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The 15 Best Places to Visit in the USA

From rugged desert-like landscapes to turquoise water beaches and bustling cities, the United States of America presents an endless range of vacation opportunities, each offering a unique slice of American life and landscape.

For first-time visitors, the abundance of choices can be overwhelming. Should you immerse yourself in the vibrant energy of New York City, or stand in awe before the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon? The variety of experiences, from concrete jungles to out-of-this-world national parks and iconic theme parks, encapsulates the eclectic spirit of the country, and deciding where to start is a true dilemma for every traveler.

women traveling in the united states summer, holidays, vacation, happy people concept - beautiful teenage girls or young women showing thumbs up
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15 Best Places to Visit in the USA

The good news is out of all the possibilities out there, you can’t go wrong. But there are places a first-timer in the US should see. Here’s a selection of the 15 best places to visit in the USA for first-timers.

New York City skyline with urban skyscrapers at sunset, USA.
Editorial credit: ventdusud / Shutterstock.com

1. New York, New York

New York City, often called the classic American dream, is an iconic US city that first-timers should visit at least once. In addition to being the filming location for countless TV shows like Gossip Girl, it’s also a city where dreams are made. The city offers a good mix of hipster vibes and classic elegance.

New York is home to iconic landmarks such as the Brooklyn Bridge, the bustling streets of Manhattan, and the serene beauty of Staten Island. It’s a place where the American spirit comes to life, appealing to everyone from dreamers and artists to entrepreneurs and fashionistas. New York City truly is the essence of the USA, making it an irresistible destination for many first-timers.

Venice Beach Canals in California
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2. Venice Canals, California

One of the best places to visit in the USA that first-timers often overlook is Venice Beach. Tucked away in the hipster enclave of Los Angeles, the Venice Canals are a hidden gem often overshadowed by the city’s more famous attractions like Hollywood and The Grove.

Unlike the typical perception of LA, the Venice Canals offer a peaceful retreat right behind Venice Beach. This picturesque network of waterways is not widely known among tourists, which preserves its tranquil charm and quaint beauty. Often overlooked, this area is a must-see for anyone exploring the US West Coast.

With its serene walkways and charming atmosphere, the Venice Canals provide a unique and delightful experience, making them a highlight of the region’s diverse attractions.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.

3. Hollywood Hills, California

The Hollywood Hills are a view you can’t miss when in LA. But they are even better to visit than to look at. They provide a cinematic view of Los Angeles, offering a once-in-a-lifetime LA experience that will remind anyone of their favorite movies.

The iconic panorama of LA from the hills is accessible either by a scenic drive or by embarking on the famous hike that leads you to this vantage point. It’s a place where the glamour and grandeur of Hollywood come to life, providing an unforgettable backdrop to the bustling city below. A visit here is more than just sightseeing; it’s about stepping into the frame of your favorite movies and feeling the energy of the entertainment capital of the world.

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4. Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas, the famous “Sin City” in the desert, offers an experience like no other. It’s a city where the extraordinary becomes ordinary, standing in stark contrast to places like New York or LA. For that reason, it’s one that first-timers should visit at least once while in the USA.

For a breathtaking 360-degree view of Vegas, hopping on the High Roller observation wheel is a must. Las Vegas is not just about gambling and nightlife; it’s about indulging in the unique, vibrant spirit of a city that never sleeps. Whether it’s for the dazzling shows, luxurious casinos, or the sheer spectacle of it all, Las Vegas is one of the best places to visit in the USA.

Iconic church in Stowe Vermont
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5. Stowe, Vermont

Stowe, Vermont, is a picturesque town on the East Coast, perfect for a serene fall getaway. This quaint destination offers an authentic immersion into US life, far removed from the hustle and bustle of the country’s mega-cities.

Stowe is not just about the stunning fall colors; it’s a place where you can engage in various activities that bring you closer to the tranquil and traditional American lifestyle. From exploring the charming streets to partaking in the local culture, Stowe provides an intimate and cozy retreat, making it an ideal spot for those looking to experience the quieter, more picturesque side of the United States.

View on Santa Barbara from the pier
Editorial credit: S.Borisov / Shutterstock.com

6. Santa Barbara, California

Located just two hours north of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara is a serene escape, perfect for couples or families looking to see another side of California. Contrary to Los Angeles, Santa Barbara is a laid-back city that allows you to fully embrace the West Coast vibe, whether you’re cruising on the ocean at sunset, strolling around its charming streets, or treasure-hunting in vintage shops.

Santa Barbara is not just a destination; it’s an experience that will show any first-timers what life on the coast can be.

View over the south and north rim part in grand canyon from the helicopter, USA
Editorial credit: Amanda Mohler / Shutterstock.com

7. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

The Grand Canyon National Park stands as a monumental testament to the natural beauty and grandeur of the United States. In short, it’s an absolute must-see, a classic, that first-timers should not miss under any circumstances.

Of course, many US national parks are just as beautiful or even more impressive. But the Grand Canyon, in addition to being grandiose and impressive, is also a symbol of adventure and the opportunity to drive around, feeling free and alive.

Its sheer scale and breathtaking views offer a perspective that resonates deeply with the American spirit. Whether you visit the North or South Rim, the experience remains unforgettable, offering panoramas that stretch as far as the eye can see. The Grand Canyon is more than just a national park; it’s a symbol of the nation’s vast and rugged beauty, a place where nature’s artistry is displayed in its most raw and awe-inspiring form.

