The USA is the cultural force of the modern era. A land built on immigration and pioneering, America is a bastion of modern-day pop culture, free thought and the relentless pursuit of the American Dream.
Comprised of 50 states, the USA occupies an area that’s only just marginally smaller than Europe. It’s in this vast country that you will find an unbelievably diverse array of natural landscapes, cityscapes, people and cultures.
Map of the USA
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From the tropical islands of Hawaii to the desert landscape of the Grand Canyon, as well as mountains and forests, you’ll never be stuck for outdoor pursuits in America. Then there are its multicultural, global cities such as Chicago and NYC itself – the USA is an endlessly fascinating place to discover.
Here are the best places to visit in the USA so you can get the most out of your big trip to The States.
Aspen, Colorado, is the place to go for skiing in the USA. Four separate skiing areas – Aspen Highlands, Ajax Mountain, Buttermilk and Snowmass further down the valley – make it a frosty playground for winter sports. Aspen exploded as a silver mining town in the late 19th century; something reflected in the architecture from this time. Examples include the grand Wheeler Opera House and the brick built Aspen Community Church, amongst others. Summer is a good time for heading to the hills and there are hiking opportunities galore nearby (try the Smuggler Mountain Trail).
The capital and largest city of Georgia, Atlanta is a sprawling, modern city with three urban skylines rising up from the picturesque scenery of rolling hills, pine forest, magnificent old oak trees and charming magnolia and peach trees. Established as a railroad terminus in 1837, Atlanta has emerged as the leader of the New South. The city’s top attractions are the CNN Center, World of Coca-Cola and the Georgia Aquarium, which features the world’s largest indoor aquarium.
Read more: Top Atlanta Attractions
Located in the Sierra Nevada, Yosemite National Park is a vast stretch of wilderness that covers thousands of acres. It’s noted for its incredible biological diversity; more than 20% of California’s plant species are found within the park boundaries. The park sees upwards of four million annual visitors, who are attracted by the fantastic hiking opportunities among the famously breathtaking granite rock formations, gushing waterfalls, lush meadows, and impressive glaciers. Iconic and photogenic centerpieces include the granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome as well as the imposing Bridalveil Fall.
Straddling the Willamette River in the shadow of the majestic Mount Hood, Portland is the largest city in Oregon as well as the third largest city of the US Pacific Northwest region. While the city is known for its frequent rain drizzle, it is Portland’s climate that produces it with picturesque scenery, including a plethora of rose gardens, which give Portland the nickname, “City of Roses.” Besides its natural attractions, Portland is a popular destination for its relaxed atmosphere, outdoor activities and large number of microbreweries.
Read more: Top Portland Attractions
The jewel of Texas, San Antonio is a city steeped in both rich history and modern day appeal. Located in south-central Texas, the city is one of the largest in the United States and best known as home to the Alamo. Another of San Antonio’s most visited attractions is the Riverwalk, a vibrant pedestrian scene of restaurants, shops, hotels and entertainment venues stretching along both sides of the San Antonio River right in the middle of the downtown area.
Read more: Top San Antonio Attractions
The quintessential Southern city, Savannah draws millions of tourists every year to its charming scenes of Victorian architecture, cobbled streets and moss-draped oaks. Lying on the Atlantic Coast in eastern Georgia, Savannah is the state’s oldest city, rich in history, hospitality and natural beauty. A walk around the Historic District’s cobbled streets allows views of beautiful old mansions from the 19th century and historic sites. When you’ve had enough of old buildings, a stroll through the tree-lined paths of leafy Forsyth Park is bound to refresh you.
Commonly referred to by locals as “Philly,” Philadelphia is major US city in southeastern Pennsylvania and home to the iconic Liberty Bell and the Philly cheesesteak sandwich. Regarded as the “Birthplace of America,” Philadelphia is known as the city in which the country’s founding fathers signed the 1776 Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. There’s a host of interesting art museums to visit in the city, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is not only one of the largest in the world, but also famous for its long flight of steps which were featured in the 1976 film “Rocky”. Now that’s a claim to fame.
Located in the north-central part of Arizona, the town of Sedona is known for its vibrant art scene and spiritual retreats. However, Sedona’s most popular attraction is the breathtaking array of red sandstone formations that create a striking red and orange backdrop to the town. Attracting artists, spiritual seekers and outdoor lovers alike, Sedona’s brilliant landscape offers much to see and do. Incredible natural landmarks like Airport Mesa and Cathedral Rock present excellent photograph opportunities. For an interesting slice of architecture, head to the Chapel of the Holy Cross; dating back to the 1950s, this Catholic church is actually built into one of the iconic buttes.
