After travelling around 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!
P.S. Scroll to the bottom of this post to see ways you can save money whilst travelling the USA.
USA BUCKET LIST MUSTS
1. 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.
The drive takes around 2 weeks but it is advised to give yourself at least 4 weeks to enjoy and experience the route at your own leisure.
Unusual places on Route 66 includes the Muffler Man Statue in Cicero, the second largest rocking chair in Fanning, the Cadillac Ranch art piece and the quirky Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino, California.
Tips for visiting Route 66:
- The route is 2278 miles, meaning it will take around 46 hours of total driving. Use this to plan how long you need for your trip.
- Avoid driving for too many hours at once (6 hours or less a day is ideal).
- Route 66 is not an interstate highway, so you will drive slower.
- Outline a general idea of your road trip and book accommodation in more popular cities beforehand.
- Make a wish list or a must see Route 66 attractions so you don’t miss anything out. But also make a ‘would like to see’ and a ‘can skip’ list too, so you know which destinations or roadside attractions are worth your time and aren’t.
- Decide your start and end point – if you are short on time, why not drive a section of the road rather than squeeze in the whole route but possibly not enjoy it as much.
- Factor in some side trips – there are some amazing attractions near Route 66 but not necessarily on the road. Places like the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and Hoover Dam will require a day trip away from the road but are worth the visit.
- Along the route are vintage hotels or themed rooms. Book these in advance as they are in high demand, especially during the summer months.
- When renting a car, make sure you can drop it off in your final destination. Companies like Budget, Dollar, Avis, National, Hertz, Alamo and Thrifty all offer this service but you can compare prices online before booking. Most people drive East to West, meaning often the drop off fee is cheaper if you do the reverse and drive from LA to Chicago.
- Spring and Autumn is the best time to plan and take a road trip like this. The western destinations get very warm in July and August whilst it can snow during the winter in Eastern destinations.
- Stay in a Route 66 motel – Wigwam Motel is a fun option for families.
- Get spray painting a car at Cadillac Ranch in Texas
- Muffler Man Statue (Atlanta)
- World’s second-largest rocking chair, Missouri
- Whale of Catoosa, Oklahoma
- Eat at the Mid Point Cafe, half way between Santa Monica or Chicago
- Fantastic Caverns, Missouri
- Amboy Shoe Tree. California
- The Singing Road, Albuquerque
- Meteor Crater, Arizona
- Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch, California
- The World’s Largest Totem Pole, Oklahoma
- 66 Drive-In Theatre, Missouri
- Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas
- Calico Ghost Town, Nevada
- Lincoln’s Tomb, Illinois
- Cars on the Route (an old service station that inspired the Cars animated movies).
2. 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 and, in my opinion, one of the best things to do in the USA.
New York is also a great place to explore as a solo traveller and is one of the recommended best places to travel along in the US! There are so many things to keep you busy in the city that never sleeps plus you will find lots of food markets so you can avoid sitting alone in a restaurant and there are hostels all over the city so you can save money as a solo traveller.
Tips for visiting the Statue of Liberty Crown
- Allow plenty of time – whether you are visiting the crown or just heading to Liberty Island, allow plenty of time. It is a popular tourist sight, queues for tickets and ferries are long and the trip up to the crown will take longer than you may anticipate. Allow. 5-6 hours if you intend on visiting Ellis Island as well.
- Book an early slot – Avoid the queues (and heat during the summer) by booking an early slot, especially on the weekends.
- Bring a snack – After walking up to the crown, you will want to eat something. There is food available but it is overpriced and mediocre.
- Be prepared for the stairs – If you are heading to the crown, be aware that there are 146 steps up a winding staircase and another 44 up a double spiral staircase to take you to the top. Wear comfortable shoes and stop for breath if you are starting to feel dizzy.
- Bring Sun protection – If you are visiting in the spring or summer, bring sun protection, water and sunglasses. There isn’t too much shade on Liberty Island and no one wants to get sunburnt on their vacation.
- Book early – Tickets for the crown sell out quickly so book early on the State Cruises website.
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.
There are some fun things to see and do on Hollywood Boulevard and these include:
- Walk of Fame
- Hollywood and Highland Center – This is a popular shopping center but head to level 2 to catch a view of the Hollywood sign.
- Grauman’s Chinese Theatre
- Dolby Theatre
- Madame Tussauds Wax Museum
- Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
- Street performers
- El Capitan Theatre
- Hollywood Wax Museum
- Mel’s Drive in
4. 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.
After exploring Zion, make sure you check out the rest of the West Coast National Parks; they are not to be missed!
Things to do in Zion National Park
- Zion Canyon Scenic Drive
- Zion-Mount Carmel Highway
- The Weeping Rock
- Lower Emerald Pools
- Hike around the park – Angels Landing and The Narrows are the most famous hikes.
- Riverside Walk scenic path
- Checkerboard Mesa
- Human History Museum
- Horseback riding tours through the Canyons (March to October)
- Rock Climbing and Canyoneering
Best and Unique places to stay in and near Zion National Park
- Driftwood Lodge – Located in Springdale, this is a popular lodge choice, with an outdoor swimming pool and sunbathing terrace.
- Zion Glamping Adventures – Want to try some glamping? Sleep under the stars in these luxury canvas tents with real beds and heaters too. There is a Barbecue and picnic area for guests to use too.
- Ruby’s Inn Campground – Stay in a teepee which fits up to 8 people. There aren’t any beds though, so you will need to bring your own sleeping bag, camp chairs and stove.
- Zion Luxury Camping – For a luxury camping tent, this is a great choice. Every tent has mountain views which are breathtaking but bathroom blocks are shared.
- Cedar Breaks Lodge – This ski resort is perfect, even if you are visiting in the summer. You can enjoy the mountain trails, hotel activities and scenic chair lifts, no matter what the temperature.
- The Parry Lodge – This is the lodge of movie stars. Many actors, including Clint Eastwood and John Wayne, stayed here when filming on location.
- Red Mountain Lodge – Heading here for a romantic break? This is perfect! No children under 12 are allowed at this lodge, so you can enjoy the pool. Healthy-life classes, hiking, yoga, biking and personal-discovery activities as well as a good massage after a long day exploring the park.
5. RIDE THE MAID OF THE MIST, NIAGARA FALLS
How to get to Niagara Falls?
The quickest way to get to Niagara Falls is by flying to either Toronto or Buffalo airport then take a taxi, bus or train into Niagara.
Alternatively, you can use the Greyhound bus services from New York City. These trips take 10 to 12 hours and cost $58. You could also take the train for $78, taking 9 hours. If you are taking a road trip, the drive can take approximately 6 and a half hours.
Getting around Niagara Falls
Whilst you are in Niagara Falls, there are a few ways to get around. Walking is the most popular option here, as many of the attractions are close to one another. You can also walk from the US side to the Canadian side and vice versa, using the Rainbow Bridge. We have a full guide on how to do this route over on our travel blog, we will leave the link in the description below.
