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Best attractions in United States book

We just finished a trip to Europe, so next year we need to conserve money & travel in the US. That being said, we are totally open about where and I was thinking a book on maybe the top 10 attractions by state might inspire us. Any recommendations?

Posted by
14097 posts

While I don't know of a book along those lines, I suggest for a start on National Parks if those iconic outdoor spaces are of interest to you. There is also a book on the many famous National Park Lodges.

You can also go to the Trip Advisor forums and look state by state or take a look at the TA Road Trips forum to see some of the classic Road Trips people enjoy such as: following the parts that are left of Route 66, doing the Great Circle of National and Tribal Parks in Arizona and Utah or doing another classic combo of Mt Rushmore/Badlands/Cody WY/Beartooth Highway/Yellowstone/Grand Tetons.

Posted by
2378 posts

There is a website "Attractions of America" where you search by state and it will list the top ten attractions and also can search by specific areas such as national parks, amusements parks, etc. don't know what criteria they use as we have searched a couple of states and found a couple of items we would not consider in the top ten, such as Madam Tousards (spelling?) in New York city as a top ten attraction in the state, really? Anyway, it would be a start.

Posted by
2393 posts

It would be helpful to know what your interests are. History, Art, Architecture... Do you like cities or are you looking for active vacation hiking, camping, kayaking...

Posted by
2393 posts

There is "1000 Places to See Before You Die" Many US places in there.

Posted by
10344 posts

Beartooth Highway was mentioned above. Amazing road. However, I found out, last year, that you don't want to drive it if it's late in the day and there is even a hint of gray sky "up there", that road tops out at 11,000 feet.

Posted by
3391 posts

Being a 4th generation Californian, I'll give you my top picks for my great state!
* Yosemite National Park - visit the main valley and then drive up Tioga Pass Road to the high Sierras. Stunning!
* San Francisco - ride the cable cars, go to Golden Gate Park, walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, see the Redwood forest at Muir Woods, and visit Alcatraz Island.
* Los Angeles/Orange County area - so much here but I recommend Hollywood Blvd in Hollywood, seeing a performance at the Hollywood Bowl, going to Huntington Beach or Manhattan Beach, visiting Crystal Cove State Park, and seeing the Ghetty Museum.
* Drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles via highway 1 through Big Sur, through San Luis Obispo, and down highway 101 to Los Angeles. Divide the drive into two or three days. You'll get a great feel for the state.
* Visit the wine country of Sonoma County - Napa is touristy but still nice; I prefer the Russian River Valley west of the town of Healdsburg - small, independent, unique wineries. Stay out on the river in Guerneville and visit Anderson Grove Redwood Forest.
* Go to Death Valley - sometimes it's closed because it's too hot but it's a natural wonder if you dare!
* Drive highway 395 on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada - I'm actually doing this tomorrow! If you want to see the great American West, this is the place. Ghost towns, mines, ranches, mountains, and great fly fishing.
* Las Vegas - OK...not California but it may as well be since most people here go there all the time and it's only 4 hours drive from L.A.. Needs no explanation really but it's pretty spectacular in a hedonistic, flashy sort of way.
* Amusement Parks - Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm, and Magic Mountain.
* The North Coast - Drive from San Francisco north on highway 1 following the coast the whole way. It goes through Redwood forests, past foggy seaside villages, and long some very rugged, remote coastline.
That's a super quick, incomplete list but I hope it inspires you to visit!

Posted by
64 posts

We would be more prone to seeing the natural wonders of a state, although historical and quirky places are ok too. We have always enjoyed national, state and provincial parks, but there are some lesser known parks we've stumbled upon that we really enjoyed.

Posted by
811 posts

For a quirky reference, look no further than Roadside America's website. When my husband and I went on a 7,000 mile US road trip odyssey we found many gems on that site.

We also experienced many a National Park and state wonder. If interested, the trip was detailed online at Happy planning!

