When you think of the great United States, and popular places to visit you often will think of New York City, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Boston, and other incredibly beautiful but crowded tourist hot spots. The thing is though that the United States is so much more than just these major destinations. However, no one bothers to dig deeper when planning a trip to the USA because they think the major cities are the only way to go.
Don’t get us wrong, they are some of the best cities to see when touring the USA. But just like there are hidden jewels in every country, the USA also has them. Such as Seattle, Nashville, Houston, New Orleans, Portland, and others we will mention in our comprehensive guide!
Best Cities To Visit In USA Bucket List
There is so much more to traveling the US than just-hitting cities, there are national parks, historic architecture to admire, World Class Museums to wander, and amazing food joints to try, that’s why we wanted to include a US Bucket list of cities that were not just known for their enticing cities, but for the nature around them and the history, they have to offer. So buckle on up because we have a ton of ground to cover!
This post is all about the best cities to visit in the USA! We wanted to make sure to cover tourist hotspots, lowkey underrated cities, cities for adventurous tourists, and hit cities in different parts of the USA such as the south, west, mid-west, and more so that your USA Bucket List is absolutely amazing!
Southern Cities: The Top Southern Destinations For Your US Travel List
New Orleans, Louisiana
This is a city filled with culture and history along with fun and never-ending nightlife. The cities’ streets are filled with live music and tasty cuisine. The city is historically known for its fusion of French, African American, and Spanish cultures. Along with its amazing food and culture, New Orleans has some historical sites to visit like the French Quarter which is the oldest part of the city dating back to 1718 when the French founded the city of New Orleans.
There’s also the Spanish Plaza, the Cabildo, and the Presbytére which date back to the period of Spanish rule in New Orleans. NOLA is also the birthplace of Jazz music so you’ll find some amazing vibrant jazz clubs and get to hear Jazz fill the streets of NOLA.
Nashville, Tennessee – One of Our Favorite Best Cities to Visit in the USA
Nashville is a music loving city and is home to the famous country music venue the Grand Ole Opry and the country music hall of fame. It’s also home to the Bluebird Cafe, a famous live music club, which features both well-known and up-and-coming artists and songwriters.
If you’ve seen the show Nashville you know what I’m talking about! If country music isn’t your thing, the city has much more to offer in terms of historical sites, great food, and outdoor activities. The city is home to Andrew Jacksons Hermitage, aka his mansion.
There’s also a full-scale replica of the famous Athenian Parthenon. Other places to visit are the Johnny Cash Museum, the Belle Meade historic site, the winery, and Lane Motor Museum. Outdoor places to visit are Percy Priest Land lake and Radnor Lake state park. Broadway is a cool strip in the entertainment district for nightlife, live music, and food. After learning all that you have to make sure you visit these lowkey best places to visit in the US!
Savannah is known for its many historical landmarks, art, arts, and architecture. Cool places to visit are the Mercer-Williams House Museum, this place is allegedly haunted due to events that took place here. These events have been featured in a novel and a movie, so if you’ve seen “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”.
This is a real-life house, and it’s definitely worth a visit! The Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist features beautiful neo-gothic architecture making it a must-see sight. Other cool places in the city are. Forsyth Park, Wormsloe historic site, and visit the Olde Pink House to dine on some southern cuisine in a historical mansion.
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is super historical dating back to the 1600’s so this is the perfect city for history lovers. Here you’ll find beautiful historic architecture and important civil war-era sites like the Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Museum. Other historical sites are the Battery and promenade, the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon, Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, Powder Magazine, Friends of the Hunley, USS Yorktown CV-10, and the Circular Congregational Church and so many more!
Cool picture-worthy sites to visit are the Angel Oak Tree, Joe Riley Waterfront Park, Hampton Park, Morris Island Lighthouse, Folly Beach County Park and Rainbow Row, and Audubon Swamp Garden. For nightlife visit King Street and Broad Street.
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio is filled with good food and drinks, a bustling restaurant scene, and historical sites. The Alamo is probably the most notable site in San Antonio. Other historical sites worth visiting are the San Fernando Cathedral, La Villita Historic village, Mission Concepcion, Mission San Juan, and Mission San Francisco de la Espada Catholic.
