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.
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.
Renowned around the world for its breathtaking beauty, Hawaii lies far off the coast of California in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Made up of 137 islands, the volcanic archipelago has long attracted tourists to its shores due to its stunning landscapes, beautiful beaches, and rich cultural heritage.
Hawaii really does boast a plethora of natural wonders. The rugged NaPali Coast, plunging Waimea Canyon, and idyllic Waikiki Beach count among its most famous sights. Due to all the magnificent scenery, it’s worth spending as much time as possible outdoors, either hiking among the volcanoes, surfing the surrounding waves, or snorkeling above its colorful coral reefs.
As it was the last state to join the US in 1959, the islands still retain much of their unique Hawaiian identity. Visitors can immerse themselves in Hawaii’s rich culture and heritage while staying at any one of the luxury resorts that dot the archipelago. Of its many islands, Oahu, Maui, and Kauai are the most popular due to their natural beauty and abundance of tourist attractions.
Home to world famous theme parks like Walt Disney World 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 and whales performing marvelous tricks.
However, there is much more to Orlando than just the theme parks. The downtown area features pedestrian streets lined with shops, restaurants, bars and comedy clubs. Botanic gardens and conservation parks showcase Florida’s amazing flora and fauna from orchids to alligators. What’s more, Orlando and its surrounding area is a paradise for sports lovers. Lakes and streams teeming in trophy fish are a sport fishing paradise, and golfers will be spoiled for choice among the numerous golf clubs and courses.
8. Washington DC
The capital of the United States and seat of the federal government, Washington is a city located on the country’s East Coast in the District of Columbia. 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, along with others like the Vietnam War Memorial and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, are all located within the beautifully landscaped parkland known as the National Mall, one of the city’s most visited sites.
Washington boasts a large number of important museums, many of which are comprised within the Smithsonian Institute, the world’s largest research and museum compound. The National Zoo, historic churches and the colonial architecture of the Georgetown neighborhood are other popular things to see while visiting Washington. A good way to experience the main attractions of Washington is to take the hop-on hop-off trolley. A popular day trip from Washington is an excursion to the nearby Civil War battlefield of Gettysburg.
7. Los Angeles
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 neighborhood 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!
Some of the city’s most popular attractions include the Getty Center, regarded as America’s finest art museum, the Kodak Theater, host of the Academy Awards, and Universal Studios Hollywood. The Grove Farmer’s Market is a pedestrian paradise of shopping and entertainment, while Griffith Park and Knott’s Berry Farm are both fantastic family 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.
Chicago is a huge city with many ethnic neighborhoods and a buzzing downtown district that is quite walkable. A stroll downtown offers views of impressive skyscrapers, upscale malls, quaint shops, restaurants, bakeries and numerous hot dog stands selling the city’s distinctive beef frankfurter served on a poppy-seed bun with pickle relish, tomatoes, onion and yellow mustard.
Rich in American history, Chicago has many historic sites including Old St. Patrick’s Church, one of the buildings that survived the city’s Great Fire of 1871. Another historic site, the Cadillac Palace Theater, is worth a visit just for its exquisite interior. First opened in 1926, the theater still presents Broadway shows today.
Home to several major attractions, Grant Park is a huge, sprawling public park with beautiful gardens and recreational facilities as well as Buckingham Fountain, one of the largest fountains in the world.
Yellowstone National Park was the world’s first national park, set aside in 1872 to preserve the vast number of geysers, hot springs, and other thermal areas, as well as to protect the incredible wildlife and rugged beauty of the area. Yellowstone lies on top of a gigantic hotspot where light, hot, molten mantle rock rises towards the surface. Subsequently, the park contains half of all the world’s known geothermal features, with more than 10,000 examples of geysers and hot springs.
The most famous geyser in the park is Old Faithful Geyser. It is one of the most predictable geographical features on earth erupting almost every 91 minutes. The largest hot spring in Yellowstone and the third largest in the world is the Grand Prismatic Spring. The vivid colors in the spring are the result of pigmented bacteria that grow around the edges of the mineral-rich water. The bacteria produce colors ranging from green to red. The center of the pool is sterile due to extreme heat.
In addition to all the geothermal features Yellowstone is also home to one of the finest megafauna wildlife habitats in North America. Black bears, grizzly bears, deer, elk, bison and wolves can all be found within the park borders.
4. Las Vegas
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, among other landmarks.
Golfers will be happy to know there are more than 55 golf courses in and around Las Vegas. Just outside the city are state parks offering rock climbing and hiking trails. Also nearby is Lake Mead, which provides a variety of water sports.
3. San Francisco
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. Another of the city’s most prominent landmarks are its historic cable cars, which present a memorable way to experience the steep inclines and main tourist attractions.
San Francisco is a city rich in history and culture known for its lovely Victorian homes and ethnic neighborhoods, of which Chinatown is the most famous with its colorful array of shops and markets. A popular waterfront district lined with souvenir shops and seafood restaurants, Fisherman’s Wharf is where tourists can take a ferry to Alcatraz Island to tour the notorious prison.
2. Grand Canyon
Attracting millions of visitors every year, the Grand Canyon is one of the great tourist attractions in the United States. Located in northern Arizona, this massive natural wonder was carved by the Colorado River over a period of several million years and now measures 277 miles (446 km) long, over a mile (1.6 km) deep and up to 18 miles (29 km) wide. 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.
Managed and protected by the Grand Canyon National Park, the Grand Canyon is contained within the national park as well as within the Hualapai and Havasupai Indian Reservations. Awe-inspiring landscapes, wildlife viewing, historic sites and adventurous activities are just a few of the reasons that make the Grand Canyon one of the world’s most famous natural wonders.
The Canyon is divided by two main sections, the popular South Rim and the remote North Rim. As the most accessible part for tourists, the South Rim features many historic sites such as the El Tovar Hotel, Grand Canyon Railway Depot and the Desert View Watchtower. Also in the South Rim is the Grand Canyon Village where many tourists can find ample lodging.
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.
One of the most popular attractions in the Canyon is Havasu Falls, a spectacular waterfall that plummets 120 feet (37 meters) into a natural swimming pool of turquoise water. Other sights and experiences opportunities in the Canyon include whitewater rafting, jeep tours, helicopter rides and the Skywalk, a glass sightseeing structure extending 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) over the rim of the Grand Canyon.
1. New York City
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. World renowned for its concentration of skyscrapers and famous attractions, New York City is what many foreigners often visualize when they think of the USA. In fact, sometimes it feels like you’re walking through familiar territory, thanks to how often the city features in Hollywood films.
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.
Some of New York’s most notable landmarks that can be toured include the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and the Rockefeller Center. One of the city’s most important historical sites is Ellis Island, where millions of immigrants first arrived in America.
New York is also home to some of the most distinguished museums and art galleries in the world such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum and the American Museum of Natural History. Additionally, Manhattan’s Theater District is world known with its collection of Broadway theaters and other entertainment venues. Throbbing with flashing neon lights and glittering billboards, Times Square is the city’s dazzling entertainment district where tourists can catch a Broadway performance and shop for souvenirs.
For those who need to catch their breath from all the hustle and bustle of New York City, Central Park is the answer with its wide open green spaces, gardens, wooded paths and outdoor recreation.