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The Ultimate USA Bucketlist

I have been to the USA a few times, but not since I was 20.  Wow, that’s 17 years ago now!!  To help me cope with not being able to travel, I have been dreaming up trips I want to take in the future.  There are so many amazing things to do in the USA, but I’ve picked out just a few of them for my ultimate USA bucketlist.  I’ve split them into activities, attractions and delicious foods, so take a look and let me know if I’ve missed anything major!

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USA Bucketlist Activities

Gamble in a Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada

I truly believe that Vegas is one of those places you have to see before you die. It is an iconic American city that has featured in countless films and TV shows, to the extent that I can’t imagine never going.  It has to be done, although I would probably stick to the quarter slot machines instead of the blackjack tables!  Oh, and the dinner buffet of course.

Las Vegas Nevada - USA Bucketlist Must-Do
Las Vegas Nevada – USA Bucketlist Must-Do

Drive Across the Golden Gate Bridge, California

I will count this as a maybe as apparently, I have done this but I’m ashamed to say I can’t remember!  It was 23 years ago though, so I don’t feel too bad about it.  I do remember sitting in the park at Crissy Field to admire the bridge at a distance, but my mum tells me we did drive across. 

I still love the bridge, and all of San Francisco in fact; I remember visiting creepy Alcatraz and enjoying some Ghirardelli chocolate, which are two other essential things to do in San Francisco!  I would love to go back and explore more.

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Climb the Empire State Building in New York, New York

This is another one I can happily tick off my bucket list.  The Empire State Building is an icon of New York, and although taking a ferry to see the Statue of Liberty is also a must, the views from the Empire State Building are phenomenal.  And you might just see Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan up there if Hollywood films are to be believed….

The view of the Empire State Building above is actually from the Rockefeller Center, I can’t decide which is my favourite view!


Take a Boat Trip at Niagara Falls, New York

The epic Niagara Falls has to be on my USA bucketlist, partly because this is one thing I can already tick off!   The Maid of the Mist boat tour gets up close and personal to Niagara Falls, so much so that you need a waterproof jacket to avoid getting soaked to the skin!  It is one of my favourite travel memories and definitely needs to be on your must-do list.

Niagara Falls - USA Bucketlist
The Maid of the Mist Tour of Niagara Falls – USA Bucketlist (photo from the Canadian Side of the Falls)

Take a Helicopter Ride at the Grand Canyon, Arizona

Obviously!  I mean you can’t have a United States bucket list without the Grand Canyon.  I don’t want to be a cliché, but I have always wanted to take a helicopter ride, and this is the perfect place.  I might need to save up a bit first though!

Listen to Jazz in New Orleans, Louisiana

Some friends of mine used to live in NOLA and hearing them describe Mardi Gras just sounds like the most fun!  Although I could probably manage a day of non-stop partying, even a visit to just listen to some jazz and eat some beignets and gumbo would be good enough for me! 

Go Whale Watching in Alaska

I have been whale watching off the Boston coast, which was incredible, but I’m told that Alaska is the place to go to see Orca and even Blue Whales.  Now that is definitely a USA bucketlist item!  To see these incredible animals in their natural habitat would be an incredible experience.

Whale Watching in Alaska - The Best Things to do in the USA
Whale Watching in Alaska – The Best Things to do in the USA

Spend Halloween at Salem, Massachusetts

Nowhere else does Halloween quite like Americans!  The spookiest place I can think of is Salem, (in)famous for the Salem Witch Trials in the 1690s, or perhaps Sleepy Hollow in New York!  Either way, I’d love to experience a full-on Halloween with trick-or-treating, fancy dress and a good old haunted atmosphere without anything too scary!

Swim with Manatees in Florida

These animals are some of my favourite creatures; chubby, cute and adorable, I would love the chance to swim with them if I could do so without disturbing them.  Unfortunately, they are often injured by boat propellers, so I would need to find a responsible tour company who would show me how to see them without causing them any harm.

Manatee in Florida - USA Bucketlist Dreams
Manatee in Florida – USA Bucketlist Dreams

Run Away from Dinosaurs in Hawaii

I want to see and do everything in Hawaii, but this is one thing that really sticks in my mind thanks to Jurassic Park.  Imagining a herd of dinosaurs evading a T-Rex in a real-life setting just takes me right back to my childhood, and the awe of watching the film for the first time.      

