits.
Some other renowned museums are the Grammy Museum, Natural History Museum, and Museum of Broken Relationships.
While visiting LA, you will notice entertainment at every corner of the city. You can see a concert or enjoy a ride at the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park.
If you rent a car in Los Angeles, go for a scenic drive along the Pacific Coast Highway that carves through the mountains of Malibu.
Los Angeles has some of the best restaurants in the US.
Once you are done with LA sightseeing, have lunch at any of these food spots – Diakokuya for ramen, Langer’s for a pastrami sandwich, Guisados for tacos, or pizza at Mozza.
Set right on the water with the dramatic backdrop of Mount Rainier, it’s no wonder that busy and beautiful Seattle is one of the best USA travel destinations.
When visiting Seattle, be sure to eat your way through Pike Place Market, head to the top of the Space Needle, visit the famous Chihuly Museum, and check out the fun and interesting Museum of Pop Culture.
Looking for interesting neighborhoods?
Head to Fremont, where the self-proclaimed unofficial motto is “des libertas quirkas”, aka “the freedom to be quirky”.
Hoping to spend some time outside?
Nestled in the heart of the magnificent Pacific Northwest, endless waterfalls, trails, and mountains–even Mount Rainier itself–are located within day-tripping distance from Seattle.
Charleston, South Carolina
Located just a couple of hours north of Savannah, Charleston shares a lot of similarities with its neighbor to the south.
Fantastic Lowcountry food, Spanish moss dripping from the trees, beautiful architecture, and lots of history to uncover are wonderful to appreciate in both Charleston and Savannah–but Charleston absolutely has its own distinct personality as well.
On your Charleston vacation, be sure to visit the beautiful and photogenic Rainbow Row, check out the tea-making process at the Charleston Tea Garden, visit the gorgeous and interesting Angel Oak Tree, stroll through Waterfront Park and Battery Park, and check out City Market.
If you’d like to do some shopping while in Charleston, King Street is the place to go.
Those interested in US military history will no doubt want to visit Patriots Point to tour the former US naval ships docked there and Fort Sumter for its history (and views).
Beach lovers, don’t miss the chance to check out nearby Folly Beach and/or Sullivan’s Island!
As the theme park capital of the world, Orlando is one of the most popular places to visit in the USA for both domestic and international visitors, mostly on behalf of one iconic mouse.
As home to Walt Disney World, Orlando is a must-see USA bucket list item for many families across the world, and with four amazing Disney parks packed with rides, experiences, and intense amounts of nostalgia, it’s no wonder why.
Disney isn’t the only theme park game in town, though!
Universal Studios Orlando, home to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, is also a fantastic theme park to visit, and big roller coaster fans may even want to take a day trip to Tampa Bay to experience Busch Gardens.
Though the parks are a big draw for people visiting Orlando with kids and kids at heart alike, theme parks aren’t the only places to visit in and around Orlando.
The Kennedy Space Center, plenty of beaches, and even cool swimming holes like Wekiva Springs are within day-trip distance of Orlando.
Much like Austin, Portland proudly embraces its weirdness, celebrating the eclectic and bizarre in all possible ways–and that makes it endlessly fun to visit!
Bookworms like me will immediately head to Powell’s City of Books–I still think it’s the biggest bookstore I’ve ever visited–while foodies will want to head directly to the local ice cream obsession, Salt & Straw.
Voodoo Doughnuts, now with a few locations nationally, also originated here and remains popular with tourists (though depending on who you ask, not locals–for what it’s worth, we’d rate the doughnuts 7/10).
During your weekend trip to Portland, make time to visit the Japanese Garden and the International Rose Garden, especially if you visit when everything is in bloom.
Plenty of incredible parts of the Columbia River Gorge, including famous Multnomah Falls, are also within easy reach of Portland and deserve to feature on your USA bucket list!
From Apryl of Southern Traveling Gal
No doubt about it, there’s something about Nashville, that casts a long-lasting spell on travelers.
For travelers visiting Nashville, it’s not unheard of to plan a return trip as soon as the current one is over!
Only in “The Music City” is it possible to catch the latest exhibit at the Frist Art Museum, see a replica of the Parthenon and enjoy live music at venues along the Honky Tonk Highway.
For first-timers, touring country music icons like the Ryman Auditorium and the Country Music Hall of Fame is a must-do.
