Looking to travel within the states? Everyone underestimates just how amazing the United States is! Check out these week-long USA itineraries – some of which I’ve done myself and others that are on my long, never-ending bucket list.
But first, close your eyes and think of America. I bet juicy cheeseburgers, baseball games on hot summer nights, old fashioned cowboys, and over-the-top theme parks quickly come to mind.
But what about staggering green peaks, impressive slot canyons, and rugged beaches? Quirky roadside attractions, bewildering national parks, and chic, coastal towns?
And oh, the food. We’ve got real-deal taquerias in San Francisco, famous deep dish pizza in Chicago, clambakes in New England, BBQ in Texas Hill Country, and food trucks in Portland. The list goes on.
I’m always aiming to explore more of my home country, and while I commonly find myself jetting off to faraway destinations, whenever I do stay within the USA, I’m utterly amazed. Always. The sheer beauty, quirkiness, diversity, and overall good time just gets me every time.
Shame on me for always wanting to leave (although Chefchaouen, Kotor, and Bali are always a good idea)!
Thankfully, I’ve had my fair share of traveling within the states. A few of my favorite week-long USA itineraries to date include: island hopping between Oahu, Maui, and Kauai, a road trip through Utah’s stunning national parks, checking out Seattle and Mt. Rainier (my first solo trip ever back in 2015), road tripping around Oregon, time in southern California, and of course a massive road trip down Highway 1 on the west coast! I’ve also visited dozens of additional USA hotspots, but they can’t all be my favorites (or can they?).
So you’ve only got a week or so to travel and don’t feel like lugging yourself (and all your stuff) overseas? I get it, traveling abroad can be wildly exhausting at times. Don’t fret – I’ve compiled some of the best USA itineraries to help fulfill all your wild American dreams (whether you actually live in the states or are coming from elsewhere).
These USA itineraries I’ve put together below are a good mix of road trips, city breaks, and beach hopping – some with train and/or air travel between destinations involved. There’s bound to be something on this list for everyone, you’lllllll see. Now – go take off a week from work, pick out one of these USA itineraries, and start the planning process!
*Note that driving distance and times listed below are for traveling between destinations listed per itinerary. You’ll of course need to get yourself to the area first!
Big thank you to all those who contributed (info below), as I unfortunately haven’t made it to all the destinations on this epic list of US itineraries. Whenever I haven’t visited a place, I always seek out those with much more expertise than myself! Just being real with you guys, as always! 🙂
And now for what you’ve come here for – a USA itinerary for every type of trip and traveler!
1. Utah National Parks Road Trip
- Driving Distance/Time: 19 hours roundtrip (Las Vegas to Las Vegas)
- How to Split up the Time: 1 day per National Park (5 days total) | 1 day Monument Valley | 1 day Page, Arizona
There’s nothing better than a good ole fashioned USA road trip through nature- and thankfully, Utah has some of the best National Parks in the entire country. The National Parks in Utah will blow your mind – and the best way to see all of the Mighty 5? On a Utah road trip of course!
The National Parks in Southern Utah are like no other. From photogenic hoodoos in Bryce Canyon to hiking sandstone arches in Arches National Park, the scenery from all 5 of the Utah National Parks will really blow you away. Combine them with a short detour to Monument Valley and then Page, Arizona, and you’ve got the most perfect (and varied!) week-long road trip.
Note: if you’re feeling ambitious and want to see all five of the National Parks in Utah in just a week, you’ll need to follow a pretty jam-packed itinerary. Don’t let this deter you, but if you’d rather spend more time in each park, choose 2 or 3 of your favorites. I recommend flying into Las Vegas, renting a car, and doing a roundtrip road trip for the week!
→ Read Next: 1 Week Road Trip Through Utah’s National Parks
Additional Resources: 1 Week in Utah Road Trip | Hiking in Bryce Canyon | Tour through Monument Valley | Hiking Angels Landing in Zion |
2. Miami and Florida Keys
- Driving Distance/Time: 166 miles | 4 hours
- How to Split up the Time: 3 days Miami | 4 days road tripping to Key West
MIAMI (3 Days)
Welcome to Miami, bienvenido a miami. << that song instantaneously plays in my head whenever I just think of Miami — anyone else? And hot girls in bathing suits partying in South Beach… haha. No, just me? Okay, let’s move on.
Miami and the Florida Keys can be easily explored in just about a week or so. Plan out 3 days in Miami, and save the remaining time for road tripping to Key West!
In Miami, don’t miss the world famous beaches of South Beach, a walk down Ocean Drive (complete with neon lights and Art Deco Buildings), grabbing some drinks at South Point Park, those instagram famous Wynwood Walls, and indulging in some Cuban food. Consider adding a stop to the Everglades as well to get up close and personal with those gators that Florida is so well known for.
FLORIDA KEYS (4 days)
And an addition of the Florida Keys, just about 4 hours from Miami to Key West (the furthest key) makes for the perfect varied USA itinerary. You can’t leave The Florida Keys without indulging in some famous Key Lime Pie, visiting the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, snorkeling at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo, driving the 7 mile bridge, and daytripping to the Dry Tortugas National Park. Told you there was lots to do over here.
And get this → The southern tip of Key West is just 90 miles away from Cuba, making it the southernmost point in the Continental USA!
Additional Resources: Top Things to do in Miami
3. San Francisco and Napa Valley and/or Yosemite/Lake Tahoe
- Driving Distance/Time: SF to Napa Valley 60 miles, 1 hour | SF to Yosemite 190 miles, 4 hours | SF to Lake Tahoe 200 miles, 3 hours, 15 min
- How to Split up the Time: 4 days San Francisco | 3 days in Napa/Yosemite/Lake Tahoe
SAN FRANCISCO (4 days)
I may be a bit biased (I moved to the SF Bay Area not too long ago), but San Francisco really is one of the best cities in the world states.
San Francisco may be small (at less than 50 square miles) compared to the monstrosity that is New York City (over 300!), but it sure packs in a lot of must-sees. It’s electric, moody, and exhilarating. To quote Anthony Bourdain, “Any one who doesn’t have a great time in San Francisco is pretty much dead to me.” Robin Williams even stated, “There’s no question this is where I want to live. Never has been.”
It’s obvious the City by the Bay holds up to it’s high standards. And there’s tons to do here. From hiking and biking to drinking and snacking, it’s true – the City by the Bay truly has it all. Not to mention some of the best burritos in the country. And since this is America’s most liberal city, feel free to wear what you like, say what you like, and act how you like.
A few things not to miss in SF: amire the views at Twin Peaks, day trip to Sausalito, ever-so-popular Lombard Street, Alcatraz Island, go for a stroll in Golden Gate Park, grab a sundae at Ghirardelli, check out Alamo Square and the Painted Ladies, and wander throughout the Castro and Haight. And of course you have to walk/bike over the Golden Gate Bridge (my favorite views of the bridge here), it’s stunning no matter the weather (blue sky or covered in fog).
A FULL 3-day San Francisco guide is in the works, so be on the lookout for that if you’re planning a trip to the City by the Bay in the near future. If you’re looking for some fun outside the city, check out these day trips from SF.
Additional Resources (I got lots for ya here): First Time Visitor’s Guide to San Francisco, Where to Find the Best Views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Best Desserts in San Francisco, Ultimate San Francisco Food Bucket List | Day Trips from San Francisco | Weekend Trips from San Francisco | Things to do in Sausalito | SF Bay Area Bucket List
NAPA, LAKE TAHOE, or YOSEMITE (3 days)
And since there’s just so much in the surrounding areas, after spending 3-4 days in SF, go off on a mini road trip and explore! My top picks to finish off this USA itinerary are: Napa Valley, Lake Tahoe, or Yosemite National Park. Napa’s about an hour and a half north, while the latter two are roughly 4 hours east. Wine or nature – pick your poison. Technicalllyyyy you could visit Napa as a day trip from SF and thennnn go to either Lake Tahoe or Yosemite, but that’ll make it kinda hectic (your call).
