When you're writing down a bucket list of all the must-see locations in America you have to visit, it's easy to focus only on the most popular tourist spots. Sure, Washington DC and The Grand Canyon are world-famous for good reason, but you should also think about some destinations that are a little out of the way, where you won't have to fight off the crowds to make your memories.
1. Coast of Maine
The largest New England state offers a beautifully rocky and windswept coastline that's relatively untouched by the mass tourist crowds. Try driving north to south along the coastal Highway 1, and enjoy its craggy overlooks and picturesque lighthouses. Along the way, stop in Bangor for its famous Lobster Rolls and visit Acadia National Park for its unique mix of mountains and beaches.
2. New York City
Often regarded as one of the greatest cities in the World, New York City offers unsurpassed culture and sophistication. Start the day with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, move on to Times Square for people-watching, have lunch in Central Park, and finish the day with an Off-Broadway show.
3. Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia
Further South you'll find the Blue Ridge Parkway which runs for 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina. The Parkway mostly follows the Blue Ridge, a chain of foothills to the Appalachian Mountains. Here you can enjoy the mountains unobscured by the massive crowds that visit Smoky Mountains National Park.
4. Savannah, Georgia
Savannah, established in 1733, is the oldest city in Georgia and an ideal destination for history buffs because of its key role in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. The downtown Savannah Historic District, a National Historic Landmark, is filled with traditional Victorian architecture and one of the oldest still-standing railway roundhouses in the country.
5. Everglades National Park & Miami, Florida
Everglades National Park, located at the southernmost point of mainland Florida, covers a massive 1.5 million acres of swamp and mangroves. This creates a unique ecosystem which make it ideal for nature enthusiasts and bird-watchers. Nearby Miami offers some of the best nightlife in the area and is rapidly earning the title of being the “Las Vegas of the East Coast”.
6. Big Bend National Park, Texas
This large and less-visited National Park, sharing a border with Mexico along the Rio Grande river, combines southwestern desert views with backcountry recreation. Popular activities include kayaking through the river canyon and hiking in the Chisos Mountains which rise to an elevation of 7,832 at the summit of Emory Peak.
7. Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico
Carlsbad Caverns is a network of 117 different caves buried deep under the Guadalupe Mountains at the border of Texas and New Mexico. The most spectacular sight is the famous Big Room which runs nearly ¾ of a mile long and has a ceiling height of 255 feet. Due to its depth underground, the Caverns maintain a cool but pleasant temperature year-round. Both paid and self-guided tours are available.
8. Central Colorado
Few other states have as many National Forests as Colorado. These encompass everything from some of the highest mountains in the continental US to the dry rolling hills and mesas of the Western edge. The massively popular Rocky Mountain National Park runs along the Continental Divide and features deep pine forests that rise up to mountain tundra peaks. Further to the southwest are the famous skiing centers of Aspen, Breckenridge, and the mining village of Leadville which claims the title of the highest incorporated city in the US.
9. Southern Utah
With five National Parks, four National Monuments, and the neighboring Grand Canyon, it's impossible to pick just one place in southern Utah to visit. Don't miss Arches National Park for its stunning natural rock formations and mesas. Off you can beaten path, visit Glen Canyon National Recreation Area for its rafting and wild-camping opportunities, and Needles Overlook at 6,000 feet high for its panoramic views of the desert and Canyonlands valley below.
10. Las Vegas, Nevada
Known as “America's Adult Playground”, Las Vegas offers a range of activities for every budget. For big spenders the sky's truly the limit in Vegas, but thrifty travelers can have a great time staying at one of the famous Strip themed hotels and taking in an evening show after a day of gambling or mini-golf. Alternatively, look at downtown hotels usually offer similar packages to the Strip at half the price. Walking the Strip at night can be incredibly entertaining and many of the resorts offer free public shows every few hours.
11. Highway 1, California
Highway 1 runs along the California coast from Dana Point, Los Angeles to the town of Leggett in Mendocino County, north of San Francisco. The most beautiful section, a National Scenic Byway, runs from San Luis Obispo to Carmel and offers stunning views of mountains meeting the Pacific Ocean. Along the leisurely 123 mile drive, look out for scenic overlooks, rugged beaches, and Soberanes Point where you can find seasonal views of sea otters.