Don’t overlook artist-specific museums such as the Johnny Cash Museum and Glen Campbell Museum that provides a closer look at these music giants, either.
Much of Nashville’s allure lies within its distinctive neighborhoods, like the Gulch, filled with shops and restaurants.
It isn’t unusual to spot a long line or two here, typically featuring either people waiting in line to take a photo with the “What Lifts You” mural or getting into Biscuit Love.
Save some room for some barbecue from Peg Leg Porker!
12thSouth offers locally-owned boutiques, stores, and eateries. Also found here is Draper James, the flagship store of Reese Witherspoon’s clothing line.
Be sure to take home some cookies from Christie’s Cookie Company and snap a photo with the “I Believe in Nashville” mural.
Across the Cumberland River is the eclectic East Nashville. Don’t miss out on the mini doughnuts at Donut Distillery.
Depending on time, consider visiting Cheekwood Estates and Gardens, a 55-acre botanical garden, as part of your Nashville getaway.
Of course, no trip to Nashville is complete without hot chicken from Prince’s Hot Chicken or biscuits from Loveless Cafe, located near the Natchez Trace Parkway.
From Linn of Brainy Backpackers
Boston is such a cool city to visit in the USA, rich in history, architecture, and food.
Along the waterfront, you can walk the 43-mile-long Harbor Walk.
But there is so much more to add to see during your trip to Boston, like the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile-long path taking you to 16 significant places in American history.
It is well marked and technically be walked in as little as 90 minutes, though you can download the app and visit each place which will take at least a whole day to complete.
Boston is home to the oldest public park in the United States, Boston Common, which is situated next to Boston Public Garden.
You can wander the parks and enjoy a ride in the Boston Public Garden’s historic paddleboats.
Nearby, you’ll find the Boston Public Library at Copley Square, which is an incredibly beautiful Renaissance Revival structure from 1895 that you should visit.
You’ll also find the beautiful neighborhood of Beacon Hill nearby, as well as the trendy neighborhood of Back Bay.
For the best views of the city during your Boston itinerary, visit the Skywalk Observatory.
National Parks + Other Beautiful Places for a US Vacation
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
From Melissa of Parenthood and Passports
Yellowstone National Park is the oldest national park in the United States and one of the best places to visit in the entire country.
Known for its geothermal activity, more than half of the earth’s geysers are located in the national park which straddles the borders of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana.
Old Faithful is one of the most popular things to see in Yellowstone National Park.
The active and predictable geyser erupts approximately 20 times each day.
Visitors to the park gather around to watch the geyser blast hot water and steam into the sky.
Although quite impressive, Old Faithful is just one of many must-see geothermal features found in the park.
One of the largest hot springs in the world, the Grand Prismatic Spring, is another popular attraction in Yellowstone.
Visitors can get an up-close view of the spring or take a short hike for a stunning overview of Grand Prismatic’s vibrant colors.
Beyond all of its geothermal features, Yellowstone National Park also boasts beautiful waterfalls, crystal-clear lakes, rivers, and more than 200 species of animals.
Bison, deer, moose, wolves, and even bears live in the park.
Because of all the wildlife in Yellowstone, visitors are strongly encouraged to use caution when hiking or camping and to carry bear spray to protect themselves in the event of an encounter.
Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho
From Allison of She Dreams of Alpine
Idaho is often overlooked when it comes to cool places to visit in the US, but the tiny town of Stanley serves as the gateway to an abundance of outdoor adventures in the stunning Sawtooth Mountain range and along the swift Salmon River.
Although it has a population of less than 100, Stanley is easily accessible in a 3-hour drive from the main airport in Boise or about a 1-hour drive if you’re coming from Sun Valley.
The best way to explore the Sawtooth Mountains is on one of the many hiking trails.
The hike to Alice Lake is a perfect introduction to the area, and you can either do a 12-mile day hike or backpack the longer Alice/Toxaway Loop over the course of a few days.
Whichever option you choose, you’ll discover gorgeous views of Alice Lake framed by the “Dragon’s Back” peaks of the Sawtooth Mountains, including Idaho’s own “El Capitan.”
For fun on the water, you can go fishing along the Salmon River or swim in Redfish Lake.
When you need some rejuvenation after your adventures, you can reward yourself with great food and drinks at the Stanley Supper Club and take a dip in the hot springs at the Mountain Village Resort.
