Wondering about the most beautiful cities in USA and which ones to visit? We got you covered. In this USA bucket list post, we will share the best cities, small towns and everything in between that are worthy of visiting once in your lifetime.
We will highlight the best cities to visit in the USA, which can be your starting point to the country if you are traveling internationally, and then you can venture into the lesser-known or popular road trips and national parks.
USA bucket list: Most beautiful cities in USA + towns & parks
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The United States of America is more than just New York City or the university cities of Boston and Harvard, it is also unique landscapes and natural heritage that the country has to offer. We have compiled this unique USA travel bucket list, with our experience as well as from many other travelers – both visitors and locals!
Tips for visiting the USA
Here are some quick tips for preparing your trip to the USA,
- Check your passport validity, and any visa requirements or additional ID’s,
- The currency of the United States is $ USD,
- Apply and take travel medical insurance as well as trip cancellation for all of your travels. Get your travel insurance quotes here,
- In metro cities, it is a good idea to venture on sightseeing and exploration using public transportation or sightseeing buses. Parking can be an issue in popular landmarks and neighborhoods.
- You can look at all the sightseeing options on GetYourGuide and book them instantly here
- For road trips, of course, rent a car. Don’t forget to bring your driver’s license (US, Canadian, or International). And take car insurance,
- If you do not wish to drive or want to see more in less time, opt for a small group tour with Intrepid Travel or G Adventures. They are sustainable adventure tour operators that take you to the best spots led by locals.
Washington DC – the capital city of USA
The capital city of the United States is Washington DC, and it deserves a place on your USA bucket list. Home to the White House, many museums, and state of the art buildings, visiting Washington DC is a real treat.
Summertime, the city glows with outdoor activities – from picnics to walks in gardens and parks, to hikes. Winter is even more amazing in this US city.
Washington DC gears up for the festive season with cool decorations across the town. With so many free events and light shows in the city, you won’t be disappointed in visiting Washington DC!
New York City: The ultimate must-see city in the USA
By Constance from the Adventures of Panda Bear
A USA bucket list cannot complete without New York City. There is nothing else in the U.S. quite like “The Big Apple” and as the “city that never sleeps,” you’ll definitely be treated to beautiful lights and amazing things to do.
Visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and you’ll see the two islands that saw new immigrants come to America. It is estimated that nearly 40 percent of all current U.S. citizens can trace at least one of their ancestors to Ellis Island.
The immigration station museum is highly educational and you’ll get to see how and why immigrants endured many struggles to make it to the U.S. in search of a better life. It is one of the most inspiring places to visit!
Of course, you can’t forget Times Square and Rockefeller Center!
Times Square is best known for its New Year’s Eve ball drop however it is always hustling and bustling. It is also located in the Theater District so this is where you’ll find the majority of the Broadway shows.
During the holiday season, Rockefeller Center is home to one of the largest Christmas trees in the world and even a public ice skating rink. Stay at Courtyard by Marriott New York Manhattan/Times Square West for the best location to the sights.
New York City is one of the best places to visit in the United States, you won’t regret a trip there!
You might like: East Coast Weekend Getaways to add to your bucket list
Seattle: Add this stunning city to USA bucket list
By Rachael from A City Girl Outside
If Seattle isn’t already on your USA bucket list already, it should be! It’s a bustling metropolis but with a laid back vibe, great restaurants, and the quirkiest bars.
One of the top things to do in Seattle is Pike Place Market. It’s a must-do and for a good reason. This animated open-air market first opened its doors in 1907 and is one of the oldest public markets in the United States. Take time out to watch the fishmongers throw fish up to three-feet to each other every time an order is made.
Pike Place offers fresh fish and seafood, plus an array of freshly made pastries, cheesecakes, and baklava can all be found here. Book a Pike Place food tour here
Opposite Pike Place, you’ll find the famous original Starbucks. If you’re a Starbucks fangirl and came here for the stars, then the really long line might be for you. If you’re not so fussed, take a photo with the exterior and enjoy the rest of what Seattle has to offer.
Probably the most unique attraction in Seattle, is the famous Gum Wall, an alleyway where you can literally chew and stick as many pieces of gum on the wall as you like. The idea behind the gum wall is a little bit gross, but hey, at least you can say you left a little piece of yourself in Seattle!
For amazing panoramic views of the city, head to Kerry Park where you’ll be able to witness Seattle’s skyline in all its glory. The Space Needle dominates Seattle’s skyline – if you like observation decks then head to the top of this iconic structure.
Hyatt Place Seattle is the perfect place to stay for your trip to Seattle. It’s within walking distance of some of the best attractions while also having the privilege of being quiet.
Add Mount Rainier National Park to USA Bucket list
By Michelle from The Wandering Queen
Mount Rainier is one of the most magnificent mountains in the United States standing at 14,410 ft elevation, it will surely take your breath away. But viewing Mount Rainier isn’t the only thing to do at the national park.
There are views of lakes, rivers, forests, waterfalls, and other surrounding mountains.
Mount Rainier is known to have cloudy and rainy days. That is why one of the best options is to visit Comet Falls on a bad weather day. Comet Falls is a 4.3 miles roundtrip hike that has a stunning view of a 380′ waterfall. It is one of my favorite waterfalls in the state of Washington.
