After travelling America a few times now and still dreaming of another road trip across the states, we decided it was about time we sat down and shared our USA Bucketlist – some we have visited and some are still on our list!
USA BUCKETLIST MUSTS
Drive Route 66
Known as the best road trip in America, Route 66 is a dream experience of mine and we are preparing for this journey in the next few years. Starting in Chicago and ending at Santa Monica Pier, this route takes you across the country, with some historic, interesting and exciting places to stop by on the way.
Climb the Statue of Liberty, New York
The iconic Statue of Liberty brings millions of tourists to NYC every year. Jump on the ferry to Liberty Island to see the statue or book in advance to go inside and walk up to the crown– one of my all-time favourite experiences in New York City.
Stroll along Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles
Take a stroll down Hollywood Boulevard, see the famous Chinese Theater and find your favourite performers along the Walk of Fame. There are so many things to do in LA and exploring Hollywood Boulevard is one of many.
Discover Zion National Park, Utah
Explore the wonders of the Zion National Park, admiring the sandstone cliffs and narrow canyons. Fly into nearby Vegas or Salt Lake City, rent a car and explore at your own leisure – perhaps consider spending a few nights at a lodge in the park.
Ride the Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls
Alcatraz, San Francisco
This historic, fascinating and infamous prison off the coast of San Francisco needs to be on your USA bucketlist. Book your tickets online and aim for an early slot to avoid the crowds. I was so impressed with the audio tour and would highly recommend it; it creates an eerie but interesting experience in the city by the bay.
The White House
Head to the capital to see The White House. This was on our bucket list and when we first visited America back in 2011, we ticked this one off our list. It’s iconic and Washington D.C. is full of historic landmarks and museums that make for a great weekend away.
The original magical park isn’t for everyone but it is definitely on my California bucketlist. After visiting its sister park in Orlando, I will be heading to Disneyland on our next trip to America for sure!
Visit Death Valley
Known as the driest, hottest and lowest National park, Death Valley can often be overlooked. There are plenty of sleeping options in the park, making a self-drive option my preferred choice, although tours are available from Vegas as well.
See the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia
Outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the Liberty Bell is a must for anyone interesting in American history. Take a tour of the hall if you have time, timed tours are available from 9am to 5pm.
Go volcano spotting in Hawaii
Hawaii is stunning but you can’t ignore the clusters of volcanos dotted around the islands. Take a tour or hire a car and head to the Hawaii Volcanoes national Park to see both the Kilauea and Mauna Lao volcano – Kilauea is known for being one of the most active volcanoes in the world.
Visit Elvis’ home
Head to Graceland and see where the king lived. Book your tickets online to make sure you aren’t disappointed and enjoy a tour of his Mansion, car museum and several other exhibits.
See the bright lights of the Vegas Strip
Head to Las Vegas, catch a show, try your hand in the casinos and enjoy everything that is Las Vegas. Just a walk down the strip will take your breath away and whizz you into a world of lights and excitement.
Stand in the middle of Times Square
There is something special about Times Square. Stand in the centre, among the towering skyscrapers and bright adverts and just watch. We loved Times Square so much that, when we returned to NYC, we checked into a hotel on Times Square itself!
Celebrate Mardi Gras in New Orleans
Mardi Gras in New Orleans is on my bucket list and looks incredible. Running through the first month of the year, New Orleans is associated with Mardi Gras and vice versa. I am hoping to catch the parade through the city on our next trip to America.
Watch the Northern Lights in Alaska
A cruise around Alaska is high on my dream America travels but imagine being able to watch the stunning Northern lights over the glistening glaciers – heaven.
Millennium Park in Chicago
There is something enchanting about Chicago, it always draws me back. Whenever I’m there, I head to Millennium Park; there is more to the park than ‘The Bean’.
Drive the Big Sur Coast
This is another hotspot that I haven’t yet managed to visit. Driving along the Big Sur and around the Southwest looks incredible and Calum is desperate to fly the drone along the famous route.
Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia
This eerie but fascinating penitentiary is a lesser known attraction in Philadelphia but a must. This was the prison of notorious criminals such as Al Capone and Willie Sutton. The design and layout of the prison is innovative and become the model for over 300 prisons across the world. The prison is open all year from 10am to 5pm and audio tours are included in the ticket price.
Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico
This yearly hot air balloon festival runs every October, with thousands of balloons filling the clear blue sky. This looks like a spectacular place to visit and, a someone who has never taken a hot air balloon ride, the perfect place to enjoy this experience.
Tour a studio in LA
No matter what your favourite TV shows are, you are likely to find a set you’re interested in when exploring LA. We headed to Warner Brothers Studio in Burbank and checked out the Friends set, Ellen Show studio, the streets of Pretty Little Liars and the Big Bang Set. You can also see different exhibits on Harry Potter, Batman and the DC Universe.
Explore the history of Charleston
Ever since my history classes in college, I have been interested in visiting the plantations of Charleston. Before the civil war, plantations were dotted around Charleston, growing cotton, rice, and indigo, becoming rich off the backs of slaves.
Walk across Brooklyn Bridge
Walking across Brooklyn Bridge was one of my favourite things to do in NYC. We jumped on the Yellow River taxi that takes you along the Hudson River and jumped off in Brooklyn. After a walk around the neighbourhood, we headed back to Manhattan across the bridge on a warm summers day – bliss.
Whilst in San Francisco, you have to head to Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39. This is a great place to visit in San Fran, especially if you are travelling with kids. Alcatraz trips leave from here but you can also visit an Aquarium, the Sea Lion Center, a 7D experience, fairground rides and a whole host of restaurants, bars, cafes, and food vendors.
Sequoia National Park
Visit the world’s largest trees at the Sequoia National Park. This park is enchanting and impressive with it’s gigantic trees and deep canyons. Head to the Crystal Caves or stay among the elevated landscapes in one of the cabins within the park.
Grand Canyon National Park
Arguably the most famous national park in America, the Grand Canyon is a must-see whilst travelling the USA. Many tourists visit the canyons from Vegas, with many tours available from Las Vegas to the various nearby national parks.
Walt Disney World
The magic of Disney attracts around 52 million people every year. That is incredible and if you’re a Disney fan, then you can understand why. With 4 different parks, 2 water parks and 24 resort hotels, families have flocked to Disney World every year and if you haven’t visited, even just for a few days, you won’t know what you’re missing. My hubby isn’t a theme park or Disney fan but even he enjoys visiting WDW and appreciates the attention to detail and theming.
Catch a baseball game (preferably Wrigley Field)
Everyone around the world has heard of baseball but where better to watch a game than in America! We headed to Wrigley Field (home of the Chicago Cubs and an ivy-covered brick outfield wall) whilst in Chicago but also enjoyed the ‘president race’ in Washington DC and loved sitting among the locals (the cheap seats) in the Yankee Stadium.
Wine tasting in Napa Valley
Spanning across several towns, Napa Valley is known for its luxurious homes, Michelin star restaurants and of course, endless vineyards. I love a good wine tasting session and will definitely be heading here to try some of the best wines in the world.
Visit French Quarter in New Orleans
Unique, colourful and a great laugh, the French Quarter in New Orleans can NOT be missed. Make sure you try out the best food experiences the area has to offer, enjoy the nightlife on Bourbon Street, visit St. Louise Cathedral and jump on a Steamboat down the Mississippi River.
Visit the memorials in Washington DC
Washington DC is home to many memorials that you must visit when in the capital. The Lincoln memorial is my favourite whilst Calum was impressed by the Martin Luther King Memorial.
Visit the iconic Gateway Arch in St. Louis
Whilst driving Route 66, I am planning to make a stop at St. Louis to visit the Gateway Arch monument, standing at 630 feet and towering over the Mississippi River. It is the world’s tallest arch and tallest man-made monument in the Western Hemisphere – hence why this site in on my USA bucketlist.
Stroll, run, cycle and play on Venice Beach
When you think of California, you may think of beaches, sunshine and a chilled out vibe. Venice Beach encompasses all these things and more. Watch the skateboarders along the Ocean Front Walk, shop along Abbot Kinney Boulevard or catch a street performer along the beach itself.
