If you are looking for the BEST in USA bucket list destinations, you have come to the right place.
The United States is full of incredible destinations, activities, things to see, and food to eat. Since the United States covers 50 states, you can imagine there is no shortage of things to do when visiting. On my bucket list I had “visit all 50 states” so I did it over 35 years. It wasn’t easy, but I am glad I was able to do it. It allowed me to challenge myself in ways I never knew possible.
Here are some of the best USA bucket list picks I have selected as a “must do” when visiting.
USA Bucket List Destinations And Experiences Not To Miss!
Probably one of the most iconic USA bucket list destinations is to visit the Grand Canyon out west. Located in Arizona, there are various ways to access the park. One of the most thrilling things to do is in Grand Canyon West Rim and that is the Skywalk. This clear glass bottom bridge goes out 70 feet and is over 4,000 feet to the bottom. It is not for the faint of heart but a real thrill, if you are into that sort of thing!
Some of the other popular attractions at the Grand Canyon that you should add to your USA bucket list are:
Northern Lights in Alaska
One of the most beautiful bucket list destinations in the USA is Alaska, but adding the Northern Lights is just an incredible bonus. You can see this absolute magic during the darkest nights of the year. For them to be visible, the sky needs to be absolutely dark. The Northern Lights start to show up around Mid September and end around April, but there is no guarantee on when you can actually see them.
One of the best places to see the Northern Lights in Alaska is in Fairbanks. You can take these incredible tours that cross the Arctic Circle and explore the untouched and unmissable wilderness that Alaska offers.
Some of the popular Northern Lights viewing options:
Route 66 is one of the top USA bucket list checks for many. This road used to connect Chicago to Santa Monica, which is a large part of the US. It is known for its fun highway stops and quirky motels.
Some of the most iconic stops on Route 66:
- The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri
- Santa Fe, New Mexico
- Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas
- Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona
If you are in Hawaii on the island of Oahu, Pearl Harbor is a must visit. This is unlike a lot of other bucket list destinations because it holds a lot of history and was a tragic event in American history. It is a very somber experience of what happened there and the lives lost, but worth the visit and learning about.
Visiting Pearl Harbor is a top Oahu bucket list experience in Hawaii.
Arches National Park
Located in Utah and known for its famous “delicate arch” this National Park is a must.
Some of the best locations in the park:
- Delicate Arch
- Double Arch
- Balanced Rock
- Corona Arch
- Devils Garden
If you love to party, Mardi Gras is for you! Each year, New Orleans has incredible parties, parades with lavish floats, king cake, and tons of beads are thrown. Whatever you have set in your mind about what Mardi Gras is, you are more than likely .. right.
Come prepared to have the best time of your life.
Glacier National Park
Located in Montana, and nearly 1,600 square miles of wilderness, Glacier National Park is a must visit in the USA!
Some of the top places to visit are:
- Logan Pass
- Swiftcurrent Lake
- Lake McDonald
- Grinnell Glacier
Michigan’s crown jewel, Mackinac Island is a small slice of paradise nestled between the upper and lower peninsulas of the state. What makes this island a top USA bucket list destination is how unique it is. No cars are allowed on the island and the only way to get there is by ferry or small plane.
One thing a lot of people flock to Mackinac for is the fudge and biking the island to see Arch Rock. Mackinac Island is located on Lake Huron and the crystal clear blue waters could trick you into thinking you are actually in the Caribbean!
Top picks for visiting Mackinac Island:
- Stay at the Grand Hotel
- Try fudge samples from all the vendors
- Rent a bike and ride the 8 miles around the island
- See the sunrise on the lawn of Mission Point Resort
- Do a bar crawl
- Eat whitefish anything!
- Arch Rock
Located in Page, Arizona, Horseshoe Bend is this stunning curvature of the Colorado River with incredible vistas.
You will have to walk to get there, as it is not a roadside attraction. The walk is about 3/4’s of a mile from the parking lot but well worth the view.
Ways to enjoy Horseshoe Bend:
- Floating in the lake
When most people think of the salt flats they think of the iconic ones in Bolivia – but Utah has incredible ones too! The Bonneville Salt Flats have gained popularity the last couple years after going viral on Instagram
The White House
Located in Washington, D.C., this iconic household has been the living quarters for almost every American President. George Washington is the only President who did not live or work in the White House.
Visiting the White House is a top USA bucket list destination because some of the most powerful people in history have lived and worked here. However, you can’t just visit. You need to plan.
In order to get tickets, which are not guaranteed, you need to contact your local member of Congress. You can do this as far out as three months and no less than 21 days before your arrival. The sooner you apply, the better.
