She Saves She Travels

16 Best Midwest Road Trips – Scenic Routes You Can’t Miss

Posted on Published: May 25, 2020  - Last updated: February 9, 2024

Ahhh, the Midwest. Vast landscapes with beautiful scenery, the ability to connect with nature and fun attractions. One of the best ways to explore the middle of the USA is with a Midwest road trip!

midwest road trip photo of lake with tan sand trees and reflection of cloudy sky

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For those of us who live here, we know there’s so much to offer. Our waving grasses with rolling hills make for beautiful, peaceful sunsets. Gorgeous lakes simply begged to be explored.

Our cities each have something unique to offer, and mix that with Midwest charm, it makes for a great place for a road trip!

Midwest road trip ideas

I’ve explored many places across the Midwest, but I haven’t covered it all. So I turned to other experts to help me out to create this list of best Midwest road trips!

Here’s a bunch of Midwest road trip ideas, ranging from 2 days to 10. From outdoorsy to artsy, there’s truly something for everyone in the Midwest!

minneapolis to omaha road trip

List of Midwestern States

But before we dive in, let’s clarify the states that cover the Midwest to help you plan your trip:

  • Indiana (IN)
  • Illinois (IL)
  • Missouri (MO)
  • Kansas (KS)
  • Nebraska (NE)
  • South Dakota (SD)
  • North Dakota (ND)
  • Minnesota (MN)
  • Wisconsin (WI)
  • Michigan (MI)

Looking for more Midwest adventures? Check out these 16 trails – the best hiking in the Midwest !

Ready to hit the road? Here’s the best Midwest road trips

Black hills, south dakota (a classic).

Roadtrip to Mount Rushmore

Recommended trip: 7-10 days

The Black Hills in South Dakota is one of the best places for a road trip in the Midwest.  There is so much to see and do, you could easily spend months here, but for a shorter trip, 7-10 days would be great.

Rapid City is probably the best place to fly in and out of for a Black Hills trip. I would start with a couple of days in Badlands National Park .  Spend the night in Wall, visit Wall Drug and the Badlands from here, then head over to Wind Cave National Park.

Spend a night or 2 in Hot Springs to easily access the park where you can do some hiking, look for bison, and do a cave tour. Make a stop at the Mammoth site while you’re here, too.

Finally, head to Keystone for a few days. This is the perfect base for exploring the Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park area. 

Some of the must-do activities here are visiting Mount Rushmore (of course), driving Iron Mountain Road , driving the Needles Highway, driving the Custer Wildlife Loop Road, hiking Cathedral Spires Trail, and relaxing at Sylvan Lake. If you want a little side trip, you can easily visit Devils Tower in Wyoming, too.  

Recommended by Megan of Red Around the World

Chicago to St. Louis road trip

Bean in Chicago

Recommended trip: 4-6 days

Driving from Chicago, Illinois to St. Louis, Missouri should be on any midwest road trip. This journey is part of Route 66, one of the original highways in the United States. Route 66 was the primary route for people wishing to move west. Opt to spend one day driving this four and a half-hour drive, or break it up and spend the night in Springfield, Illinois.  

For this journey, start in Chicago. Make sure to spend at least 3 days in Chicago. Stay in the centrally located Downtown/River North area. Do not miss the Art Institute of Chicago and the Field Museum.

Grab some pictures at “The Bean” in Millenium Park. Daredevils can opt for “The Edge” experience at the Skydeck or the Tilt Experience at the John Hancock Building. 

In the morning depart Chicago to drive south towards Springfield, the capital of Illinois . Stop by the capitol building and take a free tour of the building.

Visit Abraham Lincoln’s grave at Oak Ridge Cemetery and then visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Grab a custard at Krekel’s before heading onward to St. Louis, Missouri. 

Plan to spend at least 2 days in St. Louis to explore the main sites. Plan to stay in the Downtown area. Ride to the top of the St. Louis Arch at Gateway Arch National Park.

Take a peek into history at the Old Courthouse, where the Dread Scott decision was made. Make sure to eat some delicious BBQ before departing St. Louis.

Recommended by Francesca of Home Room Travel

You might also like: 101 Road Trip Food Ideas: Best Fun and Healthy Snacks You’ll Love

Indianapolis, IN to Boyne City, MI

skiing on Boyne Mountain

Recommended trip: 2-3 days

Ready for a fantastic Midwest road trip? Regardless of the time of year, driving from Indianapolis, Indiana to Boyne City, MI is a perfect way to enjoy a long weekend.

Day one, you’ll want to get up early and head to Lansing, MI. It’s about 3.5 hours from Indy, so if you time it right, be sure to stop for lunch at Soup Spoon Cafe – a flight of soup is a fun way to start your mini-vacation. Next, if you have younger kids, head over to the Impression 5 Science Center – they’ll love the full sensory experiences. 

After the museum, finish your drive north and check-in at Boyne Mountain for the night. Enjoy a full day of exploring Boyne Mountain and nearby Boyne City the next day. If it’s winter, hit the slopes for a little skiing or even tubing.

If it’s summertime, enjoy hiking, ziplining, or swimming. Downtown Boyne City is situated right on Lake Charlevoix and the town is full of delicious restaurants such as Cafe Sante and Red Mesa as well as unique local boutiques.

Leave Boyne Mountain, and head over to Petoskey for your final day. Start it off right with amazing bagels and donuts at Johann’s Bakery and then hurry over to the main Kilwins location for a factory tour. Kilwin’s offers free tours Monday – Friday every half-hour from 10 – 4:30, and each one ends with a decadent chocolate treat.

After the tour, spend a little time poking around downtown Petoskey for lunch and to pick up a few Michigan souvenirs before heading back to Indianapolis.

Recommended by Pam of Our Adventure is Everywhere

You might also like: Road Trip with Kids: 15 Essentials to Pack

Central Iowa road trip

Iowa state capitol building

We highly recommend taking a road trip through Central Iowa. You’ll pass through  Des Moines , Iowa’s capital and other smaller towns that have some fun and interesting attractions.

Heading east along I-80, your first stop should be the town of Winterset. It’s famous for having the  actual  bridges of Madison County. Six of the original 19 covered bridges in Madison County have been preserved just outside of town. Winterset is also the birthplace of John Wayne. There is a museum dedicated to him, with lots of personal and movie memorabilia.

Continuing east, you reach Des Moines. We love this artsy city! It’s easy to find street art there and downtown has a 4.4-acre sculpture park that is free to the public. There’s also a really lovely botanical garden in Des Moines.

Of course, visiting the Capitol Building is a must. You can do a free self-guided tour and marvel at the building’s incredible architecture.

The next stop on your road trip should be the town of Grinnell. Home to Grinnell College, they have a small but impressive art museum on campus.

Grinnell is also the home of one of eight “jewel-box” banks built by legendary architect Louis Sullivan. He is considered the father of modern American architecture and mentored Frank Lloyd Wright. The bank is beautiful, with large stained-glass windows and pink Tennessee marble floors.

Recommended by Vicky of Buddy The Traveling Monkey

More road trip destinations in the Midwest

St. louis to kansas city.

St Louis arch

Recommended trip: 3-5 days

While many people think of Missouri as a fly-over state, it’s full of not-to-be-missed gems, from St. Louis to Kansas City. So why not see some of them in one fell swoop with a 5-day road trip?

Start in St. Louis, a city bursting with historic architecture and a thriving food and cocktail scene. Spend 2 days here, exploring the City Museum, an adult playground/art installation of interactive salvaged architectural objects. Visit Forest Park, one of the country’s largest urban parks and its world-class museums, all boasting free admission. And, of course, the Missouri Botanical Gardens, consistently ranked one of the best in the nation.

At night, eat your way through the exploding culinary landscape, with one of the many restaurants helmed by James Beard nominated chefs, like Vicia or Lona’s Lil’ Eats.

Once you’ve gotten your fill, drive west to Hermann, a tiny town that has several wineries, breweries, and distilleries nestled in its idyllic grassy hills. For just $20, the Hermann Trolley will shuttle you between these establishments all day, so you can responsibly imbibe in as many craft beverages as you please.

After a day here, finish your trip with 2 days in Kansas City, famous for its jazz scene. To get a taste of it yourself, head to the American Jazz Museum during the day and the Green Lady Lounge at night to see some of the world’s best musicians in action. By the end of the trip, you’ll be ecstatic to have discovered some of the Show Me State’s abundant treasures! 

Recommended by Jessica of Uprooted Traveler

Oh, and if you’re planning to rent a car for one of these Midwest road trip routes, be sure to check out the cheap rates on Discover Cars . I usually save 10-30%, which can really add up! Discover Cars searches the top carriers to find the best deal, at no extra cost to you. It’s a win-win! Search cheap rental cars now .

Milwaukee to Wisconsin Dells

Wisconsin Dells

One of the best Midwest road trips you can take is exploring the highlights of Wisconsin. The ideal road trip itinerary takes you from Milwaukee to Green Bay and ends in Wisconsin Dells.

Start your road trip in Milwaukee , but you can’t leave without spending at least 2 days in this vibrant city. As a matter of fact, people flood from all over the United States to visit Milwaukee for its food, attractions and history.

Must do’s are the Harley Davidson Museum and the historic Third Ward.  Stay in the iconic Pfister Hotel in downtown.

From here you finally head out to the beautiful North of Wisconsin. Along the Michigan river you’ll cross scenic towns such as Port Washington. When you arrive in Green Bay, get ready to explore this vibrant town located in Door County. 

Some of the best things to do here are visiting the Heritage Hill State Park and watch a game by the legendary Green Bay Packers. Plan at least 1 day to visit the city and all the best things to do in Door County .

From Green Bay you’ll drive to Wisconsin Dells which is famous for its waterparks. However, there is so much more to do here. From shopping to hiking in the Dells or staying overnight in one of the  most romantic cabins in Wisconsin , there will be plenty of options to spend at least 2 days in Wisconsin Dells.

Recommended by Paulina of Paulina on the Road

Southern Minnesota road trip

Southern Minnesota - Fairmont

Eat, relax and have fun in Southern Minnesota! Enjoy a food lovers paradise in Austin, Minnesota. Known for having some of the best Mexican food in the state of Minnesota, Austin is also known for award-winning BBQ sauces, french onion soup and stuffed raspberry french toast.

Want to have a food challenge, then be sure to stop by the Tendermaid. Also, don’t forget to visit the one and only SPAM Museum ! Yes – it’s real and there are nearly 20 restaurants with SPAM on the menu.

Then sit back, relax and enjoy the view in Fairmont, Minnesota . Home to a chain of 5 lakes and 29 parks in city limits, Fairmont provides you that opportunity to become one with nature. Explore lakeside dining, outdoor recreation and an arts and culture scene that is sure to impress .

Next discover how  Germans Have More Fun  in New Ulm! Enjoy a road trip through the MN River Valley National Scenic Byway to the most German city in America.

In New Ulm you can climb 102’ to the top of the ‘Herman the German’ monument. Enjoy a tour/tasting at Schell’s Brewery, MN’s oldest brewery. Shop the unique boutiques in the historic downtown. Hear bells chime at our Glockenspiel. See the 1873 murals in the rathskeller at Turner Hall. 

With so much to do in Southern Minnesota, there’s something for everyone!

Read next: How to Save Money for Travel: Your Vacation Savings Plan

Richmond, IN to Butler County, OH

Lake Erie Islands - aerial view

If you’re looking for a cool trip, head to Indiana and Ohio! Starting off in Richmond, Indiana, visit the Wayne County Historical Museum and the Levi Coffin House. Be sure to hear their amazing story of the Underground Railroad!

Stay at the Starr Loft in Richmond before heading to Ohio. On your way to Ohio’s Lake Erie Islands, take a diversion into Bremen at the Bicycle Museum of America. Then onto the Marblehead Lighthouse in Marblehead, Ohio where this historic lighthouse guided sailors safely since 1822.

That night stay at Port Clinton’s Fairfield Inn & Suites. The next morning, head over to Ohio’s Lake Erie Islands. Take Miller Boat Line’s Ferry to Put-in-Bay where you can ferry your car over to the island.

Visit Perry’s Peace Memorial which honors the War of 1812. Check out the view up the 352-foot tower! The memorial honors those who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie. The next day, on Kellys Island, take a tour in a golf cart to check out natural phenomenons like the Glacial Grooves.

Be sure to hang out for an afternoon in Downtown Sandusky, Ohio . Take a Segway tour, visit Cedar Point Amusement Park, visit the Merry-Go-Round Museum or go parasailing.

Last stop on this road trip is Butler County, Ohio! Enjoy the Donut Trail and tour outdoor art at the Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park.

Recommended by Cindy of Traveling Adventures of a Farm Girl

Related read: Best Midwest Camping Spots

Loess Hills Scenic Byway (Missouri to Iowa)

Loess Hills road trip overlook

The Loess Hills Scenic Byway takes its travelers through the most extensive loess (essentially, ancient wind-blown silt deposits) outside a remote region of China! While the byway officially starts at the Iowa state border, the hills themselves run north-south a bit east of the Missouri River, from St. Joseph, Missouri to the Sioux City, Iowa area, passing near Omaha, Nebraska in the middle of the journey.

Each of these cities are destinations in their own right, and combined, they make a road trip full of scenic views and ample entertaining places to stop along the way.  

In St. Joe, Missouri, local museums provide fascinating looks at the history of the Pony Express, the art of Thomas Hart Benton (often depicting loess hills!) and the life of the nefarious Jesse James. Near Mound City, Missouri, visit the Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge to see waterfowl and bald eagles.

The Hitchcock Nature Center near Omaha and the Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center in Sioux City provide more information about the unique geology, flora, and fauna of the Loess Hills along with opportunities for hiking, boating, and more!

For ideal cruising food, try Billy Boy Drive-through just a few miles from the Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center in Soiux City for a burger and a shake! 

Recommended by Lindsay of Siouxland Families

More ideas: Midwest road trips

Minneapolis to omaha.

midwest road trip ideas

Recommended trip: 4-5 days

Get a nice mix of cities and wide open spaces on a Midwest road trip from Minneapolis to Omaha. Starting in Minneapolis, you’ll want to spend 1-2 days visiting the lakes, restaurants and of course, checking out the Mall of America .

Visit the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in downtown and grab an ice cream cone at Izzy’s Ice Cream . The largest mall in North America (Mall of America) is a whole lot more than shopping, too. With an indoor amusement park, it’s the perfect activity for any weather.

Then hit the road! Next stop: Northwestern Iowa. Stop in Estherville, Iowa for a rustic winery , experience an 80-year old swinging bridge or to visit the site of the largest known meteorite seen crashing into North America.

You could stay in Esterville for the night, or head about half an hour west to Lake Okoboji. In Okoboji, Iowa you’ll find shopping, dining and a bunch of water activities , of course! Try the Arnold’s Park Amusement Park or live music after a day on the water.

Next on this Midwest road trip is Sioux City, Iowa. Grab lunch or dinner at the Fourth Street Historic District in downtown Sioux City , catch a show at the Orpheum Theatre or visit Palmer’s Old Tyme Candy Shoppe for a sweet treat before leaving town.

Omaha, Nebraska is the final destination on this Midwest road trip itinerary. You’ll want to spend 1-2 days visiting this fun city. Omaha is known as the silicone prarie, a tech hub that’s family-friendly, yet trendy enough to support a vibrant art scene and plenty of outdoor space.

One of the best things to do in Omaha is to visit the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium , It’s the largest tourist attraction in the state, and regularly competes with the San Diego Zoo as the #1 zoo in the country! It really is that fantastic!

Check out North America’s largest indoor rain forest, feed the giraffes, walk under sharks in the aquarium and watch the animals in the world’s largest indoor desert dome. Tip: be sure to buy your tickets in advance online and arrive early to avoid the crowds as best as you can.

Get a good tour of the city while taking fun photos at the most Instagrammable places in Omaha . Spend some time wandering the Lauritzen Gardens or check out the Fun-Plex Waterpark.

For some mystery check out the Joslyn Castle , and for some history visit the Lewis and Clark Landing. The Old Market in downtown is the perfect spot to grab a bite to eat after a long day touring the city.

Recommended by me! Nikki of She Saves She Travels

Duluth to Grand Marais, Minnesota

lake superior road trip

Recommended trip: 1-2 days

A Minnesota road trip on Highway 61 between Duluth and Grand Marais will offer you amazing views of Lake Superior, numerous options for a delicious bite to eat, and some can’t miss attractions .

As you leave Duluth, choose the 24-mile scenic route to Two Harbors, and take in the view of Lake Superior along the way. In Two Harbors you can walk along the breakwater to the lighthouse, and watch the ore ships coming and going. Enjoy a local brew at Castle Danger Brewery after doing some shopping in Agate Bay.

Just north of Two Harbors is Betty’s Pies and you don’t want to miss stopping here ! This is a full service restaurant, but they also have a walk up counter where you can order their famous pie. The pie flavors change every day, but you definitely want to try the Great Lakes Fruit Pie . This pie is filled with blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, apples, and rhubarb and it is one of a kind.

It is 11 miles to the next stop, in Castle Danger, but get your camera ready because you’ll be driving through 2 large tunnels, and the exits of both perfectly frame Lake Superior. 

Castle Danger is home to Gooseberry Falls and Split Rock Lighthouse State Parks. You can learn a little history of the area while touring the lighthouse and take a hike down the hillside to dip your toes in the cool Lake Superior water.

Gooseberry Falls State Park has 5 waterfalls that you can hike to, and a very nice visitor center to buy some souvenirs at.

Along the remaining 72 miles to Grand Marais, take the time to stop at a beach or two to hunt for agates. The beaches along the North Shore are loaded with agates and it’s fun to find a few to bring home.  

The city of Grand Marais has a main street full of local shops that ends on the shore of Lake Superior.  The beach is a popular spot to watch the water, and to eat a delicious donut from World’s Best Donuts or maybe you’ll want a slice of thin crust pizza from Sven and Ole’s.  

Grand Marais is also the start of the Gunflint Trail. This is a 57-mile paved roadway that ends in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area near the border of Ontario.

This 110 mile road trip between Duluth and Grand Marais can be made in one day, but why not take your time and really discover the beauty of Lake Superior and the North Shore.

Recommended by Vicki of That Was a First

I-70 Kansas road trip: Abilene to Kansas City

Brown V Board of Education National Historic Site

Recommended trip: 2-4 days

Enjoy a wealth of historic, cultural, and recreational activities along Interstate 70 in northern Kansas. Start in Abilene, Kansas with visiting the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum, and Boyhood Home. Head over to pet Ginger, the greeter at the Greyhound Hall of Fame. Enjoy award-winning fried chicken at the Brookville Hotel.

Next stop along I-70 in Kansas is Junction City, home to Milford Lake and the Fishing Capital of Kansas. Tour Fort Riley’s museums, but prepare for security. Eat Munson-raised, dry-aged beef at Munson’s Prime restaurant, a local favorite. A perfect spot to call it a night is by the lake at Acorns Resort.

Then you’ll hit Manhattan, Kansas. For high adventure, fly zip lines at Wildwood Adventure Park. Afterwards, relax and eat and drink at Liquid Art Winery & Estate!

Slide into Topeka, Kansas where you can dive into history and visit the state capitol and the national historic site where the Supreme Court reversed segregation in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka . A great way to end the day is with elegance at the Cyrus Hotel.

As you head east on I-70, you’ll get to Lecompton, Kansas. Learn more about where slavery began to die at Constitution Hall State Historic Site and the Territorial Capitol. Then lighten things back up by grabbing a slice of gourmet pie at Aunt Netter’s Cafe. Delicious!

Next up is Lawrence, Kansas and downtown is the place to be! Experience downtown Lawrence during the day or night. See basketball’s original rules at The Cradle of Basketball. And if you’re looking for a brewery, Free State Brewing Co. is Kansas’ first post-prohibition brewery. Stay at in the heart of Lawrence at The Oread.

The final stop on this Northern Kansas road trip before arriving at Kansas City is Leavenworth, Kansas. Visit Fort Leavenworth, or ride antique carousels at C.W. Parker Carousel Museum. A must-try in Leavenworth is the steak house tenderloin at Metropolitan Steakhouse.

Wrapping up the I-70 Kansas road trip is of course, Kansas City! Enjoy the major leagues: sporting Kansas City at Children’s Mercy Park and NASCAR at Kansas Speedway. Eat top-notch barbecue at SLAP’s BBQ. After a great road trip in Kansas, stay in the Chateau Avalon.    

Recommended by Roxie of Roxie on the Road

Midwest road trip: Missouri Route 66

Missouri Route 66 road trip

While most people think of a  Route 66  Road Trip as starting in Chicago and ending in Santa Monica, you don’t need to take two weeks and traverse half the country to get in a taste of the Mother Road. Instead, you can pick a portion and explore it in-depth.

Missouri has a great stretch of Route 66 right here in the Midwest. It starts in the northeast crossing over from Illinois into St. Louis and ends at the Oklahoma border after passing through Joplin.

Obviously the most iconic site on Missouri’s portion of Route 66 is the Gateway Arch, which practically welcomes you onto the road. Make sure to tour Meramec Caverns , see the one-room jail in Cuba, and explore the interesting history of Carthage. 

Take advantage of the fun roadside kitsch of the route and get out at as many stops as you can. A real Route 66 road trip means you need to spend a few nights in the state’s retro motels and enjoy some diners and dive bars.

Recommended by Stephanie of Oklahoma Wonders

Driftless Area Scenic Byway (Iowa)

Driftless scenic byway and visitor center

Recommended trip: 1-3 days

Allamakee County is the home to the most scenic byway in the state of Iowa, Driftless Area Scenic Byway. This beautiful scenic byway zigzags its way on hard-surfaced and gravel roads through the high relief, pre-glacial landscape in extreme northeastern Iowa in Allamakee County. 

This byway has been voted most scenic byway in the state of Iowa . It’s 100 miles of amazing! Along the Driftless Area Scenic Byway you will find…

Effigy Mounds National Monument , the 2,526-acre park by the Yellow River has walking trails with modest to extended routes, allowing you to select your route and view a variety of mounds. An accessible boardwalk trail into the wetlands near the visitor center is available for persons of all walking abilities.

Yellow River State Forest was first acquired as a state forest in 1935, the Yellow River State Forest has grown to encompass nearly 9,000 acres of natural beauty.

Great River Road , where you can enjoy 36.2 miles of the Great River Road in Allamakee County. You will discover the best of the Great River Road right here!

Driftless Area Education & Visitor Center , where you’ll see live animals, interpretative displays, 2 viewing decks of the Mississippi River, and a great group educational experience.  Located just south of Lansing.

This Midwest road trip takes your scenic adventure to another level with:

  • Wine Tasting – Madigan Winery, Lansing & Empty Nest Winery, Waukon
  • Bird Watching
  • Beer Tasting – Safe House Saloon in Lansing
  • Trout Fishing
  • Cheese Curd Tour – WW Homestead Dairy in Waukon
  • Shopping – Horsfall’s in Lansing, Paint Creek Gifts in Waterville and City Meat Market inNew Albin

Recommended by Val of Allamakee County

Take these tips with you! Download the free road trip checklist!

Grab your packing essentials for every road trip with kids. Includes the 15 things you don’t want to forget!

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Triple Nickel Byway (Ohio)

midwest road trip attractions ohio

Winding through the southern part of Ohio is the  Triple Nickel  which encompasses parts of State Route 555. If you’ve never been on this scenic, twisting by-way through the hills of Ohio, you need to put it on your bucket list! This is a perfect day trip that takes you from the picturesque town of Zanesville to the history-rich city of Marrietta.  

The Triple Nickel is one of the more challenging roads in Ohio, but you can take in some of the amazing historical sites when you’re in the area. While touring through Morgan County you can see the Big Muskie bucket part of the world’s largest earth-moving machine in Miner’s Memorial Park and Barkhurst Mill Covered Bridge.  

No trip on the Triple Nickel is complete without stopping to eat at the Triple Nickel Diner in Chesterhill. Pro-tip: Make sure to check their website for the hours of operation because they vary with the seasons.  

If you’re looking for a great place to stay while on the route, take a small detour to the  Stockport Mill Inn located in Stockport, Ohio . You’ll be treated to stunning views of the Muskingum River and the operating locks. Dotty, the owner, will treat you like family and feed you amazing comfort foods only found at the Inn.

The Triple Nickel doesn’t disappoint the road tripper looking for a challenge in the Midwest.

Recommended by Brandy of Gleason Family Adventure

Madison to Spring Green, Wisconsin

Madison WI road trip Midwest

One of the most exciting small cities in the Midwest is  Madison, Wisconsin . It has a wonderful dining scene and miles of shoreline and bike trails.

A culmination of a college-town and a bustling city, Madison is also home one of America’s most beloved architects: Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright used Madison and its neighborhoods as a canvas, where visitors can see his many designs come to life. Although several of Madison’s Wright-designed houses are private residences, designs like the First Unitarian Meeting Houses and Monona Terrace are must-see spots for any architectural buffs! Both buildings are just a short 10-minute drive away.

If you want to see more of the city’s art scene , visit either the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art or the Chazen Museum of Art! Both museums boast both Wisconsin-based artists, as well as international artists too. Furthermore, admission is free for adults, making this the perfect stop for anyone that loves to travel on a budget. 

While you’re in Madison we also highly recommend grabbing tacos from Matthew Danky and his exciting outpost El Grito Tacqueria.  

From Madison, drive about 40 minutes to the quaint town of New Glarus , Wisconsin. The main attraction here is New Glarus Brewing, one of the most highly regarded breweries by beer snobs across the country so make sure to spend a few hours there. 

New Glarus also has rich Swiss heritage. Explore and find an authentic Swiss bakery or locally made raclette and cheese fondue.

Our last stop is very enjoyable Spring Green, an hour away down winding country roads.  Frank Lloyd Wright spent the better part of his life living and working in Spring Green and maintained a school at Taliesin. Wright’s students designed many unique buildings in and around Spring Green.

Recommended by Nick of Road Goat

16 best Midwest road trips

Well there you have it! I hope you’ve found some inspiration on which route you’ll take on your upcoming Midwest road trip! Midwest states have a lot to offer for any type of road trip you’re looking for!

Comment below on which you’re considering – or which route surprised you most!

You might also like: Best Hiking in the Midwest – 16 Cool Hikes You’ll Love Denver to Moab Road Trip: 16 Scenic Stops You Gotta See to Believe 27 Awesome Things to Do in Sandusky, Ohio You Can’t Miss Perfect Colorado Itinerary: 22 Road Trip Stops You Need to See Miami to Key West Road Trip: 22 Stops Along the Way 26 Best Places to Visit in October in the US

Planning to rent a car for one of these scenic routes? Check out the cheap rental car rates on my favorite site. I save up to 30%, which is awesome!

Find this article helpful? Save it for later or share it on social media!

16 USA road trip routes you need to add to your list

Saturday 25th of September 2021

Awesome. I'm wanting to take a scenic drive from Kansas to Ohio, off the beaten path. What are your recommendations?

Sunday 26th of September 2021

Where in Kansas and Ohio? I've spent time in Kansas City and St. Louis which may be along the way, but aren't necessarily off the beaten path. Perhaps a bit more southern, I've heard the Mark Twain National Forest and Shawnee National Forest are both gorgeous! Otherwise I've recently spent time in Sandusky Ohio, Put-in-Bay Ohio and the Lake Erie area. I'm sorry, I'm not sure I have a whole lot of suggestions for that specific route since I haven't personally done it. Best of luck on your road trip!

Alice Peace

Wednesday 27th of January 2021

Thank you for this! A road-trip in the States is definitely on the cards in the future.

Yay! How fun, Alice. I'm crossing my fingers it's soon!

Pamela Foester

Tuesday 12th of January 2021

I love exploring the Midwest, thanks for sharing.

You're so welcome, Pamela!

Tuesday 25th of August 2020

You missed a Gem of the Midwest. Part of the Driftless region on NE Iowa you need to check out the town of Decorah and the area around it. River bluffs, water falls, bike trails, 3 award winning breweries, big Scandinavian culture and museum.

Wednesday 26th of August 2020

Great suggestion! I've heard of Decorah but have never been!

Christa Ellis

Tuesday 9th of June 2020

I love that you included the Levi Coffin House. I have a post about it on my blog. Levi Coffin was a distant cousin to me through his grandmother Prudence Beals/Bales.

Friday 12th of June 2020

Oh very cool! What a small world, Christa! My pleasure to feature it. :)

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9 Amazing Trips to Take in the Midwest

 Midwestern getaways everyone should experience at least once.

Whether you're looking for a once-in-a-lifetime destination or a place you can return to and build on tradition year after year, the often-overlooked Midwest offers a myriad of getaway options. From a record-breaking wildlife migration in the Great Plains to the majesty of the region's national parks to can't-miss events, here's our list of quintessential Midwest trips everyone should experience at least once.

Sandhill Cranes Migration in Nebraska

Every spring, roughly one million sandhill cranes traverse central Nebraska, giving new meaning to the term "flyover country." These majestic creatures find overnight solace in the vast, flat, and shallow Platte River. This migration is one of the largest of any kind in North America, and the largest crane migration on the planet,making it a must-see in the Midwest.

Consider checking out the Crane Trust for its overnight VIP experience, complete with heated bird blinds. The National Audubon Society's Rowe Sanctuary offers another excellent viewing option, with (free) daily guided tours at sunrise and sunset. To observe the natural beauty of the cranes in another way, visit the Stuhr Museum in Grand Island. An architectural marvel on its own, this institution organizes an annual "Wings Over the Platte" exhibit that changes every year, but always pays homage to the birds.

Viking's Mississippi River Cruise

While Viking may be best known for its ever-popular European river cruises , its Mississippi River offering is also worth planning a trip around. Built specifically for river use, the state-of-the-art Viking Mississippi sets sail in Minnesota, nestled on the banks of the mighty Mississippi, and continues through the heartland before concluding in New Orleans, Louisiana. Stops in the Midwest include Red Wing and St. Paul in Minnesota; La Crosse in Wisconsin; Burlington and Dubuque in Iowa; and Hannibal and St. Louis in Missouri. Not so enchanted by the Mississippi? Consider another of Viking's regional options, a cruise expedition to all five Great Lakes .

Weekend in Chicago, Illinois

Valerie de Leon/Travel + Leisure

One of the best cities in the U.S., according to Travel + Leisure 's 2022 World's Best Awards, Chicago is a must-visit Midwestern destination. Stop by the Art Institute of Chicago , catch a game at Wrigley Field (home of the Cubs), or attend a show at the birthplace of improv, The Second City . Visitors might also enjoy a classic Chicago deep dish tour (book with Finger Licking Foodie Tours or James Beard award-winning food journalist Steve Dolinsky ) and the CAFC Chicago River cruise .

For lodging, lay your head at any of T+L's World's Best Award winners ; there's sure to be an ideal pick for every type of traveler. If you're searching for a quieter home base, Deer Path Inn — another reader favorite — in nearby Lake Forest is a lovely choice in the area.

Mackinac Island in Michigan

Known as the "crown jewel of Michigan" or "pearl of the Great Lakes," Mackinac Island offers a nostalgic feel since no cars are allowed here. Step back in time with a stay at the iconic Grand Hotel , with its record-breaking front porch and formal dinner dress code. Bike around the island, once a national park, or opt for a kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding excursion with Great Turtle Kayak Tours . One of the best small towns in Michigan , Mackinac Island also earned the top spot in T+L's 2022 World's Best Awards for best continental islands in the U.S.

Indy 500 Race in Indiana

Considered the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing," the Indy 500 is a can't-miss experience in the Midwest. ​​Held annually in the Indianapolis area, this race draws visitors from around the world for its epic 200-lap feat. It's noteworthy for many reasons, starting with the fact that its home — Indianapolis Motor Speedway — is the oldest continuously operating racetrack in the country. The Indy 500 is also the largest single-day sporting event globally. While there, a great option for lodging is the Bottleworks Hotel . Formerly the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Indianapolis, it now serves as a boutique hotel only a 20-minute drive from the speedway.

Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota

Experience abundant natural beauty in northern Minnesota's Voyageurs National Park . As one of the least-visited national parks in the U.S. , visitors won't need to battle crowds to earn some respite. Though its daytime activities, like guided paddling excursions and hiking tips, are lovely, the 218,000-acre park shines as an after-dark destination. An International Dark Sky Park , this area meets stringent light population regulations and boasts northern lights views, epic stargazing , and a night ranger program.

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Ohio

The world's only Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is located in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. For a truly exceptional experience, travelers can time their visit to coincide with the induction event concert when new inductees strut their stuff for legions of screaming fans. Any time of year, music enthusiasts may book the Rock & Roll Suite at the Hilton Cleveland Downtown for an on-theme lodging pick.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame remains a dedicated museum space all year, too, with the " Right Here, Right Now " gallery featuring outfits from stars like Beyonce, Taylor Swift, and Harry Styles. Rotating exhibits keep the content fresh, and famous artifacts like Johnny Cash's touring bus and Prince's guitar from the Purple Rain tour draw interest to the permanent galleries. Other highlights include Stevie Nicks' black dress from the "Rumours" album cover, Flavor Flav's clock pendant necklace, and Elvis' gold lamé suit.

National and State Parks in South Dakota

The stunning Black Hills area of South Dakota offers two distinct national parks, an impressive state park, and cute small towns, making it an ideal Midwestern getaway. Badlands National Park highlights include the Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway , with its 16 scenic overlook points; ranger-led night-sky viewings in spring, summer, and fall; and the 10-mile Castle Trail hike. Meanwhile, Wind Cave , one of America's oldest national parks, has one of the world's longest and most complex cave systems. Visit the cave itself, hike the 30 miles of trails above the surface, and check out the intact prairie ecosystem.

The 71,000-acre Custer State Park also deserves a spot on your must-see list. It's home to the Wildlife Loop Road , which traverses 18 miles of prairies and hills, offering up a chance to see bison, deer, elk, and more. Pro tip: Plan an early May visit to see baby bison and other newborn animals. South Dakota visitors can also get a taste of rodeo life with annual events such as the Black Hills Roundup in Belle Fourche and the Buffalo Roundup and Arts Festival .

Great River Road

While plenty of noteworthy drives are found in the Midwest, the Great River Road stands out among the pack. Winding through five states before heading toward its southern terminus, the Great River Road is designated a National Scenic Byway and All-American Road. Some of the best stops along the journey can be found in the Midwest, including the headwaters, Twin Cities, Lake Pepin, Dubuque, and St. Louis. And while this trek is lovely all year long, it's most awe-inspiring as the leaves turn in autumn.

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Learn how to easily plan your dream trip to the Midwest!

Castle ruins in a park surrounded by dry grass and with a stone path leading up to it. Its one of the best places to visit in the midwest

20 Best Places To Visit In The Midwest

January 13, 2022 by //  by  Midwest Explored 6 Comments

If you’re looking for the best places to visit in the Midwest then you’ve come to the right place!

I was born and raised in the Midwest and it’s one of my favorite regions to explore.

No matter what you’re interested in, there is bound to be a perfect place to visit for your next Midwest vacation.

From beautiful state and national parks , vibrant cities, and unique museums, there is a place to visit in the Midwest for everyone.

Even though many people may associate the Midwest with cold weather, that’s not always the case.

Your next family vacation in the Midwest can be full of fun waterparks, fall foliage , or spring blooms.

But if you love wintry weather, you’ll certainly find it too.

With all of these amazing places to visit in the Midwest, I’m sure you’ll find yourself planning your very own Midwestern vacation.

A view of sunrise at Badlands National Park in South Dakota. You can see rock formations, grasses, and yellow and red flowers.

Chicago Illinois Is One Of The Best Places To Visit In The Midwest

If there is one city you visit in the Midwest it should be Chicago.

The Midwest is full of amazing vibrant cities to explore. But Chicago is probably the most popular.

You can spend several days exploring Chicago and find plenty to do and see.

There are museums, the best restaurants , shops, and more to explore.

One of the most popular times to visit Chicago is during the magical Christmas season .

You’ll find the city all lit up, with ice skating rinks, massive Christmas decorations and illuminated trees.

Chicago is easily one of the best places to visit in the Midwest.

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The Chicago Bean reflecting the city at twilight. It's one of the best places to visit in the Midwest.

Admire The Kansas Prairies

One of the most beautiful places in the United States is the endless fields of prairie land in Kansas.

Kansas is called the Sunflower State because of its acres and acres of sunflower fields.

But the state also has some beautiful prairies and other natural wonders.

Visiting the Kansas prairies is one of the most unique things to do in Kansas in the Midwest and Kansas.

If you want to see untouched prairies, head to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.

The National Preserve consists of over 11,000 acres of beautiful grasses.

You can go hiking, admire the scenery, or even look for wild bison.

There are many things to do in Overland Park to help you enjoy your Midwest visit to Kansas.

Miles of Kansas prairie with purple coneflowers. The sun is setting so the sky is red, orange, and purple. It's one of the best places to visit in the Midwest.

Explore Lincoln, The Capital City Of Nebraska

Because Lincoln is the capital city of Nebraska, there are tons and tons of things to do there.

It’s a great destination for your next family vacation in the Midwest.

Within the city, you can tour museums, art galleries, and historical sites.

One of the most popular attractions in Lincoln is Pioneer Park.

Pioneer Park is 668 acres of tall prairie grass, streams, trails, wetlands, and woodlands.

There are also ruins scattered throughout the acres of land.

If you are a foodie, there are many mouth-watering restaurants in Lincoln NE for you to choose from after a busy day exploring the city.

No matter what you’re interested in, Lincoln Nebraska is one of the best places to visit in the Midwest.

An aerial view of the Lincoln NE capital building. You can see the building, parking lots, and grassy areas with trees.

Check Out Historical Sites In Lafayette Indiana

Lafayette is one of the coolest Midwest vacation spots for history lovers.

The city is home to several historical sites and parks.

They are some of the most popular things to do when visiting Lafayette.

At Prophetstown State Park you’ll be able to explore a unique living history museum.

Fort Ouiatenon is another historical park that is built to resemble an 18th-century French fur-trading village.

Even the campus of Purdue University is full of beautiful historic buildings to admire.

There are tons of reasons to make Lafayette your next Midwestern vacation destination. Do not forget the popular restaurants and pubs in Lafayette either!

A historic building from the 1800s in Lafayette Indiana. It has multiple towers, an ornate fountain, and gardens and trees around it.

Maquoketa Caves State Park In Iowa a Is One Of The Coolest Places To Visit In The Midwest

If you’re looking to explore one of the most beautiful places in the United States, head to Iowa.

The Maquoketa Caves State Park is full of amazing caves in Iowa .

In fact, the park has the largest concentration of caves in Iowa. Matter of fact, it is one of the many popular things to do in Iowa!

Within the park, there are 13 caves that you can explore.

You’ll be able to reach them using the 6 miles of trails that wind through the woods and rock formations in the park.

Many of them you can easily walk into and explore.

But be careful, as many are best suited for experienced spelunkers to explore.

If you’re looking to stay in a cabin in the Midwest for a glamping experience, you can’t go wrong staying near Maquoketa Caves State Park.

The view looking out of a massive cave. There are wooden steps leading to the mouth of the cave and the stone is covered in moss. One of the best places to visit in the Midwest.

Wichita Kansas Is Perfect For Family Vacations In The Midwest

If you’re looking for Midwestern vacations for families that are full of fun things to do in Kansas, I suggest Wichita.

Wichita is a fun and vibrant city in Kansas that has something for everyone to enjoy.

While in Wichita, you can learn about Native American culture, among other things.

In downtown Wichita, there is a 44-foot tall statue called the Keeper of the Plains.

It is a statue that marks sacred ground for Native American peoples where two rivers meet.

The city also has a botanical garden, museums, and more.

Throughout the city, you’ll also find some amazing murals.

A sculpture of a Native American overlooking a pond and the city of Wichita at sunset.

Mitchell Corn Palace In South Dakota Is One Of The Most Unique Places To Visit In The Midwest

There are many unique hidden gems in the Midwest that make for awesome Midwestern vacations.

One of those is the Mitchell Corn Palace.

Mitchell Corn Palace is located in Mitchell South Dakota. Visiting here is one of the coolest things to do in South Dakota!

Unsurprisingly, the Mitchell Corn Palace is the only palace made of corn in the world.

It’s a charming kitschy Midwestern attraction, and definitely worth a visit.

It was originally built in 1892 and for over 100 years it has been welcoming visitors.

In August, it hosts a Corn Festival, and every year the designs outside of the palace are changed.

It’s a really unique Midwest vacation spot that you’ll talk about for years.

The front exterior of the Mitchell Corn Palace. It is a structure that looks like a palace and is covered in artwork created using corn. It's one of the best places to visit in the Midwest.

Explore The Charming Mackinac Island In Michigan

For an island escape in the Midwest, you’ll want to plan a Midwest vacation to Mackinac Island.

Mackinac Island is one of the prettiest islands in Michigan and even the Midwest.

You can only reach the island via ferry or plane.

While on the island, you will find no cars. To get around, you’ll either need to walk, bike, or ride in a horse-drawn carriage.

The island is full of picturesque Victorian buildings, charming island boutiques and restaurants, and beach views.

Mackinac Island is extremely charming. So it’s no wonder why it’s one of the most popular Midwestern vacation spots. And one of the best places to visit in Michigan!

The view of houses along the shore of Mackinac Island in the fall. There are rows of docks for boats and trees with changing leaves.

Go Hiking At Minnehaha Regional Park In Minnesota

Take advantage of the beautiful fall foliage in Minnesota when you plan your family vacation in the Midwest.

One of the best places to admire Minnesota’s fall foliage is in Minnehaha Regional Park.

The fall colors are particularly striking in this Minnesota park.

The changing leaves draw thousands of visitors every year to admire them on peaceful hikes.

Minnehaha Regional Park is close to Minneapolis, and it’s one of the best things to do in the area.

It’s the perfect place for an adventurous excursion when you’re looking for places to visit in the Midwest.

A waterfall cascading into a pool of water. It is surrounded by grass, trees, and shrubs.

See Gateway Arch National Park In Missouri

One of the best things to do in Missouri is to take a trip to Gateway Arch National Park.

Gateway Arch National Park is home to the famous metal arch that can be found in St. Louis.

It’s one of the most popular things to do in St. Louis and Missouri in general.

Construction started in 1963 and took about two years.

The arch is now the tallest arch in the world, reaching 623 feet at its top point.

In 2018, the arch became a national park and continues to be a popular tourist attraction in Missouri.

You’ll need to reserve tickets in advance, and there are often none available if you wait too long. So plan ahead!

A view of the Gateway Arch and the city of St. Louis from across the river. It is sunrise and the sky is orange and blue. It is one of the best places to visit in the Midwest

Visit Indianapolis Indiana, One Of The Best Places To Visit In The Midwest

If you’re looking for Midwest vacation spots, check out Indianapolis.

Indianapolis is often referred to as just Indy and is the capital of Indiana.

There are tons and tons of things to do in Indianapolis!

From unique museums, amazing restaurants , and pretty parks there is so much to choose from!

Visitors tend to check out the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, and other Midwest attractions specific to Indiana.

No matter what you’re interested in, there is something in Indianapolis to entertain you.

An aerial view of the city center of Indianapolis, one of the best places to visit in the Midwest. You can see a tall monument, buildings, and cars going around a traffic circle.

Admire Waterfalls At Starved Rock State Park In Illinois

Looking for a fun Midwest vacation for families?

Go chasing waterfalls in Illinois !

