Looking for the most memorable vacation experiences in the United States of America but not quite sure where to go? To help you, we've compiled a list of the best places to travel in the US.
The United States is a vast and rugged country with numerous landscapes and cultures. From the snow-capped summits of the Rockies to the sunny shores of California, there is a destination for everyone. And with so much to see, it can be tough to narrow down your options.
But fret not. With this curated list, you’re on the right track to choosing your vacation destination. Whether you're looking for adventure, relaxation, or simply a change of scenery, one of these US destinations is sure to be what you’re looking for!
1. Yosemite National Park
There's something about Yosemite that takes your breath away. Maybe it's the soaring granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome or the rushing waterfalls. Maybe it's how the light plays through the trees, dappling everything in a warm glow.
Whatever it is, there's no denying that Yosemite is a place of unparalleled beauty. And while it might be tempting to sit back and enjoy the view, there's plenty more to do in this wonderland, such as fishing, camping, a visit to the museum, rock climbing, bird watching, and so on.
Yosemite has a more intimate feel, unlike other national parks, which tend to be vast and untouched. Its rocky cliffs and river valleys have been shaped by nature for centuries, and its forests are home to various plant and animal life.
Things To Do in Yosemite
- The Merced River winds through Yosemite Valley and offers rafting, fishing, and swimming opportunities in its crystal-clear waters.
- The Tuolumne Meadows area is a stunning high sierra landscape of alpine meadows, lakes, and forests. It is excellent for hiking, backpacking, and horseback riding.
- Yosemite Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in North America, and its photogenic Horsetail Fall are among the most breathtaking sights you can capture in the park.
2. New Orleans
New Orleans is a city like no other. From its storied past, colorful Creole architecture, and delectable Cajun cuisine to its eclectic culture, there is much to love about the Big Easy. The city is located along the Mississippi River, and its French Quarter is loaded with character.
No trip to this place would be complete without attending a Mardi Gras parade in the company of elaborately costumed revelers. The place is a special delight; its residents are among the most hospitable people you will ever meet.
Things To Do in New Orleans
- Visitors can enjoy beignets (deep-fried pastries) at Cafe du Monde.
- Listen to live jazz at Preservation Hall.
- Take a ride down Bourbon Street on a streetcar.
3. Las Vegas
Las Vegas’s bright lights and bustling energy are far from the quiet desert it calls home. And yet, there is a certain charm to this “Sin City.” Perhaps it's the 24-hour party atmosphere or the over-the-top opulence of the casinos.
Whatever the reason, Las Vegas has a way of drawing people in and refusing to let them go. There are few places where you can find such a concentration of talent, beauty, and fun.
From the world-famous shows to the endless buffet options, there is something for everyone in here. And yet, Las Vegas – with its friendly and welcoming citizens – is still a small city for all its glitz and glamor.
Things To Do in Las Vegas
- Step away from the chaotic clubs and visit The Art Factory for impressive contemporary art.
- Enjoy a short trip to the Seven Magic Mountains to marvel at this desert art installation.
- Check out the Coca-Cola store and M&M's World; entrance is free and a treat for kids at heart.
4. The Grand Canyon
Few places on earth are as grand or as vast as the Grand Canyon. This natural wonder was carved over millions of years by the Colorado River; it is now one of the best places to travel in the US.
The canyon is over a mile deep in some places and offers breathtaking views of its red rock walls, winding river, and desert landscape. You can hike to the bottom of the canyon, take a scenic river rafting trip, or enjoy the views from one of the many lookout points.
Things To Do at the Grand Canyon
- Grand Canyon Skywalk (West Rim).
- Colorado river rafting.
- Havasu Falls (for adventurous hikers and campers).
Orlando is often thought of as a place of magic and make-believe, and it's easy to see why. The city has some of the most popular theme parks in the world, including Disney World and Universal Studios. But there's more to Orlando than meets the eye.
Beneath the surface, you'll find a vibrant city with a diverse population and a rich history. Orlando is also home to beautiful natural scenery, pretty lakes, and verdant parks.
