What’s on your USA bucket list?
Bucket lists are great at making us accountable for our own dreams and ambitions. Once we’ve written it down, it becomes a plan and plans, in turn, become reality. So I am a great fan of travel bucket lists – they keep me motivated to explore new places rather than stick to the places I am familiar with or are easy to travel to.
It occurred to me recently that whilst I have travelled to 40 countries and explored many in-depth, I have barely scratched the surface of the USA. So I decided it was time to put together a USA bucket list and I called upon some colleagues to help me put together this list of great places to visit in America.
Everyone’s USA bucket list will be different, some focussing on national parks, others on iconic cities. This particular America bucket list offers up a mixture of both with everything from kayaking through canyons to watching a show on the Broadway.
So if you are looking for travel inspiration for your own USA travel bucket list, read on to learn about the most wanderlusty destinations and activities in America.
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What you can expect from this article...
- 1 The Great Big USA Bucket List
- 1.1 Go Camping at Havasu Falls, Arizona
- 1.2 Take a helicopter over Kauai, Hawaii
- 1.3 Road trip along the Big Sur
- 1.4 Let Your Inner Child Free at Universal, Orlando
- 1.5 Go for a hike in Big Bend National Park
- 1.6 Party at the South By South West Festival
- 1.7 Explore the Mysterious Antelope Canyon
- 1.8 Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
- 1.9 Visit Mount Vernon
- 1.10 Drive the Road to Hana in Hawaii
- 1.11 Get the best views of Palm Springs on the Aerial Tramway
- 1.12 Sledging at White Sands National Monument
- 1.13 Watch a Show on The Broadway
- 1.14 Go Biking over the Golden Gate Bridge
- 1.15 Hiking in Zion National Park
- 1.16 Admire the Impressive Niagra Falls
- 1.17 Visit The Dry Tortugas National Park
- 1.18 Yellowstone National Park
- 1.19 Visit Mt Rushmore
- 1.20 Go Hiking in Joshua Tree National Park
- 1.21 Take a witch tour in Salem
- 1.22 Take a Tour of Alcatraz
- 1.23 Explore the Alamo and the San Antonio Mision Trail – the 1st UNESCO World Heritage site in Texas
- 1.24 Drive the ‘Going to the Sun’ Road for epic scenery
- 1.25 Visit The Azalea Trail Festival in Mobile, Alabama
- 1.26 Cycle through Central Park in New York
- 1.27 Spend some time in Grand Teton National Park
- 1.28 Stuff your face in the Barbeque Capital of the World: Kansas City
- 1.29 Spot wildlife in The Everglades National Park
- 1.30 Take a Helicopter ride to the top of Tower Butte, Arizona, USA
- 1.31 Let your inner child free at Disneyland in California
- 1.32 Hike Minnesota’s North Shore
- 1.33 Spend some time in Death Valley National Park
- 1.34 Drive the Beartooth Highway
- 1.35 Hike the Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park
- 1.36 Go White Water Rafting along the Colorado River
- 1.37 Scale a magical pink granite monadnock at Enchanted Rock State Park in Texas
- 1.38 Experience a Luau in Hawaii
The Great Big USA Bucket List
Go Camping at Havasu Falls, Arizona
Suggested by Nick and Val from WanderingWheatleys.com
During our 6-month road trip across the USA, we visited dozens of National Parks and beautiful, remote public lands. But Havasu Falls in Northern Arizona will always hold a special place in our hearts.
Hiking 10 miles through a barren desert canyon only to emerge on a turquoise blue waterfall in the middle of a lush valley sheltered by towering red sandstone walls is the kind of experience you never forget.
The hike into Havasu canyon is hot and dusty and the hike back out is a challenging uphill trek in the relentless Arizona sun. But the reward is absolutely worth it!
You’ll definitely want to spend 2-3 days soaking in the vibrant blue water and exploring the 5 spectacular waterfalls in the canyon. You can either camp near the river or stay in the lodge in the nearby Supai Villiage.
And if you’re really feeling spry you can hike another 10 miles to the confluence of the Havasu and Colorado rivers deep in the Grand Canyon. Here the brown water of the Colorado river mixes with the blue Havasu River water to create a truly remarkable sight!
Make sure you start planning your trip to Havasu Falls early. A limited number of camping permits are made available each year on February 1st and they are typically sold out within a matter of hours!
Take a helicopter over Kauai, Hawaii
Suggested by Bret and Mary from GreenGlobalTravel.com
If you haven’t heard of Kauai’s world-renowned Nā Pali Coast, on the island’s remote northwest side, do yourself a favour and Google it.
If the region’s dramatic sea cliffs, verdant valleys (including Kalalau and Hanakoa), unspoiled beaches, and cascading waterfalls don’t get your attention, then this island may not be a bucket list destination for you.
But for those who truly love nature, as we do, taking a helicopter tour is #1 on the list of the best things to do in Kauai.
There are several local companies to choose from, but since it was Mary’s birthday we went with Sunshine Helicopters’ “Ultimate Kauai Adventure Tour” for their spacious First Class seating option.
