21 Best Places to Spend Christmas in the USA [2024 Guide]

If you’re planning a Christmas getaway in the USA, we’re here to help you plan the best festive trip!

This blog post is all about the best places to spend Christmas in the USA, as chosen by top travel bloggers and travel experts.

There are festive Christmas destinations for everyone on this list: from small towns to big cities, from warm weather getaways that are no less festive to cold paradises even Santa would approve of!

From Aspen to Alaska, from Disneyworld to D.C.: here is where to celebrate Christmas in the US!

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Contributed by sustainable travel bloggers Oksana & Max from Drink Tea & Travel

Colorado Springs is the perfect place to combine holiday cheer and outdoor activities.

In downtown Colorado Springs you’ll find a robust schedule of holiday activities and light displays while outside the city you can find some of Colorado’s most breathtaking scenery. 

Colorado Springss all lit up at night with beautiful colors and neon lights

The Festival of Lights is an annual festival in Colorado Springs whose proceeds go to a local NGO.

It is made up of a series of holiday events and culminates in the Festival of Light Parade each December.

The outdoor skating rink at Acacia Park is a popular place for both locals and out of towners to visit.

You can hear holiday music as you do laps around the rink and you can rent skates at the rink if you don’t have your own. 

Colorado Springs is known for having some incredible light displays during the holiday season.

The Broadmoor Hotel lights up Seven Falls with dazzling Christmas lights.

Colorado Springs patch of snow with the cogwheel train as it goes up the mountain

Just outside the city is Pikes Peak. It is one of the tallest mountains in the area and a great place to explore year round.

However, Pikes Peak’s Cog Train takes on another dimension during the holiday season especially if you choose to take Santa’s Train.

On it you’ll find Mr. and Mrs. Claus and their elves along for the ride. It’s a great activity for families with smaller children.

Fairbanks, Alaska

Contributed by Kay of The Awkward Traveller

Hands down, one of the best places to celebrate Christmas in the USA is Fairbanks, Alaska.

It just doesn’t get more “Winter Wonderland” than dog sled rides, candy cane street lamps, reindeer farms, ice sculptures, and maybe even a visit from jolly ol’ Saint Nick himself.

dog sledding tour in fairbanks alaska

Fairbanks is the second-largest city in Alaska, but one of the most Northern cities in the world.

In fact, it is just a few hours south of the Arctic Circle.

But once Winter Solstice begins, the entire city is transformed into a scene out of The Polar Express.

fairbanks view of pioneer park with snow and icy river

Storefronts along the downtown area are decorated with lights, while tinsel and garland embellish lamp posts, railings, and street signs.

Along with dressing up for the holidays, Fairbanks also boasts fun winter activities that is appropriate for any age group.

For dog sledding, Chena Hot Springs has a kennel of retired and rescued sled dogs that love a good run in the snow.

Or, for a calmer experience, visit Running Reindeer Ranch, a family-owned farm that offers reindeer walks, reindeer yoga, and unique reindeer gifts to take home with you.

To spot some incredible ice-sculpting talent, check out “Christmas in Ice,” an annual competition that draws sculptors from all over the world; there is also an ice maze and ice slides.

But we can’t forget about Santa! Just twenty minutes outside of town, in the small town of North Pole, you can visit Santa’s workshop.

There are tons of gifts, decorations, and even a Santa letter station!

If you’ve been good the whole year, Santa might even appear to get your wishlist in person.

After you’re all worn out from activities, grab a hot drink as the sun sets and head to one of the many parks to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights – the perfect end to the day’s festivities.

Woodstock, Vermont

Contributed by Amy Hartle of New England with Love

Woodstock, Vermont is one of the best places to have that classic Christmas that you’ve always dreamed of.

In Woodstock, you’ll find a small, old-fashioned village, antique homes, one of Vermont’s oldest general stores, several covered bridges, snow-laden trees, cozy restaurants, crackling fireplaces, and so much more. 

Woodstock is one of the top places to celebrate Christmas in New England.
Without adding any trimmings or festivities, Woodstock is already totally charming.

Originally chartered in 1761, this is an old place with a great deal of history.

snow covered barn or house in vermont in winter around christmastime in the usa

A pleasant downtown forms the center of the town, with many unique shops and eateries.

Tucked in between these businesses and the surrounding streets is a collection of picture-perfect homes, many of them white farmhouse-style buildings.

To say that Woodstock is pretty as a postcard would be quite accurate!

And this area becomes even more delightful when covered by a thick blanket of snow, which can be expected with regularity every year. 

A country road leads past a birch tree forest and a sugar house in Vermont during winter

The Wassail Weekend is one of Woodstock’s top Christmas activities.

Around the holidays, this event brings a 19th-century Christmas to life along the streets of the town.

Horse-drawn carriages bedecked with sleigh bells and driven by folks in period dress , transport visitors back in time during the Wassail Parade.

Kids can enjoy breakfast with Santa at the nearby Billings Farm, which is a working dairy farm.

In the evening, make a reservation at the Woodstock Inn for their 4-course Wassail Feast. So much fun in Vermont at Christmas!

Mammoth Lakes, California

Contributed by Jenny Kotlyar of Campsite Vibes

The holiday season in Mammoth Lakes usually kicks off with the tree lighting ceremony at the Village, which is usually shortly after Thanksgiving.

Through the month of December, there are concerts, pop-up holiday shops, and Santa Claus events.

The whole town is decorated in lights with Christmas lights twinkling and snow falling.

mammoth lakes winter at convict lake with snow and broken up frozen ice on the lake

It’s truly a winter wonderland nestled in California.

One of the best holiday events that Mammoth puts on is Night of Lights.

The whole town gathers at Canyon Lodge for a light show put on by the staff, and for a grand firework show.

Dress warmly and wear good insulated boots. It can get chilly!

a person in the snow at mammoth lakes in california

After the firework show, you can stay at Canyon Lodge for the live concert, or head down the Village where there is usually another live concert going on.

Kids, adults, teenagers, everyone is just having a blast and dancing around in their snow clothes.

For more things to do in Mammoth Lakes during the winter months, read through this blog post.

Aspen, Colorado

a festive holiday scene in the beautiful town of aspen in colorado

Contributed by Daria Bachmann of The Discovery Nut

If you are looking for a white Christmas, Aspen is one of the best places in Colorado and the entire United States for that matter.

This ski resort located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains transforms into a true winter wonderland during the holiday season.

Visitors enjoy Aspen’s most special time through its festive atmosphere complete with colorful decorations and sleigh rides.

Plus, all the typical winter activities such as skiing, tubing and ice skating – after all, that’s what Aspen is known for!

details of the aspen ski resort scene with manicured ski paths and mountains and resort below

Other popular wintertime activities include the Breathtaker Alpine Coaster that takes you on a wild ride at nearly 30 miles per hour area through the forested area near Elk Camp!

This is a relatively new addition to the town’s slew of winter activities that opened in 2017. 

While Aspen is definitely on the pricey side, spending Christmas there is a must-have experience at least once in your lifetime.

Located along Colorado’s Western Slope, Aspen has daily flights from Denver and many other cities in the Western United States and beyond.

glow of aspen resort town in the snow at night around sunrise with the lights coming on in the resort town

However, if you want to enjoy Christmas time at this popular resort, make your reservations ahead of time.

This is the busiest time in Aspen, and scores of people from all over the world come here to hit the slopes and enjoy the remarkable holiday spirit.

This is why Aspen is one of Colorado’s best mountain towns and one of the best places to spend Christmas in the USA!

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Contributed by Amanda Emmerling of Toddling Traveler

For a traditional white Christmas with a variety of unique events, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is an amazing place to celebrate Christmas in the USA.

The holiday season in Pittsburgh officially starts with “Light Up Night” in Downtown Pittsburgh.

The focal point of this Christmas celebration is the huge tree and Christmas lights being lit up across the city.

It also marks the opening of Pittsburgh’s holiday market. 

Christmas tree at PPG Place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Here you can find Santa and a variety of Christmas shops that you’d typically find at Christmas markets in Germany. 

In addition to the Christmas Market, there are also dozens of amazing places to see Santa in Pittsburgh.

Unique Santa sightings include Santa and his penguin helper at The National Aviary to breakfast with Santa on the Gateway Clipper boat cruise. 

Santa also makes a visit to the Pittsburgh Zoo each year and is accompanied by a parade of penguins – another fun Christmas outing in Pittsburgh for the whole family.

There are also several great places for Christmas lights in Pittsburgh.

Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens has beautiful lights throughout, along with an annually changing Christmas train display.

Gardens in Phipps Conservatory with christmas flowers

Past light shows in Pittsburgh include Lumaze indoor lights, Shadrack’s drive through lights and Overly’s Country Christmas. 

Between the Christmas lights, snow, and holiday events, you won’t be disappointed with celebrating Christmas in Pittsburgh, PA.

It’s one of the most fun places to celebrate Christmas in the United States!

Seattle, Washington

Contributed by Marcie Cheung of Marcie in Mommyland

One of the best places to celebrate Christmas in the USA is in an unexpected place: Seattle.

While there may not always be a white Christmas there, it has some of the coolest Seattle Christmas activities and holiday events.

At the Fairmont Olympic hotel, they host a Teddy Bear Suite where people can take magical photos in a room filled with hundreds of adorable teddy bears while supporting local non-profits.

They also have the Festival of Trees in their lobby and a walk-through gingerbread house you have to see to believe!

Speaking of gingerbread, head over to the Seattle Sheraton to marvel at their gingerbread house displays.

Each year they have a theme, like the Grinch Who Stole Christmas or Star Wars!

And if you plan to visit Seattle over Thanksgiving weekend, make sure to attend Magic in the Market at Pike Place Market.

Not only do they have lots of holiday activities, but you can take free photos with Santa right in front of the iconic Pike Place Market sign.

It’s also close to the harbor where you can enjoy the lit-up boats!

christmas lights on boats in seattle harbor

Another fun thing to do in Seattle at Christmas is take a ride on the holiday carousel outside Westlake Center while supporting Treehouse, a non-profit for foster kids.

And if you like festive lighting events, Seattle is the place to be! There are 2 Christmas light events, Lumaze and Enchant, that will blow your mind!

Both are indoors and feature Santa Claus, Christmas Markets, and tons of fun for the entire family!

Whatever you decide to do, you won’t regret celebrating Christmas in Seattle!

Saint Augustine, Florida

Contributed by Victoria Yore of Florida Trippers

Saint Augustine is one of the very best places to celebrate Christmas in the USA! First, it is the oldest city in the USA, so why not visit here?

Of course, Christmas season is all about the cozy weather, but you can get cozy in Saint Augustine because it is so historic and then you can head to the beach right after. It is a win win!

One of the best ways to celebrate Christmas in Florida is at the Night Of Lights in Saint Augustine.

It begins in November and runs all the way through the new year.

It celebrates the old Spanish tradition of putting a white candle in your windows during the holiday season.

Saint Augustine's city Christmas Tree, decorated with the church tower behind it

The entire city is decorated with millions of lights and Christmas decorations.

The train and trolley tours also offer special tour options that highlight the unique aspects of the festival!

Visiting Saint Augustine and the Night Of Lights is 100% free which makes it even better!

Chicago, Illinois

Contributed by Patti of The Savvy Globetrotter

Chicago is one of the best cities to celebrate Christmas in the United States.

Many festive activities and events can be found in Chicago during the holidays including lighting ceremonies, holiday lights, holiday themed trains, Christmas markets, and more!

One of the best things to do in Chicago during the Christmas holiday season is to visit Christkindlmarket, a large outdoor German style Christmas market.

This is where vendors sell various gifts and souvenirs including holiday decorations, handicrafts, and even a commemorative souvenir mug decorated with the market’s signature logo and year.

people in chicago enjoying the german style christmas market in the heart of town

Visitors can purchase warm beverages and various types of food including traditional German food and drinks.

Admission to Christkindlmarket is free so anyone can walk around and enjoy the music and performances without making a purchase.

The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival takes place every November and kicks off the holiday season in Chicago.

The festival features two days of free, family-friendly activities, events, live musical performances and ends with a popular tree-lighting parade down Michigan Avenue.

big lit up christmas tree in the city of chicago with baubles underneath and people walking around

Another lighting ceremony takes place for the large Christmas tree the city puts up in Millennium Park, which is home to the famous Cloud Gate sculpture and a free outdoor ice skating rink.

Other family friendly things to do is to ride a special holiday train decorated for Christmas and to visit the Museum of Science and Industry.

You can see its large tree surrounded by smaller trees and displays representing holiday traditions from other cultures around the world.

There are also large holiday light displays in and around Chicago, including ZooLights in Lincoln Park Zoo, and Lightscape, an after-dark illuminated trail at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Disneyworld, Florida

Contributed by Victoria Yore of Disney Trippers

There is no better place to celebrate Christmas than at Disney World!

Disney at Christmas is one of the most magical times of the year! First, the weather in Florida has gotten so much better. Hurricane season is over and the rain is few and far between.

Next, you will get to experience all of the amazing things that Disney has to offer!

Of course there are large parties like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party that cost extra money to attend and they are very popular with families!

But there are tons of free things to do at Disney during Christmas too! One of the best is the Christmas Tree Trail at Disney Springs!

It is 100% free and parking is free as well.

You can walk along and see 20+ Christmas trees all decorated in Disney themes. You can even meet Santa!

There are so many things to do and see, you can’t miss visiting Disney during the Christmas season!

Las Vegas, Nevada

Contributed by Dhara from It’s Not About the Miles

Looking for a fun and festive place to visit at Christmas? Consider Las Vegas!

With lots of holiday events, lighting, shopping, and special Christmas menus at restaurants, there are tons of things to do in Las Vegas over the holidays.

Real snow is rare in Vegas, but it does get pretty cold.

Bundle up, get some hot chocolate, and watch the Bellagio fountains, the water swaying to the strains of popular holiday melodies.

the las vegas strip lit up at night in colors of gold purple and more

Then step inside and tour the Bellagio Conservatory, decked up with Christmas-themed decorations, including Santa and his elves. The Wynn has gorgeous holiday decorations as well.

Walk the LINQ holiday promenade (you might run into carollers and other live performers!), and take a ride on the High Roller, decorated with red and green lights for the holidays.

If you love lights, or you are visiting with kids, don’t miss the Magical Forest! The outdoor theme park has over a million lights, including dozens of decorated trees, rides, great food, and entertainment.

Another great place to enjoy the outdoors is Ethel M’s Chocolate Factory and Garden. Grab some hot cocoa and enjoy the cacti strung with lights.

view over the las vegas sky with all the lights on

Visit the Cosmopolitan if you enjoy ice skating: they have a huge indoor skating rink.

And if you can’t do without snow on Christmas, head to Town Square, where snowfall is created Vegas style!

The shopping malls and squares are lively during the days leading up to Christmas.

If you enjoy retail therapy, you’ll find plenty to stores to browse.

And when you visit Vegas during the holidays, be sure to bring your appetite, because most restaurants feature special menus, including on Christmas Day.

Mobile, Alabama

Contributed by Wendy Werneth of The Nomadic Vegan

Mobile, Alabama may not get white Christmases very often (it only snows about once every five years here), but it’s full of the Christmas spirit nonetheless.

And if you use your imagination, the white sand at nearby beaches like Gulf Shores almost looks like a blanket of snow.

The best Christmas attraction in Mobile is the spectacular “Magic Christmas in Lights” display at Bellingrath Gardens and Home.

At other times of the year, the blooming azaleas and other flowers are the star attraction at the 65-acre gardens.

But for the whole month of December, the gardens become the backdrop for a very impressive light display featuring more than 3 million lights.

The display changes every year, so there’s always something new to see.

Another great thing to do at Christmas time is to visit Oakleigh, an old mansion in downtown Mobile that was built in 1883.

fountain in mobile alabama lit up at night in festive color

Each year, it hosts a special “Christmas at Oakleigh” night, when staff dressed in 19th-century period costumes tell the story of this historic place.

With the estate decked out in old-fashioned Christmas decorations as it would have been long ago, it’s a very atmospheric place to celebrate the holidays.

But unlike the Bellingrath Gardens display, which lasts for a whole month, Christmas at Oakleigh is a one day only event, so check the date before scheduling your trip. 

While you’re here, be sure to check out some of Mobile’s many great restaurants.

In addition to the local seafood specialties, a number of eateries also cater well for vegan and vegetarian visitors.

Crossroads Village, Michigan

Contributed by Sherry Trautman of Travel-Mi.com

Crossroads Village and Huckleberry Railroad is a quaint and nostalgic village located in Flint, Michigan.

From the moment you arrive, you will wonder if you have mistakenly stepped into a Norman Rockwell painting.

This cheerful 1800’s era village will immediately spark your Christmas spirit. 

Bundle up warmly and wander the paved pathways throughout the village.  

You will pass several historic buildings, many of which you can tour, including a post office, general store, mill and church with beautiful stained-glass windows.

Don’t miss the picture-perfect church when covered in snow!

the crossroads village town of michigan

If you are brave, enter the small dental office to learn what kind of tools were used on terrified patients in the early 1800’s.  

The metal tools are definitely cringe worthy and makes one grateful for our friendly dentist!  

For something a bit more cheerful (and a chance to warm up a bit), take a ride on the colorful indoor vintage carousel. 

 If you want something a bit more daring, the nearby Ferris wheel creates shrieks and gales of laughter from its riders. 

Another nostalgic thing to do at Crossroads Village is to hop aboard the Huckleberry Railroad for a glimpse of how people traveled in the 1800s. 

 Be sure to grab a bag of warm freshly roasted almonds before you go.  

Once aboard, hold on tight as the train rocks and sways along the tracks while passing through dark forests and sleepy towns.  

Twinkling Christmas lights will delight you around every bend. 

There’s a lot of great things to do in Michigan in winter and this is just one of the best spots to be!

Washington, D.C.

Contributed by Maggie McKneely of Pink Caddy Travelogue

Christmas in Washington, DC is unlike any other place in the US!

The nation’s capital goes all out for the holiday season, and it celebrates in the way only DC can.

Like decking out the White House. Yes, THE White House.

During Christmas time, visitors can tour the Presidential residence and see the annual White House gingerbread cake, the dozens of differently decorated Christmas trees, and an 18th-century nativity scene.

(Tip: make tour reservations through your Congressman’s office 3 months in advance).

Regardless of your political affiliation, a tour of the White House at Christmas is an amazing experience.

Another can’t miss experience is seeing the National Christmas tree and its surrounding 56 mini trees (one for each state and territory).

giant christmas tree in front of the capitol building in washignton dc, one of the best places for christmas in the usa

The annual lighting has been a DC Christmas tradition since 1923 when President Calvin Coolidge lit the first tree.

The Capitol also has its own decorated tree located just below the east steps.

Other must-dos include attending a performance of Handel’s Messiah at the National Cathedral and visiting the special Christmas exhibit at the U.S. Botanic Garden (they recreate DC landmarks using just plants!)

If you’re traveling with kids, definitely check out “Enchant DC” (the world’s largest light maze, hosted at Nationals Park), and Zoolights at the Smithsonian Zoo.

San Diego, California

Contributed by Maria Haase of San Diego Explorer

Christmas in San Diego has a unique spirit. Santa Claus and palm trees, ice skating on the beach and many other seemingly paradox activities.

It is also the perfect holiday getaway, if you don’t like the cold.

Temperatures in December range from mid 50s to low 60s, but if you are lucky you will get some sunny days in the mid to high 70s – a great temperature to go out and explore. 

Christmas in San Diego is full of contrasts. It’s one of the few places where you can go skiing and surfing in one day.

Maybe that is why we celebrate the start of the Christmas season in San Diego with the arrival of Surfin’ Santa rather than Christmas carols.

san diego christmas scene

And I already told you that we have an actual ice skating ring on the beach. Nothing cooler than hitting the ice, while looking at palm trees and hearing the ocean waves crash in the background!

Another really beautiful, and more traditional Christmas-y event that will put you in the Christmas spirit is December Nights in Balboa Park – our San Diego Christmas Market.

It takes place at the beginning of December each year. You will find beautiful Christmas lights and decoration, booths selling treats and gifts, Glühwein, and delicious snacks.

Parking is a nightmare, so I recommend taking either public transportation or Uber/Lyft. 

Did you know that Theodore Seuss Geisel aka Dr. Seuss lived most of his life in San Diego?

Each winter, the Old Globe Theater in Balboa Park – a replica of the Globe Theatre in London – puts Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas on its schedule and I highly recommend it. 

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Contributed by Derek and Mike of Robe Trotting

Philadelphia is one of the best places in America to visit during the Christmas season.

It’s full of holiday activities, light displays, seasonal events and more. 

One of the best things to do during Christmas in Philadelphia is visit the Christmas Village at LOVE Park.

This landmark space in Philly’s center city is beautiful all year, but during the holidays it’s transformed into a charming Christmas Market.

famous philadelphia love sign with a christmas tree behind it

The centerpiece is the beautiful Christmas tree – make sure to snap a photo of the iconic LOVE statue with the lit Christmas tree behind it.

Across the street from LOVE Park is Dilworth Park, the plaza beside Philadelphia CIty Hall.

On this gorgeous public space you’ll find a pop up ice skating rink and more vendors selling local crafts and gifts.

In the courtyard of City Hall is another stunning Christmas tree with a carousel and entertainers. 

If you walk down Market Street to Macy’s Department Store you’ll find plenty of Christmas attractions.

On the third floor is the famed Dickens Christmas Village, a display of animatronic characters that make the pages of A Christmas Carol come to life.

Stick around the store for the marvelous holiday light show that entertains kids and adults alike.

Another great light show occurs a few blocks away at The Comcast Center. In the lobby of this busy building you’ll find an hourly light display to put you in the Christmas spirit.

On weekends it’s even visited by Santa Claus himself!

Philadelphia comes alive during the Christmas season and there’s plenty more to do in the city when you plan your own Christmas trip to Philly.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Contributed by Paulina of Paulina on the Road

If you happen to be in the US for Christmas, you must visit the Milwaukee this winter, which is one of the best places to celebrate Christmas in the USA.

This city offers such a large number of opportunities for making your mood cheerful!

Regardless of whether you’re in the state of mind for enjoying the occasion lights, a classic season show, something unique and a little snarky, or only getting outside to appreciate the Christmastime!

So, visit Milwaukee to experience the festive lighting, events, or festivals, which includes:

The Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival- This stunning celebration fills three midtown parks with occasion light shows, where you can ride the Jingle Bus and likewise explore the Milwaukee Food and City Tours.

Winter Wonders- This sparkling new drive-through lights show comes to you from the makers of China Lights! You can appreciate 80-holiday shows, set up in Whitnall Park, highlighting decorated trees, glimpses of Christmas scene, etc.

Country Christmas– Witness over a million occasional lights, enlightening the Christmas-night as you drive along Wisconsin’s most large driveway, and sideways explore the lanes of Bethlehem.

christmas tree and snowy landscape with light trails passing in milwaukee michigan

Further, if you ever prepare a list of things to do in Milwaukee, adding the Christkindlmarket is a must.

It’s a magical market, located in the heart of the city that offers an artistic touch of various flavors, colorful ornaments, spectacular performances, and many more.

Plus, being rooted in the German tradition, the Christkindlmarket offers several collectibles and gift items that cannot be ignored.

However, this Christmas tour won’t be complete without trying the unique, delicious cultural cuisines alongside the spiced wine, being served in collective mugs.

Additionally, The Iron Horse Hotel is one of the best luxury resorts in Wisconsin, providing the best-amenities. 

Moreover, the best time to visit Milwaukee is from November to December to feel the magical atmosphere of Christmas in Milwaukee.

Key West, Florida

Contributed by Lori Sorrentino of Travlinmad

Tired of the stereotypical Christmas celebration? You know, the snow, frosty weather, a decorated evergreen tree, and requisite hot chocolate.

If you’re looking for someplace new to celebrate Christmas, Key West, Florida is the perfect change-of-pace holiday destination.

Trade in that green Christmas tree for decorated palm trees, the snow for warm azure water, and hot chocolate for umbrella drinks!

Key West is easy to get to with many air carriers serving the Key West Airport.

If you have the time, head down Highway 1 through the Florida Keys to the southernmost point from Miami.

Key West always has a laid-back vibe and the holidays are the perfect time to get in, on, or under the water.

key west christmas atmosphere

Take a champagne sunset catamaran cruise to celebrate the holidays, where you’ll snorkel and watch the fiery sunset show.

For that Christmasy feeling, check out the Christmas lights around town.

Start at Mallory Square by catching the sunset, then board the Old Town Trolley Tour or the Conch Train as it winds its way through Old Town underneath a tropical canopy of twinkling lights.

You’ll enjoy Christmas cookies and cider as the narrated tour takes you past fun Christmas displays and holiday revelers. Don’t forget to wear the “special” holiday glasses they give you. Do a rum tasting at the Key West Distillery to really get into the holiday spirit!

If you plan a Key West Christmas, many of the local hotels and Airbnbs in Key West will already be decorated with a tree so you’ll feel right at home. But be sure and stick around to ring in the New Year in Key West.

The celebration is like no other with the giant conch shell drop at Sloppy Joe’s, a Pirate Wench lowered from the mast of a tall ship at Schooner Wharf Bar, and Sushi, everyone’s favorite local drag Queen being lowered in her red high heeled shoe outside of the Bourbon Street bar on Duval Street.

It’s always a fun Christmas party in Key West! Just be sure to make your lodging reservations early.

Boston, Massachussets

Contributed by Sally Lucas of our3kidsvtheworld

As Australians deciding on where to spend Christmas in the USA with the highest chance of seeing snow but keeping to a 7-week itinerary that had us in New York City for New Year’s Eve was difficult.

How far north? How much travel? What would we do there that will make it feel like Christmas we see in all the American movies?

When we chose Boston, I knew the snow factor was going to be a gamble. Boston has a 60% chance of snow and they were odds I was willing to chance.

If it didn’t snow, it would still be freezing and we would still experience the Christmas atmosphere we were so desperately seeking…. so I hoped, anyway.

christmas atmosphere in boston park with a statue in the middle of it all dusted in snow

We spent Christmas Eve in Boston at Faneuil Hall, the heart and soul of Downtown Boston.

Faneuil Hall is a marketplace for food stalls and you can choose what you want to eat then head out into the snow-covered square to see the giant Christmas tree and experience the Blink lights and sound show played hourly where people gather around and sing Christmas carols.

Boston is famous for clam chowder so make sure you give that a go from the Boston Chowda Co in the Faneuil Hall Marketplace!

Boston definitely delivered the White Christmas: at 8 AM on Christmas morning the snow started to fall and the city received 4 inches of snow — just enough snow to play in and not enough to stop us doing everything we wanted to do. 

Pin This Guide to the Best Places to Celebrate Christmas in the USA!

29 Wonderful Warm Places to Visit in the USA in January

Brilliant blue water as seen from an overlook on the Road to Hana, with dramatic green lush mountain scenery and a bit of road visible, and some red tropical flowers.

As a native Californian who spent 9 long winters shivering in New York City, I get it: sometimes, you just need to escape the cold and go visit one of the best warm weather destinations in the USA.

In fact, January is the best time to escape to some of these warm weather spots in the USA.

What better time to take a trip then after the holiday spirit has subsided and you’re still looking at several months of cold ahead?

Plus, accommodation and airfare prices to these warm weather vacation spots are almost always more reasonable than they are in December!

Blue grass, turquoise sky, and coastline of Kauai
Gorgeous Kauai landscapes in the winter — a dream!

Best of all, you won’t need your passport to enjoy these warm destinations in the USA in January!

Here are bloggers favorite warm weather getaways in the US to enjoy in January… I hope you find something that inspires you!

Warm Weather Destinations in the USA in January: Hawaii & Caribbean

St. Thomas, USVI

The clear waters of Magens Bay in Saint Thomas of the US Virgin Islands with mountains in the distance on the horizon

Contributed by Brodi Cole of Our Offbeat Life

The US Virgin Islands are a great place to visit in January because the weather is perfect for spending time outdoors.

The average high temperature is 81 degrees Fahrenheit and the average low is 71 degrees, so you can expect comfortable weather throughout the day!

January is also one of the driest months on the islands, with an average of only 3.9 inches of rain.

There are plenty of activities to enjoy on the US Virgin Islands in January. Many people take advantage of the warm weather to go hiking, biking, or kayaking.

The islands are also home to some of the best beaches in the world, so you can spend your days relaxing on the beach or swimming in crystal-clear waters.

Waters around St. Thomas with sailboats on a perfect day with just a few clouds in the sky but lots of sun so you can see the brilliant color of the water.

St. Thomas especially is well known for its world-class snorkeling!

There are many snorkeling spots around the island, but one of the best is Coki Point Beach, which is known for its clear waters and vibrant coral reefs.

However, Sapphire Beach also has very good snorkeling if Coki Beach is too crowded.

Where to Stay on St. Thomas

If you’re looking for a place to stay, the Marriott Frenchman’s Cove is a very popular hotel on the island of St. Thomas.

Located on the east end of the island, this hotel offers stunning views of the Caribbean Sea.

The hotel also has its own beach, so you can enjoy the best of both worlds!

Search accommodations on St. Thomas here!

Maui, HI

Dark orange sand and blue waters and palm trees with people enjoying the beach on a sunny day in Maui, a perfect warm weather getaway in the USA in January

Contributed by Sam Opp from Find Love and Travel 

A great place to visit during January in the USA is the tropical island of Maui, Hawaii.

The average temperature ranges from the mid 80s during the day and 60s at night making for the perfect winter getaway at the beach!

Although January is one of Maui’s wetter months, this island receives less rainfall than most, and there will still be plenty of sunshine to enjoy.

There are tons of excellent things to do when visiting Maui. One of the most notable things to do in Maui is driving the Road to Hana.

Brilliant blue water as seen from an overlook on the Road to Hana, with dramatic green lush mountain scenery and a bit of road visible, and some red tropical flowers.

This incredible drive brings you through lush rainforests, waterfalls, black sand beaches, bamboo forests, and so much more!

The drive takes a full day, so it is best to start early in the morning with a full tank of gas!

Another great thing to do during January is whale watching. January is a part of the peak months to see humpback whales just off the coast of the Hawaiian shores.

There are tons of tours around this time to be able to see some whales up close and personal via boat.  

Snorkeling and relaxing on the beach is another must while in Maui. With many pristine beaches across the coast, you will be spoiled with choice.

For the ultimate snorkel experience, consider going out to Molokini Crater which is known for its diversity of fish and even sea turtles that can be seen. 

Where to Stay on Maui

A great place to stay on the island of Maui is the Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa. The resort is beautiful and located on Black Rock Beach!

There is great snorkeling by the Black Rock, and you will be close to Lahaina for shopping and restaurants.

Check accommodations on Maui here!

Warm Destinations in the USA in January: California

Catalina Island, CA

A pathway leading to the famous Casino in Avalon (a round building on a pier) on the water in Catalina Island in California

Contributed by Megan of Bobo & Chichi

One of the best warm weather place to visit in the US in January is located 26 miles off the coast of sunny Southern California: Catalina Island!

Southern California is one of the best places in the winter because they have one of the most mild and comfortable climates year-round in the world.

In January, while the rest of the country is dealing with snow, Catalina Island averages a high of around a comfortable 60 degrees Fahrenheit!

While you won’t be in your bathing suit, you can enjoy the comfortable, Mediterranean like weather by wearing a light jacket.

Not to mention, January is a great time to visit Catalina Island because it’s not peak season.

Chances are you’ll enjoy some of the best attractions like Wrigley Memorial Botanical Garden, tour the famous Casino, renting and exploring the island by golf cart, and spots like Descanso Beach Club all to yourself.

And believe it or not, you can even snorkel in the winter!

The tour operators provide winter wet suits so that you’re comfortable snorkeling around the turquoise shores spotting the bright orange Garibaldi fish that the island is famous for.

Where to Stay in Catalina

While you can easily visit Catalina Island on a day trip, spending the night is the best way to enjoy the many activities on the island.

Try staying at Bellanca Hotel, one of the newest additions to the island that has a great location right along the waterfront on Crescent Avenue.

You can enjoy drinks or breakfast on their terrace with an ocean view!

Check accommodations in Catalina Island!

