Domestic travel and exploring closer to home is one of the best ways to take a trip without worrying about safety. We have traveled to all 50 states and can wholeheartedly tell you there are some incredible destinations in the United States. Here are 25 awesome USA trip ideas that will get you really excited about exploring America. Don’t worry, there are just as many bucket list USA adventures as there are around the world and this list will prove it to you!
In fact, sometimes we overlook our own backyard for something swoon worthy we see on Instagram. As we made this list of places that we’ve visited or spots that are on our personal bucket list, we realized that there are SO MANY AMAZING PLACES TO VISIT IN THE USA! We literally rented out our house in June and are dedicating the next year to exploring many of the USA trip ideas you will find below. Check out our Jen and Guy YouTube Channel with new videos every Sunday.
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 Coast is the Ultimate Bucket List USA Road Trip
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 at the Golden Gate Bridge (+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. This is a great trip year round but fall has amazing weather and you should expect rainy days in winter.
2. Pacific Northwest Has Multiple Road Trip Options
I’ll be honest, we never considered Oregon a bucket list USA destination and we had been a few times. But out trip this summer completely proved us wrong. If you head straight up the Oregon coast, and see all the amazing Oregon beaches, you’ll see why. Then venture inland on one of the Oregon Scenic Byways and you’ll be completely blown away by the beauty of Central Oregon. See bucket list Crater Lake and our new favorite active city of Bend, Oregon.
Oregon is best in summer but fall is absolutely gorgeous. You will see incredible foliage around the state and there are fun harvest festivals in the Willamette Valley and in the Mt Hood/Columbia River Gorge Area. Winter is another popular time to visit for skiing at Mt. Hood and Mt. Bachelor in Oregon.
Don’t forget to go up to Washington state too. If you love hiking and backpacking, you cannot miss Mount Rainier National Park or Olympic National Park. Climbing to the 14,409′ summit of Mount Rainier is on the bucket list of many USA climbers.
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3. Make Sure Alaska is on Your USA Bucket List – It’s Amazing!
A lot of people think of Alaska as a cruise destination but a 7 to 10 Day Alaskan Road Trip with 11 Exciting Things to do in Seward and spending time in Denali National Park 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.
You may not think of Alaska as a year round destination. While Alaska is at it’s prime in summer, don’t overlook the fall colors mid September that coincide with the later end of the salmon run for those that want to fish. Alaska is also a top spot for Northern Lights viewing between September and March.
4. Route 66 is a Quintessential USA Road Trip
(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 and veer off course to Durango, Colorado like we did. Route 66 let’s your start a southwest road trip from Los Angeles at the beach and work your way through 7 states to Lake Michigan.
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5. A Southwest USA Road Trip Never Disappoints
There are so many variations of a Southwest Road Trip but most involve really cool USA National Parks like Zion, Bryce, Arches, Grand Canyon, or White Sands. There are incredibly interesting Native American sites like Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley and Havasupai. See blooming cactus, slot canyons, waterfalls and more in Arizona, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico. The Southwest is visually stunning and full of fun activities.
Spring and Fall are ideal times for a Southwest road trip because it’s the best weather. In Spring, the waterfalls and wildflowers peak and you can catch some fall foliage around Taos, New Mexico and many parts of Utah. Summer can be extremely hot so use caution and bring tons of sunscreen and water.
6. A Florida Keys Road Trip From Miami to Key West is Beautiful
Travel the oversees highway where 43 of 1,700 islands are connected by bridges. You can drive from Fort Lauderdale or Miami to Key West in 4 hours. Enjoy the area and make the trip over a few days. Travel to the north end of the Florida Keys to Biscayne National Park with crystal clear blue water, the world’s 3rd largest coral reef system and lots of outdoor activities.
The peak time to visit the Florida Keys is from November through February when the weather is perfect in the 70s-80s, but it’s also the busiest and most expensive. Spring travel from March through May still has nice weather without the crowds Fall weather is lovely but it’s also hurricane season so make sure you have trip insurance in case you need to cancel.
7. The East Coast is Full of Great USA Trip Ideas for Summer or Fall
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, charming towns of Cape Cod, the Freedom Trail in Boston, lobstering in Maine or hiking in Acadia National Park. Check it all out on a New England Road Trip with Teens.
8. Mid South Road Trips
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 and a trip to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. Incorporate coastal cities like Charleston if you have time and beautiful beach areas like the Outer Banks.
9. Lake Michigan Circle Tour
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. Chicago is such a cool city especially in summer. If you’ve never been to Wisconsin, get it on your list ASAP for a summer or fall trip with foliage and football. Don’t miss Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Sleeping Bear Dunes at the top of Michigan for beautiful beaches and interesting landscape.
10. The Road to Hana is Definitely a Bucket List USA Trip
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. Big wave season is from the end of October though March on the North Shore of Oahu. We’ve been dying to see the 30-50 foot waves in person. Hawaii has year round amazing weather.
