You’ve probably heard a lot about the United States by now, either from your friends or the many movies that take place in the States. There’s a good chance that you already know about the iconic deserts of the Southwest or the bustling cities that seem to never stop.
Maybe, all of these locations and then some have you thinking about an epic trip to the United States…
But what are the very best places to visit in the USA? I mean, what are the destinations that you simply can’t miss when traveling to America?
There are a lot of things to do and places to go in the United States because – make no mistake – this is a huge country.
Luckily, you have us at The Broke Backpacker to help you sort through America’s attractions. Much of the staff was born and bred in the United States, so we know a thing or two about epic adventures here.
We’ve assembled this Ultimate Bucket List of USA Destinations for you to use on your next trip. You may have been already visited a couple of these places, but we’d like to think there are a couple you’ve never heard of too.
So let’s get to it! Read on for my list of the absolute best places to visit in the USA!
What are the Best Places to Visit in the USA?
1. Oregon – One of the best states to visit in America.
Oregon – the very name conjures up whimsical images of woods, waterfalls, alehouses, and hipsters. While I cannot confirm the existence of such things anymore (who has seen a real hipster in years, honestly?) I can say that Oregon is still one of the best states in the US!
From the deserts of Eastern Oregon to the Coast to charming, if not grungy, Portland, Oregon is full of amazingly diverse experiences and places to visit. Some of them are almost magical, like the Columbia Gorge Waterfalls, which are part of pretty much every tour in Oregon.
Here, you can ride a bike, go surfing at Oswalt West, and skiing at Mt Hood, all in the course of a single day! Few places in the USA can compete with Oregon’s huge range of attractions and, honestly, it is one of the finest examples of American beauty.
Lots of people are organizing trips in Oregon these days and it is quickly becoming one of the most popular states in the USA. Many claim it’s one of the most beautiful and best states to visit, so best visit now before it becomes totally overrun.
2. Olympic Peninsula – An extremely lush place in the USA.
The Pacific Northwest is notable for a lot of reasons – craft coffee, rain, and Nirvana, among other things. Nature is obviously a huge reason to visit this region and while we love places like Mt Rainier or the San Juans Islands, few can compete with the spectacular Olympic Peninsula.
The Olympic Peninsula is one of the most unique ecosystems in the world and offers a crazy array of geography. It receives a shit ton of rain – even by PNW standards – which, in turn, makes it amazingly lush.
The forests here are so vibrant that they’re even categorized as “rainforest.” Many remark that upon visiting the peninsula, they’ve never seen so many shades of green in their life.
Aside from the flora, the Olympic peninsula also hosts mountains, glaciers, vast wildlife, and some of the best beaches on the West Coast. The ability to see so many different landscapes in one place certainly makes this national park one of the best places to visit in the USA (in the summer, particularly).
3. Colorado Rockies – The classic unmissable destination in America.
The Colorado Rockies are one of the most famous places in the USA for several reasons:
- Haunted hotels
- Tasting like Coors Beer
- “A little place called Assssspen.” (Dumb and Dumber joke.)
- Insanely amazing outdoor adventures
While all of these points are slightly exaggerated (don’t mistake the yellow snow for beer, please), the Rockies are still totally worth visiting.
The Colorado Rockies offer all sorts of activities and for all sorts of people. In this state, you can go rafting, climbing, fishing, snowmobiling, all of this, and then some. The hikes in Colorado are some of the finest in America and many have dreams of summiting a 14er or going on a backpacking trip while visiting Colorado.
And the skiing; oh how the skiing dominates every conversation in the state. Admittedly, the slopes are spectacular in Colorado and seemingly never-ending.
Even better, there always seems to be a clumsy Texan who eats shit on a ski run. God forbid they actually hurt themselves… but if they’re unscathed, it’s comedy gold.
4. San Francisco – One of the best cities to visit in the USA.
I’ve been to San Francisco about 6 times now and every time it surprises me. For some reason, I always forget how gorgeous and dreamy this city really is. It only takes a few moments to remember why this is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the US…
In terms of aesthetics, San Francisco is borderline perfect. The Golden Gate Bridge (which you should definitely experience via a relaxed cruise towards sunset), the bay and Marin County; a sprinkling of these would be enough to visit but I’ve barely even cracked into the city.
San Francisco is just romantic, but not like Venice or Paris romantic – places where you’d take a girlfriend or lover. No, in this case, San Francisco is the beloved object.
Spend several intimate days with this city and you’ll be in love. Hell, we’ll even take the pissing bums at the Civic Station BART, though we’d much prefer drinking a beer in Dolores Park or riding the trolley.
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5. New Orleans – Party in the USA.
New Orleans is mostly known for its raucous parties, its love of plastic beads, and debaucherous Bourbon Street, where anything seemingly goes. What red-blooded American can honestly say they haven’t heard of Mardi Gras or that they have never considered attending it?
