Top United States Tours & Vacations 2024/2025 [reviews &...

United States Tours & Travel Packages 2024/2025

689 United States trips. Compare tour itineraries from 34 tour companies. 2,704 reviews. 4.6/5 avg rating.

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United States Tours & Travel Guide

United States Attractions & Landmarks Guide

The United States isn’t the largest country in the world -- it’s dwarfed by Russia -- but it packs in a lot of attractions per square mile. At the same time, especially in the western U.S. and Great Plains states, there are plenty of wide open spaces where the roads ahead seem almost endless, often framed by mountain ranges, deserts, fields of wheat and corn and, in the northern winter, fields of snow.

Visitors from abroad (and many Americans, too) seek out the glitz of Las Vegas or the ever-popular family theme parks like Disney World in and around Orlando, Florida. Many want to see Los Angeles, California, with its Hollywood glamor and laid-back Southern California style. And they also head for the big city of New York, a world capital of finance, fashion, cuisine, and much more.

United States’ Regions

The United States is an enormous country with such astounding diversity, both natural and human, that widespread agreement on what states fall in what regions is hard to come by. Ask any American and they would be hard pressed to tell you not only because of the difficulty in remembering the geography of so many states but also, because the government prints different maps depending on the agency.

The South is particularly controversial with its political history tied to the Civil War. If you’re planning a trip to West Virginia, a state in the Southern region according to the US Census Bureau, others might consider it to be a northern state since West Virginia joined the northern forces during the Civil War (1861-1865). Regardless, a general knowledge of regions in the US will be helpful as you decide what part of the US you should visit.  

Northeast/New England

  • Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont

Beginning in the early 1600s, Europeans began settling in New England, a name still used today that encompasses the present day states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Importantly, the first engagements of the American Revolutionary war were fought in Massachusetts with the arrival of British regiments sent to disarm American Revolutionaries. 

Other states in the Northeast include Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Washington, District of Columbia (D.C.) which is actually a territory, not a state. The Northeast is a megalopolis of interconnected metropolitan areas that include Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C..

It is also the wealthiest region in the country with major educational institutions, financial and business centers. You’ll find three of the most visited cities in the US, Boston, New York and Washington, D.C. It is on Ellis Island, a nub of land on the Hudson River practically a stone’s throw from the city of New York, that millions of immigrants arrived seeking a better life in America. It’s said that 40% of Americans can trace their heritage to an ancestor that arrived via Ellis Island. 

East Coast United States

  • Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida

Also called the Atlantic Coast/Seaboard or Eastern Seaboard, the states on the East Coast front the Atlantic Ocean and make up both the Northeastern and Southern regions of the US. From north to south: Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. While not adjacent to the Atlantic, Vermont and West Virginia are sometimes lumped into this region because of their location. 

The American South

  • Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia

Also called Dixieland for the style of jazz developed in New Orleans, Louisiana, this large region is located in the south and south-central part of the United States. States in the South include: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. The “Bible Belt,” as it's often called includes most of these states with the exception of Delaware, Florida and Maryland.

There are higher percentages of people who have a religious affiliation as well as more churches, religious schools and universities in the Bible Belt compared to other parts of the US. The largest cities in the South include: Jacksonville, Florida; Charlotte, North Carolina; Washington, District of Columbia and in Tennessee, Nashville and Memphis. 

The South’s unique historical and cultural heritage comes from European colonial settlers as well as the institution of slavery and its African American legacy. Country music was born in the South, Americans speak of southern hospitality, and it’s here you’ll find Mickey Mouse. The most visited theme parks in the world, Disney World’s Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom are located in Orlando, Florida. Other popular destinations include Miami, also in Florida and Washington, D.C. 

The Great Lakes Region

  • New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota

The Great Lakes are a series of interconnected freshwater lakes (Superior, Michigan, Huron, Ontario and Erie) located in the northern, mid-eastern US on the US-Canada border. Eight states border the Great Lakes: New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota

When European settlers began arriving in the early 17th century, they encountered many indigenous groups like the Shawnee, Algonquin and Iriquois. It was the promise of a viable northwest passage to Asia and the fur trade that kept France, Britain and The Netherlands fighting for control of the region for a century and a half.