The narrated 55-minute tour starts in Lihue, and hits incredible sites such as Manawaiopuna Falls (a.k.a. Jurassic Park Falls), Waimea Canyon, and Mount Waialeale (the second-wettest place on the planet) along the way.
By the time you’ve made your way through the remarkably pristine Nā Pali Coast State Park, your jaw might be bruised from all the dropping-to-the-floor action. If you need proof, just check out our photo!
Read Next | A Honolulu Visitors Guide
Road trip along the Big Sur
By Michael of TheWorldWasHereFirst.com
One of the must-see attractions to add onto your USA bucket list is a road trip along the Big Sur. The Big Sur is arguably the most famous section of California’s Highway 1 with many amazing sites to see.
Some of the most popular attractions include the Bixby Creek Bridge and McWay Waterfall, however, visitors should also make sure to take the time to enjoy a hike in one of the state parks or reserves such as Pfieffer Big Sur State Park.
Another must-do activity when road tripping along the Big Sur is to pull off the road and enjoy one of the many short coastal walks while watching the waves crash onto the shore.
When visiting Big Sur, a good place to base yourself is in Monterey or Carmel. Both these towns, themselves, have a lot to offer visitors such as great wineries and the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. They are also located right next to Big Sur meaning you can get an early start on your road trip!
Let Your Inner Child Free at Universal, Orlando
Suggested by Suzy from OurBucketListLives.com
Forget Disney, we loved our visit to Universal, Orlando in Florida. They
have three theme parks there Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and
Volcano bay water park which you should add to your American bucket list.
If you want to make the most out of your time at the parks I can highly recommend a stay at one of the Universal themed hotels. The higher-priced hotels include Express passes for Universal which can save you time in the queues.
We stayed at the lower-priced Cabana Bay which didn’t include Express passes but in February we found we didn’t really need them. The queues for the rides were never too long and if you arrived early enough you could get around most of the rides with little or no queue.
I can highly recommend the meet and greets at Universal. There are some great characters such as Transformers, Minions, Scooby-Doo, Simpsons and more. We never had to queue and they all interacted well with us.
Universal has some great rides to suit everyone, children and adult alike. We visited with a 4-year-old and there was plenty we could take him on. Some of the rides were pretty extreme and a little scary but he took it all in his stride.
We have wonderful, happy memories from our time at the Universal parks and hotel.
Go for a hike in Big Bend National Park
Suggested by Erin from SolSalute.com
Big Bend National Park in West Texas is one of the United States National Park hidden gems and should be on every nature lover’s USA bucket list.
Despite being located in the heart of the Chihuahua Desert, it’s home to an entire mountain range, hot springs along the Rio Grande, and it’s even possible to cross the border into Mexico for the day.
There are 150 miles of hiking trails and being one of the least visited national parks in the US, you’ll be able to enjoy them in peace and quiet. There’s something for everyone, from family-friendly hikes and a fossil exhibit to strenuous full-day trails for the more adventurous hiker.
Camping is popular here and there are backcountry campsites along the park’s most popular trails. There’s also a mountain lodge inside the park (for those that prefer a little more comfort).
This area of Texas can get very hot in summer so try to visit from October through March for ideal temperatures. Visiting Big Bend is one of the most popular things to do in West Texas, and once you’ve been, it’s easy to see why.
Party at the South By South West Festival
Suggested by Gemma from TwoScotsAbroad.com
One of the biggest bucket list items every music fan has to do in the USA is to attend the festival, South by Southwest.
For ten days, Austin in Texas is taken over by music, interactive, comedy, film and talks. Every area of the city opens up to events and it is not uncommon to spot a celebrity or two. Hello David Tennent, you sexy thing.
Although there is a portion of the week that is dedicated to music, live shows happen from start to finish and performances take place everywhere from hotel rooftops to trucks on the side of the road.
There are two ways to enjoy music at SX. You can either buy a music badge which gets you into every gig and offers ‘skip the line’ opportunities too or you can wing it for free!
If you are doing the latter, just be prepared to go with the flow and let the beat guide your way. We’ve still managed to see the likes of Chvrches, Will Butler (Arcade Fire) and the late Charles Bradley, for free. You just have to do a bit of planning beforehand and enjoy the wait in line.
Explore the Mysterious Antelope Canyon
Suggested by Cat from WalkMyWorld.com
Antelope Canyon exploded to worldwide fame when a photograph taken in the upper section of the canyon, sold for a cool $6 million, making it the most expensive photo ever sold.
The secret was out, and it became one of the most sort-after destinations in the US. Despite the fact that huge popularity has led it to become accessible only by busy guided tours, this canyon will not disappoint and should be on your America bucket list.
Carved out of orangey-red Navajo Sandstone over thousands of years, Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon are slot canyons with striking wave patterns which will blow you away with every step. The canyons are so deep (particularly in Upper Antelope), that only a little sunlight filters through, creating the famous light beams that add a mysterious atmosphere.