If you are looking for a leisurely stroll, one of the most popular hikes is Grove Of The Patriarchs Loop. This trail has stunning old-growth trees that are nearly 40 feet in diameter and more than 300 feet tall. The trail also features a river and a cute bridge.
The best trail in the whole national park is, of course, the Skyline Trail. This trail has front and center views of Mount Rainier National Park throughout the entire hike. Because of the spectacular views, it is probably the most crowded trail in the park. But even with the crowds, this trail is worth it!
San Francisco – Sunset, sunrise or just walking the Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco is a very recognizable city in the USA, globally. Home to stunning landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Alcatraz Island, Alamo neighborhood, and more.
Neighborhoods of San Francisco will satisfy any urban dweller – great infrastructure and transportation, a variety of culinary options, history and culture excursions, and sea views.
There are many sister towns near San Francisco, they are worth visiting like Mountain View, Sausalito, Sanford, etc. The city also serves as a good base for embarking on day trips to other cities and vine valleys of California. And not to forget road tripping on the Pacific Coast highway.
SF was on my bucket list for a long time. So when I visited San Francisco for the first time, a few years ago, I was elated. The moment I saw the Golden Gate Bridge – was priceless. I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and seized this moment with a postcard! One down the bucket list.
Napa Valley: Of vineyards and champagnes
By Luda from Adventures with Luda
If you’re anywhere near Northern California, don’t miss the chance to go wine tasting in Napa Valley! This world-famous region is home to more than 400 wineries squeezed into 790 square miles of beautiful nature. Although you can’t go wrong with picking a winery here, here are 3 things to add to your USA bucket list.
Castello di Amorosa: This “castle” was painstakingly replicated to match a typical Italian castle from the 13th century. In fact, more than 850,000 bricks were imported from Italy! If you have the chance, definitely book a tour that will take you through the beautiful grounds and rooms of this castle.
Sterling Vineyards: Perched on top of a hill, Sterling Vineyards has one of the best views of Napa Valley and the surrounding area. In order to get up there, you’ll have to take an aerial tram (the only one in Napa!) to enjoy wine tasting on top of the terrace.
Francis Ford Coppola Winery: A fun and quirky winery that was created by the famous film director. On hot days, visitors can enjoy wine by the pool, or head inside to see the small museum of props that were used in his films.
For fans of champagne, there are also a handful of champagnes in Napa. Our recommendations: Domaine Chandon (makers of Moet Chandon!), Korbel Champagne Cellars, or Domaine Carneros.
Napa Valley is a must-do on any traveler’s bucket list thanks to its delicious wines, gorgeous rolling hills and nature, and proximity to San Francisco.
Yosemite National Park: USA Bucket list
By Liliane from My Toronto My WorldOne of the absolute items to add to your USA bucket list is Yosemite National Park. It’s one of the most well known of their national parks and it’s home to some absolutely breathtaking nature. The Upper, Lower, and Middle Yosemite Falls make up the highest waterfall in North America which is an absolute must-do. There are other waterfalls in the park as well like Bridalveil Falls (that you can get quite close to), Vernal Falls, Horsetail Falls and so many more.
In addition to chasing waterfalls and driving through roads lined with giant pine trees, you can’t miss the iconic viewpoint at Tunnel View that gives you a wide view of El Capitan, Half Dome, and the Yosemite Valley.
The park is open year-round and Yosemite in the rain is prettier as it’s emptier than normal and the waterfalls are typically flowing stronger.
We recommend staying at the Cedar Lodge Hotel. It’s a no-frills 2-star hotel but it comes with free parking, is cheap, and is located only a 15-minute drive from the Arch Rock Entrance of Yosemite National Park which is pretty unbeatable. Read: How to spend one day in Yosemite itinerary
Joshua Tree National Park: Largest Yucca in the world
Your ultimate United States bucket list should include the Joshua Tree National Park. This park is located in southeastern California, east of Los Angeles and San Bernardino. The national park gets its name from the Joshua trees found in the desert.
They are actually the world’s largest Yucca, also known as Yucca Palms, or Tree Yuccas. These Joshua trees grow at the rate of one-half inch to three inches per year, and they live for about 150 years.
It is worth spending at least a day at the National Park, especially if you are road tripping on the west coast. There are quite a few easy hiking trails as well that lets you enjoy the arid landscape – Hidden Valley Trail (1-mile loop), or Barker Dam Nature Trail (1.3-mile loop).
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming: Oldest National Park in the USA
By Sean from LivingOutLau
Most visitors know the USA by the main cities: Los Angeles, New York City, Boston, and etc. However, the national parks of the United States are some of the best attractions in the United States. One of the USA bucket list items is the Yellowstone National Park As the first national park of the United States, it sits on the throne of National Parks.
Spanning 3 states and a total of 3,500 sq sq-miles, there are numerous attractions in Yellowstone National Park. The two most famous attractions are the Old Faithful Geyer and the Grand Prismatic Spring.
