The 51 Best Places to Visit in the USA (all with photos)
While creating a bucket list often starts with adding destinations in far-flung corners of the globe, it’s always good to remember that there are plenty of incredible attractions right on your doorstep. It’s also worth remembering that just because you’ve been to a country, it certainly doesn’t mean you’ve seen it all.
Each country has a huge array of sights, activities, and cities to explore, and no more is this the case than with the US! You could easily create a bucket list of over 1000 with the USA alone! Here we’ve collated our 51 best places to visit in the USA so you can decide what to add to your own bucket list.
It would be amiss to have a USA bucket list without mentioning New York, New York, so why not simply start the list with the world-famous city? Home to Central Park, Times Square, the Empire State Building and the 9/11 Memorial, this concrete jungle offers a wealth of sights and activities to enjoy throughout the year. From freezing, snowy winters to balmy summer’s evenings, the busy Big Apple is constantly changing and evolving making it an amazing place to visit time and time again.
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The compact US capital has played host to some of the most important moments in the country’s history, and visiting is a must for US citizens and travellers alike. The Capitol building, White House and Supreme Court are all iconic must-sees, and the Lincoln Memorial, Smithsonian museums and the National Mall will keep visitors of all ages engaged and entertained. But it’s not all history and culture, DC also offers awesome nightlife, a delicious selection of all-American-eats and is even one of the best places in the country to see the beautiful cherry blossom in spring.
With its artsy-cool vibe, San Francisco has long graced the bucket lists of people worldwide. Not only is San Fran perfect for weekend visitors, with plenty of must-sees (think: Alcatraz, Pier 39, the Golden Gate Bridge and the wiggly turns of Lombard Street) but it also the gift that keeps on giving for those who choose to stay longer. The city is home to some incredible museums, unique architecture, a great cafe culture and an eclectic mix of inhabitants who always keeps things interesting!
New Orleans is a melting pot of cultures thanks to its long and rich history and as such offers a wealth of cuisines, architecture, and music to enjoy. From the stunning buildings of the French Quarter to the city’s iconic jazz venues, you’ll find yourself loving the Big Easy in no time! Most famous for its epic Mardi Gras celebrations, New Orleans is the perfect place for music lovers and those that can’t resist a party. With outrageous costumes, vibrant street parties and more than a splash of colour, Mardi Gras in Louisiana is one event that is not to be missed.
Boston, Massachusetts is one of the oldest cities in the US which played a vital part in the American Revolution. Following the Freedom Trail, a 2.5km route through the city, allows you to take in a range of historic sites while learning about the roots of the nation and the changes that have taken place over the years. Boston is also home to a picturesque harbour, the peaceful green spaces of Boston Common, the quirky narrow lanes of North End and the boutiques and restaurants of Back Bay, enabling you to enjoy hours of entertainment in the city.
With some of the most amazing architecture in the whole of the country, Seattle is a must for the cities section of this bucket list. Get your heart racing with a walk around the top of the Space Needle, catch some cool, cult classics at the Museum of Pop Culture or gawp as the incredible glassworks at the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum. While Seattle is famous for being the original home of Starbucks, it is also one of the best places to grab some other authentic bites such as a Seattle Dog, delicious doughnuts from General Porpoise Doughnuts or a cold brew coffee at the Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room.
Often lauded as the most romantic city in the US, Savannah, Georgia features perfectly-preserved buildings, flourishing willows, and oaks and horse-drawn carriages that will make you feel as though you’ve stepped into a fairy tale. Take a tour through the pristine mansions, charming churches and meandering streets of the city to get a glimpse of this magical world. Even the Bonaventure Cemetery has an ethereal feel! Plus, the city is home to some cracking cuisine straight from the coast, and some bourgie boutiques so you can get your shopping fix.
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While both Portlands (Maine and Oregon) are worth a visit, Oregon’s largest city is truly a west coast wonder. The food and drink scene here is legendary, with everything from farm-to-table dining to street food secrets getting your mouth watering. Craft beer and creative cups of coffee keep you refreshed so you can spend your days exploring the city. Pop-up shops, regular festivals, and tax-free shopping, as well as a collection of museums, zoos, and parks are scattered all over the city to keep you entertained.
An alternative to Austin and Dallas, San Antonio in Texas offers a snapshot of Latin America in the US. Influenced heavily by its neighbour, Mexico, San Antonio allows visitors to taste exquisite cuisine, witness unique LatAm-inspired art and take part in traditional festivals such as Fiesta in March, the city’s answer to Mardi Gras. Expect colour, culture and colonial history as you delve into the city’s history and heritage. Don’t miss an evening walk down by the San Antonio riverside; seeing what the stalls under the colourful umbrellas have on offer.
