50 Best Places To Visit In USA: Bucket List US Vacation Spots


Best Places to visit in the USA bucket list cities and vacation spots across the US

The USA is an exceptionally tourist friendly country with a wide range of places to visit, including famous cities, spectacular national parks, iconic road trips, quaint towns and other areas of outstanding natural beauty. It doesn’t matter if you’re into skiing, hiking, history, city attractions, beaches, breweries or nature; you really can take any type of vacation in America.

In this guide, we show you 50 amazing US vacation spots for your 2024 bucket list.

Our US Travel Experience

Couple standing together on a bridge with winter coats covered in snow and skyscrapers just about visible in the background through snow clouds
Here we are in Central Park on a snow day when we lived in NYC

Since starting this travel blog in 2018, we’ve driven through more than 30 states, visited over 30 national parks, driven two cross-country road trips and lived in New York City, Seattle and Raleigh Durham. So we have a fairly good idea about what makes a great US vacation spot! Read more about us.

We’ve personally explored almost every place in this guide. The few we haven’t yet visited? Well, they’re at the very top of our own US travel bucket list.

About This Guide

Couple standing together on grass with colorful leaves and distant views over rolling mountains
This is us in New Hampshire during the fall foliage season

We’ve rounded up what we think are the 50 best places to visit in the USA based on our own experiences. We’ve either been or we’re desperate to go. And when Mark’s friends and family from the UK come to visit us, we always have them look through this guide to see where they want to visit (it’s usually NYC!).

The list is in alphabetical order but stick around until the end to see our personal top 10 places to visit in the US ranked!

Top US Vacation Spots Mapped

Click the map below to activate. Zoom in and out, move around the map and find the locations of the 50 best places to visit in the USA included in this guide.

Map key:

  • Red – Top vacation spots

1. Anchorage, Alaska

Mountains glowing at sunrise pink in Anchorage Alaksa with city and sea in foreground
Mountainous backdrop to Anchorage, Alaska

Anchorage is the gateway into remote, rural and stunning Alaskan wilderness. Alaska is on almost every travel bucket list and Anchorage is the most popular starting point.

You can visit Kenai Fjords, Denali and Wrangell – St Elias national parks as part of an incredibly beautiful road trip from Anchorage to Valdez. Alternatively, take a flight from Anchorage to see Katmai and Lake Clark national parks for bears and beauty.

Things to do in Anchorage:

  • Visit up to 8 US National Parks
  • Go bear or whale spotting
  • Visit the Anchorage Museum and Alaska Native Heritage Center
  • See the Northern Lights between September and April
  • Hire a bike and ride the coastal path through Anchorage

2. Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville North Carolina city lit up at night
Downtown Asheville NC lit up at night

Asheville has exploded in popularity in recent years thanks to a diverse demographic of locals, an excellent food and craft beer scene, a vibrant art and architecture, and its location in the enchanting Blue Ridge Mountains.

Are you into hiking and the great outdoors? You’ll fall head over heels for Asheville. But the small town in North Carolina also makes for a relaxing USA vacation break for those looking to escape big city life and breathe fresh mountain air.

Things to do in Asheville:

3. Austin, Texas

Austin TX city buildings at twilight with colorful sky
City lights of Austin TX at twilight

Austin consistently ranks near the top of “most livable cities in the US” lists. In fact, according to World Population Review, Austin is the most livable city in 2024. Around 30 million people visit Austin each year thanks to its live music culture and famous festivals like SXSW and Austin City Limits.

Austin’s live music scene is one of America’s best, its food like Tex-Mex is beloved, it has abundance of outdoor space providing a natural escape in the city and the locals are known to be incredibly friendly. If you’re into relaxing with live music, great food and a lively atmosphere, Austin should be on your US bucket list.

Things to do in Austin:

  • Hop between more than 250 live music venues
  • Cool off in Barton Springs public swimming pool
  • Watch 1.5 million bats take to the sky from Congress Bridge each night
  • Eat Tex-Mex and BBQ food with craft beers to wash it all down
  • Walk around Zilker Metropolitan Park

4. Bar Harbor, Maine

Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor is one of the best places to visit in the USA
Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor Maine

Bar Harbor has long been a playground for the rich and famous. The small but glitzy resort town on Mount Desert Island is the gateway to Acadia National Park, one of the finest and most unique landscapes on the East Coast.

We used the upmarket Bar Harbor as a conveient base for hiking, exploring and photographing nearby Acadia National Park. It’s a fantastic place for a family vacation in the USA but be warned, it’s definitely an expensive New England coastal town! Here are the best places to stay near Acadia.

Things to do in Bar Harbor:

5. Big Sur, California

Bixby Bridge in Big Sur California
Bixby Bridge in Big Sur California

Big Sur is the most picturesque stretch of California’s legendary Pacific Coast Highway road trip from San Francisco to San Diego. On the drive you’ll see waterfalls, vistas, coves, sea lions, lighthouses, bridges, beaches and of course the rugged coastline. Big Sur is a must if you’re visiting SF or LA.

