Has it been your lifelong dream to visit the USA, and you’re finally ready to make it happen yet are unsure where to start with planning your trip?
I get it! I felt that way too. The USA is not just huge; it also boosts incredibly diverse landscapes and numerous vibrant cities, each with a unique character. So choosing the best places to visit in the US is no easy task.
Still, to help you plan an epic American vacation, I’ve narrowed it down to the top 14 bucket list US destinations and the must-visit tourist attractions you’ll find at each one.
The 14 Best Places To Visit In The US
In these top places to go in the US, I’ve included something for everyone, from mesmerizing national parks to exciting cities to iconic landmarks.
- New York City
- Las Vegas
- San Francisco
- Los Angeles
- San Diego
- New Orleans
- Utah’s National Parks
- Rocky Mountain Ranges
- Washington DC
New York City
New York City, or NYC, is often at the top of most people’s USA bucket lists, thanks to being featured in so many Hollywood movies and international TV shows. New York is famed for its iconic bustling atmosphere, designer shopping, and Broadway performances which make it one of the best places to visit in America.
The Big Apple, as the city is also known, is also home to many of the USA’s most famous tourist attractions, like the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Metropolitan Museum, and Central Park.
There’s so much to see in this city that you need at least 4 days in New York City to see the highlights. You can even visit Niagara Falls on a day trip from NYC allowing you to tick off two iconic USA sights off your bucket list at once.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Another of the most famous places to visit in the USA is gambling haven Las Vegas in Nevada.
While it is known for its 24/7 entertainment and eclectic vibe, Vegas is for more than just avid gamblers. The city of Sins is also famed for its shopping, fine dining, and nightlife scene, most of which you can find on the iconic strip in the city center.
If the Vegas crowds get a bit much, drive a few hours across the border to California to check out Death Valley national park, which is said to be the hottest place on earth in the summer. Unless you like the sensation of being in a sauna 24/7, the best time to visit Death Valley is in spring, when the usually bone-dry desert boasts an impressive floral display.
Alternatively, you can take a four-hour drive to the Grand Canyon national park in Arizona, famed for its distinct huge red rocks with multiple layered bands formed over millions of years. Whether you’re interested in natural history or hiking and biking trails, add this epic national park to your USA bucket list.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco is a charming city with gorgeous scenery, diverse cultural events, and bustling music festivals. The Golden Gate Bridge and iconic trams are the most popular tourist attractions here. However, there are also many incredible coastal hiking trails in and around the city, boasting breathtaking views of the pacific ocean.
San Francisco is also the closest large city to Yosemite national park, known for its refreshing waterfalls, waterfalls, deep valleys, and ancient Sequoia forest park.
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles, the glamorous city of dreams and home of Hollywood is high up on most people’s bucket lists. L.A. is a sprawling metropolis on the Californian coast that dazzles with it’s sunshine, cinematic history and endless possibilities.
Los Angeles boasts sunny beaches, iconic landmarks, and star-studded allure. Walk the legendary Hollywood Walk of Fame and immerse yourself in the magic theme parks like Universal Studios Hollywood and Disney Land.
For a taste of glamour, shop on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, known for its luxurious boutiques. And of course, soak up the sun on the beautiful beaches of Santa Monica and Malibu and walk the boardwalk on vibrant Venice Beach.
No mention of the best vacation destinations in the US would be complete without the islands of Hawaii! Situated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is a tropical archipelago that offers a stunning natural beauty and warm hospitality. While there are over 100 hundreds, Kauai, Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island are the most popular for tourists.
Hawaii’s stunning beaches are some of the best in the world, perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and surfing and there’s many surf and yoga retreats in Hawaii where you can learn. From the iconic Waikiki Beach in Oahu to the Napali Coast in Kauai, Hawaii is a haven of unparalleled beauty and adventure.
Explore the lush rainforests and cascading waterfalls, embark on exhilarating hikes and be rewarded with jaw-dropping vistas, and witness the powerful volcanic activity at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Also don’t miss the cultural experiences, such as attending a traditional luau, learning hula dancing, or tasting delicious local cuisine. Aloha!
San Diego, California
Another California city that should be on everyone’s USA bucket list is San Diego. With sunny weather, laid-back and stunning beaches it’s home to some of the best surf and yoga retreats in California. There are also many fab cultural venues like San Diego maritime museum and the natural history museum.
From San Diego, you can also take a day trip to Joshua Tree national park, which is less than a 3-hour drive one way. The unique and vast Mojave desert encompasses 790,000 acres of land and is home to a wide selection of exotic plants, wildlife, and epic hiking trails. San Diego is also really close to the border with Mexico.
If you love theme parks, beaches, and endless entertainment options, you will surely want to spend some time in Florida. Full of tourist resort towns, it’s hard to pick just one part of Florida to visit, so why not see them all?
In the south, Miami Beach (also called south beach), Key West and the tropical wetlands, known as the Everglades, are some of the most best US destinations and yoga retreats in Florida are also popular.