But New Orleans is so much more than parties and culturally accepted alcoholism. New Orleans is historically paramount, gastronomically divine, and mystic in ways that cannot really be explained.
Maybe it’s the voodoo lore, or maybe it’s the quivering oaks that appear to animate on their own, but there’s just something magical about the Big Easy. Join haunted pub crawls, experience lively Mambo nights and so much more.
Following the destruction caused by recent hurricanes, like Katrina, New Orleans has since rebounded and recovered extraordinarily. The businesses are open, the locals are welcoming, and everyone lives in spite of looming climate change. It’s always been one of the best places to visit in the USA, but there’s never been a better time since now.
Check out one of these awesome hostels in NOLA!
6. North Carolina – The East Coast Oregon and another gorgeous state.
North Carolina is like the Oregon of the East Coast – both have awesome mountains, beautiful beaches, quirky towns, and thriving beer cultures. Granted, North Carolina doesn’t have Oregon’s gorgeous desert, but it does have amazing BBQ. (Sorry Portland, your BBQ sucks).
The largest city in North Carolina is Charlotte but you’ll probably spend the least amount of time here. While there’s not much to do in the city, there are plenty of amazing activities around Charlotte.
Neighboring cities like Raleigh and Asheville are far more deserving of your attention as these have better nightlife and overall better vibes. I’d say that Raleigh and Asheville are two of the best small towns in the US, for that matter.
North Carolina’s outdoors is no slouch either. The beaches in this state are unexpectedly good. While no tropical getaway, they are still great to relax on.
The most notable landmark in North Carolina is probably the Great Smoky Mountains. This mountain chain is one of the most visited places in the US and for good reason – it’s mystifying and colorful, if not for the scenery then for the legends attached to it. One of the best things you can do here is go hiking. If you’re a hiking newbie, we’d recommend going with a local guide and spending a few days exploring and admiring the incredible nature and scenery. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
7. New York City – One of the most quintessential cities to visit in the USA.
Everyone – and I mean everyone – knows about New York City. I’ve met shepherds in the mountains of Pakistan who didn’t know who their own president was but knew about New York City. A caveman could be thawed out tomorrow and chances are the first thing he’d see is an I Heart NYC shirt.
Yes, New York City is one of, if not the most, famous place in the USA and is, justifiably, awesome to visit.
There is simply no experience comparable to spending a few days NYC. Where else can you listen to over 800 languages or find literally everything under the moon, even durian fruit from Malaysia – fucking durian!
There’s even an appointed Mayor of Nightlife here to represent the nocturnal culture – that’s taking the title, “City that Never Sleeps” to a whole new level.
Without question, New York is absolutely one of the best cities to visit in the USA. I know it, you know it, and the guy living in a cave knows it. No trip to America is complete without stopping in this city. And with a city this famous, you can be sure that there’s loads to do. Too much almost. That’s why it’s actually a good idea to just hop on a one-day sightseeing tour to get all of the must-sees out of the way.
Ready to book your accommodation? Make sure you do so in one of these awesome neighborhoods in New York City!
8. Boston – There’s only one Boston.
Boston isn’t like other Eastern US cities, really. It’s not as gritty as Philly, stimulating as NYC, or even opulent as DC – Boston is wholly its own destination.
Boston is one of the best places to visit in America because it’s just so Boston. The Irish pubs, the worship of sports, the omnipotent presence of universities; all of these things are stereotypes attributed to Boston and they’re all fun as hell!
I love walking down Boylston Street and seeing the Trinity Church and John Hancock Tower smashed together. It’s also pretty cool to move a bit faster and explore the city by bike. Your feet will thank you! I love going to a bar and hearing someone yell “Go Sox!” Most of all, I love lobster rolls: sweet, delicious, heavenly lobster rolls.
Boston is just a quintessential American city – it’s completely unabashed and somehow remains true to itself. For me, it may be one of the best places to go in the USA. But, then again, I’ve never been there when it snowed.
For more information, be sure to check out our comprehensive travel guide for Boston!
9. Utah – A must-see place in the USA for rugged, untamed beauty.
It bears the names of holy figures – of Zion, St. George, Mt. Nebo, and the Jordan River. One trip in Utah and you’ll see why the LDS pilgrims felt the need to do so – the landscape of Utah is absolutely rapturous and easily one of the best places to visit in the USA.
With towering walls of stone, intricately carved natural bridges, and otherworldly spires that seem to defy physics, there is nowhere quite like Utah.
Going for a walk in the deserts of Utah sometimes makes you feel like your in a fantasy. Other times, you feel like you’re walking through the bowels of some great, sleeping god. It’s a place that every American should see before they die.
Utah is just plain awesome and without a doubt one of the best places to visit in the USA. There’s so much to do in Utah – you can go climbing, camping, hiking, quad biking, paragliding; if you can think of an outdoor activity, it’s here.