Upper Antelope is a short and easy flat walk through the deepest part of the canyon and Lower Antelope is slightly more open but longer and with a few stairs and ladders to add to the adventure.
As it is so popular (especially in school holidays), you can only visit by booking a tour – which can sell out months in advance. So, which will it be? Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon, or maybe you can’t resist both?
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
By Taylor of TavernaTravel.com
Walking the Brooklyn Bridge is a must on any USA travel bucket list. I have personally lived in New York for over 20 years, I am still not over how incredible just how beautiful it is!
The bridge is just over a mile long and connects Brooklyn to lower Manhattan. Walking at a brisk pace the bridge can be crossed in approximately 25 minutes. However, you’ll want to make sure to take your time appreciating the skyline views. It is possible to start walking at either end, however, the views walking from Brooklyn to Manhattan are more scenic in my opinion.
As walking the Brooklyn Bridge is by far one of the most famous things to do in NYC, I recommend enjoying the bridge at sunrise. From here you can make your way into Brooklyn to explore DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights.
The Brooklyn Bridge is easily accessible by subway, but which subway you take is going to depend on which side you’re starting at. If you’re starting on the Manhattan side you can take the 4/5/6 subway to Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall. However, if you’re originating from the Brooklyn side you’ll want to take either the A/C to High Street – Brooklyn Bridge or the F to York Street.
Visit Mount Vernon
By Maggie from PinkCaddyTravelogue.com
For American history buffs, a must-see bucket list item is the home of George Washington, the nation’s first president.
Mount Vernon was George Washington’s beloved Virginia estate, perched on a hill overlooking the Potomac River. It’s a place that has seen numerous, critical chapters of United States history, from colonial days, the Revolutionary War, the Founding, and the world’s first peaceful transfer of power from one president to another.
Washington inherited the mansion and its accompanying farm from his father in 1761 and lived there until his death in 1792. The mansion has since been meticulously restored to what it would have been like when George and his wife, Martha, lived there.
After you tour the house, you can also wander through the four separate gardens on the estate and explore the woodland forest trail, or visit the working farm and see many of the animals that the Washingtons would have had in their day. You can also visit the tomb where Washington is buried.
Mount Vernon is so close to the nation’s capital that it makes for one of the best day trips from DC! Tickets are $20 for adults, $12 for kids 6-11, free for kids under 6.
Drive the Road to Hana in Hawaii
Suggested by Amanda from Patseyfamilytravels.com
The USA is full of amazing road trips, but one that is exceptionally amazing is The Road to Hana in Maui, Hawaii. This road stretches over 60 miles along the northern coast of Maui and offers adventure and breathtaking sites around every hairpin turn.
Along this famous drive, there are countless places to stop and take in the ocean views or go for a hike in the rainforest. Many of the hikes along The Road to Hana include a dramatic waterfall, many of which you can swim at too.
In addition to the outdoor adventures, there are historical points of interest, as well as places to stop for some amazing food. Don’t miss the stop for Aunty Sandy’s banana bread.
Some people decide to use a tour company to experience the drive, but for a custom tour, I would suggest driving it yourself. There is an excellent app called Shaka Guide, which helps you navigate this road trip by pointing out all the amazing places to stop and lending advice on how to safely drive this winding road.
The Road to Hana is also totally family-friendly and offers hikes and experiences for all different abilities and interests.
Read Next | A 3 day Maui Itinerary
Get the best views of Palm Springs on the Aerial Tramway
Suggested by Carol of WanderingCarol.com
If you’re in California, a great bucket list adventure is to take a trip up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. The largest rotating tram car in the world, the ride is filled with dramatic scenes as you travel up along the steep side of Chino Canyon, finally arriving in the unspoiled landscape of Mt. San Jacinto State Park. Here the grey rocks, pines and wilderness atmosphere seem a world away from the desert of Palm Springs below.
Once at the Mountain Station, there is plenty to do. Have a meal at Peaks Restaurant, gaze out over Palm Springs from the Observation deck, check out the museum, theatre and shop for souvenirs. Or, just enjoy the fresh air.
While experienced outdoor enthusiasts can tackle the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike to Mt San Jacinto, it’s a seven-hour hike, so not for the faint of heart or body.
If romance is more your style, take the tram up at night for a velvety view of the lights of Greater Palm Springs.
Sledging at White Sands National Monument
Suggested by Hilarye of DottingTheMap.com
Sledging at White Sands National Monument is the perfect Southwestern US bucket list item. Rolling hills of white sands for as far as the eye can see, blue skies, and depending on the time of year, perfect breezy weather for a day in the sun with your friends and family.
White Sands National Monument is a hidden gem tucked away in the southwest corner of New Mexico about an hour and a half off the major interstate. It is growing in popularity as people are coming from all over the country to experience the beauty of the white sand dunes with the softest sugar sand and try their hand at dune sledging.
Summer is the most popular time to visit the monument as school is out and families are out taking road trips, but spring, fall and even winter will have milder temperatures and fewer crowds.
