A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

The Best Bucket List Idea in Every State

What are the best places to visit in the USA? We rounded up the top bucket list ideas for each and every state (and D.C.)!

Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.

Woman watching hot air balloons
Joshua Herrera/Getty Images

Every state has at least one

You can likely rattle off a list of memorable places and once-in-a-lifetime experiences in populous states like New York, California and Florida, but every single state in the country has a bucket list attraction, experience or incredible sight worth seeing. The best places to visit in the USA could be home to the most popular tourist attractions or even the best pumpkin patches, but what they usually have in common is that they make for the best weekend getaways. So whether you’ll make use of the top RV parks in every state or dreamy hotel rooms with stunning views, here are the best bucket list ideas in every state (and Washington, D.C.)!

US Space And Rocket Center, Space Camp
Jeff Greenberg/Getty Images

Alabama: Attend a space camp for adults

Harness your inner astronaut at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, one of Alabama’s hidden gems. This Smithsonian affiliate museum has an extensive collection of artifacts, rockets, spacecrafts and simulators. Still want more? Sign up for the center’s three-day Adult Space Academy to live out your out-of-this-world childhood fantasies. You’ll construct and launch model rockets, learn the history of spaceflight, participate in a ropes course and simulate a moon walk.

Don’t miss: The chance to train in an astronaut simulator and 1/6th gravity chair!

a person in a snowy landscape with a camera on a tripod viewing the green skies from the northern lights
NotYourAverageBear/getty images

Alaska: View the northern lights

Aurora borealis may be the most stunning natural light show on earth. In the United States, the spectacle appears most frequently over Fairbanks and Anchorage, Alaska. Go for a weeklong trip to increase your chances of seeing it. But before you pack up for Alaska, make sure you follow this travel checklist.

Don’t miss: Visiting between September and early April. It’ll be very cold, but it’ll also be your best chance to see the northern lights in Alaska.

man hiking the Grand Canyon in Arizona with a view of the Colorado river below
IlexImage/getty images

Arizona: Hike the Grand Canyon

What would these bucket list ideas be without a trip to the Grand Canyon, one of the best places to visit in the USA? Head to the popular South Rim of the canyon for a quick visit and those famous photo opportunities. For now, check out these gorgeous photos of America’s national parks.

Don’t miss: Visiting the more secluded North Rim of the Grand Canyon for a more involved, active trip. But be aware that full services are available only from May 15 through Oct. 15.

painted sign for crater of diamonds state park
PaaschPhotographye/getty images

Arkansas: Dig for diamonds

For a small fee, you can search a 37-acre field that is the eroded surface of a volcanic crater, looking for precious stones at the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. This is one of the few places in the world where you can search for real diamonds in their original volcanic source. This is also the spot where the world’s most perfect diamond and North America’s largest diamond were both found. So, if you’re lucky, you might leave the state with some serious bling. Before you travel the 50 states, try learning their mottos.

Don’t miss: Camping on-site, and splashing and sliding at the Diamond Springs Water Park after a day of searching for valuable gems.

looking up at redwood trees In California
lucky-photographer/getty images

California: See the tallest tree on earth

Stand in the impressive shadows of the tallest trees on earth at Redwood National & State Parks, one of the best places to visit in the USA. The tallest tree here (and in the world) stretches 359 feet into the air. The parks also offer nearly 40 miles of stunning, rugged Pacific Ocean coastline, making the Redwood Highway one of the best road trips in America.

Don’t miss: Trekking through the magical Fern Canyon (wear waterproof hiking boots) and spending time on the rough and wild Gold Bluffs Beach.

Umphreys McGee In Concert At Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado
Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images

Colorado: See a concert at Red Rocks

The most stunning natural amphitheater in the country is just outside Denver. It’s the most gorgeous venue to see and hear live music under the stars. With a diverse concert lineup—think special nights with superstars like Halsey, three nights every summer with The Avett Brothers, collabs like Josh Groban with the Colorado Symphony, and classic rock legends like Chicago with Brian Wilson—Red Rocks has something for everyone. It’s one of the best places to visit in the USA if you love live music. You also need to experience the Million Dollar Highway while visiting Colorado.