That being said, just being in this state is usually enough. It’s a must-see place in America, undoubtedly.
10. California Coast – The ultimate road trip in the United States.
Ask anyone what their top US road trip would be, and most will probably say the California Coast. Over the course of 650 miles and one epic road trip, you’ll have the chance to see some of the most beautiful places in America. It’s no wonder California is considered the one of the best states to visit.
You’ll also get to pass through some of California’s most iconic destinations, like La Jolla, Malibu, and the Redwoods.
You’re going to see a huge array of geography on the California Coast. Starting in the surfer’s paradise of San Diego, you’ll notice that the coast is quite desert-like – palm trees dominate the boardwalks and the sun is shining nearly constantly. San Diego might be one of the best places to dive into the world of water sports. Whether that’s surfing, sailing, jet-skiing – there are plenty of cool options to explore.
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Travel further north and the landscape begins to change – the shoreline becomes more rugged, more vegetated, and more scenic. Few places are as stunning as the stretch along Big Sur and camping here is an absolute must.
By the time you’ve passed San Francisco, you’ve entered into the land of the giants aka the Redwoods. Go ahead and gawk – the trees don’t mind.
Want to learn about San Diego’s amazing scene, which includes beer, music, and tacos? Read our dedicated San Diego city guide then!
11. Kentucky – An underrated place in America to visit.
Kentucky is a curious case as not many people know what’s going on here. I’ll be frank myself and say that it wasn’t long ago that I was one of the ignorant bunch. I used to think Kentucky was only good for derbies, NCAA basketballs teams, and bourbon…
But Kentucky is more than just good whiskey and college parties – it’s epic outdoor adventures, fairytale villages, and soulful music. Kentucky is one of the best states in the USA, whether people know it or not.
Louisville is the largest city in Kentucky and has the most infrastructure. It’s a cool mid-sized city, but most will probably head straight for the country. It’s got some pretty cool places to stay though, which are definitely worth checking out.
The landscape of Kentucky is that of rolling green hills, old settler ruins, and languid rivers. Some of the most charming small towns in the USA, like Elizabethtown and Bardstown, are located here. To really make the most of your visit, there are plenty of cabins in Kentucky where you can stay right amongst the scenery, as well as some amazing Airbnbs.
As an aside, Kentucky’s Red River Gorge is also one of the most underrated rock climbing spots in America. You can even sneak on a trip to Cincinnati if you have a few days.
So be sure to visit Kentucky when you travel to the USA. You won’t be disappointed.
12. Chicago – Another of the USA’s most beautiful cities.
When it comes to skyscrapers and historical buildings, Chicago is seriously amazing and can even compete with the likes of NYC. This towering city, which hosts some of the highest towers in North America, is an absolute marvel of human engineering.
If you are at all interested in architecture, then Chicago will easily be one of the most beautiful cities in America to you. The best way to get to see each amazing building is by cruising down the Chicago River to see the city’s famous architecture.
Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, Chicago is the largest city in the Midwest and the hub for the region. As the central nervous system for America’s Breadbasket and a major port with Canada, Chicago has always been a wealthy city. As such, Chicago offers endless urban and gastronomic opportunities.
Though it is pretty damn cold in the winter, Chicago is hands down one of the best places to visit in the USA in summer. The parks are green, the streets are action-packed, and there are even sandy beaches on Lake Michigan.
Book your accommodation ahead of time with our in-depth guide on where to stay in Chicago.
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13. Florida Gulf Coast – For some of the USA’s best beaches.
Forget Daytona Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Jacksonville – the best part of Florida is the Gulf Coast. Aside from hosting underrated cities like St. Petersburg, this part of Florida has, hands-down, the best beaches in the state.
There’s a little bit of everything here. Tampa Bay is one of the most authentic metropolitan areas in the state and many prefer it to Miami.
Crystal River is where you can go swimming with manatees. Siesta Key is often ranked as having the cleanest and whitest sand in the world. Finally, I can’t get over just how weird and beautiful the Emerald Coast is.
All of these places do a huge justice to Florida, which is often considered one of the most beautiful states in the US. If you’re looking for something different in an otherwise overrun state, make a road trip up the Florida Coast towards the Gulf.
14. Washington DC – The world-famous capital city of the USA.
It’s the nation’s capital, the supposed City Upon a Hill, and the representation of everything good and bad about America. Regardless of its political undercurrents, Washington DC is one of the best cities to visit in the US, thanks to its oversaturation of history, culture, and monuments.
Washington DC has transformed in recent years. It used to be one of the most dangerous cities in America, but following enormous urban renewal has become much more pacified.
As such, a lot of DC’s neighborhoods are changing, for better and worse. Adams Morgan and The Shaw are firmly gentrified, while Columbia Heights and H Street are on the verge of being “discovered.”