World renowned for its wine selection (and for good reason), Napa is always buzzing with excitement (pardon the pun). The Valley and surrounding areas boast more than 600 wineries, each with their own tasting room (and even more that are not accounted for.) It would take a lifetime to take a few sips at each, let alone in a few days. And therefore, it’s best to visit Napa with somewhat of a game plan, and I recommend the following vineyards/wineries: Sterling, Castello di Amorosa, Domaine Carneros, Artesa, Robert Mondavi, and V. Sattui.
Not a wino? You’ll still fall in love with Napa and/or Sonoma – I promise. There’s a whole long list of things to do in Napa besides drink, including olive-oil tasting (carb-loaded drizzled tastings, anyone?), ziplining through the redwoods, farmers market visits, wildflower hiking, and mud baths to tickle your fancy (yes, I just said mud baths). Looking to check something off your bucket list? Head out on an early morning balloon flight above the valley, worth the ridiculous AF wake-up call.
Additional Resources: Things to do in Napa Besides Drink Wine | My Favorite Vineyards in Napa | Hot Air Ballooning over the Valley | A Stay at Andaz Napa | A Girl’s Getaway to Napa Valley
Lake Tahoe is one of the prettiest lakes you’ll see in your lifetime, I can promise you that. Not only is there wonderful skiing at Heavenly (during the winter months of course), but there’s tons of stuff to do for you non-skiers as well (myself included). Take the gondola up for heavenly views of the lake, stuff your face with donuts, and go for a scenic drive around the lake. Lake Tahoe is a destination for any time of year, and we’ve visited in both summer and winter – and would go back again during each!
Don’t miss out on my favorite spots (especially in summer): Sand Harbor (an absolute gem in the Sierras with crystal clear water and magnificent boulders), Emerald Bay (just go – you won’t be disappointed), and Zephyr Cove.
Yosemite National Park
If rushing waterfalls, huge granite rock formations, and enough greenery to last for days is your thang, you’ve got to get yourself to Yosemite. Like yesterday. No matter how many times I visit (and it’s been a handful of times), I’m always longing for re-visits time and time again. I’ve seen the park in all it’s seasons (winter was just wow!), and I’ll never say no to a return trip. As soon as you reach the park, you’ll be blown away by Yosemite’s’ sheer size and magnitude, you’ll see.
During the snowy winter months, the crowds vanish, icicles dangle from tree branches, snowflakes coat the Valley, and the entire park is so calm and bright. A winter wonderland for sure! And don’t fret – Yosemite Valley is still open, so there’s still lots to do there.
Summer brings along plenty and plenty of hiking opportunities, with Valley Loop Trail, The 4-Mile Trail, Vernal/Nevada Falls, and Mist Trail offering pretty fantastic views. Don’t miss the chance to spot Half Dome (Yosemite’s most famous icon) from Glacier Point Road, and be sure to head towards El Capitan before you leave to search for some rock climbers! We thankfully saw a few on the massive granite rock formation and I just couldn’t believe my eyes (top tip – bring binoculars).
No matter the season, make sure to check out Tunnel View, and Mirror Lake, my two favorites.
Additional Resources: Visiting Yosemite National Park in the Winter | One Day in Yosemite from SF
4. Savannah, GA and Charleston, SC
- Driving Distance/Time: 107 miles | 2 hours
- How to Split up the Time: 3 days Savannah | 1 day Hilton Head Island | 3 days Charleston
Psst – you could add in a stop along the way to Hilton Head Island if you want some beach time!
SAVANNAH, GEORGIA (3 ½ days)
Savannah, Georgia is one of the most charming cities in the Southern United States. Savannah is a rather small city that can be explored almost entirely on foot. Visiting Savannah feels like a step back in time and the city is best enjoyed at a slow pace. Stroll from one romantic square to another and admire the gorgeous oak trees covered in Spanish moss. Sit by the pretty fountains and look up the many elegant antebellum mansions.
The picture opportunities are endless in Savannah so no need to put the camera away… be ready to snap a beautiful shot at every corner!
Two to three days is the perfect amount of time to enjoy Savannah. The city is built around 22 public squares, which are pretty much small parks. Visiting the city is all about wandering through the pretty squares (and potentially doing so while sipping a cocktail in a to go cup since Savannah is one of the only cities in the US allowing open containers!). Lafayette Square, Oglethorpe Square and Chippewa Square are three must sees.
Another gorgeous spot is Forsyth Park and the many rows of live oaks: the park is the perfect place to relax and have a picnic under the Spanish moss. Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah is one of the most famous graveyards in the US, and also one of the most picturesque.
Visit Little Gracie’s grave and keep an eye out for ghosts, as Bonaventure is said to be haunted by various roaming spirits.
Last but not least, Savannah is the perfect place to sample authentic Southern Comfort Food. Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room and The Pink House are two of the most delicious food spots in the city, but there are plenty of restaurants to choose from. Just make sure to enjoy each meal with a copious side of buttery flaky biscuits!
HILTON HEAD (optional and along route)
This island off the coast of South Carolina is a perfect spot to break up the short drive between Savannah and Charleston, so why not make a short pit stop?! Golf lover? Don’t miss Hilton Head, as there’s quuiteee a few courses you’ll wanna play at. Beach lover? You’re in luck – the sand is incredible (it’s regularly voted as one of the best vacation destinations in the world…).
CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA (3 ½ days)
Charleston oozes southern charm in the unlikeliest of places. It boasts food, architecture, history in it’s cultural centre accompanied with sports, beaches and majestic plantations on the surrounding low-lying islands. You could be fine dining on the famous Shrimp and Grits at 82 Queen St one night and enjoy freshly shucked oysters over a couple of cold beers at a rustic Bowen’s Island another night.
Visit Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the civil war were fired or take in the somewhat somber Slavery museum. Alternatively, head out to Riley Park baseball field to watch the RiverDogs play. You may even find owner Bill Murray sitting next to you in the bleachers! In summer, the lively Folly Beach has sun, sand and surf with live bands playing on the open patio of the Crab Shack most nights of the week.
The best part about Charleston is what can’t be replicated, the people. You could be buying a t-shirt on Church St or taking in live music at the Pour House on James Island and you’ll inevitably spark up a friendly conversation with a well-meaning local. They’ll be genuinely interested in where you’ve come from and make sure you make the most of your time in their city.
Additional Resources: The Forgotten Fort of Charleston by Sling Adventures | Inspiring Photos of Charleston by Wandering Sunsets
5. Oahu and Maui
- Flight Time from West Coast: ~5 hours | Flight time from East Coast: ~10 hours
- How to Split up the Time: 4 days in Maui | 3 days in Oahu
If you know me (at least a little bit) by now, you’ll know that I’m always up for a trip to Hawaii, and crafting the perfect week-long excursion to Oahu and Maui is no exception. Trust me, all the islands are perfection (I’m low-key obsessed with the state), but if it’s your first time to Hawaii, I highly recommend splitting your time between Oahu and Maui.
OAHU (3 days)
On Oahu you’ve got to sip mai tais on the beach at The Royal Hawaiian, hike up Diamond Head, snorkel at Hanauma Bay, pay your respects at Pearl Harbor, and spend some time on Lanikai Beach and Waimea Bay. And don’t miss out on all these places to stuff your face in Oahu (there’s lots of good stuff to choose from, including tons of shave ice, poke, and acai bowl recs). A 3-day Oahu itinerary is currently in the works – watch this space!
MAUI (4 days)
Maui is hands down one of my favorite islands of Hawaii (actually, what the heck, I love ‘em all). I’ve visited a few times, and have compiled all my knowledge in a 5-Day Maui itinerary, which you can pick and choose from in order to have sufficient time in Oahu as well. On Maui I highly recommend driving the Road to Hana, waking up at an ungodly hour to watch the sunrise at Haleakala, snorkeling at Black Rock, Molokini, and Turtle Town (eeeee), visiting Napili Bay and Paia, hanging out in Lahaina for some sunset cocktails.
If you’re feeling extra frisky and wanna see Maui from above, book yourself on a Maui helicopter tour – I promise it’ll be one of the most spectacular things you do all week.
EXTRA TIME? KAUAI! (3 days)
Annnnd if you have even more time to spare (who needs a job, anyway?), you may as well add a few days in Kauai to your Hawaii trip. The Na Pali coast is worthy of a few extra vacation days, I promise. You can quickly and easily fly from island to island, so take advantage if you’re already all the way over here in the middle of the Pacific (especially if you’re coming from the East Coast).
