While we’re often daydreaming of beaches in the Maldives and vineyards in Tuscany, there are plenty of amazing destinations in our own backyard. To help you with your bucket list, I’ve rounded up 20 places you have to visit in the United States before you die—in no particular order.
Sure, you probably know about The Alamo in San Antonio, but it’s actually one of five Spanish missions found across the city that was established to spread Christianity and act as a refuge for Native Americans. The oldest is Mission Espada which was built in 1690, original frescoes are still visible inside Mission Concepcion, and the largest is Mission San José.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona
A comparatively little-known canyon, Canyon de Chelly has sandstone walls rising up to 1,000 feet, scenic overlooks, well-preserved Anasazi ruins, and an insight into the present-day life of the Navajo who still inhabit and cultivate the valley floor.
Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee and North Carolina
Both a national park and UNESCO World Heritage site, the Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited national park in America. Recreational opportunities include hiking, fishing, horseback riding, and water tubing. Fall also offers striking foliage.
Surrounded by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Santa Fe is a charming town with a strong Native American influence. Pueblo-style architecture, a central plaza, and Loretto Chapel give the city a unique feel. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and restaurants serving New Mexican cuisine are additional highlights.
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Boston Freedom Trail, Massachusetts
Boston played a major part in America’s independence and the city’s Freedom Trail passes through 16 historically significant locations. The two-and-a-half-mile trail takes visitors to Boston Common (America’s oldest public park), Paul Revere’s House, and the USS Constitution (the oldest commissioned ship).
Travel through this dusty outpost between April and November and you might wonder why this wide spot along Interstate 10 is such a popular snowbird destination for RVers. But visit in January and you’ll quickly see why: it morphs into a non-stop social event for RVing snowbirds.
Avery Island is the home of Louisiana’s iconic hot sauce: Tabasco. See how it’s made during a factory tour, pick up a few souvenirs at the Tabasco Country Store, and tour the island’s Jungle Gardens.
Joshua Tree National Park, California
Joshua Tree National Park is a dreamy destination known for its distinctive-looking and namesake trees, big boulders that are ideal for rock climbing, and stellar stargazing opportunities. Visitors can drive through, hike around and camp, or horseback ride through the varied desert landscape.
The distinctive Spanish Moss-draped trees, antebellum homes, and horse-drawn carriages help to give a relaxed and comfortable feel. Much of Savannah’s charm lies in meandering through the Historic District’s lovely shaded squares draped in feathery Spanish moss—all 22 of them.
Monument Valley, Arizona and Utah
Monument Valley is one of the most enduring and definitive images of the American West. Eons of wind and rain carved the red-sandstone monoliths into fascinating formations, many of which jut hundreds of feet above the desert floor.
Related: Bucket List Trip for Your Lifetime: America’s Ultimate National Park Road Trip
Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina and Virginia
If you doubt the Appalachians can hold their own with any other mountain range on the continent, travel this 469-mile stretch of road from Rockfish Gap, Virginia, to Swain County in North Carolina.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota
This famous landmark depicts four American presidents carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore. The sculpture features the 60-foot heads of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Bryce Canyon is best known for its concentration of hoodoos. The park was recently designated an International Dark Sky Park due to the great nighttime visibility and many astronomy-related programs on offer.
The 1670-founded Charleston offers Southern charm with cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, and historic mansions in its well-preserved Historic District. Boutique shops and traditional Southern comfort food appeal to visitors.
If you delight in gazing at towering red rocks or driving through rugged canyons, then go to Sedona. If you admire exquisite art or are captivated by amazing architecture, then go to Sedona. Of all the places to visit in the Southwest, Sedona may be the most beautiful.
Related: The Ultimate RV Travel Bucket List: 51 Best Places to Visit in North America
Just outside Moab is Arches National Park, famous for its more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches. The most-photographed is the 52-foot-tall, freestanding Delicate Arch, plus the park has many other striking geological formations.
The Okefenokee offers so much, one could spend a lifetime and still not see and do everything. Spanish moss-laced trees reflect off the black swamp waters, while cypress knees rise upward from the glass-like surface. Here, paddlers and photographers enjoy breathtaking scenery and abundant wildlife.
Tombstone invites visitors to walk in the footsteps of the West’s most famous outlaws and good guys, the Clantons and the Earps. During its 1880s heyday, Tombstone, the “Town Too Tough to Die,” boasted 10,000 gunslingers, gamblers, prospectors, and prostitutes.
Nowhere in New England compares to the Gilded-Age splendor of Newport, a coastal town set upon cliffs dotted with some of the most spectacular mansions of the 19th century.
Related: 20 Charming Towns for Your Bucket List
Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
Lassen National Park is one of few locations on Earth where you can see all four types of volcanoes—plug dome, shield, cinder, and cone. While Lassen Peak is the most famous, as well as the dominant feature in the park, there are numerous other—literally—hotspots to explore including mud pots, stinking fumaroles, and hot springs.
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