Posted by
110 posts

The USA is a big country and you will not be able to see all of it on one trip. How about a visit to Edmonds, WA and see the RS headquarters?? The problem with top 10 lists are that they are very subjective, one person's top 10 is another person's worst 10. Try Googling ( is that even a word?) images of different states and see what comes up and what looks good to you.
I think National Geographic has books on the different parts of the US I know NG has books on the national parks, also Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, Frommer's all have US guide books and online research tools. I would check out,,,,, and for more info.

I would suggest you pick a region, Northeast, Southeast, Southwest or Northwest and explore from there. Or you could go to Alaska or Hawaii Both places are worth seeing. All states have their own must see places and activities. OR Washington, DC the US capitol has many worthy sites and is well connected by air, rail and car.
Check out for train travel, although it is not as good as the trains in Europe. Also you can rent an RV and travel/camp around the US for cheap.
Have fun planning,

Posted by
10344 posts

I've traveled in every state, with an emphasis on the US west of the Mississippi River.
You asked about the top 10 attractions by state and a place to start would be the web, every state seems to have an official travel website.
Also the US National Park Service has a website for every national park, national monument, etc.
If your interest is in the Western US, I'd be glad to advise you further if you want to send me a Private Message using this website.

We don't have some things Europe has, but we've got things they don't have, starting with am amazing variety of unique national parks, no two are alike.

Happy Travels in the US!

Posted by
149 posts

You could also check out a foreign-owned tour company (e.g. Intrepid Travel) to see what attractions they include in their tours. The foreign travellers on those tours would be coming to the US to see the biggest attractions, just like we flock to Europe to see the Eiffel Tower and ride a gondola in Venice.

Posted by
437 posts

The Grand Canyon should be on your list. There is a hotel in the bottom and it is a great hike.

The public library has many books to inspire a lifetime of trips in the US.

Posted by
76 posts

For us a general rule is that for a one week summer trip the destination should be within a one day drive. If it takes two days or more to get there then that is a two week or more trip for us. We also try not to have two consecutive day long drives except when making a beeline back home at the end of the trip. I’m based in Minnesota so when travelling to Yellowstone NP we stop in the Black Hills region of South Dakota for a day or two on each leg of the trip.

I’ll assume you’ve scoured the southeast already and probably covered many of the one day drive radius sites. For a two week drive you could head up to Maine and maybe hit PEI and/or Quebec City and Montreal depending on how motivated and rushed you want to be. A trip to Niagara Falls and Toronto is another option. There are numerous decompression stops along the way.

A trip to the sights along the Great Lakes are also doable We just spent a week in Door County WI and had a great time swimming, hiking, biking, kayaking and jet skiing on Lake Michigan. Water temp was 62F but you get used to it and are good for about 20 minutes until it’s time to warm up in the sun again. Plenty of lighthouses on the lakes and a stop in Chicago would give a good blend of outdoors and city sights.

Heading west will be more difficult because of the extra distance you have to drive. I know you’re trying to save money but I think flying would be the way to go for national parks out west unless you don’t mind really long road trips. You could do an open jaw trip flying into Las Vegas and out of Denver. This way you could visit Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands, and Arches NP in Utah and then Grand Teton and Yellowstone NP in Wyoming and Rocky Mountain NP. You can relax when you get home and come back again and spend more time at your favorites.

Also second Angela's comments about Radside America. There are many quirky/cool/enjoyable sights throughout the US. My favorites have been Coral Castle (Miami), carhenge (Alliance NE), enchanted highway (ND) and Wall Drug (SD).

Posted by
64 posts

All those are good suggestions. I'll take some time after October to spend time at the library to do some real reseach. Just surfing around I've looked at diverse locations such as islands in Lake Michigan, Quebec City, Land Between the Lakes in Tennessee, etc. I think we'll have to schedule this after my youngest is out on summer break from college.

