The ultimate USA guide

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Shaping the ultimate travel experience, the United States is a patchwork of colorful states. Ascend high above the clouds in the towering Rockies, or enter the world’s longest cave system in Kentucky. Play on beaches of pure quartz sand in Florida, or live your best life in one of the USA’s many captivating cities.

You could go on almost forever about all the epic things to do on offer, but that would be an overwhelming intro. Instead, let’s dive straight into the best travel experiences across the USA.

USA travel guide

USA regions

The United States is formed by 50 states, each with its own unique features. Discover your favorite USA region.

  • Florida – Fringed by beautiful white beaches and dotted with swaying palm trees, Florida is synonymous with vacation. Taking full advantage of its tropical setting, South Florida’s endless summer means beach days even in winter. Your toughest choice here is: Should you pick the Atlantic or Gulf side?
  • New England – A hidden area up in the northeast, New England is made up by Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. Proud lighthouses, cute covered bridges and fairytalelike homes set a scene of pure idyll.
  • South – Extending from the Atlantic coastline deep into the country, the American South is a diverse bunch of states. Climb the Great Smoky Mountains, the USA’s most frequented national park, or stroll cities brimming with character.
  • Heartland – Some call the central part of USA for flyover country. With fewer attractions and longer distances between sights, many just fly across these states. Still the Heartland’s open roads and endless rural landscape on its own is a fascinating American dream.
  • Pacific Northwest – Above all the Pacific Northwest is recognized for its sweeping Pacific coastline. But if you think that’s where the Northwest experience ends, think again. Other appreciated features include snow-capped mountains, abundant forests and homey cities.
  • Southwest From the meandering Colorado River to peculiar rock formations shooting up towards the sky, the Southwest is nature at its best. Arizona’s Grand Canyon offers unforgettable vistas. Utah answers up with five mighty national parks: Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Arches and Canyonlands.
  • Hawaii – Aloha, traveler. Positioned in the heart of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is an island paradise far away from all other US states. Oahu, where you find the sprawling Waikiki Beach, is the chain’s most active island. Kauai, Maui and Big Island are at least as gorgeous, but much quieter.
Sign marking out Ooh Aah Point at the edge of Grand Canyon South Rim
The American Southwest.

Best things to do in USA

The great things to do in USA are many. Spread out across the country, this is just a sample of an endless selection of memorable activities.

  • Dive into Florida Keys – In a world where summer never ends, the Florida Keys reaches out from the southern tip of mainland Florida. Here you find the world’s third largest coral barrier reef: the Great Florida Reef. This is a great spot for divers, but you can also take a glass-bottom tour if you rather remain dry.
  • Count bears in Cades Cove – The Great Smoky Mountains are identified by the mysterious fog that often cover them. But when the sight is clear, you’re likely to spot the range’s black bears. Cades Cove, the Smokies most renowned valley, is an enchanting bear hotspot where it feels like time stands still.
  • Listen to Niagara Falls – Before you even see Niagara Falls, it has left a permanent mark on you. Creating a thundering sound, six million cubic feet of water crashes into Niagara Gorge every single minute. On the border between USA and Canada, this is a contender for the 8th wonder of the world.
  • Photograph Thor’s Hammer – Utah’s Bryce Canyon presents thousands of hoodoos, or peculiar sandstone pillars. Appearing like something from a different universe, one hoodoo in particular catches your attention. Thor’s Hammer, easily reached by hiking down the canyon, is THE hoodoo to get up close with.
  • Stroll Central Park – New York is the City That Never Sleeps. Yet you find peace in the very heart of the bustling US city. Ringed in by towering skyscrapers, Central Park is a New York City sanctuary for anyone who needs a timeout.
  • Feel like a child at Disney – Orlando’s Disney World is as big as San Francisco or two Manhattans. Disneyland in Los Angeles isn’t as huge but wins points as the original Disney park. Florida or California, one thing is certain: Disney parks translate into family moments filled with laughter.
  • Party on Bourbon Street – Called the Big Easy, New Orleans is the location to let loose. Its center of attention is the bar-lined Bourbon Street, where activity flows every night. Although not the spot if you prefer it quiet, there’s no place quite like Bourbon Street for a cold one.
  • Reflect at Mount Rushmore – Carved into the gray granite of Mount Rushmore, four American presidents make up South Dakota’s proudest display. This important group, consisting of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, represents America’s birth, growth, development and preservation.
Black mama bear walking with three cubs through the Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
Count black bears in Cades Cove.

