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Visiting every state in the US is a bucket list item in and of itself, but if you actually set out to do it, where exactly should you go? There is so much to see and do everywhere, so we racked our brains and came up with the one most incredible thing you must do in all 50 states. Think we missed a good one? Share in the comments. Happy travels!

RELATED: The 12 very best places to travel in 2020

Feel the need for speed: Alabama

Located just east of Birmingham, the Talladega Superspeedway is the place to go to see a good NASCAR race. It’s the largest and fastest track in the world, so go for a race or book a driving experience to feel the wind in your hair!

Cruise through glaciers: Alaska

There is perhaps nothing more magical than seeing an iceberg up close. On a cruise, you’ll sail past these frozen monsters in awe that the giant chunks of ice you’re actually seeing are only a fraction of what’s actually there. About 90% of an icebergs mass is underwater, hence the phrase, “tip of the iceberg.” Mind. Blown. 

Visit a wonder of the natural world: Arizona

Beautiful Grand Canyon shot

You know what’s coming. Nevertheless, a glimpse at the stunning vastness of the Grand Canyon (one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World) will take your breath away. Grand Canyon National Park is huge: 227 river miles long, 18 miles long and a mile deep. Stay nearby or camp in the park to get.a hike in, with stunning vistas as a reward!

Stay at a haunted hotel: Arkansas

In 1886, the Crescent Hotel & Spa in Eureka Springs was considered the most luxurious hotel in America. The property is chock full of history, and maybe even ghosts. Rumor has it that the place is haunted so BYO Ouija board! Aside from the hotel, quirky Eureka Springs is a must. Tucked into the Ozark Mountains, the Victorian era town boasts no stoplights and no right angles at intersections, the monument Christ of the Ozarks, glassy Thorncrown Chapel and much more.

Go for a drive: California

There isn’t a more iconic road in the US than this one, offering some of the most beautiful views California has to offer. Fly into San Francisco and drive south. You’ll stay along the coast for most of the drive, winding through Big Sur, cruising past charming Santa Barbara and ending in Los Angeles. Along the way, stop for a sip at wineries, hang with seals, see dramatic ocean views at cliffside pull-offs and enjoy some dang good food!

See a concert at a mountain amphitheater: Colorado

Not only is it stunning, Red Rocks Amphitheater is also the only naturally occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheater in the world. Located just outside of Denver, concerts are held year round and notable performers include The Beatles, U2, Depeche Mode and Jethro Tull. Not into live music but still curious? Hike, bike and stroll the trails at Red Rocks Park.

Meander through fields of lavender: Connecticut 

We’ve all seen those stunning photos of Instagrammers wandering through lavender fields in Provence, France, surrounded by beautiful purple blooms. No passport is required to experience something similar stateside. The lavender at Lavender Pond Farm in Killingworth typically blooms from June to August (some varieties have a second bloom in fall) and the farm shop sells all sorts of homemade lavender products, from honey to sachets.

Rent a beach cottage: Delaware

Delaware is small but has some gorgeous stretches of beach. Rent a cottage in a charming town like Rehoboth or Lewes, and spend your summer mornings on the beach and afternoons exploring the region. Don’t leave without heading over to Roosevelt Inlet to see the only recently discovered shipwreck on the beach, dating back to the American Revolution!

Get happy: Florida

Kids of all ages should make the trek to Orlando and visit Walt Disney World, aka the Happiest Place on Earth, at least once. The 40-square mile theme park opened in 1965 and people have been flocking here ever since to meet Mickey and Minnie, ride iconic attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion, and explore a whopping four different parks including the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.

Have a Forrest Gump moment: Georgia

Savannah is one of the most beautiful historic cities in the country, offering amazing Southern food (think fried chicken and biscuits, fresh seafood and pimento cheese!), streets covered in Spanish moss, antebellum homes and plenty of history (Georgia was one of the 13 original colonies). Georgia has become a movie-making mecca of late, including the scenes from Forrest Gump where Forrest sits on a park bench and narrates the story. That park is in Chippewa Square and while the bench was a movie prop, the location is marked by a plaque.

Watch the sunrise atop an active volcano: Hawaii

Go early in your trip while you’re still jet lagged and an early morning wake up won’t be too bad. Most tours leave in the wee hours of the morning to make the winding drive up Haleakalā, an active volcano, on the island of Maui. You’ll arrive in time to see a stunning sunrise above the clouds, complete with a poem and blessing by a park ranger, plus lots of time to contemplate Earth’s beauty. You can even bike down the mountain, which is incredibly invigorating, if your tour includes it.