Illinois is actually full of some beautiful waterfalls.

One of my favorites can be found at Starved Rock State Park.

The Tonti Canyon Creek waterfalls drop 60 feet into a pool of water.

And there are actually two waterfalls right next to each other!

There is a 6-mile loop trail that can be a bit tricky, but the reward is definitely worth the effort.

There are plenty of cool things to do in Illinois and the state’s waterfalls are one of the coolest places to visit in the Midwest.

A waterfall cascading down layers of a rock formation into a small pool. The rocks are covered in moss.

The Scandinavian Heritage Park In North Dakota Is A Unique Midwest Vacation Spot

You may be surprised to learn that North Dakota has a Scandinavian Heritage Park.

North Dakota actually had a lot of Scandinavian immigrants in the 1800s.

As a result, these immigrants left a lasting impact on the culture of North Dakota.

To honor that impact, the Scandinavian Heritage Park was created.

It’s one of the unique things to do in North Dakota that is also an educational experience.

You’ll find the park in Minot. While there, you’ll learn about early Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finish, and Icelandic immigrants to the area.

In addition to informational displays, there are also historically accurate buildings.

For instance, you’ll be able to tour an authentic Sigdal home or the Gol Stave Church.

You will also find some of the best hiking in North Dakota!

A traditional Scandinavian style building in a grassy field with trees and a brick fence. Its one of the best places to visit in the Midwest

Admire Scotts Bluff National Monument In Nebraska

If you’re looking for some of the most beautiful places in the United States to visit, I suggest heading to Scotts Bluff National Monument.

The Scotts Bluff National Monument is one of the top attractions in Nebraska .

It is a unique rock formation that Native Americans once used as a landmark when they were traveling.

As immigrants began heading west, the Pioneers would also begin using it as a landmark.

The sandstone rock formation is over 800 feet tall and towers over the grassy valley.

Its importance in American history earned it the title of a National Monument.

You can also tour the nearby Visitor Center to learn the full history of the iconic bluff.

As an excellent alternative, you might want to visit some of the vintage small towns in Nebraska!

A tall rock formation sticking straight out of the top of a hill. It is surrounded by prairie land and other smaller hills. Its one of the best places to visit in the Midwest.

Go Camping At The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore In Michigan

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is easily one of the best places to go camping in Michigan .

The National Lakeshore is absolutely beautiful and definitely worth a visit when you’re in Michigan.

If you’re looking for a unique family vacation in the Midwest, then I suggest going camping!

Camping at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore means you get to wake up to some of the best views in the Midwest.

There are campsites for traditional camping and RVs, so there’s space for every type of camper.

You can’t go wrong spending time at one of the most beautiful places in the United States.

The shore of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore when the sun is starting to set. The sky is pink, blue, and purple and there are big fluffy clouds.

The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame In Ohio Is One Of The Best Places To Visit In The Midwest

You can find the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland Ohio .

Along with the Hall of Fame, there is also a museum you can tour.

Inside, you’ll find exhibits on all the inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame over the years.

That includes Elvis Presley, Prince, Janis Joplin, and Pink Floyd.

Throughout the year the museum also hosts concerts and events that you can attend.

So make sure you check their calendar of events before you plan your trip. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Is one of the best places to visit in Ohio.

The small pond and buildings around the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. it is an angular white tile building. It is a dreary overcast day.

See The Ruins At Ha Ha Tonka State Park In Missouri

One of the coolest things to do in Missouri is to see the ruins in Ha Ha Tonka State Park.

Within Ha Ha Tonka State Park you’ll find some beautiful castle ruins.

The ruins are of a European-style castle that was built in the early 1900s.

In 1922 the castle was completed.

Unfortunately, 20 years later, a fire destroyed the castle and left it in ruins.

The land was eventually purchased by the state of Missouri and became a State Park.

Today, visitors can walk through the ruins and they have become one of the most popular places to visit in the Midwest when you’re in Missouri.

Castle ruins in a park surrounded by dry grass and with a stone path leading up to it. Its one of the best places to visit in the Midwest.

Plan A Romantic Midwest Vacation In Door County, Wisconsin

Door County is one of the most romantic places to visit in the Midwest.

From wineries, lavender fields, covered bridges, and more, there are tons of romantic things to do and see there .

There are a few beaches in the area where you can relax with your significant other.

Or plan a romantic diner at one of the many amazing restaurants .

You can also go cherry-picking, tour the shipwreck museum, or explore a lighthouse.

If you’re looking for a romantic Midwestern vacation, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Door County.

If you love waterparks, there are 13 Wisconsin Dells waterparks for your to explore!

A long windy road in the fall. The road is surrounded by trees with leaves changing colors. The leaves are yellow, orange, red, and green.

Stroll Through The Weisman Art Musuem In Minnesota

The Weisman Art Museum is located in Minneapolis Minnesota .

Minneapolis is actually a city in the Midwest that is home to several amazing art museums.

One of the most popular is the Weisman Art Museum.

The Weisman Art Museum has an iconic brick and steel facade that sets it apart from any of the other art museums.

Within the striking building, you’ll find an impressive collection of art.

You’ll find pieces by some of the most famous 20th century American artists, like Georgia O’Keefe and Marsden Hartley.

Admission to the museum is free, which is another reason it’s so popular.

An angular modern aluminum building that is the Weisman Art Museum. The sun is shinning off of it and there is a small green space in front of it.

See Wild Bison At The Badlands National Park In South Dakota

Badlands National Park is one of the best places to visit in the Midwest.

This national park makes up a large portion of South Dakota .

It’s easily one of the most popular of South Dakota’s National Parks.

Visitors flock to the area to see Bison roam free, admire the stunning rock formations, hike the canyons and bluffs, and go camping.

Badlands National Park is one of the most beautiful places in the Midwest.

It makes for a fun family vacation in the Midwest, and it’s one you won’t forget.

One of the most recognizable red sandstone rock formations in Badlands National Park. It has several peaks and is surrounded by prairies. Its one of the best places to visit in the Midwest.

Packing List For Places To Visit In The Midwest

If you will be traveling, either by plane or by car to the midwest, here are some tips on how to pack lightly.

A  concealed travel pouch may be one of the most important items you bring along when visiting the Midwest. It is always important to protect your personal information. Identity thieves are everywhere.

his  unisex RFID blocking concealed travel pouch is  lightweight and comes in several colors. It has lots of organization to give you peace of mind.

If you have a pouch already that does not come with the RFID protection, as I do, these  RFID  sleeves are  the perfect solution.

If you are planning on taking a lot of pictures with your phone you will definitely want to consider an  external charging battery . This  Anker high-speed phone charging battery  is  the exact one  I carry with me on all of my trips.

I like that it holds its charging capabilities for several uses so I do not have to worry about it while out and about, and if I forget to recharge it at night, it will still be good to go the next day.

My daughter gifted me with this  FugeTek selfie stick and tripod   setup for my birthday. I absolutely love it! It is made of lightweight aluminum and so easy to use.

It has Bluetooth connectivity and is a breeze to use for taking selfies when traveling to the coolest places in the Midwest.

Hydration is so important when traveling. You want to remain hydrated throughout your travels to support your immune system which in turn will be stronger to fight off any germs you will encounter during your travels.

You will want to bring your own  refillable water bottle  with you.

I never leave home on a trip without my  Bobble filtration bottle .  The 18.5-ounce size is perfect for hiking and it fits nicely in the pocket of a backpack.

When filled with water, it is not too heavy to carry. And the charcoal filter ensures fresh clean water whenever you fill the Bobble.

Then this  set of collapsible silicone foldable water bottles  would work well for you as well. Would not take up much space at all.

You will want a  backpack or daypack  with you to store snacks, your water bottle, phone, extra clothes, etc.. when hiking This   foldable water-resistant backpack   would be great

There are so many amazing places to visit in the Midwest.

Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventures, stunning museums, or vibrant cities, there is a Midwestern vacation just for you.

If you’ve seen or visited any of these Midwest vacation spots, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Silver monument in shape of coffee bean with skyscrapers at dusk in background. Cities in the Midwest.

Reader Interactions

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January 14, 2022 at 3:49 pm

Interesting list. Been to Omaha but not Lincoln, loved it! Got Mackinac and Wichita on my list. And I’m from Akron originally (live in Orlando) so I’ve gone to Cleveland a bunch. Oh, and I love ast Louis

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January 15, 2022 at 6:03 pm

I grew up in Youngstown. Small World!

[…] one of the most charming places in the Midwest, is home to both big cities and natural […]

[…] Whether you wander around a winery, spend time in the great outdoors, or just do some shopping you won’t be disappointed. It is one of the most interesting places to visit in the Midwest. […]

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16 Top-Rated Things to Do in The Midwest

Written by Anietra Hamper Updated Oct 14, 2022

Whether you are just passing through Midwestern states or staying for a period of time, they each have famous and obscure attractions that are fun to seek out and experience. The Midwestern states include Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas.

While some of the top tourist attractions, like Mount Rushmore, are located in specific destinations, you can enjoy other things to do, like a river paddleboat sightseeing ride, in several states in the Midwest.

From the famous Willis Tower Skydeck in Chicago to scenic drives to see the vibrant colors of fall foliage, check out our list of some of the best things to do in the Midwest.

1. Marvel at Mount Rushmore

2. scenic drives through fall foliage, 3. go to new heights on the willis tower skydeck, 4. relax on a leisurely paddleboat ride, 5. cheer with the crowd at the indy 500, 6. see the northern lights, 7. shop the historic national road yard sale, 8. work a cattle drive, 9. slow down in amish country, 10. climb sand dunes, 11. shop at the mall of america, 12. experience the sandhill crane migration, 13. visit a state fair, 14. see the gateway arch in st. louis, 15. enjoy outdoor recreation at lake of the ozarks, 16. gawk at creations on the enchanted highway, map of things to do in the midwest.

Mount Rushmore

One of the top tourist attractions in the entire country, not just in the Midwest, is Mount Rushmore in South Dakota . The carved mountainside is an iconic American experience symbolic of the freedom and democracy that the country represents, and it is an unforgettable sight.

The Mount Rushmore National Memorial features the faces of four American presidents that are 60 feet tall carved into the mountainside. One of the best ways to experience the site is with a ranger-led tour through the park to learn more about the Black Hills in South Dakota and the history of the carving of Mount Rushmore.

While at the park, you can also visit the Sculptor's Studio to learn about the artist who created the work, and walk the Presidential Trail to get some of the most majestic views of the park from the Grand View Terrace.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in South Dakota

Fall colors in Door County, Wisconsin

The Midwestern states are blessed with four distinct seasons, and one of the best times to visit is during the fall, when the colors change on the leaves. There are a few outstanding must-see destinations for fall foliage tours and scenic drives.

Marquette, Michigan has hundreds of miles of roads through forests that illuminate in the fall with colors of red, orange, purple, and brown. The fall colors are especially beautiful against the backdrop of Lake Superior.

The Hocking Hills region in southern Ohio is one of the best places to visit for fall foliage. You can book a cabin in the fall and enjoy hikes or even ziplining in the treetops to enjoy the colorful scenery.

North Shore , Minnesota , near Duluth , is another scenic spot for fall foliage in the forests that line the bluffs along Lake Superior.

Another scenic pathway for fall foliage is in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin , where you can walk on a 21-mile path along the lakeshore lined by the vibrant trees or take a boat tour and soak in the color from the water. Resorts in Lake Geneva offer a great opportunity for a weekend getaway.

Willis Tower Skydeck

One of the most exciting and fun things to do in the Midwest is at the top of the Willis Tower in Chicago . The Skydeck is the highest in Chicago and hands-down the best view of the city. The Ledge is what most visitors travel up 103 floors of the tower to experience.

The Ledge is in glass boxes that extend 4.3 feet out from the Skydeck landing. That means you are suspended 1,353 feet in the air with only glass beneath your feet. While the experience can take you to new heights, literally, you can always just look out the windows if nerves get the better of you.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Chicago

Paddleboat in Cincinnati, Ohio

Some of the best attractions in a few Midwestern states are paddleboat rides along rivers that historically served as important passageways for the distribution of goods. There are several states along major rivers that offer historic paddleboat rides that are well worth going out of your way to experience.

In Ohio, the cities of Cincinnati and Marietta have paddleboats that run along the Ohio River, and Cleveland has paddleboats that run on the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie . If you visit the Ohio Sternwheel Festival held the weekend after Labor Day each year in Marietta, you will see many sternwheelers converge on the Ohio River from all over the country. Another consideration is the Pearl of the Lake riverboats in Lake City, Minnesota, which run on the Mississippi River .

The Indianapolis 500

The Indy 500 takes place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway every Memorial Day weekend and is a bucket list item for most people who get the chance to experience it. There are pre-races and events in the days leading up to the main event, but even if you cannot make it to the race itself, the speedway is one of the best Midwest tourist attractions throughout the year.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum is a fun attraction for car racing enthusiasts that is open year-round. It is located inside the track and features exhibits and information about the history of racing and the Indy 500.

You can also book an Indy Racing Experience to find out what it's like to be behind the wheel of an actual NTT IndyCar Series race car and drive around the famous track. This fan experience lets you ride alongside an Indy Racing League driver in a 2-seater car, or you can learn how to drive it on your own. The racing experience starts with safety instruction and background about these high-powered cars and ends with a trip around the actual track of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Indianapolis

Northern lights in Minnesota

You do not have to travel to Iceland or Norway to see the northern lights when you can find several spectacular spots in the Midwest to fulfill that experience.

Cook County, Minnesota is one of the places to see the aurora borealis on the shores of Lake Superior . One of the best spots to see them is in the Superior National Forest on Oberg Mountain.

The Upper Peninsula in Michigan is another spot in the Midwest where you can view the northern lights. You can stay in Marquette or plan a camping trip to catch the brilliant show from the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Door County, Wisconsin is another option to catch the northern lights in Newport State Park, which has a Dark Sky designation.

National Road Yard Sale

If you have some spare days after Memorial Day weekend, you can join in on one of the most exciting things to do in the Midwest during the Historic National Road Yard Sale. This is comprised of several days of communities, individuals, shops, churches, and random roadside vendors selling their goods along 800 miles of Historic Route 40 that runs through the Midwest.

The actual sale stretches from Baltimore, Maryland to St. Louis, Missouri, and it is a festive environment through hundreds of small towns along the way as people search for yard sale treasures.

Even if you do not hit the annual National Road Yard Sale, Route 40 is the place to visit to find small antiques stores. Antique Alley in Richmond along Route 40 is one of the best locations, with a large concentration of antique sellers.

Longhorn cattle drive in Kansas

If you have ever wondered what life is like as a cowboy, you can experience it for yourself in Kansas by taking part in an authentic cattle drive. There are several working ranches in the Kansas Flint Hills and other locations that let you try your hand at horseback riding and working a cattle drive through the tallgrass prairie.

The Moore Ranch near Dodge City and the Lazy T Ranch near Manhattan have experiences that let you consider a range of jobs related to a cattle drive. You become a part of the working crew and see what life is like on the ranch, experiencing everything from herding and roping to sitting around the campfire sharing cowboy poetry.

Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Kansas

Amish man plowing fields in Ohio

The Ohio and Indiana Amish Country is a must-experience in the Midwest. No agenda is needed to explore the quiet back roads and simple way of life. The Amish communities in Ohio are located in the northeastern counties of Adams, Geauga, Holmes, Hardin, Wayne, and Tuscarawas.

You will get the best experience by staying at a bed and breakfast, where you can start your day with homemade meals using locally sourced eggs and produce. You will share the road with horses and buggies and see Amish workers in the fields. The fall is an especially beautiful and picturesque time to visit.

The Indiana Amish communities are connected by the Heritage Trail scenic loop , which goes through Elkhart, Middlebury, Goshen, Bristol, Shipshewana, Nappanee, and Wakarusa. You will see many small Amish-owned shops and clothing drying on the lines.

  • Read More: Ohio's Amish Country: Highlights and Hidden Treasures

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on Lake Michigan

To experience one of the best natural attractions in the Midwest, you need to go to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore near Traverse City in Michigan. This is where kids and those who want to feel like kids again can climb the mountainous sand dunes that tower 450 feet above Lake Michigan .

The full sand dunes experience will take three to four hours as you go up and down the dunes for about 3.5 miles in a path to Lake Michigan. When you are worn out from climbing the dunes, you can relax on the 35 miles of shoreline and enjoy the breeze coming off the lake.

Mall of America

The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota is one of the top tourist destinations in the United States because people have to see it to believe it. It is a massive shopping and entertainment complex with more than 520 stores, an aquarium, and a seven-acre amusement park all under the same roof.

There are also more than 60 restaurants, so you have plenty of places to re-fuel as you make your way through the many levels. The Mall of America is as much about the attractions inside as the shopping.

There are many family-friendly attractions, like the Crayola Experience, which lets kids make their own personalized crayon, and the LEGO store. The Nickelodeon Universe amusement park has 27 indoor rides and attractions.

Address: 2131 Lindau Lane, Bloomington, Minnesota

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Minnesota

Sandhill cranes on the Platte River

The Platte River in central Nebraska is one of the must-see places in the Midwest during the Sandhill crane migration every spring. This is when 500,000 cranes stop at the Platte River to rest during their migration. The cranes have been landing in the region for years, and now the massive migrating flocks have become a tourist attraction.

Seeing the cranes requires waking up before dawn to get to the perfect spots on the river, as the cranes make their appearance. There are a number of tours and guides in the area that can help make sure that you get to the right place at the right time for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Nebraska

The Minnesota State Fair

There is no other experience comparable to visiting a state fair in the Midwest. These wholesome fairs are important to the agricultural roots of the states, which is why you will find livestock competitions and contests for various types of produce. Activities at these state fairs range from learning how to milk a cow to watching concerts.

Each state has something that makes their fair unique. In Ohio , the design of the famous butter cow sculpture is anticipated every year. The Minnesota State Fair is known for its magnificent gardens. The Indiana State Fair is one of the oldest in the country and focuses on agriculture and quirky exhibits, like the world's largest popcorn ball .

The Gateway Arch illuminated in the evening

The famous Gateway Arch in St. Louis is not only exciting to see from the ground but it's even more spectacular from inside.

It is the tallest monument in the United States , and you can take a tram all the way to the top. Look out at the city from 630 feet in the air and have a new perspective of one of the most recognized symbols in the country when you return to the ground.

Besides taking a trip to the top of the Gateway Arch, there is a nice museum with exhibits relating to American settlement. You will also find information about the creation of the arch and what it took to build it.

  • Read More: Top Attractions in St. Louis

Aerial view of the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri

While the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri got plenty of attention with the hit tv series " Ozark," it already had plenty of appeal to those who enjoy outdoor recreation. With more than 1,000 miles of shoreline, the Lake of the Ozarks has many spots for swimming, fishing, boating or just lying on the beach.

The outdoor recreation on land covers hiking, horseback riding, backpacking, and bicycling. Although this is a popular Midwest recreation spot, it is easy to find solitude in nature given that the landscape is so spread out.

Walk the trails in the Lake of the Ozarks State Park or take a relaxing naturalist tour guided by lantern light to learn about the plants and wildlife that are so diverse in this region. Overnight camping is allowed year-round, or you can rent a cabin or yurt to extend your stay.

places to visit middle usa

Some of the most exciting travel finds in the Midwest are along a section of I-94 in North Dakota, also known as the Enchanted Highway.

This 32-mile stretch of highway runs from Gladstone to Regent, and it is adorned with unusually large metal sculptures with scenes that depict everything from birds and grasshoppers to fish and a stagecoach.

These massive sculptures are worth photographing and admiring. Most have pull-offs and parking lots nearby so you can plan a leisurely drive to see all of the creations. These metal masterpieces were designed by artist Gary Greff to give travelers a reason to come through his town of Regent. It worked.

Even if you are just passing through North Dakota , planning a detour along the Enchanted Highway is worth the extra time. Start at the world's largest scrap metal sculpture , Geese in Flight , and round out your excursion with a picnic next to the oversized Tin Family creation.

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More Midwest Fun : If you are looking for other Midwest vacations you will want to review our stories on the top tourist attractions in Minnesota and Illinois . Each of these has a long list of things to do in summer or winter.

There are also some great things to do in Wisconsin , particularly in Milwaukee , Door County peninsula, and in the pedestrian-friendly capital of Madison .


Exploring Ohio : Ohio has a range of getaways, from beaches along the shores of Lake Erie to the north and forested land popular for outdoor adventure to the south.

Places like Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island are popular for summer vacations and spring break, but the backroads that run through small towns make for enjoyable, leisurely ways to explore the state.

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Best Places to Visit on a Road Trip (Middle of the USA)

Best Places to Visit on a Road Trip (Middle of the USA)

From the Rocky Mountains to the desert mesas of the Southwest, there’s a lot to see on a road trip through the middle of the U.S. 

Flyover states? We think not. 

Read on to discover the most scenic road trip destinations in Colorado, Texas, and more!

1. Austin, TX

Austin stays true to its reputation as the “Live Music Capital of the World” with the Austin City Limits and South by Southwest music festivals. But you can visit any time of year and wander down the city streets to hear music, from country to rock. Sip a margarita and sway along while you chow down on one of the city’s famous TexMex tacos or barbeque.

Instagrammable Spot: From “I Love You So Much” to “Hi, How Are You,” Austin’s got no shortage of funky street art murals that come with an Instagram caption built-in. 

2. Houston, TX

They say everything is bigger in Texas. In Houston, the Lone Star State’s biggest city, they take it to heart! This sprawling metropolis has tons to see, eat, and do, from two-stepping at a bonafide honky tonk to pretending you’re an astronaut at the Johnson Space Center, made famous by the Apollo 13 mission. 

Instagrammable Spot: Not to be outdone by Austin, Houston has its own graffiti park, too. Swing by this Midtown destination for your choice of murals to pose in front of. 

3. Boise, ID

Step away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Boise by going for a walk or bike ride along the Boise River Greenbelt. Bonus points if you stop for a selfie on any of the Instagram-famous Greenbelt bridges (Railroad Trestle Bridge is a favorite), or hike up Table Rock. 

Instagrammable Spot: Add some classic glamour to your Instagram feed with a photo in front of the historic Boise Union Pacific Depot.

4. Denver, CO

Denver’s got everything you could want in a big city, from an impressive capitol building and art museums to botanic gardens and a zoo. But since you’ve got a car, why not take a small detour to the outskirts of town and check out the Red Rocks Amphitheatre? This place is always busy, even when there's not a show. You’ll find locals running the stairs or simply chilling out with their friends.

Instagrammable Spot: Larimer Square is a historic district with Victorian buildings made for Instagram backgrounds. Browse the vintage shops and grab a bite to eat. For something a bit more upscale, check out the Brown Palace Hotel.

5. Boulder, CO

Plan your road trip into the city with a drive by the breathtaking views of Flatirons rock formations. You won’t regret it! Then, once you arrive in Boulder, take a rest stop at Rayback Collective. This food truck park has a beer garden and live music.

Instagrammable Spot: More epic views await you at Flagstaff Mountain and Royal Arch Hiking Trail. For the city gals, there’s the art deco Boulder Theater and the fun stores and eateries along Pearl Street Mall.

Girl on a trip in Sedona

6. Sedona, AZ

The Grand Canyon gets all the hype, but there’s truly nothing like Sedona. The city boasts over 400 miles of trails, with some winding through the majestic Red Rocks formations and others weaving through lush forests and creeks. This is the place to connect with your spiritual side. After your hike, get on with your New Age self at one of Sedona’s many vortexes and crystal shops.   

Instagrammable Spot: According to BuzzFeed , Sedona is Arizona’s most Instagrammable place! Cathedral Rock is a must-see (for the best shot, pose in front of a reflection pool with Cathedral Rock in the background), but you can also get extra girly on a Pink Jeep Tour.

7. Santa Fe, NM

Located just off Route 66, Santa Fe is a capital city known for its Pueblo architecture and being the inspiration behind much of Georgia O’Keeffe’s Southwestern art. Shop for souvenirs in Santa Fe plaza, with hand-blown glass, Native American jewelry, and Navajo rugs to choose from.

Instagrammable Spot: Ready to incorporate some neon into your Instagram Feed? Check out Meow Wolf, a wild series of interactive art installations.

Psst… since you’re already on Route 66, the travels don’t have to end. Hit the road and keep on driving! We’ve got a list of the best road trip spots on the West Coast for you to see. 

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Must-see attractions in Mid-Atlantic States

ALEXANDRIA,VA - JUNE 28: George Washington Mount Vernon on June 28, 2014 in Alexandria, VA USA. George Washington Mansion is visited by thousands of people every year.; Shutterstock ID 202385026; your: Bridget Brown; gl: 65050; netsuite: Online Editorial; full: POI Image Update

Mount Vernon

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One of America's most visited historic sites, Mount Vernon was the beloved home of George and Martha Washington.

National Air and Space Museum

National Air and Space Museum

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places to visit middle usa

Colonial Williamsburg

Image by Thomas Faull/Getty Images RF

National Gallery of Art on the National Mall during spring in Washington D.C.

National Gallery of Art

Two buildings. Hundreds of masterpieces. Infinite enjoyment. It's easy to spend a full day at the National Gallery of Art, which showcases a whole range…

500px Photo ID: 100166741 - Pre-dawn at the Lincoln Memorial. "In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever."

Lincoln Memorial

Anchoring the National Mall's west end is the hallowed shrine to Abraham Lincoln, who gazes across the Reflecting Pool beneath his neoclassical, Doric…

National Museum of African American History and Culture, facade

National Museum of African American History & Culture

Located in Washington, DC, the sensational National Museum of African American History & Culture is devoted exclusively to the documentation of African…

The Capitol, Washington, DC

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White House

White House

White House Area & Foggy Bottom

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arlington national cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

Sprawling across hills above the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia, Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for America’s most revered…

Holocaust Memorial. Shooting Location: Washington, DC

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Image bykanzilyou/GettyRF

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

In a city of classic, white-marble monuments, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial stands out on the National Mall for its stark modernism. Designed by 21-year…

BALTIMORE - APRIL 09:  American Visionary Art Museum as photographed from Federal Hill Park on April 9, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)

American Visionary Art Museum

Housing a jaw-dropping collection of self-taught (or 'outsider' art), American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) is a celebration of unbridled creativity…

places to visit middle usa

Evergreen Museum & Library

Well worth the 7-mile drive north from the Inner Harbor, this grand 19th-century mansion provides a fascinating glimpse into upper-class Baltimore life of…

Trees at the peak of Fall color are seen looking out over the Piedmont October 26, 2013 from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.  AFP PHOTO / Karen BLEIER        (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah Valley

One of the most spectacular national parks in the country, Shenandoah is a showcase of natural color and beauty: in spring and summer the wildflowers…

Dale Chihuly glass reed sculpture at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts VMFA in Richmond, Virginia

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Richmond is a cultured city, and this splendid art museum is the cornerstone of the local arts scene. Highlights of its eclectic, world-class collection…

The Piedmont

The house at Monticello is an architectural masterpiece designed and inhabited by Thomas Jefferson, founding father and third US president, who spent 40…

places to visit middle usa

Seneca Rocks

West Virginia

A striking rock formation rising 900ft above a fork of the Potomac River, Seneca Rocks is one of the most recognizable natural features in the state. Rock…

University of Virginia

Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia, and designed what he called an 'Academical Village' embodying the spirit of communal living and…

Historic ships in front of the National Aquarium, Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo By: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)

National Aquarium

Standing seven stories high and capped by a glass pyramid, this is widely considered to be America's best aquarium, with almost 20,000 creatures from more…

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Washington National Cathedral

Upper Northwest DC

Constructed between 1907 and 1990, this huge neo-Gothic cathedral blends the spiritual with the profane in its architecture. Most of its richly colored…

Grave of Edgar Allan Poe in Baltimore, Maryland.

Edgar Allan Poe's Gravesite

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Satyr statute welcomes visitor to Hillwood Gardens, Washington, DC.

Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens

The former estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post of Post cereal fame, this lavishly decorated 1920s mansion showcases her extraordinary collections of…

Reconstruction of wooden fort in the Historic Jamestowne Settlement in Virginia.

Historic Jamestowne

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Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, The Star Fort.Home of The Star Spangled Banner American National Anthem.

Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine

On September 13 and 14, 1814, this star-shaped fort successfully repelled a British navy attack during the Battle of Baltimore. After a long night of…

Montpelier, the historic home of James Madison in Virginia.

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Main Reading Room, Library of Congress

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National Archives facade.

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Exterior sign for the Art Museums at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.

Art Museums

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Reynolds Center for American Art & Portraiture

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The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum building and grounds.

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

Halloween is the busy season at this former mental hospital, when ghost tours of the massive facility will scare the living daylights out of you. The…

The Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Virginia.

Mariners' Museum

One of the biggest, most comprehensive maritime museums in the world. The on-site USS Monitor Center houses parts of the Civil War–era Monitor, one of the…

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 03:  Garden views at Dumbarton Oaks in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. (Photo by Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

Dumbarton Oaks

The mansion's 27 acres of enchanting formal gardens are straight out of a storybook. The springtime blooms – including heaps of cherry blossoms – are…

Clover Hill Tavern at Appomattox.

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park

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The Stalacpipe Organ in Luray Caverns.

Luray Caverns

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Baltimore, Maryland / US - Oct 24, 2019: Perspective exterior facade of The Walters Art Museum as seen from the corner of Cathedral and Centre st downtown Mount Vernon neighborhood district; Shutterstock ID 1540828388; your: Bridget Brown; gl: 65050; netsuite: Online Editorial; full: POI Image Update

Walters Art Museum

The magnificent Chamber of Art & Wonders re-creates the library of an imagined 17th-century scholar, one with a taste for the exotic. The abutting Hall of…

Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi Public Statue Front of Indian Embassy Embassy Row Massachusetts Ave Washington DC.  Gandhi is walking to sea on salt march.  Dedicated September 2000,  Artist Gautam Pal; Shutterstock ID 302137574; Your name (First / Last): Lauren Gillmore; GL account no.: 56530; Netsuite department name: Online-Design; Full Product or Project name including edition: 65050/ Online Design /LaurenGillmore/POI

Embassy Row

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Richmond, Virginia, United States, North America

Contains the world's largest collection of manuscripts and memorabilia of poet and horror-writer Edgar Allan Poe, who lived and worked in Richmond…

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Virginia State Capitol

Designed by Thomas Jefferson, the capitol building was completed in 1788 and houses the oldest legislative body in the Western Hemisphere – the Virginia…

The historic Berkeley Plantation in Virginia.

Berkeley Plantation

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More destinations you need to see

Tyringham is a town in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, United States

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18 Midwest Towns Our Writers Say You Should Visit In 2023

places to visit middle usa

  • Destinations
  • United States

The Midwest may not get as much love as the coasts, but it has plenty to discover. To find the best of the Midwest, we reached out to our expert travel writers. Here’s where they recommend visiting this year in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

bridge from Grant Park to downtown, overlooking the Galena River

1. Galena, Illinois

Time has stopped in Galena . “Here, you are transported to a simpler time filled with home-baked Americana at every turn,” describes Robyne Stevenson . Its quaint downtown is filled with historical buildings and plenty of cafes and restaurants serving up Midwest fare. A plethora of options for beer and wine are also available, including libations from nearby wineries and breweries.

U.S. President Grant lived here and his home is open for tours. There are plenty of other spots to explore for historical interest in the town and nearby. Stevenson enjoyed going up to the bluff to explore Horseshoe Mound preserve for expansive views of the Mississippi River and the valleys below.

If you go in the summer, you can enjoy kayaking or boating on the Galena River that runs through the center of town. Stevenson suggests having a picnic at Grant Park, which overlooks the river, and wandering through the Civil War monuments.

There are plenty of guest houses and motels, including the DeSoto House Hotel , the oldest operating hotel in the state. “It boasts a tavern, courtyard restaurant, and historic touches throughout the hotel and rooms,” Stevenson tells us. While summer is the sweet spot for visiting Galena, spring and fall bring fun festivals. Any time of year is a good time to go antiquing, visit quaint shops, and enjoy the food on Main Street.

Wellfield Botanical Gardens is a lovely oasis in Elkhart, Indiana.

2. Elkhart, Indiana

Just east of South Bend , Elkhart, Indiana has long been known as the RV Capital of the World, but last summer, Cindy Ladage discovered the city’s art scene. “The Midwest Museum of American Art is right across the street from the recently restored historic Hotel Elkhart ,” she says, “so you can walk to the museum from the hotel.” Beautiful murals decorate the town, too.

“ The Lerner Theatre is available to tour when no acts are performing,” she says. Art from the Midwest Museum is on display at the theater as well.

The Elkhart River and St. Joseph River make a lovely backdrop for this vibrant city that features fun dining spots and historic homes like Ruthmere to tour. For outdoor fun, Ladage suggests checking out Wellfield Botanic Gardens .

white water rafting

3. South Bend, Indiana

“You know when you travel somewhere that really surprises you? That’s how I felt about South Bend ,” Rebecca Deurlein tells us. Her most memorable experience in South Bend was urban white water rafting. Instead of shooting the rapids in nature, careen between skyscrapers and avoid getting hung up in man-made boulders. “I was in the middle of the city on the East Race Waterway , and it was quite surreal,” recalls Deurlein.

Potato Creek State Park offers plenty of activities, including kayaking through wetlands, biking along woodlands, and bird watching on Lake Worster. Devour a burger and cheese curds at Howard Park Public House . Quench your thirst at Indiana Whiskey Company , South Bend Brew Werks , or Ironhand Wine Bar . “No visit to South Bend is complete without a tour of Notre Dame,” according to Deurlein, who says, “You’ve seen it in the movies, but it’s a thrill to stand before Touchdown Jesus .”

Fort Dodge and Frontier Village

4. Fort Dodge, Iowa

A quintessential Midwest town, Fort Dodge, Iowa , oozes “Midwest nice” according to Amy Piper . Located on the Des Moines River in central Iowa, this family-friendly destination combines history and art. “It’s the perfect trip to take the grandkids on during summer vacation,” Piper tells us.

The littles will love the Back 40 Playground at the Community Orchard (open seasonally, August through October) and the Children’s Forest at Kennedy Park . Those interested in art will find Fort Dodge Grain Silo Mural and the Blanden Memorial Art Museum an educational experience. Those who enjoy nature and history will find engaging activities at Fort Museum & Frontier Village (open seasonally — reopens in April 2023).

Fort Frenzy Family Fun Center is a family entertainment center that offers indoor activities, including a full arcade, go-karts, and laser tag, so it’s an excellent rainy-day option. Another rainy-day attraction is Studio Fusion , where everyone can get involved in an art project.

No matter the age of your grandchildren, there’s plenty to keep them interested and cheerfully busy in Fort Dodge.

statue of fisherman wearing hat holding to long poles

5. Muscatine, Iowa

A trip to the beautiful town of Muscatine is in order according to Cindy Ladage. The Iowa town is “known as the Pearl of the Mississippi because of the history of the pearl button industry, which started when a German immigrant brought this huge manufacturing story to the shores of the Big Muddy !” she tells us.

Ladage loved her stay at the lovely Merrill Hotel , which is located right across from the Mississippi River close to Muscatine’s historic downtown. It provides a good jumping-off point to explore the river walk and The National Pearl Button Museum . Pine Creek Grist Mill , the oldest grist mill this side of the Mississippi, is just a short drive away in Wild Den State Park .

Muscatine Art Center is a historic house, art gallery, and history museum all rolled into one. “Then there is lots of fun shopping and dining!” exclaims Ladage. “A fun stop all around!”

colorful multi-story building in Wichita

6. Wichita, Kansas

Whether you’re seeking a stop on a summer road trip , a break from city life, or are trying to cross all 50 states off your list and don’t know what to see in Kansas, Wichita checks all the boxes according to Jill Robbins . Within driving distance of Dallas, Omaha, and Oklahoma City, Wichita is easy to get to, with direct flights available from Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, and Seattle. With enough activities to fill 2 days to a week, the flexibility of Wichita is a huge perk for travelers.

“Although history buffs will enjoy exploring a slice of Old West frontier life at the Old Cowtown Museum , there’s a decidedly hipster vibe in Wichita as well,” says Robbins. From trendy restaurants ( Public at the Brickyard is Robbins can’t-miss) to art walks through the Douglas Design District, there’s more here than prairie and sunflowers.

If you’re seeking to travel more sustainably , know that downtown Wichita has a robust public transportation system with a free shuttle and bike- and scooter-sharing programs.

Make time at the end of the day for The Ring of Fire at the Keeper of the Plains statue. This monument, symbolizing the Native American relationship with the earth, fire, and water, is worth seeing during the day, too. “The best time to visit Wichita is spring, summer, and fall,” Robbins advises, “which are the most pleasant times to be outdoors.”

giant hand-painted Czech egg

7. Wilson, Kansas

On the Prairie Trail Scenic Byway in Kansas lies Wilson , a small prairie town with a big egg. “But it’s no ordinary egg,” Ann Bush tells us. “Designated the Czech Capital of Kansas in 1974 due to the history of Czech immigrant settlers remaining in the area, the hand-painted 20-foot-tall Czech egg was a sight to see for these old Czech eyes.”

A boom town when the Kansas Pacific Railway built Wilson Station in 1865, Wilson’s downtown retains beautiful sandstone-blocked buildings surrounded by a well-kept residential area. The original jailhouse remains a tourist attraction for many. The Midland Railroad Hotel has been stunningly restored. Don’t miss delicious food served near an elegant hand-carved bar downstairs. On January 27, 2023, the hotel is hosting a bluegrass festival .

Each July, a huge Czech festival is held, celebrating generations of culture, food, and crafts.

lobby of The Elms Hotel & Spa in Excelsior Springs, MO

8. Excelsior Springs, Missouri

Loaded with history and located just outside of Kansas City, Excelsior Springs, Missouri , is an adorable Midwest town to place on your travel list this year according to Erika Ebsworth-Goold .

In the late 1880s, word spread that water from the area’s bubbling springs had curative powers, and people from all over the country arrived to “take the water.” The town’s flagship spa, The Elms , was built to accommodate them. “The manor-type estate was recently renovated and features large rooms, a lovely outdoor pool area, and a terrific spa with several treatment rooms. “The focus on wellness extends to yoga and mindfulness sessions offered by staff,” says Ebsworth-Goold.

Additionally, downtown Excelsior Springs boasts beautiful boutiques, cafes, pubs, and lots of art — look for the large murals depicting scenes from the town’s past on several historic buildings. And a big bonus for wine lovers: There are two local vineyards, Four Horses and a Dog and Fence Stile .

praying hands sculpture

9. Joplin, Missouri

You may have heard of Joplin because of the devastating tornado that struck the southwestern Missouri town in 2011. Since then, this little town on the outskirts of the Ozark Mountains has recovered very nicely, Carol Colborn assures us.

Discover Grand Falls , the tallest natural waterfall in the state at just 12 feet high. Nearby, the Precious Moments Chapel features Sistine Chapel-inspired murals.

Finally, the George Washington Carver National Monument honors the American scientist, botanist, educator, and inventor. “Recently, I discovered the inspiring Praying Hands Memorial and the Ampersand Sculpture . The giant “and” sign honors Joplin history, including infamous outlaws Bonnie and Clyde .

The Patee House

10. St. Joseph, Missouri

Many know St. Louis as the Gateway to the West, but St. Joseph also has that claim to fame, sans fancy arch. This small town north of Kansas City, Missouri, is one of Kathleen Walls picks for best Midwestern towns to visit in 2023.

Patee House Museum & the Jesse James Home showcases the two things St. Joseph is famous for: the Pony Express headquarters and the place where outlaw Jesse James was shot and killed. “At the Pony Express National Museum , I felt I was riding the mountains and plains these young riders took,” Walls recalls of the museum dedicated to the first fast mail line across North America.

Robidoux Row Museum features westward expansion exhibits. Glore Psychiatric Museum “could be the set for a horror movie,” says Walls, but for now, it depicts treatments used at the adjacent state mental hospital that dates back to the 1800s. The Native American Museum and Black Archives Museum are part of the same complex. “ Walter Cronkite Memorial pays tribute to one of the best newsmen of the 20th century,” Walls tells us.

Walls recommends dining at J. C. Wyatt House , Fredrick Inn Steakhouse , Boudreaux’s Louisiana Seafood & Steaks , and RC’s Lunch Car . “Angry Swede Brewing Company is next door to RC’s,” says Walls. “It’s a brewery with a Prohibition-era speakeasy in the basement.”

Buffalo Bill's home, Scout's Rest

11. North Platte, Nebraska

North Platte offers a mix of fun things to do according to Walls.

At Buffalo Bill State Historical Park , explore Scout’s Rest Ranch, the second empire-style mansion the famed Pony Express rider, Army scout, and buffalo hunter-turned-showman built during the heyday of his Wild West show .

Golden Spike Tower overlooks the world’s largest railyard, the Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard. During Rail Days , held annually in early August, visitors tour Bailey Yard with a motorcoach tour. For more rail explorations, locomote over to The Cody Park Railroad Museum to see old rail cars, including a mail car, caboose, and the only Challenger 3900 series steam locomotive on display in the world.

Lincoln County Historical Museum is a group of amazing museums including Western Heritage Village and the World War II North Platte Canteen exhibit.

Walls recommends visiting in springtime, when more than 400,000 sandhill cranes migrate through for about 6 weeks, preparing for the nesting period to come. “You can watch their courtship dances and pair-bonding behaviors,” Walls tells us.

Dining alfresco - M's Pub, Omaha, Nebraska

12. Omaha, Nebraska

SJ Morgensen’s favorite Midwest town is her hometown of Omaha . Nebraska’s largest city is also home to the College World Series, Boystown, Warren Buffet, Omaha Steaks, a world-famous zoo, a great indie-music scene, and so much more. “Omaha should be on your radar,” Morgensen asserts.

Catch baseball’s finest at the College World Series in June. “You’ll experience a couple of weeks of rowdy college fans, crowded bars, and pure fun!” Morgensen tells us.

America’s largest indoor desert and indoor rainforest, Henry Doorly Zoo also has the largest nocturnal exhibit in the world. These are just a few of the reasons it is consistently ranked as one of the best zoos in the U.S.

While in the area, Morgensen suggests heading to The Old Market for shopping, drinks, and dining. M’s Pub is always a favorite. “Make sure you get a steak while you’re here,” advises Morgensen, who recommends Johnny’s Cafe and Dinkers .

giant sculpture of a native American

13. Chamberlain, South Dakota

“The town might be small but the attractions are mighty in Chamberlain,” says Shel Zolkewich of the south central South Dakota town nestled at the crossroads of Interstate 90 and the Missouri River.

Zolkewich recommends kicking off your tour of Chamberlain with a visit to Dignity: Of Earth and Sky . Standing at 50 feet tall, the stainless steel sculpture overlooks the Missouri River and honors the cultures of the Lakota and Dakota peoples. “Like seeing mountain ranges in person, there’s something about her quiet grace and mesmerizing stare that leaves an impression,” Zolkewich says.

Just a few miles away at the Aktá Lakota Museum & Cultural Center , Indigenous stories are told through intricate beadwork pieces, star quilts, photographs, and artifacts.

Chamberlain’s shining retail star is a kitchen store called berry + basil according to Zolkewich. “As the owners like to say, it’s a small-town shop with big-city perks,” she says. “They aren’t wrong. Cookware, gourmet foods, wine, and dining wares are expertly displayed in the shop’s meandering alcoves. French-made Staub cookware, posh Smeg small appliances, and a self-sharpening knife block are the stuff of home cook dreams.”