But the monuments – magnificent edifices to the nation – still make DC one of the best places to visit in America. The Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and Jefferson Memorial are all here and are as glorious as ever. For a bit of a different vibe, you can explore each monument at night. That’ll also guarantee less tourists to share the epic views with.
15. Austin – Another of my top cities to visit in the USA.
I first heard about the greatness that is Austin when I was a wee-college kid who only wanted to party and talk to girls. For me, Austin, Texas was like the promised land – a place where the music never ended and the girls always showed up.
While those days are far behind me now, Austin is still amazing to visit. It has managed to hold onto the title of “Music Capital of the World,” after defeating many usurpers, and is still one of the best places in the USA to have a weekend bender.
Famous festivals like SXSW and Austin City Limits are only getting larger. The likes of the Dirty Sixth and Rainey Street aren’t going to give up their liquor licenses anytime soon either.
But the best part about Austin is the fair-weathered locals and fair weather itself, for that matter. Austinites are quite open-minded for living in a sea of conservatism, which makes the city far more accessible. It might not be the best city to visit in the USA (in this author’s humble opinion), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth exploring.
Having 75-degree days in December ain’t too shabby either. (Austin is definitely one of the best places to visit in the US in winter.)
If you have time, you can also sneak in a visit to San Antonio to see the Alamo.
16. Montana – A legendary place to go in the USA for eclectic beauty.
Montana is a bit like Arcadia – a legendary place that is often spoken about but rarely visited by the vast majority. It’s a state where one can escape all of the evils of the world and just go for a walk, a joy ride, a fishing trip, or have a beer with yourself. In fact, it’s a true paradise for going on epic outdoor adventures and activities.
Even the most mundane of photos of Montana appear otherworldly – the colors, content, and conditions all just seem to good to be true.
But Montana is real – you can visit it at any time. The likes of St. Mary’s Lake, Whitefish, and the Grinnell Glacier are all there waiting for you. You don’t have to be a local to participate in Missoula’s Mullet Cycle Classic or the Bozeman Stampede – you just have to have the desire.
Montana is one of the best states to visit in the US; plain and simple. It’s gorgeous, unique, unabashed, and welcoming. When you’re backpacking around the United States, add this to your itinerary because it’s a must-do.
Every day, more and more people are visiting, and many fear that it will lose its rustic charm (Glacier National Park certainly feels overrun in the summer). Spend some time staying in Montana soon while it’s still somewhat raw.
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17. Northern Idaho – Another underrated and underexplored destination in the USA.
Idaho gets a really bad rap for being boring and good for nothing besides growing potatoes. While I certainly can’t deny that the southern part of the state is like this, the north is a whole different story. It’s definitely a beautiful and criminally underrated place to go in the United States.
Contrary to many’s perceptions that Idaho is just flat and featureless, Northern Idaho is actually very mountainous. The American Rockies actually begin in Idaho and are no less stunning than those in Montana or Colorado.
Some of the best skiing in the country is around Sun Valley and there are lots of world-class hikes in the Sawtooths. I myself was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon Sandpoint, a lake resort tucked away in the mountains – to me, Sandpoint is like the American version of Lake Como.
So give Idaho a chance! It’s not the most visited place in the USA, but that’s probably why it’s so great.
18. Grand Canyon National Park – Like, of course.
Including the Grand Canyon on any list of “Best Places to Visit in America” is nothing new. This national park is probably the single most popular tourist destination in the US, at least when it comes to the outdoors. And while we’ve all seen the rift a million times in postcards and advertisements, nothing really compares to being there in person. If your fitness allows it, we’d highly recommend going on a full-day guided hike through the Canyon. That way you’ll stay safe, but experience the insane beauty of the park.
The Grand Canyon is unfathomably large – so grandiose that you cannot possibly contain it in 2-dimensions. Hidden within the Grand Canyon are infinitesimal hikes and infinitesimal hidden spots that most humans have probably never even seen. The Supai people, the caretakers of famous Havasupai, actually live in a section of the canyon where there aren’t even roads.
Not only that, but there is are a bunch of great hikes near the Grand Canyon as well. The Vermillion Cliffs, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend are just a few of many to be named.
There is quite a bit of lodging around the Grand Canyon, which means one could easily use it as a base for exploring the rest of Northern Arizona and Utah.
19. Lake Superior – Well… with a name like that.
The Midwest isn’t all cheddar cheese and arctic tundra – there are parts of the Midwest that you wouldn’t even recognize. I’d bet money that there are even portions that could be mistaken for the French Riviera or maybe even the tropics.
Don’t believe me? I present to you Lake Superior, which is one of those Great Lakes that we learned about in 4th-grade geography. It is one of the largest and clearest freshwater lakes in the world, but it’s greatest merits extend far beyond this fact.