Today, while its economy is diverse, the Great Lakes is aptly called the industrial heartland of America. Only the GDPs of China and the US exceeds that of the Great Lakes’ region. The largest cities in the region are Buffalo, NY; Chicago, IL; Cleveland, OH; Detroit, MI and Milwaukee, WI. 

The Midwest

  • Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin

The north-central Midwestern states include: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. The Midwest, like the Great Lakes, share a similar history with European settlement and French control which was overtaken by the British in the French and Indian War (1763). 

Two decades later, the Northwest Territory as it was called, was created out of ceded English frontier lands under the Northwest Ordinance. The Ordinance specified, among other things, that slavery was prohibited. And so, it was at the southern boundary of the territory that marked the border between slavery to the south and freedom to the north.

Through the Midwest and particularly through Ohio, slaves traveled the “Underground Railroad,” a series of freedom routes that would take them north into Canada.

By the time of the Civil War, Swedes, Norwegians, Jews, Hungarians, Poles and other European immigrants were bypassing the East Coast and settling in the interior Midwest. Today, along with African Americans who are a significant ethnic group in the region, these immigrant descendants live in Chicago, IL; Detroit, MI; Indianapolis, IN, some of the largest Midwestern cities. Other important cities include Cincinannti, Cleveland and Columbus, OH; Minneapolis, MN and St. Louis, MO. 

Rockies/Mountain States

  • Montana and northeastern Idaho (northern Rockies), Wyoming, Utah and southeastern Idaho (middle Rockies); Colorado and New Mexico (Southern rockies) and finally into the four corners region of Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico (Colorado Plateau)

The Rocky Mountains, located in the western Northern American continent, stretch across the land for some 3,000 miles between the northern Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia (Canadian Rockies) south into the mountain states of the US.

The mountain states include: Montana and northeastern Idaho (northern Rockies), Wyoming, Utah and southeastern Idaho (middle Rockies); Colorado and New Mexico (Southern rockies) and finally into the four corners region of Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico (Colorado Plateau). While geology, landforms, drainage and soils may differ, all have high elevations, stunning scenery that comes from their glacial and volcanic origin, similar economies, culture (cowboys!) and exploration. 

The Pacific Northwest

  • Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Northern California, Southeastern Alaska

Bounded by the Pacific Ocean to its west, the Rocky Mountains to its east, Canada to its north and western US states to its south, the Pacific Northwest includes the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and in some designations, northern California and southeastern Alaska because of similar history, culture and geography among other commonalities.

The Pacific Northwest is a mostly rural and forested land but there are large population centers including Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver, Washington as well as Portland, Oregon. In the Cascade Mountain range, one of four ranges in the region, the geology is impressive with several large, active volcanoes. The history of the Pacific Northwest is strongly tied to its indigenous inhabitants who left behind art, architecture and other artifacts that can still be seen today. Thousands of descendants still practice traditional ways.

The West Coast

  • Alaska, Washington, Oregon

States on the West Coast are bounded by the Pacific and include states in the Pacific Northwest: Alaska, Washington and Oregon as well as the western states of California and Hawaii. See more on Alaska and Hawaii below. The largest city on the West Coast and one of the most visited in the US is Los Angeles, located in Southern California. San Francisco, located on California’s central coast, is also one of the most visited in the US. 

West and Southwest

  • The Dakotas (North and South); Kansas; Oklahoma; Texas (also considered South or Southwest); into the states of the Rocky Mountains, West Coast and Pacific Northwest; Nevada; Arizona and New Mexico (Southwest)

“Go West, Young Man.” The origin of this mid-1800s saying is disputed but it drew hardy pioneers by the thousands to the American west. Seeking homesteads and fortunes they traveled on horseback, by foot and covered wagon.