Old Faithful Geyser is one of the most famous geysers in the world. Named for its consistent frequency of erupting every 90 minutes or so, Old Faithful is one of the geysers you have to visit in Yellowstone National Park. Because of its fame, be sure to arrive well in advance to get a good spot to see it!
The next notable attraction in Yellowstone is the Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in the USA and the third-largest in the world! Due to its varying temperatures in the spring, different organisms live in different places inside the spring. As a result, they emit a rainbow of colors. It is truly a miraculous sight.
To take advantage of the huge amount of attractions in Yellowstone, stay in the park at the Old Faithful Inn!
San Diego: America’s Finest City to add to your USA bucket list
By Dhara from It’s Not About the Miles
If you are looking for iconic travel destinations in the USA, then put San Diego on your bucket list! The southern California city is called America’s Finest City and with good reason! There are so many fun things to do in San Diego that you could spend several weeks here and not run out, but you can also sample the highlights on a weekend getaway.
In downtown San Diego, walk around the Gaslamp Quarter, a historic neighborhood, or have a great Italian meal in Little Italy. Visit Balboa Park, an arts and gardens oasis in the heart of the city.
Drive to Coronado Island to enjoy some sun, sea, and sand on a beautiful golden beach. Visit the San Diego Mission, the first-ever Spanish mission built in California.
Also, in San Diego, you can see the spot where the first Europeans set foot on California soil, way back in the 16th century: head to the Cabrillo National Monument and you can look down at Ballast Point.
If you love shopping (and sea lions!) make your way to La Jolla, just north of the city. And if you enjoy hiking, check out the trails in Torrey Pines State Reserve.
Whatever you choose to do in San Diego, you will have a wonderful time. For an upscale place to hang your hat, book a stay at the US Grant Hotel in the heart of downtown San Diego.
Death Valley National Park: One of the largest, hottest, and driest national park in the US
Death Valley is the largest national park in the continental United States. It is also the hottest, driest, and lowest of all the national parks in the country. The national park straddles eastern California and Nevada.
The name ‘Death Valley’ was given by a group of pioneers who were lost here in the winter of 1849-1850. When rescued, one of the men said “goodbye, Death Valley’, and the name stayed. Source
The Death Valley is beautiful yet full of dangerous extremes – it gets very hot during summers (carry water to stay hydrated), and is dangerously cold during the winter months.
The park is home to Titus Canyon, which is a ghost town, and of course Badwater Basin’s salt flats. Badwater Basin-282 feet below sea level is the lowest place in the park and the lowest in North America.
Las Vegas – ‘World landmarks’ all in one place
Las Vegas has a very unique reputation in the world. Some love it, some don’t. True to its word, ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’ – but you can very well find the entire world waiting for you at the Strip.
Known as a gambling paradise, of flamboyant parties, and music concerts – Vegas is all of this and more. The world landmark replicas that Las Vegas has created in their city – takes you to a different world – where the Brooklyn Bridge is like steps away from the Eiffel tower, and in a few blocks you are at the Venetian canals.
A trip to Vegas is worth it to experience this yourself, immerse in their bustling culinary scene and nightlife. It is also an excellent city base, for outdoor lovers – a day trip or a multi-day hiking adventure is possible from Las Vegas. Its airport – McCarran is connected nationally and internationally.
Grand Canyon National Park: USA travel bucket list
Visiting the Grand Canyon National Park (regardless of which rim/side) should be on your USA bucket list. It is an easy day trip from Las Vegas Nevada or Arizona. Soak in the stunning views of the canyons, which is one of the wonders of the world!
Take a short leisurely hike or camp overnight to enjoy this natural park.
As a first time visitor to the Grand Canyon National Park, you might enjoy the Sky Walk on the west rim. The Sky Walk is a popular tourist attraction, where visitors can see the depths of the national park, without having to scale or climb mountains or strenuous hikes.
Embarking on a Grand Canyon Tour will enlighten you with stories of Route 66, and the hardships and work that have done to preserve the National Park. Many tours also stop at the Hoover Dam – an engineering marvel – dam built over the Colorado River.
Antelope Canyon, Arizona: Natural Stunner for non-hikers
Antelope Canyon is located in the great American Southwest (in Arizona). The stunning views of the spiral rocks and the arches are popular with tourists and have been pulling travelers for decades.
As a visitor, you can have to book a tour to explore the Lower and the Upper Antelope Canyon. The Lower Antelope Canyon costs slightly less and usually has smaller crowds, on the other hand, the Upper Antelope Canyon is more popular, and hence busier. It also better accommodates larger crowds than its Lower counterpart.
For casual hikers, you can choose from photo to canyon sightseeing tours. Tours take anywhere from 1.50 to 4 hours and are offered for both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons.
Antelope Canyon was named a Navajo Tribal Park in 1997.
Chicago: One of the most beautiful cities in USA
By Patti from the Savvy Globetrotter
There are many amazing things to do in Chicago that make it a bucket list-worthy destination.
Cloud Gate, the mirrored sculpture in Millennium Park also known as the Bean, is a unique attraction and one of the best spots for photos. Navy Pier is a popular attraction with gardens, restaurants, shops, family activities, and a large Ferris wheel with views of Chicago and Lake Michigan.