Head to the top of the Empire State Building
Of course, a trip to New York isn’t complete without seeing the Empire State Building. Personally, I love heading up the iconic structure; you may get amazing views from elsewhere in NYC but nothing beats the height and history of the Empire State Building.
Visit Yellowstone National Park
This is arguably the best national park in the USA. Visit the Grand Prismatic Spring (a hot spring and volcano), the erupting geyser named ‘Old Faithful’ and the gorgeous Yellowstone Lake.
Ski in Colorado
Colorado may not be the first state that you think of visiting when touring the USA, but if you love your winter sports, then add it to your list!
Visit Mount Rushmore
This massive structure carved into rock has amazed me from a young age. Located in South Dakota, the national park sees around 3 million tourists every year – one of my favourite USA bucketlist dreams.
Go surfing in Hawaii
Hawaii has actually been my dream destination for a long time, ever since I was a child, I dreamt of visiting this collection of beautiful islands. I have never surfed in my life but surfing in Hawaii is on many bucket lists and for good reason. With some of the best surfing spots in the world. I will be heading to Hawaii soon and trying my hand at this.
Of course, if you are in NYC then you will want to get some gorgeous views on it’s impressive skyline. Now, personally, I prefer the Empire State Building but the Rockefeller Centre gives you an fantastic view of the Empire State itself.
Lombard Street, San Francisco
Whilst in San Fran, visiting this famous Zig Zag Street is a must! Jump on a cable car to the top of the street and work your way down or rent a cool go-kart to drive down it in style.
Catch an American football game
America’s favourite sport is a fun way to spend a day in most cities. We saw the New York Giants play and, although I had no clue what was going on, it was definitely a memorable experience.
Visit the Joshua Tree National Park
Ever since that popular U2 album, I have wanted to visit the Joshua Tree National Park. The idea of two different types of the desert meeting to create a unique landscape is fascinating and is on my list for our next USA road trip.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Whilst in California, why wouldn’t you want to head to Santa Cruz and check out the rides, food, attractions, beachfront and more. We missed out Santa Cruz on our last trip to California because we ran out of time, but it will be visited next time – for sure!
Drive along Golden Gate Bridge
Drive, Cycle or walk – whatever mode of transport you choose, a visit to the Golden Gate Bridge is a must. We took a taxi over to the Golden Gate Bridge View Vista Point to get some shots of the bridge from afar, then took the short walk around onto the bridge and walked back to the main island.
Glacier National Park in Montana
This park is part of the world’s first international peace park and celebrates the peace and friendship between the USA and Canada. With 35 glaciers and 25 active glaciers, this lesser-known park looks simply stunning.
Get a suite in Vegas
Maybe it’s a British thing but there is something exciting about the idea of booking a gorgeous suite on the Las Vegas strip. We did just this and it is actually where we got engaged – we chose for the Cosmopolitan and would travel back here in a heartbeat.
Walk the Freedom Trail in Boston
Boston looks like a gorgeous place to visit and the freedom trail is a must whilst in the city. This 2.5 mile-long path through downtown Boston, takes you along a historic route, passing 16 locations that mark important moments in American history. As a history buff, this is a pathway I would love to walk.
Swim in the Havasu Falls Pools, Arizona
This natural falls and swimming hole looks heavenly! I didn’t even know places like this existed in the USA but 20,000 visitors head to the falls every year.
Santa Monica pier
With an iconic Ferris wheel, family-friendly rides, variety of food and drink and summer filled atmosphere, why wouldn’t you love Santa Monica Pier? They even have an aquarium and classic arcade plus, the pier marks the end of Route 66!
Universal Studios – Hollywood
So you like film sets? Whilst in Hollywood, make sure you head to the Universal Studios; a theme park meets movie set. You can find sets from Jurassic Park, Home Alone 2, King Kong, Transformers, The Trueman Show, Back to the Future, The Grinch, Psycho, Pirates of the Caribbean, Apollo 13 and the Gremlins – just make sure you book tickets in advance.
Catch a Broadway show
There are some incredible broadway shows (and some not so great ones). If you aren’t fussed what you see, head to the TKT office in Times Square for cheaper, on the day tickets but if you want to see your favourite musical, you are best to book online or use this guide on booking Broadway tickets.
