USA Travel Bucket List: Top 3 Things To Do in Every State

Welcome to the USA: a big, beautiful, diverse, and complicated country. Experiencing the best of the United States can inspire, change perspectives, transform—and hopefully encourage us all to keep contributing to making this country’s great experiment a success. Ready to begin your bucket list adventure? Start here with our picks for the top three things to do in each state (plus D.C. and Puerto Rico), organized by region.

West Coast Bucket List

sunset over the golden gate bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge. Photo © sborisov/123rf.


  • Soaring over Denali National Park on a flightseeing plane
  • Marveling at massive glaciers
  • Getting a glimpse of charismatic bears


  • Admiring the waterfalls and granite slabs of Yosemite National Park
  • Catching views of the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Soaking up the sun on Southern California beaches


  • Hanging out in Portland
  • Gazing over Crater Lake
  • Road tripping along the Columbia River Gorge


  • Gaping at Mount Rainier’s towering volcanic peak
  • Perusing Pike Place Market
  • Hiking through primordial rain forest in Olympic National Park

Southwest Bucket List

aerial shot of north rim of the grand canyon
Sunset at the Grand Canyon’s North Rim. Photo © SumikoPhoto/iStock.


  • Looking out over the Grand Canyon
  • Exploring Red Rock Country
  • Taking a scenic drive through Monument Valley


  • Getting dazzled by Las Vegas glitz
  • Skiing down powdered slopes in Tahoe
  • Marveling at 4,000-year-old trees in Great Basin National Park

New Mexico

  • Wandering Taos Pueblo
  • Floating in a balloon above Albuquerque
  • Caving in Carlsbad Caverns National Park


  • Jamming in Austin, the “Live Music Capital of the World”
  • Getting off the grid in Big Bend National Park
  • Browsing San Antonio’s Market Square


  • Taking in the views at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks
  • Hiking among the hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Roaming dinosaur country at Dinosaur National Monument

Rocky Mountains Bucket List

field of purple wildflowers with a background view of glaciers.
Glacier National Park. Photo © Sandra Lund/


  • Driving and hiking Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Carving fresh powder in Vail
  • Sampling craft brews in Denver


  • Feeling out of this world at Craters of the Moon National Monument
  • Taking a summer getaway to Coeur d’Alene
  • Going on an outdoor adventure in the Sawtooths


  • Hiking in Glacier National Park
  • Learning about Blackfeet culture in Browning
  • Taking a ranch vacation


  • Watching Old Faithful erupt at Yellowstone National Park
  • Spotting bison in Yellowstone
  • Catching views of Mormon Row against the Tetons in Grand Teton National Park

Great Plains Bucket List

cars stacked in a circle in nebraska
Carhenge, Nebraska. Photo © Ermanno Iselle/Dreamstime.


  • Pondering Effigy Mounds National Monument
  • Savoring the food creations at the Iowa State Fair
  • Walking onto the Field of Dreams


  • Remembering the fight for equal rights at Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site
  • Wandering through prairieland at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
  • Imagining the bottom of the ocean in Western Kansas


  • Digging into a plate of Kansas City barbecue
  • Riding to the top of Gateway Arch
  • Weekending at Lake of the Ozarks


  • Witnessing sandhill crane season
  • Visiting Carhenge
  • Tanking down a Nebraska river

North Dakota

  • Soaking in the Badlands views at Theodore Roosevelt National Park
  • Enjoying Fargo (with or without a woodchipper)
  • Standing knee-high to a buffalo at the World’s Largest Buffalo Monument


  • Gaining insight into Cherokee history at the Cherokee Heritage Center
  • Remembering America’s Black Wall Street at Greenwood Cultural Center
  • Getting kitschy along Route 66

South Dakota

  • Watching the changing colors of Badlands National Park
  • Browsing Native American art at Red Cloud Heritage Center
  • Finding vast views and big skies at Custer State Park

Great Lakes Bucket List

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan. © Paul Vachon


  • Admiring the Chicago skyline
  • Looking for Abraham Lincoln
  • Climbing the Cahokia Mounds


  • Climbing mountains of sand in Indiana Dunes National Park
  • Strolling and visiting the museums along Indianapolis’s Canal Walk
  • Watching cars race by at the Indy 500


  • Cruising the Motor City
  • Tasting wine in and around Traverse City
  • Marveling at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore


  • Paddling the Boundary Waters Canoe Area
  • Visiting the Walker Art Center and Sculpture Garden
  • Experiencing Life in the Skyways in the Twin Cities


  • Riding the coasters at Cedar Point
  • Slowing down in Amish Country
  • Hiking and biking Cuyahoga Valley National Park


  • Getting out on the water
  • Saying “cheese” in America’s Dairyland
  • Rooting for the Green Bay Packers

New England Bucket List

sunset on the rocky coast with a lighthouse
Maine’s Portland Head Lighthouse. Photo © Sara Winter/123rf.