The Missouri River south of the Oahe Dam. The river is the boundary between Central and Mountain Time.

14. Pierre, South Dakota

Pronounced peer , Pierre is the nation’s second-smallest state capital. But “don’t let its size fool you,” warns Roxie Yonkey . “Pierre offers plenty to do.”

Boasting 2,250 miles of shoreline, Lake Oahe is one of the largest reservoirs in the country. The reservoir offers plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities, making Pierre a four-season destination.

A causeway connects downtown to La Framboise Island in the Missouri River. Hike or bike on the island’s trails, then relax on one of the beaches. Watch for wild turkeys, coyotes, and whitetail deer. Catch your supper from the fishing pier.

The South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center and the South Dakota Discovery Center are among Pierre’s numerous museums.

When it comes to dining, Yonkey recommends the pan-seared walleye with Cajun seasoning at Mad Mary’s Steak House & Saloon . During the summer, treat yourself to a caramel twist deluxe sundae at Zesto .

“While Pierre is always fun to visit, Oahe Days Arts & Music Festival each June in Steamboat Park adds extra flair to the city,” Yonkey tells us.

This artistic egg in Egg Harbor is called Living Canopy

15. Egg Harbor, Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s entire Door County peninsula is magical, Joan Sherman attests, but Egg Harbor is a prime example of why the region earned the nickname “Cape Cod of the Midwest.” About 2.5 hours north of Milwaukee , Egg Harbor is located on the bay of Green Bay .

“Amongst all the wonderful small towns of Door County, Egg Harbor earns a distinction with artistic egg displays all over town, One Barrel Brewing brewery, and local peninsula apple and cherry deliciousness at Wood’s Orchard Market ,” Sherman says.

Beautiful in all seasons, Egg Harbor is in close proximity to cross-country skiing, biking, and hiking options. It also serves as an excellent base for exploring the rest of the peninsula. Barring summer busyness and fall leaf peepers, the whole peninsula is very drivable according to Sherman. She recommends ending your day at Egg Harbor’s Harbor View Park , which she describes as “a great place to see the sun set on this adorable Midwest town.”

stone bridge that reads 'Osthoff Resort' in front of the sprawling white resort

16. Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin

Elkhart Lake is an hour’s drive from the Milwaukee airport, “and that hour is all the effort you’ll expend on this water-for-days getaway,” attests Deurlein. “The grand Osthoff Resort radiates Dirty Dancing vibes,” she describes, “with a sprawling resort property that looks out over the lake (which offers old-school paddle boats with a dragon-shaped twist).”

The town is blessedly walkable, and the streets here are actually a national landmark – they were the first to feature road racing, which has now blossomed into the world-famous Road America just down the street. “ Gessert’s Ice Cream , served in hand-made waffle cones, is not to be missed,” advises Deurlein, “nor are the cheese curds and brats.”

Nightlife here ranges from honky tonk to big bands, but it’s all casual and relaxed. The resort’s top-rated spa is an additional draw. “It really is a place that keeps you as busy as you want to be and soothes your soul in the best possible way,” declares Deurlein.

Milton House in Milton, Wisconsin

17. Milton, Wisconsin

Once a booming town with a busy highway, Milton, Wisconsin , is now an off-the-beaten-path town that Melody Pittman loves.

Pittman recommends checking out the latest home decor and more at Hattie & Elsie , a cute boutique in downtown Milton. Red Rooster is another unique shop with dozens of artisans represented in a 150-year-old renovated mill.

Enjoy a glass of Big Buck Blueberry wine at Timber Hill Winery and stay for trivia or live music. “Next, head to Northleaf Winery for a wine and chocolate pairing,” instructs Pittman. “Then check in to unpack your bags at the adorable three-bedroom, three-bathroom guest house only steps away.”

Grab tasty eggs Benedict for breakfast at Cafe 26 and enjoy a special dinner at Fredrick’s Supper Club .

Milton is one of the places you can hike the unique Ice Age Trail, found on E. Storrs Lake Road. It also has a most impressive Underground Railroad history site, the Milton House Museum .

statue of cow dressed in traditional Bernese folk attire

18. New Glarus, Wisconsin

A couple of hours outside of Chicago, New Glarus is a quaint town that offers a glimpse into beautiful Wisconsin small towns. “And this one has a bonus,” Sherman says, “a Swiss influence!” It is evident in everything from the architecture to the shops as well as in the foods and flavors of the area.

Beautiful in all seasons, New Glarus always has something to offer. Sherman suggests biking on the 24-mile Sugar River State Trail and/or admiring the creativity of the Cow Parade . From September 21 to 24, 2023, the town’s Oktoberfest will feature great food, local beer courtesy of New Glarus Brewing , special events like wagon rides and chainsaw wood carving, and live music. “From biking to bovines to brews, this is small-town Wisconsin at its best,” states Sherman.

Related Reading:

  • 7 Fantastic Scenic Drives In Kansas
  • 9 Beautiful Waterfalls To Visit In The Midwest
  • 9 Life Lessons From A Multigenerational Midwest Road Trip

Image of Laura Ray

Laura Ray has lived in Atlanta, the Bay Area, SoCal, and Austin. After moving from Texas, she and her husband rambled about the Midwest in a camper for a couple of years before finally settling on 35 acres in their home state of Kentucky. When she isn't clacking around on the keyboard (cat in lap), you can find her practicing yoga, gardening, or playing the ukulele. This travel-lover's favorite destinations include Italy, the Greek isles, and Kentucky Lake.

Clear water of Lake Tahoe California in summer with snowcapped mountains in the background--one of the best places to visit in the USA bucket list

USA Bucket List: 50 Best Places to Visit in the US

From snowcapped mountains to tropical beaches, from some of the world’s most iconic cities to some of its most incredible deserts, from the east coast to the west, one thing is incredibly certain: there is absolutely no shortage of awe-inspiring, utterly diverse, and incredibly beautiful places to visit in the USA.

Our home country boasts one of the most incredible national park systems on the planet, along with a huge variety of cities, small towns, and other gorgeous places that ensure that a lifetime would not be long enough to see all of the best travel destinations in the USA.

… But that won’t stop us from trying to enjoy as many of the most amazing vacations in the United States as we can.

We teamed up with several other travel bloggers to put together this giant USA bucket list, and definitely added a few new spots to our personal list of places to see in the US in the process!

From coast to coast, city to countryside, here are the best places to visit in the USA.

Table of Contents

Best Cities to Visit in the USA

National parks + other beautiful places for a us vacation, beaches + islands for your usa bucket list, other beautiful places in the usa to visit.

antelope canyon in arizona with a beam of light streaming into the canyon

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New York, New York

From Disha of Disha Discovers

New York is one of the most iconic and beautiful cities in the United States and even the world.

It truly is a city that everyone should visit at least once in their lives even if it’s just for a quick weekend in NYC !

The tall buildings are mesmerizing and awe-inspiring, it’s home to some of the most exquisite museums and galleries in the world, and New York City is brimming with so much to explore and see.

Plus, NYC is a foodie’s heaven with cuisines from all over the world.

… And, these are only a few of the many reasons to visit this magnificent city.

kate storm standing at a magnifying glass on liberty island overlooking financial district manhattan

Some bucket-list-worthy things to do in New York City are to watch a play on Broadway, see the Statue of Liberty, hang out in Time Square, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, and take a stroll around Central Park.

A few museums to visit are the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met), the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, the Guggenheim, and the American Museum of Natural History.

Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, 5th Avenue, Empire State Building, and Chelsea Market are must-sees as well.

Whatever you decide to do in New York City , you’re in for a real treat!

This city will leave you feeling inspired and you’ll want to book another trip to come back!

kate storm spinning in front of manhattan bridge in brooklyn, a must see duing 4 days in nyc

Miami, Florida

From Veronika of Travel Geekery

Vibrant and colorful Miami is, without a doubt, one of the best places to visit in the US.

The downtown area merges into wonderfully diverse neighborhoods from Little Havana to Coral Gables.

However, most visitors to the vibrant yet laid-back city head to its beaches located on a long stretch of a barrier island.

South Beach especially is where the glamor’s at, topped by stylish Ocean Drive, which is lined with elegant Art Deco houses including Versace’s mansion, trendy restaurants, and nightclubs… the scene is pretty lively there.

Kate in a pink dress next to a blue Vespa on Ocean Avenue.

The beach itself features uniquely colored watchtowers spread around nice light sand. The waves are mostly mild. Pelicans like it here too and often float on the water near people.

Watching a sunrise on the beach belongs to one of the best experiences one can have in the area.

Miami City and its beaches can easily be visited  even without a car .

The public transport network and the ample ride/bike-sharing services make it an easy destination for any type of traveler.

Blue and yellor art deco lifeguard stand on South Beach in Miami, which is a must-see beach for your USA bucket list!

San Diego, California

From Maria of San Diego Explorer

San Diego is the perfect California beach city and a must on any USA bucket list.

Also known as America’s Finest City, San Diego has a lot to offer, whether you are looking for a beach getaway at one of the many beach resorts in San Diego , a fun time in the city, or a mix of both.

Here are some of the best things to do in San Diego!

In Downtown San Diego, there is something for everyone: from eating delicious Italian fare in Little Italy to visiting the Midway Museum to strolling through Seaport Village, and having a fun night out in the Gaslamp Quarter.

If you love the outdoors and animals, visit Balboa Park and the world-famous San Diego Zoo.  

cityscape of san diego california on a sunny day

And then, there are the beaches: San Diego has some of the best beaches in Southern California.

Some of the most popular ones are Mission Beach, Coronado, and the beaches in La Jolla.

You can relax on the sand, take surfing lessons, or ride your bike along the boardwalk for a fun day on the beach.  

San Diego has so much to offer and is simply a fun city, no matter what you are in the mood for. 

San Diego CA harbor with rows of sailboats in the foreground and the skyline in the back right of the photo

Austin, Texas

The Live Music Capital of the World and capital of the state of Texas is located in the heart of Texas Hill Country and offers a fantastic combination of excellent nightlife, plenty of outdoor activities and day trip opportunities, and truly phenomenal food.

Don’t leave without having at least one giant meal each worth of TexMex and barbecue!

While in Austin, be sure to visit trendy South Congress Avenue, watch the bats fly out from under the South Congress Bridge (if you’re visiting at the right time of year, that is), see a show, and go for a hike (or if it’s too hot, hit the lake!).

Want to get out of town?

Austin is within an easy day trip of natural swimming holes, Texas’ wine country, and adorable small towns.

Austin TX skyline with the South Congress Bridge in the foreground

New Orleans, Louisiana

Good food, good music, and good times: of all the best places to visit in the USA, NOLA definitely ranks toward the top of the list for places to go to simply have an amazing time.

There’s far more to New Orleans than Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street, and beignets, though.

With a dark and complex history heavily impacted by slavery and a constantly evolving modern culture, New Orleans deserves more than just partying during your visit–though there’s plenty of time for that, too.

While in New Orleans, be sure to listen to some jazz, learn a bit about the city’s history, visit the famous Jackson Square, head to the Garden District, check out the beautiful oak trees in City Park, and–this is very important–eat your heart out.

NOLA is indisputably home to some of the best food in the country–so good, in fact, that the food alone would be a good enough reason to add New Orleans to your USA bucket list.

For those interested in New Orleans’ spooky legends, a ghost tour through the French Quarter at night is also worth adding to your to-do list!

Street in NOLA French Quarter at night with neon lights from the bars lighting it up--don't miss a chance to experience the legendary New Orleans nightlife during your 3 days in NOLA itinerary!

Washington, DC

From Jordan of The Solo Life

One of the best travel destinations in the United States is the nation’s capital, Washington, DC.

With everything from museums to monuments to the White House and Capitol Building, DC has something for everyone .

In addition, DC’s public transportation and numerous free attractions make it a surprising destination for the budget-friendly traveler.

Kid-friendly options include the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and the National Air and Space Museum.

Art lovers will enjoy the National Gallery of Art or the Hirshhorn Museum for modern and contemporary art.

sunset on the national mall in washington dc facing the washington monument, one of the best places to visit on the east coast america

History buffs should check out the Library of Congress and the National Archives Museum.

Besides museums, the National Mall and Tidal Basin are must-visit locations to see the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, and Lincoln Memorial, among others.

The best times to visit DC include early summer before it gets too hot or in the fall once summer break is over.

Although extremely crowded due to the Cherry Blossoms, springtime is also a gorgeous time to visit.

No matter what time of year, Washington, DC is one of the best destinations to visit in the US.

Washington Monument in Washington DC framed by cherry blossoms in the foreground. Washington DC is one of the best places to visit in the United States

San Francisco, California

The city of hills, ocean views, and the famous Golden Gate Bridge is at the top of many people’s lists of bucket lists for the United States.

And, with an endless list of things to do that cater to all interests, why not?

Be sure to pay a visit to the touristed highlights that most interest you–Fisherman’s Wharf (and its adorable sea lions!), Alcatraz, walking across the Golden Gate Bridge, visiting the Painted Ladies (of Full House fame), and checking out Lombard Street.

Once you cross those highlights off your list, though, make time for a few less-obvious attractions, like San Francisco’s Japanese Garden, the Land’s End Labyrinth, and Fort Point.

And, of course, you can’t forget to go for a walk in the woods while visiting San Francisco!

Visiting the Muir Woods is an unforgettable experience worthy of your time on any weekend trip to the area.

Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco CA shot from above on a clear day

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia has been one of the coolest US cities to visit for centuries, and–like Boston–it features strong ties to the American Revolution.

This is where the Declaration of Independence and the Consitution were signed, touring Independence Hall and visiting the nearby Liberty Bell are among the best things to do in Philadelphia today as a result!

You can’t miss Philly’s food scene when visiting, either–from whoopie pies to Philly cheesesteaks, the city has a (literal) flavor all its own.

elfreths alley in philadelphia, one of the best places to vacation in usa

Start–but don’t finish–exploring Philadelphia’s food scene at the historic Reading Terminal Market.

Be sure to also make time to visit some of Philadelphia’s incredible museums during your visit, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of the American Revolution (we loved this one), and touring the dark but fascinating Eastern State Penitentiary.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is also home to another essential stop in this iconic East Coast City: the Rocky Steps.

And, if you’re willing to work up a sweat, definitely consider running up them yourself during your classic American vacation in Philadelphia!

independence hall in philadelphia on a sunny day with red and pink flowers in the foreground. attractions in usa things to do

Chicago, Illinois

From Wendy of The Nomadic Vegan

Chicago is the third-largest city in the US, and also one of the most ethnically diverse.

Its skyline reflecting off the waters of Lake Michigan is a sight to behold.

No matter what your interests are, whether it’s music, shopping, culture, art, or dining, you could spend months exploring all that Chicago has to offer.

On a shorter USA vacation, though, you can still see quite a few of the best sights in Chicago!

The city’s top museums include the Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Don’t forget to check out the many outdoor sculptures and other public works of art around the Loop, either.

View of Chicago IL skyline from willis tower skydeck, a must-see during a 3 day Chicago vacation

A walk along the Magnificent Mile will take you past upscale department stores and through Millennium Park, home of the famous sculpture known as The Bean.

A visit to Bronzeville, also known as “the Black Metropolis”, is a must to learn about the city’s rich African-American history.

Architecture buffs will be interested to know that this is where Frank Lloyd Wright established the Prairie School architectural style. You can find some of his earliest buildings here in Chicago.

You’ll work up an appetite walking the streets of this massive city. This is a good thing, because the restaurant scene here is amazing!

You can find pretty much any cuisine you could imagine, from stylish Japanese to homestyle soul food, and there are even lots of vegetarian and  vegan restaurants in Chicago .

Photo of Chicago train traveling on a bridge over car traffic--using Chicago's public transportation is the best way to get around on a Chicago weekend getaway!

Houston, Texas

From Thanh of The Traveling Asian

Houston, Texas is one of the coolest places to visit in the United States, and while an unexpected vacation option, certainly one that will impress.

After all, it is the 4th largest city in the USA and is often ranked as the most diverse city in the country!

Because of this size, you can expect there to be all kinds of things for you to see and do here in this city.

One of the most iconic places you must visit in the city is Space Center Houston.

There you can learn about NASA and space travel as well as take a tour around the famous mission control center. If you love space, then this place is for you.

sunset over houston texas skyline with pond in the foreground, one of the unexpected places for vacation in usa

Houston is also home to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo which is the biggest rodeo of its kind in the country.

There, you’ll be able to eat some delicious rodeo foods, pet some livestock, learn about animals, play at the amusement park, and even watch a concert by famous celebrities.

But aside from the attractions, Houston is known for its food. Since it is the most diverse city in the country, you can find just about everything available here in this city.

For instance, you can find Tex-Mex, Chinese, Ethiopian, Greek, and many other ethnic cuisines available all around the area.

So if you love food and all things fun, then Houston is definitely the place for you.

Skyline of Houston Texas as seen on a sunny day with a park in the foreground, Houston is one of the best weekend getaways in Texas

Las Vegas, Nevada

From Kimberley of Two Travelling Toques

If you’re looking for a cool place to visit in the USA, you can’t get much cooler than Las Vegas .

This well-known city has been depicted in numerous movies such as The Hangover and Ocean’s Thirteen as party central.

And if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll definitely find it in Vegas.

Long known as both the wedding capital for a quick place to get married, or the perfect spot to hold a bachelor or bachelorette party, either way, it’s the spot to bring your friends, let loose, and have fun!

Gambling has been a big draw to Las Vegas since the early 1930s, and there is no shortage of showy and extravagant casinos to choose from.

view of venice st marks square in las vegas, one of the best attractions long weekend in vegas getaway

Nightlife also takes center stage here.

From world-class musicians to top-notch magical acts, to dependable artists like Wayne Newton who have had a residency here for years. 

During the day, you can grab a fancy drink and chill by the pool. Or hit up one of the pool parties and listen to the headlining DJ.

Either way, be sure to bring lots of money for the high-end shops, ever-flowing drinks, and dazzling casinos looking to draw you in. 

Welcome to Las Vegas sign, one of the most popular weekend getaways in the USA

Savannah, Georgia

Without a doubt, the small but stunning city of Savannah, Georgia is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the USA.

Featuring absolutely stunning architecture, 22 of its original 24 town squares, endless oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, and some of the best food in the country, spending a few days in Savannah is bound to be a delight.

While you’re there, be sure to meander down beautiful Jones Street, check out Forsyth Park, hear some of the city’s most enduring legends on a ghost tour, enjoy views from River Street, and take in some of Savannah’s complex history at its various house museums and houses of worship.

Don’t forget to set aside plenty of time to eat!

Kate Storm in a black dress in front of a brick home on Jones Street during a long weekend in Savannah GA

While there are dozens of incredible  restaurants in Savannah , favorites include The Olde Pink House and The Grey for special occasions, The Collins Quarter for their legendary lavender mocha latte, and Leopold’s Ice Cream for a scoop of their famous Tutti Frutti ice cream.

Have enough time for a quick  day trip ?

Tybee Island –also known as “Savannah’s Beach”–is less than a 30-minute drive away, and while you certainly won’t want to swim in the summer, strolling along the sand and climbing the lighthouse are a treat.

Jones Street in Savannh GA with a green house in the left foreground and an oak tree on the right. Jones Street is one of the best Savannah photo spots

Los Angeles, California

From Trijit of Budget Travel Buff

Looking for the coolest place to visit in the United States?

Visit Los Angeles; a unique combination of the entertainment industry, gorgeous beaches, great food, and vibrant nightlife.

It is certainly not the cheapest place in California , but for the right travelers, LA is definitely worth the price tag.

Los Angeles is a large city full of tourist attractions that won’t let you stay idle.

If you are a beach lover, LA won’t disappoint you with its stunning beaches that include Malibu, Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach, Venice Beach, Hermosa Beach, and so on.

There are several fantastic museums in LA. LACMA is the most popular one for its diverse art collections and special exhibits.

Skyline of Los Angeles CA with palm trees in the forground, one of the best places to visit in the US

Some other renowned museums are the Grammy Museum, Natural History Museum, and Museum of Broken Relationships.

While visiting LA, you will notice entertainment at every corner of the city. You can see a concert or enjoy a ride at the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park.

If you rent a car in Los Angeles, go for a scenic drive along the Pacific Coast Highway that carves through the mountains of Malibu.

Los Angeles has some of the best restaurants in the US.

Once you are done with LA sightseeing, have lunch at any of these food spots – Diakokuya for ramen, Langer’s for a pastrami sandwich, Guisados for tacos, or pizza at Mozza.

aerial view of santa monica beach near los angeles, one of the best places to vacation in the united states

Seattle, Washington

Set right on the water with the dramatic backdrop of Mount Rainier, it’s no wonder that busy and beautiful Seattle is one of the best USA travel destinations.

When visiting Seattle, be sure to eat your way through Pike Place Market, head to the top of the Space Needle, visit the famous Chihuly Museum, and check out the fun and interesting Museum of Pop Culture.

Looking for interesting neighborhoods?

Head to Fremont, where the self-proclaimed unofficial motto is “des libertas quirkas”, aka “the freedom to be quirky”.

Hoping to spend some time outside?

Nestled in the heart of the magnificent Pacific Northwest, endless waterfalls, trails, and mountains–even Mount Rainier itself–are located within day-tripping distance from Seattle.

Seattle Waterfront with space needle visible through the ferris wheel

Charleston, South Carolina

Located just a couple of hours north of Savannah, Charleston shares a lot of similarities with its neighbor to the south.

Fantastic Lowcountry food, Spanish moss dripping from the trees, beautiful architecture, and lots of history to uncover are wonderful to appreciate in both Charleston and Savannah –but Charleston absolutely has its own distinct personality as well.

On your Charleston vacation, be sure to visit the beautiful and photogenic Rainbow Row, check out the tea-making process at the Charleston Tea Garden, visit the gorgeous and interesting Angel Oak Tree, stroll through Waterfront Park and Battery Park, and check out City Market.

Photo of Rainbow Row in Charleston SC, a must see during a 3 day weekend in Charleston SC

If you’d like to do some shopping while in Charleston, King Street is the place to go.

Those interested in US military history will no doubt want to visit Patriots Point to tour the former US naval ships docked there and Fort Sumter for its history (and views).

Beach lovers, don’t miss the chance to check out nearby Folly Beach and/or Sullivan’s Island!

Kate Storm sitting in front of the pineapple fountain in Charleston SC--choosing whether to visit Savannah or Charleston is no easy task, but we wrote this guide to help!

Orlando, Florida

As the theme park capital of the world, Orlando is one of the most popular places to visit in the USA for both domestic and international visitors, mostly on behalf of one iconic mouse.

As home to Walt Disney World , Orlando is a must-see USA bucket list item for many families across the world, and with four amazing Disney parks packed with rides, experiences, and intense amounts of nostalgia, it’s no wonder why.

Disney isn’t the only theme park game in town, though!

Universal Studios Orlando, home to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, is also a fantastic theme park to visit, and big roller coaster fans may even want to take a day trip to Tampa Bay to experience Busch Gardens.

Though the parks are a big draw for people visiting Orlando with kids and kids at heart alike, theme parks aren’t the only places to visit in and around Orlando.

The Kennedy Space Center, plenty of beaches, and even cool swimming holes like Wekiva Springs are within day-trip distance of Orlando.

Lake Eola Park in Orlando Florida with swams in the water and a skyline visible in the background. Orlando belongs on a bucket list for the United States

Portland, Oregon

Much like Austin, Portland proudly embraces its weirdness, celebrating the eclectic and bizarre in all possible ways–and that makes it endlessly fun to visit!

Bookworms like me will immediately head to Powell’s City of Books–I still think it’s the biggest bookstore I’ve ever visited–while foodies will want to head directly to the local ice cream obsession, Salt & Straw. 

Voodoo Doughnuts, now with a few locations nationally, also originated here and remains popular with tourists (though depending on who you ask, not locals–for what it’s worth, we’d rate the doughnuts 7/10).

During your weekend trip to Portland, make time to visit the Japanese Garden and the International Rose Garden, especially if you visit when everything is in bloom.

Plenty of incredible parts of the Columbia River Gorge, including famous Multnomah Falls, are also within easy reach of Portland and deserve to feature on your USA bucket list!

Photo of steal sign stating "portland oregon" in front of a blue sky, a must-see during 3 days in portland or

Nashville, Tennessee

From Apryl of Southern Traveling Gal

No doubt about it, there’s something about Nashville, that casts a long-lasting spell on travelers.

For travelers visiting Nashville, it’s not unheard of to plan a return trip as soon as the current one is over!

Only in “The Music City” is it possible to catch the latest exhibit at the Frist Art Museum, see a replica of the Parthenon and enjoy live music at venues along the Honky Tonk Highway.

For first-timers, touring country music icons like the Ryman Auditorium and the Country Music Hall of Fame is a must-do.

Don’t overlook artist-specific museums such as the Johnny Cash Museum and Glen Campbell Museum that provides a closer look at these music giants, either.

Much of Nashville’s allure lies within its distinctive neighborhoods, like the Gulch, filled with shops and restaurants.

Skyline of Nashville Tennessee at sunset overlooking the river, one of the most romantic getaways in the United States

It isn’t unusual to spot a long line or two here, typically featuring either people waiting in line to take a photo with the “What Lifts You” mural or getting into Biscuit Love.

Save some room for some barbecue from Peg Leg Porker!

12thSouth offers locally-owned boutiques, stores, and eateries. Also found here is Draper James, the flagship store of Reese Witherspoon’s clothing line.

Be sure to take home some cookies from Christie’s Cookie Company and snap a photo with the “I Believe in Nashville” mural.

Across the Cumberland River is the eclectic East Nashville. Don’t miss out on the mini doughnuts at Donut Distillery.

Depending on time, consider visiting Cheekwood Estates and Gardens, a 55-acre botanical garden, as part of your Nashville getaway.

Of course, no trip to Nashville is complete without hot chicken from Prince’s Hot Chicken or biscuits from Loveless Cafe, located near the Natchez Trace Parkway.

country band playing banjois in nashville tennessee

Boston, Massachusetts

From Linn of Brainy Backpackers

Boston is such a cool city to visit in the USA, rich in history, architecture, and food.

Along the waterfront, you can walk the 43-mile-long Harbor Walk.

But there is so much more to add to see during your trip to Boston, like the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile-long path taking you to 16 significant places in American history.

It is well marked and technically be walked in as little as 90 minutes, though you can download the app and visit each place which will take at least a whole day to complete.

Boston is home to the oldest public park in the United States, Boston Common, which is situated next to Boston Public Garden.

boston public garden in the summer, one of the best things to do in boston ma

You can wander the parks and enjoy a ride in the Boston Public Garden’s historic paddleboats.

Nearby, you’ll find the Boston Public Library at Copley Square, which is an incredibly beautiful Renaissance Revival structure from 1895 that you should visit.

You’ll also find the beautiful neighborhood of Beacon Hill nearby, as well as the trendy neighborhood of Back Bay.

For the best views of the city during your Boston itinerary , visit the Skywalk Observatory.

2 Days in Boston Itinerary: Beacon Hill

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

From Melissa of Parenthood and Passports

Yellowstone National Park is the oldest national park in the United States and one of the best places to visit in the entire country.

Known for its geothermal activity, more than half of the earth’s geysers are located in the national park which straddles the borders of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. 

Old Faithful is one of the most popular things to see in Yellowstone National Park .

The active and predictable geyser erupts approximately 20 times each day.

Visitors to the park gather around to watch the geyser blast hot water and steam into the sky.

Although quite impressive, Old Faithful is just one of many must-see geothermal features found in the park.

View of Grand Prism in Yellowstone National Park, one of the best places to visit in USA

One of the largest hot springs in the world, the Grand Prismatic Spring, is another popular attraction in Yellowstone.

Visitors can get an up-close view of the spring or take a short hike for a stunning overview of Grand Prismatic’s vibrant colors.  

Beyond all of its geothermal features, Yellowstone National Park also boasts beautiful waterfalls, crystal-clear lakes, rivers, and more than 200 species of animals.

Bison, deer, moose, wolves, and even bears live in the park.

Because of all the wildlife in Yellowstone, visitors are strongly encouraged to use caution when hiking or camping and to carry bear spray to protect themselves in the event of an encounter.

herd of bison crossing the road and causing a traffic jam in yellowstone national park, one of the best places to vacation usa

Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho

From Allison of She Dreams of Alpine

Idaho is often overlooked when it comes to cool places to visit in the US, but the tiny town of Stanley serves as the gateway to an abundance of outdoor adventures in the stunning Sawtooth Mountain range and along the swift Salmon River.

Although it has a population of less than 100, Stanley is easily accessible in a 3-hour drive from the main airport in Boise or about a 1-hour drive if you’re coming from Sun Valley.

The best way to explore the Sawtooth Mountains is on one of the many hiking trails.

The hike to Alice Lake is a perfect introduction to the area, and you can either do a 12-mile day hike or backpack the longer Alice/Toxaway Loop over the course of a few days.

sawtooth mountains idaho on sunny day with lake in the foreground, one of the best places to vacation usa

Whichever option you choose, you’ll discover gorgeous views of Alice Lake framed by the “Dragon’s Back” peaks of the Sawtooth Mountains, including Idaho’s own “El Capitan.”

For fun on the water, you can go fishing along the Salmon River or swim in Redfish Lake.

When you need some rejuvenation after your adventures, you can reward yourself with great food and drinks at the Stanley Supper Club and take a dip in the hot springs at the Mountain Village Resort.

Once you head home, you’ll surely find yourself raving to your friends about this hidden gem of a mountain town – unless you want to keep the Sawtooth Mountains and Stanley a secret for yourself!

Sawtooth Mountains Idaho with a lake visible on the left of the photo and mountain peaks in the background. These mountains definitely belong on your USA bucket list!

Oregon Coast

From Kay of The Awkward Traveller

The Oregon Coast is one of the most underrated travel destinations in the USA, but for those who love moody, dramatic scenery, it is the best place to be.

Although the actual coast isn’t very long (338 or so miles, about a 7.5-hour drive without stopping), it makes for a great weekend or longer trip with added stops.

Starting at the north end, about 2 hours outside of Portland, the city of Astoria will serve as your jumping-off point with picturesque bridges and locations from The Goonies.

Heading south, take a pitstop at the cheese capital of the state  –  Tillamook , Oregon.

One car driving along the oregon coast as shot from above

Visit the Tillamook Cheese Factory and gorge yourself on all things dairy before continuing on to stunning Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area.

The highlight of the coast will be Yachats, Oregon, with incredible farm-to-table restaurants that are dedicated to sourcing local sustainable fish, meat, and produce providers.

On the southern end of the coast, you can find sand dunes in Florence, and natural rock arches among the cliffs in Brookings.

If your tolerance for rain is low, summer will be the best season to visit weather-wise, while winter and spring will have smaller crowds and lower prices.

Oregon Coast at sunset looking toward Haystack Rock, one of the prettiest places in Oregon

Acadia National Park, Maine

From Ale of Sea Salt & Fog

Acadia National Park is one of the most beautiful national parks in the eastern United States, perfectly showcasing the beauty of the Maine coast.

Acadia has miles of hiking and biking trails, as well as easy coastal access for kayaking and sailing. 

When visiting, plan to spend at least  2 days in Acadia National Park  so you can make the most of your time there.

One of the best things to do includes watching the sunrise at Cadillac Mountain, where you’ll get stunning views of the islands that dot the coast.

Things to Do in Acadia National Park

Drive Park Loop Road to enjoy some of the park’s most famous attractions, including Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, and Jordan Pond (don’t forget to stop for popovers at Jordan Pond House!).

For hiking, choose a paved Carriage Road to take you down to one of the many picturesque ponds and lakes in the park.

Plan your visit in the fall to see the famous New England fall foliage in full display, or in the summer to enjoy long, sunny days perfect for hiking.

If you love the outdoors, add Acadia to your list of places to visit in the US – you won’t be disappointed.

Things to Do in Acadia National Park

Joshua Tree National Park, California

From Monica of This Rare Earth

Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California is an incredible destination in the United States. 

This desert ecosystem became a national park as recently as 1994, and it’s easy to see why it was chosen!

The Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert meet in the middle of Joshua Tree National Park, which means that you will see two very different landscapes depending on which half of the park you are in.  

The Mojave Desert is home to the famous Joshua Tree – a tall and spindly yucca – as well as giant boulders popular with climbers and hikers. 

The majority of the park’s hiking trails are found in this region.

desert landscape at sunrise in joshua tree national park, an excellent part of several of the best west coast road trips usa

However,  while planning your Joshua Tree National Park itinerary , it would be a mistake to skip the Colorado Desert at the southern end of the park.  

The Colorado Desert is hotter, lower in elevation, and flatter, but holds gorgeous landscapes full of cacti and, at the right time of year, wildflowers. 

 In the summer months, avoid strenuous hikes or leave early in the morning as temperatures can reach over 100 degrees.

Joshua Tree National Park is a designated Dark Sky Park, perfect for stargazing and well outside the bright light of the city.  

Joshua Tree is roughly 2.5 hours outside of Los Angeles.

Joshua Tree NP in California with a Joshua tree on the right side of the photo

From Chris of Called to Wander

Alaska is known as the Last Frontier, evoking adventure for those looking to travel to a truly unique place.

Because the state is massive, at over twice the size of Texas, you could spend as much or as little time exploring it as you have.

Many people take cruises through the Inside Passage and make stops in places like Ketchikan, Haines, and Seward.

Others fly into the main cities of Anchorage or Fairbanks and then rent vehicles and head off on their own adventures.

By far the best way to make the most of an Alaska vacation (though it requires a steep time commitment) is by driving to Alaska and spending as much time as you’d like wandering from one place to the next.

glacier in glacier np in alaska with water in the foreground and a mountain in the background

You can drive to the Arctic Ocean along the Dalton Highway, view North America’s largest mountain (Mt. Denali), or observe wildlife like caribou, grizzly bear, and moose.

Or, catch a flight out to a handful of the most remote national parks, or drive up to and hike out to massive, ancient glaciers.

If you enjoy fishing, go after halibut in Homer or salmon in the famous Russian River.

Regardless of what kind of travel you prefer, Alaska offers adventure for everyone and should definitely be on your travel bucket list!

Train along an Alaska mountainside with wildflowers in the foreground and a mountain in the background. Alaska is one of the most beautiful places in the us

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

From Dan of Cabin Critic

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the most popular national park in the US, hosting over 10 million annual visitors, and it definitely belongs on your bucket list for the USA.

Located in Tennessee and North Carolina, the park has diverse animal life, plants, and natural attractions. There are tons to do and see. 

If you are feeling adventurous you can go zoom down zip lines, go white water rafting, or go mountain biking. 

For a more relaxed trip, you can go on hikes, see beautiful waterfalls, or simply go for a scenic drive.

sunrise of great smoky mountains, one of the most beautiful national parks in the us

Cades Cove, for example, is a broad valley surrounded by mountains you can drive through that is well known for providing the best opportunities for seeing wildlife like white-tailed deer, black bears, coyotes, and more.

When you aren’t enjoying the outdoors there are numerous mountain towns to enjoy like Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, or Asheville .

Stay in  one of the cabins with a view  of the mountainsides and check out the local attractions like Dollywood in Pigeon Forge or the Biltmore Estate in Asheville . 

View of the Great Smoky Mountains during fall foliage season in the southern USA

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

From Michele of Adventures Abound

Just a 2-hour drive from both Portland and Seattle rest the foothills of the towering volcano Mount Rainier.

Known to the Indigenous since time immemorial, Mount Tahoma is covered in unimaginable beauty and can be enjoyed year-round. 

Visit in the summertime for hiking through meadows strewn with wildflowers of every color, and in the fall for ripening berries and a better chance to catch the trails and lakes free of ice and snowmelt on a variety of great day hikes just outside of Seattle .

To extend your visit overnight, pitch a tent in an established campground, stay in a rustic lodge in the national park, or backpack along the Wonderland trail that circumvents the park.

Not feeling up to a lengthy hike?

hiker in a field of wildflowers in mount rainier np with mount rainier visible in the background

Just driving through Mount Rainier National Park will afford endless views of waterfalls, glaciers, lakes, and even the chance to spot wildlife. 

For those thrill-seekers looking for a more challenging adventure, apply for a permit to climb more than 8,000 feet to the summit, but be aware this is only for experienced mountaineers.

Mount Rainier National Park can also be enjoyed in the winter when the park sees an average of 55 feet of snowfall or more.

Head to the Crystal Mountain gondola to catch a great view of the peak while skiing and snowboarding down the slopes, or pick one of many great locations to snowshoe and backcountry ski along the mountain.

Whatever the choice for season and activity, Mount Rainier National Park is sure to be full of memories and adventure in one of the most beautiful destinations in the United States.

Snowcapped Mount Rainier with wildflowers in the foreground, one of the most beautiful places in usa

Arches National Park, Utah

Home to over 2,000 naturally-occurring sandstone arches, Arches National Park in Utah is one of the most uniquely beautiful places in the USA.

Whether you’re hiking to the incredible Delicate Arch (so iconic that it’s featured on Utah’s license plates), wandering through the Devil’s Garden, or taking one of the shorter hikes to visit some of the most impressive arches in the park, there’s no shortage of things to do.

Even one day in Arches National Park is well worth your time, but more would certainly be better.

Arches National Park is also home to internationally-recognized dark skies and some of the best stargazing in the United States–in order to see the best of the park, be sure to visit at least once after dark!

And, while Arches National Park is easily one of the best places to vacation in the US in its own right, the nearby town of Moab also makes an excellent launching pad to visit Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park.

Double Arch in Arches National Park Utah

Olympic National Park, Washington

From Sophie and Adam of We Dream of Travel

Not only does Olympic National Park cover nearly a million acres, but it is also the most biodiverse of all the US national parks.

It has it all, from glaciated mountains to breathtaking coastlines, crashing waterfalls, ancient rainforests, enchanting hot springs, and plentiful wildlife.

With such a treasure trove of natural landscapes, Olympic National Park is easily one of the best places to visit in the US.

Mountain lovers should budget plenty of time to hike the trails of Hurricane Ridge.

Here you will discover stunning views above the clouds, as well as an abundance of wildlife.

Rocky Beach in Olympic National Park washington at sunset, a fantastic view along a west coast usa road trip destination

A great way to explore the park is on foot, particularly as much of the park is roadless. There are numerous multi-day hikes to choose from and it’s popular with backpackers.

The 17.4 miles Hoh River Trail is one of the most impressive, taking you through a flourishing rainforest to the base of Mount Olympus.

For coastal visitors, Second Beach is one of the best Olympic Park photography  locations and a perfect spot for sunset. 

However, with 73 miles of wild coastline, there’s plenty to explore!

There are endless options for the waterfall, forest, and nature lovers too.

In Sol Duc forest you can watch crystal water plunge into the lush greenery.

Or, you can choose to explore the vibrant green mosses of the Hoh Rainforest.  

No matter which part of Olympic National Park you visit, you will not be disappointed.

Forested trail in Olympic National Park with a river flowing across the photo. Olympic National Park definitely belongs on your USA bucket list!

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Stretching over a mile deep, the Grand Canyon in northwest Arizona is one of the largest–and most impressive–canyons on the planet, and one of the most popular places to visit in the USA!

Come to Grand Canyon National Park to admire views from the rim, hike into the canyon , watch the sunrise and sunset, and perhaps even hike all the way down to the Colorado River.

If you do want to hike to the river, though, be warned: doing so is a 2-day commitment!

Anyone taking a southwest road trip in the USA should consider adding a visit to the majestic Grand Canyon to their list: it’s truly a sight that you’ll never forget.

View of the Grand Canyon from the south rim near sunset. The Grand Canyon is one of the best USA travel destinations

Death Valley National Park, California

From Michelle of The Wandering Queen

One of the best places to visit in California is Death Valley National Park .

This park is filled with bright white salt flats, mountains splashed with pastel colors, and eerie rocks that move on their own.

This park is such a strange yet unique environment which makes it perfect for avid photographers.

One of the best things to do is to watch the sunrise at Zabriskie Point. The views are glorious as the sun slowly sets on the unique colorful mountains.

Afterward, make sure to hike the Golden Canyon, Gower Gulch, and Badlands Loop Hike. The trailhead is right next to Zabriskie Point.

mesquite dunes in death valley national park during a pink sunrise

Another popular activity is visiting Badwater Basin. The basin stands at 282 feet below sea level and is filled with white salt.

This is a great spot to take pictures of the salt in contrast with the tall, dark mountains in the distance.

Nearby the salt flats, you can visit the devil’s golf course where spikey salt formations cover the ground.

The next outstanding area to visit is the Artists Drive. The mountain is sprinkled with pastel colors like yellow, pink, purple, and green.

It truly is a spectacular thing to see!

Rocky Mountain National Park

From Jyoti of Story At Every Corner

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most gorgeous parks in the US.

It’s also easily reachable from Denver, Colorado, which has many flights from across the country, making it fairly simple to access and one of the most popular places to vacation in America!

The best place to stay is in Estes Park , a quaint little tourist town in the mountains.

There are many small towns all around the park and many choices for all price points. 

white and green shop in downtown estes park. shopping downtown is one of the best things to do in estes park colorado

The easiest way to visit RMNP park is by car.

You can then enjoy the park by making stops at each vista point and taking hikes from there.

Most stops have short and long hikes; easy and challenging hikes.

There is a hike for everyone, but there is also spectacular scenery right at the vista points, even without a hike.

Keep in mind that the popularity of Rocky Mountain National Park means that certain places, like Bear Lake Road, must be accessed via reservation.

Kate Storm standing in front of Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, one of the best places to visit in colorado

The most popular road that goes across the park is the scenic Trail Ridge Road.

If you don’t have time to visit anything else, I recommend driving Trail Ridge Road from Estes Park to the town of Grand Lake.

Other major attractions include Sprague Lake and Bear Lake, to the south of the trail ridge road.

They offer absolutely stunning views and many wildlife viewing opportunities along with the drives. 

There is so much to do around Denver that RMNP can be part of a week-long itinerary visiting Colorado  or a trip just for RMNP. 

jeremy storm in a gray backpack hiking in rocky mountain national park

Set in the Sierra Nevada Mountains along the border of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is easily one of the most beautiful places in the US.

With crystal-clear water and plenty of activities in and out of the water, from hiking to SUP to swimming, there is no shortage of ways to appreciate the otherworldly beauty of Lake Tahoe .

To enjoy the views of the lake itself, summer is definitely the best time to visit–but winter has its charms, too, including plenty of skiing and incredible views of the lake framed by bright white snow.

From romantic couples’ retreats to fun getaways to Lake Tahoe with kids , all kinds of travelers will find something to love about Lake Tahoe.

Lake Tahoe from above during the summer, one of the best USA travel destinations

Havasu Falls, Arizona

Located on Havasupai tribal lands not far from the Grand Canyon, Havasu Falls is simultaneously one of the most famous waterfalls in the USA and one of the hardest to access.

In order to visit Havasu Falls, you’ll need to secure an extremely competitive permit (they sell out months in advance) and complete a 10-mile hike in each direction.

You’ll also need to spend the night nearby, as it’s one of the permit requirements set out by the Havasupai people.

If you manage to swing both the logistics and the hike, though, the rewards are pretty spectacular.