Additional Resources: 3 Days in Kauai | 5 Day Maui Itinerary | Helicopter Tour above Maui | Snorkeling at Molokini and Turtle Town | Where to Eat in Maui | Where to Eat in Oahu | Driving the Road to Hana
6. Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico
- Driving Distance/Time: 65 miles | 1 hour
- How to Split up the Time: 3 ½ days Albuquerque | 3 ½ days Santa Fe
The hardest part about visiting Albuquerque is spelling Albuquerque. Once you’ve got that figured out, exploring the largest city in New Mexico is a breeze. It’s known for its historic Old Town, a square anchored by an 18th century church and surrounded by local shops and museums. This is where the town began, and these aren’t your typical tourist traps.
Even the restaurants are historic. Church Street Cafe, topped by metallic musicians and introduced by a sign surrounded by prickly pear, is in the oldest building in Albuquerque. Go mid-afternoon and you can score some half-price appetizers.
After lunch, slither on over to the American International Rattlesnake Museum, where they’ve got more varieties of rattlesnakes than the Bronx Zoo, the Philadelphia Zoo, the National Zoo, the Denver Zoo, the San Francisco Zoo, and the San Diego Zoo combined. If that gives you the heebie-jeebies, leave the willies behind with a tour of the Coronado Historic Site. Despite the name, not much of Coronado is mentioned at this site on the Rio Grande. The focus is on the Kuaua Pueblo, which was the original town before the Spaniards arrived. You can even step inside a kiva with murals that have been painstakingly restored.
Additional Resources: Things to do in Old Town, Albuquerque by the Local Tourist
Santa Fe is one of those places that you roll into and immediately like. Its Old Town is charming, lively and lived in. Start your visit with a walking tour led by a docent from the New Mexico History Museum for a dose of local color and history.
Afterward, shop for Native American jewelry along the wall of the Palace of the Governors. Sellers need to qualify for the right to sell here. All items are authentic, some of the artisans are quite good and their prices are reasonable.
At some point you’ll want a chili-cheeseburger and local beer from The Burger Stand at Burro Alley. The Shed has tasty prickly pear margaritas and good enchiladas. You can’t go wrong with either the drinks or the view from the rooftop bar at the historic La Fonda Hotel.
Drag yourself away from downtown to experience MeowWolf, a funky interactive fun house built by a local artists’ collective. Be sure to stroll up Canyon Road for its eclectic assortment of art galleries and outdoor sculptures. This is the neighborhood for pricey, stylish restaurants. ButMilad Bistro, which serves up excellent Persian tapas, is stylish and inexpensive.
Contributed by Eileen from Families Go Travel
7. Death Valley and Las Vegas
- Driving Distance/Time: 125 miles | 2 hours
- How to Split up the Time: 4 days Las Vegas | 3 days Death Valley
LAS VEGAS (4 Days)
Vivaaaaa Las Vegas. Bachelorette parties, stag weekends, and crazy clubbing until the wee hours of the night probably come to mind when initially thinking of Las Vegas. BUT! It’s all that and more.
It’s hotels are huge, casinos legendary, and you can hobnob with some Hollywood A-listers too when you play there! But don’tchu worry, there’s plenty of things to do in Vegas besides gamble (like, a whole lot). From animal encounters and bulldozer driving to hiking in National Parks and stuffing your face with more treats than you can imagine, Vegas is overpowering and dramatic in more ways than one. I wrote up a whole long list of things to do in Vegas besides gambling, so be sure to check that out if you’re looking to get away from the casinos for a bit.
But after a day or two on the strip, you’ll start going insane. DO NOT STAY IN VEGAS PROPER THE ENTIRE DURATION OF YOUR STAY. I repeat. Do not spend your entire 4 days in the city of Las Vegas itself.
I highly suggest you get outta the city on a day trip or two (or three), and can personally recommend visiting The Valley of Fire and the Grand Canyon West Rim. The Hoover Dam is worthy of a day trip as well, and the Red Rocks are something special to add to your Las Vegas list, too.
DEATH VALLEY (3 Days)
Travel ~120 miles(2 hours) southwest to Death Valley, and you’ll come across the largest national park of the lower 48 states. Yup, its larger than large, and you’ll definitely want a few days to properly explore the different sections within the park → there is a lot of ground to cover afterall! The park is most famous for its lowest point in North America, at 282 feet below sea level (you’ll want to visit Badwater Basin for sure).
Death Valley is actually the hottest place on Earth (true story), and in the summer months (May-September) temperatures average over 100°F (38°C), and often exceed 120°F (49°C). While it is safe to visit, be sure to keep hydrated, stay on paved roads, and listen to your body.
When planning your visit to Death Valley, be sure to add the following into your itinerary: Badwater Basin (it is the lowest point in North America afterall), Artist’s Palette (a real-life geologic rainbow!), The Racetrack (where the rocks move), Zabriskie Point (the most famous viewpoint in the park), Devil’s Golf Course (an immense area of eroded rock salt), Dante’s View, and Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes (the largest dune field in the park).
I haven’t made it to Death Valley just yet, but when I do, I can’t wait to feast my eyes on the otherworldly salt flats (the ones on our road trip across America seemed to stretch on forever, so I can’t wait to see these).
Just remember that both locations get super super hot, with temps averaging in the 90s and 100s, easily. The scorching heat is definitely no fun, so consider visiting in the winter, where highs are at a much more comfortable 70°F.
8. Texas Hill Country
- Driving Distance/Time: 150 miles | 2 ½ hours
- How to Split up the Time: 3 days in Austin | 3 days in San Antonio | 2 days in Smaller Towns within Hill Country
Itching for some small-town charm and eclectic city culture all in one trip? Perfect, because this US itinerary in Texas Hill Country surely has all that (and more).
When people think of Texas, a few things come to mind – cowboys, ranches, football, and big cities, but what about award-winning wine, music festivals, secret swimming holes, river tubing, cave exploring, and rolling hills? You can find all of these attractions and more in the Texas Hill Country. From small towns you never heard of to well-known cities like Austin and San Antonio, the Texas Hill Country is a vast area with some of the best things to do in the entire state!
Read Next: Mini Guide to Austin (including all the must-eats)
Since Austin and San Antonio are the two biggest cities in the Texas Hill Country, they are the best cities to begin your trip before you branch out to the beautiful surrounding areas. I’ve included additional information down below for Austin since I just love it oh so much.
Furthermore, they both hold the two biggest music festivals in the state, Austin City Limits, and SXSW Music Festival.
Option 1: A weekend in San Antonio is a must. You can visit the historical Alamo, enjoy the River Walk, and Six Flags (if that’s your thing – it sure is mine!) before driving north to explore hidden caves at Natural Bridge Caverns. As you keep heading north in the Texas Hill Country, you will come across a quaint city, New Braunfels, where you can have fun in the sun. New Braunfels is known for the epic water park, Schlitterbahn and tubing down the Guadalupe River!
Option 2: For another fun week in the Texas Hill Country, start in Austin exploring the capital of Texas before heading west to the hidden swimming pools, Hamilton Pool Reserve and Jacob’s Well. Then to finish your week in the Texas Hill Country, visit the charming city of Fredericksburg. Fredericksburg is the wine country of Texas boasting over 50 wineries! There are daily wine shuttles and the cutest bed and breakfasts to help create the perfect trip for a romantic getaway or a girls weekend in Fredericksburg.
Additional Resource: A Girl’s Weekend in Fredericksburg by Our Sweet Adventure
9. Nashville and Memphis -or- Great Smoky Mountains
- Driving Distance/Time: 210 miles | 3 hours
- How to Split up the Time: 3-4 days in Nashville | 4 days in Memphis | 2 days in Great Smoky Mountains
A city known around the world for country music, hot chicken, and Jack Daniel’s whiskey, Nashville is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country both for residents and visitors. Despite being known for the above, Nashville has something to offer absolutely everyone. So, put on those cowboy boots and hold on to your hat.