Starting in Carmel and ending in San Simeon, Big Sur is one of those super-scenic coastal drives you’ll always remember. Lodging is limited and highly sought after so we recommend booking in advance. Here’s exactly where you should stay in Big Sur CA.

Things to do in Big Sur:

  • Visit upmarket Carmel-By-The-Sea
  • Loop around plush 17 mile drive in Monterrey
  • Watch a stunning beach sunset
  • Visit Hearst Castle in San Simeon
  • Photograph the famous Bixby Bridge
  • Walk to McWay Falls and Partington Cove
  • Relax on Pfeiffer Beach

6. Birmingham, Alabama

Buildings reflecting in still water in Birmingham Alabama
Downtown Birmingham AL from Railroad Park

Birmingham is a hidden gem in the US deep south. Known as “the dinner table of the south”, Birmingham is a charming foodie town oozing genuine southern hospitality. It has plenty of attractions and it’s growing in popularity as a tourist destination, but the secret is out and it won’t stay quiet for long.

If you’re looking for something a little more off the beaten path and authentic for your next US vacation, head to the deep south and make Birmingham a priority. You can learn about the important Civil Rights Movement here and in other parts of Alabama or the bordering Mississippi.

Things to do in Birmingham:

7. Black Hills, South Dakota

Mount Rushmore is one of the best places to visit in the USA lighting up pink and orange at sunrise in the Black Hills
Soft sunrise colors lighting up Mount Rushmore in South Dakota’s Black Hills

Mount Rushmore is by far the most famous place to visit in the Black Hills, but there’s so many other amazing things to do near Mount Rushmore. Iron Mountain Road, Needles Highway and Spearfish Canyon are exceptionally scenic drives and Black Elk Peak is a top bucket list hike in the United States.

After visits in April and October, we can tell you that the Black Hills are exceptionally beautiful year round but they’re especially stunning during the fall season. South Dakota road trips are becoming more popular every year, so make the most of it now before the Black Hills become overcrowded.

Things to do in the Black Hills:

8. Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia

Blue Ridge Parkway road snaking through colorful leaves
Fall colors on the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the very best places to visit in the USA for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Stretching 469 miles from Waynesboro VA to Cherokee NC, it’s the most visited national park site in the United States, receiving 15.7 million visitors in 2022.

You should plan for 3-7 days to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway with plenty of stops along the way. We recommend including a few days in the Great Smoky Mountains to finish what would be a wonderful US vacation itinerary. Our top tip is to drive it in October when the colors are most vibrant.

Things to do along the Blue Ridge Parkway:

9. Boston, Massachusetts

Boston Massachusetts city building at dusk
Colorful buildings around Quincy Market in Boston

Boston is one of the most iconic and historically rich cities to visit in the USA. It’s home to Harvard University, the Boston Red Sox, seafood, the world renowned Boston Marathon and a wonderful mixture of architectural styles from Federal to Colonial.

There’s something for everyone in Boston, from diverse neighborhoods to excellent food and history at every turn. You can easily day trip to Plymouth Rock, Cape Cod or even Salem for Halloween. If truly unique US cities are at the top of your wishlist, look no further than Boston, Massachusetts.

Things to do in Boston:

10. Cannon Beach, Oregon

Cannon Beach stack with reflections in shallow water on beach Oregon Coast wonderful place to visit in the US
Haystack Rock at sunset in Cannon Beach, Oregon

Cannon Beach is a charming town on the Oregon coastline. It’s famous for miles of sandy beaches, stunning sunsets, state parks and the enormous Haystack Rock. The rugged coast is extremely picturesque, so Cannon Beach is a great vacation spot for photographers.

Independent stores, art galleries, locally run eateries and a small town feel make Cannon Beach a great family friendly beachfront escape. Cannon Beach is a great place to spend a night if you’re driving the Pacific Coast Highway on US-101, or you want a day trip to the beach from Portland.

Things to do in Cannon Beach:

11. Charleston, South Carolina

Typical tree lined street in Charleston SC
Palm tree lined Broad Street and St Michael’s Church in Charleston SC

Charleston is a picturesque, relaxing, upmarket and elegant city on the South Carolina coastline. There’s a wide range of family friendly things to do and the food is fantastic. It’s a popular destination for weddings and it’s one of our top picks for a USA vacation.

Charleston’s cobblestone streets, horse drawn carriages and historic buildings featuring various architectural styles are a huge draw to the city. We recommend hiring a car so you can explore nearby plantations and learn about the important history of South Carolina.

