America is a tourist magnet and the third most visited country in the world. Citizens are spoiled for choice with day trip destinations and vacation spots. There are spectacular attractions everywhere. The US is home to the magnificent Grand Canyon, the spectacular Niagara Falls, and, Walt Disney World Resort to mention but a few. For those looking to explore some of the best this country has to offer, there are many must-see attractions.
Redwood National Park
The giant old-growth trees in Redwood National Park in California will take your breath away. Some ancient redwoods here are 2,000 years old and as tall as 300 feet. You can hike through Fern Canyon inside the park, where they filmed several scenes of Jurassic Park: The Lost World.
You can also hike to the Klamath River Overlook, where you might see gray whales frolicking in the Pacific. Here you will also spot seals lazing at the river mouth, as you enjoy a picnic at sunset. There is also the Trees of Mystery attraction near Klamath, where you will find around 50 chainsaw sculptures, a massive statue of Paul Bunyan, and unusual tree formations including the Candelabra and the Elephant tree.
Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is arguably San Francisco’s most popular tourist attraction. The bridge, with its Art Deco details, was opened in 1937 and is one of the first bridges built over the Pacific Ocean. If you are visiting San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge is a fantastic place to take photographs, no matter where you stand. You can even see the city’s other big attraction, Alcatraz, from the bridge. You can also stay at Cavallo Point, which sits at the foot of the bridge, or go on a boat cruise in San Francisco Bay as you watch the sun go down.
The French Quarter is the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans and is chockful of history and culture. You should take at least a day to explore everything this stunning part of the US has to offer, starting with Jackson Square. Here, you can have a picnic while street performers entertain you.
The French Quarter also holds fantastic historic museums, including The Cabildo, a historically significant building that once housed the government during the Spanish colonial period. Other attractions include the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, which is due to reopen shortly after extensive renovations. Have a delicious coffee and a light meal at the Café Du Monde before booking a seat on the local ghost tour that offers tales of 300-year-old ghosts and vampires.
Las Vegas Strip
If you are into glitz and glamor, you cannot miss out on visiting the Las Vegas Strip. Play some slots after enjoying the food from the many buffets available here. You will even get free cocktails while you are sitting at the slot machine. If you are not much of a gambler, you can party the night away in one of the many clubs on the strip.
Book a stay in one of the massive hotels if you plan on staying a few days, and take some time to see a Las Vegas show (which usually means a music performance by one of today’s top stars). Las Vegas is also only a couple of hours away from the Grand Canyon. So when finished exploring Sin City, you should drive out there and experience the incredible views from the skywalk glass bridge.
If you like off-the-beaten-path destinations, you should take a trip to Harpers Ferry, a beautiful historic town in West Virginia. The population here is less than 300, and it is the easternmost town in this state. Harpers Ferry provides a glimpse into the past with several Civil War remnants scattered over 20 miles. These remnants include the ruins of St. John’s Episcopal Church which once served as a war hospital and barracks.
Be sure to visit The Point, from where you see three states, including Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland. While you are out there, hike the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the largest hike-only path in the world. Harpers Ferry is also home to a historical research-based candy shop, the only one of its kind in the US. Here you can satisfy that sweet tooth with gummy candies, licorice, and mastic resin.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is a spectacular sight to behold. The park itself, with the largest part situated in Wyoming, sits on a dormant volcano. Here you will also find more hot springs and geysers in one place than in any other part of the world. At Yellowstone, you can feed the adventurer inside you by hiking up one of the more than 900 miles of hiking trails, including the mystical Fairy Falls. For avid bikers, check out the Fountain Freight Road. This road leads through a section of the Midway Geyser Basin.
Then there is Yellowstone Lake, the largest high-altitude lake in the US. You can rent a boat to explore the lake or sit back and relax in a chartered boat while taking in the jaw-dropping vistas. Remember to keep an eye out for buffalo, wolves, and massive grizzlies.