Posted by
1419 posts

since you said lake Michigan I'd suggest a few days in Chicago and then a few days off camping on lake Michigan. Chicago has great museums, sports, and architecture.....I've done the boat tour looking at the down town architecture and took some international visitors out to see all of the frank Lloyd wright buildings in Oak park. (ernest hemingway sites there, too)

Posted by
8183 posts

We often take cheap Caribbean cruises whenever we're not going overseas. Sometimes even two per year.

We went to Italy 2 years ago and Budapest/Vienna/Prague this year. In our off years, we've visited Seattle/Victoria/Vancouver and drove from New Hampshire as far as the roads went in Nova Scota/Cape Breton Island.

We found everything we were looking for in Camden, Maine. Accommodations there were reasonably priced, and we ran up on the most beautiful small bay full of huge sailing ships. We found many more lobster shacks there than in Nova Scotia, and food was priced like the U.S.A. The maritime area of Maine down to Boston is just breathtaking.

We just purchased a new fifth wheel camper, and will be taking in some of the great sights in the East. We started out with 3 weekends in East Tennessee (Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg.) We also will be moving the trailer to the North Georgia Mountains a little over an hour northeast of Atlanta. That's where the people in Florida go on vacation.

In January, we intend to fly into Las Vegas for 3-4 days before flying non-stop to Honolulu. We're going to stay in a bed and breakfast in Kailua--over the Pali Pass. We'll fly back into Los Angeles and take a rental car up U.S. 1 to San Francisco--where we'll fly home from. I never tire of the incredible California coast scenery.

Open jaw flights work well in the U.S--just like in Europe--to give you a great trip for a fair price.

Posted by
15618 posts

My first thought is to fly round-trip to Las Vegas. Spend as much or little time as you want there - good entertainment, you can walk around the over-the-top-extravagantly kitschy casinos for free (stay in one of the places off the strip to save money), then head to the Colorado Plateau for some of the most amazing scenery in the world (and lots of American history). It's easy to plan a round-trip and depending on when you go, you don't even need to make reservations - so you can go at your own pace. Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado are all wonderful places to visit. In my experience, October and even November are great - not too hot and not crowded (except for Vegas, which is always crowded :-). I'm sure April/May would be good too. It's easy to plan a loop route through the Southwest. And it's certainly not expensive.

Watch Ken Burns's series on the National Parks! And explore the National Parks website.

Posted by
344 posts

One summer we flew in/out of Denver and had a great weeklong Colorado vacation, temperature in the low 80 s and NO humidity. Beautiful mountains in the distance. Went to a giant water park in Denver, then drove about an hour and half south (no traffic) and stayed in the Colorado Springs area for a night or two with a stop at the unforgettable Garden of the Gods state (?) Park---clear blue skies and orange rocks. Magnificent. you can take a long hike, or a very short, easy walk on path, or you can stay in the car and just drive around a bit. Another surprise was an outdoor museum site: Rock ledge ranch historic site with informed volunteers in historic clothing explaining how people in Colorado lived in the 1800s. Attended and even enjoyed a campy outdoor cowboy barbecue & show (outdoors) at Flying W Ranch.

90 minute (?) drive to Breckenridge, normally a ski resort in the winter but beautifully green in summer, mountain scenery, and a charming town. tons of restaurants, pubs, and small shops but we were with kids so did not take advantage of that.Went on a very easy 2 hour trail ride (horse) on ski resort property and thrilling white water rafting 1/2 day trip. Rented an apt right on the ski resort property and found it affordable.

I am sure this is more information than you wanted, but wanted to share the news that Colorado in the summer was terrific.

Posted by
64 posts

Not real fond of Las Vegas other than as a starting point for the Utah National Parks, which is a neat plan. I do like traveling to a cooler area - thinking now or New England or the Maritimes.