South Bay Los Angeles, CA

The sun setting over one of the beaches of the South Bay Los Angeles area with palm trees and brilliant pink, yellow and blue sky with clouds

Contributed by Janelle of Make the Trip Matter

January is a fantastic time to visit the sprawling city of Los Angeles, but one of the best places to spend a day is the hidden gem region known as the South Bay LA.

Starting just south of LAX, the beach cities in the South Bay will be mostly empty for the winter, but the weather is mild and there are plenty of activities to enjoy. 

In January, the daily temperature averages around 60-65°F, with a low rarely falling below 57°F and a high hardly ever going above 76°F.

However, you shouldn’t get very much rain and if you’re lucky, you might even get a few nice days in the 70s°F!

The South Bay is known for its beautiful, expansive sandy beaches!

In January the best activities are to bike or rollerblade down the beach path known as “the Strand” that stretches from the peninsula all the way up through Santa Monica.

Alternatively, beach volleyball is popular year-round if you feel like playing a friendly game!

Yellow mustard flowers in Palos Verde peninsula enjoying a winter hike on a sunny day in South Bay Los Angeles in the winter months

One of the best things to do on the Palos Verdes Peninsula is to explore the many hiking spots while the weather is cool.

Head to the Portuguese Bend for multiple trails with stunning panoramic ocean views. 

If you prefer indoor winter activities, there is plenty of fantastic shopping in the South Bay.

Visit the Del Amo Mall in Torrance (one of the top 10 biggest malls in America) for a variety of high-end to standard stores.

Alternately, Hermosa Beach Pier, Manhattan Beach Pier, and the Redondo Beach Riviera are all full of adorable boutique shops and delicious restaurants to rest in after.

No matter how you decide to spend your time, January will be a lovely month to visit the South Bay LA.

Where to Stay in the South Bay of Los Angeles

The best place to stay in the South Bay is the Terranea Resort on the Palos Verde Peninsula.

This resort is perfect for a high-end stay with lovely views, a spa, and high-end dining and golf course.

Check accommodations in South Bay LA here!

San Diego, CA

Palm trees and the San Diego skyline with the harbor in front of it at the early nighttime hours, with some of the lights of the city on.

Contributed by Patricia of Ze Wandering Frogs

January is a great month to visit San Diego, as the temperatures average around 65°F, though it can even reach over 75°F or drop to around 50°F some years.

Those temperatures are simply perfect for exploring this Southern California coastal city!

However, the winter month still brings some precipitations in, with roughly 2 inches of rain through January.

Though the ocean temperature might be somewhat too cold for surfing, the warm outside temperatures are perfect for outdoor activities. Go tide-pooling as you explore the beaches at low tides.

Coastal walks, including La Jolla Coast Walk, are also fantastic for exploring the area and one of the cool outdoor activities in San Diego.

Sunset light falling on La Jolla Cove, with sand below and cliffs, and beautiful sunset colors

Kayaking is another popular activity to explore La Jolla Cove, a terrific way to do some watersports without actually getting wet! 

From December to April, gray whales can be spotted along the Pacific Ocean as they travel from Alaska to Baja California.

From San Diego, board one of the numerous whale watching tours for a chance to spot the gentle giants.

The San Diego Brew Fest is among several festivals in San Diego in January, in addition to the San Diego Black Film Festival.

Other things to see include the famous Balboa Park, Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, and the Gaslamp Quarter. 

Where to Stay in San Diego

The Hotel del Coronado is one of San Diego’s most iconic hotels!

Not only the beautiful architecture right on the beach makes for incredible photos, but the hotel was made famous when it was featured in the 1958 movie Some Like It Hot with Marilyn Monroe. 

Check San Diego accommodations here!

Palm Springs, CA

Palm trees on the side of a road in Palm Springs with mountains in the background on a pretty day

Contributed by Kristin Lee of Global Travel Escapades

If you’re looking for places to escape the cold, then consider a trip to Palm Springs, California.

The desert region is normally known for its blistering hot temperatures during the summer, but in January, visitors can expect sunny days with an average high of 71°F and average low of 45°F.

These are ideal conditions to set out on a hike, ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, or explore the city.

One crowd favorite activity is to spend the day at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens.

Palm trees in Palm Springs in the Tennis Garden area of the city

The Living Desert Zoo is on the smaller side but offers a wide assortment of desert animals for visitors to see, including black rhinoceros, bighorn sheep, and so much more.

In addition, the zoo provides visitors with plenty of opportunities to see and interact with the animals up close. For example, visitors can help feed and groom Nigerian dwarf goats in the petting kraal.

If you’re in Palm Springs, be sure to pay a visit to the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens to have a memorable experience with the animals!

Where to Stay in Palm Springs

For places to stay in the area, consider the lovely Wescott Boutique Hotel.

It’s located only 3 miles from the Palm Springs Airport and 2 miles from downtown.

The cozy hotel provides excellent service, offers a delicious breakfast, and is a great choice for a weekend getaway!

Check accommodations in Palm Springs!

Warm Vacation Spots in the USA in January: Southwest

Sedona, AZ

The author, Jessica, sitting on a red rock in Sedona looking away towards the light on the red rocks in the distance, wearing hiking clothes and shorts and a hat.

Contributed by Jessica of Uprooted Traveler

Known for its jaw-dropping red rock mesas and endless ponderosa pine tree forests, Sedona is an awesome warm weather getaway in January.

While the Sedona winter nights here definitely get a bit chilly, you’ll enjoy daytime highs in the low 60s, which is perfect for exploring Sedona’s epic landscapes.

And better yet, while the town sees a huge influx of tourists during the spring and fall, the crowds will be minimal in January, allowing you to snag better deals on accommodations and enjoy the outdoor activities all to yourself.

One of the best things to do in Sedona is hit up any of its incredible hiking trails!

For example, the Soldier Pass Trail will take you past an enormous sinkhole, the Seven Sacred Pools (a series of naturally carved pools that can form a stunning cascade if you happen to visit during a particularly rainy period), and even a hidden cave to explore! 

Sun rising over the red rocks of Sedona, with lots of clouds in the sky, showing a perfect warm weather getaway in the USA

If you’re more of an adrenaline junkie, consider renting an ATV for the day- there’s tons of offroading trails that criss-cross through Sedona’s desert, where you can zip across the dusty roads and take in the surrounding desert views. 

Sedona is believed by some to have “energy vortexes” and thus, has developed a rather quirky, New Age-y vibe.

Be sure to carve out some time during your visit to explore its eclectic downtown, that’s bursting with everything from standard souvenir shops to crystal stores and reiki healers.

Where to Stay in Sedona

Sedona is a spa town and it’s the perfect place to splurge on a resort stay! We recommend Amara Resort and Spa in Uptown Sedona. 

While everything downtown is within a short walking distance, the resort is very peaceful, tucked away off the street in an oasis of trees along Oak Creek. 

The rooms and grounds are beautiful, with balconies looking onto the gardens and oversized Adirondack chairs to relax in. You can also take a dip in the infinity pool!

Search Sedona accommodations here!

Tucson, AZ

The skyline of Tucson at sunset with mountains in the distance and buildings in the foreground.

Contributed by Lisa Garrett of Waves and Cobblestones

Looking for a warm US travel destination in January?  Sunny Tucson, Arizona is a great choice!

January high temperatures are in the upper 60s with lows in the upper 30s — perfect weather for exploring Tucson’s many attractions.

With only three days of rain, January is a fantastic time to enjoy some of Tucson’s best outdoor activities. 

Hiking aficionados will enjoy Tucson’s great hiking trails.  Local favorite hiking locations include Mount Lemmon and Sabino Canyon.   

Venture a little further afield to Madera Canyon for some excellent bird watching opportunities.  Many migratory species use Madera Canyon as a resting place on their migration routes.

Saguaro National Park with cactus and desert shrubbery in the daytime with lots of clouds in the sky

Not a hiker?  You can still enjoy nature at the Tucson Botanical Garden, or visit the Saguaro National Park for some quintessential Arizona desert scenery. 

Alternately, you can explore the unique underground formations at Colossal Cave, located just 15 minutes from Tucson.

Tucson boasts many great museums and art galleries, including the Tucson Museum of Art, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun, and the quirky Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures

Don’t miss the Pima Air and Space Museum, a top-notch aerospace museum.  Here you can view nearly 400 historic aircraft (including a Wright Flyer) on display over 80 acres and six indoor exhibition hangars.

Where to Stay in Tucson

Stay in downtown Tucson at the Hotel Congress. 

This historic hotel has a unique ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ vibe with a nightclub, bars, and music venue. 

Hotel Congress is also known for being the location where the infamous gangster, John Dillinger, was captured — great for fans of history!

Check accommodations in Tucson here!

Phoenix, AZ

The downtown landscape and cityscape skyscrapers of Phoenix in January with palm trees and beautiful weather.

Contributed by Dymphe from Dymabroad

Phoenix is one of the best warm weather places to visit in the United States in January!

During that month the average high temperature is 67°F, and the average low temperature is 46°F.

Also, it rains for about 3 days during that month, which makes the place very comfortable to visit — you’ll rarely get rained out!

There are a lot of things to do in Phoenix in January.

For example, you can attend the Arizona Fine Art EXPO, which is an annual multi-week festival where you can see many types of fine art.

Another activity that is great in January is visiting ZooLights at the Phoenix Zoo. There, you can see beautiful light displays, light shows, and sculptures of animals.

View of the downtown palm trees and skyscrapers of downtown Phoenix Arizona in january

Also, January is the perfect month for outdoor activities. For example, you could join a guided hike and explore the beautiful landscape of Phoenix.

Another great activity during January is attending the Gold Canyon Arts Festival. This festival takes place at the end of the month, and during it, you can see art, listen to music, and taste great food.

Finally, the Regional Unity Walk takes place in January. This is a walk that celebrates the unity of the different cities in the Phoenix metro area.

During the walk, each city organizes very diverse performances, shows, and other events that are fun to attend. 

Where to Stay in Phoenix

Also, a great hotel for a stay in January is the Rise Uptown Hotel.

This is a modern boutique hotel with beautifully designed rooms located in Uptown Phoenix.

Moreover, the hotel has a lovely rooftop lounge where you can relax and enjoy the lovely January weather!

Check availability at Rise Uptown here!

Las Vegas, NV

View of the Statue of Liberty and roller coaster and Empire State Building and other buildings of the Las Vegas Strip

Contributed by Dhara from It’s Not About the Miles

With a multitude of fun things to do, Las Vegas makes for an epic getaway any time of the year, but January is a particularly nice time to visit!

In January, you’ll find crowds thinning out a bit after New Year’s, cheaper flights, and the possibility of scoring a deal on a nice resort room.

With daytime highs usually in the low 60s Fahrenheit, you can wander around comfortably during the day.

Nighttime lows do drop into the mid-30s though, so bring a warm jacket for early and late in the day!

The potential for rain is very low (on average 3 days during the month), so expect plenty of sunshine on your January Las Vegas getaway, and bring your swim wear to lounge by the pool in the afternoons!

Visiting the Bellagio Conservatory is one of the top free things to do in Vegas, as is watching the Bellagio Fountains dance to light and music after dark.

View of buildings on the Las Vegas Strip with fountain, Eiffel Tower, and other landmarks of the Las Vegas strip behind

And of course, you have to walk the famous Las Vegas Strip to tour the larger-than-life resorts.

If you do run into inclement weather, check out the many fun museums in Vegas, from the Neon Museum to the Mob Museum.

January is a great time to explore the outdoors around Sin City, from the beautiful red rocks of Red Rock Canyon and Valley of Fire to the majestic landscapes of Death Valley National Park or Grand Canyon National Park.

The weather is too hot to visit these sights at many parts of the year, but in January, the weather will be just right!

Where to Stay in Las Vegas

When visiting Las Vegas, you simply have to stay on The Strip — it’s where all the action is!

Stay at the Bellagio Resort, located in the midst of all the action on Las Vegas Boulevard.

And be sure to get a room with a view of the famous fountains!

Search accommodations in Las Vegas here!

Warm Places to Visit in the USA in January: Texas

Austin, TX

Famous Austin mural that reads "Greetings from Austin Capital of Texas" with cityscape drawn in the words in a realistic way

Contributed by Sierra of Very Truly Texas

The Central Texas city of Austin is a fun, active, and warm place to visit in the US in January!

When most of the country is bundled up in its winter best, the temperatures in Austin hover just above 60 degrees, making for perfect outdoor weather for hiking and exploring.

McKinney Falls State Park and the Barton Creek Greenbelt both offer several easy hiking trail options with waterfall views and plenty of spots to stop for a picnic.

Mount Bonnell will give you the best overlook view of Lake Austin and the Austin skyline.

To experience another lake in Austin, you can also walk the downtown path in Zilker Park along Lady Bird Lake or rent a kayak and float along the edge of the city for an up close experience.

January brings an exciting event to the city for music lovers. Free Week gives visitors the opportunity to see a number of bands completely for free in the Red River Cultural District.

South Congress is a popular street for dining and shopping, and Rainey Street is another option for food trucks and music.

If you find yourself with a rainy day, which only happens a few days out of the month in January, take a tour of the Texas Capitol Building to learn more about the history of the state.

The brown building of the Texas Capitol Building in the heart of Austin surrounded by green spaces and trees.

No one should leave Austin without trying breakfast tacos and BBQ! Veracruz All Natural and Terry Black’s Barbecue are both highly recommended to check both of those boxes (respectively!)

Barton Springs is a popular natural swimming spot in the summer months, but it is actually open year-round and hosts the Polar Bear Plunge on New Year’s Day for those brave enough to face the 68-degree water!

Where to Stay in Austin

Staying downtown will give you the best opportunity to experience Austin fully!

The Fairmont Austin is in the perfect location to visit many of the sights and restaurants.

With a beautiful pool and rooftop bar, this modern and upscale accommodation is a great choice.

Search Austin accommodations here!

South Padre Island, TX

The sun setting low on the horizon over the water, underneath a bridge, on South Padre Island in Texas, a great warm winter getaway in the USA

Contributed by Charles of US Gulf Coast Travel

South Padre Island is so desired by people escaping cold weather from northern US states (and Canada) that “Winter Texan” is a well-used local term created to describe them! 

Winter Texas season typically begins in early November, but January is the peak month for the snow bird presence in Tropical Texas.

January in subtropical South Padre means comfortable and enviable average temperatures in the 60s and 70s with little rain to interrupt your outdoor plans.

Outstanding nature, wildlife, and outdoor activities along with plenty of fresh Gulf seafood makes South Padre Island a draw for Winter Texans and shorter term vacationers alike.

Some of the favorite things to do in South Padre Island in January include bird watching and fishing. 

Bird watching in South Padre peaks in January. 500 different species of migrating birds use two major migratory flyways—Mississippi Flyway and Central Flyway pass right through the Rio Grande Valley and South Padre.

Superb fishing opportunities in January in Gulf of Mexico and Laguna Madre attract aficionados from all over the world.

The SPI Kite Fest is held on the last weekend every January is one of the most popular annual events on South Padre Island. 

Many snowbirds and vacationers (any time of the year) love visiting South Padre for a “two-nation vacation,” with easy access to Mexico for shopping, medical procedures, and authentic food and drink.

Where to Stay in South Padre

One of the most popular places to stay in South Padre is Isla Grand Beach Resort.

Isla Grand is a classic beach resort and in a convenient South Padre location, right across the causeway from the mainland.

Onsite features include swimming pools and hot tubs, beach volleyball courts, a fantastic nightclub, and several places to eat and drink.

Check accommodations in South Padre here!

Big Bend National Park, TX

Red rocks in Big Bend National Park in the winter, with shadows forming on the bottom part of the mountains, and sunlight lighting up the tips of the mountains.

Contributed by Michelle of The Wandering Queen

One of the best places to visit in the USA in January is Big Bend National Park!

It is best not to see this national park in the summer as they close some of the visitor centers due to hot temperatures, so winter is a great time to visit to have cool weather while hiking in the sun.

The temperatures range from 58° highs to 39° in the lower temperatures, and on average, it might rain two days in January.

Bring sunscreen because, more than likely, it will still be sunny. 

Some of the best things to do in Big Bend National Park is to hike. Some popular hikes include Santa Elena Canyon, The Lost Mine Trail, and the Boquillas Canyon Trail.

The Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park, with the Rio Grande in between the two sides of the canyon, in the late afternoon glow.

Both canyon trails are fantastic if you want to see the famous Rio Grande!

Another incredible activity to do, especially in the winter, is to soak in the hot springs.

The warm hot springs are located right on the beautiful Rio Grande. And if you get there right at sunrise, you might miss the large crowds.

There are so many unique outdoor activities in Big Bend National Park, and it is best to do it in the winter when it is not blistering hot outside, which is why it is best to visit in January. 

Where to Stay in Big Bend

If you decide to visit this lovely park in Texas, make sure to stay at the hotel Chisos Mountain Lodge.

It is the only hotel in the national park and is centrally located to all the beautiful hikes!

San Antonio, TX

The San Antonio riverwalk at night, sidewalks paved alongside a river with bridges, shops, etc to visit

Contributed by Rachel of WanderU

San Antonio is a vibrant city in southwest Texas that offers year-round sun and activities everyone in the family will enjoy – especially if you’re looking for a warm getaway in the USA in the winter months.

On average, it usually only drops to the mid-40s at the lowest in winter, and it can still get up into the 70s even in January.

It’s also typically the driest month of the year for the Alamo City, so you can get out and enjoy the city with no umbrella needed. 

If it’s your first time visiting, your first stop has to be the Alamo. It’s the most well-known landmark in the city, and it easily qualifies as one of the best free things to do in San Antonio.

The front facade of the Alamo, a historic battle site in Texas, with a green lawn in front and dark sky

You can view historians recreating scenes from typical life during the Texas Revolution or simply walk around the site on your own to see artifacts such as a 2,000-pound cannon last fired in 1836.

The next must-see is the San Antonio Riverwalk, which has paved paths alongside part of the San Antonio River. There are plenty of unique shops, delicious restaurants, and of course, tasty margaritas!

You can also grab a ticket for a river cruise, which is a great way to see the area while learning about its history — and you’ll probably end up with a few recommendations of things to do or see from your guide. 

San Antonio is a nice, warm destination all through winter, but anyone coming in late January can enjoy a special treat: Restaurant Week.

For this event, the restaurants around the city create a fixed menu of the best each establishment has to offer. Restaurant Week is typically the third week of the month, but double-check the dates before your trip.

Where to Stay in San Antonio

If you want to stay in San Antonio to experience all these activities, check out the Wyndham Garden Riverwalk Hotel!

It overlooks the Riverwalk, giving you amazing views and a convenient location for a reasonable price.

Check San Antonio accommodations here!

Warm Weather Getaways in the USA in January: Southeast

Gulf Shores, AL

Waves breaking on the beach with skyline in the background in Gulf Shores Alabama a great warm weather destination in the US in January

Gulf Shores is an underrated destination to travel to in the US during the winter.

This Alabama city averages a high of 63F in January (with lows in the mid 40s) and while it is not “swimming” weather, you will find plenty of activities in the city on the Gulf of Mexico that allow you to escape the winter blues for a bit!

The high-season in Gulf Shores is during the summer months, so the crowds will be gone and you will have some of the best places to yourself – like Bon Secour Nature Preserve and Gulf State Park.

The weather is mild and hiking trails like the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail and the Jeff Friend Trail are less-trafficked and perfect places to enjoy the outdoors.

a warm weather january destination, the us gulf shores in alabama, with aerial view of the landscape and water

If you end up in Gulf Shores on one of the seven rainy days the city averages in January, there is still plenty that you can do indoors.

There is an exciting craft beer scene in Gulf Shores with names like Liquid Latitude and Big Beach Brewing offering beer lovers a drink regardless of the season.

Oyster season is at its prime in January, and you can indulge at Original Oyster House Boardwalk or Acme Oyster House close to the water.

For those looking for an extended Christmas or the winter spirit (without the frigid temperatures!), you can check out the Magic Christmas in Lights Festival at Bellingrath Gardens and Home that runs all the way until the end of January annually.

Alternatively, you can take a day trip to nearby Orange Beach to enjoy ice skating at The Wharf which runs until mid-January each year.

Gulf Shores has a reputation for being a family summer hotspot or a spring break destination, but winter really has a lot to offer those looking to escape the cooler temperatures of the north for something a bit milder!

New Orleans, LA

Brick building with rounded porch around the front, ferns in baskets, red door in the French Quarter

Contributed by Nicole of Go Far Grow Close

New Orleans is a vibrant and exciting warm place to visit in January in the USA.

It has a rich history that blends African, French, Spanish, and Creole elements. This means it offers architecture, food, and history that is distinct from anywhere else in the USA.

It is also wonderfully warm in January, with average highs hitting around 63 degrees Fahrenheit and night time lows averaging around 48 degrees Fahrenheit.

On average, you will only experience around 9 days of rain with a total of 4.8” throughout the whole month. 

January also welcomes the annual celebration called Twelfth Night or Epiphany. This marks the official end of the holiday season and the start of Carnival season.

It also means the start of the first parades of the Mardi Gras season!

You can also attend Krewe de Joan d’Arc, a medieval-themed parade through the French Quarter that honors St. Joan of Arc’s birthday and New Orleans’ French heritage.

When not celebrating or watching parades, consider exploring the French Quarter, where you can learn about the fascinating history of New Orleans, appreciate its beautiful architecture, listen to some amazing street performers, and do some fantastic shopping. 

If looking to add to your New Orleans itinerary, then head to the National WWII Museum.

This amazing interactive museum takes visitors through the history of the United State’s participation in both the European and Asian offensives that helped end WWII. It is simply fascinating, and visiting is one of my top New Orleans tips

Where to Stay in New Orleans

For those looking for a great hotel, consider the Omni Royal Orleans which is right in the center of the French Quarter.

The location is amazing and the hotel is beautifully decorated and comfortable.

Check accommodations in New Orleans!

Savannah, GA

Victoria, the author of the section, with long hair and a white dress, walking in front of a red house called the Mercer House, with a garden in the front of the house on a sunny day in Savannah GA

Contributed by Victoria of Southern Trippers

Savannah, Georgia is a perfect pick for one the best warm-weather destinations in the USA in January. 

After all, daily highs hover around 62F while daily lows 40F. So, be sure to bring a warm, weatherproof coat since January also means around 6 days of rain monthly. 

Be sure to book a place to stay in the Historic District, which will allow you to easily enjoy some of the best things to do in Savannah, Georgia.

For example you can visit the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and explore the 30-acre Forsyth Park.

If you can, stop by Forsyth Park on a Saturday since this area hosts a great farmer’s market from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. 

Next, take a tour of the Mercer Williams House, which was was first built in 1868. Now it is a fantastic museum that features original furnishings, flooring, and stained glass windows.

The former home is also  filled with Chinese porcelain, 18th and 19th-century Regency and Empire furniture, 18th and 19th-century portraits, and more. 

If you can, try to time your visit to enjoy fun January events like the Waterfront New Year’s Celebration and an annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parade that takes over the downtown area around January 16th.

Where to Stay in Savannah

When you need to escape the winter cold, book an exquisite room at The Marshall House. It’s a historic home that was first built in 1851 and that served as a hospital during the Civil War. 

Today though, it is easily one of the best boutique hotels in the city since this establishment features expansive rooms with stunning, decorative fireplaces as well as complimentary and daily breakfast. 

Check accommodations in Savannah here!

Charleston, SC

Brick building in Charleston with beautiful oak tree in front on a sunny day

Contributed by Yukti of Travelwithme24x7

To escape the freezing chill weather of the Midwest and Northeast, Charleston, SC, is the best place for a warm weather getaway in the USA during January. 

There are many exciting things to do in Charleston, SC, as it has historic vibes and a lovely food scene.

All landmark homes and museums are open throughout the year; therefore, it would be great to visit them, especially if you get a rainy day.

Charleston’s Historic District is walkable; with average winter temperatures of around temperature of 60 F, it is easy to go for a walking tour of the city and appreciate the scenery around you!

The rainbow row in Charleston with colorful facades and brick walls on the sides with trees above the houses

Not only this, but there are some unique events held here. January is the best month to witness the Oyster Harvest.

To celebrate this, they have an annual Lowcountry Oyster Festival, considered the largest oyster festival in the world!

Being a foodie city, Charleston also hosts a winter Restaurant Week at Folly Beach, celebrating all the great Folly Beach restaurants!

Where to Stay in Charleston

Hotels in Charleston are expensive throughout the year. But January seems to be the best chance for getting good deals!

Always book a hotel in the Historic District of Charleston due to its proximity to many historic attractions.

Embassy Suites by Hilton Charleston Historic District is an excellent place to stay with grand historic style buildings and walkable to all landmark homes & museums. 

Check accommodations in Charleston here!

Warm January Destinations in the USA: Florida

Orlando, FL

Crowd of people enjoying Disneyworld in January in the USA. Castle and rides visible in the background.

Contributed by Katie from KatieCafTravel.com 

Orlando, Florida is the perfect place to escape dreary winter weather in January.

Sporting highs of 72 degrees Fahrenheit, January is one of the most temperate times to visit America’s theme park capital. Get your Disney countdown going!

January is actually one of Orlando’s driest months, with only 4-5 days of rain during the month on average. So it’s a great time for theme park goers who don’t want to get caught in the rain! 

Nights in January can get a bit chilly, with average lows of 52 degrees Fahrenheit, so don’t forget a jacket! 

Even though it’s not necessarily warm enough to visit the beach in January in Florida, you can still enjoy Orlando’s many waterparks. 

Disney’s Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, and SeaWorld’s Discovery Cove are all open year-round and fully heated. 

There are also over a dozen traditional theme parks in Orlando – No trip would be complete without a visit to Universal Studios, SeaWorld, or one of Disney World’s 5 signature theme parks. 

Plus, it’s easy to get around these parks with the Minnie Van service at Disney World.

Orlando is known as the “city that Disney Built” because it was the first theme park to open in the area all the way back in 1971.

Before that, Orlando, Florida was mostly just an Airforce base! 

Now that Orlando is a big deal because of Disney, it can be a bit of a pricy destination to visit, so be sure to figure out how much spending money you need for Orlando (whether or not you visit Disney!).

Plus, Orlando is a great gateway to other destinations, like the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas if you find yourself wanting to use your passport!

Where to Stay in Orlando, FL

If you’re visiting Disney World you can’t go wrong with staying at one of Disney World’s 32 resorts in Orlando. 

One of the best Disney World resorts you can visit in Orlando is the Boardwalk resort.

The Boardwalk is one of the most popular Disney World resorts because it’s one of the only hotels within walking distance to the Epcot theme park, perfect for people who want to make the most of their trip!  

Book your stay at the Boardwalk Inn here!

Anna Maria Island, FL

Peaceful morning light on Anna Maria Island in Florida with reeds, water, beach

Contributed by Paula of Paula Pins the Planet

If you are searching for perfect warm weather to visit in January in the US, most likely Florida will come to the top of your list, and for a good reason!

The Sunshine State is an amazing option for fun and sun, including during wintertime.    

One of the best places to plan a warm vacation, while enjoying incredible pristine beaches, and the feeling of old Florida is Anna Maria Island

Anna Maria Island has amazing things to do, and it is a great destination for anyone!

Lifeguard station at Anna Maria Island with sea grass, white sand, and clear waters

If you are looking for some relaxing time with your family or friends, you will be able to explore stunning beaches with powdery sand and turquoise water color.

Now if you love the outdoors and adventure, Anna Maria offers a great variety of outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, and bicycling.  

Anna Maria Island is a great destination all year long, but during winter the temperatures are cooler with average temperatures reaching a high of 77 degrees and a low of 65, with the humidity being lower during winter months.

It is also considered the low season you will have will find amazing things to do, without having to share it with crowds that normally visit during summer and spring, plus you will be able to find better deals on the accommodations.   

Where to Stay in Anna Maria Island

There are several great options for accommodations at Anna Maria Island, such as the Compass Hotel by Margaritaville Anna Maria Sound.

It is a great option offering breathtaking views, a great outdoor swimming pool with a bar, and you can enjoy the restaurant serving fresh seafood and a fantastic breakfast. 

Check accommodations at Anna Maria Island here!

Naples, FL

Wooden pier over clear water in Naples Florida a wonderful winter getaway in the US for warm weather

Contributed by Victoria of Florida Trippers

If you’re looking for one of the best warm-weather destinations in the USA in January, then you can’t beat Naples, Florida. 

After all, January’s average daily highs are a pleasant 75 degrees F while average daily lows only dip to around 55 degrees F. 

Plus, this iconic Florida destination only receives around three days of precipitation throughout the month. 

So, visitors can take advantage of the great weather as they enjoy fun annual events like the Naples Boat Show at Sugden Regional Park

And if you’re not into boats, January is always a great time to escape the crowds and enjoy some of the best things to do in Naples

In particular, visitors will love exploring the mangrove-filled estuaries of Marco Island. Just don’t leave without looking for seashells!

Also be sure to check out the incredible ruins of the Caxambas Clam Colony and the Witch Watchtower while you’re here. 

You’ll even find the Florida Domes here which are an amazing hidden gem that can only be seen by boat and that are actual remnants from a millionaire’s residence in Cape Romano.

Now, when you start to feel a bit hungry, dig into a decadent meal at The Turtle Club Restaurant that includes their iconic oysters turtlefeller, coconut fried shrimp, and roasted lobster tail with petite filet.

Where to Stay in Naples

When you’re trying to find a place to stay in Naples, I suggest you unwind for the night inside a luxurious room at the Ritz Carlton Naples.

This incredible hotel sits right on the beach, has two outdoor pools, a sauna, and a spa for you to enjoy. 

Plus, you’ll have access to your own private balcony as you snuggle into your plush complimentary robe and slippers

Clearwater, FL

People enjoying the beach on a sunny day in Clearwater Florida a warm weather destination in the USA

Contributed by Wayne of Always on the Shore

Clearwater Beach is an ideal warm place to visit in the US in January because of the nice weather and activities. 

The average high temperature in Clearwater Beach in January is 69 degrees, with an average low of 56 degrees! 

This makes it the perfect time to enjoy the beach without having to worry about the heat!

The beach has Pier 60 with street vendors and activities for kids, while there are also great seafood restaurants, right on the beach, such as Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill and Palm Pavilion. 

Additionally, Caladesi Island State Park and Honeymoon Island are just north of Clearwater Beach with beautiful secluded beaches and are great for hiking, and camping.  

The view from Caladesi Island with soft white sand, brilliant blue water, and a boat on the water in the distance

You can only get to Caladesi Island State Park by boat or ferry so it’s a nice choice to get away from the larger crowds in the city and enjoy nature.  

Clearwater also has a number of events happening in January, including the Clearwater Marathon and Running Festival, which has races 5k races for lower-level runners, all the way up to a 50k run!  

Next door to Clearwater in St. Pete is the St. Petersburg Shrimp and Music Festival that takes place in January.  

Here you can taste seafood and vegetarian dishes while checking out some of the best local and regional bands!

If you’re looking for a great place to relax and enjoy yourself, Clearwater Beach is the place to be in January.

Where to Stay in Clearwater Beach

Pier House 60 is a good place to stay that’s right in the heart of Clearwater Beach.  

One of the most well-known beaches around, this hotel has amazing beach views and is within easy walking distance of all the fun spots in the city. 

They offer a free breakfast and you can enjoy a drink and the views at their rooftop bar.   

Search accommodations in Clearwater here!

Cedar Key, FL

The sun setting over a landscape of marshy beauty in Cedar Key Florida

Contributed by Jillian Michelle from Adventure Dragon

Cedar Key is a lesser-known place in the USA that is perfect for spending a warm weather vacation in January!

It’s Florida’s second oldest town, but it’s one of the last few remaining beach towns in the state where tourists haven’t yet oversaturated the area.

During January on a Cedar Key trip, expect average daily temperatures to reach as high as 64 degrees Fahrenheit and rarely drop below 47 degrees.

It’s one of the driest months of the year, with only 3 inches of average rainfall, so it’s the perfect time to enjoy the outdoors in comfort.

January is a popular month for boating activities in Cedar Key. Coastal island tours and sunset tours are both high-rated choices.

If you’re a lover of history or nature, you can take a ferry a half a mile away to Atsena Otie Key.

It’s the original settlement of Cedar Key, but today all that remains are ruins to explore and a 145-year-old cemetery.

Dock Street is the busiest area in the town, and the entire street is lined with waterfront restaurants overlooking the Gulf.