Attending Burning Man is not for everyone. The experience is about art, love, acceptance, and radical self reliance. You need to make friends with people who are also in attendance and bring everything you would need to survive for a week in the hot desert. But if you ask those who have attended, many are repeat guests and fondly love the experience.
Do you think you have what it takes to be a burner?
When it comes to road trips, Highway 1 in California is one of the best in the United States. If you want to do the entire trek, you can start and or end at either place, San Diego or San Francisco. The total drive is just over 580 miles and gorgeous.
- Bixby Bridge
- Carmel by the Sea
- Pfeiffer Beach
Statue of Liberty
Visiting the Statue of Liberty in New York is like having a true American moment.
Voted one of the best drives for fall foliage in the USA year after year and a top fall bucket list destination, you cannot miss this incredible stretch of 105 miles in Shenandoah National Park across the Blue Ridge Mountains. The best time to visit can be tricky. Sometimes the leaves start to change end of September and others, in October. The higher in elevation you are, the quicker they change.
Once the leaves do change color, expect to experience layers of yellows, oranges and red across the mountain vista. Skyline drive is not only a top Virginia bucket list activity but also a top USA bucket list destination.
Remember that incredible scene in Forest Gump where he is running through Monument Valley and all you see is this stunning landscape in the back with a stretch of road? This is a top bucket list destination in the USA.
While the area is pretty isolated, it sits on the Arizona-Utah border and draws about 250,000 visitors annually.
One simply doesn’t create a USA bucket list and not have Disney World on it. Disney movies and shows have been a household staple for decades and visiting a park that brings iconic shows and characters to life just makes sense.
But visiting Disney is an experience one should have. From the delectable food, fun rides, shows, characters, and overall sense of happiness – it really is a dream.
Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is a staple San Francisco bucket list item. Whether you walk below it, drive across it, float in a boat under it, or view it from a distance, It is a must!
While Havasu Falls is a top bucket list destination in the USA, it won’t be easy! The hike is about 10 miles one way with about a 2,400 foot change in elevation. However, the reward is spectacular.
Even if you are up for the hike, you still need to get a permit, which are always in demand, because the falls are on private land and belong to the Havasupai Indian Tribe. Another thing to consider, because of the strenuous hike, the Tribe requires visitors to stay the night and camp in the canyon, making this hike not available for a one day adventure.
The Outer Banks in North Carolina have long been a popular vacation destination for those on the East Coast. But since the show “Outer Banks” had such success, it has gained more popularity and people are adding this stretch of stunning homes and beaches to their bucket list.
Located in South Dakota, Mount Rushmore is carved into Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills with former Presidents of the United States. The four Presidents whose faces you can see are: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.
One of the most naturally beautiful places in the United States is Lake Tahoe. Located in California and Nevada, the lake is an unmissable location.
One of the most popular beaches in Lake Tahoe is in Nevada and called Sand Harbor. The crystal clear lake has shallow areas for swimming, a stretch of sand and giant boulders to climb on. From an aerial view, the boulders look incredible in the clear water.
Other popular attractions in Lake Tahoe:
Yellowstone National Park
Visiting Yellowstone during the winter months can be equally as exciting as visiting during the rest of the year. Sure you may not see any bears but you can take a monster sized truck through the park. It’s a fair trade off.
The park is absolutely stunning and lush with water, animals and greenery. There is not really a wrong way to experience.
Best places to see in Yellowstone:
- Grand Prismatic Spring
- Old Faithful
- Morning Glory Pool
- Mammoth Hot Springs
The glitz and glam of the lights of Las Vegas are something to behold. There is no city like Las Vegas, which makes it a great USA bucket list destination. 24 hour gambling, dining and a whole ot of fun.
But if that isn’t your style, Las Vegas is so much more! World class shows, celebrity dining, arms reach from many National Parks, pools for days, and a lot of random crazy things like riding a roller coaster on top of a hotel!
Some of the top things to do in Las Vegas:
- Ride the High Roller
- Helicopter over the Las Vegas Strip
- Open air night tour of the city
- Eiffel Tower Viewing Deck
- Grand Canyon West and Skywalk Tour
- Hoover Dam and Lake Mead
- Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend
- Rock Star Pool Party!
- The Neon Museum
- 7 Magic Mountains Installation
- Get a photo with the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign
Skiing in Colorado
Colorado has absolutely no shortage of ski resorts to offer its visitors. If you are planning an epic USA bucket list, then add this activity to your list!
Some of the best places to ski in Colorado:
This is another epic Arizona bucket list destination. It is also one of the hardest things to get tickets for. Only 10 permits are given per day and you can apply up to four months in advance, but with no guarantee.
Pro tip: if you are visiting with other people, everyone should apply with the number of people in your group. If one of you is selected, you will all get to go.