You can enjoy everything from fine dining to a hole in the wall diner and tasting your away around the 19 breweries in the city to a winery owned by a country music star. Looking to work off the extra calories that Nashville is sure to pack on? Explore the vast number of hiking trails, waterfalls, and parks surrounding the city – Radnor Lake and the Warner Parks are favorites amongst locals.
Make sure not to miss – the view from the pedestrian bridge downtown, a night out on Lower Broad (once might be enough!), seeing the only exact replica of the Parthenon (yes, the one in Greece!), and strolling around the 12South and East Nashville neighborhoods.
Additional resource: Nashville Tourist Attractions by Wild Hearted
Memphis is known for music and BBQ, and it delivers on these and so much more. This city in the South has a long and complicated history. It’s where Elvis built Graceland, where millions of tourists still flock to see how “the King” lived. It’s where Martin Luther King Jr was gunned down at the Lorraine Motel which is now the Civil Rights Museum. There are so many fun things to do in Memphis, but food and music are at the heart of everything in this city on the Mississippi River.
Make sure you get out on the river at least once during your visit to Memphis. You can take a kayaking tour, or hop on a paddlewheel boat for a cruise. If a visit to Graceland is on your wishlist, you’ll want a car as it’s somewhat outside of downtown. Take a walking tour of downtown, checking out street art, public art and museums like the Stax Museum of Soul Music. When it’s time to eat, there are way too many choices.
Check out Central BBQ, Gus’s Fried Chicken, Loflin Yard, Railgarten and the Old Dominick Distillery which has a killer rooftop. End your day at world-famous Beale Street, where live music wafts out of every doorway, spilling into the streets.
Additional Resources: Things to do in Memphis by Campfires and Concierges
GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
Established in 1940, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most popular of all the U.S. National Parks, getting around 9 million visitors each year. That’s partially due to its awesome location about halfway between Knoxville, Tennessee and Asheville, North Carolina, which is a half-day’s drive from most of the major cities along the east coast. But of course the area’s stunning natural beauty, diverse array of wildlife, and rich Appalachian culture could also have something to do with it.
Approximately 95% of the park’s 522,419 acres are lush green forests that are teeming with flora and fauna, with 10,000 plant and animal species that include black bears, deer, birds, and much more. There are also 16 mountains in the park with summits of 6,000 feet or more; nearly 900 miles of hiking trails; and driving tours that provide gorgeous views at places like Cade’s Cove, Clingman’s Dome, and Newfound Gap Road.
Hiking (including part of the Appalachian Trail), fishing, and camping are the park’s most popular tourist activities, and it’s also the starting point for road trips along the world-renowned Blue Ridge Parkway.
If you want to visit the park, autumn is the perfect time. Not only because of smaller crowds of tourists, cooler weather, and richer colors in the leaves, but also because that’s when the famous Cataloochee Valley elk herd (which was reintroduced back in 2001) is in rut. Come for the scenery, but stay for the crazy elk mating call!
Additional Resources: Blue Ridge Mountains Travel Guide (nearby) by Bret Love
10. Oregon Road Trip
- Driving Distance/Time: 775 miles | 17 hours (round trip Portland)
- How to Split up the Time: 2 days Portland | 1 day waterfalls and Mt. Hood | 1 day Bend | 1 day Crater Lake | 2 days Oregon Coast |
Looking for shimmering lakes, snowy mountain tops, and enough craft beer to last a lifetime? Get ready for an Oregon road trip, my Pacific-Northwest-craving friends.
A week’s kinda ambitious to cover all this territory in Oregon, but it’s definitely doable! In order to complete this road trip is about a week’s time, you’ll have to drive a few hours almost every day.
Portland, Oregon is best known for its delectable donuts, snobby coffee culture, orgasmic food, and, of course, for being weird. It is their slogan after all! One of the big draws of the city is all it’s eating (and drinking – the beer and coffee kind), so make sure you account for lots of face stuffing during your 2 days or so in Portland.
Don’t miss: Pok Pok, Salt and Straw, Blue Star Donuts, Pine State Biscuits, Fried Egg I’m in Love, VooDoo Donut, and Tov Coffee. When you need a break from eating check out the International Rose Test Garden, Tilikum Crossing, Powell’s City of Books, and Pittock Mansion.
It’s waterfall time! Check out a bunch on the Columbia River Gorge, including the most famous of them all – Multnomah Falls. Looking up at the 600+ foot tall roaring cascade of icy water is awe-inspiring, to say the least! Make a short pit stop at Rowena Crest to see the insane bend in the road, then continue on to Mt. Hood for a wander and some lunch!
Next up, if you’re visiting in the summer months, is Hood River Lavender Farm, before making your way to Trillium Lake and Timberline Lodge.
Feel free to make a short pit stop at Smith Rock State Park before you reach Bend – those scenic views of the deep river canyons sure are something! If you’re up for a workout on tons of switchbacks, head up to Misery Ridge for dramatic views of the entire canyon and nearby rock formations.
Located between the snow-covered peaks of the Cascade Mountains and the high desert plateaus of Central Oregon, Bend really has it all, and then some. Because of its prime location for outdoor activities (think hiking, biking, river sports, etc), you’ll find a ton of sporty enthusiasts living the rugged lifestyle. Don’t leave without doing a brew tour (DIY or with a guide).
Crater Lake National Park has got to be one of the most mesmerizing places I’ve been to date, and thankfully, it’s up next on this Oregon road trip. With its calm dazzling blue waters, scenic highways, and super starry night skies, you can be sure you’ll never forget your visit to Crater Lake. And that’s a promise! If you want to ensure you’ll be able to drive around the perimeter of the lake (Rim Drive), schedule your trip for late July, August, or September.
Finallllly, it’s coast time, and time to head back north to Portland! You’ll see Coos Bay, home to the Cape Arago Beach Loop, which is where I’d spend ½ day or so. There’s a whole slew of stops between Coos Bay and Cannon Beach, and while you won’t be able to hit every one, pick out a few to explore!
Finally, the last official stop on this Oregon coast road trip, the one and only Cannon Beach. Here at Cannon Beach, you’ll find the famous and ever-so-popular Haystack Rock (it’s a sight to be seen).
Additional Resources: The Perfect Oregon Road Trip Itinerary | 3 Days in Portland | Winter Weekend in Bend | Top Things to do in Crater Lake
11. Los Angeles and San Diego
- Driving Distance/Time: 120 miles | 2 hours
- How to Split up the Time: 4 days LA/Santa Monica | 3 days San Diego
Californiaaaa, knows how to party (cue the music). When you think of Los Angeles, you probably think of the Beach Boys, surfing, and celebrities. While this is all true, LA is much more than that! You can get to the beach, mountains, desert, and the forest within an hour, which makes your vacation filled with infinite possibilities! But with only 4 days or so in the city, you’ll have to make some smart choices with how you wanna spend your time. The city and surrounding areas are pretty spread out, so I recommend splitting your time between Downtown LA (DTLA), and Santa Monica/Venice.
In DTLA, be sure to check out the Broad Museum, the Disney Concert Hall, Eggslut (OMFG Eggslut), the Bradbury Building, The Last Bookstore, LA Arts District, and Little Tokyo (my fave).
In Santa Monica/Venice, add Sidecar Donuts, Santa Monica beach, Venice Beach boardwalk (with Muscle Beach), the Venice canals, the Santa Monica Pier, and Abbot Kinney Blvd to your few days in the area.
You can also check out Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Beverly Hills/Rodeo Drive, The Getty Villa, The Grove, Griffith Observatory, Hollywood, and Melrose Avenue. There’s oh sooo much to do in the area, it’s a tad overwhelming.
If you’ve never been, I encourage you to check out this 1-day LA itinerary which covers all the typical LA hot spots, and then fill it in with this itinerary (full of donuts, murals, and spectacular scenic spots). And whatever you do, get wild at In-n-Out Burger – animal style.
Once you’ve spent the last few days running around, it’s time to relax and take it easy a few hours south in San Diego.
While you’re here, make sure to check out Balboa Park (beautiful and over 1,200 acres!), the famous Hotel del Coronado (have dinner here!), Old Town, the Cabrillo National Monument, and Belmont Park (a beachside amusement park with a cool retro vibe)! And my absolute favorite? La Jolla Cove! I’ve been when I was little but I NEED to get back there soon to see all the seals and sea lions!
