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White Sands National Park - do list
Photograph: Shutterstock White Sands National Park

The most exciting things to do in the USA in 2020

Welcome to the American DO List, a rundown of the coolest, most of-the-moment things to do in the USA this year

By Time Out editors
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This is a huge year for a lot of reasons in the USA. Obviously. But when we reached out to our tuned-in editors about what readers need to experience across the country, we were hit with just how many amazing, new and toast-worthy things there were to check out. (In fact, narrowing this DO List to just 14 things to do in USA was tough.) Discover the best of the best from coast to coast, including brand-new attractions, insanely Instagrammable scenery, killer music festivals, must-stops in cities on the rise (breweries, anyone?) and much more.  

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.

What to do in the USA in 2020

Edge Observation Deck
Edge Observation Deck
Rendering: Courtesy Related-Oxford

1. New York, NY: Gaze from Edge, the highest viewpoint in the western hemisphere

Opens March 11 

UPDATE: The Edge is currently closed. 

Have you ever wanted to feel like Spiderman without the impending doom of scaling an actual skyscraper? Edge might be as close as you’re gonna get. This triangular, 1,131-foot-high observation deck boasts some killer panoramic views, and unlike the Empire State Building or One World Observatory, Edge is all about prioritising outdoor space. If you’re wary of alfresco heights but still want on the 360-degree views, there’s a champagne bar inside on the hundredth floor, as well as Peak, a highly anticipated, swanky eatery that sits one story above Edge.—Collier Sutter

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Academy Museum
Academy Museum
Photograph: Courtesy Academy Museum

2. Los Angeles, CA: Geek out at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

After a few false starts, the Academy—yes, of Oscars fame—is finally set to open its buzzy institution by the end of the year. 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.—Michael Juliano

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Milwaukee
Milwaukee
Photograph: Shutterstock

3. Milwaukee, WI: Do a brewery crawl through the home of the 2020 DNC

During the week of August 17, politicians will hunker down in Milwaukee to select their presidential nominees at the Democratic National Convention, hosted at the brand-new Fiserv Forum. The event will bring an estimated 50,000 out-of-towners to Milwaukee, which means that it's time to start plotting out a self-guided brewery tour so that you can acquaint yourself with the city's finest commodity. (To be fair, the following crawl is good any damn time.) Start at beloved Lakefront Brewery, where a boozy, 45-minute tour will only set you back $10–$12 and includes four 6-ounce pours. From there, take things down a notch at microbrewery Third Space, where the dog- and kid-friendly beer garden beckons with food trucks and pours of Happy Happy Double IPA. If you're still standing, book it to Good City Brewing on the East Side for a robust food menu that includes local delicacies like cheese curds and a brat burger. Top off the trek with a pour of Audacity, a Belgian-style quad aged in port and rum barrels.—Morgan Olsen

Discover the best things to do in Milwaukee

White Sands National Park
White Sands National Park
Photograph: Shutterstock

4. Chihuahuan Desert, NM: Be awed by White Sands National Park

America’s newest national park, White Sands, takes up 275 square miles of breathtaking landscape in New Mexico. Its most noticeable feature: miles of undulating dunes made of blindingly white gypsum crystals which were formed 10,000 years when shallows sea that had existed for millions of years dried up, leaving the gypsum behind. Though long a National Monument, White Sands was elevated to park status in December 2019. Four marked trails allow hiking, and since gypsum, unlike sand, reflects the sun’s heat, the dunes are easy on your feet. And if you’re so inclined, you can rent plastic sleds to slide down them.—Howard Halle 

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Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King
Photograph: CC/Wikimedia Commons/Rowland Scherman

5. Chicago, IL: Virtually "walk" in Martin Luther King’s famed procession in "The March"

February 28–November 1

UPDATE: The show is currently closed. 

We're still waiting on the invention of a time machine, but an immersive exhibition debuting at the DuSable Museum of African American History could be the next best thing. Visitors to "The March" will be able to strap on a virtual-reality headset and experience a 10-minute recreation of the 1963 March on Washington, complete with a highly detailed digital rendering of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his iconic "I Have a Dream" speech. Accompanied by artifacts that flesh out the history of the civil rights movement, this high-tech show could be a peek at the future of historical exhibitions.—Zach Long 

Discover the best things to do in Chicago

Jazz Fest
Jazz Fest
Photograph: David M Kabot/Flickr/Creative Commons

6. New Orleans, LA: Celebrate the golden anniversary of Jazz Fest

UPDATE: This event has been postponed until the fall. 

Besides a little get-together called Mardi Gras, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is the annual attraction for out-of-towners looking to descend on NOLA. The festival, which debuted in 1970 with an audience of about 300 folks, now draws roughly a half million to the Fair Grounds Race Course over two long weekends. Like in past years, the 2020 lineup offers a bit of everything sonically: homegrown heroes (Irma Thomas, Trombone Shorty, the Soul Rebels, who back the Wu-Tang Clan, Big Freedia, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band), dad rock (the Who, Dead & Company, Elvis Costello & the Imposters), younger-dad rock (Foo Fighters, the Black Crowes, Lenny Kravitz), as well as sure to be fantastic sets by the likes of Stevie Nicks, Erykah Badu and Jimmy Cliff. Bonus: all the stomach-lining local delicacies you can handle.—Tim Lowery 

Discover the best things do in New Orleans

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Kylo Ren in Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
Kylo Ren in Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
Photograph: Courtesy Steven Diaz/Disneyland

7. Orlando, FL, and Anaheim, CA: Ride Disney's brand-new Rise of the Resistance

UPDATE: Both parks are currently closed. 