Learn more in the Smithsonian museums in Washington DC
Washington DC is not only known for being the home of the White House but also the home to some of the best museums in the world. Head to the collection of Smithsonian museums, learn, explore and enjoy. I personally loved the Natural History Museum and the American History Museum.
Visit New England in the fall
Has anyone else seen those postcards of the gorgeous fall in New England? Whenever I see pictures, I simply fall in love and feel all cosy inside – which is why I am dying to visit New England when those leaves turn orange and brown.
Watch a country show in Nashville
Apart from Taylor Swift, I don’t tend to listen to too much country music but I would love to see some live Country music in its birthplace of Nashville Grand Old Opry is known for its fun shows and is apparently “the show that made country music famous”.
Enjoy the Miami sunshine
When I as a child, someone once told me that Miami was similar to Brighton…they lied. Miami is warm and sunny all year round! Be swept away by the Latin music playing out the bars, enjoy the world-renowned nightlife and explore the artistic areas of this seaside location.
Visit the Alamo in San Antonio
This historic Spanish fortress was founded in the 18thcentury and was the site of the Battle of Alamo in 1836. I have never visited Texas but once we do, this will definitely be a place I hope to visit.
Marvel at the beauty at Grand Teton National Park
It amazes me how many varied National Parks there are in America and the Grand Teton is a great example of natural beauty at its best. Take a pic of the gorgeous mountains and their reflections in the surrounding lakes and hike along the different trails for spectacular views.
The Maroon Bells near Aspen, Colorado
If you haven’t seen enough parks by now, then head to Aspen and witness the Maroon Bells. Another breath-taking viewpoint that is quieter than most.
Pike Place Market in Seattle
Not only is this a fabulous farmers market but it also offers local specialty food and includes a craft market. It is a must when in Seattle because of its diverse food and shopping options.
I mean, look at those pictures… do I need to say anymore? Lake Tahoe is another stunning place to visit in the USA and is a great place to unwind and explore at your own pace. Straddling Nevada and California, this is a popular holiday destination for many. Spend your days hiking the Sierra Nevada Mountains or try skiing in one of the many ski resorts.
If you love the beach, head to Kings Beach State area or the D. L.Bliss State Park.
Redwood National Park
Known as the home of the tallest trees in the world, Redwood National Park has fascinated me since I was a child. It has an amazing rugged coastline to explore, wild river-ways and has been hoe to people for thousands of years.
Explore the history of Savannah, Georgia
As the oldest city in Georgia and one of the original 13 colonies, Savannah holds a lot of history. Take a stroll down the Savannah Historic District, visit Forsyth Park or explore the Wormsloe Historic Site. You will find fewer tourists here than many other cities around America.
Visit Serene Santa Fe, New Mexico
Head over to New Mexico and explore one of the coolest cities in America. See the amazing architecture, visit the hidden away resorts and spas, try rafting down white water rapids or just road trip through the desert.
Walk along the San Antonio River Walk
Think Venice but it Texas – that is my impression of San Antonio. Visit on a warm day and take a boat along the river – you can even hop on the floating bar for a ‘drift and dine’ option. Walking around this area in the late afternoon is a perfect way to end your day.
See the Hollywood sign
The iconic Hollywood sign is known worldwide and has appeared in many films and TV series over the years. You can opt for a tour or drive up to the see sign or, if you are visiting Hollywood Boulevard, you can actually get a decent view of the sign from the Hollywood and Highland Center Mall. Personally, I love the view from the Griffith Park Observatory.
Everglades National Park
So many people flock to Florida for the theme parks but I found taking an airboat ride through the Everglades to be just as impressive. With alligators and birds surrounding you, the Everglades is unlike any other park you will see.
Navy pier Chicago
Whilst in Chicago, an evening trip to Navy Pier is ideal. There are many restaurants here and the city center isn’t a far walk if you would prefer to eat at one of the many pizza places. Jump on a boat to see more of Chicago from the waters or try out one of the rides.
