So you’ve booked your flights to the USA. Time to live your American Dream and go on your ultimate USA Bucket List! You’d need an entire lifetime to explore every amazing inch of America, so you’ll have to be selective.
Whether you want to get lost in the wilderness or feel like you’re in a movie, prepare your USA Bucket List to make sure you’re getting the most out of every second of your trip.
But remember you need to apply for an ESTA for your trip to the USA!!
It is true that some destinations are much more popular to share on social media than others, with New York’s Times Square proving to be the top tourist hotspot to check into on Facebook, surpassing other US tourist hotspots including Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Orlando – which has been checked into six million times.
Here are 12 ideas to get you started on where to go and what to do when on holiday in the USA…
10 Experiences – USA Bucket List
Travelling to the USA
Getting an ESTA USA is mandatory for travel to the USA, whether you are travelling for a holiday, business trip or transit in the USA. ESTA is an abbreviation and stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. And it’s so important you submit an application through an official site like e-Visa. If you do not apply and get your ESTA USA granted, you will be denied arrival entry when checking-in to your flight.
And don’t forget the kids! Underage children are also expected to be granted their own online ESTA visa.
It can be submitted using an easy to fill-in, online form, which takes around 5 minutes to complete meaning you don’t need to visit the US Embassy in London. This means costs are a lot lower and it’s quick to acquire, unlike applying for a US visa.
The cost of the ESTA form is £29.95 per person and can be paid safely through Visa, MasterCard, American Express or PayPal.
Usually, an ESTA USA takes a few days, but for urgent cases, it can happen within hours. You will be sent your granted confirmation via email and SMS. The ESTA is a digital document, and you will not be presented with a physical letter or document.
The validity of the ESTA is two years, from the moment it is granted and you can make an unlimited number of trips to the USA during this period of time for both tourism and work, for a maximum of 90 consecutive days.
However, if you are heading to the USA for a longer period of time, then you will need to get a US visa.
10 Experiences – USA Bucket List
1. Washington, DC
First on your list for the ultimate USA Bucket List, is the White House has been the home and office of every US president since John Adams in 1800. To fully appreciate this icon of American history, you can take a guided tour.
All it takes is a little advanced planning, as you need to put through a request for tickets a couple of months ahead of time. If you can’t secure tickets for a tour, it’s worth a visit to stand outside the grounds and take in the view from the front. You can also pop in at the White House Visitor Centre for extra information and context, including architectural facts and anecdotes about the first families who lived there.
And while you’re in DC, take your time visiting other significant American landmarks, such as the Smithsonian museum and various War Memorials, not to mention the National Zoo. And if, like many of us, you’re touring the USA on a tight budget, visiting Washington DC is easy on the wallet because many of the attractions here are free.
2. Glacier National Park
Montana’s Glacier National Park offers a majestic natural experience like no other. While you can visit throughout the year, the summer months are the ideal window because the higher altitude roads are accessible which means you’ll get the most out of those breathtaking vistas.
Aim for late May or June, and take a drive along the Going to the Sun road which slices east to west across the middle of the park, coming to a stop at the giddily high Logan Pass Visitor Centre. If walking is your thing, you can walk from here over to Hidden Lake, taking in spectacular views of Bearhat Mountain.
Expect to see a range of friendly fauna, including squirrels, bighorn sheep and mountain goats, and keep a sharp eye out for the less friendly park residents, like wolverines and bears. For the very intrepid, the Many Glaciers area provides a base for longer trails like the Iceberg Lake hike, which takes you along a ridge towards a basin lake complete with floating icebergs.
3. Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls, Ontario, is a Canadian city at the famous waterfalls of the same name, linked with the U.S. by the Rainbow Bridge. Its site on the Niagara River’s western shore overlooks the Horseshoe Falls, the cascades’ most expansive section. Elevators take visitors to a lower, wetter vantage point behind the falls. A cliffside park features a promenade alongside 520-ft.-high Skylon Tower with an observation deck.
Niagara Falls is a wonderful place, full of colour, sounds and nature, as it straddles the Canadian border. The Observation Tower, at Prospect Point, juts out over Niagara Gorge for a view of all 3 waterfalls and offers great opportunities for grabbing that famous Instagram shot. Trails from the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center lead to other viewpoints, whilst the Aquarium of Niagara is home to Humboldt penguins, seals and sea lions.
4. New York City
You’d be crazy not to catch a Broadway show if you are visiting New York. In fact, it’s the shows that bring many people to New York in the first place. Even if you’re not a theatre buff (yet) the experience will be unforgettable, and you will get so much out of the atmosphere of this famous theatre hub.
Old favourites like the Phantom of the Opera and Rent are stellar options if you’re new to Broadway, and if you’re someone who keeps coming back, there’s always something new in rotation. Tickets can be a little pricey, but unlike many trips to the theatre, you are assured quality: Broadway is one of the most competitive creative spaces in the world, and nothing stays very long unless it’s deemed truly excellent by crowds of discerning New Yorkers.
Central Park is an urban park in Manhattan, New York City. Central Park is the most visited urban park in the United States, with 40 million visitors in 2013, and one of the most filmed locations in the world. While planting and landform in much of the park appear natural, it is in fact almost entirely landscaped.