There isn’t too many parking options near the falls themselves apart from hotel or casino parking lots but driving around Niagara itself can be a fun experience; especially for those wanting to visit the vineyards or further afield attractions.
You can rent a bike a women’s road bike under 500 around the falls too or use the Niagara Transit bus network on the US side.
6. 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.
There are a few things to know before visiting Alcatraz, a summary is:
- There are different tour options – day tour, early bird tour (the best choice), night tour, behind the scenes tour), Alcatraz and Angel Island tour.
- Buy your tickets in advance – tickets go on sale 7 weeks ahead of time and book up quickly, especially during the holidays and summer months.
- Get the audio tour – it is fantastic, giving information whilst taking your through the history and stories of the prisoners.
- Ferries leave from Pier 33.
7. 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.
What do you have to do to visit the White House?
It is possible to visit and tour the White House. These come on a first come, first served basis but requests can be submitted up to three months in advance. The White House tour is free of charge. Tours are self-guided but generally tours will take 30 – 45 minutes.
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!
Best Disney attractions and rides
- Sleeping Beauty Castle
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
- Space Mountain
- Splash Mountain
- Big Thunder Mountain
- Haunted Mansion
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Matterhorn Bobsleds
- It’s a small world
- Jungle Cruise
- Storybook Land Canal Boats
- Star Tours
- Radiator Springs Racers
- Frozen: Live at the Hyperion
- The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure
- World of Color water spectacular
- Pixar Pier
- The Incredicoaster
- Redwood Creek Challenge Trail
- Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree
- Grizzly River Run
- Red Car Trolleys
- Soarin’ Around The World
- Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout!
- Paint the Night parade
- Toy Story Midway Mania
9. Visit Death Valley
Known as the driest, hottest and lowest National park, Death Valley can often be overlooked. There are plenty of places to stay in Death Valley, making a self-drive option my preferred choice, although tours are available from Vegas as well.
Death Valley travel tips:
- Off-road tires – If you plan on driving across the park’s dirt roads, make sure you have off-road tires and spare tires. Flats are common in this national park.
- Gas – Gas is available inside the park from Stovepipe Wells, Panamint Springs and Furnace Creek but make sure you carry extra if you are moving away from the paved routes.
- Carry water – Make sure to bring plenty of water, the national park gets hot and you will need water.
- Bring maps – Phones don’t tend to work out in Death Valley and GPS systems are unreliable here. Make sure you bring a map to avoid getting lost on your self-drive.
- Arrive early – For gorgeous sunrises, dramatic backdrops and empty landscapes, head to Death Valley early.
Best time to visit Death Valley:
Fall – Late October through to November is ideal, as the camping season has just begun and temperatures range between 50 to 70 degrees.
Spring – March to early May is the perfect time to visit if you are looking to see the vibrant wildflowers bloom. This is the most popular time to visit the park however, so weekends can be busy and campsites get a little more crowded.
Avoid the summer – it is incredibly hot and you will want to stay inside your air conditioned vehicle.
10. THE LIBERTY BELL, 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.
Location: The Liberty Bell Center is at 526 Market Street, with the exit near Chestnut Street.
Entrance fee: This is a free attraction but entrance is on a first-come, first-served basis.
Creative tip: If you want to learn more about the Bell and see a Park Ranger inside the Liberty Bell Center, why not stop and ask about it. They are full of knowledge!
Visiting in the Spring or Fall:
- Spring and Fall is the busiest time at the Liberty Bell, with school field trips arriving almost every week day.
- Arrive early (8.30am), before the school groups arrive.
- Allocate about an hour between waiting in the line, security and viewing; especially from May to June.
Visiting in the Summer:
- There are lots of tourists that visit the Liberty Bell in the summer, which is why hours are extended to 7pm.
- You can begin to queue before 9am to avoid long queues.
- If the queues are too long, you can still see the Liberty Bell via the showcase windows on Chestnut Street.
- Visiting at night offers great views of the Liberty Bell illuminated.
11. 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 Loa volcano – Kilauea is known for being one of the most active volcanoes in the world.
Best volcanoes in Hawaii and how to get to them:
- Diamond head – This is the most famous volcano in Hawaii even though it is an extinct volcano. Hike up the crater for amazing views of Waikiki and the rest of the island.
- Mauna Loa – Last erupting in 1984, Mauna Loa is located in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It is a World Heritage Site and World Biosphere site by UNESCO. You can reach the visit station from Hwy 200 and even interact with the mountain by walking through the lava tube.
- Kilauea – This is the one of the most active volcano in the world. The park is 333,000 acres and is known for its amazing volcanic craters, hiking trails and rainforests. You can drive around the crater rim of this volcano, giving it a nickname of ‘the world’s only drive-in volcano’.
- Hualalai – Last active in the 1800s, the volcanic cones price the ash soil for the Kona coffee belt. The volcano is massive and relatively unvisited but take a tour to the hidden craters or take a helicopter excursion to see this enormous volcano from above.
- Haleakala – Located on the east side of Maui, Haleakala forms moreqthen three-quarters of the island. The national park preserves the outstanding landscape and is a fantastic day trip. The main road to the summit is windy and slow, so plan at least an hour for the journey.
- Mauna Kea – This is a dormant volcano and the tallest mountain on earth, five miles above the ocean floor. You can drive from sea level to 14,000 feet in around 2 hours, with the visitor centre half way up at 9200 feet.
12. 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. Remember to bring along a sharpie so you can sign the Graceland wall!
Opening hours: 9am – 5pm
Tip: Graceland is busier in the mornings but the last mansion tour begins at 4pm. Head here after 2pm to avoid queuing and crowds.
Duration: 1 – 1.5 hours for the mansion tour, The Elvis Experience tour (includes mansion, car museum and exhibits) takes 2.5 – 3.5 hours.
- Elvis Presley’s Memphis + Planes your (Entertainment complex only, NOT including Graceland Mansion) – $41.50 for adults, $21 for children aged 5-10.
- Elvis Experience Tour (Mansion, Elvis’s Jets and entertainment complex) – $69 for adults and $38 for children aged 5-10.
This is the option we recommend
- Elvis Entourage VIP (includes Mansion tour, jets, entertainment complex, front of the link access) – $108.50
- Ultimate VIP tour (includes Mansion tour, Elvis’ Custom jets, entertainment complex, ultimate lounge and VIP exhibits plus personal archives and voucher for Vernon’s Smokehouse) – $180
Buy tickets here or in person during opening hours.
Print tickets or have them available on your smartphone to avoid waiting in line for ticket reprints.
Address: 3717 Elvis Presley Boulevard
You can even stay at The Guest House at Graceland; an AAA four-diamond hotel that prides itself on sharing the southern hospitality that Elvis always showed.
13. STROLL 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.
Things not to miss in Las Vegas
Las Vegas is one of the best 100 places to visit in USA because it offers so many amazing things to see and do. There are many things people miss in Vegas too – these are a few fun things to do in Las Vegas that often go ignored but are great ways to spend time on the strip.