Watch Baseball at Wrigley Field, Chicago Illinois

I chose Wrigley Field as it features in one of my favourite films, The Blues Brothers, but I suppose any baseball game will do.  Just give me a hotdog, a beer and a giant foam hand and I’ll be happy!

Gaze over LA from the Hollywood Sign

Is it true that you can’t go up to the Hollywood sign anymore?  Maybe I can hop over a fence and get up close, or more likely I won’t want to risk arrest and I’ll settle for a view nearby like this one.  I blame Hollywood itself for everyone’s desire to see the sign!!

The Hollywood Sign LA California - USA Attractions
The Hollywood Sign LA California – USA Attractions

Learn to Ski in Aspen, Colorado

I’ve never been skiing, aside from one day at a dry Ski Slope in Lancashire!  So, what better place to do it than Aspen, where the rich and famous (and Dumb and Dumber) flock to the fancy resorts to enjoy the snow.  I would probably break my leg on the first day, but hey, at least it will be an experience!

Take a Ride at the Hot Air Balloon Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Aside from the fact that I can’t even spell Albuquerque without the help of spellcheck, a hot-air balloon ride among all of those balloons in the sky sounds like a dream. 

Hot Air Balloons in Alberquerque New Mexico
Hot Air Balloons in Alberquerque New Mexico

Walk in the Footsteps of Dinosaurs in Holyoke, Massachusetts

I can’t be the only person who is fascinated by dinosaurs, although these footprints are the real thing, not computer generated!  It is so crazy to me that you can see footprints of dinosaurs from millions of years ago.  Mind. Blown.

Ride on a Dude Ranch in the Mid-West

Although I kind of ticked this off my American bucketlist when I worked on a leisure ranch in Wisconsin (yep, true story!) I still want to head out west to states such as Wyoming, Montana and Colorado to really ride on a Dude Ranch.  I love horse riding, and to do it in such incredible scenery would be a dream come true.

Get Your Kicks on Route 66
Get Your Kicks on Route 66

Get My Kicks on Route 66, Across the USA

While I’m ticking off all of these USA bucket list items, a road trip down what remains of Route 66 is a wonderful way to explore the country and to realize another dream. 

The ultimate American road trip through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before ending California, has got to be done in an open-top car – although I might cheat and stick with a roof and air-con!  Playing classic tunes on the stereo, I can’t think of a better way to see the States.

USA Bucketlist Attractions

Fall Foliage in New England

Although spring is my favourite time of year, Autumn is a close second, and seeing the glorious Fall colours of the trees in New England is a definite USA bucket list item for me.  I asked some of my fellow travel bloggers for recommendations of where is the best place to see fall foliage in the USA, and they came up with some great ideas, from New England to New Mexico!  

READ MORE: Where to See Fall Foliage in the USA

New England Fall Foliage - USA Bucket List
New England Fall Foliage – USA Bucket List

Disney World, Florida

As much for adults as it is for kids, Walt Disney World Resort in Florida is an incredible experience.  It ain’t cheap, but it certainly is bucket-list worthy.  As a child, there is nothing more magical than having your photo taken with your favourite Disney characters and whizzing around themed rollercoasters.  While you’re in town, Universal Studios is another one I heartily recommend!

Monument Valley, Utah & Arizona

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is home to some of the most jaw-dropping scenery in the United States.  It has featured in so many Westerns, and other movies but to see it in real life has to be on my bucket list.

I am also interested to learn more about the Navajo, and apparently there is a restaurant here which specializes in both native Navajo and American cooking, which sounds intriguing!

Monument Valley Utah - Must-See Places in America
Monument Valley Utah – Must-See Places in America

Graceland, Memphis Tennessee

A trip to Graceland is a must for music fans from all over the world.  Elvis was the Kind of Rock and Roll and blazed a trail for musicians and modern music, so I would love to learn more about him. 

Brooklyn Bridge in New York, New York

I admit, this is totally one for the ‘Gram, but that gorgeous shot of Brooklyn Bridge has got to be done while I’m in New York. 

When I visited New York I was 19 years old, it was my first solo trip and as a fresh-faced teenager who was afraid to go out after dark and who couldn’t drink, I had no clue what I was doing.  So I’d love the chance to go back and “do” New York properly, including having a cosmopolitan at a fancy bar!

