Bucket List: 20 Must See Sights in the USA

View from Empire State Building 2010

America is a big country with many beautiful things to see. Every American has a preference for their favorite locations  — but if you met someone from a foreign country and they asked you what 20 sights are “must see” in the United States, what would be on your list? Below is my list. It also serves nicely as a ‘bucket list’ of USA destinations to visit in your lifetime. What did I forget? Leave me a comment and let me know.

  1. New York City. See the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State building. Visit Ground Zero. Watch a play on Broadway. Spend the night if you can afford it.
  2. San Francisco. Cross the Golden Gate Bridge. Ride a cable car. Eat seafood at Fisherman’s Wharf. Visit Alcatraz. Drive down Lombard Street.
  3. Las Vegas. Stay up late to gamble. Catch a show. Walk along the strip.
  4. Florida. Visit the beach. Drive through the Everglades. Drive to Key West and watch the sunset from Mallory Square Dock.
  5. Grand Canyon. Take your picture at the North or South Rim. Ride a burro. Feel the cold waters of the Colorado River.
  6. Washington DC. Visit the Smithsonian. Walk from the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial along the National Mall. Pay your respects at a War Memorial.
  7. Hawaii. Get Leid. Swim or surf. Visit the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. Hike around one of the Volcano National Parks.
  8. New Orleans, LA or Memphis, TN or Austin, TX. Listen to live music. Eat Bar-B-Que.
  9. New England in the Fall. Spend a weekend at a bed and breakfast. Put maple syrup on your pancakes. Stop by Boston for Clam Chowder or Maine for Lobster on your way home.
  10. Niagara Falls. Admire the Falls from above. Take a boat ride to the bottom of the Falls. (OK, this is best done from the Canadian side, but close enough)
  11. Rockies or Sierra Nevada Mountains. Be the first to ski on new fallen snow. Warm your toes by the fire in a ski lodge.
  12. A baseball game. It doesn’t matter if it’s a major or minor league team. Stand for the national anthem. Eat a hotdog. Sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the seventh inning stretch.
  13. Alaska. Visit a glacier. See a bald eagle, a killer whale and a grizzly bear (but not too close).
  14. National Parks. Visit Yellowstone or Yosemite. Watch “Old Faithful” do it’s thing in Yellowstone or hike up Half-dome in Yosemite.
  15. Los Angeles. Get your picture taken in front of the Hollywood sign. Take a studio tour. Take a tour of the stars’ homes in L.A.
  16. Disneyland or Disney World. Get your picture taken with Mickey Mouse at either Magic Kingdom. Visit both if you feel like overachieving.
  17. Spend the Fourth of July in any small town with a Main Street. Enjoy the fireworks and the hospitality.
  18. South Dakota. Drive through the Badlands. Admire Mount Rushmore.
  19. Road Trip. Drive across the country at least once in your life. Find Route 66. Eat at a roadside diner. Play the license plate game along the way.
  20. Watch the sun rise over the Atlantic and watch the sun set over the Pacific. Overachievers, do it on the same day…

BONUS: Visit all fifty states. Get your picture taken at every “Welcome to” sign.

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  1. Deseret Kastner
    Posted August 2, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Hi Gordon,

    Nice to see the old list still lives on in an updated form! I’ve been fortunate to complete and cross a few more off my personal list. Still have a few more to do 😉

    Hope you and your family are well.
    Take care,
    Deseret (Newman) Kastner

  2. Posted February 9, 2013 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    “Bucket List: 20 Must See Sights in the USA” was a remarkable read and therefore
    I was really content to discover the blog. Regards,Violette

  3. KR
    Posted September 1, 2013 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    I’ll modify your New England trip a little bit: go whale watching off of Cape Cod. It was an incredible experience, very majestic. We must have seen about 20 whales on the trip, including a humpback whale mother and her calf, and one humpback whale “breached” just like you see in the commercials. Finish your trip with a lobster meal at The Lobster Pot in Provincetown. There is a drive-in movie place in Wellfleet on Cape Cod, and you might also find a cranberry bog around there, too. Plymouth, Massachusetts has Plymouth Rock (it’s just a rock, but the location is known to be the spot where the Pilgrims arrived).

    Also in New England, you have the Presidential mountains, including Mount Washington, up in New Hampshire. If you like hiking, you can catch the Appalachian Trail pretty easily at Crawford Notch since it basically crosses Route 302 there, if I remember correctly. The Appalachian Trail extends from Maine to Georgia, and it is the East Coast’s most famous trail. The movie “On Golden Pond” was filmed on Squam Lake and I believe the original house is available as a B&B.

    • Posted September 1, 2013 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

      Great points. I lived in Boston for five years so perhaps I was taking New England for granted. I will say the only whale watch I’ve ever been on was a bust — no whales — so I envy your trip.

  4. KR
    Posted September 1, 2013 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    Adirondacks / Upstate New York trip: Lake Placid (ski or hike where the Winter Olympics was held), see a live show at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, in Bethel, NY, at the site of the original Woodstock music festival. The original grounds are still there. There is a well-put-together museum there, and there are concerts, farmers markets, and events throughout the year. “By the time we got to Woodstock, we were half a million strong.” Cooperstown, NY: see the town where baseball was invented or at least immortalized. Right outside the town is the Ommegang Brewery where you can get a tour and see how Belgian style beer is made. These towns are rather far apart so you may have to pick and choose. You might combine the Woodstock portion with a NYC trip, for example.

  5. KR
    Posted September 1, 2013 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    I used to travel a lot for work, and I think I’ve been to 14 places on your list.
    If you go to NYC, Ellis Island is not, not, not to be missed. I think I’ve been to New York City close to two dozen times, and it was only on my most recent trip that I got to see Ellis Island. It was the most meaningful thing I ever saw in NY, ever. You ride a ferry boat from the city over to the island, seeing exactly the same view that the immigrants might have seen before setting foot on US soil. Will they let you into America? Will they quarantine you and send you home? You’ll feel the same things that they felt. If you go midday, the ride home on the ferry at dusk will be spectacular, with the sun beginning to set as you pass the Statue of Liberty. They have a kiosk inside on the ground floor where you can trace back your relatives, electronically, and see if any relatives came through Ellis Island.

    If you go early enough in NYC to one of the Broadway ticket booths (one right in Times Square) you can get discount tickets for Broadway shows that day but you may not know in advance what shows will be available. It’s well worth it!

    Eat a corned beef sandwich (it’s a full platter, very full) at the Carnegie Deli or across the street at the Ben Ash Deli. The Carnegie has many photos of movie and TV stars on the walls, people who’ve visited the deli. Take a walk in Central Park and see the castle and grounds. See a show at the Lincoln Center. Go to the MoMa art museum or the Guggenheim. Stand in front of the building where Good Morning America is filmed. Hold up a sign that says “Hi Mom.” Go to a farmers market….by subway…in Union Square. The only farmers market I went to via subway. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.

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