- Topgolf at MGM Grand – this is is a must-level complex with entertainment on each floor. When you are done with golfing, why not head up to the rooftop pool for a bit of fun in the sun.
- High Roller Cabin – The High Roller is a popular observation wheel which offers spectacular views of Vegas. But, did you know that one of the cabins has an indoor bar? You can book this cabin during sunset and enjoy champagne whilst watching the glittering lights turn on.
- Casino Royale – You are likely looking to do some gambling in Vegas but no one wants to loose a fortune. Casino Royal is perfect for those looking to enjoy gambling without the big bucks. Table games offer a $1 minimal, unheard of in many other casinos around Vegas.
- Eat at Top fo the World – At the top of The Strat hotel, this revolving restaurant is a bucket list item for many. Reserve a table in advance and enjoy a meal with an amazing view of Vegas and Nevada. Other restaurants with amazing views include Americana on Lake Jacqueline, Binions Steakhouse, Mizumi in Wynn Las Vegas and Buddy V’s Ristorante. If you have the cash, you could also head to Restaurant Guy Savoy for views of the Eiffel Tower and Bellagio fountain or Spago by Wolfgang Puck.
- Try the buffets – We love the Vegas buffets and so should you! Wicked Spoon in The Cosmopolitan is our favourite but shop around at the different options and vouchers available and make sure you enjoy a buffet at least once on your trip.
- Head to a pool party – Flamingo, The Venetian and The Cosmopolitan all host pool parties (often on the weekends). Depending on the venue, you can rent a day bed, order a meal or snacks and dance the day away in the pool.
- Explore the hotels – Of course you will want to explore the hotels. Each resort not only has a unique theme and decor but many offer some great attractions too; from exhibits to aquariums, shopping malls to museums.
- The Chandelier Bar – Head to the Chandelier Bar in The Cosmopolitan to enjoy a cocktail in this glitzy, glamorous bar – the martinis are superb.
- Watch a show – Whether it is your favourite singer or a Cirque performance, you are going to want to watch a show whilst in sin city. We love the LOVE show in The Mirage (Cirque) but watch trailers online before booking to see which show takes your fancy.
Best time to visit Las Vegas
The best time to visit Las Vegas is from March to May and September to November, when crowds are lower and the temperature is warm but not too humid.
The cheapest months to visit Vegas are January , February, April and September. This is off-season and generally tends to be a cheaper time to visit the city.
Visiting in December also offers the coolest temperatures and the Christmas displays are gorgeous.
Summertime is a very popular time to visit but is also incredibly hot and humid. Avoid August if you can, it can be hard to walk along the strip in this humidity but July and August also see an increase in rainfall.
14. STAND ON 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!
Things to do on or near Times Square:
- Madame Tussauds
- One Times Square
- Times Square Church
- Gulliver’s Gate
- Hershey’s Interactive store
- The New Victory Theater
- TKTS Booth
- M&M Chocolate store
- Duffy Square (perfect for people watching)
- Ripley’s Believe it or not!
- Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon
- The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
- The Late show with Stephen Colbert
- Bryant Park
- National Geographic Ocean Odyssey
Where to eat on or around Times Square:
- Dave and Buster’s (arcade and restaurant)
- Shake Shack (American)
- Becco Restaurant (Italian)
- Ippudo Westside (Japanese)
- Carmines (Italian, perfect for families)
- Los Tacos No.1 (Mexican)
- Junior’s (American diner)
- Churrascaria Platforma (Brazilian)
- John’s Pizzeria
- Pure Thai Cookhouse (Thai)
- The Little Beat (gluten-free)
- Junzi Kitchen (Chinese)
- Virgil’s Real Barbecue (BBQ spot)
15. 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.
What is Mardi Gras?
Mardi Gras (known as Fat Tuesday) is a carnival celebration of food, just before the first day of lent. The festival lasts for two weeks but parties and colourful parades come to life during the 5 days surrounding Mardi Gras.
What to expect
During the Mardi Gras festival, there is usually one major procession each say, with several smaller parades, masquerades, parties and balls.
Most parades go down St Charles Avenue into the Business District and often include spectators being showered with plastic beads, coins and cups.
Tips for visiting Mardi Gras
- Reserve hotel rooms in advance and be aware, most hotels in the French Quarter and Business District require a 4 or 5 day minimum stay.
- The French Quarter is closed to vehicles during Mardi Gras weekend unless you are staying in a hotel. There are off-site commercial parking lots which are expensive and fill fast, so it maybe worth paying extra to stay in French Quarter.
- Make sure to try King Cake. These are everywhere but the best is at La Boulangerie.
- Mardi Gras is safe but use common sense. Don’t bring expensive jewellery and keep your valuables on your body. There are pickpockets so leave your handbag at home and stick to the essentials.
- Arrive early – There are two popular parades and crowds can be 10-deep, so arrive early if you want a great view.
- Decide on a meet-up spot – Whether you are travelling as a pair or group, decide on a meet-up spot before heading into the parade zone.
- Bring a plastic cup – you can drink with open containers as long as they are in a plastic cups. However, it is worth noting that public restrooms are rare.
- To avoid the traffic getting to and from the party areas, rent a bike. Some companies even deliver to your hotel but rent a bike and bring a lock to get in and out easily.
- Be sensible – Anyone arrested between Friday to Tuesday are not released until Ash Wednesday, so don’t break the law and be sensible.
- Avoid the French Quarter if you are visiting with children.
- Make sure you dress up!
16. 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.
Fairbanks is known as the best place to see the Northern Lights in Alaska, but you can also get a good show in Anchorage; Alaska’s largest city. The best time to see the lights is from August 21st to April 21st, with the average visibility in Fairbanks being four out of five nights.
Remember to wear layers however, Alaska is cold and you will be outside for extended periods of time.
Ways to see the Northern Lights
- From Fairbanks, you can drive to a nearby vantage point and wait for them to appear.
- You can take a tour and watch them from a heated cabin or lodge. You can even see them during dog sledding or ice fishing tours.
- Some hotels offer a wake-up call when the northern lights are out.
- Fairbanks is the most popular place to see the lights because it is under the “Auroral Oval” and has consistently clear nights, meaning you get incredible views from here.
- Denali National Park is also a great place to see the Northern Lights. With no light pollution, you can rent a vacation home nearby and head up the tall mountains for incredible views.
- The remove, quiet town of Nome also gives incredible views. Visit in March for the Sled Dog Race or at any time to experience rural Alaska.
17. 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’.
The park is free to enter and open 6am to 11-pm each day.
Why you should visit Millennium Park:
- The Crown Fountain with video art and sculptures
- Lurie Garden
- Rock Climibing at Maggie Daley Park
- See the Outdoor art at the Boeing Galleries
- Eat at Plaza at Park Grill
- Watch a show at Jay Pritzker Pavilion
- See a show at Harris Theater for Music & Dance
- Head to the Art Institute of Chicago
- Enjoy fine dining with a curated menu at Terzo Piano
- Visit the Chicago Cultural Center
18. DRIVE THE BIG SUR COAST
Experience the ultimate California road trip by driving the Big Sur. This 85 mile scenic route sits between San Simeon and Carmel, along the California coastline.