Go whitewater rafting in Hell: Idaho

Hells Canyon in western Idaho is the deepest river gorge in North America and park of the Snake River. Here, you’ll raft the largest whitewater rapids in the Pacific Northwest so brace yourself for an adventure of a lifetime!

Capture your reflection: Illinois

“The Bean” in Millennium Park is one of the most iconic pieces of public art in Chicago—and the world. The stainless steel, bean-shaped figure is actually called Cloud Gate and at almost all hours is surrounded by tourists taking photos of themselves in front of its city skyline-reflecting shell. While the thought of doing something so touristy might make you cringe, snapping a selfie in front of the Bean is truly a rite of passage for anyone visiting the Windy City for the first time.

Tailgate with Hoosiers: Indiana

Celebrating a game day in South Bend often begins before sunrise. Suddenly, the Notre Dame campus turns into a festival, with tents popping up, grills getting warmed and music being pumped throughout the streets. Pick a big game and be a fan of the Fighting Irish, if only for a day.

Do the Hawkeye Wave: Iowa

This is truly one of the best traditions in college football. The IU Children’s Hospital was built right next to Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. Kids being treated there are the sickest of sick and to brighten their spirits, right after the first quarter of home games, the entire stadium and everyone on both teams, turns and waves to the children watching from the hospital windows. Bring tissues because this incredible new tradition is a bit of a tear jerker!

Sample as much KC ‘cue as you can: Kansas

Kansas City-style barbecue is special. It’s smoked over a variety of different woods, low and slow, and topped with a thick, tomato based sauce. To taste the best of the best, head to spots like Arthur Bryant’s, Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, Q39, Woodward Bar-B-Que and Slap’s BBQ. Kansas City is split between two states so plan accordingly to hit up a joint on the Kansas side of town!

Follow the Bourbon Trail: Kentucky

The birthplace of bourbon, Kentucky is full of distilleries and you can visit them all. Begin in Louisville and with the help of a designated driver, plan a trip along the Bourbon Trail. You’ll get a passport booklet at your first stop so you can keep track of everywhere you visit. There are 17 distilleries along the trail, so challenge yourself to get stamps from each one.

Earn some beads: Louisiana

Despite what you’ve heard, there is no flashing required to get beads on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras in New Orleans. While some choose to flash their lady lumps in exchange for a strand or two, bead throwers will often toss them to anyone who looks to be celebrating and enjoying themselves. Stroll the street anytime of year to soak up some revelry and you’ll likely end up with plenty of beads to take home.

Eat your weight in lobster rolls: Maine

Lobster rolls are a dime a dozen in Maine but we love visiting the seaside town of Kennebunkport to hit all our favorite joints. Mable’s Lobster Claw is a great sit-down spot for a killer roll. If you’re in the mood for something quick, head to the walk-up counter at the Clam Shack for some clam strips and a lobster roll slathered in butter and mayo.

Crack some crab: Maryland

Nothing is more Maryland than cracking crab for lunch. At Cantler’s Riverside Inn in capital city Annapolis, the tables are covered in paper soon as you order the crab bucket which comes with a wooden hammer for cracking your way through the delicious, sweet meat.

Follow in Freedom’s footsteps: Massachusetts

The Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile walking route in Boston is lined in red paint so you won’t loose your way while getting immersed in history. Along the route, there are 16 historical sites, including the site of the Boston Massacre, the Old Corner Bookstore, the Paul Revere House and King’s Chapel.

Climb a dune: Michigan

Located along Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, Sleeping Bear Dunes are two islands made up of gorgeous stretches of beach and really tall sand dunes that encapsulate the rural charms of Michigan’s west coast. Relax and unwind on the lakeshore, hike the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail or climb the dunes at the Dune Climb.

Become one with nature: Minnesota

Straddling the US-Canada border in northern Minnesota, the Boundary Waters is a 1 million+ acre wilderness area located within Superior National Park. Outdoorsy folk flock here for the unmatched natural beauty and to camp, canoe and relax. Join them during the brief summer—and bring mosquito repellant!

Catch a big one: Mississippi

You may not think of Mississippi when you consider going deep sea fishing, but you should. Book a trip from a coastal city like Biloxi or Gulfport where you’ll be taken out into the Gulf of Mexico for some of the best deep sea fishing in the US.