Don’t miss: Hiking Red Rocks Park during the day, or the chance to join a morning yoga class in the amphitheater every Saturday in the summertime.

historic train ride in Connecticut
CynthiaAnnF/Getty images

Connecticut: Take a riverboat ride to the past

Experience the untouched Connecticut River Valley the way Americans did a century ago—via vintage steam train and riverboat. This two-part, two-and-a-half-hour train and boat tour through the countryside passes through (among other highlights) the undeveloped Selden Neck State Park, which is accessible only by water. The tour is especially gorgeous during the autumn, when the leaves reach peak color. If you’re traveling during the summer, pair your bucket list trips with the most spectacular summer hikes.

Don’t miss: Spotting a bald eagle. February and March are the months you’re most likely to see the national bird.

boardwalk by the brandy wine river with a city skyline in the background
DenisTangneyJr/getty images

Delaware: Float down the Brandywine River

While in America’s smallest state, partake in the great American pastime of floating down rivers with not a care in the world. Go with friends and park one car at Thompson’s Bridge in Wilmington, and then launch your kayak, canoe or inflatable tubes by the Brandywine River Museum (technically across the state border in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania). Bring along a drink or two for the calm, two-hour float on this natural lazy river.

Don’t miss: Chilling with your canine! This is one of the bucket list trips that is dog-friendly, so bring your pup for a float too, and discover the most popular dog breeds in each state.

Sun rising illuminates the Jefferson Memorial and Tidal Basin with bright pink cherry blossoms framing the monument
Steven Heap/Getty Images

District of Columbia: Cherish the cherry blossoms

Washington, D.C., is blanketed in pink each spring, when its thousands of cherry trees come into bloom. The National Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates their beauty and honors the friendship between the United States and Japan, the country that gifted us these flowering trees. The festival currently spans four weekends and brings more than 1.5 million people to the capital. Make sure you also visit these other places that are beautiful in the spring.

Don’t miss: Flying a kite on the National Mall!

Airboat in lake at Everglades National Park against blue sky
Westend61/Getty Images

Florida: Navigate the Everglades

Assuming you’ve already hit up Walt Disney World, use your next trip to the Sunshine State to visit the Everglades. This unique ecosystem, known for its wildlife, is home to crocodiles, panthers and a host of birds. Airboat tour guides will tell you everything you need to know while you visit this natural wonderland safely. After you explore the Everglades, head to the best Florida beaches locals want to keep a secret.

Don’t miss: Going slogging in the summer with a park ranger! Wearing long pants and plenty of bug spray, you’ll literally walk through the swamp’s muck, water and dirt with a ranger to learn about and see more of the only subtropical wilderness in America.

a road surrounded by Spanish moss covered trees in Georgia
Bradford-Martin/getty images

Georgia: See the Spanish moss

According to Southern Living, Jones Street in Savannah, Georgia, is the “most beautiful street in North America.” Savannah is one of the best places to visit in the USA, and in addition to being known for its hanging Spanish moss and historic town squares, the city also has more than a few ghost stories. Make sure you check out the most haunted cities in America.

Don’t miss: Walking through and photographing the famous Bonaventure Cemetery for more moss-canopied beauty in Savannah.

American flag fluttering on a memorial building, USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii Islands, USA
Glowimages/Getty Images

Hawaii: Pay your respects at Pearl Harbor

Pay tribute to the tragic events of Dec. 7, 1941, a date that lives in infamy, by visiting the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument at Honolulu, Hawaii. The USS Arizona Memorial, accessible only by boat, marks the final resting spot for 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors and Marines killed on the ship.