Come prepared for this trip, as there are some amazing views that can easily be missed. From Los Angeles, the Big Sur trip takes 3.5 – 4 hours to drive, and another 2 hour drive from Carmel (end of the Big Sur) to San Francisco.
What to see and do in Big Sur
- 17 Mile Drive through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove
- Mission San Carlos Borromeo
- Point Lobos State Reserve
- Point Sur State Historic Park
- Pfeiffer Beach
- Mcway Falls
- Esalen Hot Springs
- Limekiln State Park and falls
- Sand Dollar Beach
- Treebones Resort
- San Simeon State Park Camp
- Halter Ranch Vineyard
- Garrapata State Park and beach
- Bixby Creed Bridge
- Henry Miller Memorial Library
Things to know before visiting Big Sur
- Plan your trip – Plan your trip in advance, deciding where you want to hike, eat and explore and plot these out on a map. Do not rely on Google maps or any apps; phone service isn’t reliable along the Big Sur.
- If you are in a rush, skip it – You should give at least a day to visit Big Sur. Yes, the drive can be taken in a few hours but there is no point rushing through. If you are in a rush, use the freeway instead.
- You don’t need to stay over night – Although there are rustic rental cabins or boutique styled inns that you ca stay in, it is not essential. Give yourself a full day to explore Big Sur but don’t stay along the coastline, as rooms start at $300 but can cost all the way up to $1000 per night. If you do want to stay overnight, check out airbnb or flip key for better deals than the overpriced camping options or hotels along the coastline.
- Stay either end – If you do want to stay along the coastline, staying at either end offers better value. Avoid Monterey Peninsula at the northern gateway and instead head to the town or Pacific Grove for better deals. At the southern gateway, the beach town of Cayucos is pretty, charming and affordable.
- It’s a tourist trap – Big Sur is breathtaking but it is extremely touristy. Hotels, restaurants and even some attractions will be ridiculously overpriced, so either go in with that expectation of prepare snacks and decide on your must-see attractions.
- Don’t just stick to Highway 1 – Head off the beaten path and explore other routes such as the Palo Colorado Road or the Nacimiento Road.
- Plan time in the nearby cities – don’t just head straight to San Francisco or Los Angeles when you are done. The nearby cities such as Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara are must see destinations in California too.
Places to eat along the Big Sur
There are lots of options to eat along the coastline but very few are good. However, if you are stopping for snacks or a meal, these are some of theist places to eat along the Big Sur:
- Restaurant at River Inn Big Sur
- Sebastian’s General Store
- Big Sur Bakery
- Old Fishermans Grotto
- Big Sur Deli
- Sierra Mar’s
- Big Sur Roadhouse
- Robin’s Restaurant
- Casanova Restaurant
- The Sur House
- Cafe Kevah
19. 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.
20. 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.
When: The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is held each October, spanning 9 days of ballooning events (typically at the start of the month).
Where: The main events take place at the Balloon Fiesta Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
How Long: The events span 9 days but aim to come for at least 3 days to get a good chance of catching the balloon launches.
- America’s Challenge Gas Balloon Race – This long-distance race starts in the Fiesta Park, where pilots compete to see who can go the furthest distance without coming down; sometimes spending up to four days in the balloons.
- Dawn Patrol Show – Hot Air Balloons will take off before sunrise to check weather conditions and are normally launched to music.
- Morning Glow – Balloons are lined up and teachers to the ground but use their burners to light up, synchronised to one another.
- Mass Ascension – Hundreds of Balloons launch in the same morning, in two waves over around 2 hours.
- Balloon Launch – This is a smaller version of the Mass Ascension, but groups of balloons launch over an hour.
- Evening Balloon Glows – Just before dusk, hot air balloons are inflated whilst tethered to the ground. Then, similar to the Morning Glow event, the pilots use their burners to light up the balloon in a synchronised patter, which is generally followed by fireworks and lasers.
- Special Shape Balloon Events – With balloons resembling your favourite cartoon characters, animals, people, beer mugs, Star Wars Characters and so on; this is a fun event for the whole family to enjoy.
21. 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.
Types of tours:
- Studio Tour $69 – 2 hours guided, 1 hour self-guided, go behind the scenes and visit some of the working studios at Warner brothers.
- Classic Tour $69 – 3 hour tour, focusing on the Golden Age of Film and TV.
- Deluxe Tour $295 – 6 hour tour, including the costume department, property department and lunch at Warner Bros’ Commissary Fine Dining Room.
Tip: If there is a set you want to see, make sure your tour guide knows!
Read about our time at Warner Bros LA.
22. EXPLORE THE HISTORY OF CHARLESTON
Before the civil war, plantations were dotted around Charleston, growing cotton, rice, and indigo, becoming rich off the backs of slaves.
Many plantations were destroyed during the Civil War or ceased operations but today, you can visit those that have been restored and preserved as museums.
Each plantation offers a different experience, depending what you are looking for.
A quick guide to some of the Plantations:
- Magnolia Plantation – Perhaps the most popular plantation, founded in 1676 by the Drayton Family. The plantation grew rice but is known for its beautiful and romantic gardens.
- Drayton Hall – The Drayton Family also owned a huge network of commercial plantations, with this building becoming a museum, exhibition space, visitor centre and cafe.
- McLeod Plantation Historical Site – This site was one of the original plantations on James Island from the 17th century. Today it is a 37 acre park dedicated to Gullah heritage and African American History.
- Boone Hall Plantation – Founded in 1681, this plantation grew cotton and indigo but also produced brick here in the mid 19th century. The plantation is still a working farm, making it one of the oldest farms in America.
- Middleton Place Plantation – This is a national Historic Landmark, rich in history whilst also being a beautiful place to visit. The Middleton family were important figures but there home was damaged several times; first in a fire set by the Union troops in 186 then by the Great Earthquake in 1186. However, the resorted home is a grand estate with gorgeous landscaped gardens but also the filming location for the film The Patriot.
23. 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.
Brooklyn Bridge is 5989 feet long with the pedestrian walkway being just over 1.1 miles. You can walk across the bridge in around 25 minutes but allow an hour if you intending to take picture and take in the incredible views.
The bridge is open 24 hours a day but sunset makes for a gorgeous time to visit. This is especially pleasant in the spring months, when the weather is warm but cooling.
Remember to bring a jacket if you are visiting in the spring, fall or winter, the wind brings a chill when you are walking across Brooklyn Bridge.
How to get to Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan
From Manhattan, you can enter Brooklyn Bridge near City Hall along Centre Street in Lower Manhattan. Nearby trains include 4, 5, 6, J, Z and R lines.
How to get to Brooklyn Bridge from Brooklyn
If you are you coming from Brooklyn Heights or Dumbo, you ca take the A or C train to the High Street – Brooklyn Bridge Subway station and follow the signs for Cadman Plaza West. Cross to the park and take the footpath on the far left to access the pedestrian stairway under the bridge.