Centered around a natural harbor, the coastal Californian city of San Diego is located on the border with Mexico. It’s rich in Mexican culture, delicious seafood and blessed with a year-round mild climate. As you’d expect, the city is a popular tourist destination. Visitors are attracted to the city for its laid-back mindset, and opportunities to soak up some beautiful sun, sea, and sand. Then there’s also the bustling Balboa Park, where you can find San Diego Zoo, among dozens of others museums and botanic gardens.
Read more: Top San Diego Attractions
Covering a massive expanse of mountainous land in Alaska, Denali National Park is the third largest national park in the United States. The piece de resistance of this incredible slice of wilderness is Denali. Once known as Mount McKinley, this is the tallest mountain not just in the USA, but the whole of North America. Bike, hike or mountaineer yourself through this region for stunning scenery and sights of caribou, grizzly bears, wolves, and moose. Simply driving through the park on the singular Denali Park Road offers up panoramic views of Denali and the glassy Wonder Lake, amongst others.
Regarded as one of the most unique cities in the USA, New Orleans is widely known for its distinctive French Creole culture, cuisine, and architecture as well as jazz music and the annual Mardi Gras celebration. Situated in southeastern Louisiana, New Orleans is the state’s largest city and a major US seaport. Devastated by heavy flooding from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans is now mostly recovered and remains one of the best places to visit in the USA.
The world-famous Niagara Falls straddle Ontario in Canada and the American state of New York. Located on the Niagara River, the falls are a culmination of the flow of water that gushes out of the Upper Great Lakes and are actually made up of three falls – Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls, and the Bridal Veil Falls. Six million cubic feet of water cascades over the ridge every second, making for an incredibly impressive site which draws an estimated 30 million tourists a year. The Maid of the Mist boat cruise has been taking tourists to experience the rapids beneath the falls (and get soaked in the process) since 1846.
One of the oldest cities in the USA, Boston is best known for its wealth of American history, architecture and academic institutions. The capital and largest city in Massachusetts as well as the largest city in the New England region, Boston is spectacular sight in spring and autumn with flowering trees and fall foliage. As the setting of many historic events that led up to the American Revolution, Boston is steeped in early American history. Once the scene of the Boston Tea Party event, the Boston Harbor today is known for its lighthouses and festivals.
Read more: Top Boston Attractions
One of the most vivacious cities in the USA, Miami is best known for its sunny beaches, Latin culture and sizzling nightlife. Located in southeastern Florida off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, Miami is also a major port city managing the world’s largest number of passenger cruise ships. Across the bay from Miami on a barrier island is Miami Beach, known for its Art Deco architecture and glamorous South Beach.
Read more: Top Miami Attractions
Home to global giants like Boeing, Starbucks and Amazon, Seattle is the largest city of the USA’s Pacific Northwest region. Seattle is a coastal seaport city nicknamed the Emerald City due to its lush scenery resulting from a rainy climate. The skyline of Seattle is a thicket of towering skyscrapers. The crowning glory is the futuristic 605-foot (184-meter) tall Space Needle, built in 1962. The city is known for its music scene – it gave the world Nirvana and other grunge bands like Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. You can read up on this – and more – at the city’s Museum of Pop Culture. It’s also famous for seafood, which you can try at the historic Pike Place Market. What’s more: the surrounding pine forests make for perfect hiking.
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The Polynesian archipelago of Hawaii is a veritable paradise that’s spread across hundreds of islands in the Pacific Ocean. With its tropical climate, famously pristine beaches and wealth of natural scenery, Hawaii has been promoted as a tropical destination since the end of WW2. The islands are also a prime destination of surfers from around the world; famous spots include the Banzai Pipeline, a break just off Oahu’s north shore. Despite the steady influx of visitors, indigenous Hawaiian culture still thrives and can be seen in ceremonies, traditions and folk music.
Home to world famous theme parks like Walt Disney World, SeaWorld and Universal Studios, Orlando is no doubt a favorite destination for family vacations. Located in central Florida, Orlando is a place where dreams and magic become reality. With several amusement parks, visitors to Orlando can meet their favorite storybook characters, reenact live famous movie scenes, ride thrilling roller coasters and watch dolphins performing marvelous tricks.
