The USA is pretty big, right? In fact, it’s huge. It’s 3.8 million square miles of enormity if you want to get really technical. And in such an expansive country, you’re going to find plenty to get up to.
From thrill-seeking adventures to natural phenomena, it’s all there. And with such a bountiful selection of things to do, people to meet, and places to see, knowing where to start can be a little overwhelming, to say the least.
So what I thought I’d do is create the ultimate USA bucket list of things you’ll need to experience while in the country.
And don’t worry regardless of whether you are traveling alone, with friends, or with family, I can guarantee there will be something on this list for you.
Shall we get straight to it then? Let’s go.
1. Times Square, New York
Location: 234 West 42nd Street New York, NY 10036
The city that never sleeps also never disappoints. I don’t think you’ll ever truly appreciate Times Square until you see it in the flesh. Large billboards in bright lights litter the bustling streets as wide-eyed tourists and locals alike stare up in wonder.
Considering that Times Square is not only one of the most visited tourist attractions in the USA, but the entire world, it definitely deserves the top spot on the list.
More than 39 million people flock to the brightly-colored intersection annually, and it would be criminal if you were never to be part of that statistic.
As you’ve probably seen from its heavy televised exposure, several renowned events take place at Times Square throughout the year too. Is it not on everyone’s bucket list to see the new year in here?
2. Las Vegas Strip, Nevada
Location: S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. There’s a reason that is such a famous saying, and it’s because you can always ensure crazy chaos will ensue.
Some of the very best stories originate from finding yourself on this famous strip.
You wouldn’t think there would be much to get up to in a strip just 4.2 miles long really, would you?
Well, you’d be mistaken. This small space is jam-packed with hotels, entertainment venues, shows, resorts, and of course, casinos. If you have lucky trinkets, now’s the time to pack them.
Munch at endless buffets and try and cash in a small fortune while you’re there. Good luck.
3. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Location: Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190
While the options above have shown that we humans can create some pretty epic attractions, competing with Mother Nature is pretty difficult. And Mother Nature really knocked it out of the park with this stunning national park.
It is arguably one of the most notorious national parks across the whole of the US, and for good reason too.
Each and every year, millions of tourists come to visit this magical area that boasts the very best of nature and wildlife.
And it makes one of the very best vacation destination spots too. You can camp under the stars, go fishing, take a hike, or even a boat ride pretty much year-round.
Then once those warmer months draw to a close, the fun doesn’t end just yet with an option to get out on your snowmobile during the winter.
4. Balboa Park, San Diego, California
Location: 1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
For all our culture vultures out there, you just can’t miss Balboa Park off your list. It is your dream destination.
You’ll find tons of museums, theatres, gorgeous green spaces, and even a zoo here! It fuses together culture, art, science, and nature. Who knew education could be so much fun?
This is the perfect attraction for big groups with varied interests as there will really be something there for everyone.
And if the aforementioned activities weren’t already enough, you can also do a spot of shopping and dine in some of the most delicious restaurants in all of San Diego.
Built back in the late 1800s, it was created to provide San Diego with an urban oasis for local residents to relax in.
It’s been tweaked somewhat since then with more activities continuously being added. However, that serene and scenic atmosphere still reigns supreme after all those years.
5. Niagara Falls, New York
Location: 24 Buffalo Avenue, Niagara Falls, NY 14303
I have always been astounded by the magnificence of large bodies of water.
The strength and power of such a thing should not be underestimated. And it appears that the majority of tourists agree considering Niagara Falls has long been one of the most visited tourist destinations across the US.
The roaring waterfall has long captured the heart of all that have had the pleasure of beholding it. And it’s something you should definitely add to your bucket list.
Situated between New York and Ontario, Canada, Niagara Falls is actually made up of three waterfalls. Combined together, it equates to the highest flow rate in the entire world in terms of waterfalls.
And once you’ve had your free-flowing fix, you’ll also find tons of shopping outlets and a casino nearby too.
6. Florida Keys, Florida
Location: 106240 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, FL 33037
Do you love clear blue skies, shining sun, golden beaches, and crystal clear water? Of course, you do.
Therefore a visit to Florida Keys is an absolute must. There aren’t many destinations I would describe as life-changing. But this one is.
I promise that you’ll come away from this destination with memories that you will hold near and dear to your heart for the rest of your life.
Especially if you opt for a snorkeling or scuba diving session where you’ll be able to get up close and personal with some of the most stunning aquatic creatures.