24. FISHERMAN WHARFS
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.
Things to do in Fisherman Wharf
- DarkRide 7D experience rollercoaster (Pier 29)
- Laser Maze Challenge (Pier 39)
- Museum of 3D illusions
- Alcatraz Island (departs from Pier 33)
- Aquarium of the Bay (Pier 39)
- Gameday VR Arcade (Ghirardelli Square)
- Historic Pier 45
- Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum
- Maritime Museum
- Ripley’s Believe it or not!
- San Francisco Dungeon
- Musee Mecanique (Pier 45)
- Sea Lions at Pier 39
- Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze (Pier 39)
- Pier 39’s musical Stairs
- San Francisco Carousel (Pier 39)
- The Plunge ride (Pier 39)
- Subpar MIni Golf
See our post for more info – Fishermans Wharf
25. 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.
When to visit: The best time to visit is during the summer months, when the weather is warm and reliable. The park is open all year but some areas of the park close from September onwards and winter sees snow.
Mid-June to August is the busiest time of the year so visit at the end of may through to the start of June if you want to avoid the crowds.
Getting around: The best way to get around the park is by car or on foot. Once inside the park, you can drive to different areas or park up and follow the hiking trails.
Things to do in Sequoia National Park
- General Sherman and the Giant Forest
- Moro Rock steps
- Crystal Cave
- Muir Grove
- Mount Whitney
- Buck Rock Lookout
- Mineral King
- Tunnel Log
- General Grant Tree
- Hume Lake
- High Sierra Trail
- Kings Canyon Scenic Byway
- Boyden Cavern
- Grizzly Falls
- Road’s End
- Mist Falls
- Junction View
- Roaring River Falls
- Zumwalt Meadow
Where to stay in Sequoia National Park
- Hilton Garden Inn Clovis – This Fresno hotel is perfect for families, with outdoor pool, spacious suites which also include living space and kitchenette. The room rate includes a decent breakfast and Fresh has a lot fo offer families, including Island Waterpark, Storyland and Playland.
- Lazy J Ranch Motel – a great option in Three Rivers, with free parking, amazing mountain views and an outdoor swimming pool.
- Holiday Inn Express Visali – Rooms are bright and colourful and the room rate includes breakfast.
- The Kern Lodge – A fantastic hotel in Kerville; The hotel includes an outdoor pool, BBQ area, wifi and the hotel is overlooked by mountains too.
- Whispering Pines Lodge Bed and Breakfast – A gorgeous lodge with views of the creek, wifi, BBQ terrace and toiletries.
26. 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 tours available from Las Vegas to the various nearby national parks. Hiking the Grand Canyon is a bucketlist thing to do and a MUST.
When to visit: The best time to visit the Grand Canyon is March to May or September to November. This is when temperatures are cool whilst the sites aren’t as crowded. The summer is very busy but also incredibly warm.
- South Rim is open all year, 24 hours a day.
- North Rim is open for overnight guests at the lodge.
- Make sure you reserve hotels in advance if you wish to stay in a lodge or on the South Rim Campground.
- South Rim is easier to get to and therefore one of the busier areas; arrive early and expect traffic in the summer months or during spring break.
- Take the free shuttle bus around Grand Canyon Village area on the South Rim.
- North Rim lodges are open from May to October. It is much harder to get to and is 8000 feet above ground.
- Keep your gas tank full when driving, using gas stations to fill up on your ride.
- Carry water in your car, especially on hot months.
27. 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.
28. CATCH A BASEBALL GAME
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.
How to get baseball tickets in the US?
There are also ways you can get cheap baseball tickets too:
- Go to a weekday game, these are often cheaper.
- Go early in the season for cheaper prices.
- Wait until nearer the date. Avoid the advance sales and the extra surcharge that comes with this. Instead, head to the stadium for a walk-up purchase or use the team’s online ticket centre.
- Visit in the winter – season ticket holders sell their tickets on websites such as StubHub but booking these last minute and during the winter can give you fantastic savings.
- Avoid the big name teams – As much as everyone wants to see the Yankees, Boston Red Sox or The Cubs, these ticket prices are often a lot higher than smaller, less touristy cities in the US.
29. 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.
The best vineyards in Napa Valley:
- Inglenook Winery
- Castello di Amorosa
- Luna Vineyards
- Opus One
- Domaine Carneros
Tip: Vincent Arroyo winery offer free wine tasting, as long as you are travelling in a group of 4 or less, however you must book ahead.
30. 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.
When to visit
One reason that many flock to New Orleans is for the Mardi Gras celebrations, which are in full swing from February to May; when the weather is comfortable and cool. If you are looking for a quieter experience, visit the city in December or January.
The cheapest time of the year to visit is during the summer months but expect an average tempertature of 91 degrees farhenheit. It is also worth noting that hurricane season runs from June through to November, with the worst months being August, September and October.
Downtown New Orleans is compact, meaning it it is easy to walk from place to place. There are plenty of cabs available if you are looking to go further afield or use the New Orleans Regional Transport Authority for $1.25 streetcars and buses around the city.
Things to do in the French Quarter
- St. Louise Cathedral
- Carousel Bar
- The French Market
- Bourbon Street
- Royal Street
- Mississippi River
- New Orleans historic Voodoo Museum
- Voodoo Authentica
- Andre Jack Statue
- William Research Center
- The Ursulines Convent
- 1850 House Museum
- The Presbytere
- Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmiths shop
- The Cabildo
- Gallier House
- Pirates Alley
- Le Petit Theatre
- New Orleans Pharmacy Museum
- Napoleon House
- Preservation Hall
- Pat O’Briens
31. VISIT THE MEMORIALS IN WASHINGTON DC
Washington DC is home to many memorials that you must visit when in the capital. The memorials are free, open to see all day, every day and most memorials are close to one another; meaning you can spend a day visiting them all.
The major monuments include:
- Lincoln Memorial
- Washington Monument
- Thomas Jefferson Memorial
- Vietnam Veterans Memorial
- Korean War Veterans Memorial
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
- World War II Memorial
- Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
32. GATEWAY ARCH IN ST. LOUIS
Along Route 66, you need 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 bucket list and one of the most unique things to see in America.
Need to know:
- You can enter the monument itself, with the entrance through a glass west entrance, which faces Fourth Street and the Old Courthouse. You exit at the monument’s legs.
- The Gateway Arch is open from 9am to 6pm whilst the park grounds are open 5am to 11pm.
- Riverboats are available from the Arch, which takes you along the Mississippi River, taking in the skyline of St Louis.
- You can buy tickets online, including tram rides to top but you need to book tickets in advance on the website to avoid disappointment.
33. 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.
Venice beachfront is known for its quirky characters; with jugglers, musicians, mimes, dancers and street performers of all kinds, being part of the lively boardwalk.
A famous spot also includes Muscle Beach Gyms, an old favourite for bodybuilder and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger and seen in countless movies and tv programmes.