Sunscreen and sunglasses are very important as the sun can be intense, especially reflecting against the white sand. You will also want to check for road closures daily as White Sands Monument sits near a government missile testing site.
Watch a Show on The Broadway
Recommended by Sean from LivingOutLau.com
If you ever visit New York City, going to a Broadway show should be at the top of your list. Started in the 1750s, Broadway shows have become more and more popular throughout time. Nowadays, it is one of the most popular tourist activities in New York City.
If you do not know what a Broadway show is, it is a theatrical performance in a professional theatre with more than 500 seats. Any theatrical performance in a theatre under 500 seats cannot be considered a Broadway show. Broadway shows are musicals, meaning that there will be a combination of singing, music, acting, and dance.
Come to see a Broadway show and enjoy one of your favourite stories brought to life in one of the most elaborate theatres in New York City. You will be amazed by how flawless the production is, from the acting to the music, every little detail is meticulously perfected.
If this is your first time seeing a Broadway show, I would recommend The Lion King or Aladdin.
Go Biking over the Golden Gate Bridge
By Anisa from TwoTravelingTexans.com
The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most iconic bridges in the world and what better way to experience than on a bike? It’s a challenging ride at times, but the views make it worth it.
You can rent bikes in Fisherman’s Wharf, bike across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, then take the ferry back. There are also organized tours if that’s more your style.
The ride from Fisherman’s Wharf to the bridge is flat until the approach to the bridge. It gets so steep that many people walk their bikes. Once you get to the bridge, it gets easier, but watch out for pedestrians. Be sure to stop for pictures, the views of the bay are breathtaking.
Once you cross the bridge, it’s all downhill to the adorable town of Sausalito. Stop and explore, maybe grab a bite to eat, then catch a ferry back. If you have the energy, keep riding another 10 miles to Tiburon, which is another cute town on the bay. You can also catch a ferry back to Fisherman’s Wharf there.
Read more | A San Francisco Visitors Guide
Hiking in Zion National Park
Suggested by Rachel Rodda from AdventureAndSunshine.com
A USA Bucket List would not be complete without one of the majestic National Parks. Surrounded by red and pink sandstone cliffs and a sparkling river meandering through the valley, Zion National Park is home to some of the most memorable hiking in Utah and an essential stop on any Western USA itinerary.
Apart from the spectacular scenery, one of the reasons this US National Park is so popular is due to the diverse range of hiking trails on offer and the ease with which you can access them.
For a truly unique trail, plan to hike the Narrows – a gorge through the narrowest part of Zion Canyon. If you want to capture the iconic view across the valley, the long hike up to Observation Point is well worth the effort and you can explore the delightful Hidden Canyon nearby too. The hike to Angels Landing is not for the faint-hearted but is certainly one of the most famous hikes at Zion NP.
For those looking for something a little less strenuous the Riverside trail and Emerald Pool Trail are relaxing and easy walks. For families, the Junior Ranger Program will keep the little ones interested as they take to the trails.
Our best tip for a visit to Zion National Park is to visit in the shoulder seasons. If you are visiting in the popular summer and spring months, we recommend catching the first bus into the park each day so you can start your hikes early and avoid the crowds.
Admire the Impressive Niagra Falls
Suggested by Roxanna by GypsyWithADayJob.com
Every United States bucket list should include a visit to Niagara Falls. Although it is not the biggest, highest, or most powerful waterfall in the world, it is the most iconic.
See those beautiful waterfalls for free, from 7 amazing viewing spots, and see them lit up at night. But don’t just take a look and move on. There are so many things to do in Niagara Falls that you can plan an entire vacation! Make sure to visit the Cave of the Winds, which allows you to stand almost under the Bridal Veil Falls, then ride the Maid of the Mist. It is a rocking, wet blast of fun!
Then see some other attractions in the area, such as Old Fort Niagara, a key battle site in the war of 1812. Take a hike through the Niagara Gorge, or at Whirlpool State Park. Drive the Niagara wine trail, and sample the fare of over a dozen wineries. Learn the city’s role in helping enslaved black Americans at the Underground Railroad Heritage Center. Discover the role of the falls in electricity, at the Niagara Power Authority. Then try your luck at Seneca Casino, or shop till you drop at Niagara Outlet Mall.
Visit The Dry Tortugas National Park
Suggested by Halef from TheRTWguys.com
Florida is a big state, and at the southernmost tip of the state, even beyond where the road ends, lies one of the most pristine areas of the United States.
This is Dry Tortugas National Park, a group of islets that are located about 70 miles southwest of Key West. It is one of the most remote US National Parks. Because of that, they contain some of the most pristine beaches in the country.
Dry Tortugas are a great place to do some snorkelling, to sunbathe on its white sand beach, and swim in its clear and refreshing waters. At nearby Fort Jefferson, you can join a guided tour by the National Park Service to learn more about the history of the Dry Tortugas.
To get to Dry Tortugas National Park, you can start your journey in Key West with either the Yankee Freedom III ferry or via a seaplane for a day trip. You can also camp in one of Dry Tortugas’ primitive campgrounds.