Related: See our full guide to the best things to do in America.

USA cities

From east to west there are thousands of USA cities and towns for the traveler to explore. This is a collection of some of the brightest shining American hubs of human activity.

  • Washington DC – Assigned huge power, Washington DC is the capital of the United States. Its epicenter park, the National Mall, holds a unique collection of national treasures. Tick off the Capitol Building, Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. And while you’re at it, why not swing by the president at the White House?
  • New York City – Having featured in so many movies over the years, we all have a relation to the Big Apple. New York City is an activity-filled blockbuster-jungle of skyscrapers. You can spend weeks, or even months, here without running out of things to do.
  • Charleston – This is where the past and present intersect. With a historic heart like an open-air museum but also a contemporary entertainment scene, Charleston makes clear why it’s nicknamed America’s Favorite City. Feel the Atlantic breeze at the Battery, or discover the historic plantations lining Ashley River.
  • Los Angeles – Where the Pacific’s crashing waves and California’s coast collide, Los Angeles is a city that dares to dream big. The Walk of Fame, a monument of five-pointed stars embedded in the sidewalk, reveals countless of success stories. Is it too late to pursue a career in show business?
  • Boston – New England’s major hub has a special place in the history of the USA. Crucial American Revolution events took place here, including the famous Boston Tea Party. This historical significance is showcased along the 2.5 miles long Freedom Trail, which takes you on a brilliant trip through time.
  • Seattle – Sheltered in Washington State, Seattle embraces everything you love about the Pacific Northwest. It’s a place that offers all the comforts of a big city, yet with easy access to jaw-dropping wilderness. If you’re sleepless in Seattle, it’s because there’s so much to do.
  • Savannah – Upriver from the Atlantic Ocean, Savannah provides the perfect scene for romance. With cobblestone streets framed by moss-covered oaks and antebellum homes, you can touch the Georgia city’s romantic vibe. This is one of the most atmospheric places in the South.
  • San Francisco – International orange welcomes you to San Francisco. Dominating California’s coastline, it’s the official color of the Golden Gate Bridge. To uncover much more, climb the San Francisco hills aboard an iconic cable car, just like people did already in the 1870s.
  • Chicago – Side by side with Lake Michigan, one of the world’s largest lakes, Chicago is a hub in the Great Lakes region. Enjoy the best of big-city life, but don’t miss out on all those gurgling recreational opportunities. How about lakeside picnicking, hiking or biking?
  • San Antonio – Glittering in the Lone Star State, San Antonio knows how to entertain visitors. Inside historic missions stories, sometimes bone-chilling, about the old world are told. Sooner or later you reach the alluring River Walk, where al fresco dining completes the day.
  • Miami – A vibrating mix of Latin America and the USA, there’s no city quite like Miami. Under the Florida sun, each Miami neighborhood feels unique. South Beach, where many visitors begin their sightseeing, is a stylish nightlife mecca, while Wynwood, always trending on Instagram, is like balsam for your creativeness.
Historic home in Downtown Savannah, GA, framed by oak trees draped with Spanish moss
The romantic Downtown Savannah, Georgia.

USA islands

Some of the best destinations in the USA are floating. If you want to recharge, it’s hard to imagine something better than a trip to one of America’s top islands.

  • Martha’s Vineyard – Representing the ultimate American summer escape, high-spirited vacationgoers swarm Martha’s Vineyard each June. Luckily the island’s size, it’s the third largest on the East Coast, guarantees solitude even as the season peaks. Head to the remote Up-Island beaches, and you always find space and room.
  • Marco Island – Do you want a beachy USA island that delivers all year round? If so, Marco Island, blessed with a huge white beach, is there for you. Hidden in Florida’s southwestern corner, its pace is refreshingly slow. Here, away from the hustle and bustle, life really is a beach.
  • Key West – Catering to travelers of all interests, Key West is the Florida Keys’ most complete destination. Top features include pristine water tours, remarkable historic sights and tropical nightlife. For its small size, Key West is a loaded US island.
  • Hilton Head Island – A destination with focus on comfort is Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. Developed with sprawling resorts, boasting great amenities, this is a nice spot to just kick back. But if you want to be active, check out the gem’s plentiful golf courses, tennis courts and recreational pathways.
  • Kauai – Another shade of green, Kauai takes lush to a whole new level. The Hawaii island’s green center, dotted with waterfalls, and legendary coastal Na Pali cliffs captivate even the most hard flirted travelers out there. This setting has made Kauai a favorite filmning location for Jurassic Park movies.