Make sure you head over to the Venice Canals too. Walk through the picturesque neighbourhood of charming beach houses and arching bridges.
34. 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.
Tips for visiting the Empire State Building
- Visit early – The Empire State Building opens at 8am everyday, so get here for opening to avoid the crowds.
- Passes – Alternatively, you cannot a VIP Express Pass or a New York City Pass. The VIP is specific to Empire State but the New York City Pass can be used at many attractions and allows you to skip the queue for ticket purchases.
- Visit late – If you don’t want to get up super early, then head to Empire State after 8pm. This is when queues and crowds are shorter and you can see the city lit up at night.
- Go to the 102nd floor – The standard ticket takes you up to the 86th floor but nothing needs the enclosed viewing area on the 102nd floor, 1250 feet above the city.
- Sunset – For the best experience, head here for sunset, giving you views of the city during the day and then watching the city lights flicker on as the sun sets. Make sure you book tickets online ahead of your visit to save time queuing as this is a popular time to visit the Empire State Building.
35. VISIT YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK
Yellowstone National Park is a popular and beautiful place to visit in the USA with highlights such as the Grand Prismatic Spring (a hot spring and volcano), the erupting geyser named ‘Old Faithful’ and the gorgeous Yellowstone Lake.
Visit during May to October to fully experience the park; not all the roads are open in the winter months.
Planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park
- June, July and August – Many people visit the park during these months so be patience and expect traffic.
- Plan and book ahead – Plan your visit and book accommodation ahead; lodges and campgrounds fill fast.
- Cell service is limited within the national park.
- Download the free NPS Yellowstone app which can act as your digital guide.
- Keep your distance – Do not approach the wildlife as you visit the park.
- Visit early or late – visiting the park before 9am or after 3pm will offer a quieter experience.
- Book a tour – If you are overwhelmed with planning your own trip, you can book an organised tour, either as a day trip or multi-day trip.
- Don’t underestimate distances – The park is massive and often you will experience traffic and road works. Plus parking spots at popular landmarks are in short supply, so plan your time, be patient and give yourself extra time to visit all your must-see sights.
- Stay the night – There are plenty of lodges and campgrounds to choose from but make sure you spend at least one night in the parks. Why? Not only can you get exploring early the next morning but you can also appreciated the incredible starry sky as the sunsets.
36. 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!
Head here in February to enjoy deep snow whilst the mountains are fully open. It is possible to ski all year round in Colorado but the best months are from late October to late April, when the snow is falling the most.
There are a many resorts to choose from, some more affordable than others, but the best include
- Vail Mountain Resort – One of the largest resorts in the world with extensive and varied terrain; perfect for all types of skiers.
- Telluride Ski Resort – A scenic ski town, this is ideal for those looking for picturesque destinations in the USA and is one of the more popular resort destinations.
- Aspect Snowmass – A combination of four ski areas that create a massive terrain, rivalling Vail in size. This is a family oriented option with a cute town to match.
- Beaver Creek Resort – New at skiing? This is the resort for you. The resort is known for its friendly customer service and formed runs, making ideal conditions for new skiers.
37. 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 and is popular USA destination to visit.
Plan at least 2 hours to explore the park but note that there is no overnight accommodation within the park itself. You can, however, choose to stay in Rapid City, located 35 miles away from Mount Rushmore. The memorial grounds are open from 5am to 11pm, with the visitor centre being open 8am to 10pm.
How to get there: Mount Rushmore is located in a rural area of South Dakota, with most visitors making a road trip to the iconic landmark. The closest airport is Rapid City Regional Airport, where you can rent a car from or take a guided day tour. There is no entrance fee but there is an $11 parking fee.
What to do:
- The Avenue of the Flags (pathway to the memorial)
- Get a view from the Grand View Terrace
- The Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center
- Presidential Trail
When to visit: Mount Rushmore is open all year expect for Christmas Day. The busiest times to visit are during the summer months but the park is still easy to visit, even during these busy times. For cooler temperatures, visit in the spring and fall.
38. 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.
Best surf spots:
- Puaena Point
- Chun’s Reef
- Turtle Beach
- Diamond Head Cliffs
- Popoia Island
- Kihei Cove
- Launiupolo State Wayside Park
- Kaanapali Beach
39. ROCKEFELLER CENTRE
Of course, if you are in NYC then you will want to get some gorgeous views of its impressive skyline. Now, personally, I prefer the Empire State Building but the Rockefeller Centre gives you a fantastic view of the Empire State itself.
Tickets: Tickets for the Top of the Rock or a tour of the centre itself can be purchased directly on the Rockefeller Center website.
Location: Rockefeller Center is in midtown Manhattan. From Times Square, head north on Seventh Avenue and then turn right onto 50th Street to reach the Center. Alternatively, take the B, D, F or M train to 47th-50th Street, the 1 train to 50th Street, the 6 train to 51st Street or the N, Q, or R Tain to 49th Street.
Opening hours: The Rockefeller Center Plaza is open 24 hours a day whilst the Top of the Rock observation deck is open from 8am to midnight. Hours may vary during public holidays.
40. 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.
Why so bendy?
City planners and San Fran residents struggled with the steep hills of the city. Lombard Street was one of the many hills that horse-drawn wagons struggled with. So, in 1922, the home-owners on the street decided that their road was too steep and created a plan to include a series of sharp turns to make the road more manageable.
41. 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.
NFL tickets can be found on Ticketmaster with resellers selling on StubHub. If you are new to the game, try and get a seat close to the action whilst seasoned watchers may prefer a higher vantage point. Most stadiums have good seats all over.
The season usually runs from September to December with playoffs in January leading up to the Super Bowl in early February. However, if you are visiting the US in August, you may be able to catch a pre-season friendly.
42. VISIT THE JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
Visit the stunning but stark landscape of the Joshua Tree National Park, where two types of desert meet. This is a peaceful and gorgeous park, offering picture perfect views for the travel photographers.
Head along the walking trail at Indian Cove or try rock climbing at Echo Cave. Visit the gigantic boulders on Arch Rock Trail or walk among cacti in Cholla Cactus Garden.
There are campsites in the national park too, giving you the opportunity to sleep under the zillions of stars.
Tips for visiting Joshua Tree National Park:
- Never leave your car to explore without carrying a water bottle.
- Bring extra water in case of emergencies.
- October to May is peak season so visit during this time but arrive early. Avoid summer time, temperatures are above 100 degrees.
43. 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!
Fun things to do in Santa Cruz
- Santa Cruz Wharf
- Main Beach and Cowell Beach
- Museum of Art & History
- West Cliff Drive
- Natural Bridges State Beach
- Garden of Eden
- Big Basin State Park
- Penny’s Ice Creamery
- Downtown thrift stores
- Hidden Peak Teahouse
- Roaring Camp Railroads
- Brew Cruz
- Wilder Ranch State Park
- Shark Fin Cove
- Point Market
- Bigfoot Discovery Museum
44. 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.