Ride the cable cars in San Francisco
If you’re exploring San Francisco via public transport, chances are you will jump on a cable car at some point. Maybe it’s because we don’t have cable cars in the UK but personally, I loved hopping on and off around the city and would definitely recommend it as a mode of transport in San Fran. One thing to note, however, certain routes (e.g. to Lombard Street or Fisherman’s Wharf) can get really crowded. We tended to use the cable cars in the morning and evening but stuck to taxis or the bus during the day.
Be amazed by White Sands National Monument
I will be honest, I had never heard of these glistening white sands until I started this blog post but WOW. White sand for as far as the eye can see – beautiful!
Mesa Verde National Park
Visiting this lesser-known park in Colorado and check out the collection of well-preserved ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings.
Acadia National Park in Maine
Along the Mississippi River, you will find the Acadia National Park; known for its dark sky, Cadillac Mountain and sandy beach. Visit here if you love to stargaze and hike through stunning, untouched nature.
Stroll through Central Park
There is something so tranquil about Central Park, even though it is estimated that up to 42 million people visit every year. Perhaps it is because it is an escape from the busy NYC scene but personally, I love strolling through the park, visiting the historic landmarks and finding gorgeous viewpoints along the way.
Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
This little island off Cape Cod is a quiet haven which is only accessible by boat and air. Visit in the summer to enjoy the village, beaches, nature, preserve, well-known Gay Head Lighthouse and wander around the harbour.
Denali National Park
This 6 million acres of wild land is a nature lover’s paradise and one of the more understated and under visited national parks in America. See where the dense forest meets the snowy mountains or camp under the stars, either way, you will find yourself unwinding and enjoying the park.
Visit Atlantic city
Known as a lesser version of Vegas, Atlantic City is a great place to unwind and not only enjoy the casinos but visit the iconic Boardwalk and large beaches as well as the nightclubs, health resorts, spas, and the Steel Pier.
Visit the village of Taos Pueblo, New Mexico
This native American community has been inhabited for over 100 years and welcomes visitors to visit their village and learn more about American history and heritage.
Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
Take a cruise or boat around the Kenai Fjords to witness breath-taking glaciers and even catch whales in their natural habitat. If you are hoping to see some whales, I recommend getting a smaller boat around the park; it may not be as comfortable but you are much more likely to be able to see wildlife.
Hike up Diamond Head State Monument in Hawaii
Hike up the hour Oahu hiking trail to witness stunning 360-degree views of the island. Hawaii has been a lifelong dream destination of mine and when we finally get there, this will definitely be on my list of things to do in Oahu!
Try a deep dish pizza in Chicago
Of course, this is a must! We loved Gino’s East but there are so many great deep dish pizza places around Chicago and they are AMAZING. We have tried making our own at home and it is just not the same!
Try a Philly Cheesesteak
Whilst in Philadelphia, head to one of the hundreds of places that offer this roll full of thinly sliced beefsteak and melted cheese. Favourite places to pic up this meal include Pat’s King of Steaks, Geno’s Steaks, Campo’s and McNally’s Tavern
Try famous Po’Boy Sandwich in New Orleans
This famous Louisiana sandwich looks incredible – the original is said to have included friend oysters and shrimp but nowadays you can find these sarnies with all types of meat and seafood in them.
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The first thing I do every time I fly to San Francisco is head over to @boudinbakery over at pier 39 for the infamous soup in a bread bowl. It always hits the spot any time of the day. What is the first thing you go eat when you come to San Francisco? 🛩 PIER 39 EATS; • New England Style Clam Chowder in a Sourdough Bread Bowl.
Try clam chowder
I had never heard of clam chowder until I was at the Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco and every street stall or café was selling the stuff. This clam filled broth often includes potatoes, onions and celery and we enjoyed it served in a massive sourdough bread shapes as a bowl.
Try Lobster in Maine
Lobster Maine is said to be the best Lobster in the world and we will definitely be trying it when we visit Maine. Apparently, the warmer waters allow Maine lobsters to be a little softer than Canadian lobsters, meaning the meat is tender and tastes better – sounds good to me!
Try Texas BBQ
Ever since watching that Man vs Food episode where they rub in BBQ sauce on meant with a mop, my taste glands fell in love! The Salt Lick looks like a great place to get BBQ food and is said to be one of the best in Texas.