Into the vast unknown, an expanse of plains, mountains and deserts west of the Mississippi River they went: the Dakotas (North and South); Kansas; Oklahoma; Texas (also considered South or Southwest); into the states of the Rocky Mountains, West Coast and Pacific Northwest; Nevada; Arizona and New Mexico (Southwest).

Alaska

Another American frontier, Alaska is called the “Last Frontier” because of its rugged climate, immense size and sparse population. The sun shines nearly 24/7 in the summer because of its northern latitude, which also gives it the name “Land of the Midnight Sun.” In the language of the indigenous Aleuts, Alaska translates to “The Great Land” which indeed it is with 20 national parks and 14 distinct mountain ranges. 

Denali soars from one of these ranges, the highest peak in North America and third most prominent and isolated in the world. A third of the state lies in the Arctic Circle, it has no less than 130 active volcanoes and over 130 million acres of forest.

Lakes abound, some 2 million of them. It is this largely untamed and unexplored land that makes Alaska a haven for wildlife, most notably bear. An estimated 130,000 inhabit the state, some of which can grow to over 1,500 pounds. Alaska is also known for the Iditarod, a grueling 1,000 mile dog sled race that pits man and animal against nature. 

Hawaii

West Coasters especially flock to the Hawaiian Islands located nearly 2,400 miles off the western coast of the US and over 5,000 miles from the Philippines to the west of Hawaii. It is a chain of over a hundred atolls, seamounts and islets. There are 8 major volcanic islands - volcanic tops that have surfaced above the ocean.

From east to west: Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Maui, and Hawaii (the Big Island). The original settlement of the islands is believed to have been by Polynesians who migrated northwest from the Marquesas Islands between the 4th and 7th centuries, CE. While the Polynesian influences can be seen in Hawaiian language and culture today, there are distinct characteristics because of the islands’ isolation.

In spite of its isolation and just like the mainland US, Hawaii today is a rich cultural center having become a multi ethnic society. This, along with its incredible natural beauty, have made it a tourist mecca. Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, is the capital of Hawaii and gateway to the islands.

It is known for the beaches of Waikiki and Pearl Harbor naval base, site of the 1941 preemptive Japanese military attack that marked the United States’ formal entry into World War II. The Big Island is known for Mauna Kea Observatories, the world’s premier location for astronomical research. And no matter what island you’re visiting, you’re sure to see and feel the Aloha spirit, said to be the harmonization of mind and spirit in each person.

Top National Parks in the United States

In 1872, the United States Congress passed a bill for the first National park, Yellowstone, located in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. Today, there are 61 National Parks across the United States. They are some of America’s greatest natural treasures that, thanks to the vision of a few individuals, now belong to everyone.

Stride has hundreds of national park trips to choose from. Here are the top five most visited parks in the US:

  1. Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina - Hiking is the main attraction here, particularly on the Appalachian Trail, the longest hiking only footpath in the world. It spans for more than 2,000 miles from Maine, at the northeastern tip of the United States, to Georgia in the South. 

  2. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona - One of the largest canyons on Earth, the Grand Canyon is a mile deep and up to 18 miles wide in some spots. From any vantage point, it’s difficult to fathom and impossible to see all but a small portion of its 277 mile expanse. 

  3. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado - With its wetlands, pine forests, tundra and mountains, Rocky Mountain National Park has over 400 miles of streams and 150 lakes. It spans the continential divide of the United States, separating the Pacific and Atlantic watersheds. 

  4. Zion National Park, Utah - The Virgin River continues to cut and carve through the sandstone of Zion. Go to see its vermillion and sandstone colored rock cliffs contrasted against the deep blue sky and verdant valleys. 

  5. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho - Known for its wolves and their reintroduction, bison, bears, and the “Old Faithful” geyser among other natural splendors, Yellowstone remains the crown jewel of the National Park system. 

Other popular US National Parks: Yosemite National Park in California, Acadia National Park in Maine, Grand Teton National Park , Olympic National Park (Washington) and Glacier National Park (Montana).

Fall Foliage in the United States

When’s the best time to see fall foliage? That’s a good question. Predicting the best time to see nature’s stunning palette of colors is a science with several factors coming into play including historical data, precipitation, soil conditions, average daylight hours and long range forecasting.