Things to do in Charleston:

  • Take a tour of Fort Sumter
  • Walk along the Battery to Rainbow Row
  • Explore the quaint French Quarter
  • Tour the USS Yorktown
  • Visit Magnolia and Boone Hall plantations and gardens
  • Eat some of the best southern style food in the US

12. Chicago, Illinois

Cloud Gate "The Bean" in Chicago Illinois is one of the most popular places to visit in the US
Cloud Gate “The Bean” in Chicago Illinois

Chicago is one of the most iconic cities in the US and it should be on everyone’s urban travel bucket list. The Windy City is the birthplace of the skyscraper and the deep-dish pizza, which simply must be sampled on a first visit to Chicago. You’ll also find world-class museums, history and diverse neighborhoods to explore.

You can see iconic skyscrapers towering into the clouds, walk miles through parks hugging the shores of Lake Michigan, take a cruise on the Chicago River or spend days in museums. “Chi-Town” is consistently listed in the top 10 most visited cities in the USA for a reason; you just need to go and discover why.

Things to do in Chicago:

13. Death Valley, California

Death Valley stunning landscape rolling mounds of colorful rocks
Unique landscape in Death Valley National Park, California

Death Valley is one of the most unique vacation spots in the USA thanks to its extraordinary landscape. You can walk on soft undulating sand dunes, hike through canyons, drive rugged 4WD trails, explore a ghost town and stand at 282 feet below sea level in Badwater Basin.

Extremely high temperatures make Death Valley a dangerous place to visit in summer, so we recommend visiting Death Valley in December to avoid the heat. Taking a Death Valley day trip from Las Vegas is a popular way to see what has been dubbed as “the hottest place on Earth”.

Things to do in Death Valley:

14. Denver, Colorado

Pedestrians walking through a paved area with restaurants and bars to each side, and hanging flags with fairy lights
Larimer Square in Denver CO

Denver is an outdoors orientated city located at the base of the gigantic Rocky Mountains. Known as “The Mile High City”, Denver is walkable, pedestrian friendly and easy to visit. But for us, it’s all about the mountains and the endless views of snow capped peaks.

We recommend hiring a car in Denver so you can drive up to Mount Evans, Red Rocks or even nearby Rocky Mountain National Park for some of the best hiking in the US. You can also use Denver as a start and end point for a longer road trip through Colorado.

Things to do in Denver:

15. Finger Lakes, New York

Watkins Glen and the New York Finger Lakes are one of the best places to visit in the USA Watkins Glen Gorge and Rainbow Falls
Watkins Glen gorge and Rainbow Falls in the Finger Lakes, NY

New York’s Finger Lakes region is an area of outstanding natural beauty with postcard perfect waterfalls, gorges and narrow lakes. Kristen is from Upstate NY and together we’ve explored this region extensively. It remains one of our favorite places to hike and take photos of striking landscapes.

You can hike fun trails to picturesque waterfalls, relax on lakeshores and taste some of the best wines in the country. The college town of Ithaca and Watkins Glen are great places to set up base for what we think is one of the most underrated places for family vacations in the USA.

Things to do in the Finger Lakes:

16. Florida Keys, Florida

Wooden pontoon stretching out far into shallow water at twilight
Higgs Pier bursting out into the gulf from Key West Florida

The Florida Keys are a quintessential US vacation destination, particularly in the colder months when millions flock from the snowy northern states for a taste of winter sun. It’s where you go for a slice of the Caribbean without actually leaving the USA.

If you’re looking to escape city life for a week or two, head down to the turquoise waters of the Florida Keys and relax with cocktails, beaches, sunshine, excellent food, two national parks and a slow pace of life.

Things to do in the Florida Keys:

17. Glacier, Montana

Glacier National Park lake meadow and mountains
Stunning Glacier National Park in Montana

Glacier National Park is one of the most visually striking and photogenic places you can visit in America. Your legs will ache after hiking awesome trails with spectacular vistas and your finger will ache after pressing your camera shutter non-stop.

Going-to-the-Sun road is up there with the most scenic roads in the country and you have a good chance of spotting wildlife including grizzly bears, mountain goats and bighorn sheep. The only problems are a very short window to visit, overcrowding and getting to the park.

Things to do in Glacier:

  • Hike Highline, Avalanche Lake, Grinnell Glacier and Iceberg Lake Trails
  • Photograph every square inch of the park
  • Drive Going-to-the-Sun scenic byway in summer

18. Grand Canyon, Arizona

Sunset colors at Grand Canyon South Rim in Arizona blue sky yellow rocks
Special sunset at Grand Canyon South Rim in Arizona

The Grand Canyon is one of the most iconic landscapes on Earth. Millions of visitors each year flock to Grand Canyon South Rim and we can tell you from lots of experience that it won’t disappoint. The Grand Canyon remains one of few places that left us truly stunned the first time we saw it.

You can simply walk along the rim and gaze down into the canyon from several vantage points, or you can descend into the abyss via the best hikes at Grand Canyon South Rim. Las Vegas serves as the perfect base for trips to the Grand Canyon but it’s even better as part of a wider southwest road trip.