Orlando is also famed for being the home of theme parks including the Walt Disney World Resort, but there are other notable attractions here, like the Kennedy Space Center.
New Orleans, Louisiana
The city of New Orleans is a vibrant, melting pot nestled on the banks of the Mississippi River. With French, African, and Spanish influences, New Orleans is often considered a cultural gem of the Deep South, showcasing its vibrant music, cuisine, and traditions.
Known as the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans pulsates with a rhythmic energy that permeates every corner. From the soul-stirring sounds of street performers to the tantalizing aroma of gumbo wafting through the air, New Orleans’ unique blend of history, music, charm and hospitality has made it one of the most popular US destinations.
Visit St. Louis Cathedral and explore the elegant architecture of the Garden District and the French Quarter, with its vibrant music scene and delectable Creole cuisine. Try to time to your visit to coincide with the iconic Mardi Gras festivities, where the city explodes with vibrant colors and lively parades.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone national park in Wyoming is home to nearly half of the world’s active geysers. It is famous for its geothermal features, such as Old Faithful and colorful hot springs. If you’re interested in Hydrothermal and Geologic activity, this is a must-visit USA destination.
Aside from the geysers, you’ll find dramatic canyons, fresh alpine rivers, lush green forests, and plenty of wildlife like grizzly bears, wolves, and herds of bison. If one park is not enough, you’ll find the lovely Grand Teton national park just a short drive south of Yellowstone.
Utah’s National Parks
Utah may not be the state that first comes to mind when you think about the best places to visit in the US, but if you’re seeking the most beautiful national parks, this is the state for you. Utah is home to 5 incredible and unique national parks – Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon and Zion!
In the southwest corner of the state, you’ll find Zion national park, a hiker’s paradise with a maze of sandstone canyons and colourful waterfalls. A 90 minute drive north east and you will come across Bryce Canyon national park, which has various beautiful sunset and sunrise viewing points.
Iconic Monument Valley, on the border of Utah and Arizona, is also not far away and it worth the detour. Then head north to visit Capitol Reef and Canyonlands national park for dramatic desert landscapes before checking out the soaring pinnacles, arches and massive rock fin in Utah Arches National Park.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Speaking of amazing natural scenery, another one of the best US destinations is Rocky Mountain national park. A 415 square-mile protected area of the Rocky Mountains, offering many hiking and mountain biking trails and plenty of wildlife sightings.
Located in Colorado, you can combine this natural wonder with skiing in Aspen, a city break in Denver or Boulder or enjoy the hot springs in Colorado Springs.
Chicago, the third largest city in the USA, is known as the “windy city” as ice-cold breezes blow off Lake Michigan and sweep through the city’s streets. However, don’t let the weather put you off from visiting, as there are many historic landmarks to explore here, such as the Art Institute of Chicago and Millennium Park.
Moreover, Chicago is nicknamed the music city because of its rich heritage in various genres like house and gospel, urban blues, and modern jazz. As a result, live music is always plentiful here.
The Capitol – Washington DC
It may not seem like the most glamorous and exciting US city, but if you’re traveling the east coast, stop off for a few days in Washington, DC. It’s about 4 hours drive south from New York City.
As the federal capital city and one of the most important cities in the US, you’ll find many neoclassical monuments like the famous White House and Lincoln Memorial. Also, be sure to check out the obelisk-shaped Washington Monument and the Kennedy Center of performing arts.
Last but certainly not least, one of the most unique experiences in the US is exploring the untamed wilderness of Alaska. Located in the far north of the United States, Alaska is a land of vast landscapes, towering mountains, icy glaciers and endless adventure.
From the mesmerizing Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) to grizzly bears and majestic humpback whales, Alaska offers a true adventure into the wild. Experience the awe-inspiring majesty of Denali, the tallest peak in North America, and venture into the rugged terrain of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.
One of the best ways to experience Alaska is by cruising through the icy waters of Glacier Bay National Park, where tidewater glaciers and abundant marine life create a mesmerizing and unique spectacle.
Final Thoughts on the Best Places to Visit in the USA
While this is in no way an complete list of all the amazing places to visit in the USA, by now I’m sure you have many awesome cities on your USA bucket list.
The US is a huge country so I don’t recommend trying to see it all in one trip. It’s best to plan a trip that includes several US destinations located nearby, or in neighboring states.
If you don’t have time for a whole Route 66 road trip, a popular California itinerary is a road trip from L.A to San Francisco and then to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. This route allows you to check off some of the most iconic sights in the US in one epic trip!
And if you’re anything like me and you like to combine a trip of a lifetime with a yoga retreat check out my pick of the best yoga retreats in the USA.
Whichever you choose for your USA trip, it’s bound to be an unforgettable experience. Check this post about things you need to know before visiting the USA for practical tips on visas etc.
Want more travel inspiration? Check out:
- The best places to visit in the UK
- The best places to visit in Europe
- The best places to visit in Australia
- The best places to visit in Asia