Leaf peepers turn to local and national media outlets, hotlines and even interactive fall foliage maps to help them plan their get away. Depending on what region of the country you plan to visit, leaves can start changing as early as mid August while in other areas, they may not start changing until mid-November. Tours during prime Fall foliage times are likely to book more quickly. 

Where to go to see the best fall colors?

New England has traditionally been a top spot for Fall foliage tours. Acadia National Park in Maine, the Catskill Mountains in New York, Green Mountain Byway in Vermont and the Berkshires in Massachusetts are just a few but there are so many places to see the splendor throughout New England and the US, including the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. Out West in Colorado, visit Ouray and Telluride in the southwestern part of the state and Aspen in central Colorado for prime color.

Even in Rocky Mountain National Park not far from Denver you’re in for a treat. You might even hear the echo of a bugling elk. In Montana, head to Glacier National Park and in New Mexico, the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway. Back east the colors will be dominated by red and orange while in the western mountain states above 5,000 feet you’ll see a different palette of gold, yellow and sometimes orange from quaking aspen. 

Active Travel in the United States

There is no shortage of active travel in the U.S. and active isn’t necessarily adventure travel; active means moving. It’s a booming sector of the travel industry particularly as people seek more health and wellness.

Experiencing local cuisine is surely high on the traveler’s priority list so why not burn some calories if you’re going to indulge in all the gastronomical delights that a place has to offer? You’ll be traveling to gorgeous destinations on active tours, ones you might not otherwise get to see if it weren’t for the opportunities to hike, bike, walk, raft, and more.

Many of the companies who specialize in active travel have repeat clientele. It’s not uncommon to meet fellow travelers who have taken multiple trips with the same company and have, in fact, already planned for the next one.

Use the “Physical Level” filter to help you find tours rated from very easy to easy, moderate, strenuous or extreme. Active tours are generally shorter in length - 7 days or less - so consider one of them as part of your trip to the U.S. Here are a few to consider. 

Cycling is a classic active travel tour. Pedal across the heart of Texas in the Hill Country; see the Fall Foliage in Stowe, Vermont; the vineyards and rolling farmlands of Upstate New York’s 11 Finger Lakes; the wine country of Sonoma, California and the California coast; or head out on a singletrack in the Colorado mountain town of Crested Butte. 

Hiking/backpacking the high country outside of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, can be a more strenuous trip as you travel deep into the wilderness on the spine of the Rocky Mountains and gaze at the towering peaks of the Continental Divide. Just as challenging might be summiting Yosemite National Park’s Half-Dome, an iconic feature of the park.

In Utah’s Capitol Reef, experience a wild, yet serene landscape. Geologists know this 100-mile long warp in the Earth’s crust that formed between 50 and 70 million years ago as one of the largest, most exposed monoclines on the continent. All the hiking isn’t out west though. Head to North Carolina to hike portions of the 2,000 mile plus Appalachian Trail, or A.T., while wetting your whistle with craft brews of the area. 

River Rafting is one way to see the incredible geology of the West. Raft the Green River in Utah where you’ll be bracing through dozens of rapids, hiking to petroglyphs and gazing at dinosaur habitats not to mention geology millions of years in the making.

The Salmon River in south-central Idaho is another popular rafting destination even though it’s called “The River of No Return.” The canyon is large with sandy beaches and big water rapids with names like “Devil’s Teeth” and “Whiplash.” Floating “Hell’s Canyon” on the Snake River which borders Oregon and Idaho is another popular trip. The Snake River gorge is the deepest in the U.S.

Regional Cuisine in the United States

America is a land of people with indigenous, global immigrant and african american ancestry. This human history, combined with different climates that determine what can grow in a particular region, along with access to food such as a port town which provided greater access and culture; for example, that of the western and Texan cattlemen, all factor into what you might be biting into when traveling across the US.

There are some foods that are unique to regions while others are unique to particular states. Here’s some of what you can sink your teeth into by region and state within that region.  

