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My 10 Favorite U.S. Destinations – A 4th of July Celebration

As tomorrow is the United States’ Independence Day I thought it was only appropriate to celebrate my home country’s birthday with my top 10 favorite U.S. destinations. Last year I finally accomplished a goal of mine to visit all 50 states. It’s very hard to pick a top 10 because the U.S. has so many amazing natural sites, but I’ll try my best!

10. Havasu Canyon, Arizona

  Favorite U.S. Destinations

Havasu Canyon is one of those destinations that just keeps getting more and more popular and with good reason. Because you must have a permit to visit (and permits are limited) it doesn’t feel overrun with tourists. Plus, since it’s a 10 mile hike, (or donkey ride or helicopter ride in), it feels like you’ve earned this beautiful reward. The canyon is filled with multiple, massive waterfalls created by the bright turquoise Havasu Creek. They’re definitely a striking contrast to the orange-red canyon walls.

9. New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans is just a city that feels like a living thing. It has a soul, a personality and just feels like it breathes. There are so many amazing things to do in NOLA from great eats, to historical sites, to cocktail-fueled strolls through the French Quarter. There are so many things to see and do in the Big Easy that one trip just simply isn’t enough.

8. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii

Favorite U.S. Destinations

Seeing an active volcano has been so high on my list for so long. Upon visiting Hawai’i last year, I got to make that dream come true. We were there right before the lava started really flowing, and I’m bummed that we missed that, but we did get to watch the caldera steam and glow before sunrise. It was really special. I hope to come back to see the lava flow into the ocean soon!

7. Big Bend National Park, Texas

Favorite U.S. Destinations

Big Bend National Park is one of those places that totally took me by surprise. I found this park while trying to find the perfect father/daughter hiking destination, and it was beyond perfect. This National Park isn’t one of the most popular, but it has it all. There are hikes in the desert, in canyons and in mountains. There’s wildlife, hot springs, ghost towns, canoeing and even the opportunity to cross the Rio Grande in a johnboat. It unexpectedly made its way into my top ten and it’s one of the places I’m hoping Matt will love just as much when I take him there.

6. Ozark National Forest, Arkansas

I spent my entire life just around the corner from Ozarks National Forest. But it wasn’t until I was out of college that I really started taking advantage of all the hiking there was to do in Northwest Arkansas. The Buffalo National River cuts through this region which has created some stunning bluff lines, there are loads of waterfalls and caves galore. Explorations here can be as simple or adventurous as you want them to be. It’s a well-hidden gem that I think will become extremely popular in the next 5 years or so.

5. Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

 

Kenai Fjords was the magical spot for me in Alaska. The whole countryside is pure wilderness, however, something about this park really spoke to me. Although I’m not usually an ocean-lover there was something about the amazing wildlife I saw in this area (humpback whales, orcas, porpoises, puffins, otters and more), waterfalls that flowed into the ocean and bright blue glaciers crumbling away into the glassy waters. It was just pure magic.

4. Olympic National Park, Washington

Olympic National Park in Washington is a thing of beauty. The thing about this park is, like Big Bend, it has it all! The rugged coastline made even this non-beach-lover want to sit and watch the waves crash agains the rugged rocks. The beaches that required a bit of a hike (like my favorite, Beach 2) felt secluded and like it was your own personal spot. Then, theres the rain forest. All the trees are dripping with moss, and you can come across the awesome, but gross-looking, banana slugs. To top it all off, you can go hike in the mountains. Anyone who knows me knows that the minute I can see mountains I’m happy. I highly recommend the Hurricane Ridge Hike. At just over 3 miles, it’s a great length to get up on top of some mountains.

3. Asheville, North Carolina / Blue Ridge Mountains

I love Asheville so much that it was that after one visit, I knew it was a place that I wanted to live. This city has it all! It’s a mountain-town filled with amazing breweries, food options, coffee shops, art and more. Then, the mountains themselves are the perfect for nature-lovers to explore! I almost feel like I have to give AVL a warning: I’ve met very few people who didn’t totally fall in love after one visit. Be prepared to want to return again and again.