Things To Do in Orlando
- Visit Harry P. Leu Gardens and Lake Eola Park.
- Explore the Orlando Science Center and the Titanic Artifact Exhibition to learn something new.
- Of course, enjoy Universal Studios, SeaWorld, and Disney World.
6. Florida Gulf Coast
The Florida Gulf Coast is one of the most excellent US travel destinations. With its white sandy beaches, clear turquoise waters, and abundant sunshine, it's no wonder why people flock to the Gulf Coast each year.
But there's more to the Gulf Coast than just its incredible beaches.
The area is also home to dolphins, manatees, alligators, and turtles. In addition, the Gulf Coast is home to several state parks and nature reserves.
Things To Do in the Florida Gulf Coast
- Swim with manatees in Crystal River.
- Explore the eerie mangrove forests by kayak or canoe.
- Visit different state parks, such as St. Andrews State Park or Panama City Beach State Park.
7. Rocky Mountains of Colorado
The Colorado Rocky Mountains are a mountain range in the western United States that includes some of the highest peaks in North America. The Rockies stretch nearly 3,000 miles (4,828 kilometers) from British Columbia and Alberta in Canada down south to New Mexico.
The highest peak in the Rockies is Mount Elbert, which reaches an impressive 14,440 feet (4,401 meters). The Rockies are also the habitat for a wide variety of wildlife, including bighorn sheep, elks, deer, mountain lions, and black bears.
Things To Do in the Colorado Rocky Mountains
- Scenic drives, including the world-famous Trail Ridge Road.
- A relaxing soak in the area's natural hot springs.
- Multiple skiing and snowboarding activities.
8. Kailua Beach
Kailua Beach is among the most famous beaches in Hawaii, with its clear turquoise waters, white sand beaches, and lush green palms. Beyond its mesmerizing splendor, it is also a great place to relax and enjoy the island lifestyle.
The vibe at Kailua Beach is casual and laid-back, and the locals are always happy to share their aloha spirit with visitors. So whether you're eager to catch some waves or soak up the sun, Kailua Beach is the perfect spot.
Things To Do in Kailua Beach
- Catch a glimpse of Honolulu's skyline or watch the sunsets.
- Picnic at Kailua Beach Park or play a game of frisbee.
- Visit Lanikai Beach.
9. Redwood National Park
There's no doubt about it: Redwood National Park is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Whether hiking through the towering redwoods or taking in the views from the top of a coastal bluff, there's something to take your breath away at every turn.
The giant redwoods, some over 350 feet (107 meters) tall, are an awe-inspiring sight. And the park is home to various other plant and animal life. One of the most splendid things to see from the park is humpback whales, which can often be seen off the coast the right time of year.
Things To Do in Redwood National Park
- Catch sight of the majestic Roosevelt Elk.
- Take the SkyTrail Gondola ride for a unique forest view from 130 feet (40 meters) above the earth.
- Embark on a nine-mile (14.5 kilometers) round trip journey along the James Irvine Trail to Fern Canyon, the backdrop of Jurassic Park 2.
With its moss-draped live oaks and stately antebellum mansions, Savannah is one of the most enchanting and historic cities in the United States. This city’s vibrant downtown is filled with art galleries, trendy shops, and world-class cafes.
Founded in 1733 by General James Oglethorpe, it is the first planned city in America; its grid layout is still visible today. The city's waterfront location and mild climate made it a prosperous trading hub. Its port was bustling during the 18th century, as ships from all over the world arrived there.
Things To Do in Savannah
- Stroll down River Street, a historic waterfront with cobblestone-lined streets and quaint shops, offering a perfect spot for people-watching.
- Visit the Georgia State Railroad Museum and the Owens-Thomas House.
- Check out the Bonaventure Cemetery, where you can explore the fascinating graves and crypts.
11. Cape Cod
Cape Cod is a beautiful place. With its miles of coastline and quaint towns, it's no wonder that so many people flock to this corner of Massachusetts each year. But Cape Cod is more than just beaches.
