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The 17 best places to visit in the USA

The best places to visit in the USA include big cities, small towns and all the gorgeous national parks in between

Yosemite National Park, California
Photograph: Shutterstock
By Sarah Medina and Jenny Peters |
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The natural beauty of America is legendary, which makes our pick of the best places to visit in the USA an essential collection of hot spots to add to your 2020 travel bucket list. On this list you'll find some of the best cities in America, gorgeous national parks in places as faraway as Alaska and Hawaii and even some awe-inspiring craters, crevices and other natural wonders. So consider this your guide to the beautiful ol' US of A—from sea to shining sea. 

RECOMMENDED: The best places to travel in 2020

Best places to visit in the USA

1
Grand Canyon, Arizona
Photograph: Shutterstock

Grand Canyon

Anyone who's been to the Grand Canyon knows the awe-inducing natural wonder deserves the number one spot on this list. This world-renowned chasm, which celebrated 100 years as a national park in 2019, is made of brilliantly hued sandstone, shale and limestone and has to be seen to properly be appreciated. A hike (or camping trip!) to the bottom is for hardy souls only, but young and old will be awed by a peek over the rims high above the Colorado River.

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2
Yosemite National Park, California
Photograph: Shutterstock

Yosemite National Park

California never disappoints when it comes to amazing landscapes, but Yosemite takes the cake. Think massive sequoia trees, verdant meadows and the iconic Half Dome granite peak towering above it all. You can't truly appreciate the size and grandeur of the park's natural wonders though until you've visited it yourself. Plan to see it after the summer crowds disperse in September and you'll have parts of the park to yourself (and the bears).

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3
Haleakalā, Hawaii
Photograph: Shutterstock

Hawaii

Hawaii just teems with natural beauty: from the massive volcanoes on the Big Island (Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa and Kilauea), and the Na Pali cliffs of Kauai, to the pristine beaches of Oahu—every part of the state is stunning. But if you have to pick just one spot to see while you're there, we recommend heading to very top of Maui, where the Haleakalā crater's huge caldera's landscape is otherworldly. See it at sunrise, hike it for miles or just take in the views of all of Maui far below.

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4
New York skyline
Photograph: Thiago Leite

New York City

The Big Apple is world-famous for a reason: The city is a melting pot full of amazing restaurants, bars, fashion houses, landmarks and more. When in town, indulge in all the touristy things guilt-free (local do these things too!): See more than one Broadway show, visit all the museums, stroll around Central Park, eat a real bagel, and grab a cocktail at 3am—this is the city that never sleeps, after all. 

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5
HALF MOON BAY, CALIFORNIA
Photograph: Shutterstock/Duilio Farina

California

From the foggy bridges of San Francisco and the stunning vineyards of Napa Valley to the pool parties of Palm Springs and the sunny beaches of San Diego—and don't forget star-studded L.A. in betwen—California has something for everyone. Throw in near-perfect weather year-round, and California is always a good getaway. See the most of the Golden State with a road trip on the picturesque Pacific Coast Highway, which includes the famous Bixby Bridge in Big Sur

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6
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho
Photograph: Shutterstock

Yellowstone National Park

Fun fact: America’s first national park is bigger than Rhode Island and it's been a jewel in the NPS's crown since 1872. Critters are everywhere in Yellowstone; geysers spurt regularly; sulphurous lakes bubble and boil; and massive waterfalls glint in the sun. Plus, don’t be surprised if you spot buffalo wandering right down the center divider of the two-lane road that connects the park. With challenging hikes into the backcountry as well as handicap-accessible wooden boardwalks, the wonders of Yellowstone can be enjoyed by everyone. 

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7
Chicago
Photograph: Chait Goli

Chicago

Chicago's popularity has been skyrocketing lately and we're blaming the gorgeous Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, delicious deep-dish pizza and amazing music festivals for luring everyone to this big city with small-town, friendly vibes. If you're in town for Pitchfork Music Fest or Lollapalooza take time to join the crowds in line at Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate (for the obligatory warped reflection selfies) and Willis Tower to see the city from above. Then join the locals on Rush Street if you’re ready to party until 4am. 

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8
Utah national parks
Photograph: Shutterstock

Zion, Bryce, Arches National Parks and Monument Valley

Utah's wild landscape is a connected series of three national parks—Zion, Bryce and Arches—and one Navajo national park, the iconic Monument Valley. You've seen that valley on the silver screen in almost every John Wayne western; the incredible thing about it is it hasn't changed an iota over the years. In all four destinations, notice massive sandstone formations, twisty caves and dark skies bursting with stars that up the beauty ante. 