Don’t miss: Standing on the deck of the USS Missouri, the exact spot where the Japanese officially surrendered, ending World War II.

gondolas going up a mountain in Idaho, pine trees in the foreground and a snowy mountain peak in the distance
frwooar/getty images

Idaho: Take a scenic gondola ride

Reaching the top of Silver Mountain in Kellogg, Idaho, would ordinarily be a trek. But with the help of a gondola lift, the ascent is a bit easier. This picturesque 3.1-mile journey is the longest gondola ride in North America. Once you reach the top, you’re free to bike, eat, tube or just breathe in the crisp mountain air. Looking to save a few bucks on your vacation? These are the cheapest months to visit all 50 states.

Don’t miss: Eating at elevation. Every Friday during the summer in 2022, your scenic Idaho gondola ride includes live music with a finger-licking mountaintop barbecue during the weekly Ride & Dine event.

shadows from the city looking down on the water from the John Hancock center
Grant Faint/Getty Images

Illinois: Sip a drink 96 stories in the sky

Enjoy the most breathtaking bucket list views of the Windy City with a cocktail in your hand. Head up to the 96th floor of historic 875 North Michigan Ave. (formerly the John Hancock Center) to the Signature Lounge, a floor above the ritzy Signature Room Restaurant. Do you know why Chicago is called the Windy City? The reason may surprise you.

Don’t miss: Enjoying the sunset with drinks and appetizers in a casual setting on the 96th floor in America’s Second City.

NASCAR Cup Series Verizon 200 at the Brickyard
Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Indiana: Hit the bricks

Even if you don’t like auto racing, experiencing an Indianapolis 500 race weekend is like condensing everything that’s great about America into one Midwestern capital city. There’s music, food, drinks, a sense of community, a citywide celebration, fireworks, a parade and the most boisterously loud sporting events in the world.

Don’t miss: The 500 Festival, a monthlong celebration each and every May. Highlights include one of the nation’s largest half-marathons, mini-marathons for kids, breakfast at the Brickyard and a massive parade.

short train ride up a hill in Iowa
olange_Z/getty images

Iowa: Ride the shortest railroad in the world

The 296-foot-long Fenelon Place Elevator in Dubuque, Iowa, is said to be the shortest and steepest scenic railway in the world. The elevator was built in 1882 for private use and opened to the public two years later. From the top, you’ll see Dubuque’s historic business district, the Mississippi River and three states. And make sure to add these best train rides to take across America to your bucket list ideas.

Don’t miss: Taking in the views! This bucket list item in Iowa only operates from April 1 though Nov. 30, and tickets can be purchased only with cash.

underground tunnel in Kansas
ver0nicka/getty images

Kansas: Venture 65 stories below ground

Strataca, the Kansas Underground Salt Museum in Hutchinson, Kansas, is built within one of the world’s largest deposits of rock salt and happens to be one of our favorite bucket list ideas. To get there, you’ll take an electric tram 650 feet below ground. Once there, you’ll learn about the Kansas salt beds and the history of mining in the state. The underground vaults also guard original camera negatives of many movies, including Gone with the Wind, as well as valuable documents from America and other countries.

Don’t miss: The walls of the Permian Room, deep beneath the Kansas surface, act as ancient scrolls, revealing the earth’s secrets formed by the Permian Sea.

148th Kentucky Derby horses racing
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Kentucky: Bet on horses while wearing a fancy hat

Grab your most outlandish hat and some money, and head to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby! This historic race, also known as the greatest two minutes in sports, is the ultimate bucket list item for sports fans. It has been run every year since 1875 and is held annually on the first Saturday in May. If horse racing isn’t your style, the Kentucky Derby Festival, which takes place during the two weeks leading up to the race, is bound to have something up your alley.

Don’t miss: Drinking a mint julep, one of the most famous drinks in America, best enjoyed on Derby Day in one of the best places to visit in the USA.

loats in the Rex parade roll along St. Charles avenue on Mardi Gras Day, February 20, 2007 in New Orleans, Louisiana
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Louisiana: Experience Mardi Gras

Depending on the date of Easter, Mardi Gras can fall on any Tuesday between February and March. But it’s not just a one-day affair—parades and parties take place up to two weeks ahead of the big day. For a more low-key experience in New Orleans, plan your trip around later springtime festivities. Love to party like they do in NOLA? Check out the best festivals and fairs in each of the 50 states.

