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Best US Attractions to Visit in a Lifetime

Written by Oana Schneider

It’s time to pack your bag and visit the country’s best and brightest cities, landscape wonders, rivers and museums! If you have no idea where to start from, we might be able to help. No true American goes through life without visiting the best US attractions to visit in a lifetime!

1. Yellowstone

best us attractions to visit

Grand Prismatic Spring

Looking for an amazing view with red canyons? Welcome to Yellowstone then! Aside from taking great picture, you can also go on an adventure around this national park and even try finding the hidden paths. Plus, there are forests, waterfalls and alpine lakes, boat expeditions on the Yellowstone Lake and thermal attractions within the Mammoth Village area. Besides all these, you have a few things you absolutely have to go see:

1. Old Faithful – the world’s most renowned geyser
2. Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone – how does thousands of years of erosion caused by wind sound to you?
3. Grand Prismatic Spring – the largest spring in the US, rainbow-colored
4. Hayden Valley – the fascinating wildlife
5. Mount Washburn – a great place for hiking

2. Washington D.C.

best us attractions to visit

The White House

This is the place to go in case you want to visit the Smithsonian museums, the U.S. capitol, different monuments, arts, food and a very tumultuous nightlife. You can also spend some time at the Lincoln Memorial or even catch a show at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. If you happen to be in D.C. in April or March, go check out the Tidal Basin, with its pink cherry trees in bloom. Here are other important attractions:

1. Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Veterans Museum – the most impressing war monument, also called “The Wall”
2. Washington National Cathedral – its building began in 1907, but wasn’t finish until 1990.
3. National Air and Space Museum – with over 9 million visitor every year, the museum shelters many famous pieces of aircraft
4. The White House and the Washington Museum – you can’t miss these iconic buildings where so many presidents lived and worked.

3. San Francisco

best us attractions to visit

Palace of Fine Arts

This fairly small city (it stretches across 7 miles only) is full of life, creativity and fun. Whether you just want to try the local cuisine, visit the Alcatraz Island, take a walk around the Mission District, you won’t get bored for a second! Plus, let’s not forget about the Golden Gate Park, the possibility to climb the Twin Peaks and many other fun activities! You may also be interested in

1. Cable Cars – the perfect kind on San Fran memorabilia, present on almost every postcard and TV show about this city, the cable cars are a very inexpensive attraction
2. Union Square – South of Chinatown, the Union Square is a funky and fun place to go on a Sunday evening.
3. Palace of Fine Arts – Modern and contemporary art, refined food, interesting people- all in an impressive 20th –century building.
4. The Exploratorium – perfect for both kids and parents, The Exploratorium hosts about 600 exhibits that are linked to the outer space, the human body and so on.
5. Japanese Tea Garden – a peaceful and harmonious retreat that you just can’t miss out on!

4. New York City

best us attractions to visit

Statue of Liberty

There are so many things to see in the NYC, we don’t even know where to start! Whether you’ve been wanting to see the Fifth Avenue or walk around the Central Park, you should know that there are also many other attractions like the Met or the Guggenheim Museum where you can admire all kinds of exhibits. Here are a few great NYC destinations:

1. Central Park – situated in central Manhattan, this park is also a museum and a concert hall and definitely a NYC symbol.
2. Bryant Park – East of Times Square, this park hosts the New York Fashion Week every year!
3. Metropolitan Museum of Art – this is where the greatest masterpieces in the US are hosted and you just can’t miss that!
4. Grand Central Station – probably the most popular train station in the world, GCS also functions as a mall, giving you the chance to travel, shop or just have fun.
5. Statue of Liberty – the absolute symbol of freedom is probably the most popular destination in NYC.
6. Times Square – 3, 2, 1, Happy New Year! The most exciting, colorful and celebrating place to be in NYC is this square. Don’t they drop the ball every year at midnight in this exact place?