Once you head home, you’ll surely find yourself raving to your friends about this hidden gem of a mountain town – unless you want to keep the Sawtooth Mountains and Stanley a secret for yourself!
From Kay of The Awkward Traveller
The Oregon Coast is one of the most underrated travel destinations in the USA, but for those who love moody, dramatic scenery, it is the best place to be.
Although the actual coast isn’t very long (338 or so miles, about a 7.5-hour drive without stopping), it makes for a great weekend or longer trip with added stops.
Starting at the north end, about 2 hours outside of Portland, the city of Astoria will serve as your jumping-off point with picturesque bridges and locations from The Goonies.
Heading south, take a pitstop at the cheese capital of the state – Tillamook, Oregon.
Visit the Tillamook Cheese Factory and gorge yourself on all things dairy before continuing on to stunning Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area.
The highlight of the coast will be Yachats, Oregon, with incredible farm-to-table restaurants that are dedicated to sourcing local sustainable fish, meat, and produce providers.
On the southern end of the coast, you can find sand dunes in Florence, and natural rock arches among the cliffs in Brookings.
If your tolerance for rain is low, summer will be the best season to visit weather-wise, while winter and spring will have smaller crowds and lower prices.
Acadia National Park, Maine
From Ale of Sea Salt & Fog
Acadia National Park is one of the most beautiful national parks in the eastern United States, perfectly showcasing the beauty of the Maine coast.
Acadia has miles of hiking and biking trails, as well as easy coastal access for kayaking and sailing.
When visiting, plan to spend at least 2 days in Acadia National Park so you can make the most of your time there.
One of the best things to do includes watching the sunrise at Cadillac Mountain, where you’ll get stunning views of the islands that dot the coast.
Drive Park Loop Road to enjoy some of the park’s most famous attractions, including Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, and Jordan Pond (don’t forget to stop for popovers at Jordan Pond House!).
For hiking, choose a paved Carriage Road to take you down to one of the many picturesque ponds and lakes in the park.
Plan your visit in the fall to see the famous New England fall foliage in full display, or in the summer to enjoy long, sunny days perfect for hiking.
If you love the outdoors, add Acadia to your list of places to visit in the US – you won’t be disappointed.
Joshua Tree National Park, California
From Monica of This Rare Earth
Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California is an incredible destination in the United States.
This desert ecosystem became a national park as recently as 1994, and it’s easy to see why it was chosen!
The Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert meet in the middle of Joshua Tree National Park, which means that you will see two very different landscapes depending on which half of the park you are in.
The Mojave Desert is home to the famous Joshua Tree – a tall and spindly yucca – as well as giant boulders popular with climbers and hikers.
The majority of the park’s hiking trails are found in this region.
However, while planning your Joshua Tree National Park itinerary, it would be a mistake to skip the Colorado Desert at the southern end of the park.
The Colorado Desert is hotter, lower in elevation, and flatter, but holds gorgeous landscapes full of cacti and, at the right time of year, wildflowers.
In the summer months, avoid strenuous hikes or leave early in the morning as temperatures can reach over 100 degrees.
Joshua Tree National Park is a designated Dark Sky Park, perfect for stargazing and well outside the bright light of the city.
Joshua Tree is roughly 2.5 hours outside of Los Angeles.
From Chris of Called to Wander
Alaska is known as the Last Frontier, evoking adventure for those looking to travel to a truly unique place.
Because the state is massive, at over twice the size of Texas, you could spend as much or as little time exploring it as you have.
Many people take cruises through the Inside Passage and make stops in places like Ketchikan, Haines, and Seward.
Others fly into the main cities of Anchorage or Fairbanks and then rent vehicles and head off on their own adventures.
By far the best way to make the most of an Alaska vacation (though it requires a steep time commitment) is by driving to Alaska and spending as much time as you’d like wandering from one place to the next.
You can drive to the Arctic Ocean along the Dalton Highway, view North America’s largest mountain (Mt. Denali), or observe wildlife like caribou, grizzly bear, and moose.
Or, catch a flight out to a handful of the most remote national parks, or drive up to and hike out to massive, ancient glaciers.
If you enjoy fishing, go after halibut in Homer or salmon in the famous Russian River.
Regardless of what kind of travel you prefer, Alaska offers adventure for everyone and should definitely be on your travel bucket list!
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
From Dan of Cabin Critic
The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the most popular national park in the US, hosting over 10 million annual visitors, and it definitely belongs on your bucket list for the USA.
