With almost 80 million visitors every year, the USA is the world’s most popular tourist destination. It is not surprising really, given how many blockbuster attractions, bucket list destinations and once-in-a-lifetime experiences it offers. Not to mention its incredible food, world-class entertainment and sporting events and, of course, its unique sense of history and culture. Here are 16 experiences in the United States everyone needs to have.
For most people, the USA is somewhere they can only visit for a couple of weeks at a time at most, mainly due to work and school commitments.
Which means your time in the country is sadly at a premium.
So, what do you do when there is such limited time available to you?
Here are 16 must have experiences in the US that we highly recommend you add to your American holiday bucket list.
Must-have experiences in the United States
Drive the iconic Route 66
Road trips are a quintessential American experience, so this is something you should try to do during your time in the States.
While there are many highways you can drive on, there is no better place to head to than Route 66.
Famously labeled the ‘Mother Road’ by John Steinbeck, and championed as a symbol of freedom by Jack Kerouac, Route 66 is the most iconic of all USA roads.
Originally running for some 3,940 km from Chicago to Santa Monica, it cut through eight states and for many represented the gateway to the American Dream.
Whilst it is not as big as it used to be, Route 66 is still the premier road to traverse. Along the way you will find plenty of small towns to visit, which feature classic mom and pop motels, roadside diners and gas stations that are the embodiment of Americana.
Related Read: Most Scenic Drives in The United States
Party in Las Vegas
Las Vegas needs no introduction and suffice it to say it is somewhere you should make a point of visiting.
Even if you are not a big gambler there are a myriad of things to see and do, which wouldn’t involve you putting a single nickel in the slot machines.
From performances by world class musicians and entertainers, and some of the hottest nightclubs in the world, to dancing water fountains and weddings at drive-thru chapels, that are overseen by Elvis impersonating ministers, the ‘City of Sin’ is a place where you can blow off steam, relax and have a little bit of fun – in a manner you can’t do at home.
Just remember though, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!
Related Read: Best Bachelorette Destinations in the United States
Experience life as a celebrity in Los Angeles
We all know Los Angeles is all about glitz, glamor, and fame. So why not indulge yourself in the celebrity lifestyle while you are there?
You can go shopping at Rodeo Drive, check out some of the amazing multi-millionaire homes of the rich and famous in Beverly Hills, and even try to spot some celebrities at a red-carpet event in Hollywood.
You might also want to head on over to Central Casting, for the opportunity to be cast (as a paid extra) in a TV show or movie!
For the ultimate celebrity experience though, why not treat yourself to a catered experience? Whether you are in Long Beach or anywhere else across the US, a deluxe, gourmet, and private meal will have you feeling like a movie star as you tuck into your incredible meal.
Take a bite out of the Big Apple
New York, New York. So good, they named it twice.
You’ll never be able to see all the city’s attractions, but you can at least check out some of the major ones.
Whether that be walking along Brooklyn Bridge, enjoying a picnic, or climbing in Central Park, being dazzled by the lights of Times Square, or checking out the amazing views of Manhattan from the Empire State Building is entirely up to you.
Also, you can take your time to visit Brighton Beach, it’s also called Little Odessa, a great place with many activities.
But if you do head to New York City, you can at least channel your inner Frank Sinatra and enjoy the city safe in the knowledge you did it your way.
Related Read: Family-Friendly Places to Visit in the United States
Go to Mardi Gras in New Orleans
Like to party? Well, there is no bigger party in the USA than Mardi Gras!
A French term, meaning ‘Fat Tuesday’, the celebration is based on a religious event and always takes place on the Tuesday before the commencement of lent – according to the Christian Calendar.
During Mardi Gras, which usually takes place in New Orleans in the two weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday, over 1.4 million people take to the streets of the city. Congregating, in particular, at the area around Bourbon Street and Jackson Square, to enjoy the parades, listen to jazz and blues music, and generally partake in the festivities.
Check out Graceland
Elvis Presley touched the lives of millions of people around the world, including plenty of those who weren’t alive in his lifetime.
So, what better way to honor him than to visit his Graceland Estate?
Located in Memphis, Tennessee, the former home of the King of Rock n Roll is a mecca for those who love his music.
His glitzy and kitschy mansion will provide you with a fascinating insight into how he lived, as well as appreciate just how successful his career was. (In the USA alone, over 150 of his singles and albums went gold, platinum or multi-platinum!).
After you have toured his home, aircraft and private garden, be sure to try his favorite snack – a peanut butter and banana sandwich, at one of the nearby cafes.