Sit on a private deck at Steamers Clam Bar, and then watch for dolphins swimming in the water below!

Where to Stay in Cedar Key

When you’re ready to settle in for the night, stay at the Island Hotel.

This unique bed and breakfast is one of the oldest places to stay in Florida, dating back to 1859!

It housed soldiers during the Civil War and is even said to be haunted by the ghosts of at least thirteen former inhabitants.

There’s a restaurant with lounge seating on-site, and breakfast is included with every stay!

Check accommodations in Cedar Key here!

Key West, FL

View of the sunset with sailboats on the horizon and dramatic clouds in Key West FL a popular warm winter getaway in the USA

Contributed by Vicky of Buddy The Traveling Monkey

One of the best warm weather places to visit in the US in January is Key West, Florida!

The weather is fantastic, with an average high temperature of 75°F and average low temperature of 64°F.

Also, it isn’t hurricane season at that time, so you don’t have to worry about a storm ruining your trip.

There are fun things to do in Key West year round, but January is especially fun!

Famous point marking the southernmost point of the US and how far it is to Cuba, just 90 miles, at sunset.

Events that take place in January include the Annual Key West Half Marathon & 5k Run, the Annual Florida Keys Seafood Festival, and the Key West Food and Wine Festival.

When you’re not running, eating, or drinking, stop by one of many popular Key West attractions.

First, head to Duval Street. It’s the main street that everyone walks along and has bars, restaurants, shops, art galleries, and museums.

Another popular attraction is Ernest Hemingway’s home. Learn about his life in Key West, his many wives, and of course, his six-toed cats.

End each evening by seeing the sunset from Mallory Square.

Where to Stay in Key West

A great hotel for your stay is the Douglas House!

This adult-only inn is just a few minutes’ walk from many attractions.

It also has a pool, free WiFi, and free private parking.

Check accommodations in Key West!

Key Largo, FL

Drone photo of the highway to the Keys in Florida with beautiful blue water underneath the highway

Contributed by Candice of CS Ginger

If you are looking for a warm weather trip in January, Key Largo is a beautiful place and should be on the top of your destination list!

The weather is amazing, and you should expect little rain. The average temperature in January ranges from 73 degrees Fahrenheit to 67 degrees F.

Plus, there are only about 3 days of rain in January in Key Largo, so you can be pretty sure you won’t get rained out!

This means you will be able to spend all your time experiencing many of the fun adventures that Key Largo has to offer, like riding jet skis in the Keys, snorkeling, fishing, and relaxing at the beach.

The ocean is so beautiful and all of the activities are great for families and couples alike.

Where to Stay in Key Largo

On your visit to Key Largo, you will enjoy staying at the Reefhouse Resort & Marina.

It is reasonably priced and has lots of great reviews. The staff is highly rated as being very welcoming and friendly.

The resort has everything you would want for your stay!

Check accommodations in Key Largo!

Everglades National Park, FL

Beach with mangrove trees on the shore at sunset in the Everglades National Park in Florida, a Great  warm weather getaway in the USA in January

The Everglades National Park is located at the southern end of Florida with entrances near Miami.

The park is filled with dense tropical forests made of mahogany, mangroves, and Gumbo Limbo trees.

Under the canopies are lush fields of grass, marshy swamplands, deep freshwater canals and saltwater beaches.

Wildlife is abundant in the Everglades, and visitors often spot alligators, manatees, large tropical birds such as anhinga, osprey, and herons, and even the elusive saltwater crocodile.

South Florida boasts a warm temperate climate year-round, with January highs in the mid-70’s during the day and lows around 65°F at night.

During the summer months the Everglades can be hot, humid, wet, and sticky. But in January the crowds are gone, there are little to no mosquitos buzzing around, and the cool breezes off the Florida Bay create a tropical paradise.

Very low humidity and little rain mean visitors can experience all of the outdoor activities that the Everglades National Park has to offer without worrying about the weather affecting any plans.

With the right itinerary this park can be explored in one day, but since it is the third largest national park in the continental United States, several days are best to really see what the park has to offer.

There are family-friendly hiking trails, miles of waterfront for kayaking, and boat rentals and tours through the park.

Just outside the park in Homestead, travelers can reserve airboat rides through the swampy lands, to see just why the Everglades are referred to as the “River of Grass”.

Afternoon light on an airboat tour of the Everglades with a traditional boat in the marshy lands and water

Where to Stay in Everglades National Park

Homestead is the closest city to eastern side of the national park!

The Hampton Inn Homestead-Miami South is less than 30 minutes from the main entrance of the Everglades, 20 minutes from Miami Beach, and only 15 minutes from the Florida Keys.

Offering a large pool, free parking, and free breakfast, it is a great hotel option when visiting south Florida and the Everglades.

Check accommodations near Everglades National Park here!

The Ultimate USA National Parks Bucket List: 30 Can’t-Miss Parks

Planning a summer outdoors and want to see the best USA national parks the country has to offer?

I’ve curated my bucket list national parks in the USA from East Coast to West (staying in the lower 48 states, as I know many people this year are trying to avoid flying).

I’ve covered national parks in all the regions of the USA so you can find a beautiful bucket-list worthy US national park close to you!

Here are my picks for the absolute best US national parks to check off your national park checklist!

Getting to the National Parks

Beautiful trees and lake at going to the sun road stop at avalanche lake with brilliant blue lake

Most of these national parks require renting a car in order to move around freely and easily, though some parks such as Zion and Yosemite have great shuttle services.

I still recommend renting a car regardless whenever possible as there’s always plenty to explore near the national parks and getting between your hotel, the park, and restaurants can sometimes be a pain otherwise.

Not sure where to get the best deal on your rental?

I’ve rented cars dozens of times through various search engines and have settled on Discover Cars as the best car rental search engine.

It searches over 500 trusted rental companies to find the cheapest price for your rental!

Compare prices for car rental from your arrival destination here!

USA National Parks Bucket List: West Coast

Yosemite National Park

With its iconic Half Dome, Yosemite National Park in central California is one of the defining national parks in America.

Yosemite is home to countless waterfalls, the most beautiful of which are Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil Fall, and Vernal Falls.

It’s also the starting point of the gorgeous John Muir Trail which follows one of the most stunning stretches of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Other stunning points of interest in Yosemite National Park include Tunnel View, Glacier Point, and El Capitan.

Redwood National & State Parks

Not to be confused with Sequoia National Park further south, Redwood National & State Parks are a series of protected lands which can be found in the far north of California not far from the border with Oregon.

While it covers many redwood forests and is home to Hyperion, the tallest redwood tree on the planet (whose location is kept secret to avoid damage), Redwood National Park also is home to miles and miles of beautiful rugged California coastline.

Other points of interest within the parks system include Fern Canyon, Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail, Rockefeller Forest, and Prairie Creek.

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park is a place of extremes: home to the hottest temperature ever recorded (Furnace Creek) as well as the lowest point in all of North America (Badwater Basin).

But it’s also a place of supreme beauty, as places like Zabriskie Point, Ubehebe Crater, Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes, and Telescope Peak all vying for position as some of the most beautiful places in Death Valley National Park.

It’s a popular side trip from Las Vegas and shows you a very different side of the desert!

Joshua Tree National Park

These curious Dr. Seussian Joshua trees dot the landscape all over this national park, and the Mojave Desert is the only place on Earth you can find this unique tree.

But Joshua Tree has plenty to see beyond its eponymous trees: the Cholla Cactus Garden, Skull Rock, Keys View, Keys Ranch, and other interesting old mining sites which add a historical element to your national park travel.

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake in Oregon is the deepest lake in the entire United States, at a depth of 1,943 feet [592 meters].

The water is so crystalline, you can see a hundred feet deep or more.

The lake is a caldera, the relic of a former volcano, and there are numerous incredible trails around the volcanic landscape.

One of the prettiest is The Watchman trail; Garfield Peak and Lightning Spring are also lovely hikes.

One of the best things to do in Bend, Oregon is take a day trip to this park, since it’s only 3 hours away.

You can have a great day trip here and be back in town enjoying the many great Bend Oregon restaurants by night!

Olympic National Park

Located along the wild landscape of Washington’s Pacific coast Olympic Peninsula, Olympic National Park is a true stunner, with Ruby Beach being one of its most iconic sights.

Hikers will love Hurricane Ridge and the challenging hike up to Mount Olympus, as well as the beautiful Hoh Rainforest — one of the only rainforests in the United States. Lake Crescent and Olympic National Forest are also stunning points of interest.

Mount Rainier National Park

Wildflowers at Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier is technically an active volcano, and while Yellowstone gets far more attention, geologists actually think Mount Rainier to be the one to keep their eyes on.

While it hasn’t had a true explosion in over a thousand years, it’s still very much active and will eventually roar to life again.

But if that doesn’t scare you off (and it shouldn’t!) Mount Rainier National Park is one of the most exquisite national parks along the West Coast and an iconic part of the Pacific Northwest landscape.

Be sure to check out Narada Falls and Christine Falls for some beautiful waterfalls, Mowich and Tipsoo Lakes for relaxing scenery, and Chinook Pass for a drive with epic views.

USA National Parks Bucket List: Southwest

Zion National Park

Sunset over Zion National Park with a river and Watchman Mountain

Zion National Park is one of the most famous national parks in the United States for good reason.

It’s home to two of the most famous American hikes, Angel’s Landing and the Zion Narrows.

But Zion has several other hikes that are less sought-after and therefore less busy (especially in winter)

The Watchman trail is exquisite and offers beautiful views of the Watchman mountain, whereas Observation Point offers sweeping views similar to Angel’s Landing but without the crowds.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Known for its hoodos, eroded rock columns also delightfully called “fairy chimneys,” Bryce Canyon National Park is a marvel.

The hoodoos of Bryce are unique and the high-elevation climate offers a cool break compared to some other Utah national parks which tend to be a lot hotter.

The Navajo Loop trail in Bryce is extremely popular and with good reason — you’ll walk past some of the scenic stretches of hoodoos you can imagine, and the hike isn’t too difficult.

Other excellent hikes are the Queens Garden Trail, the Rim Trail, and Fairyland Loop Trail.

Be sure to check out Sunrise Point for sweeping sunrise views if you can handle the early wake up call!

Arches National Park

Arches National Park near Moab is best known for Delicate Arch, but that’s one in over two thousand natural stone arches you’ll find in this national park!

Other arches worth noting are Landscape Arch, Double Arch, Navajo Arch, and Turret Arch.

But beyond these arches, there are also some other interesting sights, such as Balanced Rock, Devils Garden, Courthouse Towers, and the Three Gossips.

Have extra time? Add on a day in Canyonlands National Park, less than an hour away.

Grand Canyon National Park

Nowhere boasts more exquisite landscapes ore more superlatives than the Grand Canyon.

It’s the largest canyon in the world. We’re talking average depths of 1 mile straight down, and a massive volume of over 4.17 trillion cubic meters.

There are so many incredible places and vantage points to look out over the Grand Canyon, but the most popular are the often-crowded South Rim and the lesser-visited North Rim.

Do note that the North Rim is more difficult to access and definitely not advisable in inclement weather.

A few things to do when in the Grand Canyon: catch the sunrise at Mather Point, walk the Trail of Time, or hike a portion of the Rim Trail.

Another thing you can do is visit the lovely Hopi House to peruse and buy jewelry made from the Grand Canyon’s original inhabitants, the Native Hopi people, who were displaced from the land.

Saguaro National Park

For some of the most serene desert landscapes in all of America, you’ll have to visit Saguaro National Park in Arizona.

Unlike Death Valley, which encompasses desert but has much more extreme landscapes like the Badwater Basin and Mesquite Dunes, Saguaro National Park is more of a traditional desert landscape marked wtih plenty of beautiful cacti, particularly the namesake Saguaro cactus.

Saguaro are particularly interesting flora. They often grow to 40 feet tall (12 meters) and live more than 150 years on average!

Also, they can store enough water in their structure to weigh between 3,000-5,800 pounds (that’s 1,500 and 2,200 kg for you metric folk).

These plants are only found in Arizona and a small tidbit of Mexico, so they’re well worth seeking out.

Besides the eponymous Saguaro cacti for which the U.S. national park is named, you can hike or drive the scenic Gates Pass, visit the informative Visitor Center at Rincon Mountain, and walk the trails of Tucson Mountain Park.

Be sure to visit the excellent Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum to learn more about this unique landscape.

Great Basin National Park

This Nevada national park is often overlooked by its more famous national parks to the west and east.

I mean, when you’re surrounded by Yosemite and one side and the Mighty 5 in Utah on another, it’s quite easy to get lost in the shuffle.

But the relatively unpopularity of Great Basin National Park works well to your advantage as a tourist exploring the U.S. National Park system, as you’ll rarely encounter issues with overcrowding or parking as you will with other national parks like Zion, Arches, or Yosemite.

A few of the best things to see in Great Basin National Park include the following:

  • hiking the massive Wheeler Peak with an altitude of over 13,000 feet (not for the uninitiated hikers)
  • exploring the magical Lehman Cave system
  • visiting the marvelous Rock Glacier
  • relaxing on Stella Lake (where you can hike the Alpine Loop trail, featured in the image above)
  • driving through scenery like the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

The Carlsbad Caverns are a USA National Park unlike any other, as most of its most interesting sights are, well, underground!

Deep in the Chihuahuan Desert located in the south of New Mexico, not far from the Mexican border, this national park in the USA is home to a record-defying 100 cave systems, many of which have been made safely accessible for tourists.

The most famous part of these caverns is the Big Room, a massive underground chamber full of incredible stalagmites and stalactites shaped by the millennia.

But Carlsbad Caverns is more than just a bunch of incredible caves. Here, you’ll also find Walnut Canyon Desert Loop, an incredible scenic drive in the desert.

You’ll also be able to find a wildlife viewing paradise at Rattlesnake Springs, which despite its ominous name is a mecca for birdwatching.

USA National Parks Bucket List: Mountain West

Yellowstone National Park

Easily the most famous National Park in the United States, Yellowstone National Park takes up space at the intersection of 3 states.

While 96% of the park is located in Wyoming, a small part of the park can also be found in neighboring Idaho and Montana.

Famous for its technicolor hot springs, particularly the Grand Prismatic Spring and Old Faithful geyser, Yellowstone also has a wealth of other springs, hikes, canyons, and landmarks worth planning a trip around.

For those planning a Yellowstone trip, I have an excellent 2-day itinerary that covers all the best things to see in Yellowstone.

To quickly summarize the other sites, you’ll definitely want to prioritize these as well as the main draws to Yellowstone:

  • Fountain Paint Pots, which is less crowded than Grand Prismatic Spring but no less cool
  • West Thumb Geyser Basin (another incredible hot spring)
  • Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
  • scenic waterfalls at Lower Falls and Gibbon Falls
  • Mammoth Hot Springs

Grand Teton National Park

Not far from Yellowstone — literally, 30 miles away — is Grand Teton National Park.

Unless time is incredibly short, I highly recommend combining both a trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park simultaneously.

Where else can you find so much beauty compiled in one small stretch of land?

The Grand Teton National Park is lesser-known that Yellowstone so you can expect fewer crowds; however, due to its proximity, it’s still rather popular, so that’s not to say crowds won’t be there!

A few of the most epic things to see in Grand Teton National Park are as follows:

  • National Elk Refuge just outside the national park
  • Moose Junction for epic views over the Snake River
  • the glacial Taggart Lake
  • the serene Jenny Lake
  • the peaceful String Lake
  • the lovely offbeat Christian Pond Loop trail.

I have a 2-day itinerary for this national park and a one day itinerary too written by local experts, which you can find linked above.

Glacier National Park

This epic Montana National Park is one of the most scenic national parks in all of America.

You’ll find mountains, glaciers, incredible hikes, and so many Instagrammable spots your camera may just overheat.

I’ve gathered all the best things to do in Glacier National Park into an easy-to-follow 2-day itinerary, but I’ll summarize the best things to do there here as well.

First up is Many Glacier, a starting point for many visitors to this pristine national park and one of the most incredible places in the US.

Epic lakes also abound in Glacier National Park, the most impressive of which are Grinnell Lake, Lake Sherburne, Saint Mary, and the too-beautiful-to-be-real Avalanche Lake.

Trails of interest include the Grinnell Lake Trail, Swiftcurrent Pass Trail, Rising Sun Trail, Sun Point Nature Trail, and the Trail of Cedars Nature Trail.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Colorado is synonymous with the Rocky Mountains, and therefore, a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park is simply a must-do when visiting Colorado.

A few must-see spots in Rocky Mountain National park include: Bear Lake, Sky Pond, Trail Ridge Road, Glacier Gorge, Sprague Lake, the Mummy Range, and so much more.

Wildlife include elk, bighorn sheep, moose, many types of deer, coyotes, bobcats, and two types of bears.

It’s a wonderful place for wildlife photographers (though of course, be extremely cautious especially with more aggressive wild animals).

Visit in the fall to see the beautiful aspens turn vibrant yellow for fall colors in Colorado like you’ve never seen before!

Mesa Verde National Park

While lesser-known than some of the other Colorado national parks, Mesa Verde National Park is extremely interesting and worth a visit because it has some of the best preserved Native American dwellings in all of the United States.

These stunning ancestral Puebloan cliff houses, and in particular the exceedingly impressive Cliff Palace, make this US national park wildly different.

This national park focuses on the history and culture of the people as well as the nature of the land.

Other sites worth seeing in Mesa Verde National Park include the stunning canyon views from Sun Point Overlook, incredible rock carvings which can be found along the Petroglyph Point Trail, and the Soda Canyon Overlook trail.

USA National Parks Bucket List: The Midwest

Badlands National Park

I’ll be honest, South Dakota was never high on my USA travel bucket list… until I discovered Badlands National Park on Instagram.

This slice of the Southwest is located in a discrete corner of South Dakota, and it’s not widely known outside of the immediate area — making it an incredible place for distanced visits.

Badlands National Park is home to some of the best-preserved fossil beds in the world.

Today, it’s home to incredible wildlife like bison, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and the adorable but endangered black-footed ferrets.

In terms of scenery, you’re in for a treat: the Notch Trail is exquisite, as is the Pinnacles overlook, the Big Badlands overlook, and the colorful Yellow Mounds overlook.

Another interesting spot is the Minuteman Missile Visitor Center, which hosts a Cold War-era exhibit.

Indiana Dunes National Park

This national park in Indiana is little-known but rather unique, as it looks like a Caribbean-style beach…

… But it’s actually on the banks of Lake Michigan, not far from Chicago — just a 1 hour drive. It’s also the newest national park in the USA!

It’s home to rolling sand dunes, as the name would anticipate, as well as plentiful bird life along its 15 miles of shore-hugging coastline.

It’s a rather small national park in the US, comparatively, with a mere 15,000 acres, but within it it holds 15 miles of incredible trails to immerse yourself in nature close by the city.

Landscapes include wetlands, sand dunes, prairies, shoreline, rivers, and forests, all in a small stretch of national park.

It has some of the greatest biodiversity in the USA (the 7th best in terms of 400+ National Park Service designated locations), and it sees as many visitors as Mount Rushmore!

It’s most interesting sights are Mount Baldy, a massive sand dune, the Dune Ridge trail, the Great Marsh, and the West Beach 3-Loop Trail.

Isle Royale National Park

This stunning Michigan U.S. National Park is located in a quiet part of the state, located on an island in Lake Superior right on the border with Canada.

Its remote location in the middle of the lake make it one of the lesser-visited national parks in the USA, but that doesn’t mean you should skip it!

The whole island is entirely car-free and extremely peaceful, with plenty of peace and quiet for wolf and moose to roam free and undisturbed by civilization.

There are some great trails for hikers, such as the Greenstone Ridge Trail where you can walk from Windigo Harbor to Rock Harbor along beautiful scenic overlooks.

The incredible Rock Harbor lighthouse is an icon of the island and definitely worth a look.

But a lot of the interesting places in this national park are actually under the water!

If you’re PADI-certified, there are some really interesting wreck dives worth your time.

Voyageurs National Park

Located near the Canadian border, Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota is one of a few rare places in the continental United States where, on strong solar activity nights, you can actually see the Northern lights dance overhead!

Of course, you need a lot of luck and a strong solar storm, but it’s still pretty cool that you can see the Northern lights without needing to leave the lower 48.

Other reasons to visit Voyageurs National Park include three of its beautiful lakes: Rainy, Kabetogama, and Namakan, which all have cute islands dotting the middle of the lakes.

There are also the Ellsworth Rock Gardens, built by the abstract artist Jack Ellsworth, which merges nature and culture in an organic way. The Kettle Falls are also a stunning photography spot located in the national park proper.

USA National Parks Bucket List: The South

Big Bend National Park

Grand Canyon? Nope, this is Big Bend in Texas: particularly, the Chisos Mountains.

There are countless places worth a visit in this epic Texas US National Park, so we’ll limit it to a few here.

Some of the must-visit places in Big Bend are as follows: Emory Peak, Santa Elena Canyon, the beautiful Lost Mine Trail, the South Rim Trail, and Boquillas Canyon.

There are also hot springs worth soaking in, scenic drives like Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive if hiking isn’t your speed, museums like the Fossil Discovery Exhibit, and epic sunset views at The Window.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

This other national park in Texas, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, offers quite a diversity in landscapes compared to Big Bend.

Even though they’re in the same state you can expect quite a difference between these two national parks.

The most famous site in Guadalupe Mountains National Park is the rock formation El Capitan (pictured), an imposing rock structure in the heart of the park.

Some incredible trails to seek out in the park include: Mckittrick Canyon (best in fall, with incredible fall colors), Devil’s Hall trail, Smith Spring trail, and the walk to the beautiful Salt Basin Dunes.

Biscayne National Park

One of two national parks in the Florida Keys, Biscayne National Park is a land of beautiful blue waters with vibrant coral reefs undersea, as well as stunning shoreline mangrove forests.

You can only access this National Park by boat, making it less crowded than many other national parks in the USA.

Wildlife here includes dolphins, sea turtles, pelicans, and all sorts of reef-dwelling fish.

You’ll also find incredible dive sites, many of them wreck dives for advanced divers!

This national park spans nearly 175,000 acres which makes it the largest marine sanctuary in the country.

Several keys are worth a visit while in Biscayne NP, particularly Boca Chita (with its gorgeous lighthouse) and Virginia Key, but there are dozens of others also worth visiting.

Dry Tortugas National Park

This is another epic National Park located just west of Key West, actually, not far from Cuba!

Dry Tortugas, as the name would suggest if you speak Spanish, is home to several turtles (particularly loggerhead turtles).

There are many reefs available for diving, and Loggerhead Key has lots of incredible dive sites and snorkel spots for encountering marine life.

There are a few other keys (small coral islands) that make up the national park, though most of the interesting things in this natural park are actually below the surface!

However, there are also lighthouses, an island fort, visitor centers to learn about this unique national park, and more to discover in this little-known national park.

Everglades National Park

For many, the Everglades are synonymous with swamps and gators, but Everglades National Park is so much more than that!

Just look at the Ten Thousands Islands (pictured above) and try to tell me you don’t want to be there like, right now.

There’s also the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, where you can take a glass-bottom boat to see the incredible marine life from the dry comfort of a boat! Braver souls can snorkel or kayak.

There are also boardwalks where you can walk above the swamplands and see alligators chilling beneath your feet.

Anhinga Trail is the largest boardwalk where you can walk above the swamp.

There are also airboat tours where you can get swamp-level amongst gators for the brave amongst us!

Mammoth Cave National Park

This beautiful Kentucky National Park will surprise you!

It’s home to the world’s longest cave system, but it’s also home to other surprises.

Think beautiful rolling hills perfect for hiking and stunning valleys with rivers flowing through it!

You can’t miss the obvious Diamond Caverns, but there are other things worth a visit while in this lesser-known USA national park.

Nolin Lake is a great place for relaxing after visiting the caves.

There are also some excellent museums and visitor centers (especially the Mammoth Cave Wildlife Museum) which are worth a visit especially if you are traveling with family.

USA National Parks Bucket List: East Coast

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is one of the best national parks in the USA on the East Coast, hands down!

It has a lot of iconic photo spots, namely Bass Harbor Lighthouse (a phenomenal sunset spot), the still Jordan Pond, the rocky stretches of coastline, the North Bubble viewpoint, and the many photogenic bridges in the National Park.

Don’t miss a hike to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the East Coast — not for the faint of heart!

Afterwards, cool down and reward yourself with a relaxing day on the shore of Sand Beach, a Caribbean-blue beach you won’t believe is in Maine.

Be sure to add this spot to your coastal Maine itinerary!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Without a doubt one of the best places for fall colors in the USA, this stunning park located between Tennessee and North Carolina is absolutely worth a fall trip.

But it’s worth a trip any time of year, as there’s plenty to do here year round.

There are several unique points of interest in this park, namely, John Cable Grist Mill, Clingmans Dome, Cades Cove, Newfound Gap, and more.

It’s also the gateway to many hikes along the Appalachian Trail if you’re up for a short or long thru-hike along this famous trail

For kids, they’ll enjoy the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad and the unique Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.

Shenandoah National Park

Stretching along the glorious Blue Ridge Parkway and the mountains of the same name, this is one of the most beloved national parks in the US.

Shenandoah National Park — one of Virginia’s national parks — also includes sections of the Appalachian Trail.

It also is known for having one of the best scenic drives in all of the USA, Skyline Drive.

Major points of interest include Dark Hollow Falls, hikes around Old Rag Mountain and Hawksbill Mountain, stretches of the Appalachian Trail, the Grand Caverns, and the Stony Man trail.

Pin This USA National Parks Bucket List!

25 Epic USA Road Trip Itineraries: Drives You Need to Make in Your Lifetime

Is there any country where the road trip is more iconic than in the United States? Think beyond just classic Route 66 with these epic road trip itineraries all over the country.

Here are 25 epic US road trip itineraries with suggested stops and sights that cover virtually every part of America, as contributed by some of my favorite travel bloggers. 

road sign in shenandoah national park

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The Best US Road Trips: West Coast

San Diego to San Francisco (Pacific Coast Highway)

By Nicola Rae of Seenic Wander

Driving from San Diego to San Francisco will take travelers through some of the most impressive cities and sights along the iconic Pacific Coast Highway, or Highway 1.

Begin in sunny San Diego and drive north. Make sure to follow the signs for the Pacific Coast Highway because the GPS will often reroute you to a faster but less scenic inland route. 

Los Angeles is the first stop. Depending on the amount of time available, you might choose to spend a day or two exploring the City of Angels or stick to the coast and pass through quickly. As you drive along the coast, you’ll pass by Huntington Beach, Long Beach, and Santa Monica.

Travel inland to check out the Griffith Observatory for city views and don’t miss taking a stroll along the lively Santa Monica Boardwalk

Continue north to Santa Barbara, a laid back beach town located right on the water where you’re always just a short distance from the mountains. In Santa Barbara, tour the 1700s Mission Santa Barbara or grab a bite at Finney’s Crafthouse and Kitchen

The next leg of the trip is the most beautiful because you’ll be passing through Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Make sure to stop at the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park waterfall and cove, which you’ll see signs for directly off Highway 1. When you hit Big Sur, stop at Nepenthe, a bohemian style shop built into the cliff where you can enjoy a cup of coffee in the densely wooded surroundings. 

As you continue north toward Santa Cruz, you’ll pass the Bixby Bridge and several lookout points on the coast. Sometimes, you’ll see sea lions congregated on the rocky beaches below. 

In Santa Cruz, get your thrills at the Santa Cruz boardwalk and amusement park while enjoying the views out to sea. If you have extra time, head inland to the Mystery Spot in the Redwood Forest. The mystery spot is believed to have supernatural energy, so embrace your outdoor guided tour with an open mind. 

Finally, continue north to the final stop on the road trip, San Francisco.

While in San Francisco, you can’t miss Fishermans Warf, Ghirardelli Square, and the Golden Gate Bridge. If you have extra time, the California Academy of Science and the Haight Ashbury neighborhood shops are well worth a visit. 

While it’s possible to do this drive in just 2-3 days, you’ll be able to see more if you devote at least 5 days to your classic Pacific Coast Highway road trip. With windows rolled down and music turned up, this is one of the best ways to experience the California coast. 

Death Valley & Joshua Tree, California

By Carol Guttery of Wayfaring Views

This California road trip itinerary starts and ends at two of California’s most popular parks, but don’t do it as a straight shot, because there are some pretty cool spots in between if you like getting off the beaten path. 

Top tip: Never schedule this road trip for the summer. Temperatures for either park can hit 116’F and many park services aren’t even available in the summer. The best time to visit is early spring (for catching wildflowers) or late fall (for fewer crowds).

In Deah Valley, first stop at Mesquite Dunes. These cool sand dunes offer a lovely soft contrast to the rocky landscape that characterizes most of the park, and is best seen at dawn. 


Next up is Zabriskie Point. This high spot in the park overlooks Badwater Basin, which is the lowest spot in the US. The overlook is beautiful at dawn, when the morning light behind you lights up the Panamint mountains.

Don’t miss Artist Palette Drive. Death Valley was originally a mining operation and its minerals are on full display on the Artist Palette drive. 

Next up, visit Rhyolite Ghost Town: This ghost town is just outside of the park on the Nevada border. But it’s worth the drive to see the remains of this mining boom town. 

On your way back to Joshua Tree from Death Valley, don’t take the Google-recommended Highway 395 route through Barstow. Rather, take highway 127 through Tecopa and Baker. 

First up, you’ll see The World’s Tallest Thermometer: because why not stop in Tecopa to see a gigantic thermometer? Next up ,after Baker, get on Kelbaker road through Kelso. Then hang a right to go to the Kelso Dunes. It’s a sign-posted nature preserve with hiking opportunities on the dunes. 

Get back on Kelbaker road, cross over highway 40 and drive another ~10 miles toward National Trails Highway. Head west and then take the pull-out for Amboy Crater. This BLM landmark is one of the youngest volcanic fields in the US with explanatory signage, hiking, and picnic tables. Then follow Amboy road south into 29 Palms and the town of Joshua Tree

Once you’ve reached Joshua Tree National Park, take the Key’s Ranch Tour. This mining ranch was one of the very few to survive and thrive the landscape’s harsh conditions. The tour offers a great overview of park culture and ecology. But you must get reservations in advance

Time to hike! Next, hit the Barker Dam Loop trail. This 1.3-mile interpretive loop has nature markers and a small spur leading to Native American cave paintings. 

Afterward, drive the Queen Valley Road. This dirt road is a quiet drive between Barker Dam and the Skull Rock. 

Be sure to catch sunset at Keys View./ The views here are great all day but at sunset, the desert really lights up. 

Lastly, be sure to save some time to find cool art in Joshua Tree! The town has always attracted outsider artists and spotting things like toilet sculptures, a kitchy knitted animal museum and a portal to a parallel universe are some of the coolest things to do in Joshua Tree town.

Eastern Sierras, California

By Kelsey Frey of Sights Better Seen

The Mammoth area is located in central California, on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Mainly known as a winter destination due to its ski resort, it’s often overlooked by out of state and international travelers.

However, there are a plethora of amazing and unique destinations along the main road, Highway 395, that are worth exploring during the other seasons! Fall is especially nice due to lower numbers of visitors and the swath of golden Aspen trees that cover the area.

If you choose to visit in winter or early spring, be aware that this area gets a lot of snow so you may need tire chains to pass through. Here are my favorite stops on an Eastern Sierras Road Trip!

Begin at Bodie. Once a bustling gold-mining area, Bodie was quickly abandoned in the early 1900s and became a ghost town. Now a State Historic Park, you can wander along the pathways and observe well-preserved buildings and furniture pieces.

After Bodie, head south to Mono Lake. This lake has such a high salt content that you can actually float in it! You can access the water from Navy Beach if you’d like to try for yourself – the summer or fall would be best for this, as there is less freshwater from rain or snow runoff. There are lots of birds in the area, too, as well as unique limestone rock formations called ‘Tufas’.

From Mono Lake, drive to the town of Mammoth Lakes and scout for natural hot springs.

The most famous is Wild Willy’s due to its heart shape. It can get a little rowdy at night, and some people swim nude. There are many other springs in the area, but get there early as they fill up quickly!

This is also a great area to stop and camp, since it’s all BLM land and free to stay. There are no toilets in the area, except for a portapotty at Wild Willy’s. Please be respectful and pack out anything you bring.

