The United States is big: From historic buildings and cultural institutions to geological wonders and precious parkland that rank among the world’s most breathtaking, there is a lot to discover here at home. These are our top picks for sightseeing across the nation.
The Best Attractions in Alabama
The Civil Rights Historic District: These six city blocks were integral to the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. At the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, a 1963 bombing by the Ku Klux Klan killed four girls, ushering in the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute chronicles the history of Civil Rights in America through exhibits on black and white life from the late 1800s to today.
The Best Attractions in Alaska
Denali National Park: Home to North America’s tallest peak—the 20,310-ft.-high Denali (also known as Mount McKinley)—at Denali National Park encompasses six million acres of Alaskan wilderness, bisected by one road. The park’s biomes span spruce forest, tundra, and glaciers and are home to grizzly bears, wolves, moose, caribou, and Dall sheep.
The Best Attractions in Arizona
The Grand Canyon: Standing 7,000-8,000 feet above sea level and 277 miles end to end, this top U.S. attraction is deserving of the name grand. Carved out by the Colorado River, its walls plunge a mile and are deep marked by colorful bands of rock symbolic of 2 billion years of geological history. Visitors will find endless opportunities to hike, camp, raft, and snap pictures of dramatic vistas.
The Best Attractions in Arkansas
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art: Bentonville’s American art collection rivals those of major cities: Exhibits range from Colonial to Contemporary, counting works by Rockwell and Warhol. The museum’s glass-and-wood pavilions are nestled around ponds and forest trails, with 120 acres for outdoor concerts and enjoyment. Plus, it is within walking distance of downtown Bentonville.
The Best Attractions in California
Yosemite National Park: The Yosemite Valley was the first Native land exploited by Gold Rush miners and European explorers. Then in 1864, President Abraham Lincoln designated the 1,169-square-mile swath of California’s Sierra Nevadas a protected national park. Visitors come to admire its towering ancient sequoia trees, dramatic waterfalls, wildlife, and the granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome.
The Best Attractions in Colorado
Garden of the Gods: Colorado claims many notable mountains and rock formations, but perhaps the most striking is its Garden of the Gods. The fin-shaped cliffs in deep-red, pink, and white were created millions of years ago by a geological upheaval. With 21 miles of trails, the site is popular for hiking, rock climbing, road and mountain biking, and horseback riding.
The Best Attractions in Connecticut
Mystic Seaport: Mystic is home to the largest maritime museum in the nation. Most notable among its collection is a 19th-century seafaring village recreated to scale. It includes more than 60 historic buildings, most of them rare commercial structures moved to the site and meticulously restored.
The Best Attractions in Delaware
Rehoboth Beach: With 30 miles of coastline and one of America’s best boardwalks, this idyllic beach destination is popular for all ages and interests. Ample kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing, and surfing will keep you active. While Thrasher’s famous French fries and the bandstand—which hosts free outdoor entertainment—are the perfect way to kick back and indulge.
The Best Attractions in Florida
Everglades National Park: The southern 20 percent of Florida’s original Everglades accounts for the largest tropical wilderness in the States. While most national parks preserve unique geographic features, Everglades was created to protect a fragile ecosystem of wetlands and forests, fed by a river flowing from Lake Okeechobee into Florida Bay.
The Best Attractions in Georgia
Forsyth Park: Among the charming 18th-century homes and cobblestones roads that characterize Savannah’s historic center, this 30-acre park is a lively center of city life. It contains leafy walking paths, a children's play area, a fragrant flower garden for the blind, a large fountain, tennis courts, and basketball courts, and occasionally hosts public concerts.
The Best Attractions in Hawaii
The NaPali Coast: This striking 17-mile stretch along Kauai’s North Shore is unlike any place in the U.S. See it on foot via the Kalalau Trail, which cuts through the razor-sharp emerald mountains, sheer cliffs, breathtaking vistas, waterfalls, and sandy beaches. Or get a bird’s eye view on one of the island’s popular helicopter tours.
The Best Attractions in Idaho
Shoshone Falls: The "Niagara of the West" stands at 212 feet (45 feet higher than Niagara) and flows over a rim nearly 1,000 feet wide. The falls are fed by the Snake River, which is rich with fish. Irrigation and hydroelectric power stations built here powered the economic development in Southern Idaho. Visitors can view the falls seasonally (depending on snow) from a park at the top.