Yellowstone National Park
Suggested by Cath from PassportsAndAdventures.com
Visiting Yellowstone National Park is a must for everyone’s USA bucket list. It was on ours for a while and we finally visited this amazing National Park with our young son a few years ago. It formed part of a bigger USA road trip but was definitely the inspiration for our trip.
Yellowstone National Park is a place on earth like no other. There are very few places where you can experience geysers, mud volcanoes, hot springs, waterfalls, rivers, mountains and an abundance of wildlife, all enclosed in one area.
And of course, no Yellowstone trip would be complete without making sure to witness an eruption of Old Faithful Geyser, the most predictable geyser on the planet. Its predictable eruptions mean you are sure to witness at least once during your trip. Even if you missed the last by seconds, you won’t be waiting more than two hours for the next, plenty of time for lunch or a leisurely stroll nearby. It’s one of the wonders of the park that even kids visiting Yellowstone with enjoy.
Visit Mt Rushmore
Suggested by Leona from WandermustFamily.com
When you think about American icons then one of the first things that comes to mind is Mount Rushmore and it is truly something for your US bucket list!
This iconic site was built to help stimulate the economy of South Dakota after the Great Depression and today is still one of the states main attractions!
When there you must walk the avenue of flags and spot your state or overseas territory flag, visit the museum and studio, try some historic ice cream made to a recipe by Thomas Jefferson and of course take a hike to get a better look at the faces on the hillside!
And the great thing is that Mount Rushmore is close to so many other great bucket list experiences (several national and state parks come to mind) that you can plan a whole South Dakota road trip to cover this and other USA icons!
Go Hiking in Joshua Tree National Park
Suggested by Nadine from LeLongWeekend.com
With an otherworldly landscape and abundant wildlife spotting opportunities, hiking in the Joshua Tree National Park is a must-do activity on any nature lover’s USA bucket list.
There are several tracks to undertake within the park, all with their own unique appeal. And because most of the tracks within the park are fairly short, it’s a great place to visit with kids.
A day trip will give you a fantastic overview of this unique National Park in the US, as you can fit 3-4 walks into one day, while still leaving time to check out the views of the Coachella Valley and Mount San Jacinto at the Keys View lookout.
Make sure you stop off at the visitor’s centre to pick up a map of all the tracks and attractions within the park before you enter. And come prepared with layers, hats, sunscreen, and plenty of water and snacks. If you’ve forgotten anything, there’s water available at the visitor’s centre, and outdoor goods store next door where you can pick up supplies.
Take a witch tour in Salem
Suggested by Lisa from FjordsAndBeaches.com
Visiting Salem, Massachusetts, also known as Witch City, had been on my America bucket list ever since seeing Hocus Pocus as a little girl. The movie was shot there, and Salem has been mentioned throughout the years in many witch-related shows and movies. Examples such as Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Vampire Diaries and Practical Magic come to mind.
I recently got to visit Salem, and naturally, I had to explore the town on my own for a little while (visiting one of the oldest cemeteries in the States and the Hawthorne House, which inspired The House of the Seven Gables, for example). Then, I just had to go on one of the many Salem witch tours the town offers, and learn all about its “witchy” history!
If you are curious about magic, paranormal activities and supernatural happenings, I strongly recommend adding Salem to your bucket list!
Take a Tour of Alcatraz
Suggested by Laura of WhatsHotBlog.com
If you’re planning a visit to San Francisco then you must schedule in a trip to Alcatraz, the world-famous prison that sits on an island just 15 minutes away from the shore.
Alcatraz operated as a maximum-security federal prison between 1934 and 1963. It housed some of America’s most dangerous criminals such as Al Capone, Whitey Bulger and George “Machine Gun” Kelly.
Today, tourists can visit the site to get a feel for what life at this prison was like. It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as you’d think and inmates at other US prisons even asked to be transferred here!
The tour is self-guided and you are given a headset and audio guide to listen to as you walk around. This is very well made including everything you could possibly want to know about life at this infamous prison. Some parts are even narrated by former Alcatraz guards so there are some personal stories too!
I’d highly recommend booking the night tour for that extra spook factor. Make sure you book your tickets well in advance though because last-minute tickets can be very pricey! Check out this post for more tips for visiting Alcatraz.
Explore the Alamo and the San Antonio Mision Trail – the 1st UNESCO World Heritage site in Texas
Suggested by Carole from TravelsWithCarole.Blogspot.com
The Alamo and the four historic Spanish colonial missions on the San Antonio Mission Trail became the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in Texas in 2015. Right away that put them at the top of my U.S. bucket list, and I managed to visit them in 2018.
The official Mission Trail begins in the centre of San Antonio at the Alamo and winds south along the San Antonio River for 12 miles. It is possible to drive, bike, or walk the entire route. You can even take a city bus.
Missions are located about 2.5 miles from one another. Skipping the Alamo, which I had already seen (and which is a busy attraction, so plan to see it separately), the driving route to see the other four missions took me about three hours.