From the hot springs area, you can backtrack a little and hike to Devil’s Postpile, a unique geological rock formation, and Rainbow Falls, a gorgeous waterfall. These are pretty popular hikes, so get there early to beat the crowds. Inyo Craters is another cool hike nearby, too, that’s more off the beaten path.

From here, you can stop at Lake Sabrina or another nearby lake (there are plenty in the area!) if you fancy a boat ride. Rent a paddleboat or kayak on Lake Sabrina and enjoy the gorgeous mountain views.

If you have time, I’d highly recommend a stop in Big Pine! The Big Pine Lakes Trail is gorgeous, but certainly not an easy feat.

The hike up is pretty grueling, but the 13-mile loop is definitely doable in one day as long as you start early. You’ll see 8 beautiful lakes filled with bright blue water; Second Lake, with its backdrop of Temple Crag, is the crowd favorite.

Oregon Coast

By Adelina of Pack Me To

Highway 101 along the Oregon Coast is a beautiful drive filled with stunning views around every corner, large expansive beaches, and great opportunities to view nature and wildlife. Without a doubt, it’s one of the best road trips in the USA.

I recommend starting at the north end as you’ll have better views with the water being right next to you. Having done the drive a handful of times, here are my favorite and best things to do along the Oregon Coast.

 Start in Astoria, Oregon and explore this charming town used as the setting for the cult classic, The Goonies.

Before you leave the area, head into Fort Stevens State Park where you can get up close to the shipwreck of the Peter Iredale. Next, head down about 25 miles to Cannon Beach famous for its Haystack Rock, a sea stack that stretches 235 feet high. Depending on whether the tide is in or out, you get a completely different experience.

Your next stop are the sand dunes in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area located close to Florence, Oregon. You can rent your own ATVs and go exploring through the dunes, but for those wanting a little more security in the experience (and don’t want to risk getting lost or stuck among the dunes!), I’d recommend going on a tour in a giant dune buggy.

Finally, the last stop is to see the sea stacks in Bandon, Oregon at Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint. If you time your visit right and the tide is out, you may be able to walk a labyrinth etched in the sand.

 While these are my favorite things along the coast, there are a ton more to see from enjoying a scoop or two of delicious ice cream at the Tillamook Cheese Factory to the sea lion caves by Florence to the Yaquina Head Lighthouse near Newport, not to mention viewpoints and cool natural attractions as well.

Give yourself enough time to thoroughly explore the coast as you’ll be surprised and happy that you did.

Southern California

By Eemma of Always a Gringa

Southern California was made for road trips. Coming from LA, the first stop on the trip is the infamous roadside attraction; the Cabezon dinosaurs. For a small fee, you can check out their museum, see more of the dinosaur,s and even climb to the top of T-Rex.

Just a little over an hour southeast of the Cabezon dinosaurs is the Salton Sea. The Salton Sea is a large salt water lake, located in the middle of the desert. The sea has increased in salinity over time, making it difficult for fish to survive, resulting in a beach full of fish bones and an ever present fish smell. 

Next stop is Leonard Knight’s life work; Salvation Mountain. You can spend probably a good hour and a half exploring Salvation Mountain before running out of things to see or dying of heat exhaustion.  

Minutes away from Salvation Mountain is “the last free community in America”  Slab City and its unique art display, East Jesus. After visiting Slab City and East Jesus head over to Palm Springs in the Coachella Valley.

After staying the night or spending the day in Palm Springs you can head over to the last leg of the journey, Joshua Tree National Park.

Joshua Tree can easily be a whole day excursion and if you love camping under the stars I would recommend making it at least a two-day trip.

After Joshua Tree head back to LA or continue your Southern Cali road trip adventures by heading south to San Diego or northeast to Las Vegas. 

Lake Tahoe to Salt Lake City via ‘The Loneliest Road in America’

Contributed by Allison of She Dreams of Alpine

Heading from Lake Tahoe, CA to Salt Lake City, UT will take you across Nevada on a stretch of U.S. Route 50 dubbed the “Loneliest Road in America.”

While it sounds like that might make for a boring road trip, it’s truly anything but, with a variety of interesting attractions along the way, from the quirky to the spectacular.

After leaving Lake Tahoe, your first fun stop will be in Fallon, NV, just about an hour and a half into your journey. Here you can find Churchill Vineyards, one of the few vineyards in Nevada for a little wine tasting, or check out the adjacent Frey Ranch Estate Distillery if spirits are more your style. Just outside of Fallon, you can peer at the petroglyphs in the Grimes Point Archaeological Area.

Then it’s time to hit the road again for a bit as you make your way to the Sand Mountain Recreation Area. Sand Mountain was a stop on the Pony Express Route in the 1860s, and now it is home to a massive 600-ft sand dune that you can explore on foot or by ATV. Once you’ve worked up an appetite for lunch, head about 25 miles east until you reach Middlegate Station, another Pony Express stop that is now a restaurant serving giant “Monster” burgers.

After refueling, head about an hour east on the Loneliest Road until you find yourself in Austin, NV. The top attraction in this tiny town is Stokes Castle, a castle built from stone back in the silver mining days. To stretch your legs a little, trade your car for a mountain bike and ride one of the many trails around Austin.

Then buckle back up for another hour-long drive to the town of Eureka. Known as “The Friendliest Town on the Loneliest Road,” Eureka is an old mining town with plenty of history, including the Eureka Opera House. If you need a pick me up for the next leg of the trip, grab a cup of coffee at The Roost.

Another hour or so drive will land you in Ely. Just before you enter the town, stop at Garnet Hill, a former active volcano, where you can now try your hand at searching for shiny garnets, which will make a perfect sparkly souvenir from your road trip.

But the crown jewel of the Loneliest Road in America is Great Basin National Park. This hidden gem features 77,180 acres of rugged landscape, including ancient groves of bristlecone pines. The Lehman Caves, composed of limestone, are a stunning natural wonder, and you can take a guided tour of the stalactites and stalagmites.

Give your legs a workout before the final leg of your drive to Salt Lake City by heading out on one of the many spectacular hikes in Great Basin.

As you can see, the “Loneliest Road in America” isn’t that lonely if you know where to look, and it makes for a unique and fascinating road trip from Lake Tahoe to Salt Lake City.

The Best US Road Trips: Southwest & Mountain West

American Southwest

Editor’s Choice

The American Southwest is so iconic for a reason. It looks almost like another planet, and has even stood in for Mars in many a sci-fli flick.

Start your road trip in Las Vegas for the best car rental prices — you’re looking at a much more expensive road trip than if you start in Utah or Arizona. From Vegas, check out the Hoover Dam while en route to Flagstaff, your first stop.

Enjoy Sunset Crater National Monument and take the cable car to the top of the nearby mountains if it’s in season.  But the real reason you’re in Flagstaff is your proximity to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, your first national park of the trip (hint: buy the annual pass, it’s much cheaper than buying separate admission each time!)

After Flagstaff, make your way to Page, where your Instagram will reach its peak. Antelope Canyon is an absolute must, and so is Horseshoe Bend.

After Page, start heading towards Kanab, where you can see the Toadstools and Coral Sand Dunes National Park. Don’t go to Zion just yet though — save that for your trip back!

After Kanab, head to Bryce Canyon National Park where you can see the iconic hoodoos that make up this famous national park. Next, make your way towards Moab where you’ll find a trifecta of photogenic parks: Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Dead Horse Point State Park.

Delicate Arch thin stone arch shown at sunset with red rock background

On your way back towards Vegas, you can either head back the way you came or take the scenic route through Monument Valley.

But no matter what you do, make sure you save Zion National Park for last! The Angels Landing hike is epic and the perfect way to end your trip on a high note.

In addition to hikes and views, there are loads of cozy towns along the way. You can find anything from biker resorts, delicious cafes, and quirky museums just off of the parkway.

This US road trip is truly one of America’s treasures and should be enjoyed by anyone traveling through the American Southeast.

Rocky Mountains, Colorado

By Ashley from Impact Winder

If you find yourself in Colorado, please do yourself a favor and don’t spend all your time on the front range. To truly see this area, you need to take a road trip further into the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to really see this incredible mountain state. 
For one of the most picturesque summer road trips, start from Denver and head north through Boulder, Lyons, and into Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) which is located on the doorstep of the mountain town of Estes Park.

While in Estes Park, stop for a meal at SEASONED which is a wonderful American bistro in the middle of town. Before or after your meal, head out for your first hike in RMNP. One of the best hikes is Mt. Ida or up to Flattop and Hallett Peak if you arrive in the summertime. If you ever come during the winter season, snowshoeing or cross country skiing can be a great way to see the area. 

 From Rocky Mountain National Park/Estes Park, take Hwy 34 West for a scenic drive that takes you onto the other side of Indian Peaks (note there is no road access during winter).

From here you can hop on several trailheads that bring you up into the lakes of the Indian Peak Wilderness. All hikes are well worth the trek up. The more popular hikes include Dorothy Lake, King Lake, and Devil’s Thumb Lake. 
After your hike, start driving south and make your way down to I-70 where you have your pick of incredible mountain towns to stay in – including Silverthorne, Vail, or Beaver Creek. Head West towards Glenwood Springs to have a soak at the world-famous hot springs or check out the underground caverns nearby. A great hike in the area is Hanging Lake – but head there extra early as it’s incredibly popular. 
From Glenwood Springs you can either head south and explore Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (if you have time) or head East back along I-70 to explore the incredible mountains and towns on either side.

Aspen, Breckenridge, or Leadville are all great options and are each individually known for their unique and beautiful hikes, historic downtowns, and adventure sports.  
As you make your way back towards Denver on I-70, stop at the historic town of Idaho Springs for a brewery visit or general lunch stop. With a beautifully picturesque and historic downtown, this little mountain town is a great place to walk around and stretch your legs after your drive.

If you are up for it, just up the road is Black Hawk Casino Resort  – if gambling is more your thing. After these last two stops, head back on I-70 towards Denver and the end of your Rocky Mountain road trip.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

By Cath Jordan of Passports and Adventures

One of the best road trips to take in the US is one in which you explore the amazing Yellowstone National Park.

The world’s first National Park, this area of astounding beauty, mostly located in Wyoming, is a must-visit place in the US, particularly for a road trip. While there are tour buses offering visits to the park, you should have your own car to ensure you can explore the park at your own leisure.

One of the best places to stay for visiting Yellowstone National Park is West Yellowstone, the town at the west gate of the park. There are numerous hotels located in this lovely town to suit all budgets. While there is accommodation in the park, these get booked up a year in advance, so West Yellowstone may prove easier.

It is a short 30-minute drive to the Madison Junction within the park from where you will start your exploring. Ideally you will need to spend 3 days in Yellowstone to fully appreciate the park, If you have longer, even better. While you could see the park in less time, this doesn’t leave you with much free time to get out and explore on foot. Top tip: do not underestimate the size of the park and the driving distances between places.

On day one, spend most of your time around the geyser basins in the south of the park. First stop should be Grand Prismatic Spring. Get there early to get parking and to avoid the crowds. Then you can double back to explore the Lower Geyser Basin before heading to the most famous of them all, Old Faithful Geyser.

Once finished there, you could drive eastwards to the West Thumb Geyser Basin and then head back north to the Norris Geyser Basin. This will probably take you a day and cover most of the must-see geysers in Yellowstone.

On day two, drive the lower section of the Grand Loop Road from Madison, to Canyon and past Yellowstone Lake, before returning to Madison. Starting your day early, stop at Gibbon Falls, before making your way to Canyon.

Get into the park early to get parking at the main Falls of Yellowstone so you can walk down to the viewing point for the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River. This gets very busy later in the day. From there, also check out the Upper Falls before driving along the Yellowstone River and the Hayden Valley. Be prepared to stop to view herds of bison along here. There is also a great area to stop at the Mud Volcano to view other geothermal features of the park.

From there, continue south along the edge of Yellowstone Lake, the largest in the park, stopping at the historic Yellowstone Lake Hotel.  You can enjoy a walk along the shore or take one of the free tours of the hotel to discover more about the hotel and the history of the park. From there, you can enjoy a leisurely drive back to Madison, crossing the Continental Divide until you reach Madison. If you want to stop at Old Faithful again, do so. This will complete the lower section of the Grand Loop Road.

Day three will see you exploring the upper section of the Grand Loop Road. If you didn’t get to see the waterfalls of the Yellowstone River, arrive early at Canyon and see these before venturing north along the road. From Canyon you should head north towards Roosevelt to allow you to drive the Dunraven Pass, a road that heads up along the mountainside and will allow you to enjoy spectacular views across parts of Yellowstone. If you enjoy hiking, some of the best hikes in Yellowstone are in this area. Just make sure you are equipped and prepared to follow the bear safety rules of the park.

Continuing north, you will pass by Tower Waterfall before arriving at Tower Junction for Roosevelt Lodge. If you book the Old West Dinner Cookout (highly recommended), it is from here that you will join your dinner excursion. From there you can drive north into the Lamar Valley where you are likely to view bison and wolves if you are there early in the morning.

From Roosevelt, continue west to the Mammoth Hot Springs area where you should take time to visit the Albright Visitor Centre.  North of here is the Boiling River, one of the safe areas to do river swimming in the park. Completing your tour of Yellowstone will see you drive south from Mammoth towards Norris and then out of the park along the Madison River where, if you are there late in the evening, you can enjoy amazing sunsets to the west. 3 days is just enough time to enjoy all that Yellowstone has to offer and ensure you visit the must-see places in the park.

Glacier National Park, Montana

By Zach and Julie of Ruhls of the Road

Glacier National Park is without a doubt one of the best and most beautiful National Parks in the world. This park also plays host to one of the most beautiful stretches of road in the world: the Going to the Sun Road.

The Going to the Sun Road is a 50 mile stretch of road that goes from Apgar, Montana to St Mary, Montana, right through the heart of the park. Along the route are an endless number of beautiful sights and lookouts, including Lake McDonald, the largest lake in the park.

Lake McDonald is a jaw-dropping lake. Each morning, as the sun rises over this national wonderland, the stillness of the lake reflects the mountains perfectly, making for an epic view each morning.

Along the lake are a few hikes, the best of which is Avalanche Lake. The Avalanche Lake hike is 4.5 miles with an elevation gain of 750 feet, and takes you along an icy blue glacial river up to the lake, nestled amidst the mountains of Glacier. Avalanche Lake, like Lake McDonald, is often perfectly still and thus perfectly reflective. This place is a perfect spot for a picnic, photos, or just for quiet reflection as you enjoy the view.

Red Rock Point and Crystal Point are great overlooks where the beauty of Glacier spreads before you in an incredible panorama. Keep your eyes peeled and you may be able to spot some of Glacier’s famous wildlife: herds of elk and deer, mountain goats, bears, and moose are all roaming the park in various areas.

At the apex of the Going to the Sun Road is the Logan Pass Visitor Center, where you can make a stop an learn about the history of the park, as well as see a few incredible viewpoints. One of the best hikes in the park, the hike to Hidden Lake, is also located here at Logan Pass. 

Along the backside of the Going to the Sun Road, stop at any of the multiple glacier viewpoints from the roadway. The final lake along the road is St Mary Lake, a lake that is nearly as big, and just as beautiful, as Lake McDonald. Enjoy relaxing at this lake, have a picnic, and enjoy the stunning view before you.

As a bonus, head to the Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park for more epic hikes and lakes, and to see that amazing wildlife that makes Glacier so special. Enjoy your road trip!

The Best US Road Trips: Midwest


One of the best USA road trips you can take is Northern Wisconsin. Why? Because this remote area of the US is still not very discovered and not crowded by tourists.

On top of that, there are plenty of things to do in Northern Wisconsin and plenty of natural wonders are awaiting you. Thus, get in your RV or car and explore this gorgeous part of the US. Especially if you are an outdoor lover, Northern Wisconsin will be your heaven!

Drive to some of the prettiest lakes in Wisconsin, hike in the Big Bay State Park, kayak along with the Apostle Islands and rent a romantic log cabin: these are only a few of the things that should be part of any road trip in Northern Wisconsin.

Don’t forget to stop in Bayfield, the gateway to the Apostle Islands and one of the cutest, historic town in Northern Wisconsin.

If you are more of a city person, a stop in La Crosse is an absolute must. Here you can visit the town’s best breweries and enjoy hearty Wisconsin food. 

Other mandatory stops would be Tomahawk, Pattinson State Park, the Devil’s Lake near Baraboo and the scenic Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

If you are looking for the best resorts in Northern Wisconsin, I recommend having a look at the lake cabins near Bayfield

Route 66 (Midwest to Caliornia)

By Stephanie Craig of Oklahoma Wonders

The most quintessential American road trip, a trip down US Route 66 harkens back to the earliest days of American road trips. In fact, many of the famous sites on the route are places that once served train travel but had to rapidly shift to serving those traveling by car instead. 

The traditional starting point is in Chicago and the official endpoint is the Santa Monica pier, but you can make the road trip in either direction. You can also choose just to do a portion of the trip depending on how long you have to explore. 

There are tons of great neon signs, drive-in theaters, throwback motels, and other kitsch along the route. There are also great preserved original gas stations, dozens of museums, two different historic Ferris wheels, and countless roadside diners. In fact, no two people who set out will have the exact same experiences since the are an infinite number of combinations of the best things to see on Route 66.

For your trip, I suggest starting out in Chicago at the official Route 66 “Begin” sign. If you have a few days to spend in Chicago before your trip, take in the Chicago Institute of Art as well as the Navy Pier before you leave on your trip.

Another important site to visit is one of the first thing you’ll see when crossing from Illinois into Missouri, The St. Louis Arch is a monument to western travel and movement. While we may be contextualizing how we think about America’s push westward, it’s hard to deny that the Arch symbolizes an important chapter of American history.

A fun roadside stop that embodies the fun kitsch factor of Route 66 is the Catoosa Blue Whale in northeast Oklahoma. This art project has been recently restored by the town and is free to visit. 

While there are several important UNESCO World Heritage Sites and UN National Parks along the route, but the biggest and most popular to stop at is the Grand Canyon. While it isn’t directly on Route 66, you can easily visit as a day trip from Flagstaff, Arizona.

Finally, your trip ends at the Santa Monica Pier. Snap a selfie with the official Route 66 “End” sign before spending a day at the beach relaxing in the sand. You’ve earned it!

The Best US Road Trips: The South & Texas


By Yulia of The Foodie Miles

After moving to Texas from New Hampshire, where I could cross a state border in a one hour drive, it was hard for me to accept that in the Lone Star State you can drive for eight hours and still find yourself in Texas.

But living here made me realize how diverse one state can be. From the hip and cool bars of Austin to the Europeablun-like River Walk of San Antonio to the gorgeous nature of state parks – you can cover it all without ever leaving Texas!

one of the best US road trips - Texas!

Start your US road trip from Austin and explore the hip and weird side of the state. Visit the colorful Hope Outdoor Gallery that provides space for local artists to express themselves right in the city center.

Visit the Cathedral of Junk which is exactly what the name states: a several stories tall structure fully made of clutter. Try on cowboy boots at Allens on South Congress Avenue and listen to live music on any day of the week on Sixth Street.

Next stop is in San Antonio! It might be located only one and a half hour’s drive from Austin, but you’ll feel an unmistakable change of vibe. Historic buildings in the city center and the miles-long River Walk with cute little shops and restaurants on both sides instantly give you the feeling of strolling the streets of European capitals.

Feel the history come alive at the Alamo, 18th-century Spanish mission that marks the battle for Texan independence from Mexico. And if you feel especially courageous, try to eat the 3-pound cinnamon bun at Lulu’s that was featured in Man vs. Food!

Stop in Marfa on your Texas road trip

Next, we are headed to West Texas and one of its main attractions for art-aficionados and fashionistas – a little town called Marfa.

With a population of only 2,000 people, the town attracts attention not only of travelers from around the world, but even celebrities like Beyoncé and Matthew McConaughey. Discover modern art in Chinati Foundation, take a picture in front of the famous Prada shop located in the middle of the desert and try the amazingly delicious Marfa burritos.

An hour away from Marfa is an even smaller town, Terlingua, with a population of 1,000. Why go to such a tiny town you ask? Because although small, Terlingua has so much to offer it will blow your mind!

From exploring the Ghost Town with destroyed houses, rusty car parts, and an old cemetery to hiking a trail that leads to Indian petroglyphs to eating the world-famous chili and beyond!

A hike in Big Bend National Park

But above all that, Terlingua is only minutes away from Big Bend Ranch State Park, the largest state park in Texas, located on the Rio Grande.

Make it the final destination of the trip and spend a couple of days hiking trails, climbing mountains and taking in the gorgeous views. Or maybe go on exploring more of this wonderful state because Texas requires time and patience. And in return it will not cease to surprise you time and again!

American South (Georgia & South Carolina)

By Kate of Our Escape Clause

When it comes to classic American road trips, the United States provides no shortage of options: from the deserts of the Southwest to the lighthouses of New England, no matter where you live in the USA, you’re within driving distance of a decent road trip.

Dip down to the American Southeast, though, and you’ll find my favorite road trip in the country: the route from Savannah, GA to North Carolina is packed with American history, Southern charm, and tons of delicious food.

Start in Savannah to get your fill of ghost stories, stunning town squares, and a tour or two of Savannah’s historical mansions. From there, head north into South Carolina for your first of many beach stops: Hilton Head, beach haunt of anyone in the surrounding area.

Unless you stop at Tybee Island near Savannah, this will be your first taste on this road trip of the rolling waves of the Atlantic, beaches scattered with shells that are begging to be collected, and tall sand dunes that make up the beaches in this part of the country.

Your next city break of Charleston, SC will call you forward: try taking a historical tour of the city in a horse-drawn carriage to get acquainted, and if you have time, tour the Old City Jail at night (like most such tours in the American South, ghost stories and drama abound).

Leaving Charleston and preparing to head into North Carolina gives you plenty of options: head slightly northwest to reach Asheville, North Carolina to hike in Smoky Mountains National Park and pay a visit to the Biltmore Estate (built by the Vanderbilts, it is the largest privately
owned home in the United States).

For a more coastal trip, hug the coastline through the lovely beach town of Myrtle Beach, SC and up into the Outer Banks, NC. Choices of small towns are endless in the Outer Banks, but I personally love Beaufort, NC–small and picturesque, I’ve been visiting (and eating my way through) this town longer than I can remember.

During the entire route, whichever direction you choose, don’t forget to eat all the pecan pie, peach cobbler, fried chicken, and other delicious Southern food you can find–you’ll find that the American South is often a region best appreciated through your stomach.

The Best US Road Trips: East Coast

The Blue Ridge Parkway (Virginia & North Carolina)

A US road trip that must be experienced to be believed!

By Paige of For the Love of Wanderlust

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the top American road trips. This gorgeous 469 mile road connects Shenandoah National Park to Smoky Mountain National Park.

You can take it as fast or as slow as you want. My husband and I drove the parkway over a long weekend and hiked along the way.

The Parkway is stunning without any hiking required. However, some of its best beauty is seen after hiking a few miles.

Personally, I think the best hikes are in North Carolina, and if I had to choose only five to hike to they would be Linn Cove Viaduct, Crabtree Falls, Devil’s Courthouse, Skinny Dip Falls and Waterrock Knob.

The longest hike on this list is only 3 miles round trip. Linn Cove Viaduct offers a beautiful view of the Parkway curving around a bend.

One of the best American road trips - The Blue Ridge Parkway

Crabtree Falls is my favorite waterfall in Western North Carolina; it’s very dramatic and beautiful.

Devil’s Courthouse has one of the best views on the Parkway, and it’s a short, but steep hike to the top.

Skinny Dip Falls doesn’t have its own pullout; instead, you take the Looking Glass Rock overlook, cross the road and hike to this perfect swimming hole.

Lastly, Waterrock Knob is a short and steep hike to the top of Waterrock Mountain that gives a stunning view of not only the mountains, but the Parkway cutting through them.

One view on a great American road trip!

Outer Banks, North Carolina

By Anjali Chawla of Travel Melodies

Outer Banks, a chain of islands off the coast of North Carolina, is one of the best road trip destinations in the US for people who love being close to nature.

The best way to explore the beauty is to drive the 138-mile long Outer Banks Scenic Highway with the coastline as your company for most of the ride.

The Highway begins at Nags Head in Outer Banks and ends in Beaufort in North Carolina with so many small coastal villages along the route – Kitty Hawk, Avon, Buxton, Hatteras, and Ocracoke.

This is the place where the Wright brothers chased their dream and created history by flying the first flight. So stop by at the Wright Brothers Memorial and get inspired.

Let your next stop be Jockey Ridge State Park, where you can witness the largest natural dunes of the East coast. Don’t forget to fly a kite in the park. 

For adventure seekers, there is an option to drive your AWD vehicle on Corolla and Cape Hatteras beaches.

However, a permit is required for Cape Hatteras. This is for sure one of the best things to do in Outer Banks, NC.

There are many beautiful lighthouses along the way that make for a great stop – Bodie Island Lighthouse, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, and Ocracoke lighthouse. They are even open to climbing during spring to summer.

The most special part of this drive is that not only you drive on the scenic road!

However, it includes two ferry rides – one from Hatteras Island to Ocracoke Island and the other from Ocracoke to Cedar Island. You drive the cars onto the ferry for the journey.

Ocracoke is a small historic town on Ocracoke Island and is a great place to stay and escape the chaotic city life. 

The Outer Banks Scenic byway takes about 6.5 hours, including the 3.5 hours on the two ferry rides without any halts.

But it won’t be justice to the ethereal beauty of the place to just drive by. Spend at least 2-3 days to enjoy the beaches and watch the magical sunset/sunrise and get rejuvenated.

New England to Florida

By Bethaney of Flashpacker Family

A road trip down the East Coast of the USA is a fantastic insight into the history and culture of America.

Start from New England and move South ending up in Florida for this classic USA road trip. You’ll pass through some of America’s best historical points including towns like Salem and Boston, MA, Savannah GA, Charleston SC and St Augustine FL.

I definitely recommend taking a historical trolley tour in all of these cities because the history you’ll unearth is fascinating.

You’ll also hit some top American cities on the way like New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC which are full of some of the world’s best museums.

If you want to get an overview of American history passing from North to South, this is a fantastic road trip to take.

My suggested East Coast US road trip itinerary will take you 3-6 weeks depending on how much time you have to spare.

South Florida

By Megan Johnson of Red Around the World

A south Florida road trip is one of the best road trips in Florida.  It will be best to fly in and out of Miami, making this a big swampy loop, since it won’t include the Keys. 

Seven to ten days would be perfect for this.  Two weeks would be even better and you could do a little more, too.  

Once you get to Miami, head over to Biscayne National Park

Here you can cool off in the water, do some snorkeling on a boat tour, and visit Boca Chita and Elliot Keys

If you don’t have time to do a boat tour, there is a short mangrove walk you can do or maybe try some kayaking along the shore. 

Next, head over to Everglades National Park for a couple of days. 

Make sure you hike the Anhinga Trail and do all the short boardwalks in the park.  If you have time, do a boat or kayak tour in the Flamingo area.  

On your way over to Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades City, stop at the Shark Valley area

Once you’re in Big Cypress, sign up for a ranger-led paddling tour or rent some kayaks for yourself.  If you want to try a real swampy hike, check out the Gator Hook Trail on the scenic loop. 

Spend a couple of nights in Everglades City to explore the area and hike to the Fakahatchee Hilton to see tons of gators at a cute swamp shack and do all the boardwalks (a lot of them) in the area.  

Next, head over to Naples for a day or two to get a little beach time.  You can visit Lovers Key State Park, Sanibel, or Marco Island for some great beaches and shelling.  Finally, head back over to Miami for a few days before leaving to enjoy the city life and explore the hip Wynwood area.

US, Hawaii, & Canada Road Trips

Big Island, Hawaii

By Noel Morata of This Hawaii Life

A fantastic road trip to do in Hawaii would be on the Big Island and it definitely is big!

It can be a very long day trip but I would advise staying at a few locations along the way to break it up and really get to know some of the local areas and eat in the fun neighborhood restaurants along the way.

Typically a road trip can start from Kona or Hilo which both have airports and rental car agencies to rent from a variety of rental agencies.  If you start from the Kona area you can begin by driving down the Circle Island Highway Route 11.

Pass through the mostly forested areas and coffee plantations just south of Kona with worthwhile coffee tours available at any farm you might want to pass along the way.

There are significant attractions to visit along the way including The Place of Refuge and a fantastic snorkeling spot next door called Two Step.

Along the way you’ll find lovely small towns like Kealekekua, Captain Cook, and Naalehu to stop and explore.

Rounding out the southern tip of the island includes stops at the cliffs at South Point, the green sandy beach at Papakolea, or the black sandy beach with turtles at Punalu’u.

If you continue on Hwy 11, you’ll eventually reach Volcanoes National Park and can do an overnight stay in the village or park so you can be refreshed for a nice morning to full-day visit of the park.

Enjoy an easy hike, explore a lava tube, or do a mini road trip around the park at historic viewpoints and monuments.

After your visit to the park, head back on Hwy 11 to the 2nd largest city in Hawaii at Hilo.

This town retains all its charming and historic downtown area with the bayfront farmers market, Rainbow Falls, lovely gardens and waterfront area of Liliuokalani Park and Coconut Island.

If you want to do another overnight stay, there are so many other lovely things to do around Hilo including beach tours, tropical gardens and zoos, macadamia farms, and some other unique tourist-oriented venues worth seeing. 

You continue down Hwy 11 and can check out other lovely places to visit along the way like Akaka Falls, Lapahoehoe Point, and Onomea.

Then, go to Honokaa with the spectacular lookout point to Wapio and the gorgeous black sandy beach below.

A nice lunch and tour around the cowboy town of Waimea brings you around the Kohala Coast on the way back to Kona.

If you are visiting more extensively, check out my post on a family friendly visit to the Big Island here for more inspiration of what to see and do around the island in more detail.

California to Alaska

By Valerie of Happy Camper Wives

California to Alaska can seem like an intimidating drive but if you make the road trip part of the vacation, you won’t be disappointed in one of the most epic North American road trips!

As full time road trippers, we’ve logged over 25,000 miles in the last year and have some favorite stops along this route.

One thing to keep in mind while driving trough the Yukon is to always stop for gas.

If you have a half tank and see a gas station, always stop because the next one could be 300+ miles away.  

Portland, Seattle, & Vancouver All three cities are easy stops along the way and nice places to see before heading into nature.

Vancouver has West Coast charm mixed with Canadian friendliness. It’s a very clean city with rolling hills similar to San Francisco!

Seattle has views of the water like none other and Portland has a quirkiness that has to be experienced at least once.

Takhini Hot Pools, Yukon is located 28km from Whitehorse; look for a small sign pointing for the turn off. 

Once you find it, park and take a short stroll down a paved path to find some of the most beautiful hot springs in the world.

Stop for a while at the hot springs to rejuvenate and enjoy nature’s finest.

Don’t worry about getting changed in the car; there is a changing station next to the hot springs. 

Keep an eye out for bison on the Alaska Highway. One of the very few places to see wild bison, this region has large herds living right next to the highway.

You’ll start to see open prairie and there will be plenty of warning signs about bison on the road.

Stop to take some photos from your car but never get out for the photo opps.

Up next is Boondock, Alaska.

In Alaska there are a ton of places to pull off and sleep for the night with panoramic views.

If you’re road tripping in the summer, expect the sun to stay high in the sky until midnight, and never really set.

But what better way to wake than with a view that cost nothing to stay at!

One of the cutest towns in Alaska, Seward is a great place to spend weeks, months or forever.

With fjords shooting from the ocean, this magical place has so much to offer. Seward has everything from fishing to cruises, restaurants to BBQ pits, and lots of places to stay.

Seward is by far one of our favorite towns in the USA!

Boston to Montreal

By Jamie of The Daily Adventures of Me

It will only take you about six hours to drive from Boston, Massachusetts to Montreal, Canada.

Still, this short drive will provide the best of New England and US history with the French Canadian culture of Montreal.

First, spend a few days exploring the colonial history of Boston. Then you can drive up through New Hampshire or Vermont. 

If you are making the drive back to Boston, be sure to take different routes each way. In New Hampshire explore and enjoy the hiking and small towns of the White Mountains, such as Lincoln.

In Vermont enjoy the upscale, arty culture of towns such as Woodstock and Quechee. Right before you reach the border, explore the town of Stanhope which exists in both countries!