The Chicago Riverwalk, a pedestrian walkway along the Chicago River, is a great place for a stroll with restaurants, shops, and spots to sit along the way.
Take an architecture river cruise to marvel at the impressive architecture and tall buildings while also learning about the history of the city.
Two of the tallest skyscrapers in Chicago have observatories with great views from above, including the famous Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) which used to be the tallest building in the world. Don’t forget to try some of the food that including a Chicago style hot dog and deep-dish pizza.
There is no shortage of hotels in Chicago but you can’t go wrong with LondonHouse Chicago. This luxury hotel is conveniently located close to many major Chicago attractions and has a rooftop terrace with one of the best panoramic views of the city.
Oklahoma City: One of the underrated cities in USA
Oklahoma City may not make it to everyone’s bucket list cities in the USA, but OKC has a few hidden gems that are worth exploring.
For one, the Myriad Botanical Gardens is one of the must-visit places in Oklahoma City. Snap Instagrammable shots, and hang out at this sprawling space which is home to a 17-acre botanical garden and interactive urban park.
Outdoor lovers can go kayaking through the Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge.
For history and culture lovers, here are some of the things to do in Oklahoma City, like the Oklahoma City National Memorial (which is dedicated to the victims of the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building), the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum and OKC Museum of Art (OKCMOA).
Don’t forget to hit the Deep Deuce District in the downtown area. Experience a vibrant nightlife here, and hang out at various cocktail lounges, and jazz venues.
You must also add a sightseeing water taxi to your Oklahoma City itinerary, especially at night to check out illuminating lights.
Denali National Park, Alaska: Into the wilderness
Alaska has been on our USA bucket list for years now. Larger than the state of New Jersey, Denali National Park and Preserve is our prime focus in the state.
“Denali” means “the high one” as called by the Koyukon people who are native to the area. The national park is one that is mostly untouched by human hands, save for the one park road and a few scattered services. The nearest US city to the park is Healy. But it is still located far from any airport or large city, Denali is a wilderness park, and reaching there could take several hours.
At the park, you can sight wildlife and go on backcountry camping and mountaineering adventures. In order to fully explore the park, set aside at least 2 full nights in the area (plus travel time).
The best time to visit Denali National Park is in the summer months when wildflowers are in full bloom, and wildlife can be seen in the wilderness.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado: Of mountains, and scenic drives
Rocky Mountain National Park is located in northern Colorado, and the park comprises protected mountains, forests, and alpine tundra.
The mountains and the lake views at the National Park call for at least a week of exploration. This will give you ample time to relax, go on hikes, soak in those amazing views.
One of the popular spots not to miss at the Rocky Mountain National Park is Sprague Lake.
If you are short on time, we recommend enjoying a scenic drive, namely that of the Trail Ridge Road and the Old Fall River Road, which passes through stunning aspen trees and rivers.
Another option is to get on the 164 mile Rocky Mountain National Park Scenic Loop. This drive is of 4 hours, and is a MUST for every mountain lover! The route takes you from Denver to Estes Park, through Rocky Mountain National Park to Winter Park in Colorado.
Arches National Park in Utah: Of stunning stone arches
By Tara from Fit Two Travel
Arches National Park is a USA bucket list destination as it has some of the best scenery in all of the US. Arches National Park, located in eastern Utah right outside of Moab, has over 2000 natural stone arches, plus pinnacles, fins, and balanced rocks.
With the red rock and contrasting colors, the scenery of the park is amazing. Not only is the scenery great, but there are some great hikes at Arches National Park, where you can see the arches up close. There are plenty of hikes of all levels, ranging from 15 minutes to 5 hours, including many hikes that are family-friendly.
Besides hiking, there is also biking, horseback riding, canyoneering, rock-climbing, and star-gazing in the park. There are tons of great camping spots near Arches National Park and Moab, Utah.
If you’re looking for a great hotel, the Springhill Suites by Marriott is super close and a great option for exploring the park.
Valley of Gods, Utah: Of uniqueness in landscapes
By Samah from God and Wanderlust
You must add the “Valley of the Gods” to your USA bucket list, as it is a breathtaking place to drive through some of the peculiar-looking buttes…. almost as if they were molded in shrines.
From Utah and Arizona road trip through Medicine Hat, you will be entering into the Valley of the Gods. The area is usually deserted, which makes for an even surreal experience.
There are clear pathway winds and spirals around the shrine-like buttes. In dry weather, an average car will easily drive you through, but in wet conditions, a 4×4 would seem like a better option.
The trail is perfect for bike enthusiasts. You can get out of your car and even climb one for an amazing view of the never-ending landscape. Red dirt, rocks, and buttes envelop your sight for miles and miles on end. It is something so beautiful, like something you have never seen before.
Watch the ground as you walk around; you will be amazed to see large shiny blue beetles and lizards.
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah: Of crimson-colored hoodoos and rock formations
Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the most visited parks in the USA, located in southern Utah. The park is known for its unique rock formations and hoodoos.
The national park is open all year round, and each season looks stunning in its own way. From riding ATV in the Dixie National Forest to stargazing at night, you can camp here, enjoy scenic sunset points, and the beautiful outdoors. Other popular activities include – wildlife sighting, fishing, photography, and canyoneering.
