By Kenya Barrett
Good ole` America – land of the free and home to some of the world’s best bucket list activities. That’s right, if you’re looking to explore some of the greatest things to do while visiting the United States, then you’ve come to the right place. Check out our ultimate United States travel bucket list!
Visit the volcanoes of Hawaii
While a visit to Hawaii is a bucket list adventure in itself, exploring a few of its active volcanoes (from a safe distance of course) elevates your time in the US to a whole other level. Interestingly enough, the state of Hawaii was formed by the presence of volcanic activity many years ago. However, only five volcanoes are still listed as active in the state – with four of these located on the Big Island.
Kilauea, Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Hualalai are all situated on different points of the Big Island with Mauna Kea standing as the tallest. Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, while Mauna Loa has erupted 15 times in the last century – both of which make up the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Hualalai’s last known eruption was in 1801, but it has managed to rumble the shores of Hawaii well into the 20th century. The fifth and final volcano, Loihi, is unfortunately located under sea level, so it is more of a challenge to get to. Surprisingly, this is the only volcano that continues to erupt right off the shores of the Big Island almost regularly.
Discover a few National Parks
The US is home to various natural wonders including a few of the world’s most popular National Parks - so it’s no surprise that exploring some of these parks is at the top of this US bucket list of experiences. A few that maintain a great reputation amongst visitors and nature enthusiasts include Zion (located in Utah), Yellowstone (spread between the states of Wyoming, Idaho & Montana), and the Grand Canyon (located in Arizona).
Each National Park is unique in its own way and offers significant contributions to Earth’s ecosystem. For example, one of the hottest temperatures in the world was recorded at 134 degrees in 1913 at Death Valley National Park, while 10 of Earth’s largest waterfalls are located in Yosemite National Park. Most parks are open year round and provide visitors with a plethora of fun activities to enjoy such as fishing, kayaking, skiing, camping, and hiking, of course!
Enjoy the Disney Theme Parks – Orlando, Florida and Anaheim, California
If you're a lover of Walt Disney and his creations, then a trip to any of the Disney theme parks has been on the top of your bucket list things to do in the US. Disneyland, which is located in Anaheim, California, is the very first park to be built under the Disney brand and was developed under the direct supervision of Walt Disney himself. It comprises nine themed “lands” that are inspired by various American traditions and cultural references. DisneyWorld however, is a culmination of four complete theme parks, set in the city of Orlando, Florida. These parks include Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Luckily, travelers have the luxury of experiencing either park depending on which side of the world you are visiting from. Those venturing from Europe or Western Africa may find the DisneyWorld in Orlando an easier journey to, while those traveling from Australia or Asia may find the California park as a better option.
See Niagara Falls - New York
For those visiting the great state of New York simply, consider taking a day (or two) to venture upstate to enjoy Niagara Falls, which is one of the most highly-rated bucket list trips in the US. Contrary to popular belief, the Niagara Falls is actually a group of three waterfalls that lie on the southern end of the Niagara Gorge near the border of Ontario, Canada and New York State. These include the American Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls, and the Horseshoe Falls – with the latter being the largest.
Formed by the presence of the Niagara River, the falls help drain Lake Erie into Lake Ontario and the 160 foot vertical drop remains the spectacle of the entire attraction. As such, these breathtaking waterfalls continue to draw in nearly 9 million visitors each year – domestically and internationally combined.
Listen to jazz in New Orleans, Louisiana
Visiting the birthplace of jazz music is easily one of the best bucket list activities to do in the US. The famous sound of horns, drums, guitars, and harmonica originally developed in New Orleans during the late 19th century. As decades went on, big swing bands and various musicians such as Eubie Blake, Ella Fitzergerald, and Nat King Cole popularized the genre with their respective hits.
Today, visitors can enjoy live jazz bands that liven up the streets of New Orleans day and night. Whether you’d like to enjoy the upbeat tempo while indulging in some beignets at a cafe or dance the night away on Bourbon street with a vibrant swing band, experiencing a true America tradition such as this should be at the forefront of your US travel bucket list.
See the Northern Lights in Alaska
While some believe that Iceland may be the best place to see the Northern Lights, Alaska is actually an even better location – and it’s located right here in the US. This natural phenomenon, also known as the aurora borealis, is a beautiful band of lights that dance about 60 miles above the earth’s surface. Caused by a reaction from electrically charged particles mingling with gasses in the sky, the northern lights display an intense yet breathtaking special of colors in the Alaskan sky.