Havasu Falls in Arizona, one of the most beautiful places in USA. Turquoise waterfall with orange walls surrounding it

Zion National Park, Utah

Home to some of what are quite possibly the best hikes in the country, Utah’s most-visited national park is absolutely one of the best places to see in the US.

Test your fear of heights (if you have one, that is) by hiking the incredible Angel’s Landing, and be rewarded with stunning views of Zion Canyon.

Venture deep into the Virgin River by hiking The Narrows , a hike that takes place literally in the river!

Seek out incredible views along Observation Point, the Canyon Overlook Trail , and the Watchman Trail.

Try to score a permit to hike the Subway, but if you can’t get one, don’t worry: there’s more to see in Zion National Park than you can cover in one vacation.

No matter how you spend your days at Zion National Park, there’s no doubt that you’ll be experiencing something worthy of a bucket list!

Kate Storm at the viewpoint at the Canyon Overlook Trail in Zion National Park Utah

Texas Bluebonnet Trail

California’s magnificent wildflowers may be a bit better known outside of the country, but Texas’ phenomenal spread of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes that decorate the countryside each spring absolutely belong on anyone’s USA bucket list.

Whether you choose to visit the official Texas Bluebonnet Trail near Ennis (not far from Dallas) or head to the Texas Hill Country , there is no shortage of places to admire bluebonnets in Texas.

Though the blooming times can of course vary a bit depending on the weather, late March and early April are generally the best times to experience the beauty of Texas’ bluebonnets.

Wooden cart parked in a Texas field surrounded by bluebonnets. Beautiful countryside like this close by many of the best weekend getaways in Texas!

Upper Peninsula, Michigan

From Emily of Em’s on the Road

If you’re looking for unforgettable outdoor experiences without the price tag of popular destinations out west, then the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is the place for you.

One reason the Upper Peninsula (or U.P.) is really unique is that it is an ideal place for adventure seekers all year long. 

In the warmer months, the U.P is a great beach destination in the Midwest thanks to its location with beachfront on Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron.

In the fall, pack your hiking boots and tackle rocky hiking trails for colorful views you’d never expect in the Midwest.

With an unobstructed panoramic view of Lake Superior, the hike up  Sugar Loaf mountain in Marquette, Michigan  is one of the most popular in the region.

Thanks to some serious snowfall, there’s so much to do in the U.P. in the winter months.

There are cross-country ski trails, snowmobiling trails, downhill skiing, dog sledding, ice climbing, and more. 

View of Lake Superior with a rainbow over it during fall foliage season on Sugarloaf Mountain in Michigan

Redwood National Forest

From Dhara of Roadtripping California

Most visitors to the Golden State put   California’s national parks at the top of their itineraries because they are just so spectacular.

Redwood National and State Parks, in the northern part of the state, offer you the chance to stroll among giant redwoods, some of the tallest and oldest trees on the planet.

A group of five parks, Redwood National and State Parks feature not just the towering redwoods, but also epic coastal views, beautiful prairies filled with wildflowers in season, and the chance to see birds and wildlife.

Enjoy some of the scenic drives in the parks: Howland Hill Drive, Coastal Drive, and the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway are all great choices.

Two people walking through a doorway in a fallen redwood tree in california usa

Do some of the trails through the redwood groves to see the giant trees up close: the Big Tree Wayside Walk, the Stout Memorial Grove Trail, and Lady Bird Johnson Grove are all super scenic and relatively easy walks.

Gaze up at the trees, and enjoy the ferns and rhododendrons in the understory.

You can also go biking in the parks, and camp if you plan to stay for a few days.

Redwood National and State Parks are about 5.5 hours north of San Francisco by road, and you can visit all year, although you will have the best weather in the summer.

Man standing in front of enormous Redwood trees with a sunflare in the top left corner of the photo

Apostle Islands, Wisconsin

From Jase of Roaming Vegans

A little-known gem in the north of Wisconsin is the Apostle Islands.

This island archipelago on Lake Superior looks like it belongs in Southeast Asia – not on the shoreline of a humble midwestern town.

However, its tucked-away location makes it all the more special for visitors.

While the lake freezes in winter, the islands come to life in summer with many activities like  sea kayaking , island hopping, and cliff jumping.

There is even an island home to one of the largest concentrations of bears in the Midwest–yes, bears!

The largest and most populated island is Madeline Island which makes for a great base to explore the nearby smaller islands.

sea caves as seen from the water at apostle islands, one of the best places to visit in the us

Maui, Hawaii

From Jessica of I’m Jess Traveling

Famed for her elegant beaches,  world-class resorts , and next-level surf, Maui attracts visitors from all over the world. 

It’s no surprise that Maui was named Condé Nast Traveler’s best island in the U.S. for 23 consecutive years. 

There are countless things to see and do in Maui depending on your travel style. 

For outdoor enthusiasts, hike through a majestic bamboo forest ending at a 400-foot waterfall.  

Ocean lovers can test their skills at surfing or set sail on a sunset cruise.

Bright blue water as seen along the Road to Hana in Maui, one of the best USA road trip itinerary ideas

There won’t be a shortage of exotic beaches to explore, no matter what your travel style is.

The adventure seekers have their pick among plunging the popular Road to Hana or watching the sunrise above the clouds at 10,000 feet inside Haleakala National Park. 

Whatever your draw, sunsets, beaches, luxury, or adventure, Maui has it all. 

Not only is Maui one of the best USA travel destinations but it’s one of the best places to take a tropical vacation in the world. 

Couple walking along Kaanapali Beach in Maui, shaded by a palm tree. Kaanapali Beach is one of the best beaches in America

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

For adorable beach towns, sandy beaches, and some of the best seafood you’ve ever eaten in your life, head to the classic New England summer getaway of Cape Cod.

While you’re in Cape Cod (or as New Englanders say, “on the Cape”), hit one of the beautiful trails, visit a lighthouse or two, stick your toes in the sand, and eat lots and lots of lobster.

While Cape Cod’s swimming season is much shorter than popular beach destinations elsewhere in the country, it’s still well worth visiting.

Just be sure to plan ahead, because rental houses for summer on the Cape tend to book up before winter even wraps up!

Provincetown Massachusetts on Cape Cod as seen from the water

Nā Pali Coast, Kauai

Towering cliffs covered in dense jungle, dramatic waterfalls, small valleys, and views of the Pacific Ocean far below: welcome to the Nā Pali   Coast.

Without a doubt, the Nā Pali   Coast on Kauai is one of the most beautiful travel destinations in the US.

Stretching 17 miles along the northwest portion of Kauai, the Nā Pali   Coast is best admired from air–usually via a helicopter tour–or from a boat on the sea.

Whichever option you choose, there’s no doubt that what is arguably the most beautiful corner of The Garden Island is bound to impress.

Na Pali Coast of Kauai Hawaii. Kauai is one of the best road trips in USA.

Florida Keys

For a taste of the Caribbean without leaving the USA, head to the Florida Keys!

Not only is the overseas drive from Miami to Key West one of the most scenic road trips in the USA, but the Keys themselves are also fantastic, home to beautiful beaches, colorful architecture, great food, and plenty of things to do.

While you’re there, be sure to hit the water via snorkeling or scuba diving, go for a swim, enjoy the famous Duval Street, tour the Ernest Hemingway House, and eat several slices of the region’s famous Key Lime pie!

Highway over the Caribbean Sea leading the to Floriday Keys as shot with a drone. The Florida Keys are one of the best places to visit in USA

Big Island, Hawaii

From Patricia of Travel Fam Life

The biggest of the Hawaiian Islands, Hawaii (also known as the Big Island) is a cool place to visit.

That starts with the weather: you’ll experience a lot of sunshine temperatures ranging from 85°- 90° in the summer months and 79°- 83 in the winter months, making it the perfect place to escape year-round. 

Hawaii is going to impress anyone that decides to visit.

The food is phenomenal and the choices are vast with plenty of history and cultural backgrounds.

The array of activities ranges from land to sea, from memorable ancient sites to beautiful folklore traditions. 

Some of the best things to do when taking a vacation to the Big Island include:

woman snorkeling in hawaii with orange fish in the foreground

Zip Lining over waterfalls is an activity that can be very exhilarating if you are an adrenaline junkie.

This can also be enjoyed as a family activity, some companies allow kids as young as 5 years old to participate.

Volcano National Park is a breathtaking experience with its majestic hikes, thrilling ride down to the Chain of Craters, and some spectacular scenery and photo opportunities.

Papakolea or Green Sand Beach is one of 4 green sand beaches in the world.

The hike to this remote beach is very worthwhile, and the backdrop of the Hawaiian blue ocean that keeps you company makes the whole experience priceless.

And the list goes on, you can check it out here .

Helicopter tour of Volcano National Park in Hawaii shot from inside the helicopter with lava visible through the windshield

Outer Banks, North Carolina

With sandy beaches framed by sand dunes and rolling waves, the Outer Banks of North Carolina may not boast the bright water of the Florida Keys or the tropical beauty of Hawaii, but they are stunning all the same, and absolutely one of the best places to visit in the USA.

Come for the small beach towns, the history of the Wright Brothers taking their first flight here, the southern food, the historic forts, and the beautiful lighthouses. 

Come for the sunken pirate ships, for the wild horses that live on some of the islands, for the great places to swim, and for the great day trip opportunities.

If you’re looking for a classic, all-American vacation, you can’t go wrong with a visit to the barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina that make up the magnificent Outer Banks.

2 wild horses on a beach in North Carolina. Both horses are brown and they are standing near sand dunes

Oahu, Hawaii

From Sydney of A World in Reach

While visitors sometimes think of Oahu as just being a stopping point before visiting Hawaii’s other islands, the island has so much to offer than overcrowded beaches and tourist attractions.

Oahu is home to delicious food, beautiful scenery, and captivating history and is one of the best travel destinations in the United States.

Most visitors to Oahu will base themselves in Honolulu, Hawaii’s capital and largest city.

Guidebooks often recommend spending little time in Honolulu; however, this city is a melting pot of culture and is home to some of the best food on the island.

Whether you’re looking for a traditional Hawaiian meal or some of the best Asian food in the United States, you can easily find a delicious meal in Honolulu.

Start your visit to Oahu off by exploring Honolulu, seeing the sights, and eating all of the delicious food.

oahu hawaii beach at sunset with palm trees in the foreground

Spend a day at Waikiki Beach – it might be touristy, but it’s still worth a visit.

Plan a visit to Pearl Harbor, where you can learn more about one of the darkest days in US History, and spend a morning hiking Diamond Head, one of the best hikes on Oahu .

Spend the rest of your time on the island exploring the North Shore, visiting the famous Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, and indulging in shave ice from Matsumoto.

Visit the beaches along the North Shore, where you might see some surfers catching waves, and hike through a botanical garden to a beautiful waterfall at Waimea Valley.

Lanikai beach in Oahu Hawaii as seen from above. One of the best beaches in USA

Napa Valley, California

Northern California’s wine country is definitely among the most beautiful–and for wine lovers, tastiest, places to visit in the USA.

With beautiful small towns, great boutiques, and rolling hills filled with vineyards that almost feel like being in Tuscany, both Napa Valley and Sonoma County have plenty to offer those looking for a laid-back, wine-filled getaway.

Vineyard in Napa Valley CA with a wood barn visible in the background, one of the best honeymoon destinations in usa

Door County, Wisconsin

From Paulina of Paulina on the Road

Wisconsin often isn’t the first US state that people think of visiting, but from beautiful beaches to quirky attractions like House on the Rock , it has plenty to offer.

One of the most beautiful USA landmarks, Door Country, Wisconsin welcomes you on board with 300 miles of stretched shoreline and an awestruck sunset over the water, you could not leave without a witness. 

It allows your soul to breathe and relax. Wisconsin lets you explore aesthetic art galleries, and thousands of miles of stretched orchards, cherish the local brews and wines, paddle along the beautiful lakes, and devour the cheery pies.

winding road through fall foliage in door county wisconsin, one of the best hidden usa secret vacation spots

Moreover, Green Bay, the capital of the region, is an underrated city that eventually captivates its visitors.

Though it’s a small city, the vibrant culture offers amazing  things to do in Green Bay .

Green Bay entertains visitors with prominent wineries. They produce their wines right up there which adds up to be a vital part of their culture. The landscape and heritage inspire the artists.

Walleye fishermen have the best water. It’s clean and portrays immense beauty. The botanical gardens and zoological parks play their role in charming travelers. 

Green Bay is an enchanting place that charms visitors with its intriguing features. 

Lakeshore at golden hour in Door County Wisconsin with evergreen trees on the right side of the photo

Route 66 isn’t technically just one place, but as one of the most iconic travel destinations in the United States, I couldn’t bear to leave it off this USA bucket list!

Stretching from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California, Route 66 is America’s best-known road trip and the perfect place to find not-quite-forgotten slices of Americana, from quirky roadside attractions like Cadillac Ranch and the Catoosa Whale to beloved diners and 50s-era-inspired motels.

Route 66 passes through nine states in total (Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California), and is a fantastic way to experience some of the best of what traveling in the US has to offer, all in one large trip.

jeremy storm sitting on top of a car at cadillac ranch in amarillo

Big cities, small towns, incredibly diverse landscapes, and beloved national parks are all featured heavily on Route 66.

Though it’s not technically on the route, even the Grand Canyon is accessible as an incredible side journey when road-tripping Route 66.

Whether you want to find a quirky campsite in Oklahoma or go hiking in Arizona, there’s no doubt that Route 66 is a classic US travel destination.

Route 66 in California with Joshua trees on either side. Route 66 is one of the absolute best road trips in USA

Big Sur, California

From Lauren of Ready, Set, PTO

Big Sur is one of the most beautiful places in the US and should definitely be on your bucket list.

Cruising along the winding Pacific Coast Highway with sweeping views of the Pacific is a magical experience.

This rugged area is located in Central California, about 5 hours north of Los Angeles.

If you aren’t able to find available lodging within Big Sur, check out nearby towns of Carmel and Monterey for more options, or try car camping with an epic view!

mcway falls as seen on big sur from above, one of the best places to visit in california

There are plenty of amazing  things to do in Big Sur .

I definitely recommend checking out the iconic Bixby Bridge (as seen in HBO’s Big Little Lies), admiring McWay Falls, hiking in Andrew Molera State Park, and Limekiln State Park, having a drink with a view at Nepenthe and watching the sunset at Pfeiffer Beach!

There’s not much cell service in Big Sur, so be prepared for an off-the-grid weekend of relaxation and gorgeous views.

Pacific Coast Highway California shot from above, one of the best romantic vacations for couples in the United States

Page, Arizona

The small town of Page, Arizona may seem like no more than a small town worthy of a brief stop on a road trip at first blush–but this small, unassuming town is home to some of the most incredible sights in the entire southwest, and it definitely belongs on your USA bucket list!

Page is where you can find the famous Antelope Canyon, as well as Horseshoe Bend , the Instagram darling of the Colorado River (for very good reason).

Just outside of Page, you can also find the remarkable Glen Canyon Dam, one of the largest dams in the US, as well as Lake Powell–but to see the best of Lake Powell, you’ll actually need to cross into Utah!

That’s not hard to do, though: Page is located right next to the Arizona/Utah border.

With such an outsized list of fun attractions, there’s no doubt that Page is one of the coolest places to vacation in the USA.

2 photos of the USA, first from a train ride in Alaska and one from a geothermic spring in Yellow. Black and red text reads "50 bucket list usa travel destinations"

About Kate Storm

Image of the author, Kate Storm

In May 2016, I left my suburban life in the USA and became a full-time traveler. Since then, I have visited 50+ countries on 5 continents and lived in Portugal, developing a special love of traveling in Europe (especially Italy) along the way. Today, along with my husband Jeremy and dog Ranger, I’m working toward my eventual goal of splitting my life between Europe and the USA.

3 thoughts on “USA Bucket List: 50 Best Places to Visit in the US”

Great info. I know its great because I have been to most of the beaches you mention!

Thank you – will also look at your Italian small towns to see which ones we should visit and maybe retire to.

Thank you so much, Laura!

Retiring to Italy–sounds like quite the dream! 🙂

Absolutely amazing article, just loved it.

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The Best Place to Visit in Every U.S. State

By Caitlin Morton

South Dakota

The best places to visit in the U.S. are as beautiful as they are diverse: Alaska's glaciers, Arizona's canyons, Arkansas's Ozarks...and that's only the first letter of the alphabet. Add to that a fascinating (albeit complicated) history, world-class museums , and a wealth of resorts and restaurants , and you have yourself a list of must-visits that's nearly impossible to cap off.

Picking our favorite things to do across the country wasn't easy, but we managed to distill the country's many sights into just out standout experience, per state (plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.). Of course, we’ve only begun to scrape the surface of what this country has to offer—so consider this your starting point for exploring. Read on for the 52 best places to visit in the U.S.

(Note: Not every item on this list is currently an option due to the COVID-19 pandemic . If you plan to hit the road in the coming months, make sure to check the website of the attraction you want to visit for up-to-date info, and read up on travel restrictions for that state . Or, simply bookmark your favorite activities for the future—this list will give you plenty to look forward to.)

This gallery was originally published in June 2015. It has been updated with new information.

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Best thing to do in Alabama: Pay respects to Montgomery’s history

Traveling to the South is complicated. It’s a region of the United States with plenty of attractions for tourists (not to mention some of the best food in the country), but, like much of the U.S., it hasn’t always owned up to its ugly past. But Montgomery is one city that is starting to find a balance between tourism and history, with cultural institutions like the Legacy Museum opening their doors among the chain restaurants and riverboat tours. “My time in Montgomery was a reminder of how crucial it is to cling to sacred remembrance and confront those ghosts of a troubled past,” writes Nneka M. Okona , an Atlanta-based travel writer, of her visit to the museum. “It’s a difficult space, but it’s also one where the act of remembering honors the struggles of the past—while leaving room for transformation and healing in the present.”


Best thing to do in Alaska: Go cruising for glaciers

Cruises to Alaska offer many of the same sights as Arctic tours in northern Europe—icebergs, whales, snow-capped peaks—but with slightly more forgiving temperatures (highs can reach the 60s on a good day from April to October). For a higher chance of some wildlife spotting, get on board the 2,376-passenger Norwegian Jewel for a seven-night southbound cruise through Alaska's Inside Passage. You’re all but guaranteed to see some bald eagles and grizzly bears from the comfort of your ship deck.

Antelope Canyon

Best thing to do in Arizona: Photograph the lesser canyons

Not to discount the grandest of canyons, but just look at the colors of Antelope Canyon in northeastern Arizona: It's a painter’s palette of rust red, ochre, and orange. A trip to this corner of Navajo Nation delivers the kind of up-close discovery of the state’s slot canyons that isn’t as easily experienced at the Grand Canyon. Take a 4x4 tour of Antelope Canyon, where you can photograph patterns as the sunlight filters through the striated stone, followed up with a boat ride in nearby Lake Powell.

The Momentary Museum Arkansas

Best thing to do in Arkansas: Seek out modern art in the Ozarks      

Bentonville probably isn’t the next Chelsea, but art lovers have had a new reason to visit Northwest Arkansas since the 2011 opening of the blockbuster Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Bankrolled by billionaire Alice Walton, it’s stocked with works from names like Thomas Hart Benton, Mark Rothko, and Andy Warhol. In early 2020, a satellite of Crystal Bridges called The Momentary also opened in downtown Bentonville, complete with 24,000 square feet devoted to the visual, performing, and even culinary arts.

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Best thing to do in California: Drive the Pacific Coast Highway

We'd argue that no American road trip is as iconic as taking Highway 1 south from San Francisco along California’s coast. A drive along the Pacific Coast Highway feels like a Springsteen song come to life—expect to see weekenders at the wheel of rented Ford Mustangs, accelerating out of hairpin curves like a runaway American dream. Throughout the nearly 500-mile-drive south to Los Angeles, the views rarely disappoint, especially if you take the 17-Mile Drive detour at Carmel, Bixby Bridge, and Big Sur.

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Best thing to do in Colorado: Catch an outdoor concert

The next time you find yourself in Denver , namely during the warmer months, head 16 miles west to the almost 900-acre Red Rocks Amphitheatre , which has miles of hiking trails, sandstone cliffs, and a geologically formed amphitheater that's hosted everyone from The Beatles to Stevie Nicks. While most concerts scheduled for 2020 have been canceled due to COVID-19, the venue is still hosting yoga sessions every weekend morning, and as of publication, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s September show is still a go. (See the entire calendar here .)

Autumn mist in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut


Best thing to do in Connecticut: Take a fall foliage-themed river cruise       

Connecticut often plays second fiddle to Vermont and Massachusetts when it comes to fall foliage , but don’t write off this New England destination quite yet. The state’s northwest is filled with state parks and hiking trails just begging to be photographed, like Mt. Tom State Park and the Deer Pond Farm Sanctuary in Sherman. Even procrastinators can get in on the action around coastal Connecticut, where the leaves change color about two weeks later than the north. if hiking isn’t really your thing, take a foliage-themed cruise down the Connecticut River with River Quest. (Pro tip: Make Winvian Farm , a luxurious 18-chalet retreat, your home base.)

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Best thing to do in Delaware: Get a heady dose of Italian Renaissance design      

Who knew Delaware houses one of the best examples of Italian Renaissance architecture in the country? Located in the northern city of Wilmington (just 30 minutes south of the Philadelphia International Airport), Hotel du Pont is a 12-story building from 1913, complete with 11 luxury suites and a playhouse theater. Design features like European chandeliers and frescoed ceilings almost make you think you’re in Florence , but the hotel’s location in the Brandywine Valley is one-hundred percent Delaware. Ascend the grand double staircase to take a long soak in your oversized bathtub, then drop in for a pre-opera dinner at the oak-paneled Green Room.

Overseas Highway Florida

Best thing to do in Florida: Drive 127 miles for a slice of pie

When you type in directions from Miami to Key West on Google Maps, it looks like the route sends you straight into the ocean. In reality, the 127-mile drive though the Florida Keys will send you on the Overseas Highway, with the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the Atlantic on the other. It's a great way to pay a visit to all of the Keys in one day—the drive from Miami to Key West takes just over three hours, which allows plenty of time to stop periodically for some memorable meals (try the key lime pie at Blond Giraffe in Key Largo). You could do a round-trip in one day, but we suggest staying the night at one of Key West’s best hotels .

Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah Georgia

Best thing to do in Georgia: Get spooked in Savannah

Savannah is one of the most beautiful cities in the South, with Spanish moss and porched houses around every turn. Yet there's no denying the town's eeriness —even daytime tours point out the deaths that allegedly occurred at mansions as you pass by. Take one of the many available ghost tours at night to see some of the creepier spots, like Colonial Park Cemetery, Bonaventure Cemetery (a setting for the book and film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil ), and the Mercer Williams house. Bonus: Your inevitable goosebumps will be a welcome respite from Georgia's heat and humidity.

Honopu Beach Kauai

Best thing to do in Hawaii: Take a helicopter tour of Kauai     

Kauai might be home to some of Hawaii’s best hidden beaches and tropical rainforests, but a whopping 70 percent of the island is inaccessible by land. The best way to appreciate the breadth and beauty of the island is via helicopter (arrange a ride with tour companies like Blue Hawaiian and Sunshine Helicopters ). Only by air can you truly appreciate the emerald valleys, jagged cliffs, and cascading waterfalls that cover the island. For truly epic views, go the Na Pali Coast route, and peer down at the impossibly deep chasms of Waimea Canyon.


Best thing to do in Idaho: Enjoy pure, unobstructed stargazing

Nearly 80 percent of North Americans live in areas where light pollution obscures most of the night sky. If you fall into that category, you may want to consider heading to central Idaho. In December 2017, the state became home to the U.S.'s first-ever dark sky reserve , a designated area that provides a pristine view of the cosmos. The reserve is 300 miles southeast of Boise, spanning 1,400 square miles of Blaine County, Custer County, and surrounding areas.

Chicago Pizza Tours  Original Chicago Pizza Tour

Best thing to do in Illinois: Spend 3.5 hours eating Chicago’s best pizza     

Chicago Pizza Tours are a fun and informative way to explore the city's most famous culinary export—and no other tour in town will leave you as well-fed. The activity typically consists of ten people (nine guests and one guide) getting into a van and visiting four of Chicago’s best pizza joints. Expect to eat somewhere around six slices of pizza, varying from the city’s signature deep-dish pie to the surprising thin-crust options at Pizano's .

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Best thing to do in Indiana: Visit one of the country's newest National Parks

In February 2019, the 15,000-acre Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was upgraded to the Indiana Dunes National Park, making it America's 61st national park —and the first-ever national park in the state of Indiana. The Indiana Dunes stretch for 15 miles along the shores of Lake Michigan, making it a popular spot for swimming (and even surfing) during the summer. It's also one of many beloved day trips from Chicago , reachable by car and the South Shore Line train from the city.

Historic Park Inn

Best thing to do in Iowa: Stay in a hotel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright   

In the heart of Mason City, Historic Park Inn is the last remaining Frank Lloyd Wright-designed and -built hotel in the world. Listed in the National Registry of Historic Places, the design is pure Prairie School-style—especially the dramatic lobby. The building originally served as both a bank and an inn when it opened in 1910, but competing hotels and financial crises in Mason City caused the Park Inn to decline over the next several decades, and it eventually closed down in 1972. Luckily, some 30 years later, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona, certified an extensive renovation of the interior and exterior of the building, which reopened to guests in 2011. We'd say "historic" is an understatement.


Best thing to do in Kansas: See sunflowers the size of your head

Who says you have to go to Tuscany to see endless fields of sunflowers? You can find equally gorgeous fields—without needing a passport—in Kansas, the Sunflower State herself. Every year from around August to September, Grinter's Sunflower Farm in Lawrence (about 30 miles west of Kansas City) attracts thousands of visitors to its grand sunflower farm. The 40 acres of blooms look incredible from every angle, but get up close to really marvel at the flowers, which you'll find are roughly the size of your own head—and nearly as tall as the average traveler, stretching between five and seven feet high.

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Best thing to do in Kentucky: Shop for massive hats before the Derby

Unlike our cousins across the pond, Americans don’t have many opportunities to sport enormous, ornate hats. That’s why the Kentucky Derby isn’t just a horse race—it’s a one-of-a-kind fashion show with millinery at the forefront. Between juleps, hit the shops in Louisville and pick out a brightly colored topper of your very own, then work your way through the downtown area (especially between Main and Broadway) and find an outfit to match.

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Best thing to do in Louisiana: Take a drag tour in New Orleans

Anyone with an interest in cultural studies—especially drag and burlesque—will have a field day with NOLA Drag Tours . The tours show the history of New Orleans through a queer lens, exploring the French Quarter and its immediate environs. While the guides are funny and fabulous, they don’t sugar-coat anything, retelling tragic events alongside inspirational stories. Information spans from the birth of Jazz to Voodoo queen Marie Laveau, to an entertainingly damning history of Andrew Jackson.

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Best thing to do in Maine: When in doubt, eat lobster

Maine is rife with small lobster shacks serving fresh-off-the-boat product, local charm, and quaint harbor views. But it's tough to top the drama of Cape Elizabeth's Two Lights area in all its Downeast glory, with its lighthouse, rocky shore, wave-chopped sea, and an old-school lobster shack that still makes everything by hand despite the summer crowds. Anything from the ocean is good here, but start with the classic lobster roll and fries. Grab a table near the water and wash your meal down with a local beer, followed by a homemade pie—blueberry, if it's August—and a stroll on the rocks.

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Best thing to do in Maryland: Watch baseball at the country’s most beautiful stadium

When Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened in 1992, it set a new bar for baseball stadiums around the country, with beautiful architecture, modern amenities, and a better experience for fans—and by that we largely mean roomy seats, at least by MLB standards. More than 25 years later, it remains one of the best places to see a ball game in the country (according to Ballpark Digest ) even when the O’s aren’t at the top of their game. Grab a BBQ pork sandwich from Boog’s Barbecue and a National Bohemian (call it Natty Boh to fit in with the locals), and don’t forget to shout a hearty “Oh!” during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

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Best thing to do in Massachusetts: Become a cranberry farmer for a day

If you've ever wanted to know what it's like to harvest cranberries, Mayflower Cranberries in Plympton has you covered. Paul Rubio describes the experience for Traveler : "You’ll put on a pair of overalls, grab a rake, and wade through the flooded cranberry bogs of rural Massachusetts, harvesting several tons of vitamin-rich red berries. This isn’t just for show—all locations are working farms and part of the Ocean Spray cooperative." Have any of your friends done that yet?

Mackinac Island

Best thing to do in Michigan: Experience a world without cars

A speck of land where Lake Huron meets Lake Michigan, Mackinac Island is one of the best (and cutest) little islands in the U.S. Motorized transportation is banned, so tourists and locals alike travel by horse and carriage or bicycle. It's anchored by the stately columned porch of the historic Grand Hotel , which is looking great for 131 years old. Hop on a bike and check out the natural rock formations, forests, and Victorian village, and don't you dare leave without filling your suitcase with fudge. (You can pretend it's a souvenir for your friends back home—we won't tell.)

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Best thing to do in Minnesota: Take a North Shore road trip

Minnesota is the 12th-largest state in the country in terms of landmass, but ranks only 21st in population. That means the state is full of wide-open spaces perfect for a leisurely road trip , specifically along the picturesque North Shore. Plan a trip for spring, summer, or autumn (skip winter—it really is as cold as people claim) that starts in Duluth, stretches across Lake Superior, and ends in Grand Portage National Park just south of Canada. During the four-day drive, you can expect stunning views, quaint hotels, and some of the best donuts you’ll ever eat.



Best thing to do in Mississippi: Explore the movement that changed the nation

Open since December 2017, the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson sheds light on the state's history, ranging from prehistoric times to the modern age. The museum's primary focus is the Civil Rights Movement, though, displaying objects like the mug shots of every freedom rider who was arrested in Mississippi, and monoliths engraved with the names of known lynching victims.

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Best thing to do in Missouri: Eat your body weight in BBQ

Kansas City has been known across the country as a bona fide BBQ destination long before the Fab Five took to its streets. The American Royal World Series of Barbecue will celebrate its 41st anniversary this September, but you don't have to wait until then to fill your bellies with pulled pork and brisket. Devote a weekend trip to hopping among some of the city's best BBQ joints, from Joe's KC to Jack Stack to Gates . If you only have time for one meal, go to Q39 and order the sliced burnt ends, tender and flavorful cubes of beef which Q39 waiters are known to (perfectly) describe as "meat marshmallows."

The Resort at Paws Up

Best thing do in Montana: Get a taste of dude ranch life—celebrity-style

Western-inspired comforts, world-class cuisine, and secluded accommodations normally akin to five-star resorts: This is what dude ranch life looks like in 2020. As Jordi Lippe-McGraw reported for Traveler , guest ranches in Big Sky Country are the next luxury getaway, drawing the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and members of Taylor Swift's squad in recent years. See what all the fuss is about at Montana resorts like The Ranch at Rock Creek in Philipsburg, with 6,000 acres of rugged wilderness and horseback riding mixed with spa treatments and chef-created meals; or The Resort at Paws Up (Gwyneth's fave), where you can choose between luxury cabin rentals and glamping tents.

Scotts Bluff National Monument Nebraska

Best thing to do in Nebraska: Travel the actual Oregon Trail

For many, an Oregon Trail experience involves pixelated pioneers dying of dysentery on the namesake computer game. But you can get a real-life taste of the pioneer experience by taking a drive through western Nebraska. The Cornhusker State is perfect for summer road trips , with the average temperature hovering around 87 degrees in July and August and plenty of roadside attractions worthy of lengthy pit stops. Among them is Scotts Bluff National Monument, once a stop on the actual Oregon Trail , that now welcomes visitors with vast plains, covered wagons, and epic landmarks like Chimney Rock.

Aerial view of Las Vegas Strip

Best thing to do in Nevada: Get an aerial view of Sin City

The most awe-inspiring experiences in Vegas are those that let you truly see the feat that is Las Vegas . Sundance Helicopters offers a number of scenic tours, but the evening one, which takes you high above the lit-up Strip, is the absolute best. If you can, book a trip that circles The Strip right as it gets dark, so you're in the air at the moment when all the lights come on; it's incredibly dramatic, even in a city that is no stranger to over-the-top performances.

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New Hampshire

Best thing to do in New Hampshire: Try your hand at winter surfing

Not for the faint of heart, winter surfing has replaced skiing as the state’s trendiest cold-weather sport. “It isn’t as consistent as some places out west, and it definitely isn’t as warm as Hawaii,” writes Todd Plummer for Traveler , “but from hurricane season in the fall through March (and whenever a blizzard pummels the coast), the surfing here can be as good as or even better than anywhere else in the U.S.” Sure, you have to wear a thick suit and Vaseline on your face, but you’ll be rewarded with six- to ten-foot surf that pros swear is among the best they’ve ever experienced.

New Jersey

Best thing to do in New Jersey: Order a "regular sub" in Atlantic City

Hoagie, hero, sub: In New Jersey, the sandwiches have as many names as toppings. In Atlantic City, be sure to order the "regular sub" (an Italian hero) at a booth in the White House Sub Shop—where everyone from The Beatles and Frank Sinatra to Mohammed Ali and Shakira have come for what is possibly the world's best sandwich. The Daily Meal ranked the Italian hero #11 in a round-up of America’s best sandwiches in 2017, describing the sub as follows: “Genoa salami, provolone, ham, and capicola are piled onto a soft and chewy Italian loaf, topped with lettuce, tomato, sliced onion, chopped roasted peppers, Italian seasonings, oil, and vinegar...There’s almost always a line around the block at this place, but the wait is well worth it.” Sign us up.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Best thing to do in New Mexico: Wave to a seven-story-high Darth Vader

Known as “the most photographed event in the world,” the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta does not disappoint, offering families and travelers the chance to get up close with hundreds of seven-story balloons ranging from cute animals to Darth Vader. Editor Meredith Carey offers the following advice for travelers : "The key to making the most of the balloon festival? Waking up before dawn. Events start at 5:45 a.m., with the first balloons lighting up the still-dark sky to show other pilots what the wind conditions are like. We'd recommend leaving your hotel or Airbnb even earlier (or take an Uber), as parking lines can get hairy, even at 5:00 a.m."

New York

Best thing to do in New York: Cruise the Hudson

The term "river cruise" usually conjures up images of the Danube and Amazon, but some of the best routes are right here in the good old U.S. of A. New Yorkers, in particular, luck out with their proximity to the Hudson. Operator American Cruise Lines offers weeklong sailings from the city up to Albany, showing passengers the kaleidoscopic natural beauty of the Hudson River Valley and Catskill Mountains. Book a room to view sites like the Vanderbilt Mansion and Sleepy Hollow from your spacious stateroom balcony. (Voyages are planned annually in September and October.)

North Carolina

North Carolina

Best thing to do in North Carolina: Head to the Outer Banks

North Carolina’s Outer Banks (or OBX, according to many a bumper sticker) are some of the most gorgeous beaches in the U.S. And there’s still plenty to do if you take a break from sunbathing, including the North Carolina Aquarium in Roanoke, the memorial commemorating the Wright Brothers’ historic first flight in Kitty Hawk, and a series of iconic lighthouses, including the famous barbershop pole-style swirled one at Cape Hatteras. End the day with fried oysters in Nags Head—this is the South, after all.

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North Dakota

Best thing to do in North Dakota: Experience the magic of The Enchanted Highway

Street art has another meaning in North Dakota, where 32 miles of otherwise unremarkable highway has become an art gallery. Driving The Enchanted Highway, from the town of Regent to just east of Dickinson, means spotting a collection of the world’s largest scrap metal sculptures, by local artist Gary Greff. The many roadside artworks date back to 1991, with more still in progress.


Best thing to do in Ohio: Eat burgers in Columbus

Known widely as the home of Ohio State University, Columbus has plenty to share—especially when it comes to burgers (it's where Wendy’s first got its start, after all). Stop by the rustic Thurman Café, serving over-the-top burger masterpieces dripping with egg yolk and melted cheese. For a neater option, there’s the Columbus-based chain, Northstar Café, where the superstar is (surprisingly) the beet-and-bean veggie burger. On the other end of the spectrum is dive bar Johnnie’s Tavern, where the greasy bar burger has been perfected.

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Best thing to do in Oklahoma: Search for Art Deco treasures

Tulsa has one of the country’s densest concentrations of Art Deco buildings, including the stunning Boston Avenue United Methodist Church (completed in 1929), 11th Street Arkansas River Bridge (1917, renovated 1929), Gillette-Tyrell Building (1930), and the Oklahoma Natural Gas Building (1928). The Tulsa Foundation of Architecture offers guided tours of downtown’s most impressive structures at 10 a.m. on the second Saturday of each month.


Best thing to do in Oregon: Drink the best wine outside of Burgundy

An easy day trip from Portland , Willamette Valley is a wine collector's paradise set in a beautiful rolling countryside setting. Get a taste of the Old World at Domaine Serene —the least "Oregon" winery in Oregon. The clubhouse has big windows affording incredible views of the green landscapes, and the wines exude Tuscan and French influences. Another option is Stoller Family Estate , a must for all lovers of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

United States Pennsylvania Philadelphia Market Reading Terminal Market


Best thing to do in Pennsylvania: Eat your way through Reading Terminal Market

For more than 100 years, this food market in Philadelphia ’s Center City neighborhood has catered to the gustatory whims of both locals and tourists. It remains one of the best places in the city to grab a bite, like the roast pork and broccoli rabe sandwich at DiNic’s, or a hearty plate of eggs and scrapple (a local pork delicacy) at the Amish diner Dutch Eating Place. And be sure to load up on only-in-Philly specialties, like Famous 4th Street cookies, or an apple fritter from Beiler’s Bakery.

San Juan Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico

Best thing to do in Puerto Rico: Explore Old San Juan     

More than a year after Hurricane Maria made landfall, Puerto Rico has not only recovered—it’s been reborn. You can find world-class beaches all over the island, but PR is perfect for architecture lovers as well: Old San Juan remains one of the best-preserved examples of Spanish Colonial architecture in the Caribbean, with brightly painted buildings and cobblestone streets that have inspired a thousand Instagram shots. When you’re ready to take a break from the streets, stop by La Factoría for a perfectly crafted cocktail in a speakeasy setting. The signature drink, the Lavender Mule—a mix of vodka, ginger beer, and homemade lavender infusion—is the perfect way to transition from afternoon sightseeing to a night out.

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Rhode Island

Best thing to do in Rhode Island: Sail like you're in the America's Cup

Take a two-day private charter on a historic America’s Cup yacht, sailing from Newport to Block Island (with a clambake and overnight stay on land) and back. 12 Meter Charters owns two boats: The Columbia , first winner of the race in Rhode Island in 1958, and the beautiful, wooden-hulled Heritage from 1970. The company will hook you up with a sailing crew (you can either participate in hoisting the sails and steering the boat, or enjoy the views while the staff takes care of everything), and they’ll even arrange beverages and catered breakfast, lunch, or hors d’oeuvres to customize your day on the water.

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South Carolina

Best thing to do in South Carolina: Visit an island with no street lights

Daufuskie, a car-free historic island off Hilton Head, was once considered the Martha’s Vineyard of the South. Now it’s far more accessible than in the past, and you can stay right on one of its beautiful beaches in either a converted mansion or an old lighthouse. It's also an outpost of the Gullah community, a well-preserved, African-derived culture cultivated by emancipated slaves who moved to the remote barrier islands more than two centuries ago. One such community member is Sallie Ann Robinson, a cookbook author and tour guide, who takes visitors down bumpy dirt roads to show them old schoolhouses and restored Gullah homes, some of which now serve as vacation rentals. You can even book a cooking class with Robinson (info on her website ) to make local specialties like smuttered shrimp and grits and Lowcountry ox-tail stew.

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South Dakota

Best thing to do in South Dakota: Experience the beauty of the Badlands

With stiff competition like Yosemite and Yellowstone , the Badlands of South Dakota may not be your first choice when it comes to camping in a national park. But its two campgrounds (Cedar Pass and Sage Creek) are open year-round, offering regular access to the largest stretch of prairie wilderness in the country—home to roaming bison and sheep—and one of the most spectacular night skies you may ever see.

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Best thing to do in Tennessee: Treat yourself at Blackberry Mountain

Situated in Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains, Blackberry Mountain is our current favorite place in the country for a spa weekend . The newly-opened resort brings new meaning to the term "wellness retreat" with forest bathing excursions, produce-forward dishes, and bathtubs overlooking surroundings that could launch a thousand John Denver songs.


Best thing to do in Texas: Trade bird watching for bat watching

Every evening from March through November, crowds line up along Austin 's Congress Avenue Bridge for a spectacle that perfectly sums up the city's quirky, only-in-Texas vibe: 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats flying out from under the bridge during sunset, a show that lasts for nearly 45 minutes. If you can, pair your viewing with another activity downtown—not difficult, as this part of town is packed with BBQ joints and delightfully divey bars —it's even more worth making the time to watch.

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Best thing to do in Utah: Tour the Mighty Five

No road trip in the U.S. is more visually mind-blowing than a tour of the Mighty Five —the tight cluster of national parks in Utah that include Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands. Whether you start in Salt Lake City and work your way south, or head east from Las Vegas, it's possible to hit all the parks in three days. But if you can, we suggest taking off work for two weeks and really going for it, knocking around the Mars-like formations of red rocks and hitting as many little museums and restaurants as you can between each park.

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Best thing to do in Vermont: Go dog sledding (with a clear conscience)

There’s no shortage of mushing activities throughout N ew England during winter , but at northern Vermont's Eden Ethical Dogsledding in Eden Mills, the welfare of the dogs is top priority. Meet and cuddle the “Un-chained Gang”—a group of more than 35 sledding dogs—before they whisk you along an extensive, private trail network paved exclusively for sledding. Eden Mills is a scenic drive and a reasonable distance from all of northern Vermont’s principal winter destinations, like Stowe, Jay Peak, Smuggler's Notch, and Burlington.


Best thing to do in Virginia: Get out of the city and into nature

Getting out of D.C. to the Shenandoah National Park is a special treat. This part of Virginia extends along the Blue Ridge Mountains, with Skyline Drive running its length. There are natural wonders, like caverns and natural bridges and lookouts along the way, but make time for a few stops in this welcoming part of the state. In charming towns like Luray or Staunton you'll find cute places to stay, eat, and shop, and in all, this drive—ideal for leaf-peeping in fall—isn't so long or arduous to wear you out.

USA Washington Olympic National Park Hoh Rain Forest Hall of Mosses Trail with Big leaf maples

Best thing to do in Washington: Stand in the middle of a rainforest

Honestly, you'll be happy anywhere in Washington's Olympic National Park—but we do suggest you make it a priority to walk through the Hoh Rain Forest. It's one of the only rainforests in the U.S., complete with lichen-shrouded trees and fungus-covered logs that make you forget which country you're in for a moment. Even better? The Hoh River Valley is home to the quietest spot in the contiguous 48 states, according to Gordon Hempton, an expert acoustic ecologist.

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Washington, D.C.

Best thing to do in Washington, D.C.: Spend the entire afternoon at the best Smithsonian museum

You really can’t go wrong when it comes to choosing museums in Washington, D.C. But if you only have one afternoon to spare, devote the entire time to the National Museum of African American History and Culture . The Smithsonian’s latest installation is moving from the second you see the exterior covered in metal latticework until the moment you leave, thanks to thoughtful curation of photographs, videos, and artifacts that act as a moving tribute to some of the darkest times in American history.