During winter, you can participate in the Bryce Canyon Winter Festival.
Not into active outdoors? Embark on a road trip instead. Drive-through the Bryce Canyon and the Grand Staircase-Escalante areas in Utah to enjoy a scenic landscape.
Zion National Park: Add to USA travel bucket list
By Julie Thorne from More Than Main Street
Zion National Park in Utah should be at the top of any USA bucket list!
Visitors can enjoy hiking, a wide variety of wildlife, climbing, camping, and more at Zion National Park!
There is a free shuttle that runs throughout the park which is the easiest and best way to get around. While there is hiking for all levels and abilities, in my opinion, you absolutely cannot miss hiking the Narrows and/ or Angel’s Landing. These two hikes are two of the most unique and exhilarating experiences in the USA!
Other fun options at Zion that should be considered during your visit are the Junior Ranger program for kids, guided family walks, visits to the Nature Center, or the Zion Human History Museum.
Whether you choose to spend one day or a week, a visit to Zion National Park will certainly create memories to last a lifetime!
Zion is most easily accessed by flying into Las Vegas, Nevada, or Salt Lake City, Utah. Lodging inside the park often books up months in advance, but we found the Fairfield Inn & Suites about ten minutes outside the park to be a perfect budget-friendly option.
Miami: Beautiful US City bucket list
By Joanna from Lose the Map
Home to beautiful beaches, iconic Art Deco architecture, tropical weather, party-till-dawn nightlife, and one of the largest Latin-American populations and food scenes in the US, Miami is a must-visit destination for any trip to the USA.
The biggest tourist hotspot is located on South Beach, which is home to some of the most popular nightclubs, Art Deco hotels, and sandy beaches in the Miami area.
Those looking for upscale restaurants and rooftop bars should head to luxurious Brickell, while visitors hoping to get a glimpse of the vibrant Cuban lifestyle and food of Miami should check out the iconic Little Havana neighborhood.
For visitors who want to be in a more relaxed part of South Beach, look into a stay at Freehand Miami. This hotel is wonderful for visitors looking to meet and socialize with locals, as the Freehand has a great outdoor bar called the Broken Shaker which is very popular with locals in Miami.
Orlando Florida: USA City with the most visited theme parks in the country
By Margie from DQ Family Travel
Orlando is definitely a bucket list city to visit when traveling in the United States. It boasts several of the most visited theme parks in the country: Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, Sea World Orlando, and Legoland Florida.
A stay in Orlando deserves a visit to one or more of these theme parks which provide world-class entertainment, dining, resorts, and attractions for people of all ages.
When visiting Disney World, be sure to explore all four of their theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot. To immerse guests in the “magic”, there are over 25 resorts on property ranging from value, moderate, and deluxe accommodations.
Disney Springs and CityWalk Orlando are two shopping and dining meccas that are perfect for guests to enjoy a day off from the parks.
A visit to Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure allows guests to experience some major thrill rides, Marvel theming, and of course, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Sea World and Legoland are also located in Orlando and provide even more options for their vacation.
In addition to the theme parks, Orlando has tons to do for tourists and caters specifically to families. Many natural springs are within a 30-minute drive of the city, which makes for a nice escape to swim in the crystal blue waters and snorkel or kayak with a manatee.
Biscayne National Park, Florida for your bucket list
By Tavia from Big Brave Nomad
Biscayne National Park is often overlooked by travelers heading to Miami, Key West, or even Everglades National Park. However, it is one of the best National Parks we have visited, and it should be on your USA bucket list.
Biscayne offers a Caribbean island experience without needing a passport. Inside this national park you will find a small, but educational visitor center and many friendly park rangers.
You can choose to do the scenic mangrove hike located right near the visitor center, bring or rent a kayak for a day on the water, drop your boat in for a day of fishing, take a snorkeling tour, or go on a guided paddleboard tour.
Since this National Park is 95% water, the absolute best thing to do in Biscayne is to head out to the tiny islands dotting its waters. You can catch a 4-hour tour that takes you to Boca Chita Key directly at the visitor center!
Biscayne National Park is located in Homestead, Florida and the best hotel for convenient access is the Home2Suites by Hilton which offers apartment-style rooms; perfect for packing a picnic for your boat tour!
Whether you’re passing through South Florida or here to stay, Biscayne National Park is a must-visit because of its world-renown coral reef, endless clear blue water, and an island vibe that stays in your soul.
Old San Juan, the island of Puerto Rico: Take the stairs to La Perla
By Wes from Wes Meets World
Located on the island of Puerto Rico, Old San Juan is an area steeped in history with brightly colored buildings that date back to the 16th century.
Old San Juan contains two historic fortresses on either side (San Felipe del Morro and San Cristóbal) with daily tours available. On warm days, you’ll find the giant lawn in front of El Morro filled with people flying kites, enjoying picnics, or simply relaxing in the sun and taking in the Caribbean breeze.
It’s easy to get lost walking the shiny cobbled streets of Old San Juan while taking in its history. The area has plenty of cocktail bars and restaurants to enjoy authentic Caribbean food.