Eat seafood in Cape Cod
Back when I was 20, I worked in America for the summer and EVERYONE talked about the amazing seafood in Cape Cod. As a vegetarian back then, I wasn’t fussed but nowadays, Cape Cod seafood delights sounds perfect!
Try buffalo wings in Buffalo
Head to Anchor Bar, Buffalo where the original buffalo wing was founded (apparently). Whilst we were in Buffalo, Gabriel’s Gate was recommended to us and we can see why – it was delicious and by far the best wings I have ever had.
This California festival in the Palm Springs area is one of the most famous in the world. As a Brit, I always use to see pics of Coachella compared to Glastonbury and it looks so much fun and clean and sunny!
This annual festival in Chicago looks a little more my cuppa tea. This alternative rock, hip hop and electronic music festival brings around 400,00 people every year and hopefully, one day we will be one of them.
Nevada’s Burning Man
This Nevada event is held at Black Rock City; a temporary erected city for the festival. A place where art and community combine, the event takes its name from the symbolic burning of a large wooden effigy (the man)).
For anyone who loves dance music, you would have probably heard of Ultra. This music festival is now worldwide but the home and largest festival happens every year in Miami – all the best DJ’s perform here!
More unusual things to do in the USA
Visit the Breaking Bad locations in Albuquerque
For anyone who loves dance music, you would have probably heard of Ultra. This music festival is now worldwide but the home and largest festival happens every year in Miami – all the best DJ’s perform here!
Visit the Coca Cola factory in Atlanta
My husband is a super Coca Cola geek and loves all things related to the popular drink. So, of course the factory has made it to our list of unusual things to do in America.
Experience an American ranch
You can apparently stay at a ranch, go on horse rides, have barn dances and all the ranch-type stuff you do! AMAZING!
Ben and Jerry’s Factory, Vermont
Yes, this one is for me. If you don’t like ice cream, then I guess you should move to the next one but I LOVE BEN AND JERRYS! You can take a factory tour with, of course, samples!
Watch the rodeo in Cody, Wyoming
Head to the Cowboy State to watch a rodeo! I totally want to dress up like a cow girl and head to one of the towns to watch a rodeo; Cody is said to have the best experience!
Visit Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Ohio
Head to Cleveland, Ohio and visit the different exhibits at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Here you will find memorabilia, clothing, and history on some of the biggest Rock and Roll legends in the world including The Beatles, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones and more.
The Seven Magic Mountains in Nevada
The Seven Magic Mountains are one of those kooky, artistic sculptures you see on road trips around America. These colourful, polled up “mountains” make for great photos and have become a tourist attraction itself.
Experience the supernatural in Salem…maybe
This historic city in Essex County, Massachusetts is known for the infamous Salem Witches Trials of 1692 (and its appearance in Disney’s Hocus Pocus movie). There are a whole bunch of tours available for those interesting in learning more about the cities magical history but also some interesting museums and tasty restaurants to try out.
Enjoy the Kentucky Bourbon Trail
Head along the Kentucky Trail to try the different distilleries: Bardstown Bourbon Company, Four Roses Warehouse & Bottling Facility, Jim Beam American Stillhouse, Lux Row Distillers, Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center and Maker’s Mark Distillery.
Watch Talladega Superspeedway, Alabama
This NASCAR’s biggest and challenging track; it is said that you could food 14 football stadiums inside the track! Tickets are available on the website to watch these exciting races!
Getting the ESTA
Before travelling to America, most nationalities will need to apply online for an ESTA visa.
This is an Electronic System for Travel Authorization which automatically checks if you are eligible to enter the USA under the Visa Waiver Program (VMP). It is advised that you apply for the ESTA with plenty of time before your trip. Once you apply online for your visa, it can take around a few hours (and at least one hour for emergency cases) to be approved.
Need to know before visiting America
- US dollars are the only currency accepted.
- Drinking age is 21, even if you are from a country where the drinking age is less.
- You’re expected to tip in most circumstances.
- Prepare to pay more than prices displayed – many places add the VAT on top of listed prices.
Have an amazing time in America and let us know which of these USA Bucket list places to did you visit!