Face it, fellow travelers, the USA is a huge country and there are a number of different, distinctive destinations to discover there! How do you even eliminate what you can’t afford or what doesn’t interest you if you don’t even know what all is out there? So, to help you with the personal planning process, prepare to peruse the 27 top USA bucket list experiences.
The 27 Top USA Bucket List Experiences
1. Go To Mackinac Island, Michigan
Mackinac Island is a little island situated off the coast between the peninsulas. It’s accessible by boat or ferry and has been an automobile-free zone for more than 100 years. Here people travel on foot, bicycle, or even horse-drawn carriage.
Veteran visitors suggest taking the eight-mile scenic trip around the entire island. You’ll see Arch Rock, Lake Huron, and more. Hike in Mackinac Island State Park. Sample the tasty local homemade fudge too.
2. Drive Route 66, Illinois To California
“Get your kicks on Route 66!” This 2,448-mile route might be officially decommissioned, but you can still drive it from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona to its endpoint in California. As previously reported, you can complete the entire trip in only two weeks if you only stop at the most popular places like The Blue Whale and Cadillac Ranch.
3. Go To The Empire State Building, New York
Built in 1931, the Empire State Building is located on famous 5th Avenue in Manhattan. This 102-story building is 1,454 feet tall. For nearly four decades this landmark was the world’s tallest building until the title was usurped by the World Trade Center’s North Tower back in 1970. It’s the 25th tallest building on Earth and the fifth tallest skyscraper in the country.
4. Experience the Mardi Gras Carnival, Louisiana
The Mardi Gras Carnival held in New Orleans is said to be a “fun for all ages” event. The event starts two weeks prior to “Fat Tuesday” complete with numerous parades and float riders. The best albeit busiest time to go is on the weekend when you’ll see the best and biggest floats. Always show up early to get a good spot.
5. Visit Mount Rushmore And More, South Dakota
The world-famous Mount Rushmore is undoubtedly the focus of a visit to this state. Be sure to hike the peaceful presidential trail here. But, wait, there’s more!
Popular Badlands National Park has a moody, extra-terrestrial landscape. Be sure to see Custer State Park in the Black Hills. Cruise the Iron Mountain Road and Needles Highway and take in the scenery too. Hike the 18-mile wildlife loop too.
6. See The Seattle Space Needle, Washington
The best time to visit this memorable 605-foot-high structure is weekday evenings. (Get your tickets online and avoid the lines as well.) Here you can experience an incredible view of the entire city and even the surrounding Cascade Mountains. Have a drink in the lovely Loupe Lounge, which features the only revolving glass floor. Don’t forget your ticket includes a digital “Sky High Selfie” on the Needle’s observation deck.
7. Visit Niagara Falls, New York
Niagara Falls is actually situated between the state of New York and Ontario, Canada. Regular readers may already know this natural wonder includes three falls: the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and the Horseshoe Falls. The latter straddles the international border. Niagara Falls are North America’s most famous waterfalls. 30 million people come here every year. Niagara Falls is not only beautiful but a great source of hydroelectric power too.
8. Drive The Extraterrestrial Highway, Nevada
If you’re looking for a fun road trip, we suggest cruising the quirky Extraterrestrial Highway. The ET Highway includes a 98-mile stretch of State Route 375 between the towns of Crystal Springs and Warm Springs. Noteworthy attractions along the way include the famous ET Highway route marker, the Alien Research Center, the Black Mailbox where alien enthusiasts leave messages, and the motel and restaurant known as Little A’le’inn.
9. Explore Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Mesa Verde National Park is a stunning place to visit in the winter. If you want to avoid the crowds, the best time to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site is during the colder months. If you wish to actually tour the more than 2,000 cliff dwellings and see them up close and personal though, visit between May and September and make reservations online.
10. Hike To Diamond Head Lookout, Hawaii
If you visit Hawaii, you simply must visit your rovin’ writer’s birthplace of Oahu. Here you can hike to the top of Diamond Head and take in the view of the well-known Waikiki Beach. Originally created for military defense purposes, this 1.6-mile hiking path is now trodden by hundreds of visitors daily for both the historic experience and the stunning 360-degree views.
11. Visit Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park, Colorado
This canyon is one of the steepest, deepest, and narrowest canyons in the US. It was named thus because some sections only get 30+ minutes of sunlight each day. Enjoy memorable views, noteworthy hikes, and learn of interesting past expeditions. Easier trails include the Rim Rock Nature Trail and the Oak Flat Loop Trail. The best time to visit is from April ‘til November.
12. Go Skydiving In Las Vegas, Nevada
The next time you visit Vegas, you must experience the adrenaline rush of jumping out of an airplane. You sign the waiver, have a lesson, get suited up and you are ready to rock! The free-falling can be intense as you gaze down on Sin City and its surroundings. If you want to avoid the heat, avoid doing this in the summer months.
13. Visit Key West, Florida
While you can cruise down the A1A highway through the famous Florida Keys, a car can be a hassle in Key West. Opt for flying into the local Key West Airport and taking a cab to a hotel in historic Old Town. From there you can bike or even walk anywhere. Stroll around Mallory Square. Summer is hot but uncrowded. Most travelers visit in the Fall or Spring.