There is so much to do around Lake Superior. You can dive amongst sunken ships, go surfing on windy days, or hang your feet off the edge of a cliff whilst admiring the scenery.
Thanks to their scenic grandeur, Superior, in addition to the other Great Lakes, are undoubtedly some of the best places to visit in the USA. After visiting, you may just forget about seeing destinations like the Carribean or the Mediterranean all-together.
20. New England Countryside – One of the USA’s most scenic places in Autumn.
I’ll be the first to admit that New England wasn’t really my idea of majesty, at first. Don’t ask me why but the typical New England sights and experiences, like rustic red barns, fresh-churned butter, and maple syrup, didn’t really do it for me.
But fuck me, if New England isn’t one of the most beautiful places in the world in the autumn, then I don’t know where is. The trees here go absolutely berzerk in October, turning all shades of red and gold, and put on a show for the masses.
Foliage aside, New England does have some cool little communities that are worth visiting:
- Connecticut, while usually inhabited by batshit insane people, has the bucolic Litchfield Hills.
- Burlington, Vermont is a laid back, hippy-sort of place (but they can afford to be this way).
- Finally, the White Mountains of New Hampshire may offer the best scenery in the region, fall or otherwise.
So is New England better than California or the Rocky Mountains? I can’t say for sure, but, then again, I may just be jealous.
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21. Nashville – Top place to visit in the United States for that Southern twang.
Nashville is the self-proclaimed “Country Music Capital of the World,” a city that has helped birth the careers of some of the most iconic musicians in American history. Supposedly, the locals are so used to meeting famous music artists in Nashville, that they’re hardly surprised to see them anymore.
Obviously, there’s a shit ton of music in Nashville. Country, rock n’ roll, folk, and other styles are easy to find in this town. Likewise, a good bar hosting a live show is never far away.
Like Austin and Portland, Nashville is a “hip” place to visit. It’s embraced the title totally and is trying to be more than just a Southern capital city. It is becoming increasingly progressive, which is usually a good sign.
At the end of the day, it’s still culturally a part of the South though, one that still thumps bibles and welcomes people with a “y’all.” That’s not necessarily a bad thing for this must-see USA city – a little southern hospitality always goes a long way.
Nashville is also not the smallest city. if you’re short on time, but desperately want to see all of the amazing attractions, jump on a hop-on-hop-off bus and learn about the rich history that Music City has to offer.
Start researching where to stay in Nashville before you head out!
22. Sierra Nevada Mountains – A kickass attraction in the USA and a beer too!
It’s not just a brand of beer – the Sierra Nevada is an actual mountain range in California. In truth, they are one of the most beautiful places in America as well.
Many of the best national parks in the US are located in the Sierra Nevada. Yosemite, of legendary climbing fame, is located about 3 hours away from San Francisco and is a very popular place to visit. King’s Canyon is in the southern portion of the range and it hosts some of the best hikes in California.
We’re being modest though – because the Sierra Nevada actually holds several superlative titles. The highest point in the lower 48, Mt Whitney is located in these mountains. So is the largest alpine lake in North America – Lake Tahoe. Let’s not forget the towering sequoias either, which are considered the largest trees on Earth.
So the next time someone says that the Rockies or Appalachians are the only mountains in the US, you tell them about the Sierra Nevada. While you’re at it, drink an Otra Vez Gose from the eponymous brewery – that shit is amazing.
23. Savannah – One of the USA’s Deep South charming places.
Not everywhere in the Deep South has to be scary. There are actually a lot of really charming places around here where you can experience Southern hospitality and a number of interesting historical sites.
Savannah, Georgia is a gorgeous town worth staying a few days in. This preserved city, spared destruction during the Civil War, displays some of the finest examples of Southern architecture. The streets are still cobbled, lined with colossal oaks, and plied by mystified tourists. If you’re interested in learning even more about the city’s background, join a walking tour with a local guide and find out everything there is to know.
On a side note, Savannah also allows public drinking, which means you can do all the aforementioned activities with a cocktail or beer in hand!
If Savannah isn’t your cup of tea, try heading to nearby Charleston, South Carolina for the weekend. These two cities have a fierce rivalry and Charleston offers a slightly more laidback experience than Savannah.
24. Santa Fe – A less-ventured place you should visit in the United States.
Santa Fe is a wonder; a city that manages to hit all of the marks of a great tourist destination. There’s unique heritage, a thriving art scene, a plethora of outdoor activities, and amazing food (GREEN CHILI EVERYTHING).
And yet, Santa Fe still manages to be underrated. In fact, not many people visit Santa Fe at all, let alone know where it is (New Mexico if you didn’t already). When you compare Santa Fe’s humble 2 million annual tourists to Denver’s 30 million or Phoenix’s 20 million, it’s kind of upsetting actually.
Statistics be damned though; Santa Fe is still one of the must-see places in the USA! The art alone is worth the journey here. For God’s sake: there’s a gallery called Meow Wolf that was built by George RR Martin – how fucking cool is that!