Don’t miss: Jamming to the sounds of the renowned Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Preservation Hall, located just off Bourbon Street, is one of the most legendary music venues in the country, and it’s well worth spending an hour or so there to check out the “house band.”

West Quoddy Head Lighthouse in Maine
John Greim/Getty Images

Maine: Visit the easternmost point of the country

Of course you need to eat some lobster in Maine, and you can do that almost anywhere along the coast, but the true bucket list item in this great state is the chance to head to the most eastern point of the continental United States, to a site with a very directionally confusing name. The West Quoddy Head Lighthouse isn’t just picturesque—it will also allow you to say that you’ve gone as far east in America as possible.

Don’t miss: The lighthouse visitor center opens on Memorial Day, making summer the ideal time to visit Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, and then drive two more hours northeast to West Quoddy Head.

sailboats on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland
Greg Pease/Getty Images

Maryland: Spend a day on the water with the Navy

What better place to go for a sail than in the sailing capital of the United States and the home of the U.S. Navy. Located in the heart of the Chesapeake Bay, Annapolis has some of the best sailing conditions in the country. Book yourself on a leisurely sail around the Bay on a fine summer day, and check off this naval bucket list item in Maryland.

Don’t miss: The annual Antique & Classic Boat Festival & The Arts at Navy Point, held each June, features classic wooden boats, fiberglass vessels, vintage racers and other antique boats.

sphraner/getty images

Massachusetts: Head to Halloweentown

In the days leading up to Halloween, the historic town of Salem, Massachusetts, throws the ultimate bash. Venture to the spooky site of the Salem Witch Trials for parades, costume balls, historical tours and haunted houses. If you’re struggling to find a nice (and inexpensive) place to stay, check out the top cheap Airbnb rentals in all 50 states.

Don’t miss: Visiting the Witch House, home of Judge Jonathan Corwin and the only structure left in Salem with direct ties to the famed 1692 Salem witch trials.

Black Bear in a refuge during summer eating food from a rock
John_Brueske/Getty Images

Michigan: Spend a day with rescued bears

Way up in the U.P. (Upper Peninsula) of Northern Michigan is the home of 40 rescued and orphan bears and bear cubs, spread over two huge habitats. Oswald’s Bear Ranch in Newberry, Michigan, has a long history of protecting North American black bears, and it allows nature and wildlife lovers to safely experience the power and beauty of bears.

Don’t miss: Check off a huge bucket list item in Michigan when you get a rare photo taken with a baby bear cub!

dog sledding through a snowy forest
wanderluster/getty images

Minnesota: Ride a dogsled

Ely, Minnesota—the so-called sled dog capital of the country, with more sled dog trip providers than anywhere else—is sure to ignite your inner adventurer. Bundle up and ride a dogsled across the unspoiled terrain, spanning more than a million acres of pristine forest with lakes, rivers and wildlife. You can even spend the night in the great outdoors if you’re up for it. Next, read more travel hot spots you definitely haven’t heard of … yet.

Don’t miss: While you can dogsled yourself, if you visit in February you can also watch the WolfTrack Classic Sled Dog Race and enjoy the festivities that accompany this family-friendly annual event.

close up of A street vendor selling tamales
BRYAN R. SMITH/Getty Images

Mississippi: Take the tamale tour

Experience a story of immigration, food and culture as you learn about the history of the tamale along the Mississippi Delta. This spicy tale dates back to the end of the Civil War, and the tour will tempt your taste buds as you learn about the impact of migrant workers who came to Mississippi to work and, in the process, introduced a beloved culinary dish to the South.