It’ll cost you a lot less than a new hyperdrive engine to travel to a galaxy far, far away in 2020: All you’ll need is a day pass to the happiest place on either coast. Disney’s new
Rise of the Resistance ride, located in California and Florida, is a jaw-dropping 15-minute whirlwind immersion into the Star Wars universe thanks to a three-part structure, hyper-realistic animatronics, and battle scenes from the special-effects teams behind the movies. You’ll join the Resistance with Finn, Rey, Poe and BB-8, walk through a First Order Star Destroyer and escape from Kylo Ren—all with enough time to hit the nearby cantina after your mission.—Stephanie Breijo

Discover the best things to do in California and places to go in Florida

Ambiente
Ambiente
Photograph: Ambiente Sedona

8. Sedona, AZ: Book a room at Ambiente, North America’s first “landscape hotel”

Sedona’s mesmerising red-rock buttes attract visitors from far and wide, but at the end of the year guests will have an opportunity to immerse themselves even further into this natural playground. Debuting in December 2020, Ambiente will be the first hotel of its kind on this continent, a modern work of hospitality and art that aims to honor the land’s unique natural features. How? By making each of the 40 guest rooms elevated above ground to reduce the hotel’s physical impact on the landscape, and using metallic and tinted glass exteriors to mirror Sedona’s stunning backdrop. What’s more, the complex will have double-sided fireplaces, deep bathtubs and rooftop decks—for stargazing, naturally.—Lori A. May

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City Hall during Pride week
City Hall during Pride week
Photograph: Flickr/ David Yu

9. San Francisco, CA: Toast SF Pride’s 50th anniversary

June 27–28 

First held on June 28, 1970—exactly one year after the start of Stonewall Riots—San Francisco’s Pride Parade was the world’s first, and remains one of the most important events during Pride month. This year’s edition, however, should prove to be bigger and splashier that ever, as it marks the Parade’s 50th Anniversary. Celebrations galore will be on tap thanks to the more than 200 parade contingents and exhibitors already signed on. This year Pride festivities will also include the 25th annual display of Pink Triangle atop Twin Peaks, which, at 200 feet across, is visible for 20 miles.—Howard Halle 

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AREA15
AREA15
Rendering: Meow Wolf

10. Las Vegas, NV: Explore AREA15, the world’s most surreal mall

The black building in the shadow of the Las Vegas Strip which bears the words AREA15 has stoked curiosity since it first appeared in 2018. This spring, all will be revealed. AREA15 is an entertainment, retail, dining and art space anchored by the collective Meow Wolf, beloved for its immersive art installations. Set foot inside the colossal AREA15 (yes, it’s a reference to the Nevada desert government installation) and experience a cocktail bar built around an LED Japanese maple tree, an axe-throwing lounge, a mixed reality arcade and tons of weird and wonderful exhibitions from local and global artists.—Krista Diamond

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Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park
Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park
Photograph: Donnie Sexton

11. Glacier County, MT: Visit Glacier National Park…before its glaciers melt

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.)—Michael Juliano 

Discover the best things do in Montana

King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh
King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh
Photograph: Courtesy IMG

12. Boston, MA: Catch the final King Tut tour

June 13—January 3, 2021

Nearly a century ago, when British archaeologist Howard Carter first breached the wall into King Tut’s tomb and poked his head inside for a look, his anxiously waiting patron, Lord Carnarvon asked, "Can you see anything?" Carter replied, "Yes, wonderful things." Now you can see for yourself: One-hundred-and-fifty of the artifacts Carter discovered in the only intact royal burial ever found are coming to Boston as part of the final worldwide Tut tour, "King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh." Among the objects—of which 60 have never left Egypt before—the iconic solid-gold mask of the boy king is sure to be the showstopper.—Howard Halle

Discover the best things to do in Boston

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Jaws
Jaws
Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

13. Volente, TX: Freak out during Jaws on the Water for the 45th anniversary of the film

Starts May 23


Want to take in the greatest summer movie of all time in perhaps the most awesomely appropriate setting of all time? On the shores of Lake Travis—about 40 minutes outside Austin—you can do just that during Jaws on the Water, in which fans watch Steven Spielberg’s still-freaky 1975 opus while bobbing in innertubes...on the water. The summertime after-dark weekend showings, put on by Alamo Drafthouse's Rolling Roadshow, stretch through the end of August, affording the opportunity to sip some brews (said floating devices have cup-holders), enjoy a chilled-but-fun atmosphere and try not to lose your shit and paddle ashore during the attack scenes.—Tim Lowery

The Bottleworks Hotel
The Bottleworks Hotel
Rendering: Courtesy the Bottleworks Hotel

14. Indianapolis, IN: Stay in the Bottleworks Hotel, a refurbished former Coca Cola plant

There's a new neighborhood taking shape in Indianapolis, the focal point of which was once the world's largest Coca-Cola bottling factory. Even in its old age, the white terra-cotta building is a show-stopping architectural gem, boasting Art Deco touches like terrazzo floors, colorful tilework and some seriously dramatic staircases. Reimagined as a 140-room boutique hotel, the structure and all of its charm will be carefully restored and preserved. Come fall, hotel guests will have plenty to explore in the new Bottleworks District, including a 26-stall food hall showcasing Indy's finest, tons of shops and restaurants as well as a theater that screens local and international works.—Morgan Olsen 

Discover the best things to do in Indianapolis

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