2. The Na Pali Coast, Kaua’i, Hawai’i

Kaua’i in general was just paradise. If it wasn’t so far away from anything else, it would be the place I would want to live forever. Instead I suppose that it will have to simply be a favorite spot. The place we returned to again and again on our week there was the Na Pali Coast. We watched many sunsets on Ke’e Beach and even hiked the amazingly stunning trail to Hanakapi’ai Beach and Falls! These gorgeous, layered cliffs are stunning from each and every angle.

 1. Moab, Utah

 

While the town of Moab is quaint and cozy, it’s the entire Moab-region that holds the number-one spot in my heart out off all of my other favorite U.S. destinations. Edward Abbey said it perfectly when he said, “For myself, I’ll take Moab, Utah. I don’t mean the town itself, but the country which surrounds it – the canyon lands. The slickrock desert. The red dust and the burnt cliffs, and the lonely sky – all that which lies beyond the end of the rocks.” There’s just something about the strange formations and Mars-like landscape that surrounds you. The Southwest in general is an incredibly special place to me, but Moab takes the cake. Canyonlands and Arches National Parks are national gems along with all the other nameless canyons, arches, petroglyphs and red-orange wonderland that holds it all.

Honorable Mentions:

Favorite U.S. Destinations

Washington, D.C. is an awesome city filled with history, some of the world’s best museums and gorgeous monuments. Plus, this is an amazing budget destination as almost all of the major sites here are 100% free! You don’t even have to rent a car because the tram can take you just about anywhere. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming is another national park that has it all. There are geysers, mountains, canyons, waterfalls and wildlife galore. My fear of bears has kept me from exploring more, but it’s on my list to do. Chicago, Illinois is my favorite big city in the U.S.. I like that there’s so much to do. The downtown area is incredibly walkable, easy to navigate and just absolutely beautiful. Be sure to wear your walking shoes and take a slightly larger budget to make it to the top of buildings and through museums. Denali National Park, Alaska is hands down the most wild place I’ve ever been. It seems endless and holds the highest peak on the continent. It’s just amazing! Kings Canyon National Park, California feels like a hidden gem. It’s close to Yosemite, and is actually the home of the deepest canyon in North America. Hanging LakeColorado is just a gorgeous waterfall-fed lake that’s tucked up into a canyon in Colorado. The steep hike to the top is worth the climb.

Favorite U.S. Destinations

The United States is massive, full of a wide range of cultures, foods, nature and more. I’ve been fortunate enough to make it to all 50 states, but there’s still so much more to see! I hope all of my American readers have a happy + safe 4th of July! I’m dying to know, what are your favorite U.S. destinations?

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55 Comments

  • Reply
    Bucket List Journeys
    July 3, 2017 at 8:18 am

    Love 💓this post! I’m picking up my National Park pass soon!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 7, 2017 at 5:49 pm

      Thank you! The National Park pass is one of the greatest things ever! This is the first year since 2012 that I haven’t purchased one because I’m heading our of the country for the year. I love that they’re just a 12 month pass, not just a calendar year.

  • Reply
    Daphne
    July 3, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    This list is great! I have never been to the U.S., so this post definitely gives me a good insight about all the amazing destinations. I love the photos of Moab, Utah and The Na Pali Coast, Kaua’i, Hawai’i!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 8, 2017 at 9:28 pm

      Thank you! Those are definitely my two favorites. I don’t think the U.S. will disappoint as far as natural beauty goes! It’s so beautiful!

  • Reply
    siniciliya
    July 3, 2017 at 2:58 pm

    United States is such an amazing country! Every state has its own gems that are unique. I really needed this list of the best places to visit.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 8, 2017 at 9:29 pm

      That’s so very true. I’ve found that even in the most unexpected places you can find something in-freaking-credible! I love stumbling upon those hidden gems.

