50+ US Bucket List Vacations to Take Before You Die

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The United States is a vast place with so much to see and discover. If you’re creating your United States bucket list, you’re in the right place. From the best cities to the nation’s top road trips, you won’t run out of trip ideas any time soon. 

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While it’s hard to narrow down sights in a place as diverse as the United States, we’ve done our best to highlight the most unique, amazing things there are in this great nation. Pack your bags and let’s get started!

U.S. Bucket List Cities

With historic and cultural significance, these cities make the best travel destinations. 

1. New York City, New York

New York is quintessential America. With diverse neighborhoods, classic old buildings, and modern technology around every corner, you’ll see why this is the city that never sleeps. 

2. Los Angeles, California

Sun, movies, Hollywood, and did we mention the sun? Los Angeles is one of the most bustling cities in the world, and with good reason. In many ways, Los Angeles is the center of the entertainment universe. 

3. Seattle, Washington

This PNW city isn’t just the home to retail giant Amazon. It’s also one of the most stunning cities in the nation. Did we mention it’s home to the original Starbucks?

4. Austin, Texas

Though it’s earned the reputation is the hipster capital of Texas, Austin is so much more than that. It’s all about BBQ, innovation, and trying new things. 

5. Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston blends the best of the old and the new. This southern town has so much to do, and you’ll fall in love with the beautiful architecture and hospitality. 

6. Orlando, Florida

As the theme park capital of the world, Orlando has to earn a spot on this list. However, outside of the theme parks, you’ll find a surprising amount of art, history, culture, and old-Florida charm. 

7. Miami, Florida

This Latin-fusion city always has something going on. From Little Havana to South Beach, there’s so much to explore in this southernmost city. 

8. New Orleans, Lousiana

With over 300 years of history, New Orleans is one of the biggest melting pots in the U.S. Home to jazz, Mardi Gras, and Cajun culture, you’ll never want to leave the Big Easy.

9. Washington, D.C. 

The nation’s capital is also one of the most beautiful cities. It’s worth visiting for the National Mall alone, but be sure to check out the thriving local restaurants and culture as well. 

10. Boston, Massachusetts

One of America's first cities is also worth a visit. Home to one of the prettiest harbors in the world and some killer chowder, you’ll see why Boston has earned a place in so many hearts. 

U.S. Bucket List Hikes

The U.S. is home to some impressive hikes. Thanks to things like the National Parks Senior Pass and other low-cost parks, it’s affordable to explore the natural wonders of this great country. 

11. The Pacific Crest Trail

Made famous recently with the film and novel Wild by Cheryl Strayed, this journey takes hikers from Mexico through California, Oregon, and Washington to Canada. It travels both mountains and canyons, promising the best views you’ll find. 

12. Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

We all know the story of Lewis and Clark. Walk in their footsteps from Missouri to Oregon over 30 routes within the national trail system. 

13. The Appalachian Trail

Another American classic, the Appalachian Trail spans from Georgia to Maine. The trail includes the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains, and many hikers travel the entire distance each year. 

14. Ice Age Trail

In the past, ice sheets covered Canada and many of the Great Lakes. This left a zig-zagging line of rocks and ice age relics for thousands of miles between Wisconsin and Potawatomi State Park. 

15. Continental Divide

This trail covers some of the most spectacular geographies in the U.S. From Glacier National Park in Montana to New Mexico, this long-distance route is a chance to see wildlife up close. 

16. Rim-to-Rim

The best way to see the Grand Canyon is via the South and North Kaibab trails. This passage is known as Rim-to-Rim, and it’s a 24-mile trek with 5,700 feet of vertical gain. 

17. Wonderland Trail

Mount Rainier is the highest volcano in the Cascade mountain range. The Wonderland Trail is an intimate way to see the entire peak in all its glory with a route through the wilderness. 

18. Little St. George Island

If you can find a boat to take you to Little St. George Island just south of Apalachicola, you’ll find one of Florida’s best-kept secrets. A web of hiking trails showcases untouched beaches. 

19. Kalalau Trail

To see Hawaii’s famous Na Pali coast up close, hike the Kalalau Trail starting at Kauai’s Ke’e Beach. You don’t have to do the entire trail to take in the views. 

20. Dawson-Pitamakan Loop

The 17-mile Dawson-Pitamakan Loop follows Rising Wolf Mountain. With alpine lakes and jagged peaks, you can’t beat this Montana hike. 

U.S. Bucket List Events and Festivals

There’s always something going on in the U.S. With holidays, festivals, and events celebrated in style, you’ll never run out of things to check off your travel bucket list.

21. Summerfest

Head to Milwaukee for the world’s largest music festival every July. This Lake Michigan city goes wild with over 800 bands during this vibrant celebration. 

22. Mardi Gras

This famous New Orleans festival dates back to medieval Europe. Brought to New Orleans by explorers, this is still one of the biggest parties in the city. 

23. Coachella

One of the best-known music festivals in the world is Coachella which takes place every year in Indio, California. This is where you’ll spot the hottest celebrities and performers! 

24. Comic-Con International 

If you’re a comic book lover, you’ve got to visit the biggest festival in San Diego, California. This is where you can find the latest information about film, TV, books, and more. 

25. Burning Man Festival

This counterculture event draws guests from all over the globe. Located in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, this imaginative festival is all about art, expression, and fun. 

26. New Year’s Eve in Times Square

Watching the ball drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve is an American classic! Around a million people gather to ring in the new year. 

27. Albuquerque International Balloon Festival

This event is like nothing you’ve ever seen. With over 500 hot air balloons launching in New Mexico, the sky is transformed. 