12. Portland and Acadia National Park, Maine
- Driving Distance/Time: 175 miles | 3 hours
- How to Split up the Time: 3 ½ days Portland | 3 ½ days Acadia
I’m not so sure why it took me so long to make my way over to Maine, and Portland in particular. But after our few days there, I’m longing to go back, and sooner than later at that.
Make sure to spend your few days in Portland stuffing your face with as much lobster as humanly possible (no joke- we had lobster rolls everyday for lunch), indulge in sea salted duck fat caramel milkshakes (yes, it’s a thing there), admire the views from the Portland Observatory, taste-tested everything blueberry imaginable, take a free brew tour at Allagash Brewing Company (free beers included), and head on over to Ogunquit and Kennebunkport for a day. Don’t miss out on the whoopie pies, visit the Portland Head Light (I have a thing for lighthouses, okay?), cruise Casco Bay on a Mailboat run (look it up!), and if the timing’s right, you could even watch a Sea Dogs minor-league baseball game!
ACADIA NATIONAL PARK
Acadia National Park is filled with so many enjoyable activities. There are hikes, beaches, climbing, excellent seafood, and exceptional photography spots. The atmosphere is intoxicating, and the views are stunning.
One of the best activities to do in Acadia is to watch the sunrise on top of Cadillac Mountain. It is the first place to experience the sunrise in the continental USA from October through March. The colors of the sun reflecting from the ocean make it glorious. But keep in mind that you need to get up around 3-4 am to see this spectacle. It can get extremely crowded as well, so be prepared for the hordes of people.
Another fun thing to do is to hike the Precipice Trail. It is one of the most unique hikes you will ever do. A vast majority of the trail, you will have to climb up metal ladders. It is not a trail for people that are afraid of heights, but if you can get over the fear the views are worth it. You will stand on top of the mountain with glorious views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Another favorite activity is to watch the sunset at the Bass Harbor Lighthouse. You will have to fight off people from taking your spot most likely, but getting that perfect lighthouse picture is worth this little adventure!
Additional Resources: Things to do in Acadia by The Wandering Queen
13. Montreal and Quebec City, Canada
- Driving Distance/Time: 255 km | 2 hours, 45 min via car, or 3 hours, 15 min via train
- How to Split up the Time: 3 days Montreal | 4 days Quebec City
Yeahhhh, so Montreal and Quebec City surely aren’t in the US, but I just couldn’t leave it off this list of best USA itineraries (ha!). They’re SO close to the states and make a wonderful week away. Just don’t forget to pack your passport!
Ever since I heard of the cities’ European-like status and abundance of maple ice cream, I just knew this eastern Canadian area was right up my alley. Oh, and poutine. POUTINE! If you’re looking for a one-week USA itinerary that’s actually not in the US (ha!), go check out Montreal. I’m literally begging you. If you’ve been depriving yourself of the greasy gooey goodness, go check this Canadian city off your food bucket list. Psst: there’s also smoked meat sandwiches, fancy chocolates, montréalais pastries, and famous Montreal Bagels from St-Viateur Bagel.
Don’t leave without enjoying the beauty of the Basilica (it’s just marvelous), wandering around the Old Port (complete with food trucks and boats Saint Lawrence river), visit one of the markets (Jean-Talon and/or Atwater), browse the boutiques and street art of the Mild End, take photos in Plateau Mont-Royal, and admire the sky-high views at Au Sommet. But my two favorite spots: Old Montreal and the Underground City.
Additional Resources: Long Weekend Trip to Montreal
If you’ve never been to Quebec City before, just hop on over from Montreal and check it out (it’s a quick train ride away, so super easy to visit together in a week)! And if you’re coming from the states, it’s just a two hour drive north from Maine. And once you arrive in this historic french speaking city, you’ll most definitely feel like you’ve landed in Europe. But nope, it’s definitely still Canada!
Old Quebec City is the place you wanna be, especially considering all the gorgeous architecture and first class restaurants. But be sure to bring your walking shoes for the hilly, cobblestone streets of Old Quebec as you won’t wanna waste precious time with foot problems! Most notably, this is the only walled city north of Mexico, which is a reason to visit in and of itself..
The striking Chateau Frontenac greets you from atop a hill in Old Quebec. Don’t be afraid to enter this “castle” hotel and take a look around in its lavish lobby. Or grab a drink in one of the cafes or restaurants. Outside the Chateau, take a look around in all the boardwalk shops. Or stop to watch the buskers perform. The world castle is yours for everyone to enjoy!
And once your done at the castle, sign up for a food tour and sample some of the yummy french cuisine (poutine, anyone? Anyone?!). Or take a ride on the ferry down the St. Lawrence River for just $5 and see some great views from the water. Or ride the Funicular cable car from upper and lower Old Quebec for a glimpse of all the ships. There’s also a bunch of museums you could check out. Yeah, there’s a lot to do here.
Quebec City holds a lot of history. So before you leave be sure to visit one of the many museums to learn about this fascinating city.
Additional Resources: Best Beaches in Ontario by Two Travelling Toques
14. Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
- Flight Time from West Coast: ~5 hours | Flight time from East Coast: ~10 hours
- How to Split up the Time: 4 days in CDMX | 3 days in San Miguel
I recently spent a week exploring Mexico City (dubbed CDMX) and San Miguel de Allende, and have got to say, I was pleasantly surprised in the best ways possible. And since we already included Canada in this list of USA itineraries, maaaay as well throw in Mexico too, right? 😉
If you’re looking for colorful cities full of vibrant culture, numerous neighborhoods to explore both day and night, and exciting half-day trips, you’ll be wow-ed with all that Mexico City and San Miguel have offer. There’s castles and canal rides, dog parks and green space. All my (wildly high) expectations were met and then some. Tacos al pastor. Tequila palomas. Frida Kahlo. Lucha Libre. Oh, and you can’t forget about the mezcal. Mexico is all that and waaaaay more.
Oh, and don’t forget to stuff your face. Mexico City is full of restaurants and street carts just begging to be indulged in. Chilaquiles. Avocado ice cream (my new obsession and muy muyyyy encanta). Late-night churros. Street tacos. I’d go back just for the food (ok, and all the puppies literally everywhere). Allll the things and places I ate in CDMX over here.
In your 4 days exploring Mexico City, be sure to walk around the Zocalo, have the best dinner (ever) at Pujol, visit Frida Kahlo’s house, wander some markets, take a canal ride at Xochimilco, climb up the pyramids at Teotihuacan, check out Chapultepec Castle and surround park, wander the trendy neighborhoods of La Condesa and Roma Norte, and go bat sh*t crazy at a Lucha Libre match. Sure seems like a lot, but we were able to squeeze in most of these during our trip to Mexico City.
SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE
After spending a few days in CDMX, bus on over to San Miguel! San Miguel is any art lovers dream – with it’s stunning colonial architecture, thriving arts scene, and all around fiestas (almost) everyday, I found myself falling for this picturesque little city as soon as I arrived.
→ Read Next: A Perfect Few Days Exploring San Miguel de Allende
Set high in the mountains of central Mexico, San Miguel is worthy of it’s UNESCO World Heritage Site status, filled with quaint cobblestoned streets, artisanal craft shops, nearby hot springs, and organic and inventive restaurants popping up every month. And with all the street art and brightly painted buildings, it’s practically bursting with color (just look at my photos throughout this post). I mean, what’s not to love?!
Again, not in the states per say, but close enough. With a plethora of non-stop flights from the US, with flight times shorter from most cities than flying cross-country (say from SFO to JFK), I thought adding this itinerary to the list was a-okay. Just remember you’ll need your passport!
Additional resources: 3 Days in Mexico City | What to Eat in CDMX | San Miguel de Allende Travel Guide
15. Philadelphia, PA and Washington D.C.(with Baltimore on the way)
- Driving Distance/Time: 140 miles | 3 hours
- How to Split up the Time: 3 days in Philly | 1 day in Baltimore | 3 days in Washington DC
On my latest trip to Philly we crammed in as many attractions (and local treats) as we possibly could, and started each morning early and ended each night late. We spent our time gallivanting around the streets (a good mix of cobblestone and paved roads), admiring the murals scattered around the city, shoving our mouths with treats from Reading Terminal Market, all while learning about some of the country’s most significant historic attractions.