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West Virginia

Best thing to do in West Virginia: Spend the night in a treehouse

West Virginia is home to some of the best stargazing east of the Mississippi. With 1,500 campsites across 27 state parks and forests, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to sleeping options: set up a tent, park your RV, cozy up in a yurt from Spruce Knob Mountain Center, or even stay in the Thorny Mountain Fire Tower (basically a bug-free treehouse) located at Seneca State Park.

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Best thing to do in Wisconsin: Fill up on cheese curds

Oddly-shaped blobs separated from the rest of the cheese during the molding process, cheese curds are the secret snack of Wisconsin . On their own, they taste milky and salty, but you’ll also find them flavored with Cajun, taco, or buffalo seasonings. Try them straight up, deep fried, or atop fries and slathered with gravy, poutine-style—but whatever you do, eat the curds within 12 hours of them being made. (The rubbery squeak will let you know they’re just right.) To treat your taste buds real nice, pair the deep-fried curds with New Glarus brews at Wisconsin Cheese Mart in Milwaukee, or eat them at The Old Fashioned in Madison.

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Best thing to do in Wyoming: Skip the crowds at Yellowstone by visiting in the winter

It’s no secret that Yellowstone National Park is one of the most magnificent sites in the entire country—but all that beauty tends to get dampened during the summer, when hoards of tourists swarm the park, slowing down traffic and blocking your views with their cameras. We recommend paying a visit between the months of November and February, when there are virtually zero crowds, but an entirely new (and beautiful) light is shed on the park. There are more wildlife viewing opportunities, the deep blues and oranges of the thermal features pop against the white snow, and the steam billowing from the hot springs covers the landscape with an ethereal mist. Plan to stay for a few days at the Old Faithful Inn (the only property open during the winter), complete with a cracking lobby fireplace and complimentary cookies and hot cider every afternoon.

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Nomad by Trade

The Ultimate Mid-Atlantic Bucket List

North America , United States

Collage of Mid-Atlantic vacation ideas with text overlay

The Mid-Atlantic region of the United States – Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia – is home to some of the country’s top historic and cultural sites . This bucket list contains everything from New York City’s most famous locations to the spot where the Declaration of Independence was signed to the US Capitol Building to whitewater rafting. Along the way you’ll see fantastic scenery, try some very good food, and maybe just learn a thing or two about American history. If you’re looking for Mid-Atlantic vacation ideas, this list has everything you could dream of.

  • 1.1 Visit beautiful Cape Henlopen
  • 1.2 See the site where Delaware became the first state
  • 2.1 Camp on the beach with wild horses
  • 2.2 Eat some famous Maryland crab cakes
  • 2.3 Explore the marine life, history, and food of the Inner Harbor
  • 3.1 Explore the famous Atlantic City Boardwalk
  • 3.2 Visit Thomas Edison National Historic Park
  • 4.1 Visit the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor
  • 4.2 Bike through iconic Central Park
  • 4.3 See a show on Broadway
  • 4.4 Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
  • 4.5 Explore New York City’s most famous art museums
  • 4.6 Get up close and personal with Niagara Falls
  • 4.7 Visit the Baseball Hall of Fame
  • 4.8 Tour the USS Intrepid aircraft carrier
  • 4.9 Visit Women’s Rights National Historic Park
  • 5.1 See where the Declaration of Independence was signed
  • 5.2 Hike the beautiful waterfalls of Ricketts Glen
  • 5.3 Tour historic Eastern State Penitentiary
  • 5.4 Enjoy a nature break at the Delaware Water Gap
  • 5.5 Satisfy your sweet tooth at Hersheypark
  • 5.6 Get a taste of the Great Lakes at Presque Isle
  • 5.7 Have some hands-on fun at the Carnegie Science Center
  • 6.1 Visit Arlington National Cemetery
  • 6.2 Take a scenic drive through Shenandoah National Park
  • 6.3 See where the final battle of the American Revolution was fought
  • 6.4 Visit a living history museum in Colonial Williamsburg
  • 6.5 See marine life on a dolphin watching cruise
  • 7.1 Visit the world class museums of the Smithsonian Institution
  • 7.2 Tour the United States Capitol Building
  • 7.3 See the Declaration of Independence and Constitution in person
  • 7.4 Explore the monuments at the National Mall
  • 7.5 See the cherry blossoms in the spring
  • 8.1 Experience the legendary white water rafting and scenery at New River Gorge
  • 8.2 Visit Harpers Ferry National Historic Park

Note: This post contains affiliate links, and should you choose to make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Things to do in Delaware

Visit beautiful cape henlopen.

Lewes, Delaware

Sandy beach at Cape Henlopen in Delaware

By Tara from Back Road Ramblers

Cape Henlopen State Park is located on the Atlantic coast in Lewes, Delaware. This gem of a park encompasses 5,193 acres of sandy beaches, expansive marshland, woodland trails, and historic sites .  The Cape Henlopen Beaches are some of the most popular in the state, but there is way more to do than swim in the ocean or relax on the beach. You could spend a week here and not run out of amazing things to do.

If you do want to maximize your time on the shore, you’ll be impressed with Cape Henlopen’s beaches. There’s a swimming beach, a special surfing beach, a beach just for fishing, and a lovely bayside beach with quiet water for the families with littles. Free bike rentals make it easy to explore this huge park, and the Pinelands Nature Trail is a lovely way to spend the afternoon. You can also climb the observation tower at sunrise, rent kayaks for frolicking in the bay, visit the World War II bunkers at Fort Miles, or visit the nature center and aquarium. Tent and RV camping is available, as well as cute camping cabins for those who don’t want to rough it.

Bottom line? Cape Henlopen State Park is as lovely as any on the Atlantic Coast, and there’s plenty of room to spread out and explore. Find out more on the official site .

See the site where Delaware became the first state

Dover, Delaware

Brick historic tavern - Golden Fleece in Dover, Delaware

Delaware is known as the First State because it was – you guessed it – the first state to ratify the United States constitution in 1787. After it was written and signed in Philadelphia, it was presented to the states for ratification. Delaware had its convention at the Golden Fleece Tavern on the historic Green and as its delegates were the first to ratify the new Constitution , it officially became the first of the United States. The Green was also the site where the Declaration of Independence was first read aloud to the citizens of Delaware.

The Green and a few historic buildings are now preserved as part of First State National Historic Park , one of the newest National Park Service sites in the country. The park seeks to preserve Delaware’s colonial history, and also includes sites in Wilmington, New Castle, and Lewes.

Things to do in Maryland

Camp on the beach with wild horses.

Assateague Island, Maryland

Woman on a beach with two wild horses on Assateague Island

Photo by Taima from Poor in a Private Plane

So you have decided to go on a camping trip. Except you are not in the woods. You are on the beach. And you are waking up to the sound of wild horses playing in the ocean as the sun rises. This is Assateague Island. The 37-mile barrier island, which is located in both Maryland and Virginia, is a hidden gem and must visit. It is easy enough to make a day trip to the island however spending a few days camping out on the beach is an experience that everyone should try at least once.

Camping on Assateague Island is only permitted on the Maryland side of the Island. There are two campgrounds to choose from. One is managed by the State of Maryland while the other is managed by the Assateague Island National Seashore.  The state side offers warm showers and flushable toilets. The national side only has cold water showers (which are great in the summer), however it is less crowded.

Whether you are visiting for the day or staying the weekend, there is so much to see and do on the Island. You can spend a lazy day on the beach, go clamming or crabbing on the bay, explore miles of hiking trails, go kayaking on the bay. And the best part: take in the beauty of the wild horses that call Assateague Island home.

Assateague Island is a magical place. If you are looking for an alternative to a traditional beach holiday, pack up your camping gear and head to this beach. Find out more on the park’s official site .

By Taima from Poor in a Private Plane

Eat some famous Maryland crab cakes

Various locations in Maryland

Plate with crab cakes, corn, and a lemon

Photo by Stella Jane from Around the World in 24 Hours

Maryland is a small state, but its residents can still find plenty to disagree about. After all, it was famously divided during The Civil War, and the state flag shows the colors of both the Union and Confederate sympathizers. But one thing that does not divide Marylanders is their love of crab cakes. It is traditional to use blue crab meat because the blue crabs are so abundant in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. According to many sources, the first person to associate the crab cake with Maryland in print was Crosby Gaige, who put a recipe for “Baltimore Crab Cakes” in 1930s New York World’s Fair Cookbook. But of course you can get proper Maryland crab cakes anywhere in the state, not just Baltimore.

My favorite place to get a crab cake is O’Leary’s Seafood in Annapolis because their cakes have very little breading so you get the full flavor of the fresh crab. But if you’re looking for a fun twist on the tradition, try the crab pretzel at Davis’ Pub in Annapolis’s neighbor, the Maritime Republic of Eastport, Maryland. Enjoy your crab cakes however you like – just don’t forget the Old Bay Seasoning !

By Stella Jane from  Around the World in 24 Hours

Explore the marine life, history, and food of the Inner Harbor

Baltimore, Maryland

Buildings along Baltimore's Inner Harbor

One of my favorite places in the Mid-Atlantic has to be the Inner Harbor of Baltimore, Maryland. And this may surprise you since many people hear about Baltimore and automatically think of dirt, grime, and urban decay. However, if you look past Baltimore’s less than stellar reputation, you’ll find an enchanting port city that is just waiting be explored. Walking through Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, not only will you find an assortment of lively restaurants and bars where you can have an authentic, Old Bay seasoned, Maryland crab feast, but you’ll see a totally modern, seven story aquarium that is home to over 20,000 different animals. Looking out from the top floor of the aquarium, you might even see some historic ships floating in the harbor that you can visit and explore, like the famed USS Constellation which was built in 1797.

However, if history is not your thing, you can also head over to Camden Yards for an Orioles baseball game or wander over to the Walters and explore over 55 centuries of art that includes everything from medieval weaponry to classic French paintings. So if you’re looking for a fun and exciting place to visit in the Mid-Atlantic, then the Inner Harbor is the perfect choice. And if you have time, be sure to stop by Miss Shirley’s for brunch and taste some of the best Southern Comfort food that I have ever had in my life (Miss Shirley’s has been featured on the Food Network so you know it’s good!).

By Kelly from Girl With the Passport

Things to do in New Jersey

Explore the famous atlantic city boardwalk.

Atlantic City, New Jersey

People silhouetted against the sun on the Atlantic City Boardwalk

Photo by Harmony from Momma to Go

There is nothing more Jersey Shore iconic than a beachside boardwalk stroll . And my favorite seaside NJ town is by far Atlantic City! A walk down the famous Atlantic City boardwalk truly has something for everyone! Kids will love the Steel Pier amusement park, the central pier go-karts or playing games at one of the boardwalk arcades! For a cheap meal, grab a slice of pizza or an ice cream as you stroll. Looking to splurge? Kids will love a meal at the Sugar Factory or the Rainforest Café located right on the Boardwalk! Adults will love the Atlantic City beach, either sunning on the sand, or visiting one of the many beachside bars. Along the boardwalk, you can shop at the kitschy touristy shops or pop into the shops at Playground Pier. On a nice day, hit up the new Biergarten for craft brews and lawn games. And of course, try your luck in one of the many casinos! After all, that’s why Atlantic City is known as America’s Playground .

By Harmony from Momma to Go

Visit Thomas Edison National Historic Park

West Orange, New Jersey

Wood planked building from Thomas Edison's Lab in New Jersey

Photo by Augusta from Mini Me Explorer

I went to Thomas Edison National Historic Park while on holiday in New Jersey visiting friends. I thought I was going to see the place where the light bulb was born, and I came out of the park learning that Edison had been the “father” of 1092 other patented inventions . I expected one lab, and discovered an area with dozens of buildings – all labs – where over 200 scientists and researchers had worked, all at the same time. As if this was not enough, I also found out that the world owes the kinetoscope (the precursor of the projector) and the first movie studio (the Black Maria) to Edison, indeed.

Individual visits are generally not possible, nor do they make sense. The best thing to do is to get yourself a schedule of the guided tours of the individual buildings , and plan your visit accordingly so as not to miss what interests you most. At the end of the day, I overheard an excited 6-year-old-child (my son!) telling his father on the phone: “Today I have seen a factory where inventions are made!”

Find out more at the NPS website .

By Augusta from Mini Me Explorer

Things to do in New York

Visit the statue of liberty in new york harbor.

New York, New York

Woman standing in front of the Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty may well be the United States’ most iconic landmark , with its torch held high in New York Harbor. Taking a boat ride out to Liberty Island to visit it is one of the top things to do in New York City. Ferry service departs from Battery Park or from New Jersey, and includes stops at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Tickets to visit the Statue’s crown are available, but you’ll want to book them as soon as possible as they do sell out early – especially on weekends and peak travel seasons. If you can’t snag a crown ticket, try for a pedestal one. These are easier to get and while you don’t get to go all the way up to the top, you can still explore the base and visit the museum housed within it. If you don’t have time in your schedule to pay a visit, you can still see the Statue of Liberty from New York City, but you’ll want binoculars or a good camera zoom lens to get a close up look.

Ellis Island played a crucial part in the immigration experience of the early 20th century. In fact, my own great-grandparents passed through the halls there when they arrived from their various locations in Eastern Europe. It was incredible to wander through the Great Hall and wonder what must have been going through their minds as they waited for their turn at the immigration counter. The buildings on Ellis Island also include a small museum of immigration. There are several computers that you can use to do genealogy research, though their databases can be accessed online as well. Hard hat tours are also offered that take visitors through some of the unrestored buildings, including the medical facility on the island.

Find out more about the two islands on the National Park website  and be sure to check out my NYC weekend itinerary.

Bike through iconic Central Park

Bike parked along a pathway in Central Park

Photo by Anisa from Two Traveling Texans

Central Park is an oasis in the middle of the concrete jungle better known as Manhattan. Most people don’t realize how big it is or how much it has to offer. The best way to see the most of the Park in a short period of time is to bike around it. I’ve had so many great memories riding a bike in Central Park , it should definitely be on your bucket list. There are several places close to Central Park where you can rent a bike .

I recommend following the 6-mile loop around the Park .  There are a few tough hills at the northern end of the park but the rest of the path is gentle. It’s worth the effort because you will pass by the Mall, Loeb Boathouse, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Cleopatra’s Needle, Harlem Meer, the Pool, the tennis center, the Reservoir, the Lake, and Sheep Meadow. Plus, Central Park has interesting people-watching and Instagram-worthy spots everywhere. It’s best to go early in the day to avoid the crowds.

By Anisa from Two Traveling Texans

Book a bike tour here!

See a show on Broadway

Phantom of the Opera signage on Broadway in NYC

Broadway is the epicenter of the American theater scene , and while it’s not exactly a budget-friendly option for your visit to New York, it’s well worth a little splurge to catch one of the shows. There are several theaters in the area with performances of new shows, classics, and Disney stories. You can catch evening shows during the week, and matinees and evening shows on the weekends.

For popular shows like Hamilton, you’ll need to book your tickets well in advance if you have your heart set on a seat. If your plans are more flexible or you’re looking for a way to save some money, you can buy same-day tickets at the TKTS stands in New York City. The most popular one is right in Times Square – Don’t let the long line put you off. We thought we were going to be waiting for an eternity, but there are so many counters that the wait flew by. – and you can get big discounts for select shows. Check the boards for available show times and the discounts being offered.

You can pre-book tickets to shows like Aladdin, Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, and more on Viator or check out a behind the scenes tour of Disney on Broadway !

Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge

Couple posing on the Brooklyn Bridge in front of the Manhattan skyline

Photo courtesy of Constance from The Adventures of Panda Bear

Walking along the Brooklyn Bridge is just about the best urban hike ever! The approximately 1.1 mile walk between Manhattan and Brooklyn boasts amazing views of New York City. For the best views, I recommend starting from Brooklyn and walking to Manhattan because you’ll get to see the skyline from beginning to end. The walk typically takes about 25 minutes, but it can vary depending on the amount of time you spend taking photos.

Throughout your walk, you’ll be able to see many sights of NYC, from Manhattan to the Statue of Liberty, Governor’s Island, and Brooklyn Bridge Park. Keep in mind that locals still use the bridge for commuting purposes – they will be walking, running, and even biking across the bridge. It’s helpful (and safer) to stay off the bike path, except when passing, and don’t forget to look both ways!

Some of the best photo-ops are located at the tower on the Brooklyn side, there the walkway widens and you’ll have great views of downtown Manhattan along with the tower. There are also plaques on the tower that talk about its history and construction. It’s one of the most beautiful spots in the New York City area, both the bridge itself as well as the views from the bridge.

See more about New York City by Constance at The Adventures of Panda Bear

Explore New York City’s most famous art museums

View looking down into a courtyard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

New York is surely on top of many travelers U.S. bucket lists and within New York City, one of the things you absolutely cannot miss is the collection of famous art museums! While New York has at least 20 art museums, two of the most famous are definite can’t-miss items when you visit. Of course, one of those is the  Metropolitan Museum of Art , the largest art museum in the entire United States and one of the most visited art museums in the world with over 7 million annual visitors. I lived in New York for 9 years and visited the Met often; each time, I discovered new rooms full of never-before-seen art. This museum has everything, from Ancient Greek urns to reconstructed Egyptian temples to ornate 18th century portraits and even pop art and modernist works. The trick is not to try to see it all but rather to pick a few areas of interest and explore those more deeply. With over 2 million works in the permanent collection, it is literally impossible to see everything in a day.

Another museum you can’t miss in New York is the Museum of Modern Art , more commonly called the MoMA. Here, you can find some of the most important works of modern art in the entire world , such as Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night and plenty of works by Andy Warhol, Roy Liechtenstein, Henri Matisse, and other influential artists. Between those two museums, you’ll definitely be getting your culture fix in New York.

See more New York City tips by Allison at Eternal Arrival

Get up close and personal with Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls, New York

Sunset over Niagara Falls

The waterfalls collectively known as Niagara Falls span the Niagara River marking the international border between the United States and Canada. While the Canadians may have gotten the more impressive Horseshoe Falls and the better view, the American side gives you a chance to get closer to the roaring water and look straight down from the brink of the falls in Niagara Falls State Park. A visit to Goat Island – the island that divides the Canadian and American falls – allows you to get jaw-droppingly close to the waterfalls.

You can drive to the island, but I prefer to park on the mainland and walk across the bridge to enjoy the sight of the water flowing over rapids on its way to Bridal Veil and the American Falls. From Goat Island, you can take a pathway to Luna island – the even tinier island that divides the two waterfalls on the American side. From the viewing platform here, you can look straight down at the rocks below and hear the roar of the water as it slams into them. Terrapin Point is right next to the bigger and more powerful Horseshoe Falls, and you can get an incredible sense of the sheer power of them standing at the viewing platform there. Further upstream, you can cross a series of foot bridges to visit the Three Sisters Islands to watch the water picking up speed as it rushes toward the upcoming waterfall.

If you want some more ways to experience the series of waterfalls, the famous Maid of the Mist boat leaves from a dock in the park. You can also visit the Cave of the Winds that will take you to the base of the American falls and give you a chance to look right up at the thundering water. If you’d rather stay inside, check out the restaurant in the state park that will give you a view of the rushing water while you dine.

Find our more about visiting Niagara Falls State Park here!

Visit the Baseball Hall of Fame

Cooperstown, New York

Plaques in the Baseball Hall of Fame

Photo by Sue from Travel for Life Now

If you love baseball or don’t know anything about the game, the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum should be on your bucket list. It is really two places—the Hall of Fame and the Museum. The Hall of Fame has plaques for 333 baseball players elected to the Hall of Fame . The gallery is impressive from the first class in 1936 – Babe Ruth and Ty Cob – to the most recent inductees. The Museum is chock full of exhibits, uniforms, videos and everything else connected to the game. You can watch Lou Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man Alive” speech or hear Babe Ruth talking about Baseball among other things. The museum also includes exhibits on the Negro Leagues and Women in Baseball. You can easily spend the entire day at the Museum. The Museum is open year-round. The spring and fall are less crowded. The summer brings 100,000 of people to the Hall of Fame. If you plan ahead, Induction Weekend is an amazing time to go. The ceremonies are open to the public and usually take place the 3rd or 4th weekend in July.

See more about the Baseball Hall of Fame by Sue at Travel for Life Now

Tour the USS Intrepid aircraft carrier

Aircraft carrier parked in New York City

Photo by Lee from One Trip at a Time

Moored on the western side of Manhattan is the USS Intrepid , a former US Navy aircraft carrier which is now a museum. Commissioned in 1943, the Essex class carrier saw active service in World War II and served the Navy for almost 30 years until it was decommissioned in 1974.

Today, the carrier is the centerpiece of a museum which allows you to explore what life would have been like on the ship. You can visit the bridge for an impressive view of the flight deck, crew quarters, the ready room and the Hangar deck where aircraft were stored when not being used. An impressive Lego model of the ship can be found here too.

On the flight deck are several period aircraft such as the F14 Tomcat like Tom Cruise flew in Top Gun , a Harrier Jumpjet and the unbelievably fast Blackbird. Towards the back of the flight deck is a pavilion which contains the original prototype of the space shuttle Enterprise , whilst moored alongside is the USS Growler guided missile submarine. The final attraction is the holder of the world’s fastest passenger crossing of the Atlantic – British Airways Concorde G-BOAD which crossed from New York to London in just 2 hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds.

See more about visiting NYC by Lee at One Trip at a Time

Visit Women’s Rights National Historic Park

Seneca Falls, New York

Historic church where the Seneca Falls Convention was held

As a history nerd and a feminist, Women’s Rights National Historic Park had long been on my list of places to visit. It was the site of the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 , most famous for the Declaration of Sentiments, a document based off of the Declaration of Independence that asserted the radical notion that women were entitled to rights too. It took another several decades to get the vote, but in many ways the events at Seneca Falls helped push things along. Modern day visitors can tour a museum dedicated to women’s rights throughout the years, from the early days through the modern women’s movement. The Wesleyan Chapel where the actual convention was held underwent many changes throughout the years, but it’s partially preserved and can be toured. Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s house is located nearby and can be visited seasonally.

Things to do in Pennsylvania

See where the declaration of independence was signed.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Independence Hall in Philadelphia

Visiting the spot where the Declaration of Independence was debated and signed is an essential experience in Philadelphia. The Founding Fathers met in this small building, originally constructed to serve as the state capitol, to set in motion the events leading to the American Revolution. Several years later, long after the war had been won, delegates returned to Independence Hall to participate in the Constitutional Convention, which drafted the US Constitution in 1787. These important documents not only formed the basis of government in the United States to this day, but have influenced democracies in many other nations. Visitors can take a free guided tour of the building . Tickets are free if obtained on the day of the tour – they’re required from March-December. If you choose to order ahead of time , there’s a $1 handling fee. Just across the street from Independence Hall, you’ll find an exhibition center that displays the famous Liberty Bell and has other information about the Revolutionary period. After visiting the historic park, check out some of the other important colonial buildings in the area, including the City Tavern, an old restaurant serving old-fashioned American cuisine that was popular with the Founding Fathers.

Hike the beautiful waterfalls of Ricketts Glen

Northeastern Pennsylvania

Waterfall surrounded by green foliage at Ricketts Glenn State Park

Spanning more than 13000 acres, Ricketts Glen State Park (it very nearly became a National Park in the 1930s) is home to 24 significant waterfalls located in three different glens, and 26 miles of hiking trails, you can spend a whole weekend getaway just enjoying the park’s natural beauty. The Falls Trail, a 7.2-mile long trail which takes hikers past many of the waterfalls, is ranked as one of the best day hikes on the East Coast . There are several shorter and/or less difficult trails available as well. Don’t miss Ganoga Falls, the tallest waterfall in the park during your visit. It’s accessed via the 2.8-mile long Ganoga View Trail. If relaxing is more your thing, you can hang out at the beach along Lake Jean, which was created by a dam. Boating and fishing are also popular on the lake. The park also features cabins to rent and numerous campsites, some of which are in the campground along the shore of Lake Jean.

Tour historic Eastern State Penitentiary

Hospital wing in Eastern State Penitentiary

Photo by Heather from Trimm Travels

There were numerous places on my list I wanted to see when I visited Philadelphia. Although many of these were directly related to the birth of America, some others included the Eastern State Penitentiary.

There were several factors that drew me into wanting to visit the penitentiary. A few of these were that it was once the world’s most famous, most expensive prison and one of its notorious prisoners was none other than Al “Scarface” Capone . Perhaps the biggest draw? The prison is considered haunted. While I don’t know for sure that it is haunted, I can tell you that walking through the Eastern State Penitentiary was quite eerie and invoked a sense of “realism.” I don’t know exactly how to explain this, but let’s just say that I imagine it did a good job of what a penitentiary was supposed to do: inspire penitence in its prisoners.

The part of the prison I was most fascinated with was Cellblock 3 or the Hospital Block. I was there about a month before they opened the block to public tours so this was all I could see. Now, you can tour the Hospital Block and apparently, it leaves one with a heightened sense of what I call “realism”.

TIPS: We went on a Sunday morning in the spring and crowds weren’t even remotely a problem. It’s walkable from the city center, although a large portion on the way to the prison is uphill. So if this is a problem, I recommend Ubering to the prison and walking downhill on the way back! If you’re planning a Philly trip, check out my  Best Time to Visit Philadelphia + 25 Places to See in 4 Days !

By Heather from Trimm Travels

Enjoy a nature break at the Delaware Water Gap

Bushkill, Pennsylvania

Waterfall in the Delaware Water Gap

If you like hiking, waterfalls, rock climbing, kayaking, canoeing, small town charm, antiques, farm stands or just being in nature, the Delaware Water Gap needs to be on your bucket list. The Gap is 200 miles long and is essentially where the Delaware River cuts through the Blue Mountains in Pennsylvania and the Kittatiny Ridge in New Jersey. My favorite place to stay in the Gap is Milford, PA. Milford is right on the Delaware River with good restaurants, hotels and B&Bs. A few miles from town, you can go canoeing or kayaking on the Delaware. Dingmans Falls, Raymondskill Falls, Bushkill Falls are all nearby. The McDade Trail is just outside of town and runs 33 miles runs along a ridge right above the Delaware. There are a number of Native American archeological sites in this area as well. Raymondskill is a great place to take children for fossil hunting. Bring your bathing suit in the summer—there are some great places for swimming in the Gap.

By Sue from Travel for Life Now

Satisfy your sweet tooth at Hersheypark

Hershey, Pennsylvania

Woman posing in front of a chocolate bar making machine in Hershey, Pennsylvania

For anyone with a sweet tooth, visiting Hershey, Pennsylvania is an absolute must-do. Their chocolate bars and other candies – I’m a Reese’s Cup girl, myself – have made many a person drool over the decades. You can visit the spot where it all started in eastern Pennsylvania and get up close to the chocolate-making process. The Hershey’s Chocolate World (the name itself sounds like heaven) offers a free ride-through tour that shows how their chocolate is made. The best part? You’ll get a free candy bar as you exit. I definitely rode twice. You can also dine in their food court, which features a few subtly chocolate-y dishes in addition to more standard American food and shop in a massive candy-themed gift shop. I’d be lying if I said my eyes didn’t get as big as saucers when I saw the wall of Reese’s Cups. There are also paid experiences, like designing your own custom bar of chocolate with fillings of your choice and its own special packaging. My candy bar was delicious, but sadly, “Kris’ Chocolate” doesn’t look quite as good on a label as the iconic HERSHEY’S.

If thrills are your thing, you can also check out Hersheypark right next door. The amusement park contains all kinds of family-friendly rides and a few good roller coasters as well. My favorite is Storm Runner, a speedy, looping coaster. You can also meet and take photos with life-sized candy bars, so if you’ve ever dreamed of hugging a Reese’s Cup, this is the place for you.

Get a taste of the Great Lakes at Presque Isle

Erie, Pennsylvania

Lighthouse along the shore in Presque Isle State Park

Photo by Lindsay from I’ve Been Bit

Nestled along the shores on the smallest of the Great Lakes (smallest in volume but not in stature!) lies the town of Erie, Pennsylvania. Here you’ll find their brilliant escape to nature known as Presque Isle State Park . Located a short 15 minutes from the downtown core, this 3,200-acre peninsula is a must-see. Offering a number of recreational activities, you can enjoy the incredible sandy beaches and their views of Lake Erie, try your hand at fishing, go hiking and more in the warmer months. When the frost arrives, grab your skates, strap on some snowshoes or grab your cross-country skis for some winter fun. Be sure to stop at the Tom Ridge Environmental Centre as well as this state-of-the-art facility dives into the unique history of Presque Isle State Park along with its diverse ecosystems, wildlife and more. Whether you’re vacationing in town or just passing through, it’s definitely not to be missed! See more about the park on their official website .

By Lindsay from I’ve Been Bit

Have some hands-on fun at the Carnegie Science Center

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Submarine docked in PIttsburgh at the Carnegie Science Center

The Carnegie Science Center is highly regarded as one of the top science museums in the country . Visiting it is one of the best things to do in Pittsburgh with kids or without. There are several hands-on exhibits that introduce visitors to the many branches of science, and it’s an absolute blast. I loved the astronaut experience where you get hooked up in a harness and try to perform tasks while at simulated zero G. Space fans will also love the replica of parts of the International Space Station. There’s even a whole area the size of a gymnasium devoted to learning through motion and sports . It allows you to do fun, active things like a high ropes course, reaction time tests, and bat speed measurements with tie-ins to local professional teams. Whichever activities you decide to try while you’re there, you’ll definitely leave with a smile on your face and a little bit more knowledge in your brain. Be sure to wear shoes with socks if you want to participate.

Things to do in Virginia

Visit arlington national cemetery.

Arlington, Virginia

Solders with a wreath during the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Photo by Carrie from Maple and Maps

Established during the Civil War, more than 400,000 people are buried in Arlington National Cemetery —many of whom are fallen American service members—and it solemnly pays tribute to countless more. No visit to the cemetery is complete without witnessing the Changing of the Guard , a ceremony that occurs at the top of each hour (as well as every half hour from April-September) at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The monument honors American service members who died without being identified. Members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment continuously guard the tomb, even in rain, snow, and sleet.

Arlington National Cemetery is also the resting place of President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Visiting the eternal flame burning at their gravesite is another important stop on a cemetery tour.

But perhaps the most sobering part of any visit to Arlington National Cemetery is seeing the endless rows of simple white headstones marking the graves of thousands of brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. The cemetery is free to enter and open 365 days per year.

By Carrie from  Maple and Maps

Take a scenic drive through Shenandoah National Park

Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia

Rolling mountains with fall foliage under a blue sky in Shenandoah National Park

Head to this National Park in northern Virginia for miles of incredible scenic drives through the Blue Ridge Mountains. The park’s main attraction, Skyline Drive, stretches for 105 miles cutting through the entire length of the park and continues southward as the famous Blue Ridge Parkway. Fall is one of the best times of the year to visit Shenandoah as the colors of the foliage stretching out through the valley are a sight to behold.

In addition to 75 overlooks featuring spectacular views of the Shenandoah Valley, Skyline Drive also provides access to numerous hiking trails, campgrounds, waterfalls, and more. The park also features an access point to the Appalachian Trail. If you want to summit the park’s tallest peak, you can take the moderate Hawksbill Mountain Trail, a 1.7-mile out and back trail beginning at mile post 45.6 to the top of the 4,051 foot tall mountain. Because you’re starting from an elevation already, you only gain 690 feet on the hike so it’s not too strenuous. If you’re looking for waterfalls, try the one-mile trail to Dark Hollow Falls that begins at mile marker 51.

Read more about visiting Shenandoah National Park here.

See where the final battle of the American Revolution was fought

Yorktown, Virginia

Cannon on the Yorktown battlefield

Photo by Cynthia from Mackintosh Travels

The Battle of Yorktown ended on October 19, 1781 and marked a decisive victory by the American and French armies over British troops led by General Cornwallis. The battle not only boosted faltering American morale and revived French enthusiasm for the American Revolutionary War, but it helped undermine popular support for the conflict in England. During our tour of the battlefield , a National Park employee explained the battle, sights, and surrender flags situated throughout the battlefield. We loved being able to spatially orient ourselves and imagine the 18th century scene.

The  American Revolution Museum , another aspect of Yorktown, is an outdoor living museum with people dressed in period costumes, illustrating how people in that time period would have lived from day to day. Officially dedicated on April 1, 2017, the museum boasts 22,000 square feet of exhibition space with films, interactive galleries, and artifacts. Just outside the main museum building is the Revolution-era farm site, complete with log kitchens and attached brick chimneys. The museum posted procession times and we decided to hang around outside so we could catch it live. The fife and drums procession was absolutely amazing to hear live!

A tour of Yorktown will be more than a history class. It will come to life right before your eyes. This tour was more than an educational field trip for our family, and especially our two teenage boys! There are a few ticket packages you can purchase to visit Yorktown and one popular package is called the America’s Historic Triangle which encompasses entrances to Yorktown, Jamestown, and Williamsburg. To really experience first-hand Colonial America, we purchased this package.

By Cynthia from Mackintosh Travels

Visit a living history museum in Colonial Williamsburg

Williamsburg, Virginia

Family posing in front of historic buildings in Colonial Williamsburg

Photo by Margie from DQ Travel

Colonial Williamsburg  is considered a living history museum where tourists walk through a restored colonial town and can participate in various activities to explore daily life in the 18th century. It is a must-do when visiting Virginia, as it brings history to life. People can simply walk around the town and watch the artisans making crafts, have lunch at a British tavern, or tour the governor’s palace.

There are numerous demonstrations with actors dressed in colonial garb throughout the day depending on your interests. One can take a carriage ride through the main street, learn how a metalworker crafts a sword, watch a fife and drum parade or visit an apothecary. Entrance is free to walk the grounds, however, to enter a house and watch a trade demonstration you’ll need tickets. You can also include a trip to nearby Yorktown and Jamestown too. Visiting Colonial Williamsburg is like stepping back in time and being right at the center of it all – I highly recommend it if you enjoy history. See more on the official website .

By Margie from DQ Travel

Buy your tickets here!

See marine life on a dolphin watching cruise

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Dolphin jumping out of the water

Virginia Beach has loads of beautiful shoreline perfect for taking a swim. You could easily spend a whole vacation just relaxing on the beach. You’d be missing out on my favorite Virginia Beach activity though – dolphin watching cruises. These boats leave regularly to take passengers out along the coast with the hope of spotting some dolphins. We were incredibly lucky on our cruise as a pod of dolphins followed behind our boat for several minutes. We spotted a few others a little further away, but watching the dolphins leaping through the waves the boat was making was the real treat. As an added bonus, the evening cruise I picked allowed me to watch sunset from the water.

Cruises last 1.5 hours, most of which is spent cruising along the shoreline. Dolphin sightings are never guaranteed, but the company offers a guarantee that will allow you to do another cruise if you don’t see any on your first. The boats even have a snack bar and regular bar if you’re like me and prefer to have food available at all times. Find out how to book here .

Things to do in Washington, D.C.

Visit the world class museums of the smithsonian institution.

Washington, D.C.

Space shuttle on display at the Smithsonian

Photo by Lindsay from Excursion Everywhere

The Smithsonian museums in Washington DC should be a part of your East Coast bucket list because it’s a collection of items from America’s history with something for everyone. The Smithsonian isn’t just one stop, it’s actually 17 museums, plus the National Zoo . So plan your trip with extra days if you want to see them all! There are 11 museums and galleries located downtown along the National Mall and 6 others spread out around the DC area. My three favorites are: (1) the Air and Space Museum at Dulles airport where you can see the Space Shuttle Discovery and the Enola Gay, (2) the National History Museum where you can spend a few hours wandering among displays of dinosaurs, space rocks, and the stunning Hope Diamond, and (3) the American History Museum with Dorothy’s Ruby Red slippers from the Wizard of Oz and the most iconic of the First Ladies’ dresses. For art lovers, there are a handful of museums covering different styles of art such as the classy American Art Museum full of landscapes from American artists, the Portrait Gallery, the Hirshhorn with its collection of modern art exhibits, and more. Lastly, children and animal lovers will love visiting the National Zoo to check out the adorable baby pandas.

By Lindsay from Excursion Everywhere

Tour the United States Capitol Building

United States Capitol building with reflecting pool

If you’re interested in American politics and history, there is no better activity in Washington, DC than a tour of the U.S. Capitol Building. This is the home of American law, policy and public debate.

Free, hour-long tours of the Capitol start with a short video. Then you visit the Rotunda, the National Statuary Hall Collection and the Crypt. You’ll learn about the dome, the “Statue of Freedom” on top, and some of the building’s quirks — including John Quincy Adams’ “whisper spot.” The architecture is amazing and the history is fascinating. I highly recommend reserving a ticket online in advance. If you’re a U.S. citizen, you can also arrange a visit through your Representative or Senators’ offices — with the added bonus of getting a pass to visit the House Gallery, where you can watch a legislative session. Time your visit for when controversial legislation is on the House floor and watch how American government really works!

Security is very tight at the Capitol. You can’t bring anything that could be construed as a weapon. Basically leave everything at home except your wallet, keys, and a water bottle. There is a free coat check.

By Carrie from Trains, Planes and Tuk Tuks

Check out this tour that includes reserved Capitol admission so you don’t miss out!

See the Declaration of Independence and Constitution in person

Steps to the National Archives with Mr. Bill in front

Photo by Sarah from The Moment Mom

Bucket list travel comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it’s an amazing natural wonder or ruins from an ancient civilization. The National Archives might not seem like it belongs on the same list, but it can’t be beaten if you want to truly connect with a piece of our nation’s history. You can find the Archives on the National Mall with the many Smithsonian museums.

One of the best things about the National Archives is that you aren’t allowed to take pictures. I know it seems a little counterintuitive, but it forces you to be in the moment and truly take in the history around you. Seeing THE Declaration of Independence and THE Constitution really bring you back to what the founding fathers must have felt when they were drafting these documents. You can also see the original Bill of Rights, and the Magna Carta is sometimes on display. My favorite item, by far, was the annotated copy of the Constitution from George Washington. Looking at his notes in the margin and his corrections to the wording, it makes those moments for the founding fathers even more real. While they might not draw as many people as the Hope Diamond in the Museum of Natural History, I would argue that the documents in National Archives mean more to the United States than all of the other treasures on the National Mall. This makes them the ultimate bucket list item for your trip to Washington, D.C.!

See more about visiting Washington, D.C. with kids by Sarah at The Moment Mom

This tour gets you skip the line access to the National Archives and a guided tour!

Explore the monuments at the National Mall

Lincoln Memorial with purple dusk skies overhead

The collection of monuments at the National Mall is one of the top tourist attractions in Washington, D.C. The two most iconic ones face each other across the long, narrow Reflecting Pool and honor presidents Washington and Lincoln. Washington’s monument can be seen towering over the buildings, and visitors can ride an elevator to the top . Fun fact: if you look closely, you can see that it’s made of two different colors of marble. The Lincoln Memorial houses a larger-than-life statue of him inside an elaborate marble Greek revival building with two of his most famous speeches carved inside. You’ll also find monuments to Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt nearby. Martin Luther King Jr. is also honored in a very moving monument in the area.

The National Mall is home to monuments for three different wars as well. The Vietnam Memorial is perhaps the most famous, with its somber black wall featuring the names of those killed in the conflict. There are usually flowers and candles left nearby by family members who still mourn their losses. The Korean War Memorial is located on the opposite side of the Reflecting Pool and features statues of troops slogging through the fields there. The newest addition to the National Mall memorializes those who fought during WWII and is located at the end of the Reflecting Pool opposite the Lincoln Memorial. The extensive monument features pillars honoring the combatants from all 48 US states and eight territories (Alaska and Hawaii weren’t states yet at the time). The most moving part of the memorial for me was the wall of over 4000 gold stars, each of which represents 100 Americans who died.

The monuments at the National Mall are open 24 hours a day , and they’re just as spectacular at night with their dramatic lighting as they are during the day. They’re free to visit, and you can stop by one of the National Parks booths for information and maps. Find out more on the official NPS site .

See the cherry blossoms in the spring

Cherry blossom trees framing the Washington Monument

Every spring, tourists flock to Washington, D.C. to see the famous cherry blossom trees blooming. The cherry blossom trees, originally a gift from the mayor of Tokyo though many more have been planted over the years, reach their peak bloom in early April , though the dates vary a bit year-to-year. The majority of them are located around the Tidal Basin near the Jefferson Memorial and the Potomac Park, though you can find a sprinkling of them throughout the rest of the National Mall and other areas.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival runs from late March to early April and includes three weeks of festivities. Depending on your interests, you can experience a kite festival, bike tours of the Tidal Basin, sushi and sake demonstrations, a kimono fashion show, or a fireworks display. You can also witness dignitaries gathering at the Tidal Basin to light a 300-year-old ceremonial stone lantern that was a gift from the Japanese ambassador. The last Saturday of the festival also features a parade.

You can even sign up for a Segway tour of the cherry blossoms!

Things to do in West Virginia

Experience the legendary white water rafting and scenery at new river gorge.

Glen Jean, West Virginia

New River Gorge Bridge

Photo by Amanda from VeraVise WOW Travel

Recently, my family and I enjoyed a three week road trip through the mid-Atlantic and New England states. As we are apt to do, we try to check off as many national parks and monuments as we can along the way. On our way home through West Virginia we were pleased to visit New River Gorge National River and Bridge.The New River Gorge National Bridge was completed in October, 1977, as a solution to the difficult navigation down the curvy mountain roads into the gorge and across the river. By the way, you can still access the old route which we highly recommend if you have time to do so. The vantage point of the bridge from underneath is as awe inspiring as from above. As you can see from the picture, the bridge is sight to behold. The bridge sits 876 feet above the river and is over 3000 feet long. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you can purchase tickets for around $70 a person and walk on a 24” wide catwalk that runs directly underneath the roadway of the bridge. We, however, had children too young to participate as you must be at least 48” tall and 8 years old. Phew! I was glad to escape that one.

Speaking of adventures, the white water rafting on New River is an extremely popular and famous activity in the area. New River Gorge National River includes 53 miles of rapids. The upper (southern) part of the river has some longer pools and easier rapids up to class III. The lower (northern) section, also called, “the Lower Gorge” has very large rapids ranging in difficulty from Class III to Class V. There are several licensed outfitters in the area offering guided tours for the inexperienced.

By Amanda from VeraVise Outdoor Living

Check out the white water rafting and zip lining opportunities through Viator!

Visit Harpers Ferry National Historic Park

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Wide river between rolling mountains at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Photo by Halef from The Round the World Guys

West Virginia is one of the most beautiful and often overlooked states on in the Eastern US. Those lucky enough to visit West Virginia always agree – it is a very pretty state. One particular favorite with visitors is Harpers Ferry , the hidden gem of West Virginia. At this historic town, the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet. Harpers Ferry has been a significant landmark from the history of Native Americans, through the Revolutionary War and ever since.

The heart of the town is Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. Many famous Americans, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, W.E.B. Du Bois, and John Brown have left their mark on Harpers Ferry.

Harpers Ferry is the perfect destination for nature lovers. It is a great location for water activities – kayaking, white water rafting, and river tubing. The park has around 20 miles of hiking trails within its boundaries , including the mid-point of the Appalachian Trail. These trails are considered some of the best walking in America. Hiking through Harpers Ferry’s amazing, lush, hilly landscape is simply satisfying.