The Best Attractions in Illinois
Millennium Park: Chicago’s lakefront park is home to The Bean, interactive fountains, gardens, public art, skating rinks, rock climbing, and ambling lawns—all in the heart of downtown. In summer, the Frank Gehry-designed bandshell hosts live music and movies. In winter, it is the site of the city’s annual Christmas tree lighting.
The Best Attractions in Indiana
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. With five floors and some 120,000 artifacts, the world's largest children's museum immerses visitors in science, history, world cultures, and art. The exhibits are interactive—a simulated dinosaur habitat, a steam locomotive, and imaginary travel to new countries—are just a few examples of what makes this a mecca for curious kids.
The Best Attractions in Iowa
Iowa State Fair: Every August, more than a million people flock to Des Moines for one of the oldest and most famous state fairs in the country. The 11-day celebration—which features the state’s best agriculture, industry, and entertainment—began in 1854, and it’s inspired countless novels, movies, and musicals. If you want to take part in the state fair tradition, this is the one to experience.
The Best Attractions in Kansas
Monument Rocks: These striking “Chalk Pyramids”—white buttes and arches that reach 70 feet tall—appear otherworldly against the vast flat landscape of western Kansas. And in a way, they are: The fossil-rich rocks were formed from carbonate deposits during the Cretaceous Period (80 million years ago) when Kansas was underwater, and part of a seaway that divided North America
The Best Attractions in Kentucky
Churchill Downs: Home of the Kentucky Derby, Louisville’s famous horse racing complex is the place to experience this classic American tradition. When it opened in 1875, the first Kentucky Derby and the first Kentucky Oaks were held in the same year. Since then, Churchill Downs regularly sells out its 170,000 seats to some of the biggest horse races in the world.
The Best Attractions in Louisiana
The French Quarter: The thirteen blocks that comprise New Orleans’ oldest neighborhood have a vibe unlike anywhere else. The area is more than Bourbon Street’s legendary jazz clubs and Cajun eateries. Venture past colorful buildings with cast-iron balconies toward the French Market’s gastronomic wonders, and catch street performers in Jackson Square, with the grand St. Louis Cathedral in the backdrop.
The Best Attractions in Maine
Acadia National Park: The 47,000-acre park on Mount Desert Island is marked by woodland, rocky beaches, and granite peaks carved by the Atlantic Ocean. Its showpiece, Cadillac Mountain, is the highest peak on the East Coast and one of the first places where you can see the sunrise in the U.S. The park is home to wildlife, including moose, bears, whales, and seabirds.
The Best Attractions in Maryland
The Inner Harbor: Baltimore’s waterfront is home to several of the state’s claims to fame: the National Aquarium, where you can see giant turtles and electric eels; Camden Yards, home of the Orioles; and, of course, Maryland’s famous crab cakes, sold at top-notch seafood spots lining the water.
The Best Attractions in Massachusetts
The Freedom Trail: Whether guided or DIY, this 2.5-mile walking tour is a great way to learn the history of the American Revolution while also seeing Boston as it is today. The trail connects 16 historic sites—from museums to meeting houses—including Faneuil Hall, the Paul Revere House, Old North Church, and Copp’s Hill Burying Ground.
The Best Attractions in Michigan
Detroit Institute of Arts: With more than 100 galleries, the DIA houses one of the nation’s largest, most significant art collections—spanning Egyptian to Contemporary art. The museum’s white, Beaux-Arts, Italian Renaissance-style exterior is among the city’s architectural gems and is part of the city’s Cultural Center Historic District, two miles north of downtown.
The Best Attractions in Minnesota
Minnehaha Falls: Minneapolis’ 53-foot falls and surrounding park offer a rush of nature and history in the city. A staircase leads down into the gorge for a view of the falls from below. Follow the network of trails to explore historic buildings scattered through the park and, for the surefooted, out to a sandy beach at the confluence of Minnehaha Creek and the Mississippi River.
The Best Attractions in Mississippi
The Delta Blues Trail: Throughout the state, nearly 200 notable sites trace the life of blues music in Mississippi. Stops include the corner where B.B. King first played in Indianola, and Nelson Street in Greenwood, once home to a historic blues club scene. The trail also includes record companies and radio stations, as well as plantations and streets that were centers of blues activity.
The Best Attractions in Missouri
The Gateway Arch: St. Louis’s iconic "Gateway to the West” marks the starting point of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and commemorates the westward expansion of the United States. It shares a 91-acre park along the Mississippi River with the Old Courthouse and a museum dedicated to the Louisiana Purchase, American explorers and pioneers, and slavery. At 630 feet tall, it is the world's tallest arch.