  • Reply
    petiteloulou25
    July 3, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    Thanks for this lovely list. 🙂 I’m from the U.S., and there’s still so much I’ve yet to see!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 8, 2017 at 9:31 pm

      Even after visiting all 50 states, I still have SO MUCH to see myself. What’s your favorite spot in the U.S.?

      • Reply
        petiteloulou25
        July 11, 2017 at 5:19 pm

        It’s really hard to narrow it down to one, but my top 4 are Nashville, IN; Sequim, WA; Bar Harbor, ME, and Panama City Beach, FL. Tennessee is great, too. Haha! The list goes on.

        • Reply
          Paige Wunder
          July 17, 2017 at 11:06 pm

          I’ve never been to Nashville Indiana. Only Tennessee! I like TN a lot though! I did love Bat Harbor, it’s super cute! I’d like to check out Sequim some time.

          • petiteloulou25
            July 21, 2017 at 2:37 pm

            Nashville, IN, is a charming little town with lots of history. Sequim is wonderful. If you like lavender, you’d love Sequim! I forgot to mention that Martha’s Vineyard is another one of my favorite spots in the US. 🙂 Happy travels!

  • Reply
    Jojo
    July 3, 2017 at 7:01 pm

    Oh! Arkansas is an interesting one that you don’t see on many travel list. Havasu Canyon is one that I really really want to go to but this permit thing and the hike is what gets me haha .. I definitely want to do it soon. The sooner the better. I feel like as the years go on and the more people visit it, the more likely they will limit the number to preserve the beautiful nature of it.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 8, 2017 at 9:33 pm

      It’s so true. Arkansas is gaining in popularity for sure, but it’s still such a hidden gem. Havasu Canyon is incredible! The permit isn’t difficult to obtain, but you can also ride a horse or donkey in or even take a helicopter. I’m glad that they do the permits so it doesn’t get totally trashed. When I was there (March) it wasn’t busy at all and the heat wasn’t bad either.

  • Reply
    Stacey Billingsley
    July 3, 2017 at 8:16 pm

    Great choices! I live in the Ozarks, but in Missouri. I’m glad you mentioned the middle of the U.S,!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 3, 2017 at 8:33 pm

      That’s crazy! I live in Missouri as well! In Springfield! I would love a meet up some time if you’re ever in the area!

  • Reply
    Candy
    July 3, 2017 at 11:06 pm

    I’ve been to a few of these places and found some places I have never heard of. Arizona has been on my list for a while and I had no idea that you had to have a permit to visit Havasu Canyon. That’s a huge plus for me that it won’t be over crowded 🙂

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 8, 2017 at 9:35 pm

      It is a plus for that very reason and then people aren’t as likely to trash the area as well. We went in early March and it wasn’t too crowded at all. We were all by ourselves in almost every photo.

  • Reply
    Sandy N Vyjay
    July 3, 2017 at 11:12 pm

    I am always awed by the sheer range and variety of natural landscapes in the US. Love all the National Parks. Had a great time in Yellowstone and it is a personal favourite. Love Arizona for its wild beauty that is so alluring.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 8, 2017 at 9:38 pm

      It’s so true. the U.S. is just vast and full of all kinds of different natural beauty. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed Yellowstone and Arizona. Arizona is one of my favorite states! Yellowstone is my mom’s favorite National Park!

  • Reply
    Reshma
    July 4, 2017 at 2:27 am

    Wow! This is a great list to celebrate your home country’s birthday! I have always loved the US for its majestic national parks and the abundance of natural beauty. All of these are on my list already!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 8, 2017 at 9:40 pm

      I’m glad you’ve enjoyed our National Parks. That’s one of the things I feel like the U.S. has done really well (well, so far) is preserve our beautiful sites!