Things to do in Grand Canyon:

19. Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park near Jackson Wyoming is one of the best places visit in the USA
Grand Teton National Park near Jackson Wyoming

Jackson Hole is a hugely popular year round destination for hikers, photographers and skiers. From spring through fall, Jackson is used as a base for exploring the best of Grand Teton, which typically receives around 3 million visitors annually. And in winter, Jackson transforms into a glitzy ski resort.

The small town of Jackson feels a bit like the old west with saloons and a rodeo. But in reality it’s one of the most expensive places to buy property in the entire United States and lots of rich people are buying up land around the Jackson area.

Things to do in Jackson WY:

  • Capture incredibly picturesque sunrise photography at Mormon Row or Schwabacher Landing
  • Hike to Inspiration Point and Cascade Canyon in Grand Teton National Park
  • Drive the Grand Teton loop road stopping at Jenny Lake and Signal Mountain
  • Ski in Teton Village during the winter season
  • Take a photo under the antler arch in Jackson town square
  • Eat, drink and shop in downtown Jackson

20. Kanab, Utah

The Wave in Coyote Buttes North on the border between Utah and Arizona is one of the most unique hikes near popular US vacation spot Kanab in Utah
The extraordinary Wave landscape near Kanab, Utah

Kanab is one of the most underrated places to visit in Utah. Most people drive through Zion and Bryce Canyon, then pass through Kanab on the way to Grand Canyon, Page and Moab. But that’s a huge mistake because Kanab is one of the best vacation spots in the US for outdoor adventure.

The Wave is one of the most incredible landscapes we’ve ever seen and there’s many more fun things to do near Kanab, including Coral Pink Sand Dunes and Buckskin Gulch slot canyon. But the best parts are a surprisingly excellent foodie scene and lots of highly rated cheap hotels in Kanab.

Things to do in Kanab:

21. Lake Placid, New York

View over Lake Placid from Little Whiteface in upstate New York one of the top places to visit in the US during Fall
View over Lake Placid from Little Whiteface in fall

Lake Placid is a year round adventure playground for hiking and skiing. Remember “The Miracle On Ice”? Well, that was Lake Placid Winter Olympics in 1980 and you can still visit the museum today, along with the 40 year old ski jumps. You can also hike to Mount Marcy and the highest point in New York.

It’s certainly not a cheap place to visit but there’s so many fun things to do in Lake Placid for the entire family. We’ve visited twice in peak fall foliage season and the whole region is just gorgeous, so we highly recommend the first week of October.

Things to do in Lake Placid:

22. Lake Tahoe, California

Stunning view over Lake Tahoe blue water and blue sky with rocks in foreground from summit of a short hike one of the most picturesque places to visit in the USA
Stunning Lake Tahoe vista from Eagle Rock

Lake Tahoe is a beautiful year round travel destination for millions each year who love to hike, kayak, swim and ski. Californians, Nevadans and even Oregonians are nearby but many fly into the Lake Tahoe area from across the US to relax, eat, drink and photograph the resplendent lake.

There’s dozens of hiking trails, beaches, ski runs and stunning Lake Tahoe photo spots to enjoy. The south side of the lake is more affordable and touristy, whereas the north side is quieter but classier and more expensive. Whichever side you use as a base, we’re sure you’ll fall for Lake Tahoe.

Things to do in Lake Tahoe:

23. Las Vegas, Nevada

Downtown lights in Las Vegas Nevada
Downtown lights in Las Vegas Nevada

Las Vegas is the legendary party capital of the USA and any “Sin City” trip is inevitably going to leave significant gaps in the memory! We expected Las Vegas to be awful, but we actually love it and we’ve visited several times. There’s just something crazy but addictive about being in Vegas, and we don’t gamble.

It’s absurdly expensive and a complete sensory overload but there’s a never-ending list of fun things to do in Las Vegas. You’ll find world class restaurants and chefs, pool parties, big room nightclubs and events, concerts, magic shows and countless other activities suitable for anyone and everyone.

Things to do in Las Vegas:

24. Leavenworth, Washington

Colchuck Lake on the Enchantments hike near Leavenworth one of the most popular places to visit in America year round
Colchuck Lake on the amazing Enchantments Hike near Leavenworth Washington

Leavenworth is a Bavarian themed town in Washington’s rugged Cascade Mountains. It’s unquestionably one of the best hidden gem US vacation spots thanks to stunning scenery, a lively atmosphere, and excellent hiking and skiing opportunities year round.

If you want to take on one of the toughest but best day hikes in America, you should book a hotel in Leavenworth and hike The Enchantments in summer or fall. The fun Alpine theme transcends the entire town, so you can head out for a 2 pint stein and a bratwurst after a long day on the trails.

Things to do in Leavenworth:

25. Los Angeles, California

Hollywood sign and Los Angeles are among the most famous places to visit in the USA
Iconic Hollywood sign overlooking Los Angeles California

Los Angeles is the entertainment capital of the world. Hollywood and the movie industry are at the heart of LA’s stardom, but beyond television you’ll find world class museums, beaches, sports teams and some of the top rated restaurants in the country.