But don’t worry, if you prefer to be above the water than below it, there are also tons of boating, sailing, and kayaking opportunities too. And you’ll still most likely catch a glimpse of all the aquatic animals swimming beneath you.
Alongside some of the best water activities across the USA, you’ll also have access to some of the best and fanciest hotels and amazing belly-busting places to eat. Just remember to wait half an hour before swimming again!
7. Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California
Location: US-101, San Francisco, CA 94129
Once dubbed as the bridge that couldn’t be built, Golden Gate Bridge is now considered by many as one of the Wonders of the World. So I think that accolade alone makes it deserving of a spot on your bucket list.
It is one of America’s most famous landmarks and its splendor can only truly be appreciated in person. The three-mile long, and mile-wide bridge crosses the Golden Gate strait.
It is one of the most photographed bridges in the whole of the USA, so don’t forget your camera or selfie stick for this one.
And top tip, try and get yourself a nice spot to settle down into as the sun sets. It is an image you will never forget.
8. Grand Canyon, Arizona
Location: Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
Pretty much everyone has heard of the Grand Canyon, right? It’s unsurprising really, considering it is one of the most stunning and awe-inspiring landscapes you’ll ever get the chance to see. And that is exactly why it has found itself on my list.
The amazingly beautiful rocky terrain towers a huge 8000 feet (2438 m) above sea level on the North Rim and 7000 feet (2134 m) above sea level on the South Rim. And there are so many different and wonderful ways to experience the Grand Canyon.
River rafting tours allow the canyon to encompass you as you stare up at its beauty from its lowest level.
Alternatively, you can take to the skies and get a birds-eye view of nature’s greatest creation by joining an air tour. Or if you’re up to it, why not hike?
9. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Location: 107 Park Headquarters Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
There’s beauty in everything if you look hard enough, though some things need a closer look than others.
It takes all but a glance at the vast and mind-blowing views of the smoky mountains to appreciate its astounding beauty.
It has been declared one of the renowned World Heritage Sites, and it really isn’t hard to understand why. Everyone needs to visit this national park at some point in their lives.
If you are a lover of the great outdoors, there’s no place you’ll feel more at home. And there is so much to get up to while you’re here. You can camp, go fishing, go hiking, backpacking, horseback riding…you name it.
Be aware, though, that humans are not the only species amongst you enjoying the home of the Smoky Mountains.
Many visitors come keen to catch a glimpse of the black bears that wander the forests. You’ll also see plenty of elk and deer too, along with a whole variety of plants, flowers, and other wildlife.
10. Denali National Park, Alaska
Location: George Parks Hwy, Denali National Park and Preserve, AK
From one example of nature’s beauty to another, we have the Denali National Park which is not to be missed. With breathtaking views, it is understandable why an estimated half a million tourists come to take in nature at its very best here.
At this national park, you’ll be able to see America’s very highest mountain, Mt. Mckinley. Though it is more commonly known as Denali.
With its icy glaciers that soar high into the sky, you’ll have plenty of photo opportunities so don’t forget to bring your camera.
You’ll also have plenty to get up to while you’re here. Try your hand at mountain climbing, skiing, snowmobiling, or dog sledding if you are looking to pump some adrenaline into your veins.
If you’re looking for a more peaceful and relaxing breakaway, then why not take one of the guided tours for a walk through the forests and view the famous Toklat River?
11. Zion National Park, Utah
Location: 1 Zion Park Blvd, Zion National Park, UT 84767
Brimming with a storied history, Zion National Park is a remarkable place to visit. You can be assured that this trip will leave you in absolute awe of the wonders of Mother Nature. There are so many beautiful sights to see here.
There’s the Virgin River that cuts straight through the Navajo Sandstone, there are the stunning sandstone cliffs soaring 1,000 feet above the 2,000-feet-deep Zion Canyon. And the Zion Canyon is a real prized possession of Utah.
You’ll enjoy endless wandering and hiking throughout the Canyon, and don’t worry, there’ll be a suitable trial for you regardless of your athletic ability.
Trials range in difficulty, so whether you want a simple and effortless journey or a true heart-pumping adventure, there’s an option for you.
And if walking isn’t exactly your idea of fun, don’t despair for there are tons of biking, driving, and shuttle tour options available for the 54-mile Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.
12. The White House, Washington, D.C
Location: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500
Home to many famous presidents, The White House is definitely worthy of your valuable time.