Brooklyn Bridge New York at Sunset - USA Bucket List
Brooklyn Bridge New York at Sunset – USA Bucket List

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

Everything I’ve read about Mount Rushmore says that it is smaller than you might expect, but this iconic sight has been in more films than I can shake a stick at so I definitely want to see it!  *Edit July 2020: I only recently became aware that the presidents are carved onto a rock in the Black Hills which are sacred to the Lakota Sioux – before visiting please do some reading about the history and controversy surrounding the sculpture.*  

The Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC

I have been here too, many moons ago, but I would like to go back.  Back when I first visited, I was impressed by the huge Lincoln statue and the view over the water of the Reflecting Pool to the Washington Monument.  

Now I understand more about American history and politics, to see where Martin Luther King Jr said: “I have a Dream” would have new significance for me. 

Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Old Faithful is probably the most famous geyser in the world.  It has erupted every 44 minutes to two hours since 2000, so one of the best things to do in the USA has to be to watch Old Faithful spew boiling water 50 metres into the air.

Old Faithful Erupting at Yellowstone National Park
Old Faithful Erupting at Yellowstone National Park

The Northern Lights, Alaska

This is a no-brainer.  I can’t quite get my head around the vastness of Alaska and the cold environment, but seeing the Northern Lights would make it all worthwhile.  One day I will do it!

Sequoia National Park, California

Aren’t trees amazing?  Tall trees even more so, and Sequoia National Park is home to the General Sherman Tree, the largest tree on Earth.  Five of the ten largest trees in the world grow in the Giant Forest within the park.  What more reason do you need to add this to your list of must-see places in the USA?   

The Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park, California
The Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park, California

USA Bucketlist Eats

You didn’t think I’d write about a bucketlist trip to the USA and not include some of the mouth-watering food on offer?  As a passionate foodie, there are some dishes so legendary I have to include them on my American bucket list.

Philly Cheese Steak, Philadelphia Pennsylvania

These steak and cheese sandwiches sound amazing, and I can’t wait to try one!

Clam Chowder in a Sourdough Bowl, San Francisco California

Although clam chowder is also popular in New England, I remember having it on the piers at San Francisco, served up in a bowl of sourdough bread.  YUM!

San Francisco Clam Chowder in a Sourdough Bowl - USA Food Bucketlist
San Francisco Clam Chowder in a Sourdough Bowl – USA Food Bucketlist

Lobster, Maine

Need I say more?  New England is famous for its fresh seafood, so a juicy lobster has to be on my foodie USA bucket list.

Buffalo Chicken Wings, Buffalo New York


Deep Dish Pizza, Chicago Illinois

I usually prefer my pizza to be thin and crispy, but with Chicago pizza, the deeper the better. 

Chicago Deep Dish Pizza - USA Bucketlist Food
Chicago Deep Dish Pizza – USA Bucketlist Food

All of the Tex Mex Food, Texas

I adore Mexican food, so I’m intrigued to try the blend of Tex Mex.  I have to try everything on offer, for research purposes of course.

Cheesecake, New York

Cheesecake is one of my favourite desserts, so I have to try a slice of it in the home of cheesecake, New York.

Chicken and Waffles, Kentucky

I had thought about trying KFC in Kentucky, but I’ve been told that real southern style chicken and waffles will blow any KFC out of the water.  I’m not sure how fried chicken will go with waffles and maple syrup, but who am I to argue! 

Chicken and Waffles - Mouthwatering American Bucketlist Food
Chicken and Waffles – Mouthwatering American Bucketlist Food

Cheese Curds in Wisconsin

Cheese is the best food in the world.  When I was working on that ranch in Wisconsin I became obsessed with cheese curds.  Wisconsin is known as The Cheese State for good reason, and these balls of deep-dried cheese will show you why.

Bagels, New York, New York

Another classic American food, bagels are synonymous with New York.  I love a good bagel, I tried one in London’s Brick Lane filled with salt beef and mustard which was insanely good.  I’m told in New York it’s gotta be cream cheese.  Well ok then, if you insist!


Wow, this post is making me want to head on over to the USA ASAP!  I’m not sure when I will be able to go back, but now I have my definitive USA bucket list, I know exactly where to go.  Do you agree with me?  Are there any other essential things to do in the USA that I have missed?  Please let me know, I don’t want to miss out on anything!   

USA Travel Tips

Before you book your bucketlist vacation in the USA, check out these travel tips to help you plan your trip:

If you’re looking for travel insurance for your trip to Ireland, get a quote now from World Nomads.

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Last updated: October 8, 2021

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