Located in Tennessee and North Carolina, the park has diverse animal life, plants, and natural attractions. There are tons to do and see.
If you are feeling adventurous you can go zoom down zip lines, go white water rafting, or go mountain biking.
For a more relaxed trip, you can go on hikes, see beautiful waterfalls, or simply go for a scenic drive.
Cades Cove, for example, is a broad valley surrounded by mountains you can drive through that is well known for providing the best opportunities for seeing wildlife like white-tailed deer, black bears, coyotes, and more.
When you aren’t enjoying the outdoors there are numerous mountain towns to enjoy like Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, or Asheville.
Stay in one of the cabins with a view of the mountainsides and check out the local attractions like Dollywood in Pigeon Forge or the Biltmore Estate in Asheville.
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
From Michele of Adventures Abound
Just a 2-hour drive from both Portland and Seattle rest the foothills of the towering volcano Mount Rainier.
Known to the Indigenous since time immemorial, Mount Tahoma is covered in unimaginable beauty and can be enjoyed year-round.
Visit in the summertime for hiking through meadows strewn with wildflowers of every color, and in the fall for ripening berries and a better chance to catch the trails and lakes free of ice and snowmelt on a variety of great day hikes just outside of Seattle.
To extend your visit overnight, pitch a tent in an established campground, stay in a rustic lodge in the national park, or backpack along the Wonderland trail that circumvents the park.
Not feeling up to a lengthy hike?
Just driving through Mount Rainier National Park will afford endless views of waterfalls, glaciers, lakes, and even the chance to spot wildlife.
For those thrill-seekers looking for a more challenging adventure, apply for a permit to climb more than 8,000 feet to the summit, but be aware this is only for experienced mountaineers.
Mount Rainier National Park can also be enjoyed in the winter when the park sees an average of 55 feet of snowfall or more.
Head to the Crystal Mountain gondola to catch a great view of the peak while skiing and snowboarding down the slopes, or pick one of many great locations to snowshoe and backcountry ski along the mountain.
Whatever the choice for season and activity, Mount Rainier National Park is sure to be full of memories and adventure in one of the most beautiful destinations in the United States.
Arches National Park, Utah
Home to over 2,000 naturally-occurring sandstone arches, Arches National Park in Utah is one of the most uniquely beautiful places in the USA.
Whether you’re hiking to the incredible Delicate Arch (so iconic that it’s featured on Utah’s license plates), wandering through the Devil’s Garden, or taking one of the shorter hikes to visit some of the most impressive arches in the park, there’s no shortage of things to do.
Even one day in Arches National Park is well worth your time, but more would certainly be better.
Arches National Park is also home to internationally-recognized dark skies and some of the best stargazing in the United States–in order to see the best of the park, be sure to visit at least once after dark!
And, while Arches National Park is easily one of the best places to vacation in the US in its own right, the nearby town of Moab also makes an excellent launching pad to visit Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park.
Olympic National Park, Washington
From Sophie and Adam of We Dream of Travel
Not only does Olympic National Park cover nearly a million acres, but it is also the most biodiverse of all the US national parks.
It has it all, from glaciated mountains to breathtaking coastlines, crashing waterfalls, ancient rainforests, enchanting hot springs, and plentiful wildlife.
With such a treasure trove of natural landscapes, Olympic National Park is easily one of the best places to visit in the US.
Mountain lovers should budget plenty of time to hike the trails of Hurricane Ridge.
Here you will discover stunning views above the clouds, as well as an abundance of wildlife.
A great way to explore the park is on foot, particularly as much of the park is roadless. There are numerous multi-day hikes to choose from and it’s popular with backpackers.
The 17.4 miles Hoh River Trail is one of the most impressive, taking you through a flourishing rainforest to the base of Mount Olympus.
For coastal visitors, Second Beach is one of the best Olympic Park photography locations and a perfect spot for sunset.
However, with 73 miles of wild coastline, there’s plenty to explore!
There are endless options for the waterfall, forest, and nature lovers too.
In Sol Duc forest you can watch crystal water plunge into the lush greenery.
Or, you can choose to explore the vibrant green mosses of the Hoh Rainforest.
No matter which part of Olympic National Park you visit, you will not be disappointed.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Stretching over a mile deep, the Grand Canyon in northwest Arizona is one of the largest–and most impressive–canyons on the planet, and one of the most popular places to visit in the USA!