Glacier National Park: Visitors can explore two mountain ranges, more than 130 lakes, some 1,000 species of plants and animals within the million protected acres along the U.S.-Canada border. Part of what’s called the "Crown of the Continent Ecosystem," the land was first inhabited by Native Americans and was ceded in 1895 to the federal government.
The Best Attractions in Nebraska
Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium: Omaha's zoo and aquarium ranks among the best in the world—not only for its leading work in conservation and research, but for comprehensive exhibits including the world's largest nocturnal exhibit and indoor swamp; one of the world's largest indoor rainforests; and one of the world's largest indoor deserts, plus the largest glazed geodesic dome in the world.
The Best Attractions in Nevada
Hoover Dam: From 1931 to 1936, thousands of Americans worked to build Hoover Dam. As the first concrete structure of that scale, unproven techniques and harsh elements cost more than 100 lives in its pursuit. In the end, the arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River would control floods, provide irrigation water, and produce hydroelectric power, and draw visitors for decades to come.
The Best Attractions in New Hampshire
The Mount Washington Cog Railway: Built in 1869, the world's first mountain-climbing cog railway carries visitors three miles to the top of Mount Washington. It’s the second steepest rack railway in the world. The train ascends Mount Washington's western slope, beginning at an elevation of approximately 2,700 feet above sea level and ending just short of the mountain's summit peak of 6,288 feet.
The Best Attractions in New Jersey
Sandy Hook: The seven-mile barrier island, just 40 minutes from Wall Street by ferry, is known for its idyllic shoreline (its ocean and bay beaches offer the best of both surfing and swimming) and nature, including some 300 species of migratory birds and holly forest. Fort Hancock, a defunct Army base built here in 1896 to defend New York Harbor, offers views of the Manhattan skyline.
The Best Attractions in New Mexico
White Sands National Park: In the Tularosa Basin, at 4,000 feet elevation, this massive dune field is the largest of its kind on Earth. Formed 7,000–10,000 years ago, its unique white sand is made of gypsum crystals that extend 30 feet deep. About 4.5 billion short tons of gypsum sand fill the 275-square-mile park, and some of the dunes reach 60 feet tall.
The Best Attractions in New York
The Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Met is the largest art museum in the U.S. and among the most visited in the world. Its more than 2 million works span ancient Egypt, nearly all the European masters, rare Oceanic and Islamic art, musical instruments, antique weapons, and contains entire ancient Roman dwellings. Its roof garden overlooks Central Park and the Manhattan skyline.
The Best Attractions in North Carolina
The Biltmore Estate: In 1888, George Washington Vanderbilt II visited Asheville; captivated by its beauty, he built this Gilded Age mansion—still the largest home in the country. It has four acres of floor space, 250 rooms, 65 fireplaces, and views of the Blue Ridge Mountains; plus, hidden doors and passageways. More than a dozen movies have been filmed here, including Richie Rich and Patch Adams.
Best Attractions in North Dakota
Theodore Roosevelt National Park: Comprising 70,446 acres over three swaths of badlands, this park in western North Dakota is pure American frontier. The different regions, which are connected by the Little Missouri River and the Maah Daah Hey Trail, offer excellent opportunities to see buffalo, wild horses, deer, hawks, and owls.
Best Attractions in Ohio
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Few know the term “rock and roll” was coined in Cleveland. Fanatics can learn this and more among the world’s greatest collection of Rock and Roll memorabilia. The museum has some 55,000 square feet of exhibition space and seven floors. From above, its double pyramid and tower are meant to look like a record player, with the front plaza as the record.
Best Attractions in Oklahoma
Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum: Set on the site of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the memorial comprises 3.3 acres of lawn marked by twin bronze gates; a long reflecting pool (on what was once Fifth Street); 168 empty chairs made from glass, bronze, and stone to represent the lives lost; and a Survivors' Wall is inscribed on the remains of the Murrah Federal Building.
Best Attractions in Oregon
Crater Lake National Park: Oregon’s only national park encompasses the caldera of Crater Lake—the hole left when the Mount Mazama volcano erupted, now filled with water—and the surrounding hills and forests. At 1,949 feet deep, it is the deepest lake in the U.S. and the second deepest in North America.