Cool outdoors sites to visit are the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, the Natural Bridge Caverns, the Government Canyon State Natural Area, the San Antonio Botanical Garden, the Japanese Tea Garden, and the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch. If you get tired of historical sites and want some fun you can visit Six Flags. If you need some nightlife fun you can visit the San Antonio Riverwalk.
Sante Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe is one of the oldest cities in the United States which means it has huge historical precedence. Some of the most notable historical sites in Santa Fe are the San Miguel Chapel which dates back to the 1600s. Another cool site is El Rancho de las Golondrinas, a historical Spanish village that now serves as a living history museum. Museums worth visiting are the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, and the Museum of International Folk Art.
Outdoorsy things to do include visiting the Randall Davey Audubon Center and Sanctuary, the Santa Fe Farmers Market, Canyon road, and the Hyde Memorial State Park. We Personally recommend the Meow Wolf Santa Fe which features immersive and interactive art installations to help you experience the stories behind the art.
USA Bucket List: West Coast Cities
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles is one of the most well-known cities across the entire world and for good reason. When you think of LA the things that immediately come to mind are the walk of fame, the Hollywood sign, movie stars, Disneyland, Universal Studios, and Santa Monica Pier. When you’re tired of the city, make sure to take a road trip out to visit the beautiful Yosemite National Park! Alright, enough said Los Angeles will always be on everyone’s list of the best places to visit.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco is another one of those cities that we all just immediately think of when thinking of the USA. Places to visit in San Francisco are the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Pier 39, Oracle park, the Palace of Fine arts, the Painted Ladies, and Grace Cathedral. Some experiences in San Francisco are the Walt Disney family museum, the Ghirardelli chocolate experience, the hand on Science fun at the Exploratorium, and riding one of the ever-famous cable cars around town. If you’ve seen Full house you might also want to visit the House at which the show famously took place.
San Diego, California
San Diego is known for its outdoorsy activities like visiting the San Diego Zoo and Safari which just so happens to be one of the largest in the world. There’s also Balboa Park which is a huge park featuring beautifully architectural buildings, walking paths, and museums such as the San Diego maritime museum and is also the site of the San Diego Zoo and the Museum of Us.
You can also visit the USS Midway Museum where you get to tour an old Naval Aircraft carrier or visit the Maritime Museum to see some cool historic sea vessels. For some beach and waterfront fun can also visit the Torrey Pines State Reserve, Seaport Village, Cabrillo National Monument, Belmont Park, and La Jolla Cove.
Portland a PNW Jewel, is one of those cities that you most likely wouldn’t know off the top of your head but it does have some cool places to visit. Awesome places to visit in Portland are the Oregon Zoo, the Portland Art Museum, and Pittock Museum. Some lesser-known spots to visit are the Shanghai tunnels, the Powell Butte, the Grotto, the Witch’s Castle, and Lan Su Chinese Garden.
Some experiences available in Portland are touring Portland by Bike, having an immersive Chinese Tea experience, taking the Underground Donut tour, taking a ride on one of the Portland Aerial Tram, and walking across the car-free Tilikum bridge. You can also take a quick trip for some outdoor adventure to the famous Multnomah falls and do a small hike.
Seattle a Pacific Northwest gem, is notably known for Grey’s Anatomy, Sleepless in Seattle, and the NFL team, the Seattle Seahawks. Besides that, Seattle is known as an emerald city due to the surrounding evergreen forests and the cool blue waters of the Puget Sound. Famous spots to visit in Seattle are Pikes Place Market, the gum wall, the waterfront pier, the Gas works park, the Fremont Troll, and Discovery Park.
If you want some iconic views of Seattle we recommend riding the monorail downtown, taking a spin around the Seattle Great Wheel, heading to the top of Smith Tower at Sunset, riding a ferry or water taxi, or taking a trip up to the top of the Space needle. Cool beaches to visit are Lincoln Park, Alki Beach, and Golden Gardens, Park.