If you’re looking for a hidden gem, visit Mezzanine at St. Germaine with a rooftop wine bar where you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time as soon as you walk through the door. However, if salsa dancing is more your flavor, head to La Factoria where you’ll find live salsa music most nights of the week.
One of the most unique things to do while visiting Old San Juan is heading down the stairs to La Perla, a “shanty town” located alongside the historic northern wall of the city. The area has been made famous by the music video “Despacito” and is experiencing a growing revival with new restaurants and bars popping up.
Visit just before sunset to experience an incredibly peaceful sunset over the Caribbean waters.
If you’re planning a visit, the best place to stay is Hotel El Convento located right in the heart of Old San Juan. Built in 1646, El Convento was the first “Small Luxury Hotel of the World” member in Puerto Rico and the oldest member of the “Historic Hotels of America.”
City of Milwaukee: Land of Breweries
By Adam from MilwaukeeInsider
The city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin is slowly gaining popularity. It’s true – it’s still very much undiscovered but people are growing ever curious about it and putting it on their USA bucket list and we think you should too.
Milwaukee is full of life and culture, as well as some weird and unique qualities that make it such a cool city to explore. There are of course plenty of breweries to check out – like Lakefront Brewery, Good City Brewing, and Milwaukee Brewing Company. You can’t visit Milwaukee without trying some beer!
Milwaukee is also home to an up and coming foodie scene. Some of our favorite go-to spots include Comet Cafe, Sobelman’s, The Safe House, and the Milwaukee Ale House. And make sure to check out Milwaukee’s local coffee shop, Collectivo for a great cup of joe.
For some classic sightseeing in Milwaukee, make sure to visit the Harley Davidson Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum, and the Pabst Mansion. If you’re looking to check out some cool neighborhoods, we recommend the Historic Third Ward or the Deer District.
Our favorite hotel to stay in downtown is definitely the Kimpton Journeyman Hotel, located in the heart of the Third Ward. Complete with a cozy rooftop bar, this is the perfect place to relax and rest after a day of exploring Brew City.
The Great Lakes: Must add to your USA bucket list
By Rose from the Compass Rose
Imagine you’re standing on the shore, staring across endless waves meeting the sky with no end in sight… but you’re a thousand miles from the nearest ocean. Where could you be? The Great Lakes, of course.
Spanning from Minnesota to New York state, the five Great Lakes hold 90% of North America’s freshwater and 21% of the world’s freshwater.
Start in Duluth, Minnesota to visit the biggest and deepest of the Great Lakes: Lake Superior.
Walk along the boardwalk, enjoy the lighthouses, and stroll across the Aerial Lift Bridge. On the Park Point side, spread out your towel and lounge on the world’s largest freshwater sandbar.
If time allows, drive up scenic Highway 61 along the lake for 150 miles until you reach Canada. Winter brings a whole new feel to the lakes: if the year is cold enough and you can bear it, walk out on the frozen water and see the other-worldliness of waves literally frozen in time.
Ice-fishing shacks sprout up seemingly overnight, and any lakeside structures are at the mercy of frozen icicles covered in snow.
Stay at the South Pier Inn and spend an afternoon in Canal Park, a downtown area with shops, restaurants, two maritime-themed museums, and a freshwater aquarium.
Orange Beach, Alabama: Of sugar-white sand beaches
By Alyssa from LikeWhereYoureGoing
Most people don’t realize that Alabama has a gorgeous stretch of coastline with soft, sugar-white sand leading into the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It was on a trip to New Orleans that some locals recommended we make the 3-hour drive east to a place called Orange Beach.
What a hidden gem this place is – everyone thinks you need to go to Florida to experience a beach vacation, but if you come here, you will have the whole place to yourself! So add this to your USA bucket list!
Enjoy the southern hospitality and lounge on the beach, or head to the Wharf for shopping, concerts, and a huge Ferris wheel!
If you’re up for an adventure, deep-sea fishing is second to none where everyone is guaranteed to catch a marlin or tuna fish!
Stay at the Island House Hotel to be right on the beach and enjoy sea views from every room. Whether you’re on a family vacation or a romantic getaway, it won’t take you long to understand why they call it sweet home Alabama!
Honolulu: Of beaches, bays, and splendid views in the USA
By Clara from Petite Capsule
Honolulu is one of the best places to visit in the USA because of its natural beauty. Hanauma Bay, in particular, is stunning and special. Formed from two sunken volcanic craters, it is protected from the currents.
It is also home to an array of sea life and coral reefs, including green sea turtles and Hawaii’s national fish, the Humuhumunukunukuapuaa. Hanauma Bay is perfect for snorkeling off the beach.
Other picturesque beaches include Kailua Beach and Lanikai Beach, with their fine powdery soft white sand. The water is crystal clear and calm. There is also some shade along the beach. Perfect for families with young kids.
For beautiful beaches close to the heart of Waikiki, head over to Waikiki Beach and Kahanamoku Beach. Stay at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort and Kahanamoku Beach is at your front door.
Honolulu has fantastic hikes with splendid views. The Diamond Head Trail offers 360-degree views of Waikiki to Waianae, the Pacific Ocean, the Ko’olau Mountains, and the Koko Head Crater.