Come to Grand Canyon National Park to admire views from the rim, hike into the canyon, watch the sunrise and sunset, and perhaps even hike all the way down to the Colorado River.
If you do want to hike to the river, though, be warned: doing so is a 2-day commitment!
Anyone taking a southwest road trip in the USA should consider adding a visit to the majestic Grand Canyon to their list: it’s truly a sight that you’ll never forget.
Death Valley National Park, California
From Michelle of The Wandering Queen
One of the best places to visit in California is Death Valley National Park.
This park is filled with bright white salt flats, mountains splashed with pastel colors, and eerie rocks that move on their own.
This park is such a strange yet unique environment which makes it perfect for avid photographers.
One of the best things to do is to watch the sunrise at Zabriskie Point. The views are glorious as the sun slowly sets on the unique colorful mountains.
Afterward, make sure to hike the Golden Canyon, Gower Gulch, and Badlands Loop Hike. The trailhead is right next to Zabriskie Point.
Another popular activity is visiting Badwater Basin. The basin stands at 282 feet below sea level and is filled with white salt.
This is a great spot to take pictures of the salt in contrast with the tall, dark mountains in the distance.
Nearby the salt flats, you can visit the devil’s golf course where spikey salt formations cover the ground.
The next outstanding area to visit is the Artists Drive. The mountain is sprinkled with pastel colors like yellow, pink, purple, and green.
It truly is a spectacular thing to see!
Rocky Mountain National Park
From Jyoti of Story At Every Corner
Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most gorgeous parks in the US.
It’s also easily reachable from Denver, Colorado, which has many flights from across the country, making it fairly simple to access and one of the most popular places to vacation in America!
The best place to stay is in Estes Park, a quaint little tourist town in the mountains.
There are many small towns all around the park and many choices for all price points.
The easiest way to visit RMNP park is by car.
You can then enjoy the park by making stops at each vista point and taking hikes from there.
Most stops have short and long hikes; easy and challenging hikes.
There is a hike for everyone, but there is also spectacular scenery right at the vista points, even without a hike.
Keep in mind that the popularity of Rocky Mountain National Park means that certain places, like Bear Lake Road, must be accessed via reservation.
The most popular road that goes across the park is the scenic Trail Ridge Road.
If you don’t have time to visit anything else, I recommend driving Trail Ridge Road from Estes Park to the town of Grand Lake.
Other major attractions include Sprague Lake and Bear Lake, to the south of the trail ridge road.
They offer absolutely stunning views and many wildlife viewing opportunities along with the drives.
There is so much to do around Denver that RMNP can be part of a week-long itinerary visiting Colorado or a trip just for RMNP.
Set in the Sierra Nevada Mountains along the border of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is easily one of the most beautiful places in the US.
With crystal-clear water and plenty of activities in and out of the water, from hiking to SUP to swimming, there is no shortage of ways to appreciate the otherworldly beauty of Lake Tahoe.
To enjoy the views of the lake itself, summer is definitely the best time to visit–but winter has its charms, too, including plenty of skiing and incredible views of the lake framed by bright white snow.
From romantic couples’ retreats to fun getaways to Lake Tahoe with kids, all kinds of travelers will find something to love about Lake Tahoe.
Havasu Falls, Arizona
Located on Havasupai tribal lands not far from the Grand Canyon, Havasu Falls is simultaneously one of the most famous waterfalls in the USA and one of the hardest to access.
In order to visit Havasu Falls, you’ll need to secure an extremely competitive permit (they sell out months in advance) and complete a 10-mile hike in each direction.
You’ll also need to spend the night nearby, as it’s one of the permit requirements set out by the Havasupai people.
If you manage to swing both the logistics and the hike, though, the rewards are pretty spectacular.
Zion National Park, Utah
Home to some of what are quite possibly the best hikes in the country, Utah’s most-visited national park is absolutely one of the best places to see in the US.
Test your fear of heights (if you have one, that is) by hiking the incredible Angel’s Landing, and be rewarded with stunning views of Zion Canyon.
Venture deep into the Virgin River by hiking The Narrows, a hike that takes place literally in the river!
Seek out incredible views along Observation Point, the Canyon Overlook Trail, and the Watchman Trail.
Try to score a permit to hike the Subway, but if you can’t get one, don’t worry: there’s more to see in Zion National Park than you can cover in one vacation.
No matter how you spend your days at Zion National Park, there’s no doubt that you’ll be experiencing something worthy of a bucket list!