  • Reply
    rovingjo
    July 4, 2017 at 7:06 am

    I loved reading your list. It is great how everyone has a different perspective on their favorites. I am heading to New Orleans next month and Moab is high on my list as well. So much beauty in the US and I hope to see all 50 states like you have.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 8, 2017 at 9:42 pm

      It is interesting! It’s why I can’t help but read them. I always love seeing if my favorites make someone else’s top 10! I hope you enjoy New Orleans! It’s one of the cities that I just don’t get sick of. There’s so much to do! Moab won’t disappoint! I’ve only known one couple who didn’t like it (my aunt + uncle) and it totally broke my heart. Haha!

  • Reply
    The Thought Card
    July 4, 2017 at 10:08 am

    Congratulations on visiting all 50 states! What an amazing feat! I would love to visit Kenai Fjords in Alaska to experience upclose encounters with the wildlife and see those waterfalls!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 8, 2017 at 10:01 pm

      Thank you! I saved Hawaii for last with my husband last year for our honeymoon! Kenai Fjords is incredible! If you love wildlife, Alaska is the place to go!

  • Reply
    Vibeke Johannessen
    July 4, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    I still haven´t been to the US 🙁 I would love to see Havasu Canyon, Utah and Na Pali. You are so lucky to have visited all of the states. That is incredible. I hope I get to visit all of these 10 places 😀

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 9, 2017 at 7:30 am

      It’s a beautiful country. I’m really proud of our natural lands. The southwest (Havasu Canyon + Utah) are absolutely stunning. Na Pali is harder to get to but worth the flight!

  • Reply
    aberkholtz
    July 4, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    Just got back from New Orleans, specifically Preservation hall! A lot of these are also on my favorites list as well, i still havent been to havasu canyon but it’s tugging at me so maybe thats next!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 9, 2017 at 9:06 pm

      Be sure to get the permit early! They sell out quickly! Wasn’t Preservation Hall cool?

  • Reply
    Susan R
    July 5, 2017 at 2:17 am

    What a great way to celebrate Independence Day and congratulations on visiting all 50 states! Hawaii really does look amazing, I’d love to visit. I’ve seen so many photos of the Arches in Utah so that’s also on my bucket list, thanks for the great suggestions

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 9, 2017 at 9:07 pm

      Thank you very much! I’ve only been to two of the islands, but I can’t wait to explore more. Moab is just the best and Utah in general is my favorite state!

  • Reply
    Natasha
    July 5, 2017 at 8:36 am

    Wow, there really are so many amazing US national parks! I’ve been to a few in Colorado but have so much more to see. I’d love to see Big Bend… it looks amazing! 🙂

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 9, 2017 at 9:08 pm

      Big Bend is amazing. It totally surprised me! There are great National Parks here, it’s one of the things about my country that I am very proud of!

  • Reply
    Patricia Steffy (@PLSteffy)
    July 5, 2017 at 9:27 am

    I can’t believe there are so many here that I haven’t visited! I need to get moving. 🙂 Seriously, New Orleans has been on my list for ages, and lately, as my husband is an avid hiker, Moab has come onto my radar. But all of these places just look like fantastic options. Thanks for sharing and congrats on visiting all 50 states!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 9, 2017 at 9:09 pm

      Thank you so much! If you’re husband loves hiking, Moab is definitely a must! It’s so stinking beautiful.

  • Reply
    Claire Sturzaker
    July 5, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    Hawaii is definitely on my list. I just went to a volcano in Guatemala & someone there was talking about volcanos in Hawaii, it looks awesome!!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 9, 2017 at 9:10 pm

      It was awesome! I’m hooked and I want to see as many volcanoes as possible. I’ll have to check that one out in Guatemala.

  • Reply
    Natasha Haley
    July 9, 2017 at 1:19 am

    I have never been to any of these. I would like to see Moab and most of the places actually. The pictures are really great of each place

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 9, 2017 at 9:11 pm

      Thank you very much, Natasha! Moab is my favorite, obviously. But seriously there is just so much to see in that area!