The Koko Head Crater Trail offers panoramic views of Diamond Head and Hanauma Bay. Though it is a steep climb consisting of over 1,000 steps.
For something a little easier, Manoa Falls is a fabulous hike through the lush green rainforest to a 150-foot waterfall. Honolulu is an incredible place to visit, whether you’re a family traveling with baby and toddler, as a couple, or solo.
Maui, Hawaii: USA travel bucket list ideas for families
By Amanda from Patsey Family Travels
Maui, Hawaii is a total bucket list place for families to visit in the United States. This island in Hawaii is full of amazing things to see and do at all times of the year.
One of the most popular things to do in Maui is to visit the beach! The beaches in Maui are beyond breathtaking and the waves are gentle in the Kaanapali area making them ideal for kids.
Some other popular things to do include visiting the Haleakala National Park and seeing the sunrise or sunset, going on a whale-watching boat tour, visiting the aquarium, or attending a luau for dinner.
Snorkeling at Molokini Crater is an epic experience to be had in Maui and is perfect for almost all ages.
Another must-do when visiting Hawaii is to drive the Road to Hana. This day-long road trip brings you along the northern coast of Maui and you will be rewarded with rewarding hikes, epic waterfalls, and breathtaking views. This experience is not to be missed when visiting Maui, Hawaii!
One of the best places to stay is in Kaanapali, Maui, and the Hyatt Regency is great for both families or couples. Staying in Kaanapali puts in you a relatively central location to check out all this island has to offer.
Hawaii Volcanoes: Check off real lava volcanoes from your USA bucket list
By Marcie from Marcie in Mommyland
Hoping to see real lava from a Hawaiian volcano? Add Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii to your travel bucket list.
And seeing lava isn’t the only thing you can do at the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Hawaii. They have a really cool visitor’s center and museum where you can learn about the different types of lava. There are also steam vents that can be fun to see.
You can also walk through the Thurston Lava Tube that was carved when hot lava passed through. And doing the Crater Rim Drive is a quick way to get insanely cool photos if you are short on time.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is also a popular place for Big Island hiking and camping. But what’s really cool about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is that they offer some fascinating ranger programs led by scientists, artists, and cultural experts.
Visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is one of the top things to do in Hawaii and once you go, you’ll understand why.
The only hotel located within the park is Volcano House. It’s been open since 1846 and it sits on the rim of Kilauea’s Halemaumau crater. Its location makes it one of the most unique places to stay in Hawaii.
St Louis MO: A small city with a big town feel
By Tiffany from Mommy And Me Travels
St Louis, MO (STL) is the gateway between the eastern and western United States. This is signified with the iconic Arch along the Mississippi River. Visitors are able to take a ride to the top of the Arch and gaze upon STL from above. The Arch and the ground around it are part of a national park and worth strolling through.
During your visit check out the museum, taking a trip up to the top, and then grabbing a picnic on the beautiful lands around the area. Another must-visit location in STL is the newly renovated Union Station. Union Station recently underwent a massive renovation to turn this area into a family fun complex.
One of the USA bucket list items is to ride the St Louis Observation Wheel, play mini-golf, take a spin on the carousel, swing from the rafters on the rope course, and of course visit the very interactive new aquarium.
The last unique thing to STL is the City Museum. This museum is unlike any other in that it is a piece of art that kids and adults get to climb their way through and slide down multiple stories. You can go in one slot and end up coming out in a completely different part of the museum.
When looking for a hotel, stay at one of the many central places on the river or along Washington St. Our favorite is the Hyatt Regency on the river and Embassy Suites on Washington.
Austin, Texas: The city of arts and culture, which stays forever warm
By Tayler from Traveling Tayler
Austin is a Texas city thriving in arts and culture. Not only is it host to some of the biggest music festivals throughout the year, but it’s “Keep Austin Weird ” vibe makes it a must-see location. Austin is also home to the largest bat colony in the U.S. who make their debut every night at dusk from underneath the downtown Congress Bridge.
Outside of attending South by Southwest or the two-weekend, Austin City Limits Festival, Austin has so much to offer. There is hiking at Mt. Bonnel, rock climbing in the Greenbelt, swimming at Barton Springs, or boating along with Lake Travis.
Austin also has a large microbrew culture with bars serving mostly local beer. While the nearby wineries give visitors an additional option for exploring. And whether you’re eating at a food trailer park or 5-star restaurant, Austin is a foodie’s heaven.
For non-music entertainment, add a visit to the original Alamo Drafthouse Ritz on 6th street or catching improv at the Hideout Theatre.
And to round out your true Austin experience head to the historic Driskell hotel. Built-in 1886, this charming building gives you access to the heart of Austin. Being Texas, the weather is nice almost year-round, which is good because there is always something to do!
Asheville, NC: One of the charming, yet quirkiest cities in USA
By Christina from Life a Wilder Life
Asheville, NC is a must-add USA bucket list item. It is known as a hip and trendy destination, with a charming and quirky quality that makes it slightly off the beaten path.