Make sure to include Love Park, Rittenhouse Square, Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the Liberty Bell Center (an obvious Philly highlight), Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, Betsy Ross’ house, and the Reading Terminal Market.
Since you’ll be passing it anyways en route to Washington D.C., why not stop off in Baltimore for the day? Home to the Inner Harbor, the Orioles, and some mouth-watering crab dishes, Baltimore is Maryland’s largest city and you can certainly fill up your day quite easily.
I know what you’re thinking – the land of school field trips and museum after museum? Why should I visit when I’ve already visited in 5th grade?
Washington, DC is (of course) home to some of the most fascinating museums in the entire country, but if that’s not your thing, there are also tons of things to do outside of the main tourist attractions. Visit underground art galleries, see some amazing live performances, or simply walk around the waterfront in Georgetown.
If you’re looking for some springtime, flowery fun, consider visiting during peak cherry blossom season – end of March, early April (weather dependent). I visited a few years back and I’m dying for a return trip to see all the pretty blooms again.
Additional Resources: 48 Hours in Philly | Best Things to do in Philadelphia | Where to Eat in Philly | 3 Days in Washington DC
16. Seattle and Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
- Driving Distance/Time: 100 miles | 2 hours
- How to Split up the Time: 5 days Seattle (with day trips) | 2 days Mt. Rainier
Welcome to Seattle, dubbed the Emerald City and surrounded by mountains, forests, and water — oh, and the coffee and donuts in this part of the world are plentiful and then some.
You always hear about the gloominess and rain, never the sunshine and green space. From sculpture parks and waterfront activities, to bacon brie Belgian waffles and homemade mac and cheese, Seattle has a lot to offer. And then some. Seattleites, your secrets out! Mmmm I’m salivating just thinking about the Top Pot donuts.
The first thing that pops in everyone’s mind (after rain, of course), is the Space Needle and Pike Place. And while those are Seattle staples, there’s a whole other world to discover.
A few other Seattle suggestions for your few days in the city: take a harbor tour along the Puget Sound for unbeatable city and water views, check out the madness of the Museum of Pop Culture (formerly the EMP Museum), take photos at Olympic Sculpture Park, eat everything at Pike Place Market, visit the gum wall and the first Starbucks, and stuff your face with all the noms throughout the city. If you want something a bit different, consider a seaplane tour which will provide you aerial views of all of Seattle’s most iconic sites (think the Space Needle and such).
If you’re itching to get out of the city, or just need to burn off a few of those delicious-donut-calories, go on a hike! Favorites include Rattlesnake Ledge, Thunder Knob Trail Hike at Diablo Lake (GORGEOUS but requires even more driving time), and Snoqualmie Falls, all ranging from easy to moderate with absolutely fantastic views. And once you get back, you can definitely say you earned your donut/s.
MT. RAINIER NATIONAL PARK
Looking southeast from Seattle, you’ll already see Mt. Rainier looming in the distance (it is the highest mountain in Washington afterall)! And after the quick 2 ½ hour drive, you’ll see just how huge the volcano really is!
And the views just get better as the day goes on. Iconic. Majestic. Grandiose. Trust me, it’s hard to describe those views. No words truly capture that feeling you get staring up at it. So, I’ll leave you with a photo instead.
It’s one thing to see the mountain from afar, but it’s another to actually hike/snowshoe ON the volcano itself (yup, it’s actually a volcano – a dangerous one at that)! So, naturally, I highly encourage you to do just that! I promise the views will be all sorts of remarkable- you may even see the glacial ice in the distance on the mountain rather clear! Looked like the clearest and iciest blue I’ve ever laid eyes on.
A snowmobile would be another amazing way to see the scenery, if you’ve got the time and resources for that activity!
17. Vancouver and Victoria
- Driving Distance/Time: 115 km | 3 hours (including ferry)
- How to Split up the Time: 4 days Vancouver | 3 days Victoria
Funny thing – I added Vancouver and Victoria to this list of USA itineraries before I even remembered they were in Canada (a big ole’ whoops). But since they’re such a short flight away from so many big cities on the West Coast (Seattle, Portland, SF, etc), let’s keep them in, shall we? 🙂
Vancouver is absolutely gorgeous. And let’s just say, despite Vancouver being a (decently-sized) city and all, you’ll never feel deprived of nature – it’s got snow-capped mountains to the north and that deep blue Pacific Ocean to its left. It’s beauty has even made it on multiple “Most Beautiful Cities of the World” – including Forbes and Buzzfeed. And all that nature just gives way for tons of outdoor recreational activities – from skiing and snow sports in the winter to kayaking, hiking, camping, and biking most months outta the year.
Besides getting into nature (green space within the city included), Vancouver’s got a thriving art, theatre, and music scene, some of the freshest seafood you’ll find around (salmon lovers won’t leave hungry), and a local fave – BC Bud (yup, apparently marijuana is a big thing here).
Spend 3-4 days strolling along Stanley Park, hitting up the beach (English Bay, Kitsilano Beach, and Jericho Beach are great choices), hiking up the Grouse Grind, getting high above the treetops at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, eating your way through the Granville Island Market, and spending an afternoon on the cobblestoned streets of Gastown.
Additional Resources: Top Things to do in Vancouver
Situated on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, the city of Victoria is a stunner. Just a short ferry ride away from Vancouver, it is possible to visit as a day trip; however, spending a few days in Victoria will give you a better chance to explore BC’s capital city as well as the wild coasts and forests that make up Vancouver Island.
With a population of less than 100,000 people, Victoria is a rather small city, but it is packed with green space, trendy coffee shops and cafes, museums, perfectly manicured flower gardens, noteworthy British colonial architecture. Be sure to visit the Fisherman’s Wharf, which is a collection of colorful shops and seafood restaurants that are perched on a dock.
Grab some fish and chips and keep a lookout for seals, which are commonly spotted frolicking in these waters. And while you’re here, don’t miss a once in a lifetime chance to go on a whale watching trip. These waters are one of the best places in the world to spot orca whales, and on a tour, you are almost guaranteed to see the lovable creatures splashing about in their ocean home.
If you want to explore more of the island, you’ll have your share of adventures to choose from. If you’re a surfer, or just want to soak up some laidback beach town vibes, head to Tofino. For wine lovers, head north of Victoria on Highway 1 and you’ll have your share of vineyards and tasting rooms to choose from, several of which also have lavender fields.
For those who love nature and aren’t afraid to work up a sweat, hiking the Juan de Fuca Trail is a bucket-list-worthy trek. While covering the whole 47-kilometer trail will take 3 to 4 days, proper equipment and a bit of planning, you will be rewarded with rugged coastline, deserted beaches, and waterfalls that crash right into the ocean. But if you don’t have enough time to do it all, you can always do a smaller portion of the trail.
Whether you base yourself in Victoria and soak up the colonial architecture and foodie scene, or you want to get off the beaten path and adventure through the rest of Vancouver Island, a trip to this Canadian gem is sure to be an adventure!
Contributed by Two Wandering Soles
18. California Coast Road Trip
A road trip down the California Coast on the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) is an unforgettable way to see so much of what the state has to offer. From waterfalls and castles (yes, really), to spectacular beaches and theme parks, there’s absolutely no shortage of things to do on the California Coast.
→ Read Next: The Ultimate California Coast Road Trip Itinerary Guide
While there’s enough to do and see along the coast to fulfill a month-long trip, with only a week, I recommend starting in San Francisco (spend a day or so seeing the SF highlights if you’ve never been), 1 day in Monterey/Carmel, 1 day admiring Big Sur and San Simeon (for Hearst Castle), ½ day in Pismo for some dune bashing, then ½ day in San Luis Obispo, 1 day in Santa Barbara, then the rest of the time in LA/Santa Monica.
Sure, it’s a lot to cram in, but the spots aren’t really allll that far from each other, so it’s possible to see a lot in just one week. I could go on and on, but thankfully I’ve got quite a few articles on California as I’ve lived here for the past 5 years!