Disneyland is probably high on your list if you’ll be traveling with the kids, but there’s much more to do on a first visit to Los Angeles because the whole city is like one great big theme park for adults. Start with the beaches at Santa Monica and Venice, hiking to the Hollywood sign and shopping in Beverly Hills.

Things to do in Los Angeles:

26. Mackinac Island, Michigan

Mackinack Island on the Michigan coastline in northern USA
Michigan coastline’s popular Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island is a tiny car-free vacation spot nestled in the narrow joining point of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. Unobstructed views to the east and west mean stunning sunrises and sunsets are daily occurrences when the sky is clear. And the whole island is filled with natural formations and landmarks.

Some people visit Mackinac Island as a standalone vacation, but most will stop for a day or two when driving a Michigan Coast road trip. In summer, you can swim and get stuck into water sports. Fall brings radiant autumnal foliage and plenty of photographers to the island.

Things to do in Mackinac Island:

27. Maui, Hawaii

Serene sunset on the coastline of Maui in Hawaii
Serene sunset on the coastline in Maui Hawaii

Maui is the most popular and touristy Hawaiian Island thanks to a famous road trip route called The Road to Hana and a a fantastic national park called Haleakala National Park, which is home to the picturesque Sliding Sands Trail and Waimoku Falls.

Maui is all about getting outdoors into nature by day, then kicking back and relaxing by night on what has to be one of the most beautiful vacation spots in the USA. If you’re doing Hawaii on a budget, you might want to spend a few days on Maui before moving to a (slightly!) more affordable island.

Things to do in Maui:

28. Miami, Florida

Palm trees and Miami city skyline with colorful sky
Palm trees and Miami’s famous skyline at twilight

Miami is the place you go to “party in the city where the heat is on”! But there’s more to Miami than just partying until the sun comes up. You’ll also find miles of golden sand beaches with turquoise waters, award winning restaurants, high end shopping and a tropical climate.

We’re not just talking about a popular place to go in the US here, Miami is one of the most popular vacation spots in the world. Favorable year round weather plays a significant role, but it’s the Latin and Caribbean inspired food, art deco architecture and diverse culture that makes Miami great.

Things to do in Miami:

29. Moab, Utah

Arches National Park is the most popular place to visit in Moab USA with mind blowing rock formations
Arches National Park near Moab in Utah

Moab is a small desert resort town near Arches and Canyonlands national parks in northeast Utah. Both Arches and Canyonlands are magical landscapes that should be on your bucket list, and nearby hotels in Moab Utah are the perfect base for exploring the region.

Plan for 2 or 3 days in Moab so you can see and do the best of both parks before heading south for Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon. Moab isn’t a place you’ll typically plan your entire vacation around, but it’s a hugely popular stop on most of the best Utah road trips.

Things to do in Moab:

30. Nashville, Tennessee

View from a roof overlooking Lower Broadway in Nashville TN with cars on the road and tourists walking between bars at night
Lower Broadway in Nashville TN at night

Nashville has always been a well known country music destination, but in recent years it’s exploded in popularity with bachelorette parties and the live music scene is bigger than ever before. Friendly locals, fantastic food and an electric buzz make Nashville one of the most sought after US city breaks.

Millions of Americans and international travelers flock to Lower Broadway every year to see the most talented and authentic country singers living up to Nashville’s name of “Music City, USA”. Nashville is also a terminus for two famous road trip routes called Blues Highway and Natchez Trace.

Things to do in Nashville:

31. New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans Bourbon Street at the heart of the French Quarter lights glowing at night and reflecting in rainwater
Bourbon Street at the heart of New Orleans’ famous French Quarter

New Orleans is famous for being the home of the biggest Mardi Gras Carnival in the world. “Fat Tuesday” is celebrated on shrove Tuesday, when Bourbon Street bursts into life with an ocean of people celebrating. But New Orleans is also considered one of the best foodie cities in America.

The “Big Easy” is also busy throughout summer thanks to an eclectic culture, exceptional food, the best live jazz music and superb museums including the immersive National World War II Museum. New Orleans is a great US vacation spot if you love eating, drinking and listening to live music.

Things to do in New Orleans:

32. New York City, New York

New York City skyline at sunset from Top of the Rock one of the most famous places to visit in the USA
World famous New York City skyline from Top of the Rock

New York is the most recognizable city on the planet. After living in NYC ourselves, we can confidently tell you that it will surpass even the highest expectations. There’s a never-ending supply of fun things to do in NYC, and it’s the perfect USA vacation destination for groups, couples and families alike.

It has a bit of something for everyone, including sightseeing, history, architecture, sporting events, top quality restaurants and world class museums. Just walking around the pop-culture-famous streets and boroughs of NYC is exciting enough. If you’ve never been to New York City, it’s time to take your first trip.