Each mission continues to hold services, so you can plan your visit to attend one. They each have a different architectural style and vary in accessibility and facilities. Mission San Jose–known as the “Queen of the Missions”–is the largest and has a visitor centre and short orientation film. Admission and parking at all are free.
Drive the ‘Going to the Sun’ Road for epic scenery
Suggested by Jen and Ryan from PassionsAndPlaces.com
With its jaw-dropping mountain views, Going-to-the-Sun Road is widely regarded as one of the most scenic drives in the country.
It’s the only road that traverses Glacier National Park, connecting Apgar Village on the western edge of the park with St. Mary Lake at its eastern entrance.
The road’s mere existence is an engineering marvel, and getting it ploughed each year is a feat in itself, often taking well into the summer. Depending on that year’s weather, the road is typically only open from about late-June to mid-October.
Going-to-the-Sun is only fifty miles long, but it’s narrow and winding (and often crowded), so it takes a good two hours to drive – and that’s before you stop for pictures! Seemingly every few feet along the road is a new stunning lookout or another point of interest, most of which are signposted and marked at the maps available at the visitors’ centre.
At Logan Pass, the road’s highest point (over 6,600 feet), a short trail leads to the Hidden Lake Overlook, which is a great chance to stretch your legs and breathe in some of the fresh air Montana is famous for.
Visit The Azalea Trail Festival in Mobile, Alabama
Suggested by Wendy from TheNomadicVegan.com
One of the things Mobile, Alabama is most famous for is its azaleas. For a few weeks in March and April, bright pink and white blooms cover the entire city. Back in 1929, a 35-mile itinerary called the Azalea Trail was created that passed through some of the best spots for viewing azaleas.
Thousands of visitors would flock to Mobile each year to drive along the trail. Then other traditions also sprung up around the azaleas, like the Azalea Trail Maids. The maids are female students from Mobile high schools who dress up in antebellum costumes of frilly pastel gowns and matching parasols.
These southern belles represent the city at events all over the country and even march in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. There’s also the Azalea Trail Run, a 10-kilometre foot race through downtown Mobile.
Over the years, these secondary traditions overtook the Azalea Trail itself, which was all but forgotten. But in the past few years, an organization known as “Keep Mobile Beautiful” has redefined the trail and brought it back to life. It was officially reopened in 2015, and the Mobile tourist information centre hands out maps of the trail.
During the Mobile Azalea Trail Festival in March, some of Mobile’s historic homes open especially to the public and put on special events. It’s a must for anyone who likes flowers or pre-Civil War history!
Cycle through Central Park in New York
Suggested by Alejandra from UniversoViajero.com
Central Park is one of the most popular places in New York. Surely you have seen it in dozens of movies, television series, advertisements and everywhere. There are many things to see in Central Park, so there are several ways to visit it: walking on your own, thematic tours, cycling taxis, bikes, etc.
Our favourite and the most comfortable and efficient is without a doubt to do it by bike, this way you can see it at your own pace.
We recommend using the Citi Bike system, New York’s public bicycles. You can pay USD 10 for 24 hours of use and pick up and leave the bikes everywhere there is a station (which are hundreds around the city) along the sides of the park. This will give you the time to walk some areas and not worry about having to return to the same place or secure your bike in a designated area.
You can see everything you want and at the same time enjoy the scenery while pedalling through the multiple paths that run through the park. Do not forget to stop at Bow Bridge, visit the memorial to John Lennon and stroll through The Mall, the road that ends at the beautiful Bethesda Fountain.
Believe us, this will be one of your favourite activities during your visit to the island of Manhattan and a must-do in the city of New York.
Read More | A New York Visitors Guide
Spend some time in Grand Teton National Park
Suggested by Laura of LiveAdventureTravel.com
The US state of Wyoming is known for its national parks and monuments, with famous places such as Yellowstone National Park and Devils Tower. Among the list of awe-inspiring nature opportunities in Wyoming is Grand Teton. A breathtakingly beautiful National Park that is famous for its captivating scenery, endless wildlife opportunities and picture-perfect hiking trails.
The park attracts over 4.2 million visitors each year. In the summer months, people visit from all over the world to catch a glimpse of the Teton range as they hike the most popular trails.
Although hiking is the most popular activity in Grand Teton, there are options to go white water rafting down Snake River, watch a cowboy shoot off in Jackson Hole or enjoy a day full of horseback riding.
In the winter months, the national park turns into a winter wonderland with options to ski, sledge or go snowshoeing.
Grand Teton is one of the most beautiful places in the US and most definitely somewhere you should add to your American travel bucket list.
Stuff your face in the Barbeque Capital of the World: Kansas City
Suggested by Sage of EverdayWanderer.com
As you explore the USA, crossing experiences off of your US bucket list, you’re likely to encounter a lot of barbeque restaurants. Whilst every region of the United States has its own “brand” of barbeque, Kansas City’s name has been synonymous with slowly smoked meat slathered in spicy sauce for more than a century. So when you visit the Barbeque Capital of the World, you absolutely must try its tender chunks of beef, pulled pork, and saucy ribs.