Don’t miss: The Delta Hot Tamale is similar to the more famous Mexican tamale, but it’s smaller and has a delicious twist you must taste!

historic sign in Missouri by the river
brians101/getty images

Missouri: Celebrate this state’s literary history

Each Fourth of July, Mark Twain’s hometown of Hannibal, Missouri, celebrates Tom Sawyer Day. The event is complete with a parade, frog-jumping contest and fence-painting competition—a uniquely literary way to celebrate this American holiday and author.

Don’t miss: Be sure to enter your kids in the “Tomboy Sawyer Contest” and then have them compete in the Tricycle Races!

East Tunnel of The Going To The Sun Road in glacier national park in Montana
Joe Wiggins/Getty Images

Montana: Go to the sun

The most magnificent stretch of twisty road in America is only fully drivable for a couple of months each year, making this bucket list item in one of the best places to visit in the USA more of a challenge to plan, schedule and execute. But the payoff of driving Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park is massive—offering the chance to see powerful cascades, wildlife, glaciers and so much more.

Don’t miss: Visiting in the peak of summer, when the snow has been fully cleared and the entire 51 miles of Going-to-the-Sun Road are open.

large flock of Sandhill Cranes in Flight
BirdImages/Getty Images

Nebraska: See America’s Serengeti

About 80% of the world’s sandhill crane population descends upon Nebraska’s Platte River during their spring migration. While Nebraska is a flyover state for many people, cranes make it a point to land in this state. The natural event brings in thousands of bird watchers. Make sure, at least once in your life, to be one of them. This experience is as close as you can get to being in the Serengeti without leaving the country. If you’re traveling during the warmer months, check out these other top vacation spots for summer travel in the United States.

Don’t miss: More than 600,000 cranes rest and refuel in Nebraska’s Platte Valley every spring (March and early April).

Dolby Theatre in las sagas Nevada
Handout/Getty Images

Nevada: See a massive star in a small venue on the Vegas Strip

Whether you’re a fan of classic musical acts like Celine Dion and Kiss or current chart toppers like Adele and Keith Urban, Las Vegas offers the chance to check off the rarest of bucket list items: seeing a massive band or superstar solo musical artist in a far more intimate venue than they would normally perform in around the world.

Don’t miss: Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars and Anderson Paak) have residencies scheduled throughout the year at the Dolby Theater inside the Park MGM.

young boy sliding down Attitash Mountain
Robert-Dant/getty images

New Hampshire: Ride up, and down, Attitash Mountain

Go for a mile-long slide (the longest of its kind in North America!) through mountains and trees at Attitash Mountain Resort in Bartlett, New Hampshire. The experience begins with a chairlift up the mountain and ends with a twisting and turning slide back down.

Don’t miss: The chance to drive up the legendary Mt. Washington in your car, then buy one of those ubiquitous “This Car Climbed Mt. Washington” bumper stickers. It’s only an hour from Attitash.

The boardwalk in New Jersey
littleny/getty images

New Jersey: Stroll the boardwalk

The Jersey Shore’s iconic boardwalk is packed with rides, carnival games and saltwater taffy. Rent a local beach house or book a room at a nearby motel, and spend a week or long weekend down the shore playing beach games, riding roller coasters and eating fried Oreos. Yum!

Don’t miss: Eat fresh seafood at the Lobster House on Fisherman’s Wharf in idyllic Cape May, New Jersey, only a few miles from the hectic boardwalk but a (delicious) world away.

a large gathering of hot air balloons above Albuquerque in New Mexico
carterdayne/getty images

New Mexico: Go up, up and away in Albuquerque

Every October, more than 500 hot-air balloons ascend over Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the annual International Balloon Fiesta. The balloons create a vibrant, colorful scene in the sky as they float up, up and away. In addition to the balloons, the festival offers live entertainment, concessions and fireworks.

Don’t miss: The art of chainsaw sculpture is also on display, with talented carvers creating masterpieces out of lumber, live and in person at the Fiesta.

time square during New Years eve celebration in New York City

New York: Experience a NYC NYE

Sure, you’ll have to get creative about relieving yourself as you camp out for a prime spot. But watching the ball drop, hearing musical performances and being among the throngs of people eager to say goodbye to an old year and greet a new one is one New York bucket list item everyone should do at least once.

