America is one of the most varied countries in the world. With each state boasting its own history, cuisine, attractions and natural beauty, it can be impossible to narrow down your ideal destination. This blogpost rounds up the very best and most exciting things that the country has to offer, for you to add your USA Bucket List!
If you’re looking to add items to your bucket list, make sure to check out these helpful posts:
- 200 Amazing Ideas to Add to Your Bucket List
- Ultimate New York Bucket List: The Best Guide
- Ultimate London Bucket List
- Europe Bucket List: A Must-Do List
- Iceland Bucket List: The Best Things to Do in London
1. Visit Antelope Canyon, Arizona
Even if you haven’t heard of Antelope Canyon, you’ll probably recognise it when you see it. It’s been the screensaver of desktops the world over and draws tourists in year on year.
The gold crevasses of lower Antelope Canyon are a sight to behold, so make sure to take your camera with you! Also, note that you’re required to visit with a professional guide, as the canyons can get dangerous. You can find a list of tour operators on the national parks website.
- 2 Day Bus Tour including Antelope Canyon, Grand Canyon, Route 66 and Horseshoe Bend
- Small Group Day Tour of Antelope Canyon
2. Walk Through the Death Valley Salt Flats, California
At Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America, you’ll drop down to 282 feet below sea level! This 200-square-mile of salt flats is another US spot that feels as though you’ve stepped foot on a different planet.
The best time of year to visit Death Valley is early spring or late fall. The summer months are best avoided as it gets extremely hot and there’s no shade. In fact, it’s the hottest point in North America, making it pretty dangerous to visit this time of year!
Death Valley is known for its beautiful views of the night sky, so make sure to do some star gazing if you get a chance!
3. Cross Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California
This iconic red bridge connects the city of San Francisco to Sausalito. To make the most out of it, try cycling or walking across it to really take in the views (and the fresh air!).
Whilst you’re in San Francisco, why not check out some of the best the city has to offer:
- Take a tech tour of Silicon Valley
- Take a tour of Alcatraz prison
- Walk up Lombard Street
4. Go Surfing in Hawaii
The word for surfing in the Hawaiin language is heʻe nalu. This literally translates to ‘wave sliding’. Surfing is a huge part of Hawaiin life and the islands have some of the best spots for water sports.
Great Spots for Surfing:
- Waimea Bay
- Sandy Beach Park
5. Visit Graceland, Tennessee
Graceland offers the unique opportunity to experience a musical icon’s home, taking you through the king’s living room, kitchen, and even a trophy room. An obvious must-do for all Elvis fans, but a fascinating piece of pop culture history for anyone and everyone!
6. Take a Boat Ride to Niagara Falls, New York
At the incredible Niagara Falls, six million cubic feet of water flows over every minute. Despite being neither the highest, nor the most powerful waterfall in the world, it’s definitely the most iconic and a must-do bucket list activity.
One of the best ways to experience the Falls is to go on a boat tour – an epic (if a little wet!) adventure.
Whilst you’re in the area, make sure to check out the Cave of Winds (where you can stand underneath the Bridal Veil Falls), Whirlpool State Park, and the Underground Railroad Heritage Centre.
7. Drive Down Florida Keys, Florida
Sun it up in this collection of tropical islands off the southern tip of Florida. There’s something pretty magical about driving atop of the ocean on highway 1, out onto white sandy beach and palm trees! Once you’ve arrived you can enjoy all the usual tropical adventures, from stand up paddle boarding to snorkelling to just soaking up the sunshine!
8. Follow the Freedom Trail in Boston, Massachusetts
This famous 2.5 mile line leads you around 16 of the city’s most significant historic sites, talking the story of the American Revolution. Expect a trail of museums, churches, burial grounds, and, of course, one big old ship!
There are plenty of great tours that will lead you through the city, pointing out everything of interest. If you’re looking to save a little money, however, I’d recommend downloading the Freedom Trail Boston App. Whilst it might not provide quite as much insight as a tour guide would, it’s a great option for budget travellers! Rory and I personally used it when we visited Boston!
9. Hike in Glacier National Park, Montana
Glacier National Park in Montana’s Rocky Mountains is a hiker’s paradise. Its beautiful glacier-carved peaks provide over 700 miles of hiking trails. Check out this great blogpost from Full Suitcase for more information on planning your itinerary! And don’t forget to watch out for grizzly bears!
10. Walk Down Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee
This street is Downtown Memphis is packed with music history. For this reason, it’s generally bursting at the seams with people, drinking, eating, and having a good time. You’ll find a long row of buzzing blues clubs and restaurants, as well as plenty of street performers keeping the crowds entertained. The atmosphere is unbeatable!
If you’re a music lover, don’t forget to also check out:
11. See the Northern Lights in Alaska
Though often forgotten about, Alaska promises some of the very best natural sights in the world! Expect beautiful hikes, lakes, and glaciers, with plenty of wildlife everywhere you look. Of course, one of the best things you can tick off your bucket list in Alaska is seeing the Northern Lights!
