There’s just no denying that America has a plethora of vacation spots that will leave you in awe. Travel destinations in America aren’t difficult to come by. You just need a little research and planning to discover the best places to visit.
However, not all American travel destinations are equal. Some are truly one-of-a-kind spots that deserve recognition as some of the best places to visit in the United States. Check out the top 50 destinations in America everyone should visit before their time on Earth is up.
50. Golden Gate Bridge – San Francisco, California
The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most famous bridges in America. It was built in 1937, was a marvel of its time and is still standing today (via Oyster). Of course, there have been renovations over the decades. It connects San Francisco to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. On the other side, people can enjoy hiking and other historical attractions. If you want to take a long way across, you can always choose to walk across the bridge and take in almost 750 feet below the bridge to the water below (via Oyster).
New Orleans is a conglomeration of different cultures, creating a diverse and colorful atmosphere that has something for everyone. The French Quarter aesthetic is even more vibrant than the rest. Its wonderful courtyard gardens and iron balcony railing all stand out. Also, New Orleans’ rich musical history created some of the most famous musical styles such as jazz, blues, and rock and roll (via Fodors). Not to mention, the food is also absolutely to die for with cajun and creole cuisines that will have your tastebuds dancing (via Fodors).
Old Faithful is probably the most well-known attraction in Yellowstone National Park. It’s a cone geyser that erupts every 60 to 110 minutes, so it’s very predictable as to when another eruption will occur (via Oyster). When it does explode, the geyser can be as high as 130 to 140 feet. Furthermore, it shoots out as much as 8,400 gallons of water all at once. There’s a reason tour guides don’t want you to get near it because the water is boiling (via Oyster).
47. Grand Prismatic Spring – Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone National Park has a lot of natural wonders to behold, but some of the most treasured sites are their natural geysers and springs. The Grand Prismatic Spring is no different: it looks like a giant geode that has been sunk into the earth, refracting all colors of the rainbow (via Fodors). It’s one of the largest natural hot springs in the park and the third-largest globally. The color explanation is the bacteria that live within the spring, causing the different hues of reds and yellows (via Fodors).
This vacation spot is a short drive from Salt Lake City. Bryce Canyon is one of the more famous national parks in the area. In 2019, it was designated as an International Dark Sky Park due to how excellent its nighttime visibility is for those who love gazing at the stars (via Oyster). It’s also known for hoodoos, which are irregular rock columns. Given their peculiar structures, it’s hard to conceive how these formations were made (via Oyster).
This remarkable American destination is just south of Seneca Lake. It has a set of falls that you’ll probably want to visit the next time you’re in the state. Instead of taking a trip to Niagara Falls where it’s always crowded, you may want to consider Watkins Glen State Park (via Buzzfeed). You may think you’ve fallen into a fantasy story because of all the green trees and the peaceful waterfall nearby. Take a stroll over the Rainbow Bridge as well so you can see even more of what this lovely park has to offer (via Buzzfeed).
The Grand Tetons are rife with snowcapped peaks that are breathtaking to witness. Make sure you bring a camera if you plan on visiting this American destination. Moreover, at the base of these tall, striking mountains are green, calming fields below (via Fodors). However, don’t think that you can go hiking here. There are no foothills to get you to the peak of the mountains. It’s a sheer 12,000-foot drop of bare rock (via Fodors). Nevertheless, the wildlife here is something to behold, including bald eagles, elk, and bears. Just be sure not to venture too close.
Sure, it might sound strange to add a national cemetery as a vacation spot. However, it’s an American destination everyone should visit at least once. Located outside Washington D.C., the cemetery covers at least 624 acres dedicated to the graves of service members, veterans, and even a few deceased presidents (via Oyster). Stick around long enough and you’ll witness the Changing of the Guard that takes place every 30 or 60 minutes depending on the time of the year (via Oyster).
Not everyone considers Alaska to be one of the places to visit in America. Nevertheless, there are many beautiful attractions located there. The glacier caves are one of them, with 12 miles of glacier for you to walk through. When the sunlight pours through the ceiling of the cave, you’ll get to experience a somewhat surreal light show of the likes you’ll never find anywhere else (via Buzzfeed). Be sure to dress warm, though, as it’s pretty cold in there (via Buzzfeed).