Between the 18th and 19th centuries, it was the US’ oldest public building. Now it is a reminder of the rich history of the United States of America and pays homage to all its famous founders.
Tons of tourists are desperate to get a snapshot of themselves outside such a famous and well-known building. And this is easily done by the exterior gates. Be sure to find a spot at Lafayette Park for the most Instagram-worthy pics.
If you’d like a tour inside the historic building, non-US residents will need to contact their local embassy to arrange a tour while local citizens will need to contact their Senator or Representative.
13. Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, Florida
Location: Orlando, FL
How could the world’s happiest and most magical destination not find itself a spot on this list?
For families, you won’t have a better holiday anywhere else (You might also be interested in checking out New Year’s Eve Destinations In The USA You Have To Visit). And be prepared to crash hard when you finally have to leave – there wasn’t a dry eye in the house on our final day in this resort. You’ll never want to leave.
The resort has four amazing theme parks, two water parks, enchanting parades, character meet and greets, amazing restaurants, and tons of shopping, you’ll never catch a second to stop!
Regardless of your age, you’ll be transported back to a more simple time as your inner child can’t help but resurface. Be sure to get your picture with your favorite Disney friends and outside the iconic Cinderella Castle.
14. Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri
Location: St. Louis, MO 63102
As one of the most historic attractions in the US, you’re probably already well aware of the Gateway Arch. Of course, that isn’t going to stop me from telling you about it anyway!
This stunning arch is a 630-foot monument that overlooks the stunning Mississippi River. And it has amassed a fair few accolades over the years. It reigns supreme as the world’s tallest arch but that’s not all.
It is also the tallest monument to ever be built across the entire Western Hemisphere. Pretty impressive, right?
Since its initial opening back in 1967, over 135 million people have come to be awe-struck by the impressive sight of shining stainless steel.
Be sure to place yourself amongst the many who opt to take the tram right to the very top so you can soak in those amazing views from its highest point.
There’s even a museum that you can visit so that you can learn more about the rich history that surrounds the monument.
Available river cruises also give you the option to behold the beautiful monument from a whole new vantage point too.
15. French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana
Location: French Quarter, New Orleans, LA
Are my culture vultures still with me? Because I’ve got another attraction that you will not want to miss. The French Quarter, without a doubt, is one of New Orleans’ most renowned and notoriously historic neighborhoods.
And right now, it is alive and thriving. Packed with tons of entertainment, art, and Creole culture, it really will have you hooked.
You never know what stories you’ll have to tell as you wander around the romantic streets brimming with jazz music and dripping in mysteriousness. The vibes in the French Quarter are immaculate.
You may even encounter something from another realm as Jackson Square is said to be haunted by the ghosts of its historic past. Then a short walk to Bourbon Street will get the party started.
Known for being an adult playground, this is where things can get really fun. No wonder so many people constantly visit.
16. River Walk, San Antonio, Texas
Location: 849 E Commerce St, San Antonio, TX 78205
Found right in the heart of the city of San Antonio, you will discover the gem that is the River Walk. There’s something for everyone here.
History buffs will enjoy the important significance of Downtown San Antonio, but there are also tons of great shopping options, amazing restaurants to stop for a bite to eat, and plentiful entertainment to choose from.
The River Walk stretches across 15 miles right next to a beautiful waterway path. You’ll have an incredibly scenic route and you’ll walk past in wonder at the historic hotels and amazing museums brimming with unique and interesting finds.
And if you don’t fancy a long walk to enjoy the route then never fear as you can opt to hop on the fantastic river barge cruise while accompanied by a knowledgeable tour guide.
While you’re already here, you might as well also take a look at the amazing San Antonio Missions and Mission Reach UNESCO World Heritage site.
Location: 600 E Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60611
Navy Pier is not only loved by tourists, it’s a local fan-favorite too. That’s because no matter when you go there are plenty of options for things to do.
Loads of city events take place at this location that is brimming with endless stores, fun attractions, and some of the best dining options around.
If you opt to visit during the summer, you’ll be treated to bright and beautiful firework events, live performances from music to theatre, and daily cruises!
Offshore, the Navy Pier’s restaurant is an absolute must! Illinois takes pride in homing the country’s largest rooftop restaurant at this very pier. And you won’t want to miss the mind-boggling views alongside the sweetest cocktails you’ll ever taste.