Fun Fact: Over the course of American history, there have been more than five accepted spellings for this cooking style. Today the debate boils down to spelling the word with a “c” or a “q” and this cowtown generally aligns with the Kansas City Barbeque Society which uses a “q.”
Straddling the states of Kansas and Missouri, the Kansas City metro area is home to more than 100 barbeque joints. With so many choices, it can be hard to identify the best barbeque restaurants in Kansas City, but these places consistently rise to the top: Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque, Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue, Q39, and Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que.
Spot wildlife in The Everglades National Park
Suggested by Rhonda of TravelYesPlease.com
Everglades National Park in Florida is a great destination for animal lovers to see a variety of wildlife in their natural habitat. Whilst exploring the waterways and walking trails, it’s common to come across alligators, crocodiles, turtles, manatees, and dolphins.
The Everglades are an especially great location for bird watching, with over 360 species of birds spotted in the park. Wading birds like the white Ibis, herons, and egrets are frequently seen feeding in shallow water.
Besides the high concentration of wildlife, the Everglades are also known for the lush plant life including mangroves, bromeliads, tall grasses, and succulents. Interestingly, the diversity of orchids in the Everglades is the highest of any National Park in the continental U.S.
The most comfortable time to visit the Everglades is during the dry season (November to March). This is also the best time for viewing wildlife. There are campgrounds in the park but the nearest hotels are in Homestead and Florida City.
Read more about Florida | A Fort Lauderdale Visitors Guide
Take a Helicopter ride to the top of Tower Butte, Arizona, USA
Suggested by Lee and Stacey from OneTripAtATime.com
Tower Butte in Arizona can only be accessed by skilled rock climbing or by helicopter; we suggest the second option! Taking off from Page airport, you fly over Lake Powell and head towards Tower Butte. As we approached the butte and gained altitude, the rough top of the butte came into view and the pilot brought us into land.
You only stay at the top for about 20 minutes, but this is plenty of time to explore and walk around the perimeter of the butte and take lots of photographs. The butte is so remote that the only sign of civilisation to see from the top is a solitary power plant, leaving you feeling quite isolated, especially as you will lose sight of the helicopter at times due to the undulations of the surface.
When it’s time to depart, if your pilot offers an “exciting” take-off, say yes! Just a couple of feet in the air and he’ll turn the helicopter; it felt like the helicopter all but fell over the side of the butte before swinging round and letting you capture your last glimpses of this remote place.
Let your inner child free at Disneyland in California
Suggested by Laura from CountryGirlExplores.com
If there is one place that everyone should visit in the US at least once in their lifetime, it’s the first and original Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Named the happiest place on earth, it’s a must-visit place for children and adults alike.
With two fun-filled parks at Disneyland Resort California, there is plenty to keep everyone entertained for days! Make the most of your time by arriving early, skip the queues (and save money) by buying your ticket online. For multi-day tickets, it often works out cheaper to buy through a Disney approved partner than through Disneyland directly.
Once in the park, make the most of your visit by downloading the Disneyland app and by utilising Disneyland’s FREE FastPass system to skip the queues, but most of all HAVE FUN!
Hike Minnesota’s North Shore
Suggested by Martha from QuirkyGlobetrotter.com
Minnesota is known for its thousands of lakes and overwhelming mosquito population. Though you shouldn’t let that deter you from experiencing Minnesota’s greatest hidden gems: hiking the North Shore along Lake Superior.
Minnesota’s North Shore extends north from Duluth to Minnesota’s shared border with Canada. Within this span on land, there are numerous state parks and quiet areas that all avid hikers should experience at least once in their lives.
Trails in this area differ greatly. Some trailheads venture to hidden waterfalls and others wind through the dense Superior forest. The most popular of these hikes skirt Lake Superior’s shoreline. Outlooks are often on the cliffsides that overlook Lake Superior.
The Lake Superior Hiking trail connects all these natural wonders together and boasts 310-miles of beauty. If you aren’t up to undertaking this enormous hike, small sections of the Lake Superior Hiking trail can be accessed and hiked. Some of the most notable hikes are located in Tettegouche State Park where the trails range from a short distance of one mile to 7 miles round trip.
Hiking the North Shore of Minnesota definitely exposes visitors the immense, diverse beauty that Minnesota has to offer and should be added onto your American bucket list.
Spend some time in Death Valley National Park
Suggested by Dhara from NotAboutTheMiles.com
If you love majestic landscapes and enjoy hiking, consider a trip to Death Valley National Park in southern California. The largest national park in the 48 contiguous states, Death Valley National Park offers some amazing desert park experiences.
Even if you don’t do anything other than just drive through the park, you will be blown away by the grandeur of the landscape. But spend two or three days exploring the park in-depth and you’ll want to return again and again.