Who wouldn’t want to visit the place at the heart of space travel? The Space Center in Houston is the official visitor center for NASA and is also the home of NASA Mission Control. Admission allows you to look at over 400 artifacts from space, including some of the hardware that was designed and built to take humans into space (via Oyster). Many other displays and exhibits are going on too, depending on the time of year (via Oyster).
If you want to see some of the oldest living trees in the world, you’ll want to visit the Redwood National and State Parks located in California. It is so big that it encompasses three state parks and is 139,000 acres (via Oyster). The oldest living residents are redwood trees, as old as 700 years old, with trunks about 20 feet around. Like all national parks, it is recommended that you don’t damage the trees in any way and carry your garbage out with you (via Oyster).
If nature is one of the things you’d like to get closer to, you may want to consider Zion National Park located in Utah. There are about 146,000 acres, allowing you to explore the resident canyon, as well as take in the sights of the local wildlife (via Buzzfeed). You can even take a walk through a canyon tunnel called “The Subway,” where ponds and streams run through (via Buzzfeed). This is an ideal destination for those who enjoy hiking.
This site has a lot of history attached to it. It was commissioned in 1790 by George Washington to keep the ships safe that were heading to land (via Fodors). Nearby is Fort Williams Park, where the lighthouse keepers’ quarters once were. Something is striking about its appearance, with its striking white body and black cap, arising out of the rocky cliffs jutting out into the ocean, along with the red roof of the nearby quarters. It still operates today, but everything is now automated and maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard (via Fodors).
Charleston is one of the oldest cities in South Carolina, reflecting a mix of both Southern charm and a contemporary lifestyle that bring the tourists back year after year (via Oyster). There are striking mansions to peruse along your walk down the street and cobblestone pathways with horse-drawn carriages for those who like to experience a more romantic flair during their trip. Enjoy a trip to the local Fort Sumter or just enjoy some Southern comfort food that will keep you full (via Oyster).
Although it’s not a natural formation, the Going-to-the-Sun Road is a two-lane highway constructed back in 1932 and covers the entire 50-mile width of the Glacier National Park (via Oyster). There are plenty of hiking areas and lookout points near the road to see all of the park below you. Remember that the location is only open during certain times of the year due to bad weather conditions, so plan to visit during the summer (via Oyster).
Did you know that one of the deepest lakes is located in Oregon? Only four hours south of Portland, Crater Lake is a caldera formed from the collapse of an active volcano (via Oyster). At its deepest point, it’s almost 2,000 feet deep, which is why it has such a deep blue color. Visiting the crater provides you with hiking trails, as well as the ability to fish in the lake or stay the night to see the fantastic view of the stars in the night sky (via Oyster).
Florida seems to be one of those places that everyone thinks of when they want to go on a vacation somewhere warm. However, there’s more to Florida than just hot sandy beaches. The Dry Tortugas National Park not only has 70 miles of beaches in the Gulf of Mexico, but they also have an abundance of sea life that you can witness from the shores (via Buzzfeed). Because the area is only accessible by boat or seaplane, be ready for a day of living off the grid and leave the phone at home (via Buzzfeed).
Sure, this is not a natural structure like other vacation spots on the list. However, there’s something to be said about stepping into Grand Central Terminal in New York City. You can enter from East 42nd Street and marvel at what human hands are capable of building (via Fodors). It has a Roman-inspired facade with arches and columns that stretch up to the ornate ceiling above. Chandeliers add a romantic flair to one of the largest and most ornate train stations in America. Even if you’re not traveling by train, stopping here is still worth the experience of seeing this marvelous train terminal (via Fodors).
Are you a big fan of looking at the stars and space? Then you’ll want to visit the Griffith Observatory in California. The great thing about the observatory is that admission is completely free. You can add it to your itinerary for the day since it doesn’t cost a thing. The planetarium has plenty of indoor shows too if the weather isn’t on your side that day.