As such, we suggest adding this spectacular event to your US bucket list experiences. A couple of great cities to enjoy this amazing feat in Alaska include Fairbanks, Coldfoot, Prudhoe Bay, and Anchorage.
Experience Las Vegas
If you consider yourself a lucky soul, then a trip to Las Vegas is right up your alley. With more than 100 casinos available in Sin City, it is the perfect place to enjoy the best tables and nightlife scene that the US has to offer. While you can hit the Las Vegas Strip to gamble at some of the bigger named casinos such as Caesar’s Palace and MGM Grand, a few others exist on the less busy but equally iconic Fremont Street – located in the downtown area.
In addition to spending time in the casinos, Las Vegas is also known for its abundance of clubs, shopping centers, and restaurants. Visitors can sample eats from Michelin chefs at 5-star restaurants, catch a live show from their favorite celebrity doing a residency, or shop till they drop at the famous Miracle Mile Shops.
Go wine tasting in Wine Country – California
Wine lovers definitely need to add a trip to California’s “Wine Country” to their bucket list things to do in the US. Wine Country is another name for the Northern San Francisco Bay Area of California that is home to some of the country’s best wineries. With more than 1,700 in area, most are found in Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, and Dry Creek Valley.
Visitors can partake in a wine tasting through various wineries or indulge in the cuisine that is unique to the wine country culture. If you’re lucky, you may have a chance to crush a few grapes on your own under the soles of your bare feet!
Visit the nation's capital - Washington D.C.
You can't explore the US without taking a trip to its capital city. Washington D.C., also known as the District of Columbia, is located right between the states of Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. It serves as home to the country’s most important buildings and facilities including the White House, the Capitol Building, and the famed Washington Monument. Other points of interest include the National Mall, both Jefferson and Lincoln’s Memorials, as well as the Supreme Court Building.
While Washington D.C. is a perfect place to brush up on your knowledge of American history, it is also a vibrant city with an eclectic nightlife scene. Travelers can discover a different side of the nation’s capital by visiting U Street, a lively strip that is home to tons of bars, restaurants and clubs.
Visit the Home of Elvis Presley – Memphis, Tennessee
Big fan of Rock & Roll? Why not visit the home of the genre’s biggest American legend – Elvis Presley? That’s right, one of the top bucket list places in the US is Graceland. Located in Memphis, Tennessee, Graceland is a mansion that sits on 13.8 acre estate and was once home to Elvis Presley. Today, it serves as a National Historic Landmark and the burial site of the singer, as well as his parents, grandmother, grandson, and daughter, Lisa Marie Presley.
The mansion has a total of 23 rooms which consist of eight bedrooms and bathrooms, a living room, a dining room, a recording studio, “The Jungle Room,” the TV Room, and a billiards room. Drawing in nearly 650,000 visitors annually, Graceland continues to be a trending destination that preserves the legacy of Elvis Presley and his beloved family.
Drive along U.S. Route 66
If you’re interested in taking on multiple states in one shot, a road trip may be the best option for you. As such, we recommend a drive along U.S. Route 66 is at the top of your US travel bucket list. This iconic road is featured in the popular Disney/Pixar film Cars and initially served as one of the first original highways in the US. During its existence, it spanned nearly 2,450 miles and passed through eight states including Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.
While most of the highway is abandoned today, a few gems have been revitalized to draw in tourists. Visitors can explore the restored Magnolia gas station in Shamrock, Texas or Red’s Giant Hamburg Restaurant in Springfield, Missouri. Other points of interest include the U-Drop Inn and the Big Texan Steak Ranch.
Eat Southern Food in Southern USA
While visiting the US you just have to sample some Southern cuisine that the country is famous for. For this reason, sampling southern eats needs to be on your bucket list of activities to do in the US. Whether you’re in the mood for smoked sausage, BBQ ribs, or some good old fashioned skillet mac and cheese, the south has everything your taste buds have been begging for.
A great place to start is Austin, Texas, one of the best places to enjoy traditional Texan BBQ. Another amazing place to explore is Memphis, Tennessee, home of Honey Hot Chicken sandwiches. St. Louis, Missouri, is famous for its spare ribs, while Georgia might have some of the best peach cobbler you’ll find in the country.