While in Montreal, enjoy the food and culture, along with old churches and the waterfront area. 

The best times to take this drive are summer when the weather is perfect or fall when you can enjoy New England’s famous foliage. 

Need even more inspiration? Here are 31 more US road trip ideas!

Pin These Awesome USA Road Trip Itineraries!

The 13 Best US National Parks to Visit in December

If you’re looking for a great place to travel in the winter in the United States, National Parks in December are a great option to spend the holiday season!

Whether you want a sunny escape to a normally too-hot desert national park like you’ll find in Southern California or Texas or you want a snow-covered winter wonderland like Yosemite, Acadia, or Great Smoky Mountains, you’ll find the perfect national park to visit in December for you somewhere on this list.

I asked fellow travel writers to come up with their best December national park destinations, and they didn’t disappoint. Read on to hear their tips!

The Best USA National Parks to Visit in December

Acadia National Park, Maine

Snow covered rocks with background of Atlantic Ocean and trees.

Contributed by Karen Warren of Outdoor Adventure Sampler

If you are looking to escape the summer and fall crowds at Acadia National Park, try a visit in the winter.

Snow draped mountains and ice formations on the cliffs make this Maine national park a winter wonderland! Enjoy the remote feeling of the wilds of Acadia, only matched by the incredible silence of a starry winter night there.

While most of the park loop road is closed in the winter, two scenic sections remain open.

Ocean Drive brings visitors to Thunder Hole to see and hear ocean waves spout up high in the air with a huge roar. The road to Jordan Pond gives access to 32 miles of groomed cross country ski trails.

Snowshoers will find a variety of tracked trails, where you can take an easy stroll on a frozen pond, or you can attempt a heart-pounding climb of Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak on the eastern seaboard.

Winter hikers seeking to climb a summit should use microspikes or snowshoes, and trekking poles.

  • Cross country ski on the Carriage Roads or the unplowed park roads.
  • Watch a gorgeous winter sunset at Bass Harbor Head Light.
  • Hike the Ship Harbor or Ocean Path trails to see the rugged Atlantic coast in the winter.
  • Hire a Maine guide to learn to ice climb on the frozen cascades of Otter Cliffs.
  • Score an awesome deal on a cozy B&B in Bar Harbor during this low season.

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Looking out over vista of a desert landscape with rocks in foreground and rolling greenish mountains in background.

Contributed by Nick of Illness To Ultra

You usually don’t think of traveling to the mountains in winter unless you’re skiing. Well, in Texas, that’s not entirely true!

Big Bend National Park has a mixture of mountains, canyons, deserts, and rivers fit for exploring in the winter while still avoiding extreme weather. 

December is a great month to visit the park as the temperatures are mostly pleasant. Ranging from 60° for the highs and 40° for the lows, it holds a drastic difference to the temperatures seen in summer when it can be truly unbearable. 

Big Bend National park has plenty to offer. If you like to hike, the Chicos Mountain Range can be a small challenge and provide great views across the desert. You’ll also find a whole variety of birds, and not to forget, you may even find some of the only bears in Texas. It’s worth mentioning that the range is much higher than the desert floor, so temperatures can drastically different. 

If you’re looking for a little history, you’ll find many Dinosaurs exhibits scattered around the park, where many spectacular fossils have been found. The prehistoric giant alligator and the Bravoceratops are ones not to miss.

It may still be a little cold for water activities, but if you’re brave enough, you can explore the Rio Grande for some spectacular views of the canyons and gorges.

  • Hike the 4.2 mile Lost Mine Trail to experience views over Mexico.
  • Take advantage of the cold temperatures and explore what the desert has to offer.
  • Marvel at the prehistoric beasts that once roamed the lands of Big Bend National Park
  • Take a river tour and explore the canyons with a different perspective.
  • Cross the Mexican border to experience the traditional village Boquillas.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Snow starting to form on an Ohio waterfall and into a pool of pale green water

Contributed by Michelle Moyer of Moyer Memoirs

Declared a national park in 2000, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park is the only national park located in Ohio, as it runs from Cleveland to Akron along the Cuyahoga River. 

It becomes a winter wonderland during the winter season, complete with many inches of beautiful Ohio snowfall blanketing nature and freezing the ponds.

The park boasts the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, which takes visitors through the park on one-way or roundtrip rides daily.  This railroad becomes a truly unique attraction during the holiday season when it transforms into the Polar Express. 

Based on the hit story, it brings that tale to life as excited guests in their pajamas journey down the rails to the North Pole in order to meet the jolly man himself.  This experience allows visitors to the park to immerse themselves in the magic of the holiday season

For the active visitors there is a Winter Sports Center located at the center of the park with plenty of winter activities.  Located nearby are cross country ski trails, downhill ski resorts, sledding, and tubing hills, all beckoning the Cuyahoga Valley National Park visitor to take part in the adventures. 

After the Winter Sports adventures are completed, there are still many other activities to take part in since Cuyahoga Valley National Park is definitely one of the best US National Parks in December to put on your must-see list.

  • Ride the CVNP Scenic Valley Railroad Polar Express to the North Pole.
  • Get active at the Winter Sports Center with all sorts of winter activities.
  • Hike 125 miles of trails through the park and see icicles hanging from the rocky ledges.
  • Catch and release large-mouth bass while ice fishing at CVNP lakes and ponds

Death Valley National Park, California

Rolling tan hills in foreground, middle layer of brown hills with snow-covered mountains in the background with some cloud cover.

Contributed by Neha of Travelmelodies

Death Valley National Park straddles between California and Nevada and makes for a perfect US winter national park destination. The weather gets pleasant with temperatures hovering around 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit in the daytime to 30-40 degrees at night. 

Even though the name sounds ominous, Death Valley California has intriguing beauty in the dry rocky formations, badlands or the colors spurting through the dry desert. It is the lowest, driest and hottest place in the US apart from being the world’s hottest place.

Due to much milder temperatures, it is easier to explore areas of the park at leisure and advantage of smaller crowds. It might snow at higher elevation points like Dante’s Peak or Telescope Mountain.

Not to miss activities in this winter US national park include:

  • Walk and explore the famous Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and do sandboarding. 
  • Stargaze at the Milky Way and the stars at the darkest skies in the US. Dante’s View, Badwater Basin or Mesquite Sand Dunes are great places to view the night sky.  (Do carry blankets/jackets)
  • Drive the nine-mile long Artist’s Drive (Artist’s Palette) for spectacular views of colored soil mountains. 
  • Experience the magical sunrise and sunset at Zabriskie Point over the unique rocky formations.
  • Hike the easy 1.8-mile-long Badwater Basin Salt Flats Trail, the lowest point in North America to experience unique salt formations.

The entrance fee of the National Park is $30 USD for a non-commercial vehicle that is valid for 7 days.

Death Valley makes for a great day trip from Las Vegas or Los Angeles, as both are just a few hours away.

For sure, Death Valley National Park is a must-visit in winter, to enjoy the park at leisure without the scorching summer temperatures!

Everglades National Park, Florida

Lone tree with orange-yellow leaves standing in a marsh or swap area with plant life in the water and marsh in the back.

Contributed by Lori Sorrentino of Travlinmad

Unlike many US National Parks, winter is the dry season in the Florida Everglades and the perfect time to explore Everglades National Park!

The weather is mild — 55-85 degrees (F) is typical — and the lack of rain keeps mosquitoes and no-see-ums at bay.

Located at mainland Florida’s southern tip before you reach the Florida Keys, the Everglades is the only sub-tropical wilderness in the United States and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

There are so many things to see and do in the Everglades for outdoor adventure lovers and eco-travelers who love hiking, fishing, and paddling.

  • Hike to places generally unreachable on foot during the rainy summer like parts of Fakahatchee Strand and Big Cypress.
  • Paddle through the mangrove tunnels in search of wild orchids
  • Search for wildlife like alligators, dolphins, bobcats, black bear, manatees, deer, and the elusive Florida panther. Sightings are generally better given the lack of water.
  • Stop in the Skunk Ape Headquarters for a quirky swamp experience
  • Try the Indian Fry Bread at the Miccosukee Reservation restaurant

There are three main entrances to the Everglades: Shark Valley Visitor Center is closest to Miami, the Gulf Coast Visitor Center is near Naples, and the Flamingo Visitor Center is the southernmost visitor center in the Park accessible from the Main Park near Homestead.

Winter is a great time to visit Everglades National Park and surrounding nature preserves — one of the most under-visited National Parks in the US.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Snow on the edge of a canyon rim looking into the magnificent Grand Canyon on a partly cloudy sky day.

Contributed by Maggie Turansky of The World Was Here First

The Grand Canyon is one of the best national parks in the United States to visit in December.

As one of the most visited national parks in the entirety of the country, the Grand Canyon sees vastly fewer crowds in the winter than it does in the warmer months but it is perhaps at its most beautiful when dusted with a blanket of snow.

Whether visitors want to experience the Grand Canyon as a day trip or a multi-day adventure, there is no denying that it is particularly majestic in December.

Keep in mind that the North Rim of the Canyon is closed to visitors in December (it is only open from June-September) and that, if you want to do some of the more strenuous hikes, you may need to come equipped with ice-specific gear. Some trails also can close at short notice if they are deemed too dangerous for weather-related reasons.

If you’re looking for some fantastic, wintry-things to do at the Grand Canyon, here are some top examples:

  • See the Canyon under a dusting of snow while on a leisurely walk along the Rim Trail.
  • Enjoy fewer crowds and some peaceful solitude on the trails – but be prepared for winter conditions!
  • Warm up with a drink and a spectacular view at the El Tovar Lounge.
  • Get to the Canyon in style and experience a winter wonderland by taking the Grand Canyon Railway from the town of Williams.
  • Spot elk and other wildlife foraging through the snow around the Canyon.

You can’t go wrong with visiting the Grand Canyon National Park any time of year, however, it may be best experienced in December.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee & North Carolina

Snow covered landscape with waterfall still flowing into a small creek with all rocks and plants covered in white snow.

Contributed by Carrie of Trains, Planes and Tuk Tuks

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, on the border of TN and NC, offers some of the highest mountains east of the Mississippi. It’s the perfect destination for snow-capped peaks and icy waterfalls.

December is an ideal time to visit the Smokies to avoid the summer crowds. Most of the park remains accessible, with the exception of a few roads in the Catahoochee area and some of the boat-accessible trails from Fontana Lake.

You can hike, snowshoe, camp, and drive to the many peaks in the park — but beware of rapidly deteriorating conditions up high. When conditions in Gatlinburg are moderate — in the 60s during the day — it can be 30 degrees, snowy, icy, and windy on the peak of Clingman’s Dome. Wear layers!

5 of the top winter activities in the Smokies include:

  • Visit Clingman’s Dome for sunrise — you’ll have it all to yourself!
  • Marvel at icy waterfalls on the Deep Creek Trail
  • Brave the frigid temperatures to camp on Mount Sterling and watch the sunset from the fire tower
  • Drive to Newfound Gap — roughly halfway up the ridge — to see snow-capped peaks above you and the end of fall colors below you.
  • Snowshoe to the top of Mount LeConte

Joshua Tree National Park, California 

Desert landscape with cactus-looking Joshua trees which are brown trees with green spikes, orange rocks and blue sky in background.

Contributed by Carol Guttery of California Crossings

At first glance, Joshua Tree National Park looks like an empty forbidding landscape.

But look more closely and you’ll see a resilient garden of not only the craggy endangered Joshua Trees, but 750 other plants and hundreds of different kinds of wildlife. Combine that with the red rock landscape and epic views and it’s no wonder that nearly three million people a year visit the park.

The park is located in the hot dry landscape of the Mohave and Colorado deserts in eastern California. And it’s for this reason Joshua Tree is such a great national park to visit in the winter.

Summer temperatures scorch up to 99 degrees, but in late January, you can experience a cool, comfortable 61 degrees — perfect for hiking and sightseeing.

If you hustle, you can actually do most of the top sites in Joshua Tree National Park in one day. Here are some suggestions:

  • Hike some of the old mining sites such as Barker Dam, Pine Street Mill or Wall Street Mill.
  • Take a tour of the Key’s Ranch and learn how the Keys family managed to make a successful homestead in this dry landscape. (Also, tales of murder and intrigue.)
  • Visit the spiny Cholla Cactus Garden.
  • Check out the Arch Rock, which is a short loop trail near the White Tank campground.
  • Watch the sunset at Key’s View. The panoramic view overlooking the Coachella valley is a must-see.

Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

Cloudy sky with a view of orange lava flowing into the Pacific Ocean, causing a large cloud of white-gray smoke at the place where lava meets water.

Contributed by Noel Morata of This Hawaii Life

One of the most unique and beautiful US national parks to visit in winter is located on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Volcanoes National Park is ever-changing with the constant lava flows, earthquakes, and the recent collapse of the main caldera in the park that has made it larger and even more impressive.

Now considered a huge caldera like the Pacific version, the park is fun to explore on your own or with a guided tour. A first visit to the visitors center will give you more history, ranger talks, or a wonderful video introduction to the park, history, culture, and what you can view for the day’s events.

You can decide to just do a fun road trip through the park and visit the main attractions around the park, take a easy or panoramic hike through popular trails or even wander through a lush forest and into a historic lava tube that is open for the public to enjoy. 

Here are some things to do while visiting Volcanoes National Park

  • Visit the Visitor’s Center to get information and background on the park’s history and culture.
  • Check out some of the cool vista points for panoramic views and photo opportunities to the gorgeous Caldera.
  • Have lunch at the historic Volcano House with magnificent views of the main caldera
  • Check out a lush lava tube at Thurston Lava Tube
  • Drive the Chain of Craters road and stop at the main attractions and in the end visit the stunning arch on the coastline.

A visit to Volcanoes National Park is a must and if you are exploring the island in more detail, check out my post on free or cheap things to do on the Big Island to inspire and also save on your budget to Hawaii. A visit to the park is definitely the top attraction on the island.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Snow covered landscape revealing a geyser in colors of orange on the rim and deep turquoise blue in the middle. Pine trees in background.

Editor’s Choice

Dreamy geysers spouting hot steam into the air as the snow falls on an otherworldly landscapes. Bubbling hot pools in every color of the rainbow contrasting against the white snow. And no crowds?

Sign me up: Yellowstone is the perfect national park to visit in the USA in December, if you plan it right.

Since Yellowstone’s average elevation is 8,000 feet, you can only access the interior of the park via a chartered snowcoach or snowmobile (information on how to do that here). The only open road runs between Mammoth Hot Springs and the entrance at the northeast, which should be open year-round.

Also note that lodging options are gathered limited, but the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Mammoth Hot Springs are two options which are open within the park.

Otherwise, you’ll want to look for lodging in one of the neighboring gateway towns like Gardinier, West Yellowstone, Cody, or even a bit further away like Big Sky or Bozeman in Montana.

Some of the best things to do in Yellowstone National Park in winter include:

  • Go cross-country skiing on the Cascade Lake Ski Trail (4.5 miles)
  • Cross-country ski or snowshoe on the flat Old Canyon Bridge Ski Trail to see beautiful views of the Yellowstone River (1 mile)
  • Go by snowmobile tour to some of Yellowstone’s most beautiful and iconic locations like Old Faithful
  • Head just outside of the park to soak and unwind in the Boiling River, which, luckily, is not actually boiling temperatures!
  • Photograph the park’s wildlife with a snowy backdrop

Yosemite National Park, California

White snow covered landscape with unfrozen Merced River reflecting a snowy scenery in the background including snowy pine trees and snowy granite rock cliffs.

Contributed by Ashley Whitehead of World to Wander

Yosemite National Park is known for its sheer beauty because of its trees, waterfalls, and many rivers. This park is massive, coming in at nearly 1200 square miles!

Yosemite attracts millions of people annually and there are pros and cons to visiting throughout the seasons. However, winter in particular gives a unique opportunity to see the park because of fewer visitors. Let’s not forget the white snow that blankets the rivers and trees!

The park is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. It’s important to note the conditions before your arrival as some roads will close or require snow chains to enter.

Tioga Road, Mariposa Grove Road and Glacier Point Road are closed every year from November until Spring. Additionally, some hiking trails will also be closed due to hazardous conditions.

Regardless of closures, there are plenty of things to do to enjoy the park, such as:

  • Head out on a hike to the Lower Yosemite Falls or Mirror Lake
  • Watch the sunrise over the Half Dome
  • Book an adventure tour with lodging, hiking, meals and transportation included
  • Grab your snowboard or skis and head to Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area
  • Visit the Ansel Adams Gallery in the park

If you’re looking for the perfect time to visit Yosemite National Park without the crowds and some peace and quiet, winter is the perfect time.

Zion National Park, Utah

Desert view from Angel's Landing viewpoint with red rock and green shrubbery and plant life dotting the Martian looking scenery.

Contributed by David of The Whole World is a Playground

Utah’s first National Park, Zion is home to magnificent scenery, iconic hikes, and beautiful wildlife.

Winters in Zion are relatively mild: the low elevation of Zion Canyon, where many of Zion’s trails begin, means that snow rarely reaches the canyon floor and most of the park is accessible year-round.

That makes it a great US National Park to visit in December! Some great December activities in Zion include:

  • Rent dry suits in the nearby town of Springdale and hike the water-based Narrows.
  • Hike the incredible Angels Landing, Zion’s most iconic trail. Make sure to take your Yaktrax ice grips if it is icy, as it can be dangerous. Only do this if you have experience with winter hiking, as there are steep drop-offs throughout the hike.
  • Catch an early sunset at the park’s most beautiful viewpoint, Canyon Junction.
  • Stargaze from the wide-open Kolob Terrace Road.
  • Stay warm in the car and drive over to the east side of the park to check out the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel and Checkerboard Mesa. If you’re in the mood for a hike then the awesome views from Canyon Overlook are worth braving the elements for! 

Pin This USA National Park in December Guide

The Big USA Bucket List: 75 Things to Do in the USA!

There is simply so much to do and see in the USA that completing your USA bucket list could take a lifetime… luckily, that’s kind of the point of a bucket list!

I’ve included some of my must-dos in the USA, but other travel bloggers have also contributed their expertise on the best bucket list activities to add to your USA bucket list!

It’s by no means a full list, but I hope this gets you started!

USA Bucket List: West Coast

Visit Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe

Contributed by Katie of The Hollapinos

Visiting Emerald Bay should be in your travel bucket list when planning a trip to Lake Tahoe.

Being the most photographed place in Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay will mesmerize you with breathtaking panoramic views of a sparkling blue water bay surrounded by granite cliffs and tall pine trees with a small island in the middle.

This small island is the Fannette Island and the only island in Lake Tahoe. The ruins of a miniature castle that used to be the tea house of the owner of the Vikingsholm Castle stands in the middle of Fannette Island. You can rent a kayak or a paddleboard and visit Fannette Island.

Aside from kayaking and paddleboarding, some of the famous activities when visiting Emerald Bay is a tour inside the Vikingsholm Castle, hiking the Eagle Falls, swimming at the beach, and camping at the Eagle Point Campground.

See the Giants at Humboldt Redwoods

Contributed by Kristel and Gabriel Glasier of Chef Travel Guide

Imagine walking through the world’s densest and most impressive stands of big trees, with the distinct smell of pine in the air, the rushing sound of the creeks and rivers, and the dark canopy formed from by the towering redwoods, this is what awaits you at Humboldt Redwoods. Spanning over 53,000 acres, this California state park measures twice the size of the city of San Francisco. 

No trip to this area is complete without driving through the Avenue of the Giants. This 32-mile scenic drive takes you through narrow roads between giant redwoods as you cruise through a string of old-growth groves intermixed with hardwood forests and open fields. In order to see the best groves on foot, make sure to stop by the Founders’ Grove for the largest and most impressive grove; Bull Creek Flats to get a taste of the Rockefeller Forest; and Drury-Chaney Grove for the plush carpet of redwood sorrel.

Go hiking in Joshua Tree National Park

Contributed by Nadine Maffre of Le Long Weekend

Encompassing not one but two deserts, the Joshua Tree National Park offers a landscape like none other.

Otherworldly rock formations, distinctive Joshua trees, cacti gardens, and the unique wildlife make it an infinitely interesting place to go hiking and the varied trails mean there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Those stopping into the National Park for the day will be able to complete several of the shorter trails like the Hidden Valley Trail or the Barker Dam Track – even if you’re visiting Joshua Tree with kids.

The tracks are well marked out and if you stop at the visitor centre on the way in, they’ll give you a handy map with your NP pass. Don’t miss the Cholla Cactus Garden, and be sure to drive up to the Keys View Lookout for sweeping views over the Coachella Valley and Mount San Jacinto.

Go hiking in Oregon’s Silver Falls State Park

Contributed by Heather of Oregon Outdoor Family

When you visit Oregon, one must-do outdoor adventure is hiking through Silver Falls State Park. The entire loop features 10 waterfalls over 7.2 miles. Or you can drive along one end of the loop and hop out for short hikes to five of the waterfalls.

The waterfalls are among the tallest in Oregon and the trail goes behind two of the falls so you can stand behind the falling water. Hear the roar of the falls while the mist brings cool relief on a hot summer day. The “Trail of Ten Falls” hike is suitable for families with kids of all ages.

Take swimsuits and relax by the riverside at the end of the day. Don’t miss visiting the historic lodge for an ice cream cone or coffee. There’s even a nearby campground if you want to split your adventure into multiple days.

Finish your trip with a visit to nearby Panezanellie Breadstick Shoppe for some of the best cinnamon rolls in Oregon.

Go hiking in Fern Canyon

Contributed by Jessica of A Passion and A Passport

Looking to take one of the prettiest hikes in all of Northern California?! Go hiking along the Fern Canyon trail!

Located in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, you’ll be walking between lush canyon walls, with waterfalls trickling over the edge and moss cascading down the sides! No wonder it’s so popular! The Fern Canyon hike is literally an emerald gem of Humboldt County.

And the best part? You don’t need to devote hours and hours to admire all the greenery – the hike is roughly a mile and takes approximately 30-90 minutes to complete (depending on how often you stop for photos of course!).

Although it’s kinda a pain to get to (down a dirt road with multiple stream crossings), you’ll be wowed the minute you get there!

Go skiing on Mammoth Mountain

Contributed by Barbara of Let’s Go Mum

Skiing at Mammoth Mountain, California is an essential activity for your USA travel bucket list.

Just a one hour flight or few hours drive from Los Angeles, the gorgeous little town of Mammoth Lakes services Mammoth Mountain, a world-class ski resort for all skiing abilities – from the absolute beginner to the very advanced.

Ski hire is available on the mountain, as are ski lessons for all skiing levels.

For non-skiers there are plenty of fun snow activities too, including tobogganing and snow tubing – plus a bowling alley in the town and some excellent restaurants and bars for apres-ski enjoyment!

The Village accommodation precinct features a heated swimming pool surrounded by snow, fire pits to toast s’mores and a direct gondola to the ski slopes.

It’s worth traveling to Mammoth Mountain for the incredible snowy mountain vistas alone – it’s a beautiful and fun destination in the great state of California.

See a wildflower superbloom

Contributed by Dhara from Roadtripping California

California’s wildflower superblooms are so spectacular that you can even see them from satellites in space! Viewing a wildflower superbloom should definitely be on your USA bucket list if you love nature.

Superblooms occur in many places around the Golden State, so if you are visiting in the spring of a superbloom year, you can easily weave in a few destinations into a California road trip itinerary.

Anza-Borrega Desert State Park, the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, and the Carrizo Plain National Monument are just some of the places that have showstopper wildflower displays. At peak, you will see entire hillsides painted in swathes of yellow, orange, and purple, and meadows of wildflowers stretching as far as the eye can see. It truly is a sight to behold!

Check out the Golden Gate Bridge

Contributed by Mayuri from ToSomePlaceNew

One of the bucket list items in the USA is to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. 

An engineering marvel and an iconic landmark of the city of San Francisco in California, the Golden Gate Bridge is a must-visit. More than 10 million people visit this attraction each year, and take in views of the blue waters and the red bridge! 

The bridge is completely free to walk across, view, and photograph. There are sightseeing cruises and buses available if you wish to explore this landmark in a different way. Highly recommend the Golden Gate Bridge and its park area to be part of your San Francisco Itinerary, on your next visit!  

Ascend the Space Needle in Seattle

Contributed by Theresa Ladner of Adventures in Middle Aged Travel

The Space Needle in Seattle is one of the must-do activities when you are there.

Located downtown, it’s easy to find as you can see it from almost anywhere in the city.

For $35 you can ride up the elevator to the observation deck at 520 feet. At 500 feet is the Loupe, a glass-floored walkway that is not for the faint of heart.

You can also get a table in the café on the upper observation deck or book a sunset wine experience.

Do a Boeing Factory tour in Seattle

Contributed by Karen of Big Adventures for Little Feet

Looking for something a little out of the ordinary to do in Seattle? A great activity is visiting the Futiure of Flight Aviation Centre and taking one of their Boeing Factory Tours. Get a behind the scenes understanding of what goes into building a commercial airplane on these really fascinating tours.

The museum within the Future of Flight Avaiation Centre provided lots of contextual information on the history of Boeing as one of the primary aircraft builders in the world. But the real action starts when you start your briefing and head into the aircraft hangars to observe the real-life construction of planes.

The Seattle-Everett Base is home to the Boeing twin aisle planes predominantly the Dreamliners and 777, 787 planes and at the time of our visit there were multiple aircrafts being worked on at the same time. Back outside you can also watch the testing of new aircraft as they run through their routine checks for take-offs and landings.

This is a super activity for all travelers. Tickets should be pre-purchased as they do sell out. 

Wine taste in Napa

Contributed by Anisa of Two Traveling Texans

Napa Valley is the best-known wine region in the US and one of the most beautiful places you will ever visit.  Some of the views will take your breath away.

There are over 500 wineries in Napa, so you will not run out of wines to try. Some of the most popular options are Chateau Montelena, Castello di Amorosa, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Luna Vineyards, and Domaine Carneros. The offerings at each winery vary.  Some run tours and have food pairings, others have lovely grounds to explore.  If you want a fun alternative to traditional wine tasting, you could go on the Napa Wine Train.

Since Napa is not too far from San Francisco, it makes an easy day trip.  Ideally, stay for a least a weekend so you can have more time to explore the area and visit Sonoma County too.  You don’t have to spend all your time drinking, there are also plenty of things to do in Napa besides wine tasting.

Whale watch in San Diego

Contributed by Maria Haase of San Diego Explorer

Whale watching in San Diego is the perfect bucket list item for your US trip. While there are some spots, like Torrey Pines, Cabrillo National Monument, or the Birch Aquarium, where you can see the whales from land, a whale watching tour on a boat is the best way to see them.

You’ll get to see and learn more about some of the most fascinating animals on the planet AND get to spend a day out on a boat off the coast of San Diego. What’s not to love?

Southern California is a great location to go whale watching. Depending on the time of year, you can either see blue whales in the summer or grey whales and humpback whales during the winter.

There are also “residential” whales species like Minke or Fin whales that have been seen year-round in the water of the coast of San Diego. 

Take a Death Valley road trip

Contributed by Katalin Waga of Our Life Our Travel

Road tripping in the Death Valley is a must-have item on your US bucket list. The best way to explore this scorching yet stunning place is by car as the National Park is too hot for spending extended time outdoors during a significant part of the year.

Make sure you take enough water with you and stops at least the most unique sights: the Badwater Basin’s salt flat is the lowest point of the continental US, while Furnace Creek is the hottest place in the world.

The Eureka Dunes are simply spectacular, so are the Ubehebe crater and the colorful badlands near the Zabriskie Point.

Go for a bike ride in Santa Monica

Contributed by Barbara of Let’s Go Mum

Hiring a bike to cycle along the Santa Monica, California beachfront is the perfect USA bucket-list item! 

Hire a bicycle direct from the Santa Monica Pier – but before you go, don’t forget to get a photo with the “End Of Trail – Route 66” sign! 

There are miles of bike paths in either direction, but a must-do trail is The Pier to Venice Beach and back. The trail is flat and easy with no busy roads, so perfect for bike riders and families of all ages and abilities. 

There’s plenty to see along the way with the gorgeous beach and ocean to one side, and the eclectic shops and murals of Venice Beach on the other – and of course the famous Venice Beach skate park. 

Upon your return, head farther along the Santa Monica Pier to the Pacific Park fun fair and ride the iconic Santa Monica Ferris wheel for unsurpassed California coastal views. 

Round off the day by making your way to the end of the Pier and watch the stunning spectacle of a Santa Monica sunset into the sea – just magic!

USA Bucket List: Southwest

Helicopter over Sedona’s red rocks

Contributed by Erin McLaughlin of The Gal On The Go.

Everyone needs to experience Sedona once in their lifetime, but the best way to do so is by helicopter.

This ride is undoubtedly a bucket list item in the United States you won’t want to miss! What better way to see the breathtaking red rock landscape then from an aerial view?

You will fly over iconic rock formations such as Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, Snoopy Rock, and Steamboat Rock. Watch the sunset as you soar above Bear Wallow Canyon.

Be sure to pack a camera to capture the epic views. This unforgettable experience is sure to bring you to priceless memories!

Take a romantic gondola ride at the Venetian, Las Vegas

Contributed by Nikki of Attractions of America

Las Vegas, Nevada, is beaming with amazing places to go for a date night that is sure to make memories that will last a lifetime with your significant other. One such unique activity that Las Vegas offers is taking a Gondola Ride at the Venetian.

Every gondola ride is led by a singing gondolier taking you on an adventure down canals passing by all kinds of sites and sounds. You have the option to take a gondola ride inside or outside to have two totally different views.

You can take a gondolier ride Monday through Thursday, and Sunday from 10 AM-11 PM, as well as Friday and Saturday from 10 AM- 12 AM. No matter where you venture around Las Vegas, make sure to add a date night onboard a Gondola at the Venetian part of your travel itinerary.

Visit the Salt Flats in Utah

Contributed by Deb of The Visa Project

There are very few unique, otherworldly landscapes in North America like the beautiful Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Barely an hour and a half from Salt Lake City, it is perfectly flat and uniform whiteness spanning for 46 square miles. While working in the USA, I lived in Utah and visited it many times.

The aesthetic of the flats makes it the perfect destination for photography. Watching the sunrise and sunset from the flats is as wonderful as gazing at one of the darkest skies full of stars at night. 

And if you can set your personal speed record on the uniform, flat surface of the flats with zero chances of a collision. In reality, many speed racing events are organized yearly on the Salt Flats. 

Salt Flats is open to the public most of the year, without any entrance fees.

Hike the Navajo Loop trail in Bryce Canyon National Park

Contributed by Hannah of Thatadventurer.co.uk

Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah is a beautiful National Park with incredible scenery. Seeing the Hoodoos, tall, narrow rock formations that the park is famous for, is a highlight of any trip and the best way to see them is to take a hike.

The Navajo Loop trail is one of the best hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park and should be on your USA bucket list!

Starting at Sunset Point in the Bryce Canyon amphitheater you’ll head down amongst the hoodoos going past some incredible scenery including Thor’s Hammer (a small boulder balancing on top of a tower), Two Bridges and Wall Street which is a cool part of the trail where you’re surrounded by the rocks and pass through a fairly narrow corridor between them before returning to where you started.

Go white water rafting on the Colorado River in Utah

Contributed by Heather Raulerson of RaulersonGirlsTravel

One of the most exciting bucket list adventures I’ve been on was experiencing a white water rafting tour on the Colorado River in Moab, Utah.

The white water trek starts calmly enough with the rafts gently floating down the river in smooth waters and you can marvel at the buttes and the stunning red rock canyons that rival Monument Valley as you float by them.

We were even allowed to slide out and swim next to the raft for a bit. Later on down the river, our raft was bobbing up and down with the rapids (Class I-II). 

As we paddled to our guide’s instructions, all you could hear was laughter as someone in the raft got splashed by a wave. If you are new to white water rafting, this portion of the Colorado River in Utah is a fabulous place to start your white water adventure.

Hike in Arches National Park, Utah

Contributed by James Ian of Travel Collecting

You absolutely must go hiking in Arches National Park. 

There are super short and easy hikes like those to Sand Dune Arch and Skyline Arch and the incredible Double Arch in the Windows section of the park.  There are also medium hikes like that to Delicate Arch. 

Time your visit to see the sunset.  The beautiful freestanding arch, which features on Utah’s license plates, glows an incredible golden color in the late afternoon light. 