Top Tips for Seeing the Lights
- The best time of year is between August and April, when the skies are darker
- Get away from the town, where the light pollution interferes with seeing the lights
12. See the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
As some who studied abroad in Philadelphia, I strongly believe that it’s one of the most underrated cities in the US. There’s so much culture and history, with heaps to do for tourists – not to mention the amazing food scene!
The most famous thing in Philadelphia (second only to the Rocky steps, perhaps?) is the Liberty Bell. This iconic symbol of American Independence iss cast with the words ‘Proclaim LIBERTY Throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants Thereof’ and became a major symbol for Independence. After Independence was secured, the bell was largely forgotten until the 1830s, when it was used once again as a symbol of liberty, this time by abolitionists.
Best Things to Do in Philadelphia:
- Philadelphia Museum of Art
- Philadelphia Magic Gardens
- Penn Museum
- Reading Terminal Market
- Museum of the American Revolution
- Eastern State Penitentiary
13. Attend the Hot Air Balloon Festival in Alburquerque, New Mexico
For 9 days in October, Albuquerque hosts their infamous International Balloon Fiesta. More than 500 balloons take flight from Balloon Fiesta Park and fill the sky with bright bubbles of colour. Whilst it’s magical to watch the hot air balloons, you can take it one step further and fly in one!
The only company authorised to give balloon rides directly from Balloon Fiesta Park for the event is Rainbow Ryders. So make sure to go directly to them, if you’re interested!
14. Catch a Baseball Game at Fenway Park, Massachusetts
If you’re going to watch a baseball game at any point in your life, it might as well be at Fenway Park. Home to the Boston Red Sox, it’s the oldest (and probably the most famous) stadium in Major League Baseball. So grab your foam finger, a hot dog, and a bunch of friends to experience one of America’s best games. Even if you’re not into baseball (I know I certainly wasn’t!), the great atmosphere makes it a fun activity, regardless!
Keep an eye out for the single red seat in the right field bleachers (section 42, row 37, seat 21). This signifies the longest home run ever hit at Fenway, measuring 502 feet!
15. Visit the White House, Washington DC
As the official residence and workplace of the US President, the White House has become an iconic building across the world. And it wouldn’t be a trip to DC without snapping a selfie outside the gates!
Obviously, as the political hub of the country, there’s plenty more to see in Washington DC. Why not take a free walking tour? I took this National Mall Memorials and Tidal Basin Tour and couldn’t recommend it more!
16. Attend Burning Man Festival, Nevada
Burning Man is a festival like no other, and has a matching price tag to boot! But how many times do you get the opportunity to party in a temporary desert city?!
Check out this incredible packing guide from the Blonde Abroad for everything you need to bring to this spiritual music festival.
17. Drive Route 66
This ultimate road trip has found its was onto many a bucket list over the years. Stretching over two thousand miles between Chicago and Los Angeles, this is one of the best ways to soak in the huge variety on offer in the US. Some of the most stops en route include Santa Fe, America’s oldest city, Seligman, a retro town filled with neon signs, and Cadillac Ranch art installation in Texas.
18. Experience the Magic of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida
Unleash your inner potter-head and step into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Take a ride on the Hogwarts Express. Wander down Diagon Alley. Sip on butterbeer after riding some of the best roller coasters. This is guaranteed to be a day of fun!
Top Tips for Visiting:
- You need to visit both parks – the Wizarding World is split between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, so book park-to-park tickets!
- Arrive as early as possible to beat the crowds!
- Consider buying the express pass
19. Visit Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
This memorial is a US national treasure and seeing the enormous faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln is a must-do bucket list item. Often touted as ‘America’s Shrine of Democracy’, these 4 presidents were chose to represent the birth, growth, and development of the US. Nowadays, visiting Mount Rushmore has become somewhat of a rite of passage for many Americans.
Top Tips for Visiting Mount Rushmore:
- There’s no entrance fee but you do have to pay for parking
- Visit in late Spring/early Fall, if you want to avoid the crowds!
20. Party at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana
One of the most famous parties in the world is Mardi Gras in New Orleans. This carnival celebration lasts two weeks with a procession, and plenty of parties, each day. Do some research on Krewes before you go. These are private clubs that organise parties and parades. Some of the best known ones include Zulu, Rex, Bacchus, Orpheus and Endymion.
Top Tip: float riders throw strings of beads down to onlookers. It’s bad luck to pick them up if they fall on the floor!
Top Things to Do in New Orleans:
21. Helicopter Ride over the Grand Canyon
Taking a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon is truly a once in a lifetime experience. The expansiveness of this mile deep, 18 mile wide canyon is awe-inspiring from all angles, but perhaps most impressive from above. This birds eye view of the fiery red canyon is truly unforgettable!