Texas Bluebonnet Trail
California’s magnificent wildflowers may be a bit better known outside of the country, but Texas’ phenomenal spread of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes that decorate the countryside each spring absolutely belong on anyone’s USA bucket list.
Whether you choose to visit the official Texas Bluebonnet Trail near Ennis (not far from Dallas) or head to the Texas Hill Country, there is no shortage of places to admire bluebonnets in Texas.
Though the blooming times can of course vary a bit depending on the weather, late March and early April are generally the best times to experience the beauty of Texas’ bluebonnets.
Upper Peninsula, Michigan
From Emily of Em’s on the Road
If you’re looking for unforgettable outdoor experiences without the price tag of popular destinations out west, then the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is the place for you.
One reason the Upper Peninsula (or U.P.) is really unique is that it is an ideal place for adventure seekers all year long.
In the warmer months, the U.P is a great beach destination in the Midwest thanks to its location with beachfront on Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron.
In the fall, pack your hiking boots and tackle rocky hiking trails for colorful views you’d never expect in the Midwest.
With an unobstructed panoramic view of Lake Superior, the hike up Sugar Loaf mountain in Marquette, Michigan is one of the most popular in the region.
Thanks to some serious snowfall, there’s so much to do in the U.P. in the winter months.
There are cross-country ski trails, snowmobiling trails, downhill skiing, dog sledding, ice climbing, and more.
Redwood National Forest
From Dhara of Roadtripping California
Most visitors to the Golden State put California’s national parks at the top of their itineraries because they are just so spectacular.
Redwood National and State Parks, in the northern part of the state, offer you the chance to stroll among giant redwoods, some of the tallest and oldest trees on the planet.
A group of five parks, Redwood National and State Parks feature not just the towering redwoods, but also epic coastal views, beautiful prairies filled with wildflowers in season, and the chance to see birds and wildlife.
Enjoy some of the scenic drives in the parks: Howland Hill Drive, Coastal Drive, and the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway are all great choices.
Do some of the trails through the redwood groves to see the giant trees up close: the Big Tree Wayside Walk, the Stout Memorial Grove Trail, and Lady Bird Johnson Grove are all super scenic and relatively easy walks.
Gaze up at the trees, and enjoy the ferns and rhododendrons in the understory.
You can also go biking in the parks, and camp if you plan to stay for a few days.
Redwood National and State Parks are about 5.5 hours north of San Francisco by road, and you can visit all year, although you will have the best weather in the summer.
Apostle Islands, Wisconsin
From Jase of Roaming Vegans
A little-known gem in the north of Wisconsin is the Apostle Islands.
This island archipelago on Lake Superior looks like it belongs in Southeast Asia – not on the shoreline of a humble midwestern town.
However, its tucked-away location makes it all the more special for visitors.
While the lake freezes in winter, the islands come to life in summer with many activities like sea kayaking, island hopping, and cliff jumping.
There is even an island home to one of the largest concentrations of bears in the Midwest–yes, bears!
The largest and most populated island is Madeline Island which makes for a great base to explore the nearby smaller islands.
Beaches + Islands for Your USA Bucket List
From Jessica of I’m Jess Traveling
Famed for her elegant beaches, world-class resorts, and next-level surf, Maui attracts visitors from all over the world.
It’s no surprise that Maui was named Condé Nast Traveler’s best island in the U.S. for 23 consecutive years.
There are countless things to see and do in Maui depending on your travel style.
For outdoor enthusiasts, hike through a majestic bamboo forest ending at a 400-foot waterfall.
Ocean lovers can test their skills at surfing or set sail on a sunset cruise.
There won’t be a shortage of exotic beaches to explore, no matter what your travel style is.
The adventure seekers have their pick among plunging the popular Road to Hana or watching the sunrise above the clouds at 10,000 feet inside Haleakala National Park.
Whatever your draw, sunsets, beaches, luxury, or adventure, Maui has it all.
Not only is Maui one of the best USA travel destinations but it’s one of the best places to take a tropical vacation in the world.
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
For adorable beach towns, sandy beaches, and some of the best seafood you’ve ever eaten in your life, head to the classic New England summer getaway of Cape Cod.
While you’re in Cape Cod (or as New Englanders say, “on the Cape”), hit one of the beautiful trails, visit a lighthouse or two, stick your toes in the sand, and eat lots and lots of lobster.