Visit a national park
You can’t come to America and not visit at least one of its national parks.
Overall, the country boasts more than 60 incredible destinations that feature spectacular landscapes that are filled with jaw-dropping natural wonders, incredible wildlife and a rich historical and cultural significance.
Some of the best national parks include The Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Monument Valley, Great Smoky Mountains, Arches and Zion.
But really, you can pick any of them to go to, and you are sure to be blown away!
Related Read: Best Hikes in The United states
Marvel at Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is undoubtedly one of the USA’s greatest natural treasures.
Spanning across both Canada and America, the cascade is a mesmerizing site, with some 750,000 gallons of water plunging into the gorge below every single second – accompanied by a cacophonous rumble.
Whilst at Niagara, be sure to take a boat ride on the Maid of the Mist, to the base of Horseshoe Falls. Also, check out the stunning viewing platform from underneath the falls, that lets you see the cascade tumbling down in front of you.
Fall in love with Hawaii
It might officially be the 50th state, but for many people Hawaii is the number one!
This incredible paradise island is a must visit for those who enjoy nature, beaches, surfing, food, history, and adrenaline-fueled activities.
Boasting some of the most dramatic landscapes you could ever hope to see, you can even check out one of the five active volcanoes at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Alternatively, if that is too intimidating for you, you could always attend a luau, or have a go on an outrigger.
The opportunities for fun are endless!
Have coffee in Seattle
If you love good quality coffee, then the chance to enjoy a cup of java in Seattle is something you should definitely treat yourself to.
Home to Starbucks, as well as the Seattle Coffee Company, the city is blessed with several other fantastic coffee shops.
There is pretty much one on every street corner, so you shouldn’t have any difficulty finding somewhere to indulge your passion.
When not drinking coffee, you might want to heat to the bustling Pike Place Market, or check out a musical performance at one of the many bars and venues where grunge music – Seattle is the place where Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains all hail from – still lives on today.
Watch a ball game
Whether its NFL, baseball, basketball or soccer, Americans are obsessed with ball games.
During your time in the USA, a visit to a ballgame is an absolute must for all sports lovers.
The huge crowds, electric atmosphere, razzmatazz, cheerleaders, marching bands, exuberant mascots, car park BBQs and of course the high-octane action, all provide a sporting occasion like no other.
If you can, try and catch an American football game live. As a spectacular sport it really is quite an incredible experience.
Drive the Pacific Coast Highway
Whilst Route 66 is a must-drive, the same can be said for the Pacific Coast Highway in California.
Stretching for over 1,000 km from just past LA all the way to San Francisco, this drive showcases some of the most incredible coastal scenery you could ever hope to see.
With rugged soaring cliffs on one side and a sheer drop into the shimmering blue waters of the Pacific ocean on the other, the views and colors are simply amazing.
You’ll find yourself stopping every few minutes to take photos for your Insta – so be sure to tag on extra time to your journey.
Explore San Francisco
Famous for its alternative lifestyle, San Francisco is a must visit destination.
Home to the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Ghirardelli Chocolate, and Lombard Street, the most crooked street in the world, this is a place you should spend plenty of quality time.
Its steep hills mean that riding a tram car is both a necessity and pleasure, whilst its Chinatown ranks as one of the best in the world.
The city also has a unique, all-inclusive vibe of its own, which forms a part of its overall charm.
Hit the theme parks
The USA is home to some of the world’s biggest theme and amusement parks, which provide entertainment for all the family.
Whether you choose any of the Disney Parks, Sea World, Universal Studios, Hersheypark, or Dollywood, no visit to America would be complete without attending one of these destinations.
Go wine tasting in California
If you are a fan of wine, then don’t let the opportunity of visiting a California vineyard pass you by.
From the stunning Temecula Valley to the iconic Napa Valley, this area is blessed with a fabulous Mediterranean climate, and a gorgeous landscape of rolling hills and picturesque vineyards.
Boasting some of the best wineries, cellar doors and charcuterie boards in the country, oenophiles will want to spend plenty of time enjoying the wonderful selection of merlot, pinot noir, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and cabernet sauvignon that is produced in the area.
Enjoy the breathtaking fall colors in the northeastern USA
Fall in the USA is a breathtaking sight, especially if you tour around the northeastern USA.
If you can, we highly recommend you hire a car and drive around the area, starting from Massachusetts, before going into Vermont, through New Hampshire and onto Maine.
Should you do this drive, you will be blown away by the colors of the fall foliage you will see, along the scintillating patchwork of forests, farmlands, forests and rolling hills that pass you by.