The University of Washington Campus is also a nice visit, the Suzzallo library will have you feeling like you’re at Hogwarts plus the cherry blossoms at the campus during springtime are a must-visit. If you prefer museums make sure to stop by and visit the Seattle art museum or Nordic museum. Either way, Seattle earned its place on our best places to visit!
Plan on visiting Seattle or Washington in general? Then make sure to read our post for Washington!
MidWest Cities: Top US Destinations
Las Vegas, Nevada
Aka Sin City, Las Vegas is the place to be when you have a gambling itch or want to wash away your worries with a good pint of beer or mixed drinks. The strip in Sin City boasts several tourist activities to have fun such as large casinos with slots, tables, entertainment via live shows, pool parties, and shopping.
When you’re tired of the drinking and gambling, you can take a tour and visit the nearby grand canyon which can be done in 1 day! After that, make sure to head back to the strip and watch some of the world-famous acts that take place there such as live music venues that feature Jlo, Brittany, Circle Soleil, and other famous artists and performers.
Rapids City, South Dakota
Explore Rapids city surroundings, commonly known as the gateway city to Mount Rushmore, where the four presidents are carved into the mountainside. If you do not want to look at a mountain for too long, hop on over to Badlands National Park, where you can enjoy hikes, wildlife watching, and star gazing! Or Visit a popular filming location that took place in Custer State Park.
Custer State Park: This popular park is also where the iconic Movie National Treasure was filmed for the lake part. Sylvan Lake is beautiful, so there is much more to do than look for the filming locations spots.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial: Known for the president’s carvings on its side, the national memorial also has a lake behind the mountain and is a popular summer destination for tourists.
Badlands National Park: This large park is located about 60ish miles from Rapids City; the park is home to numerous activities that adventure fold will love. Some notable things to do are:
- Visit the Ben Reifel Visitors Center: You’ll learn about the park’s history, can see the fossil preparation lab, and shop at the bookstore.
- Go star-watching at night! The park offers incredible views of the stars at night and there are volunteers to help you know what to look for.
- Wildlife Watching: Home to various animals, you can watch them from afar and see how they coexist in their natural habitats.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt lake city may not seem like a tourist destination, but this slept-on destination is anything but boring. Start your day off by visiting the beautiful temple square, a beautiful structure that is used by the church of Jesus Christ of latter-day saints. Don’t worry you can still visit even if you’re, not a fellow believer, and we strongly recommend you take the time to visit this beautiful church.
After visiting the temple square, then you can stroll on down to the beautiful Great Salt Lake a massive Lake that is roughly over 1700 miles. Go ahead and take a dip, go fishing, or chill on a floaty at this beautiful outdoorsy location. Next, you can take a hike up to Ensign Park to catch a glimpse of the city. Finally, cool off with a refreshing pint of freshly brewed ales from the fisher brewing company. All in all, Salt lake city is a beautiful and super underrated city to visit, so make sure to check out this hidden gem.
Colorado as a whole is severely underrated, the only thing people think of when Colorado is Snowboarding, and don’t get us wrong Aspen is amazing and earned its spot on this list. However, Colorado is also home to a cool and fascinating culture in its towns such as Denver. Denver features wonderful tourist destinations to discover such as Larimer Square which is super old by the way, we are talking 1800s time so make sure you stop here!
Or if old relics aren’t your vibe head on down to Red Rocks Park for a look at the beautiful land of monstrous red rocks to view the rocky mountains for miles and miles. This park is also home to, you guessed it, amazing hiking trails for experienced and novices so take a look at their outdoor hikes if that’s your thing. When you are tired of the outdoors, go back and try to learn about art by visiting the iconic Denver art museum. Finally, don’t forget to RiNo a hipster-style area that features hidden gems of restaurants, cafes, art galleries, and clubs. As you can tell, there’s much more to Colorado than snow sports!
While Arizona is known for its blistering heat and vast desert-like landscapes, it’s also a great state to visit due to its natural rocky landscapes, trails, and historical monuments. It’s especially enjoyable to visit because of its key cities such as Sedona. Sedona is centrally located so that you can easily visit the Grand Canyon National Park and be back in time for dinner and drinks on the same day.