Posted by
38 posts

I have to include the Northwest in your options! Oregon has beautiful mountains, rivers, waterfalls. Rafting is exhilarating! Hiking will give you a chance to enjoy the wild. At the coast, you're not fighting crowds but enjoying picturesque misty mornings and colorful sunsets. The redwoods in Northern California are another of my favorites. They are so impressive! The San Juan Islands and Seattle would be a full vacation. You might see some Orcas! The Columbia Gorge is gorgeous! Lol

Good luck!

Posted by
1 posts

That thread is going directly to my favourites! I'm going to NYC in the next summer and we are currently booking a hotel there. Our travel agent, who got us a great deal, got us top 4:
1. Statue of Liberty
2.Times Square
3.Madison Square Garden
4.Manhattan as a whole, Broadway.

Posted by
4163 posts

As someone already said, the responses here will be highly subjective. You couldn't pay my husband enough money to go to NYC. You couldn't pay my best friend enough to do a driving trip to any national park. I'd go just about anywhere anytime.

As for moving places, there are many for me both in the US and abroad. Verdun where about 300,000 died in a 9-month battle, OKC where there is a chair for every victim and the Holocaust Museum in DC to name a few.

Posted by
555 posts

While "1000 Places in the World to See Before You Die" was mentioned earlier, there is actually a "1000 Places to See in the US Before You Die". Great book and you can probably find it in your local library. I just finished watching a six CD set that I also got at my library called Great American Road Trips. These are all scenic, include a lot of national parks and also some of the more famous roads in the country. Examples would be Highway 1 in California, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, several different routes down the east coast from Maine to Key West, three from the Arizona/New Mexico area up through Colorado and Wyoming, and the Hana Highway, a road around 1/3 of Maui with 602 hair pin curves in 55 miles. The book and videos will certainly give you lots of good ideas. For what it is worth, when I retired a year ago I made a plan to play golf in every state in the country and I have 17 so far. I have been working on a plan to visit the states where I haven't played and do it in a sequence that takes me to or near places where I have friends or relatives I have not seen in years. So far I've had a few invitations to stay with some of them as well. If you start your planning by making a list of things you love, the ones that really turn you on, and go in search of where you can find them your trip will almost plan itself. Good luck.

Posted by
3800 posts

Wesley, Have you ever been to the Civil War battlefield sights in Virginia, Colonial Williamsburg, Monticello, and Mount Vernon? It's a great trip. The countryside of Virginia is beautiful. Then you could continue north to Washington, D.C. and do the museums. A section of D.C., Georgetown is full of old townhouses, great restaurants, and a canal. The southern part of the Washington area, Alexandria, Virginia has Colonial-era townhouses, cobblestone streets (made from the ballast stones from Colonial ships), fantastic restaurants and views of the Potomac River.

Another great trip is St. Augustine, Florida. There is a fort there, Castillo de San Marcos built 1672 by the Spanish. The entire town dates back to that era, and is Spanish architecture. There is a lighthouse at St. Augustine beach, which overlooks the exact spot where Ponce de Leon, the explorer landed. From there, it is fun to follow the trail of lighthouses southward in Florida. Each lighthouse is different, and you can climb the stairs to the top of most of them for a fantastic view. Stop near Vero Beach at the McLarty Treasure Museum to see the gold and silver treasure on display. It was originally cargo on sunken Spanish galleons which went down off the coast in a storm. Continue on far enough south, and end up in fun, funky, and historic Key West. On the drive down the keys, see the old railroad bridge built across the keys from Miami to Key West. In Key West, see Ernest Hemingway's House and the Little White House. Sit and watch the sunset with a great seafood dinner.

Posted by
115 posts

Colorado is a fun state, plus you have Utah just next door, if your the outdoorsy type, its a good area.

Posted by
2404 posts

Several of my fellow Oregonians have made suggestions...but for some eye candy please see this video on the Travel Oregon page here. The website includes about a zillion ideas for things to see and do in my beautiful home state. If you want ideas, PM me and I can give you plenty of suggestions to fill up a lifetime of visits (I'm still working on my own list, so much to see and do).