Domestic travel and exploring closer to home is one of the best ways to take a trip without worrying about safety. As a person who has traveled to all 50 states, I can tell you there are some incredible trips you can take in the United States. Here are 20, awesome USA trip ideas that will get you really excited about exploring America.
Last year we spent a lot of time traveling internationally for our 50 Country travel challenge. We loved every single trip but it also made us feel like taking a break to explore closer to home. In December we did trips to Moab, Sedona and Yosemite. It was so much fun that we bought a National Park Pass because we wanted to do a lot more active travel in the US. Road trips have always been a favorite for us, so we’re starting this off with our top 10 favorite USA Road Trips.
Road Trippin’ the USA
Whether they are close to home or far away, road trips are awesome. It let’s you get up close and personal with a destination without being stuck in one place. Road trips are great for traveling with your significant other, a family vacation, spending time with a parent, or a girlfriends getaway.
The Top 10 USA Road Trip Ideas:
1. California Pacific Coast Highway
California Pacific Coast Highway from Big Sur to San Diego (427 miles) is filled with beautiful places to see and fun things to do. Some people start in San Francisco (+150 miles). Southern California and Northern California offer completely different experiences too. Stop at some or all of the 13 Prettiest Beaches in Southern California along the way.
2. Pacific Northwest
Head straight up the magnificent Oregon coast, through Washington State, and up to Vancouver. Hike, kayak, spend time at the beach or enjoy cool city life. If you don’t have a lot of time, start in Portland or Seattle. Starting the trip in San Francisco means an extra 10 hours of driving without tons of excitement.
A lot of people think of Alaska as a cruise destination but a 7 – 10 Day Alaskan Road Trip with 11 Exciting Things to do in Seward and spending time in Denali is so much more exciting. Kayak through iceberg lagoons, zipline through forests, see massive glaciers calve into the ocean, watch bears fishing for salmon, or flightsee around Denali, one of the tallest peaks in the world.
4. Route 66
(2,137 miles) – It’s fun to see a bunch of retro sights in between Chicago, the Grand Canyon and Los Angeles. Do the whole route (2 weeks) or just a portion like California and Arizona. You can also take this route on a cross country trip.
5. Southwest USA
There are so many variations of a Southwest Road Trip but most involve really cool USA National Parks like Zion, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands, and the Grand Canyon. Also some incredibly interesting Native American sites like Monument Valley. See blooming cactus, slot canyons, waterfalls and more in Arizona, Utah and Nevada.
6. Florida Keys
Travel the oversees highway where 43 of 1,700 islands are connected by bridges. You can drive from Miami to Key West in 4 hours but you might want to stay at a hotel along the way.
7. East Coast
Travel from Rhode Island up to Maine on a family trip or a romantic getaway. It can be a fall foliage trip or a great summer trip with kids to hit the beaches on Block Island, mansions in Newport, the Freedom Trail in Boston, or lobstering in Maine. Check is all out on a New England Road Trip with Teens.
8. Mid South
We did a short version of this trip through Tennessee where you can see the sights and sounds of Nashville, whiskey tasting in Lynchburg and Chattanooga. Add on the Blue Ridge Parkway through the Great Smoky Mountains for fall foliage, Memphis to or Atlanta.
9. Lake Michigan Circle Tour (1,100 miles)
This trip will take you through Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and a bit of Indiana. It’s the prettiest summer trip that’s perfect for families and you can combine it with a Midwest college tour. Make sure to see the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
10. Road to Hana
The famed Road to Hana in Maui is more of a long, scenic drive than a road trip. In 59 miles, you will want to stop at every waterfall, black sand beach or interesting view point. Another great Hawaiian drive on the big island of Hawaii from Hilo to Honokaa is Hamakua Coast Drive.
USA National Parks Are One of the Best Trip Ideas
We bought a National Park Pass and have been national park obsessed lately. There is nothing better than getting out in nature to have a true vacation. It’s such a great opportunity to see the prettiest parts of the country.
5 Trip Ideas to Bucket List USA National Parks and Park Lands
- Grand Canyon is the most jaw dropping national park that offers mind-blowing vistas and awesome adventures. You can hike from rim to rim, go river rafting or just visit multiple view points. If you’ve never been, you absolutely have to go. Combine the Grand Canyon with other nearby spots like Sedona and Monument Valley,
- Arches National Park in Utah has spectacular natural arches and bridges. It’s right by Canyonlands where I shot the unretouched photo above on my iPhone. It is crazy beautiful in real life. You can stay in Moab to visit both parks. Without having an airport nearby, you will probably want to see other parks on your way there like Zion.