The park contains several natural-looking lakes and ponds that have been created artificially, extensive walking tracks, bridle paths, two ice-skating rinks (one of which is a swimming pool in July and August), the Central Park Zoo, the Central Park Conservatory Garden, a wildlife sanctuary, a large area of natural woods, a 106-acre billion-gallon reservoir with an encircling running track, and an outdoor amphitheatre, the Delacorte Theater, which hosts the Shakespeare in the Park summer festivals.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a gambler or a nightclub connoisseur, the famous Las Vegas Strip is a hedonistic utopia you have to experience once in your life. You’ll feel like you’re in a movie every second of your crazy stay.
And when you’ve had your fill of poker and shows, clear your head in the exquisite Red Rocks National Park, where you’ll find endless opportunities for hiking, scenic drives, camping, and encounters with Nevada’s desert wildlife. Take note: this place is hot!
Whether you’re trawling the Strip or hiking a train, be liberal with the sunscreen.
6. The Grand Canyon
You might think you can picture this UNESCO World Heritage site quite easily because of the proliferation of tourist snaps on the internet, but when you get there and take in the spectacular geographical wonder yourself, you’ll see that no image, in fact, no words, can capture its splendour.
There’s a reason Americans and tourists alike flock to this place. Aside from the sheer depth and size, the red hues and panoramas provide a backdrop for the human imagination. For some, standing on the edge and looking across the canyon is staggering enough, but you can also take a day hike down to the bottom or camp overnight.
Grand Canyon National Park, in Arizona, is home to much of the immense Grand Canyon, with its layered bands of red rock revealing millions of years of geological history. Viewpoints include Mather Point, Yavapai Observation Station and architect Mary Colter’s Lookout Studio and her Desert View Watchtower. Lipan Point, with wide views of the canyon and Colorado River, is a popular, especially at sunrise and sunset.
Orlando, a city in central Florida and is home to more than a dozen theme parks. The state is the main player in the success of the Disney franchise and amongst its claims to fame is Walt Disney World. The theme park includes four parks, including the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, and 2 water parks.
Not to forget other major players; Universal Orlando, offering 2 parks: Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter spanning across both.
The City is nicknamed “The City Beautiful” and its symbol is the fountain at Lake Eola. However deep down the world really knows Orlando as “The Theme Park Capital of the World” mainly because in 2014 its tourist attractions and parks drew more than an impressive 62 million visitors and in 2009 it became the most visited American city.
8. San Francisco
San Francisco, in northern California, is a hilly city on the tip of a peninsula surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. It’s known for its year-round fog, iconic Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars and colourful Victorian houses.
The Financial District’s Transamerica Pyramid is its most distinctive skyscraper. In the bay sits Alcatraz Island, site of the notorious former prison. San Francisco, in northern California, is a hilly city on the tip of a peninsula surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay.
It’s known for its year-round fog, iconic Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars and colourful Victorian houses. The Financial District’s Transamerica Pyramid is its most distinctive skyscraper. In the bay sits Alcatraz Island, site of the notorious former prison.
Aloha! If you’re the kind of person who likes the sound of island life—sandy white beaches, cool sea breezes and fresh seafood for lunch and dinner—don’t end your American adventure without packing your Hawaiian shirt and flip-flops and grabbing a flight to Maui.
Whether you want adventure or peace and quiet, Maui has something to offer everyone. You can snorkel with dolphins and turtles, catch the sunrise at the volcano, or a drive down the famous Road to Hana. This stunning route leads you along countless curves with spectacular ocean views and some great stops dotted along the way. Take a hike followed by a swim at Twin Falls, or if you’re feeling adventurous, you can enter a dormant lava tube.
The amazing blowhole at Waianapanapa State Park is also not to be missed. To get the most out of this route, it’s best to stay overnight in Hana, allowing yourself time to enjoy the spectacular sights and adventures along the way.
10. Los Angeles
Los Angeles is a sprawling Southern California city and the centre of the nation’s film and television industry. Near its iconic Hollywood sign, studios such as Paramount Pictures, Universal and Warner Brothers offer behind-the-scenes tours.
On Hollywood Boulevard, TCL Chinese Theatre displays celebrities’ hand- and footprints, the Walk of Fame honours thousands of luminaries and vendors sell maps to stars’ homes. Other things to do in this amazing city include Disneyland Park, Universal Studios Hollywood, Hollywood Sign, Griffith Observatory, Santa Monica Pier, Griffith Park, The Getty, and Hollywood Boulevard.
As the third-largest country in the world, The United States of America is crammed with experiences waiting to be embraced.
Whether you’re a thrill-seeker, a city-slicker or a lover of the natural world, this USA Bucket List will help you plan the trip of your dreams….
Remember you need to apply for an ESTA for your trip to the USA!!
*This is a sponsored post, however, as always all opinions are my own.
My Travel Tips and Recommendations
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For accommodation, I usually book most of my hotels or hostels through Booking.com. I love using this platform as it provides me with some amazing deals for accommodation all around the world. Or if you prefer, I also recommend using Airbnb. If you haven’t signed up with Airbnb already, you can use this link to get £25 off your first visit!
Photography and Technology
Here is a list of the technology I always travel with:
- Canon G7X Mark II
- Canon EOS M50 and lens
- GoPro Hero Black 7
- DJI Mavic Pro
- RØDE VideoMic GO On Microphone
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