  • Reply
    Katherine
    July 9, 2017 at 8:22 am

    Who doesn’t love chasing waterfalls! I’m such a fan of them. Plus the diverse range of things to do in America, the landscapes you’ve highlighted are so interesting. Covering 50 states as well! how amazing, congratulations!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 9, 2017 at 9:13 pm

      It is one of the funnest things to do! There really is a huge amount of different kinds of nature here. It’s part of why I had such a hard time deciding on my top 10! I was very excited to have visited all 50 – it was something I was really wanting to accomplish.

  • Reply
    SherianneKay
    July 9, 2017 at 8:23 am

    I always have a really hard time when I’m abroad and someone asks me were the top US destinations are, we have so many great places! I love all your top 10 picks!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 9, 2017 at 9:14 pm

      It’s so true! And if you don’t say NYC or LA, a lot of times people just stare at you with a blank face. Haha!

  • Reply
    Siddhartha Joshi
    July 9, 2017 at 10:30 am

    The one city in US I really want to visit is New Orleans and I am so happy that it’s in your list! I really need to make another trip to the States and explore more…there is so much to see and do there!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 9, 2017 at 9:17 pm

      It’s definitely an awesome city. There’s just so much to see and do in that city! I can’t imagine traveling to the U.S. from another country because I wouldn’t know where to start! (It’s how I feel about visiting larger countries too, though. I’m planning a trip to India and holy cow! I think I just need the 150 day visa! Ha!)

  • Reply
    Peter Korchnak
    July 9, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    I’d rank exploring America’s natural splendor as the best way to celebrate the country’s independence. It was all here before us and will remain after (at least I hope so).

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 10, 2017 at 11:54 am

      I hope so too! I’m doing everything I can to make sure it will, myself!

  • Reply
    Efthimis K.
    July 10, 2017 at 6:50 am

    I really like the fact that you have picked so many diverse destinations, from deserts to glaciers and forests. America has it all! Happy 4th of July!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 10, 2017 at 11:55 am

      Thank you. America does have a huge variety of amazing natural sites. It’s stunning and I love being able to find something all over the country.

  • Reply
    Life is a Hotel
    July 12, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    Hey Paige, I agree with Na Pali Coast – I just came back from my big trip to Hawaii and have visited Oahu and Kauai. I can call Kauai my home far away from home 🙂 I felt in love with lovely town Kapaa and visited whole island 🙂
    I really like travel to USA. y favourite spot in NYC is Bryant Park where I can stay for hours with my sister and friends and enjoy my favourite city 🙂
    I also like San Francisco and hopefully I can go back one day to discover more what this city has to offer (I would idk to come back to my favourite Sausalito of course :))
    USA is such a beautiful country with so many fascinating places. I wish to rent a car one day and drive from NYC to Los Angeles 🙂

    best,
    Kasia

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 13, 2017 at 5:38 pm

      I wish Kauai was my home away from home! We stayed at a condo there so it felt like our own home and it was so hard to leave. We stayed on the North Shore. It was amazing!

      Bryant Prak is so beautiful! It was one of my favorite parks. The High Line was my personal favorite.

      I’ve never bene to San Francisco or Sausalito. I’ll have to add it to the list!

  • Reply
    Trisha Velarmino
    July 13, 2017 at 11:50 pm

    I have yet to make it to this part of the world but I will definitely get a Natinal Park pass when I get there! I think Utah and Arizona is consistently being on my radar. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 17, 2017 at 11:07 pm

      No problem! I highly recommend the Park Pass if you’re going to see more than one or two. It’s just the best! And if you have a friend who’s going to the US sometime that year, the passes have two spaces for different people so they could pay you the other half of the pass.

  • Reply
    Hazel Tolentino
    July 15, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    I’ve never been to the United States as it’s quite a challenge for me to get a visa but I know in the future I will. I love your list! This is of the same categories of mine. I love National Parks and nature. I would definitely go to Utah and see on how I can get around to see more. Thanks a lot!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      July 17, 2017 at 11:09 pm

      Where are you from? I always hate hearing that people have issues getting here. I wish it was easy for everyone. Nature is just the best!

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