Related: Read our full guide to the best islands in USA to visit.

Gingerbread cottage in Oak Bluffs with eye-catching pink details
Martha’s Vineyard, a classic USA island escape.

American national parks

There is scenery, and then there are American national parks. From towering mountains and reflecting lakes to deep canyons and jaw-dropping rock sculptures, these are majestic natural treasures.

  • Great Smoky Mountains – Tennessee and North Carolina proudly host the most visited national park in the US. Come and explore pioneer history, but watch out for all those black bears. The Smokies’ high bear-density makes it a hotspot for wildlife lovers.
  • Mammoth Cave – For underground adventure it doesn’t get better than the world’s longest cave system: Mammoth Cave. This Kentucky giant offers 400 miles plus of explored passageways. Yet it’s to this day unknown exactly how long Mammoth Cave is. Who knows, maybe it never ends?
  • Yellowstone – It’s not easy to pick a favorite spot in Yellowstone. Its thermal activity, including the Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Spring, draw people from far and wide. As appreciated is the tremendous Lamar Valley, where bison timelessly roam.
  • Zion – Zion National Park, one of Utah’s five mighty national parks, stands out for its jaw-dropping hikes. Angels Landing is narrow, steep and with huge drops. Other, much more family-friendly trails, make clear that Zion is a US park for everyone.
  • Rocky Mountain – Reaching up through the clouds, Rocky Mountain National Park is the top of Colorado. Against the backdrop of majestic fourteeners, its alpine lakes are oases for humans and wildlife alike. Visitors frequently spot moose, bears, elk and many other members of the Rockies’ intriguing animal kingdom.
  • Grand Canyon – Truly an overachiever, Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and more than a mile deep. Still numbers or words don’t do Arizona’s most storied attraction justice. It’s one of those American national parks that you need to see with your own eyes to believe.
  • Acadia – New England’s only national park is the first one who wakes up in the morning. Where the mountains meet the ocean, Acadia National Park showcases wild Atlantic beauty. Go to the top of Cadillac Mountain to fully capture the surroundings, or head to Mount Desert Island’s western half for more secluded appreciation.
  • Everglades – Covering more than 1.5 million acres, the Everglades is a wild South Florida attraction. This wetland, or to be more exact slow-flowing river, is the capital of the alligators. Although they are cool Instagram objects, make sure to keep a safe distance.
White Bass Harbor Lighthouse standing on the edge of cliffs in Acadia National Park
Bass Harbor in Acadia National Park.

USA road trips

Often it’s the hidden roads and towns, far away from the beaten path, that captivate you the most. There’s really no doubt about it: road tripping takes the USA experience to the next level.

  • Grand Circle – The Grand Circle road trip illustrates nature’s work in progress. Presenting both Arizona’s best sights and all the national parks in Utah, it’s a jaw-dropping ride. Prepare for an otherworldly experience.
  • Los Angeles to NYC – Is there something more American than a cross-country road trip? The Los Angeles to NYC road trip is several breathtaking trips in one package. If you can’t pick just one region to focus on and just want to see it all, this one is for you.
  • San Diego to Miami – An interesting alternative route across the USA is the San Diego to Miami drive. Down where the US meets Mexico, you never have to worry about freezing. Although the route appeals year round, think twice before you head out in the scorching summer.
  • Blue Ridge Parkway – Winding through the Blue Ridge Mountains from Shenandoah National Park to the Smokies, no list of USA road trips is complete without the Blue Ridge Parkway. Dubbed America’s Favorite Drive, this is one of those special drives where you never know what awaits around the next turn.
  • DC to Miami – Featuring countless antebellum homes and plantations, the East Coast holds a large portion of America’s history. The Atlantic road trip from Washington DC to Miami captures all of that plus several grand beaches far off the beaten track.
  • Overseas Highway – Great US road trips don’t need to be long. The Sunshine State’s Overseas Highway runs for 113 miles (182 km) from mainland Florida to Key West. It’s a laid-back journey from island to island through the USA’s slice of the Caribbean. Fort Lauderdale to KW and Miami to KW are popular variations.

Do you want more road trip routes? Browse all our spectacular USA road trips, or head out on the 10 best American drives.

Road meandering past three giant rock buttes in red-colored Monument Valley
An otherworldly road trip spot: Monument Valley.

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