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.
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10 Trip Ideas to Bucket List USA National Parks and Park Lands
Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon National Park 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 & Canyonlands National Parks
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 & Bryce National Parks
Zion National Park, 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.
Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park has over 1 million acres of wilderness and some of the most jaw dropping scenery. It’s a hiker’s paradise but you’ll also find other adventures like whitewater rafting, photographing wildlife, kayaking, fishing and more.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park, 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 & Grand Tetons National Park
Yellowstone National Park has Old Faithful Geyser that shoots 200 feet into the air, Lamar Valley full of bison, and it’s own Grand Canyon, but one of the prettiest sites is the Grand Prismatic Spring. Plan for plenty of driving time between the sites. At next-door neighbor Grand Teton National National Park, you can boat, float, fish, hike and camp with the Teton mountain range and Snake River as your backdrop.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii is home to 2 of the world’s most active volcanoes. Take the Crater Rim Drive to the Jaggar Museum overlook, hike the Kīlauea Iki Trail and through the rain forest to the Thurston Lava Tube, and have a bucket list dinner overlooking the crater at The Rim at Volcano House.
Related Post: How to Get a Free National Park Pass
Our Favorite Resources to Plan USA Trips
- This is definitely a great time to visit National Parks. Read this post about how to get the best value out of a National Park Pass or how you can qualify to get it for free.
- If you like staying in accommodations that are more private than a traditional hotel, use this code to get $35 off your first Airbnb rental
- Have you been thinking about renting an RV or Van? We just booked a trip with Outdoorsy to try out Van Life and loved that we could choose from so many amazing options. Use this code to get $50 off your first Outdoorsy rental
- Harvard has a free Risk Assessment Map that is updated daily. It has been one of the most helpful resources because it gives infection rates by county and population. This is great for choosing the safest destinations during the pandemic.
- I think we’ll all seen that trip insurance can come in really handy for things you would never expect to happen. We use World Nomads and love how they have the ability to cover exactly what you need on your trip from typical cancellation insurance to special gear or activities like diving insurance.
- For more in depth trip inspiration, check out these USA Destinations or our YouTube Channel that has a new USA Trip video every week.
Best USA Trip Ideas By Season
Fall USA Trips for Autumn Fun, Foliage and Less Crowds
The obvious choice for an Autumn trip is to New England for fall foliage from mid September to the beginning of October. but you can find incredible fall colors and harvest festivals all over the country. Check the Farmer’s Almanac for peak foliage dates by state. Notable states with vibrant color include Virginia, North Carolina, Michigan, Colorado, and Oregon.
Another great trip idea for fall are places that are way too busy in summer like Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains and the Utah Mighty 5. New York City is perfection in fall from the excitement of Fashion Week to enjoying the delightful weather in Central Park. Albuquerque hosts Balloon Fiesta in October that is a colorful sight to see.
Winter Trips for Sun and Snow
Hit the slopes or just hang out in a great winter resort town like Aspen, Jackson Hole, Sun Valley or Park City. If you need to get some winter sun, Hawaii, California, Arizona and Florida will give you a break from harsh winters and give you a tan to bring home and show off.
Flowers and Celebrations Make the Best USA Trip ideas for Spring
If you want to see cherry blossoms, head to Washington DC. Tulips abound in Holland, Michigan and Skagit Valley, Spring b Washington. California poppies, Texas bluebonnets and desert blooms in Arizona will make your heart sing. When Spring has sprung, it can make the grumpiest person happy.
Spring is also a great time for festivals. New Orleans is one big party from February to May. Austin, Texas hosts South by Southwest while California has Coachella. Spring breakers love Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas beaches.
Summer is a Great Time to Take your USA Road Trips North
Summer is a great time for road trips in America and it is also a common time for people to take off from work. As a general rule of thumb, the northern states are at their best while the southern ones are drowning in heat and/or humidity. The states that are the best to visit in summer are Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine, Hawaii and Alaska.
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. Head to a lake near you and spend some time enjoying lake life.
- 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 or 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. Glamping in Big Sur was so amazing! A king bed, electric blanket, and a push button campfire were right up my alley. I have a friend that goes RV camping and I’ll be honest, I thought it was 100% not for me but I’m starting to rethink my position. RVs are great for families and glamping with kids is really fun too!
We had planned our first backpacking trip to at the end of March 2020 to Havasupai and it unfortunately was cancelled. That amazing blue water at Havasu Falls has been on our USA bucket list for a few years now . Instead we replaced it with a super fun camping trip to Crater Lake National Park in Oregon that went so well that we did it again to watch Speedweek on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. If you’ve never been to Crater Lake or Bonneville Salt Flats, get them on your USA bucket list. They are both jaw droopingly cool!
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 this amazing 4″ memory foam mattress that made our inexpensive awesome tent so cozy!
- 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: 7 Glamping Destinations in California and the USA
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