The famous home of country music, Nashville, Tennessee, is a must for anyone who loves a bit of Dolly, Elvis and Johnny Cash. This city offered insight and inspiration to these musical legends, and no visit to Nashville is complete without a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Nashville is still abuzz with live music today so check out bars, clubs, and theatres for a whole host of performances.
Sights and Monuments
Probably the most famous building in the country, the White House is truly recognisable and is every bit as impressive in person as it is in pictures. Not only can you take some photographs outside, but you can even visit the inside of this iconic house with a self-guided tour. You do have to book this tour weeks in advance though, so get prepping if you want to snap some selfies in the State Dining Room!
At 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and over a mile deep, you can see why they call this canyon ‘grand’! Standing on the edge of this epic canyon you will feel impossibly small and somewhat insignificant! However, sometimes a little perspective is worth it, and that is definitely the case with Arizona’s Grand Canyon. Hike along the canyon’s ridges, kayak down the river or opt for a helicopter ride to get a glimpse of the sheer scale of this incredible natural wonder.
Located in Black Hills South Dakota, Mount Rushmore is one of the country’s most famous sights. The huge granite sculptures of the Mount Rushmore Memorial depict four former US presidents (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln) and represent the country’s heritage and growth. Guests can explore the visitor centre to discover more about the country or simply stroll through the trails and tracks of the park.
Niagara Falls is one of the many beautiful ways of bridging the gap between Canada and the US. The three falls collectively (Horseshoe Falls, American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls) sprawl across the National Park and are all worth seeing. The thunder of the falls is palpable as 168,000 m3 (six million cubic feet) of water powers over the edge of the falls every minute! The falls are open 365 days a year, so there’s really no excuse not to visit.
The Statue of Liberty was given as a gift to the US by France as a representation of the country’s freedom. Despite taking years to build (due to funding issues) the site is now one of the most popular in the country. One of the best ways to see the Statue of Liberty is on a statue cruise that takes you across the New York Harbour to Liberty Island. You can also combine your trip to the Statue of Liberty with a visit to the Ellis Island National Immigration Museum to learn about the country’s heritage.
This bustling hub of videos, neon lights, taxis and tourists is a must for visitors to the Big Apple. Times Square is somewhat chaotic but holds a lot of character and is home to tons of shops and restaurants. With events and festivals held year-round as well as Broadway shows galore you can see why Times Square lies at the heart of the city that never sleeps! For the most epic NYE party be here to watch the ball drop at midnight!
The National Mall is the heart of all things America with the Capitol building at one end and the White House at the other. The Smithsonian museums lie along the pristine green lawns, and the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument are must-sees. This is a popular area, especially in summer with school trips flocking here to soak up the atmosphere and learn about US history and politics.
The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri is the world’s tallest arch and was built as a representation of the westward expansion of the United States. While it may simply look like a monument, it is actually a building, and you can take a tram ride to the top to enjoy epic views of the city. The base of the arch is home to an interactive museum which celebrations innovation and pioneering acts of great Americans and is perfect for a family day out.
The Hollywood Sign and the Walk of Fame are iconic spots for film and celebrity lovers. Despite the fact that the sign is just a selection of white, wooden/metal letters (originally used for real estate promotion) it has become renowned worldwide, and it is must when visiting LA. The walk of fame hosts stars for actors, singers, and other celebrities and you can spend a fun day out finding your favourites.
Taos, New Mexico is a stunning ancient pueblo that is home to a Native American community and has been for around 1000 years. The adobe buildings are in stark contrast to much of America’s architecture, and the town is a recognised UNESCO World Heritage Site and National Historic Landmark. While it is a tourist site, it is important to remember that this is also someone’s home, so respect and consideration is required at all times.
One of the most famous national parks, Yellowstone is a huge expanse of wilderness that spans the states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Known for its interesting array of wildlife, including wolves, bison, and bears, Yellowstone is a must for animal lovers. The park is home to a wealth of trails for hikers and climbers and also boasts geothermal geysers including one named Old Faithful; a visitor favourite!
See old faithful
Located in southwest Utah, Zion National Park is renowned for its epic scenery, including the Zion Canyon, Virgin River, and the stunning Emerald Pools which feature flowing waterfalls and a lush verdant hanging garden. Zion is characterised by its red cliff faces and unique rock formations which give even the most advanced hikers a challenge!
Not only does this national park have an awesome name, Badlands, but it also features incredible landscapes and wildlife. The rolling hills of the towering geological formations look as though they’ve been painted as a watercolour, with red, white and grey streaking across the precipices. The vast expanse of rock stretches as far as the eye can see, making it a great place for landscape photography.
Home to some of the biggest trees on the planet, the forest of Sequoia National Park is both dramatic and awe-inspiring. General Sherman, is officially the largest tree in the world stretching almost 275ft from the ground and over 100ft round! It’s hard to describe the size, so the only way to fathom it is to go and see for yourself. Standing next to one of these trees will make you feel minuscule!