It certainly doesn’t get more American than a road trip down the California Coast.
Additional Resources: The Ultimate California Coast Road Trip Itinerary Guide, Highlights of San Francisco, A Weekend in LA/Monica, Best Things to do in Big Sur, Top Sites of Sausalito, What to do in Santa Cruz
19. Glacier National Park and Coeur d’Alene
- Driving Distance/Time: 240 miles | 4 hours
- How to Split up the Time: 4 days in and around Glacier National Park | 3 days in Coeur d’Alene
This one-week USA itinerary was just made for nature lovers. What’s better than spending a week along the lakes?! Hint – not much. Lakeside lounging, moderately intense hiking, and icy glaciers await.
If you like outdoor and water activities, small-town USA character, boutique shopping, and an array of dining, you’re going to love Coeur d’Alene. Situated on Lake Coeur d’Alene in northwest Idaho this charming town has all the makings for a fun-filled or relaxing vacation for all ages.
Known as the playground for the Pacific Northwest there are recreational activities year-round. In spring, summer, and fall you can enjoy hiking or biking the trails of Canfield Mountain Natural Area, boating and swimming in on of the many lakes in the area, golfing at a championship course, playing at Silverwood Theme Park, or just relaxing on the beaches of City Park.
Come winter there’s Silver Mountain Resort for skiing, snowboarding, and tubing, or warm up and get wet at one of the indoor water parks. At any time of year, you can sample the tastes of local wineries and craft breweries, follow the colorful Art Walk, browse the many unique shops or rejuvenate with a spa day.
There’s also plenty of seasonal events and festivals like the Farmer’s Markets, Baconfest, theater cruises, concerts, and a fabulous Christmas light show and parade. There quite literally something for everyone in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
Additional Resources: Guide to Coeur d’Alene (for all ages) by Live Dream Discover
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK:
Once you’ve had your share of relaxation (or not) in Coeur d’Alene, make your way over to Glacier for some more striking nature scenes.
Stunning glacier hikes, serene nature and more wildlife than an issue of National Geographic awaits at Glacier National Park in far north Montana. Appropriately named after the icy glaciers that sit atop mountainous peaks, this US National Park has a perfectly diverse range of actives on offer. For adventure travelers wanting to summit the peaks and catch a glimpse of the glaciers, you can tackle Grinnell Glacier. It’s a relatively challenging hike that finishes with a picturesque view of the mountain lake and glacier emerging from the water.
If leisurely hiking is more you’re thing then there are plenty of calmer walks amongst nature. McDonald and Saint Mary are two massive lakes in the park that have short hike around the area. Just don’t forget your bear spray! Glacier National Park is a grizzly bear hotspot, with numerous sighting throughout the Spring. There are also mountain goats, bighorn sheep, elk and plenty of bird watching.
If scenic drives are more your pace, take advantage of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, a winding road that cuts across the park from south-west to north-east. Along the way you can stop off and enjoy a picnic lunch at various viewpoints… just stay on the lookout for Yogi!
Contributed by Don’t Forget to Move
20. Jackson Hole/Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park, WY
- Driving Distance/Time: 70 miles | 1 ½ hours
- How to Split up the Time: 4 days Jackson Hole/Grand Teton | 3 days Yellowstone
JACKSON HOLE + GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK
Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park are two of my favorite places in the US. Sure, you may have to sell your soul to vacation there, but it’s totally worth it. With the main square surrounded by delicious restaurants, tons of art galleries, and enough shops to last a lifetime all full of western flair, Jackson has it all, Grand Teton National Park being the highlight.
Grand Teton National Park is known for, well, the Teton mountain range, but also for its wildlife. No matter what time of year you visit, make sure you do a wildlife safari. They will be able to take you to all of the best places to spot specific wildlife, like moose, bears, wolves, elk, and coyotes, at the best times. If that’s out of your budget, you can easily do it yourself, just ask around about what to see where and when. Dawn and dusk are always great times, so keep your eyes peeled.
There is also tons of hiking in the Tetons, whether you want to hike into canyons, along lakeshores, to waterfalls, or through prairie grasslands, they have it. Rent kayaks or paddle boards and head out on Jackson or String Lake to see the park from a new perspective.
Additional Resources: Hiking in Grand Teton National Park by Red Around the World
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK
Imagine walking around the caldera of a super volcano. In Yellowstone National Park, one can do just that. While scientists don’t believe the Yellowstone super volcano is at risk for erupting any time soon, the volcanic activity is seen through much of the park. Your visit to Yellowstone should start with a visit to one of the many geyser basins.
Visitors come to see geysers and hot springs with creative names such as Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic, Steamboat or Fishing Cone. Old Faithful Geyer of the Upper Geyser Basin is the most well-known in the park. It has a regular and mathematically predictable eruption schedule. Many other geysers erupt on a semi-predictable schedule but none are as predictable. Please stay on the boardwalks in the geothermal areas. People have been boiled alive in these areas.
Beyond the geothermal features, Yellowstone has scores of wildlife. Bison and elk can be found throughout the park. If you are lucky, you have a chance to see grizzly bears, black bears, and/or wolves. Keep a careful eye out or look for the large hordes of people looking in the same direction. Don’t be afraid to ask photographers with long lenses what they are doing. You never know what they are looking at, and most are happy to share their wildlife sighting.
Additional Resources: One Day in Yellowstone National Park by National Park Obsessed
21. Boise and Hot Springs Road Trip
- Driving Distance/Time: varies
- How to Split up the Time: 5 days Boise | 2 days road tripping
Boise, Idaho, is probably exactly what you think of when you think of a city…small. However, what Boise lacks in size is made up by all their amazing restaurants, street art, and, believe it or not, it’s connection to Anne Frank. When visiting Boise, you have to visit Westside Drive In and order the famous Idaho Ice Cream Potato. No, no, it’s not ice cream made from potatoes. It’s hand-rolled vanilla ice cream that’s rolled in cocoa powder, sliced open to look like a potato, and loaded with whipped cream and crushed cookie crumbs. Y’all. Make it happen.
A popular attraction in Boise is the famous Freak Alley Gallery. If street art turns you on, then Boise literally has an entire alley dedicated to it. It’s in the center of downtown and surrounded by many restaurants and shops. If you want Instagrammable photos, head on over to Freak Alley for endless backdrops of urban art by local artist.
Additional Resources: Mini Travel Guide to Boise, Idaho by Time Zone Travelers
HOT SPRINGS MINI ROAD TRIP
With rugged snow-capped peaks and wild rivers, it doesn’t take much time to realize there is so much more to Idaho than potatoes. One of the best things about this underrated state is its abundance of natural hot springs. Sprinkled all throughout the state, you’ll find popular hot springs as well as those that are hard to get to and still somewhat secretive.
One of the most iconic hot springs in the state is situated just a short drive from the town of Salmon. And there’s no debating that Goldbug Hot Springs is the stuff dreams are made of. The hike to these picturesque hot springs is just under 2 miles and has an elevation gain just shy of 1,000 feet. When you see the idyllic pools set above a postcard valley, you’ll be happy you made the trek.
Try soaking in the different pools, as they are all different temperatures. And if possible, bring a tent and spend the night. If it’s during the week, you might even have the place entirely to yourself. Oh, and be sure to pack a bottle of wine for a night that will surely be the highlight of your trip to Idaho!
Contributed by Katie from Two Wandering Soles
22. Denver and Colorado Springs
- Driving Distance/Time: 70 miles | 1 hour, 15 minutes
- How to Split up the Time: 5 days Denver (with Rocky Mountain NP) | 2 days Colorado Springs
Ah, the capital of Colorado, known for its high altitude, historic area of Larimer Square, and those stunning Rocky Mountains to the west. Fast food lovers will be interested in the fact that the first cheeseburger was constructed over here in Denver in 1935 – I mean, how fun?!
Do note that the city’s high altitude means the air is thinner (it ain’t called the Mile High City for nothin’), which may cause some altitude sickness. Just something to be aware of – don’t plan any difficult hikes your first day!
With a few days in Denver, be sure to go for a walk in Larimer Square (the city’s oldest block with tons of landmark 19th century buildings), check out the Denver Art Museum, and the Denver Botanic Gardens.