If you’re looking for one of the best places to visit in the US in winter, the nearby town of Taos is also an excellent option. There are some great ski slopes here, not to mention some really interesting heritage sites.
25. Maine – Queue Stephen King joke.
Cold, wet, windy Maine – who on Earth would want to visit this sub-Arctic, backward state. Might as well just go backpacking in Canada at that rate, right?!
Actually, a lot of people want to visit Maine – and all for good reason!
When the weather is right, Maine is an absolute feast on the eyes. The coastline, in particular, is absolutely stunning: beautiful in its ruggedness and epic in some portions. When autumn comes around and the hills around the coast burst into firey fall foliage, it’s sublime.
The Maine Coastline is not just pretty to look at either – there are plenty of excellent beaches around for lounging on and many believe that these are the best places to visit in the USA during summer.
For some good beer and those quintessential New England lobster rolls, look no further than Portland (not to be confused with the grungier version in Oregon). This coastal city is a quirky little town and you may end up falling in love with it.
Good beer, food, nature, and people? Looks to us like Maine is in the running for one of the best states to visit in 2020!
26. Madison – A laid-back yet thriving city to visit in the USA.
Most American capital cities are really boring – either too remote or too caught up with uninteresting politics.
Every once in a while though, one capital bucks the trend and is actually more fun to visit than most other major American cities.
Madison, Wisconsin is one such city. Located about an hour and a half away from Milwaukee, Madison is a super laid back place that avoids all of the pitfalls of a sleepy, capital city.
For one, there’s a thriving restaurant and bar scene in Madison that is rumored to be one of the largest per capita in the country. On top of that, it’s safer in Madison than Milwaukee by a long shot.
Combine these with a plethora of outdoor activities at the nearby lakes and we’d be a little snobby too if we were from Madison.
So, congratulations, Madison, for being a part of the very exclusive Capital Cities that Don’t Suck to Be in Club. Tis’ an honor to be sure!
27. Wyoming Rockies – The Rockies are so good they’re the best place to visit in the USA like six times over!
The Rockies stretch over about 6 different states, so you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that these mountains look and feel different in each one. Some people love the Colorado Rockies; others swear by the mountains in Montana because, admittedly, Glacier is pretty fuckin’ rad.
My favorite part of the Rockies though? Wyoming.
First and foremost, two of the best national parks in the USA are located here – Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. Both are among the top places that every American should see before they die as their scenery has become iconic. They’re best discovered by foot and with a guide, unless you’re an experienced hiker.
What is more representative of the beauty of America than the Grand Prismatic Spring or the Tetons craggy peaks?
The best part of the Wyoming Rockies, better than the Tetons even, is the Wind River Range. This lesser-known area is home to some of the best hikes in the USA, like the stupendous Titcomb Basin. The best part though – you’re relatively free of the crowds! I’d take the Winds over the rest, any day.
28. Seattle – A city in the United States that deserves attention.
As a Portland native, I was raised with a deep antagonism against Seattle. Seattle was our rival, you see – the place where it rained just a bit more, where the people were just a bit stranger, and where the beer was just a bit too shit.
Man, did I ever take that city for granted. After living abroad for a time, I realized how amazing visiting Seattle is and how wrong I really was. Seattle is easily one of the best places to visit in the USA.
I’ll go one further: Seattle is, hands-down, the most beautiful city in the USA. The skyline, Mt Rainier, the Puget Sound; it’s all just too good to be true. This city is filled with parks and each offers its fair share of views.
The city is not just scenic either, it’s modern. Buildings like the Museum of Pop Art, the Spheres, and the Space Needle make Seattle look like a metropolis of the future; it even reminds me of Singapore a bit.
While there are some very cool and authentic neighborhoods to stay in Seattle, the city is becoming increasingly gentrified and once-dynamic areas, like Capitol Hill, are becoming whitewashed. So get here soon before it all looks like a shopping mall.
29. Los Angeles – A massive undertaking to explore.
I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Los Angeles – every time I visit, I just can’t find the right place for myself. The thing that keeps me coming back though is the fact that I can never possibly see the entire city. Even if you join the Grand City Tour, there’s always another place you could check out.
Los Angeles is fuckin’ massive. There are so many different districts in this city and each one has its own identity. Travel from Santa Monica to Echo Park and you’ll feel like your in completely different cities. Alas, it’s still LA.
LA is extremely diverse as well. In fact, Los Angeles is often considered one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the US, more so than even New York City. There are so many different cultures here and, as we mentioned before, each has its own neighborhood. A walk in LA is like a walk around the world.
So while I don’t really buy into the beach culture at Venice or the fame of Hollywood, I do support the eccentricity. It can be a frustrating city, but for those who want everything, LA is definitely one of the best places to visit in the USA.