Wake up early to experience an otherworldly sunrise at Zabriskie Point. Drive to Dante’s View for stunning panoramic views over the valley and surrounding mountain ranges. Hike one of the many beautiful canyon trails in the park. Head to Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes at sunset to watch the play of light and shadow on the golden mounds of sand. Pose for a photo at Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America. Drive to Artist’s Palette, to see beautiful colours light up the rock face.
Whatever you choose to do in Death Valley National Park, you will come away in awe of its wild beauty! Visit from late fall to early spring for pleasant daytime temperatures.
Drive the Beartooth Highway
Suggested by Theresa of TheLocalTourist.com
Whether you’re a road trip fan or prefer to get to your destination by air, there’s one route that should be on any traveller’s bucket list. Beartooth Highway is considered the most beautiful drive in America.
At just 68 miles long, this journey is the destination. It starts just outside of Red Lodge, Montana, and will take you through three National Forests and next to the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness.
The switchbacks will make you nearly as breathless as the altitude; this drive reaches an elevation of nearly 11,000 feet among twenty peaks that exceed 12,000. There are plenty of lookouts, so you can stop for a moment and drink it all in.
Because of its elevation and remote location, Beartooth Highway is only open a few months out of the year. It usually opens sometime in late May and closes again in late September or early October, but there have been snowstorms in June and August. It’s best to check the weather right before you plan on driving just to make sure.
One of the best things about driving this bucket list place is that you end up in another: Beartooth leads right into Yellowstone National Park.
Hike the Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park
Suggested by Michelle of TheWanderingQueen.com
Hiking the Precipice Trail was one of my favourite activities at Acadia National Park. This hike is no ordinary hike, and it takes someone with no fear of heights to complete it.
It includes climbing up metal ladders and scrambling up small rocky ledges to get to the top of the mountain. But if you can through it, the views are glorious!
You can see the Atlantic Ocean throughout the hike, along with the many stunning islands in the distance.
Most people hike up the Precipice Trail and then hike down the Champlain North Ridge Trail. The Champlain North Ridge Trail is a relatively easy/normal way down compared to the long climb of The Precipice Trail.
Go White Water Rafting along the Colorado River
Suggested by James of TravelCollecting.com
White water rafting along the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in a wooden dory is the thrill of a lifetime.
The river trip starts where the canyon starts at ‘ Ferry, and almost immediately, the walls of the canyon start to rise around you. It isn’t too long before layers of coloured rock that were right beside you are high in the air as the canyon gets deeper and deeper.
There are lots of flat stretches, but also plenty of rapids to navigate. An expert guide rows while you frantically bail the water out at quickly as you possibly can! There is time to get out and hike into side canyons that are only accessible by boat.
Nights are spent camping on sandy beaches at the river’s edge. It is possible to ride the river the entire length of the canyon or get out halfway through and overnight at Phantom Ranch before hiking the Bright Angel Trail out of the canyon to the South Rim.
Two alternatives to the wooden dories are regular soft rafts and large motorized rafts that navigate the river more smoothly and twice as quickly. I personally loved the dory – this is how the first explorer navigated the river rapids and in the wooden boat, you feel every rapid to its fullest.
Scale a magical pink granite monadnock at Enchanted Rock State Park in Texas
Suggested by Priya of OutsideSuburbia.com
Enchanted Rock State Park‘s massive pink granite monadnock (an isolated rock, mountain or hill) has drawn hikers and rock climbers to scale it magical rock formations for years. It is the largest such pink granite dome in the United States.
Folklore of local Tonkawa, Apache and Comanche tribes believed in the magical and spiritual powers of the rock and that is where it gets its the name ‘Enchanted Rock’ from.
Enchanted Rock is located in the Hill Country of Texas and is a perfect weekend getaway from Dallas. If you leave early enough on a Friday, you can get to Fredericksburg in about 4 hours. Then hike up the Enchanted Rock State Park Saturday morning.
Enchanted Rock covers approximately 640 acres and rises about 425 feet above the surrounding terrain to an elevation of 1,825 feet above sea level. You can head to a resort in either Fredericksburg or San Antonio after the hike for and experience some warm Texan hospitality.
Experience a Luau in Hawaii
By Leigh from CampfiresAndConcierges.com
A luau is a great reason to visit Hawaii! This fun cultural experience is unique to Hawaii and not only is it a night filled with entertainment and great food, but it’s also a great way to learn about the Polynesian culture of Hawaii before it became part of the United States.
I have been to two luaus, three if you count the one at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. You cannot come to Hawaii without attending a luau! Even solo travellers will have a good time.
While nearly every resort in Hawaii has a luau, in Maui, everyone told me to go to Old Lahaina Luau which is in the town of Lahaina. This luau was truly magical. The performances were mesmerizing and taught me so much about the history of the Hawaiian islands.
On top of that, it’s an open bar with fun fruity drinks plus a huge spread of delicious Hawaiian food and desserts. They even sent us each home with a little loaf of banana bread.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this USA bucket list and come up with some travel inspiration for your next trip to America!
Tell us, what’s on your American bucket list?!
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