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9
French Quarter
Photograph: Shutterstock

New Orleans

For a quintessential New Orleans experience, head to the famous French Quarter, grab a to-go cup filled with a tasty craft cocktail and stroll the bumpy streets as you admire local murals and shimmy to the duos and trios of live music on every corner. If you need an occasion to visit this Southern city, we recommend hitting up an awesome New Orleans festival like Essence Festival, Mardi Gras, or the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Grab a mask and get ready to party. 

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10
South Beach
Photograph: Shutterstock

Miami

It's a great year to be Miami; 2020 is bookmarked with two major events. In February, Super Bowl LVI descends on the city with a half-time show (JLo and Shakira) that's just as anticipated as the game. In December, Art Basel Miami returns with a swirl of creative installations, parties and intellectualism. In between, hit up South Beach for tanning and our very own Time Out Market Miami for grubbing. Welcome to Miami! 

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11
Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Photograph: Shutterstock

Denali National Park and Preserve

Denali is worth the trek. The mountain and U.S. national park located about 100 miles north of Anchorage Alaska was carved by glaciers in the distant past and the modern landscape is breathtaking. Huge mountains in the Alaska Range lead to Denali, the third largest peak in the world while moose, elk and deer meander past and salmon dodge bears trying to devour them for lunch. Serious climbers try for the top throughout the summer months, but anyone can explore this special place via guided bus trips, helicopter rides or air boats.

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12
National Mall and Memorial Parks
Photograph: Courtesy of CC/Flickr/yotut

Washington DC

Despite being such a historic city, Washington DC keeps evolving with new restaurants, bars and even museums popping up around every corner. So once you've taken your obligatory selfie with the White House/Lincoln Memoral/National Mall, set some time aside to indulge in authentically American cuisine at the best restuarants in town, listen to live music at a local jazz club, and visit the always-free National Zoological Park. 

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13
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, North Carolina
Photograph: Shutterstock

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

America's most visited national park, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a place where the easygoing rhythm of the South combines with an outdoor lover's heaven. Hike in to see lovely waterfalls and expansive views filled with mountains and forests, fish for trout in a quiet stream (you'll need a permit) and peep at a riot of colors during the autumn foliage change. You might run into someone hiking the Appalachian Trail, too, for 71 miles of that 2,190-mile path run through the Great Smoky Mountains.

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14
Nantucket Island, Massachusetts
Photograph: Shutterstock

Nantucket Island

This tiny island off the coast of Massachusetts is one of America's most picturesque places. Settled by Europeans in 1641 and originally a whaling-boat center, today, Nantucket is a mix of old and new, with cobblestoned streets and historical buildings that house very modern restaurants and shops. It's long been a vacation enclave for wealthy Bostonians, but with numerous resorts, B&Bs and cottages on offer, it's also a destination that welcomes all. With 80 miles of beaches, this is a spot for families and friends who love to soak up the sun.

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15
Las Vegas
Photograph: travelview/Shutterstock.com

Las Vegas

If you think you know Las Vegas, take another look. Today’s Vegas is more than the buffets, pool parties and casinos that have dominated Sin City's image for decades. The Las Vegas of 2020 has professional hockey, destination-worthy art and music festivals, e-sports temples and magic mountains in addition to the glitz and glamor that you're used to. So if it's been a while since you've visited this desert hot spot, it's time to put Vegas back on your list. 

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16
Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine
Photograph: Shutterstock

Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island

At the far reaches of the northeast coastline of America is Acadia National Park, which covers much of Mount Desert Island (beautiful Bar Harbor is here, too) and beyond. Crashing Atlantic Ocean waves hit rocky beaches, massive granite rock formations loom and quiet forests, lakes and ponds await you here. Once you've experienced this achingly lovely island sanctuary, there are plenty of Maine's famed lobster roll stands waiting near Bar Harbor ready to feed you the state's delicious crustacean.

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17
Deadwood
Photograph: Shutterstock

South Dakota

Hear us out; South Dakota actually has a lot to offer those who love American history. It's easy to feel like you're in the Wild West here with places like Deadwood (where Wild Bill Hickock was murdered during the silver rush that brought the town into existence) and Custer State Park (where the buffalo still roam). Add in the massive mountain carvings of Mt. Rushmore National Monument and the Crazy Horse Memorial, plus the fascinating Wind Cave and Jewel Cave nearby, and this is a place where memories will be made.

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Feel like driving?

Big Sur
Photograph: Shutterstock
Things to do

The 15 best US road trips

There’s something undeniably American about taking these good old-fashioned best US road trips. The ritual has been romanticized and immortalized in popular culture, thanks to classic novels, Blockbuster movies and countless radio hits. It’s as much a rite of passage for newly-minted drivers as it is an ultimate bucket list adventure for seasoned travelers in their twilight years. After all, no two trips are alike. 

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