30. Philadelphia – A place worth seeing in the USA (despite the talk).
Philly is usually the recipient of unjust criticism – people knock it for being crass, violent, and, ultimately, boring.
Bullshit, I say! Philadelphia has tons to offer to those who actually give it a chance.
Philadelphia has many of the staples of a great US tourist attraction. It has heaps of history, great food, interesting locals, and tons of spunk.
The beauty of Benjamin Franklin Parkway could seriously give the avenues of DC a run for their money. The Philly Art Museum is one of the most impressive institutions on the East Coast. Let’s not forget the gloriousness of the Philly cheesesteak either (even though there’s a ton more food).
I think more tourists ought to visit Philly themselves to find out how cool it is. It isn’t the most objectively beautiful city in the US, but Philly certainly is one-of-a-kind.
Besides, Philadelphians really don’t care if you like their city or not – they’re perfectly fine with it themselves.
Looking for a place to stay in Philly? Consider staying in one of these areas of the city!
31. Denver – Easily one of the coolest places to Visit in the USA.
The best parties that I’ve been to weren’t in Los Angeles or even New York City – they were in Denver fuckin’ Colorado.
Denver has to be one of the most low-key, under-the-radar cities to visit in the entire USA. There are speakeasies, wild clubs, superlative breweries, and even after-hours gigs on a weekly basis. I was shocked at how many parties there were in this city and few outsiders realize how debaucherous it can actually get here.
But Denver is just a quiet mountain town, right? People only pass through on their way to the mountains, right?
Yes and no.
Denver is still one of the outdoor capitals of the country and people still love to go hiking and skiing. In fact, there are some real hidden outdoor and adventure gems in Denver. It can be a nature enthusiast’s paradise. (Contrary to the amount it parties, residents are consistently ranked as among the healthiest people in the US.) But Denver is not quiet, so let’s just get that straight.
So be sure to allocate a few days in Denver on your next US road trip. You’ll be surprised at how much you enjoy this city.
32. Las Vegas – The one and only City of Sin – a must-see in the United States.
Quick! Let’s name off as many nicknames for Las Vegas possible:
- Sin City
- The Entertainment Capital of the World
- Glitter Gulch
- The City of Lost Wages
Jesus, it’s no wonder Vegas has the reputation that it does – based upon these monikers, everyone must think that Vegas is just good for partying and throwing away your hard-earned money.
Here’s a new title for Vegas: The Best Location in the Southwest. Why this?
Las Vegas is located between some of the best places to visit in the USA. Zion National Park, the Grand Canyon, the Sierra Nevada; all of these areas are within a couple hours drive of Vegas. There are plenty of guided tours that take you to the attractions outside of Las Vegas, so you can opt for that if you don’t want to drive yourself!
So next time you’re thinking about visiting Las Vegas, use it as a launching point for the entire American Southwest. When you’ve wrapped up your trip in this region, grab a drink at the like of Atomic Liquors or Beauty Bar – as kitschy as they are, they’re still fun.
With a USA City Pass, you can experience the best of USA at the CHEAPEST prices. Discounts, attractions, tickets, and even public transport are all standards in any good city pass – be sure invest now and save them $$$ when you arrive!Buy Your Pass NOW!
33. Miami – The place to go in the USA for beaches, clubs, and that party goodness.
There’s a lot going on in Miami at the moment – I’m not just talking about the beaches or beautiful people either.
Miami is without a doubt one of the most unique and dynamic cities in the USA. Where else in the nation can you find such a diverse (and sometimes surprising) mix of culture, art, industry, and natural attractions.
The beaches in Miami are some of the most famous in the country. The clubs roar all night long and are filled with some of the biggest names in the world. The arts and design scenes in Miami are very prestigious and may even be able to compete with LA or NYC as well.
Let’s not forget the Latin connection either. Step into Little Havana or Little Haiti and you will be transported immediately to a different country. Just be sure to have a little Spanish under your belt if you go to one of these because you may not be in North America anymore… (They call Miami the “Capital of South America” for a reason.)
Choose the best hostel in Miami using our insider guide!
34. Detroit – One of the upcoming top places to visit in America.
Ask a group of people to describe what Detroit is like and 9 out of 10 of them will probably give you an exaggerated answer. They may describe it as ruined, lawless, post-apocalyptic, and to be avoided at all cost. Detroit will sound dystopian, a city that is more likely to be the fictional setting for the next Escape from X film than a real-life place.
Suspend your imaginations for one second and bear with me: Detroit is not a horrible place. If we’re being fair, Detroit is actually becoming a really amazing place.
Since the legendary auto-industry collapse, Detroit has not been idle. All this time, it has been rebuilding and rebranding itself. All those cavernous and empty warehouses that you saw in photos? Those are now redevelopments i.e. music halls, clubs, lofts, shopping centers, etc. It’s worth getting a tour guide to show you around all the hidden gems of the city that popped up over time.