Or, for the more adventurous, venture into the narrow alleys of Fiery Furnace or the all-day hike into Devil’s Garden.  This last trail takes you past eight arches, across the tops of narrow ridges and deep into Fin Canyon. 

Go fruit picking at the Capitol Reef Orchards

Contributed by Megan Johnson of Red Around the World

Capitol Reef National Park in Utah is totally underrated, but it is full of amazing things to do.  The Capitol Reef orchards are the best and not something you’ll find in almost any other national park. 

It has some of the coolest hikes like Cohab Canyon, Hickman Bridge, Sulphur Creek, Headquarters Canyon, and Surprise Canyon.  Make sure to stop at the Gifford Store for some homemade pie, ice cream, cinnamon rolls, and salsa. 

This is also one of the best places for stargazing in Utah thanks to its location and lack of proximity to any cities. 

Capitol Reef is also the perfect stop to break up the long drive between Moab and Bryce Canyon or Zion, which is what most people will be driving between.  It’s such a unique park and one of my personal favorites.

Go scuba diving at Santa Rosa Blue Hole, NM

Contributed by Nikki of Santa Rosa Blue Hole

New Mexico is full of natural beauty from caverns to sand dunes, mountains, lakes, and more. One beautiful escape in New Mexico is the Santa Rosa Blue Hole, a seemingly beautiful gem of a lake that appears right in the middle of the desert.

The Blue Hole was earlier a National fish hatchery before being transformed into this incredible diving destination in the US. A spring feeds and replenishes the water within the Blue Hole every day, creating perfect and clear diving conditions.

A big draw of Santa Rosa Blue Hole is the pristine crystal blue water that allows clear views for up to 100 feet underwater that stays around 62 degrees year-round.

There is a Santa Rosa Dive Center nearby with scuba diving equipment available to rent for your underwater adventure. The Santa Rosa Blue Hole is truly a geological wonder that people come from miles around to explore.

Hike the Narrows in Zion National Park

Contributed by Caroline Ikeji of Pictures & Words

While there are many incredible hikes in Zion National Park, the Narrows is one of the best. It is one of the most iconic hikes in Zion, and gives you an unforgettable experience of hiking in the north fork, through the narrowest section of the Zion Canyon.

You can either hike the entire span of the Narrows as a 16-mile top-down hike (permit required), or just a part of it as a day hike. Either way, it is an absolute must as it is an absolutely unique experience. 

In the Narrows, you actually hike in the river. At the shallowest part, the water is ankle deep, but gets up to waist high at the deepest point (water levels change depending on rainfall and time of year). The scenery is absolutely breathtaking throughout, and it was cool to see how it changes as you get deeper into the canyon.

At the very least, it is recommended that you hike up to Wall Street, the beginning of the narrowest part of the canyon, about two miles into the hike. This is where the Narrows is absolutely breathtaking, especially seeing the light streaming through the narrow canyon walls. An absolute bucket list experience!

USA Bucket List: Mountain West

Chill at the Dillon Ice Castles

Contributed by Dalya of Sweet Little Journey

If you’ve ever wanted to see what 25 million pounds of ice in the form of a castle looks like, visit the Ice Castles in Colorado during winter.

These castles get constructed by hand every year and feature ice tunnels, an ice slide, fountains, colorful LED lights, and thrones.

They’re built by ice artists using thousands of carefully hand-placed icicles. These castles are highly dependent on the weather and usually stick around from the end of December till early March, so make sure not to miss this wonderful temporary display of frozen winter wonderland.

Your ticket here is a timed entry which allows you to only enter at a certain time. You’re welcome to stay as long as you want, but note that crowds tend to accumulate near the end of the day!

See a live performance at Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Denver, CO

Contributed by Kara Patterson of Destination: Live Life

This one is for the music lovers out there, and no bucket list could be complete without catching a live performance at Red Rocks Amphitheatre outside of Denver, CO.

Red Rocks is a natural outdoor amphitheatre with towering red rock formations that help create the most incredible, natural acoustics. This venue is beloved by fans and artists alike, many of whom dream about the opportunity to play amongst the rocks.

In fact, many impassioned debates have been had about whether Red Rocks is the best outdoor music venue in the country (PS, it is). Due to its proximity, basing yourself in Denver is your best bet.

In Denver you can find an incredible Denver Airbnb options, amazing bars and restaurants, and all the sights and activities a person can handle. It’s the perfect place to round out an incredible bucket list activity!

Take a road trip in the mountains of Colorado

Contributed by sustainable travel bloggers Oksana & Max from Drink Tea & Travel.

For anyone interested in a mountain adventure, a Colorado road trip is a must-do! Start your trip in Denver, head to the hip town of Boulder and then onto Glenwood Springs, Ouray, and Mesa Verde National Park. The latter of which is home to the ancient dwellings of the Pueblo People. From there, you can visit another stunning national park – the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The otherworldly landscape of this park is made up of a sea of sand dunes.

Back in the mountains, experience Buena Vista and Colorado Springs before heading back to Denver. You’ll want to spend at a minimum of 2 weeks on this road trip but if you are anything like us you will end up lingering around much longer than planned!

Try sand-boarding at Sand Dunes National Park

Contributed by Dalya of Sweet Little Journey

Sand boarding is one of those things you have to try at least once in your lifetime! And what better place to try it than the tallest sand dunes in North America!

The tallest dunes in Sand Dunes National Park is almost 700 feet. Keep in mind that the base elevation here is 7520′ which is already fairly high for someone who is not from Colorado so you may feel a bit out of breath climbing these dunes.

You can rent a sandboard or bring your own and go down any dune you have your heart set on. The park is open year-round, but is best experienced in the early spring and early fall when temperatures are milder.

Spend time at a dude ranch In Montana

Contributed by Keri of Bon Voyage With Kids

One of the very best bucket list activities to do in the United States is to spend a week at a dude ranch in Montana

An absolutely spectacular place and experience to get off the grid and spend a week like a cowboy or a cowgirl, it is an amazing experience for couples, solo travelers, families, and multigenerational families. 

While there are many types of dude ranch experiences in different states, a simple ranch in Montana gives you the chance to enjoy the glorious mountain views on guided trails seeing “big sky country.” 

As any visitor to Montana will tell you, there is something uniquely special about this place that makes you want to come back for more. Experiencing it by horseback is an amazing way to connect with nature, disconnect from technology, and enjoy the quiet simplicity of ranch life. 

Our family enjoyed a glorious week at one such ranch this summer, about 30 miles from  West Yellowstone. Beginners are welcome, and we stepped into a life completely foreign to our own. But by the end, we were riding horses like we had been doing it for years.

Walking up each morning to the sounds of horses being wrangled, running for meals at the sound of the meal bell, learning to fly fish in fresh streams, and watching cozy sunsets from the porch of our log cabin was a glorious way to spend a vacation. A Montana dude ranch experience is an absolute MUST DO USA bucket list item for any traveler. 

Driving Going-to-the-Sun Road 

Contributed by Lora of Explore with Lora 

The USA is full of amazing adventures but one you don’t want to miss is driving Going-to-the-Sun Road inside Glacier National Park. If you’re feeling really adventurous you can even try biking it!

Located in northwestern Montana, Going-to-the-Sun Road begins in West Glacier, spanning over 50 miles to the East entrance of the national park in St Marys. It crosses the continental divide at Logan Pass, taking you through majestic mountains, breathtaking valleys, and incredible waterfalls.

Glacier National Park is full of amazing wildlife so on top of the breathtaking landscapes you may also spot mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and grizzly bears while driving along this road! Visitors come from all over the world just to make this drive, so you’ll definitely want to add to your USA bucket list.

Check out otherworldy landscapes at Yellowstone

Contributed by Megan of Megan & Aram

A USA bucket list item is to head to Yellowstone National Park and check out landscapes that are completely out of this world.  The geysers, hot springs, and photogenic scenery will be sure to blow your mind and be a memory ingrained in your head for eternity. 

Be sure to not miss the Morning Glory Pool of the Upper Geyser Basin as it is one of the best sights in the park and needs to be a part of your Yellowstone itinerary.  Mammoth Hot Springs is another jaw-dropping sight to see in Yellowstone.  

Yellowstone may be packed with tourists during the summer months, so opt for a trip out of season to experience fewer crowds and cheaper prices.  The National Park is a must-visit if you’re looking for the best scenery in the United States.

USA Bucket List: The South

Go swimming with manatees in Crystal River, Florida

Contributed by Lori Sorrentino of Travlinmad

There are lots of bucket list adventures to be had in Florida but for a completely unique experience, try swimming with manatees in Crystal River, on the central Gulf Coast known as Florida’s Nature Coast.

 Here you’ll find the West Indian manatees in large numbers throughout the year. But in winter when the Gulf temperatures drop, manatees head to the warmer waters of the natural springs around central Florida that remain a constant 72 degrees (F).

Crystal River is the only place in Florida where you can swim with these gentle aquatic mammals in their natural habitat. You’ll float around as they swim by and play, passively observing them from a distance.

A truly amazing eco-experience you’ll only find in Florida!

Kayaking to Caladesi Island, Florida

Contributed by Paula of Paula Pins the Planet

One of the best Florida bucket lists is to kayak to the Caladesi Island State Park, and to experience not only the spectacular beach — one of the best family beaches in Florida — but also the plentiful wildlife along the way. 

Caladesi Island is one of the few untouched islands along the Gulf Coast, and you can paddle a kayak from the causeway that goes to Honeymoon Island State Park

While kayaking to Caladesi Island you can see dolphins nearby, magnificent frigate birds overhead, and roseate spoonbills in the mangrove. On the island, you can walk on the three miles of Caladesi Island beach with soft, white sand with many shells and swing on the clear turquoise water.   

Caladesi Island is a beach paradise and very isolated and away from the crowds. In fact, Caladesi Island was named number 1 beach in America in 2008. 

Road trip down Florida to Key West

Contributed by Jenni Fielding of Cruise Mummy


A road trip down the East Coast of Florida from Jacksonville to Key West is the perfect way to see the state’s best sights.

Best done in a convertible car to make the most of the views and the Florida sunshine, the drive only takes eight hours but it’s best to allow a week for the best experience.

Top places to visit on the way include the historic city of St Augustine, Orlando’s theme parks, the Kennedy Space Centre, funky Fort Lauderdale, trendy Miami Beach and then each of the islands in the Florida Keys.

You’ll finish the trip in Key West, at the southernmost tip of the USA.

Admire the murals at the Wynwood Walls

Contributed by Roshni of The Wanderlust Within

The Wynwood Walls in Miami, is one of the most colorful places in the US. This outdoor art exhibition is ever changing and has showcased the work of over 50 graffiti and street artists from 16 different countries.

The exhibition is made up of insta worthy murals that line the Wynwood District and have become a must see attraction in the USA and inspired many famous Miami quotes

Even though entry is free, it is best to do one of the paid walking tours so you can learn more about the background of the piece and some insight into the behind the scenes process. 

Eat Cuban food in Little Havana, Miami

Contributed by Rose Monday of Where Goes Rose

Experiencing Cuban culture in Miami is a must for your USA bucket list. This area was populated when Cubans fled their homeland under the dictatorship of Fidel Castro.

When you wander the neighborhood today, you’ll find more Spanish than English spoken and stumble across Cuban cigar stores and galleries displaying Cuban artwork. 

The best activity might be exploring the best restaurants in Little Havana and sampling Cuban cuisine. Must-trys include Cuban coffee and empanadas at Le Pub, mojitos at Ball & Chain, gelato at Azucar Ice Cream and Cuban sandwiches with ham, swiss cheese and pickles at Old Havana Cuban Bar & Cocina.

Not only will you try the food but you’ll meet the locals and learn about their culture!

Walk the squares in Savannah

Contributed by Erin Clarkson of Savannah First-Timer’s Guide

When Oglethorpe landed along the banks of the Savannah River in 1733, he established the city built around four squares. Today, there are 22, and many are surrounded by historic homes.

If you’re planning to explore all of them, it IS possible to do in one day. However, it’s better if you have an entire weekend to get it done.

Here are a few of the more well-known squares to prioritize:

Chippewa Square is the picturesque spot where Forrest Gump famously sat on a bench while narrating the story of his life.

The Mercer-Williams house, from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil fame, faces Monterey Square, which is also home to Temple Mickve Israel..

The beautiful Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is adjacent to Lafayette Square, where you’ll also find Flannery O’Connor’s childhood home.

Wright Square and Calhoun Square are known for being two of the most haunted!

Go to the Houston Rodeo

Contributed by Yo Schlachter of Texas Wanderers

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is one of the most popular things to do in Texas, drawing millions of people each year. The event lasts three weeks, and is packed with exciting rodeo events like bull riding, barrel racing, steer wrestling, and more.

Don’t miss the mutton bustin’ where tiny kids compete to stay on their sheep longest, hanging on as they race to the other side of the arena. Ending off the rodeo events every night is a concert by another popular musical artist.

Outside the rodeo, a carnival offers 80+ different rides, with dozens of food vendors selling typically Texan fare like smoked turkey legs, funnel cakes, and even a deep-fried cookie dough sundae!

Bring the kids to the livestock show to watch baby chicks being born, view newly birthed cows, and walk through the ‘farm experience,’ where kids can pick fake vegetables, milk a fake cow, collect fake eggs, and then ‘sell’ it all at the market.

Take a driving or biking tour of the Natchez Trace

Contributed by Jennifer Campbell of Just Chasing Rabbits

Taking a driving, biking, or motorcycle tour of the Natchez Trace is a must-do when visiting the state of Mississippi. This 444-mile parkway follows a historic trail that winds from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee, providing beautiful scenery and stops where visitors can experience nature and learn about thousands of years of history on one of America’s oldest roadways.

The original path was created by migrating animals, like deer and bison, as well as the Native Americans that followed the herds. Travelers on the Trace can visit Native American sites like Emerald Mound, Pharr Mounds, and Chickasaw Village Site.

Later, the Trace would be used by explorers, pioneers, soldiers, and more. One of the original inns (Mount Locust) still stands near Natchez, and graves of unknown Confederate soldiers along the Old Trace are a grim reminder of the Civil War.

Today, the Natchez Trace is maintained by the National Park Service. The visitors center in Tupelo, Mississippi provides opportunities to learn more via exhibits, a film presentation, and knowledgeable rangers.

Hike the waterfalls at the Great Smoky Mountains

Contributed by Corritta from It’s a Family Thing

You can’t have a USA bucket list without including the Great Smoky Mountains. It is one of the most beautiful National Parks east of the Mississippi River.

What makes this park amazing are all of the waterfalls throughout the park. You have to hike through this park to see all of its natural beauty. There are over 100 waterfalls in this 500,000 acre National Park.

The best waterfalls in the Smokies are Laurel Falls, Grotto Falls, Abrams Falls, and Mouse Creek Falls. Remember to keep an eye out for wildlife, because black bears, deer, and bobcats are known to frequent the park.

Once you visit this oasis you’ll want to return year after year to see all of the gorgeous waterfalls this massive park has to offer.

Go tubing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Contributed by Rachel of Grateful Gypsies

Tubing down the river never disappoints but there’s something special about tubing inside a national park. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers many places for tubing but the best is in Deep Creek near Bryson City, NC.

It’s a bit different from other tubing experiences as vendors are not allowed in the park on the North Carolina side. You must first rent your tube. Then you drive it into the park yourself and hike about a half-mile up to the starting point, of which there are two. The lower starting point is more chilled out with fewer rapids.

But if you enjoy a bit of adventure, you should continue on to the upper starting point as there are more rapids and steeper drops. The best part is that you can go down the river as many times as you please. You just need to return the tube, still inflated, by the time the shop closes.

Go wine tasting in Texas

Contributed by Bruna Venturinelli of Maps ‘N Bags

Sipping wine in the Texas Wine Country should be on everyone’s USA bucket list!

Just an hour from San Antonio and Austin, Fredericksburg is a lovely German town packed with some of the state’s best wines!

While discovering the Texas Wine Country, you will want to stop at some of the best wineries in Fredericksburg to taste a couple of wines from the Lone Star State and get personal with the southern hospitality–it’s a fantastic experience.

Tree-lined creeks, rolling hills, and bluebonnets are some of the backdrops you can spot since Fredericksburg is located in the heart of the Texas Hill Country. Excellent wine, sweeping landscapes, and southern hospitality–what’s not to love?

USA Bucket List: Midwest

Drive Route 66

Contributed by Stephanie Craig of Oklahoma Wonders

Route 66 is the ultimate American road trip, and no USA bucket list is complete without penciling in a week or two to explore the “Mother Road.”

Historically important as one of the primary ways Americans migrated west, Route 66 at first became synonymous with Okies who used it to flee the Dust Bowl for a better life.

This was such a common phenomenon that Will Rogers joked “When the Oakies left Oklahoma and moved to California, it raised the I.Q. of both states.” Of course, today travelers love Route 66 for its kitschy, throwback vibes.

There’s no better way to see the interior of the country than spending your nights at vintage motels and your days at great American wonders like the Grand Canyon and the Painted Desert.

While you’ll never run out of things to see on Route 66, it does help to plan out your itinerary ahead of time. Otherwise you’ll want to pull over to ever motel and every stop along the way!

Kayak around the Apostle Islands

Contributed by Paulina of Paulina on the Go

If you think Lake Superior is peaceful, you are in for a surprise: it is one of the infamous lakes in the world which gets squalls out of nowhere!

But most of the time the lake is dead silent, and there is no other lake anywhere in the world in the world where you could find a complete silence while you’re paddling your kayak. 

A lot of people visit Apostle islands to see the famous sea caves as the weather and the waves have managed to carved intricate passages through the rocks. You can easily find arches and caverns to slip your kayak through. In addition to this, finding luxury cabins in Wisconsin for your stay is quite easy near the national park. 

As the summer season starts to rise, the national park is a perfect place for kayakers to test their paddling skills while still enjoying the view. 

USA Bucket List: East Coast

Go wild blueberry picking in Maine

Contributed by Naomi of Roaming the Americas

While Maine is most well-known for lobster, there’s another food it deserves renown for: wild blueberries. Trust me when I tell you that you haven’t had a blueberry until you’ve had a wild blueberry, and picking them is a Maine summer rite of passage. 

These tinier, flavor-packed versions of high-bush cultivated blueberries grow wherever they feel like it all over Maine—low to the ground in rocky, acidic soil—but are most prevalent on the coast from the Acadia National Park area to Canada. 

Wild blueberry season is typically during the first few weeks of August, though it may come slightly earlier or later some years. There are a few pick-your-own operations, and it’s common to find them along hiking trails. If you’re on public land and know how to identify them, pick to your heart’s content.

Go leaf-peeping in Vermont in fall

Contributed by Tara Schatz of Back Road Ramblers

New England is arguably one of the best places to experience fall foliage in the United States, and when it comes to leaf-peeping, Vermont definitely takes the prize.

If you have never experienced Autumn in Vermont, you are in for a treat. The trees start to change colors in late September and are usually at their peak in mid-October. 

A road trip on Route 100 will take you 216 miles through the heart of the Green Mountains with incredible leaf-peeping opportunities, not to mention cute New England villages, cascading waterfalls, and serene lakes and ponds.

Highlights of a fall road trip along Route 100 include the Vermont Country Store in Weston, Moss Glen Falls in Granville, and the mountain town of Stowe, which is home to Vermont’s tallest mountain. With forest covering three-quarters of the entire state, it’s easy to see why fall foliage season in Vermont entices travelers from all over the world.

See the cherry blossoms in Washington DC

Contributed by Julie McCool of Fun in Fairfax VA

One of the most beautiful bucket list experiences in the Eastern U.S. is to see the cherry blossoms in bloom in Washington DC. Every spring, the cherry trees explode with pink and white blossoms adding color and delicate beauty to the backdrop of DC’s granite monuments.

The Tidal Basin is one of the best places to see cherry blossoms in the DC region. Here, you can stroll a two-mile paved trail thick with blossoms. For a less crowded view, rent a pedal boat and enjoy the cherry blossoms from the water.

It’s a fun way to capture gorgeous photos of the Washington, Jefferson, and MLK Monuments rising above the flowering trees. Parking at the Tidal Basin is very limited, but it’s just a short walk from the Smithsonian stop of the DC Metro.

Attend a Broadway show in NYC

Contributed by Jennifer of World On A Whim

Attending a Broadway show during a visit to New York City should absolutely be included on your USA bucket list. There are very few things better in this world than watching professional singers belt out classic show tunes like “On My Own” from Les Miserables or the “Tonight Quintet” in West Side Story. You’ll laugh, cry, and feel all the feels.

Eight shows are typically performed each week in one of the 41 professional theaters found in the Theater District in Midtown, Manhattan. Performances are held Tuesday through Saturday nights with matinee shows on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Monday nights are usually “dark” which means there isn’t a show that night.

I’d recommend purchasing tickets well in advance from the box office if you are planning on seeing a popular show like Hamilton. If the musical has been on Broadway for awhile, you can probably find some tickets at TKTS, a discounted ticket booth with three locations in NYC.

Some of my personal favorite must-see shows that are currently on Broadway include Hamilton, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, and Come From Away.

Visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum

Contributed by Moshe of The Top Ten Traveler

The 9/11 terror attack on the US has left a deep hole in the soul of the American nation and had an impact on the whole world. The World Trade Center in New York City has changed its appearance in the aftermath of the attack and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum were built where the twin towers once stood.

The actual location of the buildings is now the Memorial with two big square pools, each about an acre in size, with 30 feet manmade waterfalls descending in, and another 20-feet-deep hole in their center. The Memorial represents “absence made visible”, according to the architect, and seeing this place is a powerful emotional experience.

Next to the memorial stands the museum, with exhibitions telling the story of the attack (and also of the 1993 bombing of the WTC), and over 70000 artifacts from victims, survivors, and responders.

Walk around Downtown Manhattan

Contributed by Daphna of A Tiny Trip

There is nothing quite like the hustle and bustle of downtown Manhattan on a weekday morning!

Start your visit with a walk in the Financial District, where you can see the infamous Wall Street and take a picture with the Charging Bull. Then walk through the Oculus to One World Trade Center, where you can visit the One World Observatory for a view of New York City from the 100th floor. Pay tribute at the stunning World Trade Center Memorial before crossing to over to discover Battery Park City parks.

Walk through the parks, along the Hudson River to Bowling Green for a view of the Statue of Liberty. With time to spare you can even take a ferry ride to Liberty Island and Ellis Island!

Take in the views of Manhattan from Brooklyn Heights

Contributed by Claudia Tavani of My Adventures Across The World

Whether you spend 4 days in New York or a full month there, you absolutely have to head to Brooklyn Heights.

This is one of the nicest neighborhoods in Brooklyn, and the first suburb of New York City, packed with Victorian-style buildings, lovely churches and quaint shops.

Yet, the main attraction there is the breathtaking view of Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Hardly ever crowded at any time of year, this is a perfect place for a walk and for people’s watching.

It’s a great place to visit both during the day and at night, if you want to see the many lights of Manhattan.

Getting there is very easy: once you get off the Brooklyn Bridge, head south on Brooklyn Bridge Promenade and cross Whitman Park. Turn right on Tillary St. then left on Clifton St. and right again on Pierrepont St.

Stroll the Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island

Contributed by Jackie Gately at Enjoy Travel Life

Newport is perhaps best known for opulent mansions, once summer “cottages” to some of the wealthiest families in the United States during the Gilded Age. For a nominal fee, you can tour the plush interiors of the mansions, now maintained by the Preservation Society of Newport County. It’s especially wondrous to visit the Newport Mansions at the Holidays!

However, the most enjoyable—and free—way to see the mansions is to stroll along the Cliff Walk. This 3.5 mile public right of way over private property offers sweeping views to the Atlantic Ocean and the Newport Mansions. You’ll discover stunning vistas of the mansions and their well-coiffed estates.

To begin the trail, follow the signs at First Beach. Two-thirds of the path is easy, but a small portion of the southern half is best-suited to appropriate shoes and some caution: you’ll pass within steps of a 70-foot drop.

Tour Independence Hall in Philadelphia

Contributed by Derek and Mike from Robe Trotting

Independence Hall is the most important building of the many Philadelphia historical sites. It’s a landmark that belongs on any bucket list because the beloved structure not only hosted the Second Continental Congress and signing of the Declaration of Independence, it’s also where the American Constitution was written and adopted during the summer of 1787. 

The building where America was born is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has long been a symbol of freedom. Construction on the building finished in 1753 and it originally served as the Pennsylvania State House during colonial times. The iconic structure is where all three branches of Pennsylvania’s colonial government met. When the colonies needed a meeting place, Pennsylvania provided its Assembly Room to the men of the Second Continental Congress.

The belltower of Independence Hall is the original home of the Liberty Bell, which is now located in a pavilion across the street. You can check Independence Hall off of your bucket list by reserving a spot on one of it’s daily tours. The free guided tour lasts about 30 minutes and can be arranged from the nearby Independence Visitors Center.

Explore Colonial Williamsburg

Contributed by Lyndsay of The Purposely Lost

As the largest living history museum in the United States, Colonial Williamsburg deserves to be on your USA bucket list.

Hundreds of restored, original buildings still stand from when Williamsburg, Virginia was the capital of the Commonwealth, and make up the exhibits of the museum.

Spend at least a day in Williamsburg wandering through the museum’s buildings, learning about their history from historical reenactors, who will tell you about the Colonial era from a first-person perspective.

Colonial Williamsburg also offers various guided walking tours throughout its more than 300-acre grounds, focusing on different aspects of its history, including a few ghost tours.

Visit Nantucket by bike

Contributed by Linn Haglund of Brainy Backpackers

Only a day trip from Boston or Cape Cod, you can explore the cute island of Nantucket by bike.

Either by bringing your own bike or by renting one on the island, Nantucket is crisscrossed with bike paths so you can enjoy the whole island. Make sure you go to Siasconset to explore some of the oldest houses on Nantucket.

The beach there is wonderful, and you can cycle all the way out to Sankaty Head Lighthouse. Explore the bike trails out to Madaket and Surfside for the beaches.

There are also great hiking opportunities in lush green forest and you get all the way to the trails only 15-20 minutes by bike from Downtown.

Go ice hiking at Ricketts Glen State Park, PA

Contributed by Karen Dawkins of Family Travels on a Budget

Ice hiking at Ricketts Glen State Park in the Pennsylvania mountains is an exhilarating winter adventure. Geared up with winter coats, water bottles, and sunglasses, guides provide crampons for boots and ice picks for balance, for a fun winter adventure.

Trained guides lead tour groups down the Ricketts Glen falls trail to see the frozen wonderland created by the waterfalls each winter. Huge icicles, snow covered trees, and a shiny glaze of ice along the trail is breathtaking!

The star of the show is the 94-foot Ganoga Falls, with stunning ice walls muffling the sound of the rushing water. Conquering the trail is a thrill in itself, and the reward — stunning views few ever see — is totally worth it!

Do a Covered Bridges Bike Tour in New Hampshire

Contributed by Karen of Outdoor Adventure Sampler

What is more quintessentially New England that a historic covered bridge? The Bike the Bridges cycling loop in southern New Hampshire brings you past four picturesque covered bridges. 

The 12-mile bike trip is one of many exciting outdoor adventures in the Monadnock Region of New Hampshire. The family-friendly cycling tour travels on quiet country roads and partially on the Ashuelot Rail Trail.

Starting in Keene, NH, you bike past farm fields with mountain views through quaint New England towns to discover each covered bridge. Stop at a farm stand to pick up treats for a picnic on Swanzy Lake along the way.

The covered bridges were built in the 1800s and bring you back to a time when life was more relaxed. This bucket list bicycle ride to the covered bridges is particularly stunning during the fall foliage.

Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway

Contributed by Nicole Sunderland Of Bucketlistlists

One of the best USA bucket list destinations is the Blue Ridge Parkway located in Virginia. This unmissable location is most known for its beautiful drive. Hailed as one of the best drives in America, these twists and turns are packed with beauty.

The best activity on the Blue Ridge Parkway is driving to see the changing of colors. A top fall bucket list item is the fall foliage. Along these 469 miles of grandeur is rolling mountains with shades of red, orange and yellow as far as the eye can see on a clear day.

USA Bucket List: Hawaii & Alaska

Hike the Manoa Falls Trail in Hawaii

Contributed by Clara from Petite Capsule

Hiking the Manoa Falls Trail in Hawaii is a must for your USA bucket list. It is a beautiful walk before arriving at the 150-foot tall waterfall. There is lush green jungle-like vegetation, eucalyptus trees and a bamboo forest. The scenery may remind you of the Jurassic Park movie, as some of the movie was filmed here. 

Manoa Falls is rated as an easy hike. You can do it when traveling with a baby and toddler, children, and adults. The length of the walk is 0.8 miles to the waterfall or 1.6 miles return. The path is mostly shady, which is excellent.

It is a dirt track, which gets muddy in some parts, especially after rain. As you get closer to the waterfall, there are stairs, and it gets a little steep and rocky as well. The Manoa Falls Trail is a fantastic activity to add to your USA bucket list.

Watch the sunset on Waikiki Beach

Contributed by Sally from Our3kidsvtheworld

Waikiki is the place you’ll see on all the Hawaii postcards, a sun-drenched white sand beach, many a sun umbrella and bikini-clad tourists sun-baking or swimming in the year-round perfect conditions. 

These perfect conditions also lead to the most spectacular evening sunset shows and all you have to do it look towards the horizon. You’ll see a crowd of tourists and locals gathered each evening along the Waikiki beachfront waiting to see what mother nature serves up and whilst it’s different every night, it’s always dazzlingly beautiful. 

Book a beachfront view room at any one of the many luxury hotels facing Waikiki Beach and enjoy the evening sunset from your balcony while sipping a cocktail before heading out for dinner. 

Skydive over the North Shore in Hawaii 

Contributed by Sara Stanisz of Our Kind of Crazy

Bucket list activities are always our favorite thing to do when we travel. And what better place to check off a top bucket list check of jumping out of an airplane, than to do it over the beautiful North Shore?!

Plus Honolulu, Hawaii is a great vacation spot for couples and families! Skydiving in Hawaii not only gives you the thrill you seek, but also gives you some of the best views in the world when you’re floating down on your parachute.

We saw sea turtles in the water below, watched the waves crash up to the island, and had the most serene experience. It’s definitely one to add to your bucket list! 

Take a North Shore Oahu road trip

Contributed by Amanda of Fly Stay Luxe

Known for its big wave surfing, gorgeous waterfalls and delicious food trucks, the North Shore of Oahu is much more laid back than the tourist mecca of Waikiki on the other side of the island.

Spending a full day road tripping along the North Shore of Oahu is the perfect way to explore this beautiful side of Hawaii’s main island.

If you’re staying in Waikiki, I recommend starting the day at Haleiwa town and making your way north towards Turtle Bay. However, if you plan to stay around Turtle Bay, this road trip can easily be done in the reverse!

First up – grab a morning coffee from Island Vintage Coffee in Haleiwa, and check out the local markets in town before heading north along the Kamehameha Highway towards Waimea Bay. Here you can try cliff jumping into the turquoise ocean waters, or take a short hike to the beautiful Waimea Falls. 

Continue along the highway to Shark’s Cove for some of the best snorkelling in Oahu. This is also a great place to stop for lunch at one of the famous food trucks on North Shore Oahu for a feast of garlic shrimp or tacos. Two of the best food trucks are located right across the road from Shark’s Cove! 

After lunch, jump back in the car and continue north towards Banzai Pipeline. If you’re visiting between the months of November and February, you can watch hardcore surfers tackle the epic waves (and also go whale watching in Oahu!). Alternatively, check out nearby Ehukai Pillbox Hike for some epic views over the ocean, if that’s more you scene. 

Finish up the day with afternoon snorkeling at Turtle Bay, where you’ll have a good chance of spotting the beautiful Hawaiian green sea turtles during the calmer months (June to August). For the adventure-seekers, another great place to finish your road trip is Climbworks at Keana Farms, where you can experience a thrilling sunset zipline ride.

Visit a luau in Hawaii

Contributed by Alexis Robinson of Sorta Crunchy Mama

My husband and I traveled to Maui, Hawaii for our honeymoon.  We did a ton of fun activities while we were there but a luau was one of our favorites! 

It can be a little touristy but we loved getting to see traditional hula, fire dancers, Listen to Hawaiian music, and watch them roast the pork in the sand. 