Stargazers at Great Sand Dunes National Park looking at the Milky Way Galaxy.
Photo credit: Mike Ver Sprill / Shutterstock.com

8. Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado presents a landscape of stark, surreal beauty. This unique natural wonder, with its massive dunes rising against the backdrop of rugged mountains, offers a stark contrast to the typical verdant sceneries. It’s not one of the most talked about national parks, yet it impresses its visitors the most.

The park invites adventurers and nature lo
vers alike to explore its ever-changing dunes, providing a tranquil yet dynamic environment. Whether you’re sandboarding down the slopes or observing the light reflecting on the sand, Great Sand Dunes National Park offers a unique and unforgettable experience, showcasing the diverse natural beauty of the United States.

An early morning aerial view of the ski slopes at the Squaw Valley Ski Resort, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Lake Tahoe, home of the Winter Olympics in 1960.
Photo credit: David A Litman // Shutterstock.com

9. Lake Tahoe, California

Another of the best places to visit in the USA is Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe, with its stunning beauty, is a year-round paradise, offering a snowy wonderland in winter and a sun-kissed retreat by the lake in summer.

In the colder months, the landscape turns into a blanket of snow, perfect for skiing or cozying up by a fire. Summer brings its own charm, inviting visitors to relax by the lake’s crystal-clear waters or to hike around the surrounding mountains. The immense lake caters to all interests, whether you’re seeking thrilling water sports, peaceful nature walks, or simply a serene spot to unwind and soak in the panoramic views.

Nashville, Tennessee, USA downtown skyline on the Cumberland River.
Photo credit: Sean Pavone // Shutterstock.com

10. Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville, Tennessee, is a haven for country music enthusiasts but also so much more. It’s home to the Country Music Hall of Fame, where visitors can learn about country music’s rich history and current superstars.

The city’s famous John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge offers breathtaking views, especially at sunset. The Ryman Auditorium, known as the sacred heart of country music, and a show at the Grand Ole Opry, are immersive Nashville experiences, bringing visitors in the soulful vibe of the city.

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11. Niagara Falls, New York

Niagara Falls is a majestic natural wonder that straddles the border between the United States and Canada, offering experiences from both sides and the opportunity to even step into Canada. With mist flowing and water pouring down at an impressive speed, Niagara Falls is so grandiose, that first-timers must see it at least once in their life.

Visitors can get up close to this natural spectacle by hopping on a boat tour, where the power and beauty of the falls can be experienced in their full splendor. Whether viewed under the sun or illuminated at night, Niagara Falls remains one of the most iconic and breathtaking sights in North America.

Pier at the beach in Key West, Florida USA
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12. Key West, Florida

Another best place to visit in the USA for first-timers is Key West in Florida. Though most tourists usually rush to visit Miami, Key West is, for many, much more worthy of a visit.

Key West is the epitome of summer vibes, where the sun shines bright and life moves at a leisurely pace. It’s a place where you can mingle with local pelicans and soak in the laid-back atmosphere. The island’s beaches, like Smathers Beach and Fort Zachary Taylor Beach, offer pristine sands and clear waters, perfect for a day of relaxation or water sports. Key West isn’t just a destination; it’s a tropical state of mind where every moment is an immersion opportunity into US coastal life.

Badlands National Park in South Dakota, USA
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13. Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Similarly to Key West, the Badlands are often overlooked by first-timers in the USA. They are often seeing more visits from locals who know the value of the area better. Badlands National Park is a striking landscape of rugged beauty and stark geological formations. The park’s dramatic landscapes, characterized by layered rock formations, steep canyons, and towering spires, offer a glimpse into the earth’s ancient past.

Hiking through the park reveals a land that seems otherworldly, yet intimately connected to the rich tapestry of natural history. The Badlands are not just about scenic beauty; they are a testament to the enduring power of nature, offering a profound and humbling experience to all who wander its mysterious terrain.

famous Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco at night, USA
Photo credit: ventdusud // Shutterstock.com

14. San Francisco, California

San Francisco is a city of eclectic charm and endless possibilities. It’s also one of the cities that are often used to represent the USA on television or in history books. Its Golden Gate Bridge, in particular, is one of the most famous US landmarks.

A ride on the iconic cable cars offers picturesque views of the city’s rolling hills and architectural wonders. Don’t miss the chance to see the sea lions at Pier 39, where these playful creatures add to the city’s vibrant character. San Francisco is a treasure trove of experiences, from exploring its historic neighborhoods and enjoying gourmet cuisine to soaking in the cultural diversity that makes this city truly unique.

Washington Monument on the Reflecting Pool in Washington, DC, USA at dawn.
Editorial credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

15. Washington, DC

Washington, DC, is a must-visit for anyone exploring the United States for the first time. Seeing the White House is akin to witnessing history in the making, a symbol of the nation’s governance and legacy.

Skipping Washington, DC, during a first US trip is like missing out on Paris while in France—it’s an essential part of the experience. The city is not just the political heart of the nation; it’s a mosaic of monuments, museums, and cultural institutions that collectively tell the story of America’s past, present, and future.

This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.

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