I recently visited a friend in Denver and we ended up spending the majority of our time together exploring Rocky Mountain National Park. We spent our days hiking on the trails on the lookout for wildlife. Be sure to visit in October in order to witness the yearly antelope migration. Also, watch out for bears and moose while hiking – we almost got attacked (no joke)!
Colorado Springs, located just a little bit over an hour’s drive south from Denver, is truly a must-visit in the gorgeous Centennial State! Whether you’re looking for insanely scenic drives, wondrous hiking trails, or stunning mountain views – Colorado Springs will surely leave you speechless! Spend a day exploring the famous Garden of the Gods national park, enjoy the sounds of the cascading Broadmoor Seven Falls, or if you’re up for a real adventure – embark on a hike to the top of Pike’s Peak!
No matter where you are in the city, you’ll be able to look up to the massive Rocky Mountain range, which the sunsets dips beneath every night lighting up the sky in an array of pastel colors! It’s completely beautiful all year long, but I’d say the best time to visit is the fall, to witness the changing of the vibrantly colored leaves!
It’s definitely one of the best destinations to visit in Colorado, and perfect for families, couples, and nature lovers! You could even time a visit during one of the many incredible music festivals in Colorado which happen quite regularly!”
Contributed by Dave from Jones Around the World
23. New York City and the Hudson River Valley
- Driving Distance/Time: varies
- How to Split up the Time: 4 days NYC | 3 days Hudson River Valley
NEW YORK CITY
New York is overwhelming, intoxifying, magical, and a dreamland all at once. It’s a city of dreams, and no, the city really doesn’t ever sleep. There’s always something going on, whether it be a random Tuesday night or a Sunday afternoon. If you’re considering a trip to NYC – make the leap, you’ll find yourself booking another ticket back sooner than later. Maybe I’m biased because I basically grew up there, going on field trips to the Empire State Building and Ellis Island, but really, New York is something special.
The Empire State Building is by far the most iconic building in all of New York City, and a visit to NYC wouldn’t be complete without witnessing this famous landmark. You can take a tour and go to the top, but personally, I would save that experience for Top of the Rock. It’s beauty at night (all lit up) and shouldn’t be missed! Some of my other favorite spots in the High Line, going to a Yankee or Met game (baseball is huge here!), wandering throughout chaotic Times Square, catching a Broadway show, and stuffing yourself silly in Little Italy and Chinatown. And ya can’t forget about Central Park!
Additional Resources: First Timer’s Guide to NYC | NYC in Winter
Do you fancy eating pizza and drinking cider in an apple orchard? Are you up for getting lost in a corn maze? Do you crave picking your own summer fruit? Does hiking to waterfalls, swimming in lakes and picnicking on cliff tops sound like fun? If so, then the Hudson Valley is the perfect addition to any trip to NYC.
There are artist studios, historic mansions and FDR’s presidential library. You can go antiquing, enjoy art in Beacon and Storm King sculpture park, and stroll across a pedestrian bridge over the Hudson River. Summer is a perfect time for dining by the river, sailing on the Hudson River from Kingston, and visiting (or even staying in) one of the lighthouses along the river. You can also have a picnic and catch a movie in an old-school drive-in in Hyde Park or Poughkeepsie. Fall has spectacular color, pumpkin picking, and farmers’ markets (read more about fall in the Hudson Valley here). To keep active, try horseback riding and kayaking in the spring or cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter. There is so much to do throughout the year, you will want to go back!
Contributed by James Ian at Travel Collecting
24. Boston, MA and Newport, RI
- Driving Distance/Time: 75 miles | 1 ½ hours
- How to Split up the Time: 5 days Boston | 2 days Newport
It’s safe to say that Boston is a city filled with historical facts just around each and every corner. Despite being a prominent city in US history, the largest city in New England has so much more to offer. The luscious green parks are abundant, the long waterfront walks are plentiful, and the amount of shopping will surely make any woman smile. Being one of America’s oldest cities, it’s safe to say that there are a ton of activities to keep busy.
Compared to New York (a city that spans over 305 square miles, versus a measly 48), Boston is much smaller and therefore way more realistic for a long weekend. There’s still a wide array of activities, but not too much to make it seem overwhelming.
Don’t miss Boston Common, the Public Garden (my favorite), Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Quincy Market, a food tour in the North End (giant cannolis from Mike’s Pastry included!), the Boston HarborWalk, and a stroll on luxurious Newbury Street. OH! You can’t leave Boston without catching a game at historic Fenway Park! Get tickets beforehand, and hang out at the stadium prior to the game feasting on sausages and hot dogs from nearby food carts.
And plus, Boston is a foodies paradise. With its location being so close to the water, you can easily find lots of fresh seafood to indulge in– lobster and fish + chips included!
Additional Resources: Weekend Guide to Boston | Where to Eat in Boston
If you wanna get outta the big city, head on over to Newport, a charming little town just a bit south in the tiny state of Rhode Island. Set on Aquidneck Island, here you’ll find a yacht-filled harbor and tons of impressive mansions (on Bellevue Avenue) just waiting to be explored. The most famous of these mansions-turned-museums is The Breakers, which was built a long, long time ago in 1895, and actually built to resemble a Renaissance palace! Lot’s of wow factors over here.
Don’t miss the Cliff Walk, a long 3.5 mile path along the water which passes by not only The Breakers, but The Marble House and other notable mansions as well.
25. Chicago, IL and Milwaukee, WI
- Driving Distance/Time: 95 miles | 1 ½ hours
- How to Split up the Time: 4 days Chicago | 3 days Milwaukee
Visitors to Chicago can expect to find a vibrant city bustling with activity any time of year. On any given summer weekend, locals and tourists alike will be out in full force, making the most of the sunshine and glorious weather. There will be farmers’ markets on any given day, festivals, and crowds galore, but that only adds to the merriment. Full of bold architecture full of skyscrapers, a multitude of museums, and that world famous mirrored bean! OH! And deep dish pizza, how could I forget?! Mmmm… now I’m hungry just thinking about Giordanos.
Willis Tower and its Skydeck Ledge (a glass box, 1353 feet in the air, extending out four feet from the side of the building) offers views spanning four states on a clear day.
Voted the #1 museum in the world, The Art Institute of Chicago has more than 300,000 works of art, spanning the centuries. From Ancient Greece and China to the Renaissance and Impressionism, the museum covers it all.
Any trip to Chicago needs to include the green space of Millenium Park, the place to be in Chicago any time of year! The park is home to the infamous Cloud Gate (The Bean), Pritzker Pavilion, and Crown Fountains, and many tourists head straight for these three to capture iconic Chicago photographs.
Additional Resources: 48 Hours in Chicago
Milwaukee is the largest city in Wisconsin and located on Lake Michigan. Milwaukee is full of life with plenty of things to do and see, including some weird and wacky ones. First, there’s the Milwaukee Art Museum which is one of the most striking buildings in the city located along the waterfront. Next, there is the Harley Davidson Museum to visit even if you are not biker it is very interesting to learn about the history of this motorcycle company.
The Milwaukee River Walk is a great way to see some of the architecture of the area and a great way to explore more of the city on this two mile walk along the river. Be sure to check out the bronze statue of The Fonz from Happy Days.
But enough about things to do – let’s talk food my friend! If you haven’t tried cheese curds or frozen custard, did you really even visit Milwaukee? P.S. – NO! The dairy state offers a lot of different types of cheese but the cheese curd is the most popular. You can buy fresh cheese curds from the Wisconsin Cheese Shop on Highland Avenue which also ships cheese for you.
If you are attending an event like Summerfest or a Milwaukee Brewers Game you will find deep fried cheese curds which are battered and fried gooey cheese bites!
And for dessert, you must try Kopp’s frozen custard. They have several locations around Milwaukee. Try the flavor of the day and see why frozen custard is far superior to ice cream.
Contributed by Nicole from Travelgal Nicole
So there ya have it- a whole bunch of week-long USA itineraries to choose from for your next trip in the states! Which are are on your bucket list?
Elena Gilbert says
I love this list! I’m going to try to do a week-long itinerary starting in Boston this fall!