14. Hike Mount Whitney, California
Mount Whitney is in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, near Lone Pine. You will need a permit during the peak season of May through October, and they are only available via a lottery system. The hike to Mount Whitney is a 20-mile round trip hike with an elevation gain of 6,600 feet. Still, the view from the summit of 14,505 feet makes it worth it.
15. Visit The Historical District Of Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, and its historic center, is rife with history and highlighted by attractive antebellum architecture, and a delicious, distinctive culinary scene. Here you can walk along Waterfront Park, enjoy Pineapple Fountain, visit the Rainbow Row, and take in the historic French Quarter, Boone Hall Plantation, and Fort Sumter. The best time to visit is in spring or fall when the weather is reportedly perfect.
16. See The Monuments, Washington DC
Washington DC is the heart of the United States government. History buffs and patriotic Americans interested in the founding of the nation and the country’s leaders will surely appreciate the many monuments and memorials. Highlights here include the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, the Washington Monument, National World War II Memorial, and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.
17. Experience Christmastime In New York City, New York
Some say New York City during the holidays is “magical.” Go ice skating in Central Park, stroll by the dazzling displays on 5th Avenue, see the famous Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, shop the holiday markets at Union Square and Bryant Park. See the Christmas light decorations at popular Dyker Heights and the amazing Christmas trees at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Rockefeller Center.
18. See The Grand Canyon, Arizona
Arizona’s Grand Canyon has earned many titles: an unspoiled place, a “stunning natural wonder”, one of the “world’s most incredible canyons”, and a “place to see before you die.” It’s also one of the nation’s famous landmarks and as such belongs on everyone’s bucket list. The canyon is 227 miles long, one mile deep, and up to 18 miles wide and can even be seen from outer space.
19. Hike The Flatirons, Colorado
While you might not have the Flatirons in Boulder, on your bucket list, you should. Nestled north of Denver, this is reported to be “one of the most popular hikes” to complete in the Denver area. There are multiple trails available here so you get some exercise regardless of your hiking experience. The best time to visit to avoid the crowds is during the fall or spring.
20. Drive Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina
This is another activity that should be on your bucket list. This 469-mile trip is said to be one of America’s “most iconic road trips.” It connects the Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah National Parks, going through the states of Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. The best time to experience this drive with its hiking trails and overlooks is in the fall.
21. Visit Everglades National Park, Florida
This bucket list locale is less than 40 minutes out of Miami. The Everglades National Park has a unique ecosystem and tropical wetlands. Several Native American tribes including the Calusa, Seminole, and Tequesta once lived on these marshlands. Today visitors can go on nature walks, kayak, or hike the Anhinga Trail. Keep an eye out for alligators, crocodiles, dolphins, herons, manatees, panthers, and turtles.
22. Go To The Statue Of Liberty, New York
Visiting the world-famous Statue Of Liberty in the NY Harbor is a requirement for anyone’s bucket list. You can get a ticket with ground, pedestal, or even crown access. Take the 15-minute ferry ride to Liberty Island, and explore the cafe, gift shop, and, of course, the statue. Your ticket also gives you access to the historic immigration center Ellis Island.
23. Hit Green Sand Beach, Hawaii
Also known as Papakolea Beach, the Green Sand Beach is on Hawaii’s Big Island. Famous for its green sand, it is one of the only four green beaches on the planet. Specifically found in a volcanic tuff ring created more than 49,000 years ago by a Mauna Loa eruption. An olivine erosion from the surrounding tuff ring caused the sand to be olive green.
24. Watch The Sun Rise Atop Haleakala Crater, Hawaii
The Haleakala Crater is a huge crater on the isle of Maui. It was created as a result of eons’ worth of erosion of the
Haleakala volcano mountain top. The summit is 10,000 feet high. Veteran visitors confirm that watching the sunrise here above the clouds is a unique experience. Make reservations and plan accordingly. Sunrise begins at 5:30 a.m.
25. Explore Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana, And Idaho
Yellowstone National Park is the planet’s first national park. It includes 2.2 million acres that cover parts of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. The park is highlighted by wild animals, deep forests, craggy peaks, alpine lakes, and nearly half of the planet’s geysers including the Old Faithful Geyser. It is also inspired the cartoon character Yogi Bear’s famous home — Jellystone Park.
26. Drive The Going-to-the-Sun Road In Glacier National Park, Montana
This drive in Glacier National Park is another unforgettable bucket list experience. This winding, scenic road through northern Montana, provides unforgettable views of majestic mountains and more. The drive will take a couple of hours but you will undoubtedly want to stop at the overlooks, check out the scenic lakes, and maybe even do a little hiking.
27. See The Golden Gate Bridge, California
The iconic Golden Gate Bridge was constructed more than 75 years ago. It’s the world’s longest suspension bridge and it spans the strait between San Francisco and Marin County. The bridge is almost 230 feet high and 4,200 feet long. The structure’s famous red-orange color was chosen to make the bridge very easy to see through the frequent thick fog which quite often enshrouds it.