You can’t help humming John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” – especially when you realize that you’re surrounded by everything in the song’s lyrics like the scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains and looking over the Shenandoah River. Harpers Ferry is a special place that should be on your bucket list for the Mid-Atlantic region.

By Halef from The Round the World Guys

If you’re visiting other parts of the US, check out these other bucket list guides:

  • See the Best of the Midwest with this Ultimate Bucket List
  • The Ultimate New England Bucket List
  • 45 Bucket List-Worthy Things to Do in the Southwestern United States
  • Fifty Bucket List-Worthy Things to Do in the Southeastern United States

Don’t forget to save this post for later on Pinterest!

Photo collage with text overlay reading "Mid Atlantic Bucket List"

Great list! There are so many things I haven’t done yet… New River Gorge and Shenandoah National Park look awesome. Not mention the cherry blossom… Thanks for the tips!

Best deal in NYC is the Stanton Island Ferry – It’s FREE and you can see the statue of Liberty.

Absolutely stunning! Thank you on a detailed impressive guide!

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Forget the Coasts: These Are the Best Vacation Spots in the Middle of the Country

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Who says you need to hang by the water to have a good time? These landlocked states might not have much in terms of beaches, but they’re definitely not shy on jaw-dropping vistas, delicious food and fascinating art. Here, the nine best vacation spots in the central U.S.

The 25 Most Photogenic (and Breathtaking) Spots in America

denver colorado

Denver, Colorado

You may associate the Mile High City with ski resorts and winter activities, but it’s actually a great place to go no matter the season. There are plenty of trails to hike , paths to bike and walls to climb, but to be honest, we’re more excited by the food scene than anything else. The city’s numerous breweries are definitely worth a day-long bar crawl, but be sure not to fill up too much before heading to speakeasy Williams & Graham . (Tip: Enter the street-level bookshop and pull on the book Savoy  to get to the bar.) Eat like beatnik writers Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady and grab a burger at My Brother’s Bar , where both men used to frequent. And of course, don't miss out on the Pop-Tart ice-cream sandwiches at Ice Cream Riot . We mean it.

moab utah

Spending the day hiking, white-water rafting and riding around in ATVs sounds lovely—as long as we get to end the day with a long, hot shower and a proper bed to sleep in. Whether or not you’re a fan of the term, glamping is giving nature-shy folks the chance to enjoy the great outdoors without giving up those household comforts we hold so dear. Under Canvas’s new Moab location is the perfect place to set up home base as you explore the desert and neighboring Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park . Just be sure to pack an extra battery for your digital camera—the starry skies and awe-inspiring red rock formations are just begging to be photographed.

The 7 Best Places to Go Glamping in the U.S.

stillwater minnesota

Stillwater, Minnesota

Minnesota may not spring to mind as the perfect spot for a romantic literature-themed getaway, but it should. The Rivertown Inn , located just 30 miles outside Minneapolis in beautiful, historic Stillwater, boasts nine suites and rooms each named after a 19th-century literary figure, like Jane Austen and Lewis Carroll. After indulging in a decadent multi-course breakfast (freshly baked croissants, anyone?), climb aboard an old-fashioned trolley for an architectural tour, hike or bike easy trails in the area or just relax with a cup of coffee and check out the local artwork at Mara-Mi Studio and Cafe .

omaha nebraska

Omaha, Nebraska

Fun fact: This bustling city is home to the world’s largest indoor desert and the largest indoor rainforest in North America. Who knew? The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium houses over 960 different species and has consistently been ranked one of the best zoos in the world. If spending your afternoon observing baby sea lions and giraffes isn’t really your thing, Omaha is also home to the stunning Lauritzen Gardens  and  Joslyn Art Museum and has a surprisingly robust indie music scene .

seven magic mountains las vegas nevada

Las Vegas, Nevada

Yes, you could spend your time in Sin City partying by the pool and testing your luck at the slot machines, but why not try something a little more cultured? Las Vegas is actually home to some of the most unique art exhibitions in the country. The Neon Boneyard offers a vast collection of neon signs from some of the city's most historic spots spread across two acres, while the Cosmopolitan hotel hosts an ever-changing lineup of contemporary art including an extensive graffiti installation. The newest addition to the Vegas art scene is Ugo Rondinone’s Seven Magic Mountains . The brightly colored stone towers stand in stark contrast with the barren desert backdrop, meaning even the most amateur photographer will come away with truly incredible Instagram pics.

gervasi vineyards canton ohio

Canton, Ohio

Ah yes, Ohio, the wine capital of the world. OK, not really, but Canton’s Gervasi Vineyard did take home seven medals at the 2016 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, including the award for best Cabernet Sauvignon. Besides wine tastings, guests can participate in personalized yoga sessions, hit a few balls on the Glenmoor Country Club golf course or take seasonal cooking classes. If you get sick of the gorgeous rolling hills and rows of twisting vines (hilarious), Cleveland is only an hour’s drive to the north, where you’ll find more city-centric activities to partake in.

isle royale national park michigan

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

This secluded island in the middle of Lake Superior is the perfect getaway for anyone trying to escape the real world for a few days. Once you make your way across the water, you’ll find 165 miles of trails to explore with gorgeous views all along the way. If water activities are more your thing, canoes and kayaks are available to rent, while those with their own scuba equipment will find the most intact collection of shipwrecks in the National Park Service. If you plan to stay overnight, you’ll need to register for a permit and book a stay at the Rock Harbor Lodge and Windigo Camper Cabins if you don’t want to spend the night in a tent.

The 8 Most Breathtaking National Parks in America

flint hills and topeka kansas

Flint Hills And Topeka, Kansas

Life in Kansas isn’t all farming the fields and dodging Oz-transporting tornadoes. (To prove it, residents will gladly point you in the direction of the brand-new Evel Knievel Thrill Show and Museum and local hipster hot spot Blind Tiger Brewery and Restaurant .) But if what you seek is a taste of life on the prairie, you definitely won’t leave disappointed. See what life was like for explorers on the Oregon Trail with a stop at the Ward-Meade Historic Site for an old town tour before heading out to the Flint Hills Discovery Center. There you’ll see the largest intact swath of tallgrass prairie land left in North America with nearly 10,000 square miles of beautiful rolling hills. The unparalleled sunrises and sunsets will make you wonder why Dorothy ever wanted to leave in the first place.

montana guest ranch drive sm3

Whitefish, Montana

We just can't picture Montana without images of cattle drives and cowboys popping into our heads. And that's exactly what guests will find at Bar W Guest Ranch . Fans of The Bachelor might recognize this home on the range from watching Sean Lowe’s season, during which he and two of the eligible bachelorettes enjoyed a two-on-one date at the estate. At this dreamy dude ranch (complete with cattle grazing in the fields), guests can ride horses over 3,000 acres of land and even try their hand at lassoing a young buck. Come nightfall, you'll be shocked by just how many dazzling stars you can see once you escape the metropolitan lights. The ranch also offers ladies-only weeks throughout the year for girls' trips, mother-daughter bonding and bachelorette parties, so round up your squad.

The 8 Most Beautiful Places to Go Stargazing in the U.S.


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Home » Best Of » 50 Unique Tourist Attractions In Mid-Atlantic States USA

Bilger's Rocks Grampian PA

50 Unique Tourist Attractions In Mid-Atlantic States USA

5o Tourist Attractions in Mid-Atlantic States US Pin

The Getaway Mavens take pride in finding the most obscure, insider’y, behind the scenes, romantic places in the Northeast United States. Herewith, find 50 Under the Radar Tourist Attractions in Mid-Atlantic States of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Most are within a 3-5 hour drive of New York City.

Gape at the travel desk and land-claim cross that belonged to Christopher Columbus, discover some real Brigadoons, peer at George Washington’s actual dentures, and enjoy high tea in a mansion while a classical quartet plays. Dance the night away in the famed Spanish Ballroom, and so much more.

What you won’t find here are the typical national parks, beaches (e.g. the popular Virginia Beach), Museums of Art, the National Air and Space Museum, the Museum of Natural History, or other museums on the National Mall , because those are covered ad nauseam elsewhere.

What you will find are some of the quirkiest, most romantic tourist attractions in all the Mid-Atlantic states, (with the exception of West Virginia).

Table of Contents

Tourist Attractions In Pennsylvania

Gym - Weightlifting Hall of Fame at York Barbells York PA

Weightlifting Hall of Fame @ York Barbells, York

Into bodybuilding or weight lifting? Industrial machines? Colonial taverns? There’s a museum for you in York PA !  

Considered the “Father of World Weightlifting” – which includes both powerlifting (as pertains to weight) and body-building (sculpting the muscles) – Bob Hoffman started a trend that was popularized by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1970s and still continues to this day.

You can delve right in at the Weightlifting Hall of Fame @ York Barbells . 

York Colonial Complex , York

A history buff? Find out how people got their news during in the 1700s by touring the York Colonial Complex , in the City of York PA, which includes The 1741 Golden Plough Tavern, the adjoining 1755 General Horatio Gates House, and the 1812 Barnett Bobb Log House, which was moved here in the 1960s.

Agricultural And Industrial Museum , York

The Tavern belonged to a family of German heritage who lived and worked there. On the first floor, the tavern room was as close as it got to network news, as travelers would eat, drink, and share gossip of the day.

Learn about our industrial heritage at the Agricultural And Industrial Museum where large-scale printing presses, overhead crane rails, a 1916 trolley car from downtown York, a working gristmill water wheel, and artifacts from many York factories can all be found.

It’s a wonderland for both kids and adults.

Colon (Columbus) Family Papers Boal Mansion Boalsburg PA

Columbus Chapel and Boal Museum, Boalsburg

Christopher Columbus’s artifacts from the time he Sailed the Ocean Blue in 1492 are kept in a vault in little ole Boalsburg. Amazingly, yes. At the Columbus Chapel and Boal Museum (20 minutes from State College, in Happy Valley PA ).

It almost seems too suspect to be true. The cross that Christopher Columbus used to claim unexplored land and his circa 1400s Admiral’s Desk in a vault in this tiny mid-PA town? And, slivers of the True Cross of Jesus, too?

Well, at least one of those has been authenticated, the other taken on faith. But both artifacts and much more have ended up in this small town location, the home of 8 generations of the Boal family.

Find out how this came to be on a tour of the Boal Museum and Chapel for a story that will blow you away. This is surely one of the most poignant tourist attractions in the Mid-Atlantic States.

American Philatelic Society Headquarters at the Match Factory, Bellefonte PA

American Philatelic Society Headquarters at the Match Factory

The center of everything stamps and stamp collecting is also within a 20-minute drive of State College PA at the American Philatelic Society Headquarters at the Match Factory in Bellefonte, a lovely “river runs through it” kind of Happy Valley PA town and center of the universe for all things philatelic.

“Philatelic” may be a mouthful of a word, but in essence, it concerns stamp collecting and postal history – with an emphasis on academic research. Who knew that the hobby some of us pursued as kids could be so exciting? The museum and research library are top-notch.

Water Source Penn's Cave Spring Mills PA

Penn’s Cave and Wildlife Park , Spring Mills

Penn’s Cave and Wildlife Park is one of the only caves in the USA you tour completely by boat. You can’t miss ads and billboards for this attraction about a 25-minute drive from Penn State.

Touted as the “Only all-water Cavern AND Wildlife Park” in America: See It By Boat!” this show cave has been delighting tourists for 133 years.

Beaver Stadium Penn State State College PA

All Sports Museum at Beaver Stadium , State College

The All Sports Museum at Beaver Stadium , at Penn State in State College PA will impress even those who dislike sports. I didn’t go to Penn State, and I don’t have much interest in sports.

But, I gamely went to Beaver Stadium, home of the Nittany Lions, and the second largest college stadium in the country (at 106,500 seats, second only to U of Michigan, with 109,000 seats), to check out the All Sports Museum.

I’m glad I did. The stadium itself is imposing, but the museum swept me up in the fierce devotion, positive striving, and competitive spirit of the “Blue and White.”

Penn State Arboretum State College PA

Arboretum at Penn State , State College

Also on campus, wander among the blooms and sculptures at the Arboretum at Penn State: H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens.

A copse of evergreen trees pierces the sky, and colorful sculptures and flowers beguile throughout this serene arboretum. No wonder it’s one of the most popular attractions on campus.

Gateway Clipper River Cruise Pittsburgh PA

Gateway Clipper Fleet Tour, Pittsburgh

Learn about the heroes and legends of America’s first government rebellion – post Independence on a boat tour through Pittsburgh’s Gateway Clipper Fleet .

Book an hour sightseeing cruise on one of the several paddlewheel boats in the Gateway Clipper Fleet for an overview of Pittsburgh PA history, with a crash course on Pennsylvania History.

While plying the three rivers that run through Pittsburgh, a historian narrates the area’s history from 1681, when King Charles II granted 45,000 square miles of land to William Penn to modern times.

Randyland - Pittsburgh PA

Randyland , Pittsburgh

Top contender for the quirkiest of tourist attractions in the Mid-Atlantic States, you’ll be sure to stare in wild-eyed wonder at this fantasia of a back, front, and side yard – Randyland .

On the same street and steps from The Mattress Factory, Randyland – the wildly colorful brainchild of Randy Gibson, whose goal was “to bring happiness to his neighborhood” – is such an ecstatic, iridescent, geometric, disjointed, engrossing, eclectically decorated home and property, it’s become a media darling.

Mr. Rogers Museum Latrobe PA

Fred Rogers Center, Latrobe in Laurel Highlands PA

“Mr.” Fred Rodgers grew up about 1 ½ hours from Pittsburgh in this small town. Visit the museum devoted to him – Fred Rogers Center, on the campus of Saint Vincent College in Laurel Highlands PA .

An ordained minister, Fred Rogers considered his television show to be his ministry, leading one reviewer to write, “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood makes us feel safe, cared for, and valued.

Wherever Mr. Rogers is, so is a sanctuary.” The Fred Rogers Center was the prime resource for both the Documentary and the Tom Hanks film. (Yes, Hanks spent time here doing research).

It also features a small museum where you’ll see Rogers’ four different colored sweaters – knitted by his mother (that he alternated every day and couldn’t differentiate due to his red-green color blindness), puppets used on the show, plenty of photos, and quotes by Rogers and others about him.

Fred Rogers died in 2003. He was, as many said, “an island of peace.” We sure could use him now.

Elk Viewing Area, Elk County Visitors Center Benezette PA

Elk County Visitor’s Center , Benezette

Get a glimpse of majestic creatures in the (protected) wild at the Elk County Visitor’s Center outside of Clearfield County in Benezette PA .

The best time to see these moose/deer mashups is at dusk and dawn. And, the best place to see them is through the Elk County Visitor’s Center’s picture windows or by walking the trails around open fields.

Bilger's Rocks Grampian PA

Bilger’s Rocks, Grampian PA 

Stumbling on Bilger’s Rocks in Clearfield County , a 20-acre natural wonder, is akin to discovering Angkor Wat Temple in the midst of a Cambodian jungle. Roots and trees shoot out from rock outcroppings, some overtaking them entirely.

This geological phenomenon was caused by “frost wedging” – where angular boulders broke off from the surrounding mountainside, creating narrow stone passageways, caves, and moss-covered stone chunks – some as high as a 5 story building and perfect for climbing.

If you’re seeking one of the really wildest, out-of-the-way tourist attractions in mid-Atlantic states, Bilger’s Rocks fits the bill.

Clearfield County Historical Society Clearfield PA

Clearfield County Historical Society, Clearfield PA

We can learn a lot about forest management from the Native Americans who knew how to do it right. The Clearfield County Historical Society provides an overview.

Timber and logging were central to the wealth of Clearfield County, as this 1880 “One-Percenter” brick home, overlooking the Susquehanna River, attests.

White pine grew quickly and floated well on the river, so the logging company owner who owned this home could watch his product float – and his money grow – from the front porch.

Horns on Caddy, Grice Museum, Clearfield PA

Grice Clearfield Community Museum, Clearfield

See taxidermied animals juxtaposed with antique cars at Grice Clearfield Community Museum , Clearfield. Lynn “Scoot” Grice is very into ammo and autos. And animal mounts.

After serving overseas in WWII, he got into firearms, opening up his own gun store in Clearfield PA – the largest in the state – which provided him with the funds to start collecting his favorite automobiles.

Now, those with the same fascinations can see over 70 antique and classic cars with over 800 taxidermied animals mounted on walls and scattered around the collection.

Dubois Budweiser Beer Dubois Historical Society PA

Dubois (pronounced, “do-boys”) Area Historical Society

See the very first version of Budweiser Beer at Dubois Area Historical Society in Clearfield County PA . Tom Mix, Hollywood’s first “Western Star” was born and raised in Dubois PA. Though he lived in L.A., he came home to see his Ma on occasion.

There’s also a whole exhibit about Dubois Brewing Co.’s Budweiser Beer – the original Budweiser. Until Anheuser Busch purchased the name from this historic PA brewery.

Doolittle Station Dubois PA

Doolittle Station, Dubois

Plan a day, and perhaps a night at Doolittle Station. This compound of old train cars has been pulling travelers off I-80 in greater and greater numbers lately. That’s because owner and visionary, Dr. Rice has been collecting singularly iconic train cars.

He repurposes them as hotel rooms and restaurants – including a fire-oven pizza parlor, a brewery, an ice creamery, fine dining, and a 50’s diner. Stay overnight in Teddy Roosevelt’s travel Pullman or a renovated Circus Train.

Glasssblowing class Glasslight Studio

Glasslight Studio, St. Peters Village

Explore this nearly hidden village and blow your own glass bowl at Glasslight Studio (about a 40-minute drive from West Chester in Chester County PA ).

Having had experience with half a dozen drop-in glassblowing classes in other studios around the country, I can honestly say that the full-day make-and-take class at Glasslight is the most hands-on, immersive experience you will ever have as a novice .

Up the street, the hidden burg of St. Peter’s Village is not gussied up for the tourist trade. But seekers of the off-the-beaten track will find much to love here – especially the rocky, tree-studded French Creek that both rages and meanders over and through boulders behind Main St.

It’s such a stunning scene that those who know how to find St. Peter’s compare it to Brigadoon. 

Historic Yellow Springs PA

Yellow Springs PA

Into tiny little art villages? You’ll adore Yellow Springs in Chester County PA , which has both Civil War, Medical Hospital, and resort history, and is now strictly an arts enclave.

Dedicated to the visual arts, environment, and the village’s 300-year history, Historic Yellow Springs now hosts one of the largest Annual Art Shows in the region, showcasing the work of 209 artists over a 2-week period every spring.

Flavors of Jose Falisco Artisan Exchange West Chester PA

Artisan Exchange at Matlack Industrial Center, West Chester PA

Purchase real food from real chefs at the Artisan Exchange  at Matlack Industrial Center. Have your friends told you that you should be selling your sublime gluten-free cheesecake to the masses? Are people constantly gushing about your version of the cake that your great-grandfathers baked for Irish royalty?

Corporate types with a passion for something other than office work – a product, an heirloom recipe – can build a business at the Artisan Exchange without risking their retirement nest egg. And fans of homemade, artisanal foodstuffs will find nirvana here.

There are currently 54 vendors who sell directly to the public every Saturday from 10-2. This Under the Radar Attraction is a great way to meet the person who made your food.

Tourist Attractions In Delaware

Zeaanendael Museum exterior Lewes DE

The Zwaanendael Museum, Lewes DE

The Zwaanendael Museum in Lewes DE was built in 1931 as a replica of the Hoorn City Hall, to commemorate the 300 th anniversary of this Dutch Whaling Settlement. As such, it’s a fanciful architectural anomaly in Lewes DE. Its mere appearance draws curious visitors.

But what’s inside is nearly as captivating. 

Air Mobility Command Museum Dover DE

Air Mobility Command Museum @ Dover AFB, Dover

The Dover AFB in Dover DE is home to one of the best military museums in the country- the  Air Mobility Command Museum . What is Air Mobility, you ask?

Anything to do with the movement of troops, food, and equipment, or, as tour guide Jon Andrews quips, “You call, we haul.” It’s the only museum in the USA dedicated to airlift and refueling history.

Victrola Museum Dover DE

Johnson Victrola Museum, Dover

Did you know that the saying “put a sock in it” derived from the only way that  Victor Talking Machine  users could dampen the volume on its speaker horn?

You’ll discover, everything you ever needed to know about Nipper the Dog, and tons more at the esoteric, hugely entertaining Johnson Victrola Museum on a tour that takes you through a 20’s era store to listen to music on original Victrola’s, and then on to comprehensive exhibits about its history.

Colorful front door of John Dickinson Plantation Home Dover DE

John Dickinson Plantation National Historic Park, Dover

This Plantation, the boyhood home of John Dickinson, was Delaware’s first National Historic Landmark.

Dickinson stood out as the only Founding Father who refused to sign the Declaration of Independence. You’ll discover why at his “Homeplace” outside of downtown Dover.

Trap Pond State Park Moonlight Boat Tour DE

Trap Pond State Park, Laurel

Not for nothing are Delaware State Parks celebrated for their beauty, management, and programming, and Trap Pond S tate Park in Laurel DE is among the best of them.

You may feel as if you’re in Florida and not really know why until you jump on a Pontoon Boat Tour which winds through the northernmost stand of bald cypress trees in the USA.

These trees, partially submerged throughout the rainwater-fed pond, form an otherworldly landscape at night. It’s a spookiness that’s amplified by the sounds of winged creatures (herons, owls, other things) that shriek and moan in the dark.

Tourist Attractions In Washington DC

National Museum of the American Indian Washington DC

National Museum of the American Indian

There’s no sugar-coating our abysmal history with Native Americans at the National Museum of the American Indian , a world-class museum of America’s indigenous people. 

Our initial contact with Native Americans was promising, represented by the “Two Row Wampum Belt” that embodied insight into how different Nations could co-exist.

In 1790, George Washington offered the Seneca Nation “security” for their lands, but a mere 40 years later, in 1830, “bloody, bloody” Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, justifying the violent removal of over 67,000 American Indians from their land.

Still, today, Native Americans are attempting to return to the ideals of the Wampum Belt. Be sure to have lunch in  Mitsitam – the Native Foods Café on the main floor – featuring representative dishes from a variety of regions in the USA. It’s one of the best meals in town.

Tourist Attractions In Maryland 

College park aviation museum.

Amazingly, College Park Airport is the World’s Oldest Continuously Operating Airport (small planes only: call letters CGS)! 

In 1903, the Wright Brothers made history by gliding 852 feet in 59 seconds over Kitty Hawk in their newfangled flying machine. Four years later, they won a contract to sell several of these contraptions to the United States Government.

In 1909, the US Army summoned the brothers to provide flight instruction to our country’s first military aviators, right here at College Park Airfield.

The College Park Aviation Museum at the Airport illuminates the history of manned flight and is a must-see when in College Park in Prince Georges County MD.  

Kayaking Mallows Bay and Ghost Fleet MD

Ghost Ships, Mallows Bay, Nanjemoy

On the Potomac River, Mallows Bay is both a Maryland State Park and a graveyard for over a hundred ships from the Revolutionary War through today.

Most are wooden cargo ships constructed in haste during WWI. Obsolete as soon as they were built, the ships were intentionally burned to the waterline, scuttled, and then scavenged for iron.

According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, “the Ghost Fleet is the largest and most varied collection of visible historic shipwrecks in the Western Hemisphere.” And, you can kayak through it – either with guides or without. 

Welcome into Dr Samuel Mudd's home parlor Waldorf MD

Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House & Museum, Waldorf MD

President Abraham Lincoln’s assassin slept here. Get all the details on a fascinating 1 ½ hour tour that begins with, “Let’s go back to April 15, 1865.”

A costumed docent at the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House and Museum in Charles County MD , sets the stage, as she welcomes guests into the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd, just 31 years old with four young children, who took in an injured John Wilkes Booth right after Booth had killed the President, “and put him right on that sofa – that very one.” 

Queen Victoria's Tooth Scrapers Baltimore MD

National Museum of Dentistry, Baltimore

There may be other Dentistry Museums (who knew?), but this one, the National Museum of Dentistry , opened in 1996 on the University of Maryland campus, in Baltimore MD .

It’s the largest such museum in the country, most likely due to this being the world’s first dental school. The Baltimore College of Dental Surgery debuted here in 1840.

The most prominent – and myth-busting – artifact here is an actual set of George Washington’s dentures. And they are not made out of wood, as countless teachers have taught us. 

Maryland Jewish Museum Baltimore MD

Jewish Museum of Maryland, Baltimore 

In 1960, the Maryland Jewish Historical Society was formed to save the Lloyd Street Synagogue, the first built in Baltimore in 1845, to house the Orthodox Baltimore Hebrew Association.

The Synagogue is now part of the Jewish Museum of Maryland with its poignant permanent exhibit, “Voices of Lombard St.” Though specific to Jewish life in Baltimore, the exhibit speaks to a more universal immigrant experience. 

George Peabody Library Johns Hopkins University Baltimore

George Peabody Library, at Johns Hopkins University

You’ll find the impressive and beautiful George Peabody Library steps from the Washington Monument in the Mount Vernon District of Baltimore MD .

Its Visitor’s Center features rotating exhibits, from rare books to ancient maps. The main event, however, is the gorgeous library room itself. Step across the threshold, breathe it in, take a snap, and shhhhh.  Let the students work.

High Tea Strathmore Mansion N Bethesda MD

Tea With Chamber Music at Strathmore Mansion, N. Bethesda

Come to the 1899 Georgian Mansion on the Strathmore campus in N. Bethesda in Montgomery County MD, for Afternoon Tea : an indulgence rarely seen anymore.

Dining on scones with clotted cream, crustless cucumber sandwiches, and an abundance of sweets in the middle of the day is the ultimate guilty pleasure. And at just $32 per person, a great way to show your honey how cultured you are.

Candy Corner now gift shop at Glen Echo MD

Glen Echo Park, Glen Echo MD

Take an art, music, or dance class at Glen Echo Park – formerly an amusement park in Montgomery County MD. In 2009, a $23 million renovation brought the facades and interiors of buildings back to their original boldly colorful, geometric Art Deco grandeur.

Following an expensive face-lift, the 1921 Dentzel Carousel spins once again and is the only ride left over from Glen Echo’s Amusement Park days.

The famous Spanish Ballroom, opened in 1933 with 7,500 square feet of dance space to accommodate 1,800 foxtrotters, still attracts thousands of people a week from all over the country. Amazingly, a modest fee buys you an hour of Swing lessons and three hours of dance time to a live band – one of the cheapest date nights ever.

National Museum of Health and Medicine Silver Spring MD

National Museum of Health and Medicine, Silver Spring

Gaze upon the bullet that ended President Abe Lincoln’s life at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Montgomery County MD . Founded by Surgeon General William A. Hammond in 1862, this institution highlighted the “Medical and surgical history of the War of the Rebellion.”

Now, the Department of Defense’s National Museum of Health and Medicine is tucked away in a modern building behind the U.S. Army Forest Glen Annex.

An array of glass cases hold a multitude of specimens: bone fragments with gunshot wounds, diseased appendages, medical tools, shrapnel, innovations in medical technology, and some pretty significant relics, including the bullet that killed Lincoln and several pieces of his skull removed during the autopsy. 

Antique Streetcars at National Capital Trolley Museum Colesville MD

National Capital Trolley Museum

Delve into more than just the mile-long trolley ride at the National Capital Trolley Museum. Most people come to this Montgomery County MD museum for the mile-long streetcar ride – the hallmark of this institution – and then leave.

But there is much more to this museum than the “primary interpretive object outside.” Museum’s Director, Ken Rucker, chafes when parents come through the door making a “choo-choo” sound. “It should be ‘ding-ding’ or ‘clang-clang.’”

Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park, Sandy Spring

The walls literally talk at Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park. The 1832 Stone Barn on this farm managed by the Montgomery Park System offers one of the most engaging ways to learn about slavery and the difficult decisions encountered by both the enslaved (to run or stay) and the slave owners (to free them or not).

Interactive exhibits highlight the area’s agricultural landscape, the Underground Railroad and the Quaker experience in Montgomery County, revealed through the lives of Woodlawn’s residents.

Tourist Attractions In Virginia

Off color humor in NEON Arts District

 NEON Arts District, Norfolk

Although Norfolk VA is best known as the world’s largest Naval Base, it has a growing artsy side as well. One that most outsiders don’t know about.

The NEON Arts Distric t (an acronym for the New Energy of Norfolk) houses 80+ works of public art. Once a blighted neighborhood, this area is now a magnet, not just for tourists, but also for restaurants and coffee shops (e.g. Café Milo), and of course, artists.

O Winston Link photo of steam train Roanoke VA

O. Winston Link Museum, Roanoke

The O. Winston Link Museum is part of the Historical Society of Western Virginia, located in Roanoke, and unique in its own right. The link was a celebrated New York photographer with a passion for the N&W Railroad and the people who worked for it.

As a labor of love, he documented the last five years of steam locomotives, from 1955 to May 9, 1960, in Vermeer-ish photographs known for their artfully lit night scenes.

Ellen Reynolds scooping dry lavender at Beagle Ridge Herb Farm VA

Beagle Ridge Herb Farm, Wytheville VA

Beagle Ridge Herb Farm , in the southern VA town of Wytheville , is a lavender farm; a nature center; a gift shop; a craft cocktail destination. It’s a Butterfly Garden; and an event and education center. One thing Beagle Ridge Herb Farm is not is boring. But it takes a concerted effort to get there – off the main road, on 3.5 miles of dirt and gravel each way. It’s so worth it.

The National Sporting Library and Museum, Middleburg

Discover the genteel world of country sports at The National Sporting Library and Museum in Middleburg VA . What exactly is “Sporting” and how is it different from, say, Basketball, Baseball, and Football?

Well, explains one docent, this museum is all about “old country sports. If they did it in a Jane Austin novel, they’ve got exhibits about it here.”

Virginia Holocaust Museum, Richmond

Explore the depths of humanity at the  Virginia Holocaust Museum , in Richmond VA.

Warning – this is a tough hour for anyone who walks through the door of this excellent, compelling, somber, and oft-times horrifying museum, with a no, holds barred examination of an incomprehensible era in recent history.

A recent study showed that Americans are “forgetting about the Holocaust,” with a fifth of Millennials not even sure what it is. That is terrifying – and a reason that more people should visit.

Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia

Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia

The thought-provoking Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia , highlights Slavery, Emancipation, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, Brown Vs. Board of Ed, Civil Rights Era, and Black notables, in several spare rooms. Without clutter, individual stories shine through.

Shana Layman Lexington Carriage Company VA

Lexington Carriage Tour, Lexington

There’s no better way to tour a hilly historic town than by a fancy carriage pulled by draft horses, and the Lexington Carriage Tour is the A #1 way to go in Lexington VA .

Sure, you’ll see some sights and learn something about the history of Lexington on your 45-minute excursion, but you’ll also fall in love with the hard-working equines, each with his or her own distinct personality.

VMI Cadets marching to lunch Virginia Military Institute Lexington VA

Virginia Military Institute, Lexington VA

The Virginia Military Institute , a four-year undergraduate college, combines a full curriculum within a framework of military discipline emphasizing honor, integrity, and responsibility. Walk on original Lexington Brick sidewalks to the VMI Museum/Chapel  which provides visitors with a view of the Civil War from a Southern perspective. 

Washington & Lee University Chapel and Galleries

Stroll through the gated stone wall that divides VMI and  Washington & Lee University Robert E. Lee, served as school President from 1865 until his death in 1870.

Be sure to take a tour of Robert E. Lee’s final resting place, the Lee Chapel, a National Historic Site first built as an assembly hall for students. It’s now a tomb for the Lee Family and a museum for the rest of us.

Steer peering through car window at Virginia Safari Park Lexington VA

Virginia Safari Park

Open your car windows and feed the wildlife at Virginia Safari Park in Natural Bridge VA (near Lexington ). I don’t usually write about such touristy places, but some are just too good to pass up.

For this particular “Safari Park” (and against all common sense), leave your car windows open, because you’ll be feeding the bison, elk, lama, deer, ostriches, and other animals that beg and stick their heads right into your car for buckets of feed purchased at the gate.

They slobber, they spray food pellets all over the place, and you’ll never laugh so hard. At least, I didn’t.

Dinosaur Kingdom II Natural Bridge VA

Dinosaur Kingdom II, Natural Bridge VA 

Hear tell about the Union’s “secret weapon” at Dinosaur Kingdom II  ( Back From Extinction).   

This strange, but weirdly fun and compelling walk-through theme park, drawn from the unbound mind of Mark Cline, re-imagines the Civil War as if the Union side used various dinosaurs as weapons of mass destruction against the South.

Alex Toomy owner Ragged Branch Distilley Charlottesville VA

Ragged Branch Distillery, Charlottesville VA

Sip barrel-aged Virginia bourbon and scarf up fantastic burgers made with mash-fed beef at Ragged Branch Distillery in Charlottesville VA .

Here’s an interesting closed system for you to chew on: raise cows, open Virginia Straight Bourbon distillery, feed cows spent mash, discover that mash-fed cow beef is better than grass-fed beef, gain attention for both excellent bourbon and beef, invite the public to enjoy both, raise more cows, make more bourbon, repeat.

North American Sake Brewery, Charlottesville

If sake is more to your liking, plan an evening at North American Sake Brewery  in IX Art Park, – the only brewery devoted solely to sake in the state of Virginia.

Surprise, surprise, sake is actually brewed like beer. And, for those who are firm in their belief that sake is served warm, you’ll be in for a surprise. According to North American Sake Brewery owner, Andrew Centofante, “sake is traditionally served chilled.”

More Tourist Attractions In Northeast USA

  • Best Northeast Getaways for Art Lovers
  • 50 Historical Sites For The American History Buff

Malerie Yolen-Cohen

Malerie Yolen-Cohen is the Author of the cross-country travel guide, Stay On Route 6; Your Guide to All 3562 Miles of Transcontinental Route 6. She contributes frequently to Newsday, with credits in National Geographic Traveler, Ladies Home Journal, Yankee Magazine,, Sierra Magazine, Porthole, Paddler, New England Boating, Huffington Post, and dozens of other publications. Malerie’s focus and specialty is Northeastern US, and she is constantly amazed by the caliber of restaurants and lodging in the unlikeliest places.

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25 Best Places to Visit in the USA

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The USA is the cultural force of the modern era. A land built on immigration and pioneering, America is a bastion of modern-day pop culture, free thought and the relentless pursuit of the American Dream. Comprised of 50 states, the USA occupies an area that’s only just marginally smaller than Europe. It’s in this vast country that you will find an unbelievably diverse array of natural landscapes, cityscapes, people and cultures.

From the tropical islands of Hawaii to the desert landscape of the Grand Canyon, as well as mountains and forests, you’ll never be stuck for outdoor pursuits in America. Then there are its multicultural, global cities such as Chicago and NYC itself – the USA is an endlessly fascinating place to discover. Here are the best places to visit in the USA so you can get the most out of your big trip to The States.

25. Aspen [SEE MAP]


One of the most famous ski resorts in the world, Aspen lies in a remote part of the Rocky Mountains in the state of Colorado . Named after the abundance of aspen trees that dot the region, the former mining camp was turned into a popular tourist destination in the mid-twentieth century and has never looked back.

Set amid some stunning snow-covered scenery, the town has four ski slopes – Aspen Highlands, Ajax Mountain, Buttermilk and Snowmass further down the valley. All of them boast large areas where you can enjoy skiing, snowboarding, sledging, and snowmobiling.

Aspen exploded as a silver mining town in the late 19th century; something reflected in the architecture from this time. Examples include the grand Wheeler Opera House and the brick built Aspen Community Church, among others.

While it is known as a winter destination, Aspen is wonderful to visit at any time of year. Its mountainous landscapes lend themselves perfectly to all kinds of outdoor recreational activities.

24. Atlanta [SEE MAP]


The capital and largest city of the state of Georgia , Atlanta is a sprawling, modern city with three urban skylines rising up from the picturesque scenery of rolling hills, pine forest, magnificent old oak trees and charming magnolia and peach trees. Established as a railroad terminus in 1837, Atlanta was burned down by Union forces during the American Civil War only to recover and emerge as the leader of the New South as well as an important national center of commerce and home of the world’s busiest airport.

The busy districts of Downtown, Buckhead and Midtown make up Atlanta’s three dazzling cityscapes of skyscrapers, businesses, shopping, dining and nightlife. The city’s top attractions are the CNN Center, World of Coca-Cola and the Georgia Aquarium, which features the world’s largest indoor aquarium. Other major places of interest include the boyhood home, church and final resting place of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the home of “Gone With the Wind” author, Margaret Mitchell. A stroll or drive through historic neighborhoods offer Southern culture, cuisine and antebellum homes.

Atlanta boasts an impressive arts and culture scene with many distinguished museums highlighting the likes of Southern art, Civil War history, ancient civilizations as well as numerous theater, symphony and opera venues. For sports and recreation, the city has hundreds of beautiful public parks and gardens of which Centennial Olympic Park and Grant Park are the most popular. Just outside the city, the Chattahoochee River provides facilities for swimming, fishing, boating and tubing.

23. Yosemite National Park [SEE MAP]

Yosemite National Park

One of the most visited national parks in the United States, Yosemite National Park is prized for its jaw-dropping beauty that comprises magnificent granite cliffs, mountains, waterfalls and glaciers. Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of central eastern California , the park is home to an abundance of diverse wildlife and groves of giant sequoia redwood trees, which are the world’s tallest and oldest living trees.

Yosemite is a massive park area-wise, and while it would be impossible to see all of it in one day, one of the must-see sites is Yosemite Valley. The most visited section of the national park, Yosemite Valley is famous for its extraordinary scenery and incredible granite formations such as Half Dome and El Capitan, a popular rock climbing spot. The valley is also known for its many impressive waterfalls that include Bridalveil Falls and Yosemite Falls, one of the world’s highest waterfalls. Other sites not to miss are the groves of giant sequoia trees that can be found at Merced Grove, Tuolumne Grove and Mariposa Grove.

Scenic drives such as Tioga Road, as well as others, offer overlooks like Glacier Point where visitors can awe over breathtaking vistas. Hiking and shuttle bus tours present opportunities to view wildlife like black bears, bobcats and numerous species of birds. Additionally, the Yosemite National Park features historic landmarks like the Leconte Memorial Bridge and Ahwahnee Hotel as well as visitor centers where visitors can learn more about the park and its natural attractions.

22. Portland [SEE MAP]


Straddling the Willamette River in the shadow of the majestic Mount Hood, Portland is the largest city in Oregon as well as the third largest city of the US Pacific Northwest region. While the city is known for its frequent rain drizzle, it is Portland’s climate that produces it with picturesque scenery, including a plethora of rose gardens, which give Portland the nickname, “City of Roses.” Besides its natural attractions , Portland is a popular destination for its relaxed atmosphere, outdoor activities and large number of microbreweries.

A popular central point for locals and tourists alike is Pioneer Square, a charming, laid-back courtyard with chess boards, a cascading water fountain and artistic sculptures. Surrounding the square is the downtown district, bustling with modern high-rise buildings, commercial businesses, museums and significant landmarks like the Portlandia statue and the White Stag sign. Just north of downtown is Portland’s Old Town, where tourists can see historical remnants of the city’s original settlement.

Outside the downtown district, trendy neighborhoods feature attractive architecture, the world’s largest independent bookstore and shopping, dining and nightlife options as well as beautiful gardens and urban parks like the Portland Japanese Garden, International Rose Test Garden and Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

Covering thousands of wooded acres within city limits, Forest Park is the nation’s largest city park with many hiking and biking trails. The Oregon Zoo and the Oaks Amusement Park both provide endless family fun, while the nearby Mount Hood Forest Recreation offers a great excursion to enjoy a wide variety of outdoor activities like climbing, hiking, horseback riding and skiing.

21. San Antonio [SEE MAP]

San Antonio

The jewel of Texas , San Antonio is a city steeped in both rich history and modern day appeal. Located in south-central Texas, the city is one of the largest in the United States and best known as home to the Alamo. The city’s top attraction, the Alamo is a historical mission in which famous American folk heroes, Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett, died while defending it during the 1836 Battle of the Alamo. In addition to the Alamo, The San Antonio Missions National Park preserves four more historic Spanish missions.

Another of San Antonio’s most visited attractions is the Riverwalk, a vibrant pedestrian scene of restaurants, shops, hotels and entertainment venues stretching along both sides of the San Antonio River right in the middle of the downtown area. A number of museums offer excellent glimpses into the city’s colorful history and culture that consists of Spanish, Mexican and the Western cowboy. Families can enjoy hours of fun at the San Antonio Zoo, one of the largest in the nation, as well as at theme parks like Six Flags Fiesta Texas.

A couple of exceptional experiences not to miss in San Antonio are helicopter rides and ghost hunting tours. Just outside San Antonio city limits, tourists can explore the fascinating underground features of the Cascade Caverns and the Natural Bridge Caverns.

20. Savannah [SEE MAP]


The quintessential Southern city, Savannah draws millions of tourists every year to its charming scenes of Victorian architecture, cobbled streets, moss-draped oaks and leisurely pace. Lying on the Atlantic Coast in eastern Georgia, Savannah is the state’s oldest city, rich in history, hospitality and natural beauty.

Because Savannah was spared during the American Civil War, the city’s large Historic District is the most popular attraction . A walk around the district’s cobbled streets allows views and tours of beautiful old mansions and historic sites such as the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low (creator of the Girl Scouts) as well as one of the nation’s oldest Jewish synagogues, one of the oldest African-American Baptist churches and the impressive Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

Also among the city’s most noted features are its historic squares that sit amid settings of lovely parks, huge oak trees, Victorian homes, statues, fountains and important memorials. Another tourist magnet is Factor’s Walk, a row of restored, old warehouses leading down to the riverfront, which now house attractive shops, galleries and restaurants.

Outside the Historic District, tourists can explore Civil War forts, visit state-of-the-art cultural centers and museums like the Jepson Center for the Arts and the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences. A number of parks, including Forsyth Park, offer lovely scenery and recreational activities. Savannah is also well known for its numerous ghost tours and historic cemeteries. With short day trips to nearby islands like Tybee Island and the Oatland Island Wildlife Center, tourists can sunbathe on the beach, frolic in the ocean and encounter native wildlife species.

19. Philadelphia [SEE MAP]


Often regarded as the “Birthplace of America,” Philadelphia is known as the city in which the country’s founding fathers signed the 1776 Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. Commonly referred to by locals as “Philly,” Philadelphia is major US city in southeastern Pennsylvania and home to the iconic Liberty Bell and the Philly cheesesteak sandwich.

While Philadelphia is a modern city with a busy downtown of high office towers and a number of ethnic districts, it is the city’s colonial architecture and historic attractions that draw most tourists. One of the most visited sites is Independence Historic National Park, a concentration of important buildings and landmarks that include Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and Constitution Hall.

Other places of interest include the former homes of Betsy Ross and Edgar Allan Poe as well as the 300-year old Christ Church where George Washington and Benjamin Franklin once worshiped. Reputed to be haunted, the old Eastern State Penitentiary presents intriguing tours. The residential districts of Society Hill and Germantown are popular places to see the city’s colonial homes and architecture.

There’s a host of interesting art museums to visit in the city, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is not only one of the largest in the world, but also famous for its long flight of steps which were featured in the 1976 film “Rocky”. Now that’s a claim to fame.