28. Aloha Festival

Travel to Hawaii to learn about Hawaiian culture. Each year, the Aloha Festival in Honolulu celebrates everything about Hawaii’s history and culture. 

29. Lollapalooza

This Chicago music festival is all about enjoying a diverse range of music and talent. With both big-name and up-and-coming artists, this is the summer event to attend. 

30. Gasparilla Festival

Join the biggest pirate festival in the world in Tampa, Florida every January. Explore Tampa’s historic pirate culture with fun, parties, and a giant pirate parade. 

U.S. Bucket List Road Trip Ideas

The road trip is as American as apple pie. Plus, there are a lot of low-cost hotel deals like senior hotel discounts and travel discounts that make road tripping easier. 

31. Route 66

This classic drive starts in Lake Michigan and ending in Los Angeles is guaranteed to impress. Be sure to stop at the classic diners and roadside attractions on the way. 

32. Pacific Coast Highway

Another must-see if you’re a fan of the California sunshine is the Pacific Coast Highway. This trip across California’s coast makes you want to put the top down and jam out to music. 

33. Overseas Highway

For a short road trip you can do in a day, the Overseas Highway in Florida only takes a few hours. Connecting Miami with the Florida Keys, some stretches of this trek are completely above water. Be sure to bring your camera!

34. Black Hills

South Dakota packs a lot of American sights into this Black Hills drive. With Custer State Park and Mount Rushmore, this is the place to take in some Americana. 

35. Great River Road

The Mississippi River is truly a symbol of America. By taking the Great River Road, you drive alongside the Mississippi River in 10 different states, passing a number of exciting sights along the way. 

36. The Loneliest Road

US-50 was nicknamed the Loneliest Road for a reason. This quiet stretch of highway between Maryland and California passes through 12 states, and it has some extremely quiet moments. If you’re looking for silence, this is for you. 

37. Blue Ridge Parkway

Starting in Shenandoah Virginia through the Smoky Mountains, you’ll understand why John Denver was inspired to write “Country Roads.” Just be ready for some curvy twists in this mountain road! 

38. The High Road to Taos

Weaving through New Mexico, this western road was the backdrop for many famous cowboy movies. It’s easy to see why. With desert sands, peaks, and cacti, you’ll feel like a cowboy yourself. 

39. The Outer Banks

North Carolina’s Route 12 also has its own scenic highway. Starting at the lighthouse and passing along the ocean, this is a gorgeous drive. 

40. Olympic Peninsula

Escape the excitement of Seattle with a trip through the Olympic peninsula. Drive through the Olympic National Park, seeing a variety of lush rainforests and sights along the way. 

U.S. Bucket List Beaches and Parks

If the previous list proves anything, it’s that the U.S. has no shortage of natural wonder. Experience the best with these beaches and parks. 

41. Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone has historically been known as the best National Park in the U.S., and it’s easy to see why. With some of the most diverse geography, there’s so much to find amidst these lakes, mountains, and valleys. 

42. Manele Bay, Hawaii

If you find yourself in Hawaii, don’t miss out on this destination. Hulopoe Beach within Manele Bay is considered one of the most pristine beaches in the world. 

43. Key West, Florida

The southernmost point in the U.S. also has some of the best beaches you’ll find. With endless boating and watersports, this is a paradise in itself. 

44. Glacier National Park

This is the place where water meets mountain. With 3 mountain ranges and hundreds of lakes, this place feels otherworldly in its beauty. 

45. Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts

While you might recognize this beach from the film classic “Jaws,” there’s a reason so many people flock here in the summertime. Moshup Beach has all the classic beachside charm you could wish for in New England town. 

46. Grand Canyon 

Photos don’t do the Grand Canyon justice. From the Colorado River to the Havasu Falls, you could spend endless time exploring here. 

47. Nantucket, Massachusetts

Previously a whaling community, this beach town now has a lot to offer visitors. From Surfside beach to Children’s beach, this calm oasis is perfect for a day of sun. 

48. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Seeing a volcano up close might be intimidating, but it’s definitely a thrill. Get up close and personal with two active volcanoes at this famous park. 

49. Acadia National Park

With some of the best hikes in the country, Acadia National Park is a beloved national treasure. Whether you climb Champlain Mountain or stay firmly on the ground, the views will wow you. 

50. Everglades National Park

Our last destination is in Florida for the Everglades. This tropical wetland looks like a land before time, home to gators, birds, and endless reptiles. 

Where Will You Go Next?

These travel must-visits above might spark your next adventure. There’s so much to see and do, it’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed. Start with your own neck of the woods, and then expand from there. The best thing about having a bucket list is always having something to look forward to. 

Do you know what you want to accomplish? Start end-of-life planning to give thought to your legacy. What things do you want to accomplish in your life? How will you make the most of your time?

If you're looking for items to put on your list, read our guides on the most beautiful places to see before you die and our travel bucket list.


Sources

  1. “About the Ice Age Trail.” Ice Age Trail Alliance. IceAgeTrail.org.
  2.  “Explore the Trail.” Continental Divide Trail. ContinentalDivideTrail.org
  3. “Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim Hike.” National Park Foundation. NationalParks.org
  4. “Kalalau Trail.” Kalalau Trail. KalalauTrail.com. 
  5. “Little St. George Island Trails.” FloridaHikes. Floridahikes.com
  6. “Pitamakan-Dawson Loop.” Hiking Project. Hikingproject.com
  7. “Mount Rainier: National Park Washington.” National Park Service. NPS.gov

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