15 Places Every American Should Visit at Least Once

From the Empire State Building to the Grand Canyon, America has countless iconic sites within its borders. Gain a greater appreciation for our nation's history, natural beauty, and architectural wonders by visiting these 15 destinations right here in our 50 states.

  1. Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming

    Yellowstone National Park

    Established in 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant, Yellowstone actually stretches across parts of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Visit this stunning gem, our country’s first national park, for its mountains, hot springs, geysers (including iconic Old Faithful), and wildlife like grizzly bears, bison, wolves, and elk.

    Related: The Best Small-Town Inns in All 50 States


  2. St. Augustine, Florida

    St. Augustine, Florida

    Located on the northeastern coast of Florida, St. Augustine offers a glimpse into our colonial past. Visitors can explore relics of the city’s Spanish roots, such as the Castillo de San Marcos, a 17th-century fortress. If you prefer outdoor adventures, check out the beaches at Anastasia State Park for swimming, fishing, hiking, canoeing, and kayaking.

    Related: 10 U.S. Towns That Are Older Than America


  3. Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona

    Grand Canyon National Park  

    There’s a reason why millions of people visit the Grand Canyon every year. The mile-deep gorge in Arizona is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Visitors can explore this ancient geological marvel through hiking, biking, rafting, helicopter rides, mule tours, and more.

    Related: 25 Tiny Towns to Visit for a Glimpse at How We Used to Live


  4. Crater Lake in Oregon

    Crater Lake

    Pure beauty and awe collide at your first sight of Crater Lake in Oregon. Intensely blue water fills a caldera that was formed by the collapse of a volcano thousands of years ago. The deep blue color of the lake, which is sacred to the Klamath tribe, hints at its impressive 1,949-foot depth, which makes it the deepest lake in the United States. Visit in the winter for skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, sledding, and cold-weather activities. Those who prefer warmer amusements can opt for a summer vacation filled with hiking, biking, swimming, and boat tours.

    Related: Pedestrians Only: 20 Car-Free Places in America


  5. Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico

    Carlsbad Caverns

    Under New Mexico's Chihuahuan Desert lies Carlsbad Caverns, a cave system filled with chandeliers and temples built of glistening mineral deposits. Choose between self-guided tours and ranger-guided tours of the cave—and if you visit from May to October, be prepared to witness the spectacular flight of bats at twilight.

    Related: 12 Destinations You Should Actually Visit During the Off-Season


  6. Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado

    Mesa Verde National Park

    American history stretches back far beyond 1776. At Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, you can learn more about the ancient cultures who once called this land home. Some of the best-preserved archaeological sites in the Americas, including cave dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo people, sit within the 52,485-acre park.

    Related: The Best U.S. Cities for a Summer Staycation


  7. New York City

    Visit New York City

    Iconic landmarks abound in New York City, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, One World Trade Center, Central Park, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Empire State Building, and so much more. Spend some time at the must-see tourist destinations, then live like a local by diving into New York’s world-famous culinary and cultural scene.

    Related: 20 Beautiful Homes Hiding in America's Most Affordable Cities


  8. The Smithsonian Institution

    The Smithsonian Institution

    The Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., comprises dozens of stunning (and free!) museums, galleries, and gardens as well as the National Zoo. Once you’re done exploring the complex, visit other significant sites in our nation’s capital, including the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and memorials to WWII and the Vietnam War.

    Related: The 50 Strangest Laws in America


  9. Red Clay State Park in Tennessee

    Red Clay State Park

    Reconnect with the tragic truths of American history by visiting Red Clay State Park in Bradley County, Tennessee. Once owned by the Cherokees, this 263-acre park was the starting point of the Trail of Tears in 1838.

    Related: After Disaster: 8 U.S. Cities That Went from Ruin to Rebirth

    Wikimedia Commons via Brian Stansberry

  10. Cahokia Mounds in Illinois

    Cahokia Mounds

    Want to learn more about pre-Columbian North America? Head to Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Collinsville, Illinois. This Midwestern treasure, the largest archaeological site north of Mexico, showcases remains of the ancient Mississippian culture.

    Related: 20 Must-Visit Mountain Towns Across America


  11. Santa Fe Art Colony in New Mexico

    Santa Fe Art Colony

    Under the turquoise skies of Santa Fe, New Mexico, you’ll find 250 galleries and hundreds of artists. This UNESCO-designated “Creative City,” which has a 400-year history, is home to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, loads of Spanish architecture, and the 2018 International Folk Art Market.

    Related: 18 American Towns Every Old-House Lover Needs to See

    Wikimedia Commons via John Phelan

  12. Selma, Alabama

    Selma, Alabama

    From the National Voting Rights Museum to the Edmund Pettus Bridge, symbols of the struggle for civil rights are plentiful in Selma, Alabama. Consider driving the 54-mile Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail, which traces the path of the 1965 protest marches for African American voting rights.

    Related: These 30 Places Have the Worst Weather in America


  13. Highway One in California

    Highway One

    In the mood for a road trip? Take a drive on Highway One, which stretches along the rocky Pacific coastline from Dana Point to San Francisco and beyond. The 655.8-mile road offers prime access to iconic California sites that include downtown Los Angeles, Venice Beach, Hearst Castle, the Bixby Creek Bridge in Big Sur, and the Golden Gate Bridge.

    Related: 10 Genius Gadgets to Bring on Your Next Road Trip


  14. Beyond the Mainland

    Visit Alaska and Hawaii

    Don’t limit your domestic travels to the continental United States! Visit the Hawaiian Islands for jaw-dropping tropical landscapes, volcano tours, and outdoor adventures like snorkeling and kayaking. Or you can head north to Alaska for gorgeous national parks, glacier tours, wildlife viewing, and dozens of wintertime activities.

    Related: The 20 Best (and Most Unusual) B&Bs in America


  15. The French Quarter of New Orleans

    The French Quarter of New Orleans

    New Orleans is a cultural and musical mélange known for its annual Mardi Gras festival, vibrant nightlife, and traditional Cajun cuisine. Start your tour in the historic French Quarter and enjoy famous restaurants, unique architecture, classic hotels, and lively Bourbon Street.

    Related: State Pride: 50 Ways to Show You Love Where You Live


  16. See the House of the Week


    Discover and admire beautiful and innovative home architecture, from grand Victorians to quaint cabins and all the styles in between. Take a look at the latest images and inspiration!