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Van Gogh Indianapolis Museum of Art
Courtesy of Grande Experiences

13 awesome and new things to do in the USA in 2021

Putting together your 2021 bucket list? Make sure these awesome new things to do in the USA are on it.

Written by
Sarah Medina
&
Time Out editors
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Let's just get this out of the way: 2020 was a shit show. Luckily, 2021 is looking up. With the vaccine rollout underway, we're allowing ourselves to dream about music festivals and international travel again. But even if those things don't come to pass in the new year, there are still plenty of exciting new (and safe!) things to do in the United States. From coast to coast, we rounded up the museum openings, scenic train rides, gorgeous new hiking paths and even a pretty-in-pink bar that we're the most excited to try in 2021. 

Done something on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutDoList. You can also find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world, or take a look at our list of the best things to do in the world right now.

Best things to do in the USA

You'll actually get to step inside the works of the great Vincent Van Gogh when a new immersive experience dedicated to the artist debuts at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields in 2021. Almost 150 state-of-the-art high-definition projectors will take up 30,000 square feet of space on the museum's fourth floor, transforming famous two-dimensional paintings into three-dimensional projections that guests will get to walk through and around. In total, the museum hopes to showcase about 3,000 moving images of the artist's paintings—from lesser known ones to the renowned Sunflowers and The Starry Night—while classic music plays in the background. 

This is as epic as train rides come. Rocky Mountaineer takes you on a two-day ride from Denver, Colorado to Moab, Utah, with 360-views of the stunning Rocky Mountains seen through the train's glass roof, and with an overnight stay in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. The season will kick off on August 15, 2021 and is scheduled to run for 10 weeks, through October 23, 2021. There will be 40 bookable departures to start.

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You'll be able to light up in four more states across the USA in 2021 after New Jersey, South Dakota, Montana and Arizona passed laws legalizing recreational marijuana for those 21 and older in the November elections. Eleven other states and the District of Columbia already allow for legal recreational marijuana. The new laws mean that right now one in three Americans live in a state where recreational marijuana is legal. 

Dolly Parton fervor is at an all-time high. At the end of 2020, the singer managed to release a Christmas album, a Christmas special and also fund one of the Covid-19 vaccines—a true American hero. If you want to celebrate all things Dolly, consider a trip to the new Dolly-inspired bar White Limozeen, named after the country star's 1989 album and title song. The rooftop watering hole is a vision in pink—pink walls, pink couches, pink chairs and even a pink giant chicken-wire sculpture of Parton herself. 

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Washington, DC: Enter the colorful world of Yayoi Kusama
Photograph: Courtesy the artist/Tomoaki Makino/YAYOI KUSAMA

5. Washington, DC: Enter the colorful world of Yayoi Kusama

Originally supposed to show in April 2020, "One with Eternity: Yayoi Kusama in the Hirshhorn Collection," a must-see tribute to the life and art of Yayoi Kusama, has been postponed to 2021. Drawn entirely from the Hirshhorn's collection, "One with Eternity" will feature five paintings, sculptures and installations that span the artist’s entire oeuvre, including two of the artist’s transcendent Infinity Mirror Rooms. 

Introducing the Empire State Trail, a 750-mile, T-shaped trail that runs throughout New York state and connects it populous southern areas with the Canadian border. The trail, which will mainly connect currently existing pathways, is on track to be fully open to hikers, bikers and more by the end of 2020. Along the way you'll wander thorugh cities, small village main streets, rural communities and other landscapes throughout the Hudson River Valley, Erie Canalway and the Adirondacks (and come across tons of microbreweries, too!). 

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After a few false starts, the Academy—yes, of Oscars fame—is finally set to open its museum in 2021. Filling a Streamline Moderne former department store with six stories of exhibition galleries and event spaces—and topped by a panoramic rooftop terrace—it also includes a tacked-on theatre in a massive Renzo Piano-designed orb. The chance to see Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard Of Oz or Jack’s corduroy jacket from The Shining are reasons enough to visit, but the opening exhibition is a stunner: a Hayao Miyazaki retrospective that dives into his films, with images and production cels on display for the first time outside of Studio Ghibli’s Japanese offices.

Nevada Northern Railway's Star Train brings in the experts: You'll ride alongside the dark rangers of Great Basin National Park (actual park rangers with astronomical expertise) who will guide the stargazing ride, pointing out interesting constellations, stars and planets across the park's sky, which is a gold tier International Dark Sky Park. Passengers board the train in Ely, Nevada, which is about 244 miles north of Las Vegas, and disembark once away from city lights. And yes, you'll get to use a telescope. 

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Tucked away in Tulsa, Oklahoma is the coolest park we’ve ever seen. The Gathering Place is an 100-acre, regional destination complete with year-round programming, a three-acre, man-made lake and a children’s playground that rivals any amusement park in the country (and it’s all free). Throw in various sports courts as well as dedicated spaces for street hockey, a skate park, a BMX track, and a jogging trail and you might never want to leave this former fly-over city. 

The very first official Olympic museum in the United States has been welcoming visitors since summer 2020, but with the Tokyo Olympics postponed to this summer, make 2021 the year you visit. The 6,000-square-foot space includes 12 galleries organized in a way so that visitors get to walk through a team USA athlete's journey, from training to competitions and medal collections. Actual American Olympians worked as consultants on the project, to render the experience as authentic as possible.

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Minneapolis, MN: Bike the Parks, Peaks and Prairies trail all the way to Yellowstone
Photograph: Shutterstock

11. Minneapolis, MN: Bike the Parks, Peaks and Prairies trail all the way to Yellowstone

Biking took off in 2020 and if you're planning to keep up the popular pastime in 2021, put the Parks, Peaks and Prairies trail on your bucketlist. The 1,287-mile trail connects Yellowstone National Park in Montana to Minneapolis, Minnesota taking you through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the U.S. along the way including Black Hills National Park, Badlands National Park, Devils Tower National Monument and Mount Rushmore. The route is broken up into three parts, each between 380 and 508 miles long.

Don't hesitate on Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition, a new show featuring recreations of the Italian ceiling reproduced as close to the original size as possible. Taking over 27,625-square-feet on the second floor of America's Center, the exhibit is only open through January 10, 2021. And know that there is one thing that the St. Louis exhibit will offer that the original in Rome probably won't ever be able to, and that is the ability to get pretty close up to the designs. In total, expect 34 displays that include the iconic The Last Judgement and The Creation of Adam to overwhelm your senses (in a good way, of course).

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For years, Glacier National Park’s educational signs predicted that its eponymous ice sheets would be gone by the year 2020. A recent change to the park’s signs concede that this doomsday scenario hasn’t come to pass—yet—but that doesn’t mean you should sleep on a visit this year. Recreate the opening scene from The Shining with a drive along Saint Mary Lake and board a red bus from the 1930s for a trip along Going-to-the-Sun Road, a mountain-hugging highway that traverses the park’s heavenly terrain. (You’ll spot plenty of glaciers and mountain goats, too.)

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