We had a delicious dinner and it was a great end to our visit.  It’s something everyone who gets to Maui should do at least once (and if we ever go back I’d love to do it again!).

Anywhere in the USA

Watch a Live NBA Game

Contributed by Maria and Rui of Two Find a Way

When we booked our plane tickets to New York, the first since we did was checking if there were any NBA games during our stay. We got lucky, and in a few minutes, we had our tickets to see the Knicks vs the Hawks play at the Madison Square Garden.

It was one of the most expensive parts of our budget trip to New York City, but it was also one of the most fun experiences we’ve ever had.

If you’re not a fan of the sport, watching a basketball game may not seem particularly enticing, but truthfully, basketball is just a part of the show during a NBA game.

There is plenty of entertainment besides the game: the historic arenas, the energy around you, the food, and, of course, the halftime shows (there was even live music when we went). With so much going on, we felt like we were in one of “those” movies we grew up watching.

Our experience was extra special because it was Martin Luther King Jr.’s Day, but we’ll always try to watch an NBA game when we go back to the USA (no matter the date or the location!).

Pin This USA Bucket List!

27 Most Romantic Honeymoon Destinations in the USA

So, you’ve decided you want to honeymoon in the USA — but maybe you don’t know where exactly in the USA to honeymoon just yet!

I gathered the opinions of over two dozen savvy travel writers to suggest their top recommendation for a romantic honeymoon in the USA.

These USA honeymoon destinations range from culture-focused city trips to world-class cities like New York, San Francisco, and Seattle, to off-the-beaten-path island getaways like Amelia Island and Sanibel island.

Whether you’re looking for a snowy winter honeymoon destination in the USA, like Aspen or Tahoe, or a forever-summer destination like Key West in Florida, these honeymoon destinations in the USA will have you wishing you could get married over and over again!

Kona, HI

Contributed by Constance of The Adventures of Panda Bear

The gorgeous, sunny paradise of Hawaii is not only a beautiful place to spend a vacation but it’s also a great honeymoon destination in the USA that feels like a world away. Kona, Hawaii, in particular, is an amazing spot full of beautiful beaches, Hawaiian culture, and local eats. 

Kona is famous for its dramatic and colorful sunsets lighting up the sky in pinks, purples, oranges, and reds. You can’t visit Hawaii without taking in one of these gorgeous sunsets from a beach filled with palm trees and white sands. 

Hawaiian culture is known for its “Aloha spirit” and you can expect no less from the Big Island of Hawaii. The locals are friendly as you’d expect from Hawaii. Plus, it is not as touristy as Oahu and much less crowded allowing you and your partner to get relaxed and go with the flow. 

The food in Kona is to die for! This makes it the perfect honeymoon destination for foodie couples, but it provides great opportunities for a romantic dinner by the beachfront or a brunch by the ocean. Be sure to grab at breakfast or brunch at a local spot in Kona, you can’t visit Kona without trying some of that famous Kona coffee! 

Kona Honeymoon Highlights

  • Relax on the white sand beach at Makalawena Beach.
  • Have an oceanside brunch at Papa Kona Restaurant.
  • Take a romantic after-dinner stroll along the Ali’i Drive waterfront.

Seattle, WA

Contributed by Dani of Diapers in Paradise

Seattle, Washington is an ideal honeymoon spot for any couple who loves the outdoors. Surrounded by water, mountains, and a temperate rainforest, Seattle has an endless supply of natural wonders to explore. From hiking, to biking, to skiing, to every watersport imaginable – this is a place where you’ll want to get out in nature with your loved one.

Seattle has more to offer than just adventure, however. This is a city that loves its museums, sports teams, music venues, and of course: coffee! (Seattle is home to the original Starbucks and is known for its innovative coffee scene.)

With adorable small-town islands just a short ferry ride away, you can easily take a break from the city life for a few days. Or if the beach is more your style, you can head west to the Pacific coast.

For the couple who wants to spend their days having exciting adventures, and then enjoy the comfort of a world-class city that isn’t too big or crowded, Seattle is a perfect choice.

Seattle Honeymoon Highlights

  • Kayak around Lake Union with a stop at scenic Gasworks Park
  • Hop on the ferry to Bainbridge Island for a wine tasting walk
  • Have dinner at the top of the Space Needle

Charleston, SC

Contributed by Julien Casanova of Cultures Traveled

There is romance peeping around every corner in historic Charleston, South Carolina. The historic homes and intimate gardens turn a simple walk through the city into a romantic adventure.

The South of Broad neighborhood is known for the most exquisite Charleston homes, but if you’re up for a longer walk, start on Church Street south of the Market. Zigzag through the neighborhoods until you end up at White Point Gardens along the Battery. 

In the evening, set sail on a sunset cruise to admire the city from a different vantage point. The Schooner Pride, Charleston’s only tall ship, is powered by three elegant 80 foot sails which allows guests to enjoy a peaceful evening.

To visit the next two picturesque destinations, you’ll need to take a short drive out of downtown to John’s Island and neighboring Wadmalaw Island. The first stop is Angel Oak, an enchanting live oak tree that is estimated to be 500 years old. Its large branches extend from the trunk and curve around as if to welcome you into its majestic arms. It’s the perfect spot for pictures together as newlyweds.

Then venture to the Charleston Tea Garden where rows of tea bushes, each perfectly manicured, extend as far as the eye can see. After a brief tour about the tea process, take a leisurely walk together to explore the grounds of the only tea farm in the United States.

To round out your romantic honeymoon in Charleston, head to Sullivan’s Island, one of several nearby barrier islands for a day in the sun. Before spending a day lounging at the beach, enjoy lunch and drinks at Poe’s Tavern. Or if you’re looking for more adventure with your spouse, explore the trails, lighthouse, and fort on Sullivan’s southwest side facing the harbor.

With its rich history and captivating charm, Charleston is an incredible US honeymoon destination.

Charleston Honeymoon Highlights:

  • Wander the South of Broad neighborhood to admire the beautiful homes and gardens.
  • Experience a different view of the city during a sunset cruise on the Schooner Pride.
  • Explore Angel Oak and the Charleston Tea Garden.
  • Enjoy a day in the sun and sand on Sullivan’s Island.

Eastern Shore, VA

Contributed by Megan Starr of Virginia Travel Tips

One of the most underrated and affordable US honeymoon destinations is Virginia’s Eastern Shore.  The Eastern Shore is a remote area of the state that is connected to Virginia’s mainland by a 17.3-mile bridge-tunnel, one of only 11 bridge-tunnel in the world.

The Eastern Shore is made up of a variety of landscapes and eco-systems but one that is ubiquitous across the region are marshes and low-country.  The quiet landscapes leave the opportunity to set off early in the morning with your partner to watch a colorful Virginia sunrise.

If you’re looking for activities, there are many things to do in Chincoteague from visiting the Assateague Lighthouse to taking a casual stroll along the trails in the National Wildlife Refuge.
Whatever you choose to do, it will likely be affordable and hotels and home rentals are easy to come by and you will get a lot of value for your dollar.

The Eastern Shore may not be the typical conventional honeymoon spot for most, but it definitely has a lot to offer and if you’re looking for a relaxing honeymoon in a quiet place in the US, it is definitely the winning pick.

Eastern Virginia Honeymoon Highlights

  • Take a boat cruise through Chincoteague to watch the wild ponies
  • Have a seafood feast at a harborside restaurant in Cape Charles
  • Find a quiet strip of shoreline along the Assateague Island National Seashore

Sanibel Island, FL

Contributed by Lori of Travlinmad

Looking for a tropical honeymoon without leaving the USA?

Tucked away just off Ft. Myers in southwest Florida is Sanibel Island, a small barrier island that’s a world away from the rest of Florida and joined at the hip to its sister island of Captiva by a tiny spit of land.

Sanibel offers one of the most romantic tropical getaways in the US without ever needing your passport!

There’s plenty to enjoy on Sanibel if you love a laid-back island atmosphere. It’s the quieter things that make Sanibel perfect for a romantic getaway or honeymoon — the Sanibel Island beaches are renowned for their soft white sand and incredible seashells that wash ashore.

Couples can cruise to surrounding islands and explore for the afternoon, cycle the network of quiet bike paths that stretch the entire length of the island, kayak pristine nature settings like J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve, or visit the charming Sanibel lighthouse at sunset.

If you’re looking for a unique honeymoon destination, Sanibel Island is perfect for beach- and nature-loving romantics!

Sanibel Island Honeymoon Highlights

  • Take a private champagne sunset cruise
  • Enjoy a couple’s massage at Casa Ybel Resort
  • Have a private beach dining experience on the sand at South Seas Resort on Captiva

Marthas Vineyard, MA

Contributed by Shobha of Martha’s Vineyard Tourist

Although many people choose to have their weddings on Martha’s Vineyard, the island is also a beautiful place for a honeymoon.

Depending on how private you would like your location, there are several towns on Martha’s Vineyard to choose from. The island, however, is not very big so you can easily travel between towns.

Edgartown is full of elegant colonial Captain’s houses from the time that the town was flush with whaling money. West Tisbury and Chilmark are more rural and isolated with grey shingle cottages and farmhouses.

Spend your day on Martha’s Vineyard lazing on a beach, shopping at boutiques and eating at nice restaurants. For an active vacation, there are plenty of outdoor activities including SUP, kayaking, cycling, hiking and tennis.

Many of the inns on Martha’s Vineyard are adults only so you will not have to worry about the excited screaming of children on vacation.

The Hob Knob Inn in Edgartown is a beautiful boutique hotel perfect for couples. The romantic Beach Plum Inn has cottages that are secluded in the woods an have fantastic views of the famous sunset over Menemsha Village and a walk down to the beach.

The Obamas have had their date nights at the Sweet Life Cafe in Oak Bluffs and the Beach Plum Inn in Menemsha. Our personal favourite is sitting outside at the Outermost Inn restaurant under the glow of Aquinnah Lighthouse. In Edgartown, our favourite restaurant is L’etoile.

The joy of a Martha’s Vineyard vacation is that there is plenty to do if you so chose, but alternatively, it’s perfectly fine to do nothing.

Martha’s Vineyard Honeymoon Highlights

  • Take a sailing trip on the wooden schooner Valora either for sunset or to a secluded beach on the Elizabeth Islands
  • Pack a picnic for a sunset dinner at Moshup Beach (all the tourists go to Menemsha so Moshup is blissfully empty)
  • Eat at one of the fine dining establishments in Martha’s Vineyard

Nashville, TN

Contributed by Disha Smith of Disha Discovers

There are so many amazing honeymoon destinations in the USA and Nashville is one of them.

Not only is Nashville the “Country Music Capital of the World,” but it’s also home to an incredible food scene, romantic boutique hotels, and vivacious music venues.

Nashville has everything honeymooners could possibly want: excitement, charm, and relaxation. Nashville has a laid back and relaxing atmosphere.

While there are many adventurous things to do there, there is an equal amount of things to do at a slower pace. Plus, there is always live music to enjoy.

Honeymooners can catch musicians at almost every stage in Nashville from more well-known venues to smaller ones.

Plus, the outdoor scenes around Nashville are epic. Beyond the city, honeymooners can enjoy some solitude and spend time in the rolling hills or kayak in the rivers and lakes around the area.

Lastly, there are so many art galleries, museums, and historical sites that contribute to Nashville’s allure.

All in all, Nashville is brimming with things to do and the possibilities are endless here. Whatever honeymooners choose to do here, they’ll leave with great memories.

Nashville Honeymoon Highlights

  • Dance the night away with your newlywed at a honky-tonk
  • Watch a romantic sunset from Love Circle
  • Enjoy wine tasting at Arrington Vineyards
  • See a show at Ryman Auditorium
  • Revel in luxury at the Hermitage Hotel

San Diego, CA

Contributed By Lisa of Planningaway.com

Located on the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, San Diego is the perfect place for a romantic honeymoon.  With its miles and miles of white-sand beaches and amazing weather, the city offers an abundance of romantic and fun attractions.  

The Hotel Del Coronado is your ultimate honeymoon destination.  This historic beachfront hotel is located just across the San Diego Bay and has hosted presidents, royalty, and celebrities. Why not you and your new spouse?

If you are looking for a little more adventure, exploring San Diego is a great option.  There are so many things to do in San Diego! 

The San Diego Zoo, San Diego Safari Park, USS Midway, and Balboa Park are great places to start.  Old Town San Diego and Little Italy are great places to end your day with a romantic dinner.

San Diego is a great romantic destination to enjoy your honeymoon in the USA!

San Diego Honeymoon Highlights

  •  Take some fun surf lessons with your love
  • Enjoy a late night campfire on the beach 
  • Explore the lovely Gaslamp District in downtown San Diego

Savannah, GA

Contributed by Erin Clarkson of Savannah First-Timer’s Guide

Savannah is the quintessential Southern honeymoon destination! Its slow pace beckons couples to relax while taking in the city’s stunning architecture, beautiful squares, and numerous outdoor cafes.

For those who prefer a faster pace, City Market and the newly developed Plant Riverside District offer plenty of nightlife, while Tybee Island is only 20 minutes away and the perfect spot to dig your toes in the sand.

Narrowing down the best time of year to visit Savannah shouldn’t be too difficult, but spring is traditionally the most popular season. There are pros and cons for every month.

Finally, don’t forget that Savannah is a major destination for foodies! Plan to eat out as often as possible. The Olde Pink House, Vic’s on the River, and Alligator Soul are a few ideal spots for a romantic dinner.

NOTE: Savannah is a very LGBTQ-friendly destination, so all couples are welcome and will feel right at home throughout the city.

Savannah Honeymoon Highlights

  • Take a romantic sunset stroll down River Street to watch the ships sail into port.
  • Enjoy drinks at one of the city’s many rooftop bars. Peregrin at Perry Lane, Electric Moon Skytop Lounge, and Top Deck at Cotton Sail Hotel are three good options. 
  • Hit up the shops along Broughton Street, and then enjoy a couples massage at Spa Bleu. 

Key West, FL

Contributed by Megan Starr at Megan & Aram

A perfect honeymoon spot in the United States is Key West, Florida… and the Florida Keys as a whole. 

This unique American landscape offers something completely different than what you’ll find in the rest of the United States and it is as adventurous as it is romantic.

The best way to get there is to rent a car and plan a Miami to Key West road trip, stopping by state parks and idyllic beaches along the way.  Be sure to put John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park on your list as it was the first undersea state park in the US.  Bahia Honda State Park is also a can’t miss once you’re in the Middle Keys.

There are several resorts and romantic spots to stop along the way from Islamorada to picturesque spots in Key Largo.  In fact, Bungalows Key Largo is the only all-inclusive resort in the Florida Keys. But, Key West tops them all with variety making it the ultimate honeymoon spot.

If you’re looking for a luxury place to stay in Key West, opt for Casa Marina Key West, A Waldorf Astoria Resort.  If you’re on a budget, you can choose to stay somewhere in the Middle or Upper Keys such as Marathon, Islamorada, or Key Largo. 

Key West is definitely a fantastic honeymoon spot in the US where you will find a variety of activities and things to do to suit your partner and you.

Key West Honeymoon Highlights

Fort Lauderdale, FL

Contributed by Derek and Mike of Robe Trotting

For years, Fort Lauderdale has been one of America’s premier LGBTQ+ travel destinations.

It’s no surprise that the sunny southern Florida destination is one of the most popular queer honeymoon destinations in the USA!

Gay Fort Lauderdale is full of spectacular beaches, LGBTQ+ nightlife and lodging as well as chic boutiques and fantastic restaurants. 

The best gay beach in Fort Lauderdale is located on Sebastian Street and stretches to Castillo Street. It’s the perfect place to enjoy the sun and sand on a honeymoon and it’s near some of the best gay resorts in Fort Lauderdale. Whether you spend a full day on the beach or visit for a romantic stroll at sunset, Sebastian Street Beach is the perfect place to be in Fort Lauderdale.

Fort Lauderdale is also a popular destination for boating or cruising the intercoastal waterways. A romantic boat ride, dinner cruise or other excursion on the water makes for an enchanting evening with your happily ever after.

Any honeymoon in Fort Lauderdale is incomplete without delicious meals and even some celebratory cocktails. The city’s main LGBT nightlife district is in the adjacent village of Wilton Manors. There you’ll find the second highest density of LGBTQ+ citizens in the country. This active and vibrant community holds many events throughout the year and has over 200 LGBT-owned businesses. Whether you’re looking to go dancing, sing karaoke or just have a romantic dinner on an outdoor patio – you can find your scene in Wilton Manors.

Fort Lauderdale is also home to the Stonewall National Museum and Archive. It’s a museum and archive dedicated solely to the preservation of LGBTQ+ history, culture and the fight for civil rights. It’s a fitting destination to visit while on a honeymoon to celebrate one’s marriage and honoring those who fought to make it a legal right.

Ft Lauderdale Honeymoon Highlights

  • Celebrate marriage equality at the Stonewall National Museum
  • Enjoy the gay nightlife scene in Wilton Manors
  • Take a romantic cruise with your partner out on the water

Temecula, CA

Contributed by Maria Haase of SanDiegoExplorer

Temecula is the perfect romantic honeymoon destination in Southern California for all the newlyweds who love wine!

Located East, about half way between Los Angeles and San Diego, it is an easy destination to reach and gives plenty of opportunity for fun day trips.

The rolling hills and warm, dry climate is very similar to Tuscany, yet when you visit Old Town Temecula, you feel like you entered a charming little Wester town right out of a movie set.

If you are in the mood for a little glitz and glamour, you can check out the Pechanga Casino and Resort for a night of gambling, shows, dancing and more. 

Temecula is all about wine. You’ll find over 30 wineries, many producing some amazing award-winning wines. There are plenty of organized wine tasting tours to choose from, either private or in a group. Or you can go explore on your own and visit the ones that appeal to you.

To make your honeymoon extra special, stay at one of these amazing winery hotels in Temecula. They have stunning properties, nestled into the rolling hillside.

Wake up early and take your love for a stroll around the grapevines and watch the sunrise over the vineyards. Very idyllic and romantic and perfect for a romantic honeymoon destination in the USA!. 

Temecula Honeymoon Highlights

  • Take a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the Temecula vineyards
  • Do a motorcycle sidecar wine tasting tour
  • Go on a food and cocktail tour in old town Temecula

Amelia Island, FL

Contributed by Victoria Yore of Florida Trippers

Amelia Island is perfect for your honeymoon because it is home to a lot of romantic hotels and tons of things to do such as paddle boarding, walking the beach, exploring nature parks and more. 

Ferdinanda Beach has over 50 blocks of historic city and it is so cute and perfect for a stroll with your sweetheart. There are many restaurants and the seafood on Amelia Island is fresh and tasty!

It is truly one of the best places to spend your honeymoon in Florida! Don’t forget to wake up for sunrise!

Amelia Island Honeymoon Highlights

  • Indulge in a delicious seafood meal with your newlywed
  • Stroll the beautiful Ferninanda Beach
  • Wake up for a sunrise you’ll never forget

Catalina Island, CA

Contributed by Megan Indoe of Bobo & Chichi

One of the best honeymoon spots in the United States sits less than 30 miles off the coast of Southern California depending on where you depart from and even is the subject of a famous old song by The Four Preps, “26 Miles”.

Catalina Island has been a haven for Hollywood stars since the Golden Era and is even where Marilyn Monroe was discovered.

One of the reasons why Catalina is so romantic and a perfect honeymoon spot is that you get the type of escapism of a coastal Mediterranean destination without having to leave the US.

The whole island is full of charming colorful cottages and retro buildings that remind you of its Hollywood glam days and gorgeous turquoise waters.

Catalina Honeymoon Highlights

  • Enjoy a day in a beachside cabana at the Descanso Beach Club
  • Watch a sunset from the intimate bench on the rocky cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Buena Vista Point Scenic Overlook or have brunch with the best views in Avalon at the Inn at Mount Ada
  • Experience an old school date night at the Island’s historic and preserved 1920s Casino Movie Theater 

Newport, RI

Contributed by Jamie Italiane of Adventures in New England

Newport is one of the oldest trading towns sitting on the bottom of Aquidneck Island. It has forts, some of the oldest colonial houses in the US, and the US’ oldest Jewish synagogue.

Newport is also the site of one of the most romantic weddings of this century, that of Jackie and JFK.

Newport is a perfect place to spend a week, exploring its history and relaxing on its beaches, or you can use it as a stop while exploring the rest of New England.

Enjoy a romantic ride in an antique car by the “summer cottage” mansions of America’s earliest millionaires, like the Vanderbilts and Asters, and don’t forget to try a New England lobster roll!

Newport Honeymoon Highlights

  • Take a bike ride along Ocean Drive, viewing the Beavertail Lighthouse.
  • Taste wines among the grapevines of Newport Vineyard.
  • Take a romantic stroll on cliff walk
  • Dine on the lawn to see the best views in Newport at The Inn at Castle Hill
  • Take a sunset cruise of Narragansett Bay, seeing the famous Newport Bridge.

Maui, HI

Contributed by Dan Bagby of HoneymoonAlways.com

Maui is a perfect place to relax, unwind, and spend time together after your wedding. The amazing resorts, beautiful beaches and landscapes, delicious food, fun activities, and wonderful weather year-round make Maui an amazing honeymoon destination in the US.

Spend time relaxing on the beach or playing in the resort pool. At several beaches like Maluaka or Wailea, you can even snorkel and find sea turtles.

Take a drive down the road to Hana, stopping along the way to enjoy black and red sand beaches and delicious food like the famous banana bread, chicken from the Huli Huli chicken shack, or BraddahHutts BBQ Grill.

If you are feeling adventurous, go on a helicopter tour of the island, zipline, go surfing, or head to the peak of Mt. Haleakala for sunrise.

Once you have had plenty of adventure, take advantage of some of the more relaxing experiences together. Couples massages are a perfect way to unwind and have a memorable experience together.

You can also enjoy a sunset cruise in the evening or simply rent a convertible to take for an evening drive, parking by a beach and looking up at the stars together.

Maui Honeymoon Highlights

  • Go on a sunset cruise
  • See Maui from above on a helicopter tour
  • Get a couples massage on the beach

Las Vegas, NV

Contributed by Ketki of Dotted Globe

Las Vegas, Nevada is one of the most romantic honeymoon destinations in the USA. Spring and fall are the best seasons to visit Vegas, but Sin City is popular with honeymooners year-round. The city is full of romance and its lights and sounds are just waiting to sweep lovers off their feet!

While Sin City is known for its casinos, there are Las Vegas attractions for couples besides gambling. The city has multiple shows, events, thrilling rides, concerts, pool parties, top-notch restaurants, and even museums. Outdoor Las Vegas offers hiking, ATV riding, desert gardens, water sports, and striking landscapes for adventurous couples. 

The luxurious casinos of Sin City make the best honeymoon resorts for couples. Stay in a fountain facing suite at the Bellagio or in a penthouse suite with excellent views of the strip.

A honeymoon in Las Vegas is like having a round trip around the world with your loved one — all while enjoying a honeymoon in the USA! Couples can enjoy the splendors of Eqypt at Luxor and the antiquities of Rome at Ceaser’s Palace. 

Need more ideas? Here are the most romantic things to do in Las Vegas for couples!

Las Vegas Honeymoon Highlights

  • Ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris Las Vegas
  • Have a romantic dinner in view of the famous Fountains of the Bellagio
  • Take a gondola ride at the Venetian

Aspen, CO

Contributed by Leticia Alleyne of Chictravelaroundtheworld

Aspen, Colorado is such a great city for a romantic honeymoon whether it
be during winter when it’s cold and snowing or summer when it’s warm and sunny. 

All year round, couples can enjoy Aspen’s mountainous environment with pristine views. There is so much to do for a couple looking to
experience this city!

No visit to Aspen would be without skiing.  Aspen is known to have
some of the best ski trails.  What better way to spend the day with your
partner exploring the trails of Snowmass Nordic Trail System?

Not skiers? A gondola ride to view all the splendors of the Aspen Mountain is such a great way to spend your honeymoon without needing to strap on the skis.

For more winter fun,  ice skating it is one of the most popular winter activities in thiscity.  There’s a couple of great places to enjoy a romantic day of ice skating in Aspen these are the Aspen Ice Garden and Lewis Ice are
popular indoor rinks and for outdoors Silver Ice, Snowmass and Maroon
Lake just to name a few.

Aspen Honeymoon Highlights

  • Go on a hot air balloon as you soar and admire the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.
  • A romantic dinner on the top or bottom of the mountain is a special and unique way to celebrate your undying love at restaurants such as Steakhouse No. 316 or the French Alpine Bistro.
  • Get a couple’s massage at one of the high-end spas such as the Remede Spa, St. Regis Aspen.

Kawaii, HI

Contributed by Jessica of A Passion and A Passport

Looking for one of the best honeymoon destinations in the US?! Kauai is your answer. Not only is the island full of lush jungle scenes, but the weather is perfect for year-round sunbathing! 

Whether you’ve got 3 days in Kauai (as part of a longer Hawaiian honeymoon) or an entire week, you’re sure to find enough activities to fill your time.

The island is filled with tons of natural beauty, and is actually the oldest inhabited Hawaiian island.

Don’t miss out on all the fresh pineapple, frequent rainbow sightings, and a sunset dinner cruise. There’s also a bunch of hiking opportunities if you’re looking to get a bit active on your honeymoon! 

Kauai Honeymoon Highlights

  • Helicopter tour above the Na Pali coastline: You can’t visit Kauai without soaring above the famous coastline via heli tour. There’s regal mountains and green peaks and turquoise waters to admire! Plus, if one of you is afraid of heights, all the better to hold each other tight.
  • Dinner and drinks at The Beach House: Come for the (exceptionally fresh) fish of the day, stay for the ambiance and sunset. Be sure to come a bit early to take advance of mai tais on the back patio, complete with stellar beach views!
  • Take a dip in Queens Bath: Although you’ll need to head out on a mini hike, the natural tide pool (known as Queens Bath) is well worth the effort. 

Napa, CA

Contributed by Dhara of Roadtripping California

Napa Valley is one of the most incredibly romantic places to visit in California. With beautiful vineyards draped on rolling hills, lots of luxurious resorts and spas, and world-class restaurants, the region makes the perfect honeymoon destination.

One of the most romantic things to do here is to take a tasting tour of the most beautiful Napa Valley wineries. Take the aerial tram to the large terrace of Sterling Vineyards: it’s considered one of the best photo spots in the valley. Or enjoy a sunset wine tasting on the covered terrace of Round Pond Estate. Or a flight of sparkling wines in the French salon at Domaine Carneros.

You will be spoiled for choice when it comes to romantic experiences in Napa Valley. If you enjoy adventure, go ballooning over the vineyards at dawn. Want to stay on terra firma? Book the dinner experience on the Napa Valley Wine Train instead. Or enjoy a couples mud bath in Calistoga for a deeply relaxing time.

Napa Valley’s restaurants serve seasonal menus in a variety of settings. Try several different venues on your honeymoon, from a romantic dinner at the acclaimed French Laundry (reserve well in advance) to the most luscious tacos at C Casa, served in a casual setting in the Oxbow Public Market in Napa. Don’t forget desserts at Bouchon Bakery!

No matter how you choose to spend your honeymoon in Napa Valley, you are guaranteed to have an unforgettable time!

Napa Honeymoon Highlights

  • Go wine tasting at luxurious Napa wineries
  • Have a romantic meal at the French Laundry
  • Enjoy a couples’ mud bath in Calistoga

Nantucket, MA

Contributed by Linn Haglund of Brainy Backpackers

Nantucket is the perfect destination for a honeymoon. With the charming houses spotted around the island and downtown being the perfect place for a romantic dinner.

There are many museums to learn more about the history of Nantucket like the Museum of African American History, Nantucket Whaling Museum, and Nantucket Shipwreck and Lifesaving Museum.

But one of the most romantic things to do is to explore Nantucket by bike. The whole island is bike-friendly with bike paths crossing to Siasconset, Surfside, and Madaket. Bring a picnic to enjoy at one of the beaches or go for a walk in the forest to look for wildlife.

Whole days can be spent relaxing on the beautiful beaches if you’re up for some lazy days with cuddles and swimming. You should also walk the Sconset Bluff Walk in Siasconset.

It takes you to Sankaty Light House which is the most beautiful spot for sunset at the island. You can round off with a nice dinner in the little town before heading back to Downtown.

Nantucket Honeymoon Highlights

  • Explore the island by bike
  • Watch the sunset at Sankaty Light House
  • Have a romantic dinner in Downtown
  • Surprise your partner with a romantic picnic at the beach

Los Angeles, CA

Contributed by Sarah Chetrit of From Lust ‘Till Dawn

Los Angeles is a sprawling metropolis best known for its film and television, but there’s much more than Hollywood and Universal Studios.

For honeymooners who can’t decide between the city, beach and nature, Los Angeles has it all. Here are three romantic things honeymooners can do:

Griffith Park has over 45 trails ranging from easy to hard. All have a gorgeous view of Los Angeles, which makes it a great place to have a romantic picnic.

Set on the West Coast, Los Angeles has the best sunsets. You can hold your loved one close on Manhattan or Venice Beach as you watch the vibrant colors shift with the sun.

For foodies who love to try different cuisines, check out LA’s vibrant K-Town. Start out spending a few hours relaxing at a Korean spa, which will get your appetite stirred up for Korean barbecue at Soon Won Galbi.

LA Honeymoon Highlights

  • Enjoy a picnic and a hike on one of Griffith Park’s many trails.
  • Watch a sunset at the beach.
  • Spend the day at a Korean spa and grab Korean barbecue afterwards.

New York, NY

Contributed by James Ian of Travel Collecting

So many romantic comedies are set in New York for a reason; it is possibly the most romantic city in the United States.  

Walking the streets of New York City feels like walking in one of your favorite TV shows or movies.  There are plenty of amazing things you can do together that will make this the perfect honeymoon.

No matter what time of year you have your honeymoon, there is something romantic to do.  Wander under the cherry blossoms in Central Park in spring.  Sit on a bench in Washington Square Park in an early summer evening and listen to buskers playing jazz.  Watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade together in the fall.  Go ice skating at Rockefeller Center or Bryant Park in winter.

At any time of year, you can take in iconic sights like Times Square and take the ferry to the Statue of Liberty.  You can dine in one of the many cozy restaurants that line the streets of the West Village. 

Soho and Fifth Avenue have great shopping, and you can pick up some great souvenirs of your honeymoon.  Head further up Fifth Avenue to visit some of the most iconic museums in the world.  The rooftop at the Met has incredibly romantic views of Central park that you can enjoy together over a glass of sangria.

There are so many romantic things to do in New York City that it is difficult to choose the top three, but my pick of the honeymoon experiences absolutely not to be missed are:

NYC Honeymoon Highlights

  • Enjoy the view from the top of the Empire State Building. Go up in the later afternoon so you can see the sunset and the lights of the city come out after dark.  There is truly nothing more romantic.
  • Row a boat around the lake in Central Park. This is the perfect activity to do together on your summer honeymoon.  Lie back and relax or slowly row around the lake, surrounded by iconic NYC views.
  • See a show together on Broadway. This elevates the ‘dinner and movie’ concept to the next level.  A night of the best musical theater in the world is the perfect honeymoon ‘date night’.

Lake Tahoe, CA

Contributed by Christina of Travel2next.com

In the Sierra Nevadas, Lake Tahoe is a stunningly scenic region that straddles both California and Nevada.

Honeymooning in Lake Tahoe means you can enjoy the charms of two states in a stunning part of the USA, where there is plenty to do. The centrepiece is the lake itself, which is the USA’s biggest alpine lake and the second deepest.

With snow-capped mountains, beautiful beaches, and charming lakeside communities, couples won’t be wondering what to do in Tahoe for long.

There’s plenty to do in this gorgeous spot all-year-round and anytime is a good time to honeymoon in Lake Tahoe. In summer, spring or fall, active couples will love spending time hiking one of the many scenic trails and enjoying activities on the lake such as stand-up paddleboarding, canoeing, and swimming.

The bright lights of Reno, where you can have a flutter at a casino, is only a 30-minute drive away. In winter, Lake Tahoe’s ski resorts are incredibly romantic when covered in a blanket of snow.

Tahoe Honeymoon Highlights

  • Steal a kiss on the slopes in winter before skiing down Heavenly Mountain.
  • Have a romantic picnic on the beach at Zephyr Cove when the weather is warmer.
  • Have an unforgettable meal at Café Fiore, which is a small restaurant with only seven tables. 