Acadia National Park houses 47,000 acres of beautiful coast and forests home to wildlife that you might not find anywhere else (via Oyster). Why not take a hike through the woods and then cool off with a refreshing dip in the ocean water? It’s a popular destination spot during the summer but can also be an excellent destination when the autumn leaves are changing (via Oyster).
The Devils Tower is a colossal geological structure that randomly jumps out of the ground. According to Indigenous American folklore, some girls were out playing when they came across bears who started to chase them (via Buzzfeed). They managed to climb onto a giant rock and prayed to the Great Spirit to save them, which caused the rock to rise from the ground to keep them out of danger. When the rock stopped growing, the girls had reached the sky and were subsequently turned into constellations (via Buzzfeed).
The canyon is located near Page, Arizona, and is split into two sections. The first section, known as “The Crack,” is located in the Upper Canyon and gained its name from the cracks in the canyon that allow beams of light to pour in through the overhead cracks (via Buzzfeed). “The Corkscrew” is located in the Lower Canyon and is worth bringing your camera for (via Buzzfeed). The winds and sand have carved out these narrow, twisting tunnels that will leave you in awe of just how magnificent nature can be.
Big Sur is a rugged stretch of California’s central coast that is perfect for the nature lover in everyone (via Fodors). You can witness both land and sea animals that you wouldn’t usually be privy to, like condors, sea otters, seals, and even whales. It has become an escape for artists and writers looking for inspiration from the land around them. With 875,000 acres of nature to explore and hike through, you’re bound to find something to inspire the artist within you (via Fodors).
Palouse Falls provides an enchanting view of the canyon, complete with a rumbling waterfall coming right out of the rocks. This view could have been very different today. In 1984, there was a proposal to build a dam in the falls to generate hydroelectric power (via Buzzfeed). Thankfully, taxpayers voted to preserve the falls instead so that the rest of the world could benefit from this marvelous view (via Buzzfeed). The hike to the falls is less than a mile, so it’s an easy trek to make. The best times to go are between February and October.
26. Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness – Central Colorado
This is another beautiful park that will have you hiking to your heart’s content, or you can sit near the creek and just have a picnic lunch while you observe the wildlife in their natural habitat. There are at least 100 miles of trails for you to explore through the Elk Mountains, so be sure to bring your camera with you so that you can capture all of its beautiful imagery (via Buzzfeed). One of the peak times to visit is when the leaves start changing their colors during the fall (via Buzzfeed).
The Badlands sounds like a mystical place out of ancient lore. But it’s a real place, and once you see it, you won’t be able to take your eyes away (via Buzzfeed). It’s almost reminiscent of a dripping painting turned upside down, with striations in the rock that displayed the different sediment layers (via Buzzfeed). It’s easy to understand why they were difficult to traverse, too; there aren’t very many easy paths to use, and there are plenty of sheer rock faces that aren’t easy to climb.
24. Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre – Morrison, Colorado
The Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre is an open-air concert “hall” that’s surrounded by rock, providing superb acoustics for all of the entertainment that the venue offers (via Oyster). Besides that, exercise enthusiasts tend to run up and down the morning stairs to get their cardio in. It’s usually open between April and November, and you can even visit the Colorado Music Hall of Fame to get a taste of musical history (via Oyster).
23. Diamond Head State Monument – Honolulu, Hawaii
There are many American destinations here that have hiking involved, but you may want to put this one at the top of your bucket list. You get to hike up a 300,000-year-old volcanic crater, placing you at 560 feet above sea level (via Fodors). The view is essential to American history, as the military once used the lookout to protect the island from attacks. Along the route, there are abandoned bunkers still lying around that offer a good platform for whale watching or just watching the sunrise if you get up there early enough (via Fodors).
Not many people know the site called “Thor’s Well,” but it’s one of those natural formations you’ll never forget for the rest of your life. It’s a natural saltwater fountain that’s entirely powered by the ocean tide. The best time to witness the “well” inaction is an hour before high tide or an hour after high tide (via Buzzfeed). You should exercise caution if you decide to get close to the “well” since it can be very slippery and you don’t want to fall in (via Buzzfeed).