Go West: Missouri

The Gateway Arch, a 630-foot monument in St. Louis crafted from stainless steel is the tallest arch in the world and was built by architect Eero Saarinen and structural engineer Severud Associates. Symbolizing the city’s role in Westward Expansion, the Arch is part of Gateway Arch National Park. Walk the campus, explore the new museum, ride to the top for spectacular views or just snap a selfie in front of the Midwest Show Me State icon.

Hike a glacier: Montana 

Glacier National Park in Montana’s Rocky Mountains and near the town of Whitefish, is a beautiful wilderness area that should be on everyone’s bucket list. Hike here and you’ll see glacier-covered mountain peaks, stunning lakes surrounded by mountains and wild animals like bighorn sheep, grizzly bears and mountain goats.

Giggle in front of a state capitol: Nebraska

A quick Google image search of the Nebraska State Capitol will explain why it’s been nicknamed the “Penis on the Plains.” The phallic building in Lincoln is made of limestone and was started in 1922. It took builders 10 years to complete.

Stroll the Strip at night: Nevada

vegas at night

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas! Take a nighttime stroll along the Strip starting south of Mandalay Bay to see the famous “Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign.” Other Strip highlights include the Sky Beam at the Luxor (the strongest light beam on earth), the iconic Bellagio fountains, and of course, magnificent people watching. Pop into a casino to hit the slot machines or try your hand at poker.

Spot a moose: New Hampshire

Often called the best place to see a moose in New England, Moose Alley is a section of Route 3 north of First Connecticut Lake. Drive (slowly!) along the route and keep your eyes peeled for the elusive beast.

Bounce around the Boardwalk: New Jersey

Open since 1870, the Atlantic City Boardwalk is a famed part of New Jersey history. Pop down to the beach to feel the sand between your toes, hit the kitschy souvenir shops and restaurants along the Boardwalk and ride a few of the rides! The entire Boardwalk is fronted by casinos so if you feel like pressing your luck, there’s plenty of opportunity.

Go sledding in the desert: New Mexico

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

White Sands National Park near Las Cruces

One of the world’s great natural wonders, White Sands National Monument, was just officially designated a National Park. It’s an incredible sight, covered in 275 square miles of wave-like dunes made of gypsum sand. While a large portion of the park is off limits in order to preserve native plants and animals, plenty of the desert park is open to the public for the purpose of hiking, scenic drives and dune sledding.

Explore NYC like a local: New York

Yes, all tourists should see Times Square, stroll through Central Park and catch a Broadway show. But locals will also tell you to grab a pizza and a beer at John’s on Bleeker Street, walk the Highline, slurp ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar, and shop SoHo (rather than 5th Avenue). So, explore like a local and venture downtown once you’ve done the Midtown things.

Tour America’s largest privately owned home: North Carolina

America’s most iconic mansion is open to the public. Built as the family home of George and Edith Vanderbilt more than a century ago in hippie-cool Asheville, the 178,926-square-foot mansion is a sprawling display of decadence. Visitors can tour the entire property and must visit the gardens in the summer! Christmas at the Biltmore is especially magical.

See a natural work of art: North Dakota

There is a lot to see at Theodore Roosevelt National Park (the buffalo, the prairie dogs!) but the highlight, in our opinion, is the Painted Canyon. This 2.5-mile trail is worth every step. The swatch of land legitimately looks like it was painted with a brush; deep, rich colors stripe the rocks while brightly colored plants dot the landscape.

Rock out: Ohio

Learn all there is to know about rock ‘n’ roll music history at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland where artist artifacts from the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Supremes, Jimi Hendrix and many more await. Exhibitions include “Elvis,” “Woodstock at 50” and “The Music of Cleveland and the Midwest.” Elsewhere in the museum, learn to play an instrument, rock out inside the jam space and cast your own vote for the year’s newest crop of nominees.

Get your kicks on Route 66: Oklahoma

The Mother Road stretches from Chicago to Santa Monica, California and you should aspire to drive this life-changing road trip in its entirety. But we’re particularly fond of the 374 miles that run through the Sooner State because it checks so many road trip boxes. Check out big cities Tulsa and Oklahoma City (don’t miss the Plaza District, Bleu Garten and the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum), quirky roadside charmers like the Blue Whale of Catoosa, roadside eats like Pops 66 Soda Ranch and 66 nostalgia including the Route 66 Interpretive Center and the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum.

Order dinner from a cart: Oregon

The food scene is Portland is on fire right now and we love the popularity of its food carts. There are about 500 citywide carts serving food at any given time. Find a vendor list online to organize your eating day, or simply find an area thick with options and sample the numerous offerings!