Food in the Northeast & New England 

What to eat in New England? How about some clam “chowdah”? There’s white clam chowder, also known as Boston clam chowder, which is made with milk or cream and often served with oyster crackers. These small, salted crackers are made with flour, not oysters, and are sometimes used to thicken the chowder.

And what’s Manhattan chowder? It’s tomato based and actually has nothing to do with New York, having originally came from Rhode Island. What to eat in Vermont? Try some maple syrup on your pancakes and further northeast there’s Maine lobster.

Some will tell you that nothing says summer like a lobster roll. Succulent, sweet lobster meat is served in a buttery hot dog style bun. Outside of New England, the capital of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, is known as the pretzel capital of the US. Try a Philly pretzel, soft and warm sprinkled with salt. 

Cuisine in the American South 

What to eat in the South? It’s home to shrimp and grits (boiled cornmeal), fried chicken and chicken fried steak. And in New Orleans, Louisiana, there’s gumbo. Culinary historians believe the dish has African heritage. There are seafood gumbos loaded with Louisiana shrimp, crab and oysters, spicy sausage gumbos and okra gumbos.

If traveling to Tennessee, try pork ribs to learn the secret of Memphis style barbeque. And for a sweet tooth, Georgia has its peach pie. The state was a major producer of peaches after the Civil War.  

Food in the Great Lakes/Midwest Region

Wisconsin cheese curds, if not fried which they often are, will squeak in your mouth. The squeakier the better - it means they’re fresher. In Chicago, Illinois, the deep dish pizza is like none other and in Missouri, you’ll find fried, “toasted” ravioli.

Origins are disputed but it’s said that an Italian chef accidentally dropped a ravioli in oil instead of water. In Kansas City, Missouri, there’s another style of rib to try with a sweet, thick sauce that’s known all over the US. The pasties in Michigan are handheld meat and vegetable pies that came to the region by way of miners from Cornwall, England. 

Rockies/Mountain States Cuisine

Be careful when ordering Rocky Mountain Oysters! It isn’t an oyster at all. They’re testicals. Specifically from a cow, sheep or pig and watch out! They go by different names like cowboy caviar or tender groins. Fortunately, the cowboy/ranch culture of the mountain states goes beyond testicals.

Competition among steakhouses for the tenderest cut of beef, lamb and bison is common not only across the mountain region but in the midwest, too. From a completely different food group, taste the intense sweet-sour of a huckleberry. These berries are grown in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. 

Food of the Pacific Northwest 

Salmon is a common menu feature along with other seafood items in the Pacific Northwest. Try salmon imbued with cedar from being cooked on a cedar plank. The damp climate is conducive to mushrooms and in Oregon you’ll find marionberries, similar to a blackberry but prized for their firmer texture and more complex flavor.

And for seafood lovers, if you are traveling during the wintertime, this is Dungeness Crab season. A favorite for locals, this crab taste very different than their softshell and other cousins on the East Coast. Be sure to give it a try!

Definitely raise a glass of Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, a globally recognized wine region. You’ll find huckleberries in this region, too, and in Washington, apples and cherries. From your mug, sip some Seattle coffee. The capital of Washington is known for having a number of roasters located there, including Starbucks and Tullys. No wonder more people consume coffee in Seattle than in any other US city. 

Cusine of California/Alaska/Hawaii 

What to eat in California? Or should that be drink. California is world renowned or its wine varieties from both Napa and Sonoma counties. The Central Valley also produces wine with much of it supplying producers in Napa and Sonoma. And while hispanic food doesn’t necessary go with wine, the high number of Mexicans, Latin and South Americans  in the state bring food and fusions from those regions to the menu, particularly in southern California.

Hispanic technically refers to people from Spain and there are these influences as well albeit to a smaller degree. Asians, a large demographic in the San Francisco area, bring authentic asian cuisine to the foodie scene. Other California foods to try: avocado and avocado toast, sourdough bread from San Francisco, fish tacos in San Diego and a burger from In-N-Out Burger. 