The capital of the United States and seat of the federal government, Washington D.C. is located on the country’s East Coast. A cosmopolitan city that is home to many diverse cultures, Washington is widely known by its many iconic landmarks like the White House, Capitol Building, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. Many of these monuments are all located within the beautifully landscaped parkland known as the National Mall.
Read more: Top Washington D.C. Attractions
The second-largest city in the USA, Los Angeles is located in southern California surrounded by the Pacific Coast, mountains and valleys. Often regarded as the “Entertainment Capital of the World”, LA is awash with celebrity culture. You can see the handprints of film stars on Hollywood Boulevard or go on a tour to see stars’ homes in Beverly Hills. For laid back days there’s the bohemian neighbourhood of Venice Beach, home to Muscle Beach and a rambling promenade that doubles as a stage for all sorts of quirky street performers. The seafront city of Santa Moncia also offers a more relaxed pace of life with its old pier and aquarium. LA is also home to the world’s first Disneyland – great news if you’re traveling with children!
Read more: Top L.A. Attractions
Nicknamed the “Windy City” and best known for its towering skyscrapers, sports teams and unique style of hot dogs and pizzas, Chicago is the third-largest city in the USA. Located on Lake Michigan in the heart of the Midwest region in northeastern Illinois, Chicago is a major hub for finance, industry, and commerce. The city’s numerous sites range from the futuristic Millennium Park and the iconic Sears Tower to the Navy Pier with its parks, restaurants, and amusements. Numerous genres of music such as Jazz, Blues, and House music have roots in the live music venues around Chicago.
Read more: Top Chicago Attractions
Established in 1872, Yellowstone is famous for being the very first national park in the world. There are numerous geysers to watch here – notably Old Faithful, which is practically legendary; it never fails to erupt on schedule. And then there’s the multicolored Grand Prismatic Spring, ringed by rainbow colors thanks to different bacteria that live in the cooler sections of this boiling body of water. Yellowstone National Park is also home to more wild animals than just about any place in the United States.
Read more: Top Yellowstone Attractions
You wouldn’t think a city in the middle of the desert in Nevada would be as popular as it is, but it’s thanks to the cavalcade of casinos here that Las Vegas is so famous. The most well-known casinos themselves are practically household names: Caesar’s Palace, MGM Grand, the Bellagio. In addition to gambling, show girls and lavish performances, Las Vegas offers plenty more to suit people of all ages and interests. On the main street called the Strip, there are the Bellagio’s impressive fountain shows, a replica of the Eiffel Tower and of an Egyptian pyramid, amongst other landmarks.
Read more: Top Las Vegas Attractions
Set on the tip of a peninsula, San Francisco is a beautiful city in northern California that is famous for a lot (and we really mean a lot) of things. Undoubtedly, the Golden Gate Bridge is the city’s number one attraction. Tourists can drive, bike ride or walk across this famous suspension bridge to admire and photograph stunning views. There’s also the bustling Chinatown, the seafood at the ever-popular Fisherman’s Wharf, the notorious island prison of Alcatraz, historic cable cars and the famously steep and winding Lombard Street. You’ll be hard pressed to get bored in this fascinating city.
Read more: Top San Francisco Attractions
Attracting millions of visitors every year, the Grand Canyon is one of those bucket list destinations in the USA. Located in northern Arizona, this massive natural wonder was carved by the Colorado River over a period of several million years. It is not the deepest or the longest canyon in the world but the overwhelming size and colorful landscape offers visitor vistas that are hard to match. Simply find a viewpoint and peer over the edge, or fly over it in a helicopter. There are numerous well-marked trails to try out, including the South Kaibab Trail. If you want a really long hike, go for the Rim-to-Rim Trail but don’t forget to pack plenty of water, this is an unrelenting desert climate, after all.
The jewel in the crown of the USA when it comes to urban areas, New York is a megacity that is absolutely packed full of iconic places, areas, and buildings. In fact, sometimes it feels like you’re walking through familiar territory, thanks to how often the city features in Hollywood films. There’s Central Park, the Empire State Building, Grand Central Station, Times Square – even the “Five Boroughs” that make up NYC are famous (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, Staten Island). Then there’s the culture: Koreatown, multiple Chinatowns, the remnants of Little Italy, and communities from Jewish to African American make New York a true world city made rich by the people who’ve flocked here from all over the world.
Read more: Top NYC Attractions