All those houses that were being listed for five figures? They were scooped up, flipped, and are now better than ever.
So if haven’t already heard of the Detroit Renaissance, look it up. It happening, right now, whether people know it or not.
35. Dallas – Another underrated gem in the USA worth going to.
Dallas is not a city that often graces the magazine covers of Travel+Leisure or Conde Nast. You’d think that this city would only be entertaining for oil barons, cattle ranchers, and any other Texan stereotype you can think of.
In reality, visiting Dallas is nothing like what the general masses imagine it to be. Dallas is actually one of the most cosmopolitan cities in America and is often lauded for its cultural diversity, economic prosperity, and thriving culinary food scene.
Combine these with a relatively low cost of living and it’s no wonder Dallas is often considered one of the best cities to live in the USA.
What Dallas is becoming makes it an even more noteworthy place to visit in the USA. The LGBT community, already prevalent in the city, is quickly growing into one of the strongest in the nation. There are actually a lot of cool things to do in Dallas and dare we say even hipsters are starting to like this city?
Besides, if you don’t like Dallas, there’s always chronically lackadaisical Fort Worth nearby as well.
Want to stay in the coolest part of town? Check out our neighborhood guide for Dallas and find a place that suits you!
36. Alaska Inside Passage – You better believe this is one of the best places to visit in the USA.
When ranking the 50 states in terms of epicness, Alaska pretty much lives in the top 5.
This is place is simply astounding, not just because it’s beautiful but because it has been left so untouched by mass development. When it comes to nature and exploring the real last frontier, Alaska is one of the best states to visit (if not the number one place to visit in the USA). The landscapes are still wild and there’s very little in the way of human intervention.
One of the best ways to experience Alaska is by long-distance ferry. Starting in Bellingham, Washington, and terminating just shy of Anchorage, these boats offer trips through the best of Alaska. As you travel, you’ll be afforded glimpses of crooked fjords, towering mountains, and migrating whales.
What’s great about these voyages is that you can take your car and even camp out on top of the deck! So although your tent won’t actually move, you’ll be camping in a different spot every day for a week.
Upon reaching Anchorage, simply pack into your car and begin road tripping in Alaska. If you’re lucky, you may even be greeted by Denali, which should be on any USA bucket list.
We also highly recommend getting out of the city and joining a wilderness tour for a really unique experience. The Alaskan wilderness is one of the most fascinating places on the planet and should not be missed, but should also not be explored without a knowledgeable guide.
37. Kauai – Hawaii needs a mention too because look:
Hawaii – the name is practically synonymous with paradise. Hawaii is definitely one of the best states in the USA to visit for nature and beaches. But I don’t think you needed me to tell you that.
Here, you’ll find lush jungles, virgin beaches, rugged mountains, and all that and a bag of Hawaiian Kettle Chips. This is simply one of the most beautiful states in the US, so much that it makes us hurt to think about.
While the likes of Maui, Honolulu, and Mauna Kea are all totally worth visiting, the best and most adventurous place to go backpacking in Hawaii has to be Kauai. This northernmost island has everything that you could possibly want.
Its beaches could compete with any other in the world (visit Polihale Beach and Tunnel Beach). The waterfalls are among the highest in the entire archipelago (see Wailua Falls and Waipoo Falls). There’s even Waimea Canyon, which is often referred to as the Grand Canyon of Hawaii.
But the single most impressive feature of Kauai is the Na Pali Coast. This epic, prehistoric park is home to some of the most dramatic cliffs on the planet and the beaches are predictably epic. The trail to Kalalau Beach is one of the best hikes in the USA and worth the trip to Hawaii alone. Another way to explore the area is by jumping on a sunset boat tour around the coast and admire the incredible landscape.
Looking for an affordable place to crash? Find the best hostels in Hawaii here!
Get insured for your trip to USA!
It’s good to get lost sometimes, but it’s also good not to get too lost. There are people that want you home in one piece.
There’s one travel insurance provider The Broke Backpacker trusts for all his wildest shenanigans… World Nomads!
Click the button below to get a quote on your insurance or read our in-depth review of World Nomads’ coverage. And then… let the shenanigans begin. 😉
FAQ on the Best Places to Visit in USA
Find out what people want to know about the best places to visit in USA
What Do You Think the Best Places to Visit in the USA are?
How did we do at ranking the 50 states and the best places to visit in the USA? Do you think we missed something?
If you think that there are better cities or destinations in America, then please share your own in the comment section below! We’d love to hear what you think of our choices and, likewise, we’d love to hear your own choices as well.
Otherwise, get out there and start exploring the USA. For all it’s faults and complexities, it’s still one of the most diverse and magnificently beautiful places on this planet. It’s a big damn country so get out there and start visiting the USA’s best!
Thanks for reading – that was fun! 😀
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