While Cape Cod’s swimming season is much shorter than popular beach destinations elsewhere in the country, it’s still well worth visiting.
Just be sure to plan ahead, because rental houses for summer on the Cape tend to book up before winter even wraps up!
Nā Pali Coast, Kauai
Towering cliffs covered in dense jungle, dramatic waterfalls, small valleys, and views of the Pacific Ocean far below: welcome to the Nā Pali Coast.
Without a doubt, the Nā Pali Coast on Kauai is one of the most beautiful travel destinations in the US.
Stretching 17 miles along the northwest portion of Kauai, the Nā Pali Coast is best admired from air–usually via a helicopter tour–or from a boat on the sea.
Whichever option you choose, there’s no doubt that what is arguably the most beautiful corner of The Garden Island is bound to impress.
For a taste of the Caribbean without leaving the USA, head to the Florida Keys!
Not only is the overseas drive from Miami to Key West one of the most scenic road trips in the USA, but the Keys themselves are also fantastic, home to beautiful beaches, colorful architecture, great food, and plenty of things to do.
While you’re there, be sure to hit the water via snorkeling or scuba diving, go for a swim, enjoy the famous Duval Street, tour the Ernest Hemingway House, and eat several slices of the region’s famous Key Lime pie!
Big Island, Hawaii
From Patricia of Travel Fam Life
The biggest of the Hawaiian Islands, Hawaii (also known as the Big Island) is a cool place to visit.
That starts with the weather: you’ll experience a lot of sunshine temperatures ranging from 85°- 90° in the summer months and 79°- 83 in the winter months, making it the perfect place to escape year-round.
Hawaii is going to impress anyone that decides to visit.
The food is phenomenal and the choices are vast with plenty of history and cultural backgrounds.
The array of activities ranges from land to sea, from memorable ancient sites to beautiful folklore traditions.
Some of the best things to do when taking a vacation to the Big Island include:
Zip Lining over waterfalls is an activity that can be very exhilarating if you are an adrenaline junkie.
This can also be enjoyed as a family activity, some companies allow kids as young as 5 years old to participate.
Volcano National Park is a breathtaking experience with its majestic hikes, thrilling ride down to the Chain of Craters, and some spectacular scenery and photo opportunities.
Papakolea or Green Sand Beach is one of 4 green sand beaches in the world.
The hike to this remote beach is very worthwhile, and the backdrop of the Hawaiian blue ocean that keeps you company makes the whole experience priceless.
And the list goes on, you can check it out here.
Outer Banks, North Carolina
With sandy beaches framed by sand dunes and rolling waves, the Outer Banks of North Carolina may not boast the bright water of the Florida Keys or the tropical beauty of Hawaii, but they are stunning all the same, and absolutely one of the best places to visit in the USA.
Come for the small beach towns, the history of the Wright Brothers taking their first flight here, the southern food, the historic forts, and the beautiful lighthouses.
Come for the sunken pirate ships, for the wild horses that live on some of the islands, for the great places to swim, and for the great day trip opportunities.
If you’re looking for a classic, all-American vacation, you can’t go wrong with a visit to the barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina that make up the magnificent Outer Banks.
From Sydney of A World in Reach
While visitors sometimes think of Oahu as just being a stopping point before visiting Hawaii’s other islands, the island has so much to offer than overcrowded beaches and tourist attractions.
Oahu is home to delicious food, beautiful scenery, and captivating history and is one of the best travel destinations in the United States.
Most visitors to Oahu will base themselves in Honolulu, Hawaii’s capital and largest city.
Guidebooks often recommend spending little time in Honolulu; however, this city is a melting pot of culture and is home to some of the best food on the island.
Whether you’re looking for a traditional Hawaiian meal or some of the best Asian food in the United States, you can easily find a delicious meal in Honolulu.
Start your visit to Oahu off by exploring Honolulu, seeing the sights, and eating all of the delicious food.
Spend a day at Waikiki Beach – it might be touristy, but it’s still worth a visit.
Plan a visit to Pearl Harbor, where you can learn more about one of the darkest days in US History, and spend a morning hiking Diamond Head, one of the best hikes on Oahu.
Spend the rest of your time on the island exploring the North Shore, visiting the famous Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, and indulging in shave ice from Matsumoto.
Visit the beaches along the North Shore, where you might see some surfers catching waves, and hike through a botanical garden to a beautiful waterfall at Waimea Valley.