Sedona, AZ

Contributed by Nicole from American SW Obsessed

Sedona is one of those places that will take your breath away.  It is a gorgeous place with incredible energy and only a two hour drive from Phoenix.  Sedona makes for the perfect active honeymoon spot that is a hidden gem.

For an active honeymoon, Sedona is the perfect place to get out and go hiking.  The two most popular hikes are Devil’s Bridge and Cathedral Rock.  Devil’s Bridge is an easy hike that is best done in the morning.  The hike is around 4 miles to Devil’s Bridge where you can take photos on the bridge. 

All along the trail you will see the beautiful red rocks that the area is famous for.  Cathedral Rock is another short but steep hike.  In a quarter of a mile, you gain 600 feet in elevation.  Much of the trail is spent scrambling up the distinct red rocks to the top where you will have stunning views of the area.

If hiking isn’t your thing why not try a Jeep Tour of the area to see Sedona’s stunning landscapes.  This is a popular activity in Sedona and there are several different themes of Jeep Tours you can do.  Jeeps Tours usually last half a day or a whole day and you have a tour guide and driver who will take you around and offers adventure at every turn.  The tour guides are knowledgeable and experienced to ensure you have a fantastic time off-road in Sedona.

When you hear the name Sedona do you think red rocks or red wine?  Well, you should think both!  There are several small production vineyards and wineries around Sedona.  I recommend going to Page Springs Cellars for their wine and food pairings.  You can also take a tour of their vineyard or sign up for a massage by the creek.  They also have yoga so this is a great place to spend the day.

Lastly, make sure you check out the Coffee Pot cafe for an amazing breakfast on the patio and one of these Airbnbs in Sedona with luxury pools for your stay.   

Sedona Honeymoon Highlights

  • Take a romantic yet adventurous jeep tour through the red rocks
  • Go wine tasting at one of the romantic Sedona-area wineries
  • Have a luxurious massage at one of Sedona’s wonderful spas

San Francisco, CA

Contributed by Kay of PCH1 Road Trip

When it comes to honeymoon on the West Coast of the US, few destinations can match the allure and enchantment of San Francisco. The city has many romantic hotspots and attractions that are perfect for intimacy.

From its twisting steep streets to historic buildings, San Francisco is the perfect place to spend time with your significant other. The city’s most iconic landmarks – the Golden Gate Bridge and the Palace of Fine Arts – are perfect places to begin your trip to this charming city by the bay. 

San Francisco has a unique trendy vibe. Its neighborhoods including Chinatown, Haight Ashbury, Mission District, and Russian Hill are perfect for exploring. Take a hand in hand stroll through historic architecture, fascinating murals, boutiques, and eateries. Sip on hot chocolate at the Ghiradelli Square and take a cruise to Alcatraz Island. 

Couples need not limit their honeymoon to the urban attractions of San Francisco. Rent a car and take the Pacific Coast Highway to attractions such as Muir Woods, Point Reyes, and Big Sur. If you love wine tasting and vineyards, visit Napa and Sonoma Counties. 

San Francisco Honeymoon Highlights

  • Take a sunset sail under the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Fly a kite at Crissy Fields
  • See the city lit up at night from Twin Peaks

Sonoma, CA

Contributed by Victoria Watts Kennedy of Bridges and Balloons

Sonoma is the laidback alternative to Napa, and a place to while away days feasting on farm-to-table dining, drinking the region’s best wines and exploring its abundance of gorgeous nature. Romance comes easy in a place like this.

Sonoma County is home to many small towns and areas, but perhaps the most romantic of all is Healdsburg where you’ll find a picture-perfect plaza, and a plethora of high-end restaurants and independent boutiques. It’s also home to many tasting rooms from the region’s best vineyards. This is an ideal place to base yourself for a Sonoma honeymoon.

Other areas to visit in Sonoma include the Russian River for lots of watersports and adventures in the redwoods; the arty town of Sebastapol; and the coastal area around Bodega Bay and North and South Salmon Creek. The drive from Occidental to the sea is one of the most beautiful in the county. And don’t miss the scones at Wildflower Bakery – they alone are a reason to visit Sonoma!

There are many charming guesthouses in Sonoma, such as the friendly Camellia Inn in Healdsburg, or lots of beautiful Sonoma Airbnbs  including cabins in the redwoods and rooms on private farms. You could also stay at one of the area’s wineries, many of which offer honeymoon packages.

Honeymoon Highlights

  • Watch the sunset at Bodega Bay
  • Go full luxury with a room at one of Sonoma’s fanciest inns, such as Madrona Manor.
  • Treat yourself to a romantic meal at one of Sonoma’s best restaurants, such as Single Thread or Valette

Pin This USA Honeymoon Guide!

21 Best Places to See Fall Colors in the USA

In fall all over the United States, trees light up in all different colors of red, orange, yellow, and purple as they begin their yearly metamorphosis.

Each state’s fall has its own charms, but some places stand head-and-above the best places to see fall colors in the USA.

While New England road trips are an obvious favorite in fall for many, I’ve gathered some incredible fall foliage destinations all over the USA curated by fellow travel bloggers, included unexpected spots in California, Alaska, the Southern USA, and beyond!

Best Places for Fall Foliage in the USA: Northeast

New England is probably what comes to mind when thinking of fall foliage in the US, but where exactly should you go for the best foliage?

Here are a few of the best spots in New England and the Northeast for fall foliage!

Green Mountains, Vermont

Contributed by Amy Hartle of New England with Love

As a Vermonter, I might be a bit biased, but many travelers and publications agree with me that Vermont (perhaps most in all of the New England region) is where to go for stunning fall foliage. 

When you see a stunning image of vibrant fall foliage, it’s very likely that photo was taken in Vermont.   

It’s northeastern location, cold climate, and heavily forested landscape create the perfect ingredients for rich autumn foliage to appear each year. In fact, roughly 75% of Vermont is forested land.

In the remaining 25% you’ll find charming villages, picture-perfect farms, rolling hills, and more, with the fall foliage always providing a beautiful background.

Vermont’s mountains are called the Green Mountains, because in summertime they are blanketed with a rich green hue. But when fall arrives, the colors transform to gold, yellow, orange, and even bright red. 

When you’re not driving around gawking at the leaves, there is plenty to do in Vermont during the fall. Apple picking is a great outdoor activity in September, while October brings pumpkin patch season.

There are lots of farms where you can do these classic fall activities. Make sure to sample apple cider donuts if they are available. They are a Vermont autumn staple, and truly one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. 

To see the peak of Vermont’s fall foliage, try to plan your trip for early October, when the leaves are generally at their best.

The Adirondacks, New York

Contributed by Melissa Luther of Navigation Junkie

The Adirondack Park in New York State spans over 6 million acres of wilderness, making it the perfect destination to catch the stunning display of colors that makes its appearance every fall.

Whether it be a scenic drive, train ride, boat ride, or hike, there are plenty of ways to see the colors! 

Take a scenic drive along any of the roads in the Adirondacks and you will be delighted. For some great small towns check out Old Forge or Speculator. Old Forge offers many great hikes!

Bald Mountain and McCauley Mountain are both great options. If you would rather not hike, take the McCauley Mountain chairlift up for some great views of the changing leaves. 

Speculator also offers some great hikes that will again lead you to some stunning views of the fall colors. Panther Mountain is a great option for any hiking skill level.

Both towns also offer plenty of quaint shops, restaurants, and water views. The Adirondack Scenic Railroad or a boat ride of Lake George are great alternatives for viewing the fall foliage from ground level. 

If visiting in September, be sure to stop at the Adirondack Balloon Festival, an annual event that occurs in different areas throughout the Adirondacks.

You can admire the colors and designs of the balloons as you watch them launch, a great photo op! You can also find food vendors, live music, and plenty of kids’ activities. The best part-this event is free!

Acadia National Park, Maine

Contributed by Neha Kulshrestha of Travelmelodies

Fall is one of the best times to visit Acadia Naional Park when it is abundant with the foliage colors.

One of the best things to do in Acadia National Park is driving on the Park Loop Road that will give you an insight into the beauty that is spread across the park.

The park loop road is a 27-mile loop beginning near the Hulls Cove Visitor Center that traverses through a diverse terrain of ponds, rocky cliffs, mountains, beaches making it a memorable drive.

Another great way to explore the fall is to hike the trails across the park. Hike or drive at the summit of Cadillac mountain to get a breathtaking view of the park, the lakes, and the mountains in colors of red, yellow, and orange.

Visit the Jordon Pond for some spectacular sight of the colorful trees around the pond. And don’t forget to eat at the Jordon House restaurant amidst the scenic vistas.

And if you can splurge, then don’t miss taking a scenic flight over the park. It is truly worth it.

The magic begins to unveil in early September and gains peak by the end of September to October. The weather is crisp and fewer crowds as compared to summer. Do carry jackets and winter wear.

Hudson Valley, New York

Contributed by James Ian at Travel Collecting

New York’s Hudson Valley is stunning in the fall!

There are multiple places to see the fall foliage and with different elevations and the fact that the river valley stretches north to south, different areas are at peak at throughout the fall, so there is always somewhere to see amazing color for the whole season. 

One of my personal favorites is Minnewaska State Park!

There is a large lake with beautiful color around it, but the best place is a short side trail about 1/3 of the way around the lake to an overlook with breathtaking views of the forest spread below, ablaze with reds, oranges and yellows. 

Other top spots include Mohonk Preserve; the 22-mile Walkill Rail Trail (perfect for hiking or cycling); and the Ashokan Reservoir, where a wide flat path across the top of a dam provides incredible views of the foothills of the Catskill Mountains completely covered in fall-hued forests.

There are many more amazing things to do in the Hudson Valley in the fall.  Several farms in the area are open for U-Pick apple picking. 

Some of them are also cider houses, and you can sample cider and eat freshly baked wood-fired pizza beside the orchards. 

There are also corn mazes for the kids (and kids-at-heart), farm stands selling fresh fall produce and pumpkin patches to find the perfect Halloween Jack o’ Lantern.

Berkshires, Massachusetts

Contributed by Bharat and Supriya of Funtravelog

New England is one of the premier fall destinations in the USA. Berkshires, located in western Massachusetts, is a local favorite with leaf peepers on the East Coast.

Surrounded by mountains, Berkshire County is only a two-hour drive west of Boston. The region has several farms and small towns, and various trails, parks, and outdoor spots for travelers to witness the arrival of autumn. North Adams, Williamstown, Pittsfield, Great Barrington, and Lenox are the known small towns in this region.

Start your journey by first driving up to the top of Mt. Greylock. This 3,941-foot mountain is the highest summit in the region.

In the fall, the trees on each side of the road leading to the top of this peak are brimming with gorgeous colors. If you’re an art lover, head next to Mass Moca, a museum with a rotating collection of eclectic art and installations.

Another great trail to visit during the fall is the 11-mile long Ashuwillticook Rail Trail that connects North Adams with Lanesborough.

Two must-do activities during the fall season include tasting cider donuts and apple picking. There are several farms in the area but the donuts at Lakeview Orchards are delicious!

For apple picking, pick between Bartlett Orchards or Hilltop Orchards, the latter also offers wine tasting on-site.

Berkshires is also home to several farm-to-table restaurants. The best souvenir to take back home would most definitely be cheese from Rubiner’s Cheesemonger! 

The Poconos, Pennsylvania

Contributed by Derek and Mike of Robe Trotting

One of the best fall foliage destinations in America is found in the northeastern region of Pennsylvania. There you’ll find cooler temperatures and additional rainfall that result in brilliant fall colors!

The rolling Pennsylvania hills and Pocono mountains are unbeatable in the Fall months. 

In the area, you can find couples resorts, family-friendly hiking trails and all sorts of outdoor activities. The area is known for its boating, fishing, hunting and hiking.

Travelers can experience all of these activities in Ricketts Glen State Park. There you’ll discover miles of gorgeous hiking trails that lead you to waterfalls and scenic bridges.

One of the easiest treks is a simple loop of low-level hiking but there are 10 other moderate to difficult hiking trails to embark on.

Another incredible destination in the region is Bushkill Falls, a private hiking area with even more waterfalls. Bushkill’s tallest waterfall is over 100 feet in height and will take your breath away when it’s surrounded by autumn leaves.

Be aware, the land and waterfalls are privately-owned so an entry fee is required to hike the trails of Bushkill Falls.

When you take in the red, orange and yellow hues of the foliage, you will find it’s worth the admission. The Poconos are the perfect fall foliage destination in America and one of the best day trips from Philadelphia!

You can reach the region in under two hours from both Philadelphia and New York City, making it ideal to visit for an autumn getaway.

The Best Places to See Fall Foliage in the USA: The South

While it’s generally true that the further south you go, the less intense the fall foliage will get, there are plenty of places in the Southeast USA that have beautiful fall colors!

From fall in Kentucky to along the Blue Ridge Parkway, here are some of the best places in the South for beautiful fall foliage.

High Country, North Carolina

Contributed by Christina Riley of NC Tripping

The High Country is a portion of Northwestern North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway that is one of the most stunning destinations for Fall colors.

Made up of the adorable towns of Boone, Blowing Rock, and Pisgah National Forest, there are plenty of mountain trails to escape and view leaves.

Just driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway, you will be surrounded by yellows and reds as the leaves sway in the wind.

There are plenty of overlooks along the Parkway to stop and soak up mountain ridges for miles.

If you are an outdoor enthusiast looking for more ways to peak at the colors, there are plenty of hikes near Boone that give unique views.

One such favorite is Beacon Heights- a short and moderate trail that gives 360º views from a bald rock including the iconic Grandfather Mountain.

Not into hiking? Grab a ticket to Grandfather Mountain National Park and cross the Mile High Swinging Bridge, America’s highest suspension footbridge, for more stunning Fall foliage.

The bridge is a mile high in elevation and spreads across an 80-foot chasm that only the bravest cross!

There are plenty of adorable cabin rentals in North Carolina’s High County which offer a peaceful retreat nestled in dense towering forests. 

The Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee

Contributed by Rai of A Rai of Light

Without a doubt, fall is one of the best times of the year to explore this region. T

his is when the air begins to cool and the foliage of the red maples, scarlet oaks, sugar maples, and birch trees turn from deep greens to vibrant shades of yellow, red, and orange.

Timing is crucial when it comes to viewing the changing seasons. Arrive too early or too late and you miss the show.

The fall colors start at the highest elevations around the middle of September and continue down the mountains and hills in the weeks that follow.

This is all dependent on temperatures, the length of the day, and other factors, making it difficult to determine a peak foliage forecast.

Generally though, the best time to visit is between the middle of October to early November.

Scenic overlooks are a great way to view the changing landscape and hiking is a popular activity in the fall. Other activities include fly fishing, horseback riding, and zip-lining.

Recommended scenic drives include Newfound Gap Road, Cove Creek Road, Foothills Parkway, and Balsam Mountain Road.

The Great Smoky Mountains are well worth the time and effort required to visit and should be on everyone’s USA bucket list in the fall.

Wintergreen, Virginia

Contributed by Nicole Sunderland of Eat Live Travel Drink

One of the best places for fall colors in the USA is the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina.

This has been rated a top drive within the USA for many years due to its elevation increase from 600-6000 feet and the range across two states.

The drive itself is the destination and activity. A popular spot along the Blue Ridge Parkway is in Wintergreen, Virginia.

About two miles off the parkway is the entrance to Wintergreen Resort, which also offers breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

But this area is also known to be the Monticello Wine Trail. If you stay a couple days you can visit some of the incredible wineries, breweries and cider houses in Virginia! 

Charlottesville wineries are some of the best in the state and should not be missed!

One of the biggest questions when taking on this fall foliage drive is when do the leaves change?

The answer is not simple and depends on the weather. However, in the mid to end of October, you will see at the higher elevations that the leaves are changing faster than the lower.

If you don’t see colors immediately where you are driving, there is 469 miles of driving path and you may need to get to a higher elevation. 

Lookout Mountain Parkway, Alabama & Tennessee

Contributed by Apryl Chapman Thomas of Southern Hospitality Traveler Magazine.

Believe it or not, the South, even the Deep South, has an autumn season, and the fall colors produced from it can be spectacular.

One of the best places to view fall foliage is along Lookout Mountain Parkway atop Lookout Mountain.

Extending from Noccalula Falls Park in Gadsden, Alabama, to Chattanooga, Tennessee, the 93-mile drive makes for the perfect day or weekend trip.

The scenic byway offers not only picturesque views but also quaint destinations, natural wonders and outdoor activities. While looking at the changing colors on Lookout Mountain Parkway, don’t overlook what’s around you!

You don’t want to miss visiting Little River Canyon National Preserve in Fort Payne, Alabama.

It holds the distinction of being one of the deepest canyon systems east of the Mississippi River. Even if you can’t spend all day here, don’t miss Little River Falls.

(A side note: if you want to see more waterfalls, check out nearby DeSoto State Park.) From there, check out the charming town of Mentone, Alabama, and enjoy lunch at Wildflower Cafe.

If you are feeling adventurous, it might be a great time to try hang gliding at Lookout Mountain Flight Park in Rising Fawn, Georgia, or you could opt to stay on the ground and take in the views from Cloudland Canyon State Park, also in Rising Fawn.

As you head toward Chattanooga, be sure to catch the vibrant fall foliage while exploring either (or both) Rock City or Ruby Falls. 

Lost Maples State Natural Area, Texas

Contributed by Kate Storm of Lone Star Travel Guide

Texas may be more likely to be associated with summer heat than autumn leaves, but there’s no doubt that the local gem of Lost Maples State Natural Area is one of the best places for fall colors in the USA!

Named for the beautiful maple trees that decorate the park in shades of red and orange each autumn, Lost Maples State Natural Area is a fantastic place for hiking, camping, and admiring views of the Sabinal River.

With over 10 miles of trails and several scenic overlooks to choose from, there are plenty of ways to enjoy fall colors in the Lost Maples State Natural Area.

For a great combination of admiring the trees up close and getting great overviews, consider hiking the beautiful East trail.

Since Lost Maples State Natural Area is located so far south, its fall colors tend to come a bit later than those in most of the country–a bonus for travelers who still want to go foliage-hunting later in the season!

Peak foliage season varies a bit depending on the year, but you can typically expect to see some of the best fall foliage well into November.

Located about 2.5 hours southwest of Austin and 2 hours northwest of San Antonio, Lost Maples State Natural Area can make an excellent mini-Texas road trip from either city.

Best Places to See Fall Colors in the USA: Midwest

The Midwest is a sleeper hit for fall color, with some explosively colorful fall foliage that rivals New England’s — without the crowds.

Head to Door County, Wisconsin or Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for spectacular fall foliage and affordable prices!

Door County, Wisconsin

Contributed by Paulina of Paulina on the Road

If you are looking to visit the best place for fall colors in the USA, then nothing can be a better destination than Door County, Wisconsin.

Escape to the astonishing Door County, Wisconsin, this pre-winter between late-September to mid-October to view probably the most delightful and dynamic fall hues along with experiencing the excellent eateries, spectacular shopping, and exciting live exhibitions and performances.

There are countless things to do in Door County, WI, including learning the art of glassblowing, and skipping the chain coffeehouses and opting for a local favorite, touring the Door County Coffee & Tea Company or others.

Additionally, you can get to explore within a corn maze market, go for a two-hour trip of the peninsula’s shadowy areas, explore the stunning views and caves of the peninsula, or even visit beautiful orchards.

Besides that, try out these popular fall activities when you’re in Door County, like Harvest Fest and Street Art Auction, Autumn Fest, Pumpkin Patch Festival, Fall Fun Fest & Cider-Pressing Party.

Now, coming to foods that you can taste while staying there are Pecan Rolls, White Fish Fry, and Corsica Bread.

You can also plan a hike or take a drive from urban parks to striking nation streets at Wisconsin. A few particular unimaginable scenic drives are Marinette County’s Waterfall Tour, Hayward Lakes Area, and Wisconsin Lake Superior Scenic Byway.

Otherwise, go hiking at Peninsula State Park, Door Bluff Headlands County Park, or Rock Island State Park.

Talimena Drive, Oklahoma

Contributed by Stephanie Craig of Oklahoma Wonders

One of the most beautiful places in Oklahoma and Arkansas, Talimena National Scenic Byway is fifty-four miles of beauty that goes through the Ouachita National Forest along Winding Stair Mountain and Rich Mountain.

In autumn, the elevation and winding roads create the perfect opportunity to enjoy the marvelous fall colors on the drive. You might even think you’re in New England instead of Oklahoma!

Starting in Talihina, Oklahoma, and ending in Mena, Arkansas, you can easily access this scenic drive from Oklahoma City, Little Rock, and even Dallas-Fort Worth.

If you have extra time, there are several state parks along the drive, including the famous Robbers Cave State Park in southeastern Oklahoma.

You can also learn about Native American history on the route, since Wheelock Academy, the first Chocktaw National Academy, is located here.

For those short on time, at least allow yourself enough time to get out at the various viewpoints along the way to appreciate the beauty of the drive.

If you want to explore more of the surrounding area, the Ouachita National Forrest offers opportunities for hiking and camping.

The Upper Peninsula, Michigan

Contributed by Heather Raulerson of RaulersonGirlsTravel

One of the best places to see fall colors in the USA is in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

The whole state is pretty incredible in the fall, but the U.P. has some fantastic spots to see spectacular colors! 

Colors usually peak between the last week of September and the first two weeks of October.

With numerous lighthouses and more waterfalls than you can count, the Upper Peninsula is the perfect place to hike or drive to find gorgeous fall colors. 

If you are driving from the southeast area of Michigan, it will take approximately 4.5 hours to get to the Mackinac Bridge. Once you cross the bridge, you have a couple of choices for which direction to go.

Going west on U.S. Highway 2, you can see vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges, especially by the Cut River Bridge. But the coup de gras is taking the M-123 north (1.5 hours) to Tahquamenon State Park.

Here you will be able to see an explosion of colors at Tahquamenon Falls. The upper waterfall is the largest waterfall east of the Mississippi beside Niagara Falls dropping 50 feet.

There are also multiple smaller falls located a short four miles down the road.

And in the fall, with the trees turning orange, amber, and yellow surrounding the river, they make the perfect backdrop to the coppery color of the waterfall, which puts this State Park in Michigan, as one of the best places in the USA to visit to see the fall colors.

Best Places to See Fall Colors in the USA: Southwest & Mountain West

While the Southwest and Mountain West is generally more associated with red rocks and rugged landscapes, you’ll also be able to find some beautiful fall colors.

The Mountain West region is particularly known for its concentration of beautiful yellow aspen trees, which put a beautiful golden spin on fall color!

Kenosha Pass, Colorado

Contributed by Meg Atteberry of Fox in the Forest

Touted as one of the best fall hikes in Colorado, Kenosha Pass is a must-see attraction. Every year, around the third week of September, the entire mountainside is on fire with the color of the Aspens.

The drive up to Kenosha Pass is scenic in its own right, but get there early and step out of the car for a magical jaunt along the Colorado Trail.

Hike for as long as you want (the trail is hundreds of miles long) and soak in the incredible views. Most of the walking is easy to moderate.

Be sure to arrive early or visit during the week, this place is no longer a secret and it isn’t uncommon to see hours of traffic on either side of the pass.

Sunrise is simply the best! Find a spot to put up your tripod and click away as the sun rises over this magical landscape.

Next, put the camera away and wander through the aspen groves and the light filters gently through the fluttering leaves. Truly a magical experience.

Afterwards, beat the crowds and head to Bailey or Conifer for brunch at one of the many cute cafes. Alternatively, head west towards Fairplay and head back on Highway 9 to I-70 for a scenic loop that’s teeming with mountain magic.

Located just under an hour and a half from Denver, this must-see fall color explosion is the perfect getaway from the city.

With plenty to see and do nearby, Kenosha Pass offers a great place to enjoy the fall colors in the US and explore the mighty Rocky Mountains.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Contributed by Stephanie of Explore More Clean Less

Rocky Mountain National Park outside Denver, Colorado is a wonderful place to hike or drive and see fall foliage.

Unlike the reds and oranges on the east coast, RMNP is covered in bright yellow aspen trees!

Visitors have to monitor the color forecast before visiting but typically the peak viewing is in late September, sometimes overlapping with the popular elk rut season where you can hear them bugling. 

Aspen groves are common throughout the park but there are some more colorful areas along the neighboring scenic byways. Two popular hikes to see the aspens are around Bear Lake and to Ouzel Falls.

The Bear Lake hike is an easy, flat, partially paved one with tranquil lake views; this area is very popular and busy so arrive early.

The Ouzel Falls hike in the wild basin area is much less trafficked and a more challenging trail, but alongside a rushing stream and ending at a tall waterfall.

In addition to the golden leaves, there are plenty of wildlife spotting opportunities for bighorn sheep, black bears, and moose in addition to scenic viewpoints within the park.

Don’t miss driving the Trail Ridge Road, with the highest-altitude visitor center in the country.

Before you go, read more about the area and some tips for visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in Fall in order to get the most out of your trip!

Cottonwood Canyon, Utah

Contributed by Nicole from American SW Obsessed

Visiting Salt Lake City in the fall is the ideal time.  The weather is a bit cooler and you can see the change in colors around the city. 

It is stunning to see the reds and yellows of the leaves in the hills around Salt Lake City.

One of my favorite places to go hiking and take in the fall colors is Cottonwood Canyon outside of Salt Lake City.  This canyon was carved by a glacier and is stunning any time of year but fall is my favorite. 

It is also a beautiful, scenic drive to get there.  There are plenty of fun, easy hikes and pretty picnic spots from which to enjoy the colors.

There are several hikes in this area that are for all activity levels.  Many are great for the family as well.  I would recommend the Horsetail Falls trailhead. 

Not only will you have a beautiful hike, but you will also make it to Horsetail Falls which is one of the prettiest waterfalls in Utah

The first part of the hike is exposed but then you are in the pines.  The total hike is less than 4 miles and you only gain 400 meters in elevation.

No matter what you end up doing in Cottonwood Canyon you are sure to enjoy it!

Sante Fe National Forest, New Mexico

Contributed by Jeanine Romo of Le Wild Explorer

Santa Fe is the artsy capital city of New Mexico, and there is truly no place quite like it. It’s wonderful to visit any time of year however the fall season is quite unique!

With over 300 days of sunshine each year, you won’t be disappointed. And if you love the outdoors you’ll definitely want to head to the Santa Fe National Forest during fall.

The National Forest is about an hour away from the downtown Santa Fe area and is perfect for day hiking, camping, stargazing, and much more. During the fall season, the foliage is a must-see!

The forest is known for its golden-yellow aspen trees. You can simply take a drive down New Mexico State Highway 475 and see the beautiful aspen trees from your car. However, a hike in the forest is the best way to see them.

Hiking along the Aspen Vista Trail is a great way to see the aspens on foot. The trail will lead you all the way to Tesuque Peak which is just under a 12-mile hike, out and back. There are also plenty of other shorter trails in the forest and Aspen Trees along the highway.

After a day of hiking head back to the city and check out some of the many museums or stroll down Canyon Road for an array of art galleries.

And if you’re hungry be sure to try something with hatch chili, it’s a New Mexican specialty!

For classic New Mexican cuisine be sure to check out Tomasita’s, a family-owned restaurant, and then head to Thunderbird Bar & Grill for drinks overlooking the plaza.

There are plenty of things to do in Santa Fe during the fall season so enjoy your visit!

Best Places for Fall Colors in the USA: West Coast

The West Coast may be more known for its coastline and endless evergreen trees, but if you know where to look, there’s some beautiful fall foliage that can be found out west!

From the Eastern Sierras of California to the Columbia River Gorge, here’s where you can find some beautiful fall color on the West Coast.

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Contributed by Jenifer Byington of The Evolista

Oregon is the West Coast’s well kept secret for fall foliage. Multiple locations around the state rival the autumnal display typically found on the East Coast. The peak time for fall color in Northern Oregon is late September to Mid-October and there is no better place to see nature’s masterpiece than along the Historic Columbia River Highway.

If you’re staying in Portland, head toward Columbia River Gorge on the scenic byway and you’ll be treated to beautiful color for the whole drive.

Bridal Veil Falls, Horsetail Falls and Oregon’s crown jewel, 620 foot Multnomah Falls, are all picture perfect places to see stunning waterfalls surrounded by yellow, orange and red leaves from top to bottom. 

Another fun fall activity is the Hood River Valley Harvest Fest where 125 food producers, wineries, and artisans sell their goods.

From pumpkin carving to delicious food and fall crafts, it’s a great way to celebrate the fall season. Another option is to drive the Hood River County Fruit Loop to visit cideries, U pick orchards, farms, and restaurants. 

While the Columbia River highway and Hood River Valley is full of incredible sights, it’s also worth a drive to nearby Willamette Valley. Oregon’s wine region has more seasonal harvest festivals and vineyards full of golden yellow vines.

You’ll also be able to see striking foliage at Silver Falls State Park, along the McKenzie River and the famous Tamolitch Blue Pool. Oregon is definitely the place to be for fun and fall colors in the USA.

June Lake, California

Contributed by Erin McLaughlin from The Gal On The Go

June Lake is a hidden gem in California hosting some of the best fall colors in the state and the United States.

Only 20 minutes away from Mammoth Lakes in the Sierra Nevada mountains lies June Lake featuring a spectacular color show of bright yellow and orange leaves during the season’s peak in mid-October.

This location is also known for great hiking trails, a variety of water activities, and delicious food too! If you are looking for an easy hike and incredible views, the Parker Lake Trailhead is a must on your visit.

This 3.6-mile roundtrip hike brings you to secluded Parker Lake that is its own little oasis.

There is no shortage of other hikes to explore since June Lake Loop consists of 4 different lakes including June Lake, Gull Lake, Silver Lake, and Grant Lake.

Pack your swimsuit because the water is crisp and calm on June Lake where the whole family can rent a boat or kayak for the day. Double and single kayaks are available to rent at the Silverlake Resort General Store for $25 a day.

End your night at the local brewery called June Lake Brewing and bring over a bit to eat from the featured food truck vendor on-site.

Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada

Contributed by Dhara from Roadtripping California

As one of the prettiest lakes in California, Lake Tahoe makes for a worthy destination any time of year. But fall is an especially beautiful time to visit this alpine lake in the High Sierra, because there are many leaf-peeping opportunities in and around Lake Tahoe.

On the Nevada side of the lake, Sand Harbor State Park is a great place to see leaf color.

The boardwalk trail that follows the lake shore is both easy and scenic. On the east side, drive to Spooner Lake, and do the easy lake shore loop to see lots of yellow aspen.

On the south side, head to Fallen Leaf Lake near Mt. Tallac for fabulous fall colors. You can go boating on the alpine lake as well!

Some of the best colors around Lake Tahoe can be seen in Hope Valley, about a 30-minute drive from South Lake Tahoe.

You will see whole hillsides covered with yellows and oranges, and lots of bright yellow mature aspen at peak. You can drive further along CA-89 to see even more color.

Seeing the kokanee salmon run is one of the most fun things to do in Lake Tahoe in the fall. Visit Taylor Creek to see the salmon and leaf colors as well. If you visit early or late, you might see a bear fishing for salmon!

Denali National Park, Alaska

Contributed by Mike Still of Live Travel Teach

Denali is the best place to visit for fall colors, especially when you consider that the fall colors arrive before the rest of the country so you can still make a trip to picturesque Appalachia after you come back from Alaska. 

Fall turns the lichen and trees in the tundra throughout Denali National Park into gorgeous shades of yellow and red.  Colors change in early September making it a great time to visit, especially if you’re lucky the Denali park road lottery will match with your post-pandemic travel plans next year!

If you can’t get in the road lottery you should definitely book a ticket on the park buses. From there you can hike or bike to your heart’s content. 

Another great reason to visit Denali for fall colors is you’re more likely to see wildlife as the leaves disappear from the trees!  I’ve visited twice in the fall and saw grizzly bears, caribou and moose!  

If you’re lucky enough to visit Denali in September then you’ll also have a good chance of seeing the aurora borealis!  We camped overnight at Riley Creek and had northern lights dancing above our tent now that the summers midnight sun can finally set.

If you’re looking for a bite to eat after your visit to the park check out 49th State Brewing in Healy, Alaska.