  • Paddling the Thimble Islands
  • Listening to tales of the sea at Mystic Seaport Museum
  • Walking through a re-created village at Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center


  • Venturing into Acadia National Park
  • Feasting on lobster
  • Spotting lighthouses


  • Following the Freedom Trail
  • Getting outdoors at Cape Cod National Seashore
  • Soaking up art at world-class museums

New Hampshire

  • Summiting the highest peak in the White Mountains
  • Cruising Lake Winnipesaukee
  • Visiting Flume Gorge

Rhode Island

  • Wandering the Cliff Walk in Newport
  • Getting Artsy in Providence and beyond
  • Enjoying beaches across the state


  • Watching fall foliage light up the hills
  • Skiing and snowboarding in the Green Mountains
  • Tasting Vermont’s artisanal cheese

Mid-Atlantic Bucket List

horses running on the beach in maryland
Horses on Assateague Island. Photo © Paige Engel/123rf.


  • Relaxing in the sun at Delaware Seashore State Park
  • Wandering through historic Lewes
  • Feasting your eyes on American decorative arts at Winterthur Museum & Country Estate


  • Strolling the sights of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor
  • Sailing around Historic Annapolis
  • Spotting wild ponies on Assateague Island

New Jersey

  • Beach-hopping on the Jersey Shore
  • Meditating on U.S. History at Liberty State Park
  • Touring the Garden State’s best gardens

New York

  • Gazing up at (or down on) the NYC skyline
  • Hiking the Adirondacks
  • Feeling the mist of Niagara Falls


  • Following in the founders’ footsteps
  • Running up the “Rocky steps” and visiting the museums of Benjamin Franklin Parkway
  • Riding the inclines up Mount Washington


  • Going back in time in Colonial Williamsburg
  • Taking a road trip on Skyline Drive
  • Visiting presidential homes

Washington DC

  • Devoting an entire day to the National Museum of African American History and Culture
  • Being spoiled for choice among the Smithsonian Museums
  • Viewing the Lincoln Memorial at night

West Virginia

  • Appreciating West Virginia’s beauty at New River Gorge National Park and Preserve
  • Learning about Civil War History at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
  • Climbing for a view at Seneca Rocks

U.S. Islands Bucket List

Sunrise at Haleakala.
Sunrise at Haleakala. © Drew Sulock


  • Watching the sun rise or set from Haleakala
  • Diving and snorkeling Hawaii’s best reefs
  • Seeing lava glow at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park

Puerto Rico

  • Strolling Viejo San Juan
  • Diving deep into El Yunque National Forest
  • Soaking up the sun and surf

Southern Bucket List

mountain pass in the Great Smoky Mountains
The Great Smoky Mountains. Photo © Sepavo | Dreamstime


  • Seeing how the past informs the present at the Legacy Museum
  • Celebrating the “Father of the Blues” at the W. C. Handy Birthplace, Museum, and Library
  • Digging your toes into the sugar-white sand at Gulf Shores Public Beach


  • Conjuring the bravery of the Little Rock Nine at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site
  • Soaking in Hot Springs at Hot Springs National Park
  • Mining for diamonds in Crater of Diamonds State Park


  • Snorkeling in tropical waters at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
  • Kayaking through wetlands in Everglades National Park
  • Getting a taste of Cuba on Calle Ocho


  • Celebrating a Civil Rights luminary at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
  • Wandering hauntingly beautiful Bonaventure Cemetery
  • Glimpsing wild horses on Cumberland Island National Seashore


  • Having a mint julep at the Kentucky Derby
  • Spelunking at Mammoth Cave National Park
  • Tasting the Kentucky spirit along the Bourbon Trail


  • Soaking up New Orleans music heritage
  • Searching for gators on a swamp tour
  • Confronting the legacy of slavery at Whitney Plantation


  • Journeying into the blues on the Mississippi Blues Trail
  • Imagining life 2,000 years ago at Bynum Mounds
  • Craftmaking at the Bill Waller Mississippi Craft Center

North Carolina

  • Hiking and driving Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Taking a scenic drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Escaping to the Outer Banks

South Carolina

  • Admiring the view from Charleston’s historic Battery
  • Learning about Gullah history and culture at the Penn Center
  • Walking beneath the world’s tallest forest canopy at Congaree National Park


  • Hiking and driving Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Honoring the Civil Rights Movement
  • Jamming to live music in Memphis and Nashville

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Moon City Walks is an innovative series of pocket-sized guides to the world's trendiest cities, designed to help travelers explore on foot, discover hip neighborhoods, and experience the city like a local. These full-color guidebooks feature foldout maps, turn-by-turn directions, and lively pages jam-packed with photos. Moon Travel Guides are published by Avalon Travel, a Hachette Book Group company, in Berkeley, California. For more information, check out the full series at

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