Other Beautiful Places in the USA to Visit
Napa Valley, California
Northern California’s wine country is definitely among the most beautiful–and for wine lovers, tastiest, places to visit in the USA.
With beautiful small towns, great boutiques, and rolling hills filled with vineyards that almost feel like being in Tuscany, both Napa Valley and Sonoma County have plenty to offer those looking for a laid-back, wine-filled getaway.
Door County, Wisconsin
From Paulina of Paulina on the Road
Wisconsin often isn’t the first US state that people think of visiting, but from beautiful beaches to quirky attractions like House on the Rock, it has plenty to offer.
One of the most beautiful USA landmarks, Door Country, Wisconsin welcomes you on board with 300 miles of stretched shoreline and an awestruck sunset over the water, you could not leave without a witness.
It allows your soul to breathe and relax. Wisconsin lets you explore aesthetic art galleries, and thousands of miles of stretched orchards, cherish the local brews and wines, paddle along the beautiful lakes, and devour the cheery pies.
Moreover, Green Bay, the capital of the region, is an underrated city that eventually captivates its visitors.
Though it’s a small city, the vibrant culture offers amazing things to do in Green Bay.
Green Bay entertains visitors with prominent wineries. They produce their wines right up there which adds up to be a vital part of their culture. The landscape and heritage inspire the artists.
Walleye fishermen have the best water. It’s clean and portrays immense beauty. The botanical gardens and zoological parks play their role in charming travelers.
Green Bay is an enchanting place that charms visitors with its intriguing features.
Route 66 isn’t technically just one place, but as one of the most iconic travel destinations in the United States, I couldn’t bear to leave it off this USA bucket list!
Stretching from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California, Route 66 is America’s best-known road trip and the perfect place to find not-quite-forgotten slices of Americana, from quirky roadside attractions like Cadillac Ranch and the Catoosa Whale to beloved diners and 50s-era-inspired motels.
Route 66 passes through nine states in total (Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California), and is a fantastic way to experience some of the best of what traveling in the US has to offer, all in one large trip.
Big cities, small towns, incredibly diverse landscapes, and beloved national parks are all featured heavily on Route 66.
Though it’s not technically on the route, even the Grand Canyon is accessible as an incredible side journey when road-tripping Route 66.
Whether you want to find a quirky campsite in Oklahoma or go hiking in Arizona, there’s no doubt that Route 66 is a classic US travel destination.
Big Sur, California
From Lauren of Ready, Set, PTO
Big Sur is one of the most beautiful places in the US and should definitely be on your bucket list.
Cruising along the winding Pacific Coast Highway with sweeping views of the Pacific is a magical experience.
This rugged area is located in Central California, about 5 hours north of Los Angeles.
If you aren’t able to find available lodging within Big Sur, check out nearby towns of Carmel and Monterey for more options, or try car camping with an epic view!
There are plenty of amazing things to do in Big Sur.
I definitely recommend checking out the iconic Bixby Bridge (as seen in HBO’s Big Little Lies), admiring McWay Falls, hiking in Andrew Molera State Park, and Limekiln State Park, having a drink with a view at Nepenthe and watching the sunset at Pfeiffer Beach!
There’s not much cell service in Big Sur, so be prepared for an off-the-grid weekend of relaxation and gorgeous views.
The small town of Page, Arizona may seem like no more than a small town worthy of a brief stop on a road trip at first blush–but this small, unassuming town is home to some of the most incredible sights in the entire southwest, and it definitely belongs on your USA bucket list!
Page is where you can find the famous Antelope Canyon, as well as Horseshoe Bend, the Instagram darling of the Colorado River (for very good reason).
Just outside of Page, you can also find the remarkable Glen Canyon Dam, one of the largest dams in the US, as well as Lake Powell–but to see the best of Lake Powell, you’ll actually need to cross into Utah!
That’s not hard to do, though: Page is located right next to the Arizona/Utah border.
With such an outsized list of fun attractions, there’s no doubt that Page is one of the coolest places to vacation in the USA.
3 thoughts on “USA Bucket List: 50 Best Places to Visit in the US”
Great info. I know its great because I have been to most of the beaches you mention!
Thank you – will also look at your Italian small towns to see which ones we should visit and maybe retire to.
Thank you so much, Laura!
Retiring to Italy–sounds like quite the dream! 🙂
Absolutely amazing article, just loved it.