Get your photo in front of a Sequoia
Known for the crocs, Everglades National Park in Florida is a must for lovers of the great outdoors. With kayaking, fishing, hiking, and birdwatching to be enjoyed, the Everglades is a perfect option for a family vacation. This vast wetland is home to manatees, American crocodiles, and even the elusive Florida panther, so keep your eye out at all times as you never know what you might see!
Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park offers exactly what you would expect: volcanoes! Located on Big Island, the park features two active volcanoes: Kīlauea and Mauna Loa which have been erupting continuously for decades. The park features a Crater Rim drive allowing you to enjoy epic views of the crater, looking out for steam vents as you pass by. Don’t miss the Jaggar Museum where you can learn all about volcanology and take in the impressive lookout over the Halema’uma’u Crater.
The Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado is one of the most popular parks in the country, known for its magnificent peaks and wild fauna roaming the grounds. Spanning over 400 square miles, it’s impossible to see the whole of the Colorado Rockies in one go. However, the second you stand on the edge of a pristine lake with a forest of pines and a towering mountain sprawling out in front of you, you’ll know you’ll be drawn back to Rocky Mountain NP again someday!
Situated in the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Yosemite offers yet more breath-taking landscapes for nature seekers. Mountains, pines, sequoia trees and lakes pepper the view so every shot you take will be picture postcard perfect! Yosemite is also a favourite for slackliners who brave the Highline at Taft Point, teetering along the line with deep valleys below – watch if you dare!
Glacier National Park in Montana is ridiculously large, spanning over one million acres with over 700 miles of hiking trails! Just wow! This spectacular ecosystem deserves at least a few days of your trip to the US. The glacier lakes here are simply pristine, with turquoise waters contrasting perfectly with snowy mountain backdrops. While some of the hikes can be pretty strenuous, there are varieties for all levels meaning nobody will miss out on the epic views!
With the highest peak in the US and over six million acres of land, Denali National Park in Alaska is a true wilderness. Wildlife here absolutely thrives and includes moose, wolves, caribou and both grizzly and black bears. Around 300 bears live in the park, so your chances of seeing some wildlife action here are high! Wonder Lake is another highlight, which perfectly reflects the peak of Denali Mountain in its still, crystalline waters making it a photo op like no other.
A celeb favourite, South Beach Miami is stylish, glamourous and popular thanks to its wealth of shops, bars, and restaurants that line the pristine seafront. With soft white sand and turquoise waters, South Beach offers everything you need from a coastal destination. Ocean Drive is a firm favourite due to its cool Art Deco architecture and buzzing nightlife that could keep you occupied until the early hours!
Cape Cod offers a different atmosphere, with more of a fisherman village vibe than a party scene. Quaint houses, shack-like restaurants serving up fresh seafood and little lighthouses adorn the landscape and make for a perfect summer getaway when the heat of the city gets too much. The sunsets here are just incredible, with the dipping sun creating the most amazing orange skies over the still, vast stretch of ocean.
Just over the water from Cape Cod lies Martha’s Vineyard, an island retreat known as America’s affluent summer playground. While many of the main village houses are quaint, all-American style homes along the harbour, some of the mansions here are out of this world! The island features gorgeous sandy beaches such as Oak Bluffs and Edgartown where you can while away long summer days and a whole host of yummy seafood restaurants to make the most of your oceanside location.
The boardwalk of Venice Beach is the place to be seen and is a favourite among young people. With Instagram-worthy murals, quirky shops and street performers galore you’ll never be bored. Witnessing the guys and gals working out at Muscle Beach is like being in another world as they push themselves to the limits in front of intrigued passers-by. If even looking at them working out is too much effort, head to one of the many bars, restaurants, and cafes lining the Boardwalk to cool down and refresh.
The beaches in Maui are what you’d expect on a calendar or vacation brochure. Golden sands, leaning palms, and clear, azure water will be the continual backdrop for your time in Hawai’i, with blue skies and blazing sunshine to boot! While there is plenty to do around Maui including waterfall hikes, snorkelling, and wine tasting, it’s also an excellent time to make the most of being away from it all and just spend time relaxing on the beach.
The Outer Banks islands of North Carolina make for an awesome beach getaway for those seeking something a little different. Situated in the Atlantic, these barrier islands create a sandy wall between the ocean and mainland and are now connected by roads and bridges making exploring the islands easier than ever. The connected sandbanks mean that Outer Banks offers over 100 miles of beach just begging to be discovered.
Monterey Bay in California has come a long way since the days of sardine packing and is now a hub of bars, shops, and restaurants located in coolly converted warehouses. While the fishermen still bring in their daily catch (meaning delicious seafood is always on the menu) the general feel is modern, fresh and fun. Monterey is a favourite for divers, kayakers and surfers too so don your swimmers or wetsuit and get in the water!