Make sure to also make time to visit Devil’s Bridge Trail a beautiful trail that features a sandstone arch that travelers from around the world love to take photos at. If you really have time, make sure to visit Horseshoe Bend to witness one of Arizona’s most beautiful notable landmarks, well beside the grand canyon.
If visiting national parks and trails is not your thing, then go ahead and explore the nearby vineyards and go wine tasting, then stop back at the city and try delicious cuisine such as Tex-Mex-inspired dishes. All in all, Sedona is a wonderful city to explore and you won’t regret adding this city to your US Bucket List.
When you think of Ski resorts and famous snow destinations then it’s easy to understand why Aspen made the list of best cities to travel to in the US. Aspen is a small town that is nestled in the snowy mountains of Colorado. This winter wonderland town boasts impressive ski slopes and snowboarding routes that all levels can enjoy when visiting. If you’re not too keen on the idea of snow sports, then you can sit back and enjoy the many cabins around that Aspen has to offer and try different delicious foods and warm up with some wine.
Unique Cities In The United States
Anchorage is known for its outdoor activities and wildlife. Some outdoor spots to visit are Kincaid Park, Eklutna Lake, Flattop Mountain, Thunderbird Falls, Beluga Point, Kenai Fjords National Park, Rendezvous Peak, and Portage Glacier. Some activities to do in Anchorage include whale watching, visiting nearby glaciers, fishing, hiking, kayaking, and skiing. Some experiences are riding an Alyeska aerial tram, whale watching on boats, Glacier tours, guided kayak fishing, and more!
If you love the outdoors then Anchorage is the place for you! Plus you get to enjoy either a lot of sunlight during summer or a lot of darkness during winter depending on when you go due to Alaska’s position on the globe. It’s super weird sleeping when it’s light out but also cool to experience that. Plus, if you travel in winter time you have a pretty likely chance of seeing the Northern lights.
Honolulu is known for its tropical climate, amazing beaches, and beautiful sights. Some cool water-related things to do in Honolulu are surfing, snorkeling, kayaking, paddle-boarding, and more water activities. For nightlife, you can enjoy live music, cute tiki bars, and nightclubs. Some cool outdoor spots to visit are Diamond head crater, Lolani Palace, Hanauma Bay, Manoa Falls, Ala Moana Regional Park, Koko Head, and Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden.
For some museums, you can visit Pearl Harbor National Museum, and Aviation Museum, and Battleship Missouri Memorial, and the Honolulu Museum of Art. Whether you enjoy lounging on the beach, hiking, swimming, or doing touristy things Honolulu has everything you need for the perfect trip! Please always respect the lands, oceans, wildlife, people, and culture.
Who else thinks of Moana when they hear Maui? No? Just us? okay, never mind? Anyways, Maui is a breathtaking city/Island to visit when traveling to the United States. The nice part about Maui is that it’s still true to its roots and not overly affected by tourist destination syndrome. You know what we mean. Maui still features local restaurants that have stood the test of time, natural beaches, and trails galore, and while still, a tourist favorite it is less busy than Waikiki or Honolulu.
Some notable things you can do when visiting Maui are visiting Haleakala National Park, Waianapanapa state park, and Makena beach park, touring the ocean via snorkeling tours, taking a helicopter tour, and watching a traditional luau show. There are also a ton of great budget things to do in Maui! Also, make sure to try some of the amazing food that is offered on the island such as fresh poke!
East Coast Cities: The Best Cities In The US Travel Bucket List
Miami is a coastal city with amazing beaches, bustling nightlife, and filled with tons of water-based activities. some popular things to do in Miami include kayaking, boating, and snorkeling. Popular food spots are in Wynwood, Sunset Harbour, and Little Havana, a Cuban-based neighborhood that features a ton of Latin food, drinks, and snacks.
Popular places to explore are Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Jungle Island, Venetian Pool, Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, South Pointe Park Pier, Coral Castle, Crandon Park, Miami Beach, and more! They also have a cool children’s museum for the kiddos and some amazing nightlife options like yacht partying, nightclubs, and salsa dancing for the adults.