Things to do in New York City:

33. Niagara Falls, New York

Powerful and famous Niagara Falls on the New York Canada border on a cloudy day
View of Niagara Falls from the US side

Niagara Falls is one of the most well known waterfalls in the world. If you enjoy witnessing the sheer power of nature, you won’t be disappointed by American Falls or Horseshoe Falls. It’s definitely touristy but the falls are awesome to see in person.

You can walk around Niagara Falls State Park on the US side, but the best views of Niagara Falls are from the Canadian side of Niagara River. Don’t forget your passport or identification! We saw the Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights during our most recent visit in December 2023. It’s great for families with kids.

Things to do in Niagara Falls:

34. Orlando, Florida

Perfect reflection of buildings and trees in Eola Park Orlando Florida
Reflections on Lake Eola in Orlando Florida

Orlando is one of the best places in the USA for family vacations. The theme park capital of the world includes famous resorts like Walt Disney World and Universal. And with almost 500 hotels ranging from unique resorts to themed boutique hotels, the whole trip is an immersive experience from start to finish.

Millions of families fly into Orlando airport each year for shameless fun and frivolity at the top US theme parks. If you’re looking to take the kids somewhere to give them a guaranteed great time, is there a better place than Orlando, Florida?

Things to do in Orlando:

35. Outer Banks, North Carolina

Sunrise at a pier in the Outer Banks of North Carolina
Sunrise at the end of a pier in the Outer Banks of North Carolina

The Outer Banks is a relaxing, peaceful and serene US vacation spot in coastal North Carolina. Miles of stunning scenery, sandy beaches and sounds of the ocean crashing make for the perfect sleepy break from big city life.

Are you looking for a slow paced weekend with nothing but quiet walks on the beach, short island-hopping drives, plenty of restaurants and spectacular sunrises? Outer Banks could be the perfect place for you. Just know that the show Outer Banks was actually filmed in Charleston, SC!

Things to do in Outer Banks:

  • Walk the Duck Town Boardwalk
  • Visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial
  • Photograph piers extending out into the ocean
  • Visit Bodie Island, Cape Hatteras and Ocracoke lighthouses
  • Walk for miles on the many beaches

36. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

West end overlook park in Pittsburgh PA is a fantastic place to visit in the US
Downtown Pittsburgh from West End Overlook Park

Pittsburgh is an old industrial city that’s reinvented itself to become one of the best non-touristy places to visit in the USA. The “Steel City” is steeped in American history, it has fantastic museums and restaurants, fantastic urban photography locations and several top level sports teams.

Philadelphia is another great city to visit in Pennsylvania but Pittsburgh is more off the beaten path, has more bridges than anywhere else in the world and many examples of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture are on display. Pittsburgh is never overcrowded and it has more of a midwest feel than busy urban city.

Things to do in Pittsburgh:

37. Portland, Oregon

Portland Oregon with Mt Hood in the background from Pittock Mansion
Iconic view over Portland and Mount Hood from Pittock Mansion

Portland is one of the best cities to visit in the Pacific Northwest. It may be “weird” but Portland is a fantastic place to walk around, with excellent restaurants and craft breweries scattered throughout different neighborhoods.

In the city you’ll eat and drink, but the best part about visiting Portland is what you can do right outside of town. The Oregon Coast, Columbia River Gorge, Mount Hood and Silver Falls State Park are all within 2 hours drive of Portland. Talk about the perfect base for a diverse range of activities.

Things to do in Portland:

38. Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake Utah Temple in downtown SLC one of the top places to visit in the US
The Salt Lake Temple in downtown SLC

Salt Lake City is one of the best outdoors oriented US vacation spots. It’s all about nature, hiking, skiing and mountains. In fact, some of the very best hikes in Utah are located in the Wasatch Mountains close to SLC. When the snow falls, thousands travel to nearby Park City for some of the best skiing in the country.

The city is lovely to explore in its own right, but SLC is also commonly used as a major transport hub for accessing national parks in Wyoming and Utah. Don’t forget to add a few days into your itinerary for exploring the top attractions in and around Salt Lake City if you’re using SLC airport!

Things to do in Salt Lake City:

39. San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio River Walk in Texas one of the best places to visit in the USA
The San Antonio River Walk in Texas

San Antonio is the second largest city in Texas after Houston and it’s almost double the size of nearby Austin. The “Alamo City” has a rich and diverse cultural history, a wide variety of culinary delights from Tex-Mex to BBQ and plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy from top notch museums to underground caverns.

Texas’ oldest city has become a cosmopolitan and modern place to visit for history buffs and foodies, where Spanish missionary and Texan history meets a quickly growing urban population. The best part is San Antonio doesn’t feel like a big city. It has more of a European aura, centered around its River Walk.