Don’t miss: Times Square is busy 365 days a year, but on Dec. 31, it’s a sea of humanity. Arrive a few days early if you want to be at the heart of the action on New Year’s Eve!

old mansion in North Carolina with a large lawn of green grass and blue sky
Rauluminat/getty images

North Carolina: Visit the largest home in the country

For a healthy dose of quintessential Southern charm, head to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. This 250-room residence is the largest privately owned home in the country, with more than four acres of floor space and 75 acres of formal gardens.

Don’t miss: Rotating special art exhibits featuring the work of Monet, Da Vinci and more are a big draw, but the Biltmore Gardens Railway, included in your admission, will delight the young and young-at-heart. Handcrafted displays feature replicas of iconic landmarks from around the world, and the model train that traverses this miniature world is charming.

North Dakota: See the Medora Musical

The Medora Musical takes place every night in summer at the outdoor Burning Hills Amphitheater in Medora, North Dakota. The Western-style variety show is dedicated to the legacy of President Theodore Roosevelt and his love for the Dakota Badlands.

Don’t miss: A preshow buffet dinner with a view, just a short walk from the amphitheater. Chefs at Pitchfork Steak Fondue put on their own show by loading several steaks at a time onto pitchforks and cooking them fondue-style in hot oil, while you bask in the sight of the Badlands from high atop a bluff.

Ohio historic marker in front of the rock and roll hall of fame, the birthplace of rock n roll
Dwight-Nadig/getty images

Ohio: Walk the halls of fame

Learn about your favorite icons at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, located about an hour apart in Cleveland and Akron, respectively. Ohio has even more hall of fame sites, including the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame and Museum in Euclid, Ohio, and the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton.

Don’t miss: If your favorite bands or players get the nod, you can buy tickets to see the induction ceremonies at both halls of fame.

Route 66 Museum at night in Oklahoma
ullstein bild Dtl./Getty Images

Oklahoma: Drive a historic route

Get your kicks on Oklahoma’s 400-mile stretch of Route 66. On your ride, you’ll pass historic towns, retro diners and hundreds of roadside attractions. Stop at the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton to learn more about America’s most famous road.

Don’t miss: Stopping for a photo at Lucille’s Service Station in Hydro, Oklahoma. Built in 1929, this is one of only two service stations of its kind—a two-story building with the owner’s home located above the pumps—left along the state’s long stretch of famous asphalt. There’s no gas to be had here anymore, so make sure your tank is full before embarking on your Route 66 road trip!

one brown and one white Alpaca with more alpacas in the background
MayaCom/Getty Images

Oregon: Have a picnic with alpacas

While Crater Lake, America’s deepest, is a national park worth a ride, bike, boat ride and hike, the newest bucket list item in the great state of Oregon is an idyllic picnic with alpacas. At the Original Alpaca Picnic Experience at Flying Dutchman Alpacas, an alpaca farm in the charming town of Bend, Oregon, you’ll sit in a field and enjoy a gourmet meal while adorable alpacas curiously wander about. If you’re lucky, a few may even want to cuddle with you!

Don’t miss: Add a professional photography session with your family, friends, kids and the alpacas! Wasim Muklashy, a photographer and part owner of this unique picnic spot, will capture your experience with a stunning set of images you’ll cherish forever.

Fallingwater House Frank Lloyd Wright in the forest above a waterfall
picture alliance/Getty Images

Pennsylvania: Experience architectural greatness

Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece home Fallingwater, just a short drive from Pittsburgh, is the bucket list item to check off in Pennsylvania. The expansive grounds afford the chance to stretch your legs and take a gorgeous walk beneath a canopy of trees, and the home and water flowing beneath it will take your breath away.

Don’t miss: Hiking the short distance down to the prime spot to take your own version of the iconic photograph of Fallingwater, with the waterfall flowing in the foreground.