More fish is on the menu in Alaska and Hawaii like the king crab, halibut and salmon from Alaska. Beyond fish, yak has been called Alaska’s “new red meat” and domesticated caribou, called reindeer, is usually prepared sausage style. It’s a breakfast staple in most restaurants.

The Alaskan yak, descended from stock imported from Siberia in the late 1800s, can only be owned by Alaskans native to the state. In Hawaii, order poke, made with raw tuna, onions and tomatoes. It’s sometimes served with poi, which is taro root that has been cooked, mashed and thinned with water.

Some say Taro chips are tastier than poi but you’ll have to try for yourself. Also order saimin, an egg noodle soup that has influences from Chinese, Japanese and Portuguese people who migrated to the islands. 

Cuisine of the American Southwest 

Food in New Mexico and Arizona is largely influenced by the hispanic and native cultures in the region. In the 1600s, Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors arrived in the southwestern states (eventually conquering the entire western part of the US), bringing with them chili seeds. Today, this long, green chili is known as New Mexican chile.

You can find it in flavor packed red or green chili stews, sauces doused over burritos or in a queso (cheese) dip among other tasty dishes. As for the native influence, the “three sisters” is a diet staple consisting of corn, beans and squash. All grow in a symbiotic relationship and provide a nutrient dense meal. It was traditionally blue corn, not yellow that the Hopi and Pueblo people of Arizona and New Mexico grew.

This nuttier flavor and higher protein content blue corn has become a popular snack food in the form of blue corn tortilla chips. Take it easy on those considering the sodium content but also, fry bread and sopaipillas. Fry bread is a flour based, flat fried or deep fried bread eaten alone, with various toppings or as a taco “plate.” A sopaipilla is a sweetened fried bread. As they often are filled with air from the frying process, some sopaipilla lovers poke a hole in the bread and fill it with honey. Imagine the oozing sweetness.

Wildlife in the United States

South Africa, Rwanda or the Galapagos might come to mind when thinking about the best places to see wildlife but the U.S. has over 20,000 native species of plants and animals.

While it may take some effort to spot these often elusive animals, here are some of the best native and non-native animal encounters in America:

  1. Bald Eagle - America’s national emblem, the native bald eagle is also pictured on the country’s currency and presidential seal. These powerful, majestic birds are found throughout the continental U.S. and Alaska. 

  2. Bison - Named a national mammal in 2016, the bison is the largest mammal in North America with males weighing up to 2,000 pounds. Like the eagle, it is an official symbol of America. Thankfully, conservation efforts have dramatically improved both eagle and bison populations. Bison roamed the prairies of the U.S. by the tens of millions until they were hunted nearly to extinction during the settling the West in the mid to late 1800s. Today, approximately 10,000 animals in 17 herds are managed on public lands in 12 states, including Alaska.  

  3. Elk - once common across North America, today elk are found primarily in the west. They are natives of North America and eastern Asia. In the Fall especially, you can hear their eerie bugle, a signal of dominance but also, a call to other elk, including females. In Wyoming, 11,000 of them migrate across Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park and the Bridger-Teton National Forest.

  4. Polar Bear - The largest land-dwelling carnivore on Earth is the Polar Bear, native to the Arctic but also found in other regions. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska is a national conservation area where the bears regularly den. Heart wrenchingly, these magnificent creatures have become the symbol of climate change, specifically warming trends that are melting the bear’s icy habitat.

  5. Grizzly Bear - The Grizzly Bear, a subspecies of the brown bear, can actually be various shades of brown, black and even blonde. The name Grizzly comes from the “grizzled” blonde hair on the tips of their fur. They’ve been called the monarchs of the open tundra and mountains of Alaska and once roamed the entire western United States, including Alaska as well as Canada and south into Mexico. Control measures and habitat loss have reduced their now recovering native range. 

  6. Black Bear - The most common and widely distributed bear in the U.S., Black Bears are smaller and more adaptable than the Grizzly or Polar Bear. Their native range also extends into northern Mexico. While most are black regardless of where they’re found, there are genetic variations that include the white bear of southern British Columbia (western Canada) and the blue, or glacier bear of southeastern Alaska. 