Things to do in San Antonio:

40. San Diego, California

San Diego skyline from Coronado Island at night one of the best places to visit in California and the United States
The San Diego skyline at night from Centennial Park

San Diego is one of our personal favorite cities. Nicknamed “America’s Finest City”, San Diego has a perfect year round climate, a fantastic foodie and craft brewery scene, miles of beautiful sandy beaches and a permanently chilled vibe. It’s a shoo-in for this list of best USA vacation spots.

The museum-heavy Balboa Park is perfect for a family day out and all the pedestrian friendly neighborhoods in San Diego all offer something completely different. San Diego is home to countless hidden gems and it’s surprisingly photogenic, so don’t forget your camera.

Things to do in San Diego:

  • Explore the diverse and varied San Diego neighborhoods
  • Eat and drink in the Gaslamp Quarter or Little Italy
  • Walk around the historic Old Town San Diego
  • Explore the best of Balboa Park
  • Watch a stunning sunset at Sunset Cliffs
  • See the seals and sea lions in upmarket La Jolla
  • Surf the waves at Ocean Beach
  • Watch the gliders take off at Torrey Pines
  • See The Kiss and visit USS Midway Museum
  • Photograph the San Diego skyline from Centennial Park

41. San Francisco, California

Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco one of the best places to visit in the USA
World famous Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco California

San Francisco is no stranger to travel bucket lists. In 2022, SF was the 5th most visited city in America. It’s known for the cable car, Silicon Valley, sourdough bread and tv shows. But the legendary Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz are its two unmissable tourist attractions. And take it from us, they’re well worth the trip alone.

It might have a declining population, but there’s so many amazing things to do in San Francisco for tourists so it’s still a great place to visit. SF has an incredible foodie scene, a diverse culture, eclectic neighborhoods and attractions to suit all types of visitor.

Things to do in San Francisco:

42. Savannah, Georgia

Wormsloe Historic Site in Savannah Georgia famous tree tunnel
Wormsloe Historic Site in Savannah Georgia

Savannah has the perfect blend of quintessential southern charm, graceful architecture, pedestrian friendly and walkable streets, excellent food and rich cultural history. The trendy city of Savannah benefits from a stunning historic district but also has river and ocean activities right on its doorstep.

Any vacations to the US southeast simply must include the laid back and elegant city of Savannah on the Georgia coastline. If you’re interested in visiting classic southern plantations and antebellum houses, plan a trip to Charleston SC and Savannah GA.

Things to do in Savannah:

43. Seattle, Washington

Public market in Seattle Washington very popular place to visit in the US
The Seattle Public Market Center in Washington State

Seattle is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest and its population is booming with tech companies eating up office spaces around the Seattle and Bellevue areas. We lived right outside of Seattle for 6 months in 2021 and we fell in love with Washington State’s nature and hiking opportunities.

Your trip to Seattle should include a few days exploring the city but also a few more days for Mount Rainier, Olympic or North Cascades National Parks. Back in town, the Space Needle and Pike Place Market are Seattle’s top attractions, and coffee lovers simply can’t miss the original Starbucks.

Things to do in Seattle:

44. Sedona, Arizona

Subway Cave in Sedona Arizona one of the most popular places to visit year round in the USA
Impressive Subway Cave in Sedona Arizona

Sedona is hands down one of our favorite places to visit in the USA. There’s a wide range of fun things to do in Sedona, including hikes, caves, Jeep trails, landscape photo spots and state parks. It’s like an adventure playground for adults and we can’t get enough of its immense network of hiking trails.

On the downside, Sedona is incredibly popular and expensive. But on the upside, it’s one of very few places you can visit in the US that will keep you occupied for 10 full days and you still won’t do everything (as long as you enjoy hiking). We’ll be back in Sedona time and time again.

Things to do in Sedona:

45. Vail, Colorado

Ski resort Vail in Colorado at night with town lit up one of the top ski destinations in the USA
Famous ski resort Vail Colorado lit up at twilight

Vail is the home of skiing in Colorado and the United States. No list of the best places to visit in the US can forget about ski resorts and Vail is the most popular ski resort in the country. Now, a week or two skiing or snowboarding in Vail is going to cost you a fortune, but what a life experience it would be!

You can fly into Denver and just 2 hours later be checking into a luxury chalet surrounded by powdery white snow. Nearby Aspen and Breckenridge are excellent alternatives but Vail is still king of the US ski scene. Skiing in Colorado is near the top of our own USA vacation bucket list.

Things to do in Vail:

46. Washington, D.C.

Washington DC the capital of America monument reflecting is one of the best places to vacations spots in the USA
The Washington Monument in DC

Washington DC is the capital of the United States and it’s home to the best museums in the country. You could spend days just looking around the various Smithsonian museums, without seeing or doing anything else. And guess what? Almost all of the museums in DC are free.

But there’s so many other things to do in the capital, including seeing the White House and exploring the National Mall. DC might be home to suited and booted politicians working non-stop around the clock, but they have to eat and the food scene has exploded to become one of the best in the country.