There is a great selection of rides available at the pier too. Go classic and twirl around the carousel or get the ultimate vantage point at the very top of the ferris wheel!
There are sometimes art exhibitions taking place here too which should not be missed.
18. Fort Sumter National Monument, Charleston, South Carolina
Location: Charleston, SC 29482
There’s something about standing somewhere where battles once took place that is so eerie yet interesting. And Fort Sumter is exceptionally significant in terms of the Civil War.
The 1860s may seem like another world to you or I, but the actions that took place here would forever change the history books.
Federal authority and States’ rights would battle it out for decades to eventually lead to the very first battle that took place right here at this very fort.
While it hasn’t seen any battles for some considerable time, it has now become a very important symbol of the Civil War and acts as a memorial to the many who lost their lives fighting.
You’ll have to hop on a boat if you’re wanting to visit the memorial now as it is inaccessible any other way. But if you love to learn all about history and battles won and lost, then you’ll adore this tourist attraction.
And if you haven’t quite got your fix after exploring the monument, make sure to head for the museum where more interesting stories await to be told. You can also opt for a tour guide to really uncover all the secrets of the fort.
19. Pike Place Market, Washington
Location: 86 Pike PI, Seattle, WA 98101
Washington is known for many different attractions, but one of the more underrated ones that deserves much more credit than it gets is Pike Place Market.
Of course, it’s still pretty well-known, but I definitely believe it deserves more hype than it gets.
Pike Place Market is one of the longest standing farmers’ markets across the entirety of the United States of America.
Did you know that it was actually home to the first ever starbucks? I know, pretty cool. But it has more to offer than a deliciously roasted coffee bean.
You’ll also sample some of the very best seafood and browse some of the best collections of arts and crafts around.
There’s so many different stalls to explore, each one as good as the next. You might want to save up some spending money, it’s very easy to part with here.
But considering over 10 million visitors come flocking to experience this scenic market, it’s definitely a must-see.
20. Kennedy Space Center, Florida
Location: Space Commerce Way, Merritt Island, FL 32899
Is there anything more fascinating than the infinity that is space? It’s pretty mind-boggling at the best of times, but the Kennedy Space Center takes that to a whole new level.
Both educational and super fun, this is a perfect activity for the whole family.
Ever wanted to know what it feels like to launch and fly through space? You’d be kidding yourself if you said no to that question. Well, here at the Space Center you can! At least in simulation anyway.
Not only that but you can also opt for a guided tour to take you around the Vehicle Assembly Building and the launch pads.
Definitely a sight worth seeing. As is the Astronaut Hall of Fame that boasts some of the most famous travel legends and programmes.
21. Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico
Location: Carlsbad, NM 88220
Most national parks show you Mother Nature at her best above ground, but not this one.
Oh no, you’ll be delving deep into the depths of the underground for this one. But don’t worry, much like the other national parks we’ve spoken about, this one is equally as impressive down below.
Hidden deep beneath the rocky desert canyons, you’ll experience up to one hundred and nineteen caves. Carlsbad Caverns are one of, if not the most, famous cave systems across the entire globe.
The complex system of giant and spookily echoing spaces, alongside large scary looking stalactites is something that can only truly be appreciated in the flesh.
If you’re looking for something of wonder mixed in with a little pump of adrenaline, then you’ll adore this national park.
You can take self-guided tours and for the more qualified amongst us, there are also backcountry caves open too.
If the idea of delving deep below ground is a little panicking and claustrophobia-inducing for you, don’t worry there’s plenty to do above ground too.
There are plenty of hiking trails in a variety of difficulty levels that are sure to amaze you.
22. Faneuil Hall, Massachusetts
Location: 4 S Market St, Boston, MA 02109
There’s something about a busy and bustling market that is just so enjoyable to experience. Wandering round, relaxing, and enjoying a bit of shopping.
What could be better? Well, if this is your kind of activity then Faneuil Hall located in the heart of Boston is going to be your dream.
Take a stroll over the cobblestoned streets filled with history and take a look through the three markets situated in the complex; North Market, Quincy Market, and South Market.
You’ll have so many different shops to choose from all offering delectable food, sugary sweets, and lots of local arts and crafts.
The market is home to over 40 different independent businesses all offering amazing trinkets and souvenirs for your trip.
The atmosphere is then enhanced by the fantastic street performers that amaze tourists and locals alike with their array of different skills.