Book Your Tickets:
22. Visit Millennium Park in Chicago, Illinois
Millenium Park is home to the iconic bean statue – the ultimate selfie spot! But there’s actually a lot more going on there. You can rock climb, splash around in Crown Fountain, catch a show at Jay Pritzker Pavilion, or chill out in Lurie Garden.
Best Things to Do in Chicago:
23. Climb the Statue of Liberty, New York
Few things are so evocative of both New York City and the US at large than the Statue of Liberty. This copper statue was a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States.
A beacon of independence, she holds a torch above her head in one hand and, in the other, a tablet inscribed with the date of the US Declaration of Independence. At her feet lies a broken shackle and chain, meant to commemorate the national abolition of slavery.
The statue became an image of freedom in the hearts of many and was used to welcome those arriving to New York.
To climb to the top of such an iconic monument is pretty special! But that also means it gets booked up quickly, so make sure to book your spot well in advance!
24. Visit the Las Vegas Strip, Nevada
Las Vegas has to be the party capital of US. There’s always something to do here and it’s crazy extravagance means it definitely earns a place on your bucket list. Travel around the world in one city, from Venice to New York to Paris.
Shop til you drop. Dance the night away. Visit the casinos. Tick a weekend of hedonism off your list with a break to Las Vegas.
Things to Do in Las Vegas:
25. Spend Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts
Salem is famous as the home of the Salem Witch Trials, where those believed to be witches were killed in a number of strange and cruel ways. The town maintains its witchy heritage, making it the perfect place to visit during Halloween.
If you’re a fan of scary movies and magic, this is a must-visit location. Some of the highlights include:
- The Witch House – which belonged to the judge who sentenced the accused witches
- The Salem Witch Museum
- Bewitched Statue – of Samantha flying across the moon
- Ropes Mansion – the home used as Allison’s house in Hocus Pocus
26. Drink at the Portland Ale Festival, Oregon
If you’re looking for somewhere to get merry at Christmas-time, it has to be Portland, Oregon. The Holiday Ale Fest takes place in December under one of the Pacific Northwest’s largest Christmas trees. Sample some rare and innovative seasonal craft beers under some cosy heaters with loved ones. This is a must do for any beer connoisseurs!
27. Go Wine Tasting in Napa Valley, California
If you’re more of a wine person than a beer drinker, you have to visit Napa Valley. A wine tour here is great way to learn more about the process of making this tasty alcoholic beverage.
A few wineries worth checking out include:
- Charles Krug Winery
- Del Dotto Winery and Caves
- Sterling Vineyards
- Chateau Montelena Winery
28. Visit New England in the Fall
New England is a beautiful (and seriously underrated) spot all year round but it really comes into its own during the Fall. A canopy of autumnal tones carpet the area in the most beautiful orange glow.
Some particularly great spots to check out for cosy fall vibes are:
- The Green Mountains, Vermont
- Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire
- Woodstock, Vermont
- Bethel, Maine
- Massachusetts’s Mohawk Trail
29. Catch an American Football Game
American Football is a fast and exciting game that makes for a great watch. The atmosphere at a game well exceeds that of watching it on the television. There are games all over the country, so check out tickets in advance of arrival to experience this classic American sport!
30. Take a Trip to Disneyworld
Would any bucket list be complete without Disneyworld? Rediscover the magic of your childhood by meeting all of your favourite Disney characters and getting an adrenaline rush on the best rides.
With 25,000 acres, 24 hotels, 4 theme parks, and 2 water parks, you’ll be spoilt for choice – the list feels almost endless! This does mean, however, that planning can make or break your trip. There are loads of useful blogs and resources for planning the perfect trip. Here’s a few of my favourites:
Researching for this list was surprisingly hard. There were so many great options that I found it really hard to narrow it down to just 30! Perhaps I shouldn’t have been too surprised though, since the US is such a big country with so much variety! If anything, writing this blogpost has made me realise that each State probably deserves its very own bucket list!
Whilst I couldn’t write about absolutely everything, these activities definitely still deserve a mention and are well worth adding to your US Bucket List!
- Visit White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
- Drive Highway 1, California
- Eat the Best Lobster Rolls in Maine
- Visit Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
- Wander Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington
- Visit Arches National Park, Utah
- Holiday at Lake Tahoe
- Go Skiing in Colorado
- Take a Boat Trip on the Everglades, Florida
- Eat a Philly cheesesteak in Philadelphia
- Sail on Lake Michigan
- Take a Steamboat Ride on the Mississippi River
- Experience Country Music in Nashville, Tennessee
- Take a Boat Trip on Tracy Arm Fjord, Alaska
- Visit Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Arkansas
- Stroll Savannah’s Historic District, Georgia
- Take a One Tree Hill Walking Tour in Wilmington, North Carolina
- See Active Volcanoes in Hawaii
- Visit Joshua Tree National Park, California
- Visit the Smithsonian Museums in Washington DC