As the future of travel continues to change and international travel slowly resumes, we are all left dreaming about where our next trip may be. However, we often forget about the beautiful travel destinations hidden in our own backyard! I’m mixing small hidden gems, big cities, and a few uncommon US travel bucket list destinations to help inspire you to plan your next trip!
Leavenworth is a Bavarian-style village nestled in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. The small alpine village offers a little slice of Germany in the Pacific Northwest with events such as Oktoberfest and holiday markets in the Fall/Winter. Take up skiing, visit the Nutcracker Museum, or witness the glory of the Christmas Lighting Festival.
The Summer is buzzing with curbside cafes and restaurants serving German food and plenty of beer! Leavenworth is the perfect weekend getaway from Seattle, Vancouver BC, and Portland.
Napa Valley, CA
Napa Valley, better known as the wine region, is home to hundreds of vineyards, beautiful countryside views, and luxurious accommodations. Peak season for visiting Napa aligns with the harvesting season; thus, August-October and March-May is the busiest time. The five-star restaurants, world-class wine, and deluxe spas come with a steep price.
If you would like a budget-friendly visit to Napa, try searching for accommodations in Sonoma. It’s also known for wine-making but less expensive than Napa! A day trip from San Francisco, Oakland or Sacramento is a fantastic option as well.
Anchorage is the perfect hub to explore the South-Central part of Alaska’s beauty. The Northern Lights are viewable in Alaska between Sept – April with the Winter months being the best! One of the best ways to explore the mountains, glaciers, and wildlife is by booking a flightseeing tour and soaring over the picture-perfect landscape.
While visiting, be sure to learn about the Alaskan Native culture, stop at the small, local, and authentic shops, try the local fare, visit the National Parks and end your night in one of many eclectic bars. There are plenty of activities for outdoor enthusiasts including hiking, fishing, biking, whale watching, 4-wheeling, and dog sledding.
Arguably the birthplace of Country music, or at least where it flourished, Nashville encompasses the heart of Country music. The Country Music Hall of Fame and legendary music venues such as the Grand Ole Opry are a must-visit if you’re a first-timer to Nashville. After a stroll through the history of Country music, continue by celebrating at honky-tonk bars filled with live music, summer festivals, or at the Bluebird Cafe.
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself eating your way through the city as the soul food is hard to resist. Thankfully, you can walk it off in one of Nashville’s vibrant neighborhoods and of course, make room for more food!
Aspen, a beautiful town nestled in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, is most known for its four ski resorts and plenty of winter activities, making it an outdoor lovers paradise. Fun fact, it’s also named as the most expensive ski town in America. However, contrary to belief, you can travel to Aspen and not break the bank.
Book in advance if you plan to visit Aspen during peak season, Dec – Feb. Camp at a nearby campground, seek accommodations in nearby villages such as Snowmass, take advantage of the free shuttle services, bring your own gear, and eat at local cafes and delis. Whether you’re a skier or not, visit the Aspen Art Museum, take a stroll and immerse yourself in the town’s small shops and boutiques, or purchase a sightseeing ticket.
Antelope Canyon, AZ
The Antelope Canyon is a slot of canyon settled on Navajo land in Arizona. The slot canyon is split into two sections, the upper and lower canyon. You must book a guided tour with a Native Navajo to visit.
The only difference between the two sections is the upper canyon is wider at the base creating stunning light beams inside. All in all, the upper canyon is more expensive with larger crowds but is perfect if you’re interested in photography and capturing the light beams. The lower canyon is less expensive with small crowds and you are still able to capture stunning photos, without the light beams.
Visiting the Antelope canyon is the perfect day trip from Las Vegas or a pit stop while road tripping! Find accommodations nearby at Page or Powell Lake, snap a photo at Horseshoe bend, or continue exploring by driving to Zion National Park or the Grand Canyon. Both of which are roughly two hours away!
Clearwater Beach, FL
Recognized as one of the best beaches in Florida, Clearwater is the ultimate destination for pure relaxation! The soft white sandy beaches, crystal clear shallow waters, and a large array of adventurous water sports entice every traveler to stay a little longer.
Clearwater has an abundance of accommodations with views of the ocean, small shops, cafes and restaurants, a lively downtown with festivals, and a marine aquarium that’s definitely worth the visit! Best of all, the beach is spacious and clean. It’s the perfect getaway for families, solo travelers, and group trips!
Lake Tahoe, NV
Best known for its beaches and ski resorts, Lake Tahoe is a freshwater lake settled in between the border of Nevada and California. A two hour trip from Sacramento or a flight into Reno, the lake is easily accessible. The lake is home to various activities including hiking, golfing, biking, boating, fishing, skiing, shopping, and plenty of water sports. Whether you’re relaxing on the beach, skiing in the winter, enjoying the energetic nightlife and casinos, Lake Tahoe hosts every type of traveler year-round.
Keep in mind, South Lake Tahoe is busier than the Northside and offers visitors more activities; however, if you’re keen on some more peace and quiet, the Northside may be a great option for you!
New York, NY
There is something for every traveler in the big apple, the city that never sleeps! New York is full of diverse cultures that will open your mind to experience new things. Usually, every traveler has a different reason for visiting New York, and choosing what to see and do is difficult as the possibilities are endless!
Here are a few ideas: stand in awe of the architecture both old and new, attend a sports event, eat your way through the city as its home to some of the best chefs, visit one of many art museums, shop til you drop on fifth avenue, see a broadway show, stroll through Central Park, grab a drink one of many rooftops and end your night in the vibrant nightlife. If you’re a first-timer, be sure to visit Times Square, the 9/11 Memorial, Ellis Island and the Empire State Building – all of these attractions are worth it!
Savannah’s southern charm and hospitality is the last destination on our list! This city is bursting with rich history and preserved architecture. Stroll along the Savannah River, stop at the best local and antique shops, and dive into the local breweries or re-energize at a local coffee shop. Walking through Forsyth Park, gazing at the stunning Spanish “moss” trees, and fully indulging in the delicious Southern food are must do’s on your list as well!
Savannah offers a variety of accommodations from small cottages and classic bed and breakfast inns to luxury collection hotels. Visit Tybee Island for a relaxing beach day or if you’re feeling brave, book a ghost tour and see if Savannah upholds its reputation for being haunted!
Related: How I’m Planning for Future Travel
Which US travel bucket list destination are you most excited about? Have you visited any of the places on my list?
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