5. San Diego

best us attractions to visit

Sunset Cliffs

Famous for its Zoo, San Diego has many other attractions, from the Torrey Pines State Reserve to the Coronado Beach where people go to surf to the Balboa Park (the city’s cultural nest). In fact, these are the best places to visit in San Diego:

1. San Diego Zoo and Safari Park – probably the most famous zoo in the country, the San Diego Zoo is an 100-acre establishment that hosts thousands of domestic and wildlife species.
2. USS Midway Museum – for those who want to find out what’s it like to have a US Navy aircraft carrier
3. Sunset Cliffs Natural Park – probably the best place in San Diego to take pictures, the Sunset Cliffs is the most colored place in the city.
4. Maritime Museum of San Diego – if you’ve always been a fan of boats and yachts, this is the place to go to!
5. SeaWorld San Diego – dolphins, whales, sharks and other under-the-sea creatures are here just for you! And don’t miss the dolphin show, OK?

6. Yosemite

best us attractions to visit

Vernal Fall

Here’s a short list of things you can visit while at Yosemite’s: Half Dome, Glacier Point, Mariposa Grove, Nevada Falls. After visiting all these destinations, you can have a relaxing evening in the Yosemite Village, where food and drinks are quite impressive! Here are our recommendations for a family vacation:

1. Tuolumne Meadows – breathtaking views of flat grassland, winding river and small wildlife.
2. Mist Trail and Vernal Falls – the most popular hiking destination in Yosemite
3. Half Dome – Unforgettable and life-changing scenery: rocks or many colors, fresh air, clear skyline and quality time spent with the loved ones.
4. Ansel Adams Gallery – the cultural center of Yosemite, comprising exhibits from all over US.

7. Honolulu – Oahu

best us attractions to visit

Iolani Palace

The number 1 destination for honeymooners, the Oahu Island is a mix of cultures, especially in the Honolulu area. You can take the little ones to the Waikiki Aquarium, go shopping in the Ala Moana Center or even hike around the Manoa falls area. Plus, there is beach all around you, so why not get a nice tan? Other attractions:

1. Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial – the resting place for 1102 sailors killed in the Pearl Harbor attack.
2. National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific – free entrance! Once a place for human sacrifices during the old Hawaiian times, the memorial is now a place of rest for the brave men and women who served the country.
3. Honolulu Museum of Art – the best place to be for those interested in contemporary art and fashion.
4. Iolani Palace – a 10-room historical house dating since the kingdom of King Kalakaua and his beloved sister Queen Liliuokalani.

8. Grand Canyon

best us attractions to visit

The Grand Canyon

Stretching on 277 miles in length and 18 miles in width, plus a mile deep. There are so many craters and heights, shapes and colors you won’t know where to look first! You can find this gemstone in the northern Arizona. The Colorado River and the powerful wind lead to this miraculous destinations, probably the most iconic for the American culture. The best place to visit is the end of August, when prices start dropping.

Also, you may want to bring your own bed since the hotel rooms are quite pricey and the backcountry camping is only a small fraction of that price. If you want to eat, there are many cafeterias where you can grab a quick snack or meal.

After all, you’re not here to taste refined cuisine, are you? Other important tips: pack more than one camera battery, socks, your own meds just in case, water and a large pack of crackers. Other than that, start taking pictures from sunup to sundown.

9. Las Vegas

best us attractions to visit

Las Vegas Lights

Time for some casino chips and neon lights! If you visit Las Vegas, don’t miss the Strip – where all the neon signs attract millions of tourists every year. You may find them a bit kitschy though. If that’s not enough for you, stop by The Venetian for dinner or just for a few pictures if that’s too pricey for you. Also, don’t forget the fountain show at the Bellagio, the Freemont Street Experience light show or the Mob Museum. Here are more details:

1. The Venetian Casino and Grand Canal – the taste of Italy in the heart of Las Vegas
2. The Mirage Casino and Volcano – a Polynesian-themed hotel and casino famous for being robbed by Danny Ocean in the famous movie series.
3. Hoover Dam – 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas, the Hoover Dam spans the Colorado River and the Black Canyon: the perfect scenery for your camera!
4. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area – all you need to see in terms of types of rocks, shapes and colors! Plus, a breathtaking view!
5. Fremont Street Experience – all the outdated casinos made room for an impressive light show that anyone can admire at night
6. Cirque du Soleil – probably the best kind of live entertainment in human history: a circus of people, not of animals, but with so much heart and soul!
7. The Mob Museum – where the Sin City tells its stories: famous mobsters, legends, guns, money, motels and murders. Interested?