If you’re ever in the Austin area, you may want to consider visiting the Hamilton Pool (via Buzzfeed). It’s a natural formation that has attracted many tourists to swim in its cold waters during the hot summer months. The pool was naturally formed when the dome of an underground river collapsed after centuries of erosion, exposing the large area to the rest of the world. So bring your swimsuit and your sunblock for a few hours of swimming and relaxing at the water’s edge (via Buzzfeed).
You’ve probably seen videos about street vendors and the delicious food they provide. One place where these vendors conjoin is also on the list of the best places to visit in America. It’s called the Pike Place Market and was once a place where vendors would sell produce and haggle with customers over prices (via Fodors). Now it has become a place where food vendors and food lovers can meet each other. Many fisherman sell the day’s catch next to authentic cuisine restaurants, bakeries, and coffee shops (via Fodors).
19. Sequoia National Park – Tulare County, California
The giant sequoia trees are competing with the national redwood forests, located in the Sequoia National Park in California (via Buzzfeed). One of the oldest and largest trees globally is the General Sherman Tree, which stands about 275 feet tall, and is believed to be about 2,500 years old (via Buzzfeed). After perusing the giant forests, you can take a trip through the underground Crystal Cave. It has cooling streams and beautiful rock formations you’ll want to bring your camera for.
Being the very capital of the entire nation, Washington D.C. is rife with American history. There are a plethora of monuments, museums, and plazas. Each provides you with stories of America’s rise as a country. You can stroll past the White House or the Capitol if you want to take any interesting pictures, as well as the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument (via Oyster). One of the most popular times to visit Washington D.C. is in the spring when all of the cherry blossom trees are in bloom (via Oyster).
Want to witness a beautiful field of tulips but don’t want to travel to Holland? Washington state can provide you with just that, and all you have to do is drive or fly there. The best time to make the trip is the month of April when the tulips enter full bloom (via Buzzfeed). You’ll be amazed by the arrangement of every color of the rainbow. The local festival will also entertain you with a collection of activities to partake in so that you have even more memories to take with you when you leave (via Buzzfeed).
Lake Tahoe is a tourist vacation destination in America, a large freshwater lake with plenty of activities to get involved in. Whether you want to go for a swim, take a hike, or just do some fishing, there’s something for everyone in and around the area of Lake Tahoe (via Oyster). You could even try water skiing if you’ve never done so before or take a trip to one of the local brewing companies for a taste of a fresh craft beer (via Oyster).
Whitaker Point is also known as Hawksbill Crag, and it is a rocky overhang that provides a spectacular view of the Ozark National Forest (via Buzzfeed). It’s one of the best spots to go to if you want to take photos, especially with the National Forest featuring a waterfall as well. And if you’re vacationing with your pooch, they allow leashed dogs. From the summit to the viewpoint, the entire climb is about a 30-minute climb (via Buzzfeed).
You might feel like you’re stuck in a painting if you were to take a trip to the Coyote Buttes area of the Utah-Arizona border (via Buzzfeed). The Wave is an apt name for this natural rock formation since it looks exactly like an ocean wave carved out of rock instead of being made out of water. The striations of different colors almost make it look like it’s out of a Van Gogh painting, and you won’t be able to help taking picture after picture of this breathtaking sight (via Buzzfeed).
The Space Needle is one of the most iconic landmarks in Seattle. It was built in 1962 for the World’s Fair and served as an observation tower (via Oyster). It stands at about 604 feet and provides marvelous views of the entire city as well as the shoreline of the nearby water. Expensive renovations were undertaken to create the Loupe, a rotating glass floor that allows you to get panoramic views without having to move (via Oyster).
This national park is home to over 100 caves built out of limestone and carved with natural sulphuric acid. Established in 1930, the caverns have a natural entrance that visitors can walk (via Buzzfeed). One location is called the Big Room and features magnificent stalactites growing from the ceiling. If caverns aren’t your thing, you can choose to drive through the Rattlesnake Springs instead, where you can see reptiles and hundreds of bird species native to the area (via Buzzfeed).