18. Sedona [SEE MAP]


Next to the Grand Canyon, Sedona is one of Arizona’s most sought after destinations . Located in the north-central part of the state, the town of Sedona is known for its vibrant art scene and spiritual retreats. However, Sedona’s most popular attraction is the breathtaking array of red sandstone formations that create a striking red and orange backdrop to the town. What’s more, this natural wonder also provides a wide variety of outdoor recreation as well as spiritual experiences for many.

Attracting artists, photographers, spiritual seekers and outdoor lovers alike, Sedona’s brilliant landscape offers much to see and do. Incredible natural landmarks like Coffeepot, Cathedral Rock, Thunder Mountain and Chimney Rock present excellent photograph and artistic opportunities. For an interesting slice of architecture, head to the Chapel of the Holy Cross; dating back to the 1950s, this Catholic church is actually built into one of the iconic buttes.

Sedona itself is a beautiful town, teeming in scores of golf courses, art galleries, gourmet restaurants and numerous boutiques specializing in everything from Native American arts and crafts to New Age healing crystals and alternative medicines.

17. San Diego [SEE MAP]

San Diego

Centered around a natural harbor, the coastal Californian city of San Diego is located on the border with Mexico . It’s rich in Mexican culture, outstanding family attractions and blessed with a year-round mild climate. As you’d expect, the city is a popular tourist destination.

See also: Where to Stay in San Diego

San Diego was established as California’s first Spanish mission in 1769, and visitors today can see some of the city’s preserved buildings in the Old Town historic district. The modern downtown pulses with shopping, dining and entertainment as well as points of interests like the San Diego Maritime Museum, which houses a collection of sailing ships including the world’s oldest active one, the Star of India. Other museums display the city’s natural history, art and relationship with the US Navy.

The most popular attraction in San Diego is America’s premier zoo, which is located in Balboa Park with flowering gardens and Spanish architecture. The city is home to other family attractions like SeaWorld San Diego and the Birch Aquarium. Another tourist magnet, San Diego’s stunning coastline, offers miles of fantastic beaches featuring an array of fun activities like surfing, sailing, whale-watching and seal-spotting. Some of the most popular beaches like La Jolla, Mission and Pacific Beaches have restaurants and shops, while Point Loma and Ocean Beach offer a more quiet setting.

16. Denali National Park [SEE MAP]

Denali National Park

Covering a massive expanse of mountainous land in Alaska , Denali National Park is the third largest national park in the United States. Home to Mt. McKinley, North America’s highest peak, this US national park is located in the Alaska Interior among the jagged mountains of the Alaska Range. The word “Denali” means “the high one” in the native Athabaskan language and refers to Mount McKinley. Scores of people come to Denali National Park every year to spot amazing wildlife, engage in a number of outdoor activities and awe over the breathtaking landscapes of majestic mountains, glaciers, rivers, lakes and tundras.

The park is enormous, and vast portions of it are only accessible by foot or dog sled. One single road, the Denali Park Road, winds several miles through the core of the park, connecting travelers to visitor centers, hiking trails and look-out points for wildlife and stunning panoramic views. Only the first few miles of the road are open to private vehicles. To go beyond, visitors must take park shuttle buses or arranged bus tours, of which many are narrated and informative.

Some of the amazing sights to see and photograph in the park include the magnificent Mt. McKinley, picturesque rivers and lakes like Savage River and Wonder Lake as well as outstanding wildlife species like grizzly bears, caribou and wolves. The park also presents thrilling outdoor activities and adventures like hiking, fishing, whitewater rafting and sled dog demonstrations.

Just outside of the Denali National Park entrance, visitors will find a number of hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars and souvenir shops, while within the park is a mercantile store selling camping supplies, groceries and other necessities.

15. New Orleans [SEE MAP]

New Orleans

Regarded as one of the most unique cities in the USA, New Orleans is widely known for its distinctive French Creole culture, cuisine, and architecture as well as jazz music and the annual Mardi Gras celebration. Situated in southeastern Louisiana , New Orleans is the state’s largest city and a major US seaport. Devastated by heavy flooding from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans is now mostly recovered and remains one of the country’s top travel destinations.

Rich in history and diverse cultures, New Orleans is one of the oldest cities in the USA. The city’s historic architecture is one of its main draws, which is best seen in the popular French Quarter with its iron balconies and notable places like the French Market, St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square and the exhilarating Bourbon Street. Charming old neighborhoods also reflect the city’s roots with antebellum mansions and Creole cottages. Even the city’s historic cemeteries attract many with their elegant tombs, voodoo mystique and ghost tours.

Riverboat cruises, carriage rides and streetcars offer romantic and exciting ways to experience the splendor of New Orleans. Outside the bustling city, the moss-draped countryside and protected nature areas offer unforgettable experiences like boat rides through the swamps and tours of plantations and Civil War battlefields.

While New Orleans draws its biggest crowds during its famous Mardi Gras celebration, the city is known to always have a party going on at any time of the year with its plethora of bars, nightclubs and jazz clubs.

14. Niagara Falls [SEE MAP]

Niagara Falls

The world-famous Niagara Falls straddle Ontario in Canada and the American state of New York. Although it is often called the “Honeymoon Capital of the World,” Niagara Falls in recent years has also developed as a popular destination for family and adventure vacations. The magnificent beauty and enormous volume of Niagara Falls attracts millions every year from all over the world.

Located on the Niagara River, the falls are a culmination of the flow of water that gushes out of the Upper Great Lakes and are actually made up of three falls – Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls, and the Bridal Veil Falls. Six million cubic feet of water cascades over the ridge every second, making for an incredibly impressive site.

One of the best places to view the Niagara Falls on the Ontario side is from Queen Victoria Park where the Falls are illuminated and fireworks are displayed nightly during the summer.

There are several ways to experience Niagara Falls. One of the most popular is the Maid of the Mist boat tour that brings visitors close enough to feel the spray from the plunging cascades. Visitors can also walk along a boardwalk beside the rapids or enjoy a cable car ride overhead. For the adventurous, there are also jet boat and helicopter tours available.

13. Boston [SEE MAP]


One of the oldest cities in the USA, Boston is best known for its wealth of American history, architecture and academic institutions. The capital and largest city in Massachusetts as well as the largest city in the New England region, Boston is spectacular sight in spring and autumn with flowering trees and fall foliage.

As the setting of many historic events that led up to the American Revolution, including the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party, Boston is steeped in early American history. The city retains many historical landmarks from this time period such as Paul Revere’s house and the Old North Church, which sports the steeple that was used to signal a warning to the American patriots of the approaching British soldiers. Once the scene of the Boston Tea Party event, the Boston Harbor today is known for its lighthouses and festivals.

Just outside of Boston in the Cambridge neighborhood is the country’s oldest and most prestigious institute of higher learning, Harvard University. The city is also home to America’s oldest St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the country’s oldest public park as well as the famous pub from the television series, “Cheers.” The Charles River Esplanade and the Boston Harbor Islands State Park offer beautiful scenery and plenty of outdoor recreation.

12. Miami [SEE MAP]


One of the most vivacious cities in the USA, Miami is best known for its Latin culture and sizzling nightlife. Located in southeastern Florida off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, Miami is also a major port city managing the world’s largest number of passenger cruise ships. Attracting tourists from all over the planet, Miami is a melting pot of ethnic cultures with a wide array of exciting attractions and activities .

One of Miami’s main draws is its sunny beaches that range from family resorts to party scenes and offer everything from water sports to shopping and entertainment. Across the bay from Miami on a barrier island is Miami Beach, known for its Art Deco architecture and glamorous South Beach. A visit to the beautiful Vizcaya Estate provides a glimpse into South Florida’s early 20th century history.

A must-do is visit the Everglades National Park to see one of the country’s most unique ecosystems that consists of swamps, sub-tropical jungles and flooded wetlands that are home to crocodiles, manatees and Florida panthers. A great way to experience the Everglades is by an airboat ride.

See also: Where to Stay in Miami

11. Seattle [SEE MAP]


Home to global giants like Boeing, Starbucks and Amazon, Seattle is the largest city of the USA’s Pacific Northwest region. Seattle is a coastal seaport city nicknamed the Emerald City due to its lush scenery resulting from a rainy climate. The skyline of Seattle is a thicket of towering skyscrapers. The crowning glory is the futuristic 605-foot (184-meter) tall Space Needle, built in 1962.

The city is known for its music scene – it gave the world Nirvana and other grunge bands like Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. You can read up on this – and more – at the city’s Museum of Pop Culture. It’s also famous for seafood, which you can try at the historic Pike Place Market. What’s more: the surrounding pine forests make for perfect hiking.

To learn about the city’s history, Pioneer Square and the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park offer historical buildings and artifacts. The Woodland Park Zoo and the Seattle Aquarium are outstanding places to encounter land and marine animals. At the Boeing Factory, tourists can watch airplanes being built. Urban parks and nature sanctuaries like Discovery Park and Green Lake offer hiking trails, outdoor adventure and wildlife. With close proximity to the mountains and ocean, Seattle tourists can enjoy hiking, skiing, sailing and kayaking.

10. Hawaii [SEE MAP]


Renowned around the world for its breathtaking beauty, Hawaii lies far off the coast of California in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Made up of 137 islands, the volcanic archipelago has long attracted tourists to its shores due to its stunning landscapes, beautiful beaches, and rich cultural heritage.

Hawaii really does boast a plethora of natural wonders. The rugged NaPali Coast, plunging Waimea Canyon, and idyllic Waikiki Beach count among its most famous sights. Due to all the magnificent scenery, it’s worth spending as much time as possible outdoors, either hiking among the volcanoes, surfing the surrounding waves, or snorkeling above its colorful coral reefs.

As it was the last state to join the US in 1959, the islands still retain much of their unique Hawaiian identity. Visitors can immerse themselves in Hawaii’s rich culture and heritage while staying at any one of the luxury resorts that dot the archipelago. Of its many islands, Oahu, Maui, and Kauai are the most popular due to their natural beauty and abundance of tourist attractions.

9. Orlando [SEE MAP]


Home to world famous theme parks like Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, Orlando is no doubt a favorite destination for family vacations. Located in central Florida, Orlando is a place where dreams and magic become reality. With several amusement parks, visitors to Orlando can meet their favorite storybook characters, reenact live famous movie scenes, ride thrilling roller coasters and watch dolphins and whales performing marvelous tricks.

However, there is much more to Orlando than just the theme parks. The downtown area features pedestrian streets lined with shops, restaurants, bars and comedy clubs. Botanic gardens and conservation parks showcase Florida’s amazing flora and fauna from orchids to alligators. What’s more, Orlando and its surrounding area is a paradise for sports lovers. Lakes and streams teeming in trophy fish are a sport fishing paradise, and golfers will be spoiled for choice among the numerous golf clubs and courses.

8. Washington DC [SEE MAP]

Washington DC

The capital of the United States and seat of the federal government, Washington is a city located on the country’s East Coast in the District of Columbia. A cosmopolitan city that is home to many diverse cultures, Washington is widely known by its many iconic landmarks like the White House, Capitol Building, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. Many of these monuments, along with others like the Vietnam War Memorial and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, are all located within the beautifully landscaped parkland known as the National Mall, one of the city’s most visited sites.

Washington boasts a large number of important museums, many of which are comprised within the Smithsonian Institute, the world’s largest research and museum compound. The National Zoo, historic churches and the colonial architecture of the Georgetown neighborhood are other popular things to see while visiting Washington. A good way to experience the main attractions of Washington is to take the hop-on hop-off trolley. A popular day trip from Washington is an excursion to the nearby Civil War battlefield of Gettysburg.

7. Los Angeles [SEE MAP]

Los Angeles

The second-largest city in the USA, Los Angeles is located in southern California surrounded by the Pacific Coast, mountains and valleys. Often regarded as the “Entertainment Capital of the World”, LA is awash with celebrity culture. You can see the handprints of film stars on Hollywood Boulevard or go on a tour to see stars’ homes in Beverly Hills.

See also: Where to Stay in Los Angeles

For laid back days there’s the bohemian neighborhood of Venice Beach, home to Muscle Beach and a rambling promenade that doubles as a stage for all sorts of quirky street performers. The seafront city of Santa Moncia also offers a more relaxed pace of life with its old pier and aquarium. LA is also home to the world’s first Disneyland – great news if you’re traveling with children!

Some of the city’s most popular attractions include the Getty Center, regarded as America’s finest art museum, the Kodak Theater, host of the Academy Awards, and Universal Studios Hollywood. The Grove Farmer’s Market is a pedestrian paradise of shopping and entertainment, while Griffith Park and Knott’s Berry Farm are both fantastic family attractions.

6. Chicago [SEE MAP]


Nicknamed the “Windy City” and best known for its towering skyscrapers, sports teams and unique style of hot dogs and pizzas, Chicago is the third-largest city in the USA. Located on Lake Michigan in the heart of the Midwest region in northeastern Illinois , Chicago is a major hub for finance, industry, and commerce. The city’s numerous sites range from the futuristic Millennium Park and the iconic Sears Tower to the Navy Pier with its parks, restaurants, and amusements. Numerous genres of music such as Jazz, Blues, and House music have roots in the live music venues around Chicago.

Chicago is a huge city with many ethnic neighborhoods and a buzzing downtown district that is quite walkable. A stroll downtown offers views of impressive skyscrapers, upscale malls, quaint shops, restaurants, bakeries and numerous hot dog stands selling the city’s distinctive beef frankfurter served on a poppy-seed bun with pickle relish, tomatoes, onion and yellow mustard.

Rich in American history, Chicago has many historic sites including Old St. Patrick’s Church, one of the buildings that survived the city’s Great Fire of 1871. Another historic site, the Cadillac Palace Theater, is worth a visit just for its exquisite interior. First opened in 1926, the theater still presents Broadway shows today.

Home to several major attractions, Grant Park is a huge, sprawling public park with beautiful gardens and recreational facilities as well as Buckingham Fountain, one of the largest fountains in the world.

5. Yellowstone [SEE MAP]


Yellowstone National Park was the world’s first national park, set aside in 1872 to preserve the vast number of geysers, hot springs, and other thermal areas, as well as to protect the incredible wildlife and rugged beauty of the area. Yellowstone lies on top of a gigantic hotspot where light, hot, molten mantle rock rises towards the surface. Subsequently, the park contains half of all the world’s known geothermal features, with more than 10,000 examples of geysers and hot springs.

The most famous geyser in the park is Old Faithful Geyser. It is one of the most predictable geographical features on earth erupting almost every 91 minutes. The largest hot spring in Yellowstone and the third largest in the world is the Grand Prismatic Spring. The vivid colors in the spring are the result of pigmented bacteria that grow around the edges of the mineral-rich water. The bacteria produce colors ranging from green to red. The center of the pool is sterile due to extreme heat.

In addition to all the geothermal features Yellowstone is also home to one of the finest megafauna wildlife habitats in North America. Black bears, grizzly bears, deer, elk, bison and wolves can all be found within the park borders.

4. Las Vegas [SEE MAP]

Las Vegas

You wouldn’t think a city in the middle of the desert in Nevada would be as popular as it is, but it’s thanks to the cavalcade of casinos here that Las Vegas is so famous. The most well-known casinos themselves are practically household names: Caesar’s Palace, MGM Grand, the Bellagio. In addition to gambling, show girls and lavish performances, Las Vegas offers plenty more to suit people of all ages and interests. On the main street called the Strip, there are the Bellagio’s impressive fountain shows, a replica of the Eiffel Tower and of an Egyptian pyramid, among other landmarks.

Golfers will be happy to know there are more than 55 golf courses in and around Las Vegas. Just outside the city are state parks offering rock climbing and hiking trails. Also nearby is Lake Mead, which provides a variety of water sports.

See also: Where to Stay in Las Vegas

3. San Francisco [SEE MAP]

San Francisco

Set on the tip of a peninsula, San Francisco is a beautiful city in northern California that is famous for a lot (and we really mean a lot) of things. Undoubtedly, the Golden Gate Bridge is the city’s number one attraction . Tourists can drive, bike ride or walk across this famous suspension bridge to admire and photograph stunning views. Another of the city’s most prominent landmarks are its historic cable cars, which present a memorable way to experience the steep inclines and main tourist attractions.

See also: Where to Stay in San Francisco

San Francisco is a city rich in history and culture known for its lovely Victorian homes and ethnic neighborhoods, of which Chinatown is the most famous with its colorful array of shops and markets. A popular waterfront district lined with souvenir shops and seafood restaurants, Fisherman’s Wharf is where tourists can take a ferry to Alcatraz Island to tour the notorious prison.

2. Grand Canyon [SEE MAP]

Grand Canyon

Attracting millions of visitors every year, the Grand Canyon is one of the great tourist attractions in the United States . Located in northern Arizona, this massive natural wonder was carved by the Colorado River over a period of several million years and now measures 277 miles (446 km) long, over a mile (1.6 km) deep and up to 18 miles (29 km) wide. It is not the deepest or the longest canyon in the world but the overwhelming size and colorful landscape offers visitor vistas that are hard to match.

Managed and protected by the Grand Canyon National Park , the Grand Canyon is contained within the national park as well as within the Hualapai and Havasupai Indian Reservations. Awe-inspiring landscapes, wildlife viewing, historic sites and adventurous activities are just a few of the reasons that make the Grand Canyon one of the world’s most famous natural wonders.

The Canyon is divided by two main sections, the popular South Rim and the remote North Rim. As the most accessible part for tourists, the South Rim features many historic sites such as the El Tovar Hotel, Grand Canyon Railway Depot and the Desert View Watchtower. Also in the South Rim is the Grand Canyon Village where many tourists can find ample lodging.

There are numerous well-marked trails to try out, including the South Kaibab Trail. If you want a really long hike, go for the Rim-to-Rim Trail but don’t forget to pack plenty of water, this is an unrelenting desert climate, after all.

One of the most popular attractions in the Canyon is Havasu Falls, a spectacular waterfall that plummets 120 feet (37 meters) into a natural swimming pool of turquoise water. Other sights and experiences opportunities in the Canyon include whitewater rafting, jeep tours, helicopter rides and the Skywalk, a glass sightseeing structure extending 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) over the rim of the Grand Canyon.

1. New York City [SEE MAP]

#1 of Best Places To Visit In Usa

The jewel in the crown of the USA when it comes to urban areas, New York is a megacity that is absolutely packed full of iconic places, areas, and buildings. World renowned for its concentration of skyscrapers and famous attractions , New York City is what many foreigners often visualize when they think of the USA. In fact, sometimes it feels like you’re walking through familiar territory, thanks to how often the city features in Hollywood films.

Even the “Five Boroughs” that make up NYC are famous (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, Staten Island). Then there’s the culture: Koreatown, multiple Chinatowns, the remnants of Little Italy, and communities from Jewish to African American make New York a true world city made rich by the people who’ve flocked here from all over the world.

Some of New York’s most notable landmarks that can be toured include the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and the Rockefeller Center. One of the city’s most important historical sites is Ellis Island, where millions of immigrants first arrived in America.

New York is also home to some of the most distinguished museums and art galleries in the world such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum and the American Museum of Natural History. Additionally, Manhattan’s Theater District is world known with its collection of Broadway theaters and other entertainment venues. Throbbing with flashing neon lights and glittering billboards, Times Square is the city’s dazzling entertainment district where tourists can catch a Broadway performance and shop for souvenirs.

For those who need to catch their breath from all the hustle and bustle of New York City, Central Park is the answer with its wide open green spaces, gardens, wooded paths and outdoor recreation.

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Reader interactions.

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June 1, 2017 at 7:02 am

Now I just want to go to visit New York City

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May 12, 2017 at 9:05 pm

@Lindy… how dare u downplay Atlanta and include a NO NAME place such as Lynchburg??? GOH.

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February 7, 2017 at 9:34 am

By all means, visit Lexington, KY. Come during the Keeneland spring or summer meets. You’ve never visited a more economical and beautiful racetrack. Lots of hotels in all price ranges. Visit a horse farm. Visit multiple distilleries on the Bourbon Trail. Don’t miss the home of Mary Todd Lincoln, right downtown; tours are economical and high quality. Ride out through the horse farms. Take a daytrip to lovely little Midway for shops and independently owned restaurants.

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January 25, 2017 at 1:44 pm

It really depends on what you are looking for but Santa Fe NM, Tuscon AZ and Austin TX are great places to visit. And how did Savannah get picked over Charleston SC? Almost any American would pick Charleston over Savannah. A couple of these places baffle me as to how they made this list. Atlanta? Denver? Denver is just a place to fly into to go somewhere else. Lynchburg VA and Lexington KY are beautiful, fun places, to name a few. I have been to 47 of the 50 states. I am very confident in my comment.

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January 3, 2017 at 12:52 pm

I think one of the most interesting cities in America is Memphis, TN. From Rendezvous Ribs to Beale Street and BB King, to the Peabody hotel and on to Elvis’s Grace Land, there is more to do in this city than most people realize.

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February 24, 2016 at 6:14 am

@Rigo, She didn’t mention Orlando? Keep your bias to yourself, she said New Orleans. There’s also a lot of stuff in Orlando you won’t get in LA. Less traffic, cleaner air, generally people are not as rude, hotter, Disney in Orlando may not be the ‘original’ but is far far superior to Disney in Cali as is Universal.

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November 20, 2014 at 10:21 pm

Don’t worry Jess you can visit Disneyland(the original), California Adventure(across from Disneyland, and part of it), Universal Studios Hollywood(also original) and even the original six flags magic mountain while in Los Angeles, even San Diego its just an hour and a half drive from Los Angeles you can’t get all that in Orlando. Las Vegas is a short 4hrs drive through the Mojave desert rent a car it might be cheaper and on the way there you can stop at calico ghost town. Good luck and welcome to California enjoy your stay 😉

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November 13, 2014 at 4:55 am

I totally agree with this list! Can’t believe I’ll be going to four cities in this list in about a year. Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco and New York City. Flying all the way from Malaysia. Feelin’ so blessed, but I’ll have to wait for the visa exemption first. Thinking of going to New Orleans if possible, but I’m short of cash. I’ve only got enough for the four cities; tough luck for me.

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May 20, 2014 at 7:52 am

i loved all these pictures, especially from Orlando

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Home » North America » USA » Places to Visit

The Top 20 BEST Places to Visit in the USA [2024]

Characterized by scatty deserts, high stake rolls, and the Adonis of all presidential buildings, the USA exhibits a self-love matched only by the top contestants on RuPaul’s Drag Race…


It is an immense country, home to California, Los Angeles, Washington D.C, and a healthcare system where you’re more likely to walk out with fewer limbs than you walked in with…  (specifically an arm and a leg)

Whilst Hollywood picks out the juiciest shots of New York and Vegas, wilder highlights lie inland: The Precambrian geology of Utah, the toasty hot springs and outdoor adventure of Yellowstone, and the wide, freeing spaces of the Grand Canyon.

I will be lining up the best places to visit in the USA , so you can knock them down. Blessed with an eclectic mix of bustling tourist spots, famous landmarks and natural spaces so pretty they could disassemble a member of the Mossad, the U.S makes for a special visit.

So let’s dive right in!

places to visit middle usa

What are the Best Places to Visit in the USA?

Faqs on the best places to visit in the usa, final thoughts.

Travelling the U.S. is an awesome thing to do. So let’s get right into it!

places to visit middle usa

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Hiking in Utah in the United States

  • Arches national park (the holey land)
  • Zion national park
  • Salt Lake City
  • Is this landscape real???

It bears the names of holy figures – of Zion, St. George, Mt. Nebo, and the Jordan River . Dabble in Utah’s epic national parks and you’ll see why the LDS pilgrims felt the need to do so – both the desert landscape and natural history of Utah are absolutely rapturous.

With towering walls of stone, intricately carved natural bridges, and otherworldly spires that seem to defy physics, there is nowhere quite like Utah.

Utah is just plain awesome and without a doubt one of the best places to visit in the USA. There’s so much to do in Utah – climbing, camping, hiking, quad biking, paragliding; if you can think of an outdoor adventure, it’s here.

That being said, just being in this state is usually enough. It’s a must-see place in America, undoubtedly.

2. Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon - one of the absolute top places to visit in the United States

  • Thrilling Heights
  • Sprawling Landscapes
  • Kind of Utah too
  • Well-prepared for tourists

Including the Grand Canyon on any list of “Best Places to Visit in America” is nothing new. This national park is probably the single most popular tourist destination in the US, at least when it comes to the outdoors. And while we’ve all seen the rift a million times in postcards and advertisements, nothing really compares to being there in person.

If your fitness allows it, we’d highly recommend going on a full-day guided hike through the Canyon . That way you’ll stay safe, but experience the insane beauty of the park.

There are a bunch of great hiking trails around the Grand Canyon as well. The Vermillion Cliffs, Antelope Canyon, and Horseshoe Bend are just a few of many to be named.

There is quite a bit of lodging around the Grand Canyon, which means one could easily use it as a base for exploring the rest of Northern Arizona and Utah.

3. Yosemite National Park

best walks in the world

  • Yosemite Valley
  • 95% wilderness
  • The Half Dome
  • Giant sequoia groves

As one of the key reasons why national parks are such a big thing in America, Yosemite national park is a unique and special experience for any traveller.

Home to an array of spectacular hiking trails , sudden cliffs, and jaw-dropping views, Yosemite is a place not to be missed. Its location in California also makes it an ideal place to visit on a west coast tour- a great break from the city and the beach.

There are a number of more adrenaline-boosting activities too, from white water rafting and mountain biking to climbing and trail running. The adventure focus of this place makes it a perfect holiday destination, and there are great places to stay too !

4. San Francisco

Night San Francisco golden gate bridge

  • Alcatraz Island
  • Fisherman’s Wharf
  • The Golden Gate Bridge
  • Awesome nightlife

I’ve been to San Francisco about 6 times now and every time it surprises me. For some reason, I always forget how gorgeous and dreamy this city really is. It only takes a few moments to remember why this is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the US…

In terms of aesthetics, San Francisco is borderline perfect. The Golden Gate Bridge (which you should definitely experience via a relaxed cruise towards sunset ), the bay and Marin County; a sprinkling of these would be enough to visit but I’ve barely even cracked into the city.

Spend several intimate days with this city and you’ll be in love. Hell, we’ll even take the pissing bums at the Civic Station BART, though we’d much prefer drinking a beer in Dolores Park or riding the trolley.

To learn more about saving a buck in San Francisco, check out our backpacking San Francisco guide .

5. Yellowstone National Park

Big Sky, Yellowstone National Park

  • America’s first national park
  • Old Faithful
  • A great mix of wildlife (yah, grizzlies too)
  • Almost 3500 miles

Yellowstone national park is one of North America’s most popular . With over 50% of the world’s hydrothermal features, the largest buffalo herd in America, and a dormant supervolcano, it is no wonder that it receives so many visitors.

There are hundreds of outrageous hiking trails , things to do and see, and parts to explore. Skiing at Yellowstone is an unforgettable experience, but can sadly get quite expensive.

However, travelling here doesn’t need to be expensive , and you can often find cheap deals, tours and things to do. Take pleasure in the simple beauty, and don’t go looking for expensive dinners!

Yellowstone national park is an awesome place to visit .

6. New York City

New York City at sunset - one of the USA's best cities

  • Statue of Liberty
  • Central Park
  • Empire State Building
  • More merchandise than you can carry

Everyone – and I mean everyone –  knows about New York City. I’ve met shepherds in the mountains of Pakistan who didn’t know who their own president was but knew about New York City.

A caveman could be thawed out tomorrow and chances are the first thing he’d see is an I Heart NYC shirt.

There is simply no experience comparable to spending a few days NYC . Where else can you listen to over 800 languages or find literally everything under the moon, even durian fruit from Malaysia  – fucking durian!

There’s even an appointed Mayor of Nightlife here to represent the nocturnal culture – that’s taking the title, “City that Never Sleeps” to a whole new level.

Without question, New York is absolutely one of the best cities to visit in the USA. I know it, you know it, and the guy living in a cave knows it. No trip to America is complete without stopping in this city. And with a city this famous, you can be sure that there is loads to do. Too much almost. That’s why it’s actually a good idea to just hop on a one-day sightseeing tour to get all of the must-sees out of the way.

Ready to book your accommodation? Make sure you do so in one of these awesome neighbourhoods in New York City !

mockup of a person holding a smartphone in white background with Holafly logo

A new country, a new contract, a new piece of plastic – booooring. Instead, buy an eSIM!

An eSIM works just like an app: you buy it, you download it, and BOOM! You’re connected the minute you land. It’s that easy.

Is your phone eSIM ready? Read about how e-Sims work or click below to see one of the top eSIM providers on the market and  ditch the plastic .

hidden waterfall marion falls oregon photography roaming ralph

  • Crazy diversity
  • Overlooked wild spaces
  • Moon Country

Oregon – the very name conjures up whimsical images of woods, waterfalls, alehouses, and hipsters. While I cannot confirm the existence of such things anymore (who has seen a real hipster in years, honestly?) I can say that Oregon is still one of the best states in the US!

From the deserts of Eastern Oregon to the Coast to charming, if not grungy, Portland , Oregon is full of amazingly diverse experiences and places to visit. Some of them are almost magical, like the Columbia Gorge Waterfalls, which are part of pretty much every tour in Oregon.

Here, you can ride a bike, go surfing at Oswalt West , and ski at Mt Hood , all in the course of a single day! Few places in the USA can compete with Oregon’s huge range of attractions and, honestly, it is one of the finest examples of American beauty.

Lots of people are organizing trips in Oregon these days and it is quickly becoming one of the most popular states in the USA. Many claim it’s one of the most beautiful and best states to visit, so best visit now before it becomes totally overrun.

8. Rocky Mountain National Park

Colorado Rockies - a crazy beautiful place in the USA

  • Largest Mountain range in NA
  • Great Skiing
  • Colorado River
  • Mountain Biking

The Colorado Rockies are one of the most famous places in the USA for several reasons:

  • Haunted hotels
  • Tasting like Coors Beer
  • “A little place called Assssspen.” ( Dumb and Dumber joke.)
  • Insanely amazing outdoor adventures

The hiking trails in Colorado are some of the finest in America and many have dreams of summiting a 14er or going on a backpacking trip while visiting Colorado. The amazing Colorado river provides access to crazy watersports too.

And the skiing ; oh how the skiing dominates every conversation in the state. Admittedly, the slopes are spectacular in Colorado and seemingly never-ending.

Even better, there always seems to be a clumsy Texan who eats shit on a ski run. God forbid they actually hurt themselves… but if they’re unscathed, it’s comedy gold.

9. California Coast

Camping in Big Sur on the California Coast

  • Vacuum packed geography

Ask anyone what their top US road trip would be, and most will probably say the California Coast. Over the course of 650 miles and one epic road trip , you’ll have the chance to see some of the most beautiful places in America. It’s no wonder California is considered one of the best states to visit.

You’ll also get to pass through some of California’s most iconic destinations, like La Jolla, Malibu, and the Redwoods.

You’re going to see a huge array of geography on the California Coast. Starting in the surfer’s paradise of San Diego , you’ll notice that the coast is quite desert-like – palm trees dominate the boardwalks and the sun is shining nearly constantly. San Diego might be one of the best places to dive into the world of water sports . Whether that’s surfing, sailing, jet-skiing – there are plenty of cool options to explore.

Travel further north and the landscape begins to change – the shoreline becomes more rugged, more vegetated, and more scenic. Few places are as stunning as the stretch along Big Sur and camping here is an absolute must.

Want to learn about San Diego’s amazing scene, which includes beer, music, and tacos? Read our dedicated San Diego city guide then !

10. Acadia National Park

places to visit middle usa

  • Cadillac Mountain
  • Mount Desert Island
  • Thunder Hole
  • Great Long Pond

Acadia National Park houses some of the most stunning natural scenery on the eastern seaboard and is the only national park found in Maine. With a location like this, it’s worth the extra effort to reach from New York.

There is an abundance of fantastic places to stay in Acadia , and most of them boast unbelievable views. Hiking trails are mega-popular, but the beaches are highly prized too, especially in the warm summer.

The Schoodic peninsula provides a less busy alternative to the park’s main Island. Equipped with over 8km of bike trails, it makes a great family day out.

11. Death Valley National Park

places to visit middle usa

  • Insane desert
  • Surprising diversity of life
  • Hottest, driest and lowest national park
  • Home to a ton of speed records

While there is a perception that Death Valley is just a hell on earth (the name doing no favours here), this national park is home to snow-capped peaks, sparkling oases, and fields of wildflowers. There is a wealth of life here!

Home to some unbelievable hiking trails , there are walks out there that will give you scenery you can’t find anywhere else in the world. In the summer, temperatures are often above 40 degrees Celsius, so it is worth researching the best times to visit if you’re looking to properly explore.

Death Valley is undeniably a bucket-list location, and there are loads of great places to stay nearby ! There is no excuse for leaving this awesome part of the U.S. out of your itinerary, because it slaps.

12. Washington DC

Fireworks in Washington DC - a fun thing to do in the USA

  • I have a dream
  • Lincoln Memorial
  • White House
  • Jefferson Memorial

It’s the nation’s capital, the supposed City Upon a Hill, and the representation of everything good and bad about America. Regardless of its political undercurrents, Washington DC is one of the best cities to visit in the US, thanks to its oversaturation of history, culture, and monuments.

As such, a lot of DC’s neighborhoods are changing, for better and worse. Adams Morgan and The Shaw are firmly gentrified, while Columbia Heights and H Street are on the verge of being “discovered.”

But the monuments – magnificent edifices to the nation – still make DC one of the best places to visit in America. The Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and Jefferson Memorial are all here and are as glorious as ever. For a bit of a different vibe, you can explore each monument at night .

13. Montana

Specatuclar Montana wilderness - a place you must visit in the USA

  • Glacier national park

Montana is a bit like Arcadia – a legendary place that is often spoken about but rarely visited by the vast majority. It’s a state where one can escape all of the evils of the world and just go for a walk, a joy ride, a fishing trip, or have a beer with yourself. In fact, it’s a true paradise for going on epic outdoor adventures and activities.

Montana is one of the best states to visit in the US; plain and simple. It’s gorgeous, unique, unabashed, and welcoming. When you’re backpacking around the United States, add this to your itinerary because it’s a must-do.

Every day, more and more people are visiting, and many fear that it will lose its rustic charm ( Glacier National Park certainly feels overrun in the summer). Spend some time staying in Montana soon while it’s still somewhat raw.

14. Northern Idaho

North Idaho mountains in the USA

  • Coeur d’Alene
  • Hiawatha cycling route
  • Silverwood theme park
  • Farragut state park

Idaho gets a really bad rap for being boring and good for nothing besides growing potatoes. While I certainly can’t deny that the southern part of the state is like this, the north is a whole different story.

Contrary to many’s perceptions that Idaho is just flat and featureless, Northern Idaho is actually very mountainous. The American Rockies actually begin in Idaho and are no less stunning than those in Montana or Colorado. You can also find many quaint cabins in Idaho that offer unparalleled views of the Rocky Mountains and other scenic points in the state.

Some of the best skiing in the country is around Sun Valley and there are lots of world-class hikes in the Sawtooths . I myself was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon Sandpoint , a lake resort tucked away in the mountains – to me, Sandpoint is like the American version of Lake Como.

So give Idaho a chance! It’s not the most visited place in the USA, but that’s probably why it’s so great.

15. Olympic Peninsula

shi shi beach olympic peninsula washington road trip

  • Olympic National Park
  • Hoh rain forest
  • Lake Crescent

The Pacific Northwest is notable for a lot of reasons – craft coffee, rain, and Nirvana, among other things. Nature is obviously a huge reason to visit this region and while we love places like Mt Rainier or the San Juans Islands, few can compete with the spectacular Olympic Peninsula.

The Olympic Peninsula is one of the most unique ecosystems in the world and offers a crazy array of geography. It receives a shit ton of rain – even by PNW standards – which, in turn, makes it amazingly lush.

Aside from the flora, the Olympic peninsula also hosts mountains, glaciers, vast wildlife, and some of the best beaches on the West Coast. The ability to see so many different landscapes in one place certainly makes this USA national park one of the best places to visit in the USA (in the summer, particularly).

16. Sierra Nevada Mountains

Yosemite valley with snow in winter - USA national park

  • Mount Whitney
  • More forest than you need
  • King’s Canyon

The pre mentioned Yosemite , of legendary climbing fame, is located about 3 hours away from San Francisco and is a very popular place to visit. King’s Canyon is in the southern portion of the range and it hosts some of the best hikes in California.

We’re being modest though – because the Sierra Nevada actually holds several superlative titles. The highest point in the lower 48, Mt Whitney is located in these mountains. So is the largest alpine lake in North America – Lake Tahoe . Let’s not forget the towering sequoias either, which are considered the largest trees on Earth.

So the next time someone says that the Rockies or Appalachians are the only mountains in the US, you tell them about the Sierra Nevada. While you’re at it, drink an Otra Vez Gose from the eponymous brewery – that shit is amazing,

17. Santa Fe

Welcome to Santa Fe sign in the USA

  • Spanish town
  • Canyon Road’s art institutes
  • Santa Fe Opera House
  • Taos Ski valley

Santa Fe is a wonder; a city that manages to hit all of the marks of a great tourist destination. There’s unique heritage, a thriving art scene, a plethora of outdoor activities, and amazing food (GREEN CHILI EVERYTHING).

And yet, Santa Fe still manages to be underrated . In fact, not many people visit Santa Fe at all, let alone know where it is ( New Mexico if you didn’t already). When you compare Santa Fe’s humble 2 million annual tourists to Denver’s 30 million or Phoenix’s 20 million, it’s kind of upsetting actually.

Statistics be damned though; Santa Fe is still one of the must-see places in the USA! The art alone is worth the journey here. For God’s sake: there’s a gallery called Meow Wolf that was built by George RR Martin – how fucking cool is that!

18. Wyoming Rockies

Hiking in Wyoming Rockies

  • Not just the Rockies-Wyoming Rockies!
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Grand Teton National Park
  • Titcomb basin

The Rockies stretch over about 6 different states, so you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that these mountains look and feel different in each one. Some people love the Colorado Rockies; others swear by the mountains in Montana because, admittedly, Glacier is pretty fuckin’ rad.

My favorite part of the Rockies though? Wyoming .

First and foremost, two of the best national parks in the USA are located here – Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons . Both are among the top places that every American should see before they die as their scenery has become iconic. They’re best discovered by foot and with a guide , unless you’re an experienced hiker.

The best part of the Wyoming Rockies, better than the Tetons even, is the Wind River Range. This lesser-known area is home to some of the best hiking trails in the USA, like the stupendous Titcomb Basin. The best part though – you’re relatively free of the crowds! I’d take the Winds over the rest, any day.

19. Los Angeles

Los Angeles city at night

  • Venice Beach
  • Universal Studios

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Los Angeles – every time I visit, I just can’t find the right place for myself. The thing that keeps me coming back though is the fact that I can never possibly see the entire city. Even if you join the Grand City Tour , there’s always another place you could check out.

Los Angeles is fuckin’ massive . There are so many different districts in this city and each one has its own identity. Travel from Santa Monica to Echo Park and you’ll feel like your in completely different cities. Alas, it’s still LA.

LA is extremely diverse as well. In fact, Los Angeles is often considered one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the US , more so than even New York City. There are so many different cultures here and, as we mentioned before, each has its own neighborhood. A walk in LA is like a walk around the world.

20. Las Vegas

Las Vegas Casino - a fun place to visit in the USA for some

  • Sin, betting, more sin…
  • Unique atmosphere
  • Great place to base yourself

Quick! Let’s name off as many nicknames for Las Vegas possible:

  • The Entertainment Capital of the World
  • Glitter Gulch
  • The City of Lost Wages

Jesus, it’s no wonder Vegas has the reputation that it does – based upon these monikers, everyone must think that Vegas is just good for partying and throwing away your hard-earned money.

Here’s a new title for Vegas: The Best Location in the Southwest . Why this?

Las Vegas is located between some of the best places to visit in the USA. Zion National Park, the Grand Canyon, the Sierra Nevada ; all of these areas are within a couple hours drive of Vegas. There are plenty of guided tours that take you to the attractions outside of Las Vegas, so you can opt for that if you don’t want to drive yourself!

So next time you’re thinking about visiting Las Vegas , use it as a launching point for the entire American Southwest . When you’ve wrapped up your trip in this region, grab a drink at the like of Atomic Liquors or Beauty Bar – as kitschy as they are, they’re still fun.

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They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

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Here’s what we’re usually asked about the best places to visit in the U.S.A!

What are the coolest places to visit in the United States?

Out of all the epic places, I have to recommend the Rockies for their sheer beauty, Utah for its weirdness (and skiing), and California, for the surf. There are so many amazing places in the U.S, so it’s worth doing your homework. Since distances are large too, maybe check our U.S. itinerary for how to deal with distances.

What is the most unique place to visit in the USA?

The Olympic Peninsula is one of the most unique places to visit in the USA because of its array of flora and plantlife.

What is the best outdoor place to visit in the USA?

Montana is the best place to visit in the USA for outdoor lovers.

What are the best places to go on a vacation in the USA?

My snap pick would be national parks, like Yosemite, Yellowstone, Zion, or the Utah Arches National Park. If you want a beach holiday, try Maine or California, and if you want to be a tourist, you can’t beat Las Vegas or New York. There are surprising gems all over the U.S., so do some research and get going!

So there you have it, my top places to visit within the boundaries of this amazing country…

If you think that there are better cities or destinations in America, then please share your own in the comment section below ! We’d love to hear what you think of our choices and, likewise, we’d love to hear your own choices as well.

Otherwise, get out there and start exploring the USA. For all it’s faults and complexities, it’s still one of the most diverse and magnificently beautiful places on this planet. It’s a big damn country so get out there and start visiting the USA’s best!

Spectacular national prk in the USA

And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links . That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!

Sheridan Cahoon

Sheridan Cahoon

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Wow! What a great list of places to see on my next adventure! Thanks for all of the hard work you put into the perfect backpacking experience!

Newport Rhode Island definitely deserves a mention. Touring the summer “cottages” of the Gilded Age along with the stunning coastline is an amazing experience.

Very true! I live in Missouri and it’s very pretty downtown and there are many things to do!

Should include St. Louis. It’s downtown has developed with a new museum under the Gateqlway Arch, Aquarium and new top golf in midtown

Augusta is the capitol of Maine, not Portland.

Excellent list of top cities to visit in the United States. Just a quick note, Santa Fe is misspelled . Santa is Spanish for saint, Fe for faith (The City of Faith). In the piece it’s spelled Sante. I only know this because I grew up there. It is a beautiful and unique place to visit. At 7,000 feet, Santa Feans enjoys all 4 seasons. Thanks so much for including it! And thank you for this bucket list. Keep up the good work!

Noted and fixed! Thanks for spotting the mistake.

This is an incredible list! Makes me realize how fortunate I am to live in such a diverse and beautiful country. And thank you for appreciating Philly!!! Your description is dead on lmao…GO BIRDS

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places to visit middle usa

Best Places To Live In Middle-Earth

  • Middle-earth offers diverse locations ranging from dangerous ruins to idyllic havens like Tom Bombadil's house and Lothlorien.
  • Iconic places like Moria, Gondor, Rivendell, and The Shire showcase Tolkien's rich world-building and narrative depth.
  • Despite perilous journeys and menacing threats, Middle-earth is also home to vibrant civilizations and awe-inspiring architecture.