Kennedy Space Center
If you often find yourself staring up into the sky, wondering if you will ever have the chance to visit space, you definitely should visit the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Florida. The space center dates back to 1963 when James Webb established self-guided tours that allowed visitors to drive through the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
These tours soon became exceptionally popular, prompting the creation of a full-fledged visitor center by 1965. By 1968 the Kennedy Space Center was launching humans into space. Today, visitors can tour the space center accompanied by an astronaut guide. If you are a space enthusiast, do not miss out on the Shuttle Launch Experience, an exhilarating simulation ride. You can even watch a rocket launch if you are visiting at the same time the center has one scheduled.
An all-American experience you simply cannot miss out on is a Route 66 road trip. The historic route spanned over 2,400 miles and was once one of the most traveled highways in the US. The highway is no longer a recognized American highway, so you can’t drive the entire road anymore. However, several remaining sections make for memorable trips. Starting in Chicago, you can take Jackson Boulevard to start. Route 66 ends in Santa Monica, and along the way, you will find old-school diners, steam engines, and historic attractions.
Some of the exciting roadside attractions include a blue whale, the Muffler Men, and even dinosaurs. It will take you at least five days to get from Chicago to California, but it is a trip you will never forget.
Your American vacation won’t be complete without at least one visit to a famous beach. Venice Beach in Florida provides a wonderful opportunity to see the ocean and hunt for shark teeth. You will most likely spot dolphins in the water and marine turtle nests on the sand. Play a game of volleyball or have a picnic, before joining a seashell hunt or going for a swim. To round off a perfect beach day, you can stroll down Venice Avenue and stop for a bite to eat in one of the charming cafes or restaurants.
Times Square is often referred to as the heart of New York City. Here you can attend tapings of late-night TV programs, watch a famous Broadway show, and watch the ball drop at midnight on New Year’s Eve as the snowflakes drift around your face. Times Square is home to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and Ripley’s Believe It or Not exhibition. Here you will also find the historic Knickerbocker Hotel, where some of the most famous people in the world once stayed.
If you don’t have a lot of time to go sightseeing, take the sightseeing tour bus that will zoom you past all the city’s biggest attractions. Stop to immerse yourself in the Ocean Odyssey which is a 90-minute underwater National Geographic exhibit that explores the giants of the sea, including squid, whales, and sharks.
One World Trade Center
A mere four miles from Times Square is the One World Trade Center which includes the One World Observatory between floors 100 and 102. Also known as the Freedom Tower, the center stands in remembrance of the 9/11 victims and contains tributes to the original towers that once stood in its place. The observation deck begins at 1,362 feet and includes a glass parapet that rises to 1,368 feet. These are the heights of the original South and North towers.
The One World Trade Center, with its tall spire, stands at a height of 1,776 feet, a direct reference to the year of the Declaration of Independence. Also at Ground Zero, you will find the Memorial Plaza which has stunning fountains and sprawling oak trees. Bronze plaques contain all the names of the victims of 9/11. The Memorial Plaza also holds the Glade Memorial in remembrance of the first responders who lost their lives.
One of the most awe-inspiring sights at Ground Zero is the Survivor Tree, so named for being the only tree that survived the disaster. At the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, you will find somber exhibits that detail that terrible day. While this might not be the happiest place to visit in the US, it is one of the most hopeful. It speaks of the resilience of the American people in the face of one of the worst tragedies the country has ever faced, and their collective effort to overcome darkness and bring back light.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park in California is home to giant sequoias, moonbows, and waterfalls. The infamous Horsetail Fall catches fire every February as the setting sun illuminates the water. One of the most visited sequoias is the fallen giant in Tuolumne Grove, which has a tunnel cut into it so that cars can pass through.
When finished staring at the sheer size of the trees, you should pass by El Capitan, one of the most iconic monoliths in the world. Then there is Half Dome, one of Yosemite’s most popular landmarks. You can hike over 800 miles of trails, do river rafting, or simply enjoy the scenery. The Sierra Nevada Mountains overlook Yosemite, and the park itself is one of the most gorgeous places to visit in the US.
Whether you are a nature lover, someone who enjoys singing along with Fanny Brice as she struts across the Broadway stage belting out the lyrics to Don’t Rain On My Parade, or sandy beaches, the US has the perfect spot for you to explore. From the glitz and glam of the Las Vegas strip to the thrill of driving cross-country on the historic Route 66, there are endless tourist attractions for every adventure.