If you have enough time to explore, you'll find that this place exudes character distilled from its rich history and culture. From the starting days of the Pilgrims to the whaling industry of the 19th century, Cape Cod has always been a place where people have come to make their livelihoods.
Things To Do in Cape Cod
- Go on a whale-watching tour.
- With its plethora of golf courses, Cape Cod is a paradise for golfers of all skill levels.
- Shop ‘til you drop.
12. Napa Valley
Napa Valley, California, is among the most renowned wine regions in the world, and for a good reason. The valley is the perfect place for grape growing with its sloping hills, temperate climate, and rich soil. As a result, the region has over 400 wineries, each with its unique style and personality.
The region is also home to dozens of Michelin-starred restaurants, charming hotels, and beautiful scenery. So whether you're a foodie or a wine connoisseur, Napa Valley is sure to please.
Things To Do in Napa Valley
- Take a hot air balloon ride.
- Stroll down historic streets lined with Victorian homes, visit unique shops and galleries, and enjoy some local cuisine.
- Go on vineyard tours.
13. Big Sur
With its rocky cliffs, crashing waves, and lush forests, many people are understandably drawn to this area of the California coastline. While Big Sur may be best known for its natural beauty, there's much more to this region than meets the eye.
In addition to its stunning scenery, Big Sur is also home to diverse flora and fauna. From the delicate wildflowers that carpet the hillsides to the majestic redwoods that tower over the landscape, there's something for everyone to enjoy in Big Sur.
Things To Do in Big Sur
- Hike in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, a nature lover's paradise.
- Visit Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
- Explore Henry Miller Memorial Library.
14. Olympic Peninsula
The Olympic Peninsula, the Emerald of the Pacific, is one of the most beautiful places in the United States. It is blessed with rainforests, mountains, rivers, and beaches. Its wildlife is incredible.
The peninsula isn't just a pretty place; it's also full of enthralling history and culture. For example, Olympic Peninsula was the site of some of the earliest human settlements in North America.
Things To Do in Olympic Peninsula
- Explore the Peninsula's waterways by kayak and marvel at the stunning scenery as you paddle.
- Take a long scenic drive along the Pacific Coast.
- Visit a small town or go camping in one of the many remote areas.
Alaska is a place of extremes and one of the most sparsely populated states in the US. It has breathtaking landscapes and some of the most hostile weather conditions. While it's often considered a wilderness destination, it also has vibrant cities and a rich cultural heritage.
The majesty of Denali National Park, the thrill of dog sledding, or the tranquility of whale watching are bucket list items. You can also explore the state's many towns and cities or get off the beaten path and into the wilderness.
Things To Do in Alaska
- See the Northern Lights (ethereal light displays best seen from September to April) that make Alaska an excellent destination for a winter getaway.
- Try ice fishing for a unique experience.
- Explore the vibrant city of Anchorage or take a leisurely Alaska cruise through Glacier Bay.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS) For the Best Places To Travel in the US
Which US State Has the Best Attractions?
California wins this category for its varied combination of remarkable tourist attractions.
From the state’s 840-mile Pacific coastline with 420 public beaches, great weather all year round, Hollywood lights, rolling vineyards, the original Disneyland Park, and Yosemite National Park to its reputation as the West Coast’s cultural hub, California sure pulls in the tourist crowd.
What Are the Top 10 States to Visit in the US?
Conclusion: Best Places To Travel in the US
While carefully selected, this list is not exhaustive since there are certainly underrated places or hidden local pockets of paradise in the country.
As a destination, the US offers a vast, varied range of attractions that will satisfy travelers of every type.
Don’t feel frustrated if you lack time to experience each marvelous spot. Wherever you choose to go, take heart that the next amazing city or state is just a road trip or plane ride away. Happy exploring!
This post originally appeared on Savoteur.
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Marjolein is the founder of Radical FIRE. She has a finance and economics background with a master’s in Finance. Radical FIRE is a personal finance blog that helps you live your dream life through making more money and investing. We want you to reach your financial goals and have fun while doing it!