10. Seattle

best us attractions to visit

The Space Needle

Don’t listen to haters when they talk about the bad weather of Seattle. There are so many things to see and do, you won’t even mind a few raindrops! If you’re interested in old architecture, we suggest that you take a trip to Pioneer Square. For those of you eager to ski, snowshoe or hiking, check out the nearby Olympic Mountains. Oh, and you may also like:

1. Pike Place Market – one of the most popular tourist attractions, this market is a very colorful and adventurous place to go to for food, drinks, entertainment and cultural diversity.
2. Space Needle – if being in Seattle doesn’t make you sleepless, you sure know what The Space Needle is: the absolute symbol of the city, attracting millions of visitors every year.
3. Olympic Sculpture Park – who says you can’t enjoy fine art and fresh air at the same time? Check out this one of a kind park and take your daily dose of culture!
4. Museum of Flight – since Seattle is the hometown of Boeing aircraft, you can imagine what this museum hosts!
5. Mount Si – a very popular place for hiking, sightseeing and nature-exploring, smaller than Mount Rainer but just as spectacular.
6. Seattle Aquarium – get a glimpse of the under the sea world that stretches along for a few blocks! Yes, plenty of colorful fish, corals and other creatures to admire!

About the author

Oana Schneider

Oana Schneider is a published author located in Chicago, Illinois, who currently works for DontPayFull.com as a communication specialist and blog editor. She writes about lifestyle, family budget, has a degree in Communications and advocates for women’s rights. Her future plans include getting a Labrador and losing a few pounds.

8 Comments

  • All of these places are such beautiful, magnificent attractions! I like to think that I’m accomplished because I’ve visited all of these places except for San Diego (but I’ve been to Sacramento). My personal favorite vacation place would probably be San Francisco. It’s the perfect blend of restaurants and yummies, fun in museums and gardens (I’ve actually been to the Japanese Tea Gardens!), and bustling city life. There’s so much to do there. I visit San Francisco about once every 2 years to see my parents and my best friend, who all live there. I’ve never thought about going down to San Diego, though. I should do that next time! I also love New York City; Times Square is probably my favorite attraction there. I guess I fell in love with city life. I do love my parks and nature, but cities have so much more fast-paced excitement. In your article, I also like how you gave a short description of popular places to visit in each city. Glad to know that I’ve experienced some of my country’s best places! Thanks!

    • There’s a lot more to San Diego than most people think, even past the beaches and sunny weather. That’s for sure. It’s a very diverse place with people from every walk of life and ethnicity, so you can get the best of dozens of worlds in one city/surrounding county. It’s hard to beat those kinds of features for a single area! The weather and beaches aren’t too bad either! 😛

  • Wow, I guess the whole of San Francisco is a tourist destination now. Come to think of it, when was never? Living near the area myself, I could see myself giving tours to relatives who’ve just come from out of town. Like you mentioned, there are a lot of tourist attractions and popular landmarks there.

  • The problem with San Francisco is that it’s becoming less and less of the city it used to be. On top of that, it’s so crowded and difficult to get around the city for newcomers and tourists. It’s a beautiful city with a lot of history and unique elements, but people often miss those things when they visit the city and have to deal with traffic or tough parking situations. It’s a shame, too.

  • WOW! It’s simply amazing. US is a great country, with a liberal society and friendly and modest people. Its many attractions are mind boggling. The sunset cliffs are amazing, so are Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. The skylines of most cities have always been a matter of envy, even to the other developed societies.

    It’s a heaven on earth and one must visit the country to own the experience of a lifetime.

    • I could drive to Sunset Cliffs out in Point Loma in about 25 minutes from my current location, and I have to say that it’s nothing special. I’ve been graced with San Diego’s beaches and beachside areas for over 20 years, though, so I’m a little spoiled. What seems boring to me is incredible to others!

  • I’ve been to a few of these, and plan to see more of them. I would also add the Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C., it’s a great reminder of those who’ve sacrificed it all to keep us safe here at home. Also, Colonial Williamsburg is only a few hours away by car. I love Seattle, and am blessed to have family there, so will visit again. I’d love to see the Painted Ladies in San Francisco, as well.

  • This article inspires me so much, once again Oana! Thank you. If only I had the money too fly to these places from Hawaii, I would go to every single one.

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