Asheville is renowned for its Appalachian inspired farm to table food scene, but it also offers some of the best nature activities in the US and a thriving arts community. Incredible food, unparalleled natural beauty, and a bohemian artist community…what’s not to love?
If you’re looking for a nature itinerary for your time in Asheville, you must visit Pisgah National Forest to take in the iconic Blue Ridge Mountains and the thousands of waterfalls packed into the forests of Western North Carolina.
If you’re visiting in the summer, bring your bathing suit so you can take a slide down the 60-foot natural rock slide at Sliding Rock. If you want a different kind of Asheville itinerary, you can visit the Biltmore Estate, the former home to the Vanderbilt family. The mansion is a massive 178,926 square feet and is the largest privately-owned home in the US.
Asheville offers many high-quality hotels, but staying at a B&B like the highly-rated Cedar Crest Inn is a great way to stay in one of the many charming Victorian houses that line the neighborhoods of Asheville.
Athens Georgia: Of historical sites, delicious cuisines, music, and arts
By Alli from Alli’s Grade Escape
Have you heard about Athens, a town in the state of Georgia, USA? Athens is an absolute must-see town. Just northeast of Atlanta, Athens offers visitors a variety of activities, historical sites, and myriad delicious cuisines to try!
Home to the University of Georgia, the first state-chartered public university in the USA, Athens is filled with the brightest young people in the state that keep the city feeling hip and refreshed, year after year. Sports and art fans can catch a game, display, or world-class performance on campus!
It’s also always fun to take a stroll around the gorgeous, historic campus. If you prefer spending time in nature, opt for visiting the State Botanical Garden.
Athens is probably most famous for the incredible musicians who have come out of the town: REM, the B-52’s, and more all got their starts performing at the infamous Georgia Theatre found in downtown Athens, surrounded by dozens of bars and delicious locally-owned restaurants.
Live music, cheap drinks, and outstanding food are always available- even late into the night!
For the best downtown experience, you’ll want to stay at the Hilton Garden Inn. Finally, you can visit The Tree That Owns Itself, for a famous, yet off-the-beaten-path attraction in the gorgeous town of Athens, Georgia!
Lake Tahoe: An action-adventure enthusiast’s playground
By Mona from MonaCorona
Straddled between the state lines of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is one of the premier ski destinations in all of the U.S. — but as the weather warms up in the summertime and the snow caps meltdown the Sierra Nevada, the winter wonderland transforms into a lakeside beauty as the crowds swap the powdery slopes for the some of the clearest, crystal blue waters on earth.
Lake Tahoe is North America’s largest alpine lake and the south side, in particular, is both the action-adventure enthusiast’s playground and the relaxation lover’s paradise.
With pristine lakeside beaches, breathtaking hikes, and endless opportunities to connect with Mother Nature, South Lake Tahoe is the perfect destination at any time of year.
A relaxing ride up the Heavenly Gondola whether to hit the slopes in the winter or take in the lush views of summer is a must for all; and for those who love to get physical, kayaking on the glassy lake with visibility in the water up to 65 feet deep or a hike through Van Sickle State Park which crosses the border of Nevada and California will both surely take your breath away.
In the evening, consider cozying up by the fireplace on the lakeside or forest-lined cabin such as the ones at Black Bear Lodge, as the black bears and other wildlife peacefully neighbor your surroundings.
No matter the occasion or time of year, Lake Tahoe’s beauty is inescapable and a destination that is worthy of every U.S.A Travel bucket list.
New Orleans – Of carnivals and warm weather
Located in the state of Louisiana, New Orleans is a popular winter-early spring destination. A melting pot of African, French, and American cultures, New Orleans is one of the most beautiful cities in the USA, boasting of a vibrant cultural science and nightlife.
The heart of the city is the French Quarter and the electric Bourbon Street, this is where you can enjoy the nightlife and immerse yourself in their cultural nuances.
The annual late winter-spring festival of Mardi Gras Carnival paints the town in beautiful bright colors to woo away the winter blues and brings in more sunshine and warmth. Although still pleasantly cool, this is the best time to visit New Orleans and check off the ever-popular Mardi Gras Carnival from your USA travel bucket list. Read all the things to include in your New Orleans Bucket list
St. John: A hidden gem for your USA travel bucket list
By Seng from Sengerson
St. John is a little island in the US Virgin Islands and is an amazing getaway option for your USA bucket list.
There aren’t any direct flights into this little island (unless you have your own private jet), which means that it takes some effort to get here. That means that there aren’t as many tourists as the main island, St. Thomas.
There is so much to do and see on this little island. If you want to hang out at Kenny Chesney’s favorite bar (Woody’s), you can and maybe even spot him during your trip.
If you wanted to take a little hike into the jungle, you have six different options at all skill levels. Skinny Legs is an amazing little sandwich area with a beautiful view of the ocean.
This is a USA bucket list vacation spot because of how inviting the locals are and the fact that there are literally no crowds (especially if you stay on the island). If you are wanting a non-island alternative with kids, check out a few ideas for midwest family-friendly vacations.
That’s a wrap! We hope you enjoyed this list of the most beautiful cities in the USA, that you must add to your bucket list! Grab a 50 States bucket list – printable guide here
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