  7. Moose - Native to other regions of the world, the largest U.S. population is also found in Alaska, although Moose territory extends into the northeastern US and south into the Colorado Rockies. Their large size makes survival difficult in warmer climates and they prefer forested areas that see snow in the winter. They also like the aquatic plants found in swamps, ponds, bogs and lakes and streams. Other browsing edibles include twigs, tree bark and in the warmer months, the buds of the hardwood and softwood trees and shrubs.

  8. Ringtail - The Ringtail, sometimes called a ringtail cat, miner’s cat or marv cat isn’t a cat at all, it’s in the raccoon family. A native of the more arid climates of the south, southwest and west coast, the less than 3 pound ringtail’s black and white striped tail is as long as it’s 12-18 inch body. It’s a sleek animal, more substantial than a weasel but smaller than a cat with large oval ears and large eyes ringed with white fur. The raccoon and ringtail have another relative in the southwestern U.S. (also found in Central and South America), the coati. About the size of a large house cat, it, too, has a ringed tail that it holds straight up in the air which helps keep the coati together when foraging in tall vegetation. 

  9. Gila Monster - You’ll have to head to the desert southwest to see these prehistoric looking creatures. They are the largest lizards native to the U.S. weighing in at about 4 pounds with a stout, 20 inch body. Their beaded scales have patterns of bright black, pink, yellow and orange. The Gila Monster is a venomous lizard and was thought to be one of two in the world but recent discoveries have proven otherwise. Some species of iguanas and monitor lizards also have venom.

  10. California Condor - The largest bird in North America, the bald headed California Condor is a soaring master thanks to its long, broad wings and long “fingers” at its wing tips. Despite a wingspan of up to 10 feet, their substantial weight of up to 30 pounds makes lift off difficult so they prefer to fly from a high perch. Sacred to Native Americans who live in the American West, the California Condors are best known for a captive breeding program that has slowly increased their numbers from a mere ten individuals back in 1987. Populations have been reintroduced in Arizona, Utah and California.

Top Attractions in the US for History Buffs

Topping the list of attractions for history buffs has to be Boston, one of the oldest cities in the U.S. with historical sites like the home of American Revolutionary Paul Revere; the USS Constitution, the oldest naval vessel in the world that is still afloat, and the Old South Meeting House where colonists first gathered to protest the unfair taxation of tea by Britain. 

Just outside Boston, visit Minuteman National Historic Park. The park maintains and interprets multiple sites, including the battlefields of Lexington and Concord, associated with the first day of fighting of the American Revolution. The minutemen earned their name for being ready at a minute’s notice. These civilian militia companies were made up of colonists who independently gathered to train themselves for military readiness.

The seat of government, Washington, D.C. is another list topper. It is here that many relics are kept from founding documents to art. You’ll have to pace your visits to attractions like the National Museum of American History; the National Archives where the original Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and Constitution are preserved; the National Museum of the American Indian; the National Museum of African American History and Culture; and Arlington National Cemetery. 

Take a two day trip from Washington, D.C. to visit Colonial Williamsburg, an 18th century living history museum - the largest in the world - that depicts colonial life in Williamsburg, Virginia. Dine in a historic tavern that serves typical food of the period, ask the craftspeople at work in the traditional trade shops questions or shoot a flint musket to immerse yourself in 18th century colonial life.  

The first permanent English settlement in North America was established in Historic Jamestown in 1607. It is located just 15 minutes west of Colonial Williamsburg. Active excavation, analysis and research continues today, a site that thrived for nearly 100 years as the capital of the Virginia colony. 

A day’s trip from Washington, D.C. you’ll find several American Civil War battlefields including Gettysburg. Often called the “High Water Mark of the Rebellion”, Gettysburg was the bloodiest of the Civil War battles with casualties that numbered over 23,000 on the Union (Northern) side of the battlefield and 28,000 on the Federate (Southern) side. 