Best places to get a view of San Francisco Bridge
- Baker Beach – Enjoy the sandy beach whilst getting an incredible view of the bridge. This is one of our favourite view points of Golden Gate
- Fort Point National Historic Site – This fortress is underneath the bridge, giving you a unique backdrop for selfies. The park is a short walk from Crissy Field and the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center.
- Fort Baker -A litter further from the bridge is Fort Baker, a former military post. The view includes the gorgeous hills and greenery surrounding the park too.
- Crissy Field – For side on views, head to Crissy Field. You can also enjoy a snack from the Warming Hut and view San Francisco Bay from here too.
- Battery East Vista – Enjoy a stroll through this National Historic Site; taking either the Presidio Trail or the California Coastal Trail.
- Lands End – This view point offers landscape views of San Francisco, with the bridge being a small part of that view.
45. 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.
Make sure you head along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, a picturesque alpine road, visit Lake McDonald or head to one of the many glaciers. Doing this, you will need at least 3 days in the park.
Visit Glacier National Park in July for the best weather but this is peak season, so book accommodation and travel in advance. Head here in the spring for the best chance to see the Aurora Borealis.
To avoid the crowds, make sure to head out along the trails and visit the park early.
46. 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.
Suites can cost between $200 – $600 a night for a hotel suite on the strip but make sure you head directly to the hotel website to get the best deals. You can also sign up to deals on Vegas hotel sites to save money too.
Some of the best suites on the strip can be found in Aria, The Cosmopolitan, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, The Mirage, Bellagio and Ceasars Palace. The Sky Suite in Aria is 20,000 square feet, making is the biggest suite in Las Vegas.
Join the MLife casino program to earn points for hotel upgrades.
47. 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.
The walk takes around four hours and runs between the Boston Common and the USS Constitution. You can walk in less time if you plan on spending just a few minutes at each site. You can take a tour of the trail but most tours don’t include all the sites; if you want to learn more, you may prefer to download the Freedom Trail Foundation audio file for just $15.
What to see on the Freedom Trail
- Boston Common
- Massachusetts State House
- Park Street Church
- Granary Burying Ground
- King’s Chapel
- Benjamin Franklin Statue and Boston Latin School
- Older Corner Bookstore
- Old Soul Meeting House
- Old State House
- Boston Massacre Site
- Faneuil Hall
- Paul Revere House
- Old North Church
- Copp’s Hilly Burying Ground
- USS Constitution and Museum
- Bunker Hill Monument
48. 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.
Why are the falls so secluded? You can’t reach this area by car, you must drive to the Havasupai Hilltop then take a 9 milk hike down the trail to reach the falls. Plan at least one night stay for this trip, reaching and enjoying the falls is tricky for a day trip.
For the perfect temperatures, visit in early spring (avoid spring break) or late autumn. Summer is a great time for camping but start your hike early to beat the heat.
49. 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!
Things to do on Santa Monica Pier and nearby
- Pacific Park – carnival styled rides
- Santa Monica Pier Aquarium
- End of Route 66 sign
- The ferris wheel
- Santa Monica Beach
- Ocean Boulevard
- Trapeze School
- Street performers on the Third Street Promenade
- The Santa Monica Stairs
- Palisades Park
- Santa Monica Farmers’ Market
- Tongva Park
- Santa Monica Camera Obscura
Where to stay
There are some great hotel options along the beach but you will not find an airBnB in Santa Monica, as these are illegal in the city. For beautiful hotels with beautiful views, check out Loews Beach Hotel, Hotel Casa del Mar and the Shangri-La.
There is parking at Santa Monica Pier but it is limited. If you are visiting on a weekend, during a holiday or the summer, you will need to find parking elsewhere. Luckily, there are 5 parking lots just off the beach which are ideal for a day at the beach. You can also find street parking during the evenings.
50. 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.
Tips for visiting Universal studios Hollywood:
- Arrive for opening
- Book your tickets in advance
- Consider a Universal Express pass if you are visiting during the Sumer, during a holiday or a weekend.
- Eat a decent breakfast before arriving
- Bring a reusable water bottle.
- Wear comfortable shoes
- Plan in time to watch the shows
- Start in the lower lot
- Do one lot at a time – avoid moving between the lots too often
- Use the single riders queue
- Use the child swap system
We have more Universal Studio tips on our Theme Park blog.
51. 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.
Best Broadway shows to watch out for?
- The Phantom of the Opera
- Les Mierstables
- Lion King (especially with children)
- The Book of Mormon
52. 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.
The best Smithsonian Museums in Washington DC
Many of these museums are open every day apart from December 25th, from 10am to 5.30pm. There are two Smithsonian Institutions in New York, but the rest can be found in Washington DC; with most of them in walking distance from the National Mall. The museums are free to enter but you need to have a ticket; book early if you are travelling with a large group.
- National Museum of African American History and Culture – This is the only national museum devoted to African America art, life, history and culture. The multilevel, engaging museum is fantastic and a favourite to many.
- National Museum of Natural History – Discover the world’s scientific heritage and animal origins in the exhibitions at this museum. There are millions of insects inside and this is the perfect museum for families.
- National Museum of African Art – Featuring exhibits from the continent of Africa, you can find contemporary and traditional art on display here.
- National Air and Space Museum – A great choice for families visiting Washington DC, not only do they have exhibits of space artefacts but you can also see rockets, missiles and various types of planes. Take a tour of the Steven F. Udvar-hazy Center where you can find two large hangers with a showcase of space items, including the space shuttle Discovery.
- Smithsonian American Art Museum – Open from 11.30am to 7pm, this is a gorgeous art museum full of folk and decorative art works as well as sculptures and photographs.
- National Museum of American History – Learn about American history at this museum dedicated to the developments of the USA.
- National Museum of American Indian – Holding a massive collection of artefacts, the architecture of this museum is just as impressive. The concept is designated and focused around different Indian communities and tribes.
- National Portrait Gallery – Through visual arts, performing arts and new media, this museum tells the story of important people in America’s history; from presidents to poets.
- Anacostia Community Museum – Committed to challenging and bringing people together through critical thinking, this museum is perfect for those deep thinkers.
- Freer Gallery of Art – Home to a famous collection of art by James McNeill Whistler, this gallery is home to Asian, American and Ancient Egyptian Art.
- Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden – Abstract art lovers will enjoy this sculpture garden and plaza, full of contemporary, unique art works.
53. 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.
New England in the fall is famous for its colourful foliage, rise air and billions of leaves changing colour. The temperature is perfect for hiking, long drives and biking around the countryside. Make sure you stop at the farmer markets and orchards during your stay.
Stay in one of the cosy inns or head to Provincetown for a quieter experience. Go hiking in Northern Maine, learn about the history of Salem and eat your way around Boston.
54. 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”.
Other venues in Nashville include Ryman Auditorium, Bridgestone Arena, Ascend Amphitheater and Nissan Stadium.
There are also great bars, often with live music, that you should check out too whilst you are in Lower Broadway. Head to Blake Shelton’s Ole Red, Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row and Luke’s 32 Bridge Food + Drink, for a good night out.
