The United States is an expansive nation with more beautiful, intriguing, and thrilling sites than you can count — yet the ones you hear about over and over again are usually the same ones, given the incredible variety of its landscapes, bustling cities, and stunning beaches.
Any “best” list of locations to visit in the United States may number in the hundreds, but we’ve taken on the unpleasant chore of narrowing down the options to only 7 sites for travelers.
Mountains, beaches, and jazz-filled neighborhoods are all a part of the great American image, which includes a vast geographic mix of metropolitan symbols and wild locales.
Best 7 US Places for Wanderers
1. Northern New Mexico
Green chiles abound, Santa Fe has a turquoise empire, and Albuquerque is more than just a location for Breaking Bad, as you already know. But there’s more to northern New Mexico, starting with a trip west of Santa Fe to Tesuque Village Market, a quaint lunch place in the pueblo’s foothills, the way to Abiquiu’s roadside Echo Amphitheater, which offers soul-awakening vistas.
Visit Taos to relax in the Manby Hot Springs, see the Taj Mahal of the Southwest, Taos Pueblo, and see the Earthship Community, a collection of quirky dwellings built by recycling hermits. Complete the Enchanted Circle by driving via Eagle Nest, Angel Fire, and Questa for a gorgeous trip that includes swimming, rafting, and hiking stops.
2. Camden, Maine
Forget Kennebunk, where the Bush family spends their summers, and continue going north for another two hours, and you’ll arrive at Camden, a picturesque Atlantic oceanside town.
Camden is the smart pick for those in the know, with fewer visitors than Kennebunk but just as much New England charm — plus a surprisingly vibrant food scene. Authors Richard Russo and David McCullough are among Camden’s most well-known inhabitants, and let’s just say we like their taste considerably more than anyone else’s.
You can go hiking to reach the top of Mt. Battie for panoramic views of Penobscot Bay and Camden Harbor (just be aware that this won’t be an easy trek). For similar views in the off-season, take a chairlift ride at Camden Snow Bowl. You may cool down in the ocean at Laite Memorial Beach or in the freshwater at Megunticook Lake.
3. The Mississippi Gulf Coast
The first thing that should come to mind when thinking about Mississippi isn’t a laid-back beachfront brimming with artists, live music, delicious cuisine, and wonderful bars.
Unless you’ve spent time on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, of course. South of I-10, this area of the state is more like New Orleans than Redneck Riviera. It has the world’s longest man-made white-sand beach, and a drive out to the barrier islands is like visiting a deserted Caribbean paradise.
There’s a lot more to this place than just a pleasant day at the beach.
Bay St. Louis’ artist scene is similar to Sausalito in Dixie, with the main strip lined with galleries where creative individuals congregate. Ocean Springs, a little southern beach enclave with one of the strongest live music scenes in the South, is another option.
Then there’s Gulfport, which is gradually becoming a hive of young creatives, as seen by Chandeleur brewing and the food at Corks and Cleaver. Add in the Stennis Space Center for us scientific nerds and Biloxi for some unfettered judgments, and this area may just be one of the greatest all-around in the Southeast.
4. The Black Hills
South Dakota has a poor reputation as a flyover state where people commune with cows and have no idea what the internet is. But it’s also among one of the most underappreciated states in general, as evidenced by a trip to the state’s Black Hills on the west side.
Starting with the breathtaking Badlands and extending westward, the Black Hills are home to some of the most majestic sceneries you can imagine, from the winding Spearfish Canyon to the mountain lakes that surround Mount Rushmore (deal with it, you’re going), rivers, mountains, caves, and more, making it ideal for hikers, climbers, and everyone in between.
It’s essentially a massive, calm cluster of little communities distributed within an hour or two of one another among enough bizarre geological characteristics to inhabit a whole planet. Not bad for a location known for having a massive wall of presidential heads towering above it.
5. Chattanooga, Tennessee
Sure, it’s a great location to say out loud, but you’ve probably just given Chattanooga a cursory glance. It’s your loss. The current tourist slogan is “Best Town Ever.” The Southern location is great for ditching your iPhone and disconnecting from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Plan on ascending Vantage Mountain (a journey up the shockingly high Incline Railway is worth the line), if only to visit Sunset Rock, a former important lookout location for Confederate generals during the Civil War.
Hiking, however, is only one Jenga piece of the recreation scene: you may also rock climb, horseback ride, hang glide, or simply hire a two-wheeler and pedal around town. Then spend all of your sweat equity on the barbecue; the Chattanooga BBQ scene is a fascinating combination of several distinct pit styles.
Sugar’s Ribs is worth a visit for the scenery, the goats grazing outside, and, of course, the ribs. The Flying Squirrel is the place to go for craft cocktails, but if you want to pound a few beers while listening to live music, the small Track 29 is the place to go.
No trip to Tennessee would be complete without a whiskey detour, and Tennessee Stillhouse, Chattanooga’s first legal distillery since Prohibition, only recently re-opened its doors.
6. Bellaire, Michigan
There are hundreds of lovely lake towns in Michigan, but Bellaire is in a magical sweet spot, giving the best of everything about Michigan summers. You’re looking for a Rockwellian major street? Bellaire has a walkable Downtown that strikes all the right notes, from the one-screen movie theatre to adorable tiny eateries to mom-and-pop stores.
Psst! Wanna see beautiful lakes?
It’s only a short drive to Grand Traverse Bay, which is just across the water from tourist hotspot Traverse City and boasts quiet sandy beaches with some of the greatest sunsets you’ll ever see. Bellaire is part of a network of interconnecting tiny lakes that are ideal for tubing and pontooning (and that have their own quaint little lake towns).
Or do you want to relax on a dock in a cabin? The renting options are virtually limitless. This is the acme of a lazy man’s destination: a little town that makes you feel right at home while still being only a short drive away from other spots where you can sit down and be lazy. What’s the distinction? The tourist-to-local ratio is unusually balanced.
7. Door County, Wisconsin
A trip to Door County, isn’t simply about the unavoidable. The “Cape Cod of the Midwest” is more pure, diversified, and restful than its term suggests. Instead of the grumpy crowds and congested bridges of Cape Cod, check out this significantly more inviting, yet equally lovely, Wisconsin peninsula.
Door Country is really a collection of 19 small towns separated by Lake Michigan on one side and Green Bay on the other, resulting in a diverse mix of vacation options.
Ephraim Village offers beautiful sunsets, Egg Harbor offers golf and exquisite dining, Fish Creek is ideal for total relaxation, and Forestville attracts many outdoor enthusiasts.