- Zion, one of my personal favorites, is a hiker’s paradise from the precarious Angel’s Landing hike to wading upstream in the Narrows. Nearby is the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater with spectacular Hoodoos.
- Yosemite, immortalized in Ansel Adams photographs, is a park that everyone needs to visit at least once. In February you can catch the bucket list moment when Horsetail Falls lights up from the sunset to create an orange waterfall.
- Yellowstone has Old Faithful Geyser that shoots 200 feet into the air to the Grand Prismatic Spring, and everything in between. Yellowstone is a huge park with a lot of driving between the sites so plan enough time
Related Post: Joshua Tree National Park Weekend Getaway
Staycations Are Great USA Trip Ideas if You Treat it Like a True Vacation
A staycation is the cop out of vacation ideas unless you really do it right. Take the week off of work and look at your home town as a vacation destination. What do all the people do that are tourists in your area? Better yet, what are the coolest places in your area that tourists don’t know about. Pro Tips: Stay at a hotel and make an itinerary so you aren’t tempted to keep up with real life distractions.
5 Cool Things to do on a Staycation
- See museums, go to a play, or visit interesting cultural events. A staycation is the perfect time to support the arts.
- Do a day trip of an area 1-2 hours away that you’ve never been to or haven’t seen in years.
- Eat out every night at restaurants you’re really wanted to try. Have breakfast at a cool restaurant way across town.
- Stay at the newest hotel in your area that’s the talk of the town. We live in Los Angeles so it’s really easy to feel like you’re going on vacation 30 miles away because it can take 2 hours to get there. Haha!! For us, staying in a hotel across town would open up a world of possibilities we never touch.
- Go hiking, take a long bike ride, or take advantage of an exercise class you’ve heard about. Take up a new sport you’ve wanted to try like rowing, stand up paddle boarding (SUP), surfing or a boot camp and kickstart your fitness regime.
Have You Ever Taken a Photography Tour?
With all of our travels, we are often up early wanting to get photos before the throngs of visitors arrive. Sunrise is a great time to enjoy solitude and a monument all by yourself. Sometimes though, we run into a line full of professional or seriously talented amateur photographers. These people travel all over the world to capture beautiful places and their photography enthusiasm has rubbed off on us.
Here are some ideas on how to hone your photo skills on vacation:
- Many photographers offer photography workshops that range from a few hours to a week. Reserve a spot and express yourself creatively.
- Instead of spending your money on expensive airfare, you can buy a serious camera you never thought you could afford and learn how to use it on manual mode. If you have a great camera, get a new telephoto or wide angle lens or a 10 stop filter to make smooth waterfall shots.
- Master astrophotography by planning a trip around the new moon to somewhere without light pollution.
- Get a drone, learn how to fly it and capture cool photos and videos.
- A GoPro offers unlimited fun potential. Strap it onto your kid’s bike helmet, put it on a surfboard, get an underwater dome and take super cool above and below water photos.
A USA Trip Ideas List Wouldn’t Be Complete with Camping/Glamping
Before you just ignore the ideas about camping, take into consideration that there are a lot of different trip options and you might really like one of them. I have a friend that goes RV camping and I’ll be honest, it’s 100% not for me. I even tried staying in an airstream trailer and didn’t like it because the whole thing moved with every step. But Glamping in Big Sur was so amazing! A king bed, electric blanket, and a push button campfire were right up my alley.
We had planned our first backpacking trip at the end of March 2020 to Havasupai and it unfortunately was cancelled. I haven’t gone tent camping since Girl Scouts and I’m determined to try it when we get the chance to go back to this gorgeous spot in the Grand Canyon.
There is a Type of Camping with Your Name on it
- Tent Camping – You can stay in a tent at a campground or somewhere that is near a parking lot where you can set up with a ton of gear like an inflatable mattress and a big cooking stove.
- Backpacking, as the name implies involves a hike to a remote area with a backpack where you carry in your tent, food things, and anything you need to stay overnight. Since you are carrying everything, you have to really conserve on the amount of weight and it’s important to follow the leave no trace behind principles.
- RV or Van camping – Staying overnight in a vehicle that has sleeping and cooking facilities on board.
- Glamping – Accommodations range from luxurious to rustic in permanent tent structures, cabins, teepees, chuck wagons, dome tents, yurts and tree houses. We LOVE glamping!!!
Related Post: Ventana Glamping in Big Sur
Other Posts You Might Like:
- TRAVEL: The Best Places to Travel in March
- ARIZONA: Visiting Sedona for Hiking and the Sedona Vortex
- CALIFORNIA: Joshua Tree Weekend Getaway Guide
- ALASKA: Alaska Summer Road Trip Itinerary