Best Attractions in Pennsylvania
Independence Square: From 1790 to 1800, this was the hub of our nation’s fledgling democracy. Our early Supreme Court, Congress, House of Representatives, and President all governed here; and it was also here that the Liberty Bell rang out. Today, it’s a one-stop-shop for visitors interested in learning the history of America’s pioneering government.
Best Attractions in Rhode Island
The Cliff Walk: This 3.5-mile trail on the eastern shore of Newport is lined with prominent, Victorian-era mansions with views over the Narragansett Bay. The scenic southern half of the hike is more rugged and rocky, so wear good shoes, and bring a bathing suit in summer—there are turn-offs with various beaches along the way
Best Attractions in South Carolina
The Old Slave Mart Museum: Established in 1856 by a Charleston councilman, after a ban on public slave auctions drove the practice behind closed doors, this slave market is the only known surviving slave auction facility in the state. It is recognized by the National Register of Historic Places and today serves as a museum with important insight into the city’s African-American history.
Best Attractions in South Dakota
Black Hills: The Black Hills are home to some of the longest explored cave systems in the world and what used to be the largest gold mine in North America. Explore its two waterfalls and grassland prairie—a prime spot for viewing bison, elk, deer, antelope, and prairie dogs. On a clear night, you’ll find the skies are among the nation’s best for stargazing.
The Best Attractions in Tennessee
Ryman Auditorium: The 2,362-seat performance venue in downtown Nashville is best known as the home of the Grand Ole Opry (1943-1974). In its early days, its excellent acoustics and size made it the city’s go-to auditorium, hosting legendary greats such as Caruso, Sarah Bernhardt, and Booker T. Washington. Now, this National Historic Landmark is regarded as the Mother Church of Country Music.
The Best Attractions in Texas
The Alamo: Located in San Antonio’s historic district, the 18th-century Spanish mission—site of the Battle of the Alamo—is classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site for its role in the Texas Revolution. Today, it functions as a museum; visitors can tour the chapel and former barracks, which have weapons and artifacts from the revolution, and a large diorama recreates the compound as it looked in 1836.
The Best Attractions in Utah
Zion National Park: Where the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, and Mojave Desert meet, Zion is a center of red and tan sandstone geological wonders—among them, canyons, buttes, mesas, monoliths, and natural arches. Perhaps most famous are its slot canyons, like the Narrows—a gorge only 20 feet wide and up to 2,000 feet tall.
The Best Attractions in Vermont
The Cheese Trail: This 280-mile loop runs from Plymouth Notch to the Canadian border. It hits more than 40 farms and factories, offering some 150 varieties of cheese to taste (yes, there are 150 varieties of cheese). The drive is not only delicious but scenic, with passing views of the state’s green mountains, forests, and lakes.
The Best Attractions in Virginia
Shenandoah Valley: With the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east, the Appalachians to the west, the Potomac River to the north, and the James River to the south, Shenandoah has views for days. Take a ride down Skyline Drive, which follows the ridgeline, especially in fall when the more than 15 million acres of foliage turns brilliant shades of red and gold.
The Best Attractions in Washington
The Space Needle: This Pacific Northwest landmark towers at 605 feet above the ground, with views of downtown Seattle, the Olympic and Cascade Mountains, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, Elliott Bay, and islands in Puget Sound. The ascent to the observation deck (at 520 ft) takes 41 seconds by elevator.
The Best Attractions in West Virginia
The Greenbrier: There are two things that make the Greenbrier popular: The Sulphur hot springs, at the center of the resort, which have been popular since 1778 for their healing properties. And the luxury hotel built around it. Located in the Allegheny Mountains, the property sits on 11,000 acres of land and has 710 guest rooms, five golf courses, horseback rides, and access to hiking trails.
The Best Attractions in Wisconsin
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore: This enclave of 21 islands scattered across Lake Superior is known for unique sandstone sea caves, old-growth remnant forests, and natural animal habitats. Historic lighthouses, as well as camping, fishing, and kayaking between islands are popular among visitors, as well as advanced scuba diving to the many shipwrecks that lie at the bottom of the lake.
The Best Attractions in Wyoming
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Grand Teton National Park: The 40-mile-long Teton Range and Jackson Hole valley, along with Yellowstone National Park 10 miles south, constitute the almost 18,000,000-acre Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, one of the world's largest intact mid-latitude temperate ecosystems. This is one of the best places in the U.S. to go camping and really escape in nature. Just book your spot in advance.