Run like Rocky: Pennsylvania 

You don’t have to be in fighting shape to run the same steps as Rocky Balboa did in the Philly-set film Rocky. The 72 stone steps are located before the entrance to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Run up them, then celebrate at the top!

Ogle mansions: Rhode Island

The Cliff Walk is a 3.5-mile public access way in chic Newport. But, you don’t have to walk the entire thing to see why the richest of the rich once lived there. Stunning coastal views and ocean access likely lured the Vanderbilts. They built The Breakers, Marble House and Rough Point, some of the more stunning landmarks along the walk.

Enjoy Southern comforts: South Carolina

Charleston is a beautiful town to visit just about any time of year. With plenty of history, there is a lot to explore. We love strolling King Street where you’ll find dozens of local boutiques to shop in and restaurants to fill your belly. With moss-covered trees and beautiful antebellum homes, King Street really oozes Southern charm.

Meet the presidents: South Dakota

The Black Hills mountain range is home to Mount Rushmore—likely on your bucket list of places to see. The massive sculpture features the faces of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Elsewhere in the region, relive the Wild West in historic Deadwood, visit the still unfinished Crazy Horse Memorial, and of course, check out the majestic Badlands.

Kick up your boots at a honky-tonk: Tennessee

Near Broadway in Downtown Nashville, you’ll find some of the most famous honkytonks in the South. Rippy’s, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and The Stage are local favorites. You can’t visit Music City without stopping in to listen to some tunes. If you’re brave enough, maybe you’ll even take the stage!

Remember the Alamo: Texas

One of the most popular historical sights in Texas, the Alamo is a must visit. Originally known as the Misíon San Antonio del Valero, it was a fortress during the Battle of the Alamo during the Texas Revolution in 1836. Now, it’s a popular San Antonio tourist spot and symbol of the Texas fight for independence from Mexico.

Add a pinch of salt: Utah

This densely packed swatch of salt 110-miles west of Salt Lake City is insane to see. The shimmering white land stretches on for what seems like forever (actually 30,000 acres). It’s also where the world wide land speed record was set: Racer Denise Mueller-Korenek went 183.932 mph in September, 2018!

Find yourself in a sticky situation: Vermont

Known for their delicious syrup, you’ll have the opportunity to taste or buy some practically everywhere in Vermont. Having breakfast at a local eatery? Chances are, they’re serving locally sourced maple syrup with their pancakes. From maple candy to syrup tastings, the sweet, viscous stuff is everywhere! Heck, you may even find it in a cocktail at a Vermont bar!

Drive the country’s longest linear park: Virginia

For almost 500 miles through Virginia down to North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway winds and stretches its way through forests and mountains. The longest linear park in the country, it’s well worth the drive. We suggest going in the fall, when the leaves are at peak color changing.You’ll be delighted with every turn!

Kayak among orcas: Washington

The San Juan Islands, off the coast of Washington state, are an archipelago of 8 islands. It’s an amazing place to kayak or sail while taking in the beautiful scenery. It’s also an epic place for whale-watching. The best time of year to see them is from mid-May until mid-October, however people do say they’ve seen them year round. Book a tour and cross your fingers!

Monument hop: Washington, DC

In the nation’s capital, there’s no shortage of monuments to see and memorials to explore. Of course, you have to snap a photo at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave and you must see the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. Time permitting, the Jefferson Memorial,Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and Vietnam War Memorial should also make your list.

Go inside a coal mine: West Virginia

All of West Virginia’s 53 counties contain underground coal deposits, but only one town has an underground coal exhibit. At Beckley’s Exhibition Coal Mine in Boone County, you can ride the rails and head unground inside a real coal mine. Coal was first discovered here in 1742, so you’re truly seeing something historic.

Tour a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece: Wisconsin

Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and estate in Spring Green is a sprawling 37,000 square feet. The property, named Taliesin, features buildings from almost every decade of Wright’s career, which began in the 1890s and lasted through the1950s.

Live the cowboy life: Wyoming

Jackson Hole is a popular place to ski in winter and explore nature in summer. At Spring Creek Ranch, you’ll feel like a bonafied cowboy (or girl) with all the ranch activities they offer. Things like horseback riding, fishing, and rodeo are bookable activities that’ll have you buying boots and a cowboy hat in no time!

 

Travelocity compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site; such compensation may include travel and other costs.

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