One of the busiest places in the middle of New York City, Time Square is a strangely shaped square where three roads meet each other and is considered the shopping center no one should miss out on (via Fodors). It’s one of the biggest tourist sites every summer, especially when people gather to witness New York’s version of “Stonehenge,” where the sun sets between the buildings (via Fodors). However, the experience can be a bit dizzying with bright advertisements and signs on almost every building service trying to get you to buy something.
Joshua Tree National Park is unlike any other park you’ve been to before. Instead of the usual sprawl of tall redwoods or sequoias, this park is a stark desert landscape with trees that look like they belong in an alien world (via Oyster). However, the sunsets here are impressive, with the sky being lit up in an array of definitely photogenic colors. If you stick around after sunset, then you have a view of the night sky for you to pick out your favorite constellations (via Oyster).
Alcatraz Island started as a fortress for the Civil War and became a military and federal prison until 1963 (via Oyster). Ferries can take you to and from the island. Enjoy guided tours to learn more about the history. Alcatraz Island is also considered one of the most haunted prisons in America, as many criminals lost their lives within the cells. If you’re brave enough, you might want to schedule one of the haunted tours of the island when the sun has gone down (via Oyster).
8. Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta – New Mexico
The Balloon Fiesta was started in 1972, where hot air balloons take to the sky for nine days (via Oyster). There are balloons of pretty colors and unusual shapes like pigs, chickens, vampires, and even Darth Vader. The festival provides other fun activities, including food stands and shopping areas. The festival usually takes place in October, giving you plenty of time to plan for your trip (via Oyster).
When you think of hot springs, you usually think of somewhere tropical or remote, like Costa Rica or Iceland. You wouldn’t expect to find excellent hot springs in a place like Arkansas (via Oyster). Once you’ve lounged in one of their naturally-heated springs, you may never want to leave. There are bathhouse options if you’re going to be in co-ed or segregated sections, and cold spring water is provided so that you can stay hydrated (via Oyster).
At the end of the Oneonta Trailhead in Oregon, you’ll come to the Oneonta Gorge, a creek that flows right out of a slot canyon (via Buzzfeed). It’s covered in green moss and surrounded by many trees. You’ll think you’re lost in the wilderness. Thankfully, there are plenty of signs to get you there and back so you can stay on the trail. Exercise care when walking to the creek bed as this isn’t an official trail and isn’t maintained by the park (via Buzzfeed).
The Great Smoky Mountains are both a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage site because it is one of the most visited national parks in North America (via Oyster). The park is so large that it sits in Tennessee and North Carolina, with plenty of recreational opportunities to keep you busy, including tubing, hiking, and horseback riding (via Oyster). The Great Smoky Mountains are also close to other attractions, including Dollywood, Chicken Guy! (the Guy Fieri restaurant), and Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.
Boston is known for playing a huge part in America’s independence, including where the Boston Tea Party took place. Because of its importance, the Freedom Trail was established for people to follow and experience all of the city’s history, including Paul Revere’s House and the site of the Boston Massacre (via Oyster). The Trail passes through sixteen historical locations. Prepare for a long walk, though; it’s about 2.5 miles, but thankfully, there are plenty of resting spots along the way (via Oyster).
Santa Fe is surrounded by the Sangre de Cristo mountains and is primarily an artsy town with influences from Indigenous American cultures (via Oyster). There are plenty of handmade crafts for you to buy as souvenirs, as well as historical sites to visit. One notable site is the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, which contains her most famous modernist paintings (via Oyster).
Niagara Falls is both in New York and Canada simultaneously, but it is more impressive from the Canadian side (via Oyster). You can still see the three main waterfalls on the American side and even take a trip on the Lady of the Mist, just as long as you remember to wear a waterproof poncho while you’re on the ride (via Oyster). The journey proves to be a wet one, but when the sun’s at the right angle, you may even be able to see a rainbow.
1. Garden of the Gods – Colorado Springs, Colorado
The Garden of the Gods is a sight that can’t explain how nature was created, and the monumental size of its structures and appearance seems to defy everything we know about science (via Fodors). The landscape’s geology was developed over 300 million years. The elements carved out these magnificent structures that give them their names. These include the Kissing Camels, the Three Graces, and the Siamese Twins. Included in park admission is access to hiking and biking trails as well as guided walks with park rangers (via Fodors).