The hike isn’t terribly hard, but it is almost three miles each way without a direct path and a lot of it is in direct sunlight. You should also note, if you get injured, there is no one to rescue you. But, you will get to see one of the most incredible landscapes in the world.
Road to Hana
One of the most insane drives in the United States is the Road to Hana in Maui. At first thought, it doesn’t seem crazy. It is just about 64 miles. However, it can take up to five hours to get there! The road is thought to be one of the top five most dangerous drives in the world.
But what makes it dangerous? Once you are driving for awhile, the speed limit drops as low as 10 mile per hour with dizzying switchbacks, blind turns, 59 one way bridges, and it can be intense. However, if you can withstand the drive, there are great rewards.
In Hana you can find red and black sand beaches, a bamboo forest, hiking trails, and a stunning coastline.
White Sands National Monument
White Sands is the 62nd National Park in the United States and most recent, only gaining title in December of 2019. This beautiful destination is just 275 square miles with five hiking opportunities and glittery white landscapes.
If you love wine, then visiting one of the best wine regions in the world should be on your USA bucket list!
Napa Valley is home to about 500 wineries, making it easy to visit the region several times over the course of your life and still never get to them all.
Visiting Napa is a popular day trip from San Francisco if you are short on time, but Napa can stand alone in its own trip. If you love wine and want to slow down and spend a week here, this will be one of the best trips you take.
Grab your big hat or seersucker suit and a mint julep because the Kentucky Derby is one of the funnest and quickest events in the USA! The race itself only last a couple minutes but its the getting dressed up and mingling before and after that makes this such a fun bucket list event.
One of the best beach destinations in the United States is in Miami. With bout 35 miles of beach front access, Miami is one of America’s hot spots for spring break and year round partying.
Lush with luxury hotels on the coast, sensational food, arts, and clubs that will burn your legs from dancing all night, Miami is a top USA bucket list destination that should not be missed.
Some of the best things to do in Miami:
One of the most iconic views in Los Angeles is the Hollywood sign. For decades its been a top USA bucket list destination and popular in California and the city. Getting one of the coveted shots of this massive sign is a top pick for many.
The Charlie Turner Trailhead offers one of the best views of the Hollywood Sign and is about a three mile hike. Alternatively, you could take a helicopter ride for the most insane view of the sign!
A popular stop on Highway 1 in California, Big Sur is a stretch of drive along the Pacific Coast and is known for its crazy turns and two lane highway. There are plenty of camping and hiking opportunities within the area for those looking for an amazing outdoor activity and not just the drive.
Located on the Niagara River in New York, Niagara Falls is both in the USA and in Canada. Some would argue the Canadian side is better, but we think they are both great! Make sure to ride the Maid of the Mist for an up close and personal experience.
Badlands National Park
If you are planning a trip out west, make sure to stop in Interior, South Dakota, population 25, and see the expansive Badlands National Park. But be careful of those pesky prairie dogs and rattle snakes.
Another gem from Arizona, Antelope Canyon took the internet by storm the last five years from travelers sharing their vivid imagery from inside. There are narrow crevices and rickety ladders to get down inside if you visit Lower Antelope Canyon, Upper Antelope Canyon is much easier with no ladder. If you can do that, you will be rewarded with an up close and personal view of the incredible Navajo Sandstone.
Located in Boston, Massachusetts, the Freedom Trail is about a 2.5 mile stretch of history that tells the story of the American Revolution. If you are a history buff or just want to learn more about America, this should be at the top of your list. There is about 16 stops along the path ranging from parks, burying grounds and even a ship!
San Antonio Riverwalk
Considered to be the number one bucket list destination in ALL of Texas, the San Antonio Riverwalk experience is for everyone! This 15 mile stretch of urban waterway is loaded with attractions, parks, restaurants, and shopping galore.
Lake of the Ozarks
Before the popularity of the hit Netflix show “Ozark,” Lake of the Ozarks was always the premier lake destination for the Midwest. And it still is. You will find incredible things to do like golf, boating, shopping, dining, fishing, state parks, and beautiful waterfront accommodation options!
Some would argue that Joshua Tree National Park is known for its gorgeous landscape and others would say for its attachment to the Coachella Music Festival. Either way, the beauty of this National Park in California is undeniable.
Joshua Tree is a popular day trip from Pal,m Springs but also has some amazing Airbnb options if you want to stay.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter
If you are a fan of Harry Potter at all, you will want to see both parks in Orlando!
Diagon Alley is located in Universal Orlando and Hogsmeade is in Islands of Adventure. The BEST way to see both parks is to purchase a park hopper pass and take The Hogwarts Express between the two.
It is quite exciting how both parks came to life. You can purchase things like butterbeer, wands, and so much more.
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