New York City, New York
New York doesn’t need much explanation in terms of why it’s an amazing city to visit or why it’s on everyone’s list of the best places to visit in the world. It has amazing food, desserts, and nightlife. Some of the most iconic and historical sites to visit like the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Times Square, the 9/11 memorial site, Grand Central Station, Central Park and so many more.
The largest city in the US is so huge that no matter how many times you visit you’ll always find something new and cool to do, eat or see. Plus you’ll constantly find yourself muttering lines from Gossip girl while you’re there.
This Beautiful city, Boston is quite famous for being home to Harvard, Fenway Park, the Paul Revere House, and the site of the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum. Besides these well-known spots to visit, you can also visit the Freedom Trail, the USS Constitution warship, Bunker Hill Monument, Trinity Church, and many other historical sites. If you grow bored of visiting old historical sites you can catch a game at Fenway Park, catch a Celtics game at TD Garden or even travel to Foxborough for a Patriots game.
For some outdoor spots to enjoy you can visit Boston Harbor Islands State Park, Charles River Esplanade, Boston Harbor, and Castle Island. For the Food lovers, you can visit Little Italy, Quincy Market, enjoy a Boston Seafood tour, and more!
Orlando is most famous for its large theme parks: Disney World and Universal Studios but if that doesn’t draw you to Orlando then these other places will! For some outdoor activities, you can visit Gatorland, Discovery Cove, Lake Eola Park, Harry P Leu Gardens, and more.
For activities besides theme parks, you can visit Old Town, Hollywood Drive-in Golf, Downey Park, Pirates Cove Adventure Golf, Skeletons: Museum of Osteology, Pirates Dinner Adventure, and so many more options. Orlando is filled with fun-themed things to do and see.
However, if you’re looking to really get a deep dive into Orlando then you should consider taking a Orlando Tour to learn all there is to know about Orlando, and even better learn about the best spots to visit!
Okay, this one doesn’t need much explaining since it’s the Capital city of the United States. The White House is of course the most popular place to visit in Washington DC. Along with the White House, there’s also the United States Capitol, the Library of Congress, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and so many more. But, if you’re not a fan of the President or politics or history then don’t worry because there’s a lot more to do and see in DC.
The famous Smithsonian, which you may know from the movie, Night at the Museum, is located in Washington or you can visit the International Spy Museum, which personally sounds pretty cool, or the United States Holocaust Museum. If you get tired of being indoors you can also go on boat tours, kayaking, or enjoy one of the many guided history walks available.
Outdoor spots to visit are Meridian Hill Park, Kenilworth Park, Aquatic Gardens, Georgetown Waterfront Park, and Brookside Gardens. Some cool spots for great food and entertainment are Ford’s Theater, Eastern Market, Gaylord National Resort, and Convention Center. Plus, if you happen to be visiting during the early spring season, you’ll be able to catch the popular Washington DC Cherry Blossom Festival.
Chicago is most notable for being home to deep dish pizza, the Cloud Gate Bean, and the Wrigley Field. Some places worth visiting are Navy Pier, Lincoln Park Zoo, Alder Planetarium, and Grant Park. Some iconic places to visit where you’ll get super cool views of Chicago are Willis Tower, Skydeck Chicago, 360 Chicago, and 875 North Michigan Avenue. If you would love an in-depth review of this wonderful city, then make sure to check out this perfect 2-day itinerary that covers the best things to do in Chicago!
Some outdoor spots to visit are the Chicago Riverwalk, Garfield Park Conservatory, and Brookfield Zoo. Cool Landmarks to visit are the Chicago Theatre, Untitled by Picasso, and Buckingham Fountain. Besides so many famous locations to visit, Chicago has some amazing food for example Chicago-style hot dogs and deep-dish pizza! Plus, nightlife options in Chicago are endless, so you’ll have tons to do whether it’s the daytime or nighttime.
Charlotte North Carolina
US Bucket List
That wraps up our US Bucket list Guide to the best cities to visit in the USA! We hope you enjoyed this guide and if you did please leave a comment and share this post via any of your preferred social channels! We really appreciate the support and every little bit helps ☺️.