Rhode Island: Have a drink at America’s oldest bar

The White Horse Tavern in Newport, Rhode Island, is said to be the oldest bar in America. Built in 1652, it was a regular haunt for colonists, British soldiers, Hessian mercenaries, pirates, sailors and Founding Fathers.

Don’t miss: Have your historic drink in August and pair your bucket list beverage with a weekend at the Newport Folk Festival, on the site where Bob Dylan plugged in many decades ago and changed the course of folk and rock ‘n’ roll history forever.

South of the Border at night with glowing lights and a faded sunset sky
William Koplitz/Getty Images

South Carolina: Go “South of the Border”

Arguably the grandfather of the American roadside attraction, the kitschy tourist hot spot known as South of the Border has been going strong, and growing in size, for more than 70 years. What started in 1949 as a humble beer stand on the border of dry counties in North Carolina is now a small city unto itself. It’s packed with bars, restaurants and an ice cream parlor, loads of stores, a 200-foot observation tower, a small amusement park, an arcade and even a reptile display with snakes, crocodiles and more.

Don’t miss: South of the Border is open 24/7, making it a key pit stop on any East Coast road trip. And when you’re there, you’ll definitely want to get a tamale at Pedro’s Hot Tamale. For road trippers, it’s almost as American as apple pie!

Bisons walking through a field in custer state park, south dakota
silvia cozzi/Getty Images

South Dakota: Enjoy a bison traffic jam

There is abundant natural beauty in the American West, but one of the lesser-known pleasures—and most deserving bucket list items—in the state of South Dakota is a drive through Custer State Park. You’ll see many animals and, if you’re lucky, get stuck in the coolest traffic jam in the country! Bison often wander out into the road and just … stop. Since you can’t go anywhere, you might as well take a ton of photos of the bison traffic jam!

Don’t miss: Summertime is best in the Black Hills, when you can easily see Mount Rushmore and Badlands National Park beneath blue skies while enjoying warm weather.

downtown street signs Nashville TN at night
chapin31/getty images

Tennessee: Experience music history in Nashville

There’s a lot of music history in Music City, but for a true taste of its roots, head to RCA Studio B. Known as the birthplace of the “Nashville Sound,” it’s where legends like Roy Orbison, Charlie Daniels, The Everly Brothers, Dolly Parton and many more have recorded some of the biggest hits of all time. But it’s the King who truly put this unassuming studio on the map. Elvis recorded more than 200 songs at RCA Studio B, including “Love Letters” and “It’s Now or Never.” Get ready for goosebumps when the tour guide turns out the lights to mimic the middle of the night, when Elvis sang and spoke on “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”

Don’t miss: Stand on the X in the studio to be in the exact spot where Elvis recorded his vocal tracks.

looking up at an empty Ferris wheel that says 'Texas'
earleliason/getty images

Texas: Visit the State Fair of Texas

To understand the history, culture and personality of the Lone Star State, visit its massive state fair, where the saying “Everything’s Bigger in Texas” is certainly true! The 24-day extravaganza in October features food, rides, an auto show and the annual college football rivalry game between Oklahoma and Texas.

Don’t miss: Rodeo is back at the historic Fair Park Coliseum, home to the 1959 Original National Finals Rodeo. Best of all, each event is included for free with your fair ticket.

Bryce Canyon, Navajo Loop Trail in Utah
Ed Freeman/Getty Images

Utah: Hike Bryce Canyon National Park

The skies here are some of the clearest in the country, the orange rocks are dazzling and the hiking at Bryce is easier and more manageable than at the Grand Canyon. You can even take the kids for a fun, stress-free day hike down into the stunning canyon.

Don’t miss: Twice a month, Bryce Canyon National Park holds free full-moon hikes that are bucket list–worthy for outdoorsy people and stargazers alike.

Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream factory and corporate headquarters in Vermont
John Greim/Getty Images

Vermont: Taste test an iconic sundae

Take the Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour in Waterbury, Vermont, and order the Vermonster Sundae. You’re in for 20 scoops of ice cream, four bananas, three cookies, a brownie, hot fudge, walnuts and an array of other toppings. Go hungry, bring friends and check off this delicious bucket list item in one of the best places to visit in the USA.

Don’t miss: Ben & Jerry’s promises a return of their Free Cone Day during the second week in April, when you and your kids can score free ice cream from this iconic creamery. If you’re an ice cream aficionado, you might want to check out the best ice cream shops in every other state too.

Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson
The Washington Post/Getty Images

Virginia: Understand America’s complicated past at Jefferson’s Monticello

It’s a plantation, it’s Thomas Jefferson’s home, it’s a site of complicated American history. Monticello can and should be visited and explored by 21st-century people trying to grapple with and learn from the third U.S. president (and author of the Declaration of Independence) and the slaves he owned. Of all the bucket list items on this list, none is more impactful on a human level than a day spent at Monticello in Virginia.

Don’t miss: Jefferson enslaved more than 600 people throughout his lifetime. During a visit to Monticello, you will learn about the men, women and children who built this famous home, planted crops, worked in the gardens and helped raise Jefferson’s children.

Bavarian style village located near Cascade Mountains in Leavenworth, Washington
Connie Coleman/Getty Images

Washington: Get in the holiday spirit in this story town

The cozy town of Leavenworth, tucked into the side of the Cascade Mountains, might be the ultimate holiday getaway. The charming neighborhood is modeled after a German village and hosts a stunning Christmas Lighting Festival, as well as one of the largest Oktoberfest celebrations outside of Germany.

Don’t miss: Every day in December is Christmas in Leavenworth, with gingerbread houses, Santa Claus photo ops, gift wrapping stations, letters to Santa and more.

New River Gorge Bridge
6381380/Getty Images

West Virginia: Experience “Bridge Day”

On the third Saturday in October, the 876-foot-tall New River Gorge Bridge in Fayette County (now a part of New River Gorge National Park) shuts down to traffic and turns into a launch point for more than 800 BASE jumpers. The event brings in nearly 80,000 spectators and a hundred vendor booths.

Don’t miss: The view of the gorge, bridge, trees and leaves in late autumn is positively stunning. Want to take a photograph to frame and hang in your home? This West Virginia bucket list item is your best bet.

Lake Superior Sea Caves Dark
earleliason/Getty Images

Wisconsin: Tour the sea caves

Wisconsin’s Apostle Island sea caves are accessible via kayak in the summer and by foot in winter (when the lake freezes over sufficiently). Visit in summer for a secluded paddle, or in winter for frozen waterfalls and icicles. If you’re a beach lover, read up on the best beach vacations in the United States.

Don’t miss: Summertime in the caves presents a kaleidoscope of color, with bright red sandstone cliff faces, the brilliant blue lake and lush green forests, giving you a picturesque backdrop for your active adventure at sea.

Bison & Snowmobiles, Winter, Yellowstone NP
Education Images/Getty Images

Wyoming: Snowmobile into Yellowstone

Imagine being one of only a handful of people inside America’s showpiece national park. In wintertime, the only way you can access Yellowstone from the western entrance (which is actually in Montana) is via a snow coach or snowmobile. If you opt for a group tour using snowmobiles, you will have a chance to stand before Old Faithful minus the crowds, perhaps giving you chills (literally). This is one of the best places to visit in the USA at any time of year, but in winter it’s an even bigger bucket list item.

Don’t miss: The chance to see bison with snowflakes on their faces and their breath visible as they slowly wander past your snowmobile. Next, check out the best free tourist attraction in every state.

Additional reporting by Juliana LaBianca.

Jeff Bogle
Jeff Bogle is an Iris Award–winning photographer, avid traveler and English football fanatic who regularly covers travel, culture, cars, health, business, the environment and more for Reader's Digest. He is the proud dad of teen daughters.