J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings has become an indispensable part of the fantasy canon, spawning related texts, movie and TV adaptations, and numerous video games that let players explore Middle-earth at their leisure. Indeed, part of the enduring appeal of Tolkien's work is his detailed and creative world-building, which resulted in such iconic locations as Mordor, Isengard, and Gondor.

12 Games With Great Lord Of The Rings Mods

Admittedly, not every part of Middle-earth can be described as a tourist hot-spot; those familiar with the journeys of both Bilbo and Frodo will be aware of the dangers inherent to traveling through Tolkien's world. However, the fantasy realm isn't all doom and gloom, and there are many areas where even the most ardent of adventurers might be tempted to settle down.

The Once-Great Stronghold Of The Dwarves

Discussion of Moria brings several things to mind, including Gandalf's iconic clash with the Balrog during The Fellowship of the Ring, and Free Range Games' less iconic The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria game from 2023. However, the gloomy, ruined city is unlikely to be anyone's number one choice for a home—at least, not during the Third Age depicted in Tolkein's epic trilogy.

Yet Moria was once a bustling and prosperous city, illuminated with crystal lamps and home to impressive architectural structures like Durin's Bridge. Indeed, at the height of its prosperity, Moria was the place to be in Middle-earth, at least for Dwarves. The Mines of Moria, rich in valuable mithril , allowed Moria and its inhabitants to flourish, but the greed of the Dwarves caused them to dig too deep, uncovering dark powers which decimated the once-mighty city.

A Troubled But Mighty Kingdom

By the time of The Lord of the Rings , the legendary Gondor finds itself besieged by the forces of evil. Centered around the capital city of Minas Tirith, Gondor acts as crucial counterweight to Mordor, ensuring the containment of Sauron's forces. However, despite valiant efforts of the Men who populate the kingdom, their resistance proves insufficient. Gondor is further threatened by the corruption of its leader, Denethor, and continued attacks and sieges .

Lord of the Rings: 7 Most Important Orcs In The Series

While the geopolitical status of Gondor is precarious, the architectural splendor of areas like Minas Tirith cannot be discounted. Indeed, Gondor is home to some of Middle-earth's best civil infrastructure, making life there fairly pleasant during the brief periods of peace.

Tom Bombadil's Home

An oasis in a chaotic world.

Fans of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies may be unfamiliar with the character of Tom Bombadil , as the section of The Fellowship of the Ring in which he features is notably absent from Jackson's adaptation. This is understandable, as Bombadil has only a minor role in Frodo's journey, but it does deprive audiences of a chance to see one of Middle-earth's most idyllic areas. Bombadil lives deep in the Old Forest, enjoying an intense connection with the natural world and a degree of seclusion from the chaos unfolding throughout Middle-earth.

While his house only provides a temporary refuge for Frodo and the other Hobbits, Bombadil's friendly persona and hosting skills make this one of Middle-earth's more desirable residences. For those wishing to find a safe haven from the tumult of the Third Age, Bombadil's house offers the perfect solution.

A Point Of Light In A Dark Region

Few parts of Middle-earth feel as magical as the Elvish realm of Lothlorien , where even time itself seems bizarrely affected by arcane forces. Home to Cereborn, Galadriel, and the Galadhrim, this forested community provides welcome respite to the Fellowship after its harrowing ordeal in the Mines of Moria. However, the strict policies of the Galadhrim nearly prohibit entry to the Fellowship, and tensions are initially high between the Dwarf Gimli and Lothlorien's inhabitants.

The Lord of the Rings: 10 Most Iconic Scenes From The Trilogy

Despite this rocky start, Lothlorien proves to be a paradise for the Fellowship. The generosity and insight of Galadriel prove essential to the ongoing success of Frodo and his friends, and Lothlorien itself leaves a lasting impression on each member of the party. While Lothlorien may be difficult to enter, those who do are bound to be impressed by this timeless, woodland region.

The Birthplace Of The Fellowship

Rivendell serves a vital plot function in Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring , not only providing a safe haven for Frodo and his friends to evade the pursuit of the Ringwraiths, but also serving as the meeting place of the Council of Elrond. Yet beyond its role in the plot of the saga, Rivendell boasts beautiful surroundings and impressive architecture. It's little wonder, then, that the region's buildings have been immortalized in a highly detailed Lego set, as well as by talented gamers .

As a major Elvish settlement in Middle-earth, Rivendell is not only home to such iconic figures as Elrond and Arwen, but is also a place of sanctuary. As such, it is understandable that an aged Bilbo chooses to remain there following the Council of Elrond rather than joining the Fellowship's quest. The heroic Frodo also struggles to leave the serenity of Rivendell behind, even when the fate of Middle-earth hangs in the balance.

A Cosy Home For Reluctant Adventurers

The Shire is, without a doubt, one of Middle-earth's most iconic locations. Home to The Lord of the Rings ' most famous Hobbits, namely Bilbo and Frodo, this pastoral region is ideal for those who want some (temporary) respite from the machinations of Sauron and other evildoers. Indeed, from its cosy Hobbit-holes to its bountiful nature, the Shire is not only the starting place for many an epic journey, but also a comforting reprieve for weary travelers.

Lord of the Rings: The Hobbits' Barrow-Blades, Explained

Admittedly, many of the Shire's occupants demonstrate the same flaws and failings as humans in the real world. This is perhaps unsurprising, as Tolkien modeled the fantastical region on Worcestershire, a rural region in England, while Peter Jackson turned to the lush landscapes of New Zealand in order to bring the Hobbit paradise to the silver screen. However, despite the presence of some petty neighbors, the Hobbit-holes of the Shire are prime real estate.

The Lord of the Rings

Created by J. R. R. Tolkien

Current Series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

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Best Places To Live In Middle-Earth

Iran and Israel's recent attacks, explained

Iranians march.

Tensions between Israel and Iran have reached an unprecedented high in recent days. Last Saturday, Iran launched a barrage of missiles and drones on Israel in response to an Israeli airstrike earlier this month that killed several Iranian military officers.

Israel responded Friday with a targeted operation in Iran that was limited in scope, a source familiar with the matter said.

As a conflict that could further destabilize the Middle East unfolds, here's what to know.

Follow live updates after Israel’s strike on Iran

What did Israel's recent attack on Iran look like?

Iran is currently assessing the damage from Friday's attack, a source familiar with the situation told NBC News, but a nuclear facility in the central Iranian city of Isfahan is safe.

Israeli armored personnel carriers .

The United States has claimed it was not involved with the Israeli attack on Iran, and U.S. officials publicly encouraged restraint in the days leading up to it.

On Friday at a news conference during a G7 meeting in Italy, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. was “intensely focused” on de-escalating the situation.

Why did Iran attack Israel on April 13?

Iran's attack on Israel was in response to a deadly Israeli airstrike on April 1 at the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria. Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force, was among several officers killed in the s trike .

Iran's retaliatory attack on Israel left minimal destruction because the vast majority of the more than 300 drones and missiles it fired were shot down by Israeli, U.S. and European forces before reaching Israeli territory.

Israel vowed to retaliate for the Iranian strikes, the first-ever direct military attack by Tehran on the Jewish state.

What are Iran and Israel's nuclear capabilities?

Iran's nuclear capabilities are still unknown. The 2015 Iran nuclear deal brokered by the Obama administration and several other nations limited the country's nuclear capabilities, but the Trump administration withdrew from the accord.

A man crosses a street as motorists drive past a billboard depicting Iranian ballistic missiles in service.

Israel has not confirmed whether it has nuclear weapons, but it's widely believed the country has the technology to produce such equipment.

Who are the leaders of the two countries?

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has been the supreme leader of Iran since 1989. Ali Khamenei was also the country's third president from 1981 to 1989. Ebrahim Raisi is Iran's current president. In Iran, the supreme leader, not the president, is the head of state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has served three separate tenures as prime minister since 1996. H e has drawn fierce criticism in recent months for his failure to stop the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel, which killed some 1,200 people. He has also been criticized for his handling of the war against Hamas in Gaza, which has killed more than 33,000 people, according to Palestinian health officials.

Who are their allies?

Iran’s allies include proxy groups in the region such as Hezbollah, Hamas and the Houthis. The country also has broader support from Syria and ties to other countries in the Middle East and beyond.Israel, also, has alliances with some countries in the Middle East , including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. Israel is a "major non-NATO ally," which means member countries are not committed to standing by it if it is attacked, though Israel does have military ties to countries within NATO, like the U.S., and beyond.

The U.S., Britain and Jordan claim to have helped defend Israel itself during the April 13 attacks .

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Joy Burton works in audience development for NBC News and MSNBC. 

Two Palm Beach County schools squeaked into Top 100 in national rankings. See the full list

Nine local schools ranked in the top 2,000 schools nationwide, and another 10 were listed in the top 5,000 schools.

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Two Palm Beach County high schools are once again among the top 100 public high schools in the nation, according to the annual rankings released Tuesday by U.S. News & World Report.

Alexander W. Dreyfoos Jr. School of the Arts was ranked 91st and Suncoast High School squeaked into the top 100 at 98th place — both coveted spots in the top 17,000 high schools across the country. Private schools are not included in the rankings.

Both schools' rankings fell from last year, when Suncoast came in at 70th place and Dreyfoos ranked 90th.

Both schools routinely landed near the top of U.S. News’ controversial list before the magazine changed its system in 2019, adding more schools to the review and more considerations of how schools help underserved students succeed to the ranking process.

In many states, schools that rank near the top of the list are in wealthier, whiter communities or serve smaller populations of students by requiring applications.

In Palm Beach County, both that topped the list are magnet schools that require students to prove academic rigor and achievement before being admitted. Just 31% of Suncoast students and 23% of Dreyfoos students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches compared to the district-wide average of 54%, according to school district data.

U.S. News & World Report came up with its rankings by analyzing six weighted categories: college readiness (30%), state assessment proficiency (20%), state assessment performance (20%), college curriculum breadth (10%), underserved student performance (10%) and graduation rate (10%). This is the same formula used to calculate the rankings in 2023.

The magazine worked with North Carolina-based RTI International, a nonprofit social science research firm, and ranked more than 17,600 public high schools out of about 25,000 reviewed. To qualify for ranking, the public high schools had to have a senior class of at least 15 students.

For more on how schools were ranked, see the U.S. News & World Report website.

Suncoast is a magnet school that pulls students from all over Palm Beach County and requires an application to attend. Dreyfoos also pulls students from the whole county, requires an application and an audition for its arts programs.

Best Palm Beach County high schools in 2024

Palm Beach County was once again well-represented in the top 100 schools in the U.S. and heavily present further down the list.

Here are the high schools that made the top 5,000 spots:

  • 91st place: Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts
  • 98th place: Suncoast High School
  • 635th place: Spanish River High
  • 930th place: West Boca Raton High
  • 1,305th place: Jupiter High
  • 1,356th place: Boca Raton High
  • 1,740th place: Park Vista High
  • 1,818th place: Wellington High
  • 1,831st place: Olympic Heights High
  • 2,477th place: Inlet Grove High
  • 2,644th place: Somerset Academy Canyons High
  • 2,983rd place: Palm Beach Virtual
  • 3,049th place: SLAM! Boca High School
  • 3,165th place: Atlantic High
  • 3,177th place: William T. Dwyer High
  • 3,260th place: G-Star School of the Arts
  • 3,499th place: Palm Beach Central High
  • 3,584th place: Pahokee Middle-Senior High School
  • 4,096th place: South Tech Academy

See the full list of national rankings and an explanation of the methodology on the U.S. News & World Report website.

Reached Tuesday, Dreyfoos principal Blake Bennett said the school community was extremely excited to receive the honor.

"I am incredibly proud of the hard work and dedication of our students and staff," she wrote in an emailed statement. "This result is the culmination of rigorous academic and art instruction, effective systems, and our deep rooted culture of tradition and excellence."

Best high schools in Florida 2024

South Florida once again dominated the magazine's statewide rankings of best high schools this year — 13 of the top 20 schools are in Palm Beach, Broward or Miami-Dade counties.

Here are the top 20 high schools in Florida:

  • Pine View School, Osprey
  • Millennium 6-12 Collegiate Academy, Tamarac
  • Westshore Junior/Senior High School, Melbourne
  • Archimedean Upper Conservatory Charter School, Miami
  • Stanton College Preparatory School, Jacksonville
  • Edgewood Jr/Sr High School, Merritt Island
  • Marine Academy of Science and Technology (MAST@FIU), North Miami
  • Jose Marti Mast 6-12 Academy, Hialeah
  • Design and Architecture Senior High School, Miami
  • Alexander W. Dreyfoos Junior School of the Arts, West Palm Beach
  • Neocity Academy, Kissimmee
  • Suncoast High School, Riviera Beach
  • Young Women's Preparatory Academy, Miami
  • Terra Environmental Research Institute, Miami
  • International Studies Charter High School, Miami
  • Doral Performing Arts and Entertainment Academy, Doral
  • MAST Academy, Key Biscayne
  • iPrep Academy, Miami
  • Paxon School/Advanced Studies, Jacksonville
  • Darnell Cookman Middle/High School, Jacksonville

Katherine Kokal is a journalist covering education at The Palm Beach Post. You can reach her at [email protected] . Help support our work, subscribe today!

Iran says nuclear weapons have no place in its nuclear doctrine

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Blinken meets Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Beijing

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing on Friday for talks across a range of complex issues, including deepening strains over China's backing of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

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IDF fires artillery shells into Gaza as fighting between Israeli troops and Islamist Hamas militants continues on Oct. 12, 2023.

Middle East crisis — explained

The conflict between Israel and Palestinians — and other groups in the Middle East — goes back decades. These stories provide context for current developments and the history that led up to them.

Israel launches missile strikes into Iran, U.S. military official says

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Demonstrators wave a huge Iranian flag in an anti-Israeli gathering in front of an anti-Israeli banner on the wall of a building at the Felestin (Palestine) Square in Tehran, Iran, on Monday. Vahid Salemi/AP hide caption

Demonstrators wave a huge Iranian flag in an anti-Israeli gathering in front of an anti-Israeli banner on the wall of a building at the Felestin (Palestine) Square in Tehran, Iran, on Monday.

The Israeli military has conducted missile strikes against Iran, a senior U.S. military official told NPR on Thursday. There are also reports of explosions in Iraq and Syria.

The strikes appear to be the response Israel vowed to carry out after an Iranian attack on Sunday, when Tehran fired hundreds of drones and missiles at Israel. Most of Iran's volleys were intercepted or caused little damage. The U.S. military official spoke on condition of anonymity Thursday.

The extent of Israel's strikes and the weapons used weren't clear.

Iran state news agency IRNA reported a military official in the central Iranian city of Isfahan, Brigadier General Mihan Dost, as saying loud sounds heard east of the city were the sound of air defenses intercepting what he called a "suspicious target" and that no damage was reported in the area.

What we know so far about Israel's strike on Iran — and what could happen next

What we know so far about Israel's strike on Iran — and what could happen next

Other Iranian news agencies had not reported any such strike and have concluded the sounds reported near Isfahan were the interception of one or more drones.

Israel's military and prime minister's office have not yet responded to NPR's request for comment.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has confirmed on social media that there is no damage to Iran's nuclear sites.

Meanwhile, Israel's hardline National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, wrote on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, that Israel's latest apparent strike against Iran was "weak" and too limited.

Commercial flights continue in and out of Israel, and the country's Home Front Command system, which is responsible for issuing threat alerts to civilians during tense military times, didn't change its threat level.

In Iran, flights were temporarily grounded in the morning, but resumed just a couple of hours later.

The U.S. and other western allies had been urging Israel to forego a military strike to avoid a regional conflict springing out of the Israel-Hamas war .

Those concerns rose when an air strike – which Iran blamed on Israel – killed two Iranian military commanders in the country's consulate in Damascus, Syria, on April 1.

How Iran and Israel became archenemies

How Iran and Israel became archenemies

Iran said Sunday's attack on Israel was in response to that.

The region has been on the edge of wider conflict since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking more than 240 others hostage, according to Israel. Israel's military campaign in response in Gaza has killed more than 33,000 people, according to Gaza health officials.

Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah have traded frequent fire over the northern Israel border. Houthi militants, also backed by Iran, have been going after international commercial vessels passing through the Red Sea in recent months. The group's leaders claim they're targeting ships with links to Israel in response to the country's ongoing invasion of Gaza.

Biden signs bill that includes funding for Israel, aid for Gaza

President Biden signed a $95 billion foreign aid bill Wednesday after the Senate approved it in a 79-18 vote Tuesday night. The measure contains $26 billion in funds allotted for Israel, which the White House said would “help ensure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself against the very real threats it faces from Iran, as well as Iran’s proxy groups.” It also includes humanitarian aid for Gaza and other places. Top Israeli officials thanked the United States after the vote.

  • Netanyahu calls for end to college protests, deeming them ‘antisemitic’
  • Famine threat looms as highest number of aid trucks enter Gaza since start of war, UNRWA chief says
  • Satellite images show hundreds of tents set up in southern Gaza in April

Here's what to know:

Here's what to know.

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  • After Israeli strike in Iran, both sides appear to downplay incident April 19, 2024 After Israeli strike in Iran, both sides appear to downplay incident April 19, 2024
  • Homes burned, animals killed: Palestinians describe Israeli settler rampage April 16, 2024 Homes burned, animals killed: Palestinians describe Israeli settler rampage April 16, 2024
  • Six months of the Israel-Gaza war: A timeline of key moments April 7, 2024 Six months of the Israel-Gaza war: A timeline of key moments April 7, 2024

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Israel-Gaza war

The Israel-Gaza war has gone on for six months, and tensions have spilled into the surrounding region .

The war: On Oct. 7, Hamas militants launched an unprecedented cross-border attack on Israel that included the taking of civilian hostages at a music festival . (See photos and videos of how the deadly assault unfolded ). Israel declared war on Hamas in response, launching a ground invasion that fueled the biggest displacement in the region since Israel’s creation in 1948 .

Gaza crisis: In the Gaza Strip, Israel has waged one of this century’s most destructive wars , killing tens of thousands and plunging at least half of the population into “ famine-like conditions. ” For months, Israel has resisted pressure from Western allies to allow more humanitarian aid into the enclave .

U.S. involvement: Despite tensions between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and some U.S. politicians , including President Biden, the United States supports Israel with weapons , funds aid packages , and has vetoed or abstained from the United Nations’ cease-fire resolutions.

History: The roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and mistrust are deep and complex, predating the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 . Read more on the history of the Gaza Strip .

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The 18 best places to see the northern lights.

Check the aurora borealis off your bucket list.

The Best Places for the Northern Lights

Northern lights over Kirkjufell in Iceland.

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The northern lights, known as the aurora borealis, are a spectacular natural light show visible at certain times of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. They occur when electrically charged particles from the sun collide with gases in the Earth's atmosphere, creating vibrant streaks of blue, green, pink and violet dancing across the night sky. 2024 and 2025 are an excellent time to catch the northern lights: Solar activity will be at a peak, making for a more impressive experience, if you're in the right place.

The best places to see the aurora borealis have little light pollution, clear skies and no precipitation. The lights are only visible at northern latitudes when it's dark outside, so the months from September to April are best for seeing the aurora. There's also a Southern Hemisphere counterpart, the aurora australis; there are fewer easy spots from which to view this phenomenon, but if you're lucky, it can be equally brilliant.

For more information on the northern lights, scroll down to the FAQ section at the bottom of this page. Read on to discover the top destinations where you can see the kaleidoscopic northern and southern lights.

Fairbanks, Alaska

Aurora borealis over tree line in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Fairbanks is by far one of the best places in the world to view the northern lights, as it's located directly under the auroral oval. This ring-shaped zone sits around the Earth's geomagnetic North Pole and is generally associated with the most vibrant aurora sightings. Visitors can expect to see the lights on an average of four out of five clear nights during aurora season, which lasts from late August to late April.

You can book a northern lights tour to see the aurora from the springs and tubs at Chena Hot Springs Resort. This excursion includes round-trip transportation to the resort from town, a soak in the hot springs, a visit to the Fairbanks Aurora Ice Museum and an aurora viewing tour; dinner and drinks centered around Alaska produce are an option extra with hot drinks supplied.

There's more to Fairbanks than just the northern lights: If you visit in late summer, consider family-friendly activities like a ride on the Riverboat Discovery or gold panning. For a festive holiday experience in the winter, head around 15 miles out of Fairbanks to visit the Santa Claus House in the city of North Pole. Travelers can also see ice sculptures in February and March at the impressive World Ice Art Championships or take a dog-sledding or snowmobiling tour .

Where to stay: For excellent chances of aurora viewing, book a private igloo at Borealis Basecamp, a top glamping resort located on 100 remote acres of boreal forest about 25 miles from Fairbanks. With activities like dog-sledding on top of aurora viewing, past visitors regularly describe it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Tromsø, Norway

Norther lights over landscape of Tromsø, Norway.

Located about 220 miles above the Arctic Circle, Tromsø is one of several top spots to view the northern lights in Norway. At the darkest point of the aurora season – which runs from September to early April – the sun doesn't rise in this northern part of the country, although there is twilight during the day. With this level of darkness, there are more opportunities to see the aurora.

Tromsø itself is a small but lively city, so there's plenty to see and do when you're not looking up at the sky, including a visit to the beautiful Arctic Cathedral. In late January to early February, the city hosts the Northern Lights Festival, a 10-day music and performing arts event featuring a variety of musical genres.

Aurora chasers can view the lights on their own while in town, but to get a better view, it's recommended to head away from the city lights. Arctic Circle Tours is one company offering guided trips, with small groups for a more personal vibe. Alternatively, adventure-seekers can embark on an exhilarating husky trekking expedition in the Arctic wilderness.

Where to stay: For accommodations with harbor views, look no further than the Scandic Ishavshotel – guests love it for its convenient central location in the city, as well as its plus-sized breakfast buffet with plenty of choices.

Luosto and Rovaniemi (Lapland), Finland

Northern lights over Pyhae Luosto National Park in northern Finland.

Lapland is located within the Arctic Circle in the northernmost part of Finland. The northern lights are most visible here between the end of August and April – and approximately 200 times a year – so there are many opportunities for aurora spotting. Finnish Lapland is also known as home to the Sámi people (the only recognized Indigenous group in the European Union region), some 200,000 reindeer and Santa Claus – who can be visited in the town of Rovaniemi, the region's largest city and a great base for your aurora expedition.

Consider venturing roughly 70 miles north of Rovaniemi to the resort town of Luosto, set among the picturesque and hilly landscape of Pyhä-Luosto National Park. Here, you can also spend a magical evening outdoors under star-filled skies during a reindeer-drawn sleigh ride through the snow-covered forests. Jaakkola Reindeer Farm offers a reindeer sleigh tour to spot the aurora once weekly; it includes a stop to warm up at a bonfire camp with snacks, hot beverages and local fireside stories.

Where to stay: For a bucket list experience, watch the impressive light show from a glass igloo at Santa's Hotel Aurora & Igloos in Luosto. Past visitors love the cozy atmosphere here, boosted by amenities like saunas and log fireplaces. If you're sticking to Rovaniemi, the Arctic TreeHouse Hotel is a stunning choice, with designer cabins perched among the snow-covered taiga forest.

Orkney, Scotland

Northern lights over a lake in the Scottish Highlands.

This group of captivating (and mostly uninhabited) islands, located about 10 miles off Scotland's remote northern coast, is one of the best places to see the northern nights in the U.K. Fall and winter are the best seasons to witness the aurora, also known in local Shetland dialect as the "Mirrie Dancers," with fall bringing the highest proportion of clear nights. A few places to see the spectacular light show include along the coast at Birsay or the Broch of Gurness, an archaeological ruin on a sweeping and dramatic coastline.

In addition to the aurora, Orkney is home to breathtaking coastal landscapes and more sheep than you can count (try some local lamb, if you can). Travelers can also visit the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with several monuments dating back 5,000 years.

Where to stay: During your visit, plan to stay in the historic town of Kirkwall, the capital of the Orkney Islands: The no-fuss Ayre Hotel offers harbor views, and past visitors compliment the hearty meals in the hotel restaurant. Spot the aurora close to town at Inganess Bay and Wideford Hill.

Yellowknife, Canada

Northern lights over trees and lights in Yellowknife, Canada.

Yellowknife, the capital of Canada 's Northwest Territories, dubs itself the "Aurora Capital of the World." Thanks to its position in the middle of the auroral oval, the city puts on one of the world's most awe-inspiring light shows. The period from mid-November to the beginning of April is the recommended time to spot the aurora, but it's also possible to see the aurora during more hospitable weather from late summer to early fall as the lights are visible up to 240 days a year.

Located on the northern shore of Great Slave Lake, Yellowknife boasts winter sports such as ice fishing and cross-country skiing. If you visit in March, plan to attend the monthlong Snowkings' Winter Festival, which features events and activities like a snow-carving competition, a snow castle, live music and more.

For a unique experience, book a tour through Aurora Village to view the lights. The property will pick you up from your hotel and take you to its site, where you can stay warm in a tent while sipping hot beverages. The Aboriginal-owned Aurora Village also offers activities such as dog-sledding or snowshoeing excursions.

Where to stay: Warm up in the fireside lounge at The Explorer Hotel in Yellowknife. Previous visitors note the warm and helpful staff as a strength here.

Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

Two people sitting on a the ice of a lake and watching the northern lights in the north of Sweden.

The optimal time for seeing the illuminated skies in the northern part of Sweden, known as Swedish Lapland, is between early September and late March. The small Swedish village of Jukkasjärvi sits around 125 miles above the Arctic Circle on the Torne River and is an ideal locale for aurora viewing. You'll fly to the nearby Kiruna Airport to get here. With the village's origins dating back to the 17th century, you can still find some of the original homesteads, including an old timber cottage. Today the village boasts 800 residents – and more than 1,000 dogs.

Where to stay: If you're up for a chilly overnight adventure, reserve accommodations at the world's first permanent ice hotel, the aptly named Icehotel 365. Each of its artist-designed suites is sculpted from ice with a unique theme and maintains temperatures around minus 5 degrees Celsius (about 23 degrees Fahrenheit). The rooms also feature beds with reindeer hides and thermal sleeping bags so you can bundle up during the night. While you're at the property, take advantage of the guided "Northern Lights Safari on Snowmobile" or embark on the "Moose Safari on Horseback" atop an Icelandic horse.

Reykjavik, Iceland

Northern lights above Hallgrimskirkja Church in central Reykjavik, Iceland.

October through March is the best time to chase the aurora borealis in Iceland . There are numerous natural parks and attractions throughout the country where you can view the show during the long and dark winter, but the capital city of Reykjavik also offers many options for accommodations, restaurants, tours and other activities for your visit. For optimum aurora viewing in the city away from the light pollution, head to Öskjuhlið. This wooded and hilly area in Reykjavik sits at 200 feet above sea level and has walkways and paths where you can see the nighttime show.

Atop this hill sits Perlan, which houses the only planetarium in the country and a museum featuring exhibits about Iceland. Perlan is also home to the world's first indoor ice cave and glacier exploratorium. During your visit, don't miss the panoramic views of the city from the building's fourth-floor observation deck. From this vantage point, you'll be able to see the Snæfellsjökull glacier; Keilir, a volcanic mountain; and Esja, the mountain of Reykjavik.

Where to stay: While in Reykjavik, splurge on an overnight tour with Buubble Tours. This experience includes breathtaking sightseeing spots and a night spent under the magical northern skies in a transparent bubble at the 5 Million Star Hotel. For longer stays, consider the eco-friendly Eyja Guldsmeden Hotel, with sweeping views of the city – guests love it for its cozy yet chic Scandinavian design.

Southern Iceland

Northern lights over Reynisfjara black sand beach in Iceland.

While Reykjavik is a great aurora-viewing spot if you like having amenities close by, consider getting out into Iceland's stunning, otherworldly countryside for a unique backdrop for the northern lights. One unique place to see them is the black sand beach at Reynisfjara (but watch out for the dangerous waves here). Alternatively, head to Jökulsárlón, a glacial lagoon and seal habitat, where the aurora's reflections in the icy water are truly beautiful.

There's no shortage of tours that will stop by these locations and more for possible aurora sightings. Consider a 10- or 13-day tour around the country with Fun Travel, or a four-day option from Arctic Adventures. If you want to do things at your own place, it's also possible to self-drive – just know that road conditions can be icy, particularly in the depths of winter (although Icelandic roads are generally well-maintained).

Where to stay: Hotel Rangá is a formidable option for aurora-spotting. It offers a variety of special amenities, such as aurora wake-up calls, a lookout deck and snowsuits to keep you warm if you're outside viewing the lights. Past visitors praise Rangá for being a comfortable yet luxurious place to relax, be it in the outdoor hot tubs or the cozy and sociable bar.

Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

Northern lights reflected in water with mountains in eastern Greenland.

Greenland may not be the most accessible place to travel for viewing the northern lights, with limited flight options (mostly via Iceland), but those who make it here will be thrilled they did. The tundra of Kalaallit Nunaat – the Greenlandic name for the country – is one of the best places on the globe to see the aurora from September to early April.

For the more adventurous aurora seekers, head to the top of the Greenland Ice Cap for spectacular views of the lights. This impressive glacier covers 80% of the country and is accessible via the tiny town of Kangerlussuaq. Located on a fjord right along the Arctic Circle, the town, often described as a gateway to Greenland, was a former U.S. Air Force base and is now home to Greenland's main airport. The town is known for having clear skies on some 300 nights per year, so chances of a sighting are particularly good here.

Tour company Guide to Greenland offers various tours, from two-hour aurora-viewing trips to a tough but rewarding multi-night dog-sledding expedition across the ice. For a less strenuous experience, companies like Nordic Saga Tours offer cruises through the Arctic landscapes around Kangerlussuaq.

Viking cruise along Norway's coast

A pool by windows overlooking the ocean on a Viking cruise ship.

Courtesy of Viking

Embrace the winter and set sail for the Arctic Circle to experience the aurora in northern Norway. The 13-day "In Search of the Northern Lights" cruise itinerary with Viking departs from London for the North Sea with stops in ports of call that are top aurora-viewing locales, including Tromsø, Alta and Narvik, plus a stop in Amsterdam en route. The cruise ends in Bergen, Norway.

While on land, take in the natural beauty of the snow-blanketed landscapes and book bucket list excursions like a night spent in an igloo or a reindeer sledding adventure. You can also chase the lights into the wilderness by snowmobile, take a dog sled ride under the stars or view them from a Sámi tent atop the mountain Pæska in Alta. This Viking Ocean Cruises itinerary is offered with departure dates from mid-January to mid-March.

Headlands International Dark Sky Park, Michigan

Northern Lights shine through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula Forest.

Regarded as one of the top spots in the U.S. to see the aurora outside Alaska, Headlands International Dark Sky Park sits at the top of Michigan 's lower peninsula, less than 5 miles from Mackinaw City. While the northern lights are less common here due to the relatively southern location, the best time to catch a glimpse of this phenomenon is typically during the spring and fall – and appearances can usually be predicted a couple of days in advance. The park even maintains an online Clear Sky Chart so you can check the weather forecast before you go.

There are also other stargazing opportunities throughout the year at Headlands. During the summer months the Milky Way is visible across the sky, and late summer evenings entertain visitors with meteor showers.

Where to stay: If you're visiting between late April and the end of October, splurge on a stay at Mission Point Resort on Mackinac Island, where the aurora should also be visible. Guests describe this iconic property situated along the shoreline of Lake Huron as positively charming, thanks to its historic nature and manicured grounds. The resort also offers a host of outdoor activities from bike rentals to swimming.

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Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

Northern lights above trees and lake of Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota.

Martha Shuff | Courtesy of Voyageurs National Park

Located on the international border between Minnesota and Ontario, Voyageurs National Park is an approximately 218,000-acre labyrinth of boreal forests, lakes and streams. Voyageurs is Minnesota's only national park; it's also unique in that the park's interior is accessible only by boat, unless you visit by snowmobile in winter. As a certified International Dark Sky Park , Voyageurs provides opportunities to view the Milky Way on clear evenings, especially in the summer. Year-round aurora viewing is also possible on evenings with clear dark skies, but chances are better during the winter, when it's dark for longer.

For a guided stargazing tour – including the Milky Way, the constellations and (if you're lucky) the northern lights – book with Voyageurs Outfitters. If you're on your own, park officials note that almost any campsite is a good spot for northern lights viewing and stargazing. You can also check out the boat launch areas around Ash River, Kabetogama Lake and the Rainy Lake Visitor Center for top-notch views.

Where to stay: Those who prefer to sleep in a warm, cozy bed instead of camping under the stars can make reservations at the Cantilever Distillery + Hotel, a boutique Trademark Collection by Wyndham property in the nearby town of Ranier, Minnesota. Visitors report that there's a lot to like here, from the industrial-chic rooms to friendly staff to top-notch cocktails in the active distillery on the premises.

Abisko National Park, Sweden

Northern lights seen from Abisko Mountain Station in Abisko, Sweden.

Given its Arctic location, Sweden is one of the prime spots for aurora viewing in the Northern Hemisphere, with Swedish Lapland at the top of the list. The fall and winter months (from September to March) offer the best opportunities to witness the spectacle, as there is more darkness than light during the days.

If you're up for the Arctic adventure, December is an ideal month to visit Abisko National Park, which some regard as one of the best places on Earth to see the lights dance across the sky. The park's mountainous terrain and clear dark skies offer dramatic front-row seats for viewing the northern lights. The Aurora Sky Station is one of the best vantage points to see the aurora in the park. Join one of the expert presentations to learn about the science behind this fascinating phenomenon.

If you'd prefer to chase the lights with a curated tour, professional photographers and aurora-chasing guides at Visit Abisko lead three- to four-hour tours throughout the fall and winter. If you can, try to join the tours in fall, as this time of year offers a unique opportunity to view the lights both in the sky and reflected in the lakes and rivers, which you won't see in the winter months.

Where to stay: For cozy Nordic vibes, stay at Abisko Mountain Lodge, which also offers activities like ice climbing and snowmobile tours in winter. Guests love the excellent restaurant here, which offers Swedish specialties ranging from salmon to moose.

Nellim, Finland

Northern lights above The Nellim Wilderness Hotel in Nellim, Finland.

Courtesy of Wilderness Hotels

Located a stone's throw from the Russian border in Finnish Lapland, this remote Arctic destination is a top-rated locale to view the northern lights due to the lack of light pollution. You'll be seriously out of the way of any built-up areas, as there's not even a paved road into Nellim. The best time to visit is between December and early April. This village is a great place to hunker down in a lodge and relax while enjoying a slice of life in the Finnish wilderness.

Where to stay: The Nellim Wilderness Hotel offers a perfect base with year-round activities, including aurora-chasing tours by car, snowmobile or on snowshoes. You can even take a sleigh ride through the snow to a campsite on Lake Inari to spot the aurora in pristine nature.

Beyond standard rooms, the Wilderness Hotel also offers glass-roofed cabins, as well as classic log cabins and bubble-shaped accommodations for two where guests can watch the dancing lights through the glass roof above your warm, cozy bed. When you're not chasing the lights, enjoy other Arctic activities like a husky safari, ice fishing, snowmobiling or a day in the snow meeting the local reindeer.

Saariselkä and Kakslauttanen, Finland

Northern lights above a snowy track through trees in the Arctic.

These two towns are around 150 miles above the Arctic Circle, with a prime location under the auroral oval, allowing as many as 200 opportunities per year to see the northern lights (weather permitting, of course). This area in Finnish Lapland is known for its stunning scenery, Sámi culture, cross-country and downhill skiing, and Urho Kekkonen National Park – one of Finland's largest.

Ski enthusiasts can roll two trips into one by hitting the slopes by day in Saariselkä and aurora spotting by night at Finland's northernmost ski resort. March into early April is the best time to view the aurora, as the Finnish Meteorological Institute notes that the weather is usually clearer at this time of year. But it's possible to see the northern lights at any time during the season from late August to early or mid-April.

Where to stay: Seven miles south of Saariselkä sits the village of Kakslauttanen, where you can book two- or four-person Glass Igloos at the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort. The new Kelo-Glass Igloos, which sleep up to six, mix the comforts of a log chalet with the visibility of the glass roof; enjoy a private sauna, a fireplace and more. There's also an impressive selection of year-round tours and activities at this resort, including northern lights excursions on snowmobiles or by horse-drawn carriage.

Stewart Island, New Zealand

Sign for Stewart Island lodge on Stewart Island, New Zealand.

Courtesy of RealNZ

Although they may be isolated, some far-south destinations offer the chance to see the aurora australis – or southern lights. While you might be able to see them year-round in some locations (just as with the northern lights), certain months are better for aurora viewing in the Southern Hemisphere. Stewart Island is regarded as one of the top spots to see the brilliant display in New Zealand , with 85% of the island encompassed by Rakiura National Park, so there are few people and virtually no light pollution. You can reach Stewart Island by flying in from Invercargill or taking a ferry from Bluff.

New Zealand's winter months – June to August – are the best time to see the southern lights; spring and fall are also not bad times to spot them. The brighter summer months, between December and February, make it more difficult to spot the aurora, but there's still a chance you'll catch a glimpse between midnight and 4 a.m.

Where to stay: Consider reserving a room with at Stewart Island Lodge, an intimate bed-and-breakfast. This beautiful property is just minutes by foot from the village of Oban, and the property will pick you up at the ferry terminal for your stay. Past visitors rave about the spectacular views of Halfmoon Bay and the Foveaux Strait from both the rooms and lodge terrace.

Southern Aurora Australis in Tasmania.

Tasmania sits approximately 150 miles south of mainland Australia. This mountainous island is one of relatively few places on the planet where it's theoretically possible to see the aurora 365 days a year due to its latitude, which allows for full darkness even on summer nights. The capital city of Hobart is the easiest point of entry: It's home to Tasmania's largest airport and serves as a convenient base. The city's burgeoning food and cultural scenes will also give you plenty to see and do.

From here you'll be able to reach several great viewing locations with unobstructed and open views of the sea along the southern and southeast coastlines, like Goat Bluff and Tinderbox Bay. When you're not staring at the night sky, splurge on a once-in-a-lifetime helicopter flight with Tasmanian Air Tours. Depending on your whims, your private pilot can whisk you away to soar over the sea cliffs; stop at a local winery to sample local vintages; or head south to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Port Arthur , Tasmania 's historic and most notorious prison.

Where to stay: Reserve accommodations at The Tasman, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Hobart. The historic luxury property is situated along the lively waterfront area with harbor views. Past guests admired the historic building housing the hotel and loved the heritage rooms featuring gas fireplaces for those cold Tasmanian nights.

Expedition cruise to Antarctica

The aurora australis as seen over the South Pole during austral winter.

If you're one of the lucky few people on the planet to travel to the southernmost continent on Earth, it may be pricey, but you'll have an adventure of a lifetime in Antarctica, especially if the aurora illuminates the sky. The southern lights are most visible in the winter months (between March and October), but due to weather conditions, only researchers brave the Antarctic winter – and they mostly stay indoors.

However, all hope is not lost if you seek to view the aurora australis in Antarctica. Late-season expedition cruises to this continent offered in March also bring the opportunity to view the southern lights and enjoy the end of Antarctica's fleeting summer. As the days shorten in length, you may encounter light snow across the extreme landscape and ice starting to form on the water's surface.

When it comes to wildlife viewing, humpback whale sightings are abundant, and you'll still see penguin colonies – including king and gentoo penguins. You can also keep your eyes peeled for elephant seals, leopard seals, wandering albatross and other species of birds. When night falls on clear evenings, look for the light show in the southern sky. Companies that offer March voyages include Swoop Antarctica, Atlas Ocean Voyages, Silversea Cruises , Aurora Expeditions and Hurtigruten Expeditions.

Frequently Asked Questions

There's no one location that's widely accepted as the best place to see the northern lights. However, the strongest light displays are within what's called the "auroral oval": a rough circle around the Earth's magnetic northern pole that tends to occur around 60 to 70 degrees of latitude. The oval's exact size expands and contracts (some more southerly destinations can fall under it when the aurora is particularly strong), but there are certain locations that generally fall within the oval most of the time.

These places include:

  • Central and northern Alaska
  • Large areas of Yukon, the Northwest Territories and northern Quebec in Canada
  • Southern Greenland
  • Far northern Norway, Sweden and Finland

Within these areas, it could be argued that Iceland is the best place to see the aurora as it experiences much milder temperatures than some other areas within the oval. But this is subjective, and some travelers may prefer a location like Yellowknife in Canada for a full-on, very cold Arctic experience.

The northern lights are only visible when it's dark out. Since many of the best places to see them are so far north that they experience near-constant daylight in the summer, you'll generally want to schedule a trip between late August and early April. However, within this time period, there's some debate about the best time to catch the lights. For example, the aurora tends to be more active around the September and March equinoxes due to stronger solar winds – but on the other hand, your chances of seeing them may be higher in the depths of winter, since there's longer nights and therefore a longer window in which they might appear.

In more southern locations like Minnesota, it may be possible to see the light show in the summer months, but it's still advisable to go at a time when the nights are longer. It can also be worth trying to schedule your northern lights trip when there's a new moon: While the aurora can shine through moonlight, it may be harder to see if there's a full moon.

Of course, cloudy weather can block the aurora even if you go at the right time of year. So, it may be wise to research the local weather patterns at your chosen destination to find out if there's a month where you can expect clearer skies. In many cases, though, there's a little luck involved.

These two countries can offer excellent views of the northern lights, since both are directly under the typical auroral oval. Yet there are some differences to be aware of.

In Norway, you'll need to head to the north of the country to catch the aurora: While they have been sighted in Oslo , the capital and largest city, it's too far south to be a reliable vantage point. Cities like Tromsø are popular spots, but direct flights there are only possible from some European cities, so North Americans will have to take connecting flights. On the other hand, Iceland is generally easier to reach, with direct flights to its capital, Reykjavik, from a large number of U.S. destinations (particularly from the East Coast) with no further connection required.

Since clear skies are key for seeing the northern lights, weather is another factor to consider. In November, December and March, Reykjavik has statistically slightly more frequent clear skies, while in January and February, Tromsø is a little better, but the difference isn't big: Both places have clear skies only around 25 to 30% of the time in these months. Reykjavik has slightly warmer weather, though, so between that and the ease of access, it has a slight edge over Norway for seeing the northern lights.

Alaska and Iceland are known for stellar aurora light shows, so deciding between them may depend on which destination you find more convenient and more to your tastes. In Alaska , the city of Fairbanks is considered a great spot to catch the northern lights. (They can still be seen elsewhere in the state – for example, in Anchorage, although they're not so common in more southern locations like Juneau). The advantage of Fairbanks is that you won't need a passport , yet there aren't many direct flights from the lower 48 states. Despite being an international destination, Iceland may be more accessible (particularly from the eastern U.S.), thanks to fairly regular flights to Reykjavik from numerous American cities.

Fairbanks does offer statistically better weather for aurora viewing: It has clear skies more often than Reykjavik, particularly in March when the Alaska city experiences them around 45% of the time (compared to about 25% for Reykjavik). But you'll have to be able to tolerate the cold. While temperatures in Reykjavik hover around freezing in midwinter, Fairbanks is a veritable deep freeze, with average highs around 5 degrees Fahrenheit down to lows colder than minus 5 in December.

Why Trust U.S. News Travel

Timothy Forster , as a Canadian who has traveled from coast to coast in that sprawling country, knows all about travel in the cold northern reaches of the world. Forster used his extensive traveling background along with research expertise to curate this article.

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Tags: Travel , Vacation Ideas

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