23. Waikiki, Hawaii
Location: Waikiki, Hawaii
I’m sure Hawaii needs no introduction, its white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters have been coveted by many for years. And Waikiki is home to some of the best hotels in the whole of Hawaii, conveniently situated in the world-renowned Honolulu.
You’ll never tire of the many activities available here. Those interested in pursuing watersports will be in great hands as the beaches offer the best waters for learning how to surf.
In fact, it’s one of the world’s hotspots for surfing thanks to Duke Kahanamoku.
If sports isn’t really your vibe, then be sure to check out the amazing zoo and Waikiki Aquarium which are home to a whole host of different creatures both great and small.
You’ll also be all but a stone’s throw away from other popular attractions such as the Pearl Harbor Monument and Nuuanu Pali Lookout.
24. Mount Rushmore, Keystone, South Dakota
Location: 13000 SD-244, Keystone, SD 57751
Let’s face it, where else in the world will you find sculptured faces in stone? No where. Which is why Mount Rushmore is something you have to witness for yourself with your very own eyes. Photos and videos just don’t do it justice.
As you look up at the amazing granite tower, you’ll find sixty feet’s worth of previous presidential portraits staring right back at you.
This is a totally unique experience that really is spell-bounding especially when you consider the work and dedication taken to create it.
The four presidents forever commemorated and celebrated in the awe-inspiring monument are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.
The monument really is a wonder to behold, and around 2 million visitors a year get the privilege of basking in its beauty. And you could make that 2 million and one.
Once you’re finished getting those amazing pics and videos to document your trip, you can then take a trip to the Hall of Records where you’ll learn more about the vast history of America along with tons of reliced heirlooms from many years ago.
Don’t worry, you’re not done once you’ve gone round the Hall of Records either. Afterwards you can enjoy the Sculptor’s Studio where you’ll find a 1/12th scale model of Mount Rushmore.
While here you can take a look at the many techniques and tools that were used to create the monument you have just marvelled at.
25. Mall Of America, Bloomington, Minnesota
Location: 60 E Broadway, Bloomington, MN 55425
If you’re looking for a day of endless entertainment, then you won’t find a much better place than the Mall of America. Everything you could ever dream of is all situated in one handy complex.
There’s not many places that you could wander round a whopping 520 stores, dine in over 60 restaurants, reach new thrills in an amusement park, then spot all the fish at an aquarium, before getting ready and dancing the night away in booming nightlife venues.
But this is one of them. There’s so much here to do that it’s hard to know where to start!
You can definitely shop till you drop here. You’ll have a variety of different stores to choose from. From local independents to large and famous department stores – it has it all.
The amusement park itself can take a full day to fully explore. Run by Nickelodeon Universe, you’ll have over 27 different rides to choose from along with an indoor zip line that will have you reaching new and thrilling speeds.
You might want to dedicate a considerable chunk of your time to this attraction if you are hoping to experience it all.
Honorable Mention: Six Flags Theme Parks
With twenty-seven different theme parks scattered across the US, visiting one of them is an absolute must.
If I’m being honest, these parks are deserving of a high-spot on this list, but due to the wide variety of different locations I thought I’d pop it at the end and talk about the parks as a whole. Don’t make me pick one as the best – I can’t do it.
But for the adrenaline junkies and thrill-seekers amongst us, you’ll find no better place to visit than a Six Flags theme park.
The roller coasters here rake exciting frights to a whole other level. Be warned, they definitely aren’t for the faint of heart.
But if you are up for the challenge, why not look into the closest Six Flags to you and show your bravery to your whole party.
Just don’t eat a big dinner before the rides…not unless you want to see it come right back up again. I learned that the hard way – you’ve been warned.
And there you have it – my list of bucket list must-see attractions across the whole of the US.
Can you believe that with all of these amazing attractions listed that we are still only skimming the surface of the many wonderful offerings the States has for its inquisitive tourists?
Honestly, whittling this down to just 25 has been the hardest thing that I’ve ever done. So I’m sorry if I’ve missed off any of your favorite attractions.
But what are you waiting for? As you can see there is a whole new world waiting to be experienced and explored.
From stunning scenic views at National Parks to thrill-seeking and spell-binding magic at Disney Land there is something for everyone.
From markets to historic monuments, you’ll be able to bask in historical significance all the while doing a spot of shopping.
Make sure to bring back souvenirs to remind you of your trip for years to come. And some for your friends and family too, of course!
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