Pearl Harbor National Historic Landmark in Honolulu, Hawaii, is the site of the preemptive military strike by the Japanese Imperial Army on December 7, 1941. It marked the United States’ entry into World War II. The USS Arizona Memorial straddles the sunken hull of the USS Arizona battleship, final resting place of 1,101 of the 1,177 sailors and marines who were killed during the attack. 

There’s lots of history you can find in both Colorado and New Mexico that predates America as a country. In Southwestern Colorado’s Mesa Verde National Park, you'll find the largest archaeological site in the U.S., also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. About 1,400 years ago Ancestral Puebloan people built elaborate - and astounding - stone communities in the sheltered alcoves of the canyon walls. The park contains over 400 known sites.

In New Mexico, explore more native American history at the Taos Pueblo, the only living native American community designated as both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Historic Landmark. The multi-storied adobe buildings have been continuously inhabited for more than 1,000 years.

Uninhabited pueblos can be explored at Chaco Canyon National Park, a center for thousands of people between 850 and 1250 A.D. and Pecos National Historic Park which also preserves a Civil War battlefield site. Spanish colonial history is also a part of New Mexico’s past. 

If you are interested in the history of space exploration, head to Houston, Texas to visit the Johnson Space Center. The center is NASA’s hub for human spaceflight where training, research and flight control are conducted. It is also home to the International Space Station mission operations, future space development programs and the new NASA spacecraft being developed under the Orion Program.

Top Activities for First Time Travelers to the U.S.

In these days of experiential travel, a list of top activities for first time travelers to the U.S. depends on the interests of the traveler and what type of trip they’re looking for. What are the best U.S. cities to visit? Best U.S. National Parks? Best places in the U.S. for history buffs? It all depends on you. 

If you prefer big cities, read about the different regions of the U.S., choosing cities within those regions you find most intriguing. And if being active is what you’re looking for, read about Active Travel options or Top National Parks. While often geared toward a younger traveler, cross-country U.S. tours will give you a little bit of everything. 

Alternatively, you might plan to join a tour for part of your trip; for example, a National Park circuit group tour after some self-guided big city visits. National Park tours generally start and end in larger city centers not far from the parks so you could plan to end your self-guided trip at the tour’s starting point.

Off the Beaten Path Travel

A journey along well-traveled paths means you’re likely seeing things most everyone else sees. These are popular routes for a reason, whether because of their historical, natural or cultural significance.

As people seek more experiential travel they dig a little deeper to more actively engage with the history, culture, people, food, and environment of the places they’re visiting.

What can you expect with a trip to the U.S. off the beaten path?

  1. More time in a specific location or region

  2. A particular theme; for example, Colorado mountains and craft brews; a foodie, wine and outdoor adventure trip in California; National Parks outside of Las Vegas, Nevada and Los Angeles, California; history in Washington D.C. or Mardi Gras in New Orleans

  3. Fewer big-city destinations on the itinerary, more places most don’t get to see like National Parks 

  4. Often geared toward younger travelers

United States Reviews & Ratings

4.6/5  Excellent
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Excellent
1,165
Great
370
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59
Disappointing
22
Terrible
7
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Steven

Aug 2019

Written on

I have had an absolutely amazing trip

My wife and I have had an absolutely amazing trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles via Napa Valley, Yosemite, Death Valley, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Monume...

E

Eloise

May 2019

Written on

An absolutely amazing experience,

An absolutely amazing experience, would highly recommend to anyone. Parks we...

V

Vanessa and Martin

Dec 2017

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The Vegas to LA trip is amazing.

The Vegas to LA trip is amazing. Excellent and diverse range of trip experiences. Wonderful and breathtaking locations of the Canyons with opportunities to explore b...

S

Suzie

Sep 2022

Written on

The trip itself was amazing!

The trip itself was amazing! The Venus were interesting and beautiful. The food was delicious (especially the buffet at The Grand on Mackinac Island). We enjoyed get...

J

Jan

Sep 2022

Written on

It was a great trip

It was a great trip with a great group. The food and accommodations were very nice. Our bus broke down at one point but our guide and driver handled it as quickly an...

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