Things to do in Washington DC:

47. Woodstock, Vermont

Sleepy Hollow Farm in Woodstock Vermont one of the most photographed barns in new england during fall foliage season with colorful leaves wooden fence and grassy hills
Farm in Woodstock Vermont during Fall foliage season

Woodstock is a picture-perfect New England town oozing charm and class. It epitomizes everything you would expect from a quaint and slow-paced touristy town in Vermont. But for such a small place, there’s plenty of family friendly things to do in Woodstock VT.

It’s a must stop town on any New England road trip in fall when the foliage colors are spectacular. You can photograph ornate covered bridges and stunning country farms, taste delicious cheeses and syrups, take the kids to see farm animals at Billings Farm and hike to a great viewpoint.

Things to do in Woodstock VT:

48. Yellowstone, Wyoming

Bison walking along road in Yellowstone National Park Wyoming
Bison walking on road in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming

Yellowstone is one of the most unique and popular landscapes in the country. Billowing geysers, vibrant hot springs, bubbling mud pots and picturesque waterfalls are just the beginning. Yellowstone is one of the very best places to visit in the USA to see wildlife like bears, wolves and bison roaming freely.

After two visits to Yellowstone National Park, we can tell you it will surpass your expectations and some. There’s nowhere else like Yellowstone, but it has to be seen to be believed. Planning a Yellowstone itinerary can be tricky because there’s so much to see and the park is huge, but it’s well worth the effort.

Things to do in Yellowstone:

49. Yosemite, California

Tunnel View in Yosemite National Park is one of the best places to visit in the USA especially at dusk with purple sky
Purple skies of twilight at Tunnel View in Yosemite National Park California

Yosemite National Park is a spectacular landscape featuring some of the most iconic natural formations in the United States. Half Dome is a majestic granite dome, Yosemite Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in the contiguous 48 states and Yosemite Valley is extraordinarily beautiful.

Yosemite is one of those places you go for the first time and book a second visit right after you get home. It’s one of our most recommended vacation spots in the US if you enjoy nature, hiking and photography. Booking hotels near Yosemite can be challenging, so get in as early as you can.

Things to do in Yosemite:

50. Zion, Utah

Virgin River in Zion National Park at sunset one of the most popular places to visit in the US
Sunset over Zion canyon and the Virgin River in southwest Utah

Zion is a spectacular red rock arena that’s famous for adventure hiking. The best hikes in Zion include Angels Landing, The Narrows and The Subway. But there are easier trails available for beginners or families. We’ve spent 8 days hiking in Zion and simply put, it’s out of this world.

If you enjoy hiking adventurous trails, there’s no better vacation spot in the US than Zion. It’s also an incredibly photogenic landscape with towering sandstone walls and deep canyons. There’s many ways you can spend one day in Zion National Park, but we recommend planning for 3 days if it’s your first visit.

Things to do in Zion:

What Do Others Say?

Couple standing next to a maroon Jeep on red rocks with orange sandstone cliffs in the background at sunset
Here we are with our rented Jeep in Sedona at sunset

We’ve just shown you 50 potential vacation spots in the US based on our own experiences. They’re either places we’ve been or desperately want to go. But don’t just take our word for it!

Here are the top 5 places to visit in the USA according to US Travel News:

  1. Glacier National Park, MT
  2. Maui, HI
  3. Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
  4. Honolulu, HI
  5. Yellowstone National Park, WY

Here’s the top 5 attractions in the USA according to Tripadvisor:

  1. Central Park, NYC
  2. 9/11 Memorial and Museum, NYC
  3. Empire State Building, NYC
  4. Fountains of Bellagio, Las Vegas
  5. Alcatraz Island, San Francisco

And here are the 5 best big cities to visit in the US according to CNTraveler:

  1. Chicago, IL
  2. San Diego, CA
  3. Milwaukee, WI
  4. New Orleans, LA
  5. San Francisco, CA

Our Top 10

Hikers standing on a rock at a viewpoint overlooking Lake Tahoe with far reaching views of forests, roads and mountains
This is us hiking in Lake Tahoe

It’s almost impossible for us to tell you what the best places to visit in the US are because it’s just too subjective. Our favorite might be your 8th favorite or 44th favorite. But for arguments sake, we’re going to show you our personal top 10 USA vacation spots ranked in order.

  1. New York City
  2. Sedona
  3. Yosemite
  4. Grand Canyon
  5. Zion
  6. Yellowstone
  7. Las Vegas
  8. Black Hills
  9. Lake Tahoe
  10. San Diego

Don’t agree? Let us know your favorite US travel destinations in the comments below!

More Best Of The US

More US States

We hope this best places to visit in the USA guide helps with planning your next vacation!

Please let us know if you have any questions about this list in the comments below.

Happy Travels,
Mark and Kristen

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