The island of Key West is the southernmost point of the United States and is home to an array of both natural and man-made beaches. The palm-fringed beaches are pristine and with over 10 to choose from you’ll be able to find somewhere peaceful to spend your days. Sunset Key, as the name suggests, is the best place to enjoy a sundowner with hammocks, bean bags and tiki huts at your disposal. Stay at the Sunset Key Resort or dine at the Latitude Café for a delicious Caribbean dinner.
The island of Lanai in Hawaii is rugged, stunning and varied making it the perfect location for a beach retreat. Hulopoe Beach is an expanse of golden sand with great spots of swimming and snorkelling. On the north side of the island is an offshore shipwreck of a WWII tanker that is ready and waiting to be explored. If you’re lucky, you may be able to spot humpback whales and turtles off the coast!
Known as the American Riviera, Santa Barbara in California has a distinctly European feel, with a temperate climate, Spanish-influenced architecture, vineyards, and a quaint harbour. The coastal area is great for a day trip as well as being a relaxing location to spend a few days or a full vacation. Enjoy a wander around the wharf, some hiking in the hills or treat yourself to some wine tasting and fine dining in some of the city’s top restaurants.
Many people think you need to head to Europe to see the Northern Lights, but in actual fact, Alaska (and Canada) put on some pretty cool light shows too! The town of Fairbanks is a great place to start, with this (and everything above it) lying in the Arctic Circle you’ll be in the best location possible to see the Aurora Borealis. Follow the aurora forecast, wrap up warm and head out to find the elusive dancing green lights.
While Las Vegas may not be everybody’s cup of tea, it is certainly an experience to say the least. The crazy hotels, random restaurants, spectacular shows and rides to get your heart racing will have you entertained non-stop during your whirlwind vacation. If you’re a shopaholic, treat yourself to some designer gear in the high-end boutiques or head out to the outlet malls for some serious retail therapy.
If you don’t want to decide on just one US destination for your bucket list, why not add an all-American road trip to your list? Driving across the States can be one of the most fun and thrilling experiences, especially if you have no set plan! Whether you want to hit Route 66, visit some of the country’s most famous national parks (see above) or even visit every 50 states, make sure you stop off en route to try authentic cuisine, chat to locals and go off-roading for a real adventure.
Hiking one of America’s epic walking trails is a good challenge for those who love nature and the great outdoors. Stretching over 2000 miles from Georgia to Maine, the Appalachian Trail is not for the faint-hearted, but it will be a one of a kind experience that you’ll never forget. Make sure you’re prepared for the challenge and why not persuade someone to come along for the journey too?
Sport is a big deal in America, with baseball, basketball, and football (not soccer) being the top sports. If you can catch a game at one of the world-class stadiums around the country, you’ll get a glimpse into American fan life. Whether you had a favourite team before or not, you certainly will now as you cheer on your new-found friends at their sport. Popcorn? Check! Soda? Check! Giant pointy hand thing? Check!
Enjoying a day or two (or three, four, five) at ‘The Happiest Place On Earth’ is an absolute must for those visiting the United States. The home of Micky Mouse is a wonder for both kids and adults alike with rides, restaurants and whole streets decked out in the most amazing decorations. Never before will you have been more excited to receive a paw print autograph or to snap a selfie with a princess! Get there early to avoid the queues, wear comfy shoes to pad around the parks all day and stay for the fireworks which are worth the entrance fees alone – you won’t mind that you’re exhausted at the end of it all!
The US is home to some pretty awesome festivals, from Burning Man and Coachella to Electric Daisy Carnival and Mardi Gras Whatever your taste in music there is a festival for you with hundreds flocking to locations around the country each summer to celebrate spirituality, cinema, music, and madness. Fancy dress is highly encouraged, a free spirit obligatory and general revelry is almost always guaranteed!
With some of the best ski runs in the world, it would be amiss not to add a winter wonderland experience to your US bucket list. From Colorado to Wyoming, Utah, and Montana there are plenty of states that offer incredible skiing and snowboarding. With fun toboggan rides, snowshoe hikes and a number of exquisite spa resorts, there is something for everyone to enjoy during the winter season.
NASCAR is a truly American event with colourful cars flying around the track at up to 180mph! If it’s your first time at a NASCAR event, get there early to enjoy all the build-up to the action and have a couple of beers before heading trackside. Your heart may be in your mouth as you watch the stock cars rally around the track, often colliding with each other en route but the excitement will undoubtedly have you on the edge of your seat. Whether you visit Dover, Talladega or Daytona, you’ll be in for a treat!
Not only is Napa Valley one of the most beautiful destinations in the country but its wine is delicious too! The 450 sprawling vineyards of Napa Valley spread over 43,000 acres meaning you are spoilt for choice and the local restaurants serve up gourmet food that pairs perfectly as you quaff your local wine.
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