Other things to do in Nashville
- Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
- The Johnny Cash Museum
- Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery
- Belle Meade Plantation
- Soundwaes Water Park
- Doyle and Debbie Comedy show
- Radnor Lake State Park
- Nashville’s hot chicken
- Tennessee State Museum
- Cheekwood Estate and Gardens
- The Band Box
55. 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.
Whilst in Miami, make sure you visit Jungle Island on Watson Island, wander around the Art Deco District or visit the Vizcaya Museum. Visit a cafe or restaurant along Miami’s Waterfront in Bayside Marketplace or see over 2000 wild animals in the Miami Zoo.
56. 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.
This historic Spanish fortress was founded in the 18th century and was the site of the Battle of Alamo in 1836. Living history demonstrations and special events take place here throughout the year but the fortress is open year-round to be enjoyed and explored by everyone. Entrance is free but you can choose to take a guided tour for $15, taking around an hour.
Also, note that no cell phones or cameras are permitted inside the historic structures and make sure you read the rules before entering; as a shrine to Texas Liberty, you are expected to be respectful.
57. 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.
Visit Grand Teton National Park from mid-May to late September to experience the best weather and hiking trails. At this time, all the visitor centres are also open and park activities like fishing and kayaking are open and accessible too.
The National Park is known for the Jackson Hole National Monument but spend time watching the wildlife, visiting Jenny Lake or taking in amazing views from the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center.
58. 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. 10 miles from Aspen or 16 from Snowmass, these 14,000 foot peaks are truly remarkable.
There are five trails, ranging from 1 to 13 miles found trip, depending on which you chose from. Some are easier than others but visiting from May to November is the best option for all types of hikers. Entrance into the park costs $10 per vehicle.
59. 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.
The 109 year old farmers’ Market is a tourist attraction in itself, seeing more than 10 million visitors each year. Make sure to visit the fishmongers, try the speciality food, head to the produce stalls and browse the craft stands too.
60. LAKE TAHOE
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. Visit in the summer to try your hand at one of the many water activities available or getting hiking to one of the many view points. Emerald Bay State Park is stunning Whilst Squaw Valley, Heavenly Resort and Northstar California Resort are all perfect destinations for skiers. Take a cruise around Lake Tahoe or jump in a hot air balloon to witness the beauty from above.
61. 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.
When to visit:
Summer is high season in Redwood National Park, with most visitors heading here in June, July or August. The temperature is warm and, because of the large size of the park, it rarely feels crowded. Although summer is a great time to visit, Fall offers milder temperatures and is a beautiful time to visit the forest but just remember to bring layers and a rain jacket.
Visiting Redwood National Park
- How long? – You can drive through the park in around 25 minutes if you stick to the 101 but if you drive the Avenue of the Giants, it will take around 2.5 hours, including time for a walk around the woods and a picnic stop. We recommend planning at least a full day, if not two. With over 40miles of coastline and 133000 total acres, there is a lot to explore here.
- Location – The park is located in Northern California, around a 6 hour drive north of San Francisco. Most people choose to fly into San Francisco but you can fly into Arcata-Eureka Airport. This is a tiny airport so expect expensive and sometimes unreliable flights.
- Fees – There is no entrance fee for Redwood National Park but there is a $5 day-use fee for the nearby state parks.
- Get climbing – Every March, Tree Climbing Planet founder Tim Kovar, allows a limited number of visitors to climb into the tree canopy, up a grandfather tree; standing between 600 to 1000 years old.
- Drive through – There are three drive-through redwood trees along the Avenue of the Giants highway, however you are charged a small fee to drive through them
- Camping – There are four campgrounds within Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park but thee must be reserved by phone or online at least 48 hours before. However, you can book 6 months in advance to avoid disappointment. The standard camping fee is $35 but there are some basic cabins in the campgrounds which cost $100 per night during the summer. However, we definitely recommend you to skip the cabins and enjoy the camping experience by spending the nights in a tent. For one to fully immerse itself in nature and all of its beauties, it needs to be close to it. Plus it’s way more affordable, since the camping fee is smaller and you will only need to bring tent and other camping supplies that you think are needed. If you don’t own a tent, we recommend you to buy a six person tent, that is big enough for all camping supplies.
- Stay near – Alternatively, book a nearby hotel or lodge, such as the Holiday Inn Express in Klamath, the Elk Meadow Cabins or the Lost Whale Inn.
- Don’t miss – There are lots of amazing things to see and do in the national park. Don’t miss the Fern Canyon, the James Irvine Trail and the Gold Bluffs beach. You can also spot wildlife such as the Roosevelt Elk and the black-tailed deer.
62. 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.
Things to do in Savannah
- River Street
- Birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low
- Forsyth Park
- Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
- Savannah’s Telfair Museum
- Old Town Trolley Tours
- Georgia Queen cruise and the Savannah waterfront
- Bonaventure Cemetery
- Pin Point Heritage Museum
- Tybee Island
- Kayak through Skidaway Narrows
- City Market
- The Owen’s Thomas House
- The Historic Savannah Theatre
- The Wilkes House
63. 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. The city offers over 400 years of cultural fusion; it is a great place to relax and learn but also offers a sophisticated, hip nightlife.
Visit from September to November to experience the festivals or in the Spring time for the best hotel rates. Santa Fe sees over 300 days of sunshine each year but temperatures can change dramatically. Visiting in November to April is ski season, so expect snowfalls during this time whilst summer months offer temperatures in the 90s.
Remember to stay hydrated and avoid drinking too much – one drink is equivalent to three at this altitude (7000 feet above sea level). Don’t forget to wear a to and bring sunscreen too.
64. 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.
Tucked below street level and only a few steps from the Alamo, the Riverwalk in San Antonio is a place for sightseeing, shopping, food, bars and fun.
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. Walking along is free whilst boat rides costing around $12.
The San Antonio River Walk is 15 miles long but make sure to stay away from the edge; there are only railings in front of the restaurants.
65. 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.
The Hollywood Sign is located on Mt. Lee in Griffith Park, above the Hollywood Hills. It is a 45-foot-tall billboard and was once lit with 4000 light bulbs.
Best places to see the Hollywood Sign
- Hollywood and Highland – This is perhaps the easiest way to see the sign, especially if you are short on time. Head to the second level of the plaza on Hollywood Boulevard for views of the sign.
- Griffith Observatory – There is a great view of the sign fro the parking lot at the Griffith Observatory with the closet view of the sign being along the railings on the ride side of the parking lot. Head along the trail behind the Observatory to get another great viewpoint.
- Mulholland Drive – Head to the easternmost viewpoint on Mulholland Drive called the Hollywood Bowl Overlook. Here you can get great views of the sign above the Hollywood homes.
- Dante’s view – Hike up Mt. Hollywood for a high vantage point of downtown LA and views of the Hollywood Sign.
- From behind – You can’t hike up to the sign itself but you can hike to an area behind the sign. Head up the Hollyridge Trail or visit the Hollywood Reservoir Loop for signs from above and behind.